Friday, March 25, 2011

Ghost in the Shower

The shower felt wrong.

Derika Lawrence and Jaclyn Kunkel, both 22, moved into the ground floor of a two-story house converted into apartments, and realized quickly something shared their Maryville, Mo., apartment with them.

“I’ve been here at least two years, maybe two and a half, three,” Lawrence said. “Time goes by so fast.”

On the first days of the move in, Lawrence being the first to arrive noticed something odd whenever she’d take a shower. The water would get cold.

“I understand the water randomly gets cold and I disregarded it the first two times it happened,” she said, but the third time, she looked at the faucet knob. “The handle had moved to someplace I didn’t put it.”

Kunkel soon moved in and noticed odd things in the apartment as well.

“She experiences stuff when I’m gone,” Lawrence said. “She’s called me when I’ve been gone and said, ‘stay on the phone while I check out the house.’ My roommate and I like to joke about it. We named the ghost Loraine.”

When the women are alone in the house, they hear loud banging on the second floor, although their upstairs neighbors are gone. Then there are the doors.

“It just happens randomly every so often,” Lawrence said. “We have a room that’s on the side of the house. Nobody lives in there.”

The roommates avoid the room because the door won’t stay shut.

“We have to tie the door shut because it randomly comes open,” Lawrence said; although the door drags on the thick carpet and it’s tough for the women to pull it open. “We just store the Christmas tree and stuff in there. We tied it shut because it creeped us out.”

Moving doors aren’t limited to the storage room.

“I’ve been laying here in bed before and I’ll hear the door to my bedroom being pushed open,” Lawrence said. “I’d think it was (Kunkel’s) cat, but her cat’s laying in the living room when I go and look. I also feel like there’s somebody in the bathroom trying to get my door open, but I haven’t seen any (ghost).”

Although Kunkel hasn’t seen Loraine either, she’s experienced things moving on their own.

“I was sitting in the living room and I heard a noise like it sounded like someone threw something,” she said. “I go in the kitchen and check it out.”

She knew the only unwashed dishes in the sink were a pan with a wooden spoon resting inside; she’d put them there.

“When I got up to look the spoon wasn’t in the pan anymore. It was a lot of noise like someone had thrown it into the sink,” she said. “I stood there and tied to figure out how it happened. I picked up the spoon and threw it back in the sink and that’s what it sounded like.”

Another noise that frightened Kunkel was the sound of a door opening, however no doors in their apartment sound like that.

“I was again sitting in the living room,” she said. “I had my laptop on my lap. I heard a noise from the kitchen again. It sounded like an old creaky door opening and closing really fast. None of our doors creak at all.”

The noise came from the adjacent kitchen.

“I jumped up and I went into the kitchen but nothing was different at all,” Kunkel said.

She’s heard a disembodied sneeze in the same room; something she attributed to her cat until she saw it was not in the room.

Lawrence and Kunkel aren’t the only two residents of their apartment who know they have an unseen, unwelcome visitor – the cat reacts to it.

“Sometimes it’s like she’s playing with someone; chasing something,” Kunkel said. “She’s kind of old and pretty fat and lazy. She’s not that playful kitten, but sometimes it’s like she’s playing with something.”

The cat will stare at a spot in the room for “a long time,” Kunkel said. “She seems to go a little crazy about midnight and one. She’ll have a spaz attack and run through the house.”

Can the cat see Loraine?

Lawrence and Kunkel hope the cat stays the only one. Especially Lawrence – she’s seen a ghost before, in the home where she grew up.

“I was five years old. I would see this old guy. I could describe him to a tee,” she said. “My dad asked the neighbor and he said it was the man who died there.”

Copyright 2011 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,

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Field Trip to the Villisca Ax Murder House

The town of Villisca, Iowa, rests just off U.S. 71, a sleepy, friendly town of 1,344 that in 1912 was the site of seven brutal murders.

