Hey everyone! Heather here. I don’t know about you, but our Christmas decorations are up, and we here at PGI are ready to celebrate the holidays with family, friends, and all of you! Jordan, our assistant director and historian, has written an awesome article about the Victorian tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas. We hope you enjoy it as much as we are enjoying the snow falling on our fair city.

 

“There’ll be scary ghost stories, and tales of the glories of the Christmases long, long ago…” 1

If you’ve listened to Christmas music in the past–and how could you not, it is almost unavoidable in the months of November and December–you have more than likely heard the classic The Most Wonderful Time of the Year by singer Andy Williams. The song is happy, joyful, and meant to get one into the spirit (No pun intended. Or, you know what, pun intended. Your choice.) of the holiday. But there is a line in that song that seems out of place. “There’ll be scary ghost stories…”. Huh. That is an odd line to put in a song about Christmas, right? Ghost stories? Shouldn’t the song be telling us about Santa Claus, Christmas trees, a reindeer with a red nose, or even a snowman with a magical top hat? The song, written in 1963, is over 50 years old at this point, and as with many other things from the past, it does not offer up much historical context. So of course with the contemporary ears of today, the line does seem out of place. However, believe it or not, the ghost story is a Christmas tradition made popular by Victorian England.

Why did the Victorians tell ghost stories around Christmas? Well, to answer that question, we have to get to know the Victorians. Who were the Victorians? The title “Victorian” most commonly refers to people who lived in England under the rule of Queen Victoria in the 19th century from 1837-1901, but the phrase can also be used to refer to much of the western world of that time. So, why were the Victorians interested in ghost stories, and also, why during Christmas? Well, that questions has a few answers.

Why does the idea of a ghost story sound out of place when thinking about the modern Christmas? At first, it seems more appropriate to tell a ghost story around the time of Halloween, which is only two months before Christmas. Halloween already has all of the spooky connotations attached to it that are rooted in ancient Celtic traditions. Halloween, or Samhain (pronounced “Sou-in”) as they called it, was the night the veil between the living and the dead was the thinnest and interaction with spirits was possible.2 Surely that would be the time for ghost stories. Right? Well it turns out that for the Victorians any time of the year was a good time to tell a ghost story. And during that time in England, Christmas was essentially going through a reboot for a new era. With the Industrial Revolution gaining momentum, people were moving to the cities for work. There was a decline in having children specifically for work related purposed and because of that, there was now a new focus on the idea of the family. Christmas was starting to become a time for gathering as a family and story-telling was a big part of that.3

As mentioned above, when you hear Christmas, a ghost story is not typically the first thing that pops into one’s head to describe the holiday. We have Christmas trees (rooted in older more ancient traditions, but made popular by Queen Victoria and her Germanic husband, Prince Albert)4, Christmas carols (again, older roots, but popularized in the Victorian era)5, the modern Santa Claus (found in ancient traditions, but again, primarily a Victorian idea). Are you starting to see a theme here?6 Christmas movies, snacks, feasts, etc. The list could go on and on. But ghost stories?

As it turns out, the end of the calendar year was considered a scary time for the ancient people of northern Europe, including the Celts and the Norse, both of whom have winter celebrations. The Celts celebrated the winter solstice, whereas the Norse celebrated what is known as Jul, or Yule. At the end of the year, the nights started to get longer and longer and the Norse believed that during this time of prolonged darkness, spirits would roam the countryside and forests and, on some occasions, Odin himself would come and beat you.7 To combat the uncertainty of the darkness and unknown at this time of year, the Norse would gather inside around the Yule log were they would eat, drink, and be merry (Viking parties, anyone?). It was their attempt at using the light of the fire to push back the darkness.8 This idea of the encroaching darkness has been around for ages and the Victorians were no different. Christmas is celebrated roughly around the same time that the Norse would have celebrated Yule, so this idea that there is uncertainty in the prolonged darkness of night was something of which the Victorians were well aware. It was the beginning of winter, things in nature were dying off only to be reborn in the upcoming spring. Death was on people’s minds. This made the winter and the end of the year a time of reflection for many, which still continues to this day.

Primarily, the people of this era in England were very religious and the Catholic Church, at the time, taught people that ghosts were disturbed spirits trapped in some form of purgatory, while the Protestant Church taught that ghosts were there only to deceive people.9 Also at this time, scientific discoveries were making leaps and bounds about how the world works thanks to contributions of scientific researchers like Charles Darwin.10 So, people were caught in this tug-of-war between the religion that they were born into and these new scientific discoveries that questioned all of what they thought they knew.

