Whistling Through the Graveyard

It’s been over twenty investigations now. I’ve been across the state of Colorado. I’ve been up and down the East Coast, in England, abroad. I’ve been searching to quench that desire to experience a spirit in a way that I can’t deny, in a way that validates everything I’ve felt so drawn to for the entirety of my life.

You go through cycles when you put yourself in a situation like this, when looking for a truth you can only find through personal experience, knowledge found immediate. There are ups and downs as you search, there will be moments of doubt. No search for truth can be without them. You’re first discouraged, then drawn back again, excited, perhaps to fall discouraged again, only to bounce back.

It’s been like this for the last two or three years for me, since I’ve been seriously investigating. I’ve been to the most haunted places in America and I never found that experience. It’s not a joke when those experienced in the field say that you can go for years before finding a satisfying haunt. It’s true. Sometimes the spirits do not come out to play. Sometimes still they don’t play with you. And further still after that, they don’t play the way you want them to. They don’t act on command.

Lucky for me that a series of events has led me to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, and I’ve found my first experiences there, and everything has changed.

It’s like a cycle, between the amateur and the intermediate investigators, the expert above all else. I became fully intermediate, well versed in the stale residential haunts – those haunts of enthusiasm and fear. I walk into buildings. I carry on one-sided conversations with empty walls. I listen to hours of empty evidence over and over. And I’m be asked in interviews and by friends, “Do you ever get scared?”

No.

I never did. Sometimes I’d feel unsettled, yes, generally only for a documentable period of time. A few minutes in a corner that struck me as funny – perhaps a spirit was communicating in the only way it knew how. Perhaps the dark had finally gotten into me, if just for a moment. Perhaps I finally let my thoughts run too far and away.

But it was that skeptical mindset and lack of experience that kept me in control. The place wasn’t haunted until it impressed me. And none of them impressed me, and likely they wouldn’t.

The Stanley changed that. I gave summary in an early blog of my first experiences there, the near constant bangs circling around our rooms, the flashlights blinking on and off with a timing too well to doubt, the table tipping sending the flashlight nearly rolling. Since then, I’ve had more and better experiences, ones to validate with audio and video I’m still analyzing, looking to put into words and another blog forthcoming at the end of this week.

I’ve been in the presence of spirits, and for the first time, I’ve known real fear on these investigations.

It’s so easy to sit back at home and watch the doors close on television, hear the disembodied voices and long for the experience. It’s so easy to walk into a building and ask to be impressed, to feel comfortable enough to sleep. You echo to the homeowners to talk to their spirits, to treat them as just unseen people. That there’s nothing to be afraid of.

And most times, there’s not. But fear is still their instrument.

The dark can be a scary place for many. An endless depth of the unknown. A face could be inches from your own and you’d never know. It’s the fear of the unknown, Lovecraft and many others have reminded us, that’s the greatest. It is. In the darkness for the skeptic, the darkness may well not hold an unknown. it’s easy to think of those spirits, should they be there at all, as formless, abstractions, imagination.

I’ve heard the kind of footsteps over my head that can be nothing other than a person having broken into the building walking with slow step, one, and then another, above my head, but with no body there. When you hear their voices and you know that the sounds they’re making can be not of this world, there comes a face in the shadows. Perhaps moments from manifestation, a touch away, real.

The investigation becomes not just a waiting game, but a game of tensions. The sound in the hallway coming closer, the footsteps louder, and nearer. Your equipment is moving and something is about to happen. Your nerves stand on end.

Your physical responses change. I’ve had them change in perfectly calm settings, when tension hasn’t been building, when the ghosts are being playful, that lead me to believe there may well be a feeling that comes with certain spirits, a passing of emotion and energy manipulation that scares us. It’s not rational, it’s not from within, but it can move you to your bones.

The hardest part as the skeptical investigator faced with a true haunting? Keeping your skepticism, keeping your imagination and your control in check. Just because a place is haunted, without argument, does not make those sounds spirits, when in any other place, they’re settling, natural sounds.

It’s become a new step, to regain footing again. These spirits, many of them, are people, and there is nothing to be afraid of. But that’s what makes it more difficult. Calming yourself and keeping a sane head on an investigation is all the more challenging when the sensations are from beyond you, or are not of your mind, but instinct.

It’s not like it is in the books. It’s not like it is on television to actually be there. The black shadows flicker and the unknown has moved from the question of whether they exist, to the question of whether they are who and what you think, and not something we’ve come to associate with the night, and the black, something dark, something that wants to harm us that we cannot see.

It’s hard when a faceless black shape fleets in hallways just out of sight, making sounds never on command, but skirting immediacy. They can mess with you. They do.

Lucy or Paul, two of the resident ghosts of the Stanley, are happy to play with the flashlights and close their doors. There’s little fear there. You’re communicating with a friendly spirit, but the fear is what takes you when you hear the distant sounds and no one says hello, when possibility comes formless, dark and watching.

It’s my next step. Overcoming the fear of the supernatural. The fear that comes from inexperience. I love it. It’s something the investigator needs to master. You should not run. You should not lose control. Your team needs that, and you need that. But fear is good; that excitement that knots your gut, the anticipation. It means something’s happening, and that’s the feeling you look back upon when you’re done. That’s the feeling I’ve been waiting for all my life.

Finally the dark has looked back and said hello.

And I come back each week for more.

So be patient, and the spirits will come. But be prepared. It will get scary.

I don’t care how seasoned you are. Just be chill about it and stay. Take those deep breaths, whistle through the graveyard, shake the feeling when the feeling gets too much, but remember when you’re there that it’s when you get that feeling that means it’s happening, what you came for; it’s this feeling that you’re going to remember the next morning, that you’re going to be unable to put into words for your friends when they ask you how it went; and it’s going to be this feeling that you’ll be looking for when you go back again.

I don’t know what’s next for me. I’ve found experiences I cannot argue with. That have shocked and surprised me. Perhaps next will be the pinnacle, the apparition, the feel of their touch. And then what? I don’t know, but you bet you guys will be there with me.

Copyright 2010 Karl Pfeiffer

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