Investigating a Haunting: Carlos Avery WMA, MN – part three

I’m in the early stages of my investigation of a suspected haunting in the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area, a local nature preserve. So far, I’ve shared the Facebook conversation which inspired me to begin this series, as well as brief sketch of the park’s history (both mundane and murderous) in PART ONE of this series. I’ve shared my personal history with dead things and predators in one area of the park, as well as the preserve’s paranormal legends in PART TWO. Today I’ll provide the details of the most recent murder that occurred on the property.

If you are reading this page because you searched for information about Carlos Avery after encountering something unexplained in or near the preserve, please contact me to share your story. To remain anonymous, send me a PRIVATE message at my Facebook page. Our conversation will be confidential, and you will determine how you will be identified if I quote you or include your experience in this series.

THE SENSELESS SLAYING OF JASON WILKMAN

Finding my location, in both time and place.

I’ve been putting off writing this installment of the Carlos Avery series. The truth is, I don’t want to do it, because the crime itself makes me so sad. In this story, two children and a teacher are the victims of a pathetic, maladjusted man with life-long psychological problems. In this part of Carlos Avery’s history, there is no tragic swashbuckling, and no mystery. Only the brutal death of a six year old boy in a remote, randomly chosen corner of Anoka County.

I’ve been busily collecting resources and pre-writing for the other tragedies that have occurred in or near the preserve, but as I sit down to write this, I realize I have been shying away from what happened in the spring and summer of 1980. Part of the problem is that this time period feels so recent to me. As I look into other events connected to the Carlos Avery WMA — like the O’Kasick manhunt of 1957 and the Dygart murders of 1911 — I am partially insulated from my feelings by the patina of age that surrounds those stories. They happened in what feels like an entirely different world, and they involved people who seem almost like characters in a novel. I don’t feel a sense of personal juxtaposition. How could I? I wasn’t even born when they happened.

On the Friday when Jason Wilkman was being kidnapped and murdered, though, I know I was just getting ready to turn 13. I was finishing up my 7th grade year … my first year of junior high. We were living in the town of Anoka then, in a house directly across the street from the school I attended. According to the records of KMSP’s weather history, it was a seasonably warm day in the 60s, there was a variable wind, and the skies were overcast. By 10 pm that night, a light rain started.

I don’t remember any details from that day, but I do know I had no awareness of the terrible things that were happening within a 25 mile radius of my home … not that day, and not later, as the story unfolded in the news.

NOTE — MAY 16th: I’ve been trying to get this installment done for more than a month. In the last week, I’ve been determined to finish it and move on, so I’ve been chipping away at it every day. I didn’t realize, until I was putting the last pieces in place tonight, that it will go live on the 35th anniversary of Jason Wilkman’s death. The delay was not intentional.

The insanity of Ming Sen Shiue:

Before we get to what happened to Jason Wilkman, in the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area on that afternoon in mid-May, 1980, it’s important to understand the history of the man who killed him.

Ming Sen Shiue was born on October 15th, 1950, in Taiwan. He moved to Minnesota with his mother and his two brothers, to join his father, (who was a professor at the University of Minnesota,) when he was eight years old. Starting in his early years, Shiue was reportedly abusive toward his younger siblings.  In adolescence, he severely beat one brother with a broken belt, and put the other in the oven, which he then turned on. Within three years of the family’s move to Minnesota, Shiue’s father died. Shiue exhibited inappropriate, sexualized actions toward his mother throughout his life, and one psychological report describes his behaviors as “indicative of blurred boundaries and psychosexual disturbance.”

Shiue came to the attention of the justice system in 1964, when he started fires in the apartments of three different individuals. (He also threw rocks at cars.) He was ordered into psychotherapy for the arson at the age of fourteen. At that time, Shiue’s mother reported to his therapist that her son was a frequent liar and that he was very concerned with being right. She also revealed that his was out of her control and that she feared him. She said she believed he was someone who was absent of feelings, “like a dog.” For a short time, Shiue was placed in a detention home. He was caught peeping into neighborhood houses while living there. After he returned to his mother’s house, and his juvenile probation was up, he did not continue with therapy.

The genesis of the nightmare:

In the 1965-66 academic year, when Shiue was in the ninth grade at a Roseville, MN high school, he took an algebra class from a teacher named Mary Stauffer. He became obsessed with Stauffer and admitted (in his testimony at his 1981 trial) that he had violent sexual fantasies about her from then on.

Sometime in the next ten years, between 1965 and 1975, Shiue decided to kidnap Stauffer so that he could act out some of these fantasies.

In 1975, Shiue came to believe that Mary Stauffer was living in Duluth, MN. (She was, in fact, living in the Philippines doing Christian missionary work with her family.) He broke into a residence in search of her but found, instead, Stauffer’s inlaws. He tied them up at gunpoint, then threatened to kill them if they every reported his break in. They did not. He continued to look for Stauffer for another four years.

