"Where are we going?" Mike asked cautiously as they walked past the doorway that he knew led to the reception area.
"It's better if we go into the lobby through the second door. You usually don't see Alydia if you go in the other way." Norville said simply.
"Do you know why that is?" Mike asked curiously.
"I don't know. I guess it's because she likes to greet the new guests. If you walk in from behind her, then she probably feels like she's already welcomed you." Norville speculated.
As they walked into the reception area, Mike noticed that it seemed to be far creepier than the last time he had been there.
The lights were significantly dimmed.
Due to the lower light, Mike found that it was easier to use the video camera to visually survey the room. The camera was able to pick up details that Mike couldn't see with his naked eyes.
"She's usually over there, on that side of the room." Norville said as he pointed.
Mike quickly turned his camera where Norville was pointing but didn't see anything.
"Do you know who she is? Why does she want to welcome people?" Mike asked as he slowly scanned the sitting area.
"A long time ago... I don't know how long. I'm sure that Pa told me, but I don't remember..." Norville said with frustration.
"That's okay. Just tell me what you know." Mike said soothingly as he carefully watched his camera for any sign of movement.
"Yeah. Um, a long time ago, I guess somehow Alydia met Wilber. I don't know how that happened, but it's a good thing that it did." Norville said distantly.
"Who's Wilber?" Mike asked cautiously.
"Wilberforce Boufonce. A long time ago, he used to own the hotel. I don't know why he's not here with Alydia... I figure that it might be because he didn't spend a lot of time here. From what I heard, he traveled a lot and left Alydia to take care of the hotel." Norville said thoughtfully.
After a moment to consider, Mike quietly said, "That sounds kind of lonely."
"Yeah. But I don't think Alydia minded too much. From what I hear, she really loved the hotel. She was happiest when guests would arrive and she could welcome them. She was so proud of this place and all she wanted to do was make sure that everyone who came here was having a good time." Norville said with a smile.
"That sounds really nice." Mike said gently, then carefully asked, "What happened to her?"
"The great depression. No one knows for sure what happened to Wilber. There were stories about businessmen jumping out of buildings, so it might have been something like that. Alydia took care of the hotel and waited for him to either come home or maybe for someone to show up and tell her that she had to move out, because they had lost everything. But no one ever did. She eventually died." Norville said regretfully.
"That's really sad." Mike said quietly.
"I don't know. Pa says that Alydia was in the place that she loved, doing the things that she loved up until her dying day. He says that all of us should be so lucky." Norville said frankly.
Mike smiled at the earnest statement, then quietly responded, "He's probably right about that."
After a long moment of silence, Norville said, "It looks like she's not here. Maybe we can try again later."
"We're going to be here for a few days, so we should have plenty of chances to come back and try again." Mike agreed.
Norville led the way to the rear exit of the reception area, to the doorway that they had avoided earlier. As they were walking, he asked, "So is this what you're going to be doing all over the hotel?"
"Yes. I think so. I've never done this before, so I'm not sure how it all works." Mike said frankly.
"Would it be alright if I went with you? Maybe I could help." Norville asked hopefully.
"We'll have to talk to Derek about it, but I don't think he'll have any problem with that." Mike said assuringly as they walked down the hallway toward the conference room.
* * * * *
The members of the group were quiet as they walked, each of them turning their flashlights in different directions to try and pick up every detail of the deserted hallway. The cold was noticeable, but it wasn't so bitter as to be distracting.
"Although you've technically got the C and D wings, your main area of interest is this hallway. According to Mrs. Whitlow, several guests over the years have reported hearing someone knocking on the doors. From the sound of it, most of them assumed that it was a maid and several complained that it was an unreasonable time of night for maid service." Alana said seriously.
"Have there been any visual manifestations?" Kerry asked professionally and noticed that he could see his breath.
"No. But that might just be because all the guests were inside their rooms while the activity was happening. I thought that you could camp out in the hallway, tonight. Then, if nothing happens, tomorrow night we could try putting you in one of the rooms and see if we have any better luck." Alana said simply, then grinned at the four girls anxiously waiting for her to finish.
