Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ghosts of the J. Huston Tavern

Author’s note: This is my fourth year and 208th installment of “From the Shadows.” I just wanted to thank you, my friendly readers, for your support.

The two-story brick building has stood in the tiny town of Arrow Rock, Mo., for 176 years. The J. Huston Tavern, once an inn and mercantile for frontier travelers, is now a state historic site and restaurant – and home to visitors who never leave.

Chef Liz Huff, proprietor of the J. Huston Tavern since January 2009, has seen these ghostly visitors often.

“A ton of them,” she said.

Her first encounter was of a woman wearing a white gown Huff saw reflected in the glass of the dining room door. As the woman’s reflection moved across the glass, Huff looked into the dining room; no one was there.

“That scared me because that was the first thing I saw,” Huff said.

Huff and restaurant employees have ghostly experiences in the Tavern up to six times a day. Shadow figures dancing through the air, the sound of shuffling feet, and phantom whistling.

Cody Hedrick, Marshall, Mo., works at the tavern and has heard the whistling.

“At first I brushed it off, but it got louder,” he said. “It freaked me out.”

Coats move on racks, hanging pots bang in the kitchen, and doors swing on their own. But the most visible are the people.

“There’s a couple who likes to sit in the parlor room,” Huff said.

Huff first saw the couple in June 2009 as she walked past the hostess station and wondered why no one had filled their water glasses. As she looked at the couple, they vanished.

“No one was there,” she said. “I just started laughing.”

Although most entities encountered in the Tavern seem to be friendly, the basement isn’t the same story. Employees have developed the “Basement Buddy” system because they don’t like going into that oppressive atmosphere alone.

“It’s not pleasant down there,” Huff said. “It’s scary. There’s a heavy feeling down there like it’s harder to breath.”

A green light occasionally shoots through the basement, and employees have heard someone moving boxes when no one else is there. But one day, the oppressiveness followed Huff upstairs.

“I thought the scary part was just down there and that’s why I don’t mind being (in the tavern) at night myself,” she said.

But in the summer of 2009, Huff was closing the restaurant for the night when she realized she wasn’t alone.

“I felt someone behind me, literally a half-inch away from my body,” Huff said. “I was so scared to look back; I knew something was there but didn’t want to see it. I just kept walking faster. I made it outside and was trembling.”

But she hadn’t locked the cooler. Huff slowly pulled open the door, went back inside, and flipped on every light she could reach. Then she locked the cooler and bolted from the building.

“You know those horror movies where people can’t get the door locked because they’re shaking?” she said. “It was just like that.”

As she stood outside the door trying to put the key into the lock, the sound of someone banging pots together rang from the building. She finally slammed the key in, locked the door and drove to her father’s house. She couldn’t be alone that night.

“I think whatever’s in the basement came upstairs a minute,” she said. “I want him to stay in the basement or go away. I didn’t like it.”

Bunny Thomas, manager of the Tavern from 1976 to 1979 and proprietor from 1981 to 1986 and 1993-2000, has seen both faces of the Tavern – the friendly spirits and the dark ones.

One of her first nights on the job, a “very male, very sexy” voice said “hello there.”

“I looked around and no one was there,” she said. “In the ’70s, it wasn’t unusual to hear your name called.”

Although restaurants have plenty of turnover, Thomas said some of the turnover during her management directly related to the restless spirits.

“We had this kid who cleaned at night,” she said. “He said, ‘Bunny, I can’t do this anymore.’ I said, ‘why?’ He said, ‘I hear tables and chairs scooting across the floor and somebody called my name.’”

Thomas got a taste of the darkness when she lived on the second floor of the tavern during her divorce in the 1980s.

“The very first night I moved in, everybody came down and played cards,” she said. “When everybody left I got undressed and got in bed.”

Things quickly turned terrifying.

“I heard the stairs squeaking and I heard the floor squeaking and the next thing I knew the floor at the foot of my bed was squeaking,” she said. “I sat up in bed and there was nobody there. I put a table over that spot after that.”

The radio next to her bed would move through stations by itself, and a strange smoke occasionally floated through her room – although it wasn’t smoke.

“It was a ghost,” she said. “It was just like people described it being. It was wispy and you could see through it.”

Thomas’ fellow proprietor during the 1980s and 1990s, Clay Marsh, also experienced a few ghostly encounters in the tavern. But after Marsh died from cancer in the mid-2000s, he may have been come one of the tavern ghosts himself.

