Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011

Tonight, the year closes. 2011 will fade away and the apocalyptic year 2012 will be born from 2011's ashes.   I'm sad to see 2011 go, and not just because the world is supposed to end in 2012.  It has been an amazing year for me and as this year closes, I think I should look back on all the wonderful things that happened in 2011.   Here's a short list of the things that have made this year memorable for me.  These are the haunting highlights of my best year yet for Ghost Stories and Haunted Places.

1.  I've read some amazing ghost books and have been lucky enough to have some of these books sent to me by their authors and editors.  Some of my favorite ghostly reads have been Wichita Haunts by Beth Cooper, True Ghost Stories by Echo Bodine,  The White Devil by Justin Evans , and Fringeology by Steve Volt.  Books are some of my favorite things and discovering new haunts through reading has made my year an unending adventure.

2.  I've found new blogs and enjoyed old blogs.   Connecting with bloggers and reading blogs has always been one of my favorite parts of blogging.  In 2011, I've discovered a lot of new and wonderful blogs and been exited to find my old favorite bloggers covering new ground and taking me to new places.
3.  I've published three books.  This was a big year for writing for me.  This year, Circe, Death's Dream Kingdom, and Haunted Chattanooga were all published and in print.   I've done numerous book signings and talks.   I've found my voice and gotten good reviews.  Circe has been my best reviewed book and Haunted Chattanooga is my best seller of the year.   For making all my dark a ghostly books possible in print, I have to thank my hard working agent, Sharon Belecastro, who is always finding new homes for my dark books.  I'm especially happy to see Circe in print this year.   This horror novel took me two years to write and years to publish.   It inspired my blog and the haunted location it is based on began my interest in haunted places.  

4.  I just signed a two book contract on my new Fantasy series, The Twilight Saint.  I'm looking forward to finish writing this series and seeing my new books published.

5.  I traveled to some amazing haunting places.   My favorite haunts this year were The Ohio State Reformatory,  The Haunted Bissman Building, Fort Morgan,  The Chattanooga Underground, and Cloudland Canyon.  My trip to Mansfield, Ohio was by far my most interesting this year and I was lucky enough to visit some amazing historical haunts and have shivers sent down my spine at some truly terrifying locations.  

6.  I got pregnant, had a baby, and quit my day job.  Of course, these things had the most impact on my real life, but the least on the ghost stories you find in my writing.   However,  they have certainly slowed down my ghost stories and  made my life brighter so I can't forget to mention them.   My new little bundle of joy is by far the best thing to happen to me this year.

So as I enter into 2012, I have to be thankful for everything that happened in 2011.   It has been an amazing year filled with ghosts and wonder.   I'm hoping 2012 will be just as exciting and wonderful.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Riverhaven Cabin

Most ghost stories are creepy. They hint at some unhappy soul lurking just beyond reality waiting to do us harm. The Riverhaven cabin is haunted, but the ghosts there seem pleasant and inviting.

Riverhaven is a cabin in Gatlinburg, TN. It is described by the reality company as pleasant and comfortable. This historic log home is an antique Chestnut log approx. 200 years old built in 1800. It has unique wormy Chestnut paneling inside. The cabin was constructed in the National Park and was moved in the 1930's to its current location in downtown Gatlinburg. The Realtors website shows many pretty pictures of the cabin and if you rent it, when you enter you'll be pleasantly surprised by its comfort and warmth.

Every cabin in Gatlinburg has a log or journal for visitors to share their experiences in. Typically, these logs are filled with stories of family vacations. Every page has the same bland pleasantries. It is as if they came from a script. Guests tell about their family, what they did, and the great time they had in the cabin. Riverhaven's journal is different. Each guest tells about flickering lights, moving objects, vanishing items, and odd noises. Not every resident there concludes the cabin is haunted, but every page indicated there is something odd about this pleasant cabin nestled by the river.

