Sunday, October 4, 2015

Pettigrew House and Museum--South Dakota

The beautiful old Victorian home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota was originally built in 1889 for Thomas and Jennie McMartin. However, it would become known as the Pettigrew House in 1911 when  Senator Richard Franklin Pettigrew returned to South Dakota and purchased the home.

Pettigrew, who was born in Vermont and moved to Wisconsin with his parents in his youth, finally settled in what was then the Dakota Territory. When South Dakota was admitted as a state, Pettigrew became its first U.S. Senator. He served from November 2, 1889 to March 4, 1901. After briefly moving to New York to practice law, Pettigrew made his way back to Sioux Falls and purchased the McMartin home.

Pettigrew was somewhat of an amateur archaeologist and collector. In 1925, he chose to display his collection of Native American artifacts, natural history specimens, and memorabilia related to the early days of Sioux Falls in his own little museum in the back of the home. Pettigrew would pass away a short time later, on October 5, 1926. While playing cards with his wife in his upstairs study, Pettigrew suffered a stroke. He died a few days later in his bedroom. However, his legacy and dream would live on. Pettigrew left his home and his collection to the city of Sioux Falls under the condition that the museum be maintained. Presumably, this was the occur AFTER his wife passed away or remarried, because she was still listed as living in the home at 131 N. Duluth Avenue in 1929 and other sources say the museum wasn't opened to the public until 1930.

Whenever it actually opened, the museum has stood the test of time and is STILL in operation today! As the collection grew, an addition had to be built in the 1930s, but visitors today can visit the Pettigrew House Museum FOR FREE and view the original collection, as well as more recent acquisitions. The house itself is part of the museum, being set up with period appropriate furnishings to show how a man of Pettigrew's social standing would have lived during that time period. If one is REALLY lucky, one might also encounter a ghost among its halls!

During a 2012 radio interview on local hauntings, manager Kevin Gansz discussed the hauntings, saying that the second floor of the old Victorian mansion was known for its darker, heavier mood. The mansion is also known for possibly three different ghostly inhabitants, one of who is believed to be Pettigrew's second wife, Roberta. While working in Mrs. Pettigrew's room, Gansz experienced a phantom scent of heavy perfume, believed to have been a sign of Mrs. Pettigrew.

Mrs. Jennie McMartin, who passed away in 1908, is also believed to still be in the home. According to The Apparition Atlas by Daniel Diehl, Jennie has been seen wandering about the house, inspecting it to ensure that her home is kept in good order. The third apparition, which is mentioned in the book, appears to be a little girl wearing a white dress who appears on the staircase landing. Some her have seen her claim that she has blood on her face. Research into the house's history done by Kevin Gansz indicate that the McMartin family did lose a child while living in the home, which may account for those sightings. And, according to research I found on Find-a-Grave, Mr. Pettigrew had a maiden sister who lived in the home with the family and passed away there in October of 1922---could SHE be one of these female apparitions as well?

Apparition Atlas
Haunted South Dakota Interview
Pettigrew House and Museum 
Pettigrew's 167th Birthday Celebration
McMartin Bio

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Mothman Festival 2015 (Day 2)

Saturday at the Mothman Festival was family day for me! Aaron and I took our son Luke for a day of Mothy fun. Luke, who turned six on the Monday following the festival (happy birthday, my boy!), has been to just about every Mothman Festival since he was born and loves it. He always calls Pt. Pleasant "Mothman City" and this year, he was really looking forward to having a Mothman Hotdog from Hillbilly Hotdogs.

It was a warm, sunny day when we arrived about 10:45 am and after a stressful drive around trying to find a parking spot, settled in and immediately went to the food trucks, lol. Unfortunately, Hillbilly Hotdogs must have just been opening up because we got in the fairly long line...which didn't move for at all in 15 minutes. So, we decided to just grab some standard fair fare and go down to the riverfront to eat and catch a little bit of the Mothman Pageant activities. Before settling in, Aaron stopped to get a huge mug of old fashioned soda from Wild Bill's Olde Fashioned Soda Pop Co. For $10, he got a huge collector's mug and a voucher for FREE refills all day long!

