Why T.J. Wright (the ghost of room 18) cannot be haunting the St. James hotel.

First of all, and most importantly, T.J. Wright did not die at the St. James Hotel as the legends have suggested. While the 1880 census does show that he was there, the 1920 census show him to be in Albuquerque, way after the date of his supposed demise in Cimarron.

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The first three articles are really important as they set up  the foundation of the ghostly legends at the hotel.

Ed Sitzberger and Pat Loree  bought the hotel in July of 1985. From reading the various newspaper articles, the “attack” on Loree in Room 18 occurred sometime in 1986. The first newspaper that mentions the building is haunted is also in 1986, however there are not any details.

“Only a few ruins outside of Eagle Nest stand where Elizabeth town once flourished, and Cimarron is capitalizing on its wild history with pictures and tours at the haunted St. James Hotel.”

The second mention in the media of ghosts at the St. James hotel occurs on December 6th, 1987 in a story that was written by Steve Brewer for the Albuquerque Journal. It is the first full account of the initial occurrences that are claimed to be paranormal.

   “Cowboys and outlaws, wives and ladies of the evening gather occasionally in the ornate lobby of Northern New Mexico St. James Hotel, talking and drinking, toasting the past, say the hotel’s owners.

 

   They describe the parties in whispered, uneasy tones, with just a touch of nervous laughter. The party-goers, they say, are invisible ghosts, poltergeist, spirits.

   Pat Loree, who owns the St. James with her husband Ed Sitzberger, said she witnessed such a ghastly celebration one night while locking up the hotel.

   ” I came in through these double and I heard a party going on,” she recalled. ” I kid you not. I could hear people talking. I could hear glasses clinking. I thought, oh, now you’ve done it, you’ve finally flipped.”

   Loree said she slowly crossed the expansive lobby thinking perhaps the sounds were coming from a furniture grouping at the far end. As she walked, the noises gradually diminished. The furniture was empty.

   ” I turned and I said, I’m glad you’re having a good time. I’m glad you’re here for a party. Please leave everything as good as you found it, if not better.”

   As she walked back across the room, the party sounds resumed.

   “I closed the double doors I ran upstairs and I called Ed and said,” there’s a party going on in the lobby and I can’t see it.”

   Such paranormal occurrences are normal at the St. James, where, the owners say, at least three ghosts reside, and others occasionally visit.

   “I couldn’t make up anything this good, believe me,” Loree said.

   Most of the hotel workers say they’ve had experiences with the ghosts, as has Sitzberger, a recently retired mechanical engineer, and self-described skeptic.

   “There have been enough things happen that I am a believer, too, now,” he said.

    It’s easy to believe the ghost stories at the St. James, which fairly reeks of the Old West. The hotel is as much museum as inn, what it’s antique decorated rooms, brocade wallpaper and hallways decorated with photographs of the famous and infamous who stayed there. The photos date from the days when Cimarron was the center of an untamed land rife with political intrigue, feuds, and fighting.

   Historians say 26 people were killed at the hotel, gunned down by the likes of Clay Allison, the gentleman gunfighter,” and Bob Ford, the reputed killer of outlaw Jesse James.

   The embossed metal ceiling of the dining room still bears bullet holes that speak of that more violent time. The action at the hotel these days comes from the spirit world rather than shoot em ups, the owners say. Some of it has been hilarious, they say, some has been sublime. Some has been outright terrifying. The couple trace most events to three resident ghosts (they prefer the term spirits) they call Mary, the Imp and “18”.

   Mary, named after Mary Lambert, wife of the man who built the hotel in 1880, lives in one room of the hotel and sporadically roams its halls. Usually, the only sign of her presence is her perfume.

   “It’s a very, very fragrant odor,” said Kathy Jones, a 47-year-old clerk, and waitress at the hotel. “It does come on you like you’re walking towards someone and it gets stronger as you get close. It’s just all of a sudden it’s there, then all the sudden, it’s not.”

   Recently, Mary was more assertive with a couple who opened the window to her room, said Sitzberger, 56.

   “He said the window wasn’t stuck like by paint anything, but he had a heck of a time raising it,” he said.”It was like someone was pushing down on the window.”

   The guest returned to bed and heard several sharp raps on the second story window, Sitzberger said. Since the guests had been warned about Mary, the man closed the window part way to accommodate her and returned to bed. Again came the raps. He closed the window.

   “She made it clear she wanted it closed,” Sitzberger said, adding the guests claimed the room then cooled on its own.

   “The imp enjoys practical jokes and keeps employees busy adjusting lamps and searching for pens and calculators he hides, Loree said. Glasses in the kitchen explode occasionally through the imp’s efforts, and jars of pickles had been known to ease off floor level shelves and roll out of the room.

   Once, the couple said, the imp even appeared to one employee. The worker, a 15-year-old boy, had just taken a job cleaning the lobby and dining room and the pre-dawn hours. On his first day, Sitzberger said, the owners came down from their suite to find him vacuuming while his mother watched. Earlier, he said, the boy had seen a dwarf sitting on the hotel bar, his feet on a bar stool, laughing uproariously at the started youth.

   “The kid did what any red-blooded 15 year old would do, Sitzberger said. “He went home and got his mother. Needless to say, that was his last day on the job. He didn’t like the looks of it at all.”

   The other ghost, the one who occupies Room 18, is such a hostile spirit that the owners now keep the room locked and a large base of dried flowers in front of the door. No one is allowed to enter.

   The last time someone was shown the haunted room, a bird Sitzberger had given to Loree, a valuable golden finch, died the next morning, he said. A necropsy found no cause death, he said.

   “The only connection we could make was that he didn’t take it out on us, but he did do one of our birds in,” Sitzberger said.

   Another time, Loree, 44, was showing the room to a California surgeon who researches poltergeists. As she entered the room, “whatever it was came down beside me, passed me on the right and knocked me over. Needless to say, this scared me to death.”

   Ken Taylor, hotel’s 40-year-old chef has had several and encounters with “18”, including spending one night in a sleeping bag in the room to see if he could see the spirit. All night long, he said, he slept fitfully, bouncing around on the floor, dreaming about riding ponies.

   Sometimes, Loree calls on the husky Taylor to convince “18” to return to his room. “My presence sort of mellows him out at times,” the chef said.

   Like most of the spirits, “18” isn’t visible to those who encounter him.

   “It’s like pressure,” Taylor said. “The hair stands up on the back of my neck and on my arms and I get goosebumps all over.”

   Taylor said he also saw one ghost, however. He was leaving a room at the hotel on his way to the restroom when he spotted a human-like figure end of the hall.

   “I stepped outside and there was this figure, sort of shimmering,” he said. “I went back to my room.”

   Several psychics and other dabblers in the paranormal have visited the hotel to interact with the spirits. Last July, television crews filmed a séance led by a self-proclaimed Albuquerque witch named Oz, but Taylor said the cameras and other distractions kept the session from being very productive.  Oz also spent time chatting in Room 18, said Loree, and came away believing the spirit that died in the room was a man named James Wright. The witch said Wright was killed when he tried to claim the hotel as winnings in a poker game.

   Loree said historians have no record of such an incident involving a man named James Wright. She said, however, she subsequently found the name of a “J. Wright” and three places in the hotel’s old ledger, all dating to 1881.

   “There is no earthly way Oz could have known or could have seen that name,” Loree said.

   Another television crew captured on film a door opening by itself in a curtain moving when there was no breeze. The hotel owners show copies of the videotapes to guests over a television in the lobby.

   They say they’re torn over the publicity the ghost have generated.

   “We have a pretty good business going and I don’t want to scare the hell out of people coming here,” Loree said.

   She expects, however, that the ghost stories, in the end, will have little effect on their business.

   “I think people are either receptive to it and believe it or they don’t,” she said. “I think for the ones that don’t, it isn’t going to bother them that much. If they aren’t going to stay here, it’s because they maybe do really believe it and they’re afraid of it, and that’s a percentage that’s very small.”

   Despite the occasional fright, the owners say they are becoming accustomed to the ghosts.

   “Pat’s even said if we ever get tired of running the hotel, we could just close it down and live here,” Sitzberger said with a laugh. “at least we’d never get lonely.”

 

The first article clearly identifies the three ghosts that are haunting the hotel. However, it is important to note that the spirit which the owners call Mary was merely named after Mary Lambert and in this version is not directly associated with her. It also gives us the first portrayal of the ghost they are calling the “imp.” The eyewitness’s description was that of a dwarf sitting on the hotel bar, his feet on a bar stool, laughing uproariously. And finally, there is the violent ghost they call “18”.  However, the article also contains several controversial elements.

One of the crucial things that ghost hunters and investigators look for when they are interviewing witnesses are qualifying  statements. This is because people who lie use convoluted sentence structure and qualifying language when giving you the details. Qualifying statements, like “to tell you the truth” or  “Honestly,” “I swear to you” are used to overemphasize their truthfulness. When people use these bolstering statements to emphasize their honesty, there’s a good chance they are hiding something. There is no need to add them if they are really telling the truth. Loree makes several qualifying statements during this newspaper interview.

“I kid you not”, “I couldn’t make up anything this good, believe me” and “there is no earthly way Oz could have known or could have seen that name” (referring to the ghost of Room 18).

The slip up is by saying that “Oz could not have “seen” that name.” The qualifying statement here suggests that is precisely what happened. The sentence structure has too much detail which could indicate that she is untruthful.

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The first team allowed into room 18.

The other odd thing is how quickly the ghost stories develop. The hotel reopens in December 1985 after Loree and Sitzberger finish their initial renovations. Yet within 2 years a television crew has been allowed in to film a séance as well as several psychics and other dabblers in the paranormal and a California surgeon who researches poltergeists conducted an investigation of sorts. During the surgeon’s visit, Loree claims that “whatever it was, came down beside me, passed me on the right and knocked me over. Needless to say, this scared me to death.” Naturally, the reporter asks the couple if they thought that the ghost stories would harm their business.

“They say they’re torn over the publicity the ghost have generated.” Loree continues by saying, “I think people are either receptive to it and believe it or they don’t. I think for the ones that don’t, it isn’t going to bother them that much. If they aren’t going to stay here, it’s because they maybe do really believe it and they’re afraid of it, and that’s a percentage that’s very small.”

This is a little suspicious as well. For example, in my book, I mentioned that the Lodge at Cloudcroft kept their ghost stories secretive for over 60 years because the owner thought it could damage his business. Yet at the St. James, the ghost stories are in full swing within a year of its reopening. This is another red flag because many known examples point to the ghost stories as being fraudulent when the media exposure occurs so quickly. One of the more famous cases was the Amityville Horror, which was later revealed to be a hoax. Within two years of the alleged paranormal events that occurred, there is a book about the “haunting” and eventually a movie deal. Is the St James hotel trying to capitalize monetarily in a similar fashion? While this is just speculation, it is something that has to be considered.

Another oddity is the California surgeon who researches poltergeists. Anyone who is remotely familiar with poltergeist phenomena knows that it is not actually a ghost or a spirit, but an event that parapsychologists believe is caused by psychokinesis that is projected by a living person in the environment. This suggests that the surgeon only had an amateurish knowledge base of the phenomenon that he claims to be researching.

The next article of the haunting at the St. James Hotel is printed in the Albuquerque Journal on  December 30, 1988.

 

   “Things simply go bump in the night at the St James hotel. To people live here and admit an acquaintanceship with the second-floor supernatural, the spirits in this place are at once melancholy and mischievous, dealing mostly in the scent of old-timey perfume, petty theft, and minor pranks.

   All except the awful thing that is said to reside in Room 18, where the number is missing and the door is always locked. The transomed entry to this room is fronted by a vase with dead yucca blossoms, black and amber now, setting sentry on the floor. It is said that the being in room 18 seethes with menace.

   There is nothing subtle, nothing vague, about what can happen at the top of the stairs.

   True, only a thin outline defines the ghostly figure in an oil painting at the second-floor landing. But you don’t need special light to see it. The figure seems to be a man and he seems to be wearing a broad-brimmed hat. He is standing among a group of obviously mortal individuals, and it is said he becomes more discernible as the years go by.

   No one knows whether the artist intended to include the figure. Given the realistic nature of the painting, it seems unlikely that he is responsible for the addition of something so clearly at odds with the rest of the work.

   There are other, more vivid experiences that have lent this place its reputation for being haunted.

   Ghosts of an era past, presumably from the lawless years of the Western frontier, are said to inhabit this 108-year-old hotel, steeped in history and solidly adobe, located on a side street in Cimarron.

   In the lobby, just off the dining room with the 26 bullet holes in the tin ceiling, a magnificent rainbow macaw sets on a wooden perch.

   On a recent autumn afternoon, Pat Loree, who with her husband owns this hotel, tells of the haunting of the St. James. It is a narrative occasionally punctuated by squawks from the macaw.

   Loree and her husband, Ed Sitzberger, bought the St. James in July of 1985 and have restored it to its former elegance and historical stature. In those first months of ownership, as Sitzberger continued to work as a civil engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Loree came to live at a house behind the hotel.

   Before the restoration began and during a fierce summertime thunderstorm one night, Loree and a caretaker went to the hotel to check for leaks in the roof.

   “When I left, I turned off all of the lights,” she says.”After we locked up, I looked back and I could see through the window that the chandelier at the end of the hall was still on. I did it again, and the damned thing still came back on after I locked the door. The last time I went back and said “I don’t know who you are. We’d like to play, but another day.”

   One of the two harmless ghosts is believed to be Mary Lambert, wife of the man who built the St. James. She died in the hotel and it is said that her perfume will suddenly waft through Room 17, and, just as suddenly evaporate.

