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Across the Great Divide

November 1st, 2013

 

“Who Left the Gate Open? The Idiots Got Out Again.”

For all the many topics and issues within the realm of parapsychology there is one phenomenon that- pardon the pun- continues to haunt the field. A phenomenon that is predator rather than prey; and despite the most valiant efforts by some, a phenomenon that can be easily kept from causing mayhem – if it weren’t for someone constantly leaving the gate open and letting it out.

I am talking about professionalism. What should come as common sense and a given is apparently seen by some as a hindrance; a roadblock to their fame and fortune. Moreover, unlike many topics that the origins are relatively unknown there are clear methods of manifestation for this problem.

Take, for example, a story out of Montana recently about a city employee who got into trouble after she let a local ghost hunting group set up an infrared camera in the Butte-Silver Bow County Health Department because she thinks that the office is haunted and contacted a group to catch the unwelcome spirits in action.

John DeMuary, co-founder of the Butte Paranormal Investigative Team, told the New York Daily News that he complied with the request because he is also convinced that it’s haunted based on the woman’s claim that “she [reported] a lot of strange things were happening and that she heard strange noises coming from certain parts of the building.”

In the interest of fairness and journalistic integrity I should point out that DeMuary is a rookie in the field and began ghost hunting just over two years ago. He has a lot to learn, and now that inexperience and arrogance has landed someone in a very real world of trouble. I can’t say that I feel sorry for her in the least. Despite what she may personally believe, her actions, and the actions of the “investigative team”, were completely inappropriate and unprofessional.

DeMuary did “a bit” of research and found that the office building was constructed in the 1970s and that before that a woman had spent 80 years of her life in a house that previously stood on the grounds. He was unable to verify whether she died at the location but nonetheless speculated that, “Maybe her spirit wasn’t able to move on.”

So on one night last August, the group snuck into the building with the help of the employee. Their investigation backfired when another employee turned the camera over to police, fearing that someone was using it to spy on the government workers.

The Butte police found no ghosts on the camera’s SD card, but plenty of normal office interactions; and the office managers were in no way amused or sympathetic to the situation, feeling that the incident was a violation of the public trust. The employee who contacted the group was given a formal written warning and another employee who had knowledge of the situation was given a verbal warning. No known charges have been filed against anyone, but I would think it only fitting that some form of trespassing fine be imposed on the team.

The first obvious issue to be addressed is that all involved were not only trespassing, they were willfully trespassing on government property. That takes enough testicular fortitude for this world and the next. How hard is it to understand that whether it’s a cemetery, someone’s home, or a professional building, it is NEVER okay to just walk in whenever you feel like it without the landowner’s permission.

It doesn’t matter if it’s an abandoned building either. In cases of an abandoned property, sometimes contacting the city or church that owns the cemetery or building and presenting your honest and objective intentions goes a long way toward garnering permission. You should also have a client contract that explains what each party’s legal and financial responsibilities are. Often having an explanation of what is publicly planned for the data collected or a clause that releases the building’s owner of responsibility due to injury puts their mind at ease.

For an example of such a contract, here is a download link to the very client contract that DFPS uses: DFPS Client Contract

It is also relevant to mention that any seasoned and professional paranormal research group will require all members to wear photo identification while investigating or representing the group in public- even when just doing research in a library or records office. Not only does this present a more professional image but it helps clients, law enforcement, and others know who is and is not part of the group. Law enforcement has the right to request identification and trespassing on private property can lead to fines, imprisonment, or worse- I’ve personally known of ghost hunting groups getting shot at when trespassing.

Secondly, many professional buildings are, by design, in urban areas close to well-traveled roads and occupied by more than one company with their own hours of operation. This can seriously pollute any evidence due to a large amount of X factors involved. Even abandoned cemeteries in secluded and neglected locations have environmental conditions and noise variables to account for that could skew results.

DeMuary’s said his merry little band of trespassers noticed lights flickering and thought it was “weird” and took one picture of an “orb”. He also based his conclusion that the building was haunted on noises he heard from his Ovilus X- the “ghost box” that I have debunked before,- saying that he “understood words” but “didn’t know what they were saying.” He just guessed that there were past employees at the office who died of breast cancer who may have been trying to communicate. The choice of instrumentation, the methods of research, and the analysis techniques of this group are laughable. There’s really nothing positive to say about it at all.

Orbs? Really? For as much of a joke as the TV reality ghost groups have become even they shrug of orbs as rarely legitimate. Yet the sad fact remains that so many amateur groups out there still try to pass off any bit of anomalous dust in the air as spirit manifestation.

I’ve given way too more attention to the pathetic toy that is the Ovilus than it’s worth. The plastic casing of it has more value than it’s data.

Let this be a lesson to everyone. The more structured and professional you are in your methods the more professional you will come off when investigating and the more serious your data will be taken.

But none of this seems to be of concern to the amateurs pulling the reigns of the Butte Paranormal Investigative Team. To them it’s just saddle up, lock and load. It’s time someone put a lock on the gate before more idiots get out.

 

Sources: NY Daily News

© 2013 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

The Orb: A General Overview
When is s a spirit entity not a sprit entity?

