Charyl Says


“What’s Next” by Dustin Pari, a Review

I recently had the pleasure of reading Dustin Pari’s book What’s Next: an Inspiring Autobiographical Tale of Insanity and Awesomeness (2015).  I first learned of Dustin through his addition to SyFy Channel’s Ghosthunters series several years ago. I enjoyed his presence on the show but I never really took notice of him until I saw an episode of Ghosthunters International (a spin-off of the original series).  In this particular episode—in some dark and stormy castle overseas—Dustin and a fellow investigator sat together talking in the middle of the night while waiting to attempt to document any paranormal phenomena that would present itself.  In hushed tones, Dustin began talking about why people were so interested in ghosts and the paranormal in the first place; why people sat in darkened buildings in the middle of the night—camera-ready—just to capture some glimpse of The Great Beyond.  I cannot recall the exact words that were used–but to summarize, he reasoned that ultimately the purpose behind the pursuit was to prove that something beyond the physical world exists… something that would point to the existence of a Higher Power and a reality besides our own.  I have had a life-long interest in the paranormal.  For many generic paranormal seekers or thrill-hunters, the deeper realization of what the spiritual world means to us does not occur to them.  That’s not the case for me.  When I heard this conversation between Dustin and his colleague, my ears immediately perked up and I began to be intrigued by the man behind the words.  I eventually came across him on social media and began to follow his posts.  I quickly found out he was much more than a superficial para-celeb.  He was (and is) a deeply spiritual human being with an excellent sense of humor and whimsy—and a passion for lifting up others.

What’s Next (edited and forwarded by Dustin’s friend, Jessica Jewett) begins in 2011.  Told from one airplane seat to the next over the years, each chapter contains Dustin’s unique brand of wordplay and delightful eccentricity.  It is his self-proclaimed “literary misadventure.”  Dustin gives a glimpse of his childhood and the single paranormal experience which piqued his curiosity in the paranormal many years ago.  He explains the random, spliced nature of his thought processes, how the love of music propels him, and how he acquired the moniker of “Paranormal Rockstar.” With boundless energy, he “hustles” through life normally working at least two (if not three or four) jobs at any given time—never losing his sense of wonder or gratitude.

Attending school and going into the television production, reporting, and videography fields as a younger man, he rose in the ranks at his local television station—and was living what felt to be a good life as a bachelor with ample pay in a successful position.  But as the world changed with the events of 9/11, so did Dustin’s outlook on life.   Wanting to get out of the ratings-driven field of television, he trained to become an EMT and firefighter; immensely enjoying the feeling of making a difference and of helping others.  He describes the struggle of forcing himself (or being forced) to make risky changes and the sometimes disappointing (but always serendipitous) results.  He writes, “Sometimes we think we know our destiny.  We think our dreams belong to us when in fact we are a small part of a much bigger picture…”

Dustin describes his disillusion with church dogma and his struggle to find faith and Christ.  He takes us to the time he first met his wife, the birth of his daughter, and the love and joy he has found in family.  His appreciation of donuts (D-O-N-U-T-S), pie, and other delightful treats is made loud and clear.  The reader is made privy to how Dustin initially became a cast member of Ghosthunters (and later Ghosthunters International) and his joys and struggles of being a part of that franchise—particularly the experiences overseas and away from his family and new daughter—and ultimately the reason he chose to be with his family over the fame and money of being on a traveling television show.

Ever the “hustler,” Dustin juggled his family responsibilities with his job in the medical field during the day and being a camera-man for Pawsox baseball games at night—adding in the occasional lecture or appearance. Spending days on the road, much of the time his slept in his beloved 99 B3000 Mazda, Angelina.  He tells the reader about the creation of his online ministry “The Patch Ministry” (in which he spends a great deal of time offering encouragement, love, and the teachings of Christ to his friends and fans) and the struggles and hatemongers he had to overcome because of it. He describes how he experienced the ups and downs of working for years to create his own paranormal television show with a spiritual bent in order to get more exposure for his ministry and help more people—and while doing so met quite the cast of characters.  But ultimately fate stepped in, turning the tides and leading him to the opportunities (including a limited return to filming with Ghosthunters), work, and family time in Rhode Island that he currently enjoys. He explains why he lives his life the way he does, “I always treat others as I want to be treated… I try to be inspirational in all that I say and do, not because I think I’m a big deal or that I should be a role model, but because I believe that is simply how we should all conduct ourselves, living lives of light, love, mercy, encouragement, truth, and peace” and, “I’m all about doing what’s right over doing what’s easy or what’s only right for me.”

While life may not have gone exactly as planned for Dustin, it worked how it was supposed to—and being a firm believer in fate over happenstance, Dustin makes it clear that he’s grateful and that life is good.  As most happy people do, he enjoys the little pleasure life has to offer. Fans even got to see a glimpse of Dustin in a Dunkin Donuts commercial last year (http://www.ispot.tv/ad/75e3/dunkin-donuts-keys-in-car)—another calling card of providence in his life.

“What’s Next” is an entertaining read filled with musings and silliness on just about every page–but more importantly, it’s a chronicle of a life being lived well, regardless of the proverbial roadblocks thrown in the way.  It is brimming with life lessons, inspiration, encouragement, the love of God, and a “Never Give Up” attitude.

While the book is more about this side rather than The Other Side, Dustin writes, “The unseen spiritual realm is around us at all times.  It is alive, more so than we are now.  It is boundless and glorious.  It is everything and then some.  I’ll see you there someday.  Look me up. We can grab a slice of pie at the malt shoppe with Frank Sinatra.”

When my times comes, make it Elvis and I might just take you up on that offer, Mr. D. Pari.

-Charyl Miller

To get your copy of What’s Next: Amazon.com

Dustin on Facebook and Twitter

The Patch Ministry on Facebook and Twitter   whatsnext



Nothing But Light

Note: I began writing this piece a few weeks ago. When I got several lines into the story, I started to realize that the subject matter seemed a bit cliche and the dialogue somewhat juvenile.  Normally, at that point I would abandon the project altogether–but something kept me working on it to the point that I finished it, typed and edited it, and arranged it in a public format.  I decided not to pursue normal publication, but felt (for whatever reason) that it still needed to be read… even though it isn’t up to the standards I set for myself and honestly just doesn’t feel “good enough.”  There’s a reason I was pushed to finish it and put it out there; so hopefully whoever needs to see this… will.

P.S.-The photograph at the end of the story was taken by yours truly earlier this year in the woods surrounding Serpent Mound in Ohio.

 
Nothing But Light
by Charyl Miller
 
I drove in a haze, inside and out.  Over the hills, around each bend—methodically.  The car hugged the road as if it were an extension of my body—difficult to discern where flesh ended and the metal and plastic of the car’s mechanics began; melded together in a fusion of steel and numb indifference. I let the road take me where it wanted me to be.
 
