Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ghosts in a Graveyard

I love this twin gravestone for a husband and wife.
First off, I'm a writer of paranormal gothic romances, so it's pretty obvious I love all things spooky and strange. Lately I've been posting photos on my Facebook and Twitter sites relating to the paranormal, romantic, gothic, and the haunted. I thought I'd like to do a little more from the paranormal angle so I tried coming up with ideas on what to post.

It wasn't hard. Having lived in New England for 17 years now, I've noticed this area has a LOT of graveyards. Just within a couple miles of our house, there are five that I know about. Our yard even has one! Believe it or not, that was a selling point in its favor when we bought the house.

So I grabbed my cell phone and traveled to the various graveyards, five in all. I took numerous photographs of gravestones, stone entryways and walls, wrought-iron gates, and the like. It was a nice time - graveyards are so peaceful - and I looked forward to going to others another day.

Then I found something.

To be clear, I wasn't looking for paranormal activity - the thought never even crossed my mind, actually. I just like graveyards and they, of course, are often considered places linked to the paranormal. The last graveyard I visited was the largest and I spent some time there, wandering in and out amongst the tombstones, snapping pictures and enjoying the sunny day (though, being me, I would've preferred a dark and gusty one).

When I got home, I downloaded the photos onto my computer and scrolled through them. About 10-12 photos into the last graveyard, I noticed two photos, one taken right after the other, that seemed to be washed out. I was disappointed, since those photos are the only ones I took of that particular tombstone. Thinking I would probably delete them, I scrolled farther down and noticed another photo of a different gravestone that had the same effect, though more localized. Hmm.... That was odd. The first two photos I figured were from a sun effect. The strange thing was, my back was to the sun. You can actually see my shadow on the tombstone.

Gravestone Monument - Photo 1

Gravestone Monument - Photo 2

I have to admit I kind of think the first photo looks like a fish - see the eye and mouth on the right side of the monument? Had I caught a ghost fish? Weird, which brings me to another weird thing - what is that open space (the eye) where there isn't any blue/purple? A head? A smudge? I really don't know. But I know it ain't right. Ha.

With the third photo, the sun was more to my left and the tombstone was in shadows, though I think I was standing in the sun when I took the picture. This stone was on the opposite side of the graveyard and much closer to the entrance. Note the two 'open' spots on the far right.

Gravestone With Odd Blue/Purple Streaker

Having a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, I've had a lot of training on how to be a scientist. Some would call psychology a 'soft' science because it's a nebulous subject to study - how do you measure behavior or personality in a standardized fashion when humans are so unique? But because of that bias, I think at some level we are trained to be even more rigorous and untrusting.

So naturally I had to set about debunking the pictures. I looked up blue/purple streaks on the Internet for camera phones and found nothing for my particular phone. I think an apple phone might have had some pinkish-blue effect, but it didn't look like what I had and I don't have an apple phone. Not finding anything obviously doesn't mean there isn't a problem with the camera on the phone, but as far as I could see, no one else had posted any of those problems on the Internet. I have never had this issue before, and haven't had it since (though it's only been a few days).

Ghost Hunting
Was it a sun effect? Well, I had to be sure. The next day was gusty and gray and I took my boys along with me to do a little 'ghost' hunting. We're amateurs at best, but we tried our best to go in with open, scientific minds. We had 3 different cameras going, 2 camera phones and one regular one. We took a lot of pictures, my youngest tried to entice the 'ghost' with promises of fame if it showed itself, then headed back home, the rain starting before we'd gone ten feet.

A Family Affair
We got nothing. No blue streaks, no faces, no strange forms, no odd experiences (though I didn't have any strange experiences the day before, either). The youngest was very disappointed, but he has learned how hard it is to be a ghost hunter.

Did I do something to the camera? Maybe I touched the lens and created the streak. It was quite possible with my fumble fingers. So this morning I tried my theory out. I took two pictures with my back to the sun and two facing it. Before each shot, I rubbed my finger over the lens, quite thoroughly, and took the picture. Nothing. All four were clear as a bell. I'd like to say that eliminates that theory as an explanation, but maybe not. Maybe it depends on the angle of the sun and I wasn't at the same angle as I'd been with those 3 photos. Who knows?

