Friday, May 26, 2017

Fascination with the Paranormal

Why the Paranormal?

     I made a recent trip to Southport, NC, mainly to go fishing, but I took one afternoon to do a little “ghost hunting” in the old Southport Burial Grounds and around the grounds of Fort Johnston, now a visitor center on the Cape Fear River.  The fort was originally built in the mid-18th century to protect the coastal town from attack by the Spanish and French.

     I started in the old cemetery which has grave markers dating back to about the time of the construction of Fort Johnston, a couple of blocks away.  I spent time perusing the headstone and just enjoying the peaceful serenity beneath the oak tree canopy.  I snapped a number of photos but nothing out of the ordinary caught my attention.  I also conducted a couple of EVP sessions and checked for EMF activity.  I got one small unexplainable spike on the EMF meter so I quickly took out my voice recorder and began recording and asking questions.  While I did not record any voices, there was some unexplained static interference on the recording right after the EMF spike.  I checked overhead and around the immediate area for anything that may have caused the spike, but saw nothing that would explain it.  Further, I returned to that same area two more times but did not get the same spike, nor did I get any further interference on the voice recorder.  I can’t say for certain that this was due to any paranormal activity, but I did find it odd, especially since I could not replicate the spike or the static interference on the recorder.

     I then walked over the visitor center, which was closed for the day, but I could still walk around the grounds.  I snapped a number of photos and did an EMF sweep as well as an EVP session, all with negative results.  I did snap a photo of an upstairs window of the maritime museum adjacent to the visitor center, and while I’d love to say that the image I captured was paranormal, I have to tell you that it is of a ghostly looking figure purposely posed in the window looking out toward the river.  I’ve included the photograph here for your pleasure – can you make out the figure?  Looks pretty eerie, huh?

     So while my little expedition did not turn up anything, I did sit there on a swing looking out over the Cape Fear and pondered the reasons for my affinity for the paranormal.  I have been fascinated with “ghost stories” since I was a kid, but I don’t know for sure how it began.  I can recall my father and his brothers telling ghost stories around the camp fire when we would go camping, and I don’t mean traditional ghost stories, but rather odd situations they had encountered while growing up in Boone, NC.  My grandmother also told me a tale about being in the house with just my youngest uncle one afternoon when she heard a ball come bouncing down the steps.  No one was upstairs and my uncle, who was very young at the time, was in the same room with my grandmother, so there was no explanation for the bouncing ball.

     I also recall checking out library books that contained ghost stories.  My favorite was Ghosts of the Carolinas, by Nancy Roberts.  I must have checked that book out a dozen times and the stories never got old.  I also enjoyed books about pirates of the NC coast.  Perhaps it was these books that made me imagine that the church up the street from my childhood home was haunted.  It had a tall steeple with frosted windows looking out from the belfry.  I once imagined seeing a figure pass in front of one of those windows and I was ever convinced the place was haunted.  One afternoon, while playing in the church playground, a friend of mine and I came across a door that was swinging open on the side of the church building.  We didn’t know where it led, but would later find that it was a storage room.  As we approached the door, I eased it back far enough for us to peer inside and was startled to find this large white image standing before us.  I don’t have to tell you that we hightailed it away from that door as fast as we could run and hid by the swings, watching for any movement around the open door.  After what seemed like a long time, but I’m sure it was just a couple of minutes, we braved another peek to see if this ghostly figure was still present.  It was, but this time I looked a little closer and was able to discover that my ghost was merely a white canvass sheet draped over a step ladder. Apparently the maintenance man had done some painting earlier and did not secure the door to the utility room when he returned his ladder and drop cloth.  While it was both a relief and a disappointment to discover the identity of our phantom, I still can feel the sudden, frightful shock upon encountering the “ghost.”

     I would continue to be interested in ghostly stories and horror movies through my teens and into young adulthood.  Finally, when I was in college, I had what I truly believe to be my first encounter with the paranormal.  My family moved into a rental house on the eastside of Charlotte, NC.  I loved it because my room was an add-on and was the result of the owner having closed in the original carport.  It was separated from the rest of the house by a small atrium with my own entrance through a rear door.  I even had my own bathroom and shower.  I was living the high life!  But I soon began to hear strange scratching noises in my walls.  At first I thought perhaps some critter had become lodged in the wall behind the drywall – that is until I realized my room was not constructed of drywall.  The walls of my room were merely plaster over the original brick walls of the carport (later confirmed by how frigidly cold it got in there on winter evenings) and there was no way for anything to get behind or within them.  Yet, the scratching persisted, summer, autumn, winter – no matter the season, something was scratching inside the plastered brick walls of my room.

     This was not the only thing that raised the hair on my neck.  My parents still went camping often and being too “cool” for that, I often stayed home while they went away.  One night while sitting in the living room alone watching TV, I heard the very distinct sound of the attic stairs being unfolded and let down in the hallway.  I was frozen with fear, knowing, or at least thinking, that I was the only person in the house.  I got up the nerve to ease into the hallway, fully expecting to see the attic agape, only to find that it was shut up tight as ever.  Relieved, and puzzled, I returned to the living room only to hear it again an hour or so later.  This would not be the last time I would hear this very distinct sound.  For fear of my parents thinking me crazy, I never talked about it or the scratching sounds in my wall.  I kept it to myself until one day several years after we had moved out of the house my grandmother was visiting. She expressed her pleasure with never having to visit us again at the old house because it was haunted - her words nor mine.  She too had heard the attic stairs come down on multiple occasions.  I confessed my experiences and my brother opened up ab out having experienced some of the same things as well as having heard noises issuing from the basement.  None of us had ever mentioned it while living in the house, but now it is a source of much amusement whenever we get together.  I wish I had known then what I know now with regard to EMF detectors, EVPs, etc.  That would have been a fun place to conduct an investigation.  I often wonder if the current owners / tenants experience some of the same phenomena that we did.

     So, I’m still not certain when my fascination with the paranormal began, but it’s clear that I have had an interest from a very young age.  I do have a colorful imagination, but I am not making up anything that I write in this blog.  And while I cannot explain these occurrences, I can say with full honesty that they have happened just as we have written about them.  Paranormal?  I think so, but I’ll let you, the readers, draw your own conclusions.  Until our next adventure, I am your faithful servant,


                                               Southport Burial Ground

                                          Too bad this isn't real, huh?

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