On top of all of this, during the Victorian era, a new belief system started to gain momentum. This belief system, what we now refer to as “Modern Spiritualism” or the “Spiritualist Movement,” believed that interaction between the living and the souls of the dead was a thing that was possible.11 The Spiritualist Movement spread all over the world and its beginning is rooted in the story of the Fox Sisters of Hydesville, New York. In 1848, the sisters, Margaret and Kate, claimed they could make contact with spirits through a series of knocks. Word got around about the Fox sisters and they began making appearances showcasing their “gift.” In the 1860s, one of the sisters claimed their gift was a hoax, but then later said her confession was false. Hoax or not, they were able to make a short career out of claiming to interact with ghosts.12

Whether their story ended up being a hoax or not isn’t what’s important. What is important is that people thought (and still think) that contact with the other side could be a possibility. This led to an influx of people claiming to have mediumship-like abilities, a medium being one who claims that they can make contact and/or speak with the spirits of the deceased. Parties and get-togethers would take place and it wasn’t uncommon for a medium to be hired to come and hold a séance–which comes from the French word for “session” or “a sitting”–so party guests could make contact with spirits. Mediums weren’t necessarily a new idea or concept, but they became much more common as Spiritualism exploded worldwide. It is no surprise, then, that living in this world of the Spiritualist Movement, art began to imitate life. Ghost stories, fictitious or true, were amongst the most popular stories to tell during this time. Countless authors wrote many ghost stories that we still talk about today. Writers like M.R. James and Charles Dickens told tales that chilled many to the bone.

It is important to know that the Victorians didn’t invent the ghost story. Tales of ghosts stretch back to antiquity. Even in the medieval era people told “Winter Tales” which had some form of supernatural aspect to them.13 But it can be argued that the Victorians perfected the ghost story due to everything mentioned above. A characteristic of the Victorian ghost story is that many of the spirits encountered are cautionary. They try to save a character from a situation or even themselves to teach them a lesson. This is evident in what is quite possibly the most famous ghost story of all time, Charles Dickens’ 1843 masterpiece, A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge, a crotchety old man who hates Christmas, is shown the error of his ways by three Christmas spirits.14 Dickens’ story had the advantage of being both a ghost story and a Christmas story, which helped springboard this tradition during the changing face of Christmas of the Victorian era. In the midst of being a religious society, the Industrial Revolution, older traditions that were carried over or rediscovered, and the Spiritualist Movement, the ghost story solidified its status as a Christmas tradition, one that continued for the rest of the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th century. We might not tell as many ghost stories during the Christmas holiday today that we used to over a century ago, but there are relics and memories (or ghosts, if you will) of Christmases past, such and Andy Williams’ song, that remain to remind us of the spooky tradition of the holiday.

1Andy Williams, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, 1963
2The Real Story of Halloween, The History Channel
3The Real Story of Halloween, The History Channel
4Ibid
5Ibid
6Ibid
7Christmas Unwrapped, The History Channel
8Ibid
9http://www.victorian-era.org/ghost-stories-of-the-victorian-era.html
10Ibid
11https://www.britannica.com/topic/spiritualism-religion
12http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/spiritualism/history/history.shtml
13https://www.gothichorrorstories.com/classic-gothic-ghost-stories/a-history-of-winter-tales-and-christmas-ghost-stories-to-make-the-blood-run-wintery-cold/
14A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

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Life Gets Hairy Podcast

We’ve known Ryan Lane for over a year. He owns Dream Beard, a company that creates amazing grooming products for men with glorious facial hair. It was because of him that we were asked to investigate the paranormal activity occurring at the Red Hare Brewery in Marietta, Georgia, last year.

Over this past summer, out of the blue, Ryan sent us an email. He was starting up a podcast and the reason why is best stated in his own words:

At the age of 25, I was an unknowing entrepreneur, and just married, I created a company called Dream Beard with just $46 in my bank account. Three months later, I was selling in 30 countries. Five years later, I had reached almost 100 countries with my brand and was sitting on a board for a Fortune 50 company.

Then life hit me like a sledge hammer. With my dad fighting cancer and my wife pregnant with our first son, I began to question life. What is life? Why are we here? What is real? What is truth? It didn’t make me special because I felt this way. I feel this way because I am human, like everyone else. This podcast is an expression of that. We are all human, and life happens around us, in us, and without us. I want to learn why people do what they do and believe what they believe. So, I am jumping into the shoes of anyone who will let me.

I’m learning more about life through the perception of others, plus a lot of BS in between!

The tagline of his podcast is Subjective truth flying through space via radio waves. (Side note: I think I want to cross-stitch that on a pillow.) Ryan is so very laid back and chill and incredibly curious and we are honored to be part of his podcast launch. So, here are a few links to get you started:

Here’s Ryan’s “Life Gets Hairy Podcast” website.

Here’s our specific episode we recorded with him.

And here is our episode on iTunes.

Definitely subscribe, listen, and give him a five-star rating. All of the episodes are awesome (not just ours!) and we can’t wait to talk to him again!

