Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ectoplasm, Unseen Entities, and Gatekeepers in Haunted Cemeteries …

I love it when people share their ghost stories on my blog. Today’s guest blogger is Timothy Yohe, a ghost tracker who writes for The Paranormal Blog. Earlier this year, Timothy was a guest here and contributed the popular article “Is the Molly Stark Hospital in Ohio Truly Haunted?” Well, he’s back to share with us three spooky paranormal stories of haunted cemeteries and some interesting theories about the invisible veil that separates us from the realms of ghosts. Without further ado, I’ll turn this blog over to Timothy.

The veil between the physical and the spiritual worlds holds many mysteries about life and death. There must be some good reason why God has placed this dividing wall between these two realms. I suppose that if it wasn’t there, then a strange chaos would ensue because of the great confusion between physical beings and their spiritual counterparts existing in the same realm. Without this barrier there would be no “other side” to cross over and even the concepts of heaven and hell might not exist because everything would be transparent. Or, maybe they would exist and the blissful or fiery visual reminder would motivate people to live better lives. Perhaps, as well, things were designed this way to provide boundaries and rules for humans and spirits to follow. The fact is we simply do not know for certain. What we do know is that a society without rules is, of course, total anarchy.

So ... we could say that this veil is there to maintain order. However, there are some entities who are able to defy the natural spiritual laws by crossing over this barrier and manifesting themselves to us. They can harvest energy and appear as a physical ectoplasm, mist, or dark inky smoke. Some even use dust to manifest, and yet others do not physically manifest at all. But, no matter what form entities take, they can physically affect you. In fact, they can scare the crap out of you … if you let them.

A Cemetery of Unrest

“‘Island Yields Skeletons of Prison Dead,’ was the headline in the Alton, Illinois Telegraph on July 23, 1935. Workers excavating for a dam on the Mississippi River had encountered a mass grave.” (rootsweb)

The workers had discovered remains from an island that was located about 9 miles north of the city of St. Louis. Before the Civil War this place was known as “Sunflower Island” and is notorious for a duel that happened here in 1842. “At the time, a man by the name of James Shields was the Illinois State Auditor. He was also the political rival of a young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln.” (distilledhistory) The story goes that Lincoln wrote a letter to the local newspaper poking fun at Shields. Lincoln’s future wife, Mary Todd, continued to write these letters under a phony name and very quickly Shields’ reputation began to suffer. Shields assumed the persistent letter writing was Lincoln’s doing and challenged him to a duel by sword on Sunflower Island. Shields, who was 8 inches shorter than Lincoln, ultimately realized his stature and arm length would put him at a severe disadvantage and he would inevitably lose the duel. After tempers cooled, and with the memories of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton still lingering, they made peace.

The island changed its name to “Smallpox Island” in 1862, when “the federal government took over a disused prison there ... and turned it into a prisoner of war camp. Out of the 11,764 Confederate prisoners, about 1,800 of them died.” (rootsweb) Smallpox had broken out in this camp and the overcrowded living conditions plagued the site with pneumonia and dysentery as well. Many of the prisoners who died here were buried in the town of Alton. To a certain degree, I believe that the high paranormal activity in Alton National Cemetery stems from the events on Smallpox Island, because these soldiers are continually locked in unrest and pleading to be helped. Our investigation of the Alton National Cemetery suggests that this may very well be true.

Our Cemetery Investigation

Upon entering the cemetery off of Pearl Street, we immediately felt that someone was following us. Our psychic alarms were going off and every now and then we could hear the scuffle of feet in the gravel. Our tour guide told us this was very common here, because the soldiers are curious of who you are and will follow you on the paths. She also mentioned that some soldiers can be seen darting from tree to tree. We were able to catch several glimpses of dark shadows running across the graveyard as though they were still fighting the enemy. And they truly believe that the war rages on and their brotherly enemy is still out to kill them.

Working with dowsing rods

After walking through about two-thirds of the cemetery, we decided to break out the dowsing rods. My wife held them in her hands and I walked behind her with a digital camera over her head, constantly shooting photos. Very quickly an unseen entity began to work the rods, guiding us through the gravestones. At one stop we were able to capture a white mist that only showed up on film. We did not see it with our naked eyes. Since the batteries were draining very quickly, we attributed this phenomenon to this entity as harvesting energy in an attempt to manifest him or herself to us.

