On My Radar: Lava Hot Springs Inn -Lava Hot Springs, ID

Just musing and adding this location to my wish list of future haunted hotels to investigate/visit.

Why am I so intrigued? I have an idea that a possible sequel to “America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Checking in with Uninvited Guests,” would feature locations that are either in mining towns; built around natural springs; or are former hospitals. The Lava Hot Springs Inn hits 2 out of 3 wish list categories! After everything I’ve seen, I believe that geology plays a huge part in what we refer to as “hauntings” (for lack of a better term), or at least plays a bigger role than I could understand five years ago when I first started traveling and investigating haunted locations.

The hospital theory is based on what I have experienced in connection with traveling and writing my first two books. I felt that the hospitals were more active, even, than the abandoned prisons! One of the theories that you might entertain as to cause is to consider the theory that the people in prisons had probably already given up and resigned themselves to death, while people who died in hospitals went in with the belief that they were going there to be saved. It’s obvious, but I think there is some real truth to the whole trauma/unexpected death theory causing what we refer to as a haunting. This isn’t all there is to it, but it is enough to have captured my attention over the years.

Spec sheet for Lava Hot Springs:

  • Built in the 1920s as the Lava Hot Springs Hospital. (Some original objects from the hospital, including a surgical bed are held at the South Bannock Historical Museum);
  • The curative healing springs remind me of the energy I felt in Eureka Springs, Arkansas (and the 1886 Crescent Hotel);
  • Sacred Native American springs;
  • High levels of “magic” minerals in the water. Manganese has been associated with shape shifting (could be why people see “shadow figures”). Copper is a conductor for electricity and is used in healing. Iron is used for out of body travel.

Further Reading:

http://www.lavahotspringsinn.com

http://www.idahostatejournal.com/members/ghost-adventures-will-explore-lava-hot-springs-inn/article_1a1534f8-3d8e-11e5-b569-ab595a93b2f0.html

http://lavahotsprings.com

 

 

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Aberrant Art from Barry Kite

New year. New art.

It began with an innocent trip to find pizza on Ponce Inlet. A random conversation with Barry Kite on a sidewalk outside his gallery makes up the middle. The end is a wall in my home office.

Done - Barry Kite

Done – Barry Kite

He said the shark is eating Ophelia.

Group - Barry Kite

Group – Barry Kite

Desert Dance - Barry Kite

Desert Dance – Barry Kite

I bought because he entertained me – both as a person, and with his art. I bought because I have been looking for something that means more than a colored circle with a squiggle. I see a lot of lines and squiggles (coupled by vacation art here in Savannah), and this decorative sort of art just doesn’t do anything for me.

I have not forgotten the irritating “conversations” that we have had with gallery owners on Royal Street in New Orleans and in the River North Gallery District in Chicago either. For those of you who have never had the pleasure, those experiences both began by a visual sizing us up head to toe, followed by a pitch of why we should spend $30-$45k on a lithograph. Er, no way in hell. Ever. No, I don’t care that Chagall signed the print. Thanks for trying. Going to have coffee now!

I understand Kite’s style to be “re-positioning” or “re-contextualizing” select masterpieces that are in the public domain. The works have historically been done by hand, but I’ve read that he may be moving into digital.

If you look closely at my purchases, you can make out a great cast of characters:

  • The Girl with the Pearl Earring;
  • Vincent van Gogh;
  • One of Francis Bacon’s screaming popes;
  • Napoleon;
  • Mona Lisa; and
  • The Absinthe Drinker.

Some art snots might criticize and throw some shade, but I would just throw back a “Well, what is art for?” I buy to please myself, not to put on airs for guests.

Barry: I left space on my wall. If you start mixing Dali’s clocks and Magritte’s trains, you’ve got yourself another sale. I also like the bowler hat man in the sky with an umbrella sprinkled in for good measure.

I. AM. NOT. EVEN. KIDDING.

Further reading:

http://aberrantart.com

https://viewkick.com/barry-kite-s-collages-will-make-you-laugh

 

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What Did Stephen King See Inside The Stanley Hotel That Inspired Him to Write “The Shining?”

Bob and I spent Halloween weekend enjoying and investigating the famous Stanley Hotel in connection with a chapter for our upcoming book (America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Checking in with Uninvited Guests – slated for a 2016 fall release).

The Stanley Hotel - Estes Park, CO

The Stanley Hotel – Estes Park, CO

The most fascinating question that remains for me is what exactly (if anything) did Stephen King see that fateful night in 1974 that inspired him to write The Shining?

