1 thing I DIDN’T expect after visiting Waverly Hills Sanitarium

I’m sure it’s a whacky coincidence but about 3 days after I toured Waverly Hills Sanitarium and MILDLY dissed the tour in a totally FRIENDLY way, I became bed-ridden with a horrid upper respiratory infection.

Whacky coincidence, right?! Hah. Hah. Hah…. GULP!

Hmmm… haunted abandoned tuberculosis sanitarium

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Wide-eyed and impressionable tourist with the best intentions ever

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A SLIGHTLY cynical but ultimately SUPPORTIVE review

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Home in bed with a nasty, nasty, icky infection in my lungs, throat and head.

Go fig. Coulda happened to anyone for any reason. I’m SURE nothing followed me home…

Happy Haunts,

Susan

ps. What do you think? My cough’s not sooooo bad.

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9 things to expect and experience when visiting Waverly Hills Sanitarium

Well, that was fun.

August, 2015. My BFF and #1 gal-pal-haunt-a-holic compatriot Char and I made the trek from Milwaukee, WI to Louisville, KY for a 3-day weekend getaway. Because we are who we are, our definition of fun is traveling for 7 hours to tour one of the reputedly most haunted places in the USofA. We are gleefully ‘those people’.

We had absolutely no idea what to expect. Hopefully, these insights will serve you when making a similar trek – which I encourage you to do. Waverly Hills Sanitarium (and Louisville) are worth the drive.DSCN5045

Nuts and Bolts…

  1. BOOK IN ADVANCE. We took the 2-hour 8pm Friday night tour because the 4-hour overnight ‘investigation’ is booked solid far, far in advance. That’s my first tip. Book your tour far, far in advance if you want to do the 4-hour investigation. It’s your best shot at having a paranormal experience. Note: they also have an 8-hour version, but I’m too old to stay up that late so never even considered it.
  1. IT’S HOT, DARK, HUMID AND CREEPY. Bring a flashlight, wear closed toe shoes and prepare to sweat.
  1. SECURITY. Security is tight. You’re checked in at the gate. Watched by the parking people. Escorted into the gathering / souvenir shop. Checked in again. There are 2 people trailing each tour in addition to the tour guide. All are obsessively dedicated to ensuring that no-one wanders off in search of adventure. Plan to stick closely with your group or encounter an implied cattle prod.

The Atmosphere…

  1. WAVERLYLAND? We went because we wanted to experience haunted Waverly Hills Sanitarium. There is an unfortunate level of less-than-well-executed ‘Disneyland-ish-ness’ that tries to get in the way. I was a little discomfited by the tee-shirts and cheesy HallowDSCN5113een paraphernalia for sale. It’s hard to ignore the enormous wall of endlessly looped episodes of paranormal reality tv that featured Waverly Hills. I was severely turned off by the full-body Pinhead dummy that greeted the start of the tour and later having to walk through some Halloween season haunted house deco that they keep up all year around. I had to actively ignore my concern that what I was really in for was Waverlyland. If you can do that successfully, you can have fun on this tour. It does take a conscious decision, but if you make it, you’ll have a good time.
  1. IT’S HUGE. Expect to be awed at first glance. It’s immense with a capital immense. The building is surrounded by dense woods and suddenly spreads before you as you drive up the short access road past the gate. Goosebump-worthy. Allow yourself time to gape while ignoring the stares from the many Waverly employees whoDSCN5084 are keeping a close watch on you as you get out of your car.
  1. PARANORMAL EXPERIENCES / GATHERING EVIDENCE? PROBABLY NOT. On the 2-hour tour, you will be in a group of about 30 people, all of whom are also hoping for a paranormal experience. At the same time your tour is happening, there’s another going, following a different route to the same stops. With that kind of foot traffic, chances of having a personal paranormal experience are slim. Thinking of sneaking in some subtle evidence gathering? Nope. You are not allowed to use any recording devices (so much for EVP’s) or flash photography (so much for clear photos). You will get some cool history about the building and hear about other people’s ghostly encounters, though.
  1. OPPORTUNITIES TO EXPLORE. That said, there are 2 opportunities on the 2-hour tour to explore. Well, more like 1.5 opportunities. On the 5th floDSCN5110or, you and your 29 best friends are allowed a little time to wander around and take photos – with flash (the only time allowed). The draw is room 502 where there are lascivious stories are about a pregnant nurse who hung herself. We are quickly disabused of the legend by the tour guide. Her spiel consists of, “You’ve probably heard about XYZ in room 502. Well, it’s not true. It never happened.” But, then she goes on to relate creepy experiences that pregnant women have had in room 502. Hmmmm…
  1. SHADOW PEOPLE. The other – very cool – opportunity to explore-ish is on the 4th floor where there are reports of active shadow people. Standing in the deep dusk, looking down a dark, dark, dark corridor with sDSCN5086mall smatterings of light from windows, you can easily imagine that you see movement. Maybe we did. Maybe we were so desperate that we matrixed it all. Who cares? It was uber scary. Bonus: Char and I muscled our way into the line of 3 sets of people who were allowed to walk to the end of the hall alone while everyone else watched. We successfully managed to freak the crap out of ourselves.
  1. BODY CHUTE. At it’s height as a 500-bed tuberculosis treatment hospital, Waverly Hills averaged a death an hour. The need to transport bodies off the grounds but not within sight of patients who were trying to get well, led the staff to repurpose an underground tunnel that became nicknamed the Body Chute. It is one weird sensory experience. They let you walk down the narrow, 600-foot slanted concrete chute. I went about ½ way and then let everyone pass me by so that I could walk back up relatively alone. Too many laughs, echoes and noise from the rest of the group to pick up on anything otherworldly but the funhouse effect made me tilt.