In 1979, Mary Stauffer, her husband and their two children returned to Minnesota from the Philippines. They intended to go back, to continue their missionary work, the next year.

While the family was in Minnesota, Shiue discovered they were living on the campus of Bethel College, in Arden Hills, a town close to his own home. He began to stalk them in earnest. He attempted to break into their apartment three times. (His attempts included burning the area around the patio door and drilling holes into the floor beneath Stauffer’s bed.)

I can’t tell, from the news coverage that I’ve found, if Stauffer knew someone was stalking her, nor can I determine if she was aware that the 1975 break-in at her in-laws’ home was related to her.

May 16th, 1980:

Shiue was living alone in a house in Roseville when he finally decided to go through with his plan to abduct Mary Stauffer. According to newspaper accounts, he saw Mary as she exited a Roseville beauty salon with her eight year old daughter, Elizabeth.

I don’t know if he stalked her to that location or if he just happened to see her exiting a shop while he was going about his business in his own town. As unlikely as the second scenario is, it’s not hard to see how that kind of coincidence could trigger Shiue to act in that particular moment.

Shiue approached the Stauffers with a gun. He instructed them to get into Stauffer’s car, then forced Mary to drive by holding the gun to Elizabeth’s head. When they had reached a “deserted area,” he had Mary pull over so he could bind both females and put then in the trunk of the car. He then continued to drive. Twice he heard noise coming from the trunk as the Stauffers tried to escape or attract attention to their plight. Each time he pulled over to quiet the captives by adding more restraints in the form of ropes and duct tape.

On the second stop,  while he had the trunk open, a six year old boy named Jason Wilkman approached the car to see what was happening. According to a young witness at the scene, Shiue tossed the boy into the back seat of the car and fled the scene. Mary Stauffer later testified that a boy named Jason was put into the trunk with her and Elizabeth.

Jason Wilkman

Shiue then drove to Carlos Avery, which is 30 miles north of the Roseville abduction scene, where he killed Jason Wilkman and dumped his body. After the murder, he returned to his house in Roseville, where he kept Mary and Elizabeth Stauffer captive until July 7th.

I don’t understand where Shiue was going with all this driving. If he had a house in Roseville, and he abducted the Stauffers from a beauty salon in Roseville, how and why did he end up Carlos Avery? Why was he headed away from the home where he intended to imprison Mary and Elizabeth Stauffer? Newspaper accounts indicate that Jason Wilkman was abducted about two hours AFTER the Stauffers. Why was Shiue still driving around with the Stauffers in the trunk? 

Jason Wilkman he was taken from Hazelnut Park, less than one mile from the beauty shop where the Stauffers were abducted. Both the beauty shop and Hazelnut Park are less than five miles from Shiue’s house … which is south of the abduction sights.

So. It appears Mary Stauffer / Shiue drove around the neighborhood for two hours before Jason Wilkman was put first into the back seat of the car, then the trunk. Then Shiue headed north approximately 30 miles to the northern edge of Carlos Avery, where he killed Jason Wilkman. Then he turned around and went back home.

This is a static screenshot, but if you click it, a window will open with an interactive map.

This is a static screenshot, but if you click it, a window will open with a fully functional, interactive map.

Carlos Avery - Jason Wilkman map key

What happened to the Stauffers?

I’ll get back to Jason in a moment, but it wouldn’t be fair to leave the fate of the Stauffers a mystery, even though nothing else in their story is associated with Carlos Avery.

When Shiue arrived home with his captives, he told Mary that he had released Jason Wilkman in a place where he would be found. He then confined Mary and Elizabeth to a small closet he had prepared for the purpose. Later that night, he brought Mary out into the living room and told her that she had ruined his life by giving him a poor grade in Algebra. He claimed he’d lost a scholarship and was consequently drafted into the Viet Nam war, where he was captured and held as a prisoner of war. His entire tale was a lie. He then violently raped her for the first time. During the next seven weeks, the rapes continued.

In order to better control his captives, Shiue sometimes took Elizabeth with him when he went to work at his repair shop. (He would leave Elizabeth bound in his vehicle.) Over time, however, Shiue relaxed into a fantasy that the three of them were a family. Eventually, in order to keep her daughter healthy, Mary requested fresh food and, under close supervision, she was allowed to prepare meals for the three of them. In early June, Shiue took the Stauffers with him to the Chicago area so that he could attend a job fair. (He kept them tied up in an RV.) For Father’s Day, Shiue took the Stauffers to a pay phone so they could call home to let Mary’s husband know they were alright. On the 4th of July, he took them to a park so they could watch the fireworks.

On July 7th, Shiue left both Mary and Elizabeth at his house, confined in a different, slightly larger closet, when he went to work. Mary was able to pry the bolts from the door hinges. The Stauffers were bound together with a cable, but they were able to get to the phone and call the police. They managed to get outside where they hid behind a car until a squad arrived. Officers asked if Jason Wilkman was still in the house. It was then that Mary first knew for sure that the boy had not been found.