While mentioned previously in this manual it is necessary  to devote at least some more time to the subject of “orbs”. In recent years a number of people have reported finding anomalous circular images, often called “orbs,” in photos taken at night with a flash, under seemingly ordinary conditions. The photos have been taken both outdoors and indoors. These photos were not taken under “conventional UFO,” conditions, i.e., there were no strange lights or objects visible to the photographer. These images first
turned up in photos taken for various reasons other than to photograph “orbs,” i.e., photos of home scenes, outdoor scenery at night, etc. Subsequently numerous photographers have simply taken pictures “into the dark,” even though they didn’t see anything that could make orb images, in order to find out if “orbs” would appear in
the photos. (Note: I should point out that there have been numerous photos of unusual lights at night which were seen at the time of the photos and which have also been called orbs. Photos such as these are not the subject of this discussion. The subject of this discussion is orb images which appear in photos taken when there was no bserved
cause for them.)
The images discussed here are rather diffuse or “transparent” areas of the film that are generally slightly brighter, but sometimes much brighter, than the (generally dark) background. For many cameras the orb images are round, but for at least one type (Polaroid Model 600) the shape is nearly rectangular. Figure 1 shows an example of such images in a flash photograph of an outdoor nighttime scene. If one examines the dim circular images carefully one sees that they have a bluish tint. Images such as these appear at random locations in photos. Similar images obtained by other investigators can be found at www.orbsite.com
Photos have been taken at many different geographic locations. Some outdoor locations produce more, perhaps many more, of these images than other locations. Therefore the occurrence of these images raise the following questions: (a) what are they or what causes these images, (b) why do they occur in some locations and not (or rarely) in others, and (c) why are they (apparently) a recent photographic phenomenon? The investigation reported here has provided answers to these questions.
This investigation was prompted by several correspondents who reported to me that they had found these round images in their own digital photos. They had not seen anything when the photos were taken, yet here were the distinct, reasonably bright round images. They asked for my comments on their photos and photos of others.
My first impression upon seeing images such as these was that they were unfocused images of small, bright reflectors of light. However, I could not prove that there were such reflectors present at the times of the photos. The photographers didn’t see anything. At the same time, an alternative hypothesis presented itself. So far as I knew, the first photos in which these images appeared, or at least the first in which they were noticed, were flash photos that had been taken with consumer-grade digital cameras. This raised the question of whether or not these images were some sort of strange artifact of the digital camera like some unexpected light leak. (More recently similar images have turned up in flash photos taken with recyclable cameras, such as the one used to take Figure 1. Other photographers have found similar images in photos taken with 35 mm cameras.) On the other hand, if the cause did not lie with the camera, then it must be something outside the camera. Perhaps the flash had illuminated something very small that was close to the lens. Perhaps a few small flying insects happened to
be close to the camera lens when the flash went off. This hypothesis (tiny insects very close to the camera and lit by the flash) seemed acceptable for photos taken when such insects would be present (outdoors in the spring, summer, fall) but not when such insects would unlikely be present (very cold weather,e.g., winter, or inside buildings).
Since I did not have a digital camera (they have been quite expensive until recently) I was not able to do any experiments myself to determine whether or not these anomalous images could be an artifact of the camera and so there the matter rested until recently when a correspondent reported finding some images in digital photos he had taken inside his house using a new Olympus camera. He was worried that his new camera had some sort of strange defect. He wrote, “The (anomalous images) look like lens flares, but there appear to be too many of them, and they don’t seem to be in the right position for lens flares.” He offered to send me some of his pictures and wanted
to ask my advise as to whether or not he should return the camera.
He emailed the pictures to me and I, too, was puzzled. They showed scenes in a house where insects would not likely be flying around close to the camera lens. About the only thing I could do was suggest some experiments to determine whether or not these images were caused by something outside the camera or inside the camera. One of the
experiments was to take flash pictures with his hand over the lens to block light. This would test whether or not the images were coming from inside the camera, as, for example if there were some bizarre hole in the camera structure that would allow light to leak directly from the flash to the film. For comparison I asked him to take pictures in some area where there were no surfaces to reflect light, for example, outdoors where the nearest object was far away. I pointed out that if he got anomalous images when his hand was not on the lens and got no such images when his hand was on the lens then
the anomalous images were coming from light reflectors outside the camera. The correspondent noted that there was a bright metal ring around the lens aperture and thought that perhaps that might cause some unexpected images. I suggested that he cover it with black tape. To my suggestion that there might have been tiny reflective particles in front of the camera he replied,
The tiny, shining objects idea is an interesting one. Most Christmases, my kids make various things with glitter, which they bring home. This stuff sheds into the carpet and can be quite difficult to get out. I believe this could be the explanation for the anomalous images which appear to be silhouetted against) the carpet. I’ll take some repeated shots from the same position and see if they move–if not, then we’ve got the explanation for those, at least. As for the ‘floating’ (images), perhaps some minute particles of glitter
can float on air currents–but would they stay around for a year? Again, some sequence shots might help here, too.
It is clear from what he wrote that he thought the anomalous images that appeared silhouetted against the rug might have been caused by bright reflections from tiny pieces of reflective material – glitter – on the rug. He also wondered whether or not floating glitter could explain the images which appeared to be above the rug, e.g.,
silhouetted against the walls or ceiling. I did not believe that “Christmas glitter” in the rug or floating in the air would explain the images, but I didn’t know what would.
About a month and a half later he wrote again and this time supplied the first good suggestion as to the source of the anomalous round images:
I have followed the experiments you suggested, as well as done a few of my own. I can definitely state that the (images) are the result of the illumination of dust particles in the air by camera flash. I was able to produce a (picture) image with hundreds of (round images) by having the kids run around for several minutes on an unvacuumed
carpet! Most of the dust particles seem to be intrafocal, although even those at greater distances can produce quite a convincing small (image). I borrowed a professional flash, which fires several times a second, and was amazed at just how much ‘junk’ is stirred up in the home environment by ordinary activity. I could see hundreds of quite
brilliantly-illuminated particles with my eyes. When I read the above I knew that what the correspondent said was perfectly logical. I already knew that reflective particles so tiny
that they could not normally be seen by the naked eye could make circular, defocused images if they were close enough to the lens. What I didn’t know was the nature of these particles. The correspondent supplied that answer.
By extension, one can infer that pollen grains and aerosol particles can also cause such images. These types of particulate matter are also floating in the atmosphere at various concentrations that depend
upon the geographic location, whether inside or outside a building, the time of year, the temperature, wind, etc. For example, near a wooded area small particles from plants and trees could float in the air at higher concentrations than in areas where there are no trees or plants. Fine dirt particles, such as from a road or dry, sandy area, can be stirred up by wind or human activities (automobiles) and could be suspended in the air for considerable amounts of time and be transported over considerable distances. This could explain the geographic dependence of the phenomenon. Of course the photographer would not normally notice these particles during the time of the flash because the photographer would be looking through the viewfinder. Even with a single lens reflex camera (that allows the photographer to look through the lens) the photographer would not see the particles during the time of the flash because the “reflex
mirror” within the camera moves to a location that blocks the view through the camera while the photo is being taken.
After reading what my correspondent wrote I decided to carry out my own experiments. In order to show how an amomolous source  is far from the camera lens. If one were to assume that the image was actually caused by an object on the far side of the structure, about 20 feet away, then one could calculate that the object was several inches in diameter. However, the object which caused that image was actually only a dust grain close to the camera and the apparent blockage of the image by the structure is an illusion. The faint bluish image can be seen at the right side of the vertical support of the arch because it is silhouetted against perfect blackness. The portion of the circular image that overlaps the structural member cannot be detected because its low brightness was overwhelmed by that of the structure.

