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 bradylongmore@gmail.com I'd love to hear your story. You can remain anonymous if you wish.  

Saturday, January 21, 2017

An Uninvited Guest in The Idaho Rockies

In this week's post I decided to switch gears a little bit. As much as I love a good ghost story, I'm also interested in other facets of the paranormal or the unknown. As far as legends and mysteries go, in my mind, Bigfoot is the supreme granddaddy of them all. In fact, I hope to write a novel around the subject some day--when I can conjure up a plot and a story that will do the subject justice. This isn't a ghost story, but in keeping with the theme of this blog, it is still a TRUE one. And it happened to me.

Now I imagine that most folks probably don't take the legend of Sasquatch--my preferred name for the creature--very seriously. Sure, it makes a great story around the campfire, but other than that, reports of sightings are mostly met with good-natured eye rolling at best, and outright ridicule at worst. The intent of this post isn't to try to convince skeptics or make a case for the existence of Sasquatch. The fact is, as fascinated as I am by the reports and stories of sightings, I'm not entirely convinced myself. That said, I WANT to believe!

The following really happened to me and some friends a few years ago. It's not proof of anything, but why don't you read for yourself, and then you decide.

It was the fall of 2011. A few years earlier, some childhood buddies and I had started the tradition of going on an annual backpacking trip together. Ironically--and half-jokingly--we refer to these trips as our annual Bigfoot hike. We joke with our wives that we are embarking on serious expeditions to locate the elusive cryptid. But, nothing out of the ordinary had ever taken place on these excursions. Until this particular year.

We were hiking in the White Clouds of Central Idaho, an outlying section of the famous Sawtooth Mountains. Our destination for that year was Walker Lake, a tranquil, blue mountain gem that lies in repose between soaring, jagged peaks.

This is a fairly remote location and given the time of year and the length of the hike, it was not considered abnormal that we had not encountered any other hikers that day on the trail. At the lake itself, there was only one other camp, aside from our own: an older gentleman--in his mid to late fifties--and two women. Based on the man's graying beard, wide-brimmed hat, fancy trekking poles, and khaki shorts, my friend, Jon, immediately dubbed him, the liberal. No offense to my more progressive friends and fans out there, but it was funny.

We made our camp near the lake's outlet, a crystalline trickle of ice cold water that tumbled down the valley, joining up with other small streams to form Little Boulder Creek. The liberal's camp was a few hundred yards away on the other side of the outlet. I have to take a moment here to describe the terrain of our immediate surroundings in order to properly convey what we experienced later the next night.

On one side of our camp was the lake, maybe twenty-five yards or so away. Behind us was a very steep hill, strewn with boulders, deadfall, and pine trees. The hill was steep, but not very high. I would guess about a thirty foot rise from where our tents were set up. At the top of the hill, the terrain leveled out into basically, a giant granite slab crisscrossed with big cracks, from which scrubby bushes and gnarled trees sprouted. If you were to climb the hill from our campsite, to your left would be a sheer cliff face a few hundred feet high, topped with boulders and trees.

Can you picture it now in your mind's eye? Good, I'll get on with the story. It was our second night camping by the lake and we found ourselves all alone, the liberal and his companions having hiked out that morning. The sun was down and the true darkness of night, that can only be experienced in the mountains, had fully settled in. But we had a good, comfortable fire going and were standing in the warm glow of its flickering, yellow flames, chatting and conversing, joking and laughing. Some of us were heating water in metal cups for hot chocolate.

It was the quintessential good times with good friends moment, when suddenly a loud crash shattered the relative peace and quite. All conversation and movement ceased amongst us as every eye went to the hill behind us. It sounded like a small boulder--about the size of a basketball in my mind--had fallen from the sky to smash onto the big slab of granite above and behind us.
We all looked at each other, mutual expressions of curiosity and concern on each face, some of us silently mouthing, what the ... as our minds raced with possibilities. We listened and kept our eyes peeled on the shadows dancing among the trees along the perimeter of our campfire's limited glow. After some discussion and some nervous shining of flashlights into the dark surroundings we determined that a large rock must have somehow fallen from the cliff to land on the shelf of rock below. Although, I do remember thinking to myself that if that were indeed the case, the rock had somehow managed to fall at a forty-five degree angle.

