Saturday, October 31, 2009

Paranormal Investigator is Looking for Stories on Ghosts that Get Personal

Have you ever heard your name spoken in an empty house? Or a loved one calling to you from another room, only to find no one is in that room – at least no one you can see?

Ryan Straub wants to talk with you.

Straub, founder of the Missouri paranormal group Tir Firnath (which means, “to observe the dead” in Tolkien elvish.), is researching these talking spirits for an upcoming book – and he’s no stranger to spirits that take notice of the living. When a car accident injured a then 16-year-old Straub, it awoke something in him that had, until that point, lain dormant.

“I was hurt really bad,” Straub, now 25, said. “Then I started seeing things, even that night. Spirits.”

As he saw more and more people – dead people – no one around him could see, he set out to find out what he was experiencing.

“That’s what’s sparked my interested in the paranormal,” he said. “I’ve dedicated my life to it. Since then I’ve been indulging myself in research.”

Straub’s group has investigated spots in Idaho, Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma, and specializes in hauntings. Straub hopes the research for his book will help others who have experienced these talking spirits.

Straub is looking for the following encounters:

- Calls by name: the spirit or ghost calls out the name of the intended victim.

- Calls for help or assistance: the spirit or ghost claims to need some kind of aid.

- Lured by unnatural sensory phenomenon: the ghost or spirit tries to draw victims to them through unnatural means in unlikely places; for example, appearing as a beautiful woman, making noise that attracts people, like playing, screaming or screeching, or smells like cooking or perfume.

- Mimics, impersonates or recreates: the ghost or spirit mimics your voice, impersonates loved ones, recreates conversations, or appears as you or someone you know.

- Calls by control: hypnosis or possession.

- Lures by irrational response: the ghost or spirit causes fear, anger, or an anxiety to make you want to lash out.

Had any of these encounters? Contact Ryan Straub at: or comment on his blog,; he wants to hear your story.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Night of the Harlequin

The thing in five-year-old Dan Mitchell’s bedroom in southeastern Wisconsin only came at night. As Mitchell lie in bed, his parents far down the hall, a thin, androgynous creature would appear and tell him stories.

It looked almost frightened.

“I would tell my mom about this and she always thought it was just my imagination getting the best of me,” Mitchell, now 33, said.

But he knew it was real, and it looked “like a harlequin.”

“Its clothes were absolutely motley and strange,” Mitchell said. “Its face looked like it was in a perpetual state of shock.”

Large, wide-open eyes – too large to be human eyes – stared at Mitchell through the gray of night as words spilled through its always open, round mouth.

“This being referred to itself as the ‘tooth fairy’ when I had asked,” Mitchell said. “For whatever reason I was never afraid of it, and I can not remember anything it may have told me.”

It did, however, appear to try and comfort the boy if he began to look afraid.

“It always attempted to be funny and almost clown-like so that I wouldn’t shudder in terror,” Mitchell said. “Was this some sort of imaginary friend I had created? I wasn’t that kind of kid.”

Mitchell’s family never saw this “Harlequin,” nor did they believe him.

“I know this sounds crazy, but I assure you that I remember this high strangeness almost as well as I remember the normal events of my childhood,” he said.

Like one night in the spring of 1981 when the Mitchell family sat down for dinner.

“I remember that my dad was very agitated,” Mitchell said. “He kept saying that he was hearing somebody walking around upstairs. I was terrified by this because my Dad was so agitated and I had never seen him scared like that. He was a very tough guy.”

Then Mitchell’s father shot up from the dinner table, terror splashed across his face.

“Immediately there was a voice that he heard coming from upstairs,” Mitchell said. “While I want to say that it sounded like a sinister and terrifying laugh, I believe it was just a howl of some sort that caused a tingling feeling up my spine.”

The next thing Mitchell remembered was his father laughing, the look of terror still gripping him.

“He was frozen with this awful look on his face,” he said. “Everybody at the table was just frozen. The next thing I remember is waking up at the dinner table with spilled milk all over myself and the table.”

His family simply resumed eating dinner, the laugh seemingly forgotten.

