O’DONNELL: Dowsing for Ghosts
Life needs a narrator. That was the only thought flowing through my mind on a Friday night when I found myself standing in a Civil War era cemetery. The situation would make much more sense if only I could hear Vincent Price’s voice chime in to describe my surroundings.
Unfortunately this is real life and not the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Without Mr. Price to call on for a dramatic narrative, I was left to fend for myself. The Haunted Hannibal Ghost Tour in Hannibal, Mo., had lead me to my first paranormal investigation and the sight of a cemetery already had my skin crawling.
The Haunted Tour visits some of Hannibal’s most spooky landmarks. Along the way, passengers are treated to stories and intriguing historical facts about the locations around the town. The tour is capped off when the shuttle reaches The Old Baptist Cemetery. Here the passengers are invited to their own paranormal investigations with the help of dowsing rods.
Though originally used to find groundwater and buried minerals, ghost hunters have found dowsing rods to be effective tools in locating the presence of paranormal energy sources. The user holds the two “L” shaped brass rods loosely in hand and follows the direction in which they point. Once the two rods cross and make an “X” the source of the paranormal energy has been located.
With dowsing rods in hand, myself and the rest of the small group on the tour began to roam around The Old Baptist Cemetery. By the time we reached the investigation site, the sun had gone down. Even if someone is a non-believer in ghosts, I would imagine it hard to move around a dark graveyard and not feel a heightened level of anxiety.
Tour guide Lisa Marks showed us one of the unique things in The Old Baptist Cemetery. A marked grave site of a slave stands near the edge of the grounds, which is quite rare and Marks makes a point to highlight it on every tour. As Marks is telling the story of the slave, she extends out her hand behind the grave stone. She explains she is feeling what ghost hunters call a “cold spot.” These “cold spots” can be a sign that a ghost may be present. Sure enough when feeling the air near where Marks hand was out stretched, it felt much colder than the surrounding areas. I couldn’t tell if it was the shot of icy air or the thought a ghost might be present, but the hairs on my arms were standing straight up.
When I was able to shake off my chill, I got back to experimenting with my dowsing rods. As I walked towards the middle of the cemetery, I noticed the ends of my rods had flipped and were pointing behind me. I turned my body till the rods straightened out and began to move in the direction they were guiding me. I was almost back to the area of the marked slave grave when my rods crossed to form an “X.” My arm began twitching a bit. Something was trying to get my attention.
I looked around the location that I was summoned to for clues, but the spot I was standing in had no marker or evidence it was a grave of any kind. Marks then informed me that there are people buried in the cemetery who’s markers have either fallen down or never had a marker at all.
Across the cemetery a woman had been lead by her dowsing rods to a grave that had the same birthday on it as her son. I made my way over to join the rest of the group. I noticed once I had left my spot, the dowsing rods had flipped back around. Whatever was calling me to the unmarked spot didn’t want me to leave.
I pointed this out to Lisa Marks who told me the dowsing rods can also be used to ask questions to the spirits. By asking a question then saying to cross the rods for yes, spread them apart for no, the living can open a channel of communication with a ghost.
I was filled with hesitation to try and speak with my ghost. The words kept getting caught in my throat. Finally I was able to spit out, “Would you like me to come back, cross the rods for yes.” The moment I finished my inquiry my dowsing rods quickly crossed into the now familiar “X.” I glanced back to the spot. Part of me wanted to go back, while the other just wanted to get back on the shuttle and go home.
I decided I would oblige my ghost and return to the spot it had called me to earlier. Once back my dowsing rods again formed an “X” letting me know I had reached my destination. I didn’t try to communicate with the ghost this time, I just stood quietly. The air around me felt heavy. The feelings of fear and anxiety were gone. In the short time period, I felt a strange closeness to the spirit. So many questions were on my mind. Who was this spirit? Why didn’t it have a grave marker? And out of all things, why did this spirit chose to reach out to me?
I looked back towards the shuttle and the rest of the tour had started to gather. Time had gone by so fast and it was time to go. When we arrived at the cemetery, I didn’t even want to get out of the shuttle, now I really didn’t want to leave. I felt like I was letting the spirit down. In a strange way, I felt like I had made a new friend. Some people make new friends at parties or bars, apparently I make them in cemeteries with people I can’t see. Go figure.
My experience on the Haunted Hannibal Ghost Tour gave me much more than I had expected. In addition to the fascinating stories, the tour gave me the opportunity to make a connection I never thought I would have. Though my wish remains not granted that my life be narrated by Vincent Price, I can say however I am proud to know I have a spirit friend out at The Old Baptist Cemetery.
*For more information on the Haunted Hannibal Ghost Tour, visit www.hauntedhannibal.com or call (314) 494-2918.
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