"Welcome to my world" is a statement I write frequently when I sign one of my books for a reader. For this piece, however, someone else is offering me a welcome, and the world is one that only sometimes (thank you, God) touches mine.
Last week, I wrote about places that were haunted but didn't reveal anything in particular to me when I visited. The week before that, I wrote about places I didn't find out were haunted until after I had been there, and experienced something just a wee bit suspicious. Today is about going someplace that is reportedly haunted and coming away thinking, "Yup, that place is haunted."
On most ghost tours, Jim and I are treated to deliciously scary venues and fascinating history, great photo ops, and usually, not much else. That's fine; we enjoy ghost tours just for the experience. Besides, who doesn't like listening to a bunch of scary stories in the appropriate settings? But there have been at least two places that gave us more than a good story and an interesting site.
The first place was the Ryan Mansion in Galena, Illinois (and a big shout-out to Terri Reid, who suggested the Galena ghost tour in the first place!) The Ryan Mansion is a 24-room private home/museum that was built in 1876. When we toured it, it had been renovated and restored and it was positively gorgeous. The upkeep is imperative or it could wind up easily looking like that house on the Munsters; as it is, the place is definitely worth a visit, ghosts or not.
The ghost tour we took was the first I've ever been on that included a ghost box as well as an EMF detector, and dowsing rods for tour participants to play with on site. We went into the front room and were treated to a ghost box session. (For those of you who might not know, the ghost box is a device that picks up both AM and FM radio waves, in theory to allow spirit to use the energy to communicate. If you ask a ghost box a question, at some point it will spit out disjointed answers cobbled together from random words on different wave lengths.) The front room is known to be haunted, and there was definitely an uneasy feeling as random words were tossed out by the ghost box in answer to questions that the guide was asking. Incidentally, all the words spoken by the ghost box made sense in context of those questions.
The guide also handed out the EMF detectors and the dowsing rods so that people could pick up on different energies, or even communicate yes-or-no fashion with the dowsing rods. There was a door in this room that was known to open and close on its own, and if you stand close enough to it with the EMF detector, you will see the lights go up into the active zone as something or someone unseen passes close enough to trigger it. If you ask the dowsing rods about someone being present, they will give you a "yes" or a "no" answer. We got plenty of "yes-es" that night.
I didn't see anything there, but I could feel something. It was cold, but it wasn't malevolent. It was just there. Perhaps whoever it was felt as curious about us as we were about him/her. So while it wasn't out-and-out scary, it was definitely unsettling, and very tangible. I won't say I was sorry when the guide said that it was time to leave. Especially since I felt as if we were escorted back onto the bus by something unseen.
The second place is from a little longer ago, up in my beloved Door County. There is a company up there called Trolley Tours, and a ghost tour is one of their mainstays. It doesn't just run in October: it runs as soon as tourist season opens some time in May and keeps going through early November. We took the tour in summer, and had the good fortune of having one of those unusually cool summer evenings that made the tales just a bit more chilling, and the experience jut a bit more shivery.
One of the stops on the tour is a place called the Alexander Noble House, right in the heart of Fish Creek. The house is currently run as a museum and I know I've written about it before, especially since this past year they featured an exhibit called "A House in Mourning" that entailed the entire house being decked out for a Victorian funeral. When we visited last summer, our lovely tour guide had already had some weird experiences there, but then, the place is haunted.
When we visited for our very first time on the Door County ghost tour, we were led up into a bedroom at the top of the stairs and told that the mirror in the room frequently featured images that only showed up in pictures. "You won't see anything when you look at it," the guide explained, "but if you take some pictures of it, you might be surprised when you look at them later." That sounded interesting, so both Jim and I took a few pictures with our cameras.
We were allowed to roam the place for a few minutes after the official house tour ended, and then we were all shepherded back onto the trolley. "I didn't see anything," Jim said as we took our seats. I hadn't either, so as our ride pulled back onto the street and headed toward our next destination,we went through our pictures. He had taken more shots than I had and was just glancing through them quickly. "Nothing," he said.
But that's not what I saw. "Go back a few," I told him. "And look there." In one of the two pictures he had taken in the upstairs bedroom, there was the image of a face in the mirror. "What do you call that?" I asked.
I won't print his answer.
I'm going to be taking another ghost tour within the next few weeks, so if there is anything noteworthy, I will certainly come back and report.