We picked up our friends Jeff and Shannon at their house and Jeff drove our car to Logan Airport -- Katie hates driving in Boston and refused to do it. It was my first time on a plane and it was absolutely amazing...after the initial take off.
Katie was next to me in the aisle seat and across from me was Shannon Sylvia from Ghost Hunters International and Jeff Sylvia host of Up For Discussion, a radio show airing on ALI-FM. We touched down in Charlotte, North Carolina and immediately Shannon and Jeff wanted Katie and I to have the "Wafflehouse experience". Justin and Johnnie, the two men that were running the convention, were there to pick us up as well as a couple of other para-celebrities.
Johnnie stayed behind and we all agreed to meet at the Wafflehouse. Eventually we met up with Stephen LaChance and his son Elliot, Stephen being the author of the Uninvited. They were going to premiere the Haunted Survivor Tour at PhantomCon that weekend and I have to say I was very excited.
We stayed at the Hampton Inn and it was absolutely beautiful -- if you have to travel I highly suggest it. There I met Jacqui Carpenter (psychic medium), Lizzy Star (psychic medium), Denice Jones (mother of the boy who inspired the movie the Sixth Sense) and her mom.
The first day of the actual convention was great. We were set up at an old schoolhouse with a large auditorium; the old fashioned wooden seats still bolted into the floor. I remember walking in and the first thing I heard was a little girl saying, “You’re here!”
I didn’t delve too much into the spirits around us at that point. my mind was on the presentation that Katie and I had to give later that day! Mark Spencer was there giving an informational lecture on UFO’s and conspiracy theories. Joe Wright from PSI was also in attendance lecturing about the basics of ghost hunting and the technology behind it. The women from the Charlotte Area Paranormal Society (CAPS) were setting up their vending table with all sorts of goodies. Finally it was our turn.
Katie and I had decided to speak about "possession vs psychology", ripping the title from one of her chapters in Devils and Demonology in the 21st Century. We talked about the different illnesses that could be misconstrued as possession, and we also tore apart the Anneliese Michel case (which the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose is loosely based on). We showed the facts of the case and let the audience decide. The whole point was not just to show the skepticism needed when dealing with a possession but also to prove that inhuman entities are very rare.
Immediately after closing the lecture, Stephen ran up to us and high-fived Katie. “That is something we have been saying for years! I am so proud of you, Katie!”
Stephen is the reason we ended up at the conference in the first place; he recommended us to Justin, one of the two guys in charge of the conference. Stephen had to be six foot five and then some -- his son was even taller -- but they were both gentle giants with wits as sharp as sushi knives and contagious laughs. You would never know by looking at them how haunted they really were.
Stephen still uses his past to help others in the present, much like Katie. He and Denice Jones work together all of the time, and she was also part of the Haunted Survivor Tour along with Lizzy Star. We all hung out, talked to attendees and just had a blast in general.
That night Jeff Sylvia gave a lecture on his own past and things he would like to see happen within the paranormal. Shannon gave a lecture on Paranormal Drama, and did her version of the Ashlee Simpson hoedown dance. Made me wish I had brought my video camera.
That night we had an investigation at the first house in Hickory, NC. Unfortunately Katie and I were drained, so were Shannon and Jeff. We all headed back to the hotel while the rest of the para-celebrities and some of the patrons went to the house turned restaurant. The next morning we all met for a fabulous breakfast provided by the Hampton. Coffee on demand, bagels, cheese danishes and so much more! We all sat down and Jacqui filled me in on the investigation the night before. They had tried an awesome product Shannon had created; after seeing so many investigators use a single red beam to see if it would be broken, she created a high powered laser with a filter on it that allowed for a matrix of pinpoint lights which cover an entire room. Jacqui said it was a huge success, and they actually saw a black form manifesting itself through in the grid.
“I always miss the good stuff!” Shannon exclaimed after the explanation, but Jacqui had recorded it on video camera. Awesome.
The next day Shannon gave a talk on anomalous photos aptly titled “Another Orb Bites the Dust”. It was great. She gave tips on how to tell a real orb from one that is dust or humidity. Katie and I got a chance to speak about our lives and histories. This was the night of the Haunted Survivor Tour and we were up right before them.
The music came on the room was dark and the image of four pictures, angelic statues, and other grunge type images of demons. Together they framed out a cross. The whole vibe was eerie. Denice’s mom was the host of the tour and came out to introduce Stephen the first speaker. A video played before he came out showing clips from various things he had been in. Everything came together seamlessly to tell the story. As he spoke about the pain he went through trying to protect his children while they resided in the Union Screaming House, his emotion poured out. He wept slightly as he talked about his reasons for not being able to immediately move. His pain was evident.
Later, Denice’s mom came out to introduce her daughter. Again a video played, and much like Stephen’s, it contained clips from previous things she had done which blended to tell astory. Denice was obviously shaken as she told her story; her helplessness when it came to the position her son was put in, and how to this day he still sees both spirits and demons.
Denice’s mom came out one last time and introduced Lizzy Star. The medium opened with a little bit of history about herself and jumped between telling stories and reading the audience. A few cried when she spoke of their loved ones. It reaffirmed for me that mediumship and “The Gift” is all about healing, nurturing, and helping those around us.
Overall, the show was absolutely fabulous, and Stephen confided in me later, “We weren’t sure whether or not we wanted to share our stories. We wanted to do something these conferences had never seen before.”
That night we went out for drinks and had a genuinely good time. Stephen, Denice and her mom went back to the hotel. The next day at around three we left for the last big investigation. It was wonderful. We came to a wooded area, aptly named the Devil’s Stomping Ground. EVP’S were collected and experiences were had by all. We ended the night a little earlier than expected, but all in all I would call it successful.
I always learn a lot from the people around me and this was no different. Jacqui Carpenter, Lizzy Star, Shannon and Jeff Sylvia, Denice Jones, Stephen and Elliot Lachance were all awesome, down to earth sweethearts with great stories, experiences and information. All in all it was a wonderful 5 day trip.