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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Things That Go Bump, Chapter 2

Welcome back!

In keeping with October's theme, today's installment involves more ghostly goings-on in a couple of local cemeteries. There will be spine-tingling photographs, hair-raising EVPs, and a stern admonition not to forget the Deep Woods Off when planning a trek to far-flung boneyards (if you don't know what a chigger is, look it up. You do NOT want a couple of hundred of them gnawing on your knees).

But first, we'll begin with a location far more sinister and foreboding than even the most fog-shrouded resting place of the dead.

No, first we will face a location that has known more despair, more tragedy, than anywhere else on the University of Mississippi campus.

I refer of course to my office at work.

As you recoil in abject terror, let me explain. Campus lore states that my humble work-space was once used to store cadavers for the Medical School, in the years long ago before the Med School moved to Jackson.

That would certainly explain the odd stains in the carpet, the eerie moans, and the finger-bones the custodian keeps vacuuming up.

Okay, the eerie moans are just my stomach, usually two hours before lunch. Still, my office seemed to be the perfect spot for a quick EVP session, lest anyone get the idea all I do is tramp around old cemeteries.

So below is my brief EVP session, conducted at my desk. It's not a pristine sound environment. People are talking nearby at times. Doors open and shut. I broke down into tears when I heard the vending machine dispensing salty, salty goodness to someone who was not me.

I'll go ahead and skip to the end, on this session.

I got nothing. Nada. Not a single pitiful moan, not a cryptic whispered plea for help, nothing.

Hey, but if you want to try your ears, go ahead! the sound file is below:

Frank's Office

So, another mundane location, another lack of any possible EVP activity.

Why would that be the case? Now look, I'm still on the fence as to what EVPs are. Could they be misinterpretations of audio artifacts generated by the equipment itself?

Yeah, maybe. That's one reason I want better gear. My next acquisition will be a Zoom H1 audio recorder, which is a pro-grade setup that I can actually trust. I've heard skeptics claim EVPs vanish when you start using top shelf equipment. If that's true, then mystery solved -- EVPs were all just a mixture of high noise floors and pareidolia.

My only personal quibble with this theory is this -- if it is true, then why don't I  'catch' possible EVPs in my office, on the patio, in the warehouse, like I do in cemeteries?

Look, I have a huge problem believing that the spirits of the dead hang around graveyards all day hoping some geek with a cheap digital voice recorder comes stomping by. Day after day? Year after year? Decade after decade?

No. No way.

I never expected to catch anything when I first started trying to capture EVPs. But here I am, catching them, and only in the kinds of places that seem, to be honest, a bit cliche.

Which brings me to my first cemetery visit for yesterday, Saturday October 13. The place: Tula Cemetery. That's it, pictured in the first photo of the blog (the BOO sign is mine).

It's a quiet, out-of-the-way graveyard outside Tula, MS. As far as I know, it has no reputation whatsoever for any kind of haunting or other phenomena. It's just a cemetery.

I went in light, with only my camera, my K2, and my voice recorder. That way I can hide everything but the camera if people show up and pretend to be taking photos of headstones. I do that because I don't imagine ghost hunting, no matter how careful or respectful, will prove very popular hereabouts.

I spent about 20 minutes wandering and talking. I put the recorder down on several stones and asked for comments. Here are a few of the markers I singled out:

The good Lieutenant above had nothing to say.

These poor souls were also silent. The sandstone markers and location suggest they died during a yellow fever epidemic in the early 1800s.

Mr. Hartin was equally reticent to speak.

Above we have a doctor, one Dr. Robert M. Webster. I was regaling Dr. Webster with tales of organ transplants in the hope he might express disbelief. I didn't get a voice, but I did get an odd noise (around the 8:30 mark in the full clip). Here it is, amplified just a bit for your convenience:


Right after I say "anything at all, sir" there is a weird rumbling groaning sort of noise. I didn't hear it during recording, and I'm not willing to say it's a vocalization of any kind. I just include it because it's odd.

The best odd recording I got at Tula is next. At the seven minute mark, while I was just walking about inviting anyone to speak, I said "Maybe I can understand you with the help of this instrument."

Apparently that struck someone (or, cue minor chords, something) as funny, because I recorded what sounds like a laugh.

Keep in mind I was alone. I heard nothing at the time of the recording. Here is the audio segment, unaltered:


And here is the laugh, looped so you can hear it better, especially if you are listening with PC speakers:


To me, it sounds like this: "instrument."  HA HA HA.

The HA HA HA is repeated only 3 times in the original -- I looped it out to 30 in the clip just to make it easier to hear.

Here's another oddity about this item. Look at the screen-shot below.  It's the audio clip, isolated down to "...instrument HA HA HA."

See the first burst of sound, represented on the graph above? That's me, saying 'instrument.'

The next three bursts are the HA HA HA sounds. Notice how nearly they match the first burst -- my voice --in up-and-down space?

That's called amplitude. It directly relates to the volume of a sound. As you can see, the word instrument and the subsequent noises (HA HA HA or whatever they are) and nearly the same in amplitude. And they're all well above the background noise.

So, how did I not hear three bursts of sound that were nearly as loud as my own voice?

I don't have an answer for that. I didn't hear anything at the time of recording.

Those are the only two instances of odd audio I felt were worthy of note. Interested parties might want to listen very hard at the 3:00 and 9:01 marks, because I almost heard something there, but ultimately decided it was probably just wind noise.

Now, you heard me taking a lot of photos at Tula. I saw something odd in one of them, and I'll put it below:

You may have to click on it to get the big image to see it. But there is a weird purple corona around that stone. Chromatic lens distortion, or supernatural energy emission?

I'm going with the former. But hey, it's October.

Next up is another odd Tula photo. Let's play Spot the Apparition!

Okay, I cheated and drew you an arrow. But when I saw that, on my big screen monitor, it immediately looked out of place. In fact, to me it looks like a bad cut n' paste job. The colors don't match the rest of the scene and it just seems to be stuck there.

Too, it looks like a dog wearing a button-down collar shirt peeking around a grave marker. That's not on the list of Traditional Haunting Images.

Now, I think this happens a lot among amateur ghost hunters. They get a weird photo. They post it. Everyone scratches their head.

But, if you look at this photo in context -- i.e., among other pictures taken from different places and angles -- you soon see it's NOT actually a spectral but well-dressed dog peeking about. Look below:

It's just an old foot marker. Whew.

Okay, that debunked, we leave Tula with one.



I give you the Phantom of Tula!

Do you see it?

Is that an apparition I've circled? Or is it a trick of pareidola?

You decide....

Next stop -- Rock Hill Missionary Baptist Church and environs, just a few miles away. But first -- a cottonfield!

Here's Rock Hill MB Baptist Church:

The tiny cemetery is off to the right.

The cemetery is fenced in. Since I don't have anyone buried there, I didn't climb the fence, or try to open it. This is the Deep South and people take the sanctity of their dead very seriously. I take shotguns very seriously, so we're even on that point.

So I stood outside the gate and did a quick EVP session.

I got one odd result. It sounded like a whispered 'yes.' At first. then I remembered I turned to shield my mic from the wind and I'm writing that sound off as wind noise.

Note to self: No more cemetery EVP hunts on windy days without a good windscreen.

It was fun, hanging at cemeteries, snapping pictures of weathered grave-markers, talking to thin air like a loon.

Next week will be even more fun. So stick around! It's October. Who knows what might happen next?

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