On My Bookshelf: Gravely Mistaken, by Janis Ann Parks

Do you know who the Resurrection Man was? I guess I had never really thought about the connection between grave-robbing and medical schools. Oh yeah, that was a real thing. Sack-em up gentlemen or Resurrectionists were men who had the job of digging up bodies and supplying cadavers for medical schools.

I bought my copy of Gravely Mistaken by Janis Ann Parks upon a suggestion by Amazon! I had no idea that she was an author from Augusta, Georgia when I first found her book. Body-snatching was in full effect over at the Medical College of Georgia in the 1800’s. Gravely Mistaken is a work of historical fiction, but Ms. Parks conducted extensive research (more on that below), into the life of Grandison Harris, the Resurrection Man. According to Parks, the Medical College of Georgia purchased Grandison Harris in 1852 for the specific purpose of “procuring subjects for anatomical study.” This is not a typo.

Parks weaves several story lines and characters throughout her book that make for an educational, sometimes morbid, and always entertaining book. My personal copy is full of highlights. One of my favorites, from Page 10, tells us what Burking Mania or Burkophobia was. Burking = to kill for the sake of obtaining a body. I had no idea. After finishing this book, I knew I had to get Janis on the line.

She indulged me. Enjoy!

What inspired you and sparked your desire to write this book?

I was working at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) and saw an article in “The Beeper” (our institutional newspaper at that time) about a slave named Grandison Harris, who was purchased in 1852 as a janitor, but whose real primary job was grave robbing to provide cadavers for the anatomy classes. I thought it was fascinating. Dissection was illegal at that time; so many medical schools had clandestine programs to provide specimens to teach their students. The fact that the MCG bought a dedicated individual who worked in a body snatching capacity for many years, concentrating his efforts in the African American cemetery, Cedar Grove, in downtown Augusta, where I have frequented, made it all the more interesting.  Also, in 1989, during a building project at the old Medical College on Telfair Street, human bones were unearthed. There was an investigation and subsequent archaeological study which revealed the extent of the grave robbing with an estimate of 600 individuals. The details of the findings led to a book called Bones in the Basement, which includes a series of scientific essays, and also information about Mr. Harris. In 1998, the bones were re-interred in a sealed vault in Cedar Grove Cemetery with a headstone inscription that reads “Known but to God.” After digesting all those details, I thought it might be possible to weave a good story together.

Tell us about the research process and the time you spent conducting background research for the book, and into the real life of Grandison Harris (the “Resurrection Man”), the medical treatments of the time, and the grave-robbing phenomenon that was going on to support the anatomy demonstrations going on over at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.

I was aware of the Greenblatt Library on the campus of MCG and its special collections section. After retiring from work at MCG, I went there to do research. The library is a wealth of information, especially in the special collections where old equipment, artifacts and books are housed. It was there that I found old volumes of the Southern Medical and Surgical Journal, dating back to its inception in 1836. I found it fascinating to have such a complete look back at medical history.   There were case studies explaining different medical conditions and the current treatment of the day for each. I utilized information from those articles, created characters and put them into scenarios, but attempted to stay true to the details about how medicine was practiced in those years. Wearing the white gloves to preserve the volumes felt like a privilege and I had a profound sense of awe handling volumes that old. I found several articles about Grandison Harris which allowed me to put together some of the facts about his background. He learned to read, so he could follow the obituaries and with his acquired knowledge of anatomy, became so respected by medical students that he was considered by some to be a mentor.

I thought it was fascinating to read about the historical medical treatments in the 1800s. As a nurse, can you tell us if any of the old practices have stood the test of time?

Actually, the rationale for treatments back in the 1800s was realigning the body’s humors back into balance by bleeding and/or purging. Today we may use similar treatment for specific conditions, but for different rationale. As an example, bloodletting has gone by the wayside as a common treatment, but therapeutic phlebotomy (blood-drawing) can be used as treatment for high amounts of iron in the blood. Purging agents such as laxatives (still used and sold as over the counter meds), diuretics (drugs that pull fluid from the body and make the kidneys excrete are still used in the treatment of congestive heart failure) and emetics (drugs that induce vomiting are still used as a treatment for certain types of non-caustic poison ingestion). Plasters were used to create blisters and cause pain in an area of the body as a distraction to pain occurring in another. One of my main points, that I hope comes through, was considering the thought that we’re practicing cutting edge medicine in the current moment. What was thought to be best practice 150 years ago looks fairly archaic now and I wonder if 150 years in the future will give rise to seeing our current therapies, as archaic? When I sign books, a lot of times I’ll add the phrase, “It’s amazing we survived!”

The story line regarding John and Harris was very suspenseful and kept me turning those pages and squirming a bit! Is it based on any fact, or is this one of the examples of the “fiction” in historical fiction writing?

John and the other medical students were creations of my imagination to tell the story, while Grandison Harris was a real person.  I attempted to keep Grandison’s character true to things I read about him. When I started doing the research, I found a story in the Augusta Chronicle about one night when two medical students wanted to play a trick on the janitor.  While Grandison was in the saloon, getting whiskey to preserve the bodies, they took a body from his wagon, stashed it in an alley and one of the students got in the bag, thinking he’d scare the big slave when he came back. Of course as a writer, I thought, what a great story, but “what if, instead of that, this…” and that’s really how the story got its start. The “what if” and the medical students story became the inspiration of the main mystery plot in my imagination and the fiction in the historical fiction. And even though it is fiction, I added some brief anecdotal notes to further explain some subjects and a selected bibliography at the end of the book.

The stories about the mill workers in Augusta still resonate today as far as a worker’s struggle to make something out of themselves in the world. Obviously, conditions have much improved for workers, but what do you think about the struggle today for “getting ahead?”

