You may have heard that just in time for spooky season, the borough is now home to the brand-new Brooklyn Paranormal Society — a group of ghost-hunters who advertise an enticing blend of drinking, paranormal history lessons and an investigation of the spiritual forces that may surround us. The mix of attractions for the first outing a few weeks ago was right up our alley: drinking on a weeknight, starting at a bar in Fort Greene, then moving on to boozing in the park and, most importantly, hunting for ghosts. Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, hearing haunting tales while drinking outdoors sounds like a pretty fun free way to spend a fall evening.
These ghostbusters are hardly Peter Venkmans or Egon Spenglers, though. The group is led by an amateur foursome of Brooklynites who advertise the Meetup events as BYOB boos-and-booze bonanzas. They’re holding another one tonight in Prospect Park, which has already attracted lots of media attention. The organizers are enthusiastic, but if you’re expecting any ghost-hunting expertise, set your proton packs to “low expectations.” It felt a lot like what would happen if your high school friends got their hands on some “ghost-hunting” equipment and a box of wine.
Here’s how the first-ever outing of Brooklyn’s own artisanal ghostbusters went down:
We met up at 8pm and after working our way through the packed Dick and Jane’s bar, we ordered cocktails and signed waivers that asked for our home addresses, phone numbers and for us to relinquish rights over the publication of any photo or video taken throughout the night. We spotted a pile of odd-looking gadgets (a sight that clicked with our SyFy-fueled mental images of what ghost-hunting gear might look like) and a large box of wine. After a few minutes, chief event organizer Anthony Long (who, as promised by the Meetup invitation, wore a Goosebumps hat) began to herd us outside, where we were able to see that the group was about 20 or so strong, made up of late twenties and early thirties-ish men and women.
We started chatting with co-organizer Pat Pacelli, a friendly dude from Bay Ridge wearing a CamelBak full of white wine, who is convinced his own house is haunted. He explained that BKPS came together in mere weeks, born of a drunken conversation between himself, his wife Jamie and Long over their affinity for both alcohol and the paranormal. None of the organizers had ever actually gone ghost-hunting before; in fairness, they list themselves as “inexperienced” on Meetup.
“The guys on TV are just listening for a bump. Let’s give ourselves a reason to hear a bump.”
In the next moment, Long called out from behind us, “I’ve got a box of wine; no one will go thirsty!” He pulled the wine pouch out of the box and sauntered in our direction.
He told us a similar rendition of the story we heard from Pat, noting that he likes “drinking and chilling” in addition to watching paranormal shows on television.
“This is a very thinly-veiled excuse to drink. As if I need another excuse to drink,” Long confided. He explained the purpose of the waivers: they plan to pitch the idea as a show to Comedy Central or elsewhere.
“You know, kind of like Drunk History,” he said. “If Scooby Doo and Shaggy can smoke weed, we can get drunk.”
Pacelli told us the alcohol can aid in the ghost finding process.
“The guys on TV are just listening for a bump,” he said while swinging his CamelBak tube around. “Let’s give ourselves a reason to hear a bump.”
And then we were off.
Once we arrived at the site of the main event, we shuffled around uncertainly, everyone waiting for a cue as we gathered at the base of the towering Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in the center of Fort Greene Park.
“Anyone want wine?” Long asked, waving the wine pouch. A girl wearing a Goosebumps t-shirt offered to wield the bag, walking around the group and stopping every few seconds to hold it high while we knelt and squeezed the spigot into our open mouths. (Drinking in public of course remains illegal, and even though getting out of one of those tickets is easy, no one really seemed worried about the cops.) Long handed out investigative tools, including a digital thermometer, a GoPro camera and an EVP recorder.
The “history lesson” portion of the night began: Long stood at the base of the monument, reading an article from his phone.
Worth noting: While the monument sits above a small crypt that houses the remains of some prisoners who died on ships in Wallabout Bay during the Revolutionary War, there are not actually any stories about the park being haunted. Nor did our hosts highlight any supposed tales of hauntings in their history lesson.
But the wine pouch continued to make its way through the group and a few of us started playing with the equipment, though no one seemed sure what to do with it. It was becoming increasingly clear that the event organizers were the drunkest girls at the party.
A few minutes later, when the reading concluded, the bag of wine was just a squished plastic carcass. The organizers gave the floor to a “medium” who’d come along with the group. He stood before us and dished his primary piece of spirit-seeking advice: look for cats, or any kind of wild animals, acting weirdly. Because one time he saw a cat acting weirdly. In the park. Or something.
At this point, Long and company released us with a simple, “OK! Go find some ghosts!” We all looked at each other like he’d just asked us to solve advanced calculus. How does one find a ghost, exactly? How do these devices work? Is there a Tinder for ghosts or an Uber for the undead that would make this easier? None of these topics were covered.
We wandered around, took a few swigs of our whiskey out of the flask we’d packed, and suddenly Long addressed the group. “Thanks for coming, guys!” We looked at the time — it wasn’t yet 10pm, and we’d been “ghost hunting” for about 10 minutes.
The organizers rallied us to head to a bar, though they didn’t have a destination in mind. Most of the group, still energetic and now somewhat drunk, gathered around one of the backyard picnic tables at nearby Alibi and shared our own ghost stories, from camp tales to the legend of Cropsey. The organizers never showed up. Maybe they were the ghosts all along?
In the end, we didn’t see any ghosts, or learn how to ghost hunt, or really whether there are even actually any stories of ghosts in Fort Greene Park. But we did get nice and drunk with a bunch of really fun folks who were willing to suspend their disbelief — both in ghosts and in the legitimacy of this society — for the night. People in Brooklyn are willing to believe in a lot of things if you give them the chance. But we left believing the only spirits we found that night were being sucked out of a wine bag in the middle of a park.
BKPS has two more hunts on the books this week — today (Oct. 6) at Prospect Park, and Saturday (Oct. 10), at Green-Wood cemetery.
If you’re looking for actual Brooklyn ghost stories, check out this roundup of some of Brooklyn’s most-haunted spots.
For more stories of boos and booze, follow Meghan: @Meghannn