Monthly Archives: May 2011

Along the Roadsides

It was different last night because it was real. Leaving the Stanley Hotel at three on a rainy morning, the shadows stretched longer than usual and the mist periodically made the visibility on the road thick, ghoulish caricatures floating along the asphalt. Almost immediately upon turning onto highway 34, an elk stood in the middle of the road, slowly walking from one side to the other, as lazy as the mist. It almost seemed to blend against the shadows in a way that seemed to camouflage him in the dark, even when I flickered my high beams at the approaching car. It carried an odd feel with it though. It felt as etherial as the other… things I’d witnessed a few months prior, only this one didn’t fade into the shadows on the sides of the road, instead lingering.

"The Roadside Daydream" by Justin Maller. See more at

Over a few week period somewhere between February and March, a few weeks after witnessing the Pig Man, just before the supermoon, while Callea and I continued to reach into these folds of experience in the basement of the Concert Hall on weekend mornings, I began to witness strange shadowplay on the sides of the road while driving, shapes that stood out first like animals in the road before shifting back amongst the darkness at the edges.

Sometimes I’d see the shadows multiple times a night, sometimes during the day, again and again. I’d be glancing down to my phone to change a song, looking at my speedometer, checking something to my side, when upon looking back to the road, I’d see a dark shape, sometimes like a human, usually like an animal, on the edge of the road, not so much beyond my headlights as among and with the shadows within the light. And then in the way of a frightened animal, the shape would sweep from the road, but not so much bounding out of the way and into the brush, but as if it were only a trick of the eye, blending back into the amorphous shadows of the side of the road. And then I would be along the curve and past, and no large animals watched me go past from safety.

Now what with this shifting of the light, it’s easy to wonder if in the dark, with tired eyes (as many happened on my way home from the hotel at three or four in the morning), all I see is matrixing darkness from the edges of the road and the plants and rocks in a way that seemed that there was something in a road that twisted back to the nothingness as I drove past. I’d agree, and have written these shadow figures off had it not happened again and again, different nights and different times and conditions. I’ve seen them in the rain, in the dry, in the day, in the night. For about a month I’d witness them. Not every day, mind you. Usually it was only on the weekends because I didn’t do much driving during the week, remaining at home or in college.

It stands out further when I look back on my eight years of driving and seeing nothing at all that struck me as strange as these. We tend to write off experiences that strike us as odd, (perhaps it was just a REALLY vivid dream, we argue), but unique experiences are valuable, they have weight, they’re strange. Rarity of an experience can be just as useful an argument for something’s existence as it is it’s inexistence. Simply because something is rare has NO bearing on whether or not it’s true. So Bigfoot hasn’t been seen a hell of a lot, yeah, maybe it is a real creature and isn’t seen much. The existence is in no way dependent on it’s frequency of witness.

Two days ago I witnessed another while driving to my filmmaker friend’s house for a small get together. It was ten at night and he lives in the hills west of Loveland, a good twenty or thirty minutes from the heart of town. Along one curve I saw, more clearly than any of the shadows of the previous few weeks, a figure crouched along the side of the roadway, with its four legs poised together almost balancing in the way that a dog squats when it shits. The texture was more severe than I’d noticed yet, with black and gray patterns across it and seeming almost more shiny than furry. But then it was gone, melting like an ice shard into the shadows around it and again as I drove past, there was nothing.

This was the first time I’d seen again anything like what I’d before noticed for about two months.

And then last night at three in the morning, I drove home from another ghost hunt, exhausted, tired, my eyes blurry and slightly heavy, awake enough to drive safely but close enough to sleep that when I hit the mattress an hour later I was out. And I didn’t see anything questionable, despite spots of low hanging mist, whispering ghost-like cloud shapes along the asphalt, shadows abound in my high beams, and tired eyes.

So my question for you guys is have you heard anything about a phenomena like this? It would almost seem that over the last five months I’ve been tapping into a kind of awareness of more nature-based spirits, these along the roadsides, those in the Carriage House and Concert Hall at the Stanley over and over again, the presence at the Irma Hotel, and the Pig Man. I haven’t even done any googling but are there stories about recurring shadowy phenomena on roadsides or lore about more natural spirits drawn to roads in rural areas? Or is this something fresh?

Summertime and Supermoons and Sprites

It’s summertime now. Well, by date, and not weather. Because outside the streets are that brown color that means it stopped raining a bit ago, but when it was raining, it rained a lot, and the threat remains. The weird part for Colorado is the “raining a lot” and the “remaining threat.” But I’ll take it because I like rain.

Because I’m done with school for the semester, I’ve developed an ungodly amount of free time (which is quite wonderful and equally stays hidden amongst my laundry list of busy-sounding things I either could be doing or have to do on the weekends). In this free time I’ve been meaning to get back to rewriting Hallowtide, but reworking the entire plot has proven a trifle difficult and I find myself often staring blankly at the wall or reading the Shining to try and coax out those plot points that wander about in my head while I read.

My point is I’m not writing much, but mean to. And I’ve also realized I haven’t blogged (or vlogged) much. And wanted to get back in touch with you guys.

So I thought I’d share some more possibly weird stuff.

Your opinions are welcome. Requested, even.

You remember when I saw the pig man in 1302 in a very brief but vivid dream on December 29, 2010? (blog here; This was followed in March, when on the 19th we lead a ghost hunt the same evening as the so-called “Supermoon,” with unexpected results. I mentioned the Supermoon briefly in a vlog here; but I’ll say a bit about it here too.

I was skeptical about the Supermoon and still am to some degree. I’ve seen arguments for and against the moon affecting paranormal activity by well-qualified individuals on both fronts. I myself leaned away from the full moon making much difference. Perhaps a full moon brings out the crazy in schools and hospitals and for cops and parents, but like a new car, you see it when you’re looking, I decided. The moon effects the tides, I argued, but by gravity. Are spirits affected by the effect of a massive body waxing and waning in the light? Meh. Maybe. But on that night the activity was decidedly different, and the jury is still out.

Following the ghost hunt, myself and five or six friends were sitting in Lucy’s room in the basement of the Concert Hall as we often do, urging any activity. The room had a very different feel to it that night, and the activity escalated in a strange way. Frequently we saw strange sparks of light appearing along the walls and dark doorframes. These sparks were of the same makeup as the spirals and supernova that appear behind your eyelids when you close them and press on them, but with a touch more substance, making them stand out against the natural motions of the eye. But were someone to spark a lighter in the same area, the effect would be undeniable and something immediately noticeable.

Now are these kind of in-between sparks something I call supernatural, and existing, not just tricks of the eye? Perhaps. But what was interesting that night was not only the consistency of these strange half-real sparks, but that we noticed them at the same time. “I thought I just saw something,” I might say.

“Over by the base of the support post?” One of our friends might suggest.

“Yeah,” I’d say. “Like a bluish spark or a light of some kind?”

“That’s exactly what I just saw too.”

These dialogues would go back and forth for the next two hours.

And they suggest interesting directions to further our observation. If spirits are in the edges of the visible light spectrum, or even some spectrum of our own sensory awareness, shouldn’t it be at the edges that we’re looking? If they’re intangible enough to not fully manifest or cast shadows one hundred percent of the time, is it such a stretch to imagine that these near trick-of-the-eye phenomena might be much closer to what it is we’re searching for? That we must pay better attention to the edges of our vision rather than the distinct shadows cast for our video cameras?

Of course I’m aware of the predicament this places upon the technical investigator. In the search for the tangible, the “evidence” or the paranormal, and in light of the debunking, skeptical mindset, approaching an investigation by placing careful and open-minded attention on the tricks of your eyes seems heedless and open to false positives and over-excitability. Past the focal point of our sight, if I remember my statistics correctly, more than half of our vision is extrapolated from the colors around it, and blank spaces are “filled up” with these colors. The majority of our vision is in fact, false.