   No one claims to have seen Mary, but a couple of people have caught a glimpse of Woody, a poltergeist who is the likely culprit in recalcitrant light switches, frozen door locks, shattered glasses and such missing items as bottles of juice, pens, silverware, and keys. Those who have seen him have given independent descriptions that are remarkably similar. Woody is said to be short, white-haired and pock-marked.

   Sitzberger, whose life and work were built on logic, says he was stunned one evening to see the ghost sitting at a table just before the dining room opened. When he tried to get a closer look, the apparition vanished.

   A Cimarron teenager, hired to vacuum the carpet each morning before dawn, said he arrived for his first day of work and saw Woody setting on the bar, laughing uproariously. The youth who had not heard the St. James ghost stories, was so utterly terrified he ran home, got his mother, and persuaded her to return with him while he finished his work.

   “A friend of ours who is a nurse didn’t believe in any of this stuff,” Loree is saying. “About a month ago she was here and needed to use the restroom, but the door was locked and she could see a crack of light at the threshold. She decided to wait by the door. Pretty soon the light went off. She tried the door again and it was unlocked. There was no one in there.”

   “You hear noises up there,” says Earl Jones, who tends bar at the St. James. “You can smell perfume, but it’s not the kind of perfume they sell today. I believe there’s something up there, and I never believed anything like that in my life, till I came to livin here.”

   Loree is sipping iced tea and telling about these things in the lobby of the hotel. Reluctantly, she begins talking about Room 18.

   Suddenly, the rainbow macaw is out of control. He begins shrieking and squawking. The commotion is deafening, and some of this screaming sounds almost human. It is piercing and ceaseless. The seemingly coincidental outburst, coming as it did at the beginning of a narrative on Room 18, seems connected to the things Loree has not yet said.

   After the macaw has been banished to the ladies restroom, Loree says to merely talk about the spirit and Room 18 is to invite “bad things”. In the past, part of the retribution has been measured in the unexplained death of small valuable birds who are part of the aviary kept in the hotel.

   Her story of room 18 is halting, and for a moment it seems as if she will cry.

   From the beginning, she says, “Every time I went in that room the hair on the back of my neck stood up. But I was determined that nothing was going to stand in the way of renovation. I was trying to be this self-sufficient woman, and I can remember standing there with my hands on my hips and saying, “If you want to be positive you can stay but if you want to be negative you’ve got to go.'”

   She was to learn later, she says, that it was not a good thing to say.

   About a year ago a California surgeon came to stay at the hotel. Loree did not know him and did not know that he was a student of supernatural phenomena. Not long after he had checked in, and before anyone had spoken with him about the hotel, Loree says he came to her and said: “You have a real problem upstairs.”

   After some conversation, he persuaded her to unlock the door to Room 18. Loree says when she stepped into the room “there was a present swirling in the corner near the ceiling, and it came down and knocked me to my knees. I got up and it came back and knocked me down again.”

   She says the man from California told her to step backwards, and she escaped from the room.

   He sent her downstairs and he stayed in the room for another hour. Loree said he told her later the spirit in there should not be challenged, and that it did not like being talked about.

   She worries that potential guests may be dissuaded from staying at the St. James because of the spirit. She says none of the people who have stayed in the hotel has had a bad experience because of ghosts.

   Not long ago, Loree says, a self-proclaimed witch (a good witch) spent time at Room 18 and said she learned the spirit was “a James or Jesse Wright.” Loree looked back through the old guest registers and found a T.J. Wright had spent time at the hotel in the 1880’s, but the book offers no further information.

   “I’ll tell you one thing,” she says. ” I have a very healthy respect for the thing in Room 18. I don’t open the door anymore. Not for myself. Not for anyone.”

This article provides more information on the Imp and the strange occurrence with the surgeon in room 18. It seems rather odd that Loree would allow a complete stranger into Room 18 and after having such a terrifying event happen to her, she let that person stay in the room for a full hour afterward. It doesn’t make sense.

The “Imp” has now been given a name, Woody. Apparently, there have also been independent descriptions that are similar. Woody is said to be short, white-haired and pock-marked. This is important to note as the description of this specter will soon change.

Finally, we get to the third article when a psychic, Jacque Littlejohn Cooley enters the picture. This will eventually define the present day ghost stories.

   “The car wasn’t yet through Taos, but Jacque Littlejohn Cooley said she sensed the presence in room 18 of the St. James Hotel in Cimarron, 40 miles to the Northeast.

   The Albuquerque psychic was in route to spend the night at the reportedly haunted hotel. It was Friday, the 13th of October.

   “I’m getting this feeling, this impression that he’s been injured or that he’s in pain,” Cooley said, momentarily distracted from the mountain scenery. Cooley had read stories about poltergeists that dwell in the old two-story building, including the menacing spirit in room 18. She also knew that a self-professed witch had visited the hotel and claimed to have made contact with the spirit, identifying it as the ghost of someone named James or Jesse Wright.

   The current owner of the hotel, Ed Sitzberger, a trim, soft-spoken man with a drink in hand, greeted Cooley in the lobby of the hotel. A large, multi-colored macaw lead a collection of other exotic birds in a cacophonous symphony. The noise reverberated off the lobby walls, where the mounted heads of game animals stared blankly with glass eyes.

   Cooley, a former school teacher and counselor in Phoenix and Espanola, spoke with an accent that hinted at her Texas and Oklahoma upbringing. Her parents, she said, we’re Welsh and Cherokee. She wore a long black dress. Her jet-black hair was gathered to the sides in Indian braid wraps, and she wore silver and turquoise jewelry. A quartz crystal dangled from her neck.

   Silver and turquoise are elements that give her power and protection, while the quartz crystal helps her gather and channel information, she said.

   Cooley carried a leather pouch and a crystal ball. From the pouch she removed a Sioux Indian Tobacco mix called Knic Knic. She sprinkled some of the tobacco in a nearby potted plant, an offering to the spirits and to purge negative energy, she said.

   She ordered her regular evening drinks, a cup of black coffee and a shot of scotch side by side. As she chain-smoked Camel non filter cigarettes and sipped her drinks, Sitzberger recounted the previous visit of the witch who identified the spirit of room 18. “The next day my former wife, Pat, went back into the hotel registers and found the name T.J. Wright three different times in 1881,” he said.

   Further, the witch told him Wright had won the hotel in a poker game and was shot to death when he tried to collect, he said.

   “You know, I thought it might have been something like that,” said Cooley, flashing back to the comment she made on the drive up.

  Sitzberger, formerly a mechanical engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is firmly grounded in science and logic. Nevertheless, he said, “the accumulation of things that have happened here has led me to believe that something is going on here that is not ordinary.”

   He cited several phenomena, lights going on and off when no one is in the locked building. Papers disappearing and reappearing in locked offices. Napkins and silverware were being tossed about the dining room. Glasses of water overturned and spilling when no water had been in the glasses to begin with. The sounds of a party, complete with laughter and clinking cocktail glasses, emanating from empty rooms. Activation of a telephone ringing code known only to family members and the phone company, no one on the other end of the line.

   There is the brief appearance and suddenly vanishing of an imp identified by a medium two years ago as “Woody,” who is blamed for some of the more playful pranks in the hotel. People who have seen him including Sitzberger, have given remarkably similar descriptions of the apparition: about 4 feet tall, long blonde hair, blue eyes, pock-marked face.

   People also have encountered rooms that suddenly filled with the aroma of a musky rose perfume. The odor would just as suddenly vanish, only to visit another room. The scent is believed to be a signal from the spirit of one of two women, both named Mary, and both of whom had been married to Henry Lambert, the hotel’s original owner and builder, Sitzberger said.

   And there is the unseen force in room 18. Twice it knocked Sitzberger’s ex-wife to the floor when she confronted it, demanding that it behave or move out. Other times when the spirit had been disturbed, Sitzberger said, the entity took its anger out on pet birds kept in the hotel, some of which were found dead for no apparent reason, and some that were suddenly taken sick.

   Late at night, Sitzberger agreed to open room 18 for the Albuquerque psychic. The stained glass transom above the door was partially open, but a large base containing dead yucca clippings stood sentry in front of the locked door.

   The room had not been remodeled or cleaned. An old wooden bed frame was one of the few pieces of furniture inside. Floorboards creaked as Cooley walked around the room, hand outstretched, palm down, feeling for impressions, sensations and changes in temperature. She was drawn to a corner where red floral wallpaper met the hammered tin ceiling. “There was a lot of paranormal activity here, but nothing sinister,” she said.

    “I feel a terrible pain from him. He’s wounded and unhappy. He still locked into that timeless zone, a dimension, I don’t know that there is a name for it, but he’s locked in and any time another energy comes into this room it’s very threatening to him. He doesn’t know he’s dead.”

   They left the room for a few minutes, and Sitzberger carefully locked the door and replaced the vase. They talked about returning in the early morning hours when spirits tend to be the most active. But later, they both became uncomfortable with the idea and decided against it.

   Walking along a second-floor hallway, Cooley stopped. “Who got killed here? she asked. “I’m getting this impression of blood on the wall. And brains. I see brains on the wall. Somebody got it in the head here.”

   The poker room was just around the corner. “I don’t feel what I felt out there in the hall,” Cooley said. “There was a cardinal rule that you don’t mess up the poker game, so maybe they went out in the hall to do their dirty deeds. I feel a lot of intensity in this room.”

   She toyed with the notion that the man named Wright, who’s supposedly won the hotel in a card game, may have been dealt the winning hand in the hotel’s poker room, was ambushed in the hallway and staggered back to room 18, where he died and his spirit still lurks.

   “Could be, but I don’t get the feeling that the guy in 18 has a head wound,” she said. “I also sense that man named Walter was somehow involved. I think whatever happened in this hallway happened between 1 and 3 p.m. because of the different quality of the light I saw and the flashes.

   “It feels like a baby was born in this room,” Cooley said as she entered the Pancho Griego room, named after a local who was on the losing end of an argument with gunfighter Clay Allison.

   “Is this the honeymoon suite?” she asked inside the Bat Masterson room. “It feels like fun and games in here. Hanky panky. I don’t know how they turned out later, but they sure had a good time while they were here.”

   The Wyatt Earp room has an entirely different feel, Cooley said. “I sense there was a man who used to stay here a whole lot. He kept coming back and like this room. It was before World War 1, but not long before. He was kind of a quiet man. I feel that he may have had something like high blood pressure during his last visits. He wasn’t very tall. He was kind of portly, but the first time I see him in here he was a lot thinner. He had a little buggy. I think they used to call them whiskies.

   Cooley continued her wanderings and made her way back downstairs into the hotel’s dining room, the original St James Saloon and Gambling Hall. She stared into her crystal ball, which she had placed on the mantle of a bar back.

   “Somebody picked up one of them tables. They were gambling. I didn’t see the man’s face, but I saw these big hands, we picked up the table and dumped it with all the glasses and cards. People were scattering every which way. I think it was that one,” she said, walking over to the table where she slowly moved the outstretched palm of her hand over it. Another table caught her eye. “Somebody landed on their back in the middle of this one.” Cooley was drawn toward a corner of the dining nearest the entrance into the hotel lobby.

   “Something ended abruptly, whatever it was. I think it happened before the turn of the century. I want to move because I think I’m standing in blood.” she paused for a few moments lost within her own thoughts.

   “Somebody was in that fight that was named Clyde. I don’t know if that’s a first or last name. He shaved every now and then. He didn’t have a full beard. Maybe it was the time of year, but he had a lot of stubble. He smelled pretty rare. And I don’t know if he was the victim or the aggressor or what. I don’t get the feeling that Cimarron lost much.

   It was approaching 2 a.m. Cooley was tired, walkthrough nearly every room in the St. James and visited with as many denizens of the spirit world as would make themselves known to her. She sat on her bed in the Mary Lambert room laying out a deck of tarot cards.

   “This is the tower card. It’s probably in response to room 18 across the hall,” she said. “I see in the tower card confusion and tyranny and weakness. Building on the wrong foundation. Bedlam. It might be just as well that we leave the spirit in 18 alone. If he has anything that he wants to share with us I’m sure he’ll let us know.”

   The death card appeared. “Could be one of two things,” Cooley said. “Could be the spirit in 18 saying keep your cotton-picking hands for my things, or it could represent the entity as being dead.”

   The remarkable thing about the metaphysical and paranormal, Cooley said, it’s not that she can tap into it, but that most people are unaware that they, too, can do it.”

So now the essential elements of the ghost story of T.J. Wright are in place. The witch named Oz first suggested that Wright died room 18 and now Cooley has added the aspects of the poker game and the subsequent shooting after he had won the hotel in a card game. But the question is was there really a poker room on the second floor. In many ways, this goes against the typical old west business practices. Saloons tolerated gambling because they made money by selling cigars and whiskey to the participants of the card games. Putting a poker room on the second floor really doesn’t sense because this would require a hotel employee to be always running up and down the stairs to check on the patrons involved in the card game. In Henry Lambert’s time, there was no such help. He ran the saloon by himself and even helped out in the kitchen at times.

It is also doubtful that Lambert would even allow gambling on the second floor to begin with. This is evident by the extra effort that he went through to ensure the safety of people sleeping upstairs. He had installed two additional planks of wood, over an inch thick, into the flooring that lies above the saloon to prevent bullets from inadvertently striking anyone upstairs. Historically it is very well-documented that all of the brawling and gunfights took place in the saloon, for why would Lambert want to take that element upstairs where his guests and family were staying and sleeping?

Of course, most of this can be verified historically by examining some of the floor plan drawings done in the early 1900s. The second floor only contained guest rooms and two small common areas. However, neither of the common areas were used for gambling. The present-day poker room was added in the 1940s by Mrs. Haegler who used it as a meeting place for her bridge club.

