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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/1294435
Rated: E · Non-fiction · Ghost · #1294435
This is a research paper I won a competition with at my college, West Liberty.
It is almost dark outside as we drive south toward Moundsville we both stay quiet one minute and then switch to thoughts of what might happen, what we hope happens and what will happen. My cousin Jordan drives the car. Like me, he has always wanted to go on a ghost hunt. Seeking the ultimate authentic paranormal investigation experience, we have brought two video cameras, a digital camera, and a voice recorder. As we get close we stop to pickup flashlights. We’ll need them. Unlike many tourist attractions that use light to illuminate their truths, ghost hunting draws on the dark to enhance mood and to heighten the senses.

We arrive at the prison with time to spare. It is still light outside and we get a glimpse of the prison. Its size is imposing, covering 3 to 4 blocks and rising way above us in Gothic splendor. We will learn later from the tour guide that the prison was initially built by the prisoners themselves, and perhaps this gives the place its sense of foreboding. Inside we are greeted by the ghost tour guide, Sherri Brake-Recco and another hunter, Dave.[1] He is around forty years old, and sits quietly looking through a West Virginia State Penitentiary pamphlet. We approach the lady behind the counter to pay our admission and inquire about the luck of past hunters. Immediately we are shown a huge poster of the “shadow man” that was captured on photo in one of the long corridors and another of a man not exactly all there in a white t-shirt walking behind a group of children posing for a photo.  This is the beginning of the tour. We are perhaps already being conditioned toward what to expect, and both of us are excited. We are here to see or experience a ghost, and here is apparent visual proof that we are in the right place.

Ghost tourism itself has been on the rise in the last few decades. Ghost, of course, are not new to the human experience. For example, Cicero told a ghost tale that has the markings of a classic rendition while William Shakespeare used a ghost to kick start the events of one of his classic plays, Hamlet. [2]  While it is true ghosts have shivered the spines of many over the years recently shows such as Ghost Hunters and Most Haunted have brought the specialized branch of paranormal investigation to the forefront. In fact, the show Ghost Hunters had visited the prison earlier that summer to investigate the reports of hauntings at the prison. Using reportedly scientific methods they came to investigate and attempt to debunk paranormal phenomenon in hopes of documenting true instances.

Why would a tourist site such as West Virginia State Penitentiary seek the Ghost Hunters, or even utilize the paranormal tourism? Several questions come to mind, all asked in hopes of understanding this growing field of interest. First, is authenticity really important to paranormal investigation and what makes a paranormal encounter authentic? Of course documentation is vital to the tourist as is evidenced by the standard gear of all tourists, a camera, but how is paranormal tourism different in this regard? This question must be raised to discern paranormal tourisms place within tourism as a whole. In order to answer this question we will examine very briefly the history of paranormal tourism and then look at paranormal tourism by itself and against tourism as a whole. Next, what causes someone to become interested in paranormal tourism, particularly paranormal investigation? Is it the influence of popular media, such as movies like Ghostbusters and White Noise and TV shows like Ghost Hunters and Most Haunted or are other influences to be considered. All four of these are significant in that they feature the element of “capturing” the ghost, whether by a fantastical devices as in the movie Ghost Busters or on audio, video or other devices as in the TV series mentioned. Did the children that grew up with proton packs strapped to their back become the hunters that carry tape recorders, EMF detectors and the like into buildings? While this answer may not be readily available in a definitive form, a brief glance may prove important. Finally, is paranormal tourism separate from traditional tourism, or does it exists as a complement to traditional tourist fare? While both the typical tourist and the paranormal tourist carry video and still shot cameras, how are they different? We will examine this question by looking at various tourist locations and how paranormal tourism fits into the picture in contrast to the way the sites cater to the paranormal tourist.

The earliest recorded ghost hunt comes from Pliny the Younger circa 100 AD. He tells of a haunted house in ancient Athens being investigated by Athenodoru, a philosopher. In more recent history, however, groups were formed in both England and the United States to investigate the paranormal. The first, the Society for Psychical Research was founded in 1882 in Cambridge, England. This group, followed by the American Society of Psychical Research, set as its mission the scientific research of paranormal events such as magic, ghosts and the occult.[3] Among those who lent their support and service as President of the groups are William James, Sir Oliver Lodge, and Henry Sidgwick.

