Monday, March 30, 2009

Wanna Haunt Yourself? Couldya Haunt Yourself?



(me building a snowman outside the front veranda at Aspen Grove)


It's funny how one thought leads to another until you're not sure what started the snowball?

I was thinking one day about how my father, mother, brother, sister, and family friend all vowed to haunt my childhood home. I was thinking about the family promise to haunt Aspen Grove, and wondered--would I want to haunt the house as it is now? Since a contractor tore down the outbuildings and built condo's around it? No, I'd rather haunt the house as it was when we lived there, everything intact; stables, barn, two cottages, boxwood mazes, arbors, orchards, thicket, creek...

That got me thinking the next thought; what if I could go back and haunt myself when I lived there?

I've always said that should souls exist, we're two linear in our thinking. Many family members can see the spirit of a passed loved one upon their passing at the same time. If we are no longer limited by our body's physical form from this plane, then why would our minds have to be in one place at one time? There should be no limits to such things, no reason you can't visit your future descendants or your past ancestors in their living time on the Earth. At least, it seems like a perfectly logical conclusion once you're freed up of time/space issues that humans have to endure.

It intrigues me to think that perhaps I've visited myself as a child, influenced a decision, stopped some horrible calamity (like the time I played with a snapping turtle or ate a bunch of sleeping pills thinking they were blue M&Ms). What if when we are alone with ourselves and having our most self doubt, praying, crying out when no one can hear, begging the fates to change things, that perhaps we hear our own pleas. We are present. We also realize our own outcome, that this feeling will pass and tomorrow will change everything, and in a week we won't remember feeling so morose.

At the times I've felt the most sorry for myself, pouted, and kicked like a child that I didn't want to do something, somewhere deep inside me I've heard a strangely familiar but more mature voice telling, "only people who feel helpless feel sorry for themselves. You're not helpless. You can do something. Do it! You big baby!" And then I muster up my courage and do the dreaded deed and then feel a strange click in the measurement of my maturity level.

Can I be my own cheerleader for my present self with the wisdom of a soul that's figured out that all of this here on the earthly plane is nothing more than an ongoing test of character? A test to reach the level where, being free of the chains of an aging body, I can be trusted to have freedom, having earned it?

Trusting that tomorrow is completely new, no matter how much you try to recreate today, you cannot have the same dismal day twice in a row. Something distracts you, some silly little serendipitious thing happens, and you smile. You feel a moment of hope. You start on a new course.

Perhaps if we could haunt ourselves, it would be for the soul (pun intended) purpose of distracting us enough to get through hard moments and stumble into the next good moment, because sure enough they constantly cycle.

Next time you make a decision, you might consult your future self. And, don't be surprised if you get an amazingly mature answer.

Pioneer Cemetery Tour--Talking to Dead Folks



I had a good time this Sunday being the character of Anna Alsap, the wife of the first mayor of Phoenix, who passed on in 1902. I gave many speeches about her husband's contributions to the Arizona Territory and luckily we have lots of interested visitors. We hope to redo the event in October, with perhaps a more ominous and spooky edge. A lot of the stories of Phoenix are gritty and raw, so they might lend themselves to a more Halloween-oriented tour.

Don't Forget April 1st Deadline

Hey all my regular followers, don't forget the contest ends at the end of April 1st on Wednesday (DVD contest below). Just leave your entry at the end of that contest article that explains the rules.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Spine Tinglers: New Point Comfort Lighthouse



When I was growing up, we had a summer home, a pretty crisp-looking Victorian on little stilts near a quiet inlet on Mobjack Bay in the Chesapeake, a town called Newpoint Comfort. It was rather idyllic. We would go in the springtime and plant a vegetable garden in the sandy soil near the house and then go back to the D.C. area and come back in the summer to find a full-grown garden. There was a dock on "Doctor's Creek" where we kept our cabin cruiser. The house was sold to us filled with antiques and the library room had only books from the 1800s. As a kid it was a musty scary place after being locked up all winter long. Sometimes we'd find dead birds that came down the chimney during the year. We'd air the place out and with no TV or radio to distract us and only old books to read, all of us five kids would take off on a rampage through the beautiful setting.

The house sat directly across from a graveyard that was filled with tall grasses. I didn't even know it was there until I tripped over a headstone cutting through the grass one time. It intrigued me so much I left wildflowers at the graves when we visited. At night sometimes, I would see a bluish glow from the center of it. I would sit in my sister's odd shaped turret room and study the graveyard for an hour or so, my sister brushing her hair and chattering about superficial things while I contemplated the source of the blue light. It certainly wasn't a lightning bug cluster.

We'd drop chicken necks into crab traps and drop them off the dock and have splended crab bakes. We'd gather our own clams and oysters and have feasts with the fresh produce from the garden. I suppose that's where I got my love of gardening and the thought of living off the land.

Admittedly, the house was old and had a very distinct feel about it that was pleasant, like having your grandmother living with you and doting over you. I felt very comforted by the house itself compared to our very actively haunted house up north. What was intriguing were the hauntings related to the water of the Chesapeake Bay.

My father would wake us kids up at 4 am to meet the low tide. We'd get in a rowboat and take off deep into the bay where when the sun was up you would barely see distant land. It was quite a scary thing in the complete dark with only a Coleman lantern on the bow of the rowboat. We'd all take off our shoes and wearing our socks we'd jump into the bay. The water was about 3' deep at this time. We'd dive for anything we stepped on that felt like a clam and fill the bottom of the boat and swim alongside it as we pushed it back to shore at sunrise.

Sometimes while we were out there in the silence of the bay with no light other than the 5' circle around the lantern, the rest of the bay was a dark mystery. My sister used to try to scare me with stories of sharks, but I felt safe knowing that I was the baby of the family and probably the least appetizing of the crowd standing in the water. I would listen carefully though. Occasionally a foghorn might sound from a great distance, the sound carrying across the water, but just about every time we'd go out, we'd hear a woman's distant cries. It sounded so sad and so lonely. Everyone would stand still, eyes darting around nervously, wondering where it was coming from, who was calling. It was a cross between someone calling for a beloved pet and utter anguish. All of us would break into goosebumps. One time, we got distracted and stayed past sunrise, all of us piled into the boat, no longer willing to stay in the water. We watched the distance and saw nothing at all. The cries stopped before sunrise. My brother had theory it was a seaman's wife on a widow's walk wailing for her husband to come back from sea. My sister said it was the ghost of a woman who fell off a boat during a party. The stories went round and round about what it was, but I always had the distinct feeling it was an echo from the past. One time we collectively called back but she didn't respond. My brother pointed out that if it were a live woman calling someone, she would have responded to our calls because if we could hear her, she could hear us. That was an unsettling realization.

Besides the lady calling over the bay, we had a fantastic find for curious children; the New Point Comfort Lighthouse. When we owned the summer home it was when the lighthouse had been completely abandoned. We used to take the outboard motor boat and ride over to the tiny rock island and climb the stairs. There was no railing, so the climb was a nerve-racking one. We would go up above and see the beauty of the water from up high.

I was always a sensitive kid, and I would stop in the opening when we first stepped inside and take a long deep breath. There was something about the place, as if the very stones of its walls had absorbed the power of the constant movement of the bay, the pile of rocks it sat upon, and its circular shape combined to be a conduit for energy. I felt strangely ambitious, driven, and renewed. I would climb the stairs cautiously, one hand on the stone wall, feeling its history, sensing its strength, circular up and up and up until nearly dizzy from the final narrow climb. I would sit down and took a deep renewing breath of the bay.

My brother would pretend to be a lighthouse keeper, but I would sit on my little perch and look down the stairs. The sounds of someone following me up made me alert my brother. We weren't supposed to visit the island alone without adults. We were certain old Captain Hudgins from down the road had followed us. He never missed a thing and treated us like a grandpa when we visited. He told us scary sea stories and gave me a huge starfish he'd pulled out of the water for me. (I still have it hanging on my wall with all its positive energy that a mentor can give). My brother and I sat on the perch, eyes bulging, waiting for the person to arrive, but nothing. No one. Scott raced down the stairs but there was no one there. I raced out onto the rocks to look around the tiny island but only our boat was there.

We snuck out many times over the years to the lighthouse. It was our guilty pleasure. Our parents provided us children with magical places to live and be kids without supervision, so no one ever noted we were gone. Each time we went to the lighthouse, I felt the same sensation upon entering it. I felt wired like no cups of coffee could possibly provide. My senses were keener, the air was cleaner, my mind was open, my muscles were poised, and my imagination could surpass this earthly plane. If I could have bottled it and sold it at spas, I would have cornered the market on renewable energy.

Each time we visited, the steps followed us up. These weren't wooden steps, mind you. There was nothing to make creaking sounds, only the hollow sound of someone's boots clicking on each smooth concrete step, the tip of the boot hitting and then the heel sounding down next. Each time, no one was on the island with us.

We started to affectionally call him "Mr. Keeper" (the lighthouse keeper).

I heard that the lighthouse was refurbished in the past few decades and it's still open to the public, to anyone with a boat who wishes to stop and see it. I wonder if it still has its energy or if the refurbishing made it lose its touch. I like to think that the location, geology, water, and circular shape all made it a conduit that remains as powerful today as it was back then. Some time when I'm back East again, I'll have to go there and get renewed again and maybe say "hi" to "Mr. Keeper."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

UFO theories; Ghost/UFO connection?



