Posts Tagged ‘ghosts’

Midnight in St Augustine

Midnight in St Augustine

It is nearing midnight in St Augustine. From above, the all-seeing eye of the lighthouse streaks its gaze through the sky as the scimitar blade of a moon waits further overhead. On the beach of the inter-coastal waterway, the midges and mosquitoes jockey for position as they ascend the fleshy flanks of those gathered here to summon forth spirits long dead. Blood is let, communion is made with the insectual horde. Our sixth sensed seer, descendant of Salem refugees, shifts her gaze towards the still water and describes the spirits of conquistadors slipping out of the ether and into our plane of existence, marching upon our position. Q, seeing that which we cannot, speaks to us, “They are here. The soldiers. They are starting to gather.” The only army I observe advancing is that of fiddler crabs.

St Augustine is the oldest city standing in North America. Some five hundred years ago, as the story books tell us, Spaniards spied this coast on the feast day of Saint Austin of Hippo and therefore named the territory San Agustin. Thank the gods there are so many bloody feast days or who knows what sort of naming convention Catholic explorers would have used.

There is a prevailing alternative thought… instead of the feast day, could the name have derived from one of the innumerable military orders created out of the chaos of the crusades and kept plump by the riches of the Renaissance? Knights of the Sacred Order of St Austin the Blessed originated out of a Phoenician backwater lagoon of Il, lost to the records, and were thought to have traveled extensively before being swallowed by one of the larger military orders like the Hospitallers of St John. It is very possible there were warrior-monks of the Sacred Order of St Austin aboard the Spanish galleys off the coast of la Florida; knights who would have held considerable influence over the expedition, if they didn’t outright finance the conquest. In their clutches may have existed esoteric tomes eventually passed down to the immortal Frenchman of lore, the Count of St Germain, as evidenced by his nonsensical poetic drivel left behind in Havana. It was the trail of St Germain which brought me, at present, to St Augustine.

The Count of Saint Germain

The Count of Saint Germain

My apologies, dear reader… I write as if you have been staring into my navel as long as I had this morning. Allow me to elaborate… St Germain was a charlatan, a scoundrel and a rogue who I’ve been studying for the better part of a decade. Eventually, I shall share my discoveries in Cuba and Indochina, but for now, allow me to recount the events occurring on the inter-coastal beaches of St Augustine, beneath the lighthouse where I sought an audience of 16th Century spirits with the assistance of a motley crew of post-modern necromancers.

Omphaloskepsis

– contemplation of one’s navel as a part of a mystical exercise

I arrived in St Augustine by way of detour in Central Florida through the spiritualist camp of Cassadaga, a town founded and inhabited by spiritualists which would be the catalyst to inspire this trip to St Augustine. In the town hall/gift shop, I was wandering the aisles full of New Age self-help wonkery and buckets of crystals, when I was approached by the purveyor – a thin, spindly lady with white hair pouring down her back to reach mid-thigh. Through her empathetic powers, she had intuited my need for assistance.

“I’m looking for works on esoterism, with gnostic roots, preferably involving Latins in the Levant and the mysteries of Solomon’s Temple. And perhaps a Mother’s Day card, something with butterflies.”

The purveyor provided me with a copy of Sally Winterbane’s self-published “Dreams of Harmony”. With hesitation, I paid the $15.95, hoping Sally’s signature inside the front cover (she lived a couple blocks away) might make this classic a collectible during my lifetime. I then crossed the street to feast at the restaurant within the Cassadaga Hotel. The epiphany to travel to St Augustine would occur hours later, but it would be in these next few moments that the idea would be seeded and tilled in the air-conditioned chill.

The budding revelation that would send me along to St Augustine was equal parts:

  1. Sea-sickness attributed to skimming through the “Dreams of Harmony” Table of Contents (with such chapter title dandies as “The Oculus of Your Mind’s Eye”, “Celestial Intercourse”, “Omphaloskepsis”, “Cutting Loose Chakra Sandbags” and “Reverse Celestial Intercourse”)
  2. The arrival of my waitress, whom we shall refer to as Emma to protect her true identity.
Cassadaga Hotel

Cassadaga Hotel

Emma was a creature meant to be celebrated by minstrels for her fairness. What ill-thought destiny had fated her to wait on tables in this backwoods spook town, I’ll never comprehend. As she came near, my chest constricted and I was overcome with the mounting desires to have her sit and allow me to wash her feet as I contemplated her navel. Of these desires, she must have been acutely aware. Our endless glances were wrought with repressed sensuality and hyper-extended mustaches. Breaking the grave silence between us, Emma asked if I had a chance to look over the menu.

“How is the veal?”

“I’ve heard it is good.” She said.

“But you’re not a ‘veal person’?”

“I’m not a ‘veal person’.” She said.

“Then I will have the chicken.”

Emma glowed with warmth as she reacted to my choice. I could have gone with the veal, but for her I would opt for fowl. As I handed the menu over to Emma, the circuit was connected and electricity swept through us. Her chest heaved, pulse quickened and she gazed back at me, perhaps dwelling on how this strange shit town had finally produced a traveling gentlemen of exquisite sophistication that understood her fully, thoroughly and potentially entirely.

In her sudden absence as she sought chicken, I mused on how I might rescue Emma from these confines. No, we can agree she likely wouldn’t be happy off-the-grid with me in St Bas Trailer Park, but I could put her up in an apartment in North Orlando on the fringe of civilization. I could dig enough Bitcoin out of my backyard to finance a new life for her as long as she didn’t mind the flux of pseudonyms we both would assume, the secrecy, the paranoia, the night sweats and protalgia fugax. Optimism, though, was no match for the erosion of the rising tide of pragmatic realization; my spirits sank with the ebb of each wave of recollection evidencing the impending doom. Emma wouldn’t be the first young woman I attempted to assimilate into my life of intrigue and this knowledge filled the sandbags that tied down my chakras. I’d be rescuing her from one prison only to deliver her to accompany me in my own. If I really loved her, I should set her free. Sigh.

Emma returned with my lunch. I didn’t have to bite into the meal to recognize the meat as veal. Did she sense my inner-most desires our of her own spiritual intuition? Or was she just a shitty waitress?

My lemonade tasted a lot like iced tea too. Despite these…“discrepancies” I left Emma 30% gratuity, putting her a few cents closer to realizing her escape from this strange town of Cassadaga. All was not lost, however! Contemplating the contemplation of her navel was a glimpse into the infinite and in the hours of slumber that followed, I realized my next venture would be to summon the dead in search of breadcrumbs that would lead me to the mysterious Count of St Germain!