As we found our seats, we noticed that there was something going on to our left, not far from the stage and where the pageant judges were set up. There were a LOT of people milling about and a police boat in the river. An ambulance had its lights on and was standing by. Since the pageant kept going on, we really didn't pay too much attention to what was going on. Finishing up our lunch of corn dogs and cheese fries, we then went to do the vendor circuit.

Luke wanted to play some carnival games and won a few prizes and I picked up a few vintage books for less than $2! Luke and Aaron both found some treasures, as well. We checked out everything, and I was really impressed with the variety of art, books, jewelry and other items being sold, plus the array of paranormal speakers and researchers present. One of my absolute favorite booths was the PlushyBoo vendor. Jen, of PlushyBoo, was selling the coolest and cutest plush cryptid/paranormal themed figures in a variety of sizes. I really should have bought one of the three different Mothman styles she had, because by the time we came back on Sunday, they were all gone...but more on that in Sunday's blog, lol. But, if you were like me and missed her, she has an Etsy shop, too, where everything is 20% off this month! Vowing to come back in a little while to make my final purchasing decisions, we decided to drop what we had already accumulated off at the car. On the way back toward downtown, Luke convinced us that he needed to take a horse-drawn wagon ride!

My PlushyBoos

The horse-drawn wagon ride was pretty awesome, but it was a little expensive. For Luke and I to ride together, it was $8, which wouldn't be that bad, except that the ride only lasted about 7-10 minutes and simply went down the street and back. Still, it was something we hadn't tried before and we had resolved to make this year the year we did all the stuff that we usually DIDN'T do during our festival visits. As soon as we got off the wagon, though, Aaron pulled me aside. He had gone back to the riverfront to take advantage of his free soda refill just as they were closing the area. What we had seen going on at the riverfront earlier was finally explained---a man had jumped into the river and never resurfaced.  This must have happened right before we arrived and while we were on the wagon, his body was recovered. After hearing witness testimony and looking through the photos, Carrie and I can't help wondering if the man was the same man we had been spooked by the night before---the descriptions certainly matched up and it might explain why we felt so uneasy in his presence. But, whether or not it was the same man, our prayers and condolences go out to his family and friends, and all those involved who either had to witness the event or took part in the recovery efforts. Here's a short news article on the event: WSAZ

Luke at Navy Poster Museum
After that devastating news, we looked around some more, got our picture taken with Mothman, who happened to come up RIGHT beside Luke, checked out the Ghost Busters and bought Luke a Daphne pin from the Mystery Machine guy. Then we decided to check out the Navy Poster Museum. Aaron had been there last year, but I didn't go in, so I was in for quite a treat. Located where the old Mothman Museum used to be, the Navy Poster Museum is a huge collection covering a huge chunk of time in Naval history.  The lady who runs the museum is also very nice and you could tell how passionate she is about sharing that passion with others. Even Luke really enjoyed it---especially the pin-up girl posters and the puzzle that was thoughtfully laid out on a table with chairs. If you're in the Pt. Pleasant area, definitely make this a stop on your trip and go give 'em a LIKE on Facebook, too!

Immediately following our trip to the museum, we made our way down to the State Theater to hear Rosemary Ellen Guiley's talk on Spiritualism during the Civil War era. We were a bit early, so we caught the end of Susan Sheppard's Indrid Cold presentation. I'm sorry we missed the beginning, as it seemed like an excellent talk, but luckily, it was recorded and can now be found on YouTube! Anyway, I was really excited to see Rosemary this year. We are generally so busy with other things (and having an impatient child along doesn't help) that we rarely get to sit through the speakers. As predicted I really enjoyed Rosemary's presentation. I have to say, if you get the chance to see ANY of the Mothman speakers, definitely take advantage of it! There is no other place that I know of where you can see the caliber of speakers the festival brings in...and for FREE. And, even though the festival sets record numbers of visitors each year, there's still a real family reunion type atmosphere. You have the chance to get up and personal with the special guests and speakers and have a conversation with them, ask them questions, and if you'd like, buy any books/merchandise they're selling. It's just a really great experience.

But, that was the end of our experience for Saturday. By that time, we were all tired and hot and Aaron and I had some birthday party stuff we needed to attend to while Luke spent the night at my mom's, so we concluded our trip. I wasn't disappointed though....because I'd be back the next day! 

