Posts Tagged ‘haunted locations’

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 other 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.

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!

It’s hard to imagine, in the midst of this pandemic, that I have travel plans. In fact, I was SURE around March that these plans would be canceled. But, by accident and chance or by the grace of the Overarching Entity who runs this dimension, I’m doing some traveling very soon. And, as I have in years past, I’m telling you about it. Especially since there might be a chance to run into me.

Let me explain: next month, I will be traveling to Iowa and South Carolina. In Iowa, I will be visiting my good friend and fellow author Joleene Naylor, whom you’ve probably seen around the blog, as well as her husband Charles Naylor, whom you probably haven’t seen around the blog. While we’re together, we’re going to be doing some pretty cool stuff.

One of those things (and this is the part where you should pay attention), is to attend the 5th Annual Indie Author Book Expo in West Des Moines, Iowa. Specifically, we’re going to be selling books as authors. I’ll be hawking copies of Rose, of course, and Joleene will be likely selling copies of her Aramanthine vampire series. That, and there will be a whole bunch of other authors there selling wares, so you should totally come! It’s Saturday and Sunday, July 11th and 12th, from 10 AM – 6 PM on Saturday and 11 AM – 5 PM on Sunday at the Valley West Mall in West Des Moines (which is somehow both part of Des Moines and its own separate city). Come on by if you can, take some photos, get a signed copy of Rose, and maybe find some other reads to check out.

We will also be, along with two friends of Joleene and Charles, staying overnight at the Villisca Axe Murder House! That’s right, I’m staying overnight at another haunted location, and it’s another with a history of axe murder! And this time, I’m bringing friends and a GoPro along with my dowsing rods, and hopefully we’ll see some paranormal activity and catch it on video. Videos to be uploaded as soon as I can upload them.

After those adventures, I’ll be heading out to South Carolina to see my friend Ramsey Hardin, who you might remember from my New Year’s YouTube video (oh, such innocent days, when we thought 2019 couldn’t get any worse and 2020 would be full of happiness and joy! I miss those days). We’ll spend some time around his hometown, and then we’ll go to Charleston for a couple of days to explore some museums, enjoy the beach, and go on a ghost tour at night (because of course I would arrange for that! And yes, we will be taking video. Hopefully we’ll catch something cool). Should be a ton of fun.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to my trip and am gathering everything I’ll need. If you’re able to come to the expo, I hope you do. I would love to see you. And if you’re not able to be there but want to see me in Charleston or something…maybe. You may have to email well in advance and take precautions against COVID-19, though. Just saying.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. There’s a horror movie calling my name, so I’m going to put that on. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

The Shanley Hotel in Napanoch, New York, one of the haunted locations I want to visit.

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written one of these posts. And for those of you who don’t know, I keep a rather extensive list of places purported to be haunted that I want to visit someday, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit a few of them, such as the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast and the Paris catacombs. I’ve even been to the Ohio State Reformatory twice (and if it weren’t for this damned coronavirus, I’d have been there this past weekend for a convention).

And as of last month, I’ve finally come up with enough additions to that list to warrant another one of these posts. So if you’d like to know what places I could possibly visit in the future to look for ghosts, or you want to know some places to avoid in the future, please read below. And you can check out the first three in this series here, here and also here.

And don’t worry. The places on these lists may be haunted, but the posts themselves aren’t. I think.

Drovers Inn, Loch Lomond, Scotland

Head out to rural Scotland, and you’ll find an old, historic house on the north end of Loch Lomond. In addition to being a working hotel, the house also features good food, live music, and more than a few ghosts. Guests have reported flickering lights in midair, a ghost girl in a pink dress showing up in a photograph, the ghost of an angry cattle driver, and a family who died in a snowstorm looking for shelter, among others.

One room, please!

The Shanley Hotel, Napanoch, New York

Yeah, you’re going to be seeing a lot of hotels, motels, and inns on this list. Almost like these places attract spirits for some reason.

Anyway, the Shanley Hotel is a beautiful, three-floored bed and breakfast located in the northern area of New York. Built in 1845 as a hotel, it has gone under many names, but has always been known for an elite clientele and even has been an active bordello at times (scandalous!), and was a site active for bootlegging during Prohibition. To this day, there are many spirits who still haunt the house, including a few children of the previous owners who died young, one of the bootleggers, a cat that died, and perhaps even a few of the bordello women.

