Alien Hunters and Paranormal Investigators
Explore the Far Horizon of Chesapeake Country
by Mark Burns
Halloween. Once Samhain, a Druidic ritual to ward off spirits of the last years dead. Now M&M/Mars best chance to ward off economic downturn.
Or is it more than that?
Illuminated by the amber light of ritually carved gourds, October 31 still remains a progenitor of myth and conjecture. Now as ancient then, we muse over the unknown, exploring the relics of our past for lingering spirits rumored to dwell among us.
As well as behind, we look above. On Halloween 1938, believers flung themselves from windows to escape the alien menace of Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio broadcast. Post World War II Roswell spawned still more suspicion and wonder. What strange visitors from the heavens might soon be headed our way if not already among us?
To some, such notions bite into the soul like the chill of autumn night. Apprehension is brushed off, though, as we flick a switch, brighten the room and tell ourselves its all in our minds.
But not everyone is so lucky. There are those who listen for the beating heart under the floorboards. Those who see a streak of light knocking around in the sky and believe it might be something alien.
Lore, they say, may well hold truth
Who You Gonna Call?
The ghostly aroma of old vine roses wafts in with a cool breeze as dishes rattle on a nearby desk; a new bride readying to wed at Annapolis Paca House is chilled. A large, boomerang-shaped craft glowing orange floats over Pasadena woods; it seems to fixate on you alone.
Forget who you call to bust the thing. Who do you call to make sure you arent going crazy?
You might start with Annapolis psychotherapist Peter Resta, who has treated alleged abductees and considers them largely sane. He is among the ranks of a select few who believe, or at least consider, the unbelieveable.
Should some eerie encounter spark postulation in your curious mind, you might compare cutting-edge theories of alien intelligence with researcher Paul LaViolette. However, if youre looking to share a weird experience, prolific UFO documentarian Bill Bean can lend a sympatheic ear.
Bean might also lend insight to your ghost story, as he has experienced more than a few spectral phenomena in his day. Ghost hunter Beverly Litsinger can reach into her bag of gadgets and intuition to launch a full investigation. Historian Cliff Long will simply enjoy a good story, as he is enthused by the local lore.
These are a few of the people who investigate the horizon of real. They are curious skeptics, scientific researchers, emphatic believers. Youre bound to find at least one among them with a mind open enough to hear your freakish tale without holding your sanity suspect.
They can do that because their stories are weirder.
photo by Mark Burns
Real-life ghostbuster Beverly Litsinger founded the Maryland Ghost and Spirit Association, a network of 300-plus ghost hunters.
I had this huge, huge thing that covered up most of my ceiling, says Litsinger, of the night she encountered what may have been a malicious ghost. It was over my bed watching me for three hours; ectoplasm with a face. By ectoplasm she means a vague, cloudlike apparition not the neon slime Bill Murray gets doused with in Ghostbusters.
It eventually passed on to the room of her daughter, who promptly expelled the ghost, which is done by either forceful command or protection prayers. Daughter then admonished mother for not having done the same.
That was an unusual event, says Litsinger, not for the visiting entity but for its nature. Shes not one to attract ghosts with mean streaks.
About one year ago, Litsinger, 48, of Randallstown, founded the Maryland Ghost and Spirit Association, a network of 300 to 400 ghost hunters. She leads the curious on investigations of haunted sites throughout the Baltimore area and beyond; future trips are intended for Annapolis, Ellicott Citys Patapsco Institute a former school for girls and Pocomoke Forest on the Eastern Shore.
Leading investigations of hauntings seems a natural fit for Litsinger, who claims a long history of experiences with stranded souls. But she hadnt thought to head her own investigations until she and daughter Jennifer, 30, met with some bad vibes on a ghost-hunting trip. Their guide seemed to her just the sort to attract the wrong element of specter. He was exuding negative energy, she says, which could easily attract the kind of malevolent ghosts she tries to avoid. She wont let anyone like that tag along on her own outings.
