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.

Wraith of Wrath

Some of my upcoming Examiner.com articles are going to feature members of the Society of the Haunted in their respective team roles. While spotlighting team members I will in the same stroke cover interesting paranormal topics. For instance, the first article in this series features our theologian and occult specialist Chris Borthick, but the feature is within the context of the wraith at the Edmond house. Since the episode “Monster in the Closet” aired on Animal Planet I’ve been asked a number of times about wraiths, so I figured I’d have Chris tell everyone in the “Wraith of Wrath” article. I will follow up on this later with articles of the other members in a similar vein.

In the meantime, we have a full weekend ahead of us with some fantastic research and investigations. I’m not letting the cat out of the bag, but look for something big from Society of the Haunted soon! Oh… and another Paranormal Vines segment is due out soon as well. The feedback for that has been extremely positive, so I am going to make that a separate piece. Stay tuned!

What’s Next?

It seems I’ve spent the week fielding questions about “Monster in the Closet,” wraiths, and our experience with Animal Planet. But with that now getting further in the rearview mirror, what’s next on the agenda?

I’ve had a lot of positive feedback about the Paranormal Vines segment that was in my Paranormal Roads video, including requests to make it it’s own little show. Some video has been shot to make a second installment, and I probably will keep it as a separate piece instead of placing it within the next episode of Ghosts and Legends of Oklahoma. The Fort Reno/Vagabond segment is coming up, but I don’t have a release date as of yet. The target is for May.

Society of the Haunted has a number of video plans as well, but we’re keeping some of that under wraps for now. If I had to use one word… Muskogee. That’s about all I want to say about that for now.

I continue to chug along on my next fiction project while also exploring other forms of media to bring my past projects. Could that mean something new in store for Deadly Heirs? Probably. And what about the unreleased System of the Dead? I’m still mulling that over. The possibility of another fiction project has been placed before me as well, so there are all sorts of things in the works. Stay tuned!

Appearance on the Haunted Recap

Blessing Group

Left to right: Cathy Nance, Chris Borthick, Christy Clark, Carl Johnson, Taylor Nance, Mike Ricksecker, Dustin Cupit

First things first… Twitter finally got straightened out, so here is the link to follow me: http://www.twitter.com/mikericksecker

It was interesting to watch the episode “Monster in the Closet” last night on Animal Planet’s The Haunted. I was very happy that we were able to help this family overcome the entity that was terrorizing them, but it was also interesting to note all the things that got left out. There is so much more to the story than what Animal Planet showed on television. I’ll touch on a few of those tales here, and you can expect more details from the group in the form of videos and blog posts at the Society of the Haunted web site.

I’ll dive into the blessing first since it seems like that’s the part of the show about which I’ve received the greatest amount of feedback. When all hell broke loose with Talasyn there were other things going on within the household at the time. We had set up a Tri-Field EMF (electro-magnetic field) detector on the dresser next to the closet, and while Carl conducted his prayer over Talasyn this meter started chirping like crazy. A couple of us rushed into the room to witness it, and I captured a bit of it on video (unfortunately, it was captured in compact mode, so it’s really small). The back door which leads into the master bedroom also kept blowing open. This happened about three or four times, so Carl ended up conducting a blessing of the back door.

The investigations themselves had a lot more going on as well. We went out to the house in Edmond a number of different times, including one investigation in which Cathy, Chris, Logan, Taylor, and I STARTED one at 3:00 AM. Black masses and flashes of light were seen throughout the premises, a cigar scent was picked up in the master bedroom, and on one occasion Taylor was touched by something unseen. The EMF fluctuations in the master bedroom were very odd as the field kept increasing and decreasing in size toward the one part of the room. There was no consistency to these fluctuations and, at times, didn’t exist at all. If Animal Planet had wanted to include more about the cat, we caught some video of Jasmine acting peculiar while approaching Talasyn’s bedroom door at the same time one of us saw a shadow moving in there and started moving toward the doorway. It was an interesting piece of footage with human and animal picking up on something at the same time. We also got a number of other EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) that were more clear than the “Die” EVP, but I suppose “Die” works better to spook the audience.

