Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My TV Interview On Halloween

Richmond, Virginia's WTVR-6 has the TV interview I did for my nonfiction ghost book, Haunted Richmond II. this morning On Virginia This Morning up on their site, so go check it out if you didn't get to see it. They have that video up.


The below flash fiction belongs to Pamela K. Kinney and is copyrighted to her only, so please share thr blog link to your friends and not take off this blog to put on yours, or on forums or websites. Thank you.

Janie and Bobby dressed in costumes trudged up the sidewalk as they passed other similarly dressed children. It was Halloween, their favorite time of the year. When all children could go door to door, knock, and candy were poured into their waiting bags after yelling, ‘trick or treat.’ If the adult refused, the kids could play tricks on them and get away with it.

Janie and Bobby loved the treats, but they loved doing the tricks even more. They loved doing nasty, terrible tricks.

“It is tradition,” Mama told them. If the adults gave them candy, then fine and dandy, don’t do anything. But for that one who said, “No treats for you here, now go away!” they had permission to go ahead and do what their family had been doing since the early 1900s.

Janie and Bobby couldn’t wait. For the past couple of years they hadn’t been able to play any of their tricks, as every door they had knocked at the owners handed over candy, fruit, popcorn balls, tiny toys, and money. But when they woke up this morning, they sensed that this night would be different. They would finally be just like the rest of their family.

Nothing happened so far. Both of their bags laden heavy with the fruits of their labor, they stopped before the white picket fence that surrounded the yard of a pretty white Cape Cod home. It looked normal and so . . . suburbia.

This was it. They felt it. They would finally get what was owed them. They couldn’t wait.

Janie and Bobby tipped up their masks and looked at each other, shark grins flashing on their sweet, chubby faces. They pushed the gate open and wandered up the leaf strewn path to the front door. No Halloween decorations shown anywhere and no lit Jack-O-Lantern greeted them, just the closed door, painted a cheery blue.
They knocked and waited.

The door opened without one creak, and a little old lady stood on the other side. Her white hair was swept up in a bun and she wore a cheerful flowered print top and white pants. She peered at them, then blinked her eyes behind tortoiseshell glasses.

“Sorry,” she said, “but I forgot to buy candy to give out tonight.”

Bobby grinned. “That’s okay. We rather not have any treats. Tricks are oh so much cooler.” He tossed aside his bag and the sweets scattered across the front stoop.

He lifted his real axe. He had dressed as serial killer on purpose this morning. His sister was garbed as Lizzie Borden, her own axe gripped tight in her fist. She dropped her own bag and raised it high above her head.

The old lady stepped closer and smiled. “I know. I’ve been waiting for you, my dears. Human killers are not very smart. Not when inhuman ones have perfected their own bag of tricks for eons. My kind has been hunting their prey the hard way for centuries. Many still do. Not me though, I found a much easier way. Usually I decorate my place to attract regular human children on this night, but when I moved here and heard of the murders that been going on in this town for a very long time, I devised a different tactic.” She giggled. “It’s justice for the humans in this town after all and delivery food for me.”

Her face cracked and it split apart, falling to the floor. The rest of the body followed. Amidst the scattered pieces of the flesh, a giant shaggy wolf-like creature stood on clawed hind feet. It snatched both children to its breast. Bobby and Janie screamed, but the sounds were cut off when they were taken indoors and the door slammed shut behind them.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Legend of the Gray Man and Hurricanes

As Hurricane Sandy, or “Frankenstorm,” as the news has dubbed her, slams through the east coast, I got to remembering a legend about the “Gray Man.”
Pawleys Island, the barrier island, the incorporated town and the unincorporated community, all of the same name, is about 26 miles south of Myrtle Beach, S.C. along US Highw 17. It is here that the Gray Man haunts. The name of the island came from George Pawley, an early owner.
The area is one of the oldest resort areas along the east coast. Inland rice planters were believed to have constructed "summer cottages" on the island which, because of its consistent sea breezes, was less infested with mosquitoes, in the 19th century. In 2000 U.S. Census, it stated that there were 138 souls on the island, but that number may be incorrect. Locals claim there is an additional soul who appears from time to time, a soul whose sole occupation seems to be to warn residents of approaching storms.
"The Gray Man" is a good name for the apparition, as it appears to be the size of a man wearing drab, nondescript clothing. The apparition appears and vanishes within the blink of an eye. Sometimes the ghost speaks and sometimes it remains silent. The spirit has been seen along the beach at Pawleys Island off and on now for almost two centuries.
The first appearance goes back to a hurricane that hit the region in 1822, which caused over 300 deaths.
Another sighting happened before a terrible storm called "The Sea Islands Hurricane." This storm made landfall near Savannah, Ga., on Aug. 27, 1893. With sustained winds of 120 mph, this hurricane killed 1,000 to 2,000 people and did, by 2010 U.S. dollars, $24.1 million in damages. Another hurricane from October of 1954, Hurricane Hazel, clobbered the Carolina coast, destroying some 15,000 homes and structures, killing 19 people, and doing $136 million in damage. Seventy-three miles up the coast at Holden Beach, N.C., all but 12 of 300 cottages were obliterated by winds estimated at between 125 and 150 mph.
Now, there was a couple of newlyweds on Pawleys Island. They were supposedly warned by a "man in rumpled gray clothing." He awoke them when he knocked on their door early in the morning before the storm's arrival They prudently left the area as soon as they were able.
Other Pawleys Island residents reportedly observed a solitary "gray man" ambling along the beach, just before a storm hit.
When Hurricane Hugo roared through,  doing damage as far inland as the North Carolina piedmont in mid-September of 1989, it caused at least 76 deaths and did an estimated $10 billion in damages. Before this one appeared, tw Pawleys Island residents saw a man entirely dressed in gray on the beach. The lone pedestrian looked as if he was approaching the couple, but when they waved to him, he disipated. Evidently they were familiar with the legend of the Gray Man, for they packed up and vacated the island two days before Hugo arrived.
Another facet of this legend, is that residences of those whom the Gray Man warns are often not touched by these storms which level surrounding neighborhoods. As with all such tales there are several variations-there are at least three-as to the origin of the ghost.
The one most folks know goes like this:
It seems that there was this young engaged couple. The young man was separated from his beloved for several months, perhaps on a voyage across the Atlantic. When his ship finally put in at Georgetown, he rode a horse (some versions say he was accompanied by a friend or servant) back home to Pawleys Island.
In a hurry to see his young lady, the rider(s) decided to take a shortcut through the swamps. The betrothed young man and his horse became mired and were overcome by quicksand. His companion [if there was one] was unable to save him.
Later, after his funeral, his lady love saw an apparition resembling the young man when she was walking along the beach. The apparition warned her to take her family and flee the island. She did so and upon returning after the storm, found her home almost the sole surviving structure.
There is also a tale concerning a ghostly couple that are said to occasionally visit the Pelican Inn on the island. Whether the male of the duo is also the Gray Man has not been established.
The legend of the Gray Man of Pawleys Island has been the subject of the TV program, "Unsolved Mysteries," and has been featured in many books about Carolina ghosts.