Litsinger says she can sense presences through intuition, almost like ESP. Her daughter, she says, can see dead people. But technology plays a role, too. Electromagnetic frequency detectors pick up the heightened electrical magnetic energies of ghosts. Specters can also change ambient temperature very quickly; an infrared laser temperature guage can track such changes. A recorder with external microphone logs voices and noises minus the mechanical background noise of the recorder itself. Then theres the ever-important camera, because its amazing what you capture on film, Litsinger says. Sometimes you get orbs, vortexes or ectoplasm.
Past investigations have turned up the recorded voice of a ghost at Loyola Colleges dorms, photos of bright orbs filling a church sanctuary and ectoplasmic mists at covered bridges.
House calls are common. At a Glen Burnie home, it was discovered that the former owner, a jeweler, was still hanging out in his beloved hand-dug basement workshop. After that prognosis, the current owner made peace with the ghost. Theyre very happy there together, says Litsinger. The owners sister says shes seen the ghost, and he smiles at her. She likes him. Hes very friendly.
Her own experience with ghosts began early and stayed long. Litsinger recalls her former home in Salisbury, where she lived with a poltergeist. None of my friends or family would visit me there, she says. Lights would flicker, a rocking chair was picked up and turned upside down, faucets would be turned on, objects would levitate across the room, cabinet doors would open and close. A lot of activity, she says, but nothing shed call menacing. She was just trying to tell me it was her house.
Litsingers poltergeist was a Casper. Bill Bean, however, shared his childhood home with that friendly ghosts mean uncle. Bean, 35, of Baltimore, moved as a child with his family into a Harundale home in 1970 only to discover it haunted.
Things started happening there with noises, says Bean. We started seeing apparitions. We started seeing a ghost. These things actually became violent to the point where family members were being levitated and choked. The television sets dial would rotate and furniture would be flipped over. You name it, it pretty much happened in that house.
A Catholic priest failed three times to exorcise this spirit, each time making it angrier. The family finally moved out in 1980, when Beans mother died. Like Litsinger, Bean later came to investigate other hauntings. But he has never been able to bring himself to return to the house at Harundale.
Historian Cliff Long roams the streets of Annapolis as an 18th-century ghost for Historic Annapolis Foundations first-ever Spirits of Annapolis walk.
Bean and Litsinger lived haunted histories. Cliff Long is a living history haunt.
Historian Long is a spirit in the flesh. In the character of an 18th century ghost, he roams Annapolis streets with tourists in tow along Historic Annapolis Foundations first-ever Spirits of Annapolis walk, waxing tales about the spirits said to linger. Each story he tells is one exhumed in his two months of research into local lore.
My focus in beginning these tours is talking about how these stories came about, why did these stories come about, and what do they fulfill in us as human beings, says Long. Hes decidedly neutral on judging the truth or fiction of those stories; all conclusions are left to the storytold. Long, for one, has never seen a ghost and, while not writing off the possibility, does not appear expectant.
There is ample opportunity for a firming of faith, though, as Long leads gaggles of recreational ghost-hunters by the State House, where worker-become-ghost Thomas Dance was flattened by his fall from the dome during construction. By Brice House, site of a 19th century murder and allegedly the most haunted place in town. To Paca House, purported home of The Rose Lady plus a pair of ghosts rumored to have sent renovators bolting from the manor, screaming.
Those same ghosts that sent the workmen running away now lure in some hundred curious travelers. The tour that was only to go one round on one night quickly grew to fill four tours on three nights in groups of 26. Many of us, it seems, want to believe in Litsingers Casper and Beans tormentor.
Ponders Long, What makes us want to have those ghosts? Maybe theyre there. Maybe theyre not. But to a lot of people theyre very real, and there is a very spiritual world I think that people want to connect to.
Searching for Intelligent Life
photo by Mark Burns
Traveling with a 35-millimeter camera, two camcorders and one pair of binoculars, Bill Bean has documented some 1,000-plus UFO sightings.
