Road Trip #1 Recap

Since this is the very first trip recap, I thought I would spend a little time explaining some of the recurring things I will be including:

  • Visit Recap–This will be where I throw some numbers related to the visit/investigation at you: hours spent at location, video and audio stats, etc. Keep in mind that in most cases, I will be running multiple video cameras at the same time, so a 4-hour investigation with 2 cameras makes for 8 hours of total video.
  • Roadside Oddities–A list of anything weird I encounter while traveling to and from the locations.
  • Great Radio Nuggets–Once in a while, I need to take a break from my CDs (usually when my GPS starts whining that its battery is getting low). If it’s the middle of the night, I’ll try to find a station that’s broadcasting Coast to Coast AM. When that fails, I’ll scan the stations to see if I can find anything worth listening to. For the most part, it’s an exercise in futility. But every once in a while, I come across a great tune that I hadn’t heard in a while on the radio.
  • BBBJ (Busted By Bon Jovi)–I try to avoid Bon Jovi like the plague. But try as I might, whenever I’m scanning radio stations, that damn band finds a way to penetrate my ear hole! So I decided to keep track of every time I hear a Bon Jovi song on a trip, including a running tally of how many times a song has “busted” me. Why? No reason.

OK, so now that we’ve got all the formalities out of the way, let’s get on with the road trip, shall we?

DAY ONE

The very first road trip for my book began around noon on Friday the 13th. After jamming a ridiculous amount of equipment into Ol’ Blue, I was off and heading up I-71. The trip to the first location was going to take about 2.5 hours and since I wasn’t scheduled to arrive until 4:00 pm, I was able to engage in one of my favorite pastimes; spooky detours!

Ol' Blue's back seat, jammed packed and ready to go.

Ever since I moved to Ohio back in 1999, I have been compiling a database of all things strange and spooky in the Buckeye State. Since that database is already bulging with close to 3,000 entries, I can usually just punch in a town along my route and find something worthy of adding a few extra miles to my itinerary to find. On this trip, the highlight had to be Lakewood Cemetery in Akron, home to an odd urban legend surrounding the grave of Clarissa Martin. According to the legend, Ms. Martin liked to wear long white nightgowns, which ended up being the death of her. It is said that one night in 1914, Ms. Martin was descending the stairs when she tripped over her nightgown, falling to her death. For whatever reason, Martin’s family decided to immortalize her last moments on Earth by erecting a monument over her grave depicting Clarissa descending the stairs.

Clarissa Martin's Grave, Lakewood Cemetery

As far as the ghost stories associated with the grave, there is a story circulating that the statue has been known to come to life and will even hug people (as long as you hug the statue first). For me, this story is way too out there to be true and has a lot of elements of an urban legend associated with me. Mainly, the perverse idea that a family would erect a statue showing the moment of death of their loved one. Still, it was a beautiful statue and I recommend you stop by to see it if you’re in the area.

I arrived at the location for the investigation right around 4:00 pm and met up with two members of The Ghosts of Ohio, Wendy and Sam, who would be helping me with the investigation. And boy was I ever glad they were there when I saw what we would be investigating! In what could best be described as an estate, the property itself was sprawled across literally tens of thousands of acres! After interviewing several individuals, it was clear that we were going to need to come up with a game plan for the investigation. So taking our lovely tour guide for the evening, Jessica, along with us, we set out for an eating establishment for dinner and a discussion on how we thought the investigation would unfold.

We settled on Thano’s Family Restaurant in Barberton. Since it was Friday the 13th, I thought I would get a little crazy and have breakfast for dinner! I was out of control! No one could stop me!

Even though I ended up coveting Sam’s French toast, I ordered (or “took”, as my father would say) the Florentine Omelet: sautéed spinach, diced tomatoes, and provolone cheese all smashed together inside a 3-egg omelet. Came with home fries and toast for the whopping price of $5.99. Add to that about 5 gallons of Diet Coke and I was ready for an all-night investigation. Or so I thought. Because as we made our way to the register, Friday the 13th decided to have a little fun with us.

It started as soon as I walked up to the register to pay and the computer promptly shut down. After several unsuccessful attempts to re-boot, the system finally came back up, at which point, it was discovered that my bill (which was ticket #1813, BTW) was no longer in the system. As we watched the cashier trying desperately to open the till using a butter knife, it suddenly dawned on me that dusk was fast approaching and I had forgotten to take any establishing photos of the location for the book. What followed was mass chaos as Sam and I threw our money at Wendy and asked her to pay for us as we ran out to try to get photos before it got too dark. We did, just in the nick of time.

Although the entire property was enormous, we would be focusing on three specific buildings for the investigation. The problem was that the buildings were a short distance away from each other. In fact, we had to drive our vehicles from one location to the next. Additionally, a facility employee had to be present whenever one of the buildings was unlocked. This presented a unique problem; how were we ever going to cover the entire property?