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Ghosts and Football

For many Americans, Thanksgiving Day is not only about tables full of food with family and friends helping you eat, it’s also about football. Once all the turkey, stuffing, and sweet potatoes are consumed, many of us will slowly waddle into the living room, collapse on the nearest sofa, turn on the TV, and tune in to one of the many football bowl games playing that day. Some people are even lucky enough to secure tickets to the actual games, spending Thanksgiving cheering on their favorite team in person, while eating a Thanksgiving meal of hot dogs and beer alongside thousands of other football fans.

But, what if, while you’re watching the game, you see a specter pass by your seat or you witness a shadow cross in front of the 50-yard line. What would you do? Well, it could happen because several of America’s football stadiums are purported to be haunted.

Notre Dame University in Indiana is not only famous for its football team, it was also the home of “The Gipper.” George Gipp was the first Notre Dame football player to make the All-American team and still holds the university’s record for most average yards per rush for a season. Sadly, though, he died at the young age of 25, in 1920, after contracting pneumonia (possibly from strep throat). His illness was most likely the result of spending a cold December night sleeping on the steps of Washington Hall. After his passing, the doors in Washington Hall, and throughout Notre Dame’s campus, would mysteriously open and close of their own accord and students reported hearing a French Horn playing at night. By 1925, five years after his death, many reported seeing the Gipp ride up Washington Hall’s front steps astride a white horse. Could he be trying to join the Notre Dame football team’s four horsemen (1924’s backfield team)? We’ll never know. But, if you happen to go to a Notre Dame football game, keep your eyes open for George Gipp astride his white steed.

Indiana University’s football stadium also has a resident ghost, but theirs is a more gruesome story. Michael Plume, an Indiana U student in 1960, was found hung from the rafters of the nearly completed stadium. He was 19-years-old and was discovered at the then-incomplete western side of the stadium stands. There are many questions surrounding his death, one of which was why were the soles of Michael’s shoes clean and free from dirt in the middle of this active construction site? Conspiracies abound, but eventually his death was ruled a suicide. To this day, fans and stadium workers claim to see Michael’s body hanging in the same location he was found. Will you be the next person to see Michael’s spirit at the next Indiana University home football game?

The Kansas State University football stadium is home to the spirit of Nick, a football player who purportedly died in the 1950s after suffering an injury during football practice. He was rushed into the ground-level cafeteria where he later died from his injuries. The cafeteria is now the home of the Purple Masque Theater where jokester Nick still hangs out. It seems he can’t help himself and loves playing jokes on unsuspecting students and football fans. He is blamed for moving auditorium chairs, playing music, and levitating boxes. If you’re a KSU Wildcats fan and you’re watching a home football game, maybe you’ll be lucky and ghost Nick will play a prank on you!

The ghosts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are completely different, though. These are Civil War ghosts who are clearly still suffering and under the impression that the war continues. The stadium, Camp Randall, is named after a Union training camp that once stood nearby. During the Civil War, Camp Randall was used as a Confederate prison camp. Of course, conditions were horrible and many Confederate soldiers died there. Fans and staff alike report seeing sick and injured Southern soldiers in and around the stadium. When you find yourself at a Badgers game, staring down a wounded Confederate soldier, have some pity and give him a pass.

Ghosts and spirits are everywhere. They exist alongside us, sometimes intersecting our daily lives. Even during loud, bright, crowded moments like football games, we can still be witnesses to the paranormal. Just remember to always keep your eyes open and that when you see that passing spirit, you are one of the lucky ones!

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Ghostober

I have three ghosts in my house. They are rather lackidasical, these ghosts of mine. They only show up around the autumnal equinox and then mysteriously disappear on or around November 1st. But, they’re very cute, always quiet, and never obtrusive. They are my Halloween ghosts.

Of course, this is the time of year when we can’t help but be reminded of ghosts, pumpkins, skeletons, and candy corn. Oh my gosh, you guys, CANDY CORN! Sometime around August 1st, as the back-to-school supplies replace the outdoor furniture and grills in the seasonal departments of the local Targets or Wal-Marts, Halloween decorations start to creep in alongside those notebooks and Dixon-Ticonderoga pencils. It’s my favorite time of year, to be honest. The nights and mornings are crisp and cool and the leaves turn brilliant shades of every color under the sun. It’s also the time of year when PGI’s Inbox works overtime.

Typically, our summers are quiet and rather boring. Every summer, we begin to panic. We think, “Will we ever be called in for another investigation? Is this it? Was May our last investigation ever?” We’ll still have our monthly meetings and try to carry on, but when school starts and the spooky decorations come out, our schedule becomes full to the brim. Not only do our investigation requests go through the roof, so do our appearances at local libraries and news outlets. Whenever we take on new investigators, one of the first things we tell them is, “Get ready because your October calendar is going to be ridiculously full.” I no longer think of this month by its traditional name. I now think of it as “Ghostober.”

