Wednesday, May 28, 2003

It's Wednesday, May 28.

Good news for the Cemetery Club! We have three all new, live members! Welcome to Lori, Joe and Tim! Soon we'll have a meeting and a secret handshake and everything.

Speaking of meeting, I figure I'll give it another week for any interest from the flier I gave to RA Enterprises (the new age store in Davenport) to come in. Then we'll schedule a meeting. This will give me time to prepare for what we'll talk about. There's so much to go over! And I'm so excited!

We also have honorary member, Walt, who's in Tacoma. Hi, Walt!

First of all, I will give this Blogger addy to the members so that they can check out the online journal for the club whenever they want to. I also recommend that any members that want to keep a log of paranormal activity, research and findings, do so through this site. You can make them private postings or public like this one. It's pretty cool and very free. Major bonuses.

And speaking of cheap, while I may have ghost detecting equipment, I did not drop a huge wad of cash on it. There are sites that sell fancy equipment for hundreds of dollars. First of all, right now there are only four of us, and I'll share. Second of all, if anyone is interested in their own equipment, I can send you to the sites I used ... or to Walmart for an inexpensive digital audio recorder. The Cemetery Club is all about "ghosting" on a budget. Hey, maybe we'll write a book and call it that!

Before I sign off for the night, here is a list of good reads for anyone interested:

- "How to Be a Ghost Hunter" by Richard Southall
This is a quick read and is informative. It's also entertaining and has forms you can copy for investigations.

- "Cemetery Stories" by Katherine Ramsland
Everything you ever wanted to know (or didn't) about cemeteries and preparation beforehand of bodies, etc. It sounds gruesome, and can be, but all those taboo questions get answered. I love Ramsland's writing. She also asks all the good questions.

- "Ghost" by Katherine Ramsland
Another great book by Ramsland. This one began as an investigation into a supposedly haunted ring she received. On her quest to find out more about it, she tried all sorts of ways to hunt for ghosts. This book has a lot about EVP, electronic voice phenomena. Again, it's a good read and is very informative. She visits a lot of haunted places.

- "Ghost" by Noel Hynd
Another book called "Ghost," and it doesn't even star Patrick Swayze! This is a fiction book, but you've got to live it up sometimes. I loved this book. It's the best ghost story I've read in a long time. While it is fiction, it explains a lot about ghost phenomenon and theories. What a great book!

That's it for now. More books will be listed as I read them. :-)
May your EMF monitor spike at seven and may all your EVPs come out loud and clear! (That's a little ghost hunter humor. Just a very little. Joe is probably the only one at this point who will actually know what all that means.)


Tuesday, May 27, 2003

The Presence at 4627, Apartment 6

By Minda Powers-Douglas

Four years ago, in 2000, I lived in a six-apartment complex in Moline, Illinois. When I first moved in a couple years before, I was in the “garden level,” more commonly known as the basement. Two years after that, one of the apartments on the top floor opened up. Deciding it was worth the extra cost to have a two-bedroom place, the cat and I (with the help of many relatives) moved on up, with the theme song from “The Jeffersons” running through my head.

All was quite peaceful for a long time. I loved the light blue wall-to-wall carpeting. It was such a nice light change from the basement level’s brown stained carpeting. I could also feel safe about leaving my blinds open whenever I wanted to. When I had moved into the garden level, my grandfather had warned me in his overprotective way that I had to leave them closed or people would be peeking in at me. After all, I didn’t know what kind of hoodlums would be out skulking around in the neighborhood. Oh, I forgot to mention that my grandfather and grandmother lived only a couple blocks away in this same hoodlum neighborhood! Which was actually made up of the elderly and quiet families.

Still, the upstairs was a nice change. I had a nice living room that connected to the kitchen. Down the hall from there was the bathroom and then the two bedrooms. Shakespeare, the cat, and I had plenty of room to enjoy and frolic in. We even had a deck off the kitchen sliding door! We were living large.

