Monday, July 18, 2016

Notes from a Ghost Tour

Every time I go someplace new, I try to take a ghost tour. Luckily, Jim is always willing to do that with me. He likes the history he learns that provides the background to most of the hauntings. And while he's savoring history and I've savoring the ghost part, I'm also taking notes. Looking back over some of them is both evocative and eyebrow-raising. Sometimes I remember exactly what I meant, and other times, well, I don't know.

For instance, I have notes about forensic students using dowsing rods at a body farm at the University of Tennessee. After finding sites of buried bodies, apparently the students willing to use dowsing rods to answer simple yes and no questions were 95% accurate in determining the body's gender, whether the head lay in the direction of North, South, East, or West, and whether the body was that of a child or an adult. The reason the tour guide (this was for haunted Gatlinburg) brought this up is that there is currently a trend in using dowsing rods to communicate with the dead.

Something I saw done live on a ghost tour in Galena, Illinois. (More on that a little later).

But back to Gatlinburg: the guide told us stories about one of the big hotels down the street from us. He did mention something that stuck in my head: "Not everyone knows about these events because not all incidents make the papers." I will find a way to use that in one of my books one day.

As for the dowsing rods in Galena, well, the tour guide for that particular trip also had an EMF (electromagnetic field) indicator and a ghost box (a contraption that picks up radio waves and is meant to give ghosts a way to communicate by picking out random words over the airwaves and spitting them out.) I know a ghost hunter who got a pretty solid "Get Out" on one of those things. They make me nervous.

On the tour in Williamsburg, our guide told us the story of a woman named Lady Skipworth who killed herself in the house of George Wythe. (George Wythe was the first Virginian to sign the Declaration of Independence, by the way). Supposedly there is the ghost of a woman spotted in the third-floor bedroom. Our guide then added that he has seen the ghost of a woman on the porch of the Wythe house, and that she backs up and disappears through the door.

And then there was Savannah, Georgia. Savannah was the first and probably only place where people discuss ghosts the same way they discuss the weather. Jim and I sat down to a wonderful Southern lunch at a restaurant in Savannah and when we mentioned we were taking the ghost tour that evening, he was prompt with a "You should get a lot out of that. You know that hotel in the next block? That place is haunted. I saw a woman on the staircase, there." And then he asked us if we needed hot sauce, ketchup, or anything else. No one in Savannah even bats an eyelid when you say you are looking for ghosts. They're more likely to direct you to the nearest haunted spot they know. Which could very easily be where you're standing and having the conversation. Savannah is a giant burial ground, from the Native Americans who were there first, to the sad mass graves of the plantation slaves, and then the dead from the wars that happened in the area, both Revolutionary and Civil.

The ghost tour through Charleston was interesting because the last story involved the inn where we had our rooms. Fortunately, we weren't on the right floor to run into the ghost. On the other hand, it was a little unsettling to find out that our temporary domicile was included on an actual ghost tour. I would have expected that in Savannah. But then Charleston is not that far away from Georgia.

This summer, we will be taking another family trip, this time to Missouri. And of course we will take a ghost tour. Just can't wait to see what kind of stories we get on that one.

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