Monday, October 24, 2005

Haunted Leesburg

I touched a ghost Saturday night.

West Meets East

A Western man travels East in search of love, opportunity and happiness.

Name:Michael Strickland

This blog chronicles my adventures as I leave my native California and travel east to northern Virginia to start a new life. I can only imagine the funny stories I'll recount here as I experience a wildly different climate, culture and way of life.

Admittedly, I didn’t feel anything, but most of the people with me did. The supernatural experience took place on a tour of haunted Leesburg, during which we explored a cornfield maze, ate dinner in the historic Green Tree restaurant, and walked a guided tour of haunted sites in the old town. At the tour’s climax, our parapsychologist guide led us to a spot where we could connect directly with the ghostly vibrations of the netherworld.

At dusk, we drove out to a cornfield outside of Leesburg, a rural town located about 20 miles further west (read: further out in the country) from where we live (and which briefly served as the capital of the U.S. during the War of 1812). The remains of several days’ worth of rain clouds sprinkled on us as we trudged through the red clay mud. They called this the world’s largest cornfield maze, but we found our way out within 10 minutes. My inadvertent “shortcuts” might have had something to do with that....

After escaping the maze, we sought shelter from the rain at the Green Tree restaurant with the other 50+ members of our tour group. Rumor had it that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had slept upstairs in this historic building. We found the quaint old place comforting ourselves, and grabbed seats in the tap room, next to the hearth (which, unfortunately, had no fire). After enjoying a hearty meal and friendly conversation with our table mates, we stole out into the night to hunt ghosts.

Our quirky parapsychologist guide Keeler (presumably no relation to Edith Keeler) led us through the streets of Leesburg, pointing out buildings where people had reported paranormal activity. In the pet store, for example, animals react to a specific spot in the corner, where apparently an animal-loving spirit dwells. Cats paw at the air and dogs roll over on their back as if getting their bellies scratched when they’re brought to that spot.

Keeler also explained the “scientific” theories that she and her colleagues had developed to explain paranormal activity. What we call “ghosts” are actually electromagnetic fields of two types: “sentinents” (sic) and “residuals.” The latter is nothing more than a memory; that is, a particularly strong, emotional memory that leaves behind an electromagnetic field. For example, an apparition of a woman sitting in a chair crying that is often witnessed in a local building is a residual, likely created by someone who had a very strong emotional reaction when looking at the crying woman. So if you stand on the spot that contains that residual, you might see the “memory” of what the person who left the residual saw so many years ago.

“Sentinents,” on the other hand, are apparently intelligent entities, more like what we’d traditionally consider a ghost. According to measurements of sentinent EM fields, they put off the same amount of energy (80-100 millivolts, if I recall correctly) as a typical human being. And they move in an intelligent manner, maneuvering around chairs and through doorways (instead of through walls). They’ve documented many residuals in Leesburg, but have only found seven sentinents.

At the end of the tour, Keeler brought us to the Loudoun County Courthouse, from the steps of which was read the Declaration of Independence in August of 1776. Here, we got to “touch a ghost.” A few years ago, Keeler and her cohorts detected a residual near a tree outside the courthouse. Since then, they’ve led people to the site to let them interact with the phenomenon. By extending your hand out into the singularity, you can feel a tingling, numbing sensation. I felt nothing but air and a slight breeze, and CJ only caught a faint tingle, but most of the people on the tour could feel the sensation quite distinctly. Were they too easily moved by the power of suggestion? Or was I too much of a skeptic to feel a real “ghost”? I guess the jury will remain sequestered for now....