I’ve been a busy beginner-paranormalist these last couple of days. On Sunday afternoon, I gathered my ghost investigation equipment before heading out to Anoka’s Oakwood Cemetery. There, I practiced using all of my tools … except the digital voice recorder – which I forgot I had with me. The laser thermometer and the EMF meter are simple, seemingly foolproof, tools; I didn’t spend much time fussing with them during this dry run. I concentrated, instead, on overcoming my fear of my husband’s expensive camera. Once I tamed that, learning my son’s cheap digital video camera was a cinch.
Yes, I enjoyed spending the afternoon wandering the graveyard. No, nothing even vaguely paranormal occurred.
On Sunday night, I figured out how to transfer all the digital data I’d collected to the computer … and how to organize it in a way that makes sense to me. I went to bed pondering what I could do with it.
I spent the daylight hours of Monday learning Twitter … well, getting started in Twitter – I’m sure I have much more to learn. Tweet me: @RRudeParanormal, if you are so inclined
Monday evening, I settled in at the computer with a program called Windows Live Movie Maker. Determined to figure out how to make a slideshow, I took a deep breath and dived in. Seven hours later, I surfaced with a one minute and forty-seven second “movie”.
To see it, come along to the next post.
(Apparently embedding a video must be done in a special kind of post - one that doesn’t have a title. I find Tumblr to be very, very odd.)
I just finished reading Into the Shadows – America’s Unsolved Mysteries and Tales of the Unexpected, by Troy Taylor. As a veteran reader of books on the paranormal, I can say this collection of stories is the best I’ve discovered. Often the actual writing in such books is barely tolerable, but Mr. Taylor’s work is clean, his voice is personable, and his tone is not overwrought. One story, in particular, fascinated me.
In Missouri, in 1913, a childless, 30 year old housewife named Pearl Curren regularly met for afternoon tea with her mother and a neighbor. On July 18th the women decided to experiment with a Ouija board – a gadget that was all the rage in the spiritualism-friendly era. A presence which introduced itself as Patience Worth came through. Over the next weeks, Patience showed a particular affinity for Pearl. Eventually, Pearl was able to dispense with the slow Ouija board, and simply recite and/or write that which Patience wanted to share.
And Patience wanted to share a lot – over the course of the next twenty-five years, she dictated personal communications, essays, a play, several novels and over 5,000 poems. Much of her work was critically acclaimed.
*Lullaby – Patience Worth
Dream, dream thou flesh of me!
Dream thou next my breast.
Dream, dream and coax the stars
To light thee at thy rest.
Sleep, sleep, thou breath of Him
Who watcheth thee and me.
Dream, dream and dreaming,
Coax that He shall see.
Rest, rest thou fairy form
That presseth soft my breat.
Rest, rest and nestle warm,
And rest and rest and rest.
The story becomes particularly interesting when the pre-Patience life of Pearl Curren is examined. By all accounts, she was an “indifferent student”, with no particular knowledge of history nor attraction to spiritualism or writing.
Of course I’ve been all over the web, but I would say the best source for more information and further details is over at Smithsonian.com.
By the way, I would never touch a Oujia board. I hesitated to even post a picture. ‘Too many horror novels & movies for me, I guess.
*I found the text of this poem at Google Books. It was in the public domain title Antholgy of magazine verse.
Originally posted at main blog on November 28th.
I wrote about my great-grandmother and my grandmother, Marie, in the post The Paranormalist’s Family Album: Jack, Marie & Edward, with guns – 1910s. Marie’s story – unlike her mother’s – is well known to our family. She was sent from Norway to American, with her brother Jack, because her mother was dying, to live with siblings from her mother’s previous marriage.
The first half-sister who took in the children was not kind. There are stories of Marie being stripped of the nice things she had with her when she arrived in Minnesota, and of being forced to sell a certain number of apples before she could return home for the evening.
