Category Archives: general

Your Ghost Stories from the Shooting Star ParaCon

It was great meeting so many new people & hearing their stories. If you were down for sharing your stories on camera – Thank you!  We got stories that took place in Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota & Illinois!  We also had tons of additional stories shared with us off camera (among them, cryptid encounters, including a goatman sighting)!

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Paranormal Year in Review

Another year is coming to a close and with it, time to reflect on the year that was.  I have been unbelievably fortunate to be able to visit some astounding places.  I thought it IGTop9Hauntedwould be impossible to surpass my 2016 “Instagram Top 9” that included getting a rare look at the séance room at the Stickney House, the Yuma Territorial Prison, finally visiting the Roosevelt Hotel pool in Hollywood and The Alamo while getting one final look at the Willowbrook Ballroom just weeks before it burned to the ground. I even had a little cryptid fun, looking for The Beast of Bray Road in Elkhorn, WI.

Somehow 2017 was even bigger!  So, here is the Top 10 Haunted Locations we’ve visited this year (location titles with links take you to articles we’ve previously posted on the topic):

10) Old Whitley Jail, Columbia City, IN

OldWhitleyJailThe Old Whitley Jail is a sight to behold. Built in 1875, the red brick portion was the sheriff’s house and courthouse, while the white portion was the prison. Currently, the site is used as a Halloween attraction.We hope this historic and haunted building is being preserved well, but that seems unlikely. It is home to at least three ghosts: Sheriff Frank Allwein, an unknown female and Charles Butler, a murdered who shot his wife in the back in 1883 before (temporarily) escaping the jail.

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9) Jane Hotel / New York City

JaneHotelHaunted2The Jane is still haunted by victims and survivors of the Titanic! Passengers and crew alike who were pulled from the icy waters were sequestered here after the famous sinking and had to stay here throughout the subsequent court proceedings. Apparently the 4th floor is the most active area where phantom crying is heard and full apparitions are seen.  The hauntings at the building serve as a great reminder that it’s often the actions and the emotions of the living that lead to residual hauntings as it’s the grieving survivors that current day visitors witness. (additional photo on Instagram link)

8) El Rancho / Gallup, NM

ElRanchoThe El Rancho Hotel is considered one of the most haunted locations along Route 66.  Gallup itself was a moviemaking hot spot during the glory days of westerns and the El Rancho was the top destination for crews and stars alike.  It’s in the upper lobby where people have heard phantom conversations, singular voices, footsteps and laughter. The bridal suite may claim the most activity, but neighboring rooms also report objects moving on their own, doors opening by unseen hands and the unwelcome wake up call of the curtains flying open on their own at the crack of dawn.  A glance around different travel or review sites also recounts tales of unexplainable phenomena in the John Wayne room and the Susan Hayward room.

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7) Queen Mary / Long Beach, CA

This was not my first trip to the Queen Mary, but it’s so incredibly haunted that it still earns a place on the list.  That, and because there was an invisible visitor in the room with us who played with the sliding chain lock in our room.  Easily something that perked me up from the edge of sleep!  Also commissioned by the White Star Line, The Queen Mary is actually 136 feet longer than the Titanic and weighed nearly twice as much.  And it seems that nearly every floor, deck and room is in play when it comes to having a paranormal experience.

6) Chelsea Hotel / New York City

ChelseaHotelHauntedIn a strange coincidence, less than a day after I shot an interview with John Lydon (“Johnny Rotten” of Sex Pistols fame), I found myself at the Hotel Chelsea.  It’s a spot where so much art was created, but it will forever be thought of as the place where his band mates, killed each other.  Yes, this is the place where Sid Killed Nancy. Talking with the man at the front desk about the paranormal, his response was, “oh yeah, we’ve got it all… ghost stories, murders, suicides, murder-suicides….” An ChelseaHotelHaunted2elderly tenant then walked in from the street, saw my camera gear and asked, “have you come to talk to the ghosts?” Of course, I asked him a follow-up question, which lead to him saying, “Not a lot of people here will talk about the stories, but if you’re sensitive, you’ll hear a lot.” It was a foreboding warning straight out of a movie.

5) Gore Orphanage & “Cry Baby Bridge” / Amherst, OH

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Some of the ruins of the former home site.

