Issues With Authority.

As I’m down visiting my parents for my 39th birthday, in between the awesome Mexican food (my favorite) and the Dairy Queen ice cream cake, my mother asks me if I remember when she sent us to summer camp that one year — and why she never did it again.

I had absolutely no memory of this.

Evidently I got up and left the classroom I was in, sought out my sister, Eve, and took her out of the classroom she was in, and then sat us both down beneath the trees outside, refusing to go back inside — or to let my sister in there, either. We remained beneath those trees until mom came to pick us up.

Though I had no recollection of the incident, I knew why I had done it. I remembered having done things like this before. Running, hiding or stubbornly rebelling against what I perceived to be oppressive authority — never in a violent way, though. This continued with my mother and about every job I’ve had: the omnipresent power-struggles.

I told my mother that I probably did it because adults in power, they tend to be dicks.

“They still are,” Eve, beside me at the table, chimed in.

I couldn’t argue. “This is true.”

The next day, Elizabeth and her boyfriend come visit me at my apartment. Elizabeth had baked me a pot birthday cake that kept me high about every night of the following week, as I ate from it slowly. We also smoked a bowl or two while they were there, during which time Elizabeth, a manager where I work, informs me that Connie has been promoted to assistant supervisor of the franchise.

My stomach turned. My teeth clenched. Hatred rose from within me and proceeded to consume me.

For the majority of the nearly fourteen years my unambitious ass has been working and rotting away in this fast food joint, Connie had been the store manager and my most immediate boss.

Though she calmed down near the time she was transferred to another store — mostly due to medication and becoming a grandmother, it seemed — she nonetheless remained an unempathic, narcissistic, deceptive, authoritarian asshole who could not be pleased, no matter how much you busted your ass to do a good job. After years of suffering under her reign, I was absolutely ecstatic to have someone else as a boss. Word had it that since the new guy bought the franchise they were trying to push her out — and now I learn they instead promoted her.

It isn’t, as Connie used to claim, that I don’t like women in power. I’ve liked the last two store managers we’ve had and they both had vaginas. I’d give my left nut to have Hillary at the throne instead of Trump despite the fact that I’m not the biggest fan of her. It’s a style of leadership that gets to me, that I find utterly intolerable, and this style seems nauseatingly commonplace.

I don’t know where my issues with such authority began, but they surely continue.

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Light And Shadow.

I hate standing in line. That’s what finally led me to avoid water parks, as a matter of fact, especially when I began smoking and they wouldn’t let you take a puff despite being outside as you stood in a herd of humans for an absurd length of time. More to the point, for the last two years in the very least, when I had to get my registration renewed at the DMV I met with an excruciatingly long line. Last year, I had to go to the place twice, because after waiting for over an hour for my number to be called the first time I had to ditch out to ensure I’d make it to work on time. So this year, I left early. Two hours early.

I didn’t even get too lost, which is unheard of, and upon arrival I found the place was occupied by at most five other customers. I didn’t sit for five minutes before I was summoned to the counter. Figures. So now I’m parked in the lot at work, smoking, writing, reading, wondering if the experience I had on my way to the DMV is unusual or one of those things many experience but for one reason or another never take the time to talk about.

On the drive to the DMV, along the long stretch of road I drive down on a daily basis, the sun shone through the trees lining the side of the road and cast an enduring barcode formation of long, slender shadows onto the path before me. As I drove through these shadows, the flickering began to effect my vision as it always does. It’s like when you watch one of those animate, hypnotic spirals online: my field of vision became like the surface of a lake disturbed by a relentless onslaught of waves. I try not to look at the road for too long, quickly looking to the side or down at my speedometer, which morphs to a psychedelic degree, hoping I can fight against the altered state it starts to conjure by limiting my exposure as best as I can.

This happens frequently, but it’s rarely this bad, probably because I don’t often leave this early and the sun is far lower in the sky when I typically drive to work at roughly three o’clock. Is this a typical visual phenomenon, or does this suggest my high hypnotizability? I’ve never heard anyone else mention this before, but it seems unlikely I’m the only one…

Self-Awareness, Empathy, and Reason.