Blessed are you, dear reader, who has managed to stick with this story as far. I was a feral child raised by a pod of porpoises, you see, and lack the primate’s cultivation of linear discussion points. Instead, my dialogue is composed of sonar pings ricocheting off every pique of interest within spitting distance of my blowhole. But I digress…

Using the funds I had set aside for Emma’s new life, I hired a group of trained psychics to commune with the dead (including Q, who I introduced to you in my hunt for diabolists in Volusia County). When North Florida schematics are involved, I typically employ my wingman, Jim Tuscan, but the old sport was knackered after a Saturday of playing “Soccer Mom”. Instead, I grabbed Jim’s wife, Gracie Mae (a “sensitive” herself, though she represses the instinct) and Jim’s brother, John-Boy. So composed my motley crew of necromancers.

St Aug LH 2The three of us (Gracie Mae, John-Boy and I) shared a poppy-seed bagel in preparation for our ghost-hunt. According to Karl von Kartshausen, effective fumigations for causing apparitions include hemlock, henbane, saffron, aloe (tequila?), opium, mandrake, salorum, poppy seed, asafetida and parsley. Poppy-seeded bagel seemed the easiest to procure in the middle of the night, not that it did us any good; the only visual evidence of the spirit realm was their channeling energy into flicking our flashlights on or off.

In previous ghost adventures, where flashlight phenomenon was explained as spirited communication, I accused Q of using a remote trigger to control the torched illumination. It was an allegation she still finds offensive though she understands my compulsion for doubt. “You are overly analytical.” Q told me in St Augustine. “I don’t know you, but I know this. Your guides tell me you are a ‘control freak’.”

Me? Vic Neverman? Paranoid extraordinaire, a control freak? This irked me. It is bad enough the NSA is hording my online data while their spy blimps use infrared to watch me in the shower, now my spirit guides are handing over information to psychics without my permission. Who are these mysterious big brother spirit guides hovering over my shoulder, if not the NSA? Ancestors, angels, aliens, some combination of all three? Q doesn’t clarify; my guides are whoever is needed at any given time.

Yeah, I know what you are thinking… if only Vic’s spirit guides included one decent editor out of the lot. Whatever, funny guy. Shove it up your blowhole.

Communion with the dead is a lot like fishing. I tend to lose more in bait than I gain in catch. No Frenchmen appeared on this evening, though one investigator did speak with a Spanish Commandante from the 17th Century with a fondness for native women and displeasure for “English Bastards”. John-Boy did well for his first outing chasing the dead: he shared a few laughs with the recently departed “Barry” who passed away while inebriated on his bicycle. Barry never knew what hit him (an Augustinian trolley it seems), but he did find a confidant with much in common in John-Boy.

Another fruitless search for Vic Neverman? Hardly. I have made the acquaintance of Sally Wintersbane and we’re planning a collaborative sequel to her book, “Dreams of a Reckoning: the Next Doomsday”. Sally smells of musky olive oil and her only hydration comes in the form of Diet Pepsi, but she knows a thing or two about celestial intercourse, from what I hear.

So continues my plight in search of Voltaire’s cynically-monikered, “Wonderman”, the Count of Saint Germain. I can’t be certain every soul has been overturned in Cassadaga and St Augustine through my ghost-hunts, but I have exhausted my resources. I’ve made Saint Germain connections from Siam to Old Habana and yet am no closer to understanding the charlatan. If it were a riddle so easily untied, it would be a forgotten footnote in history rather than the unsolved enigma it currently is. Perhaps it is better that way.

I like there to be someone in the historia who tells the spectators what is going on, and either beckons them with his high hand to look, or with ferocious expression and forbidding glance challenges them not to come near, as if he wished their business to be secret

– Leone Battista Alberta

You may wish to avert your eye…

Truth is relative, especially with the well-trained selective memories we all have. It is not too late: forget this now and wander away, friend, you need not travel further down this path. These are but the raving rambles of a madman (your narrator), or so you should tell yourself and your tightly-wound worldview with the velvet rope and the Bouncer of Denial at the door. You should assume the Latin maxim of ignoramus et ignorabimus, or whatever the hell that means. Tear off this page and feed it to the dog, the shredder or whichever garbage bin your workstation might possess. You’ll feel much better once you do.

Should you be too curious… should you be swayed by the twinge of guilt at your compliance in cowardice… should you still be reading, congratulations on your foolhardiness.

When last we spoke, I had stumbled upon a half-century of a cover-up to hide the public from the Diabolism at play in the backwoods of Central Florida. Of course, by “stumbled” I mean “haphazardly conjectured” there might have been some negligence by the press in bringing attention to the questionable activities of occult groups within a relevant proximity. Through my obsessive interrogative efforts (evidenced in the last blog post), I’ve become aware of Satanic and/or Witchcraftery and/or General Mayhem occurring in the tropical jungles of Volusia County.

Dealing with Volusia is no easy matter. Fortunately, I have a cousin, Rufus Holdsworth, who knows all things Florida Space Coast and the marshlands between Daytona and Orlando. Rufus turned me over to one of his Rosicrucian brethren (you could tell by the rosy crosses tattooed on either forearm) Jack was a retired railroader with an ambiguous northeastern accent and an affinity for riding motorcycles. Jack, aware of my interest in the dark goings-on in Volusia County, introduced me to the Orlando Order of Paranormal Specialists and this is where the story gains traction.

OOPS! (as the logo on their team shirts acronymitizes) is an organization of ghost-hunting investigators and spiritually-intuitive mediums who visit haunted sites in an effort to learn from the past and assist lost souls stuck in some “other-side” rut where they’re unable to “reach the light”. OOPS was aware of the Volusia Satanic activities and knew of the sacred ground where this all was taking place. Deep in the woods, near a spring sacred to the Native American tribes who formerly occupied the region, is the site of a children’s tuberculosis hospital which burned down sometime in the earlier half of the last century. The place is a vortex of paranormal energy, a veritable slops-trough of phantasmagoric delight! No wonder, then, the Satanic hooligans use the premises to practice their black magic fuckery.

As the fates would have it, OOPS was sending in a crack team to the area to consult the souls of the lost children and help guide them to some otherworldly light. With Jack’s referral, an invitation was granted to your narrating investigator. I was to come along and scour the terrain for signs of diabolism (thanks to the education I picked up studying Rust Cohle on True Detective).

half-cocked flashlights and energy meters galore!

half-cocked flashlights and energy meters galore!

