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Monday, May 16, 2005

Haunted melodies

From an email from paranormal investigator Susan Crites, founder of the West Virginia Society of Ghost Hunters (reprinted with her kind permission):

Many years ago, a man from Pennsylvania contacted me about a ghost sighting. He claimed that about once a week, a ghostly man could be seen floating just above his grave in a small, local graveyard. He also said that the ghost sighting happened at about the same time every week, at about 9:15 every Thursday night. I met him at the tiny graveyard on the next Thursday evening at about 8 PM. We explored the 19th Century graveyard and talked about his ghost sighting until about 9 PM. Then, we moved to a spot near the grave where the ghost appeared. At about 9:10, I made a note in my log that the temperature was 66 degrees, the wind was negligible, and the ground was dry. The tension rose as the clocked ticked toward 9:15. Waiting in absolute silence, I nearly jumped out of my skin when a train whistle shrieked unexpectedly. Then, something began to happen at the grave. The ground above the grave began to get blurry. The blur turned into a fog, and in the center of the fog, something began to take shape. I watched in amazement as the fog seemed to move into the manlike shape of a head, shoulders, arms and upper body! I thought I could even make out a vest with buttons on the upper body! Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, it disappeared. We took a dozen or so photos. Only one showed the manlike thing floating above the grave. It was a good, clear photo of a ghostly figure wearing a vest! The next week, I was back at the graveyard to see if the ghost made its appearance at about 9:15. Once again, the tension was high as we waited in silence for the ghost. Once again, I jumped when the train whistle shrieked and, once again, the ghost appeared above the grave! On my third visit to the grave, the ghost did not appear. I checked my log. The conditions were about the same as my first two successful visits. I waited in the same place with the same equipment. Everything was the same except that the ghost didn’t appear. I wasn’t sure why the ghost didn’t appear. The man who had found the ghost told me that he appeared often, but not every Thursday evening. The next day, I visited the local library to see what I could find out about the man buried in the grave. He was only 19 when he died, but his death was mentioned in the local newspaper. When I read that he had been killed by an oncoming train while walking on the railroad tracks, I was stunned. In an instant, I remembered the startling train whistle that blew just before two of the ghost sightings. As I thought back, I realized that the whistle hadn’t blown on the night the ghost failed to appear. I wondered if there was a connection between the train whistle and the appearance of the ghost. The issue was settled some weeks later when I managed to get a recording of that Thursday night train whistle. With a dozen other ghost hunters, I returned to the graveyard on a Monday night and played the recording of the train whistle. Almost immediately, the area above the grave became blurry. The blur became a fog, and then the ghost formed above the grave. Somehow, the ghost of a boy killed by a train still responded to a train whistle. Perhaps it was the last thing he ever heard in life! From that time, I have experimented with recorded sounds and ghosts. I’ve tried recordings of gunfire on Civil War battlefields, the sound of horses galloping on old country roads, and recordings of music that accompanied silent movies in an old, haunted theater. Nine times out of ten, the experiments were a failure. It isn’t easy to match a recorded sound to a ghost. You need lots of detailed information to begin to make a match. You need to know exactly who the ghost is. That’s rarely possible. Think about it. In a 200 year-old house, for example, the ghost could be anyone who ever lived or died there! That’s hundreds of possibilities! If you can narrow down who the ghost is, the next problem is to find a sound that they might recognize AND respond to! What that means is you need to be able to find very detailed information on that individual. Local or family history may record that an individual lived, married, had children, and died. Little else about any person is usually preserved unless they were especially memorable or historically significant. So, making the sound match to a ghost boils down to luck in finding details about a long-dead person and good guesswork in choosing a sound that might cause the ghost to respond. After years of trial and error, I discovered that music was the most successful sound to use in getting a response from a ghost. We often know some broad fact about a haunted area. We may know that it is the site of a Civil War skirmish or battle between Indian tribes. Or, we may know that a house was used as a hospital during the Civil War or as a morgue during the 1918 Influenza Epidemic. Using those broad facts, we can choose a song from that time period to play at the haunted site. Recently, we conducted a Paranormal Investigation of a Civil War skirmish site. I knew that Gen. George Armstrong Custer and his Michigan cavalry had fought at the site during the Civil War. I also knew that the song, “Garry Owen,” was Custer’s regimental song. We searched for, found, and burned onto a CD a recording of “Garry Owen” played on authentic Civil War instruments. When the Paranormal Investigators were well distributed through the Civil War skirmish site, we played the recording of “Garry Owen.” Nothing happened when we played the song the first two times but, all hell broke loose in the middle of the song the third time we played it! Orbs flared, the site grew supernaturally dark, ghostly voices floated through the air, and ghostly footsteps approached the Ghost Hunters! If you want to try this technique of eliciting a response from the supernatural using music, use these guidelines: 1. Research the haunted site or house to find the suspected time period the ghost may have lived. 2. Research the most popular song of that time period. 3. Find that song as it was originally played, using authentic instruments and orchestration. Remember that many old songs are released today using a modern score, not the original. If you aren’t familiar with instruments and orchestration, find a trained musician to help you. 4. Make a clear recording of the song, take it to your haunted site, and play it as many times as necessary to elicit a response from the ghost or ghosts. If you don’t get a response, you may want to try another song from the same time period or a song from another time period. Like so may ghost hunting techniques, using music to get a response from a ghost requires research, practice, patience, and luck. As we always remind new Paranormal Investigators, “If it were easy, everyone would do it! Successful ghost hunting is extremely difficult and should only be attempted by those who are well-trained and dedicated!”
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