Jan 282011
 

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Video] [Part 3] [Video]

Kim and I wound up with George for the second round of EVPs.

“Great, this is like being with the boss,” Kim complained in my ear, trouble-maker that she is.  I was nervous because I could only imagine how potentially intense it would be, standing next to an expert like George while he conducted his EVP session. I had an image of him standing in the middle of the room with his arms spread open like Jesus Christ, summoning the spirits out from the floor boards, naturally ending with one of them using his insides like a Holiday Inn and spitting their disembodied voice out through his mouth.

I really hoped that wasn’t going to happen.

Chris, who was still reeling from being rejected for Jimmy Wenger, purposely ditched us in favor of Christine and Joel. When I found out they were going to the boiler room, I was suddenly pretty happy to be going to the second floor classrooms with George. Tiny and Jimmy stayed back in Base for this round. I believe Nick, Brittany and Lynnette went to the gym.

We started out at the far end of the hall, in a classroom to the left of the staircase leading to the gym. This was the room everyone in the know kept calling the Little Girl’s Room, but I was too scared to ask why.

“Do you smell that?” George asked when we crossed the threshold. I smelled nothing more than the musty scent of a rotting school and a bouquet of my own fear and anxiety. But Kim said she smelled something, like lavender or lilac, and George seemed pleased with her answer. Apparently, he and Tiny had been detecting wafts of old perfume in one spot of that room all day.

I pulled in a deep drag of stale air through my nose and wasn’t rewarded with anything other than the need to sneeze.

In that room, I saw the name of one of Blake’s friends written on the chalkboard, verifying that the Blake-centric graffiti I had seen earlier  definitely belonged to Henry’s son. I momentarily felt a little relieved at the notion of Blake being there and making it out of the school alive. Maybe I would, too.

We lined up in front of the row of windows, which now seems like a dumb idea—I could have been grabbed and pulled through!—and began recording our session. My brief sense of relief dissipated.

Spewing out questions to a roomful of nothing is about as awkward and idiotic as it sounds. I realize this. But every time George would open up the floor to me, my pulse would quicken and I would get a terrible sensation of stage fright. I didn’t want any spirit motherfuckers making fun of me, you know? But my questions were so lame. “Hi, how are you?” [Dead.] “What’s your name?” [Your mother.] “Friend me on Facebook?” [Decline.] Presumably speaking with the dead in an abandoned school at 1:00 in the morning is pretty terrifying.

The whole point of recording EVPs is not that we expect to hear a spirit answer us right then and there, but hopefully something will be able to be detected on the recording later. I hoped that whomever I was communicating with didn’t turn out to be some asshole.

Suddenly, something echoed down the hall.

George and Kim thought it sounded like a cough. I was certain it was a laugh. No one else was assigned the upstairs classrooms with us, but George made a note to ask the others later if any of them had coughed. (Or laughed, goddammit! It was fucking laughter!) We heard it a second time before crossing the hallway to the computer room to fire off another round of questions.

“Does anyone hear that?” George asked. I was already standing stalk-still, which had become my signature ghost-hunting stance, but George asking that made me clench and tense up even more, all of my muscles ensconced in imaginary braces.

Kim and I shook our heads. All I heard was my heavy breathing and the rustling of fabric as I shoved my hands deeper inside the pockets of Henry’s Faygo jacket, searching for warmth.

“Here,” George said, removing his headphones. “Put these on.” They were attached to some sort of parabolic amplifier, which George held in his hand.

Headphones clamped against my frozen ears, I strained to hear something, anything, but all I could pick out was the sound of dirt and broken glass crunching under my feet as I shifted my weight to curb the pee sensations that this creepy moment was stirring up inside me.

I frowned, was shaking my head and lifting my hand to remove the headphones, when I heard it.

“Wait,” I whispered, pressing the headphones harder against my ears. It was coming from the right side, it seemed. A high-pitched, but extremely faint sound, like a child singing a word, a falsetto “ahhhh.” I heard it two more times before removing the headset and passing it over to Kim.

“You heard it too?” George whispered excitedly. “The piano?”

“I thought it was a voice,” I started, explaining to him what it sounded like to me. But then I considered this piano theory, and realized that it could have definitely been the sound of a lone key plunking in very slow, random succession. The more I thought about it, the more it sounded like a piano. I remembered what had happened to George’s girlfriend, when she had heard the piano playing so loud in her head that she had to leave the school.

“There’s no piano in this building,” George pointed out, and I was really ready to leave that room.

