Twisted Dreams

Westfield Tornado

Twister ripping through the south side of Westfield. (Photo posted on masslive.com by Jim Feroli)

I haven’t yet talked about dreams in the blog, which is interesting since throughout the years I’ve a number of significant dreams that have either come true or have had some sort of significant symbolism to my life. Perhaps I haven’t mentioned it because nothing in that nature has really stood out since I began this blog, the last related event being a house that we walked into for an investigation back in January that was straight out of a dream I had sometime in the middle of last year. This time was a little different.

At some lucid point during the middle of Tuesday night/Wednesday morning I had a dream about my old hometown of Westfield, Massachusetts. It wasn’t a very significant dream. I was simply driving up and down Route 20, aka East Main Street, reminiscing about the shopping centers that had been closest to my home and stopping at a gas station (it would have been Merit back in the day) to fill up. I stood in the gas station lot for a few moment and gazed south. When I got back in the car I began driving east toward Little River Road, and again I gazed south. By now, you’re probably scratching your head and saying, “So what?”

That day, Westfield, Massachusetts, got hit with one of the tornadoes that ripped through the state. In fact, it pummeled the area near my old neighborhood. Driving down the hill from my old house you would hit Pontoosic Rd., which is now closed, littered with fallen trees and downed power lines from what I hear. Shaker Road along my old school bus route is also closed due to significant property damage, and a newer school in the neighborhood (not built when I lived there — we were shipped clear across town for some reason) had part of its roof ripped off.

These details came to me later. I first read specifics about the city of Springfield getting hit yesterday, and on Boston.com there was a nice map graphic showing where the tornadoes touched down. My eyes widened when I saw the little twister icon in the southeast corner of Westfield. So I started searching around for Westfield tornado information and discovered user submitted photos on MassLive.com. The first one I came across for Westfield was that of a large funnel cloud back in the trees somewhere behind what had once been the bowling alley… taken from East Main Street… gazing south.

So what does it all mean? My dream did not warn me of tornadoes imminently bearing down upon my old neighborhood later that day. I was simply tooling around the old strip and thinking fondly of yesteryear, so I will not look deeper into this than what it is. I also do not think it is coincidence since similar dream incidents have happened to me in the past, albeit portrayed more accurately in the forthcoming events. For now I will make note of it and keep it in a collection of these dream phenomena. Some time down the road when I have more information and incidents to examine I’ll be able to make better sense of it all.

In the meantime, my prayers go out to those families in the area that were affected. May the cleanup and restoration of power and other services be swift.

Rolling into June

Finally, Episode 3 of the Ghosts and Legends of Oklahoma video series has been released! It seems like it’s been a long time coming, but since I’ve released it in May I am keeping to the bimonthly releases. The majority of it was filmed in the middle of April, but… well, I’ve already discussed my week of craziness. Fortunately, Black Bear has already been filmed, so having Episode 4 done by some time in the middle of July shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

For family fun on Memorial Day we saw Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. I enjoyed the first three quite a bit, and they always inspired me to play Sid Meier’s Pirates, which is not only a fun pirate game but also helped me learn my geography around the Caribbean (I also first played it on the Commodore 64 way back in the day — good times). All of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies feature some sort of supernatural, ghostly characters. This time around they’re zombies, created somehow by Blackbeard to serve as officers aboard his ship. The interesting thing about this version of paranormal creatures is that they’re not really emphasized at all. In the first three movies the curse skeletal crew and the cursed “fish” crew are right in your face. In Stranger Tides, however, the couple of zombies amount to big tough guys that nobody wants to mess with after they survive an initial skirmish. Perhaps that was by design as mermaids became a bigger focus, but it felt like the zombies were just tossed in there. Overall, it was a good movie with plenty of Captain Jack Sparrow antics, but it wasn’t quite as fun as the others.

All right, I didn’t mean for this blog entry to become a movie review, but I would love to head up some pirate paranormal investigations some day. Heck, any of those old settlements would be a fantastic investigation. I love getting out to any old historic spot… generally, the older the better. Sometimes I think I should have become a historian or archaeologist or something instead of the computer veteran I am. Well, no regrets. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t followed the path I did. However, it certainly doesn’t rule it out for some time down the road. I’m not quite 37, so I’m still fairly young.

