On a Research Hiatus

Thank you for your interest in Paranormal Georgia Investigations. At this time, our group is on a research hiatus. We are not actively taking on any new investigations. If you feel that your home or business needs to be investigated for paranormal activity, please feel free to email us at PGIBoard@gmail.com and we will be happy to get you in touch with a local Atlanta, Georgia, group who can help you.

We are still actively doing public talks about the paranormal. If your library or group would like to have us speak at your event, please contact us at PGIBoard@gmail.com or email Heather at pgiheatherd@gmail.com.

Thank you for your support over the last ten years! We will keep you updated we when “re-open” for business!

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Ghosts at Night

Original artist unknown. If you created this picture, please let us know so that we can credit you appropriately.

One of the most common questions we receive as paranormal investigators is Why do you only investigate at night? Don’t ghosts haunt houses during the day?

And that’s a very valid question considering that the majority of our investigations happen in the wee hours when most people are sound asleep. We typically arrive at our clients’ homes right at sunset, send them out for dinner and a movie, and blearily drive home, air conditioning blowing and the radio cranked, trying our best to stay awake before dawn has even broken.

Of course, Hollywood has popularized the idea that ghosts, poltergeists, demons, and various monsters only come out to “play” when it’s dark. That just naturally ups the scare factor because the human fear of the dark is both ancient and genetic. It’s a fear that all of us at Paranormal Georgia have worked hard to suppress.

But, we don’t always investigate at night. It all depends upon our clients and when the activity seems to occur. The majority of the investigations, though, do happen at night and I think I know the reasons why.


Most people work all day, five days a week. Mornings are spent rushing around getting the kids ready for school and getting ourselves ready for rush hour traffic and our jobs. Then, once we get home, it’s time to shuttle the kids to their various after-school activities, fix and eat dinner, and hustle off to bed. Which leads into…

Night time is quiet time.

Unless it’s Independence Day and everyone in town is setting off fireworks, the evenings and nights are the quietest part of our days. It’s the time when we slow down, settle in after hard days of work, and go to bed. When our environments are quiet, we tend to notice every creak and groan, every whisper and light flicker. Personally, I feel very safe at home, but when my husband is out of town on business, my senses are heightened and trust gets tossed out the window. The house I’ve lived in for nearly 20 years suddenly becomes a strange place full of odd noises and shadows and I’m convinced that every burglar in the greater-Atlanta area is trying to break in. Does this mean that your ghost is a figment of your imagination? Not necessarily. It’s completely understandable that we only hear strange sounds when the sounds of everyday life have diminished.

Our audio is better at night

We have found that when we investigate the paranormal, the most ubiquitous piece of evidence we collect are EVPs — electronic voice phenomena. In the ten years PGI has investigated the paranormal, we have only collected three pieces of video evidence, and countless pieces of audio. As stated above, the nighttime is quietest. Traffic is minimal and human activity is low. When the world is quiet, then our audio shines and we aren’t constantly trying to account for every artificial sound we hear.

Our best piece of evidence DID occur in the morning!

During our very first investigation of Old South Pittsburg Hospital in South Pittsburg, TN, we captured a door opening by itself… at 8:30 in the morning! So, yeah, that just goes to show you that spirits can be up and at ’em in the morning, too!

Our lives are quiet at night

Let’s face it. We don’t get paid as paranormal investigators. We all have day jobs. One of us owns a store, another writes full time, another one runs a travel agency, and so on. Those Monday through Friday, nine-to-five jobs don’t leave a lot of time to investigate during the day. Not only that, but weekends are typically filled with family and errands. So, for us, as paranormal investigators, weekend nights are the best time to investigate! We have, though, investigated during the day. If the client says their activity seems to peak at three o’clock in the afternoon, then we try our darnedest to investigate at 3 PM. More often than not, though, our investigations happen at night when it’s convenient for us as well as the client.

Paranormal investigations aren’t about skulking around in the dark, shining flashlights in dank basements, scurrying through cemetery headstones, or traipsing through abandoned buildings. It’s about the search for the truth regarding the paranormal experiences people have in their own homes. We investigate whenever the clients asks us to do so, and if that means investigating at high noon or the dead of night, then we do whatever it takes!

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On the left is famous American actor, Matthew McConaughey. On the right is his 19th century doppelgänger. No relation.

