Photos of alleged evidence of the paranormal are a dime a dozen.  A quick google search will return over 5 million hits, some old classics that have been proven as hoaxes, some photoshopped horror movie characters lurking behind someone, a few photos that warrant a closer look, and the bulk being blurs, smoke, camera malfunctions, and silly kids wearing sheets.

Paranormal pictures range from purported apparitions to gnomes, lake monsters, chupacabras, UFOs, and on and on and on.  In the mid-90's a new breed of paranormal photos began appearing.  They showed what were called "rods," objects flying in the air that were reportedly naked to the eye but could be captured on film or video. 
Skeptics were quick to dismiss these rods as bugs caught flying in the air.   The rods often had appendages that sort of resembled fins.  Some theorized that their blurry appearances were due to the rods vibrating at a high frequency. They were thought to be some new type of life form, neither insect nor mechanical, and intelligent.

This summer I went on a ghost hunt to an old school house.  While outside, i snapped this picture, in which I'm pretty sure I didn't capture a flying rod.  I quite confident that  it is more likely an insect, and am leaning heavily towards a moth.
Baby Mothman?
This was taken on my porch one night.  I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that these are most likely some kind of insect as well, but several photos are floating around the internet very similar to this and are said to be, without a doubt, evidence of fairies.
Long before little green men were reported to be visiting Earth in flying saucers, normal sized blue people were commonplace in Perry County.  The case dates back to 1820 when orphaned French immigrant Martin Fugate claimed a land grant and settled onto Troublesome Creek, near Hazard.  While reports of the color of his skin vary, he nonetheless courted and married Elizabeth Smith, who somehow carried the rare reciessive gene that when coupled with Martin's caused 4 of their 7 children to have blue skin. 

Over the next 160 years scores of blue people were born into the Troublesome Creek area.  Many credit intermarrying for the phenomena, which has also been documented among Alaskan Eskimos and Native Americans.  The few families who lived int the area married back and forth.  Both parents didn't have to have the condition themselves, only carry the recessive gene to possibly pass it along to their children.  

It wasn't until 1960 that a cause for the blue tinted skin was found.  After generations of Fugates and their relatives often hid in shame of their appearance, a hematologist from the University of Kentucky caught wind of the blue people in the hills.  Madison Cawein made several trips down to Hazard, and finally came across a couple of these blue people in a clinic one day.  

He was just biding his time when Patrick and Rachel Ritchie came in.  "They were bluer'n hell,"  Cawein stated.  They obliged him to exam them thoroughly.  After ruling out heart disease, he thought to ask if they had any relations who were blue.  Soon the hematologist was on his way to meet other family members who suffered the same condition.  He collected blood samples from them and returned to Lexington to study them.  

Cawein suspected they were afflicted with methemoglobinemia, a rare hereditary disorder that causes excess levels of methemoglobin in the blood.  What's that?  Blue methemoglobin, is the nonfunctional form of red hemoglobin that carries oxygen in the blood.  His tests showed a complete lack of the enzyme diaphorase in the samples, confirming his hypothesis.  Their blood had accumulated so much of the blue methemoglobin that it overtook the red hemoglbin which causes the pinkish tint in caucasian skin.  

Among suggested treatments were to administer a dye, methylene blue.  He returned to Patrick and Rachel's house and gave them injections.  Within minutes, for the first time in their lives, their skin took on a normal pinkish tone.  A cure was found.

The picture below is of Martin, Elizabeth and their children. 
Hard to tell much from this, so here's an actual photo of one of the blue people.
The recent death in late May of a West Virginia serpent-handling preacher has once again propelled the faith back into the media's sights.  Mack Wolford, who had turned 44 the previous day, was known to be a man of the strongest conviction.  Wolford posted feverishly on Facebook leading up to what would be his final service at the Panther Wildlife Management Area.  "Praise the Lord and pass the rattlesnakes, brother,” he wrote on May 23.
Wolford pictured with Sheba, the rattlesnake that fatally bit him
Wolford's father had also been a Pentecostal preacher, and died as the result of a snakebite during worship in 1983.  After coming back to the faith around 10 years ago, Wolford worked hard to keep the practice of handling serpents alive.  Historically those who participate in such practices have shunned media attention, but Wolford embraced them, seeing them as a means to further his mission and took them along on snake hunting expeditions.  One can't help but subconsciously draw up the image of True Blood's Rev. Steve Newlin.

