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December 20, 2013

Truly Horrifying Government: Salt Lake City's Haunted City and County Building

Photos copyright grant_loy via Flickr.
One of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in Salt Lake City is also reportedly quite haunted. The City and County Building has always been at the center of controversy in the area, from the time it was originally proposed in 1880 and even more-so when construction began finally in 1890. It was first seen as a symbol of the wasteful extravagance of the dominant Mormon church, but then was taken over by the Liberal Party in the area, who went ahead with construction so they could create a government building that would equal the Salt Lake Temple only a few blocks away. For reasons never recorded and that nobody remembers, the original build site had to be scrubbed and a new site selected, which lead to more controversy.

December 13, 2013

Ben Lomond Hotel - Utah's Haunted Hotel


Happy Friday the 13th! I thought I would share with you a little bit about a haunted location about 45 minutes from my home, since the subject is quite appropriate for the occasion.

There are some stories about haunted hotels in the state of Utah, although they're not as common as in some states (specifically Pennsylvania with all the crazy activity in Gettysburg). We do have one haunted hotel that is breathtakingly beautiful and offers tremendous amenities. I'm talking about Ben Lomond Hotel in downtown Ogden.

September 15, 2013

Insidious Chapter 2


Stop right here if you have not seen Insidious, because you absolutely will not understand the second movie if you have not seen the first. If you have not read my review of the original Insidious movie, click here to read it now.

September 10, 2013

Paranormal Magnets

We all know what a magnet is: an object that will attract other magnets or metal objects. Some magnets are so incredibly strong they can pick a car off the ground. Other magnets can barely move a paper clip a couple of inches away. In the paranormal world there are magnets as well, or people who literally attract paranormal events in their lives.

August 16, 2013

Demons and Demonology


A few months ago I read a book called Devils and Demonology: In the 21st Century by Katie Boyd. Boyd is a demonologist, although not the type you might be familiar with. Instead of being a priest or an ecclesiastical authority of any kind, Boyd is an occultist who works with people of various faiths, including Hindus and Buddhists. In the book she talks about demons, negative spirits or energies from a variety of faith systems, giving an interesting perspective on the subject. While not the best book about demonolgy or the occult, it was interesting and free since I checked it out from the library.

August 2, 2013

Writing About Utah's Haunted Old Mill

Images copyright Steven Symes
This August 12 marks the four year anniversary since the first time I wrote and published something about the Old Mill. You can see my original article here. Since then I think about the Old Mill often. There is something about the old building nestled up by the mountains that is mesmerizingly creepy. I've thrown around the idea of writing a book about the mill a few times, but it seems something always comes up when I do.

I think that finally is about to change.

July 23, 2013

Duke University and Parapsychology

Remember these famous ESP cards?

I am starting to get a handle on certain life events again and so my blog is returning to "normal" with a post about the paranormal. This post is actually specifically about parapsychology and Duke University, which is a highly respected research institution. In fact, Duke University was the second institution of higher education in the United States to start studying parapsychology, right after Stanford University.

Parapsychology is an interesting beast. Unlike cryptozoology, which is the study of unknown creatures, in parapsychology (which is the study of psychic abilities) many researchers are academics. The Rhine Research Center is one of the better-respected parapsychology research facilities and for years it was connected to Duke University. Now the center is no longer associated directly with the university, but many Duke alumni work there.


June 28, 2013

Why I Love Breaking Bad

Not until recently did I get hooked on the AMC show Breaking Bad, which is the story of high school chemistry teacher becoming a meth cook after learning he has cancer. I have to admit at first it sounded like a strange concept for a show and I wasn't sure I would like it. You see, back in the day I used to teach classes at the local jail, where I would be locked in a room with a dozen or so inmates. It was there that I saw firsthand the horrendous effects of meth addiction. I literally now can look at a crowd and pick out people who have used meth heavy for a long time. So I wasn't sure I wanted to watch a television show that glamorized the use of meth.