Mothman Day I
Mothman Day III---Coming Soon!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Halloween Jokes

It's the first Friday in October and I'm ready for Halloween. For tonight's Friday Night Funny, I'd like to share this hilarious, yet poignant message from the ghosts, lol. Ya'll know I'm all about stopping the spread of misinformation!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Madam Violet, Vampire Queen

Welcome, October! It's the start of a new month and a new beginning---another chance to play catch-up on this poor, neglected blog, lol. It's been a crazy few days with my son having surgery AND a birthday party in the same week, plus all sorts of other stuff, like t-ball, swim lessons, etc. I promise that I will be cranking out Day 2 and Day 3 of the Mothman Festival blogs soon, but I thought I'd go ahead and share this creepy photo I found floating around on Facebook!

Whenever this frightening lady makes an appearance on social media, she's usually accompanied by the caption of "Madam Violet, the queen of the notoriously dark Edinburgh vampire hive. Voted twice as the scariest woman in England."

I can't attest to whether there really ever was an Edinburgh vampire hive or not, but even if there was...this photo does NOT show its queen. Instead, what looks like a late Victorian era photograph of a human woman is actually...

...a piece of art! As part of the 2008 series, Storydress II, this unique image was created by Christine Elfman. The photos in the series, including this one of 'Madam Violet,' are albumen prints pasted to antique cabinet cards for a very realistic touch.  But who is 'Madam Violet,'??? In this case, Madam Violet is none other than a paper mache and plaster sculpture!

For more info on this photograph and how it was made, please see Christine Elfman's WEBSITE.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Mothman Festival 2015 (Day 1)

Originally, I had planned on attending only ONE day's worth of Mothman Festival festivities this year, but as things worked out, I ended up spending three days in Pt. Pleasant! In order to make sure I give every event, attraction, speaker, and vendor I experienced this weekend the attention deserved, I thought it would be best to break this up into several different blog posts.  Let's start with Friday evening....

As part of the weekend kickoff, the historic State Theater in downtown Pt. Pleasant was having a FREE screening of the documentary, Eyes of the Mothman. This 2011 documentary was written and directed by Matthew J. Pellowski and runs a little over 2.5 hours. There are a LOT of great documentaries and television shows featuring the Mothman, but you're not going to find anything as thorough and as well-researched as this documentary. It really goes in depth with exploring the Native American history of the area, the border warfare between the Native Americans and the white settlers/soldiers during the 1700s, the different sightings of Mothman, the different theories of what Mothman might be, other types of flying humanoids, Indrid Cold, etc. Anything that even remotely ties in with the Mothman mythos is covered and many different experts, professors, locals, and eyewitnesses are interviewed. I definitely recommend this movie if you haven't seen it.

Anyway, before the film even started, Carrie (my HPIR buddy), her son, and I got to town early for a quick dinner. Having always wanted to try the Iron Gate Grill and being turned away  last year, we decided to give it another shot. The Iron Gate Grill has been a fixture in Pt. Pleasant for years and we were pleased to see that they weren't too busy. We were quickly seated and had our drink orders taken. The booth we were given was extremely comfortable and unique, and the decor of the restaurant was really cool. I love old buildings, and this one definitely had a great feel to it.  The staff, including our server, seemed pleasant enough. Unfortunately, our sodas took over 15 minutes to arrive, and it would be at least another 10 before our waitress made time to take our food order. When the food arrived, it wasn't horrible---but it just wasn't what I expected. I was under the impression that this was a nicer restaurant. It certainly looks classy from the outside and the prices reflect a more upscale establishment, but the food just didn't reflect that. It wasn't bad--just very bland and very simplistic. My burger didn't taste like it had any seasoning at all, and the macaroni was straight out of a box of Kraft. I've read a lot of reviews of this place and it seems that people LOVE it throughout the year, but during Mothman Festival time, they just cannot get it together. I understand that the festival is a busy, stressful time, and being one of few nice, sit-down restaurants within walking distance, its gonna get crazy. Therefore, I wouldn't recommend trying this place any time near the festival, but it might be worth it during other times of the year.

Dinner wasn't a five star experience, but we weren't going to let that bother us. We finished up and made our way to the theater. An array of baked goods (including Mothman brownies), candies and drinks were available in the lobby for purchase, and a small food truck was set up outside with some tasty-looking options. I loved the fact that the State Theater was being used to show the movie.  Way back when HPIR had its first booth at the Mothman Festival (2007) we were invited by the people who were running the theater at the time to investigate the claims of paranormal activity. Several members of the team had simultaneously seen what looked like a shadowy form cross by in front of the ladies' restroom and we were excited about the prospect of witnessing the alleged apparition of a former employee who was said to make his nightly rounds, checking out the theater floor. We also learned that the storefront adjacent to the theater was used as sort of a staging area during the recovery efforts following the Silver Bridge collapse and that bodies were temporarily stored there.

We didn't experience any ghosts the night of the documentary, but we did experience something that was pretty darn strange. There was a really good turnout for the film, but we still managed to get good seats right in the middle section, just a few rows back from the front. After awhile, a few people around us left, leaving the rows in front of us completely empty.  It was a little under 2 hours into the film when an older man came walking down the aisle to our right, threw his stuff down, including a cane and a bundle, sat down, threw his hat off, dropped the cane, picked the cane BACK up, put his hat back on, and walked back up the aisle without the cane. He came back a moment later and sat down. At that point he began furiously writing something in a notebook, despite it being pretty dark in the theater. While this is going on, I started feeling uncomfortable. I know the Mothman Festival has the potential to bring out some...different...types of folks, but this was getting to the point where I felt personally that we weren't dealing with an every-day eccentric.

When the guy violently ripped a page from his notebook, tearing the paper almost in half in the process and then walked over and thrust it at a boy sitting with his family in the next aisle over, all three of us present gave each other the LOOK. When the guy then approached the stage and leaned over it (using it as a table, I guess, but giving him an eerie appearance from behind as if he were praying at an altar) we decided we needed to leave---immediately. I don't think I can put into words what I felt---just that I felt so uncomfortable and had a nagging feeling that we had to leave or else. As we were standing outside the theater discussing what we should do (tell the staff, although they didn't seem too concerned by the guy's erratic behavior or go back in and find different seats) the guy quickly comes out of the theater and starts walking towards us. We made a hasty retreat to the car and booked it out of town!

Our night wasn't completely over yet, though. We decided to drive out to the TNT area. When we got out there, there were plenty of other people who had a similar idea, so we chose to avoid the crowds waiting to explore the igloos and come back when it wasn't so busy. The drive back was a little eerie. A crescent moon hung low on the horizon and the clouds gave it a reddish glow, almost turning it the color of blood. It was quite the backdrop as we discussed what happened in the theater to have made all of us have the same feelings and react the way we did. Did we just overreact to someone who was a little off, or did we all simultaneously pick up on something that threw up a red flag? We might just have gotten our answer the very next day...

Check back tomorrow for Saturday's adventures!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Book Review: Ghostly Encounters

Title: Ghostly Encounters: Confessions of a Paranormal Investigator
Author: By Jeff Scott Cole with Johnathon Robson
Published: 2015 by Skyhorse Publishing, New York
Purchase Info: Amazon

Whenever I get the chance to attend a paranormal conference or event, or even just visit another state, I always try to find a few new books for my paranormal library. This past weekend, I attended ScareFest in Lexington, Kentucky and happened across the booth of C-Bus Paranormal, an investigation team out of Columbus, Ohio. I was initially drawn in when some information on the team's volunteer and fundraising efforts for Prospect Place caught my eye. I had the opportunity to investigate Prospect Place way back in 2007 and have always had an affinity for the history, culture, and of course, the paranormal activity of the location!

Anyway, I was excited to see that two of the team members were selling a new book they had collaborated on, and I bought a copy.

I absolutely love books written by real investigators out in the field. It's entertaining and enlightening to see how other teams operate, the places they've been, the evidence they've collected, and why they got started doing this type of work in the first place. Unfortunately, most of the books that I've picked up on this topic, while interesting, aren't necessarily very impressive.  That wasn't the case with Ghostly Encounters. I was extremely impressed, first with the quality of the book itself. This wasn't a print-to-order self published, unedited piece of work---this was a REAL book. For only $20 (less on Amazon), this professionally published, attractive, well-written work was an excellent value and an excellent addition to my personal library.