Kim didn’t hear it and was pretty pissed about that, but I reminded her that she smelled the perfume and I didn’t. My hearing is way more sensitive than my sense of smell. I’m usually the last one to notice if someone in the room farted. But my hearing is so tweaked that it drives Henry nuts. I can detect the most faintest of bass lines coming from my neighbor’s side of the house and I will go on a rampage because other people’s bass goes right through me. Hate it! Can’t stand it! Love it at a concert, though. And in songs, I will pick out the most random sounds that most people might not even notice, and force Henry to listen over and over to my “favorite” part. Half the time, he has no idea what he’s listening for in the split-second sample I’ve given him. Then there are times when we’re on the couch watching TV, and I’ll point to the ceiling and say, “Ooh, my jam’s on!” and Henry’s like, “How the fuck can you hear the bedroom radio?”

Even so, it took me needing headphones and a parabolic amplifier to hear that piano note.

I remembered this one afternoon last year when I was over Alisha’s with our friend Evonne, attempting to use the Psychic Circle (similar to the Ouija board, but used for good, positive spiritual contact). Alisha and Evonne had many experiences with the Psychic Circle, but with me there that day, nothing was happening. “Are you nervous, Erin?” Evonne asked. I showed her that my hand was shaking a little bit, and she said that it was possible my anxiety was affecting the Circle, and that we would have to try it another time.

I wondered if my fear and nervousness was closing me off to bigger experiences in the school. I tried to calm down, which was futile. You try getting your knees to stop knocking when you’re standing in a dark classroom, trying to get a ghost to tell you their favorite color.

There were several classrooms on the second room that George pointedly skipped. He seemed to know which ones held hot spots and didn’t waste any time on the rest. “This is the Shadowman Room,” George said, leading us into the classroom at the far end of the hall, above Base. This was the part of the hall where we heard the laughter. (Not coughing!)

I asked why it was called the Shadowman Room, and immediately regretted not waiting until later, when we weren’t standing in the middle of it.

“Because we keep seeing a large shadow drifting in and out of this room,” George answered nonchalantly, like it was no big thing. (My fucking phone just rang and I had a full-body convulsion; now my cat Don is laughing at me.)

“I feel like it’s way colder in this room. I’m the coldest I’ve been all night,” I shared with George and Kim. The ghosts born from my breath made up for the ghosts that weren’t showing up in my photos.

We heard something in this room. All of us heard it, a sound like movement from the back corner. I took two giant steps to my right, positioning myself for a quick escape. Then, a sound like rustling came from the front of the room, by the door. George’s camera had inexplicably died while we were up there, so he asked me to snap a picture in that general area. I did, but along with all the other photos I took that night, nothing spectacular showed up on it. Just some trash bags and “BLAKE.” And part of George’s parabolic amplifier. (I just like typing that as much as possible because it makes me feel like I’m smart.)

I couldn’t wait to peace out of this room. Standing in there made me feel awful, real uneasy and tense, like anticipating your drunk dad to come home raging from the bar.

The last room we covered with George was the classroom directly across the hall. I wasn’t too happy about this, because where did the Shadowman go when he left his room? PROBABLY STRAIGHT TO THIS ROOM.

“My friend Erin is here with me, and she is really wanting to experience something. Can you show yourself to her?” George called out to the empty room as I sucked in my breath. Don’t go bringing me into this, buddy.

We heard that noise again, the one I swear was mischievous laughter but George and Kim insist was coughing? That noise. Only this time, Kim thought it sounded like a growl. Fucking outstanding!

George asked me if I wanted to say anything. After Kim basically insinuated that the Hounds of Hell had joined us? No, not really.

“I’m afraid of making them mad,” I admitted, biting a hole through my lip.

Hesitating a little, George said, “You won’t make them mad.” OH OK BUT I’VE SEEN AMITYVILLE HORROR! Besides, I’m not so naive that I believe all ghosts are floating around, turning somersaults in the air and falling in love with Christina Ricci.

So I flat out asked, “Are you angry that we’re here?” and was immediately grateful when the windows didn’t blow out and the floor didn’t rumble.

However, it was a little disconcerting when George spoke into the recorder, “Check the tape for face looking in the door at [insert time].”

“You…you saw a face looking in the door?” I asked. Kim didn’t seem fazed by this, but by then, I was standing in half Eagle pose, trying to plug the impending pee that wanted to trickle down my legs.

“Yeah, right through that window,” George answered matter-of-factly, pointing at the door to the classroom.

FUCKING AWESOME.

Satisfied with the session, George deemed it was time to head back to Base. I couldn’t run down those steps fast enough. Those last two rooms left my nerves sizzling and hissing like live wires.

Warming up under the kerosene lamp after Round Two.

Back in Base, Chris, Christine and Joel told us of their activity-laden time in the boiler room. Chris felt something tug at his jacket; Christine felt something press up against her back, as though she were leaning against a wall; and all three of them saw something float past them and drift off up the steps. It was at that point I decided I had developed a life-threatening allergy to the boiler room and ain’t no way, no how, anyone was going to drag my ass down there.

