The Curious Truth:Ghosts and haunted mysteries of St. Bonaventure
Fr. Alphonsus Trabold is a friar here on campus who has lived and taught here for 41 years until his recent retirement. He has a theology degree and has had an interest in the paranormal all his life. I conducted an interview with him on some of the paranormal activities here on campus. The information he provided was very interesting to this topic.
Fr. Alphonsus has taught a class here on campus on paranormal activity since the early 70s. The class's purpose is to study the paranormal powers of the human being. The class then uses these powers such as ESP and telepathy to explain things that have happened to people. The student conduct experiments and use texts that help them understand the mind and its powers better. The class also discusses the power of dreams and ouiji boards to reveal the subconscious in a conscious form.
He provided confirmation about some of the facts concerning the supposed black mass that occurred on fifth Dev. He explained that he was consulted on the issue and that indeed no type of black mass actually occurred. He believes that the students could have been attempting to conjure up some type of spirit out of curiosity or eagerness to break some type of rule given that rules were stricter in that time.
However, it is important to remember that no black mass occurred and no spirits were conjured up because the students lacked a great deal of elements that are usually required in occult ceremonies. Therefore, Fr. Alphonsus stated that he has every confirmation that there are no evil spirits lurking in spaces of fifth Dev.
Why we believe (in ghosts)
Our interview took a wonderful turn when Fr. Alphonsus provided a great deal of information as to why he believes students “see” or “hear” ghosts. He believes that often times when a person dies a sort of psychic energy can remain, especially in desperate or violent circumstances of death. He also believes that they have a reason for staying. His most logical explanation is that purgatory is a place where we are put when we are not quite ready to leave everything behind and so we are allowed to return for a bit of closure.
Students from locations like third Dev have indeed reported hearing or seeing things and perhaps this is the cause. He also points out that people’s belief in ghosts can be derived from a variety of things. The largest element seems to be the mind’s ability to lead itself into seeing what it wants to believe. It is very possible that types of hallucinations and illusions may occur if we let ourselves be led to that breaking point. Six students sitting around telling ghost stories at night may indeed provoke the mind of one student to either emit energy or conjure up a vision of their own because their desire to believe and see something is so great. It is very possible that this could be the cause of many rumors reported on campus.
However, Fr. Alphonsus did confirm that there have been deaths here on campus as is expected on any university campus as old as Bonaventure’s. Given that Devereux and Francis Halls are two of the oldest here on campus it is not surprising that there have been deaths that have occurred amidst those walls. Although Fr. Alphonsus did not feel it was appropriate to disclose a great deal of information about the deaths, it is still helpful to know that the possibility that some type of psychic energy may remain.
He also explained that people who experience these hallucinations and illusions often find it difficult to discern what they are seeing. Given they are the only one who experiences the particular sound or happening it is hard to know whether it is real. He stated that he has had some students who have come to him uncomfortable because they have felt they saw someone or heard something over their shoulder. Although he believes firmly in the power of the paranormal, he also stated that he is a “believing skeptic” and he must have very concrete and logical proof to support that something paranormal is really happening. In most cases he has been called upon, he has found more often than not that it is merely the student. However, he did not hesitate to comfort the student and perhaps give a blessing over the room.
Although the he offered no other explanation for students’ accounts of hearing and seeing things, it is best left to the listener to determine whether they feel it is real or just an illusion.
**There is also another article in the Bona Venture that gives a biography of Father Alphonsus from October 31, 2003.