October 23, 2012

Hauntings in the White House

With being almost time for the US Presidential Election as well as Halloween, I decided to combine the two subjects into one glorious blog post. As I tried to figure out how I would perform such a feat, I realized that I could write about the most famous haunted house in the world: the White House.

Yes, that's right, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a reportedly haunted location. Instead of some slack-jawed yokels claiming the resident is haunted, there are some well-educated and respected individuals spread across many years claiming to have had some paranormal experiences in the house.

It's not uncommon for old buildings to manifest ghostly activity. Some think it's the product of spirits who have such a strong connection with the building that they cannot bare to completely leave it behind in the afterlife. Others think the activity is just spiritual energy playing out the events that took place in the building in the past.

So who haunts the White House? Some have reported hearing Andrew Jackson stomping and yelling through the house's hallways (he was known to have a fiery temper). Jackson's old bedroom, the Rose Room, is also arguably the most paranormal active room in the entire house. President Harrison has reportedly been seen and heard rummaging in the attic. Abigail Adams has been seen going toward the East Room, where she spent much of her time hanging the wash out to dry. Harry Truman told his wife he regularly would hear footsteps in the hallways and in the room where he would be studying, and he would even see the drapes in the room move back and forth by themselves.

Lincoln, however, is by far the most commonly attributed to paranormal activities in the White House. In fact, Lincoln has been seen in various rooms for decades, including by a past queen from the Netherlands and Calvin Coolidge's wife. Could it be that Lincoln died so violently and suddenly at a time he felt he had much left to do in this life, and that's why he's been seeing sticking around his former house?

Perhaps some of the paranormal activity in the White House has come about from the practices of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln's wife reportedly was very into the occult, including seances. She would regularly hold seances in the White House in an attempt to communicate with her deceased sons

The paranormal happenings in the White House have not suddenly ceased. In fact, back in 2009 Michelle Obama told a group of kids visiting the White House that she and President Obama had been awoken in the night by strange noises. That's not an unusual thing to experience, especially for anyone who's lived in a house that old. What's weird is that the First Lady also told the children that different members of her family have felt the sensation of someone chewing on their feet. Yeah, that definitely crosses the line into creepy ghost activity.

October 19, 2012

Real Ghost Stories

With Halloween quickly approaching, I know that everyone's minds begin turning to thoughts of ghosts and hauntings, among other paranormal phenomena. My thoughts are on ghosts and hauntings at all times of the year. This is partly because I'm working on a new haunted house novel, partly because I've written hundreds of articles on the paranormal and partly because I've lived in some paranormal active homes and experienced living with a haunting firsthand.

Talking about living with a haunting is not a horribly popular topic of conversation for most people. From my experience, I've found many people are reluctant to talk about their experiences--except with those with whom they have a deep level of trust--for fear people will think they're "weird" or "crazy". In fact, I've learned to be cautious of people who spout off about their paranormal experiences to the point it borders on or even crosses over into bragging. Such people often are desperate for attention or actually do have mental issues 

I can also tell you from personal experience that hauntings can be a highly stressful event for a person to endure. Some hauntings are peaceful and harmless, and those don't stress out most people who experience them. A person feels quite a bit of internal strife resulting from an aggressive haunting as that person wonders if he's really experiencing what he's experiencing. Second-guessing your own senses all the time begins to wear on you. As a person's fear level rises, his stress level shoots through the roof as he feels that his home--the one place he has to completely relax in--has been invaded by something he doesn't understand. Hauntings also place extra stress on the relationships between the people living in a haunted location, especially if one person doesn't believe there is anything paranormal going on in the home. People living in a haunted house also might feel cut off from the rest of the world, and so they're not as diligent at keeping up friendships, etc.

I'm not entirely sure what it means, but since I was a small child I knew I was "sensitive" to these sorts of things. At first my experiences were tame or not scary. It wasn't until I was in high school that I had my first encounter with an aggressive, even violent entity. The experience shook me to the core, especially since nobody really knew what to do about it.

Since then I've had many other experiences with aggressive and violent hauntings. It doesn't matter how many times I experience them, because it always stresses me out. I lived in one particularly active house during a particularly stressful time in my life. I was working full-time and going to school at night, which meant I was up late at night all the time. I constantly felt like someone was standing behind me when I would sit at the desk in the basement. I would also hear noises upstairs like someone walking around and doors opening and closing. When I was home alone in the daytime I would hear knocks on the front door and would catch glimpses of people running past the windows, outside the house. As time went on it became more aggressive as it started calling out for both me and my wife both day and night. At first we thought it was our kids, but they were always fast asleep or not even home. Late one night I heard a voice say "daddy?"crystal clear from the hallway that lead to the bedrooms. When I turned to look, expecting to see one of my kids out of bed and saw nothing, the same voice laughed sinisterly. Just a few days later I began feeling someone lightly placing his fingers on my shoulder or back while I was working or studying. That eventually turned to fingers grabbing my shoulder or poking me hard in the lower back.

The house I live in now is not active at all in the paranormal sense, and for that I am grateful. I run into people on a fairly regular basis who seem jealous of anyone who has experienced a haunting firsthand. These people fail to understand that while some hauntings are harmless and might even be "fun" there are many people who are terrorized in their own home by a force they find hard to deal with, leading to excessive amounts of stress and even depression.

October 5, 2012

What Was Really Behind the Salem Witch Trials?

In preparation for my next book, I have been doing a fair amount of research. The main topic I've been focusing on is witchcraft, since the book will touch on that quite a bit. Naturally when anyone in America thinks about witchcraft, their thoughts quickly turn to Salem and the witch trials that are so famously associated with there. It's a tragic part of our country's history that I and so many others learned about in school.

Even though I already knew about the trials (or so I thought) I started digging into information about them. What I found was that so much of what I learned about the Salem Witch Trials was either inaccurate, incomplete or blatantly false. It shouldn't be a surprise to me, though, since in college I learned that much of what I was taught about World War I was bull.

What have I learned about Salem's Witch Trials? First off, that most of the trials didn't take place in Salem, but instead were held in other areas of Massachusetts. I had been taught that only women were implicated as witches, but learned from my research that quite a few men were as well. I had also been taught that the trials lasted years, when in fact they only went on for several months before those who had not been put to death were pardoned and released.

The most fascinating thing I've learned about the trials comes from a book called In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 by Mary Beth Norton. In the book Norton points out that the two wars between the British colonists and the French with their Native American allies fueled much of the furor over the witch trials in Massachusetts. The horrors of both wars (the first one we never, ever studied about in school) were much worse than I was ever lead to believe. The Puritans already saw the Native Americans as devilish, but these experiences took it to another level. Many of the accused in the trials were accused of performing ceremonies that were similar or identical to the Native Americans' practices. In a way, for many people, putting to death these supposed witches was helping them feel like they had exacted revenge on the Native Americans who so brutally murdered friends and family members. I'm sure there are those who argue against Norton's theory, but she does an excellent job of contextualizing the Salem Witch Trials and showing how the current political climate was ripe for the only known mass killing of accused witches in what is now the United States.

This is why I love writing: researching heavily on subjects I don't know that much about it just a fascinating thing for me. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I will need to give myself a cutoff date on the research, otherwise this could go on for years and the spectacular book I'm going to write would never happen.