Supposedly this place is so haunted, you need to sign a waiver and pay a handsome fee to stay there. But like that is enough to scare me off. Nope, I’m in, and I’ll take anyone who’s brave enough with me.

Wolf’s Creek Inn, Wolf Creek, Oregon

The oldest still-running inn in the Pacific Northwest, this beautiful building features lovely rooms, a restaurant, and more than a few ghosts hiding within its walls. It’s been featured on paranormal shows like Ghost Adventures, and advertises ghost hunts and paranormal tours on its website. If you ask me, it sounds like a good excuse to go out west further west than I’ve ever gone before.

RMS Queen Mary, Long Beach, California

The Queen Mary is a former British ocean liner that first set sail in 1936. It briefly saw use as a troopship, ferrying soldiers to the war. Afterwards, it became a passenger ship and traveled across the Atlantic Ocean until the 1960s. It was retired in 1967, and has been moored in Long Beach, California ever since. It has since become a tourist attraction, and there have been rumors of hauntings ever since, including shadow figures and one room where the ghost of a murdered passenger still hangs around.

Normally I’m not one for cruise ships, but I’d make an exception for this lovely lady.

Hell’s Bridge, Algoma Township, Michigan

If you go into central Michigan, and then into the woods, you’ll find an old, metal bridge spanning a narrow river. It looks unassuming, at least in the day time, but at night it looks rather eerie. Especially when you learn about the legend surrounding the bridge. Supposedly during the 1800s, a serial killer named Elias Friske murdered several children and threw their bodies into the river off a stone bridge. When the bodies were finally found and Friske identified as the killer, he claimed the devil had told him to kill those kids before he was lynched by the locals.

While there are no records of Friske or these supposed crimes, at least none that I could find, the area where the stone bridge was and where the metal bridge now stands has gained a reputation. Supposedly, if you stand on the bridge at night, you’ll spot the spirits of Friske or the children he killed, and perhaps even the forces that he claimed influence him to kill. I’d check it out if I had the chance.

Wisner Bridge, Chardon Township, Ohio

Yeah, there’s a few bridges on this list as well. Another haunted location in Ohio I need to visit, the Wisner Bridge was a Crybaby Bridge, or a bridge where the spirits of dead children can supposedly be heard crying. In this case, the Wisner Bridge supposedly was haunted by spirits of melon heads, diminutive humanoids with bulbous heads in American folklore. While the legends vary from state to state, in Ohio it’s believed the melon heads were orphans who were experimented on by a sadistic doctor, either causing or worsening their appearance. They later killed the doctor, burned down the orphanage, and retreated to the woods near the bridge to live in the wild.

Today the bridge itself is gone, having been torn down in 2013. However, locals still report hearing crying babies at the site where the bridge stood. Whether or not you believe the urban legends, this might be a place for me to check out.

Gold Brook Covered Bridge, Stowe, Vermont

A wooden bridge that has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, this bridge is also known as Emily’s Bridge, owing to the legend surrounding it. While stories vary, most of them agree that a young woman named Emily was supposed to get married or elope, and when her lover never showed, she died on or by the bridge. There’s no evidence Emily existed and the legend first popped up in 1968, after a student wrote a paper about how they used an Ouija board and made contact with a spirit named Emily.

Since then, many people using Ouija boards and other devices to contact the dead have supposedly come into contact with Emily and learned her story. Even stranger, many people passing over the bridge have been touched or scratched by her, whether on foot or in their cars. Is Emily the spirit of a real person? The result of overactive imaginations? Or did belief in her bring a spirit into existence, one that took on Emily’s identity to answer the demand to see her? I want to go and find out!

Franklin Castle, Cleveland, Ohio

Another Ohio location, the Franklin Castle is an old Victorian manor with a reputation. Its original owners, the Tiedermann family, suffered several deaths while they lived there, including four of their children, and there were rumors of horrific crimes within its walls. Since then, the house has changed hands several times, and several of its past owners and residents have reported hauntings. One family even performed exorcisms in the house before moving out. And in 1975, human bones were found on the property, though there is evidence to suggest they may have been planted.

