Monday, May 15, 2017

A Haunting in Idaho 6: No Vacancy at the Hotel Rogers

As I went to do a little research on The Rogers Hotel in order to write up this blog post, I had no idea of the building’s already infamous reputation in the community for being haunted. And I certainly wasn’t aware of it when I got hired to work for a company that was using the haunted hotel as an office space at the time.

I did a little googling on the building to see what background information I could find on the place and was surprised—but not really—to see a few websites where the haunted building is mentioned. There has even been a paranormal investigation done in the place.

Some videos have been posted by the group that did the investigation on YouTube:

The Rogers was built in 1937 by Bronson Marshall “Brunt” Rogers, one of Idaho Falls’s first millionaires, for the cost of $300,000. Upon its completion, the hotel boasted 100 beautifully furnished rooms with attached baths that went for $2 and up. The hotel enjoyed celebrity guests over the years such as: Herbert Hoover, Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan, Bing Crosby, Gary Cooper, and Roy Rogers.

My own experience with The Rogers takes place in 2001 when I took a job as a graphic designer for a publishing company that had just moved into the building. The antique structure is comprised of three stories in which all the rooms have been converted into offices; my office was on the second floor, if my memory serves me correctly.

I was excited about this new job—I had my own office for cryin’ out loud, with a window and everything! And I loved the building, located in the historic section of Downtown, Idaho Falls on the corner of B Street and Park Ave. To this day, the old sign still remains on the side of the red-brick building. Painted in fading lead-based paint, it reads:

One of America’s better places … to eat and sleep.

As I said before, this building was not only new to me, but new to my coworkers too, as they had just recently moved in. Well, it didn’t take long before a coworker shared a ghost story with me, and my new workplace began to take on a whole new meaning.

Apparently, two guys stayed after hours one evening to put together a few modular desks. They were on the top floor—what turned out to be the hotspot of paranormal activity—with the parts and pieces of a new desk spread out in front of them on the floor. They were kneeling side by side, hunched over the instruction sheet, trying to make sense of the instructions—you know how those things go. Anyway, as they were kneeling there, they both suddenly felt a hand clap them each on the back of the neck. They both turned in surprise, having thought they were the only ones in the building at the time. They expected maybe to see a coworker, perhaps even the boss standing over them. But, there was nobody there!

In wide-eyed astonishment they looked at each other, and without a word, jumped to their feet and got the heck out of there, the skin on their necks still prickling with the sensation of a hand being laid there. They returned the next day and were forced to confess their story to their coworkers and explain why they had left a desk in a state of complete disassembly for everyone else to find in the morning.

A saleslady, who’s office was located on the third floor, told me of a time when she was working. It was midday and everyone on her floor had gone to lunch, leaving her alone as she worked to finish up a rush job that day. As she concentrated on the work in front of her, she caught a quick glimpse of a man walking by her door. She didn’t see much, except to note that he seemed to be wearing a pair of overalls and a checkered flannel shirt. She found it very odd, as this was definitely not company dress code.

She got up from her desk thinking that perhaps the boss had come in from a day off and was heading to his office, just a couple of doors down. Maybe he’d just come back from camping or something, she figured; he maybe just needed to grab something real quick. Although, it was strange that he just walked past her door without saying anything. She went to the door and called out his name. There was no response. She stepped out into the hallway. It was completely empty; all the doors were closed and there was no place the man in overalls could have gone! A chill spilled down her spine as a very uneasy feeling creeped through her body. She decided the rush job could wait and left until some other workers could return with her to the third floor.

There were other incidents: doors opening and closing by themselves, lights flickering, footsteps, a disembodied voice, etc. A few more employees thought they too had seen the man in the overalls and some had actually given the wandering specter a nickname. I can’t recall what the nickname was. Something like Bill, I think.

Things apparently got bad enough that someone reached out and contacted some people who had worked for the company that had previously occupied The Rogers. These contacts all enthusiastically corroborated our suspicions that the old hotel was haunted, saying that their employees had also experienced similar incidents while working in the building. I don’t know if there’s any proof to the rumor, but we were told that the man in the overalls was probably the ghost of the hotel’s maintenance man who had worked in the building for years, until he was discovered deceased in one of the rooms one day. Dare I speculate he was probably found in a room on the top floor?

Naturally, these stories and incidents served to incite my imagination quite a bit. I would make excuses to walk the halls of the old building, looking for perhaps a shadowy figure lurking in a corner, the ominous creak of a door slowly opening by itself, or even Bill’s ghost gliding down the hall.

One evening, I found myself working late on a project that had to be done by morning. After a while, I decided to get up and walk around a little to stretch my legs and give my eyes a break from staring too long at a computer screen. As I walked around, I soon realized that I had the entire building all to myself. All three floors. Gulp!

I took possession of my faculties and decided that if I was ever going to see a real ghost, this was probably my best chance. Don’t ask me why I actually wanted to see a ghost; seems like a foolish thing to wish for now. With all of the courage I could muster, I began to walk the hallways of The Rogers, one deserted floor at a time. “Come on, Bill,” I said, now and then, as I made my way closer to the top floor, “Come on out and show yourself, if you’re really here.”

I know … Dumb!

