Today I Learned …

After the Battle of Gettysburg, trees in the area were so full of bullets that they died from lead poisoning.


Happy Unbirthday To Me!

It is so very lovely to have friends at work who know you well. A coworker got me this cool desk accessory, and actually managed to keep it a secret since February when it was announced. I had yesterday off — and this guy was waiting for me when I showed up to work today.


Today I Learned …

Squirrels can heat up their tails to scare away predators.

Just like a cat’s tail, a squirrel’s tail puffs up when the animal feels defensive. But squirrels have a secret weapon. They can control the blood flow to their tails to cool down or keep warm. If a squirrel is confronted with, say, a rattlesnake, the squirrel will pump blood into its tail. The snake senses the heat coming off of the mammal’s tail, and thinks that the squirrel is much more bad-ass than it actually is.

Today I Learned…

Australian soldiers used to write letters on crackers. Hardtack, that sad staple of the Civil War, was also used by the Australians. Soldiers in the Boer War (which ended in 1902) would use the rock-hard crackers as paper; they were easier to get than the real thing. Any paper lying around was first used for wiping one’s butt, with letter-writing being a close second use. (Not the same piece of paper, obviously.)

Twelve years later, World War I began, and most of the letters that have survived are from that era. (The joke is that the biscuits distributed to Australian troop during WWI were leftovers from the Boer War.)

The practice continued up into World War II. One cracker made (well, written on) in 1945 has a poem written on it: “Good luck to you, from us at ‘Tol’, We’re sending this (we’ll risk it). Xmas cards are very scarce So we wrote it on a biscuit.” (Tol Plantation, in Papua New Guinea, was the site where Australian soldiers were massacred by the Japanese. The soldier who sent the “card”, Captain David Keith Hanson, was a member of the Australian War Graves Unit, which was there to find and bury the 160 soldiers killed there three years before.)

Today I Learned…

Much of the United States was once overrun with squirrels. In Ohio in the early part of the nineteenth century, people were required to hunt them. In 1807, the Ohio General Assembly demanded that when people paid their taxes, they add a few squirrel carcasses to the haul. And taxpayers had to submit a minimum of ten squirrel scalps to the town clerk every year. (Tennessee had much the same law, but in that state, you could pony up dead crows if you couldn’t bag enough squirrels.) Yeah, we still have to pay taxes, but these days, it doesn’t involve roadkill.

Today I Learned …

Eggplants might help self-driving cars work better.


Dark colors absorb light, which means that the lasers that help self-driving cars navigate can’t “see” black cars very well. Engineers working on the problem noticed that eggplants, even though they are a purple so dark it’s almost black, stay cool in the fields even in the heat of summer. The infrared energy in sunlight passes through the purple skin of an eggplant and reflects off the white flesh underneath, so the vegetable doesn’t cook in the hot sun. Car companies took a cue from the, and are working on a reflective undercoating for cars. The special paint will make cars more visible to the sensors in a self-driving car. (Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, 1/22/18, p. 17.)

Interview Posted on Entertainment Vine

Rhoda’s story is getting more attention these days!

A while ago, a reporter from Blasting News/Entertainment Vine contacted me. Meaghan Meehan’s column has over 40,000 readers (wow, that’s quite the audience!), and she had decided to do some research on Rhoda Derry. She found 44 Years in Darkness, and it piqued her interest. I sent her a copy, and she found the story intriguing — enough to do a Q&A with me, which she posted on Entertainment Vine.

This is a deal of moderate bigness, so I’m very pleased to share the link with you! Here it is: Hope you enjoy getting a behind-the-scenes peek at Rhoda’s story.

44 years revised

Lights Out #55: The Boy In The Basement

Some of you may have noticed that I posted the last two Lights Out episodes out of order. (If you did notice this, you’re very perspicacious — congratulations! If you didn’t notice, don’t worry about it.)

Here is the missing episode. It was posted as a podcast (its original format) in the middle of March, but when I went to set it up as a slide show for YouTube, Windows Movie Maker was being a little b!tch and wouldn’t let me put the EVP slides where they should go. The EVPs are there, and repeated for your listening pleasure, I just couldn’t point them out to you in the way I wanted to. (And I had really nifty slides made up that told you exactly what Chris was saying, too. WMM sux.)

If you want to go back and find the EVPs, here’s what’s there: around 11:55, when I say I’m going to take my hand back, Chris says “back“. Around 25:40, Chris says “No — not yet“. Around 32:00, when Diane says “He’s about twenty-two”, Chris says “Guess what? Twenty-two” (that’s the super-cool one). Around 34:15, when I say “Chris! How are you?”, he replies with “Perfect“. And when we’re discussing dancing together, around 43:30, Chris says, “After you” — always the gentleman!

And then, to top it off, WMM kept shortening the sound file whenever I went to set it up. The YouTube version ends at a place that makes sense, but if you want the last several minutes of the show, you’ll have to listen to it on iHeart Radio or Spotify or someplace like that.

Anyway! In this episode, I share the story of my growing friendship with Chris, a spirit of the Pollak Hospital. Chris died in the early part of the twentieth century, but his spirit is still very much alive — and still very much that of a healthy, red-blooded young man. Join us for an evening of touching the Other Side. We may even get to dance!


Lights Out #56: Stephen Lancaster

Stephen Lancaster is a paranormal investigator and the author of three books of nonfiction. His latest, Norman, The Doll Who Needed To Be Locked Away, is published by Llewellyn Press. In this episode, I chat with Stephen about his experiences with haunted objects, and we discuss what it means to be a magnet for spiritual activity.

Now available on iHeart Radio

Radio Interview on Ghost Insight

I was recently a guest on Jim Harold’s show Ghost Insight. We had a wonderful time chatting about the Peoria State Hospital, and about ghostie stuff in general. You can listen to the show here, if you’re so inclined.

And when Maddy, Jim’s assistant, sent me this link, she was kind enough to pass along something else: a compliment. Jim Harold is renowned for his true ghost story shows, and I’ve been told that Lights Out would be a good compliment to Jim’s work. Well, now I have confirmation of that. Maddy said that someone mentioned Lights Out on our Campfire group fairly recently as a “must listen”. I was completely blown away by this! To whomever made mention of Lights Out in the same breath as Jim’s show, thank you so much! You rock!

The Dark Mirror

At the Chicago Ghost Conference in October 2017, I spent some time with Greg and Dana Newkirk of the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal and Occult, chatting with them about their collection of haunted artifacts. The first time I met them, they graciously allowed me to experience one of their haunted objects for myself — the Dark Mirror. Now, this wasn’t me getting some star treatment; far from it. Greg and Dana firmly believe that everyone should have the opportunity to interact with these fabulously haunted pieces. There are a few exceptions — things that are actually dangerous, and will have supernatural repercussions for anyone who fiddles with them — but in general, Dana and Greg encourage visitors to the museum to pick up these haunted items, look at them, hold them, and use them.

One of these objects is the Dark Mirror. I described my experience with this in Lights Out #30, Haunted Objects Part 2. For people who haven’t yet listened to that episode, I gazed into the mirror for quite some time — about twenty minutes. And I saw absolutely nothing but my own reflection staring back at me.

When I encountered the Dark Mirror a couple of years later, my experience was … somewhat different.

This time, the Dark Mirror seemed to want to draw me in. I tried really hard not to hog it, but I kept sneaking back to the museum booth, in the hopes that I could look into the mirror just one … more … time.

And other people were using the mirror. And they were seeing things. Disturbing things. I won’t name names, due to privacy issues, and because I heard this anecdote secondhand. But a friend of mine said that a mutual friend of ours had looked into the mirror, and had seen something absolutely appalling. This friend of ours had been a victim of a school shooting, and they relived that attack during their session with the mirror. “I’ve known him since third grade,” my friend said, “and I have never seen a look on his face like that.”

