Friday, February 27, 2009
I love this place. I love the drive there down the 60, weaving in and out of hillsides filled with boulders. It’s just a beautiful and surprisingly fast drive. If you stop in Miami along the way, it’s a very abandoned feeling town with tons of bizarre antique shops. They were in the middle or renovating the town when the recession hit. It’s left it with an eerie feel. For a time there, money-burning yuppies were rushing there to buy second homes away from The Valley (apparently, Queen Creek and Maricopa weren't far enough away). It has a feel that’s so unsettling that I’m both repelled and attracted to it. You'll really want to see the shops here, take at least an hour stop here just to see. They have shops that sell some of the strangest stuff I've found while antiquing.
Continue on to Globe which is very near. I saw my first and only full-body apparition in the top floor of the Gila County Jail which is abandoned and has become a museum and place for tours. (see sketch above--drew that up fast and furious that night--sorry, haven't drawn faces in years, but I can still picture him years later. I picked up that he was a worker, cleaning floors there and very simple minded. Died of the flu, I believe.). The walk along the catwalk from the jail to the courthouse is a frightening one. It is a tour well worth taking. It’s open Monday to Friday 9-noon. For pictures and descriptions of our team’s investigation there, check it out at: http://www.mvdghostchasers.com/2006%20workshops/GLOBE/globe_2006.htm
The town itself has amazing antique shops and a unique mix of folks. It’s as if someone forgot this part of AZ and tucked it away. I love the old time feel of it and it’s not one of those dusty feeling western towns. It has a lot of charm. Each building has a history lesson inside. The antique shop owners enjoy talking about the history and the ghosts.
The cemetery is worth a check too. I’ve never seen one in the west quite like this one. It’s on a hillside, divided into huge sections that take forever to ramble around. There’s a few cypress trees and some areas that appear well kept and neat, but much of it is the forgotten masses, some outlaws, and some rangers. It’s very unsettling and I don’t know if that’s because of the geology of the spot, but you will definitely get a strange feeling of being watched. It’s a great photo op too because the headstones and statuary are intriguing. Some of the headstones are rigged with old wood, crumbling concrete, sometimes just a big rock.
If you want a day in the old west, this’ll do it for you. There is a lot to see there and if you decide to stay the night, consider the Noftsger Hill Inn. It was the old elementary school and apparently has ghostly activity. Perhaps it’s the mining geology of this place that, like Bisbee, it feels very unsettling, like sitting on top of an active volcano.
I highly suggest this one for a day trip for Phoenix folks. It’s a very fast drive beautiful drive, not like the usual flat nasty desert to Tucson. And, if you haven’t seen the movie “The Hills Have Eyes” the trip will seem quite sweet, but if you have, it will seem quite exhilarating. Be sure your car is in good order. Wa-ha-ha (my best Count Dracula sound).
at 7:26 AM
Thursday, February 26, 2009
We all fell in love with you the moment we got up from our seats after viewing "Sixth Sense." We were intrigued by you when you came out with something original for the comic book freaks, "Unbreakable." We were in absolute terror during "Signs" when the brother was watching TV and saw the home video a family had taken of the alien just as it would have looked on CNN had it happened here and now to us. It didn't seem like the honeymoon would ever end.
But, then like that seven-year itch...we got restless. You brought us "The Village" and we wanted so much to be scared. We tried so hard. We waited for the monster only to find it was not a horror movie but a psychological thriller. We didn't ask for our money back, we walked away trying to defend you still. "But the scenery was lush, the colors poignant, the use of red..."
We waited hopefully for you to get back on the path. You were our Hitchcock of the new milenium. You had all the right abilities and talents, insight and creativity. You just needed to remember who you are.
Then, you got Alzheimers and presented us with "Lady in the Water," a fairy tale for your children. Still, I admit I left the theater defending you vehemently. "The characters were amazing. I'll see it again just to see them. He has the ensemble thing down great!" He just hasn't figured out that he's a horror movie maker yet!
Deflated, wounded, and feeling forgotten, I moped. It's like having your favorite metal band go pop. You sold out. You didn't even sell out for popularity. You apparently just tossed your hat in the air and how it landed decided what you'd do next. There was no rhyme or reason.
Years went by and the scars were turning from pink to white now and the memory of what could have been no longer haunted me. In fact, I found other horror movie makers to follow. I fell in love with "Dead Silence" and "Dawn of the Dead." There was hope, but still not the same. M. Knight was a classic, like a little black dress, always something you could count on. Well, in his heydey.
Friends tried to shake me back to life by presenting me with the new plot line for "The Happening." This, they swore, was going to be just like "Signs" (which by the way to me was one of the milepost I judge other movie plots and characters, themes and tension--although I still make excuses for the hokey alien that we had to see full-frontal at the end--I sort of blank that out so M. Knight can still be my hero).
So, I plodded on to the theater and bought my ticket, telling myself I didn't need the $9 anyways. I sat down, got lost in the trailers (don't you always forget what movie you came to see after watching those?) I knew it was rated "R," which gave me hope that it would actually be scary. Could M. Knight handle realistic gore? I still remember that awful animated alien... I bite my lip and shut up and listen very carefully and a tale unwinds. It isn't heavy on the messages, but it's beautiful to watch. M. Knight sure has the mind of a cinematographer. I nod now and then to my son. He nods back. Don't know if we're trying to convince ourselves, but when it's all said and done we think he's very good at giving "R." We don't know yet if he knows how to scare us anymore. I was more afraid of the people in the movie than the wind. Still, it's definitely a step above "Lady in the Water" and "The Village."
M. Knight, I propose that you redeem yourself. Make a movie no one dares to make. You like to deal with humanity and our weaknesses and our egocentric behavior, take on Bigfoot. Do a movie about the Sasquatch. Not one that's been done yet. Do one that asks the ultimate question of whether he is human or not? Does he have rights? Why do we fear him? Only you could handle a theme like that like a fine violinist. If you're knocking around ideas for the next flop, change your mind and do something like "Signs." Live up to your potential. You asked us "do you believe in signs?" Now, ask us, "does intelligence constitute being human?"
Redeem yourself. It's never to late to make us forget your flubs. Look at Britney Spears, most everyone is thinking about her new album and not her buzz cut.
at 4:05 PM
I tend to list my horror movie collection in a way that makes it possible to find something depending on my mood; woods, darkness, beasts, devil, witches, haunted houses, stalkers… you name it. Different times of the year, I’m in different moods for horror. In the springtime, for some reason, I pull out my woods-themed ones. Perhaps because the world is starting to get greener again this time of year (yeah, even in Phoenix). My top 5 favorites of the most popularly known films about woods are: 1. Blair Witch. 2. The Howling. 3. Friday the 13th. 4. Wrong Turn. 5. The Evil Dead. But, there’s a wide variety in the genre that didn’t get attention, but are worth digging up. If you liked any of those listed above, these might satisfy your need for woodland horror. Listed in order of favorites using my adjectives as always.
1. The Final Terror: stalking, green/lush, “Predator”-feel. This one was made in the 80s with a some well-known stars in it like Adrian Zmed and Rachel Ward and a famous model—what the heck was her name? Anyways, the characters really make this film more than the plot. They’re a good mix with good chemistry. It preys on everyone’s fear of being vulnerable in the woods and the mentality of locals like “Wrong Turn” that can make your stay very frightening. This is one of my fav’s to put on when I just want to go deep into the woods and get lost (that is, without the stalker).
2. Blood and Chocolate: sexy, wolves, Eastern Europe, kicking soundtrack. I love this movie, it’s one of my favorite werewolf ones (along with the original “The Howling”). It’s sexy, beautiful, interesting, well acted, and the werewolf aspect is one of the coolest ones I’ve ever seen in a movie. I just adore this cult favorite. You feel like you’ve traveled when you’re done with it.
3. The Fear: psychological, suspenseful, creepy. It has an interesting premise but what really gets me about this one is the wooden mannequin. They could do a whole movie of this thing sitting around in your house and shocking you by showing up in the wrong place and I’d be creeped out. The psychological aspects of the film are interesting. It isn’t super cohesive, but it’s definitely creepy. I loved the Santa Village the best. That would be one of my top fav places to go alone in the dark!
4. Cabin Fever: psychological, gross, plausible. I thought this one did a good job of giving you a zombie-like situation that was creepy and seemed plausible. It was more about what happens with society breaks down and there is no law and only fear provoking people to do things they would never do in a “civilized” world. It’s like being alone with your darkest thoughts.