In regards to the historic segment of the show, there were also a couple details missing but I don’t think they hindered the overall message of the tragedy that had taken place in the home. The first death of the household was an infant son in 1957. The sound of a woman crying has been heard at times from the far side of the master bedroom, and could be residual energy from the mother crying over the baby’s death. The self-inflicted gunshot wound under the chin of the homeowner did not result in his death. It was an absolute bloody mess, as described by a former neighbor, but he did survive. With the marriage already on edge, the attempted suicide essentially ended it. As far as the hanging… we could never confirm it. The retired police officer gave us a great story, but we couldn’t find any supporting material. It still made the cut for the show, however, even though I told them we couldn’t confirm it.

So this takes us to the outstanding issue of the group. We’ve billed it on the Society of the Haunted website, Facebook, Twitter, and The Examiner article that members of Society of the Haunted would be featured on “Monster in the Closet” — and that is absolutely true. People that are now members of Society of the Haunted were featured in that episode. We just happened to be OKPRI at the time. Unfortunately, it seems that turnover within groups is quite commonplace in the paranormal field, and that happened to us a couple months ago. There is no ill will wished upon anyone in this separation, I think we kept it as peaceful as possible, and it really just came down to a difference of opinion in the direction of the group and how it should operate.

Ironically, this separation seemed to really start to happen a number of months ago over whether or not we should perform cleansings. The OKPRI website states in bold red lettering, “OKPRI does not however provide services to cleanse homes or businesses or ‘rid’ a location of their ghosts.” The blessing shown on The Haunted was more reluctance to perform it from an organizational standpoint than the desire to help the family that most of us felt. Afterward, a “cleansing team” was formed within OKPRI because we didn’t want to take an approach like driving by a car accident and saying, “yep, there’s a problem,” and driving on without helping. We wanted to cleanse the homes as well, when warranted, and free people from their problem. There were some other differences as well, but this is the one, in my opinion, that started to create a clear division within the group.

Personally, I am thankful for my time in OKPRI, and I appreciate all that I was able to learn while there. I still consider Christy Clark a friend, but I would understand any animosity she may feel about the situation since everyone on the team left OKPRI for one reason or another. I hope that’s not the case.

In the meantime, the new group continues to push forward. We have a number of things coming up this year that should be exciting, and we’re looking forward to sharing those things with all of you. Stay tuned for new videos, photo galleries, articles, and featured cases! You can bet to see more of “Monster in the Closet.”

Twitter Issues

So I finally broke down and set up a Twitter account, and wouldn’t you know it but I do it on a day that they’re having problems. I haven’t been able to upload a profile pic, so I’m represented by an egg. Lovely. Periodically, I get a screen that says they’re having issues. No kidding.

In the long run we’ll see how this goes. I don’t update my status often on Facebook, so I’m not sure how dedicated I’m going to be with Twitter. I know some people update it as they walk into each room of the house, take a shower, or breathe. I can’t fathom that. But there may be times it comes in handy like when I went on the book tour last year and updated my Facebook status as I went along. People seemed to like that.

In the meantime, check out Society of the Haunted’s Twitter account. We just started that one as well, so it could use some love. I’ll let you know when mine is finally ready.

Full Day in Muskogee

Taylor and Chris

Taylor and Chris catching a breather at Johnny V's in Muskogee.

It’s Monday evening and I think I’m finally recovering from a full day of investigating in Muskogee this past Saturday. You could say we technically had four investigations. Much of the time we were filming and grabbing footage for a show concept on which we’re working, including interviews (it was very touching hearing how much we’ve positively impacted someone’s life) and environmental shots. But we were also researching and investigating as well, including a side trip that took us out to Braggs.

We again had the pleasure of investigating Johnny V’s, an Italian restaurant downtown that is no longer in operation. The building is approximately 100 years old and has seen its share of different businesses. This is also the location in which Taylor got scratched and both he and Chris had the wine glasses rattling above their heads just after the incident. They both speak about this incident in Episode 1 of Ghosts and Legends of Oklahoma.

