083. Pennhurst Asylum [Part 2]

Composing myself in the stairwell with Sarah, we walked out of the Mayflower building to catch up with Ben and the rest of the group as they entered the Philadelphia building to access the tunnel. In reality, the tunnel didn’t look much like a tunnel and instead resembled a concrete hallway that you might see in a parking garage or hospital basement. It was dimly lit by an exit sign, and the end was blocked off by wood pallets signaling the beginning of the Halloween attraction.

You could walk two abreast and there were narrow curbs running along either side. The investigator had the Ovilus out and our group stood on either side of the tunnel facing each other. The investigator told us that their boss, Tyler, spent two weeks down here. He was able to cross some children over and mentioned that the inhuman thing down in the basement also liked to frequent this portion of the tunnel.

The Ovilus captured multiple voices at once and was incredibly hard to understand. The energy in the tunnel was very odd, too. It felt hard to focus and there were a few times I zoned out completely. It looked like other people did the same thing. Many people in our group said they thought they saw a shadow moving back and forth by the entrance. I didn’t see anything. The two Dave’s approached the area to ask questions, and both of them said they felt something touch them gently.

Here is some audio/video from the tunnel:

 

Our last stop was the third floor in the Mayflower building. Small dorm rooms lined both sides of the hallway and opened up into a larger room (similar to how the basement was set up). The investigator here said this floor had been mostly dead all night. No activity on the Ovilus, no EMF readings, and nothing interacted with the trigger item (a small plush dog with little LED lights).

A voice recorder was brought out and a couple different people selected various dorm rooms away from the group to ask questions. During one of these, we heard a loud thump that we all thought was from the individual and the investigator. They replied that it hadn’t been them. A flashlight when on and off shortly thereafter, but we didn’t have any other activity otherwise. The investigator allowed us to explore the rest of the floor which branched out into two hallways like an ‘L’ shape. Some of the dorm rooms had holes in the wall that were big enough for me to fit through. Neither Ben nor Sarah were enthused with the idea of exploring, and the investigator said she wasn’t sure where the holes came from.

With the group session complete, it was now a little after 4am and we were given the opportunity to wander on our own. Sarah wanted to explore the basement further so we went down and branched out. The investigators asked everyone to be quiet and respectful – there were many amateur paranormal investigators who had brought their own devices and technology to Pennhurst. They asked us to keep flashlights at a minimum and to speak softly so as to not disturb the more intimate seances. We did, but it apparently not everyone understood these requests. It completely killed the energy. Suddenly everything felt too restrictive and static-y. There was just too much going on, too much movement, and it made it incredibly difficult to focus.

At one point I lost Ben and nearly 15 minutes later stumbled upon him and an intimate seance. The man conducting it had a myriad of instruments, one of which was on the floor with red, green, orange, and yellow LED lights on it. Their EMF readers were going off, and both the gentleman and Ben took turns asking questions and waiting for responses. It made me giggle – Ben wasn’t thrilled about coming to Pennhurst, but for a nonbeliever he sure got into it.

We left a little after 5am. I was emotionally exhausted and sleepiness hit like a freight train. My dreams were incredibly stressful, although I couldn’t tell you exactly what they were about. The emotions in them were strong and worrisome. I woke up with a nagging feeling the plagued the rest of the day.

I’d absolutely do it again.

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082. Pennhurst Asylum [Part 1]

This year I received an awesome birthday gift – an overnight paranormal investigation at Pennhurst Asylum.

Pennhurst was originally known as the Eastern State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic, but it quickly became a dumping ground for society’s invisibles. Individuals with mental and physical handicaps were not the only patients of Pennhurst. Immigrants, orphans, and even criminals were housed here. They labeled patients into categories: Imbecile, Insane, Healthy, or Epileptic are just a few.  Pennhurst was quickly overwhelmed and far past it’s original capacity. Patients were often left chained to beds and cribs, clothed only in thin, wispy hospital gowns, and were at the mercy of other patient bullies and overworked nurses and doctors. Physical, mental, and sexual abuse ran rampant.

In the 1960’s, reporter Bill Baldini aired a 5 part series on Pennhurst called “Suffer the Little Children”. It exposed the terrible conditions inside the state hospital. By the late 1980’s, Pennhurst finally closed. [Note: you can find this series on youtube.]

It stood empty for years until it was bought privately and partially turned into a Haunted Attraction. There is, however, a Pennhurst Paranormal Society and it has been featured on shows such as Ghost Adventures. We had full access to the Mayflower building and part of the Philadelphia building to access a section of the tunnels.

We arrived at 9:30pm and were quickly checked in and split into groups. The small groups would have intimate vigils on the different levels of the buildings. We started on the second floor of Mayflower. Here, our team leader set up two small mag flashlights set on opposite side of the room (away from everyone else).  Our EMF readers lit up to inquiries about ‘Emily’. Another woman’s name, Hazel, also came through, although no one was sure if this was a previous patient or a nurse. The flashlights turned on and off, seeming to answer intelligently to questions. We also used an item called and Ovilus which uses radio waves to capture what is believed to be spirit communication.

The temperature in the area shifted from mild to freezing in seconds. We sat in a semi circle facing the flashlights with the doorway and hallway to my back. I could hear movement behind me the entire time we were on the second floor; it was if something light was being dragged across the floor. It was no more than a whisper with an occasional crunch, like stones under a boot tread. I also felt terribly sad and teared up a few times. No one else in my group seemed to have the same emotional response. We played duck-duck-goose, and the ovilus faintly picked up ‘duck’ and ‘goose’. The overall impression was that these were children.

Below is a video I took during the beginning of the vigil:

From here, we moved downstairs to the first floor and had a different leader (I believe her name was Vicky or Victoria). Sarah, still holding the EMF reader, was asked to pick which area to hold the next vigil. The large room was sectioned off into smaller rooms with painted over brick that only went up 6-7 feet high. Sarah chose the last room on the right.

Instead of leaving the Ovilus available for everyone to hear, the team leader put headphones in and gave it to a gentleman named Dave (there were 2 Daves in our group – this will be important later). She asked him to say any words that clearly came through the device. We asked questions: “Is anyone here with us?” “Would you like to talk to us?” “Do you like it here?” and Dave immediately said multiple voices came through that were hard to understand. One voice, a deeper man’s, overpowered the rest and remained prominent throughout the vigil. Dave said he sounded nasty. At one point, Dave quietly muttered “What the fuck“, jerking his head up and saying “It just told me to kill myself”. When asked if it could touch anyone in the group, the voice replied “Try me” and “Can hurt too”. A creeping, swirling chill only touched certain areas of my body; my thighs, a cheek… the back of my neck. Ironically, the room Sarah picked was the only room with complete windows. The temperature outside was actually much warmer (50+ degrees) and the brick and concrete blocked wind.

After a bit, we moved into another small room. Dousing rods were brought out and Dave squared held them. They also seemed to move and cross over intelligently, and at one point we asked if the rods could spin.  One of the rods spun rather quickly. I’m not sure how I feel about dousing rods as I feel in this instance they could easily be influenced, but it was neat to witness nonetheless.

Our third location was the basement. Part of the tunnel is accessible from here; make a sharp left after descending the stairs and it leads right into it. The basement itself is expansive. One long hallway runs the length and empties into a large room. The large room was originally one of the areas for physical therapy. The rest of the basement was sectioned off into  narrower rooms the ran parallel to each other on either side of the hallway.

The energy down here felt off – oppressive and thick. Sarah immediately mentioned that she didn’t like the vibe and the rest of our group felt spooked. I had a prickly feeling of something lingering just inside the darkened doorways of the smaller rooms.  Our leader this time was a woman who claimed she was a Medium (more on this later). We stood in a circle, a menagerie of children’s toys placed haphazardly on the floor. She mentioned that these were toys people had found in Pennhurst with the exception of a couple visitors brought. The Medium told us that there is a dark energy and spirit that resides down here and dislikes women. She also said that there is something inhuman that likes to lurk in the basement as well. It slinks on all fours and has long fingers. The previous night she worked with a women who mentored under Lorraine Warren. She said the thing ran from the woman all night long.