Selling yourself short.

Buying the lie
held up by the tripod
of tradition,
popularity and faith.

Equating love with fear.

Finding meaning
in your suffering
through twisted fables.

Grow within.
Embrace the path
of self-awareness,
empathy, and reason.

Find yourself.
The only true path.
Transforming in the light of awareness,
creating yourself in the process…

Release the beast
from your dark dungeon
and tame it.

Give your demons
a walk and learn the ways
of the world through their eyes,
comprehend their reasoning.

Go the way
of catharsis and alchemy.

Exposure
provides a mirror
for that which resides
within, hiding in the dark,

living in the gutter,
thriving in the shadows
that enshroud
your days:

feedback
permitting
adjustment.

Low Res, No Exit (5 Days Away).

How can it be
that it has been this long
and I’ve only gotten
this far?

Halfway
through this shell’s journey,
still lost, disempowered and alone,
with no aim that stretches
very far

or means too much save
for the childishly
ambiguous

reservoir full of potential
with low-resolution 
void of a narrow exit,

omnipresent
and ever-raging, volatile,
sensitive and pathologically
untrusting, 

and I suppose that alone
says something.

Monk Mode and Emotional Imprisonment. 

Lately, and particularly the last week, I just haven’t been feeling peopley. Before work and on break, I hide in my car, writing or reading an article on my iPhone or reading a book. When I go out for a smoke during the work shift, I nearly always hide in my car, writing away on my iPhone.

People don’t care. They couldn’t give a single, solitary shit. Not so much as a moist fart.

They try to engage me in conversation, entirely ignoring the clear body language, entirely blind to the isolationist tendencies that should be so fucking crystal clear to them by now — though perhaps that’s misleading. I mean, very rarely do they actually try to engage me in conversation. No, that would mean some verbal exchange. What they really want is to spill. They want to talk, just speak, not listen, and they know I have to pay attention, I have to be the sponge that I am and soak it all in indiscriminately. I’m the godless priest, after all — the confessional with a pulse, the emotional commode.

In Fight Club, Marla Singer and Jack express that people typically aren’t listening, they’re just waiting for their turn to speak, and for the longest time I thought this was one hell of an insight, but Palhanuik, it turns out, gave people too much credit. They don’t wait for their turn to speak; they consistently, predictably speak over you. They’re not even waiting their turn. They don’t even have the decency to pretend like their interested in anything you have to say. They just want to spill and they know somehow, at some subliminal level, that I will listen, and the self-absorbed motherfuckers are right.

When Jared catches me, I’m in the process of doing trash, and I don’t want to engage with anyone, but I find myself in that awkward position of holding myself at gunpoint within my own head and I do my best to fake it ’till I make it — or make it seem convicting to others, if nothing else. He tells me how he wants to be promoted to manager or he’s going to quit and go work with his mother at her cleaning buisiness. I ask him about school, as he had been going to school to work on some aspect of trucks — damned if I can remember, and even if I could, I wouldn’t be able to understand — but I’m curious as to whether he’s going back. I can’t for the life of me remember his answer, but I made some reference about my short college experience. Was it two years, three years? I haven’t paid on my loans forever, and they take my tax returns every year, and probably will for the rest of my life, as I’ll never be able to pay any of it back.

And he asks me what I was going for. I tell him that I wanted to be an English teacher. And like nearly everyone I’ve said that to, out of politeness or sincerity, he tells me he could see me doing that.

Why did I drop out? I don’t want to get into the details, but I do. How I was just shy of 4.0 in college for two to three years until the first day of that public speaking class, where I had to talk to the stranger I was sitting next to, get up in front of the class with him and we both had to introduce one another through a 20-second speech. How I had a full-scale anxiety attack, probably made a total ass out of myself, couldn’t stop shaking for the rest of the period and never went back. I had graduated high school in 1997, took on class — Intro to Psychology — at a local college and didn’t return for nearly a decade until I was certain what I wanted to do. And I was on my way until that speech class, which I took, having niavely thought to myself that after all this time maybe the anxiety had subsided — but it clearly hadn’t.

