Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ghost Hunt Field Trip - St. Mary's Art Center

Our third and final field trip with the TMCC Paranormal Series was held on October 30, the night before Halloween. We were scheduled to investigate the St. Mary's Art Center (SMAC).

The Daughters of Charity, also known as the Sisters of Charity, served the mining town of Virginia City from 1864 to 1897. Led by Sister Frederica, Sisters Xavier and Mary Elizabeth traveled to the Comstock in 1864 with the directive to open a school and hospital in Virginia City. Other sisters soon followed.

The Sisters of Charity established a small boarding school and orphanage that constantly struggled to keep up with the demand of the community. Within the first year, occupancy of the institution rose to 25 residents and 112 students, all the while maintaining a small number of sisters, only sixteen in 1880. The orphanage largely subsisted on contributions from local citizens who donated money, food, and clothing to the convent.

In 1876, along with the support of Father Patrick Manogue, the Sisters of Charity opened the area's first medical facility: Saint Mary Louise Hospital. The new hospital accommodated up to 60 or 70 patients, and was financed by contributions from some of the area's Bonanza kings, such as John and Mary Louise Bryant Mackay and Mr. and Mrs. James Fair. It was a subscription hospital whereby the miners paid monthly dues for care at the facility.

The Saint Mary Louise Hospital was considered a state-of-the-art facility which contained 36 rooms including five wards and 12 private rooms. The hospital had hot and cold running water and gas lighting. Steam heat was piped to each room. The operating room was located on the ground floor as well as a large kitchen with a range presented by Mrs. James Fair. There was a chapel on the second floor next to the large public ward where patients could hear Mass. The attic floor contained two public wards and two private rooms for servants.

Courtesy of the Nevada Historic Preservation Office

In addition to running the school, orphanage, and hospital, the Daughters of Charity provided a range of social services to a community that was accustomed to mining accidents, shootings, and social disorder. They cared for the sick, the needy, and those requiring spiritual comfort, regardless of religious denomination or cultural background. These practices set them apart from other Catholic religious orders, who practiced social separation. The Sisters of Charity regularly left the facility to care for individuals in their home, workplace or jail.

In the 1890s, the mining industry in Virginia City began to fail, prompting many residents to move from the town. Consequently, the Daughters of Charity closed the convent, hospital, and school in 1897.

The building then became the Storey County Hospital shortly thereafter, when the only other hospital in the area burned down. It operated until approximately 1940 when a fire on the fourth floor forced it to close.

During World War II, all the metal in the building was stripped for salvage for the war effort.The building was abandoned until 1964 when Father Meinecke, pastor of St. Mary’s in the Mountains Church, lobbied the County Commissioners to have the building transformed into an art center. His proposal was approved, and renovation began.

At present, the SMAC is open year round and offers a variety of art classes, tours and overnight stays.

Paranormal reports include an apparition of a woman seen on the upper floors, a child also seen on the upper floors, footsteps, voices, and crying can be heard throughout the building.

Mona and I rode up to Virginia City together. Paula, the other active member of our group was off visiting her daughter in Austin Texas, where they had plans to do a little ghost hunting of their own.

Mona and I were armed with digital voice recorders. I had my Sony Night Shot 35mm camera and Mona had her Sony camcorder. The plan was for the entire group to meet up in the large hall on the first floor where we would be divided into groups, each group investigating a floor for one hour, at which time we would rotate to another floor, giving everyone a chance to investigate the entire building during the night.

Our group consisted of Maureen Hepner, our designated psychic and our technical guides, Nancy and Jim Helsel, Karen, Mona, Jill, Kathy, Julie, a husband and wife whose names I don't remember and myself. Karen, who carries dowsing rods whenever she goes on investigations, lent me a pair to use. Our group began investigating on the first floor, we would work our way up to the second and third floor and end up in the basement.

There was no real game plan to our investigating that night, we just sort of broke off into smaller groups of 2 or 3 people, each group taking a room on the floor we were investigating. Mona and I would go into a room, shut the door, sit down and ask questions, take a few pictures, I would ask questions with the dowsing rods and then we would move to another location. Besides the main hall, the first floor had the chapel as well as about 6 guest rooms; alot to cover in one hour. We repeated this method on each floor.

I have to say that, while I had some personal feelings, sensations, and dowsing hits, my photos and  digital recordings turned up nothing. I believe it was the same for the rest of our group. Maureen, our psychic, did  detect a lot of spirit activity(?) (Sorry, I profess my ignorance here in regards to psychics and what they perceive).

While on the first floor, Kathy and I got some very strong hits with the dowsing rods, while Mona picked up a light anomaly with her camcorder during the same time. Mona had a very strong sensation of a "presense" of some sort in another room on the first floor, and when I used the dowsing rods in the same area, the rods reacted with strong pulling sensations. I had strong hits with the dowsing rods in the attic as well.

What does this mean? Nothing, in and of itself. I don't have enough knowledge or experience with dowsing rods to definitely state what sort of energy they were receiving. This was my first time investigating SMAC, so I was not familiar with the personality that is individual to all old buildings. Do I think it is haunted? I think there is something paranormal about the place, that's for sure. Do I want to return and investigate further? Absolutely. I don't believe an opinion can be formed by one visit, especially with time limits of one hour per floor. One thing I am sure of is, I am committed to learning more about dowsing.

I want to thank TMCC, all the wonderful speakers and presenters and especially Kathy Berry for organizing the Nevada Ghost and Paranormal Series, you all did a great job at providing a wide and varied look at paranormal investigation and all its aspects. I met some great people: Kathy, Janice, Jill, Karen, Maureen, Pride and of course, our newest W.I.G.S. member, Mona. There are more but space is limited. You know who you are. I look forward to next year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Cost of Paranormal Events

I'm seriously behind on my blogging, so I sat down at the computer with all good intentions of catching up. I wanted to check on a few historical facts relating to one of my blogs, and the next thing you know, I'm surfing the web! Amazing how one can get swept away. Needless to say, I never did find what I was looking for. I did however, find some information on a couple of paranormal events happening in our area in the new year. I'm posting two of them to illustrate how these sort of things have become quite a money making venue for some.

The first event I ran across caused my jaw to drop. It is a 4 day event, advertised as "A Paranormal Interest Retreat". It is limited to 30 guests, all who will be staying at the St Mary's Art Center (SMAC). Other investigation sites include The Old Washoe Club, Piper's Opera House, and the Peace Officer's Museum. Sounded interesting, until I saw the cost...close to $400! Yikes! Now in defense, the organizer posted this:

"Ticket price is set at $380, which MAY sound spendy at first but please bear in mind this includes four locations and three nights of investigation, three nights of lodging, breakfast all three mornings, event t-shirts, and access to the panel/speakers".

The thing of it is, as a local, this is not a great deal. Hell, it's not even a good deal. Most of us have investigated some, most, or all of these sites. With Reno being only a 45 minute drive, there really is no need to spend the entire night up in VC even after a late night investigation. Breakfast? A bowl of oatmeal and coffee from Starbucks for around $3. I'm not too much into tees, don't wear them. As for access to the panel speakers, I have found that most speakers at these types of events are very accessible anytime via email, and are usually very open to answering questions. I suppose for someone flying in from the east coast, it's a good deal, but my advice to anyone living in Northern Nevada, spend your money elsewhere.

The second event I ran across was more to my liking, and my budget. It is a 2 day event hosted by our very own Janice Oberding. It will be taking place at the haunted Silverland Hotel, with more speakers advertised than the first. And the price for this event you ask? $79. Guess which one I will be attending?