Another friend of mine sat down next to me just as I was about to look into the mirror for the third or fourth time. I gave up my seat to her — I was trying not to hog it — and she gazed into the mirror. After just a few minutes, she reared back, pushing away from the table with a wide-eyed look of fear and disgust on her face.

“I saw my own face, but it was hideous, all gross and old, practically rotting,” she panted.

That’s when I told her that about half an hour before, the mirror had shown me much the same thing. At one point, I had seen my own face — but my face as it would look if I were in my late nineties.

But I kept going back to the mirror. I was uncomfortably reminded of what Dumbledore said in the first Harry Potter book: “Don’t trust anything if you can’t see where it keeps its brain!” But soon … the mirror and I seemed to reach an agreement of sorts.

Now, this is just a theory, but here goes. I think that the Dark Mirror is haunted because it somehow possesses some sort of crude intelligence. Yes, I saw something unsettling in the mirror. But I kept going back to it. And when the mirror realized I wasn’t going to be scared off that easily … well, that’s when things really started to get interesting.

The next time I looked into the Dark Mirror, I did not see my face age fifty years in a second. Instead, I watched myself blink when I knew my eyes were open. I watched my gaze cut over to the right, when I knew I was looking straight ahead. And still I kept my gaze directly on the Dark Mirror. I wasn’t about to give up …

Then the mirror went completely black — my face faded away, almost entirely. I held my breath. What was the mirror planning to show me?

Unfortunately, my surroundings weren’t the most optimal conditions for mirror-gazing, or scrying, as it’s known. I saw nothing but blackness before someone walked past the table where I was sitting, or a burst of noise interrupted my concentration. I took the mirror back to Dana. She said that at some events, they have enough room to set up an enclosed booth with black curtains, to minimize distractions. This is called a psychomanteum. A quiet, dark place like that is just perfect for really going deeply into the relaxed state of mind needed for an effective scrying session.

Someday, I hope to run into the Dark Mirror again … and next time, maybe I’ll see what’s beyond the darkness.


An audio version of this post can be found at Lights Out, Episode #54: The Dark Mirror.


Lights Out #54: The Dark Mirror


Now available on iHeart Radio and Spotify!

Haunted objects hold a fascination for us. The idea that a common household item — say, a mirror — can be a conduit for supernatural energy is a concept both terrifying and intriguing. Join me as I examine the Dark Mirror, a tool used for divination that can have some disturbing attributes. What will we see when we look into the Dark Mirror? Find out in this episode.

Ghostly Girl Bonding

This was such a warm, loving post that I just had to share. Thanks, Lisa, for the wonderful story!

Musings of a Haunted Flight Attendant

94B3E6F3-C5D2-45CD-BCB4-A7831C2FD76AI had a very interesting stay at the Amway Grand Hotel in Grand Rapids,  MI recently.  First of all, this hotel is very beautiful and welcoming.  The staff at the front desk, as well in the sports bar, are courteous, warm and seem genuinely happy to see you.

I was relaxing in my room before dinner, drinking a cup of tea and watching TV.  I was propped up on the bed and the television was directly in front of me.  To my right was the wall of the bathroom, which ran along the side of the bed for about 6 feet and then the corner you go around to enter the hallway with the bathroom to the right .  To the right of the TV, about three feet away, is a wall where the coffee/tea set up is.    As I was looking at the TV I saw movement to my…

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Lights Out #53: Return to Dixwell

Thanks for joining me for another episode of Lights Out! In this episode, we’ll return to the haunted house in Davenport, Iowa, where the homeowner got locked in the basement bathroom by an unseen entity. This time, we’ll actually get to go inside. I’m joined by members of the Quad Cities investigative team Ghost Crier.

Now available on iHeart Radio

Also, do check out Ghost Crier’s version of the evening’s investigation, which can be found at Please support them on Patreon as well. They’re a great group, and they’re doing exciting things. So give ’em a helping hand: throw them a few shekels, and subscribe to their YouTube channel!