For whatever reason, Bill chose not to manifest his presence to me that night, and to be honest, as I left the building to go home, I think I was kind of grateful he hadn’t. I refer you to my previous post: Charles

I kind of have this theory that when we’re actually trying to see a ghost or communicate with them, collect evidence, etc, we’re less likely to see something then if we just go about our normal existence. I think that maybe when we are in the act of pursuing an experience with the paranormal, perhaps we aren’t in the right frame of mind, making an occurrence not as likely. Perhaps, when we’re just going about our normal routines and daily lives, we are more relaxed and therefore somehow a bit more susceptible to a glimpse at the other side. Which leads me to what I count as my own experience at The Rogers.

At some point, I kind of forgot about the supposed ghost or haunting of the building as I went about my daily life there. I even began to doubt the stories I had heard from others. Not that I thought people were making up the stories, but I started to assume that people had probably just allowed their imaginations to get the better of them. Saw and heard things that just weren’t really there. Personally, I had just spent too much time there—many times all by myself—and had not witnessed any kind of paranormal activity. Not even an unexplained cold spot.

One day, I approached my boss and told him that my office needed a second chair for clients to be able to use when they came to see me. He told me that I could probably find a decent office chair down in the basement, where they had stored a bunch of office supplies and furniture when the company had moved in. Basement? Up to this point, I had no idea there was a basement in the old place. If I’d been on my guard, maybe the thought of going into the basement of an old hotel, that was alleged to be haunted, would have at least raised some concern. But, I admit on this occasion, I thought nothing of it, as I took the stairs, making my way down there.

The basement, itself, wasn’t particularly creepy as I remember it now, some sixteen or so years later. It was a pretty open space with an uneven cement floor and, indeed, it had a great deal of office furniture that had been stored down there: desks, chairs, filing cabinets, old computers, old fax machines, etc. The lighting wasn’t too bad, I remember. About what you might expect in a space such as that.

I began to rummage through the selection, in search of a decent chair that would fit well in my small office space. Before long, I had selected a good candidate and separated it from the conglomeration of stuff. With my primary task complete, I took a moment to have a look around. Maybe there was something else in the pile that I could use for my office.

And that’s when I took notice of the dark, far corner of the basement.

It was an empty corner that held this aura of being farther away then the rest of the room—detached somehow from the rest of the basement. It seemed a little darker than everywhere else too, as if the already weak light emanating from the lightbulbs down there just couldn’t quite penetrate into that one corner. Feeling somewhat drawn, perhaps like a moth to the flame, I took a few steps in that direction. But only a few steps.

I pulled up short, the dim corner gaping in front of me like the giant maw of some lurking monster that just might snap shut and swallow me whole, if I were to go any nearer. The skin on my arms prickled and I’ll be danged if I didn’t suddenly feel a slight chill in the air as I stood there, unable to go further—unwilling to take even one more step closer to that darker little realm of shadows.

I thought I actually felt a presence down in that corner. An unseen phantom watching me from the darkness, warning me, maybe willing me away from its otherworldly abode. For a long moment, I stood there wrestling with myself, questioning my instincts, trying to rationalize away these odd feelings of foreboding that had suddenly come upon me. In the end I chose to heed that sixth sense that was trying to tell me that something about my surroundings just was not quite right. I left with my chair.

Before heading up to my office, however, I stopped by the office of a coworker named Chris. I felt comfortable enough with Chris to tell him about my experience—I knew he believed in the ghost stories that had been circulating. I was sort of going nuts inside, wondering if I had just imagined those feelings in the basement, so I asked him to make a little trip downstairs, and see if maybe he might experience something similar in the far corner. Chris agreed to humor me and headed down to the basement while I waited in his office.

It didn’t take long for Chris to return. He was smiling, but looked a bit shaken up. I asked him if he had also had the uneasy sensation of being watched from the corner. He said that he had definitely felt uneasy while he was down there … and yes, especially while standing near the far corner.

I don’t think I ever went back down in the basement of The Rogers hotel during my employment in that building. And never again did I walk the halls, during after hours, audaciously calling out the building’s ghosts to make themselves known. To this day, and even immediately after my experience in the basement, I question what really happened down there. Was it just my imagination, after all? Was my mind just playing tricks on me?

I suppose these are questions that most people who experience a ghost sighting or paranormal event probably ask themselves. And to be honest, I don’t have an answer as to the truth of what really happened. But, I do know this: at that moment, as I stood there feeling as if the very walls of the room were yawning after me, my blood suddenly turning to ice water, there was no doubt. No doubt at all.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

An Adventure in Budapest: To Dungeons Deep and Caverns Old

February twenty-sixth, 1993 is a cold day in Budapest, Hungary, but the sun shining brightly in a clear sky of cobalt-blue offers the promise of spring, as I jump off the bus with my mission companion, Matt. As young, nineteen-year-old missionaries for the Mormon church, it's our free day, the one day a week when we aren't expected to be out knocking on people's doors, or teaching gospel lessons to people who are investigating our church. We've just crossed over the Danube River to the Buda side of the magnificent city, in order to visit the old royal palace and the medieval fortress walls that once protected it. We've been here before, but having a fascination for castles and old structures, I make every excuse to come here. Fortunately, Matt is an easy going guy that doesn't seem to mind my little forays into what is known as the Castle District.

Budapest, known as the gateway to the east, just might be the most beautiful city in the world. Before being connected by a bridge, Budapest was actually two cities separated by the Danube River: Buda on the hilly north bank, and Pest on the flatter south. Even though Budapest is officially now considered one city, the Hungarian people refer to the two sides as if they were still separated.