By the time we moved, though, my grandfather had passed away. I knew as I looked through the windows, especially at night that he would be happy that no more hoodlums would be able to peek in my windows unless they were really trying. And had ladders.

One day, months after Shakespeare and I had moved, I decided to dust and do that house cleaning thing. I admit it’s not my favorite thing to do. But as I was dusting, I thought I’d do a little rearranging of my knick-knacks and photos. I picked up a small double photo frame from my bookcase, dusted it off and decided to move it across the room to the other bookcase.

The photos in the small gold frame were of my grandfather, Alger “Curly” Bray, and his old country (or “hillbilly”) music group, the Buddies of the Airlanes. One photo was of him with the rest of the Buddies piled into a little wagon and acting like they were about to roll down a hill. A silly and very cute publicity photo. The other photo was very odd. When I had originally seen the photo, I had thought it was very cool. Someone had apparently tried to be artsy. The main image was of a man in shadow, my grandpa, wearing a cowboy hat. The camera had been positioned so that it was looking up at him, giving him a looming appearance. He was all in shadow, but if you looked closely, you could see he was smiling and goofing around. His hands were down, away from his sides and clenched into fists. On top of that, or rather under, whoever developed the photo has superimposed another very tiny photo of my grandpa between the feet and calves of the bigger image of him. It was an odd photo, for sure. But I had liked it.

As I was cleaning, though, and took another look at it, I said to myself, “You know, this is actually kind of creepy looking.” Shrugging it off, I placed it across the room. And that’s when the weirdness began.

That evening, sitting on my couch reading, I noticed a peculiar feeling. I felt like I was being watched. The loveseat I was on was located in the living room, which went into the kitchen past the archway. So I was almost even with the archway. I’d look up and see no one in the kitchen, of course. It was just the cat and me. And that’s another thing. Shakespeare, who was pretty close with me anyway, started clinging to me like crazy. If I was on the couch, she’d be on the couch pressed next to me–always on the side toward the kitchen. If I went into the bathroom, she’d follow me. Same with any other room. She often slept with me on the bed, but now she was vigilant about it. She never left me alone!

The creepy feelings continued. It got to the point that without even thinking about the photo anymore, when I felt watched from the kitchen, I would picture an angry person with clenched fists in my mind. Soon, I connected the two. I knew whatever I was sensing that it wasn’t my grandfather. We had had a great relationship, and he loved me very much. He would be the last person to want to scare me. So what was this presence?

I was never so bold as to call it a ghost. As a matter of fact, I was getting scared of it. Four years later I am working on starting a ghost club in my area, but at that time I was getting freaked out. It didn’t even dawn on me to ask it questions. I just wanted it gone!

At this point, the creepy feeling had been going on for about a week. I kept telling myself that it was just my imagination running away with me. I was just freaking myself out. There was probably nothing there, but I still ran like hellhounds were on my heels from the bathroom and onto my bed every night. The hallway felt skin-crawly, too. I felt like something was watching me from the hall at night but either didn’t or couldn’t come into the bedroom. Shakespeare, as always, kept watch by my feet. What I would have given to know what was going on in her mind.

After this amount of time, I was either building up what was going on in my head or whatever was in my kitchen was building strength. The bad feelings were getting stronger. I still didn’t call it a ghost. I called it “a presence.” Funny, I still do today. At the time I’d tell friends that there was a presence in my apartment. I’d try to act all brave, but anybody could see, I’m sure, that I was spooked. One friend recommended that I sage the place.

Sage. I knew one place for sure that I could get a bundle of sage: the new age store. So I walked in to the place I frequented, located the sage, and decided to put my shyness aside and talked to Dolores, the owner of the shop.

“Um, I have some kind of presence in my apartment. It hasn’t really done anything, but I get the feeling it’s angry,” I started telling her. Eventually I told her that it started after I moved a picture of my grandfather.

“Well, put it back!” she told me. I could almost feel the word “Duh” etching itself into my forehead.