Somewhere along the journey I was overtaken by a forest.  Surrounded by trees, even the branches seemed to join together above—blocking out what little light existed that day.  Quite suddenly, something unusual gripped me, erupting from my chest and stealing my breath.  A wall of panic hit me, enveloping me in the wholly unpleasant sensations of suffocation and urgency.  I pulled my car off to the side, grinding to a halt in the weed-strewn gravel that lined the road. 
 
Like shedding my skin, I stepped out of the car onto the buckled pavement.  It was silent… incredibly so; the kind that drowns itself out with the overwhelmingly loud hum of blood rushing in your ears.  No birds, no insects.  I couldn’t remember when I had last witnessed another car passing by mine.  Where was I?  I’d driven on the rural roads outside of my hometown many times before—yet I couldn’t recall ever experiencing this dark passageway before.  The forest seemed endless and strangely cold, though it was the height of summer in the Midwest.
 
For a moment I stood outside of my car—watching and listening—nearly forgetting about the twin feelings of sadness and loneliness that had propelled me to drive vacantly for hours each day.  The creeping feeling that nothing existed Beyond—not God, not an afterlife, not even a soul—began to crush down on my life like an elephant that could no longer be ignored.  The trauma, the ongoing pain, seemed to prove as much.  Nothing in life (or after) was worth it anymore.  I couldn’t explain why I was still alive; why I had allowed myself to live to that point.  Maybe I felt that the more I took to the roads, the more likely statistics would prevail, and do the one thing for me that I somehow was unable to do for myself. 
 
The abrupt call of a single cardinal standing on the roadside within feet of my car startled me into the present.   We stared at one another.  I began to walk slowly toward him, expecting him to take flight and disappear into the treetops.  He did not.  Instead he nonchalantly turned and hopped on his delicate bird feet off the road and toward the woods; stopping only when I stopped and glancing back at me with his black-masked face as if to say, “You coming?”  Intrigued, and with nothing to lose, I pocketed my keys and cell phone and followed him into the woods.
 
I was taken aback to discover a partially-groomed path hidden just beyond the tree-line, barely visible in the all-encompassing darkness of the forest.  Upon turning to look for my new friend, I caught his bright red tail-end out of the corner of my eye as he seemed to silently dissolve into the murkiness.  The promise of what might be at the end of this mysterious path far exceeded my curiosity about the bird, so I stepped onto the walkway, leaving my red companion to his own devices in the woods. 
 
The path consisted of alternating grassy patches, bare spots of forest floor, and moss.  I carefully maneuvered my way over the uneven terrain, fearing the pain of exposure to the elements or eventual starvation if I happened to fall and injure myself.  It would likely be days before anyone noticed my absence—and even longer to actually locate my whereabouts here in this forgotten woodland.  Even with a death-wish, it wasn’t a chance I was willing to take.
 
I walked for about a quarter of a mile when the path abruptly opened up onto a hillside bathed in bright sunlight.  Funny, it had been quite overcast before I had driven into the woods several minutes earlier—but now it was beautiful… and warm.  When my eyes adjusted, I realized I was standing in an old graveyard.  Toppled and broken stones littered the open (but overgrown) field.  I hesitated to walk any farther into the weeds, fearful of what critters may be lurking underneath the tangled mess—but as I scanned the tranquil disarray before me, I noticed my little red friend perched on a leaning tombstone tucked away in the corner across the yard.  I gingerly took some steps forward, pressing into the tall grass.  My fears were realized within moments as a black, sinewy form jolted beneath my feet and quickly wound its way deeper into the tangle.  It seemed every other step I took a snake was laying in wait, just under the grass.  But the cardinal still sat atop the stone—staring at me expectedly—so I cautiously pushed forward. 
 
I got within arm’s length of the bird, my full attention on him.  As I slowly reached out my hand to touch him, he spread his wings and went aloft—a blaze of red disappearing into the deep, blue sky.  For a moment, I stared up in dismay, but as my attention returned to the ground below, I noticed a depression in the grass behind the crumbling tombstone.  Inching my way closer, I could see a mass of black shrouded in weeds.  I balanced with one hand on the stone, and with the other I pushed away as much of the unruly mess as possible. At first I wasn’t sure at what I was looking.  The realization hit me, creating a sickening pit in my stomach; five skeletal fingers covered in patches of leathery, black and weathered skin, rags of ripped and discolored clothing, tufts of golden hair poking up from a broken skull.  It was a body; lifeless and decomposing, that likely had been laying there for days—if not weeks.  Facedown, cradled by the grassy overgrowth, it was impossible to identify who this was at first inspection.  Gender, age, injuries—all concealed by the twin agonies of death and time. 
 
Despite the warm sun, a chill overcame me as I pulled my cell phone from my pocket.   Surprised that I had any cell reception at all, my hands shook as I attempted to dial 911 and describe to the dispatcher what I had found.  I couldn’t explain exactly where I was—only where I thought I might be and the appearance of the terrain around me.  She explained that they might be able to get a general idea where I was based on the pings off nearby cell towers, that it might take awhile to find the location, and requested that I stay put.  I took another look at my surroundings and reluctantly agreed.  After all, it wasn’t as if I had anywhere to be or anyone special to be with.  Placing the still-connected phone on top of the nearest tombstone, I found an old stump within feet of it—short enough to take a seat, tall enough to keep me up over the snake-infested grass.  I sat down and prepared for a long wait, thankful that the body had decomposed enough that it didn’t seem to be giving off much of an odor.
“Hello?” I heard a small voice say from behind me, beyond the tree-line.  Startled at first, I turned to find a young girl emerging from the darkness.  Maybe fifteen, she was quite lanky and had long, blonde hair and striking blue eyes.  She smiled and began to make her way over to me.

“Careful!  Snakes all over in here!”  I cautioned her.  Brushing me off, she continued into the old cemetery

“There’s also a dead body,” I added, almost as an afterthought.  I pointed to the grass next to me.

“This is a cemetery,” she stated.  “There are lots of dead bodies!”

“No,” I said, a bit exasperated.  “A body that isn’t buried; that’s been dumped.”

“Oh,” she responded, looking at the blackened pieces sticking out of the grass in front of her.  I was a bit surprised at her unusually composed reaction, considering the circumstances.

“I called 911 awhile ago.  They’re trying to locate us,” I explained.

“Good,” she replied, climbing up onto one of the more stable gravestones.

“You look a little young to be hanging out in the middle of nowhere by yourself,” I ventured.  “Is there a reason you’re here?  Do you live nearby?”

“Someone dropped me off and left,” she replied.  “I was waiting for you to come by.”

“Well, I can give you a ride home once the police arrive,” I offered.

“Sure,” she replied.

There was silence for a moment as I searched my brain for the appropriate small talk.  She spoke before I could.

“That’s really a shame,” she said, staring at the remains below us.  I nodded my head in reply.

“Where do you think that person is right now?” she asked.

“What do you mean?” I said, hoping she wasn’t about to go down a pointless metaphysical or religious road.

“Her soul… her spirit,” the girl insisted.  I almost rolled my eyes, but thought better of it.  If God was just a comfort for the masses, now was the time—if any—for Him to do His job.