As the modern era approached, the need to renovate the old rooms became quite the necessity. The original rooms were actually quite small, about the size of the poker room and room 18 are today. Room sizes were expanded by taking down walls and converting other adjoining rooms into bathrooms. An excellent example of this can be seen from the bathroom of room 17. If you sit on the toilet and look to your right, you will see the transom of a doorway that is now completely blocked off. The area where you are sitting was once another guest room. A wall was built that split the room in half. On the other side of the wall is the bathroom for the adjoining room.

So the simple fact is there was no poker room on the second floor when T.J. Wright was there. It should also be noted that all of the violent deaths that have occurred in the St. James are very well documented in many sources. One of the primary sources was actually recorded by Henry’s son, Fred Lambert. Fred went through a great deal of effort to ensure that the murders that took place at the hotel and its saloon were accurately recorded. All the sources clearly indicate that there were no violent deaths on the second floor of the hotel. I have included his sketches and drawings in my book “New Mexico’s Most Haunted; Exposed” and this book for emphasis. So these parts of the ghost story are definitively busted.

You can buy the book here.

The 10 Biggest mistakes made by ghost hunters

I will admit that this is actually a rather old piece. I wrote the original back in 2005 where it was posted on the Southwest Ghost Hunter’s Association website. Unfortunately, it is needed just as much today, if not even more. So here is the list of “no-no’s” if you are wanting to approach this  a little more seriously,

  1. You cannot use the paranormal to prove the paranormal.

Simply put this is a circular argument that violates Scientific method and gives your skeptics the bullet to shoot you with. Simply put, not one single experiment in modern research has ever been able to conclusively prove the psychical talents of these so-called mediums. Worse still, many mediums appear to be in the field solely for the easily obtainable funding they can accrue from fleecing an unwary and gullible public.

This is not only limited to the use of psychics and mediums but also includes such things as electronic voice phenomena (EVP). EVP itself has not been scientifically proven and therefore cannot be used to prove that a location is haunted or has a ghost.

  1. Investigator Bias

Too often ghost researchers are composed of people who classify themselves as believers. This can contaminate the results of an investigation because it violates the use of scientific method. The scientific method attempts to minimize the influence of the scientist’s bias on the outcome of an experiment. That is, when testing a hypothesis or a theory, the scientist may have a preference for one outcome or another, and it is important that this preference not bias the results or their interpretation. The most fundamental error is to mistake the hypothesis for an explanation of a phenomenon, without performing experimental tests. Sometimes “common sense” and “logic” tempt us into believing that no test is needed.

The scientific method is based upon evidence rather than belief. This distinguishes science from faith. A scientist is suitably skeptical of anything but good evidence. That is not to say that scientists lack faith…it is just that faith for them operates in a different sphere of their lives. In scientific work there is little room for faith; in life there is plenty of room for both. Scientific and critical thinking require that one reject blind faith, authority, revelation, and subjective human feelings as a basis for reliable belief and knowledge. These human cognitive methods have their place in human life, but not as the foundation for reliable knowledge.

This is why it is crucial that skeptical investigators are apart of your team. Many people believe that skeptics are closed-minded and, once possessing reliable knowledge, resist changing their minds. This simply is not true. A skeptic holds beliefs tentatively, and is open to new evidence and rational arguments about those beliefs. Skeptics are undogmatic, i.e., they are willing to change their minds, but only in the face of new reliable evidence or sound reasons that compel one to do so.

  1. Understanding the proper use and limitations of equipment

There are several factors to consider about equipment used in your investigations. One example is the type of EMF meters; it depends on what kind of meter you are using and why you are using it. The majority of EMF meters out there are designed to find AC (alternating current) electromagnetic fields. AC fields will ALWAYS be manmade. Natural fields are DC. This is what runs the human body’s bioelectrical system, what causes lightning, and what powers a ghost. You cannot detect a ghost with an AC field meter. To even suggest that is preposterous to anyone who has even the slightest knowledge of physics. However you can use them to eliminate manmade sources.
Even beyond that, the majority of EMF meters are only rated for between 50-60 Hz. This is because these are the frequencies that the electrical grids in Europe and North America run at, and these meters were designed to detect these specifically.

Another consideration is the specifications of the equipment that you use. The old saying, “You get what you pay for” comes into play here. If you use EMF meters they need to be scientific grade to ensure that your readings are accurate. For example, those white 3 led ELF Zone meters that sell for $15 to $20 have an accuracy of 2%. This leaves a 98% chance that the reading you’re obtaining is inaccurate. EMF meters of that have a high degree of accuracy start in a cost range of $500 per meter and can go as high as $8,000. These types of meters often require an annual calibration by a certified individual and the certification date is marked on a sticker placed on the instrument. It is also important to understand that a link between EM fields and the paranormal is also very sketchy, a literal minefield of misinformation.

  1. Lack of a hypothesis

If you are going to prove the existence of ghosts you must have a hypothesis that defines not only what a ghost is but what you are looking for and why. If you’re searching for electromagnetic fields your hypotheses should reflect why and what frequencies and power levels you are targeting. How are apparitions formed? How do they move objects? All of these criteria should be explainable in your hypothesis.

Another common mistake is to ignore or rule out data which do not support the hypothesis. Ideally, the researcher is open to the possibility that the hypothesis is correct or incorrect. Sometimes, however, a researcher may have a strong belief that the hypothesis is true (or false), or feels internal or external pressure to get a specific result. In that case, there may be a psychological tendency to find “something wrong”, such as systematic effects, with data which do not support the scientist’s expectations, while data which do agree with those expectations may not be checked as carefully. The lesson is that all data must be handled in the same way.

The scientific method requires that a hypothesis be ruled out or modified if its predictions are clearly and repeatedly incompatible with experimental tests. Further, no matter how elegant a theory is, its predictions must agree with experimental results if we are to believe that it is a valid description of nature. Experiments may test the theory directly (by observation for example) or by testing for consequences derived from the theory using mathematics and logic. The necessity of experiment also implies that a theory must be testable. Theories which cannot be tested, because, for instance, they have no observable ramifications (such as characteristics that make it unobservable), do not qualify as scientific theories.

  1. Impartially evaluating evidence

Many ghost hunters go into an investigation with an unchanging, dogmatic idea that ghosts exist. During the course of an investigation, they will interpret almost anything they find as evidence of an actual ghost. Electromagnetic readings, cold spots or photographic anomalies all become additional ghostly phenomena, but the ghost hunters never seriously consider other, more earthly solutions. They start with the answer they want to reach before they begin investigating.

What do exist are unexplained events that seem to have a paranormal origin. These events can be investigated, and many times the causes can be determined. Often, the ghosts are “busted” when the investigator discovers that it was actually a poorly sealed window causing the cold draft, an electromagnetic storm that caused that odd reading on their Trifield meter or dust floating within the camera’s inverted focal point that resulted in a picture of an “orb”.

In the case of moving objects or unexplainable sounds, an attempt should be made to replicate the phenomena. Often they have a more earth bound solution. A good paranormal investigator examines the evidence itself and then tries to find out where that evidence leads.

  1. The use of pseudoscience

A pseudoscience is an established body of knowledge which masquerades as science in an attempt to claim a legitimacy which it would not otherwise be able to achieve on its own terms; it is often known as fringe- or alternative science. Ghost hunting has evolved very little since it was first established. The small amount of research and experimentation that is carried out is generally done more to justify the belief than to extend it. Ghost hunters need to think “outside of the box”. Obviously, the techniques and ideology of the early ghost researchers is flawed. The search for new knowledge is the driving force behind the evolution of any scientific field. Nearly every new finding raises new questions that beg exploration. There is little evidence of this in the pseudosciences.

Pseudoscientific concepts tend to be shaped by individual egos and personalities, almost always by individuals who are not in contact with mainstream science. They often invoke authority (a famous name or group for example) for support. Pseudoscientific explanations tend to be vague and ambiguous, often invoking scientific terms in dubious contexts. Phrases such as “energy vibrations” or “subtle energy fields” may sound impressive, but they are essentially meaningless.

  1. Keep religion out of it.

Science and religion deal with different aspects of human existence, they do not have to conflict with each other. Conflict arises when either subject infringes on the other’s domain. Religion should deal with moral and spiritual issues; it should not make claims on physical laws or facts. Science should deal with physical laws, not claim moral or ethical knowledge. Additionally, religion represents a world view of sorts and just as there are many religions, there are many different worldviews. The problem arises from the uncertainty of which world view to use and the interpretation of that world view.

  1. Lack of Scientific method

The scientific method is the process by which scientists, collectively and over time, endeavor to construct an accurate (that is, reliable, consistent and non-arbitrary) representation of the world. Scientists use observations and reasoning to propose tentative explanations for natural phenomena, termed hypotheses. Predictions from these hypotheses are tested by various different experiments. An important aspect of the hypothesis is that it must be falsifiable, in other words, that it must be possible to prove the hypothesis to be false. If a hypothesis is not falsifiable, it is not a hypothesis, and is instead an opinion or statement not based upon the scientific method.

Once a hypothesis is repeatedly verified experimentally, it is considered a theory and new predictions are based upon it. Any erroneous predictions, internal inconsistencies or lacunae, or unexplained phenomena initiate the generation of new hypotheses, which are themselves tested, and so on. Any hypothesis which is cogent enough to make predictions can be tested in this way.

Recognizing that personal and cultural beliefs influence both our perceptions and our interpretations of natural phenomena, we aim through the use of standard procedures and criteria to minimize those influences when developing a theory. Remember that the burden of proof is on you. The new theory should explain the existing data, provide new predictions and should be testable; remember that all scientific theories are falsifiable. Read the articles and improve your theory in the light of your new knowledge.

  1. Lack of knowledge of applied sciences

Nearly as common in usage as photographic equipment, electromagnetic field meters (or EMF detectors) have gained in popularity and utility in recent decades. All EMF sensors are designed to do one thing: measure the strength of electromagnetic fields in a given area. While they are invaluable tools, it is an uncomfortable fact that most paranormal researchers do not understand how to use these devices, or even what they are trying to prove by using them. Most EMF meters simply are not capable of measuring the fields we believe to be most likely associated with haunting activity. They were designed to measure manmade electrical fields within certain frequencies. Those frequencies almost always center on 50Hz to 60Hz, which are the frequencies of the electrical grids in Europe and North America, respectively. Some EMF meters can see further below 50Hz. A popular model is able to measure between 5Hz to 60Hz. But while most ghost hunters can tell an interviewer that it is important to register a wider range of EM frequencies, they cannot answer why it is. In fact, the EMF sensors most ghost hunters utilize are not even capable of registering a ghostly energetic field, and what results they do get are almost always caused by manmade interference. Understanding basic principles of electromagnetism are vital if you are using equipment to locate electromagnetic fields. A knowledgeable person can quickly determine an amateur or novice from someone that knows what they are doing.

  1. Removal of “Ghosts” (cleansing)

To remove a “ghost”, you need two things;

An actual, verifiable ghost
A tested, proven method of getting rid of that ghost

The problem a real investigator runs into is that neither of those things has ever been conclusively proven to exist. What do exist are unexplained events that seem to have a paranormal origin. These events can be investigated, and many times the causes can be determined. Scientific and critical thinking require that one reject blind faith, authority, revelation, and subjective human feelings as a basis for reliable belief and knowledge. These human cognitive methods have their place in human life, but not as the foundation for reliable knowledge.

Debunking the “jumping” ghost at the La Fonda Hotel

A ghost that is claimed to have been seen in the hotel is that of a man wearing 1800’s clothing running across the Plazuela Restaurant. Both guests and staff alike have reported the sight of a ghostly figure that walks to the center of the room and then seemingly jumps into the floor and disappears. According to the story, the ghost disappears as he jumps into the ground where the old well used to be as the La Plazuela is situated directly over the site of the old well. Furthermore, maintenance men have also seen this specter in the bowels of the hotel. This is often followed by finding the storage areas in the basement in a state of disarray. Another version of the story gives this account;

 

“He was a traveling salesman from St. Louis who is written in the ledger as having checked in around 1934. According to history, the salesman lost all his money by drinking and gambling and became very emotional at the front desk. He can be seen, at times, in his long black coat with chalky white skin, running towards the hotel’s well and jumping into it.”

The big issue here is that there was no way for a man to simply jump down into the well in the way that people describe. At that time there was not a second story.

La-Fonda-map
The solid black lines depict the layout of the hotel in 1921. The first phase of 1927 additions are shown faintly sketched around the existing hotel. W. C. Kruger Architectural Drawings (unprocessed collection), University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research.

So, in order to jump down into the well from a high place, one would have climbed up onto the roof of the open air patio, run across it and hope that you make it to the well.

La-Fonda-old-6
The original patio before it was enclosed and turned into a restaurant.

 

La Fonda Hotel, Santa Fe, NM (My opinion on the hauntings)

The murder of Judge Slough is recorded in several newspaper stories. However, this event occurred in 1867 in the Exchange Hotel. The approximate area where the killing took place in the current building is where the lobby newsstand is now.  Many of the ghost stories have incorrectly identified the location of his murder and by proxy, have placed the “ghost” in the wrong area as well.

We were not able to find anything in the historical record about the traveling salesman that jumped into the well. The local newspaper archives were searched from 1881 to 1950, and nothing resembling this story could be found. If such an event had happened, it would have been relevant news that would have been of interest to the town and as such it would of been reported on. It is also important to note that stories about this myth change through time as each author records one of the different variants of the story that were being told at the time. One account even has the salesman jumping from a balcony into the well. The main problem here is that historical research shows that there never was a well in the patio area, even when it was the Exchange Hotel. However, a beautifully decorated fountain did exist in that spot. It was removed in 1976 when architect William Lumpkins enclosed the courtyard.