After a few minutes, we shrugged it off, light-hearted conversation eventually picking back up. Or perhaps, if I was getting my way, the telling of spine-tingling ghost stories had resumed. Either way, the moment was interrupted once again by the identical noise. I'm telling you, this was loud. A great, singular THUMP, and most definitely the sound of stone colliding upon stone.

Once more, we froze. Then flashlights clicked on, bright LED beams stabbing into the darkness as we strained with our ears for any other accompanying sounds. Once again, the sound had come from behind us, up and over the hill. I imagined someone ... or something up there, peering down at us from the blackness above. I even admit that more than one firearm was made readily available at this point.

It took a little longer this time for the moment to pass, but eventually it did and once again we dismissed the incident. A few more logs were fed to the flames, we huddled in a bit closer to the fire, and did our best to resume normalcy by picking our conversation back up where it had left off.

I actually couldn't believe it when a third crash resounded off the nearby granite cliff walls and reverberated across the still, black surface of the lake. A third time! I guess there's some truth behind the saying, third time's the charm because there was just something about this third interruption that said to me that, this was no coincidence of falling rocks or some other naturally explainable event. Somebody was up on that hill purposely screwing with us! I think we all reached this same conclusion at that time.

But, I think another reality weighing on all of us--that had no need to be spoken aloud--was our utter isolation in the area. That, combined with the fact that it was nearly midnight, made it highly unlikely that it was a someone screwing with us and more likely a something!

I remember at that point saying something to the group along the lines of, "We are men, for crying out loud. We are the dominant species on this planet. Let's all charge up that hill and let, whatever it is up there, know that it can't mess with us like this!" And so we formed a line and ran up the hill, our flashlights darting in every direction. I don't recall a battle cry, but there could have been one just the same.
We found the top of the hill to be void of any person or creature. Whatever had been causing the noise had made its fast escape from our impromptu charge. We returned to camp never to be bothered by the strange crashing noise again. Which confirmed to us that we had probably chased something or somebody away and it had chosen not to return.

To this day I wonder what it was. I'm fairly convinced that it's highly unlikely it was a person. We were almost literally the only ones on the trail that weekend. We saw no other people on the way up or down the trail--except for the liberal, of course. But even he was gone at this point. Also, we were miles from any roads or other suitable campsites. A person would have had to have hiked in complete darkness through very steep and rugged terrain for miles just to mess with us. And in Idaho it's reasonable to say that he would be at considerable risk of getting himself shot! It just seems far-fetched that it could have been a person. But at the same time, whatever it was must have had the ability and level of thought process to purposely distract us by throwing small boulders near our camp.

So where does that leave us? Well, you tell me.

Sasquatch image obtained from Pinterest and does not belong to me.

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

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A Haunting in Idaho 2: The Woman in Black

The following true ghost story comes from a former coworker of mine, and is one of my all-time favorites. The story was told to me about twenty or so years ago, as we labored one day detailing cars at the small shop where we worked. For the purposes of anonymity, I'll refer to him as Steve.

Steve was about ten years older than I, and usually his stories were funny tales of some of the crazier things he had done in his youth. But for some reason, on this day the conversation had turned to the sharing of ghost stories. Maybe it was getting close to Halloween or perhaps, me being me, I had simply steered the conversation in this particular direction.

When Steve was younger and just getting out on his own--I would guess in the late 70s--he ended up renting a studio apartment that happened to come in the form of a small basement house. For those of you unfamiliar with what a basement house is: it's basically a half-built house. Imagine digging the hole for a basement, building your exterior walls--usually from cinder blocks--a few feet above ground, and then slapping a roof on the whole thing. Voilà! Basement house.

While living there, Steve never noticed anything strange or paranormal about his groovy new digs. Except sometimes, in the middle of the night, the little orange light indicating the gas oven was on would suddenly light up by itself. It was a frequent occurrence and Steve attributed it to an electrical glitch in the knob. But to be safe he would get out of bed each time and could always get the light to shut off by turning the knob on and then back to the off position. He didn't always catch the anomaly in the act, however, and would sometimes wake in the morning to find the light had come on while he was fast asleep. This was slightly disturbing, but not enough to worry him too much.

I'm not sure how long he lived there, dealing with the faulty oven light, but his days as a basement house renter came to an abrupt end one fateful night.