I only stayed at Riverhaven for three nights and for the most part it was quiet. I stayed with my family and we complained to each other about the lack of linens in the cabin. We searched it from top to bottom, pulling it apart in a futile quest for a table cloth or anything to cover the splintery, ancient dining table. Finally, on the first night we gave up and ate on our laps. We went to bed and dead bolted the door and locked the door with the sliding lock that even someone with a key couldn't open. In the morning, we awoke to find every table set with table cloths and silverware. The cabin was clean and pretty and we certainly hadn't left it that way when we went to sleep. We often laugh about this cabin as we flounder to explain our experiences there, but when I think of the strange journal there and the consistency of all the stories, I have to assume it was haunted by ghosts that liked us.

I’ve posted this ghost story before and interestingly  I was contacted by the new owners of this lovely little cabin to tell us more about it. They loved the blog and invited us to return to the cabin, which they have completely renovated and made even more lovely. Sadly, we couldn’t return to the cabin because it isn’t pet friendly, but it was nice to hear the cabin is being loved and is even nicer. I’m sure the ghosts are happy to see the improvements

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Omen of the Night Owls

Owls are important symbolically in many cultures. In ancient Greece and Rome, they were linked to Athena and considered symbols of knowledge and wisdom.  In Arthurian legend,  Merlin is often depicted with an owl on his shoulder and again, the owl is linked to wisdom.  In Japan,  owl statues are said to ward off plague and illness.  In some Native American cultures owls are linked to knowledge and magic.  I knew all these things when I chose owls as the decorative theme for my new baby's nursery.   I didn't know the darker side of owls.  In many cultures, especially the Apache culture, owls portend death and are associated with the dead.  The Apaches are not alone.  Many other cultures see owls as linked death.    Of course, I choose to ignore all the cultures that see owls as ill omens in the same way I have ignored the ill omens associated with black dogs and cats.  Some of my favorite pets have been black dogs and cats and they've only brought good luck to me.

Therefore, as I sat in my owl themed nursery late at night just before my son was born,   I saw owls only as good omens.  They have become a symbol of my baby boy.   They are wise and beautiful creatures of the night. 

My neighborhood and my house have no trees.   So birds of any sort are a rare commodity in my neighborhood.  The lake brings geese and goose poop, but owls are never seen in my neck of the woods.   However,  the night before my baby was born,   as I sat in the nursery, unable to sleep and very pregnant, the call of three owls filled the night air.  I sat up and listened to them hoot back and forth to each other with their distinct calls for over an hour before I drifted off to sleep.  The next day I held my baby in my arms, making owls forever a good omen for me.  I'm not sure if there was any real significance to the presence of the owls, but to me there was something mystical to their presence that night.  They were omens of life to come.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Naming of Lucien

Naming a child is always a challenge.  It involves months of debate and reviewing long lists of names.  There are fights with family members and long discussions.  Usually, this is not a very haunting process.  It can be tedious, but rarely haunting.  When you find that perfect name,  it is like a revelation.    The name feels right.   When we named our son, Lucien, we went through all these things and I felt that moment of revelation while I laid in my bed listening to my husband recite names from some Internet site about naming your child.  Lucien was right and I couldn't say why.  My husband and I were set.  The name spoke to us.  Everyone else thought the name was odd.    Many people said we were weird for choosing it, but the name called to us and it was ours and there was no changing it.

Those of you who have followed my blog for a long time know that my mother-in- law died over a year ago.  Since that time, we have felt haunted by her.   It isn't a negative haunting.   We just feel her sometimes.   Shadows move and the children hear her calling their names.  There are quiet whispers in the dark.   My mother-in-law was French and she died in France.  We keep her ashes on our fireplace.  Some time after we decided on naming Lucien, we cleaned out some old things and found my mother-in-law's favorite movie with her favorite name in it.    I had never heard of the movie before and my husband had completely forgotten about it.    The movie was Lacombe Lucien.   So, as I hold my little boy in my arms, I can't help but wonder if it wasn't her ghost whispering in our ear as we named our little boy.   I have to wonder if she didn't find a way of making sure her last grandson would know her even if he never knew her.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

Contest Winners and Other Announcements

A couple weeks ago, I had a contest to celebrate the release of my new novel, Circe.   I was giving away  2 gift cards to those that helped me spread the word about my book.  I was happy and excited by all those who participated.  Janice and Chris were the winners of the cards and I'm happy to send them their gifts.  I thank everyone who helped with this contest.