The Moore family and two of their children’s friends staying the night were killed by someone swinging an ax. Someone who’d paced the attic smoking cigarettes, waiting for the family to come home from a June church picnic and go to sleep.

The murders have never been solved.

Darwin and Martha Linn bought the murder house years ago, worried a piece of local history may be torn down. They’ve since found they bought something with the house – ghosts.

“I haven’t been pushed or my hair hasn’t been pulled,” Darwin said, but he knows spirits are in the house. Too many visitors have told him so.

In the 2009 fall semester at Northwest Missouri State University, I taught the one-time offering “Paranormal Journalism” and took 22 students on a field trip to the ax murder house. It was only a 50-minute drive. I would have felt guilty if we hadn’t gone.

A little about the class; the mainstream media has frustrated me for years with the terms “little green men” in stories of UFO sightings, “who you gonna call?” in reports of ghost sightings, and references to “Harry and the Hendersons” with Bigfoot stories. Each reference turns the story into parody. I proposed this class to my university as an effort to teach young journalists to report on the paranormal as seriously as they would a city council meeting or a car wreck. The university said OK. The field trip was just a bonus.

In 1912, the two-story ax murder house sat on the outskirts of town. It’s now just a few blocks away from downtown. We pulled up to the house at dusk in two university vans, a light mist promising for a chilly night.

The house spread in front of us, seeming larger than it was. Maybe the oval sign that spelled “Ax Murder House” in bloody letters had something to do with that.

Pie-shaped windows from the attic of this white building – the same room where the murderer waited with an ax (the Moore family’s own ax) – stared into the coming dusk like angry eyes. A few students were a little tentative. Cool.

One student, Karra, was a little more than tentative. She seemed unnerved.

Weeks before the trip, Karra related a dream about the ax murder house. In the dream she was in the second-floor children’s bedroom and a doll – a Raggedy Ann-type doll – lay on the bed. As she approached the bed, the doll turned its head and smiled. She awoke screaming.

Before we arrived at the house, I assured her everything would be fine.

I was wrong.

As tour guide Johnny Houser led us into the structure horror swept through 97 years before, we broke into groups, one going upstairs, the other exploring downstairs. Moments later, terror-filled screams rang throughout the house from the second floor. I rushed to the stairway and met Karra pounding down the steps screaming.

“The doll,” she screamed.

Although nothing unexpectedly moved or smiled when she’d walked into the children’s upstairs room, the wallpaper, the bed, the comforter, and the Raggedy Anne-type doll sitting on the bed were the same as in her dream.

That wasn’t the only thing strange on that field trip.

A student, Logan, carried a Franks Box, asking the device random questions as a group followed him into an unnaturally cold cupboard.

A Franks Box is a radio receiver that randomly tunes to spots on a radio dial with the thought that spirits may be able to communicate through this white noise, much like they do with EVPs, but in real time.

I have my doubts about any electronic device that’s “supposed” to detect ghosts, but something happened with the Franks Box.

In the van, before we pulled up to the Ax Murder House, I instructed my students to be respectful and to not – under any circumstance – be a jerk. Even to something they couldn’t see.

One student, Stratton, didn’t follow my advice. He walked throughout the house shouting things like, “Coward. Come face me. If there’s a ghost here, show me.”

Crowded in the cupboard with six people, Logan began asking questions.

“Is there someone here with us?”

Static, followed by a distinctive male voice, “yes.”

This device was scanning radio frequencies. I discounted that “yes” as naturally random.

“Do you want us to leave?”

Static again, followed by the same voice, “yes.”

Odd, but still accounted for.

“Is someone making you angry?”

Static, “yes.”

Still within the realm of normalcy. Although repeated three times, this was just one word. I wasn’t reading anything into the Franks Box.

“Are they here in this room?”

Static, “no.”

Hmm. A different word.

“Who’s making you angry?”

Static, “Stratton.”

Stratton? A device randomly scanning radio signals came up with the name of the only person on the field trip who was trying to make something angry. Bill, John, Aaron, or Dave, I could have brushed off easily. But Stratton? The box answered the question, and the answer was correct.

I’ll never be convinced something like a Franks Box is legitimate, but I can’t say it’s not.

Students also reported a planchet moving on a Ouija board and a ghostly finger tapping a girls’ shoulder.

You can see some of these accounts, and more stories of the paranormal, at

For more information on the Villisca Ax Murder House, or to schedule a visit, go to

Copyright 2011 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, March 08, 2011

A Case of Time Traveling Tourists?

Wind-driven rain pounded the pavement on a mid-October Sunday in 2006 when Ken Helbling, 40, walked into Barnes and Noble.

“It was a miserable morning, so I thought I would go have a coffee and look at the books,” he said.

As Helbling stood in line for coffee, he was amused by the conversation with the barista and the man in front of him.

“I was standing behind a tall, rather large man who looked about 65,” Helbling said. The man wore a red-checkered flannel shirt and blue jeans. “When his turn came he said he didn’t have his discount card but could he use his sister’s number. He then rattled off about a 17-digit number off the top of his head. I was impressed.”

Then Helbling noticed two girls, one blonde, one brunette.

“Two girls were waiting for their drinks and looked strangely out of place,” he said. “I looked closely because they were wearing designer jeans and hairdo’s that were 25 years out of date. They looked about 17, but seemed older.”

They also seemed familiar. The girls looked like friends Amy and Alicia he knew from high school. He initially thought they may be his friends’ daughters, but quickly dismissed it.

“While they looked young and attractive, their faces seemed more defined and mature. More like 35 years old,” he said. “In the blonde girl’s case, she looked strikingly like Amy. In the brunette’s case she looked like Alicia but six inches taller.”

Helbling wanted to ask the girls where they got their seemingly brand-new retro clothes, but didn’t.

“I didn’t want to seem like a creep,” he said.

Helbling paid for his coffee and browsed books, picking up one that interested him. “I didn’t buy it, though. I just went home.”

He didn’t think any more of the man in line who’d memorized the long account number, nor the out-of-place girls – until he saw them again.

“Next Sunday, the exact same kind of day, the exact same time, I decided to go back and buy that book,” he said.

Helbling stood in line for coffee behind the same 65-year-old man in the same red flannel shirt and blue jeans who spouted the same long account number.

“Both times he did it he had to do it like three times because it was so fast the (barista) couldn’t keep up,” he said.

The man in the flannel shirt wasn’t the only element in play from the previous Sunday.

“I look over and the same two girls in the exact same clothes are standing in the same spot, but this time they had their drinks,” he said. “When I walked past them they gave me a weird look. I’m thinking this is really strange.”

Helbling bought a coffee and walked to the far corner of the two-level store to find the book he’d browsed the Sunday before. The girls followed him.

“This store is their flagship, two floors and enormous,” he said. “The book was as far away from the coffee shop as you could get. When I got the book and turned around the two girls were sitting on the floor right behind me, staring at me.”

When Helbling noticed the girls, they quickly moved books in front of their faces like they’d been caught spying on him, he said.

“I was so startled I couldn’t say a word,” Helbling said. “I just went down the escalator and went home.”

At home, Helbling began to read the book and found the plot twist revolved around time-traveling tourists.

“I started to wonder if I had experienced something of that nature,” he said. “Were they waiting for me to buy that book? Was the tall man the tour guide? It was something I’ll never forget. I never really thought of time travel ‘til I got to that part of the book then it all clicked.”

Helbling said he thinks the girls he saw at Barnes and Noble on those rainy October Sundays were related to his old friends Amy and Alicia, but were not their daughters – maybe their great-great granddaughters.

“Were the girls were descendents of people I knew, and were they taking a school tour of the past?” he said. “The checkered-shirt guy was possibly the teacher. Or did I slip into an alternative timeline? If you slipped into a different timeline would you ever even know it? And even if you knew it, would it make a difference?”