“This situation was so traumatic to my young mind that I honestly believe that I have blotted a large portion of this event out,” Mitchell said. “I have always thought that whatever was visiting me in my room at night was this ‘person’ walking around in the upstairs of our house, possibly looking for me or wondering where I had went.”

Mitchell recently mentioned the dinner event to his father.

“My dad turned white like he thought it was a bad dream he had,” he said. “He really was adamant about not talking about the subject any further when I kept pursuing it.”

As Mitchell grew older, the Harlequin’s nighttime visits stopped – until he was 18.

“I ran into this same being many years later,” he said. “I was driving with a few friends late at night on our way home from a party.”

The young men saw a teenage girl walking in the street in front of the car, her movements strange and jerky.

“We thought that maybe she was drunk,” Mitchell said. “Someone in the car thought it was a friend of theirs so we were going to pick her up and give her a ride home.”

As they pulled closer, the girl began to walk toward the car. As she closed to near 30 feet, Mitchell realized the person was wearing “a really bad wig.”

“My first impression was that it was a man dressed like a woman,” he said. “She looked incredibly angry and was making even jerkier movements that were almost threatening.”

One of Mitchell’s buddies whispered in fear.

“Oh, my God,” the boy said. “Look at her eyes.”

They were the eyes of the Harlequin.

Somebody in the car said, “floor it,” and Mitchell did.

“There was panic in that car,” he said. “I can tell you that every guy I dropped off that night made a mad dash to their front doors. I, unfortunately, had to drive back that way, but luckily didn’t see her again.”

He’s convinced the thing he and his friends saw that night was the Harlequin.

“I got a pretty good look at her and I can tell you that it was obvious that she was trying to disguise herself,” he said. “It was the same face of perpetual shock, but this time it terrified me completely. I had the feeling that she was yelling at me for some reason. My honest impression that night was that this person was dead or simply not human.”

Mitchell hasn’t seen this entity since that night in 1994, but he has started hearing terrifying screams in the night from a small patch of woods near his apartment building.

The Harlequin may not be finished with him.

Copyright 2009 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, P.O. Box 501, Maryville, Mo., 64468, or Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”

Jason’s books on the paranormal, “Darkness Walks: The Shadow People Among Us,” and “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” at Jason’s blog,

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Hat Man in Brazil

The young man lived in a rental house a few doors from the home where H.W.* grew up in southern Brazil. A few years later, the young man moved out, a husband and wife moved in.

Although these people didn’t, and don’t, know one another, they had something in common – they knew something dark often walked the halls of that house.

“The male was a young lawyer starting out, while the female was an architect/homemaker,” H.W. said. “They both knocked on my mother’s door a bit distraught.”

There were years between the knocks – one in the mid-1990s, the other in early 2000, but the people behind the knocks told the same story.

“They described how a dark shadow wearing a fedora hat would frequently walk by them and disappear through the walls,” H.W. said. “Both residents described the black Shadow figure as being in the shape of an old man.”

This Shadow figure, a paranormal entity called the Hat Man, is usually an ominous figure. People often report feeling the entity is somehow feeding from their fear. However, H.W. doesn’t think this Hat Man was threatening.

“As far as I know, the Hat Man wasn’t a menace to them,” H.W. said. “He would just walk by and go right through the walls, in a silent manner, without ever acknowledging their presence.”

The witnesses came to H.W.’s mother’s door, he feels, because she was the oldest person living on the street. As such, she knew the person who built the house. The man, who died in the late 1950s, often wore a fedora, although that style was common in Brazil at the time.

“It was customary for Brazilians to wear those hats up to mid-’60s, as their style was highly influenced by Hollywood,” H.W. said. “My late father used to wear those hats as any young professional.”

These shadowy, fedora-wearing figures have been reported worldwide, from North America to Europe, South Africa and Australia. Although Hollywood’s images are far-reaching, the presence of this entity on multiple continents has H.W. curious.

“It’s an intriguing story indeed, especially since other sightings of the same type (are) happening all over the world,” H.W. said. “I wouldn’t be sharing this story if it wasn’t because of the fedora hat detail, which immediately called my attention. Why the hat?”

