MEDINA: The Rev. Mark Hartshorn doesn’t believe in ghosts, but he believes that evil is very real.
“I believe these ghost hunters see something and hear the voices of something, but I believe those are demons and demonic voices,” said Hartshorn, pastor of Litchfield Assembly of God Church. “When we try to reach out and communicate with the dead, we are entering dangerous territory.”
Hartshorn is among about a dozen people who have expressed concern about the Paranormal Fest scheduled for Saturday at Medina Public Library. They have asked the library to cancel the program or at least to include a Christian-based spiritual perspective as an alternative.
Library officials said that while they take the opponents’ opinions seriously, the program will go forward as planned and advertised. Those who oppose the program have been offered an opportunity to present their viewpoint in the future, library manager Christine Gramm said.
“From our perspective, this is a culturally based program about the supernatural,” Gramm said. “Our intention is to offer a fun, light-hearted event that attracts people around topics that come up at this time of year. We’re not here to endorse one opinion over the other. Our goal is to serve the whole community.”
She said the program, like one offered about two years ago at the library, will include a medium and ghost hunters who will explain and demonstrate what they do by searching for ghosts in the library building, located at 210 S. Broadway St. More than 50 people have signed up for the daylong program, which includes sessions for tweens (children in fourth through sixth grades), teens and adults.
Adults are invited to listen to stories of the “unexplained” and a ghost hunt from noon to 10 p.m. Teens can participate in a ghost hunt with the Celestial Spirit Investigators from 6:30 to 10 p.m. (A permission slip is required for anyone younger than 18 years old). Activities, including scary trivia and stories, are available for children during regular library hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Although library administrators and board members view the program as harmless, several parents and grandparents don’t see it that way. They believe the program opens the door to a darkness that can be destructive.
“We have to be very careful what we expose our young people to. They are inviting paranormal happenings, and that is not a good thing,” said Carol Berzansky, mother of three and grandmother of six. “This is not a game. Evil spirits are real, and I don’t think parents really want their children to be pulled into a world of darkness.”
Like Berzansky, Connie King contacted the library to voice her opposition to the program. King, who is the mother of a 9-year-old daughter, shared the story of her 30-year-old cousin who died Sunday. She said although the cause of his death is not known, she believes it was connected to his struggle with paranormal forces.
“He was a wonderful artist, and his art teacher encouraged him to delve into a deeper, darker place. That darkness became too much for him to handle,” said King, of Hinckley. “Satan used art with him, to draw him into darkness. He went to the hospital because he was having chest pains. He said it felt like there was an alien in his chest clawing to get out.
“They couldn’t find anything wrong with him at the hospital, but they sent him home with a bunch of medicine,” King said. “I know that he was reaching out to the Lord, but I also know that he felt the darkness coming. This is the kind of battle that the library is setting up for our children.”
King, whose cousin’s funeral is today, and her friend, Clara Stacko of Medina, said they are appalled the library is using tax dollars to present the program.
“They say they’re doing this for entertainment, but nothing good can come out of death and darkness” said Stacko, who has two sons, ages 11 and 6. “What we need is light and faith.”
Hartshorn agrees, saying the Paranormal Fest is stepping over the line of what is appropriate.
“I don’t want to welcome something into our community that could be detrimental. Scripture tells us that we should not be trying to communicate with the dead,” Hartshorn said. “Reading tarot cards, hunting down ghosts and having seances is a dangerous thing. If we’re not careful, we’re going to find a spirit — a spirit that we don’t like.”
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or firstname.lastname@example.org