Posts Tagged ‘ghost hunting’

My latest Tarot reading. What it indicates…only I can tell.

About five years ago, I bought a Tarot deck and a how-to guide on how to use the cards. And after a few readings, I used it infrequently, maybe once a year. Until recently, that is. A book I read and really enjoyed featured Tarot quite heavily, as well as a few friends and acquaintances who read the cards (including one who mentions it on her blog quite regularly), spurred me to try reading the cards again. Which became something of a regular habit. And then I hit upon the idea of doing readings at the Indie Author Book Expo in Iowa last month. I bought a second deck (never use a deck for yourself and for others. It mixes energy in all the wrong ways).

And I’ve come to an opinion on Tarot. One I would like to share with you.

But before that, let me tell you about Tarot if you’re unfamiliar. Tarot cards are like playing cards, but instead of hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs as the four suits, there are wands, swords, cups and pentacles (sometimes called disks). In addition, there are twenty-two trump cards called the Major Arcana, for a total of seventy-eight cards. Originally used as playing cards, the cards started being used in cartomancy, or fortune telling through cards, in the 18th century, with each card having a different meaning, often several meanings, and affecting the reading.

So yeah, I’m breaking the Torah’s prohibition on fortune-telling. But I already break the prohibition of consulting spirits at least twice a year, and God hasn’t struck me down since, so I think I’m fine.

In any case, Tarot isn’t supposed to tell the future. Many users will attest that Tarot is supposed to be used more for insight and guidance, like asking for advice. Perhaps it’ll tell you what could happen in the future, but like the future, that could change from day to day. That’s what I say, anyway.

Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, what are my thoughts on Tarot? Well, before this week, I would’ve maintained that I’m undecided, and that perhaps the cards do have something to them, but it could all just be coincidence and humans looking for patterns where there are none.

But on Sunday, I had a reading that proved scarily accurate. So far, it’s been very on the nose about events that have occurred this week, to the point I shouted a very naughty word to my otherwise-empty apartment. Now, I’m not sure. Perhaps there is something there, like with the haunted locations I visit. To say the least, it’s weird.

Whether or not there’s anything to Tarot, I can’t lie that it has an effect. At the Expo last month, I did a reading for a young woman asking something near and dear to her heart of the cards. The reading the cards gave her seemed to lift her spirits and give her hope, and she seemed very interested in buying a deck of her own. I hope things work out for her, and I’m glad I was able to put some joy in her day.

So, I’ll keep reading the cards. I’ll use my Gilded Tarot deck (a reading of which is pictured above) for myself, and the Ghost Tarot deck (pictured to the right) for others. Besides being something I could do at conventions and expos, it’s fun and does give insight. Never a bad thing.

Do you have any experience with Tarot? What are your thoughts on it?

St. Michael’s Anglican Church. Supposedly a couple of brides haunt the place, having died on their wedding days.

My last post recounting my adventures from my recent trip to Iowa and South Carolina is about the haunted tour of Historic Charleston in South Carolina. The tour was operated by Ghost City Tours, which apparently has tours across the southern United States. I was joined by my buddy Ramsey Hardin, who you remember was my host while in South Carolina. And you know what? It was a fun experience.

Ramsey and I arrived at the meeting place around ten in the evening, and joined a group of people waiting for the tour. There were three tour guides there, to ensure that everyone could social distance while still getting the tour. Ramsey and I were placed with a young woman named Caroline, who is actually a fellow Ohioan originally. Yeah, we had a lot to talk about.

And we did talk a lot. Between locations on the tour, those of us who had had paranormal experiences were encouraged to recount them. Obviously, I talked about my many experiences, including the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, the Ohio State Reformatory, and my recent excursion to the Villisca Axe Murder House. I don’t think anyone else related a story, but Caroline did mention an occurrence involving a friend of hers. At least, I think it was a friend.

As for paranormal activity captured or witnessed…well, I thought I got something on my phone’s camera. Check out the photos below.

These photos were taken one after the other, and if you look at the far left of the second photo, it appears there’s a small orange light on the other side of that pole. One that’s not in the first photo. However, further inspection showed that I took a step to the left (hence why the streetlight is hidden behind a tree). That light I thought was a ghost orb was actually a reflection from the streetlamp off a length of metal. To quote Zak Bagans of Ghost Adventures, “this piece of evidence is debunked.”

However, I did catch something on video. Those photos were taken at the graveyard at St. Philip’s, which is known to be the resting place of Susan Howard Hardy, a woman who died in childbirth and who was secretly buried with her stillborn child. After I took those photos, I gave Ramsey my phone and managed to catch her on the dowsing rods. Here is the video of our short conversation.

Cool, huh? The “signal,” so to speak, was weak, but I managed to get some answers from her, and the information I got was consistent with the historical record. By the way, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church is not too fond of the fact that a ghost is known to roam their graveyard. They’ve taken a lot of measures to try and disassociate themselves as a haunted location, so it would be really bad if it became well-known as a location for a ghost that likes to show herself to anyone looking to contact her.

