Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hotel "California"

Well, kiddies, guess I’ll take some time to write some more. We’ve been pretty busy, and the schedule keeps loading up, too! I can’t even remember all the shows we’ve played! We’ve been back to Eddie’s (just this past weekend) and it rocked as always. I even played a weekend with Ivory Tiger, and we had a blast! Just a ton of fun with those guys! They are like brothers. They even came out and played with us last weekend, and lit the place up! Thanks brothers!

Derrick is settling in nicely, and we’re starting to feel our way around what the sound is going to mature into. Obviously, Derrick wants to get his feet wet, and ease into the Rock Bottom mix, and that takes some time and a few shows, especially since bass isn’t Derrick’s native instrument! But, that’s come along quickly, and now we’re starting to build, learning new tunes and blending Derrick’s style and personality into our mix. I’m very, very excited! It’s been too long for Rock Bottom not to have some fresh tunes and such, and we’re finally getting down to that! Look for some great improvements in the upcoming months, and look for much more advanced repertoire! Still, it’s going to rock like Rock Bottom! We’re not going to fix what isn’t broken! As I say, I’m really excited! So much fun to hear some different songs, and still play the kick ass rock we always play.

And, you Rock Bottom faithful never cease to amaze me! The places we play are always crowded to the gills, and everyone is so warm and friendly! I see so many Rock Bottom tee shirts! I feel like I must know everyone, because I’m always talking to someone who enjoys the show, and just wants to rap. It’s kind of overwhelming sometimes! And both flattering, and humbling. It’s just a big rush to know people enjoy coming out to listen to you on a Saturday night or something, and let you know about it. I do appreciate that, because without that, as I’ve said, I’d probably just be playing Guitar Hero or something to get my fix. It’s because of you fans supporting us that I actually get to do this!

Well, just for a change of pace, I’m going to talk about something completely different! Just to liven things up a bit around here. The RB shows have been fun, and we’ve been rocking. But, I’ve had some weird things to share, so here goes!

I can’t say I ever had that big an interest in paranormal stuff. When I was a kid, my father would torture me by dragging me to the fun house. I never saw anything fun about having the shit scared out of you! I know many do, but I don’t. In fact, I think I’ve seen studies where some people, when put in dangerous or frightening situations, they exhibit more adrenalin, or something that makes them enjoy it. Thrill seekers.

Others produce higher levels of serotonin, and thereby feel very uncomfortable. I must be one of those. I never felt pleasure out of the thrill of doing something dangerous or edgy. You might be surprised to know that, as many would find performing in that category. I’m here to tell you, it’s not.

So, I generally don’t watch gory movies that frighten you with a startling surprise when you least expect it. I don’t generally find myself attracted to something that would produce that effect. I’m not saying I haven’t watched them, but, if I had a choice, I’d settle for something a little more predictable, shall we say? At least, not cardiac arrest inducing!

There has been one caveat to this, however. I’m fascinated by Ghost Hunting. I’m scared shitless to investigate, but I’m still fascinated by it. The Dave Glover Show has run entertaining episodes of Lemp Mansion investigations every Halloween. Neat stuff. The recent wave of shows on television that feature this topic have also captured my interest, and I’ve become enamored with them. I generally Tivo Ghost Hunters, and often watch Paranormal State, and A Haunting. I also love the World Scariest Places series they used to run, and one of my favorites was on Alton, which seems to have quite a paranormal history.

Now, let me preface the rest of this by saying I’ve never lived in a haunted house. The house I grew up in that I’ve been living in since 1974 has had absolutely no paranormal activity that I can ever remotely recall. I have had girlfriends that swear their houses/apartments were haunted, and even had some unexplained occurrences in one of them, down in South St. Louis. But, it wasn’t “wow, look! I see a ghost!” Still, I’ve had some strange things happen around me. Things I don’t have easy answers for.

When I was in my early twenties, we often did “Ouija” boards. We would actually make one with letters of the alphabet cut into squares from paper, arrange them in a circle, place five lit candles in a pentangle, and use an inverted wine glass as a pointer. We’d mark the glass with three drops of candle wax, and each put our fingers on the stem after placing the glass in the center of the table.

While at first I was very skeptical about this, I am here to tell you, I cannot explain the things if seen while doing this. You can make up anything you want, blame it on pranksters, believe in spirits, or attribute it to telekinetic powers of the brain. The fact is, I have, on many occasions, witnessed sessions where questions were answered, and only certain people knew them. I won’t do one in my own home (although I did try once when we got really drunk, and it didn’t work, surprisingly), and I don’t recommend anyone trying, because I don’t know what the hell it is!