“I heard the piano!” I offered excitedly, but no one really seemed all that impressed.

George walked over and stuck his camera in my face. “Look,” he said, pointing to the symbol on the screen depicting a fully-charged battery. “I knew that battery was fresh, but it just completely died up there in that room.”

Warmth of the kerosene lamp be damned, I felt a chill percolate all the way down to my toes.

[Ed.Note: I honestly cried at one point while writing this. I need to stop doing this when I’m home alone!]

Jan 272011
 

I’m sure I’m going to regret posting this because I sound so fucking sniveling and lame in it, but here is a short video I captured using my camera in the teachers’ lounge.  There is no supernatural activity that I can detect, but there is Jimmy Wenger attempting to order a pizza, Kim trying to decipher and analyze poorly-spelled messages on a chalkboard, and me practically whimpering in the background, trying not to crap my pants even though absolutely fuck-all happened in that room. I didn’t even get any of the actual EVP session on this. I think Kim was recording that part. (I hope so, anyway! God, I’m not very good at this at all.)

It took me over a week just to work up the nerve to watch this and the other two videos, because I was so scared. I woke Henry up the other night and forced him to watch this with me.

Afterward, he sneered, “This is what you were afraid to watch? It was like the Three Stooges Look For a Ghost.” Then, with that signature facial hand-drag of his, he mumbled, “I can’t believe I got out of bed for this.”

Jan 242011
 

“That wasn’t so bad,” I thought, giving myself a psychic pat on the back, after we all returned to Base from the walk-through. A little creepy in the boiler room when Chris heard that erotic sigh in his ear, but overall, nothing I couldn’t handle. This ghost-hunting thing ain’t shit, and I flexed my muscles a little.

While we all stood around, warming up under the kerosene lamp, fidgeting with our cameras and parching palates on plates of steaming sauerkraut, the last two members of the night’s expedition arrived: Joel and his wife Chris, who always goes by Chris and always went by Chris as a child until some kid moved next door to her in grade school and had the nerve to be named Christopher, at which point the nickname ‘Chris’ shifted from her to him and she has clearly been harboring a metric ton of bitterness and resentment ever since and at the risk of her finding this blog and snarling at the sight of all the “Christine”s, I am going to hereby be referring to her solely as just that to differentiate between her and the male Chris.

Around this time, George had to make a run to a nearby gas station to get more gasoline for the generator. I took that opportunity to poke around outside the school with Nick and Tiny, later joined by Joel, who found deer tracks that stopped at a drain in the ground. We all stared down at the drain, wondering what happened to the deer, as there were no retreating tracks. It was like the deer just vanished. Later, Chris joined us and was quick to point out that they were rabbit tracks, and that the rabbit probably did quite literally fall down the hole. No one really said anything after that, but I think that silence was really the rest of us NON-SKEPTICS making a secret pact to always believe in vanishing deer.

I caught Tiny shining some sort of laser pointer up at the windows and after assuming my role as Hyper-Inquisitive Newbie, he explained that it was giving him a read of the surface temperature, and that sometimes there would be an inexplicable drop which could mean there was a paranormal presence of some sort skulking around.

“Like this window, here,” Tiny illustrated, marking a second-floor classroom window with a bright infrared blemish. “In one spot, it’s in the 30s, but when I move it down here slightly—” He dragged the dot a few centimeters down. “–it drops to 16.”

I involuntarily shivered. It was a cold January night and I was standing up to my galoshed shins in snow, but this shiver was not born from any natural elements.

***

Twenty minutes later, George had fed the generator and we were all gathered back in Base. I was nervously shoving barbeque chips in my mouth by the handful, unable to eat the meat-laden hot foods set out on the table. Several times I considered lifting the lid on the crock pot and letting the steam bite through the icicles my fingers had become. Everyone was socializing, warming up, checking pictures on the view finders of their cameras when suddenly, all the lights went out.

I froze, feeling a rising scream strangulating up through my voice box.

The lights came back.

“Sorry guys!” George called from the hallway. “That was my fault!”

Everyone laughed. I did too, but it was robotic and the corners of my mouth stayed in a neutral line. In the notepad draped from my neck, I scrawled: “9:ish, generator turned off (George’s fault) but I thought it was ghosts & went numb.”

I ate one of Jimmy Wenger’s donuts after that. I rarely eat donuts, that’s how you know I was stressed.

***

George wrangled everyone’s attention from their personal conversations so that we could finally get the EVP sessions started. I only knew a little about EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) so I was glad when George (and Chris, who jumped in to give the group a little more structure and leadership) took a few minutes to go over the procedure, and were given examples of what to ask the spirits during the EVP recordings.

