Posts Tagged ‘haunted locations’

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.

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Aokigahara forest.

On December 31st, YouTube star Logan Paul visited Aokigahara, a forest in Japan that is visited by thousands of tourists, families, and school trips, but has a dark side. Aokigahara is a popular suicide spot, to the point that its nickname is Suicide Forest. The Japanese government has even posted signs throughout the forest encouraging visitors to choose life rather than take their own lives. While there, Paul and his friends came across a hanging body, filmed it, and posted the video on YouTube (the body’s face was blurred out). The video quickly went viral, garnering a lot of negative controversy. Within a day, Paul took down the video, and issued an apology over Twitter, but people are still very upset and there has been a lot of talk online about his actions.

Before I get into the main thrust of what I wanted to talk about with this post. Firstly, I am about to talk about a sensitive subject, and I am going to approach this with as much care and respect as possible. Still, I am an imperfect being and I make mistakes, like everyone. So if I say something that offends you or that you disagree with, please understand that is not what I intended. I’m just trying to make sense of a difficult topic in a world that doesn’t make sense that often, and sometimes I miss things that cause misunderstanding between others and myself without meaning to. So please bear with me as I try and explore a topic that a lot of people have strong opinions about.

Second, there are two things about me I would like to tell you all. One is that I have experienced depression before, and a couple of times it made me think of suicide. Those times when I considered suicide, it was because I had toxic people in my life who made me miserable. I still remember the crushing despair, the feeling that things were never going to get better, and the thought that I could just make it all better by leaving this life and falling into–I don’t know. Something better. It took the extraction of these toxic people in my life, as well as the help of a lot of good friends and family to help me find happiness and hope again.

The Yahrtzeit candle I lit at Sachsenhausen.

The other thing I would like you to know is that back in 2014, I visited Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp twenty-two miles north of Berlin as part of my study-abroad trip. Around thirty-thousand people died at that camp while it was operational. When I arrived, it struck me as a very tranquil place. There was lots of grass and trees, the sun was shining, and there were only a few buildings left from when the camp was operational. But you spend enough time there, and this pall of despair settled over me. It was like the prisoners had felt over seventy years ago had seeped into my very body. An hour there, and it was just hard to even breathe there. I lit a Yahrtzeit candle, a ritual candle in Judaism for memorializing the dead, at a wall used by firing squads. And when I left, I was glad to get out of that anguish-infected place, even as I was glad to have visited a place connected to the history of my people.

Now to the point of why I’m writing this blog post. You see, a month before I went to Sachsenhausen, I wrote a blog post about haunted locations I wanted to visit, and Aokigahara was on that list (even before it became a suicide hotspot, the forest was well-known as a place for hauntings, hence why it was on the list). Given that, I feel like I have a responsibility to talk about this controversy, as well as my desire then, and now, to visit Aokigahara.

Obviously, what Logan Paul did was extremely disrespectful, the equivalent of taking a photo of the corpse at a funeral, or a selfie at Auschwitz or at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial. It shows total disregard for the deceased and their loved ones in favor of quick-lived social media attention, and should be discouraged at every opportunity.

However, there is nothing wrong with wanting to visit Aokigahara in itself (hold your comments, let me finish). As I pointed out above. Aokigahara is visited every year for totally innocent reasons. However, no matter what reason you go to visit the forest, it should be done with respect. Any death is horrible, and suicides are especially tragic. We can never know what is going through someone’s mind or what is happening in their lives, let alone someone dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts. Not unless we’ve been there ourselves, and sometimes not even then. But in every case, it is terrible, and shouldn’t be treated lightly.

With that in mind, anyone who visits the forest should do so with respect and cognizance for what has happened there, the same same way I approached visiting Sachsenhausen. Be respectful of what has happened and is happening there, understand that depression, suicide, and the forest itself has affected a lot of people in horrible ways, and if God forbid you do come across a body, leave it alone and notify the authorities. Only take photographs or footage if it is to help the authorities find the deceased, not for views or likes or whatever. Other photographs can be taken of the forest, or of the tourist attractions there such as the Narusawa Ice Cave and Fugaku Wind Cave, but definitely not of the bodies.

Remember, 1-800-273-TALK.

This is how, if I am ever lucky enough to visit Japan and I end up visiting Aokigahara, I will approach the forest. Not for ghosts, not for likes, and definitely not for suicide, but to pay respects to the dead and to draw attention to the ongoing struggle of suicide the world over. I may even bring a Yahrtzeit candle or some incense to burn, provided I can make sure it won’t cause a forest fire or injuries. Because what happens in this forest is a tragedy, and should be treated as such, no matter who you are or what your background is. Even as I enjoy the beauty of the forest and the tourist sites, I will remember these people, and hope they find rest, even as I hope others find the will to continue on and live.

And if you’re dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts, please know that things do get better. There were times when I thought my life couldn’t get better, but it did, and now, my life is great. And if you keep living, there’s always a chance your life could get better too. Every day is an opportunity for improvement. All it takes is the will to continue on. I support you, I’m there for you, and I hope you take this message to heart.

And again, if I said something wrong or caused offense, I beg your forgiveness. It is not my intention to cause any hurt feelings. I only want to make sense of something horrible and help those in troubled times. Thank you for reading.

If you’re dealing with suicidal thoughts, please also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. The counselors there will help you through this crisis, and help you find the light to fight off the darkness.

Boston, Mass.

So in the past when I’ve had opportunities to travel to exciting locales, you guys have tended to enjoy my posts about those experiences. To this day, my posts detailing my trip to the Paris catacombs, to Munich, and to Wewelsburg Castle still get lots of reads, even though that last one was nearly two years ago. In that spirit, and because I’m just super excited (wouldn’t you be?), I’m happy to announce that next month, I’m heading out to Boston!

To be more precise, my dad and I are heading out to Boston for a couple days and nights, with one final night in Fall River about two hours south of Boston. We don’t get to see each other that much these days–we’re both busy adults and have a lot on our plates–so it’s an opportunity to spend some time together, see some cool sights, and remind each other why we don’t live together anymore (it’s always good to have a reminder of that).

Now, you’re probably asking, “When are you going to Boston, Rami?” Well, I can’t really tell you that, if only to keep people from trying to rob me while I’m gone. Last thing I want to do is give people an idea of when it’s a good time to make off with my couch and TV. I can tell you some of the things my dad and I plan to do, though: we’ll be visiting Salem, where the famous witch trials took place; we’ll probably take a duckboat tour, which is a tour on a WWII-era vehicle that goes on both land and sea; we’ll be visiting the Museum of Fine Arts, which will be having a very interesting exhibition involving the Holocaust while we’re in town; and we’ll be spending all three nights in reportedly haunted hotels (I bought a digital recorder just to see if I can pick up some ghost voices while I’m on my trip). Our last night, we’ll be spending the night at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast in Fall River, which is on one of my lists of haunted places I really want to visit.

Yeah, I’m going to be very busy and having a lot of fun while my dad and I are in Boston. And I plan on telling as many stories and posting as many photos as I can.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If you have recommendations for places to eat in Boston (especially places with kosher/vegetarian/fish dishes), please let me know so my dad and I won’t have to search so hard for a place to eat. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

A couple of years ago, I published a couple of lists about haunted locations I wanted to visit before I die and become a ghost myself (click here and here to read those lists). And yes, I am planning on becoming a ghost after I die. I’ll hang around a century or so as a wandering spirit, see some sights, and then ascend to heaven. And if you don’t read at least one of my books and leave a review before I die, I WILL HAUNT YOU!!!

So anyway, it’s been about two years since that last list, and I figured now would be a good time to come out with a new list. Especially since I’ll be visiting a few haunted locations this summer (more on that in a later post). So without further a-BOO! here’s even more haunted places that I plan to visit before I also become a ghost.

BEWARE!!! Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

1. Old Licking County Jail

Location: Licking County, Ohio

I swear to God, as soon as I get a car, I’m going to visit the ones that are located in my home state. It is so hard to get to these places when you know basically no one who’s willing to go with you and drive you!

Old Licking County Jail is a prison in Licking County, Ohio. Like the Ohio State Reformatory, more than a few inmates died here, some under violent circumstances. There were also corrupt guards, beatings, and everything else you can think of when it comes to jails in an era more prone to punishment than correction. It’s been shut down for a number of years, but since then, there have been claims of full-body apparitions, voices from nowhere, and even spirits following paranormal investigators home.

I’m not going to say throw me in and throw away the key, but do throw me in for a night.

2. Double Eagle Restaurant

Location: Mesilla, New Mexico

I’m hungry. How about you? At the Double Eagle Restaurant, you not only get dinner, you get dinner and a ghost or two! The building the restaurant is housed in used to be the family home of a wealthy Latino family. The family’s eldest son reportedly fell in love with a servant girl, which ticked off his social-climbing mother. One day she returned home early from visiting friends, and caught the two lovers in bed. In a rage, she murdered the girl, and accidentally wounded her son, leading to his death three days later. The mother later was committed and died in an insane asylum. Years later, the house has become a restaurant, but apparently it’s also become a home for various kinds of spirits. Poltergeist activity has been recorded, and there have been voices and even full-body apparitions too.

Not only that, but the room those two lovers were killed in has since become a private dining room with two chairs kept in there for the lovers. It’s said that anyone who sits in those chairs will have horrific nightmares.

Um…waiter? Ghosts please!

3. Goatman’s Bridge

Location: Denton, Texas

According to local legend, back in the 1930’s a black goat farmer named Oscar Washburn moved across the Old Alton Bridge, where he ran a successful goat farm, and became known to the locals as the Goatman. He apparently took that in stride, putting up a sign on the bridge that said, “This way to the Goatman’s.” And because white racists get upset very easily, in 1938 they hung him from the bridge, only to find that the noose was empty when they looked over the side. These men, dressed up as Klansmen, later went and murdered Washburn’s wife and kids.

