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It’s Hard to Find Ghosts in New Orleans

I love New Orleans. That’s incredibly high praise coming from someone who hates cities. I’d much rather hike in the woods or paddle a kayak on a quiet lake instead of spending all day shopping, then hitting up the clubs at night. But New Orleans is different…at least parts of it. The French Quarter in particular has a magical quality that nearly persuaded me (for a few brief moments, anyway) that living there might be a dream come true.

This was not my first impression of the city, however. My first impression was one of true terror—but not the kind I had hoped to find. There were no ghosts upon entering the city. No vampires. No rougarou greeting me with a vicious snarl, or an unknown creature reaching out from the depths of Lake Pontchartrain.

No. My first impression was trying to find my hotel by driving through ridiculously crowded Memorial Day weekend streets: Streets that were planned out in the late 1700s for a population of under 150,000 and haven’t been updated to accommodate hordes of drunks and 21st century traffic. There were far more drunk people in the streets than vehicles…and there were a LOT of vehicles.

I adjusted quickly. I typically do.

But how does one find ghosts, vampires, and all other creatures of lore in an environment so crowded? In a place that defines the term ‘sensory overload’?

Clearly people do. It’s known for being one of the most haunted cities in the United States, perhaps even the world. It’s filled with legends of vampires, and nearly every building has a ghost story attached to it. It seems like there’s a voodoo shop, metaphysical store, or museum dedicated to dark tourism on every block; at least in some parts of town. And yet, though every street has a scary story to tell, I spent a week there and didn’t find even one paranormal entity.

Of course, part of that is likely because I didn’t go there specifically looking for them. That surely would have made a difference. When I go back (of course I’m going back) it will be better. I’ll find so much more of the unknown. I know this, because I’ve identified the steps needed to track down all the ghosties and the beasties of the Big Easy.

  1. Stay in the older areas.   

Stay in the areas where the inhabitants have gone to great lengths to keep history alive. Sure, there are probably ghosts in some of the modern, trendy buildings downtown, but they may be a bit harder to find. See, there’s this theory floating around the paranormal community that communicating with spirits attracts more spirits, and encourages the ones that were already there to be more active. In some cases, it has even been said that this can even attract ghosts to places where there weren’t originally any ghosts. And the old parts of town, the spaces that have kept their history alive, have ghost stories being told on the streets all day and well into the night.  So, even if there weren’t ghosts there before, there certainly are now.

2. Go outside.   No…   The REAL outside.

Not everyone knows this, but there are two outsides. There’s the real outside, and the kind of outside.

Kind of outside includes streets and sidewalks, restaurant patios, Jackson Square, and any other city space where there’s not a roof over your head or walls around you, but you’re still surrounded by bricks, cement, and metal instead of nature. Sure, you’re technically outside. You’ll get wet if it rains. But you’re not really outside. Real outside means you’re actually out in nature. It means you can look around without seeing a row of buildings or a line of cars. Your paths are made of dirt or rocks, not pavement.

So, go camping on the shores Lake Pontchartrain. Spend a night or two in a cabin in one of the many natural areas outside of the city. You’re not going to see a rougarou on Bourbon Street. There are no swamp lights at Dat Dog.

Of course, you should still go to all those other places. It would be silly to visit New Orleans without checking out Jackson Square, Bourbon Street, and Dat Dog (or any of the other amazing restaurants the city has to offer). But take a little time to enjoy the peace, quite, and cryptids that the bayou has to offer.

3. Talk to the Locals

We went on tours every night, the entire week we were in NOLA. Some days, we did two per day. Each one was worth it, each guide with their own way of infusing their stories with their own personality. It brought the history to life.

However, there was one that stuck with me in a more real way than the others. I wish I could remember the woman’s name. She was different from the other guides. There were no theatrics. There was no elaborate story telling or catchy moments created to make people gasp. We didn’t go to the main attractions. I don’t know if it was because my sister and I were the only people on that particular tour, or if it’s just the way she does things. Either way, she took us to places the other tours didn’t. She took us down quiet streets and along the river at sunset. She took us past her old house, and the home of a friend, and told us her personal ghost stories. She told us of her own experiences in this haunted city.

When we go back, I plan to seek out more of that. I remember the first person who talked to us, other than the front desk people at the hotel. He was an exuberant man, sitting on the steps of a home somewhere between our hotel and Bourbon Street. I had my good camera around my neck, and he commented that I must be a photographer, and that I should take his picture. He said that HE was what New Orleans looked like; that he’d lived there his whole life. I took his picture, and we wished each other good days.

Looking back, I’m sure he had some amazing stories. He probably could have told us where to find the best ghosts, if only I would have asked.

