Friday, May 15, 2015

Our best EVP evidence - 12 months, 20 paranormal investigations

This is the second in a four-part series featuring some of the past year's best evidence from our paranormal investigations. This week we share our most intriguing EVPs -- what some investigators and researchers refer to as "voices of the dead."

(Our focus last time was anomalous photos we captured during our investigations. If you missed that article, click here.)

EVPs -- Electronic Voice Phenomena, or voices captured by electronic means. It's not "unheard of" (forgive the pun!) to hear ghostly voices with the unaided ear, but it's only by recording such sounds that they move from hearsay and anecdote to documented evidence.

These days, two common methods of capturing EVPs are audio-only digital recording and so-called spirit boxes.(More on the latter in a moment.)

We used both methods, and with startling results.

Audio-Only EVP Recordings

We used a digital audio recorder during portions of all our investigations, conducting interviews and pausing to see if we captured any responses that that might not have been audible except when amplified later. This final necessary step was, at times, frustrating because we sometimes discovered responses that were missed opportunities for further dialog. Even more dismaying were the several occasions where we captured "Help me," which we only discovered during later analysis.
The Forest Queen Hotel

The recorded voices are sometimes so soft it's not always certain what the words are. We tended to set those aside if we both couldn't agree on the meaning. One notable exception occurred at the Forest Queen Hotel in Crested Butte, Colorado, where we conducted a session in the room where a distraught prostitute reportedly hurled herself from the window and to her death in Coal Creek in the 1880s.

The voice we captured as a digital recording sounded like three syllables -- all in the same woman's voice -- but we couldn't make out her words. They may have even been Slavic. (The mining town included several different immigrant worker pools). See what you think she might be saying:

The voice of suicide prostitute "Liz-Liz" or "Thelma"?

Another audio-only recording we captured was the single word, "Yes," but what made it memorable to us was that it came in immediate response to a question we asked about the investigative procedures we used at the time. Ironically, this event occurred in the room of another suicide, this time a woman who had taken her life in 1906 at the Windsor Hotel in Del Norte, Colorado.
The Windsor Hotel

We were uncertain at the time whether we had accidentally disrupted our flashlight or the incident was a manipulation by an unseen presence.

The EVP we later heard under amplification settled the question unequivocally for us. (You can compare this separate EVP with the video YouTube clip of the same event, called "Windsor Flashlight Experiment.")

Here's the EVP, along with the context:

 Suicide Maud Heinz clarifies her role in the investigation

Even though we captured several other audio-only EVPs during our investigations, the above two instances
intrigued us the most.

Fariplay Hotel
Still, we have to mention just one more, an EVP we captured at the Fairplay Hotel of a prostitute named "Julia" (yet another suicide), reported to dance in the hallways at night. We conducted an audio-only session in her former room, where Mark asked her to interact with us. A very faint woman's voice told him, "I don't want to f**k with you." Guess Mark wasn't her type! The EVP is so low you need headphones and it doesn't compress well to video, so we haven't uploaded it to share. But it remains one of our favorites.

But it was through our spirit box-generated EVPs that we obtained more reliable auditory volume as well as more frequent recordings. Read on!

Spirit Box EVPs
Many spirit boxes are electronic devices configured to scan random radio frequencies (RF). The theory is that  spirits can pick out and share RF words appropriate for the conversation at hand. But many of the hotels we visited have limited -- and in one instance, no -- radio reception.

Although we tested a number of spirit boxes, the EchoVox provided the best results we obtained during our investigations. We really liked this device because it doesn't use RF at all, instead generating random sounds rather than words, which makes intelligible responses all the more remarkable. We received not only words from this spirit box but also the occasional sentence!

All EVP links we share below were generated with the EchoVox.

On later analysis of our various recordings, we noticed two recurring patterns that interested us:
  1. EVPs that named individuals
  2. EVPs that participated in contextual conversations
We became accustomed to spirit box voices calling us out by name -- even before we started introducing ourselves at the beginning of EVP sessions for unseen presences. For example, during our investigation at the Windsor (but across the hall from Maud Heinz's room), we recorded the following request from spirits to give them more time to answer:

Not always a need for introductions, it seems

At many of the other hotels, we captured the names of individuals present during the investigation -- or else the names of individuals we were trying to contact. For example, when we visited the Spruce Lodge in South Fork, we received an EVP of "Dee," and at the Linda Goodman Miracle Inn in Cripple Creek an EVP of "Sofia" -- the names of the two respective owners of those inns. And when we investigated the Creede Hotel in Creede, Colorado, we recorded EVPs of both "Alice" (in Poker Alice's former room) and "Bob"
Creede Hotel
(possibly Bob Ford, Jesse James's killer, who was later gunned down in a saloon while still living at the hotel). You can visit our YouTube Channel to listen to those clips.