Bean believes the ghosts are real. And hes connected. But his overriding passion is for UFOs. I dont think Id be exaggerating if I told you Ive made over 1,000 sightings since 1995, he says. Its sudden, almost like an impulse. Something registers and Ill know that theyre around.
You dont have to run to Roswell, says Bean, to glimpse a UFO. There are plenty floating, zipping and zigzagging around here.
Ever ready, Bean gears up with one 35-millimeter camera, two camcorders and one pair of binoculars. From those some 1,000 sightings he has taken over 350 photographs and 16 hours of video footage. Some photos seem like only jet streaks; he shot them because they looked to be shooting off at weird angles.
The same orbs Litsinger points out in her ghost photos appear in the sky of some of Beans UFO photos. But then he pulls out a shot of what some have claimed is a dimensional gateway, an orange rectangle in the sky with a shaft of orange light pouring from it, appearing over Baltimores Brooklyn neighborhood in 1996. A sharply focused shot caught some strange red craft floating over a wooded valley in Front Royal, Virginia, in 1997. The kicker: his very first UFO photograph, snapped in 1995 on Fort Smallwood Road in Pasadena.
Coming from the west on a descent was this orange-red flashing object, Bean recalls. It was shaped like a boomerang, and its weird because thats exactly how it flew. We were heading north on Fort Smallwood Road, and I pulled the car over. I had an Olympus OMG 35-millimeter camera. The UFO passed over and hovered over trees to the right. Naturally, my wife wasnt too thrilled about stopping to look. I got eight shots; after I clicked the eighth shot, it just zipped right above the treeline and headed to the east. One shot turned out of the eight.
Beans very first UFO sighting was in 1977, of a bright UFO in the shape of a chefs hat hovering over the ravine between his Harundale home and Marley Station Mall. His most recent was about a week ago, when he spotted a shiny dart of a UFO while driving the Baltimore beltway with a skeptical co-worker who saw the same, was convinced and wishes to remain anonymous.
|Some of the photos of UFOs that Bill Bean has captured appear only as zig-zagging trails of colored lights, above. Others appear to show saucer-shaped objects zipping through the sky, below.
I dont know why this is happening to me, says Bean, who says the UFOs seem strangely attracted to him. Most of his footage was shot during daylight in his own backyard. I look at it as a journey and I hope that some time Ill have the answers.
Its because of the weird action hes seen, the strange interactivity a couple times, he says, UFOs responded to his plea for them to come back this way for more photos that Bean believes most of his encounters otherworldly. Im a Christian, he says. I feel that God may have created them as well and may have created them before he created us. This would explain their apparent technological superiority.
UFOs might zoom in on Bean, but so far hes not been taken.
Some claim otherwise. Psychotherapist Peter Resta has treated, researched and written on those who claimed experiences as alien abductees. They have been medical professionals, computer techies, teachers, an intelligence specialist and military personnel.
In the cases Resta speaks of, hes found no sign of the usual debunkers: temporal lobe epilepsy, drug abuse, quasi mass hysteria, psychosis, hallucination, delusion. In pouring over his own and others cases, hes found people do have a conscious memory, very often of part or all of the incident. What you do find in the literature is that the person was exposed to some kind of medical experimentation, which generally does focus in the abdominal area. You do find in the literature that people report seeing non-humans. And some other things.
About a year ago, a randomly referred patient claimed alien abduction to Resta. She was on the young side of middle age, a highly trained medical pro with a totally clear history. In a series of five to six visits, she consistently described waking up on a table in a spaceship to painful medical experimentation exacted by non-human figures.
Id say she seemed to be clearly sane, says Resta, who has faith in the honesty of this woman and other alleged abductees. Why would she come in to talk to a therapist to tell a lie? It was a very disturbing experience.
Resta was turned on to the strange possibilities of alien phenomena as a teen, when he tracked Michigans swamp gas incident of 1966 in the news. He studied eyewitness testimony of seeing a UFO, then the lame official explanation that followed: The funky lights were swamp gas. Something didnt jibe. Thus began his fascination with UFOs and alien theories that Restas mom hoped would fade with maturity.