Dolores also recommended saging the entire apartment while repeating a loving mantra. Sage is a very cleansing herb. It’s very powerful and effective. She also brought out of couple nice pieces of rose quartz, which is a crystal of loving power. I told her I’d take them both and the sage bundle. That very day I was going to sage the place.

Dolores had a theory about what had happened. She said that when I moved the picture, that I, in essence, had opened up a riff somehow that had allowed this presence through. I don’t know if this presence had been pent up in my apartment or was just happening by when the opening was created, but it got through. Since I was getting vibes from it, specifically angry vibes, it was most likely trying to communicate with me. Now I wish I would have tried to find out what it had wanted to say. Even at the time, I didn’t think it would hurt me. I just didn’t like the feeling of anger or watchfulness it gave off.

That afternoon after buying the sage, part of me couldn’t wait to get in the apartment and sage the heck out of the place. The rest of me was not so brave. I couldn’t believe I was actually scared to go back in my apartment! My wonderful apartment! I dawdled a little and ran some errands but figured I’d better do it before the sun went down. I didn’t want to have to do this in the dark of evening.

I carried the rose quartz with me around each room as I aimed the smoking sage to all corners of the rooms, windows and doorways. Even the closets. I repeated this mantra as I went: “Let love and light fill this space.” I went over every area thoroughly, with extra care at the places I felt the presence was located. I also saged the picture of my grandpa.

By the time I finished, the place felt pretty clean and smelled like I had been smoking something illegal. I was hoping that no one in the apartment would call the cops on me. I could just imagine trying to explain that I was not smoking pot but was actually ridding my apartment of an angry presence. Fortunately, nobody called.

After that, there were no more weird feelings. I didn’t feel watched anymore. Shakespeare was still clinging, but no more so than before the presence. We were back to normal.

Looking back, I wish I had investigated more. I live in a house with my husband now. I’ve had a few experiences here. We’ve written some of them off as old creaky house stuff. Some, though, led me to sage this place, too. Like the morning I woke up and couldn’t move. That was scary. It has only happened once, though. Thank goodness. Being watched is one thing. Being physically held down is just terrifying!

We’ll see how things go here. I now have the start of my own ghost hunting kit. An EMF detector, dowsing rods, a digital audio recorder and a digital camera. I’m visiting cemeteries more and more, hoping for contact. I haven’t gone at night yet, though, for fear of getting caught by the police and arrested. We’ll see, though. For now, I’ll wait for daytime ghosts to contact me.
I did not have much of a chance to write much in my first blog earlier today. Before I was sharing about how I've had an interest in ghosts since I was a child. Now as a 30-year-old woman, I'm taking my fascination leaps further by my attempts to start the Cemetery Club for the Quad City area (Illinois and Iowa) as well as begin ghost hunting.

I currently have some equipment. It's not the super expensive stuff that is listed on many ghost hunting sites, but for me at this point, it will do.

I have a digital camera, an EMF detector, a digital audio recorder, dowsing rods, a pendulum or two and, of course, my note pad and instincts.

A few weeks ago I went on my first small "ghosting" adventure. I went to Riverside Cemetery in Moline, Ill. I got one spike on the EMF detector (but later realized that when you first hit the button, it automatically spikes). I set up my digital recorder next to a gravestone, but nothing came of that. By the way, I went out at about 5 p.m. It was still light out. I'm still leary of heading to the cemetery at night for fear of being dragged out by the cops. Also, I don't have a partner or group yet. I'm not up for going it alone at night!

When I was about to leave the old lower Riverside Cemetery (I saved the upper part of the cemetery for another day ... the place is huge!), I asked if anyone wanted to say anything. Over by a tree, nearer my car, I heard something on the recorder. I couldn't make out what it was or if it was just an explainable sound. It did give me an odd feeling, though.

When I went home and processed my digital photos on my laptop, most of them were just your average photos of gravestones and long shots of the graves and trees. Except one. One photo had an orb in it. It was way up in the sky but not connected to a tree and wasn't a bird. It was perfectly round ... and black. So it was very odd, and I still can't explain it. But from what I've seen of pictures of orbs, they are opaque or bubble-like and clear. I don't know what it was, but at least it was interesting.

