Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"We're ready to believe you!"

October 2012

I think it was two years ago when my pal Rhett asked if I'd be interested in going ghost hunting with him the weekend before Halloween.  Of course, I said yes, but I must not have said it loud enough, because we didn't end up going, and last year, something happened to upset our plans.  So I made sure to let him know well in advance that I wanted to go this year, in no uncertain terms.

I've known Rhett since high school, and we became really good friends our Senior year.  He is something of a believer in the supernatural, and has told many an entertaining ghost story over the years.  He even kindly offered to drive out there and arrange the whole thing (which is a nice change).  We drove about an hour, listening to Oingo Boingo, talking about THE AVENGERS, and got their just before it was about to start.

The location was a pre-Civil War army base (and town) that had been converted in the 1960'[s into a state park and museum.  The park gives tours throughout the year, but on the weekend before Halloween, they give a special, haunted tour. Or maybe I should say "haunted," in case a prostate-sucking lawyer is once again reading my blog.

There was a ranger who gives tours and information, and at seven pm, he took us into a little old fashioned schoolhouse where he did a bit of a presentation.  He talked about the history of the camp, and the various ways people had died there (this was prompted by me), and shared photographs and experiences people had had while visiting.  There are three different phenomena he said photographers had captured: orbs (which are circles of light in photos), ribbons (which are colored lines or squiggles in the air), and apparitions (which are . . . something else).  He showed us examples, then debunked some of the photos.  But some of the things captured remain unexplained (there were a couple that looked like a little girl, and one or two more that had definite[?] human shapes).

The ranger was trying to be impartial, but you could tell that he was not a believer.  He never came out and called the whole thing hokum, but when I asked him later, he sort of shrugged the general idea off.  He was a nice guy, but he could have scared us all much better had he only played up the mystery a bit more.  Not that that was his job, necessarily, but you know me, and what I mean.  I counted around a dozen children in the audience, so maybe that encouraged him to leave the brake on, and keep it from being genuinely scary.  But still, who takes an easily-frightened kid on a ghost tour?

So, we were in a group of thirty to thirty-five, and after the presentation, we were invited to walk the grounds, the stagecoach inn, the schoolhouse, yards, general store, and the nearby camp cemetery.  Rhett and I immediately broke off the main group and drove over to the cemetery.

It was a cloudy night, and we were the only ones there, so all was dark--like completely pitch black.  I mean, it was so dark that the only thing you could see was the stars and whatever was in front of you when your flash went off.  That was a perfect opportunity for a really terrifying experience, but no "beings" showed up in the quarter-second flashes of light.

There were many identical headstones, spreading in a nonsensical pattern, and later I found that they say "Unknown" on them.  Originally, they were wooden markers, but they'd been lost over the years, and even though the authorities know there are bodies down there (from electronic mapping), they have no idea who is buried where.
Rhett originally pulled onto the wrong road (because it was so dark, and this camp is out in the middle of nowhere), and backing us out again, we went into a gully, where we were lucky to get out again, and that it did no damage to the car (although he said it bent up the license plate).

So, let me expand on what I said earlier. The camp is supposed to be haunted, and people have recorded voices, experienced things like a little girl laughing, being tapped on the shoulder while working, EVP aplenty, and felt presences. Mostly, though, it's been photographs, as the slideshow depicted (the photos he showed us were all taken on this yearly tour and sent via their Facebook page). Apparently, there are i-Phone apps for electromagnetic spectrum and infrared, as well as EKG and custom ghost-hunting stuff. But I have no i-Phone or similar, and I didn't think to bring a recording device, but I had my camera, and proceeded to take a ton of photographs (originally, I wrote "about seventy" here, but that was an understatement).

The funny thing is, at the very beginning of the event (in the schoolhouse), my "battery low" light started going off, so I knew I was in trouble (and I hadn't brought any spare batteries), but it didn't actually die until the tour was over nearly three hours later.

Because I hardly ever see Rhett, and because of our shared history, I pretty much couldn't shut up the whole evening. Maybe that wasn't conducive to ghost attracting. Sorry, man.

I've learned from experience that it's difficult to intersperse a real blog entry with a bunch of photos, so I'll split this up into sections.

PHOTO SECTION 1

Here we are first arriving, right before night fell.
My buddy Rhett caught one of those orbs in a picture and showed it to the park ranger/host.  Oddly enough, there's an orb in my picture of him doing that.

Another cool one here (zoomed in so you can see the dude in the doorway).

