While genealogy, gardening and building remote control airplanes or vehicles remains on the top of the list for number one hobbies in America, there is a small band of enthusiasts that have invested in a hobby of their own - the search for the truth through the investigation of paranormal activity, or ghosts.

Phenomenon and Paranormal Investigations (PPI) is a team of paranormal researchers located in Bradford County that have set out on a quest to find answers in the world of phenomenon.

Utilizing equipment to detect electro-magnetic fields, and audio and visual recorders that can pick up activity that might not been seen by the human eye or heard by the human ear, these investigators search for evidence that will deem a sighting debunk, or render it as haunted.

From old coal mines and cemeteries, to churches and sanitariums, the team of investigators sets out to disprove rumors of hauntings and speculations surrounding paranormal activity - but if they find evidence, they will deem the location in question as haunted.

"When we go in, we aren’t expecting to find anything," said Chris Pike of Ulster who serves as the founder of the team and the lead investigator for Phenomenon and Paranormal Investigations (PPI). "We gather enough evidence until we can figure it out," he added.

Chris Pike founded PPI in the summer of 2008, and during the fall of that year he saved money, purchased equipment, and then began recruiting its members. In early spring of 2009, the team ran a test run of equipment and began their quest in the search for the truth.

Since its establishment, the team has performed approximately 30 investigations. Among those investigations were the West Mountain Sanitarium in Scranton, Pa., and the Old Methodist Church in West Burlington.

According to Pike, both of these investigations revealed evidence of paranormal activity to include orbs, which are the energy fields in which a spirit can manifest; voices picked up through radio frequency devices; and images captured through digital recording devices.

At the West Mountain Sanitarium, which closed in 1974, the team collected evidence of foot steps and a large presence of elector-magnetic activity. "Our Electro-Magnetic Frequency (EMF) device spiked," said Pike.

At the old Methodist Church in West Burlington, the team captured several orbs through video recording methods as well as a spike in their EMF device. According to Pike, an EMF device will show activity if there are electronic devices present such as appliances; but in the church these interferences were not present. "The church is off the grid and has no electric," said Pike. They also detected footsteps and heard knocking noises during their investigation.

But the story behind the old Avondale coal mine was the most intriguing. According to history of the mine, a fire in 1869 took the lives of 108 miners. Two rescuers also lost their lives during rescue efforts.

During this investigation, Pike said there were three significant pieces of evidence that supported that the mine was haunted. The first was when the investigators were standing near the shaft and were discussing the mine. Asking if anyone was there, the investigators captured a soft voice that said, "I’ll be".

The second voice that was heard by the investigators said, "You [explicit] fool". This encounter is known as "Electronic Voice Phenomenon".

The third voice heard was while the investigators were standing over the shaft looking down. Someone that accompanied the team looked down the shaft and said, "Wow, look how far that goes down". A voice, at that point, was heard saying, "Don’t fall".

But these five to six hour investigations that require days of evidence processing to evaluate leave skeptics wondering - and motivates the PPI team to learn more.

To get a closer look into the world of phenomenon, I accompanied Pike and his team during a Feb. 16 investigation in which the team would return to the old Mill Hill Manor on Mill Hill Road in Canton for further evidence collecting and the evaluation of activity reported.

Mill Hill Manor has been owned by a single family for generations ever since its construction in the late 1800’s. It is believed by family members that the house was built sometime between 1850-1890.

During the first generation, there were servants at Mill Hill that had their own living quarters located just down the road from the Manor. At one time, Mill Hill was a very happening place and housed seven children. It is recorded that the man responsible for constructing Mill Hill died in the home.

Mill Hill has been passed down the family line and is currently owned by Jim Bryan, a descendent of the family. Bryan’s brother-in-law, Jay Baumunk, serves as the PPI Historian, and accompanied the team on the Feb. 16 follow-up investigation.

And although the home still serves as a club where people can stay, eat and sleep, Baumunk noted that some of his own family members won’t even stay there.

One rumor about Mill Hill is said to house a body in the basement under the current stone floor. There have been numerous reports of seeing apparitions throughout the house as well as strange mists on the second floor. Another report was that the second floor bathroom door had been slammed shut in a person’s face while that person was about to enter the bathroom, with no one inside the bathroom to shut the door.

Baumunk added to these rumors, stating that his mother, Kathy Baumunk, thinks that one of the apparitions may be her grandmother. Baumunk also told of how his mother saw a man while in the home that was wearing old clothes and had a haircut from an earlier century.

But skepticism soon turned into belief as I traveled to the home to witness, first hand, the search for what would soon be some haunting evidence, and the paranormal activity that was abundant throughout the home - especially on the second floor and in the stairwell.