Why would anyone want to handle snakes during church? Or consume strychnine as Wolford was said to have done during his final sermon as well.  Those members of the Church of God or Church of Jesus Christ With Signs Following base their faith on a literal interpretation of Mark 16:17-18, "And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."
When the Holy Ghost so moves them to do so, church members will take up the serpents, dance with them, swing them around, and throw them around their neck.  They would also drink a mixture of strychnine and water, and ignite kerosene and hold it to their skin.  They believe that by trusting in God, he will take care of them.  Not that participants don't expect to get bitten.  There have been over 100 deaths among believers since the faiths inception.  When someone is inevitably bitten, their faith directs them to not seek medical attention, only to trust in God to heal them.
Wolford had been bitten by poisonous snakes during services at least 3 times previously.   They believe there are 2 reasons someone could be bitten.  If they have sinned, they could be bitten for doing so.  Otherwise bites are believed to mean God used them as a messenger to confirm the faith and word are true. So where did all this serpent and fire handling come from?
While there is some debate, it is commonly accepted that the Reverand John Went Hensley was troubled by the passage from the book of Mark.  In the early 1900s he went up onto a mountain to pray.  While doing so he felt God move on him, and then saw a rattlesnake.  He took it up and later attended a service where he related his experience and pulled out a snake for all to see.  Word of this performance traveled quickly, and Hensley soon attracted a large following.
Fatal snakebites seem to be an especially common among such preachers.  Hensley himself died after procuring a 5 ft. snake, worshiping with it, and being fatally bitten while returning it to it's container.  Such deaths are accepted among believers as God's will, and Him calling them on home.  
While outsiders and the media are quick to jump on deaths such as Wolford's, the congregations have to battle the legal system as well.  While there are no laws in place in West Virginia pertaining to such activities, laws are in place in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama that ban the practice of handling poisonous snakes during such services.  The snake handling Pentecostals have pretty much remained within the confines of the Appalachains, while there are some congregations in Ohio and down into Georgia. 
For the past year Wolford had allowed photojournalist Lauren Pond to document the church's activities for a documentary.  Pond was present that Sunday at the service, and had her camera with her.  While she didn't see the bite, there are photographs making their rounds on the internet of Wolford being taken from the site, at first being helped along, then finally carried to a vehicle.  Pond followed as he was taken to Bluefield to a relative's home.  Family and church members watched as the preacher lay on the couch, his situation progressively worsening.  Around 8 that night he finally relented and allowed paramedics to be called, but was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. 
About half an hour into the day's services Wolford had taken Sheba, one of eight snakes he kept in a spare bedroom in his home, out and passed it around.  He placed it on the ground, sat down next to it, and it bit him on the thigh.  He continued to handle the rattlesnake after the bite, while his condition began to deteriorate.  His mother remained with him throughout the day, stroking his feet as the venom wreaked havoc on his body and accepted her son's impending death.
Pond's photo of Wolford's mother with him shortly before his death
Here's an older short piece showing some actual serpent-handling:
From time to time strange artifacts appear in places where they just shouldn’t be.  There’s no explanation for how they got there.  One such case occurred in 1944 in West Virginia.  Ten year old Newton Anderson was sent to fetch coal for the stove to heat the family house.  He dropped a lump, cracking it open.  He was beyond puzzled when he saw a bell entombed inside the block of coal. 

The bell was made of brass with an iron clapper, and was adorned with a figure on it’s top.  Scientists became interested and testing dated it to be an antediluvian artifact, a big word that means before the Great Flood associated with Noah.  Anderson later researched the figure on the bell’s top and believes it to be similar to depictions of a Babylonian Wind Demon and the Hindu god Garuda, who is sometimes depicted atop bells.  The question is, how did such a relic find it’s way into the coal?