The police had no trouble arresting Shiue at his shop. In September of 1980 he was tried in federal court on kidnapping and rape charges. He was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum of 30 years served before becoming eligible for parole.

In February of 1981, Shiue was tried for the murder of Jason Wilkman. During those proceedings, while Mary Stauffer was testifying, Shiue broke away from the defendant’s table and attacked her with a pocket knife he had somehow concealed. He slashed her face before he was subdued by six men. The cut required 62 stitches to be repaired.

A slideshow of  photos, from ABC NEWS, including the house and closet where Stauffer and Elizabeth were held.

And what about Jason?

In October, 1980, Shiue agreed to show the FBI where he had left Jason Wilkman in exchange for a second-degree murder charge rather than first-degree. (At least one newspaper article indicates that he was still claiming that he’d simply left the boy in the woods alive.)

The Carlos Avery WMA is so large and difficult to navigate that, even with forensic clues taken from the under-carriage of Stauffer’s car and the cooperation of Shiue, several days of searching had to conducted before the boy’s skeletal remains were found.

Shiue was convicted of second-degree kidnapping and murder in 1981. For these crimes against Jason Wilkman, he was sentenced to 40 years, to be served concurrently with his federal conviction for his crimes against the Stauffers. He would become eligible for parole on July 6th, 2010.

On October 16th, 2009, a petition to commit Shiue “as a sexually dangerous person and as a sexual psychopathic personality” was filed. The petition was granted on September 29th, 2010 (and a later appeal by Shiue was denied.) This means that, if Shiue is ever paroled, he will likely spend the rest of life incarcerated in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program.

The 25-page, 2010 Anoka County Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order in the matter of the Civil Commitment of Ming Sen Shiue is interesting reading if you want to discover more details about Shiue’s behavior and psychology. I’ve extracted one piece from it below, because it directly speaks about Jason Wilkman.

From the Finding of Fact:

Finding 21.

[Shiue] drove to Carlos Avery Wildlife Refuge in rural Anoka County, removed Jason Wilkman from the trunk and murdered him. An autopsy of Jason Wilkman revealed several fractures to his skull. The pathologist who examined Jason Wilkman’s remains indicated that the cause of death was severe cerebral trauma caused by at least two blows to the head delivered by a blunt instrument with a great deal of force. During [Shiue’s] trail for the murder of Jason Wilkman, [Mary Stauffer] testified that [Shiue] took a one-and-half-foot metal rod with him when he removed Jason Wilkman from the trunk.

Jason Wilkman probably died quickly from the blows. His body was left exposed to the elements.

On the night he was killed, a light rain fell in Carlos Avery. On the day his body was found, the sky was partly cloudy, there was a fitful breeze, and the temperature never rose above 41 degrees. In between those events, 165 nights passed, and the season changed from spring, through summer, to deep autumn. I didn’t know he was out there when I was busy being 13, but I do now. The knowledge makes me terribly sad.

I keep thinking about how cold most of those nights must have been. When I go out to the preserve again, I think I’ll take a blanket with me and leave it in the area where he lay for so long.

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Investigating a Haunting: Carlos Avery WMA, MN – part two

I’m in the early stages of my investigation of a suspected haunting in the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area, a local nature preserve. Last Friday, I shared the Facebook conversation which inspired me to begin this series, as well as brief sketch of the park’s history.

YOU CAN READ PART ONE HERE.

THIS WEEK

The day after I last wrote about this topic, my husband (aka Ogre) and I visited one small portion of the WMA. Since then, I’ve searched the internet to find any references to paranormal phenomena associated with the area. I am continuing to find and read dozens of old newspaper articles about the park and its environs.

Here’s what I discovered this week:

ACCESSING THE LAND

Over the past 25 years or so, I’ve spent hundreds of hours exploring our local public parks and doing citizen science projects in regional nature centers. My engagement with Carlos Avery, however, has been limited. (Or, at least I thought so, until I began to understand the scope and scale of Carlos Avery. I’ll get back to that in a moment.)

I’ve been driving past, and through, portions of the preserve for most of my life, occasionally noticing small signs meant to identify it, without any real understanding of its purpose. My first order of business was to find out what a “WMA” is.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources:

“Wildlife management areas (WMAs) are part of Minnesota’s outdoor recreation system and are established to protect those lands and waters that have a high potential for wildlife production, public hunting, trapping, fishing, and other compatible recreational uses.”

This, then, is not the kind of park most of us are accustomed to.

It’s a beautiful area with good access. It provides habitat for a multitude of species, (only a fraction of which are game animals.) I’ve learned that it is a popular spot for birders.

But. It is also often full of hunters, many of them inexperienced, who are absolutely intent on killing something.

If, like me, you believe that a haunting can be caused by a concentration of negative or harmful intent, or by a saturation of fear or tragedy, then it’s only logical to see how the atmosphere in a hunting preserve could become … tainted.

