I hope this newsletter finds you healthy. I pray you’re safe and making your way through this new “normal,” but also that you’re inspired to take inventory of who you really are when you’re left in quiet spaces, and maybe make a few adjustments and course corrections if you feel it’s needed. All of us are a work in progress, and now is a good time to make any improvements we can whether to ourselves or our environments.
With my extra time, I’ve been cleaning out my basement. I have decades of stuff down there. I still have some papers from grade school. (No, I don’t know why I’m still saving them, either. It’s not like someone has ever called me out and said, “Prove you really got that A+ on that art project in fifth grade!”) I have endless cassette tapes filled with interviews I’ve conducted with people throughout my career. I have books, and magazines, I have pots and pans that haven’t been used this millennium, and collector bottles and glasses from various events. My basement intimidated me like nothing else in my home because I had let it get so bad. It became the place we threw every item that didn’t have another place to go in our house. Over time, that adds up to quite a lot.
For weeks I hacked and slayed at that beast. Filling garbage bags, making piles of items to donate, and creating dents in the creepy space that is my basement. Before I tackled my unruly basement, it reminded me of so many abandoned buildings I’ve had the fortune of investigating throughout my paranormal career.
My earliest recollection of exploring an abandoned place dates back to my childhood, when my friends and I would ride our bikes to an abandoned house at the end of a dirt road. This two-story home looked every bit the haunted part: most of the windows were broken or gone, vines and trees grew into the building as nature slowly attempted to retake what was always hers, peeled paint, dirt and mold turned the façade bruised and blotchy, and the roof sagged from years of leaks, rot, and water damage. But inside was even creepier. The rooms were NOT empty. There was rotting furniture, dust, books, and other household items left all around. Some were scattered on the floor, as if ransacked by kids who came years before us, but the house looked as if someone mostly left it all behind.
If the rooms were decaying but empty, that’s one thing, but this place was abandoned in the truest sense of the word. Someone took what they wanted and left everything else behind to rot. You know there’s a story there, though you may never know exactly what circumstances led to someone running from the house never to return. The not-knowing gnawed at me as a kid, and it still gnaws at me as an adult as I go into old hospitals and asylums that have been left to the elements for decades.
With the larger municipal abandoned buildings, you may even know the circumstances for abandonment: a hospital lost its funding and was forced to shut down, so the building remained unused, and unwanted.
We personify living spaces, we can’t help it. Buildings and homes have personalities just like people do. Those structure personalities are defined by the building’s purpose, and the people who lived and worked inside. Take away a function, take away people, and these buildings become lonely, broken, and haunted places.
After two months of quarantine, I find myself relating to feeling isolated and underutilized. I’m connecting to a darker place, and that connection brings with it ghosts from my own past, and maybe, just maybe, it puts me into a place to connect with spirits in a similar spot.
Still, we must face our past: whether the personal past of photos and memories stored in boxes beneath your house, or a community’s memories locked in the walls and concrete of an abandoned building, because that past defines who we are today, it allows us to better understand ourselves, and gives us the opportunity to make a course correction if needed.
There’s beauty in the decay, but also questions. This month on Ghostvillage, we’re going to celebrate the decay, and the haunts that come with abandoned spaces.
My basement isn’t the only project that’s been occupying my time. I’ve also been working on more stories for my live events. Many libraries are booking me for virtual programs now, meaning if you’d like to attend, you only need an internet connection. You can register from anywhere in the world. I’ll be posting the listings on
Ghostvillage.com as they’re booked. I hope to “see” you at a program soon. Each one is different, so please come by!
Stay safe, stay healthy, and take good care of yourselves and those around you.