On a side note, I may be slow in getting the prizes out and in blogging over the next few weeks.    I am recovering from a particularly difficult delivery and c-section and am not able to keep up with my blogging or blog related duties.   I would like to thank all the wonderful guest bloggers and writers that have helped me keep the blog up and running through all of this.   Despite my physical problems,  I have a beautiful baby boy and am enjoying reading everyone else's blogs in bed.  I couldn't be happier   I hope you all have a ghostly week and look forward to catching up soon.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ravenhurst Manor - Joss Ackles Shares a True Story

Please Welcome Guest Blogger Joss Ackles!  Today he shares a true story with us.

This story was the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me—I swear! I believe in ghosts, demons, and everything else that might be considered paranormal. So this is an account of my story, which happened about five years ago.

My buddy Ryan and I, along with three of our friends: Jared, Sunday, and Erik decided to check out Ravenhurst Manor in Whispering Pines, California. (The estate was creepy and it has always reminded me of Amityville Horror Story or the Murder House in Los Angeles.)

One of the town’s most famous haunted houses was this three-story building christened, Ravenhurst Manor, which served as a school for disturbed teens in the 1800s and was said to be haunted by the ghost of its former headmistress. It was purchased in the 1960s by Maxwell Donovan who hoped to restore it, and it was during the reconstruction that a lot of the supernatural phenomena began to occur. At one point during construction, a portion of the second-story collapsed, killing three of the workers. Other construction-workers claimed they heard voices and footsteps whenever they were alone, and that pieces of construction equipment would often be thrown across the room. Even spookier, the workmen said they often spotted a Shadow Man staring at them from inside the mansion. I’ve heard that innumerable exorcisms and investigations have taken place at the mansion since, but the presence that haunts it is said to still remain there today.

So, getting back to my story, one of my buddies, Ryan had done some research on Ravenhurst and wanted to go see the mansion. I used to live in Whispering Pines and during my childhood, the insidious house was vacant, with barren, gnarled trees, and twisted weeds protecting the sparse yard where birds never lingered. I hadn’t been back to my hometown in years, not since I’d gone away to college. And I wasn’t that eager to go back…

Ryan talked me into it and we left late one sweltering, August afternoon on route to Ravenhurst. We had just gotten onto to Highway 101, which leads you to the road that Ravenhurst was on when I got an eerie chill. As we are driving, my friends claimed that they were also getting this feeling as if something bad was going to happen. Still, we didn’t turn back.

We drove through town and into the more affluent neighborhoods on Pine Street and Acorn Avenue. It was a warm day, but in Whispering Pines, it was muggy. Thick ground fog swaddled the town, the drizzling mist softening the streets. I drank in the brisk air, welcoming the chill on my flushed cheeks. Acorn Avenue appeared uninhabited, the houses strange and reticent. The estates had curving driveways, high gates, and spacious lawns. The neighborhood was bathed in an eerie mist. Not a good sign.

As we neared Ravenhurst, we noticed that the property had a gate around it about 6 feet tall. We parked in front of the gates and just stared at first. No one said anything. I gotta tell ya, it is an unusual Gothic mansion, and its perimeters are barricaded with a wrought-iron gate. Beyond it was this dense, thick wooded area that the locals call, “Deadwood Grove” which is also considered haunted. Crickets sang and dragonflies buzzed the entrance. Grass grew wild and tall in the yard, sprouting through the cracks in the cement path leading to the porch. The huge mansion was vast, rambling, and wilting. It consumed the sky and blotted out the weak sun. Harsh seasons had torn shingles off the roof. Windows were randomly boarded shut. Tall, thorny weeds grew rampant and towering trees threatened to overtake, overwhelm, and engulf the grounds. Wind rustling between the oaks whispered of an ageless fear. Ground fog swirled above the terrain like ghostly vapors. A crooked No Trespassing sign hung from the newel post.

A prickling sensation glided over my body then settled in my stomach.

Two of the people in our group, Ryan and Jared decided that they were going to hop the gate and go inside the mansion. They were nuts! The other three of us were resolute to stay inside the safety of the car. We watched, Ryan and Jared hop the gate and walk toward Ravenhurst. It had a long driveway and the mansion sat back about thirty yards from the entrance.

