With 15 years of experience under his belt, Brian J. Cano has certainly proven himself as a reliable source in the paranormal field. As revealed in Brian J. Cano Interview Exclusive (Part 1 of 2): Going Beyond With A Ghost Hunter!, we discovered Mr. Cano as both a scientist and a skeptic when it comes to investigations; desiring to reveal the truth behind the legends. Brian’s array of paranormal pursuits began when he joined explorative forces with friend Chris Mancuso for Scared! on Staten Island which then, upon the show’s expansion, changed to Scared!. He also supplied expertise as the tech specialist on SyFy’s Haunted Collector team, led by none other than renowned paranormal expert and demonologist Mr. John Zaffis. Needless to say, Brian has seen much and questions everything! This is what leads us to the investigation that impacted Brian on a level I am sure not even he could anticipate.
Opened in 1885, The Grand Midway Hotel, located in Windber, PA, is incredibly rich in paranormal lore. Starting its shady history as a central station for disgruntled mining immigrants, the hotel also served as a brothel, a space for hosting formal events as well as an establishment for fine dining. It was in the late 1960’s that The Grand Midway was re-invented as the psychedelic Kaleidoscope Bar but afterward sat in unused disarray for several years. Deception, bar fights, prostitution, and unscrupulous deaths over the course of The Grand Midway’s existence are believed to be the cause for apparition sightings, voices, moving objects, cold spots and a powerful negative energy emanating from the third floor. Why then would anyone want to purchase an establishment with such a disturbing past?
Enter novelist and filmmaker Blair Murphy. In 2001, Mr. Murphy, wanting to get away from the big city of Los Angeles, began looking for a new residence large enough for his artistic projects. He saw a gem of a deal listed on eBay for a 32 room hotel that he could not pass up. It did not take long before Mr. Murphy was told stories of The Grand Midway being haunted. Though Blair was used to ‘spooky’ environments having been raised by parents that owned a funeral home, The Grand Midway admittedly managed to ‘freak him out’. Charred human bones were uncovered in a wall on the second floor and two bodies were rumored to be buried in the basement. Yet, none of this prevented Blair from turning the hotel into a creatively stimulating environment that welcomed many traveling artists looking to absorb its dark history. After dealing with some disturbing occurrences of his own, Blair eventually reached out to the Scared! team for help. Was The Grand Midway Hotel actually a battleground for good vs evil? Were there demonic forces at work? It seemed Brian J. Cano and team would have their hands full.
“This is a very creepy place and you never know what to expect from The Grand Midway Hotel.” – Source: Scared! John Zaffis, Paranormal Expert & Demonologist
Brian answered the call by not only bringing in the Scared! crew that included skeptic Chris Mancuso and psychic Lisa Ann, he also linked up with renowned investigative professionals John Zaffis and Rosemary Ellen Guiley, who fortunately happened to be in the area. In addition, religious demonologist Adam Blai was on hand to assist the team in providing details behind the Hotel’s ominous occurrences. The paranormal expertise and experience within this group were extraordinary; they were clearly meant to be united in facing the notorious Grand Midway Hotel.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with Brian Cano for several years prior to Haunted Collector, he became a very personal friend and part of my family. It was fantastic working with him on Haunted Collector; he helped to bring a lot of technology and different things to the forefront for people to get a better understanding. Brian, myself, Rosemary Ellen Guiley and Chris Mancuso had an opportunity to perform several investigations at the Grand Midway Hotel, a lot of activity transpires and happens within its walls and it’s one of the most fascinating places you could possibly investigate” – John Zaffis, Paranormal Expert & Demonologist
While some investigators attempt to turn any unusual incident into a paranormal occurrence for the sake of sensationalism, Brian does his best to first eliminate all logical possibilities; solidifying trust with his viewers. His preparation for The Grand Midway Hotel would be no different as Brian ensured proper technical set-up prior to beginning the search. An ability to document evidence visually and auditorily is key to interpretation and feedback. Quite often it is when sifting through recordings after an investigation that evidence is revealed. Gadgets such as EMF (electromagnetic field) readers and EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) recorders are used in conjunction with simple tools like thermometers to detect possible paranormal activity. After all the tech equipment was set up, Brian decided to commence the investigation on what was known to be a most active part of the house, the third floor.
