Ghost Story

Just a good, old fashioned "ghost" story this time.

It was told to me at my initial interview with a PI team at that American culinary icon, Denny's, by a team member who was a historian and a card carrying member of the skeptics society.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

John and Malcolm were young boys, about eleven or twelve, and had been best friends for years in this small, quiet town. They were outside playing one summer night, around the hour of midnight. No, I do not know why such young boys were out playing at midnight. As you can imagine, in such a small town, at such a late hour the surrounding air was silent, save for the boys hushed voices. The silence was broken by a loud crack , which startled them. (a wizard apparating, perhaps?) The crack was described as being very loud and faithfully copied that of a bat hitting a baseball, when it is hit perfectly square and with due force, usually resulting in a home run. The sound repeated, again and again. The boys rose to investigate.

As they followed the sound they passed an eighty year old neighbor gentleman's house. He was standing on his porch looking toward the area that the noise was emanating from. "What is that, do you think?" he asked the boys. They said they didn't know but were on their way to find out.

They arrived at the back of an abandoned catholic school. There was a large, open field, the grass overgrown so much it reached an adult man's knees. There were two trees in the field and standing next to one of them was a man. He was so thin it looked as though pale skin had been draped over bones and nothing more. He wore dark, ragged pants and a white tank top, you know, the ones they used to call "wife beaters?" He was bald on the top of his head, but had long, straggly hair that brushed his shoulders. He was filthy as well. John said you could even see the grime around his fingernails. The tall grass around him was pushed down, as it is when someone treads upon such things. The man was also holding an axe, which he rose to heave into the tree.

The boys started at the man, silent, then looked at one another with that "Are you seeing what I'm seeing?," silent shock hovering between them. They continued to watch the man swing the axe, making an effort to cut down the tree. His aim was terrible as the axe rarely hit the same place twice. It was bright enough outside that they could see where the bark of the tree had been cut away, the lighter, inside of the trunk showing though.

After standing there, watching the man for an undetermined time, he finally lowered the axe and looked straight at them and smiled. It was not a friendly smile said John, it was downright creepy . Malcolm turned and ran and John, like a sheep, ran after him.

The next morning, first thing, the boys returned to the tree. The grass that had been flattened was standing straight up and the tree itself bore no marks whatsoever. The ground was examined, the tree as well, the boys running their hands over the trunk, revealing nothing.

The Confessional

Being invited into a stranger's home is a fascinating and often disturbing experience. It forces you into a place of intimacy with people you don't know. Some clients love to use investigators as a dumping ground for all manner of information we'd rather not know, like this guy on a follow up investigation we did at his family's residence.

As we are getting ready to breakdown and pack up our equipment for the night, Charles, the homeowner, came up to Matthew and I and said, about the "ghosts;"
"You know, sex stuff gets them all riled up! When we're taking sex photos, I get tons of orbs! You should see this one I got, it's right between Melinda's (his wife) ...."
Matthew, mercifully, interrupted him. Thank DOG and bless my victorian sensiblities.

The Walls Are Staring Again

I have always coveted the wallpaper that adorns the walls of the Haunted Mansion ride. Something from may be the next best thing.

They even have flocked paper, (ooh, pettable!), as well as the one pictured here with artist Camille Rose Garcia:

Talky Tina's Friends


As the story goes, an old man in Camden, Maine, fills the windows of his house up with dolls, who stare outward at passerby.

Surely, they plot murderous things, most likely involving you.

Interview Gleanings

Below are my notes from the interview portion of a very typical residential investigation that took place in Southern California. As an investigator you've got to be able to read people and be a bit of a psychologist or at least be able to logically discern various human behaviors. In this short interview what can we immediately learn, or at least suspect and what are you going to immediately focus on in the course of your investigation according to the information given? It's pretty simple.


Team arrives at 9:05 P.M. Oversize town home. Male and female resident use this location infrequently. Primary male has owned the town home since November of 2001. Primary male resident had a dog, a sheltie, who exhibited abnormal behavior on premesis. Owner described the dog as "fearless" and became alarmed when the dog seemed fearful and would remain “frozen.” Owner finally resorted to carrying the dog to move him.

So, we know right off that the couple experiencing these things are in a house that is largely unfamiliar to them. They aren't used to the sounds, the lighting, the feel of the place as they would in a regular "home" experience. On average we're all at least a bit uncomfortable in unfamiliar places, especially when we hear sounds we cannot discern. People generally don't sleep well away from home, this includes animals. Speaking of which - the dog mentioned - dogs, like children pick up on our inner emotions, feelings, energy whatever you want to call it. Man alarmed equals dog alarmed.

Also, note that this is a town home. If you've ever lived in an apartment, condo, town home etc. you KNOW that you can pretty much hear everything that goes on around you. High volume of outside car and pedestrian traffic to boot.

Male resident said unusual things would occur but he would “block them” out, as he was too busy to worry or wonder about them. One such incident occurred in the vanity area of the master bathroom, while he was shaving. He reports that a hairbrush, which was in the attached bedroom, hit him in the upper arm. He responded by saying, audibly, “Stop it! I’m late.”