He awoke suddenly from a dead sleep to the click of the oven light, once again, turning itself on. But, when he opened his eyes, he beheld an old woman standing at the foot of his bed. He described her as looking like she had walked straight out of the 1800s. She wore a massive black dress: big shoulders, corseted tightly at the waist, and flaring wide at the hips. The bodice was stitched in elegant velvet scroll work with black buttons that ran all the way to the neckline. With her iron-gray hair up in a severe bun, she had the appearance of the strict head mistress of a girls boarding school. A detail that really stood out to him at the time was the huge, ruby-red medallion that hung from a silver chain halfway down her body.

Her face was as stern as the rest of her countenance, her eyes piercing him, as she raised an arm, sleeved in black lace, and pointed a bony finger at him. "GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!" she commanded angrily.

In stunned bewilderment he could only stare back at her, his fear-numbed mind racing and grasping for answers to questions he didn't even dare to ask.

Suddenly, the woman in black turned and walked away, vanishing as she passed right through the far wall.

Having no desire to disappoint the old woman, or risk any kind of return visit, Steve spent the remainder of the night packing up what little belongings he possessed. By morning he had moved back in with his parents until another apartment could be located.

But here's the kicker: that very next night ... the basement house caught fire and burned to the ground. The old mistress in black had probably saved Steve's life with her angry demand!
If you dig this kind of stuff, be sure to sign up for my News Letter for more news, updates, and information about my writing. It only takes a second.

Pictures via Google Images and Downton Abbey TV show: PBS 

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

Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Haunting in Idaho: my true haunted house story.

This, my friends, is a true story about my own experience with a bona fide haunted house. An early experience in my life that probably helped shape me as far as my love and fascination with stories of the paranormal goes.

As a teenager I spent my summers working as a lifeguard and swim teacher at a little, outdoor, community pool. I loved that job and still look back on it with the fondest of memories. One of the things I liked about it was the chance to work with and get to know kids from outside my normal circle of friends and schoolmates. Many of these coworkers were a few years older than myself, including some college kids.

There was this one guy--I'll refer to him by his nickname, Teo (Tay-oh)--that in a real way was my mentor at the time. And although he was two or three years older than me, he had no problem including me when he and some of the older kids would go out and do stuff. I really looked up to him and for a few summers he was sort of the big brother I never had.

One evening as the summer sun sank slowly toward the horizon, Teo and I were lifeguarding together and just talking about random stuff when he asked, "Dude, have you ever been on Hell Tour?"

Hell Tour? I had never heard of it. Teo attended a different school than I did, and according to him, all the kids at Idaho Falls High were going on this so-called tour.

Hell Tour, it turned out, was a sort of underground tour of some of the creepiest and supposedly haunted places of Idaho Falls. You had to find someone who had been on it to act as a guide and take you. A big rule of Hell Tour: you never take more than one person at a time. I guess it just isn't as creepy with too many people along.

"Dude," Teo said, lowering his sunglasses so I could see his eyes, "tonight, after we close, I'm taking you on Hell Tour."

The pool closed at ten, and by ten-thirty I was seated in the passenger seat of Teo's car--a reddish Buick Skylark, I think it was, but I'm probably wrong. Whatever the make of the car, it only took a few minutes to get into the older neighborhoods of downtown Idaho Falls. And then, Hell Tour began.

It was pretty cool ... and creepy. The tour basically consisted of driving from one location to another, Teo narrating a spine-tingling tale for each spot: haunted houses, a knocking grave in the cemetery, a murder location. Many times during the tour, the hair on my arms and neck were standing on end.

Most of the stories, I'm sure, were just made up tales and harmless kids' fun. Like the old house on J Street with a room at the top where a blue light burned all night. According to the story this was a house inhabited by Satanists. Not so scary now, as I write this, but when your sixteen and sitting in a dark car across the street from said sanctuary of Satan, things feel very different. I'm sure many of you can relate.

I guess it was close to midnight when Teo announced that the tour was over. And then he said, "I'm going to show you one more house that isn't actually part of the tour. It's a for real haunted house with a scary story behind it, and I only know about it because my family knows the people that this happened to."

As we drove to the location, which was a bit off the beaten path of the regular Hell Tour attractions, a different mood settled upon us, as Teo began to relate the story to me. This was no longer a fun game of chills and thrills; kids messing around for the fun of it. This was serious stuff and I remember a certain constriction in my chest as Teo simultaneously finished the story while parking his car across the street from the house that I later nicknamed the Blood Home.

I now relate to you, to the best of my memory, the story of this house as it was told to me some twenty-eight years ago.