5. Just Before Dawn: vulnerable, creepy, scary woods. This one is pretty much your typical being-stalked-in-the-woods film, but it is very picturesque and you feel like you actually camped with these folks. It has a twist ending and some great chase scenes. I always like a hero who can think on his/her feet.
at 10:24 AM
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
I'm so excited that B&Bs and folks with haunted hotels are getting into ghost hunting weekends. Regular folks without access to historic sites but want to learn about hunting ghosts, can use equipment and learn stuff while having a getaway and sleeping amongst ghosts. Here's just some examples of what's out there:
Chestnut Hall in New Oxford Pennsylvania offers a ghost hunter's weekend pursuit March 27/28 2009. It includes being taught the equipment, doing a hunt, learning to use your own ESP to help you on the hunt. Learn more at:
Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast in Fall River Massachusetts. There are tours of the house and on weekdays and on weekends it can be rented out. This is the famous murder site of Lizzie Borden's father and mother. Learn more at:
Villisca Ax Murder House in Villisca, Iowa. This house was the site of an entire family and two family friends murdered with an ax in 1912. A total of two adults and six children were found dead by a family relative. The murders went unsolved. It is believed that someone or some people hid in the attic until the family came home from church. Tours are offered during the daytime and by reservation a group can have the place for the night. Learn more at:
Thayer Hotel in Annandale, Minnesota. This historic old building is used for mystery dinners and ghost hunting classes with the opportunity to participate in the ghost studies while staying there. Originally a rail road hotel. Learn more at:
And, for even more listings, check here:
I'm excited about this just because it works for the business and for the folks who stay there to offer a different kind of getaway than can usually be found. Some folks want to go by zip line through the rainforest, others want to dig a well in Africa on safari, but still others want to hunt ghosts in historic buildings. What's really exciting is that we can now use the "G" word in the hospitality business and they don't frown at us. In fact, many are encouraging it.
I'm not certain about the efficacy of ghost hunting in places that are stampeded in by lots of bodies every day, but sometimes a site just needs the right enticement and often times that a person with the right attitude, who is curious, open, and casual. That's why Jason and Grant have so much success in TAPS. There's nothing tense about them. They want to sit down and shoot the breeze.
Enjoying a trip and having unseen guests amongst you? A ghost hunters dream!
at 1:29 PM
Thanks Julie and Mike of "Above the Norm." Something you said made me think about this subject close to my heart - Halloween Haunted Houses. As you can imagine, I've tried a good deal of them. I know what I'd like in an ideal haunted house.
1. The haunted house should be out in the countryside--an actual building that's perhaps old and abandoned. This does a few things: a. It's not a temporary tent which everyone knows they're entering and therefore loses its authenticity. b. You can weed out the city folks from the folks who truly want to go to a haunted location. How many times have you waited in a 4-hour line with teenager girls with their boyfriends screaming and being obnoxious? If it's further out, harder access, and not in the city with all the other restaurants and things around, you've just cut out some teens whose parents would just drop them off for the night. c. You don't scare people by lining them up in a parking lot and having guys in costumes harass them. You build up their suspense. Staring at a big dark building for an hour is going to build up anticipation. If you must have attendants, make them like something out of "Wrong Turn," some real yellow-toothed local inbreeds.
2. Allow us to pick our group. If we're a couple, let us go alone. If we're two couples, let us go together. Be certain to pace people so that they can go through without running into others.
3. Long dim lantern-lit hallways with doorknobs turning, footsteps following us in a rush, making us turn and flinch thinking someone's coming, floaty images, faces in mirrors, icy cold spots, doors slamming, cries, moaning, "get out" screamed in our ear, sounds of flies, musty smells and moments of perfumed flowery smells. Get to our senses people! Real haunted houses have all the visceral sensations.
4. Have a few vignettes, like perhaps a parlour where a seance is occurring. We can stop and watch and see the action. Maybe even feel something near us rattle and respond. Let us wander through rooms, open closets, check drawers. Nothing gory. Just lots of ghostly things. No bloody alien bodies or men with chainsaws. Give us real true chills. When we leave, have someone take an instant picture of us and when it develops when we get outside, we see a face beside ours to leave us with a lasting chill.
I won't even get into the details of how to do a good haunted house, but I sure hope there's some event coordinators out there who understand what folks want, what adults want. It's quite different than flaming helicopters and vomit that are offered to the teens in pools of blood. We truly want to go into the woods, find a scary place, investigate, and feel totally creeped out. It's ridiculously simple and unfortunately event coordinators are like today's director's, they don't get that a small budget and simple concept makes for more chills and more profits!
at 12:15 PM
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Since 2003, I've returned many times to Double Buttes Cemetery in Tempe for an ongoing puzzle that I want answered. Why have several different cameras, several different photographers, and many years of return visits produced continued strange photographic phenomenon at one family gravesite? It's the Wolff family grave--white fencing--east of the caretaker's shack.
PLEASE LOOK AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE TO SEE A STRING OF THE PHOTOS TAKEN FROM 2003 ONWARD. These are only a sample of the things we've gotten on film. Different photographers at vastly different times with different cameras have captured the rainbow effect. It peaks and then dissipates, but it's always in the same orientation no matter which angle you film it. The blue seems to emanate from one grave area of the 19 or so family members.
We've never come to a conclusion about it. We can't recreate it and we can hold the camera steady in place and get it peaking and then disappearing. It really can't be anything about the place that causes it or holding the camera level and taking shots should have the same phenomenon in every shot.
I've always wanted to encourage others to go there and check it out and see what they get. It seemed like the more often we visited, the more stuff happened right away when in the beginning it was a rare occurrence. Admittedly, it's near a butte that was right where HoHoKam canals branched off and Native Americans surely lived there because of the ideal viewing area for approach of enemies. I have no idea if that is a factor in it, but the land there and the cemetery are very strange.
They have a gate on the place now, although there is a back way that's ungated near the stadium/resort roadway behind the cemetery (opposite from Broadway). I don't want to encourage folks to get into trouble because they would be if they were caught there, but if they find themselves there at sunset that's when it really starts to act up. I'd be curious to know if anyone finds anything. For every shot below, I have loads of others that show the consecutive order of the phenomenon growing and changing. The one mist structure shot wove itself in and out of the bars during the shots until it just disappeared all at once. I could see it on the screen of my camera, but not with my eyes. I have to laugh at that shot because I was so excited by finding it, I emailed the shots to my friends and had nicknamed it "penis" since...well, that's what it looked like. They got emails titled "weaving penis," "strutting penis," and "limp penis." Unfortunately, some of them only email at work. Oops! I had to rename it to mist structure, but heck, I chuckle every time I see it. At the time it was happening, it was actually quite strange. I felt that weird prickly cold through you feeling you get when you walk through and active spot in a haunted house. It wouldn't stop either. The sensation lasted as long as I kept taking shots. I even talked to it and it seemed to make it move more. I cannot logically explain it at all.
Some experts have speculated it's a vortex. I think that the way it's localized might be the best explanation yet. I did rush over during the "aurora" shot and handed my camera to a friend who continued to get the pink haze, but the EMF meter and thermometer showed no differences and I felt no different standing there, although while I was there, the phenomenon stopped, but I had enough time with it going to get the readings.
Let me know what you think. I'd be curious to get input from people whose opinions I hold in high esteem. It's certainly a puzzle.
at 2:35 PM
Monday, February 23, 2009
If you were a single looking for a hookup, you might try a bar or one of those online dating services, attempt a speed dating event, or hang out in the bookstore hoping to find a bookish gal/guy, but in the ghost hunting world our options are a bit more limited by the issues of property ownership.
The fact is haunted sites more often than not fall into these categories; haunted buildings which are publically owned/operated such as museums and theaters, haunted buildings which are privately owned such as homes, B&B’s, restaurants, public historic sites which are haunted and accessible such as Gettysburg, and other public often private sites that are not supposed to be accessible such as graveyards.
For the weekend ghost hunter who doesn’t have carte blanche like TAPS to go anywhere they wish, it can be daunting. Asking folks if you can investigate gets mixed reactions and anyone who doesn’t have a long-term reputation isn’t going to be even allowed over the threshold.
What a lot of new hunters don’t realize is that there is a great deal to see and document on your own without having to infringe upon anyone’s sensitivities. I’ve been known to stay in a haunted hotel and limit my research to setting up equipment in my room. Of course, like any good ghost hunter, I do keep the noise level to zero. There are still people sleeping here and don’t need to hear you thumping around and talking loudly. You ruin it for the rest of the hunters if you start wandering the hauls with your camera at 3 am talking to ghosts.
There are some loosely available places like battlefields and ghost towns that offer a chance to do some research without being bothered. Cemeteries, although not usually very active unless they’ve had recent visitors, are simply too risky to chance. Sure, they have great atmosphere, but if you’re caught you can be in trouble with the law and the chance of capturing anything (other than dust orbs) is so low it’s almost not worth trying. Not to mention the sound issues if you’re trying to do EVP outdoors!
