WELCOME TO PARANORMAL JOURNALISM
By Jason Offutt, Instructor
In 2008, during the Stephenville, Texas, UFO flap, a thought popped into my head. If reporters are supposed to be unbiased, fairly intelligent people, don’t you think they wouldn’t use the term “little green men” or otherwise make people look like idiots if they’ve seen something strange in the sky?
But reporters do this – a lot. As an 18-year newspaper veteran, it’s kind of embarrassing.
I teach journalism at Northwest Missouri State University. So I had an idea. What if I proposed a reporting class that focused on the paranormal? The students would report on stories about ghosts, UFOs, Bigfoot and Shadow People with all the seriousness of covering a car accident or investigating government corruption. Observation, interviews with witnesses, opinions of experts … yeah, that might be fun.
I looked around a bit and didn’t find evidence of any such class existing – anywhere. I talked with a few colleagues and a bunch of students, and decided if the university didn’t laugh me off to a bar somewhere, I’d teach this class. I proposed it, it went through the right channels, and here we are.
The twenty-two students in the class have been more than enthusiastic and, by turning in weekly stories of paranormal activity – mostly from people they know, local legends, tales from back home, and some personal experiences – they have proven a point of mine. The paranormal is all around us. You just have to look for it.
Welcome. I’m glad you’re here. Below are the first week of stories my students submitted. To the right of the stories are pictures of the student reporters who brought them to you. If you have a story you’d like to tell the reporters, please do, at: ParanormalJournalism@gmail.com.
Thanks for reading.
Oh, by the way, a physics professor, a physical chemistry professor, and I also received a grant to buy a time machine, but I’m sure you’ll read about that in the weeks to come.
IT FELT LIKE SOMEBODY ELSE'S HOUSE
By Bethany Rowell
It was November 1989 and the Rowell family was moving into their new house in the countryside of Missouri. The family had five members:Dave Rowell; his wife, Kelley McLaughlin; their six-month old daughter, Bethany; and Kelley’s twin 10-year-old sons, Chris and Adam Love. They were nestled 10 miles from the nearest cities of Kearney, Liberty, and Smithville with few other houses in the area.
For the first weeks, the family experienced strange occurrences, but attributed them to not being use to the house. Most of these incidents occurred in the attic and loft area on the second floor.
“I often thought that out of the corner of my eye I'd see someone up there, but there never was anyone there when I looked. There were always noises coming from the same area; we joked that there was someone living in the attic,” McLaughlin said.
Dave Rowell never saw anything, but does admit to hearing an out-of-place noise in the attic.
“There was a ‘clunking’ sound that we heard a few times. There was nothing up there that could make that noise; no furnace, no water heater and no way for an animal to get in. It sounded as if something was being dropped or banged on,” Rowell said.
Aside from the attic, the basement was also home to a phantom smell that led to the discovery of a serious problem within the house.
“When we moved in, I kept getting whiffs of cigarette smoke, not stale, old smoke, but like someone was smoking in the house. The basement was the worst place, but it was still only once in awhile that I smelled it. It was strong and then it was gone within seconds,” McLaughlin said.
After a few months, McLaughlin called the gas company, even though she wasn’t certain that it could be gas.
“The man came in and used his detector and told me that we had a lot of carbon monoxide in the house and I needed to get out. I said that I had been smelling it and he assured me that carbon monoxide has no smell. As it turns out, the vent pipe on the roof wasn't tall enough and the wind was pushing carbon monoxide from the furnace back into the house. I'm sure the pipe had been that way for many years.”
There have been many cases of ghosts providing warnings to those who are still alive for decades. This may be the case in this instance with carbon monoxide being an odorless and tasteless gas. Had McLaughlin not smelled the cigarette smoke, the results could have been deadly.
Months went by and the family adjusted to the noises and ignored the unexplainable happenings, but six months at the house hadn’t made it feel any more like a home. Chris Love, now 30, had his own unsettling experience while doing a daily task of retrieving the mail.
"I walked across the front yard to check the mailbox. On the return trip, I made most of the walk looking downward, flipping through the mail for that day. About 20 feet before I got to the door, I looked up and, upon seeing the house, had the almost-overwhelming feeling that this wasn't our house. It wasn't really a scary feeling per se, just the strange feeling that this house belonged to someone else, and wasn't really ours. It stuck with me for a few hours afterward, and eventually faded away, but I always remembered how odd it felt to truly feel like a stranger in a place where I'd felt very settled into before," Chris Love said.