As always, we are always available for investigations. Now that you’re home, no longer on vacation, and the days are shorter, you may be paying more attention to the activity happening in your home. It’s hard to notice your resident ghost when you’re out enjoying the warm weather and fireworks. And that’s OK. But, in addition to our investigation schedule, we’re also out and about at local Georgia libraries talking about what it is we do, as well as Georgia’s most haunted locations. If you would like to hear us speak, check out our schedule below (as well as on our Facebook Events Page), and make sure you come by and say hello! If you would like to be entered into a drawing to win a chance to investigate with us at Old South Pittsburg Hospital, make sure you bring a donation for The Bridge of Compassion Foundation’s 3rd Annual Project Winter Warm Up, a project that directly helps Atlanta’s homeless community. Bring one or more gently used or new backpacks, men’s and women’s coats, winter hats or toboggans, winter scarves, gloves, personal sized blankets, NEW underwear (men’s and women’s – Size L and XL needed most), and NEW socks (men’s and women’s) and we’ll enter you in the drawing.

Happy Ghostober and hope you help us celebrate Halloween by helping us help Atlanta’s homeless!

Friday, October 13, 2017, 6:30 PM, “Paranormal 101”
Woodstock Public Library
7735 Main Street
Woodstock, GA 30188

Tuesday, October 17, 2017, 6:00 PM, “Paranormal 101”
Rose Creek Public Library
4476 Towne Lake Parkway
Woodstock, GA 30189

Thursday, October 19, 2017, 5:00 PM, “Historic Haunted Georgia”
LaFayette-Walker County Library
305 S. Duke Street
LaFayette, GA 30728

Monday, October 23, 2017, 6:00 PM, “Historic Haunted Georgia”
Gilmer County Library
268 Calvin Jackson Drive
Ellijay, GA 30540

Wednesday, October 25, 2017, 6:30 PM, “Paranormal 101”
Dawson County Library
342 Allen Street
Dawsonville, GA 30534

Thursday, October 26, 2017, 7:30 PM, “Historic Haunted Georgia”
Ball Ground Public Library
435 Old Canton Road
Ball Ground, GA 30107

Monday, October 30, 2017, 5:00 PM, “Paranormal 101”
Lumpkin County Public Library
342 Courthouse Hill
Dahlonega, GA 30533

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The Gray Man

Popular image of “The Gray Man” – photo credit unknown

NOTE: We here at Paranormal Georgia Investigations are saddened by the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey and are urging our followers in the path of Hurricane Irma to evacuate, if necessary, and to most definitely stay safe. If you haven’t already, you can help those survivors of these storms by donating as little as $10 to The Red Cross’s Hurricane/Tropical Storm Relief Fund. You can either click here to donate or call 1-800-REDCROSS. You can also call the previous number to find open shelters in your area if you are affected. Please, everyone, stay safe.

I spent many summers during my childhood buried in the sands of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. My parents would stuff the back of our sky-blue Honda Civic full of luggage, beach chairs, umbrellas, and food, and we would drive the eight hours south for a week of sun, sand, and family. My mother’s family rented the same cottage every year–The Shell–and all 15 of us would take up every bed and cot, stuffing our faces with mayonnaise sandwiches and sugar cookies, the adults doing everything possible to keep us cousins well-fed and protected from sunburn. Those weeks are some of my fondest memories.

A year after I married, and 14 years after my mother’s family had a falling out and we stopped going to North Myrtle Beach, my husband, parents, and I rented The Shell and invited a few friends come with us and help create some new beach memories. We had an amazing time, except for the last day when we found ourselves stuck inside the cottage as the outer bands of Hurricane Edouard made the waves tall and rough and pushed the tide nearly to the lower steps of the cottage. That day, we spent time exploring the shops up and down the coast and eventually ended up at Pawley’s Island, a favorite hang-out of ours. It was there I discovered The Gray Man while visiting a local art gallery. They had several artists’ renditions of the ghost along with brochures telling his story.

The Gray Man of Pawley’s Island, it is said, is a benevolent ghost and one only experienced during times of grave danger to the coast of South Carolina. Legend says that if a dangerous hurricane is bearing down on Pawley’s Island, that The Gray Man will appear, as a harbinger to warn residents and vacationers to flee the island. First sighted in 1822, three years before Pawley’s Island was incorporated, many think the ghost could be Percival Pawley, the first European settler to develop plantations in the area as early as 1711. Others think The Gray Man could be the spirit of Plowden Charles Jeannerette Weston, the original owner of the house on Pawleys Island now known as the Pelican Inn. After a lifetime of service to his beloved state and home, some feel that Plowden still protects it as The Gray Man. And even more feel that The Gray Man could be the spirit of Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard.

Regardless of who The Gray Man is, the legend says that if you heed his warnings and leave the island before a major storm, that your property will remain unscathed. Whether that’s true or not, the last report sightings of The Gray Man were just before Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Pawley’s Island residents Jim and Clara Moore claimed to have seen a man on the beach who disappeared when they waved to him. They immediately realized who the man was and left the island before Hurricane Hugo struck. Their home was spared any major damage while the homes of their neighbors suffered heavy destruction.