The male resident doesn't seem to pay much attention of these "unusual" goings on, so his accounts are not the most dependable. The brush has me stumped, especially since we tried throwing it into the space he said he was standing in. It was blocked by a wall that jutted out, making it pretty much impossible for someone or thing to have thrown it, unless it was a boomerang. I asked him to show and tell this incident a number of times to see if the story would change, a pretty reliable way to know if a witness is lying or embellishing or otherwise. His reenactments were constant and dependable. Still stumped. Dammit.

Others that have visited the residence also reported feeling a “negative” energy or presence in the master bedroom.

When people make this claim there are two main things you as an investigator are going to do - the first is ask if they had been told about any odd occurrences, a suspected haunting, were they reading some Stephen King before bed or just anything at all that would have influenced them. Next, put your EMF detector to work. High and unusual readings can be the cause of a plethora of problems: anxiety, paranoia, depression, nausea and yep, that old feeling that someone is watching you.

Primary female resident also feels distressed when in the master bedroom, or other areas of the home. Describes herself as feeling “restless” and “nervous.” One night, while alone, she set up a “booby trap” for fear of intruders and placed against the closed bedroom door a chair, ironing board and pillows. Upon awakening, everything was found to be in its original place, with the pillows stacked up on the floor.

She's already made herself out to be somewhat of a nervous wreck. She's taken it a step further and constructed herself quite a trap there. You have to understand it isn't to keep someone out, or in hopes of preventing an attack - its to buy her time to escape or fight. See, most girls I know, all really, if you actually ask them, have at least one story to tell. A story about a time, when someone tried to violently hurt or violate them, to do something to them or succeeded in doing so. In result, we're left with a sort of post traumatic stress disorder, where many girls actually hide "weapons," and devise elaborate escape plans, or like this one, set up traps to buy time to escape. With someone who has this kind of anxiety they very well are the culprits behind replacing the very objects they put in place for their own protection. You'll have to approach all of this very gently with your client and hope they'll agree to being video taped a number of nights, to see if you can catch them "sleepwalking."

Approximately a year ago, both residents were in bed and viewed what was described as “small, orb lights, the size of fingertips," moving upwards and along a section of the upper wall above a closet and near an air vent. They were described as “Bright. Like Christmas lights.” And then faded out.

Of course, you'll want to debunk this one. If there are windows, go outside shine in flashlights, drive your car by, anything you can think of, while another team member takes notes and films what they see. Could have been a reflection off of a bracelet or earrings being worn by someone passing by.

One week prior to the interview the bedroom lights were turned on while they were sleeping. The light switch was in the “On” position.

Any possibility they could have fallen asleep with the light on? Set a camera up on that spot anyway.

On another night in the master bedroom, a heavy bankers light fell over.

The lamp was on a small, unstable table upstairs. It was up against a wall that had the staircase on the other side. Some jumping on the stairs knocked that thing right over. The woman was close to my own height and weight and when I ran up the stairs (like a gazelle mind you...not an elephant!), again, the thing fell. Look ghost!

A guest claimed to have heard knocking noises.

As I mentioned previously, this is a town home, you're going to hear all kinds of unexplainable things. Also, it was a guest, who is even more unfamiliar with the "ordinary" sounds of this residence.

Primary female resident has been experiencing nightmares, centering around people dying.

All that anxiety, no wonder. Be sure to ask if the subject watches tv - especially the news - before or while going to sleep. If so, tell them they might wanna stop.

Incidents always occur at 3:00- 3:15 A.M.

There are all kinds of crazy theories about why "paranormal" things go down at this time. They usually have a religious bent, but really, it isn't all that demonic. A human being's metabolism has a spike around this time. Many of us find it hard to remain sleeping through it and so we wake, all disoriented and dreamy and then our thoughts enter crazy town. Just keep your eyes shut and go back to sleep.

The Urim and Thummim Movie: Crypto-objectology

The Urim and Thummim. Ever heard of it?
Me neither.

The name belongs to an Old Testament object that served as an oracle to Aaron, Moses' brother. The Book Of Mormon "author" Joseph Smith also claims to have come into possession of it.

So, fast forward too many centuries to keep track of. Three native Tennessee Everymen are on their way to Nashville for a tiling job. They enter town late and decide to blow off the job and go to a local Goodwill store. One of these men finds an unusual object lying on a self in the housewares area of the store. He lays out sixty nine cents for it.

He claims this object is the Urim and Thummim.

See for yourself.

I recently had a chance to see the documentary, where I met the director and the three gentlemen featured in it. I also had my chance to look into the "object." That, gentle readers, is a story for another day.


With Strings Attached

The first real memories I have, ones where I can remember not moments or small fragments, but I clearly remember the way it smelled, the hue of the lights, I can feel hands on me and how the air in there felt when I breathed it in. It all took place here:

The darkness of the backstage area and how the velvet curtains
felt as I brushed up against them when I passed. How the adults could never understand why I didn't want to sit out in the audience and enjoy the show like all the other children. I wanted to see things from a different angle, even at this young age. One where I would feel the darkness and watch the faces of the children as my mother and father moved among them.

Sometimes, I would sit in the audience on a red velveteen carpet. I would sit alone and always some parent would ask me where my own parents were and I told them to wait and watch and I will show them. Many an adult, (always women), would invite me to sit in their laps. My mother and father would pass by my end of the circle, the puppets never failed to acknowledge me. I would turn up my face to the person I was sitting near and whisper, "
There is my mother."

