Friday, August 10, 2012

The Forge

Candy has been a fixture in our lives since she and her brothers participated in the old Thanksgiving Food Drive. I’ve written about her sensitivities, and how she channeled someone in the warehouse our organization uses at Christmas. She also followed around our friends’, Faith and Crystal, when they investigated the apartment of a Blue Island notable.
Well, Candy and friends, Carmine, Anthony and Mitzy, started their own paranormal group, South Side Paranormal Research, and have come up with some surprising results. Recently, the group was invited to visit the Forge, which is located at 127th and Homan, and they invited me to join them.
We arrived as the regulars were leaving. The main room is an older, comfy barroom, complete with ceiling fans, dim lights and warm paneling, sports banners, etc. It was obvious even to me that there was nothing notable here. The others claimed to feel activity elsewhere.
Upstairs are two apartments that are approached by a flight of stairs rising from the pool room behind the main bar and right next to the exit to the beer garden. The basement and kitchen are entered from behind the bar.
Our host, Gus, asked one of the tenants to join us. We asked him if he saw anything or felt anything in his apartment. Well, he said, he awoke one night when someone touched his arm, but that could have been a dream.
Gus explained the building was built in the 1880‘s. It was always a bar, and had served as a brothel for many years. During the Depression it housed a hardware store, but then reverted back after the repeal of Prohibition. A few years ago, the front part of the building was lopped off when the railroad built an underpass.
We split into two teams. Carmine and Anthony investigated the basement while Candy, Mitzy and I went upstairs. We visited a tiny, four room apartment. It opens onto a porch, which leads to the other apartment and down stairs to the beer garden. Candy wandered from room to room, and out onto the porch. At last she declared the apartment to be ‘clean’.
We returned to the inside stairway. Candy paused and glanced around. “This isn’t clean,” she said. Apparently, we had interrupted someone’s business.
“What kind of business?” I asked.
“I’m not sure, but it isn’t legal. He wants us out of here now.” Candy doesn’t take ‘no’ easily, and I knew he hadn’t seen the end of her.
“What era?” I asked.
“1940’s, maybe.”
While we were upstairs, Anthony and Carmine went downstairs. That staircase is tiny, steep and twisted. One look at it, and I decided that even promises of great wealth wouldn’t entice me down those steps. The basement is used for storage, although there isn’t much stored there, and the floor is unfinished. They sat at the bottom of the stairs. One took photos while the other asked questions. “Who are you?” “Why are you here?” and so forth.
“It’s creepy down there,” Carmine commented when the guys returned. A little later, the girls took their place.
Meanwhile, Gus showed me photos he had found tucked away in a rafter. They were from the early part of the twentieth century. There several professional school photos and just as many taken at funerals. I copied the names from the photos, but couldn’t find anything about them online. I’m still checking. The one funeral took place in St Casimir Cemetery, and was very well attended. The man turned out to be a tavern owner from Cicero.
“You know," Gus said, “If you’re interested, we could have a public reveal."
We finished the evening in the barroom. Mitzy claimed her entire side was submerged in cold, cold air. We quieted down so Mitzy could ask questions. When she said the feeling had left her. Anthony said it had come to him.
We agreed that we would meet again two weeks later. We wanted better recording equipment and hopefully a camcorder. We discussed trigger objects. A suggestion was made that since the man on the stairs was ‘doing business,’ maybe a good trigger would be coins or a dollar bill. We listened to the audio tapes from Carmine and Anthony’s cell phones, and we downloaded the photos. We picked up very little.
Gus called at about 6PM on that day we agreed to meet next. “Forget it,” he said. The electricity went out. We caught our collective breaths. The ghosts were playing with the electricity. No, Gus explained later. Bad storm blew the power out in the immediate area.
About two weeks passed and Gus called to say, “Come.” We grabbed our bags and took off. Candy said she wanted to concentrate on the stairway leading upstairs, as well as to the basement. She was confident that she would find the  ‘business’ man in the same place because he seemed to be rooted there. In the basement she said she felt two presences. One was a dominant male while the other was subservient. She wasn’t sure of the gender, only that he or she was afraid of the other man. There was someone in the kitchen as well, but she didn’t find that person as interesting as the others.
On arrival, we rechecked our meager equipment. One by one, the cell phones shut themselves off, and the camera and flashlight batteries died. Thank God we brought more batteries. With a little encouragement and a lot of banging, we did get everything working again.
Their first move was to set trigger objects on the step where the man conducted his ‘business.’ Anthony went to work laying out a buck with coins on top as Candy set up and aimed the borrowed camcorder. “Is he around?” Anthony asked. “I can feel him.”
“He’s right behind you,” Candy responded. “He’s watching.” We left the room immediately. I retreated to the bar where I sat while the others took turns staking out the basement.
After a while Candy decided to check on the back room. She shut the doors dividing the barroom from the pool room. After a couple of minutes she returned, asking Mitzy to come with her.
They lit several flashlights and a candle, and directed the beams at the stairs. They returned a few minutes later, this time quivering from head to foot. “The temperature dropped about twenty degrees,” Candy said. “There’s a gust in the room and the candle is flickering like crazy.” She wanted the guys to join them, and yes, bring more flashlights.
”The flashlights are fluttering just as badly as the flame from the candle is,” Mitzy said.
 “It got really creepy,” Carmine said at the end of their session, “The only open door is the one leading from the stairs. Yet there’s a breeze and it’s cold in there.
“I swear,” Anthony said, “I saw the money I set on the stairs flutter.”
Later, Candy told me that she could see the man stomp up and down the stairs. At the bottom step, he’d pause and peek at her from around the corner.

A few days later Anthony charged into my house calling, “You’ve got to hear this. He’s calling my name!” He pulled out his phone and played an audio recording. During our last visit, he and Carmine were in the basement, asking for a response. Just beneath a question pertaining to whether the ghost knew he was dead, we heard a male whisper, “Tony....” We passed it around the room while Candy dug out the digital recorder. She was reluctant to listen, I think because she’d be devastated if she found it recorded nothing at all. When we played the recorder, and listened, and we heard very little. I made a point then to pick up a pair of earphones the next time I went shopping.
With the public reveal coming up, we put together a program. We were told to explain who we are and what we were doing, and we should bring along some spooky photos Candy had taken over the years. Even if we hadn’t caught much at The Forge, the older photos would provide us some credibility. And we wanted to take all the information, the recordings, the photos and the videos, and lock them into one file. So we began reexamining the evidence, watching the videos and sorting through the photos, and yes, relistening to the audio portion. Let me just say that it is amazing the difference even a cheap pair of headphones makes. Not only did we find new stuff on the recorder, but on the cell phone recorders as well.
On the night of the reveal, Candy introduced her team members. She explained a number of photos they had taken were of orbs, which are thought to be balls of energy left after someone passes. Of themselves they are not considered evidence of a haunting because water droplets, dust, whatever, take the same shape in photos. Used in conjunction with other evidence, they makes a stronger argument for the existence of the paranormal. One set of photos the group found compelling was of the staircase leading to the upstairs apartments. No matter what direction they photographed the stairs, up or down, to one side or the other, an orb maintained one spot not far from where Anthony stacked the money.
They also had EVP’s, or electronic voice phenomena, which is what Anthony had caught on his cell phone. Some were hard to understand, and a few were quite loud. They caught several sets of simultaneous footsteps, too. When the group left the pool room with the camera running, they caught a ball of light moving quickly down the stairs and out of the room. Candy showed off some of the more creepy photos taken at home and around a north side landmark. Finally, they closed out the program with one last EVP. As the group members were packing up on the second night, they caught a voice telling them very loudly, “GET OUT!”

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Reading

It's been a long time since I wrote an entry to this blog, and I possibly would not now if not for the need to place this down somewhere where I can refer back to it. So here goes.

Last night I was invited to a lady's night out. It was friends meeting to enjoy a break away from our responsibilities, and a night to enjoy each other's company, My friend, Lucie, invited me.She is my oldest friend, and although I've met the other three ladies involved, I did not really know them. One lady was graduating with her bachelor's degree in psychology tonight. Another lady was a wife and mother and was enjoying a day away from work as well as and evening away from the family. The last lady was a wife and mother, as well as a medical transcriptionist. She's also a psychic medium, and she hosted the evening.

We enjoyed ourselves. We had a few giggles, a little to drink and a little to nibble on.

And then our hostess pulled out her tarot cards.She didn't ask me to shuffle the deck or even cut it. In fact she turned to me and asked if my mother had passed. Of course, and just like most other people, it was a hard passing. She wanted to know where the rift was. That really caught my breath. #1. because I had spoken of my sister earlier and not with loving regard. #2. because I'm really terrifically bothered by this so called rift. And it doesn't end with my sister. My response was simply "Everywhere." My new friend said that my Mom sees more now that ever before. That made me think that maybe my Mom realizes I'm not as bad as I always felt I was, or even where the feelings of inadequacy comes from. I wanted to scream out, "See it was all their faults. I had nothing to do with it." I've thought about that more since then and I have to realize that in the situation we were in, we all struck out at each other, making selfish demands on each other, and making life worse than it should have been. We couldn't be blamed for my father's drinking, but we could be blamed for our own selfish reactions. All of us, including my sister. Ma said she's happy that I'm learning to deal with this. I'm at a point where I can talk about it without dwelling on it or getting angry all over again. She said that the others would have to find their way, but at their speed. She wanted to know who I was concerned about. I said it was my second brother. I don't see him enough. What I have seen concerns me because I wonder if his life isn't coming apart. I'm concerned that he might do something desperate. My new friend didn't give me an answer, but she did point out that she hadn't received a red flag. We talked about my sister. I'm concerned about her sobriety. Where my friend didn't respond to that so much, she said that I have good instincts and that I tend to second guess myself. When I make an assessment, I need to stick with it. I agreed. She's right.