Our Graveyard on a Dark and Windy Day
In the end, I had a fun time taking pictures of the old graves around the area and I plan to write another blog talking about the 'stories' behind a few of the stones - stories derived just by reading the tributes.

So what do you think? Ghost or camera malfunction? As much as I'd like to think I was visited by someone or something from a different realm - a haunted realm - I also am not someone who wants to deceive others or myself.

But it is fun to believe, if only for a little while, isn't it?


Update (8/2/14) ~ A friend of mine who knows photography said that what I was experiencing was a color banding issue. Okay. Makes sense. Well, my family and I were out and about yesterday, visiting several different sites around Portsmouth. One place we stopped was a cemetery, and guess what? I got two more photos here (of the same object - an angel) with the coloring issues...but nowhere else. What we can't figure out is why this 'issue' happens only in cemeteries! Here's one of the angel photos:

Angel Statue in South Cemetery

You be the judge...


For more Mischief, Mystery, and Magic...

The Wrath - A Paranormal Gothic Romance

I Shall Return - A Paranormal Gothic Romance

Monday, February 17, 2014

Paranormal Ponderings...

Cool Photo, huh?
What started my paranormal ponderings? I think I've always believed in a world that exists beyond my average, everyday life. I think most of us do, or want to, anyway. Why not? Believing in the unusual adds a little spice to life, especially during cold New England Januaries and Februaries. Besides, since I can't actually rule out the existence of mythical creatures, ghosts, and the like, I've decided that it would behoove me to keep an open mind about most everything.

Inspired by Ghost Hunters!
At the moment, I'm busy editing my book, I Shall Return, which is a Paranormal Gothic Romance, and have also published a PGR called The Wrath. Writing these books has stirred up memories of my own paranormal experiences, so I thought I'd share a few of them with you.

Unfortunately, I haven't had many. Actually, my husband, who's a software engineer, has had more than I have. It's a little annoying. I'm supposed to be the creative one, the sensitive one, and he's the one who sees ghosts. Ah, well. Maybe I'm just TOO sensitive. Ha.

Could it have been a fairy light?
My first experience dates back to my childhood in Minnesota. Outside my window, about twenty feet away, stood a large spruce tree (they look like your typical Christmas tree). As this tree grew, the lower branches died off, leaving a cleared out area beneath the tree. At night, when I had trouble sleeping, I'd sit on my bed, chin resting on my folded arms, and stare out the window into the darkness. Only it wasn't always dark. There were nights when I would spot a tiny pinpoint of light beneath the tree. I'd stare at it and stare at it, watching to see if it would move, but it never seemed to. At first I thought it had to be something under the tree - an old coffee can or chicken feed bucket - that reflected the light. Of course, in thinking this, I was also quite aware that there really aren't any big sources of light in the dark Northern woods of Minnesota (keep in mind, all the lights in the house were out since everyone was asleep - we go to bed early in Minnesota - what else is there to do?). Even if there were lights, they would have a hard time reaching beneath the branches of the full tree. Still, one morning I remembered to go out and check for evidence and found nothing. No metal of any kind, not even a strange plant or mushroom that might give off a phosphorescent glow (though the light was more like a tiny flashlight or lantern). I continued to see that light for many years, and I still wonder what made it. A fairy 'leaving the light' on for the return of a loved one? Perhaps. It's as good a theory as any. Or was it a lure for unsuspecting folk? I never did check the light at night. Growing up in Minnesota teaches one to develop a healthy sense of survival.

Our old place. The half window marks where the attic is.
My second experience happened more recently. I was in my late twenties and living in an old New England house, which had been divided into various apartments. I loved living there, with its hardwood floors and old doors. Our apartment had the only access to a giant attic, which we used for storage. Its ceilings were so high that I swear you could've fit a tall ship in there. I had recently given birth to my first child and my sister had come from Minnesota to visit. I, of course, showed her the attic (people in my family like attics) and while up there, I started chattering on about something. A few seconds later, something cold and 'wet' touched my elbow. I swiped it away, distantly thinking it was a water drop. It happened again. I swiped at it and went on talking. It happened again. After a few moments, it occurred to me that the attic was as dry as a bone, meaning no water droplets. It seemed that someone was trying to get my attention. Either that, or he/she was trying to get me to shut up. On a side note, my husband didn't like the attic. He said he felt like someone was always watching him up there. In another room of the house, he said he could sense something bad or off in there. Great. That was where we put the baby's crib. Come to think of it, we ended up moving the crib into our bedroom. Go figure. My husband never mentioned these feelings before we moved (other than that I knew he didn't like the attic), though maybe I sensed something, too, and got my innocent baby out of that room before he could be turned into the male version of Stephen King's Carrie.

I've always been a big proponent of listening to signs. Some time after moving into our first home, I kept spilling my water. I drank a lot at the time (water, not booze) and kept spilling it. Over and over. Either I was deteriorating physically, or something else was wrong. Since I wasn't experiencing any other symptoms, in any other way, I knew I needed to look further into the phenomenon. It took me a while, but I finally figured that maybe someone was trying to tell me something about our water. So, long story short, we got it tested. Turned out, it had some bad stuff in it. We bought a filter system and it took care of the problem, and after that, I stopped spilling my water all the time. Coincidence? Maybe. Cool? Definitely.

Another sign I pay attention to comes in the form of my dreams, one of which I remember quite vividly. I kept dreaming that my youngest son was drowning. I endured three dreams where this happened, and each
The little guy who was saved by dreams.
time, I managed to save him. Not long after having my scary dreams, we visited the town beach. We'd been there for a while when the wind started picking up, turning the water choppy. My two-year-old was in the shallow water wading. My older two were farther out. My husband got low blood sugar and we decided to call it a day. I left my youngest to go fetch my older two, who couldn't seem to hear me over the wind and waves. But then I was hit by the sense that this was a bad idea, even though the water where he was standing was only about a foot and half deep. I had only taken a few steps, but when I turned back, he had already gone under (he must have gotten dizzy from watching the waves and sort of slipped in so his back ended up on the bottom). I remember his blue eyes staring up at me through the water, slightly perplexed. I was there within a second, and quickly pulled him into my arms. He was fine, if a little startled at what had happened. I yelled really loudly for my other two to come in right now, and this time they heard me. After having those dreams, I'd been feeling hyper-vigilant all day, and that feeling made me turn back, just in time. Scary, but a good lesson - listen to your dreams, especially if they tell you to buy my books.

Perhaps what happened to me could be explained away, but what's the fun in that? You can try, though, and if you come up with an alternative explanation, let me know. At any rate, I'll write another blog another day about a few more paranormal experiences that my family has encountered.

Until then, keep on believing...

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Spelunking I Will Go

At a little nook of a cave in Custer's State Park
There's a reason I wrote a fantasy series about an underground world...I love caves! I think I would live in one if I could. A simpler dream of mine is to someday explore a cave without following a cement path or listening to a guide. I want to get down and dirty and crawl on my belly and maybe even get stuck once or twice. I've visited several caves in my day, but as all cave junkies know, the guided tours, though typically fun and interesting, can leave you feeling unfulfilled.

Getting Squeezed
Here in New Hampshire, we have two major cave sites: Polar Caves Park and my favorite, Lost River Gorge. Neither have big or long caves, but they're enjoyable all the same. Both can be done without a guide. My favorite part at Lost River is the Lemon Squeezer. It's a squeeze, all right, and if you can't make it through the squeeze gauge, you can't go through the cave. Part of the passage involves pulling yourself along on your stomach, past a stream that bubbles by on your right. This cave can be closed at certain times of the year due to flooding, so either call ahead, or make sure it's been dry lately.

In New York  a few years back, we visited Howe Caverns. I liked the caves well enough-they weren't my favorite, but I did like two parts quite a bit. The first was the ride in the boats on the underground river. In Anaedor, you would ride the Turbles, which would be more fun, but smellier. The other cool part was the Winding Way, a very narrow passage with high walls that winds back and forth (hence the name). It felt very constricting, which was awesome.

