Search

Jamie Davis Writes

Category

Book Reviews and Author Interviews

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

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 our upcoming book with Llewellyn “America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Checking in With Uninvited Guests.” 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 😛

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!

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

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

On My Bookshelf: Fractured Spirits, by Sylvia Shults

In Fractured Spirits, Sylvia Shults weaves historical research, firsthand accounts, and interviews with other investigators to explore the haunted Peoria State Hospital. Sylvia will introduce a cast of characters to you that once called the asylum home. Meet Dr. Zeller, Rhoda Derry, A. Bookbinder, the White Lady, and even the Angel of God. Some tales will warm your heart. Some will turn your blood cold. She also addresses the local rumors. As you might imagine, there are many.

I always find it fascinating to read about the real-life stories of the people who once lived and worked in such a place. The section about the elimination of work therapy having a devastating impact on the patients had me nodding along in agreement. Leave it to the U.S. government to abolish work (in many cases, work or occupational therapy, was the only thing the patients had to make them feel a sense of purpose) and honestly believe that decision won’t destroy the human spirit.

There are wide beliefs and reasons for what constitutes a haunting, and Sylvia navigates this beautifully. What I found to be very compelling reasons that she notes is that the Bowen is reported to have been carved from limestone from the oldest quarry in the United States, and the Illinois River is very nearby. Further, she reports that the cottage plan resulted in many patients feeling at home in the hospital. When the place shut down in 1973, everything was left in the cottages just as if the patients had never left. Perhaps these spirits truly believe they are coming home.

I was also pleased to read about her experiences using the Ghost Box. She seems to feel the same way about the ghost box as I feel about watching a couple of flashlights react to questions! I recently read this book for the second time and loved it even more, so I sent a few questions over to Sylvia to see if she might share some more details with me. Words from the lovely Sylvia Shults:

Can you remember your first undeniable proof moment of paranormal phenomena? Was it in the basement of Pollak Hospital or was there something even earlier in life that stuck with you?

I’ve been reading ghost stories all my life, but I never had any paranormal experiences until I was quite grown up. (It’s probably a good thing too, because I was a big chicken growing up.) I clearly remember my first “holy cats, this stuff is real, and here it is, happening to me” moment. I was doing research for my first nonfiction book, Ghosts of the Illinois River, and I went to explore the Peoria Players Theater and to meet their resident spirit, Norman Endean, a director at the theater who passed away in late February of 1960, when he was just 34 years old. I stood in the backstage area of the theater and spoke aloud to Norman, asking him to do something to let me know of his presence there. (I had come to the theater on a break from work, and I hadn’t brought any equipment with me, no camera, no recorder, nothing.) I didn’t experience anything — yet. I happened to see a small desk sitting next to the back stage door, with a stack of plastic shot glasses sitting on it, for mixing paint for details on the stage sets. I plucked the top glass from the stack, thinking hey, it’s light, a spirit would have no trouble moving it. I put it down on a board and again, asked Norman to move the glass. Again, nothing.

A theater volunteer came up to me and introduced herself at that point, and we chatted as she gave me a tour of the back stage of the theater. We made our way back to the place we had started, and I spoke again to the air. “Okay, Norman, Pam’s given me a tour of your theater, but I have to go now, and I don’t know when I’ll be back. If you want to let me know that you’re here, this is your last chance.” Suddenly we both heard rustling noises coming from the catwalk above the stage, which is where Norman is known to hang out during performances. I said, “Oh, Norman, thank you so much!” I was totally stoked. Then, since I was raised to put things back where I found them, I picked up the plastic shot glass from where it was sitting on the board, and went to put it back with the rest of the glasses …

…and the stack of shot glasses was gone.

Flustered, I said, “Pam, there was … did you … ummmm … okay, there was a stack of plastic shot glasses here. You didn’t … you didn’t move them, did you?” I KNEW her answer was going to be “no”, because she’d been with me the whole time. She shook her head “no”, and we both started grinning. I told her about my experiment, asking Norman to move the cup, and pretty soon we were both laughing in sheer delight. “Norman’s a trickster,” Pam gasped. “He’s always doing things you don’t expect. “To be fair, you DID ask him to move the shot glass!”