It was 4 p.m. on Feb. 16 when I traveled up the old dirt road that hugs the ridge on Mill Hill Road. Driving through several turns, and passing only one older home along the way, I finally arrived at the large white manor that overlooked the valley near Ralston.

Arriving in separate vehicles, Pike and his team quickly began unloading devices and equipment that would soon begin recording inside the home.

With the team were Josh and Ryan Ellenberger, twin brothers from Canton who acquired a taste for discovering the unknown. According to Josh, an earlier visit made to the Mill Hill Manor in mid-January convinced him that there was something in the home.

During the January visit, as described by Jay, they were in a living room area where he was standing near a chair. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, the chair began tapping Jay in the leg.

"I was just standing there," said Josh, "and the chair kept hitting me in the leg."

And Feb. 16 was no exception to the paranormal experience that was already suspected by the team. Clutching their RFD’s, and walking cautiously through the corridors of the three story home, cold air could be felt in certain areas along with strange noises that appeared to be coming from the inside of the walls.

In one strange encounter my camera was rendered useless following a presence of cold air that seemed to follow myself and investigators through a narrowed hallway and into a stairwell that descended from the second floor.

It was in that stairwell that several photos were attempted, but the camera malfunctioned, and slowed the shutter speed and camera action to a near frozen state.

Not understanding what happened, we went back into the kitchen where Chad Thurston was working to figure out why a camera that had been placed in the basement had turned on its own - now capturing only images of the basement wall.

But before he resumed his investigation into the turned equipment, we retested the camera to see if the malfunction was mechanical - but revealed it to be operational and rendering a normal photo. The camera has worked normally ever since, but the photos taken in the cold stairwell - upon processing - reveal a white mist.

At this point things began to get strange. Pike, who had headed back up to the second floor with a flashlight headband and an RFD, suddenly burst out in a loud scream and descended back to the kitchen area where investigators continued to research what had happened to the equipment that was placed in the basement area.

Pike, who normally stays calm and cool when faced with encounters, was obviously disturbed. Out of breath and slightly distraught, Pike explained that while in the second floor hallway he turned suddenly, and there stood an apparition of a man dressed in older style clothing as described earlier by Baumunk.

Herding together, we all ran to the second floor, but the apparition had vanished.

Now I can tell you that I love a good thunderstorm, and am intrigued by tornadoes - but this - was too much to handle and I had to abruptly end my visit at the Mill Hill Manor.

I thanked the investigators for their invitation, and merely expressed that it was time for me to go. I did, however, await with much anticipation the reports that would arrive from the rest of the investigation, and was conveniently accompanied out to my car that sat in the shadows of the intriguing hillside home.

And the news that Pike reported, as expected, depicted an escalation of the strange activity that I had witnessed before fleeing, or departing, the home. On Feb. 17, one day later, Pike reported that the security camera that was placed in the basement with the TV and VCR hook up in the kitchen recorded two loud bangs or knocks. The first bang was explained by the owner who showed up after I left. The owner said that it was probably the furnace. But Pike disagreed when the furnace actually came on later that evening and sounded nothing like the bang that was recorded.

The team played the video back to hear the two knocks, and they actually came from a 50 gallon drum in the basement, like something had hit it. No one went down stairs between the time of set-up and take down.

Also, Pike had the team do an EVP session to try to gather any audio evidence. They broke up into pairs, each pair took a floor - 1st 2nd and 3rd. Baumunk and Josh were on the third floor and Pike and Ryan on the second. Baumunk and Josh heard a diesel engine start-up and saw headlights come on and appear to leave the driveway.

Pike and Ryan didn’t hear the diesel engine on the second floor, but they saw the headlights as they peered into the window next to them. They didn’t think anything of it because they all thought that the owner was leaving. "It wasn’t a big deal," said Pike.

But when they all returned to the first floor they realized that the owner hadn’t left, and that he was standing in the kitchen. They also learned that the owner hadn’t been outside, and that he was inside the entire time. They also concluded that there were no visitors who arrived at the Manor during that time.

So do these accounts conclude that paranormal activity exists within the Manor? Several accounts from previous guests seem to suspect that this activity might exist.

Scott Griffin from Canton visited the Manor one time and described an experience in which he fell asleep, but was soon awakened when an old radio came on for no apparent reason.

Claudette and Don Brown from Canton heard conversations during their stay and saw a middle aged man and young girl in period clothing.

But for the PPI Team, it’s business as usual. "We don’t get scared," said Josh Ellenberger. "We’ve always had our eye on this stuff," said Josh about the interest that he and his twin brother acquired. "We never got into it until we met Chris Pike."

To view photos from their investigations, or to learn more about the phenomenon that exists in our region, visit

www.ppiinvestigations.com.