I wondered if the “Gray Man” appeared before Sandy’s appearance. It would be understandable if the ghost had, as this hurricane not only came upon the east coast not only the end of October, but close to a time when spirits are said to roam the earth: Halloween.

Inspirations Can Come From Spirit Bottle Trees!

Whenever I need inspiration for the next short story or even a novel, or need to research
for a nonfiction ghost book, I surf the Net or read books from true supernatural tales to
myths and legends books. But I wasn’t looking for this particular piece of information at the time when I ran across this article online. Bottle trees. Fascinating, I never knew about this. It inspired me to write the horror short story, “Bottled Spirits.”

A lot of places these days, gardeners get a fake tree or even use a real one, and hang blue bottles or all different colored bottles from the tree. The belief in and use of spirit bottles can be traced back to 9th and 10th century Congo, where colorful bottles, traditionally cobalt blue, were placed on the ends of tree branches to catch the sunlight. The thought being an evil spirit would see the sunshine dazzling from the beautiful bottles and growing enamored, enter the bottle. Like a fly, the spirit becomes trapped within the bottle; too dazzled by the play of light. The spirit prefers to remain in its colorful prison, rather than trouble the world of the living, trapped for all eternity. This practice was taken to Europe and North America by African slaves of the 17th and 18th centuries. While Europeans adapted them into hollow glass spheres known as "witch balls" the practice of hanging bottles in trees became widespread in the Southern states of North America, where they continue to be used today as colorful garden ornaments. For a long times, the use of spirit bottles, even spells due to them, could be found among the African-American people. In the New World, the bottle-as-talisman took on different forms.

Like witch's bottles traced as far back to the 1600s, bottles began to be used in spellwork. Bottles of all colors, shapes and sizes were filled with herbs and other items of significance for the purpose of protection, repelling evil, or attracting luck. Eventually, the bottle spell became a fundamental element of Hoodoo magic.

Today, all sorts of people have these bottle trees in their yard. Usually in the United States, they could be seen in the country or along the bayous of Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama, though nowadays they are all over, not just these four states. And not just blue bottles, either!

Getting spirits into bottles and even jars actually exist in many places of the world. There are jars and bottles for housing the spirits of dead babies in Thailand and called Guman Thong. There’s the lamp holding the genie in Aladdin. The Djinn have also been captured in rings and bottles, too. There’s even The Spirit in the Bottle,” a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm.

If you like to make your own bottle tree as I plan to this spring, here are some directions I’ve found:

Find a strong tree or stump with branches, like crepe myrtles and cedars trees that are traditionally used, but pretty much any kind of tree will work. Trim all of the foliage off and cut the branches down until you have as many bare branches as you have bottles. Then slid your bottles onto the branches.

A variation is to take a fallen branch and prune it the same fashion, making a portable tree. Plant it outside of your home, near the entrance, in the garden, or where you want it in your yard and slip the bottles onto the branches. A third way is find a large branch or stump, tying two bottles at a time with shoelaces over the branches so they hang from the tree.

And here's a tip: If you put a little oil on the bottle necks, the spirits will slip easily into the bottles and become trapped that much quicker. Give it a day, then return to your tree when there’s a wind blowing and if you listen closely, you might hear the moans of the trapped spirits in the bottles when the wind blows. Just pray they’re not calling out your name though. . .

Friday, October 26, 2012

Legend of the Jack-O-Lantern

Come now, friends and fiends, and enjoy the following  tale behind the jack-o-lantern. Every October, carved pumpkins peer out from porches and doorsteps in the United States and other parts of the world. Gourd-like orange fruits inscribed with ghoulish faces and illuminated by candles are a sure sign of the Halloween season. The practice of decorating “jack-o’-lanterns”—the name comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack—originated in Ireland, where large turnips and potatoes served as an early canvas. Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America, home of the pumpkin, and it became an integral part of Halloween festivities. Counting to. . . HALLOWEEN!