June 25, 2013

Stonehenge, UFO Sightings and More: Britain's X-Files Are Getting Interesting

In case you haven't been keeping up with the paranormal news out of England for the past several months or so, the government there has been going through the process of declassifying and releasing X-files relating to UFO sightings from the past 60 years. Needless to say, there have been some very interesting facts and claims revealed to the public.

June 14, 2013

Book Review: UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record

Believe it or not I am quite skeptical of most UFO stories. I myself have seen strange lights in the sky, only to realize after a few minutes they are from a medical helicopter or something else man-made. I strongly suspect the vast majority of UFO sightings are from people's rush to judgment and ignorance of what can be in the sky (like Chinese lanterns).

A while ago when I was at the library I ran across a copy of UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record. I had read the press release for the book when it came out a couple of years or so ago, threw it on my reading list and then kind of forgot about it. The chance to read the book for free was too tempting, and so I checked it out and brought it home. I figured if the book was a bunch of horrible nonsense I was out no money and only a little bit of time.

June 4, 2013

Dearg Due


Most people have no idea that the Irish culture has its own version of the vampire. These Irish vampires are called Dearg-due and no, they definitely do not sparkle. When you think about it, it makes sense that the Irish had their own vampire tales since Bram Stoker was Irish.But Dearg-due is nothing like Dracula.

May 24, 2013

The Beast of Bray Road


Bray Road is a rural road located outside of Elkhorn, Wisconsin. In the 1980s the road was at the center of a paranormal phenomena that caught the attention of local journalists and eventually people from across the world.

May 7, 2013

Review of American Horror Story: Season 1


I'll be honest, I'm generally not a huge fan of horror. Sure, I write some stories people might classify as horror, but I think it's such a loose term. Most of what falls into the genre is just plain grotesque in almost a voyeuristic way and I don't find that to be interesting in the least.

But I have given plenty of horror books and movies the benefit of a doubt. Sometimes I end up turning off the TV or putting the book down not too long into it, but sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. It was the faint hope of being pleasantly surprised that lead me to try out season one of American Horror Story on Netflix. The series was also recommended to me by some readers, so I thought it was worth at least trying out.

April 30, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Twenty-Six: Z is for Zooform Phenomena

It's the last day and I'm more than a little sad to see it go. I wasn't sure how things would go, but I've enjoyed writing and reading the different posts for the challenge, so most likely I will be a part of it again next year.

On to the letter Z and zooform phenomena.

April 29, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Twenty-Five: Y is for Yeti

Yeti, otherwise called the Abominable Snowman, has been the object of great speculation and even ridicule throughout recent history. Even thought Yeti is referenced constantly in popular culture, I have found there is much the average person understands about this famous cryptid and the legends surrounding it.

April 27, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Twenty-Four: X is for X-Files



For those of you who are new to my blog, I am a huge X-Files fan. I was there when the pilot was initially announced and then aired. I remember reading about the show in the local newspaper. Back then Fox was positioning the show as a based-on-reality series, like they got all of the episodes straight out of real FBI X-files.

April 26, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Twenty-Three: W is for White Raven

Have you ever seen a white raven? I haven't. But does that mean that such a creature could not exist? Everyone knows that all ravens are black, right?

Apparently there is such a thing, but I've never observed one in person. Whether the picture I found of a white raven is real or doctored I cannot tell you for certain. But what this post is about is the paranormal, more specifically about philosophy and how it relates to the paranormal and science. During the A to Z Challenge I have touched on quite a few paranormal topics. Some I think require quite a bit more suspension of belief to even entertain in your mind, while others are much more believable.

April 25, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Twenty-Two: V is for Voodoo

I'm sure you've heard of voodoo. How could you have not? The term is thrown around all the time: voodoo economics, voodoo dolls, voodoo computers, voodoo tactical, etc. Anytime someone wants to say something is weird and promises vaporware "magical" results, the term voodoo seems to come up. What is it about voodoo that inspires its extreme usage in our vocabulary?