The phenomenon known as a cry baby bridge (hearing phantom children crying from a bridge) is not uncommon and dates back to the La Llorona folk legend. However, this one in Ohio, over the Vermillion River, seems to be particularly active according to a park ranger who patrols the area. The road leads to “Gore Orphanage,” the ruins of which make for one of Ohio’s most haunted forests. Video and pictures from our paranormal investigation will certainly be the focus of a future newsletter. The ranger told us about a recent report where a bank of fog was GoreOrphanagehovering over the bridge.  As the driver went through it, a handprint appeared on the windshield and then smeared up the windshield and carried on along the entire side of the car.  The forest itself claims a number of different childlike paranormal phenomena despite not actually being the site of an orphanage.

4) Farnsworth House Inn / Gettysburg, PA

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It’s been a while since I’ve been to Gettysburg and while I didn’t have a mind-blowing paranormal experience like the last time I was here, I did get to have the fun

FarnsworthInnexperience of taking part in the monthly “See You on the Other Side” podcast hangout from this historic location.  The top floor served as a perfect sniper’s perch.  Beneath the sniper’s window, the brick wall is scarred with 135 bullet strikes.  Upwards of a dozen different apparitions are seen here, including an 8-year-old boy and a nurse (the building served as a makeshift hospital) who tucks people into bed.

 

3) Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk Café / Pacific Palisades, CA

It was fantastic news when we found out the endangered building that housed Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk cafe was getting a full, historically accurate renovation! It might still be difficult to do a paranormal investigation here in the future, but at least the building won’t be demolished as previously rumored. Best case scenario: some future EVPs will shed light on the last mysterious night of the troubled actress’s life. Murder or accident?  The jury is still out on the 1935 death of the beautiful blonde comedic actress.  Amazingly, we got a room-to-room walk-through of the entire property, learning what each room was in the past and what the future plans involve.  In addition to investigating this site, the nearby garage where her body was discovered should be investigated regularly.

2) Stull Cemetery / Stull, KS

StullCemetery2Visiting this cemetery has been a goal of mine since I started getting into the paranormal in 1999.  The location is a maze of urban legends involving visits by Satan, witchcraft and stairways to the underworld.  The very rural site is difficult to research and the

StullCemeteryChurch

Ruins of the demolished church on the land.

paranormal claims are just about impossible to verify or test as the cemetery is guarded at night.  We were able to verify a recent (true) phenomena – the grounds apparently spontaneously combust!  While we were there on a rainy day, there were no flames, but we did find random scorch marks throughout the cemetery grounds.  (a short video will follow on this one too)

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1) Silver Bridge & the TNT area / Point Pleasant, WV

MothmanStatueIt was a paranormal dream come true to visit the site of the famous 1966-67 Mothman sightings along the Ohio River.  Of course, these sightings weren’t isolated.  They were accompanied by scores of UFO sightings and something of an invasion by Men in Black who interviewed townspeople and seemed constantly out of place, even being fascinated by ordinary objects like ballpoint pens.  The varied phenomena stopped when the Silver Bridge, which spansthe river, collapsed, killing 46 holiday commuters.  Upon MothmanBridgereturning home, Wendy Lynn Staats of the “See You on the Other Side” podcast and the band Sunspot and I filmed a video discussing the differences between the film and the true story – truth was creepier than fiction in this case!

Honorable Mentions (all links go to Instagram):

The Hidden Brand Family Cemetery in Glendale, CA, locating urban legendy-ruins near St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Wadsworth, IL, Presidential Haunted Honeymoon spot, the Mission Inn, Riverside, CA () observing sacred sites and petrographs outside of Tucson, AZ, Molly’s Souper in Upland, CA, Château Marmont, Hollywood & Forgotten Montrose Cemetery, Chicago.


Your Favorite Supernatural Movie: THE SIXTH SENSE

International Screenwriters' AssociationBy Scott Markus

For my day job, working with the International Screenwriters’ Association, I asked our membership to tell me what they feel is the most well-written supernatural movie.  I defined this as ghost story movies, demon, exorcism, possession and witchcraft movies.  I posited the same question on our WhatsYourGhostStory Facebook page.  (Also, if you are a writer, I highly suggest clicking the logo above and joining our free online community for writers)  The plan was to then do a blog post on the leading vote-getter, YOUR favorite supernatural script:

Well, the many votes are in when it comes to your picks for the best written supernatural movie.  I have to say, my favorite thing about how the open voting went was what a wide range of films and eras were covered.  However, the stand out winner was “The Sixth Sense.”  I was a little surprised that “Exorcist” or one of my personal favorites, “Poltergeist,” didn’t get more love.  That said, it’s hard to argue against “The Sixth Sense.”  For one, it was a box office sensation, bringing in $672.8 million internationally in 1999.  Domestically, it did nearly double the business as “The Matrix” in the same year, so you know it reached a lot of people.