Hint, hint. Wink, wink.

Finally, the tour revealed some places I would love to do a ghost hunt or investigation if ever given the chance. Here are those places and why they’re haunted (AKA why I’ll have trouble convincing Ramsey to join me).

FW Wagener Building

Built by architect FW Wagener himself, the building lies on a street that is part of a busy shopping district near the bay, and has many great restaurants, hotels and galleries nearby. But in the past few years, this building has had several buildings come and go in the past few years. This may be related to the spirit of George Poirier, the son of a rich businessman who never worked a day in his life, living a life of leisure. Which became a problem when a series of events caused George to lose his fortune, leading to him hanging himself in the topmost window. He’s said to still be there, taking his rage out on patrons, which is why there’s so many businesses coming and going from the building (allegedly).

Four Corners of Law

At the intersection of Broad and Meeting in Charleston’s historic district are four buildings that have been used for various types of law: Charleston City Hall (city law), Charleston County Courthouse (state law), the US Post Office and Federal Courthouse (federal), and St. Michael’s Anglican Church (ecclesiastical law). Supposedly, a variety of spirits are known to haunt the buildings, including Lavinia Fisher, possibly America’s first known serial killer, who is said to haunt the Charleston County Courthouse, and two brides supposedly haunt St. Michael’s. Caroline showed us a photo supposedly taken of one of the brides in the church’s window, and it is scary. Like, what every CGI ghost tries to be, but way more terrifying.

The Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon

Also known as the old Exchange and the Customs House, this building has seen a number of uses throughout the years, and is now a museum. Various ghosts are said to haunt the place for various reasons, but I’m especially interested in the Provost Dungeon in the basement. Conditions in the basement were terrible for prisoners, as the building regularly flooded with the tides, drowning prisoners and causing them to contract a variety of diseases. Supposedly the ghosts on this level are quite upset and are known to be violent. One tour guide was supposedly so terrified of what he experienced, he quit and has never come back.

USS Yorktown

Okay, this one wasn’t on the tour, but as I said in my Impressions of South Carolina post, the air carrier is rumored to be very haunted. To the point that they sell a book about it in the gift shop. And I thought I saw a ghost on the main floor, and felt like I was being watched in the Engine Room when I visited. And they advertise ghost tours on the website. You can see why I would want to investigate the ship.

 

In fact, you can see why I would want to investigate any of these places! And I would have never known any of this stuff, except for the Yorktown, if I hadn’t gone on the tour. So thanks to Ghost City Tours, and to Caroline, for giving me the opportunity to learn Charleston’s creepier side. And I hope to be back down in Charleston very soon. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to stay overnight at one of these locations, and see if something is there.

In the meantime, if you want to check out Ghost City Tours, their website lists all the cities they operate in, including Charleston, New Orleans and Savannah, among others. Here’s the link if you’re interested.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you were spooked out by this post. Until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and YOUR RESIDENCE IS HAUNTED! RUN WHILE YOU STILL HAVE THE TIME!!!

From left to right: Monica Ware; Harlie “Harlie Quinn” Jones; myself; Charles Naylor; and Joleene Naylor. Photo taken by Joleene’s brother, Chris Harris, offscreen.

If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, click here.

This morning I received a message from the mother of Harlie Jones, the teenager who joined us for the investigation. Apparently Monica was filming the dowsing rods session, but unlike mine, there was a lot of static and white noise in her recording. And she was using a cell phone, too. Not saying this is a ghost or definitely paranormal, but it is strange and unexplained.

If Monica ever posts that recording of the event online, perhaps some intrepid editor with a better grasp of digital editing than you or me can find something within the static and white noise. Perhaps an electronic voice phenomena (EVP)? Or an odd shape in the static?

Speaking of strange and unexplained, let’s start Part 2 of the recap with some unexplained weirdness. After dinner in town and after taking the above photo in front of the house, we reentered the house. And because of the house’s history, I thought it was a good idea to go through the house with a poker to make sure there wasn’t any killers hidden in the structure (fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…). All was normal until we reached the children’s room on the second floor. And realized the door to the closet, the one we’d locked Joleene in temporarily and which we’d left open when we’d left, had closed on its own.

Here’s a video clip of our reaction to finding that. BTW, the guy in the Hawaiian shirt is Chris Harris, Joleene’s brother.

So yeah, that happened. And we’re still not sure how that happened. The second-floor air conditioning unit is in the parents’ room at the other end of the floor, and there’s no way the breeze from that could’ve pushed the door closed. That, and there was no breeze or draft up there. So how did it happen?

As it was getting late, we decided to do one more dowsing rods test, this time in the attic of the house, where the killer supposedly hid while waiting for the family to return. This time, we got Josiah Moore to answer our questions. And…the results were unexpected. Turn up the volume on your computer or phone to hear the full audio.