On foot, we head past the famous Mathias Church toward the palace, which at the moment is a museum. This is a touristy part of the city and the cobble-stoned streets that lead to the palace are lined with quaint souvenir and pastry shops, little cafes, and bookstores, along with other similar shops and stores meant to attract foreigners. But, having lived in Hungary for almost a year now, and having learned to speak the language, Matt and I have no interest in such places, and we walk right on by.

It's not a long walk and pretty soon we arrive at the huge gate cut into the massive, thick outer wall of the palace grounds. The Hungarian coat of arms, emblazoned on the side of the wall, stands out as a reminder of the nationalistic pride of the Hungarian people, and I can't help but feel a small sense of reverence as we enter the grounds. One of the first things we see is a statue of an eagle high up on a pedestal, its wings outstretched, a sword clutched in his talons, his beak open as he screeches in silent rebellion against those who would attack. This particular statue bespeaks of Hungary's more ancient roots. To the time when the pagan, Magyar tribes arrived in the Carpathian Basin over a thousand years ago and conquered it for themselves.

I haven't come for any particular reason except to walk the battlements and take in the unbelievable view that is to be had from this vantage point. The entire city sprawls away to the south, the enormous dome of St. Stephen's Basilica rising up from the clusters of buildings on the flat Pest side, floating on the horizon like a black moon. The unmatched Hungarian Parliament building stares out at its own reflection in the Danube River as the water snakes by the opulent, Victorian structure.

As we walk along the top of the fortress wall, we pass beneath thick arches that once might have served as gatehouses that could be closed as a means of defense. We pass crenelations that line the top of the wall like a row of giant, stone teeth. In my mind's eye, I can envision the top of the wall lined with determined warriors, courageously defending the walls against a besieging army in some forgotten struggle of an age that has long past.

It's as we are passing through one of these arches, a door made of iron bars, coated with faded, red, and chipping paint, grabs my attention. The door is set into the side of the castle wall to our right. We've definitely walked by this inconspicuous door of iron bars before, but on this occasion I stop and take extra notice of it. Walking up to it I can see that beyond the door, is a narrow tunnel with a low, arched ceiling burrowing its way straight back into the wall. I can only see a few feet of the tunnel before it's swallowed up by darkness. "Wow," I say, my imagination beginning to spin up, "I wonder where that goes."

For some reason, I grab onto one of the bars and give the door a small tug. The door swings open as the old, rusted bolt that holds it shut breaks loose!

In disbelief, I look back at Matt, the silent question hanging between us: are we going in there? I note the look of resignation on Matt's face. This isn't the first time we have worked together as missionaries and he probably knows me well enough by now to realize the answer to that question is, a big YES.

One advantage to sightseeing in Budapest on a cold February day, is we mostly have the area to ourselves. So, nobody is around as we both slip into the tunnel and quietly close the little door behind us. The tunnel is only wide enough that we can go single file. I feel like I'm at the start of one of my childhood Dungeons and Dragons adventures as I lead the way, the darkness quickly enveloping us. The only thing missing is a guttering torch in one hand and a gleaming sword in the other.

Only after about ten or fifteen yards, it has grown so dark, that I'm just about ready to turn back, when the tunnel comes to an abrupt end. We are now standing in front of a spiral staircase made of stone that winds its way upward. Another staircase next to it vanishes downward into pitch-black darkness. We choose to go up--at least there seems to be more light coming from up there.

The stairs are just as narrow as the tunnel that brought us to them, and we are forced to stay in single file. Still in front, I lead the way up the sharply-twisting stone steps. The staircase doesn't climb far before we find ourselves on a small landing, any more forward progress blocked by another door of iron bars, just like the one at the front of the tunnel below. Except the locked bolt isn't rusted and broken on this door and we are forced to retreat back down the way we came.

Undeterred and thirsting for adventure now, we make an attempt at taking the downward staircase, but only make it a few steps before the absolute darkness forces us to retreat back up and into the tunnel. There is just no way to continue without some sort of light source to illuminate our way. I quickly make the determination that the only worthy way to continue this adventure is by candlelight. Torches would be better, but don't seem like a viable option at this time. Matt, being the laid back guy that he is, decides to go along with my eccentricity, and we set off immediately in search of a store where we might be able to purchase candles and matches.

It doesn't take as long as I thought it might, and we have soon returned to the broken door in the castle wall, candles and matches in hand. After ensuring that nobody is around, we quickly slip into the mysterious tunnel and quietly close the broken door behind us. We walk to the back of the tunnel, the stone staircase stretching before us in the gloomy shadows. We light our candles. It's time to head down. Let the adventure begin.

With the score to Indiana Jones thrumming softly in my head, I descend down the winding stairs. I have the presence of mind to count the steps as we follow them down like a giant corkscrew. I hit twenty or so and begin to grow slightly apprehensive. How far down do these stairs go? How far do I dare to keep going? What would Indy do?

Indy would keep going, and so do we. Finally, after taking more than thirty steps, the staircase ends abruptly and spills us into a tunnel. It's narrow, lined with ancient-looking bricks, and with a low, arching ceiling. By the dim light of our candles we can only see a few yards ahead. I take one apprehensive step into the tunnel's yawning mouth, Matt nervously encouraging me from behind. As we follow this passage, I'm nearly overcome with a mixture of fear and exhilaration. I was born for this stuff, I think to myself.