The group wandering into the Florida scrub on this night included 6 or 7 OOPS investigators & mediums and umpteen volunteers (fee- paying volunteers, which included Jack & I) who were along to provide some cheery good spiritual intention. While the OOPSers had all sorts of audio and visual equipment and the volunteers had smart phone ghost-sensor apps, it was the simple application of screw-on penlights that proved the greatest medium of communication with the beyond. I was new to this practice… Surely, you, dear reader, are familiar with the breed of torch which becomes illuminated when you twist its head? To conduct the experiment, you need several of these devices twisted ever-so-subtly into a light-flickering limbo. Leave the flashlight a bit half-cocked so a simple nudge can turn it either completely on or off. This will allow “visitors” an easy means to answer yes or no questions with no more than minor power surge or meager power suck.

Yes, ridiculous, I realize…  Yet hmm.

Of all of this – I was, of course, skeptical. I am a scientist for fuck’s sake and I believe a scientist for fuck’s sake must adhere to agnosticism in regards to those things that cannot be quantified into any reasonable understanding. Skeptical though curious, was I.

Without any further ramblings, let the pseudo-science commence!

Scene: the Florida Pine Scrub at night, thick foliage with brief clearings offering glimpses of the heavens; otherwise, twisted weeds and wicked ticks conspiring towards your demise. The grand inquisitor was a well-trimmed Gandalf sans pointy-hat. The detectives looked like Police Academy instructors, the ones the K-9s were always chomping.  The four psychic mediums ranged from cat lady to gypsy fortune teller and they all seemed to eye me with a knowing grin (the prophecies are true, the bearded savage arrives!). The “volunteers” were composed of a paranoid conspiracy blogger, his elderly biker-dude sidekick and then a host of more-or-less common folk, a few of which worthy of a second look.

Back to the hunt!

exploring the ruins of some bygone-era manse

exploring the ruins of some bygone-era manse

After a steady march into the wilderness and away from any semblance of civilization, the OOPS squad stopped at a clearing to setup shop for a “session”. The dark night sky opened up overhead, revealing Orion’s Belt and other celestial niceties as the twenty-odd member cluster situated for said session. As I am prone to do, I wandered the fringe of the group using my torch to explore the ruins of some bygone-era manse in the thick of the jungle. Whoops! There she stood, rather startlingly, one of the OOPS ghost-talkers waiting before me in what was formerly darkness before my torch lit it up. She, we’ll call her Q, informed me there was a presence “here”, mainly “there”, or within our “whereabouts”. In spite of the entirety of the group without, she and I should perform our own private session within these bushes. Ever eager, I was game for Q’s suggestion.

Q and I assumed the position. She, a relatively young Arabic maybe-ish seer with yellow eyes, stood to my left as I, some pre-middle-aged Gypsy-mutt, stood to my, well, where I stood. As the muffled echo of the larger group could be heard through the wooded thickness at our backs, Q and I summoned the lone spirit who was eager to communicate. With our half-cocked flashlight on the ground at my feet, I asked the questions and the spirit responded his affirmations by surging the light all the way on before allowing the illumination to fade in preparation for the next question. It went something like this…

Vic: I don’t suppose anyone is out there, but if there is (flashlight quickly became illumined, before fading out)

Early and often these flash-lit responses startled me. As you would expect, I was more suspicious of the yellow-eyed Levantine to my left than I was to believe there was a ghost making contact.

Vic: Wow. Well, okay… Were you a native of these lands? (light stayed off)

Q, smirking as the translator between Alive & Dead: He doesn’t know what that means. Everyone he knew was likely a native to these lands.

Vic, returning to face the seemingly empty jungle: Were you alive in the 1900s… Were you alive in the 1800s? (light was off) Were you alive in the 1700s? (light was off) Are you still listening? (the flashlight sitting in the dirt at my feet suddenly came on, causing me to leap back before the light then faded off)

Q: Why are you doubting? You will upset him. Continue…

Where the ghost of the Timicua Indian resided. Is that a spider web or ectoplasm?

Where the ghost of the Timicua Indian resided. Is that a spider web or ectoplasm?

Vic: Were you alive in the 1600s? (light came on, as our Elizabethan ghost gave the affirmation) Were you a Seminole Indian? (light was off) Were you a Timicua Indian? (light came right on, faded out)

Vic: Timicua? Okay, well, when you were alive, did you see any pale faces? (light stayed off)

Q: He doesn’t know what that means.

Vic: Did you encounter any of the Spanish men in armor? Or perhaps the Huguenots? (light remained off) Okay, so no interactions with the white man. What about panthers? Did you ever see a Florida panther? (light was off)

Q: Explain what a panther is.

Vic, non-plussed: uh, well, um, have you ever seen a really big cat? (light suddenly blasted brightly before turning back off) How does he know what a cat is if he doesn’t know panther? (it was a question for Q, but she stone-walled it with a knowing-smile, forcing me to turn back to my Timicuan) Did you die from sickness? (light stayed off) Were you killed by animal? Killed by another man? Killed by a woman? (light remained off throughout)

Q, as if reading the Cliff’s Notes, clarified: All of these, but none. He was older, he lived a long life. He fell off his horse and may have broken his neck.

Vic: But if there were no Europeans, there were no horses.

Q, smirking and shaking her head: Not everything in your ‘histories’ is accurate.

Vic: Well… okay. (I resigned myself to put aside equestrian migration to the New World for now… Later, it seems Q might have been right: horses originated in North America and were reintroduced during the Spanish Conquest)

Q started laughing at something our Timicua spirit guide asked her and after some prodding Q informed me that our Indian wanted to know if, since Q&I arrived together, we were married. I provided an awkward courtesy-laugh “oh yes, how very funny” before I continued my interrogation.

After more sudden illuminations of the flashlight in reaction to my questions, I attempted to carefully inquired Q if she had some sort of remote device to turn the torch on at her will. She showed her empty paws and displayed the offense she took at my disbelief. I was half-joking with my accusation of her hoodwinking me, not that she had anything to gain with any deception; yes half-joking while my other half, or at least half of a half of that half, almost thought there did seem to be an eerie dialogue taking place between myself and some unseen entity using the flashlight as a medium.

Vic: Is there anything you would like for us to learn from you? (flashlight was off) Is there anything you would like to know from us? (flashlight flipped on)

Q (shaking her head and laughing): Oh no

Vic: What? What does Timi want to know?

Q: I know what he wants to know, but I am not repeating it.

Vic: I don’t scare easy and I have thick skin. What does he want to know?

Q gave me a soured expression and said flatly: He doesn’t want to know anything about you.