ORB EXPERIMENTS

Generally one can say that the closer the spheres, the larger and brighter are the images. This is to be expected although I have not been able to determine a quantitative relationship. Qualitatively one knows that the refleted light that reaches the film plane and makes an image is proportional to the illumination reaching the object
(which depends upon the optical power output of the flash multiplied by the “radiation pattern” factor), to the reflectivity of the object, to area of the lens aperture and to the inverse fourth power of the distance (just as with radar – inverse square out t the target
and inverse square back to the receiver). The inverse fourth power with distance means that the image brightness (actually the image exposure, which is the product of the optical power per unit area within the image multiplied by the exposure time) changes rapidly with distance of the reflective object. On the other hand, the image size also decreases with increasing distance, almost in the inverse proportional to distance (even though the object is too close for to be focused) so the image area is approximately proportional to the inverse square of the distance. Therefore the combination of the
inverse fourth power decrease of illumination on the image with the inverse square shrinkage of the image area means that the exposure (proportional to the power per unit area) decreases only as the inverse square of the distance. However, distance alone does not explain the brightness variation. The image brightness is also affected by the object size and this means that a collection of different sized objects all at the same
distance will make images approximately the same size but differing considerably in brightness. The size dependence of the brightness occurs because the amount of light reflected by one of these tiny objects is proportional to its “cross-sectional area,” that is, to its diameter squared. In the case of these glass spheres there was a wide range in diameters and hence a wide range in image brightness even for spheres at nominally the same distance.

FLASH DURATION

The shape of an image of a moving object is determined by the object shape itself as modified by motion during the exposure time. Hence, if a perfectly circular light or steady intensity moved in a straight line a distance 3 times its own diameter during the exposure time the resulting image would be elongated, 4 times as long as it is wide,
with rounded ends.(Why not 3 times its own width? Draw a circle on a piece of paper. It has some diameter, d. Now imagine sliding the circle to the right by the distance d, and then another distance d and then once more. Now measure the distance from the far left to the far right boundary. It is d + md, where m is the number of displacements.) In the case of a constantly moving object with a constant velocity v perpendicular to the line of sight the length of the image is d + vt. (In the previous example vt was 3 times the diameter, 3d, so we had d+3d = 4d.) (In the more general case the length of the image is the integral of the component of velocity perpendicular to the sighting line over the time of the exposure.) Clearly the shorter the exposure time the smaller the motion “smear.” In order to determine how much of the image shape might be due to motion it is necessary to know the exposure duration. This duration is determined by the shutter during ordinary non-flash photography and by the flash duration when a flash is used.
For the recyclable camera the flash intensity reached its peak very, very quickly (about 30 microseconds) and then the flash brightness decayed (approximately exponentially) over the next millisecond. The effective duration of the flash was about 300-500 microseconds (depending upon how one wants to quantitatively define “effective duration”). When photos are taken in the dark the only source of light is the flash and hence the flash duration determines the exposure time. (In normal non-flash daylight shots the shutter determines the exposure time.) This is an “effective shutter time” of 1/2000 to 1/3000 of a second. An object moving several meters per second or millimeters per millisecond will be quite effectively “stopped” in its motion by such a short shutter. By “stopping the motion” is meant having such a short exposure that
the image hardly moves during the exposure. For example, if a tiny object were to move perpendicular to the line of sight at 1 meter per second at a distance of 10 cm from the camera lens its angular rate would be (100 cm/sec)/(10 cm) = 10 rad/sec. For a 3 cm focal length this transfers to an image velocity of 30 cm/sec. In 1/3000 of a second the image would move 30 x (1/3000) = 0.01 cm = 0.1 mm. At the same time, these experiments suggest that the image diameter for a tiny object 10 cm from the lens (of the recyclable type of camera) would be a bit over 1 mm (see above). Hence the motion smear would be a small fraction of the image size and the image would be nearly
circular. Objects moving more slowly than 1 m sec or objects at greater distance would create even less smear. (However, objects at greater distance also make smaller images so for constant sized objects at the same velocity but at varying distances the percentage of the image which is smear could be constant.) In the case of the glass spheres used in these experiments the velocities were in the range of several to ten centimeters per second rather than a meter per second so the motion smear is not detectable.

