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I spent the night in a haunted house.

And not just any old haunted house – the Conjuring house.

This one. Right here. As pictured.

Well, virtually spent the night.

It’s like I’m really there…

When I was tipped off that The Dark Zone was going to be live-streaming 24/7 the Conjuring House (aka the Bathsheba killing-babies-for-Satan house), I was on it in a heartbeat. It was such a fun gimmick for un-fun times that I leapt at the chance and volunteered for the job.

(Well, more like begged Boss for the job)

While I off-and-on watched the fun during the week, I took a day off the 9-to-5 to stay up as late as I possibly could on Tuesday Night/Wednesday morning – the spookiest because it’s right in the middle of the week.

And I am no novice, my friends. I have ghost-investigation-watched-from-my-couch for many, many years. So, of course my first order to stay my (virtual) night at the haunted house was to build my base camp – a.k.a. my 2-story ghost fort:

The shark is a sensor/beacon for “cool” spirit activity

I knew it would be a long night, so I prepared:

You have to stay hydrated…

There were snacks, too, but less of those. Less is more, right?

After taking my old-person meds (always remember to take your meds before ghost hunting!) and vitamins, I snake-wriggled my way into my new home for the night. Glorious Spouse wished me well and left me to my own devices. My own ghost devices.

Glorious Spouse jealously posts my radness after bringing me cake
Into the darkness I go, prepared for my entire existence to be proven wrong…

The Beginning:

Oh, yes, let’s go back to the beginning. I hear it’s a very good place to start.

When I was a child, I actually hated horror and all things scary. That being said, I was incredibly superstitious (goes hand-in-hand with Catholicism) and after moving, I slowly became obsessed with ghosts. This is mostly due to my parents believing there are at least two ghosts in their house and I grew up there, so I was absolutely convinced.

From that moment on, I read everything I could about spirits and the supernatural, while still being absolutely terrified of it. At eleven, I figured that I would one day put all of my information to use and join as a member of “the Government’s O.S.I.R. (Office of Scientific Investigation and Research Department” when I was older because what else would I do with my life?

But here I am instead, writing about horror in a virtual haunted house with peach pie wine…so it’s even better than I could have imagined.

Anyway, it was in my mid-twenties when I started seeing…inconsistencies and oddities in the ghost theories. This was about the same time that I started to question the reality of a soul, of a heaven, of a hell – the whole nine yards. One kind of bottomed out the other is what I’m saying. And when I settled into atheism, I felt an enormous self of relief and joy. I was no longer afraid of these things, but rather, just enjoyed them. I had the opportunity to find pleasure in being scared or rattled that I never had before.

Now, this is not me knocking whatever you believe. You do you, man. I’m just giving some insight of my background and process to get to this point. At the end of the day, I still watch ghost investigation shows with utter enjoyment. I still listen to “ghost stories” and they are some of my favorite horror themes in movies and attractions. I find that there is something romantic and beautiful in the ideology and reverence we have for the spirit in our stories and cultures. I enjoy and appreciate it, maybe even more so now. Even if we don’t share the same theory, I still have respect for the idea – that people, wronged or hurt or dangerous people, can still impact our world.

And I am still enthusiastic to make a ghost fort and drink and watch an empty screen for anything to happen.

But we can all agree on “f*** this basement”, right?

Apps for Ghosts

I didn’t have any tangible things for ghosts to play around with (besides the piano that they keep ignoring), so I downloaded a few apps to try to make communication with. The first one was a Ouija board for one called Spirit Board and had 4 stars out of 5, downloadable for a smart phone. The reviews said that it was very scary – perfect!

 It even came with the classic warning/rules:

But CAN IT READ?!

I started out with basic questions: are you there? How are you? Are you here or in the virtual Satan house? What’s your name?

The ghost seemed to have trouble understanding me…as if it were a poorly written A.I.

Your name is “DONT BE SCARED”? Worst prank ghost ever

Eventually I started…asking other questions.

No, because I asked what color your…eyes…were.

