From a Former Ghost Hunter

I'll be honest with you. I'm a conman by trade. But you know that, you being one yourself, Mr. New Age Medium Guru. You wanted to hear a story, didn't you? For your new book, whatever the fuck about ghost encounters and pretend skeptics. Well, I've got a story for you. The thing is, you can't put this one in your book, because this one's real. Don't laugh. I know you've heard that plenty of times. So have I. Everybody says they've really seen a ghost, whether they're just stupid or intentionally trying to get something out of it. Being stupid is how I got into this world myself. When I was a kid, I used to 'see' weird shit all the time. You know the drill. Patterns, strange lights, weird sounds, the works. I used to confuse nightmares with waking experiences all the time. I would have been perfect for those kinds of psychics that prime children for their bullshit TV stunts. When I got older, I stopped being so stupid about shit like that. I even joined the local skeptic association when I was fourteen. And then I got stupid again. On my sixteenth birthday, me and a bunch of my buddies went up into the mountains at night to try and scare the shit out of each other. There was a local legend about a crazy serial killer who murdered a bunch of women up in the mountains. According to the legend, the man was eventually stopped when he got into a shootout with the cops and was killed by gunfire. Supposedly, he roams the mountains looking for more victims, and the women haunt the areas they were killed in, trying to drag some unsuspecting fool to their demise in the same torturous way they died. Now, most of that's total bullshit and I knew it at the time. I don't mean the ghost stuff. The legend, as you should know from fudging historical information yourself on a daily basis, is way exaggerated. The serial killer did torture and kill several women up in the mountain. Ten college girls and three prostitutes. Each girl got a different kind of torture. The murderer was a known psycho, and mostly everyone stayed away from him. He stayed up in the mountains because he was trying to 'hide' from the 'evil government' or some shit. Yeah, a regular tin foil hat kind of guy. He ended up getting into some really fucked up demonic ritual shit that would make most of your publishing house's Neo-Pagans and natural witches shriek and give every ultra conservative Christian who confuse the two even more fuel to stoke that fire. The cops eventually caught him in town when he was trying to steal dogs and cats from people's backyards. They investigated him under the suspicion of him doing underground dog fights, and found a house of horrors instead. He's still alive right now, actually. To make the story scary, he needed to be a ghost, so everyone ignored the fact that he was, you know, still sitting in our local prison serving multiple life sentences. I knew all that when we went up there, but I like watching people get scared and it was October, so why the hell not go on a pretend ghost hunt? This was in 1999, perfect timing to scare the fuck out of people, especially my friends. My family got our first computer in 1997 and I was using all my spare time to find the weirdest, creepiest shit I could find online. What else can you expect from a fourteen year old boy? My friends all got computers around the same time, and we would chat online a lot, send each other links to creepy shit we found to try and scare each other. I remember in 1998, we came across the website for The Last Broadcast, and of course in 1999, The Blair Witch Project. Living around Rome, Georgia, and with plenty of mountain and woods, we had a habit of pranking local people ourselves. At some point, we actually contributed to the legend I told you about by planting fake evidence of the killer still haunting the lands. As stupid as it was, we even had a website up for our nonsense. So, here we were up in the mountains at night in 1999 the Saturday before Halloween. We'd spent the evening up there around a campfire, roasting up marshmallows and telling the usual ghost stories. One of the two girls in our group naturally had a "Bloody Mary" story that totally happened to her and her cousin once. It's always the cousin, isn't it? The other girl told some elaborate variation of "Click Click Slide". You know, the one where someone keeps hearing that sound and someone ends up with no legs? Someone told one about the grim getting their great-uncle. And it wouldn't be the 90's without someone having an alien abduction story. I can't remember all the stories we told that evening. Though I remember one guy who couldn't think up anything scary told "Ivory Soap", and everyone groaned before he even finished. When nightfall came, we got out our flashlights and started roaming. We ended up getting lost. I think that was around one in the morning. Only one of us had a cell phone back then, and yeah, you know that brick didn't get any signal. Being teenagers and it being almost Halloween, everyone started to panic. We ended up finding a log cabin and hoped someone lived there so we could call our parents. No one answered when we knocked, and the door just opened. We thought it was creepy at the time, but I've been in enough abandoned places to know the door was just broke and someone probably broke it a long time ago. Inside, there was some old furniture. It looked like it hadn't been used in years. As we were looking around the living room, one of the girls found a cat skeleton and some bones we weren't sure what they belonged to. Something slightly bigger than a cat. The girls and one of the guys wanted to leave. We were debating over it when we heard a phone ring. When we looked around to find the phone, one of us shone a light on something in the corner of the room. A woman in a stained night gown was standing there