Says Resta, Well Mom, Im 55 now, and guess what
Hes organizing his second conference to explore the question of extra-terrestrial intelligence.
Somethings going on. The question is, what is it? Now, Im not gonna sit here and tell you that I think were being visited by aliens. And Im not even gonna say that UFOs are alien controlled craft. And Im certainly not gonna sit here and say that I think people are being abducted by little green men.
Because theyre grey. He laughs, leaning forward with hands out to make sure its taken as a joke. The point is, Resta doesnt believe. Nor does he disbelieve. Hes simply fascinated, hoping conferences such as his will spur more of the serious, scientific investigation he thinks the notion of extra-terrestrial intelligence deserves.
Dr. Paul LaViolette needs no such convincing. Set to speak at Restas upcoming conference, hes a multi-disciplined scientist who champions the theory that pulsars are strategically placed beacons used by extra-terrestrial intelligence.
For over 20 years, LaViolette has researched the scientific enigma of pulsars. He began as a graduate student, while working on a new approach to physics capable of explaining, for example, stellar evolution and pulsating stars which current physics could not. Many of his subsequent astronomic prognostications proved true over the years, he says, but pulsars remained unexplained, set aside in his weird category.
Eventually he noticed the most luminous pulsars appeared strategically placed throughout the galaxy. It was something that relied on intelligence or amazing coincidence. LaViolette does not believe in coincidence.
Pulsars are the most highly ordered phenomenon in the sky, which is exactly what youd expect if it were extra-terrestrial intelligence controlled signals, says LaViolette. You could set a clock to pulsars broadband radio signals; other cosmic signals are erratic, such as the eruption of solar flares.
LaViolette believes the pulsars are navigational beacons, emitting signals able to compensate for the time dilation thought to happen when shooting through space at or near the speed of light. The two nearest to Earth may be hinting at our galaxys tendency for random cataclysm.
The Novella and Crab pulsars mark supernova remnants, he says, left behind by a cosmic ray outburst from the center of our galaxy that washed through the Milky Way some 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. That wave, in theory, triggered supernova that disrupted everything including our own solar system. Some proof of this, he says, has been found in polar ice core samples. Those two pulsars, in effect, are a friendly warning from benevolent aliens.
Beleive it or Not
LaViolettes theory isnt broadly accepted. Yet. He considers himself at the leading edge of science, where the formerly alleged quacks who founded the theory of dinosaur extinction from a megalithic meteor once found themselves.
Catastrophic theory isnt popular with a scientific establishment that prefers to know the cosmos as a safe place, says LaViolette. Its considered unscientific because it raises emotion. Its taboo.
In dealing with debunkers, he has company. Resta finds many psychologists are quick to label alleged abductees as cuckoo, not giving the matter so much as a second thought. On the other hand, hes known one skeptic to walk into a conference indignant and step out silenced. He hopes more people come with an open mind, but if they refuse? Thats their choice, and it doesnt bother him.
Litsingers own husband is still skeptical, even after the weird spooks hes met with on her adventures. Litsinger wont try to change anyones mind. She knows the alleged truth for herself, and thats enough.
Bean thinks alike. My whole philosophy is this, he says, if you believe me, great. If you dont, great. Its there. As far as Im concerned, I couldnt compile enough evidence.
Long is ever the historian looking for interesting ghost stories. He is free of conviction.
Everything these researchers put out for you to consider is pretty much alleged. Want proof? There are open invitations for you to come find it.
Sign up to join a ghost investigation on Litsingers website, www.marylandghosts.com, which offers tips for ghost hunting. Her book, Haunted Maryland, is due out in six months.
After a one-year hiatus from exploring for UFOs because of a busy schedule, Bean is ready to get back to normal. He plans to start up his popular skywatch outings again soon, to be announced on his website www.ufoman.net.
Long leads the final ghost tour this year at 8pm on October 27. There may still be room for you call Historic Annapolis Foundation to find out ($; rsvp; 410/267-7619).