After eventually getting bored (5-10 minutes), I switched to another downloadable app, “Ghost Hunting”. 4 out of 5 stars out of two thousand. I figured I could try it out.

Ha ha, what a funny story, Mark

It acted half like an ovilus and half like an EMF reader.

I’m a sucker for some sweet ovilus action. I guess I just love words being said randomly (Voodoo Priestess can attest to this). So this app was a little more up to my speed. I mean, there really wasn’t any rhyme or reason to it. Again, it was a pretty simple A.I., but it felt more enjoyable because of the spontaneity of it, like those late 90’s fishing games where nothing happens for, like, five minutes and then suddenly…

Oof, where are you going with this, spirit?

The Chat-rooms Demand More

I checked out the chat-rooms (are they still called that?) a few times, but it honestly made me feel bad for the house. I lot of people had the opinion that, since they paid human money, the house should somehow…perform for them? As one person put it, “with a house with so much history I want to see a little more action”, as if the house were a living, sentient being that could shake its ghostly money-maker for virtual sugar-daddies dumping sweaty bit-coin into its partially drawn curtains.

I guess that’s the benefit of low expectations. I expected nothing but regular house noises, annoying spirit-box sessions and night-vision cameras…and I got exactly what I came for.

Endless satisfaction

The End of the Night:

I stayed up as late as I could because, let’s face it, the soft glow of the dark-vision cameras and gentle hum of static was too much calm and peace for an old person. I stayed up until about 3:30 A.M. so I could at least pass the demon hour. After that, I slept soundly in the belly of the (virtual) haunted house until the morning came.

To be honest, it was peaceful, almost nostalgic. It reminded me back of my old days as a security guard, watching the feed and my mind slowly unraveling horrific tales while I was the only presence around.

In a way that Norwegians watch Slow TV to combat the fatigue of isolation during the winter months, I, too, connected with the live-feed. Being in isolation, but watching another person, in real time, as they go about their day was oddly satisfying. Ghost investigating without silly sound effects or sped-up cameras was actually relaxing and grounded.

As I said previously, it did remind me of the old fishing games, or even of actual fishing, where there is no rhyme or reason. Nothing is plotted or scripted – everything unfolds subtly, suddenly, or not at all.

The Bottom-Line of Spookiness:

If you want to know if it’s made me a believer again – short answer is no. It’s going to take a lot more than virtual ghost house. But I will give you believers this, I had the pleasure to see a few irregularities, such as distortion to a camera that didn’t have distortion any other time, and two things in other cameras whip past around the same time.

Also, it’s interesting that, of the eleven words from the ovilus game, one of them was “nose bleed”. I got this the morning after my “investigation” when still checking in and goofing around. The coincidental part is that the ghost investigator the night prior had a pretty bad nose bleed, so was walking around the house with a wad of T.P. shoved up his nose:

(Not pictured because I’m not an animal)

However, my crowning achievement was spotting a little ghost orb in the basement. Of course I didn’t capture it on camera or video because ehhhh… (shrug). But whatever it was or may be, I sure did annoy the heck out of my spouse by screaming up the stairs about it, so that has to be worth something…

Do I think all of that were the remnants of witchery, baby-murder, or death?

Well, let’s just say that I’ve always been rather fond of the American Atheist’s symbol. Their international logo is of an atom; however, one of the orbitals of the atom is broken, or so to say, open-ended. That is represent the unknown.

I cannot say 100% that, no, ghosts don’t exist. I rely on science and logic to recognize and reason out the world that surrounds me, but that doesn’t mean that there can’t be new knowledge in the future, and that doesn’t mean that we have all the answers.

So, I came into this haunted house with the only expectation of having an experience – either with someone else miles away from me via chats; with myself in the dark, meditative silence of my ghost fort; or with something that still remains unknown.

And with that thought, it was $20 well-spent.

