Haunted Homework - Part III

We are greeted at the door by the mother, who leads us into a small foyer. I cannot even listen to what she's saying to us because they won't stop staring. There are hundreds of them.


As she leads us into the living room, they only multiply in number. Curio cabinets, bookcases, tabletops...all full of creepy, porcelain dolls. I did not remember agreeing to participate in a Charles Band crapfest. No, I did not.

We go on a tour of the residence. Kitchen, laundry, family room, the usual. Out of the three bedrooms, I really only remember one...mostly because of the blood. Its on the walls, the bare mattress and a ton of it on the floor in one area. "Oh, don't mind that," she says, "The cat had kittens in here a week ago."

I bite on my lip so as not to offend the client by making the obvious suggestion about maybe cleaning that up. You know, especially since its in your kids room. On his mattress. Where he sleeps. Also, I don't see any cats. I am totally keeping an eye on those dolls, though.

We do the interview. The mother retells pretty much the same thing she did in the initial investigation request and phone interview, however, this time the older son chimes in with his experiences. He's fourteen and, as a team mate of mine describes him, "...has an imagination that would scare Stephen King."

The boy proceeds to weave a crapily crafted story-web of inane video game and bad horror film plots, that I totally recognize. He also made a claim that sometimes, when he does his homework in the dining room and walks away, the ghosts/demons/spirits and sometimes even Abe Lincoln himself, will write messages to him. They use a lot of profanity, too. "Actually, its mostly bad words," he explains.

Obviously, I've been had. This multi hour trek to crazy town is for naught. Right? Wrong...again, girl genius.

First thing yours truly does, is go in there with a brand spanky new sheet o' bleachy white tree pulp with a pen and put it on the dining room table. I make sure the pen does not move easily, by blowing on it a few times. I shake the table too and make sure its level. The pen holds it's own. When I was taking base readings with the temp gauge I removed my coat and was wearing a sleeveless shirt so I could tangibly perceive the ambient temperature and the airflow. There wasn't any airflow, it was stagnant and approximately 78-80 degrees in the room. One video camera is set up in the room to record as well as a DVR. I lock down the room, we set up another camera to monitor the only door into the room and I inform everyone there's no touchy on my 'speriment.

Four and a half hours later, as we're breaking down and packing up, Christopher calls me all secret like to a corner of the dining room and shows me a video of that dang pen rolling back and forth and back and forth, rolling forward, pausing and then continuing to roll itself off the table.

The following night Christopher sends me the video. It's one of the most compelling pieces of evidence I've ever seen. And you know, that darn pen did that all night. It would roll back and forth for almost an hour at a time, stop on occasions, then, when the audio would pick up voices nearby it would stop, then start up again when it got quiet. Creepfest.

Photo source: flickr.com/photos/ arieldawn/3774920075/

LIving Dangerously...With Grandma

Visits with my grandmother, either in person or telephonically, eventually lead to the subject of death. Yours or hers, it doesn't matter, either one will do.

Pretty much since I can remember, she's been planning her own funeral. She even has the music picked out, she wants some Tom Jones song played. She seems to have trouble deciding exactly where she wants to be buried though, and in result, has purchased numerous plots/graves which she keeps offering to me like she's offering a stick of gum or something equally as trivial, "You know, I have these extra graves, do you want one?"

Last week, she added to her funeral playlist. After trying to choke down some coffee made in something that looked like a tin can, (seriously, the stuff at my Grandma's house is ancient). The sewing machine is operated by a pedal, the phone is still rotary, as for the washing machine you have to get buckets of water to fill it up and when you're done you have to feed the clothes through a hand crank ringer to get the excess water out. What about the dryer, you ask? Ha! Just don't... Anyway, during the aforementioned coffee choking, the grave plots subject was faithfully revisited. I declined the offer again. This led to a conversation about her memorial services:

Grandma: Oh! I know what I wanted to tell you. I decided I want this other song played at the funeral now.

Me: You mean you don't want that Tom Jones song anymore?

G: Yes, but now I want this one, too: *sings* There's a place for usssssss…..you know that one?

Me: Oh, yes Grandma, that song was written by my favorite composer.

G: Good. Than you won't go forgetting it.

Me: No, I will be sure they play it Grandma.

G: Oh! Also, I decided I want to get you a limo.

Me: For what?

G: So you can all drive over from the church to the cemetery together! Oh, won't that be nice?!!

Me: *blank stare*

G: Now, I need you to help me count how many people will be riding in the limo.

(we make a count - it will be ten)

Ok, then I will make a reservation for a limo that holds ten. You can have drinks in there. Oh, that will be so nice!

I am sure you'll have a lot of fun all together in that limo!

(long pause)

Damn! I'm going to miss it!