With no information on anyone who had previously lived in the house dying, they went on with unanswered questions. Over time the activity got less noticeable and disappeared, but a lingering feeling of unease still hung around.
“It took years before the house felt like our home. The house always felt to me like I was living in someone else's house; never comfortable,” McLaughlin said.
By Rob O’Doherty
As the sound of Derrick’s voice became hollow and the cold sweat from his hands sliding back and forth became more aggravating, he began telling about the twisted and reoccurring dreams he had been having the last few years. Things started happening in Derrick’s dreams when he was around nine years old. One night, he woke up and felt paralyzed, lying on his stomach with his face down in the drenched pillow.
“It wasn’t like anything I had ever experience before,” Derrick said. “I couldn’t move and I could barely breathe. I felt like someone was watching me suffer. I had that feeling that someone was standing right beside me, but I just couldn’t see them. All of the sudden I heard the deepest voice I had ever heard say, let’s get him. I didn’t know what to do. The only thing left that I could think of was to scream for God, so I yelled for Jesus.”
Derrick said that once he yelled as loud as he could, he heard the sound of an earthquake. He claims that it was as if the floor was caving in beneath him. He then says he heard the same deep voice say “let’s get out of here.” To this day, Derrick says that he has had at least five more instances of the same recurring dream.
“It freaks me out because I have no clue what it means,” said Derrick. “I honestly don’t know if it’s a sign or if something is trying to warn me, but it freaks the hell out of me.”
With each recurring dream, Derrick says he wakes up in the same paralyzed state as the last time. He can’t move, he can barely breathe and he isn’t sure what’s going to happen if the next time he has the dream; the ending doesn’t come out the same.
THE NOISE ON THE ROOF
By Stratton King
The drive to Workman’s Chapel is a long curvy road in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. The road goes for a few miles before you turn off of the paved Route FF and onto the bumpy gravel that passes by the Chapel. This is when the butterflies in your stomach start flying.
My two friends, Joe Quigley and Heather “Hef” Flinn, and I had been curious about the Chapel but had never actually visited the supposedly haunted place. It was an overcast night which made visibility low but when we drove up to the property, the gravestones were all too recognizable.
“The place was super creepy,” Hef said.
Creepy indeed, but that was not enough to scare us away. We got out of the car and strolled around the graveyard and walked inside to the Chapel, attempting to come in contact with anything paranormal; nothing.
Before we decided to leave, we parked under the legendary tree next to the Chapel that is said to have been the sight of a hanging. As soon as we parked and turned off the car, unexplained things happened.
“Almost immediately I felt light headed. I felt like something was cutting of the circulation to my brain. The sides of my head were pounding but as soon as we drove away, and I wasn’t under the tree anymore, it went away,” Joe said.
Coinciding with Joe’s experience, Hef said she heard a strange tapping noise on the roof of the car that didn’t sound like anything else we had heard on the roof that night.
THE GHOST OF BENEDICTINE COLLEGE
By Danny Thompson
It was a humid Tuesday night when Sarah Rieker, a Benedictine College freshman, was on her way back to her dorm room in Ferrell Hall when she saw something she didn’t expect—a ghost.
About 150 years ago, monks built Benedictine College on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River in Atchison, Kan. It is said that one of the monk’s spirit can be found lurking around Ferrell Hall watching and protecting the school it helped build.
It has been four years since Rieker’s encounter, but she remembers it vividly.
“It was a typical evening, hot and muggy, but suddenly it got cold as I walked up to the door. It felt great at first, no lie,” Rieker recalls. Though, what happened next completely baffles her.
“I heard a slight whistle, or a wind gust. I still don’t know what made me turn around. But as I turned my head, I saw, in the corner of my eye, what I thought to be, a monk walking towards me. By the time my head turned to get a better look, it was gone,” Rieker said.
Although Rieker knew about the college’s reputation of being haunted, she never thought she would have an encounter.
As for Rieker, “At least now I’ll have an interesting story to tell at a campfire.”
CHASED BY ORBS
By Melissa Morkus
Numerous reports have been made over the years about paranormal activity happening in cemeteries. Seeing apparitions, orbs or hearing voices are common things that people experience in these particular locations.