So, it’s safe to say I’m an open minded skeptic. I’m fascinated by it, not only for the possibilities of supernatural ramifications, but I find it just as interesting if it’s some kind of human invention. A kind of hallucinatory reaction to environmental stimulus. Why do we all often have these kinds of experiences? What are they, really?

Back to the city of Alton. As documented, it’s reported to be one of the most haunted cities around. There is a dark, sinister history to Alton. Site of the Civil War Prison, horrible atrocities were committed there against Confederate soldiers. It’s almost a dark stain on the town. I’ve learned there are some other interesting features about Alton. The river bends around from north to south to south to north, then turns south again right at Alton. This creates a lot natural energy flowing into Alton, they claim. There are also large deposits of limestone throughout the bluffs as well. These can act as resonators for energy and such, I’m told. Like a natural energy capacitor.

The result is tons of paranormal activity in and around Alton, and one of the most active is the old Mineral Springs Hotel located on Broadway. Now, I’d seen a few things about it on shows like Scariest Places they showed on Fox Family. And, I’d done some Google searching on it as well. I knew where it was. I’d read up on some history of the site. Basically, I was just too chicken shit to go!

So, one afternoon with Bec and my daughters driving with nothing to do, we found ourselves looking for eagles along the River Road. Eventually that lead me to downtown Alton, and that, for some reason, guided me to Mineral Springs. I’d always wanted to walk in and look at the place, just to say I did. So, I did! Or, I should say, we did.

There’s nothing really spectacular about it when you walk around. Just an old Alton building, refurbished for the most part, yet still rather plain. We wandered some shops that are still open, and there was little pedestrian activity. Just a slow Saturday afternoon.

Bec pointed out a small black sign that read “Ghost Tour, January 18th. 7:30 PM” That was tonight! What luck! “Do you want to go” I asked? She nodded enthusiastically. A thin, aging, Mortitia Adams looking woman locked up her office and approached us, and I inquired about the tour.

“Yes,” she said, “our first one is tonight. I run it.” Really, what a coincidence! We chatted a bit about the whole thing and what the tour entails.

Back when I was married in 2003 while in Savannah, Georgia visiting in-laws, my ex and I once took a midnight “haunted” walking tour of the beautiful old part of town. It was fresh after a thunder storm, and lightening still crackled across the black midnight skies. What a backdrop! A young man dressed in Colonial attire led us around various places, stopping often to tell fascinating tales of haunted lore. It was very interesting, very fun, and a unique way to see the old city, which dates back to the late 1600s. So, this sounded as interesting. Even more so, because we’d interact!

“Oh, take me daddy!” my twelve year old shouted. “Please take me!” Hmm, I dunno. They say this is the real deal! Do I bring my twelve year old daughter to this?

Well, after dinner, we went back, and I did indeed take my oldest. She brought a camera, and we took the tour, and had a wonderful, interesting, creepy time! From the beginning, my kid was snapping pictures and we could clearly see small, white “orbs” on them. What the hell? We often smelled jasmine, and Bec complained several times I was touching or pinching her, when I wasn’t, and no one was around her!

Wayne, the guide, led us around and told terrific stories of all the other worldly “inhabitants”. I strongly recommend it to those that are curious, or like local history, or even just looking for something different. It’s different! It concludes with a séance at the end in one of the old pools. Now, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d never done one, but I’d done Ouija boards, and as I mentioned, I have reservations about them!

I won’t spoil too much of the tour for those that wish to see for themselves, but all three of us were all smiles of wonder and amazement. Both my daughter and Bec were spooked, but they still enjoyed it. Afterwards, Bec and I knew we’d have to come back, and we’d have to bring friends! This was a unique kind of party! And, I wanted to do some investigating, because my daughter brought home tons of pictures of “orbs”. What the hell are these things? I’m starting to feel my Ghost Hunter oats, here.

There is another thread running through this that brought us here to Mineral Springs. You see, since Bec moved into her house, she’s complained of, well, ghosts! Before she even really mentioned it to me, I had an experience lying in her bed while she was out of the room. I felt that someone walked past me along side the bed towards the closet. A very creepy sensation. I didn’t mention it to her. After all, there was nothing more to say than “I just felt creepy.” There’s no doubt she’d run with it, and now EVERYTHING would be something ghostly! But, as I mentioned, an old girlfriend had a “haunted” place in South City, and I’d felt creepy things there, too. I know them when I feel them, and this was something odd. I kept an eye on things.

Over the past months, she’s complained numerous times about various episodes, from doors opening by themselves, to the shower turning off and on. Eventually, I confessed that I too had a strange experience in her bedroom. We began to pay closer attention.