So if you watched the whole thing, Josiah Moore somehow made a dog outside the house bark. I’m not sure how a spirit can be in two places at once again like that, but I’ll go with it. What do I know about the afterlife?

Now that I think about it, maybe Josiah was answering, and it was one of the other spirits setting off the dog. His wife, for instance.

Also, some weird things happened when I asked about the killer. Josiah said his spirit was still with them, but then flip-flopped on whether the killer was in the room with us. Assuming that the rods aren’t manipulated by tiny movements in my hands and arms (and the copper cylinders around the rods are supposed to prevent that), why the change? Did the killer’s spirit only manifest in the room then? Or is it just a residual haunting? Not the spirit of a person, but a spiritual imprint or recording that, under certain circumstances, gets played back? That would be my guess, though as I said, I’m no expert.

Soon after that experiment, and some discussion with Joleene and the others, I recorded one final video. This time, a vlog in the children’s room about why it was so quiet in the house.

If you didn’t watch that video in full, I speculated the reason why the house wasn’t more active was because the Moores and the Stillinger girls only did enough “haunting,” so to speak, to let us know they were there. I also included Joleene, Charles, and Chris’s observations regarding the house feeling “creepy” and whether or not people were there.

Soon after recording that, I went to bed. Monica left at some point because she had work in the morning, and Chris went home as well. Harlie was told she could go back to the Naylor’s at any point she wanted, but she ended up staying the whole night, as did Charles, Joleene and I. And while nothing directly out of a horror movie happened, some weird things did occur:

On my end, I often found myself waking up in the middle of the night with my fingers interlaced on top of my chest. Not only is that unusual for me to sleep like that, but it’s also similar to how the Moores were posed after death by the killer. That, and at one point I thought i heard a whispered conversation, which I now believe was coming from the closet in the downstairs bedroom. However, at the time I woke up, around 4:30 in the morning, I wasn’t sure where it was coming from. I even poked my head out into the main living room to see if anyone was talking, but nobody was. Harlie, who had been sleeping on the couch, noticed me there and confirmed that nobody had been speaking near her later when I asked about it.

Speaking of Harlie, she had some experiences of her own: as she told me that morning, while she was sleeping on the couch, she felt something like a finger trace down her back. Yeah, creepy. She turned over to avoid being touched like that again, especially since she was alone in the room. Not too long after that, she saw me poke my head out.

And some time during that early morning, she saw a shadow figure walk from the door into the kitchen towards the stairs. Yeah, she saw that! I’m so jealous.

Maybe it’s because she’s been around the same age as the children haunting the house both times, or maybe she’s born for ghost hunting. Either way, Harlie could do this as a hobby, if not a career.

And if you’re wondering what Joleene or Charles saw, they say they didn’t have any experiences. At least none that they noticed.

I survived the Villisca Axe Murder House!

In the morning, we woke up and figured out what had happened to us (or hadn’t happened). We then got our stuff together, made sure we left the house in a state similar to how we left it, did a sage burning to ensure that nothing attached to us and followed us home, and returned the keys to where we were told. Not too long after that, Chris gave me a ride back to Des Moines for my flight to South Carolina. Thus ended the investigation into the Villisca Axe Murder House.

So what are my final thoughts on the Villisca Axe Murder House? Well, I do believe it’s haunted. I do think the Moores and the Stillingers are still living there, with residual energy from the killer. And I think that the Moores and Stillingers prefer to keep to themselves. They’ll let you know they’re here, but unless you’re a kid like Harlie, they’ll only let you know in the hopes you’ll leave them alone. They suffered at the end of their lives and stuck in the house in the afterlife. Can’t be easy having a bunch of random people appearing in the house at least once a week.

Still, I recommend you visit if you want. Daytime tours are available, and of course if you’re willing to go the extra mile, you can stay overnight. Depending on the how the spirits are feeling and your luck, you might catch a thing or two. Hopefully not an axe to the head, though.

And with any luck, you might also run into Fish the cat, a friendly stray who likes to hang around the house and with the people staying there. Charles spent a lot of time with her and she spent some time on my lap, as you can see.

Me hanging with Fish the cat.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back to post on other stuff, including the South Carolina part of my trip, sooner than you think. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

From left to right: Monica Ware; Harlie “Harlie Quinn” Jones; me; Charles Naylor; and Joleene Naylor. Photo taken by Joleene’s brother Chris Harris, offscreen.

You’ve been waiting patiently for this post. Now here it comes. My recap of our amateur investigation of the Villisca Axe Murder House! Or at least part one of it (what can I say, a lot happened in two days!).

Now, a little refresher for those of you not up on your macabre American history. In June 1912, the Moore family–Josiah Moore, Sara Moore, their three sons and daughter–plus two friends of their daughter were murdered overnight at the Moore residence with an axe. The crime is currently unsolved and is Iowa’s oldest cold case. The house where the murders happened still stands, and is available for tours and for overnights, and is reputed to be haunted.

