Paranormal Investigating Becoming a Family Matter

Arielle (sporting a Deadly Heirs t-shirt) and Cathy at Fort Chaffee

We, the Society of the Haunted, just wrapped up another investigation tonight and once again my daughter, Arielle, was along as an investigator-in-training. It’s too early to tell if this is just a passing interest for her, she is just 16 ears old after all, but ever since I have become more involved in the field she has wanted to tag along. This actually goes back to my first visit to the Samuel Mudd house in Waldorf, Maryland, and the Surratt House in Clinton when Arielle came along with me to research for my Ghosts of Maryland book, so I’m hopeful the interest is genuine. She also likes to remind me that she thinks Zak Bagans is cute, so there’s a lot of 16 year old girl there as well.

She is eager to learn and has already gone over her audio from tonight. She didn’t come across anything out of the ordinary, but wants to go over it again when she wakes up in the morning. I like the ambition. She came along with us to Fort Chaffee two weeks ago and went through all of her photographic and video evidence right away. There were no complaints about feet hurting or being too tired, so I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing strictly looking at her as a future paranormal investigator. She also willing to help with the group’s web site after having aced her web development class in high school.

So the question comes down to ow I feel about this as a father. Sure, there are times we mix it up with some interesting spirits, and thta could be quite concerning for any parent. I also know that we go in protected and Arielle and I are quite strong in our faith. The possibility of something following us home always exists, but I have yet to be seriously worried about that. I’m not naive and take that possibility lightly — as I’ve said, we protect ourselves. I also support my daughter’s life decisions and what she wants to do with her future, so if investigating the paranormal is something she wants to include in her future then I support her. She just needs more experience and training at this point.

So does anyone else in the family have an interest in paranormal investigation. My wife, Robin, has expressed a passing interest from time to time, but she gets hung up at the fact that we will investigate some cemeteries. She is an empath and has some interesting sensitivities, so having her along would be interesting. She just needs to develop some tougher skin for it. I know… I’m being a bit blunt about my wife here, but it’s in the early hours of the morning and I’m just kind of dishing it like it is. Robin would probably also make sure we stuck to our game plan for each particular investigation if we strayed. Yeah, crack the whip. Heh…

So twenty years from now I might be sitting on a couch looking at a photo album with my grandchildren and saying, “Now this is a photo of your mom and I with the ghost of old Mr. McOne.” Good times… good times.

Thoughts on the Dreamscape

Call it another busy week. The final layout of Ghosts and Legends of Oklahoma came in — it looks great! Part of the process is assigning page numbers to the index entries, and I tend to put together a large index to benefit the readers. So that took almost as long as it did to put the list together in the first place. While I was doing this I gave our new Netflix trial account a whirl and came across the old movie… Dreamscape.

I hadn’t seen it since I was a kid. Well, no wonder — it’s dated 1984, and Dennis Quaid was playing a young man with psychic abilities. The premise is dream sharing, and the precursors of the hit movie Inception are very evident. Given it’s age, you have to stomach some cheesy special effects and stop-motion animation, but the concepts hold up (and Kate Capshaw was in her Temple of Doom prime, so that helps).

Watching this movie caused me to remember its subtle influences on me while I was growing up. At one point in the movie Dennis Quaid realizes that he no longer needs the “dream machine” device to enter into other people’s dreams. He begins projecting into them on his own — as long as he’s in a nearby location — like an astral projection, but into someone’s dream instead of just leaving one’s body. When I was a teenager I began experimenting with this at night while I lay there unable to actually fall asleep, and I did manage to bring myself on the cusp of OBE (out-of-body experience). In a highly meditative state, I began experiencing the feeling as if I was on a roller coaster, which many say is one of the steps incurred when you’re about to put yourself into OBE. Taken aback by the sudden feeling, I snapped myself out of the state.I wasn’t trying to have an out-of-body experience, and it wasn’t for a number of years until I discovered that’s what I was close to. I was just toying around with the dream state and seeing what I could do with it.

I’m not expert on any of this, but it’s certainly something on which I plan to conduct more research, especially considering some of my past dream experiences. There will be more blog entries about this as we continue forward…

Fort Chaffee Investigation Recap

Fort Chaffee

Old Fort Chaffee succumbing to nature.