The good news is, my dad lives up in Cleveland, so there’s a good chance I’ll visit this house the next time I visit my dad. The bad news is, the house is privately owned and there’s very little chance the current owners will let me in. Still, I can at least drive by and take photos. And who knows? Perhaps someone living there will allow me in. Whether that someone is living or not, however, is up for debate.

LaLurie Mansion, New Orleans, Louisiana

Fans of American Horror Story will know Delphine LaLurie as the sadistic southern slave-owner who took pleasure from torturing her slaves. What they may not know is that the house featured in the show was not her actual house. Or that her real house is still standing in New Orleans, and that it may have a few spirits living in it. Supposedly there have been moans heard from the room where the slaves were kept and the sounds of footsteps at night. When the building was an African-American girls’ school, many of the children there reported being attacked by a mysterious woman, and when the building was converted into apartments, one resident was found murdered after claiming a demon was after him.

Sadly, today the house is privately owned and the current owners show no interest in having investigations conducted in the home. So, like the details of LaLurie’s life and the full extent of her crimes, we may never have the full truth. However, ghost tours passing by the house occasionally have encounters of the weird kind. And I would be happy just to have that.

Cecil Hotel, Los Angeles, California

Speaking of American Horror Story, the Cecil Hotel was another inspiration for the fifth season, Hotel. Originally a luxury hotel for businessmen and travelers, after the 1940s the hotel became a home for transients as the neighborhood took a dive. Even before that, though, the hotel had been known for murders and suicides. Other violent and illicit activities occurred there over the years, and the hotel was a temporary home for serial killers Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger. In 2013, a Canadian student was found dead and naked in the water tank on the roof. Footage was found of the student acting erratically, poking in and out of and hiding in an elevator hours before her death. The footage is, to say the least, unsettling.

While the hotel has since been renamed the Stay on Main and is trying to gain back its reputation as a luxury destination, the building cannot escape its reputation of sinister and violent occurrences. And perhaps, if I were to check in, I would find some guests that had never checked out.

 

There you go. Ten more haunted or strange locations I’d like to visit after this pandemic has run its course. But tell me, have you been to any of these places? Do you want to go to any of them? Maybe with me? And what haunted places have you been to that I haven’t named? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my  Followers of Fear. I’ll be busy writing this week, so hopefully I get plenty done. And in the meantime, you can still order signed copies of Rose by sending me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. Until next time, stay safe, be healthy and pleasant nightmares.

I don’t remember much of the Scary Stories series from my childhood days, but what I do remember terrified me shitless (thank you, Mrs. Paulowicz, for scaring your entire third grade class with the story of the grave digger who stole silver coins from over the eyes of a dead woman). So when it came out that a movie based on the stories was in the works, people were excited, skeptical, curious, and terrified (of their beloved childhood memories being tarnished). And then we saw those initial trailers on Super Bowl weekend. And we were like, “Ooh, this should be good.”

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark takes place in a small Pennsylvania town in the fall of 1968. Several teens, led by aspiring writer Stella Nichols, go to visit the old Bellows mansion, an abandoned house supposedly haunted by the spirit of a murderess who was kept hidden in a basement from the world, poisoned kids who came to hear her scary stories through the wall, and hung herself. They end up finding the book of Sarah Bellows, which is still being written, with the teenagers as the main characters. Now they have to find a way to stop Sarah before the antagonists of the stories take them and kill them all.

I’ll admit, the story has a predictable structure, and the third act could have been a lot scarier and less reliant on CGI monsters. Still, Scary Stories is a decent horror film. Much better than some other films I’ve seen lately (looking at you, Midsommar!).

For those wondering, this film does contain a lot of favorite monsters and references to other stories. Jangly Man, the Pale Lady, the girl who had spiders birthed from her cheek. They even make several references to The Hearse Song, which many people were first exposed to through the book series (and which is one of the inspirations for my short story Pinochle on Your Snout).