While Huff was on vacation in November 2009, Hedrick saw a man he didn’t recognize.

“Cody had a box of stuff and was walking upstairs and he walked to the top of the stairs and looked up and saw a man standing in the ballroom,” Huff said. “It was a solid human being.”

The figure wore a late-1700s to early 1800s black jacket, ruffled shirt, knickers and hat. Hedrick looked away and when he turned back the figure was gone.

But Huff had seen that outfit before – on Marsh

“It was exactly like Cody described,” Huff said. “It was the coolest thing. I thought wouldn’t that be neat if it was him.”

Copyright 2010 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 newest book on the paranormal, “What Lurks Beyond: The Paranormal in Your Backyard,” is available at Jason’s blog,

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Something evil in the house

Something in the house in Auckland, New Zealand, seemed to glare at little Lydia Brooks as she lie in her room, trying to sleep.

“I grew up in a house with no discernible history as far as I know of,” Brooks said. “But the place just never felt right, never felt like home. I would feel watched all of the time. I was paranoid, for as long as I can remember, that someone was watching me.”

This feeling was so real, so oppressive, Brooks only slept a few hours a night, and always showered in her underwear. The house began to take a toll on her health.

“Scores of doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong,” she said. “I would go pale and pass out. My mother said you could see it happening. I would walk into the room, with my eyes big and glassy, my skin would turn white, and I would collapse.”

Then, in 1995, the feeling of being watched and her illness went away.

“Once I hit about 11 years old, I seemed to be able to turn off whatever part of me was sensitive,” Brooks, now 26, said. “This was a huge relief.”

Her parents, however, began to experience strange things in the house.

“My father doesn’t believe in anything paranormal, but admits to having dreams that have saved his life,” she said. “My mother believes in – I suppose you would call them ghosts. She never liked the house I grew up in.”

One day, Brooks’ mother found her feelings were justified.

“A family friend came over after-hours to polyurethane the floors in the front room,” Brooks said. “He was an older Maori man, very straight and raised Christian.”

The man later called Brooks’ mother to tell her he’d finished the floors, but had left a light on in the house.

“He mentioned then that the house had some strange vibes going on in it, but Mum just dismissed it,” Brooks said.

The next day, Brooks’ mother couldn’t dismiss it anymore.

“She picked me up from school very excited,” Brooks said. “She had arrived at the house after dropping me off in the morning, and not only was the light switch that had been left on in the off position, but the bulb itself was lying unbroken on the other side of the room. There is no way that the bulb could have survived a fall from the high ceilings, let alone ended up where it did.”

When Brooks was 17, her family moved into a new house.

“The change was amazing. The new house felt like home,” she said. “It always seemed sunny, the entire family got along better, I kept my room tidy.”

But they didn’t stay long, moving to a nearby house built after World War II.

“The woman who we bought the house from was pitiful, suffering from emphysema. She lived in the two front rooms, and ended up being moved into a hospice,” Brooks said. “I hated the house from the moment I moved into it. It was very oppressive.”

Being a teenager, Brooks was excited to move into the house a few days before the rest of her family, but the excitement quickly turned to fear. Something was there with her.

“I hated it,” she said. “I had forgotten that watched feeling while I had lived in the previous house.”

Her family felt it too, blaming the “watched” feeling on the house being so large and open.

“But it was more than that,” Brooks said. “I was constantly twitching curtains to make sure they were closed properly, I slept fitfully, and I never felt comfortable being there alone.”

Brooks’ mother would often smell perfume in the kitchen and laundry area – but the scent was nothing they’d brought with them.

“Even after living there for years, this waft of scent would just drift through the rooms,” Brooks said. “It wasn’t a scent any of us used, and it certainly didn’t appear at our last houses.”

Brooks’ cat also knew something strange was in the house.

“I was sitting up in bed one night in 2007, the cat was curled up next to my leg,” Brooks said. “I was just reading and everything was silent, when she suddenly went berserk.”

The cat leaped into the air, jumped backward, and started hissing and spitting. Brooks grabbed her cat, and it began to thrash about, clawing at Brooks to escape.

“Her body was twisting wildly, but the worst thing was her head was straining to stare at a spot in the dead center of my bed,” Brooks said. “She was screaming like I have never heard before or since, and just staring with massive eyes at a spot just by my calf.”

Brooks released the cat and it ran toward the door, continuing to look back at Brooks’ bed, ears pulled back, its hair on end.

