Event organizer Kelly Simon of Simon Event Management in Greensburg knows that her audiences are fascinated by the unknown – from UFOs and Bigfoot to ghostly spirits and paranormal activity.
It’s why people will turn out in droves to hear first-hand accounts from folks who swear they’ve come face-to-face with strange creatures and lived to tell about it – and why a reality TV show like the Travel Channel’s “Mountain Monsters” is such a hit.
It’s also why Simon is bringing together some of the authors, folklorists, psychics and monster hunters for the first “Western Pennsylvania Conference on the Unexplained” Nov. 9-10 at the Ramada Greensburg Hotel and Conference Center.
“I have worked with most of these folks for 10-plus years in my other trade shows,” she said. “I always dedicate an area to the local authors and many of them speak at my events. The room is always packed. I decided to start this conference in November, and based on its success, we’ll do it every year.”
The men of ‘AIMS’
Among the headliners at the two-day conference will be the ‘Mountain Monsters’ hunters themselves, meeting and greeting their television fans and talking about their adventures in the Appalachian Mountains, which they say is a hotbed for tales of undiscovered creatures roaming in the woods.
Joe “Huckleberry” Lott is an ex-Marine from West Virginia who spends a lot of his time with his boys Willy, Buck, Jeff and Wild Bill – known as the Appalachian Investigators of Mysterious Sightings (AIMS) team – searching for generations-old legends such as Devil Dog, the Kentucky Wolfman, the Cherokee Death Cat, Mothman and Lizard Demon.
Their mission is simple, he says: “All we want to do is prove that they exist — especially Bigfoot. We build traps and carry guns,” although he says he wouldn’t harm the legendary creature if he came upon him in the woods.
“Huckleberry,” who lives in Wirt County, near Parkersburg, has his own theories about the elusive creatures they investigate.
“I think they’ve been here all along — at one time, more than people. Some people think aliens have to do with them, which very well could be. When you’re monster hunting, you keep your mind open,” he says.
Haunted bus tour
Ed Kelemen of New Florence is a retired Allegheny County police officer who now investigates reports of spirits and hauntings as a paranormal researcher, author, playwright and columnist.
He will be hosting a “Haunted Places Bus Tour” as part of the conference, taking those that sign up on a three-hour trip throughout portions of Western Pennsylvania, where he will point out areas of interest for their historical or current paranormal activity.
Some of the places he will focus on include St. Xavier’s, The Johnston House, Fort Ligonier, the Ligonier Tavern, Livermore, Torrance State Hospital, The Kingston Dam and Saint Vincent College.
Kelemen is currently working on three books, about haunted objects in the state, how folklore ties in with hauntings and a sequel to his fiction novel for middle-school students, “The Little Drummer Girl of Gettysburg.”
His bus tour includes a souvenir book autographed by Kelemen and author and folklorist Ron Murphy, who will accompany him on the tour. Advance reservations at $50 each are required; call 724-837-4223.
The conference also will feature other speakers, including:
• Heather Taddy, a former student at Penn State University and member of The Penn State Paranormal Research Society in college, a field investigator and documentarian on four seasons of “Paranormal State” on AE channel, currently featured on Travel Channel’s series, “Alien Highway.”
• Bigfoot and UFO researcher and author Stan Gordon, speaking on “An Illustrated Historic Synopsis of Pennsylvania’s UFOs and Bigfoot Encounters.”
• Director Seth Breedlove, whose film, “Invasion on Chestnut Ridge,” about Pennsylvania’s “hidden history” includes details of Kecksburg’s reported UFO incident of 1965.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.