Druid Ridge Cemetery

I have talked about Druid Ridge Cemetery before. I based almost an entire chapter surrounding it in Voices From Forever. It’s one of my favorite places, actually, and I can often be found just driving through from time to time. I’ve done EVP experiments there, a lot of photography, and for some reason, I feel like I’m a part of the place. Maybe one day, my name will join the thousands of others who grace the paths and rows.

There are two Druid Ridges for me. First, there are the thousands and thousands of markers – one after the next. Miles and miles of funeral processions; rows and rows of final resting places – Druid Ridge has served the community well. But the other Druid Ridge is my friend, and the one I wanted to share here. It is a pastoral place, lined with mature trees which both accent and contrast the stone and chiseled marble. It is an easy place to be, and a gentle place to remain.

I have hundreds of photos – these do not begin to reveal the true spirit of the place, but they serve as an acceptable calling card. So, let me introduce you to one of the largest, but most peaceful graveyards I know of. Welcome to Druid Ridge, located in beautiful downtown Pikesville, Maryland.

All So Strange

Sometimes, it’s all so strange – I think this country is just looking for a fight. With itself! Aren’t we all a part of the same people? I don’t understand this desire to fight among ourselves with such vitriol – I thought the 1960s were bad, but this all seems new. It’s different. And it’s the same within the “paranormal.” Wherever I go, whoever I talk to, there’s a strong desire to set everyone straight on things – to separate the wrong ideas (and the infidels) from the truth. 

I can recall all sorts of examples for you… The guy who insists that the spirit box is the only way to legitimately communicate with the deceased, for example. Where did that one come from? He’s kidding, right? Or the young lady who told me that no investigation is legitimate without a resident medium. Really? Wow! Are there Republicans and Democrats in the room? Or the man who, without logging in a single minute of investigation time, declared that none of us are honest – we’re all liars.

Well okay then! I’m ready, let’s fight. Let’s tear each other apart and get to the bottom of this paranormal stuff. It’s gonna be my way, you know, or the highway. Yes, I said it, whaddya gonna do about it, huh? You wanna know the truth, ask me – all ghosts are Catholic, wood nymphs steal your shoes, and poltergeist love to chug chocolate syrup (they are demons, after all).

But why on earth do we care so much about who’s right? Especially when each and every one of us is fully aware that no one knows what’s right. Show me a paranormal dude, and I’ll show you a person in the dark without a clue. After all, that’s what he’s doing there in the first pace – looking for clues! Just because he doesn’t use an EMF meter doesn’t make him useless, does it? I don’t know how to put it because it’s just too strange, but I shouldn’t have to find a way to express it. It’s the paranormal, for crap’s sake, and nobody knows a damn thing. Certainly not me.

Ok. Well I’ve danced around this issue enough. I’m very much exhausted by the bickering, name-calling, and accusatory tones that have invaded the fold. Deep in my heart, I know it doesn’t matter what any one of us thinks is the true path to follow. If the field was different, there would be some foundational precepts we would all be expecting each other to build upon. You know, like cement is made of certain ingredients that bind – oatmeal binds, but it won’t hold two bricks together, so give up on that – move on. But the paranormal doesn’t have any provable basics like that, so nobody knows what is fact and what is illusion.

So, let’s stop already. We shouldn’t discourage the guy who wants to try something new – especially if it sounds contrary to everything we believe. Genius is often found within crazy, deviant notions – just ask any physicist. There’s no reason to ridicule old school people, new school enthusiasts, believers, non-believers, or just plain whackos. We need to at least listen. We owe it to ourselves to look for the truth first, and if there isn’t a shred of it anywhere to be found; if we’re absolutely certain there’s zero substance, only then should we walk away – politely. We have to fight this need to call people names or question their parentage; resist the urge to show everyone else how ignorant we can be. There is nothing to be gained by being better than others, unless lonely and stupid is a price you’re willing to pay. Superiority is a good goal, but it is found by looking inside ourselves, not by seeking what is inside of others.

Sometimes I think the biggest obstacle we face in the paranormal comes from giving credence to the prejudice of others. I have always had success with EVP, and I have very specific methods I follow. They work well too, and I have never been shy about telling anyone who will listen. But I am not alone, and I suspect there are countless others who practice different methods and achieve similar results. It’s up to each of us to do what we can with what we know – to look inside ourselves and find the best, most complete way to contribute to the collective, and leave the discouraging word to the skeptic. 

