Wednesday May 22, 2013
Ghosts and Haunted Places in Oregon and BeyondTim King Salem-News.com
Whatever the truth about ghosts and haunted houses may be, there are a startling number of similarities in the stories.
(SALEM, Ore.) - The state of Oregon holds the title to an extraordinary number of ghost stories and haunted places. The pioneer settlers appear to have left behind more than they planned to, and in some cases, the same is true for Native Americans.
Life was hard in old Oregon, as it was for pioneers throughout the west. But Oregon may have offered even more difficulties and challenges than other early settlements, as it seems more than the average number of people left this world with "unfinished business", which seems to be the primary factor in why people become ghosts in the first place when they die.
From the beautiful and rugged coastline to the remnants of old mining towns, creepy tales and disturbing legends linger on, some so real they can stand the hair on the back of your neck straight up. They're sad too, and paranormal investigators say that some of the time, the spirits that people believe to be ghosts are not the spirits of the departed, but they are spirits.
Those are the ones they leave alone.
Most things that go bump in the night are not paranormal activity, says Martina Baker of Pacific Paranormal in Wilsonville, Oregon. "There are a number of methods that we use to help isolate the source of the activity, sometimes it is paranormal, and sometimes it isn't. When it is, there are usually things we can do to help."
Martina and Todd Baker have investigated hundreds of haunted places, they even teach a college course in paranormal investigation. I have accompanied the Bakers along with other investigators like Christina Bennett, to locations that are the reported locations of not one, but several ghosts or spirit entities.
One of these investigations was conducted at the SpeakEasy Restaurant in Independence, Oregon. Pacific Paranormal was the second group that I took into the building. The Trails End Paranormal Society accompanied me on the first investigation. I documented their findings which accounted for at least four separate ghosts in the building.
These investigators use electro magnetic frequency readers, spot thermometers, digital cameras and recorders to follow and document the evidence, or lack of evidence, whichever the case may be.
The SpeakEasy Restaurant, which is closed today, is housed in the old J.S. Cooper Building from 1886, which has housed many types of businesses over the years including a saloon, doctor's offices, and according to local lore, a brothel.
Most investigators agree that in cases of multiple manifestations, there is usually one entity that is the loudest, most likely to manifest, even serving in the alpha role.
At the Speakeasy this was the older male who tended to stay in the building's empty third floor. It may sound like an episode of Casper the Friendly Ghost, but the people who invest their lives in trying to understand otherworldly phenomena say it helps to comprehend the structure and habits of those who dwell on the other side.
The fact that both groups, without a hint of information beforehand, identified the same things in the restaurant was highly compelling. In fact this independent verification was more than I had anticipated. But that wasn't the only thing that was unexpected. In the photo accompanying this story, a large mist on the left side of the frame is identified by paranormal investigators as an "ectoplasm". Unlike "orbs" which are commonly photographed in haunted places, the ecto is record of a more evolved manifestation.
Prior to this photo being taken, the investigators were attempting to communicate with the ghost of the woman who died near or on the staircase. The owner of the restaurant and I were sitting on the floor of the open third floor area recording bizarre noises on the camera's wireless microphone, when this picture was taken.
I used my television camera to record the image and it was proof that the photo never was taken into Photoshop or a similar program to create the ectoplasm. On the tape Martina Baker is heard taking the picture and saying, "Dude, you've got a ghost standing right over you."
This is one of the experiences I have shared with Martina and Todd Baker, there are several others.
An Introduction to Ghosthunting
In the early 1990's I was the News Director for AM 1290 KLYC, a radio station in McMinnville, Oregon. The station at the time was housed in an old building with the broadcast tower located just outside the door. As the news director, I was the first person to arrive each morning and one of my roles was to power the station up and begin the broadcast day.
Each morning when I arrived it was dark, and I immediately began turning the lights when I entered the door. It wasn't scary, nor was it comfortable, as prowlers had been known to break into the building in its fairly remote location.
When I operated the controls to activate the station, I would see "things" flitting in my peripheral vision. When I would turn my head nothing would be there. I thought it was strange but I only had so much time to even think about it as I went through the multi step process of firing up the transmitter.