If I can’t do a 20 second speech, I can’t hope to have a job where I speak in front of a class on a daily basis. Anxiety attacks are essentially dying painfully without the release of death at the end.

He tells me, it seems like that’s something I could have overcome. He says it like everyone says it. Like the one guy I knew who suggested I go to those Toastmaster meetings. Like the former owner of the franchise, who on the one day me and another fellow coworker accompanied him, serving as his henchmen, said to me, when I expressed the same issue of social anxiety plus panic attacks to him, “They have drugs for that.”

Like so many people, Jared asked whether I wanted to be a teacher — like for kindergarten kids, highschool kids — or a college professor. Either/or, that was the honest answer, and I at least tried to convey it, though my ultimate goal would be to be a college professor. He asked this for the same damned reason most people asked this, because they assume that speaking to younger kids would be easier than speaking to high school kids or even college kids, but it just doesn’t make a difference in my case. Get me in front of a crowd of people and I’m instantly on overload. I go haywire. Into fight or flight or play opposum. My anxiety knows no ageism; cutting across all ages, genders and races, it is persistent in its relentless attacks.

And if that weren’t bad enough, I don’t even know why.

I was never physically abused, never molested or raped. I felt emotionally abandoned and negelected by my mother in my youth and I witnessed a close friend and his siblings get the living fuck beat out of them when they were young as I hid beneath beds and behind doors, but I was never the subject of physical or sexual abuse myself. My only potential claim to violation would be my memories of alien abduction, which most would insist suggests either my insanity or that I’m using it as a cover for some more earthbound trauma.

I am fucked up beyond reason — and without clear and rational reason. I have no one to cast blame upon but myself and blame fails to provide any semblance of a solution anyway. I want to understand, so of course I want to know how I came to be this way, but would the reason serve as a solution? Would knowing how I became trapped in this well of sadness and fear help me find a way out? Only in that would it truly earn any practical value, and I’m not so convinced anymore. As further evidence of my madness, as if any more were required, I still have to burning desire to understand, but my yearning for a remedy is infinitely more intense.

I hate how my emotions rule over me.

Deadly.

At my laptop, I can no longer ignore the profound beating in my chest. I can feel it, hear it, and the rhythm of my heart feels all wrong. Though I try to relax, try to remind myself that I’ve eaten a potent pot brownie and that’s probably all there is to it, I simply can’t, so I go lay down in bed, where my apparently arrhythmic heartbeat persists with relentless intensity.

Maybe I should go back to the laptop and watch something, maybe take a poop and try to read a bit, but as I become convinced I’m going to die I figure here on the bed would be the most comfortable location. At least when they find me my apartment will be clean and I’ll look as if I went in my sleep.

Maybe I should have deleted my porn. I wish I would have self-published my stupid book. My friends and coworkers wouldn’t be incredibly surprised, I think to myself, and I hope my death doesn’t hit my parents too hard.

Then the pain in my chest began moving downward towards my stomach, passed my stomach, until, finally: puuuurrrt.

All better.

A fart gave me visions of my own mortality. Interesting.

For the Masses.

What if there is no agamic
or hermaphroditic
creator,
nor a goddess or god,
yet there is 
the soul?

No collective consciousness,
just one true identity
for each of us, enveloped
in a mind

that may be fragmented,
merely split, at best whole?

Would you embrace the mask,
accept the limitations
you already take for granted,

or would you strive
to wake
the fuck up, do all
you could for yourself

and then invest
in what you’ve done
your best to determine

is the best
possible direction
for the masses?

Into the WILD.

While laying supine on my bed, I listened to the Astral Dreams app on my iPhone as I focused my attention on my breath. White noise layered with tones and what I presume to be subliminal suggestions rushed into my ears through my ear buds. My intent here was to deliberately achieve the state I often find myself in naturally during meditation, hypnosis, or just on the bridge of sleep: a state of sleep paralysis in which hypnagogic imagery begins manifesting in my mind. It turns out that this is the first part of what is known as the Wake-Induced Lucid Dreaming (WILD) technique; all I need to do is try and “step into” the imagery and I can enter into a lucid dream without any breach in the continuity of consciousness.

