What Did You Do This Weekend?

The title of this post was taken from one of the lecturers at one of the events I attended this weekend. I'm paraphrasing here, but what he said was something along the lines of while others are standing around the water cooler discussing the television shows that they watched over the weekend, you will be able to tell them that you were here.

Here, in this particular case, was a large meeting area/gymnasium at Historic Fort Wayne
1. I was there for the Paranormal Muster. Numerous groups of paranormal investigators from all of the area (including the Upper Peninsula, Ohio, and Pennsylvania) were in attendance to teach paranormal investigatory techniques, answer questions, and conduct the largest paranormal investigation in Michigan, probably in the Mid-West, and possibly the largest in the country.

I should probably preface this portion of the post with the warning that I will be presenting the information which I heard at the Paranormal Muster in the way which it was presented to me. In other words, when I describe what a gadget is supposed to do, I am parroting what the owner of that gadget said it did. I am not endorsing these items, nor am I claiming that they work or do not work. As for my own person belief system, I fall somewhere in the middle of the Scully - Mulder Continuum. I want to believe, but I am usually too skeptical to do so.

A brief bit of history: Fort Wayne is a star shaped fortification which was the mustering point for all Michigan militia soldiers who fought for the Union in the Civil War. It houses a number of Civil War artifacts (and was recently featured on the television program
Haunted Collector). Soldiers on their way to fight overseas in World Wars I and II, Korea, and Viet Nam all mustered through the fort.

When I was an elementary school student we would have a field trip to Fort Wayne every year. I always enjoyed the field trip, at one point declaring it my second favorite fort.
2 I have a fairly vivid memory of wandering around the grounds eating those horrible candy dots, the ones which were colored blobs of sugar stuck to long strips of receipt paper. I'm also pretty certain that it was where I acquired my cannon shaped pencil sharpener which served as my good luck charm whenever the family would sit down to play the game Risk.

To be honest, I had not thought about Fort Wayne for decades, until I heard about the Paranormal Muster. I assumed that it just went on as a historic site, the museum a welcome relief to children who were tired of being in the classroom. I had no idea that the site had been empty, essentially neglected for a decade.

Don't worry, this is not one of those dump on the city stories. In fact, it is one of those people coming together stories.

The site is currently maintained by a coalition of volunteers
4 which is in charge of the maintenance and restoration of the site. They coordinate with the appropriate individuals in the city government, but Fort Wayne does not receive any city funds. All of this work is done by volunteers using money raised from donations and special programs.

Programs like the haunted tours run by
Metro Paranormal Investigations. They first investigated Historic Fort Wayne in 2007. They loved the site so much that they began volunteering; mowing the 100 acre site with tractors, assisting in the rebuilding of various buildings. They started conducting their Haunted Tours of the site a few years laters. There are a number of locations on the grounds which are reported as hot spots for paranormal activity.

End of the brief history lesson.
5 On to what I did this weekend.

I arrived around 1:30 and spent the afternoon listening to various lectures and round table talks. These included a history of the fort, an introduction by MPI (featuring some creepy examples of EVP including one recorded in the room we were in), Todd Clements discussing the
Haunts of Mackinac Tour, and two talks by John Tenney. While all of these were fascinating, the real fun portion of the evening was engaging in our own exploration of Fort Wayne. We were divided into five groups and each group rotated through various sites on the grounds. In each site there was at least one, sometimes as many as three, of the paranormal investigative groups. We visited the jail, the sally ports and casemates, the headquarters, and various living spaces. While there we got to see a number of different methods of attempting to confirm the presence of some type of entity. These included EVP sessions, K2 meters, and a number of other gizmos I don't remember the names of.

The jail was fun (not something you hear every day). The cells for the long term prisoners were frightening small. The jail was the site of a documented death, so attempts were made to contact that individual.
6 There were a couple of different EVP sessions. The idea behind EVP (or Electronic Voice Phenomenon as opposed to Audible Voice Phenomenon) is that ghosts may speak in registers beyond those which humans are capable of hearing but which may be picked up by various recording devices. One of the earlier discussions stated that analog tape may be more suited for this given the restrictions on digital devices placed upon them by the manufacturer (why bother to set it to record things which we can't hear?). The usual session involves asking a question, waiting 15 seconds or so, asking another session, pausing another 15 seconds and so on. When the recording is played back later it is with the hope that it will have recorded the answers even though those in the room could not hear them.8 In addition to the usual questions the group (including those of us who wished to participate) sang period appropriate songs but left out a line here and there to see if the recording would pick up a ghost singing along with us. The final thing which the group at the jail, Portal did was use a device which I think was called a spirit box which scanned quickly through the audible radio stations. Questions which required specific statements as responses were asked and the ghost was to answer via the words being broadcast.9