I’m in Arizona, so I suggest anyone hunting here try the book “Sleeping With Ghosts” by Debe Branning. That one helped me a lot to identify famous haunted hotels and haunted rooms. She’s presently working on “Dining With Ghosts” about haunted restaurants (can’t wait!) If you live in other states, you might start with the “Weird US” series of books such as “Weird Missouri” and other states titles. They tell a lot of local legends of haunted sites that might not be commonly known. You might also want to try the newspapers and local history for any mass murders, battles, mining accidents, and TB clinics of the 20s and 30s. These sites can often have public access and might not have even been tried by other hunters who usually go for the big names and historic buildings.
You can’t go wrong with letting everyone you know in on the fact you hunt ghosts. Lots of referrals from private homes come from friends/relatives who know people who are having difficulties in their home. Having a personal referral makes people more comfortable coming to your home and studying the events when you both have someone in common (sort of like blind dating with a friend’s relative).
Historically, places that have experienced massive traumatic death such as earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes could also provide land that is conducive for a haunting. Sites that are built on granite, with streams, and quartz rock are all good indicators of potential hauntings of the land. As a person who reads objects, I can tell you the most haunted places I ever go to are antique shops. Each item screams to be read and each one has a different story. Sometimes we are too linear in our thinking about ghosts. Ghosts are echoes of the past and those echoes can be picked up by audio and visual means. How many times has TAPS gotten footsteps that were obviously residual? You fill a building with antiques and you just might have a cauldron for ghostly activity. Even a house filled with family heirlooms can be haunted.
It’s essential to be a lover and preserver of history to be a ghost hunter.
The ghosts are part and parcel of the events that occurred in any given space. If you enter a quaint town and do some antiquing in the shops along the old corridor, the buildings can be quite charming and quite historic. Know about the town’s history. Make small talk with the antique shop owner. Ask if their antique store ever has anything unexplainable happen. Most antique collectors have a very romantic notion about ghosts. Ghosts in a shop filled with old objects in what is usually an historic building is bound to have occurrences and they like to think of them as pets. You can offer your free services to do a study of the place and if they accept, always have them come along with you as you hunt. Some people don’t think that’s appropriate but it is entirely appropriate. You are a stranger off the street in their business wandering around. They not only need to be there for their peace of mind, but for yours too, as they could say you broke something when you weren’t even in that room. You both are strangers, so treat it thusly. Besides, having the owner nearby helps to hone in on hot spots, hear the stories, and have them get excited about using equipment and verifying ghosts. If you find anything promising, always send them the tapes or pictures with a thank you card that includes your web address. They might like to hear them or to even hang up photos to verify the place is haunted to their customers. It can beneficial to their business as well. If they liked how you handled the situation, they’ll recommend you to the rest of the businesses on that street.
Ultimately, if you keep an updated website and perhaps a blog that you can refer people to, they won’t feel as nervous about letting you in on their haunted secrets. Always, above all else, go in groups and be professional. Everyone is to remain calm, ask the right questions, remain quiet when filming and doing EVP, and be extremely gracious to anyone who gives you the opportunity to hunt where you don’t usually get to go.
And remember that ghosts don’t just happen in old jails and lighthouses. For every Eastern State Penitentiary, there are dozens of other places that have never been in the spotlight, have been brushed aside, or not revealed as haunted to be kept a secret. Not every haunted building wants to be a celebrity.
Just keep asking yourself, where do ghosts go?
at 11:09 AM
Saturday, February 21, 2009
(This art is one of my son's pieces)
I am a huge advocate of rational emotive methods (see works of people like Albert Ellis and David Burns). I incorporate these into my work as a ghost hunter and as a human being so I can enjoy a healthier more productive life. It allows me to interpret things accurately and believe in my abilities to cope so that whatever comes my way, I’m confident about my ability to cope. Here’s an example of how getting your head in the right place can give you a very different reaction to an event than someone who lets their mind take over without interruption.
My best friend and I did lots of “girl getaway” wild and crazy things together, so I figured that since I was the queen of Halloween, I’d take her to a huge haunted house event. You know, one of those ones that takes 45 minutes to get through and lots of screams. I thought, since we’d gotten into lost of mischief in the past, this would be another fun and silly event for us to laugh about in the future. What I didn’t realize was how much our explanatory styles varied so that what would be a fantastic event for me left her nearly posttraumatically stressed.
It began in the line where I joked about the costumed giants messing with us while she cowered behind me. It was a side of the ruthless businesswoman I’d never seen. I joked near the front of the line that it would be lame to go with another couple since they were doubling up people into groups of four to send them in. I said, “that’s for wimps. I want us to go alone.” The guy at the gate gave us that wish. He laughed at me like I were insane and sent the two of us in alone. My friend immediately grabbed my arm and wouldn’t let go.
The first step was into a completely blackened room. We couldn’t see a thing, had to feel the walls to find our way through the maze. She tugged at my belt loop and cowered, shivering, wanting to leave immediately. I’m sure that upon entering that room her thoughts must have gone something like this, “we can’t do this alone. What if someone’s in here? What if I touch them? What if we never have lights the whole time? What if someone touches me?” Of course, without following up those “what if” questions with options in her own mind, she was setting herself up for fear. Fear takes place when you feel you can’t handle the situation that’s upon you. How does that saying go…“there can be no bravery if there is no fear?” I guess for me that meant I wasn’t necessarily brave because I wasn’t scared. My thoughts were going like this, “I can’t wait to see what’s next. I hope the costumes are scary. We’ll get through this room and the great stuff’ll start.” I was, of course, excited by that internal dialogue.
By the time we entered a lit area that had bars and a prisoner locked behind it reaching for us, I turned to my friend and said, “Don’t worry. They aren’t allowed to touch you. Every time we get to the end of a passage, they’ll be to the side, ready to come out and follow us or leap out. Be prepared.” With this knowledge, she was able to let go of my hand. In fact, although the 45-minute cruise through the haunted house was definitely creepy, neither of us were genuinely scared. Knowing the rules and what to expect had deflated the fear. It’s kind of like telling a kid what exactly happens at the dentist. If you sent him without any knowledge, everything would be unexpected.
Explanatory style is critical in ghost hunting. Although people don’t usually enter the trade afraid of the hunt, it’s not surprising that they soon find out they are frightened when it had sounded so glamorous when they saw it on “Ghost Hunters.” What they don’t see on “Ghost Hunters” show is that they have nightvision on the cameras seeing the people. These hunters don’t see each other. They’re in the dark.
You need to review with yourself ahead of time. Can I handle broken down buildings? Indigents? Spiders? Rats? Raw sewage? Complete and utter darkness and silence? Being alone? Hearing something I can’t explain? Seeing something I can’t explain? If you get yourself ready ahead of time, the hunt will be very productive because instead of feeling heart pounding and sitting there huffing and puffing, you’ll give chase. Remember that Ft. Miflin episode with Grant in the narrow passage and his light hits a face in the opening. He jumps, but then he rushes after it right away. He’s allowed to react, but he doesn’t let that hold him back from pursuit. That’s where you have to be in your head. You don’t let your imagination run with you and take over the show. If you hear a sound and you immediately think it’s a ghost, you probably need either more experience or more time getting your head in place.
Here’s the rules I run through my head in any ghost hunting situation:
1. Nothing can hurt me, possess me, or follow me home. (I know there’s a lot of ghost hunters out there who would dispute that, but I can’t speak for their way of approaching ghostly phenomenon, I can only speak for mine).
2. When something happens, I want to be ready with recorder/camera/meters to document it. I am waiting for it to present itself for me to get proof. I’m in control here. This is my show. The spirits, if I’m lucky, will cooperate with my interview. It’s sort of like documenting baby’s first steps. I’m proud, thrilled, and anxiously awaiting those first tries.
3. If something exists on “the other side,” then it’s equally thrilled to be seen or heard finally. I would hope my efforts from the other side would be greeted with excitement and interaction rather than fear and flight. That someone would try to converse with me, comfort me, recognize I exist.
Here’s a key a lot of people don’t know:
Emotions are not natural reactions to any given situation, they are the results of what you say to yourself, how you interpret a situation, what you say to yourself about what’s happening.
When you take four people driving down the road and getting a flat tire, you can get four different emotions: A. In a rush to get to work, the driver snarls, “just great!” now he’s angry. B. Driving down an unfamiliar road, the driver says, “this is not a good part of town,” and this driver feels fear. C. The driver just passed driver’s ed and learned how to change a tire and says, “I get to try it out for real” and feels very proud and independent. D. The driver shrugs and says, “it was bound to happen after driving for 18 years,” and gets out to change the tire with a very practical and non-emotional reaction.
There are few times when you are more faced with your crazy interpretational styles and inner dialogue as when you’re sitting in dark silent place awaiting the unknown to happen for hours on end. Learn to have a good internal relationship with yourself and a healthy explanatory style. Put all your fears on the witness stand and cross-examine them to find them not true. Once you start feeding your brain the right diet, it begins to clean up its act. Insecurities, fears, anxieties begin to melt away, replaced by healthier emotions like pride, ambition, and independence.
