Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gobble, Gobble...

To sum up the last few days:

Wednesday was a visit to an allegedly haunted home in East Cleveland (which I shall refrain from commenting on at this time). Thanksgiving was spent with friends at a fiercely non-traditional gathering hosted by my friend Bill. Friday was spent in the kitchen making pumpkin cheesecake and my special stuffing/dressing for family. Saturday was another long trip to visit my sister for a post-Turkey Day celebration before returning home and collapsing from exhaustion (not literally, mind you).

Thanksgiving is one of the many holidays I can take or leave. Considering it's an American holiday dating to the one time when Puritans and Native Americans were on good terms with each other, there isn't much to celebrate in my opinion. Native peoples saved the invaders from starvation only to be persecuted and slaughtered for a few centuries... how utterly American to dress it up all pretty like some Rockwell painting of togetherness and joy. I would think a candlelight vigil would be a better homage...

After recovering from sleep deprivation, I pulled my three-foot Christmas tree out of the closet today, but I'm still trying to figure out where to set it up. It's too small for the floor, too big for my desk, and no other piece of furniture seems fitting for it. And then there's the issue of choosing an outlet that isn't in use. This could turn into an all-day project. And yes, I resurrected my Wishlist in time for the holidays. I need to get my hands on a few of the books to get back into the habit of regular reading again.

Tomorrow, I'll be writing about an author who combines his scientific background with parapsychology, so for those of you looking for hard science backing up paranormal research, you won't want to miss this one...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Not-So-Instant Replay...

Once more, I'm behind on posts! I'll have to catch up late tomorrow when I'm back home from the late Thanksgiving dinner with family. Meanwhile, thanks to Chuck over at Creepy Cleveland, the videos from my Halloween appearance on Cleveland's Channel 8 show That's Life are now on YouTube!

And here they are...

Hell Town

CryBaby Bridge

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Odd News Briefs...

In the last few busy weeks, several news stories fell through the cracks. Here's a little glimpse at some of the obscure events happening around the globe.

Keep You on Your Toes...

Darlington, Victoria has a new claim to fame: it will soon be home to Australia's first "vertical cemetery". Bodies will be buried on biodegradable shrouds standing upright at a cost of $2000—that's a savings of $5000 on a traditional burial. After all the plots are filled, it will become grazing and for cattle (gives a while new meaning to being put out to pasture, doesn't it?). Critics in the mortuary business say it's "disrespectful to the dead" but in these tough economic times, people aren't too shook up over their rotting corpses.

Mobile Monolith...

After selling their historic manor in Abbotts Court, John and Suzy Burton planned to leave a stone circle constructed by fashion guru Thomas Burberry at the site. The developer made clear his plans to demolish the neo-pagan structure, so the couple decided to take it with them. Neighbors were caught off guard as trucks and cranes descended on the suburbs of Dorchester, setting up the the massive stones. Both practicing witches, the Burtons brought their coven to consecrate the grounds. The added positive energy to the neighborhood has been quite wel-received.

Sweet Astronomy...

Do extraterrestrials have a sweet tooth? It's possible, since scientists recently found traces of glycoaldehyde—an organic compound related to simple sugar—some 26,000 light years from earth. The discovery, in a remote section of the central Milky Way where life was thought to be impossible, has brought up questions about other life forms existing in space. But the real, burning question is: one lump or two?

Wolf Man No More...

People suffering from "Werewolf Syndrome" may soon be able to live normal lives. Scientists at New York's Colombia University have made advances in a possible treatment for hypertrichosis, involving testosterone injections. 50 people wordwide suffer from the disease, leading to excessive hair growth over the entire body. This is good news for patients, but bad news for razor manufacturers and circus sideshows.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Half Century of Science Fiction...

Sunday marked a milestone which passed me by entirely. It was the 45th anniversary of the British scifi series Doctor Who.

On the day following John F. Kennedy's assassination, November 23, 1963, the first episode of Doctor Who hit the airwaves. Through its many seasons, spinoffs, and incarnations, it has remained a popular story. It follows the adventures of "the Doctor", a time-traveling alien "time lord" on his journeys throughout time and space, correcting injustices and exploring frontiers in a less-than-reliable archaic time machine known as the TARDIS.