"I think we've got this." Kerry assured her.
"Toni and Zoe, let's do you next." Alana said with a smile.
While it was obvious that Toni was barely able to contain her excitement, Zoe appeared to be fighting to contain her nervousness.
* * * * *
As Alana started to walk, all four girls automatically followed.
"Do you think that you'll need help setting up your camera?" Alana asked casually.
"It's just like a regular camera, isn't it?" Toni asked curiously.
"Yes. I just wanted to ask because people sometimes have problems setting up the tripod." Alana said honestly.
After a moment to consider, Toni finally said, "I think I can get it, but if I have a problem, I can call my dad for help."
"Yes. And remember that you can also call me or Derek, if there's something that one of us can do to help you." Alana reminded her.
"I'll remember." Toni promised.
"Alright then. How about I tell you about your investigation, then?" Alana asked with a smile.
As expected, all four girls were nearly vibrating with anticipation.
"You're going to have the A and B wings to investigate. The hallway we're in now is the B wing, at the right turn up ahead, it becomes the A wing. All the way at the far end of the A wing, there's a sort of a cul de sac which leads to several larger, more elegant suites. There have been reports of an apparition of a little girl spotted in that cul de sac." Alana said frankly.
"An apparition? So we're getting a real ghost to investigate?" Toni said in wonder.
"Yes." Alana confirmed, then continued, "According to Mrs. Whitlow, most of what's reported has been auditory, but this is one of the few reported visual manifestations. Make sure that you have the cameras rolling and don't forget to use your audio recorders."
"We'll do a good job, I promise."
As they reached the right turn where the B wing ended and the A wing began, Alana asked, "Do you think that you'll be alright from here?"
"If I'm not, I can call for help." Toni assured her.
"That's right." Alana said as she stopped, then looked Toni in the eyes before continuing, "Will you promise me that you will call, and not try to handle it yourself?"
"Yeah. I promise."
"Alright. Then we'll leave you to it." Alana said gently before turning to walk back down the B wing hallway.
"You can call me, too." Lorra said quietly.
"That goes both ways." Toni reminded her.
"Yeah." Lorra said with a smile, then hurried to follow Malika and Alana back up the hallway.
After a moment, Toni let out a long sigh of resignation and was reminded once again that she could see her breath.
Gathering her resolve, Toni finally said, "Come on, Zoe. We've got work to do."
* * * * *
After walking for a moment, Lorra finally asked, "Can you tell us about our investigation now?"
"Let me check on Kerry and Teresa first, then I'll tell you." Alana said as they approached the junction of the B, C and D wings.
"Is it going to be really scary?" Malika asked cautiously.
"Considering what you've already been through, this should be a walk in the park for you. From what I've heard, not only is there not anything that can hurt you, but there's not even anything that wants to hurt you." Alana assured her.
Before Malika could form a response, they encountered Kerry and Teresa.
Alana, Malika and Lorra watched for a moment as Kerry was slowly and carefully explaining the setup of the camera to Teresa.
Rather than interrupt, Alana started walking again, leading Malika and Lorra on down the hallway, toward the F and E wings.
* * * * *
Once they were far enough away that they could be reasonably sure that they wouldn't disturb Kerry and Teresa, Alana finally said, "Right by the intersection of the E and F wings, in room 3133, there have been reports of hearing a woman or child crying."
"Has anyone seen anything?" Lorra asked hopefully.
"Not yet. But maybe you'll be the first. We'll set the camera up in the room, then I'll leave you to do your investigation." Alana said seriously.
"Are we just going to investigate the one room?" Malika asked cautiously.
"I'm leaving that up to the two of you. You've got one location where you'll have a better opportunity to gather evidence, but you have all of the E and F wings where you can investigate, if you choose to do so." Alana said frankly as they walked down the hall.
"That sounds great!" Lorra said happily.
"I think that between us, we can get the camera set up." Malika said as she looked cautiously at Lorra for confirmation.
"Yeah. And we can call Toni's dad if we get stuck on something." Lorra interjected.