Time passed. Stories of the children’s mistreatment made their way to northern Minnesota, where Edward and another adult half-sister lived. This half-sister went to fetch Jack and Marie while they were still young teens. A few good years followed. Marie learned the womanly arts, like sewing and cooking. She went to the local barn dances. She fell in love with a German boy, John, who had a wild reputation (for his time.) She married him and moved to his homestead. Then things went horribly wrong.
By most accounts, the abuse was harsh and frequent. The marriage yielded three children. Marie’s only son took the brunt of John’s legendary temper, but the girls did not escape unscathed. (One afternoon John speared my mother through the thigh with a pitchfork, because she wasn’t packing the hay wagon tightly enough. She wasn’t yet twelve years old at the time.) Though Marie adored her children, she was not able to protect them. Sometimes she was able to deflect John’s rage from them to herself.
One by one, the children ran away. Eventually, the couple sold the farm and moved to a small house in town. Marie became a licensed practical nurse. She worked with The Sisters, as she liked to say. She settled into a rough peace with an aging John.
Very late in her life, Marie divorced John and came to live with my mother and me. She was in her eighties, I was in my late teens. She didn’t take up much room. She just needed a place to keep a few few delicate things – her nursing pin, her sewing basket, her china cup – she had brought with her, from the little house she had shared with John. It was easy to make her happy. She enjoyed a very small scoop of vanilla ice cream, in a pretty dish, at the end of each day. She died of heart failure before I was graduated from high school.
Just a year later, I became pregnant. When my daughter was born I became a single mother. My family remodeled the basement of my mother’s home into a nice little apartment. My daughter and I lived there for four years.
By the time my girl was a year and a half old, she was frequently talking about her friend, “Tee-tee”. Tee-tee liked to have tea parties. Tee-tee liked soft, pretty things. Tee-tee was very quiet. Before long, the imaginary friend faded from my daughter’s life, but every once in a while she would reminisce about spending time with the little woman, whom she now referred to as Grandma Teacup.
It wasn’t until years later that my daughter first saw a photograph of Marie as an elderly woman.
You already know the end of this story, don’t you?
I’m sorry I don’t have a way to upload a picture of Marie tonight, but I will when my scanner is working again.
Posting delay - this is from November 25th. This Tumblr blog is a mirror of my primary blog at Wordpress.
Hello, I am Chammi. I am a guest blogger.
Renae is my aunt and is spending time with family, and asked me to do her blog.
I was sleeping soundly one night, and woke up feeling as if something was watching me. I hadn’t quite woken enough to open my eyes yet, but when I did I was startled. There was a young female standing there with one hand outstretched towards my cheek.
She had very long silky hair, a very dark shade of brown. She was wearing a night gown of sorts, lined lace trim. Her eyes were puffy and red as if she had been crying for days. She moved slow and mechanically out the door, not bothering to open it. I figured I had been dreaming and wouldn’t remember it in the morning so I shrugged it off and went back to bed. I knew that it couldn’t have been a dream, for when I awoke I still had it burned to memory.
Last night, before I settled in at the computer to make my nightly post, I saw a phantom figure of a young girl in the hallway upstairs.
Phantom may refer to:
Ghost, in traditional belief, a physical manifestation of the soul or spirit of a deceased person
Illusion, a distortion of the senses
It was late, of course. All the living souls - human and animal - in my house had been asleep for hours. As usual, I was tidying the bathroom as I brushed my teeth. I adjusted the shower curtain, wiped off the edge of the tub, straightened the bath mat. I turned toward the sink so I could spit out my mouthful of foam. From the corner of my eye, I saw the girl - simply standing - just beyond the threshold of the open bathroom door.
She was wearing a pastel nightgown. (Pink? Peach? Yellow? Certainly very pale.) Its bodice was smocked; its sleeves were short and puffed; its hem reached mid-shin. The girl’s bangs obscured her face because, I think, she was looking at the floor. By the time I registered what I had seen, and wrenched my neck to look directly at her, she was gone.
I do not believe I saw a ghost. Nor an apparition - at least not in the usual sense. (I mused on the difference between ghosts and apparitions in my post I am not a ghost hunter.) In the ten years I’ve lived in this house, I have never sensed a spirit presence. My cats have never stared into empty corners. My children have never complained of boogie-men in the closets. I have no reason to believe my home is haunted.
Besides, I know what happened. I saw the girl because I needed to be reminded of one of my quirks.
When tired - spacey tired, I mean - I’ve see all sorts of things. Things like a bowl falling (but not really) off the edge of a counter when I go to fetch another soda from the fridge, or a pedestrian strolling the shoulder of deserted road when I’m driving at midnight.
I’m not a good sleeper. Never have been. It’s hard for me to sustain slumber. As a child, I sleepwalked. As a teenager, I had nightmares. As a young mother, I had to check on the children, multiple times, throughout the night.
Even harder than staying asleep, though, is falling asleep. My mind doesn’t like to shut down so - when I fail to keep it busy with other things - it keeps itself awake by gnawing on all my fears and worries. I believe this problem is common to many adults, but for me it’s been true since I was little.
I used to wait about an hour after being tucked in, then pretend to fall out of bed, so that my mother would come switch on the radio to lull me back to sleep. It helped, but often listening to music wasn’t enough to quiet my mind. Then I would think of sad things, so that I could cry, which made me sleepy. (I adored songs like One Tin Soldier and Seasons in the Sun.) As soon as I could, I read anything I could get my hands on - including, I swear, hundreds of Harlequins - until my eyes burned. (Which worked just about as well as a good cry.)
I spent most of my childhood being really, god-awful, exhausted … and seeing a whole host of not-real things.
Somewhere around the age of 13-14, I discovered that I could painlessly drift off while watching television. I’ve rarely since slept in a room that didn’t have one.
In recent years, I’ve mostly figured out how to avoid becoming spacey-tired. I’ve convinced myself that my children are probably breathing. (Now that they are 25 and 16.) I’ve become a connoisseur of documentary narrators. (Peter Coyote and Paul Winfield are the best of the best.)
Since I recommitted to writing fiction and blogging, however, I’ve been getting by on less and less sleep. I checked my sleep log today, and discovered that in the last week I averaged five hours a night. Apparently that is not enough. When I saw the little girl last night, I realized that I have to be careful - even if I’m very much enjoying my new schedule. I won’t be a very reliable paranormalist if I keep this up.
I may love the the idea of paranormal things, but I know I would be unable to execute a complete investigation by myself. At the first suspicious creak of a floorboard or the guttering of a candle’s flame, I would shriek and bolt … if I were alone.
When I realized I wanted to get serious about chasing shadows, I sent out the call for a partner, or partners, who could steady me. Predictably, most of my friends and family laughed. When it comes to my interest in all things creepy, I am a biological sport. (Ten points to anyone who can name that reference BEFORE following the link I’ll provide in a minute.)
The first person to answer my call for a paranormal study-buddy was Artemis Omble. I was surprised. We hadn’t seem each other in years, and the circumstances of our original meeting had been … unusual. In hindsight, though, it makes perfect sense that the core of our little group will be Artemis, my husband (Ogre) and me. After all, more than two decades ago, on the weekend after Halloween, we visited Ed Gein’s grave together.
In the ‘studying ghosts’ section of my 101 in 1001 list, I have the following goals:
Numbers sixty-five and sixty-seven are giving me the cold sweats.
The first six tasks in this section are completely within my control. (I like to be in control – I make detailed plans, to ensure that I stay in control.) The last, an investigation of a haunted hotel/motel, is simply a matter of having enough money to rent a room. Even the more difficult ‘investigate a reputedly haunted house’ only requires that I convince a stranger, who has no reason to trust me, to give me permission to poke into every nook and cranny of his or her house, in the middle of the night, for hours. Primarily so that I can satisfy my own curiosity. Still, unless something goes terribly, terribly wrong, number sixty-six won’t get me arrested.
It’s those remaining two goals that have me mentally rehearsing my inevitable encounter with some fine officer of the law, who has every right to sling my butt into jail for trespassing. Lately, when I am out driving by myself, I find myself considering using a payphone to call a police station to ask – you know, hypothetically - what a cop might do to a well-intentioned, harmless, middle-aged lady they find prowling around a graveyard at midnight.
Obviously the way to avoid being caught committing a misdemeanor is to find isolated, out-of-the-way places to investigate … preferably places where a local property owner isn’t likely to justifiably shoot the trespasser skulking around and his or her land.
It’s not much of a plan yet, is it?
NOTE: To illustrate my post, I found the above public domain image. Curiosity made me look up the pictured woman. She was an important British suffragette. Click Emmeline Pankhurst to learn more.
I finally watched the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures. I recorded this episode because it was set in Winchester House - a location which has fascinated me for decades. I hated the program. It was loud, jangly, irreverent, disjointed and confusing. In short, it was silly.
In this episode, this crew is granted permission to do an overnight investigation of Sarah Winchester’s home. Sarah - an heir to the Winchester rifle fortune - was a quiet, semi-reclusive woman who paid her workers generously, donated large amounts of money to local charities, and held nightly seances in the bowels of a house that was - by her order - under construction, night and day, for more than 30 years. Logically, then, the Ghost Adventures crew chooses to use this opportunity to jury-rig a man-made portal, so that demons from two remote locations can come visit them on site.
If I were Sarah, I’d be hiding in a still undiscovered secret passage, waiting for these guys - with their beeping, flashing machines - to get the hell out of the haunted house I built. And I might be ticked off that they are inviting into my home exactly the sort of entity that I spent considerable time, energy and money avoiding while I was alive.
It seems to me that the best way to experience the paranormal is to be quietly attentive to it.
Many hauntings can be classified as apparitions - in which witnesses repeatedly glimpse or hear a presence going about a specific task. I believe that some apparitions are residual energetic impressions of a person who once lived. (Other instances of apparitional phenomena can be attributed to natural or man-made environmental conditions that affect human perceptions.) In either case, attempting to interact with an apparition is futile. In this situation, the task of a paranormal researcher is to locate and record the phenomena as best she can. Her equipment should be unobtrusive. Her thoughts and behavior should be calm so that her observations can be dispassionate. Her notes should be meticulous, accurate and, above all, honest.
Rarely, an investigator may have the chance to explore a more interactive haunting. A ghost is a spirit which has consciousness - or at least some seeming awareness of the living world. If such ghosts exist, they were once people. Doesn’t it make sense, then, that a researcher should approach such a spirit as if it were a person with interests, feelings and curiosities?
I believe the researcher should arrive prepared to engage the resident spirit. If the reputed ghost is a child, it might be appropriate to bring a toy or a storybook. An adult ghost might appreciate receiving information about family members or associates who survived him or her or about the outcome of an event that occurred after his or her death. The investigator should introduce herself, clarify the purpose of any equipment that is present, and explain the reason for her visit. Boundaries should be set: “I’m not here to hurt you and I don’t want you to hurt me. If you don’t want to interact with me, that’s your choice. If you want me to leave, I will leave. I am here because I am curious about you and your state of being.”
If, in response, a voice rasps, “Get. Out!” I will go. (As my husband and I agreed to do long ago … back when we had no idea we were going to actively investigate the paranormal one day.) Absent such forthright communication, I will stay and observe and record. When I’ve gathered all the information I can, I will return home to analyze the photos, recording and readings I’ve obtained. Then I will write about the experience and share the results of the investigation in this blog. That’s it. No agenda, no hype, no “enhanced” anything.
I am not a ghost hunter. I am a curious woman with an open mind and an interest in the paranormal - otherwise known as The Paranormalist.