“It was hideously frightening,” Brooks said. “As soon as I opened the door for her, she was fine, back to her normal, placid self.”

When Brooks took the cat back into her room, it fought to get away. She put the cat on the bed and it arched its back and took a swipe at the middle of the bed before diving off the bed and running out the door.

Brooks slept on the couch for three days until her cat felt comfortable in her room again.

“I have lived in older, ‘creepier’ houses than that one,” Brooks said, “but I have never since felt that irrational, unexplainable, unshakable fear.”

Copyright 2010 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 newest book on the paranormal, “What Lurks Beyond: The Paranormal in Your Backyard,” is available at Jason’s blog,

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Man Who Never Feels Cold

The town of Lawson, Mo., sat under thunderclouds on July 26, 1969, when Harold Deal, then 31, worked in a house as an electrical contractor.

Deal’s son Larry, 10, shook at every thunderclap.

“My son begged me, ‘Daddy, let’s go home,’” Deal said. “I did.”

Rain pounded the windshield of Deal’s truck as he drove to his home nearby.

“When I was about a block and a half from the house, I happened to look at my watch,” Deal said. “It was 9:12 in the evening.”

Most of the next six hours were impossible to remember.

Deal pulled his truck into his driveway and parked. He sent Larry to the front door to make sure it was open before grabbing some important papers and stepping out of the truck. Then the night exploded in light.

“Between the third and fourth step I felt like I was (riding) something real fast,” he said. “It felt like my head was being sucked down between my shoulder blades.”

Lightning had struck Deal, knocking him out of his work boots and slamming him to the ground.

“I felt like a pincushion was inside of me,” he said. “And I could not see.”

When Deal’s sight and senses returned it was 4:20 a.m.

For the next month Deal couldn’t walk, and every movement sent stabs of pain throughout his body. To relieve the pain, he underwent back surgery at St. Mary’s Hospital in Kansas City.

“They ended up taking two vertebrae out of my back,” Deal said. “I was about five feet, eight and a quarter inches and I ended up after surgery two and a quarter inches shorter.”

After surgery, the pain was gone, but doctors told him he would never walk again. Deal did walk, but the lightning strike left Deal with a strange ability – he’s impervious to cold.

“The way this lightning has left me, I never get cold,” Deal said. “I’ve been out in seventy-two below zero temperature (in Hell, Michigan). I don’t wear a jacket. I don’t wear long sleeves, I don’t wear long pants.”

Dr. Mary Ann Cooper of the Lightning Injury Research Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said lightning strikes could affect the body this way, but it’s unpredictable.

“Most doctors tell me it’s impossible,” Deal said. “It’s medically impossible.”

But it’s still true.

News photographers have shot Deal sitting in a bathtub of ice and bathing in a snowdrift. He stood in only a pair of shorts for four hours at minus 70 degrees for a television news program in Hell, Michigan. Heat bothers him, but pain, taste and the sensation of cold are gone.

While recovering from lightning strike, Deal has also dealt with emotional trauma. His first wife divorced him a few years after the strike and his friends seemed to disappear. He contemplated suicide in 1991 – but something happened to stop him.

“I was tired of living,” he said. “I was just through with it.”

That’s when Deal said God spoke to him.

“He said, ‘Harold, you feel you have to explain you’re the way you are,’” Deal said. “He said, ‘remember, there’s two types of people out there. There’s gossipers and there’s sincere people. The sincere ones will ask you questions. The gossipers don’t want the truth; they’ve got their mind made up. I don’t know how to explain it. I just felt it.”

After that experience, Deal has not only accepted what happened to him after the lightning strike, he’s used his experience to help others.

“I feel my life today is so much richer so much fuller,” he said. “The Lord has shown me how to appreciate life. I don’t take it for granted anymore.”

This lead Deal to the group Lightning Strike and Electric Shock Survivors International, where he councils people who have also been struck by lightning.

“I call into seven or eight states a week when I hear someone has been struck by lightning or electricity,” he said. “I talk to them to give them psychologically what to expect.”

Deal’s life isn’t really about his life, or his inability to feel cold. It’s about how he can help others.

“It’s not what Harold Deal has done, it’s what the Lord has done through Harold Deal,” he said. “I can’t explain it. All I can do is share it.”

Copyright 2010 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 newest book on the paranormal, “Paranormal Missouri: Show Me Your Monsters,” is available at Jason’s blog,

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Missouri Men In Black? – Part Two

Author’s notes: 1) This is the last in a short series on encounters with strange men in Missouri. 2) Witness Lynn Graves has provided me with a picture of one of these strange men, however, since the man is identifiable, I cannot publish the picture.