I went back to the theater a while later, and did an hour’s worth of recording, just chatting with Norman in the hopes he would answer back. I only got one EVP out of that whole session, but it’s one of my all-time favorites. I sat on the stage, got myself settled in a cross-legged position, and said, “Hello Norman, it’s Sylvia, I’m here again … and I am SO happy to be here. And in that small pause, between “I’m here again” and “I’m so happy to be here”, you can hear a softly whispered okay.

You write about Rob Conover releasing 28 spirits from the Bowen building. Can you tell me more about that (any idea how, or any opinion about that theory?)

I am very accepting about the things other ghost hunters say they have done. Who am I to say any different? Rob claims that he can encourage spirits to go to the Light. Whether they actually do, is a matter of personal opinion. Now, I have read elsewhere that Rob did another “cleansing” (of an antique store here in Pekin). The owner of the store put his hand on the wall where Rob said the spirits had gone through their portal, and he felt that the wall there was significantly warmer than the rest of the building. So who knows? I’m certainly not going to tell someone they’re wrong, just because I happen to be a bit skeptical.

Are the tunnels open and accessible to tour groups?

Nope, sorry. There is a tunnel entrance under the sidewalk next to Stone Country (the former gymnasium). You pull up the wooden sidewalk and boom, there it is. But the guy who showed it to me didn’t offer to take me down there. And the tunnel entrances in the basement of the Pollak are blocked off. The entrance in the basement of the Bowen is actually filled in with solid concrete. This is because when the city of Bartonville put in Pfeiffer Road in the mid-1980s, it was felt that the traffic over the tunnel might cause the road to collapse. So they filled part of it in to avoid any accidents. Incidentally, the tunnels at the Peoria State Hospital weren’t used to transport patients (or, God forbid, to keep patients incarcerated in the darkness). They were steam tunnels; the hilltop had its own power plant. The tunnels were big enough for a human to crawl through, simply for maintenance purposes.

Have you ever had an experience where you brought someone home with you? (I swear this happened to me after Yorktown when I forgot to make my announcement prior to departure!)

I honestly don’t think I’ve brought anyone home with me, although I have heard PLENTY of stories from people who have! People have experienced cereal boxes pulled out of cabinets and the contents scattered over the kitchen floor after a visit to the state hospital. I’ve heard stories of empty passenger seats reclining and car radio stations randomly changing on the ride home from the asylum. When a ghost hunting group was at the Pollak, one of our volunteers looked out and saw an elderly man sitting in the ghost hunters’ van, apparently waiting for a ride off the grounds … but all of our guests were inside the building.

But me, I’m about as sensitive as a dining room table. Someone could be walking around behind me carrying their own severed head, and I wouldn’t notice. If anything DID follow me home, I think it would leave on its own after a couple of weeks, just because it would be bored stiff! That being said, I do a lot of presentations on the history and hauntings of the Peoria State Hospital, and have been told several times by sensitives that there is a nurse who regularly comes to those presentations and hangs out with me on the stage as I lecture. That gives me a great big happy.

Do you do any type of shielding ritual to protect yourself before you go into these places?

I don’t do any sort of ritual, but if I’m going into a place where I’ve never been, and especially if I think it’s going to be very active, I make myself a cup of guarding tea. I have a quart jar of water that has sat outside under the light of the full moon, and I make myself a tea of protective herbs, like comfrey, sage, nettle, a pinch of cinnamon, with honey for more strength. If I get squirrely during the investigation, I just picture the bright white light of the full moon and internalize that thought, and I feel better.

Dianne is quoted in the book as saying “It can affect your moods, if you let it.” I have certainly had that happen to me! Have you ever felt anything?