April 24, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Twenty-One: U is for Ufonaut

A ufonaut is a being that simply occupies a UFO. Some people prefer the term "saucernauts" but it presents a problem when UFOs that are not a saucer shape are spotted (such as the notorious triangular shaped crafts). We have astronauts, but when an astronaut is really a being from another planet it is called a ufonaut. And despite what people might think, ufonauts come in a variety of "races" or types.

April 23, 2013

Free Copies of Gracie the Ghost Eater!

I mentioned before that my children's book Gracie the Ghost Eater received a complete cover overhaul. As part of the celebration of the new cover, I will be giving away free Kindle copies of the book on Amazon. This includes not only Amazon.com, but also Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es, Amazon.it, Amazon.jp, Amazon.ca and Amazon.br. Click on any of those site names to be taken straight to the Kindle edition of the book on that site.

When will the free books be available, you ask? For right now it will be two days, April 29th through April 30th. The promotion starts roughly at midnight on the 29th and stops roughly on midnight on the 30th (US Pacific Time or California's time zone). I'd love to see downloads across the globe, so feel free to share this information with anyone who might be interested. I wrote the book primarily for children, but adults can enjoy it as well. So spread the word!

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Twenty: T is for Table Tipping


Although it's not practiced very much now, table tipping used to be one of the more popular forms of seance during the Victorian Period. It's a means of communicating with the dead that many of the present-day living do not really understand.

April 22, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Nineteen: S is for Scrying


The Mirror of Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings

Scrying is another form of divination you have likely witnessed in movies and maybe even in real life, but you just don't know that term for it. It was part of the events that lead up to the Salem Witch Trials that are so famous.

So what is scrying?

April 20, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Eighteen: R is for Runes


Runes are literally the letters of the old Germanic languages before the Roman alphabet was adopted. You have likely seen runes before, such as on the materials for the Lord of the Rings movies or books. While it might look like cool writing, there are people who believe that runes are more than just letters. These people actually think that runes hold the secret to divination.

April 19, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Seventeen: Q is for Quabbala



Quabbala is essentially Jewish mysticism, a subject that is difficult to fully grasp since it is enshrouded in deep mystery. Still, you can see signs of quabbala in modern Jewish culture as well as in the ancient text of the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament.

Instead of focusing on what God wants from mankind, quabbala attempts to hone in on the very essence of God. And of course a line of study that seeks to see God behind his mystical veil is controversial, especially among Jews.

April 18, 2013

April 17, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Fifteen: O is for Old Hag Syndrome


Imagine this: you are dead asleep one night when you suddenly wake up to an unseen force pushing down hard on your chest. You can barely breathe and your limbs are inoperable due to the force. You can look around the room, hear sounds and even smell odors, but you cannot utter a single word. In this state you cannot summon help, even if someone is asleep next to you! You also smell something weird or funky and might even hear heavy footsteps approaching your bed or see glowing red eyes in your room. The incident likely repeats itself frequently, maybe even a couple of times a week. The feeling usually lasts about thirty seconds or so, long enough to make you feel like you're being held underwater.

What do you do?

April 16, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Fourteen: N is for Necromancy


Necromancy is yet another term we often use without understanding what it means. Many people use necromancer as a name for someone, particularly a man, who practices black magic. While this usage is somewhat accurate, it does not entirely capture the meaning of the word.

Necromancy is a form of magic that allows the practitioner to communicate with the dead. Does that sound like seances or the work of a medium? While it might, keep in mind that I said necromancers practice black magic.

April 15, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Thirteen: M is for Mediumship



Everyone has heard of psychics and most people have heard of mediums, but most people don't know the difference between the two.

A psychic is a person who claims to have the ability to perceive what is normally hidden from a person's senses. This can include auditory, visual and other such stimuli. Some psychics claim to perceive things from the past, present and/or future. Mediums, on the other hand, literally act as an intermediary between the living and the dead. While some might debate it, I would argue that mediums must use psychic abilities to achieve this communication.