Lynn Graves saw the first strange man in Jefferson City. Thin, mechanical, and mumbling to the point of buzzing, the man followed Graves through a department store and a bookstore on two separate occasions.

Since those encounters, different men – although with the same robotic, soulless mannerisms – have followed her to work in the Lake of the Ozarks.

“I really think these guys are taking interest in me. These men I believe are non-human people of some sorts,” she said. “I know that they know I'm noticing them and talking about them to certain people.”

About three weeks after she first encountered the odd person with a false male voice, she heard that voice at work – 45 miles away.

“I was working on a day that was kinda busy,” she said. “I heard that same deep low voice that came from the man in Target, but from a different man.”

She looked and saw a fellow employee talking about the hotel with a thin man wearing a beige, button-up shirt and sunglasses. The man shortly left, but he would be back.

“A couple weeks after that I saw him again,” she said. “He asked me about rates. He was very weird the way he spoke and behaved.”

Graves started to tell the man the hotel rates when he interrupted her.

“Oh well,” the man said. “We got some place to stay down the road.”

Then he turned and walked away.

“The way he talked and moved reminded me of the guy in the first ‘Men In Black’ movie,” Graves said. The ‘guy’ in the movie was an alien who behaved robotically. “That’s what these guys would remind you of.”

The movie, “Men in Black” (1997) was loosely based on a character in ufology that resembles the men Graves reports.

When the man walked away, although still in the lobby, two fellow employees approached Graves and asked about the “weird guy.”

“I acted like I didn't suspect anything,” Graves said. “I just agreed that he was very strange.”

The man looked around the hotel’s gift shop before taking a decade-out-of-date cell phone from his pocket and pretended to have a conversation.

“He walked outside around the corner of the building where the parking lot is,” Graves said. “I watched and watched to see what car pulled out, but I didn't see anything.”

Later that night, a hotel guest complained his iPod had been stolen from his locked vehicle, but Graves didn’t think much about it until later.

About a week later, a boat explosion seriously injured a family at a dock near the hotel. Later that day, she saw two of these strange men.

“These guys were a little thinner but also wore sunglasses,” she said. “One of them was dressed like an obvious tourist. I think they try too hard to fit in.”

One of the men – who all appear to be between 45 and 55 – walked through the door and approached the front desk.

“He gave me en evil look out of the corner of his eye, but approached the other woman I worked with and asked her if we had rooms available,” Graves said. “She said, ‘no, we are full.’”

This seemed to be what the man wanted to hear and walked out.

“This guy was like, OK, and just walked off,” Graves said. “My lady friend that I work with made a comment that he was very, very strange.”

Later in the evening, she saw the second man walking back and forth from the hall to the lobby. The man also held an older-model cell phone to his ear, but didn’t speak.

“He looked at me out of the corner of his eye,” Graves said. “That guy gave me such a bad feeling of dread. The feeling I get from them paralyzes me.”

During Labor Day weekend, 2010, another boating accident near the hotel killed a young woman. Soon after, another of Graves’ strange men appeared.

“There were some young guests in the hotel that came up to me concerned about a very suspicious man down on one of the floors that was in shorts, a T-shirt and sunglasses,” Graves said. “Indoors in the evening? Yeah, I'm pretty sure that was one of my guys.”

She called security on the radio and asked them to look for the man. Security couldn’t find him. Days later, one of these men showed up again.

“We had a group of business people in house,” Graves said. “I was standing at the front desk on a computer (when) all the sudden out of nowhere there was a guy standing by the fireplace on a cell phone, but not talking.”

The man wore layers of clothing and did not fit in with the hotel crowd. Graves reached to the desk and grabbed her camera, but when she turned back he had vanished.

“I was gone for no more than six seconds and when I came back he was not anywhere,” she said. “He was not standing by a door or hallway to where he could have escaped my view.”

Minutes later, a cab pulled up to the hotel, the cab driver steps out of the car and “falls flat on his butt.”

“These men I've seen are not guests at the hotel. They seem to only stick around for a short while,” Graves said. “Every time I see one of these guys at the hotel something bad, big or small, happens.”

Copyright 2010 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 newest book on the paranormal, “What Lurks Beyond: The Paranormal in Your Backyard,” is available at Jason’s blog,