I usually talk about ghosts, but I was having an epiphany the other day. I was considering ghost hunting theories and something I was considering happened to also be able to be applied to UFOs as I have experienced them.

Rattling around in my head were the typical concepts of ghosts; a soul that doesn't know he is departed or has unfinished business, a residual event that replays like a recording with no active intelligence involved, interdimensional beings, time travelers, explainable phenomenon, string theory correlations...

My mind stopped on one idea; that seeing a full-body apparition without hearing it is much like an encounter with a shadowperson where we catch a glimpse and once the black solid-looking figure realizes it's being seen, it startles and rushes away. Why one sense? Why do we sometimes just see something but not smell or hear it? Why do we sometimes hear it but don't see it? Is it possible that if there is some crossover between dimensions or time that it can only be perceived by one sense occasionally?

My experience with this UFO (photo above) last summer in 2008 was one of many sightings I've had over the years living in AZ. It's a very UFO-friendly state (perhaps it's all the clear sky and good weather for being outdoors or something more sinister like population crowded into only 5% of the land, leaving the rest quite open). My experience with this UFO and the ones that other people often report are very similar:

They make no sound.

It had me wondering if it's possible that we are visually seeing something in a flickering perspective that we can only pick up on the visual plane and not the auditory plane. Is it possible that like a ghost appearing before our eyes, we can see it briefly but not hear it? Not feel it? Not smell it? Not touch it? Occasionally, when conditions are right, do we get a visual of something that is perhaps always there, that is not in our scope to experience with all our senses, but occasionally our eyes can focus on it? Could the use of high-speed computers and HD TV be actually training our eyes to focus better on things that might otherwise be missed by the average human eye?

Maybe we're wrong in assuming that when we see a UFO we're seeing an actual craft from another planet gliding across our sky right now, watching us, and not telling us, "hey neighbor, just dropped by to say hi." Maybe what we're witnessing is coexistence in a realm our senses aren't tuned to, so when we do actually get a visual on it, we get no sound. That doesn't mean there isn't sound. That just means, only one of our senses got a glimpse of it. It's entirely possible there are folks out there experiencing sound without visual.

Something that just never added up about UFO encounters is the lack of sound in most accounts which makes everyone assume it must be alien technology. I'm not entirely sold on the concept of travel across space, but perhaps time (would explain why they avoid contacting us but are intrigued by our DNA) or dimensions (would explain why they don't contact us, as they may not realize we see them--they may not even see us).

Then, if you take it one step further, could it be entirely possible that while we emerged and evolved, something sharing our space also emerged and evolved in a spectrum we don't have the senses to detect except occasionally?

I've long held the theory that we are "ghosts" to "ghosts." That occasionally we pass by something and feel it, or hear it, smell it, or sense it, and at the same time they might also pass by us and catch a flickering glimpse and go, "what was that?"

Well, that's my musing for the day on the subject of UFOs and ghosts and any commonalities they may possess.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

DVD PRIZE CONTEST FOR MY FOLLOWERS!




Every year or two I clean out my horror collection on DVD. Sometimes folks give me a movie as a gift that I already have and I don’t have the heart to tell them, so I share the wealth with others. Sometimes, my moods change and things I once liked I’m just not so into anymore. Others, I only need to see once. (I know I’m weird, but I actually only saw “Sixth Sense” once! It was one of those movies for me).

I’m a Virgo and highly organized, so dead weight goes quickly. If I bring a new movie in, another must leave. I have so many horror movies that I keep them in a CD album alphabetized and it barely takes up any space. I’ve gone through the collection this year and am left with 10 DVDs that I’ve placed into jewel cases. The last few years I used my give-away DVDs for our local “Cemetery Crawl” event as prizes, but I decided this year I’d treat my regular readers to an opportunity to broaden their collections.

Requirements: You have to be already one of my 14 followers as of the time of the posting of this article. (I have your screen names. MIKE & JULIE—you have a screen name with both your names, but obviously you are two folks, so you can enter separately).
Prize: 10 DVD horror movies mailed to you.
Contest guidelines: I’m looking for the best new replacement for the popular ghost hunting T-shirt that reads “Ghost Hunters Do It In The Dark.” So, I want your best “Ghost Hunters Do It (description that fits ghost hunting and has double meaning).”
Why come up with a new slogan?: I was hoping to dress as a “Tomb Raider/Indiana Jones” kind of ghost hunter for Halloween next year (no, I’m not trick or treating, hoping to have a cool party) and wanted to a tank top that said something racy (yeah, I have a very bawdy sense of humor).
Deadline: April Fool’s Day is the last day to enter. Winner will be announced on April 2nd and the DVDs mailed to you immediately.
How to Enter: Comment on this article with your phrase and your name. One entry each, so really make it count.

P.S. Since I would hate to enter a contest and not know if the DVDs are ones I’m even interested in (or heaven forbid be ones I already own), I’m listing them below

MOVIES:
Dark Heritage (1989): An uncredited adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's "The Lurking Fear." After a violent thunderstorm, mutilated bodies are found at a Louisiana campground. Investigative reporter Clint Harrison uncovers a dark local legend about the reclusive Dansen clan, who may be connected with the murders. Determined to dig up the truth, Clint and his buddies decide to spend a stormy night at the seemingly abandoned Dansen mansion. (*I actually don't recall this one except the house part of it which was a cool house, don't think I really got into the story, though)

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973): A neurotic housewife named Sally and her business exec husband move into Sally's family house, a spooky two story Victorian mansion. When Sally starts the redecorating along with her pompous decorator she comes across a locked room in the house. After arguing with the handyman who insists she should leave the room locked, she finally gets the key. But once she opens her father's old study and has the bricks from the fireplace removed, strange things begin to happen. Sally begins to see small creatures everywhere, but no one will believe her. Her husband dismisses her as neurotic and her friend thinks Sally may be loosing her mind. But things take a deadly serious turn when the decorator trips at the top of the stairs and falls to his death. Sally sees a rope lying across the place where he tripped, but when she picks it up to take it, a horrifying little creature pulls it from her grasp. Is she crazy? Or has Sally released demons in the house, demons her father summoned? (*This one's a classic 70s made-for-tv spooky one!)

Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural (1973): A young girl who returns to her hometown to see her dying father finds herself being drawn into a web of vampirism and witchcraft. (*This one is dark and very unusual, entertaining, and has that "Dark Shadows" era feel)

Prom Night (2008, remake): Donnas senior prom is supposed to be the best night of her life, one of magic, beauty, and love. Surrounded by her best friends, she should be safe from the horrors of her past. But when the night turns from magic to murder there is only one man who could be responsible, the man she thought was gone forever. Now, Donna and her friends must find a way to escape the sadistic rampage of an obsessed killer, and survive their Prom Night. (*It's not Jamie Lee Curtis, but it's definitely tense)

(Double feature) “The Ghastly Ones” (1968) and “Seeds of Sin” (1968): The Ghastly Ones: gruesome tale of revenge and bloodshed, from the Shock King of Staten Island, cult director, Andy Milligan. This super-cheap horror film story is set in an eerie Victorian mansion where a family has gathered for a will-reading. Three couples must spend the night there to inherit a fortune according to the will. Then they start dying one by one, as people are impaled with pitchforks, decapitated, dismembered, and have their throats hacked open with knives. There is a lot of disgusting gore including a scene where a hunchbacked cretin eats live rabbits. “Seeds of Sin”: Claris Manning is an alcoholic invalid who tyrannizes her children when her youngest daughter, Carol, invites her family to spend a Christmas week together. They include Matthew, a crackpot clergyman; Michael, a misogynist businessman whom is sexually attracted to Carol, but abusive to his wife Susan; Margaret, the eldest daughter, whom is currently dating a local tough named Jonathan; and Buster, the youngest son from a military school whom brings over his gay lover Drew. Meanwhile, the two live-in servants, Peter and Jessica, plot to kill Mrs. Manning to gain her money for themselves. But an unseen killer soon begins killing off all the characters present for their debauched lifestyles they have led to since leaving the household (*I admit, a friend gave me this and I don't recall if I liked them, I just know I never got around to seeing them again)

Wolf Creek (2005): Just when you thought it was safe to go hiking in the bushes again...along comes Mick Taylor. Kristy, Ben and Liz are three pals in their twenties who set out to hike through the scenic Wolf Creek National Park in the Australian Outback. The trouble begins when they get back only to find that their car won't start. The trio think they have a way out when they run into a local bushman named Mick Taylor. Wait until you get a load of what Mick has in store for them. Their troubles have just begun. (*Very scary, very grizzly)

Lost Boys: The Tribe (2008): Sequel. The orphan and former surfer Chris Emerson and his sister Nicole Emerson move to Luna Bay expecting to initiate a new life without housing expenses with their Aunt Jillian, but she charges rent to the siblings for a wrecked house, and Chris seeks a job working as board shaper to raise money for the unforeseeable expenses. While in town, he meets his acquaintance and also former surfer Shane Powers that invites Chris for a surf parting at night. Then the siblings unsuccessfully seek out the board shaper and vampire hunter Edgar Frog in his trailer trying to find a job and Chris leaves a message for him. They go to Shane's party and Nicole stays with Shane and drinks booze offered by him. Later she becomes a half-vampire and Edgar advises that she drank vampire's blood and can only be saved if the head-vampire is killed. Chris and Edgar search the hiding place of Shane and his tribe to save Nicole. (*It's not like the fantastic original, but I dig the lead vampire. Heck, I always dig the lead vampire, what am I saying?)

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005): When a younger girl called Emily Rose (Carpenter) dies, everyone puts blame on the exorcism which was performed on her by Father Moore (Wilkinson) prior to her death. The priest is arrested on suspicion of murder. The trail begins with lawyer Erin Bruner (Linney) representing Moore, but it is not going to be easy, as no one wants to believe what Father Moore says is true. (*Fantastically moody and very genuinely scary, but after my son had two seizures with meningitis, I can't take seeing this movie anymore. It's very comparable to "The Exorcist" in mood and creepiness)

Alone in a Haunted House (2004): Documentary. Learn the basics of ghost hunting by watching a professional in action as How to Hunt Ghosts author Joshua P. Warren spends a night alone in a purportedly haunted house in a one-of-a-kind documentary that's guaranteed to give viewers goose-bumps. From the tools of the trade to the tricks used to coax the spectral beings out of hiding, this film offers every bit of advice needed for the determined amateur to further advance their ghost hunting skills. For viewers not yet be convinced about the existence of the supernatural, the strange manifestations and eerie EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) recordings captured by Warren will no-doubt offer hair-raising proof of something strange is attempting to work its way into the human realm. In addition to presenting visible evidence of actual ghosts and educating viewers about such time-honored ghost hunting tools as EMF meters, night-vision scopes, and electrostatic generators, Warren also educates his audience about the elusive connection between otherworldly entities and electricity by creating spectacular light forms and addressing the controversial topic of ghostly orbs. (*This teaches basic ghost hunting by this dude's point of view. It's a wickedly cool building he stays in alone that night and he does show you some equipment that's interesting. In fact, after seeing this, I got a strobe light. It hasn't helped, but I feel I should give equipment a really long run before I put it down to rest. A lot of his stuff is questionable to me, like orbs, but I appreciate his trying to use equipment and staying away from the woo-woo stuff)

Take It Or Leave It, I’m Here To Stay (How To Cope With People’s Perceptions About Ghost Hunting)





I’ve had this conversation a hundred times with different people, each one adding something new to the array of reactions folks have about ghosts, ghost hunting, and the paranormal.

When I first started ghost hunting, I was so excited I was finally doing something active about the questions rattling in my head about things I’ve witnessed in my lifetime, that I entered the "eager to tell people I’m a ghost hunter" phase. The reactions were always quite similar (this was pre-“Ghost Hunters” show era). They would stare blankly, blink a few times, mouth usually open, and then make that little humming sound in their throats as they tried to think of a polite way to say “did I hear you right?"

Disheartened by initial reactions, I tucked that bit of myself away and didn’t share it with anyone but my closest friends and family. I continued my search and then hit the "outrage/rebellion" phase. I’ve supported all of these people on paths that I thought were completely wrong, but I knew deep in my heart that as long as they were on their own life journey, they’d land on their feet because I believed in their inherent wisdom and wherewithal. Where were they for me? I went from tail tucked between the legs, ashamed I hunt ghosts, to in-your-face “I hunt ghosts, whatcha gonna make of it?” attitude. That was met quite briskly with fundamentalist relatives dropping out of touch with me completely, but not before they first voiced their concern with me conjuring up the Devil. I promptly told them that it wasn’t their business if I’m seeking spiritual answers, they became backwater Baptists and I didn’t go nutso on them for their blind obedience and fear of everyone and everything. Well, honestly, that weeded out the dead weight anyways. You really need to know who actually will support you, if you get a bad haircut, divorce your wife, or buy a Corvette at the age of 60. Most folks that love you unconditionally will actually take pride in you being such a complex and interesting human being. That you hunt ghosts becomes an endearing character quirk to them.

Inevitably I entered the "let me differentiate myself from the spiritualists" phase. There are, admittedly, some people in the ghost hunting world who rely only on the spiritual realm. That's kind of weird for me because it's like taking one supposition and using it to treat another supposition. We can't prove spiritual contact and we can't prove ghosts, so why use one to prove the other? A lot of people associate ghost hunting with the old turn-of-the-century Victorian era ghost hunting tactics. I’m talking about the folks who talk to spirit guides and become possessed at the drop of a hat (Most Haunted show). It’s probably not for me to judge if what they’re doing is working or not, but when ghost hunting becomes “religion” that is very concerning. It was very important to me in this phase to let people know that I don’t talk to spirit guides, I don’t do possession, and I won't be blessing your house. I'm not, however, against the use of my psychic abilities to know where and when in a house to approach a situation, but it's not something I would broadcast as evidence. I would use it hopefully capture activity but not as proof of activity. It's very much like the use of your senses to know when something's happening. I insist on using whatever instruments I have for documentation and stray away from the theatrics, they don't help the industry progress.

After the last stage, the next one inevitably becomes, the "where are my people?" phase. You've had enough time at it and enough exposure to other people's methods, so you kind of know where you belong. You might be in between science and spirituality, you might be hardcore proof on film and audio, you might be leaning towards cleansings and counseling. I found a body of folks who have a similar attitude as mine which is more along the lines of admitting we have no true answers about what ghosts are and if they exist. We want to have experiences, make conclusions, find ways to test the conclusions, and seek proof that will help move us along in understanding what hauntings are. This is a liberating phase because this is when you realize that you have people who really get you. You have others to talk about theories with, share strange experiences with. It's kind of like being in battle together with the bonding you make when no one else around you ever will really get what you've been through and what goes through your mind about it.

I finally got to a place in my life now where I don’t mind that people know I ghost hunt, but I don’t offer it unless I meet a kindred spirit who would find it fascinating. They can ask all their interesting questions and I can give them what answers I might have formed so far (which are few and far between even after years of searching). They soon learn that I’m earnest, that I’ve experienced things that are genuinely unexplainable, and that I seem to be looking for definitive evidence of what a haunting is and why it exists. Usually, they end up admiring me and even sharing things that happened to them that they never told anyone else. People are very afraid to talk about the paranormal, afraid of being ridiculed. No one understands that better than you. (Your counseling training has officially begun).

You’re going to run into these responses from folks and I thought I’d give you some insight into what I think in my head (in brackets) and what I actually say to them.

I could never do that!” (Honestly, I wasn’t asking you to). “It’s just something I’m doing to find answers to things I’ve witnessed that I couldn’t explain.” (The driven by a higher purpose explanation. This usually satisfies, even if the person shivers visibly at the notion of going into scary places. This isn’t the person to tell about cobwebs and doors that slam on their own.)

“Do you use a Ouija board and have séances?” (I doubt TAPS is packing Parker Brothers when they go into prisons and lighthouses). “There are actually some new tools nowadays for ghost hunting." (Education without explanation. If this person is genuinely interested, they’ll ask more questions, then you can divulge the equipment list. Less is more when talking to people the first time about your hobby).

“What do you do once you catch `em? (leering)” ( I tell them your address, of course!) “I usually like to transport them in a Ghost Trap until we get to headquarters where I place them in my Ecto Containment Unit.” (Meet humor with humor. Folks are going to poke fun at what you do, beat them to the punch.)

Ghost hunting will weed people out. Folks who don’t want to be seen as weird or different are going to drop out at a fast rate of speed. Others will never let even their office friends know about what they do at night and why they’re drowsy in mid week after a house call on Wednesday night. Some folks will decide it’s part of their identity and will wear it proudly on t-shirts that scream “Ghost Hunters Do It In The Dark” (I never understood that one, it's hardly worth boasting you do it like a Puritan)). Other folks will want to tell everyone around them everything they think on the subject as if they personally know each ghost and know exactly why they’re trapped and how to release a house of their presence.

A few more subtle folks will continue on a personal mission, eyes straight ahead, passing by the masses as if they’re on a different plane in search of something that sings to their tune and no one else. Those folks, like me, will look for answers regardless of what others think, come to conclusions on their own, and not influenced by others in the industry who think they know what a ghost is, why it's haunting a place, and how to "send it to the light."

We are the ones who seek our own conclusions, ask our own pointed questions, and those who love us admire us for those very qualities because as an ancient said, “the way you anything is the way you do everything.” The same qualities that make people seek you out as a friend are the same qualities you take into the field.

Trudge on, head held high! And remember, there's hundreds of hunters out there who admire your courage--they live it every day too.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Event Retention




I have to give Grant and Jason from TAPS big kudos for bringing “residual hauntings” out into the open. It’s intrigued me to no end since my upbringing, where I would say residual accounted for about 85% of the occurrences in the house (the other 15% were more poltergeist-related in characteristics).

I started actively working in the field because I never found answers to the kind of hauntings I experienced growing up. Residual hauntings weren’t something often talked about in the industry until the 2000s. Most folks were under an assumption that if something unexplained happened it was automatically a ghost trying to contact us--always an active and never a passive process.

The fact is, easily the majority of all “hauntings” can be attributed to what I like to call “event retention.” It’s the simple process of (for some as of yet unexplained reason within the realm of quantam physics) an event is recorded into a place to be replayed again and again at what seems like random times and witnessed just as randomly.

The question I’ve been asking for years is whether this is related to geology, location on leylines, a spiritual base of those who imprinted the event, a strong emotional upheaval that recorded the event, or perhaps just plain repetition of an event. Perhaps, it’s possible all events are recorded and randomly play back due to different changes in our environment, whether it’s in the RF plane or geomagnetic or some sort of schism between time and space, allowing a portal of viewing.

I’m really open to any theories.

My greatest hope is that we can eventually manage to document residual events to the point that we can figure out what might have been going on that day from the point of weather, the occupant’s emotional state, solar flares, use of more power to the house than usual; whatever might be commonalities.

Then, again, looking at the sites that have the most reported residual hauntings, what geological factors do they have? If there are earthly leylines, do they intersect at these points? What is fueling the environment to hold and replay an event?

Wondering about how these things play out and how often, and whether they play out if someone is there or not, I came to a new concept:

Could it be something in our own psyche that is affected by the right conditions can make us capable of seeing things that are always there, but that we do not usually see?

Could all events that have ever occurred be happening simultaneously but we simply do not have the capacity to see and hear them, except for brief moments under the right conditions? Sort of like how we have all sorts of frequencies of waves bombarding us, but cannot pick them up without a receiver?

This is what I like about this field of research is just how many theories and concepts can be thrown on the table and then the excitement of finding ways to test them.

If you have any other theories on residuals or “event retention,” please let me know. I’m always happy to put more concepts into the discussion.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

More on KII


In my recent article about the efficacy of the KII meter, it resulted in more conversations and thoughts on the matter. It's impossible to know how much the equipment Jason and Grant are wearing in "Ghost Hunters" is interfering with the use of their own test equipment. I'd be curious to find out if, before the film crew and microphones and use of walkies, their EMF meter went off on house calls (other than electrical sources in the home).

I asked my hubby, whose job involves testing sound equipment for any possible bleed through from other sources, and he said that unless Jason and Grant remove all their equipment, get rid of the crew, and go into a cave with nothing more than a flashlight and EMF/KII meter, it will be impossible to say that the source of it going off is of a paranormal nature. The KII meter has a very broad spectrum it can pick up and the signals that are in the air around us are so extensive, that just about any burst of activity could set it off. Mind you, I'm not in an electronics field (I'm medical) but I understand what he's saying.

Just like your car radio can pick up a ham radio on the road on the way to work, your home cordless phone can get your neighbor's conversations, or like what happened to me when a lady with a cell phone or satellite phone driving down the road spoke through the answering machine, you can't have a really clean test in the field. You'd have to go into a special room designed to shield from RF and do your testing.

That being said, I will admit that the EMF meter can go off quite easily and randomly, but the KII meter thus far in my testing will only go off it is held right up to a source for electrical. If left on a table in the middle of a room, it simply will not go off (no matter how much I whine and cajole). That being said, it doesn't mean something couldn't interfere with it, but I have a lot of doubts that there are any signals in the air strong enough to make this certain device go off, but it is entirely possible that a person speaking to it, wearing a microphone and transmitter, a walkie, and who knows what else, could potentially set it off.

Unless Jason and Grant drop their bodily equipment and use the device, I'll humor myself with their conversations with the dead, but won't take them as definitive evidence. Even the EVPs unfortunately are vulnerable to walkies and other devices and as a receiver, so therefore can pick up sounds and recordings and other messages being sent in the air.

I'm convinced at this point that reliable witnesses and some photographic evidence are still our best proof of paranormal. I do think, however, that if anyone can ever get into that lead-lined room in "The Legend of Hell House," and managed to get recordings and measurements, I'd gladly accept those as definitive proof. :-)

I suppose this is just another example of making new test equipment for the field, ones that measure something that isn't so readily filling our airspace already. What it has always come down to for me is the personal experience. The things I have witnessed growing up at Aspen Grove, as well as on ghost hunts leads me to believe there is something happening that we don't seem to have any current scientific explanations for, and so I will continue to try to gather these experiences, judge them objectively, and hope to find out what commonalities they have, how to reproduce the situations, what might be the motivating factor.

I will keep you updated as I grill my husband the engineer for more ways to study ghosts and perhaps pick his brain on test equipment.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Gothic Garden: Magical Section




Okay, so the Buddhist, Christian, and Celtic sections are done in the garden. I began the section for magical religions. There's a bamboo star for Pagans, a rose quartz crystal inside my pot growing ginger for New Agers, a dreamcatcher hanging overhead for Native American cultures, and a Totem pole with bigfoot, a wolf, and an owl on it.

If anyone can think of any other interesting magic-based spiritualities to add, let me know. I will probably try to do something Viking, as well, maybe a Thor's hammer used somewhere...

The spiritually mixed garden continues. Don't know if it's the gardening or the spiritual symbols everywhere, but I feel great every time I'm puttering around out there fussing over the plants.

Irish Ghosts--Happy St. Patty's


Just to keep you in the ghostie mood on St. Patty's day, here's a great link:

http://">http://www.irelandseye.com/IRELAND/irish/ghosts/leprechauns

Monday, March 16, 2009

KII Meter Test





Recent talk about the use of the KII meter in ghost hunting has made me pull my meter back out for a little bit of testing. Many people have remarked on how often Jason and Grant from TAPS and the SciFi show "Ghost Hunters" have hits with the KII. I've owned my about six months without one false hit. I have to admit, I'm skeptical by nature and the fact that only Jason and Grant use the meter and it works for them often had me wondering. I know they use a penny to hold down the lever to keep the meter on, which is what I also do. That gave me a theory that if the penny wasn't holding it down adequately, the meter could turn off and off which would make it go through the lineup of lights.

I took the meter out and tested it as I've done many times in the past. To get it to go off near the computer screen, I need to be within five inches. For other items it won't even light up. It's rather sensitive electrically, so you better be right on a source. When I was testing, however, I set the meter down on my desk and it went nuts. There was nothing around except a container with pens and pencils. It baffled me for all of three minutes as I moved it around and found that one spot was a "hot spot" (see photo above of it lit to the red light). A little debunking, however, and logical thinking (it had to be something electric, it only happened in that one specific spot), and I figured out the culprit. There was nothing electrical around it, but there was under it. Beneath my desk is my surge protective electrical strip. Sure enough, I held it up to it and that was the problem.

So, I went on to test the penny theory. I have to tell you, stuffing a penny into that lever is very hard and getting it out is harder. Trying to wiggle it, put it in partially, or any other possible variable does not make it go off. After extensive testing with that, I am actually convinced I can sign off the "penny" is the culprit scenario. I'm rather surprised. I really thought that might be the problem.

When the meter sits out in the open, like on a chair, on a bed, wherever Jason and Grant like to set it, there's just no way it's going to go off. There's nothing even faintly intermittent in the room that could set that off. I've tried every possible scenario, even turning on light switches, turning on everything around the room, and I couldn't get the meter to go off. So, if that meter goes off and they have it sitting out in the open, I'm impressed. Well, kinda...

Then, we get down to the two other issues with the meter. One, is that Jason and Grant use it exclusively and many times it actually goes off when they put their hand near it. It definitely has me wondering if they are the types that can affect electrical, but I find that hard to believe. I admit, I can't wear watches for more than a few hours or they die and I often set off store alarms when I walk through them, but even I can't make that meter go off. Hell, my clock telephone won't make it go off.

That had me thinking about one more variable we haven't covered yet. Grant and Jason both wear walkies. They also wear microphones and (I'm certainly not a production person) but they wear some sort of battery pack for that. A sound man and videographer are also nearby. The equipment used to make the production of this show could definitely be interfering with this piece of equipment. That is one test I can't do since I don't have access to television production equipment. I can only assume that if you're carrying a walkie and it's turned on, it's a receiver and a transmitter and EVP could be questionable as well because an EVR is a receiver and could pick up signals from other sources. As well, if you're wearing a body microphone and a power pack and you lean into the KII meter--will you affect it. If you step back, will it turn off?

The next step is to go watch past episodes using the KII and see their body positioning when it's going on and off. I would like to think they would debunk their own methods, but sometimes we get so used to our own equipment, we forget it could interfere. Let me know if any of you find anything on old episodes.

That being said, the KII going off is highly impressive, but I won't be totally sold on its efficacy until I see Jason and Grant take off their equipment, move the sound and video guy far back and set the KII meter in the middle of the room and step away from it. If they can still get responses in those conditions, then I will truly say this piece of equipment is amazing and I'm thrilled to have it in my arsenal.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Gothic Garden--the Celtic and Christian Sections--Costs Zero $--Priceless











Since my mother was a very proud Highlander Fraser, I did a nod to my Celtic heritage in the garden. I had a lot of beautiful limbs from the dead mulberry, so I curved them and tied them off to make an arbor up against the ugly shed. I planted a bower vine and ground cover and ferns surrounded by a ring of rocks (all of them free--relocated from around the garden). I hung two Green Man faces in the arbor and one statue of Him on the ground and a large celtic cross (all free, already had them). I painted the cross to age it and make it look moss covered. I also painted the Green Man images with iron paint so they rusted out. I think over time, this will age nicely. The bower vine is extremely crazy growing, so I expect it to weave around and in and out of the Green Man faces.

I turned the triangular garden into the Christian garden with an angel, cherubs, and lots of thorns (blackberry and rose bushes). I hope to get lots of little vignettes around the garden and then take flagstones and river rock and make weaving pathways so it's a giant labyrinth. I've always wanted to have a labyrinth and I figured since I don't have a big open area to do it, I can just incorporate it into the garden and walk through it every day and contemplate the spiritual icons arounds me.

I still want to do one section for "magical" religions (paganism), Wiccan, Viking, and more indigenous religions. I've made a dreamcatcher and I'm working on a small totem pole next. I haven't figured out how I want to portray Viking and Wiccan, but I'd love input if anyone has ideas. I think I might do something with an altar for Wiccan. The Viking--Thor's hammer???

I couldn't find anything on Muslim faith. Apparently they don't like idolitry, so there are no symbols or statues. They did adopt the crescent moon and star, but it's not theirs and they consider it to be of Pagan origins. I heard they like rosemary in their gardens, so I planted a rosemary bush--in the Christian garden. Somehow, it seems like it might make peace.

If you can think of any other religions to add, let me know.

It's really weird because it seems as if they all go together in a peaceful kind of way, like being in a cemetery with a lot of different headstones. It just makes a cohesive intricate curiosity. I wonder what it does for the energy of the garden and my growing herbs/fruits/veggies???

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Come and Meet the Dead People


I wanted to let locals know about an event MVD Ghostchasers is putting on in conjunction with the Pioneer Cemetery Association to help raise funds for the Association. It's a walking tour of the Pioneer Cemetery in downtown Phoenix. Us members of the MVD Ghostchasers will be in costume speaking as the deceased characters of Phoenix's founding families. Standing at our own graves, we will tell you about our lives and contributions to The Valley. I'm playing the part Phoenix's first mayor's wife, Anna Alsap. This will be Sunday the 31st. I'll be sure and give you a reminder just before then too. (info below)

A Historical Walk in Phoenix’s Early Cemeteries
“Where Phoenix’s Past Comes Alive”

Sunday March 29, 2009 11:30 am to 2:30 pm

Pioneer & Military Memorial Park 14th Ave. and Jefferson St.Phoenix, AZ 85007
602-534-1262

For more information contact:www.azhistcemeteries.org
Sponsored by the Pioneers’ Cemetery Association.
Thank you for joining us!

$10 donation for adults$5 donation for students 12 and under Children under 5 free

Join us after the walk for refreshments

Show me your cemeteries, And I will tell you what kind of people you have." Benjamin Franklin

Meet Our Cast of Featured Characters:

James Henry Broomell 1837-1896 He was born in Pennsylvania. He served as a Union soldier in the Civil War and fought in two of the most significant battles: Antietam and Chancellorsville.

Anna D. Alsap 1855-1902 She was married to the first mayor of Phoenix. Praised as a dedicated Sunday school teacher, a stained glass window was placed in her honor at Methodist Episcopal Church South.

Elizabeth Gardiner 1841-1895 Sailed to America 20 years after the husband she thought had perished returned to England to find her alive and well, too! The Gardiner Hotel was a family-run business in early Phoenix.

Sam Korrick 1871-1903 This enterprising young Russian came to America and established a dry goods store in the valley called the New York Store—later Korrick's Department Store—and revolutionized the mercantile business in Phoenix.

Bryan Philip Darrell Duppa 1832-1892 "Lord" Duppa, as he was called, is accredited with naming both Phoenix and Tempe. He was known to quote Shakespeare passages daily. This eccentric man was buried not once, but twice in the cemetery.

Sarah Ella Hill McElhaney 1872-1911 Wife of one of the best-known ranchers in the valley, Ella helped move their cattle and horses from Holbrook to the Salt River Valley. She raised their six children in the growing Arizona Territory.

Leona Wooldridge Wilson 1874 -1899 She was the daughter of Wooldridge, and wife of Wilson—the owners of the Wilson and Wooldridge shoe business in Phoenix. She was the first person buried in the Wooldridge specially-constructed vault.

Czar J. Dyer 1846-1903 Dyer was an acting mayor and a city councilman. He was the draftsman who drew most of the plats of the City of Phoenix still in use today. Dyer drew a Bird's Eye View Map of Phoenix. A copy of the map is located in the Smurthwaite House.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gothic Garden




A friend was telling me I should share this online and get ideas. I've been doing a total renovation of my backyard to make it a place I want to live in since nature if extremely important to me. Over the years, I've collected a lot of statues and things that are very gothic/cemetery feeling and I thought of doing a fake graveyard in one portion of the yard, but then as I started working on issues--like this ugly wall, I came up with an idea.

A gothic garden.

Different areas for different spiritual belief systems. I have this one I just installed for the Buddhist belief system. I was cutting down a dying tree and used the limbs to make a giant 6' tall windchime. I took old windchimes around the yard that were rusted and used their bells to make this chime. Put some sand and river rock below, a Buddhist statue, and a bamboo shade to hide my garden tools. I'm very pleased with that area.

This weekend, I hope to finish my "darker side" of spirituality garden. It's a boulder lined island that will be filled with thorny rose bushes and a dark cherub.

I have a celtic area under work right now too. I hope to do a nod to Norse Mythology and Christianity and other systems of belief, hoping to capture them with plantings and statuary that suits them.

As I finish each area, I'd like to share them on my blog. If you have any ideas, please share them. I have a giant tree carcass I'm thinking of trying my hand at carving and I'd love suggestions on what it should become. I'll run a poll on that in my next article.

I'm intrigued by a garden where in a small area there will be many spiritualities portrayed. I grow a great deal of fruits/veggies/herbs, and I like the idea of life being an ongoing and blessed process by all the groups acting as one--something they never do in real life!

Triangle UFO Three Lobes



Since folks are seeing this all over the world, I thought I'd put it out there. We saw this (my husband, son and myself) in August 31, 2008 in Phoenix heading south to north on a very directed path in daylight. It moved very slowly, whic makes me think it might have been quite high in the sky. I thought I'd mention it. My husband, an extreme skeptic, announced "it's a UFO." My first thought was wayward balloons, but it was not only going against the wind, but it was moving very purposefully and not getting smaller and smaller as balloons do when they lift. Let me know if you've seen it too.

Spine Tingler: Jerome Grand


I visited this hotel when I very first started ghost hunting in the early 2000s.

We walked up to the 5-story hotel cut into the hillside and we all stepped back. The façade almost looked gothic in the setting sun and the bats were beginning to go nuts, flying spastically back and forth in front of the structure. I felt a chill as we stepped inside and lost sight of its mass and our eyes became accustomed to the lobby. T

The old-fashioned elevator caught my eye right away.

I arrived at The Jerome Grand knowing nothing about it, except that it used to be a hospital. I didn’t want to be colored by anything anyone had experienced and even chose a room at random. I bought a few postcards as I always do and stepped into the old elevator for the ride up one floor. Not a big leap, but I just had to know what riding it was like. Our room was atop of the lobby. It a nice long room with two beds and a bath. It had a very clinical feel to it because the obvious architecture of the prior hospital was evident.

We quickly gathered up our cameras and set off down the hallways that were lined with antiques and had that musty old antique shop feel to them. I fully expected a cowboy in his attire to step up the stairs. We wandered the length of the place, checked out where the restaurant was at one end and I entered the bathroom nearby. The women’s bathroom had a “I’m being watched feel” very strongly. It was almost impossible to use the stall without studying the top of the walls with curiosity and tension and a bit of performance anxiety.

I washed my hands and got a chill that made me shiver wildly. I looked around me, but I was alone. I heard the intake of a woman's breath right behind me and swung around. No one was there.

We had a nice supper out in the “downtown” corridor. The whole place had me unsettled, admittedly. It wasn’t even my fear of heights—the drive up I had to close my eyes (thankfully I wasn’t driving), but the people and the place just have a very strange feel. Bisbee has a similar feel, but in Bisbee you feel they like to hang out. Here, they felt like they liked to tuck in and hide behind shuttered windows. It was very weird. I only feel this much an outsider when I visit relatives in the hills of West Virginia where we could shut down all conversations at the Dairy Queen by stepping inside and not being from around there.

Other than a few orbs, the hotel didn’t offer anything, but I do admit I started out my first few months of hunting with only a digital cameara. I found it very hard to fall asleep. I lay there on the bed staring at the bits of light coming in and hitting the ceiling. My body was exhausted, but my mind was active. I felt the same sensations I felt in my childhood home which was also a hospital in its past. I felt like I needed to be alert in case someone needed me—a sort of phantom nurse syndrome as I once called it.

Somehow, I finally nodded off. I heard coughing in the room right near the door at the foot of my bed. The corner of the bed felt like an insistent child was shaking it to get my attention. I waited before opening my eyes. Perhaps it was someone in the hall? My hubby? I opened my eyes and the coughing came in another set, right beside the trash can. Most definitely in the room. I squinted into the darkness and shook my head and went back to sleep. I awakened again. With no clock for reference, I didn’t know what time it was but I heard the coughing again and I could still feel the vibration at the foot of the bed as I became conscious. The coughing came from the exact same spot, perhaps 8’ away from me. I got up and tiptoed over to the trash can where I’d heard it and the looked at the door. I swung it opened and studied the lit hallway. Not a soul in sight.

I closed the door and went back to bed, falling into a deep sleep. I awakened again to coughing in the same spot. I sat up in bed and studied the trash can area while it let out one more cough while I was fully awake. It was definitely in the room! The sound of it was just like my mother’s emphysematous cough.

I once again checked outside the door. No one anywhere. I knew there wouldn’t be. When someone walked down the wall, you could feel it in the floorboards. It had been very silent that night. In fact, there were only a few of us visiting the place.

I heard the cough two more times during the night and I think in a groggy voice I even said “what do you want me to do?” which must have awakened my hubby somewhat because I heard him murmur something and turn over in bed, probably thinking I was talking to him.

Admittedly exhausted the next day, I made it down the mountain with my eyes open. Somehow, my weird fear of heights only bothers me when I’m going up, not down. We got home and I started sorting through pictures and then decided to check on the background of the building. Was it haunted? It had been a hospital, it should have been haunted.

I found that many people reported issues with the women’s bathroom and with coughing in the rooms (believed to be miners who were in the hospital there). I was able to tuck that experience away, pleased with the findings, other than at the time I only used a camera to capture phenomenon and didn’t think to leave it near my bedside.

I did something right, however. I liked to go to places cold so that whatever I read would be accurate and not tainted by what I knew about the place. I still prefer to do this. I don’t mind knowing what the building once housed, I just don’t want to know what others have experienced. I still insist on going about it this way.

HauntedCon!

HauntedCon is coming to Jerome in September:
http://www.hauntedcon.com/
Debe Branning from the local MVD Ghostchasers will be there, as will Chip Coffey of Paranormal State and Psychic Kids, John Zaffis the demonologist, Christopher Moon of Haunted Times, Michelle Belanger (psychic used on Paranormal State), and loads more. Check out the site. The location is awesome. In fact, I was just now writing my article about my time at the Jerome Grand when Debe sent me this link. Deja vu!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Where is it?

Hey, anyone who's a big "Ghost Hunters" show fan and bought DVDs episodes, do you have any idea where the DVD is for the 2005 Halloween special that included the Moon River Brewery where the shadow person went in and out of the wall behind the pool table? I have the complete season 2 on DVD, but didn't see it listed. I can't find it sold separately either. Let me know, I'd like to complete my collection.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Crafts: Making an Alien Autopsy Cake

Boy, I wish I had a picture of this--but someone stole my camera during a Halloween party and didn't leave the film behind (which would have been kinda nice--but they were party crashers in costumes). Anyways, this is one of my favorites. I used this for my son's school parties as well, but it's fun for an adult Halloween party. It's a favorite and we usually use the camcorder to "film the autopsy," giving the cutter rubber gloves and a mask.

Bake a Red Velvet cake (basically, a bottle of red dye in a chocolate cake mix). You bake this in two pans: one round 8 or 9" pan and a large sheet cake pan. When they're done, cool and invert. I usually do this onto flour dusted tin foil on the counter. Take a knife and cut the sheet cake into thirds. One third will be the body rectangle. One third will be cut into two long strips for arms, one third will be cut into two long strips for legs. The round will be cut to an alien head shape--with a pointed chin and round top. Take a piece of dental floss and use it to slice these pieces into two (layers). Saw it back and forth and then set aside the top layer.

Now, here's the fun and creative part. You can use strawberry jam, but it's more fun to use things like white frosting with a medium green food coloring for the frosting between the layers. Spread that on one layer of each piece. Next, gummy worms and chow mein crispy noodles are fantastic for insides, sprinkle those over the frosting. If you want, you can use other candies to create organs/heart/lungs. This is for your own creative part, but some ideas include marshmallows that have been stretched and food dyed, a Baby Ruth bar, red vines... Put the layer on top of each piece and now assemble on a piece of long cardboard covered in a piece of tin foil like a shiny autopsy table. Once he's in place, frost him with a gray frosting (mix a bit of blue into the white frosting with a one drop of red and two drops of yellow)--adjust as necessary. You could also use fondant dyed gray if you are really good with cakes. Most folks will find the grayish frosting works well. Spread him nice and smooth and use a thin piece of clipped licorice for his slit mouth and two tiny cut ends of it for his nostril slits. For his eyes, you can use any number of things. I ended up using licorice cut into tiny strips and used to fan out into a circle, but be creative.

People usually fight over what piece of the alien they want to eat, but the really fun part is just simply filming the dramatic autopsy with a scalpel/gloves/mask.

Meet Quatchi!


Anyone who knows me, knows I'm obsessed with Sasquatch. I was thrilled to discover that Vancouver is hosting the 2010 Olympics and one of their mascots is Sasquatch or "Quatchi" as they call him. His profile says his favorite color is "chill blue." (Personally, I think his favorite color is berry purple or salmon pink):

http://www.vancouver2010.com/mascot/en/meet.php

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Valley of The Sun Cemeteries for Taphophiles



Taphopile: One who loves tombstones.

I’ve seen a great many of the cemeteries in Arizona. I love cemeteries and think of them as peaceful parks. Having lost a great deal of my family members, I find it comforting to know that others suffer losses and come and visit and “update” their family members regularly. My family members are back east, but in Arizona I enjoy visiting the local cemeteries. I love photographing them, painting them, and also being inspired in my horror novel writing by the stillness and the epitaphs left behind. There’s something contemplative about being near the cycle of life and feeling at peace with it.

NOTE: I don’t have any cemeteries on my top fav’s list that don’t allow headstones. The more modern cemeteries that like to make mowing easier for them by limiting headstones to plaques in the grass and don’t allow people to leave offerings, I won’t even visit. They feel very sterile and are not beautiful. I can’t imagine having to visit a relative here and leave nothing and have no statues or headstones. What are these cemetery owner’s thinking?

Here’s my top fav’s in The Valley depending on what type of need you have (top 2 choices per type):

“I’m looking for a cemetery that’s park-like, green, and has lots of people visiting and is shady.” (A tall order for Phoenix) There are two cemeteries in The Valley that come to mind the most in this category: Greenwood Memory Lawn just west of 23rd Avenue and north of Van Buren. This cemetery was a few cemeteries combined and it is very lush, green, shady, with huge statues, tons of intriguing headstones, and it’s sort of an all-day event because there’s so much to see and so much ambiance. Bring a packed lunch. No kidding. This one is the “Forest Lawn” of Phoenix. Bring lots of film too and sketch books, oh and comfortable shoes! The other one that comes to mind is the City of Mesa Cemetery at 1212 N. Center Street between Brown and McKellips Roads. This one has an enormous amount of Cypress trees (you can see their pointed tops before you even get nearby). It’s very green and shaded with interesting headstones and statuary. Joggers and local folks exercise here because it’s so pleasing. It makes for fantastic photo-ops and a great walking workout.

“I’m looking for something eerie and perhaps even active with phenomenon.” Immediately, I have to list Double Buttes (west of I-10, south of Broadway). This cemetery is just downright unsettling and has lots of legends of a woman in white, a man attending a grave who disappears, and lots of photographic oddities. The place feels weird, is uber creepy, and has many very old graves and important graves as well, many of the founders of The East Valley. St. Francis is my other great choice, located at Oak and 48th St (need to take Thomas to get to it because 44th St doesn’t have an exit for Oak). A shadowperson has been seen by several witnesses around the large stained glass at the outdoor crematory and a man speaking in Latin was heard. This is a giant Catholic cemetery, extremely creepy, unsettling, filled with wild cats, and more bodies per foot than any other cemetery in The Valley. You'll probably get the most eerie photos here for your collection. If you stick around the outdoor crematory (the long concrete hall with the huge stained glass window) you’ll be in weird-ness central for any action.

“I’m looking for something small and intimate in an urban setting.”
Pioneer Cemetery in downtown Phoenix is a remarkable one at 15th Ave. and Jefferseon. It’s in a nasty part of town, but has its own lot and is fenced off for safety. The founders of the city are buried here and the famous Lost Dutchman Miner (the very farthest possible right corner from the entrance in the back lot of graves). It has an amazing view of the city while showing off very old headstones. Camelback Cemetery at McDonald and between Scottsdale Rd. and Invergordon (directly across from Kiva Elementary School - must park in school lot) is an amazing neighborhood cemetery. It sits right smack dab across from an elementary school and surrounded by neighboring homes (with tall bushes – guess they don’t like looking at a cemetery). It’s easy to access and very small, perhaps 2 acres. There’s a crazy mix of ethnicities and religions here, which is intriguing. You can wander around a long time looking at strange offerings, weird headstones, and puzzling constructions. There’s a section of plain white crosses for Hispanic workers who died of the 1918 influenza. Cars make EVP impossible, but the place has a very strange unsettling feel, so it’s worth the charming walk around the dirt lot.

There are lots of other cemeteries to choose from in The Valley, but if you just viited these eight, you’d have satisfied any needs.

Monday, March 9, 2009

How to Contribute to Ghost Hunting at Any Level



(Thanks Devin for this idea serendipitously)

Anyone can contribute to the ghost hunting field and you don’t have to be tromping around abandoned buildings with a team and equipment to do it.

My sister is a good example of ways you can help ghost hunting without having to be a field person.

My sister isn’t willing to buy any ghost hunting equipment and absolutely refuses to use a new-fangled computer, but she lives in an amazingly rich area of abandoned buildings and dramatic history in West Virginia. There are no local ghost hunting teams, so no one has scared off local businesses who have historic buildings. She would have a great pick for any place to hunt, but she’s going to forgo that avenue.

So, here’s some alternative options she (or you) could consider that in the end could even make her money:

A. If she loves cemeteries, should volunteer to the cemetery association. They could give her a list of cemeteries that haven’t been documented yet. She could go to the cemeteries, write down the names and date of birth/death for each occupant and take photographs. This could help the cemetery association to build their records, as well as to put them online for genealogy buffs to find relatives. This is a perfect option for those who love cemeteries, love history, and love doing things that are neat and orderly and concise. It’s a way to volunteer in the field without having to run around in the middle of the night. You can also take a trash bag and clean up the cemetery, pick up overturned flowers for the graves and put them back in place, and also get some amazingly eerie photography, which is often sell-able on line. People are very fascinated with eerie sunsets and graveyards and the lonely starkness of an unattended grave. She could sell the photographs or keep them for a potential coffee table book. This is also a really helpful option for people who have suffered losses. It sometimes helps put things in perspective and comfort them to know that people still visit, still remember, and still miss loved ones just like they do.
B. If she loved history, loved stories of the past, and found it all quite romantic, she might consider working for the local historical society or she might consider being a researcher. Finding the true back stories to tragic deaths, battles, and murders is a way to compile information that can be helpful for the local ghost hunting group. She can let them know she has a library card and is ready and willing to learn about any site they’re trekking to. She could check with the registrar for the city to learn about the building or lot’s history and make a great relationship with those at the local library. In the end, this could become an intriguing book that you’ve compiled based on the true background of famous hauntings.
C. Should my sister be technically inclined, she could do a little research to come up with ways to modify her equipment or perhaps invent new testing equipment that isn’t out there in the field now. This has the potential to be sell-able online. Just look at how the KII meter took off. When I ordered mine, I was on a waiting list.
D. If she liked detective work, this is a great field for it. She could print out a map of the US and proceed to find the most verified haunted places in each state, marking them on the map, looking for correlations with water and geology and train tracks or other features that no one has noticed yet. This ground-breaking information would be a huge boon to ghost hunters in their research. This map could be sold online and would offer not only certified haunted locations, but the features that might link them together. Folks could add other places they’ve discovered and see if they meet the factors that tie the other locations together.
E. If she didn’t get bored easily, she might consider reviewing evidence. If she connected with a local group, they could allow her to have copies of the EVP and photographic evidence. She could sit and review this evidence for anything that might be missed. With expert software, she could be sought after to review such things.
F. If she were a spiritual seeker, she might consider learning about feng shui, crystals powers, incense, paganism, occultism, demonology, or many other possible avenues for ghost hunting. When a team needs someone for advice, she might be the one called on to come and feng shui the environment or give advice on how to cleanse a house.
G. If she were the literary type, she might make friends with ghost hunters in the hopes of writing a book about it, poetry about it, or art inspired by it.

The important thing to know is that, although you see Jason, Grant, and Steve in the forefront of ghost hunting in the field on “Ghost Hunters” show, there are many more people behind the scenes. People trying to contribute to the field and knowing their talents. When I hunt, I keep in mind that my skepticism, logical mind, psychic abilities, and my counseling skills make me better for certain situations. Had I not been in the field, I would pursue art inspired by graveyards and getting my horror novels done—finally. But, I enjoy all those things, so I get a little of each done and none exclusively. That might be the case for you, as well. Sometimes, just being a supporter of the arts by going to concerts and helping to finance them is more important than being the singer on the stage.

Where would one be without the other?

Book Review - Ghost Hunting Books I Keep



I started out getting all the books I could on ghost hunting, then I began to weed out the “dead weight” (pun intended). It's probably something akin to that pet hoarding issue, I just passed by a book on ghost hunting and "had to make room for it." Unfortunately, I have a book addiction and limited space, so some just had to go to new homes. I ended up with only a choice few that satisfy different needs:

“Confessions of a Feng Shui Ghost-Buster” by Anna Maria Prezio. I really enjoyed this book because it could be applied to ghost hunting, as well as your own home planning. In ghost hunting, I’ve found some real correlations between clutter and darkness and haunting issues. I’m working to develop my knowledge in this area and experimenting to see how a change in environment can kick things up (like hauntings go wild during renovations) and how they can settle things down (like people cleaning and settling into a place). When you add new occupants or take them away, hauntings seem to go on the rise, as well. These things had me considering if homes can just be good magnets for paranormal issues because of the manner in which people are living in them. This book was very helpful. I would take it on a home follow-up to go through and give occupants ideas for making their home a bit more peaceful. I learned the worst place to place a windchime inside your home is the southwest corner, which is my bedroom corner where I happened to hang a windchime. I thought it was a good idea because during the night I often hear things shifting in the room and I thought it might be an early warning system. What happened instead was I had horrible nightmares. I removed it and they stopped immediately. Don’t know yet if Feng Shui is the way to go, but it should be in everyone’s arsenal, ghost hunter or not.

“Ghost Hunting” by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson with Michael Jan Friedman. Not an exceptionally well-written or witty book, but if you like the SciFi series “Ghost Hunters” and wish you could see more episodes, this book covers much of what we missed in their early years and is laid out kind of like how their show is, so it’s easy to follow. It’s not particularly informative, but if you want a read-able episode of GH, this book does it for you. Jason and Grant still reveal very little about why they’re in the biz, which I find a bit aggravating. We all study ghosts because something happened that surprised us, but we’re usually not so defensive and protective of what exactly started the quest. I’d really like them to open up about it, even if they think it’s some kind of sacred secret. They won’t sound any sillier than they do when they talk to four walls with a recorder in their hand.

“Communicating with the Dead: Reach Beyond the Grave” by Jeff Belanger. This book is a good concise one that explains the devices, how they’re used, and some things we might not have known about like Einstein’s plans for a device to talk to the other world. I found it intelligent and not superstitious.

“How To Be a Ghost Hunter” by Richard Southall. This book was good for anyone who wants to start a group. It’s got some practical ideas about documentation and how to handle interviews and all the details you need to know.

“Ghost Worlds” by Melba Goodwyn. Although we’re not on the same page about ghost hunting, she does have a wealth of experience and knowledge about spiritual matters, so if you tend to follow ghost hunting as an exploration of demons, ecto-mist, and vortices, then this a great book for you. I like to know all sides of ghost hunting and refuse to dismiss anything. There’s always a grain of insight in even the silliest supposition.

“Ghost” by Katherine Ramsland. This is a guilty pleasure and I admit to reading this book so many times I wore the pages out. I could jump into this book and live. This is written by a psychologist who works in forensics. She actually followed a group of vampires in New Orleans and when one of them passed on, took his ring and basically set out to find his ghost. She has connections with his partner vampire that are bone-chilling and she sets off trying to learn all she can about ghosts and experience them. Her search is very much like any budding ghost hunting but the details are chilling and the experiences hair-raising. This is a great curled up in bed book that feels like fiction but is her own account of what happened. You often see her interviewed on paranormal shows and when major crimes happen in the news because she is an expert in the field.

I wouldn’t recommend buying any books new. Go online to Amazon.com and check the used versions—they’re usually much cheaper, sometimes only pennies. Enjoy your guilty pleasures and be sure and tell me if you find a book worthy of keeping on my limited shelf space.

Spine-tingler: Artifacts




This is only a small sample of the artifacts we had on display at Aspen Grove.

I admit I was nearly born with a metal detector in my hand. I think it was one of the first things I learned growing up at Aspen Grove. Mother taught oil painting in a beautiful window-lined room in our gracious manor home and in her spare time (while raising five kids) managed to be a very astute historian. She was responsible for getting the house on the historical register and learning of its history as a Civil War Field hospital taken over by the Union soldiers and later reclaimed by the Confederate, so that both types of soldiers agonized and died on the wooden floors we walked and ate and slept upon, still staining the wood with black blotches from attempted surgeries.

My mother had a giant showcase in the art room that displayed the relics we’d unearthed. When any of us kids were bored, we’d simply grab the metal detector and wander the huge property. We had a crazy assortment of everything from tons of Native American arrowheads (the house was originally built as a fort against Native people) and included bayonets, gun parts, more bullets than anyone should have to display, all kinds of kitchen tools, and parts for horseback riding, horseshoes, and carriages.

I remember one boring winter when my brother and I went into the basement crawlspace. It was an area under the kitchen (which was an added on room more recently). The kitchen sat up above the dirt ground and allowed about a 3’ tall crawlspace. When you walked down the basement stairs, you’d look to the left and see this opening and the dirt. We both crawled in and scrambled around past the resting black snakes who wintered there. (Yeah, it was that kind of childhood that I caught and played with grass snakes and black snakes, snapping turtles, frogs, and made pets of wounded geese). We took the metal detector and began to dig under the stairs. We came across something strange. A piece of graying fabric. When we pulled at it, we found a medal on it. A military medal of some sort. Nearby, we found the part of a brim of a hat. We were onto something. It all looked quite mummified which would make sense since the basement crawlspace was powdery silt. My brother dug deeper, his hand grasping something, and up came a long bone. Either an arm or leg bone. We didn’t know a lot about such things as kids, but in retrospect by the size of it, it wasn’t a femur, perhaps a tibia bone. I say that as someone who works in the medical field. I didn’t have that knowledge as a kid, but looking back by the shape and size of it and nearby “uniform” pieces, I’d say it was a tibia. We both quickly buried it back up as close to the original finding as we could. We feared upsetting the ghosts in the house and we feared mother displaying them in her showcase.

My brother seemed a bit more anxious to unearth the entire body, but my sensitivity kept him from doing that. He was a big brother and I was quite upset at the prospect of bothering the dead. I wonder sometimes if he went back to inspect it or dig it up. A great deal of activity in the house occurred following the disruption of these things, but there’s no way in retrospect to know if they correlate. True ghost hunting wasn’t really in existence in the late 60s/early 70s, except for the Ouija board type of hokum.

We never excavated the crawlspace again. We never went out and said actually why we were avoiding it, we just never brought the subject up.

I had a sense of the soldier’s name and I told my mother a story about a soldier who stayed in our house in the past. She smiled and patted me on the head for the creative little girl I was, but at the time I didn’t realize I was reading objects. I wandered the property using my “imagination” as I came to call it. I was drawn to one area near a row of English boxwoods. I kept kicking at the ground there and pacing back and forth. Every day, I came outside and that spot called to me. I couldn't go play or do anything until I answered the call for inspection.

I kept picturing a little boy darting in and out behind the boxwoods. I finally got frustrated and took out the metal detector. I knew something was there. I knew a boy was tied to that place. I couldn’t explain why. I still to this day can’t explain why I can know things. I just accept it, as weird as the talent is. I took the metal detector to the spot where I’d kicked holes into the ground and found a hit. It was perhaps 2’ long. I was curious. I had to know, so I got on my knees with a hand trowel and began to dig furiously. About 18” deep into the soft black soil I found something.

I reached in and pulled it out and felt an immediate jolt of recognition. It was something of the boy’s. Most definitely!

I held it up and studied it. Some kind of metal soldier. My hands dug at the bare earth without the tool, now. I knew there were more, in a perfect row. I lined up the tin-like soldiers on the ground and studied them. I looked up and around me, expecting to see the boy. I felt a strange giddiness like he was thrilled someone realized he’d been there.

Then, it dawned on me, who would realize I had been here?

I would spend the summer trying to figure out where and when to plant a time capsule. Of course, distractions get in the way of the young and once his soldiers were unearthed, the sense that he wanted my attention was completely gone. I went on and did my own things and completely forgot to plant my time capsule.

Occasionally, when I passed by the display case in the art room, I'd see one of the soldiers standing upright while the others were still lying down. I'd open the case, put him back in place. Sure enough, a few days later, another one would be standing. It was like a game we played. I'd tell him I recognized that he did it, and I'd put the soldier back. But, the little booger still kept messing with them. Perhaps he had a little sister he liked to torment during his visit upon the earthly plane and I was taking her place, but I already had two big brothers and wasn't in the market for more. I tolerated his antics. It was like our little secret game. I heard my brother comment once that I should leave the soldiers alone and I asked him what he meant. He said he saw one of them was standing and mom wouldn't be pleased I was opening the case. I had to smile when I heard that. It's always reassuring to see others witness the same trickery. You feel a little less "imaginative."

I wonder sometimes if he still wanders the property. If he’s looking for his long lost soldiers. I understand future owners took the collection with them instead of leaving it with the house. I can only hope there was a curse placed upon them to anyone who would desecrate the history of Aspen Grove.

May they be tortured by the spirits of those who were tied to the objects. (Most hopefully by a vindictive little boy with mischief in mind).

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ghost Hunting Gear--What I'm Packing--Save Yourself $



I started ghost hunting when it wasn't on TV yet. I didn't really know what folks in the field might be using, other than a digital camera, so I set forth with that first. I borrowed my hubby's old one the first year, then squirreled away a little cash for a $150 model the next year that was my own. I cut the strap off right away--realized I don't ever want to wonder what ended up in the picture. For that matter, I tie my hair back too and fan my fingers our when I take the shot. These are things you learn in the field, but there's no reason you should be fumbling in the dark like I did. I think the digital camera is the number one tool. A 35 mm is good too. I just prefer being able to come back from the hunt and review shots right away. Even if you get no phenomenon, keep the shots. Some day you might want to reference that place again. I've heard that choosing a digital camera with the flash further from the lens is better to keep from getting tons of orbs, but anywhere you go hunting is going to be dusty and I don't think they make a flash that far from the lens.

Later, I bent some rods and made my own divining rods and brought a pendulum. We'd ask questions and see if the pendulum would move. We'd walk around a site with the rods and then if they crossed, we'd take pictures. I eventually put these in the antiques file. They could potentially be useful, but not for any scientifically verifiable reason. There could be something going on that affects them, but I'd rather use other tools to see if what they found was accurate.

I moved on then to more scientific methods, or pseudoscientific depending on where you stand in the biz. I got an EMF meter (black device in the photo) and a thermometer (yellow device) which also gives me ambient temperatures. One thing I don't like to see TAPS doing is using the thermometer gun. It measures objects, not ambient air. Great if you want to know if the wall cooled off, sucks if you want to know if the room's air cooled off. I've considered getting a cheap watch at a sporting good store/camping store that is a watch with a barometer and thermometer. Sometimes in sites the pressure does seem to change like it does when there's a hurricane arriving and I'd like to verify that. That is on my list of must-have's right now.

Moving on, I added our family camcorder. It was great for setting up and leaving to record and area. Sometimes things happen when you're gone. Actually, probably more likely to happen when you're gone. Some digital cameras (the better models) have a built in video capability, but the quality isn't great, but in a pinch it's a consideration. If you buy a camcorder with digital camera capability, then you've got a better device.

I've added other accessories that I learned I needed like the flashlight, the little flashlight ring that shines a blue light and can be velcro'd to my finger. It makes it possible to work without getting light affecting shots and yet not falling into holes in the floor at the same time. Notebook--keep meticulous notes. You should have someone on the team who just does notes and times and locations and events. I added a tap light because it can easily be touched and turned on (round device). Set it out and show the spirits how to use it and hope for a lucky click of light.

I wanted to talk to the dead, so I got a $99 Best Buy hand held digital recorder (slender silver device). It's easy to use, easy to transfer to the computer and listen to. I found that EVP is a great tool, but the problem with it is that a lot of sites are just too noisy. I've been to very few places I was actually able to get legitimate recordings because there was no traffic, airplanes, wind, or other people nearby. You want to sit with your environment a good 15 minutes or more and see if it's sound-proof enough to record, otherwise you're likely to listen later and get excited at a car backfiring. Also, if you are recording and there's a sound, even if it's someone in the room walking, shuffling, or coughing, announce it, "please disregard, a person was shuffling" for future reference when listening later on the computer.


Eventually, I had enough of seeing TAPS having success with the KII meter (gray device with colored stickers on the top) and I got one. I never thought I'd stoop to gadgetry, but after trying it out, I realize it's better than my EMF meter. My EMF meter is really only good when I can cut out all the breakers in the place and know there's no electriticity going to devices. The cool thing about the KII is that it's a tool electricians can use to find out if a line is live or not and so you really have to have it up against an electrical source for it to go off. You set it in the middle of a room and it's not going be picking up stray stuff. It needs serious contact. Stick a penny under the lip of the thumb depression "on" button and it'll stay on for you while you talk and try to get responses. So far, I've never had it light up which makes it even more promising as a tool.

I later added on a homemade strobe light. I thought if something in the environment is moving at a rate of speed that we can't see it, perhaps slowing it down so the eye can capture it would help. This is definitely not for the weak, it'll give you a migraine and can give seizures to folks with epilepsy, so be careful. I try it out for at least 15-20 minutes in a room that seems active. Nothing yet, but I'm hopeful. If you take shots with your digital camera of your ceiling fan, it can actually give you stop action on the blades, capturing something moving fast and stopping it for you to see. I figured the strobe would give my naked eye the same opportunity.

There's a lot of other tools out there, like thermal imaging, but it can get so many false readings, it's just not good enough for me to fork over a few grand for it.

If you're starting out, the basics you'd need are the simple things; a camera, a flashlight, a notebook. Move on if you like and make your own divining rods if you can't get an EMF meter. Don't go too nuts if you can't check EMF and temperatures because there's just no true way to verify what you get, false readings are too easy. I'd rather capture the spirits myself with proof like film and audio. An electronic voice recorder might be your next happy addition, and then if you get very ambitious go for a camcorder. I've truly found that folks having sensations of chills and hair standing on end, pressure in their face and head, and trouble breathing is usually a fine sign to use recording devices rather than EMF or thermometers. It's nice to be able to see that they correlate, but I'd rather not waste the time registering something the human body is better at noting. Instead, taking pictures, begin to do audio.

Like any other business, as you move on, you upgrade and you toss things out. I'm no different than the rest. I'm pretty happy with my tool kit for now. Some day, I hope to get my engineer husband to sit still long enough to design me a piece of test equipment no one else is using. He has some intriguing ideas and he's a complete disbeliever, so he wouldn't want me to use anything that could give false positives. I'll let you know when he cranks something out.

For now, I'm pleased with my most favorite tools I don't like to go without which are; digital camera, electronic voice recorder, camcorder, and of course all six of my senses.

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