“The Sixth Sense” set the bar during a great a year for supernatural films in America.  Its $293.5M domestic take easily beat experimental indie phenom “The Blair Witch Project” ($140.5M), “Sleepy Hollow” ($101M), “The Haunting” $91.4, “Stigmata” ($50M), “House on Haunted Hill” ($40.8M) and the tragically unheralded “Stir of Echoes” ($21.1M).

Sixth Sense, Stir of Echoes, Blair Witch Project, International Screenwriters Association, Stigmata, horror movies, best ghost story movies, house on haunted hill, the haunting, Sleepy Hollow

Honestly, this might be a hall of fame year for spooky cinema.  So, how did “The Sixth Sense” stand out in such a crowded pack?

DJ MacHale interview with the International Screenwriters' Association. Creator of Are you Afraid of the Dark, the Pendragon YA series & Flight 29 Down.

We’ll all jump to that “you gotta see it to believe it” twist, which M. Night credits to great storytelling in an episode of DJ MacHale’s “Are You Afraid of the Dark.”  Listen to DJ talk about “The Sixth Sense” with ISA’s Max Timm by clicking on the image to the left (the portion that discusses “The Sixth Sense” starts at 53:30).

However, that twist is meaningless if we haven’t gotten fully involved with our characters.  Even in the trailer, you can see a tremendous amount of character development and you get a feel, not just for the adventure that the characters are embarking on, but how they are handling the challenges that they’re tasked with.  Re-live that trailer here:

Even from the trailer, a you can see the characters dealing with the weight and difficulty of their challenges.  Of course, you can’t deny the quality of the acting performances as well.

While the premise, the world and the depth of the characters are important, there are a million times where this film could’ve fallen apart.  Writer/Director, M Night Shyamalan talks about how he early on had to establish the “rules” of the story to make sure continuity and believability tracked throughout the script.

This is a great way to think about approaching any script.  “The Sixth Sense” has an element of fantasy in it because we are dealing with the supernatural and concepts that are only theory.  So, it’s easy to see how the writer would benefit from creating a set of rules for their story and character to live by.  But why limit it to fantasy?  Our stories and characters all have plot hurdles and personality flaws that they need to address before the story can end and the character arcs can complete.  Why not think of our scripts in the terms of “rules that cannot be broken” unless some other need is addressed that allows for change to happen logically?

Whether it’s “The Sixth Sense,” “Ghost Story,” “The Changeling,” “The Innocents,” “The Eye,” “The Others,” or one of the other great supernatural films, the only real difference is the setting/world/arena and the specific second act adventure activities.  Otherwise, it’s all about solid script writing as usual.

Editor’s Note:  My personal top five favorite supernatural films include the original Thai version of the Pang Brothers film “The Eye,” “Poltergeist,” “Stir of Echoes,” “The Conjuring” and “Rosemary’s Baby.”


Unprecedented Access to One of America’s Most Haunted Houses

The following article contains:

  • News about future ghost tours at the Stickney House
  • First hand paranormal encounters
  • An exclusive look inside the historic site

stickneyhouse1Like many in the Chicago area, my first exposure to the Stickney House, tucked away in rural and picturesque Bull Valley, was Ursula Bielski’s “Chicago Haunts” in the late 1990s. The rich history and the seemingly endless claims of hauntings have proliferated the house and its grounds as much as the story proliferated my curiosity.

As the story goes, in 1856 George and Sylvia Stickney moved into this grand house to start a family and be the toast of the town with the second story of the house serving almost exclusively for entertaining.  However, tragedy struck early and often as seven of their 11 children died very young.  That ballroom, housing the first piano in McHenry County, quickly transformed to a séance room where the mourning parents would try to contact their lost children.

stickneyhouse2My first visits to the site in the early 2000s were merely to view the iconic structure from a distance, to see with my own eyes, the rounded corners and the boarded-up second story windows.  Many feel the rounded corners (note the walls blending into the ceiling in the photo to the right, as well as the rounded wall edges in the image below) being tied to spiritualist beliefs that spirits (particularly negative spirits) could get trapped in 90 degree angles.  There is some debate if this was the reason for the construction, but that is the commonly held notion at the moment.  The second story windows were, indeed, boarded up, presumably to keep away curiosity seekers who were getting strange images of ghosts in the upper floor windows in photographs.