Like I said, I’m about as sensitive as a brick. There have been times when I’ve felt things, but they are few and far between. I will share a very powerful experience i had, though. This happened, again, at the Peoria Players Theater. I was at the theater with a couple of friends of mine, and Mid America Ghost Hunters (MAGH). Anne Pritchard was leading the group, and that’s who we stuck with all evening. I spent most of the evening in a state of pleasant interest, since I got to hang out with Norman, who is one of my favorite spirits.

But all that changed after we took our break, then went back to investigating. Anne told us that we were going to go up to the far corner of the backstage area, above the woodshop. Now, Norman is not the only spirit at the theater. There is also something very malevolent and nasty — and it likes to hang out in that particular corner of the theater. The four of us — Anne, my friends Gail and Allie, and I — climbed a set of wooden stairs to the loft over the woodshop. There is only enough room on the platform for four chairs, so we sat, and turned off our flashlights.

Immediately I felt like I wanted to crawl out of my skin. I was SO twitchy and SO scared, but I didn’t want to act like a little wuss, so I gritted my teeth and clenched my hands and swore to wait it out. But it took all my concentration and will power to sit in that chair and not go careening down the stairs in blind panic. I reached into my pocket and grabbed a smooth piece of rose quartz and started rubbing it, hoping to calm myself down. After only a few moments, I realized, Hey, this ain’t so bad. In fact, I think I’m starting to feel a little better. In fact, I said that aloud: “Hey, I’m starting to feel better.” Gail answered with a tight, “Mm-hm.”

At about that time, I noticed something very strange. Remember, we were on a platform, which put us about ten feet above the stage. I looked over to my right, and I could just see the stage area (the stage lights were on, but not the house lights, so the stage was clearly lit). At about eye level to where I was, ten or so feet above the stage, there was a snarling, irritated ball of rusty barbed wire, slowly rotating. I couldn’t look at it directly, I could just see it out of the corner of my vision, but it was definitely there. I told the other three about it, just because it was so weird.

On the way home, Gail told me why she had responded to me with a knowing “Mm-hmm”. “Norman was in several different places in the theater tonight, because there were several groups working there. But when you said you were starting to feel better, that’s when Norman came to us, up in the corner, and chased that evil entity away. My jaw dropped. “So that rusty barbed wire stuff I saw, that was the nasty spirit?” Gail nodded. “Norman chased it away, and put like a protective bubble around us so that it would stay away.” Then she gave me a funny look. “Sylvia, don’t you get it? Norman likes you.”

It is believed that there are 32-36 different active spirits in the Bowen building. Do you think they were all affiliated with the hospital in life, or do you think some travelers pass by from time to time? (While researching and traveling for Haunted Asylums, Prisons, and Sanatoriums one of the tour guides at Mansfield Reformatory opined that they had been experiencing more frequent reports of “travelers” – spirits believed to be passing through without any life ties to the prison. I believe that might be the case in a lot of buildings that host ghost tours and hunts).

Sure, I’ll buy that for a dollar. The Bowen volunteers are very excited about doing tours in their building, same as we are about the Pollak. I have no doubt that their enthusiasm acts as a draw for all kinds of spirits in the area. Now, whether or not they can be traced to the asylum is a whole other proposition. I think your hypothesis is a good one.

You talk about seeing an apparition of a girl coming up the stairs behind you in the Pollak Hospital. Was this your first time seeing an actual apparition? What are your thoughts on that in hindsight?

That was my first and, so far, only time seeing an apparition! But I swear she was there. I know she was there, because I made darned sure that there was someone behind me. I didn’t want to be the last in line coming out of a dark basement! I know what kind of spooky stuff is down there! I will always be intensely grateful for the experience. I have no idea who that girl was, or why she chose to appear wearing a blue puffy ski jacket (to blend in with the other investigators in the chill of a basement in early spring?), but I am so totally jazzed that I can finally say I have indeed seen a ghost.

Do you have a wish list of other locations you would like to investigate?

