Meet Paul Oleskiewicz: Full-time CSS Officer, part-time ghost hunter

Safiyah Anwar-Chuku

Oleskiewicz investigates allegedly haunted locations in the Berkshires. (Photo courtesy of Paul Oleskiewicz.)

Like most Campus Safety Services (CSS) officers, Paul Oleskiewicz has to deal with locked dorm doors and stolen bicycles. But unlike most CSS officers — and most people, for that matter — Oleskiewicz has had an exorcism. The reason for his exorcism? When he isn’t locking doors at the dining hall, Oleskiewicz hunts ghosts professionally. 

Oleskiewicz has been interested in the paranormal since he was 10 years old. It started with a trip to the Hoosac Tunnel. “Over 200 men died in that tunnel from nitrogen blasts, from falling rock, from fires, from floods,” he said.

His grandfather worked in the tunnel and brought young Oleskiewicz with him. Having heard the rumors that the tunnel was haunted, Oleskiewicz brought a tape recorder. “I get home, and I’m listening to this tape recorder,” he remembered. “There wasn’t just my grandfather’s voice and my voice on that tape — there were other voices.”

Later on, Oleskiewicz became a Mason at the North Adams Masonic Temple, which used to operate out of Houghton Mansion. The mansion is allegedly haunted by the family of Albert Charles Houghton, the first mayor of North Adams. “The haunted mansion was the place [where] we knew we were going to get something every time,” he said. 

Oleskiewicz said he has actually maintained a connection with the ghost of Mary Houghton, who was one of the mayor’s daughters. “One day, I had a group of 12 people with me, and I said, ‘Mary, are you here?’ And you could hear her say, ‘Paul, is that you?’” 

Oleskiewicz was able to communicate with this ghost through a spirit box — a device that emits raw radio frequencies to allow live communication with what he describes as “the other side.” He also uses electromagnetic field (EMF) meters to detect paranormal activity, which he said measure the disturbances caused when a spirit manifests. 

Oleskiewicz uses sophisticated equipment for his investigations. (Photo courtesy of Paul Oleskiewicz.)

“[Ghost hunting is] probably one of the most expensive hobbies you can get into,” he said. Oleskiewicz’s equipment was left to him by a late friend who helped fund his hobby. 

Oleskiewicz tries to prevent “false positives” by using a method called tagging, which is when the person recording identifies any sounds that interfere with the tape. “If you have your recorder on your chest, it’ll pick up your stomach growling, so you say, ‘That was my stomach,’” he said. 

Unlike mediums and psychics, Oleskiewicz’s job is not to grant his clients closure or emotional healing. “We try to bring them peace of mind,” he said. “If there’s a question we can’t answer, we will lead them to somebody who can answer it for them.” 

Oleskiewicz also approaches ghost hunting in a measured way. “We take the scientific route,” he said. “We use scientific tools, we use EMF meters, we use night cameras. There are so many tools.” 

Even so, the practice is unpredictable. “Paranormal research is like fishing,” Oleskiewicz said. “You never know if you’re gonna get something.”

Ghost hunting, Oleskiewicz said, can also be quite frightening. Once, he traveled three hours to help a woman in Connecticut who complained about smelling strange things, discovering mysterious scratches, and finding cold spots around her house. “It’s July, it’s 90 degrees, and I walk upstairs to one of the rooms,” he remembered. “It feels like it’s 40 [degrees] in this room.”

Oleskiewicz recorded himself asking the spirit for its name. When he played the recording for his friend John Zaffis, a demonologist and paranormal researcher, Zaffis ordered him to go back to the Connecticut home immediately. “[Zaffis] said, ‘You know who you’re dealing with here?’ And I’m like, ‘No.’ He’s like, ‘You’re dealing with a demon that has 100 legions of demons behind him, and he’s the secretary of hell.’” 

When Oleskiewicz returned to Connecticut, he said he looked the demon in the eyes. “I lost my breath,” he said. “I thought that I was having an asthma attack, and I don’t have asthma.” Zaffis had to exorcize Oleskiewicz and explained that the demon knew that his worst fear was suffocation. 

For those interested in ghost hunting, Oleskiewicz suggests caution. “If you’re afraid of the dark, don’t like getting slapped, having your hair tugged, being punched in the stomach, or having your coat or clothes pulled by something you can’t see, don’t do it,” he said. “It’s not for you.”