One recurring EVP theme we noticed in retrospect to the year's investigations was the number of actual interactive conversations we recorded. A good example occurred, again, at the Creede Hotel. For this session, we used a mode of the EchoVox that boosts random sound generation, creating a burst of sounds that takes later manipulation to slow down and separate into distinct voices. Listen to the logical flow of the following conversation which includes a burst:

One of our conversations with EVPs

Hotel St. Nicholas
We wonder, as we reviewed some of our findings, why we weren't more unnerved at the time by some of the conversations we recorded.

For example, the Hotel St. Nichlas in Cripple Creek was a former Sisters of Mercy hospital and where we conducted one session in the operating-room-turned-guestroom.

A number of EVPs in that room almost sounded like conversations taking place as though we only eavesdropped. One somewhat chilling exchange involved discussion of some unnamed killing:

EVP from former hospital's operating room, now a guestroom

So far as our collective EVPs are concerned, we suppose it might be a bit misleading to call the above samplings our "Best Evidence." Perhaps better to call them "Representative Evidence" since we captured several of similar quality at the various establishments.

Nonetheless, we became increasingly impressed with spirit box EVPs because they so often provided voices that seemed spot on for context and specifics.

* * *
Next week, we'll share the evidence that impressed us most of all -- the experiments we conducted where unseen presences multiple times responded not only by voice but also by physical deeds.

Remember that we're only a few short weeks away from the publication of our book, WILD WEST GHOSTS: an amateur ghost hunting guide to southwest Colorado, due out in June 2015, and covering the above encounters in more detail as well as many other paranormal experiences.

We also invite you to LIKE our new Facebook page for the book, where we're inviting other paranormal colleagues to also share their own experiences and evidence each week.

Happy hauntings, all!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Twelve months, 20 paranormal investigations - our best evidence

This is the first in a four-part series (as we tap our feet awaiting the forthcoming release of our book on haunted hotels).

Twelve months and twenty investigations later – what did we come away with, what conclusions have we drawn, and do we as authors believe in ghosts? 

Last question first: Kinda, not at first, maybe, sometimes, and now more baffled than ever when we try to maintain our skepticism.

Our paranormal project began as a book on haunted hotels in Colorado, and we approached the project as trained investigative journalists with an assignment from our publisher.

Sure, we were interested in the topic. After all, we once lived in a haunted house for nine years, and we’d encountered plenty of strange activity. (See our earlier blog on that experience.) It’s amazing how much the rational mind can justify in the aftermath of anomalous events.

Our haunted house
But here we were: researching, investigating, and writing about ghosts. Other people's ghosts – well, mostly, since we decided to include in the book our own paranormal investigations at each establishment.

Drawing on our formal forensic training as field investigators for MUFON (but that's another story!), we decided to approach investigations using an Instrumental Trans-Communication (ITC) protocol –utilizing instruments to register fluctuations in electromagnetic field readings at each site, to record electronic voice phenomena, and to videotape interactions we experienced using a flashlight.

In the process, we decided to test and use a number of so-called spirit boxes, an experimental technology only a dozen or so years old and akin to high-tech Ouija Boards designed for 21st-Century users. Plus, we tried to document much of our experience by camcorder.

Now, only a month away from the publication of Wild West Ghosts – an amateur ghost hunting guide to Haunted Hotels in southwest Colorado, it’s time to stake stock of the best evidence we collected during a score of investigations.

And it’s time to ask YOU to be the judge of what we found out.

We’re going to share four kinds of experience:
  1. Photographic evidence
  2. EVPs captured by audio-only digital recordings and by spirit boxes
  3. Video evidence recording interactions and responses
  4. Other sensory encounters we experienced but can’t explain
  For the remainder of this article, we offer several puzzling photographic exhibits.

Our Photographic Evidence

During our year of investigations, we captured three pictures that have us scratching our heads. The first was of an orb.

We’ve always had orb envy.

Lots of folks we know – both friends and paranormal colleagues – have really good luck in capturing orbs. Not us. Except during our first serious investigation. We were in the courthouse in Virginia City, Montana, in the original 1880s holding cells in the building’s basement. Missy, the on-duty dispatcher/jailer, was showing us around and letting us take readings and recordings during our initial sweep of the facility.

This orb followed the jailer
through several photos
In the basement we took a whole range of still frames using a Canon PowerShot S3 IS digital camera. But it wasn’t until we returned to base that we discovered several frames contained luminous spheres – and each time right behind Missy. We took a variety of shots from different perspectives and even some from the same perspective. But only those that also included Missy captured these orbs. 

When we later showed her the photos, she confided she regularly has the feeling someone (or something) is right behind her as she makes her rounds. When she gets that sense, she told us she sometimes turns around abruptly to see who’s following her, but she’s always alone. Or maybe not.

These have been the only anomalous orbs we’ve captured on stills but not the only anomalies our cameras caught.

During one of our earliest investigations for the book, we visited the Twin Lakes Inn in the village of Twin Lakes, Colorado, and Kym took a number of photos that contained blurry streaks. At the time, we thought nothing of it. But they were odd. They looked like motion blurs, sometimes with a single slanted striation running across the picture but others with five or six parallel streaks. However, the backgrounds were always in sharp focus. This really puzzled Kym since she’s been a long-time photojournalist and didn’t recall even taking most of those dozen or so frames.

Still, we were each trying out cameras on our two new tablets at the time, and she dismissed her photos as flawed – and deleted them! At the time it didn’t occur to us that these images might constitute “evidence.” Talk about N00bs. Sheesh. We still kick ourselves for deleting those pictures.

... in the "stretched" image?
Is that a figure in the
green image above?
And a face ...
However, Mark managed to capture an anomalous image on his tablet at that same inn but also not on purpose. It was days after the investigation that he noticed two frames that seemed odd, and for three reasons.

First, he also didn’t remember snapping either of them since they were focused on an uninteresting edge of a stripped-down bed in a room during our initial tour of the inn. In fact, it wasn’t even a room we decided to investigate.

Second, the pictures were out of sequence. Like most cameras, it logs and stores photos in the same sequence they’re taken. Always. But these two pictures were at the very beginning of the camera’s memory storage. That simply shouldn’t happen. The two pics were also only a fraction of the file size of every other picture that camera has taken. (We’re talking 45k files where all the others are the standard size of at least a meg each.)

One of the pictures shows only the corner of the mattress and part of the black frame of the wrought-iron headboard. But the other picture – for the third and oddest reason – includes a vertical swatch or strip of green superimposed over the edge of the bedboard. There seemed to be some sort of image in the green swatch, so we stretched it for a better look. The image resembles a person to us.

We’re not sure we’d have scrutinized the picture so closely had it not been for the unusual circumstances of capturing and storing this picture. Make of it what you will.

Our final anomaly on film occurred at the Spruce Lodge in South Fork, Colorado. We were conducting EVP sessions in a room on one end of the lodge’s second floor. Right before we went inside, we snapped a picture of a really cool looking mannequin in period dress posed at the end of the hall. All the while, we had the door open, not ten  feet from the mannequin.
Note parasol up
Note parasol down

When we packed up our gear and walked out the door, the parasol that had been in the mannequin’s hand now lay on the floor nearby. This photo capture is less an anomaly than a record of what we saw. The flooring was hardwood, which made for distinctive echoes with every footfall.

We never heard the parasol move or fall, and we were only a few feet away. But the lodge has repeated reports of objects moving on all three floors of the main lodge.

* * *
Next week, we move on to highlights of our EVP sessions, with YouTube links that document some of the more startling interactions we recorded during our year of investigations.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Colorado Haunted Hotels - The Twin Lakes Inn

We're sharing the history and haunted legends associated with each of the hotels and B&Bs in our book forthcoming in late June,

Note Mt. Elbert in background
(highest peak in Colorado)

an amateur ghost hunting guide
to Haunted Hotels
in southwest Colorado

This week, we feature the Twin Lakes Inn in Twin Lakes, Colo. (If you missed the earlier account of our own paranormal investigation at Twin Lakes, click here.)

* * *
Historical Context

Twin Lakes is filled with Colorado extremes – tallest mountain, largest glacier lakes, one of the worst avalanches, and maybe even its own monster. Read on.

Once a stop along the way between Leadville and Aspen, Twin Lakes was a mining transportation hub during the Colorado Gold Rush starting in 1860. 