The lump of coal in which the bell was found was bituminous, mined just a few miles down the road from his house in Upshur County.  Coal is formed over millions of years as dead vegetation decays and hardens.  Could it be an artifact of an ancient race, perhaps carried by a flood that covered the Earth and came to rest in the hills of West Virginia?  Of course skeptics would wonder if the bell was indeed found inside the coal as stated, or somewhere else.  Either way, the dating is puzzling.  The bell is now in possession of the Genesis Park, a group who’s goal is to show evidence that man and dinosaurs coexisted.
Figure adorning top of the bell, an ancient god?
Other objects have been found inside coal which shouldn’t have been there, including an eight karat gold chain about 10 inches long, an iron pot, an iron object resembling a thimble, and a small metallic cube with an incision running around it horizontally.  These anomalous finds buried deep in coal veins far below the earth’s surface are problematic to historians, as their carbon-dating reveals them to be much older than they should be, and leads many to question how much of what we believe to be true both of man’s history and the history of the Earth is actual fact.  There are those who would rather sweep such out of place artifacts under the rug, but if our goal is to seek the truth, we must pursue such matters.  We cannot accept that such anomalies are just random coincidence, but seek to find answers as to how they got there.
***UPDATE***  1-26-13
A chunk of metal believed to be part of a cog was found inside a piece of coal in Russia.  Komsomolskaya Pravda of Vladivosto, near the Chinese and North Korean borders, found the object and had scientists take a look.  The piece of metal, believed to be 300 million years old, is composed of 98% aluminum and 2% magnesuim.  How'd it get there???  To read the article, hit the jump.
The moon landing was faked, 9/11 was an inside job, and George W. Bush assassinated JFK.  You won't read these facts in standard textbooks, but conspiracy theorists the world over continually unearth evidence that have just enough factual basis to make you wonder.  Conspiracies range from suspicious to irrational, usually involving some secret group working together to commit a wrongful act.  Everybody knows that Dale Gribble guy who's obsessed in their abstract belief of what others hold to be historical accounts.  They often point to obscure or vague documents or people that are nearly impossible to track down as the basis of their arguments.  However, a true conspiracy is uncovered before the public frequently enough to keep the Dale Gribble's of the world hungry for the next piece of information that will blow the top off of accepted events.

X-Files fans will recall Agent Mulder's "I Want To Believe"  UFO poster that hung on his office wall.  That sums up the conspiracists' worldview quite well.  There are those people who seem to be genetically inclined to grasp onto these far-fetched notions.  They are a paradoxical breed; skeptical believers.  They cannot accept accounts of events as they are presented once they catch wind of a conspiracy.  They question every frame of the Zapruder film of Kennedy's assassination, while seeming to reject Lee Harvey Oswald as the Occam's razor candidate.

The average history student could tell you that  the Office for Strategic Services, which became the CIA, was founded in 1947 with J. Edgar Hoover as it's director, but it would take an Alex Jones or Jesse Ventura type to tell you that the agency conducted Project Paperclip following WWII, bringing Nazi scientists and intelligence officers to the United States to work for them.  They could also tell you that they gave LSD and other experimental drugs to US soldiers to study their effects for mind control purposes as released with the MK-ULTRA information.  A true conspiracist would go on to tell you that the CIA orchestrated the Kennedy assassination, pointing out memos known to have been in circulation around the office.  They wouldn't stop there.  You would also have to hear how they spread crack throughout black neighborhoods in order to incite them to kill one another and created the AIDS virus to wipe out gay men and African-Americans.  I could tell you Hoover fancied wearing women's underwear, but what part that played in the great conspiracy I'm not sure I want to know.

Where do these guys come up with these very different accounts of history?  It would appear that some, such as the limo driver shot JFK, were just made up.  The sun glints off the mirror of the limo in the Zapruder film for a split second, in which someone decided that the driver turned, fired a gun hitting Kennedy and Texas governor John Connally several times, completely unnoticed, posted a video to Youtube, and accumulated followers who wanted to believe.  Perhaps humans, the free will loving beings that we are, innately fear George Orwell's Big Brother government controlling our every move, knowing all our secrets.  We are weary of the "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" warnings, ever searching for an impish old man pulling the strings unknown to us.  

The Watergate scandal is accepted as historical fact now, but during Nixon's early presidency who would've thought the man in charge of running the country would be involved in breaking into the rival political party's headquarters to tarnish them?  We can read historical accounts everywhere of James Earl Ray's assassination of Martin Luther King, but you have to dig a little to find that the FBI had unofficially labelled him as an enemy of the state, and have records of a letter they sent to him anonymously, informing him they had knowledge of an affair he was having, and implying he should kill himself if he didn't want to be outed and disgraced.  