The story begins with a beautiful turn of the century home for sale in the historic downtown section of Idaho Falls, Idaho. I'm not sure of the date, but I'm going to say probably the early 1980s. A young family looking to buy a home in the area fell in love with the house at first sight--it really is a neat old house--and they scheduled an appointment with the realtor to have a look inside.

The married couple decided to buy it, unable to believe their good fortune at finding a house that met their needs so well and was within their budget. They scheduled another appointment so they could bring their kids over to show them their future home. This was supposed to be a moment of excitement and celebration as they'd been waiting a long time to make this dream a reality.

The family arrived at the home a few days later at the appointed time. The kids were excited, the parents, proud. The realtor lead the family up the walk and unlocked the front door. Everyone poured into the large front room. The husband put an arm around his wife as the kids went scurrying about, exploring and claiming bedrooms. Except one child. Their eight year old boy who had not set foot inside. The parents turned to see him standing in the threshold, eyes wide with fear, lips trembling in horror. The kid was almost hysterical and refused to enter the house.

They asked him what was wrong. I like to imagine that someone made the comment that he looked as if he'd seen a ghost. But I digress. When the boy had calmed down enough to talk, he told his parents that he didn't want to go into the house because of the people that he could hear screaming inside. Did he mean the rambunctious yelling of his own siblings? But their son explained that it was grown ups that he could hear. They were yelling and screaming in pain as if they were dying.

His parents asked him if he could see these people. He said he couldn't see them, but from where he was standing in the doorway, he could see a glowing, red stripe running along the walls of the front room.

Needless to say, the parents were quite distraught over this incident. Was their child suffering from some kind of psychotic episode? Hallucinating? They had never noticed any kind of strange behavior out of him before.

They apologized to the real estate agent and left, wondering if they should make an appointment for their son with a doctor. But, as soon as they left the property, the boy seemed absolutely fine. They made another appointment to tour the house for the next day, writing off the incident as, just one of those things. Unfortunately, the second visit played out much like the day before, and the family left again feeling discouraged and frightened. This house was quickly transforming from a dream come true into a living nightmare.

Now unbeknown to the family, their realtor was one who dabbled a bit in the occult; occasionally indulging in things like séances, psychic readings, and such. She reached out to a psychic she knew and trusted, and asked him if he'd be willing to come take a look at the house. The psychic friend agreed to come over and check things out.

Supposedly, upon arriving at the house, the psychic had a similar experience as the little boy. He too could hear the screams of agony and pain. He was also able to see the glowing red stripe, which he guessed to be blood that had been smeared on the walls at one time. Apparently, this instigated the two friends to conduct a historical investigation into the house.

They were able to discover that over a period of a few years, during the Great Depression, the house was abandoned. Periodically, vagabonds and homeless migrants would take up residence for a while, usually moving on after a bit. Research showed that there was a period of time when a certain group of people lived in the home that, according to the story, were a devil-worshiping cult. It just so happened that during this same time there was a rash of disappearances of people in the community.

At this point, anyone who has read my novel, The Summoning, might be seeing where I borrowed a little bit from this story.

Teo ended the story by telling me that over the years the house has been bought and sold more than the average home and people who live there quite often will claim that there is something paranormal going on within those walls. I stared at the dark windows of the house as Teo pulled his car away, a cold chill settling across my shoulders. The windows seemed like big, dark eyes staring back, watching us go.

I went home that night, my psyche definitely impacted by the story and the experience. Over the years I have shown this house, the Blood Home, and told its tale to several people. One Halloween some friends and I attempted to trick or treat there, but nobody was home. Eventually, the place lost its stigma of terror, and even though I really wanted to believe the story, I had reached a point in my life where I doubted there was any validity to it at all. It was surely just a cool, old house and nothing more.

It was Halloween, a few years later. I was watching one of the local TV newscasts, when the station ran a report on a "real" haunted house in Idaho Falls. You can imagine my face and incredulity when I saw the legendary Blood Home being showcased as a true haunted house! It had been converted into an office and the owner was leading a news reporter around telling him stories of footsteps at night, doors slamming and opening by themselves, and a picture on the wall, constantly askew no matter how many times the owner tried to straighten it.

Now, I have to admit that whenever I'm in that part of town, I like to find an excuse to drive past the Blood Home if I can. There are cars in the driveway these days and apparently someone is living there happily. But I can't help but to slow down a little as I roll past and stare. And sometimes, I could swear those windows still stare back.

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