(I’m not knocking the practice of hunting. I don’t really get it, in the absence of a need for food, but that’s just me. Here in Minnesota, hunting is fact of life and I don’t begrudge the hunters their space. The WMA isn’t meant for me. I understand that I am only a curious guest there … one who is a little worried about getting shot as I continue to explore the grounds. I think I might need to add some blaze-orange to my wardrobe.)

OUR VISIT

When Ogre and I visited there were no hunters. (Apparently, though, turkey season has since started.) The access roads were closed to vehicles due to muddy areas, resulting from a recent thunderstorm, but we were encouraged to grab a map and walk in.

In our two and a half mile walk, we saw a flock of turkeys, a herd of deer, a variety of birds, and this little guy:

Carlos Avery April 2015 garter snake

It’s early spring here, so the park felt quite open and well lit. It was quiet, though some frogs were calling from the wet areas. Overall, it was peaceful and pleasant. At no point did I feel unsettled or uncomfortable.

Of course, this was just a taste of the WMA, in of one of the most frequently accessed areas of the preserve. I have not yet located the specific sites of the tragedies I referenced in part one of this series, so I cannot say that anything bad or traumatic happened here. I would be surprised if there was even much hunting this close to the park entrance.

It does appear that gunfire is common though.

Carlos Avery April 2015 gunfire evidence

OTHER LARGE PREDATORS & DEAD THINGS:

It’s important to understand that this is a huge tract of land, ( 23,000 acres,) containing a variety of zones which are dedicated to diverse purposes.

This particular WMA includes the Wildlife Science Center on its grounds.

This center “was founded as a federally funded research facility in 1976, in order to observe and document the physiology and behavior of a captive population of gray wolves.” (WSC)

Now, in 2015, the center houses more species than just the grays.

I know this not just because I can use google, but because I was once a regular volunteer there.

Yes, I’m admitting that I have spent a great deal of time on the Carlos Avery property, without realizing it.

In my defense, the Wildlife Science Center feels very distinct from the rest of the WMA. You visit the center by going through this arch, which is visible from a well-trafficked two-lane highway:

2013-0326-CarlosAveryGameFarm

“Carlos Avery Game Farm” by Bobak Ha’Eri – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The white structures you can see in this photo are part of an eleven building complex built between 1936 and 1941. (I have never been inside any of these buildings.)

After you go through the gate, the road curves to the left, past the complex.

The section of the property which houses the Wildlife Science Center is composed of modern barns and sheds, as well as the main building, which is just a modified, late 20th century, residential house. Large, chain-link, animal enclosures stretch back into the park, providing homes for animals. (Resident species include: gray, red and Mexican gray wolf; coyote; fox; bobcat; lynx; cougar; black bear; porcupine; and several different kinds of raptors.) The entire center is well fenced and only open to public tours on Saturdays.

During the week, the yard of the center is over-run by a pack of 20-30 large-breed dogs which belong to the center’s director … or at least that was true when I was working there ten years ago. (There were also several wolf-dog hybrids.)

Most of my job was dealing with dead things. I chopped up gophers, which had been turned in for a bounty, then laced them with vitamin supplements, so they could be fed to the raptors. I boosted road-killed, maggot-infested, deer into a wheelbarrow and carted them over to the wolf enclosures. (This was very hard for me. I have a particular aversion to maggots.)

I wasn’t permitted to handle the live creatures, (other than the dogs,) though I did once get to stroke an anesthetized adult wolf who was having a medical procedure done.

HOW DOES THIS FIGURE INTO THE HAUNTING?

All of this is a digression, really. Yes, I did feel watched–even hunted–sometimes when I was moving around in this part of the WMA, but that’s because I was being watched, and watched intently, by large predators who wanted my carcasses. Even when I wasn’t toting a corpse around with me, I still reeked of flesh and blood and decomposition. I’m sure I seemed likely to be quite tasty.

(By the way, I loved the work … well, not so much the tasks I was assigned, but the larger work. I’d still be doing it, but I screwed up and got myself dismissed. That’s an embarrassing story for another day, though.)

I will say this: The wolves (and other canids) like to howl. On still nights, and quiet, overcast days, I imagine their chorus can be heard throughout many acres of the WMA. That sound would absolutely contribute to a sense that the area is haunted.

A BRUSH WITH THE SKUNK APE

As long as I went off on this tangent, I might as well share one more interesting tidbit about the Wildlife Science Center. Its director, Peggy Callahan, has appeared as a wildlife expert on an episode of History Channel’s MonsterQuest (Swampbeast, 2007, S1E5.) For the show, she devised and conducted an experiment meant to determine how long it takes for the body of a large beast in the wilderness to decompose and completely disappear.

A RESIDENT CRYPTID & PHANTOM VEHICLES

My quest for accounts of paranormal events associated with Carlos Avery is only beginning. An internet search revealed two primary legends.

One that amused me is our old friend, the Linwood Woolly Beast. If you’ve been reading The Paranormalist blog for a while, you may have run into one of my posts about this creature:

My best guess is that folks are seeing a large, perhaps albino, deer. If you’d like to know more about the critter, feel free to click on one or both of the above links. I won’t be spending a lot of time watching for the Beast. If I spot him, I’ll be sure to let you know.

The second commonly told legend of Carlos Avery is more interesting to me. Apparently several people have reported seeing phantom vehicles in the park. Headlights and taillights are seen shining from areas that are actually inaccessible to a vehicle. (From the middle of a pond, or swamp, or otherwise road-less spot.) This is a legend I can pursue. The WMA is open to visitors from 4:00 am – 10:00 pm. I should be able to legally spend some time driving around in there while it’s dark, once the roads are open.

Though I have some feelers out in search of local people who have had unusual experiences in and near Carlos Avery, I haven’t yet been contacted by anyone other than “Rebecca” my original source.

If you are reading this page because you searched for information about Carlos Avery after encountering something unexplained in or near the preserve, please contact me to share your story. To remain anonymous, send me a PRIVATE message at my Facebook page. Our conversation will be confidential, and you will determine how you will be identified if I quote you or include your experience in this series.

HISTORICAL RESEARCH

A FEW DETAILS OF THE EARLY LAND USE

Last week, I mentioned that this region of Minnesota was first utilized by fur traders in the 1700s, then by loggers in the early to mid-1800s. After that, some of the land that now makes up Carlos Avery was purchased by a carpet manufacturer which wanted to use the wire grass that grew abundantly there. (Wire grass is similar to sisal.)

Based on these facts, I am assuming that the land has been witness to some significant human activity in the past couple of centuries. I have not been able to confirm any particular settlements prior to 1890, but I do know that the carpet manufacturer created three camps on this property which, at one point, employed 100 men and used 250 horses. (I do wonder what camp life was like at that time, and how this activity could have contributed to the atmosphere of the area.)

After WWI, the carpet industry faltered, and the land became tax delinquent. Many acres reverted to the state’s ownership.

The Carlos Avery Game Park was established on about 8,000 of these acres in 1933. In 1935, the project was approved for WPA status and expanded. Since then, it has been subject to an evolving system of wildlife management.

And so ends my speculation about the pre-1933 era.

UNLESS I STUMBLE ON MORE THINGS LIKE THIS …

My continuing search through old newspapers has turned up a 1911 murder that occurred in Linwood Township, (which now borders a portion of Carlos Avery.) I have not yet ascertained how close this location is to the boundaries of what is currently the Carlos Avery WMA. (Remember, in 1911, the preserve had not yet been established.)

It’s an interesting, if brutal story, so I’ll likely share it in a future post. For now I’ll give you a glimpse of one James Dugart:

James Dygart Linwood Murder 1911

NEXT WEEK

Starting next week, I’ll provide the details of at least one of the historical events that could be contributing to a haunting at Carlos Avery.

This is going to be a busy week for me, so I’m not sure I’ll have time to do any on-site investigations, but I will try. (Once I figure out how to not get shot.)


Investigating a Haunting: Carlos Avery WMA, MN – part one

Recently, a concerned reader contacted me via my Facebook page. She wanted to discuss a sensation of being watched or followed she has experienced while working on the grounds of a local wildlife management park, as well as her confusion about why she is able to sense anything. Our conversation intrigued me, so I’ve done some preliminary research about the site and its history. I’m discovering multiple factors which may be contributing to the unsettling atmosphere of the region.

I’m learning enough, in fact, to know I will need to break my investigative progress into several parts. I hope to share my results on Fridays, throughout the spring. I will always notify readers of a new segment by sharing the link to Facebook, Twitter and G+. I will also add two-way links to each installment as it goes up here at the blog.

For today’s installment, I’ll share the message thread that inspired me to start digging, and some basic first facts about the history of the place.

2013-0326-CarlosAveryGameFarm

“Carlos Avery Game Farm” by Bobak Ha’Eri – Own work.
Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

INVESTIGATION INSPIRATION:

The following instant messaging thread has been edited for length and clarity, and to obscure any personally identifying information ‘Rebecca’ provided during our conversation.

Rebecca
March 26th, 3:33pm
I am new to the area and we own a towing company. We have been called out to the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area several times for different things. Every time we go there, I always feel as though we are being watched and/or followed by some unknown presence. I have tried to do some research on the wildlife refuge, but unfortunately am unable to find much. I have, however, discovered that a little boy was murdered back in there, which is sad. I am truly just wondering if there is any other info out there that would help me understand the feelings I get. Thanks.

The Paranormalist – Renae Rude
Mar 26th, 4:59pm
I’m not surprised by the experiences you’ve had in Carlos Avery. I haven’t done any intensive research about the place, but my family has all sorts of stories about things that happened there … mostly about gangsters during prohibition. I’m glad you brought it up. Maybe that will become my spring project. … I’d be interested to learn if there’s any particular place or time where you’ve noticed a strong sense of being watched.