The sally ports and casemates were super creepy in the dark. The long brick tunnels with multiple rifle ports would have made for quite the formidable refuge. These were lit for the evening with kerosene lanterns. The casemates at the end of these sally ports, now without their cannon, were dark as a cave. I don't recall the names of the two teams that were, I know one was from the Upper Peninsula. They conducted sessions similar to EVP, but they had a little gizmo that translated energy into words (I don't know how). Unfortunately the readings which had been going strong seemed to taper off when I showed up.

From there we went to a number of other buildings which have all gotten kind of confused in my head. There was one, I think it was the quarters for the single officers but I could be wrong. Anyhoo, that building was one of the creepiest places I have ever been in. It was still in the early stages of restoration. Paint had peeled from the walls. Lathing was open, there were holes in the ceilings of some of the rooms. There were a number of bathrooms which held claw foot tubs in various states of disrepair. For some reason it was one of those tubs, one missing one leg so it was canted at a crazy angle, which really bothered me. It was extremely warm. There were no working lights (and like an idiot I had forgotten the flashlight which I had made sure to find so I could bring it with me). To top it all off, the building was a maze of corridors which went nowhere. Some rooms opened to reveal even larger rooms. Tiny storage doors lead to large spaces. Closets were actually staircases. One could only get from one side of the building to the other by crossing over
11 on the highest floor of by going outside.

I tried some EVP questions of my own there using my camera as a recording device. I haven't listened to the recordings to see if there is anything there yet.

The most compelling case for paranormal contact was in the mess hall of another of the residential buildings. The investigators here were using a mini maglite to speak with an entity which they had previously made contact with. The flashlight was set on a table with no one near it, aimed at the wall. It was one of those little ones that turns on and off by screwing one end (exactly like the one I had forgotten to bring). It was set so it was almost on. The investigators then asked yes and no questions, asking the entity to turn the light on if the answer was yes. This happened a number of times. Through the questions they determined that they were speaking to a civilian who had died at the site more recently than the riots of 1969. The entity had been a spiritual person in life, but not a pastor or preacher. There were a number of questions which did not cause the flashlight to light up. What was really creepy was that after each of the yes/illumination responses the investigators would then ask the entity to turn the light off again and the light would go out.

They moved the light number of times while I was there which proved that they were not manipulating it, at least not in any way that I could determine. The responses also happened regardless of what else was going on in the room (there were “yes” answers when no one was moving so the odds of the light being turned on by vibration were kind of slim).

There were a number of different investigations going on in this building. One group was doing “burst EVPs.” This was similar to the normal EVP session, but instead of a long series of questions, the investigators asked five or six questions, then checked the recordings for responses. If there were any they would cater the questions towards these responses. The group had success earlier with what sounded like a little girl’s voice, but there were no responses while I was there. I spoke with one investigator who was up in what had been the museum when the Fort was open on a regular basis (I recognized this area). He had been watching monitors all night so he was happy to have rotated up to the rooms which were set up with green laser grids (like in the most recent
Paranormal Activity film). Apparently I had just missed a couple who had felt something cold brush by them.

Outside one of the groups had a number of EVPs which they had recorded previously as well as photographs taken at the fort and at other sites.

Our final stop for the evening was the old Headquarters. Of all of the places we visited, this was the least creepy because it had been used as a training location for teachers participating in the Head Start Program. There were a few classrooms and a few meeting rooms. Once again we divided our time among two different areas. Upstairs we learned about a number of different pieces of equipment and were able to try them out on our own. They had one of those green laser grid things set up in the hallway also.