The best part of this movie is its scares and atmosphere. While there are jump scares, they’re not overused and for the most part are pretty effective. The filmmakers used a combination of settings, such as the house, a cornfield, or a hospital wing,* along with lighting (or lack of it) and practical/make-up effects to create a claustrophobic and suspenseful atmosphere that will make you curl in on yourself in terror. I swear, the scene in the cornfield with the scarecrow had me genuinely freaked out. Especially when it moved!

The actors also do a good job with these characters. I really empathized with Stella, played by Zoe Colletti, who loves horror and writes, but at times has trouble interacting with others and has to deal with bullies (girl, I’ve been there). And Ramon Morales, played by Michael Garza, came off as truly kind and sympathetic.

Also of note is the theme of persecution in the film. There’s a reason that this film takes place in 1968, when the first book was released in 1981. Sarah Bellows, whom we only really see at the end, is revealed to be born with a disability, and is treated horribly by her family for it. Several of the main characters have dealt with bullying for being different, and Ramon is persecuted mainly because he’s Hispanic. The Vietnam War and the 1968 election also comes up quite a bit in the story. All this comes together to give this film a rather poignant undertone that one could find ways to apply to our current political climate (just saying), and that never hits you over the head to get the message across.

But as I said, the story is kind of predictable and the third act has some issues. Specifically, there’s too much attention paid to making Sarah Bellows a sympathetic villain, along with wrapping things up with a nice bow, that the fear kind of dissipates by the end of the climax. Doesn’t help that they chose a monster requiring lots of CGI to bring to life in that act.

But all in all, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark will delight fans of the series and should satisfy regular horror fans. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Scary Stories a 4.2. Atmospheric and creepy, you’ll be drawn in and learn to be afraid of the power of stories. Go and check it out.

*By the way, one of the locations in the film is the Pennhurst State School, one of the haunted locations I want to visit! Not the real one, but a great recreation. Way to tie in a real haunted location with a sordid past into a horror film, filmmakers. I’m impressed.

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!

The real Annabelle doll next to the movie version.

The other day I was driving home from grocery shopping, and this silly insurance commercial came on the radio about a creepy doll. According to the commercial’s announcer, the scary doll, which can’t help being creepy and claims horror movies as its natural habitat, knows paying less for car insurance is good sense. The announcer then says, “The only question is, how did the creepy doll get down the hallway? I would get out of the house if I were you.”

I responded to said commercial, “Well, you’re not me. And after I finished going ‘Oh holy shit, the doll moved!’ I’d take the opportunity to find out as much as I can about the doll and the spirit possessing it.”

Yeah. That’s me in a nutshell.

My relationship with dolls have gone through a transformation over the years. At first I was freaked out by them, but over time I’ve become enamored of them, and even have a small collection of dolls and figurines. And the idea that some dolls and figurines might be inhabited by spirits fascinates me. I enjoy the Annabelle films and would love to own the collectible version of it (I hear the actual Annabelle doll is a little hard to come by, especially since it’s under lock and key. So that’s out). I enjoy watching videos about haunted dolls on YouTube, including this one from Buzzfeed.

I seriously thought this doll was haunted at one point. For better or worse, it’s not.

And it probably won’t shock you that I once suspected one or two from my own collection were haunted (I swear I thought I saw the arm of a figurine move, though that particular arm has no joints). I even checked one of my dolls, the one I thought most likely to be haunted, to see if it had any spirits. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on your opinion), my dowsing rods experiment didn’t yield any meaningful results, so I’m going to have to say that’s a no.

But a part of me would like to own a haunted doll. Why? Well, I guess for the same reason people collect salt and pepper shakers or go out of their way to get comic books. Something about the item in question appeals to them. Dolls already appeal to me, and I’ve been to haunted locations before.  Seems like just a great meeting of two loves, like scaring people and writing.

And as the Buzzfeed video above says, you can find those pretty easily on sites like eBay. I was actually on Etsy the other day and saw this one haunted doll that I felt almost drawn to. And it was reasonably priced. You know, for a doll that might actually have a self-aware spirit or intelligent entity attached to it.

Of course, the problem there is that, yes, the doll has someone or something attached to it. Some dolls, like the actual Annabelle doll, supposedly have one or more demons attached to it. Imagine taking something like that into your home and being negatively affected by it. The doll or its spirit could destroy property, threaten lives, etc. Robert the Doll supposedly curses anyone who takes pictures with him without permission, which can lead to financial ruin and physical harm.

