"I need everyone to focus their energy on those surrounding the table," psychic medium Maureen Wood said.
As the voices rose and the rhythmic chant rang out, the four people who were touching the table's edges with just the tips of their fingers began to run across as the "flying" table jerked its way around the room.
Wood, a member of the New England Ghost Project, was leading the "table-tipping" exercise, as part of the second night of "Contact II." The three-day conference, held at the former Houghton Mansion, was the second installment of the Berkshire Paranormal Conference, which began as a collaboration of the Ghost Project and local ghost hunters the Berkshire Paranormal Group.
Earlier in the day, Steve Wilson, a certified shaman in Mayan and Tibetan traditions and American Indian, took about 30 conference participants on a vision quest to find their totem animals.
"Animals come to us to remind us who we are. We need to reconnect to the animal kingdom, the tree kingdom, the rock kingdom, so we can balance our lives and remember our beginnings. Animals are not afraid of death it's part of the eternal
As the room was slowly engulfed with the aroma of sage, Wilson called on the "Creator" and great eagle to guide the participants in their journeys.
"It's a big evolution to be here today 25 years ago you wouldn't be sitting here talking about things like ghosts," he said. "I believe we're being driven toward finding higher states of love. You don't know how thankful nature is when we connect. We have forgotten the old ways and the Earth is not happy."
As the vision quest came to a close, Wilson reminded the group that not everyone would see their totem animals. Then he asked if anyone wanted to share.
Immediately a woman in a white sweater shot her hand into the air.
"I saw a moose. It was really big. It showed me water," she said.
A majority of the group came in contact with their totem animals, or animal guides who will help them with specific problems in their lives.
Other animals included a turtle, a raccoon, a bear, a fox, a crow and a deer.
"The deer came very close to my face. It was right here," one man said as he held his palm close to his face.
"It's a message of self-sacrifice," Wilson said. "We connect with the animals because our souls are in need. They want those pieces back, so they can be whole."
Electronic voice phenomena expert Karen Mossey explained the art of capturing messages from the spirit world in white noise Saturday night.
"I like the cheaper digital recorders. They have plenty of static and noise to help capture the EVPs. The messages are usually short in duration the longest one I have is one minute and 44 seconds," she said. "When you listen to a tape, you'll unusually hear some precursor sounds before the EVP. You start to hear clicks and pops. We believe those are breaks in the dimension which they need electrostatic energy to communicate."
Mossey, whose work has appeared in the movie "White Noise" and the television series "Ghost Whisperer," played EVP samples. One clip included a man calling her crazy.
"It's very important to remember you're dealing with the afterlife. You're dealing with people and their personalities don't change when the go to the other side," she said. "People are people. For us, they're validating the continuance of life after death."
However, Mossey said not all EVP transmissions are the dead trying to communicate.
"There are imprints of words and feelings that are left behind. You have to realize that everything you say is out there."
A part of the proceeds from the conference go toward the Masons' restoration efforts at the former mansion that once belonged to the city's first mayor, A.C. Houghton.
Masons Nicholas and Joshua Mantello, who founded Berkshire Paranormal, believe the spirits of Houghton and his daughter, Mary, and family chauffeur John Widders, still roam the halls of the mansion. The three are linked to a tragic 1914 accident, in which Mary was killed.
"In 1914, the Houghtons purchased a Pierce Arrow touring car. It sat nine passengers," local historian Paul Marino said. "On Aug. 1, 1914, Mr. Houghton decided to take a pleasure drive to Bennington. Mr. Houghton and Mary were joined by Dr. and Mrs. Hutton of New York City."
He said the party left the city at about 9 a.m. that morning and by 9:30 had reached Oak Hill Road in Pownal.
"One of the written accounts refers to it as the daunting Oak Hill Road, when actually it's a gentle grade about a 1/2 mile from Pownal Center. But as the story goes, the car came to a point where the road was being worked on. On the right side of the road, a team of horses was approaching," Marino said.
Apparently, Widders was traveling 12 miles per hour when he overcompensated and gave the horse team room to pass. Coming too close to the road's left shoulder, he could not navigate the upcoming corner and rolled the car down an embankment three times.
"All of the men escaped with minor injuries. Sibyl Hutton was killed instantly when the car rolled on her. Mary, the only one not ejected from the car, was taken to North Adams Regional Hospital," Marino said.
Mary died later that day. Widders, overcome with grief, would commit suicide several days later. Mary's father, seemingly giving up, died Aug. 11.
Conference participants also had a chance to roam the mansion over the weekend.