I have to agree with conspiracists' belief that we have a right to information.  So many times our government has kept knowledge secret, sometimes for national security, sometimes maybe not.  The Manhattan Project kept hushed about it's atomic bomb research, not acknowledging it's existance or it's 130,000 employees for over 25 years.  It's not always a shadowy government conspiring against the public.  Corporations are favorites among conspiracists.  While the owners of Johnson & Johnson may not be promoting Satanism and KFC doesn't add an ingredient to make African-American men sterile to the Colonel's recipie, there are proven corporate conspiracies.  Take for instance the case of Karen Silkwood, a union worker assigned to investigate health conditions at the Kerr-Mcgee nuclear plant in Oklahoma.  When tested for contamination, it appeared that someone was trying to poison her with plutonium.  When sent to Los Angeles for further testing, Silkwood was found dead in her car, the accident officially said to be caused by her falling asleep at the wheel.

Do we Americans in fact have complete free will, or are we just puppets of a Masonic-ran government from it's conception?  Are Tupac, Elvis, and the real Paul McCartney sipping mojitos on a Middle Eastern beach resort with Michael Jackson?  When you dig deep enough history certainly gives us reason to question what the mainstream media machine feeds us. Trust no one.  If there is a shadow government firmly in place orchestrating the looming apocalypse, surely there's a yankee doodle Luke Skywalker hero among us who will uncover their plot and overthrow them.  Or maybe he already has... 
My love affair with all things spooky goes back as far as I can remember.  Since I was a kid I've been fascinated with the unknown.  I felt a need to know if there was more to this world than what we see with our eyes and hear with our ears.  Later I realized that if I could answer questions on whether or not ghosts and things of a paranormal nature existed, I would be more comfortable basing my personal theology on that.  If i could feel more certain about what happens after death, i would be more comfortable with what happens in life. 

After years of chasing ghosts, I've never experienced anything as clear as my first encounter.  Being 15 and years from overcoming my fear of the dark, I was quite shaken by the experience.  This was the 90's, long before TAPS and the notion of ghost hunting became mainstream.  Although I was fascinated with all things spooky I hadn't considered a true paranormal experience happening to me.  At least I didn't run away screaming...I only walked at a brisk pace.

The first ghost I ever saw was the best a paranormal investigator could hope for - a full bodied apparition.  Only I was not on an investigation.  I was a sophomore in high school in a sleepy little mining town in Kentucky.  

In previous decades students wanting to grab a puff between classes only had to walk outside the building, where they were often joined by faculty and staff also needing their nicotine fix.  By the time I made it to good ol’ Fleming-Neon High School there were strictly enforced rules against tobacco use on campus.  Of course back then we all considered rules to be made in order to be broken.  As soon as the bell rang signaling the end of one class period a couple dozen girls would cram into the five-stall wide bathrooms which quickly filled with the thick fog of cigarette smoke.  I’m sure the same was going on in the boys’ bathroom, but never felt the need to go and see for myself.

The teachers were no dupes and knew exactly what was going on.  While most of them were only biding their time until retirement and were not concerned in the least as to what damage we were doing to our lungs in the restroom, there were a couple who took twisted pleasure in busting through the bathroom doors and grabbing the first student they saw with a cigarette in their hand and hauling them down to the principal’s office.  The bathrooms had a heavy outer door and then another swinging stall-type door a few feet on in.  Those of us hotboxing cigarettes had a split second after the first door opened to glimpse under the swinging door, watching for “teacher shoes.”  If there was a possibility that the clicking heels about to push open the swinging door belonged to a staff member cigarettes would go flying in every direction, causing orange sparks to bounce off the walls and stalls.  As long as you didn’t have a cigarette in your hand you couldn’t be hauled down to the office.  That didn’t save you from the scornful looks, but kept you out of detention.  