Another important observation is that the ghost stories of the La Fonda Hotel have never appeared in any of the newspapers, in or out of state. This is in stark contrast to the other “haunted” hotels in the country which have multiple stories written about their resident ghosts. The first written account of the story is in the book “Ghost stories of the American Southwest” by Richard Young which was published in 1991.

The ghost of the newlywed bride has the same critical issue, no written historical accounts to validate the stories. Again, if such an event did occur, it would have been news and reported on. However, there is merely no account of it anywhere which suggests it is an urban legend.

Myth building at the hotel is very active. What makes it unique is that the stories are not propagated by the hotel officially. Instead, they are passed along by the hotel’s employees where they get recorded in books and other written materials. The ghost stories about the hotel are also spread via the many ghost tours that are conducted in the Santa Fe Plaza. This is the primary reason there are so many confounding variables of the stories themselves. A small example of some of the confusing variants are;

“The hotel’s bar is haunted by two different ghosts. The first ghost is that of a “cowboy.” He is often seen sitting at the bar around 2:00 to 3:00am. When approached the figure disappears. The second ghost is African-American gentleman that may be one of the former bartenders.

This same ghost was seen by a person who was working on the tile in the bell tower. He claims that there is no way the man could have entered the area without being seen as there was only one door and he was blocking it.”

Elements of the “cowboy” ghost are often confused and/or replaced with elements of the “traveling salesman” myth.  The bartender and the “man” who is pursued in the hallway also have similarities that seem to have details that are confused.

 

* The traveling salesman is seen upstairs and was shot by the bartender.

* The bartender was seen upstairs and the traveling salesman is seen downstairs in the lobby near the Plazuela Restaurant.

* The bartender is seen downstairs in the bar and lobby and the traveling salesman is seen moving down a hallway upstairs wearing a long black coat. However, the long black coat is what the ghost of Judge Slough is reported to be wearing isn’t it?

 

On and on it goes. What variant of the story you hear depends on who is telling the story. This is what makes the investigation of ghost stories so tricky. It requires the investigator to examine the historical accounts to ascertain the correct facts and separate them from the fictional accounts that have been introduced by the storytellers.

Another example involves the traveling salesman and the suicide bride. There are versions of these same stories that have both of them originating from St. Louis and the “incidents” occurred in the 1930’s. These similarities between the stories are typical of the confusion that arises when myth building is very active.

The most significant factor that became an issue in ghost hunting the hotel was trying to locate any actual witnesses to any of the reported phenomena. The only person we were able to identify and interview was Lalo Ortega, who has worked at the hotel for several decades. Despite all of the time that he has worked there, he has only one instance of something unusual that he believes might be paranormal. It occurred “sometime in the fifties” and may possibly be the first instance and the precursor to the ghost stories that would follow.

New Mexico State Penitentiary, Santa Fe, NM (My Opinion)

So here we have a great example of when the conclusions of the Southwest Ghost Hunter’s Association and myself differ. The central argument is really focused on if the criteria for a haunting were met. The ghost hunters believe it is. I do not.

Over the years I have noticed something that may be affecting the judgment of the ghost hunters. It is the influence of the ghost hunting and paranormal TV shows. While other prisons like Eastern State Penitentiary are depicted on television as being insanely haunted, they are left wondering why Old Main would be any different, especially considering the violent events that transpired there during the riot in 1980.  Perhaps because of this, I saw a change in their attitude.

“It must be haunted.”

However what the ghost hunters have neglected to consider are the traits of apparitions as defined by the systematic studies.  The witnesses’ descriptions of shadowy figures are in stark contrast to the apparitional descriptions regarding appearance, duration of the event, and distance from the witness. In this regard, the witness accounts are low grade and do not constitute any further investigation. I personally believe the prison is haunted but not by the ghosts of its former inmates. It is haunted by the memory of the horrific events that have taken place there. This, in turn, provides a suggestion that it is haunted which affects the modern day visitors to Old Main.

The building itself is a type of haunt factory as there are so many things that can easily be mistaken for a ghostly encounter. However, these things are not known to the casual visitor which makes the “paranormal” occurrences seem more frequent and tangible. In short, visitors are merely freaking themselves out when visiting the old penitentiary. In a way, I understand this. I too have walked through the grungy dark hallways of Old Main, and the ambiance is indeed quite creepy. When you combine the environment with the knowledge of what occurred there, it is challenging not to be affected by it in one form or another.

The “haunting” at the Wool Warehouse Theater

During performances a man in a cream-colored double-breasted suit has been known to have appeared on the stage. The spirit seems to be pleasant and is known to happily watch the productions from the side of the stage. However, the stairs behind the stage that leads to the basement are thought to hold a more malevolent spirit.

maxresdefault

The first reported occurrence happens in 1985. There are a few variants, but the basic story goes like this;

 

“During the first production presented in the theater, the Stage Manager, Vicki, kept seeing a cream-colored thing go past her. Then at intermission, she went to check something on the left side of the stage. Then suddenly she saw the apparition of an immaculate, charming looking man who was wearing a cream-colored, double-breasted suit. He was standing right next to the prop table, happily watching what was going on. According to Vicki, he appeared to be very pleased with the theater production.

 

In the following years, employees and guests have felt hot and cold spots, and have actually felt a presence among them, watching them. Things and objects in the theater have gone missing, only to reappear in other places in the building. Employees avoided going down the stairs behind the stage area to the basement unless they really had to go there. It was reported that employees have felt a push from unseen hands while attempting to go down the stairs and had something grab at their ankles. Strange sounds have been heard coming from the walls as well. Cold spots and an eerie presence have also been felt by customers and employees.”

 

The unidentified ghost of a man in a double-breasted, cream-colored suit has appeared near the stage during performances, thought to be one of the men in the Bond Family. Eventually, the apparitional figure wearing the cream-colored, double-breasted suit is believed, to be Frank Bond himself.

Unlike many of the haunted places that I investigated, I have not been able to locate any newspaper articles that have suggested that the theater is haunted or any ghost stories coming from the Wool Warehouse. However, in the early 1990’s, the building has also been used as a Halloween haunted attraction that was called the First Street Morgue, and in 1996 the haunted house was called Screamworks. There are several books that mention the haunting of the Wool Warehouse; however, they contain the same basic information that I have already provided.

The story behind the paranormal phenomena at the theater appears to be highly exaggerated. It seems that there are many witnesses to several different kinds of ghostly phenomena. However, during six separate investigations, conducted between April 1993 and May of 1999, I was only able to find seven witnesses that have claimed to have had a firsthand paranormal experience. All the other stories about the paranormal incidents at the theater were second or third-hand accounts. Out of those six witnesses, four were merely low grade in nature, consisting of the sense of an unexplained presence or feeling cold spots in the building. So, the focus of future investigations was focused solely on the remaining two accounts. Both witnesses requested to remain anonymous, so they were given aliases.

The interview with “Hugo” was very insightful and provided some helpful information. He was assigned to watch the curtain (exit) on the south side of the stage (stage left) after several customers had attempted to exit the theater through this area. This hallway leads backstage and will take you downstairs to the lower floor (sometimes mistakenly called a basement). He also informed us that a homeless man had managed to wedge a piece of wood into the locking mechanism of one of the old freight doors and was entering the theater at night until he was caught by a manager that was running a “haunted house” in the basement area. He suspected that the man was also stealing food as he would have had access to the kitchen.

Another interesting revelation that came from the witness interviews involved the origin of the “malevolent spirit” that supposedly exists on the stairs behind the stage. There has only been one account of someone having their ankles grabbed while going down the stairs. As it turns out that was explained soon after it happened. An extension cord had been run from the first floor up to the second, and the unfortunate stagehand had gotten tripped up on the extension cord. However, this did not stop the account from making its way into various versions of the ghost story. Again, this is another effect of myth building. As the stories continue to be told, new ghosts start being reported to account for the “new” paranormal activity.

Indeed, myth building was already rampant by my third visit in 1996. There were now twice as many stories and all of them were second or third-hand accounts. Also, this location was included in the book “The International Directory of Haunted Places” by William Hauck, which had recently been published. This would have a substantial effect on the myth building as the apparition seen near the stage was suddenly switching suits, often favoring a black tuxedo instead of the cream double-breasted one. When major details of apparition sightings change like this, it is usually an indication that the stories are just passing from one person to the next as there are no additional witnesses or encounters to add to the story.

The first paranormal claim I decided to address was the apparition of a man in a cream-colored double-breasted suit. We had a hypothesis that this apparition was a customer that went backstage through the south curtain that covers the hallway next to the stage. Without having an employee watching the south curtain, it is quite easy to move backstage without being noticed by the staff. This concept was also confirmed during some of the interviews with the employees. They told me that this was an on-going problem as customers often had mistaken the south curtain as an exit. They eventually placed an actual employee behind that curtain to keep people from wandering backstage inadvertently. This may also account for the change in apparition’s appearance from wearing the cream-colored suit to wearing a black suit. More than likely the person in the black suit was one of the employees who was guarding the hallway.

Another interesting thing to note is how the sightings of the cream-colored suit were eventually replaced in favor of the black one. This change is the result of the storytelling among the employees. The stories were ultimately picked up by authors who had published the account which describes the apparition wearing a black suit. The descriptions of the suit-wearing ghost also vary significantly in the details of his facial features. One describes the apparition having a full beard, yet another describes the figure as only having a mustache. Again, it is self-evident that the witnesses are not seeing the same thing, and this lies in stark contrast to the historical figure of Frank Bond, who in photos from the historical accounts, is always pictured as being cleanly shaven.

The next paranormal claim that was addressed was the noises and disembodied footsteps that many people have claimed to have heard on the stage. After sound mapping the location, we have determined that the noises are caused by two things. The footsteps are caused by the presence of ice around the vents because the condenser coils were dirty. The fan was hitting the ice when the cooler was on. The repetitive sound resembles footsteps. The compressor also shakes when it turns off creating a rather strange, loud noise. The location of the cooler is underneath the audience seating area; however, the sound travels through an access hallway that leads into the theater. Due to the acoustics of the theater, the sounds seem to originate from the stage area if you are seated in the audience or standing near the north entry. However, if the doors to the auditorium are closed, the noises are not that audible. More than likely, this is what creates the illusion that it is something paranormal. These noises are hardly noticeable during the busy hours due to background noise. They are noticeable if someone is alone in the quiet building at night.

Finally, there is the sighting of the apparition that was seen by an employee of one of the haunted house productions that had been set up on the first floor of the warehouse. The most plausible explanation for this event was that the apparition was the homeless man that had gained access to the theater. This was also confirmed during an interview with the manager of the haunted house. In fact, his employee’s account is what launched the investigation that discovered the vagrant.

So, I do not believe that this location is not haunted. The ghost stories are kept alive today because they are told on the Albucreepy Ghost Tour.

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Bond

Ghosts of Albuquerque, New Mexico – Legends of America. https://www.legendsofamerica.com/nm-albuquerqueghosts/

Wool Warehouse Theater, HauntedHouses.com, http://www.hauntedhouses.com/states/nm/wool_warehouse_theater.htm

FHR-8-300 (11-78). https://npgallery.nps.gov/pdfhost/docs/NRHP/Text/81000400.pdf

 

Test Your Might, Analysis of voices v.s. Signal to noise ratio

Signal to noise ratio is a major consideration when analyzing audio. Are you really hearing a voice or is it actually the lower frequencies of another sound that resembles a voice? One simple way to see how SNR affects audio is to play around with it in the software you are using for analysis and examine how the voice changes as the signal to noise ratio is tweaked.

Below I have included five audio samples that contain the phrase “Can you hear the EVP?” They start out simple, with a decent signal strength but they get progressively harder to make out as the signal becomes weaker and embedded deeper into the noise floor. Can you find the phrase spoken in each file?

https://www.sgha.net/hitman/snr/1_30X SNR.WAV

https://www.sgha.net/hitman/snr/2 _95X SNR.WAV

https://www.sgha.net/hitman/snr/3_3X SNR.WAV

https://www.sgha.net/hitman/snr/4_24X SNR.WAV

https://www.sgha.net/hitman/snr/5_04X%20SNR.WAV

I’ll follow up on this post in a week or so. Feel free to post your comments and findings. Test your might!

The truth about ghost hunting. Sorting the posers from the investigators!

Hobbies are practiced for interest and enjoyment, rather than financial reward. Engaging in a hobby can lead to acquiring substantial skill, knowledge, and experience. However, personal fulfillment is the aim. Almost no one can make a living at stamp collecting, but many people find it enjoyable; so it is commonly regarded as a hobby. While some hobbies strike many people as trivial or boring, hobbyists have found something compelling and entertaining about them. Much early scientific research was, in effect, a hobby of the wealthy. Linux began as a student’s hobby. A hobby may not be as trivial as it appears at a time when it has relatively few followers.

The popularity of paranormal shows such as the Medium and Ghost Hunters has brought Ghost Hunting into the mainstream. As a result, the hobby of researching paranormal activity has become common. For the adventurous, the hobby of researching paranormal activity can be an escape from the daily routine. So the simple truth about ghost hunting is that it is predominately a hobby, nothing more.

By contrast, an amateur is generally considered a person attached to a particular pursuit, study, or science, without formal training or pay. Research is defined as human activity based on intellectual application in the investigation of matter. The primary aim for applied research is discovering, interpreting, and the development of methods and systems for the advancement of human knowledge on a wide variety of scientific matters of our world and the universe.

Scientific research relies on the application of the scientific method, a harnessing of curiosity. This research provides scientific information and theories for the explanation of the nature and the properties of the world around us. It makes practical applications possible. Scientific research is funded by public authorities, by charitable organizations and by private groups, including many companies. Scientific research can be subdivided into different classifications according to their academic and application disciplines. (definitions from Wikipedia)

However there is a large difference between participating in a hobby, taking a hobby seriously and doing actual research. There is nothing wrong with the hobby itself. However confusion is often created by the hobbyist groups claiming to be more than what they are (intentional or not). The focus of this article is to provide a guide to help the general public sort the hobbyists from the amateur researchers.

