Thursday, October 16, 2014

#Ghosthunt No. 4 for new book: Forest Queen Hotel in Crested Butte



(All this fall and early spring, we're engaged in our latest book project -- haunted hotels in western and mountainous Colorado -- and we're using our blog to share highlights about our visits (and ghost hunts) to each location. You can click on the tab just under our blog banner called "New WIP Ghost Hunt Book" for more context and a bit of backstory about the project.)

This time, we report on the Forest Queen Hotel in Crested Butte, where Kym got more interaction than she bargained for!

First, a S/O to GM Dave Coleman, hotel manager Meghan Driscoll, and the whole staff -- all who made us feel welcome!

We began by interviewing the staff in the restaurant below the hotel. They had lots to say and recommended we focus our investigations on Rooms One, Four, and Six.

We had the unusual advantage of arriving on a day when the hotel was unoccupied, and the manager gave us a master key to the entire second floor of guest rooms. Then she left us to our own devices, literally.

Opening the rooms, we peered inside each and took baseline readings, which ranged from 200-460mG. In the hallway, we noted the smell of old smoke, like the aftermath of charred timbers. Later we asked one of the restaurant staff about it, and she said she and the cook had noticed the same odd odor for the first time that very morning.

From the hallway, we entered Room Six and immediately stopped in our tracks, asking each other if the room felt weird. The space raised the hair on both of our necks. We returned to Room One to organize our equipment. In the meantime, we decided to let the video camera roll inside Room Six. But before we opened our videocam case in the creepy room, we discovered one of the bed pillows now on the floor. We exchanged glances and harmonized strains of the Twilight Zone tune.

Back in Room One, we started an EVP session, followed by EMF and Spirit Box readings. The EMF meter registered 300-500mG while we worked, once spiking to 700 mG near the foot of the brass bed (and nowhere else over the rest of the brass). At the same time, the Spirit Box chattered away, including such intriguing words as “burning” (twice), “death,” and “explosive.” We experienced similar phenomena in Room Four: the Spirit Box announcing “game,” “innocence,” and “gate” (twice), but no significant EMF spikes. We’d expected more activity since this room was the reputed home of a late 1800s prostitute named Thelma, who'd thrown herself out that bedroom window.

With some trepidation, we reentered Room Six – and here we hit the Mother Lode. Both our EMF meters  
went off the charts, Mark’s sounding high-pitched beeps and Kym’s emitting a siren alert and once flashing an odd orb on the meter display we’d never seen before. Most of the room revealed hotspots, particularly on and around the bed. We conducted an EVP session, asking for a sign of any spirit’s presence. At that moment, one of the table lamps flickered just once (the only flicker to take place that day). Afterwards, Kym turned on her Spirit Box, which produced the words “horse,” “rifle,” “room,” “”burning,” and “fire.”

Kym went back to Room One to retrieve the rest of our equipment and found the door shut and locked. We’d left it wide open. (To be fair, the bedroom window was open, but no breeze blew through the second floor.) In the meantime, Mark started his Spirit Box in Room Six, which seemed strangely quiet. It said only two words: “secret” and “Kym.” 

Needless to say, Kym felt a little disturbed by the direct reference. More so, since she confessed she’d felt the sensation of dragging hobble ropes or shackles around her ankles as soon as we entered the second floor: Each step would pull at the right ankle while the left one felt a pinch. The feeling persisted most of the time we remained in the hotel but stopped as soon as we left the building. Let’s get this straight – Kym has always been the “Scully” of the investigations: pragmatic, rational, skeptical. 

About that time, we both heard footsteps in the hallway and a door slam. We peered out, expecting to see the manager, but we were alone. And all the doors remained open.

We’d had enough for one day and didn’t scout out the other rooms as carefully.

Our later analyses detected no anomalies in the videos and no orbs in the photos. However, we did identify one EVP of a woman’s voice in Room Four, but neither of us could make out what the four or five syllables actually said.

One more thing to report: When we got home, Kym found a red straight-line
bruise on the inside of her left ankle, which we photographed before it faded within a couple of hours. This was exactly where she'd felt the pinches while inside the Forest Queen.

Next week, we share highlights of our visit to The Twin Lakes Inn, on the road to Independence Pass -- already closed for the season, but that doesn't stop the permanent hotel residents from staying on!
 
Don't forget you can follow along during our investigations as we live-tweet from Twitter @writeinthethick. You can check out our Facebook page for updates about dates and times.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

#Ghosthunt No. 3 for new book at Fairplay Hand Hotel



The Hand Hotel looks down on the Platte River

We're still having fun ghosthunting for the new creative nonfiction book and, next stop, the historic Hand Hotel in Fairplay, Colorado.

The Hand Hotel has a fair amount of paranormal activity, with reports of full-body apparitions manifesting on the second-floor hallway (see picture later in this post), little girls appearing in the vicinity of the staircase, faces appearing on at least one guest room mirror, child-size imprints on freshly made beds, and a hand-biting ghost dog that haunts the basement.

We took our cue from a hotel scrapbook reporting on guest accounts of the Hotel's paranormal happenings -- plus receptionist Twyla’s experiences -- and decided to set up our base of operations in Room 6, which displayed a door faceplate called “Mattie Silks.” This infamous lady of the night hailed from the Front Range in the late Nineteenth Century, but with reported enterprises in Fairplay. The room’s furnishings reflected typical brothel décor with lavish red wallpaper, brass bed, and several mirrors.

Room 6
We wanted that room because of Twyla’s sighting of a semi-transparent apparition standing just inside the windowpanes. Room 6 was also near one end of the hallway, which gave us a quiet place to conduct our investigation.

Kym disappeared to scout out the premises, so Mark set to work recording audio for possible EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena). Later analysis revealed two sequences of voices on the recording, following Mark’s requests for interaction. Both were clearly of the same woman with a lilting voice, but neither one of us could make out exactly what she said. Kym’s impression was she spoke the word “baby” in the utterance. Not an unlikely reference for a room named after a brothel madam or the life of the soiled doves who worked the brothels in that era.

In the meantime, Kym had chatted up another guest out on the balcony, a woman who’d visited the Hand Hotel on three separate occasions. She told Kym that each room she’d tried had a different personality, and she suggested we look in on the one near the head of the stairs on the second floor. 

We trotted down to the other room – unoccupied, door open – and … yes, it definitely had a different vibe. Was it due to a resident ghost or just the room’s distinct décor? Twyla  assured us the hotel ghosts wandered promiscuously (our word, not hers) from room to room, so maybe the impression was just ours. And the other guest’s.

Captured by another guest
Back in our own room, the Spirit Box seemed fixated on a "table," which it repeated a number of times. There were two small tables located in the room, but we couldn't detect if one was more significant than the other. No orbs appeared on photographs, and the EMF meter didn't spike near either of the tables.The meter did, however, spike when Kym sat on the bed. Base readings in the room in general hovered near 300 mG compared to the bed, which jumped to 500+ mG intermittently during our investigation.
We also set up our video camera in the room, pointing it at the infamous window and letting it run while we conducted Spirit Box and EVP sessions. But review of the footage revealed no further anomalies. To be fair, the videocam had to battle a fair amount of glare. 
In retrospect, we wish we'd set it up for a while in the shotgun hallway outside the door, where other guests had reported so much activity. But that day we also didn’t get much of a jump beyond the baseline EMF readings in that corridor of the hotel. That’s certainly the location of the great photo of the apparition included here.
We asked to visit the basement but learned it was off-limits except to employees. That was okay with us since we preferred not to be bitten by the ghost dog (yes, that's one of the reports from another ghosthunting operation!)
Loved this place, and we think we'll give it another try sometime when the ghosts want to come out and play.
Next time, we'll report on the Forest Queen Hotel in Crested Butte, where Kym got more interaction than she bargained for!

Don't forget you can follow along during our investigations as we live-tweet from Twitter @writeinthethick. You can check out our Facebook page for updates about dates and times.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

#GhostHunt No. 2: the historic Fairplay Hotel

The third investigation for the latest book, our paranormal "nonfiction" on haunted hotels in mountainous Colorado, took place at the Fairplay Hotel in South Park.

And a shout-out to all the gracious staff (esp. Megan, Beth, Julie, and Sara) and the willingness of hotel owner Lorna Arnold, who opened up the entire hotel to our visit.

Hotel consultant Steve Lake described the current hotel as "much improved and improving." But the place retains the look and charm of a hundred-year-old building, including the installment of the original Silverheels brothel/saloon bar from the nearby 1870s ghost town of Alma (and including original bullet holes from that rowdier era).

Local ghost "Julia"
More important to us, the Fairplay Hotel retains evidence of several persistent "residents."

And most notable of these is "Julia," a soiled dove who lived and died on the premises. Some say she died violently, perhaps even by her own hand. Staff reports she still nonetheless dances in the hallways at night.