On an interesting side note, the show is featured in one of my favorite movies. In several scenes of Get Real, the lead character's father is watching old episodes. A Doctor Who clock is proudly displayed on the wall and he is dressed as a Cyberman (one of the Doctor's adversaries) as he prepares to attend a convention. On another interesting note, the lead actor (Ben Silverstone) is older than me... by only six days.

The show has seen 751 aired episodes since the 1960s and is featured in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-running scifi series in history. Ten separate actors have been cast in the main role over the decades, including Peter Davison ('Tristan' from All Creatures Great and Small) and the most current, David Tennant.

This show marked my first indoctrination into scifi only a few years ago and quickly became a favorite. Its mix of real history, bizarre creatures, philosophical undercurrents, and quirky humor add to its unique charm.

So, happy belated birthday, Doctor Who. Here's to hoping for many more years of fantastical oddities...

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Change Will Do You Good...

Since I've been completely neglecting my duties as webmaster/co-founder, I finally decided to get a little work done on P.R.O.U.D. (Paranormal Researchers Out and United in Diversity), the networking site Buck and I created. The main goal for today was a change in color. I'm not sure about the rest of you, but the orange text was boring me to no end!

So, to give it a little overhaul and a more "spiritual" scheme, I switched to shades of indigo and violet. Much easier on the eyes. And while I was there, I decided to help fill up some of the forum areas that were lacking. Six posts seem to be a good start. The banner is still slightly difficult to read, but I'll figure it out eventually.

Otherwise, I still have to get things finished and uploaded on my regular website, work on Christmas ideas, and send out a few more queries (probably next week, since Thursday is a holiday) along with the usual "yah, mule, yah" of subservitude in certain affairs. But I shall rank items in the coming months by a) importance; and b) purpose. After all, life is too short to be led from the barn only to get hitched to a plow for a few hours before being sent back into your stall in the barn. That means the new word for 2009 will be "diversify".

And so... once more unto the breach, dear friends! Time for me to slap that feed bag across my mouth and plow ahead!

Keys to a Secret Melody...

A mystery surfaced this weekend along a dirt road near Harwich, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. A piano of unknown origin found itself lost in the woods.

Discovered by a hiker at 3:00 PM Saturday, the Baldwin upright piano sitting peacefully in a wooded section of Bell's Neck Conservation Area has perplexed authorities. It was perfectly in tune and came complete with bench. Given its immense weight, this was no simple feat. It took several men to move the instrument back to storage as police await answers.

Was it theft, abandonment, or a prank? No one has come forward to claim it. The Arcosonic upright, model number 987 - serial number 733746, remains in police custody as local law enforcement search for its rightful owner. Anyone knowing information related to its origins or the individuals who moved it to the site are asked to contact Harwich police.

Is it the work of Liberace's ghost, a tortured pianist seeking solitude, or bored teenagers? The ivories aren't telling...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Curious Case of a Michigan Haunting...

I was recently referred by a friend to a woman living in rural Michigan with strange tales about her haunted home. For the past two years, she and her daughter have experienced countess unexplainable phenomena in the 130-year-old house. While she has been too terrified to attempt any audio recordings, she has taken hundreds of photographs hoping to gather some evidence to support her claims.

As is often the case, many of the images relayed to me by the owner are too difficult to judge as "paranormal" in nature. She does not use a flash, afraid that it could adversely effect any ghostly phenomena, therefore many of the images are darkened beyond recognition. Yet one stands out above the rest. After her dog began reacting to some unseen presence, she snapped a photograph in her living room in the direction of her dog's agitation.

What appeared on the left side of the image was the figure you see here* to the left of the text. No one else was in the home at the time. It might appear menacing to some, though I feel it could easily be a teenage boy dressed in Goth clothing.

As I help her find a local investigation team to explore her case, I can't help but wonder about the effects of camera flash in investigation techniques. Perhaps she's on to something. Would the same results have occurred with a flash? Everyone has their own unique methods of capturing evidence. It might be something interesting to try in the future... even though I loathe the digital camera and its use in investigations.

So, just what else have we been missing while blinding each other with brilliant halogen flashes? Instead of highlighting dust "orbs" and mosquito "faeries", could we be missing the good stuff?

*The image was brightened for this post for clarification.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Dashing Through the Snow...

Another class was finished tonight with members of Cuyahoga Valley Paranormal. The topic was electronic voice phenomena (EVP). Once more, the time flew by too fast and not everything was accomplished, but everything went smoothly. Participants joined us in an attempt to capture voices on tape in the upstairs theater in the former Grant School. While I haven't analyzed my tape yet, one woman was pushed by an unseen force.

