How I became interested in ghost hunting

My earliest memory of a ghost story was borne in a summer camp in the panhandle of Texas where my brother and I spent several summers. Not far from the camp was a deserted house that was rumored to have been built on an ancient Indian burial ground that was haunted by several ghosts. One evening, the camp councilors set up a field trip to the haunted house. From the nearest road, the house was about a mile away, so the kids followed the counselors in single file during the hike in. We were about halfway to the house when the line suddenly stopped. The people in front had stumbled across the carcass of a steer that had been brutally butchered and was laying in the arroyo which we were using as a path. I recalled hearing one of the adults saying something about hiking back to inform the police and after a short discussion, he left, heading back towards our parked bus. Meanwhile, the other adults continued the hike, leading us up towards the deserted structure.

We soon arrived at the abandoned old house. It was a dilapidated two-story building with a covered porch. Some of the windows were broken and the evening breeze caused the drapes to flutter and move. The councilors paused to do a head count to ensure everyone was present before leading us into the house. We were taken upstairs into one of the old bedrooms and told the ghost story of how a family was murdered one day by a group of Apaches. According to the tale the ghost of the mother still wanders about the place searching for her lost children.

From what I remember, a door on the other side of the room opened by itself. One of the counselors walked over and opened the door the rest of the way, perhaps to see if anyone was inside. The next thing I knew, all of the kids were screaming and we were being rushed out of the room, down the stairs and out of the house. The adults were quickly grouping us together, counting to make sure all the children had gotten outside. I was looking at the house when I noticed the drapes of one of the front windows being held open. As I watched, a face peered out of the window of the deserted building and then quickly pulled the drapes closed again. I can recall that the face was that of a wide-eyed man who had a full bushy beard and that his stare seemed somewhat menacing. He looked quite crazy to me.

Meanwhile, the counselors completed the headcount and confident that all of the children were accounted for, began marching us back to the bus as quickly and safely as possible.  The strangest thing is that I noticed that the adults appeared to be scared as well. The change in their attitude was quite apparent. What was happening was real. That was a little disturbing to me.

Once we got to the bus, we were loaded up and driven immediately back to the camp. Within a few minutes all the children, including the smaller kids who were not a part of the field trip, were gathered into a large storage building. The adults armed themselves with 22 caliber rifles from the camp’s shooting range. Though some of the memories have faded with time, I do recall the police arriving soon afterward. The red and blue lights from their patrol cars illuminated part of the storage structure through the open door and windows. A short time after that we were all loaded back onto the buses and driven back into town where our parents picked us up.

Ultimately this macabre event affected me in several ways. First of all, it created an interest in horror movies and the supernatural. I collected books on ghost stories, Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines and anything to do with classic horror films. Secondly, it sparked a curiosity about what had actually happened that night as the camp counselors and my parents never told me. So I became fascinated by unsolved mysteries and the people that investigated them. I collected anything I could find on Sherlock Holmes and read every detective novel that I could find.

So why do I love ghost stories? Because like horror movies they provide a temporary sort of terror, yet you know that you are safe. People go to horror films because they want to be frightened or they wouldn’t do it twice. You choose your entertainment because you want it to affect you.  I can watch a horror film like “Nightmare on Elm Street” and enjoy the movie; even though I know that Freddy Kruger isn’t real. The same is true with ghost stories. I really do appreciate them, especially if there is some historical element that is attached to the story. However, like horror movies, if the conversation changes to a discussion about if the stories are actually true, that is another matter.

One of the characteristics that distinguish paranormal narratives is that they emphasize mystery and the indeterminate, which  invites interpretation of various kinds. From my perspective, the answer to the question “Do you believe” belongs to the people that are telling or listening to a story of a paranormal experience. They decide to want to believe or even if they’re going to engage with it concerning any type of belief at all. What I do is take the paranormal narratives seriously. I pay attention to them and treat them analytically. It is that love of ghost stories that gives me additional insight. I become fascinated by the elements of the stories themselves. How were they created? Why do some last while others are forgotten? How do they morph over time as they pass from one storyteller to another? It is the combination of these interests that drew me into the hobby of ghost hunting and eventually, my own ghost hunting team, the Southwest Ghost Hunter’s Association (SGHA) in 1985.

Osorezan (Mount Osore)

Mount Osore (恐山, Osore-zan) is the name of a Buddhist temple and folk religion pilgrimage destination in the center of remote Shimokita Peninsula of Aomori Prefecture, in the northern Tōhoku region of northern Japan. The temple is located in the caldera of an active volcano and is believed in Japanese mythology to be one of the gates to the underworld.

The mountain is the location of a Sōtō Zen Buddhist temple, Bodai-ji (菩提寺), which claims to have been founded in 862 AD by the famed monk Ennin, with Jizō Bosatsu as its main image. The temple was abandoned in 1457 and restored back to use in 1530.[4] In popular folk religion, the otherworldly setting of Mount Osore, with its charred landscape of blasted rocks filled with bubbling pits noted for unearthly hues and noxious fumes came to be one of several places in Japan identified to be an entrance to the Underworld. A small brook running to the neighboring Lake Usori was equated to the Sanzu River, a river that deceased souls need to cross on their way to the afterlife.

A unique feature of Bodai-ji is the presence of mediums known as itako who claim to summon the souls of the dead and deliver messages in their voices. These mediums were traditionally blind and had to receive extensive spiritual training and purification rituals; however, in modern times their number has dwindled and not all are blind. The temple has a twice-yearly Itako Taisai festival held in summer and autumn.

The temple also maintains a hot spring resort for use by pilgrims and tourists.

(Source: Wikipedia)

 

U-Rock Albuquerque, The Haunted KiMO Theater

In 2009, I was approached by Joey who wanted to scare his co-star Stevo on the Halloween episode of URock Albuquerque. I was doing a fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation that year so he agreed to promote the fundraiser in exchange for helping him scare Stevo on the show. The KiMO theater itself is not haunted. The origins of the ghost stories and how they grew into a legend are described in detail in my book “New Mexico’s Most Haunted:Exposed.”

 

The La Fonda Hotel, Ghost stories

This video, shot in 1999 and 2005, show the staff at the La Fonda hotel talking about the various accounts of ghosts and paranormal activity.

If you are intrested in learning more about this place and its ghost stories, my finding are published in my book “New Mexico’s Most Haunted: Exposed.” It can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.com/New-Mexicos-Most-Haunted-Exposed/dp/1791603785

Very old photographs from the Albuquerque Old Town Ghost Tour

Look what fell out of a dusty old box, a few photos of me conducting a ghost tour in Old Town Albuquerque. Yes, I am wearing a ghostbusters uniform, complete with a proton pack that played audio clips. I’m guessing that these were taken in 2000 or 2001.
In the early days of the tour, the company was struggling to survive so the ghostbusters gig was done to increase visibility while we were walking around Old Town. To be honest, I hated it. It was hot, the pack was heavy and on occasion, attracted too much attention.
In the first photo, I am talking about the Cottonwood Madonna. In 1970, a parishioner of the 300-year-old San Felipe de Neri, Albuquerque’s oldest Catholic parish, carved the image of the Virgin de Guadalupe into a cottonwood behind the church. Some call it the “Virgin of the Tree.” It was one of the hidden treasures of Old Town because the carving sometimes appears to move and change its position causing people wondered if it was haunted. However, it was simply caused by the movement of the tree based on temperature. it used to sit hidden away behind the church but now has on new home in front where it is more visible.
The second photo shows a creepy shortcut that I used to take the group back towards the High Noon restaurant, another stop on the tour.