Saturday, August 4, 2012

EPISODE 205: Haunted Rectory/Grand Midway Ghosts

After spending several weeks in the northern part of Ohio, we finally made our way down to Cincinnati and our next case.  A tiny neighborhood on the outskirts called Sedamsville was our destination.  For the greater part of our stay there, we were unsure of how to pronounce it.  Was it 'seed-ams-ville' or 'seh-dahms-ville'?  To this day, I'm honestly not sure, we heard it pronounced both ways.  None of it really mattered to me as there was a Skyway Chili across from our hotel and I was introduced to a local dish, called the "Five Way".  It was COLD in the home town of WKRP's Johnny Fever and we all needed a bit of comfort food.  I found myself feasting on this Queen City delight several times during our stay.  With memories of a full stomach, I begin this blog...

Shadow Dancing
 • Given the current landscape of the paranormal field it's becoming increasingly difficult to find a place that no one has investigated before.  For some purposes, it's desirable to have an untouched location, but for us, it's actually helpful to have prior investigations take place.  Despite the attitudes of a few, we really are all on the same side, looking for answers.  Our methods may differ, but every photo, every scan, every personal experience gets added to the collective pot, increasing the knowledge pool for all of us.  That being said, this case had some evidence for us to go over when we arrived.  One report had involved a shadow form on the second floor in a room that contained a suitcase and a rocking chair.  These are the kind of reports we look for, the ones that help us determine whether or not it could be an item based case.  We were shown a picture taken from a full spectrum camera that showed a weird form captured along the wall, a double shadow that seemed like it would be difficult to duplicate.  I don't have that photo, but during the case I was able to look at it and try to reproduce the effect, which, I am satisfied we did.  Am I saying that I refute the evidence presented by the prior investigator?  Not exactly, I'm just offering up another explanation.  I wasn't there when the original photo was taken so I can't be sure.  But we looked into it...we even did an EVP session next to the suitcase and had two stationary cameras set up in the room, just in case.  On the episodes it sometimes appears that we set up cameras at random or we don't explain why we put them where we do, but there is always a reason.

Chopper, sic ghosts!
 • This case was different for us in that we brought a dog along with us on the nighttime investigation.  The canine was on loan to us from another group who used the dog as a fellow ghost hunter.  The dog pictured at left is not that dog, nor even the same breed, but I wanted to take a moment to give my opinion about the subject: are dogs/animals useful on an investigation?  I suppose they could be, but personally, I would not bring one along.  I love animals, but when it comes down to it, that has nothing to do with the question.  Let's look at the pros and cons briefly.  Pro: dogs have an excellent sense of smell and can hear frequencies we cannot.  They are good at being trained to follow commands and can be very disciplined when it comes to their given tasks.  For example, there are dogs who sniff out bombs, dogs who sniff out drugs, even dogs who can detect the onset of a seizure or even cancer.  They are also very loyal and would act to protect their loved ones.  Cons: the flip side to each of those points is as follows - given that they can smell and hear what we cannot, who's to say we know what spirits smell and sound like to say that the dog is getting it right?  Seizures are observable and cancer is physical, the animal can be shown these things and trained to respond as needed.  Ghosts don't act on cue, much less show up to train your pet!  Furthermore, dogs bark at cars passing by, random noises and seemingly sometimes for no reason.  It would be foolhardy to assume that the latter must be supernatural.  The animal can't communicate exactly what it is experiencing, so how can we look at it logically and try to figure out the rational explanations?  As a science, the paranormal has not been grounded in hard facts yet, only conjecture, so I don't feel we have enough to go on yet and certainly not enough to train a dog with.  HOWEVER, I lack the patience to try and for those who are giving it a shot, I applaud their efforts.  I'll stick with my meters and save a frisbee for the dogs.

Brian in Their Belfry
 • The rectory is undergoing renovations, but the church next to it is sitting abandoned and continues to be a ruin.  Urban exploration is one of my things, so the crew knew that when I had down time, I'd be found poking around the old church.  It was just too tempting and too beautiful a structure to not explore.  There is a certain beauty to decay, the crumbling of civilization...I appreciate the architecture as it once was, even as it falls apart.  This church wasn't large, but it was tall.  I found my way up into the spire and navigated from one ladder to another, each one getting smaller and leading into a darker area.  The wood was rotting in many areas and the footing was precarious at best but the thrill of the discovery kept me going on.  This is one of the main reasons I get sent underneath houses and into attics to retrieve the haunted objects...because this is what I really do, cameras or no.  I am the man for this job.

The Beauty of Decay
 • On another, completely different note, I have always wondered something about abandoned churches.  I'm no longer practicing, but I was raised Catholic, so the traditions and the masses still reside within me.  I no longer report to a building, but I have all of that with me all the time.  But what about the building itself?  What happens to a house of God when it is abandoned?  Does God abandon it too?  In the absence of that holiness, does its opposite rush in to fill the void?  These are the thoughts that run through my head whenever I find myself in an abandoned church.  For the purposes of this blog, they are rhetorical questions, but given the reported activity next door in the rectory, they came to the surface again as I wandered the old place of worship.  Could it be a contributing factor to all the activity?  A battery, if you will, that may help feed whatever is going on in the rectory itself?

May the Bert be with you...
 • Let's switch gears for a moment...I was getting pretty deep, now I'm going to get completely silly.  One night, after we finished filming for the night, Jason and I decided to try out the Waffle House across from the hotel (yes, this was across the street as well - we also had a White Castle and a pizza joint).  Now, I've never particularly liked this chain and the handful of times I've been there have done nothing to reverse that evaluation.  This time was no different but oh my, did we have a good time.  It was around one or two in the morning, so the place was pretty much empty, so I decided to dump five dollars into the jukebox to play some of my favorite tunes.  We observed how the dirty counters were made even more so by the splashing of the woman hastily washing the dishes in front of us.  I raised an eyebrow at the cook who made some sort of sandwich on the grill, then mashed it together with his bare hands.  I looked down at the menu, then at Jason and remarked, "Just remember, anything you order will be made by THAT guy...choose wisely".  Despite the squalor of the place, all we could do was laugh.  It was that time of night and we were absolutely loopy.  Plus, the cast of Waffle House employees made for quite the sitcom.  There was the hairy cook, the waif-thin waitress who complained about her pay as well as the sassy black woman who happily played into every stereotype you might conceive of for a diner at 2 in the morning.  My choice for consumption was "Bert's Handmade Chili" which was featured quite proudly on the menu.  Last time I had been in a Waffle House I passed on the chance but I thought that now would be the perfect time to sample what Bert had to was Cincy and so far the chili was enjoyable everywhere I went (yes, I had it a lot that stay).  It was then that I noticed the sign on the wall, which depicted Bert himself giving the "okay" gesture to us.  What stood out to me was the size of his hands...they were so small!  I quipped to Jason, "Does he stir the chili with those exquisitely small hands?  Is that the secret?" We laughed hard at that and at that moment, The Legend of Bert began.  He was more than just a man, he was a demigod, who gave not fire, but chili to mankind.  He dwells in a realm close to ours and he stirred his chili with his hands, deciding our fate as he did.  To know Bert is to love Bert.  Bert be praised!  Yeah, we're ridiculous, but boy did we have fun that night.

The Grand Midway Hotel.  I had been looking forward to and dreading this case simultaneously for the two months we had been on the road up until that point.  Back in 2009 myself and the rest of the SCARED! Crew filmed a documentary of our investigation there.  It was a serendipitous weekend that teamed us up with Rosemary Ellen Guiley and Adam Blai, as well as John.  When I had called him and told him where we were going, things just started falling into place and it ended up with us having an experience that changed us all forever.  Our team is built around the triumvirate of The Psychic, The Scientist and The Skeptic.  It's a system of checks and balances that allows us to approach cases with as little bias as possible.  We call it the Three Pillar System.  That night, all three of us had left in agreement about what we found in the event that has never happened before, or since.  That was then, this was now...a different team, a different time...and the Thing in the Dark waited still.  Patient, observant, yet filled with rage and hatred.  I thought of all these things and I worried.  Watch the opening scene in the restaurant again.  Notice how quiet I am and the expression on my speaks volumes.

• As the documentary points out, our previous investigation of the place had resulted in some overlapping evidence, the creepiest of which being an EVP that sent chills up our spines.  This video goes into it briefly:

I'm all for follow-up investigations, but as far as evidence went, I was sure of what was up on the third floor.  I didn't need another investigation to tell me that.  Is there more than one thing haunting the Grand Midway?  Absolutely, but given that we had rookies on the team, I didn't want their enthusiasm to put them in danger when it came to that room on the third floor.  Were it up to me, I would have made that area off-limits.  "Why so serious?" you ask...I just don't believe in kicking a hornet's nest.  You will get stung.  Repeatedly.  But, as you saw throughout the segment, I was strangely mute.  Any footage of John or myself talking about our friendship with Blair or the events of our last investigation hit the cutting room floor.  Thankfully, the producers paid us enough respect to at least cut together the above scene to acknowledge what had come before and for that I thank them.

