July 27, 2011

Old Mill: The Most Haunted Place in Utah?

Tucked between the 215 beltway and the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon is a structure is hidden from casual view. The aging stone and adobe mill sits near the intersection of Wasatch and Fort Union Boulevards. The Old Mill has an interesting past which makes it – some argue – the most haunted site in all of Utah.
Old Mill was first built in 1883 by the Deseret News. Paper was in short supply in the valley so the mill was established to make paper out of logs from the nearby canyon, old paper, and even rags that were collected from residents. The completion of the transcontinental railroad made paper cheap as it increased the paper supply in Utah. No longer needing the mill, Deseret News sold it to Granite Paper Mills Company in 1892. One year later, on April 1, a fire broke out. The employees thought the alarms were part of a bad April Fool’s joke, allowing the fire to spread quickly. The structure was badly burned, especially in the southeast end where only the lower level stone walls were left.

The mill was renovated and used as a dance hall in 1927. The club was popular until the 1940’s, when it failed for a number of reasons. Since it has been used for various purposes, most notably as a haunted house. Tales have circulated about former caretakers of the mill who have died violently, piquing peoples’ interest in the site.

Many who have visited Old Mill have reported strange events. Cold spots, growling, and a general creepy feeling are commonly reported. One woman, Kelly*, had some strange experiences while working for a film crew that was shooting at the location over the period of several days. Kelly and others in the crew thought the building seemed “heavy” and “filled us with dread.” Equipment failures, which happened from time to time, occurred “much more than on any other shoot I had ever been on, before or since,” said Kelly. One night, after the whole crew had exited the building and all the equipment had been packed up, lights came on inside the mill. Baffled, the crew made extra sure upon returning to the warehouse that all the lighting equipment was accounted for. More baffling was the fact the building had no lights nor electricity running to it for lights to turn on. Kelly said everyone seemed glad once they finished filming at the location.

Old Mill was condemned by the City of Cottonwood Heights in 2005. The current owners have stated they have no plans to renovate the building. Old Mill is private property and there is no trespassing allowed.
Have you had any experiences with Old Mill or know anyone who has? Post your comments below.

* name changed to protect identity.

July 25, 2011

Movie Review: Insidious

It's been a while since I have seen a paranormal movie that really took me by surprise. Normally when I see one, I set my expectations low--especially after the huge disappointment of Paranormal Activity. It was with these low expectations that I viewed Insidious recently. I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised with how good that movie was.

Insidious tells the story of a family that has recently moved into an old house (sound familiar?) where strange things start to happen. The mother hears strange voices on the baby monitor, the baby won't sleep, things go missing, etc. Even more disturbing, though, is that the oldest of the two sons falls into a coma the doctors cannot explain. One day while changing her comatose son's sheets, the mother finds a red hand print on the sheets, complete with claws.

Things start to go crazy from there as the paranormal activity in the house skyrockets. The family makes the difficult decision to leave the house in hopes of starting afresh. At first the new house seems fine, but then the strange activity picks up again, leading the family to reach out for help. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but the family learns that their old house was not haunted, but rather that their son is the one who is haunted. Even worse is that the son's spirit has wandered far from his body to a place called the Further, and he can't get back to his body. The body-less spirits are circling the abandoned body like sharks, eager to enter and taste life again.

What makes Insidious such a great movie? The acting is wonderful, for starters. The movie does not try to go from 0 to 60 in no time flat, like so many horror movies, choosing instead to build the tension slowly while filling you with a sense of dread about what ultimately will happen. The plot does not follow the standard Hollywood formulas, choosing instead to strike out on its own and blaze a new trail. Being original carries a certain amount of risk, but Insidious wears this uncertainty quite well. I hate watching a movie, knowing exactly what will happen next. This happens to me a lot, but Insidious went in a direction I did not see.

I will say that Insidious is not a movie for those who are easily frightened. I do not get scared easily, and Insidious did not frighten me, but the movie did have its parts I would classify as "creepy" that would have had others diving behind the couch.

Buy or rent Insidious from Amazon by clicking here.

July 23, 2011

Hauntings at This is the Place Park

From its position at the mouth of Emigration Canyon sits a piece of Utah history. This is the Place Heritage Park marks the spot where Brigham Young and company first entered the Salt Lake Valley. At first a wooden marker was erected in 1917, but was later replaced with a stone monument. It was not until 1971 that a plan was put in place to create a living history museum at the site. In 1975 the first building was moved into the park – more on that later. The park now is a recreated pioneer village, complete with historic buildings, unpaved roads, and guides dressed in the garb of the pioneers.