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Walking the grounds one October evening, a friend and I heard a masculine voice groan loudly from behind the door that faces the parking lot.  We were absolutely frozen, but no further activity followed.  That interaction is benign compared to other claims of phantom screams, ghostly dogs, children crying and even shadow figures patrolling the grounds around the house.

After so much infamy, the village moved their offices into the home, partially serve as a built-in deterrent to any trespassers or vandals.  It’s easy to respond to a trespassing call, if you just have to walk out the front door, after all.  At this time there were legends that city employees were forbidden to talk about the activity at the location.  Whether true or not, a Chicago Tribune article from 1995 did a lot to pass along that “company line.” (link: “Bull Valley Home Haunted Only By Reputation.”)

In October 2015 I stopped by again, after a gap of many years.  I could see that the restoration of the building was well under way with the front entrance fully rebuilt.  I entered the front door, explaining that I was a local historian who was interested in the site.  Unlike 10+ years ago, this time I was invited in and could see that the “no corners” theme was carried out throughout the building, including a curved front door, built-in cabinets that blend into the walls and the walls themselves blending into the ceiling.  This time it was the village employees who started volunteering their own paranormal experiences.

stickneyhouse4The following October, just a few weeks ago was even more amazing.  I traveled back to the site with local archeologist Dan Melone.  I re-introduced myself to one of the employees I had met the previous year and after some chatting about the paranormal, he gave us the blessing to go upstairs.  I cannot over state my excitement in this moment.  Visiting a place I’d read about and researched for nearly 20 years, and now I was standing in a location that I’d mentally accepted that I’d probably never set foot inside.  Merely entering the home last year was a huge surprise and now, I was creeping up a very worn, narrow stairway, making my way into the largest room and standing in the room where Sylvia Stickney, her husband George and countess other mediums went to make contact and, make no mistake about it, come to terms with their devastating losses.  The gravity of the history and the location gave me goosebumps.  The feel of the room was tense, though likely just my own excitement radiating off of me.

Present day, the second floor isn’t one massive ballroom, as is often reported.  It’s been subdivided into smaller rooms, a far more practical use of the space for the numerous inhabitants after the Stickeys.  With the help of the Stickney Restoration Foundation, hopefully the original layout will be firmly identified and restored in time.

stickneyhouse5In addition to the experience we found out the following amazing bits of information:

In time, the village hopes to move their offices out of the Stickney Home and allow the site to function as a museum.  After it’s established as a museum, they will rent the site out to ghost hunting teams for investigations!

There are reports of a Civil War era soldier that is seen in the front room, nearest to the parking lot.  Speculation is high that he died of wounds here after being injured in battle further south.  This would line up with the pained masculine groan I heard come from that room some 16 years earlier.

One village employee relayed the following first-hand account: I am a marine, I saw combat, I was a police officer on the street, but the only time I’ve ever frozen was right here.  Working alone, late at night and a man screamed.  I knew no one was in the house.  It took me a good five minutes to be able to move again.

Dan and I did not wait long to return for another visit.  Shortly after another successful Chicago Ghost Conference, this time held at the haunted Willowbrook Ballroom on Archer Avenue (which tragically burned to the ground a couple weeks after the conference), we brought event organizer, and writer of the “Chicago Haunts” series, Ursula Bielski, to the Stickney House.  She’s an important part of the Chicago ghost lore tradition and, again, the person who, through her writing, first informed me of this location.

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Again, we were permitted upstairs where Ursula, spirit box in hand, began attempting to make contact with whatever entities may still be on site.  Watching this unfold, it again donned on me that this may be the first time someone, other than a curious village employee, was using the séance room to try to make contact in some 150+ years.  In a small way, a historic moment.  While a couple scattered words did appear over the spirit box, we did not get any longer phrases or sentences, which is what I personally look for to push out my reason of doubt against radio interference.