Downstairs we spoke to an investigator who had a totally different method of conducting himself. He referred to what he did as closer to archeology or sociology. Rather than use any of the fancy devices, he did a lot of research on the site in question. He recommended dressing in neutral clothing or even clothing which would have fit in with the period the ghosts would have died. As an example, he talked about visiting various Civil War battlefields. He had a list of the names of the deceased. When he arrived he began calling them out by name as if mustering the soldiers. His assistants used a recording device which played back whatever was recorded after five seconds so he would know immediately if there were responses. In the roll call example he gave about half of the soldiers who had died at that location reported in when called. It was a good cap to the evening.

Sunday evening I got to portray the other side of the veil, coin, however you want to mix that metaphor. I participated in a Zombie 5K Survival Run, as one of the zombies of course. The race was held at
Maybury State Park, a beautiful location. I got a little turned around trying to find the Starting Line, but once I was there I fit in with my fellow zombies nicely. I finished making myself undead (I had done most of the face work at home because I wasn’t sure if there would be a mirror available). I had a couple of bottles of different fake blood products which I passed around for everyone to try. I was wearing a set of old green scrubs and my Forensics jacket. The Undead CSI Tech seemed to be a big hit as a character.

After we were thoroughly zombified, we were lead off on to the trail the runners would be taking. Zombies were deposited in pairs at various locations. I paired up with one of the zombies I had been speaking to earlier named Sean. We held out for the last spot, just after the halfway point
13. I am glad we did. We ended up on a little bit of a dirt path which connected one paved path to the next. We had woods on either side of us. It was a natural choke point, the perfect place to collect brains.

The runners had the kind of belts one wears when playing flag football. Their goal was to make it through all of the obstacles and the zombies with at least one flag. If so they were considered a survivor. Our goal was to “infect” them by grabbing the flags.

Sean and I did a great job. I think my favorite image of the night was when one of the runners stopped and tried to figure out how he would get passed us. First we went one way, then another. Sean matched his movements. After about thirty seconds of this, Sean turned it into the dance from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. I doubled over laughing

There were some runners who took the race very seriously. I had one guy, appropriately built like a linebacker, who charged right into me. I had my feet planted in a stance similar to those adopted by duelists, one foot forward and facing my opponent, the other behind me at a ninety degree angle. I am by no means a thin individual, but this guy pushed me back five feet. I left a groove in the ground (with my foot) as evidence. He got by, but I got one of his flags.

The prize for hardcore runner had to go to the guy who ran straight at us, full speed. Just before he reached us he jumped three feet to the side, into the trees and underbrush. He took out a sapling, but he made it by.

After the last runner went by we hightailed it to the finish line to reposition ourselves. I decided that I was rather tired and opted to be a “crawler.” I found a nice soft patch of grass to lay down in. I snatched at the runners that went by, but for the most part just relaxed.

The sense of camaraderie among the zombies was pretty amazing. Few of us knew more than one or two other people there, but by the time the race was over we were talking (or groaning incoherently if still in character) like fast friends.

All in all, it was a great weekend full of undead goodness.

1 Historic Fort Wayne is located not far from downtown Detroit and commands a wonderful view of the Ambassador bridge. It is not located in Indiana.

2 Colonial Fort Michilimackinac beat it out for the number one spot.

3 One of the local news affiliates was there interviewing people. While the reporter did a good job of appearing nonjudgmental (unlike the douchenozzle at the anchor desk), I was quite surprised that they did not relate the people coming together portion of the story.

4 For more information visit the
Historic Fort Wayne Coalition Home Page.

5 Yes, actually it was brief. I barely touched on the actual history of the fort at all.

6 A prisoner who was shot and killed while attempting to escape. The guards who fired on him were Court Martialed and their appeal was heard by the Supreme Court. The ruling allowed the use of deadly force during the attempted capture of an escaped convict.

7 Haha! You learned something!

8 I have heard a number of disturbing EVP recordings made by others.

9 I apologize if I am getting any of these technologies confused. I did not have my notebook with me to take notes for the individual sessions.

10 Perhaps I'm one of those Nulls who dampen psychic and paranormal activity simply by being in close proximity to it.

11 Sorry, poor choice of words.

12 Mostly because my battery was completely drained (probably from using the camera as a flashlight, possibly by ghosts) and I am too lazy to find the charger.

13 The zombies were supposed to arrive at 5 so we would be in place when the runners showed up. A number of them were running late (haha), what with the shambling footsteps and generally poor motor skills, so they took those of us that had arrived and placed us at the beginning of the course then filled the latter half of the course with those that had come after.

14 Totally out of character, I know.