The Ghosts of the SS Valencia

Thick and blinding, the fog rolled across the waves, foreshadowing a ghostly tale. A winter’s chill clouded the air, reminiscent of other fateful nights when ships answered the sirens call. There are those who have written and believe that supernatural forces were at work that fateful day; for the sun was shining bright when the SS Valencia pulled from port in San Francisco on Saturday morning, embarking for Seattle with her 108 passengers, nine officers, and fifty-six crew members.

A seasoned, twelve-year veteran of the company, having worked his way through the ranks from quartermaster, Captain Oscar M. Johnson maneuvered through the Graveyard of the Pacific. Aptly named for its mass of shipwrecks beneath the Pacific Ocean along the Pacific Coast. From the launch of the California Gold Rush through to the sinking of the SS Valencia, 500 ships were lost. The number is relatively small compared to the East Coast’s Graveyard of the Atlantic. That is until one remembers that the East side of the United States has had centuries longer to rack up its count that is believed to reach a thousand ships at most, several hundred at least. The exact total is not known as it is believed that many ships were lost without documentation.

On Sunday, the weather began to turn against the ship’s crew. They did their best to continue navigating the waters, following the compass and educated guesses as to their position. No one could take into account just how far the strong winds would push the ship off course, with the ship landing twenty miles north of where the captain believed they should be located. Near midnight on Monday, January 22, 1906, the ship passed the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, running aground on Vancouver Island. Trapped on Walla Walla Reef, in between the breakers and rocky cliffs, the ship was slowly ripped apart by the pounding waves.

Captain Oscar M. Johnson ordered six of the seven lifeboats lowered into the water. Six would have been enough to carry 131 of the people on board. Then panic ensued as the passengers tried to load themselves into the boats, within half an hour, all six were lifeboats became victims of the sea.
Three of the boats ran into problems immediately: one being overcrowded and two were upended while being lowered. The other three that managed to pull away, carrying around fifty people, and two capsized in the breakers. As for the third, no one knows what happened to it, though the fate likely matched that of the other boats. One crew member was rescued from the first three boats, and twelve men were able to escape the sinking boats. Fatefully, only nine made it to the shore. Two fled to a shallow cave and then to the cliffs where they fell to their deaths. One other reached a large rock near the shore, but was later swept away by the waves.

The ship began to break apart on Tuesday morning and at eight in the morning, Captain Johnson called for the last lifeboat to be launched. This one would take Boatswain Timothy J. McCarthy and five crewmen to shore, where they would fire a line to the ship to establish a rescue operation. They had three lines to make the attempt, one became tangled and another broke, the last was held in reserve.
Of the first nine survivors to reach the shore, led by Frank F. Bunker, followed a telephone line to reach help. The party had to travel threw forest and streams, finally reaching a lineman’s shack at 2:00 p.m. It took several tries to get the lines to work, and when they finally did, the call of distress rang to the Carmanah Light Station, then to Bamfield, and finally Victoria B.C. By this point, the ship had been wrecked for fifteen hours. Unfortunately, due to the heavy fog and storms that had unknowingly pushed the ship off course, the men who had reached the telegraph gave the wrong location. They believed that the ship had wrecked on the Washington Coast, when in fact, they had travelled all the way to Vancouver Island.

McCarthy’s group also hiked the trail, choosing the route to the Cape Beale Light Station, arriving around 3 p.m. The light keeper then telephoned Bamfield with the updated information. Later on the same afternoon, three men from Carmanah Point started on their own journey to aid in the rescue: government lineman David Logan, assistant station keeper Philip C. Daykin, and fur trapper Joseph D. Martin. With the thick, isolated wilderness of the location, their travels were as difficult as the rest. They reached the Klanawa River, only having to wait until daylight before being able to cross the swollen water safely.

The rescue attempts did not stop here, the ship’s owner, the Pacific Coast Steamship Company (PCSC), received word that the ship had run aground and immediately tried to send ships to the location. Once again, fate came into play and no ocean-going tugboats were available. Another passenger liner, the SS Queen, bound in the opposite direction leaving from Seattle for San Francisco, was in Victoria, B.C. to pick up passengers. Captain N.E. Cousins was ordered to immediate proceed to the wreck, leaving the passengers behind. He took with him four master mariners, and a Puget Sound pilot. They arrived off of Carmanah Point at 10:00 p.m. The steamship, SS City of Topeka, was also dispatched to the scene, this one taking medical supplies, a doctor, two nurses, seventeen extra seamen, and perhaps not surprisingly, an insurance claims adjuster. But the Topeka was unable to depart from port until 10:00 p.m. Tuesday night.

By Wednesday morning, two tugboats were able to aid in the rescue: the Czar and the Salvor. The Queen arrived in time to see the Valencia, before the murky weather closed in on the air between the two, cutting off the visual. Those still on the Valencia also saw the other ship, and believing that they were to be rescued shortly, and many refused to try and use the two life rafts on board. One raft did depart with ten men, but the women refused to take a risk in the other raft, unwilling to believe that the waters were calmer. The second raft was launched, with eighteen men on board; they remained tied to the sinking ship for fifteen minutes, while the crew continued to urge the women to board.
It was said that as the last raft pulled away, the women sang “Nearer My God to Thee.” Witnesses say that the remaining passengers could be seen huddled together on the hurricane deck and clinging to the rigging; until a final wave struck the ship, sweeping the people into the ocean. Some drown, others died on the rocky cliffs, and the rest were swept out into the deeper ocean never to be seen again. The ships tried again and again in the following hours and days to search for survivors. The first life raft that had set out with ten men on board, was found Wednesday night, eighteen miles northwest, with only four survivors. The others had either fallen overboard or died of exposure. When the time came to make the final count, only thirty-seven people were left; 136 had perished in the wreck, one of the most tragic maritime disasters in Pacific Northwest history.

There is a theory that persists in the paranormal world, wherein moments of horror can tear at the fabric of time, causing a persistent, residual loop that replays over and over again. Generally this is used to explain why visitors to battlefields like Gettysburg see whole units of soldiers charging across a field in the heat of battle; a scene that is said to take place at Iverson’s Pits. The battle was death to Iverson’s Brigade, whole lines of men fell together. Such a theory may go beyond the battlefield, to a moment of horror at sea where rescuers could only watch as people died and spend the rest of their lives remembering those fateful hours that they could not reach them.
The ghost stories surrounding the wreck began earlier, the first being officially recorded in The Seattle Times in 1910. A phantom ship, that coincidentally resembled the Valencia, was spotted on the rocks near Pachena Point by a group of mariners. Though it is said that a phantom ship could be seen at night, in the year following the wreck, headed directly on the same course as the Valencia on that night.

A local fisherman had also sighted one of the lifeboats drifting near the wreck site. They said that it was crewed by skeletons. The missing lifeboat was found in Barkley Sound in 1933, still in surprisingly good condition despite the nearly three decades of exposure to the elements of the Pacific Northwest. Part of the lifeboat can be seen on display at the Maritime Museum of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C.

Many rumors persist about the shipwreck, some say that it was doomed from the start. They include the undocumented tale that the ship’s cook predicted that tragedy would befall them. Controversy also surrounds the ships sinking and the events after, with many questioning what more could have been done to save those who died. Is the thought that they could have been saved, with help and hope so near, the reason that the ship is said to continuously reappear on the rocky cliffs throughout the century following the wreck? Others question the oddly Bermuda Triangle like feel to the last accounted for lifeboat, that was found so many years after the wreck in an unlikely condition.

The memorial service was held the following September. During which, Mrs. Agnes Lockhard Hughes, read a poem she had written for their memorial; it concluded with:

“The grave may hold the body’s shell
but heaven claims the soul.
And though we sink in life’s dark sea
in God we find our goal.”

References:

Hagerty, Andy. “SS Valencia.” NightWatch Paranormal. Accessed 3/7/16. http://www.nightwatchparanormal.com/ss-valencia.html

McClary, Daryl C. “Valencia, SS, the Wreck of (1906).” HistoryLink.org Essay 7382. Accessed 3/7/16. http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=7382

“The Sinking of the Valencia: The Tragedy and Beyond.” Bamfield Community School Association. Accessed 3/7/16. http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/pm_v2.php?id=story_line&lg=English&fl=0&ex=00000658&sl=5356&pos=1

“Valencia Disaster Nearer My God To Thee.” Encyclopedia Titanica. Discussion Forum. Accessed 3/8/16. http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/forums/other-ships-shipwrecks/25239-valencia-disaster-nearer-my-god-thee.html

A Ghost and A Mystery at Penn State

15655071-mmmainOn November 28, 1969 Betsy Aardsma, a twenty something year old Penn State student was doing research in the stacks of Pattee library when an unknown assailant came up behind her and stabbed her a single time through the left breast. As the young woman slumped over in the aisle two men exited the central region of the library, telling a desk clerk that “somebody better help that girl” as they left, they and her murderer have never been identified. Due to Aardsma wearing a bright red dress no one noticed that she was bleeding out and assumed she had a seizure, it wasn’t until she was in the hospital that any one noticed she had been stabbed but it was too late by then and she was dead before she ever made it there. The case is still open till this day

Several years later on the anniversary of the young ladies death a lit candle was found in aisle 51 surrounded by clippings about the murder along with chilling writing on the floor where her body had been found “R.I.P Betsy Ruth Aardsma, Jul 11, 1947- Nov.28, 1969 P.S. I’m Back”. The event has since repeated every few years minus the writing and has sparked legends of the haunted stacks throughout Penn State, an influx of curious students and onlookers  even prompted the library to move the stacks around and change their numbers. The Happy Valley police are sure that the candles and the clippings are a cruel prank played by kids and not some message from a deranged killer or killers.

The changing and moving of the stacks hasn’t stopped students in the vicinity from feeling as though they are being watched as they attempt to do work. Shadows have been seen walking back and forth along the row the murder occurred, young men and women who not only go to school at Penn State but work in the library have also occasionally seen a pair of red glowing eyes staring back at the as they move the books around the shelves. People who don’t even know the story of Aardsma and what went down in 1969 have been known to avoid the area where the crime happened because of the supposedly oppressive atmosphere.

It’s not just feelings or shadows being seen, on more than one occasion students, typically females, have felt unseen hands on their shoulders or backs tapping them. Young men sometimes feel slight pushes causing them to fall a bit into the books, more worrisome are the few stories of out right violent attacks in which a handful of students and stack workers have reported the feeling of being strangled by someone or something they never see or hear come up behind them. The eeriest and possibly the strangest thing about this possible haunting is how some female students ( a lot of them fitting Aardsma’s description) have ended up going to campus hospital complaining of sharp and terrible pains in the area of their back and left breast which is were the original victim was stabbed.

Less violent but equally as strange are the loud piercing screams some have heard through out the area, even though Aardsma was never heard screaming at all before or after the original attack as a scream would have drawn quicker attention to her, it is surmised that the poor woman had been laying on the floor of the library for 10-15 minutes before she was found and possibly passed away sometime in those minutes.

Rising Thunderstorms Attract A Most Unusual Cryptid

7582090102_985021b2e4_zOver this past Father’s Day weekend I had an opportunity to attend the 19th Annual Haunted America’s Conference in Alton, Illinois. I had never been to one of these events and I really had no idea what to expect. I spent a few weeks prior to the conference thinking this was going to be a bunch of weirdos staring into crystal balls or spending their time talking about astrology, magic potions, and ghost stories you probably would read about in paranormal romance books. The only speaker I was familiar with was Troy Taylor, who I know has written several books about the many hauntings in the Alton area. Since I know and respect Troy’s credibility in the paranormal and he was to be the lead presenter and organizer of this event, I went ahead and pushed forward to attend this gathering at the Atrium Hotel. Little did I know that all of my preconceived notions were dead wrong. This conference was one of the neatest and most informative I have ever experienced outside of my own paranormal investigations. And I think it even surpasses most of those because this 2-day conference revealed a glimpse of the paranormal world that spanned centuries and definitely launched new passions within me.

