Photo by Brady Langmann
East Hills Paranormal investigator Fred Broerman scans a tombstone in Troy Hill’s Voegtly Evangelical Church Cemetery along Lowrie Street, Tuesday, June 30 as part of an expedition regarding supernatural activity.
By Brady Langmann
Ghost hunter Josh Shelton just put fresh batteries in his camera, but it keeps shutting off as he nears the site of several unearthed graves.
“It’s cool, but bad,” he says.
His partner, Fred Broerman, cautioned beforehand, “They always say when you disturb someone’s grave, that’s not a very good thing to do. A lot of nasty stuff can come out of that.”
Broerman’s third-grade son Carl is unfazed by the suspicious activity or previous warnings. He’s running in circles around the men, fueled by a sugary can of Pepsi.
Shelton, Broerman and Carl are the three chief members of East Hills Paranormal of Pitcairn, a society that defends Pittsburgh from demons, ghosts and evil spirits, according to the group. Since 2010, the group has explored potential hotbeds of paranormal activity around Pittsburgh, investigating leads given to them from concerned citizens and historical societies, as well as findings from their own research.
Tuesday, June 30, the group tracked down ghouls in Troy Hill’s Voegtly Evangelical Church Cemetery along Lowrie Street and Michael Flynn Memorial Field on Spring Garden Avenue.
Broerman’s supernatural interests began when he worked as a security guard for the GNC headquarters downtown, where he often felt like he was being watched during late-night shifts. At the same time, he watched popular ghost-hunting shows like “Paranormal State.”
During that time, Broerman had the idea to go on his own supernatural quests with friends. By 2010, he had a group of seven hunters, a name for the squad, an arsenal of spirit-detecting gadgets and a fleet of Chevy Caprices rigged with yellow sirens.
“I’d always watch that show and never thought I’d have my own group that I lead in Pitcairn,” Broerman says.
Since then, East Hills Paranormal has faced countless ill-intentioned spirits in places across Western Pa. like Uniontown, the New Castle Playhouse and North Versailles. On separate occasions, a demon possessed a crew member for about 25 minutes, a bat flew at a journalist’s head and a phantom child hacked into Broerman’s radio, asking to play with them, according to Broerman.
Tuesday’s adventure at Voegtly Evangelical Church Cemetery began when a neighboring man claimed he saw a white figure in the unkempt graveyard. When East Hills came to investigate during that evening’s rainstorm they come away only with a few mysterious technical glitches from the heat radar.
Afterward, the trio drove to nearby Michael Flynn Memorial Field. There, they explored a hill behind left field, where an unknown group dug up six graves in the 1980’s or 90’s, according to Broerman. Supposedly, the adjoining residents frequently come across shadows and strange activity. Beside the malfunctioning camera, the team only found some discarded bits of gravestones and an abandoned pile of clothes.
Ghost encounter or not, East Hills Paranormal never leaves an expedition in low spirits. Broerman, specifically, appreciates the interest the group gets from the public.
“I enjoy myself when we have our uniforms on and people see the name ‘Paranormal’ and they just surround us,” he said.
Shelton revels in the behind-the-scenes detective work.
“I enjoy the excitement that other people get out of it too, as well as the genealogy research behind it. Just putting different families and names and disasters and stuff together.”
As for Carl? Out of all of his adventures, he said he saw one ghost in a graveyard, and he’d like to keep it that way.
“It was real scary,” he said.