I wanted to add the story of immigrant workers who came to this country looking for a new and better life, although they took an extreme risk to do so. With our current political officials focusing on immigration, it is still a relevant topic. Desperate people continue to seek better lives by escaping poverty, political and/or religious oppression by making perilous crossings of deserts or seas and we hear about it in the news. I wanted to depict a “coffin ship,” as it was called back in the day, crossing the Atlantic Ocean, where folks were crammed in and disease was rampant. There was a large Irish contingent in Augusta that worked in the textile mills. Child labor was also an issue. I did research on that subject at the Enterprise Mill, which has an interactive museum. It is located on the Augusta Canal, which is also featured in my book.

On page 150, there is a discussion between John and Doctor Dugas, and the senior physician makes a remark about not encouraging the mill worker too much to go to medical school. Later in the chapter, Aunt Erin makes a remark about “Maybe that’s it. We need to settle for better and not hold out for best.”

One of the great opportunities of a writer is being able to inject a bit of your own philosophy into subject matter. I wanted to give Tommy hope after his accident. (And perhaps set the stage for a sequel?) I gave Erin’s character a sense of gratitude for what she had accomplished, and the thought that perhaps she should accept rather than seek perfection. She had endured a great deal, emigrating from Ireland, losing her sister and being in charge of raising her sister’s children in the new country. My mother and her parents emigrated from Scotland in the 1930’s, so some of that research had a bit of a personal connection.

I have to ask you about a passage on page 178. There is a great passage about how nurses should be. Namely, that dumb nurses are ideal in critical cases, because a smart nurse will only question the doctor’s judgment. “As long as a nurse is obedient, the more ignorant she is, the better.”  You have to elaborate on this theme for us, because I am sure that this is still a dynamic that goes on between nurses and doctors in the present day!

Good pick-up. That was a bit of my own nurse cynicism. I was trained in the belief that the smartest of us rose to the ranks of ICU nurse, stethoscope around neck and head held somewhat higher than others. And we did sometimes have issues with some (not all) doctors, feeling taken for granted and disrespected.  After working in that environment for several years, it became apparent that being smart wasn’t the issue or the answer. It’s an extremely stressful (adrenalin pumping) kind of situation. I spent another ten years of my nursing career working in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, where adrenalin addiction was also treated as a problem. But, I wanted to depict a contrast with the above quote by showing the dynamic of mutual respect between the midwife and Dr. Eve in the Monsters chapter.

What were your biggest challenges in writing this book? Looking back, how was your experience with the publishing process, and what have you learned over the years about publishing and marketing?

Gravely Mistaken actually started out as a short story. I approached a local publisher who is no longer in business, but he suggested that I expand it. That’s when I got the idea to add medical vignettes about diseases, conditions and the practice of medicine at the time. I focused on Augusta and its local history, too, and dedicated the book to the city, which has been my home for over thirty years. After I expanded it, (and it took about a year), I searched for a publisher. It was at a time when the whole publishing industry was undergoing extreme change. I got a lot of nice rejection letters. I had an agent located in California for six months, but she couldn’t land a publisher, either. So I put the manuscript on a shelf for several years. Then came a time when it was either do something with it or get rid of it, so I decided to take a chance on myself with CreateSpace. Back in 2010, it was a more novel (no pun intended) idea to go with a print on demand firm, but it also felt quite green, by printing only the number of books that are ordered and making it available on Amazon in both paperback and electronic formats. I had a friend help me convert my file to PDF. I hired photographers who went with me to Cedar Grove Cemetery where we took pictures of some gravestones and then they formatted the cover. Marketing is a whole other subject. These days, we writers need to be chief, cook and bottle washer.

Take us through your writing process for a non-fiction book. (Do you write by hand or always type? Do you keep a writing schedule? Do you have a certain number of drafts you complete before turning in final copy?)

I’d call myself a “binge writer” and I always type. My fingers can just about keep up with my mind, most of the time. I was doing all my research, taking notes on a laptop in the library, and then writing on computer in my home office. There was a time when I had things spread out all over the floor for several weeks. I was eating, drinking and sleeping the story.  Afterward rehashing and making certain there are no loose ends is the most difficult part to me. There’s no certain number of drafts, because that number might be infinite. It seems as though there is always something that could be changed. But, there comes a time to put the words out into the world, let the universe have it and see what happens.

Tell us how to keep up with you and about your upcoming projects/happenings.

Gravely Mistaken is picking up local Augusta tourist momentum and I’m thrilled. It’s being promoted by the Augusta Ghost Trolley Tours (best of Augusta tourist attraction), run by Michael Wolff. The tours include a stop at the old Medical College and while there, focus is on the MCG history of Grandison Harris and his grave robbing. In the fall of the year, especially around Halloween, Mr. Wolff runs a special Gravely Mistaken tour which features after hours access to Cedar Grove Cemetery. The Book Tavern, our downtown independent book store, is owned by David Hutchinson and he has also been a big supporter and supplier of copies. It’s available at The Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau, thanks to Toni Seals-Johnson.  And there have even been occasional sightings of me in period costume around town. Read more about me (and see some photos) on my Amazon “More About the Author Page” and I also have a website: www.gravelymistaken.com

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Nopeming Sanatorium – the “Waverly Hills Sanatorium” of Duluth, Minnesota?

I recently caught the Ghost Adventures episode on Nopeming Sanatorium in Duluth, Minnesota. I don’t watch a lot of television, and I especially don’t watch a lot when I’m working on a new book project, but I am glad I caught this episode. I thought the whole tone of the show was respectful, informative, and tastefully done. The history of Nopeming Sanatorium is very similar to that of Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky. Like Waverly Hills, Nopeming was built in the early 1900’s to serve as a tuberculosis hospital. It was then operated as a nursing home until it finally closed in 2002.