Brian Wiemann, 22, has first hand had one of these paranormal experiences. One night Brian and two friends decided to head to the Blue Springs Cemetery located in Blue Springs, Mo. With them they brought a video camera to record any paranormal findings.
As Brian and his friends walked for a few minutes through the graveyard, they came across three tombstones places closely together. As they were about to read what was on the tombstones they were suddenly startled by a red vintage car, estimated to be made in the 1950s.
“I couldn’t hear a sound until the car pulled up right next to us,” Brian said.
Shocked by the sudden appearance of the vehicle, Brian and the two other males ran back to their car, still with the video camera capturing footage. Later that night, Brian looked through the video they captured and found something they had not noticed once before. Three orbs, very clear and noticeable, were visible in the footage they captured when they approached the three tombstones. The three orbs also appeared to follow Brian and his friends as they ran to their car.
Brian wanted to copy the tape for evidence of his paranormal experience, but the second time of viewing the tape, no footage was found.
“Everything had been cleared without any reasonable explanation,” Brian said.
Some consider ghosts to be a figment of the imagination; something fictional. But with so many reports and sightings of unexplainable findings, such as Brian’s, it’s hard not to at least consider the paranormal not being so abnormal after all.
THE NIGHT WORKER
By Logan Campbell
At night after you’ve checked the doors to make sure everything is locked and secured. For some people there are stranger things that happen once their door is locked.
Sherry Winters had just put her kids and made sure that everything was ready for school and work in the morning. She had locked the doors and gotten ready for bed. When she was lying down to fall asleep she heard the sound of pot banging together into the kitchen.
She got up to see if her kids were cooking a late night snack or if someone had snuck in the house. When she walked into the dining room she saw someone at the stove, but she did not recognize them. She stood and starred at this figure as they appeared to be cooking on the stove.
She said it was then she realized that she could see through the figure. Winter said she didn’t know what to do but watch. She didn’t want to disturb this figure and make him angry. She said the figure walked from the kitchen into the living room and sat on the couch. She was shocked to see such an event and was also scared at the time. Winters said the figure was around six feet tall and looked to be some kind of night worker.
Winters could not figure out who the figure appeared to be or if she even knew the previous owners. This was the first of a few encounters she has had with the man. She has been up late watching movies and has seen the man walking by to sit on the couch. She hasn’t said anything to him in fear of what might happen with the man. Winters children have also been up with her when the figure has been in the house.
“The figure is calm when he walks through the house,” Winters said “He has never tried to harm anyone, so I just let him be.”
Winters says she hasn’t tried to research who the previous owner of the home was, or who the man could be in the house. She just finds it interesting that she saw this man a few times in her house trying to eat and sit on the couch.
Now when she goes to bed at night and she hears the pots clanging around, she knows it is just a ghost trying to grab a bite to eat.
YOU WILL DO AS MOMMA SAYS
By Karra Small
What is it about Ouija boards that entice us so? Is it adolescent naïveté? The unanswerable question of whether or not you are communicating with a dead spirit? Or, like Darrelle Duym were you just dragged along for the ride?
Anyone who has older siblings can relate to the urge to be accepted by them. That’s why Darrelle didn’t object to their games in the basement.
According to Darrelle, her older sisters, Desiree, 15 and Deirdre, 14, along with a friend, Shannon, 14, decided that it would be fun to play with the old original Parker Bros. Ouija board they found buried in the closet.
“It started out as just a game”, she said, “but as time went on we found ourselves playing with it more and more.”
Eventually the foursome found themselves in the basement every day after school. It was all fun and games until what seemed harmless revealed a dark side.
“I started to notice a change in the way the board moved,” Darrelle mentioned. Then they made contact.
“You can convince yourself that it’s just a game up to a certain point but when we all have our hands on the floor and the pointer starts moving by itself you know something else is going on.”
A short time after the unexplained movement an entity called “Mamma” came to visit.
“We were in the middle of a conversation when, Mamma interrupted us,” she continued. “We asked if it was still the spirit we were talking to and it said ‘NO Mamma.’ And as the weeks went on, Mamma became more persistent.
Instead of the Ouija players asking Mamma questions, Mamma did the talking.
“She kept asking where her daughter was and she was demanding. It was never a question either,” Darrelle said,” She would always say tell me this or tell me that.”