“Remember, ghosts are people, too,” Chris joked. I went to laugh, but my teeth were chattering too hard.

George wanted us in groups of three. I wondered if anyone heard me gulp. I don’t know why, but I hadn’t considered we wouldn’t be all together as a team for the whole night.

Jimmy quickly claimed me and Kim, after I made the adamant statement declaring that I wasn’t going anywhere without her, and it was determined we would be focusing our EVP experiment in the Special Education annex. Christine, Joel and Tiny took the gym; Nick, Brittany and Lynette chose the upstairs classrooms; while Chris and George stayed back to monitor the DVRs.

“I came here with two pretty girls and end up sitting in Base Camp with George,” Chris whined, and while I couldn’t see his face at that moment, I was sure Jimmy Wenger was gloating. He’s very girl crazy! But I felt infinitely safe and assured that he was in our group. Not much seemed to faze him and I hoped that somewhere under his coat was safely tucked a Proton Pack. I had Henry’s flashlight in my hand, but then I thought better of it, desiring to free up some hand-space in case I needed to push over a book shelf onto the Devil. So I set Henry’s beloved flashlight on the desk by the door, opting to rely on my headlamp and the light Jimmy and Kim were bringing with them.

George handed me a camcorder, but as soon as I got out in the hallway, the battery died. I went back inside to alert him of this small snafu; he  snapped a newly charged battery onto it, saying, “You should be good now, this has a full-charge.”  But as soon as we descended the steps to the first floor, the battery life drained and the camcorder promptly shut off.

THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH GHOSTS, I heard my quaking voice of reason yell at myself. I knew that other people were experiencing spontaneously draining batteries during the course of the night, but that was not something I wanted to entertain right then, as we walked up the small flight of steps to our designated spot in the school. It’s pretty amazing how much safer one feels in a group of nine as opposed to a group of three. I kept trying to stay sandwiched in between Kim and Jimmy, but they were bravely swinging open doors and exploring through the darkness, like it was nothing more than an estate sale.

On the chalkboard behind Jimmy, it says “Leave the kids ALONE!” I like to believe that some teenager hoodlum (i.e. one of Blake’s friends) wrote that to be a dick. And you know, not whoever is haunting the school.

Fucking creepy tea party in the teachers’ lounge.

No matter what camera I used, my pictures just weren’t focusing. (True Story: as I just typed that, a truck went by my house and blew its air horn, causing me to scream GHOST! and splash myself with scalding coffee. I’m a little jumpy. And home alone.) I kept telling myself that it was because it was so cold. Maybe the lenses were rebelling against the temperatures. Henry accused me of having the camera on manual focus, but I can promise you I’m not that dumb, and I even checked to make sure it didn’t get bumped from automatic focus. I eventually just gave up taking pictures, figuring there would be enough from everyone else.

With George’s recorder activated, we began our first EVP session in the lounge, asking standard first date questions, like “Why are you here? Who are you? What happened to you?” It was kind of awkward, speaking these questions into what one could only assume was empty air. It was this moment of dire seriousness for me, and suddenly Jimmy Wenger was on his cell phone, attempting to place an order with someone from the Pizza Company, after getting the number from a magnet he found slapped to the chalkboard.

Unfortunately, he didn’t have an address to supply, so no pizza for us. I didn’t even know I wanted pizza until that happened, and then it was all I could think of, a momentary distraction from the complete and utter unease I felt in that room. The whole EVP thing has me torn. There’s that large part of me that has always wanted some sort of contact with the other side. But then there’s the other part of me that remembers movies like The Gate and what a tremendous suckfest it would be to open the door to your soul to some motherfucker who wants to take up residence inside your carapace, fucking you gratuitously from the inside.

I was sort of in a hurry to get out of the Special Ed area.

While Jimmy roamed around the hallway, conducting his own EVPs,  Kim and I entered Room 112. The first thing we noticed was a copy of a story three girls had written about Snow White, casually strewn across one of the desks. Kim immediately flipped back the cover page and began skimming it.

That’s when I had my first experience that night.

It came from my left, back where a row of recessed closets lined the wall, fluorescent stickers stuck above each individual coat hook, each bearing the name of a student.

Muffled laughter. High-pitched, definitely a giggle from a child. I forced my ear drums to play it back on a loop. I was certain it’s what I thought it was.

“Did you hear that?” I whispered to Kim.

“No, what?” she answered at a regular volume.

“I swear I heard something from back there. Like a whispered laugh.”

We went back there to check it out, like we’d see the laughter in some tangible Ectoplasm’d form, chilling out next to a coat rack. What actually happened was that Kim marched back there with self-assured purpose and bravery, while I shuffled stupidly and meekly behind her.