I would be keenly interested in spending the night in the U-505, the captured German submarine that is now housed at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. It might be interesting to spend the night in the Egyptian exhibit at the Field Museum too, but I’m not at all sure my nerves could stand it! I’d have to be with a group. (I DON’T do mummies well. Okay, I don’t do mummies AT ALL. Bleargh.) I’m also really looking forward to investigating a private residence in the Quad Cities. There’s a bathroom in the basement of the house that females tend to get trapped in, even though there’s no lock on the door. And there’s really creepy stuff going on with the attic. There are three large attic windows at the front of the house, and the homeowner said she put a piece of plywood over the window on the inside, because she got tired of turning all the lights off, leaving for the evening, and coming home to see all the lights on and a figure standing in the attic window. (My friend, who lives across the street, has seen the figure in the attic himself.) So she took a piece of plywood, propped it up against the window in the attic, and pushed a dresser against it to hold it in place. I noticed, while looking at the house, that five of the diamond-shaped panes of glass were missing out of the window. I commented on this, and the homeowner said, “Yeah, we’ve found those missing panes. They turn up in the attic … sitting on top of the dresser on the other side of the plywood.” Creepy!

What are you currently working on for your next non-fiction book?

A ghost hunter, who also happens to be a devout Christian, came to me with a hair-raising story that she wanted me to write and bring to the world. She was working very hard, going on a lot of investigations, and not getting up the next morning to attend church. She ran afoul of three demons, and ended up with a severe case of demonic attachment. This poor woman went through three exorcisms, but they didn’t do any good, because she wasn’t possessed — she was being demonically oppressed, which is different. Feral Trinity: A Ghost Hunter’s Encounter With Evil is her story. It should be out by the spring of 2015.

After that, I’ll be working on a book that’s very dear to my heart — I’ll be doing a book just on Rhoda Derry, a patient at the Peoria State Hospital. Shattered Love: The Rhoda Derry Story will be a look not only at Rhoda’s life, but at the effect her story has had even after her death.

Tell me about your writing process for Fractured Spirits.

Fractured Spirits was a lot of fun to write, but it was definitely a challenge. The whole concept behind the book was to collect people’s experiences at the asylum, but it quickly swelled to something much deeper than just a bunch of ghost stories. I collected stories for about six months, I guess, all while having my own experiences out there too. Then I was faced with a huge stack of papers, with stories from all over the asylum — the Bowen, the Pollak, the cemeteries, other buildings … I knew I had to collect all of this information and boil it down into something coherent.

That’s when I figured out that when you’re writing a nonfiction book, colored Post-It notes are your friends! I chose a color each for the Pollak, the Bowen, and the other buildings. I decided to count the ravines and cemeteries as one section, since they’re both outside, and pretty close together. Then it was a simple process of going through the notes and tagging each story as to which section it should go in, by color. That made the actual writing SO much easier.

While doing the research for the book, I figured out pretty quickly that you can’t understand the hauntings of a place without knowing something of its history — they’re inextricably intertwined. So that’s why the book starts off with a look at the history of the asylum, and at some of the patients of the Peoria State Hospital: Old Book, since his story is the most famous ghost tale to come out of the asylum, and Rhoda Derry, as her story is just SO compelling, strange, and sad. And the history of the Peoria State Hospital — and its methods of treating their patients — is unlike any other haunted asylum anywhere. The reason it’s so haunted is simply because the patients got such compassionate care there. It’s really an anomaly; a haunted asylum where patients weren’t abused. It’s such a fascinating place, and I’m so very lucky to be a part of the asylum family.

Keeping up with Sylvia:

People who are on Facebook can find her at the following Pages: Fractured Spirits and Ghosts of the Illinois River.

Website: http://www.sylviashults.com

A sampling of accolades:

As seen on the new season of Ghost Hunters! (Season 9, Episode 3, “Prescription for Fear”)

“Sylvia Shults’s FRACTURED SPIRITS is a fascinating, touching, creepy, riveting read — a sort of Central Illinois Ghost Adventures — set in the defunct chambers of the Peoria State Hospital. Shults is a natural story-teller, and she gets at something deeper and more poignant here than mere phantoms…”
– Jay Bonansinga, New York Times bestselling co-author of THE WALKING DEAD: THE ROAD TO WOODBURY

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