Once the paralysis began, I felt one of my fingers move involuntarily to touch another — though neither were my actual, physical fingers. I wish there was something less hokey to call it, but calling it an aura or subtle body in and around my physical form is the only language presently available to me. It’s like a full-body form of the phantom limb effect, I guess, though in this case I feel it despite having a body complete with all the typical limbs. And I always feel it — it’s just that states like this make me more sensitive to the sensations.

As the hypnagogic imagery began popping up before my minds eye in a rapid slideshow, I maintained a witnessing perspective, and once the imagery calmed down a bit I began slowly attempting to “step into” the imagery, at which point the images began to gain a sense of dimension. As before, as always, the images appeared as if I were gazing at them through an amber-brown tinted window. Entering into the images was much like entering the mouth of a cave as the closer I got the more the scene seemed to be above and around me until the mouth was finally at my back and I felt as if I was actually inside the image.

I maintained awareness as I entered into an image, a scene in which I was staring at the treetops and the sky, and the scene bursts with color and life. A convincingly real, ideal summer day. I got so excited that it ended as quickly as it began. It was like swiftly stepping out of the mouth of the cave backwards and back behind the amber-brown tinted window of the mind.

Damn it. I was so close.

A Plague of Imposters.

It was August 4th, 2011. They were stoned upon arrival and then proceeded to drink and smoke some more. Though I feel certain this did a lot to facilitate the threesome that then took place in my bedroom, we all enjoyed the experience enough that we proceeded to do it on another two occasions at the very least. It was this first occasion, the death of my threesome virginity, that had the most impact and tends to stick out in my memory, however.

At some point after we had all fooled around for a bit Jen, who was by that time truly stoned out of her gourd, left to go to the restroom. A short time later she came bursting back into the dark, smokey bedroom, face in her hands, and sat on my bed beside Sadie. Crying, speaking unintelligibly, she was evidently rather freaked out, which in turn got both Sadie and I rather freaked out. Though I couldn’t make it out what she was saying exactly, I thought she had said that she had seen something. We both urged her to elaborate, and she finally said that she needed a moment to figure out how to explain this.

A few moments later, in between deeply drawing off a cigarette, she explained that she’d had this recurring dream since childhood, and she had just had it again while she was on the bathroom. Though perhaps the case is different when you’re considerably stoned, people don’t often have dreams while they’re still awake, and so immediately this sounded more to me like a flashback.

Regardless, in what she calls her dream she was really young, perhaps two or three years old. She was on a trampoline with her brother in the yard of someone’s house. This was a house that was familiar to her in real life, from her childhood. Suddenly a man approaches them. He has a pale, expressionless face, dark hair and dark cloths, and the whole time he is just staring at them.

After that, she said, she remembers nothing. She wonders out loud if perhaps she was molested as a child.

Evidently Jen knew nothing about the Imposters, as I have since come to call the bulk of them. Others have called them, or certain groups of them, by various names. They are all joined by their generally peculiar behavior and, to varying degrees, their “passable” human appearance.

It is no news to me, working in the town I currently do, that some people are, relative to the average, simply strange in both appearance and behavior. One who knew me might argue I may even qualify. What interests me are the patterns that run through many of the reports, differing in ways that justify the independent titles attributed to them and yet similar enough in ways that suggest they are ultimately connected.

The Impostors preceded and seem to have provided inspiration for many characters we are now quite familiar with in popular culture. There are the Men in Black comics and movies, of course, and that one X-Files episode “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” featuring two MIBs played by Jessie Ventura and Alex Trebek. Less obvious, perhaps, are the Agents of The Matrix trilogy, the Observers from the television show Fringe as well as the Strangers from the movie Dark City.