Ghost Hunting as a hobby 

In many ways ghost hunting as a hobby may resemble trophy hunting. A group of individuals goes to a “haunted” place to collect photos and evp’s which are then displayed in a gallery on their website. Some research may be done about the location’s history as well.

Hobbyists can be identified by several factors;

1. Reliance on belief systems 

The belief in ghosts and spirits is, of course, based on a belief system. Belief systems are influenced by a person’s worldview, ideology, religion and philosophy. Belief systems are not always scientific and may include things such as demons, nature spirits, elementals, angels and the like. They can also be factors in determining the tools of the hobbyist (dowsing rods, ouija boards, tarot cards, etc..) Belief systems are detrimental to scientific method because they are a major cause of bias. This article covers many of the problems with belief systems and “paranormal research”.

2. Lack of or improper use of the Scientific Method. 

Scientific method refers to bodies of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses (from Wikipedia).

Hobbyists often lack a hypothesis. When asked “What are ghosts?” they often reply;

“No one knows what ghosts are.” 

or 

“There is much debate on what the right tools are, and what the right method is. The fact of the matter is plainly stated: No one knows. .All we can do is search for answers to possible unanswerable questions.” 

 

So if you have no idea what they are, exactly how are you looking for them?

There are two important points to make here. The first is simple logic.

In order to claim that something is “paranormal” you must first know if the observed phenomena is normal (or explainable). This is where the hobbyist often fails. The cause of this failure is often the lack of continuing education in knowledge of what is normal (that is defined by knowledge acquired in the various fields of science).

Hobbyists learn about ghost hunting from books, predominately written by other hobbyists, and from watching television programs, which are intended as “entertainment” only. It is basically “monkey see, monkey do”.

The second point revolves around scientific method itself. You observe the phenomena and then formulate a hypothesis. In other words, at some point you are going to have to take a guess. Your hypothesis will describe what you are searching for and determine the tools that you will need to detect and measure it. The information you receive either supports the hypothesis or suggests that it is incorrect. Basically it is learning by “trial and error”.

Amateur researchers, at a minimum, will list a short description of their hypotheses in a document or web page on their website. another major difference is the use of scientific controls to ensure that the data collected is tangible and “clean”.

3. Inflating credentials 

The hypotheses on what ghosts may be differ greatly from one group to another but more importantly, ghosts haven’t be proven to exist yet. So how can someone be a “certified ghost hunter” when there is no tangible data or evidence to base that certification on? This topic is covered in more detail in this article. The only honest credentials a ghost hunter/paranormal investigator can have are training and education in things that are normal (in other words a degree or continued education in physics, psychology, etc..). It is only through the knowledge of “what’s normal” that one can determine if something is paranormal.

4. “Evidence” 

“Unexplainable” photos, video and sound recordings that are collected at a haunted location are often called evidence by the hobbyist. The use of this word is actually misleading. The definition of the word from Wikipedia follows;

“Evidence in its broadest sense includes everything that is used to determine or demonstrate the truth of an assertion. Giving or procuring evidence is the process of using those things that are either a) presumed to be true, or b) were themselves proven via evidence, to demonstrate an assertion’s truth. Evidence is the currency by which one fulfills the burden of proof.” 

Despite decades of unusual photos, videos and evp’s, nothing presented as evidence has fulfilled the burden of proof and never will. The lack of a testable hypothesis, proper instrumentation (and proper use of that instrumentation) sufficient knowledge, proper analysis and validation of the collected data prevents these submissions from any serious consideration by the scientific community. The financial requirements needed to obtain what is needed is often beyond the reach of people interested in paranormal phenomena. At best, “evidence” collected by hobbyists is nothing more than a validation of their own belief system (this place is haunted and ghosts do exist).

Understanding these problems, amateur researchers refer to the gathered information as data.

from Wikipedia;

“Data refers to a collection of facts usually collected as the result of experience, observation or experiment, or processes within a computer system, or a set of premises. This may consist of numbers, words, or images, particularly as measurements or observations of a set of variables. Data is often viewed as a lowest level of abstraction from which information and knowledge are derived.” 

Data is the fuel that drives a hypothesis or destroys it. The knowledge gained by it is only as good as the data itself (collection techniques, proper analysis and verification).

5. Equipment and instrumentation 

One of the primary ways to identify hobbyists is by the equipment that they use. Skeptics of ghost hunting make several valid points;

“…. using equipment for a purpose for which it was not made and has not been shown to be effective. They’re trying to use the respect of science — hey, look at this fancy equipment — to justify their superstitious beliefs. If they get a reading on their EMF meter,” said Nickell, “or they get a picture of an orb on their camera — and because they don’t know what’s causing that — they say, ‘Therefore it must be a ghost.’ This is a logical fallacy. … They’re ghost buffs, they’re enthusiasts, and yes, they read stuff off the Internet, but they’re not trained. You don’t want people just reading the occasional medical article and going to practice medicine. ” (Joe Nickell)

Before I elaborate on this, there is an important issue that needs to be mentioned. Instruments are “graded” based on their degree of resolution and accuracy. Scientific grade or high grade instrumentation is a standard and requirement of the Scientific method. Instruments of this nature require calibration to ensure the quality of their measurements. Equipment that is not “scientific grade” is subject to providing false or inaccurate measurements. All of the equipment listed below are not scientific grade.

EMF Meters

The most common tool of the hobbyist is the EMF meter. These meters measure the electromagnetic radiation flux density, which is the amplitude of any emitted radiation. Other meters measure the change in an electromagnetic field over time. Electromagnetic fields can be either AC (Alternating current) or DC (Direct current). An EMF meter can measure AC electromagnetic fields, which are usually emitted from man-made sources such as electrical wiring, while Gauss meters or magnetometers measure DC fields, which occur naturally in the earth’s geomagnetic field and are emitted from other sources where direct current is present.

The problems with these meters are many. First of all an electromagnetic field or wave is characterized by two properties, its’ frequency and waveform. These two properties are needed to measure the field so you can identify what it is (it’s likely source). EMF meters do not provide this information. The low quality of these meters are also subject to erroneous readings, especially EMR sources like ham radio, CB’s and other transmitted signals. Power surges from power lines can affect the meters from distances up to 200′. Building wiring or appliances will also be detected. Once again, before you can claim that something is paranormal, you first have to know if it’s normal and these meters cannot do that.

Infrared Thermometers 

Infrared thermometers work by emitting an IR beam of light. When this light reaches an object, the temperatures of the object affects the IR beam. The instrument is able to measure the variance of the emitted beam and converts it to temperature. Ghost hunters use these devices to detect what they believe are cold spots in rooms.

The problem here is that IR thermometers are not capable of detecting something without a visible surface, so they cannot measure a “cold spot” in the center of a room. Additionally they are designed to be used at a specified distance, generally 6″ to 3′ (depending on the model).

This is a classic example of Nickell’s argument. It is not designed for what ghost hunters are using it for.

Ouija boards and dowsing rods

These are probably the most controversial of ghost hunting tools, in that increasingly few people accept that they have any useful function. Yet ghost hunters still employ them. And why not? A self-described psychic’s untestable verbal reports are under the psychic’s complete control. They cannot be tested, measured, or duplicated by others ,they say only what the psychic/user wants them to say.

Dowsing rods simply give the dowsers another way to communicate whatever they choose to communicate. Since the rods are held in the dowser’s own hand, they move only when the dowser wants them to move, and do not move when the dowser doesn’t want them to. No form of dowsing has ever passed any type of controlled test, and no dowser has ever proposed any plausible hypothesis suggesting that dowsing might be an actual phenomenon. It is among the most childish of pretended ghost detection methods. The only thing you can learn from dowsing is which way the dowser wants to swing his dowsing rods. (source: http://skeptoid.com/)

By contrast, amateur researcher will often not have a page listing all of their “equipment”. Their instrumentation is often research specific and rented. Instead, any instrumentation used in research is listed in a document reporting their findings.

6. Website 

A group’s website can provide allot of information to ascertain exactly what they are. In addition to the topics listed above, here are a few other things that divide the hobbyist from the amateur researcher.

A.) Investigation reports/findings; A typical sign of a hobbyist website is a “gallery” of photographs, video and evp. Details of the collection methods, how the findings were recorded and what the data may represent are an important part of research and are often ignored. Scientific method demands that all results be reported, both positive and negative. Hobbyists often neglect to report negative results or may by-pass the reporting process all together. This is the data that drives a hypothesis.

Hobbyists often visit a location a few times before moving on to other “hunting grounds”. Amateur researchers will perform repeat visits to the locations they believe are active because they are studying the phenomena occurring there.

Investigation reports can also provide credence to the experience of a group. If a group claims to be twenty years old, do they have reports going back twenty years?

How active is the group? How many hunts (investigations, research projects) a group does in a year may offer other clues. The proper analysis of collected data can take weeks, even months, to complete. So if a group is small and doing dozens of hunts/investigations in a single year, they are probably hobbyists.

Groups that are claiming to be researchers should have their research findings visible to the general public.

B.) The name game; Groups will often identify themselves by their geological location followed by Ghost Hunters, paranormal investigators, paranormal/ghost research, etc. There is nothing wrong with that. The only difference is that paranormal organizations often look into things other than ghosts (bigfoot, UFO’s, etc.) However when words such as “advanced” or “scientific” are used in a name, it is best to look with scrutiny.

Truth hurts,

 

 

Plaza Hotel, Las Vegas, NM (Ghost Photo Explained)

With the majority of the witness’s claims addressed, the final thing was to analyze the ghost photographs that are kept at the hotel. Deanna, a young woman who was manning the hotel front desk, showed me a photograph that was kept behind the desk. This is the photograph that is often shown to inquiring guests. The black and white version is on the hotel’s website, but the original was in full color. Photographic analysis of this photo shows that the picture is a double exposure. The trained eye can see the additional remnants of the double exposure on the right side of the table (shadowing) and also on the lower section of the tablecloth. The areas around the windows are also over-exposed. Additionally, the person at the table bears no resemblance to Byron T Mills.

plaza-ghost-photo-BW
A photograph that was taken of the ghost photo that is shown to guests and was displayed on the Plaza’s website at one time.
plaza-ghost-photo-color
The color photograph that was changed into a black and white image. The photo now sits in a frame on the table in the image which is located next to room 310

Another photograph, which was taken by a cell phone, is also claimed to be of the ghost. It was taken by an employee for a mother and daughter who were seated in the hotel’s lobby near the main entrance. It shows a faint, dark impression of a man standing behind the mother and daughter who were seated on a couch in front of the large windows that comprise the hotel’s entrance.

However, the “man” standing behind the chair was merely the photographer reflected in the glass window behind the chair. You can even make out the right arm of the figure holding the cell phone out and away from the body to take the picture.

Plaza Hotel, Las Vegas, NM (Ghost Stories with skeptical commentary)

The Clovis News Journal publishes the first written account of the Plaza Hotel having a ghost on March 9th, 1983.

   ” A ghost who haunts the stairwells, reminiscences of visits from Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders, and a terrain which made the area a Haven for outlaws, are all part of the colorful history surrounding the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas. The hotel plans to reopen later this month.

The restoration is a project of the plaza partnership of Lonnie and Dana Lucero and William and Catherine Slick. The hotel renovation is being done at the cost of approximately $2 million with the completion date expected to be March 18th. The hotel will have 39 rooms varying in price from $40 for a single to $65 for suites.

The entry lobby, located in the center of the first floor between dining room & bar, spotlights to large mahogany staircases, one on each side, leading to the second and third floors. An iron stove and an antique piano grace the intimate seating areas in the lobby while a

landscaped conservatory set off from the central area will serve as a reading room.

Gracious furniture from the past decorates the halls of the upper floors, and according to Mrs. Lucero, the pieces were purchased after a lengthy search nationwide. Some require restoration, but many were in Prime condition.

According to Mrs. Lucero, the ghost of a Mr. Mills who was once the owner of the hotel and who died in one of the rooms on the second floor still haunts the stairwells and halls of the hotel. The apparition reportedly has been seen by several of the employees of the hotel including herself and her husband. ” it is not a menacing ghost,” she said.”

 

DSCF0857
The deserted tunnels under the hotel.

While the story does not offer much information, it does identify the first problem, longevity. If Byron T. Mills indeed haunted the Plaza Hotel, there would have been more recorded accounts of unusual phenomenon since the time of his death in 1947. Yet there are no written accounts, newspaper or otherwise, until 1983.

What makes this rather odd is that Mrs. Lucy Lopez, known as Mama Lucy to her friends, ran the Plaza Hotel Restaurant and Bar for fourteen years with her husband. They rented part of the hotel as a dormitory for New Mexico Highlands University students and sold meal tickets for the restaurant as an alternative to the university cafeteria. Daily lunch and dinner cost $30 a month. If there were a ghost in the hotel, if paranormal phenomenon of some type were occurring, there would definitely be stories from this period of time. There just is not any accounts of anything unusual, written or verbal.

The story suggests that the initial paranormal experiences were noticed during the renovation of the hotel. During the renovations, the building was closed, and rooms were not rented out. Empty locations like this will often have a strange ambiance that many would describe as eerie. Certain sounds may become more noticeable, and the psychological effects of being alone in these types of spaces are often misinterpreted as being caused by a ghost. The article also presents a piece of misleading information. Byron T. Mills did not die on the second floor of the Plaza Hotel. He passed away at the Elks Lodge in  Miami while attending a convention in 1947.

