Monthly Archives: September 2013

Defining “The Big Séance”

Since The Big Séance has gained quite a few readers in the last few months, I’ve gotten a few questions regarding the title of this blog and what weirdness we’re all about here. Is this really a séance? And if so, why the pictures of historic buildings? Why the cemeteries? Well I’ve wanted to compose some thoughts on this for quite a while, but the time was just never right, and I guess the inspiration just never came. It is true, the blog has changed and grown (as most of them do) over the last year and a half, so I suppose it’s time to update the old “About” page.

The online Merriam Webster dictionary defines séance as “a spiritualist meeting to receive spirit communications.” The word itself comes from an old French word that means “sitting” or “to sit”. Well the way I look at it, I’m sitting as I write this post, and I’m seated every other time as well. That’s how I came up with the name.

…I’m kidding. Oh come on. Laugh already.

In all seriousness, from day one my plan was to create a blog that covered paranormal and spiritual topics, with an emphasis on spirit communication. I’d highlight some of my team’s paranormal investigations, share some evidence, etc. A lot has changed since then.

I don’t think there is a more dramatic or fun form of spirit communication than a séance. Am I right? Picture any séance you’ve seen from an old movie or TV show. An old Victorian house, dark and ornate décor, candles all over, perhaps a Ouija board, a fabulously costumed medium, and of course no séance is complete without theremin music for an extra spooky effect.  

In an early blog post on the topic of the séance, I thought back to my earliest introduction to the concept. Allow me to plagiarize myself.

I must confess, I think I was introduced to the concept of a séance in a segment of The Bloodhound Gang, which was like a miniature mystery series that was a part of the 1980s PBS children’s series, 3-2-1 Contact. Anybody remember? I even had a subscription to the 3-2-1 Contact magazines for a while and have probably seen every episode from all eight seasons. Don’t tempt me to sing the theme song (or even The Bloodhound Gang theme for that matter)… because I will. I can’t be exactly sure that’s where I saw my first séance, but that’s where my childhood memory is taking me back to.

I’ve never been able to prove that 3-2-1 Contact was responsible for sparking this fascination, but I suppose it doesn’t matter. If anyone knows what I might be thinking of, please let me know. It would be truly awesome to see it again, whatever it was.

After more than a year and a half and over 250 published blog posts later, I’ve learned a lot about blogging. I’ve learned a lot about “paranormal folk”. I’ve learned a great deal about myself, what I know, and what I don’t know for sure yet. But as of right now I’d like to think of “The Big Séance” as not just a broad form of spirit communication, but a way to honor or learn about anyone’s life or past… a kind of remembrance. In an EVP session, I don’t just want to capture a voice, but I think of it as a chance for a spirit to communicate. When I highlight a beautifully historic or abandoned location, I’m imagining the lives of the people who made memories in the space previously. By photographing the beauty of an old cemetery or the resting place of a soul’s body, we show that we’re not afraid or embarrassed of what we erroneously refer to as “death”. I like to think that by thinking of these souls and wondering about their lives, we’re honoring them. And I’ll almost always have a recorder with me, whether it’s a trip to the cemetery or an actual paranormal investigation. All souls are invited to communicate or pass on messages to the living. You’ve joined me in several experiments. You’ve even shared your own experiences. Therefore, you’re not only an audience member for MY séance, you’re all participating in it! It’s a BIG séance… and it’s getting bigger.

  

P.S. 

It’s now the eve of October 1st, a month-long (maybe even longer) holiday for many of us. So whether you just like to be goofy and dress up for trick-or-treaters, celebrate to honor your ancestors or the lives of the dead, or hope to take advantage of a thinning veil that separates us from “the other side”, stay tuned throughout the rest of the autumn season!

 

Today I made another visit to the resting places of both  Johnnie and Clara, as part of my new tradition of adopting and researching older graves during the fall season. I decided to give Johnnie the opportunity to jump in the photo with me... assuming he was there visiting as well.

Today I made another visit to the resting places of both Johnnie and Clara, as part of my new tradition of adopting and researching older graves during the fall season. I decided to give Johnnie the opportunity to jump in the photo with me… assuming he was there visiting as well.

 

 


Angel Moments: Music as Meditation… Or is it?