The workshop was a playroom. Not one where I moved about and really played, but in my head I did. I loved to touch the unfinished costumes, the smooth wooden parts of the marionettes being carved and the shavings of wood that littered the floors and tables.

I frequented the kitchens there, hoping to entice the workers into giving me an extra cookie. There was a room where many children had birthday parties and I liked to sit in the room, by myself at a table and watch them all, with their smiling faces lit up with candles. The cakes were pretty and I sometimes was offered a piece. If not the kitchen girls brought out to me a cookie and one of those little cups of ice cream, the kind you eat with a wooden spoon.

All of this, this was my first playground.

It still exists and is completely unchanged. Entering it is like time travel, right down to the smell of it.

Come next Halloween, you can check out his wonderfully Spooktacular Puppet extravaganza. See you there.

The Black Eyed Kids

This story evokes a sort of unexplainable, primal fear in me. Its been around for some years now, but no one I've spoken to seems familiar with it.

A best friend of mine for many years now, Gabriel, was friends with Brian Bethel, who I had spoken to on a number of occasions. I remember him well as a stickler for facts and honesty, always using his words in a very deliberate manner. In result, this story of Brian's holds even more weight. His original telling was posted, by him, on an old newsgroup. It now, no longer exists. You can find retellings of it, but nothing compares to "hearing" it from Brian. Sure there could be plenty of explanations for it but...if I were you I'd watch out for the BEKs.

I don't really know what I'd call this story if I was submitting it
for publication in Fate or something of its ilk. "Brian vs. the Evil,
Black-eyed, Possibly Vampiric or Demonic But At Least Not Bloody
Normal Kids" doesn't have much of a ring to it. (Shrug.) :)

But that's at least an accurate title.

As so many things do, it all started out innocently.

My Internet Service Provider used to have offices in a shopping center
before they moved to their (comparatively) lush accommodations
elsewhere. There was a drop box at that original location. The monthly
bill was due, and thus, there but for the Grace of the Net I went.

It was about 9:30 p.m. when I left. From my relatively isolated
apartments, it's about 10-15 minutes or so to downtown (Abilene has a
population of about 110,000).

Right next to Camalott Communications' old location is a $1.50 movie
theater. At the time, the place was featuring that masterwork of
modern film, Mortal Kombat. I drove by the theater on the way into the
center proper and pulled into an empty parking space.

Using the glow of the marquee to write out my check, I was startled to
hear a knock on the driver's-side window of my car.

I looked over and saw two children staring at me from street. I need
to describe them, with the one feature (you can guess what it was)
that I didn't realize until about half-way through the conversation
cleverly omitted.

Both appeared to be in that semi-mystical stage of life children get
into where you can't exactly tell their age. Both were boys, and my
initial impression is that they were somewhere between 10-14.

Boy No. 1 was the spokesman. Boy No. 2 didn't speak during the entire
conversation -- at least not in words.

Boy No. 1 was slightly taller than his companion, wearing a pull-over,
hooded shirt with a sort of gray checked pattern and jeans. I couldn't
see his shoes. His skin was olive-colored and had curly, medium-length
brown hair. He exuded an air of quiet confidence.

Boy No. 2 had pale skin with a trace of freckles. His primary
characteristic seemed to be looking around nervously. He was dressed
in a similar manner to his companion, but his pull-over was a light
green color. His hair was a sort of pale orange.

They didn't appear to be related, at least directly.

"Oh, great," I thought. "They're gonna hit me up for money." And then
the air changed.

Right before I experience something strange, there's a change in
perception that comes about which I describe in the above manner. It's
basically enough time to know it's too late. ;)

So, there I was, filling out a check in my car (which was still
running) and in a sudden panic over the appearance of two little boys.
I was confused, but an overwhelming sense of fear and unearthliness
rushed in nonetheless.

The spokesman smiled, and the sight for some inexplicable reason
chilled my blood. I could feel fight-or-flight responses kicking in.
Something, I knew instinctually, was not right, but I didn't know what
it could possibly be.

I rolled down the window very, very slightly and asked "Yes?"

The spokesman smiled again, broader this time. His teeth were very, very white.

"Hey, mister, what's up? We have a problem," he said. His voice was
that of a young man, but his diction, quiet calm and ... something I
still couldn't put my finger on ... made my desire to flee even
greater. "You see, my friend and I want to see the films, but we
forgot our money," he continued. "We need to go to our house to get
it. Want to help us out?"

Okay. Journalists are required to talk to lots of people, and that
includes children. I've seen and spoken to lots of them. Here's how
that usually goes:

"Uh ... M ... M ... Mister? Can I see that camera? I ... I won't break
it or anything. I promise. My dad has a camera, and he lets me hold it
sometimes, I guess, and I took a picture of my dog -- it wasn's very
good, 'cause I got my finger in the way and ..."

Add in some feet shuffling and/or body swaying and you've got a
typical kid talking to a stranger.

In short, they're usually apologetic. People generally teach children
that when they talk to adults, they're usually bothering them for one
reason or another and they should at least be polite.

This kid was in no way fitting the mold. His command of language was
incredible and he showed no signs of fear. He spoke as if my help was
a foregone conclusion. When he grinned, it was as if he was trying to
say, "I know something ... and you're NOT gonna like it. But the only
way you're going to find out what it is will be to do what I say ..."

"Uh, well ..." was the best reply I could offer.

Now here's where it starts to get strange.

The quiet companion looked at the spokesman with a mixture of
confusion and guilt on his face. He seemed in some ways shocked, not
with his friend's brusque manner but that I didn't just immediately
open the door.

He eyed me nervously.

The spokesman seemed a bit perturbed, too. I still was registering
something wrong with both.

"C'mon, mister," the spokesman said again, smooth as silk. Car
salesmen could learn something from this kid. "Now, we just want to go
to our house. And we're just two little boys."

That really scared me. Something in the tone and diction again sent
off alarm bells. My mind was frantically trying to process what it was
perceiving about the two figures that was "wrong."

"Eh. Um ...." was all I could manage. I felt myself digging my
fingernails into the steering wheel.

"What movie were you going to see?" I asked finally.

"Mortal Kombat, of course," the spokesman said. The silent one nodded
in affirmation, standing a few paces behind.

"Oh," I said. I stole a quick glance at the marquee and at the clock
in my car. Mortal Kombat had been playing for an hour, the last
showing of the evening.

The silent one looked increasingly nervous. I think he saw my glances
and suspected that I might be detecting something was not above-board.

"C'mon, mister. Let us in. We can't get in your car until you do, you
know," the spokesman said soothingly. "Just let us in, and we'll be
gone before you know it. We'll go to our mother's house."

We locked eyes.

To my horror, I realized my hand had strayed toward the door lock
(which was engaged) and was in the process of opening it. I pulled it
away, probably a bit too violently. But it did force me to look away
from the children.

I turned back. "Er ... Um ...," I offered weakly and then my mind
snapped into sharp focus.

For the first time, I noticed their eyes.

They were coal black. No pupil. No iris. Just two staring orbs
reflecting the red and white light of the marquee.

At that point, I know my expression betrayed me. The silent one had a
look of horror on his face in a combination that seemed to indicate:
A) The impossible had just happened and B) "We've been found out!"

The spokesman, on the other hand, wore a mask of anger. His eyes
glittered brightly in the half-light.

"Cmon, mister," he said. "We won't hurt you. You have to LET US IN. We
don't have a gun ..."

That last statement scared the living hell out of me, because at that
point by his tone he was plainly saying, "We don't NEED a gun."

He noticed my hand shooting down toward the gear shift. The
spokesman's final words contained an anger that was complete and
whole, and yet contained in some respects a tone of panic:


I ripped the car into reverse (thank goodness no one was coming up
behind me) and tore out of the parking lot. I noticed the boys in my
peripheral vision, and I stole a quick glance back.

They were gone. The sidewalk by the theater was deserted.

I drove home in a heightened state of panic. Had anyone attempted to
stop me, I would have run on through and faced the consequences later.

I bolted into my house, scanning all around -- including the sky.

What did I see? Maybe nothing more than some kids looking for a ride.

And some really funky contacts. Yeah, right.

A friend suggested they were vampires, what with the old "let us in"
bit and my compelled response to open the door. That and the "we'll go
see our mother" thing.

I'm still not sure what they were, but here's an epilogue I find chilling:

I talk about Chad a lot. He's still my best friend, my best
ghost-hunting companion and an all-around cool guy. He recently moved
to Amarillo, but at the time this happened was still living in San
Angelo of Ram Page fame.

I called him and talked to him briefly. He had two female friends with
him at the time, both professing some type of psychic ability.

I started telling him the story, leaving out the part about the black
eyes for the kicker. One of the women (we were on a speakerphone)
stopped me.

"These children had black eyes, right?" she asked. "I mean, all-black eyes?"

"Er ... Yes." I said. I was a bit taken aback.

"Hmmm," she said. "One night last week, I had a dream about children
with black eyes. They were outside my house, wanting to be let in, but
there was something wrong with them. It took me a while to realize it
was the eyes."

I hadn't even gotten as far as them wanting to come in.

"What did you do?" I asked.

"I kept the doors and windows locked," she said. "I knew if they came
in, they would kill me."

She paused.

"And they would have killed you, too, if you had let them into your car."

So, from this extra-long post, we have three unanswered questions:

A) What did I see?

B) What would have happened if I opened my car door?

C) Why does Chad always get the cool psychic chicks? ;)

What Are The Neighbors Up To?!

If this statement is uttered in my neighborhood, no doubt they are referring to us. It doesn't help that it's seven thirty in the morning and I'm out on the front lawn in my work clothes, wrestling branches off of a large tree that fell victim to the winds last night. To complete this curious scene I notice I have blood, pouring down my hand and arm and know, that kind of hurts.

The people stare, the dogs stare too. It's Halloween again.

Just wait until that's over and we start building Mr. Blackwood's spaceship in the garage.

The Market IS A Prop House

Some of my favorite props for All Hallows come from asian markets. Particularly, Vietnamese markets. The produce aisle is full of beautiful, unusual things that you can make use of for the one simple reason that most people aren't used to seeing them, which means you can easily transform these items into something eerie or simply use them as is.

My favorite food related prop has always been the chicken foot. I've found they can elicit quite a negative reaction as they seem high on the creepy meter. A package with a dozen or so is typically under two dollars. This year they'll be dangling from the ceiling of the witch's hut. Anyone wanting a drink come Friday night, will have to navigate through them.