“Hey Heather,” my sorority sister Stephanie began, “were you in Jacksonville last month?”

“Um, no.” I replied. “Does it count if I wish I had been? Because, beach. Why do you ask?”

“Well,” she continued, “Leon and I were at the airport and I could swear that I saw you there. I even walked up to this person and was about to give her a hug because I was so sure it was you. But, when she turned to me, I realized I was wrong. But, no lie, you have a twin living in Florida.”

“Huh,” I stated, “let’s hope she only inherited just my stunning good looks and not my propensity for being a hot mess!”

As humanity interacts on modern social media and takes advantage of intercontinental travel, we have greater opportunities to meet up with our living twins. Considering that after the last supervolcano eruption 70,000 years ago killed off half the Earth’s population, it’s no wonder that humanity’s genetics can randomly create two or more people who look nearly alike with no common parentage. The Polynesian culture got it right in stating that everyone is your “cousin” and we are all ‘ohana–family.

But, what about the doppelgängers of paranormal lore? Those are less about genetic happenstance and have more of a sinister “evil twin” vibe.

Doppelgänger is a German word that literally translates to “double-goer.” It is essentially the ghostly apparition of a living person. Probably the most famous doppelgänger in American history was that of President Abraham Lincoln. After the 1860 election, Lincoln reported to his wife, Mary, that upon looking in the mirror he saw two reflections–one of his own, living face and a second of his face, but with a ghostly, dead pallor. He is said to have seen this double reflection a total of three times during his tenure as President. Could this reflective ghostly double been a harbinger of the Civil War and his own assassination? We’ll never know. The traditional German doppelgänger is a paranormal entity that when seen is taken as a portent of bad luck and that if you see your own double, you will soon die.

But, German folklore isn’t the only place you can find evidence of paranormal twins. My favorite is the Norwegian vardøger and the Finnish etiäinen. Vardøger literally means “premonitory sound or sight of a person before he arrives” while etiäinen translates from Finnish as “firstcomer.” A vardøger is a spirit double that precedes a living person in location and activity. It’s kind of like a reverse of déjà vu. The vardøger will show up and perform the action the living person is intending to do. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind having a vardøger that wakes up before me in the morning to do the dishes and make beds. The Finnish etiäinen and the vardøger are both considered to be good guardian spirits and not at all a bad omen of things to come.

Of course, spirit doubles are perfect literary foils with the living person representing the light while the doppelgänger stands for the dark. The idea of a paranormal twin perfectly represents the duality of human nature; we all have good and bad sides and having a doppelgänger allows an author to give her main character the ability to act out on her evil nature while still staying separate from it.

Believe it or not, there is a scientific explanation for doppelgängers. It’s called heautoscopy and in the field of psychiatry it’s a term used to describe the hallucination of seeing one’s own body at a distance. Heautoscopy can be symptom of schizophrenia or epilepsy and can be a biological explanation of seeing one’s own double. But, what if someone else sees your doppelgänger?

As for me, I believe that doppelgängers can be explained in the same way that some residual haunting phenomena can be described. If we subscribe to the idea of multiple quantum universes–that every decision and action leads to infinite universes with an infinite number of Earths and an infinite number of each person, all a different iteration of each other–maybe a doppelgänger sighting is a crack between quantum universes and you or a friend actually glimpsed you in a neighboring mirror universe.

Whatever the explanation, doppelgängers are a fascinating subject, one that even modern filmmakers are fascinated by. The recent release of Jordan Peele’s film Us proves that evil twins make for amazingly good, and creepy, stories.

In the end, I just hope that my Jacksonville airport twin isn’t evil or an omen of bad things to come in my life. I hope she is, instead, a wonderful young lady who enjoyed her travels, rescues puppies and kittens, and spreads joy wherever she goes. Maybe someday we’ll run into one another. I just hope our eventual meeting doesn’t cause a rip in spacetime. Instead, I hope we close down the local Starbucks after catching up late into the night.

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The Living vs. The Dead

Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 1.23.23 PMWe, at Paranormal Georgia Investigations, don’t consider ourselves to be “parapsychologists,” mainly because we don’t study telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, near-death experiences, or reincarnation. Since we only study and explore apparitional experiences and other supernatural or paranormal claims, we prefer to call ourselves paranormal investigators or paranormal researchers. But, at times, we do feel that we are psychologists more so than paranormal investigators. Why? Well, I’m about to tell you a secret that many in the paranormal community don’t want you to know. Are you ready? OK. Come in close and I’ll whisper it to you.