Lucky for us, the hotel let us set up in her old, ahem, haunts -- Room 205. In fact, Julia seemed to insist: the night before we arrived, the key to her room disappeared and the front desk couldn't rent the room out. Guess she was waiting for us.

In 205, we used our array of ghosthunting gizmos to see if we could establish her presence -- Spirit Box, EMF meter, an EVP session, and video camera footage.

The Spirit Box recorded multiple words that described the room as well as our various activities ("room," "bed," "shower" -- the 205 suite included that modern convenience -- as well as "videotape," while we recorded). We also got two instances of "knife" -- a reference to how she died?

Once we had a baseline EMF reading, Kym's meter spiked multiple times on the northern of the two beds and even the chair between the beds, suggesting goings-on we couldn't see. And when we afterwards analyzed our voice recordings, in which we invited her to talk to us during the EMF sessions, we found a whispered response: "I don't want to talk to you."

If only we'd known!

Julia is not the only resident ghost. Lorna showed us a stool in the bar which came from the Alma saloon. She said they placed a half-full glass of beer on the bar in front of the stool and invited the Silverheels madam who'd owned the relocated furnishings to drink up in welcome to the new digs. Then they locked the doors for the night.

Next morning, they found the glass empty and the stool turned around.

Staff report many other goings-on -- mostly playful, if sometimes disruptive to work -- as do many of the guests who stay at the hotel.

But you'll have to wait for the book to get the full report!

Oh, one more encounter: Kym *almost* saw her first ghost! Staffer Beth told us just a couple nights earlier she'd seen the apparition of an old-time cowboy just outside the bar. When we had lunch in the adjoining dining room during our visit, Kym saw a cowboy through the lace windows who seemed to disappear. No such luck: he turned out to be flesh-n-blood and took a turn toward a bar stool she couldn't see through the lace. Maybe next time.

In the next three weeks, we'll visit five other haunted establishments, reporting on each as we work our way across mountainous Colorado.

Feel free to "join us" for our on-site investigations, when we live-tweet what we encounter as we encounter (and with pics) on our Twitter page @writeinthethick.

Wish us luck!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

#Ghost #Investigation of Virginia City, MT, Courthouse

Our #ghost #investigation of the Virginia City, MT, courthouse was a great success, plus we managed to visit and investigate several hotspots in this very haunted frontier mining town. Our team included two savvy locals, "Moonbeam Aboc" (not her real name) and Fonda Porterfield. And a shout-out to the Madison County Sheriff's Office, who gave us permission to investigate the courthouse premises.

Here are highlights:
The Courthouse
Built in 1876, site of many hangings on the front steps, disturbed by earthquakes and major fires several times.
Notable events in the investigation:
  • Interviewed several deputies and dispatch staff,  who recounted repeated paranormal activities, including footsteps, clanging and knocking, unexplained disruption of CTV during many of these events -- and turned-over pews (all of them) in courtroom in middle of night minutes after janitor cleaned room.
  • Staked out the old jail, *still* in use as holding cells, and recorded several pics with clear orbs (a first
    three pics of similar orbs
    for us), with Spirit Box confirmations describing our ongoing, on-site activity ("film," "videotape" as well as "floodlights" both when we turned on and turned off such lights, plus repeated references to "fire," burning," "flame").
  • Staked out courtroom, where many reports of apparitions and footsteps on the adjoining empty stairwell (multiple Spirit Box confirmations of the words "stairwell" and "staircase").
  • Baseline EMF readings in 150-200 mG would spike to 2,000 mG (holding cells) and 4,000 mG (courtroom) and then disappear, and tripled readings (200 --> 700 mG) on approaching line on courthouse steps where many hanging executions occurred.
  •  Two interesting EVPs, one a whispered voice that name "Moonbeam's" real name, and another was unintelligible but clearly human voices in the holding cells (still under analysis).
note "ghost ropes"
The Hanging Building
 Site of multiple lynching incident by the notorious Vigilantes of Montana in 1864.

  • Team member "Moombeam" snapped two cellphone pics back to back, first having ghost "ropes" hanging from hanging beam, second taken seconds later revealing no such thing.

morgue niche
 The Wells Fargo Steakhouse
Underneath the current premises was the original city morgue, where deceased individuals were stored in wintertime, pending enough ground thaw to bury. In same basement are reports of the well-known though enigmatic ghost of "Angry Dan."
  • Spirit Box immediately announced "Daniel" as we approached hotspot traditionally associated with "Angry Dan."

 We're still running through video footage of the investigation, but all in all, an interesting on-site experience.