“Where do you think she is?” I asked, wondering why we had both silently agreed that this unidentifiable mass of decaying flesh was female.  Playing with the metal cross pendant that hung from her neck, she thought for a moment, and then smiled.

“I think she’s in another dimension… right here, one on top of this one,” she mused.

“If that’s true, why can’t we see her?” I challenged.

“Each dimension vibrates at a different frequency and is on a different wavelength… like a radio,” she explained.

“Hmm,” I replied, unsure if what she had said had any real scientific validity or was just an attempt to rationalize what couldn’t be rationalized.  “So you don’t think she’s in Heaven?”

“Maybe Heaven isn’t some far off place in the cosmos,” she speculated.  “Maybe it’s right here… it just can’t be seen through the physical eyes of a soul in a body that isn’t vibrating at the right frequency.  I mean, scientists have observed that different kinds of matter vibrate at different rates depending on how solid they are… so it shouldn’t be that hard to believe.”

I stared at her, trying to judge if she was as educated as she seemed; or if she was just spouting off nonsense she’d heard from some pseudo-scientist.

“Heaven or Hell is what you make it… what you create it to be based on your own personality and beliefs,” she added.

“So is there room for a Higher Power in all this?” I ventured.

“How do you think it all got here in the first place?” she asked.

“Yeah… but how do you know He… She… It is still around, caring individually for each of the billions—if not trillions—of us in this universe?”

She thought for a moment.

“Perhaps God isn’t one separate entity, like everyone imagines,” she replied.  “It might be more like an intelligent energy field that permeates us all… everything.”

“And the age-old question… why do bad things happen to good people?” I prodded.

“How would you know what good is without bad?  How would you grow if everything that happened to everyone was good?” she replied.

“Good question,” I said, contemplatively.  I was nowhere near believing in anything supernatural, but the girl’s ideas had given me cause for thought.  I wanted to inquire of her belief in a variety of concepts such as angels, ghosts, demons, Jesus, prophets, religion, soulmates, and on and on—but I could hear sirens approaching.

“They’re here,” I said, jumping off my stump, my mind instantly clearing of any abstract thought.

Soon officers (uniformed and otherwise) began to filter into the open field, slowed only by the tall grass and hidden serpents.

“Over here!” I yelled, waving an arm emphatically.  For a moment there was a sense of confusion until one of the men appeared to catch on, leading the others to us and the remains.  I began to rattle off what had led to my discovery, but the investigators seemed more concerned with the task at hand.

“Maybe we better step back and let them do their job,” my metaphysically-minded young friend suggested.  I reluctantly followed her lead, watching as the group meticulously documented and photographed the body as it lay.

It wasn’t until they began to carefully turn and lift the decaying remains that something seemed not quite right (other than the fact we were in the presence of a body that had possibly been murdered and dumped).  A hint of light from the corpse’s chest caught my eye for a fraction of a second.  There was a glint of something shiny and metal in the sun.  I leaned over and peeked in closer at the remains as they were being zipped into the thick, dark body bag.  It was a necklace.  A cross.  The realization hit me slowly.  I looked up at the girl standing across from me.  She stared back at me expectedly.  My attention focused to the pendant hanging just under her exposed collarbone.  Except for the tangle of rotting flesh and dirt… it was the same cross.  I began to speak, but didn’t know what to say.  She spoke for me.

“It’s me.”

“What?”  I replied, unable to truly process the scene before me.

“The body—it’s me,” she restated.

“Oh, ha ha,” I answered, sarcastically.  “You’re standing here in front of me, solid as anything.”

“So are you.”

“So, what?”  Are you claiming you’re a ghost?”  I responded, a mix of confusion and irritation in my voice.  “Sweetheart, you’re nuts and your joke is in incredibly poor taste.  I’m leaving.  You can grab a ride with the cops.”

With that, I picked up my cell phone, put it in my pocket, and defiantly made my way back across the overgrown graveyard.  The temperature difference between the warm, sunny field and the cool forest gave me pause, but I trudged on until I was halfway down the path; my car coming into sight through the darkened woods.

I had every intention of getting into my car, speeding off, and somehow finding my way out of this godforsaken forest.  I just wanted to go home and shake off this odd and nightmarish day; but then behind me I heard one of the investigators yell out, “We’ve got another one here!”

I stopped in my tracks.  Something made me turn and retrace my steps.  I reached the blinding sunlight of the cemetery and watched at the tree-line for a moment.  Indeed, they were clearing the weeds away from what appeared to be a second body.  I inched back into the open field, cautious of the hissing chorus.  The young woman was nowhere to be found.

My heart sank as I watched the crew circle the second corpse, documenting it as meticulously as they had the first.  Others began fanning out into the grass, searching for more victims.  A call for a lawn mower was placed via police radio.

As they manipulated the second, half-skeletal body into the bag just feet away from me, I heard a slight jingling noise and a barely-perceptible thud, as if something had hit the ground.  I watched as an officer carefully picked it up off the ground with gloved fingertips.  It was a small, thin black object.  Even with the weathering it had endured, I could identify it immediately.  It was a cell phone.  He reached over one more time and picked up a second object—a dirty set of keys.  This might not have been an unusual find on a dumped corpse, except dangling from that set of keys was a very peculiar keychain… a string of colorful wooden beads.  It had been made and given to me by a co-worker’s child a couple of years ago.  She claimed it was a one-of-kind creation.  My fingers had rubbed along those vibrant beads a thousand times over the months during moments of anxiety and contemplation.  I knew it well.

I patted my side.  My keys and phone were right there in my pocket; yet somehow also in the officer’s hands just feet in front of me.  I didn’t know what to say.  This had to have been some odd cosmic coincidence.

“It’s you.  You know that, don’t you?” came a voice from behind me.  I turned.  There she was—the girl wearing the cross.

“This has got to be a joke,” I said, exasperated.

“Well, if so, it’s an awfully extensive one… not to mention morbid; and for what reason?” she asked.

I drew a blank.

The investigators continued to work as the others started the clumsy job of heading across the field with the two body bags.  Brushing her off, I turned and followed them.  It occurred to me that none of them had acknowledged my presence—or that of the young woman’s; though it was obvious (at least to anyone who could see us) we were the ones who had discovered the remains and thereby essential to the investigation.

“Hey!” I shouted out to them.  No response.  “Hey!”  Not so much as a glance as they continued trying to maneuver the body bags around the old gravestones and through the tall grass, occasionally tripping over a startled snake.  I watched them disappear past the tree-line and into the dark wood.  The girl walked up behind me.

“Do you believe me now?” she asked, quietly.

“No.  No, I don’t believe it.  I can’t.  There has to be some other explanation.  Maybe I’m dreaming,” I insisted.

“In a manner of speaking, you are,” she said. “Only it’s taking place outside your head… not inside.”