Also discovered this year were these fabulous mushroom clusters.

The chicken feet may be dethroned this year as favorite prop by a most sinister looking item. I have no clue what they are, seed pods maybe? Each one looks like a demon head, complete with eyes, horns, facial details and topped off with a tuft of hair. Unbelievable.

They came in a red netted bag, dozens of them.

I think they're watching me...

Girl, Interrupted - Part II

The personal account of this investigation came from a series of emails I composed to Mr. Blackwood what now seems like a long time ago. The following was the preface written to him at the time:

I wanted to preface the Continuing Misadventures of Merricat: Girl PI by telling you
I've never had what I, could absolutely say was a paranormal experience. I have always been
able to find a possibility of an answer in science. I am a very big skeptic, but an open minded one.
You'll never hear me apply what I call "The H Word" ("haunted") to something. I don't even fully
believe there is such a thing as a ghost. I'm just a girl looking for the truth.
I'm a bit anxious to share this next part with anyone. I'm afraid you'll think you've made nice with a crazy girl.
Don't think after the incident I'm not asking myself that....

We all return to the hospital wing. I find it odd that even now, I consistently refer to the hospital wing as being "under" or "down." It isn't. Upon rounding the corner at the mouth of the long, dark corridor there is still a gurney. I stop to run my fingers along the belt and wonder who lay there last.

Remnants of life from twenty years ago still remain here as if they had been in use only yesterday. I am reminded of the lost colony of Roanoke. Hospital beds, bed pans, meal trays, sheets, those awful exam tables with the stirrups, a dead rose, all left behind. In this place you feel as though you have stepped apart from the world outside, entombed and utterly secluded. The silence is thick and the air is heavy.

Our trio has come with a purpose. Earlier, Jon and Dave explored the hospital wing. They found a piece of medical equipment, not used for twenty years, turned on. It was cold to the touch, unlike something electrical that has been on for a time and becomes warm. Leading to the suspicion that it had just recently been tuned on. By who or how we are still trying to figure out. Dave and I examine the wires, the plug the piece of equipment itself and the outlet as well as any pattern in the thick dust covering the area. I'm determined to find an answer, but I don't have one. Not yet anyway.

As they were walking in the corridor to exit this part of Andelberry, the silence was broken by a sound, repeated numerous times, possibly emanating from two different rooms. Upon further examination the call bells for the nurses are discovered. In this facility they aren't bells but those old chains you pull on…like the kind on an old lamp. They pull the chains…this is exactly the sound they heard. They recreate the scene so I can try to figure it out. I can't.

The others return to the manor house. Dave, Christopher and I remain. The two are chasing something, Dave says it is male and is evading us. It's fun for me to watch them play the game I call in my head and only to myself, Ghost Chasing. It fascinates me when what they see, feel, sense correlates with the other one. Christopher is in front of the nurses station and calls to me to come, I do. The air here is cold, very cold in a concentrated sphere of about three feet. He tells me there is something right here, gesturing with his hand. I walk right into the middle of it.

I am motionless, save for my breathing, eyes closed, waiting, hoping. It isn't long before I begin to feel it. The sadness is intense when it comes. I simply feel it for a minute, but my own mind is always going at a rapid pace and my internal dialogue begins. It's interesting how sad and hopeless I feel right now. Yet it isn't me that's feeling this way. I am fine, I was even happy before. I feel it yes, but these emotions are not my own. It goes on like this for maybe two minutes and intensifies so much I think to myself, I really want to start crying….only I don't. It isn't me. I step out of this space and say nothing to the others. I don't want to influence anyone and who knows, maybe all of that was a simple manifestation of me suffering from psychological influence. I dismiss it as such.

Dave is getting rather worked up over a male something he is having an exchange with. He believes this person was an employee here at one time and took advantage of some of the women or was cruel to many of the patients here. He promises that we'll be back at "Oh Three Hundred Hours." That's about an hour from now. Our little trio returns to home base where our colleagues have all decided to take a nap. Christopher and I take a break on the front porch and Dave remains inside, but not for long. He soon emerges from the front door proudly informing me that "It happened at exactly 1:55!" Looks like my training is finally taking hold. I am precise with my data and my timetables, it hasn't been easy to get them to note things like this.

It seems Dave was sitting in a chair at home base, when he claims to have been tapped on the right shoulder, twice and then the sleeve of his shirt was tugged on. I listen intently to his account and ask him more questions all the while desperately wishing it had happened to me.

I have a hard time convincing Christopher he should sleep now. In the end he reluctantly yields to my wishes if I agree to wake him if anything happens. We have a deal.

I stay up with Dave. It is just after two in the morning and we have an hour's wait ahead of us before we return to the hospital wing. I pass the time by watching the laptop screens, hoping to catch something. It is completely silent. The others are sleeping just a few feet away.

I am about to get up and go move the infrared camera to another location when I hear it. A woman moaning and sighing. There is a momentary pause and then the sighing moan comes again. Dave and I snap our heads around, exchange a look and simultaneously ask, "It was in there wasn't it?" We rush to the room the one we are in opens up into. I take a look out the windows, the floors, the room to see if I can catch anything Dave is a very tall man, six feet four or five inches, perhaps. His head is not too far from the ceiling itself. He begins to ask a series of questions.