It was in room 22 on the third floor that artist Dylan Fornoff resided for about two years as he painted giant murals of angels and demons. Many inspired artists came to view his dark and mystical work that took over the room. Dylan even hung chains from the ceiling to make the gallery seem more dramatic, matching the look of the movie Hellraiser. It was not until he moved out though that the room became referred to as ‘The Demon Room’. Did Dylan invite an evil entity into that room?
“‘The Demon Room’ was a term applied later to this room by fear-stricken visitors, gossiping neighbors, demonologists finding evidence, and pop culture opportunists in the name of religion.” -Source: www.grandmidwayhotel.com
Brian did obtain some high EMF readings on the third floor although they appeared to be the result of the aged electrical wiring within the Hotel. While he mentioned the high readings could cause possible hallucinations and adverse perceptions, Brian witnessed no activity at that time.
Moving on to the second floor, based on reports of possible activity from Rosemary, meters were set up in an attempt communicate with spirits. Again, nothing was noted. Team members investigated the first-floor bar area and then explored into the basement where it was said two employees had been buried. Still, nothing was revealed to be out of the ordinary. It seemed that the paranormal did not wish to participate that first day at The Grand Midway. Rosemary even employed the help of new technology to assist in contacting the other side. She joined Brian in room 17 on the third floor with a gadget called Frank’s Box. Named after inventor Frank Sumption, this “ghost box” sweeps the AM radio band and the sounds being picked up on the constant scan supposedly include spirit voices allowing for real-time communication. While a couple words seemed to come through, it was not enough evidence to prove spiritual presence. Mr. Zaffis himself indicated that the Frank’s Box was still a bit controversial. Chris Mancuso actually spent some time on the second floor without meters or gadgets to simply observe and listen; enabling him to become familiar with his surroundings without distraction.
“First and foremost, the human body is the most mportant tool you can bring to an investigation. Your own senses, your own body will often give you cues as to what is in an environment.” – Source: Scared! Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Paranormal Expert
The team definitely felt negative energy emanating throughout The Grand Midway during that first night and Rosemary was even able to obtain a spiritual connection on the second floor with a man known to attack woman in their sleep. Unfortunately, there was no activity to be recorded; paranormal professional John Zaffis indicated that you don’t always get something on the first shot. Night two awaited their return.
For the second night of the team’s investigation, Brian brought in psychic Lisa Ann. Having already worked with the Scared! crew on several prior investigations, she was an important piece to Brian’s Three Pillar system that brings together scientist, skeptic and psychic in order to keep balance and avoid bias. John Zaffis explained he has always placed a high value on psychics during his own investigations, stating that back when he started [there was a lack of electronic assistance for scientific proof] he relied quite heavily on them. Additionally, Lisa Ann knew absolutely nothing about The Grand Midway Hotel prior to joining the investigation, the crew is always very strict about giving her information in order to maintain legitimacy.
“Brian expects 250% effort from everyone he works with as well as from himself. When you work with him you are working with someone who truly takes pride in the work he does. As a a full time professional psychic medium with over 20 years experience…. integrity, honesty and authenticity is what is most important to me and Brian gets that.” – Lisa Ann, Psychic
Immediately upon entry into The Grand Midway Hotel, Lisa Ann received a crashing of differing past eras. The enormity of the place along with its numerous artifacts and vast history caused her to feel a kind of psychic bombardment. She indicated it was like a revolving door; you could pick up so much. Chris, ever the hardcore skeptic was not about to take Lisa Ann’s descriptions as gospel… yet.
“One of the issues with studying demonology… is to understand the difference between studying demons to glorify them and be fascinated by them versus studying them as an enemy that we only need to understand enough to impose them.” – Adam Blai, Demonologist
For the very first time, and by pure happenstance, The Three Pillars, Lisa Ann, Chris and Brian, found themselves in the same room during an investigation and all three agree that their coming together played a major role in what happened next.
Brian, remembering his discussion with demonologist Adam Blai while both were in ‘The Demon Room’ on the previous night, casually requested that Lisa Ann (unaware of the room’s history) check it out to see what she might pick up. As Lisa Ann entered the room, Brian’s EMF showed high readings with absolutely no logical causes. Lisa Ann also started to get a schizophrenic feeling as she became aware of a saddened entity, a disturbed young man with crazy thoughts and images, in the room. “He wants to know if you want to hear his story?” is what Lisa Ann heard the spirit ask and “Are they listening?” This was the first time Brian had heard anything ever ask for permission to talk to them. The spirit clearly wanted their attention… and empathy.