I had planned to write a blog post on a completely different topic tonight. Actually, I’d planned on writing it last night, but a completely random video shared with me through social media completely affected me in such a way that the blog post and what I had to say before that moment just didn’t matter anymore. As of tonight, I’ve probably watched (listened to, really) the video at least 15 times. I’ve had these feelings several times before. It has been a while, but I’m recognizing it and the familiar feeling is coming back to me. My mind is so clear now… and so something else is clear to me as well… the fact that these feelings need to be my blog post. At first I thought “Well this is the music part of me… how will I play this off in a paranormal/spiritual blog?” Then in that clear and focused space in my head, I realized it did indeed fit. I promise you I’m not high. Okay follow me. 

 

Me... about a decade ago, trying for one of those "angel moments".

Me… about a decade ago, trying for one of those “angel moments”.

Many of you know that outside of my many nerdly hobbies, I’m also a music teacher and choir director. Growing up, music played a massive part in creating who I am today. Some of my earliest memories include powerful musical experiences… some from church, some from home, and some from theatrical performances. I’ve actually written about a few of these in one of my earliest blog posts. I often wonder, for example, what my parents must have thought about those moments when I listened to the same track from certain orchestral film scores over and over… picturing a story in my head (not necessarily the one from the movie) and crying from the emotion of the music. Rewind. Listen to it again. Cry. Rewind. Listen again. My students know these as “angel moments”… and even though they don’t happen often, they know when they got me. They cheer and exclaim things like “Mr. Keller! We just had an angel moment!” Yes we did… and Thank God for those moments when they happen. 

I’m sure you’ve had these angel moments… though perhaps it doesn’t involve music for everyone. Can anyone really explain what’s happening during these powerful experiences? I’m not sure I can. In fact, in the case of tonight and last night, it’s like my mind and brain checked out and I just felt and experienced. Then sometimes it’s like an obsession. For example, I’m fighting the need to stop typing to replay it again right now. I’d LOVE to know what the brain activity of an angel moment looks like. I’m sure there’s research out there. 

So my question is: Is this a form of meditation? Is it meditation if I’m focusing so deeply on what I’m hearing and how it makes me feel? Am I in some sort of trance state? As I said in the first paragraph, after listening a few times and having those angel moments, my mind is super clear, giving me the ability to do things like freely write this blog post. (Writing doesn’t always come easy for me. When I’m inspired I have to run with it.)

I have many examples I could give of times when music affected me like this. Unfortunately, most of these experiences can’t be found on YouTube or iTunes… and it probably wouldn’t have the same meaning or bring up the same emotions for everybody. But you’ve got to listen to this amazing a cappella performance of this obviously talented and genius young man. It’s linked at the end of the post. The fact that people are able to do these things just blows my mind. 

Before someone tells me I’m not meditating if I’m listening to and processing words, I have to explain something. It is very unusual in my profession as a choir director, and many people don’t understand this and disagree with my opinion on it, but I do not often “hear” lyrics or words in music. Words don’t even have much value in my ability to perform, enjoy, or hear the “story” in a piece of music. My story might just be different from yours. So yes, the hymn below obviously has a Christian message, but I promise you it’s the sounds and the intense harmonies that I hear. It’s the emotion and the drama. As someone who has fond and nostalgic memories of the music growing up in the church (and the music would be one of few positive experiences from those days), it’s also a very familiar melody to me. But seriously, the entire song might as well be sung as an “ooh” or on a “la” as far as I’m concerned. Now I know this is not typical, so in my field I have to constantly remind myself that most people, including my students, place a large value on the words and what the lyrics mean to them. It also means I suck at the lyrics to my favorite songs. Yeah… I’m one of those people.

 

One of my favorite quotes: 

“Music is what feelings sound like.”

– Unknown

 

Listen to the hymn HERE

 

So what do you think? Are angel moments a form of meditation? Is it something else? Do you have any of your own moments to share? (I’m also curious… can you hear this without the words? And if so, do you get the same angel moments?)

 

You Might Also Like:

 

Children who have spirit friends (Big Séance)

Children who have spirit friends (Big Séance)

Why do we assume? (Big Séance)

Why do we assume? (Big Séance)


A Pictorial Tour of Historic and Haunted Alton, Illinois (Part 2)

Greetings! Here is Part 2 of my pictorial tour of Alton, Illinois. Be sure to check out Part 1 for more sites and photos, as well as information on our day trip to Alton. 

 

Such a beautiful view of the Mississippi River.

Such a beautiful view of the Mississippi River.

 

Another view of the mighty Mississippi.

Another view of the mighty Mississippi.

 

The Piasa Masonic Lodge.

The old Piasa Masonic Lodge building.