Scientific approaches to the paranormal generally are a new occurrence. Thomas Edison believed that communication with departed spirits might be possible. He said,

If our personality survives, then it is strictly logical or scientific to assume that it retains memory, intellect, other faculties, and knowledge that we acquire on this Earth. Therefore … if we can evolve an instrument so delicate as to be affected by our personality as it survives in the next life, such an instrument, when made available, ought to record something.

He was reported to have been working on a device to communicate with the dead, but none survived to the present. Friedrich Jurgenson was one of the forefathers of Electronic Voice Phenomenon, or EVPs. He reportedly was in a forest recording the sounds of nature, and upon playing these recordings back he heard his dead mother saying, “Friedrich, you are being watched. Friedel, my little Friedel, can you hear me?”[4]

Further, many have attempted to record ghosts or spirits on film. Since the invention of photography many have pointed to photos that bear the marks of the other side. According to Ghosts of the Prairie, an Illinois Ghost Tourism site, the first recorded ghost photograph is attributed to W. Campbell in 1860 who took a photo of a young boy while he was testing his equipment by taking pictures of an empty chair. [5]While many photos from this time period were found to be natural occurrences, such as double exposures, or hoaxes, the popularity of the photos only increased.

At the start of our ghost tour we were given a two hour class to prepare us for how to investigate for ghosts. We were taught three main ways to search for the presence of ghosts: dowsing either via rods or a pendulum and EMF detectors. The history of dowsing goes back centuries. It is a method that has proven beneficial for discovering underground water, unmarked dead bodies, and other forms of divination. They have also been used for many years to search for the presence of ghosts. Pendulum dowsing is also an old method to divine the unknown. The pendulum is traditionally a crystal hung by a chain that will swing in various degrees to determine whether energy is present. It is believed that the energy in an area will be detected by the crystal and prove the existence of energy fields or ghosts in an area.[6]

EMF detection is a newer method in ghost hunting. EMF stands for electromagnetic fields. According to Troy Taylor of the American Ghost Society, “Researchers believe that ghosts, and paranormal energy, are electro-magnetic in origin. The energy that a ghost gives off, whether it is a conscious spirit or a residual image, causes a disruption in a location’s magnetic field and thus, becomes detectable using measuring devices.” As such other methods are used to detect these fields, such as compasses.

The introduction of more scientific methods for those on ghost tours adds a level of authenticity to the events. While the recording of paranormal events is the largest part of the hunt the tour guide also plays a huge role. Sherri Brake-Recco says that, “Legitimacy will be evident if the guide has done a great deal of research and can answer almost any question about the history, architecture, haunting, and paranormal research done at that location.”[7] Like any historically relevant site, if the tourist cannot place the site in his mind and within its place in history the tourist will rely on the guide. If the guide cannot relay this info reliably to the tourist the consequences could be the disengaging of the participant from the event.

As we all came into the room that would serve as our classroom for the next two hours we are met with a table laid out with cassette tape and digital recorders, digital thermometers for measuring cold spots, crystal pendulums, dowsing rods and EMF detectors. We have been joined by others: an older couple in their late fifties to early sixties and their son in his twenties and a woman in her thirties. The older couple, the Jones, tells me that they are avid ghost hunters and list several tours they had taken including Gettysburg and East State Penitentiary. The woman, Ellen, is also an avid hunter, as is evident by her improvised fishing jacket and head flashlight to aid her. Ms. Brake-Recco described the typical paranormal tourist as, “Over age 30, middle class and female,”[8] adding that many adult groups and both the Boy and Girl Scouts have also taken private tours.

Of those present Ellen and Dave are the most experienced hunters. Both tell different stories to those less experienced. Each has never saw a full body apparition, considered the holy grail of ghost hunters, but are confident they will one day; maybe today. Dave is most interested and experienced in using dowsing rods. Ellen prefers an EMF detector, temperature gauge and “feeling” the presence. During the beginning of the class both seem more content to leaf through the notebook we were given, a brief overview of terms important for a beginner ghost hunter to know as well as other information on attaining our own equipment, than to listen to the instructor. This changes however when the photos and voice evidence is given. Both like to point out their own evidence gathered that matched those presented. It also is discovered that both Ellen and Dave have been through this class several times. Both say that the class is interesting but they are here for the two hour hunt afterward more than anything else.