Chris and Brian quickly realized that Lisa Ann was truly tapping into the spiritual presence residing within ‘The Demon Room’ as indicated by Adam Blai the night before. Adam had spoken about angels and demons, the role of demons, why they hate us and that it is their job to destroy humanity. He indicated that a person with authority over that room had given an evil presence permission to use the room via an attachment ritual. As a precaution, knowing that Lisa Ann is receptive, Chris and Brian made the decision to step out of the room and forewarn her. Once Lisa Ann learned the room’s dark history, she was adamant about needing to go back in. Would it be the boy whose presence she picked up on the first connection or would it be the demon?
As soon as Lisa Ann entered back into the room the feeling had changed completely… darkness… a demon… very tall and very black, she understood that it had been drawn due to the negative energy within the room. It wanted Lisa Ann to fear him and was very angry that she did not. The demon never allowed her to face him, it simply kept spinning around to be behind her. The EMS reader had its needle buried as Chris passed it around Lisa Ann. The demon wanted to know why they were there and Chris repeatedly got chills in the spots Lisa Ann indicated the entity was standing. As she continued her communication, Brian suddenly heard a male voice behind him and asked Chris if he said something, Chris indicated he did not. On an EVP playback, Brian also heard whispering after the voice.
Not only was Brian hearing the demonic presence himself, Adam indicated that the chills Chris felt might be the evil spirit attempting to find a weak spot in order to jump in and spread fear within the group. Amidst all the creepy chaos, Lisa Ann began offering a solution to rid the demon by building a shrine containing religious deities and artifacts; the demon continually yelled at her to “Shut up!” Needless to say, the team felt it was time to get out.
Brian and Chris vacated the room first so that Lisa Ann could prevent the demon from following them, she then backs out of the room herself. What they did not realize in the moment is that another EVP had been captured as they were leaving. Listen for yourself…
“Can you break out of the circle. The circle of fire? Die” – Source: Scared! EVP
Hearing that EVP definitely brings me unease and while I have not yet had my own personal paranormal experience, I can safely say that I am open to its existence. Fortunately, my journey into this realm has begun with a knowledgeable, reliable, honest and passionate group of professionals with years of experience; I knew they would not lead me astray. Brian J. Cano, Chris Mancuso, Lisa Ann, John Zaffis, Rosemary Ellen Guiley, and Adam Blai are tops in their field and the more I learned, the more I wanted to know. I reached out to The Three Pillars for some fascinating post-investigative feedback.
Chris Mancuso Q&A:
Linda: How did the experience impact your views on the paranormal?
Chris: From the beginning, I had always been searching for a personal experience, I really felt it was the only way I would believe in the existence of paranormal activity. Of course, after this encounter, I was forced to undeniably acknowledge it.
Linda: Are you glad to have had the experience?
Chris: Admittedly this experience was not a particularly pleasant one, but I am glad to have had it. It has been an integral part of my evolution, not only as a paranormal investigator but also as a person.
Linda: Do it help improve your approach to the investigative process?
Chris: I think that because of this experience I have been able to re-evaluate some of our old data with fresh perspective and insight. Also, while I still approach any investigation with a certain amount of skepticism, I am definitely more ‘open’. I’ve had numerous other paranormal experiences since our encounter with the malevolence at The Grand Midway Hotel. Whether this is attributed to, as some claim, that once you open the door, it can never be closed, or whether it’s just the fact that I can more easily recognize paranormal activity, I just don’t know.
Linda: How did the experience impact you personally?
Chris: It did help me to answer some of those personal questions about a life after this one. It made me truly aware that there are evil forces and energies at work and that if there are Demons then there surely must be a God. I can be a force for good. I just had to choose a side. So I made my choice. While I still can’t claim to be overly religious, at least as far as any organized religion, I can say there is a God and I work to make the world a better place in whatever small way that I can.
Linda: What advice would you give to a novice investigator looking to visit The Grand Midway today?
Chris: I have always said that I can’t honestly tell people that the paranormal is real, that ghosts exist if I didn’t wholeheartedly believe it myself. Well, it’s real. But don’t take me at my word, I know I wouldn’t. However, if you choose to investigate, be responsible about it. Do your research, READ,…don’t just emulate what is popular on TV shows. Have patience and be consistent. It took me seven years to have my experience; when you are meant to have yours, you will.
Lisa Ann Interview:
Linda: When I was piecing together Part 1 of this article, I told Brian that I felt the article had so much great content that I was fearing things may get lost due to length. We then decided it was perhaps a good idea to have The Grand Midway investigation be a focus all it’s own.