Many have visited the park over the years. Some visitors may not be aware the living are not the only ones who walk the historic streets and buildings. The park is a hotbed for paranormal activity. Numerous employees and volunteers have experienced strange and unexplained phenomena while working in the park’s buildings.

What makes the park attractive to spirits of the dead? One possible explanation has to do with the pioneer graveyard. Llocated in a remote corner of the park, many visitors have mistakenly thought it was a reproduction of graveyards from times long since passed. Instead real pioneer remains are interred below the small collection of stone markers.

In 1986, during construction work in the area that was once known as Salt Lake City Block 49 (200 West to 300 West, 300 South to 400 South) workers stumbled across unmarked pioneer graves. Starting in 1847, the area had been used as a makeshift cemetery but these graves were long forgotten. The graves were uncovered most unceremoniously. Some of the remains were identified, but those that were not ended up in This is the Place Heritage Park. A very nice cemetery was constructed, including a fence, trees, and statues. Most of the unidentified bodies were children. The grave markers remain blank to this day, a reminder of the mystery surrounding who is buried below. The small markers are for the pioneer children, while the few larger markers are for the adults.

Some wonder if the relocation of these forgotten dead is not at least partly responsible for the activities in the park. Is the sound of children playing in some of the homes these unremembered children staying so near their new place of rest? Do these spirits wander the park, causing mischief and startling workers?

It seems fitting that the first building relocated to This is the Place Heritage Park was Brigham Young’s Forest Farm House. It is one of the most popular structures in the park, both with the living and the dead.
Paranormal activity was reported before the house was relocated in 1974. Park employee Brian Westover has taken an interest in the paranormal phenomena surrounding various buildings, putting together a log of different events. He reveals how previous owners of the home claimed Young and others visited the house, telling them even how to decorate it in 19th century d├ęcor.

Since the home was relocated to its quiet abode in the park, employees have reported numerous incidents while working inside. Numerous reports of doorknobs rattling on their own, footsteps sounding on the wood floors, and the noise of children playing upstairs have been recorded. Are these the sounds of Young’s children or the children in the nearby graveyard?

The paranormal events do not stop at sounds alone. Many have smelled foods of all types cooking in the kitchen. The kitchen along with the upstairs have been hotbeds of activity.

Most chilling is the experience of long-time park employee Stephen Shepherd. He claims he was a skeptic of the paranormal until his experience while working in the Farm House. In 1975, when the Farm House was new to the park, Shepherd was busy in the basement. He distinctly heard footsteps walking around the first floor of the house, even though supposedly he was the only one around. He checked the building to find no one around. Shepherd returned to his work, only to be disturbed once more by the footsteps. He went upstairs to find no signs of anyone, then checked outside. Fresh snow was falling, but Shepherd said no footprints could be seen anywhere outside the house. Shepherd locked the doors again and set the building’s alarm system, then returned to his work in the basement. The footsteps returned once more, yet the alarm system’s motion sensors detected nothing.

Does Brigham Young or his wife Ann Eliza keep watch over the home? Do their children still play in the second story? Many claim to have had experiences that lead them to believe they do.


July 21, 2011

Psychic Remote Viewing

Remote viewing is a controversial branch of parapsychology (the study of psychic phenomena). The psychic who performs remote viewing has the ability to experience a target location or object, giving feedback about various characteristics of the target. Some psychics reportedly can even can taste or smell during the remote view experience. Other psychics in the past have combined remote viewing with associative writing.

Experiments have gone as far as giving a psychic latitude and longitude coordinates and letting the psychic describe what is at the location. The target for a remote viewer may be an object contained in a box or envelope, or it could be a far-away location (including celestial bodies). Remote viewing has been criticized by some in the scientific community, but has been supported by others who have studied the phenomena (including former skeptics).

Many in the field of parapsychology believe there are individuals who can perform remote view who are not aware of their ability. Others in the field believe remote viewing can help a psychic view not only happenings and installations that are geographically distant, but also view events and places that are distant in time.

The government became involved in remote viewing during the Cold War. Concern about the possible ability of Soviet spies to observe secret US installations and practices fueled the CIA and other groups to research the possibility of such a threat. As in the scientific community there was a mixture of opinions on the validity of remote viewing. In 1995, under the Clinton Administration’s efforts at transparency in government, several documents from remote viewing experiments were declassified for public view.

Public speculation on the government’s involvement with parapsychology has been building since the 1960s. It is now known remote viewing has been employed in hostage situations, military operations, and intelligence gathering among other applications. With the declassification of government documents, the release of programs named Star Gate, Sun Streak, and Center Lane associated with remote viewing have helped sustain recent fascination with the subject. Several portrayals of remote viewing have appeared in popular culture, including the season seven opener of the TV show the X Files and Stephen King’s book Hearts in Atlantis.