The Gray Man has been described as a man wearing gray clothing, wearing a long coat, dressed like a pirate, and sometimes having no legs. With the 2017 hurricane season already producing two deadly storms, anyone living in the paths of these horrific tempests would do well to heed the advice of The Gray Man and escape at all costs, whether he shows himself to you or not.

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DragonCon 2017 Here We Come!

Yet again, we are VERY honored to be a part of DragonCon this year! Since 2014, Paranormal Georgia Investigations has proudly presented informative panels for the public during the Southeast’s largest sci-fi/fantasy convention. This year, we worked closely with the directors of the X-Track, which includes paranormal content, to make sure that what we have to offer the attendees is informative, interesting, and of value to the paranormal community and the public at large. Below is our schedule. If you don’t yet have tickets, be sure to click here. See you there!

Note: Unless otherwise listed, all panels will be at the Atlanta Sheraton Hotel (165 Courtland Street, NE) in the Savannah conference rooms 1 through 3. DragonCon tickets ARE required to attend.

Friday, September 1st, 7PM – The Paranormal Data Collective
#ParaUnity is a rather meaningless hashtag. Join PGI’s Christina Kieffer, Jordan Duncan, Nancy Capps, and Heather Dobson, as they talk about the Paranormal Data Collective, founded by PGI, a real way to bring paranormal groups, and their scientific data, together to help prove that ghosts exit.

Saturday, September 2nd, 4PM – Going Squatching!
Join PGI’s Shawn Cooper, author KyL Cobb, and cryptozoologist William C. Brock as they talk about the active searches for Bigfoot, the Yeti, the Swamp Ape, and Sasquatch!

Saturday, September 2nd, 5:30PM – Historic Haunted Georgia
Join PGI’s Clint Brownlee, Shawn Cooper, Jordan Duncan, and Nancy Capps, as they lead you on a trip down the highways of the deep South and visit Georgia’s most haunted locations. This panel includes evidence!

Sunday, September 3rd, 2:30PM – Exorcise Your Mind
The human mind is a powerful organ that can, under certain circumstances, create the paranormal. Join PGI’s Jordan Duncan, Clint Brownlee, Heather Dobson, and Shawn Cooper as they examine those times when people create the very things they fear.

Sunday, September 3rd, 4:00PM – Importance of Research
Doing good research is so important before paranormal writing or investigations. Join PGI’s Larry Flaxman, Jordan Duncan, Heather Dobson, and the Haunted Librarian Lesia Miller as they talk about the resources they depend on to do their work.

Sunday, September 3rd, 8:30PM – Women in Paranormal Research
PGI’s Heather Dobson, Nancy Capps, and Christina Kieffer are honored to join Amy Bruni from TLC’s “Kindred Spirits” and SyFy’s “Ghost Hunters” to talk about their various forays as they started into paranormal research – the good, the bad, and unfortunately, the sometimes ugly. Why did they stick with it and what can we do to make it better?

Monday, September 4th, 1PM – Instrumental Transcommunication
Have you watched the latest paranormal reality TV shows? Have you wanted to see a Wonder Box or a GeoPortal in action? Come listen to PGI’s Clint Brownlee, Nancy Capps, Christina Kieffer, and Heather Dobson give an informative panel about the latest in paranormal communication equipment and even conduct a spirit box session!

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Summer Cemetery Love

IMG_5600

Photo credit: Heather Dobson

As paranormal investigators, it’s natural for us to have a love of cemeteries. Heck, it’s natural for us to be fascinated with anything and everything having to do with death. Let’s just be honest, we all have our favorite local cemeteries that we love (*cough* Atlanta Oakland Cemetery *cough*). I don’t know about you, but cemeteries are always guaranteed to be quiet places where you can think, reflect, and reconnect with yourself. Cemeteries have also become favorite paranormal investigation locations, especially in the warm, summer months. It makes sense. Lots of dead people plus wide-open spaces with no high walls or barbed wire or locked doors equals instant ghost hunting magic! But, regardless of whether your favorite cemetery is a large, garden cemetery, in the center of town, full of historical markers and famous people who have passed on or if it’s a small, forgotten family plot in the middle of nowhere, there are rules you MUST follow before you load up with your favorite cameras and voice recorders for a night of spook hunting.

Most cemeteries are privately owned.

Even if the cemetery looks abandoned, it’s still on property owned by someone, somewhere. You really don’t want to be roaming around someone’s property, in the middle of the night, without permission. And when the cops show up, demanding answers as to why you’re there, they’re going to think vandalism before they think paranormal investigators. And even if you are there, just sitting quietly, recording the sounds of crickets, they’re most likely going to shoo you off the premises and ask you never to return. It’s always important to secure permission before you investigate a cemetery. Do a little research and find out who owns it. Explain what it is you want to do and how you intend to investigate. Invite the owners to come along with you if they are so inclined. You’ll catch more flies with honey rather than vinegar and you’ll investigate more cemeteries if you do it the right way and ask before you go.