All in all, I took one hundred and eighty-six photographs (which is about a hundred more than I thought I had taken).
 Some of them are nice and spooky.

 Some of them are pretty banal.





Actually, there's something in this one.
 But most of them look like this:



After the cemetery, we went to the stagecoach inn.  It was small and rickety, and done up as a museum, trying to keep it looking as it would have when it was up and running (it was a stop for the Pony Express, and there was an amusing handbill listing the rates and times for letter delivery).  It was all done up to look as it did, with roped-off areas, furniture, and photographs from the era.  The most interesting thing in there was the bullethole in one of the walls from a rifle that accidentally went off and blew through to the next room (the hole continued through the hall).


At one point, Rhett was trying to get into the inn from the balcony, and the door would not open, as if something were pushing on it from behind, sort of trapping us out there.  Turns out it was another ghost hunter, who didn't want us to go in where he was taking pictures.  Rhett thought he was an asshole, but I wondered if I was talking too much, and that guy didn't want somebody to spoil the mood.

The park ranger was in the general store, where you could buy history books, souvenirs, and a compilation of local ghost stories.  I bought some candy, because it reminded me of something I used to eat thirty years ago.  We asked the ranger about the history of the place, and the kind of supernatural experiences people had had there.  He said that ghost hunters had filmed there, using night vision and such, and at one point, had asked the ghost of the little girl her name, and they had recorded what sounded like her saying "Elizabeth."

Again, the dude didn't believe there was anything paranormal going on, and had never gotten so much as a bad feeling, but he didn't come out and say, "You losers make me sick.  Ghosts don't frigging exist.  Angels, however..."

Rhett and I went back to the schoolhouse, discovering that everyone had already gone home (traditionally, the group would reunite and show the pictures they had taken, but it was cold out, and nobody seemed to want to).  It was all over, and the ranger said he would be by at nine-thirty to lock up, but I had wanted to experience something, and wasn't willing to leave, despite the cold.

A black cat kept coming around us, and I didn't find myself despising it, since it was such a friendly cat, and a sort of representation of Halloween and scariness.  That in itself is a little bit unusual.

We wandered around, snapping photographs and listening for voices or Cure songs or something, and finally, I went into the dark schoolroom by myself.  The lights were all off for some reason (it didn't strike me as strange until just now, since the tour was still ostensibly going on, and that was the only restroom unless you wanted to use the bushes), and after taking several pictures (which turned out so dull I shan't post them here), I simply stood there, in the dark.

I wanted to feel something.  Or hear something.  I spoke to the ghost aloud, asking for her to make her presence known.  I asked her if her name was Elizabeth.  There were some motion detectors in the corners of the ceiling, and at one point, they started to blink, even though I was completely still.

Nahh, that didn't happen either, but I expected SOMETHING to happen.  My imagination provided me with some interesting What If's, but the place just didn't FEEL haunted.  I never had the sensation that I wasn't wanted there, or that something was creeping up on me in the blackness, or even that I wasn't alone in the whole building.

Finally, Rhett came in to tell me he was ready to go.  The park ranger arrived to lock up, turning on the lights, and then a woman and her daughters came inside, hoping they hadn't missed the ghost hunt.  They had, and I could tell that the mom was way more disappointed than the kids, who were eager to . . . do whatever this generation does for fun.

The ranger closed up the school and left us there, me and Rhett, and this woman and her kids.  We hung out with them outside the schoolhouse for a few minutes, and my camera finally ran out of battery.  But one of the teen girls kept capturing dozens of "orbs" in her photographs.  I didn't believe they were ghosts (and I still don't), but it was kind of remarkable that the girl would take a picture and Rhett would take one of the same thing, and hers would have orbs in it but his wouldn't.  In fact, she could take two pictures of the same thing and one would include orbs but the next one wouldn't.

The woman kept telling us stories of her own brushes with the supernatural (for example, she had gotten a premonition that her husband was going to die, so she told him about it and he made fun of her that whole day . . . but the next day he died in a freak accident), but I was so cold by then and ready to go home.

I will add this little bit of personality so you can go on judging me: while I appreciated this stranger's enthusiasm (she just knew that every one of those floating circles in the photographs were the souls of people who had not moved on for one reason or another), I was probably more interested in her teenage daughters.  It was dark, so they were hard to see, but at least one was really attractive, and I couldn't help but think of a teen Rish Outfield, going on a ghost hunt with a bunch of girls.  Maybe something would happen, maybe it wouldn't.  Maybe I'd get to hold one girl's hand, maybe comfort another who was spooked, maybe swap spit with the one who was just there to have a good time.  The thing about being young is, there are so many possibilities ahead of you.  You're learning about life, and boundaries, and experimentation, and so are they.  I didn't get nearly enough of that growing up, and it's hard not to be bitter about it now.