If you haven’t heard the back story, allow me to brief you a bit. King had a hit with Carrie, and had just turned in Salem’s Lot. Both stories were set in Maine, and he wanted a change of scenery, so he moved his family to Boulder, CO to work on his next novel. He had been tinkering with the idea of a boy who had psychic abilities, but the venue was tentatively set in an abandoned amusement park, and he just couldn’t work out the logistics of how the family would remain trapped there. He was stuck.

Back in 1974, The Stanley closed for the winter, and King (along with his wife, Tabitha), just happened to find their way there on the last opening night prior to the winter shut down. They were the only guests in the hotel that night, and were given what was the best room in the house – Room 217.

"Stephen King's Room" - Room 217, Stanley Hotel - Estes Park, CO

Outside “Stephen King’s Room” – Room 217, Stanley Hotel – Estes Park, CO

After their dinner, Tabitha returned to their room and King wandered the hallways of the empty hotel.

The endless hallway, where Stephen King roamed and was inspired to write "The Shining."

The endless hallway, where Stephen King roamed and was inspired to write “The Shining.”

Try as I might, I have not been able to turn up anything on whether or not King had any personal paranormal experiences while staying in the hotel that night. Nevertheless, there is no denying that whatever happened to him during his stay, he was inspired to write The Shining.

On Page 69 of George Beam’s 1992 biography, the inspiration for the story is explained as: “He imagined the fire hoses coming alive, thumping across the carpet. By then, whatever it is that makes you want to make things up, it was turned on. I was scared, but I loved it.” And on Page 215 of Rebecca Pittman’s The History & Haunting of The Stanley Hotel, King is quoted as: “It was like God had put me there to hear that and see those things.

It is a teaser comment, to me. It can make you infer whatever you want to infer, and maybe that is the point. Perhaps the story is simple, and is one that many of us can relate to. Haven’t we all stumbled upon a place that was “magic” somehow? Maybe the place just made us feel good, or maybe it inspired us to create. After all, that is what travel and new experiences unarguably do. That’s the point – to experience and be inspired. Sometimes the freedom of escaping is the only way to trip the wires.

But maybe, just maybe, King was faced with someone or something while roaming the “endless hallways” of the fourth floor of the abandoned Stanley Hotel. I don’t know.

But I think about it.

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The Farnsworth House Inn in Haunted Gettysburg, PA

Bob and I stayed at the 1810 Historic Farnsworth House Inn in Gettysburg, PA over Memorial Day weekend in connection with our upcoming book with Llewellyn (“America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Checking in With Uninvited Guests”).

Historic Farnsworth House Inn

Historic Farnsworth House Inn

The history and hauntings will be addressed in the book, but for now, follow me into the house and downstairs into the depths of the basement. 

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The Mourning Theatre is held down here (stories told by candlelight). 

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There are many original artifacts from the Victorian Mourning Period in the basement, including these hair wreaths, pictured below. 

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Traditionally, when a relative died, a surviving family member cut off a piece of the deceased’s hair and sewed it into the family wreath and hung it on the wall like that was a totally normal piece of art. This was a way for the family to remember their loved one, and especially so if they could not afford the expense of photography. The Victorians were also fond of using the hair in jewelry. I have no idea what sort of weird residual attachments might go along with having that amount of strange, dead, human hair stored in one place that has so many deaths and tragedy connected to the sight. It is worth considering though, when you think about the reasons for the hauntings.

After all that darkness, we headed for the light of the battlefield. It was a haunting place, but peaceful just the same.       

Gettysburg Battlefield

Gettysburg battlefield, near the Devil’s Den area.

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A Visit to the Indiana Medical History Museum

The 1896 Pathology Building is just about all that is left of the former Central State Hospital in Indianapolis a/k/a The Indiana Hospital for the Insane (Circa 1848 – 1994). The two-story building has been preserved as a museum. Admission is just $10.00, and includes a one-hour tour that is highly informative, enjoyable, and tastefully macabre (if that is a thing – I kind of just made it up, but I think that phrase sums it up perfectly).

The museum carries a warning to the public: “Young children and visitors sensitive to topics such as mental illness, death, and autopsy may find the museum disturbing. Human skeletons and preserved organs are on display at the museum.”

Step inside.

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Our tour begins in the teaching amphitheater. In its day, the facility was cutting edge, and doctors were diligently working to discover the causes of psych conditions and diseases (dementia / depression / schizophrenia).

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Autopsies were performed and organs were kept to be studied.

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The morgue:

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The Anatomical Museum and a lab room. There is a skylight above the marble table because it provided the best light for dissecting.

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I could have spent hours in the library, but the books are fragile, and off-limits. Don’t all of those “American Journal of Insanity” volumes from the early 1800’s look fascinating?!

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Lastly, the photography room:

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Even if you do not have any medical background whatsoever, you can appreciate how far we have come in just 100 years.

Further reading:

http://www.imhm.org/

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The Galloping Hessian of the Hollow

 

 

Sleepy Hollow is only about 40 minutes outside of Manhattan. Made famous by Washington Irving, it wasn’t even called Sleepy Hollow until 1996, when GM closed a plant in North Tarrytown, and citizens elected to get smart and re-brand. Dig the horseman icon at the top of the street signs. Brilliant.

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The Cemetery is still there, of course, as well as the Old Dutch Church. As we were walking the grounds, I think I just might have stumbled upon the grave of the Hessian.

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I mean, who else would they want to keep locked up?!

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It was not hard to imagine (even in the light of day) the Hessian beginning his ride out of that grave, and trotting down the hill. All the graves are lined up, facing this path, as though they are cheering him on while he rides.

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There is not much of a bridge left at all. More of a site-marker.

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I found a weathered and slightly yellowed copy of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow after we got home from our Labor Day trip to New York. You really owe it to yourself to sit down one of these few remaining October nights and read the story (by firelight, if at all possible). The language is just fantastic. The story has stood the test of time, and it remains today one of the very best scary stories I have ever read.

“There was a contagion in the very air that blew from that haunted region; it breathed forth an atmosphere of dreams and fancies infecting all the land.” 

http://visitsleepyhollow.com/historic-sites/headless-horseman-bridge/

http://www.businessinsider.com/history-of-sleepy-hollow-new-york-2014-10

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On My Bookshelf: Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities, by Michael Kleen

Fall gives me back to school fever, and when I found out that Michael Kleen’s new book combined my love of ghost stories with my longing for school days, I had to get a copy. One of the themes of the book that really struck a chord with me is the importance of legend-tripping in college. Some of us outgrow it, I guess, but even if we do, I think we replace it with another form of travel or even possibly another thrill-seeking activity.

From haunted libraries and theaters, to even your very own dorm room, any area of the campus might have an associated legend. I caught up with Michael and he very kindly entertained my questions below:

Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities

I love your explanation of legend tripping as a form of escapism. “By confronting the imagined horrors that await them at their destination, participants expect to be changed in some way.” What are your thoughts on the importance of continuing this tradition into our adult lives?

Legend tripping, like all rights of passage, is important during adolescence and early adulthood. These trips to “forbidden” locations, confrontations with real or imagined danger, and proving one’s bravery to his or her peers can have a lasting impression on individuals and groups of friends. I recently read an insightful argument that ghost stories are intimately tied to nostalgia. Many adults who engaged in legend tripping during their formative years probably retain very powerful memories of those events. I know I do.

Continuing to seek out mysterious places in adulthood is a way to reconnect with those memories, perhaps even to reconstruct them with a new group of friends, or to share that part of your life with someone new. We can develop very real emotional connections to these places, even physical connections (such as writing your name on a wall, for example). Revisiting an abandoned building or bridge where you wrote your name as a teen allows you to encounter a visual reminder of your past.

Do you find the idea of a haunted library unsettling or oddly comforting?

I love libraries and old books–places where you can literally smell the history. When I was a kid, I used to enjoy looking in books to see the last date they were checked out. Sometimes that was several decades ago. I like the idea that something of the past remains, like a spiritual manifestation of a custodian of this collective knowledge. So to answer your question, yes, I find it comforting.

What legend do you think is the most far-fetched or hard for you to believe, and which do you find the most believable?

I treat all legends as equally believable and far-fetched, because I’m not very interested in questions about the truth or falsehood of legends. All legends are acts of creative storytelling. You could have one legend about the ghost of a suicide victim at college and it be completely made up, or you could have a legend that was based on a real suicide, but elements of the story are fictional. You have to, at some level, assume all these stories are false. However, there is a legend about a dorm that was designed to fly safely off its foundation in the event of a tornado, and I think that’s pretty far-fetched.