The owners were interviewed in an article for the Twin Cities Pioneer Press (linked below) prior to the episode airing. The building is not open to the public, and that was made very clear in the episode and in the article. Orison Inc. is a non-profit that assumed ownership in 2009. The reported goal was to turn the property into a charter school for special needs children. Funds are low, so the owners have listed the property as available for filming with the Minnesota Film Board’s website and they accepted the offer (it was not listed what their site fee was) from the Travel Channel for Ghost Adventures to film and investigate. My favorite quote from the article comes from Tanya Graysmark, who is on Orison’s Board of Directors: “I don’t think any of us believes it’s haunted, but Orison will gladly accept money from people who would have Americans believe otherwise.” I think that’s exactly the way to be.

People have strong opinions about the paranormal. It really is a subject sort of along the lines of religion, politics, and sex. I recently met a terribly rude lawyer who berated me and insulted my intelligence for writing “one of those ghost books.” He sneered at me and asked: “How can you write about that? I don’t believe in that.” I smiled sweetly and asked him how many books he’s been paid to author. His eyes opened wide, just like his mouth, but he couldn’t make a number come out. To me, the point is not really to prove anything. I am already secure in my personal beliefs and experiences, and my life’s purpose is not centered around trying to convince anyone who is essentially walking around empty and soulless. That’s your personal belief that you are going to have to deal with later, and I really just don’t care. I’m not your minister, your psychic, your healer, or your God. I’m just a fellow traveler, and I really hope if I ever met you that I didn’t try to make you feel like less of a person. I’m getting on a bit of a tirade here, I need to reign this in.

A controversial topic has always been if paranormal investigators are exploiting the history of a location. What Orison is doing is trying to save a building and they are exploring multiple income streams to make that happen. That’s admirable. That’s how businesses survive. If something isn’t working, you try something else. Community thinks you’re crazy for letting the paranormal people come to town? Is the community paying your utility bills?

The National Register of Historic Places contains a few locations that I can think of that have managed to offer full menus of programs to please every type of visitor imaginable. Eastern State Penitentiary, Weston State Hospital (Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum), Alcatraz, Utica State Hospital, and the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane can all be studied in a lesson on how to transform an abandoned building into something worthwhile. The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is the one I am most familiar with, so I will talk about them. They have created a museum in the lobby area that relates to historic psychiatric treatment, along with an art exhibit from former patients. They run daily history tours throughout the Civil War wing, and the entire building. They host photography tours, serve as a filming location, and have events throughout the year – concerts, movies, festivals, just about anything you would expect from a cultural center of the town. Of course, they run ghost tours and ghost hunting events at night. The purpose is to become a center of culture and also make a profit while you do that. Those paranormal people will pay anywhere from $1,000 – $1,500 a night to shut a place down. That can sure help make a dent in those utility bills and property taxes.

Dan Turner, the historian who was featured on the episode, shared this historic postcard of the campus:

Nopeming PC

Like Waverly, Nopeming featured a bat-wing design to optimize light and air for the TB patients.

A modern exterior shot was also provided by Dan Turner:

Chateau roof

The Ghost Adventures Crew was said to be the first organized paranormal team allowed access to the buildings for an investigation. When I heard that, I instantly had high expectations for the show because I know from my own little ghost adventures that these types of places can feel quite intense. Within just a few minutes of the show, when they were still doing their initial walk through, they captured an amazing shadow person in the tunnels! There will always be people who are critical of “evidence” and I am too. I can tell you that the image they showed from this tunnel is what I saw with my own eyes while I was exploring death row in Missouri State Pen in connection with Haunted Asylums, Prisons, and Sanatoriums. Either I saw a legitimate shadow person or my eyes were playing tricks on me. I don’t know which one it was, but I can tell you that it felt legit to me while it was happening. Right or wrong, scientific or not, I am a person who has learned to trust my feelings. If I get a bad feeling about a place or a person, I bail. (This is a priceless life lesson, by the way. It’s okay to walk out – of old buildings, bad relationships, situations that just don’t fit your life anymore, etc. You don’t endure bad things and get a prize at the end. The prize comes when you leave and build something new).

After watching the show, I reached out to Dan Turner to get a comment about his opinion on paranormal investigators and how they can co-exist with the history of the buildings. Here is what he had to say:

“I may be biased because I appear on the episode as a historian, but I thought it was well done. I was impressed that roughly half of the episode was dedicated to explaining the history, interviewing former workers and the caretaker, and spending time speaking with a local Elder. It’s sadly rare to see Native Americans asked their opinion on anything on television, and to give the Elder the opportunity to explain his belief system boosted my overall opinion of the paranormal genre. The episode demonstrated that such shows can be more than ‘ruin porn’ spliced with orbs and commentary. I agree totally that paranormal groups can be excellent fundraisers, but convincing property owners that do not believe in ghosts often seem hesitant to start conversations. My hope is that Nopeming become a sort of northern Waverly Hills, and that historical and paranormal tours can coincide. The best way to teach history is to connect the past to the tangible; there is nothing quite like visiting a place and becoming fascinated with a space to pique one’s curiosity. Some would say that buildings like this do not have any connection to our modern world, but just look at the anti-vaccination movement! I’d like to show them some of the abandoned hospitals built around the country, where countless people died from diseases that we can protect ourselves against now. I want to point at Nopeming and say, “Do you want to live in a world where you get a bug and die painfully in a place like this, away from your friends and family?” Thank god I don’t need to worry about contracting TB or polio or smallpox or measles or diphtheria…”

Well said, Dan Turner. Thank you for your comment and for sharing your photos.