Suddenly, the tunnel floor drops away into a straight flight of stone steps going down even further. We cautiously descend these stairs, and I begin to become extremely aware of the encompassing darkness, and the closeness of the walls as they press in from all sides.

At the bottom of the stairs, the floor's grade takes a steep angle downward, and the walls grow much narrower. It also begins to twist and turn more severely. We almost have to turn our bodies sideways to fit through. I'm not normally claustrophobic, but at this point I'm starting to get less comfortable in this enclosed space than I care to be. As we press downward into the gloom, I half-expect to hear Tolkien's pitiful creature, Gollum, scrabbling around somewhere nearby, in search of his lost Precious.

At last, this narrow, winding tunnel comes to an end and we find ourselves in a much, much larger tunnel--several feet across--with a tall ceiling, at least twice my height. Maybe more. You could probably drive a truck down here. More stairs lay at our feet, beckoning us down, deeper still. Here, we no longer need our candles. Small rectangular apertures are spaced along the top of the ceiling through which the natural light of day filters through, illuminating our surroundings. At first, I'm baffled by this. I was sure we were at least a hundred feet underground by now. Then it all makes sense as it dawns on me that we have only been following the downward slope of the hill as it runs down to the north bank of the Danube.

Having come this far, we naturally continue our exploration, and begin descending these other stairs. We pass a bit of graffiti spray painted on one of the walls. So, we aren't the only ones who have been down here recently, it appears. The graffiti is a giant, crude depiction of a devil with horns. It's a bit of an ominous sight to come across down here in a derelict tunnel beneath an old castle. My mind immediately conjures up the image of mysterious, hooded figures that perhaps gather down here on certain nights, engaged in unholy, forbidden rites and dark ceremonies.

I do my best to push these unsettling thoughts from my mind and continue to take the stairs, one at a time, until at last we have reached the very bottom. I turn and look back up the way we came. It's been far enough that I can no longer make out the top of the stairs through the gloom. Before us, the tunnel continues on a little further until a pile of rubble marks the end. But, a door made of iron bars--identical to the one that we used to get down here--sits slightly ajar on the left wall. Perhaps our journey is not over, just yet.

Stepping through this door, we come upon another stone staircase, spiraling upwards. With candles still flickering, we head up. It becomes immediately evident that this staircase isn't nearly as tall as the one that originally brought us down here. After only ascending a few steps, I can see a wooden door several feet above me. I hear voices coming from behind the door; it sounds like two or three men speaking casually in Hungarian. I can't make out the nature of the conversation.

I nearly jump right out of my skin when a dog suddenly, begins viciously barking and snarling on the other side of the door! I turn to Matt, and mouth the words, Let's get out of here! Behind me I hear the dog hit the door, its toenails scratching frantically at the wooden surface while we run back down the stairs as quickly and quietly as we can.

I have no idea who those men with the angry dog are, and have no intention of finding out. Matt and I hurriedly trace our steps back up the way we came, and in short order we find ourselves exiting the secret tunnel beneath the Buda castle, closing the iron door behind us. We've definitely had enough adventure for one day and agree to head home, but determine to return in a week to have another look around.

I spend the rest of the afternoon recording the day's events in my journal. I even render a crude map of the tunnel and fold it between the pages. Over the next couple of months, before I'm transferred to the small town of Kecskemét in central Hungary, we make several more excursions into the tunnels. Word spreads through the mission of our unique find and other missionaries request to be shown the way. I become a sort of quasi tour guide, taking other missionaries into the tunnel. My only rules: No flashlights, candles only. And we don't go up the stairs where the dog was.

It's been 23 years since I left Hungary and I've never been back. I have plans to return someday--hopefully sooner rather later. When I do, I definitely plan on making a visit to the castle, and walking along its walls once more. And perhaps that little door of iron bars is still there. And perhaps I'll test it again, as I did so many years ago.

Will it be locked this time? Or will I find myself staring once more into the yawning mouth of that mysterious tunnel, the thrill of adventure and exploration beckoning me forth? I'll have to be sure and bring a candle or two along, just in case.

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Haunting in Minnesota Part II: If I Die Before I wake

Welcome to the exciting conclusion to my two part story: A Haunting in Minnesota. Before you continue, make sure you have read Part One.

I'll just go ahead now, and dive right into it.

Some period of time passed after my Uncle Dale's experience that night in the attic bedroom. I'm told it wasn't long, maybe just a week or so, but at some point my dad, Ken, found himself alone one night--his mom was working late--getting ready for bed.

He was on the cusp of leaving home to attend college out west in Idaho, and had recently purchased a brand new turntable--a record player, for some of you younger readers--to take with him to school. This particular turntable had the fancy capability of automatically playing a whole stack of records, without requiring a person to manually switch them. This was not unlike today's modern CD changer, which is becoming a thing of the past itself. But I digress. Probably feeling a little extra sensitive to the emptiness of the house, especially in light of Dale's recent experience up there, Ken decided he would fall asleep to music that night. He placed a few records on the turntable, set the needle, got into bed, and pulled the single bed sheet over himself that he slept in during the warmer summer months.

After several minutes in bed, his music playing softly in the darkness, Ken was slipping away into subconsciousness when suddenly, his music stopped playing. He heard the needle lift up off the record and return to its off position, as if it had reached the end of the record. Except, the needle had only made it through two or three songs.

