Today I Learned …

Blue whales grow to weigh between 130 and 150 tons. That’s roughly equivalent to the weight of 33 African elephants — or 65 million pygmy white-footed shrews (the smallest known mammal).


The Boy in the Basement, Part 2

It’s time for another episode of Lights Out! Return to the basement of the Pollak Hospital with me and my psychic medium friend, Diane Lash Lockhart, as we have another conversation with Chris, the young spirit there. Learn how Chris and his family celebrated the Fourth of July before the turn of the century, and enjoy the mental image of me stumbling through the steps of a ragtime dance.

Today I Learned …

The lighter was invented before the match. In 1823, a German chemist created the world’s first lighter, Dobereiner’s lamp, which was used in industrial settings. It wasn’t until three years later that an English chemist made the first friction match. (From Reader’s Digest, February 2019, “Strange But Impossibly True”)

It’s Not Nice to Mess With Mother Nature

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted any stories about the shenanigans perpetrated by my neighbors, Belinda and Clothilde. But the shenanigans do continue. Oh my, do they ever.

As an example, let’s take a look at my garden path,in my back yard. The fence denotes Belinda’s back yard. The path, at this time of year, is usually green and verdant, as is the rest of the garden. But!

The first picture is what it looked like two weeks ago. The second picture was taken just four days later.

Grass should not be brown and sere in mid-May in Illinois, is what I’m saying. Not with the rain we’ve been having.

So I took pictures, and I wrote a letter. And yesterday, a very nice, attentive, concerned gentleman from the Agriculture Department came out and took soil samples and photographs, and his lab will be testing for illegal pesticide use. I’m figuring Belinda took things just a wee bit too far and sprayed RoundUp over her fence onto my garden.

My garden. Where I grow things to feed myself and my family.

Not cool, Belinda. Not cool.

Today I Learned …

One species of beaded lacewing (an insect whose larvae prey on termites) has a particularly ingenious way of stunning and killing its prey: it farts on them. The larva raises its tail toward the termite’s head and releases a chemical which paralyses the termite and kills it. This chemical does not affect any other species of insect, including the lacewing itself, so this species of lacewing has evolved to produce a very specific chemical fart perfectly designed for its larval life inside the nest of its prey, one of the very few fatal farts known to science. (From Does It Fart? The Definitive Field Guide to Animal Flatulence, by Nick Caruso and Dani Rabaiotti)

Today I Learned …

The piggy bank is an important fixture of any child’s room — and in some grown-up’s rooms too. Why choose a pig to keep your stash safe? In the 13th to 15th centuries, one of the most common places for people to store their money was in jars of orange-colored clay called “pygg”. This eventually evolved into “pig” or “piggy”. Around the 19th century, manufacturers began molding banks into the shape of pigs.

Today I Learned …

In 2010, beekeepers in Brooklyn opened their hives and discovered them to be filled with honey that looked … a little odd: it was bright red. And it tasted like sickly-sweet cough syrup. Much later, the mystery was solved. It turned out that the bees in that hive had been ignoring the flowers on their route, preferring to visit a local maraschino cherry factory instead. Cheaters.

Today I Learned …

Donnie Dunagan joined the Marines when he was 18, did three tours of duty in Vietnam, won a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts, and finally returned as a major. Yet in his 20-plus year military career, he never told anyone about his connection to one of Hollywood’s quintessential tearjerkers. When he was six years old, Dunagan was the voice of Disney’s young Bambi. (from

Big News!

So you know how I’ve been teasing you guys for the past several weeks with pictures of word counts-in-progress? Well, I’m happy to say there’s a reason for that.

Fractured Souls: More Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital, is finished! And it’s great! Just like Fractured Spirits, it will have links to fun audio and video evidence. And there’s more: Fractured Souls includes a tour of the hilltop, so you can drive around (or walk, it’s small enough) and see where these haunted buildings are, or where they used to be back in the day.

I don’t yet have a release date, but as soon as I do, I’ll let you all know. And no, this isn’t an April Fool’s joke, I promise! There’s another book about the spirits of the Peoria State Hospital, coming soon!

Haunted Grocery Store?

What does your shopping list look like? Tomato soup, milk, eggs, Twizzlers … ghosts?

A grocery store in Massachusetts seems to have something extra on offer next to the piles of oranges and the deli counter. Shoppers at Market Basket in Wilmington have seen a young woman with light skin, dark hair, and blue eyes wandering the aisles. And oh yeah … she’s wearing Victorian clothing. And another oh yeah … sometimes she simply disappears.

Here’s the whole story:

Road Trip!

You guys know I have a soft spot for abandoned mental hospitals. Well, here’s one in Michigan that seems to be a bit spookier than my beloved Peoria State Hospital.

Apparently, the basement of  Eloise Psychiatric Hospital in Westland, Michigan, has recently been drained after being flooded for years. (I can’t even imagine what that has done to the foundation. Yeesh.) Anyway, this hospital is considered one of the most haunted places in Michigan. Jeff Adkins, of Detroit Paranormal Expeditions, got to explore the basement, and he calls it the most eerily quiet place he’s ever been.

But he still heard footsteps. 😀

Check out the whole article, courtesy of Mysterious Universe by way of Phantoms and Monsters.

Lights Out: Haunted Naperville

Here’s a brand-new episode of Lights Out for your entertainment! I take a stroll around historic Naperville, looking for ghosts with tour guide Kevin Frantz. Naperville, a western suburb of Chicago, is home to decades of history — and where you have history, you’re likely to have ghost stories as well. Join me and Kevin Frantz, host of Naperville Ghost Tour, for a peek into the past. And by the way, Lights Out is now available on Stitcher, so there’s one more way to find your hostess with the mostest ghosties!


Today I Learned …

“I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Why do people have to raise their right hands when saying this in court (even if they’re southpaws)? In colonial America, a common punishment for committing a crime was to be branded on the right thumb. By having someone about to appear in court raise their right hand, a judge could tell immediately if the person was an ex-convict.

News News News!

So I’ve got quite a few projects going on this year, and it occurs to me that I ought to share some of them with you guys!

Here’s one that is very special to me. I’ve been a guest on the podcast Ron’s Amazing Stories for some time now — for the past five Octobers, Ron Hood has invited me to be a part of Ron’s Month of Spooky, which I’m always happy to do.

Well, late last year, Ron gave me a magnificent Christmas gift — he asked me to be a recurring guest on his show with even more regularity! Now, instead of just appearing once a year in October, I am proud to be a monthly guest on Ron’s show, as part of the feature Ghost Stories With Sylvia.

I’m still pinching myself that this has happened — that it IS happening! I collect so many fun ghost stories, and some of them, well, they just don’t fit in any of the books that are currently in the pipeline. But nevertheless, they do deserve to be shared. I am intensely grateful to Ron for giving me a platform on which to share these wonderful tales. And I’m grateful to YOU, too, for tuning in to hear them. The segment is loads of fun — I tell a few true ghost stories, and then we chat a bit about what’s going on here on the blog, and about what’s in store on Lights Out.

Ron’s Amazing Stories can be found on all kinds of stations, including the actual radio, if you want to go old-school. You can listen to this podcast on Thursday at Ron’s Amazing Stories, download it from iTunes, stream it on Stitcher Radio or on the mobile version of Spotify. Do you prefer the radio? We are heard every Sunday Night at 8:00 PM (PST) on AMFM247.COM. Here’s a link to this month’s show:

Today I Learned …

Ever wonder why the South is known as Dixie? It’s all about the money, honey. In the mid-1850s, French was the most commonly spoken language in Louisiana. One of the Louisiana banks issued a $10 bill, stamped with DIX on the front and back — “dix” being the French word for “ten”. The bill soon became known as a Dixie.