The Villisca Axe Murder House has been on my list of haunted places to visit since 2015, and my friend/colleague Joleene Naylor lives right by the house, so it was inevitable that I would someday visit. And when an opportunity afforded itself earlier this year, we reserved the house for a night with the hopes of experiencing paranormal activity.

Before we visited the house itself though, Joleene and Charles showed me around their hometown of Villisca. And I have to say, it’s a beautiful little town. There’s a central square where most of the town business and activity takes place. Some buildings are closed down, but others are in the process of being remade into new businesses, even in the midst of a pandemic. What really surprised me, though, was the business on one of the main streets.

Yeah, you’re seeing that right. That’s Needful Things, as in the shop from the Stephen King novel of the same name. Trust Leland Gaunt to find a town with dark history to set up shop in! Joleene, if you and Charles are reading this, your family better be prepared to save Villisca from itself!

After that, we headed out to the town cemetery to see the actual graves of the Moores and the Stillingers, the two girls who were murdered alongside the Moores.

Front entrance to the Villisca Cemetery.

The Moore family tombstone.

The Moore children’s tombstone. Many people leave toys and, for some reason, coins on the graves.

Me at the Stillinger girls’ graves.

Yeah, sobering reminder that the only reason this house is known is because of a grizzly murder. One involving six children. Doesn’t stop me from wanting to find ghosts and interact with them, let alone the ones in that house, but it’s something to think about before you go into that house.

We also passed by the Senator’s House, pictured below. Named after its famous former owner, Senator Frank Jones, who was rumored to be involved somehow in the murders. It’s a beautiful old house, though one with a history. Which might explain why it’s currently unoccupied, if I remember what Joleene and Charles told me.

The Senator’s House

After seeing those sights, we went through the suburbs of Villisca, allowing me to see my first view of the Axe Murder House, and Joleene’s beautiful home, featured below. I loved seeing the many homes in Villisca. Most of them are beautiful Victorians, the kind of home that I would love to live in (no surprise there). And apparently it’s very affordable to live in Iowa, which tempted me to buy a house or at least put down a down payment. I had to really think about that before I did, though.

Hilariously enough, Joleene said many people prefer the ranch houses, which I saw fewer of but were present in the neighborhood. I don’t know why. Yeah, Victorians are a lot of work to maintain, but they have such beauty and history!

Now, onto the investigation of the Axe Murder House! Joleene, Charles and I arrived a little before four o’clock, and our guide came by a little while later. And after I signed the papers and set up my new GoPro, we got started on the tour, which you can find in this video.

Yeah, I figured out how to turn the video off. And I don’t know if you noticed, but there are a ton of coins around the home. I know the parents’ room was rather dark, owing to my GoPro not having night vision, but they were there too. We think that might be from people hoping the ghosts will knock the coins off surfaces or move them. Nothing like that happened while we were there, but other stuff did.

More on that in a bit. First, let me make a few observations about the house. As I said, it’s a lot smaller than I expected. But it differs in other ways from expected. I think part of me expected it to be like the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, recreated to look very close to what it looked like back in the day, though with a few modern amenities. In actuality, it’s been mostly preserved in the same state it was in when the house was turned into a museum. In addition, the house is also full of toys, dolls and other knickknacks. It feels more like it was decorated to be more pleasing to the spirits living there, especially the children. And you know what? I kind of like that.

Also, it’s not a bed and breakfast, and the only amenities are the air conditioning units on both floors.

After the tour guide had left and we got settled into the house, we decided to pass the time waiting for our two other companions for the night, Joleene’s friend Monica Ware and her stepdaughter Harlie Jones–the little girl mentioned by Joleene at the end of the video–by doing a dowsing rods session in the girls’ room. You know, the room where those two girls were killed and where a dude stabbed himself a few years ago?

Here’s that video for your viewing terror.

We cut the session short because Monica and Harlie arrived and we wanted to get them up to speed. After another quick tour through the house, during which Harley refused to check under the bed where, as a toddler, she saw those “weird kids,” we had a little fun locking Joleene in the upstairs closet.

Yeah, we’re still laughing about that one a week later. Especially now it’s on the Internet forever.

After the fun and games were over though, I somehow managed to convince Harlie to do a dowsing rods session in the girls room downstairs. I figured that since she was around the same age as the older girl, Lena Stillinger, and had seen the kids’ spirits when she was younger, she might have better luck than me in communicating with the spirits. And although she was a little too freaked to actually ask the spirits to manifest (understandable, I guess), she did a very good job drawing them out and asking questions.

Forgive how dark the video was. We were working with what daylight we had, and it appeared brighter when we were filming. Also, if you’re wondering why we didn’t explore the basement of the house, it’s because while we could access it, the door needed repairs, and we didn’t want to worsen that.

After that session, Joleene’s brother Chris, who took the photo at the top of this post, arrived. We then locked up the house and left for dinner in town, unaware of what would occur while we were gone.

But that will have to wait until Part 2 of my recap.