Lisa Ann: That is one of the craziest investigations I have honestly ever been on. Feel free to ask any questions, I’m an open book.
Linda: I heard that you are actually cousins with Brian? Did that have any effect on your working with the team?
Lisa Ann: Him [Brian] and Chris were the biggest pains in the asses (laughing) I’ve ever worked with in my entire life because they are so ridiculously skeptical. Whenever I go on an investigation, I really never do know where I am going, they would always meet me in a parking lot. But he [Brian] was ridiculous! I would meet them at places, I would drive seven hours and meet them at a gas station. People have no idea the extent they would go to to make sure I knew nothing. They would keep me in quarantine. And Chris! Chris, in the beginning, had a lot of issues with psychics which, I don’t blame him because some are phony. But, he would go out his way to give me false information when walking through places with me because he said when he would go through with other psychics and he would say this is what we heard, they would then change their story. So him and I, in the beginning, butted heads all the time. He and I actually became big fans of each other because we really held true to what we felt, to what our belief system was. The beginning with the two of them, oh my lord. Let me just say I didn’t get any free ride being a relative. I think I would have been better off being a complete stranger. (laughing) I take what I do insanely serious. I live, eat and breathe what I do. It’s my business, it’s who I am personally. So, I have no problem with skeptics and I definitely have no tolerance for fake people. But honestly, they would go so far above and beyond. I really did feel a lot of pressure on the first investigation [with Brian and Chris].
Linda: Had you been to The Grand Midway prior to this investigation?
Lisa Ann: No, I had never even heard of it. People don’t realize this, I know nothing! I don’t even know where we’re going. I’m not making it up about the gas station. They would have me go to a location outside of where they were and then when it was time for me, they would bring me. I wasn’t even allowed on the location half the time or if I was near the location I was never even allowed in the building until they were ready to film with cameras rolling. I was very respectful of their craft and the authenticity. That is one thing about them [Brian and Chris] that always made them different, which is why I loved working with them. They always were authentic.
Linda: How many investigations had you done with them prior to The Grand Midway?
Lisa Ann: I honestly don’t remember. We had our ritual, I was used to the way they worked. The other thing that was very odd about that particular investigation is that Chris was never with me [on prior investigations] or Brian was never with us. There was something weird about the camera and I think Chris was asking me questions that day [normally it’s Brian] but Brian was behind the camera and the whole day was just very weird the way it all unfolded. It led to Chris, Brian, and I, the three of us being in the same room. Normally it wouldn’t be like that.
Linda: You bring up a good point which is something Brian touched on as well. He felt that the three of you were together contributed to the activity that happened. Did you feel that too?
Lisa Ann: I really do. I think it was 2006 but we had been working together, I know it was a couple of years, I don’t know how many investigations but I do think there was something very important and unique about the three of us, especially that room where all of the stuff happened with that evil spirit. I’m telling you I can’t even remember a time where that’s happened before. The fact that the three of us were in that room is very, very unique.
Linda: After I watched the investigation video myself, I was amazed by how you all stayed in the room. Were you afraid for yourself or the team?
Lisa Ann: I wasn’t. I have to tell you that video does not do an ounce of justice what actually unfolded. I watched that video a million times and that’s one thing, when we were done, we were like there’s no way, I don’t care how good the video is, we can never capture exactly what was going on. When I first got involved in just the psychic stuff, in general, I had a mentor and he always used to tell me nobody can harm you and nothing can bother you unless you believe that it can. So I have always believed that. I have always been told that as long as I am true to who I am and I work of the white light that they can’t harm me. So, I really was not afraid of it. I was taken aback but I wasn’t nervous or anything.
Linda: I find it interesting that Chris now wears a cross around his neck.
Lisa Ann: He definitely had an instantaneous change. That was one of the things I did. As soon as we were done, I went outside, I had a set of rosary beads in my car. We were spending the night there so we were all pretty freaked out.
“That Grand Midway, that really was a turning point for him [Chris]. He and I really did grow to respect each other. He always used to say to me, until I have my own experience I just still can’t believe in any of this. That day [The Grand Midway Investigation], he was like, ok [now he believes].” – Source: Scared! Lisa Ann, Psychic
Linda: Have you been back?
Lisa Ann: One time for an event. It is such an interesting place and I know there is always activity going on.
Linda: Is there anything else you would like to share about The Grand Midway investigation?