In contrast to the pros are the Joneses. While they are constantly traveling from one ghost tour to the next they have never experienced anything besides cold chills and some noises. They are very interested in the history and personal stories of the past residents of the prison, and while they hope for an experience they also seem content to live vicariously through the others, showing keen interest in all the evidence provided and enjoying the stories told by the others.

Finally there is Jordan, my cousin and fellow traveler. He has never been on a ghost tour, but tells me that he has wanted to go on one all his life. He soaks in everything these others say, and comments constantly about how cool it would be if he was tapped on the shoulder, saw a ghost and many other things he has either read about or saw in movies. A typical comment would start, “Remember that movie where the lady was walking down the hall and heard the door slam behind her, but she was alone? Wouldn’t that be awesome?” He also came into the experience having watched Ghost Hunters and other shows that dealt with the investigation of ghosts. This helped us when we both outfitted ourselves with our meager equipment from home. But now at the site of the ghost hunt his eyes grew in size when he saw the table full of equipment laid out to look over. He sheepishly had to ask, “Will we get to use any of this during our ghost hunt?” and the response added a spring to his step.

Jordan and the rest, including myself, were very curious about one matter, how are we to determine whether the ghosts we experience are real. As such we depended on two things to provide us with an authentic experience, the guide and the equipment. How are we to examine the symbiotic bond between these two groups? In his book The Tourist, Dean MacCannell examines authenticity as it relates to the interaction among the audience (the tourist) and those providing the tours (the performers) upon the stage (the site of the tour).

MacCannell discusses Erving Goffman’s theory concerning structural division of social establishments. This discussion centers on the front and backstage regions, and MacCannell integrates them into his discussion of the tourist. He explains that these divisions focus on dividing everyone into one of three groups, performers, audience, or outsiders. He then goes on to show how the groups interact, with the audience at times trying to break through and get a glimpse of the backstage regions, and those in the backstage regions displaying a variety of types of resistance or allowances to those seeking to view their domain. Amongst the ways these performers display their area is to dress it up as an attraction itself. In this way the wall between the performers and audience is destroyed in various degrees, and the audience is given a greater feeling of authenticity.

This principle works well with paranormal tourism. There are two distinct types of tours offered by paranormal tour companies: guided tours and investigation. In a guided tour the tourist is lead along to each site, and is told the history and stories behind the places. They are an audience that is distinctly separate from the backstage, being lead by the performer who controls the audience via scary stories and other theatrical devices. The action is kept in the mind, and the audience is not free to explore on their own. In an investigation the tourist is either given some cursory instructions before being guided to “active” areas where the paranormal has occurred before, and may be experienced again. These tourists are then left to their own devices to interact and try to capture the proof of the paranormal. In this the wall between the audience and the performer is destroyed, and both became the same. At one moment the performer steps back to listen to a colleague who has had an experience, and the next the experience is being had perhaps by the one who was just the audience.

MacCannell and Goffman’s theories work well in explaining the levels of authenticity that occurs in paranormal tourist situations. While authenticity is important in many tourist excursions the role of authenticity is even stronger in the paranormal field. While MacCannell touches on the blurring of the lines in allowing the tourist to experience a site in its authentic clothing, authenticity also touches on even how the experience itself occurs, something MacCannell briefly touches on, but only in the realm of the full event. Paranormal tourism is also interested in the evidence collected, and the stories that one tells to spread and influence the authenticity of the site. In this the audience once again becomes the performer, and the site is transferred to the minds of the audience via words and images.[9]

This explains many of the joys we experienced during the hunt. First and foremost was the decision later during the hunt to go to the infirmary. Ms. Brake-Recco introduced the idea to us with the words, “If we have time maybe we can go to the infirmary. It’s not part of the regular tour, but we’ve went there a few times and got good results.” Such a break from the “regular” tour made us feel elite, and privileged. Only a select few have ventured into this territory, and like our ancestors who crossed the country in search of new territory to hunt we too would follow the hunt into uncharted places. The thrill of the hunt is part of the tour, but the added intimacy of exploring where others have not is another layer of experience. One is reminded of the movie So I Married An Axe Murderer when Phil Hartman steps forward as the Park Ranger John “Vicki” Johnson and confides in his tour group on Alcatraz, “Now this is something the other tour guides won’t tell you…” With this the group draws close to him, and in this action we understand why one of the main characters says he is the best guide. A regular tour guide follows the rules and the regular tour verbatim while the best tour guide controls the intimacy level by peeling back the veneer to allow us to glimpse beyond the curtain.