That’s Part 1, my Followers of Fear. I’ll hopefully have Part 2 up very soon. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Happy Birthday to the blog.
Happy Birthday to the blog.

Happy Birthday to Rami Ungar the Writer.
Happy Birthday to the blog.

So as you can probably tell by now, today’s a special day. About eight years ago, in a library near my mother’s house, an eighteen-year-old me eager to build an audience before his first book came out created a WordPress blog on a public computer. Since then, a lot has happened. Hell, in the past year alone, a lot has happened. I got my first car; Rose went through several more drafts; I wrote a bunch of new stories, some of which may see the light of day; Rose got a release date; I went on my first vacation where I drove everywhere and had more independence and freedom to explore than ever before; I did an overnight ghost hunt at the Ohio State Reformatory; Rose got published, and started getting reviews; and so much more. It’s been an interesting time.

Oh, and stuff happened at the office that were cool, but at times also stressful. I won’t go into that stuff.

I’m grateful for this blog. So many people have followed this blog. Many have become regular readers of my work, including my published work, and have even become good friends. I’ve learned from other writers and bloggers, and their stories have inspired me as well. Plus, it’s nice to get my thoughts out to such a great audience sometimes. A lot of you have told me over the years that my reviews have been helpful or spot-on and you trust my opinion. And on the occasion where I need to write an essay on storytelling or the rare rant about problems in the world, you all listen respectfully, and even help add to the conversation.

And when I’ve suffered from anxiety, or when I expressed my fears regarding the rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the US and abroad, you’ve all been there to comfort me. I can’t thank you enough for that. It’s a great kindness, what you’ve done for me.

So what’s up for me and for this blog in the next year? I honestly don’t know. I think the blog will continue to grow and find people who want to have conversations with me about horror and writing. I can promise that since I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year, I’ll be posting about that pretty regularly once we get to November. And I’ll of course let you know what I think about the latest horror releases or if I have any thoughts or good news worth sharing.

As for me, I would like to continue writing and finishing stories. I might even figure out how to finish them in a timely manner without getting distracted or bored. And of course I would like to publish more stories. Hopefully, with Rose out and a couple of short stories coming out soon, that will happen. I want to have more amazing ideas for stories, and I want to see and read amazing stories by other creators. And I’d like to have some amazing experiences in the future, like traveling to a place I’ve never been, or meeting/impressing someone whom I’ve admired for a long time, or doing more ghost hunts.

I don’t know how much of that will happen, but I’ll try to make it happen.

In the meantime, in honor of the eighth anniversary of Rami Ungar the Writer, I thought it would be nice to have a Q&A. From today, August 2nd to Friday, August 16th, you can send any questions you have for me to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. Depending on how many questions I get, I’ll post them and the answers. Of course, any questions I deem out of bounds won’t be answered, so no asking me what my address is or for dirty stuff. But other stuff–daily life, writing, Rose, horror, etc–are free for the picking.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I look forward to receiving your questions in the near future, and hopefully having enough to post an answer. I’ll write again soon.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

I’ve been meaning to write this post for about a week, but I had to upload some videos onto YouTube, and then I was writing a short story, and editing a novella, and life got crazy. Anyway, no time like the present, so let’s talk about something I did last weekend that I’ve wanted to do for almost a year. That’s right, I did a public ghost hunt!

Those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while may remember I wrote about visiting the Ohio State Reformatory, filming location of the Shawshank Redemption and all-around haunted location open to the public (you can read the original post here). I got a lot of paranormal evidence off video with my dowsing rods and was eager to visit again. I’d also known about the public ghost hunts they conduct during the summer months for a while. My vacation was coming up, so I thought, “Let’s do it!”

I’m not going to recount the whole evening (we were there from 6 PM on June 1st to 3 AM on June 2nd), or we’ll be there the whole day. However, I can hit you with the highlights. I arrived at the prison a little before six and waited with a couple of other early arrivals for the gate to open. Once it did, we trundled in and checked in at the front entrance. Once that was taken care of, I was led to a big gathering room where you could see the east and west cell blocks through glass windows on either side. Since the fun wasn’t set to begin until 7 when everyone was checked in, I spent time talking to other people and did an initial dowsing test, which led to this video.

Yeah, so already the place was active. And as my questions proved, this wasn’t just me manipulating the rods or anything. Something invisible and intelligent was manipulating them!

After everyone was checked in and the schedule and safety procedures were outlined, we were split into three groups. My group was full of people who just wanted a quick overview of the hot spots in the prison and how to use some of the ghost-hunting tools the prison rents out during the public ghost hunts. After that, I went with one of the staff members, Doug, to check out first James Lockhart’s cell and then solitary confinement, where the ghost of Officer Hanger hangs out. My idea was that I got such good results last time from those locations, I wanted to see if they could be replicated.

Replicated, they were. And if you watch the Lockhart video, you’ll notice at one point my cell phone’s camera refocuses for a split second. Did it perhaps sense Lockhart and was trying to focus on him? Lord knows I wasn’t the one who needed refocusing on.

