Forget Area 51, I’m going to Area 52!

Peter Fitzgerald [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Peter Fitzgerald [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I’m taking a mini-vacation next week with my two sisters and their families. We are packing up 7 adults and 7 kids and heading for the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Reserve in southern Colorado. It’s a fascinating geological oddity. Who would have thought that the tallest sand dunes in North America are in landlocked Colorado?

The area used to be covered by an ancient lake, when the lake dried up the silt and sand were left behind. The majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains create a wall causing the winds to drop their tiny sand particles to the tune of 750 feet tall dunes. Spanning more than 30 square miles it has been referred to as the world’s largest sandbox. My kids are excited at the prospect of massive sand castles and “sledding” on sand. I’m excited for an entirely different reason.

The Dunes are located in the San Luis Valley, known in some circles as Area 52 because of the numerous UFO sightings and hundreds of reports of livestock mutilations. For a small fee you can head to the UFO Watchtower platform where you can get a 360° view of the night sky but many of the hundreds of  reported sightings have come from all over the valley. Not sure if we will make it over to the Watchtower but we will be watching the skies.

Night watching is something my family has always done when camping. Without the light pollution of the city the sky is alive with light, some of them behaving in unnatural ways. However, the most dramatic UFO sighting I ever had was in the late afternoon in a busy suburb of Denver.

I was driving on the south side of a large golf course and country club with my young daughter in the back seat, I think she was about 10 years old or so. I noticed out of the corner of my eye what at first my brain decoded as the full moon hovering just above the greens. It quickly dawned on me that the moon wouldn’t be visible at that angle at this time of day. As I looked over to get a better look at it, it dropped straight down and disappeared into the ground. I thought maybe I was seeing things but when my daughter asked if I had seen “that”, I knew we had witnessed something very strange.

The San Luis Valley has reports of vortexes, ghosts, and cryptid sightings in addition to UFOs. I’m always hoping to witness weird and strange things so I’m really looking forward to hanging out in this paranormal hot spot. I’ll let you know how it went when I get back. Until then, Never Turn Off the Lights, on second thought it doesn’t really matter. UFOs usually provide their own.

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Real Estate Transactions can be Pretty Spooky

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I was chatting with a friend of mine who is a Realtor here in Colorado and she said that it’s a very crazy time. The market is tight and most homes are selling for quite a bit above the asking price after grueling bidding wars. I’ve moved three times in the last 24 years and I think that’s plenty. Real Estate purchases are financially and emotionally scary for me.

Think about it. A house is likely the biggest purchase you will ever make yet you don’t get to “test drive” it. You make your purchase based on a few hours (or less) of observation. You will not likely meet the neighbors until you move in and if you bought in the summer you will not know that the driveway tends to ice over from October to May. Worse yet, there are certain things that a seller does not have to tell you about a property that might be as important as the leaking downspout to some buyers. Such as the specter that clomps up and down the main hallway every night at 3:35 am, or the moaning sounds that have been heard in the attic.

You might have seen recent reports about a lady in St. Louis who discovered she was renting a home that once belonged to serial killer, Maury Troy Travis. She had no idea about it until someone she knew saw a documentary about the killer and recognized the house. Police found video tapes in the basement of him and his victims. Adding to the grossly disturbing find, the dining room table that the landlord (Travis’ mother) gave her was clearly visible in crime scene photos. Luckily, it was ruled that she could break the lease.

Amityville House by Seulatr - Transferred

Amityville House by Seulatr – Transferred

There have been other creepy properties that have been for sale over the last couple of  years. The Amityville Horror house, the Lizzie Borden ax murder house, and the Jonbenet Ramsey house, just for starters. I’m not sure if any of these properties sold but the current data shows that they have a pretty good chance.

A Realtor.com survey said that 62% of Americans would consider buying a haunted house. I suppose for me it would be a matter of circumstances. I wouldn’t mind a story of a ghostly apparition from time to time but I think if I knew a serial killer had lived there or a terrible murder had occurred, I would keep shopping. For me, there is something about that kind of dark event that would bother me.

Perhaps you are not troubled by such things. Maybe you are even purposefully looking for a haunted and/or creepy place, there are some niche Realtors who specialize in stigmatized properties to serve you. A stigmatized property can be a place where a murder, suicide, tragedy, or hauntings are reported. Some of these niche Realtors offer house spiritual cleansings and other paranormal services for buyers and sellers, ghostbusters with a closing contract!