Rebecca
Mar 26th, 5:03pm
Yes I could help you in your project. I’m not saying I have a sixth sense or anything, but it’s like I can feel, and almost see, what it is that is bothering me. Can’t explain it and no one believes me.

Rebecca
Mar 26th, 5:16pm
I would like to know if I do have a special ability and how to control it. One night, in a home where we lived, my fiance was unsure about why I was uncomfortable. Then he started to try to understand, and was able to feel what I felt by touching me. That night was one of the worst nights on the property, and we moved shortly after. Sorry for bothering you, but I just wonder if there is something wrong with me or if all of this is just a gift, so to speak.

The Paranormalist – Renae Rude
Mar 26th, 11:29pm
I think it’s always best to pay attention to and obey one’s instincts. [Note: I’ve clipped a few sentences of my response from this thread and moved them down to the “WHAT’S NEXT” section of this post. You’ll see why when you get there.] Your experience with your fiance is familiar to me. My husband is less open than I am to sensing the mood around him, but he can “catch” what I’m feeling if he tries. I doubt there’s anything wrong with you. And it doesn’t matter if anyone believes you. Only you know how you feel in certain situations, and only you can determine your own belief about why you feel that way. Personally, I enjoy feeling like I might be tapped into the history of a place. (And if the “vibes” are bad, I’m outta there.)

The Paranormalist – Renae Rude
Mar 26th, 11:34pm
Oops. I didn’t mean to hit enter yet, but I am pretty much done. I suspect there are lots of folks out there who are wondering some of the same things you are. May I use the text of our correspondence in a blog post? You can be anonymous or choose a name that conceals your identity.

Rebecca
Mar 27th, 8:11am
Sure, you can use our conversation. Just use my first name, but not my last. And yes, if it is anything bad, I do feel I need to get out as well. The same goes with the town where I live. [Note: The town Rebecca named here borders portions of the WMA.] There are areas within the town where I sense different things. I guess it is what it is. It’s all in what one’s individual take is on things, I suppose. I just may be a little extra sensitive. We did a tow for someone who lives on the edge of the Carlos Avery, and who is surrounded by the wood line. I didn’t have to say anything at all and this person just started talking about the spiritual activity they have experienced. Creepy, but yet I knew already.

That is where Rebecca and I left off. The next day I went to the Anoka County History Center and began my research.

FIRST FACTS:

The Child Murder:
Rebecca is correct about a boy being killed in the sanctuary. He was six years old. The murder happened in 1980, but the saga of the perpetrator’s insanity actually began in 1965-66. (Most of that story happens well outside the boundaries of the wildlife preserve, but it’s chilling.)

The Fugitive Hunt:
I discovered that I was wrong about the history of the park including “gangsters during prohibition.” In fact, the gangster incident occurred in 1957.

CA full page from book 2 (3)

The Camps:
Now, in 2015, the property is more than 23,000 acres, with 4,500 acres classified as a wildlife refuge and closed to all trespassing. The habitat is a mix of open water grasslands, marsh, and oak woods.

The property has been in production since since the 19th century. First it was logged out, like most of Minnesota’s wilderness, then a carpet company bought the land to harvest its wire grass for the making of rugs, then the state government took over and established a game farm. To make each of these endeavors possible, camps of workers were required.

Territorial Conflicts:
I’ve not found reference to any major battles within the boundaries of the Wildlife Management Area, but the history of the wider area is dense with territorial conflicts. Minnesota did not achieve statehood until 1858. From the 17th century forward, however, the wilderness was being harvested of its furs for French and British traders. During this time it was common practice for the traders to intermarry with the indigenous people, and so a new “race,” known as the  Métis, developed. In the mid-18th century, territorial conflicts between the Dakota Sioux and the more recently arrived East Coast tribe, the Ojibwe intensified. Battles between the two tribes continued for a more than a hundred years. 

WHAT’S NEXT?

I’ll share the local urban legends and spooky stories that are associated with the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area in particular, and the surrounding counties in general.  I’ll organize the historical information I’m finding, and attempt to determine the origins of the urban legends. (I foresee several more trips to local historical libraries and sites.) I hope to have more conversations with Rebecca, and–perhaps–others who have had unusual experiences in or near Carlos Avery. Of course, I’ll be going out to to the property–probably repeatedly–to explore, take pictures and experience the atmosphere of the place.

My purpose for conducting this investigation is best expressed by a passage I originally wrote within the conversation I shared with Rebecca. I’ve clipped and moved it to this spot, so that you can understand why I’m doing what I’m doing. I wrote:

I suspect that most of us have some degree of sensitivity to the echoes that linger in certain places. (And some of us are just naturally inclined to pay attention to our environments.) I don’t know what those echoes are. For lack of a better word, most of us think of such places as haunted. I suppose we each have to develop our own opinion about what it is we are sensing. I’m interested in the haunted-place experience itself, more than the cause. (I don’t attempt to either prove or debunk hauntings. I don’t think it’s possible to do so. I also have zero interest in trying to interfere with or change whatever is going on. It’s not my place to “send anyone into the light.”)