 

After that, I went back to the “base camp” between cell blocks to grab dinner, and I ended up making a few friends: Dave and Danette, a couple on a road trip from New York to Florida, and Greg and Kathy, regular ghost hunters who volunteer a lot at these ghost hunts. I ended up spending the rest of the night with them. We got on pretty well, and I had a lot of fun going to the different spots in the prison to find evidence: the west end showers, the “Jesus Room” (that’s a thing, though it’s not on the usual tour route), the library, the “toilet room” (it has a lot of toilets on a shelf for some reason), the attic, the administration block, and the warden’s quarters.

Sadly, we only got so much evidence. For some reason, it was a pretty quiet night, at least according to the veterans like Greg and Kathy (and that was despite a thunderstorm going on outside. You’d think that would be perfect for both atmosphere and energizing spirits). However, there were some moments where we did experience something. Off the toilet room, for example, we ran into Mr. Salts, a former guard who prisoners had to see before being allowed to visit the hospital wing. He would feed Epsom salt to inmates he suspected of faking being ill to get out of work. Here’s the video of that (sorry if the angle is weird. Next time, I’ll hopefully have a legit ghost-hunting camera and spare batteries too).

So if you didn’t watch the whole video, while we were talking, Greg got swatted on the head by something we couldn’t see, possibly Mr. Salts. And then David tapped my head as a joke.

The other area we experienced something weird was the attic off the chapel (also not on the normal tour route). There, while standing in the dark, several of us noticed some strange, dull-green lights moving about. A couple of times, I thought I saw a misty-like figure. And during this, someone or something threw a rock at us from behind (and there was no one back there!). It was crazy!

After that, the rest of the night went by pretty quickly. Dave, Danette and I went around the warden’s quarters with an app on Danette’s phone that was supposed to catch ghost energy and translate it into words (reliability of said app, we all admitted, was questionable at best) before heading back to base camp to turn in our rented equipment and check out. I promised to get in touch with my friends, and then we left the building. Most people drove off, while I stayed an extra minute to burn some sage so nothing followed me back to the bed and breakfast I was staying at (ain’t nobody have time for that!).

All in all, it was a fun and amazing experience. I got to see places in the prison and sides to it that most people on the day tours never get to see, and I got to witness some really cool stuff. And you can’t discount making new friends. That’s always wonderful.

Chilling right before going on a ghost hunt!

The one criticism I have for the ghost hunt is that it may have had too many people and was kind of disorganized. There were maybe seventy people there that night, and they were free to travel just about anywhere they wanted, sometimes making a ton of noise as they went. It’s difficult to hear ghost voices or catch phenomena when you have to wonder, “Is that a spirit trying to manifest, or is someone waving a flashlight in the chapel and we’re seeing it here in the back of the attic?” A smaller number of people and a little more organization so as to minimize cross-contamination would’ve been nice.

All in all though, I would gladly go again if I get the chance. It was a lot of fun, and I got to ghost hunt firsthand, rather than just watching it on TV or pulling out the dowsing rods in a place where ghosts are known to hang out. And who knows? Maybe I’ll get to investigate some other places. Greg and Kathy mentioned going to Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Kentucky. I could see myself having a blast there, so if I can…who knows?

And if you have the chance, I highly recommend doing a public ghost hunt at the Ohio State Reformatory. You never know what you’ll come across.

In the meantime, this is just a reminder that you have till tonight at 11:59:59 PM to sign up to be an advanced reader for my upcoming fantasy-horror novel Rose from Castrum Press. The novel follows a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). If you are interested, please send an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. All I ask is you read the book and consider posting a review after it’s released. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

I’ve mentioned time and time again how I want to visit haunted locations. In the past, I managed to visit the Paris catacombs, where I saw plenty of skulls but no paranormal phenomena, and last year I visited The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, where I caught my first paranormal evidence on video. And over this weekend, I had the opportunity to visit another one, one that’s in my home state of Ohio that I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time: The Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio. And wouldn’t you know it? I saw plenty of stuff that can be considered out of the ordinary (besides me, I mean).

Some context first: for a while now, my dad’s side of the family have been planning an “Ungarfest,” where the whole family gets together and hangs out. It’s a chance for all three of the families–my dad and his family, his brother and his family, and his sister and her family–to see each other now that most of the next generation are grown and there’s a chance our lives will take us all over the place. Currently all three families still live in Ohio and Michigan, so the majority of us were able to come together and see each other. And guess where the family ended up spending the afternoon after spending the morning at a nature garden in the morning? You guessed it, the Ohio State Reformatory.

Now some of you may know the reformatory, or OSR for short, as the place where The Shawshank Redemption, among other famous films and a few TV shows, were filmed. However, the OSR is also famous for being something of a paranormal hotspot. Plenty of deaths have occurred there over the years, and of course stories of hauntings have popped up over the years. With that in mind, I bought my own pair of dowsing rods so I could speak to the spirits there (the ones at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast worked so well for me).

