The horror! The horror! For Barry McDonald, believing is not always seeing.

But Barry didn't stop. Barry became obsessed. Barry became possessed. Barry became an authority on all things dead, buried and unburied.

"I was fascinated," he says. "I had to know if these entities actually existed."

So he joined a seminary.

The basement tapes: Barry McDonald in his basement dedicated to all things creepy.
John Johnston
The basement tapes: Barry McDonald in his basement dedicated to all things creepy.

Barry's parents were devout Italian Catholics who had a simple dream for their son: "Every Italian family has a priest, and I was going to be the priest in our family."

He attended Catholic School, became an altar boy and joined the Pontifical Institute of Missionaries and Evangelists at age fourteen. "I was a good little Catholic," he says.

But Barry was also Barry. And while at the seminary, he saw "one miracle, something I considered to be a miracle, and something that was either an extremely heavy hallucination or a ghost."

Among its sacred objects and religious symbols, the Pontifical Institute happened to have a golden chalice containing the blood of St. Stephen, who was boiled into martyrdom hundreds of years ago. The blood itself wasn't much to look at -- "just a hard, dry, black substance" -- so Barry never paid much attention to it. But then, after a special mass on the Feast of St. Stephen, Barry was asked to clean the altar.

"So I was cleaning the altar, and I look over at the cup," he recalls. "Then I notice that it was no longer a hard, black substance, but a red liquid. And it was bubbling!"

Barry reported the incident to seminary priests, who said the phenomenon was quite common: The blood of St. Stephen did have a habit of liquefying on his feast day.

"I was very impressed," Barry says.

While in the seminary, Barry fell ill, ran an extremely high fever and almost died.

"While I was lying there, a little boy walked up to me, surrounded by white light, and sat on the edge of the bed and kept me company," he recalls. "He was telling me, 'Things are going to be okay' and 'Things are going to be fine.' We actually had a nice long conversation. Then he walked off into where the showers were and disappeared. But there were no exits in there."

Later, Barry did some research and discovered that a boy saint -- he doesn't remember the name -- has been known to visit people who suffer from extreme fevers and have nice, long conversations with them. "I didn't know that prior to the fever," Barry notes. "So my mind would not have been able to tap into that subconsciously while it was happening. I found that very curious."

Some months after that, Barry found himself kneeling before a golden crucifix containing a splinter from the cross on which Jesus was crucified. "I was awestruck," Barry says. "I just knelt before the marble altar looking up at it. The next thing I knew, a priest was shaking me on the shoulder. I had managed to kneel there for twelve hours, through the entire night. They actually had to lift me up. I had to stay in bed the next day because I could barely walk."

Miracle? Hallucination? Too much coffee?

Barry had to know.

"The moment they pulled me up, I realized I was not going to be a priest," he says. "I needed to know why this had happened. I hated to kneel. Even for a few minutes. I was the loudest complainer. It was uncomfortable. Yet there I was, kneeling for twelve hours. I couldn't accept that just on faith."

So he became a ghostbuster.

By the time he turned eighteen, Barry had left home, left the seminary, joined the Air Force and landed at Lowry.

One night he was sitting at a bowling alley with a few buddies and a few pitchers of beer. Before long, the conversation turned toward "the creepy," and the four friends took an oath: "to investigate and find answers to the unknown."

"We thought, 'Leonard Nimoy can't be the only guy doing this,'" Barry recalls.

So they formed PARA 4 www.para4.dhs.org -- the Paranormal Activity Research Association -- which was basically four guys who loved beer, bowling and "the creepy." Barry and his buddies bought cameras, recorders, microphones and thermometers, and when they weren't on base, they'd "hang around cemeteries." There, Barry says, they saw "floating orbs" and "a full-bodied entity."

A year later, when Barry was stationed in Georgia, a reconstituted team saw something none of the members could explain. They'd decided to investigate an abandoned house where a father had gone berserk and, "between a shotgun and an ax," wiped out his family and killed himself.

The PARA 4 team arrived, cameras and thermometers in tow, and proceeded to break into the house. One of them jumped through a window, opened the door, then promptly jumped out. "He said, 'Screw this. Something is in there. Something just bit me!'" Barry recalls. "He lifted up his pants leg, and he had a ring around his leg that was just huge. He went and sat in the car. He was done for the night."

But the team pressed on, photographing "flashing lights," recording a voice that said, "You mad. Get out!" and taking temperature readings of "cold pockets" in the 90-degree heat. "We also found a nice, fresh black squirrel in a back room with no eyes," Barry says.

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