Challenge is Good!

Something has been bothering me lately. It’s been one of those slow burn kinda problems. You know, it starts out as an almost fleeting thought – nothing more than a small realization that simmers until you finally find yourself shouting about it. Eventually, it becomes one of those raging storms in your life where you feel you have to take a stand and maybe even tell the world. Surely, if others knew what you think you know, there would be changes, right? Heads would roll, attitudes would transform – there would be upheaval and a new world order, and possibly, spiritual reckoning.  God herself would descend and smite people!

Ah well… Maybe the best approach is to just get it off my chest, let the chips fall where they may, and prepare for a speedy exit. There’s just way too much BS in the paranormal field. There! I said it. Too many people who just make things up. I’m not talking about the theorizing and the speculation – that kind of stuff is good because it keeps us thinking and encourages us to look into different corners of the subject; prevents us from blindly accepting the imaginings of others, and the nonsense. But there has also always been a certain amount of… let’s call it “creative specifics.” We have to deal with individuals who play a little fast and loose with reality. “The door opened on its own – no one was in the room, there wasn’t a breeze – it had to be the ghost!” When in fact, someone was quite near the room, the wind was howling, other doors created suction, there were measurable earth tremors… This kind of investigation is unfortunate and we have to deal with it, but this should forewarn us about a more sinister kind of tomfoolery – the paranormal liar.

This person prays upon us. He takes our fascination with the unknown and muddies it with fantastic notions that can’t be analyzed. He is the fake medium, the guy who contacts spirits through divining rods on the eighth floor, gets video ITC results on his cell. He is always temporarily possessed on investigations, frequently brings spirits home with him, finds a demon in his basement, and regularly manages to get scratched. His flashlight always responds. His coat is always tugged. He has ways to do things that no one ever heard of, and no one can ever witness.

I guess I invite the criticism or beg the question, “Well, what about you, Mr. EVP researcher?” Fair enough, and to be perfectly honest with you, I wouldn’t believe me without more than a “howdy do” and a slap on the back. I suppose that’s one reason why I am open to questioning. I don’t have secrets, but hopefully, you have had some doubt anyway. I encourage it!

But I’ve been becoming more and more jaded this past year or so. There have been just too many mediums who didn’t deliver, more than a few EVP specialists who don’t know what they’re doing, and all sorts of nifty new equipment that can’t withstand the scrutiny. And I feel really bad about my attitude, because I don’t want to be the guy who just levels criticism and disbelief. I don’t want to be the guy who has gotten too old or too set in his ways to take things to the next level.

After observing a certain medium who was channeling a tormented woman, I was asked, “Are you buying this?” And the honest answer was no, but that’s not how I responded. I said that I’d have to think about it and see how it compared to the evidence – if any. That was actually the right answer, but it wasn’t the honest one. How can I encourage others to challenge my evidence if I won’t return the favor? All evidence must be challenged! It’s such a slippery slope, but we have to confront head-on and look for reasons to disbelieve. If we don’t, we’ll never learn anything. We must honestly embrace everything presented to us long enough to know for certain the disposition and truth of it – even if it smells bad and looks like ocean property in Kansas. We certainly can’t automatically believe, so we have to automatically challenge. Challenge is good.

For me, I guess I am beginning to see it as a needle in a haystack. You can’t refuse to look just because there’s so much hay – you never know what else you might find in there. I’ve always known it wouldn’t be easy to find credible evidence of this part of the unknown – I’ve always known there would be individuals who would get in the way. But ultimately, it’s not about finding the charlatan or the huckster and exposing them. Ultimately, it’s about finding the truthful and learning, and that’s always been difficult.  To quote George Bernard Shaw, “All great truths begin as blasphemies.” I wonder…

About Ben

For those readers who don’t listen to The Voices Podcast or participate in the Voices Podcast Group on Facebook, I’d like to introduce you to Ben. Ben is deceased. That’s probably his most interesting characteristic, unfortunately, because it automatically colors everything we think about him. There’s definitely a prejudice against the deceased, and I’m pretty sure Ben doesn’t appreciate it. He and I talk frequently – through EVP, and while I don’t usually hear him complain (he’s very soft-spoken), you can just tell that he considers himself more than the stereotype being deceased has made of him.