When not ravaging through the wilds of Detroit with Jellybeans the Cat, J.M. Brannyk (a.k.a. Boxhuman) reviews mostly supernatural and slasher films from the 70's-90's and is dubiously HauntedMTL's Voice of Reason. Aside from writing, Brannyk dips into the podcasts, and is the composer of many of HauntedMTL's podcast themes.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Brianna Schullo

    May 20, 2020 at 2:33 am

    I really enjoyed this! Excellent work. It was super thorough and entertaining. My favorite line was the, “virtual sugar daddies dumping sweaty bit-coins.” What an image.

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Original Creations

Some Bewitching Line Drawing by Jennifer Weigel

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This month we are going to explore more fun marker art from Jennifer Weigel, starting with black and white line drawing. Jennifer is getting ready for her big Life Is Brilliant solo show in March and has snuck in a few spookier themes, so she wanted to share them with you here.

Witch Way line drawing
Witch Way

The magic is strong in this Witch Way line drawing with its fun witchy head-topper, complete with striped hat band and star dangle. No self-respecting wizard’s ensemble would be complete without it.

Kitty Witch line drawing
Kitty Witch

And now the adorable Kitty Witch will don the Witch Way hat and cast a spell of cuteness on you. You gotta wonder just how the hat stays on but best not to question these things. We all know it’s magic…

Not Today Satan line drawing
Not Today Satan

The devil is in the details in this Not Today Satan line drawing, and boy is he pissed!

She Devil line drawing
She Devil

This She Devil is just plain goofy. Maybe she’s coyly playing innocent; it’s not a look most devils can pull off, seeing as how innocence really isn’t their schtick…

Hang in There Spider line drawing
Hang in There Spider

This little spider came down to your tuffet to remind you to Hang in There. She is very well-intentioned and is only looking out for you. I guess maybe she’s not so little though, she is an Argiope after all

Feel free to check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL. Or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites.

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

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Lighter than Dark

LTD Tripped Out Motivational Posters

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Tripped out… in case you just couldn’t get enough of Everything Everywhere All at Once and the return of the infinite bagel with EVERYTHING on it…

Tripped Out motivational poster
Tripped Out motivational poster

Artwork description: kaleidoscopic image of pink hairy horror (This is actually a fink fuzzy frond plant not unlike a Cockscomb but with longer thinner flowering feelers rather than the fuller protuberances you see on a full-bodied Cockscomb plant. I have no idea what it was, but it was very odd so I had to snap a photo.)

Image text reads: Mixing Magic Mushrooms & Peyote Just remember: once you open that Pandora’s box, you’re never going to get the pink hairy tarantulas back in it…

Tripped Out seeing eye god sunflower
Tripped Out seeing eye god sunflower

Artwork description: kaleidoscopic sunflower backlit by the sun with text and rainbow eye overlay

Image text reads: Eye See You Eye See All (in circle text so you can start and end reading wherever). In an ideal context this would be printed in the bottom of your tea mug or on a record that can slowly spin.

For more crazy tripped out fun, check out Weird Al’s post on Craig’s List

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

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Original Creations

The Elves Reunion, a short story by Jennifer Weigel

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An Elven portal in the woods, emerging from stone and forest floor.
An Elven portal in the woods, emerging from stone and forest floor.

I had heard tale that The Elves dwell in these woods.  Many underestimate The Elves; they have a fondness of heart for Tolkienesque Middle Earth fantasy stories and tales where Elves are the most highly civilized, virtuous and intelligent.  They forget that those are just myths, save for The Elves being cunning.  Remember that the Pied Piper was an Elf, and the children he took were not destined for such a glorious fate.

My sister lost her firstborn to The Elves.  She hadn’t noticed the Changeling until it was too late.  Her baby had already long since been stolen away.  She was so distraught she refused to eat or speak.  She locked herself in her room.  Or my family locked her into it as she succumbed to the madness.  Such are the ways of the family, for all of our protection.  We never question but follow as expected, as a means of self-preservation.  It has kept us all alive.