4. Avoid the Crowds

I have a full time job in addition to this blog, other writing projects, and the Sister’s and Spirits podcast, so my sister and I went to NOLA when we were both able to get time off work, which happened to be the week of Memorial Day. It was busy. Much more crowded than either of us would have preferred. It was still an amazing trip, but we had to compete for the attention of the ghosts more so than what would have been ideal. It would be better to go when it’s quiet, when you could share the spaces with the spirits in a more intimate setting; when you could enjoy their company during a time that they’re not burnt out from hundreds of people trying to take their picture every day. Best to avoid the crowds of the living if you want to find the crowds of the dead.

5. Be Quite

This one is probably self-explanatory, but I’ll elaborate anyway because, well…that’s just who I am as a person. But also because New Orleans is not the type of place where ‘quiet’ comes naturally. In a place where activity is buzzing all around you, it can be hard to be still—to quiet your mind and your voice. It can be hard to draw your attention to a shadowy doorway when the homeless, the merchants, and the cat-callers are vying for your attention every few feet. It’s difficult to lift your eyes and gaze at a figure in a second story window when there are brilliant musicians and artists performing all around you. And how do you remember to sit quietly and scan the darkened corners of a bar for specters and spirits, when you only ducked in to evade a man, clearly under the influence of something not-quite-legal, who had been following you for the past two blocks? (true story)

Yes, it’s hard to be quite. Because New Orleans is not a quiet place. But surely it will be worth the effort when you catch a glimpse of something otherworldly, something unknown.

And when you do catch that glimpse into the world of the paranormal, as so many have in a city well known for its hauntings and its vampires:

Let me know where you were.

Let me know what you saw.

Did I miss anything? Or do you have a NOLA experience you’d like to share?

Let me know in the comments.

Finding the Legends, the Ghosts, and the Creatures

In my next few posts, I’m going to take a little trip into the world of travel blogging. Since we’re still dealing with the great plague of 2020, I’ll be starting out with local, mostly outdoor, haunts. I’ll also talk about places I was lucky enough to visit before the first horseman started his ride.

Of course, all these posts will still have a spooky, supernatural twist. Because…it’s me. That just who I am. Go ahead and start calling me Veronica Halloween.

The first place I want to talk about…isn’t actually a place. Not really. It’s more a type of place. One that anyone can visit without straying too far from home, no matter where you live. I thought that might be handy given the lack of travel opportunities available at the moment.

I’m talking about those places in your city, or town, or woods, or cornfields.

The places teenagers go on dares, after hearing the stories passed down through the generations.

The stories parents tell to scare their children on nights when the power goes out and they lose the safe distractions of their LED screens.

The places of urban legends.

We’ve all heard about them, especially now that everyone can share stories with the tap of a finger.

Maybe it’s a local restaurant where no one wants to close up alone. If they do, they know a TV on the far end of the dining area will turn on by itself once all the lights have been turned off and they’re reaching for the handle of the door.

Maybe it’s a dark stretch of road, where the woman in a white dress asks for a ride, only to disappear just before reaching her destination. Perhaps your car will shut itself off then. Or the radio will scan through stations, even after you’ve turned it off.

It’s a haunted bridge, where a tragic accident took place.

It’s a cemetery, with the overgrown corner that no one dares maintain; the names on the tombstones worn away years ago.

An abandoned house, or school, or hospital.

The remnants of a structure in the woods, so decomposed that rumors run rampant about what it ever was in the first place.

It’s likely your town has a legend. Most of them do. If not, the next town over surely does. So, go explore the places nearby. Explore the places you’ve been warned about. The places you’ve been told to avoid. Go alone, or maintain a safe physical distance from your friends (assuming the first horseman is still hanging around when you’re reading this).

Unless the rumors are true. If your friend is being dragged off by a faceless man with a hook for a hand, it may be ok to ignore the social distancing protocols for a moment to save them. Or maybe they’re a lost cause, and you should just run…

The important part is to share your story when you get back.

Keep the legends alive.

What’s your favorite urban legend from the place you call home? Have you seen anything there? Share your stories in the comments!

I haven’t seen any spirits at this spot quite yet… but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.

Sisters and Spirits Paranormal Podcast

Hello Readers!

My blogs are normally filled with all things paranormal, supernatural, and Halloween, and I guess that’s still what this post is… but today it’s also exciting news!

My sister and I have just launched a podcast where we talk all about our paranormal theories and experiences. If you’re a podcast kind of person, we hope you’ll join us on this adventure. If that’s not your thing, don’t worry, I’ll still be blogging about this stuff too…and will probably get tons of new blog ideas from these conversations.

If you’re interested in checking it out, you can listen for free at https://sistersandspiritsparanormal.buzzsprout.com

Our website will also list all of the apps our podcast is available on. More are being added daily, so if your favorite isn’t there, check back soon.

You can also find us on Patreon, where we’ll have the video versions available, as well as lots of other fun content!

https://www.patreon.com/sistersandspiritsparanormal

I hope you enjoy listening as much as we enjoy creating this.

Stay spooky, everyone!

