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Why is the RMS Queen Mary Considered to be One of the Most Haunted Hotels in the World?

The Queen Mary has been called one of the most haunted places in the world, and perhaps there is a great deal of truth to that label. Bob and I investigated the ship in March of 2015 for our upcoming book with Llewellyn “America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Checking in With Uninvited Guests.” Brian Clune and Bob Davis wrote about the ghostly legends surrounding the ship in their 2014 book entitled Ghosts of the Queen Mary. The late Peter James (former resident ship psychic and probably most famous for the television show “Sightings”) thought that he had been in contact with about 600 spirits during the course of his employment on board the ship.  What are some of the most popular stories that are discussed in the Clune/Davis book that could explain some of the hauntings?

  • Allegedly, when the ship was being built in 1934, two men died and their corpses were later discovered close together, with a welding torch nearby. Peter James thought that the spirit called “John Henry” was one of these men.
  • A spirit of a ghost girl, thought to have broken her neck from a slide down the forward third-class banister.
  • During the war years, many people died onboard of heat stroke and exhaustion.
  • People have heard sounds of screaming and rushing water in the area of ship where the propellers used to be. Perhaps this is a residual effect from the Curacao accident of 1942, which killed 338 men.
  • There is a little girl spirit called “Jackie” that could be from the late 1940’s.
  • An officer ingested poison and died on the ship.
  • John Pedder was crushed in a watertight door (Number 13) in 1966 when he was working in the engine room.

Burials at Sea

I have another possible theory for all of these hauntings that I have not seen discussed in print or even heard anyone mention in passing thus far. Sometimes, passengers and crew members were buried at sea. I find this tradition to be particularly haunting for some reason.  It just seems so lonely and unsettled. You can never really know what happens to the body, and no one can ever visit a grave. But, there is a purity in it too. After all, if you are a transient (and aren’t we all if we are brutally honest about it), you are just passing through, wherever you are, and no matter if you have been in the same place for the last twenty years, you are still just a transient here on Earth.   Exhibits in the ship state that traditionally, a sailor would be sewn in his own hammock, but first, a stitch would be made through his nose first to make sure he was actually dead.  In modern times, the burials at sea would be completed by wrapping the body in about three yards of canvas, and the last stitch was omitted from the customary historic ritual.

I consulted a research paper (“Interment without Earth:  A Study of Sea Burials during the Age of Sail) by a student at Duke University by the name of Johnathan Pryor to learn more about the customs of sailors in handling the dead while at sea. Historically, there exists much superstition among sailors from every culture about having a corpse on the ship. There were important rituals that must be done in order to avoid invoking the anger of the dead. The body had to be washed, dressed and enshrouded, a service had to be held, and then the body would be committed to the deep.  Often, the body would be weighted by a cannon ball, shackles, or chains to make sure it would not surface. Taking into consideration that there do not seem to be any records of burials at sea while the Queen Mary was serving as a war ship during World War II (from about 1939 – 1946), it really makes you wonder just how many men were thrown over, and if there is something to all that superstition after all.

There is a very famous (and haunting) image on file with the National Archives that is of a burial at sea on board the USS Intrepid after an attack during World War II.

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As part of researching for my second book, I stayed overnight on board the Queen Mary and attended a ghost hunt late Friday night, March 20, 2015. I submit to you a personal report of my haunted experience with the famous ship:

Evening Ghost Hunt with Matthew Schulz, Project Founder / Investigator – ParaXplorer Project

Matthew Schulz is the RMS Queen Mary Paranormal Investigation Tour Host. The evening began at 11:00 p.m. and lasted until well over 3:00 a.m. Our first stop was in the engine room and we were briefed on the legend of John Pedder (a worker who was crushed by a watertight door on July 10, 1966 on Voyage 483 West) and introduced to dowsing rods and some other tools. We were allowed to wonder for a good deal of time in the area alone, or with a small group, and I ventured off by myself to explore and take photos. The lights were kept on (I would imagine it is for insurance reasons), so it was a little difficult to “get in the mood,” so to speak. Nevertheless, the photo opportunities were incredible, and it was a good experience to be down there without a large crowd or to feel rushed through at all.