Lisa Ann: I think that [The Grand Midway] showed the seriousness of it [paranormal investigations]. When you’re watching it on your couch, it’s entertaining but you really have to be responsible and any kind of work you’re doing like that, there is an obligation. People need to take it seriously.
Final Thoughts With Brian:
Linda: Have you been back to The Grand Midway Hotel?
Brian: I always stop to see Blair when in the area. Chris will never go back to that third floor or to that room. I would go back in periodically and look around and just see how it feels. A couple years later another artist moved in there, a girl and she painted the room with flowery images and kind of unknowingly took Lisa Ann’s advice (as seen in the episode) and put all different deities to clear the room. The room is now divided into two little sections with a kind of shelf divider that opens up the room so it feels airier. When I go in now, I don’t feel anything, any negativity, it just feels completely different. Everyone who gets involved in the paranormal says “I want something to happen to me.” and when something like this happens to us or anyone that has a demonic encounter I’m like, No… you don’t. You don’t even want to see that, that’s what you try to avoid. After The Grand Midway, we assumed all adventures would be dialed to 11 and the very next investigation nothing happened. It was unrealistic to assume everything would be like that now.
Linda: Do people believe your demonic encounter?
Brian: I don’t think we’ve ever converted anybody but, if you’re a believer then you believe what we say. If you’re a skeptic, you question what we say. It is what it is. It had to happen to me for me to believe. I understand that I can’t force anyone to believe our story but it happened and until it happens to you, you might not understand.
Linda: What were your feelings after the encounter?
Brian: It’s like you can see more on TV but until you’re in it, you can’t really fathom the reality of it. It’s almost like there’s a ptsd of a sort. For the next two years, I was severely affected, I was like… the world is filling up with demons and evil and we can’t stop it. [I thought] this is just how it’s gonna be and everything sucks. [It wasn’t] until I came to an epiphany that there’s something equal, there’s something to balance it out there… there are other forces out there we can’t see [that are] keeping things in check. But until I realized that, I thought I was only gonna find bad things. We’re in the fight now. It was a weird time. For me it was just… we’re not gonna win, this is a losing battle, what are we gonna do?
Linda: Do you feel the need to have any kind of protection?
Brian: My thought process had always been if I ignore it, it won’t bother me. A lot of times these things (Demons) just seek out attention. If I ignore it, they will move on. That seemed to work for me all those years. After The Grand Midway, I don’t feel like anything followed me home to lead me to believe I should change anything.
Linda: If your encounter at The Grand Midway had not occurred, would you have continued your work as an investigator?
Brian: That’s a good question. Back then we were ambitious about our product, Scared!. It was about having content. The experience itself (The Grand Midway), we weren’t expecting, we didn’t know what was gonna happen in each episode. I feel if it didn’t happen there, yeah we definitely would have kept going. We loved doing it.
Linda: Do you believe what happened a Grand Midway happened for a reason?
Brian: I am not a believer in that. I believe we interpret the things that happen to us. It’s what we did with our experience that altered our path.
“Our experience here (The Grand Midway) was a revelation for some and a validation for others. Which would it be for you?” – Source: Scared! Chris Mancuso, Paranormal Skeptic
Many thanks to Brian J. Cano for introducing me to this fascinating world of the paranormal and for his patience while I put this piece together. I look forward to expanding my knowledge from him and other experts in the very near future. I am not psychic but there just might be a great feature on the intriguing Mr. John Zaffis coming soon. Kudos to the entire Grand Midway investigative team led by Brian J. Cano… Chris Mancuso, Lisa Ann, John Zaffis, Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Greg Cusick, Jason Porcino, Brooke Haramja, and Paul Digennaro. And while Brian has announced that he is taking a break from his paranormal ventures in 2018 he can be found hosting a History of the Paranormal Exhibit at the New Jersey Paraunity Expo in May. Stop by and check it out!
I have met some incredible individuals this year and I consider myself fortunate to now call Brian a friend and solid source for my spirit inquiries. Follow him on social media for news and updates: Facebook: Brian J. Cano Twitter: @BrianJCano Instagram: brian_j_cano … surely he will return to pursue his paranormal passion. 🙂 Also, visit www.neverstopsearching.com to learn more about Brian and to view a variety of Scared! explorations. For those daring enough, check out the full episode of Scared! The Grand Midway Hotel right here…
Never Stop Searching!
Full-time fangirl and part-time manager. A comic-con junkie with a passion for writing and great artwork. Catch me… if you can!