Your audio is going to be full of bugs. Literally.

We’ve all been outside, at night, at some point in our lives. During the summer, the night is alive with crickets, frogs, bats, and bugs. Even in the winter, the leaves are being pushed around by the wind and nocturnal animals out for the hunt. The night isn’t still, not by any means, and that means your audio is going to be full of those noises. Once you’ve secured permission to investigate your chosen cemetery, be aware that your audio will be iffy. Make note of every sound you hear and be aware that when you go over your audio later, footsteps and other sounds that aren’t voices must be discounted.

Photo credit: Heather Dobson

Photo credit: Heather Dobson

Your video and photographic evidence is also going to be full of bugs. Literally.

Your video and photographic evidence that you carry home from your cemetery investigation is going to show a lot of dust, dirt, pollen, water droplets, and BUGS! Also, that mist you captured? Probably not paranormal, but rather your breath, especially if it was a cold night. If you investigate during the day, be aware that polished granite headstones will reflect the sun like nobody’s business. You’ll want to go over all your pictures and video with a fine-tooth comb and be more skeptical of anything out of the ordinary than you would during an indoors investigation. Just remember that Mother Nature can wreak havoc on your camera lens.

Nighttime. Daytime. Any time is a good time!

Who says you can’t investigate a cemetery in the daytime? If it’s a public cemetery, in the middle of town, that welcomes visitors during daylight hours, grab your voice recorder and go to work! Ghosts really aren’t concerned with the time of day. That’s our problem. But, again, if it’s a private cemetery on private property, you will still need permission to investigate, even during the day.

Just remember all these tips and your next cemetery investigation can be the best one yet! Enjoy your summer!

Disclaimer: This is a public blog/forum. If you comment here, anyone who comes to this site will be able to see your comment. Comments are not deleted unless they are spam/offensive. If you have private information you don’t wish the public to see, do not put it in your comment. Comments on this website are the sole responsibility of their writers and the writer will take full responsibility, liability, and blame from something written in or as a direct result of something written in a comment. The accuracy, completeness, veracity, honesty, exactitude, factuality and politeness of comments are not guaranteed. In other words, don’t comment with your email address, physical address, or phone number. If you do so, we cannot be responsible for any spam/crank calls you may receive. Think before you comment. Please.

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The Jersey Devil

Drawing of the Jersey Devil from The Philadelphia Bulletin, 1909.

Hey, everyone! Heather here! Our sasquatch/cryptozoology expert, Shawn, is back again! This time, he’s written about a cryptid from his home state of New Jersey. Someday, we’ll plan a PGI trip to the Jersey Pine Barrens for a Jersey Devil excursion. Until then, enjoy Shawn’s article!

It has been awhile since I have written anything for our group. Or anything in general. I will claim to have spent the time reading up on cryptids and the metaphysical but that wouldn’t be exactly true either. The truth is I am so technologically challenged it is ridiculous. But all good things must come to an end so I am going to talk a little about a cryptid from my home state of New Jersey. Besides, poor Heather’s fingers are all blistered from the typing she does not just for us but her own projects as well. (Editor’s note: Awwwww, isn’t he the best?)

I grew up in New Jersey as the son of a minister. I know, I know. Spare me the jokes, trust me you have nothing new. Anyway, as such, we moved several times during my childhood. Not as much as some people, but we did move at least four times while I was living with my parents. The home I remember the most, where I spent the majority of my formative years, was in a small town close to the Delaware River in central Jersey called Sergeantsville. We lived there for nine years. Sergeantsville was an old town, established sometime in the mid- to late-1700s. It still had some historical buildings in the area, as well as historical legends. With such a long, storied history, there are many stories of Revolutionary War ghosts and ghosts in general. Some ghosts inhabited the local buildings, some were part of the land with older buildings long gone. Of course, all the ghost stories revolved around people, whether Natives and settlers clashing, accidents, or curses and witches. A few of these stories may very well be true, some are just stories made up to scare children into behaving and then grew into a life of their own to be told as true legends with many variations. While some may be investigated as actual paranormal events attributed to a location, there is one story that ranks right up there with Sasquatch. It’s the Jersey Devil.

According to the legend it all started in 1735 around what is now known as Leeds Point, New Jersey. As it is generally agreed upon, Mother Leeds (later potentially identified as Deborah) was about to give birth to her 13th child.  In a fit of exasperation, or some other emotion, she cursed the child to be a devil. I personally have heard two versions of this story. Version one relates that the child was born as a normal child and then changed into a vile creature. Version two claims that the child was born as the creature. But, both stories agree that the creature had the wings of a bat, a head like a horse but with horns, the legs of a goat, a tail like a dragon, and some say the forked tongue of a serpent. It then flew around the room screeching and growling unearthly sounds before flying up the chimney, into the night, and into infamy.