The old haunted Fort Chaffee complex in Arkansas is not very accessible. The Ghost Adventures Crew featured the old Army post on an episode of their show, and the paranormal team RVPRI has been within the overgrown collection of buildings a number of times, but very few others have also been in there to investigate. Our case manager, Cathy Nance, had a heck of a time tracking down who she needed to speak to in order to arrange the investigation, but in the end she prevailed and this past weekend we made the trek out there.

Most of the assembled team (Cathy, Logan, Taylor, and Audry) headed out Friday morning to get the key and conduct some preliminary research, but I was unable to join until later that evening. Honestly, I would have preferred to have gone up during the day and gotten a feel for the place before plunging into the dark oblivion. All one sees when driving up in the dark are the tops of a couple nearby buildings protruding above the countless trees and underbrush that have grown up since the site was abandoned. Then when you walk in you plunge into darkness…

My investigator-in-training daughter, Arielle, came along to take part in our two-day investigation of the complex, as did Marc Hall who comes out with us at times when we’re around the Muskogee area, and we joined up with the team at about 10:30 PM. It was fairly soon when we first began experiencing some activity in the OB/GYN  area. Audible whispers were heard, a dark form was seen entering the file room, and other shadows were seen. It also felt like there was someone near the location where Logan and I were standing. At different times we felt like the hair was rising on the back of our necks. We didn’t stay long, however, since there is so much area to cover there. We wanted to hit a little bit of everything.

One of the long, creepy hallways at Fort Chaffee.

I will definitely agree with Zak Bagans that the long hallways throughout the ruins are like something straight out of the video game Doom. This would be a fantastic place to play laser tag or paint ball if it wasn’t so dangerous. It many places the floors are rotting or falling away from the wall, and we had to be very careful in many spots. I’ve walked the hallway at NSA that is said to be the longest in the country, and some of these come pretty darn close. Technically, the longer ones take you outside and are split by small roads, but they pick up right where they left off and continue on.

We concluded the first night in the detention area where we discovered one of the trademark black X marks left by the Ghost Adventures Crew. However, these buildings were relatively quiet that night. We heard a few knocks and what may have been footsteps, but the spiders were more active that night.

We didn’t roll into bed until about 5:00 AM and were completely exhausted. That might explain why we overslept; Cathy finally woke up two minutes after check out and we scrambled everything together. We spent part of the day touring Arkansas and took a look at a historic sanatorium. Just as we were headed back to Fort Chaffee a storm rolled in and cooled off the weather for us.  We were also hoping that the storm’s lightning would rouse up the spirits. Our daytime walkthrough was lengthy, and we still didn’t cover the whole fort. There are so many places to explore and snoop around that it would take an entire week (at least) to cover it all. And that would not include investigating.

The two most notable places we hit for that night’s investigation were the strip known as the haunted hallway where the apparition of an arm has been seen and what we thought at the time might be a psychiatric ward. The haunted hallway lived up to its name. When we were in one of the wards off the hall we kept hearing footsteps out in the hall and I also heard what sounded like a woman’s moan. When then had a group sit-down while standing) in the hall, and most of the group members repeatedly heard voices. Footsteps and voices were heard in the presumed psych ward as well, and I repeated felt an icy cold breath on my neck in the stifling heat. (Note: A photograph found after the investigation shows the building we thought to be a psych ward to actually be a facility used by the military police.)

Dinner at a local diner: Logan, Taylor, Audry, Me, Arielle, Cathy.

We were fortunate to be accident free the entire investigation until… on our walk out of the facility Mark fell through a rotted floorboard. He was rather good-natured about it, and received only minor cuts and scrapes. Even while being careful, Fort Chaffee still has its dangers.

We’re still going through a lot of the collected evidence (hours of audio to go through!), but we’ve posted a photo gallery to the web site for starters: http://www.societyofthehaunted.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&layout=blog&id=8&Itemid=58 — more to come on all of this.

And congratulations to the Boston Bruins for winning their first Stanley Cup since 1972!

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…