 

 

The infamous, but not to be messed with (we had to take the pics while flying down the road) McPike Mansion.

The infamous, but not to be messed with (we had to take the pics while flying down the road) McPike Mansion.

 

The Piasa Bird.

The Piasa Bird.

 

 

The historic ruins of the Alton Military Prison walls.

The historic ruins of the Alton Military Prison walls.

 

 

 

 

You might also like: 

Walnut Grove Cemetery, Boonville, Missouri (Big Séance)

Walnut Grove Cemetery, Boonville, Missouri (Big Séance)

 

 

 

 

 


A Pictorial Tour of Historic and Haunted Alton, Illinois (Part 1)

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about a trip I took with a buddy of mine to The Milton Schoolhouse in Alton, Illinois. Visiting that schoolhouse was just a small part of that very memorable visit to Alton three years ago. Since this blog did not exist then, and since I’ve enjoyed my own tour down memory lane, please enjoy some photos from several of the sites on our trip from October 2010. I did my best to include accurate and up-to-date information about each location. CLICK HERE for Part 2!

 

Mineral Springs Hotel

This hotel, now a mall, was completed in 1914 and contained a very popular mineral pool in the lower level. 

 

The Hotel Stratford

The original purpose of this building, completed in 1819, is apparently unknown, but in 1909 became the Hotel Stratford. At one time it was known for lavish events involving high society, and Hollywood even used it in the filming of The Big Brass Ring from 1999. It apparently still housed guests up until 2011, though only on one level, as the rest of the building is apparently falling into disrepair.  See this newspaper article for a better shot of the front of the building. 

 

Enos Sanatorium

I was obsessed with this building and took tons of photographs. I particularly fell in love with the side of the building with the bumped out windows (seen in the second photo below). It was built in 1857 as a mansion, and was specifically designed to be a stop on the Underground Railroad. In 1911 it was turned into a Tuberculosis Sanatorium, and three years later the roof was literally raised and the fourth floor was added. The cupola, used to signal slaves coming from across the river, is apparently still original to the building, though the fourth floor beneath it is newer. It now serves residents as an apartment building and is rumored to be very haunted. I’d love for one of these residents to let me in for some photos and an EVP session. Pretty please?!

 

Grand Theater

This movie theater opened for the first time in 1920, but has been vacant and unchanged since 1977.

 

Kendall’s Cracker Factory

I didn’t know much about the building at the time, but fell in love with its style. As you can see, even though from through the front windows the interior was looking pretty rough, there are plenty of beautiful artifacts still standing, like the decorative glass windows in a few of the photos below. For a history of this building, check out this newspaper article

And no, that’s not a ghostly mist. This was taken through a window.

Again, not a ghostly mist.

 

Alton Cemetery

This cemetery is huge and beautiful. I wish I would have taken more photos. 

 

Related Posts: 

The Milton Schoolhouse, Alton, IL (Big Séance)

The Milton Schoolhouse, Alton, IL (Big Séance)

Do Spirits Reside at Papa Jack's Pizza in Lexington, Missouri? (Big Séance)

Do Spirits Reside at Papa Jack’s Pizza in Lexington, Missouri? (Big Séance)

Papa Jack's Pizza: Final Investigation Report (Big Séance)

Papa Jack’s Pizza: Final Investigation Report (Big Séance)


An Update in Four Photos!

This last weekend I made my third visit to the grave sites of Johnny and Clara. It was a beautiful trip, even with the gloomy skies and rain. Through the drops on the window, you can see Clara’s grave and the whole family plot in the distance at the top of the hill and in the center of the photo. Yeah, I’ve got better shots of this hill… but I thought looking through the drops would be cool.

 

This is the view from behind the first row of Clara’s family plot, looking down the hill at the very modern-day street. Clara’s grave is on the right, along with the fresh flowers that I brought. Such a beautiful place in the middle of all the noise and traffic.

 

Thanks to my father and his garden, we have three early pumpkins on the front porch. In the first week of October we look forward to our traditional trip to Rombach’s Farm for our official family of pumpkins for 2013.

 

With the temperatures finally cooler again, Meril has been excited to start wearing his favorite jacket again! His Daddy likes a different and less hip jacket, but Poppy (me) and Meril totally prefer this one.

 

Last update! The Big Séance is now at Top Paranormal Sites! As a reader, I’d be honored if you took a few seconds to vote/rate my blog by clicking the button below. There’s no login or nonsense. This will be the only time I’ll beg for a vote in a post. 🙂 I’m told that some of you have written reviews, but I’ve yet to see them.  Maybe someone is moderating them. I hope they show up. Thanks again for being such loyal readers and fans of such a nerdly blog! 

We are listed at the www.topparanormalsites.com website. Click here to vote for us.. Thank you :-)
.
.

Some older nerdly updates you may have missed!

.
.


Planning a Halloween Party (in 1911)

As many of you are no doubt planning themes for Halloween get-togethers next month, I thought maybe Ms. Ruby Ross Goodnow could help you plan. Actually, the party below, held on “Hallowe’en” at “eight o’ clock” in 1911, was also meant to be a housewarming party, for a brand new home, perhaps a bungalow or craftsman like the one pictured below. I found this article, originally published in the October 1911 issue of The Delineator, a few years ago and I just love it! (Note that a yearly subscription was $1. Sweet!) I’m considering planning a Halloween get together myself, and using this retro article as a starting point for a turn of the century theme!

 

The cover of the October 1911 issue of Delineator.

The cover of the October 1911 issue of The Delineator.

 

From the October 1911 issue of The Delineator:

___________________________________

Entertainment in October

Conducted by Ruby Ross Goodnow

Mrs. Goodnow will be glad to help you with any kind of entertainment. Write her for suggestions, giving the exact date of your party, enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope for reply.

.

A HALLOWE’EN HOUSEWARMING

The Dr. John F. and Mary Reddy House in Medford Oregon. Photo (from the National Register of Historic Places) was taken in 1911, the same year of construction.

The Dr. John F. and Mary Reddy House in Medford Oregon. This photo (from the National Register of Historic Places) is not of the house featured in this article, but was taken in 1911, the same year of its construction, and the same year as this issue of Delineator.

We had moved into our new home and, of course, we wished to welcome our friends beneath our roof-tree, so we planned a Hallowe’en housewarming, which was the jolliest affair ever.

We had some little brown-prints made of the new house, and sent one of these to each of our friends enclosed in the following note:

“Our latch-string now hangs on the outside!

Won’t you come and use it on Hallowe’en, at eight o’ clock?”

We invited all our friends, old and young and in-betweens. And we opened all our house-we knew that the cellar would be as interesting to Uncle John as the attic would be to Great-Aunt Martha. We had Jack-o’-lanterns on the gate-posts, and in spooky corners of the cellars, and in the attic.

All the young people were given cards, very much like dance-cards, with spaces for engagements in regular order: “9 o’ clock, Mr. B—-, cellar stairs; 9:30 Mr. C—-, library davenport; 10, Mr. D—-, kitchen-table,” and so on. This arrangement of conversational “dates” kept the young people scrambling all over the house, up-stairs and down, and there was no possibility of stagnation!

And we served refreshments all over the house, too. We had a brand-new barrel of apples in the cellar; a huge pot of coffee and little squares of hot gingerbread in the kitchen; half a dozen bowls of nuts in the attic; a platter of sandwiches in the living-room; a huge bowl of fruit-punch in the dining-room; a silver dish of mints in the library and several platters of home-made candy in the various bedrooms.

At half after eleven we all met in the big living-room and ranged ourselves around the great fireplace. Then my husband very solemnly lighted the first fire on the new hearthstone, and our guests all toasted our new home. Then we told ghost stories, and roasted chestnuts, and popped corn, and counted apple-seeds until well after the charmed hour of midnight!   C.B.A.

___________________________________

A few notes: 

I tried to do some quick research to find out exactly what is meant by “brown-prints” in this article. I only find information leading me to a type of photography. Did they send photos of the new house with the invitations? 

Though 1911 is a bit after the Victorian days, up to around the 1900s Halloween meant socializing (clearly pointed out in the article), parlor games, and was often thought of as a romantic holiday for young people. This was a time when young girls or ladies would practice innocent rituals or perhaps attempt to contact the spirit world to learn who their future husband would be. The roasting of various nuts, counting apple seeds, etc, was often used as a kind of fortune-telling at these gatherings. In those days Halloween was less about spookiness and death. 

For more information about the history and traditions of Halloween, check out HALLOWEEN: An American Holiday, an American Tradition by Lesley Pratt Bannatyne.  

You Might Also Like:

 

Images of America: Lexington, Missouri (Big Séance)

Images of America: Lexington, Missouri (Big Séance)

Old School Locker (Big Séance)

Old School Locker (Big Séance)


%d bloggers like this: