A Visit with Sullivan Paranormal: April 2021

By John Simon and John Conway
HURLEYVILLE—The Sullivan County Museum at 265 Main Street in Hurleyville has long been a popular stop for those interested in local history or in tracing their family’s roots, but ever since the publication of Lynda Lee Macken’s book, “Catskill Ghosts: History and Haunting in the Catskill Mountain Region” in 2019, the Museum has become a destination for another group, as well.
Ghost hunters.
Ms. Macken’s book dedicates a short chapter to the Museum, and notes that “on multiple occasions, the Sullivan Paranormal Society (SPS) investigated the museum due to feelings of unease experienced in the building.”
But just what is the Sullivan Paranormal Society?
One of the organization’s founders, Barbara O”Rourke, says the group was formed about eight years ago by a few friends and is “a volunteer group dedicated to paranormal research and investigation.”
“One of the first experiences we ever had was in a local cemetery, where we were walking through with an electronic voice phenomenon recorder running,” Ms. O’Rourke says. “When we finished our walk and played back the recorder, we heard a voice say very clearly, “sightseeing, are we?”
That’s when the group became really serious about what they were doing.
Ms. O’Rourke says that Sullivan Paranormal’s investigation of the Museum in Hurleyville entailed several visits to the building, and revealed some surprising results.
The group began by studying the history of the building, so they could be better equipped to ask questions when ethereal energy was encountered. They learned that the building had been built as an elementary school in 1912, had later become a high school as well, with the last class graduating in 1945, and had been owned by the Hurleyville Fire Department before the County purchased it.
The group measured quite a bit of paranormal activity in one of the rooms on the second floor of the building, a former classroom currently utilized for storage that Ms. O’Rourke described as “pretty creepy.”
She says a voice clearly told them, “I love this room,” and when they asked if the spirit was that of a firefighter it responded, “a teacher.”
They also found activity in the room dedicated to polar explorer Frederick Cook, a Sullivan County native whose journals and records are housed in the Museum.
The SPS has other favorite places to investigate in the area, including the Rivoli Theatre in South Fallsburg, currently home to the Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop, and the Stone Arch Bridge in Kenoza Lake, scene of the only hex murder ever committed in Sullivan County. They are hoping to branch out to a “a lot of new places” in the near future, and have a growing list of sites to visit. Near the top of that list is the Smith Hill Cut on the Milk Train Trail.
“We hope to get there this spring,” Ms. O’Rourke says of the cut, located just a few yards from the scene of a 1907 train wreck that claimed three lives. “I have walked through it, and I believe there is paranormal activity there.”
Ms. O’Rourke says the group has a few simple rules, the most important of which is to always “respect the spirit.”
“We always try to be respectful and to remember that we are visiting their home,” she says.
And she assures people that the presence of ghosts in any given location should not be a cause for alarm, since “99.9% of ghosts” are not malevolent.
“In the eight years I have been actively doing this, I have never run into anything negative or evil,” she says.
The Sullivan County Museum in Hurleyville is currently closed to the public due to COVID restrictions, but that could change at any time. Visit the website of the Sullivan County Historical Society for up-to-date information about the Museum’s hours, www.scnyhistory.org.