Monday, July 30, 2012

Ghost FAQs: Certification

The topic of becoming a certified ghost hunter or paranormal investigator has always been a fiercely debated topic among those in the paranormal community.  Although a vast majority of serious investigators stand by the claim that certifications are not worth the paper they're printed on, more and more groups are toting among their credentials the title of Certified Ghost Hunter.  Once again, I take an unpopular stance on this debate--right in the middle.  To understand my viewpoint, we'll start with a simple definition of what certification really is.

Although there are slightly different interpretations, the Business Dictionary defines certification from a business standpoint as:

"Formal procedure by which an accredited or authorized person or agency assesses and verifies (and attests in writing by issuing a certificate) the attributes, characteristics, quality, qualification, or status of individuals or organizations, goods or services, procedures or processes, or events or situations, in accordance with established requirements."

Because there is no accredited governing body concerning paranormal investigation protocol, a certificate simply IS a piece of paper.  It is a piece of paper confirming only that the "certified" has completed whatever requirements are issued by the certifying institution, arguably some being much better than others.  Certification of this type should never be confused with licensing, but merely as a symbol that one person has satisfactorily met the requirements of education set forth by another.

And this is where the problem lies.  Since there is no accredited governing body over the paranormal field, how can anyone lay out what they should or should not do?  Who is to say what method of investigation is the best and try to standardize a field where there are no absolutes? 

It is my personal opinion that certification can be a GOOD thing, but as with anything, moderation and common sense are key elements.  Many basic certification courses are offered through established institutions with a long, respectable reputation in the paranormal community.  Many of these certification courses offer a good solid base, featuring the most widely accepted theories and procedures.  However, as many opponents to certification point out, the information "taught" through these certification programs is found in abundance and for free in a variety of books, articles, and online publications.  Further, this knowledge, while essential, is not a replacement for good old fashioned hands-on field work.

To date, I am a certified ghost hunter through several institutions including, but not limited to, Hollow Hill, Flamel College, GhostVillage U. and UniversalClass.  For me personally, certification is simply a way to tangibly show a commitment to higher education in this field.  It shows a mastery of the basics and a willingness to accept and explore the ideas of others in the field.  The classes I have taken have always been free or affordable, so I consider it money well spent.  I also saw it largely as an entertainment endeavor, as I'm such a nerd that I do this for fun, lol.  However, these certifications are only a VERY small part of what I consider my investigation resume.

For anyone who asks me about whether or not they should get certified, I encourage them to first educate themselves through the many resources already out there, but if they truly want to spend some money, get certified in something that holds a little more weight, in and out of this circle. Examples of such would be to take college-level courses in the sciences, or even classes in photography, digital audio, etc.  Only then, and following an in-depth review of the company offering the certification and its own credentials, should any money be spent specifically for a ghost hunting certificate.

Ethically, if one chooses to share the fact of their certification with prospective clients and peers in the community, I believe full disclosure is essential.  I believe that having these credentials listed does show a prospective client that the investigator is serious about his/her work, but full details as to where the certification was obtained, and the coursework involved gives the client and others a better understanding as to what is involved.  More importantly, however, I think it needs to be made clear that there IS no accredited governing body, and thus, any certifications are to be taken at face value.  Anything else, in my opinion, is misleading those who need our help the most.

If you would like to try a free ghost hunting certification program, I suggest the coursework of Hollow Hill.  With anything in life, the more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it, so take the assignments seriously and complete them to the best of your ability!


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Jamais vu to you, too!

Anyone that follows Theresa's Haunted History on FaceBook may have seen my post several weeks back about an eerie feeling I had driving home one evening.  To those who missed it, basically what had happened was that I was driving home, on a road that I have traveled probably at least 4 times a week (and in some cases, up to 4 times a DAY) since I was 18.  I have traveled this particular stretch of road between Winfield and Teays Valley so often and in so many different types of conditions, that a trip down it in either direction usually results in a form of highway hypnosis.  I can literally just drive down the road, not even thinking about what I'm doing.

It was perhaps this ability to "hypnotize" myself or induce almost a state of hypnagogia while driving that led to one of the freakiest things I have ever experienced on the road.  Things were normal as I was driving down the road sometime between 10pm and 11pm when all of a sudden, I experienced what felt like the beginnings of an anxiety/panic attack.  Without warning, EVERYTHING around me felt different.  I didn't recognize where I was and felt like I was driving down a road I had never been on.  The trees, the houses, the discernible landmark produced even a remote feeling of familiarity.  I drove about a mile, in a panic, searching for some clue as to where I was, not finding so much as a road sign to let me know I was on the right road.  Finally, the feelings subsided as I noticed an indiscriminate fence and knew shortly after  where I was.

Being a fancier of horror fiction as well as paranormal nonfiction, my mind immediately began applying different scenarios that I've read about over the years.  Alien abduction, time travel, and inter-dimensional shift were all things that admittedly crossed my mind, lol.  Then I started getting even more scared as the thought of it being a medical condition set in.  My mother has recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor that while non-cancerous is actually a type that is hereditary.  Further, in the past I have exhibited warning signs of temporal lobe epilepsy.  Not wanting to think about those types of things, I put it out of mind as a weird experience and forgot about it...until today.

I was going through some old papers, trying to get everything filed away and stumbled upon some notes I had taken from a book that I failed to cite.  In the notes was the term "jamais vu" and its definition.  I knew instantly what I had experienced on the road weeks ago.

Jamais vu is a French term that translates to the phrase "never seen."  In psychology and in everyday usage, jamais vu is simply known as the opposite of the more well known phenomenon of deja vu.  Not much is known as to WHY the brain reacts the way it does, but a well-known trigger of jamais vu is brain fatigue.  A study done by Chris Moulin found that when volunteers were asked to write the word "door" thirty times, a staggering 68% showed signs of jamais vu by the end of the experiment.  It is quite possible that my simple familiarity with the road and constantly being bombarded with its accompanying stimuli was actually the CAUSE of the feelings of NOT knowing.

So, unfortunately this was not a case we can attribute to paranormal means, but taught a valuable lesson in a little-understood phenomenon known as jamais vu.

Wikipedia Article

*Photo is NOT of the road in question

You can follow Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State on FaceBook for more fun stuff!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hurricane's Haunted House Lives On

Those in the Hurricane/Teays Valley area may be old enough to remember a creepy old house which sat across the street from the entrance to Cow Creek Rd, right on Teays Valley Road. Known in more recent times as the Umberger House, this pre-Civil War mansion was a brick masterpiece full of legends and lore.  Although its been gone for many years, the legacy of the mansion continues to live on in local ghost-lore.

The mansion was originally known as the McCallister mansion, and was built by slave labor for John McCallister and his wife, Matilda (Tillie).  It was built around 1847 when the McCallisters were already well into life--around 53 years old to be precise.  Some say it was the first brick home built in Teays Valley and it was a showpiece of the McCallister family's wealth.  John was a wealthy landowner and farmer, and Tillie is said to have been independently wealthy herself, owning two chests filled with gold coins.  In addition, the McCallister's operated a brickyard and tannery, located approximately where the A&L Hardware building sits--across from the Hurricane City Park.

John McCallister died in 1865 at the age of 70 years old, and Tillie lasted until 1871, when she died at the age of 76.  The McCallisters had no living heirs and since Tillie died without having left a will, the house was put up for a commissioner's sale, where it was bought by Dr. George L. Nye in 1872.  Oddly, the 1870 census has Dr. George Nye and his wife living with Tillie in the home a year before she passed.  In September of 2012, I found out a little more about this arrangement.  The Nye's came to Teays Valley from Wytheville, VA in the 1860s and Dr. Nye opened up his own practice, boarding with Tillie.  When Tillie died, Dr. Nye was actually the one to sign her death certificate, but inexplicably left the Teays Valley area.  He didn't stay away long...When hearing that the house would be put up for auction, he came back and bought it.

In any event, the Nyes were also considered a very prominent family in the area.  Unfortunately, while living at the home, the Nyes lost at least two children, a ten-month old, and an infant that only survived two days after birth.  But, several children did survive into adulthood, including a son named (Norman) Luther.  Luther's daughter Lois Nye would go on to become one of the home's most well-known residents.

Lois Nye was born in Virginia, and at the age of thirty, married into the Umberger family.  Previously, Lois had been involved with a man by the name of Homewood, and bore a son in the early 1920s named Max.  She married William Isaac Umberger in the early 1930s.  She was William's third wife, and would eventually bear him two additional sons, Henry and William, Jr.

After William's death, Lois Nye Umberger continued to live in her grandfather's home and continued a career in teaching.  Locals remember Mrs. Umberger being a wonderfully classy southern lady who rode her horse side-saddle down Cow Creek Road to the Oakdale School where she taught.  Electricity didn't reach the mansion until the 1950s.  Lois died in 1964; she was 65 years old.

William Umberger was the last owner of the old homestead and the last in the family line to have actually lived in the old brick mansion.  The property was sold in the mid-1980s and the house was razed sometime between 1986 and 1994.  The land would later be the site of the Southbrooke Subdivision.  William Umberger is now deceased.

Shortly after Lois' death, the house quickly became a local legend and was known colloquially as the old haunted house; many of Hurricane's youth got their first taste of ghost hunting/legend tripping over the next twenty years by daring each other to go up to the door and knock.  Stories abounded of an accidental hanging on the property which led to such hauntings, but details of such an event would not be uncovered for many years.  According to a 1994 History of Hurricane publication, the ghostly activity at the house included anything from strange noises, faint lights moving about the home at night, and shadows passing by the windows.  It is even reported in a volume of WV paranormal literature (which, due to its high rate of inconsistency, shall remain nameless here) that Henry Umberger's trailer on the property was also haunted in the 1970s, causing him to flee and move away.

The legends of the haunting, however, were so pronounced that when a local paper, the Hurricane Breeze, ran a story on the mansion's history complete with accompanying photograph shortly before it was torn down, at least three independent readers called in to the paper to report seeing a ghostly figure in the photo. 

The property was also a favorite spot for treasure hunters, as another local legend sprung up concerning gold being buried on the property.  These rumors, which probably stemmed from stories of Mrs. McCallister's chests of gold coins led to plenty of folks perusing the property with metal detectors shortly after the mansion was torn down.  The gold coins were of no secret to anyone living in the community, as it is rumored that Tillie allowed her nephews to play with the coins, and even local people would come over on Saturday evenings and use the coins as checkers.  However, they could not be found upon her it possible they are the reason Dr. Nye temporarily LEFT the Teays Valley area?

In the early years of the 1990s, the Southbrooke Subdivision sprung up on the old McCallister/Nye/Umberger property thanks to developer Roger Gibson and as Teays Valley was being flooded with new blood, many forgot about the old mansion and its ghostly legends.  However, the legends of the old house refused to die.  People living in the Southbrooke Subdivision started reporting that their brand new homes shockingly had paranormal activity...and shockingly, different homes were reporting basically the same thing.  At least four families came forward in 2005 with tales of a seeing a little girl in a white dress.  This little girl was spotted by one lady in her front entrance, putting on her shoes.  Others have seen her wandering the subdivision, late at night.

It is believed that this little girl is somehow tied to the old mansion, but details are sketchy as to her correct identity.  In researching this case, I didn't find much of substance concerning any children dying on the property, or really, much of any female children even living there.  The McCallisters had no children of their own while staying on the property, but they did have at least one slave die there...a 2 month old baby girl named Sarah who died in 1854.  As stated previously, the Nye's did have two male children die in infancy, but I was unable to uncover any little girls who died there at this point.  Over different census years, the Nye's had several female servants and various boarders, including extended family, living with them, so its possible that any one of these may have resulted in a little girl living on the property.

And while we don't know WHO the little girl is, Mrs. Umberger may have provided a clue as to WHY the little girl is still there.  A former resident of the Hurricane area wrote in to a local newspaper about a story Mrs. Umberger had told her in the late 1930s/early 1940s.  This lady, whose aunt was a friend of Mrs. Umberger, went to visit Mrs. Umberger in her home and commented on the beautiful old chandelier in the foyer.  Mrs. Umberger went on to tell her that years before, a young girl who lived in the home loved to play on the bannister, sliding down it from the second floor to the first.  Somehow, an accident occurred, and the little girl fell off the landing at the second floor.  She hit the chandelier, and her neck became caught up in the mechanism used to lower it, resulting in her accidental hanging.

Today, the people of Southbrooke are still reporting the occasional creepy experience, but interest in the former McCallister Mansion is quickly waning, as the older generation is dying off, only to be replaced with a new generation too young to have remembered the creepy old haunted house on Teays Valley Road.

Photos were scanned from a June 1989 edition of Hurricane High School's Warrior newspaper.  They were taken by Rod Farley.

Theresa's Note:  I have compiled a wealth of resources on this location, so please feel free to contact me for additional details about the family and the property that I have left out for the sake of brevity, including a history of the property BEFORE the McCallisters and a favorite way of "punishing" lazy slaves.  Also, I would LOVE to hear from anyone who has any other stories about the alleged hauntings of either the McCallister mansion or the Southbrooke subdivision.  I'm especially interested in tracking down a copy of the Hurricane Breeze featuring the alleged ghost photo.  I can be reached by email at   Thanks!

Update December 2012:  Please check out this personal experience I found, concering someone who did live in the trailer on the property!

Follow Theresa's Haunted History on FaceBook for additional stories and news, plus lots of other paranormal goodies!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Book Review for 101 Ways to Find a Ghost

Title:  101 Ways to Find a Ghost:  Essential Tools, Tips, and Techniques to Undercover Paranormal Activity
Author:  Melissa Martin Ellis
Published by Adams Media (2011)

101 Ways to Find a Ghost is the latest acquisition to my paranormal literature collection, and I'm quite pleased with it overall.  If you're actually looking for 101 ways to find a ghost, you'll probably be disappointed, but if you're looking for solid, tried and true methods of investigating the paranormal, this is the book for you.

The book is arranged quite cleverly, with 101 "subjects" including everything from paranormal definitions, the history of paranormal investigation, and of course, how to effectively begin the investigative process.  It is a great resource for those looking to get into paranormal investigations, and a must-read for anyone wishing to actually start their own ghost hunting team.  It is well-written, and written in a language that even a novice can understand and learn from.

I personally enjoyed the majority of this book simply because it fell in line with many of my own beliefs, and coincided with the same information/advice that I have personally been sharing during my time as an investigator.  There are a few subjects that I would have liked to seen developed a little further, but overall, this was a great introduction into a subject is far too vast to be adequately covered in only one tome.

This is not a collection of ghost stories, and therefore, may read a little dry to those who are either not interested in the idea of paranormal investigations, or to those who have been in this field for quite some time.  Overall, a commendable addition to my personal library!

Buy from Amazon

Give Theresa's Haunted History a LIKE on FaceBook for further recommendations on what to read...and what NOT to read!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Legend of Mary Green Hall

Mary Capp Green Hall is a coed residence hall, located on the campus of Lebanon Valley College, in Annville, Pennsylvania.  Although the college was founded in 1866, Mary Green Hall has only been a campus staple since its dedication on Saturday, May 18, 1957.  Named for the former Dean of Women, Mary Capp Green, the building originally was a women's only dormitory built under the presidency of Dr. Frederic K. Miller.