The locals reported to us many paranormal anomalies as well as apparition sightings -- all events that continue to occur into the present throughout this very haunted town.

Watch for our accounts of haunted hotels of Western Colorado for the new book, beginning the second week of October. Updates on Facebook, and you can "join in" during our actual on-site investigations by following us on Twitter @writeinthethick.

On we go!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Accounts from our personal #X-Files: Living in a #Haunted House

Our latest project, investigating and writing about haunted hotels, seems a natural enough extension to our earlier experiences -- writing paranormal comedy-adventure novels. (Not to mention our involvement with the Mutual UFO Network as field investigators.)

But there's a personal side to our experience we've never shared: We lived in a haunted house for nine years.


We'd rented a 900-square-foot, two-story log cabin, which sat on ground that was the first site occupied by the frontier mining and ranching community of Doyleville, Colo. Nowadays, the only remaining evidence of that settlement are a few foundations, the original stage stop (now a storage shed), and the berm that supported the 1800s narrow-gauge railroad tracks.

A hundred years ago, most of the bustling little "town" of 2,000 residents consisted of haphazard assemblies of tents with occasional wooden false storefronts for local commerce. These days, Doyleville is a ranching community of around three dozen families scattered over a hundred square miles.

Only after our family (two adults, two little girls) had been in the two-bedroom cabin for a couple years did a neighbor mention that the first burial was on our place -- an unmarked grave. Interesting to us, but more as a historical curiosity.

It wasn't until one night, when Kym asked Mark to go downstairs and retrieve a pop from the fridge and learned he didn't want to go down the stairwell, that the two of them talked about how both sensed that spot in the house was, well, ... creepy. In fact, we both had noticed it since we'd moved in but felt too silly to mention to the other.

We shrugged it off, even laughed about our separate if coincidental impressions. But then our girls mentioned they'd each seen a man dressed in old-time clothes in the hallway near the stairwell -- and why they didn't like to go to the bathroom down that hall in the middle of the night.

That seemed a bit much for a coincidence.

On two occasions, different friends came to visit (each later confessed they were "sensitive" to paranormal phenomena) and each told us there was something in the stairwell -- a presence. One of these friends refused to come inside the cabin. In both instances, we hadn't mentioned previously our "in-house" secret.

It was time to clear the air, in a manner of speaking. So one evening we sat in the stairwell  and had a little chat with our extra resident, suggesting we all try to get along since we were all, ahem, living under the same roof. That seemed to do the trick. We felt better about it, and neither of us minded going down the stairs after that.

Did the feeling of a presence go away? No. It just felt less creepy. And by then we quit worrying about the pranks that continued to happen -- lights going on and off, the satellite TV changing channels, the water facets turning on and off. (Did we mention? The cabin wasn't old; it was built as a summer retreat just a few years prior and turned into a rental. So no old and creaky plumbing, etc.)

One odd thing that happened, though, occurred when we returned from a three-day trip. Our downstairs had a half-bath/laundry room: just a shallow sink, a toilet, and a washer/dryer. We kept the cat box on the far  side of the dryer and well away from the sink, and Kym emptied the spoiled litter into a garbage bag, returning half a minute later with fresh litter. She found the emptied cat box full of water. But the cat box was too large to fit under the faucet in that narrow little sink. No way any of us could have done the deed in so short a time.

Cute trick, Mr. Ghost.

Eventually, we needed more than two household bedrooms as the girls grew up, and we moved, not once mentioning our extra resident to the landlord.

We later learned the next two consecutive tenants lasted only six months each, and each complaining that the cabin was haunted. One even walked away from a lease and had to keep paying not to live there. In neither case had either of the tenants heard about the resident ghost ahead of time.

Finally, the landlord retired and moved in. But his wife wouldn't stay there -- too many odd and creepy things going on for an idyllic retirement, we guess.

We moved out 17 years ago, but the experience gave us an open mind. Or at least a greater level of tolerance for unannounced roommates.

In some ways, we're kind of surprised it's taken us this long to bring our journalistic talents to bear on a book about ghosts.

But here we are now: researching, investigating, and writing about ghosts. Other people's ghosts.

You can join us on our next investigation -- the notoriously haunted courthouse in the frontier mining town of Virginia City, MT, along with a stop down the street at the old morgue under a current restaurant -- by following us on Twitter. We'll be live-tweeting these and all our visits over the next few weeks.