"That's right." Alana said with a smile, then added, "Room 3133 is up ahead on the left. Remember to call me if you need anything."
"We will." Lorra promised as she held up her walkie-talkie.
"Then I guess that I'd better get back upstairs before Marsha collects all the evidence and doesn't leave me anything to do." Alana said with a warm smile at the girls.
"She's not very nice, is she?" Lorra asked cautiously.
"Marsha is a very intelligent woman who is dedicated to her job." Alana said diplomatically.
"I get that she's smart. She's just not nice." Lorra said seriously, then thoughtfully added, "If I had to choose, I'd rather be nice than smart."
"You don't have to choose, Lorra. Trust me, you can be both." Alana assured her.
Before Alana could walk away, Malika cautiously asked, "Did Marsha choose?"
After a moment to consider, Alana quietly said, "I think she might have."
* * * * *
"How are you two doing?" Alana asked as she walked down the silent hallway with her flashlight leading the way.
"We're all set up. Max and I were just about to walk the hallways to see if he could get any impressions about likely hot spots. That might give us a good starting point." Charity said simply.
"I can't wait to see what you come up with." Alana said happily.
"I'm just wondering, why did you give me this area to investigate? If there have only been creaks and thumps reported up here, I don't understand why you didn't get one of the other teams to investigate it." Charity asked curiously, obviously trusting that Alana had a good reason for her decision.
"Honestly, it's because I know how you work. This is such a large location that you're one of the few people I'd trust to cover it and do a reasonable job. Even though this might not have the most 'ghostly' potential, I feel safe in saying that if there's something here, you'll find it." Alana said seriously.
Charity smiled, then said, "Thank you, Alana. I hope that someday I'll get to the point where I can think things through the way that you do."
"You'll think them out in your own way, and I have no doubt that you'll achieve your goals, and one day you might even impress a former protegee of yours with your reasoning skills." Alana said warmly.
"Yeah. I guess." Charity said shyly, appreciating the darkness, since she was able to feel a blush rising up her cheeks.
"It looks like everything is in good hands here. I'd better get upstairs and get to work." Alana said quietly, wanting to change the subject before things became too awkward.
"Have you checked on the boys?" Charity asked cautiously.
"No. I'm letting them have this investigation on their own. From beginning to end, every phase of their investigation is up to them." Alana said seriously.
After a moment to think about it, Charity quietly said, "Flying solo for the first time can be kind of scary, but we've all got to do it sometime. I guess this case is a good one for beginners to cut their teeth on."
"I hope so. Logically, this sounds like the right thing to do. Realistically, we'll have to wait and see how it turns out."
* * * * *
"How are things going in here?" Alana asked as she entered room 6318.
"I've got everything set up. I just don't understand why you chose for us to investigate this location. From what Mrs. Whitlow said, there hasn't even been an apparition reported at this site." Marsha said frankly.
"I chose it because Mrs. Whitlow referred to it as 'The Whispering Ghost'. I thought that of all the hauntings reported, that this one had the best potential to be 'active'. From her description of the few physical manifestations, they sounded like they were probably residuals. If there's any chance that we'll be able to interact with a conscious, self-aware spirit, I'm going to take it." Alana explained.
"Well, the remote camera is set up and all the audio recorders are placed. How do you want to handle the investigation going forward?" Marsha asked carefully.
"I thought that one of us could investigate the surrounding area while the other remains here and attempts communication. Would you prefer to walk around or try to make contact?" Alana asked seriously.
"I took this job for the chance to seriously investigate ghosts. So I'll stay here." Marsha said simply.
"Sounds good. I'll do my walkabout, and when I get back, I'll see if you're ready to trade with me." Alana said decisively.
Marsha nodded that she accepted the arrangement.
"If there's any activity, be sure to call me right away." Alana said as she prepared to leave.
"Of course." Marsha said shortly.
Although Alana was slightly annoyed by Marsha's dismissive attitude, she simply reminded herself, once again, that she had no one else to blame for her decisions.
* * * * *
"Are you sure that this is the right room?" Hunter asked cautiously.
"Alana told us forty-four twenty-one." Van said simply.
"Somehow I expected it to be more... eventful." Hunter said honestly.
"Did we get everything?" Van asked cautiously as he looked around the room.
"All the equipment's set up, but we still haven't done the protection ritual." Hunter reminded him.
"Oh, yeah. We can do that now, if you're ready." Van said quickly.
"Okay. Hang on a second while I get my stuff." Hunter said as he started taking what looked like ridiculously random items from his pockets.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Van asked cautiously.
"Nope. Just stand there. This'll just take me a minute." Hunter said as he picked up the vial of Holy Water and opened it.
Van watched carefully as Hunter made a complicated gesture with the vial of Holy Water in his hand.
"Do you remember, back when we first met, that thing you said about surrounding yourself with light to protect you?" Hunter asked cautiously.
"This is like that. Go ahead and gather your light, then I'll do the incantation thing and the water thing and then we'll be done." Hunter said seriously.
"I thought you didn't believe in the light stuff." Van said suspiciously.
"I didn't back then, but after I talked to you about it, I checked it out and found out that the protection spell that we use is basically the same thing that you were doing all on your own." Hunter explained.
"Okay. I'm surrounding us with light. What now?" Van asked cautiously.
Hunter took a deep breath, then slowly began to recite from memory, "Anadl einioes Ac ngoleuni fy meddwl Creu hudoliaeth Of amddiffyn a chysur Wrth i'r aer wyf anadlu ei buro wyf yn amgylchynu fy hun gyda Coryn o aur hwn haze euraidd A yw puro gyson Ac gwahanu oddi wrth unrhyw negyddol Mai fy lle yn cael eu diogelu."
Once he was done saying the incantation, he took a drop of the Holy Water from the vial, then reverently touched it to Van's forehead. A moment later he placed a drop of water on his own forehead.
"What did all of that mean?" Van asked quietly, not entirely sure that the ceremony was over.
"Basically, it means 'Let the air and light protect me'." Hunter said frankly.
"What language was that?" Van asked curiously.
"Welsh. I don't speak it or anything, but I've been hearing it and reciting it with my moms for as long as I can remember, so I know how to say that much." Hunter said as he put everything away.
"Is that it? Are we ready to get started?" Van asked cautiously.
"Yeah. I guess since our 'disturbing presence' isn't being very disturbing, we can walk around and check out our area, then come back here later and see if we can feel anything 'menacing'." Hunter said thoughtfully.
"Let's do it!"
* * * * *
"Are you sensing anything?" Jack asked quietly.
"Only that someone should have destroyed that horrible thing decades ago." Kyla said distastefully.
"All I can see is a painting with fog and trees. Can you see something more in it?" Jack asked cautiously.
"No. At least, not with my eyes." Kyla admitted.
"Does that mean that you can see something with your second sight?" Jack asked, even more slowly.
"What do you see? I need to know. It might be important." Jack urged her to understand.
"I can't see... things. If only I could. That would make it so much easier to deal with."
"What do you see?"
* * * * *
"How did it go? Did you see anything?" Derek asked when he noticed Mike and Norville walking into the command center.
"No. But Norville was able to fill me in on who Alydia is and why he thinks that she's here." Mike said seriously.
"Good." Derek said happily, then asked, "Why don't you give me that DVR so I can download the video? Did you use your audio recorder or still camera?"
Mike placed the DVR camera beside one of the laptops as he said, "No. Since nothing happened, I didn't think that I needed to use them."
"That's fine. I just wanted to be sure that you had full batteries and empty memory cards before we started our investigation." Derek assured him.
"Can I help, too?" Norville asked curiously.
Before answering, Derek looked to Mike with question to see if he had any objection.
"Norville might be able to tell us some of the history of the places that we're investigating." Mike said simply.
"Good enough for me. Why don't you get Norville fitted with the standard equipment while I get this downloaded?" Derek asked as he picked up the DVR.
"Come on over here and I'll get you set up." Mike said with a smile as he walked to the end of the table.
"What is all this stuff?" Norville asked cautiously.
"To tell you the truth, I don't know about most of it." Mike shyly admitted.
As soon as Derek was sure that the DVR was downloading, he walked around the table and picked up a piece of equipment.
"First, we have the K2 meter. It measures electromagnetic fields, you might think of that as 'ghost energy'. Sometimes it will give us an idea of when something is present that we can't see with our eyes." Derek said seriously.
Norville looked at the equipment Derek and Mike were already wearing before clipping the K2 meter onto his belt.
"Next we have the infrared thermometer. Sometimes when ghosts are present, they draw in the heat from the area around them and create a 'cold spot'." Derek explained.
"That happens a lot upstairs." Norville said quietly as he hung the thermometer on his belt.
"Sometimes ghosts will speak so quietly that we can't hear them. The digital audio recorders will record things so that we can amplify them when we play them back and hear things that we couldn't hear at the time." Derek said seriously.
"Usually, I hear a lot more than I want to." Norville quietly admitted.
"Of course, you know what the flashlight and walkie-talkies are for. There's nothing special about those." Derek said before walking to the other end of the table and gathering up equipment.
When he returned, he handed Norville and Mike each a night vision DVR and said, "These will be your 'point-of-view' recorders, so that when we review the evidence, we'll be seeing exactly what you're seeing. It's very important that you keep these things running at all times because when we review the evidence, we're going to be matching everything with the timestamps on these recorders."
Once he was assured that both of them understood, he handed Norville a digital camera and said, "Whenever you hear something, whether it be a whisper, a thump or a creak, it's a good idea to snap a picture or two with the still camera. Sometimes the stills are able to catch things that the video cameras miss."
As Norville accepted the digital camera, Derek could tell that he seemed to be on the verge of information overload.
"That's it. Everything here is set up to record. Since we have two 'hot spots' to investigate, we're going to need two wireless remote cameras. Those are the ones with the red yarn on the handles." Derek said as he pointed toward the diminishing supply of messenger bags by the front door.
"Are you going to have to come back here to get them connected to the laptops?" Mike asked as he picked up two of the messenger bags, then handed one to Norville.
"The way I've got it set up, they should connect and start recording automatically. But if for some reason they don't, I won't have any way of knowing about it until we get back here." Derek said honestly.
"So, what do we do now?" Mike asked cautiously.
* * * * *
"Do you think that the girls are alright?" Teresa asked anxiously.
"I think that they're probably having the time of their lives." Kerry assured her as he carefully scanned their surroundings with the night vision DVR.
"You're crazy." Teresa stated simply as she tried to adapt to walking in complete darkness, using the video from the DVR viewfinder as a guide.
"Yes. You've mentioned that before." Kerry said fondly.
After a long moment, Teresa cautiously asked, "What are we doing?"
"This is the C wing. You can kind of think of this as a 'base reading'. We're walking through, recording just how everything is laid out and what state it's in. If we come back tomorrow night and something's out of place, then we'll know to investigate it." Kerry said seriously.
"I just got a chill up my spine when you said that." Teresa said quietly.
"That could have something to do with it being close to twenty degrees in here." Kerry said frankly.
After a moment to consider, Teresa quietly said, "No. I don't think that's it."
* * * * *
"What can I do?" Zoe asked petulantly as she sat huddled by the wall, watching Toni through the video output of her DVR.
Toni couldn't blame her younger sister. Zoe had been exceedingly patient (for a six year old) while Toni had set up the wireless video camera on its tripod.
"Do you remember how to use the K2 meter?" Toni asked carefully.
"You just push the button. It's not hard!" Zoe said indignantly.
"True." Toni chuckled, then continued, "Since we've got everything set up and recording here, the next thing we need to do is investigate the rest of our area. You can do the K2 readings and I'll keep an audio recorder running and we'll walk back to where Mom and Dad are."
"What if the K2 starts doing yellow and red things?" Zoe asked cautiously.
"If that happens, we'll stop and I'll ask the ghosts questions while we're recording with our audio recorders." Toni said calmly.
"I'm cold." Zoe quietly admitted.
"So am I. You've got your gloves on, don't you?" Toni asked cautiously.
"Yeah. My hat, too." Zoe answered.
"Good. Then we're ready to go." Toni said confidently, then thought to add, "Remember that if you get too cold, or scared or sleepy, all you've got to do is tell me and I'll take you back to Mom and Dad."
"No. I want to be like you." Zoe said firmly.
It took a moment for Toni to gather her emotions, but she finally said, "Turn on your K2 and let's get started."
* * * * *
"Hold on. Did you hear that?" Lorra asked in a whisper.
"No. What?" Malika asked nervously.
"Shhh. Listen." Lorra said even more quietly.
After a long silent moment, both girls just barely heard the slightest whine in the distance.
"Where did that come from?" Malika finally asked.
"Over there, I think." Lorra said cautiously, as she pointed.
Malika picked up her DVR and hurried to look at Lorra so she could see where she thought the sound came from.
"Pull back and get a wide view of the room and I'm going to do a quick K2 sweep, then we can do the EVP." Lorra said decisively.
Malika was about to answer, but froze as she heard an even more pronounced high-pitched whining sound.
"Yeah." Lorra confirmed nervously, without having to be asked if she'd heard it, too.
Finally, Malika's back was against the door and she began to slowly pan around the area, carefully watching for any sign of movement.
While Malika was visually surveying the room, Lorra was walking around the perimeter of the room with her K2 meter in hand.
Malika was holding her breath in an effort to hear the slightest sound.
"Malika, come over here." Lorra suddenly whispered, causing Malika to jump.
Although she tried to hurry, she was aware that she might easily fall flat on her face if she didn't carefully scan her path.
"Look." Lorra said as she pointed.
Malika let her handheld DVR fall to her side as she looked at the outer world bathed in moonlight. There was no evidence of modernization within view. She was struck with the realization that a person looking out this same window two hundred years before would have seen very much if not exactly the same thing.
After an exaggerated silence, Lorra finally said, "I think we need a camera looking out this window."
"For what?" Malika asked in confusion.
"Do you see the way the wind is whipping the treetops, out there?"
"What if there's some kind of a hole or something that's whistling when the wind blows and making that sound?" Lorra asked seriously.
"You think that the crying sound is the wind?" Malika asked cautiously.
"I think that if we put a camera in the window, we can match the sounds we hear with the way the wind is blowing at the time." Lorra explained.
"So there might not be a ghost?"
"Our job isn't to find ghosts, it's to figure out what's really going on here. To do that, we need to be willing to honestly evaluate the evidence despite what we do or don't believe." Lorra carefully explained.
"You've said that before, but I guess I forgot. I was so excited and worried about seeing ghosts that I stopped looking for anything else." Malika reluctantly admitted.
"Yeah. It's easy to think of what we're doing as 'ghost hunting', but what we're really doing is looking behind the excitement and fear and trying to figure out what's really going on, whether it's supernatural or not." Lorra calmly stated.
"Do you want me to ask Derek to get us another camera?" Malika asked cautiously.
"No. He has his own investigation to do. We can do it ourselves." Lorra said seriously.
"What do you need for me to do?" Malika asked cautiously.
"Give me a second." Lorra said, then keyed her walkie-talkie and said, "Derek, this is Lorra. We're going to need a second stationary camera."
"Does it have to be wireless?"
"No. And you don't have to bring it to us. We can get it ourselves if you'll just tell us which one to take."
"There are several messenger bags just inside the door of the conference room. Just grab one with yellow yarn on the handle. The setup is basically the same as the wireless, just make sure that it says 'rec' with a red dot in the corner and everything should work just fine."
"I'll get it." Malika whispered.
"Thanks, Derek." Lorra said into the walkie-talkie, then released the button.
After a breath, she turned and quietly said, "Thanks, Malika."
I have seen a lot of tv shows that are supposed to be proving that ghosts or other supernatural things are happening, but most of the time they barely show anything actually out of the ordinary, but these people seem to have the right take on the situation, namely, find out what is happening and what might be causing the strange things. It doesn't really matter what caused something, it just needs to be figured out.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher