Fright Night at the Museum
“Have you ever noticed the lights flickering in the Barry House at night or felt a presence as you wandered through the building? Come out to the Museum on Friday and Saturday night to hear the gang from Paranormal People talk about what they do and share a few ghost hunting stories and then stick around at 8 pm to join them in your own night at the museum adventure as you get hands on and search for spirits in the Barry House. The cost is $10 for just the lecture and $20 for the lecture and participation in the investigation. Space is limited and $20 tickets for the investigation must be purchased in advance.”
They say that on Halloween, the veil between this world and the next is at it’s thinnest. So when I saw the Facebook invitation to Fright Night at the Museum back in September, I thought how perfect, and then did what I normally do…I clicked on maybe interested and forgot about it. This is a relatively recent habit of mine, probably a reaction to working life when everything was so finely scheduled, but now that I am retired and have acres of time I am reluctant to commit to things so far in advance. Who knows what I may feel like doing that day? Unfortunately, by the time I remembered and had recruited some friends to join me, (no way was I driving home alone after what was bound to be a spooky night), the house part was sold out. I guess they really did mean space was limited…..to 14 people. Oh well, not meant to be.
The next week I met one of the new part time librarians, and it turned out she was the curator of the museum….what a coincidence! It must be the universe, telling me I should go. I told her I was thinking about writing a blog, hoping this might score me some points, but she said they already had a big waiting list, so I bought a ticket from her for the lecture only, thinking I could always change my mind later. My friends had backed out by then, no one wanting to drive all that distance for a one hour talk and I couldn’t blame them. At any rate it might be interesting to see the ghost-hunting equipment. She said either night would do, they had space for 50 people, but had only sold 14 tickets for each night……um. Normally this small museum is only open in the summer but has a winter lecture series with topics of local interest. I had attended a talk there previously on The Great Lakes Storm of 1913, because I had a great uncle who died on one of the ships. As well as the museum and cultural centre, there is also the Barry house beside it, built in 1881 and decorated inside like a typical Victorian home of the era – 1880-1920. I had toured the house a few years before during a Blueberry Social Sunday, as they had an exhibit of one hundred antique dolls someone had donated to the museum and my mother wanted to see the Shirley Temple/Betty Boop dolls. My mother really enjoyed the house, especially the kitchen as it was full of furnishings she recognized from growing up in the Depression – the old wood stove, an icebox, etc. I remember the tour guide mentioning that the house was supposed to be haunted, but I certainly did not feel any presence at the time. (It was the middle of a summer afternoon, the ghosts would be sleeping, they are nocturnal creatures). Several people had died in the house, the owner, his wife, and a small child, but that would not be uncommon in that age, as people did not go to the hospital to die. If you were Irish Catholic like my farm ancestors, you may even have held the wake at the house and had the body laid out in the parlor.
Friday morning, I woke with a bad case of the flu. Although disappointed, I was in no shape to go anywhere other than from the bed to the couch and back again. As well, it was raining, and very windy, and it turned into a thoroughly miserable dark and stormy night, (although lacking the lightening necessary for a classic haunted house scenario). It must be the universe telling me to stay home. I did – it’s important to listen when the universe speaks, especially when you have a fever and ache all over. Best to leave the ghost-hunting to the more able-bodied souls.
A few days later I telecommunicated with the Paranormal People (the old-fashioned way via email), to see if they had encountered any ghosts, and they said to watch for the Podcast and video to follow. So, I’m sorry to disappoint that I have no first-hand experiences to relate, merely some thoughts about this and other hauntings.
Summary of Podcast:
The five Paranormal People (think your classic geek squad, but big and solid guys with nerves of steel), split up on Night One – one team went upstairs, one down. They said the found all those antique dolls particularly creepy – think Chucky from those old horror movies multiplied times one hundred, all those eyes staring out in the dark. They found it colder upstairs, which was odd. They had been in the house a few years ago, and found nothing major, although they “felt a vibe”, and tonight was not much different. The Echovox was quiet for the one group, (it didn’t want to talk to him), and spit out nothing but gibberish for the other group when they switched, although when asked how many people were there, said 12. (Not all ghosts are good at math). It also said his name twice and the museum. The Spiritbox was a zero. The K-2 meter went off downstairs but it was found to be a ground wire problem in the office. They said part of their mission is to debunk issues – to explain things logically if they can. On their website they say they don’t charge for paranormal investigations, this is a voluntary thing for them investigating haunted places. They mostly do private investigations for home owners, but occasionally when they are doing a public reading such as this, a ghost will attach himself to a guest, so instead of hearing from the house ghost, you may hear from a guest’s ghost. (Kind of like BYOB only in this case – bring your own ghost). And this is exactly what he says happened on Night Two. Someone named Clara spoke on the Podcast and said she heard her name Clara on the Echovox numerous times, and also her name from a previous life, (obviously already a convert). She felt a strong presence in the room upstairs, “someone wanted to talk to me” and recognized his voice. The K2 meter went up when this was happening. It went higher when they asked it to verify. Clara was “buzzed” and was going to buy her own Echovox. He said all this ghost-hunting equipment can be easily purchased on Amazon and E-Bay although some of it is expensive. He seemed most concerned that everyone had enjoyed themselves and had a good time.
I am still waiting for them to post the video, as one of the crew was taping parts of the evening.
I did a bit of research on some of this ghost-hunting equipment and remain skeptical, especially after I read an article debunking it via a reasonable scientific explanation. (Once a scientist, always a scientist). Ghost hunters use EVP’s (Electronic Voice Phenomena) for demonstrating the existence of the paranormal, either EchoVox, Spirit Box or a digital recorder. They ask questions and wait for a reply. These devices are phoneme generators and they take advantage of the fact that the human brain is pre-programmed to latch on to any shred of a word and turn it into a real word or phrase, something with meaning. EchoVox is a cellphone app type program which has a database of phonemes, and Spirit Box picks up it’s phonemes from surrounding radio broadcasts. Phonemes are parts of words, and with 44 of them, you can make almost every word in the English language. When you have a lot of phonemes being thrown at you randomly, some of them will begin to sound like words, because your brain database subconsciously matches it according to context (your expectation), and then delivers the product (a whole word or sentence) to your conscious mind. Basically, your brain can interpret and perceive patterns out of randomness, a process called Audio Pareidolia. I experienced this myself when viewing a video on the Paranormal People website before I had done any research, and thus was as unbiased as a first impression can be. The Paranormal Person was in some other haunted house and asked if there was anyone there who needed help? (Yes, ghosts need help, otherwise they wouldn’t be stuck here between two worlds). And then I heard help, help, help, (I guess that’s why they call it an Echovox, if you don’t hit the delay on the recording it echos), which the PP guy interpreted as an answer and reassured the poor soul, yes we can help you. (We are Ghost-busters!) There was a suggestion, and then the expected answer. We hear what we expect to hear, but if you listen to the audio reply without the context, (the questions or video), it just sounds like a bunch of gibberish. K2 meters detect spikes in electro-magnetic energy, as indicated by a range of multi-colors lights at the top of the meter which may signify activity or communication from spirits from the other side. If you buy into the theory we all turn into energy after we die I suppose it is plausible….but they found a faulty ground wire, so that too may be subject to interpretation. I am not convinced, but it would be interesting do more research, or hear about other people’s experiences.
While I may have chosen to disregard Clara-with-the-previous life who so obviously wanted to believe, there was one anecdote on the podcast told by a member of the audience, and this is the kind of thing that is spookier to me than all the rest. A woman told a story about driving late at night and hitting a girl with long blonde hair, but when she stopped the car she could not find the body – there was nothing at the side of the road or in the ditch. She was sure she had hit someone, so being very shook up, she contacted the police, but the police officer said not to worry about it, a girl had been killed previously on that road and they had received several similar reports over the years usually around the anniversary of her death. There was no damage to her car, but when she drove to her mothers, the dog went crazy, clawing at the front of the car. It’s difficult to disregard this kind of story, where more than one person has experienced the same thing in the same place. I do recall several young girls being killed in that area in the past, one while rollerskating at dusk, she was hit from behind by an elderly woman, another a young girl who was killed while trick or treating by a drunk driver who fled the scene. So perhaps the universe sent me this miserable flu, so I might lie on my nice comfy couch in my nice warm house and not encounter any phantom girls haunting the river road on my drive way home. Sometimes it’s all in how you wish to interpret things, but I’m glad I stayed home.
While not all old houses are haunted, the ones which are tend to be over a hundred years old, and it is usually those who have some unfinished or unpleasant business in their past. Something awful has happened to keep the departed tethered to this place and this life. They are setting up a film shoot in another town nearby, for a teenage scream movie and the house they have chosen is the perfect setting. A twenty room Victorian mansion at the edge of town, covered by a maze of creepers and overgrown trees, it has been abandoned for over half a century. Someone bought it a decade ago with the aim of renovating it into apartment units, but there was a fire and the roof caved in from the water and he lacked the funds to continue. It really should be classified as a heritage building but no one can afford to fix it up to it’s former glory. They had to get permission from the town to let the grass grow all summer and the other day when I drove by, they were setting up ladders outside. Yesterday in the paper there were photos of the film crew, with lots of mist generated in the background to make it look extra creepy. Giant lights suspended from a crane illuminated it, casting an eerie glow – and are those zombies on the front lawn?
The house has a ballroom which occupies one of the upper floors, and every time I drive pass, I have a visual image of the ghosts waltzing on Halloween to the strains of an orchestra. While I have never heard that this house is haunted, it certainly would qualify.
There is another Victorian mansion nearby which does have a reputation for being haunted, although when a paranormal group visited there a few years ago, they failed to register anything untoward. Bequeathed to the city by it’s former owners, it now houses a thriving arts centre. They are always looking for people to staff the art gallery, but I would never volunteer there, even for the afternoon. It’s okay to visit on a First Friday when there is a crush of people around, but the elevator has been known to go up and down on its own, and strange things have happened in the turret room upstairs where they hold small concerts at night. The ghost is female, and haunts the attic. Too spooky for me, but I hope she appreciates the art.
My mother told me recently that in her early married years in the old farmhouse they used to hear footsteps on the upstairs staircase at night. I never felt uncomfortable growing up there, although we never went into the attic when we were younger. The attic door was adjacent to my bedroom, and occasionally it was ajar a bit, but we knew it was just a draft that blew it open, as the latch was flimsy. The small peaked attic, crammed full of old antiques, was over the original log cabin part of the house (1849), which was joined by a partition to the newer part of the house (1880). Old farm houses were either yellow brick or white clapboard like ours, with additions added as families grew. As my great-grandparents had nine children, perhaps it was haunted by one of them (below), but certainly by the time we were old enough to sleep upstairs, any ghosts had long departed, driven away by a gang of noisy children.
While I do believe there are unexplained paranormal happenings, and strange links exist between here and the afterlife, I remain skeptical that this kind of investigation can be quantified by communication devices in a public atmosphere. Unlike some medical people, I do not discount near-death experiences, (despite some perfectly plausible scientific explanations for such), and in fact read extensively on this phenomenon after a death in my own family many years ago, (I found it comforting). But then NDE’s are a whole other topic. Whatever you chose to believe is a personal choice – I prefer to believe in ghosts, but not ghost-busters. However, it is one thing to believe in a spiritual afterlife, (even if we just change into orbs of light or energy), but another to try and make contact with it. Ghosts are not easy to summon. They don’t wish to be hunted down. My philosophy is if they want to get a message to you, they will, not the other way around. Still, if the Paranormal People were to return next year, and I can attend, I remain open to being convinced otherwise. At the very least, a fun night was had by all….except for the ghosts, but seriously can you blame them. Do you really expect ghosts can be coaxed out when 14 people are staring at them? I think of ghosts as anti-social creatures at the best of times, (well except perhaps when they are dancing). While the veil may be thin on All Hallow’s Eve I bet most of them fear for their lives….all those weirdos on the streets! Happy Halloween and may all your hauntings be pleasant ones!
Do you have any paranormal experiences you would care to share?
Movie of the Day: Magic in the Moonlight – if you have not seen this 2014 Woody Allen film about seances and the paranormal, it is a visual treat. Set in the south of France in the 1920’s, the scenery and fashions are absolutely gorgeous, plus it stars two of my favorite actors, Colin Firth and Emma Stone. Break out the Ouija board!
A Gothic Read for Halloween
Here’s a spooky book to read while handing out the Halloween candy….and a link to last years blog on decorations, Come In For A Spell.
(I had not intended on doing a Halloween post other than this short book recomend, but the opportunity arose for A Visit with the Paranormal – so stay tuned for Fright Night at the Museum early next week).
The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I had enjoyed British Crime Writer, Ruth Ware’s earlier books (In a Dark Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10) but found this one very slow going at the start, to the point where I thought I might abandon it altogether, but I am glad I stuck with it because the ending was brilliant. The stage must be set, but I don’t know if we needed seventy or so pages to establish the protagonist as poor, cold and alone, and then the next seventy pages to establish the Gothic mansion as decrepit, cold, creepy and full of magpies…and well Gothic. I noticed she used the same descriptions over and over……her breath huffing in the frosty air……the cold draft at the window…..shivering in the rain etc……it made me long for a cuppa hot tea. But once the story got going, it took flight just like those menacing magpies…..and I couldn’t put it down. Even though I had guessed part of the ending half-way through, there was still a surprise twist. Jolly well done.
Add the soundtrack from some classic Hitchcock….
Come in for a Spell
Song of the Day: Thriller – Michael Jackson – click here for music link
I am sorry to say that I have become one of those people who hide inside on Halloween…..you know those cheap miserly souls who turn off the lights and pretend they’re not home. Only last year the three little girls from across the street came pounding on the door while it was still daylight, and I do mean pounding (the idea of someone not celebrating Halloween being foreign to them), so I managed to scrape up some change for I had not sunk so low as to have resorted to giving out apples. I used to do Halloween – I used to buy 120 bags of Cool Ranch Doritos or Cheetos, and the same number of chocolate bars when there were lots of kids in my neighbourhood, but they have all grown up. Then when my mother moved off the farm to a subdivision loaded with kids, I did Halloween there, until her hip surgery when she could no longer get to the door, and I started working evening shifts. I remember it being fun, checking out all the different costumes. I have an old box of costumes in the basement somewhere, pirates and witches and gypsy things, but none of that is in style anymore. I should throw them out, but for some reason whenever I clean up the furnace room, back in they go. The kids were always excited to get something other than stale bags of chips, but the chocolate bars got smaller and smaller over the years – I am sure by now they must have disappeared entirely and all you get is the wrapper.
Usually Halloween would be cold and rainy, but wasn’t that part of the fun, walking around the neighbourhood with your friends at a time you would not normally be out. It was such a miserable windy night two years ago that looking out the upstairs den window periodically I saw exactly one spook the whole evening. I always worry when only one spook shows up at the door – wouldn’t it be lonely or scary to go alone? Do parents even let their kids go out on Halloween anymore, or is it safer at the mall or at a class party? When I grew up in the country, my mother drove us up and down the line to the neighbouring farms, where we went inside and made them guess who we were, and sometimes even if they had guessed right we would solemnly shake our heads no. Then we were treated to popcorn balls and fudge and all manner of delightful homemade treats. The only year we begged our mother to take us into town afterwards (we had heard you got more candy in town), we got the dreaded apples – the saviour of those who have run out. Our costumes were home-assembled, ghosts and witches and tramps, since everyone knew everyone anyway, but with those hot plastic masks which made it difficult to breathe, we thought we were well disguised. Occasionally someone along the line (blamed on the older boys) would push over an old outhouse or shed, but other than that there was no vandalism, just a bit of nighttime mischief. We ate our Halloween candy too – the best first, then portioning out the rest over the next few weeks, saving those awful molasses Halloween Kisses for last. I wonder if they still make those? What do parents do with all that stale candy now that kids aren’t allowed to eat candy?
