I (Might Have) Caught A Ghost On Camera

This past weekend, my wife and I vacationed in Colorado. We stayed in Denver for a night, then headed up to Estes Park by way of the Trail Ridge Road through the Rocky Mountain National Park. For those of you that have been to Estes Park, you know that the main attraction there is the historic Stanley Hotel, built in 1909 by F.O. Stanley of Stanley Steamer fame and the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining after he stayed in one the hotel’s many notoriously haunted hotspots.

On Sunday night, we participated in a five-hour paranormal investigation (not the be confused with the many ghost tours given throughout the evening) through a few of these hotspots. Just as a brief aside, our tour guide was professional paranormal investigator Karl Pfeiffer, one of the resident paranormal guides at the Stanley Hotel. He won Ghost Hunters Academy Season 1 and went on to briefly work with Ghost Hunters International investigating the Halls of Justice in Nottingham, England. Karl’s the real deal when it comes to ghost hunting and has an indescribable passion, interest, and knowledge of the paranormal.

Room 1302

The first spot we visited was room 1302 in the Stanley Hotel’s lodge. (For those of you that watch Ghost Hunters and specifically watched the Stanley Hotel episode, it was the room where the table and chair jumped.) It’s supposedly haunted by Lord Dunraven, the man who sold the land the hotel would later sit on to F.O. Stanley. After nearly an hour in there, the only really convincing thing in that room was one knock on the ceiling (despite there being no room above it) and several instances of a Maglite going on and off in no intelligible fashion.

The Tunnels

Our second hour-long spot of the night were the tunnels below the Stanley Hotel. The tunnels contain loads of unshielded wire, the McGregor ballroom is directly upstairs, machines kick on and off every so often, and the employee break room is merely yards away. So, needless to say, pretty much any evidence of noises, voices, and high EMF readings here are easily debunked. The only thing that was interesting was our ghost box session. There are really only two stations that pick up well in Estes Park, so there isn’t much in the way of actual stations to pick up on the ghost box itself. However, when Karl was counting down to ask any spirits to use the device, he was clearly met with a assertive “two” just before he did in the count. Ghost? Maybe. Weird? Definitely. I’ll reach out and see if Karl could shoot that raw audio file for me to post here, if possible.

Lucy’s Room

The next spot of the night was the concert hall where several spirits are said to frequent. We visited two spots there, one for about an hour and a half and and one just briefly before ending our investigation. The first location in the concert hall was dubbed Lucy’s room, named for a girl who was supposedly kicked out of her makeshift home in an abandoned building on the property and froze to death during the cold Estes Park winter and frequently revisits the hotel nowadays. This, my friends, is where things started to get a bit weird. After about an hour of of nothing, my wife experienced the feeling of someone running fingers through her hair, then a feeling of chills, pressure on her chest, and just a general anxious feeling. A few other women in the room and another gentleman felt this as well. I, being probably the biggest skeptic of the bunch, laughed their experience off. However, just minutes later, I also felt chills run down my shoulders and arms, a pressure on my chest, and a feeling as if I couldn’t really move or catch my breathe for about 20 seconds. It was by far one of the weirdest experiences I’ve ever had. I couldn’t explain what it was even if I tried.

The Concert Hall

With Lucy’s room being in the lower basement level of the building, we then briefly headed up the main stairs to the actual concert hall at just before 1AM. For the most part, this area didn’t give much in the way of evidence to the group. However, standing at the other end of the hall near the stage, I personally thought that I kept hearing keys jingling down the main staircase. It turns out that one of the other spirits purported to haunt the concert hall is named Paul, a maintenance man who died while shoveling snow and often appears near that same staircase after 11PM when he seems to get irritated by the fact that people are still in the building. Definitely weird and not really anyone else seemed to hear it. However, by and large, the most interesting event of the night for me personally was when we were all standing in front of the stage. Off stage-left, there is a back staircase leading down to the area we were at earlier in the evening. Myself and several others heard a quick bang, like someone knocking hard on wall, down towards the bottom of the staircase. I then started snapping a few photos. On my very first attempt, I captured an extremely weird mist, pictured to the right. Now, I know you’re probably saying “It’s your fingertip!” but I made it a point to not have my finger anywhere near where it could obstruct the lens by holding my camera like this. So…no, it wasn’t my finger. You then may be saying “Well, it was a reflection!” I thought that too, so I stood there and took about 5 more photos from several of the same and different angles, none capturing a phenomenon such as that. Also, as most of you know, I dabble in photography a bit and I can assure you it was no reflection or lens flare like anything I’ve ever seen. It was most definitely a great finish to a great night of ghost hunting.