The only person I had shared that information with at the time was my wife. Then as Halloween approached that year, I invited a "clairvoyant" named Erin Lasell to the station to do an hour long talk show with me about ghosts, and then to accompany me to a local university to conduct an investigation at a building where ghosts are frequently reported.
I wouldn't say I found it alarming, but I was very surprised when the station's program director told me the afternoon before Erin's arrival, that every person who had ever started the station up in the morning had stories about seeing ghosts and believing the building is haunted. His statement was not prompted specifically in any way.
After the talk show, I took Erin to the room where I witnessed strange things in the mornings and she said that because of all the electricity being generated and broadcast, it was hard to "filter" the information. She did say that she had no doubt the building was haunted, but she couldn't tell what was clearly going on while the station was on the air.
Erin had spent previous time investigating the entities at Knight Hall, the former music building for Pacific University at Forest Grove, Oregon. The old music building had fifty straight years of documented history with their ghost, or ghosts as it turns out.
Today it is no longer a University building, and no current updates exist that I know of. During the investigation in 1991 on the campus, Erin related a story of a young woman who had claimed her own life, and of her father, who had been abusive, and had died a violent death shortly after his daughter's suicide.
She said the spirit of the father occupied the building's upper floors, while the female ghost remained mostly downstairs. Unlike other psychics I have worked with, Erin went into what appeared to be a trance and she held her hands up as though she was feeling some sensation through the palms of her hands.
Several frightful moments were related to us by students and faculty there. One professor said a window that opened outward and was held fast by chains, defied gravity and slammed shut in her face. She told Erin and I that it nearly caused her to have a heart attack.
Over the years, female students frequently complained about the ghostly presence on the lower level, while male students found the presence less threatening, even playful. But they all seemed to agree that the building had a generally creepy aura that chilled the air, particularly when they were alone in certain rooms. Male students often reported smelling perfume, hearing a girl's laughter, and phantom fingers playing songs on the music department's organs.
Ghosts in a War Zone
The Khyar Khot Forward Operating Base has towers at all four corners and it is shared today by the Americans, Romanians and Afghan National Army forces. The history the place has witnessed is unspeakable and many locals won't go near it if they can avoid it, at least those who recall the horrors that once took place there.
I asked about the history of the old castle and what I learned was both fascinating and chilling. Khyar Khot was originally constructed by the British during their invasion in the 1870's. The British are just one of several nations that tried, unsuccessfully, to invade Afghanistan.
Over the years the castle fell into disrepair, until the Russians reoccupied it during their invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The Russian war against the Afghans was costly in terms of life; one and a half million Afghan people died over the ten year conflict. The Russians do not fight like western forces either. They can be barbaric toward their enemies with no adherence to any rules of conduct.
As the Soviets used the castle as a fire base against Afghan Mujahadeen warlords who eventually defeated the Russians, it was also a prison for Russia's enemies, and a center of torture.
As the story goes, Soviet soldiers would routinely kidnap local women, who were brought back to the castle and violated. Military and political enemies were abducted and brought to the castle where they would be mercilessly interrogated. They say their screams could be heard outside the castle walls, and that when it is quiet in this high mountain desert region, late at night, you can still hear them screaming.
It is reported that many died horrible deaths at the castle, and those who failed to cooperate with the Taliban would often end up here, never to be seen alive again. Sadly, most of their stories are lost amid the tragedy of Afghanistan's violent history.
Locals believe the castle is haunted by the spirits of the unfortunate people who were tortured and who died here, they say these disembodied spirits roam the castle walls in agony. I did not see or experience anything, but the place did have an uneasy feeling about it. Soldiers were solemn when they talked about it. It was last Christmas when I visited Khyar Khot Castle, a strange time indeed.
Graffiti covers the walls inside one of the haunted castle's towers. There were faded words written in English, and there was messages from the hands of Afghans, some from the Russians. I had to wonder how old it was, and if any of those scratches in the wall could yield clues about the castle's haunted past, about the miseries and death and the haunted agony that can envelope a place.
My life as a reporter has afforded many unusual and unforgettable opportunities. Whatever the truth about ghosts and haunted houses may be, there are a startling number of similarities in the stories, regardless of the culture they evolve from, or which side of the world they occur on.
Visit Pacific Paranormal Research Society to learn more about Oregon hauntings.
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