“But how?  How could I have driven here in my car, used my cell phone, have my keys in my pocket—or for that matter have clothes on at all?” I demanded.  “How is it that you have a necklace on that’s actually with your dead body?  I just saw my car still parked on the side of the road a few minutes ago.  How could it be there?  How can I touch this?  Speak?  Hear?” I asked, putting my hand on a nearby gravestone, feeling its cool, rough exterior.  I looked her directly in the eyes.

“How can I see you… or you see me… if neither of us have a body with eyes?  How is any of this possible if we’re nothing but blobs of energy floating around in the physical world now?” I ranted, tears of confusion and trepidation welling up in my eyes as my companion stood in place—watching and listening.

“Even in life we make up our world as we go along.  We see what we want to see and create what we need to—unconsciously—never questioning why.  More so in death—especially in the in-between dimensions, where you’re not quite here and you’re not quite there.  It’s almost as if you exist in a dream world—malleable and indistinct.    The challenge is either walking up and learning to control it, or moving on to the next.  You felt you should have been alive in the physical world—and you were—or so it seemed.  You created the illusion of having a physical body and all its accoutrements and abilities.  But in this world—except under certain circumstances or with certain individuals—no one would have been able to see you, your car, your clothes, or anything else you created.  Perhaps they would have been able to sense your energy field and emotional state—but that would have been the extent.”

“In reality you were murdered and then dumped here in this graveyard several weeks ago—as was I.  You’ve been drifting in and out of time and space, driving endlessly.  Your beliefs kept you from acknowledging the truth.  I, on the other hand, have been waiting here for you; waiting for a disruption in the cycle to draw you to me so we could both move on together,” she calmly explained.

“But if this true, how was I able to call 911, talk to the dispatcher, and report the bodies?” I questioned, my head over-flowing with thought.

“It’s fairly easy for those in-between to alter electrical and other fields invisible to those existing on the physical plane.  You unwittingly manipulated those fields in order to place a call and speak to the person on the other end,” she replied.  A mischievous smile crossed her face as she continued, “I’m sure that department is going to have a story to tell for years to come about how they received a 911 call from a dead person that led them to the body… and from that person’s own phone no less!”

“So… what do we do now?” I asked, ignoring her attempt to humor me.  “How do we move on?  Should we move on?  There’s a murderer out there.  He took our lives.  Shouldn’t we stay and try to help find him—to protect others and get justice for what was taken from us?”

“No,” she replied, emphatically.  “You called the investigators here.  That’s enough.  We’ve done all we can do in a place we no longer belong.  Let the living take care of the living, and the dead take care of the dead.”

At that moment a red flash streaked by me, landing in front of us on the path at the tree-line.  As before, the bird looked at us expectedly.

“Maybe we should follow him,” she suggested.  And so we did.

The cardinal took flight the moment we passed into the forest.  We watched him soar down the path, just a few feet above the ground—before disappearing into the shadows.  The second we lost sight of him, a point of light appeared in the distance—like a single, lonely star shining in the cold darkness of the space.  Suddenly it exploded, showering the entire forest in a blanket of bright, white light.  The trees disappeared—as did the road, my car, and the emergency vehicles.  There was nothing but a vast, bright field before us.

And then, we were nothing but Light.

SerpentMoundTrees
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A Visit to the Lincoln Tomb

Even at nine in the morning the warm air bore down on me as I walked across the sun-baked cemetery lawn early in September.  Personal business had brought me to Springfield Illinois on a daily basis for several weeks, and always up for an historical jaunt (especially one involving the Civil War era), I decided to set aside some time to visit the tomb of Abraham Lincoln and family.  It’d been years since I’d last visited the site; just a child at the time.

The mugginess of the day combined with the weekday morning hour made Oak Ridge Cemetery a solitary place.  Save for a couple of elderly tourists, the occasional maintenance crewman, the insects chirping in the trees, and the thousands of silent dead—I had the place to myself.  Odd to wander through this city of the dead, surrounded by a bustling living city just outside the gates where at one time most of these people had walked in a different era; but then that’s a large part of what makes the cemetery such a magical place.

The enormous stone monument situated on a hill and adorned by a soaring obelisk and several Civil War-related statues, towered over the sea of gravestones below.  A large bronze bust of Lincoln sat on a pedestal, guarding the entrance to the fort-like tomb—it’s nose bright and shiny from the millions who have rubbed it for luck over the years.  I was no different.  Not that Lincoln had had a lucky fate as it were—but if there was any supernatural favor to be derived from the likeness of such an historical giant, who was I to shun it?

I approached the main entrance to the granite tomb.  Standing before the locked thick, metal door, I placed my hand on its surface—mentally projecting myself through the dark interior corridors where Abraham, Mary, and three of their sons lay in final repose.  The energy that returned to me through my palm, down my arm, ensconcing my shoulder blades—was one I had seldom experienced.  It wasn’t that of death, sadness, or loss—but of a solemn reverence of touching on something much deeper than myself and the small time frame in which my life currently inhabits.

I slowly walked around the curves of the monument, gently touching the rough surface—until I came to the back of the tomb.  Iron gates displaying the wreath-enclosed Lincoln surname protected a lovely stained glass inner window on the back wall, behind which the remains of one of the greatest men in history lay only feet before me.  For a few surreal moments the realization that it was just Lincoln and I there together in the quiet cemetery morning hit me.  The sun had just reached the treetops, throwing dusty beams of light across the manicured lawn.  There was nothing to say, nothing to do, but stand there and feel—take it all in.

Lincoln’s spirit has been seen many times over the centuries in a variety of places (including his tomb).  I don’t doubt this.   Factoring out deception and imagination, some sightings may simply be residuals (energy patterns imprinted on time, playing themselves out over and over); others may be the actual intelligent spirit of President Lincoln, occasionally checking up on what he cared about the most in life.  But I think there are moments where we, as ordinary people, can reach out and tune into those from history who inspire us and draw them to us—even for just a moment—no matter their location in this world (or the next).  While usually private about his beliefs, evidence has been found that Abraham Lincoln was a man of spiritual (and possibly mystical) constitution.  I am certain this concept would have agreed with him—and indeed he may have experienced supernatural and inspirational connection with those who had gone before him when staring down the troubles and extraordinarily major decisions that marked his mission while on this earth.

After a few minutes I turned and walked down a flight of stairs to the to the base of the hill wherein sat the the temporary receiving vaults used to hold Lincoln’s body during construction of the permanent tomb.  In actuality, his body was moved several times over the years (even nearly kidnapped) before it was finally laid to rest in 1874.  The receiving vault was nothing but a small, plain mausoleum built into the hillside—gates protecting the rows of individual crypts, which were covered in rust and a mildewy-green substance.  The floor was littered with decades’ worth of pennies thrown in by the many visitors paying their respects. Standing before the gates, I pondered the amount of people since Lincoln’s death in 1865 that stood in that very spot weeping, praying, and contemplating.

As I left the cemetery that morning, I felt that I had experienced something significant (as likely many others had before me); something I’ll carry with me the rest of my life.