Secondly, the concept of this book really impressed me. For the most part, it reads like a normal book you'd expect from a paranormal investigator. It begins with Cole's personal journey into delving into the fascinating field of paranormal research and how he joined the C-Bus team. It's followed by some techie information, another chapter furthering his personal journey, more techie stuff, and then a large section featuring some actual investigations at various pay-to-play locations throughout the country. In addition, the appendix offers a listing of paranormal teams by state, as well as a list of alleged haunted places that offer investigation opportunities.

Normally, these types of books that feature investigations will mention potential video evidence, and refer to possible EVP data, but given the print format, all they can do is give a link and hope the reader will go check it out if interested. The authors of Ghostly Encounters really take a technological jump forward. Instead of just a mere link or a mention of their evidence, they've included QR codes directly within the text so that as you read about the evidence, you can use your phone or tablet and go directly to that evidence and see/hear it for yourself. And, if you don't feel like reading with your phone attached to you, the link is available so you can go back and check it out at your leisure.

A well-written book with a cool, modern twist featuring my favorite subject is pretty awesome in any case, but I really enjoyed this book on a personal level. I seem to have a very similar philosophy and approach to investigation as the C-Bus team, with the main difference being that HPIR doesn't do a ton of pay-to-play locations. It's always nice to see others who share similar goals and ideas, and how they are applying those ideas to the furthering this field. Ghostly Encounters was a great, quick read and I think that anyone with an interest in paranormal investigation, no matter if they are just starting out, or are a seasoned investigator, can enjoy this book. It's a great compilation of investigation experience and evidence, technical advice, and personal experience. I gave it a 5/5 stars!

Links of Interest:
C-Bus Paranormal Website
C-Bus Paranormal Facebook Page

Monday, September 14, 2015

ScareFest 2015

On Saturday, my boyfriend and I made the two and a half hour trip to Lexington, Kentucky to visit the country's largest horror and paranormal convention---ScareFest! I hadn't been to ScareFest since before Luke was born, so I was really looking forward to it! ScareFest, which is owned and operated by Patti Star, the president of Ghost Chasers International, is in its 8th year. It seems like in the past, every time I wanted to go, we had something else planned that weekend or something else prevented us from going, but this year nothing was stopping us!

The trip up was pretty uneventful except for some rain. It cleared up for awhile, but as soon as we got out of the car at the Lexington Center parking lot, it started raining again. Getting soaked was NOT a great start to the day. Anyway, we got there around noon, with the first speaker we planned on seeing starting at 12:30pm. We planned on attending a talk by Ben Hansen, from SyFy's Fact or Faked, called "Profiling the Hoaxers: Eliminating the Hoaxers from the Truly Unexplained."

Unfortunately, Ben's presentation relied heavily on the PowerPoint presentation that he prepared and there was NO SCREEN in this particular room.  Apparently there HAD been a screen, but it was moved and misplaced the night before during a wedding rehearsal. Ben also had NO MIC, which wasn't a huge problem in this particular room, but a performance was going on in the lobby at the same time involving very loud music.  At this point, I was getting frustrated, so I can't imagine how Ben felt.  Still, he turned it around and pulled off a wonderful discussion. Even without the actual photograph/video examples his presentation was educational and entertaining as he spoke about his background, different investigations presented on the show, book recommendations, and how easily a hoaxer can be caught---just by talking to him/her IN PERSON. Ben really stressed the importance of interviewing people face to face, since so much of our communication is done non-verbally.

I was quite content with what was presented, but due to the snafu, Ben agreed to reschedule for later that evening, for anyone wanting to see the full presentation later on in a different room, which I thought was very gracious of him.  And, on a personal note---he's just as cute in person as he is on television!  He just seems like a funny, smart, and overall sweet kind of guy. I probably could have stuck around and fan-girled for awhile, but we had to move on to the next presentation.

We arrived at the American Horror Story panel a few minutes before it started, so we got stuck in the back. It made seeing a little hard and honestly I watched most of the discussion through the giant phone the chick in front of me was holding up, recording with.  Still, our location gave us a chance to get a first glimpse of the crew waiting outside the room to be introduced. Again, I felt a twinge of fangirl crop up when Amazon Eve (Erika Ervin), Naomi Grossman, Matt Fraser, Jamie Brewer, Rose Siggins, and of course, Jyoti Amge came in.