The turntable was brand new and had been working flawlessly until now, so he assumed that perhaps there was a problem with the record. Maybe a big scratch? He got out of bed and pulled the string on the single, naked, light bulb that served as the room's lamp. He inspected the record for any problems. Finding none, he put it back on the player, set the needle back to playing music, shut off the light, and got back into bed. But, a few minutes later, at almost the same spot in the music, the record player repeated its previous malfunction.

This time he was positive that there must be a problem with the album itself, so he got out of bed and removed that particular record; even though he couldn't see any problem with it. He placed a new record on the turntable, set it to spinning, and went back to bed, sure in the knowledge that he would soon be fast asleep.

But again, his attempt at sleep was thwarted when the needle, once more, lifted itself off the vinyl disk and returned to the off position. At this point, Ken was angry. Obviously, his newly-purchased record player was broken. Frustrated with thoughts of having to return the machine to the store, he got up and shut the player off. He would just have to sleep in silence.

He lay on his side, waiting for sleep to make its much welcomed return. Sure enough, he once again grew drowsy and began to drift. When all of a sudden, he felt the sensation of his single bed sheet slowly sliding down his body. It only slid a few inches and at first he thought that something weird was wrong with his sheet. Maybe he had just draped it over himself wrong? Not really thinking much about it, he grabbed the top of the sheet and pulled it back up around his shoulder.

He instantly realized, at this point, that something was very wrong when the bed sheet was suddenly tugged out of his hand, and then proceeded to slowly slide down his body--this time gliding almost all the way down to his waist. His older brother's prior experience, from a week or so before, came to his mind now, and he lay there too terrified to move.

When Dale had related the tale of his nightly visitor earlier, the idea of a ghost or the experience being of a paranormal nature never entered anyone's mind. The going theory was that a burglar had assumed the house was empty and had broken into the home while Dale was upstairs in bed. The burglar prowled around a bit and when he had come upstairs and seen Dale in bed, he got spooked and left.

Now, as Ken lay there with his sheet halfway down his body, his mind conjured up another horrifying possibility: someone was secretly living in the house, cleverly staying out of sight, maybe hiding in the cubby hole and only coming out at night! And now that individual was standing in the shadows, somewhere near the foot of his bed, toying with him. He made the quick decision that if this was indeed the case, then it would be better for him not to let on that he was awake. There would be no telling what the deranged individual might do.

He lay there for a long time, pretending to be asleep, but straining all of his senses, probing out into the darkness. But, he couldn't see or hear a sound. Was there really ever anything there at all? Maybe he was alone, after all. Maybe not.

He formulated a plan. On the count of three, he would roll over and moan, as if moving in his sleep, pretend to subconsciously grab his sheet and pull it back up to his chin. Then, see what happened. In my dad's words, "I must've counted to three at least hundred times." I can imagine the heart-pounding fear that would prevent him from carrying out his plan. But, finally he mustered the courage and went for it.

He was now on his back, holding the sheet to his chin in both hands, feigning sleep. And sure enough, to his shock and horror, the sheet began to tug in his grasp. At first, it was a gentle little pull that stopped for a second as Ken chose to hold on to the sheet this time. It tugged again, with a little more force. He maintained his hold. Again, even more forcefully. Realizing that he wouldn't be able to continue his farce of being asleep while engaging in a game of tug-o-war, he relinquished his hold on the sheet.

Although it was a warm summer evening, chills pricked across his skin as the sheet, once again, slid down his body--even farther this time. Out of options, he simply lay there, continuing his gambit, hoping that whoever or whatever was up there with him would eventually grow bored and leave. As impossible as it might sound, after a certain period of time, Ken actually did fall asleep. When he awoke the next morning, there was the bed sheet lying at the foot of the bed. He never slept up in that room again. He spent the rest of the summer sleeping on the couch until he went away to college in the fall.

He had only been away at school in Idaho for maybe a month or two, when he received a phone call from his mom, back in Minnesota. She called to inform him that she had sold the house and moved into an apartment. He was shocked to hear this and asked her why in the world she would sell the house. She told him that after he had moved out, she started hearing footsteps in the attic at night. Sometimes she'd be sitting downstairs watching TV in the living room and hear, quite audibly, someone go stomping from one end of the attic to the other. At other times, she'd be in bed and hear the disturbances.

One night the footsteps got so scary and loud that she got out of bed, threw on a robe, and ran across the street to the neighbors. The neighbor came over with a flashlight and searched the house. Of course nothing was ever found.

I certainly can't blame my grandma for selling the place. I don't think I'd do very well either in that circumstance. Incidentally, my Grandma Margaret is one who I give a lot of credit to for my own fascination and love of the paranormal and the mysterious. I have many fond childhood memories of sitting up late at night sharing ghost stories and tales of UFOs with her. When a particular story would strike her just right, her hand would fly to her lips and her blue eyes would dart nervously around the room. "You don't suppose ... " she'd often say.

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Some images obtained through Google Images and are not my own.

 If you have a personal story of the paranormal that you would like me to share on my blog please contact me at I'd love to hear your story. You can remain anonymous if you wish.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

A Haunting in Minnesota Part I: Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

This particular true ghost story has haunted me most of my life--ever since my dad related it to me years ago, when I was a young boy. Honestly, I've been hanging on to this one, holding back a bit in a desire to do the story justice. This one is a legend in my family and happened to my dad and his older brother, Dale. I've decided to break the story into two parts, beginning with my Uncle Dale's experience.