*It should be noted that Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield Illinois (where the Lincoln Tomb is located) is a large cemetery of tree-lined rolling hills and winding pathways.  There are many lesser-known historical figures buried within its gates, each with a roadside marker; and there are some impressive war memorials at this location.  A small informational center stands next to the Tomb (which happened to be closed during my visit) as well. It’s worth taking another hour or two to explore the rest of what this historic burial ground has to offer.

For more information:

http://www.illinoishistory.gov/hs/lincoln_tomb.htm

http://www.oakridgecemetery.org/tour.html

Springfield is full of historic sites mostly centering around Abraham Lincoln.  For more information on those visit:

http://www.visit-springfieldillinois.com/Things-To-Do/Attractions/Historic-Sites.aspx

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The Joy of Cemeteries: visiting the Graves of Annie Oakley, Edgar Lee Masters, and Ann Rutledge

There’s something profound about visiting the grave of a legend–no matter what kind of legend he or she may be.  It’s incredible to consider that the remains of what used to be his or her body–the flesh and blood body that breathed life into and lived through what inspired historic events–lies just below your feet.  Those closest to that individual (and the many others who came after) stood where you stand; touching the stone that you touch.  Recently I made two such trips–one to the gravesite of Annie Oakley (“Little Sureshot”) and the other to the final resting place of Ann Rutledge (said to be Abraham Lincoln’s first sweetheart).

Phoebe Moses–or Annie Oakley, as she was known to the public– is buried in a small, country graveyard called Brock Cemetery just north of Greenville Ohio–the area where she lived much of her life.  Born in 1860, she died in 1926 of complications from anemia.  (Note: If you are unfamiliar with Annie’s notoriety, visit this link: http://www.annieoakleyfoundation.org/life.html )

AnnieOakleyGrave

It was a beautiful May afternoon when I pulled into the cemetery and parked alongside her gravestone, flanked by a State of Ohio historical marker.  Surrounded by fields dotted by the occasional farmhouse and patch of woods, the brilliant blue of the sky gave way to the greens and browns of the earth below.  I stood alone in the graveyard taking in the scenery, watching the leaves and grass sway gently in the breeze.  Closing my eyes for  a moment, I listened to the birds and breathed in the heady air.  In its simplicity it was as beautiful of a resting place (if not more) as any dark and extravagant mausoleum.

Approaching her gravestone, I slowly placed my hand on its rocky, mottled surface.  For a moment, I talked to her out loud–speaking in general pleasantries, introducing myself.  Concentrating a little more deeply I reached back in time, ferreting out Annie’s personality–her soul–feeling it quicken with life inside me.  Suddenly, it was as if that energy–that essence of her spirit–existed outside of myself, standing behind my left shoulder, observing.  The only communication between us was that of emotion; imparting her wisdom and expressing to me more than words could ever say.

After a few minutes, I wished Annie well and calmly (almost begrudgingly)  walked away from her resting place.  Yet she didn’t seem quite ready to let me go, as I felt her following me closely as I browsed her neighbor’s gravestones.  Thankfully,  as I headed back to my car I sensed whatever piece of her that had joined me dissolve back into the web of time and space.  I felt a pang of regret as I pulled away, wishing I had the time to whip out my lawn chair and sit a spell with “Little Sureshot.”  Alas, the day was drawing to a close and loved ones waited for my arrival home–so I tipped my metaphorical hat to Annie and went on my way.

AnnieOakleyshooting

Not long after my visit with Annie, I decided to look into the gravesite of another historic woman who intrigues me–that of Ann Rutledge, the alleged first real sweetheart of Abraham Lincoln.  (More info about her here: http://www.mrlincolnandfriends.org/inside.asp?pageID=107&subjectID=11).  Some scholars disagree about the seriousness of their relationship and how much truth there is to the story.  A few things are certain: She lived in New Salem Illinois the same time Lincoln did, she was the daughter of a prominent inn-keeper in the town, the locals claim to have frequently seen them together, and Lincoln fell into a deep depression when she died (possibly of typhoid) in 1835 at the age of 22.  A reaction like that doesn’t happen with just any fellow townsperson.  I like to imagine that the grief caused by her death, helped propel him to change his life–spurring him on to Springfield and Vandalia as a lawyer/politician and eventually onto the presidency.  Who knows if this is the truth, but it’s certainly an intriguing thought.

After an afternoon of visiting the historic New Salem village, I set out to hunt down Ann’s grave in nearby Petersburg Illinois in the Oakland Cemetery.  Oddly enough, I first ran across the grave of poet/author, Edgar Lee Masters (http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/m_r/masters/life.htm)–who I soon realized had written the epitaph on Ann’s stone.

ELMELMgrave

After paying my respects to Edgar, I discovered Ann’s grave only a few feet away, right on the corner. A large, chiseled  stone surrounded by an old metal enclosure bore Edgar’s words:

AnnRutledgebigstone

A much smaller and older stone–barely more than a smooth river rock–had been placed inside the enclosure.  Assuming it to be her original grave marker, I ran my fingertips over the engraved name and dates–picturing generations of others (perhaps even Lincoln) doing the same.  A stranger had placed a bouquet of flowers on her grave.

AnnRutledgeStone

AnnTree

I decided to walk for a bit and explore some nearby markers.  The cemetery was of a moderate size, with new and older stones.  Rolling hills were dotted with towering oaks (the largest of which had been named in Ann’s honor) that nicely shaded the grassy burial grounds. For whatever reason I kept being pulled back to the peacefulness of Ann’s resting place.  I took in the beauty for a moment more then returned to my car to briefly sit and rest.  I closed my eyes and listened to the insects chirping in the trees and the leaves rustling all around me.  The sound of tractor hummed in a distant field.  A gentle breeze moved the warm summer air.

I lost myself as (eyes still closed) I daydreamed back in time–picturing Ann’s family dressed in black mourning attire and gathered around her stone.  I pictured a young and tousled Abraham Lincoln weeping over her buried remains–his energy becoming one with the very grass, trees, and air around him.  I saw him bent over, kneeling.  I heard his voice lilting, alone–speaking to her in an urgent and mournful tone.

Opening my eyes I was back in present day, sitting in my car.  I reached down to pick up my camera phone to take a picture of the site before heading home.  To my shock, in that few moments of meditation, my phone had gone from 80% charged to 0, and had completely turned itself off–something that this particular phone has never done before.  Battery drainage is typical of paranormal phenomena and investigation.  It made me wonder if I had unwittingly drained my own battery, using its energy to mentally (or perhaps astrally) transcend time; or if I had been joined by another soul using that energy in an attempt to manifest.  Maybe it was just a coincidence.  In any case, it struck me as odd.

It occurred to me that somewhere in my research I had read that Ann’s body had been exhumed from her original resting place and re-interred in this cemetery decades ago.  A quick search revealed her original grave to be in a small, old cemetery called Old Concord burial grounds outside of town in the middle of farmland.  I felt drawn to the area–feeling strongly I needed to explore it and wanting so badly to soak up the residual energy that may still exist on a spot where Lincoln wept over the grave of his beloved (that is, before Mary came along).