The ovilus was brought out and the same deep voice we heard upstairs on the first floor came through almost immediately. The majority sounded garbled to me, and we heard someone walking around us. I felt tingly and I had an awful lower backache. Ben and I stood across from the Medium in the circle with our back toward the hallway and the doorway to a smaller room. I kept twisting to look back; the hair on my neck stood up and I felt extremely anxious. It’s hard to describe, but even though I couldn’t see anything it felt like something was there. A moment later, Ben says “Something just touched me” and made a movement to show someone had brushed up against his right shoulder.

In this next audio, you’ll hear what was supposedly behind us:

The energy of our group spiked with anxiety and we moved into the smaller room. More easily understood words came through the ovilus along with moaning and what sounded like a painful “oowwww”. The EMF readers were bonkers. At the end of the room there are two doorways adjacent to each other. I swear I saw feet walk past both. The shoes were black and heavy, similar to thick men’s business shoes.

A small closet was set in the back of the room and we watched the door sway without anyone touching it. The Medium asked a few in our group to go in and check it out with the EMF readers and ask a few questions. As soon as they did, there was a loud bang behind us and a skittering noise. The only thing behind us was the brick wall and an old bicycle.

As we made our way upstairs to rotate again, Sarah and I lingered to see if the Medium needed help with her items. I briefly told her that my mom died at home on hospice and that I used to see shadow things in the periphery of my vision. Were they shadow people?

She shook her head strongly, cutting me off: “no, no they’re not. I’m not sure who they are but they’re not shadow people. And you know what-” she stopped, looking up at me. “Your mom’s not mad at you, you know that? She’s okay. She’s not mad at anyone in the family. She’s angry she went so young and she’s missing out, but she’s not. mad. at. you. Ok? Does she like music? I head music, like whistling. She brings the music wherever she goes. She’s with you quite a lot. Does the name Janet/Jane ring a bell? Are her sister’s named that? It’s coming through with her. She’s waiting for them.” She paused, smiling. “She’s cute; your mom’s really cute.”

A few things here: Sarah organized everything for this event, so there is absolutely no way anyone could have gotten information about me and my mother. At no point did I share any personal information, not even my name. There’s also no way this woman could have known my mother was a band geek, specifically playing the flute for many years. She tried to get both myself and my brother into it, but alas we are severely lacking in the musical gene. Furthermore, I have no idea how this woman could have known my mom has sisters. The Janet/Jane name doesn’t ring a bell. Both my grandmother’s have names that begin with J, but they are not those.

In the stairwell leading from the basement to the first floor, I bawled my eyes out.

081. No Really, Leash Your Fecking Dog

Ben and I hiked Musconetcong Gorge over the weekend. The late start on Saturday left us with only an hour before dark, so we finished the entire loop Sunday morning. It’s a lovely hike with a moderate section of switchback trails to the summit.

Twice on Sunday we ran into unleashed dogs – rather, they ran into us. There are a few larger boulders down at the creek crossing, and I was taking advantage of the photo op with Mulder. I heard Ben mumble something and grab Honey, and when I turned around we were face to face with an unknown black dog of mixed breeding. He/She had locked eyes with Mulder, hackles up, growling and creeping closer. Mulder, still up on the boulder at this time, started reacting – also growing and growing anxious.

With no owner in sight and no idea of the strange dog’s reactivity, I blocked Mulder behind me and bellowed up the gorge: “YO, GET YOUR FUCKING DOG ON A LEASH! I’VE GOT A REACTIVE PIT BULL!” Way up on the top trail a  young golden retriever crest the hill followed a moment later by an old man, maybe late 50’s or early 60’s, trailing behind. I yelled “Leash your fucking dog!” one more time before the owner started down the hill and called off his (still growing) dog. He leashed them and made a mad dash up the trail past us. No apology, no words – not even eye contact.

We encountered him later on the trail and he scampered down to the train tracks, dragging the grumbling black dog and young retriever with him.

Two minutes before the unknown dog ruined my photo shoot.

Two hours later, as we approached the trail head, I noticed a mess of vehicles, people, and dogs. A loose dog, looking like an unshaven poodle or labradoodle of sorts, spotted us and bounded over. I yelled “Leash your dog! We have dogs!” Ahead of me, Ben had Honey and the dog thankfully went to them first.

The lady walks over, casually saying “Oh he’s friendy”.

I snap “I don’t care, your dog is supposed to be leashed – especially at the trail head!”

She stares and says “It’s fine”.

Me: “No, it isn’t. I have a reactive dog and I have no idea if yours is friendly.”

Her: “He is.”

Me: “But you have no idea if mine is or not. He has leash reactivity, he’s a rescue and he’s in training.”

Her: *blankly staring* “So. . . ?”

Me: “HE. HAS. FEAR. AGGRESSION.”

Her: “Oh. . . so you want me to move?”

Me: “That’d be great, yeah.”

Mulder this whole time is sitting at my feet, albeit whimpering anxiously. Managing to get by her and the rest of her party without incident, I praised the holy fuck out of him and turned in time to see the entire group head out on the trail without leashed dogs.

To be honest, I fibbed a little. Mulder doesn’t have fear aggression toward people or other dogs. He does, however, have leash reactivity and expresses a mild level of frustration when greeting other dogs on a leash. For this reason, I am training him to ignore other dogs and do not want him to greet other dogs while leashed. Meeting new dogs on leashes is stressful, and the straight on approach can be aggressive to some dogs. Energy levels do not always match, and there are very few people who are able to successfully read dog body language.

Now, let me making this clear: I don’t have a single issue with incredibly well trained dogs off leash. I used to run my family’s GSD’s off leash constantly. Willow and Grissom are exceptionally well trained, responding to verbal and nonverbal cues despite any amount of distraction. And yet, I still leash them when we encounter other dogs.

It’s what you do as a responsible, knowledgeable dog owner.

Other dog owners do not know my dog. They do not know I’m training a rescue with a sketchy background. They don’t know if he’s neutered, has a bite history, or has reactivity. And yet, even when I tell people to back off, they reply “Oh, it’s fine.” and continue to approach with their straining, whining mess of a dog.

No, it’s not.

My dog does not have to meet everyone to socialize. This includes people, dogs, children, etc.  It is my number one priority to keep my dog safe. To keep him safe, I need to control his experiences. Why do other dog owners so willing to put their dogs at risk by greeting  someone who does not want to interact with them?

This is why dog fights occur.

Furthermore, this is how bites happen. I place myself in between Mulder and strange dogs to keep him safe. What happens when your “friendly” dog tries to go after mine and bites me instead?

Well Lindsay, you might say, how ’boutcha don’t walk your dog where you’ll encounter other people?

Well you ignorant bag of dicks, I’ll say, why should I have to change my behavior when I’m the one following the rules? My dog is always leashed, always under control, and is not a danger to society. I am actively training him and use my hikes to further our training. I should be able to walk down the street (or trail…) with Mulder without harassment or molestation.  I do not hike to be social with other dogs – I hike for physical activity, training, and to strengthen the relationship I have with my dog. I should not have to ask for common courtesy or basic boundaries.

If you’re a dog owner with a dog that “just wants to say hi” – You. Are. An. Inconsiderate. Asshole.

We just wanna hike and be left alone.

080. No-Stirrup November: Bareback Edition

As Halloween decorations are replaced with Thanksgiving decor and the last leaf falls silently from the old oak, there’s a voice of dread whispering on the tail of the cool autumn wind: No-Stirrup November.

It creeps slowly, tentatively feeling its way through. You remember last year’s debacle through a nostalgic filter. It’s not that bad, you reason. Remember all the late nights with friends, playing tag and giggling at each other while trying to master an extended trot bareback? Wasn’t that fun? Wasn’t it??

Nakai says “Well, shit.”

Admittedly, I’m late to the party. The rainy weather combined with adulting made the first week of November barely ride-able, and when Wednesday rolled around I gritted my teeth and ditched the saddle. Nakai felt great and I impressed myself with my stickiness and hip work. We tackled 2 1/2 miles in a half hour with a good portion of that working on trotting. Cantering bareback with Nakai is a dream, but his pony jackhammer trot leaves much to be desired. M grabbed Rose toward the end and we went for a little walk through the fields. I could not resist one last canter up the hill.

Encouraged and energized with how well Wednesday’s bareback ride went, I went for round 2 last night. It started off a bit rocky – Nakai was adamant that he eats before riding, not after, and I witnessed a dazzling display of irritation on the crossties. The poor lad still doesn’t seem to realize that the only thing more stubborn than himself is me. Off we went, working through some initial balkiness. He slipped behind my leg, trying his best to plead his case that it’s dinnertime (not at 3:30pm…). Fortunately said temper tantrum lasted a whopping five minutes and then we were off to the races.

Once we warmed up, Nakai felt wonderfully forward and engaging. My thighs, however, screamed and it was more difficult this ride to half-halt and ask for roundness and softness. I rode another 2 1/2 miles, and now this morning I’m walking like Yosemite Sam. I’m making it a goal to ride bareback at least once a week anyway, but I’m hoping I can do this 2 or 3 times a week over the winter months. Now, if I can convince some of the other barn ladies to do the same…

 

Finally, dinner. “I’m dying from starvation” – Nakai, dramatically.

 

079.

Exercising Mulder is a full body work out.

Case in point: we hiked Glen Onoko on Friday. It’s an almost 2 mile loop that goes straight up and straight down. We opted to take the exterior trail first and come back down via the falls trails. In total, we climbed over 800 feet in elevation and finished the loop in under 2 1/2 hours.



The falls trail is notoriously dangerous; people are injured (and some killed) each year. The trail’s technical footing and tendency to washout made this not only a physical workout but also a mental one.

The trail is straight down




As for Mulder, you ask?

He handled it perfectly. He’s learning “wait” and was still bouncing off the wall when we finished… so much that when we returned home I took him for another 3 mile walk. I’m not going to trust him off leash until recall is 100% and he gets better at ignoring distraction. Even with the 25 and 50 foot leashes, running on them is not a viable option due to the dense undergrowth and pricker bushes that is Southeastern Pennsylvania. I don’t know if Mulder has ever gotten the chance to really run (puppy play dates don’t count, IMO). I need to increase his physical exercise and brainstormed the best way to do it.

With the rail trail nearby, I loaded up Mulder and Ben’s mountain bike to see how he would handle it. He shows no interest in bicyclists while we walk, but trotting and loping next to one is a whole ‘nother adventure.

As seems to be the usual, I unnecessarily worried. Mulder gobbled up the high value treats as we walked with the bike. I couldn’t resist and popped on. Immediately he settled into a trot as if he’s biked a thousand times before. I pushed a bit and he offered a quick sprint with me. No pulling and no desire to cut out in front or lag behind.

We only did 3/4 of a mile before calling it quits. Mulder’s covered hundreds of miles hiking, but we haven’t worked on wind and I wanted to keep this a positive experience.

For the first time after exercising, he slept.

I guess biking is our newest exercise routine.

078. Mulder Updates

When I first got Mulder, he resembled a freight train on leash. He would pull strongly in all directions, scrambling wildly to get to where he wanted. For some semblance of control, I opted to introduce him to a prong collar. Prong collars are not for everyone, but they are not as scary as they look. They are safer than choke collars and are essentially self correcting collars. They can only tighten to a certain point (which is why you must size them correctly), and when a dog pulls on the leash the collar tightens. It’s a meaner looking martingale.

For those who think they’re painful: I encourage you to try one on yourself. Go to a pet store that sells them, put one on (I’ve done this) and check it out. With that being said, prong collars are not meant to be used as an everyday collar. Do not leave it on your dog unsupervised. It is not a magical fix and will not stop your dog from pulling. It is a training tool. As such, it requires – you know – training. They are not a long term solution.


Fast forward a few months and Mulder walks beautifully with the prong and I am transitioning him over to the flat collar. He no longer pulls and and is learning to heel. Our transitional collar is a flat nylon martingale. He used to have some reactivity on leash in regards to other dogs, and the nylon martingale is a gentle reminder. He’s improved in leaps and bounds: a few months ago he would strain on the leash, whimpers escalating to full blown barking if he was not able to immediately greet another dog in the vicinity. Now, he’ll walk by, interested but calm, and is progressing well with the cue “leave it”. We are slowly refining our skills, and he’s taking baby steps to heel and wait via voice command only.

Last Saturday, Jeff Daniel’s Jeeps hosted a fundraiser event that highlighted a few local rescues. Ben and I drove down with the dogs to check out the raffles. People brought all sorts of dogs (and then some – somebody brought goats) and it was the perfect socializing event for Mulder. For an hour he politely sniffed and tried to play with everyone. He listened well despite the distractions, and at one point he had a Great Dane sneak up on him. I’m not sure he knew what to do with a dog that big!




It’s hard to convey that Mulder is a friendly and happy little dog who is also very reserved. He’s like that coworker who will greet you warmly and chat about the weather – but two years later you realize that you don’t actually know who they are. People see the excited, affectionate side of him at home and ask “sooo how are you not bonded to him yet??”

What they don’t see are the shifty eyes that are softening but not totally soft yet. They don’t see the internal struggle of him wanting to be close to you but not really wanting to be pet. The tightening of his face when voices are raised – even when it’s Ben and I just laughing and carrying on. Praise and physical touch are not his main motivation yet – food is. While he loves meeting new people, he does not yet have the desire to please me yet. There has to be something in it for him, and it’s my job to find what motivates him.

But.

He’s learning. He’s starting to check in on walks, to look up at me for direction. He’s beginning to react positively to praise. Hesitant tail wags are replaced with whipping tail flails, and at this point I would argue the most dangerous thing on a pit bull is their bony tail. Somehow, Mulder’s always seems to strike a knee cap or back of my thigh – and boom, a bruise!



Recall is going well, and we’re at about 95% success rate while on leash. The 25ft lunge line works well while hiking, but at home he sports the 50ft lead. It’s lightweight enough that he doesn’t notice, but it gives me peace of mind until I can trust him. Working with distractions has been the biggest hurdle, and I try to get him out a few nights a week to a busy park to practice ignoring distractions and focus on me. Mulder’s also starting to really play outside with me. Inside the house, he’ll play tug-of-war and gleefully bounce around with a toy. Up until now, he hasn’t shown any interest in toys when outside. He chased the tennis ball and brought it back. This is huge considering when I first got him he thought me throwing a ball meant he was going to be beaten. He would run off a few yards if he noticed you pick something up and raise your arm, and he’d flatten himself down and hide if you came at him with it.

I take him everywhere (even clothes shopping). We stopped at Cabela’s last night and at Old Navy to browse and grab some shoes. All these short, positive experiences out are helping to build confidence.

 

077. Spook 2017

Spook is the best fun ride of the season. Round A Bit 4H club puts it on every year at the Horse Park. It’s assumed that everyone at the barn wants to go (because they always do). I tossed around a couple costume ideas earlier this summer, but nothing stood out.

Then, life happened. Fellow boarders had lameness issues with their horses. Endurance rides were planned, and all of a sudden it seemed as though Maria and I were the only ones going. We totally failed on getting a costume together, and with Maria having an already busy weekend we decided to skip it.

That is, until I caught up with Mechele and Marina. M was no longer going to a ride with Rose, and Marina was free. We decided last minute to go as a team (sans costume) and try our hand in the Friends division. I alerted Maria to the change in plans, but she decided to skip it.


Admittedly, things went much smoother without a large group and costumes. The most exciting part of the day happened when Mechele pointed out the praying mantis hitching a ride on Jasper. Despite terribly muddy ponies we somehow managed to get on the road on time!


Registering and tacking at the park was a breeze. We warmed up in the ring and were the first team out on trail! This worked in our favor as we essentially became guinea pigs for the majority of the stations. The Ghost Buster station was hysterical – they gave us nerf guns and told us to shoot the Marshmallow Man and the Green Slime! It was so much fun that I think we’ll pick up nerf guns for the next farm part. Nerf tag on horseback, anyone?

Rose was coming back from an injury and M wanted to see how she handled everything so we traveled a bit slower than usual. Nakai hasn’t been out with Rose in months, but we were impressed with how nicely they worked together. We found all the items from the scavenger hunt and racked up a bunch of points. Toward the end, we double checked the serpentine trail just in case and found some tires to play on. Nakai managed to squeeze all four feet up there!



I think this is the first year Spook hasn’t been freezing, and it was odd to wear a T-shirt in the middle of October.  We’re waiting for the results, but I think we did pretty well. I look forward to the homemade food every year and was bummed that the chili was barely lukewarm. Ah, well. There’s always next year!