Otherwise, I'm exhausted. So much to do, so little time. And there are always so many things to catch up on. Emails to send, queries to write, research to do... not to mention a never-ending list of plans and menial tasks waiting for completion. Perhaps Mother Nature wasn't so off course with this wintry weather. It gives me a little time to sow down and get to work.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Disappointed Demon and Nutty Ghosts...

My comedic tastes range from the traditional to the insane. And with the latter, one New York comedy troop comes to mind: The Whitest Kids U'Know. Their sketches range from absurd to offensive, yet comedy (as with beauty) is in the eye of the beholder.

I've been overdue for a good dose of comedy and thought I'd share with you all a few interesting video clips from their program. Surprisingly, they each have a paranormal theme. The first follows a demon assigned to a Ouija board at a slumber party. It's followed by a skit surrounding an office worker plagued by the supernatural. Like most jokes from WKUK, they speak entirely for themselves.

The second video is definitely not safe for work... though it is work-themed.

Ouija Board Demon

Can You See Them?

Making It Count...

This morning, I decided to take a chance and apply for the 2010 US Census slated for this coming summer. They were having the test and application process at my local library, so I really had no convenient excuse.

There were only four people in attendance, including me, so everything went by quickly and smoothly. The exam, just shy of 30 multiple-choice questions, was graded at the end so we were given instant results. I had the highest score: 100%. The instructor was a bit shocked, since he hadn't graded a perfect exam in a very long time. This includes a 17-year-old high school student who missed one recently.

So yes... I'm smarter than a high school student. Which, given the state of our educational system, doesn't say much.

Now, it's back to the waiting game to see if I'm selected. Considering the number of census records I've researched over the years, I think I could handle the work and have a decent grasp of the data collected. Plus, it's a government job... which would look quite favorable on my resume. I'm not too concerned about the background check, but we shall see what they say.

It's another opportunity to be a part of history. Every little bit counts!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nothing is Written in Stone...

I feel a bit like celebrating today. Perhaps it might sound somewhat absurd or illogical, but I am happy to say I received my first form rejection letter in the mail. That makes three at this point. (I almost forgot about the second because the email was one whole sentence long.)

Any why am I not furious or deeply upset by this? Well, a few reasons. First, they all actually RESPONDED to my query. Many individuals in the literary world will bluntly tell you they won't reply if not interested. Secondly, none of them made any negative comments on my work itself. The rejections have a been based on the subject matter not being a topic they would choose to carry. Even without having procured a publisher, I remain content and steadfast in my belief in the project. And several publishers and agents, while rejecting my request of representation, have wished me the best of luck with the manuscript.

So, is it their fault? Not at all. Not only is the book radically different from anything else previously written, the current economic climate makes everyone weary. They're all in this business to turn a profit and when something obscure and without precedent comes along, it's a risky venture. If anything, it's my fault. Not in a negative way, mind you. I'm paving a new course through virgin woods. I could play it safe and follow the path commonly traveled, yet I chose against that.

I still have my options that I am pursuing, with both publishers and agents. I'm not going down without an exhaustive effort. As Cullan advised, I am not ruling out the self-publishing route if that becomes my sole option. Of course, if I do end up doing it all myself, I've earned enough from the past to know how I'll go about it. The cover design will be more elaborate and difficulties with layout will need to be remedied. Distribution will have to be a top priority, as well as free media copies for promotion.

But I'll cross that bridge when I get there. For now, I'm just happy to know that although no one has decided my manuscript is worth the risk, I'm on the right path.

Feeling Flushed?

Today marks the 8th observance of World Toilet Day. I shit you not! (I'm sorry... that was too easy.) According to the World Toilet Organization, the idea behind it is simple: 'we deserve better'. This means more respect for sanitation workers, elevation of the "social status" of porcelain bowls, and proper potty facilities for the billions of people around the world without a place to pop a squat.

But bowel movements are big business. Recently at the World Toilet Summit, heath advocates have began rallying for "flushless commodes" to curb wasted water. In Australia, there is even contemplation of a Toilet Tax to cut down on wasted water from flushing.

To mark this day celebrating a device which became a standard fixture of homes thanks to the diligent efforts of Thomas Crapper, I thought it fitting to pay homage to the bathroom ghost. While these videos might be legitimate or fake, they are entertaining nonetheless.