Ahead in June, we have some fantastic investigations slated, so stay tuned for some fantastic photo galleries and reports about these investigations from Society of the Haunted. Paranormal Vines will get another update, and more will be out from the writing world…

One Wild Week

Yes, it’s been a little time since I’ve updated the blog. I was hoping to stay up on this at least a few times per week, and since I began it that had been the case. However, this has just been one of those weeks.

First of all, it was galley week for Ghosts and Legends of Oklahoma. It’s one of those necessary stages in the publishing process when I read through the book again after the editor has made an corrections and build the index. My editor also asked for a few more photos, so I had to work on those as well. Oh… I did forget to mention one thing. This was emailed to me late last Thursday, but a power surge that night during a thunderstorm friend our cable modem and we were down for a couple days, so I didn’t even know the galley had been sent to me until late Saturday. With a deadline of this Thursday to get it done, I was busting my butt to get it done (my entire Sunday was building the index and I still didn’t finish until Monday).

I’ve also been helping my brother-in-law with one of his health care websites and preparing that for a demo that took place this week (his main site is rencodirect.com). So I was under the gun to also have that done by Thursday.

And… I also started working at Wimgo.com at the end of this week. They produce an interesting web site that helps you discover and connect to a variety of local events, businesses, restaurants, etc. based on your Facebook friends’ likes. Everyone there has been very welcoming, and I enjoy the creative environment. Yes, the writer and ghostorian needs to hold down a job, and this is a good fit for the web developer in me. As much as I would love to write all day the books just simply don’t pay the bills — yet. Whenever that day comes I’ll have more time to provide all of you fantastic fans with even more stories, books, and videos.

We also had a tornado scare this week, which devoured additional hours. My thoughts and prayers go out to those families that were affected by the devastation and I hope they’re able to recover quickly. The closest one to us was only about 12 miles away in El Reno, so we were fortunate.

Now here’s the game plan… Episode 3 of Ghosts and Legends of Oklahoma is due out. This one features our excursion to Ft. Reno, the prisoner of war cemetery, and Route 66, but I still have some editing to do. Following my son’s 18th birthday tomorrow, I will be working to get that finished up and released as a Memorial Day special. That will keep the Ghosts and Legends of Oklahoma videos on a release cycle of every two months. The next Paranormal Vines video should follow in early to mid June — whenever I find a chance to bottle the pomegranate wine.

Unfortunately, in all of this something has to give. I will be unable to produce a monthly newsletter for May. With everything else going on there’s just simply not enough time to get one put together, but I will have one out for June. I think that about wraps it up for now…

Saturday Full of Investigating

The church remnants at Black Bear.

This past Saturday was a full day of research and investigations for Society of the Haunted to a number of places between central northern and northeast Oklahoma. We started the day early and made it up to the rural church and cemetery at Black Bear before lunch. I’d never before been at Black Bear during the day, previously venturing out on two nighttime investigations. The daylight helped keep the church from seeming as ominous, but there was still a heavy pall that seemed to hover over the structure.

One of the main goals for heading out to Black Bear was to capture footage for an upcoming Ghosts and Legends of Oklahoma video (the next one on Ft. Reno and Route 66 will be released soon). We recorded interviews and my walk-through of the location, and then discovered that the microphone hadn’t been turned on. Doh! So we ran through it again. Thanks to everyone for being patient, especially my daughter, Arielle, who was running the camera most of the time. I’ll have more about Black Bear in an upcoming article and this fall’s book Ghosts and Legends of Oklahoma.

Cathy had a full day slated for us, so we headed east toward Tulsa and picked up Lindsey Logan Ladd of NPS (National Paranormal Society) who connected us to our investigations for the evening in Cushing. Prior to heading down there we stopped in a Dick Duck Cemetery in Catoosa, which we hadn’t visited since last year. Dick Duck is the resting ground of outlaw Bluford “Blu” Duck and a number of interesting headstones labeled “Halfbreed.” We also tried to visit Hissom Memorial Center, but it is in the process of being demolished, and we did a drive-by of Norfolk High School which we will be able to investigate in the future.