Before we left to go on the tour we were allowed some practice time to use our newly granted equipment. Among those we practiced with were dowsing rods, Dave having brought his own and giving pointers to those of us who would listen, and EMF detectors. Jordan and I both could not help giggling as we attempted to divine the water in front of us. The task given to us by the guide was to hold the rods in front of us and then to repeat in our minds the phrase, “Is this water?” Before the water was provided we were to divine whether the liquid in front of us was fruit punch, but that was met with disastrous results. The water proved easier to divine, but most enjoyed the ease of use of the EMF detectors. Just push a button and read the meter. Having had time to practice and ask questions we were told to grab what we wanted to use and get ready to go. I chose to carry a thermometer, my digital voice recorder, video camera, flashlight and an EMF detector. Jordan, his eyes bigger than his arms grabbed everything he could. Leaving the room he had all of his own equipment plus an EMF detector, temperature gauge, dowsing rods and a crystal pendulum. We headed off down an empty corridor and into the dark. I pulled the rear of the group next to Ellen and right behind Jordan. He was already having trouble juggling his load of gear. Directly ahead I could hear the whine of someone’s EMF registering a spike. Hearing it Jordan snapped a picture just in case. By the end of the night he would have over two hundred pictures to sort through on his digital camera. As we round a turn into the cafeteria I experience my first oddity of the night. Earlier during the class we were told of different ways the presence of ghosts may be detected. One way was through the draining of batteries, such as a camcorder battery dropping suddenly from 100% to 20% charge, or the unexpected drain of flashlight batteries. The latter occurred to me right when I had stopped to film down the hallway we had just came from, and right when I was standing alone.

Ghost tourism has grown steadily in popularity over the last fifty years. While it is hard to pinpoint exact numbers of actual tourists engaged in paranormal tourism there are other evidences of its impact. In the Charleston Regional Business Journal, John LaVerne, head tour guide of Cobblestone Tour’s Charleston Ghost and Dungeon Walking Tour, says, “The exact economic impact of haunted/supernatural tourism is hard to pinpoint because people don’t just come to Charleston alone for the chance to catch a glimpse of a ghost or two in a haunted house.” The article states that thirteen years ago there was hardly a paranormal tourist industry in Charleston with walking tours to the local haunts only occurring around Halloween. Now LaVerne says that “tourists explore haunted Charleston on a daily basis, all year round.”[10] In Bradenton, FL Tourist Development Council Chairman Joe McClash suggested ghost tours being started in his city saying, “It’s just one of those things that people are starting to do.”[11] Yet another bit of evidence comes from Liverpool, England. Here a group called Shiverpool was recently started and has become so popular that “we’ve got another tour in the pipeline which will be up and running in the summer and run in conjunction with the existing one.” [12] Future research should involve a more comprehensive statistical sample to attain better numbers for paranormal specific tours. This might be accomplished by working with the varied paranormal tour companies in operation, or by seeking better record keeping from tourist boards operating in the areas of interest.

In many ways this increase is due to a rise in popularity of horror movies as well as ghosts in other popular media. Notable movies that gave rise to this popularity include Ghostbusters, a comedy that dealt with four men that investigate and remove unwanted ghosts scientifically. The film is referred to many times that night, such as when Jordan questions me on whether I’m using something right and I tell him to, “Back off man, I’m a scientist.” The film is also singular in that its wide appeal as a comedy leads many that are not interested in the paranormal to be familiar with it. This leads to many in my family and social circle to ask me if I packed my proton pack for my visit. Another movie that was popular that involved the research of ghosts was White Noise. The movie deals with a man being contacted by his dead wife through EVP. While not faithful in some ways to the actual recording of EVPs it has lead many outside the circle of paranormal research to learn more about the phenomenon or to even wish to capture voices themselves.

TV also has provided an outlet for people to get their dose of terror, with shows such as The Twilight Zone, Supernatural and others providing weekly doses. While all of the above are fictionalized accounts, there are also a rise of shows that fall into the category of “reality shows” and have introduced a generation to the concept of ghost hunting. The first of these that is memorable is MTV’s Fear. This show took place in 2000 and placed people inside a haunted location in hopes of staying the night and winning money. The contestants were set-up with video and audio equipment and we got to see there terror as they experienced it. This show also was notable for its inauthenticity, however, with MTV staging many of the encounters, and their lack of knowledge (on purpose or otherwise) of the sites. An example is their show at West Virginia State Penitentiary where they claimed a room to be the death chamber and a cloaked chair to be the electric chair. Both are incorrect, with the death chamber having been torn down after the death penalty was abolished in the 1950’s and the electric chair on display in the prisons museum.[13] Ghost Hunters, a show on the Sci-Fi Channel is also a reality show, but the focus is instead on the actual investigation of sites, not contests. The show features a real-life investigation group that goes into famous locations as well as regular homes and businesses to document paranormal occurrences. This show has greatly increased the popularity of ghost hunting, as is evident in an article in the Morning Call of Allentown, PA. The article asks readers,

Are you sick and tired of beach holidays or retreats to rustic cabins by a
mosquito-infested lake? Why not spend your vacation traveling to some of the charmingly haunted spots the Ghost Hunters have visited instead.[14]

And another article from the Associated Press says that shows like Ghost Hunters have, “brought knowledge of thermal imaging (a camera that captures heat sources invisible to the naked eye) and EVPs (electronic voice phenomenon) into the mainstream.”[15]

Sherri Brake-Recco agrees. When asked what she felt has contributed to the rise in popularity of ghost hunting she said, “I think the increase is due to the media on TV in part. Shows like Ghost Hunters, Weird Travels, the Medium, The Ghost Whisperer and most recently Celebrity Paranormal Project, have helped make paranormal not so ‘weird.’ Ghost hunting is an almost accepted hobby now!” She also points to other causes, however, including a rise in people seeking spiritual guidance, “When many tour companies began to suffer because of terrorism fear, fear of airplane security, gas prices etc… it seems as if most paranormal tours continued to thrive. I think that when we hit the new Millennium in 2000, that most people began to look to more spiritual guidance than before. I think the timing is perfect to have a paranormal tour company as more people are intrigued with life after death now, more so than ever before.”[16]

A survey of The Field Guide to North American Hauntings reads like any other tourist book. There is mention of some of the most beautiful natural sites, such as Niagara Falls, Mammoth Cave National Park, Devil’s Tower in Wyoming and even the Boston Public Gardens. Places of historic interest are also mentioned, such as the USS Constellation, Alcatraz Island, Little Bighorn Battlefield and Tombstone. Past this cursory look one notices that all of these sites are also shrouded in history, from famous deaths to being haunted by a Who’s Who of history. Curious to meet Henry Hudson? His ship, The Half Moon, presumably still travels the Hudson River. Want to see Aaron Burr? He haunts the Quantum Leap Café in New York City in search of his daughter Theodosia, lost at sea while sailing to New York aboard the Patriot, who haunts Hatteras Beach herself in search of her father. [17]

Of course the hunt for notorious figures is part of the fun of the ghost tour, especially in prisons. After having it fail on me when we first started the tour my flashlight came back on five minutes later. In the meantime, Jordan had succumbed to gravity and had dropped his digital camera. Luckily, it didn’t break. We moved onward in our pursuit. The tour itself was a seamless meshing of history, past ghost tours and then time for us to go by ourselves in areas to record and search for an experience. The first such stop was in North Hall, an area of the prison surrounded by chain link fencing that helped protect the guards from the prisoners and to keep the prisoners from climbing the walls during a riot, something they did in the late 1970’s. After a brief history and tour of the cells we were allowed some time to go out and record EVPs and take pictures. Jordan and I went to Red Snyder’s cell as soon as we could. Red Snyder had been a one of the more notorious prisoners, leading a gang called the Aryan Brotherhood and having been killed outside his cell but a man who was supposedly his friend. Jordan sat down inside on the bunk and decided he would try to intimidate Red’s ghost into action. I started the recorder and placed it beside him. He sat in the dark and said things like, “Come on Red, you tough guy, talk to us.” While he bullied the spirit of Red I walked down and videotaped in a few other cells, using the EMF to look for spikes of activity. After a few minutes I returned and Jordan decided to play back the recorder. Somehow it had only recorded for a brief ten seconds and stopped. The weird thing is the recorder, once stopped, will automatically play back what was recorded. This had not occurred leading us both to ponder what had happened.

After this I decided to move a few cell blocks down where Dave stood inside a cell with his dowsing rods crossed, indicating he was picking up something. He asked me to try for some EVPs in that cell. Turning on the recorder I asked various questions, inquiring if someone was there, what is their name and so forth. After recording for several minutes we decided to listen to what we had recorded. At this point Jordan came quickly upon us saying his EMF detector had went off by itself and this troubled him while Ellen came to tell us she had been in a corner of this area and a drizzle of rain had came down upon her. As we all stood there we listed to the recording and heard our first EVP of the night. After my second question a voice responded in a slow, deep grunt saying either, “Get out.” or “Out” or something. It was hard to hear, but it was definitely there. We called down for Sherri and the others to join us, and all stood together in this tiny area listening to the recording. She concurred. We had, indeed, caught something. Jordan, Dave and I were all smiles as we moved on to the rest of the tour. Both Jordan and I had caught the bug. The area we moved to next was the oldest part of the prison, having been built by the prisoners themselves, starting in 1866 and being completed in 1876. It was referred to as the Wagon Gate.

Haunted places are many times associated with places of significant history. Gettysburg and other battlefields flowed with blood. This is to be expected by many, given the violence and loss of life. Of course prisons are also associated with violence, whether by association with violent criminals or the violence that exists within their walls between the prisoners themselves or the inmates and guards. The question remains, though: is paranormal tourism separate from traditional tourism, or does it exists as a complement to traditional tourist fare? A survey of the Gettysburg National Military Park website has no mention of a ghost tour[18], but a search brings up many tour groups that lead tours into the park, most notably Ghosts of Gettysburg, ran by a former National Park Service Ranger, Mark Nesbitt. His company has ghost walks, bus tours and train tours at night visiting different areas where battles occurred. [19]

Another notably haunted location, Eastern State Penitentiary, mentions ghosts on their Halloween page, “Terror Behind the Walls”, including audio from their audio tour, Voices of Eastern State. The actor Steve Buscemi discusses sightings of ghosts on the audio tour. The website says of the prison,

Many people believe that Eastern State Penitentiary is haunted. As early as the 1940s, officers and inmates reported mysterious visions and eerie experiences in the ancient prison. And the ghost sightings have only increased since Eastern State was abandoned in 1971.
With the growing interest in paranormal investigation, Eastern State Penitentiary may now be the most carefully studied building in the United States. Dozens of teams visit to explore the site each year.[20]

No other sites were found online to lead tours into the prison to search for ghosts.

Not all sites are mute about ghost tourism at their websites. The Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA lists four different tours that focus on the paranormal. The first is a Paranormal Ship Walk Tour, described as “This tour takes you on an authentic ghost exploration, where you visit all of the “Paranormal Hot Spots” not accessible to the general public.” The next is a Paranormal Investigation Tour, where one will “personally hunt ghosts using the “tools of the trade” in this tour designed for those who want a chance to delve deeper into the paranormal world.” Finally there is the Dining with the Spirits and Tour, where one will experience,

Upscale dining at the award-winning Sir Winston’s, followed by an intimate tour of the ship’s paranormal hot spots. During dinner, your paranormal guide, psychic Erika Frost, will share stories and conversations with guests, before taking you on a tour of all the haunted areas of the Queen Mary.

All three attempt to cater to the various types of tourists that might be encountered, from the casual to the hands-on to the upper crust types.

Communities around the world are reaching out to paranormal tourism to enhance their current repertoire of attractions. In Malaysia the tourism ministry is, “looking to the other world to attract more visitors. It is planning to use Malaysia’s treasure trove of haunted buildings, ghostly tales and folk legends as a draw for Visit Malaysia Year next year.”[21] In the United States various locales are turning toward the paranormal. In West Virginia, “cities and counties are drawing tourists by touting some of West Virginia’s weirder attractions.” This is said to mirror a “nationwide trend”.[22] Even in Liverpool, England ghost tourism is on the rise. The city just approved Shiverpool, saying, “It’s the sort of enterprise that we’re always on the look-out for to help boost tourism, not just in the run-up to Capital of Culture 2008 but to leave a legacy for the years afterwards.”[23]