Of course, to her, the Grim Reaper is waiting around every corner. This is a woman who travelled to Paris for New Years Eve, stayed ten days and only left her room once, as she was terrified of getting sick. After all, The Cold is totally her nemesis and can be found lurking anywhere.

Grandma: Oh, I feel so bad today!

Me :
Why? What's wrong Grandma?

Grandma: My throat hurts. Can't you hear it? (followed by some agony appropriate sounds)

Me :
Aww, I'm really sorry

Grandma: Well, you know what it was? Yesterday, I was at a mixer and I was sitting next to a man who had ice in his drink and the cold from the ice jumped out of his glass and into my throat and now I'm sick!

You know how Carrie could move things with her mind and Mr. Blackwood can turn off street lights? Well, my grandma causes accidents. Not on the road, thank goodness...although, driving in a car with my grandmother is pure entertainment. Everyone and everything makes her angry.

We stop at a stoplight and someone is walking across the crosswalk, the WALK sign is illuminated.
"Hurry up stupid! You walk too slow! What's the matter with them? Get out of my way!"

This basic sentence formula is repeated with different pronouns and verbs at just about every juncture of the journey.

An example of her superpower is evident during this recent shopping trip to the market, (in the worst part of East LA, right by where The Night Stalker was caught), to get tuna, which she insists on buying me because it's fifty cents a can. I saw a man accidentally ram his shopping cart into a ten foot high display of tortilla chips, causing the entire thing to tumble to the ground. He actually started laughing and then slunk away. In line, two distracted mothers pushing babies in strollers crashed the strollers into one another and one of the babies fell out. There was a man on the top of a ladder, (maybe fifteen feet high), who almost fell off. Also, ghetto groceries are totally cheap. I got a big bag of Doritos for $1.88!

Anyone who eats at her house is knowingly flirting with death. Mr. Blackwood asked for catsup. After digging around in her fridge for awhile, she handed me a bottle of the stuff that expired in 2006. There's a can of guacamole in there from pre-millenium times, some Coors under the bed from the '80's. We ate the tacos she made yesterday...I guess its time to ask for one of those grave plots.

The Spook House

About five years ago Mr. Blackwood and I sublet a little studio in a San Diego neighborhood so we could prep for Comic Con that year. I was delighted by our little section of the neighborhood which had row after row of lovely examples of Victorian-esque architecture. However, none were more compelling than the curious house on the corner.

It was another year before we learned the story behind what locals call "The Spook House."

Built in 1887 for Jesse Shepard, who described himself as "...a world famous, mystic, seer, inspirational musician, and authority on prophecies, visions and cosmic consciousness." Shepard supposedly had no musical training and could not read music. Yet, he was considered a master of improvisation and could reportedly , "...play any opera selected by the audience without music."

After traveling to Russia in the 1870's and becoming interested in spiritualism, he claimed to have been a silent co-founder of the Theosophical Society with Madame Blavatsky. It was then that he began his initial instructions in holding seances.

When Shepard took up residence in the house, named Villa Montezuma, he held fantastical seance performances in the house, summoning great composers like Chopin and Mozart and commanded them to play through him. He would then amaze the audience further by playing pieces and having other invisible, ghostly musicians play along, or to sing with a voice that sounded like an entire choir. Of course, the house has built into it all the tricks a performance medium of the era could want, complete with secret rooms and panels for the "ghostly" musicians to hide in.
These are rumors that San Diego's high society shunned Shepard, causing him to relocate to Europe and focus on his literary carer under the name Francis Grierson. He returned to San Diego in 1889 and arranged to play a final performance in The Villa Montezuma.Appropriately, Shepard's long-time companion and confidante, Lawrence Tonner, described this occasion.
It was Sunday evening... We had a number of people invited for a musical recital at our home — about thirty. A collection was to be taken up. Mr. Grierson had played a number of his marvelous instantaneous compositions on the piano and had given the company a talk on his experiences and impressions of France and Italy.

He turned to the instrument and announced that the next and last piece of the evening would be an Oriental improvisation, Egyptian in character.

The piece was long, and when it seemed to be finished he sat perfectly still as if resting after the ordeal of this tremendous composition. He often did that, but it lasted too long and I went up to him — he was gone!

His head was only slightly bent forward, as usual in playing, and his hands rested on the keys of the last chord he had touched.

There had not been the slightest warning. He had seemed in usual health...and he had been smiling and laughing with the company even a few moments before he passed away.

Jesse Shepard was dead at 79.

People now say a curse is laid upon the house and it's owners. It is no wonder after delving into the Villa Montezuma's history following the death of Shepard and beginning with his sale of the house to what would be the next owner, David Dare. Soon after purchasing the house, he was forced to flee town. His business partner apparently had committed suicide before he left town and Dare was accused of looting the firm. Dare sells the house for $30,000 to H. P. Palmerston who was unable to make the payments on it, and the house was foreclosed upon in 1893 and auctioned off for $18,000. The house then goes to Dr. George Calmus for the sum of $10,000. He goes bankrupt, and leaves town, deserting his wife and leaving her with two unpaid mortgages on the house.

Later, Villa Montezuma is taken full advantage of again by a Mrs. George Montgomery, who holds seances in the house. Then, incredibly, in the late 1940's a treasure seeker purchases the house, convinced there is buried treasure to be found within it's walls.

The last resident of the house is a married couple. He, an engineer and she, a retired silent film actress. The husband dies and the house falls into disrepair. His wife, so distraught by his death, begins standing on the street outside the house asking passers by where her husband is. She is even rumored to have occasionally carried a gun, threatening people in her attempts to find out where her husband is.

Of course, other odd tales are attached to the house. An unexplained fire burned the second floor in the mid 1980's. Passerby report hearing orchestral music at night, the ghost of a man who hung himself in a tower can be seen from outside, much to the wonderment of past gardeners nothing will grow on a certain portion of land near a corner of the house, and a six toed cat named Psyche has lived on the grounds for far longer than any regular cat's life span.

The house still stands, but sadly, the public is not allowed inside...for now. At the end of last year a good deal of money was allotted for renovations on the Villa Montezuma. Hopefully, the doors of this unusual house will reopen in the next few years.

Haunted Homework - Part II

I got to Chris' house around seven. We needed to drive out to an area in the Mojave Desert, a two and a half hour drive away, to handle an investigation invloving a mother and her kids that were being plagued by...well, something.

After begging Chris for Starbucks and asking if we could please get dinner, we started our road trip.

Fast forward to approximately 9:30 P.M. We're driving down a highway in the middle of the dessert and theres nothing around save for kamikazie dessert bunnies. We've been having a rather involved conversation when I notice Chris grip the steering wheel firmly and apply pressure to the brakes. He starts to loose control of the car a little and I wonder why he's trying to stop. My eyes search the ground, seeking out the aforementioned bunnies for some suspicious Night Of The Lepus action, but see none. A flash of movement and white, pulls my gaze upwards and I see a man, early twenties, wearing a white tank, jeans with a chain dangling off them. His head is shaven and his left arm adorned with tattoos. When I see his face I forget all of that and can just focus on the face. He looks utterly mad. So mad he makes the Hatter look sane.

He's running full speed at us, like a train. Chris, thankfully, gets the car to a full stop approximately five seconds before the guy hits the front of the Beetle, wheels around to pass the driver's side and continues racing head on into the path of the next oncoming car.


I call 911. Let me just say thank goodness no one was dying or about to be serial killed because it took them forever to answer. Then, the dispatcher was a moron.

Me: ...yeah a man, running down the center of the highway into oncoming traffic.

Dispatcher: Uh, huh...and what sort of vehicle was he driving?

Me: No, he wasn't
driving he was running down the center of the one lane here on HWY 14 into oncoming traffic.

Dispatcher: Uh huh, and he was running along the shoulder of the road there?

Me: *eyeroll of desperation and facepalm* Nooooooo...I said HE WAS RUNNING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HIGHWAY INTO ONCOMING TRAFFIC.

Chris: *giggle*

Dispatcher: Uh huh...and what kind of vehicle was he driving again?

Haunted Homework - Part I

Most investigations begin with a request. This one was as follows:

"I believe my house has unwanted spirits in it. My daughters has seen shadows
and my dog goes crazy went she goes near the dining room. I myself have felt an
uneasy presence here. I have had experiences in the past. Could you please write
me back and let me know what you think."

A phone call is made to the sender. This is what I am told:

They've been experiencing activity in their home, mainly in the dining room area. She has the feeling of being watched and a general "creeped out" feeling whenever she has to go into that room. Her daughter (16) has reported seeing shadows with red eyes. Her older daughter who is no longer living at home has seen hideous beings as well as deceased family members. In addition, they've experienced cold spots and their dog flips out over unseen things too.
She says she has a sister-in-law who is a Native America Shaman and who has been to her home and told her that there are two old ladies hanging around. She performed a saging of the home but they continue to experience activity.

As usual, I don't expect much. Teenage girl + EMFs = "poltergeist" party.

I fail.

*parts II and III are upcoming

Spider Baby

"Just because something isn't good doesn't mean it's bad. "


Free screening of the film, Spider Baby, with writer/director Jack Hill.
February 18th, 7 P.M.
Los Angeles Athletic Club

For info and to get on the guest list take yourself to http://www.spiderbabyonline.com/