Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Birmingham and Mobile

During ghost tours people always ask about my own experiences, but I generally restrict what I share to things that are directly connected to the tour itself and don't delve into personal stories. In part I don't concern myself with whether or not people leave the tour believing in ghosts, a tour should be fun for believers and nonbelievers alike. Still, I realize that belief or lack there of is really important to people, and there is nothing quite like your own personal experience. 

Over the summer a family from Birmingham took a ghost tour with me. The father had done work at an antebellum house in the city. When the crew first began their work, they had gone into the basement to look around and saw the remains of slave chains. As they walked through the space they heard rattling. It all sounds like a horror movie, and clearly the father wanted to separate this very real experience, and painful reminder of the past, from some campfire tall tale; I appreciated where he was coming from. While working on this antebellum house, they had to get used to the sound of chains in the basement. They also had to double check the house routinely. When they would leave at night they had to make sure their was no one in the house and then shut down all electricity to it. The first night they cleared the house, shut down the lights and began to walk away from the house. One of them turned and saw a light on the second floor, framing the shadow of a woman facing the street. How did that happen? One of them went into the house to tell her to leave and the other checked the electricity. A search through the house revealed it was in fact empty and the electricity was completely shut down.

On a separate occasion, visiting Mobile, the same family had visited an old house with a slave quarters. The father wanted to look at the slave quarters and as he stepped into the room a hand pressed against his solar plexus and shoved him back. He stood firm and after a moment he spoke to the spirit. He explained that slavery was over and that African Americans like himself and the spirit pushing him away, were free to go where they wanted and control their own destiny. He encourage the spirit to leave and see the world as the father saw it today.

A Dormitory Across from the Cemetery

I had two old college buddies take a quiet Garden District tour over the summer. They had gone to a small liberal arts college in Mississippi and their dormitory was across from a cemetery. While at school one of them  had tried out a Ouija board. She had even gone over to the cemetery across from their dormitory and called out to the spirits there, harassing them to show themselves. When she arrived back in their room a photo she had hanging from a thick decorative hook was laying on her bed. It seemed odd because the hook was still on the wall and it was pretty sturdy and deep, but she figured it was a fluke. She put it back and sat down at her desk. A shaking sound came from the wall. Looking over, she saw the picture slowly moving up the hook, coming off and falling onto her bed. She screamed and ran out into the hallway. Her buddy and a male friend came into the room to ask what she was fretting about. When she pointed to the picture the male friend laughed and put it back on the hook, insisting that she was imagining things. They started to go into the hall when the shaking sound began again. The three of them watched as the photo was lifted off the hook and fell to the bed.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

L.A. Security

There is never any telling what experiences lie behind old eyes. Not long ago I had an older woman and her daughter on my tour. She said that she'd worked security in Los Angles for many years, starting in the 1960s. In many of the buildings she worked alone, in isolated areas, at all hours. When she first started as a young woman she had an desk in the basement of an L.A. high rise. During her regular rounds there was one room that always blew cold air when she walked through. You would've thought it was the air conditioning, but when she turned that off she found the air was coming from the door frame itself. One night she felt a presence so strongly in the basement that she said "If there is something here close the door." A door in the basement slammed shut.

During another incidence she was walking through a hall with lots of other people around. She passed a man in a suit and narrow tie, just like every other business man in the 1960s. As they passed she smiled and said hello. Getting no response from him, she was perturbed, then she realized that the man didn't have an id on. As everyone was required to have an id and she was security, she turned around and attempted to follow him. She searched the building and could not find the man anywhere. Later she was chatting with one of the regulars and mentioned this strange encounter and the regular described the man before she could. Apparently this was a familiar sightings in the building.

In still another security assignment she found herself in a nursing facility adjacent to a hospital. The intention was that if any of the residents had a medical issue an ambulance would not have to be called, emergency personnel could simply walk over. It seemed like a great job. The first night when she arrived they sat her at the front desk and encouraged her to do whatever she wanted: watch TV, eat, talk on the phone, read a book. Generally employers did not want security to do these things. At first she thought it was just her good luck, then as the bustle of the day died down and she was surrounded by silence, she began to here noises: knocking at the door, footsteps coming down the stairs. She didn't want to complain because there were so few women working in security, she was afraid of being accused of being weak. After working there for sometime and dismissing the regular noises, one night she heard a knock down fight in the kitchen. Pans flying, things crashing, bodies hitting the floor. She ran to check it out and the kitchen was empty. When her supervisor asked her how she was doing at the job she just smiled and said everything was fine. He was impressed and told her that none of the men would work there. She was the only guard willing to do the job.

Years later she became a supervisor. At a big office building on Wilshire Blvd she could not keep a security guard. They had to work at night in the basement and she kept having to replace them. As a supervisor she had to do rounds, going from location to location checking on security guards. Generally guards were happy to be rid of her, but when she went to this building the guard invited her in and chatted insistently to get her to stay. At first she thought it was just a friendly gesture, but as weeks went by he began to tell her that he heard voices in the building. He started bringing a bible with him to work and reciting verses to drown out the voices. Eventually he was overwhelmed by it all and ran through the front doors, crashing through the glass and barrelling into traffic on the boulevard outside.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Getting Followed Home

Often we want hauntings to be clear to us, but more often they are hard to define. Recently a dad from the Gulf Coast took his daughter on my tour. For him it was a great opportunity to share a city that he had enjoyed long before she was born, but as it turned out it was also a chance to dazzle her with his own life experience.