I've been a huge fan of American Horror Story since the first season, but Aaron only started watching it with me during Freakshow and fell in love with little Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge). In fact, I think Jyoti was the big draw for a LOT of people, as most of the people we were sitting near were discussing her before the show.  I thought it was hilarious how she keeps insisting that people don't treat her like a baby, yet whenever she spoke (she had someone interpreting for her) the whole audience let out a collective 'Awww!,' me included, lol. You just couldn't help it---she was absolutely adorable and Aaron and I agreed that she looks much tinier in person. But, the entire panel was extremely interesting to listen to...and kinda dirty, lol. The orgy scene kept coming up, and apparently a few members of the cast had had some previous experience!

Naomi sort of led the pack, but each member present had plenty to say, and said it very well. Before Freakshow even aired, I was fairly familiar with most of the people on the panel, having read about them, or watched documentaries or other shows they'd been in.  Still, it was definitely cool to hear them in person discuss their experiences on the show, but also what they had been doing AFTER the show. One touching moment came when a fan asked about people with different disabilities and different issues relating to and looking up to the cast members and Matt told a story about a little boy he had recently met who had the same physical disability as he did.  He was able to connect with this little boy, but he was also able to talk with his parents and give them advice and tips on things the little boy would be experiencing, how best to deal with those things, and how to make day to day activities a little easier.

After that, we took a quick break for lunch in the convention center's food court. I had chicken strips and fries and Aaron had a hamburger from Sunset Strips. It was a disappointing meal, but was enough to sustain us for the next few events. Following lunch, we headed back to see Josh Gates, formerly of Destination Truth.

The line to get in to see Josh's presentation, which was simply titled "Destination Truth with Josh Gates", literally wrapped down one side of the hallway and down the next. I honestly didn't think we'd get a seat, but miraculously, there was plenty of room for everyone. Again, being seated toward the door, we got the first glimpse of Josh waiting in the hall to be introduced. In the past, I had heard that Josh can kind of be a jerk to people when he's 'off the clock,' but I guess since he was being paid at the time, none of that shone through, lol. He was actually a really likable, really hilarious guy to listen to.

His talk was set up as a Q and A session, and the audience had plenty to ask, especially about his many, many travels. Much of what he talked about I had either seen on his shows or read in his book, but his skills as a story-teller made it just a really unique, fun experience. And yes, like Ben Hansen, he was definitely a cutie in person.

Immediately following Josh's discussion, we headed upstairs again to see the Fright Night panel. When Aaron and I were looking over the schedule of events, planning on what to see and do, he mentioned that he really enjoyed the movie. I had never seen Fright Night, so we decided to watch it together...and I was hooked. This year marked the 30th anniversary of the film and it was a real treat to hear William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Stephen Geoffreys talk about their experiences. As an added bonus, director Tom Holland was there via Skype. The crowd was a little thinner than it was for AHS, so our seats were good and Aaron even got to ask a question about working with Roddy McDowell that elicited a wonderful response from everyone on the panel.

By the time that panel was over, it was 6pm and we were getting tired and hungry, but we weren't done yet! We spent about an hour going through all the vendor booths and took home some awesome goodies. We bought Luke a plush Bat Girl and two t-shirts. I picked up a book from C-Bus Paranormal and a RHPS Riff Raff Funko figure. Aaron picked up a few gift items, and we got mom an answer mat to use with her pendulum.  The vendor floor was over double what it had been during our first visit over 6 years ago, but I think we at least got to see everything once. There were some really cool props, stilt walkers, plenty of people wearing crazy awesome costumes, tattoo artists and body piercers, celebrities, paranormal teams, and more.

Overall, I had a great time, even though things started out a little rocky. There were so many other seminars I wanted to attend and speakers I wanted to hear, but there just wasn't enough time to fit everything in. I also would have liked to have focused more on the paranormal side of the conference, but since I was with Aaron, I tried to make sure we did things that would interest him as well---and I don't regret it. Both horror panels we went to were fabulous.  Hopefully, we'll be back again next year!