"Is there anyone here who wants to communicate with us?"

"Did you make the moaning sound? Can we help you?"

Almost just above Dave's head comes a tapping sound.

He reaches up to the space the tapping is coming from and asks, "Is that you? If you're there can you make the tapping sound again. Can you please make three taps?"

Tap. Tap. Tap.

I think at this moment my jaw literally hit the floor.

They weren't faint taps. They were strong, definitive and purposeful.

"Thank you," Dave says. "Were you the one who made the moaning sound? If the answer is yes can you please tap four times for us?"

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

The questions continue. I note that Dave is very careful to keep this exchange as un-rhythmic and unpredictable as possible. We are not getting random, chance responses here.

In this moment I am aware that something I have been waiting, hoping, wishing for since I was a child is happening, right now. I want to cry again…only this time, out of joy.

I suddenly remember Christopher and our agreement. I run to him, tugging at his hand. Poor guy, I really scared him. He grabs the laptop, the recording equipment and is only a pace behind me. He admonishes me for not thinking to do this myself. I feel terrible, he's right. It would have been amazing evidence. I was just so much in the moment I wasn't thinking. I can't ever allow that to happen again.

Everyone else is up now and standing on the threshold between the rooms. Christopher and I enter, fully. Dave is still asking questions, requesting specific numbers of taps. I watch in a state of awe. Finally, the responses begin to sound more faint and not nearly as distinct, then finally die out.

We talk a little before Dave, Christopher and I head up to examine the roof. We bring the radio with us and tap on the roof ourselves, scratch, walk around . We've got Jon below us in the room at the other end of the radio on my chosen channel of thirteen. He states that our attempts fail to produce any similar sound to that of the tapping we all heard.

Dave, Christopher and I return downstairs to the tapping room and start a vigil to see if anything else will happen. Everyone else has gone back to napping in their respective places. Christopher begins to have an "exchange" with a female "something." He says later that she was in her mid forties, wearing a white dress. It is 1900-1915. It is a Sunday and she is preparing the house for important guests. He's speaking to her and it's unnerving the heck out of me. The tone he is using isn't at all normal for him, nor are the things he's saying. I don't have long to concentrate on that though. In a moment I've got my own problem to deal with.

I can only describe what happened to me like this; you know when you've known someone a long time and when you think of them or recall a conversation you've had or perhaps a phrase they frequently use, you can hear their voice in your head? It was exactly like this. There was a female voice in my head. It told me not to trust Dave and Christopher. That they were going to hurt me and that they didn't care about me. It also said they wanted to keep Christopher. This went on for about fifteen minutes. The voice told me to stay away from everyone and that I should leave.

Isn't this what happens to crazy people?

It isn't helping when Christopher asks me a question in the middle of all this and after giving my answer, he snaps at me. Or so I perceived he snapped at me. He wouldn't talk to me that way. When I think back to this, I started to believe in the voice a little. I was feeling …I don't know really, I mean what does one feel when there's a voice in their head for Dog's sake?! I wasn't feeling good though.

Christopher ends his exchange and he and Dave exit the room…without me. Now, they were only thirty feet away and if they had stood in the threshold of the doorway I could easily have been seen. Yet, I was perturbed at being left behind by two men who usually take very good care of me and go out of their way to watch out for my well being. It left me feeling despondent and I walked over to one of the windows and just stared out of it and told the voice I wasn't listening so it could stop now. Soon after I hear Christopher, slightly panicked ask where I was and call out to me. I didn't answer, which is so very unlike me. I felt compelled not to answer. He comes to pull me away and takes me by the shoulders and I refuse to respond. I can hear Don in the other room saying how it's three in the morning he needs to get back to the hospital wing for his "appointment." The voice is back and it tells me not to go. Defiantly, I run after him, gabbing my flashlight, my pen and paper along the way. Christopher, confused and possibly angry keeps calling after me. This behavior is so utterly unlike me he cannot make sense of it. I stop and turn to look at him. "Merricat, please, wait." I turn back to look at Dave, the darkness swallows him and I turn away from Christopher and run.

Monsters Make The Best Friends

Obviously, there are other people who think monsters make great playmates.

Also, for Wendy, here is a picture of the pumpkin trees, called Solanum Integrifolium. They've gone and stripped the thorns off of them this year. They come on long, hardy stems, similar to a long stem rose but much thicker and stronger. Also, they last a long time. I usually have the same ones around at Thanksgiving.


There are plenty of things not to like about Los Angeles. Those things are easy to overlook when you know where to look. For a girl seeking a perpetual Halloween fix, I've found pretty much everything I need, right here.

With so many things to choose from this weekend, how's a girl to decide?

A list of Saturday's burnt offerings:

Dia De Los Muertos celebration at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery
The Day Of The Dead done up Hollywood style, with all the grandeur and spectacle you'd expect.

The Haunting at The Alex Theatre, with Psychic-Medium/ Parapsychological Investigator Michael J. Kouri

The Godmother Of Horror's masterpiece on the big screen, throw in Kouri and place it all in a beautiful movie palace. It makes my black heart joyful.

Heritage Square Museum's Halloween And Mourning Tours
Not many people are familiar with this "museum." A collection of incredible Victorian era structures are collected here including a number of full size homes and a church you can view the interiors of. Highlights include a Victorian funeral and a focus on Victorian spiritualism, when ghosts and all things macabre were considered pop culture.