Once you have your head in the right place, the hunt will be a successful one. Even if your location didn’t end up having evidence, you just met yourself in a very challenging place, eager, ready, and willing, and you can walk away knowing you can truly handle anything else that comes at you in life.
After all, ghost hunting is just a metaphor for life
at 12:09 PM
I know I write about ghost hunting theories, but everyone knows I also adore Bigfoot and so in my extensive horror collection, there’s a lot of Bigfoot themes roaming amongst the DVDs. I figured since most people who are interested in the paranormal area also interested in the “Man of the Woods,” I’d let you know about my five favorite Bigfoot movies, if I could only keep five of them. I’m extremely picky about what kind of Bigfoot movies I collect-very few are worthy of my keeping or even watching the first time (made for Sci-Fi channel crap), and I have a huge amount of documentaries. I think the documentaries are usually more scary than the movies. In fact. “Bigfoot Lives” by Tom Biscardi (remember the guy who promoted the Bigfoot in a Freezer hoax?) Well, that documentary was actually quite entertaining and unbelievable, but I wouldn’t recommend it, mostly because I don’t wish him to profit from anyone buying it. The sad fact is that there’s not a lot out there, so sometimes the best is just mediocre. I choose my favorites based on how many times I watch them on a rainy day, under the covers, being creeped out and startled and fascinated all at the same time. Everyone of them satisfies a different need in Bigfoot watching.
Creature From Black Lake (1976): Woods, stalking, hunting him, realistic. This one is a classic. It’s very campy and like “Legend of Boggy Creek” the first half of it, but it’s woven with stories and action that actually is quite chilling. It actually felt like a documentary about two college boys looking for Bigfoot in the deep South. I think this one is a classic and I get most chilly goosebumps during the barn scene and the campout near the end. If I had it my way, it would be less about the cheesy local stuff and joking around about eating chicken, and more about the hunt.
Snowbeast (1977): Cold, skiing, stalking, unpredictable. I suppose this one is special to me because I saw it as a teen and it scared me a good deal. I liked the setting, a ski lodge (when you live in the desert you dream of such things, thus I watch this movie in the summer when it's 110 outside), which was a different kind of place for Bigfoot to appear. I liked his random attacks and the unpredictability of it. I could do without the soap opera and slow moving skiing scenes, but for a terror ala Bigfoot, it was good.
Sasquatch Odyssey (1999): Documentary, classic, all the big-time hunters. I enjoyed this one. It has the usual haunting music in the background and interviews with all the big-time hunters. It’s pretty representative of the Bigfoot documentary genre in recent years. The next one below is a great representation of the classics that hit the theaters in the early 70s and got me on my Bigfoot addiction.
Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot (1975): 1970s, campy documentary, spooky moments. Okay, this one I love just because I remember seeing it in the theater as an adolescent and screaming and jumping into the man’s lap next to me. I love the stories people tell of encounters, it’s like listening to a good pub story in Ireland. After seeing this movie, I actually put on 8 long-sleeved shirts, 3 pairs of jeans and gloves and went into the surrounding woods to try to find him with my camera. I was a hunter even back then.
Harry and the Hendersons (1987): Funny, cute, sweet, realistic. Okay, realistic might not be a good name for it, but I like to think if Bigfoot chose to stay with a family in their home, he’d be a big pussycat. The idea that a family runs into Bigfoot with their station wagon, manages to bring him home and hide him, is an entertaining idea. It’s even more entertaining when you see them bonding over time. It just warms my heart to see the big guy portrayed this way. After all, he is at least half human, right?
at 10:10 AM
Friday, February 20, 2009
It seems only appropriate since I'm a ghost hunter and doing some articles on ghostly movies, that I include an interesting find: "Death of a Ghost Hunter."
The leader of our local ghost hunting group turned me onto the making of this movie by locals. In fact, I believe it was filmed in Queen Creek or Mesa??? I love to support small moviemakers especially because my ghost hunting buddy and I always say that with me as a writer and her as an artist, we could make a better horror movie than the crap that's out there. We miss the really suspenseful elements of a good haunted house movie where you don't see the ghosts, don't know what they'll do next, and the tension that creates. So, when I heard about this movie, I pre-ordered it before I even saw it.
I'm glad I did.
It's a movie about a ghost investigator in a home with a dark past. It mixes the complications of lust and religiosity and gives you that "Legend of Hell House" feel.
I didn't expect much from local actors/writer/director, but wow! I was pleasantly surprised. So many times I wander the aisle of the video store and pick up any horror movie with a cool cover only to watch 5 minutes and toss it back in the return bin.
This is not one of those small films.
What I really appreciated about this film was the feel of a ghost hunt. Anyone who's ever been on a good hunt knows this is how it goes down and how it feels as far as finding evidence. Some of the evidence gives you the same chills you'd get on the case when reviewing film or audio. In that way, it felt like "Poltergeist" or "The Changeling."
It has a twist ending that is something I've waited for in a ghost hunting movie. Not really like "The Others" but kind of reminiscent of it in its impact.
I really think you should seek this one out. I doubt you'll find it at the video store, but if you can get it online or used online, do so. I was impressed with the kinds of phenomenon and the tension and a few creative twists like the "God box." You'll see. It's pretty cool.
I hope these guys keep making movies. I think they're onto something.
at 11:30 AM
I think all of us horror movie lovers probably know the big haunted house movies like; Amityville Horror, Poltergeist, The Haunting, The Entity, Legend of Hell House, House on Haunted Hill, The Shining, Watcher in the Woods, and The Changeling. I’d like to introduce you to some you might not have known about. I’m putting them in order from my favorite to least favorite of the top 5. Once again, I use some words (italics) that help you to decide what movie you might be in the mood for:
The Stone Tape (1972): Dark, original, 50s sci-fi feel, British.This one was very hard to find online, but when I did it only worked on the computer and not the DVD player, so be prepared if you buy it from England. This is one of my classic favorites because of the theory they handled in this early 70s movie. The concept of stones holding and recording events and haunting a place by releasing the events again and again. This was a theory I've felt since I was a child and visited other haunted sites--a kind of soup for recording events or perhaps for conducting ghosts like electricity can be conducted with water. In fact, even TAPS often quotes the concept of stones holding events or creating a haunted place, such as in The Stanley Hotel in Colorado. This movie is about a team of researchers to enter an old Victorian Home to work on a project for recording things into stone only to be haunted. It's very original, lots you haven't seen in other movies. I can't believe no one tackles this in haunted house movies anymore--what's wrong with moviemakers???
Something Evil (1972): Atmospheric, mysterious, emotional. Another made-for-tv, but very well made. Anyone who’s heard of this, might not realize this was one of Spielberg’s first forays into directing. A very Pennsylvania Dutch haunting in a farmhouse type of movie. Stars Sandy Dennis and Darren McGavin (two 70s staples). It felt like a real look into people staying in a haunted house. It had some original haunting features which I won’t give away, but will definitely give you chills.
The Evil (aka “The Evil Below” in the UK) (1978): Creepy house attacking. I just recently added this one to my movie collection. I kind of feel obligated to have all the haunted house films, but this one evaded me in 1978 when it came out. Perhaps it wasn’t a big release. I was surprised to see Richard Crenna do horror, but he does it well. The house is amazing and I'm crazy for movies with good settings. The premise is that a couple move in and have their friends help them fix up the house. They run into vengeful ghosts, however, and eventually discover the devil in their basement. It’s pretty standard mid to late 70s horror, but it is very good if you like a “house attacking you” and trapped feel.
Crowhaven Farm (1970): Moody, historic, mysterious, twist ending. A family moving into a creepy house. Hints of past witchcraft. A troubled marriage… This movie was actually pretty unique. It was a made-for-TV genre and has that definite 1970 TV feel, but it’s still quite moody and mysterious.
Knocking on Death’s Door (1999): Ghost hunters with equipment, unseen forces, contact with ghost. This one is easily missed and not too bad. A husband and wife team of paranormal investigators investigate a house for ghosts. They interact with the ghost of a young man who seems rather lonely and confused. It spends a fair amount of time on the couple and their issues, but then when stuff happens—it’s very much like a genuine haunting. It’s one of those movies you watch again and again just for those few moments of genuine creepiness and haunting feeling like you're being watched.
at 7:32 AM
Thursday, February 19, 2009
I hope to regularly write about some of the more obscure horror movies you might have missed. Today’s article is about Made-For-TV horror of the 70s, my top 5 fav's.
I admit as a nostalgic adult, I love having a collection of the movies that terrified me as a kid. Here's the top 5 obscure ones that I have practically worn out. I suppose it's a combination of remembering my first real thrills at horror and a longing for the days when budget movies could eek out a lot of tension and mood and atmosphere instead of slicing and dicing characters. These were true thrillers and give you the taste and tang of the 70s. If you were around during that time period, these will surely get you nostaglic.