Property owners would do well to keep their personal beliefs out of fiscal decisions. Opening your building for paranormal investigators is the same thing as opening for photographers. Who cares? As long as you open with the caveat that you are allowing people in at their request and not because you are claiming the place is haunted, I see no harm in it. Everyone has a different motive for the form of leisure they select on any given day. We are living in a world where maybe we just want to leave our cookie-cutter houses and go see something new. Maybe we just want to go somewhere where somebody isn’t trying to sell us a McDonald’s hamburger and a t-shirt that falls apart after two washes. Urban exploration tours have been popping up all over the place – Detroit, Buffalo, even Chernobyl. There are a lot of people out there who will pay top dollar to experience something new. Make no bones about it, there is a market for paranormal and urban tourism. We have all seen Disney World. We weren’t impressed. Who is going to step up and compete to win our dollars?

Dan has an awesome website for further reading over at Substreet, that is linked below. His writings and photos concerning Nopeming are compelling, but the entire site is full of the same quality.

Further Reading:

http://substreet.org/nopeming/

http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_27370228/spooky-abandoned-duluth-nursing-home-gets-national-ghost

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On My Bookshelf: Southern Arizona’s Most Haunted, by Renee Gardner

Bob and I were in Bisbee last month staying at The Copper Queen Hotel in connection with Haunted Hotels. We booked a tour with Renee of the Old Bisbee Ghost Tour and she briefed us on many of the legends associated with The Copper Queen Hotel as well as many of the historic hotels in the two mile radius of historic downtown Bisbee.

If you are ever in the area, I would highly recommend that you book her tour for your evening outing. She will take you on a flashlight walk around the town and if you are in a smaller group, you may even get to go inside some of the other hotels on the tour like we did! She also runs ghost hunting programs inside The Copper Queen Hotel and her book contains many personal accounts from those experiences.

I ordered her book from Amazon when I got home and sent her a few follow-up questions which she has answered below:

Tell us about growing up in a haunted house!

Growing up in a haunted house was fun looking back. At the time it was a little scary. We named the ghost George Hossinfeffer and he seemed to like my sister. I believe it lived in the attic which was accessed through my bedroom. He never hurt anyone, he was more of a nuisance.

Bisbee seems to be sort of weird or paranormally charged, if you will, throughout the town. What are your theories as to why?

I believe Bisbee has a lot of paranormal activity because the town itself sits atop a large source of minerals, especially copper. What is copper? A conductor of energy. What are ghosts? Energy. GET IT?

The Mining Museum has an exhibit that informs visitors that many homes in Bisbee come with their very own subterranean passage-ways. What can you tell us about this?

Subterranean passageways are simply the steps and cobblestone paths that lead to their homes. Some of the homes here don’t have streets, they were built into the side of the hill. Getting to them can be an adventure!

Have you made any attempts to get the Bisbee Queen Mine on board with your ghost tour company taking folks down? I think that would be amazing!

They allowed us to do an investigation inside the building for one of our Paranormal Weekends.  The building use to be where the smelters were. We caught some crazy stuff including footsteps! Going into the mine would be difficult because of all the dusk and dirt, it would cause for a lot of contamination to do an actual investigation.

The story about the boys who claimed to have been saved from a rockslide by the Lady in White – is this one of those legends that has been lost in time, or does anyone know what happened to them when they grew up? Any chance they are still in town?

Yes one of the boys still lives in town. The owners of the Bisbee Inn know his name, at the moment I can’t recall it.

How did you come to start the Old Bisbee Ghost Tour and the hunts over at the Copper Queen?

Bisbee is such a haunted town I was shocked that there wasn’t a ghost tour here already. It seemed like a natural location for one, so I started it! Same with the Ghost Hunt at the Copper Queen Hotel. It seemed like it would benefit both them and us to have a bi-monthly hunt there for guests interested in the paranormal.

Have there been any additional events or personal experiences that have happened since this book was published that you wished you could have updated in a following edition?

I am writing a second book…so you will have to wait til it comes out to find out :P

Looking back, how hard was it to get your first book deal, and what have you learned over the years about publishing and marketing?

It really wasn’t hard at all to get my book published. My publisher was looking for an author in my region to write stories about the ghosts. I have also learned that unless you are a huge best selling author don’t bet money on making money off your book! I market the book to my guests on the tours and sell most that way, though you can find it on Amazon and in big book retailers in Arizona!

Take us through your writing process for a non-fiction book. (Do you write by hand or always type? Do you keep a writing schedule? Do you have a certain number of drafts you complete before turning in final copy?)

I type because I am a super fast typer and it is easier for me. With the first book I kept a very strict writing schedule, the reason the second book is taking me so long is because I don’t have the same schedule or time as I did when writing the first book. I did one draft then sent it to a gazillion friends to proof for me. Then I rewrote the changes they recommended and then I sent it off to the publisher for print.

Tell us how to keep up with you and about your upcoming projects/happenings. 

I highly recommend everyone to follow me or the tours on Facebook.  Old Bisbee Ghost Tour or Sweet Midnight, or Renee Harper!

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Crescent Hotel and Eureka Springs, AK – Blog for Llewellyn Post

I am longing for a second visit to the 1886 Crescent Hotel this spring in connection with Haunted Hotels. Bob is out flying tonight, and I was remembering the article I wrote for Llewellyn that is linked below, and just remembering that visit so vividly.

http://www.llewellyn.com/blog/2013/10/the-1866-crescent-hotel-and-spa/

Nobody seemed to know about all of the back patios:
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On My Bookshelf: Haunting Illinois, 3rd Edition, by Michael Kleen

I used Michael Kleen’s 2nd Edition of Haunting Illinois and Paranormal Illinois back in 2012 when I was researching Ashmore Estates in connection with Haunted Asylums, Prisons, and Sanatoriums. I was a little late in picking up the 3rd Edition, but when I realized it was on the market, I quickly ordered it! I love guidebooks for paranormal tourists, and this is a “best of the best” in my experience. For each entry listed, Kleen cites sources and gives directions to the locations. I love how the book is organized too, with “creep factor” symbol codings, and broken down by geographic sections of the state.