In real life these Impostors engage in the same scenarios with their subjects over and over. There are cases of plumbers entering the basement of numerous houses only to vanish, the supposed government agents (“the silencers” or MIBs) that arrive at your doorstep after a UFO encounter, the phantom photographers, strange job interviewers or the children with black eyes that want inside your house or car for some reason. Sometimes their script is event-specific, however, and at what turn out to be moments of cultural significance, such as during the JFK Assassination or during the plague.

The Impostors often have strange eyes and peculiar voices. With respect to the eyes, this is typically in terms of shape, and for both the effects are often described as hypnotic. They often wear inappropriate attire, either long out of fashion or absurdly out of season, but have also been reported in more conventional and modern attire, such as khakis and jeans.

Regardless of their type they all play the same roles, ask the same questions. The specific roles they play and scripts they adhere to seem to fall into one of several kind of scenes and they all typically exhibit the same strange, seemingly scripted behavior, though the talent or capacity of the individual actors vary. Some are almost robotic in their behavior or tone of voice, others seem a bit more capable but seem to have poorly rehearsed, and still others behave in an over-the-top, dramatic and deliberately archetypal manner. They often express knowledge about the contacted subject that they should not and one would think could not know. Even so, they seem ignorant of the most conventional things in human society. Regardless of their type, individual talent and dress, however, if you force them to go too far off script, they panic. If they offer their names or occupations they are invariably false ones, and while the references they provide are on occasion real people upon contacting them those real people claim to have never heard of them.

Immediately Jen’s story made me think of two events in my own life. One I do not recall, though it was relayed to me by my parents; the other occurred when I was in my twenties.

My parent’s story involved picking my sister and I up from the two-week Bible camp the summer of 1986. My childhood friend, Jimmy, had gotten my sister and I to go with him and his brother. Though I have committed what I recall of my experience there to writing elsewhere, relevant here are the men my parents remember seeing in the chapel, men who unnerved them both. They wore black suits and were standing at every wall, faces pale and expressionless. They had explained those men just as Jen had explained that ominous stranger.

The other event took place on the anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, in November of 1998. Sandra had brought me to the JFK Lecture at Kent State, where a writer from the Free Times, who had for years studied the assassination, was prepared to speak. As we walked in, an oriental-looking fellow with a scowl about his face walked passed everyone quite angrily, holding his hands up to the cameras to block them as he went passed. His eyes seemed fixated on something ahead of him, or perhaps something in his mind. Strangely, I didn’t think too much of it. Shannon and I took our seats, got out some paper to take some notes during the lecture. There was an empty seat, Sandra, and then me. The creepy, scowl-faced oriental fellow sat in the empty seat beside Sandra. It was then that I started feeling a bit weird about the guy. Sandra scooted toward me, tugging at my shirt. What she was trying to tell me then came to my attention — because I realized it, too.

This scowling fellow, in a suit and a big, dark-purple, almost black trench coat, was mumbling into his coat pocket, or into his sleeve, his eyes never leaving the stage. He mumbled into it as if it were completely natural, as if no one should think twice about it, as if none of us even existed or it was a perfectly natural thing to mumble into your coat. The lecture started, and he continued doing it. He then got up in a fuss and left as bitterly as he had arrived.

It struck me as odd that I hadn’t realized just what he was — not that, until that point, I had believed in Men in Black or even knew all that much about them, but I should’ve made the connection. Only later, at home, did it suddenly hit me.

The Hunting Party.

8/23/08

The four of us had taken our leisurely positions just outside the Main Street Grille and Brewery, my flashlight serving as the makeshift doorstop for the front door. I sat on the steps of the wooden porch, breathing cigarette smoke as I flipped through the random pictures I had taken on the digital camera Mitch had lent me. Eyes hungry to see a translucent orb, a white mist, a mysterious figure. Looking for something, anything, but trying to keep my emotions in balance.

