‘Dorm haunting’ movie to show at SUNY Geneseo
In 1985 on the SUNY Geneseo campus, several students claim to have had an encounter with a ghost — an entity sometimes material and sometimes immaterial in form, and sometimes angry and sometimes pitiful.
A full length motion picture now tells the story of the ghost which was said to inhabit Erie Hall room C2D1. It is titled “Please, Talk With Me” and will be shown on Friday, Oct. 26 at 9 p.m. at the MacVittie College Union.
On hand for a panel discussion after the showing will be Mara Katria, the film’s director; the former student who was victim of the haunting, Chris DiCesare; DiCesare roommate and fellow witness to the ghost, J. Jeff Ungar, and Tim Shaw, the author of a companion book which delves deeply into the phenomenon of the ghost.
The event is being held as part of the college’s Late Knight Week of Horror Fright Fest. The general public is invited.
“Please, Talk With Me” is coming To Geneseo after its successful premiere at SCARE-A-CUSE convention at the Turningstone Resort in Syracuse, and a second screening in Napanoch, which was a fundraiser for the Haunted Shanley Hotel. Following the Geneseo show, there will be screening at the Little Theater in Rochester on Nov. 17 at 3 p.m.
Actor Kyle Shea plays Chris, while roommate J. Jeff is played by Aaron Katter. In his review, paranormal investigator Chip Reichenthal gave the film “11 out of 10” and wrote that ‘Please, Talk With Me’ “absolutely should be the new direction of film-making. [See it] twice, at least. It’s that good.” The film blends high-definition digital footage with a Super-8 style that was popular in the 1980s to create an atmosphere of nostalgia for the decade, offset by state-of-the-art special effects.
In July of this year, prior to the release of the motion picture, the SyFy channel aired its own documentary version of what took place in Erie Hall in 1985 as the flagship episode in a new series, ‘School Spirits.’ The program featured revealing interviews with DeCesare, Ungar and DeCesare’s father.
C2D1 link with Boyd torture?
At the same time work commenced on the SyFi Channel episode, Chris DiCesare’s mother, as an entirely separate and personal endeavor, was putting together a family genealogy.
In what is perhaps a remarkable coincidence — or discovery, depending on one’s point of view — two ancestors from seven generations back, brothers Bernard and Adam Hubley of Lancaster, Pa., were identified as American Revolutionary War soldiers.
Further research indicated both were patriot participants in the Sullivan campaign, which swept through what would become central and western New York State in the late summer and autumn of 1779, destroying the crops and villages of the native Iroquois.
Bernard Hubley, DiCesare’s great(5x)grandfather, left a journal which, among its entries, includes one of the dozen-or-so extant descriptions of the army coming upon the tortured remains of Lt. Thomas Boyd in the Seneca village of Geneseo. Indeed, Hubley’s description is considered among the most lucid in conveying the horrible and prolonged manner in which Boyd had suffered and died.
In his book, Shaw, who did extensive interviews with DiCesare, speculates upon a possible connection between the C2D1 haunting and the torture of Lt. Thomas Boyd 206 years earlier.
Boyd is a famous figure in local history, a Continental Army officer who led his scouting party into a small army of Loyalist rangers and Indians, waiting in ambush to strike General Sullivan’s lead regiments as they crossed the swamp at the south end of Conesus Lake.
Excepting a few soldiers on the outer flanks, most of Boyd’s party was killed on the spot. Boyd himself and a private, Michael Parker, were taken as captives to Geneseo, where they were interrogated and then tortured in an unspeakable manner.
Shaw qualifies that for the film and in his book, a C2D1 link with Boyd is not given emphasis. “Please, Talk with Me” presents what DiCesare, Ungar and others actually saw and felt during the period of haunting. The film and the companion book do not speculate as to who the ghost might be and why he has materialized in Erie Hall.
However, in Livingston County where both stories have become legends unto themselves, the notion of a connection is intriguing and worthy of further exploration, Shaw agrees.
So, did the ghost of Lt. Boyd attempt to make contact with the ancestor of a friend and companion when that ancestor appeared near the place of his demise?