I'm relatively new to the paranormal investigating community. I don't claim to know...anything...really. But in the short time I have spent going to workshops and conferences learning how to conduct investigations, what I have seen causes me concern. From my vantage point as a consumer, I have to break paranormal events down into 2 catagories: One, events run by sincere, experienced people with a real interest in sharing their knowledge with others for a reasonable price. And two, those events that are obviously run to make a buck. The first type of event centers around teaching people the how to's, the second type centers around providing people with AN EXPERIENCE! These types of events don't so much teach, than tempt. Come and rub elbows with ________, star of _________! Go on investigations with _________!

I can only speak for myself, but paranormal investigating is a hobby for me. I still have to punch in hours on the timeclock to pay my bills. And while I make a decent living (enough to pursue my interests in my spare time), I can't afford to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a hobby. As a message for those of you who do promote these types of events, take it from a potential customer, as hobbies go, I want it to be fun, interesting and engaging. What I don't want is my ego stroked by being offered the opportunity to stand in the presense of radio and TV stars, come on, it's only ghost hunting.

For information on these two events, you can go to their websites, which I will post here:

A Paranormal Interest Retreat

Virginia City Paranormal Conference

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Moon

What's with all the vampire movies and television shows nowadays? Don't get me wrong, I love vampire movies. Like every other girl in the world, I like horses and the sexy undead. However, I prefer the Anne Rice/Brad Pitt sort of vampire. Eric Northman on True Blood is pretty hot too. (Getting the idea that this girl likes bad boys?) The Twilight movies and the Vampire Diaries TV series are a little too teen crush for my tastes, what with all that "noble young vampire wanting to be good" story line. (Gag!), but then again, the books were written for a juvenile audience. Still I feel that to truly appreciate the full scope of vampirism, one needs to check out the earlier vampire flicks: Bella Lugosi and later, Christopher Lee. Now those dudes were truly horrifying as well as compelling. Here's the thing, the idea of eternal life, and the severe costs that come with it: the monstrous acts they are forced to commit to sustain themselves, the long lonely eons stretched out before them, never again to feel the sun warm their face, to feel love, be loved, these are the things the story line is getting at, not just about finding the one true love that will save the creature. Maybe that's what teenage girls find so compelling about these sorts of movies: the idea that love, their love, can save the creature; that someone needs them above and beyond all else. That they alone are special. Whatever the case may be, Mariah is bugging me to take her to see New Moon, and I will oblige her. Ever young girl deserves her fantasy, and let's face it, Edward Cullen is hot.

Ghost Hunt - Summit Tunnel No. 6, Donner Summit

My friend and fellow ghost hunter Mona grew up in Truckee, California. She has interesting (and eerie) stories to tell. Truckee began as a supply stop along the transcontinental railroad that was being built in the 1800s. It has a compelling history. Many buildings built back in the 1800s still stand today, and ghost stories abound. Mona had caught some interesting pictures while exploring the Summit Tunnel No. 6, one of the most difficult portions of the railway built. She asked if Paula and I were interested in joining her to investigate the tunnel further. Not knowing much about the history of this area, I went online and found out more about this incredible feat of engineering.


Constructing a railroad 88 miles over the rugged Sierra Range between Newcastle and Truckee, California, took 12,000 men 3 years and 2 months (February 1865 to April 1868). The Sierra crest, the most challenging section, required 14 tunnels to maintain a maximum grade of 105 feet to the mile. The longest and most difficult tunnel was tunnel number 6, Summit Tunnel, under Donner Summit. It was 1659 feet long.

Working conditions near the Summit were extremely hazardous. The Central Pacific Railroad (CPRR) imported Chinese labor to do the work because of their fortitude, endurance and willingness to work for a far less than normal pay. The Chinese laborers worked in shifts around the clock from August 1866 until November 30, 1867. When not working the Chinese had to live in tunnels that they'd carved into the snowdrifts during the winter; makeshift shanties on site during the warmer months. Many of them died.
Despite non-stop digging and 300 kegs of black powder a day, the rock was so hard that the laborers could advance only 8 to 12 inches per day. To expedite the work on Tunnel No. 6, a vertical shaft seventy-five feet deep was sunk so that crews could work four headers, two from the middle out and two towards the shaft. Workers were lowered into the shaft by rope. (There is now a historical marker near the cap on top of the tunnel).

Many laborers lost their lives while setting charges to blast a road bed out of the rock solid cliffs. Chinese railroad workers, assigned the task of blasting tunnels through solid granite, died in untold numbers from black-powder explosions and in avalanches triggered by the blasts. After a year of using blasting powder quite ineffectively against the unyielding Sierra granite, the CPRR deployed a new high explosive called nitroglycerin; probably the first to do so in the United States. Nitro had a nasty reputation for exploding at unexpected times. After several fatal accidents while transporting the explosive, the decision was made to manufacture nitroglycerin on site.

The winters of 1866-7 and 1867-8 were severe in the Sierra. 44 storms dumped nearly 45 feet of snow and generated deadly avalanches. The biggest storm produced 120 inches in 13 days. An avalanche in 1866 wiped out an entire work camp; when the bodies were discovered the following spring, work tools were still clutched in their frozen hands. A slide near Tunnel No. 9 swept twenty Chinese laborers to their death. The following winter was no better. Sub-tropical storms dumped more than 40 inches of rain in December 1867, causing extensive flooding. In early March 1868, a fierce blizzard dumped 10 feet of snow in five days. The Virginia City Territorial Enterprise newspaper stated, “This winter has been pretty rough on the Chinese along the line of the railroad, and a great number of them have been killed and crippled by similar accidents at various points on the road.” Despite the  harsh weather conditions, work continued.

By the spring of 1868 the great railroad tunnel east of Cisco (between Emigrant Pass and Norden) had opened. Only nine miles remained to be built to connect with the rails previously laid at Coburn's (current Truckee). Four thousand men worked continuously for twelve days to complete it. In June, 1868 the CPRR made its first run from Sacramento to Lake's Crossing (Reno, nowadays) at the eastern foot of the Sierra in Nevada Territory. Coburn's burned down the same year and residents quickly rebuilt, renaming the town, "Truckee". The final link in the transcontinental railroad was completed the following year, 1869, at Promontory, Utah. In comparison, the railroad from Truckee across the desert to Promontory, Utah, a distance of 571 miles, took only 5,000 men just one year and 27 days.
The Summit Tunnel was closed down in 1993, after some 130 years of use. The tracks and water sheds are gone. The temperature of the tunnel remains cool year round, and there are standing puddles of water along the floor. Water seeps in from the roof and walls. Dripping water constantly echoes throughout the dark tunnel. Although our investigation was in the late afternoon  and the weather warm, we wore light jackets, sturdy shoes and carried flashlights.

The walls along the tunnel still bear blast marks, and bore holes where explosive charges were set. I got an eerie feeling here, especially when I thought of the countless men who lost their lives here due to explosions. As we advanced further into the tunnel, I marveled at the thought of these same men toiling in the darkness with only candles and lanterns to light their way.
The sound of dripping water, and the crunch of gravel underfoot contaminated my digital recordings. I heard only our footsteps, voices, and an occasional passing car. While we were at the halfway point, just under the vertical shaft, my digital recorder picked up a loud bang. Mona, Paula and I were the only people in the tunnel during this time, and none of us had dropped anything. Directly above us, the vertical shaft is capped by a large metal sheet. I could not rule out something hitting the metal cap and the sound traveling down to us. The noise was picked up on Paula's equipment also, followed immediately with her losing power to her camera. She headed back toward the west entrance, while Mona and I continued east.