Restas second conference, A 2001 Space Odyssey, blasts off the morning of October 27 at Anne Arundel Community College to explore, via speakers, the issues of LaViolettes pulsar theory, artificial structures on Mars, UFOs and a firsthand abduction account ($30; rsvp: 410/777-2055). You can also read all about LaViolettes theories in his books, Earth Under Fire and The Talk of the Galaxy.
Despite the strange theories, these people are not tilted maniacs, but rather congenial, normal folk. Give their ideas a chance, they say. Then see if you dont believe.
The Phantoms Next Door
You want haunts? Heres a run-down of some of the allegedly haunted sites in Anne Arundel and Calvert, courtesy of Beverly Litsingers online database at www.marylandghosts.com:
Anne Arundel County
- U.S. Naval Academy Chapel, Annapolis: John Paul Jones is said to haunt the site of his crypt. Gatehouse guards and visitors hear weird noises at night, sightings in the crypt are rumored.
- State House, Annapolis: Worker Thomas Dance fell from the dome during the State Houses construction. Some have seen him roaming the capitol or knocking about the dome.
- Brice House, Annapolis: Supposedly the most haunted joint in town. The last Brice to inhabit the home was found murdered in his study back in the 19th century. His suspect valet fled soon after. Locals have, in the past, reported seeing reenactments of the crime over the years. A Naval Academy professor who lived there claimed to have seen a white-haired man in black coat and black stocking cap vanish before his eyes.
- Loews Hotel, Annapolis: From 1910 to 1929 it was the site of a powerhouse and railroad route; from then until 1959 it served as a dairy; in 1991 it became a hotel. Reports include flickering lights, a shattered bottle of milk from another era and a ghost train that rumbled through a service corridor.
- Howards Cove, Annapolis: A barn here may be haunted by the ghost of a housekeeper murdered in 1930.
- Honeysuckle Road, Crownsville: Two girls and an old man, all victims of one psychotic, are said to roam this road near the county fairgrounds.
- Governors Bridge, Davidsonville: Years ago, a teen mother threw her baby off the bridge, herself following in remorse soon after. Many drivers have seen a woman standing on the bridge. A truck driver once wrecked on the bridge when trying to avoid hitting a woman in the road; police later found no evidence that anyone was ever there.
- Maidstone: The Gray Lady of Maidstone is said to be Ann Chew, a young woman still in her 1724 wedding dress. Rarely sighted inside, she has been seen in the garden of the Bayside home.
- Northern High School, Owings: Part of the school was supposedly built on the site of a slave graveyard. Slaves are said to haunt the classrooms. Ghostly winds once blew a hallways doors open and shut, followed by a strange, white precipitation that disappeared before hitting the floor. An art teacher reported the lid of a ceramic pot flying off and landing unbroken. A custodian once heard voices and noises in the empty auditorium. A social studies teacher saw a man in blue jeans disappear. Lights have flickered.
- Hance Home: Someone was murdered in the kitchen of this home many years ago. On the anniversary of the murder, blood stains allegedly appear at the site where the body was found. Many strange paranormal events happen here; investigating ghost hunters have witnessed the strange occurrences.
- Cedar Hill: Through the years, tenants have reported doors slamming, lights and televisions turning themselves on and off, being tapped on the shoulder by an invisible hand, seeing a man dressed in Civil War uniform standing in the den, a rocker rocking independently, eerie noises and being pushed down the stairs from behind.
- Bowens Inn, Solomons: An employee carrying boxes to the third floor was scared out of a job by a female ghost.
- Grey Fox Inn, Solomons: The inn may be haunted by the ghostly poodle of the inns original owners. Visitors on moonlit nights have seen it. The dog does not always appear whole; sometimes its just his tail wagging across the floor.
- Carmens Gallery, Solomons: In 1940, a man staying at this then-home fell off the pier and drowned. A later owner was told of the drowning and soon found the mans packed suitcase in the attic. No sightings, but noises have been heard.