Of course, there were some huge ones like “Burnt Offerings,” Salem’s Lot,” and “Trilogy of Terror,” but I want to introduce readers to ones they might not have known about. If I could only keep 5 of my made-for-TV 70s horror movies, these are them.
I tend to write a few descriptive words so when I’m in the mood for a certain type of movie, I can find it easily in my collection, so some of these key words after the title will help you decide if it’s your type of elements for the mood you’re in:
The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975): Mystery, romance, psychology, past life. A man begins to have nightmares and runs across landmarks he’s seen in his dreams. Could he have lived a past life? If so, should he really have an affair with his own daughter? This was a very well done tense drama. You wonder sometimes if the guy is crazy, other times you wonder if he’s just been doing time in this life waiting to pick up where he left off in the last one. You can’t help but get sucked into the main character and the mystery of his past life as it unravels. It has a good deal to do with human nature and a great deal to do with trusting your gut instincts. This is one of my very favorites, but I’m a romantic at heart so the mood and the mystery and the terror were thrilling,plus I had a touch of a crush on Michael Sarrazin at the time.
Snowbeast (1977): Ski lodge, cold, stalking, beast. I’m a gigantic Bigfoot nut, so I have just about everything having to do with him, but this movie I saw on TV as a kid and I was absolutely shivering beneath my blanket. It’s very slow moving with lots of your typical movie-of-the-week actors. Whatever happened to Bo Swenson? When the Bigfoot action gets going near the end, however, it’s quite exciting. Admittedly, as a kid it was more horrifying, but I do wish they’d make more bigfoot movies like this one where he hovers, hidden, and you see things from his viewpoint as he studies his prey. Fast forward the first hour if you don’t want the circa “Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island” soap opera backgrounds of the characters.
Shattered Silence (1972): (aka “When Michael Calls”). Autumn, moody, countryside, dark. This was my second favorite ever made-for-TV movie. Michael Douglas was great in this. It has a lot of big-time actors. The setting is fantastic and if you grew up in the 70s, this will make you feel like you’re having a real Halloween again as a child. I watch it every Autumn several times just for the atmosphere. The story itself is a good mystery and very spooky. As a kid it terrified me, as an adult, it has me glued to the screen. It’s a little slice of 70s and horror at the same time which is the ultimate combo.
The Shuttered Room (1967): New England, isolated, scary house, repressed memories. This is my very favorite of all the made-for-tv horror movies. It took me years as an adult to find someone selling this movie online. It was not an easy one to get and I just adore it! It scared me like mad as a kid, but because I love lush settings and dark mystery, the woman’s haunted childhood and creepy abandoned house still set up as it was when she was a kid, on an island in New England…makes for a super tense setting. It has Carol Lynley and Gig Young and my favorite mad crush as a kid…Oliver Reed. Yeah, I wasn’t like other girls who liked Keith on “The Partridge Family” and Greg on “The Brady Bunch,” I had crushes on Michael Sarrazin (“The Reincarnation of Peter Proud,” Kirk Douglas, and Oliver Reed. This movie just gives you a creepy New England feel and tension that’s drawn out beautifully, put in a magically creepy and beautiful location, it’s a romantic at heart’s favorite.
Gargoyles (1972): monsters, desert, isolated, nighttime. It’s hard to believe Cornel Wilde was willing to do such a campy film, but I think this is good camp. I am very nostalgic about this movie. It creeped me out as a kid and gave me a horrifying image of the desert. The funny irony is that when I moved to the desert in 77, it was very much like it looked and felt in the film. It’s creepy and tense and the monsters are well done. I had a crush on the lead monster, but then I’ve never had normal crushes… This one is such a classic that you need to see it and you’ll see why a budget 70s made-for-tv movie can be so bad it’s good.
at 5:44 PM
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Around Halloween, you'll hear a lot more from me about crafts, but this is a fun theme for the backyard that I just had to share. I made these years ago as a nod to my ghost hunting hobby. They're fake orbs that dangle from a tree.
Need: fishing wire, florist pins, 6" stryofoam balls, stone-effect spray paint.
I went to Michaels (you could also go to JoAnn or other craft store)and got the supplies. I took the styrofoam balls and tied a long piece of fishing line to a florist's pin and stuck it into the ball. I then hung it from the tree and while it was hanging, I went around it with spray paint that makes a pale gray stone effect on the surface. I hung several from the tree. At night they float eerily. It's really a fun effect. You could even do glow-in-the-dark paint or plaster them if you want more texture.
What was really intriguing about this was that as soon as I hung them up, I started getting what I call "the poser." An orb that hangs out with the fake orbs. No kidding. I know orbs are dust and such, but this is just so weird that every single time I took a shot, the poser was there and no where else in the yard. When I took the orbs down after a couple years when the tree came down, I got no more orbs in that corner of the yard. In the first shot, the orb poser is to the far right aboe the wall. In the second shot, he's right above another orb. He's so close to the fakes, it's almost hard to tell.
at 10:32 AM
You know, with my love of cemeteries, I have to mention a very special one: Mobile’s Galilee Baptist Cemetery. This cemetery is special because Mobile was the first African American settlement town in Arizona. The cemetery houses its founders. It was nearly forgotten until the Pioneer Cemetery Association came forward at the insistence of a worried resident who believed builders in the Maricopa area might be planning to infringe upon the cemetery. To help document the graves and discover the historic significance of this lonely cemetery, I went along with the Association to log all the graves and listen to the history from the words of one of the founders’ daughters. She even took us into the desert where there was a cattle watering hole once used for baptisms by the locals called “Negro Flats.” It was the most spiritual spot I’ve been to in a very long time, along with Mt. St. Helens and the Vortex on Airport Rd. in Sedona, and a few other stray places, this place really got to me. The cemetery is worth a look-see. It’s very basic, few graves with headstones, but it has a feel to it that’s…exposed and vulnerable, lost and lonely. I felt good just designing a sign for the place and some crosses for the graves because I hate to see a cemetery left to deteriorate and forgotten in the desert.
Take I-10 down towards Tucson and take the AZ-347 S. Queen Creek exit 164. Head west (right). Travel almost 15 miles (you’ll pass a few stoplights in Maricopa) and turn right at the light at W. Smith-Enke Rd. AZ-238. Head about 13 miles down it to 99th Avenue which is easily found by looking for the tower and schoolhouse (there’s nothing else out here, so it’s a no-miss). Turn right at the schoolhouse and head down the dirt road about a mile until you see fencing. That’s the cemetery on the right. You can park inside or along the road that runs beside it or even at the community center behind it.
When you’re ready to head on to Gila Bend, go back out to the schoolhouse and turn right to continue on AZ-238. Go about 26.7 miles and turn left on Pima St/AZ-85 S/E. (We found a listing of a Bosque Cemetery along AZ-238 and we’ve estimated it’s at about the 17-19 mile point—if you can find it, let me know—the last time we were there traffic wouldn’t allow us to cruise by slowly to observe). Once you turn onto AZ-85 S/E, go down a few miles to 401 E. Pima St. You can’t miss the Space Age Café because it has a huge UFO on top of it. This is the best kitsch place in the world for a good lunch and a lot of interesting tourist gifts.
Gila Bend actually has a huge amount of UFO sightings. Some is related to being on the edge of Barry Goldwater range where the Air Force flies and another part is attributed to the distant Estrella Mountains which are the hub of UFO sightings in South Central AZ When you’re done eating, try going further down that Pima St. (right coming out of the parking lot) and go down further to where there’s almost a freeway overpass. To the left before the overpass is a cool abandoned hotel (picture above). It’s a great photo opportunity. Along that entire Pima St. there’s a lot of great abandoned stuff to photograph.
As a side note, there was a reported Bigfoot sighting just outside of Gila Bend. For more info: http://www.searchingforbigfoot.com/Gila_Bend_Arizona_Bigfoot_Encounter
There are event pictographs around there from ancient Native Americans portraying something that looks suspiciously like Bigfoot. Supposedly, he was seen near a dam at a lake nearby. I think if I were a huge 800-pound hairy ape man, I’d probably rather be in the cool wet woods of the NW or even the White Mountains of AZ, but I don’t think I’d be hiding behind boulders and catching algae-feeding fish. But, I guess every social group has to have its indigents. Perhaps this is a rogue one? Hee hee
Anyways, you’ll be driving through some beautiful desert from Mobile to Gila Bend and the drive isn’t very long at all for an AZ daytrip. You’ll get lots of fantastic photos of abandoned sites, see a “town” (Mobile) that you’ve almost definitely never seen, and explore a UFO café and maybe hear some local stories of sightings. It’s a great daytrip, one of my fav’s.
Have a happy and safe trip!
at 9:47 AM
This is my line of articles about places to do day trips from the Phoenix area to haunted and historic sites in AZ.