The former Cushing Hotel, now Cimarron Tower.

During our travel to Cushing, we were notified that our scheduled investigation at the Copper Penny Trading Company that night was going to have to be canceled. This was disappointing, but we will reschedule it for a future investigation. That meant our only paranormal investigation for the evening was going to be at the Cimarron Tower apartments directly across the street, which was originally scheduled as a one hour canvas of the location. We had an interesting walk-through meeting a number of the tenants, but by the time we reached the fourth floor we started experiencing some odd sensations. Most of us started getting dizzy and light headed, and the floor felt like it was bouncing as we walked on it. It continued this way in varying degrees all the way up to the seventh floor, and then we experienced a large dose of the sensation back on the first floor near a location where one of the tenants has had some odd experiences. During the investigation itself, the sensation came and went sporadically and was never as intense. We’re currently poring over the evidence and we’ll have information about the investigation on the Society of the Haunted web site soon.

Before dropping Lindsey off back in Tulsa, we stopped by Dick Duck Cemetery again for some night investigation and were not disappointed. We repeatedly saw shadows and heard whispers throughout the cemetery. Again, we’ll have information up on the web site soon.

Technology: New school or old school?

This past Monday during my Perspectives in the Paranormal guest spot on Psychic Visions Radio we talked for quite a while on the advancement of technology and its recent acceleration. At first, this discussion centered around how for thousands of years the primary mode of transportation centered around the horse, and it was just in the past 100 years that it has shifted to the automobile. We were shifting this conversation to how it affects the paranormal community when surprise guest Lee Ehrlich of Paranormal Divers called in and we talked about advancements of technology in diving and audio capture.

In recent years we’ve seen a lot of a new gadgets show up on the paranormal scene claiming that they can either better detect a spiritual presence or create a conduit to speak to the dead. Some of these devices are labeled as being for entertainment purposes only, so do they really work? Some people swear by them and state that things they’ve seen and heard are irrefutable. I’m so going to argue those claims, and I fully support the advancement of technology in the field. After all, I believe the hope is that with better technology we can better prove to the skeptics the existence of ghosts and the spirit world. However, I think in some respects we’ve become too dependent on some of this technology.

If you left your case of EMF meters back at the house and the tech manager misplaced the power cables for the DVR system would you not go forth with the investigation? Would you drop everything because you forgot the laser grid pen or ghost box back on your kitchen counter? I think most investigators would carry on regardless, making due with the bare necessities.

So what are the are bare necessities? Theoretically, I would say yourself and a flashlight, however, even more helpful would be a camera, audio recorder, and notepad to capture and document evidence. With these you can at least capture EVPs, take photographs of activity and even some video for those digital cameras equipped with the ability, and jot down notes of personal experiences. This is all that was needed back in the day and had been plenty before all the other fancy gadgets became available.

I believe more advanced equipment can certainly help investigators in the field, but I think becoming dependent on it would be a mistake. Perhaps that’s where this rambling is leading to… it bothers me when we become too dependent upon enhancements and neglect the core of where things all began. The electronic wizardry is fantastic, but I can still investigate without it.

Historic Ghost Sightings

This past week I’ve been watching with the kids a number of movies based on history such as The Patriot and the John Adams mini-series. I love history and was very fortunate that my parents took me to a number of historic treasures when I was young. While watching these movies it got me thinking: were we surrounded by ghosts while we visited these landmarks? Have I been surrounded by anyone of historic significance while researching for my books?

Montpelier Mansion in Laurel, MD.

According to some of the stories, I could have encountered the likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson; however, I have to question the validity of hose claims. Yes, I still believe in ghosts, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a skeptic about specific stories. In my opinion it’s better to enter a location a skeptic than to instantly believe all the claims are true. Get some proof. That’s what we do as investigators.