Mona's camera kept picking up some unusual light anomalies. There appears to be colored auras around the east entrance and along the nearby walls. I took several pictures of the same area. My pictures show light from the tunnel entrance and reflections off the water, but no auras.

Mona and I headed back toward the west entrance and were met by Paula. Paul's digital recorder had picked up the sound of whispers near the entrance, but we have been unable to make any words out.

As the sun was beginning to set, we decided to end the investigation. Because we did pick up a few sounds we haven't been able to explain, I would really like to return to these tunnels and spend some time just sitting quietly in one spot and record.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Paranormal Activity - The Movie

Went to see the movie, "Paranormal Activity" this week. It's low budget; made for something like $11,000 and is shot in the fashion of "The Blair Witch Project" complete with weird camera angles, nostril shots and hand held camera jitters. If you have a propensity for motion sickness, take your dramamine before going.

The story line is this: A young couple begins hearing strange noises in their house, so the boyfriend goes out and buys a video camera and begins carrying it around and filming their activity during the day, while at night, he sets up the camera at the foot of the bed to film while asleep. The girlfriend apparently has had episodes of paranormal encounters throughout her life, and is a reluctant partner in her boyfriends ghosthunter wannabe activities.

Like "The Blair Witch Project", stuff begins to happen and the couple's fear builds to a shocking climax. Again, like "Blair Witch", the best, and scariest part of the movie is at the end. I felt myself getting impatient while I sat through the first part of the movie, because watching the plot unfold, it wasn't hard to figure out that the ending wasn't going to be pretty.

All in all, I enjoyed it. I much prefer the suspense of a good ghost story over the graphic slasher type of horror that we have become so saturated with nowadays.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ghost Hunt Field Trip: Downtown Virginia City

What would school be without a field trip? As a part of the Nevada Ghost and Paranormal Series, we have been scheduled for 2 field trips in Virginia City, Nevada. The first one was on October 10. The next one is scheduled for October 30, the night before Halloween.

There were probably about 45-50 people signed up for our first field trip. We all met at the Silver Queen Saloon where we we were divided into groups of 7-9, including a tech specialist and a psychic. There were seven in our group: Mona, Jill, Kelly, Cheryl, Paula, myself, and our psychic, Pride. Originally our team included Karen and Gail from the ongoing class, but an emergency prevented them from coming. Gail was to have been our tech specialist, but because most of our group had already been on investigations, we figured we could just wing it. Paula was not slated for our team, but since we were short, we jumped on getting her switched to our team. It wouldn't have been the same without my girl, Paula.

Before heading out to our first destination, Pride asked that we stop for a second and envision the color blue for positive energy and protection for the evening. Once done we proceeded to our first stop: the Comstock's Firemen's Museum. We were met by Kim, storekeeper and fellow paranormal investigator. She gave us a quick history of the building, pointing out areas where she has picked up activity in the past. I asked Jill, our most seasoned investigator what would be her protocol upon first entering a building. She told me that her team would do a sweep with temperature and EMF readings before proceeding with any other investigation. Pretty much standard for any team I have talked with. Well, since this wasn't a formal investigation, we pretty much scattered around the room and did our own thing, taking pictures and video, while the sensitives in the group attempted to pick up on any energy. The digital portion of the upstairs was pretty much contaminated with everyone walking around, talking and laughing (that would be me...I really have to practice quietness). A few cold spots were picked up, personally, I think we were picking up a draft from the stairwell. We headed downstairs and spent a little more time down there. Pride, our psychic, picked up on some spirit energy, which he "gathered" in and let everyone feel. I picked up an unusual piece of audio while  down there, I need to isolate and amplify it before calling it an EVP, though.

When we left the Firemen's Museum, Pride again had us gather in a circle while he checked to see if we had any residual spirit energy hanging onto us. He said he would be "feeling" us all throughout the night. My reponse to that? You don't want to know.

Our second stop, and one of the most interesting of the night was the Mark Twain Bookstore. The bookstore has been owned by the same family since the 1950's. The current owner of the bookstore admitted that while he personally has never had any paranormal experiences there, his mother had always refused to be downstairs by herself. He explained that the entire downstairs area takes up what was originally 3 separate businesses back in the late 1800s: a merchantile, a stable, and the basement vault area of the Bank of San Francisco. He also pointed out that there are the skeletal remains of what has been determined to be a Native American man back in the furthest corner of the bank vault area. Since no local tribe has stepped forward to repatriate the remains, his family has become the caretakers of the skeleton. He took us down into the downstairs area and allowed us free roam of the 3 areas.

In the merchantile area, Pride picked up on some male energy from a chair that was hanging above our heads. Kelly picked up on some energy coming from an old baby buggy. I got nothing on either audio or visual in this area.

The stables still have the original stalls with horses names written on the walls. Pride picked up the energy of a large, not too bright man down there, possibly a stable hand. Cheryl picked on the name of "John". As we walked around to the bank vault area, she spotted the name written on the wall separating the 2 areas. While in the stable area, Pride again picked up some energy off an old barber chair. Mona captured some audio in this area; she emailed me a clip- it sounds like Native chant of some sort, but it's really hard to make out. It was really dusty in this area, so if you see orbs in my pictures, trust me, it's dust. While I was shooting a picture of Pride getting an energy reading off an old mortar and pestle, I caught a shadow across his arm. Later, I was able to determine the shadow coming from someone else's arm in the edge of the picture.

Paula, Mona and I all caught something on audio while back in the vault area. We have been comparing sound clips and we all agree, the first portion of the voice says, "Turn out the light", followed by more whispering and then the word, "door" or "dark". Hmm. Paula also caught some light anomalies while filming the vault (I think it's insects). If interested in viewing the clip, Paula uploaded it to her MySpace page at: www.myspace.com/w_i_g_s  One discovery left me a little disturbed about the place. While back near the skeletal remains, I noticed someone had left a cloth containing a bundle of sage and an eagle feather. As any Native will tell you, an eagle feather is never placed underground... it's like sacrilege. Obviously someone has been playing with things they know nothing about.

After a short dinner break, our group headed to the Mark Twain Territorial Enterprise Museum. An interesting fact shared by the owner of the Mark Twain bookstore is that Samuel Clemens was never in the present newspaper building. The Territorial Enterprise newspaper was bought by Joseph Goodman in 1859 and opened up on the corner of A St. and Sutton. Later, when C St. became the main street in town, the newspaper was moved to the current location. Samuel Clemens came out west at the invitation of his brother Orion, and worked for the newspaper from 1862 until 1864. He then headed to San Francisco. The upper floors of the newspaper building were destroyed by fire in 1875, nine years after Clemens had left Virginia City. The present day building was built in 1876. However, the original press equipment and Samuel Clemens writing desk were not destroyed, and remain intact.

As we descended down into the basement, Cheryl had a negative impact upon seeing the stuffed animal heads on the walls. She opted out of the investigation and returned upstairs.While we were down stairs among the printing equipment, Pride picked up on some child-sized energy. A child spirit? an elemental spirit of some sort? Don't know. I got nothing on visual, I thought I had gotten something on audio, but once I amplified the clip, I determined it to be the noise of a camera flashing. Pride picked up on some sort of energy near Mark Twain's desk, he thought maybe it was coming from an old wooden peg leg. As I bent down to take a closer look at it, I caught a distinct odor of decay. I can't say it came from the fake leg, though. There might have been a dead mouse in the wall for all I know. It was an interesting visit with a lot of history with the old printing presses. After leaving the newspaper, we got another "psychic feel up" from Pride and moved on to our next location.