Stingy Jack was a miserable, old drunk who loved playing tricks on anyone and everyone. One dark, Halloween night, Jack ran into the Devil himself in a local public house. Jack tricked the Devil by offering his soul in exchange for one last drink. The Devil quickly turned himself into a sixpence to pay the bartender, but Jack immediately snatched the coin and deposited it into his pocket, next to a silver cross that he was carrying. Thus, the Devil could not change himself back and Jack refused to allow the Devil to go free until the Devil had promised not to claim Jack's soul for ten years.

The Devil agreed, and ten years later Jack again came across the Devil while out walking on a country road. The Devil tried collecting what he was due, but Jack thinking quickly, said, "I'll go, but before I do, will you get me an apple from that tree?"

The Devil, thinking he had nothing to lose, jumped up into the tree to retrieve an apple. As soon as he did, Jack placed crosses all around the trunk of the tree, thus trapping the Devil once again. This time, Jack made the Devil promise that he would not take his soul when he finally died. Seeing no way around his predicament, the Devil grudgingly agreed.

When Stingy Jack eventually passed away several years later, he went to down to Hell to see the Devil, but the Devil kept the promise that had been made to Jack years earlier, and would not let him enter.

Thinking, Ah, Heaven will surely let me in then!, he wandered up to the Gates of Heaven, but was refused entrance because of his life of drinking and because he had been so tight-fisted and deceitful.   

Jack went back to Hell to see the Devil.

"Where can I go?" asked Jack.

"Back to where you came from!" replied the Devil. "You doomed yourself to roam the earth, a restless soul who can find no rest ever." Lucifer tossed him a turnip and a ember straight from the fires of Hell itself. "Here, hollow out this turnip and place this ember inside. Use its light to find your way through eternity." 

And to this day, Jack wanders, never stopping in one place, a hauntingly lost soul, who learned you never ever really beat the Devil at his own game.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Writer's Wednesday: Worlding Building Can Be Fun

I have always been fascinated by world building. From science fiction to fantasy to horror, there must be reasons why a character or a whole slew of characters would
react as they do in their world. Their actions, their thoughts, the reason they fall in love with the person they do, it’s all about how their universe revolves.

It determines what kind of story you’re writing. Like Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. She built a whole world, making it hard science fiction. She gave reasons for why the dragons were needed and how the alien world and its people were. Now, The Witch and the Familiar, is set otherwise in a city that Tina Epson lives in.  Other scenes are set in Hell. Readers find that Tina works for an independent bookstore in town, Cup of Tea and a Book. She lives in an apartment she moved in after leaving her parents’ house. Except for a few friends, she lives alone in town, as her parents had moved to Florida after retiring. She’s mortal in the first book and likes to live a normal life. But in this world building, this character never gets a chance for that, as unusual circumstances make her come to a decision for normalcy or not.

World building makes the author research the myths, legends, and fairytales. If you want to know about vampires, then nonfiction books and online websites about vampires are a good place to start. Some of it will find its way into the book; more snippets later will sneak in. A lot of the author’s research may never find their way into the storyline. But it’s good for the author to have all the information for their own use, to look at when writing. One more thing with world building is readers bring expectations to reading, like rules of beings and creatures of myth, legend, and fairytales. The reader will have these in their mind. You will have to take the vampire, werewolf, god, or ghost, and make the reader go past these rules and believe you made another way these beings to behave. Your explanations do not have to be the most fantastic, but you do have to have them.

World building should include something else: background. Think of a movie. You have the main actors. But you also have the extras, or background as they are called in the movie business. You’re thinking, “No, extras aren’t that important, not when your hero or heroine is the real focus of the story.” But let’s look at the newest movie out, Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen volunteers to be in the games as tribute to save her younger sister whose name had been drawn from the girls’ bowl for the Reaping. When Effie Trinker says, “Let’s give a big applause to our newest tribute,” no one says a word or claps. You know what they are truly saying. So those extras are important to the scene. The same goes for the book or short story you are working on. Later in The Witch and The Familiar, Tina and the demon bunny, Fluffy, are traveling through Tantalus, a part of Hell, encountering demons and lost spirits. These characters may not be in the story again, but at this point and time, they flesh out Hell, as much as descriptions of this version of the Pit looks like do.

When you build your world, another thing is that you must be consistent in your rules. That means keeping them as you began them. Editing will help in catching these kinds of mistakes. A good critique partner for just this would be another great thing to have. I have files on various important characters in my stories, their traits, what they do, etc… and use these to go back to if something comes up that I’ve forgotten about my character. After all, if what you’ve written goes against any of the rules you’ve created in your world, then there has to be a logical, rational reason it happens differently at the time, reasonable to you and the readers. Such as if iron is poisonous to the fey, but suddenly later in the story, the character can pass through a fence of iron, there must be a reason why they can do this time (maybe they had found a spell that enables them to). Don’t just have them unable to do something because it isn’t convenient to your story. Being consistent is what makes the suspension of disbelief your readers are willing to have held together.

Your world’s historical past should not overwhelm or dominate your current story. If it does, then you will bore your readers, most of all, you’re writing the wrong fiction. A paragraph of it will be all you need.

Is there an inventive language in your story? It’s okay, but don’t make it so difficult for your reader to understand that they can’t follow along or have to wade through it. If it makes your reader stop to figure out and ponder about it, well, it isn’t helping your pacing. The reader needs to be engrossed in the story so much they can’t put it down, and at no time, should it make them stop and close that cover. If the reader needs a degree to understand your book, then you lost the battle to keep most readers engrossed in your tale. Glossaries are a useful way to deal with this, but better if you don’t make your reader stop so much your reader to keep reading ahead. That’s not to say you can’t (after all, I have in my Witch and the Familiar books—demon speech when doing a spell). But nothing that will stop the reader reading.

World building is fun, as long as you think about presenting your world right. It’s all about drawing in your readers and keeping them coming back for more. It’s about giving them a vacation from reality they can suspend disbelief and enjoy.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Supernatural Friday: Cursed Boxes

Sorry a day early, but I will be sleeping tomorrow to prepare for a late night ghost tour and overnight investigation at Henricus Historical Park. And with a book signing at Short Pump Barnes and Noble the next day for Haunted Richmond II, I will need my sleep.

Today’s Supernatural Friday is about cursed boxes. It is said that curse boxes are locked, wooden containers with sigils on the exterior. They are designed to contain the magic , evil spirits, or cursed objects to prevent them from causing harm. Cursed objects are created by magic, and can kill their owners. The idea for the curse box may have come from the legend of Pandora's Box, a box that holds all the evil and all the diseases in the world, until - once opened - it releases all this evil upon the world, leaving only Hope behind.

In the fictional world of television, in one show, Supernatural, Dean and Sam Winchesters' father, John Winchester, had curse boxes made for him by Bobby Singer. He kept these at his secret storage space in New York. One of his curse boxes were stolen by thieves working for Bela, who worked for those who paid to get their hands on supernatural objects, and when they opened it, they found a cursed rabbit's foot inside.

One now well-known cursed box, thanks to an episode of Paranormal Witness this year and a movie, The Possession, that came out in September, dybbuk box, or dibbuk box. It is a wine cabinet which is said to be haunted by a dybbuk. In Jewish folklore, a dybbuk is a restless, usually malicious, spirit believed to be able to haunt and even possess the living. The cabinet has the Shema carved into the side of it. Its dimensions are 12.5" × 7.5" × 16.25”. Shema are the first two words of a section of the Torah, and are the title of a prayer that serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services.

The term "Dibbuk Box" was first used by Kevin Mannis to describe the box in the item information for an eBay auction to describe it as the subject of an original story (not the story for the film) describing supposedly true events which he considered to be related to the box. Mannis, a writer and creative professional by trade, owned a small antiques and furniture refinishing business in Portland, Oregon at the time. According to Mannis' story, he purportedly bought the box at an estate sale in 2003. It had belonged to a German Holocaust survivor named Havela, who had escaped to Spain and purchased it there before her immigration to the United States. Havela's granddaughter told Mannis that the box had been bought in Spain after the Holocaust. Upon hearing that the box was a family heirloom, Mannis offered to give the box back to the family but the granddaughter insisted that he take it. "We don't want it." She said. She told him the box had been kept in her grandmother's sewing room and was never opened because a dybbuk was said to live inside it. On opening the box, Mannis found that it contained two 1920s pennies, a lock of blonde hair bound with cord, a lock of black/brown hair bound with cord, a small statue engraved with the Hebrew word "Shalom", a small, golden wine goblet, one dried rose bud, and a single candle holder with four octopus-shaped legs; all items supposedly used in Jewish folklore to exorcise demons. Numerous owners of the box have reported that strange phenomena accompany it. In his story, Mannis claimed he experienced a series of horrific nightmares shared with other people while they were in possession of the box or when they stayed at his home while he had it. His mother suffered a stroke on the same day he gave her the box as a birthday present — October 28. Every owner of the box has reported that smells of cat urine or jasmine flowers and nightmares involving an old hag accompany the box. Iosif Neitzke, a Missouri student at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri and the last person to auction the box on eBay, claimed that the box caused lights to burn out in his house and his hair to fall out Jason Haxton, Director of the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, Missouri, had been following Neitzke's blogs regarding the box and when he was ready to be rid of the box Neitzke sold it to Haxton. Haxton wrote The Dibbuk Box, and claimed that he subsequently developed strange health problems, including hives, coughing up blood, and "head-to-toe welts" Haxton consulted with Rabbis (Jewish religious leaders) to try to figure out a way to seal the dybbuk in the box again. Apparently successful, he took the freshly resealed box and hid it at a secret location, which he will not reveal.

Skeptic Chris French, head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths' College, told an interviewer he believed that the box's owners were "already primed to be looking out for bad stuff.  In other words, if one is primed to believe they’ve cursed. Bad stuff that happens is what you perceive to be the cause.
When I went to eBay and put in the word, dybbuk box, four came up, including this one.

Another cursed box is used in the film, Silent Hill. I can’t tell you for sure if used in the video game, only a gamer that has played it can.

Of course, the most famous cursed “box” is Pandora’s. The original Greek word was 'pithos', which is a large jar, sometimes as large as a small person (Diogenes of Sinope was said to have once slept in one), mostly used for storage of wine, oil, grain or other provisions, or, ritually, as a container for a human body for burying. In the case of Pandora, this jar may have been made of clay for use as storage as in the usual sense, or of bronze metal as an unbreakable prison.
The mistranslation of pithos is usually attributed to the 16th century humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam who translated Hesiod's tale of Pandora into Latin. Erasmus rendered pithos as the Greek pyxis, meaning "box". The phrase "Pandora's box" has endured ever since.

I will end this article with the Greek myth, “Pandora’s Box.”

Once up a time, a long time ago, Zeus ordered Hephaestus (Aphrodite's husband) to make him a daughter. It was the first woman made out of clay. Hephaestus made a beautiful woman and named her Pandora. 
Zeus sent his new daughter, Pandora, down to earth so that she could marry Epimetheus, who was a gentle but lonely man. 
Zeus was not being kind. He was getting even. Epimetheus and Prometheus were brothers. Zeus was mad at one of the brothers, Prometheus, for giving people fire without asking Zeus first.  
Zeus gave Pandora a little box with a big heavy lock on it. He made her promise never to open the box. He gave the key to Pandora’s husband and told him to never open the box. Zeus was sure that Epimetheus' curiosity would get the better of him, and that either Epimetheus or his brother would open the box. 
Pandora was very curious. She wanted to see what was inside the box, but Epimetheus said no. Better not. "You know your father," Epimetheus sighed, referring to Zeus. "He’s a tricky one."
One day, when Epimetheus lay sleeping, Pandora stole the key and opened the box.
Out flew every kind of disease and sickness, hate and envy, and all the bad things that people had never experienced before. Pandora slammed the lid closed, but it was too late. All the bad things were already out of the box. They flew away, out into the world.
Epimetheus woke up at the sound of her sobbing. “I opened the box and all these ugly things flew out,” she cried. “I tried to catch them, but they all got out.” Pandora opened the box to show him how empty it was. But the box was not quite empty. One tiny bug flew quickly out before Pandora could slam the lid shut again.
“Hello, Pandora,” said the bug, hovering just out of reach. “My name is Hope.” With a nod of thanks for being set free, Hope flew out into the world, a world that now held Envy, Crime, Hate, and Disease – and Hope.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Writer's Wednesday: Writer's Introduction to Paranormal Investigating

So, you are fascinated by ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night? You always wanted to hunt ghosts, track Big Foot, or spy the Loch Ness Monster. Maybe becoming a paranormal investigator is just the thing for you. I don’t encourage amateurs without any training at all to conduct paranormal investigating, though. You need some idea of what you are doing before you go off into that graveyard or haunted building. I do recommend you contact an established organization near you and join them on a hunt/investigation, or get some on-the-job training, so to speak. If you do some investigating on your own, don’t do it alone, for your own safety. One good reason you never do it alone is: you may get hurt. Another is the slim chance the spirit may be a harmful one – as in, of demonic origin. In my opinion, whatever religion you are, utter a prayer of protection before you start any investigation.
First of all, no one is born a “paranormal investigator”. All it takes to get involved in the field of ghost hunting is to:
  1. Have an interest in the afterlife.
  2. Believe in ghosts – without it, you’re wasting your time. Though there are skeptics that are doing this, too, to disprove the supernatural. And that is all right, too.
  3. Find a place you wish to investigate.
  4. Invest in some equipment. At a minimum, a respectable paranormal investigator needs a camera, a notebook, a tape recording device, and a flashlight. More experienced paranormal investigators invest in EMF detectors or meters which pick up disturbances in electric and magnetic fields. You can find many of the things needed at places online like the Ghost Hunter Store ( or on Amazon or eBay. You can also find many of these things at Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Radio Shack, etc.
  5. Spend time practicing HOW TO use your tools. As with any job, it is always best to know how to use them properly.
  6. Read everything you can on ghosts, poltergeists, UFO sightings, and any other kind of paranormal activity. Study the investigations of these phenomena to get a sense of how paranormal investigators approach their work. Learn the lingo and the different types of paranormal activity that may be encountered in an investigation.
  7. Join a local paranormal investigation group. Check out online sites like at:, MySpace, and even for information on groups in your area. If there are no groups in your area, consider attending a paranormal conference out of town, or even starting your own group. I know of one held in Virginia Beach every year: . You can find other paranormal conferences by using
  8. Take a class. Many organizations now offer courses in paranormal investigation, like Flamel College (, the International Ghost Hunters Society (, and, of course, there are organizations in your own locality.

GHOST HUNT – going to a place were there have been no sightings of ghosts and trying to catch some on film (video and photos), sounds, eyewitness, etc. (graveyards are the number one place to start – churches, schools and older buildings, too)
PARANORMAL INVESTIGATION - going to a known haunted place to record data (video, photos, audio, and temperatures), take notes, conduct interviews and get other evidence to prove/disprove the haunting and to assist the owners and the spirits in moving on and leaving the place if they want that.
General Tips
  • Verify location, accessibility, safety, and related issues in daylight so you are familiar with the area. Look for dangerous places and obstacles that you will not be able to see in the dark, like parking, paths, and hazards.
  • Wear suitable clothing, including sturdy footwear. Don’t eat a heavy meal immediately before ghost hunting, but don’t go ghost hunting hungry, either. Do not drink alcohol or use drugs before or during an investigation.
  • Never go alone. This is just common sense. If you get hurt, who will get help?
  • Look for “no trespassing” signs. Make sure you are not trespassing. If you are on private property, you are risking getting a ticket or arrested in some areas. You should get permission from any owner or caretaker. Notify the local police so that they will be aware of your presence to take pictures and such. If you are asked to leave, do so immediately, even if the property is not posted.
  • Make sure you bring your ID. (A driver’s license, etc.) So, if you are questioned by the police, you can prove who you are.
  • If you become unreasonably frightened, leave. Always follow your gut instinct if you are prompted to leave. But remember, you have more to fear from the living than from the dead. Haunted sites are often isolated. That makes these sites attractive to people engaged in illegal activities. Use caution and common sense.
  • The best times are from 9pm to 6am. These are the psychic hours, but anytime can produce results. Photos have historically been better in the dark, but don’t let that discourage you from taking them during the day.
  • Find out all you can about the history of the locale you are investigating. Check out newspapers, town historians, the Internet, books for finding folklore or hard facts about the site.
The Basics
  • 35mm Camera – with at least 400 speed film. 800 speed film is also good at night, but you’ll have to test your camera’s flash strength to see which speed works best for you. If you are a more experienced photographer, you may want to try infrared film. When you develop pictures, you don’t need to go to a camera shop; a local drug store or department store is fine. Let them know you want all the pictures developed so that you get the pictures that they might think are bad ones. These “bad ones” are normally your best ectoplasm mist photos.
  • Digital Camera – regardless of what you’ve heard, digital cameras are great tools for ghost researchers. Once upon a time, they had their limitations and problems, but no longer is the case. Not only do they allow you to see instantly if you have a positive photo, they can also take photos in a limited infrared range of light.
  • Flashlight with plenty of spare batteries – a common-sense item. Remember to bring plenty of spare batteries for everything. Due to spirit activity, batteries often run down very fast and you don’t want to miss anything because of dead batteries. I recommend using a red-lens flashlight to help preserve your night vision. But it’s always a good idea to have a red-light flashlight and a white-light one in case of emergencies.
  • First aid kit – just in case, as it’s very easy to trip in the dark and get cut. Even if investigating during the daylight, you can accidentally get hurt. This is one reason you should never do an investigation by yourself.
  • Notebook with pens and pencils – you need to write, and log in, everything that happens. If you don’t, then you really don’t have much research information. An example of this is: one investigator gets an EMF reading that’s high and doesn’t write it down. Another investigator takes a picture of the same area, but is not aware of the reading and gets an anomalous image. Without that EMF reading, the picture may be good evidence, but with a report noting the reading, the picture greatly increases in evidence value. Many investigators use a pocket tape recorder instead and that’s fine; make sure you have spare batteries and tapes.
  • Jackets or weather appropriate clothes – if you are cold, you are not at your best, and your observation skill could suffer.
  • Watch - to log in the times of the events, along with your arrival and departure.
  • Video camera (optional tripod) – Unlike still cameras, they provide us with constant visual and audio surveillance for review and observation. The video cameras many investigators use are equipped with infrared capability. The Sony line of camcorders has an infrared night shot feature that enables you to video tape in complete darkness and see beyond what the human eye can see. You can use tripods or walk around with them. You should also invest in an infrared light extender which will help your camera see in the darkest places and make the quality of the video better.
  • Tape recorder with external microphone and high grade tapes – recorders or digital voice recorders are, without a doubt, one of the most important pieces of equipment that you should have in your investigator’s toolbox. Recorders are used for interviews, spontaneous thoughts, your notes, and electronic voice phenomena (EVP). You have to use an external microphone when recording EVPs (ghost voices and sounds). If you rely on the internal microphone, you will also be recording the internal gears and motors, and this will make your tape worthless. Use an external microphone; they are pretty inexpensive. The type of tape investigators most often recommend are high bias tapes or metal tapes.
  • Digital audio recorders – this recorder is small and easy to carry. You can also use the voice activation feature so there is less audio to review. This can be useful for note-taking as well. When using audio recorders, be sure to state the location, time of investigation, and the investigators’ names. When recording the names of each investigator, it would be wise to have each individual present state their own names, which will make it easier for distinction amongst voices heard on the tape during review. Voice activation mode should be deactivated on tape recorders during use when electronic voice phenomena are trying to be achieved due to the fact that it usually cuts off beginnings of words, sentences, and phrases. This is not necessary with digital recorders and they actually seem to work better in voice activation mode.
  • EMF Detector – Electromagnetic Field Detector, also known as an EMF, is the modern-day ghost researcher’s tracking device, a very important piece of equipment. With this instrument, it is possible to locate and track energy sources. It will detect fluctuations in electromagnetic fields and low-strength, moving EMF fields that have no source. It is a common theory that spirits disrupt this field in such a way that you can tell one is present by higher-than-normal readings with this meter. Before using the EMF as a ghost research tool on an investigation, be sure to walk around the area and take initial readings around energy sources such as light poles or electrical outlets to be sure of the readings you receive while scanning the area during the investigation. Most units, when purchased, come with a manual describing most household and major appliances and their corresponding electromagnetic reading. When using the EMF as a tracking device, look for fluctuations of 2.0 to 7.0; this usually indicates spirit presence. Anything higher or lower normally has a natural source.
  • Cellular phone – if you have one, it can come in handy in case of an emergency. Sometimes, they won’t work in a haunted area. Step across the street and the phone is usually fine again.
  • A Compass – it’s a useful instrument to an investigator due to its compact size and low cost. It can indicate spirit presence when the needle cannot come to a precise heading or spins/moves erratically. This works on the same principle as an EMF meter.
  • Candles & matches – batteries often run low during investigations, so you may run out of them and still need a light source. Another good idea is a camping lantern that runs on lamp oil. Be careful using the candles around motion detectors; they will set them off.
  • Motion Detectors – these can be used to sense movements by often-unseen forces or spirits. You can get battery-operated ones for about twenty dollars and they are great for inside, but there are investigators who say they have used them successfully outdoors, as well. Watch the placement: you don’t want a tree branch setting it off.
  • Thermometer or Thermal Scanner – There are two types used: regular digital thermometers and infrared non-contact thermometers. When one is used on an investigation, it can make a system for detecting spirit presence. Rapid temperature drop of 10 degrees or more could indicate spirit presence. It is recommended to use the infrared non-contact thermometers because they react in less than a second to a temperature drop and you can scan a large area quickly.
  • Hand-Held Radio or Walkie Talkie – is very useful in a large outdoor area and in a building with groups spread out in various rooms. They could be great in emergency situations or just to rotate groups. Be sure to be aware they could interfere with your EVP recording though.
  • The Divining/Drowsing Rod – made of willow or hazel. Divining rods were used to find water, now used in ghost hunting. The theory is that there is some element in the twig that acts in conjunction with the diviner to find the underground water. A forked (or “Y” shaped) branch of a tree or bush. The two ends on the forked side are to be held, one in each hand, with the third pointing straight ahead. Often, the branches are grasped palms down. The pointing end turns up or down when water is found. This method is sometimes known as ‘Willow Witching’. Another type of dowsing or witching rod is one using two brass “L”-shaped wire rods (commonly made of brazing or welding rod, but glass or plastic have also been accepted) that are to be held one in each hand. You can purchase drowsing rods too.
  • Alarms for Doors – One group of paranormal investigators uses these so that, when a door that is checked over earlier and is closed or locked, they can know when it opens when no one is near it.
  • Ghost Box (Frank’s Box)—Contacting spirits through the use of radio frequency devices or so called boxes as a medium for direct communication has been a huge topic of discussion lately in the paranormal community. The main device I am talking about is obviously "Franks Box" or "The Ghost Box" as its being called now. This device was created by Frank Sumption several years ago as a means to further his interest in EVP research. Frank began experimenting with EVP in the year 2000 which led to using a computer program called EVP maker invented by the German researcher Stefan Bion. After receiving various messages from computer savvy spirits relaying messages for other spirits who were not so technologically advanced, Frank came up with the idea to create a device that hopefully all spirits could use. His design was apparent to him almost immediately, but the actual construction of the device has led him to create at least 25 different models to date. Each box is unique in design and construction, but is based on the same principle.
  • Franks spirit receiver starts off with a standard white noise generator which is fed through a random voltage circuit of Franks own design. The random voltage is linked to an AM radio receiver which reacts to the voltage by tuning to a specific spot on the radio dial. This is known as voltage tuning and is a common function of late 80s and early 90s radio receivers. Though various radio stations are turned in for a split second every so often along with regular static, the devices also allows the spirits to interact with the device and create their own vocals through the receiver and for lack of a better term, talk through the device.
  • A newer version of the box simply tunes back and fourth through the AM band which Frank is calling the Sweep method. At first, he believed that the random voltage design is what allowed it to work but after using the sweep method, he has since changed his mind as it seems to do a better job. Frank has made his plans available on the Internet for anyone who is interested in experimenting with his device. He also makes available his own receiver plans for those who want to take it a step further and create the entire box from start to finish.  
  • Frank has created at least 25 versions of the box to date and handed them to several individuals for ongoing tests. The initial results have been pretty positive and many people have experienced some kind of communication which they would regard as evidence that the box really works. Unfortunately, the difficult part about Franks design is his using the AM radio band as the medium for receiving the voices. This is one fact that makes it easy for any skeptic to debunk the operation of his device. For starters, the device will receive little snippets from various radio stations as it scans through the AM band. At any given minute the device could spew some various words from passing stations that could be put together as a sentence and claimed to be from a spirit when in fact its just audio matrixing. Another possible scenario includes a few parts from Radio Shack and a couple of minutes of assembly could yield a small yet powerful enough transmitter to broadcast over the AM band and inject various words and phrases into the box directly. Definite care should be taken when operating the device to ensure the above scenarios are not part of the equation. Using recorders and other tools, such as an EMF detector, can help legitimize the results. EMF detectors should be placed far enough away as not to cause interference with the box or produce false readings on the detector itself. Places to download instructions to make a “Ghost Box” are:
  • (how to cheat, using a Radio Shack radio)
Step by Step Procedures
Here’s a condensed version. The most popular procedures for conducting outdoor ghost hunts:
  1. Have everyone meet near the location and decide who will work each piece of equipment and divide into teams, if necessary. Pick a person or leader that will talk to anyone who comes in contact with the group (i.e. Police, Reporters, etc.)
  2. Enter the site and, either privately or as a group, ask for a blessing or protection for the duration of the hunt. You can use this time to put yourself in a positive frame of mind. It does not have to be a religious thing, so everyone can do this in some way. Or, each person in their mind utters whatever prayer from their own religion. I do encourage everyone to take the ten seconds this takes and just do this. What can it hurt? My philosophy is: it’s better to be safe than sorry. When you are done with the investigation, have everyone meet in one spot and ask the human spirits not to follow you home and to remain there. Tell the other non-human kinds that they must remain there in the name of God (or other good deities). Many experienced groups believe that there are evil spirits in many areas such as cemeteries and, by saying a ten second prayer or making sure you are in a positive frame of mind, you can safely go about your business without worrying about them. A good rule also is to never use sarcasm and jokes in haunted settings, especially toward the ghosts. Remember that you are visiting a location that a ghost considers “home”.
  3. Walk around the area to get a feel for the surroundings and to allow the spirits to get a feel for you. Do this for about twenty minutes. Log in your start time and weather conditions, along with any other relevant information. You should also set up any stationary equipment like cameras on tripods or motion detectors. Make sure to take note of any areas that may cause you to get false readings or false-positive pictures.
  4. Now go out there and get some pictures and recordings. Note anything unusual that may happen, especially meter and temperature readings, visual sightings, and strange sounds. Make a note of any feelings or emotions that you feel that may be odd or out of place, and write that down. You can compare notes after the hunt and look for similarities in readings and feelings in certain areas or at certain times.
  5. Stake out a spot and walk around, or try to give everyone the opportunity to try everything and be everywhere. Rotate a few times during the investigation.
  6. If you are troubled by unwanted thoughts after leaving a haunted location, relax. Eat some comfort food. Watch a happy movie or TV show.
  7. Talk it out with a skeptical friend. Spend some time in a church. If the unwanted thoughts persist, see a professional for advice.
  8. Every investigator or team should keep a log of events/times – everything needs to be logged, not matter how trivial. You sneeze, log it in; it may have sounded like something else to another member elsewhere in the building.
  9. All members and owners, if possible, walk through the location. One member will map location, noting: air vents, heater, electrical appliances, fuse boxes, computer, etc. Mark down the temperatures in the rooms and any EMF reading you get during this walk through. Another member can take 5-10 test photos during the walk through. Do not discuss the details of the case during this walk through.
  10. Any witnesses that have not been interviewed before should be interviewed by one or two investigators and taped/videoed, if it’s ok with the witness. The other members should walk around the location and record any feelings or observations. Only the interviewers will know the location of events and sightings.
  11. Make no conclusions. Share no conclusions or opinions with the witnesses or owners until all the reports, photos, and tapes are reviewed. You need to see the evidence and correlate it before you can give an educated opinion.
  12. Generally, you cannot help a ghost. You can advise them to move on, but don’t waste more than about ten minutes discussing this. If you aren’t making any progress, it’s best to leave that kind of work to a professional, like a priest, minister, or psychic.
  13. If you’re in this to earn pay, then forget it. Most investigators don’t do it for money, but for fun and to satisfy their intellectual curiosity. And shouldn’t that be what it’s all about?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monster Fest 2012

Friday the 13th gives people shivers and some say, bad luck too. But Saturday the 13th of October was a fun day for me at Monster Fest at the Chesapeake Central Library in Chesapeake, Virginia. It was a one-day convention, held from 10:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m.

The husband and I got up around 5:00 in the morning, packed the car, and set off. After a short stint on Route 10, then 295, we go onto 460, heading east. Dawn was slowly peeping in the horizon, more a pale golden color than splattering of oranges and rose. We stopped at a McDonald's on the way down for breakfast, eating it as we wanted to get there around 8 a.m to get my table set up. Which we did. 

At ten o'clock the library opened and people came in. Some were those checking in books, or looking for books to check out. But they checked my table, my author friend, Tina Glasneck's table and the other venders, too. I even sold a few books that I signed. When it was 11 a.m., I managed to get way from my table to do the panel both Tina Glasneck and I were to do. We had a few people, despite the early time, and I felt it went off well. I found time to go around and snap some photos--even of a spot where figures of famous movie monsters were set up. Bowman's Body (Bill Bowman) came by with his granddaughter where I gave him an author copy of Haunted Richmond II since he has a chapter in the No Paranormal Legends of Richmond. See below where his granddaughter a photo of us with him holding his book.

The rest of the day was spent in people stopping by, getting my books and getting them signed, and before both my husband (who was handling the credit sales) and I knew it, it was 4:00 p.m. He told me to check out the Pickleman Productions panel since I was an extra in the street scene with a closeup even for their upcoming Dillzilla movie, but I sneaked out after twenty minutes to find Bill packing the table as the head of the convention had went around asking all to begin packing up.

The car packed, we drove up to a nearby Mexican restaurant, to join friends for good food and chat--a great end to a great day.

Please Vote for My Halloween Story-Have Until Oct. 16th 9 AM CST

Please vote for my Halloween horror short story, "Give Me Something Good to Eat." Leave a comment as your vote--the one story out of 25 that gets the most votes/comments is winner for that week. It started Monday at 9 AM Central and closes Wednesday at 9AM Central. Thank you.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Supernatural Friday: Ghost Stories Bring Out the Primal in Us!

Ghost stories bring out the primal in us. We want to be scared. It goes back to the days when we huddled in caves, a fire kept going all night, not just against the real threat of the wolf and cave bear, but also against the spirits and monsters the tribal shaman warned us to beware of around the fire. Today, that tradition is kept by someone telling legends and urban legends to us as we sit around a warm campfire with friends or family, or in a building, locked tight against intruders. Which being the logical people we are in today’s modern world, kept safe from the living who might do harm to us. But ghosts can walk through walls and locked doors, and forget the outdoors, the unseen hover all around us more than we think.

Yet, we crave these ghostly tales, whether myths and legends, or what paranormal investigators or other people experience for real. The titillation of experiencing second hand what others have gone through is a safe way of almost being there. Still there are those who suddenly realized that second hand is not good enough. They need to experience it first hand! They need to see if there is life after death, proof to back up what they suspect, or if a skeptic, to maybe have their disbeliefs proven wrong. Most of all, it’s the thrill of actually coming face-to-face with an actual spirit or paranormal phenomenon, where the shackles of safe second hand hearing and viewing no longer are there as a safe-guard. The titillation has gone up several notches in the hair rising on the back of the neck. 

I admit after researching in person for my four nonfiction ghost books, especially leading investigations at night with paranormal groups that I’d never done before for this new one, Haunted Richmond II, published by Schiffer Publishing (, I was not ready to go back to the safety of my couch and read about ghosts or watch them on paranormal shows on television. Not to say that I still don’t enjoy reading ghost stories or watching them on shows like Paranormal Witness or Ghost Adventures. No, even for many times noting happens on an investigation when absolutely nothing happens, the times when it does by evidence of ghostly presences in photos, EVPs on my recorder or hearing a voice from my Frank’s box (ghost book--, or even a personal experience, makes me appreciate that sometimes we need to get out of that building or away from that campfire and really test the boundaries and learn something. Sometimes, we need to be a part of those ghost stories.

Don’t you agree?