This was solved with a two-part approach. First, we set up an infrared camera, voice recorder, and our data logging system at the first location and locked the building up tight. Since there was no power in the building, we ended up using our data logging system without the laptop/monitor and instead ran the EMF and temperature sensors directly into the battery-operated logging device. We would come back throughout the night and check on it, but it essentially all ran unmanned throughout the night.

Setting DVR cameras up--trip one, visit one

The second solution proved to be a bit more strenuous. We ended up needing to set up all the equipment at the second location, investigate for a bit, and then break everything down and drive it over to the third location…and then start all over again! And wouldn’t you know it, both locations were multiple stories, so there was a lot of grunting and groaning as we pulled case after case up the narrow staircases. By the end of the night, we decided to go “Old School” at the last location and just went with handhelds. All in all a very unique experience.

We weren’t lucky enough to witness very much activity in person—a motion detector went off in an area where shadows had been reported and we also heard what appeared to be footsteps—but with such a large area to cover, there were lots of places ghosts could have hidden from us. Hopefully, we caught something on the video and/or audio.

It was slightly after 3:00 am when we got everything packed up. Sam headed for home and I tagged along with Wendy, who had graciously allowed me to crash at her place for the night…or a few hours.

Visit Recap

  • Time spent at location: 11 hours
  • Total hours of audio recorded:  6.0 (plus Wendy and Sam’s personal recorders)
  • Total hours of video recorded:  7.5
  • Total # of photographs:  158
  • Roadside Oddities
  1. minivan with the words “BEEF  CHICKEN SEAFOOD” emblazoned across the back of it. Nothing else on the van to explain the meaning of those words (not even a logo, URL, or phone number).
  2. A beat-up Honda, complete with duct taped side mirrors, being driven by a man who appeared to be in his late 60s. The windows were all rolled down and in the back seat was a slightly crushed cardboard box (also duct taped) bearing a red cross and the words “human blood plasma”. I can only hope and pray that the guy was just reusing an empty box he found and that he wasn’t some sort of twisted courier service. Sorry, but it’s not the best pic. Kind of hard to zoom in while you’re trying to drive.

    Plasma Car

  • Radio Nuggets Unearthed
  1. The Boxer—Simon & Garfunkel
  2. Sugar, Sugar—The Archies
  3. Wasted Years—Iron Maiden
  • BBBJ?  Yes (once):  Living on a Prayer (1)

DAY TWO

Morning came far too early on Saturday. After making sure all the cameras had been recharged from the night before, Wendy and I re-packed the car and took off for a late-morning breakfast at Gabe’s Family Restaurant in Cleveland. Still unable to get the image of Sam’s dinner from the night before out of my head, I took the French toast. Much to my surprise, the French toast platter not only comes with eggs, but bacon AND sausage, too! If that’s not enough to get you to swing by Gabe’s, then how about this: there’s a tiny cemetery behind the building!

Wendy and I arrived at our next location at approximately 2:00 pm. After interviewing several employees and volunteers, we noticed that rain seemed imminent. Even though it was still several hours before our investigation was set to begin, our hosts allowed us to unload the equipment and get it set up. Good thing, too, because the skies opened up just as we were getting ready to start dragging everything out of the car. It moved through fast, though, and we were able to get things set up quickly.

Audio and video setup--trip one, visit two

Having time to spare, Wendy and I made the short trip over to Fairport Harbor for dinner, deciding on the Fairport Family Restaurant. I took the fish and chips, which I figured would be rather small due to the $7.99 price tag. Boy, was I wrong! Not only was the portion huge, but it also came with bread, soup, and salad! Sam, who had to work Saturday, arrived just as Wendy and I were finishing up, so she helped roll me away from the table and on to the investigation.

I can’t give too many specifics about the investigation itself as it will give away the location. But I can tell you that we were given the opportunity to try to “find” a rather unique type of ghosts. This led me to bring along some pretty specifics “props” and devices in an attempt to lure this ghost out. We still have a lot of material to review, but the initial pass seems to suggest that the props might have worked!

A/V setup (lights out)--trip one, visit two

We wrapped the investigation shortly before midnight. I was packed and ready to head home by 1:00 am. I rolled into my driveway at 3:48 am, kissed my wife and daughter (who both looked way too comfortable in their nice, warm beds), and promptly collapsed into a well-deserved coma-like slumber. No surprise, especially since, in the past 40 hours, I had conducted two investigations and traveled 421 miles.

Visit Recap

  • Time spent at location: 10 hours
  • Total hours of audio recorded:  14.0 (plus Wendy and Sam’s personal recorders)
  • Total hours of video recorded:  20
  • Total # of photographs:  137
  • Roadside Oddities
  1. A man hitchhiking on I-71 at 2:30 am (with his thumb out and everything). There is an old urban legend about a phantom hitchhiker on I-71, so perhaps I saw him…or not.
  • Radio Nuggets Unearthed
  1. Hello, It’s Me—Todd Rundgren
  2. Symphony of Destruction—Megadeth
  3. Wherever I May Roam—Metallica
  4. Mayor of Simpleton—XTC
  • BBBJ?  Yes (twice):  Living on a Prayer (2) and You Give Love a Bad Name (1)
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