5 Things You Need to Know Before You Investigate the Paranormal

As you know, I love everything about the paranormal, even though I can be a bit of a skeptic sometimes. So of course, it’s frustrating when ‘outsiders’ believe an interest in the paranormal should be equated with a lack of intelligence. Unfortunately, there are a lot of investigators out there who perpetuate this stereotype by ignoring basic science and using poor investigative techniques. Now, before everyone gets all mad, I’m NOT saying the investigators themselves are unintelligent—only that there are some simple changes they could make to help us all to be taken a bit more seriously.

So, I want to talk about a few things everyone should be familiar with before investigating anything paranormal, and especially before speaking with skeptics about their findings, or posting results online.

1 – It’s Probably Not a Face

Before you start showing everyone the spooky faces and shadow figures you caught on camera, it’s imperative that you read up on pareidolia. The short and simple explanation of this phenomena is that the human brain (all of them…even mine, and even yours), when presented with random shapes, shadows, light configurations, etc. will see patterns (especially faces, body shapes, and other familiar visuals) that aren’t actually there.

This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to catch things like shadow figures or disembodied faces on camera, but you’ll need more than a couple blurry snapshots or a two second video clip for rational people to consider it evidence. In order to have evidence that it’s not pareidolia, you’ll need proof that whatever is showing up in the picture wasn’t there before. A simple way to do this is to take multiple pictures or videos of the same area at the same time, preferably with some shots being from the same vantage point, and other shots from different perspectives. You’ll also need to take into consideration what types of natural occurrences could cause the patterns and/or changes that you see. If you have other concurrent evidence, like emf readings, cold spots (that you actually measured with a thermometer or temp gun), voice recordings, etc.; that would be a definite plus.

Oh yeah. And maybe the most important thing: Pareidolia doesn’t just affect vision. There’s auditory pareidolia as well. So, all those things I just said about pictures and videos? They apply to EVPs and spirit box results too.

2 – You’re Biased, Just Like Everyone Else

It’s impossible to be completely unbiased, even when we have the best intentions. There are a slew of articles online describing the different types of biases and how they can affect our opinions even when we don’t want them to. Please read them. As many of them as you can. And maybe read one or two of the many books on the subject. Most importantly, once you’ve studied up, always do your best to apply the things you learned to your own investigations…not just other people’s theories

It’s not magic. It won’t fully get rid of all your biases…but just understanding how bias affects us can help immensely.

Another thing that helps combat bias is to include people who disagree with you in your investigations. Also, listen to them.  You need skeptics on an investigation, or at least people who look at paranormal things skeptically. Sure, they have their biases too. But it’s still better than just assuming everything is a ghost. And of course, when you find things that even the skeptic can’t explain—you know you’ve found some great evidence.

3 – You Need Experts…But Not Those Experts

The paranormal community is filled with self-proclaimed experts. Always be wary about that. But even if you do find a true expert in some aspect of the paranormal, that’s not what I’m referring to right now.

Do you know all the animals native to the area you’re investigating? Can you recognize every sound they make even when you can’t see them? Do you know what the wind sounds like at every mph and direction in the building or area you’re exploring? What about the way light reflects and refracts, either in the area, or in relation to your camera? How much do you know about lens flare? What could your emf detector be picking up other than ghosts?

You need to know these things in order to determine whether or not your finding s are paranormal. And if you’re not educated in these things, you need to find someone who is.

If you can’t get people with all this knowledge to come with you on your investigations, at least make some connections so they can help you review your evidence later on. You don’t want to be that person who posts ‘proof’ of a ghostly encounter, only to find out later it was a barn owl. Seriously. Barn owls are responsible for countless ‘ghost’ encounters.

4 – The Scientific Method is Your Friend

If you’re not applying the scientific method, you’re not actually investigating. You’re just hanging out with your friends. For those of you who’ve been out of school for a while (or who weren’t paying attention to begin with), here’s a review.

Question

Research

Hypothesize

Experiment

Record Results

Analyze

Conclude

Repeat

The first 3 steps are pretty easy, and most inquisitive people do them naturally. It’s the rest that tend to get a bit wishy washy. A huge amount of that is due to bias, which I mentioned earlier. It’s imperative that we all try as hard as possible to keep our biases out of the experiments, data collection/recording, analysis, and especially our conclusions. This means we have to count all the times nothing happens when we ask the spirits a question, just like we count the times we get results. We have to consider pareidolia as a possibility when we look at pictures or listen to our audio recordings. We can’t just assume something paranormal is happening when we analyze our data, and instead, do our best to debunk our own hypotheses. We need control groups and baseline measurements. We need to recognize and limit variables. And of course, if we can’t repeat the experiment with the same results, we can’t claim to have found proof.

5 – Grammar and Communication Skills Are Your Friends

This one may be the most important, even though it doesn’t have anything to do with the actual investigations. The fact is, it doesn’t matter how great your evidence is if no one is willing to look at it, or if they don’t understand what you’re saying. And that’s exactly what often happens if you write or speak incoherently. This is especially true if you’re dealing with people who are skeptical to begin with.

