Posts Tagged ‘Zak Bagans’

Well, I’m back from my vacation. I enjoyed making memories in St. Louis, the city I was born in but did not remember; I learned I am not a Las Vegas person, but that the Mob Museum is really cool, as is Zak Bagans’s Haunted Museum (more on that later); and I absolutely fell in love with New Orleans, especially the French Quarter.

Now that I’m back, though, I’ve got work to do. And I don’t just mean my day job (though that will be taking up a good chunk of my time). I’m ready to get back to writing and finding homes for my stories. Here’s what’s on the docket:

The Pure World Comes and Hannah

I’m hard at work on getting a paperback, ebook and even an audio book of The Pure World Comes out next year. The goal date is the first Tuesday of September, September 6. Why that date? It’ll be a little over a year since The Pure World Comes was released on the Readict app, and right as the Halloween season gets into full swing. And a lot of books, including successful ones, release on Tuesdays, so might as well.

Anyway, I’ve gone through the manuscript for TPWC again and cleaned up some of the errors I missed for the Readict version (don’t tell VitaleTek). I’ve looked into some platforms that will get a paperback and ebook onto sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and one that does audio books as well. And I’m talking with some audio book narrators. With any luck, I’ll definitely have the paperback and ebook out on September 6 and the audio book out not too long after, if not on the day of.

As for Hannah, the new collection of short stories that was accepted for publication while I was traveling, I cannot wait to send copies to people I know named Hannah and make them think the titular story is based on them (believe me, it’s not). Also, I was just emailing with the publisher, BSC Publishing Group, today. We’ll soon be starting work on the stories, just as soon as an editor is settled on. Once that’s done, I imagine we’ll go through each story, editing until it’s as close to perfect as possible. Then we’ll discuss a final order for the collection, and then let it out into the world.

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted on this. The hope is to get Hannah out at some point in 2022, so I imagine things will be hectic moving forward. Still, if people enjoy the book when it comes out, than it’ll be worth it.

And that brings me to my next point…

Crawler

I know I was going to start work on this novel right after I got back from my vacation. And you know, I still want to. However, Hannah is going to take up A LOT of time. In fact, it might take up as much time as a novel might. With all that in mind, it would be a bad idea to work on a new book while editing another. I would keep bouncing back between one and the other, and I would get super-annoyed by how little progress I’m making on Crawler because I have to keep putting it down and work on Hannah.

So, for now, Crawler will have to wait.

Yeah, I know. I was excited for it as well. I even made some edits to the outline the other day and thought it would be a kick to work on. But that’s too much of a balancing act when I’m still working a day job.

Still, I want to work on new stories. I don’t want to just be editing, especially in-between the stories that need working on. Luckily, I have a million ideas for short stories, including about ten that I came up with during my vacation. Not only that, but I’ve had some success lately writing and finding homes for shorter works, and they’re easier to put down if something comes up.

So, when not working on stories in Hannah, I’ll be working on new short stories and novelettes, and hopefully finding homes for them after they’re edited. Not sure which one I’ll work on first, but I’m currently leaning towards one that incorporates elements of Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe (and no, it’s not a pandemic story. I did that already this year). It should be fun to work on.

And eventually, I will get to writing Crawler. It’s just a matter of the right time.

Other Projects

Of course, I also have stories to edit for other publications. “The Hanukkah Massacre,” co-written by Richard Gerlach, will be published in Dead of Winter early next year, and we’ll have to edits for that. Not only that, but I have another project I’ve been working on that I may actually be able to talk about very soon.

So yeah, as it turns out, I’m going to keep being busy this year. Probably into the beginning of next year. Still, it’s better than not having anything to work on. And hopefully all this leads to more people reading my work and letting their friends know to read my work.

One last thing before I sign off, though:

Zak Bagans’s Haunted Museum

If you didn’t already know, Zak Bagans from the TV show Ghost Adventures has a museum in Vegas filled to the brim with haunted artifacts he’s collected over the years from ghost hunting, as well as items donated to the museum. This includes haunted dolls, actual skulls and skeletons, shrunken heads, serial killer murderabilia, and more stuff than I can name! I was there on October 30th, Devil’s Night, for a tour, and then a few hours later I went back for some late-night ghost hunting, what they call a flashlight tour.

And I experienced stuff on both tours.

Highlights include:

  • In the room with Ed Gein’s cauldron and shovel (inspiration for Norman Bates and Psycho, if you don’t know. Look him up), I smelled the smell of cooking meat. Apparently I’m not the only one who smells that in that room, either. Considering he made clothes out of body parts, God only knows what he did with that cauldron!
  • There’s a room with a guitar that might be possessed. It was found on the body of a teenager who died while playing the guitar. I felt so uncomfortable in that room. Nothing really happened in there, and it didn’t have mood music like the basement did (Satanic rituals supposedly took place down there), but it freaked me out anyway. I did not like that room.
  • The Dybbuk Box (inspiration for my story “Samson Weiss’s Curse” and the movie The Possession) had a few things happen. Using a device called a spirit box (it scans through radio frequencies quickly and any voices that come through over multiple sweeps might be a ghost or other spirit), I heard a voice come through saying “dybbuk” multiple times. And at one point, when I asked if anyone was in the room with me, I heard a woman’s voice whisper, “Yes.”
  • In another room containing the remains of a demonically possessed house Zak owned in Indiana before having it torn down, I got some voices through the spirit box. At one point, I asked if anyone wanted to talk to me, a voice responded immediately: “No.”
    Yeah, I thought that was cheeky, too. But that’s not all. Another device called a MEL-meter went off at one point in that room (it measures electromagnetic changes in the air around it) and later, a woman’s voice hissed through the spirit box, “Raaaah!” And I knew it was trying to say my name!
  • Finally, in one room containing a painting taken from Adolf Hitler’s vacation home, Bergdorf, I got voices coming through the spirit box. Apparently, there’s an evil energy attached to the painting and it affects anyone who touches it. I asked if anything evil was attached to it, and a voice came through saying, “Evil.” I then asked if it might be Hitler’s spirit, and I got a “Yes.”
    Not sure if that was actually Hitler’s spirit, as the painting wasn’t near Hitler when he committed suicide. It may have just been an evil energy/spirit messing with me (or nothing at all, if I’m being skeptical). But it made me smile to know that this Jew was standing in front of a painting belonging to Hitler and maybe his ghost and letting him know how bad he failed. I almost went “Neener, neener, neener” to the painting, but provoking the spirits wasn’t allowed.

Oh, and guess who was there? Right before we went into the house to explore for ghosts, we watched a safety information video. Then we split up into two groups. And as my group went around the corner to the building’s back entrance, guess who passed us by and wished us luck? Zak Bagans! I turned to the girl in front of me and whispered, “That was him!” She replied, “I know!”

And yes, he’s as tall as he looks on TV. In fact, I think he’s about a head taller than me. I just find that an interesting detail.


Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I have work in the morning, so I’m going to get to bed. I look forward to letting you know what’s going to happen next (whatever that is). Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

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!!!

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!