The bar was closed and the dance floor was empty. Or was it?
Cue “Twilight Zone” theme music.
On Sunday afternoon, Starla Wheeler and her family wandered through Seville Quarter, hoping to catch a glimpse of a ghost. Armed with digital cameras and voice recorders, they canvassed Phineas Phogg’s, footsteps echoing in the two-story dance club.
“We haven’t caught anything on camera,” said Starla, 26, watching her sister, Crystal Wheeler, snap a series of photographs. “Well, not yet.”
The Pensacola sisters weren’t the only supernatural seekers at Seville.
About three dozen “paranormal investigators” and curious locals attended the final day of Pensacola Para Con. The weekend convention featured lectures, celebrity guests and tours of local haunts, including Seville Quarter and the Pensacola Victorian Bed and Breakfast.
For some, it was all about the gadgets used to sniff out ghosts.
An array of electronic gizmos spread out before him, Joey Ward wowed Sunday’s crowd with his spirit- detecting equipment.
“Some of these detect magnetic fields, and others, electricity,” the West Georgia Paranormal Research Society founder explained. “Each device serves a different purpose. It’s easy to make mistakes if you don’t know how to use them.”
Ward, whose group works primarily with haunted homeowners, said events such as Para Con serve to educate the public.
“For a lot of people, this is just a fad,” he said, noting the popularity of TV shows such as “Ghost Hunters.”
“But others take it seriously. We approach paranormal research scientifically.”
Ward began investigating the unknown 10 years ago, after a personal paranormal encounter he prefers not to discuss.
But not everyone was a believer, right off the bat.
Chris Mancuso, lead investigator of the New York-based group SCARED!, was a supernatural skeptic until 2009.
“In all my years of doing paranormal investigations, I’d never experienced anything that convinced me it was real,” he said, chatting with fans at Seville. “And then, something touched me during an investigation. It was like an icy chill down my back.”
The ghostly grope, which occurred several times, rocked Mancuso’s casual attitude. He now wears a crucifix — “blessed by every kind of clergy I can find” — on investigations.
“I still don’t believe everything I’m told,” he said, grinning, “But I do believe in the possibilities.”
Suzi Wheeler-Beck, Starla Wheeler’s mother, may have had her own brush with the supernatural at the Victorian B&B.
Using a device that scanned AM radio frequencies for ghostly chatter, Para Con investigators twice heard the word “secret” crackle over the airwaves — and it wasn’t coming from a disembodied Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh.
The word held special meaning for Wheeler-Beck and her departed sibling.
“Before he passed away, my brother and I shared a secret,” she revealed. "I’d like to think this was his way of saying, ‘Hey! It’s really me.’ "