Brown Lady

Brown Lady
Ghost on Staircase

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Haunted Houses on Halloween

I was the curator of the Kell House Museum in Wichita Falls, Texas for about three years before finding a museum job in northern California. When I was first hired, I was told that many docents felt the house was haunted. In fact, the public had that perception as well. I admit I had a few strange experiences. We hosted weddings in the grounds -- not in the house because of the historic artifacts. During one wedding, I let the Bride and Groom into the house with a photographer to have one photograph taken at the foot of the large, wooden staircase, then I ushered them out, alarmed the house and locked the door.

The wedding party was "partying" in the garden. A lady asked me if she could get a tour of the house and I told her it was against policy. She then pointed to an upstairs bedroom and asked, "Then who is that inside the house?"

I turned and didn't see anyone. She explained she had seen someone peeking out through the window. I went inside the house thinking the alarm didn't set and that someone was indeed inside the house. But the alarm was still on. I checked out the whole house and saw no one.

As time went on, I saw and heard things.

I'll post more on what I experienced there in a later post. But one thing I started when I was there (and something they continue to do today) was a haunted house on or near Halloween. Instead of a teenager dressed in a Wal-Mart costume jumping out from behind a door wielding a bloody knife, we ran an authentic haunted house. We led people in small groups on a candlelight tour of a darkened historic mansion, explaining at each stop what ghostly things we have seen or heard in that location. The tours were and continue to be a hit.

What do you think of all the haunted houses on Halloween? Do any live up to the hype?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ghost Hunting

Ghost hunters talk about three main types of paranormal activity: An Intelligent Haunting, a Residual Haunting, and Poltergeist Activity. I think that’s getting way too precise about a field that is so imprecise that many don’t believe in it. It’s like discussing the various types of Bigfoot out there when we haven’t confirmed Bigfoot even exists. And, actually, this is something Bigfoot hunters have done!

What if all hauntings are intelligent? What if all are residual? What if an intelligent ghost is really responsible for poltergeist activity? Shouldn’t ghost hunters just focus on collecting as much data as they can to prove the existence of ghosts (enough to convince a reasonable person – I know there are skeptics out there that will never believe, even if they become a ghost).

Once enough data is collected, then they can parse out any statistical differences that may point to a variety of ghost types. That brings to mind another question I’ve had: what about the data being collected right now? There are probably hundreds of ghost hunting groups out there who actively seek out evidence. What do they do with any evidence they collect? Is there some kind of national or international database where the data is kept? Or does each group hold onto the evidence they have, only letting a select few view or listen to it? It makes me wonder if enough evidence to prove ghosts exist is already out there, spread out in little snippets in the closets of several amateur ghost hunter’s houses.

What do you think about ghost hunting?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ghost Hunters...

There was a good episode of Ghost Hunters on tonight. In both locations they were able to capture something strange on their thermal imaging camera. I wonder, for all of you amateur ghost hunters out there, what equipment do you use and rely on most? If money were no object, what tools would you pack in your ghost hunter kit?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Haunted Houses...

One of my great grandfathers was an actual ghost hunter. This was not his primary occupation. He was a farmer in Missouri. Victorian spiritualism was very popular at the time and seances were being held by psychics everywhere, including rural Missouri. My great grandfather was skeptical of the whole movement and he saw an opportunity. A number of homes in Missouri were reported to be haunted. Many of the unlucky homeowners tried to sell their possessed homes, but no one would buy them. My great grandfather came up with a plan. He would investigate each claim of paranormal activity and prove the homes weren't haunted at all. Being a good businessman, he decided to buy the haunted houses for a much reduced rate, prove they weren't haunted, then sell them for a profit.

He was successful. He proved that what occupants thought was blood dripping in their walls was really honey. He discovered a rat with three legs and one boney stump in a home supposedly haunted by a man with a peg-leg. He cut away branches from outer walls, eliminating the ghostly sounds and scratches that terrorized one family.

But one house proved to be very difficult to solve. Each night at midnight, every door in the house would open and close. Night after night, he would lock each door and sit in a spot inside the house where he could observe at least five doors. Each night, the locked doors opened on cue at midnight. This was in the early 1920s. Computers were a long way off as were advanced electrical systems. He could not figure out what was happening in this home or what force was opening all the doors. This was the last house he investigated. He was unable to find a logical explanation for the observed phenomenon. Late one night, long after he'd given up, the house burned to the ground. There was no known cause for the fire. It was not insured, there was no electricity, and no one lived in it.