One of the speakers was a cryptozoologist named Ken Gerhard. Ken is a very interesting man who sports a black leather hat which looks a little like the one Billy the Exterminator wears on the A&E Channel. He has been researching the stories and personal accounts of cryptids from all over the world. His craft is one that is not fully recognized by the scientific community at large, but it is an emerging science that someday will receive the accolades it deserves. Throughout Ken’s presentation we were introduced to many different types of cryptids, some seemed rather ordinary while others looked like they were taken from the pages of a science fiction magazine. One local cryptid in particular drew my attention and fascination – the Piasa Thunderbird.

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The story of the mysterious Thunderbird has its roots in Native American legend. Many times we learn about ghost stories or headless horsemen through legends or myths which were created from an unknown and obscure past. The funny thing about myths is that they are far more than just creations of fiction. They are derived from real experiences. The Piasa Thunderbird (pronounced Pie-a-saw), a legendary cryptid, also has its foundations in mythology and, in turn, has great potential for a true existence.

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The bird was first recognized in detail by an Illinois Indian named Ouatoga, who lived thousands of years ago. It became known at that time that giant birds were carrying off large woodland animals, such as full-grown deer, and then eating them as food. As the legends goes, these monsters of nature began developing a taste for the Indian people, wiping out entire villages. The Indian people were able, to some degree, to predict the coming of the Thunderbirds because they were known to soar the drafts created by intense thunderstorms. Thus the derivation of how these birds got their name. Chief Ouatoga, “whose fame extended even beyond the Great Lakes, separated himself from his tribe, fasted in solitude for the space of a full moon, and prayed to the Great Spirit to protect his people from the Piasa.” (Alton Web) For the Indian chief, this was a spiritual warfare.

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The legend continues whereby he recruits 20 warriors and arms them with poison-tipped arrows. Ouatoga offers himself as bait for the birds and stands out in the open. Just as one of the Thunderbirds is about to swoop him up, the arrows fly, hitting their mark. The bird dies and it was from this day forward that Ouatoga’s feat was recorded as a great victory for the Indian people. In honor, they carved a petroglyph of the bird into the bluff face of a rock, which now resides along the McAdams Highway in Alton, Illinois. Over the years the current painting was restored and sits in its glory as a reminder of this incredibly large and dangerous cryptid.

This story is based in myth, however, the myth has been transformed into a definite reality through multiple claims by people in North America that the Piasa Thunderbird is indeed a very real creature. One of the first documented sightings was in April 1890 near the town of Tombstone, Arizona. It has been claimed, by the local Tombstone newspaper Epitaph, that two cowboys saw this bird flying in the desert and chased it on horseback. Once they got as close to it as the horses would allow, they jumped off and ran after the bird, as it was repeatedly landing. They got within rifle range and shot the bird dead. It is claimed that:

“[t]he enormous wingspan of the creature was said to have been 160 feet and the body was more than 92 feet long. It was smooth and featherless, more like a bat than a bird, and they cut off a piece of the wing and brought it with them into Tombstone, Arizona.” (The Unexplained Mysteries)

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My first reaction to this claim, and perhaps it is yours as well, is that there is no way a dragon of this size could have existed, let alone been shot down by rifles in the mid-1800’s. This either had to be a myth or the ramblings of two cowboys drunk off of their flasks while sitting around the campfire. The size of this prehistoric bird is a little too much to swallow, but claims of the Thunderbird’s existence continued to live on. In 1930, this Tombstone story was verified and researched further by a man named Horace Bell. He claims that a photo was found of “6 men standing, with their arms outstretched, fingertip to fingertip”, lined up in front of the bird (The Unexplained Mysteries). The actual wingspan dimensions were reduced down to 36 feet, still a monstrous cryptid.