Kleen answers his fan mail, and was kind enough to answer my questions below:

Tell us about the process for revising this edition. I’m almost betting it is an easier process to create from scratch vs. revise!

The third edition of Haunting Illinois was three years in the making. The second edition came out in 2011 and listed 200 haunted and mysterious places in Illinois, and I always told myself that if I made another edition, it had to be worthwhile for people who owned the previous edition to buy the new one. Not only did I scour more books and articles for new places to include in the book, but I traveled all over the state getting pictures for some of the new places and some of the old. Then, of course, I had to update some of the previous listings to reflect recent events. Sunset Haven outside Carbondale, Illinois, for example, was torn down in 2013. It was a lot of work, but it was fun and I enjoyed revising everything. I’m a perfectionist. The new edition of Haunting Illinois contains a listing of 260 places and 120 photos and illustrations.

Do you consider yourself a paranormal enthusiast or a ghost hunter? (If paranormal enthusiast, have you done any ghost hunting? If so, what was your take on the experience?

I like the term “paranormal enthusiast” but I consider myself to be a folklorist or a folk historian. I take no position on the truth or falsehood of these stories. Ghost hunters or paranormal investigators are concerned with finding out the truth behind paranormal phenomenon. That just doesn’t interest me anymore. I don’t believe science has anything to say about ghost stories or the paranormal any more than it does about my subjective feelings towards a painting or a movie. I have been on plenty of paranormal investigations and consider many people who are interested in that to be my good friends. But frankly, it’s become so boring and obnoxious. Everyone tries to get their 10 seconds on TV and then they act like they are so much better than everyone else. Why can’t we just appreciate these experiences and stories on their own terms?

Tell us how Ashmore Estates changed your life.

I wouldn’t say Ashmore Estates changed my life necessarily, but it did open a lot of doors and create some interesting opportunities. I went to Eastern Illinois University from 2000 to 2008, which is located in nearby Charleston. When I first started researching Ashmore Estates, it was just an old abandoned building in a cornfield – “the asylum.” Then Scott Kelley purchased the building and opened it as a haunted attraction. I consider Scott and his family to be good friends and they were very accommodating to me while I continued my research. Because of them, I got to appear on Ghost Adventures and in some other documentaries. I’m also proud of the work I did in piecing together a (nearly) complete history of the building, which I included in my book Paranormal Illinois (2010).

What paranormal locations are on your wish list of places to explore?

All of them, lol. Every time I travel to a new city, I look for places nearby to explore. Over the holidays I was in Marco Island, Florida and found a number of really cool places in the area, including Monroe Station (http://floridafringetourism.com/listings/monroe-station/) in the Big Cypress National Preserve. I would love to do a book like Haunting Illinois for the entire Midwest, but with my career in the military, I don’t think that’s likely to happen any time soon. However, if I’m stationed in Europe I plan to visit a lot of cool places, including Dracula’s castle.

There are several haunted hotels listed in your book. Do you have a particular favorite or see a lot of reports generated for any particular one?

Not in Illinois – there are some famous hotels in Chicago that are believed to be very haunted, but I haven’t stayed in them. I did get to stay in the Copper Queen Hotel in Bisbee, AZ, Hotel Alex Johnson in Rapid City, SD, and the Bullock Hotel in Deadwood, SD. The Bullock Hotel was really cool. I love the history of that town.

Which deceased famous person do you wish you could have met and what would you have asked him or her?

This is a tough question! When I was a kid, I loved Davy Crockett. I think he would be a great guy to go on adventures with. But at the same time, I think I would like to meet a Saint so he or she could answer some of my theological questions.

Looking back, how hard was it to get your first book deal, and what have you learned over the years about publishing and marketing?

Ugh, I could write a book about this. The first books I published were through a print on demand company called Xlibris, and I did not have a good experience. I decided to go into publishing for myself, and marketed chapbooks for a while. Over the years, I grew my small publishing business into a company called Black Oak Media, Inc. You could say I finally achieved my dream of creating a business out of something I loved, but it was short lived. The company operated for three years before I had to close it for personal and financial reasons. So I did publish some of my own work. But I guess my first book deal was with Schiffer Books, which publishes a lot of paranormal titles. I actually approached them with an idea for a book on the legends and lore of the Embarras River Valley, but they didn’t think that would sell well. Instead, they came back and asked me if I wanted to write a book about the entire state, so Paranormal Illinois was born. I originally self published Haunting Illinois as Haunting the Prairie, and approached Thunder Bay Press to publish an expanded version under their label. Thankfully, they agreed. I’ve learned a lot about publishing and marketing over the years. Probably the most important aspect to publishing is making a lot of personal connections. Marketing is vital to success. A lot of authors think just because they get a book published, it’s going to sell, so they sit back and do nothing. I use my website, personal appearances, interviews, and Facebook to relentlessly market my books. Even then, it has mixed results sometimes.

Have you ever had any undeniable personal paranormal experiences anywhere?

Nothing is ever undeniable, especially when it comes to the paranormal. But seriously though, I’ve had some unusual experiences, but nothing that has really stood out as being completely convincing.

What is your opinion/consumption level of pop culture? Any guilty pleasure shows or beach fiction you can’t resist?

I have a love-hate relationship with pop culture. I think contemporary pop culture is symptomatic of the degeneration of American society and the advanced stages of the collapse of western civilization. At the same time, I love shows on VH1 like “I love the ’80s” and stupid Seth Rogen comedies. I don’t really read fiction, but I like TV shows like The Sopranos, Hannibal, Dexter, Weeds, Californication, etc. I can see myself as a sober Hank Moody.

Take us through your writing process for a non-fiction book. (Do you write by hand or always type? Do you keep a writing schedule? Do you have a certain number of drafts you complete before turning in final copy?)