Investigating the paranormal is more about the living than it is the dead.

Yes. You heard it here first. It’s all true. What we do is more of a study, an understanding, of the reactions of the living to the dead. Yeah, sure, we attempt to communicate with the spirits of people who have passed on, we try to capture them on audio and/or video. We are always after that “Holy Grail” of evidence, a full-body apparition that appears, acknowledges the camera, and disappears. To be able to capture that, prove what it is, and share it with the world? It’s every paranormal investigator’s dream.

But, honestly, what we mostly do is help people cope with what is happening to them and most of the time what is happening to them is not as bad as they make it out to be.

Our reality is what we make of it. Barring any mental illness which requires medication, our personal world is colored by our perceptions of it. My joy for rainy days allows me to see the beauty of a cloudy sky, the wet pavement, and the heavy, moist smell of the air. For someone who hates rainy days, they would see only ugliness in such a day. The paranormal is a lot like that. Where we, as people who seek out the unseen, find excitement in communicating with someone who has died, others aren’t so excited at the prospect. Many are confused and most are down-right scared witless.

The activity at my home is all audible in nature. I’ve heard my name called out, I’ve heard a voice mimicking mine, I’ve heard someone coughing when no one is in the house but me, and I typically either tell whatever is there that I hear it and go on about my day, or I ignore it. It all depends if my kids are nearby or not. But, I don’t let it get to me and I don’t make a big deal out of it. As paranormal investigators, we find that those people who accept the paranormal activity in their homes and function normally in spite of it can better emotionally accept that said activity occurring is OK.

Yep. You read me right. It’s OK that Uncle Bob continues to walk up and down the stairs even though he died ten years ago. Let’s take a moment to look at one of my favorite statistics. The Population Reference Bureau site has a nifty article about How Many People Have Ever Lived On Earth? The number they estimate as of 2011?


Just let that sink in a little and realize that we’re constantly surprised that not every single home on this planet isn’t haunted. Over 100 billion lives have walked and talked and lived and loved and died on this planet. It’s a number that many of us cannot fathom. People die every day and not all souls remain behind, but a good number do and what we need to remember is that existing side-by-side with those who have passed on is more common than we think. Rather than think of activity in your home as extraordinary, we need to see it as more ordinary, more normal than paranormal.

I guess if we all start thinking like that, PGI would become NGI, Normal Georgia Investigations. And our calls would trickle to nothing, and we, as a group, would cease to exist.

This fear of paranormal activity in our homes and businesses stems directly, I think, from our species-wide fear of death. If NONE of us feared death and what may or may not happen afterwards, I don’t think any of us would fear the footsteps on the stairs or the touch on the shoulder. The shadows outside the door would be something to accept and the voices in the next room would be a pleasant reminder of what is to come, not a sound to fear.

We all need to remember that death is a part of life, and so as we will all someday die, so do we need to realize that sometimes our lives intersect with that veiled after-realm and that it’s OK to accept the paranormal.

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Stone Tape and a Guy Named Schumann

When trying to explain residual hauntings, many paranormal investigators will fall back on the “Stone Tape” hypothesis to explain how a moment in time can play back like a recording, over and over again. There’s just one huge problem with this idea. How does the moment record itself? What is the mechanism? The other problem is that there are minimal to no magnetic properties when considering wood, gypsum and paper (the main “ingredients” in drywall), clay (a.k.a. brick), and all the other materials of which modern homes are made. So, how can we reconcile the paranormal as a recording?

A traditional recorder utilizes magnetic tape, but speaking at the magnetic tape will not record your voice. You need the addition of a read/write head to store the wave patterns of your voice onto the magnetic tape.* The Stone Tape hypothesis posits that moments in time, emotions, actions, what have you, imprint or “record” on a location. But how does that happen? What is the mechanism, or the “read/write head” that imprints these moments onto the wood, stone, and clay of our homes and buildings?

