I have the card to prove it. I had to undergo extensive testing. Actually, I had to answer some questions and e-mail them to my instructor, but I'm sure it was read thoroughly and that I really did deserve the outstanding marks I received. My license came from Flamel College and is about as useful as a kindergarten graduation certificate is for getting into Harvard. Still, The Inmates and I are now well trained in ghost hunting techniques and have our own EMF meter, provided by the school. Granted, it usually doesn't go from the green, "safe" zone to the red zone unless it's put next to an outlet, but we haul it around with us nonetheless. We make a pilgrimage a couple times a year to Spring Grove Cemetery and try to see if the ghost of Salmon P. Chase is lingering. So far, nothing out of the ordinary has occurred outside of an unfortunate incident involving Uncle Chester and one of the resident swans. Let's just say that it's better not to squat on the shores of the lake cheerily calling, "Here, Swanny, Swanny!"
My son, The Professor, is a budding cryptozoologist. At the moment his obsession is for the Jersey Devil and a photo of the legendary creature graced the side of his Valentine candy container from Uncle Chester, as well as the Valentine he received from his mother. He was thrilled. Right now he's making plans for the coast to coast cryptid-finding expedition he'll embark on after college. He was concerned about the cost of the Airstream and the equipment and the staff he plans on taking along. In true 21st century tradition, I suggested he get a hold of a network about a reality show. I'm expected to drive the Airstream and probably will end up doing the cooking and laundry and cleaning as well. While he talks to reporters about his capture of the Jersey Devil, he'll probably send me in to clean the cage. I hate to think what happens when one of those suckers gets scared. Foghorn has agreed to accompany us only on the condition that we also search for St. Bernards. A minor fight broke out over whether we would first go east in search of the Devil or west in search of large dogs with barrels. The Professor won but only after agreeing that Foghorn could bring along her pig puppet, Oinkers.
The History Channel show Monster Quest has gone a long way towards feeding my son's mania for cryptids, but his interest began years ago when he happened across the story of West Virginia's Mothman. We found several television specials on the winged creature, including one with Survivor's Boston Rob taking on the role of the skeptic. (He was fine until they stayed in the supposedly haunted hotel and he got freaked out and decided there was something there. Kind of tainted our view of him as the logical one.) I read the book The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel, a fascinating account of the 1967 Mothman sitings that coincided with the collapse of the Silver Bridge in the town of Point Pleasant. The Professor was only seven at the time and despite his large vocabulary I knew the book would be a little beyond him, so I read him the most interesting excerpts and he began to dream of visiting Point Pleasant.
Uncle Chester and I tend to be the family's own private "Make-a-Wish Foundation", so in the spring of 2007, we packed the inmates in the van for a weekend trip to Mothman country. We decided it best not to tell them that the historic Lowe Hotel, where we were staying, was allegedly haunted. (Haunted or not, it's an exceptionally cool old hotel.) We didn't see or hear anything during our stay except obnoxious neighbors who came in at two in the morning slamming doors and talking loud. I reciprocated by slamming our door and having the kids yell in the hallway early the next morning when they were in bed trying to sleep it off. We visited The Mothman Museum and met the owner and author of a couple Mothman books, of which I purchased autographed copies. We went in various little gift shops, where it was obvious Mothman was a big source of this small town's revenue. There was no end to the dvd's, alien pens, and Mothman posters available.
At one shop we met the owner who showed us pictures he took in what is called the TNT area, an old World War II explosives manufacturing facility where the Mothman was spotted back in '67. Accessible to the public are these little igloo-shaped buildings that the locals call "bunkers." I must say that if the Army had heard Foghorn's voice booming in one of those metal igloos they wouldn't have needed to manufacture explosives. That voice alone could have brought down a squadron of Japanese bombers. The shop owner showed us his private shots of orbs floating around in one of the bunkers. He had a series of spooky stories from his own experiences. He even went so far as to give us directions to the best place to look for Mothman on the back roads and gave us his telephone number in case we got lost. We set out in the dark that Saturday night, on lonely roads with no street lights and we did indeed manage to get lost. We saw nothing except a bunch of flying bugs hitting our windshield and the EMF meter showed green, despite the fact that some of the inhabitants looked like they starred in Deliverance and should have registered red all by themselves. We finally emerged onto the main highway but a significant distance from our hotel. I think Josh was just glad we wouldn't have to spend the night in one of the bunkers.
Here at the jail we all enjoy paranormal shows of all kinds, although The Inmates are frequently frightened by them and Foghorn then ends up in bed with me in the middle of the night when she wakes up freaked. I've told her that she would scare the hell out of anything, but she doesn't seem to believe me. I do wonder sometimes if this fascination with the paranormal has influenced my children in a negative way. The Professor is all too willing to believe a supernatural explanation for an occurrence, instead of looking at it with reasonable logic and skepticism. And Foghorn has apparently heard too many of her brother's tales of Egyptian gods, especially his favorite, Anubis the god of the afterlife. At lunch a couple Saturdays ago she insisted that Egyptians were these strange people who live in the desert all wrapped up in robes. We tried to explain that Egyptians were just people like anyone else and Chester happened to notice the television screen behind us was tuned to CNN"s coverage of the Cairo protests. "See, look at those people," Uncle Chester said. "Those are Egyptians." Foghorn turned around, squinted her eyes at the screen, and snarled loudly, "They're not Egyptians. Egyptians have the head of a jackal." Remind me never to vacation with her in the Middle East.