Now, I’m not saying your spelling or grammar have to be perfect. You don’t need a professional proofreader every time you want to post your findings on social media. However, if you express yourself in writing, whether it’s on social media, through email, in a blog, or anywhere else—you need to come across as a reasonably intelligent, rational person.

This means you should probably have someone take a look at what you’re planning to post, or at the very least stop and re-read what you typed out before you click the button that shares your thoughts with the world. Make sure you used things like punctuation and capital letters in the correct places. If you weren’t sure how to spell something and your computer didn’t tell you…take 30 seconds to look it up.

I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen people on social media having their experiences discounted, or completely ignored, because the way they explained it made them seem drunk (in some cases, drunk is best case scenario of what people thought). If this is how people see you, do you really think they’re going to take you seriously when you say you saw a ghost?

Disclaimer: I realize some people may not be sharing in their first language, especially online. That’s ok…fantastic even. It’s awesome when people learn multiple languages. We should all do it. But if you’re communicating in a language that you’re still learning, you probably want to tell people that’s the situation. Or if you’re using an online translator, make that clear too. Those things are amazing…but not amazing enough to use without a disclaimer.

The same is true if you’re speaking about the paranormal, though not to the same extent. You obviously don’t need to worry about spelling and punctuation…but you still need to be coherent and knowledgeable enough that people know what you’re trying to say. You don’t want to trip over your words and say “umm” fifteen times while trying to explain how an emf detector works. Trust me. I’ve done that. I felt really stupid. Thankfully, I was talking with a good friend, and not someone who was going to judge my intelligence entirely on that conversation.

But we aren’t always talking to our close friends. We don’t only share our stories and our evidence with people who are going to love us even if we hear an owl and think it was a banshee. We have to remember that the way we write, the way we speak, and our knowledge of (and willingness to acknowledge) basic scientific principles reflects not only on ourselves, but on the paranormal community as a whole.

So, please learn everything you can, then go out and find some great evidence. Just remember to present it intelligently when you do.

Do you have some cool evidence already? Feel free to share in the comments!

 

IMG_1886
There are no faces or orbs in this picture. Just poorly maintained walls and insufficient lighting. But people see them anyway. 🙂

Read this Before Buying a Ghost Box

I mentioned in a previous post that I love ghost hunting. I’ve been many times, and plan to go many more. But I want to take a minute to call bullshit on something that seems to be unreasonably popular in the paranormal community.

Ghost boxes.

Some people call them spirit boxes. Others use fancy, technical sounding names like ‘SB11’ or ‘Ovilus 5’. Whatever you want to call them, I think they’re a bad idea. Don’t worry though. If you read through to the end, there’s a better option waiting for you.

For those of you unfamiliar with the technology, there are a couple different kinds of spirit boxes. One type scans through radio stations, picking up random signals. The other, like the Ovilus, is essentially just an electronic collection of pre-programmed words. Depending on who you talk to, there are different ways spirits can communicate through these devices.

One theory is that ghosts simply have the ability to make their voices heard through electronics. This is a pretty common theory, both in the paranormal community, as well as in fictional horror. If you have a scanning style box, the ghosts would communicate using the radio frequencies alongside or over any other sounds that come from the device. In the case of the electronic dictionary, they either have the ability to find and pick the words, or the box acts as a translator. Kind of like google translate, but instead of translating one language to another, it translates spirit energy into human words.

Another theory (which I’m not going to spend much time on it, because it’s a bit out there, even for me) is that spirits essentially have the same ability as Bumblebee from the Transformers, and can pick currently-playing radio clips to answer your questions. Now, I’m typically not one to say things are impossible…but…really?

So, let’s go back to the first theory. In my personal opinion, the idea that ghosts can communicate through electronics really isn’t that hard to accept if you’re already considering the possibility that ghosts might be real. My problem with ghost boxes is that if the theory IS correct, they’re designed in the worst possible way for anyone trying get credible or verifiable results.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons.

    • They’re loud. Stupidly loud. At least, most of the spirit boxes I’ve seen in action are. So, basically what you’re doing is sitting in a quiet room, playing the loudest, most obnoxious sound you can find, and then hoping your ears or subconscious aren’t playing tricks on you when something that sounds like it might be an answer to your question comes through. I mean, even in normal conditions, we mishear things all the time. Were you around back in the days before we could google song lyrics? “Excuse me while I kiss this guy.” “There’s a bathroom on the right.”

Seriously. How much of the lyrics to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” did you actually know before you had google? But you want to trust a two second clip of a grainy  electronic voice that you heard under migraine-inducing circumstances?

Also, if I was a ghost and someone brought one of those loud-ass machines into my house, I’d throw it across the room and smash it. If I wasn’t strong enough to do that, I’d leave.

    • Picture this. You’re in a dark room and you turn on your ghost box. It starts scanning through radio stations. You ask questions. Nothing happens. You ask more questions. Still nothing. Then, suddenly (as you start to ask another question)—you hear a word! It’s so exciting!