A 'Ghost Boy' in a UK Bathroom

Boy 'Apparition' in Bathroom in Venezuela

Monday, November 17, 2008

When A Rabbit's Foot Just Won't Do...

Africa's greatest export these days seems to be bizarre news of human stupidity and strangeness. The madness of witchcraft hysteria sweeping across parts of the country has once more captured media attention. This time, the targets are far easier to spot...

The murders of at least 29 albinos have caused quite a stir in Tanzania. This time, it's the witch doctors believed to be responsible for the crimes. While peddling body parts on the black market is hardly new, these crimes are different. Humans with albinism are believed to possess magical properties; their limbs, hair, and other parts are thought to make excellent charms for good luck and wealth while drinking their blood or consuming flesh is said to grant the consumer bountiful fortune. Fishermen pay large sums for albino hair to weave into nets for attracting fish. Amulets made from human albinos are snatched up by miners looking to hit the mother lode in gemstone mines.

I'm sure even the Donner Party would find this news beyond taboo.

Greed and ignorance have lead to the slaughter of countless victims. A Lake Tanganyika fisherman reportedly sold his 24-year-old albino wife to Congo businessmen last week for £2,000. Already this year, police have arrested over 170 witch doctors and citizens for crimes against albinos and marketing body parts. One in 4,000 people are said to display signs of albinism in Tanzania, meaning hundreds of thousands of Tanzanians may be in danger of attacks. Many live in a constant state of fear. Many of those escaping with their lives or yet unaffected by the crimes are seeking police protection and asylum.

In a country where men live in fear of rape by the bat-winged creature known as Popo Bawa, these beliefs and superstitions are hardly surprising. But trafficking in pieces of pale people for profit? It's quite a disturbing trend and testament to the madness of humanity...

Dead Comedy Lives Long in History...

"This parrot is no more! It has ceased to be! It's a stiff! ...Bereft of life, he rests in peace! ...He's kicked the bucket, he's shuffled off his mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!"

While Monty Python became famous for these memorable lines from their "Dead Parrot Sketch", the joke itself predates the British comedy routine... by nearly 1,600 years!

A recently republished collection of some of the world's oldest jokes, Philogelos: The Laugh Addict, contains an ancient Greek witticism written in 4 AD about a man returning a recently-purchased dead slave to his seller. "By the gods, when he was with me, he never did any such thing!" replies the seller.

Fortunately for John Cleese and the rest of his comedic comrades, there were no copyright infringements made on the joke since it was written without prior knowledge of the Greek farce. Besides, the author is long since dead... and unavailable for refund, as well.

If you've never watched the Monty Python sketch, or care to revisit it, here's a clip from a live performance in 1976:

You can also get your own plush "sleeping" parrot in remembrance of the classic British comedy skit.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

You're as Cold as Ice...

The most tumultuous thing about this weekend, fortunately, was the weather.

Yesterday evening was an interesting dinner in Cleveland with a few friends and the paranormal troop during monsoon-like weather. Rock Bottom Brewery may be an allegedly haunted place, but the only frightening part about visiting the Powerhouse in the Flats is the $6 parking fee for the building. Wind whipped rain off Lake Erie after earlier thunderstorms, adding a bit of mystique to the illuminated building... and puddles to dodge as you run back to the parking lot.

The temperature plummeted by nightfall in anticipation of today's snow. I stayed up a tad bit later than normal to catch some Doctor Who on BBC America. A relaxed morning gave way to wading through junk email and plotting out the coming week. Snow began to coat outdoor surfaces this evening and it isn't expected to let up for the next week. Winter has arrived in northeast Ohio, just in time to curtail outdoor plans and remind me of the unpredictability of Mother Nature.

It might be a good week for a coffee shop meeting with friends after all...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Baa Baa Black Sheep...

(or "Being a Loathed Maverick Without Running for Political Office...")

For most of my life, I have felt like a casual observer of humanity on the outside of an aquarium looking in at the inner workings of social interaction and human behavior. I guess it comes as no surprise that I still often feel like an outsider on the fringe. Some of my beliefs aren't in line with majority views. I march to my own drummer, even when it meets with resistance.