According to Darrelle Mamma had asked for information like what day, month , and year it was along with the names and some information about all the girls.
“You couldn’t lie to her either,” she mentioned,” Whenever my sisters would lie to her the board would just keep saying no or it would say you’re lying to me.”
Although Mamma wanted information about the present, she was not willing to reveal anything about herself. She never once mentioned her actual name or anything about herself. She never even mentioned the name of the daughter she was searching for.
When I asked Darrelle if there was anything in particular that equated to Mamma being around, she described the feeling that your skin would crawl when she was down there. She also claimed that you could sense when Mamma got agitated.
Shannon, apparently did something to anger Mamma. One afternoon, still perplexed by curiosity, the girls, again, headed down stairs for another regular Ouija session, when the board went haywire.
“It just kept saying No, and then out of nowhere Shannon’s face snapped sideways.”
A few seconds later Shannon had red marks on her face in the shape of fingerprints.
“After that we cleaned the eye of the Ouija board”, she said, which is supposed to cleanse the spirits,” and put it on the top shelf of the closet.”
Darrelle has had other paranormal experiences, but does not attribute them to Mamma or the Ouija board. Every so often when Darrelle’s mother was cooking something an unattended fillet knife would leap out of the sink and onto the floor. And, although it is a common horror movie ploy, Darrelle has also experienced electronic devices turning themselves off and on, even when they are unplugged. But don’t worry about Mamma coming back to haunt the girls. She remains in the closet to this day.
ELK HORN GRANDMA
By Joel Epley
She shuffled and dealt another boring card game. There are no winners or losers; at this point it’s just trying to stay awake in Grandpa’s spare bedroom.
Heather Becker, 22, York Neb. was 12 years old when her grandmother died in Elk Horn, Iowa. As a young girl she would spend weekends at her grandparents ranch-style three-bedroom home with acreage.
“Every time we went, my sister and I would get the same shitty guestroom,” Heather said. “Two beds, rainbow wallpaper, stuffed animals, the works.”
Heather was 19 when her parents decided that they all spend the weekend at their grandpa’s house to help him prepare for a garage sale that weekend.
After a long day Heather and her sister got ready for bed in the same guestroom they had for years. As she began to nod off, Heather’s sister Becky mumbled, “Get off, going to bed.”
“It was during those moments right before sleep when you can barely tell if you’re awake or dreaming, so I brushed it off,” Heather said. “A few moments later, could’ve been minutes or seconds I don’t know, Becky gasps really loud and flings the covers all over the floor.”
Heather watches Becky abruptly sit up in her bed then slowly walk over to climb in bed with her.
“She (Becky) felt really soft pressure on the side of her bed and thought it was me trying to sit next to her,” Heather said. “She told me to ‘get off’ but I thought she was kidding or talking in her sleep or something.”
When the weight on the side of the bed became heavier Becky saw Heather was still in bed on the other side of the room. Both made an immediate connection to when their grandma would read to them as children.
“She would sit on the edge of the bed and read until we went to sleep,” she said. “Just classic grandma stuff.”
Feeling almost guilty for thinking their dead grandmother was still roaming the house, both sisters decided it would be in bad taste to try and explain this event to the rest of the family.
Two months later Heather and her sister are spending Thanksgiving night in the same guestroom.
“Becky refused to sleep in that bed so I had to,” Heather said. “I wasn’t even scared at first.”
Already uneasy and too wired to go to sleep Heather lay in bed staring at the ceiling until the same slight pressure pushed on the bed beside her. Frozen with a combination of fear and denial she felt the light weight slightly shift and Heather screamed and jumped out of bed.
When her mother came rushing into the room asking what was wrong, Becky replied “spider on the ceiling.”
Now every visit to grandpa’s house is an excuse to polish card-shuffling skills.
“We just play cards until everyone goes to sleep so we can sleep on the couch,” Heather said. “We get so bored but it’s better than sleeping with ‘spiders’.”
Neither of the sisters have set foot in the guestroom with rainbows and stuffed animals ever since.
WALK, DON’T RUN THROUGH THE GRAVEYARD
By Jesse Shipp
On Halloween, going to a cemetery is relatively common and one of the top things to do to get scared, sometimes people go voluntarily or they are dared to go. seven years ago on Halloween night, as a tradition, Tara Smith and her friends gathered to play games and watch movies. After the fun was over she was asked by Trey Rexroat and Hollie Lyons for a ride back to their homes in Keytesville and Glasgow. All three jumped into the 1996 turquoise Plymouth Voyager mini-van and was headed to Hollies’ home in Glasgow.