But, is it really? It’s a machine that scans through radio stations. OBVIOUSLY you’re going to hear words eventually when you’re frequency hopping. There will be words whether there are ghosts or not. At some point, you’re going to hit a station that has something on it. So, even if there IS a ghost, and even if it DID talk to you through the box, you still have no way to verify that’s what actually happened. The same is true for the dictionary style boxes. Maybe the word was chosen or spoken by a ghost who was answering your question. But maybe it wasn’t. Unless you get a full sentence with a ghost saying, “My name is Jane Doe, and I died in 1872 when my ex stabbed me,” and then you’re able to verify that statement with historical documentation…you don’t have solid evidence.

And I’ve never seen an instance, even on the fakest of the fake shows, where that’s happened.

    • I’m sure this last one will piss some people off, but I promise I’m not accusing anyone of anything. I’m sure the people who make and sell the ghost boxes are probably good people who are not trying to scam anyone. But we do have to consider the possibility that words could be coming up randomly. The scanner may be picking up live stations, and those are the words you’re hearing. Or, even though they all say they don’t have any programming that makes words come up…maybe (unintentionally) there is something in the programming that causes words to pop up in the dictionary-style devices. Even if it’s not intentional, this would make the boxes seem to work more often than they actually do which, quite frankly, is necessary for people to continue buying the product. People wouldn’t keep buying them if they didn’t get results.

Of course, it’s surely possible to test that last one if you know enough about programming. But most people who purchase these devices don’t. And really, who’s going to test all the different devices and then have the platform to share the results? Who’s going to then test those results to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, or a mistake, or something less innocent? It’s not like there’s an abundance of funding available for paranormal research. So, even if these devices DO work exactly as advertised…it still won’t be enough for someone who’s even the teeny tiniest bit skeptical to consider it evidence.

So, what should you use instead of a ghost box? You’re in luck! I’ve discovered an amazing device that works with the same theory (ghosts speaking through electronics), but eliminates the problems you find with the current ghost boxes and apps.

It’s called a radio.

Some of you may be too young to know about these crazy devices, so I’ll explain. Radios are what people used to listen to music on before downloads and streaming services were a thing. They’re the base technology for many ghost boxes. The great thing is, if you use a regular, old-school style radio (the ones that came before “digital” was an everyday term), you can cut out most of the ghost box problems.

Radio
You have to use one like this, with the dials. No digital!

If you use a radio, you can pick one station that you know won’t have anything playing on it and just keep it tuned there, instead of jumping between stations like a sentient robot on a bad acid trip. If ghosts actually can speak to us through electronics, this should be significantly easier for them than navigating a spirit box. Instead of trying to jump in on whatever frequency the box scans through at any given second, fighting to be heard over other sounds, or having to pick words from a list, the ghost can simply speak. Just set the radio to a station that’s out of range of any signals, and the spirit has free reign to say whatever it wants. Or, maybe they’ll just change the station to find their jam.

Either way, if you get a response, you’ll KNOW it was real. No one would have had any reason to program random words into a $10 radio you got from Target, Amazon, or whatever discount store is closest to your home. It’s also much quieter, and doesn’t sound like you’re trying to cause someone three miles away to have a seizure. And of course, since the sound of a radio that isn’t picking up a station is fairly consistent (usually static), it will be much harder for your subconscious mind to hear words that aren’t there. If you do, they likely won’t be the same words the people around you heard, which will make debunking the situation much easier than if you were using a ghost box.

Of course, this option is only better if you’re actually looking for the truth. If you’re filming a show or a video and you want something exciting to show your fans, definitely get a ghost box. Buy the most expensive one so everyone knows how serious you are. Filming a video with a group of people sitting in the dark listening to static would be boring. No one would watch that.

Or, maybe you want to make sure every investigation is exciting so your friends stay interested. In that case, by all means, buy the box. Or maybe an app, which are usually cheaper. You should probably sneak into places too. That helps with the adrenaline.

(DISCLAIMER: Please don’t actually sneak in. If you do, leave me out of it when you get caught. Obviously you shouldn’t break the law. Always get permission when ghost hunting.)

 

But if you’re looking for actual evidence, something even a skeptic might consider…save your money and by a cheap radio.

Ghost in a Box
I call this masterpiece “Ghost in a Box on a Post-it”

What are your thoughts? Do you use ghost boxes? Have you already tried a standard radio instead? Tell me your experiences in the comments.

Is This the Day Creativity Dies?

This post is going to be a bit different than most of my others. I’ll go back to my “normal” content after this. I’ll go back to writing about scary stories, horror movies, and ghost hunting. I’ll go back to the monsters, vampires, and magick. I’ll go back to turning every holiday (and any average day) into Halloween. The supernatural will be here, waiting for you, as it’s meant to be.