I located it on my GPS and headed out, only to find myself parked in the drive of a farmhouse where no one seemed to be home and two large dogs barked at me from the yard.  I looked out over the fields marked off with fences, where in the distance I could see a patch of land that clearly indicated an old cemetery.  One could almost see a young Lincoln standing tall on that hillside–but unless I was willing to trespass on this farmer’s land–navigating the rough field, climbing the fences, while being mauled by a couple of dogs–it didn’t look as if I’d be having my sought-after experience anytime soon.  Like so many other things in my life… it was within sight, but just out of reach.

OldCemetery

Some scouting along an old road called the Lincoln Trail revealed that a long, overgrown grassy swath between the fields might have provided a back way into the cemetery.  Unfortunately being alone, without the proper attire, and knowing the day was coming to an end soon (especially since I was over an hour’s drive away from where I was staying in Illinois at the time)–I thought it best to not attempt the trek until conditions were more favorable, I had more time, and a possible partner could be rounded up to accompany me.  You can be sure that once I experience it, I will post an update.

Regardless of my ability to see everything that I set out to on my daytrip, I left the Petersburg area that day with a sense that I had indeed touched the past–and that another adventure awaited me in the near future.  A good day, by any means.

And now you know one of the (many) reasons why I enjoy visiting cemeteries, burial grounds, and historic sites.  Far from being morbid places of death, sadness, and monotony (that is, if you can get over the fact that there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of skeletons and decaying corpses mere feet below you)–cemeteries are alive with energy, history, beauty, and adventure, free for anyone to experience…  if only you’re willing to look just a little deeper!

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Ever Have an Experience Involving a Cemetery? Please Share…

For several months I’ve been considering starting a certain new writing project.  One of the things I need to do to accomplish this is compile stories related to experiences in cemeteries.

That being said, I’m looking for people who are willing to pass along any significant experiences they’ve had in a cemetery (this includes traditional cemeteries, Native American burial grounds, mass battlefield graves, churchyards, private graves, cemeteries in North America and overseas, ancient and modern, etc.).

While I am accepting straight-up paranormal stories–I am also looking for cemetery experiences involving synchronicity, history, connections with loved ones, dreams, celebrity grave-sites, restoration, photography, personal revelations, unique gravestones, particular cemeteries people are drawn to, genealogy stories–anything significant you’ve experienced in connection to a cemetery.

By submitting something to me I am going to assume that it is a truthful and accurate account, and that you don’t mind if it eventually is included in a publication (please let me know if you’d like names changed).  Please try to include as much detail as possible, such as the year it happened, who was with you, the name of the cemetery (or the general location), etc.

Submit any stories to my e-mail: Charyl1978@gmail.com (be sure to double-check the spelling of my e-mail address)  — As well, if you know of someone who may be able to furnish a story, please forward them the link to this post.

There are no promises here… but if you’re willing to help me out by sharing your story, I’d greatly appreciate it!

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Mothman… the Space Between the Spaces
September 23, 2012, 11:16 pm
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I’d heard mumblings of it in the past, but my first real exposure to the concept of the Mothman came like most others—the major motion picture “The Mothman Prophecies” released in 2002.  Watching the previews—and the fact that the plot had been based on a true story—intrigued me.  It just so happened one evening they were showing it at a small, discounted theater on the Air Force base in Central Florida, where I lived at the time.  I was 24 years old with two small children that had special needs and almost never had the chance to go to the movies (or anywhere fun really), but that night I decided to throw caution to the wind and take off on my own to see this mysterious film.

Though having a life-long interest in the paranormal, I admittedly was more excited about having a solo night out—a rarity for me back then.  But I left the theater that night with a mind that had been (unwittingly) ripped open wide.  I had never experienced the concept of a being like this before; odd, unexplained, almost omnipotent.  Was it good, evil, or somewhere in-between?  I drove back home alone on the dark roads of an Air Force base that seemed nearly deserted; yet, I felt was being watched.  I couldn’t say for certain if I truly did have eyes upon me, or if my imagination (and the vertigo from all the blurry, undulating, and off-tilt movie shots) were playing on my senses.

After that night, the Mothman and surrounding incidents only crossed my mind occasionally (for those unfamiliar with the story, take a look at this link: http://www.prairieghosts.com/moth.html).  I didn’t do much digging or spend much time analyzing the situation… until late in 2008.  A series of events unrelated to the Mothman led me to the Paranormal Research Society’s (or PRS’—formerly of “Paranormal State”) message forums.  I made several like-minded friends; and it just so happened the Society was planning a Field Trip (a weekend-long trip with fans to a paranormally-related site for seminars, hands-on investigations, and social time with the Society members) to the Point Pleasant, WV area—Ground Zero for the Mothman occurrences in the 1960’s (also the subject of one of their shows months earlier) and where part of the movie had been filmed.  I had moved to Ohio, by way of Wyoming, with my family the year before—and the timing and easy access of this trip almost felt destined.  I snagged a ticket right away, and because I had been socially-isolated for years, I prepared to travel on my own and meet my new friends.

I also decided to do a little more research beyond what the movie had to offer.  I researched online, but foremost, I read John Keel’s book “The Mothman Prophecies,” originally published in 1975.  Keel was a journalist who spent months investigating the occurrences in person.  Filled with paranormal events, Men in Black (or MIB’s), UFO sightings, and unusual incidents (including the bridge collapse into the Ohio River that killed 46 people in December of 1967).  I put the book down feeling even more of a sense of uneasiness as I had after viewing the movie years earlier.

Delving deeper into the history of the area, I learned the place had a significant connection with Native Americans.  In fact, they—led by a man named Chief Cornstalk—were defeated in battle by the white settlers in the Point Pleasant area in 1774.  I also began to learn that many of those who immersed themselves researching this topic (and similar other paranormal subjects) seemed to lose their minds and/or died questionable deaths; a fact that sat silently, ever-present in the back of my mind. The information swam in my head as I tried to fit the pieces together.

When February 2009 finally arrived I drove the straight stretch from Dayton to Gallipolis/Point Pleasant on Highway 35.  The weekend was unlike anything I’d ever experienced in my life.  I’ll spare the readers the minute trip details—but visiting the memorial sites, speaking with the locals, investigating purportedly haunted buildings, meeting interesting people, and making a chilly middle-of-the-night visit to the TNT area (the now defunct war bomb storage area outside of Point Pleasant where Mothman terrorized his first victims)—certainly left some of us deep in thought by the end.  I even went off exploring on my own and captured a photo of what appeared to be the shadow of a tall man peering from behind a tree in an old area cemetery!