Oh. Ohhhh. If not P then Q was the logic she was inferring. Timi had already asked if she was my wife and having learned this to not be the case was asking her for something Q was too much of a lady to repeat. Our spirit guide proved to be something of a pervert. Given the transgressive digressions of Timi, our native 400+ years dead, we decided to head back to the main group.

Q scoffed me as a doubter, but as pushing comes to shoving, Occam’s Razor suggested it was less to assume she had a remote control trigger than to accept I was communicating with the dead. The last twenty minutes were too much to chalk up to coincidental electrical circuitry power surges. I didn’t necessarily buy everything Q had said, much of it said teasingly, but that damned flashlight – when it came on, it did so with fucking gusto right after the right question was asked and after each affirmation it obediently faded off.

Q and I rejoined the group and we headed deeper into the wood. Over the night, I had gotten to know a few of my volunteering comrades. Of course there was Jack, the Rosicrucian bike mechanic. Old wounds made it difficult for him to traverse the hills and gullies of the terrain; I made sure to keep an eye on him and help him along as need be. Of the many lady folk, there was one young woman who was a graduate of Loyola who I waxed nostalgically with on our overlapping memories of Chicago. We also compared notes on the haunted tours we had both taken on the South Side of Chicago and in Savannah. It was yet another young woman in our group who had found the remnants of an altar near the site of the fateful children’s hospital.

Scene of the Crime: melted candle, a jar, some owl bones and other diabolical bits

Scene of the Crime: melted candle, a jar, some owl bones and other diabolical bits

Here it was, the site where a tuberculosis clinic had been, had burned down and its memory vanquished by the relentless jungle. Other than the remnants of a diabolical séance and the crowded spiritual plane our mediums intuited, there was nothing here but pine scrub and palm trees. Of the black mass altar, the woman who inspected it claimed it was just as likely Hoodoo as it were Satanic in nature. The jar and burnt candle wax in the dirt sat quite benignly and rather pathetic. Yet evidence. Of something.

Having reached the sacred site, OOPS setup their flashlights and energy monitors to capture the presence of not-so-departed spirits. As the grand inquisitor began this new session, shit started to gradually hit the fan in the form of a steady boil-up of panic. Several of the OOPS detectives (the less-intuitive of the pros) began spotting movement in the woods around us. “Someone with a large hoop… maybe a hoolahoop” one of the guardsmen explained. “They are over there, they are coming around back!” I followed the point of his paranoid beam as it desperately searched the thick tree-line. “Satanists in the woods!” went the cry around our troop. Was it teenage punks trying to scare us or diabolists defending their altar?

Something's waiting behind that tree...

Something’s waiting behind that tree…

Now consider for a moment… you are a dark mile from the parking lot of some park, you’ve traveled off trail, down and up various ditches, deeper into the heart of the Congo that was Volusia County and here… Here you find yourself and 20 panicked ghost-busters in the dark in the middle of the forest. OOPS and its volunteers are not Appalachia survivalists; these are city-folk who’ve strayed too far and whatever comfort they previously had within the woods was gone. Fortunately, they had a steady-nerved conspiracy theorist with a swift torch and history of fighting darkness. Sciamachy is the word for my talent of chasing shadows. Sciamachy is what was currently playing out amongst the guardians.

There was one path in to our location, one path out – the slightest dirt road had become a demilitarized zone with our hypersensitive guards croaking their warnings to the thick and menacing ether. To our backs was jungle, relentless and prickly. “There!”, “There!” or “There!” went up the cry as our OOPS guardians let out their alarm as their torches beget shadows of shadows.

Stillness was the night. A kicked-in anthill was OOPS.

Vic's left hand is taking pictures of his right hand

Vic’s left hand is taking pictures of his right hand taking pictures

The guards had spotted men with antlers running perpendicular to the lead-in road, trying to outflank us. Hearing such news, I was the lone nut to race towards our outermost edge where I found my pal Jack resting on an overturned tree. He was catching his breath and I had to warn him about the possible danger over his shoulder. Fucking Satanists were everywhere, surrounding us, apparently…

“Nah!” Old Man Jack negated. “I haven’t seen anything. Ain’t heard nothing and I have great hearing.”

I trained my light on our weak flank, stomped my feet and made a menacing howler monkey roar (something I picked up last summer watching kids mimic animals in the Amazon). If these were punks trying to spook us more than we already were, let them second guess what they had in store. Hint: this guy. All I could hear or see, though, were the paranoid rantings and frantic search lights of the OOPS guards along the main road.

NOTE: my howler monkey roar is done while inhaling, versus an exhalation of air, and it works like gangbusters when confronting rogue r’coons or opossum.

“Is there something out there?” A shadow materialized out of the slight darkness. Its voice was subtle, sincere, melodic. I played my light at her toes, allowing the illumination to crawl up her blue jeans and green hoodie to find the shivering Loyola confessing to me, “I am not a very outdoorsy person.”

“Well…” My voice sunk into the Mariana Trench (which is deep) as my lungs inflated to full capacity, “Fortunately, I happen to be an outdoorsy person.”

The girl in the green-hooded sweatshirt stepped closer to the glory that was this Tarzaniac defender of justice, close enough for me to smell the hint of perfume over her sweat of fear and pheromones of lust (either that or she had a garlicky dinner).

“You need not worry, woman!” I said in my best Conan the Cimmerian voice. “If squirrel scamper in the woods, I hear it. I hear nothing now. If there were Satanists, they’ve backed down.” The lady in the green hooded sweatshirt seemed at ease with my words and/or proximity. I critiqued our OOPS guardians, “I think these guys may watch too much True Detective and got spooked.”

“I love that show!” Loyola admitted, already forgetting her prior terror.

I shrugged, “Yeah, I have seen it from time to time.”

The brief scare would be the last we would hear from the Satanists. Perhaps someone was on our trail, either concerned with our stumbling upon their black altar or intending to spook us something nasty. Perhaps they were flanking us and our clamor gave them second doubts. Or mayhaps the antlers skipping between the trees belonged to a living deer instead of serving as the crown of a stark mad king of the night. Regardless, we each made it out of the wilderness after an evening of meta-adventure.

There lurk strange spirits in the woods of Volusia County and if some diabolicals want to venture out there into the dark – they can have it! Just know… they now have the attention of Vic Neverman.

I don’t need to tell men of your positions, but there is a war happening… behind things.