So, yes I did think it was fun and worth the trek. Because I decided to. I devoured the things that were cool and ignored the things that were hokey. I adjusted my expectations and looked for opportunities to let my imagination run amok. I was on an adventure far-ish from home with my best friend and fellow aficionado.

What could be better?

How Do I Keep From Getting Scared…

Here’s a secret.  I still get scared.  Every once in a while.

Over time, my personal scare-o-meter has re-set to a higher threshhold.  When you spend a lot of time checking out places that are reported to be haunted, it’s an occupational hazard. I’m not quite laissez faire, but I do approach most potential Haunt Spots with a sense of “okay, where’s my checklist and what’s this all about?” and dive right in.

Although we’re not in the business of gathering evidence, we record when we have a personal experience — sometimes on the back of our checklist or in the margins.  Sometimes, it’s a jumble of hurried impressions.  We try to be thorough and conscientious.

Recently, I was tooling around a cemetery.  You know, like you do.  We already knew it was going to be a stop in an upcoming ghost tour, but were poking around trying to locate a specific monument.  The researcher I was with is one of those people who has a special relationship with her camera.  If there’s a paranormal image to capture, she’s much more likely to get it than anyone I know.   So, what the heck?  I’ll click on her digital voice recorder for a bit so she doesn’t have to juggle them both.

It was an interesting (read unsettling) visit.  I’ve been in a lot of cemeteries and this one didn’t initially seem any more atmospheric than any other.  It’s got some great headstones.  There are mystery stories lurking beneath your feet.   You know, a cemetery.  I’d been there before, but this time something felt different.  Not right away.  It took a while.  Like something was gathering critical mass before we could feel it inching up our necks.

We spent a goose-bumpy afternoon there, joshing our way around the dead people.  Whistling a happy tune to keep from hightailing it back to the car in an embarrassing fashion.  Each of us glad not to be there alone.

Done – check.  Get out of there.  Drive home and off she goes to her house and I’m safely ensconced in my office.  Oops!  I forgot to give back her digital voice recorder.  Well, heck.  I’ll just turn it on and let it play while I check email.

What was that?

WHAT WAS THAT?

So, I’m scrambling on the internet looking for an on-line manual for the Sony ICD-B600 recorder.  How do I rewind?  How do I fast forward?  How do I find what I heard again?  How do I find ALL the things I’ve heard again?

It was a miracle I didn’t accidentally erase the whole thing, my hands were shaking so badly.  I’d never captured EVP’s like this before.  Heck!  I’d never captured ANY EVP’s before!  Another research partner of mine had, but not me.  And this was the mother lode.  Steve and Tango and Jay and Grant would have been salivating.

Okay, here goes…

We’d been among the graves a little while and had started to confess that we were each feeling uneasy.  The atmosphere had changed.  I asked the question, “Is this your area?  Do you want us to leave?”

“Yes.”

Only imagine a hissy, sigh of a yesssss.  You can also imagine, only it wouldn’t be your imagination, me peeing my pants when I heard that for the first time on the recorder.

There’s more.

Soon after, we’re talking about a distinctly growing feeling of unease.

“Get Out.”

OKAY!  Forget the “Yes”!  Did that whatever it is just say Get Out?  (on-line manual… rewind…) Oh yeah!  That’s what I heard.  Well.  Well, well, well.