As the stories continues, the Jersey Devil was blamed for all manner of things: livestock disappearances, crop failures, sickness, and so on. Remember, this was the 1730s where people didn’t understand many things we take for granted. The Pine Barrens of New Jersey is a huge wilderness area today that is home to all types of wildlife. Back then, the Barrens would have been just another section of wilderness in the New World, indistinguishable except for the sandy soil and pine trees. It is an area rife with black bears, but back then bears weren’t the only predators. Wolves weren’t uncommon and mountain lions were also prevalent. This could explain the livestock disappearances, but this only explains once facet of the story.

There is recorded verification of Japhet Leeds, the Jersey Devil’s father, passing away in 1736. According to historical records, he had a will in which he specified 12 children. What of the 13th child? Was it stillborn? Was the story concocted to conceal some type of deformity that would throw the shade of witchcraft onto the family? These are all questions that may never be answered. But, while they are possible explanations for events then, what of the following events of more than 275 years? People have reported seeing tracks of cloven hoof prints that just disappear in the middle of a field. Those tracks couldn’t be those of a deer because they “appeared” to be bipedal and the trackway was too far from any terrain or cover that a deer could jump to, so it must have flown away. Late-night sightings, strange sounds, and unexplainable tracks all further the legend of the Jersey Devil. Is the Devil a scapegoat? Or is there something to it?  If you have read some of previous my blogs, I firmly believe in Sasquatch as a living being. So, do I believe in the Jersey Devil? Well, yes and no. I believe that for the stories and legends to exist, something had to be the catalyst. But what? For it to be perpetuated for over 275 years, there has to be some truth to the Jersey Devil’s existence.

If you’ve never heard a mountain lion scream, you would swear a woman was being murdered in the deep dark woods. At that time it would have been a witch. Rabbits may be all cute and cuddly, but it will terrify you to hear their death scream when one is being killed by coyote or foxes. That may explain the noises, but it doesn’t explain the sightings where people have been attacked in late at night, in remote areas, while camping, by a giant winged creature late. The range of the incidents extends past the Pine Barrens into parts of Pennsylvania as well. There has been more research done on Sasquatch than the Jersey Devil as a cryptid, save for several groups in New Jersey. If cryptids were rock stars, Sasquatch is clearly Elvis and The Jersey Devil is Buddy Holly. Both have similarities, but one became hugely popular while the other has few fans once they were out of the lime light. I guess I do believe there is something there, but what I do not know. Do I believe in the Legend? Definitely. If you are ever driving through southern New Jersey at night, keep one eye on the road, one eye to the sky and treeline, one hand on the wheel and the other holding your camera, and maybe you can catch a glimpse or a even a picture of the ever elusive Jersey Devil.

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Carbon Monoxide is a Heckuva Drug

I’m sure that many of you already know about the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO). You’ve heard it in school, from the fire department, and you probably have several CO detectors in your own home. CO is a silent killer that can’t be seen, smelled, or heard, but in high enough levels, can kill you and your loved ones within hours.

But, what if it’s not in high enough levels to kill you immediately? What if it’s high enough to make you sick, but low enough that you still receive the oxygen you need?

Beginning in March, 2013, over 140 citizens of two towns in Kazakhstan, Kalachi and Krasnogorsk, began experiencing a strange sleeping sickness. Many of these people would fall asleep for no reason, even sometimes while standing up or walking! Some fell asleep for days at a time, the record being six days in a row. Many of these people, though seemingly conscious, would actually be asleep and upon waking would remember nothing. While one side of the town would be affected, the other would feel perfectly fine. Several days later, the opposite would occur. The worst side-effect of this illness, though, was the hallucinations. Some reported seeing frightening creatures during those brief times of consciousness. Age didn’t matter, with both the elderly and children affected. Species didn’t matter, either, as it seemed the towns’ pets were also adversely affected. One woman reported that her pet cat began attacking the dog, furniture, and walls, only to then fall into a deep sleep, not even responding to the smell of cat food.

Local experts and doctors misdiagnosed the patients over many months. Some claimed that counterfeit vodka caused the illness, while others blamed a mass psychosis. The towns were checked for excess radiation and radon levels due to the now-closed nearby uranium mines, but that didn’t check out. Until, that is, someone examined the carbon monoxide levels. When doctors took blood samples from those affected, they found many had carboxyhemoglobin (CO in red blood cells that hinders the delivery of oxygen) levels at 25%, which is considered a medium-level CO poisoning.

Viktor Krukev, former director of the local uranium mines, theorized that once the mines shut down, groundwater was no longer being pumped out of the mine. The rise in groundwater caused whatever gas was in the mine and rocks to be pushed out through fissures. One of those gases was carbon monoxide. The mines, closed some 34 years before, had reached the maximum groundwater level in 2014, the year in which the strange illness peaked in Kalachi and Krasnogorsk. Carbon monoxide was being released from the mine and, depending upon wind direction, affecting citizens of the neighboring towns.