Ectoplasm of possible Civil War soldier

Finally the entity stopped at the site of two graves. Who these folks were that are buried here, we may never know. What we do know is that an unseen entity was utilizing the dowsing rods and our batteries to reach out to us in the hopes that we could in some way help. Is it possible he could have been a restless soul of one of the victims of Smallpox Island? Can we say that those who have crossed over seek the same closure that we do in this life?

The Katy Trail Reveals Its Secret

Ghost tracker, Timothy Yohe

Anyone who loves to hike or ride a bicycle out in the beauty of nature in the state of Missouri is very familiar with the Katy Trail. This trail was created from an old railway that was no longer in use and has since been torn up and covered in fine gravel. At points, it runs along the Missouri River, with one area in particular that sits right on the riverfront.

This town is called Portland, and it "was laid out in 1831 by John Yates and Eden Benson." Slowly the town's population grew to near 250 in 1874. In this year the town “had 2 stores, 1 furniture store, 1 jewelry store, 1 blacksmith shop, and 1 tobacco factory." ( Today the community hosts a couple more stores and the population seems to have increased a little, however, there is no data available. Our interest in writing this article does not necessarily lie with the historic town itself, but rather a certain landmark that does exist in the northeastern part of the community.

One summer day my wife and I decided to ride this trail, starting out at Portland station and heading east. It was a rather warm day, but the view was amazing.

 Landmark along the Katy Trail, old plow

Another landmark, grain silo

Very quickly into our ride, a tall rocky ridge towered over our left shoulders as we progressed down the trail toward a wooden bridge.  Along the way I thought I heard movement and sensed that someone or something might be up there. We decided to stop and turn back around at the bridge.  My wife told me that she too sensed something on top of the ridge.

With our eyes scanning the landscape on our return back, we could hear sticks snapping and brush moving. There was no sign of any animal or human running through the vegetation. Something was watching us, tracking us, following our movement. Suddenly my wife let out a shout and I heard gravel skidding. Quickly she recovered and caught up to me on her bike and told me something smacked her back tire hard and almost made her crash into the ditch!

We stopped and tried debunking what had happened by inspecting her bike for mechanical failures and found none. She also said that right before the tire was hit that she heard footsteps running up on her, but she did not see anyone. She agreed with me, as she is very sensitive to the paranormal realm, that she too sensed someone eerily staring and following us along this stretch of trail. This incident was very disconcerting because, odds are she wasn't the first person to be attacked on this stretch of the Katy Trail. Some invisible entity was aggressively playful and intended harm. Very shortly after we packed up to leave, we headed out to try and find the source of this activity.
After jumping back onto Route 94, we traveled north around a right curve and headed east. We tried to keep in mind the geographic location of this spot, so we could see if there was anything on top of the ridge. After rounding the next corner, we decided that here was the spot for this ridge, and, lo and behold ... a cemetery!


Was it just coincidence? We hardly think so. The cemetery runs the length of 94 and ends at its southernmost point right at that ridge. I was unable to find any information about this cemetery online, so we can only surmise the who and why behind this paranormal activity. Alas, beware! If you are riding east on the Katy Trail from Portland, Missouri, there is a very unsettled, unseen entity that will try to cause you harm!

Shocking Phenomenon in Ohio

Nestled in the northeast city of Canton, Ohio lies West Lawn Cemetery. Here President William McKinley is buried along with other famous local figures like the inventor of the Hoover vacuum, "Boss Hoover," and the founder of the roller bearing, H.H. Timken. It is also believed to be the final home of another very well-known figure:

"Rumor has it that a Timken family member in Germany wrote to his successful cousin in America and told him how the grave site of Victor Frankenstein was being defaced and spit upon in their small town. The American Timken and founder of Timken Roller Bearings paid for the remains of the body to be flown to Canton to give Dr. Frankenstein a resting place."  (

Cemeteries not only can have dark histories like this one, but they also are believed to be watched over by caretakers known as gatekeepers. Gatekeepers have been historically mentioned as far back as the Greek gods, and their roles have mainly been as the mysterious and mystical protectors of the dead.

Gatekeepers view

Many years ago a good friend and I had a startling experience that has been forever been imprinted in my memory to this day. While walking through the southernmost part of West Lawn Cemetery, we came around a hilltop corner and stumbled upon a very clear apparition standing in front of this tombstone.

This entity had long hair, long beard, was garbed in a flowing robe, and was standing in front of this tombstone looking out across the cemetery. His entire body radiated a pale, bluish gray light and he turned and looked at us as we approached. Needless to say that his gaze sent fear surging through our bodies and we quickly turned around and ran out of the cemetery. Because this was such a scary experience, I will never forget this rare opportunity of catching a glimpse of what we believe was the gatekeeper of West Lawn Cemetery.

Some Final Thoughts

White streaks are image of spiritual veil, 
taken at Molly Stark Hospital

Each of these three experiences are uniquely different. The one factor that unifies them together is that each manifestation exercised an ability to cross over the invisible veil into our physical world. There seems to be a number of ways that an entity can harvest energy in order to make this happen. In the Alton Cemetery the soldier (we assume) was able to pull energy from our camera batteries to manifest itself into physical ectoplasm.

The mischievous entity on the Katy Trail didn’t seem to have any energy source it could draw upon, except for the possibility of limestone deposits which could line the shores of the Missouri River. It could be a possibility as well that this was a very strong spirit in life and simply carried that intensity into the next life. 

The gatekeeper that we very clearly saw appeared as though he had been around for a very long time because of his garb. I would suppose that an entity who chose to fill this role would have a lot of experience on how to harvest and utilize energy as he would deem fit. Just as we in this physical world learn the parameters of natural law, so too will entities do the same in the spirit world.

Perhaps the two worlds really aren’t that different from one another. Someday we will have some scientific answers to these types of questions and, in the end, life and death won’t be so much of a frightening mystery to our limited human minds.

For more true paranormal stories, check out Timothy Yohe’s Paranormal blog:

Sources Cited


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Guest Author Eric Red on Researching Horror

My latest guest writer is someone whose work I’ve been a fan of since the 1980s, when Eric Red was writing screenplays and directing movies. Two movies he wrote I consider classics. You may have seen The Hitcher (1986) and the vampire flick Near Dark (1987). When I was studying screenwriting at UT Austin back in 1989, my professor talked about Eric Red and his screenplays, and we discussed The Hitcher in depth. I admired Red’s early success as a writer. In 1991, I went to the theater to see the horror movie Body Parts and there on the big screen was Written and Directed by Eric Red. Mr. Red went on to write and direct some other recognizable horror movies, including Bad Moon and 100 Feet, to name a few. 

After making his mark on the movie business, Eric Red has gone on to write comic book series, graphic novels and channeled his talents into writing horror short stories and novels. I was thrilled when he joined the team of authors at my publisher Samhain Horror. Now, with the release of his latest Sci-Fi monster novel, It Waits Below, I’m honored to have Eric Red as a guest on my blog as he shares his wisdom about researching for a horror novel.

 What does research matter in horror?

You’d think doing research as an author would be less important for a horror novel than other literary genres, because monsters and the supernatural aren’t real—or at least some think so. But in my opinion, the more realistic the everyday details, technology, ordinance, hardware, professional behavior, and science, the more the reader believes what’s going on, increasing their involvement in the story. Even though the reader knows a horror story is unreal, I believe the greater the verisimilitude, that on an unconscious level people believe what is happening just a little bit more—and it’s that much more scary. It all comes down to suspension of disbelief.

I knew two things before writing It Waits Below, my new Samhain novel about the crew of a three-man Deep Submergence Vehicle who encounter an alien life form at the bottom of the ocean. One, the book had to be technically accurate. Two, I didn’t know shit about subs, and needed technical advisors who did. With the help of The National Academy Of Sciences, I was introduced to one of the top Alvin sub pilots in the world and his wife, a prominent oceanographer and microbiologist. For months they gave me invaluable help explaining how these subs are operated and what the crews encounter many miles down. They answered a million questions and shared fascinating materials that provided inspiration for some of the most terrifying scenes in the book. Later, I would run finished scenes by them and ask if this could happen or that could happen. Without the help of my technical advisers, the novel would have been about as convincing as an old Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea TV episode.