What can I say to that?  First, I can try to slow my breathing, but then what?  I don’t want to go back to that cemetery.  It told us to Get Out.  The only correct answer is “Yes, Sir”.  And then you get out.  Like when the stupid family in the movie is told by the entity that’s trying to kill them to Get Out.  The answer should be “Yes, Sir” and you leave.  Period.  Of course, the family didn’t leave and look what happened to them.

But, wait, there’s more…

We had to go back.  We needed to film.  At night.  And, I haven’t even told you about the other freaky EVP’s.

Wanna go with us next time?

Happy Haunts,

Susan Scot Fry

www.CaperCompany.com

How’s your Halloween shaping up?

Haunted lighthouse

Haunted restaurants

Haunted businesses

Haunted coffee shops

Haunted marina

Haunted train station

Haunted courthouse

Haunted cemetery

Halloween is shaping up nicely.  Want to go?

Happy Haunts,

Susan

What an amazing new Haunt Spot

The people who own and operate our newest Haunt Spot are excited about  having us come in and explore, too!  That officially completes the route for a new Milwaukee area tour.  Now, it’s time to get busy on the audio scripts.

Speaking of amazing, I didn’t expect to see many Haunt Spots Explorers put their intrepid hats on until end of March / beginning of April.  But, low and behold, out of the blue yesterday, a gentleman from Racine picked up “A No Safe Haven Caper”.  He called because he and his wife wanted to head out that day, so I needed to get the tour components emailed ASAP.  I asked if he didn’t mind tooling around in the chill with snow on the ground.  They didn’t care in the least.  Apparently the cold weather is less a deterrent than cabin fever.  Add the lure of exploring places that are reported to be haunted and there you go!

Last year, my partners and I did a lot of Haunt Spots field research in March and April and it was chilly BUT I remember vividly how incredibly atmospheric it was too.  The trees are skeletal and the light is low.  On especially good days, there is a bit a mist.  Perfection!

The photo here is from a research trip that we took toward the end of March 2009.  When I was looking through those photos to pick one for this post, I noticed there were some at the tail end of the album of my cat and dog curled up on the couch in front of the fire.  Now, that’s really perfection.  The chill I get exploring ghost stories capped by a glass of wine, a fireplace and a cozy kitty.

Time to get onto writing those stories!

Happy Haunts,

Susan Scot Fry

We Are Not Alone — Paranormal Trade Shows

J-Random Trade Show ZombiesTo me, the words ‘trade show’ conjure images of zombie-like packs of business people prowling around a convention center clutching one of those plastic vendors bags. They stop at every booth and grab all the swag they can, while assiduously avoiding eye contact. You know what I mean.  You’ve been there, too.  Later, after the fugue wears off and you sort your booty, reason returns and the questions begin.  What are you going to do with all this useless crap? Why do you have that brochure? You have no need to purchase vermiculite by the truck load or to get your gutters replaced by solar compost receptacles.  To whom can you give this pencil with the sparkle eraser?  Into the trash it all goes.

Trick or Treat!Now, imagine yourself at the newest trend in trade shows – the Paranormal Convention. What’s going to end up in your bag here?  It may feel a bit more like trick or treating than killing time away from the office.  Of course for those readers who are already afficianados of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and comic book cons — attending a paranormal convention may already be  de rigueur.

In structure, a paranormal themed convention is pretty similar to any other trade show.  There are workshops, guest speakers, a vendors room and a big party where people far from home hit on each other.  Of course, with this theme, the big party may also take the form of an actual ghost hunt — for a nominal fee.

For us in the Midwest, all roads currently point toward Ohio.  The next big paranormal convention coming up is Extreme Para-Con 2009 in Cincinnati on December 11, 12 and 13.  Info at http://www.extremeparacon.com/.  In between, there aren’t a lot of local-ish choices on the calendar yet.  After Cincinnati, the next one I’ve been able to suss out is in Dayton, Ohio in August of 2010. Check it out at http://www.ohioparacon.com/.  There’s a more comprehensive list of upcoming events and recent passings at http://www.allconferences.com/Society/Paranormal/

So, Hello Milwaukee and Wisconsin!  Is it time for our own paranormal convention?  I’ve got some goodie bags that need fillin and don’t want to drive all the way to Ohio to do it.

Happy Haunts,

Susan

Is it Too Soon?

KnifeEd Gein?  Maybe yes, maybe no.

Jeffrey Dahmer?  Probably.

The 14-year old boy who was brutally killed in Whitnall Park?  Yes.

You won’t be surprised to discover that, in the course of researching Haunt Spots, I run across a lot of murders.  Sometimes, it’s a fit of passion that ended tragically.  Sometimes, it’s more extreme — as illustrated by these first two names.

