Occult Research Society investigates USF, global folklore

President Nolan Nolan and Vice President Brenda Nguyen of the Occult Research Society promote occult research with the objective to stimulate academic and creative thought of the USF community. ORACLE PHOTO/JUSTIN SEECHARAN

By investigating haunted locations, seals and recording sightings of ghosts on campus, President Nolan Nolan and Vice President Brenda Nguyen observe many peculiar things while leading the Occult Research Society club at USF.

Nolan said he has always been intrigued and fascinated by the occult. He tested out this curiosity by occasionally playing with a Ouija board and visiting a haunted historical house an hour away from campus. He noticed a doll’s silhouette in the house’s attic window that changed positions when he visited the room a second time. Despite witnessing paranormal occurrences, Nolan has no fear when investigating the occult – only interest.

“I think I love the idea of mystery in this world. I love thinking that there is something out there that can be discovered. I think that there’s all the paranormal occult stuff out there that not a lot of people are paying attention to, so I love the idea of being able to figure that out,” he said.

Daniel Mendoza founded the Occult Research Society in 2019 during his sophomore year at USF, where he was the club’s president until Nolan succeeded him.

The art of folklore oral storytelling and the unification of people through supernatural research captivated Mendoza. He said he realized occult research was beneficial for his project in creative writing, so the idea of an occult research club at USF came into fruition. The mission of the club is to collect and categorize urban legends on a global scale, especially on campus.

Mendoza said he understood that expanding the management team was beneficial for the organization of the Occult Research Society, initially appointing Nolan as the vice president and adding a treasurer position. As his graduation approached, Mendoza recognized the spark and creativity that Nolan and Nguyen possessed and recommended them for the roles of president and vice president.

“Nolan showed a lot of interest. He has a way of doing things which is awesome. I am glad that he and Brenda take the initiative to better the club, create an inclusive and learning environment with cool topics,” Mendoza said.

“Brenda is super creative. She likes to paint and make artistic things for the club like chalk sigils for an activity.”

General topics the club researches are cursed objects, demonology, alchemy, dolls, ghosts, cryptids, monsters, supernatural artifacts and magical practices from different cultures across the globe.

Nguyen described the Occult Research Society as a casual, educational, spooky and relaxing environment to learn about the paranormal.

The most notable strength of the club is every member’s open mindset and great desire to learn about the occult, hypothesize and discuss theories, Nolan said. However, the club’s current unpopularity – with only a turnout of 10 members out of 181– is something leadership wants to work on, according to Nolan. They aspire to improve by organizing Bulls Market events next semester and promoting the club on social media.

Isabella Mendoza, an active club member, said Nolan and Nguyen make great leaders and help ensure the club remains exciting and fun.

“Brenda and Nolan are really fun together. They are both quite cool and approachable people,” Mendoza said.

Typical club meetings begin with the dimming of the lights to set the mood of mystery and the occult, followed by a presentation of the meeting topic. A Q&A portion and a more informal discussion period also take place.

Some of the equipment that the club uses to research occult activity are electromagnetic frequency (EMF) meters, which are often used in ghost hunting to measure the limited electric magnetic field of ghosts. In the presence of a paranormal entity, the EMF meter allegedly spikes up. The club has used these meters to investigate paranormal activity in the library as well as the theoretically haunted HMS architecture building.

While the meters have not alerted them of any occult activity in the library, they have noticed small EMF meter spikes at the architecture building.

Some hauntings at USF the club has researched are the girl with the green backpack who haunts the fourth floor of the library, ‘Trepanation’ and the cursed supply closet in the School of Architecture and Community Design building.

‘Trepanation’ was supposedly a medical student that performed trepanation on himself by drilling holes in his skull to enhance mystical visualizations, and according to Mendoza, the last sighting of Trepanation was in 2019.

“He thought that by releasing pressure in his brain, he could perform more efficiently. He started to see hallucinations afterwards and those hallucinations would make him seem smarter and give him the ability to tell the history of objects,” Mendoza said.

The legend of the HMS architecture building involves the presence of a cursed supply closet.

“It is said that there is a room that is like a supply closet. But if you go by the room at night, you hear voices on the other side. But if you open it, there’s nobody there. And I wish I could remember what room number it was, but everyone believes it’s on the second floor and it’s just a supply closet,” Nolan said.

Non-USF hauntings that the club researches include the Voynich manuscript and the Mothman.

The Voynich manuscript, as explained by Nolan and Nguyen, is an old book written in an unknown language that surfaced in the Italian Renaissance. Not a single person has been able to decipher the language or the strange depictions of plants that are included in the book. Nolan said the two want to plan a presentation of the mysterious book and have an open discussion to share hypotheses on the purpose of it.

They also described the Mothman as a cryptid or humanoid creature from Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Many people speculated in lore that the Mothman was responsible for the Silver Bridge collapse that killed 46 people in 1967, and not one of the faulty integrity of the bridge.

Nolan said they hope to create a body of work of USF folklore and unite people who share the same curiosity, creativity and passion to research the occult and engage in storytelling.

“The paranormal is the science that we just don’t understand yet,” Nolan said. “I believe that this statement sums up the theme of the club extremely well. We’re all just trying to make sense of the weird world we live in.”