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When Tom Simpson and Richele Charlton first purchased the Kent Stage, a 1927 theater, they weren't aware it was haunted. Their youngest son, Ethan would sit alone in the dark theater and have conversations with "Woody." They later discovered "Woody" was a former theater usher who died in the theater on the eve of Christmas 1990.
"We believe firmly that he's here with us," Charlton said. "You can feel a very strong presence near the green room. We've had things like piano tuners who are in the theater by themselves ask if this place is haunted because someone's poking their shoulder. Woody is letting us know he's around."
The Kent Stage's Kent Paranormal Weekend on Saturday and Sunday will be an opportunity for people to share paranormal experiences and sit it on presentations and panel discussions with internationally-known paranormal experts. The event kick off will be a Meet and Greet with Jeff Belanger, Laura Lyn, The Haunted Housewives, Nora Custer and more Friday evening at the haunted Empire Shop.
Headliner Jeff Belanger from "Ghost Adventures" on the Travel Channel and the PBS series "New England Legends" will discuss his favorite historical hunts at the White House and the Mansfield Reformatory.
"When I walked into this place, walked by old rusty cages and you know the kinds of people they put in those cages you can't help but feel something," Belanger said. "These places where history made a mark often have ghost stories attached to them."
Belanger grew up in an old New England town and had friends from a young age who said their houses were haunted.
"It wasn't like a Hollywood horror story, but subtle," Belanger said. "They would say 'someone lives with us, but don't tell your parents.' Back then, ghosts were in the closet. Today, thanks to all these shows it's more talked about."
Belanger has listened to thousands of eyewitness accounts, but while walking down a narrow cobble stone tunnel in the catacombs of Paris, which hold the remains of more than six million people, he saw his first ghost--a shadow of a man that moved from the right side of the tunnel to the left.
"At that moment, I'd interviewed hundreds of people about their ghost experiences," Belanger said. "If anything, they've been shaken by it. I thought 'this is what they're talking about.' I lost some objectivity that day."
Jim Harold from the "Campfire True Ghost Stories" podcast will be leading panel discussions both Saturday and Sunday. Harold's paranormal shows are among the top two percent most downloaded of all podcasts. His topics range from real ghost stories to UFO experiences and Big Foot.
"I'm going to be sharing some of my favorite campfire stories and be able to talk to the audience about their experiences," Harold said. "In some ways, I consider myself a skeptical believer, but everybody has a story. I think even the most skeptical person if they're honest has some kind of experience."
An After Hours Ghost Hunt will take place inside Kent Stage on Saturday evening. Belanger and other paranormal presenters will join in on the hunt through the theater's tunnels, basements, dressing rooms and other less known spots within the theater, Charlton said.
"It's a great powwow of folks to share their own experiences," Belanger said. "People get to participate. Not just listen. Roll up your sleeves, turn the lights off and try it for yourself."
The event continues on Sunday with another full day of presentations and panel discussions and area paranormal groups will also take the stage.
"I am extremely excited about both Jeff Belanger and Nick Redfern being a part of the weekend," Harold said. "I have known both of them for years and they are each world-class experts on the paranormal and related topics. We are very fortunate to have them here at Kent this weekend."