If the crime occurred long ago, the energy of the area may have become tolerable and the crime has passed into folklore.  There’s no magic number of years, though.  The boy mentioned earlier was killed in 1974, but there will need to be many more years before his story could be considered for a Haunt Spot.  The energy is too painful.  His story is too heart-breaking.

There are still plenty of bullys to encounter.  On the “A No Safe Haven Caper” tour, Explorers go through a mini-cleansing before leaving one Haunt Spot.  It’s for their well-being and my conscience.  No-one wants that meanie to follow you home.

Conscience does make cowards of us all, Hamlet, Act III Sc. 1.   Hey!  I’m not a coward!  My conscience is a personal gauge of right and wrong.  Far be it from me to censor anyone, but I’m responsible for the quality of your experience.  It’s my job to help Explorers have a good time.  If I think a Haunt Spot is too dark or too fresh, I’ll ask other opinions.  Thus far, the opinions have all agreed.  There are a few locations that you may never see.

They aren’t my stories, but I get to tell them.  I do so with a sense of adventure but also a sense of care.  So, no you don’t get all the haunts.  Some should be left, if not in peace, in respectful solitude.

For now.

Happy Haunts,

Susan

Super Light for Spectral Detection

Confession — it’s all about the day.  Sunny day, everything is sharp.  Cloudy day, everything is movie-set atmospheric.  Either way, we win.

Another confession — It was this time of year when I got hooked on researching Wisconsin haunts.  Night time chill didn’t matter because we went out during the day.  The natural atmosphere of some of the places we explored was ramped up to the nth degree when combined with the look of bare trees or the dusky cloud cover.  Those impressions are such a part of my memory that when I re-visit a Haunt Spot later, I’m often surprised at the difference.  If a place has got it, it’s got it — but this time of year is special.

Be Brave and Happy Haunts,

Susan

 

Has Ghost Hunters Jumped the Shark?

Ghost Hunters Academy StudentsI admit up front — it could be just me.  I could be going through a seasonal down-swing in my devotion to the whole paranormal reality tv show phenomena.  The shine of Jay and Grant may have dimmed.  The Klinge brothers antics may be inadequate to overcome my malaise.  Zaks’ hair jell and muscle shirts might have lost their edge.  Or it could simply be post Thanksgiving turkey tryptophan narcosis.  Whatever the reason, I have to ask — have the producers of Ghost Hunters jumped the shark with their new series Ghost Hunters Academy?

Am I jaded or is there something about the show’s attempts at being edgy that ring a desperation alarm bell?  Being the gruff guy helped make Jay popular, so are they’re trying it on Steve for size?  Steve has always been a bit of a scamp-in-training– in that ‘let’s see if I can trick Tango into eating this’ sort of way — so I can understand their decision to ramp him up into a full-blown hand-slapper.  But still…

Ghost Hunters debuted October 4, 2004, so they are in their 5th season.  Happy Days was also in it’s 5th season when Fonzie took to his water skis.  But heeeeyyyyy Happy Days also lasted another 7 years afterward.  With the rabid fan devotion of GH — within who’s ranks I proudly remain —  I don’t think we need worry about losing our lads J&G to the gentility of running their haunted New Hampshire country inn too soon.

What do you think?

Happy Haunts,

Susan

The Possible Passing of “A Hard Luck and Loss Caper”

EB from A Hard Luck and Loss Caper

Heads Up!  Have you been considering experiencing Caper Company’s first Haunt Spots tour “A Hard Luck and Loss Caper” for yourself?  You may want to go soon.  Recent news articles indicate that the first destination may no longer being accessible as of April 2010.  So, what’s the rush?  This Haunt Spot is all outdoor exploration, so when this spate of good fall weather finally turns winter-foul, it may make outdoor explorations a little more of a challenge.  Right now, this stop is good fun for spooky adventures during the day and into the night.

I’ve long suspected a possible shelf life on our access to this creepy area.  It’s one of my favorite places to explore though, so it had to be on Caper Company’s inaugural ghost tour.  I’ve been out there several times and get a chill every time.  It’s a massive, old, red-brick building complex and looks like you’re walking onto a movie set — but perhaps not the sort of movie where everyone makes it out alive:)

Now, it’s looking more and more like this complex may be restored, renovated and re-occupied during 2010 starting with the completion of the land sale in April.  Oh, to be able to get into the area during renovations!  It’s widely reported that that’s when paranormal activity kicks into high gear.

I’ve got to get out there again myself.  One final farewell.

Happy Haunts,

Susan