The famous door where John Pedder was crushed:

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Engine room shot:

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Matthew played some of the Class “A” EVPs that have been captured down here and what is so amazing to me is that you can hear what sounds like the same male voice responding to different people over the years. I checked back with Matthew, and he clarified that the EVPs appear to come from an older gentleman, possibly an officer, saying “Get out!,” and “It restarts me.” The EVP possibly attributable to John Pedder was a “Yes” response to the question “Are you here, John?”

Our next stop took us to the boiler room and to the green room, where there was an impressive set-up of experiments.  There were laser grids set-up for us to sit quietly and watch for shadows to break the light displays. There were also headsets in the green room that were connected to a recorder with a ten second delay to listen to any EVPS captured in real-time! While I did not personally experience anything while partaking in this part of the hunt, I did note how progressive and thoughtful this outfit was. I have yet to be anywhere where this type of technology is being used during public events.  Typically, they just walk us through with a flashlight and that’s it. Matthew had quite the set-up going on!

The last area on our hunt was the first class swimming pool and dressing room. We walked (or scaled) across a dark  catwalk to get there. I am struggling with how to write about my feeling and impression of this area without sounding like a melodramatic sap.  The best way that I can think of to convey how it felt was that it looked as though I had stumbled upon one of those old Hollywood synchronized swimming movies. The area is extremely dimly lit, and it is hard to make out the colors in the old tile, although they appeared to be a mint green and yellow. While the pool has been drained for structural reasons, and is in a state of disrepair, it is evident that the room used to be quite the beauty.

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It feels otherworldly, to say the least, and almost electrically charged. The strangest thing that happened here was that our entire small group was gathered closely together by the stairs and were listening intently while our guide spoke to “Jackie,” the famous spirit believed to be a little girl. Suddenly, we heard what sounded like the disembodied giggle of a little girl over our heads! The Ghosts & Legends tour that uses special effects was actually closed down for maintenance on my March 20, 2015 visit. It seems unlikely that given the approximate 2:45 a.m. time, that there would have been an actual child outside the room somewhere making the noise. Additionally, everyone in the group was legitimately shocked to hear this sound. There was no one above us, and I don’t believe anyone in the group made this sound. I saw everyone’s face and no one looked like they were guilty or having a laugh at everyone else’s expense. Is it possible that we were experiencing one of those DVP’s (Direct Voice Phenomenon) that Peter James used to report and that Brian Clune and Bob Davis have written about?

Things got weirder when we moved the party to the dressing room. It could have been a combination of the pitch darkness, the late hour, how tired I was, and the fear effect, but as we all divided ourselves up and claimed individual changing stalls for our own, I started to get a little bit uneasy. The uneasiness grew to a feeling of outright uncomfortableness, and then spiked to absolute terror. I was alone in the pitch dark, but ultimately in close range to a group of people, including our group leader, who had been very nice and accommodating to me coming alone on his tour without a small group of my own. I have no idea why I started to panic. After all, we were in the dark earlier in the green room and in the boiler room. I really had to talk myself down in my head. I started getting control of my breathing, and I had to keep repeating to myself that I was okay.  There was a moment where I felt frozen, and I was afraid to turn around in my stall, because I had an image in my mind of a bad lady who had stringy long hair, black eye sockets, and rotting flesh. I rationalized that as long as I refused to acknowledge her existence, she couldn’t get me. This is a case of your mind running away from you, because there are no documents of anyone drowning in this pool, and Matthew had not been telling us scary stories in the dark. In fact, he had not even said anything about a woman haunting this area at all, our focus was completely on trying to make contact with Jackie, the child spirit. I was just standing alone in the dark, replaying every horror movie I had ever seen on a loop in my own head, like a crazy person. I felt my knees buckle, and I had to steady myself by bracing both arms against the walls.