When I was reading the stories of the librarian ghost in Williams Hall, I was thinking to myself: “Wait a minute. That sounds likeGhostbusters!” Then you wrote the exact same observation a few sentences later. Do you see this type of phenomenon often when conducting interviews, as far as witnesses seemingly being influenced by popular culture and the media when they are reporting their stories? If so, do you think it is an innocent happening, or do you think people sometimes just mirror what they think they are supposed to say they saw based on what they’ve seen in the movies and may have already read in print?

I think media is very influential when it comes to legends and ghost stories. Let’s say someone actually sees a ghost, or encounters something they can’t explain. How do they describe something that may have only happened for a few seconds out of the corner of their eye? There may not be words in the English language suitable to describe what the person encountered. So they pull examples from popular culture–movies, TV shows, newspaper articles, stories they heard from other people–to fill in the blanks. People do this when describing crimes as well, and that involves an actual physical event! It’s been shown that reports of encounters with ghosts and UFOs increase when articles in the newspaper or TV news reports focus on those subjects. It’s not clear, however, whether people just feel more open to talking about those experiences, or whether the media somehow influenced them to be more susceptible to having those experiences. I do know that when a legend in one part of the country becomes popular in the media, it has been known to spread to other parts of the country. Those are called migratory legends. The crybaby bridge and vanishing hitchhiker motifs are just two examples of that.

Speaking of interviews, have you ever come across a participant who seeks payment in exchange for a story? If so, how do you handle this?

I have not encountered that, but I would not be opposed to paying for a story if it was something that was really crucial to my research. Some people just need that extra motivation. You always have to be careful, however, of people who are just coming forward with a story for financial gain. You can find someone to say anything for the right amount of money.

It’s a dark and suddenly stormy night and you find yourself trapped outside alone in the elements on your way back to your dorm room. Do you seek shelter in the archives of the haunted library or run for cover into the tunnels?

Hm, I would definitely seek shelter in the haunted archives. That sounds a lot cozier and you’re less likely to run into jumbo sized sewer rats.

I’m captivated by the Capital Hotel. Any news or tales you can share that didn’t make it in the book?

Yes and no. Pretty much everything I know about Vishnu Springs and the Capitol Hotel related to its importance as a legend tripping destination for students from Western Illinois University is in the book, but there is a lot of history I left out because it was just meant to be an overview. So nothing new to report, unfortunately. I would like to know when WIU intends to open it back up to the public.

In the beginning, it is explained to the reader that the legends are retold as a way of explaining strange occurrences and are passed on in order to warn or inform others. And yet, the most chilling truth of all is presented later in the form of the fate of Shannon McNamara. “As Shannon McNamara’s murder taught a whole generation of my fellow EIU alumni, you can be intelligent, popular, athletic, and happy, and evil might still find you.” This sentence stuck with me, and still covers my entire body in chills. This is the scariest story to tell in the dark because it is real, and there is really nothing you can do to guard against it other than stay strapped, I guess. This isn’t really turning into much of an interview question, but I guess I just want to listen to you talk about this theme/truth some more.

We like to think of the college years as carefree. For most people, it’s a time to party, experiment, and reinvent yourself before moving on to adulthood. It is definitely all of those things, at least in contemporary American society. But there is the flipside of the coin. Some students experience loneliness, social rejection, disappointment, failure, and broken hearts. Most of the legends and ghost stories on college campuses focus on these unfortunate individuals. Ghost stories tell students, “this could happen to you if you’re not careful,” which is an especially poignant message among people who are still in denial about their mortality. But as you point out, this turns out to be a false hope. In reality, tragedy also befalls normal, happy, and well-adjusted students. Sometimes, there is nothing you can do to prevent a killer from striking, or a tragic accident befalling someone. That is the real horror. It is a reality almost too horrible to face, so we tame it by turning it into a story with a neat little moral at the end.

Any upcoming announcements? Any updates on the witchcraft in Illinois book?

I’m currently deployed overseas, so I don’t have any upcoming events. My book on the cultural history of witchcraft in Illinois is still in review at the publisher. It is an academic publisher, so the editing and revision process is especially long. Even though it can be discouraging at times, in the end, I think this process will make it a much better book. As for right now, I’m continuing to try to promote Ghostlore of Illinois Colleges and Universities as best I can.

Tell us how to keep up with you.

People can keep up with me through my websites, http://www.michaelkleen.com and http://www.mysteriousheartland.com.

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