Some writers are research-wonks, but originally I wasn’t. When I started writing scripts for movies like The Hitcher—road thrillers set in a spare highway iconography—what the hell did you need to know? Get a map of Texas. Find out the makes of the police cars and what kind of guns they carried. The rest was pure imagination. But over the years, as my subject matter grew more involved, so did the research entailed. What I discovered was some of the most creative ideas often sprang from the research.

For instance, in Containment, my IDW zombies-in-space graphic novel about to be re-republished, I had to research long-distance space exploration and immediately realized the movie cliché of these cavernous space arks is a total myth. The fact is everything would need to be built as small and compact as possible to conserve weight and mass for propulsion. The creative opportunity was since the story involved cryogenic zombies on a spaceship, the more cramped and claustrophobic the surroundings, the greater the tension and suspense.

In It Waits Below, the alien comes to earth and ends up at the bottom of the ocean on a falling asteroid that destroys a Spanish treasure ship in the 1800’s. Centuries later, a salvage dive by treasure hunters sets the story in motion. Again, a little research paid off. I hunted down some footage of meteor strikes and was astonished by one event filmed not too long ago in the Eastern Block by witnesses on DV cams and iPhones from every conceivable vantage point. An actual large asteroid impact didn’t look like I imagined, or had seen in movies—it was a pulsing light over the world that turned in day to night to day to night and back again; utterly apocalyptic and chilling. So the crashing meteor that hits the treasure gallon in the opening of the novel was described in just such a manner.

Even when you know the technical realities of the subject matter, you inevitably take certain liberties. In It Waits Below, for dramatic purposes, I needed a second chamber in the DSV that houses a specially designed diving suit—people have to run and hide from aliens somewhere in a fifteen-foot sub, after all—and neither of these exists in actual submersibles. Still, I ran it all by my Alvin sub pilot consultant, and made it as “speculatively accurate” as possible.

The space monster stuff—well, that I made up!


Here’s the synopsis for It Waits Below:

It waits no more!

In the 1800s, an asteroid carrying an extraterrestrial life form crashed to earth and sunk a Spanish treasure ship. Now, a trio of salvage experts dives a three-man sub to the deepest part of the ocean to recover the sunken gold. There, they confront a nightmarish alien organism beyond comprehension, which has waited for over a century to get to the surface. It finally has its chance.

As their support ship on the surface is ambushed by deadly modern-day pirates, the crew of the stranded sub battles for their very lives against a monster no one on Earth has seen before.

It Waits Below is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Samhain Horror.


Eric Red is a Los Angeles based motion picture screenwriter, director and author. His original scripts include The Hitcher for Tri Star, Near Dark for DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group, Blue Steel for MGM and the western The Last Outlaw for HBO. He directed and wrote the crime film Cohen And Tate for Hemdale, Body Parts for Paramount, Undertow for Showtime, Bad Moon for Warner Bros. and the ghost story 100 Feet for Grand Illusions Entertainment.

Mr. Red’s first novel, a dark coming-of-age tale about teenagers called Don’t Stand So Close, is available from SST Publications. His second and third novels, a werewolf western called The Guns Of Santa Sangre and a science fiction monster novel called It Waits Below, are available from Samhain Publishing. His fourth novel, a serial killer thriller called White Knuckle, will be published by Samhain in 2015. A collection of eighteen of his horror short stories titled Toll Road will be published by SST Publications in 2015.

His recent published horror and suspense short stories include “Colorblind” in Cemetery Dance magazine, the western horror tale “The Buzzard” in Weird Tales magazine, “Pack Rat” in Beware the Dark magazine, “Little Nasties” in Shroud magazine, “In the Mix” in Dark Delicacies III: Haunted anthology, “Past Due” in Mulholland Books’ Popcorn Fiction, and “Do Not Disturb” in Dark Discoveries magazine.

He created and wrote the sci-fi/horror comic series and graphic novel Containment for IDW Publishing and the horror western comic series Wild Work published by Antarctic Press.

Mr. Red’s website is:
His IMDB page is: