I’ve always been interested in the paranormal. No, I’ve never gone to Area 51 or checked out the mysterious Marfa Lights in Texas or stayed at the Hotel Roosevelt in Hollywood. I’m not a fanatic, I just have more than a passive interest in supernatural phenomena. While I’ve never seen a ghost myself, there are just too many stories for me to completely dismiss it. It’s like Sasquach. There’s just enough circumstantial evidence and eyewitness accounts that Big Foot is tromping around the woods out there that I admit I keep a casual lookout whenever I go hiking. Just in case.
I’ve watched the reality shows as well. The ones that take the special equipment into the haunted houses or condemned insane asylums or hotels with rooms they refuse to rent, but never conclusively document the presence of spirits, spooks or spectres. They often have four people on the show. They would split up into teams of two and each team would have a night vision full spectrum camera. And wouldn’t you know it, one of them would wander off by themselves, see a ghost, and they weren’t the one with the camera.
I decided I would give it a try. There were rumors that the cemetery in my city was haunted. There have been stories of sounds and ghosts and feelings and tingles throughout the city’s history. It wasn’t a famous site, but everyone in town knew the tales, and the hardcore fanatics had our cemetery on their bucket list. Kids on dares would venture through the graveyard at night to prove their bravery. I recruited a cohort, bought the equipment, and my plan was to spend the entire night in the cemetery.
I reached out online to see who else was interested in my ghostly experiment. Though I got many responses, I went with a guy named Jack Barrett. We communicated through emails for weeks planning our night. Even though I had the equipment I thought I needed, I wanted another witness. Also, if a spirit did happen to make an appearance, I didn’t want to be there alone.
We agreed we could meet at ten o’clock on Saturday night, the week before Halloween, at the entrance to Peaceful Pines Cemetery. We agreed that I would operate the equipment and Jack would be an extra set of eyes and ears. We were to spend the entire night at the cemetery and never leave each others’ sides for any reason.
It was also important that Jack understood that I was not looking for fame and fortune, that I was not doing this to catch or harm any ghosts. I just had an itch that needed to be scratched. I wanted to see and experience this for myself. Jack was in agreement with everything that we discussed and was as enthusiastic as I was about our experiment.
As agreed, we met at ten at the entrance to the cemetery. I was a little thrown by Jack’s attire for the evening. From head to toe, he looked like he just walked out of an 80’s comedy film. He had wavy blonde hair like Zack Morris from Saved By The Bell. He wore a royal blue letterman’s jacket with white leather sleeves. His last name “Barrett” was embroidered in grey stitching on his chest and the number “83” was patched on one sleeve. He wore blue acid-washed jeans and a pair of black and white AirWalk high tops. I half-expected him to say “dude” and “radical” the entire time; but, despite his appearance, he didn’t speak in that antiquated vernacular. We exchanged pleasantries, but my hands were full of equipment so we didn’t shake hands. Under a black, star-filled sky, we entered the cemetery together and set up my gear.
We spent the entire night there and nothing happened. Nothing. A cat walked by and a couple squirrels that rattled our nerves briefly. The breeze rustling the leaves of the trees spooked us for a moment. But there was nothing that could even be mistaken for a spirit or a ghost. As the sun came up, I packed up my equipment, said goodbye to Jack and headed home, disappointed to say the least.
After a quick nap, I went to my computer to thank Jack for joining me and to see if he’d be interested in another investigative outing. When I loaded my emails, all of my communication from Jack was gone. I checked my trash folder to see if I had accidentally deleted them, but there was nothing there. I sent him a new email but quickly received an auto-reply saying that my message could not be sent. I thought that was odd.
I hooked up the camera to my computer to look at our footage from our fruitless night in the cemetery. Perhaps there was something on the memory card that we missed while we were there. I pressed play and went to the kitchen for some coffee. The first half hour, as I recalled, would have been just Jack and I setting up the rest of the equipment, picking a spot to sit for the night, and getting acquainted. What I heard from the kitchen was me talking and then static when I expected to hear Jack’s voice. The first time, I thought it was just a glitch. But it kept happening.
I added cream and sugar to my coffee and went back to my computer, confused. I watched and listened as the static happened every single time Jack was supposed to be talking. What perpetuated the weirdness was that my camera footage cut out every time Jack was on camera as well. It wasn’t just his voice that the camera couldn’t record, it was Jack himself. I took my equipment and the memory card to a tech professional friend of mine who ran a diagnostic and confirmed there was nothing wrong with the card or the gear. The footage just wasn’t there and he couldn’t explain it. He said the only way something like that could even possibly make sense would be if someone held a powerful magnet to the camera each time Jack spoke or appeared in a shot. But, for it to happen that many times, there would have been significant damage to the card and the camera. Both were completely intact and working perfectly. We were both at a loss.
The ruined footage and the missing emails left me with so many questions. I decided to go back to the cemetery to see if their security cameras picked up anything from the night. I explained my situation to the old man working there who gave us permission to film. Old Jim Peterson had been working at Peaceful Pines for nearly forty years now. He laughed as though this was not surprising news, like this was something he’d heard before. He didn’t react as though it was weird or unusual, which I added to the list of things about this situation that I thought was odd.
He agreed to show me the security footage. As we sat there looking at the screen, we could see me pulling up in my car, getting out with my equipment and walking up to the driveway and stopping. This time, the tape didn’t cut out. What we saw was even more strange and inexplicable than static or missing film. This time, I saw myself on the screen standing in the driveway having a conversation with . . . myself. Jack wasn’t there, but I clearly appeared to be talking to someone I believed to be standing in front of me.
The tape continued to show me walking into the cemetery by myself, having conversations by myself, sitting among the tombstones by myself, packing up my equipment by myself, then leaving in the morning . . . by myself.
As I sat there bewildered, old Jim pulled out a yearbook from Lincoln High School 1983. I watched as he thumbed through the pages landing on the photos of the Senior class from that year. Steve Adams, Julie Allen, Alicia Bagley and then Jack Barrett. There was a picture of the same Jack that was with me in the cemetery the night before, down to the hair cut and letterman jacket. But that was from thirty-seven years ago. I asked the old man what was going on.
“Jack died in a car accident coming home from a basketball game his Senior year at Lincoln High. He was buried here and folks immediately started telling stories about Jack haunting the cemetery. He’s never harmed anyone, never tried to scare anyone; but he seems to miss being around people; and, of course, people do get scared when they encounter him, though I don’t believe that’s his intent. He was always happy, always laughing, always making people smile, and was always considered to be everyone’s best friend. We think he’s just lonely, but we don’t know why he doesn’t move on fully to the other side or wherever spirits go, or why he doesn’t ever leave the cemetery. And no, you’re not the first paranormalist to interact with Jack; and no, none of them has any usable footage from their encounters either.”
I thanked the old man for his time and his information. Over the next few years, I went back to the cemetery dozens of times, each time with another witness to share the experience I had with Jack. We never brought equipment to record our time there, I figured it was pointless anyway. But I wanted someone else to see what I saw, not because I thought I was going crazy. I knew what I had seen and old Jim confirmed it for me. No, I just wanted to see Jack again. But I never did, which made me sad. I did, however, continue to hear other stories of people who swore they had spent the night there with Jack, coming away with the same lack of evidence that I did. And that, well that made me laugh.