The trip to Mayer is a good one. It's about a 1 hour 16 minute drive from Phoenix. Take I-17 north to AZ-89 towards Prescott. Very soon there will be a turnoff for Mayer at Goodwin. Take Goodwin towards S. Marina St. Turn left onto S. Marina St. Turn right onto Gurley St, turn slightly onto AZ-69 E. Turn right onto Main St. Main Street is awesome because there's a couple of charming antique shops. My ghost hunting partner and I were very comfortable in the building on the left with the outdoor display, but the building on the right we kept thinking we heard someone over our shoulders calling our names inside. Very strange. I'd like to learn a bit more about that building.
You can head on towards the cemetery which I think is the best cemetery in AZ as far as location and very old west feel. At the antique shops there's a stop sign at Oak. Turn right on Oak and then take 1st or 2nd Street left to Jefferson. Jefferson turns to dirt. Follow that dirt road and you'll hit the cemetery.
It's divided in two. The newer buries are on the left, the older ones on the right. We spent all our time in the right side up on the hill. It's really the most amazing location and something almost spiritual about it and extremely old west feeling.
If you have a chance to be there after dark, you're extremely brave. It's not a long jog into Prescott to stay the night (Abby's room at Hotel Vendome recommended haunted stay), but if you plan to head back home, at least try to stay till sunset. It has an amazing feeling up there on the hillside. The wind whistles and the graves feel very unsettling. Watch out for rattlesnakes, though. No one cuts the grass there. In fact, you'll feel quite isolated. We were on edge more about locals finding us alone up there than anything the graveyard had to offer. The photos you take here will be guaranteed to be gorgeous and moody. Consider using black and white exposures. They're keepers!
I'd say if you want a day trip to see some antiques in a town you've probably never seen and walk around a cemetery that'll make your skin crawl, this is the place.
at 8:20 AM
I'll try to do columns for different cities and what I've found there, as well as a column on day trips. Later today I'll probably do a column on a daytrip to Mayer.
Mesa, Arizona is the most haunted portion of the Valley of the Sun by my estimation. If you stop in the middle of the growing confusion and crowding, you can slow time down just enough to feel something heavy, something watching, something humming at a strange frequency--not with sound, but with vibrations that ripple through your body.
My conjecture on the matter is that Mesa is haunted by the extensive HoHoKam canal system that ran through it in ancient days by a culture who vanished mysteriously. Living in the desert and waterways being the difference between life and death, surely springs were spiritual centers as well as practicalities. No one knew how to manage their water like the HoHoKam. For a good map of where the canals ran in the olden days (portrayed in the pale blue lines on the map) go to here.
Strangely, when you look at the top 10 most haunted places in America compared to water and railroad tracks, they all fall close to both. The question is, were railroad tracks merely bringing bodies over the same piece of land, therefore haunting it with memories, or were train tracks found in more populated areas thus being more likely they were close to centers of tragedy and human trials, or is there something in steel that conducts spiritual energy? We don't have answers to that, but keep your eye on the combination of canals and train tracks in relation to haunted areas, as well as water and springs and granite and quartz.
If you're hungry and want to get atmosphere in an historic and supposedly haunted building, I'd suggest the Landmark Restaurant in Mesa at 809 W. Main St. (east of Alma School near Extension and Main). This building used to be a Mormon Church, originally seated in the area of the main dining room. It was expanded on in 1939. The church moved to a bigger site in the 1950s. It then became Mesa Community College. It also housed another restaurant. Eventually, it became the Landmark and has remained so for a long time.
For ghosts, here's a simple film on YouTube about it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xK7c_OvhYj8
Admittedly, we had the place to ourselves after hours and one of the biggest comments by investigators were the sounds in the kitchen of pots moving, banging, low voices speaking. There are reports of the faucet turning on the women's bathroom, as well as many other random acts around the building. Personally, the main dining area upstairs had a very strange feel to it and it was almost as if you could see the church of long ago superimposed upon it. It had a very definite uneasiness and I had a sense of a young woman studying the world outside the central windows and daydreaming. The floor also pitches a bit from where the hostess station is down into the dining room, thus making waiters trip a lot and giving more stories about ghosts messing with them. The stairs to the bottom level have a very weird feel that everyone picked up on. The bathroom didn't have any particular feel to it that night, but the long hall and rooms downstairs have a tense feel, although when you're dealing with basement levels, it can be just the feeling of earth around you. I think it's definitely worth a try. This place has a neat feel to it you don't run into in The Valley very often and the food is very good.
City of Mesa Cemetery is my favorite moody Valley cemetery. It's beautiful and green and has a ridiculous amount of Cypress trees. Neighbors use it as a thru-way but also jog and walk dogs and push strollers through it, so it's a very intriguing spot. There are parts of the cemetery that seem a bit uneasy and I have gotten a few strange unexplained photographic findings. The place doesn't work for EVP (too many airplanes overhead). They also tend to close the gates at sunset and they have someone patrolling it, so it's not a good after dark place. My suggestion would be to arrive near sunset and park near the gate so they see your car. The place gets dark on its own just from the huge trees. They're very polite about escorting you when they're closing the gates there. There's a section in the northern part of the cemetery that houses all the babies and that's a very unsettling spot. Not far from that in the NW section we found an entire family wiped out on the same day--house fire?
Other mentionables: Williams Air Force Base site has supposedly heard voices. The officer's club and VA Hospital are supposedly haunted. Jefferson Park at 306 S. Jefferson Ave. (on Jefferson 2 blocks west of Power). A woman who was raped and killed there supposedly walks from tree to tree. Not a lot of Mesa residents will readily admit their issues in their private homes regarding activity, but this area seems to be particularly disturbed. Perhaps its the Mormon population that keeps a lot of folks from talking about it or dealing with it, but nearly all the older buildings in the downtown historic area have a very strong powerful feel to them. I'd say the epicenter of activity there is somewhere around Broadway and Country Club and spreads out in consecutive rings from there. Oddly, that epicenter also correlates with the historic HoHoKam site that is closed off behind the hospital.
Give Mesa a try and most definitely keep in mind that HoHoKam canal map and note if those areas where they converge to spread out are more strange feeling. I bet you feel it too. I personally like the feel, kind of like that weird good/bad feeling you'd have visiting an elderly grandmother with a dusty house. You know there's love there, but you also don't like the smell and feel and old stuff everywhere looking sun bleached and crumbly, and her voice is kind of deep so it startles you, but at the same time she hugs you so sweetly that you forget you were unsettled.
That's my best description of Mesa, a very actively haunted area.
at 6:29 AM
Monday, February 16, 2009
We had a funky time the first time we went to this cemetery. My ghost hunting partner and I rambled around the place at night, getting a feel for it, but it took only a few minutes to realize something felt very wrong. I stood near some headstones just to the right of the entrance and I felt dizzy. It distinctly felt like something was chasing around the cemetery, zooming past me, sometimes close, sometimes far away, but speeding around like a lunatic. I had a sense of something in fright running from it. I couldn't explain it except to say that I spent the evening chasing its trek and taking shots, even though there was no breeze.
My hunting partner agreed. Something seemed to moving about. I felt it was up in the air above us, swooshing and racing, and full of mischief. I couldn't describe it any further than that, but the shots all evening showed something that appeared to be chasing something. I have a feeling about orbs that they are completely explainable, but this phenomenon felt very very odd and for a windless night, it was especially bizarre. I'll let you evaluate the photos and decide. These are only a few of them.
I have to admit this cemetery is extremely atmospheric and old west feeling and has a huge population. It's built on the tailings from the mines and I believe that attributes to the feel of it. It is very gothic and moody. If you want pictures of seriously creepy headstones in a rocky hillside setting, this place is one of the best (along with the Mayer Cemetery-will cover that in another piece).
You know that uneasy feeling most folks get in Sedona? The first 24 hours there I always have an immense headache until I acclimate and then I just feel super energetic... Well, Bisbee's Evergreen Cemetery is much like that. It feels downright uninviting and creepy.
The best way I can describe to find it is to keep driving out of town towards the mines and when you hit the round-about, turn right after the gas station--the street the gas station sits along. It's on the left. You can tell by the Cypress trees--the "dead" giveaway for any town's cemetery in the west.
at 9:19 AM
Friday, February 13, 2009
I'd like to mention to my regular followers that the head of MVD Ghostchasers, Debe Branning, writes regular articles as the paranormal writer for Examiner online. She has loads of great articles on the ghosts of Arizona (she wrote the book "Sleeping With Ghosts" about Arizona's haunted hotels and is currently writing "Dining With Ghosts" about haunted AZ restaurants). Her articles can be found at (you'll want to bookmark this one for regular viewing)
at 11:14 AM
I thought I'd cover some of the Arizona cemeteries, since going to them and photographing them is a hobby of mine, as well as looking for infamous tenants. Some folks like to walk the grounds of cemeteries and they become park-like such as City of Mesa's cemetery that has more exercisers and strollers than visitors. There's also cemeteries for hardcore taphophiliacs (lovers of graves) like St. Francis in Phoenix. You can reach it by taking Thomas to 48th Street and heading south towards Oak. It's on the left and broken into two huge graveyards. The furthest one is actually the better in that it has tons and tons of outdoor crematory remain crypts and all the nuns and priests are buried there. I'd say for all the AZ cemeteries, this one is probably the most crowded with residents. Foot per foot, there's more folks there than anywhere else I've seen in AZ.