The Julia Bulette Red Light Museum was a real let down...in oh so many ways. There was no one present to give us any history on the building, the whole area had a neglected air about it, and dust covered everything. Reading the large sign at the bottom of the stair leading into the museum, we discovered that this place has no association with Julia Bulette at all. Apparently, sometime back in the 1950s someone decided to share their disturbing collection of strange and unusual items from brothels, opium dens, and doctors offices from the late 1800s with the public, hence the name: Red Light Museum. I didn't get any audio or visual from this sad little room, and I was glad to be moving on. After leaving this spot, I willing allowed Pride to check my field.

Our final stop for the night was the Silver Queen Hotel. The entrance to the hotel is from the main street and up a narrow, steep stairway. Once on top of the landing, a short hallway leads to the rooms. One thing we noticed right off, the Silver Queen Hotel has a room 13; not usually found in hotels, even modern ones. Room 11 is purportedly haunted by a woman who committed suicide by slicing her wrists while in the bathtub. This room had been rented for our investigation purposes, so we were able to go in and get some audio and visual footage. While in room 11, Pride picked up on the energy of a woman, however, not the woman who had committed suicide. I caught some whispering on my digital recorder, but I ruled it out as Paula and Jill discussing Jill's cool "Toys R Us" night vision video recorder. (I swear Paula was salivating).

A few of us decided to check out the third floor of the Silver Queen as well. One thing that was noticed by everyone of us: the back of the hotel had a "heavy" feeling about it. Pride asked us what we thought of that, and I wanted to know why he was asking us, him being the psychic and all. It's like that old joke about running into a psychic and asking him how you're doing. Okay, so the humor wasn't appreciated.

We were getting a lot of noise contamination from the fundraising party at Piper's Opera House down the street, however, Paula picked up some really strange noise we haven't been able to distinguish. I want to say it's a motorcycle gearing down, except it sounds like it's coming from right between Paula and I. I asked Paula how her Chinese dinner was sitting and she loudly denied any personal body noises. SHEESH. Just because I've mistakenly accused her in the past... Pride picked up a negative energy spirit while we were on the third floor, he described it as a small man, dressed in a dapper fashion that preyed on hotel guests as they slept.

We finished the investigation of the Silver Queen and headed over to Piper's Opera House to meet up with the other groups. The fundraiser was still going on, so the entire class headed back to the Silver Queen to end the night with a short debriefing. The psychics announced that they would be available afterward if anyone felt something or someone had attached to them. According to Pride, something had attached to me. I felt fine. No Klingons here. I chose not to be cleansed, although that didn't prevent the psychic types from feeling up my aura. Mona, Paula and I stuck around to make sure Cheryl was recovered from her, what would you call it, psychic injury? Pride did some sort of energy work on her with good results.

Things I learned? Well for one, I need to keep quiet and really try to remain aware of my surroundings. Two, if we were to do this again, I would say that the psychics need to go into an area seperate from the rest. Three, an initial sweep of an area prior to investigating is important. Four, any audio work needs to be done seperately. And finally, a team needs a lead person. Someone to keep everything and everyone on task. Otherwise, people have a tendency to wander around and forget the focus of what they are doing, and I only speak for myself in this. I had a great time, I loved the group I was with, and I am pretty "psyched" for our next field trip.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Psychic Ghost Hunting Tools- Part 2, Finding My Spirit Guide

No spirit guide for me. Nada, Zip. I spent a few minutes every night for the past week trying to center myself and visualize stuff. I visualized my car, my bedroom, my workplace. I couldn't quite visualize circles of protection, or grounding ropes. I became distracted by the TV or sleep. By Tuesday night, I wasn't so sure I would be able to conjure forth a spirit guide, and I didn't. Oh well. I'm not that disappointed.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Psychic Tools for Ghost Hunting

Sometimes I get into too much of a rush, especially when I am excited about something. I'm one of those people that tear off packaging and throw it, along with the instructions, away in my rush to play with a new toy. Invariably, I'm also one of those people that you see digging through the dumpster later on in an attempt to retrieve soggy, coffee-ground stained directions. When I signed up for the ghost series, I was in a rush. What I thought I read as "Tools for Ghost Investigating" was actually "Psychic Tools for Ghost Investigating". Um...big difference. I'm not a particular fan of psychics, mediums, clairvoyants and what have you. I admit, I'm prejudiced in that way. I lump them all together with palmists, tarot card readers and shady old ladies with crystal balls seeking to part you with your hard earned money. So, while I try to keep an open mind about things, I approached this class with reserve. 

Maureen Hepner, the instructor for this class is a local psychic who seems very genuine in her beliefs. She was warm, open and outwardly, very normal appearing. I liked her from the start. Okay, grant you, she spoke about communicating with spirit guides and visualizing grounding oneself with ropes to the earths core and roses of protection and a whole bunch of other stuff I had no clue about, but it was all very entertaining. The purpose of the class was to develop our intuition and (Jeez, I can't believe I'm writing this stuff!) discover our own personal spirit guides by learning to open our chakas.

The first night of this class we worked on our enegy fields and did an excersise in visualization. Our homework was to go home and continue this work so that next week we can make contact with our spirit guides. While I had fun invading personal space and being invaded (Eww!), I had problems with the visualization. All I could see was the backside of my eyelids (reddish, with a white aura). I had better plan on putting in some time with this if I want to find a spirit guide of my very own.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Paranormal Investigtor II - Silver Terrace Cemetery (Session 1 of 2)

This past Saturday was the second class of the Nevada Ghost and Paranormal Series offered by TMCC. The first session of the class involved a preliminary investigation of the Silver Terrace Cemetery in Virginia City, Nevada.

There were about 15 students signed up. We all met at the Miner's Park, a short walk away from the cemetery. Here we got our instructions from Janice Oberding, divided up into 3 groups of 5; each group having a dowser and at least one person with psychic sensitivity. We introduced ourselves to the others in our group, filled out our investigations logs and proceeded to the cemetery.

Ten cemeteries actually make up the Silver Terrace Cemetery: Masonic, Oddfellows, West End, Firemen's, Silver Terrace, Wilson and Brown, Improved Order of Redmen, Knights of Pythias, City/County, and Catholic. The population of the cemetery is at least triple the population of modern day Virginia City. It's a reminder of the towns glorious past.

Our group which consisted of Gail, her husband Scott, Karen, Mona and myself decided to head toward the Catholic section. Karen had an extra set of dowsing rods with her that she loaned to me. I have never used dowsing rods before so I was anxious to try them out. She explained that you can find or "divine" all sorts of stuff: water, metals, people, and unmarked graves. She also told me that you can communicate with spirits by framing questions in a yes/no format. As we were walking along the path leading to the Catholic cemetery, Gail (our sensitive) suddenly stopped and asked me to use the divining rods along the right side of the road where there were a few grave stones. I headed in the direction she pointed. She told me she was sensing a child spirit. As I approached the spot she had indicated the rods both began pulling in that direction. What a feeling! It was as if the rods had a mind of their own. I was instructed to ask the rods to cross once I was over the grave. I made a minor adjustment in my direction and the rods crossed. Gail asked me to "ask" if there was a spirit present, the rods crossed again. We asked if the spirit was a child. Again the rods gave an affirmitive answer. Boy? No answer. Girl? No answer. Two children? Yes. Twins? Yes. Boys? No answer. Girls? No answer. A boy and a girl? Yes. Gail took a closer look at the grave. It was pretty well hidden under a large sagebrush. She pushed the sage brush aside and found a small metal sign, probably posted by one of the restoration organizations. It listed the grave as holding twins and a date. Creepy? Yes!!