One evening close to twenty years ago he and some friends took our ghost tour and hung out with a few tour guides afterward. On a lark one of the guides asked them to check out a walkway between a few buildings. He and his friends asked if they would see ghosts there. Should they take pictures? What should they touch? The guide didn't want to influence them, so he insisted on keeping silent until they returned. Well, these guys went into the walkway and felt around the brick, tried to pay attention for cold spots. They eventually gave up and returned insisting that nothing had really happened, but while in the walkway one of them began to feel pressure on his temples and soon it felt like his head was being crushed in a vise. Not being the type to make a fuss, and not really believing in anything paranormal, he said nothing. The guide said they were still investigating the haunting, but they thought that some people had died in a fire there. Suddenly the young man who felt the pressure in his head burst into tears.

Afterward the group returned to the west bank and everyone went to bed, except the young man with the headache. He stayed up and watched television, sitting on the couch in front of a window. As everyone else in the house began to drop off to sleep, he heard a scratching sound behind him. He figured it must be a tree branch outside hitting the window, forgetting that there were no trees in the yard. As the scratching continued the mail slot in the front of the house began to flap. Drawn to the flapping sound in the front of the house, he began to walk toward it and thought he heard his name whispered. Then he heard his name again. Hoping that his host was joking around with him, the young man barged into his room. When he saw his friend just waking up, bewildered, the young man, barely himself, once again began to bawl telling his friend what had happened.

The next morning he went home to Lafayette. As far as I know that was the end of his haunting, but the man who shared this story with me said that long after that night he experienced sleep paralysis in the house, seeing a dark figure standing by the bed beside him.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Wichita Falls Texas

Curiosity is not limited to the living. A few months back I had a woman from Wichita Falls Texas come on the tour. She had two interesting ghost stories to share. Years back she had bought her son a used game system. One day she was at home when a young man, wearing a baseball cap backwards, walked down the hall. A moment later her son walked past and she asked "who is your friend?" Perplexed, he replied "No one. Its just me and you in the house." The mysterious young man she took for being attached to the used game system. It seemed he was passing through. However there was another entity in her house, a helpful one.

She was a cancer survivor. Years before, she was ill and lying in bed thinking she would go to the hospital the next day. Right in her ear she heard a voice "Go to the hospital, now!" She jumped out of bed. When she arrived at the ER the staff immediately admitted her and told her that she would have been dead if she had waited any longer. Later on in her treatment she had a lot of equipment at home, including a tube connecting her to the equipment. At one point as she lie there hooked up, she felt a tug on the the tube and looked over. Something lifted the tube up and moved it about a bit, then set it back down. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Missouri Hills

I have had tours that were completely made up of visitors from Texas, but I rarely have a lot of people from Missouri. Tonight was an exception, as almost half the group was from Missouri. Most of them were from the same family and their grandmother had a prize family story about a house she and her family had lived in over forty years ago.

The house was out in the hills. When she moved in with her husband and kids the landlord asked if she was going to stay. She said she planned too. He couldn't get anyone to stay for more than a few months. The day they moved in they heard a radio playing really low. She figured it was some kids down the lane, the closest neighbor. But when she and her husband got into bed later that night, he said "If you're going to listen to the radio, turn it up." She told him they had not unpacked a radio. Later he investigated the attic, no radio anywhere.

Routinely she turned off all the lights when she left in the morning. At the end of the day she would drive up the hill and the lights on the second floor of the house would be on. In the back seat her kids would say, "Mom, hurry up. See, we have visitors upstairs in the window."

One night a friend stayed over. When he came to breakfast in the morning he was shaking. He told her he would never come there again. She asked him what was wrong. A woman had woken him in the night and asked if he wanted a drink. He gladly got up and went to the kitchen. There was no one.

They managed to stay in the house for a year, but they finally did find the activity too unsettling. After they moved the house burned down.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Hudson River Valley

Mansions or big houses, one of my tour guests grew up in one in the Hudson River Valley. She and her daughter took the tour recently and despite growing up with the ever present feeling that she would see something paranormal, she never saw a thing. But her daughter, years ago at six years old, did. The family was visiting her grandmother and she and her sister were sleeping in the sun room adjacent to her grandmother's bedroom. It was pasted their bedtime and her sister was asleep, but she was awake playing with toys on the floor when she looked up and saw a girl standing in the doorway, blond, about fifteen, in a white nightgown. The image was foggy, but the girl was clearly looking at her playing on the floor. At six she was petrified, but still managed to run through the door, through the foggy girl and into her grandmother's bed.

It was the only time she saw anything at the house. But years later her uncle mentioned seeing the same image in the same doorway.