My plan is to go where the research leads me, and to report my findings here, in future blog posts.

I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

GO TO PART TWO


Interview with Hunter Shea: on THE WAITING and the true-life ghost-story that inspired the novella.

The Waiting Hunter Shea True Ghost StoryAs promised (and just under the wire) I present part one of my interview with Hunter Shea. This segment focuses on his latest release, the novella THE WAITING … and the true-life experiences of the author which inspired the ghost story.

Grab a favorite beverage (we chose to drink pale ale during the interview) and join us for the next 17 minutes or so. Then hit us with any questions or comments you have below.

By the way, we managed to not spoil the book’s ending, so don’t worry if you haven’t read it yet.

The Waiting is available for instant download, for just $2.66 right now, on Amazon.

Go buy it.


Beyond: Two Souls – an interactive movie / video game.

It’s Macabre & Mysterious Media Monday. (Formerly, Mondays were all about music, but I’m feeling the itch to be more inclusive.)

I’ve been meaning to write about Beyond: Two Souls since November. You may recall that my daughter came to Minnesota from North Carolina to celebrate Halloween with us. She was here for almost three weeks, which was awesome, but the inevitable final night and half-day of her visit arrived and we were at a loss about how to cope with it.

In this family of geeks and nerds, the answer was pretty simple – we rented a video game and marathoned it.

Now, understand that I don’t actually PLAY a lot of games myself, but over the years I’ve certainly had many opportunities to watch my kids play. I’ve seen an awful lot of brightly colored blips jump and spin across and around platforms. Even more often, I’ve seen swords and sorcery adventures unfolding on the big screen. I watch, sometimes, just because one or the other of my spawn wants to show me some exciting element in the latest game … usually flaming weapons or gravity defying parkour-type maneuvers. I ohh and ahh because I indulge my kids at every opportunity, but the truth is I don’t really care about the stories in the games.

Beyond: Two Souls was totally different, and I was intrigued from the first moment The Boy suggested it as something I’d like. I was completely on board after he showed me this trailer.

Ayup, those voice actors you just heard were Willem Dafoe and Ellen Page. Not bad.

GAME REQUIREMENTS:

PS3 console
1-2 players, each requiring a controller of their own

GAME DESCRIPTION FROM WIKIPEDIA:

The game centers around Jodie Holmes, who since birth has been connected to an entity named Aiden. After being left by her foster parents she is brought up by researchers Nathan Dawkins and Cole Freeman  who conduct research on the infraworld for the fictional United States Department of Paranormal Activity, the DPA.

We had to go to three different Redbox kiosks to find a copy of the game. Once we were at home again, we drew the blinds and switched off all the lights. The kids set up in office chairs in front of the TV, and Ogre and I snuggled in on the sofa under a blanket. For the next eleven or twelve hours the world of Beyond: Two Souls kept us all engaged and entertained. Somewhere around three o’clock in the morning, we had to sleep, but by ten the next morning, we were back in our places, determined to get through the complete story before it was time to take my daughter to the airport.

I never touched a controller, so I can’t tell you if the game controls are easy or hard. I know there was a little bitching as my kids figured out how to do certain actions but — because my kids are experienced gamers —  for me, this was one long, smooth interactive movie.

Beyond-Two-Souls-Gets-Emotional-and-Cinematic-Official-Cover-Art

And that’s what will make you love this game or hate it; it really is just movie.

This particular plot (involving government conspiracy and a ghostly entity) was right up my ally. That said, it’s not a great movie. It’s sort of predictable, and there are some problems with the plot. The motion capture, obtained by making the actors do this:

wda_epa_12_600x620

doesn’t work very well on the Dafoe character, in my opinion. (Either that, or he’s more of an over-actor than I remember.) Ellen Page, on the other hand, comes through beautifully.

Sometimes the motives of the characters don’t ring true. The bad guys in this are unremittingly bad. There are situations where it seems like the actions taken by Jodie could alter the way that some of these bad guys would act, but no matter what she does, there is a forgone conclusion. There are several love interests for Jodie, but none of them would make me look at them twice. (Well, that one guy isn’t too bad.) Honestly, I think there was too much emphasis on romance.

As a game, according to the kids, it leaves a lot to be desired. Even I could see “the rails” that forced certain actions, and made some choices basically moot. The game is advertised as having 23 possible endings, but we think it comes down to 11 or less. Though it technically allows two people to play (one as Jodie and one as her entity companion) they must take turns.

The list price of this game is steep: $69.99. Considering how fast we burned through it from start to finish, I’m not sure I’d want to invest that much money. There’s not much replay-ability here, once you’ve tried a few of the different endings. It is, however, still available in Redbox and I think it’s well worth the cost of a few night’s rental.

