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.

Wraith of Wrath

Some of my upcoming 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:

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.”