But the possibility remains. And on a night like this Supermoon, what generally stay in the realm of a trick of the eye became phenomenologically justified with multiple eye-witnesses to what I would only describe as a trick. And so I only encourage this type of approach (which may well lead us in an appropriate direction, albeit shakily) for those pursuing personal paths toward the paranormal, and with partners they can trust. It’s a kind of personal experience that is fraught with doubt and critique, and should remain on the experimental level of some ITC devices for instances of home investigations, but one that I think in the right context can be very interesting to pursue. So do so critically, but with interest.

Meanwhile, back in Lucy’s basement, the feelings became more and more intense. Where her room for the past seven months had felt generally eerie, this strange and sometimes intimidating feel (in the way of any unseen haunting, no negativity implied) was usually easily linked to the feel of a presence. Perhaps Lucy. Perhaps one of the many other spirits haunting the grounds. But that night was far different, reminiscent of the few times I was invited into the condemned Carriage House next door. That night, the spirits felt much more animalistic, natural, smaller, fleeting, and less responsive, but no less there.

I likened the sensation to being on a game trail of some kind, that it felt that tens of spirits were running on some kind of a path through the room toward the west, and away from the Carriage House. At the time, the Carriage House was going through some renovations, and still is. The Hotel is seeking to refurbish the old building and have it open again in a few months. Stories from the construction has left little doubt in my mind that something was unsettled. (Hopefully the House will be open to us for ghost hunts soon, but until then the building is still condemned and still under security watch for trespassers).

After one of our friends, Lisa (who was eight months pregnant), felt the urge to leave, the discomfort in the room building so severely for her, I went into the middle of the room and crouched against the floor, trying to feel for some kind of touch or sensation that would justify the shadows and sparks we continued to see at ground level, taking a more active approach to interaction. Many times Callea watched shadows close in around me before receding again, and I felt what seemed to be small animal-like spirits running about my feet. Even at one point the feeling like something was on my arm, not physically, but with that kind of flinching feeling when someone presses their face very close to yours who you don’t know very well. Something was in my space. I almost even heard the sound of the fabric of my shirt moving at strange moments. At one point I became very distinctly sure of my shirt against my shoulder blades and immediately afterward Callea said she saw a blackness right behind me.

Callea even describes having seen an entity right before her eyes in the exact same way that I described the Pig Man from months prior. In German culture the pig is an image of luck in the new year. I saw the entity two days before new year and the following month was door after door opening for me. Following Callea’s experience of the Pig Man, her luck changed dramatically. Connection perhaps?

This attention toward these natural feeling spirits, nature spirits, elementals, what have you, has become part of our normal personal experience of Lucy’s room for the last few months and part of our own process toward opening ourselves up to experience. Are our minds running away with themselves? Are we being critical enough? Are our eyes only playing tricks? Perhaps, but one of the great things about being able to come back to a place like this is being able to try to get in touch with the feel of a room or the way we feel inside a room week to week and why and what it is that we’re feeling and what lines up. This is what’s been lining up lately.

Even last weekend Callea and I sat in the room and it felt different. It didn’t feel like there was any one human spirit in there the way it felt for months in the fall, but it felt more like the Carriage House did. Even then we continued to see small shadows flitting at the ground level and strange shapes moving in the lighter areas against the walls. This isn’t a feeling of difference week to week now, but a feeling month to month.

Were these spirits displaced by the Carriage House renovations? Are they fresh? Are we tapping into them in a new way? Perhaps. But it’s a fascinating personal approach that excites me, and one I’m eager to have more experiences with.

This post ran a bit long talking about the nature spirits of Lucy’s room, but what I wanted your feedback most upon I’ll have to leave for later in the week, for a Part 2. So stay tuned!

Grave Encounters

Was at the TAPS event this weekend and got the chance to watch a screening of the Tribeca Film Festival’s highly talked about found-footage horror film Grave Encounters. The first time I caught the trailer on youtube, I was eager to see the rest. It’s the story of a film crew shooting a paranormal television show who step in something truly horrific. 