But I couldn’t get the sinking feeling out of my stomach; the grief became too overwhelming. That is why I came here.  I know I will not be able to rescue the child, nor my sister.  But I seek to avenge their meaningless deaths.  To ensure that it doesn’t happen again.  My family will never act.  I am tired of the Village Elders just shrugging these things off in hushed whispers and badly shrouded secrets.  It happens time and again.  We are all expendable.  They never do anything.

So here I am, in the Elven wood.  Alone.  As soon as my family figures out that I’m here, they will disown me.  They probably already have.  Again, it is for our own protection.  I’ll be just another casualty of The Elves.  Everything is so structured, so regimented.  Anyone who dares act in opposition to the rules vanishes.  We are all so afraid.

I lay in wait.  It’s just a matter of time before the portal appears.  The Elves use the portals to travel across time and space.  They appear where and when they wish.  But this time, I will go through first.  I know not what is on the other side, just that the portals allow only one to traverse in each direction.  We will trade places, if only for a moment until another portal forms.  Hopefully that will be enough time.

The trees shift and morph.  Falling leaves drift slower and slower towards the ground.  There is a stillness that I cannot fully express.  My breath hangs heavy in the silent air.  There is no sound, no smell, no taste.  It is time.  The hairs on the back of my neck and arms rise. I can sense the opening forming.  There is an uncanny familiarity in this moment, as if I have been here before.

As soon as the portal opens, I dash through.  But something isn’t right.  No one came through from the other side.  Or did they?  I cannot tell.  I am alone, in limbo between states of existence.  The world spins around me.  I can feel the drift.  Is this what death feels like?  Cold unbroken silence?  I feel distant eyes upon me everywhere, all around me, in the trees, the clouds, pinpoints of light that shimmer through.

I can feel The Elves eyes upon me everywhere.  In the leaves, in the trees themselves.
I can feel The Elves eyes upon me everywhere. In the leaves, in the trees themselves.

I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Maybe this is all according to plan.  But who was orchestrating the exchange?  My idea was only half formed in those passing pensive moments I am able to think for myself, few and far between.  My family, the Village Elders… no one allows time for freeform thought.  I hadn’t considered what would happen after the portal exchange.  I never really got past step one.

A voice greets me from the trees.  It is hauntingly familiar but seems only a distant memory.

“I’ve been expecting you.”

The world slowly comes into focus.  Clarity restored, the leaves circle me in an embrace.  My sister emerges, her dark eyes smiling.  She cradles the baby in her arms.

“You made it.  You escaped,” she sings.

“I didn’t see anyone,” I retort, skeptical.  I hadn’t recalled having seen any Elves, dark nightmarish fiends that they are, wild, unkempt, uncouth.  Savage beasts like Pan or Krampus.  Is this an illusion?  My sister seems so lifelike, so much herself.  She is the joyful young mother I had known her to be.  Filled with love and laughter.  Light dances about her, and she shimmers.

“Not in passing,” my sister clarifies.  “You have been living among them your whole life.  I had done so as well until the baby was stolen.  My heart broke; I had to follow after.  That was when I learned the Truth.”

“Why do you think we are so sheltered?  Why are we forbidden to do anything?  They do so to protect us from the Truth about who and what we are,” she continued.  “We’ve spent our lives evading that which we truly know ourselves to be.  We were the stolen ones, not the other way around…”

I notice that the portal I came through is still open, reinforcing my idea that no one had passed through the other way.  It is as if the portal was opened specifically to call me through. My sister extends her hand, beckoning me to join her.  There is a gleam in her eye I cannot pinpoint.  She seems happy, but something still isn’t quite right.  I’m still uncertain why I am here, in this time and place, as if destined to be present in this moment, in this decision.

The Village has fallen away to the woods.  There are no breadcrumb trails to follow home.  The idea of home itself seems distant like yet another illusion.  Nothing makes sense anymore.  I am unsure whether I am coming or going.  Two paths lay open before me.  Which shall I take?

The Elves portal remains but the path is unclear.
The Elves portal remains but the path is unclear.

The trees are full of Elven magicks… Feel free to check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites.

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

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