In 1963, in a September issue of Fate Magazine, it was further claimed that the Tombstone story is true and that “the photo was published and had appeared in newspapers all over America.” Extensive research was done to try and verify the existence of this photo, however, it was never found. It would seem that even after three separate claims over the time span of nearly 75 years, the mysterious Piasa Thunderbird still remains as a legend. It wasn’t until 1977 that the validity of the mythological Thunderbird was finally verified. Or was it?

The time period between July and August 1977 saw a very sharp increase in sightings of giant birds in the state of Illinois. This Midwestern state actually has the most reported cases in history, which is unusual since the landscape and environment here is not really conducive to this type of bird. They require high cliffs and the weather would need to be more consistent with the conditions you would find in California, the home of the American Condor. Nonetheless, the most convincing case of the Piasa Thunderbird happened in what has been called the “Lawndale Incident”.

“three boys were playing hide-and-seek in the yard of a home in Lawndale, in Logan County, Illinois. [They] saw [two] birds swoop down toward [one of their friends who] leaped into a small swimming pool in the yard…. The birds then headed for Marlon [Lowe and] picked him up by the straps of his sleeveless shirt and lifted him about 2 feet off the ground…. Marlon, [who weighed 65 pounds], screamed for his mother and punched at the bird. The bird dropped him to the ground after flying 35 or 40 feet from the backyard to the frontyard.”  (Mark A. Hall, Thunderbirds)

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After this happened, Marlon’s mother Ruth called the state wildlife organization to report this attack on her son, as she was gravely concerned this could happen to another family. After telling the wildlife department about her story, they wrote the birds off as turkey vultures. No such bird could exist in nature, they told her. The news of this incident, however, spread rapidly over the radio and made the front page of the newspaper in St. Louis and Detroit. Soon there were over 30 reported sightings of strange giant birds which were discovered over the entire state of Illinois. It was almost as if mass hysteria spread throughout the towns and cities of the area. Or were there really Thunderbirds with wingspans of 12 or more feet swooping over the heads of Illinois residents? The 7 witnesses in the Lawndale Incident swear these cryptids do exist and there were at least a dozen other people willing to stand in line and back up these fantastic claims. The authorities continued to say they were turkey vultures, but is the Piasa Thunderbird still just a myth?

More sightings were reported in October 2002 in the towns of Togiak and Manokotak in the state of Alaska, one in particular from an airplane. The interesting fact about the sightings in Alaska is that they were termed as “super-eagles”. In the Illinois sightings, people were not overly familiar with the birds in their state, so they could easily misjudge wingspan or bird type. In Alaska, however, nearly everyone is familiar with eagles and other native birds of the area. They knew what they were seeing was definitely out of the ordinary and could potentially have been “the legendary Thunderbird, a giant bird known throughout history to the Eskimos and American Indians in North America.” (Mark A. Hall – Thunderbirds)

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So, based on the preceding claims that date back over a century, let us assume the Piasa Thunderbird is a living, breathing cryptid. How can this be cryptozoologically possible? There are several explanations to this question. The first is that the Thunderbird is simply a more ancient version of the condor. In every reported case, it has been verified that the birds in question have a white ring around the neck which looks strikingly similar to the American condor. The argument against this theory is that the 4,000 left in existence live only in California and have never been known to leave the state.

Another possibility comes from a prehistoric perspective which states that the Piasa Thunderbird is a descendent of the pterodactyl, more specifically what were called teratorns. The largest teratorn to date is the Argentavis magnificens, and it was native of Argentina about 6 million years ago. It had a wingspan of about 23-30 feet with strong, stout legs (good for picking up prey) and a hooked beak. All of the Thunderbirds that have been seen in North America have this hooked beak as well. Another common trait, which is where the Thunderbird gets its name, is that it is speculated Argentavis  would have been seen following raging thunderstorms around because it was easier to ride the thermal currents than to flap their wings. As mentioned earlier, the Native Americans were privy to this trait because they knew when a thunderstorm was on the horizon, the Piasa Birds weren’t too far behind.

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A third possibility, and one which may be more feasible in the chronology of dinosaurs, is what is known as Merriam’s Teratorn.  It is a predecessor of the modern day condor and has a wingspan of 11-12 feet. It was a more active predator than the condors we are familiar with today. Skeletons of this teratorn have been found primarily in the La Brea tar pits. It is believed that this bird was capable of preying on human infants and possibly adults during its existence over 10,000 years ago. These traits have given Merriam’s Teratorn the honorary distinction of being the real legendary Piasa Thunderbird.

So, after all of this information has been considered, do we know for certain that the Piasa Thunderbird is a real creature – alive in various parts of North America? As with nearly every cryptid, we do not have a skeleton, feather, baby Thunderbird or even a definitive photo to offer as absolute proof. The reported claims, in my opinion, allow for the possibility of their existence and, if one of these dinosaurs were to fly over my head – I would not be surprised. No…who the hell am I kidding? A cryptid of that immense size would terrify me more than a demonic entity causing every hair on my body to stand on end!!

Works Cited:

Hall, Mark A. “Thunderbirds: America’s Living Legends of Giant Birds”.  2004.

http://theunexplainedmysteries.com/Thunderbird.html.

http://www.altonweb.com/history/piasabird/

 

True But Weird On Highway 50

Christine Scoobish was in her early twenties, full of high hopes for herself and her three-year old boy, Nick, the pair were on their way to Carson City to start a fresh new life in June of 1994. According to her stepfather he received a phone call on June 8 from a friend she was supposed to have been meeting, it was strange because Christine and her son never showed up. The two had taken Highway 50 between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. Highway 50 is a long stretch of highway that is heavily forested,with winding roads that climb up steep hills, completely deserted in some spots. Understandably concerned he called the police and started checking hospitals, there was nothing, no sign of them. The police at this point did not see it as a missing persons, instead they advised the stepfather to wait a little longer. The family decided to put up flyers baring the photos of Christine and Nick.

On June 6th Christine’s Aunt Karen, whom she was very close to, woke up from a confusing dream of driving in a car on a dark mountainous road,  with no other lights or cars round them. Karen could see her niece and nephew in the front seat, Nick appeared asleep and Christine looked tired but alert in the dreams dashboard lights.The next night,June 7th had Karen waking up from dreams of busted glass, torn metal , and loud agonizing screams,the number 16 flashing in and out of her subconscious mind. She awoke the third night after seeing Christine and Nick,she talked to her niece in the dream asking if she was going to be okay, “No” replied the apparition in her mind. After three nights of these horrible dreams floating in her brain she knew in her heart that something very very bad had happened to her beloved niece and nephew. After convincing her husband of the same, she rented a car and began to scour the road side along Highway 50.

Debra Hoyt, a complete stranger to the Scoobish family, woke up in the early hour on June 11th frightened for no real reason and with a desperate urge to go home. Waking her husband she persuaded him to take Highway 50 back to their home in Lake Tahoe. It was the middle of the night as their car swept up around Bullion Bend when Debra let out a strangled yelp. On the side of the road on her side lay a pale naked woman, as they slowed the car down she didn’t appear to be moving or even alive. Debra could swear she recognized the woman’s features. Frantically the couple sped to the nearest gas station to call the police.

When the officers arrived, Hoyt and her husband escorted them to the scene, but there was no woman there, there was no sign that anyone had even been there. The officers humored her by flashing their heavy-duty flashlights around the area, finding nothing they told the Hoyt’s to just go home. Hoyt would later realize that the features she recognized where those of Christine Scoobish, she had seen the fliers all over town but in the dark and inside of a slow moving vehicle she didn’t put it together.

It was near after noon on June 11 when a second call was placed making the officers have to go back up to Bullion Bend, at the same time Christine’s Aunt Karen were driving back up the hill. She and her husband arrived only minutes after Deputy Strasser. Karen began looking off to the side of the road, not being able to see to far due to the lush vegetation all around them. As the Deputy was searching he spotted something that should never have been there, a tiny shoe off to the side of the road under a twisted mile marker with the number 16. Calling over to Karen he asked if she recognized the shoe. Yes she did, last time she saw it the shoe was on the foot of her three year old nephew. Through the dense foliage they uncovered broken tree limbs and debris leading to a car about forty feet down a sharp incline. Deptuy Strasser climbed down and confirmed they had indeed found the missing mother and child.