If I suspended expectation, I reminded myself, I couldn’t be let down. It was best to approach with a controlled curiosity, a cautious hope, and I knew that. It was the same reason I was not at all disappointed with how the evening had gone so far, that we hadn’t seen a full-body apparition or a physical object moved, untouched. I was glad Mitch seemed to echo this unspoken sentiment of mine, too. He had gone even further, really, at least verbally proclaiming as much, telling the owner of the place before we had began our ”ghost hunting” that evening that he prefers to go into these situations with the attitude that there’s nothing to it. With an effort of debunking it all as a natural phenomenon, so he can rule out all the knowns, dodge false positives. Still, I felt that he was more than slightly disappointed with the way the night had gone so far, and it was a vibe I caught from him even before we stepped outside the old mill-turned-brewery-and-grille.

Before we had come on the porch, each of our two-man teams had simultaneously been prowling the three levels of the place — or four, if you’re counting that creepy-looking crawl space. There were six of us in all. The first team was Mitch’s brother-in-law and some young-looking guy who’s name I never caught. Mitch’s brother-in-law seemed like a cool guy, fully capable of taking Mitch’s ”So, I’m fucking your sister” comments. On the drive there they talked over the hand-held walkie talkies, seeming more like blood brothers who had grown up with one another than brothers merely through marriage.

As for his partner, the young guy, he was clean-cut, healthy-looking, reasonably-strong, not too skinny and not too fat. Nice, evenly-trimmed hair. The kind of guy that a guy like me holds a secret hate for, but only because he probably has a hot girlfriend he’s banging every night. Throughout the evening, at least from the standpoint of my limited contact with him, he seemed almost two-dimensional, nearly invisible to the eye. A stand in. Like one of the red shirted guys off of Star Trek; the ones that always go down to the planet with the main characters and since you’ve never seen the guy before you know you’ll never see him again. He’s never coming back. That he’s good as gone. No doubt, if this had been a horror flick or a supernatural thriller he would have been the first one to get eaten by the monster, infected with the alien virus, killed by the psychopath. I wish him no ill-will, of course; he seemed rather polite and level-headed. I just couldn’t escape that outlook on him in this context. Needless to say, he survived. Hope I didn’t ruin it for you.

The third two-man team was an odd and interesting pairing. One of the guys was a plump, pasty, baby-faced fellow, looking a bit like a more serious version of the Pillsbury Doughboy clad in street cloths. By behavior alone, you might have considered him the Egon Spengler of the group, only rather than clutching the mythical PK Meter he held the super-expensive thermal camera he had borrowed from the Fire Department where he was employed. Him and I said little to each other, but he seemed to be a nice enough guy. Lurking in the midst of the general populace he might have seemed rather reserved, but him, and almost anyone short of a chronically shy mute, looked downright extroverted next to me. Out of all of us, though, he seemed to be the most wary, the most skeptical, not willing to lean either way regardless. When you got down to it, he was a bit curious, but just a pace away from indifference. That’s what I got from him, anyway. I did find it strange and more than slightly ironic that Mitch teamed him up with the guy I will call Twitch.

Twitch was a friendly though rather wild-eyed guy who had what seemed to me to have a rather child-like naivette. He seemed to go into all this with uncritical certitude; convinced there was something to it. His certainty developed at least in part, I’m sure, due to his disposition coupled with two experiences of his — one took place here in the mill, the other in the nearby Historical Society building. Before becoming a police officer, he had worked in the mill. There had been a break-in one night or some ordeal that made it necessary for him to spent the night in the place alone. Though he freely confessed to having seen nothing, he was adamant about the weird noises he had heard all night long.

”Like this,” he said, turning around and pointing to the floorboards beneath our feet, which creaked and squeaked as we made our way. He told us this shortly before opening the door to the basement, where a light bulb in the stairwell went out before his eyes. I didn’t see it burn out just then myself, however, only that it was burnt out. ”Someone doesn’t want us here,” he said less than half-jokingly, laughing nervously under his breath and we proceeded down.

The other experience of his occurred after he had become a police officer, when he had gone to inspect the Historical Society building one night when an alarm, a motion detector, was tripped on the second floor. “Not the first floor,'”he would say on both occasions he told the swift story that evening, ‘”the second floor.” His penchant for the dramatic was pretty evident, I think; he spoke of things the way you would when telling a ghost story around the campfire to children.