CONCLUSION:
With so much contradictory evidence available and considering the fact that orb photography was all but unknown before the advent of digital cameras the only safe procedure when dealing with orb photographs is to consider all orb photos suspect until and unless proven otherwise beyond any question or doubt by the elimination of any possible error, flaw or defect at any stage of the photographic process. With orb photography all possible efforts should be made to eliminate any and all naturally occurring conditions that would produce the anomaly before assuming that it even could be paranormal in nature.

It’s late and just as you’re drifting off to sleep, you hear something.  What was it?  There’s no one else at home.  The cat’s asleep at the end of the bed.  “It must have been the wind,” you tell yourself.  It always makes you feel better to believe it’s just the wind.  Until you feel that cool breeze float across your bed and realize there is no wind…

People have been telling ghost stories since the beginning of time – the Greeks and Romans had ghost stories, and even the Bible mentions one in the story of Samuel and the Witch of Endor.  The oldest documented ghost story in Oklahoma dates back before statehood in 1896.  What’s more, it was printed in the Guthrie Daily Leader, a newspaper!  The story began on April 9, 1896 with an article about a prostitute receiving a hasty pauper’s burial.  A week later another article appeared declaring a haunting:

“The shack on the Santa Fe right of way in which the Cyprian Lula Myers recently died is haunted.  Horrible groans issue from the shack every night and passerby assert that weird and ghastly incantations take place within the building which was vacated shortly after the unfortunate girl’s death.  Last night a well-known sport called at the house and tried the front door.  It failed to give way.  He tried the back door with the same result, and returning to the front door it suddenly flew open and a blood-red hand holding a vial appeared in the room.  Much excitement prevails among the neighbors residing in the vicinity of the haunted house.”

News stories of this nature continue over the next several days until finally, the body is exhumed to make sure it was not face down or had been buried alive according to some of the rumors that began to float around the community.  There was no more mention of ghosts by the Santa Fe right of way after that April.

Nowadays, newspapers would not declare hauntings as truthful news.  With the progression of technology and science people have become more skeptical of such things.  Non-believers will maintain that the existence of ghosts cannot be proven; believers maintain the non-existence of ghosts has not been proven, either.  However, there are some things that are simply unexplainable, even by science.

So whether you are a believer in things that go bump in the night or not, you have to admit a good old ghost story is always fun.  Some are made up as cautionary tales, some are just for fun, and some are eye witness accounts.  I have been fascinated with ghost stories and tales of the supernatural since I was a small child, but as an adult, my interest turned to the history behind these stories.  It made sense to me that a place might only be haunted if there were sufficient history related to the location to make it so.  If there is a location with reported ghostly activity and no reason for it, then it becomes more an urban legend than a haunting, but if you have several unrelated people telling the same stories over a number of years, well, there might be something to it.

In the early 1970’s my mother and I lived in a house on Cherokee Street in Enid, Oklahoma with our St. Bernard, Buffy.

My mother said strange things would happen at this house on a regular basis such as the cupboard doors and drawers would open and close and the lights would go on and off randomly.  Things would be moved.  She had a ceramic Trojan horse that sat on top of the TV but sometimes she would come home to find it sitting on the mantle across the room from the TV.  The recliner would sometimes be turned facing the corner.

She remembered when she moved in that the windows were all covered in tinfoil and there had been some old bits and pieces of photography equipment laying around.  She always had a creepy feeling that some bad things may have happened there.

One night she was asleep on her bed and she was awakened to find herself half way off of the bed as if she had been dragged.  All the lights were on, the shades were up, the cupboard doors and drawers were all hanging open and Buffy was trembling and whimpering underneath the dining room table.  My mother was terrified and had a very bad feeling as if something evil was lurking there.  She took me out of my crib and immediately left the house.  She proceeded to move us out the next day.

About 20 years later she was working at a local agency when a man came in and sat down at her desk.  She was taking his information and helping him fill out his papers and she noticed that his address was that same house on Cherokee Street.

“I used to live in that house,” she told the man at her desk.

“Really?”  He hesitated.  “Did you ever have anything… weird… happen there?”

They exchanged stories about the house and she found that he had been having the same strange things going on there 20 years later.

I thought this was a great example of a haunted house since two completely unrelated people had things happen there, so I frequently relayed it to friends during ghost story sessions.  One evening I was telling the story to my friend that worked at a local pharmacy and when I mentioned the address, he became white as a ghost himself and started pacing around the room, muttering frantically.  I asked him what was wrong with him.

He said to me, “We used to deliver medicine to a lady that lived there and we always thought she was crazy because she was always going on about how the devil lived in her house!”

Three people, completely unrelated, several years apart – same stories.  No one knows the reason behind the activity there, but it is indisputable that it’s there.

The oldest bar in town, open since 1948, is the Frisco Bar.  It was originally down the street from its current location but that building is no longer there.  The current building was a machine shop downstairs with a brothel upstairs.  The Frisco is famous for its ice cold beer, but there are chilly spirits of another kind there, too.

A massive collection of beer bottles and cans lines the upper walls of the bar.  One evening, the owner was standing behind the bar visiting with one of the customers when one beer can came flying several feet away from the shelf and nearly hit the customer at the bar.  Now, keep in mind that these cans and bottles are nestled quite closely together on these shelves in tiers, but not one of them was disturbed by this one that seemingly propelled itself off the shelf.  A picture has also fallen off the wall and to the floor, and again, not one can or bottle was disturbed.  The owner and other employees have witnessed the water faucet at the sink behind the bar coming on by itself as well.

They say the Frisco ghost is to blame for the flying objects and random water running.  In the early morning hours one day the owner and another man were in the bar.  The owner had just returned from picking up the newspaper from the front sidewalk when his friend asked, “Didn’t you lock that back door?”  The owner assured him he had.

The man told him he had heard it open and said, “Someone just walked up that ramp to the men’s room.”