April 13, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Twelve: L is for Levitation


Have you ever seen someone levitate off the ground or a bed and float in the air for a while? Neither have I, but I've read plenty of accounts of claimed levitation. While the most prominent examples of levitation likely come from magicians who use optical illusions, there are traditions of levitation among occultists and practitioners of mainstream religions like Hinduism, Gnosticism, Helenism and Christianity.

April 12, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Eleven: K is for K2 Meter


Have you ever watched a ghost hunting show on television and noticed the people looking for the ghosts use a handheld device that looks kind of like a stud finder? The device lights up, apparently indicating spiritual activity in a certain part of a building and everyone gets really excited. The name of the little device those ghost hunters were using is a K2 (or K-II) meter or EMF meter.

April 11, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Ten: J is for Jersey Devil


The Jersey Devil is perhaps one of the best-known cryptids in the United States. The creature draws in quite a few tourists to New Jersey's Pine Barrens as people who are curious about the legend attempt to sneak a peek of it. In fact New Jersey's hockey team, the New Jersey Devils, is even named after the Jersey Devil. But what makes this cryptid so fascinating?

April 10, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Nine: I is for Incantation


Incantation is one of those words we hear and use all of the time, but do we really understand what it means?

Digging down into the word's etymology, we find that "incantation" is derived from the Latin word "incantare" which means "to chant upon" or in other words to chant a magical spell. So incantations are just spells that are cast by repeating words. Sometimes those words are said just once, while other times they are repeated over and over.

April 9, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Eight: H is for Hellhound


Hellhounds are a cryptid that is featured in mythologies from around the world. A hellhound is usually black, larger than a normal dog, possesses supernatural strength and often has red or yellow glowing eyes. Some people who claim to have seen a hellhound say the creature smells extremely foul. In some accounts the canines are even able to talk.

One of the most interesting characteristics of hellhounds is that they move like phantoms. They have been known to move through walls and cover great distances in an instant as well as disappear without a trace. Some cultures believe that staring into a hellhound's eyes can be fatal and that its howl signals or even triggers death. In fact, hellhounds are called the Bearer of Death by some people.

The main function of hellhounds is to watch the entrances to the world of the dead to keep the living out and the dead in. This is why hellhound sightings often take place near cemeteries. Sometimes hellhounds are sent from the land of the dead to hunt down lost souls. And sometimes hellhounds are used to guard treasures.

People claim to have seen hellhounds all over the world and even in modern times.Some of the most recent sightings have been in the United States, with some theories stating that the famous Beast of Bray Road is actually a hellhound.

Cerberus from Greek and Roman mythology is perhaps the most famous hellhound. He's been referenced in many modern works, including Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and my latest children's book Gracie the Ghost Eater.

April 8, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Seven: G is for Greys (as in Aliens)



Picture an extraterrestrial in your mind.

You likely are visualizing what is called a "grey" or a grey alien. They are humanoid beings with dark grey skin, large eyes, large heads, an undeveloped muscular structure and have a curious absence of ears, nose and sex organs. Greys also don't have body hair and their legs are quite a bit shorter than ours, making them look a little awkward or... alien.

April 6, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Six: F is for Flame Messages

Today's post addresses a little-known psychic or seance method known as flame messaging. As the name suggests, flame messaging involves the person who is seeking communication with spirits using a flame as a medium. Some people prefer this method of seance because it is easy to perform alone.

April 5, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Five: E is for Ectoplasm


Do you remember that scene in Ghostbusters when the little green ghost goes straight through Bill Murray's character, Peter Vankman? Vankman is covered in green slime that is called ectoplasm.

Well, forget about that, because it's not like "real" ectoplasm.

April 4, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Four: D is for Dowsing


I took a couple of folklore classes in college, which were wonderfully fascinating. In one of those classes we covered dowsing, which is such an interesting subject. My professor pointed out that the building where our class was held was named after a man who made his life's fortune dowsing for water, which unsettled some people in my class.