Check for updates at our Facebook postings and Twitter feeds about the when and where.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Live-tweeting the ghost investigations for our latest book

To visit other IWSG postings, click here
As we announced in our previous post, our current work-in-progress has moved from research for a new paranormal fiction (Silverville Saga, #4) and into its own nonfiction book.

But we had no idea how deep those waters were becoming.

 * * *
First, though, this is the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop, hosted by our incomparable Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh (thanks, Cap'n!), postings shared on the first Wednesday of every month by a host of conspiratorial scribblers:

"Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!"

* * *
Now back to the promised topic:

Live-Tweeting our Ghost Investigations

You could say we live in an ideal writers retreat -- 30 miles from the nearest town (pop. 5,000), surrounded on three sides by Colorado high country public land, and only three dozen families in the hundred square miles around us.

One irony is that our kids grew up thinking we lived in a really boring place. Sure they could go horseback riding, hiking, mountain-biking, or cross-country skiing -- all from our backdoor. But that was nothing special to them because it was all they knew. And they certainly didn't realize we had spent years getting to a point where we could call this home.

Another irony is that, although it's a great place to live and write, it's so isolated it makes book promotion a
logistical challenge. Once you get past the four bookstores within 60 miles, it's hundreds of miles to get to a population density with a demographic that supports much readership. And even then, plane connections to conferences or guest appearances from our place are a nightmare.

(We know, we know -- poor little us to be "trapped" in such a terrible place!)

Our promotional solution: we decided to embrace social media to expand our platform and reach, and with  ,vengeance. The plunged into this blog, our WebsiteFacebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google-Plus, and Goodreads as well as blog hops and tours (thank you, generous hosts!) and all the links to these various venues through our assorted author and product pages -- plus all the interconnecting RSS feeds we could muster (no telling which of the above platforms you used to reach this posting!)

But we're still just two tiny voices amid the clamoring social media throngs of other authors -- despite the accolades and awards our books have garnered.

So, back to the "deep waters" we mentioned at the beginning. Plunging once again into the deep waters of a new form of promotion, we're taking a close look at using Twitter. Since our latest project is a nonfiction of sorts -- a travelogue on haunted hotels in our region -- our newest initiative is to try live-tweeting our investigations. (Even though we early on set up a Twitter account, we soon ran out of interesting tweets while laboring away composing our fiction -- BORING!)

We've finally taken Twitter seriously, and we're hoping the nature of this project will be fun for our followers if they get to "join us" during the actual investigations. Now it's a matter of honing our thoughts into 140 character posts. And trying to find suitable Wi-Fi connections in some of the remote places we'll be visiting in coming weeks.

Wish us luck, and join us if you care, to see what ghosts we can "scare" up -- or vice versa.

Our Twitter feed is @WriteintheThick

Monday, August 25, 2014

Write in the Thick takes on the X-Files

Our lives are starting to feel like episodes of the X-Files -- minus the guns.

It all started with our investigations into UFOs as research for the first book in the Silverville Saga, Little Greed Men. Like any serious writers, we jumped into that research with a vengeance, taking the training and becoming field investigators for MUFON to see firsthand what motivates people to believe.

Seemed like a good idea at the time.

It quickly became apparent that the roles we assumed even mimicked Mulder and Scully. Mark definitely fit the bill for an "I Want to Believe" investigator, while Kym maintained the distance of a rational skeptic. In the 35 or so field investigations we've now conducted, we've come across our share of the inexplicable as well as the expected stonewalling by assorted government officials (who were nonetheless polite if not exactly helpful, we might add).

But we've also we've been able to determine less-than-extraterrestrial solutions for most of the sightings and encounters we looked into: weather balloons, mis-ID'd stars or meteors, sightings of the International Space Station, etc. Definitely the sorts of explanations that wouldn't have made for compelling X-Files episodes.

Over the past couple of years, we've nonetheless interviewed folks who make extraordinary claims and even some who produce intriguing (though not conclusive) evidence for events that defy rationale explanation.

All of these activities have tended to move Mark closer toward Scully and Kym not as far from Mulder . Let's just say we're now both optimistic skeptics.

So it comes as little surprise to us that our latest writing project, which is all about hauntings, has plunged us into a whole other realm of the paranormal. It began as research into the fourth book for the Silverville Saga series, but now it's taken on a life of its own, and its own "nonfiction" book.

And we feel like we're back in the X-Files once again.

We've decided to use our blog for this WIP to report excerpts from our findings and experiences as we research and investigate. Why not share the fun and the perplexing?

Stay tuned ...

[cue X-Files theme song and fade]