– Reverend Tuttle speaking of “investigating crimes with an Anti-Christian connotation” in Episode 1 of True Detective

The Reverend Billy Lee Tuttle

The Reverend Billy Lee Tuttle

If you, dear reader, are like your narrator, you’ve lost count of how many times you’ve seen each episode of True Detective. You’ve researched books of 19th Century horror, you’ve cut your beer cans into anthropomorphic figurines and you’re likely just now emerging from a recent descent into the mildewy basement of the local library where you studied microfiche of yesteryear’s newsprint in search of “meta-psychotic” crimes. Why? Because “time is a flat circle”. Because obsession.

Oh sure, a search for Hoodoo Voodoo Helter-Skelter weeeeird shit on the internet will produce plenty of fodder to keep you up nights – the internet is a veritable weird shit cornucopia, yet most of it is without merit. You, in your obsession, are after legitimate articles, not the diseased regurgitate of the online super-conscious. If there is anything of value on the internet, it is but a straw of hay lost within a needle stack.

Thus shun the internet.

Thus rely on the 4th Estate’s microfiche catalog of the past.

Entire minutes spent sorting through microfiche explains why your eyes are dry & itchy & twitchy like sunburned bull bollocks on a Saharan Sunday. Nearly a minute and a half of scanning newsprint later, the dread sense of futility is setting in… until Lo! you find something. No, wait… it describes “Mrs. Brownstone” in 1957 Orlando as a “purveyor of satin”, not Satan. Obviously, the newspapers of the last century were in on the cover-up. There is nothing here to be found on the Occult.

Who is the King in Yellow? Vic at the Bayou, carving beer can figurines

Who is the King in Yellow? Vic at the Bayou, carving beer can figurines

The Occult is many things in many shades of gray. The Occult is your father-in-law’s Moose Lodge, your cousin’s Dungeons&Dragons club, the Goth Chick you hooked-up with in high school who then made a proxy doll of you she set afire during prom (she who “friended” you on Facebook in 2011 and is a guidance counselor in Atlanta). The Occult also includes diabolical practitioners in the Dark Arts. In my travels, I have learned there are two levels of Diabolist: the Learned and the Bonobos. The Learned Diabolists are studious, carefully orthodox and wickedly devious, adhering to lessons of hierophantic masters like Aleister Crowley or Anton LaVey (pick your poison). The Bonobos, meanwhile, are named after the breed of monkey that masturbates 18 times a day (“ignorance is bliss” they say). Bonobos are the Lower Diabolist and compose 95% of Satan-worshippers in your neighborhood. The Bonobos can be disillusioned thugs with shit for imagination, yet adept at copy-catting Learned-shit they find online. For each Learned Crowley-adherent, there are a thousand glue-sniffing Bonobos stealing the neighbor’s black cat to recreate what they saw on YouTube. Bonobo monkey see, Bonobo monkey do… This copy-cat nature is why the Press doesn’t publish diabolical activities as such news begets new crimes. The Fourth Estate, with questionable – if not honorable – integrity, will leave out the vile details of Satanic-stylized activities in effort to not inspire similar crimes.

Therefore: to Hell with all this damn microfiche (after 15 minutes). It’s giving me a bloody headache.

Fortunately, for the sake of this blog post (which would be quite inadequate if it climaxed with the bit about the microfiche headache), I happen to live in the illustrious community of gossiping bog-people of Bayou St Basil Trailer Park. Word on the street (or limestone gravel & cigarette-butted path, as it were), is there has been some hooligans practicing Witchcraft in the hills of Volusia County, somewhere twenty-odd miles northeast of here (note: emphasis on the ‘odd’).

I-4 Sign“Them is dark lands.” Lady Cora spoke from the comforts of her lounge chair. Her seat was meant for the indoors and the amount of time it had spent in the outdoors was evident in its stench. I didn’t imagine her sense of smell was much bothered – the olfactory suffers erosion from the elements too, you see. The pickle jar in her hand wouldn’t help. It was pickle juice, alright. Pickle juice and bottom shelf gin, the kind they polish hubcaps with. “Never get dehydration. Have a sip…” Lady Cora will suggest, holding out a neighborly outstretched hand of her gin & pickle juice jar. She would offer it to you, likely, but not me. These bog-people of Bayou St Bas Trailer Park don’t like the likes of me. They think me nuts. I am surprised Lady Cora had even acknowledged my inquiries. “Them’s dark lands. My sister, she’s o’r in Deland (duh-Lann the Southern slow-drawl suits in Tallahassee call it, Dee-lan-deh is what the locals say). They ain’t got no stray cats if you’re following. Satanists, they’re conjuring gawd-a’mighty what. Foul bis-ness, I say and I stay away. I ain’t ha’f a mind to drive I-4 beyon’ Sanford. That’s deadzone, you know? Best swim ‘cross Lake Mon-woah.”

Indeed.

Path of Hurricane Donna: from Mosquito Key to Daytona

Path of Hurricane Donna: from Mosquito Key to Daytona

The “I-4 Deadzone” is a Central Florida urban mythical legend. The “civil” engineers paved over a family cemetery near Lake Monroe when they laid asphalt over a half-century ago to create the interstate. According to popular belief, just as they did so, Hurricane Donna performed a 90 degree turn and wreaked havoc on everything between Mosquito Key on the Gulf Coast to Daytona on the Atlantic. You want to know why Meteorologists have it so hard: not only do they have to account for China’s weather manipulation machines they also have to factor poltergeist vendettas into their prognostications. Thus sympathy for the weatherman.

Thelma Louise Pitt is a local fireship of an age younger than you’d ever imagine given the weathered and wizened expression on her freckled face. TLP is not her God-graced name, of course, she chose “Thelma Louise Pitt” from her favorite movie after running out of her home in Catawampus, Georgia. These days, she’ll fold your clothes for a buck at the trailer park laundry mat and she’ll eye you something fierce in case you want to lay a couple extra buck to get your britches bent extra stiff.

“Yeah, I know all about it.” Thelma Louise insisted casually as she masterfully crafted my boxers into an origami pterodactyl. “There’s a coven of witches and they go out there because there used to be some hospital that burnt down. It’s a sacred site and they talk to ghosts and stuff. You won’t find nothing in the papers, Chamber of Commerces don’t like that sort of news. Bad for the tourists.”

I left Thelma Louise a five-spot and grabbed the rest of my garb to head home. En route, I spotted a pack of feral children setting fire to dolls. I accosted them for the purple plastic smoke.

“Fuck Neva-neva!” They cried their resistance to me. Shadow people, their pupils were black as midnight and as wide as their eyes. “Man don’t stay, away Neva-neva!”