After Ryan and Jared departed, the three of us, Sunday, Erik, and I stayed in the car talking. Sunday confessed that she’d been to Ravenhurst before about two years ago with her old boyfriend and they had seen this dark figure, like a tall, super dark shadow near the back of the house. It freaked them out so bad that they had immediately left. She said the shadow was so scary that she had goosebumps. Just talking about it was making her voice go high and shrill.

All of a sudden, Sunday pointed and whispered that she saw the same black figure—and when we looked; there was this big black shadow by an oak tree. The shadow hung heavily, like a spatter of crude oil, pulsating and swirling until it nearly touched the higher branches. Then it freaking moved! It was only about 15 feet away from us. My heart was thundering in my chest. My palms were sweaty and my throat felt dry. Breathing out desperate little choking noises, I shook my head, hoping the image would fade. The headshake didn’t make a difference. Only reinforced my worst nightmare.

Shadow People were “real.” It was like the thing was standing very still and just staring at us.

The three of us freaked out and ducked down in the car. My gut twisted on the lump of fear anchoring me to the seat. Erik’s face paled and Sunday started to cry. At that moment, Ryan called on my cell and asked if we okay, and I replied yes.

Suddenly, the phone went dead. At this point, I am freaking out, so I try to call Ryan back, but he doesn’t pick up.

And then we heard this blood-curdling scream, and we see Ryan and Jared sprinting toward the gate. They climb over it so fast that Ryan rips his jeans but doesn’t care, and they jump back in the car and we drive off.

As we were driving back toward the freeway, we asked them what happened.

Ryan told us in a shaky voice that as they stepped onto the porch, they saw two yellow eyes staring at them from out of a black shadowed area on their left, so dark it looked “wrong.” Too dark to be a shadow. Then Jared felt something touch his arm. It gave his shoulder a “hard” shake and then they felt an icy blast of air hit them. That was enough to spook the guys and make them run back to the car.

I told them to stop the car before we got on the freeway, because we are all freaking out by then. When we pulled over at a gas station, Jared opened the door and said he felt sick to his stomach. He went into the restroom to splash cold water on his face. I glanced at Sunday sitting in the backseat sitting between Erik and I, she had her head tipped back, and her whole body was trembling. She could barely talk, except to mutter that she didn’t feel well either. Her skin was ashen and her hands were shaking. She felt really cold too and it was about 90 degrees that day.

When Ryan returned to his car, we turned back onto the highway and headed toward Castro Valley, which was about a 45-minute drive from where we were to drop Sunday off at home. As we are driving, I noticed that Sunday still had her head resting on the back of the seat, her eyes closed, and she was still shivering pretty badly. She got really freaked out when the phone went dead, so I figured she was just having some kind of a panic attack.

I put my hand on her’s and was about to tell her that it would be okay, when she opened her eyes really wide and started screaming, “It’s coming to get us! It followed us! The shadow—it’s a demon—it’s coming!”

Sunday told Ryan to drive faster because the dark figure that had been watching us from the Deadwood Grove was going to follow us home. I tried to calm her down, but she kept crying and whimpering incoherently. She was really scaring us, so Ryan took her home first.

Later that night after we dropped Sunday off at home, I tried to call her to make sure she was okay, but she never answered her cell. When I went over to her house the next morning, her mom explained that Sunday had a terrible nightmare, and when she woke up, a tall dark shadow in the shape of a man stood over her bed, and it whispered her name. Sunday was so upset that she went to stay with her grandfather who is a priest in Dublin, and I never saw or spoke to Sunday again.

So the events of this afternoon are a little unexplainable but once again, it was the scariest thing ever to happen to my friends and I. This event is what got me started in the ghost hunting business with my buddy Ryan.

Please visit my blog and learn more my ghost hunting experiences at the Bay Area Paranormal Researchers Group:

Members of the Paranormal Research Society, Bay Area Paranormal Researchers Group, Ghost Hunters & Paranormal Investigators, Paranormal Research Association of California, and the Supernatural Studies Alliance. We strive to prove the existence of ghosts using scientific methods and to educate the public on the paranormal. We are primarily interested in hauntings and investigate instances of paranormal activity in homes. Group formed in 2000. No charge for investigations.