The television show Cheers said it best, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came”. That sense of belonging is a natural longing that I think everyone has and so we belong to clubs, churches, and different groups. Families, though at times very dysfunctional, tend to define us in deep and meaningful ways. We are social beings and if are deprived social interaction we tend to wither—loners never prosper.
In 2011, I with a group of paranormal investigators spent an evening in the Monarch Hotel in Pocatello, Idaho—it was a night I will never forget. The Hotel had been luxurious upon opening in 1907 due to its Persian rugs and indoor plumbing. But after many years it had been converted into a flop house for which purpose it had been used for decades. As we investigated some of the residents took time from their nightly bongs to speak with us. Most suspected the Monarch to be haunted, but their experiences did not tend to be frightening or violent, but rather simple manifestations of a presence. We, as investigators, soon found ourselves postulating that whatever was there stayed because it felt like it belonged to this community of displaced, doped up, artistic individuals and I came to believe this idea more as we come in contact with the paranormal at the Monarch. The experience made me appreciate the strong innate human characteristics for social interaction and belonging.
The infamous Donner Party is a good example of our inherent social needs. Most everyone remembers the Donner Party for cannibalism when the group of 87 American pioneers in 1846 set off from Missouri in a wagon train headed west for California, only to find themselves trapped by snow in the Sierra Nevada. What isn’t widely known is that over 19% of male deaths did not arise from starvation or the elements but from violence; moreover, the survivors were more than likely members of a family while those that died tended to be lone individuals traveling to California. Indeed, 66.6% of males between the ages of 20 and 39 died while only 11% of females died from the same age group. Males were much more likely to be traveling alone while all females where traveling in a kin related groups. The Donner Party illustrated that to belong increased ones chances of survival.
If there is an afterlife, it appears that the need to belong is still a basic characteristic. Except in special cases, like vortexes, hauntings tend to involve individuals who are linked to the geography or structure. Though many hauntings retell tragic events, I think that if the reality were known, most ghostly activity is not tragic but is family or location oriented and is positive. I have been told of ghostly activity surrounding family reunions, births, and holidays. I believe that negative experiences like tragic deaths, unfulfilled lives, murders, etc. are reported and then retold in a greater frequency due to our enjoyment of a good “ghost story”. I also propose that ghosts of negative paranormal events seem to be attached rather than conscious visitations like those of positive paranormal events. Of course this observation I admit is simplistic and my experience at the Monarch would tend to indicate a more complex answer.
Though the Monarch is a very old structure, the presence felt there is believed to be the ghost of an individual that died of a drug overdose in the 1980s. The description was of a young man in his 20s wearing a dark over coat. Most of the inhabitants even identified the room where the young man had died, though paranormal events seemed to happen throughout the building. We tried to verify the accounts through EVP and Electromagnetic sessions by asking direct questions to the identity of the ghost. Though the EVP recording resulted in nothing, we had a lot of success with a K2 meter and seemed verify that the ghost or presence did die in the building, was male and was into drug use. At another time while in the building, I saw the image of a slender man in a gray overcoat at the end of a lobby. It was only a brief second, but I did witness it in my direct field of vision rather that the corner of my eye. What we did not expect as investigators was that we may not be welcome.
As I have stated, the paranormal interaction at the Monarch did not seem to be negative and could be describe as ordinary, everyday events without clear intent or message. Many had told us they felt like the presence would just hangout in their rooms or move things. But we were outsiders and neither the other investigators nor I fit the typical description of a Monarch resident and we soon learned whatever lingers in the Monarch wanted us to leave.
There was a consistency to the paranormal activity which in my experience is abnormal. Generally, there will be long periods of inactivity followed by spikes of activity during most investigations, but at the Monarch the team was continually reporting cold spots, sounds, and other experiences. One female investigator reported a scratch on her arm and then a metal object the size of a nickel was hurled in our direction from the second floor balcony. Though there were residents in the building at the time, we verified that there was no one on the balcony at that moment. We also had luck with our K2 meter which measures electromagnetic magnetic fields. It seemed something was trying to communicate with us. Unfortunately, I literally was to become the next medium of communication.
While examining an abandoned closet on the second floor, I began to feel a burning sensation on my back. Quickly another investigator lifted my shirt and found a foot long scratch on my lower back. That occurred early on in the investigation. At the end of our investigation, a member of the team who had not viewed my back asked if he could see it. I allowed him to lift my shirt and to his surprise not only was the original scratch there but the word STOP had now appeared just above the original. I was skeptical at first because I had not felt a thing since the original burn, yet once images were taken I also could see the scratch marks that spelled STOP. It also appeared that it was fresh since drops of blood still dripped from the deepest parts. I had been on camera and with the group for 45 minutes prior to its discovery, proving it impossible for this to have been a hoax. Just before the discovery of the word, the group had been conducting an EVP session. It seems the entity did not like some of our questions.
Many people have asked me if I was completely freaked out by the STOP scratched in my back but truthfully it was very hard at the time to feel any emotion because I did not feel any pain or burning associated with the event. The first foot long scratch did make me feel queasy and a little unnerved because I could tell and feel something didn’t want me there. Later, I have come to appreciate the STOP because it is the most direct and irrefutable encounter I have had with the unknown. The STOP event has caused me to further investigate the other paranormal and has raised some very intriguing questions. Did our questions empower the entity? Where we able to have such strong experiences because we were outsiders? Are ghosts territorial?
I believe the entity feels it belongs at the Monarch and with the residents which may be the reason it does not cross over (if that is the right expression). If this is a correct assumption, then it seems we tend to remain the same after death with the same wants and desires as we did in life. I would not characterize the experiences at the Monarch as overly negative, though there was a sense of gloominess and heaviness about the building. I always try and put myself in the place of the ghost, after all we were strangers unlike the residents disturbing the regular routines of the community. I will never forget the Monarch and the amazing investigation that took place there and I hope that next time I return there the ghost will continue to be so willing to interact.