Mason Winfield has ferreted out all manner of paranormal happenings, and says Western New York is amazingly rich in reports about ghosts.
"We aren't as traditionally famous for hauntings as New Orleans, Washington, D.C., or some of the southern cities, but I think we're as haunted as anyone," said Winfield, author of the just-published "Spirits of the Great Hill."
Winfield differentiates between ghost reports, which he calls eyewitness testimony, such as the stories our readers told us, and ghost stories, which may be inventions of individuals that have been told over and over. "Reports are more useful to the researcher," he said, "because they are the live folklore."
He collects them everywhere he goes. Often, he said, people approach him after he's given a talk to report an incident that they can't explain.
"Ironically, it sometimes doesn't even change their theory," he said. "You talk to someone who will say, 'I don't believe in all that stuff, but there was this one time ...'"
Winfield said there are identifiable archetypes, including the ghostly little girl and the deserted bride, as well as typical encounters in hallways and stairways.
"It makes sense because they are entrances," Winfield said. "It's the path of going up, often spiritually. They both imply progress and many people view the afterlife as progress.
"People who believe there are spirits of dead people often believe they came back because of unfinished business. They need to make a stopover."
Contemporary "cutting-edge" ghost research holds that visual sightings are distinct from "things that go bump in the night," Winfield said.
Images that spontaneously appear may have different causes than the physical "poltergeist display," which are now called RSPK or "recurrent spontaneous psycho-kinesis." Winfield has his own shorthand: SPOTUK or Spooky Phenomena of the Usual Kind.
Though people are typically scared, Winfield said he's not sure why.
"All they do, usually, is just walk through a room," he said. "A ghost almost never does anything threatening. They don't even look threatening, but people usually respond by running for their lives.
"You would have thought it was Godzilla."