The high school had two floors of an identical layout, and it was common knowledge that most of the smokers gathered in the downstairs bathroom.  This was something I tried my best to set in stone and enforce my last two years there, out of sheer terror.  I often found myself done with the busywork assigned for the day and bored, staring out the windows of the classroom.  I’d ask permission to go and use the restroom, not having any real need to use it for anything other than a smoking hideout.  During class there was rarely anyone else in the bathrooms.  Occasionally someone would actually need to use the facilities or have the same idea I did and grab a quick puff, but the restrooms were usually deserted while classes were in session.                 
I had an English class upstairs and having stared out the window longing for the school day to be over for 20 minutes I asked to be excused to use the restroom.  I had reasoned that if you were in the last stall, furthest from the door you had the most time to dispose of an incriminating cigarette should a faculty member feel the call of nature during class.  On this occasion someone had failed to make sure their deposit had made it’s way to the sewers, so in disgust I settle for the stall next to it.                   

The calming rush of that first puff had barely hit me when I heard the outer door swing open.  Being cautious but also not wanting to toss it in the toilet just yet (cigarettes weren’t that easy to come by before you were old enough to buy your own) I stood crouched over the toilet with the cigarette ready to fall to it’s watery death at the first hint of trouble.  I held my breath and waited, hearing the inner door swing open.  There was no clicking of “teacher shoes” but something didn’t feel right.                   

There was a crack about a quarter of an inch between the stall doors and their supports through which you could see out into the sink area.  I peered cautiously through this crack, still holding onto that cigarette.  I saw someone walk past.  It was only a split second glimpse, but they appeared to be wearing a long skirt and to me that translated into teacher attire.  I had no choice and flushed the toilet, careful to not drop the cigarette until I had so the flushing noise would drown out the hiss of the extinguishing smoke I had so badly wanted.  If a teacher thought you were smoking in the stalls, just as I was, they would often walk across the length of the bathroom and stand below the windows on the far end.  When you’d come out they would be standing there with their arms folded across their chest and wearing an expression of reproach.  I knew this is what I was in for, as the figure had passed in front of me in the next to last stall and I hadn’t heard them enter the backed up one.                  

Hoping I would only receive a tongue lashing and not an escorted trip down to the principal’s office, I waited as long as I could and then swung the stall door open to face the music.  Before I was even halfway out of the stall I looked to the window, completely expecting to see one of my teachers there with their arms folded across their chest.  To my surprise there wasn’t a soul there…a living one anyway.  At first I was relieved, but it only took a second to realize that this wasn’t right.  I had definetly seen someone walk in front of me, I’d even heard the doors open although I hadn’t heard any footsteps.  Panic set in and I made haste to return to my classroom.  I’ll always remember returning to my seat, which was just a few feet away from the teachers desk.  Instead of my usually talkative self, I had returned solemn and silent.  Instead of out the window I stared straight ahead.  The English teacher looked up from the pile of papers in front of her and saw the puzzled expression on my face.  “What’s wrong with you? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” she said.  That’s when it hit me.  That had been exactly what had just happened, although I didn’t dare say so.                 

I put a lot of work into organizing the restroom routines of the female student body, and by my senior year it was commonly accepted that between classes if you wanted to smoke, you went downstairs. If you actually need to use the facilities you went upstairs.  If nature called during an upstairs class I never thought twice about taking the extra time to go downstairs to do my business.  If the halls were empty, I’d sometimes even take off jogging when I got close to the bathroom and not stop until I’d reached the bottom of the stairs.  I’d always get a creepy feeling from that bathroom.  Whether it was because there was bad voodoo coming from it or I was just remembering that one spooky instance I do not know, nor did I care to find out in those days.                 
At some point later while in study hall I got the courage to tell some of my close friends what had happened on that day in the upstairs bathroom.  One of them said that made sense, and I asked what she meant.  She relayed a story to us that had been told to her by her aunt, whom I knew as a respected school teacher herself and surely the no-nonsense type.  She said when they were in high school in the 70s they had snuck into the building one night and set up a séance in the upstairs bathroom.  One of them claimed to be versed in the occult and led the proceedings.  When they asked for a sign of a spirit’s presence, the windows burst open, an unnaturally strong wind came through causing everything in the room to be tossed about.  The lights flickered on and off.   The girls were shrieking in terror and trying to gather up their belongings when they heard an unearthly growl that seemed to come from everywhere.  That’s when they forgot about their stuff and got out of there as quickly as they could fit through the doors.                   
Another friend chimed in that she had heard that if you opened a door to the other side and didn’t close it, say by getting scared and running off, it left whatever had gotten through here in this world.  We all hypothesized about what could be lurking in the upstairs bathroom for the rest of the period.  When the bell rang I made a beeline to the bathroom to smoke, downstairs of course.                   Was the tale of the séance in the 70s exaggerated? Probably.  Did it have anything to do with the specter I’d seen? Maybe, maybe not, but when you’re dealing with a bunch of impressionable high school girls, the coincidences connect strongly.  Did I see something pass in front of the stall I was in? Absolutely.  Was it human? Absolutely not.  That is all I am sure of.  A few years later all the high schools in the county consolidated and the building where I had my first paranormal experience now stands abandoned.  I haven’t been in it since the school closed.  I would love to go back now and do an actual investigation, because if there ever was a place that consistently gave me the creeps, it was that upstairs girls bathroom.
Sometimes the paranormal finds you when you least expect it.  This was the case one night when my cousin called me up and asked if I wanted to go ghost hunting.  Of course my answer was yes.  She wanted to know where we could go.  I decided on a lonely mountain road that crossed from Letcher County into Pike County.