What I like about St. Francis is that it has wild cats running around there. A nice local lady feeds them every evening out near the tall cremation wall and they congregate in a frenzy. The cemetery is a Catholic one and has all the bells and whistles you'd expect including creepy statues, huge headstones, and interesting offerings.
I've found this cemetery unsettling. Two reasons are that I myself heard what sounded like a man's (priest?)voice uttering in Latin when there was no one there. It was extremely clear and at the time I hid behind a wall because I didn't want to interrupt what might be a ceremony. When I heard him pause, I peeked out only to find no one there at all. No one on the entire grounds, in fact! My son and his best friend saw a shadowperson and had a fairly lengthy encounter with the startled and curious "creature" on the grounds (see my past article about shadow people). It changed his complete outlook on ghost hunting. He now understands why I seek answers. He tried everything his extremely logical mind could do to figure it out but found no answer.
I think photographically this is an amazing cemetery. It's also very peaceful and great to wander around and read the headstones. Even if you're not a cemetery person, you'll be intrigued by this place. The feel of it is exceptional.
I would advise, however, to be careful. They close the gates early whether they see your car or not and this is the cemetery where my son and I got locked in at 6 pm!
at 7:34 AM
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Local legends are always fun. This one is very scary.
In Casa Grande (just northwest of I-10 meeting I-8, south on Thornton Rd which is a washboard dirt road) there's a place called "The Domes." This conglomeration of weird shaped buildings was originally built as a factory that never opened. What's left is a bunch of very long and Kiva-shaped buildings that are open to the elements.
And to transients.
People have reported black magic rituals, a rape and murder, black figures darting between the buildings, tapping on cars, weird sensations, and weird vibrations.
Well, you just know that I had to find out about it. I went with the leader of MVD Ghostchasers, Debe Branning, on a little road trip to document Adamsville Cemetery on the 33rd parallel. We were not far from The Domes, so we thought we'd investigate. The road down there is very very bumpy washboard dirt road. When you get to it, there's some barbed wire to contend with.
We were brave (or should I say stupid) enough to investigate further. We wondered if this might be a good place to bring the group to investigate at nighttime.
Oh boy, were were naive.
Admittedly, this was a good case of debunking. We walked onto the property, taking pictures of the crazy buildings--just look at it, it's very other worldly... I was anxious to get inside and do some EVP work in the daytime. Thankfully we went in the daytime.
I walked up to a long building and went to the open end of it (sort of like a plane hanger). I'm cruising along, taking shots and looking around. My eyes adjust to the darkness and I hear a voice very clearly talking. I stop and my eyes widen. Debe is in the distance taking shots and didn't hear it. I wonder if I imagined it, but it sounded so clear. Then, I hear footsteps inside, echoing off the walls.
Hey, maybe this place is haunted.
I step into the opening and look down the length of the crescent-shaped building to find a lot of stuff. A refrigerator, a dresser, a mattress, a lot of clothing...
Oh crap! Someone's living here.
I see a movement and realize there's someone at the far end and I have no idea if this guy is going to fight for his right to squat, so I take off, waving Debe to get the hell out of there. I can hear someone yelling and I know I've pissed this guy off.
Sorry, dude. Didn't know it was you haunting the place!
We picked up the pace, crossed the fencing, and climbed into the car, praying we don't have a flat tire. From the sounds of footsteps and voices, there were at least two or three of them in that building alone. I don't even want to know about the other buildings.
It's a regular commune.
Well, this is the problem with fascinating abandoned buildings, residence might be taken by ghosts, but almost surely by man. I wouldn't advise a trip to The Domes unless you want to stand back and take pictures.
It's definitely one of Arizona's weird and freaky spots.
at 1:48 PM
I was never scared or threatened by the haunting at Aspen Grove. In fact, as a child I determined that the ghosts of soldiers missing their families had just attached to my large family and were walking the halls at night to guard us. There was, however, one haunting feature that so disturbed me that if I were home alone, I’d stay outside on the swing set.
My parents’ master suite was an original part of the house. The largest upstairs room. Of course, used by the most important people living there. I like to think that included the troops who had set up shop in the house during the Civil War and were performing surgery on its floors. It’s the only explanation for what happened in that room even a hundred plus years later.
We had three huge Waterford crystal chandeliers downstairs in the house; one in the music room, one in the dining room; and one in the living room. They were multi-tiered and tinkled beautifully if someone were walking upstairs in one of the bedrooms. My mother could tell how good a sleepover party was by how loudly the chandeliers tinkled. We’d get an abrupt holler up the long stairs to “act like ladies.” (Mother always prided herself in good Southern comportment).
Occasionally, and the activating event is still unclear (part of why I research ghost occurrences), the chandelier in the living room would tinkle. Directly upstairs was the master suite. The only problem was, no one else was home or if they were they were in the room with you and you were both staring at the ceiling.
Soon after the telltale tinkling, sounds would begin. First, a scraping like a chair being pulled out from its place at a table. This occurred directly in front of the fireplace in the master suite that mirrored the location of the living room’s fireplace as well, since they shared the same central chimney. Heavy booted feet would pace back and forth around what seemed like a circle. Another scraping chair being drawn sound, perhaps a fist hitting a table. All of this was very muffled as if it had been run through something like seeing a Doris Day film with cheesecloth over the lens.
The voices would start up. Low and murmuring, occasionally one or two what sounded like words would rise up in tone, but still the volume remained so low it was more like muttering. Different voices would sound, two or three of them.
A discussion was being held around a table.
Not one of us who witnessed this phenomenon attested to any other explanation. We all came to the same conclusion simultaneously. A group of soldiers around a table, planning, discussing, sometimes disagreeing, pacing the floor, making their point with a fist to the table…
I heard it only a few times as a kid, others in the family heard it quite often. I’m sure my mother had it the worst because she was a stay-at-home mom and didn’t drive, so she was housebound most of the time. Mother, however, had an endearing Southern way of handling things like ghosts, she was a romantic and the notion that someone else loved the estate as much as she did, warmed her heart. Being great at making sweet tea and welcoming folks, she’d accept them like a grizzly old father-in-law how moved in and upset your world, but you had to love him for being cantankerous because he’d earned it. To mom, these soldiers definitely earned their prankster behavior and she wouldn’t deny them of one second of it.
The last time I heard the voices was the last night I slept in the house. Everyone was gone, except my sister who slept inside. I slept in a cot in the “thicket” area of the property with my best friend as a kind of “last sleepover.” We had seen lots of shadowy figures going in and out of the thicket over the years and we wanted one last ghostly encounter. (this is probably where I got the notion to write my present manuscript "The Thicket") What we got instead was my sister waking us at midnight to come up to the house. The “men upstairs” were carrying on and she couldn’t sleep. We didn’t think we’d sleep either. You can be a lot braver about the voices when the house is filled with people than when you’re alone with it. We had so much stuff acting up as we packed to move that we fully expected the ghosts to be truly troubled that night. We curled up on the sofa in the living room, our eyes towards the ceiling, studying the chandelier in the bits of light that made it into the room.
The tinkling started an hour later when I was almost nodding off. The voices and scraping and footsteps and knocking began. This time, however, I wondered to myself why a ghost would reenact something over and over in the same fashion. There weren’t terms and concepts like residual hauntings out in the world of paranormal research being bantered around in the newspapers, but I came to a conclusion myself that the house simply remembered something, like a scar. It left a mark of an event and when conditions were right, it replayed that event.
I fell asleep as soon as the sounds and voices muted, but I felt strangely sad as I realized I’d never hear this occurrence again. The funny thing about ghost hunting is that you get attached to your ghosts.
at 6:47 AM
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
As you move on in the ghost hunting world, you add a lot of new finds to your list. When I first started hunting, I was still stuck in the obstacle of what to do with orb photos. That seems so long ago now, but once you have knowledge, you can't go back to not having it.
It's like that day when I was a kid and questioning the Sunday School teacher's explanation about how women were fashioned from one of Adam's ribs when I had just learned that men had nipples and milk ducts because they were women to begin with and in the womb with the right hormone being introduced their genitalia became external and they became men. So, I tried to explain to her how technically, men were fashioned from women and that would make God of the female gender if we were designed after her. That was the beginning of the end of organized religion for me. I came to the conclusion at the ripe age of 12 that religion was the prostitution of spirituality. There was definitely no room in the organization for new learning or questioning and debunking.