Since then, there have been reports of a demonic, satyr-like figure stalking the bridge and the surrounding woods. Glowing eyes have been seen, people have been attacked, and women have reportedly suffered attachments that have tormented them all the way home. There have also been reports of Satanic activity in the area, leading to a negative charge about the bridge.

This sounds like one billy goatman I’d love to meet trip-trapping on a bridge!

4. Zak Bagan’s Haunted Museum

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

You guys know I’m a big Ghost Adventures fan and the team’s lead investigator, Zak Bagans. Well, apparently he’s bought a 30-room mansion in his home city of Las Vegas, and he’s been converting it, room by room, into a museum for paranormal objects he’s collected over the years. There’s a room devoted to haunted dolls and puppets, a room devoted to the Kevorkian van and the hospital room where Dr. Kevorkian did assisted suicides, to skulls, and to all sorts of weird and interesting things. I even hear the famed Dybbuk Box, whose previous owner I know and which inspired a short story of mine and The Possession, is in the museum.

All this is sure to create a rather interesting mix of paranormal energy, which would make for a very interesting visit. Don’t you agree?

5. Dorothea Puente Murder House

Location: Sacramento, California

Dorothea Puente was a serial killer who used her job as a caretaker for the elderly to kill off her charges, dispose of the bodies, and collect on their rent checks. Several of her victims were later dug up in the yard of her building. She was sentenced to life in jail, still insisting on her innocence, and died in 2011. Since then, her home/boarding home has become something of a tourist spot, part private home, part attraction with weird stuff in the front yard. There are also reports of paranormal activity in the house, and thus a few paranormal investigators have been allowed inside the house.

How about a novelist with weird interests?

6. Winchester Mystery House

Location: San Jose, California

Weirdly enough, this show hasn’t been featured in any episode of Supernatural. Too bad. I think Sam and Dean would have a blast in a house that shares their last name.

The Winchester House was built starting in 1884 and going on around the clock for thirty-eight years. Its owner, Sarah Winchester, was the widow of William Hart Winchester, owner of the Winchester Rifle Company, maker of the famous guns. After her husband’s death, Mrs. Winchester became convinced that the ghosts of those her husband’s guns had killed were haunting the Winchester family, and had even been the cause of her husband and infant daughter’s deaths. A medium later confirmed this, and told her move out West and continually add onto a house so that the spirits would get lost and never find her. This she did, buying property in California and having a mansion built there until her death in 1922, after which work ceased immediately.

The house is well-known for its massive size and oddities, including staircases that lead to nowhere, and doors that open to the outside…on the second floor. Windows at odd locations, glass doors on the bathrooms, and even rooms that have yet to be discovered (they actually found a new room in 2016). It’s also become a paranormal hot spot, with plenty of documented activity taking place there (some think the activity might even be slightly demonic).

Sam and Dean, I’ll meet you there! Bring the Impala and your hunting gear. I’m bringing the humor and the beers (oh, if you’re a Supernatural fan, that line’s hilarious).

7. The Clown Motel

Location: Tonopah, Nevada

The name says it all. It’s a clown-themed motel, with tons of pictures, dolls, and even a life-sized clown mannequin! Worst place to read or watch Stephen King’s It ever! And if that’s not all, it’s right next to a graveyard! Yeah, talk about creepy! And a great source for the supernatural activity that has been reported at the motel.

Yeah, I’ll take whatever you have available.

8. Moonville Tunnel

Location: Moonville, Ohio

Moonville was a small mining town in Southeastern Ohio during the late 19th century. It was small as heck, it was never prosperous, and it was dead by the 1950’s. The only thing keeping it from falling into obscurity is the train tunnel built into the side of the mountain. Supposedly, a train engineer was hit by a train (or possibly two, the record’s not exact) one night, and since then, glowing lights and white mists have been spotted in the tunnel. There have even been rumors of further deaths.

ROAD TRIP!

9. Haunted London

Location: London, England

I know. I’ve already been to London. I’ve even visited the Tower of London, which has a few ghosts in it. But I WANT TO SEE MORE! I never saw as much of London as I wanted to, and that includes haunted locations. There are haunted hotels, Highgate Cemetery, and so many more! There are even supposedly haunted Underground stations.

Cool guv’nor! Let’s go!

10. Akasaka Mansion

Location: Tokyo, Japan

Now known as Akasaka Weekly Mansion, it’s a hotel with more than one building, and it’s Building #1 that has been known for the paranormal activity. There have been reports of figures standing at the end of the beds, noises being heard at night, guests being touched (sometimes sexually), and a woman being dragged from her bed. Even creepier, there’s supposedly a woman who crawls from room to room on her hands and knees. That’s something right out of a J-Horror film!

I’ll go, but I’m not watching any Ring or Grudge movies right before I do.

What haunted locations have you been to recently?

Have you been to any of these? What were your experiencces?