“In the case of Boyd, there was pain and agony and a sense that this wasn’t fair, that it was just so wrong,” Shaw suggests.
“I believe this was a human entity spirit which wanted to attach itself to Chris and cause temporal possession — when in weak moments the spirit would take over Chris’s body,” he concludes. “It was trying to wear Chris down to the point where he would say, ‘Do whatever you want with me.’”
“But then Chris pulled something out of his own heart. He confronted this spirit and talked with it.”
“He was able to survive the next few weeks, and the next semester he and J. Jeff got a dorm across campus and never walked by Erie Hall again.”
Tim Shaw is also co-author of ‘Haunted Rochester,’ and the author of ‘Ghosts of Buffalo.” He is an ordained Spiritualist minister and a serious student of the paranormal since the late 1980s. His day job for the past 30 years has been with the Town of Cheektawaga Highway Department.
Indignity in death
Shaw had made a much earlier effort to research C2D1 in visits to Geneseo in 1987, but “no one would talk to me.”
“We all knew about it and talked about it, but we couldn’t really make any kind of headway into it,” he recalls.
The story remained on the back burner until one evening, about two years ago, Mara Katria and Chris DiCesare were on Para-X radio, where Shaw himself has a Thursday evening program. Email contact was made and Shaw attended last year’s symposium at Geneseo, where he met Chris and Mara and was eventually invited to author the companion book for the film.
After examining a complete copy of J. Jeff Ungar’s journal, establishing a time line between the film and journal, then conducting more than six hours of interviewing with Chris, Shaw started writing the book, admitting making several false attempts before getting a natural beginning.
“I finally decided I’d handle it like a byline haunting case,” Shaw explained, giving preliminary emphasis to the landscape and its history, including the area’s Native American legacies.
The ghost’s nickname of ‘Tommy’ apparently came about only because it “seemed right.” If the spirit is indeed that of Boyd, it demonstrates an occurrence paranormal researchers have reported on other occasions as well, when a name comes into the minds of those dealing with a spirit and is later found to be the name in fact.
Tommy appears attired in colonial-type clothing. His angled head and injured features suggest a posture during the actual torture or perhaps with a broken neck at the moment of death — before decapitation and further mutilation which, from the accounts of soldiers and Mary Jemison, is known to have occurred before and after Boyd was dead.
‘Tommy’ Boyd not only experienced what to us would be suffering beyond the limits of human endurance at the hands of his Seneca enemies — he then suffered humiliation and disrespect by his own people after death.
Boyd’s scouting party had done exactly what his commanding officer, Major General John Sullivan, had ordered, and more. The party had not only pin-pointed the previously uncertain location of the ‘Genesee castle,’ but had also, in sacrificing itself, alerted the Continental troops to the immediate presence of the enemy, approximately 400 Loyalists and Indians waiting in ambush on their route of travel.
Yet in his report, Sullivan criticizes Boyd for having taken too many men on his scout and causing loss of life.
But the small party of four-to-six Sullivan had ordered out would have been more quietly dispatched by the Indians — in which case Sullivan might have lost hundreds of men, rather than the 16 killed at the ambuscade.
While Boyd and Parker were properly revered in later years as patriot heroes, their physical remains would suffer a great indignity. The pair had been buried by Sullivan’s army with military honors, but in 1807 grave robbers broke into the caskets and carried away ‘souvenirs.’
In 1841, amidst a great deal of pomp, the remains of Boyd, Parker and the ambuscade dead were removed to what was deemed a more proper site in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester. However, no permanent monument was ever erected to replace the temporary wooden structure which protected a sarcophagus and urn. With time, the bones were scattered by vandals about the cemetery.
Finally, in 1903, the Daughters of the American Revolution claimed to have located the skeletal remains in the cemetery’s potters’ field and — assuming they in fact had the correct remains — reburied them by a granite boulder set with a bronze plaque.
If the spirit of Michael Parker still walks this earth, perhaps he has a right to be sad and angry.