I got to play with the dowsing rods while wandering around the Catholic cemetery and "spoke" to a spirit of a man whose grave looks like it might have slid down the hill on the side of the cemetery due to seismic activity. From our questioning we determined he was Irish and he had contacted us because he was attracted to Karen (Karen has red hair and is half Irish). Maybe she reminded him of a family member (shrug).

We headed up to the Masonic section where according to Janice Oberding, there has been reports of paranormal activity. The high winds prevented us from doing any EVP work that day, so we took several more pictures before heading down to the entrance to meet up with the rest of the class.

Since the second portion of the class is going to be revealing our findings, we didn't really talk about any of the particulars of the investigation, but rather the weather conditions, and any difficulties or obstacles we encountered. Homer, one of the members of the class is an expert dowser and shared the basics of dowsing with us. It's a facinating field and if you want more information go to: http://www.dowsers.org/ the American Society of Dowsers website.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Paula Is Not A Whore

Paula takes great exception to being referred to as a "tech whore". She's says that while, yes, she is addicted to paranormal gadgetry, she wouldn't necessarily sell herself for for a piece of equipment. Okay Tweaker, I won't call you a whore anymore, if you promise to stop scratching yourself every time you browse the surveillance camera aisle of the local spy shop.

Friday, September 18, 2009

GHST102 - Paranormal Investigator I

When I first signed up for the TMCC's Nevada Ghost and Paranormal Series, I really didn't know what to expect. I've been on ghost tours before, usually around Halloween, when most people's curiosity in the paranormal is peaked. I've been to a few lectures and I've visited a few places online, read a book or two and explored a few local spots. I don't consider myself outlandish or weird, and if asked, I would say I am a skeptical believer in the existence of hauntings. I believe most claims can be debunked, however, my own personal experiences have led me to believe that there are some things that just cannot be explained away. Most people, upon hearing that I seek out places that might be haunted, give me a look of disbelief, followed by, "REALLY?", a nervous pause, then a change in subject. Ghost hunting has become my guilty pleasure, not discussed with most co-workers and friends. So, when I showed up for the first lecture, I was pleasantly surprised to see the class was full of like-minded individuals.

Janice Oberding, a historian, author and paranormal investigator, was the featured lecturer. She opened the class with the question: "Are there any skeptics here?" No one raised their hand. Then she asked if anyone belonged to paranormal investigation teams. Quite a few hands were raised (What?! I thought this was supposed to be a beginners class!) There were a number of very knowledgeable investigators in the class. In fact, there were only a couple of people that had not gone out on investigations. This set the tone for the rest of the afternoon's lecture, as Janice was able to discuss equipment without having to give too much explanation, and everyone there spoke "ghosthunter". Janice is really an engaging speaker and full of lots of information and lots of opinions. I liked that; she's sassy.

A few things I came away with after attending her lecture:
No one will probably ever prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that ghosts exist. I believe that. The most staunch nonbelievers will never accept any evidence, no matter how good it is. So why do we investigate? To satisfy our own curiosity.
The best ghost hunting tools are our five senses(or six, depending on who you talk to). Some investigators are absolute tech whores. I am not one of them. I own a digital camera with nightshot, a digital voice recorder and a small flashlight. Sometimes I feel those three items are too much (Hey! I only have two hands!) Most times, I even forget to bring my equipment. But really, what would a good ghost hunt be without "stuff"? I leave that to my W.I.G.S. partner, Paula. She's a tech whore. Digital cameras, IR lights, ambient thermometers, voice recorders, camcorders, K2 meters, EMF detectors, you name it, she's got it, or she wants it. Investigating with her is like a visit to Toyland; and it's time to play!
Every member of a team has a part to play. Mine is research. I love ghost stories, and I love history. Digging into the historical records of a person, place or thing makes it all come alive for me. Exploring a ghost town where people once lived, worked, loved, made babies, laughed with friends, and died fills me with a sense of wonderment of the sacredness and strength of the human condition. But that's me, others would be bored to tears perusing the internet, library and state archives for hours on end.

The lecture ended with a lot of open discussion and networking between individuals. The next class in the series will be in two parts: a daytime investigation up at Virgina City on September 19th, and a follow up class on September 26 to discuss our findings. I am looking forward to it.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Nevada Ghost and Paranormal Series

TMCC is offering a series of eight classes this Fall for the fledgling paranormal investigator, beginning this month and running through October. The series includes:
Paranormal Investigator I on Sept. 12,
Paranormal Investigator II on Sept. 19 and 26,
Psychic Ghost Hunting Tools on Sept. 22 and 29,
EVP Recording the Voices of the Dead on Oct. 3,
Downtown Virginia City Ghost Hunt on Oct. 10,
Scientific Tools to Evaluate the Paranormal on Oct. 22,
Religion and the Paranormal on Oct. 27 and the
St. Mary's Arts Center Ghost Hunt on Oct. 30.

The instructor for Paranormal Investigator I and II will be Janice Oberding: historian, author and paranormal investigator. I attended a lecture she gave about the history of the Cal-Neva Lodge. She is an interesting and knowledgeable lecturer, and for that reason I went ahead and signed up for the series. I am unfamiliar with the other instructors, but it's all good. One can never have enough knowledge or a different perspective on something already learned. Besides, there is several opportunities to investigate, and you just can't get better than that!

Humboldt City, Nevada

Here it is, the end of another beautiful summer. What better way to end the season but by spending a few days investigating a Nevada ghost town? Paula and I tossed around a few possibilites. We've been wanting to get out to Leadville, and Unionville sounded pretty good too, but in the end we settled on Humboldt City; and what a great choice it turned out to be.
Humboldt City is located some 33 miles east of Lovelock, Nevada. The town is situated in a spring fed canyon at the base of the Humboldt Range, nestled among old strands of cottonwood. Remnants of firepits, and adobe and stone buildings dot the landscape. It is a quiet oasis in the middle of the Nevada desert, and one is struck by the quietness of the place-during the day, that is.
The mining settlement of Humboldt City was founded in 1860. Within its short lifespan of 9 years, over a 1,000 silver discoveries were made in the Humboldt City area before its abandonment in 1869. Louis Barbeau was the first miner to settle in the area, having discovered valuable mineral traces. Others soon followed and during its heyday in 1863, Humboldt City had a population of around 500. An article published in the Humboldt Register, May 2, 1863, described the town as:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Geiger Grade Revisited

It is August 11th, night of the Perseids meteor shower. G. and I have made plans to revisit the Geiger Grade lookout for the event. Mariah wants to investigate the weird creature story, and to tell the truth, I am a little curious myself. Will it still be hanging around there after all these years? As we're getting ready for our little excursion, Levi and 5 of his buddies show up and spread out on the deck. G. tells them the story of the creature we saw so many years ago. After a lot of boasting, posturing and shouldering each other, the guys decide that they want to search for the creature too (one of them even made the claim that he would catch it and eat it!). Ah...to be 18 again.

We head out around 12:30 a.m. It takes us about 45 minutes to reach the lookout. There are several vehicles there, other astronomy enthusiasts, scanning the night sky. Our group, 9 in all, head out across the clearing to the far end and up to the stone seat. As luck has it, we have the lookout seat to ourselves. Everyone settles in, a couple on the bench, others perched on the surrounding rock. When the chatter dies down, G. points out the spot where he first spotted the creature. Nando, the kid with the appetite for creature, moves over to sit next to his friends on the bench. We sit quietly, hoping to catch a sign or noise out of the ordinary. Of course that lasted about 5 minutes. Why we thought it even possible to try getting a bunch of teenagers to sit quietly. Someone, Levi maybe, starts relating a ghost story. Soon, everyone is sharing all the spooky things they have encountered, with the others chiming in how bravely they would handle similar situations should they arise; all the while moving ever closer together, so that soon all 6 boys are sitting on the stone bench. Every so often, someone would call out a meteor passing. Before we knew it, time has past, it is about 2:00 a.m. and it appears that our group is the only one left at the lookout.