Shortly after that, we all heard a loud knock, seemingly in response to a question, but that could have been anyone on the tour who was further down the hallway in the changing rooms. I got so exhausted and dizzy, I began to hallucinate. I thought I was seeing different mist type things at the end of the hallway moving about, but I would blink and shake my head and then there would be nothing but darkness again. I briefly considered curling up at the back of my stall and going to sleep. I wondered if they would find me, or if I would wake up by myself at 5:30 a.m. down in the bowels of the ship and have a heart attack down there when I realized I was all alone and lost. All of these events cycled through in the course of just a few minutes. Ultimately, I kept chewing on my tongue and reminding myself that I was a badass and I needed to get it together before somebody had to come and carry me out of there like a little baby. I finished the tour like a champ. When I returned home and began reading about the ship, I found out that many visitors have referred to this area as a vortex or a portal site.  In fact, consider these excerpts from the Clune/Davis book:

Page 68:  “There are many paranormal hot spots throughout the ship, but as we all know, the first-class poolroom is the center of all the activity that goes on in the ship and is located in the heart of the ship. The corridor of dressing rooms located in the poolroom is rumored to harbor a vortex where the spirits enter and exit, and many psychics believe that a vortex is always located in the heart of a building or location.”

 Page 112:  “This portal to the other side is purported to be located in the narrow aisle between the changing closets, three stalls back from the port side.  It is said that if you stand at this spot, you will feel the hair on the back of your neck and on your arms rise, your skin will crawl and eventually you will begin to get dizzy. People have claimed that when they are near this spot, they get the feeling of being watched, their adrenaline will start to pump uncontrollably and they will have a strong urge to flee the cramped changing room area.”

When I came across these passages, I found myself covered in goosebumps from head to toe. Reflecting back upon my ghost adventure while on board the RMS Queen Mary, I am only left to wonder if there is something to those vortex claims about the first class swimming pool after all.

Be sure to keep all of your adventures logged and indexed in your very own copy of “Play,” by Stealth Journals. “Play” is an indexed book journal that should be used to record all of your good times! A sample entry page is pictured below:

Stealth Journals
RMS Queen Mary: Play, by Stealth Journals.

Preston Castle Foundation Marks New Ownership with March 21, 2015 Deed Ceremony

Gather around, gather around. Open invitations have been issued to mark the transfer of ownership over at Preston Castle. PrestonCastleInvite-1

About thirteen years ago, the State of California leased the Preston Castle to the Preston Castle Foundation under a 55-year lease. As you might imagine, real rehabilitation strides can only be made with ownership. Now the property can go from preservation to rehabilitation. History or criminology buffs may know the building because it dates back to 1894, when it was the Preston School of Industry. The building pictured below (courtesy of Jerry Funderburgh, Vice President of the Preston Castle Foundation) was actually the administration building.

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The Preston School of Industry was part of the rehabilitation movement to teach juvenile boys useful skills instead of resorting to incarceration alone, and it was in operation through 1960. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Paranormal buffs know the building from local legends and many television shows that have covered the unsolved murder of Anna Corbin, among other mysterious occurrences. I have always said that it would be on my list of locations if I ever get around to writing a sequel to Haunted Asylums, Prisons, and Sanatoriums.

Castle Spirits is the in-house group that coordinates the many paranormal events that the Preston Castle Foundation schedules. In fact, they are hosting their very first paranormal conference the last weekend of May. Besides encouraging the paranormal events, the Foundation offers a wealth of programs for the entire community. They have wine tastings & tours, photographer’s day, flashlight tours, movie nights, and even a golf event planned soon! Such good news out of Ione, California.

To keep up with events over at The Castle, visit their site or “Like” them on Facebook:

http://prestoncastle.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Preston-Castle-FoundationIone-Ca/169888893061409?sk=wall

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

AMENDMENT – posted 11/10/16 – http://www.nopeming.com. They are open for tours!!!