“Hey, it’s nothing personal.” I said and stomped out their fire with my flip-flopped feet. I saw one of the swamp kids carrying a femur. “What the hell is that?”

“Neva-neva see none-thing.” A girl with black eyes shook her head and spit, the spittle falling benignly to the gravel between us.  She hissed, leaning forward like a cobra licking the air between us, “It bone fissssh.”

Another kid spoke his pidgin-English, “Man t-bone, Neva-neva.” He was a pale chap with golden hair and black-as-soot fingernails. He seemed to be the leader of the lot, thanks in-no-small-part to his Tanned, Rested, Ready: Nixon 2012 t-shirt.  Nixon pointed out at the Bayou, “Man’tee swim sick, sick. Man’tee die ah-hay sick, sick.”

“Yeah, well, there aren’t manatees in these waters. ‘Never-never’ thinks that is a femur bone. If you runts weren’t homeschooled by raccoons, you’d know what a femur was.” I glared at the pack of ferals, my brow so furrowed it could crush open a pistachio.

“Feh-mah live here none, sick Neva-neva.” Another girl with barracuda sharp teeth insisted, her large black pupils catching the reflection of the sun like a starburst. She sneezed twice and with snot dripping from either nostril named me subtly, slowly, “Neva-neva.”

“Fine.” I gave-up. “I don’t want to know where you kids found a thigh bone. No more fire-fire, yah?”

“Fuck Neva-neva fuck!” The other girl spat again.

I’ve been called worse by shorter.

“These people…” Rufus Holdsworth said as he sat atop his paddle-board, admiring the coast of the trailer park community. “They don’t like you man. They hear you screaming at your computer late at night and they see you chopping away at the jungle with your machete. They think you’re unstable.”

“Best they fear me.” I insisted. “The feral kids think my house is haunted, which keeps them out.”

Interstate 4 and Lake Monroe to the east

Interstate 4 and Lake Monroe to the east

Rufus smiled and cracked open a beer from where he sat, its spray dousing his thigh and the lily pad beyond. His hazel eyes haphazardly loomed my way as he chugged his first sip, before belching, “First one today.” His tanned face was well-creased and his eyebrows were strangely lighter than his sunburnt skin. “You asked about Lake Monroe?”

“You spend much time there? Or beyond, along the deadzone?”

“Not if I can help it.” Rufus admitted before cracking open a can of beer and taking a quick sip. He sighed with relief, “First one today.”

“In Volusia County, there is supposed to be some old Tuberculosis Hospital that burned down. A lot of kids died, either before the fire from TB or during. I can’t find much of a history.”

“Nah.” Rufus Holdsworth turned his head perpendicular to his board as if he was intent on the squawking of a faraway sandhill crane. “It was there… There is a lot spooky shit East of here, North of here. If you think ‘It’s A Small World After-All’ is the creepiest Orlando attraction, you haven’t spent time in Volusia County.”

“Should someone want to find where the latest Satanic masses have been held in the forests of Volusia County, where would said someone start?” I asked.

Rufus’ hazel eyes caught a glimpse of me and quickly turned away. He groaned with hesitation before cracking open a beer and whetting his palate. He swallowed and sucked his teeth clean, “First one today.”

“Dude? I am not looking for Carcosa, just some half-assed black mass.”

“Yeah.” Rufus Holdsworth gave in. “I can find you some people. People who know. People who know where to go.”

And with that, the True Investigation was set to begin.

There’s a feeling I get when I look to the West
And my spirit is crying for leaving

– Led Zeppelin, Stairway To Heaven

I used to watch Old Man Neverman gaze endlessly at the horizon, countless cigarettes disintegrating betwixt his digits as he looked, hauntingly, to the West… before he, himself, shuffled-off. Always wondered what he sought within those faraway stares. He was raised in the same stingray-infested tidal pools reflecting the sunset off the sea as I was to be. I too would become transfixed with the West and in return, it has been the western coasts where the strangest paranormal shit has always transpired for yours truly. My most chilling ghost stories – chilling not for their malevolence, but, rather, the sheer proximity of weirdness to the host body of this narration – occurred during trips of mine to Western Ireland and Southern California. It was later, during my years in Oregon when my curiosity for investigating the “after-this” culminated into a salivating fury of belligerent pursuit for unobtainable knowledge of what waits beyond, ever so patiently, the threshold of Death’s door (where all are welcome). Which is where we arrive, presently, to the retelling of my spooky nights in the Rose City, Portland.

Ginger Hustle, master of using leverage in his persuasive arguments

Ginger Hustle, master of using leverage in his persuasive arguments

I wore two pairs of socks during those Portland days: the inner pair to keep the vital heat within, the outer pair to keep the dank cold without.  Nevertheless, nevermore, the chilling dampness of the Oregon atmosphere had seeped into my skin, cooling my bones and mildewing my mind. I can see now (with hindsight thawed by current tropical confines) I was a bit of an odd duck back then, clad in ninja pajamas with a hooded sweatshirt hiding my features as I scaled and descended countless stairs: from the basement study to the first floor gastronomic laboratory and upward still to the second floor where I would flush the byproduct of whichever caffeinated alchemy was coursing through my nervous system. I spent most of my woken hours in hermetic transit upon the ancient stairs of that East Portland monastery that was my home. My roommate, Ginger-Hustle, had long since surrendered all attempts to acclimate me to Northwestern society and had settled for observing me in my transits from behind his cynical, horn-rimmed spectacles as he hypothesized which century my mind resided in. Certainly, it was during those days my conscious thought was occupied with the earlier half of the last millennium. I was thigh-deep in historical tombs, wading towards my own understanding of the 4th Crusade (which I strove to become the contemporary authority of), absorbing the non-fiction literature and plotting out the trips I would eventually make to Constantinople, Zadar and Venice.

When I did break from my hermetic intellectual pursuits, I busied myself as a hobbyist ghost-hunter.

I joined NOPI on a whim and within half a year I had unintentionally wrested control of the organization out of the hands of the superstitious and into my skeptical mitts. NOPI stood for “North Oregon Paranormal Investigations”, though Ginger-Hustle insisted it was better described as “Nerds Other Portlanders Ignore.” It was hard to argue with his logic. In a city populated with a motley crew of elsewhere’s fringe, the nerd quotient was already high in Portland. NOPI out-dorked them all and I would be their prince of fools, duke of the daft, champion of the otherwise untouchables.