Since that time, my own life has gone through a radical transformation (unfortunately, mostly for the worst).  Once again I’ll spare the reader the sordid details, but the ordeals have resulted in one good thing—spurring me to take (usually solo) historical and/or paranormally-related daytrips and research adventures.  Much of my historical research and visits involve pre-historic Native American sites across Ohio (home of the mound-building cultures of North America).  For the most part, I’ve had positive experiences in this venture.  But there was one disagreeable experience that coincidentally (or not?) had a connection with the Native Americans of the Point Pleasant battle—a visit to Chief Logan’s Elm Memorial near Circleville, Ohio.  I’ll share with you the story of this experience I recently wrote about for a class (though please keep in mind that this story has yet to be critiqued):

           “The sun had reached its pinnacle and was quickly falling down toward the horizon.  I had spent the last several hours just outside of Chillicothe Ohio, ambling among the Native American earthworks—a group of mounds aptly nicknamed “The City of the Dead.”

            Nature was in full splendor; the sky an exquisite blue, the vegetation full and green.  A cool breeze blew away any hint of the sun’s intense summer rays.  Despite the ever-present chattering of other visitors, the intermittent singing of the birds in the surrounding woods, and the muffled sound of prisoners enjoying their exercise at the neighboring prison—there was a quiet, protective calm that permeated the ancient burial grounds.

            I gingerly browsed the site’s museum, hovering gracefully over each artifact as if my very presence would awaken some long-forgotten soul, lingering around his precious stone ax-head or beloved effigy pipe.  The Hopewell Culture had created this site around 2,000 years ago, and though it had once been used as a World War I training camp, the open-air field bore no trace of ill-intent.  In fact, nearly every Native site I had visited over the years conveyed a sense of peace and left me with the impression that the former residents were more or less at rest; dissolved into the surroundings, just as the salty earth is dispersed and absorbed in the waters of the nearby Scioto River.  Any remaining Native energies that had happened to reach my senses over the years felt accepting and protective… or at the very least benign; perhaps sensing kinship in me or even just a gentle, respectful soul.  In any case, I always felt drawn to these areas, never questioning my safety.

            After one last trek around the hiking path that encircled the grounds, fatigue was setting in.  Knowing hunger was imminent and with the 1 ½-hour drive back home weighing on my mind, I hopped in my car and set off for Highway 35.  But as I approached the intersection that would start me on my way home, an idea crept into my mind; imperceptible at first, but more persistent by the second.  I couldn’t fight the urge to turn the steering wheel of my old Hyundai left—away from home.

            This insistence had actually taken root a couple of months earlier during a visit to another Native American site not too far away in Ohio.  I had stumbled upon an exhibit of a floor-to-ceiling reproduction of an aged photograph that dominated one of the rooms of their small museum—a grand old tree, surrounded by historical information, artifacts, and the gaunt faces of those long-forgotten.  It was Logan’s Elm—the tree (now a part of a small memorial park) where Chief Logan gave his concession speech to the white settlers who usurped his and his brethrens’ land.  The desire to visit this memorial etched itself on my brain. 

            It seemed that day had come.  As I turned left, my GPS gave quick confirmation that Chief Logan’s site indeed lay merely a few miles up the road.  Shrouded among rural pastures and farmland, the small plot of land was tucked in a secluded area several feet from the road.  Gravel crunching under my tires, I slowly drove the length of the turnout, almost anxiously noting the lack of other vehicles or visitors in the lot.  Parking the car, I sat there for a moment noticing that the blue sky had suddenly turned white with a layer of clouds.  The air felt cooler, yet completely still; the daylight somehow dimmer.  There were no sounds of civilization; an eerie quiet.   Even the birds were silent, leaving the dull roar of the blood pulsating inside my ears as my only proof against sudden deafness. 

           I stood staring out over the unkempt park.  Scattered memorial stones rose up out of the overgrown weeds.  Trees spray-painted with odd symbols lined the edges.  A pang of nervous energy welled up into my chest.  I was alone, and deep primal doubts began to gnaw at my gut.  But I had come a long way and my rational brain succeeded in convincing me that I was being ridiculous.  After all, it would only take a moment to walk around and view each stone—and my car would be visible at all times.  A short sprint would quickly take me out of harm’s way and just in case, my finger would be at-the-ready, poised over the button on my pepper spray keychain throughout the visit.

           Pushing aside the fear, I strode purposefully into the tall grass.  The first upright granite stone I encountered towered over me.  A quick scan of the time-worn engraved words revealed Chief Logan’s speech given in 1774 after the betrayal he experienced, and after the treaty that was drawn up following the Native defeat in Point Pleasant, West Virginia:

“I appeal to any white man to say, if ever he entered Logan’s cabin hungry, and he gave him not meat; if ever he came cold and naked, and he clothed him not. During the course of the last long and bloody war, Logan remained idle in his cabin, an advocate for peace. Such was my love for the whites, that my countrymen pointed as they passed, and said, Logan is the friend of the white men. I have even thought to live with you but for the injuries of one man. Col. Cresap, the last spring, in cold blood, and unprovoked, murdered all the relations of Logan, not sparing even my women and children. There runs not a drop of my blood in the veins of any living creature. This has called on me for revenge. I have sought it: I have killed many: I have fully glutted my vengeance. For my country, I rejoice at the beams of peace. But do not harbour a thought that mine is the joy of fear. Logan never felt fear. He will not turn on his heel to save his life. Who is there to mourn for Logan? Not one.”

             I took a deep breath.  This was clearly a scorned and bitter person.  Shame for my ancestors’ actions and sadness for the tragic circumstances that had befallen this man overcame my heart.  An expression of sympathy tumbled awkwardly out of my mouth.  I don’t know why I spoke out loud; perhaps to assuage the spirits, or maybe just to soothe my own overwhelming feelings of loneliness—but I spoke.

            After a silent pause, I pushed forward to the next memorial.  My blood suddenly surged with a new pulse of fear and adrenaline, but with curiosity getting the better of me I managed to suppress the urge to flee.  I was rewarded with the knowledge that interestingly, a small house with a large family by the name of “Boggs” once existed on this plot of land after the time of the Chief’s gathering. I wondered about this family; wondered if they had felt or experienced anything odd or unsettling on this property, all the while knowing their stories and secrets likely died with them decades ago. 

            Then my eyes caught sight of what I knew must be the reason I had braved this dismal visit in the first place.  There was no longer a gigantic elm like the one pictured in the museum’s photograph. I had a feeling there wouldn’t be; but a smaller, younger elm stood in its place.  As I drew closer to the spot, somehow even the air took on a dizzying, odd quality.  Slow motion… the sensation not of walking, but floating… until I stood before the legendary tree.  A sign jutting sharply from the ground confirmed what my instincts told me—the original tree had fallen in a storm decades ago and a new elm had been re-planted in its place.

            My heart jumped.  The hair on my arms stood erect in the summer air, and the entire front side of my body suddenly went numb.  I took a few steps back, as every sense I possessed became hyperaware.  Then, in an instant and seemingly without conscious control, my body turned sharply and my legs began to take me back in the direction of the parking lot.  For a brief moment I looked back over my shoulder at the tree, growing ever smaller in my sights.  In my mind’s eye it was as if a ferocious guard dog stood poised and snarling behind me—a caged predator, hoping that any morsel passing by might fall into his enclosure.  Every nerve in my body screamed, “RUN! Run for your life!”  But like a predator, I sensed this too thrived on the fear of the chase—its instincts kicking in the second I set off in a sprint.  No, I walked (albeit quickly) in the direction of the tiny lot, quietly singing a nervous little song to myself out loud in a desperate attempt to mask the fear.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed other small monuments; ones that I had come here to explore.  It was tempting, but I knew I could not stop.  I must not.