Rematch with the malevolent?
 • Hold on to your seats, here's something that got cut that had me re-evaluating everything for a time, until I got a grasp of what it really meant.  John had gotten an EVP on the second floor and when I listened to it, I froze.  The voice was the same as the one in the EVP we had gotten back in 2009!  He got this one on the second floor - had the entity gotten loose of it's third floor cage?  Was it able to project to other spots in the hotel?  What did this mean?  John and I discussed it for some time and I was worried, both for the team as well as what this would mean for the Grand Midway moving forward.  The Demon on the Third Floor was not something that could be taken care of by removing an object, no matter how large.  I panicked for some time and I even told the producers of my worries, since we still had to go back and do more investigating.  It took a re-evaluation of the original file to get me to calm down.  I looked at the words again..."Can you break out of the circle, the circle of fire?  Die."  That, "die" at the end always seemed odd to me, as if it did not fit.  It also seemed to be in a different voice.  So, perhaps it was.  Perhaps there was something else asking the question...a guardian, or at the very least another spirit standing by, observing.  When the question was posed, the entity within the room lashed out in anger with the simple response.  Therefore, when that same questioning voice was heard again elsewhere in the hotel, it could have just been wandering, or on patrol, or very much at home.  Either way, I felt that it was NOT the demonic voice from the room and that it was still unable to leave it.  Whew!

Inside the Mind of an Artist
 • We often film many witness interview segments, but due to time constraints they get cut.  The above clip with Chris is one of them.  They've begun posting more as "bonus scenes" which I'm happy about. But one interview that got cut would have been very interesting to see, as I was not present for it.  It was John talking to Dylan, the painter of the pieces in the "demon room".  (A note to all those astute viewers and to those who have been to the hotel before: in the episode, the editor's mislabeled pretty much anything that was on the third floor to be the second floor.  My explanation of where the cameras were set up was even clipped to reflect this.  Why?  Honest mistake, I believe.)  But as far as the interview went, the whole "demon" storyline and anything associated with it was deemed too much for the network.  Ironic, isn't it?  I would have loved to hear more about this fascinating painter and the things he did and more of the story from his perspective.  But I digress.  All in all, there is so much going on in that hotel and going on still, that I can't say we did much to lessen the activity.  As I explained to someone recently, "Take the batteries out of a toy and it stops moving.  Take the batteries out of one toy in a toy store and all you have is one less working toy."  Discuss.

Let's get down to business
 • While Chris and I were in the basement, we came across a window that was boarded up and blocked, but it was being pushed in on the sides by dirt, as if something on the other side had collapsed and was caving in on it.  Even though I knew it must lead to the side of the house, I had never been to that part yet, as far as I knew, it was flush with the building next to it.  We pried the boards loose and let the dirt come in, revealing the night beyond.  Air streamed in, but no light...where was this coming from?  I wanted to get a visual on it - we were looking for the entrance to the tunnels after all, and it's possible that this forgotten alleyway outside might provide clues.  So I raced outside to see - I told the cameraman Zach not to follow me, that I would be right back, but he wanted to capture every moment of this.  Upon reaching the alley, I found that the space between the buildings was blocked off by a shed-like structure.  It effectively sealed off the space, perhaps to keep people from walking between the two houses.  It was a good eight feet tall, but I was determined to see what was beyond it. So, flashlight in hand, I grabbed onto a nearby pipe and hauled myself up onto the top of the shed.  There was a tiny alley on the other side!  I was about to jump down to check it out when Zach informed me that he was coming up too.  If I was Batman, he was my Robin, there was no obstacle that would prevent us from getting to the bottom of this mystery.  He handed me the 40-50 pound camera and climbed up onto the roof as well.  From there, he filmed me jumping down into the space and looking around.  I found the window, where Chris was able to finally stick his hand out of, and we sadly put that lead to bed.  It was not an entry way to a tunnel system, it was indeed, just a window.  But put a soundtrack under that footage and you have a great Batman-esque deleted scene!

These memories are my own and they fade and resurface as time goes usual, I'm sure that more stories will arise and I will return to fill in those details.  But for now, take these and reflect upon them.  Next blog: "Stirring the Dead/Ghost Writer"  See you then!