Things aren’t always as they seem.
Hazel Ridge Cemetery can’t be seen from the highway. A pock-marked gravel road veers from a nameless blacktop in Chariton County, Mo., and cuts through a small swath of trees toward a graveyard that is home to Pettis Perkinson, a pre-Civil War farmer whose slave B.K. Bruce would later become the first black Treasurer of the United States.
It’s all but forgotten.
Ghost hunter Ryan Straub visits the cemetery often. The cemetery never gets tiresome to Ryan because it’s never the same.
“The environment seems to change,” Ryan said. “I’ve been to that place 500 times and every time it’s different. The whole environment changes. The trees move. The tombstones move. I know it sounds weird, but … I’ve got every section mapped out and they’re not the way they were.”
Ryan’s investigated ghosts since a car wreck at 16.
“I started seeing things,” he said. “Spirits.”
A friend of Ryan’s, Mike Haurcade, has also experienced the Hazel Ridge topography-changing phenomena.
“I still don’t really know how to explain it,” he said. “We both drew maps from memory, Ryan and I, and they both matched. When we got to the cemetery that night, some of the tombstones didn’t match the ones we’d mapped. Some of the trees were in different places than other times, and some of the larger tombstones were in different spots. So, unless both of our memories are faulty, something changed.”
Could be. Fellow ghost hunter Kurt Ostrom has seen it.
“I saw a couple of gravestones shift last time,” Kurt said, standing amidst stones that ranged from the early 1800s to 1987. Kurt said the stones didn’t just wiggle. During one visit to Hazel Ridge, a fellow ghost hunter was leaning on a stone that simply wasn’t there anymore, almost dumping him onto the ground.
Dr. Dave Oester, of the International Ghost Hunters Society, has seen this phenomenon before.
“What you describe is what we call a dimensional shift,” Dave said. “It is where a parallel dimension overlaps into our dimension transferring the other dimension into our physical dimension. This is why the gravestones shift locations ... This deals with parallel worlds.”
Ryan may have even seen the gateway to those worlds.
“I’ve come down here before and I’ve seen a mirage,” Ryan said. “I’ve had a couple of people think there’s a vortex, but I wasn’t going to walk into it or something stupid like that.”
Ryan, Mike, and Kurt have all seen things in Hazel Ridge Cemetery they couldn’t explain.
“The first time (I stayed the night) I had a pup tent spread out,” Ryan said. “I turned around to get a hammer and when I turned back the tent was folded up and in the box.”
Lights, noises, and other paranormal phenomenon throughout the world have commonly been explained away as tricks of light and shadow, atmospheric disturbances and gasses escaping from the ground. Ryan and Mike explore these avenues before pinning the supernatural tag on an experience.
“We both look at physics,” Ryan said. “We try to recreate a piece of evidence over and over until we prove it or disprove it. (But) I don’t think gasses can put a tent back in a box.”
Copyright 2006 by Jason Offutt
Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt c/o The Examiner, 410 S. Liberty, Independence, Mo. 64050, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, address and telephone number. Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”
Jason Offutt is a syndicated columnist, author and fan of all things Fortean. His book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri,” will soon be available at www.jasonoffutt.com and all major bookstores.