After 34 years investigating paranormal activity, Brian Seech claims he can always spot when people are withholding a good story. He cites an experience he had with audience members during a speaking gig at a Bigfoot conference in Fayette County.
“I said, ‘How many here have claimed to see a Bigfoot?’ About four or five people put their hands up. I said, ‘Well, you can double that, because I almost guarantee there’s another ten or twelve people that aren’t going to raise their hands,’” he says. “And you start scanning the audience and see the looks in people’s eyes or see them talking … some of them will come up to you later and say, ‘You know what, I did see this.’”
Seech and his wife, Terrie, are affectionately known as the Mulder and Scully of Beaver County, a title they earned after years of conducting research through the Center for Unexplained Events (CUE) and the Center for Cryptozoological Studies, groups they founded to investigate reports of UFOs, aliens, ghosts, and cryptids.
Along with the Butler Organization for Research of the Unexplained, Seech's organization co-sponsors the annual Butler Paranormal Conference (April 6 at the Tanglewood Senior Center in Lyndora, Pa.)
“The mission [of the conference] is to show that there’s a lot of weird things in the world,” says Seech, adding that the event fosters a judgment-free zone where enthusiasts and visitors can “feel at home with other people who research these phenomena.”
Now in its 12th year, the conference features displays, book signings, and vendor booths offering everything from merchandise to tarot card and psychic readings. There will also be a lineup of first-time guest speakers, with talks on UFOs in the Old West and ghost hunting, and a session with Jeff Wamsley, founder of the Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant, W. Va.
Seech says that, while they cover a wide range of subjects, he has noticed some trends.
“The hottest topic in the last six or seven years is probably Bigfoot research,” says Seech. Though the elusive ape-like being has fascinated people for generations, including Seech, who became interested in Bigfoot as a kid in 1970s, he credits the mainstream success of television shows like MonsterQuest and Finding Bigfoot for kicking off the current “cryptid craze.”
“People are just hooked. They can’t get enough of Bigfoot right now. It’s all Bigfoot, all the time for some of these people,” says Seech.
Despite that renewed popularity, there will be no speakers dedicated to Bigfoot at the conference, but it will feature Shetan Noir, a Michigan-based cryptozoology researcher who specializes in weird creatures of the Great Lakes region.
Though people are drawn to paranormal research for different reasons, for Seech, the work is all about finding solid, physical evidence of certain creatures known only in folklore and urban legends. This includes the Shenango Dog-Boy of Mercer County, a local figure Seech discusses in an episode of the Destination America series Monsters and Mysteries in America.
“I’m looking for some sort of encounter,” he says. “I would like validation for myself, because the only way you would prove it to the general public is if there is a specimen brought forth.”
While he has yet to run into a Bigfoot or Dog-Boy, he did have a particularly creepy experience five years ago while investigating an alleged haunting in Erie, Pa. Seech claims he, Terrie, and a friend heard footsteps and saw a door shaking in an otherwise empty old church, which stopped as soon as they went to find the cause.
“We were kind of stunned, like, ‘Wow, all three of us heard that,’” says Seech, adding that it would have been impossible for someone to have left without being detected. “They would have had to be faster than Carl Lewis to get out of the church. We believe it was some kind of ghostly phenomena that did that.”
No matter where you land on the paranormal belief spectrum, Seech sees the conference as a place for everyone, from paranormal enthusiasts like him to those new to the scene, to come and share their experiences and interests in a welcoming environment.
“It’s like a big family,” he says. “Like the Addams family, maybe, but everybody gets along and it’s like a camaraderie.”