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Are the SteelStacks haunted? Paranormal investigator Justin Torok says so

Ashley C. Fontones
Ghost Encounter hosts and Lehigh Valley paranormal investigator Justin Torok stands on the top of the SteelStacks.

  • On a recent visit to the SteelStacks, paranormal investigator Justin Torok encountered something spooky
  • Torok is the host of the YouTube series and podcast, "Ghost Encounters"
  • His latest episode explores the hauntings at Wooden Match, an old Bethlehem train station and the site of a deadly accident in 1927

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — It was shortly before dusk when me and my bestie met up with paranormal investigator and "Ghost Encounters" host Justin Torok at the SteelStacks, once the home of the Bethlehem Steel Plant.

Inside Torok's heavy-duty briefcases were his ghost-hunting equipment: EMF meters, digital thermometers, handheld and static digital video cameras, thermographic and night vision cameras, night vision goggles and digital audio recorders.

While he didn't use any of the tools that evening, as the sun faded and the sky turned a grayish black, the three of us encountered something spooky, and in my opinion, unexplainable.

Entire property haunted, hundreds of deaths

Once we arrived at the top of the Stacks' Hoover-Mason Trestle, Torok noted that even though the steel plant shut its furnace down in 1995, the sounds coming from inside the plant are still audible.

"If you sit here quietly, you will hear the sounds of metal and clanking," he said. "It's almost like the workers haven't stopped working."

Ashley C. Fontones
Ghost Encounters host Justin Tarok points to some of his equipment used in paranormal investigations.

It's estimated that more than 600 people died in work-related incidents at Bethlehem Steel Corporation.

In 2001, the city paid tribute to the steelworkers who had died by unveiling a memorial with their names located at a park on New Street.

"The death toll at the SteelStacks is so great. People died all over the grounds. Between 1905 and 1941 about five hundred people died at the plant. In 1945, five people died in one day. One of the guys, it was his first day on the job. Another person that died that day was trying to rescue some of the people that were injured," Torok said. "So probably the entirety of SteelStacks is haunted."

Tracking ghosts

Torok got his start as a paranormal investigator after college where he majored in video production and photography.

One of his first experiments was at the Candle Shoppe of the Poconos in Swiftwater. The shop was built in 1897 as a home for a doctor who worked at the Pocono Biological Laboratories. The doctor would experiment on monkeys, who are said to haunt the joint.

Torok's investigation at the store earned him an award at the Pocono Mountain Film Festival in 2010 and inspired him to launch a YouTube series, "Ghost Encounters," along with its accompanying podcast.

His latest episode, launched weeks ago on Friday the 13th, takes place at another haunted spot, The Wooden Match, 61 W. Lehigh Street in Bethlehem.

The bar/restaurant was once an old train station built in 1873. He and his team spent about six hours tracking the activity, waiting for the entities to appear.

"The Wooden Match experiences [paranormal] stuff almost on a daily basis. When we did an investigation we caught a plethora of insane paranormal bits," Torok said. "In 1927 there was a crash where nine people died and dozens of people were injured. There was a story of a little boy who died in the basement back when there was an old coal stove."

Inside the establishment, Torok and his team spent about six hours tracking the activity, waiting for the entities to appear.

"Spirits are not there 24/7. They are made of energy. They need energy to do things. If you stick around long enough and interact with them, acknowledging them, give it some time and you will see," Torok said.

"What a lot of people don't know is that when I do an investigation I had several hours of footage. It takes a bit of time to get the response. It takes patience and a quiet [environment]."

"With any haunted place you get that feeling that you're not alone. You get the feeling that someone is lurking by the doorway. When a ghost is around, you will feel their energy. Ghosts are made of energy, they are giving off energy."
Paranormal investigator Justin Torok, host of "Ghost Encounters"

Not all 'evil'

In his many years of hunting ghosts, Torok says he's only encountered one evil spirit.

"There is this huge misconception that a spirit or ghost is mean, evil or angry. Most of the time, spirits are just people who died in a traumatic way. For example, the nine people who died in the train crash at the Wooden Match. Those spirits aren't evil or vengeful. They may be tricksters a little bit and move stuff around," he explained.

"The majority of the ghosts that I have encountered have not been evil entities. During only one investigation have I encountered something malevolent. It was in a brothel where bad things happened in the basement. Employees, specifically women, would get pushed and shoved and during the investigation one of the women with me got scratched. Then we heard a huge bang that indicated the spirit wanted us to leave."

Ashley C. Fontones
A look inside one of the Bethlehem Steel Plant rooms during sundown.

'Do you smell that?'

Ashley C. Fontones
Paranormal investigator Justin Torok and LehighValleyNews.com arts and culture reporter Micaela Hood walk around the SteelStacks.

So what really happened at the Stacks that night?

As we began to pack up and leave, we walked towards one of the SteelStacks' stairwells. I glanced over to the right at a giant room containing rows of empty steel equipment.

At dusk, everything looks eerie.

As Torok and I stopped in the stairwell to say our final goodbyes, my friend began to snap photos of the empty warehouse.

Then, as if the spirits knew, the Nikon camera she held (with a fully charged battery, I should mention) froze.

A second later, the slight smell of a furnace filled the air. "Do you smell that?" Torok asked.

Feeling a bit creeped out, I just nodded.

"With any haunted place, you get that feeling that you're not alone. You get the feeling that someone is lurking by the doorway. When a ghost is around, you will feel their energy. Ghosts are made of energy, they are giving off energy," he said.

Once we arrived back in the newsroom, the camera turned back on.

But the photos we took of that ghostly, empty room appeared blurry, out of focus. And to this day, I still can't get the voice memos I recorded during that spooky encounter to play.

You may see a ghost (or two!) at these spooky hotels, restaurants and museums.