I usually start with some kind of outline or idea in my head about what the final product will look like, then I do a lot of writing on paper. I almost always do a rough draft with pen and paper, then I type it up and edit it three or four times. I set that chapter aside for a week or so, then I edit it again. Every time I add something or make changes, I edit the entire chapter to make sure it flows well and makes sense. To me, the editing process is one of the most important parts of writing. Sometimes I have to do research while I’m writing, to confirm something, and it’ll end up taking me hours to write one paragraph. Then, some days, it’ll just flow and I’ll get a whole chapter done in one day. Of course, since I joined the Army I’ve only been able to write for a few hours at night and on the weekends, but in some ways it’s made me become a lot more focused. I’ve noticed that I’ve become much more productive and I almost have too many ideas.

Tell us how to keep up with you and about your upcoming projects.

People can keep up with me through my websites, www.michaelkleen.com and www.mysteriousheartland.com. I just finished a book on the ghostlore of Illinois colleges and universities, which should come out later this spring. I’m also finishing up a book on the cultural history of witchcraft in Illinois for Southern Illinois University Press. It should be ready to go by the beginning of March and then come out later this year. No one has ever devoted an entire book to these subjects before, so I’m very excited. I have been working on these projects for years and it feels great to finally see them come to fruition.

Michael being an author:

Kleen

Michael serving our country:

Kleen army

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Inside the Jerome Grand Hotel

http://mysteriousheartland.com/2015/01/29/ghost-hunting-at-arizonas-jerome-grand-hotel/

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On My Bookshelf: Restless in Peace, by Mariah de la Croix

Both entertaining and enlightening, Restless in Peace contains tales of a psychic mortician. Mariah de la Croix shares some of the experiences she had over the course of about five years while working towards her full license as a funeral director. Her writing style struck me as highly personal and even vulnerable given the subject matter, and I wish she would write another book for me to read – and soon.

She was kind enough to answer my interview request, and provided the following insightful and candid answers to each of my questions. Meet Mariah de la Croix, author of Restless in Peace.

An intro from the author:  The time frame of my book runs from 2004/5 to 2009, with the writing of it not taking place fully until 2010/11, and its final release in 2012. Many things within me changed during that time and continue to do so, including my connection and understanding of Spirit and the power of trust in my Higher Power. Restless in Peace was and is my memoir of my time of being immersed in energy that brought me strongly back into the realm of working with spirits and opening to my own spiritual journeys more in-depth, which has enabled me to help others on their own journey. So, what I know to be true now is oftentimes different from how I viewed things then, over ten years ago. One thing I have learned from all of this – along with reviewing journals and notes from other times in my life – is that we are all on our own path that is unique to each of us. We all are here to learn and to never stop in that learning process. Our souls are meant to seek and grow, whether we stumble and fall or gracefully move and soar. All is a learning experience that we’re meant to get something out of; learn a valuable lesson from, no matter how much it hurts or raises our internal spirit. It is when we cease to learn that we, in essence, begin to die. And never, ever, does one person have the total answer to everything or, as some people have worded it, know it all.  It takes many views, experiences, times of introspection, and people to show us what is right for each of our own journeys – and sometimes that takes a lot of living to do.

Your stories run the gamut from heart-warming, to playful and humorous, to creepy, to downright terrifying. With all of the experiences you have had, I wonder what your reason is that you still get freaked out from time to time by a Spirit. For example, my way of explaining this is a creepy (my spidey sense) feeling. I can’t see anyone, I can’t hear anyone, but I know something is going on and it freaks me out because I can’t control what is happening. But then, on the other hand, I think it would almost be worse if I could see it or hear it! Do you think it is the loss of control aspect?

This is an easy one to answer as it applies to anyone whenever they’re surprised by someone or something. If a person is focused intently upon whatever they’re working on and someone walks up behind them or bumps into them, they get a little “freaked out,” as you put it, and have to reconnoiter themselves into the moment of what is now happening. I like your term of spidey sense and that kicks in quite often with me as well (actually more often than not), but it manifests in me where I’m alerted to something present and, if I’m in the mood, I’ll reach out in various ways to see what that alert is all about.

You ask about the control aspect and, personally, I think too many people want to be too in control of their environment and/or the spirits and energies around them. One can be in control of one’s self, but not in control of others. It’s how a person reacts that is the deciding factor in many situations – both earthly and ethereal – and, for me, I control ME and work with that which is happening.  Though it might take me a few seconds or minutes to get in control of good ol’ ME, I do it and work through things. After all, who really wants to be around or communicate with someone who is too controlling? I know I don’t, and since spirits also have feelings AND free will, they don’t either. They oftentimes have a message to convey and, if a person is too controlling, that message gets lost in the shuffle.

This is not to say that I was this much in control of myself at all times during the various encounters in my book, though. I was coming back into myself and my working with spirits at the time. So, many things have changed since the encounters in my book happened.

What is your theory on where spirits go when they aren’t interacting with us (back and forth to heaven, or just going about life like they would if they were still alive, etc.)?

As EVERY spirit and their stories are different and unique, the answer to that is unique and as individual as they are. So, where they go and what they do, what they experience, what they work on and where they work on it, is all their own personal adventure, just as it will be ours when we also go into that realm

In Chapter 3, we are introduced to Sister Mary. On Page 33 you write that spirits can fully manifest when there is a real need, which is absolutely comforting. Then we meet the suicide in Chapter 10. It also seems that they are able to fully manifest if they have a lot of anger or confusion. When someone like this spirit shows up and flat-out chases you, do you think they are powerful enough to cause harm to the living, or do you just tell yourself you’re going to be okay because he can only scare you but not physically hurt you? 