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://www.nopeming.com

Nopeming
Sanatorium
Duluth, MN

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

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!

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

I am longing for a second visit to the 1886 Crescent Hotel this spring for our upcoming book with Llewellyn “America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Checking in With Uninvited Guests.” 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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As always, our travels are indexed within “Play,” by Stealth Journals. A sample entry page can be seen below:

Stealth Journals
Eureka Springs: Indexed within our Play Journal, by Stealth Journals

Inside the Jerome Grand Hotel

Ghost Hunting at Arizona’s Jerome Grand Hotel

A glimpse inside our stay at The Jerome Grand Hotel. We were traveling in January 2015 for our upcoming book with Llewellyn “America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Checking in With Uninvited Guests.”

As always, we log our adventures inside our “Play” Journal, by Stealth Journals. “Play,” is an indexed book journal by Stealth Journals that should be used to record all of your good times.

 

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

Q&A with Ryan Dunn, Savannah Author and Owner of Afterlife Tours

I am very excited about Ryan Dunn’s book that is coming out in March 2015. The book is entitled Savannah’s Afterlife: True Tales of a Paranormal Investigator. In addition to being an author and paranormal investigator, Ryan also operates Afterlife Tours in historic Savannah, Georgia. He was kind enough to let us tag along on an 8:00 tour last Friday night.

The locations we visited included: Twelve West Oglethorpe, the Foley House, Savannah Theatre, Colonial Cemetery, the Olde Pink House, and Moon River Brewery. Since moving to Savannah a year ago, I have been captivated several times by the old dilapidated home at Twelve West Oglethorpe.

Twelve

I have heard many various stories about the home, but Ryan’s tour is unique in the fact that he has not only personally investigated each location, he has actually done extensive research with the Georgia Historical Society and other sources to tell the truth about the history of the locations. He is not just standing on a corner spouting recounts of local legends. He’s telling visitors what the documents actually show. I respect that a lot.

The other unique characteristic about how he runs his tours is that he shares evidence that he’s personally collected during investigations. You may see a combination of photographs, videos, and hear Class “A” EVPs.

Ryan has been featured on A&E’s My Ghost Story.

Five Questions for Ryan Dunn:

What made you interested in the field?
I became interested in the field when I moved into a haunted house here in Savannah’s Historic District in April of 2010. I began doing paranormal research as a hobby, but soon started catching very compelling evidence. It soon became a full time business and also evolved into a ghost tour company too.

Any dream locations to investigate?
My dream locations would be 432 Abercorn Street here in Savannah, Waverly Hills Sanitarium in Louisville, Kentucky, and the Winchester Mystery House in California just to name a few.

Can you talk about the pilot you are filming at Central State Asylum in Milledgeville, Georgia?
The upcoming investigation in Milledgeville will be a filming of a pilot for a new paranormal show based here in Savannah that we will be pitching to national networks as part of a 5 episode package. We intend to embody the flare of Savannah itself and the fact we live in the paranormal hotspot of the United States. Not only do we do investigations, but we live this day to day.

Do you have a favorite place to investigate in Savannah?
One of my favorite places to investigate in Savannah is the Savannah Theatre because we always capture great evidence there. Also, the Moon River Brewery always gives us great results too. We will be doing our 8th investigation there on October 19.

Any plans for a second book?
I am currently conducting research for a sequel, and intend to began writing that one this fall.

Thank you to Ryan for having us out. I am particularly interested in getting an update about the Central Asylum investigation!

Further reading:

http://www.afterlifetours.net/

http://www.schifferbooks.com/savannahs-afterlife-true-tales-of-a-paranormal-investigator-5639.html

https://www.facebook.com/3DGhostHunters

http://savannahnow.com/accent/2013-12-14/savannahs-very-own-ghostbusters#.VAuAlcJ0xMs

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