It seems that most of us think of someone in his predicament as being creepy – ghoulish and all rotted looking. If not that, he’s translucent and floats slowly through the furniture. If he’d lived a better life, he would be in Heaven right now sitting at the right hand of the Lord contemplating any number of celestial issues; perhaps singing endlessly in a choir. And for all I know, he does those things. He doesn’t actually say – the deceased rarely do, so I suppose the time he spends with me could be nothing more than a break in the routine. But somehow, based on what little I do actually know about him, he doesn’t seem like just another one of the baritones on the fourth row. To me, he seems more like the guy who gets caught smoking in the boy’s room than one of those.

We humans frequently think of people like Ben as being evil minded. It’s not that they’re demonic or anything, but they must not have been very nice or they wouldn’t visit terra firma so often – freaking us out and doing stuff that makes our hearts beat a little faster. Of course, it’s only a guess, but I don’t think Ben is capable of doing anything harmful or frightening. I’ve asked him several times to knock on wood, or move something light – I even asked him to touch me a couple of times. He never does any of those things, and based on how cooperative he is in conversation, I’m sure he’s not saving himself for an actual possession. Ben seems completely unable to break through to this world in any of the ways we fear.

Often, I hear someone suggest that spirits should be sent on their way to some special place in the light where only goodness and joy awaits them. I find it kind of interesting that we feel as though we know what’s best for spirits, because we’re not very good at handling our own business, are we? We don’t exhibit any unique proficiency in managing life at all! I mean, we make it through pretty much, but the majority of us have littered the path with any number of emotional maladies and mistakes. Maybe we think that gives us license to tell Ben to move on to a better place, but I don’t get the feeling that he’s in need of that. I think he already has, hence the methods required for us to converse and all. He seems as if he’s where he is supposed to be, and maybe even where he wants to be. He seems to enjoy our conversations, even though we don’t get very deep. We talk about him most of the time, but he rarely talks about himself. Ben just kind of responds – a man of few words of the highest order.

He doesn’t answer every question I ask or comment on every dumb thing I say, and I get the distinct impression that he’s mostly just hanging around – that my attempts at conversation are occasionally an annoyance. Still, he usually musters enough “whatever” to answer in some way. Ever polite, he usually lets me know he’s there but that’s often the end of it. Like I said, he commands a solid understanding of brevity, and has mastered the talent of the whisper.

I won’t continue to go on and on about the way we, as living humans, tend to see Ben and his kind. I think everyone understands what I’m getting at, but what you may not know is why I feel the need to defend Ben’s right to be himself, or why I feel we have a responsibility (even to ourselves) to view him accurately. I like him, but it’s not that we’re close friends – we’re actually not friends at all. I don’t think we’re relatives either, or else I’m confident he would have introduced himself as such long ago. I think I consider Ben to be a co-worker. Someone I see for a certain portion of the day while we do our jobs, and when it’s over, I think we go our separate ways rather willingly. I go off to watch Hell’s Kitchen or L.A.Hair and he rejoins that blissful madrigal group he had to join for extra credit in Heaven. And maybe that’s why we both look forward to our next meeting – our next day at work, if you will, because television is not very good these days, and just between us, Ben can’t sing.

I think we’re well paired. I think we do good work together. I think the boss knew what he was doing when he hooked us up. I respect Ben, and he respects me, and I’d love it if you could find it in your hearts to respect him as well.

Practice Makes Perfect

It is my personal belief that spirit activity exists virtually everywhere. The grocery store, that summer rental, the office next door, and “home sweet home” all qualify as locations ripe for cohabiting with spirits. Everywhere! That’s what I believe, and I doubt I’ll be changing that opinion any time soon since I have been fortunate enough to record spirit voices everywhere I’ve tried. I don’t think this is abnormal or unusual. I think that’s the way it works, and unbeknownst to us, it has always been so.

That said, there are an ever-increasing number of locations labeled as being haunted. We all know and accept Eastern State, the Winchester House, and Bobby Mackey’s, just to name a few, but there are also thousands of local properties burdened with the same reputation, and many of those have begun to advertise. This translates into decent income for some, but does little to solve the mystery of whether or not the reputation is deserved. Most of the story telling that creates these ghostly monuments is based in reality, but would truly fail the lie-detector test. Many include actual witnesses who can attest to frightening experiences – terrifying events during the course of daily activity – things not easily explained, and therefore perfect additions to the rapidly growing mythology of the place. And the question for us is, as always:  How much of this is real?