The old restaurant seemed rather active on Saturday night as well. A few knocks emanated from the bar, and a whisper was heard from the back room on the second floor. On one occasion, I peeked into the kitchen and saw a shadow glide past near the back wall. As I reached for my camera there was a large metallic crash near the same location. There is absolutely nothing in the area that could fall, with the only two possible sources of sound behind the metal hood (which sounded too deep when knocking upon it) or the metal swinging door which had not moved at all. It was very peculiar. Later on we got some responsive K-II hits in the back room upstairs while questioning, and some random high K-II spikes while sitting near the bar.

My day started at 6:30 AM Saturday and ended at 5:00 AM on Sunday… 22 1/2 hours of dedicated Society of the Haunted time! Now that I’m more coherent I’m trying to get a few things prepared for our episode airing on Animal Planet’s The Haunted on Friday. Be prepared for updates to the website!

Appearance on The Haunted

April 1, 2011 @ 10:00 PM Eastern/9:00 PM Central

The Haunted on Animal Planet

“Monster in the Closet”

After having unusual experiences in their home, a family calls upon a paranormal team and demonologist to help. When they try to banish the entity from the home, it violently possesses one of the family members, and literally enters her body.

I’ll have more to comment about this episode has aired since I can’t really divulge any details at this point. What I can say is that it was quite an interesting experience filming with Pictureshack for Animal Planet and working with demonologist Carl Johnson. Be sure to tune in!

 

Paranormal Origins

One of the most common questions I receive is, “How did you get interested in the paranormal?” I’m going to get a bit more in depth with that question in a LifesGift.com article in April, but I’ll touch on that a bit here since it’s on my mind.

Quite honestly, I’ve always had an interest. Perhaps that’s too broad, but I’ve always been interested in spirituality, the afterlife, and the world around us that we can’t see. There were some incidents in my youth involving shadow people, an apparition, and dreams — all of which I’ll eventually write about. Those things coupled with a reading of the Bible and The Amityville Horror really piqued my curiosity.

However, life lead me down a different path in my early adulthood, one that included a family and a promising career in the IT industry. On the side I wrote, as I had my entire life, and I finally published a mystery novel in 2004. I’ve always loved mysteries and trying to solve the puzzle, and this was a traditional private detective novel with my own bit of flair. I wrote a few short stories as well, including a paranormal one that is currently a freebie on my website (“The Legend Beneath the Coal Bin“), and somewhere along the way between promoting Deadly Heirs and writing paranormal short stories fate found me.

Schiffer Publishing was expanding their line of paranormal books and they asked me if I’d be interested in covering the state of Maryland, where I lived at the time. Essentially, my future just fell into my lap. That’s the part of the question I have the hardest time answering, because I’m not sure how others perceive that truth. It’s the way my life has seemed to work all of these years, in unconventional paths that defied my original plans. When I was a kid in school I completely geared myself for college, yet I ended up going into the military straight out of high school. I didn’t want to get married until I was 25 and decided having children in my late twenties was the prudent thing to do. Instead, I got married a month after I turned 19 and had three children by the time I turned 24. What is it they say about the best laid plans? In any case, I wanted to be mystery fiction writer and here was an opportunity to write books about real ghost stories.

Making the decision to write Ghosts of Maryland was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I got to delve into a field in which I’ve always had an interest, I’ve been able to visit countless historic locations (and I love history), and best of all I’ve met a number of tremendous people along the way. When I was up at the Belvoir Winery in Libery, Missouri, a couple weeks ago for ParaCon 2001, one of the things Lee Ehrlich of Paranormal Divers and I kept talking about was how we really enjoyed going to the paranormal conferences to meet all kinds of fantastic people.

It’s been a real pleasure getting to know everyone, but it’s been a real privilege to work with those that are members of Society of the Haunted. I’ve been working with them investigating the paranormal for a year now, and I continue to be impressed with the knowledge and experience they all possess. With a number of upcoming cases and video projects, we hope everyone following us will enjoy and learn something from the experience.