Reminds me of Willie Wonka's chocolate river ride.
The Winding Way

Every coffee lover's dream.
Recently we traveled home to Minnesota to visit family. When we were done meeting all one thousand of them (my husband comes from a family of 9 kids), we drove to South Dakota Black Hills territory (which is gorgeous, btw). It was a LONG drive (8 hours), but worth it. We visited the Badlands and Wall Drug on the way out, both of which are fascinating landmarks, for very different reasons. I remember both from my childhood, though vaguely. The Badlands were hot and Wall Drug had ice water and cool stuff to buy. Both are still the same.

The wind is blowing the plastic strip.
While in the Black Hills, we visited Mt. Rushmore (of course) and hit three caves. We were there for only 2 days, so yes, I'm quite impressed with myself for pulling that off. We saw Wind Cave first. It's called Wind Cave because it either blows air out or sucks it in, depending on the barometric pressure. To get in, you have to pass through revolving doors. It kind of takes the romance out of the experience, but there are no natural entrances to the cave other than that blowhole, and I'm pretty sure none of us would fit through it. There was an anti-gun sign on the glass pane going in. I didn't read it, but I'm guessing the point it's trying to make is that caves and bullets don't mix well. Wind Cave is known for its box work details, which you can see in the above photos. I would love to do this for our ceilings - it's a great effect. My favorite part was when the tour guide turned out the lights. Total darkness forever wouldn't be fun, or if you were stuck in an oubliette, but it was very cool to experience for a few minutes.

Note the anti-firearms sign.

Do you see the demon? We did.

Wind Cave is known for its box work details, which you can see to the left and below. I would love to do this for our ceilings - it's a great effect. My favorite part was when the tour guide turned out the lights. Total darkness forever wouldn't be fun, or if you were stuck in an oubliette, but it was very cool to experience for a few minutes.

Wind Cave and more box work.

The second cave we saw was Sitting Bull Crystal Caverns. It's hard to take good pics inside a cave, but here are a few samples of what we saw. It's a small cave, but a beautiful one, and I can imagine what it must have been like when those who discovered the cave first saw the crystals. They must have thought they'd died and gone to heaven. Our guide was fun and funny and we thoroughly enjoyed the tour, though you have to go down a lot of stairs, then get back up them - not for the faint of heart, or the weak of heart, either. Once you leave, there's a small cave right next to crystal cave that you can explore on your own. They even provide the flashlights!

Looks like teeth, eh?
I'm rich, I'm rich!
Pretty pattern...or intestines?
Entry to self-exploring cave.

Rorschach Gem Test: What do you see?
Original entrance to Rushmore - note the ladder.
The last cave we visited was Rushmore Cave. We decided to do the whole package, including the zipline and the 7-D game. The cave was pretty neat and we enjoyed strolling through it. I particularly liked seeing some stalactites and stalagmites - they seemed to be pretty rare in the South Dakota caves. There's a reason for that, but I'm not going to tell you because why spoil all the mystery? After the cave tour we rode the zipline, which was awesome, though my husband felt like he was going to fall off - I recommend holding onto the back of the seat with one hand. My husband and youngest son now want to build a zipline (he and son #2 have already built a trebuchet). Go figure! The 7-D game, which I thought the kids would like but I'd find a tad dull, was awesome! I didn't really care so much about shooting zombies (besides, I stunk at it), but I loved the ride. I wish it would have lasted longer...or been inside the cave.

Entry into a Goblin's cave?
I love the mythical look of this part.
Very cool, but rather suggestive.
More teeth - likely dragon.
Close up of teeth - need brushing.
The exit - reminds me of how Lavida returned to Anaedor in Book Two.

I'm thinking of heading to Pennsylvania next. There are a fair number of caves there that are calling to me. I'd also like to explore a sea cave some time. If you ever visit a cave you like, drop me a line.

Until next time, fellow cavers!

Come Explore Anaedor!

The Chronicles of Anaedor: The Return to Anaedor (Book Two)