Legend states that the dorm is haunted by a little girl.  As the story goes, the girl's older sister was moving into the dorm on its opening day of the Fall 1957 semester.  As the girls' parents were assisting the older daughter in getting settled, the younger sister, bored, wandered off to play with her ball outside.  It is here where the story's details become muddled depending on the story-teller.  Some say that the ball got away from the girl and rolled into the road, where the girl was hit and killed by a passing car.  Other stories claim that the ball got away from her and she found herself on the railroad tracks that are located immediately behind the dormitory and met her demise there, being hit by a passing train.

Stories of the little girl were popular gossip among more modern residents of the dorm and many claimed that on many nights, the little girl's giggling and the bouncing of her ball could be heard in the hallways.

In 2002, several male residents of the now coed building decided to incorporate the legends of the little girl into their sophomoric college pranks.  They recorded the giggling of a little girl, and played the tape, along with bouncing a ball, down the hallways one night during Quiet Hours.  They believe they may have possibly awoken the girl's spirit once again.

Immediately after the incident, the boys began experiencing electrical disturbances in their room.  Another residence saw the little girl running noiselessly down the hall.  After several more sightings, the boy's decided to apologize to the little girl in hopes to bring her spirit some peace.

These tales were recently featured on an episode of SyFy's new School Spirits show.  The location is also a stop on a popular campus haunted history tour.

Photo courtesy of the LVC website

Article on SyFy's School Spirits

Friday, July 13, 2012

Happy Friday the 13th!

Hey, its Friday!  That means it is time for another installment of Friday Night Funnies.  Tonight's selection comes to you courtesy of Nick Redfern.  I stumbled upon his blog entry and found it too hilarious and well-written not to share.  Nick's blog, "Nick Redfern's World of Whatever," can be found at THIS LINK.  Enjoy, and stop over and take a look at this excellent blog.  (Comic by Terri J. Garofalo)

The 10 Commandments of Paranormal TV:

1. Thou shalt always have thy team comprised of more men than women. The former should generally sport some form of headwear (either a baseball cap or something befitting Indiana Jones). The latter should always be kept away from Manna from Heaven and the food of the gods. Anorexic-looking, in other words.

2. Ensure that thy cast doth drive a flashy all-terrain vehicle rather than a car. If that same vehicle can be filled with lots of cameras, weird-looking devices and advanced technologies - and bountiful shots of such items can be captured for the viewer - ye will reap rewards beyond thy imagination (that's to say you will get your expenses paid a week early).

3. Lest ye risk facing the wrath of the Almighty (in this case the TV channel that is funding the show), thou shalt secure a great deal of night-vision footage. And not for any particular reason, aside from, well, it's night-vision footage and everyone else's show has it, so why not thy heroes, too?

4. To avoid forever being plunged into the heart of some hellish realm, ensure that at least every 5 minutes one of thy cast members utters a variation of the following words (which must always be whispered, rather than spoken or shouted): "What the hell was that?!" "Did you hear that?!" "What the f**k is that?!" "Can you see that?!"

5. Take careful steps never to forget that, when a commercial break doth loom large on the horizon, thou shalt build up the atmosphere with something that appears mysterious, but - Lo and Behold! - after the break, thy team will resolve the matter in down to earth, jokey, semi-relieved style.

6. Verily, in the commercials that promote the show in the hours before it is broadcast, always be careful to ensure that at least one person's words are edited in a fashion that takes them totally out of their original context.

7. Stress to thy heroes of the hour (or half an hour, depending on budget) that at some point they must speak in an out of breath fashion, and if this can be done while running from something terrible (but actually non-existent), ye will all be granted entrance into the next joyous realm of existence (or, as it's also known: Season Two).

8. Never forget that haunted houses and creature-infested woods should not be entered into until the sun has set and darkness is upon both ye and the land. Daylight shootings will provoke a wrath of unimaginable horror. Its almost unspeakable name is: Falling Ratings.

9. Do thy utmost to make sure the team comes across as more learned and intelligent than the witnesses they encounter on their journey towards enlightenment.