As the four of us were outside, a cop car drove around, said something none of us could hear, and then drove around again, parking beside the building. Two of the group, both Mitch and Twitch, were police officers themselves, so the feeling of paranoia that seems to be a programmed response to officers of the law didn’t hit too hard. Two cops emerged from the car, one which Mitch seemed to know well and who’s name rung a bell; I’m almost sure he’s mentioned him to me a few times. This was Lane, who looked a bit like a buff version of Riker off of Star Trek (and no, I’m not a fucking Trekkie).

With him was some incredibly young-looking officer who made the whole, ”There’s a rational explanation for everything,” remark after discussion arose regarding apparently paranormal experiences. I assumed the kid was some rookie Lane was meant to wean in; though he didn’t seem inexperienced, he did give off that aura of feeling awkward, feeling like he didn’t entirely belong. He buried it in his trying-to-be-a-badass posture, which was almost convincing, but still had that faint air of the contrived. That kind of alpha male body language seemed more authentic in Lane and Mitch. But fake it till you make it, I guess.

As for Lane, he carried a portable coffee mug and, though a smoker, wasn’t nearly the chimney I was. He smoked maybe one or two for the hour I saw him, whereas I sucked down maybe three or four. He had that deep, controlled voice that made me think he would make a good speaker. I couldn’t imagine him stuttering, slurring, or pausing and reversing to rephrase. He was calm and comfortable with himself. Out of the two of them, Lane was the only one to shake my hand and look me dead in the eye. Granted, Mitch had introduced him and I and had not done so with the kid, so I suppose that could be the reason. Still, it seemed as though Lane would’ve shaken my hand given the chance anyway. He was a peculiar fellow; there was something about the guy I just immediately liked, I must admit. He displayed that perfect balance of the humble and confident; he never seemed arrogant, nor did he seem willing to make himself look smaller than he was. His mind wasn’t closed, but it wasn’t so damned open all his brains fell out and splattered on the concrete sidewalk beneath his feet, either.

When Twitch told his story to Lane — “Not the first floor; the second floor,” — which was his second telling, Lane gave him a mildly dismissive but nonetheless sympathetic shrug. He explained how depending on the settings, such motion detectors could pick up mice, even a calm breath of wind vibrating a spiderweb. In other words, while there could be something to it, an alarm being tripped on the second floor and not the first didn’t necessarily constitute something unusual. Without boasting or trying to one-up him, Lane’s experience, by comparison, held quite a bit more water. He had gotten a call at the same damned place. The front door had this old lock — he gave a good description of it, gave its name, but I can’t recall it exactly. Suffice it to say you had to turn the lock quite a bit; in other words, it had to be very purposeful. There was no accidentally locking this door. And while he would lock and unlock doors as he went from room to room, he didn’t bother with the front door lock. Regardless, when he returned, having found no prowler, he found it locked. That was pretty hard to explain away.

Even more difficult to explain away was Mitch’s experience inside the Historical building, which initially stirred his interest. Of all of them, at least by virtue of the stories I’d heard from them, Mitch had perhaps the most qualification to believe — and yet at the same time he was the strictest and most resistant to accept something unusual. He was cautious. It was at his direction that we were now taking half-hour shifts during which four of us would stay outside while the two others had full and free reign inside the place.

Mitch was right, of course; going in shifts like this would decrease the potentiality of false indications of a ghostly presence. The creaking floorboards as the six of us crept around the three levels were a bit difficult to separate from any truly potential unknown. It was hard enough with the whirring of the machines, the sound of them clicking on and off, and even the sound of the rushing water in the back of the place. As Mitch and I had sat in the dining room earlier, we watched moving lights and shadows as cars passed by on the street outside and he noted, after he put some thought into it, how such effects could produce illusions.

Another issue crept up, and came to my attention for the first time, when Mitch and I were interrupted during our first round on the ground level of the place by Twitch and Egon, who wanted Mitch to check out something in the basement. We followed them down and we all paused at the bottom of the steps.