However, remember, a seller doesn’t always have to tell you if a property is stigmatized. So, if you prefer a paranormal free place from the get-go, you could look at a police crime map of the area or contact a service provider like Died In House. For a fee they will run a search and report back any deaths reported in the residence. That is no guarantee that the house is spirit free, however. There is a theory that land can be afflicted and thus any building on it will be too, ever seen Poltergeist? An other theory is that individual people can be haunted. If that’s your problem, well, good luck because where ever you go, there you are.

There is something equally disturbing. That’s finding out the house you thought was haunted, isn’t. There was a woman in Washington state that noticed some strange stuff going on in her house. The back gate would not stay closed even after she made sure she latched it, odd smells were filling the rooms of her home, and the home had become cold even though she heard the furnace running. She had a repair man come out and he discovered that her furnace was fine but the duct work under the house had been severed. He found evidence that someone had been living under her house and damaged the duct work to stay warm. It’s just like my grandpa always used to say: it’s not the dead you have to be afraid of, it’s the living.

So on that cheery note, Never Turn Off the Lights because you never know what stories the walls would tell if they could talk. If you do hear them talking, it might just be a creepy squatter living rent-free in some dark corner of your house.

The 4th of July, Angels, and Other Weird Stuff You Should Know

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America’s birthday is upon us once again. To most folks it means bar-b-cues and fireworks. Some of those folks might recall that way back when someone dumped some tea in a harbor and George Washington kicked the British out after a long cold winter at Valley Forge. Oh yeah, and a guy named Paul Revere rode a horse warning that the British were coming so George could kick them out. Clearly, there is quite a bit more to it than that and the American revolution really is a very compelling story. As with any major event in world history, there are many myths surrounding this period. Some of them with a supernatural twist.

Considered by many to be the “Father of our Country,” from the cherry tree story to the composition of his dentures, George Washington boasts numerous myths and legends, second only to Benjamin Franklin. One such story comes out of the harsh and deadly winter at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War. Washington and the Continental Army wintered there in 1777-1778 under brutal conditions. 10,000 men began the winter and only 7,500 remained to see the spring thaw thanks to freezing temperatures, food shortages, and disease.

As the unverifiable (according to Snopes, likely fabricated) story goes, Washington was sitting at a table in his tent writing a communique when a beautiful otherworldly woman appeared to him. Referring to him as “Son of the Republic” she showed him a vision of the “birth, progress, and destiny of the United States”. Seeing that the Union would prevail and prosper gave him the renewed strength to endure the current and coming challenges.

You can’t think about the Revolutionary War without thinking about the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration is not just the famous “we hold these truths to be self evident” part but basically an indictment of the King. Signing the document would be an act of treason and these men’s property and very lives were at stake. There were tense moments of debate when the adoption of the document almost stalled.

There is a legend that says it was during one of these pivotal moments when an unknown person stood and gave a deeply rousing speech. When he finished the group erupted and even the most hesitant signed the document. When they turned to congratulate the man on his words, he had vanished. Was he a very humble patriot, an angel, a time traveler, or something else? Here’s an excerpt from his oration:

“Sign that parchment! Sign, if the next moment the gibbet’s rope is about your neck! Sign, if the next minute this hall rings with the clash of falling axes! Sign, by all your hopes in life or death, as men, as husbands, as fathers, brothers, sign your names to the parchment, or be accursed forever! Sign, and not only for your selves, but for all ages, for that parchment will be the textbook of freedom, the bible of the rights of man forever.’’

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There is one strange coincidence that is verifiable, three of the first five Presidents passed away on July 4.  Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died in 1826 and James Monroe died on that day in 1831.

The birth of America is a truly fascinating and dramatic period. Personally, I like to learn about history from perspectives other than the commonly accepted “text book” versions. Kenneth C. Davis wrote a really great read, Don’t Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know about American History but Never Learned. Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is another.

New perspectives on commonly known events provide deeper understanding about history and the people who lived it, and even those who keep re-living it. After all, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, is said to be haunted by none other than Benjamin Franklin.

Independence Hall, Philadelphia. Photo by: Rdsmith4, Wikimedia Commons

Independence Hall, Philadelphia. Photo by: Rdsmith4, Wikimedia Commons

Happy Independence Day!