My books have been a little different. While I do cover ghost hunting, the books are about the stories, claims, and history of the locations. For instance, in Ghosts and Legends of Maryland I cover Montpelier Mansion in Laurel, a Georgian-style mansion built by the Snowden family. It is said that the ghosts of George Washington, Martha Washington, and Thomas Jefferson have been spotted there. Why? Sure, Washington did business with the Snowden’s on occasion and spent the night at Montpelier a couple times, but what sort of significant connection could he have to the place that would cause his spirit to haunt it? I just don’t see it. References to Jefferson there are even more obscure, so I certainly don’t see that one.

I’m not saying that Montpelier Mansion isn’t haunted. In fact, I believe it is, but I’m more confident that it is haunted by the Snowden and Ridgley family ghosts, people that actually lived there, than our Founding Fathers. If I were to participate in a paranormal investigation there, those are the names on which I’d concentrate.

Monticello in 2005 with the family.

Back to Washington and Jefferson, I’ve been to both of their homes at Mount Vernon and Monticello, respectively. They’re both very well preserved, beautiful and majestic. If I’d have owned either mansion during my lifetime those are the places I’d haunt in the afterlife. Both are purported to be haunted, although I can’t say that I witnessed anything unusual there during my visits. Of course, I was at those places while on vacation and they were rather crowded at the time, so there wasn’t much to notice outside of the beautiful architecture and historic artifacts.

I think sometimes we’re too eager to name drop. Sure, it’s fantastic that different establishments across the country can claim that they’ve had a famous historic person stop in for a little while. That’s all good. But I wouldn’t buy into a George Washington ghost sighting at every bed and watering hole he ever visited. Now if I’m offered the opportunity to investigate these places just to make sure, I’d be quite happy to do so.

Regular Radio Gig, But No Politics

Over the past couple months I’ve appeared as a guest on “Perspectives in the Paranormal” on Psychic Visions Radio out of the Baltimore area, but my appearance this past Monday was the first of a regular weekly spot. Being a Maryland broadcast we’ll certainly talk about Ghosts of Maryland and its 100+ stories, but we’ll also discuss other paranormal topics. In the past we’ve talked about Society of the Haunted, urban legends, shadow people, and the like, and we’ll continue to do so as we move forward. I’m really looking forward to his opportunity with Psychic Visions Radio and the forthcoming Circle of Light Paranormal Expo they’ve organized for October.

Given the history of this week I suppose I need to provide my political commentary on the death of Usama bin Laden (I haven’t posted to my Enigma Underground blog in more than a year, so I’ll place it here). When my son, Chase, came home from school the day following the report he asked if we were going to have a celebration. I thought about that for a moment and decided it was inappropriate. Here’s my perspective on the matter: I’m happy we got him. I have a sense of satisfaction that his rule over his terrorist network is over and that we got this bastard for all those that died in the attacks nearly 10 years ago. But to jump up and down over death, pop the champagne bottles, and have a party in celebration of a death… it seems like bad mojo to me. You never know — maybe our ghost hunting adventures will take us overseas at some point and his spirit pushes me down some stairs for my exuberant celebration.

The actual political fallout I just shake my head at. Either politics are getting worse or I’m just better recognizing sleazy politics as I age. Look, I understand that President Obama is going to take some credit for this since bin Laden was finally done away with on his watch. But let’s be real about this. Obama was sitting around one day tending to other work when he was notified that bin Laden was there for the taking. So he lifts his head and says, “Uh, yeah. Go get him.” All the work in catching this guy was put in years beforehand by our troops and CIA operatives, including a lot of intel gathered at Gitmo, an establishment which Obama has been extremely against. But that’s politics, unfortunately. And for those saying he “kept his promise,” um, Obama didn’t promise anything about bin Laden and promised to bring the troops home within months of taking office. The troops are still out there.

Ok… I’ll get off my mini political rant. From time to time I’ve thought perhaps one day I’d run for office, but I’m not sure how deep in the muck I can put myself. I have some convictions, but I’d much rather be writing and investigating the paranormal. Politics is the same as it has been for thousands of years, changing only in the players.  I’ve said many times that politicians, no matter the party affiliation, are a bunch of power-hungry rich people, and I still stand by that. However, there are many unsolved mysteries about the paranormal, a lot of history that’s been forgotten, and there are a number of things I wish to explore with my writing, both mystery and paranormal. So I think I’ll stick with that.