Built in 1879 by Maggie Webber, the facility that ultimately became the Twin Lakes Inn once served as a stage stop, a hotel, and even a brothel. A few years later, mining magnate James V. Dexter built the Interlaken Resort across the lake from Twin Lakes, attracting wealthy tourists who boated in the summer and skied in the winter. At one point, a storm sank the connecting ferry, and many passengers drowned. After a dam expanded the lakes and cut off easy access to the resort, interest started to fade and it eventually closed.
One of the twin lakes just a
mile before you reach the inn

An onslaught of tragedy befell the community starting in August 1961, when Twin Lakes suffered a heavy snow storm. Earthquake tremors and strong winds followed in November. Another storm hit that January, accompanied by 70 mph winds. An avalanche struck three days later, killing seven people as the snow freighted at speeds between 150-200 mph and reached the village limits. Rescuers found at least one victim under twelve feet of snow and rubble.

Through tumultuous and prosperous times, the Twin Lakes Inn continued business, even though its name and flavor changed according to each owner. The establishment, in turn, operated under such various names as Twin Peaks Inn, Twin Peaks Hotel, Sportsman’s Lodge, Inn of the Black Wolf, and Twin Lakes Nordic Inn.

During the “Black Wolf” era, the owner kept a kennel of wolves behind the hotel, allowing a couple of favorites to frequent the inside of the premises. They usually lay quietly in the dining room. But one day, a waitress dropped a tray of dinners in the vicinity of the wolves. The owner quickly commanded everyone in the room to freeze while the animals scarfed down the spilled meals. (As far we heard, that’s the only thing they ate.)

The Red Rooster Tavern & Brothel
used to be the inn's competition -
now it's the village visitor center
Even though the hotel has undergone several renovations, the town itself has changed very little since its inception. The general store, hotel, blacksmith shop, schoolhouse, and vacation homes of the early miners are still there, now part of the National Historic Register. Even the Red Rooster Tavern and Brothel still remains across the street from the Twin Lakes Inn but currently functions as the village visitor center.

Interlaken Lake holds one more secret. According to locals, the waters hide a lake monster affectionately known as “Bessie.” If you tire of ghost hunting, you might stroll the banks and keep an eye out for her.

Legends, Stories, and Guest Experiences
The Twin Lakes Inn has a reputation for guests hearing the invisible footfalls of heavy boots tromping up and down the hallway, and sometimes even the clanking of chains! Housekeeping sometimes finds the impressions of hands and fannies on freshly made beds. Another staff member told us about a music box turning on unexpectedly in the downstairs bar.

Stay in the Mt Elbert Rm
if your dare - a former
owner witnessed an
apparition in this doorway
A previous owner of the inn once saw an apparition standing in a guestroom doorway. She was fluffing pillows in Room Two when she witnessed a cowboy leaning against the doorjamb. She tossed the pillow on the bed, taking her eyes off the figure for only an instant. When she straightened up, the cowboy was nowhere to be found.

In the mid-1980s, one former guest recounted attending a séance in the second-floor room during a Halloween party. Hands joined in a circle with six others, she witnessed the vision of an apparition coming into the room to accost a shadow woman – not one of the attending participants – in a dress printed with pink polka dots. When the session concluded, the guest couldn’t wait to share her experience, but the woman sitting next to her spoke first, describing the same scene right down to the dots. Other attendees of the séance also reported the same vision.

Another guest reported seeing a ghost in the upstairs corridor, and still another saw shadowy arms in one of the rooms.

* * *
In the past twelve months, we conducted twenty paranormal investigations (including follow-ups) as part of our ghost book project.

It's time to take stock of the mass of evidence we've collected and analyzed. So next week -- while we tap our toes waiting for the street release of the book! -- we're going to offer the first in a four-part series that presents our best evidence for the supernatural at the fourteen locales we investigated.

Did we succeed?

Oh yeah:  imprints appearing on beds,  cups flying off tables, pillows off beds, cold spots, invisible footsteps, ghostly touches, flashlights winking on request, EVP voice recordings, interactive conversations through our spirit box, off-the-charts electromagnetic field fluctuations during our interactions, swirling angry orbs, and on and on.

Who knew Colorado was so haunted?

Join us starting next week, and you be the judge!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Colorado Haunted Hotels - The Spruce Lodge

We're sharing the history and haunted legends associated with each of the hotels and B&Bs in our book forthcoming in early June,

an amateur ghost hunting guide
to Haunted Hotels
in southwest Colorado

This week, we feature the Spruce Lodge in South Fork, Colo. (If you missed the earlier account of our own paranormal investigation at the Spruce, click here.)

