Shew, that really was a dark and spooky night. October 27th brought guests to Abram's Delight in Winchester, Virginia to roam around the 18th century mansion, get a little ghost hunting in with my investigative partner, LaMishia, and I and pause a minute before the coming of superstorm Sandy. We knew the night may hold some surprises due to Sandy whipping up the atmosphere and sparking a few ghosts.
LaMishia and I waited in a small cabin adjacent to the large stone house; the historical society was loathe to disturb their resident ghosts so we worked by firelight and wove our own tales of spirits and how we coaxed them from hiding. Three groups stretched into seven as our guests shared their stories and we listened. EVPs were taken, Spectre Detectors used by the kids, most of the guests wanting to hear something -- anything -- to prove or disprove what they had come into the night believing. Abram's Delight kept its silence that night but we may return again to see what's under the surface of this lovely old home.
My eldest heard footsteps in her room as they walked around to the foot of her bed when Sandy got her skirts in a flutter a few days later and we were without power on the mountain for four days. Did I bring someone home with me? I think it may have instead be one of the random ghosts I have or possibly one of the 250 people killed in the 70s from a plane crash a half mile from my house. But that's a story for another time.
For every monster under the bed or supposed ghost floating down the hallway, there’s a parent who soothes, double checks the closet, and protects their child from tricks of the light. What if there’s a bit more festive activities happening in the house that you can’t explain? How can you turn what can be a scary situation into an adventure and give your family the chance to explore the paranormal?
Most hauntings have mundane roots. Animals in the attic, leaking pipes, even conversations from neighbors’ yards have floated in through exhaust pipes into bathrooms making a homeowner think her shower was possessed. It’s easy to let your imagination run with the possibility that your house has some extra visitors but the chances of a true haunting are very slim.
Check for all explainable sources:
- Smell: Kitchen smells, old pizza boxes under the bed, exhaust from cars
- Sounds: Critters in the walls, household noises that seem amplified at night
- Visions: Reflections in mirrors and windows, bugs
- Physical sensations: Breezes, stray fabric
If you have a child who is convinced they’ve seen a ghost, listen first and act next. By helping them to focus on what they’ve seen and writing it down, it gives them (and you) a sense of control.
Create a family ghost log by filling out:
Create a family ghost log by filling out:
- What area of the house the ghost was seen
- What time of day
- Who was in the house
- What the weather was like (stormy, clear, snowing)
- If pets were present – dogs, cats, a juiced-up hamster with a squeaky wheel
- What happened
- How long did it last
- What did the ghost look like: period clothing, floating head
Keeping the log will help you see if a pattern is forming. Take that information and wait for the next appearance or schedule a vacation if you’re not ready to face the beyoooond. Oooooo. Sorry, I’ll stop that now.
Depending on the age, involving your child in your own ghost hunt can help them turn something frightening into a chance to use deductive reasoning and figure out what’s happening. My advice is to talk to your child about what they’ve seen or heard and not to overreact. If you feel you need backup to discover more about the possibility of ghosts in your house, contact a credible local paranormal investigation group. Most will have the tools to do research on the spot and the knowledge to answer your questions.
Now this is where y'all come in: I would love to interview you for the new book with your first-hand haunted object stories! Toys, paintings, jewelry, furniture, mirrors -- come at me, bro. Email me at stacey.i.graham[at]gmail.com and let's chat!
Friday passed under the busy fingers of writing and diving into Scott's newest book. I hid myself away in an alcove on the third floor and cocked an ear for wayward sounds. No chains. No moaning. No...nothing. Apparently this place didn't get hopping until evening -- right when I finally took a nap to catch up with my jet lag. Steve burst into my room and pulled me from bed, something had happened to his brother, Dan. Writer, Weston Ochse, witnessed the events and wrote about the High Priestess of MoFo, Rain Graves, and her help in ridding my friend of his unfortunate attachment to what Rain called a "lesser entity."
At 5:30a, the ghosts woke up. For an hour, I heard furniture moving: chairs being drug, tables moved, heavy objects tossed around. I thought it was the staff preparing for a 9a breakfast but meeting Steve in the hallway at 6:45a, we tiptoed downstairs to see that nothing had been moved, no one stirring at that hour -- and that he hadn't heard a thing in his room next to mine. I take that back, he did hear something: he heard women whispering in his room, that's what woke him up.
Steve and I crept back to the third floor to take EVPs. No voices came through, no phantom wanted coffee. Scott woke up soon afterward and we started the day more accustomed to the flickering of the lights and listened for the slide of the rings of a shower curtain reported by another writer while alone in the bathroom. I knew that bathroom was up to no good.
