Skip to main content

North Hills Monthly

Ghost Hunters Get a Chance to Visit Pittsburgh Haunts

Oct 01, 2016 02:08PM ● By Shelly Tower Rushe

Ghosts N'at, TJ Porfeli and Brett McGinnis

Even though she considers herself a total skeptic, Heather Curtis jumped at the chance to try a real-life ghost hunt. Ghosts n’at is a Pittsburgh-area company that offers tours of historical locations known for paranormal activity. Owners Brett McGinnis and TJ Porfeli started the company after working with Western Pennsylvania Paranormal Hunters LLC, a Pittsburgh-based paranormal research team. They were routinely asked about touring the areas they investigated, so they decided to start a separate business. 

Ghosts n’at not only offers the opportunity to experience haunted locations, but teaches tour goers how to attract and record spirits. “Spirits will show more if they are shown attention,” explained Porfeli. “We use equipment to try and communicate as well. More people going through the building creates more energy, which the spirits can use to communicate.” 

Curtis’ tour began in the ballroom of the Hotel Conneaut. The group gathered to learn about the equipment and then split into groups of five. The smaller groups moved through the hotel while hosts explained the history and spirit activity that had been recorded there. They were then able to explore on their own and use the equipment.

Equipment can be complicated or relatively mundane. “We use digital voice recorders, digital camcorders, night vision camcorders, and K-II meters which are electromagnetic field detectors. And of course, flashlights, so we can see what we’re doing in the dark,” explained McGinnis. Some folks even bring their own recorders to the hunts. 

All hunts take place at night, partly for the ambiance and partly for purely practical reasons. “It’s quieter at night. There’s no traffic or people around, which enables the equipment to detect better,” said Porfeli. “Paranormal activity does take place during the day, but we try to set up the event to be fun, educational and spooky. Everything is real and people want to be scared!” 

Both men also have day jobs: Porfeli is a warehouse manager at a software company and McGinnis is a freelance videographer. 

Both have been featured on television for hunting ghosts; McGinnis was a cast member on the second season of Ghost Hunters Academy on the SyFy Channel in 2010, and Porfeli was featured on an episode of My Ghost Story on the Bio Channel, featuring the Carnegie Library in Carnegie, PA. 

Using digital recorders, the group attempts to communicate with spirits. Porfeli and McGinnis ask questions during the events and encourage attendees to do the same. The questions and answers are recorded and then played back in the hopes that the recorder will have picked up EVP, or electronic voice phenomenon. “During our last tour at the Conneaut Hotel, we thanked the spirits for allowing us to visit. When we played back the recording, we very clearly heard, ‘Thank You’ in response,” said McGinnis.

Porfeli and McGinnis choose active locations with what they believe are kind spirits, though that doesn’t mean that they don’t have some scary situations. “This isn’t like a haunted house. Ghosts aren’t going to just jump out. Activity is usually subtle,” explained McGinnis. “But recently we had a situation where a woman on our tour turned around and someone was behind her. She completely freaked out. It’s rare, but it does happen.” 

Other significant experiences include balls of light floating in the air, door knobs twisting, doors opening, and white figures running in hallways. McGinnis and Porfeli are typically unaffected by these types of occurrences, but both admit to having their limits. McGinnis recalled one episode where he felt as though someone was trying to pull his camera from his hand. “I thought the camera was caught on something at first, but when I looked down, I could see it on the edge of my hand. I grabbed it back really quick and felt it release.” 

Porfeli recalled scouting out a new area of the Greene County Historical Society Museum with McGinnis and suddenly hearing doors slam and footsteps running up and down the hallways around them. “We thought maybe someone else had come into the building, so we ran out to the parking lot but there was no one there,” he remembered. “It was the rare occasion where we felt outnumbered.” 

Their locations are chosen based on past paranormal activity. Once they investigate and determine that there are no natural explanations for the activity, Porfeli and McGinnis approach the owners about the tours. “We enjoy choosing historic locations in order to support them in a different way,” explained Porfeli. 

Current locations include the Greene County Historical Society Museum in Waynesburg; a machine shop in Rices Landing; the Andrew Carnegie Library & Music Hall; Carrie Blast Furnaces in Swissvale; the Hotel Conneaut; and Hillview Manor in Lawrence County. 

While Halloween seems an obvious time for a ghost hunt, McGinnis wants to be clear that paranormal activity is not seasonal. They operate year-round and see no increase in activity during any specific time period. “We hope people think of us as something fun to do for a first date, birthday party, bachelorette party, company team builder—just something new,” he said. However, to accommodate the Halloween rush, they will be offering mini-tours at the Carrie Furnaces every Sunday in October.

Unfortunately for Curtis, her experience didn’t include any paranormal activity but that hasn’t deterred her. “It was a great experience and I can’t wait to do another hunt,” she said.