giving us all a death glare. "What are you doing in my house?!" I noticed she had a knife in her hand. She started running at us and we all ran as fast as we could out of there. We didn't stop running until we ended up at a road. We were lucky that we happened to run in a direction towards town. Because we were stupid, we tried to find that place again later, but we never did. Given how abandoned the place was, we all believed it was a ghost. Yes, even me. My skepticism vanished instantly that night and would not resurface for several years. Now, much later as an adult, I eventually found that old cabin by following from where we ended up at on the road upwards across the mountain. I visited it later and found that it was set to be demolished soon. From what I heard from city officials about the area, there were a lot of places like that up in the woods left over from hillbillies living up there a long time ago. Drug dealers and homeless people often used the old houses, which is why they were getting rid of them. That night, I'm pretty sure the woman we encountered was a homeless woman either in serious need of some drugs or already hopped up on ones she shouldn't have been on. It's still terrifying, but like that serial killer legend, hardly supernatural. But, I didn't come to that realization until years later. After my sixteenth birthday, I went full on the opposite direction again. I started getting interested in cryptid nonsense, paranormal research, psychic stuff, the whole nine yards. I even bought crystals. By the time I was eighteen, I was so knee-deep in the shit, I decided I'd pursue a career in it. I started working for a paranormal investigation group and a ghost hunting group. The investigators were pretty deep into their believing of what they were looking for. The ghost hunting group, they were pretty laid back about how they didn't believe in ghosts at all. It was just an act. I ended up resigning from that job and going to school for Biology so I could learn more about nature and be a more valuable resource to the team. Biology started to break me open about all that shit. I started researching more and more into the history behind what we were looking for. I couldn't believe it when I discovered so many of those legendary creatures people poured so much time into researching were long established hoaxes. I had school stuff I needed to pay off, and the investigator job wasn't cutting it. So, I asked for my job back with that ghost hunting group. The head of our team, a guy named Rob, taught me a lot about conning people. He was also a big time hotline psychic and did a lot of public events. I learned how to cold read from him, how to do a tarot reading that would convince even the most "learned" tarot enthusiast that I wasn't bullshitting, and a bunch of other easy tricks to get money from the New Age crowd and the overly superstitious. When I got good at it, I sometimes attended events with him and eventually I did my own gigs. When I was working a RenFaire one year as a tarot reader, I met John, who was doing the whole psychic medium shtick. We had a few drinks together after work and a month later, we were dating. Didn't expect that, did you? I don't mention that in my public information. As sugary lovey-dovey happy feelings as a lot of this crowd is, you can't pretend it's not overwhelming straight and a lot of the pseudo-spiritual crap passed around is very masculine plus feminine connection equals divine bullshit. Not to mention, some of my clients coming from that ultra religious backgrounds can have some really, really fucked up beliefs. We tell people we're cousins. We're getting married next month, actually. John worked with a team much like I did. His team did a local TV show about paranormal activity and occasionally did ghost hunting themed shows in the Fall. I ended up working with them for a while, and this pissed off Rob, who didn't want me working for another ghost hunting team. I quit and John and I did that show with them for a while. When I finished my degree, I got a job in a lab doing work during the day, did work on the show at night, and investigations on the weekend. I was really busy then and both John and I were getting fed up with the show. We both quit the team and started up our own investigation group. We covered all paranormal activity, focusing mostly on ghosts. I started up a blog, and channeling my early teens, started posting doctored things and bullshit tales to get attention to our "services". I still did tarot and psychic readings, mostly by e-mail at this point, and the occasional public event. I cut my lab hours back, as I was actually making more money through my "spiritual" services than my legit job. And then business really boomed. Ghost Hunters hit TV and I swear our number of calls double that same month. We ended up having a show ourselves on another local station. We both knew this wasn't going to last. Around then, John started going to school at half-time for Engineering. Still, we milked that craze every bit we could. I started getting a whole lot more calls for demonic cleansings after we were on air. You know how people love being in the spotlight. It was always obvious to us which clients genuinely believed what was happening to them was paranormal and which ones were out to scam the public as much as we were. Now, I know I'm rambling here. You want to get to the real meat of the story, right? Well, a couple years back, when everyone was on that moronic "Law of Attraction" craze post-The Secret, John and I had an offer from a network cable station to do a mini-series on ghosts for their month long Halloween special. We were still in negotiations with them when this happened. We got a call from a woman crying on the phone. Nothing unusual about that. That's typically a red flag that we've got some deliberate