Stay informed right here as I hope to start a working relationship with the Village of Bull Valley, along with Dan Melone and Ursula Bielski in helping raise funds for the restoration efforts and perhaps seperate fact from urban legend at this amazing site.


We’re Starting a Free Newsletter!

Click here to sign up for the official, What’s YOUR Ghost Story Newsletter. We’ll be calling it the, WYGS Newsletter, from now on to save a few breaths.

The first issue of the WYGS Newsletter will premier on Tuesday, October 25th 2016!

These email newsletters will contain updates on famous tales, interesting new stories from new locations, paranormal photos, videos and who knows what other type of fun! They will also only come out 6-10 times per year – we promise not to flood your inbox! Did I mention the WYGS Newsletter is 100% FREE?  So what are you waiting for? Click here to sign up now.

If there is anything we want our readers and fans to know is we respect your privacy, and we promise to never share your information with any 3rd party in any way, shape, or form.

 


Merging with LA Hauntings

For those of you who are “subscribed” to this site (first off, thank you), I am merging my other web site, LAHauntings.com, with this one. The LA Hauntings Tour Company is going into a bit of a hiatus and want to make sure all the posts find a safe second home.

Will LA Hauntings continue?  In some form, yes.  We will continue offering special event tours (we are excited about creating a tour by boat up the coast of southern CA, for example.  And we do hope to stay active in appearing at or creating special events.

WhatsYourGhostStory.com is designed to be a clearing house for ghost stories and haunted locations across the globe. For the next couple of days there will be more focus on LA and California than usual. In the next week, we’ll have not one but TWO videos up about the famed former Nazi camp in Rustic Canyon called Murphy’s Ranch.  I hope you enjoy the stories and video of haunted and spooky California! ~Scott


Review: The Everything Ghost Hunting Book

The Everything Ghost Hunting Book: Tips, tools, and techniques for exploring the supernatural world
By Connor Bright  

This book has been recommended to us may times as THE definitive recourse on paranormal, and we have also had people ask about The Everything Book on our tours. Recently it came up on Amazon as a suggestion and we decided to give it a try.
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“The Everything Ghost Hunting Book” is part of a series, and is similar to the “Idiot’s Guide” or “For Dummies” series. This installment is written by Melissa Martin Ellis, a member of the Rhode Island Paranormal Research Group and a skilled spirit photographer, some examples of her work are peppered throughout the book.

The guide is very useful for groups that already know basic paranormal phenomena. It excelled at teaching investigators how to cover their assets and protect form liability and keeping client interaction professional. The Everything Book includes good questions to ask potential clients and examples of liability wavers, with plenty of ideas for groups to keep in mind when creating their paperwork. Ellis did a great job stressing the importance of proper research and the need for a paper trail, to protect everyone.

When it came to explaining phenomena and theories, The Everything Book fell flat. The paranormal field is huge and everyone has their own theories and methods, the authors way of dealing with this was to advise newbie’s to join an existing group and do as they say. This may sound like a good idea, but it could also lead to confusion and dependency in a world that requires free thought. Consistently a large problem, such as spirit attachment, is brought up only for the reader to hear that the resolution lies in the expertise of a team member. This can be frustrating to people who are trying to expand their knowledge or build a team that can deal with these types of cases.

Sometimes Ellis attempts to explain a large concept with many solutions or answers, with a vague story of someone’s personal experience that will only touch on one extreme instance. Other times she will over explain every nuance of how to deal with something in the field, such as interviewing a client, which is usually left up to a team on a case-by-case basis. She even at times glosses over important phenomena, such as poltergeist phenomena.

Her chapter on protection includes a great description on how to perform a house cleansing, an often overlooked area that can provide a great sense of closure to a client in an uncomfortable situation. Also included is a chapter on the mundane side of investigation, which contains a great guide to safety from the non-paranormal.

Some chapters feel out of place, for example, there’s a description of an EVP session and The Ghost Box in the wrap-up section, instead of in the gear chapter. This was weird and disorienting to us multiple times. The reader must finish the entire book before rushing into the paranormal because information is hidden in every nook and cranny of the book. Ellis puts a great emphasis on organized note taking during investigations, even though her own book on the matter feels convoluted.

Who should read: Teams looking to streamline and organize their existing process, especially those interested in beginning private home investigations.

Who can skip it: Somebody new to the Paranormal that is looking to get a grasp on the basic process and different phenomena.

Click on the book cover to be taken to Amazon!