“Do you feel that?” Twitch asked hauntingly. There was agreement all around, and I had to admit a creepy feeling. “Somethings here,” Twitch went on.

Before we started, before Twitch had even guided us on our tour, the boss hovered around the group a bit. He had a mustache and seemed to have that way of carrying himself that existed somewhere in the realm between the laid back and the strict, professional type. Before he went home for the night he told us of his own personal experience. He had been alone, walking down the steps to the basement when he felt an unmistakable presence. As he continued walking, he tried to shake it off, to no avail. Eventually it came on so strong he was stricken with terror. He felt sure something was there and bolted up the steps, feeling as though something unseen was chasing him.

So now, as we all seemed to feel something comparable, we spread out a bit and looked around. Taking pictures, asking questions with our microcassette recorder in hand. That’s when Mitch brought up the issue, which was the issue of electromagnetism. More than once downstairs I’d heard Mitch or Egon say something akin to, “Damn, I wish we had an EMF Detector.” Someone else raised the question; had the case been otherwise, I would have inevitably asked about it. I knew they were talking about an electromagnetic field detector, but I was lost otherwise.

According to Mitch, the presence of electromagnetism can have an odd effect on the human nervous system, resulting in sensations we might, for the sake of argument, wrap up under the umbrella term “the creeps.” Down in the basement, he pointed to the wires hanging down from the ceiling, implying that there might be more conventional factors to blame for the sense of an unknown presence that we all more or less shared.

As far as I can determine, the four of us all felt that feeling at the base of the steps, but when Mitch and I journeyed down there the second time alone I, in the least, no longer felt it in that location. Even the first time, while we were all down there, for awhile something seemed off in the environment and then it just, well, went away. Now, this could mean that a disembodied entity had been hanging around at first and then meandered about elsewhere, but it could also mean that nearby wires or machines that had initially been on had later clicked off, thereby eliminating the eerie atmosphere. I also wasn’t blind to the fact that the expectation of sensing something (provided in part by ever-dramatic Twitch) could have alone produced the initial effect and when the expectation died, so did the creepy sensation.

If it had something to do with electromagnetism, however, I still wasn’t sure how the detector would help us determine it one way or the other. I mean, it could tell us there were EM fields present, but not necessarily their source. So I looked a bit online after the hunting party and found that there are some EMF detectors available that screen out man-made sources of electromagnetism, thereby allowing paranormal investigators the ability to determine whether or not “the creeps” are a true unknown. Damned if I know how the thing can tell the difference, but that’s how its advertised.

Still, we all certainly shared the hope of finding something suggesting the unusual, the unconventional. Mitch and I let the tiny microcassette recorder run, with us, mostly him, asking questions to any hypothetical spirits that might be wandering about as we ourselves meandered from room to room. How old are you? What’s your name? Do you know you’re dead? How did you die? Why do you like this place? Does it bother you we’re here?

And really, out of all of them the only question that made me wince was, Do you know that you’re dead? It might be goofy, but I thought if someone was wandering about here, long since departed, there were two likely responses to that question. One, they did know they were dead and would be angry at the needless reminder as well as at the suggestion that they lacked sufficient awareness to grasp a hold of that fact. They would interpret the question as the act of us talking down to them, in other words. The other possibility is that they didn’t know, or that they were at least in denial of the fact they were dead. In that case I felt this question would either frighten or enrage them, perhaps both in one, foul swoop. Either possibility, I felt certain, wouldn’t make them any more inclined to communicate with us.

Regardless, I must confess that I did feel presences, though I wouldn’t be so bold as to proclaim there was anything more to this than my overactive imagination. On both occasions that Mitch and I visited the kitchen I felt certain something was there. I also felt this in the basement, though only on the first time Mitch and I went down there when the team in the basement wanted Mitch to check out something. Three times between both places I somehow felt we might get a substantial EVP on the recorder. I suppose that time, and Mitch’s initial review of the evidence, will tell.