hoaxes on our hands. Since we were already in the middle of a deal with that network, which I will not be saying the name of and don't think you can get it out of me, we decided to film our work there. We were in the middle of going through our "evidence" to look for good creepy shit to keep in the next episode of our TV show and what we could doctor to make creepy at the time, which is a really draining and boring process. I was ready to get up and move again. Come to think of it, John proposed to me that night when we finished up with work. Gay marriage wasn't legal here yet, but we were hopeful about it getting legalized across the country one day. It was too late to go anywhere. We ended up marathoning a bunch of found footage movies after a nice dinner. I remember thinking it was ironic at the time, that my interest in that stuff led me to going into the woods that night and then ended up in this business as a believer, only to come out a skeptical hoaxing conman once again. There we were, about to get the biggest paycheck we'd ever had, and it was all thanks to that nonsense and people being so damn gullible. We did some research on the house to see if there was anything in the property's history we could use on the show. We didn't find anything as the property used to just be an empty wooded area until the late-1980's, but there was a high profile case involving a missing bride from decades ago that went unsolved that at least related to that area. To our luck, when we interviewed the family, they had a story to tell about a ghost bride. It was too perfect. The house owners told us that they had gotten their house for a huge discount because the bank couldn't keep anyone in there for long. When they moved in, the previous home owners supposedly contacted them and told them the story about a ghost bride. They had found out about her from the previous owners before that, who found out from locals. A long time ago, there was a beautiful, well-off woman named Maria who was adored by many of the men in town. After years of playing around, she finally picked a man to marry. One of her former suitors couldn't accept that he wasn't picked and kidnapped her on her way to the wedding. Her body was never found, and her ghost haunts the area. She's only seen at night, clawing around, looking for her lover. The family showed us claw marks on their son's face and the father's face. This was a typical hoaxing tactic for the particularly desperate. I hated dealing with clients like that. It was one thing if they wanted to do it to themselves, but it's just fucked up to do it to a kid for that fifteen minutes of fame. They told us then about their encounters with the mysterious Maria. Maria would stare in at night through the windows, dressed in a wedding dress and veil. She had a cut up face and one of her arms was mostly bone. Sometimes, she would climb through the window and crawl along the floor to her husband or her son's bed and put her undamaged hand to their face. She would look in their eyes for a moment and then claw at them ferociously. The only thing that stopped her was leaving the property or having a woman shine a light in her face. According to the wife, she thought this was because it made Maria think she was hurting some other woman's lover and would feel guilty about it. The not being able to leave the property, as you know, is your typical ghost lore. They said she liked to tap on the window sometimes before she came in and would leave marks on the carpet as she crawled. They showed us the damaged parts of the carpet. It looked like something anyone could do, and at the time, the first thing that came to my mind was a dog or cat messing up the floors. I asked them if they had any pets and they said didn't. We set up our equipment and the family went to stay the night at a hotel. The night started off as boring as usual. We turned out all the lights and scoped out the area together and then did a second round solo. The property didn't have a basement or an attic we could go in, which we were disappointed about at the time. Those places, even without anything happening in them, were so easy to creep out audiences with. Eventually, I got really bored and took a break in the master bedroom, relaxing in a chair in front of a desk. I started jotting ideas down for how we could work the narrative of the first episode of the mini-series. John occasionally radioed me during that time. He's never been one to like to sit still. That's why I usually end up doing most of the editing while he ends up doing more of the errand running and equipment set-up. You know how boring this stuff is yourself. I saw that special you did last year. Are you moving more into television yourself now that your books are so popular? John joked around with me. "Hey, we should have our wedding in a haunted house. We could come out and make a special out of that." "Tag line, skeletons aren't the only thing coming out of the closets tonight!" Dumb joke, I know. But TV is dumb like that. "Heh. I like it. Hey, what if we...Jesus fucking Christ!" John yelled over the radio. "Oh my god, these people." "What happened?" I asked. "Nothing. Just that apparently the daughter has a massive doll collection she keeps out. That, or they left this out here to make the house look creepier. I'm going to meet up with you downstairs. There ain't shit up here to do." Quite a few of our clients have done that in the past. It started happening more after we aired a Halloween special that involved a haunted house with a ghost girl that moved dolls around. Suddenly, a large portion of our clients set to appear on the show conveniently always had weird doll collections. John hated it, since dolls freak him out. "Okay, I'm in the master bedroom. It's the room to the left of the stairs." I said. "Got it." I could hear him walking