For more info: see the International Remote Viewing Association's website -  a non-profit remote viewing organization.

Click here for some interesting information on H.E. Puthoff's involvment with the government sponsored remote viewing experiments at Stanford Research Institute.

July 16, 2011

Do You Have a Poltergeist?

Movies and other forms of popular culture have portrayed the event known as poltergeists.  These portrayals are not always true to reality, as is often the case in the entertainment industry.  It is important, then, to establish what a poltergeist is.

The word poltergeist comes from German, and loosely translated means “noisy ghost.”  Classic activity attributed to poltergeists include inexplicable moving or falling objects, knocking on walls or doors, malfunctioning electronic devices, and objects being stacked by an unknown force.  It is common for paranormal activity in a building to be attributed to ghost activity when a poltergeist is the cause.  This calls up the question of whether paranormal phenomena taking place in someone’s home is caused by a haunting by a spirit or a poltergeist.

William G. Roll ( a prominent parapsychologist) provides a means for distinguishing the two.  Roll claims that noises, knockings, and object movement  all occur much less often in ghostly haunting than in poltergeist scenarios.  Hauntings also occur over a longer period of time than poltergeist activities and do not center on a single person but rather an area.  In poltergeist activities, the paranormal phenomena occur when a certain person is present.  In other words, if this person were to say go on vacation for a week all paranormal activity in the residence would cease, but then start up once this person returned.  

Some parapsychologists call the people at the center of poltergeist activity “agents.”  This stems from the belief that poltergeist activities do not involve spirits of the dead, but rather psychokinetic energies put off by the agent.  In other words the strange activity is being produced by the agent, often without their knowledge it is them causing the activity.  Agents often are adolescents, but sometimes adults have been poltergeist agents.  Many have theorized puberty or severe psychological distress can be triggers for poltergeist manifestations through an agent.

Many wonder if poltergeist activities can be similar to spirit activities, just how easily can they be differentiated.  The truth is poltergeist phenomena sometimes can mirror ghostly activity so well even seasoned paranormal investigators may mistake one for the other.  Sometimes poltergeist activity can go on for quite some time.  It may involve aspects many attribute to demon activity such as physical violence towards the living (i.e. hitting or scratching).  One historical case some have theorized may have been poltergeist activity is the Bell Witch.  Others still feel the case was the product of black magic or demon activity.  

On a side note, there are some who feel other triggers are responsible for poltergeist activities.  One college professor in New York state feels geomagnetic increases are responsible for poltergeist activities.  As with many paranormal phenomena there is a wide range of theories trying to explain what seems inexplicable. 

If you suspect poltergeist activity is going on in your home, there are some steps to take for a resolution.  The agent should receive counseling to help resolve the stresses in their life.  Roll describes tests parapsychologists may use to determine who the agent is that needs to be treated.  The best rule of thumb is to involve professionals if poltergeist activity is suspected, whether it is a therapist or a parapsychologist. 

July 11, 2011

Skinwalkers and Spirit Walkers

Lately I have been doing some interesting research on the paranormal group Skinwalkers,which have been documented to an extent mostly amongst Navajos. I've written before about how white people have mistakenly said Skinwalkers are just Navajo werewolves, since there are major differences between the two groups.

Even deeper study on the subject has now shed more light on the subject for me, clarifying what a Navajo I once met meant when he told me that "us Skinwalkers prefer the term 'spirit walker.'" At the time I thought he was just trying to be contrary and to show that I didn't know much as a white person. The more I have dug, the more I have seen why some Skinwalkers would want to be referred to as spirit walkers.

Some Skinwalkers will perform their work in spirit form, instead of just in a physical form more or less resembling the animal whose skin they wear. This spirit form will allow a walker to perform task he would normally not have the ability to perform, even wearing an animal skin. The walker will make spiritual objects mean to harm others, which vary in form and function.

A person may not detect the presence of a spiritual walker as easily, and will also need to deal with the walker on the spiritual plane. This means physical blocks such as locks, security systems and even weapons will be ineffective against a walker in spiritual form. The walker has left his body behind and so has gained capabilities he would not have in his body.

This viewpoint of the Skinwalker as a spirit walker will challenge some people's way of thinking since the concept is so much more abstract than a guy who dresses in a wolf skin and becomes a "werewolf." Stepping out of one's ethnocentric circle comes with vast rewards as you are able to see the world from a different viewpoint, and begin to develop the ability to see the same thing from various viewpoints. I would argue that for anyone who wants to study the paranormal on a serious level, such an ability is absolutely essential.