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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Hunt

Ever watch those 'reality' shows on TV?  No, I mean the ones about ghost hunting.  Right.  There's the one with the guys that scream like little girls and run if a floorboard creaks and there is the one that has the very scientific approach and all the ones in between.  I especially dislike the one with the British medium that believes she feels and hears every moment of every ghost she goes after.

Well, I have watched them all and decided that if these dorks could do it, I should be great at it.  So, after a quick trip to the local Wall-Mart and hardware store, I set out, with my best friend Harold, to bust a few ghosts.  We had all the equipment needed, such as a digital sound recorder for all those disembodied voices we were going to catch, a couple of digital cameras for snapshots, four mini-dvd recorders for catching live (dead?) footage and two EMF detectors to detect EMF's.  Okay, got all that?  So far I was in the hole by about three hundred and seventy five dollars and we hadn't even investigated our first haunt!

Harold's aunt, Jessica, owned an old house that everyone said was haunted.  It was believed that the ghost of an old lady wandered the halls of the second floor and opened and closed doors at will.  No one we spoke to had ever seen her, but lots of folks had heard the tales and, it seemed, everyone knew someone who had seen her.  At my request, Harold called and received permission for he and I to have our first ghost hunt the following night.

Eight o'clock on Friday, July 13 found Harold and I on the steps of one of the most creepy places I have ever been.  With the sun going down and the shutters hanging off of broken windows, I was seriously reconsidering my choice of participatory entertainment. 

We had parked in the gravel drive next to the house and entered through a non-existent gate in the falling down picket fence.  The only thing that seemed to be holding the fence upright was the weeds and brambles that twined themselves around and through it.  The grass within the confines of the fence was brown and withered where-as, on the outside of the yard it was vibrant and green.  It was like the yard had a blight on it.  There was the remains of an ancient fishpond and fountain to the left of the flagstone walk. Both arms missing fro\m the statue in the middle.  She looked as if she might have carried a pot from which water flowed at one time, but it too was missing.

We approached the house width front porch that was guarded by two cement lions and reached by way of  three cement and flagstone steps.  The lions had long since lost any paint they might have sported at some point in the past and the cement holding the flagstone was nearly non-existent, giving freedom to the stones and allowing them to lie waiting for some unknowing visitor to step wrongly and take a painful tumble back down into the dead grasses and weeds of the yard.  In front of the porch and beside the lions were several azaleas that still retained a flower or two, even through the heat of the summer.  The only point of color in the entire scene.

My first step onto the porch proper, was met with the expected creaking of boards.  If they had not creaked, I believe I would have been disappointed.  Each step that followed was met with the same sound.  Harold followed close behind and I began to wonder if we might be putting too much weight on the porch.  We certainly did not wish to fall through.  It would not be an auspicious beginning to our adventure.

Looking up and taking in the rest of the house, I saw that it was in as bad a condition as the porch and yard.  The clapboards covering the outside were peeling what little bit of paint that was left.  Just enough left to show that it was originally white.. The shutters had, at one tie been black and still had that color stain on the rotting wood.  They hung as odd angles and would never close again, though that is what they had been designed to do.  When the storms blew in off the lake, the occupants would close the shutters to prevent the wind, hail or tree limbs from breaking the glass out of the windows.  Of course, very few of the windows had any glass left.  Most had fallen victim to small kids with bb guns or rocks and some had just fallen on their own.  Even knowing that the condition and appearance of the house was completely natural did nothing to calm my nerves.

As I reached for the door I privately hoped that it was locked.  The knob turned easily in my hand and the door swung open with considerable ease.  Not even a squeak.  I stood in the doorway for a moment to let my eyes adjust to the gathering gloom as well as pumping myself up to step inside.  The door opened onto a foyer with stairs leading to the second floor directly ahead and to the right.  An arch to the left opened to what seemed to have been a sitting room or living room and on the right, just before the stairs, another arch opened into another sitting area.  We thought that we might use this room for out command center. There was a couple of old tables as well as a couch and chair, though I couldn't bring myself to sit in the chair.  I did give it a good pat though, and was rewarded with more dust than seemed possible.

The wallpaper in the right-hand room was peeling from the top down and the ceiling seemed to be bowed in certain places.  There was a brick fireplace centered on the back wall with an ornately carved mantle crowning it.  A large rectangle above the mantle bore evidence of a mirror or picture that may have once hung there.
"Harold," I said as we made our way back to the van, "Let's bring our own chairs.  We can use those tables and  I'll get a couple of towels out to clean them off with."  Not that I am great at keeping a clean house, but there was no way I was setting my laptop down in all that dust and dirt.

Harold opened the van and pulled the chairs out as I found the towels.. As I was turning around, I saw Harold drop the chairs and head for the passenger side.  "Where are you going?" I asked. 

"I'm not going in there!  I just saw somebody looking out of that window!"  His face was white as a sheet.  "They were looking out of that room we were just in.  I saw the face!"

"Calm down, man.  You just saw the last rays of the sun catching on some of that dust and dirt on the window pane.  Nobody is in there.  If there were, we would have seen some sign.  The dust on the floor is an inch deep.  No one has been in there in years."

Harold said, "That's what I am afraid of .. no one LIVING has been in there in years.  Ghosts might not leave footprints."

"Come on, Harold.  It was your aunt that gave us permission to do our first hunt here.  We can't leave before we even investigate one room!"  That seemed to reach him.  He was more afraid of being teased about chickening out than he was of ghosts.

We took the chairs and went back into the house with a battery operated lantern, two flashlights and the rest of our equipment.  I admit that I was a little more attentive to my surroundings, this time as we moved to the rear of the house.  In lieu of Harold's 'sighting' we decided to make the old kitchen area in the back of the house our 'control room'.  There was an ancient four person table that was almost perfect for our equipment and we set our chairs up.

We set up a table and knocked most of the dust off.  The laptop went there and we pulled up our two chairs.  Next thing to do was tour the rooms and decide where to put our dvr's and recorders.  All of these pieces of equipment were wireless and the dvr's were streaming into the laptop. 

Like the guys on television we had a night vision camera that I had bought with that week's paycheck.  It was the only thing that allowed us to see where we were going without turning on a flashlight.  It came with an extra battery because the fellow at the electronics store told me that paranormal entities had been known to drain the energy from your batteries in order to manifest themselves.  Made sense to me.  And are ghosts afraid of flashlights?  I mean, why must all ghost hunts be done at night with no lights on?  Do they sleep in the daytime?  Hmmm.

Harold held the EMF detector and did a sweep in each room we entered.  We found no spikes of energy on the first floor and began to make our way up the stairs where the three bedrooms were located.  Just as we started up the stairs, I caught a movement about three steps above me.  It was small and very quick and I thought that it might be a raccoon or something along those lines. As I scanned the area, it was gone and I marked the spot on the camera so we could check it out later. 
As we neared the top of the stairs we heard what could only be described as footsteps ahead of us.  We stopped and listened as they seemed to come out of the bedroom off to the right of the landing.  I held the camera up above my head in order to get a shot of the doorway without having to make any overt movement.  Plus I wasn't in any hurry to meet up with what ever was walking around up there.
I almost lost the camera when I heard a terrible commotion behind me.  I spun around, positive that the ghost had somehow gotten behind me and was on the verge of grabbing me and dragging me to wherever it is ghosts drag you to and saw Harold already halfway down and picking up speed.  "Harold!", I called in my best theatrical whisper.  "Get back up here.  Come on, we're a team, don't turn chicken on me now."  He stopped, though his forward momentum took him the rest of the distance to the bottom floor. 

"Are, are, are, " he stutters a bit when he is nervous.  "Are you sure there is nothing up there? "

I convinced him that there was probably nothing to it and we made our way back to the upstairs landing.  I swung the camera over towards the room on the right just in time to see the middle door close.  That did not make me feel any better.  I stepped across the landing and checked the door latch,  It seemed to work well.  It didn't stick or hang up when I turned the knob.  The door was heavy, like most old doors seem to be and it didn't move on its own when I turned it loose.  I decided that I wanted a good look on the inside of the room before venturing in so I turned on my flashlight and scanned the room/  The paint on the walls was a yellowish gray, the way white turns when it has been infused with cigarette smoke over decades.  The ceiling was the same and the trim around the base and top of the walls was peeling and cracked.  There was no closet, but an ancient armoire stood guard in the far corner.  No carpet covered the old hard wood floors.

I turned off the beam and Harold and I took a moment to let our eyes adjust.  We decided to place one of the cameras on top of the amour and angle it to cover the entire room as well the door leading to the landing.  This angle allowed the camera to shoot out the door to the top of the stairs as well. 

We didn't bother with doing an EVP in this room as we had more equipment to set up. 
We went about that chore with gusto as we were getting our courage up with every minute we went without getting the you know what scared out of us.  One of the other cameras went in the corner of the landing on an old chair we place there for that reason.  We had failed to purchase any tri-pods with the cameras.  We aimed this one to cover the landing.  If anything moved, we would see it.

Back on the first floor we placed a camera just inside the front door aimed down the foyer.  It would catch any movement including on the staircase. 

As we set that particular camera and headed to the back of the house, a very dark shadow seemed to move from the area at the foot of the stairs, across the foyer and disappear.  I spun toward the movement just as it vanished and almost ran over Harold.  "Did you see that?" I asked. 

"See what?"

"Never mind, must have been a mouse."  I realized that he had been in the wrong position to see anything and if I told him, he would be out the door and halfway home before I finished my sentence.

We placed the last camera on a chair in the kitchen doorway leading back through the dining area, the sitting area and through the door leading into the front room that is to the right of the foyer as you enter the front door.  This side of the house was all open, except for that room.  It had a door, but it stood open at the moment.  That moment didn't last long..  

As we wove our way through dust and debris in the dining area towards the sitting area, the front room door slammed as if a ticked off linebacker were on the other side.  To say that Harold and I were startled would win an award for the largest understatement of the year.  I would like to say that Harold screamed like a little girl, but, I believe that was me.  Harold, on the other hand, said not a word.  The only sound he made was the thump when he hit the floor.  He had passed out from fright.  This was not turning out as I had planned.

He wasn't out long, just a couple of smacks on the face brought him back around.  I calmed him by explaining that the door had shut due to a gust of wind coming through the window on the front of the house.  Though, honestly, I had no idea how that door had slammed, but the story served to settle Harold down and keep him from streaking through the door, cranking up the van and leaving me in this creepy place all by myself. 

The next hour was, at best, boring.  We were hyped up for the first fifteen or twenty minutes due to the newness and the excitement of what had already happened.  For the next thirty to forty minutes, though, nothing happened.  And I mean nothing!  We went into each room and did an EMP sweep, just like on that TV show and got zero hits.  Well... 

After that first hour, we were calm and a little more professional.  We checked in on our computer now and then and started doing some EVP's (electronic voice phenomena's).  That is where we go to a location, such as a bedroom and start asking questions.  We hoped to get an audible response (one that we can hear, but if not, then the recorder may pick up one that we could not hear at the time.  At least that is the way the guys on television do it.  We used our flashlights very little since we did not want to scare any spirits away that might be lingering nearby.  Of course, this meant some bumping into furniture, walls and doors.  I wonder which would frighten them more, the light or the noise we made?

By this time it was nearing midnight and I was getting tired.  I had worked all day and had not realized how exhausting  ghost hunting could be.  It was almost like work.  We were sitting in the kitchen with the computer, taking a rest when we heard a loud crash from the foyer area.  Once our hearts stopped trying to jump out of our chests, we grabbed our camera and recorder and made a mad dash for the front of the house.

Harold's flashlight bobbed and bounced as he ran behind me which made my forward movement a bit tricky.  (Have you ever tried to dodge obstacles when they seemed to keep moving?)  When we reached the foyer I immediately looked for some piece of ceiling to be on the floor.  I figured that would be the only thing that could make that huge sound.  But nothing.  No ceiling  or anything else seemed to be out of place.  This made no sense.  We both heard the crash.  However, we did have the camera in place and if anything had happened, it should have recorded it. 

We debated checking the computer to see what had happened, but decided to continue our investigation as we had planned and look at it later.  I am glad that we did.  We immediately started and EVP session in the foyer.  The first few minutes we would ask questions and wait a moment or two to give any entity that was there a chance to speak.  We would not know if we had caught any evidence until we replayed the recorder.

After about fifteen minutes of asking questions like, "Are you here?" and, "What is your name?", we got a jolt when a voice from behind us said, "Why are you here?"  I almost came unglued.  Spinning around I was certain that someone was standing behind me.  This wasn't a garbled, sounds like a voice from beyond kind of voice.  It was as clear and pronounced as an English Professor giving a lecture.  There was no one there.  Our backs were towards a corner of the foyer where there were no windows or doors.  No way for anyone to sneak up behind us.  Harold was actually more calm than I was.  I guess he had most of the scared shaken out of him already.

"Did you hear that?", he asked.  "Sounded like it came from the corner."

"Yeah, I heard it.  That was perfectly clear.  Now what do we do?"  I was momentarily at a loss.

"I guess we answer", he said.
I sat the recorder upright on the floor and said, "We are here to find out how many spirits this house has in it.  Are you the only one or are there others?"

We waited for a response, hoping that it would be loud and plain like the last statement, but all we got was silence.  We continued the session for another five minutes and then we heard the distinct sounds of footsteps leading off down the foyer towards the back of the house.  We quickly gathered out stuff and followed.
The sound of steps continued until they reached the dining area.  As Harold and I approached, one of the small LED flashlights we had left in the kitchen came on!  All by itself!  Well, obviously not 'all by itself', but without either of us touching it.  I decided to see if we could communicate with whatever was manipulating the light.  "Are you part of the Robertson family?" I asked.  "If you are, then please turn the light off.  Two seconds and off it went.
Harold got into the game at this point.  "If you are one of my aunts turn the light back on."   Nothing.  "Are you Uncle John?"  The light flashed back on.  "Are any others here?"  Light off.  "Are they relatives?"  Light on.  "Do you try to scare people that come into this old house?"  Nothing.  "Does someone else?"  Light off.  "Do you want us to leave?"  Light on, light off, light on, light off.
"I think it is time to pack up and go," I said.  "He seemed pretty clear on your last question, don't you think?"
We immediately began going back through the house, gathering equipment as we went.  We saved the upstairs for last because, to be honest, we were a bit nervous.  After all, that was where the female ghost was rumored to reside.  However, everything remained quiet while we loaded our stuff and we were happy to have it that way. 
Our review of the evidence took longer than the on site investigation did.   We set up at my house and went through all the video and audio.  Though we did get several shots of a little mist, at times on video, there were a couple of really good, send chills down your spine, clips.  One was of the door to the front room closing.  It had been standing wide open from the time we entered the house, there had been no movement around the door and there was no where for a draft to come from.  Even so, the door slammed shut.  It did not start slowly and pick up speed, it went from a standing start to closed in a matter of a second or two.  You could even see the dust that was kicked up by the breeze the door caused.  Also, directly after this happened, you could hear two very clear sounds .. one was my screech and the other was Harold hitting the floor.  We may cut those out.
The other clip was taken when we first got to the property.  I had taken a dvr and chronicled our arrival.  The scene began with a panning of the grounds and then the front of the house.  I verbally described the location as I went.  I took in the front porch and then moved the camera up the front, across the second floor and then to the roof and the two chimneys where there were bricks missing.  It was on the second floor that I now saw something I had not noticed before. 
In the second window from the left,  there was the distinct image of a woman looking out and down at us.  She had either short hair or it was pulled back, the collar of her blouse was high and ruffled and what you could see of the skirt was either white or some other very light color.   Her face was brownish as if she had a good tan.   (I always thought ghosts were supposed to be pale.)  I believe we found the lady in white.
Our EVP's turned out to be mostly silence.  Once in a while we would think something was there, only to replay it and find a little static.  Several times we did catch the sound of footsteps.  One sounded like boots walking up the stairs and another actually sounded like spike heels on a lady's shoes walking on the hardwood of the upstairs landing.  Two other times the sounds were too indistinct to determine the type of footwear they may be.  It would have been nice to have the equipment to 'clean up and enhance' the recordings like the folks on television have.  I don't, however, have that kind of money to spend on a hobby, and Harold and I haven't found a sponsor for our investigations (yet).
It was a great introduction to ghost hunting, since we did get to experience something other than our imaginations.  I believe that we will be getting better at the entire operation as time goes on.  We already have two more investigations lined up and I'm planning on spending most of my tax refund on more equipment.
As for our findings on this hunt.  Well let's just say we left the location as we found it .. dark, creepy and haunted.

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