Copyright 2011 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,

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Dangerous Man

The man seemed out of place.

Kalie Ulriksen took the provincial bus from La Ronge, Saskatchewan, to Saskatoon in 2006 when the bus made a scheduled stop in Prince Albert.

“It was the middle of July and hot. I’m talking 30-plus Celsius (near 90 degrees Fahrenheit),” she said. “So I wandered around and went to grab a coffee at a nearby shop.”

As Ulriksen sipped the coffee, she walked back to the depot and found a crowd had gathered in the waiting area of the small bus stop waiting for departure. Then she saw the man.

“I look around the room and there is this guy standing in line waiting to board the bus,” she said. “His clothes just don’t fit. He is in knee-high, jet-black boots, extremely dark glasses, a large cowboy-style hat, gloves, and this takes the cake – a huge trench coat in a tiger skin pattern.”

Sweat rolled off Ulriksen as she stood in line, staring at the man in the tiger-skin trench coat.

“I was melting in a tank top and shorts,” she said. “Strange dressing people, even in the middle of Saskatchewan, doesn’t stand for anything. I know some crazy people. Dressing like it’s Halloween in the middle of summer doesn’t shock me. I know people who go to the bar wrapped in Saran Wrap.”

But there was something about this man beyond his clothing, something strange, something Ulriksen was not alone in noticing.

“It was the attitude of this guy. Like he was a predator,” she said. “I remember thinking at the time, ‘This guy could blow up the entire bus and kill us all and not think twice about it.’”

Ulriksen watched the man as the driver gave the signal for passengers to board the bus.

“I’m staring at this guy. He stands in line to board the bus and everyone gives him a wide berth,” she said. “No one is standing close to this guy.”

At all.

A large group of people crowded in front of him, another group stood as far behind him as they could in this small room. Ulriksen, who returned late for boarding, stood near the back of the line.

“There is something about him; something hair-raising,” she said. “Literally the coolness runs up the nape and I can’t stop staring at him. He was clean-shaven, handsome, but deadly.”

Then the passengers board the bus. When Ulriksen stepped on, she found the man sitting in one of the middle rows. Seats around the man were empty, other passengers staying as far away from him as possible.

“Yes, he is dressed strange but it’s the air around him. I don’t like to label things ‘evil’ lightly. I would imagine I would have the same feeling standing before a wild animal on the hunt,” she said. “The heebie jeebies doesn’t describe the feeling this dude is giving me. It’s suddenly everyone around me is no longer on the top of the food chain. Something is very not right about this guy.”

As Ulriksen stood at the front of the bus, she felt an urge to get close to the man.

“The little voice in my head speaks up, ‘Sit with him why don’t you?’” she said. “It’s the same one that says, ‘have another smoke’ ‘play with that Ouija board.’ The little voice I don’t listen to.”

She walked past the man and sat two rows behind him.

“I keep glancing at the back of his head,” she said. “I think, ‘What’s this guy’s deal?’”

As that thought ran through Ulriksen’s head, the man turned and grinned at her.

“My heart stops,” she said. “Pure fear drops through me; the electric kind. The pulsing, I’m-going-to-die feeling. Pure primal fear. I can’t explain it in words. It was screwed up.”

Ulriksen stared in terror at the strange man’s close-lipped grin, his eyebrows rising above the rim of his sunglasses. She knew she was in danger.

“I swear this guy wasn’t human,” she said.

But nothing happened. The man turned around, the bus eventually stopped at its scheduled destination, passengers got off and went on their way.

However, the terror of that moment has never left her.

Reports of strange, out-of-place “people” are common, littering online message boards far away from the mainstream media. Men in Black, hybrids, Black-Eyed Kids; there are many human-like entities that walk our earth, insert themselves into our sense of reality, and stalk us in broad daylight.

What did Ulriksen encounter? Simply a strange man, or something more sinister?

Copyright 2011 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,