More ghosts and writing next time, and less politics…

Revisiting Hans Holzer

When I was about 13 years old my mother bought me the book Yankee Ghosts by Hans Holzer, my first nonfiction ghost book. Prior to that anything that I had read that was ghost-related was generally some sort of children’s fiction like The House on Hackman’s Hill. Growing up had been a steady diet of mystery from Encyclopedia Brown and Cam Jansen to The Hardy Boys and Alfred Hitchcock’s Three Detectives, but when ghosts were involved the stories became even more fascinating. I’m not sure what prompted her to buy Yankees Ghosts; perhaps it was because we were moving away from our home in Massachusetts and it would be an interesting way to recall the area in which we had lived for ten years. However, two years later I would read The Amityville Horror and find myself at a friend’s house trying to determine if a wall in her bedroom was haunted.

Until just a couple days ago I hadn’t picked up Holzer’s Yankee Ghosts since, and it’s quite interesting reading it through my adult eyes. Dr. Holzer wrote over 140 books, was the writer/producer of the television series In Search Of…, held a Ph.D. from London College of Applied Science, taught parapsychology at the New York Institute of Technology, and is credited with coining the term “ghost hunter.” The homes that he visited were old with intriguing history and origins behind them… we’re talking 1700s type of old. Those are my type of homes — something with history and character.

What I also find interesting is that he seemed pretty quick to initiate a seance with mediums he would invite along. Perhaps I’m not far enough along (I’m only five chapters into the book at the moment) or I simply don’t know enough about the man, but it’s a pretty interesting methodology considering our modern tactics for paranormal investigations that have become popular. Sure, the book was written in the 1960s, but I have yet to read one passage of Dr. Holzer traipsing around someone’s house in a black t-shirt with an EMF detector (although he did record audio).

Take, for instance, a seance at the old home of “Ocean Born” Mary in which the message was conveyed that some valuables were hidden, “Near the lion’s head… You go down past the little rocks, in the middle of the rocks, a little bit like a lion’s head.” When prodded for further details about which direction that would be leaving the house, the response continued on about turning right from the front entrance and the location was about a three minute walk away. Upon inspection, sure enough, the rock shaped like a lion’s head was found.

I’m not criticizing our current investigative techniques, but the accounts are fascinating. It’s a more metaphysical approach, but I’ve always believed that both the scientific and metaphysical can work hand-in-hand to give a complete picture. I don’t pick one side or the other. It seems to be the old science vs. religion debate, but I believe science proves the spiritual realm. (It’s a topic for another day, but take creation versus evolution and you’ll find that the order in which Darwin theorized animals evolved is the same order in which they emerge in the book of Genesis. Food for thought.)

I could almost consider my current reading to be a type of project: compare and contrast Dr. Holzer’s techniques with ours of today — for starters. There’s also a research aspect regarding his approach to the paranormal, as well as historically in the locations he covered. And I may also discover something about myself along the way… since this book was one of the influential factors in setting out upon this path.

Catching Up

The end of the month is nearing… it seems like it has just flown by! Wasn’t it just last week I was letting everyone know about the appearance on The Haunted?  No? That was four weeks ago? There’s been a lot going on from that (I think the episode has actually aired about 10 or 12 times now) to articles, interviews, and our big investigation at Ellison Hall at the University of Oklahoma. Of course, a new newsletter will also be on its way shortly since it’s the end of the month.

Expect new video to come your way as well. The second episode of Paranormal Vines is just about ready to launch, and the third episode of Ghosts and Legends of Oklahoma is almost done with filming. The latter covers Fort Reno and nearby Route 66, which is a chapter right out of the upcoming book. I’m still waiting on the official release date of Ghosts and Legends of Oklahoma, but its slated for the fall.

With all that’s been going on with me in the paranormal industry, I have not forgotten my mystery roots. I continue to work on a new Chase Michael DeBarlo novel while I also work on making Deadly Heirs available for Kindle. Since I’ve regained the rights to the book I have some different options with what I can do with it, and this is medium is definitely under heavy consideration. I’m also considering adding some lost content to the book, so stay tuned for that!

Everything I write that is related to Chase Michael DeBarlo is woven into his world. Even the short story “All Hail Hack Tucker,” a small feature on DeBarlo’s informant Hack Tucker, is really a different “camera angle” in System of the Dead. While Chase is searching a shop in System of the Dead, he hears a ruckus from the back alley and discovers Hack and his gang roughing up a defenseless man. Hack’s story to Chase is thin, and the detective helps free the man, but “All Hail Hack Tucker” delves into what Hack was really doing back in the alley. “Failed Rescue,” a short story in the Studies in Scarlet anthology is also written in a similar vein from the perspective of police detectives Len Stevens and Jerome Jackson, but includes Chase Michael DeBarlo. I treat it as if this world really exists (some aspects of it really do), but the spotlight generally falls on DeBarlo.

Rare Opportunity: Investigating OU’s Ellison Hall

Ellison Hall

The haunted Ellison Hall at the University of Oklahoma.

This was a special treat. While ghost stories circulate around the University of Oklahoma’s campus, it is very rare for a paranormal team to be offered an opportunity to investigate there, and by all accounts no one had ever investigated Ellison Hall. Would we find the ghost of the rollerskating boy that is said to haunt there?

Originally named Hygeia Hall after the Greek goddess of health and well-being, Ellison Hall opened in 1928 as OU’s infirmary. In the early 1930s it was renamed to honor Dr. Gayfree Ellison, the Director of Student Health from 1920 until his death in 1932. In 1971 the building transition to the home of the University of Oklahoma Student Association, and now it serves in a variety of capacities including the Student Services Center, Native American Studies, African and African-American Studies, and the dean’s office and administrative staff.

Ellison Hall’s greatest legend is that of a boy who had been mortally wounded rollerskating down Elm Avenue during the depression. Staff attempted to save his life at Ellison Hall but were unable to. It is said on quiet nights he can be heard rollerskating down the hallways. Other sounds, such as people moving down the hallways, are heard as well, and staff witness motion activated lights being turned on in hallways and bathrooms when no one else is around.

Society of the Haunted was invited out to Ellison Hall as part of an upcoming college yearbook feature on the haunted aspects of OU, including our occult specialist, Chris Borthick, who is on staff at the college. We had access to all hallways and conference rooms, the administrative office on the third floor, and the basement. Beginning with the basement and working our way up, we swept each level before deciding to concentrate our efforts on the third floor, which had held the operating rooms during the building’s infirmary days, and the basement.

The basement was eerie, humid, and a tight fit. Now just a narrow hall lined with shelves for storage, it was apparent that the majority of the old area had been walled off, accessible only through a small, locked maintenance hatch. The staff on hand chaperoning our adventure were reluctant to confirm our suspicions about the basement wall, but they did tell us that the  hatch is used to access the campus’s steam network and maintenance workers do not like venturing inside.

Although it was the third floor that we ended up concentrating our efforts, the second floor should not go unmentioned. We did hear some thumps emanating from behind a few of the locked doors, and the motion activated lights in one of the bathrooms flicked on when no one had entered. The sounds of someone walking around the first floor filtered up to the second floor lounge, but upon inspection by Andrew and some of the yearbook staff not a soul was found.

Investigating Ellison Hall

Society of the Haunted investigating Ellison Hall.

Activity on the third floor picked up as the night went on. Like the second floor, we could plainly hear movement and thumping about inside a number of the staff rooms that were locked to us. The main administrative area had a distinct feeling of pain and sadness, likely residual from its days as an operating area. It was up here that our psychic, Vanessa Hogle, offered the idea that the sound of rollerskates that people hear could actually be the sounds of hospital beds being rolled down the hall. Cathy Nance and Logan Corelli heard activity pick up at their end of the hall coming from both rooms and the stairwell. At times it sounded like someone was actually walking up the stairs but, again, no one was found.

There is more to come about this investigation as we continue to review evidence and compile our personal experiences.