After each new found footage film, you wonder whether another will be as successful as the last, providing that visceral horror and reality-bending scares, both in the box office and as a storytelling device. Blair Witch Project felt one of a kind. Cloverfield, I felt, could never be repeated. Yet Paranormal Activities one and two dominated the market and we’re continuing to see adaptations and updates, fresh new takes and perspectives.

Grave Encounters initially takes its cues very overtly from popular ghost hunting shows Paranormal State and Ghost Adventures, so thoroughly that the lead, Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson) seems to almost shapeshift between Zak Bagans and Ryan Buell, enough that caused me a double take or two, if just to make sure I wasn’t missing some cameo.

Immediately the show takes full hold of its genre. Indeed, initially, I worried the obviousness in the mimicking of Ghost Adventures was unrealistic, that a show so similar would never be successful, that it was too easy a premise. But as the plot took hold, the real heart of the movie came out. Though we’re seeing footage “unedited for television,” we get this strange blend of those clips that would make the final cut, but also those cuts that don’t, without the music and editing in between. This kind of campy honesty makes the show feel real and something we can trust. Many watchers wonder about the behind the scenes, whether it’s real, whether anything is staged, and what the cast does when the cameras are off, and its this blend of insight, self-awareness, and aptitude for the television it seeks to pervert that makes the film most truly successful.

Found footage movie. Everyone is going die or disappear somehow. In a place they don’t think is actually haunted. It’s a premise that’s been done, and if that was really the root of this movie, I can’t say I would have enjoyed it. The climax lasted too long for my taste and I’d be lying if I said that each time the scene switched, I wasn’t praying for it to be over, but as a violent film, that’s not necessarily a knock. For me, it was the House of Leaves scenario that transcended the shit-hitting-the-fan escalation, the idea that it’s not just an escalating haunting that provides the scares (a la Paranormal Activity), but something greater and truly powerful and terrifying. The very nature of reality is manipulated and changed, a kind of terrible power that makes the characters utterly helpless against it.

That’s the second heart of the movie; that hopelessness. You feel it. I watched this film with a laughing, half-drunk bunch, and we were all eerily quiet halfway through. There’s a real terror operating between the lines (or shots, should it be?). What do you do when you stop expecting to ever be saved or to ever get out? What kind of terror is it that grabs you when the situation is utterly lost? Sometimes certain images and situations broke my suspension of belief, but the film regained my attention quickly again and brought me back to the moment, prepared for the next scare.

Does Grave Encounters carry the thematic depth of House of Leaves? No, it follows more the premise alone. Is it the kind of thematic horror movie that makes my subconscious and writerly nerves shiver? No. It’s a group of people in a terrifying situation getting freaked out and the idea is that the viewer should too. No, it’s not a thematic philosophical commentary, it’s not doing the work of art, but by the end of this movie, I was feeling, and I was thinking. And that alone is a success.

Because the film touched on this idea of a god-like horror, of reality-bending and Hell-constructing power, there was a real philosophical and thematic possibility introduced and overlooked that I can’t ignore, and that’s why this movie falls short at only a good entertaining flick. When you’re confined to infinite hallways and paradoxes of the very reality you grew up trusting and a doorway appears before you, would you enter? Should you fear what lies beyond? That question to me was the true heart of the movie and I would have liked for the writers and filmmakers to linger on that idea a bit more, to linger on the implications of the situation itself in addition to the pure intensity of the elements.

Could this story go through a few more edits before hitting the screen and have an avenue to a kind of greatness? Sure. But I don’t want my idealism to detract from what was a very successful movie. It was scary. It was intense. It knows exactly the genre that it intended to explore. It was another interesting adaptation of the found footage horror genre. I’d recommend it to horror fans, ghost hunting groupies and would push for a wide release. This movie deserves it. An A rating though? Not so much.