Although H.W.’s mother is now deceased, his family still owns their home and when he visits, he walks past the old house where the Hat Man wanders the halls. The building is now a day care center.

“It’s full of little kids who spend most of the day in there,” H.W. said. “I sometimes feel the urge to ask the teachers or caretakers, without specifics, if they ever see anything unusual in that place. But I feel reluctant, considering the nature of their business and potential legal implications for unproven rumors.”

The last report H.W. heard from that house was from the couple in 2000, but remembers all the witnesses to be sincere.

“My family believed both witnesses for describing the same exactly scenario years apart from each other, also because both had stable backgrounds,” H.W. said. “What are the odds that two different tenants would describe, many years apart, the same peculiar event, without ever knowing each other?”

*Name withheld by request.

Copyright 2009 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, P.O. Box 501, Maryville, Mo., 64468, or Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”

Jason’s books on the paranormal, “Darkness Walks: The Shadow People Among Us,” and “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” at Jason’s blog,

Monday, October 05, 2009

They Had Black Eyes

The children looked out of place in the night. Craig Besand walked down the street toward his flat in Norwich, England, when two figures approached him.

“They appeared to be young boys,” Besand said. “One was about 13 years old, the other one was about nine.”

At the time Besand, a Missourian, was studying abroad at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

“I(’d been) at a friend’s house having a few drinks until the late hours,” he said. “My friend asked me if I was all right to walk back to my flat and if I wanted I could crash on his couch. I told him I would be all right, I just wanted to get home and go to bed. It was after 1 in the morning.”

Between Besand’s flat and his friend’s flat was a cemetery – that’s where he saw the children.

“My friend lives up the street from a very old cemetery on Dereham Road,” Besand said. “I walk past this cemetery every time I go to his house.”

He’d made it a few blocks when he saw two figures approach him.

“They were both wearing hoodies, sneakers; typical kid stuff,” Besand said. “The older one said that they were trying to find the graveyard and that they were lost.”

Then the boy asked Besand, “could you please take us there?”

The age of the children and the late night struck Besand as strange.

“I figured it was odd that young kids were hanging out in graveyards at this time of night,” he said. “But kids are into whatever so I agreed to take them there. They asked me very politely and the cemetery was on my way home anyway.”

As Besand escorted the boys toward the cemetery, he looked at them closer. The oldest boy’s hair was jet black, “his skin was porcelain white and veiny.” Then Besand saw the eyes.

“They both had eyes that were as dark as coal, no sign of white,” Besand said. “The eyes were the most distinct features, it was like they had no souls or nothing inside of them.”

He asked these Black-Eyed Children where they lived. They named a nearby street.

“I thought that was strange because this cemetery is huge and almost everyone in town knows where it is,” he said.

When they reached the cemetery gates the older one asked Besand to come in with them.

“I told them no, I was going home,” he said. “He asked me again to go in with them. I still told him no.”

The younger Black-Eyed Child, Besand noticed, appeared nervous.

“(He had) this look of anxiety about him,” Besand said. “Then the older one stopped asking me. He started to make a demand for me to go into the graveyard with them.”

Then the older child’s demeanor changed.

“The frustration on this kid’s face was trying to be hidden behind one of the most evil grins that I ever saw,” Besand said. “My heart was pounding in my throat at this time as the older one said, ‘we wouldn’t harm you,’ with that grin on his face.”

The grin, Besand found, was hypnotic.

“Oddly enough, I was becoming more drawn to him and I was thinking that I should go in with them,” he said. “Then the silent younger kid said something that scared the hell out of me.”

The younger one said, “We shouldn’t be doing this.”

“Immediately after he spoke I snapped out of my trance,” Besand said. “My flight-or-fight instinct kicked in and I ran as fast as I could. I looked back to see if they were running after me, but they had vanished. I ran all the way home.”

About a week later, Besand wandered into a magic shop whose owner, he discovered, was Wiccan.

“I bought some incense and then got into a conversation about me being an American, traveling, and then about haunted places in town,” he said. “So I told her my story of the Black-Eyed Children. She told me that I wasn’t imagining anything.”