* * *
Historical Context
As early as 1874, South Fork was a stop along the Rio Grande for the Barlow and Sanderson Stage Company’s route, carrying passengers headed to more northerly destinations following the Old Spanish Trail. By 1881, the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad laid tracks through the town on its way to silver mining areas in the mountains further west. The narrow gauge trains served the local emerging sawmill industry in South Fork, and soon sheep and cattle operations as well as farming developed in the Rio Grande valley surrounding the town.

The Galbreath Tie & Timber Company, which began in the 1880s, built what would become the Spruce
Lodge’s main two-story log structure in the 1920s. The building served as a boarding house for sawmill workers and, except for the hardwood floors, all the wood in the construction comes from locally harvested forests. That mill continued operation until 1999 in what’s now a vacant lot across the highway directly south of the lodge. 

The Spruce later passed into private hands and became a public lodge. It appears on the National Register of Historic Places, administered by the National Park Service as a way to coordinate and protect sites with historic and cultural significance.

Although one of the oldest communities in Colorado, South Fork didn’t become an incorporated town until 1992, making it the “youngest” statutory town in the state.

Rob and Dee Plucinski have owned and operated the Spruce Lodge since April 2006.

Legends, Stories, and Guest Experiences
The original two-story log building provides the setting for paranormal activity at the lodge, and reports occur in virtually every room of both the main floors and the basement – day and night.

Spruce lobby
Even before current owners Rob and Dee took possession of the lodge, the previous owners made it clear to expect paranormal events regularly on the premises. Although skeptical at first, the new owners soon discovered for themselves just how haunted their lodge was, and at all hours. In fact, so much paranormal activity has been reported by the owners, staff, guests, visiting friends and family, and construction workers, we can’t mention it all in this article. 

Below is a summary, with a few particularly intriguing events in more detail.

Plenty of footsteps – sometimes for as long as ten or fifteen minutes at a time – occur throughout the building and even within guestrooms while occupied. Owners and visitors frequently hear voices, groans, sighs, and whispers throughout the main lodge. On separate occasions, owner Rob distinctly heard the same woman whisper in his ear, “Look at me” and “Hello.” A couple reported hearing Indian drumming in the hallway outside their room, and a plumber working in the basement heard a voice over his shoulder ask, “What are you doing?” while he worked alone. He didn't stick around long enough to carry on further conversation.

These antlers have mysteriously
moved twice - one time nearly a foot
A whole range of poltergeist activity takes place, including ghostly touches, moving kitchen utensils, rolling
balls, moving toys, electrical anomalies, drained batteries, and unscrewed light bulbs. The antlers on the lobby table have twice moved, once eleven inches from its original position.

The owner’s pets have frequently responded to unseen presences as well. 

Apparitions also manifest on the premises. Guests have reported seeing shadow figures dart from room to room or down the second-floor hallway. One building renovator observed a basketball-sized winged object fly out of one room across the hall and into another. No windows were open at the time.

On our own investigation,
the parasol next to the
above mannequin moved
out front on the floor
Coming out of the laundry room, Rob noticed a dark figure standing in the doorway to the kitchen, very much resembling a previous deceased owner. He also came face to face with a blonde woman wearing a teal-colored shirt and blue pants sitting on a pool table in the building’s basement. There is no pool table in that particular space, but the room did serve as a pool hall in years past. According to Rob, she didn’t seem surprised to see him.

Dee had her own encounter with an apparition early one morning:  “I reluctantly got out of bed and walked past Rob who was still standing by the alarm clock. I walked into the bathroom and was very surprised to find him in there – not in the bedroom where I [thought I] had just seen and spoken to him.”

Even the owners’ children have witnessed ghostly guests. Their son at age three pointed to an upstairs window, asking, “Who dat girl?” The parents saw nothing. Five months later, the little boy told his mother about “the other mommy” who sat on his bed, describing an older woman with white hair and glasses.

These days the owners have learned to take all the paranormal activity in stride. Guests might as well follow that example -- if they want to get any sleep.

* * *
 Next week, we report on the history and ghostly stories at The Twin Lakes Inn, home to multiple hauntings, including an account of uninvited apparitions who attended a seance on the second floor.

Now only five weeks away from the publication of WILD WEST GHOSTS, where we recount more on this and thirteen other haunted locales.