Christine Scoobish was still strapped into her seat, clothed, and deceased. Her son Nick somehow survived after five days of exposure with no food or water, but he swears he wasn’t alone. After the incident the boy began telling family how “Angels” where with him. He reported seeing a human shaped bright figure, sometimes more standing either on top of the hill or right next to the car.  At one point the little boy swore he heard his mother and saw her standing near a tree but according police reports Christine had died on impact. There was simply no way for her to have climbed the hill, taken off her clothes, lay by the road, get back dressed, then climb back and rebuckle her seat belt.

So if Christine Scoobish was dead for 5 days what or who did Debra Hoyt see on the side of the road that night in June? What did Nick Scoobish see and hear, was it his mother and the Angels, or was it the feverish dreaming of an injured possibly dying child? Could a mothers love and protectiveness for her son have enabled Christine’s spirit to reach out in order to seek help?

Grieving: When to Leave Skepticism at The Door

A question that’s been posed to me many times is, when is there an inappropriate time to implement or push skeptical values?

This is something that is easily debatable given that skepticism is a very important part of appropriately discerning what has the possibility of being paranormal and what most likely deserves rational explanation. But is there ever a time that maybe we should keep our opinions to ourselves? I believe so.

As someone who spends a good portion of her time talking to people in the paranormal community via social media, time and time again I see people coming online looking for validation that their family members, who’ve passed away, are still with them. This is pretty much the only time I will personally bow out of a debate over paranormal vs. rational explanation.

Many who view the paranormal world through skeptical eyes may disagree. Matter of fact, I know a few who would adamantly insist that this is incorrect. I myself, base my opinions on not only logic, but also compassion. I do what I need to, to bring solace to people like myself who’ve lost loved ones. While I will not feed into their speculations of material being evidence of their loved ones – I won’t argue either.

My Experiences

As many of you who have followed my research, You probably know that I’ve lost both my parents. My mother in 1990, and my father in 2001. I understand how it feels to long for some sort of sign that they’re with me. My mother I hadn’t really received messages that were overwhelmingly solid, that I would consider “paranormal” from her, aside from an experience the night she died. My dad on the other hand, has to me, been somewhat different.

Are my experiences paranormal in nature? I don’t know. But the question is, when these things occurred, did I find relief or comfort from them…. absolutely.

Here is an excerpt from a post I made about my experience, written April 20, 2012:

“At the young age of 13, I lost my mother to suicide. I was tormented by this, but her comforting spirit has managed to come through many times. Usually at times of stress, without thinking of her I suddenly get an overwhelming sense of calm and well being..and then she automatically come to mind. Through her scent, and even once…a loving touch as a “good bye”. I knew there was more to life, after death, although I didn’t understand, and was even frightened by it. I knew this was part of my life.

I also lost my father in 2001. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He grew sick very rapidly. Only a month after diagnosis, he had passed away. I took care of him that entire month. I was running on little sleep, little food, and a lot of love. On his last day of clear lucid thinking, he called me to his bedroom.

Thinking something was wrong, I rushed in. He asked me to please grab a book from his book shelf and to come lay by him. It was the National Audubon Society’s Bird watchers book. He quickly flipped through the pictures and opened the page to a beautiful yellow and black bird. With tears in this eyes he pointed and said “This is my favorite bird. When I was backpacking in the mountains, this bird was always with me. They aren’t native to the valley….but I promise you…if there IS life after death. I will let you know”.

I didn’t invest much thought into it. All I could think of was that my best friend was dying, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I watched him daily grow from the man I thought of as superman, to the equal of an infant who depended on me to love and care for him.

He died two days later.

Several days passed after his death. It was all business. I did the majority of my deepest grieving the day I knew my dad had a terminal illness. I hadn’t had time to really absorb the situation, even though I laid with his body for quite some time before I let the coroner take him away.