However, the typical spiritualist ghost hunter would claim that the remodeling of the hotel is the catalyst that “activate” the haunting.  This spiritualist belief is often thrown about when haunted places are shown to have no longevity in their stories. Of course, this notion is based entirely on sheer speculation. However, the Plaza Hotel has been through several major renovations since 1983.  The Las Vegas Daily Optic wrote about one of these in detail in 1963. This article is relevant because of the changes that were made and the work that was done. These will be very relevant in some of the stories that are told later on.

“The hotel including the coffee shop and ballroom had been closed for a couple of months while the new owners Mr. and Mrs. Eloy Montoya, were remodeling.

The first part of the remodeling job on the historic old hotel, built in 1882, on the West Las Vegas Plaza, was the ballroom. A new entrance to the ballroom from Hot Springs Boulevard has been made, and the entranceway is carpeted as is the bandstand. The ballroom floor has been completely refinished and the entire room painted. The columns in the center of the room have been revealed by removing their board coverings. The windows were un-boarded and window panes put in.

Montoya says that during the next months the front of the building will be remodeled with new windows and doors to be installed. Old brick will be used in the remodeling of the front of the building.

The Montoya’s plan to open a supper club at the old hotel around Christmas time. The Supper Club will occupy the rooms which were the old lobby and coffee shop. The partitions hiding the stairways will be removed. The kitchen will also be remodeled.

Montoya said that the bar & cocktail lounge area of the old hotel would be rented to another business. He plans to operate a bar only in connection with the ballroom and Supper Club.

After the Supper Club is finished, Montoya plans to remodel rooms in the front of the third floor and part of the second floor and open the hotel for business. Much of the back part of the hotel will be torn down and parking space provided for patrons.

The Montoya’s purchased the Plaza Hotel from Mrs. Eva Gonzalez of Santa Ana California. The transaction started about a year ago, however, the Montoya’s did not take over the hotel until this fall.

Montoya is supervising all of the remodeling work on the hotel and doing much of it himself.”

The building has changed dramatically over the years. In the 1880’s the dining room was where the bar is located today,  north of the lobby overlooking the Plaza Park. The kitchen was on the north side of the hotel where the La Fonda headboards are currently on display. The hallway leading to the Ilfeld wing was only a door that opened out into an alley between the two buildings. The current dining room was initially an area where two retail spaces were located. They were divided by a wall where the columns are now and had large doors and windows which faced the Plaza. Behind this area to the was a huge dance hall. Today it is the kitchen. By the 1970’s most of the Plaza and Bridge Street was abandoned. These major renovations occurred in the 1980’s.

The next newspaper article was entitled “New Mexico: History’s Spirit Lives On” and was published in the Aiken Standard on May 9, 1986.

“There’s No gambling in the hotels of Las Vegas, not this Las Vegas, anyway, but there are resident ghosts.  According to New Mexico legend, Byron T. Mills, one of the original builders of The Plaza Hotel, is renowned for switching on the lights when no one is looking. And if one searches carefully, he or she might just run up on the ghost of a long-ago town dentist, Doc Holliday.”

This is the first and only mention of Doc Holiday haunting the hotel. The fact that it appears in an out of state newspaper is highly suggestive that the ghost stories are now being used to promote the hotel. The problem that occurs when this happens is that it creates an ideal environment to induce myth-building. The stories themselves become more important than the facts. Anything that is perceived as unusual is promptly “blamed” on the ghost.  This is due, in part, to the power of suggestion. If a place is rumored to be haunted, people visiting that place will expect to experience some strange event, even if the event itself is mundane. The legitimacy of the “haunting” is never questioned.  This becomes apparent on  October 30th, 1988, when an article about several of New Mexico’s hauntings was published in the Albuquerque Journal. It contains several more ghost stories from the Plaza Hotel. While reading it, consider some of the possible alternative explanations for what is occurring.

” Late at night, when the lobby of the Plaza Hotel is eerily silent, the glassware in a Cupboard along the gloomy back hallway sometimes starts to tinkle.

The hall is next to the staircase and is partially shielded from the lobby by the rear of the cupboard. It has been demonstrated that the only way to shake the wooden floor- enough to make the cupboard and its contents rattle- is for a hefty person to trend heavily along this hallway.

The first night he distinctly heard the glasses clinking, Mike Williams was at the registration desk in the otherwise vacant lobby. Williams tiptoed a dozen paces, diagonally across the room, and peered into the hallway.

The tinkling stopped.

No one was there.

The only other door, one that leads outdoors the opposite end of the hall, what still locked.

There was no open window, no errant breeze, and the street outside was deserted.

Williams says the tinkling unnerved him even more than did the falling transoms, the swinging doors, and the sudden chills.

Toni Lujan, who also works evenings at the desk, says that last summer she saw a courtly and austere gentleman, dressed impeccably and a black suit, descending the stairway on the other side of the lobby.

A number of casually dressed guests were about, she says, and she thought the man looked somehow odd and out of place. She was distracted for a few seconds ” and when I looked back,” she says, ” the man had vanished.”

The speculation is that Lujan saw the ghost of Byron T. Mills, one-time part owner of the hotel. He died, apparently from natural causes, in one of its rooms sometime in the 1930s. Little is known of his past.

According to the accounts of some guests, Mills favored the second floor of the west wing.

Katherine Slick, a partner in the hotel, that’s a woman who slept in one of those rooms told her she had experienced a violent nightmare in which she saw herself killing someone. The following morning, the woman said, she awoke to find her clothing strewn about the room and all the towels stained with a chocolate colored substance. No evidence of blood or of chocolate was elsewhere in the room, not on her body, not on any of the furniture or on the floor. The woman packed and fled.

Despite this story, Mill’s ghost is evidently a benign spirit and means no harm to more worldly residents.

Slick, a businesswoman who is also a partner in a enterprise that restores historic buildings and Las Vegas, says Mill’s ghost is blamed for the destruction not long ago of a large, glass vase.

The vase, heavy and itself, was partially filled with water and an arrangement of fresh flowers. It sat in the middle of a table near the center of the lobby.

One clear afternoon, the double front doors suddenly flew open and something, witnesses say it is best described as a wind, swept through the lobby. The vase hurtled off the table, crashed to the floor and shattered.

Both sets of the double door to the lobby swing to the outside.

Last spring, Williams was reading a book during his night shift at the registration desk. About 3:30 a.m., he says, the latch was tripped on one set of double doors, and they swung open.

Well, he was pondering this curiosity, he says, the doors closed and the other pair, across the room, opened.

” I thought something strange was going on,” he says. Although he saw nothing, he says ” it was as if someone had entered, walked across the lobby and left through the other doors.”

Williams had scarcely recovered when the transoms above the doors suddenly dropped open with a bang. ” I got the chills,” he says, ” but I got up and closed the transoms. I was so upset that I went through the swinging half doors to the office and sat on the desk. While I was sitting there, one of those doors swung open, and the air around me got colder than a refrigerator.”

The story is full of assumptions, and there are many alternative explanations for what the employees experienced. We will start with Mike William’s account of the glassware tickling in the cupboard. The newspaper article does provide a very vital clue.

“It has been demonstrated that the only way to shake the wooden floor- enough to make the cupboard and its contents rattle- is for a hefty person to trend heavily along this hallway.’

So the direct cause of the phenomenon is vibration. If a “hefty person” walking down the hallway can cause the glassware to make noises, so could any other type of vibration of a similar magnitude.  This could be caused by passing vehicle traffic outside, but more than likely an earthquake is a culprit. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), small earthquakes are frequent in Northern New Mexico.  These earthquakes typically have a magnitude of 2.0 to 3.2.  A 2.0 earthquake is tiny, and it will not usually wake someone up. Trees may sway slightly, and small ponds ripple. Doors swing slowly. However, you can’t tell that an earthquake is to blame. Earthquakes with magnitude of about 2.0 or less are usually called microearthquakes. They are so small that people do not commonly feel them. However, a microearthquake of this size could cause the glassware to rattle. In fact, given the sheer number of microearthquakes that hit Northern New Mexico every year, it is probably the culprit of the majority of the phenomenon that was published in this newspaper article.

Plaza Hotel, Las Vegas, NM (Analysis of the ghost story and paranormal claims)

One of the most important considerations that have to be determined is the longevity of the haunting. However, the actual history conflicts with back-story and elements of the reported phenomenon cannot be verified or have no record of occurrence. However, the historical accounts are relatively constant. The 1910 and 1920 census shows Mills living at 921 8th street in Las Vegas. However, the 1930 and 40 census shows him living with his family at the Plaza Hotel. The census from the 1930’s also shows that the hotel is still operating. Both the night clerk and the kitchen manager are also living at the hotel. So the backstory of Byron Mills living in the hotel is correct.  However, the assumption that room 310 was Byron’s room is not.  Byron and his wife lived in several rooms on the second floor near the front of the hotel.  In 1940 Byron would have been 75 years old and would not have lived in an area that required a trip up several flights of stairs and then back to the rear of the hotel. The blurring between the facts first appears in the 1983 newspaper article where to Mrs. Lucero claims that Mills died in one of the rooms on the second floor. The confusion of room 310’s former occupants may stem from the fact that employees of the hotel were also living in the building and these people were assigned the rooms on the third floor at the rear of the building.

Longevity is also a problem with the claim that the hotel is also supposedly haunted by a former manager who worked at the hotel from 1882 to 1912. However, the earliest recorded reference of this ghost is not until 1992 when it is mentioned in a newspaper article that the smell of orange blossom perfume was associated with an unknown female spirit.

The sounds of disembodied footsteps in room 310 is another significant element of many of the ghost stories. After staying in room 310 one evening, a hypothesis was presented that guests staying in room 310 might be hearing sounds from the hallway and adjoining areas which they misinterpret the source of these sounds as originating in the room. Testing was performed during the 2004 investigation. This was accomplished by blindfolding an investigator (test subject) who was lying on the bed in room 310. Additional investigators were placed in room 310 and the hallway outside the room. At predetermined intervals, the investigators would take turns walking back and forth in the room or hallway. The test subject would then indicate if they thought the source of the sound was in the room or in the hall. The test was repeated four times with each investigator taking turns as the test subject.

The results of our testing indicated that footsteps occurring in the hall could be misinterpreted as coming from inside the room. After the testing was completed a camera was positioned on the table at the end of the hallway near room 310 to observe how many of the hotel’s guests were walking in the hallway near room 310. The camera was left running overnight. From the hours of 7:00 pm to 6:00 am the camera recorded 37 people walking up to room 310. They looked at the door and the table before walking back down the hall. The frequency of hall traffic is probably due to the table at the end of the hall which is the location of the ghost in the hotel’s ghost photo and to look at the doorway to room 310 (the haunted room). Twenty of these visitations occurred after 11:00 pm.

The results of our testing, along with Hypnagogia hallucinations, presents a logical alternative to witness reports of hearing an unseen person walking around at the foot of the bed in room 310.

Finally, there is the question of why would Byron T. Mills be haunting the Plaza Hotel? The historical record shows that he did not have any sentiment for the old building. At one point he was going to demolish the old hotel before deciding to cut his losses and sold it to Johnny Ortiz in 1944, three years before his death. It seems rather odd that Mills would hang around the hotel after his death, especially when you consider his reputation and ego. Byron T. Mills was a local attorney, acted as town Mayor and as a territorial representative. Mills Avenue carries his name, which he named after himself. If ghosts do exist, it seems he would have chosen a more suitable locale to spend eternity.

How to analyze ghost videos using critical thinking in 5 easy steps

The ever-present video camera is creating a new form of “paranormal” news. Anytime anything even slightly strange occurs on a video surveillance camera someone is likely to cry “ghost.” The local news media will swarm all over it and before you can say “WTF” they have chosen the most sensational nonsense to air. The video will find its way onto the internet, creating speculation for a few days before it finally fades from the public’s short attention span. The appalling thing to me is the so called “paranormal experts” who confidently (not even a “maybe”) declare that it was “definite paranormal activity.”  In the end they will look foolish because eventually someone will figure it out.  It is your choice if you choose to look like a horse’s ass but I’m assuming that you would prefer not to. So here is a easy five step method that uses critical thinking to analyze those “scary” ghost videos.

  1. Does it move like an insect?  If the object is moving about erratically like an insect, then it IS AN INSECT.  Now I know many of you hard core believers will question how I would know how a “ghost” moves.  You actually do if you have properly interviewed enough witnesses. They report seeing things moving in a methodical fashion much like a person would move, not hopping around like daffy duck on crack. Occam’s razor, the simplest answer is the one that is most likely to be correct.
  2. Is there a part of the “ghost” that appears to be solid? In other words, is there a part of the object that is not transparent?  Most of your ghostly mists are caused by an insect or object being close to the lens and out of focus. As a result the object is blurred, which creates the appearance that the object is transparent. However, if you look closely enough, you will see a solid mass in the center of the blurred image. There is one exception to this rule. If the video was recorded by a security system that is recording using a low frame rate the object may appear completely transparent due to the recorder creating an artifact.
  3. Is ghost ever obstructed by another object in the background?  Since most of the ghost videos that are out there are nothing more than objects moving near the lens of the camera, you need to have some sort of evidence that it is actually in 3D space, not something near the lens. If the “ghost” clearly moves behind a table, chair, pillar or something else in the picture you have that evidence. If it does not, it is indeed something near the lens.
  4. Does the ghost cast a reflection in windows or on the floor? Another way to determine if the object is near the lens or “out there” is to see if it casts any sort of image in any reflective surfaces. Although this is not as reliable as obstruction, it can give a hint that it is not actually hanging out in front of the camera’s lens.
  5. Does the ghost cast a shadow? Another thing to pay attention to is if the object casts a shadow. This can go either way depending on the lighting conditions but a shadow is another thing to look for.

