ASSOCIATES (2007, November, v. 14, no. 2)


Library Life:

A Column of Eclectic Rantings

Katie Kintner

Well here it is, Halloween or as of today, just after Halloween. As you might remember, I have a certain fascination with ghost lore that has led me to become somewhat active in the field of paranormal research. Those of you new to this publication might want to go back through the archives to find my previous columns on the subject as this column is going a bit further into it.

Ok, I have to come out of the closet now. For the last three years I have been involved in an activity known as “ghost investigation”. That is, I take my little digital camera, my camcorder, digital voice recorders and a few other technical tools, go to people’s houses or other structures and look for ghosts. While on the surface, this sounds quite scary and exciting, it is usually quite boring and the ghosts usually don’t cooperate very well.

This is not to say that I haven’t seen or heard anything unusual. The digital recorder has caught dozens of what ghost hunters call “EVPs” or electronic voice phenomena. Evaluating these recordings means eliminating other possibilities such as live people in the area, radio transmissions, baby monitors, etc. What are left is simply the voices that are unexplainable. Are they paranormal? I’m still on the fence about that one.

I’ve also seen a few things that I’m not sure about. One was a shadow moving quickly past a living room window in a client’s home one dark night. When I say “quickly”, I mean it ZOOMED. It was vaguely human-sized, had no head or arms to speak of and was far too speedy for it to be car headlights going down the narrow lane outside the client’s home. Was it a ghost? I’ll never really know but the lady whose house we were investigating seemed quite relieved that I had seen it. Apparently these same creatures were also inside the house and she had been seeing them since she had moved in nearly thirty years ago. But that’s another story.

Anyway, this is all leading up to something. For the past three years I have been doing this particular activity, I have pretty much been under the radar of local news organizations and deliberately so. Our investigation group consists of people who generally don’t want their friends and employers to know about their odd hobby and I understand this completely. So why did I let the local newspaper interview me for their Halloween issue? Because I am crazy, that’s why.

To be honest, when I let a local student newspaper interview me last year, all it got me was a couple of investigations, which was great. But apparently it also got me archived by the local daily newspaper and when Halloween arrived this year, I was asked to take a group of reporters on a ghost hunt. Hey, why not? Sounded like fun! So I met them at a local cemetery and proceeded to scare the you-know-what out of them. We had a great time and the article was published a few days later. *

Now, to give you a little more background, one of our group’s activities is to set up a “ghost walk” in that same cemetery and the recreational trail behind it. Usually we keep a low profile on this and an average group on a walk will be about eight to ten people. When we got twenty-five once, I nearly had a heart attack.

fox_river_view.jpgThe ghost walks are a free activity and in theory, open to the public. When the reporter asked me about this in just that way, I said yes, they are open to the public. I forgot to mention that it was only for people who subscribed to our little ghost walk website. Were we doing one soon? Yes, we’re doing one on October 27 at 8:30 PM. I didn’t realize that I was saying “hey, put it in the paper every day for a WEEK”. And oh yes, I was apparently also saying that the paper should move the time up by an hour and put the wrong meeting place in there while they are at it.

By the time I realized this was happening, it was too late to stuff the worms back in the can. I hurriedly moved the time up by an hour for our website group, since it would be easier to do that than hope that a correction (or deletion) in the newspaper would do any good.

When the evening for the ghost walk arrived, I knew we would have two groups of people waiting for us to go down the trail. One group would be from the website where we normally set up the times and places and the other would be from the erroneous newspaper listing. With luck, the cold weather would keep it down to 25 or so at each place and we were prepared for that. I had lined up several from my investigation team to help lead groups on the walk. It was a good thing I did.

When we arrived at the correct meeting place at the trail entrance, I nearly chewed up my tongue and swallowed it. Cars were parked endlessly along the street and there was a crowd of at least 100 people milling about, waiting for us there. I jumped out of our car when it was nearly still rolling to try to take charge. Useless, useless! They looked at me as if an insane maniac had suddenly arrived in their midst. They were right.

angel2_small.gifWhen I finally got their attention, I explained what had happened and why we would be a bit late getting going. I assigned our group leaders to organize that group and get them started while I went over to the cemetery to pick up “stragglers” who had gone to the wrong place. I even asked for volunteers to go with me and start their walk there to take the pressure off the trail group leaders. What I didn’t realize was…

There were just as many people at the cemetery. Luckily one other of our group leaders had followed me over and we had to split that group into two. We decided to let those folks stay at the cemetery and not send them over to the trail unless they really wanted to go there. To my relief, most of them had not realized that we also walked the trail and were only interested in the cemetery. They were unbelievably understanding and I think that most of them actually enjoyed the walk through the darkness-enshrouded tombstones and mausoleums. I sighed with relief as we finished our circuit and arrived back at the meeting place by the cemetery chapel. As they got in their cars to go home, I used my walkie talkie to call our other group leaders to find out if any trail walkers were going to come over to the cemetery. A few were and so we waited for them to arrive.

But the entertainment was not over yet. The finale would be provided by the Oshkosh Police Department as a squad car rolled into the cemetery and an officer emerged. He was friendly in a cop-like sort of way as I explained what had happened. Apparently police officers don’t read the newspaper and he was unaware of the ghost walk but some neighbors had seen the large group congregating there and had grown concerned. As we were talking, a second squad car pulled in as backup and another officer emerged. However, he didn’t get too far as suddenly his squad car began to roll backwards out into the busy street edging the cemetery.

Watching two police officers run headlong after a squad car rolling on its own with lights flashing is really quite entertaining. I know it wouldn’t be so funny if one of them had gotten hurt and I’m sure we would have gone to their aid had that happened, but it didn’t. When they returned, I reminded them of where we were and that maybe the ghosts were trying to tell them something. All I got was a strained smile. At least I didn’t get hauled off to the hoosegow.

After promising to keep the group together and round up any strays who had peeled off during the first walk, I got to lead the last group who had come over from the trail walk through the cemetery. This group was much smaller and kept together very well.

labdog.gifdog1.gifWithout the strain of having to keep people together, it was a much more enjoyable experience and we got to stop several times to examine mausoleums and interesting grave markers without being hurried. When we got back to the starting point, everyone seemed to be quite satisfied with their experience even though we had not seen any ghosts. I was surprised to say the least.

In fact, subsequent feed back has confirmed that a lot of people actually enjoyed the walk and a few even had unexplainable “experiences”. How the ghosts could even make themselves known in that huge chattering mob is beyond my understanding, but apparently they did.

It has also occurred to some of us that if we had just had a few t-shirts to sell, we might have made enough money to buy our group some of the more expensive pieces of equipment that we have been eyeing. So now, the responsibility of the Halloween Ghost Walk has been passed along to another of our investigators to turn it into a moneymaking venture. I think we will probably move it elsewhere to bring it out “into the light” so to speak and also to an area with better parking.

But for me, I’m returning to the small, intimate groups we enjoyed before this particular evening. We will probably do another ghost walk in December and I’m going to pick the coldest night and latest hour that people from our original group will tolerate. No more groups of two hundred or more, thank you. Twenty five people? Piece of cake!


Katie has been writing for Associates since the inaugural issue in July 1994. She occasionally gives highlights of her career as a library assistant but often focuses on life in general. Katie lives in Wisconsin.