The funeral passed, and I was numb. I felt nothing.

On the day in question, I was going through a box of his things that were given to me and it suddenly hit me – He was GONE forever. I dropped everything in my hands and slide them over my face. I let out a deep heartfelt, sorrowful howl. I cried harder than I can ever recall doing before.

I was beside myself with grief. I couldn’t bring myself to catch my own breath. After a few moments I gathered myself and shook my head. I took a deep breath and looked out my living room window. There in my lilac tree sat this magnificent yellow bird. I put my hands over my heart, took a deep oxygenated breath, and sat still. I was in shocked yet, totally calm. A warmth washed over me that I couldn’t describe better than being freezing, and suddenly having warm water rush over you, redirecting your train of thought.

I felt nothing less than love and comfort. I thought to myself “Everything’s going to be alright.”

I have seen that bird native to the Sierra Nevadas, on numerous occasions (and other bright yellow birds). Even having a family of them living at 2 houses I’ve lived at since. NO ONE can ever convince me there isn’t life after death…..never ever…”

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Now, I can’t say with absolution that my experience was paranormal. But, what I can say about my experience is, that I was absolutely lucid. I was thinking clearly and I was not on any drugs, or mind altering medications. I have no diagnosis of mental illness that would interrupt cognitive function or cause hallucinations. And most of all, I am being 100% honest about my experience. I wouldn’t lie about something like this.

Was it paranormal? I do not know.
Did it bring me comfort? You bet it did.
Would I allow anyone to cheapen my experience with some gibberish about reality vs. fantasy?
Hell. No.

Where Does the Responsibility Lie?

When we’re on the internet, a few things happen. One, we’re asked for opinions. Two, we’re willing to give it. Three, sometimes people just want to share an experience without unsolicited advice or opinions.

Is it possible to hear another’s story without being so quick to pick it apart? When are opinions unnecessary?

In my opinion, there’s a line to be drawn between educating, debating, analyzing, and just listening. Sometimes we should be able to see a story at face value, and take it for what it is; a personal experience. No amount of analyzing or speculating will convince a grieving individual that their experience is merely a dust ball, a hallucination or fluke.

In fact, I think if we catch someone in a very fragile state, our words or actions could be detrimental. Over the internet talking to strangers, we don’t know what we’re dealing with.

Had someone taken the time to pick my experience apart in my state, I would have been crushed. Whatever happened, paranormal or not, helped me get through that box of my dad’s stuff. It helped my get my kids to school that day. It helped me to get up and cook dinner. It helped me to open a photo album and talk to my kids about my dad and how much he loved them. It helped me make it to the cemetery every time without worry that this was it – forever. It helped me get dressed every morning after I the man I loved more than anything in the world- and so on.

I think most of you can get my point here?

If I was delusional or had a lapse of sanity in my state – so what? It helped me cope with my situation. It brought me comfort. Today, 14 years later, I’ve learned to cope with my loss. I’ve been able to look at my situation and say, “ok there’s a possibility I just happened to catch these birds during their migration, or maybe its a totally different breed that is native”.

It doesn’t matter. It served it’s purpose in a way I needed

Is it possible that both these are true, but in some spiritual way, spirits able to effect nature to be present at such a time when it’s needed? I don’t know. Maybe this is meant to be a type of coping mechanism. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I do think between the drive to be honest and the mission to seek truth, sometimes makes us forget that we also have responsibility to care for one another. We need to practice empathy and compassion. Before opening your mouth, determine if what you’re about to say has more good coming from it, than harm. Weigh the odds. Use common sense.

Truth will always prevail, in it’s own time.

People will find their truth when it’s the right time, for them. And if they don’t? That’s not our problem. Getting into a debate with someone in a fragile emotional state is not the time, nor place. We shouldn’t impose our belief, (or research for that matter) on another at the price of causing damage. To me this is reprehensible.

Know when to speak up, and know when to shut up. Learn to let shit go. We don’t always have to be right. Your words are your responsibility. Therefore we are responsible for the damage they cause.

Take care of one another. 

Oriole