Not finding any substantial evidence back there (but again, not really knowing what I was looking for), Kim and I went back to the desk to further examine the Snow White story. It was almost starting to edge out Kim’s obsession with asbestos. (Seriously, she didn’t give a shit about the fact that we were poking our noses around a supposedly haunted school; her main issue was asbestos, inhaling asbestos, falling into a churning vat of asbestos, accidentally clumping asbestos on her hot dog instead of sauerkraut, dying of asbestos. No matter how many times Chris told her that even if there was any asbestos in that school, we weren’t going to be there long enough to have anything happen to us. Even still, the theme of the night was Asbestos, which is a really fun word to say quickly, many times in a row.)

Photo courtesy of Jimmy Wenger.

I pretended to really give a shit about the story. I even said things like, “I really give a shit about this story.” But inside my head, all I could do was freak out about that goddamn laughter. Now, it wasn’t menacing, it wasn’t even mocking. It was just…it was quiet laughter from a kid. I tried to pretend I was in a park, the zoo, a city landfill–anywhere it would be natural to hear the laughter of a child. Not an abandoned school at 11:59PM on a Saturday night.

Finally able to extract Kim from Room 112 and the Snow White story it held, we noticed a door that we missed during the walk-through. On the other side of it was a small space located underneath the steps leading from the second floor to the gym. Kim walked in with authority but then quickly asked Jimmy if he thought there might be asbestos in there. With trepidation, I followed Kim inside, but kept thinking of The People Under the Stairs and also the “little girl” at the top of the steps that George had us say hello to during the walk through. Jimmy attempted to enter the small space after me, but I shouted “No!” And have no one guarding the other side of the door? Not going to happen on this girl’s watch. That’s all I needed, was to have the “little girl” wait for us to all step inside that fucking cob-webbed space only to slam the door and lock it.

So I squeezed past Jimmy and resumed my stance in the hallway, while he went inside to have a look around. I was standing at the base of a short flight of steps which led up the landing at the bottom of the steps from the second floor. At the top of the landing was the gym door, which had two mysterious lights shining through the glass at me. Just I was beginning to panic, the doors opened and Tiny and Joel walked out, laughing and with headlamps blazing.

“God, you guys scared me!” I hissed. Kim, Jimmy and myself walked up the steps and joined them in the gym, where Christine was sitting cross-legged on the floor, staring at a tennis ball dangling from a string at the edge of a long table.

“Trying to see if they’ll play with me,” she said with a shrug. “We got it moving a little bit awhile ago.”

I took a nervous perch on the edge of the stage. This was something I hadn’t considered we’d be doing that night – actively seeking to interact with the spirits.

“Come on, I know you wanna play duck duck goose with me,” Christine called out, in a playfully taunting tone. I wondered if she was talking to Joel, if this was some sort of childish foreplay they like to indulge in from time to time. Then I realized she was speaking to the ghosts and I felt even more uncomfortable.

“Would it be bad to take something we found in another room?” Kim asked Christine. “I mean, as long as we put it back later.”

I knew where this was going.

“What do you mean?” Christine asked. “What do you want to take?”

“We found a story on one of the desks.”

“Oh! And you want to read it to the spirits? Yeah, that would be fine. Just remember to put it back.”

I knew the only person Kim was going to be reading that story to was herself, but I  went back with her to grab it anyway. I didn’t feel too sure about it, though.

***

Back in Base, I told Tiny I had heard laughter in one of the rooms.

He didn’t even flinch, nor did he seem very impressed.

“Yeah, you’ll hear things! You’ll definitely hear things. I been here since 3:00 this afternoon and been hearing things all day,” he told me, like it was no big deal at all.

Meanwhile, as Kim read her story, Lynnette had pulled up the school’s address so Jimmy Wenger could finally order his pizza, but The Pizza Company was already closed.

Jan 232011
 

This footage wasn’t from the night I was there, but my people saw (a) door(s) opening as well, while watching the monitor from the safe room. I didn’t see it myself that night, but just the idea that someone there with me saw it was enough to sufficiently creep me the fuck out.

The doors there were pretty solid and none of them seemed loose on their hinges.

We’re meeting up next Saturday to go over the evidence culled from the investigation. One of the girls commented on the Meetup site and said that she and her friend picked up some EVPs from one of the recordings they had in a classroom that night. I’m probably going to pee my pants.

I still have so much to tell you guys about that night! Finally went through my unfocused, blurry photos. Didn’t really see anything but I also have absolutely no idea what I’m looking for. My new ghost hunting friend Jimmy Wenger said I can share some of his photos on here, though.

I’m way more into this than I thought I would be! I know I have been causing Henry’s eyes to roll a lot this past week like dice in an alley, because it’s all I’ve been able to talk about. I think mostly it just feels nice to be a part of something. (Here is where the studio audience would all coo a canned “Awwww” in tandem.)