This is certainly true in the paranormal community. I don't try to pass off every round photographic anomaly as an orb. I'm not an avid "Ghost Hunters" viewer and I don't offer ghost housekeeping services or magical cleansings, which may or may not work. I hold myself to the same level of scrutiny as I find from both believers and skeptics alike. And often I clash with both peers and critics.

But that's part of the job. They say that if you can't handle a rejection letter, you have no business being a writer. On the same token, if you can't weather harsh criticism with the paranormal, it might not be your best choice of career or hobby.

I remember sitting in the waiting area at Cleveland Scene Magazine years ago, waiting to have my picture taken to accompany an article being published. As I read a newspaper (Tip: if you want to appear ignorant of your surroundings, pretend to be reading or watching television), the secretary began discussing the latest news with a colleague.

"So, what happened with this ghost hunting article Chris was writing about?"

"He said it was stupid. A bunch of weird people wandering in the dark talking about seeing spirits. The head guy was okay but some of the others were crazy."

Just then, the journalist and photographer came over to whisk me away to an empty room to snap a photo of me holding a flashlight and "acting" like I was looking for something. I flashed a polite smile to the secretary as I passed; a look of embarrassed dread crossed her face. Minutes later, I returned to the waiting room to head out.

"I'm so sorry about what I said," she pleaded.

I brushed it off. "Don't worry about it. I've been called worse. And I know it seems a bit strange to most people, but I still find it interesting."

I showed her my website, explained my own skepticism, and let her glance at my few photos. She played a few EVP's before shutting down her browser.

"Okay, I'm creeped out. I can't listen to any more!"

I left feeling content that she now knew I wasn't some lunatic with a flashlight.

The desire for fame can be blinding to beginners. Everyone, it seems, wants to be a Kennedy but doesn't want to face possible bullets. And they do come flying in the form of quiet remarks or swift attacks. It can be as subtle as offhand comments behind your back or patronizing statements passed off as fake surprise or enthusiasm (and many fail to detect it). At other times, comments are directly thrust in your face, defiantly declaring you a fraud or psychopath.

This is an extremely controversial topic. The more exposure you gain, the more open to attacks we all become. Just looking at the latest TAPS jacket-pulling debate is proof of that. Is it fake? I don't have an opinion. It could be or couldn't be. But I'm not here to judge and burn bridges. I will say this much: the truth will come out eventually. If it end up being fraudulent, I'd focus my blame on pressures from behind-the-scenes. People fail to realize the level of control producers and management exert on television and film. Once you're a celebrity, you no longer have the final say in anything. You're just a pawn. Every word is monitored while contracts are dangled over your head like blackmail letters. It's a tough, cruel world.

Even if you haven't achieved ultimate fame, people smile at you with concealed daggers waiting for a chance to plunge it into your back. Paranormal investigators scratch and claw at each other to prove themselves worthier of positive press. Instead of teamwork, it's a dog-eat-dog world. Belittling others becomes the norm. Dramas become more frequent than any found in booze-soaked gay bars. Ultimately, most investigators lead a nomadic existence after years of battling these petty forces.

And so, here I am: the black sheep. Not much has changed in over a decade. The same battles and nitpicking surrounds me. Newbies still become overnight experts. Seasoned researchers fight bitterness and apathy. The world keeps spinning yet some feel the need to make themselves the axis. Every day feels like going into battle, and the comrades are few and far between.

Somewhere along the way, we forgot why we're in this. The paranormal takes a backseat to popularity and oneupmanship. It takes a tough skin and strong sense of humor to survive. But no one ever said it was easy to be different. Unpaved roads are never without a few bumps. But the view from afar—the view from the outside—is so much better.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Back to School...

Another busy, chaotic week draws itself to a close. Research, query letters, catching up on email slowly...

Tonight, I helped out two friends with an adult education class dealing with paranomal topics. It felt somewhat strange setting foot in a former-high-school-turned-community-center and not because of any possible ghostly happenings. There was something eerily odd about the rows of empty lockers. Everything seems so different after years away from the scene.

The class itself went quite well (far better than anticipated) and I actually had a chance to speak quite a bit throughout the night. As is often the case with these things, it ran over time-wise, but no one complained. There is always too much to talk about and not enough time in a two-hour slot to fit everything in. Still, there is next week when I'll be filling in again...

It was nice having an excuse to wear a shirt and tie, but exhausting nonetheless. And if I plan on being conscious for tomorrow, I should hit the hay while I still can...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Even Celebrities Love Ghosts...