The year was around 1965-66 in the small mining town of Coleraine in northern Minnesota, where my dad and his brothers grew up. At this point in time, my dad, Ken, was at or around eighteen years old, and preparing to head out to Idaho for college. As the youngest of four boys, he would be the last one to leave the nest, and was living in the house alone with his mom at the time--his father having passed away recently.

On this particular night, Ken and his mother had gone to visit a relative in a neighboring town and decided to spend the night there. Ken's older brother, Dale, had decided to come home for the weekend and arrived to find the old family home in Coleraine to be empty. This was nothing strange or out of the ordinary, and he figured he would be sleeping alone in the house that night. He was wrong.

Growing up as kids in the older house, the four boys all shared a bedroom in the attic and all of their beds were still up there. To access the attic bedroom, one opened a door at the bottom of a long flight of stairs. At the top of the stairs was a window and then a right turn which would take one directly into the bedroom with steeply sloping eaves for walls.

Dale climbed into the old bed of his childhood that night and nestled into the blankets, allowing the weariness of the day to carry him off into slumber. As his mind drifted and sleep began to take hold, he was shocked back into full lucidity by the unmistakable sound of the door at the bottom of the stairs creaking open on its hinges.

In the darkness he lay there, straining his ears for any other sound. Had he just imagined it? Had a strange draft of wind been generated somewhere in the old house and caused the door to swing ever so slightly?

After a time, he concluded that it must have been nothing. Just as he was getting ready to dismiss the entire thing, he was jolted again by another unexpected noise: the loud creaking of a stair.  This was not his imagination! The fear level jumped inside him as he again, found himself straining his auditory senses to their maximum potential trying to determine what could possibly be the source of the noise. He listened for the sound of breathing or the dry whisper of clothing scraping on a wall. Anything.

And sure enough, another stair groaned. This time it came from a stair further up the flight, and closer to the room where Dale now lay terrified in the darkness. There was the sense that someone was doing their best to sneak up to the room quietly, but being foiled by the squeaking stairs. Dale listened to this occur a few more times, each occurrence resembling how one might react after having a stair squeak underfoot: pausing for a long moment, then proceeding to creep upward.

After a time it got to the point where Dale knew that this visitor--whoever it was--must be close to the top of the stairs. In horror he fixed his eyes on the window just outside the bedroom door. The yellow glow of a streetlight shinning through it, weakly illuminated the entryway.

His heart pounding like a drum he watched in utter disbelief as the black, featureless form of a man was revealed, momentarily, when the figure glided past the window and into the bedroom.

Apparently, this final revelation was just too much for poor Dale's nervous system and his mind decided to check completely out of the situation. Dale fainted from fear. When he came to, he had no idea how long he had been unconscious. His unwelcome night visitor was gone.

He never was able to explain away the events of that night. There were no signs of a forced entry into the house and nothing had been stolen. When the figure had revealed itself for that brief moment in the streetlight shining through the window, Dale had not been able to discern any features that would have made the being identifiable in any way.

To this day that night remains a mystery in my family.

But, the story doesn't end there! It wasn't long after that my dad had his own frightening encounter in that same bedroom! Be sure to check back to hear the second part of the story. Or, follow my Facebook page so you know when part two is out.
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Some images obtained through Google Images and are not my own.

 If you have a personal story of the paranormal that you would like me to share on my blog please contact me at I'd love to hear your story. You can remain anonymous if you wish.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Haunting in Idaho 5: The Possessed Toy

This week’s true story of the paranormal was submitted by a friend of mine, who wishes to remain anonymous, so for this story I will refer to him as David.

The incident that was relayed to me took place approximately in the year 1981 in the Iona, Idaho area while David was playing at the home of a childhood friend. The boys would have been right around ten years old. David’s friend had a handheld electronic game that was extremely popular at the time called Merlin by Parker Brothers. Many of you that are around my age or older, probably remember the game and the TV commercials that advertised it.

At some point while playing with the game, the boys became bored and set it aside to just talk about whatever it is a couple of young lads might discuss. At some point, David—and for no particular reason—decided to punch in the number 666 into the keypad on the Merlin game. I imagine that whatever conversation they were having may have lead to this decision. The game did not respond, however.

Not to be one to give up quite so easily, David tried once again to feed the biblical number into the device. Again, Merlin was having none of it, and remained silent to this input from the young boy. David says that he made a few more attempts, not really knowing what he was thinking or why he would try such a thing. Each time he tried this, the little machine gave zero response.

His friend, growing nervous—apparently a smarter kid than David—started asking for the game, saying that he wanted to put it away. But before handing the Merlin over to his friend, David gave it one more attempt, punching the infamous number into the game, expecting the same results as before.
This time however, and for no apparent reason—I like to think it might have been the sixth attempt—the Merlin suddenly came to life in a flurry of beeps, screeches, and high-pitched tones. It lasted a few seconds, and in David’s own words, it seemed as if the game were somehow screaming directly at him in anger and rage.

When the Merlin fell silent again David and his friend were very afraid. And although the game shook in his trembling fingers, David just had to know, so he punched in the three sixes a final time. The game remained silent. The boys looked at each other, eyes the size of teacups, each feeling that what they had just experienced was something that went beyond just a coincidental malfunction of a toy.