Now, even though I’m not a sensitive/intuitive, there is something to be said for a room feeling uncomfortable when you walk in right after an argument or a home feeling warm and inviting after baking cookies. But I don’t think these emotions have imprinted on the materials, rather I think our other five senses are engaged. We smell the vanilla of the cookies, we see the uncomfortable body language of the couple who exchanged unkind words. These moments are fleeting and forgotten after a few hours. But, how is it that an emotional/traumatic moment, or a repetitive action, can be recorded, or imprinted, on a structure so that emotions and actions are accessible years, even decades, in the future?

As paranormal investigators, we are constantly questioning and asking “Why?” As a scientist, I do this quite a bit, and I think I’ve come up with a hypothesis of my own regarding the Stone Tape idea:

What if the mechanisms by which moments in time are recorded on locations are the Schumann Resonance excitations?

OK. Just bear with me. I’ll give you a little background. Winifried Otto Schumann was a physicist who actually predicted these resonances, mathematically, back in 1952. He predicted that the Earth’s ionosphere (the lowest part of our atmosphere) would act as a waveguide (a structure that directs sound-, electromagnetic-, etc. waves, and enables a signal to multiply with minimal loss of energy by restricting expansion to one or two dimensions) that would, in turn, act as a resonant cavity (similar to a closed box) for electromagnetic waves. What is it that causes these electromagnetic waves to resonate?


Take a look at the following:

Credit: NASA/Conceptual Image Lab

What you’re seeing is an animation of the Schumann Resonances. When lightning strikes the Earth, the electromagnetic waves propagate around our planet at an extremely low frequency (ELF), between 3 and 60 Hertz. What if it is these ELF waves that are the mechanism behind our residual paranormal activity?

Considering that the Earth is subject to approximately eight million lightning strikes per day (that comes out to about 100 strikes per second), our planet’s atmospheric wave guide is just pulsing with Schumann Resonances. Add to that the effect solar activity can have on our planet’s geomagnetic field, not to mention seismic activity, and you could have a planetary read/write head that helps record, and playback, residual paranormal activity.

Do we, as paranormal investigators, know for sure that Schumann Resonances are the catalyst by which residual paranormal activity exists? No, we don’t. This is just wild speculation at this point. But, that’s where science begins, right? At wild speculation. And then, we experiment, collect data, and form our hypothesis. Which is why we collect information before each investigation regarding solar and geomagnetic activity, as well as weather, which includes lightning strikes. Currently, the only archive of Schumann Resonance data can be found at the HeartMath Institute (and the data only goes back to January 1, 2013), so verifying that Schumann Resonances were at an all-time high when, say, Anne Boleyn was beheaded and, therefore, caused her headless spirit to roam London Tower, is impossible. But, hopefully, in generations to come, paranormal investigators could, possibly, document when a moment in time became a residual recording.

*How exactly does that read/write head work, you ask? Well, I’m glad you brought that up. A read/write head consists of a core of magnetic material, shaped like a doughnut with a very narrow gap, which is filled with a diamagnetic material (like gold). This diamagnetic material forces the magnetic flux out of the gap into the magnetic tape medium more than air would. The flux then magnetises the tape. A coil of wire wrapped around the core opposite the gap interfaces to the electrical side of the apparatus, either supplying a signal in the case of recording, or being fed to an amplifier in the case of playback. And now? You are an audio expert. Sort of.

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Happy Halloween, Everyone! It’s Video Evidence For You!

Editor’s Note: This post was previously released three years ago, but we thought we would revive it for Halloween this year. Video evidence is always fun. Enjoy!

I don’t know about all of you, but I love Halloween! Even before I became a paranormal investigator, I just enjoyed this holiday. The crisp, cool fall air, the orange pumpkins, the free candy, and all the spooky fun you can handle!

As a paranormal investigator, Halloween is really special. This is the time of year when requests for investigations pick up and when we get to show all of you what it is we do. As a reward for reading our blog and following us, I give you our annual Halloween gift of evidence!

This video was captured four years ago in northeast Atlanta in a private home. The clients in this case had quite a bit of activity going on in their home and they wanted answers. Now, I’ll be honest, we’ve only been lucky enough in our seven-year history to capture two instances of paranormal activity on video, so whenever we watch our video footage, we do it with a bit of cynicism because we just know that we probably won’t find anything. Well, this time? We found something! Woo hoo! Video number three!