Lucie, at one point got up to get a glass of pop. We were only feet from each other when my new friend said something that kind of blew both of our minds. I just wish I could remember what it was. It will come to me later, I'm sure. What I remember was turning to Lucie, because I knew she would recognize that thing our friend said. Lucie was watching me and rubbing goose bumps away. At that point my friend asked me where my grandfather was and why wasn't he in our lives. Then she asked me about two families. At that point I had to catch my breath. There were things we talked about throughout the evening that she could have expanded on if she were a fake. Not this time. This is not something that comes up in conversation ever. Two things came of that. First my Mom said it was okay to talk about, and secondly, I declared my feelings on the subject of not talking about it. My Mother had a hard life. Her childhood was far from ideallic, and her marriage was pretty bad. When I needed her the most, she took a very hard step in order to help me. In my eyes the woman was a hero. To pretend that the difficulties she lived through didn't exist is to deny a huge part of the woman she became. I'm glad that subject came up as my nieces approached me a couple of weeks ago about my maternal Grandmother's side of the family. They had questions about what happened to my Grandma. It was a medical situation that my mother had to deal with. Most of the family is aware of it, but at the same time embarrassed by it. I was concerned if I told the girls the truth that their Dad and my other siblings would be angry. I went ahead anyway. As I said, to deny parts of Ma's life is to deny the person she became. Then again, I wonder if their Dad didn't send them in my directions anyway. My friend, though, told me that Ma is okay with telling her story, and that the problem with my Grandmother was misdiagnosed.

My friend went on from there. She pointed out that earlier I mentioned learning about my Native American heritage not very long ago. My my material Grandmother was half Menominee Indian. My friend said that the artistic streak we all enjoy comes from that side of the family. Also, that we enjoy a gift for the mystical. She asked me if my daughter was artistic. "Oh, wait," she said. "It's your daughter going to art school." Yes, Becki has a year and a half to go before earning her bachelor's degree in commercial art. My friend pointed out that even though my Mom didn't know Becki well or for long, she had a connection with her. She comes to see Becki and she brings the little girl with her. I have no idea who this little girl would be unless it could be that I had a miscarriage a year or so after we were married. I lost it when my Dad died. I know that Becki has seen Mom. She hasn't said anything lately, and when I asked her last night, Becki kind of shook her head as if unsure. My friend said I inherited that mystical streak, and that I could do what she does. Yes, I said, I'd like to. Sort of. I told her how I used to read palms. I gave it up when I came across a palm of young family friend had a short and weak lifeline. It was very hard to ignore.

I asked if my most cherished dream would happen. She said that Mom told her to tell me that I have to take care of my health first. I'm eating wrong. I need to revert  back to my Native American ancestors and eat what they ate. That maybe I need to go to a powpow. I don't know about the powpow, but I do know this. Refined food plays hell with my digestion. I pointed at the Italian bread on the table. It was crusty and rustic. I told her, "I can eat this, but force me to eat Wonder Bread and you couldn't pry me off your toilet." I found out accidentally that I am allergic to gluten. If I can stay away from bread, pasta and potatoes, I'd be a lot healthier. She said make small changes and everything will fall into place. But I have to concern myself with my health first. She asked me if I enjoyed reading. That's the understatement of the year. (This might be where Lucie and I shared that look.) I don't enjoy reading. I am obsessed with it. When I was little, I used to take a flashlight to bed so I could continue to read. I was thinking about it before going last night. Ma once said that when I got married, she expected to find my husband as well as books, kids and animals in my bed. A, yep. If it isn't a dog, it's a cat. Or two or three. She asked if I were into e-books. Yes, I got a Kindle for Christmas. She said she didn't see me publishing my stories in the paper version, but as either e-books or a blog of some sort. Tried that. At its best, this blog fostered 19 followers. It's been so long since I wrote anything I'm not expecting readers now.

I asked about my Uncle, Ma's brother. He's in hospice and he's hanging on. I asked why he hasn't left yet. Why is he still hanging on. Ma said that someone is holding him here. He needs to be given permission to leave, but that one of his care takers sees that their lives are intertwined, and that person couldn't survive without my Uncle. I understand that. She also said that he had help breathing. He's dying of lung cancer.

I asked about my Dad and if he is all right. She asked me if he drank hard liquor. No, he drank beer. Well, he and the one who drank hard liquor are up there together, drinking and smoking cigars. When he comes to me, I smell cigar smoke. She's right. I do. The one who drinks hard liquor has to be his younger brother.

I think I got it all down. She said that she would let everyone go at that point. Oh, she asked whose birthday was next, and she said that I should get him yellow Mylar balloons with cars on them. That person is car crazy. No, that person is Mustang crazy. I have to remember this. I can see myself handing Jon the balloons, I'd say I could buy the balloons,, "Happy birthday. This is from Grandma Jane."