Not having any more of it, David’s friend took the Merlin from him and went to put it away.
To this day, the memory remains with David as a terrifying and vivid reminder that it is definitely not wise to play around with such things. The moral of the story:

Toying around with The Number of The Beast is no game.

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Images obtained through Google Images and are not my own.

 If you have a personal story of the paranormal that you would like me to share on my blog please contact me at I'd love to hear your story. You can remain anonymous if you wish. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

A Haunting in Idaho 4: Ghost Waitress

The following true ghost story was told to me by a coworker of mine some years back, and has remained as one of my favorites over the years. It happened in Idaho Falls in the early or mid eighties.
This coworker of mine, Rick, was working at the time as a busboy at the old JB's restaurant on Broadway by the overpass. There was a young waitress working there at the time who I will refer to as Linda. Rick remembered her as a very hard worker that always seemed to be in a cheerful mood and easy to get along with.
Unfortunately, after a period of not feeling well, Linda went to the doctor only to be told that she was in the final stages of a very deadly and aggressively spreading form of cancer. Within a very short time the cancer took Linda from this world, leaving her coworkers at the restaurant reeling in shock at the sudden loss.
A few days after the funeral, Rick stayed late with the manager, John, to help close up the restaurant. When they had locked up the place they went and got in the manager's car, having carpooled to work that night. As they were getting ready to leave, Rick's boss started patting himself and quickly realized that he had left his cigarettes back inside. "I'll be back in a sec," he said, leaving Rick in the car to wait.
John was gone a lot longer than would have been expected for a simple task like retrieving a pack of cigs. Rick began to worry and was just about to go inside to check up on the guy, when John finally returned. According to Rick, the man was as pale as a sheet and trembling!
"Man," Rick said," you look like you've seen a ghost!"
John nodded slowly and whispered, "I did." He then related the following story to a wide-eyed Rick.
John was pretty sure he knew where he'd left his pack of cigarettes and quickly made his way through the restaurant to get them. Indeed, the smokes were right where he remembered leaving them. When John grabbed the pack and turned to leave, he was suddenly frozen in his tracks by a loud crash that came from the kitchen. It sounded like someone had just broken every plate the restaurant owned. He could even hear the distinct scraping sound a plate makes when spinning in its undulating fashion on a tile floor.
His first thought was a thief had concealed himself somewhere in the building and now, having waited for everyone to leave, was in the act of robbing the place when John had come back inside, scaring him. He figured the thief was trying to make his getaway and had accidentally disrupted a stack of plates in the process. Feeling more angry than frightened, John dashed toward the kitchen in hopes of snagging the little rat before he could escape.
Bursting through the back entrance to the kitchen, John was shocked to see nothing wrong with the place. There were no plates smashed into millions of pieces across the floor as he had expected to encounter. He shook his head. Was he losing it? Too many late nights? That's when he heard a thump and looked up to see the big double doors that the wait staff used when picking up orders from the kitchen. Both doors were swinging gently back and forth on their two-way hinges. Someone had just gone through those doors! How he had not seen them was beyond him, but the thief was getting away! John ran to the doors and shoved them open.
His blood turned to ice when he saw Linda! There she was in her waitress uniform and as real and substantial as any living person. Her back was to him, and in stunned silence he watched her walk down the little corridor that led from the kitchen to the dining area, as she had done thousands of times before her untimely death. Then she turned the corner and vanished into thin air! After realizing what he had just witnessed, John ran out of that place as fast as his feet would carry him.

JB's is gone now. Torn down with an Olive Garden in its place. I did manage to eat at JB's a few times though, after hearing this story. Each visit, as I ate my popcorn shrimp--as if it really were popcorn--I couldn't resist taking a moment to wonder and entertain the notion that each night, after the guests dispersed and the place grew quite, perhaps Linda would glide among the tables once more and pass through the kitchen doors, leaving them to swing gently back and forth in the dim silence.

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Images obtained through Google Images and are not my own.

 If you have a personal story of the paranormal that you would like me to share on my blog please contact me at I'd love to hear your story. You can remain anonymous if you wish.  

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Haunting in Idaho 3: Charles

When I first began this blog and decided that I would use it to share tales of the paranormal, including a few personal experiences, I originally had not intended on sharing the following story. But, I reconsidered because I thought maybe it could serve as a bit of a cautionary tale about dabbling with things pertaining to the the other side of the veil. Especially without being prepared or having a clear understanding of what you are doing.

Personally, I don't believe in or recommend actively seeking out any interaction with the dead or the world of spirits. In my opinion, you really have no idea of verifying who or what you're contacting, or discerning what that being's intentions or abilities are. So, before I tell my story, allow me the following disclaimer: I do not recommend that ANYONE actively attempt to contact the dead. I know there are ghost hunters and paranormal investigators out there who might disagree with my statement and I have no problem with that. If they are comfortable with what they are doing, that's their deal and they've obviously worked around this stuff enough to get to a point that maybe they know what they're doing and know what particular precautions might be necessary when dealing with the spirit world. By my own admission, I am not a paranormal investigator, so read the following story with that in mind.