The Cicada Club's Halloween Party
Who doesn't like time travel, save my Grandmother? Dance to a big band orchestra in a stunning art deco penthouse in Downtown. Don't forget to wear your 1920's or 30's formal wear. You've got that, right?

Sunday's Best:

A Haunted Speakeasy
Creepy LA's David Markland is curating a night of storytellers to share a true tale of the supernatural, inside the covert Mt. Hollywood Underground.

Los Angeles Haunted Hayride

I'm still undecided....

Pumpkins Scream In The Dead Of Night

So, what are we up to at the House Of Blackwood? More of the same.

This year, we'll have the Victorian parlor and seance room, which will play host to the amazing Madame Pamita: ,
The Museum Of Haunted Objects And Oddities, a witch's hut, a tribute to Mr. Creeg's house, (from the Trick R Treat film), and our first Cemetery and Dia De Los Muertos altar. Oh, I almost forgot the spider's lair. Mostly because I want to...

Friday night was like Christmas. We found some amazing pitchforks at Urban Home. I was planning on using them for my scarecrow's hands. Only nineteen dollars. Really. No, I don't know why they were in Urban Home.

Mr. Blackwood's terror!Dog has feet and is undergoing the paper mache process, made all the better by 's post on the master of the medium,

This is our first cemetery, so we've been working hard on our head stones.

There are tons of tutorials out there on making them. The only thing I can add is that everyone I have seen has been "carving" out the styrofoam. It gets to be tedious and it doesn't look as nice. I've been using an ice pick and a wooden knitting needle and simply indenting, or pushing the foam down in lieu of cutting through it.

Also, for those of you that may be artistically challenged, or feel that way, the regular October issue of Martha Stewart's mag has a piece on graveyard art. It's lovely and simplistic with plenty of close ups on the artwork itself and from an art history perspective, very interesting.. If it helps, keep in mind that pretty much anything can be drawn from a straight line and a curve.

If you have a Trader Joe's in your area they have been stocking some great foliage from the spooky side of the garden. Various carnivorous plants, "pumpkin trees," a number of black leafed houseplants, orchids and flowers. I plan on adding these to our witch's hut. I think our puppy's new bestie is the venus flytrap. They have a lot in common.

Last night we caught HGTV's Halloween Block Party. I was skeptical, but the show proved to be well worth the watch as I came away with a few useful additions to the interior decor. Here's the premise:

Three families join forces with today's hottest lifestyle experts and event planners, Michael Russo, Kelley Moore and Eddie Ross, to go head-to-head in creating the best Halloween bash this neighborhood has ever seen! The sophisticated Haunted Mansion design is a grown-up affair, while Hansel and Gretel is all about the kids. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow design inspires a classic, stunning event that proves you don't have to spend a lot of money to throw the coolest bash on the block.*

I have to play Mary, Quite Contrary here. The cash outlay on the Sleepy Hollow party was obviously in the range of "lots."

Back to stenciling the seance room.

Do Demons Have Mamas?

After daily addressing the query, "Have you seen Paranormal Activity yet?!" I can now answer, "Indeed, I have."

I appreciated a number of things about it, but especially the amount of obvious research that went into it. Much of it was very similar to actual paranormal occurrences and the female lead's account of her experiences to the psychic were pretty much standard fare from a client.

Also, for what its worth, it was fun.


Having worked with a demonologist and experience with quite a few clients claiming all manner of "demonic" goings on, of course I have plenty to say about the subject. However, I can never seem to get past this question:
The first matter that always comes to mind though is their names. Psychics, clients, and demonologists always have names for these guys. Names like Elek, Akmarl or Vozik. Who names these demons? Do they have mamas who name them? Why never Stan or John or Bill?

Someone must know...

Tell Me Something Strange

Thanks to my dear friend Tess, who finally motivated me to tell this creepy tale.

There was a period of about a year, when I worked at a restaurant. I used to eat my lunch with two women who worked doing some sort of accounting related stuff. I didnt care for their company but it would have been impolite to sit alone when I was always invited to eat with them. Soon after I started work, one of the women, Laura, began recounting to us odd things about the house she had just recently moved into.

Laura was in her late thirties or early forties. She was married and had a four year old daughter. From the first day of sleeping in the house, the daughter, who had her own room, kept telling her mother about The Indian. She said The Indian kept coming to play with her, and to show her things. Laura was puzzled and asked her daughter how she knew her new friend was an Indian. The daughter said it was because he had paint all over his face.

Laura and her husband had made friends with a homeless man the previous year. When they ran into him around town they would invite him for dinner and to spend the night at their house. This day, Laura saw the man while coming out of the market and offered to take him home with her, to the new house, and he could sleep over. He agreed. They had dinner and Laura made a bed for him on their couch. The following morning when the family awoke the man was nowhere to be found, no note, no nothing. This was highly unlike him and it unnerved Laura and her husband greatly.

A month or so went by. They spoke of wine and shoes and tv sitcoms and I ate my lunch and smiled and nodded in the appropriate places.