I notice about that time that G. has disappeared. I figure something is up, so I wait a few minutes before asking in a loud voice, "Where's G.?" He pops up from behind the group and lets out a loud growl. Loud screaming from the boys ensue. Once the nervous giggles subside and bravado is restored, everyone is back to business. They ask again about the creature we saw. I demonstrate as best I can how the creature was moving along the rock face. Alex comes and stands by me. I think to protect me. Hmm.

One of the kids suggest that we scare the creature into action by letting off a bomb. It just so happens, the guys have brought some 4th of July leftovers along. Sigh...kids. So Levi, hungry Nando, and Alex head on back to the vehicles. We track their progress across the clearing by the small flashlight they have. Suddenly the light stops. We hear excited whispers, then a loud, "Throw something!" Someone must of picked up and thrown a small rock because we hear it hit somewhere in the distance, and an answering muffle. Suddenly the light is bouncing crazily back in our direction, with a whole lot of yelling and screaming. They breach the lookout point out of breath and all talking at once. "There's something down there!" They yoller. "It's lying on the ground!" "It's a big lump of something moving!"

By now, all the boys are freaked (Incidentally, Mariah has been watching this entire episode with mild disinterest). We decide to call it a night. G. leads the way, and Mariah and I bring up the rear (The big brave boys are huddled together in the middle). As we pass the spot where the "big lump" is lying, we hear a voice out of the darkness, "You shouldn't be throwing rocks, it could have hit me." I swear the guys jumped about a foot in the air. Apparently we weren't the only ones left up at the lookout. This guy had brought a sleeping bag with the intention of staying all night for the peak viewing of the meteor shower at 4:00 a.m.

Everyone had a big laugh at the 3 boys expense. We loaded everyone up into the vehicles and headed home. Oh, and we never saw the creature. Not even a sign of it. Small wonder.

Monday, August 10, 2009

It's elemental, my dear Watson

Looking at the calender, I am reminded of an incident that happened ...oh, more than 20 years ago. My longtime companion and I had just started dating. He came by late one evening and asked me out for a drive. It was a beautiful clear night in August, and right around the time of the Perseid meteor shower. We decided to get out of town, away from the city lights and take in the show. We headed south on 395, then left onto 341 toward Virginia City. About 4 1/2 miles up the grade, we pulled into the Geiger Grade turnout.

The Geiger Grade is named after Dr. Davidson M. Geiger, a local physician who financed the building of the original road back in 1862. The road allowed the movement of gold shipments, supplies, and stagecoaches to and from the Comstock. Because of its many twists and turns, it was a popular spot for robberies. The road was rebuilt in 1936, and the turnout area with its stone walls and seating was built as a dedication to D.M. Geiger. It affords a spectacular view of the Truckee Meadows and the Sierras.

On that night 20 years ago, we were alone up on the lookout point. Armed with a small flashlight, we wandered around the old stone walls, and climbed up to the seat at the highest point of the turnout. It was probably about 1:00 a.m., very dark, and very, very silent. We sat down on the stone seat and admired the lights of Reno away in the distance. (Back then, the lights of Reno didn't extend much further past South McCarren Blvd.) We turned our attention to the heavens. For a while we watched the meteor shower, calling out to each other as we spotted the more fiery ones. After a while, I noticed that G. was not watching the sky anymore. Rather, he seemed intent on something behind the boulder in front and to the right of him. I asked what he was looking at, and he shushed me, stood up and quietly walked over to the boulder and peered down its side. I sat there for a moment watching him, when suddenly I heard a noise; a small scrabbling noise, like someone walking over gravel. It sounded like it was coming from behind the large rock just in front and to the left of me. I stood up and headed in the direction it came from. Being on the short side, I had to step onto the large rock, and lay on my belly to look down. What I saw did not register in my mind as any thing familiar, and in the few seconds I saw it, I began mentally clicking off things it could be: a squirrel? No, larger. A giant lizard? Impossible. A badger? No...badgers can't climb like that, can they? The thing I was looking at was probably about 3 feet long, moved on all fours, had a long neck and was scaling along the steep side of the rock face in a horizontal fashion. I jumped back from the rock. G., who by that time was watching from behind me, grabbed my hand and said, "It's time to go." So we ran down the stone steps, across a clearing and up to our car. Once inside, we secured the locks and headed down to Reno.

Our adrenalin levels had subsided by the time we reached home. On the way down off the grade, G. told me he first spotted creature to the right of him, when it stuck its head up over the boulder to get a look at us. G. had sat there quietly, watching to see if it would pop up again. It did. G. described what he saw as exactly what I saw, however, G. had gotten a good look at the head and face. He described the creature having a rounded head and face with human features. When he stood up for a closer look, it had scrambled away from him around the boulder in my direction. That's when I spotted it.

Over the years, we have talked about what we saw on occasion, but we have never gone back to the lookout in the dead of night again. In the daylight, the place is pretty benign, just a pretty spot to turn off and enjoy the view.

The earth's orbit will enter the Perseids meteor shower on the night of August 11th. Hmm....

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cruel Summer

Okay, so I'm on vacation from my job right now, and I've yet to complete any of the projects I had planned to do, or read any of the books on my summer reading list. I've pretty much just zoned on the couch, ate way too much junk food, watched far too much SciFi (excuse me, SyFy) and Discovery Channel, and logged a bazillion hours on the Internet. Should I clean out the storage closet like I planned? Reorganize my office? Catch up on over due bills and correspondence? No. No...I don't think so. What I need to do is get out of the house completely. I want to go exploring. Go on an adventure. Delve into the rich history of the Old West. In other words, do a little ghost hunting. What to do, where to go... I don't know. I'll have to think on it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Yellow Jacket Mine : Part 2

A couple of things we learned from our previous visit to Gold Hill, come early if you want something to eat, and the chance to explore the Silver Terrace Cemetery; which is larger than it first appears, and closes at dusk. With this in mind, Paula , Jessie and I met at the Gold Hill around 3 pm on a sunny Sunday afternoon. We checked into the cabin, unloaded our gear, and set off to the Silver Terrace Cemetery. Driving through Virginia City on this trip was a completely different experience than we had when we were up here in February. The good weather had brought out the bike enthusiasts by the hundreds. The town was hoppin'. We drove to the north east edge of town to the cemetery. There were quite a few visitors exploring the cemetery. Paula wanted to see if she could find any tombstones of miners of the Comstock Era that had died around the same time as the Yellow Jacket fire. No such luck. While there are some impressive marble to be found, I believe that miners, being of the working class, were buried with plain wooden crosses that have long since deteriorated. The cemetery is quite beautiful and the sense of bygone times and the history here weighs heavily on a person.

We headed back into town and grabbed a burger and fries at one of the cafes. We spent a while enjoying the friendly service and each others good company. Thus fortified, we proceeded on to Gold Hill and the Miner's Cabin.

We set up our equipment, video cameras, voice recorders, checked our battery packs and chose who was going to sleep where. Paula volunteered to sleep by herself in the smaller room 19, as she was used to sleeping by herself and I snore (Personally, after the last experience I had with Paula and unusual odors, I had a sneaking suspicion she didn't want to be accused of any strange smells or noises this time around). But we were cool, Jessie readily admitted to producing any number of noises and smells, and I respect that. I sleep like the dead, and was not likely to be bothered.