British pop singer Robbie Williams isn't limiting himself to ufology these days. All realms of the supernatural are fair game.

A group of 15 teenagers in England were surprised by the singer while investigating the Leopard Inn in Burslem, Staffordshire for a local educational project called Reach4It. Williams was there for the Halloween hunt with his mother Jan and his girlfriend Ayda Field. He congratulated the teens on their work investigating the alleged hauntings.

Being the good sport he is, he picked up the group's £200 tab for the tour, food, and drinks.

Between autographs and photo ops, Williams asked the group a multitude of questions about the paranormal and their work. During their later investigation, some of the teens reported slamming doors and strange lights.

The Leopard Inn has been a public house since at east 1765 when Josiah Wedgwood (founder of the famed Wedgwood pottery) met with James Brindley to discuss construction of the Trent and Mersey Canal. The hotel portion of the business closed in 1956 and was reopened in 2007 with plans for restoration.

Bewitch It Like Beckham...

Amulets and charms might sound a bit silly to some, but a little good luck never hurts. Just ask Victoria and David Beckham.

With David leaving soon to join a soccer team in Milan, Italy, the couple exchanged necklaces as an early 10th anniversary present. They're not your ordinary jewelery; each hand-carved, gold-and-silver Japanese pendant features Archangel Raphael.

"The energy they emit is incredibly powerful," Victoria told Vogue Magazine. "These pieces act as talismans of love, healing and protection."

This isn't the first talisman to be worn by David. He currently wears another charmed necklace believed to effect libido and endurance. Judging by what Victoria has mentioned in the past, it must work!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Difficulties in Snapping a Picture...

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not an expert digital photographer. I still prefer the "old school" 35mm camera over modern technology. But while wandering Woodland Cemetery last week, I saw a perfect photo opportunity and captured the moment.

It took a few tries, but I finally managed.

Digital is the opposite of 35mm when it comes to lighting. Most pictures end up bleached. But this one (after three other tries) came out perfect. I just had to share it, since it brought out my long-dormant artistic side.

Click on the image to view it full-sized (1024 x 768).

Monday, November 10, 2008

This Too Shall Pass...

As I hinted at late last week, I received my first rejection letter for the new manuscript. Surprising? Well, yes and no. I wasn't surprised to be rejected by the first publisher I contacted. However, I was a bit caught off guard by the reasonings.

Ultimately, two factors came into play. One I can understand yet cannot remedy because of the cost of doing so. The second... well, altering that would change the entire premise of the book! It was a long wait for naught, but I remain undaunted by the result. I have gleaned some positive feedback on my material and I know that all will end well. I'm taking a risk with this project and sadly, publishers fear risk. Most authors in the past have dealt with rejection and it's part of the job. Thinking outside the box has its price to pay.

I was disheartened and saddened for all of two hours. I can't allow myself to wallow for long. Besides, publishers are a dime a dozen, right? Someone will be more receptive. I have many friends standing behind me on this project and many others who are very excited about it, so I remain steadfast in my belief that it will become something good. I'll begin going through my list of publishers this week again and pursuing someone with an open mind willing to take the risk.

Meanwhile, I have plenty more writing to finish and places to research. It'll be a busy month again for me, but I don't mind in the slightest.

A Long Day's Journey into Night...

The past several days have been so jam-packed with things to do that I didn't have time to write about each day as it happened. I will, however, do my best to recap last week and this weekend in a more condensed version.

Wednesday marked my first experience traveling Greyhound. I've always been the "don't knock it 'til you try it" type, so I kept an open mind. The first leg to Columbus was definitely better than I had expected from word of mouth. Few passengers made for a quiet trip, though it was what could be described as a teeth-rattling journey. Every bump on the road seemed exaggerated by the bus, sending a ripple of rattling metal and intense vibration throughout. At times it was a scenic experience, but I was grateful to get off for my brief wait in one of my old home cities.

From there, it was on to Dayton in a packed bus, sitting with a motley mix of people. A younger man sat across from me in a sweat suit, carrying a brown paper bag. Having known a diverse range of people in my life, I knew he had recently been released from prison. He talked on a cell phone, along with a dozen others, while the tinny sound of music escaped from head phones nearby. After more than an hour of journeying, we touched down in Dayton. My friend Earl was there waiting. I met his partner Chuck and unwound at their house near Germantown. After a long day of traveling, much of Wednesday is but a blur. We had ourselves a lovely meal of stroganoff and watched a few old films before retiring for the long day ahead.