Once, while laying together in her bed, we heard the faucet in the sink turn on, then off. Upon investigation, there was water at the bottom of the sink. It had indeed been turned on, then shut off. We’ve also heard loud crashing sounds coming from the living room, but when I investigate, there’s nothing out of place, and we can’t tell where the noise comes from. This is a small sample, not a comprehensive one.

So, I guess this has stirred up interest and we found ourselves touring Mineral Springs. Looking to see what a REAL haunted house is like. We found out! That place is wicked!

Afterwards, while at work, I found myself wondering about all of it. I started to Google. I found the website to the tour, and browsed around. That led me to a link of a paranormal investigation team: The St. Louis Paranormal Society. That’s when it struck me: let’s get someone to investigate Bec’s house like the TAPS guys on Ghost Hunters! She whole heartedly agreed.

I Googled around, and noted that there are more than a handful of these types of paranormal sleuths around the area. All of their websites have interesting pictures and tales. Fun looking stuff, in a frightening way. Doubt I’d have the stomach for this! Let’s face it, I’m kind of a chicken shit when it comes to this. I’m still dealing with Dad dragging me off to scare the shit out of me at the fun house!

I gravitated back to the STLPS because it was on the Mineral Springs site. I emailed them about our experiences, and not long after, I was emailed back by Brian, the founder, and he was interested, wanting to know if we’d allow them to interview us, and perhaps investigate. We said “sure”.

In another strange twist of irony, the lady who runs the Mineral Springs Hotel Haunted Tours, Janet, works with, of all people, Bec’s mother! She found out how much we enjoyed the tour, and that Bec was experiencing what might be paranormal activity in her home. She contacted Bec, and told her of her ghostly experiences, and when we mentioned Brian and the STLPS, she was enthusiastic. She also gave Bec and amethyst for “protection”. Okay.

With a free weekend off, we returned to the Mineral Springs for another one of their monthly tours. With a heads up, Janet also had Brian and Alex from STLPS meet us there, and we took the tour with Alex. They were very interested, it seemed. It was on. They were coming to interview! Good Lord, what am I getting into?

The tour was again very entertaining. I’d heard the stories before, so I was more in ghost hunting mode, with my trusty digital camera. Surprisingly, I didn’t get orbs where I’d thought I’d get them last time, where the Jasmine Lady fell to her death. In fact, I didn’t really smell the signature jasmine odor. But, I still did get some. I came to find out some orbs are just “moisture orbs”, I guess that can be caused by high levels of humidity and moisture, even dust. What’s even more odd is I’ve spotted orbs on me at Rock Bottom shows at both Eddie’s and Club Midtown in Alton. I’ve never seen that before. Ever. They are always right by my left arm. I’ll post them sometime.

Tonight, there was nothing like the one’s my daughter shot with her camera. I suppose the moisture was down. But, I did still get some, and I tend to believe what I go was even stronger “orb” action, whatever that’s worth. I still have no answer for them.

The tour was much more crowded this time, and things seemed pretty slow as far as activity. I thought this tour might be more of a disappointment. I was soon proven wrong, however! A couple notable issues: several people were tripped while walking at different places of the tour, including a regular paranormal investigator who comes every tour, pretty much. Also, during the séance, one gentleman had to leave due to a powerful headache that struck him. Wayne had warned this occurs on occasion, and his belief is that it’s due to the people who died from head injuries at the pool. Also, during the séance, two men in the circle across from me began to twitch, and almost laugh. When asked what the issue was, they both explained that something was ticking their arms and ears.

Not long after that, we heard a spine tingling “giggle” from a little girl! There were no little girls in the séance! The two women next to me spun as I did towards the sound, and we muttered to each other “did you hear that too?”

And the little girl “giggled” again! It was unmistakable! It wasn’t in the pool, exactly. It was hard to tell where it was coming from. It was loud, and almost resonated through the whole pool area. And everyone heard it. We began to murmur, still trying to figure out if we actually heard what we heard!

And she giggled again! Three distinct times! Wow! This was the real deal. Just when I thought nothing much would occur, I was stunned to her what is alleged to be the ghost of “Cassandra” giggle three times in the pool. Fascinating! The séance quickly broke up after that, as people were all shaken and bewildered about it all. Alex from STLPS confirmed he’d heard it, and was taping for EVPs (electronic voice phenomena), and we’d see if he caught the giggling on tape.

With that, I now was very interested in seeing what happens when these local paranormal investigators run an investigation at our little paranormal abode! Would we capture any evidence? Was there anything like this going on at Bec’s house? Time would tell.

I’ll blog about that here very, very soon! Stay tuned!