Since it was still light out, we decided to walk up to the incline chute of the mine and get some pictures. While we were poking around near the old structures, I noticed that there was a great deal of quartz in the area. Huge veins of it, in fact. I recalled reading that high levels of paranormal activity can be found in areas containing certain types of stone, quartz being one of them. After satisfying our curiosity, we headed back to the cabin, where we spent a few hours of down time, watching TV, listening to audio from our last investigation, and playing on the computer.

Finally, the bar volume dropped to a level where we could turn on our digital recorders without getting a lot of background noise. We did a sweep with the ambient thermometers and the EMF detectors. The temperature was pretty constant throughout the cabin. We did pick up high EMF readings around the bookcase in room 18, but we figured out that the electrical wiring ran through the wall behind it. We turned on the video recorders and went lights out. We started in room 19, taking pictures and doing some EVP work. None of us got any feelings of ghostly presence, so we moved into room 18. Again, we took some pictures and asked if there were any spirits that wished to communicate with us. We all agreed that we got no sense of paranormal activity in this room either. The hotel bar had closed by this time, so we decided to check out the Great Room again, since we had some pretty good luck with EVPs there on our last visit. We left the camcorders and one digital voice recorder running and headed out.

As we entered the darkened Great Room, we noticed that the gate into the bar was still open. We heard someone moving around in there, and figured it was probably the bartender closing up. We decided to wait until he was finished before beginning any investigating. I sat down on a sofa just left of the entrance into the bar and waited. Paula and Jessie crossed over to the other side of the room to the right. Soon, a man emerged from the bar. He was an older gentleman, and obviously "in his cups", if you get my drift. For a split second, I thought about sitting quietly until he noticed us, but then I didn't want to be responsible for giving the poor man a heart attack, so I spoke up. "Hello", I said. The man stopped, turned slowly in my direction and peered at me. Very slowly, he began walking toward me in a semi-crouch, staring at me all the while, until he was within 6 inches from my face. The alcohol fumes rolled off him. He stared at me for a long second, and then (apparently having made his mind up that I was real), said, "You know, you scared the shit out of me, you could have let me know you were here". Hmm, I thought I had. He mumbled something about ghost hunting, wished us good luck, and soon left with his ride. We had the room to ourselves and got down to investigating.

Paula noticed a cold spot near the stage are of the room, but we decided that she was picking up on a draft from the bar entrance. We saw and felt nothing, although Jessie caught some light movement with her camcorder. We reviewed the footage right then, and couldn't decide if it was a flying insect or some other anomaly. Paula and Jessie kept hearing a strange rattling noise, but upon investigation, we pinpointed the strange noise as the ice maker in the bar. Shortly afterward, we decided to call it a night and headed back up to the Miner's Cabin.

We gathered up the equipment, Paula stepped outside for a smoke and Jessie got ready for bed. Paula came back inside a few minutes later and said she kept seeing a light down near the remains of the adjoining Crown Point Mine. I looked where she indicated the light to be. Sure enough, there was a light of some sort down toward the mine. We decided we had to investigate it. Jessie, not wanting to be left alone, got out of bed and joined us. Half way down the hill to the mine, we spotted what turned out to be a reflective surface on an old boat trailer. Mystery solved. We went back to the cabin and spent an uneventful night.

We did not capture any audio on this investigation. If there are ghosts that still remain at the Miner's Cabin, they were silent the night of our visit. Paula felt she had captured a ghostly face in the window of one of the old mine buildings, but nothing very conclusive. I caught a blur of light as I snapped a picture while standing in the kitchen, facing toward room 18. In the picture is Paula. She is sitting on the bed. There are a couple of orbs to the right of her, but I really don't put a lot of stock in orbs. However, in the upper left hand corner of the picture there is a blur of some sort, that I have not been able to identify. It is not a reflection, as you can see in the photo I have posted, half of the blur is not against any solid surface. By the time I will have posted this, I have not reviewed the footage that Jessie shot with her camcorder in the Great Room, so I do not know if the traces of light she captured can be ruled out as a flying insect or not. I don't feel that we came up with any hard evidence of whether or not the Gold Hill Hotel and Miner's Cabin is truly haunted, but then maybe we are not meant to. Maybe, the individual visitor to Gold Hill needs to make up their own mind.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Yellow Jacket Mine

In the 1800's, the large mines of the Comstock employed anywhere from 500 to 1000 men working in shifts around the clock to mine the precious ore. These mines were like ant colonies of underground activity. The men dug and blasted their way down into the earth, using forests of lumber to shore up the walls and work areas, called "cribs" with massive wooden beams and planks. The cribs were interconnected by miles of tunnels and wooden staircases, which in turn, interconnected the levels. Mines extended down hundreds of feet below the surface. Tons of dirt and ore were continually being moved through these pathways by means of chutes and winzes. Scores of wooden flues were constructed through out to dissipate the tremendous heat and to pipe in breathable air. The only light source came from candles or oil filled lanterns. It was a dangerous existence. Fire and cave-ins were a constant threat. Newly discovered ore veins needed to be blasted open and the wooden supports holding up the walls could buckle under the tremendous weight of the earth. One of the worst mine disasters of the Comstock happened on the morning of April 7, 1869; when a fire broke out in the Yellow Jacket Mine.

The fire started around the 800-foot level, near the line of the Kentuck Mine. It was supposed that a candle had been left burning too close to a supporting timber by one of the night shift. The fire was discovered around 7 a.m. by the oncoming day shift. The fire alarm was sounded but not before a number of men had already been lowered into the mine. The fire, once it took hold, roared through the shafts of the Yellow Jacket and the neighboring Kentuck and Crown Point Mines. The flames, along with the heat and smoke hindered rescue attempts, and an estimated 34 men lost their lives, although other accounts have put the number as high as 45. The fires continued to burn for months afterward; however, the miners went back to work in the mines 3 weeks later, such was the lure of gold.

Today, all that is left of the Yellow Jacket Mine is the incline chute and head frame. The wooden chutes leading down the hill once carried ore from the head frame at the shaft on top of the hill. At the bottom of the hill is the Miner's Cabin, which once served as a break shack for miners between shifts. It has become a part of the Gold Hill Hotel, and is nowadays rented out to guests.

Places where tragedies have occurred are said to be prime areas where residual hauntings can be found. It is thought that the high paranormal activity surrounding the Gold Hill Hotel can be directly related to that tragic fire of 1869. Is this true? Do the ill-fated miners remain at the scene of their death? Many visitors seem to think so. W.I.G.S. wanted to find out if the stories of the haunted Yellow Jacket Mine are true. And so, we returned to Gold Hill in April of this year - incidentally, the 140th anniversary of the fire- to investigate Miner's Cabin and the skeletal remains of the Yellow Jacket Mine.

Next: The Investigation

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Gold Hill Hotel, The Investigation - Part 2

The Oscar party was winding down when we made it back to the hotel. We met the resident cat who took it upon herself to act as our unofficial escort as we wandered around the outside of the hotel. We stopped for a quick peek into the the hotel bar. Every inch of the ceiling and walls of the bar is covered with dollar bills. Most of them decorated and signed by patrons, I imagine.

Around 10:00 pm, most of the party goers had gone, and things were quiet enough for us to begin our investigation. We turned on the camcorder and digital recorder in room 5, turned out the lights, closed the room, and went next door. While Paula turned on the camcorder in room 4, I once again did an EMF sweep. I didn't find any changes from earlier readings. We placed a K2 meter on the bed, we turned out the lights and began our EVP session. I took a few photos, none of which turned up any thing. Neither Paula or I got the impression of paranormal activity in this room. After about 50 minutes, we thanked "William" and moved on to room 4.