These five steps are only a general guide line and the viewer must also be wary of videos that were intentionally faked (and there are allot of them out there!) .

Why is this important? Check out the link below and see a ghost hunting team get publicly slammed on the Skeptic Shock website.

http://skepticshockblog.blogspot.com/2008/08/grainy-security-camera-footage-baffles.html

Just in case you are wondering, this isn’t an isolated incident.  Over the past 6 years I have seen at least 6 different “paranormal investigation teams” bite the bullet over their poor critical thinking skills.

The Enemy Within: How ghost hunters fail due to their own psyche

Investigating ghostly phenomena is actually a daunting challenge. The rational investigator must weed through bias, myth building, and historical facts. Yet they must maintain the ability to think critically through an assortment of possible natural explanations and follow a scientific methodology. Many, however, are defeated before they even get out of the gate. What mysterious force causes them the fail from the onset? There own psychology, their worldview and their belief systems. (In other words, they think their bullshit don’t stank – Bob)
In this blog I am going to identify one of the major psychological factors that render the average paranormal investigator and his or her findings into a big mushy pile of pure 100% USDA bullshit. While some may argue that this may be a petty argument, the mind is the most important tool that the investigator has at his/her disposal. If that isn’t properly tuned (or if they are suffering from a severe case of Rectal-Cranial Infarction – Bob) they are doomed to failure before they even start. While there are many psychological factors that affect paranormal investigators, this is one of the major ones. It is called Cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is a discomfort caused by holding conflicting cognitions (e.g., ideas, beliefs, values, emotional reactions) simultaneously. In a state of dissonance, people may feel surprise, dread, guilt, anger, or embarrassment. The theory of cognitive dissonance in social psychology proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by altering existing cognitions, adding new ones to create a consistent belief system, or alternatively by reducing the importance of any one of the dissonant elements. An example of this would be the conflict between wanting to smoke and knowing that smoking is unhealthy; a person may try to change their feelings about the odds that they will actually suffer the consequences, or they might add the consonant element that the smoking is worth short term benefits. A general view of cognitive dissonance is when one is biased towards a certain decision even though other factors favor an alternative.
A classical example of cognitive dissonance is expressed in the fable “The Fox and the Grapes” by Aesop (ca. 620–564 BCE). In the story, a fox sees some high-hanging grapes and wishes to eat them. When the fox is unable to think of a way to reach them, he decides that the grapes are probably not worth eating, with the justification the grapes probably are not ripe or that they are sour (hence “sour grapes”). This example follows a pattern: one desires something, finds it unattainable, and reduces one’s dissonance by criticizing it. Jon Elster calls this pattern “adaptive preference formation”
Dissonance is created when people are confronted with information that is inconsistent with their beliefs. If the dissonance is not reduced by changing one’s belief, the dissonance can result in misperception, rejection or refutation of the information and seeking support from others who share the beliefs, and attempting to persuade others to restore consonance.

(As an aside from Bob, all that above kind of makes you wonder about certain persons who belong to a certain well known Baptist church from Westboro Kansas, doesn’t it? Just saying…)

To illustrate my point here is another example of Cognitive dissonance that I will use to make my point:

In the 1950s Marian Keech was the leader of a UFO cult. She claimed to get messages from extraterrestrials, known as The Guardians, through automatic writing. Like the Heaven’s Gate folks forty years later, Keech and her followers, known as The Seekers or The Brotherhood of the Seven Rays, were waiting to be picked up by flying saucers. In Keech’s prophecy, her group of eleven was to be saved just before the earth was to be destroyed by a massive flood on December 21, 1954. When it became evident that there would be no flood and the Guardians weren’t stopping by to pick them up, Keech became elated. She said she’d just received a telepathic message from the Guardians saying that her group of believers had spread so much light with their unflagging faith that God had spared the world from the cataclysm (Levine 2003: 206). (Man, how do I get a piece of this cult leader action??? – Bob)
More important, the Seekers didn’t abandon her. Most became more devoted after the failed prophecy. (Only two left the cult when the world didn’t end.) “Most disciples not only stayed but, having made that decision, were now even more convinced than before that Keech had been right all along….Being wrong turned them into true believers (ibid.).” Some people will go to bizarre lengths to avoid inconsistency between their cherished beliefs and the facts. But why do people interpret the same evidence in contrary ways? (Anyone want to volunteer to be part of my very own newly formed Cult of the Sane? Our temple will be a topless bar! – Grand PooBob)
The Seekers would not have waited for the flying saucer if they thought it might not come. So, when it didn’t come, one would think that a competent thinker would have seen this as falsifying Keech’s claim that it would come. However, the cult’s followers were rendered incompetent by their devotion to Keech. Their belief that a flying saucer would pick them up was based on faith, not evidence. Likewise, the prophesy failing to manifest didn’t count against their belief because it was another act of faith. With this kind of irrational thinking, it may seem pointless to produce evidence to try to persuade people of the error of their ways. Their belief is not based on evidence, but on devotion to a person, group or concept. That devotion can be so great that even the most despicable behavior by one’s prophet can be rationalized. (I promise not to make anyone do anything TOO despicable. Mostly just entertain me with your drunken antics – Illustrious Potentate the Sane)
I choose this as an example because it readily resembles the dissonance found within much of the “paranormal community”. Investigators have followed the same path of dissonance.
Investigators blindly accept that certain instruments can detect ghosts despite the fact that they have never been proven to detect anything paranormal. EMF meters, various thermometers, dowsing rods, cameras, video and even audio recording, just to name a few, were introduced in the 1960s and 50 plus years later have still not produced any viable evidence of paranormal activity. Their usage has been rooted into the group think of the community through books, websites, various journals and lately television shows. While I’m on this subject, let’s not forget the old school technique of using psychics and mediums to search for spooks. This has been around since the birth of the spiritualist movement in the early 1900s. Yet, like all of the above, it has never been scientific proven. Let’s try to prove that the paranormal exists using a paranormal technique. Seriously? You can’t see anything wrong with that? (This, children, is called circular logic. And while it makes for fun at parties when you can make people do Stupid Human Tricks, when trying to do any real investigating it annihilates any data integrity you may have had. Plus it makes you look like a douchebag. Just sayin’. – Bob)
Cold spots, residual and intelligent hauntings are hypotheses that were initially presented in the 1930s and the belief in these hypotheses are still widely held today despite the fact that they have never been proven and defy several known laws of science. The concept behind these hypotheses is rooted firmly in pseudo-science, often through a wilful ignorance of scientific laws concerning the transmission and conservation of energy. Battery drainage phenomenon is a more recent addition to the list (but we covered that in an earlier blog).
The most obvious is the simple fact that ghosts have not been proven to exist. However within the “paranormal community” it is a readily accepted fact. Statements such as “no one knows what ghosts are” is common, yet they use the same unproven instrumentation and methodologies. If you do not know what a ghost is (you have no hypothesis) exactly how are you going to search for them? Why are you doing what you are doing? Science is based on precise measurement of phenomena. What are you going to measure? (Just as a hint, with most of the EMF meters people use in the field, they are going to measure the wiring in the house. Know why? Because most people use meters that are calibrated to find AC fields of between 50-60Hz. AC means man-made, folks. NEVER natural. So take your cheap ass little EM meter you picked up at Home Depot and toss it in the garbage. Then get over to the Temple of Bob for some cold refreshments and entertainment/enlightenment. – Saint the Sane)
Another rationalization is “ghosts are everywhere”. They attempt to justify this point of view by pointing out the apparent randomness of paranormal activity. Ghosts can come and go at will or maybe they can just hide really well. Even if a phenomenon at a location is explained through natural causes, it could still be haunted. The ghost just wasn’t there at the time of the investigation. Also places that have never had reports of paranormal phenomena can be haunted as well. No one has simply noticed it before their investigation. (This is what we call a ‘moving target’ and it makes us all look like complete jackasses in the eyes of the scientific community. If we can’t even come to a solid consensus on what constitutes a haunting, how are we ever to come up with valid, viable theories? We don’t, and thus we will continue to be relegated to the realm of carnival sideshows and terrible television programming on certain cable networks. – Blessed Bob the Disgusted, Master of Beer and Boobies)

Sources:
Wikipedia
http://www.skepdic.com
Levine, Robert. The Power of Persuasion – How We’re Bought and Sold (John Wiley & Sons 2003).
Gilovich, Thomas. Dale Griffin and Daniel Kahneman. 2002. eds.Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment. Cambridge University Press.
Festinger Leon. When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study (Harpercollins 1964). (Originally published in 1956 by the University of Minnesota Press.)
Gardner, Daniel. 2008. The Science of Fear: Why We Fear the Things We Shouldn’t–and Put Ourselves in Greater Danger.Dutton.
Ariely, Dan. (2008). Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. HarperCollins.
Critical thinking and belief in the paranormal: A re-evaluation, Chris A. Roe* British Journal of Psychology, Volume 90, Issue 1, pages 85–98, February 1999

Why it is easy to FAIL with Full Spectrum cameras.

As Inigo Montoya (of The Princess Bride, for you non-movie-geeks) might say, “Full Spectrum? You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” So, I will explain it.

Full-spectrum photography is a subset of full spectral imaging, defined currently among photography enthusiasts as imaging with consumer cameras the full, broad spectrum of a film or camera sensor bandwidth. In practice, a specialized broadband/full-spectrum camera captures visible, near infrared and near ultraviolet light. For a camera to be full spectrum, it must be able to capture all three. However, the majority of the “Full Spectrum” cameras sold by paranormal and ghost hunting oriented stores are not actually full spectrum. So I’m going to explain why they are not, the issues involved with full spectrum photography and some helpful tips if you seriously want to explore this.
The first step in modifying a digital camera to a full spectrum camera is to remove the IR cut filter/ Hot mirror and replace it with a piece of optical quality glass (in optics it is called an uncoated window). This glass has various spectral properties. Typical glass types used include Schott WG-280 and BK-7, which transmit as much as 90% from around 300nm to past 1000nm. Average quality glass (like those found in the windows of your house) will not work. The optical qualities of the glass reflect UV light, thus preventing it from entering the image sensor. You may have noticed this effect when you are walking by the front of a supermarket and you can see your reflection in the glass. It’s reflected UV light.

This is where the first problem lies, particularly in the inexpensive “Full Spectrum” cameras. To keep costs down, they use cheap, clear glass which prevents some of the UV light from entering. So it is not actually a full spectrum camera.

But wait…it gets worse.

In the consumer grade camera, infrared light is dealt with by the IR cut filter/hot mirror. They deal with the ultraviolet light by applying a UV reduction coating(s) on lens. The purpose of this is to create an image that will be similar to what the human eye sees. This is what the consumers want in a camera. Removing it ruins the camera for photographing the visible spectrum. There is also a reduction in signal which requires longer exposure times (up to 20 seconds). If the dealer has not removed the lens coating, it is not a full spectrum camera.

*******Dupe Alert*******

Visible light has wavelength in a range from about 380 nm to about 740 nm. Ultraviolet A (long wave or black light) enters the visible spectrum up to 400nm. Since the camera manufacturers want visible light to pass to the image sensor, Ultraviolet A makes it to the sensor too.
Many of the websites selling “Full Spectrum” cameras to paranormal investigators go through great pains to demonstrate that their cameras pick up UV light and indeed they do, technically, but that is a far cry from true Full spectrum. You can do the exact same thing with an unmodified camera by simply screwing on a visible light cut filter (also called a visible bandpass filter) and adding a UV light source. Ta-Da!

I’m not saying that the stores that sell these cheap ass “full spectrum” cameras are out to rip you off. I think it is more an issue of ignorance and misinformation about what they are creating. They are not optics technicians.

More issues about modified (Full Spectrum) Cameras that you need to know about!

If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me why their brand new full spectrum camera takes video and photos that are often out of focus I could buy a beer or two. The short and sweet answer is that they bought a crappy camera or the modification was done incorrectly. The more technical answer is that IR light is longer in wavelength than visible light and focuses differently. Regular photographic lenses are made for visible light photography without any regard to what happens when photographing “out of band” light like IR and UV. Many of the people who modify digital cameras are unaware of this. Either they simply don’t deal with it or they lock the focus on infinity. Regardless, it means that they don’t know dick about how to properly convert the camera to full spectrum.
Another important factor is that you use a good optical platform (a decent camera with good optics). If you are paying under $300 for a Full Spectrum camera, it has crappy optics. More than likely the optics were mass produced in Taiwan or China to very basic specs and are the major cause of artifacts in your photos that are often mistaken for ghosts by amateurs.
Good optics and hardware are everything and play a major role in selecting a camera to modify. To do this you have to get the spectral chart for the type of image processor (CCD, CMOS). Look for a good curve in the spectrum that you are interested in studying. For example the Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro UVIR, Super CCD SRII sensor, the UVIR is photosensitive to wavelengths from approximately 350nm-1000nm. This is the max that camera can pick up. No more, no less. So choose wisely.

Crappy optics combined with a poor modification can create photographic artifacts that are often interpreted as paranormal activity or ghosts. A combination of poor focus, improper modifications, low temperatures and high ISO settings can cause a CCD residual charge. What ISO denotes is how sensitive the image sensor is to the amount of light present. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive the image sensor and therefore the possibility to take pictures in low-light situations. I also believe there are some other factors involved but at the moment, I’m not exactly sure what they are. I have noticed that the cheaper cameras are more prone to create artifacts when the power is getting low and there is a rate of high usage. Replicating a photo containing artifacts, even with the same camera and lighting conditions can be difficult as well. This has probably contributed to the belief that cheaper optics (cameras) are capable of recording paranormal activity.
The CCD residual charge is created when electrons are trapped on the image processor (over saturation) and a “ghost” image (that is literally what it is called) of the over saturated pixels appear in the next photograph. The effect often looks like translucent mists (ECTOPLASM!) but can be any size or shape, depending on how many pixels were affected. Residual charges can last up to thirty seconds before the pixels balance back out to normal. CCD image sensors are more prone to this than CMOS image sensors.