The Ghost Girls arrived and set up cameras and voice recorders, and we listened to their findings from 2010. I learned a new trick from the girls: using two mag lite flashlights twisted to a nearly OFF position may garner you an answer or two from a ghost. As ghosts tap into its energy, the flashlight will turn itself on or off with varying power when asked questions. Yeah, I didn't believe it either. Until I did. Craziness, I tell you. Try this at home and tell me what you get.
Hours and calls of "DRINK ALL TEH COFFEE" later, I wrapped up my investigation. The house indeed was curious. I had experienced cold spots, flashing lights, and furniture that refused to obey the laws of gravity but could I explain it away? I'm a skeptic first and a ghost hunter second, so I'm still processing the information. Still interviewing writers who experienced first-hand phenomena and will contact others before I make my conclusions. I can't wait to see the video the Ghost Girls captured and if, for a moment, there was something in the room on the other side of mine. The one that taunted Rain and Sephera years before with whispers. I heard nothing, but perhaps they voices weren't meant for me.
|Rock 'em - Sock 'em Robots with S.G. Browne|
Last week, I snuck into a Haunted Mansion Writers Retreat in lovely Mill Valley, California. The view was fabulous, the company sublime, and I had to walk home to Virginia to work off all the food the retreat supplied. What I didn't go much into detail about were my experiences with the house itself. As Dan, Steve and I drove up into the mountains overlooking the small town, I couldn't help thinking of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House:
“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.” -- Shirley JacksonSince this just happens to be my favorite book, I was all set to face whatever floating heads came my way and hoped they would be as scary and jaw-droppingly awesome as I've seen in the past. I've been researching and writing about ghosts and the paranormal for over twenty years, this would be a piece of cake. I know, I know -- famous last words.
The first night in the house was accompanied by very good wine and conversation. Writers from around the United States and Canada had come to poke the paranormal and see if it giggled... and do some writing. Pffft. Writing. I was there to chase down a phantom. I went to bed around 11p PST (2a my time) and waited. My friend, Scott Browne (author of Breathers), had switched from our shared bedroom to the third floor, leaving me alone in a lovely - yet spooky - bedroom where he had his own ghostly experience two years before. Scott had been awoken by a ghost they had called Gretchen, whose named they'd learned from electronic voice phenomena (EVP) recordings in the room. Early one morning, something had grabbed his shoulder and shook him for several minutes, while leaving him unable to turn his head and see exactly who had strong hands and an attitude. Awesome. And I was alone with this bad girl now.
I ended up moving down the hallway to a cozy room where no one would wander through on route to the communal bathroom. I kept having visions of random ghostly flushing and decided I wanted to sleep more than scope out the showers all night. That night, among the nightly wanderings of writers, I waited - and dozed - and waited some more. I took an EVP that needs a bit more break down before I share it, and posted on facebook in the middle of the night. It was perfect.
Homey - isn't it?
I was invited to investigate Paxton Manor in Leesburg, Virginia on the spookiest night of the summer, July 13th. So, I called up my ghost hunting partner, LaMishia, and recruited 13 intrepid newbies to accompany us as a fundraiser for the ARC of Loudoun County. Paxton Manor has been rumored to be one of the top five haunted places on the east coast and is currently being renovated as a haunted house attraction - Shocktober - for this October. False walls, gory bits flinging themselves at our heads, and the promise of snakes in the basement kept us on our toes the entire night.
Half of our group were kids aged 11-18 and they were fabulous. They took investigating seriously but still recognized it for the adventure it is and enjoyed learning the ropes of ghost hunting. I have no doubt some of them will continue to explore the creepy side of life with a little ghost hunting of their own someday.
Paranormal activity in the house was high with most of the group experiencing various degrees of physical touching: hair being stroked, tickles in the ears (me), being poked in the back (me), goosebumps, and one pinch. One participant saw what she described as a large male entity sitting in a chair at the end of a hallway, who blocked the light shining in from the window behind him; he moved away and up the staircase after she outed him.The house was very humid that night from the hot day but the hallway where we stood cooled noticeably for a manner of five minutes before it returned to its sweltering former temperature. We all wanted him to come back if nothing else than for a bit of relief. ;)
EVPs from the night are still filtering in. My favorite is from earlier that night with two other investigators, Molly and Gretchen. What do you think, is it a stray breath or a raspberry from the beyond? ;)