If I’m going to do Halloween properly this year I will need some new decorations. I don’t have much in the way of decorations – an ugly rat I used one year to scare my assistant – I put it on top of her computer terminal and she jumped sky high.
A sign that caught my eye at Winner’s one year – Come Inside For A Spell. My mother painted a witch picture for me so these will help decorate the front door.
She also did Ghost Barn which is currently in a juried art show and they liked it so much they asked to keep it on display over the winter.
Recently I saw a black candy bowl with a bony arm that reached for you when you took the candy and a battery operated scary voice – but it was $25 and might scare the little ones. I once had a Count Dracula that spewed bubbles out of its mouth when you walked past it and that was a great hit, but the battery died after a few years. My little 5 year old neighbour advised me that the dollar store is the best place for decorations, so I bought a ghost to hang in the birch tree (best on a windy night),
and a black spider web for the front door.
One of my fondest memories of trick or treating in the country was getting homemade treats, so I think Rice Crispy squares will be just the thing for those three little spooks from across the street, along with their Cheetos and Doritos….and maybe some microwave fudge…
PS. They say that on All Hallow’s Eve the veil between this world and the spirit world is very thin. Speaking of spirits, my first WordPress follower, Janowrite has a blog on ghost stories and the paranormal. Here’s a link to her website and her books. https://bookemjanoblog.wordpress.com/ Please pay her site a visit as I am sure this must be a favourite time of year for her. I found it kind of uncanny that my very first follower would deal with the paranormal as I had only made the blog public a week previous and was feeling kind of discouraged and thinking I might give up. (In truth it was more time consuming than I had thought). Then last month at a craft show, I had an interesting conversation with two ladies who had a psychic booth. They were selling crystals and stones and I had stopped to look at their jewelry, and picking up their business card, asked if they did housecleaning too. (I did not have my glasses on). They laughed and said they did clearing, as in helping people who had died get to the afterlife if they were having difficulty, kind of like an escort service for stuck souls. Then the other day, a picture of my dad’s tombstone randomly showed up at the top of my picture file, a picture I had not seen for over ten years. I wondered if it was a sign from the afterlife that I should continue? If you’ve had three signs, you should pay attention. Happy Halloween and may the only Ghosts you see be kindly spirits.
If you are looking for something to read in between handing out treats the book, I See You, is highly recommended.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A murder mystery thriller perfect for reading on Halloween night in those lulls between handing out the candy…..ok maybe not such a good idea. Guaranteed to have you double checking all the locks before you go to bed, and I personally ended up deleting all personal pictures from social media. I liked the fact that the characters were flawed, which made the ending so much more delicious – a real treat.
Halloween Update: It was a cold night but windy so the ghost was swirling merrily in the tree. Good costumes but nothing exotic, except for one Donald Trump. Lots of leftover candy which needs to be donated as it is rapidly being consumed. I had a helper for the evening as the 9 yr old girl from across the street had both arms in casts, but she could still move her wrists so she helped me hand out candy and we played Go Fish and Crazy Eights in between (funny how those games come back to you). Later after their rounds, her two sisters came over and they collapsed on the couch in a candy induced coma to watch tv….unfortunately I don’t get the Disney Channel so they went home at nine. The Rice Krispie squares were all consumed (because our dad knows you won’t poison us), but I didn’t get around to the fudge…..oh well there’s always next year.