Rhett and I talked about such things on the drive home.  He had a lot more of those magical teenage nights, where hormones were raging and options were endless.  I envy anybody who can look back on that time with fondness and only mild embarrassment.

I'm at work again today, and talking to other people in between writing this.  I guy I sort of know here said that he too went on a ghost tour on Saturday, but his was in a bus, where they told various ghost stories of the haunted houses they drove past.  That sounded pretty good to me, and he said that mine sounded better than his.  Maybe we'll switch next year.

PHOTO SECTION 2

 It's fun to look at the old buildings, furnishings, and decor.
 

 This is where I spent the majority of the ghost hunt, the schoolhouse.

 This one turned out pretty spooky (if you don't recognize that it's me in the photograph).
 Heck, maybe it's spooky if you do recognize me.

My imagination conjured a human-like shape standing at the bottom of the darkened stairs.  So I waited until someone walked by to get a picture of it.
It's easy to imagine a face or eyes underneath one of these old beds.


Or even better, a creepy bed and a creepy baby carriage.

So, the majority (according to the tourguide) of captured "paranormal phenomena" in photographs is what they refer to as "orbs."  Like this one.


This photo, however, had several.

Another example is what they call "ribbons."  All in all, I found two photos with ribbons in them.


I caught several stars in this picture.  Except that some of them are in front of the building.

Lastly, I took a ton of pictures, and it's possible that one or two of them have something interesting in them.  Apparently, by playing with the contrast and zooming in, people have spied some amazing stuff.  I don't know if I really wanted photographic evidence of ghosts, to be honest.  Of course, there are more terrifying possibilities than even that...
Rish "Egon" Outfield

Friday, October 19, 2012

Stupid Thing of the Week

So, I was working on a TV show this week, just as an extra, playing a soldier in 1963.  They had us change into our uniforms in the honey wagons (which are the restrooms that are part of trailers), and while getting into those awkward, scratchy outfits, a dude came into the mens room and took up the single unoccupied stall.  He then proceeded to pour several cans of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup into the toilet.

At least that's what it sounded like.

Oh wait, that's not what I wanted to write about.  Weird that I got on here and typed that.  Sort of gives all blogs everywhere a bad name.

So, what I wanted to complain about was, that while I was on the set, I ran into another extra who I had seen on a couple of other film shoots.  He was a dorky, depressing, gawpy, overweight, dumpy-looking, balding dude, and I became sad just looking at him.  Because we had worked together before, I ended up talking to him for a while, sitting by him at lunch, and sort of feeling sorry for the hand this guy was dealt.

And then, a crewmember came up to us and said, "Hey, are you two brothers, then? You look so much alike I knew you had to be related."

Sigh.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Gonna Get A Big Head Soon

So, a few days ago, Marshal Latham repodcast my short story reading of "The Scottish Scene," a little witches' curse story I wrote that lost the Masters of the Macabre contest during the summer.  Just yesterday, Hugh O'Donnell podcast my ghost story "Old Man River" on his podcast.  And then today, I got an acceptance letter from an online horror magazine for my possession romp "Overtaken."  It's really kind of wrong, this stuff happening to me.

The weird thing is, I submitted this story last month, and immediately got an email back saying the message was undeliverable.  I figured I'd sent it to the wrong email address, so I tried it again, and got the same email, saying I could not send the message as requested.  Well, I cursed and growled, and asked The Horned One to do his nasty mojo on the magazine in question . . . and then, somehow, I get an acceptance letter from 'em.*  Next thing you know, I'll be getting a call from an old would-be girlfriend telling me she had a dream about me, and it made her so happy she wanted to tell me allllllll about it.

But I have been on something of a writing bender over the last couple of days.  I finished my yearly "October Scary Story" on Friday, and immediately started on a new one.  Then yesterday, I finished that second story at work, and started on a third today.  But never fear, I later decided the second one isn't truly finished, so I could still fail miserably on that one.

Guess I should keep on keepin' on, and see if I can't get more positive out of it, since I appear to be in Bizarro Universe right now.

Fudge, I forgot to mention, I got a call today about a screenwriting project that could possibly bear fruit in the future.  Weird.