Around 40 years ago a man had went missing from town following a poker game in which he had been accused of cheating.  Weeks later a deer hunter discovered his body.  It appeared as if he had been killed and driven up this mountain road, turned off on a dirt road and driven as far as it went, and then dumped out.  Growing up I heard tales of people driving along late at night spotting his ghost walking along the side of the road.  My cousin said it sounded as good a place to go hunting as any, so we sat out.

We drove across the mountain.  The moon was full and it was very bright outside, but bitterly cold on that January night.  I had thought ahead and put on thermals under my clothes, and would be glad I had a little later on.  At the top of the mountain there’s a dirt road that goes higher up, part of an old strip mine. She had never been that way so we decided to go exploring.  We were lost in conversation and enjoying splashing the car through mudholes.  I told her about a guy I had dated telling me he had seen shadow people up here, although he hadn’t known to call them that.  Another guy swore something black flew beside his car as he drove up the Pike County side one night.  She agreed that the place had a certain creepiness about it.  I’d never gotten that vibe from this place but saw how one could, especially in the middle of the night with a reddish-tinted full moon overhead.

We had driven for miles and the condition of the road was getting progressively worse.  I suggested we turn around and head back since you couldn’t go much further anyway.  By this time she had started down a hill and we agreed we’d turn at the bottom of it, wanting to get back to one particularly deep mudhole and use our cameras to film the car splashing through it instead of trying to catch a ghost floating by. 

I got a text message and was busy typing out a reply when I felt the front of the car go down fast and with a thud.  “I hope you didn’t just get us stuck,” I said jokingly.  She had pulled to the side of the flat area at the bottom of the hill in order to back up and head back up the hill, only we weren’t going anywhere.  She put it in reverse and the tires just spun.  I got out to inspect the situation, and saw that she had driven the front tires into a ditch that was overgrown and pretty much hidden in the dark.  We tried every trick I knew, pushing from the front, sitting on the trunk, putting rocks under the tires in hopes of getting traction, but we just kept digging the tires deeper and deeper into the mud.  My cousin had a big Maglite that had worked fine when we tested it before we left, but when we tried to use it to see how deep we were stuck, it wouldn’t come on.  We took out the batteries, put them back in, and nothing. 

Knowing that we weren’t going to drive out of this situation by ourselves, I called my uncle who lived at the bottom of the mountain, hoping that he was home.  I knew that hooking a chain to the car and pulling it out was the only way we were getting out of this one.  My aunt answered the phone, and a few calls back and forth later, after explaining as best I could where we were,  I felt reassured knowing that my uncle and his son-in-law were on their way to rescue us. 

I walked to the top of the hill a couple times, wishing there was something more I could do.  Those mining roads went on forever and splintered off every couple miles.  I knew it would take them a while to get to us, assuming they didn’t take a wrong turn, because of the rutted out roads and mudholes big enough to go swimming in.  Thinking I could help the situation by walking out to meet them, I called down to my cousin, asking if she wanted to come.  She said she’d stay with the car.  I asked if she’d be alright by herself and she assured me she would.  So with my flashlight whose batteries were weak-going-on-dying I set out.                 