But I’ve seen a disturbing trend on the internet (I know…shocking, right?), and I feel it needs to be addressed.

If you’re reading this years from now— or maybe just months, given our attention span these days—the world is currently in the middle of a pandemic. But unlike during other natural disasters, we still have the internet. There was no hurricane to take out the power, no tornados to knock out phone service. And while the disease is causing tragedy, pain, and fear for far too many people, it’s simply magical for the internet. More specifically, it has brought out an immense creative drive in people who would otherwise be spending their time at work, bars, sporting events, and all the other places we’re not allowed to go right now.

It’s not the creative content that scares me, of course. I love that. I’m grateful for it every day. And I know for so many others, whose situations are far worse than mine, there are some days these moments of creativity may be the only thing that brings a smile to their faces. This content is everything the internet should be on any given day, regardless of the plague status.

The frightening thing is that this creative renaissance is very likely temporary. And that sucks. That’s not how it should be. I’ve even seen comments (sometimes directed at my own creative endeavors, but more often directed at others) saying things like, “you’ve definitely got too much time on your hands,” or “looks like quarantine has finally broken you.”

Is this the world we’re living in? Are we living in a time when creativity and fun, beauty and humor, art and entertainment, are things to be avoided unless we’ve been driven crazy by the temporary lifestyle caused by a killer virus? Do we only create content that makes other people happy if we’re so bored we can’t find one single other thing to do?

Please tell me that’s not the case.

Please tell me that when everything calms down and we all go back to our normal lives, the new-found creativity so many of you have discovered won’t die.

Please keep it going when the world goes back outside.

Because if you don’t; if creativity is something we only use as a last resort…

 

Well, then maybe we really are living in a horror movie after all.

Basil
This is Basil. He doesn’t want us to live in a horror movie. He wants you to check out my YouTube, and is super excited for his YouTube debut coming soon…

If this was a Horror Movie, Would You be Dead?

I’m always making fun of people in horror movies.

“Don’t go in the basement! Everyone knows that!”

“That noise was OBVIOUSLY NOT the cat!”

“Why would you go out in the woods by yourself!?!?”

“PUT THE OUIJA BOARD AWAY!”

How could anyone have such horrible decision-making skills? Do the writers really think people are this stupid?

But then I thought about it a little more. Maybe it was after opening a cupboard that I heard close behind me when I was alone and the cupboards were already closed. Or maybe it was after I went down into the basement alone to investigate a strange sound. Once these things happened, I started noticing, and remembering, other behaviors as well. This made me stop and think.

Are the decisions people make in horror movies unusually bad? Ok, yeah. Some of them REALLY are.

But without the scary music telling us something’s about to happen, without the ominous lighting or unnerving camera angles, without knowing we’re in a horror movie — how many terrible decisions would the average person make?

Let’s take a look at some things I personally have done that are probably going to get me killed if we find out this thing we call “life” is actually a horror movie. I’ll start with 25, but I’m sure there are more.

  1. Investigated sounds that came from other rooms, basements, and attics.
  2. Talked to strangers.
  3. Ignored a sound because I assumed it was just a cat or the wind.
  4. Read something out loud in a language I wasn’t fluent in.
  5. Had sex.
  6. Used a Ouija board.
  7. Played a ‘paranormal’ games, like Bloody Mary and Light as a Feather.
  8. Walked or ran in the woods alone.
  9. Walked through a dark parking lot to my car by myself.
  10. Got drunk.
  11. Walked down an alley at night.
  12. Walked around a big city alone.
  13. Hung out with my friends without telling anyone exactly where we’d be.
  14. Went into a building that had a reputation for being haunted.
  15. Attempted to talk to ghosts in the haunted building.
  16. Went to a medium, psychic, or tarot card reader.
  17. Ignored advice from a weird old stranger.
  18. Said “that was weird,” when something strange happened, then promptly ignored it.
  19. Didn’t get rid of the electronic toy that regularly turned on by itself.
  20. Said, “I’ll be right back.”
  21. Bought old things at a garage sales and antique stores.
  22. Went back to sleep without checking to see why the pile of clothes in my room looked like a person or monster.
  23. Listened to music loud enough that I couldn’t tell if someone (or something) was behind me.
  24. Started talking to someone who came in the door without checking to make sure it was the person I assumed had come in.
  25. Ignored the creepy feeling that someone was watching me.

So, hopefully this isn’t the beginning of a horror movie. But if it is, I hope the audience isn’t making fun of me too much. Because I can’t hear the music, or see the creepy lighting, or feel off balance from the camera angles. Everything seems normal, just like it would have to the victims in the movies until whatever was terrorizing them actually showed up.

What about you? How many things have you done that would have had the audience screaming “Don’t do that!”?  Let me know in the comments.

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I also put spiders outside when I find them in the house, even though I know that didn’t end well for the people in Arachnophobia.