One thing we had immediately noticed after checking in, was that there is a significant slant to room 4. There is probably a 6" incline from the doorway to the foot of the bed. Upon inspection we saw that the head of the bed was blocked up by several 2x4s. Later that night, I kept jolting awake by a sensation of falling every time I rolled over, due to the trendelenburg position I was lying in. With the lights off, we experienced a slight sense of vertigo, especially when trying to take pictures, or walk around the room. We did not smell anything out of the ordinary, no scent of roses (other than the hotel soap), no sounds, no response to our questions, Paula thought she saw a shadow behind me near the top of the balcony door. We spend another 45 minutes in room 4 then decided to head on downstairs to the Great Room.

It was in the 2nd floor hallway when I first noticed the smell. Just a whiff of something. I looked at Paula, she gave no indication of anything out of the ordinary. Okay, so maybe that Indian taco she had eaten earlier combined with her dried fruit snacks were beginning to work their magic. Out of politeness, I shrugged it off. At the foot of the stairs headed down into the Great Room, I smelled it again. Oh great, I was going to have suffer through the rest of the evening while she contaminated my airspace with her silent gastric bombs.

After Paula set up a camcorder and digital recorder at one end of the Great Room, she did an ambient temperature reading of the entire room, while I did an EMF sweep. We began an EVP session, inviting any spirits to communicate with us, touch us, respond to our knocks, etc. I took a few photos, with nothing showing up. While Paula and I were wandering around the foot of the stairs, she suddenly spoke up, "I keep getting smelling something, smells like barbecue or something." She headed over to the entrance of the restaurant, sniffing around. Okay, so maybe it wasn't the Indian taco after all. As I stood there debating whether or not to tell her of my earlier suspicion, I suddenly got very chilled. Paula experienced the same thing when she walked back toward me. We checked the temperature readings, but by then the feeling had past. We sat down on one of the sofas and began another EVP session, but ended up just chatting. we called it quits around around 1:30 a.m.

We spent an uneventful night in our rooms, got up in the morning and headed home. Over the next week, we looked at the video, still photography, and audio recordings. We were able to debunk most of the light anomalies, and radio interferences from passing cars, along with some sounds that were just us chattering. We did capture one EVP that we could not explain, however. Toward the end of the night we were sitting on the sofa near the stairway. Paula had left a digital recorder running at the other end of the room. The recording picked up our muffled conversation from across the room and a single very clear word, closer to the recorder: "money". Paula uploaded a copy of the recording if you are interested in hearing it, go to: www.myspace.com/w_i_g_s and click on videos. Paula has posted both the original and a cleaned up version.

All in all, it was a great trip. We learned a lot about investigating. There is still a lot we need to learn. We are headed back up to Gold Hill this weekend, we are going to be investigating the Miners Cabin. Jessie will be along with us on this trip. It should be fun. If we get up there before dusk, we plan on checking out the cemetery.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Gold Hill Hotel - The Investigation, Part 1

Initially, we had planned for 2 teams to investigate the Gold Hill Hotel. However, the best laid plans have a way of unraveling, and as as the investigation drew close, Paula and I were the only ones able to go. I was a little concerned about having to cover all the areas in the hotel. As we were going to be short handed, I wanted to know what we should concentrate on: video, photography or audio, and if any areas in the hotel were more "active" than others. I was also having some anxiety on a personal level. As a Native American, my early training was to treat spirits in a respectful manner, and under no circumstances "call" them if you could not send them back. I wondered if that is what we would be doing if we were inviting them to speak with us. So, I emailed Scott Truelove of the Ghost Posse team.

Scott has a lot more experience than I do, has investigated the Gold Hill Hotel, and doesn't seem to mind answering my many questions on the subject of ghost hunting. Although I've never spoken to Scott face to face, I get the impression that he thinks in a very orderly manner, has a lot of common sense, and can cut directly to the chase; which is helpful to someone like me who has numerous strings of thought going at all times, and gets bogged down with minor details.

He gave me some good pointers on conducting our investigation. Based on what he said, I decided to concentrate my efforts on trying to capture EVP with my digital recorder and try to spend a some time in as many areas in the hotel as I could. W.I.G.S. decided not to investigate the Miner's Cabin, choosing to leave that for another trip. He also allayed my anxiety about disturbing something I should not. According to Scott, I would not be invoking any spirit to travel to my location, I would simply be asking any spirits already there to respond to my questions. Okay, so shored up by all this great advice, I was ready to begin.

I had booked rooms 4 and 5 for Sunday, February 22th. I was told by the hotel clerk that a local theater troupe were having an "Oscar" night party earlier in the evening but that things would quiet down around around 11pm or so. This worked out for us, as Paula had an earlier engagement that day, and we wouldn't be getting up to Gold Hill until late afternoon. I wasn't sure if there would be any stores open up in Virginia City later that night, so when Paula swung by to pick me up, I had her stop by Carls Jr. for a $6 burger. Paula was still full from the Indian taco she had consumed earlier, but she had brought dried fruit snacks and water for later.

The Oscar night party was just getting started when we arrived at the hotel. I saw that the women were outfitted in long gowns, and the men had on dark suits, string ties, long duster type jackets and cowboy hats. "Oh, look!" I says to Paula. "They've all dressed up in Old Western costumes for the event!" ...or so I thought. After spending some time wandering around Virginia City, observing the local denizens, I realized that they weren't dressed up in period costume at all, that this was their "Sunday best". Oh dear. Anyway we checked into our rooms, made a plan, unpacked the equipment and began the set up.

We decided to set up a tripod with camcorder in each room, which would record the entire time we were investigating. We took ambient temperature readings, did a EMF sweep of each room, noted the electrical outlets and layout. Our plan was to start in room 5, which is said to be haunted by "William", move to room 4 - "Rosie's" room, then the downstairs Great Room. Since the rooms were small and we don't have that much equipment to set up, this all was done pretty quickly. By now it was about 7:30, the party downstairs was in full swing, and we were feeling a bit hungry.

We headed into Virginia City only to discover that with the exception of a few bars, this little town rolls up the sidewalks after dark. I mean, the place was deserted. I could have walked down the street naked, and the only ones to see me would have been a couple of grizzled looking old guys, too drunk to know what they were looking at. We wandered into the Delta Saloon and looked at "The Suicide Table", a historic faro table in which 2 players had lost everything they owned on that particular table and committed suicide. I wondered if they simply died of embarrassment, considering that in faro, the odds are stacked against the house. The bar was the only thing that offered anything to eat, if you consider pickled eggs and hot sausages worthy of eating. I think I'd have to be pretty drunk. Maybe that why saloons are the only place you can find this particular fare. Paula and I decided that maybe our time would be better spent checking out future sites for investigation. We headed out in search of the Silver Terrace Cemetery.

The Silver Terrace Cemetery lies on the northeast side of C St. As the name implies, the cemetery is situated on several terraces. It is open to the public, but closes at dusk. Since we have heard that there has been reports of paranormal activity there, we were very interested in having a look around. It was very dark down by the cemetery, and we couldn't see much of it, however, we did notice that the gate was open. It was clearly posted that the cemetery was closed after dark, still...we were sorely tempted to ignore the sign and go in. After some debate - I imagined us having to explain to the local authorities about wanting to see ghosts, them thinking that a psychiatric evaluation might be in order before releasing us - we decided to resist the urge to sneak into the cemetery and headed on back to Gold Hill.