Right before Hollie’s home is a cemetery next to a Lutheran Church. Even though Hollie lives close to this cemetery, she has never been in it and so Hollie asks to stop so they can around the cemetery. After a few reluctant looks from Trey and Tara they both comply with Hollie’s begging. They pull up in the cemetery; Hollie jumps out while Tara and Trey sit in the van. As Hollie moved ahead she noticed that they stayed in the van and begs for them to come out. Tara turns off the van and leaves the headlights on to make the experience less creepy. Since it was a breezy night, Trey and Tara crossed their arms to keep warm as they climbed out of the van.
“The van headlights turned off and on three times, they didn’t dim; they were turned off and on every four or so seconds it seemed like, the van has never done anything like that before, that’s fucking creepy,” Smith said.
Hollie kept going deeper into the cemetery, Tara and Trey stayed next to the van and the van did it again.
After about 15 minutes or so, Hollie came back and they all hurried into the van and took off to Hollie’s house and then to Trey’s. On the way back home Tara was listening to country music on the radio.
“A mile after I dropped Trey off, it got awkwardly silent,” Smith said.
It just went silent, the radio stopped, Tara went to turn it up and something behind her yelled out “NO,” real loud. Tara stopped the van, turned on all the lights to see if anybody was there, which there wasn’t.
The following day Tara asked her parents about problems with the van. They said that they have never experienced anything wrong with the van. Bill, her dad, said that if it was a shortage in the wires then the lights would be doing that all the time, which they haven’t. According to Tara the van has never done anything like that again.
The Reverend in the Room
By Kiley Swopes
Before last week I had never had a paranormal experience. I had never seen a UFO, Bigfoot, been abducted by aliens or had ghosts come into my house. The most I could possibly say had ever happen was a street light has gone out a time a time or two as I drove by, but I just assumed the light had burnt out.
Going into the Axe Murder House in Villisca, Iowa, I was close-minded. I thought all day that nothing was going to happen. I admit I am afraid of the dark, so I was more afraid of not having electricity than seeing a ghost or hearing the dead speak.
When we got there we received a tour of the house, and heard the story of how and where the killings took place. The tour guide showed us the exact locations of original axe marks from 1912, where the most activity from the ghost is, and the rooms where set up the same as they were when the people were killed.
We walked around for an hour or so and then finally I settled down in the kid’s room with a group of students to see if we could get the spirit of the children who were killed to come out and “play.”
Hours went by and nothing had happened to me. But of course others in the class were experiencing things like getting EVPs, feeling people touching them, seeing shadow people. But me, nothing. But I just felt like I was talking to myself.
There was about an hour and a half left in our stay and Aaron brought an Ouija Board along with us. He had tried it in the living room and attic while I was sitting in the children’s room.
When he came into the children’s room he had asked if anyone wanted to do it. Since I never had before and nothing else was happening to me I thought why not. So I did.
I was so unsure how they worked so Aaron described to me on how light to touch to device. I practice the placement of my fingers on his hands to make sure I did not push too hard or too soft. Then Melissa and I used the board.
We first introduced ourselves and I asked all the questions. Our first few questions were, Is there anyone in here? How old are you? Are you a boy or girl? Are you here? Are you with us? Then we said what is your name?
The device started moving. Very slowly and hesitant, but it was moving.
As it moved I thought to myself, “I am not the one moving this thing.”
I very lightly lifted my fingers off the device just a little to prove to myself mainly that it wasn’t me. As I placed them back on it I stared at Melissa’s finger’s to see if she was pushing it.
Her fingers were shaking so bad because she was so cold. They kept lifting off the device.
She wasn’t pushing it.
The device traveled very slow to the letter “R” and then stopped.
The room fell instantly started asking what letter it went to and everyone started asking questions, did you move it Melissa? Did you move it Kiley? Who is here? Is it the Reverend? Some is here aren’t they? Are you mad we are here? Do you want us to leave?
At that point we had no more activity on the Ouija Board. We tried a few more questions but then we signed out.
Today, I still wonder how the Ouija Board moved and it still creeps me out. Was it really the Reverend in the room with us?