down the steps then. There was a noise outside too, but we were in a suburban area not far from a city with a railroad nearby. Noise outside hardly meant anything other than more stuff to work with when coming up with "ghostly audio". The noise sounded a lot like something tapping on glass, but I ignored it. When John opened the door, he froze in the doorway. His eyes widened. I asked him, "What's up?" "Tim, Tim, get over here. Right now." I'd never seen John look like that before. I can't describe it to you. You had to have been there. It was a horrifying look. That look is embedded into my mind more than anything else from that night. I got up and started walking over to him. "Run. Right now. Run." I ran and turned around. That's when I saw her in the window. The veil and dress were tattered and stained with dark spots. Her skin was discolored and part of her face had rotted. A bit of her skull was visible. Cuts were all over her, especially on her face. Both her hands were pressed against the glass, one hand completely devoid of skin and muscle. She was looking right at us. Her hands went through the glass, and then her head. Her body slipped through and plopped onto the ground with a heavy thud. She crawled towards us. The back of her dress was cut off halfway and she didn't appear to have her legs anymore. The dress looked like someone had sliced right across it. The way her body moved was so bizarre. Her skeletal arm didn't push her along. It just laid on the ground, dragging along with the rest of her while her "good" arm pulled her forward with her long nails. She didn't say anything to us. There was a soft moaning noise that came from her mouth, which she never once closed. Her mouth hung open like a gaping portal. It was only darkness. Her crawling got faster. We both ran out of the house and got into the car. John looked at me. "What the hell was that?!" "I don't know...some kind of special effect maybe? That can't be real." "That's some pretty damn good hoaxing there. Do you think they..." He leaned over to my side and turned on the car. "Move it." I looked over and saw her crawling towards us. I drove the car a bit further down the road and stopped to see if she would follow us. She didn't move beyond the boundaries of the property. At this point, we were starting to think this really was some kind of illusion created by technology. We both got back out of the car and went to investigate what the hell that thing was. After all, we're the ones who's job it is to scare people by playing pretend. We're not supposed to run away for real, especially not from someone else's tricks. We stood a few feet away from the boundary of the property. She reached up into the air but didn't come any closer to us. I got a better look at her. Her eyes were black holes filled with worms and she had no tongue. Chunks of her hair appeared to have been yanked off. If this was an illusion, I thought, it was the best one I had ever seen. "Is it some kind of projection?" John leaned his face in close to her. She reached out and clawed his face. The moment I saw the blood dripping, I knew we shouldn't have gotten out of the car. The woman took hold of his arm and slices down it with her nails. John screamed and tried to get away, but he couldn't escape her. I grabbed him from behind and pulled as hard as I could. When I got him free, we both ran like hell back to the car. I don't know how fast I was driving the car then. I floored it and didn't give a fuck if any cop saw. John watched her through the back window to see if she followed us. She crawled back up that hill and into the ground. That was the last we saw of her. When we were out of that neighborhood, I started to calm down somewhat and actually obey the traffic laws. I gave John my jacket at the first red light we hit for him to cover his arm with. There was so much blood all over the seat and his clothes. I asked him if he wanted to go to a hospital, but he refused. He wanted to go home. After that, I handed him my cell and told him to call the family to tell them we weren't coming back. We never did go back, and we stopped our paranormal investigation business and ended our negotiations with that network. I still do the whole psychic-tarot thing online and at events, and we still do a local show on strange phenomena. It resembles more of an Unsolved Mysteries format now with occasional interviews with re-enactments and none of the in-person investigating anymore. When John starts his new job, we're both quitting this nonsense all together. The family that lived there didn't stay long. No, they didn't move out. They didn't get a chance to. Their son was found dead one morning, his entire body covered in deep cuts. He was officially pronounced dead due to severe blood loss suffered from his injuries. His tongue and eyes were also missing. They were found in a shallow hole dug beside the parent's bedroom. The parents claimed Maria the ghost did it, and they're both currently in institutions. I'm telling you all this not because I want publicity, and don't you dare put this in that goddamn book you're working on, but as a colleague. You don't have to believe me. You've got every reason not to. But know that I'm not getting anything out of this. I'm just telling you, as a fellow professional in the same shady line of work, don't fuck with that place. Here's the address. Don't go there. I'm giving this to you so you know if you see this come up not to engage with it. Knowing you, you're probably going to do it anyway. Sounds like perfect material for you to run a Halloween special on. I can't stop you. But if anything gets weird, get the hell out of there and don't be stupid enough to go in alone unless you don't plan on leaving. That would make one hell of a last live performance.
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