Me Am Rish Outfield

*Oh, and another strange thing is, I somehow got the title of my own story wrong in my introductory paragraph, and they STILL bought it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

He Keeps On Rolling Along

I have often accused myself of always writing the same kind of stories.  Who else is around to accuse me of it, after all?  But one of the subjects/topics/tropes I go back to time and time again is a story where somebody tells someone else a story.  Just such a tale is "Old Man River," which is being presented on the Way of the Buffalo podcast this week.

"Old Man River" is one of two stories I wrote last year with the same premise: an old man tells a young man a story about something strange that happened to him.  The other ("One Last Call For Alcohol") takes place in a bar, and this one takes place in a convenience store.  I purposely tried to have one old man whose motives were a pure as . . . well, I guess that awful clear goo my sister is always putting on her hands to kill germs, and the other who's got ulterior motives.  That way, I could tell myself that they weren't both the same story.

They weren't, I tell you.

Anyway, Sir Hugh O'Donnell over at http://wayofthebuffalopodcast.blogspot.com/2012/10/story-old-man-river-by-rish-outfield.html has kindly taken my story and produced it in audio, read by the lovely (presumably) Dave Robison of the Round Table Podcast (I couldn't have done a better old man voice than he did).  I really dug Dave's voice when I got to be interviewed on his show, and while I plan to take advantage of his vocal talents (and generous nature) soon, here's your chance to listen to his dulcet tones, and decide which old man story this one was.

Hugh also stuck some subtle music in there.  A good audio production and reading always seem to elevate any story, regardless of the quality.  At least that's been my experience.

Old Man Rish Outfield

Monday, October 08, 2012

Old Dog, New Trick

My niece has a little white dog that has gotten old, and pretty much outlived its usefulness. It used to want to play, run around, have fun, go for rides, chase a sock, bite the toddlers, but now it's about to be thirteen, and it mostly wants to sleep now. Or whine. I recognize that this is going to happen to everybody, but the dog is not so great to have around anymore, you know?*

My niece still lives in my hometown, which is a farming community forty minutes away, so I rarely see the dog. But this week, we had the dog here, because it had an appointment or a date or something, so I've had to put up with the scratching to go outside, and the whining to be let in, and the begging for whatever I happen to be eating, and the watching of "Adventure Time," which really has to stop.

Tonight, the dog wanted to go out to use the bathroom, but I was busy with something (okay, it was just wasting time, but it was my choice to waste it, you know what I mean? I didn't want that interrupted), and I resented having to walk twelve feet to let the dog out the back door. It was dark, and I put the string on the dog (it's a little rope tied to the back step so the dog can only go so far and we don't have to go hunting for it), and let it go about its business.

Not one minute later, I hear the dog barking outside the window. I understand that as a person gets older, it takes longer to go to the bathroom, but apparently this doesn't apply to dogs. I sat there for a minute or three, hoping somebody else would bring the dog back into the house. My sister had just gotten home from work, and had three hours of reality shows to catch up on, so she couldn't get off the couch.**

The dog was barking furiously, and I'll be honest, it made me furious. Finally, I got up out of my comfy chair, crossed out of my room, into the kitchen, and opened the back door. The dog wasn't at the door, but was on the lawn, still barking up a storm. It was agitated about something out there, so I flipped on the porch light to see.

It was the boogeyman. The dog was doing its best to keep it away, and it apparently didn't dare approach beyond the edge of the lawn. I called the dog up to me, took off the string, and angrily closed the door behind us. "Stupid dog," I said.

Rish Outfield

*Oh, by the way, the dog is female, and should be referred to as "she." I recognize this, but my faux hatred for the dog bit only works if I refer to her as "it." You understand.

**I say this as though I'm so much better, but I did about two hours of work this whole day (while she was off doing sickening nurse activities like medicating bedsores, changing adult diapers, and applying leeches), and I'm in no real position to complain.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Whosoever Wieldeth This Hammer...

My four year old nephew is going to be Thor for Halloween, so I've been scouring costume sales for the best way to do it.  I got him one of those muscle costumes, a blond pageboy wig, and we've been trying to find a helmet (they're noplace due to him not wearing the helmet in AVENGERS) and cheap hammer. 

Today, I took him to a costume shop, where I looked in the adult costumes for a Loki outfit I could wear to compliment him.  I found a huge, scary-looking adult Thor hammer and handed it to my nephew.
"What do you think of that?" I asked.

He promptly swung it through the air and hit me in the chicharon with it.