And now I’m going roller skating. I’m having my birthday party there this summer. Ya’ll better be there.

Jan 212011
 

After Kim made sure she had on an appropriate amount of pink clothing, we left her place in separate cars; I wanted to make sure I wasn’t depending on anyone but myself for a way home in case something horrible enough happened to make me run out of the school with a shock of white hair and yellow demon eyes.  It was 7pm when we crept up to the snow-packed road snaking down to the school. I had a rare moment of common sense and decided to park at the top, in front of someone’s house, because I was pretty sure our puny Ford Focus wouldn’t make it back up that road. And I certainly didn’t want to have to spend any more time than necessary on school property.

I trudged down the school road alone, lugging a purse weighed down with two cameras, lenses and four flashlights. I found Kim sitting in the parked car in front of a locked door, which I’d later learn was the location of the stabbing. Had I known that then, I wouldn’t have been pissing around out there so long, planted in the snow and talking to Kim while waiting for Chris to return. (I don’t know where Chris went, but if that had been me and Henry, I can’t say for certain that you’d find him anywhere on the premises of that school without me pasted on his back like static cling. Kim is far braver than I.)

Chris reappeared to collect us, and I was a little surprised that I wasn’t squeezing out pee drops as I followed him up the steps to the main door, which had been unlocked for the night by the owner of the abandoned school. (Everything was done legally–no breaking and entering, release forms were signed, it was legit. And maybe that’s why I wasn’t quite as freaked out as I imagined I would be, walking up those steps and through that door, into a run-down brick abyss where dead Susie Swanson could be waiting in the girls’ room to fist my soul like a rotted apple.

The co-founder of the group, George, had brought a generator with him, so the makeshift command center (I just kept calling it Base, like we were playing tag, a very scary round of tag with spirits) which was located right across the main entrance, was well lit with a giant kerosene heater as its focal point. There was a computer monitor set up, displaying a quadrant of night-visioned  images from around the school. A surplus of yellow flashlights stood at attention next to that.

As I put down my purse and took a nervous gulp of my contraband Riunite, I saw that Chris was eating some sort of Hostess delicacy, and I too wanted a Hostess delicacy, but every time I went to ask him where they were, I got sidetracked. (Are TastyCakes the ones with the white Charlie Brown zig-zag decorating the top? If so, that’s what Chris had that I coveted.) There was so much to take in: George running around in a last-minute effort to get everything in order; foods inappropriate for a vegetarian cooking in crock pots on a table along the far wall; the static-y blips and squeals of the Steelers game being broadcast from a small radio on a windowsill (which, in spite of my all-consuming Steelers-hate, was actually doing a large part to numb my nerves).

Being the newbie, I generally tend to fade myself into the background. But I felt that, in this case, it might be a good idea to introduce myself, stick myself in the thick of things, so that perhaps someone might notice later on if I went suddenly absent. And that’s when I introduced myself to Nick; Tiny (and you are already wagering that he’s not Tiny); and Brittany and Lynnette, two young girls from Somerset.

George passed out small notebooks, with a long loop of blue yarn attached to the spirals for us to wear around our necks.

“And everyone please take a pencil,” he added, motioning to a package of plastic Bic mechanicals. “If there’s one thing I learned, it’s that pencils always work.” I quickly swiped a purple one (probably too zealously), which I ironically had a hard time getting to work at first.

We stood around in Base for awhile, chatting and waiting for some more people to arrive. Jimmy Wenger, whom I had heard about from Kim and Chris and was excited to meet, arrived and immediately snapped eighteen photos of me, doing nothing more exciting than shivering and clutching my phone, mid-tweet. I mean, obviously I’m a ghost-hunting pinup model, but that was still a little excessive, I thought. Jimmy brought into the room with him a warming presence, like a big figurative bear hug, and I at once felt a little safer with him there.

Tiny and Chris, moments before the walk-thru.

Chris fitted me with some dorky head-lamp equipment and we all left the room together as a group, ascending the staircase to the second floor. George did some talking about the school while we were left to explore the classrooms at our leisure. Broughton Elementary isn’t very large; there were only around eight classrooms on the second floor (I probably should have counted; a real ghost-hunting journalist would have). The first room we explored–which I would later learn George and Tiny were calling the Shadowman Room, due to the fact they saw a large SHADOW dart out of it while they were observing the monitor in Base–had the name Blake grafitti’d large and in red on the wall. For a second, I considered the possibility that it was Henry’s son.

George pointed out that when he arrived earlier in the day, the minute hand was exactly on the 3. It had since slipped down a little. I tried to shake off the chill that was using my spine as monkey bars.

