The Johns Hopkins News-Letter
Issue date: 4/28/11
News & Features
Investigating paranormal activity: Seeking out the supernatural in Baltimore
By Michael Nakan
In December 1975, George and Kathy Lutz moved into a large house in Amityville, Long Island with their three children. Less than a month later, they fled from the house in a rush, leaving all their possessions behind. Throughout their brief stay there, they saw objects levitate, walls bleed and family members transform before their eyes.
The last night in the house they attempted an exorcism. Family members have subsequently refused to describe what followed the home-grown religious procedure, describing the events as "too frightening."
The Lutz's story entered mainstream culture when a popular book (The Amityville Horror: A True Story) and the subsequent film were released based on their experiences. Throughout the decades since publication, critics have repeatedly slammed the validity of the paranormal aspects of this "true story."
But Metropolitan Archbishop Daniel Romanos, a resident of Hopkins-owned apartment housing in Charles Village, is a true believer.
"Most of the things that you see on the screen actually occur," he said. "Just not all at once in the same place."
Romanos is a skinny man with a long gray beard with patches of color which flow into a goatee. His hair is done up in a long pigtail which snakes down the back of his shirt. He dresses in all black with the white of a priest's collar poking out at the bottom of his neck.
Growing up in Greek City, Baltimore, Romanos saw "flashes" - of people, of ghosts, of spirits.
"I believe children are more attuned to spiritual things," he said. "When we get older, we convince ourselves that nothing is there so no one will think we're crazy."
His interest in the occult only intensified after his mother took him to see Dr. Hans Holzer, an Austrian born paranormal researcher who served as a formal investigator on the Amityville case.
Later interactions with television documentaries (including In Search of . . . hosted by Leonard Nimoy) and magazine articles cemented his interest in the supernatural.
He says he graduated from high school early (he was only 15) and started Gargoyles Paranormal Investigations in 1984 - it has been running ever since.
"The mid 1980s was a time when there was a lot of talk about teenage satanic cults. So I was very active," he said. "I would attempt to give my so-called 'expertise' on the matter - which was more, in that time, than strictly supernatural. More along the lines of cults, graffiti on churches, that sort of thing."
Today, he is investigating the case of the "Mysterious Musician," a friendly ghost (although he is quick to disassociate it from Caspar) who has been known to play the piano at the Baltimore Theatre Project, a fringe theatre located on 45 West Preston Street.
He begins by noting that the large warehouse building which has been revamped for theater use was once the headquarters for a chapter of the Improved Order of Heptasophs (IOH), a fraternal organization from the early 19th century.
"There would have been a man with a sword at the entrance," Romanos said. "And as I understand it, the initiation sequences were pretty extreme."
Stained glass windows emblazoned with IOH acronyms still line the theatre, and the letters IOH are literally built into the ceiling, above the catwalk.
Romanos asks an official a few questions regarding the alleged spirit: Are there any unusual cold spots? Any reports of objects moving or levitating? Has anyone ever been murdered violently on the premises?
After a steady series of "no's" from the skeptical tour guide, Romanos sets about investigating the piano which reportedly is still visited by a musician from the early 1920s.
For the most part, Romanos eschews modern ghost hunting equipment, the likes of which can be seen on Ghost Hunters or other, more mainstream, ghost hunting media.
"I prefer to keep it spiritual, to reach out with my hands and my soul," he said.
The last person who heard the Mysterious Musician play left the theatre in 2000. Romanos inspects the piano, feeling for cold spots and trying to spiritually "feel" the presence of a supernatural force. Despite saying that he had the distinct impression of something "off" as he walked into the room housing the piano, Romanos eventually concludes, given the lack of spiritual or physical indicators and the sheer length of time since the last sighting, that this spirit had moved on to the "other side."
Today, Romanos knew that the spirit would be benign. When he suspects the spirit might be hostile, he comes prepared.
"When it is a negative entity I am called to deal with, I bring a few items," he said. "Holy water, anointing oil and crucifix, things of that sort."
And, according to Romanos, some of the legends surrounding ghosts and demonic spirits are devastatingly true.
"Since I have become a priest of my church, I have been called in on cases of very negative entities and things that have required - or I believe required - an exorcism," he said. "I had a case a few years ago where a lamp levitated a full three feet off of a table and threw itself at my head - and a lady who was there with me turned and told me: 'It doesn't like you.'"
When an alleged negative force invades a house (be they the spirits of deceased humans or demonic entities), Romanos turns to the writings of St. Basil the Great, who was a saint of the Greek Church and is recognized by the Roman-Catholic Church.
"[St. Basil] wrote prayers of exorcism and I [chant them]," he said. "An exorcism is just a prayer, a call to God to free the person or the building or whatever from the negative entities which are inhabiting it."
The Mother Virgin Mary is the strongest force to call upon against negative entities, according to Romanos, and the most dangerous type of spiritual infestation is that of a demon from another plane of existence.
"Demonic spirits, I believe from my experience, are more likely to constantly torture a person in various ways, in a form of spiritual-psychological warfare, you may say," he said. "But actual possession does occur.
"There are a few cases where [a person] is beyond repair - when a person is what we call 'perfectly possessed,'" he said. "That's a person who has willingly and completely invited demonic spirits into their body. This can happen to a person who is spiritually Satanist or [a] Devil Worshipper, or someone who wanted to sell their soul - and that is the only case where I believe a person could not be saved.
"I believe that Adolf Hitler was perfectly possessed."
Romanos draws many of his beliefs from the Book of Enoch, a non-canonical scripture from about 300 BCE.
"Its revelations were a bit too much for most people to take," he said. "The fallen angels themselves actually came down to earth and married human women. Perhaps one of the reasons that angels fell is because they wanted to experience things that human beings experiences - and they've found cases of demonic spirits that prey sexually on human beings."
But if demonic possession is possible, as Romanos asserts it is, then is our entire world at risk from an "invasion" from another plane of existence?
"It's definitely possible. The prophesy of Enoch is that the fallen angels will return to Earth one day," he said. "I'm not a fundamentalist and don't take it all literally, but spiritually I'd say it's very possible.
"There have been times in history when there were wars or other tragic events when evil has really been wholesale - and then I believe that could be a time when there could be an invasion, so to speak."
Perhaps there will be an invasion one day, but it isn't today - and after Romanos finishes his investigation, he leaves the Baltimore Theatre Project.
"My church takes up most of my time," he said. "But Gargoyle's Paranormal Investigations will continue to accept cases."
The Most Rev. Daniel J. Romanos/Garguillio
Gargoyle's Paranormal Investigations
Byzantine Rite Old Catholic Church
Investigating paranormal activity: Seeking out the supernatural in Baltimore
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