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.


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.


 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

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