Starting in July, 2015, the Kazakhstani government began relocating affected families and the illness subsided. But, what does this mean for you and for PGI? It means that we take our responsibilities to our clients very seriously. Just as we check electro-magnetic field levels in your home, we also check carbon monoxide levels. Appliances such as your furnace, water heater, gas stove and oven, dryer, and fireplace can cause elevated levels of carbon monoxide. Your home CO levels should be the same as outdoor levels (no more than 2.5 parts per million or 2.5 ppm). If you have carbon monoxide detectors, they will alert you if the levels go above normal. But if you don’t, we use a carbon monoxide sensor that can detect CO levels inside as well as out. Medium CO poisoning can bring about hallucinations and if what you’re experiencing isn’t ghosts but CO poisoning, then we want to know so that we can get you the help you need.

So, if you ever see one of our investigators carrying CarMon (our name for our CO detector), it’s not some strange, experimental piece of paranormal equipment. It’s yet another tool in our arsenal to help us ensure that we’ve covered all the natural, or normal, explanations before we jump to the paranormal.

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The Mothman

My children and their new best friend.

Many people enter the paranormal field because of childhood experiences they can’t explain. Maybe they had a nightly visitor that would stand at the end of their bed or maybe their imaginary playmate wasn’t so… imagined. Those people come to us and other paranormal groups needing to answer the questions of their youth, to verify that what they saw and experienced was real.

I’m not one of those people. My childhood was a quiet one, spent on the banks of the Kanawha River in West Virginia. Visitors from the other side may not have hovered near me, but I did live in the state made famous for its paranormal shenanigans. It’s the state where a group of people claimed to come in contact with an alien creature back in 1952. It’s the state where testimony from a ghost was used in a murder trial. And it’s the home of The Mothman.

In a sleepy little West Virginia town, on the banks of the Kanawha and Ohio rivers, the legend of the Mothman was born. Fifty years ago, the town of Point Pleasant was terrified by sightings of a strange creature. Over seven feet tall, it was covered in a gray fur, gigantic wings, and had red, glowing eyes. It was sighted throughout Point Pleasant, as far east as Clendenin, and frightened the townsfolk for 13 months, from November, 1966, until the collapse of the Silver Bridge on December 15, 1967. For my kids’ Spring Break, I packed them up and drove them north to West Virginia so that they could see where I grew up and understand why I love my home state so much. One of our stops was, of course, Point Pleasant and the Mothman Museum.

Posing with my new boyfriend

My childhood, though free of ghosts and shadow figures, was filled with books and daydreams. I first read The Mothman Prophecies, by John Keel, when I was a little girl. I was disgusted by the bland selection of books in the children’s section at my local library and decided one day to delve into the variety of the adult non-fiction books. One day, I took the plunge and walked across the great expanse between those two sections and found a book that scared the bejeezus out of me. It had a cream dust jacket and on the front was a crude drawing of a winged creature with bright red eyes. I was hooked. After reading John Keel’s interpretation of the Point Pleasant Mothman and UFO sightings, as well as visitations from strange men in black, I couldn’t get enough. I read every book about paranormal phenomena I could find, discussing ideas with my father, a fellow paranormal enthusiast from way back. My interest in the paranormal started not in the dark recesses of my home, but in the bright, sunny bookshelves of the South Charleston Public Library.

When I planned our recent Spring Break trip, I knew I had to face one of those monsters of my youth and introduce him to my children. We drove from our hotel in South Charleston and arrived in Point Pleasant to the sight of the Mothman statue just off Main Street. I had seen the picture of the statue many times and we immediately posed for pictures. We then headed into the Mothman Museum and enjoyed the displays of pictures, videos, and original newspaper clippings of articles written by Mary Hyre of The Athens Messenger. I was enthralled. The kids, though more interested in buying t-shirts and tchotchkes from the store, had a great time.

The Silver Memorial Bridge

As we left Point Pleasant, we crossed over the Silver Memorial Bridge into Gallipolis, Ohio. The original Silver Bridge collapsed in December, 1967, killing 46 people. The Mothman, seen for 13 months prior and reportedly witnessed on the trusses of the bridge just before its collapse, disappeared. Was he there to warn the people of Point Pleasant about the bridge collapse, to function as a harbinger? Who knows. My three children, though, gamely posed on the Ohio side of the Ohio River, under the Silver Memorial Bridge, and expressed their excitement over being able to cross another state off their list. I, meanwhile, hoped that a dark grey figure with bulging red eyes would show up in an epic photobomb. I, of course, was disappointed.

I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that adulthood is many things. It’s responsibilities and acceptance mixed in with facing our childhood fears and memories, both bad and good. John Keel and the Mothman kept me awake many nights, convinced that those glowing red eyes were just outside my window. But now, he’s an old friend and the reason why I seek out the paranormal, excitedly hoping for the next unexplainable experience. If the Mothman showed up in the skies over Woodstock, Georgia, I wouldn’t run and hide. I would, instead, welcome him as an old friend.

And avoid all local bridges for the foreseeable future.

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