Another artifact can be created by a phenomenon called Dark Current. Dark current arises from thermal energy within the silicon lattice of the CCD. Electrons are created over times that are independent of the light falling on the detector. These electrons are captured by the CCD and counted as signal. To minimize dark current scienctific CCDs are usually cooled.
The bottom line is that if you wish to experiment with full spectrum photography, it is best to save your money and buy a camera with good optics. Then have the camera modified by a professional who knows what they are doing. A company that I recommend is http://www.lifepixel.com/.

Battery Drainage Phenomena…..BULLSHIT!!!!

The concept of Battery Drain phenomena comes from  a belief that is based solely in anecdotal statements by investigators in  the paranormal community. It is thought that equipment such as audio recorders, flashlights and other electronics will exhibit  a rapid drain in battery strength prior to the onset of paranormal activity. Although it has also never been scientifically proven, paranormal investigators are more than willing to buy into this hypothesis even though scientific  tests have sufficiently demonstrated that this phenomena is not paranormal at all. Before I go into that, there are some interesting facts and generalized knowledge that must be put forth first.

Batteries derive their source of energy from a chemical reaction that continues to take place even if they are sitting on a shelf in their original packaging. While most batteries have a long shelf life, batteries still weaken as they continue to sit on a shelf, in a box or in the junk drawer of your kitchen. Battery manufacturers print expiration dates on packages to notify consumers that the batteries will not perform at peak levels after that date. Some manufacturers use a “born” date or date when the battery was made to let consumers know they are purchasing fresh batteries instead of ones that have been sitting in a warehouse for months or years. However, even if they are fresh, batteries can lose up to 20 percent of their original power per year if they’re kept in a warm area (about 68 to 86 degrees F).

Alkaline, Primary cell (not rechargeable) batteries have good shelf life, that is they can be left around for years and still maintain good capacity but they are insufficient for high current drain applications such as digital cameras. They also operate poorly at low temperatures. Lithium, titanium and premium alkaline batteries are designed for these high-energy devices, whereas regular alkaline batteries work best with low-energy devices.

The nominal voltage of a fresh alkaline cell is 1.5 V while the effective zero-load voltage of a non discharged alkaline battery varies from 1.50 to 1.65 V, depending on the purity of the manganese dioxide used and the contents of zinc oxide in the electrolyte. The average voltage under load depends on discharge and varies from 1.1 to 1.3 V. The fully discharged cell has a remaining voltage in the range of 0.8 to 1.0 V.

Now if this isn’t complicated enough there are factors that are induced by the investigators themselves.

DON’T carry loose batteries in a pocket or purse with metal objects like coins, paper clips, etc. This can short-circuit the battery, leading to high heat or leakage that will affect its voltage capacity. Carrying batteries loose in a bag or container can also affect its capacity.

DON’T store batteries in hot places. The elevated temperatures can lead to capacity loss, leakage or rupture.

DON’T mix old and new batteries, or mix different types or makes of batteries. This can cause leakage or rupture, resulting in capacity loss.

My point here is simple, the charge of a battery is NOT ALWAYS CONSTANT! So, the life expectancy of a battery in a piece of equipment is not exactly constant either. Unusual battery drainage during the course of an investigation is eventually going to happen, not due to paranormal variables but to perfectly natural causes.

Out of curiosity, I have done my own controlled experiment using a single AA powered camping light. I bought 12 batteries from 3 manufacturers (Duracell, Energizer and Maxell) and tested the batteries one at a time by installing them in the lamp and timing how long it took for the light to go off. Even in the same brand, there were significant variances ( 1.2 hrs to 3hrs).  You can also see the differences between brands by going  here http://www.zbattery.com/zbattery/batteryinfo.html

Seriously, think about this hypothesis for a moment. It is suggesting that a ghost is somehow pulling power from the batteries in such a precise fashion that the electrical components of the device (resistors, wiring, etc.)  are not short circuited or damaged. Why would it do that when there is a more steady supply in the immediate environment in the form of electrical wiring and other devices? The precise manipulation of energy? Really?

Are paranormal investigators measuring the voltage of their batteries before they put them in and have established controls to prove that the mysterious drainage was caused by something paranormal? No. We have people running about saying; “OMG! The batteries in my camera just died! Its a ghost!”.  That is about as lame as it gets folks.

So why are paranormal investigators still believing this crap?

The answer is two-fold. The phenomena of battery drainage is closely linked to another paranormal based hypothesis, the cold spot (I’ll rip this apart in another blog) and the reintroduction of the phenomena by paranormal reality television shows.  I say “reintroduction” because many paranormal researchers before 2004 had already come to the conclusion  that the whole battery drainage thing was bullshit.

Want to prove me wrong? Then provide the burden of proof. Do a controlled experiment, gather data and present your results for peer review. Until then..I’ve called this one.

 

The Lodge at Cloudcroft, my opinions

The legend of Rebecca is built upon a foundation that is no more solid than the apparition that supposedly haunts the hotel. The biggest problem is the inability to link the supposed ghost to an actual person. Several years have been spent searching genealogical records, law enforcement records, and missing persons reports in an attempt to locate a woman named Rebecca Potter. During the 1930s there was a Rebecca Potter living in Silver City. However, she was 64 years old and married, a far cry from the sexy redhead that supposedly haunts the hotel.

Is important to note that many old legends like this often have a fraction of truth to them, something that served as a catalyst for the legend. One such event occurred in 1920. This story of a ghastly murder was printed by the Albuquerque Journal on September 5th.

 

   “Cloudcroft, N.M., Sept. 4 _Mrs. Jack Durham and her two children, 1 3 years of age and another 6 months old, together with Tom Martin, were shot and killed by Jack Durham seriously wounded.

 

The bodies of Mrs. Durham and Martin were first discovered by the roadside. Martin had been shot in the head, the bullet entering the eye, resulting in instant death. Mrs. Durham had been shot twice, in the head and breast. Going to the tent of the Durham’s, it was here that Durham was found wound. Ask where the children were, the officers were directed to the tent where they found both, each having been shot in the head.

 

The wounded man is now in jail under the care of Physicians McKinley and Gilbert. The bullet entered his chin, missing the tongue, continued in an upward course, but did not penetrate the brain. The cheek and nose bones are shattered.

 

Mrs. Durham was the daughter of S.P. Tipton, a Christian minister of the Weed section.

 

Durham admitted the killing but would give no reason for the deed.”

 

 

Two days later an updated report is printed in the Santa Fe New Mexican on September 7th, 1920.

 

   “Mrs. Jack Durham and her two children, one six months and the other three years of age, and Tom Martin were shot and killed, and Jack Durham seriously wounded in a gun battle which occurred in the Carr canyon, near the town of High Rolls late Sunday afternoon.

 

As soon as the message reached this city Sheriff, Snyder left at once for the scene of the shooting and found the bodies of Mrs. Durham and Martin near the roadside, both having been shot with a high-power rifle. After a short search both the little children were found in a tent near The Sawmill with bullets through their heads.

 

Wild the real cause of the shooting has not been learned it is said that Martin had a wood contract and that Durham was in his employee and that they had a quarrel over the terms of the contract.

 

In an interview, Durham admitted the killing but refused to give any reason for the deed.

 

While the real cause of the shooting has not been learned, it is said that Martin had a wood contract and that Durham was in his employee and that they had a quarrel over the terms of the contract.”

 

It is eventually discovered that this tragedy was the result of a love triangle. If we are taking the various variants of the legend into account in a chronological order, the oldest version has Rebecca being murdered by a railroad executive, and easterner or even by her boss. All of the elements for the earliest version of the Rebecca story are contained in these two articles. An affair with a manager (her husband’s) and the murder by a lumberjack, who happened to be her husband. This horrific murder would have been very well remembered by the small communities surrounding Cloudcroft. This may well be the genesis for the legend of Rebecca that has survived at the Lodge.

Sometimes realistic events can also shape and change legends. A good example of this is the story of Rebecca. As one researches the various ghost stories about Rebecca, you stumble across sudden changes in the myth as the story is told through the decades. The earliest variants say that Rebecca was buried in the dirt floor of the Red Dog Saloon. However, the current story suggests that she is buried “somewhere” on the property of the Lodge, perhaps even on the golf course.

 

“According to some, Rebecca’s body was found near what is now the Cloudcroft Lodge Golf course. It was determined she was murdered, but the crime was never solved. There are some who believe that Rebecca is in search of a new lover who appreciates her apparently flirtatious and mischievous ways.

 

Golfers who hit their shots into the forest on the Lodge golf course have often seen their golf balls miraculously shoot out of the trees and back into the fairway. It could be the ghost of Rebecca is sympathetic to golfers with bad aim?”

 

The change in her burial location is due to a tragic event that occurred in 1987 when a woman went missing in Alamogordo. When her body was discovered in 2004 the possibility of Rebecca’s body being buried somewhere other than the basement was readily accepted. Strangely, this almost validates the news story printed a year earlier when a psychic claims that Rebecca was taken into the woods and murdered. As a result, the myth changes. It is also important to note that the theme of a “maid killed by jealous lover”  is attached to many hotels.

The ghost story of Rebecca has longevity because the propagator is the Lodge itself. As a result, the story has been told and retold in numerous books and websites. This creates an awareness of “the haunting” which in turn creates suggestion and bias in the guests visiting the Lodge. It could be argued that this could prime visitors to having a “paranormal experience”. However, this experience is not actually paranormal in nature, is created through misperception and validated by bias.

The ghostly ledger contains many experiences that are clearly hypnopompic and hypnagogic in origin. These are mental phenomena that occur during this “threshold consciousness” phase include lucid dreaming, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis. A hypnopompic state is the state of consciousness leading out of sleep. The hypnagogic state is the opposite and occurs at sleep onset. However, the two states are not identical. The hypnagogic state is rational waking cognition trying to make sense of non-linear images and associations while the hypnopompic state is emotional and credulous dreaming cognition trying to make sense of real-world stolidity. Here are a few examples out of dozens that are recorded in the ledger.

 

“Last night I think I saw a Rebecca. I woke at 2:30 and I saw a dark figure standing by the door [of room 246]. It just stared at me and I stared back. If it was Rebecca, I consider myself lucky to see her.”

 

“About 5 a.m. I awoke and felt my friend move over to my bed to be under the air conditioning vent. She was so quiet that I couldn’t believe she’d already book, magazines, purse, etc. that I’d left on the bed. I heard the whispering and movement of air as one moves quietly at night and then a sigh of a woman and the bed sinking on my left. Another sigh and whoosh and the pillow and mattress settled a bit lower.

I held still because I didn’t want her to know I was awake. But then I open my eyes and saw that my friend was still in her own bed. There were no further sensations. I vow I do not have sensations like this, in fact, this is perhaps my first experience.”

 

It is clear that the “public relations image” of Rebecca was started by Jerry Sanders when he purchased the hotel. In 1984, the El Paso Times published an article written by David Sheppard in which Sanders evens questions the reality of the legend.

 

” Jerry Sanders, who now owns The Lodge, says the story of Rebecca “is a charming legend,” but he isn’t sure she ever really existed.

 

“Some real interesting things have happened,” he said, but he considers a real, historic Rebecca immaterial.

 

“There is a presence – there’s no question about that,” and he calls that presence Rebecca “because that’s the story we inherited.”

 

Sanders first heard of Rebecca on his first trip to the hotel. During a tour of the buildings, the owner – Glynda Bonnell – told Jerry and his wife Carole that the Lodge had a friendly resident ghost named Rebecca.

 

“She told us she had red hair, blue eyes and was voluptuous,” Sanders said. From the description, the Sanderses had her portrait painted and hung it at the entrance to the restaurant – which they named “Rebecca’s.”

 

Bonnell said the legend was handed down to her from previous owners and employees. She doesn’t know how much truth is in the story, but for Bonnell, like so many others, Rebecca provided an explanation for a mysterious experience she had.

 

“I was in the Governor’s Suite redoing some drapes one day when I heard a knock on the door,” Bonnell said. Her back was to the door and her head partly was covered by the drapes. “I said, ‘Come in.’ There was no answer, but I heard the door open and footsteps coming in.

 

“I said, ‘What do you want?’” still no answer, Bonnell tossed the drapes off her head, stepped down the ladder, turned and was walking toward the door when it closed. She reached the glass-paned door just as it clicked shut. She looked through the panes down the hallway to see who had just left and saw – nothing.

 

“That was it,” she said. “That was kind of startling, to say the least.”

 

Buddy Ritter another previous owner, said “many strange things” used to happen at The Lodge, but he never attributed them to Rebecca.

 

None of the recent owners traced Rebecca’s background. All they know about her is her name and the story of her disappearance. Sanders said she apparently was called both Rebecca and Becky, but he has yet to learn her last name.

 

If she did exist, evidence of her is hard to find. Otero County Sheriff Ricky Virden recently went through missing person’s reports through the 1930s and found none concerning a Rebecca or a Becky.

 

“I’ve never known the real story,” said Virden, who first heard the legend as a child growing up in the area.

 

The most prevalent account of Rebecca’s disappearance is that she was killed on Aug. 18 back in the 1930s. But no evidence can be found of an investigation into the murder.

 

Sanders acknowledges that Rebecca could be the character of a fanciful tale. But whether she’s fact or fiction doesn’t’ really matter, he said. Her presence is what counts.”

 

 

As with many legends, it may have a basis in fact but it originates from a completely different event. The legend gains notoriety through myth building and is sustained through misperception and continued story telling by the staff at the Lodge and the media who are always searching for a good story for Halloween.