And if it does have something nasty attached to it, what would I do to contain it? I’m acquainted with one of the former owners of the Dybbuk Box,* and he had to go to all sorts of lengths to keep that box from affecting him and his family. Imagine what I might have to go through to keep that doll from messing with my life.

But I guess that’s the risk bringing anything into your home that’s alive. Yeah, a haunted doll would be a lot more complicated than a pet, but it’s still something I would like to try.

Perhaps in the future I’ll be given the chance to bring a haunted doll into my house. And who knows? It might not lead to anything, but I’ll hopefully have fun and get a few story ideas from it.

But tell me, do you think haunted dolls exist? Do you have any stories you’d like to share? Would you own one if you could? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading another post by me about just how strange I am. As always, appreciate the support. I’ll hopefully have another post out later this week. Until then, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares!

*For those of you who don’t know, a dybbuk is a ghost in Jewish folklore that’s turned away from Heaven and Hell and possesses living people to interact with the real world. The dybbuk box is a wine cabinet that supposedly has a malevolent dybbuk attached to it, and has been blamed for a number of misfortunes that befell past owners. Currently it’s housed in Zak Bagans’s Haunted Museum, where you have to be 18 or over and sign a waiver to see the box, as it curses anyone near it, including rapper Post Malone.

If you think you’ve heard of this before, that’s because the Dybbuk Box was the inspiration for the horror movie The Possession (which I highly recommend), and dybbuks in general have inspired countless pieces of literature and theater, including a famous play and ballet, and even a certain short story from my college days.

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!

Happy birthday to the blog,
Happy birthday to the blog.
Happy birthday to Rami Ungar the Writer,
Happy birthday to the blog.

An entire year has gone by for this blog. And it feels like so much longer for some reason. Has that ever happened to any of you? And now this blog is seven years old. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been blogging for about seven years now. This blog, along with the people I get to interact with on it, has become so apart of my life, I can’t remember what life was like before I had it and all of you. This blog is a way to share my thoughts and feel like some people are cheering me on as I work on my career.

And this past year was especially awesome, writing and blogging-wise. I not only finished a third draft of Rose, but a fourth and a fifth, the last one changing a lot of elements in the story (for the better, I like to think). Plus I somehow managed to find a publisher for Rose, which means it’ll hopefully be published before it starts to get cold again (no promises, though). I managed to write and edit some more stories, and I even got Car Chasers accepted for publication (and I may have news on another short story very soon, fingers crossed). And I was able to gain, keep, and surpass a thousand followers on this blog. These are all things I hoped would happen in my anniversary post last year, and they all happened.

Not to mention the things that happened in my personal life, which I don’t talk about that much on this blog anymore but are still worth mentioning at any rate. Work has been busy, but I’ve accomplished a lot that’s been set before me, including traveling and attending important trainings for work, and even coordinating programs that are meant to improve my organization; I saw three ballets live and one on video, leading to the discovery of my obsession with the art form (I also saw a couple of Broadway plays, and that was pretty cool); I joined the Horror Writers Association, and have been reaping the benefits since; I finally got my driver’s license, after nearly ten years of on-and-off driving practice; and so much more. It’s incredible how much I’ve been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time.

Oh, that’s why this year felt longer. I’ve been doing so much, it felt like it went on longer than it was.

But anyway, a huge reason why I’ve been able to do so much is because of you, my Followers of Fear. You’re always there, rooting for and supporting me. I’m honestly amazed sometimes at how much this blog has grown, and the friendships I’ve been able to strike up through the interactions here. I say this a lot during these posts, but there was a time when I only got a few views every couple of days, and hardly any interaction from readers. It really means a lot to me that you’re all here, reading what I have to say and responding to it. You are all so totally amazing and I can’t thank you enough for that.

So what’s going to happen in the next year? Well, I hope to keep putting out quality material on this blog. I want to get Rose out on the market so you all can read it (and maybe give me reviews for feedback?). I want to get a car, now that I finally have a license. I plan to get more stories written, edited and maybe even published. Perhaps I’ll even start a new novel. And so much more. We’ll have to check back and see what I managed to do a year from now.

In the meantime, I’ve got a lot of fun stuff coming up, including a trip to the Ohio State Reformatory for a spooky haunted tour (that’s Sunday! Here’s hoping I get some paranormal evidence on video again). I’ll make sure to update you all on that as soon as I can. So until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares. Lots and lots of pleasant nightmares.

A bit of background before I start this review: in case you didn’t know, or you’ve never read my third list of haunted locations I want to visit, the Winchester Mansion, known today as the Winchester Mystery House, is quite real. It was first started in 1884, but was continually worked on and added onto, around the clock, for nearly forty years. Sarah Winchester, the widow of the owner of the Winchester Rifle Company, believed that the spirits of those killed by her husband’s company’s rifles were after her family and had previously killed her husband and infant daughter. On the advice of a medium, she moved out to California and started building a house that doubled as a maze, meant to confuse the spirits who were after her family. She kept adding onto the house until her death, after which work completely ceased. The house is now a national landmark, and is reputedly haunted to the brim. It is this house, its mistress, and its hauntings that this movie is based on.

Everyone got that? Good.

Winchester follows Jason Clarke as a troubled psychiatrist who is sent by the Winchester Rifle Company to evaluate Mrs. Winchester’s mental state to see if she’s still fit to be a majority shareholder. Mrs. Winchester, played by Helen Mirren, allows the psychiatrist into her home at the same time as a powerful and angry spirit arrives. Together, they must confront this spirit before it kills every member of the Winchester family, and then some.

I went with a friend to see this film. I don’t know what my friend was expecting, but I was hoping, based on the trailer and what the film is based on, that it would be decent at least. At the end, we both agreed it wasn’t that.

Winchester suffers from a number of issues. One of the biggest issues is script. The film’s story is underwhelming, bogged down in exposition and with a villain who, while in concept sounds cool, in execution seems kind of boring. The villain actually reminds me of people’s reactions to Helmut Zemo in Captain America: Civil War. This is a character that’s supposed to be powerful and menacing, but for a lot of audience members (not me, though), the character’s film treatment was not intimidating and lacked menace. For me, Winchester’s villain was like that.

Another issue is the scares. There are a few good jumpscares and creepy imagery, but other than that, the movie isn’t that scary. It tries to build atmosphere, but it doesn’t go as far as it could to build an atmosphere. In other films, we’d see ghost children running in the background, shadows threatening to attack a character before someone walks in and interrupts. Stuff in other films that works very effectively. If we had more of that, the film might actually be a little scary.

I also didn’t care for Jason Clarke’s performance. He’s never been my favorite actor, but this time he was just terrible. Half the time he just mumbled his lines. After the film I just looked at my friend and I was like, “Would it have killed him to speak up?”

But the biggest thing going against the film, at least in my opinion, is the house itself. Or rather, the lack of the house. The actual Winchester Mystery House is a gargantuan structure: four stories, 161 rooms, two bathrooms, seventeen chimneys, two basements, three elevators. Stairs going nowhere, doors that open onto sheer drops, skylights and windows, etc. Even fake bathrooms. An entire maze of a house. But we wouldn’t know it, based on how little we see. A few key hallways and rooms, and some stairs for the arthritic, but barely anything else. If you never saw one set of stairs or a few key exterior shots, you would never know that the house was as huge and confusing as it is. I know the film didn’t have a huge budget, but come on! If you’re going to make a film about a giant maze-house, utilize the maze-house! You could probably make for a more exciting climax if you did that!

Did the film have any good points? Well, Helen Mirren as Sarah Winchester was actually kind of badass. She’s portrayed as this strong woman who works through her grief by battling the supernatural every day, and she doesn’t care what you think of that. It’s pretty cool. That, and the costumes and rooms, what rooms we see, anyway, look true to the time and are absolutely beautiful.

But that’s it. It’s not exactly awful, but it’s not very good either. It’s just below average.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Winchester a 1.5. There’s a lot of potential in the concept, but this film definitely did not live up to it, producing an unremarkable period piece trying to be a good horror film. So if you’re looking to be scared, I suggest skipping this one entirely. It’s all bark, and absolutely no bite.