Last week I was on vacation. I stayed in town with the goal of going out for daytime "ghosting" and writing my book. It's a fiction work about ghosts. Big surprise! So Tuesday, May 20, I believe it was, I went to the upper Riverside Cemetery to explore the older area–specifically Potter's Field.

Potter's Field has fascinated me since I was very young. My mother used to go to cemeteries with me or with her friend to look at the stones. She actually used to go with that friend while I was in school and make up stories about the people buried in the tombs. I wonder where I got my interests. :)

Anyway, Mom told me once about Potter's Field. I've never forgotten it. We looked down the back terrace at the rows of identical plain, white stones, and she would tell me how the poor people who could not afford anything fancy or really anything at all would be placed their with nothing on their markers but a number. When I trekked down the terrace to see them upclose last week, I saw that even some of the numbers were duplicated.

It made me feel so sad. Those poor, forgotten people. They were forgotten the moment they were buried, if not before then. So I thought they'd be the best spirits to attempt contact with.

I got out my digital audio recorder. No go. It was in lock mode. I had no idea how it locked and no idea how to unlock it. I was sunk on EVP for that day.

So I took digital photos. Sometimes I'd remember to ask permission. Most of the time I did. It was too hard to see if anything extraordinary showed up in the little view screen. Since I was on vacation, I felt weird taking my work laptop home to load pictures, so I left it at work. The photos could wait for more examination.

At one point I asked if anyone wanted to talk if they could give me a sign. I started laughing when my cell phone fell off my jeans where it was clipped and landed in front of grave 19. I said okay and took a photo, since I could not record.

I was not the only one out that day in Potter's Field, though. And, no, it wasn't a gaggle of ghosts. A young girl–probably high school or college age–who looked on the goth side with her dyed black hair and more alternative outfit strolled by while I was messing with my equipment. I felt self-conscious, so I think it affected my energy. It was kind of neat to see her, though. She looked like she felt very at home. It made me think of what I had just read in Katherine Ramsland's "Cemetery Stories" about how people in the Victorian times would socialize in cemeteries and have picnics as well as pay their respects to the dead. That's what people did before they had TV! Actually I think it's great. People are so skittish when it comes to graveyards and talking about the dead and ghosts. In other countries death is not taboo. In Mexico and in China, there are huge celebrations surrounding the dead.

So back to my findings. Today I went back to work. I took a few minutes to load my photos to my computer. There were photos from my nephew's graduation and of some friend's baby. There there were the cemetery photos. The disappointed person in me from last time figured there would be nothing out of the ordinary. So I was surprised when I could see a face or skull in one of the Potter's Field stones and two more in another shot of multiple gravestones! It's pretty cool and exciting. I want to further investigate and take more photos so see if I can get anything else.

Well, that began my adventures in ghost hunting. We'll see if the Cemetery Club catches on. A friend of mine said she and her husband would probably be up for an investigation in their house. They've had a number of strange occurances including EVP over the phone, a framed picture that gives off bad vibes, their son's imaginary friend named Hong from China, a turning doorknob and scratches to a person's skin. I can't wait to investigate!

I'll leave you with the story of the presence in my former apartment. It was my first experience with a ghost that I was fully aware of.

Keep in the spirit!
Last Friday (May 23), I started putting the word out about a new club I'm hoping to start–the Cemetery Club. My husband thinks that it will draw a bunch of goth kids who shop at Hot Topic. But with the strategic placement of fliers (such as in the local new age store), I think that ghost hunters wannabes are going to be the ones drawn.

My interest with ghosts has been life-long. I've always been fascinated by them and even by the idea of them. I had an "imaginary friend" who I now think very well could have been a ghost. His name was Robin, and he only stayed with me in the first house my mom and dad and I lived in. When we moved a city over, Robin stayed at the old house. My mom remembers me talking to and about him a lot.