Certainly, since I believe that spirit presence is an automatic factor in the life of every location, it stands to reason that from my point of view, no place is clean. But it doesn’t seem possible there would be so many hotbeds of paranormal depravity among us. Nowadays, it seems as though any location whose history includes even the most natural of deaths, is billed as being haunted by some poor soul who’s only claim to notoriety is that he passed away on the premises. “He died an unhappy man, only to yearn throughout eternity for the loss of his one true love.” How many of us are happy about dying? Does anyone enjoy the demise of love? Certainly, for this to serve as the foundation for a claim of “paranormality” is ill conceived. There is pain and great suffering in most people’s lives, and we learn to deal with it and hopefully grow as a result. Of course it’s possible that the deceased people in question may not have handled things quite so well, but it seems to me that we may be making more of things than is truly there. It seems to me that the stories surrounding most so-called haunted houses are hyperbolic at best and obviously stereotypical. These days, the logical conclusion is to spawn an exaggerated claim of great paranormal goings-on and of course, there’s that profit. But is that so bad?

Doesn’t it keep a lot of us off the streets, so to speak? Truly, if there is paranormal activity throughout the world, then those of us who investigate such things need somewhere to practice! I’ve been to places like this, and have found myself buying into the false history as quickly as the next guy. I’ve felt things I didn’t really feel, seen things I interpreted incorrectly and heard all the same spooky noises everyone else hears. I almost don’t want to admit it, but I’ve succumbed to the legends and wallowed in the misunderstandings.

I just don’t feel all that bad about doing it. It was great fun! In fact, while I may not have gathered a single shred of evidence (outside of the obvious EVP), I think I learned from each experience. Of course, what I primarily learned was how not to misinterpret my human need to psychologically share in the experience of others.

We should learn how not to believe while investigating such places; how not to misunderstand occurrences; how not to inadvertently massage evidence, or translate active imaginations into false substantiation. Because I’ve also been to places without reputation and fanfare – places where today’s misery is real and where the unknown effectively introduces itself to frightened people. I’ve been to places so full of spirit presence that the air is thick with their thoughts and replete with their attempts to be known.

One has to be able to find the truth, for after all, isn’t it truth we seek? One has to be able to rise above the personal experience and focus on the reality. We have to be able to cut through the bullshit and find the veracity of things, and it doesn’t matter where you are or how real the paranormal lineage of a place actually is, one has to be strong enough to walk away with only reality in our findings. That which is factual and provable will withstand the harsh, dispassionate light of day; will rise above the claims and the advertising.

Practice makes perfect, so bring on the abandoned antebellum mansion near the swamp. Bring on the decaying asylum and the forgotten prison. Bring on the Civil War hospitals and all the empty houses at the corners of Fifth and Main in every town. And when we’re finished with as many of those as we can stomach, we’ll be ready to help the little boy who can’t spend one more night alone in his room with the creature who won’t stop tormenting him. And maybe, just maybe we can put all this practice to good use.

Landon House

I recently had the privilege of joining a paranormal investigation of the Frederick, Maryland landmark known as Landon House. It is also sometimes referred to as Landon Mansion, and from the photos below, I think the moniker applies. I won’t offer a history of the place because I don’t know it, but I will say that it has a Civil War past and was apparently a Confederate Headquarters at some point during the war.  It is also worth noting that the building is still in use for special occasions.

The location has reportedly been active for a number of years and is a staple within the local paranormal community, so it was exciting to be able to participate. I haven’t finished analyzing my own personal evidence yet, so I can’t fairly offer an opinion on the paranormal pedigree of the place, but what I am definitely able to say that it’s a stunning place to investigate. The building and grounds are perfect because it looks and feels haunted, frankly. There’s the right visuals and overall ambience, it has a number of fascinating rooms and spaces, carries sound throughout the house in an eerie manner, and mixes the right amount of normal and mysterious throughout the property. The Landon House just looks active.

I’m sure in the future, I will be talking about whatever evidence I may or may not have accumulated, but for now, I wanted to share a little of the surface dignity. Forgive my self-indulgence at making these photos black and white. It is, after all, a colorful and beautiful setting, but I think this point of view is more appropriate. I hope these few outdoor photos will give you a sense of things as I “saw” them.

Thanks to Inspired Ghost Tracking of Jessup, Maryland for inviting me to participate.