Truth, Nature, Knowledge:

Three candles that illuminate the darkness.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Eastern State Pets....

Everyone in the paranormal community knows about Eastern State Penitentiary and its infamous otherworldly residents. Many of us have been there and experienced the landmark firsthand. While the structure and its ghosts get all the fame and media attention, the critters who were past residents and the ones who currently reside there rarely get even a small mention.

The current resident "pets" are the bats that reside in the area and within the buildings. They love to "buzz" investigators as they make their way through the cell blocks. It is almost as if they enjoy getting as close as they can while homing in on the many flying insects that they seek. It can be very entertaining, especially if you get folks who are screamers and are afraid of them.

Billed as a notable inmate, "Pep" the dog was allegedly sentenced and imprisoned for life at ESP in 1924 by then Pennsylvania Governor, Gifford Pinchot. Pep was alleged to be a most heinous criminal and was deemed "The Cat-Murdering Dog." It was reported that he had killed the beloved cat of Mrs. Pinchot, Governor Pinchot's wife. Whether or not this is true, no one really knows for sure. Pep did have his mugshot taken with his very own inmate number. He even had his own "cell" at the prison which is part of the walking tour there. According to the plaque that tells Pep's story, there were never any official prison records to validate the story. Could he have been a pet of one of the guards? A stray that prison officers "adopted?" Or could this have been a light-hearted prank played out by the prison workers? It is hard to say. One thing is for sure; Pep has been immortalized along with the other famous inmates.

With the closing of the prison in 1971, the human inhabitants moved on. With its grounds and buildings now quiet, ESP became home to some new four-legged residents- the cat colony. Neighborhood strays moved in and the grounds became the perfect habitat for them. It provided them with plenty of rodents and other feline favorites to catch and consume at their leisure. Over the years the colony grew and the cats began to show a uniformity in their conformations. Dan McCloud, known as "Dan the Cat Man" cared for the cats for 28 years. In later years, the cats were trapped by the local Spayed Club in 1993 and all were either spayed or neutered. By 2003, the population ceased to exist with the deaths of the last remaining animals.
Artist Linda Brenner pays tribute to the cats and to Dan McCloud with her art installation at the prison entitled The Ghost Cats. 36 white-casted spectres "roam" and "lounge" throughout the prison and along its ominous walls and grounds. The "cats" can be quite startling if you are not aware of them as they look quite real at first glance. It is a challenge to find all 36 as they are placed in some very precarious places on occasion. When I spoke to one of the staff members there during our recent investigation, she told me that they move them periodically so they may not ever be in the same place twice. The casts were made to look exactly like the original colony cats, modeled with their same body types. The exhibit is a testament to the compassion of Dan the Cat Man and to the survival instincts of his beloved cats.

Website Changes

I have been constantly changing and fine-tuning the APCR website. During this week I have made some major changes not only in content, but to the look of the site as well. It will remain a work in progress. I have added a Membership page and we are now accepting resumes and applications. Stop by and browse through the site. I will be adding photos soon. Click on the site link above.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Let's Visit the Cemetery

Have you ever taken the time to really explore a cemetery? Not your thing, huh? Too creepy? Weird? Okay, then I am creepy and weird because I love to hang out in cemeteries. Not just for paranormal reasons, but because cemeteries are art and history museums of sorts. Many are architectural and horticultural wonders as well. They are the perfect places were the past meets the present and sometimes they even offer glimpses of the future.

Here in Virginia it is illegal to be in a cemetery after dark without permission. Before you visit one in your area, make sure that you are there legally. That happens to be a major rule for my team- if you trespass in a cemetery, you are off the team. Okay, enough of the disclaimers and the legal spiel.

My favorite time to visit cemeteries is, of course, fall. Fall just makes the atmosphere that much better. I like to look for the oldest graves and headstones as they are generally the most interesting. They often even state the cause of death and have the most ornate carvings and sometimes quotes or sayings about the person. Knowing the history of the area can also help you find cases of multiple deaths from disease outbreaks, major accidents, or disasters. Family plots and crypts are also fascinating. Just to see the multiple generations buried or entombed side by side is interesting in and of itself.

Something we have been doing is daytime IR photography in cemeteries. It gives a whole new perspective on the monuments, sculptures, and stones. These photos do not even require captions or explanations. They speak volumes about their subject matter.

I visited a small church cemetery last year that was quite interesting. The church had long since been torn down and the most recent graves were from the 1940s. It was small, less than half the size of a football field. The local historical society had rescued and recovered it from years of neglect and overgrowth. Many of the stones had been damaged by vandals, tree roots, and time. The graves had long been forgotten and because many of the stones were out of place, they had no way of knowing which one went where. They came up with an idea to still display the stones. They made walkways with them by intermingling them among paving stones and cobblestones. Maybe not the most ideal method of preservation, but it did serve as a memorial of sorts.

It is also fascinating to see the similarities and differences in cemeteries from region to region and country to country. Some of the most awesome ones are the "old world" types that so often come to mind when we think of our favorite horror flicks. Many of those across Europe contain the victims of plagues and epidemics of proportions many of us have never even imagined, much less seen. Those like St. Louis in New Orleans have their residents in above ground crypts and vaults, away from the danger of their swampy environments, but much closer to the living.

One final thought to leave you with: regardless of our status, wealth, fame, or place in life, we all end up in the same place eventually.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Do You Ever Get Scared?

Over the years people have asked me all sorts of questions about being in the paranormal field and doing what we do. I have been chasing the paranormal for 40 years, long before it was cool or fashionable to be doing so. It has just been a part of life for me. I decided to do a "Q & A" with myself and use a few of these questions. For my other colleagues in the field, these probably look very familiar as well.

Do you ever get scared?
I can honestly say that I do not get scared. I have been startled on occasion, but that keeps things interesting.

Have you ever been touched by ghost?
Yes. I have been touched, pushed, hit, scratched, had my hair touched or pulled, grabbed, and so on. I have also gotten physically ill or had physical pain for no apparent reason.

Do you encounter demons?
My encounters with what could be classified as a "true demon" have been rare. I have most often encountered very nasty spirits who are extremely angry or just evil. There have been occasions when I have come across elementals that were not very nice or were very negative and oppressive.

Why do you do this kind of thing?
The main reason is that I want answers. I also want to help those who may be frightened of what is happening in their homes. I want to be able to give them answers and help them understand. I also want to help the entities who may be lost or confused. They may want to move on and not know how. Sometimes they are afraid or do not understand what has happened to them.

Why do you do this for free?
It would be very cool to actually get paid for doing something I enjoy and have fun at. Maybe some day we can all get paid for what we do. In the meantime, I do it for the satisfaction. Many clients who need my help are not able to afford to pay. I feel that I have been given a unique gift and need to use it for a higher purpose than just making money.

How do you feel about people who do not believe?
I learned a long time ago that it is not up to me to convince anyone or turn them into believers. I can only collect and present credible, legitimate evidence and data. Everyone has to make their own decisions as to whether or not they believe it. Many people will never be believers and others may not become believers until they have their own experiences.

These are just a few of the questions that I get asked. I may address some more in future posts. Do you have any questions you would like me to answer? Post a reply.

Until next time......

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