Sometime after that month passed into memory, Laura told us she had finally run into the homeless man. She inquired as to why he left that night and expressed their concern and alarm. The man told the following story:

He wasnt able to sleep well that night. It was an unfamiliar place and he kept having feelings of anxiety. While sitting, up on the couch, which was located just underneath a large picture window in the living room. The window had curtains on it, the kind that have the two panels that meet in the middle. They were a little small, and didnt actually meet in the middle though. He saw something move just between the space of the curtains. He parted them a bit more, and looked out, seeing nothing. Just as he was backing away from looking, a face appeared in the window. He recoiled in horror upon seeing it and described it as having the sort of face paint on that a clown would have, however, the face was filthy and looked, literally, part rotted. The colors werent as bright or tangible looking as a normal, real person's would have been, he remarked. The man said the owner of the face seemed to look at him, no eyes were sharply visible, then it vanished. The main waited for morning to come, then hastily left the house. He told Laura he would never go near the house again.

Meanwhile, the daughter kept talking about The Indian.

One day, before dinner, Laura had been out in the garden, and came in through the sliding glass door that was the entry/exit into the garden from the living room. Her daughter was outside playing on a tire swing in the yard. She left the door open all the way, as she was going to be returning momentarily and, wanted to be able to hear the daughter. When she returned to go though the door, perhaps two minutes later, not only had the glass door been shut completely, but it was locked and could only be done so from the interior of the house. She tried again and again to open it, to no avail. She left the door to find an object in the kitchen to try to pry the lock open with and, when she returned, the door was unlocked.

Almost one year later, from my first hearing of these accounts, which no one had really strung together as related, save for me which I kept to myself, Laura didnt come to work. At the end of the week I found out why. The family had been sleeping at night already for a few hours. Laura and her husband in their room and the daughter in hers. Laura awoke first, to the smell of smoke, her husband next. They both claimed something was forcibly holding them down, and neither of them could create any audible noise vocally. Firefighters finally axed down the door and pulled the family out. The fire started in the garage. The investigators never found a cause.

So, your turn...tell me something strange. I promise to sit quietly and not to fidget.

The Great Orb Debate

"Hello, my name is Skeptic," is pretty much the label affixed to my highly fashionable PI uniform. If people wanted to talk orbs it was going to elicit an eyeroll and some firmly stated comments about light, dust particles, water and movement from me. A colleague of mine insisted this wasn't so. The competition was on.

I had been to this house before. At the time it had been my very first residential investigation. The owners were kind enough to have us back to run some experiments and get some test footage. The first time around had been fairly uneventful. Any questionable evidence from that night had proved to be of a non-paranormal origin. With the exception of that latched steel cabinet that kept opening...but I digress. That, dear readers is a story for another day.

Excerpts from my report:

8:30 P.M. - it is determined that the infrared camera should be set up in the children's bedroom. Liz makes the proper adjustments to the camera, with the help of Christopher, as she views from the laptop. Soon after, Liz, who is monitoring from the laptop at home base, announces she can see orb-like objects moving across the room intermittently, Molly is also viewing. Merricat arrives and confers that she, too sees them. Liz then enters the doorway of the room and sits on the floor so as not to disturb the environment of the room. A few minutes later, dozens of orb are visible. At one point, Merricat is able to clearly view a formation of four small orbs hover for what is estimated to be about seven seconds in a North, South, East, West formation then, rotate counterclockwise, halfway, before "flying" off in different directions.

As the orbs seem to all be flowing in one direction, toward Liz, she crosses to the doorway between the master bedroom and the children's bedroom to test if we can visibly see them flow in the opposite direction. After about five minutes the activity slows down and a few of the orbs flow in the opposite direction. Liz exists the room to return to home base while Dave enters the room. The activity increases slightly. It is during this time that the camera captures and records something moving across the room. In the footage you can see Dave react to it by seemingly flinching back from it. (see video)

After they exit Christopher enters the room to do some tests. Liz and Molly watch on the laptop. Merricat tries various experiments with shining lights in the room, in the hallway outside of the room, reflections off various objects, including a small, palm sized disco ball. When light is directed at this object it shows a very obvious and definitive pattern, completely unlike what has previously viewed. The disco ball is taken down and removed by the primary resident. Dave and Merricat take their turns "kicking" up dust, by running hands over the carpet, moving the blankets on the bed around and disturbing dust on various surfaces, so we can compare and contrast this with the orbs earlier captured on film for our research.

No more eyerolling on my part. From the moment the the four orb formation thing happened, which was freaking amazing, I had no choice but to admit I was wrong...although I steadfastly believe I am mostly correct - orbs are typically not paranormal in origin, just an indication that someone needs to clean a little better - I will admit that sometimes, I just don't know.

Okay, Who Brought The (terror!) Dog?

We've learned that it takes a village of the damned to aid in the transformation of our house for Halloween. We lure them with empty promises and candy and, miraculously or foolishly, they come. Walls get papered, headstones get carved, monsters get birthed.

Our in-home workshop of curiosities and wonders is busy...and crowded. The most current excitement surrounds this piece.

With some photos to go on, some cardboard, tape, a couple dangerous cat toys and the always unparalleled genius of Steve, you have the beginnings of the "terror dog," from Ghostbusters.

We'll see how far he gets this weekend!

I should be finishing up the headstones. I should be painting the walls in the hallway. I should also be working up the new additions to the museum of haunted objects. Alas, I fear I will succumb to scarecrow fever.