 

A More-or-Less True-ish Tale of St. Patrick

This is a post I’ve copied over from my now defunct blog on blogger. It’s not about creepy things like most of my new posts (unless you really think about the history), but it was one of my more popular pieces on the old blog, so I figured I’d share it anyway since it’s that time of year.

Just a note for my international readers. This probably only makes sense if you spend a lot of time, or have a lot of friends, in the USA.

A More-or-Less True-ish Tale of St. Patrick

St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, even though he was never formally made a saint by the church. He also drove all the snakes out of Ireland. Of course, there weren’t any snakes there to begin with. It seems to me he should be the patron saint of ‘work smart, not hard’.

Unless of course we’re going with the generally accepted metaphor of ‘snakes’ being pagans. Then he likely worked pretty hard. No one really knows how much actual driving out of pagans he did versus just converting them, but I’m going to guess at least some violence ensued, as it usually does when you try to destroy an entire religion.

So, what are we celebrating? His death of course. It makes sense if you think about it. Here’s a guy whose life mission was to force his religion on those who disagreed with him. So, now we celebrate his death in honor of all those souls who died, were driven from their homes, or were forced to live without their gods until death came naturally. We drink in honor of these souls.

All of them.

We must honor the snakes who were needlessly driven from their homes. Some were driven from their physical homes. Others had their home driven from their hearts. But we must honor them.

Every. Last. One.

And that, my friends, is the reason we get completely smashed on St. Patrick’s Day.

 

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Bloody Valentine’s Day

Ah, Valentine’s Day. The day where we celebrate a saint (or saints) who may (or may not) have existed, and a fat baby with wings who uses humans as target practice to hone his bow hunting skills.

Of course, it’s great for the economy as well. It’s a little known fact that St. Valentine was actually the patron saint of showing affection through a waste of money. In fact, there used to be a festival where young lovers would set fire to their money and other possessions to show how much they loved each other. The more you burned, the more you loved. Thankfully, Hallmark and Hershey came up with a better way to celebrate. (None of that’s true, except for the economy part.)

Still, we always look for ways to celebrate beheaded saints that maybe existed and homicidal baby angels. How will I do that today?

Makeup! But not just any makeup…

BLOODY makeup!

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Please enjoy the following tutorial for this bloody Valentine’s celebration on my face.

The hearts are prosthetics that will (hopefully) be reusable. These need to be made ahead of time, because they take a long time to dry. You could technically do this right on your skin a few different ways…but I’m not patient enough to wait for things to dry on my skin.

Using liquid latex, “draw” some heart shapes on a piece of wax paper with the handle of a makeup brush, or one of those wooden thingies from manicure sets. I just use it as-is, but if you’re concerned that you won’t be able to get it to match your skin when it’s dry, you can mix it with some foundation in your skin color. It will look something like this.

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You may have to go over them a couple of times as they firm up to build them up so they’re thick enough to peel off without tearing when they’re dry. Check on them every so often, and once they’re tacky, but not all-the-way-dry, take a toothpick or your wooden thingy and “scoop” out a track along the inside of the hearts.

Then let them dry over night. Once they’re dry there should be some thin parts in the heart outline.

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Cut some of the thinner parts out. I like to cut out as much as possible without the heart losing its shape (or just becoming two separate pieces).

From here, you want to stick them on your face using more liquid latex, then apply your foundation. Obviously don’t do this if you’re allergic to latex. Or foundation. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say that…but it’s the internet, so you never know.

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Now, when I first thought of doing this, I was going to do the entire look using only blood. Fake blood, of course. You can’t prove otherwise.

But I decided to go with a little more dimension than you can get with just blood…and I also wanted an excuse to use my Sabrina palette. Yes, I’m a grown woman who watches shows about witches in high school. No, I don’t care what you think about it.

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I seriously love this palette.

For the eyes, I based it out using ‘Hell on Earth’, added ‘Unholy Union’ to the outer third or so of the lids and extended it for a wing. I blended the inside corners and brow line with ‘Eternal Bliss.’ And I used tape, even though a lot of people say not to. I’m unskilled. Deal with it.

I suppose if, for some weird reason, you didn’t want your Valentine’s makeup to include blood, you could skip the prosthetic, tone the wing down, add some regular blush, lipstick, and mascara, then stop at this point. But why wouldn’t you want to add blood? Especially when I’m about to show you the greatest fake blood that has ever existed in the entire history of fake blood.

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Here it is. Back in the glory of the best fake blood ever.

The great thing about this blood is that you can make it whatever consistency you want, and it looks super real.  It also stays on better than any blood I’ve used before. It can stain though. A lot. So, be careful of that.

I mixed it into a kind of jelly consistency, but then after I took the picture below, I added a little more water so it was part congealed goo, and part viscous ooze. Both terms scream “Valentine’s Day,” right?

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From here, I stopped taking pictures as often as I probably should have for a good tutorial. But essentially what I did was to add a messy top wing with the blood (all my wings are messy…but that actually works for this type of look). Then I dabbed the blood under my eyes, and textured it over the rest of my eye shadow.