The pwner wasn’t too worried about it.  “That just the ghost,” he told him.  He reported that people often hear the back door open and when they look to see who’s coming, they witness a black figure walking up the ramp toward the men’s room.  The owner and some of the others are used to the ghost by now while some won’t readily admit to it, but will certainly clean up as quickly as they can when they’re there alone.

Another historic building in Enid is the Surety Abstract Building.  Most of my generation remember it as Lambert’s, a high end dress shop, but before it was Lambert’s, it was a department store called Herzberg’s.

The owner of Surety Abstract jokingly made a comment to a long time Enid attorney that they thought the building might be haunted.  They had witnessed several strange occurrences and were unable to explain them any other way.  The attorney thought for a moment and stated he didn’t really know why it would be haunted.  They finished their business and he returned to his office only to return a short time later with an old newspaper article and declared, “You know, it just might be haunted.”

The 1956 newspaper article relayed the story of a woman that worked in the Herzberg Department Store.  Her estranged ex-husband came into the store one afternoon as she worked demanding she give him $70 for a dentist visit.  She refused and he gunned her down and turned the gun on himself, right there in the store.  The owner had not been aware of this story until she saw the article.

The employees at Surety have seen stacks of things knocked off the counter, heard noises, seen people walk by and when they look, there’s no one there.

I interviewed the children of the previous owner of the building.  They state as children they found every possible nook and cranny of the old building to play hide and seek in and never had any ghostly encounters, but got spooked by the mannequins more than once!

One of the sons is of the opinion it could be the jolly spirit of their dad who is by far the most interesting character to have ever possessed the building.

“This is the large building to the south that Lambert’s occupied in its last years of existence where Dad held an auction one week prior to his passing to ‘get all his affairs in order.’  This was not the building with the mannequins.  The air conditioner and the elevator always had a squeak, which could explain the noises heard from the first floor.  The ‘haunting’ that could be going on could be all the elder ladies hitting on the handsome gentleman in the better place that they all now share.”

Oddly enough, another obscure piece of Enid’s bizarre history rests right outside the Surety Abstract Building.  In the one hundred years of Enid’s history, only three police officers have ever died in the line of duty.  The first took place June 26, 1895 when Enid City Marshal, E.C. Williams, was shot while attempting to break up a fight between the owner of the newspaper and the local Land Office man.  Nearly eleven years later, Marshal Thomas Radford was murdered by a man that was angry with him for closing his rooming house.  The third officer to lose his life was Officer Cal Palmer in 1936 while attempting to arrest a would-be robber.  It’s not all that unusual for police officers to be killed in the line of duty and luckily Enid has only lost three, but the twist to this story is that they all three died on the same corner several years apart – the corner of Grand and Broadway. The corner has since become a bit of a superstition amongst the Enid Police Department and it might be wise for you, too, to take a little extra care traveling that route.

This is just a glimpse into my hometown’s haunted history.  Whether you’re interested in ghost stories or not, most town’s have a lot of interesting history and the stories make learning about it entertaining.  Take some time to learn your community’s haunted history – I bet you’ll be surprised at how many stories you find.

Science and Psychics- The Tech of Paranormal Research

Most of the intellectual rhetoric thrown back and forth between skeptics and parapsychologists concerns the types of tools used during investigations; sometimes even those within the field of psychical research will argue among themselves for or against certain techniques and tools.

Since the field is one which attempts to quantify and classify phenomena that are, by definition, cultural, religious, and fundamentally unknown, it is somewhat acceptable to utilize devices and techniques of a more “mystical” nature. Many times the use of arcane devices and psychics can help lead the team to an area of interest or heightened activity, and sometimes even actual contact with the netherworld.

Once these devices or techniques have pointed the way to the presence of activity, the seasoned researcher will switch to more scientific instruments to document any possible activity. Unfortunately, the truth is that at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what kind of personal experiences, thoughts, feelings, intuitions, or psychic imagery is collected, or by whom- if it can’t be verified or quantified through impartial scientific measurement and documentation, then it technically never happened and just becomes yet another account in the mythos of a location’s “ghost stories.”

Tools have been modified or adopted from various sciences and applications over the years to measure and analyze data in a paranormal investigation. Some devices are used specifically to debunk phenomena and establish clear natural causes; while others have the purpose of capturing evidence- such as voice and video recorders. EMF detectors have a unique function of being used both for the debunking and the signifying of paranormal activity.

However, regardless of how expensive or scientific the tools, they are only as scientific as the person using it; a team may boast about owning the most sophisticated thermometer available, but if members are using it as a barometer, the measurements are worthless; Just as using a calculator doesn’t make you a mathematician, using a Geiger counter doesn’t make you a scientist. In the wrong hands the most accurate measurement device is nothing more than an expensive toy.

All paranormal research groups have their own unique procedures and instruments of choice. Some are religiously-based and use age-old tools and techniques; some consider themselves ultra-modern and use only the most expensive and scientific of equipment. Most groups, however, fall somewhere in the middle; and the tools, techniques, and even the very members come from a vast array of backgrounds, philosophies, and religions. The make-up of these groups and the tools they use are contingent on finances, personal preference, and practicality.

We’re all familiar with EMF detectors, and I’ve gone over at length the ins and outs of video and audio equipment; but as I mentioned earlier, some of these tools are of a more arcane nature and we’ll focus on that this time around.

The use of dowsing rods for various functions goes back thousands of years. They have been used to find water in new settlements, material objects, fortune telling, and various religious applications. Essentially, a pair of L-shaped metal rods made of brass or lightweight metal are held loosely in each hand and will remain straight or static during normal conditions, but when in the presence of paranormal activity they will begin to move erratically or cross when directly over, near, or in direct contact with paranormal activity. Interestingly, during the Vietnam War, U.S. Marines even used dowsing to locate weapons and tunnels.

Traditionally, the divining rod was a Y-shaped branch from a tree or bush. Different cultures preferred the branches come from particular trees- hazel twigs in Europe and witch-hazel in the United States. Branches from willow or peach trees are also common. Both skeptics and many of dowsing’s supporters believe that dowsing apparatus have no special powers, but merely amplify unnoticeable movements of the hands resulting from the expectations of the dowser. This psychological phenomenon is known as the ideomotor effect and boils down to basic mind over matter. Your mind is signaling the muscles in your body to make subtle movements that are unnoticeable to the naked eye. Some supporters agree with this explanation, but insist that the dowser has sensitivity to the environment; other dowsers say their powers are paranormal.

The American Society of Dowsers admits that “the reasons the procedures work are entirely unknown.”

Research focusing on possible physical or geophysical explanations for dowsing has been conducted in recent years. For example, Russian geologists have made claims for the abilities of dowsers, which are difficult to account for in terms of the reception of normal sensory cues. Some authors suggest that these abilities may be explained by postulating human sensitivity to small magnetic field gradient changes. One study had even concluded that dowsers “respond” to a 60 Hz electromagnetic field, but this response does not occur if the kidney area or head are shielded.

Whatever the evidence for or against, dowsing will undoubtedly continue to be used in the course of investigations. Those that swear by their results will present evidence to support their claims, and skeptics will chuckle at the “superstitions of ages past.”

Another example of this type of tool is the pendulum. A pendulum is a small dowsing tool composed of a dangling crystal or metal plumb which is used to answer questions or find things through psychic energies. Answers are determined by the direction of movement to preset variables; the most common formation is back and forth for yes, circular for no. Pendulums are used in much the same way as dowsing rods and similar to function and result. Due to its design of both answering specific questions and ability to detect or be affected by paranormal activity, the pendulum can be considered a hybrid between the centuries-old dowsing rod and the Ouija Board of Spiritualist fame. Skeptics also point out the high probability of the ideomotor effect.

One device I have to mention, as it’s come up in conversation a lot lately, is called the Ovilus.

This odd gadget blends the psychic and the scientific into an all-in-one tool- an EMF, audio recorder, dowsing rod, and K-II that turns EMF into phonetic speech by translating the readings into numbers, and those numbers into words, sounding them out using text-to-speech algorithms via a vocabulary of 512 words.  Various modes include speech mode, using the environment to pick the words to say; phonetic mode, using the environment to create words phonetically; commutation mode, using speech mode and phonetic mode together, EMF Mode; yes/no mode, to ask questions and get yes or no answers (a digital Ouija?); level mode, to watch the energy change in the environment; and dowsing mode, to work like a pair of dowsing rods.  It is equipped with something called the Paranormal Puck.  The Puck is designed to aid in paranormal research and meant to be the “center” of investigation.  A place to gather, log, track, and maintain the data it watermarks to prevent tampering.

Every time I try to justify this thing, all I can picture is Dug and the other dogs from Disney’s Up!

Users note that it can be “randomly repetitious” at times by stating selected words for every question asked and every environment investigated.

The first question that comes to mind is how can the inventor of this device possibly test the results?  Whatever formula they use to equate EM energy with words would have to start as an arbitrary guess.  It would then need to be tested repeatedly to verify the results.

In the end, the most important thing to take away from this is that whatever tools or techniques you or your group are using, as long as it is used correctly and truthfully then happy hunting.

So, dear readers, what kind of experiences have you had using these types of tools? As always, the floor is now yours. Please share.

© 2011 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

“Is Peche Island Cursed?”

Last month I brought to light some interesting legends surrounding Detroit’s famous Belle Isle, but just off shore, a little more than a mile east, lies the small untapped wilderness known as Peche Island.

According to descendants of the French family, who once settled the island for nearly 100 years, Peche Island remains untouched even while existing in the middle of urban sprawl for one very good reason: it’s cursed.

The Native inhabitants tell a legend of how Peche Island was formed.

The spirit of the Sand Mountains, along the eastern coastline of Lake Michigan, had a beautiful daughter whom he feared would be abducted. To protect her, he kept her floating in the lake inside a wooden box that was tethered to the shore.

The South, North and West Winds fought over this maiden, eventually creating a huge storm, in which she drifted away to wash up at the shore of the Prophet, the Keeper of the Gates of the Lakes, at the outlet of Lake Huron. Needless to say he was pretty happy to find the beautiful castaway.

The Winds soon found her and conspired to destroy the Prophet’s lodge. The lodge, along with the maiden and the Prophet were pulled into the water eventually drifting through Lake Saint Clair to the Detroit River. The remnants of the lodge formed Belle Isle and the old Prophet became what is now Peche Island.

In 1789, Ontario was comprised of five regulatory districts. The Board of the Land Office for the Windsor region needed title to the island, which happened to be in the hands of the First People. A treaty was reached in 1790 for lands in the western Ontario peninsula, but it excluded Peche- possibly because the Ottawas, Chipewas, and Hurons who signed the treaty wished to retain the island as a fishing ground.

Local businessmen “failed to notice” that the island was not among the lands transferred to the Crown, and began petitioning for grants for ownership. Among them was Alexis Maisonville. He eventually obtained a defacto title to the island and it became known as Maisonville’s Island.

The first permanent residents of the island were a French Canadian family named Laforet dit Teno. Historical documents- primarily the notebook of surveyor John Wilkinson- placed their arrival somewhere between 1800 and 1812.

Direct descendant Irvin Hansen Dit Laforet believes they settled the island even earlier. In his article, “Peche Island: Occupancy and Change of Ownership 1780-1882” he describes how Jean Baptiste Laforest was granted the island in 1780 for his service in the British military as a guide and interpreter. No documents have ever been discovered to confirm the theory, however.

They began raising a family on the eastern shore, while sharing the island with a group of natives inhabiting the western side. According to Laforest family legend, Jean gained ownership of the island along with the exchange of livestock.

By 1834, Charles and Oliver Laforet (the use of an ‘s’ was dropped by later generations) continued the family presence on the island. In 1857, Peche Island was officially transferred to the Crown by the Chippewas, but there no grant applications because most locals believed that the island legally belonged to the Laforet family as evidenced in the official minutes for the Essex County Council in June 1868.

The last Laforets on the island were Leon (Leo) Laforet and his wife Rosalie Drouillard.

Leo, the grandson of Jean Baptiste, was born on the island in 1819. He and Rosalie raised livestock, grew crops, and engaged in commercial fishing. Rosalie also made straw hats that they sold in Detroit. The couple had 12 children, the last being born in 1880.

In 1867, when a deed for the land could not be found, Leon claimed four acres when the island became part of Canada.

In 1870, Benjamin and Damase Laforet, cousins of Leon, contracted with William G. Hall, a Windsor businessman, for commercial fishing. Benjamin filed a quit claim deed giving him squatter’s rights.

Hall applied for a land patent of 106 acres in 1870, basically seizing ownership of the entire island, except for Leo’s four acres, for $2900.

After Hall’s death in 1882, his executor advertised that Hall’s estate would sell the island, with fishing privileges. It was this sale that raised the question of title.

Benjamin Laforet (pictured) became involved in a lawsuit with Hiram Walker over the island.

Walker’s sons purchased the property from the Hall estate on July 30, 1883, as a summer home for their father. Benjamin Laforet filed a claim on August 1st stating that he and his brother Damase had a one-third interest in a certain parcel of land that was described in the patent from the Crown to Hall.

The case was settled and the Hall Estate was authorized by the Supreme Court of Canada to give the Laforets a one-third share of the $7000 that Walker’s sons paid the estate.

Leo Laforet died on September 26 of that same year. According to the Laforet descendants, a group of Walker’s men forced their way into Rosalie’s home and made her and the oldest boys sign the deed over to the Walkers. In Laforet’s article, he states that Walker’s men threw $300 on the table and told Rosalie to be out by spring.

That winter, while Rosalie was in Detroit on business, someone came onto their property and ruined the winter stores. When it was time to leave, Rosalie got down on her knees and cursed the Walkers and the island. “No one will ever do anything with the island!” were her exact words words, according to family lore.

Despite his sons’ hopes that he would retire on the island, Hiram Walker spent years in failed attempts to commercially develop it. He took five years to have canals dug that would allow boats to bring in supplies, and to ensure the inflow of fresh water from Lake Saint Clair. Two yachts were purchased for travelling to the island from Walker’s office and for cruises and parties on the river and lakes.

Walker built what was once a mansion containing some 40-54 rooms by various accounts. He planted hundreds of trees, put in an orchard, and built a greenhouse to cultivate flowers. He also created a golf course, stables, a carriage house, and installed a generator for electric lights.

It was widely thought that this “summer home” in the eyes of his sons was actually Walker’s attempt at opening a resort. His intended market, the high society of Detroit, all spent their time on nearby Belle Isle.

Willis Walker, a lawyer who had handled the purchase of the island, died soon afterwards at the very young age of 28.

In June of 1895, Hiram Walker transferred the land to his daughter, Elizabeth Walker Buhl, due to his declining health. Elizabeth was no philanthropist by any means. Lore tells of an incident where she denied locals from picking the island’s abundant peach crop, a time-honored tradition. She had them dumped into the river, leaving people to collect them by boats.

Hiram suffered a minor stroke before dying in 1899.

Edward Chandler Walker died relatively young in 1915. Prohibition had caused embarrassment for sons and grandsons who were American, but operating a Canadian-based distillery. Not wanting to be seen as bootleggers, they sold their father’s empire in 1926.

Hiram Walker & Sons distillery was purchased by Toronto’s Cliff Hatch in 1926, thus ending the Walker dynasty. The Walker family leaves Walkerville and abandons the town their father founded in 1858. Some remain to this day in the Grosse Pointe area.

The ruins of Hiram Walker’s mansion

Elizabeth Buhl sold the island to the Detroit & Windsor Ferry Company in 1907. The president of the company, Walter E. Campbell, stated that the island would be made into “one of the finest island summer resorts in America,” and that “the big house at the upper end of the island has 40 rooms and will be easily converted into a temporary pavilion at least” according to the Detroit News in the Nov. 11, 1907 edition.

Mr. Campbell apparently died in the home that that same year and the property fell into ruin. In 1929, the house burned to the ground. Some Detroit residents claim that it was directly struck by lightning.

The island legally remained the property to the Belle Isle & Windsor Ferry Company but after 1939 it transferred to the company’s successor, the Bob-Lo Excursion Company. The island remained deserted except for a few picnickers, young lovers, and rumrunners during Prohibition.

It is believed that the Bob-Lo Company bought the island to deter development of competition to the Bob-Lo Island amusement park, which closed down in .

Peche Island was so neglected that in 1955 the employee who guarded the island for the Bob-Lo Company spent his spare time fishing for sturgeon, trapping muskrats, and hunting ducks without care or consequence.

Despite efforts by various local groups to have the island purchased by the government for use as a park, the Bob-Lo Company retained ownership until 1956 when it was sold to Peche Island Ltd. with plans of creating a posh residential area. With this goal in mind, the remains of the Walker house were removed in 1957. The scheme was abandoned that same year, reportedly because of a lack of suitable landfill.