My great grandfather was not as skeptical about the paranormal after his encounter with this house. How about you? Have you ever experienced a haunted house?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ghosts in the News...

From the Chicago Tribune today:

Young blond woman's ghost haunts restaurant, legend says
Woman killed in '50s lingers, the legend says
By Vikki Ortiz Chicago Tribune Reporter
October 20, 2008

It's that time of year when Country House restaurant workers in Clarendon Hills answer as many questions about their ghost as about their half-pound burger.Missy Dupre, the restaurant's hostess, says Country House doesn't brag about its alleged haunted history, but employees are trained to talk about it if need be.As the story goes, an attractive blond woman who was dating a bartender back in the 1950s came in distraught, asking him to watch her baby. When he refused, she left, and died after driving into a tree.Whether or not you believe the ghoulish tale, it's been repeated many times over the years — on the Discovery and Travel Channels, in local news reports and on haunted-house Web sites. Some employees have added their own spooky encounters to the running list — the smell of the ghost's perfume, the sound of her footsteps, napkins flying for no reason.

"I didn't believe it for a lot of years," says manager Lynn Banks, who's worked at the restaurant for 26 years. These days, she says, she's less sure. She's heard some strange noises herself.In any event, Halloween season means that ghost-seeking diners request Table 13, take pictures in which they claim to have captured "orbs" and report strange noises in the bathroom.Country House staff try to stay in good, ahem, spirits."We laugh it off," Dupre says. "It's like, 'Could you move your [tarot] cards so I can put your burger down?' "


And another from Canada's The Telegram...
In March of 1999, I collected a strange story from a young man from Manuels, C.B.S., that took place on a fall evening when he was 16. Returning home along the old railway track, he heard a strange noise behind him.“I heard what I thought to be another set of footsteps behind me,” he told me. “I just shrugged it off to being my own feet ‘flicking’ the crushed stones about. Then, I realized that the steps were a distance behind me and must belong to another source other than myself.”The boy was nervous, but brave enough to turn around and look. What he saw terrified him.“I looked down towards the ground about 15 feet behind me,” he remembered, “and saw the crushed stone being disturbed with the impressions of someone’s footsteps coming towards me. I ran the remaining 60-70 feet and the sounds of the footsteps had ceased, though, my prayers to heaven above hadn’t.”Local folklore at the time included a story about a woman known as “Mrs. Molloy” who was killed on the train track many years ago when she was a young girl. The boy’s experience with the ghost was not the first and, apparently, it was not to be the last.Early this October I was contacted by “Natasha G” from C.B.S. She had found a reference to my 1999 story about Mrs. Molloy and shared her own, more recent encounter with the ghost.Natasha’s encounter took place about five or six years ago, when she was out late one night with a few friends.“I happened to look up the track and see what appeared to be a white/grey blob, almost like a patch of fog,” she told me.“I kept my eyes fixed on it and as I got closer I could make out the figure of a woman in an older-style white dress. She had her head down as if she was looking for something or saddened.”Natasha moved closer, and could clearly see the woman in white.“She walked into a little pathway that is only about four-feet long, if that, that goes onto the next road which you can clearly see from the tracks, and then she was gone,” Natasha said. “I kept looking back as we walked past the path, but there was nothing there.“I have never seen anything like it in my life,” the woman told me. “I wasn’t scared though, I have an interest in the paranormal and it was probably one of the greatest things I could have seen in my life. I didn’t tell anyone about it for a while, until I could convince myself that it was indeed what I had seen. I only told close friends, my mom and my sister.”Only a few days after sharing her story to me, Natasha wrote me back saying she had heard an intriguing local legend from an old friend.According to the storyteller, the ghost on the track in C.B.S. is said to be the phantom of a bride-to-be who was left standing at the altar when her fiance didn’t show. The jilted bride was upset, left the church and started walking down the old train tracks in the area of Eason’s Road.The bride heard a train moving closer, and she started to move away from the track. Her wedding dress, never a practical outfit for the serious hiker, got caught in one of the railway spikes. She struggled to free herself but was unable to escape the onrushing train. In true ghost story fashion, it is said she now roams the tracks looking for the man who would have been her husband.The story of the bride on the tracks sounds a bit like a contemporary legend to me, and has parallels to other legends of ghostly brides who killed themselves on their wedding nights. It is interesting, however, that two different people, years apart, had ghostly experiences near the same spot.I’d love to know more about this legend, and the unlucky Mrs. (or Miss) Molloy. If you’ve spotted a lady in white along the tracks in C.B.S., or have heard the story before, please contact me c/o The Telegram, or e-mail