10. And, finally, the most important commandment of all, and one of definitive behind-the-scenes proportions: when trying to secure the services of people to appear on thy show, always ensure that the researcher whose job it is to phone the witnesses, authors and investigators reads the following sacred verse: "Hi, I'm [Insert Name] from the [Insert Name] Channel. We would like to interview your for our show [Yep, again: Insert Name]. But, unfortunately, we can't pay you as we don't have much of a budget [Yes, you do, you lying prick]. But it will be good publicity for you, we'll try and pay all your airfare, and we'll even buy you a coke. How's that sound?"

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hayswood Hospital, KY

For some reason, the Haunted Kentucky area of this site has always been I'm going to try to remedy that, starting off with one of my favorite tales from the Bluegrass State.  This one has actually been on our radar for many I apologize for the delay in sharing.  Please enjoy!

Hayswood Hospital is located in Maysville, Kentucky and before becoming "abandoned," had a long history of serving the people of the state.  In the 1800s, there was no hospital in the area.  Instead, a lady by the name of May Pearl Wilson built and ran an infirmary for many years, which catered to the ill.  However, Pearl died in 1908, and the building was torn down to make room for the Hayswood Seminary, built in 1915.  The Hayswood Seminary eventually evolved into the Hayswood Hospital by 1923, with additions being added in both 1925 and 1971, resulting in the massive 4-story brick building which stands today.

Progress, however, could not be averted, and eventually the town's population and needs outgrew the hospital.  It was closed in 1983 with the construction of the new Meadowview Regional Medical Center.  After sitting empty for 11 years, the property was finally purchased at a public auction, only to sit in limbo.  It seems that the residents of Maysville see the building as an eyesore, and would rather have the building torn down and turned into a parking lot. 

On the other hand, ghost hunters across the country would love to see the building preserved...because according to several sites, the hospital is one of the top three most haunted locations in the state, if not in the world, securing television appearances even on the Maury Show!

The ghost sightings associated with the building started long before it closed.  Patients would claim to see the apparitions of doctors and nurses.  One of the creepiest sightings, however, did not involve staff, but perhaps another patient.  The apparition of a woman carrying a baby has been seen throughout the maternity ward.  At times, the woman simply stands, holding the crying infant.  It is theorized that both the woman and child died in childbirth at the hospital.

Other experiences involve seeing shadows darting around the halls of the hospital and a stretcher that apparently moves on its own.  One does not actually have to ENTER the hospital to experience the paranormal, though!  Townspeople and visitors to the property have reported going by the hospital and having a feeling of being watched.  Some even take that claim a step further and report an apparition looking down at them from the last window on the third story.

Danville (VA) Museum of Fine Arts and History

The Sutherlin Mansion was built in 1859 for Confederate quartermaster Major William Sutherlin.  Today, it houses the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History, but on April 4th, 1865, the former private residence secured its place in history.

In early April of 1865, Sutherlin hosted the former president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, in his home for an important event.  During that week, Davis met with his Cabinet for one final time, and on April 4th, wrote his final proclamation, dissolving the Confederacy and ending the Civil War.

It is said that this emotional event has left a lasting impression on the environment that many people are able to experience for themselves, nearly 150 years later.  Davis was given a rear guest bedroom during his stay, in case he needed a quick escape from enemies, and today, that room bears his name.  It may also bear a residual piece of his very soul.  Heavy footsteps and cigar smoke are common occurrences experienced in the room, but many people have also SEEN something.  Visitors to the mansion-turned-museum have noted seeing a man gazing out the window of the Davis Bedroom.  They believe this is the image of Jefferson Davis, who in life, spent much of his week at Sutherlin Mansion staring out his bedroom window, no doubt contemplating his fate and that of his country...and perhaps keeping an eye out for anyone wishing to do him harm.

While Davis is definitely the most prominent haunting at the site, it seems as if the home may also host a female phantom.  Visitors claim to have seen the image of a young girl standing in a mirror, and have also heard her moaning coming from an upstairs bedroom at night.