From there, I added blood to the heart prosthetics, making sure to get the chunky congealed bits into the parts I cut open earlier.

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I also added the blood on and around my lips. Full disclosure, I have no idea whether or not this is safe, so I advise you to follow the instructions on your blood package before doing this. Don’t throw the packaging away so you have no instructions. Like I did. And don’t do this if the package says it’s unsafe.

So, there you have it. Just in case Valentine’s Day wasn’t Halloween enough for you. Now I’m off to spend the weekend watching some of the many brilliant Valentine’s Day inspired horror movies.

 

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Here’s what it looks like after you take the potentially unsafe blood off your lips, and cozy onto the couch with the kitty.

Do you have any fun ways to turn Valentine’s Day into winter Halloween? I’d love to hear them!

Ghost Hunting and Being Weird: Unsolicited Advice #1

I’m kind of a weirdo. If you’re reading this because you’ve read other things I’ve written, you probably knew that already. But today, I want to talk about one particular weirdness I have going on.

Confession: I love ghost hunting. Like, a lot. I’ve been to the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield four times. I’ve been on official hunts in local haunted places a handful of times, and kept my eyes open for anything that might be paranormal while hanging around said places for non-ghost hunting reasons. I’ve even been to a paranormal convention, and plan to attend another this spring. Oh yeah, and my sister and I took a vacation to New Orleans, specifically to do all the supernatural based historic tours (and to see alligators…but my love of scaly, squirmy, slithery creatures will have to be the subject of another blog).

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Would you go down these stairs? I would. (If there’s no sign telling me not to. Safety first!)

 

Now, I assume if you’re here, it’s for one of two reasons. Either you’re family and feel like you have to read this, or you’re into spooky things too. So why, surrounded by fellow spooks, do I think ghost hunting makes me weird? It’s because even among the strange and unusual; the horror writers, the scream queens, the readers and watchers of all things creepy—most people don’t actively seek out the paranormal.

There are plenty of completely logical reasons for this. Some simply see scary things as a form of entertainment, an adrenaline rush. They don’t, even for a moment, believe any of it is real. If they’re right, then wandering around in the dark talking to nothing would be pretty ridiculous. Then we have the opposite extreme; people who are 100% sure there are supernatural creatures lurking in the dark, just waiting for the right moment to strike. Some of these folks will avoid everything even a little scary at all costs. But others consume all things creepy, not to get that nice safe buzz of adrenaline, but as a sort of research…from a safe distance. They want to be aware of every possibility so they have a fighting chance when the things come for them—and probably so they can say ‘told you so’ when zombies pull out your intestines.

Of course, there’s quite the range in between these extremes. There always is. Some people simply lean a bit one way or the other. But me? I’m as close to exactly in the middle as one can possibly get. I can’t say I fully believe that ghost (or other supernatural) sightings are real. But I’m not counting it out either. And unlike so many others in this position, I WANT to know the truth.

So, I hunt. Not like Sam and Dean. I don’t have a shotgun filled with rock salt, and I don’t carry weapons made of silver and iron. But I do have dowsing rods, an EMF detector, and a laser pointer that kind of makes a grid. And yeah, I’ve tried a couple spirit box apps on my phone, and I burn sage when I get home.

A lot of people think this is weird.

And that’s ok.

There’s nothing wrong with other people thinking you’re odd. There are so many people out there who believe they’ll only be happy if they fit in with a certain group. They do everything they can to look the way they ‘should’ and say the ‘right’ things. And more often than not, they succeed. They blend in to their chosen crowd.

But they never get to be happy.

They give up all the weird things they enjoy. They spend all their time pretending to like things the ‘cool kids’ like. But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that if you live your life like that, it’s nearly impossible to make real friends, to find people whom you can confide in.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trash talking the cool kids. But the fact is, when you turn yourself into something you’re not in order to fit in with the right people they’re not the right people for you. They might be good people. They might even be great people. But they don’t even know who you are. Not really. Because you never let them. You hid everything real about yourself to fit in. So even if they are great people, even if they want to be there for you, how can they? The person you’ve shown them isn’t really you. They don’t know what you need. They can’t.

So don’t do that.

We have the internet now. It’s fairly easy to find people who like the same things you do, or who, at the very least, will love you even if they think some of your hobbies are super weird. So do the strange things you like to do. Watch the strange things you want to watch. Read, write, paint, listen, and dance in all the strange ways and to all the strange things that make you happy.

You’ll find your people, and they’ll find you. Best of all, you’ll make the other weirdos happy, and you’ll give them a place where they fit in, where they feel safe. You’ll find each other. You’ll be the real you. You’ll find happiness.

 

Let’s start now, shall we? Leave a comment and tell me what weird things make you happy. Tell me what makes you who you are. 🙂

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The best doorways are the ones that creek and make creepy shadows. Always go through those doors. And don’t forget to tell me what you find!