With Sister Mary there IS need manifesting deeply when she appears and it is somehow SHE who determines that need. She, just like the rest of us, has free will and shows up at her own discretion. She has a great and powerfully loving energy. On the other hand, the Suicide Spirit had energy that stuck with him over time, enabling him to return. One has to consider also the time of his death originally having been a factor in energizing him AND the fact that funeral homes are ripe with energy that is strong in many ways.  Add to that the issue of many employees remembering the date and time of finding him and recalling how they felt, there we see a perfect storm for his being able to return.

In the situation with the Suicide Spirit, that was a time when I truthfully did NOT know what could happen. That occurred nearly ten years ago. At that time I was coming back into the working with and understanding of spirits and their messages. Since then I have grown and matured greatly. Now, I wouldn’t have run as NOW I KNOW the full benevolence of my Higher Power.

Had I known then what I know now, I would have worked with Spirit and my Guides/Guardians more closely. I would not have fumbled with my keys, nor nearly turned my ankle running to my car. (I have to laugh at myself still on those points – but we all learn and we all grow.) I’d have been in control of myself and reached out to see how this poor, dear soul could be helped and released from that earthly torment – which I did do later, but that’s not in the book. It is in an update on my personal blog.

You ask, though, if he could have physically harmed a living.  As he never did – he more frightened the begeesus out of everyone that encountered him – the physical harm would more than likely result from the person harming their self out of fright and panic while trying to evade him.

Jamie, since I shared with you the link to the update on the Suicide Spirit, I’ll share it here for your readers’ convenience as well.  http://mariahsvisions.blogspot.com/2014/02/a-restless-spirit-at-peace-follow-up.html#links

After I shared that with you and you had the chance to read it, you wondered if he could hear my prayers. I don’t think “hearing” them was necessary. He felt them and the shift in the energy surrounding him, which resulted from my compassion and intent. He knew he could go Home anytime, but wanted to return the favor before he did, as well as give me some insight I needed to learn. In other words, we took care of each other.

I’m thinking about that silhouette from Chapter 9, which I think is the creepiest story of them all. There is something about the dark that makes me uneasy as well. Probably most women, for that matter. But even though it makes me feel better when I throw that switch on, I can’t help but ask – “Did I really make that shadow disappear, or is he still sitting right in front of me and I just can’t see him anymore?” What do you think happens? Does the light make him flee or is he still there, just unseen? 

In the case of entities like this, the light seems to be his enemy or blocking agent. The feeling in the room would change when the light came on, but I felt that he wasn’t really gone; just hidden. These types of entities seem to literally absorb what little light is in the room when the room is nearly dark, with the darkness being their ally. Oddly, it’s almost like experiencing a dimensional shift between darkness and light when they’re around. This is my experience with the dark entity and my feelings on this particular one, but it’s not the same as how others saw or felt him.

For instance, one person I had worked with in that particular funeral home worked there long after I left and would usually call me on a weekly basis to give me updates about the spirits and also just to say hello or see how I was doing. She let me know that she had basically come to terms with this dark silhouette entity and set boundaries on any communications or interactions with him.  Something happened in that location and the entity felt free to roam the entire building instead of just sitting in the parlor with deceased individuals whose family cared nothing for them. This roaming he would do early in the day, with the sunlight streaming in the front windows, and it seemed to fill a need in him. Eventually he let her know that he could no longer remain there and had to move on. This occurred just shortly before my book was released, so one theory me and my former colleague had is that he somehow knew he would be read and learned about and basically decided to give up the ghost, moving on to greener pastures.

Interestingly, the dark entity that caused people to get sick to their stomachs is one that I’ve received the most outside comments on.  Those comments have come from private individuals who felt the need to share with me what type of spirit/entity he was. No two have ever agreed as it being one energy in particular, so I guess that just goes to show that a psychic or occultist or practitioner of any religious art should hold off on their opinions until they have ALL the facts. Egos can, unfortunately, run amuck in any field, though.

There were several times throughout the book when you told spirits that they needed to stay there, not to go home with you. Does this always work as far as making sure nothing attaches to you (except for the lady from Chapter 18 – but she went away when you returned her folder, right)? Is there such a thing as being able to make sure nothing fixates on you? 

Here is where one MUST rely upon their Higher Power as being their ultimate protector. One can enhance their own protection – through prayer, trinkets, and whatever makes them feel better – but the true protection is in trusting in their Higher Power’s strength.  When we do that fully and confidently, we no longer have holes in our armor that allow negative or lost or lonely spirits and other entities to make that attachment. If something does, we can rest assured that it isn’t something nasty, but something that needs to be with us for a reason, getting assistance from us that our Higher Power knows only we can give, which is always something of an earthly nature that can only be given by another living human being. Sometimes that’s just recognition; sometimes it’s honest compassion and caring. But whatever it is, it is something that validates and heals a part of their being that they couldn’t or didn’t have the chance to get in life.

Regarding the woman from Chapter 18, yes, she did settle down when I returned the folder – which she saw as being HER property and the property of her family and friends; not mine. She was a very determined foe for everyone who had to deal with her, both in life and in death, with very staunch views of the way things should be. She was going to have the last say in things, no matter what.

 The Knowing Guardian from Chapter 4 was a touching story of someone protecting you from going out and getting caught in a car accident on your way home from work. Do you have any advice for people who are looking to get in tune with their own guardians?

My best advice is to be open and accepting of one’s Guardians, whether they’re with us for a short time – as the Guardian in Chapter 4 was from time to time – or if they’re with us eternally. Employ patience and don’t give in to trying to be the one in control all the time regarding when they appear, how they show themselves to you, and what they do to guide you. In time, things will be revealed, sometimes with conditions being controlled by powers that are unseen and sometimes irritating. We should always remember that it’s how we view things that give us that irritation, though. We should also always realize that we are NEVER alone, no matter how alone we may feel at any given time.

In Chapter 8, you discuss children who can see spirits. Many people believe that all children are born with this ability, but that we slowly lose it as we age. Do you think that is a good thing or a bad thing? Is it an ability someone should want to get in tune with and develop once more, or do you think it naturally goes away because not knowing anymore is some sort of protection?

We only lose the ability to connect with spirits, the other side, our Higher Power, etc. because society tells us we have to and drives that point home in us as we grow older. When we are young we are constantly TOLD how to think, how to develop an acceptable form of religiosity, and how to present ourselves so we can “fit in” to our societal world. This “being told” is what begins to block the natural abilities we ALL have at birth. We are told by parents and other supposedly smart, big people in our young lives that we don’t see those people we’re talking to and we don’t have those friends around us. We know that many of the special friends we have are actually as real to us when we’re small as Mom or Dad, our siblings or the kid down the street are, but for some odd reason, we just have to let them go and do as we’re told. So, we do, just to get along and fit in with all the other normal people out there, many of whom have gone through the same thing.

As every living individual is different, sometimes it is best they shut their abilities down and ignore them for the remainder of their time. In other cases it isn’t. Each person has to work with that on their own and not be told what they should or shouldn’t do. So, there’s no real blanket answer for your question here – it’s all up to the individual. But, they’ll still experience psychic or spiritual occurrences; they just won’t acknowledge them if they’ve decided to stay closed down or just happened to do so. They’ll have things mysteriously disappear, then reappear where they’ve looked a hundred times for it. They’ll get the thought of someone they haven’t thought of in years then suddenly find the person has died or they’ll get a phone call from that person. They may even find out other friends and family have also been thinking about that person. They’ll get a sudden urge to not take their usual route to work, school, or the store and find out later there was a horrible issue along that original route they might well have been involved in. All these types of things and more are indications that our loved ones, our Guides, Guardians, and Higher Power are at work in our lives. Whether one chooses to acknowledge other forces being at work, or chooses to ignore it, is entirely up to him or her.

 My first book (Haunted Asylums, Prisons, and Sanatoriums) was about two “normal” (I put it in quotes, because none of us are, but my use of the term means average Joe Blow off the streets of America, I guess) people who go ghost hunting in some places that have famous haunted reputations. I was just cracking up when I read Chapter 11 when the Director popped up right in front of Angel multiple times when she had her alleged ghost hunting equipment out! Do you think all these tech tools that ghost hunters purport to use to measure paranormal activity are all just a bunch of novelty bunk items? Do you think any of it can be used to capture real evidence (EVPs on a voice recorder maybe)?

There certainly does seem to be a great deal of equipment that’s used today, some of which might be considered to be just a novelty toy, while others are kind of interesting. I think and feel, as well as know, that electronic devices CAN obtain many bits of what is called “real evidence,” though. I know from personal experience that voices can be recorded that we cannot easily hear with the naked ear and things can be seen on different types of film, camera units, and the like that just escape our eyes. Whether or not anything that is “captured” will ever truly be looked at as definitive evidence remains to be seen, especially since there is now also the technology that enables a lot of fakers to easily create bogus videos, pictures, and sounds.

But, I also know from experience that many spirits can easily manipulate electronics to their advantage; or the disadvantage of the investigator/hunter as I shared in the chapter of my book you speak of in your question. Where some can manipulate how cameras work, others can use phones or computers. Some, on the other hand, seem to allow themselves to be recorded and/or photographed, while others just are perhaps too new to being in the realm of spirit or just haven’t bothered to become tech savvy in order to not get caught. Of course, too, there are times when conditions are just right or a person’s timing is good, allowing for something to come through for the record – and then there’s always the fact that some spirits just seem to like some livings doing the investigating.

So, I feel staunchly that today’s “investigators” and “hunters” are working from what is more modern and easily understandable in their own lifetimes of work, along with great exposure to what is in the current realm of technology. But, unfortunately, since funding was pulled from these types of investigative studies many years ago (1989 to my best recollection), whereby accredited schools of learning could do scientific investigations, until something can be done in a controlled manner suitable to the minds of academics, most of what is found will just remain in the realm of skepticism and fancy and not be fully accepted as being real proof that ghosts exist for quite some time. Still, even then, the world will still have those who scoff, cajole, and simply don’t believe and never will no matter how much proof is given to them. No amount of proof will convince those types of folks of the existence of the afterlife and, for those permanent scoffers, I feel very sorry, because they are so limiting their own existence and experience on this earth.

What can you tell us about yourself and your writing process? (Are you a pen and notebook gal, or a typist? Morning or night person? Write on a schedule, or as the mood strikes?)

I’m an “all of the above” type of person and more.  I don’t think it would EVER work for me to limit the possibilities of when or how to write.

Tell us how to keep up with you (your websites, social media, any upcoming projects you want to plug here). 

My website is http://ladymariah.com . That is where people can find various readings I do and can order them directly from me.  Autographed copies of my book, Restless in Peace: A Psychic Mortician’s Encounters with Those who Refuse to Rest, are also available from my website, with $2 of the profit from each copy going to help animals in need and the people who help them. The remaining cost of the book goes to shipping, taxes, and my actual cost of the book since I don’t get it free either.

I can be found on both Twitter and Facebook.  My @’s on Twitter are @MariahsVisions and @RestlessNPeace. My location on Facebook is Restless In Peace by Mariah de la Croix  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Restless-in-Peace-by-Mariah-de-la-Croix/293414867388662

I also have two blogs:  http://www.mariahsvisions.blogspot.com and http://www.mariahsquietcorner.blogspot.com.

I can also be reached by email at Mariah@ladymariah.com

I have no upcoming projects at this time.

Again, I thank you wholeheartedly for this interview opportunity and I wish you and your readers many wonderful blessings and bid you all Peace.

Mariah de la Croix

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