We continued through the prison visiting the places where the most activity had occurred on Ms. Brake-Recco’s earlier tours. In all the areas we would go through the history and separate as we had before. After the success we received earlier in North Hall I normally ended up working in conjunction with Dave, the master of the dowsing rods as Jordan and I had dubbed him. Jordan would video tape and snap pictures where Dave’s dowsing rods crossed. I would record EVPs, recording by the end of the night close to an hour and a half of audio. While at the prison we didn’t catch anything else that we could hear on audio there, but we were already excited about what might be there once we got home to closely listen over them. There was also video, easily four hours worth between both my camera and Jordan’s. All had to be reviewed. This excited us at the time. What if we had caught something that we had not seen? As the night came close to ending we all met back up in the cafeteria area where we started to end the night. We talked over the ghost hunt, and Ms. Brake-Recco told us about upcoming tours she was giving. Then we left still chattering away about what we hoped we had caught.

As we left the prison at the conclusion of the tour we left excited and ready to go again. We had recorded voices in the prison, voices we had not heard but regardless were still picked up by my recorder. As we drove away we talked of the experiences, the feelings and the excitement of what we may have caught on video and photos. Ghost tourism works because the ghosts are unpredictable. One enters an amusement park and knows of the loops and attractions. While in line you can see the pattern of the roller coaster and know what to expect. In the dark, however, in a dank building that has years of history behind it and noises through out there is no way to determine what will happen next. While standing in the silence and playing back a recording you hear your voice, then silence and then, from the dark, something responds. That voice alone makes the trip sublime in its own way.




[1] With three exceptions—Jordan, Sherri Brake-Recco, and myself, the names used in this article have been altered to protect the privacy of those involved.



[2] Jaehnig, K.C.. “Classical ghost stories.” March 11, 1999.http://www.siu.edu/news/ghosts.html



[3] “Society for Psychical Research.” http://www.spr.ac.uk/



[4] Watson, Stephanie. “How EVP Works.” http://science.howstuffworks.com/evp3.htm



[5] Taylor, Troy. “Spirit Photography? It’s Strange & Controversial History.” http://www.prairieghosts.com/ph_history.html



[6] ” Dowsing Rods & Detecting Ghosts.” http://www.prairieghosts.com/dowsing.html



[7] Brake-Recco, Sherri. 2006. Interview by Nicolas Queen. Via Email, 30 October.



[8] Ibid.



[9] MacCannell,Dean. The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.



[10] Allen, Joseph B. “Supernatural tourism a lucrative niche for tour companies.” May 31, 2004.http://www.charlestonbusiness.com/issues/10_12/news/3518-1.html



[11] Neill, Brian. “Ghost tour would raise money, hair.” The Bradenton Herald, October 17, 2006.



[12] Chapple, Mike. “Ghost tour organizers get seal of approval from Culture Company.” The Liverpool Daily Pos, June 5, 2006, 3.



[13] “MTV’s Fear.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MTV%27s_Fear#Criticism



[14] “Plan your own haunted getaway.” The Morning Call, October 25, 2006, M28.



[15] Perry, Samantha. “Mercer sparks spirited interest for paranormal investigators.” The Associated Press State & Local Wire, May 28, 2006,



[16] Brake-Recco, Sherri. 2006. Interview by Nicolas Queen. Via Email, 30 October.



[17] Blackman,W. Haden. The Field Guide to North American Hauntings: Everything You Need to Know About Encountering Over 100 Ghosts, Phantoms, and Spectral Entities. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1998.



[18] “Gettysburg National Military Park.” http://www.nps.gov/gett



[19] “Ghosts of Gettysburg.” http://www.ghostsofgettysburg.com/



[20] “ESP: Terror Behind the Walls.” http://www.easternstate.org/halloween/sightings/



[21] Ramli, June. “Spectres the new tourist spectacle.” New Straits Times Press, June 26, 2006, 16.



[22] Wise, Kris. “Tourists respond to scare tactics.” Charleston Daily Mail , August 22, 2006, P1A.



[23] Chapple, Mike. “Ghost tour organizers get seal of approval from Culture Company.” The Liverpool Daily Pos, June 5, 2006, 3.
© Copyright 2007 Nick Queen (nickqueen at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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