Besand asked her what they were.

“She told me that no one knows,” he said. “The people who found that out aren’t here to tell about it. She said they could have been anything from demons to fairies.”

He asked her why they would want him to go willingly with them to the cemetery.

“She said that they could just want something from you or they could have taken me to their realm,” he said. “She also told me that I did the right thing by running away, and that I’m never going to find out what they were so I’m better off just going on with my life and not thinking too much about it. I tell other people about it and they either get creeped out or they have a good laugh at my expense.”

Copyright 2009 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, P.O. Box 501, Maryville, Mo., 64468, or Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”

Jason’s books on the paranormal, “Darkness Walks: The Shadow People Among Us,” and “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” at Jason’s blog,

Thursday, October 01, 2009

A Trip to Gravity Hill

On a quiet country road west of Freeman, Mo., past railroad tracks and between two hills, almost throwing distance from the Kansas state line, sits a flat spot in the gravel.

Some locals, like Kylie Guier of Freeman, claim that if you stop on that spot and put your vehicle in neutral, the car will start moving, sometimes up to 25 miles per hour.

People say gravity doesn’t work there.

“Everybody calls it Gravity Hill,” Guier said. “It’s out on this gravel road in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know anyone who’s an expert on it. Everyone just knows it’s there.”

Guier’s been to Gravity Hill a number of times, as have most area people she knows, and, “I’ve never known anybody it hasn’t worked for.”

It didn’t work for Jake Koehn of nearby Adrian, Mo.

“(My friends and I) went there around 6 p.m. during the summer, so plenty of daylight,” he said. “We parked at the bottom of the hill, put the truck in neutral and did not see much for a result. After about 10 minutes, we gave up on it and left.”

He may have given up too soon.

Urban legend has it if you sprinkle flour or gravel dust on the trunk of the car, drivers will later find child-sized handprints in the dust.

I’m so there.

I pulled my minivan onto 299th Street (much too gravelly and rural to be called a street) from Route D in Cass County on a clear September afternoon. Sure I was in a minivan, not the Mystery Machine, but I think a minivan’s what the Scooby gang drove when they grew up.

The lane leading to Gravity Hill is surrounded by wavy pastureland, the occasional pond and patches of sunflowers breaking the swaths of green. Over the railroad tracks and up two hills – according to many listings on the Internet – you’re supposed to drive to the end of the lane, turn around and come to rest at the bottom. Then the magic happens.

Many people who’ve been to Gravity Hill claim the moving car phenomenon is an optical illusion and, as I parked the minivan at a spot between hills that looked flat, I found it wasn’t.

The level I brought to Gravity Hill showed where I’d parked was anything but level. So, when I put the vehicle in neutral, it moved.


I let the minivan coast farther down the hill and checked the road again. Not level.

But the next time I stopped, I found a spot in the road that was flat. I moved the level all around my vehicle and the ground was sufficiently flat enough the minivan shouldn’t move unless it became so embarrassed from being a minivan it collapsed.

OK. The ground was flat. I marked the spot, hopped into the driver’s seat and slid the gear into neutral.

The minivan moved immediately. Three mph, five mph, seven mph, the sound of gravel popping beneath the tires carried through the open windows of the minivan’s cab.

The van stopped halfway up the hill and I put my foot on the brake to keep it from rolling back down.


I took my foot off the brake and, yes, the van rolled back down.

After I placed the minivan back onto the flat spot, I ran the level around the van again. Yep. Still flat.

I did this six more times. Five times my vehicle seemed to move of its own volition. One time it just sat there and a bee flew through the cab.

Driving away from Gravity Hill, not one darned fingerprint on my bumper, I realized I’d been a part of something weird. Could Gravity Hill be an optical illusion? Sure. Even after I’d determined the ground was flat and my van shouldn’t have moved, I’m willing to consider that. It’s still a mystery.

Copyright 2009 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, P.O. Box 501, Maryville, Mo., 64468, or Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”

Jason’s books on the paranormal, “Darkness Walks: The Shadow People Among Us,” and “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” at Jason’s blog,