The Verdict

Weird and unexplainable occurrences throughout the night? Definitely. Paranormal experiences? The jury is still out for me. In all, it was a great experience and I’d love to do something similar in other places (and probably even there) again. All in all, it was a unique and amazing experience.

If you’re ever swinging through Estes Park, splurge for the investigation (not just the tour) and report back what you see. The Stanley Paranormal Investigation Team has recently set up a Facebook Page and are on Twitter at @StanleyParaTeam. Check them out.

These are a few shots of our 2 year old Lab/Catahoula mix, Sadie.

This photo was taken when me and my wife visited her hometown of St. Louis, MO last year.

Cross over the river and rest under the shade…

As I’ve posted here before, I’ve recently delved into researching mine and my wife’s ancestry. I’ve collected some various genealogical resources from family members far and wide thus far.  However, one piece of information stood out from the others and I’m here to tell that story I found buried deep in an otherwise mundane deed history.

According to the records, in January 1907, George R. Collins sold off a portion of land in Caroline County. This land contained mostly farmland and a few remaining structures from a long-decrepit plantation home dubbed “old Fairfield”. The individuals Mr. Collins sold that land to were a J.W. (James Wesley, my great-great-grandfather) and E.G (Edgar Gordon, my great-great-grand uncle) King. Later in the document, it mentions their respective wives, Abbie W. (or Abigail Wilmina Meece, my great-great-grandmother) and Harriet N. (her maiden name was Nichols), thus further confirming that these were my relations.

In February 1909, the men sold a 40-acre portion of the original 152-acre plot. Edgar and his wife soon thereafter relinquished their interest in the remaining 112 acres of land to James. In August 1909, James sold off a 5-acre tract of land containing the house and accompanying structures to William H. White of Richmond, followed by a majority of the rest of the land two years later. Mr. White then acquired a 7.16-acre plot adjoining the land and then his heirs sold all 12.16 acres off to the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad by May 1921. A decade and a half later, on New Year’s Day 1936, the railroad then freely deeded 9.29 acres of that land to the United States.

“What? The United States?” you ask. Yes…the United States or, more specifically, the National Park Service. Why? Well, what I neglected to mention is the description given of the 5 acres of land my great-great-grandfather sold to Mr. White in 1909, which would easily explain this series of transactions.  The full entry was as follows:

Deed Book 76, p. 43:

          August 2, 1909, J. W. King and wife, Abbie W., and E. G. King and wife, Harriet N., to William H. White of Richmond, 5 acres for $2,000.00: “…that certain piece or parcel of land located in Port Royal Magisterial District, Caroline County, Va. lying North East of Guinea’s Depot and East of the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad, and containing five acres, with all buildings thereon and appendages and appurtenances thereto belonging, and upon which is located the house in which General Thomas J. Jackson, a Lieutenant General in the armies of the Confederate States of America, died…”

That’s right. My great-great-grandfather once briefly owned what used to be the plantation office where General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson died. Today, it’s called the Stonewall Jackson Shrine and is where Jackson perished from pneumonia while recovering from an injury inflicted at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Adding to the history, James’ son and my great-grandfather, Howard Clayton, had an even more direct claim to fame in that he was born on May 30, 1908 in…you guessed it…that same old plantation office.

I snapped this photo during one of the first visits I took with my wife to visit her family in Savannah, GA. Specifically, this photo was taken at the Colonial Park Cemetery, located on the corners of Oglethorpe and Abercorn streets, on the other side of the wall the park shares with Savannah-Chatham PD.

How raising the minimum wage could backfire

One of the main points of President Obama’s recent State of the Union address was raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 an hour. While raising the minimum wage is a noble gesture, allowing workers earning these wages to afford more and therefore live better, it ends up having unintended and disastrous consequences for all involved: workers, businesses, government and consumers.

To start, this action would first and foremost hurt businesses. Should a business maintain their current workforce, raising the minimum wage by 20% will increase labor costs for businesses by that same percentage. If that alone reason enough to not move forward with the plan, businesses are then going to start implementing cost-cutting measures. The first of those measures is that businesses are not going to maintain their current workforce, which leads me to my next point.