The first home that my wife and I purchased was a small, brick farmhouse built in the late 1800s. It had been fixed up pretty neat inside and we loved the charm and character of the place. I secretly relished the idea that maybe there was a ghost or two hanging around the place. This was a stupid thing to hope for. Fortunately, we did live there in peace and quiet without the spectral apparitions or visitors from beyond the grave that I half-expected. (I did have ONE experience shortly after moving in, but maybe I'll save that one for another time.)

A few years passed and I had become quite the fan of the show Ghost Hunters. For those unfamiliar with the show, it was a reality based TV show where cameras would follow a team of paranormal investigators called TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) as they investigated different locations for scientific evidence of real paranormal activity. They conducted investigations into everything from abandoned asylums and prisons to personal residences of families and even the home of Lizzie Borden. You can check out more information about the show HERE

During their investigations the team would string cameras and recording devices of every type all over the place and then walk through the place attempting to incite the alleged spirits into interacting with them, hoping to catch evidence on their various devices. They did, in fact, have some very interesting things show up every once in a while: an object moving by itself, unexplained drops in temperature, increases in electromagnetic frequency, strange orbs of light and shifting shadows caught on camera. And, disembodied voices showing up on audio recordings. It was this final bit that piqued my interest.

In the ghost hunting world, catching an inexplicable voice on tape is known as EVP (electronic voice phenomenon). To catch an EVP is done by a rather simple process, a digital recorder and some audio editing software being all that's needed. The idea is for the investigator to walk around with a recorder running and start asking questions to the thin air, as if speaking to spirits that just might be there. The theory is that the spirits of the dead will sometimes try to talk back, but human ears usually aren't capable of hearing the voices at the time. However the voices can sometimes be heard when played back on audio software in the very low or very high frequencies. Now I'll admit, many of these so-called EVPs--even the ones presented on Ghost Hunters--are pretty questionable, and could easily be anything from squeaky floorboards to an investigator's grumbling belly. Here's an example of a typical EVP. You'll have to turn up your speakers to hear it well.

Creeped out a little now?

Okay, I think that's enough background on EVPs and ghost hunting. So, here I was a fan of the show and wondering to myself, Is all this for real? or are we all just getting played by this show? Of course, I was leaning towards believing in most of it because it's just in my nature, I guess. Anyway, I had stayed up late one night--I think it was past midnight--and my wife and kids were all in bed, fast asleep. I had my laptop out--I was probably writing one of my half-begun, never-finished novels--and getting ready to call it a night, when I had the half-brained idea to use my laptop to try and capture an EVP of my own.

The laptop had a built in mic and I already owned audio editing software. It was nothing fancy and I was pretty sure I wouldn't get anything. The idea was just a trivial thing at the time and didn't seem like a big deal. Without giving it the thought that I probably should have--note my disclaimer earlier--I set the laptop on the kitchen counter and hit the record button.

"Is there anyone here with me?" I asked into the quiet nothingness. Immediately, I felt somewhat apprehensive. I shrugged off the feeling and waited a solid thirty seconds, then said, "If there's anyone here with me right now, what's your name?" The feeling of apprehension grew stronger as I let the computer continue to record the silence around me. What are you doing? I thought to myself. I hit the space bar on the computer, stopping the recording software. A little, rectangular window appeared on the screen with a wavy line running through it, indicating the audio that had I just recorded.

Still feeling apprehensive, my curiosity overcame my better judgment. I turned up the volume on my laptop's speakers and hit play. I listened to the playback, my own voice sounding much like the stuff I'd heard while watching Ghost Hunters on TV. When I came to the part in the recording where I had asked anybody listening, "What's your name?" A definite sound crackled over the laptop's speakers. A reply? NO WAY!

I clicked on that part of the recording, enhanced it via the software, and listened to it again. "What's your name?" came my voice again.

My own breath caught in my throat as I heard, ever so faintly, what sounded like the voice of a young child say, "Charles." I nervously replayed it several times, each playback solidifying to me that indeed, I was hearing a for real response to my question from the other side!

Now, you'd think I would have been excited about actually having captured a real EVP just like my TV heroe's the Ghost Hunters, right? WRONG. Instead, I found myself utterly freaked out as I sat there in my empty kitchen that night. The thought that I had evoked a response from beyond the grave and in my own home was very unsettling to say the least. I wondered who this Charles was or might have been. Or what he might be. Had I inadvertently opened a door to something beyond my understanding? Had I opened myself, my home, and my family up to some force or being that might not have the best of intentions?

I felt like I was being watched from every corner of my home that night as I turned off the laptop and finally went to bed, to eventually fall into a fitful sleep. Eventually, this episode bothered me enough that I expunged the recording from my laptop and vowed that I would not engage in this type of activity again. I know to many this might seem like an overreaction. The Ghost Hunters certainly would scoff at my apprehension.

I have spent a lifetime telling and listening to ghost stories, watching horror movies, reading horror novels--heck I even WROTE a horror novel! So, I am quite familiar with the creepy feeling of my spine tingling, hair standing on end, skin crawling, etc. And I'm here to tell you, this feeling that night was different from all that. It was sort of like a slap in the face, I guess. It's hard to explain, but I think on some level I knew and recognized that I had crossed some sort of invisible line for myself. That I had crossed over from fantasy and fun speculation into a place where things could become real.

Real and dangerous.

Images obtained through Google Images and are not my own.

 If you have a personal story of the paranormal that you would like me to share on my blog please contact me at I'd love to hear your story. You can remain anonymous if you wish.