April 3, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Three: C is for Calling the Corners


Have you heard of witches calling the corners (or quarters as some say) and wondered what it meant? It's a term that's often used but not really understood even by some witches. What's even more confusing is there are many magical traditions that use a calling of the corners in one form or another.

April 1, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day One: A is for Astral Body


It's the first day of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge so today is all about the letter A. I'm sticking with a paranormal theme for the challenge, so today's post is about astral bodies.

What is an astral body, you say? The idea comes from the teachings of Plato, who talked about an astral plane of existence. Essentially it is your form or body on that astral plane, which you could say is another dimension.

March 8, 2013

What I Love About The Walking Dead



I came into the whole Walking Dead thing a little late, jumping in about the beginning of the current season. I kept hearing about how The Walking Dead was an engaging, different kind of zombie show, but I have to admit I was skeptical after having seen my fair share of corny, gratuitously gory zombie movies and television shows. I had grown tired of the masses of the undead vacantly declaring their undying (pun intended) love for the grey matter that inhabits the skulls of the living.

But I gave The Walking Dead a try. From episode one of the first season I could tell the show was something different. Where other zombie stories rely on the monsters to inject much of the horror elements, the writers of The Walking Dead have rely on the human characters and their emotional responses to the changing landscape they find themselves in. Seeing how families, friends and individuals react to one another when they are relentlessly pursued by zombies in a place that is seemingly overwhelmed and lawless is fascinating.

March 5, 2013

Your Emotions Might Be Feeding a Haunting

A haunted blacksmith shop near my house. Photo credit: Steven Symes

Like I've said before, I've read dozens of books about different paranormal topics, studied about the paranormal in college (mostly in folklore classes), have experienced inexplicable things myself and have written dozens of articles on different paranormal topics (not to mention written some entertaining stories about the paranormal). The paranormal is a complex body of knowledge that I find endlessly fascinating for a number of reasons.

February 19, 2013

The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland

Disneyland's The Haunted Mansion

I just got back from a trip to California where we swung by Disneyland. Anyone who has been to the park knows there are different "lands" inside of it like Fantasyland, Tommorrowland, etc. One of the most fascinating parts of the park for me is New Orleans Square, which features little side streets, shops, etc all modeled after its namesake. There are places that sell mint juleps and gumbo -- it's great.

February 12, 2013

Mark Twain Was Psychic


Everyone knows about Mark Twain, the witty white-haired author who wrote Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. In addition to his keen writing skills, Twain was know for his painfully honest assessments of people and places. What most people don't know is that Mark Twain was also psychic.

Twain was given to dreams and visions, something that was better known in his time than today. In fact in his autobiography published around the time of his death, Mark Twain prophesied his own death:

February 5, 2013

Psychometry: Reading the Psychic Vibrations

Objects that are highly personal are the best for psychometry. Image credit Piotr Kozlowski, stock.xchng.

I think we've all seen those cheesy television movies where someone takes an item from a missing person to a psychic who is dressed in weird clothing (which usually is Middle Eastern garb, because that's just soooo weird). The psychic holds the item for a minute and then her features turn all twisted like she's in pain because she's seeing that loved one's demise at the hands of a man wearing black leather gloves!

January 25, 2013

Psychic Vampires

Photo credit: Emil Bacik, stock.xchng

Do you ever feel drained after being around certain people? I'm not talking about feeling just kind of tired, but feeling completely drained like your soul needs regenerating. Or sometimes you are out and about among many people, such as at a shopping mall or bar, and you feel the same way when you get home. According to some paranormal experts, you could have been the victim of a psychic vampire.

January 22, 2013

Tarot Cards


Over the past several years I've written about a number of paranormal topics, for a number of publications. I've visited haunted locations, interviewed psychics, met a fair amount of crazy people and experienced some interesting phenomena. Throughout all of my studies and forays into the paranormal, I've never really dug into the subject of tarot cards. Until now...