Other than the cold it was a beautiful night.  The sky was full of stars and because of the full moon I only used the flashlight when I had to cut around one of those big mud holes and through the weeds.  I’d walked about 15 minutes when I thought I heard my cousin a little ways back.  I could hear her talking.  Figuring she’d got spooked staying by herself and had set out after me, I got out my cell phone to call her.  I thought about just yelling, but if she was spooked that might only make it worse.  I had great service on top of that mountain, but when I called her phone I got a recording that said she was out of the service area.  I tried a couple more times, getting the same result, so I texted her.  When I didn’t hear anything back from her, I kept on walking, hoping our rescuers would come rolling up any minute.                

After another 10 minutes or so of walking, I heard something in the weeds to my left.  They cut those mining roads into the mountains, so the edge of the road dropped off steeply down the hill.  I stopped dead in my tracks, and immediately thought about what a bad idea walking off by myself had been.  Now here I was, with nothing but a tiny flashlight to defend myself, and a bear or bobcat was 20 yards away from me.  I decided it was time to turn around and go back to the car.  I made much better time going back.                 

Twice more while walking back I heard what I thought was my cousin.  It was always in the direction back where the car was stuck, but was too far away to make out any words.  I tried calling again, just to be told again that she was out of the service area.  I finally made it back to the top of the hill and saw that she had started a little fire at the bottom.  I called out to her, asking if she was okay.  She yelled that she was.  Then I heard the ‘critter’ again, about the same distance away.  My first thought was ‘I’m being stalked.’  A mountain lion was hungry and was hunting me.  I stopped where I was, just below the top of the hill, and shined my flashlight in that direction.  It was too weak to see anything more than the moonlight already allowed. 

Just as I was about to start back down the hill to the car, I heard small rocks hit in front of me.  I looked down and saw them skip to a stop just in front of my feet.  I had been standing still for several seconds, so there was no way I had kicked them myself.  That was the first time in a long time that I had been genuinely crept out.  I forgot about the cougar and briefly entertained the idea of a Sasquatch toying with me.  I called out for my cousin again, this time telling her to come up the hill and meet me.  I could hear the fear in my own voice and didn’t like it.  She didn’t ask why, but started up the hill. 

Once we were close enough that I felt a little easier I told her it was okay and she waited, then we walked the rest of the way down together. Once we were back at the car and in the comfort of the fire’s light, I asked her if she had started walking in the direction that I had went.  She said no, and asked why.  I was puzzled, “Because I heard you.”

“No way!  I kept hearing you.  I texted you back and told you.  I thought you were just standing up there.”  She said that she couldn’t make out any actual words because the voice was too far away, but had clearly heard a woman talking.  She thought it was me and that I was on the phone with someone.   I told her I hadn’t spoken a word aloud since I had left.  We both had a serious case of the creeps.  A couple minutes later my phone beeped, and although I’d had perfect service it was the text she had sent me, “Yeah, I’m fine.  I can hear you lol.”  She showed me on her phone that she had sent the text 20 minutes before.  For arguments’ sake I texted her back, and the delay between me sending it and her receiving it was about 5 seconds.                

I got out my audio recorder and walked back up the hill to where I had last heard something and saw the pebbles thrown at me.  I just had time to state where we were and say if anything was with us, make yourself known, when headlights appeared at the top of the hill.  Our rescuers had arrived.                

Getting the car unstuck was no small feat, but they didn’t give up until we were out of the ditch.  They insisted on following us off the mountain to make sure we made it safely, so there wasn’t an opportunity to try and connect with whatever both of us had heard.  We had decided to ditch ghost hunting for some four-wheeling, and the ghosts seemed to have found us. 

A couple days later I got out my video camera, which I hadn’t taken out at all that night, to discover that it was dead.  I tried two packs of brand new batteries and it wouldn’t even turn on.  I’d never had any problems out of it before.  I’m convinced the woman on the mountain killed my camera, as well as my cousin’s flashlight.  I’ve never heard any stories connected to the part of the mountain where we were, but there’s no doubt in my mind that something is lurking there, hiding in the dark.