Me protesting my guilt with a cell-door on the lawn.

Me pretending to shank my stepsister for some reason.

So once we got there, we went in (two of my sisters decided not to go in because they found the whole thing too freaky), and met JD, our tour guide, who was honestly just the best tour guide we could ask for have (I’ll get into why in a bit, but for now, just know that if you get to come here for a tour, you can’t go wrong by asking for JD). He took us around for the first half of the tour, talking to us about the history of the prison and what it was like for a prisoner during the prison’s heyday.

How can one describe the prison accurately? Well, it’s big, I can say that. Metal and drywall and brick and stone are everywhere. The paint on the walls and every other surface is peeling all over the place, and you can smell the building’s age and paint everywhere. In various rooms, you’ll see original artifacts from when it was an active prison, such as the original electric chair that was used there, products made in the shops the prison ran, and much, much more.

You also got to see a lot of the locations where The Shawshank Redemption and other films used as sets. Warden Norton’s office is perfectly preserved for the most part, as well as the door that the guard broke the window in that one scene of the movie. And apparently Brooks and Red’s apartment was filmed in the prison too. It was cool to see that piece of film history on display there.

JD (left) and his fellow tour guide Michael (right) talking to us in the room where a scene from Air Force One was filmed.

Me at the foot of the stairs where Andy Dufresne and Warden Norton talked about budget issues in getting a library.

I’m at Warden Norton’s desk. There’s a bit of “blood” still on the window.

Me doing my imitation of that guard from the movie. Also, this is my new author pic.

And so was Rami

But definitely one of the best parts of the tour was JD. He was friendly, funny, and a really cool dude with a voice that reminded me of musicians I’ve seen in movies and TV (and that description is how you know I’ve been writing for a long while). I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out he was a musician, he seems like the kind of guy who would enjoy playing some guitar on the weekends. But he was also very inspiring. You see, JD was an inmate for a short time at OSR back in the 1980s. During the tour, he took us by the cell in the west block where he stayed while there, and how his experience at OSR helped him turn his life around. It was really inspiring to hear. A lot of people think of people who have gone to jail, and it isn’t usually a positive image. But JD was able to give us this personal story of how his stay affected him. Combined with his friendly and very humble personality, it really made his story all the more powerful. You couldn’t help but like him, not just as a tour guide but as a person. And on top of his personal knowledge of what it was like to be a prisoner at the Ohio State Reformatory, it just made for an excellent tour.

JD in front of his old cell, telling us how being at OSR changed his life.

If it’s not obvious, I highly recommend JD as a tour guide. On a scale of 1 to 5, a definite 5. If you get him as your tour guide, you won’t regret it.

Of course, you’re curious about the paranormal stuff I witnessed. First off, the dowsing rods had an excellent first time out. I got a lot of communication from spirits, some of which made it onto video and then onto YouTube. One of the first places we visited was solitary confinement, where the spirit of Frank Hanger, a security guard who was murdered by three inmates in that area, is said to hang out. Here’s the video of that particular encounter.

Something you should know: that question Jay threw out about the electric chair was a trick question to make sure we were actually talking to a spirit and it wasn’t random movements on the part of the rods. Turns out it wasn’t random movements: those three convicts committed suicide, so Officer Hanger’s “no” was a point for the I-was-communicating-with-spirits side.

The other major spirit I spoke to was that of James Lockhart, an inmate who killed himself by immolation. His cell is notoriously haunted. I got to speak with him as well, and learned some interesting things.

Sorry about the vertical filming. You can only do so much with your cell phone.

I also had a lot more communications, some of which I got on video. But these are the best quality, so I wanted to make sure people got to see them. You can draw your own conclusions on what happened while at OSR that day (just don’t leave vitriol-filled comments for me to read), but I like to think that I got some communication from the other side that day. And a lot of people who witnessed me using the rods, including this one family I kept seeing around the east cell block (they’re the ones asking me to ask Lockhart if he burned himself), probably believe me now (I think they took video footage of some of my communications. There may be footage of that floating around the Internet somewhere).

Oh, one more thing I want to mention. This isn’t so much explicitly paranormal as it is weird, but it’s worth a mention. You remember that photo of me at Warden Norton’s desk? Well, this may have just been an issue in the transition from my camera to Instagram, but it’s still weird and kind of freaky.

I have no idea what happened here. The photo of me at the foot of those stairs seems to have been overlaid with me at Warden Norton’s desk. Not sure how that happened, but it is pretty cool. Even if it isn’t exactly supernatural.

All in all, the Ohio State Reformatory was an amazing experience. It is a beautiful building, filled to the brim with history, pieces of culture, and a few spirits. I’m so glad I got to go, as well as to test out my dowsing rods in such a great venue. And now that I have my driver’s license, I may be able to go up again someday very soon and perhaps get some more proof of the paranormal. In fact, you should bet on that happening (Zak Bagans, call me). Until then, definitely consider making a trip to the Reformatory and seeing the history and hauntings yourself. Guaranteed you won’t regret it.

And thanks to JD and the folks at OSR for hosting my family this weekend. We enjoyed ourselves immensely while there. I hope you’ll see us (or maybe just me) again soon.

The Ungar clan, AKA 40% of the reason I’m as messed up as I am.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you enjoyed my little travelogue. I’ll be seeing you all again very soon. Until then, pleasant nightmares!

Well, after the fourth draft of Rose, I knew that I didn’t want to go into another novel too soon. I wanted to do some short stories. And I somehow managed to get my first short story of the year out in five days. Impressive. These usually take about two weeks to a month. On a good day.

Hannah is a ghost story about a team of paranormal investigators that explore an elementary school that’s reportedly haunted, and what they encounter in there. And for a Rami Ungar short story, it’s actually shorter than most I’ve written, just under fifty-nine hundred words. Usually they end up between seven-thousand and nine-thousand words. I wonder how that worked out?

And for the record, the Hannah in the title of this story is not based on any Hannah I actually know. And that’s a few: it’s a popular girl’s name in the Jewish community, so of course I’ve met and made friends with several. The titular character’s name actually has to do with a famous urban legend from another country, which I can’t name or go into without giving too much away about the story. I can’t even go into details of the legend, lest I give too much away. However, the name Hannah is a clue, if you want to try to figure it out. Let’s just say, it’s an Americanization.

Anyway, I’m hoping this short story is some good. I’ve been listening to a lot of horror anthologies on audio book lately, so I think I’ve absorbed some of what those had to teach me on short story writing. I also learned a lot from the fourth draft of Rose on concise language and strong writing (thanks Joleene), which probably contributed to its shorter length. And at the very least, if the story is terrible, at least it’ll be well-written.

Of course, there’s still things that can be improved. I think the middle and ending are pretty good, but I’m worried the beginning has too much exposition and telling, and not enough dialogue and showing. I’ve seen short stories do that well, of course, but I’m not sure if it’s done well here. Well, I suppose that’s what second drafts and beta readers are for. And hopefully once those are done, I can get this story published somewhere (I have a few ideas of where I would like that to happen).

Now that Hannah is done, there’s another short story I’d like to get to work on as soon as possible. Maybe even tomorrow, if my schedule allows. I’m looking forward to this one: it’s a story with a wonderfully relevant topic to today’s world.

For now though, I’m headed to bed. After all, I’ve got work in the morning. Goodnight Followers of Fear, and until next time, pleasant nightmares!

It’s Friday again, so you know what that means. It’s #FirstLineFriday!

Now if you don’t know what #FirstLineFriday is, let me explain the rules. On Fridays, you:

  1. Create a post on your blog entitled #FirstLineFriday, hashtag and all.
  2. Explain the rules like I’m doing now.
  3. Post the first one or two lines of a potential story, a story-in-progress, or a completed or published work.
  4. Ask your readers for feedback, and encourage them to try #FirstLineFriday on their own blogs (tagging is encouraged but not necessary).

As I said in my last post, I’ve been having a lot of great ideas for stories. And on Monday, I had this rather strange and unique idea for a novel, inspired by Japanese mythology and culture (one of my best sources of ideas, by the way), and has an interesting structure to it that would be unusual and fun to write. Obviously, I can’t go into more details without giving away the plot (and I hate to give that sort of thing away). But I can hopefully give you a very good opening for this story, while maybe adding a hint in that opening.

Anyway, enjoy:

Almost everybody has a bucket list, along with something on that list that they want to accomplish before they graduate or leave town or die: to learn how to code (the dream of my somewhat nerdy brother Eric, as well as my somewhat cool boyfriend Luca), to go to a heavy metal festival and see their favorite bands perform (my friend Rudy, who plans to do just that after graduation), or to confess their feelings to the rebellious, cool-as-hell River Fuhrmann (my friend Lavender Murphy, who has no idea that the rebellious, cool-as-hell River also has a thing for Lavender, but is too proud to admit it). I have my own bucket list, but mine is rather unusual, as at the top of my list was ghost stories.

Thoughts? Overly long? Any errors? What’s on your bucket list*? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

And while you’re at it, why not try #FirstLineFriday yourself? It’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s great practice for authors of all stripes. Sadly, I’m taking a small break from tagging, so you’re safe from my torture for now. But if you want me to tag you, consider yourself tagged. Or better yet, let me know. I’ll catch you next week.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I’m hoping to see a movie this weekend and maybe write a review of it. If not, you can expect a blog post this Sunday.

Until the next time, my Followers of Fear!

*Mine involves meeting and/or having my books read by Stephen King and/or Anne Rice, going ghost-hunting with the Ghost Adventures Crew, having a custom car made from a hearse, and writing for Doctor Who. Does that surprise any of you?