Lone Fir Cemetery - the Masonic Tombstone between the trees

Lone Fir Cemetery – the Masonic Tombstone between the trees

It was a career that began innocently enough. Me in my Floridian flip-flops, I would casually observe the goings-on while amongst the seasoned ghost-mongers with their hi-tech gizmos and psychic intuition as we gathered at pioneer cemeteries by what little light of day Oregonian skies allowed. What could not be anticipated was the impact my presence had on said goings-on. I was the resident skeptic, yet the weirdest shit always seemed to happen when I was around. At my favorite spot in my favorite cemetery, where four ancient douglas firs border a single masonic grave, my camera and cell phone shut-down like a burned-out toaster at Fukishima. At an overnight investigation of a former poorhouse/asylum, it was my dowsing rods that flung themselves cross-eyed from within the former children’s ward. I was developing a reputation as a spook magnet (aye, familiar tale). It wouldn’t be long before the self-described “psychics” all sought me out as their preferred investigative partner (we worked in twos, you see, one scientist per intuitive). I was, as one haunted historian termed it, a “lightening rod for psychic activity”. I wasn’t seeing dead people, mind you. I saw little with my nearsighted-empathy. The coincidence seemed to be my presence – I was the rabbit’s foot of weird fucking luck.

Swamp of Sadness - the danger of belief

Swamp of Sadness – the danger of belief

Seasoned as heavily as you would freezer-burnt leftovers, I became a veteran of the group and gained a certain confidence amongst these ghost-mongers. I was still the resident skeptic and was able to explain the strange anecdotes with an imaginative reasoning. Firstly, ghost stories can haunt the human psyche with or without evidence of anything paranormal. The imagination is like the Neverending Story’s “swamp of sadness”, as soon as you belief in something you are sunk up to your neck in shit. Secondly, I am a humanist. I believe we, as a species, are capable of some crazy-arsed shit. I believe in the possibility of telekinesis, especially in moments of profound stress. There is no “Poltergeist”, merely some really stressed out dude (or pubescent teen girl, more likely). The way I could go on being a skeptic while enduring the high strangeness around me was by explaining my own anxious mind was the catalyst for absurd occurrences. By shaving with Occam’s razor, I chose the more believable path at the paranormal fork in the road.

chilling Masonic grave with "orb" activity just before the camera shutdown

chilling Masonic grave with “orb” activity just before the camera shutdown

A skeptical & wizened ninja-pajama’d monk, I was still allured by the sense of something grander existing in the cosmos around me. On rarest occasion, I would find myself a lovely young accomplice to help test my thesis. She would have to have the moxie – the sheer nerve – to accompany me into one of the city’s ancient cemeteries at the witching hour after whichever bar I met her in closed (2am, 3am, 4…). She, my accomplice, and I would then have to sneak into the cemetery either by climbing a jagged-toothed fence or burrowing beneath a gate. I would then take her hand and lead her through the necropolis to my favorite spots, like the four firs around the masonic grave. My actions were, of course, foolish. Homeless vagrants, drug addicts and/or Illuminati occultists could all be sacrificing virgins or feral cats in the next alcove beyond our sight. I was aware of such presences and yet I felt somewhat invincible. It was an outlandish courage afflicted by a strange concoction of aged tequila, crafted draft beer and pure testosterone in my blood, true… But there was something more to my brazen stupor: faith in the environment. I was not a trespasser on such hallowed ground, I was a frequent visitor. My footfalls were well known. My skepticism was supplanted by a superstitious confidence I felt amongst the tombs of ancestors who would respond to my respect with some sort of otherworldly protection. It was of course nonsense, all of it! Or so it seems now, far east in these warm tropical climes, as I think back to then. To be there, to be then, with whichever skirt had the nerve to accompany me at such a diabolical predawn hour, I felt a halo of protection. As luck, or otherworldly matters, would have it, ne’er did a threat emerge from the shadows. I mean, other than my drunken unrequited love for the accompanying skirt at hand…

The White Eagle Saloon

The White Eagle Saloon

My reputation as renowned ghost-herd was solidified during an overnight investigation in the Northeastern Quadrant of Portland at a tavern called The White Eagle. The bar had notoriety beyond the ghostly oddities frequently described in paranormal texts, it had a true history. In the early 1900s, Portland was a port-town. Shanghai tunnels existed on either side of the Willamette River (which separated east & west Portland) where intoxicated menfolk would be abducted and loaded aboard a ship set abroad. This particular tavern was no different and was known within the Polish immigrant community as “the bucket of blood” for its trials and tribulations. I personally explored the basement where the Shanghai tunnels had been long-since blocked off. The ground floor was a bar and soundstage where bands would play nightly. The second story was the hotel with rooms furnished out of a latter day brothel. Between two such rooms existed a connecting closet that was known to modern psychics as “a gateway to Hell.” If you peruse Ghost literature of Portland, you will undoubtedly come across the legend of these closets where you can slide the fire-pole down to damnation. Countless mediums have claimed grandiose evil lies in these passageways. In short, it was the kind of place you (as a reasonable-minded individual) would choose to avoid. It was also the kind of place Vic Neverman and his crack squad of ghost-chasing troops would decide to camp out overnight.

PDX White EagleCutting to the chase, as it is the chase I aim to cut to, our hotel room had access to one of the diabolical access points to hell. It was decided to turn out the lights in the room, for 75% of our team to descend to the bar below to drink beer and listen to the live band while the leftover 25% remained in the closet of the dark room which was the aforementioned “gateway” with a heavy helping of audio equipment kept on the high shelf of the closet. As there were only four of us, I embodied the entire 25% that was to be left behind.

It should be know I was considered “old-school” amongst my elder ghost-herders. While they had state-of-the-art audio/video equipment, I was the young dude with the dowsing rods and an uncanny sense of deductive logic. Before they left the hotel room and went downstairs, my team saw that I was comfortably tucked away in the closet of doom with the audio player recording on the shelf above before shutting the door and turning off all illumination within the hotel room. Please recall what I mentioned earlier about high-stress situations and the “poltergeistic” affect. I was in a pit of darkness with an immediate door, outside of which was another pit of darkness with another door. Just two doors away from the hallway to the stairwell to the bar, sure, but that provided little comfort when my ass was plump-down on a portal to Hell.