Of course, knowledge is going to make you a better debunker. Curiosity and open-mindedness will get your head in the right place for a hunt. I hesitate to hunt with people who already know ghosts exist and are most definitely trapped souls that died in a tortured manner. It begins to remind me of attending Sunday School again with believers without question. I'm totally open to the concept of ghosts existing and I admittedly think it would be awesome--why do you think heaven gets such a big following? Eternal life--sweet! But, I also don't want to call a ghost an eternal soul and perhaps do an injustice to those who do believe in the Bible. After all, God supposedly has a place for everyone, right? He/She wouldn't let souls wonder aimlessly in old abandoned buildings, right? So, perhaps what we're dealing with is a combination of explanable events and some extraordinary events that occur by means we don't know yet. These things occur in the physical world, but the question is--are they launched from the spiritual world? Another dimension? Some law of physics as of yet undetermined? Some geological or climatological event we've missed in our studies?
The more explanations you know for the things, the more you can test your environment. So, over the years, here's some debunking tips to check out before you get excited by any findings.
Sounds: Check air-conditioning/heater (roaring/blowing/clicking), boards expanding (sigh sound), house walls expanding/contracting at the end of the day (snapping sound), plants/shutters against the windows (scratching, thumping), automated devices in the house that are on timers (clicking, beeping), ice-maker machines (clunking, whistling), pipes (rattling in their brackets), things falling inside of overcrowded shelves/closets (classic falling object sound), outside influences sometimes heard through vents/exhaust vents (voices, cars, whining engines), other investigators—know where you team is (voices, coughs, shuffling, furniture scraping).
Visual: Go ahead--take orbs out of the equation. I don't think many serious ghost hunters are willing to use those anymore as an indicator of activity other than dust and pollen. I've tested this enough times with my camera that, other than being pretty, there's no reason to keep an orb picture. I have had two or three times the rare occasion in which an orb was captured that appeared to behind something in the distance. I've kept those pictures just for future reference if the question comes up again. For now, I won't use them as proof to anyone that the place is haunted. The only issue I have with the use of nightvision on your camcorder is the very real fact that the IR (infrared) light from the camera can make a shadow of you on the far wall if you are between the camera and what it is filming. We saw this on the Ghost Hunters edition in the prison where someone had taken a photo of a shadowperson in a doorway. Jason was able to recreate that, even showing that his arm was bent upward like the shadow's was as someone taking a digital photo would produce. When you sit in the darkness and you use no lights, your eyes adjust by having your pupils dilate seriously large to get any trace of light. This can work for and against you. It works for you because should any light occur you'll know right away, but it works against you as you have enough light to see varying shades of darkness. This can give a very strong impression of shifting shadows. I see this phenomenon at night when I go to bed. I lay on my side and in my peripheral vision, I see dark blobs on the ceiling that seem to be moving around. When I turn my head, they're gone. Peripheral vision gets really knocked up in complete darkness. So, you see something moving around, don't get impressed unless it blocks out the light. Even then, question it. In the episode of "Ghost Hunters" where they're in the Birdcage Saloon in Tombstone, Jason and Grant keep seeing something dark block out the light of the window. They interpret it as something inside moving around, but it can just as easily and more likely be a person outside the window walking by which would block the light equally as much. Don't let the adage "seeing is believing" get you too excited. Have people try to recreate conditions for a good explanation. If no explanation exists, hope you got it on camcorder.
Scents: These can actually be held in old wood and with the right temperatures and humidity can be released, as well as we've seen on "Ghost Hunters" that scented cleaning agents in the cabinet could be the culprit. I was on one hunt when we smelled very strong flowers (a classic haunting scent) and we were all excited, until I realized it smelled a bit synthetic. Then, I realized we were outside. Clothing dryers have outdoor vents. The homeowner was in fact drying clothing with static sheets that smelled like flowers. Culprit found. Phantom scents are possible, but even then there could be an explanation we can't explain such as someone leaving a lingering scent from their clothing or a tiny draft from the corner of a window bringing in the smell of wet pine.
Body sensations: Cold, chills, hair standing on end, head feeling pressurized... I don't use cold as an indicator anymore. It's a lot like EMF, completely unable to keep a controlled environment to check it out. When I was a kid, our tiny end bedroom had a closet that none of us kids would use when we had that bedroom. It was icy cold, cold breath kind of cold. We swore it was evil. I'd leave my clothes out on the heater so I wouldn't have to open the cold closet in the morning. One day, while I was in there cleaning it out to move to another bedroom, I studied the closet and realized that our chimney that ran up the outside of the house was inside the closet and that's why the wall was shaped so weird. I touched it and it was icy cold. I went downstairs to the music room where the chimney wall was cold. I realized it was bringing the outside of the house's cold air up to the closet like a funnel. No wonder it felt cold all the time--it was like having an open window. Even back then, I was debunking. The exciting thing, however, is that enough completely unexplainable things happened that I'm still to this day pursuing answers. And, I do very much use sensations like pressure in my head, dizziness, tingling, hairs standing on end as my best predictor tool. Whatever this phenomenon is, it tends to be interpreted by your body very early on before it manifests and you can prepare cameras and recording devices when you feel this way. I still think the body is the best tool. Man must have developed extraordinary senses to read an environment and feel uneasy and know when to run, perhaps from the hunt in our primitive times. That might be why using it on a ghost hunt is equally predictive.
Don't think of debunking as a party pooper. Some folks get upset when you give them the logical reason for why something occurred. Be glad that you're expanding your knowledge so you can't be snowed the next time. We seem very naive when we start in this business and we become more seasoned later on. When Jason or Grant or Steve on "Ghost Hunters" gets excited about something that occurred, you can get excited too. They know how to run the debunking. They've seen and heard it all. Eventually, you too will have seen and heard it all and when true phenomenon happens you can get genuinely very excited. And there won't be a moment's doubt in your mind because you've run the debunking gamut before you threw your hat in the air and screamed "yahoo!"
at 7:30 AM
Sunday, February 8, 2009
It's probably the most eccentric thing you'll hear for quite some time, but I always thought I'd like to have a good trustworthy team of investigators with me in the final minutes of my life, along with my family. They could park themselves on the periphery of the room with their equipment and my last contribution to the field would be letting them document my passing with perhaps some pre-assigned plans for what to attempt and where to concentrate their study. It would be something akin to donating my kidneys, just another last assist from the other side. I don't think this has been done at all, or if it has very rarely, because who ever thinks to have a team with equipment when you're passing? It's that rare moment when one goes from flesh and blood into the spiritual realm that you would have the greatest chance of proving the other side. I suppose when I get old and decrepid, I'll begin a good relationship with a team I like and trust who is in my town and have them on the ready in the future to get a call to rush to the hospital or my home on a moment's notice for the ultimate ghost hunt. Me!
at 9:54 AM
Friday, February 6, 2009
I've said before that my ultimate hunt would be to go back to Aspen Grove with a producer/documentary team and document a ghost hunt with a team I've put together that I believe can help me stir things up. It's not just that the house was haunted by Civil War soldiers and a long tragic history over 250 years. It's that the house might very well be haunted by my family.
My father developed heart disease and so we moved west when I was 15 so he could be in warmer weather. When I turned 16, he passed on. The people living at Aspen Grove described seeing him on the property, dressed in the outfit we buried him in. They went back to see if he was still there and he was gone. They assumed he dropped by on a business trip. They didn't know he'd just died several days ago.
My mother swore she'd haunt the place. She loved Aspen Grove like a baby. As an historian and artist, it was her dream gentle Southern home. She passed on in 1998 and I know she was destined for that location for eternity.
My brother was dying in 2001 and he took a nap, woke up and said he had floated over Aspen Grove and told me all about how it looked right now. I thought it was amazing. He said he wanted to haunt there some day. He passed on a week later.
My sister in 2005 talked to me a lot about my ghost hunting and desire to prove the things we witnessed at Aspen Grove. She loved that place as much as mom did. She even got a tattoo of Aspen Grove. She promised she'd join our parents and brother there. She passed on in 2005.
A couple years ago I contacted Professor Hawkes from George Mason University. He was a dear family friend who lived in a house at the end of our driveway. He was an history professor and helped my mother to find the documents she needed to prove the estate's history. He loved the place and my family very much. I talked to him about my ghost hunting and he was intrigued. He thought he'd like to walk the rounds at Aspen Grove should he die. He died a few months later.
I can't imagine a place having any more promise of ghost activity than Aspen Grove the moment I step in the door with my equipment and team. It's inevitable that between the haunting with which I grew up with and my family members surrounding the place, something has to happen.
If I can't find proof of ghosts there, I'm hanging up my equipment forever.
at 11:04 AM