“Just please, after you leave a room, close the door behind you,” George said. I thought maybe he was trying to be courteous to the owner of the school. Then he added, “We’ve been noticing open doors on camera that we were sure we shut, so I want to make sure they’re all shut right now so we can be positive about it.”

STFU! Oh my god, I was so scared.

I was really upset that “Pauls” didn’t have an apostrophe, and started to not feel so sorry for this school that had perished,  but then I realized that must have been the point of the lesson. Good thing, because I would have fixated on it all night and probably would have returned with a Sharpie.

I kept looking up to find that I was the straggler of the group, which would set me off into a sort of Wile E. Coyote running-in-place maneuver before taking off to wedge myself back in the middle. I was not about to get taken.

George led us through another set of doors at the end of the hallway and, before descending the stairs, he said, “Everyone say hello to the little girl,” and in unison, everyone did. Everyone but me, whose voice box had become tragically impaired from the fist of FEAR choking it.  I hissed in Kim’s ear, “WHAT little girl?” and was suddenly very aware of my surroundings as I did a frantic little jig down the steps and into the gym.

The gym wasn’t too bad. It was a big space, clothed with litter in some places, metallic marijuana leaves painted over the school’s insignia on one wall, big windows near the ceiling. It just looked like a gym, nothing else, nothing creepy or haunted.  For the first time, my skin wasn’t blistered with goose bumps.

Saw this on a shelf in a small room attached to the locker room, and wondered if it ever played a Lolliwinks record.

Coming back up from the locker room, we had to pass through the gym again to get to the stairs that would take us to the 1st floor classrooms. I caught Tiny shining his flashlight up at one of the windows and I asked him what was going on.”Just saw something,” he mused, nonchalantly. I didn’t like how lethal the tree branches looked on the other side, back-dropped by a horrid salmon-hued winter sky. I didn’t stick around to see if I saw what he saw.

The bottom level of the school had some more classrooms and a long hall which sat a lone, sad wooden child-sized chair next to a water fountain. That was an image that I had a hard time shaking. I was telling either Tiny or Nick about it later, when we were poking around outside, and they agreed that there is something inherently creepy about casually-strewn childrens objects in abandoned places. I was careful about not moving anything for fear of pissing off the ghost of a particularly persnickety red-head kid of the REDRUM-persuasion. (I really think red-headed spirits would be the meanest.)

I found that my iPhone was helping me take better photos than my camera, which I could barely get to focus. The lens kept fogging and I’m sure it was because it was just so cold in there BUT IS THAT REALLY WHY? I had my crappy red point-and-shoot as backup and that one got me some marginally decent pictures as far as I could tell at a glance. I haven’t had a chance (nor the balls) to really sit down and look through them yet. Maybe Henry will sit with me. I mean, not that I need him to hold my hand or anything. Seriously, you guys!

Abacus in the janitor’s room, located in the special education annex

The one thing I thought was odd and noticed on the top floor was that there were certain rooms that were almost good as new. The tile on the floor was intact and clean. None of the paint in there clung to the walls in brittle curly-q’s. Some of the bathrooms were cleaner than my own, while the others were nasty, broken, caked with filth and age.

Kim asked George about this and he told us it’s one of those inexplicable things that even Don, the school’s owner, can’t explain. “Don doesn’t have anyone coming here to clean,” George told us. Yet, some of those rooms looked like they were still holding daily classes while the rest were riddled with vandalism and the tolls of neglect. The school has only been closed for eleven years, but I guess I just expected that decay and decomposition was more of an equal opportunity process.

What’s a walk-through without a tour of the boiler room, which I am here to tell you is just as terrifying as you might imagine, if say you are right now imagining tons of large, rusted furnaces and valves on which to accidentally slip and concuss yourself  before landing on a sheath of broken glass and ice and having a cavalry of demon-shadows swarm your lifeless body, while the more sadistic of the floating dead enter your every orifice and ghost-fuck you from the inside.

Yes, the boiler room was very scary.

Chris broke away from the pack and entered the small coal-chute room alone. “I heard a heavy sigh as soon as I walked in there,” he reported back. Now, Chris was probably the biggest skeptic there so I latched on to this immediately and, hoping to finally have my own experience, walked into the tiny nook of a room with Kim.

And proceeded to hear nothing.

“I didn’t hear it!” I whined later to Chris. What a fucking one-trick pony. (The sigher, not Chris.)

With the walk-through complete, we retreated to Base to wait for the last two people who had yet to arrive, and to discuss what parts we wanted to focus on for the EVP-segment of the night.

Tiny noting the time of an opening door, no biggie.

I almost kind of wished the Steeler game was still on, broadcasting a noisy little piece of the outside world into our cold, tense Base Camp.

[Sorry I’m splitting this up into sections! The amount of stuff I want to write about is overwhelming and staggering. I’m hoping to squeeze the rest into one last part, but that’s the stuff that’s the most troubling for me to put into words.]