We had just started the investigation. Our cameras were set up and recording. All four investigators were in the garage with the two clients. All the dogs were in the backyard. This particular camera was in the living room, pointing toward the closed master bedroom door. There were no windows behind the camera and only one to the left (the backyard where there were no streetlights or traffic). The shades were drawn.

At the six-second mark, you see a short shadow figure go from the right side of the screen to the left (very quickly), and then it seems to crawl back in the opposite direction (a bit more slowly). Pay close attention because it’s not a dark figure, but rather see-through and vague. What makes this bit of evidence so special is that it validates our clients’ experiences and claims. When you do see it, I hope it blows your mind like it did ours!

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Shadow People

Borrowed from PyroGothNerd at http://cryptidz.wikia.com/wiki/Shadow_People

Hey, folks! Heather here! One of our former investigators, Lani, did an amazing job researching and writing this post. In it, she recounts her experiences with shadow people and shares a few hypotheses she has encountered in her research on this fascinating subject. Enjoy!

Shadow people have been an obsession of mine since an early age, partly due to curiosity and partly due to personal reasons. I have conducted quite a bit of research and I am baffled at the vast amount of individuals that have experienced shadow people in the past and/or encounter them on a regular basis.

My research has led me to the realization that shadow people mean different things to different people. So what are shadow people? Where do they come from and why are they here? There is an abundant amount of theories out there trying to pinpoint what these dark humanoid figures are. One theory is that they are a fabrication of our imagination. Obviously this theory stems from skeptics that have never experienced a shadow person. They continue to say that it is the work of our over-active imaginations, our minds playing tricks on us. Some even speculate that there are natural causes that lead us to believe that we are seeing a shadow person. I agree that the human mind, especially in a frightened state, can in fact play tricks on us. But can these mind tricks account for so many occurrences? I think not.

Theorists also consider that these shadows could be time travelers. This theory I find very interesting but less plausible. They suggest that the shadows have come from the future and possess technology that we cannot conceive of yet.

There are theories out there that suggests shadow people are the shadows or essences of sleeping individuals that are having out of body experiences. It is thought that while we sleep, we all travel outside of our body and the shadows we are experiencing are the ephemeral astral bodies of these twilight travels.

There are also theories that shadow people are demonic in nature and will exhibit an aggressive disposition when encountered. The thought is that if we experience a shadow person that a catastrophic event is soon to follow. This, in my opinion, is mainly because of the malicious feeling that is associated when we encounter shadow people. This simply could be that we are naturally frightened when the experience occurs, which in turn leads us to believe that there is malevolent intentions.

Other theories suggest that shadow people are simply another type of ghost. However, they do not have the same characteristics that a ghost has. Ghosts are generally see-through and misty white, whereas shadow people are dark in nature and have mass that you cannot see through. Regardless of their label, shadow people could very well be more than just one type of being.

My experience with a shadow person happened between the ages of six to twelve. I grew up in a house that was somewhat older and my bedroom was the only bedroom that was exposed to the back yard, all other family members bedrooms were facing towards the front yard. Quite often after I went to bed I would see a man-shaped shadow standing in the corner of my room. Sometimes I would only see part of his silhouette and sometimes all of him. Sometimes I would not see him at all but I could sense him. He would stand in the corner of my room and it was apparent that he was darker than the space around him. Looking back and knowing what I know now, I do not think his intentions were malicious, he just petrified me. I did not only experience his energy at night, this is just the time that I noticed it the most. I could always sense his energy when he was about to appear and felt it until he was gone.

In addition to the shadow man that regularly visited, one night I saw an older lady as plain as day float across my bedroom floor. She looked as if she was from the early 1900’s because of the way she was dressed. It looked as if she was gently smiling at me as she floated across the floor and disappeared into the wall that led to the back yard. I have always felt I was sensitive to energies around me and maybe that is why I was seeing these visitors. I got the sense that the ghostly apparitions were somehow tied to the back yard. Often when cutting through the back yard to go to a friend’s house, I found myself running because I felt someone was watching me. My back yard had a completely different feel from the front yard at my house. There were a few times at night that I would hear, what I thought to be, knocking on my window and I would pull the covers over my head.  I knew that my windows were so high up that no one could possibly reach them and the trees did not go up that high.

Once we moved from that house, around the age of 13, I had no problems sleeping alone. I did not experience the shadow man again until around 16. Although I did not physically see him I felt his energy. For the most part I wasn’t as scared as I was when I was younger. Even to this day, often I feel I see shadows out of the corner of my eye, only to look and nothing is there.