To cut costs, businesses will not keep low-productivity employees. Before a raise in minimum wage, the labor costs may have been just low enough that a businesses could keep these types of employees on staff. However, after a raise in minimum wage, businesses will start to keep only high-productivity workers and be more apt to letting more lower-productivity workers go or not even hire them to begin with. This, inevitably, leads to higher unemployment and, in some cases, lost tax revenue.

Simply, business is about making a profit. Businesses will attempt to keep a profit margin similar to what they have now. That means an increase in minimum wage will be paid for on the shoulders of people like you and me: the end consumer. Costs will be passed down to consumer level to maintain a stable profit margin and prices will rise across the board for goods and services, all because the government is mandating a higher wage.

Slowly but surely, a consistent raising of the minimum wage makes it minimum in name only. While setting a minimum wage is by all means a necessary regulation to provide a stable low-end baseline for the economic vitality of America, the free market should ultimately be allowed to decide what wages a worker’s productivity merits. Taking any other course of action leads to higher unemployment for lower-income Americans, a higher cost of doing business for the private sector, possible lost tax revenue for the government, and a higher cost of living for all Americans. All bad things.

In conclusion, while I agree with the sentiment of getting America’s economy back on track, I simply disagree with how to go about doing that. Though many may try, you just can’t regulate America back to prosperity.

I snapped this HDR photo about a year or two ago right after purchasing my new camera.

For those of you not familiar with HDR, it stands for High Dynamic Range and is the process of combining three or more exposures of the same image. The idea behind high dynamic range photography is to highlight the best exposure for different parts of the same photograph.That’s what I did here. One photo high-exposure image to capture the clouds, one mid-exposure image to capture the correct outline of the moon and one-low-exposure image to capture the subtle details within the moon.

I hope to try out this method some more come this summer. We’ll see how it turns out during the daytime.

How Virginia’s Richmond got its name

Oddly enough…first, I’ll start with Richmond, California as it bears a strong connection to the RVA we know and love today…

It’s pictured above and was named in 1854 by Edmund Randolph; after his home city of…

Richmond, Virginia, which was named in 1737 by William Byrd because of the curvature of the river and views from soft rolling hills abounding (especially the view in the second photo above looking downriver from Libby Hill) reminded him of the location of the London borough of…

Richmond-upon-Thames, Surrey, England, which derived it’s name from the Richmond Palace in 1501 by Henry VII, after the town of…

Richmond, Yorkshire, England, of which he was Earl, which was named in 1071 by Alan Rufus, after the village of…

Richemont, Normandy, France, which was named once upon a time long long ago by someone that history has now long since forgotten.

You’re special! Just like 20 million other people.

Early yesterday morning, my wife received an email about being in the top 10% of profiles viewed on LinkedIn in 2012, and included a link to a site with an announcement jointly heralding the news that LinkedIn had recently reached the 200 million user mark and asking “the 10%” to share their accomplishment on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

With celebrities not gouging up all the bandwidth on LinkedIn as they do on Facebook and Twitter, these statistics could very well be right on the money. However, I’m speculative, seeing as upon further inspection, my wife’s profile only had 44 views in the last 90 days, a majority of which were in 2012, compared to my 200+ views in the same time span. I’ve also heard from friends who received similar emails and doubted they hit such a mark.

So I hit the Google. Upon researching it, a slew of people have also received notifications commenting on them being in the top 1% or 5% of profiles viewed in 2012. Others have angrily posted about not getting any such emails. This post is neither. BUT, as someone who specializes in social media, I’d love to see the raw numbers behind these things to verify.

On the business side, it’s a cross-marketing gimmick to get LinkedIn shared more across all types of social media. On the user side, it’s simply a feel-good measure. Either way, it seems to be working…as my wife has been mocking me all day about how much more special she is than me.

Thanks a lot, LinkedIn.

Woodford

Ladies and Gentleman, meet our third dog. The runt of his litter, he’s a purebred Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and arrives March 2. Curious about the name? He’s named after my choice Bourbon. He was surrendered, along with his whole new litter and parents, from his previous owner in Louisiana. We foster sweet, sweet dogs constantly and this will be the second one we’ve rescued. More pictures to come once we get him here next month.

If you’re contemplating getting a new pup, I most definitely suggest you look at adopting. If you don’t know where to start, the group we work with is Bonnie Blue Rescue.