Other proposals for the island followed; and, in 1962, Detroit lawyer and investor E. J. Harris purchased it. His plan included dredging the canals and creating a ski hill and protective islands. A few years later, Sirrah Ltd. purchased the island and its water lot, despite strong resistance by many Windsor groups who wished to see the island turned into a public park. Under the direction of E. J. Harris, Sirrah began work on an elaborate park area for the island. Several buildings, sewage, and water facilities were constructed, and phone lines were installed. The project operated for one season with ferry boats. Due to mismanagement, Sirrah declared bankruptcy in 1969, also losing the 50-acre Greyhaven estate in Detroit.

Riverside Construction purchased the island with the similar idea of developing it into a residential area or commercial recreation park that would have included a marina, but due to financial restrictions, they were forced to sell the island.

In 1971, due to lobbying by local conservationist groups, the island was purchased by Government Services with the department of Lands and Forest as the managing agency to be used by natural science students. The agency planned to spend several million dollars on the installation of nature trails, picnic shelters, and related features, but without funds, in 1974, the property was designated a Provincial park for administrative and budget purposes.

Currently the island is owned by the Canadian city of Windsor as a municipal park; the city has no immediate plans to develop it, apart from bathroom facilities. Other than part of the foundation of Hiram Walker’s mansion, a picturesque bridge, some canals, and random piles of bricks, it looks much the way it was before the Laforets were forced off the island and Rosalie proclaimed her curse.

So, fellow explorers, did Rosalie’s curse come true? Or not?

Sources: The Walkerville Times, The Detroit News

© 2012 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

 “Haunted Hotels”

 

 

Most fans of horror know that the backdrop of Stephen King’s classic The Shining was prompted by the wordsmith’s stay at the famous Stanley Hotel. Contrary to popular belief, King was living in Boulder at the time and did not write the novel while staying at the hotel- unlike the character of Jack Torrance, immortalized on screen by Jack Nickolson. He had the idea after staying in room 217 of the almost-empty hotel on the night before it closed for an extended period.

The legend continues, though, and many believe it to be haunted, reporting any number of ghostly encounters- primarily in the ballroom- during their stay.

The Ghost Hunters television show was invited to investigate at the hotel, where the manager gleefully showed them the various places where these alleged activities have occurred.

To their credit, TAPS discovered some rational reasons for the various phenomena, such as wind and old pipes. However, they could not decipher incidents in the ballroom.

The Stanley Hotel was also on call for the Ghost Adventures show in October of 2010.

After hearing claims that paranormal activities at the hotel are due to the geological makeup of the location, Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society (RMP) contacted the USDA for information on the site. The scientists’ conclusion, based on a satellite survey of Colorado, showed “nothing unusual about the aeromagnetic data in the area of Estes Park as compared to that general area of the Rockies.”

The Skeptical Inquirer’s Naked Skeptic column, by Karen Stollznow, discussed RMP’s investigation: “During the investigation, The RMP researched popular beliefs and claims; they solved some mysteries, they performed valuable outreach, and they maintained the historical integrity of the Stanley Hotel. However, they didn’t discover any anomalous phenomena. They found a leak in the ceiling but no ghosts.”

It would seem that the science doesn’t back up the fantasy, as most of the activity is dismissed.

Nevertheless, the legend has helped keep The Stanley in business as a result and they perpetuate the excitement (or feed the imagination/sensitivities of guests) by showing the uncut R-rated version of Kubrick’s The Shining on a continuous loop on Channel 42 of guest room televisions.

In the movie 1408 John Cusack plays an author who travels to supposedly haunted hotels and then writes about the paranormal activity, providing both the hotel’s guest list and his book sales a boost in the process.

Hollywood continues to affect reality as haunted hotel investigations and tours have seen a dramatic increase in recent years.

It’s big business for all involved- paranormal groups get to come in and do their thing, guests are intrigued by the promise of a spooky encounter, and the hotels get free marketing out of it all, no matter what the results may be.

Entire packages are sold to groups, or individuals, who can come stay at a reportedly haunted hotel and go on “haunted” tours. Try typing in “ghost tours” into a search engine sometime. I did and instantly received 6.3 MILLION results. Big numbers; big business; and folks naïve enough to shell out cash for a thrill- a recipe for success.

Here in Detroit we have the famous Whitney mansion, now a posh restaurant, which has an exclusive agreement with a specific paranormal group. Isn’t that advantageous for both parties? The Whitney gets to perpetuate their “haunted” history, the group gets to claim bragging rights, and no one can come in to back up or refute the claims. That’s a brilliant marketing strategy that the public eats up- literally and figuratively. That helps explain why the Whitney can charge so much for their dinners and desserts.

The USA Today posted an article last year highlighting Travelocity’s Top 10 Haunted Hotels and part of my web search landed me on the steps of the Crescent Hotel in Arkansas that reports to be haunted.

Staff members receive regular reports from guests revolving around Room 424 and Room 202. The most famous haunted spot is Room 218, where several guests and employees have encountered strange sounds and sensations in the room such as doors slamming shut and some people have claimed to be shaken awake at night.

In a clichéd tourist attraction of “guests who checked out but never left,” the Crescent holds ghost tours nightly at 8 p.m. Ticket prices at $18 for adults and $7 for children 12 or under.

If you’re in a professional ghost hunting group, or just a traveler that wants a fun adventure, make sure you thoroughly investigate a location before spending your hard-earned money.

Places like the Marbella Hotel have received terrible reviews by former guests about the less-than-stellar conditions including AC leaks, nasty, old furniture, dirty floors, wall tears, and debris throughout the hotel; not to mention rare cases of any actual paranormal experiences. One might have to consider that the haunting stories are just a ruse to gain business.

The 16th Century British poet and farmer, Thomas Tusser, was quite correct when he penned the famous line, “A fool and his money are soon parted.”

 

Sources: Wikipedia, IMDB, USA Today, tripadvisor.com

© 2012 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

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