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Haunted Cemeteries

One place many ghost hunters tend to investigate are cemeteries. While cemeteries themselves can be very creepy, especially older cemeteries at night, I've never been convinced that cemeteries are the right place to investigate ghosts. Granted, there are a lot of dead people in a cemetery, but this isn't where the departed lived and loved nor is it where they died. I would think that the energy that remains after death would be pulled more toward those places where there was some connection -- beyond the physical body. Eventually, all that remains of ones body is completely consumed by nature. So having some connection to ones body makes no sense for those who investigate very old cemeteries in areas with highly acidic soil.

Also, I think that cemeteries can cloud minds and shape interpretations. In the same way that any sound or shadow in a creepy, falling down old house can elicit extreme reactions and ghostly interpretations, I think that an old cemetery with decomposing gravestones can have the same effect. Some people expect to hear or see a ghost in a cemetery, so any sound or unusual movement is automatically attributed to ghostly activity with little or no scientific reasoning.

Having said that, I still love to walk through old cemeteries -- especially at night. Whether the cemetery is a haunted place or not, everyone buried there is a potential ghost. We just need to find out where they are haunting. So what do you think about cemeteries? Do you think they should be investigated by ghost hunters?

Thoughts on Death...

A volunteer where I work died recently from cancer. It was a very quick passing. He was diagnosed just four weeks before he died. He and I used to have some pretty deep conversations about death and what might come after (this was long before his diagnosis). He was really interested in quantum physics and the possibility of different dimensions. He felt that life would continue in some way and that science was just as relevant as religion in finding answers. I couldn't argue with him.

A few days before he died he became withdrawn and no longer wanted visitors. He stopped talking and eating, only taking a few sips of water every now and then. I wonder what he thought of as he prepared to die. He knew death was coming. How does anyone prepare to die? How many people actually see death coming from a distance of weeks or days? How would each of us prepare for that moment? Death is something we never really contemplate as our eventual fate when we are young. As we grow older, the thought of our own inescapable fate looms a little larger; we accept death as a fact of life. But acceptance of the concept of death at age 55 is much different than facing it head-on at age 79 while fading away on a deathbed.

Death is the great unknown. The only way to know for sure that some part of us continues on in some form is to experience death ourselves. But there are other ways to gather evidence. Discovering that ghosts are real would certainly be one way. Others look to the experiences of those that have died and come back as evidence of an after life. I'm not convinced their experiences are truly paranormal. Too many scientific experiments have shown that most people who are deprived of oxygen have the same visions and experiences as those who had near death experiences. I'm rambling now, I know....But it is a blog.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: I want to believe in ghosts because I want to believe in an after life. But I won't believe anything fully until it's proven.

I hope my friend is still thinking somewhere. I hope he has found answers to some of life's most enduring questions. I hope because I can't yet believe.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

First Post

Ghosts. Just what are they exactly? Are ghosts real? Or are they simply created by over-active imaginations trying to explain some sound, vision, or other phenomenon?

Honestly, I don't know. I want to know. I would love to believe whole-heartedly that ghosts are real, but I can't. At the same time, however, I'm not a total skeptic. My mind is open to the possibility of ghosts. What would it take to convince me that ghosts are real?

First, seeing is believing. If I saw a ghost, face to face, I'd believe it. Aside from my own experience, the only other thing that would convince me that ghosts are real is a good amount of tangible evidence that would pass muster in most courts. I say most courts because there are some skeptics out there who would refuse to believe in Big Foot if it were dragging them into the forest kicking and screaming.

Ok, so now you know where I stand. I'm on the fence, so to speak. But I do love this topic. I read about ghosts and ghost hunting all the time. One of my favorite shows is Ghost Hunters on the Sci-Fi channel. I like their style of investigation. They don't go creeping around some dark, scary place with a psychic who describes things we can't see or hear. No, the crew from TAPS attempts to gather tangible evidence -- evidence that can be shared, debated, discussed, and examined in detail. Does all of their evidence survive scrutiny over time? No, but there are a few tidbits they have captured that I would put on the "ghosts are real" side of the scales.

Well, this is my first small entry. If anyone out there is scanning through all the blogs and stumbles across this one, please leave me a note. What do you think about ghosts?