By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
"Did anything happen in this room?" Clark asks, looking from floor to ceiling.
"He wants some of us to leave," Hawkins says suddenly. "And I keep getting something about up there—something happened up there." She points to the ceiling. Then she walks out of the room, telling Amy to ask "him" why he's so tired. For a moment the only sound is the crickets outside.
"Why are you tired?" Wainwright asks. "Did I see you that night? The first time I came here?" After a while we walk back out to the hallway, where we're shushed by the others. "Do you hear that movement right there? We heard breathing." "It's a female—like giggling." I strain my ears but don't hear anything. Clark, her headlamp hanging around her neck, slowly waves the microphone through the air. "I think we got too close," she says. Then it gets cold. Really cold. "Whoa," everyone says at once, looking around. "Thanks for coming to see us," Clark says with a smile, taking out her camera.
But as we step into an adjoining room, Hawkins says whoever it was went to the back of the house. I follow her there. "I've been doing this since I was little—I help them move on if they want to," she tells me. "There's something back here. Do you feel the tingling on your scalp?"
"No," I say. "I just feel light-headed."
She nods. "They're saying, 'It's all messed up.'" Then she addresses the ghosts that are apparently swirling in our midst. "You don't need to be afraid," she tells them, heading for the back door, where there's a pile of plastic Halloween bodies: legs, arms and heads in an unruly heap. "I bet a lot of them are hanging out back there," she says, pointing beyond the door. "They don't really like people." Then she grimaces. "I'm starting to feel sick—that usually only happens when they're negative."
Great, I think. I'm feeling a little nauseated myself. And ready, ghosts or not, to get the hell out of that nasty little room. All of a sudden, an image pops into my mind—it's an old, gnarled woman glaring at me with wide, glowing eyes, like something out of Lord of the Rings. She's shoving handfuls of something into her mouth. Alrighty then. Now I'm really ready to leave, since I've apparently lost my mind and could use some anti-psychotic medication. As we walk out, I notice I'm nearly running.
The others are talking outside. Tammy's telling how she sensed a male spirit come from the staircase and follow her out of the house. "It was definitely a man," she says.
The PR guy nods. "Yeah, that sounds about right." The women share other discoveries: the giggling, a woman's perfume, being directed to the ceiling. "I'll have Jim tell you about the spot in the ceiling," he says, pointing to Jim Scott, a mustachioed guy with a baseball hat and silver belt buckle, who has owned the property since the '70s.
"There was a man who came out here a few years ago," Jim begins as we gather 'round. "He was a member of the last family that lived in the house. He said he'd heard that the man who lived here before—his two wives found out about each other." This story wasn't on the Web site. "They decided he was the one who had to pay, so they cut him up and put his body in the attic." The man said that when his family moved in, the plaster kept breaking open in that spot and they'd have it repaired, only for it to break open again. "When we came out here to use it as a haunted house," he tells us, "there was a gaping hole in the ceiling."
The next night I find myself strolling through a cemetery at dusk with Lisa Olive, the veteran ghost hunter with the creepy EVPs, and Paula Schermerhorn, her medium friend who helped the Hurricane Rita victims make it to the other side. The women elected to bring me to Aurora Cemetery, famous as the resting place of serial killer Ricky Lee Green, as well as an alien pilot that was rumored to have been found there in the 1890s. It's a pretty cemetery, with grass and wildflowers, graves covered with pictures, letters and bouquets. There are storms in the distance, and lightning flashes as the clouds turn pink and shift overhead. Olive, wearing a backward baseball cap and a headlamp, snaps pictures as we pass grave markers dating from the 1800s, recent monuments, plots saved for those still living and small stones decorated with hearts and angels that clearly belong to children.
"It seems pretty peaceful," Schermerhorn tells me apologetically. The last time she was here she sensed a lot of teenage spirits, she says. I tell her not to worry. After the haunted house, I've had enough of ghosts, real or not. We come to the grave of a 15-year-old high school senior who was buried in 1997. A picture in a silver frame on the marker shows a brown-haired boy with a bright smile.