Hallway upstairs in the White Eagle

Hallway upstairs in the White Eagle

Alone in the darkness, I bantered to no end in a stream-of-conscious confession to the audio equipment, which was to be played back later to see if there were any responses from “beyond”. I battered around drivel about my skepticism on the local spirits, about my criticism for the home-brewed beer (served downstairs), about whichever obscurity crossed my mind. As I sat, in a fetal-ish position, blabbering beer snobbery, the state-of-the-art audio equipment overhead decided ever-so-suddenly to leap off of the closet shelf and plummet ever-so-rapidly upon the crown of my head. When you are immobile in a closet and the heavens begin to fall upon you, as if some diabolical minion smacked the equipment off of the shelf, you might be prone to startle. If you could hear the audio (owned by other team members) of the event in the closet, you would hear a whole horde of cataclysmic crashing and then a long pause… before I remember how to brief and mention, “Holy shit, I need a beer.”

I broke out of that closet, bounded across the bed to the light-switch that had barely been turned on before I was out the door and down the stairs into the bar below.

I’ve had creepier occurrences around the globe (notably Ireland and California), but this was the only time I had been assaulted by fallen inanimate material. Of course, I can rationalize the event as occurring because either: 1) the band playing in the bar below had so much bass it steadily moved the audio equipment closer to a tipping point, or 2) my anxious psyche willed the audio equipment to go airborne via telekinetic fucked-upped-ness. Those two explanations make a lot more sense than what the psychics had to say: I had been attacked by a hand from Hades who did not approve of my existence within the gateway and/or my criticism of the house brew.

This December is the fifth anniversary of my night at the White Eagle and I am still uncertain what occurred there. Living, now, in the jungles of central Florida where everything is temporary (especially the limestone foundation beneath our feet), chasing the eternal does not grip me as it once did. There seems to be little time to ponder the beyond when obsessed with the imbalance of the present. I’ve started looking East now, where day begins rather than closes. Over my shoulder, though, there exists the macabre curiosity over what hell happened back in the Rose City.

One does not need to believe in ghosts in order to believe in ghost stories. Ghost stories exist as soon as they reach our imaginations, which is where they do their real haunting. I have been involved with paranormal investigations in Chicago, Oregon and California, but there is not a single ghost story as personal to me as the one that took place years ago in Kinsale, Ireland.

It was my first trip to Ireland, towards the end of what was once a promising career as a travel journalist. Those were days when my paranoia was kept tepid, residing just beneath the surface & bubbling up only semi-annually like my persistent case of jungle malaria. Those were the days when there was a mutual understanding between City Hall and I: they kept their hooves off the back of my neck and I did not stick my wrench into the Chicago Machine. Those were the days when I still had hope of a normal life, one in which I walked beneath the street lights and was not manhandled at airport security. Those were the days when I worked with a partner, Des Riley, who was my photographer.

“The Quiet Man”, Hollywood’s Version of Ireland

We had journeyed to Ireland on a quest to seek out the forgotten rubble of “The Quiet Man” cottage, a building left to waste in the Irish countryside after being a focal point in the setting of John Ford’s movie. While the film is a classic back home in the United States, it was largely laughed at by the locals who did not understand where the characters around John Wayne came up with their “Oirish” accents.

Along the way to Cong, where the movie was filmed, we stopped by the quaint harbor town of Kinsale in County Cork. We arrived at dusk (during the Irish summers, dusk begins shortly after noon and is complete just prior to midnight) and it was too late to visit the famed 17th century stronghold, Charles Fort. We were informed by a stranger (stranger than just unfamiliar), a local whose intentions where unclear, that we could visit James Fort on the opposite side of the harbor. This smaller fortress was not a tourist site like Charles Fort, but could still be found just a few miles from the B&B we were lodging at. James Fort was the elder of the two forts and it was built upon a medieval fortress Castle Ny-Parke, which was – according to our source – built upon an old Iron age druidic mound. It was what they call a “fairy fort”. Well, they would call it that if the superstitious that spoke of such things would ever use the f-word. But they do not. Instead, they call fairies, “the little people”, “the good people”, “the others”… So for the sake of the superstitious, we will just call it a fort for the “wee ones.”

James Fort, outside of Kinsale

Des Riley and I hiked our way through Kinsale in the closing hours of twilight, past sleepy inns and closed tourist shops, to James Fort. It certainly was not a tourist site and it more resembled a construction area (in the years since, it has been cleaned up). We climbed through the fencing that barred entry and found ourselves suddenly in a bygone era, exploring the maze of stone walls, through the overgrown weeds, past the discarded bottles of former vagrant dwellers. With just the slightest hint of natural light, we were giddily at play. There was a sense of something magical, something left over from “the others” that shook us with bouts of laughter as if we were entranced. The shadows faded into the surrounding night, which became cooler. The chill rose up our spines and we decided to leave the fort to the fairies and find a pub that offered a late dinner.

As any practical person would tell you, you should not share a bed with those you work with. Having done so, my photographer possessed a fair amount of leverage over me. Leverage she would use to try to keep us in Kinsale. I accused her of snorting fairy dust, this was not our story. She disagreed, this was our story. Des refused to leave Kinsale. While I understood her sudden passion for staying in this small town, our travel plans were inflexible. There was no room for a change, we had to move on the following morning.

We were staying in the attic of a bed & breakfast in Kinsale. While there was only one bed in the room and while we colleagues did sleep in this bed, it was hardly a bed shared. She slept with her back turned towards me and I knew better than to go anywhere near her. Exhausted, I shrugged off her silent treatment and fell into an abyssal slumber.

7 am was our wakeup time, but the next morning found my alarm clock without a voice. I must have forgotten to set it during the previous night’s turmoil. And yet, right at 7 am I was woken. My eyes blinked open to find the light of day coming in through the lone window. The clock read 7 am, exactly. My heavy eyelids slowly flickered close, my mind falling back into the pit of sleep. And I was woken again. Both times, there came no alarm, only the physical shaking of my shoulder. Upon the second awakening, I sat up. Who had shook my shoulder? I looked to my side where Des Riley, adamant about not leaving, continued to sleep. She had no reason to want me awake.

I have dreamt of snake bites only to wake and find the circulation to my hand was cutoff by the weight of a body. I have dreamt of many things, only to wake up and find… things. But I have never dreamt of being physically shaken. Something grasped my shoulder right at 7 am and shook me. When I drifted back asleep, I was shaken again. Was it the ghost of a lady of the house, one that looked after the travelers that slept beneath her roof, ensuring they kept to their schedule? Was it the “others”, who had sickened of our stay and wanted to make sure we were on our way?

I find it is often during these paranormal events the moment of truth is so blurry, so out of focus, you don’t really come to terms with what took place until later when your memory and imagination try to fill in the missing details. I do not recall the name of that B&B or I would certainly return. I only know that some hand stirred me on that morning and it sure as hell didn’t belong to anyone in the room… anyone living, that is.