            Then, like a bad horror movie where the villain reaches out and grabs the unfortunate fleeing victim, I felt a touch… a pressure from behind.  There were no discernible hands; more like a force—a wall that pushed against the entire backside of my body, driving me forward involuntarily.  It was an unmistakable sense of being urged, “Get out! Get out NOW!”  At that moment, my personal resolve set in.  We are all told that while having a nightmare about being chased, the best way to rid oneself of the pursuer is to stop and turn to face it, thereby exposing it and stripping it of its power.  I did just that.  Obstinately stopping and whipping myself around, fists clenched, I was fully-prepared that I would see something behind me—whether a full-body apparition or just a thick black mass. I set a look of steely determination on my face and felt strong words forming in the back of my throat, ready to confront the unknown aggressor.  But upon turning, I discovered only the tree looming in the distance and a faint, barely-discernible disturbance hanging in the air.  Nothing I hadn’t seen before.  Yet I still felt it bearing down on me, perhaps a bit surprised at my boldness, but nevertheless intent on pushing me away—not unlike the mentally-ill train spirit in the movie Ghost.

             Finally, I reached the parking lot and my car.  I quickly hopped inside, not yet breathing a sigh of relief, as I prayed the old engine would turn over.  Thankfully, it did—and I drove quickly down the gravel pull-out, watching the unkempt park grow smaller in my rear-view mirror.  I took a breath and exhaled deeply as I crossed over the threshold of the park’s entrance/exit.

             It wasn’t until I reached the nearby town of Circleville and was seated by myself in a restaurant eating supper that I truly allowed my brain to ruminate on that afternoon’s events.  Was the force that pushed me back to my car a malicious one, protecting its territory—or a guardian, trying to shield me from whatever I happened upon while viewing the elm?  

             To this day, I am unsure of what presence (or presences) resides in Chief Logan’s Elm Memorial Park… or why it has chosen—or perhaps has been forced—to stay.  The possibilities are many; it could be a member of the Boggs family, or something the local teenagers conjured up in late-night rituals.  It could even be Chief Logan himself, viciously defending the last parcel of (nearly forgotten) property allowed him.  Whatever is there, is determined. 

             As of this writing, I haven’t returned to the memorial park.  I have considered it… many times.  If you, dear reader, wish to visit the Chief Logan Elm Memorial Park between Circleville and Chillicothe Ohio, I suggest you bring a friend… and perhaps an offering of peace.” 

Native Americans in the past (and even today) obviously had a great deal of respect for nature, spirits of all kinds, and spiritual experiences.  It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that these people would be appalled at how the treatment of their people and land by the new settlers over the generations.  In addition, my research has led me to run across stories of thunderbirds, unusual petroglyphs, objects said to ward off evil spirits (particularly those having to do with rivers), shamans, interesting rituals and ceremonies, etc.  What does this have to do with Mothman?  Keep reading.

First, we have to ask ourselves—what exactly is Mothman and why does he seem to cause (or foretell) such odd occurrences?  I think there are as many theories to that as there are people who have asked the question.  I have one myself, of course—and here it is:  I believe the intelligent energy that the Mothman was created from has existed in the Ohio/West Virginia/Kentucky/Illinois/Indiana/Pennsylvania area for thousands of years (particularly around the rivers).  Perhaps it even draws energy from the New Madrid fault-line that lies deep under certain states/rivers in the Midwest.  In any case, I feel that for centuries this energy may have been conjured and manipulated by the Native Americans in these areas—taking on a shape-shifting, creature-like form.  Then, perhaps out of fear and anger, ultimately used as a tool in an attempt to intimidate the white aggressors. Something caused this intelligence to resurface in the Point Pleasant area in the late 1960’s; perhaps some kind of build-up of energy from the impending bridge tragedy over the river.

I do not believe this energy is good, nor evil—it just is. Sometimes helpful, sometimes hurtful—it carries the traits we as humans give it.  I believe that if you look into it… it will look back into you.  It knows many things and many people—and uses what we think, feel, and do to draw more energy to it in order to perpetuate itself—creating situations and/or hallucinations that either drive us forward or scare the hell out of us; sometimes ruthlessly playing with our minds.  I believe that it is all connected—to both the seemingly good AND bad phenomena and beings.  It watches and waits, and it exists—as many other paranormal phenomena—in the space between spaces.  You may completely disagree with me… and that’s fine.  I don’t believe anyone can know for sure or have all the answers–particularly on a subject so otherworldly.

Recently, I returned for another weekend to Point Pleasant—this time for the 11th annual Mothman Festival (http://mothmanfestival.com/).  While I made the trip solo, I encountered a few familiar faces—which is always comforting.  The Festival is packed with pageants, music, vendors, food (including “Mothman Pancakes”), haunted tours of the historic Lowe’s Hotel, riverside walks, museum and history tours, people in costume (most notably the roaming “Men in Black”).  But arguably my favorite part of the weekend—the nighttime hayrides into the woods of the TNT area—where MIB’s, reenactments from the 60’s, and even the Mothman himself lurked in the shadows waiting to frighten the riders—albeit a tacky plastic and rubber version.  If Mothman has done nothing else, he has put the small town of Point Pleasant and surrounding towns on the map—and has given the area a bit of a financial boost; even though the area itself is beautiful and has a strange magical energy that draws people to it and almost makes them regretful to leave.

I took in most of the activities of the Festival and then some—taking my own side trips to the old battleground, Chief Cornstalk’s resting place, and a couple of cemeteries (then later some Native American sites farther north in Ohio); exhausting myself to the point of sickness by the time I finally arrived back home. So much history (most very tragic) happened in such a small space here. Though, the festive atmosphere that almost seemed to poke fun at the events decades ago—took away any fear or suspicion one might feel otherwise. Something about the collectively light-hearted crowd of families, locals, and paranormal enthusiasts appeared to keep that primal energy at bay.  Only an odd incident near Chillicothe involving swarms of birds on my way there, being alone in my hotel room, and driving on the backroads from the TNT site in the middle of the night stirred up those old familiar uneasy feelings. Even writing this blog has taken over a week, resulting in my having to close my notebook and store it away for a couple of days, as many times just as I began getting my point across, an overwhelming sense of surveillance and accompanying dread seemed to descend upon me.

The media and the focus of locals and investigators seem to direct and shape this energy today.  Who knows when this intelligence will be strong enough to be called up again into our physical world… and what form it might take?  I think it all depends on humanity.  I prefer not too think too much or deeply about it… for it seems that is the time it thinks about me.

 The Mothman Prophecies Trailer (2002)

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