Jan 192011
 

I’ve never seen a ghost before. Never experienced any inexplicable phenomena showing up in the background of my pictures. Nothing I could ever see with my eyes. But there were times when I was a teenager walking in the woods behind my house, in broad daylight on humid summer afternoons, where a skin-prickling chilliness and uneasy being-watched sensation would creep over me and stop me in my tracks. I was always so certain that those woods were haunted. I would never go in those woods alone, without my German Shepherd Rama at the very least. My mom and aunt Sharon are always talking about ghostly shit happening at my grandma’s house, which is also flanked by the same woods on one side, but you all know those two are fucking lunatics so I try not to believe a word they tell me.

And my cemeteries. The ones I spend so much time in, alone? There have been occasions where I’ve stepped out of my car only to stand stock-still, senses heightened, hairs erect like midget wangs on my arms. It could be the most blistering of August afternoons and I will give into one violent shiver before swinging back into my car, post haste, burning asphalt on the way out. Because something just didn’t feel right. Something felt off. The atmosphere felt too heavy, too quiet, too absolutely motherfucking creepy.

But I’ve never actually had a real experience with the other side. And I do believe there is an other side. I also believe a lot of that shit is a hoax, a lot of those mediums are fucking crooks, and orbs in photographs are mostly unfocused dust particles. I believe I have a better chance of being eviscerated by America’s next sexy serial killer before ever running into the spirit of some winsome girl in your grandfather’s attic.

My last game night turned into an after hour’s ghost story-telling session and I found myself covered in goose-flesh. When Kim and Chris told me that night that they had joined a local ghost hunting group, I was intrigued, curiosity slightly piqued. And then when they talked about the upcoming ghost hunt that was scheduled for last Saturday, I decided it was time to be a big girl and do this thing.

The day before the hunt, some of my co-workers bequeathed to me mini flashlights, just in case Henry decided to be stingy with his own lighted lover. But by Saturday afternoon, I think Henry was finally beginning to believe that I was actually going to do this (I made sure I told a bunch of people that I was doing it, insurance that I wouldn’t back out), even though I was a bundle of nerves all day, driving him nuts with my sporadic outbursts of OMG I’M SO SCARED! and WHAT IF I DIE TONIGHT?! So he let me take his flashlight. It was kind of a big moment in our relationship.

“See ya at 11,” Henry laughed as I walked out the door that night, insinuating that I would never make it to 5am.

I arrived at Kim and Chris’s place, swaddled in a thermal shirt, my sacred Versus the Mirror hoodie (Kara, this hoodie is like my lucky blanket), Henry’s lame ass Faygo (100 Years!) coat, knee high socks, regular socks, legwarmers, pink skull and crossbones galoshes (couldn’t find real boots since I waited until THAT DAY to go looking), gloves, a knit hat and ear muffs. I looked like an obtuse, mismatched Sumo wrestler dressed for a snowball fight. Chris filled up two travel cups from a giant jug of Riunite, which Kim and I immediately began chugging to quell our nerves (mine at least; I’m pretty sure Kim wasn’t scared at all). We weren’t supposed to have alcohol at the site, but Chris kept the jug tucked away in his car in case our bravery depended on refills.

Broughton Elementary School is located in South Park and was only about five minute drive from Chris and Kim’s place. I knew it was abandoned, but had no idea it was supposed to be haunted. I grew up in a house a few streets above it, and should have actually gone there along with my childhood best friend Christy, but my mom lied about our address in order for me to start elementary school in the town we were building a house. I don’t remember Christy ever saying anything about books flying off shelves or Bloody Mary appearing in the lavatory mirror. According to George, the Meetup group’s co-founder, “this location has a history of death dating back to the Miners strike in the 1930s and in the Whiskey Rebellion in the 17 and 1800s.” There was supposedly a shooting there, in which several teachers and the principal were slain, and someone was stabbed in the parking lot.

Prior to the actual hunt, several of the experienced members did a trial-run of the school. George’s girlfriend Kim, the ‘K’ of G&K Paranormal Investigation, heard a piano playing. The sound eventually crescendoed to a point where she had to cover her ears. It only got worse when she was in the parking lot and began to feel a lifelike shanking all over her body, and then felt as though her body was aflame as she RELIVED the murder that had taken place there so many years ago. Kim and Chris told me this a week ago over dinner, and I just sat there with saucered eyes, unable to even comprehend ever being taken over by the supernatural in such a horrific way.

This lady, Kim? She has been on over a hundred ghost hunting expeditions, experienced passels of paranormal activity. But she refused to go back to Broughton Elementary School after that. And true to her word, she was not there when we arrived last Saturday night at 7pm.