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Ghosts at the Bottom of the World

Photo taken by David Simmer II, PGI guest investigator, http://blogography.com

If you are one of those lucky people who live full-time in the Caribbean, soaking up the sun’s rays and complaining about the 300th day in a row that it’s been 85-degrees, then you will have no idea what I’m talking about with this post. If, on the other hand, you live with the rest of us in the eastern United States, you’ve been suffering with the rest of us in a deep winter freeze. And even though the cold we’ve been shivering through is nothing compared to what the scientists and researchers experience at the bottom of the world, it makes us appreciate all the more what they go through on a daily basis. Bundling up each day to walk my kids to their bus stops makes me wonder what it’s like living in Antarctica. And, of course, as a paranormal investigator, I wonder if there are ghosts there, drifting through the cold alongside the living few who choose to live in the harshest place on our planet.

Photo taken by David Simmer II, PGI guest investigator, http://blogography.com

PGI’s friend, and guest investigator, David Simmer II, recently took a trip to Antarctica and while he didn’t experience anything paranormal while exploring the seventh continent, he did take beautiful pictures which he has graciously shared with us. During one day, he and his fellow travelers stopped off at Deception Island. What an awesome name for an Antarctic Island, right? Deception Island is the remains of a volcano caldera and inside it is Whaler’s Bay, a place where tens of thousands of whales were once processed for their oil, fat, and meat. The operation shut down after the Great Depression, when the price of whale oil fell. Everything was left behind and the factory is rusted through, the buildings are falling apart, whale bones lying all over the beach. Many visitors to Whaler’s Bay claim to see apparitions and orbs with others hearing disembodied voices. It’s entirely possible that the whalers who worked on Deception Island still haunt this cold, lonely place.

Photo taken by David Simmer II, PGI guest investigator, http://blogography.com

Believe it or not, there are even abandoned towns, settlements, and military bases across Antarctica. Early settlers and explorers went there, hoping to make money or study, looking for a chance to claim land on the unforgivable shores, eventually left their hopes and structures there. Modern-day scientists and researchers who visit these locations report finding human artifacts left behind and state that these places are some of the creepiest on earth. What’s worse is that abandoned containers of seal or whale blubber often go rancid in the warmer summer weather and that smell only adds to the atmosphere of desolation left behind.

Photo: Herbert Ponting/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

James Wordie was the chief scientist on James Shackleton’s 1914 to 1917 Antarctica Endurance Expedition. One of the huts used on the expedition was named after him and after the original hut was destroyed, a second one was built in its place in 1947. It’s now a historic site and monument and even still set up with furniture and canned food as if the explorers who inhabited it just left for the afternoon and will soon return. Investigators with Josh Gates’s Destination Truth TV show reported slamming doors in the hut, jar lids falling off shelves, and light switches frantically flicking off and on.

Photo: McMurdo, Crary Lab center left, slope of Ob Hill in background. Taken by: Sgootzeit/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Even scientists and researchers who live and work at McMurdo Station, America’s Antarctica base on Ross Island, have paranormal experiences because of a plane crash in 1979. When Antarctica become a tourist destination beginning in the 1970s, planes would take off from New Zealand and fly over the continent, giving tourists an aerial view of the land below. One such plane, fully loaded with fuel and 257 passengers, crashed into the side of Mount Erebus. Everyone onboard died and because the bodies couldn’t be immediately transported back to New Zealand, they were stored in the morgue at McMurdo Station. People who live at the station claim to hear disembodied voices, see trails of footprints that lead off into the snow and abruptly end, as well as the feeling of strange presences. One researcher remembers,

As soon as I entered, something was weird. I took a couple of steps in and the hair on the top of my head stood on end – footsteps upstairs; undeniably footsteps. A slow cadence of footsteps. I froze. It went from the back of the building to the front.

It seems that no where on Earth is free of the paranormal. So, if you ever decide to take the plunge and visit the most remote place on Earth, be prepared for penguins, seals, snow, cold, and maybe even ghosts!

To read all about Dave’s Antarctica adventure, make sure you check out his many blog posts here!

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Scary Ghost Stories

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
7Christmas Unwrapped, The History Channel
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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