Thursday became a day of exploration. With the pleasant weather, we took a bit of a haunted tour of the Dayton region, based on a few notes I had taken prior to departure. We stopped at the old Sorg Mansion and Sorg Opera House to snap some photographs and marvel at the beautiful architecture of the old neighborhood. Sorg House loomed over the skyline like the House on Haunted Hill, with its intricately carved stonework and wrought iron gates. It had recently been sold to an unknown owner, so getting a peek inside was out of the question. We did stop at the local Obama headquarters to chat with the volunteers packing up before heading out for a bite to eat. Later, we went through Woodland Cemetery, home of dozens of fantastic haunted tales, and wandered among the tombstones. The Wright Brothers rest there along with many notable names. And I was quite pleased to see the famous stone of young Johnny Morehouse had been repaired (a vandal had removed the dog's head from the old stone, but it had apparently been recovered and reattached). Back at Earl and Chuck's, I put my culinary skills to work and made chicken paprikash. Even without authentic Hungarian paprika, it turned out splendidly.

Friday was a dreary day, but we managed to wander Germantown Cemetery and have a conversation with the groundskeeper (who debunked the majority of the hauntings) before setting off for Dayton again. Given the shift in temperature, we stopped at a store so I could buy a sweater (I hadn't packed for cooler weather since the forecast I glanced at claimed warmer weather would prevail) before stopping to visit the Patterson Homestead. The museum was open so we had an opportunity to take a tour of the house, given by a nice and (extremely) bubbly guide. Through her torrent of historical information, we did manage to ask a few questions and she was very open to telling her personal experiences of the hauntings and invited me to investigate the place when I return. We grabbed a late lunch near the University of Dayton before returning to their home for some photography and a bite to eat. Earl and I headed out to Miamisburg to pay a visit to Library Park, a former cemetery with a documented ghostly legend from the late 1800s, and stood for a long spell on the steps of the old Carnegie Library chatting about everything under the sun.

Saturday was a more relaxing day. We met with Earl's photographer friend Rich for lunch at Brio in The Greene, chatting about the paranormal and eating what can only be described as a delicious and very filling meal. We spent some time browsing the nearby bookstore (unfortunately, none of the books I was looking for were on the shelves) before Earl and I returned to the quaint countryside near Germantown to get ready for dinner with a few of his friends. There were problems making reservations, but we managed to get a table thanks to the quick thinking of Tim and Trent. We had a splendid time at Tim's birthday dinner, though my shyness did rear its head. Tim and Trent were wonderful people: intelligent, witty, and at times hilarious. I did receive a few jibes for being the youngest one there, which came out more so later at Tim And Trent's house during a brief tour of their abode (Trent pointed out various celebrities in photographs who had been famous "before I was born" and smartly commented with a smirk that I could Google the names later). We munched on ice cream and cookies and chatted about spooks (they believe their house is haunted) and politics before returning to Chuck and Earl's to hit the sack.

I bid farewell to Chuck and Earl on Sunday before heading back north on the packed Greyhound bus. During my three-hour layover in Columbus, I had coffee and pastries with clairvoyant Rebecca Muller and her husband. The were both very nice people great to converse with regarding hauntings, orbs, and everything else. They noted how dead downtown Columbus has become and grumbled about the stupidity of the city's drivers as we weaved around closed roads and orange barrels. We spoke of famous hauntings and TAPS blunders before I returned once more to the station for my final bus... and not a moment too soon, for they began boarding only minutes after I arrived. A few hours later, I found myself in rainy Akron again, headed north and grabbed a quick bite to eat before collapsing into bed.

Overall, it was an incredibly wonderful experience. Both Earl and Chuck were gracious hosts and excellent conversationalists. The friends which I had the pleasure of meeting were all just as witty, fun, and whimsical. Of course, as is often the case with travel, there never seemed to be enough time for everything, but I know it won't be my final visit. Yes, Dayton is an imperfect city, but it has its gems. I took from it some very fond memories and plenty of things to contemplate. The tarot readings Earl and I exchanged on Sunday morning were quite interesting and enlightening as well. It may take me a while to digest the entire journey, but it was a welcomed break from the monotony I sometimes find myself trapped in.

But now, it's time to get back to work...