Unique vendors convene at St. Ann for a paranormal fundraising experience

Unique vendors convene at St. Ann for a paranormal fundraising experience

WOONSOCKET - Ghost hunters, psychics, supernatural investigators and practicers of magick alike will descend upon Woonsocket this Saturday for the 2nd annual Ocean State ParaCon, a meeting of paranormal enthusiasts from across the state aimed at raising money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Rhode Island.

The event brings together believers of all stripes for a full day to focus on that "which lies outside the normal range of experience," with guest speakers, readings from psychic mediums and a chance to chat with those that have grown the genre's presence in popular culture in recent years, with the help of books and television appearances.

According to organizer Ken DeCosta, last year's event, which was the first of its kind held at St. Ann Arts and Cultural Center, brought in between 300 and 400 people.

For a $5 admission price on Saturday, June 1, from noon to 7 p.m., guests to St. Ann Arts can visit 40 vendor tables and catch any of the six speakers. There will be raffle prizes ranging from the typical gift basket, to the more unusual items such as paranormal-related equipment. All proceeds from the event will be donated to MDA.

And the event is not just for the experienced ghost hunter.

"People who are curious can come and have a good time and support a great cause," said DeCosta.

While similar conventions are held at hotels and function halls across the country, the 2012 event was the only one of its kind in Rhode Island. DeCosta was thrilled to have the opportunity to bring together the local paranormal community in an original setting.

"To have something like this in a cathedral makes it kind of unique and a little interesting," he said. "The caveat for us is we wanted to do it for charity."

For those who have yet to visit St. Ann, the turn-of-the-century Cumberland Street cathedral boasts the largest collection of fresco paintings in North America. The former church has been preserved by a board of volunteers and is used now for tours and private functions.

"It's breathtaking to see the place," said DeCosta. "It's like the Sistine Chapel."

It also, appropriately, is rumored to have a resident spirit or two of its own. A benefit performance in 2011 by psychic medium Maureen Hancock drew in hundreds raising needed funds for the local landmark.

"The reputable groups don't do this for the money," explained DeCosta. "It's about helping people, even if it's to give them a rational explanation for a phenomenon - which 90 percent of the time it is. When people have something odd going on in their home, they want an explanation."

Saturday's speaking program begins at 1 p.m., when Tiffany Rice and Stephanie Burke take the stage for a "gallery reading," where they connect with spirits who have a message for those in the audience. Rice and Burke co-host "Spirit Connections with Tiffany Rice," a weekly program that airs on Wareham Community Television.

Michael Markowicz will speak, beginning at 2 p.m., on the topic of "Interaction with Negative Entities: The Psychological Effects." Markowicz is a published author and a local expert on EVP - Electronic Voice Phenomenon, or sounds of the unknown captured on a recording device.

At 3 p.m., Andrew Lake will discuss "Local Legends: Ramtail Factory and Hopkins Mill," telling, among others, the story of Peleg Walker, a Woonsocket man who took his own life over financial problems. Lake is founder of Greenville Paranormal Research and featured cast member on "30 Odd Minutes with Jeff Belanger."

Carl Johnson, a well-known local paranormal investigator, will talk about "The Paranormal on Television," starting at 4 p.m. Johnson specializes in demonology and has appeared in numerous programs on hauntings in and around New England.

The final speaker of the day, Keith Johnson, will cover "The History of Vampires," starting at 5 p.m. Johnson has been featured on the SciFi Channel's Ghost Hunters and has been involved in paranormal research groups since the 1970s. He and his wife also host "Ghosts R. N.E.A.R.," a local TV talk show dealing with paranormal topics.

Shannon Slyvia and Joe Chin, of Ghost Hunters International fame will be on hand all day for a meet and greet.

Vendors include The Paranormal Bikers, a team of motorcycling investigators from Woonsocket that came together in 2010 to study the spirit world, and Mother Mystic, a metaphysical and witchcraft supply shop based in Providence.

Other groups attending include: The Atlantic Paranormal Society; RISEUP Paranormal; Creepy Places of New England; Haunted BnB; East Ghost Paranormal; Ghostly Photographs; Lighthouse Paranormal; Majik, LLC; Paranormal Researchers of Rhode Island; Dark Side Ink, Whaling City Ghosts, Para Hunter, Ethereal Voices Paranormal; Zartiphin's Emporium; PSONA; S.P.I.R.T.S. of New England; Searchlight Paranormal; New England Paranormal Research; STURS PI; Massachusetts Paranormal Research Group; Shadows of the Paranormal; The Rhode Island Paranormal Research Group and Society; Beyond the Veil; A-Team Paranormal; Bay State Paranormal; Black Cross Paranormal; USS Salem; Paranormal Warehouse; Ocean State Paranormal; Rhode Island Ghost Society; Society of Para Interests and Spirit Realm of Para.