BURRILLVILLE – Nearly 50 ghost hunters, paranormal investigators, psychics and more will descend upon the village of Harrisville next weekend, bringing with them hundreds of curious fans for the 7th annual Ocean State Paracon, a fundraising event put on by RISEUP Paranormal.
It will be the fifth straight year the event is held at the venue, a historic theater with outdoor space to accommodate vendors, speakers and guests.
The two-day event will include 46 tables where guests can meet authors, celebrities and others with expertise in the paranormal. More than a dozen speakers will focus on topics from UFO sightings and hauntings to “cryptozoology” – a study that aims to prove the existence of entities from the folklore record, such as bigfoot and chupacabras.
And Paracon not only promises guests a creepy good time, it also raises funds for different local charities each year.
First held at St. Ann Arts and Cultural Center in Woonsocket in 2012, Paracon has become the state event for paranormal enthusiasts. And what was once a humble gathering used to raise money for local charities has been extended to two days, drawing in ghost hunting and psychic celebrities from afar.
The Rhode Island Society for Examination of Unusual Phenomenon now puts on the convention annually in Burrillville, and according to founder and director Ken DeCosta, it typically brings in up to 1,000 people from across the country.
The idea started, in part, as a result of the paranormal craze of the past decade.
“Every network had some type of show on, and interest in the paranormal really grew,” said DeCosta. Much of the talent on programs like Ghost Hunters International came from Rhode Island, he notes, but unlike other places in the country, the state had no local conventions.
“We didn’t want something commercial. We wanted to do it for charity,” DeCosta said of Ocean State Paracon. “We wanted to put the money directly in the hands of local charities that could use it.”
Last year, the convention raised $7,000 for the Rhode Island Coalition against Domestic Violence, and since the event’s start the founder said the figure donated is close to $25,000. Celebrities give their time and pay for their own travel and lodging.
“We never thought it would grow into this,” DeCosta said. “We are so appreciative.”
In 2018, Paracon will benefit Friends Way of Rhode Island, an organization that helps children and families cope with the loss of a friend or loved one.
Speakers on July 14 and 15 will include Shannon Sylvia of Ghost Hunters International fame and author and “ghostorian” Mike Ricksecker. Spirit Medium/Para Psychic Lucky Belcamino will work the same stage as Chuckles the Clown. Rhode Island natives Dustin Pari and Joe Chin from Ghosthunters will also speak, along with Bill Brock from Monsters Underground.
Also joining the pack is Burrillville native Andrea Perron, author of House of Darkness, House of Light. The book, about her experience growing up on what she believes was a haunted town property inspired the box-office horror hit The Conjuring.
“She’s coming home,” said DeCosta. “It’s where it all happened: in Harrisville.”
DeCosta notes that Perron was responsible for originally bringing the event to the venue.
“She kind of suggested it and put us in touch with the right people,” he said.
The theater – and town itself – have been a good fit according to DeCosta. Tables are set up outside creating a “farmer’s market-type environment,” while speakers perform inside the 300-seat, air conditioned theater.
“People really enjoy the atmosphere,” DeCosta said.
Paracon also gives the local economy a boost as visitors check out the restaurants and businesses in Harrisville.
“They’ve really fallen in love with the village,” DeCosta said, noting that town officials have been very helpful.
The venue is also a fitting place to talk about ghosts, aliens and other things that go bump in the night: According to DeCosta, several people who have worked with the theater’s repertory company have reported paranormal occurances.
“There are some odd things that have happened there over the years,” he said.
DeCosta’s group, RISEUP Paranormal, investigates such incidents, and did an analysis on the historic theater, built by Austin Levy in 1930.
“We did have some unusual findings,” he said.
Ocean State Paracon will take place on Saturday, July 14 and Sunday, July 15, rain or shine, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets cost $12 for a day, $20 for the whole weekend and $5 for kids under 12. They can be purchased at the gate or online at riseupparanormal.com/paracon-tickets.htm