It seems like I’ve given this a lukewarm review, and I don’t want to leave you with that impression. Though there are problems with it, it was a great way for us to spend some low-stress but engaged time with each other. There were lots of opportunities to discuss which way we wanted to take the story. Once it was over, we had some really interesting conversation about the central themes of the game.

Also, the concept of interactive movie games fascinates me. The potential of the genre is mind-boggling. I’ve long thought that there aren’t enough alternatives to fast-twitch video games. I believe we need more puzzle-focused games, for those of us that enjoy the thrill of solution seeking but don’t want to invest years of our lives developing the reflexes of a fighter pilot. This is the style that could be used to create the kind of sandbox I want to play in: one well-stocked with layered, intricate, complex environments to explore.

To be fair, I want to share a video review by one of my son’s favorite professional reviewers, Yahtzee. Be prepared, he HATED this game. (But his review is funny if somewhat foul-mouthed. Warning: spoilers.)

If you try this game, you’re probably going to want the following links eventually. Warning: massive spoilers.

Here’s all the Beyond: Two Souls endings, and how to get them

Beyond: Two Souls Wiki

From Forbes Magazine — ‘Beyond: Two Souls’ Review: Paranormal Interactivity – This is a well-written, comprehensive review of the game, including detailed information about mechanics, plot and theme.


‘NetNet: secret dungeon, Victorian cemetery, “giant” crab-monster, true ghost story with pic, horror / dark fiction writer & reader, and Flowers in the Attic.

EXPLORE A SECRET DUNGEON

One of my most frequent dream themes is finding a previously undiscovered room (or rooms) in the house where I live. I can’t vouch that the following story is true, but it’s SO cool if it is. Read: This Guy Moved Into a New Apartment Only to Find Something Weird Yet Amazing… (It’s really one big picture on a meme site, so I can’t share a peek.) Click though. It’s sorta awesome.

*****

LEARN ABOUT A BEAUTIFUL VICTORIAN-ERA CEMETERY & ITS BEES

I love that Deborah DeLong, keeper of the Romancing the Bee blog, often connects gardening and beekeeping with darker, but still beautiful, things. Read: Spring Grove Cemetery – The Victorian Way of Death.

spring-grove-6

*****

WATCH AN ACCIDENTAL / NATURAL HORROR SHORT FILM

I am reminded of every giant-monster movie I’ve ever seen.

*****

READ A TRUE GHOST STORY, COMPLETE WITH PHOTO!

Here’s a real friend of a friend story: Matthew Alan Bennett has this neighbor, see … oh just go read: Paranormal Wednesday – girl in the window.

girl-in-the-window

*****

HORROR WRITER, MEET READER

Emily Einolander writes about beer and movies over at Craft Fear. This essay about what she gets out of horror caught my eye. Read, Why Just Eat Chicken When You Can Be One?

emily

*****

READER, MEET HORROR DARK FICTION WRITER

Joanna Parypinski just made a subtle change to her blog header info; she changed the tagline to read “author of dark fiction” instead of “author of horror fiction.”  I found the thoughts that led her to make the change interesting … and familiar. I’ve been thinking along the same lines myself since the new year came on. Read: Why I Write Dark Fiction.

book cover pandora

*****

REMINISCE ABOUT A NOVEL YOU PROBABLY READ BEFORE YOU SHOULD HAVE

Scoobyclue took me back to the days of my early adolescence with her piece on the wonderful/terrible Flowers in the Attic. Read: Back to the Attic. Then tell me, how old were you when you read it? (And did any of you “boys” ever read it?)

flowersinside

*****

START A NEW HOBBY: PARTICIPATE IN #HAUNTEDPHOTOAWEEK

I know. It’s a shameless plug for my own project. But it’s gonna be so much fun! Keep an eye out for creepy / eerie photo ops; play with photo editors (if you like.) Then bring the results to one of the galleries. Click the pic for more info.

hauntedphotoaweek

PS: Thanks, Tim Prasil, for this beauty – the first official submission to #hauntedphotoaweek:

hpaw tim prasil hawk

#haunting #hauntedphotoaweek

*****

There is no way I’m going to capture every great thing that happens in my personal web, let alone on the wider internet. The posts I feature here just happened to catch my eye. They resonated with me and whatever is going on in my life right now. And they are worth sharing.

‘NetNet

#NetNet

*****


‘NetNet: True haunted house tale, new scary short films, old eerie short films, a quote hunt, a Robert McCammon short story, Gone With the Wind, and TV updates.

READ ANOTHER TRUE HAUNTED HOUSE STORY

haunted_house

Ghosts & Ghouls has posted another good first-person account of a haunting. Of course I can’t verify the story, but I do try to find well-written, plausible tales to share with you. Reader Submission: Life in a Haunted House fits the bill.

*****

VIEW AN EXPERTLY CURATED SET OF SCARY SHORT VIDEOS.

Eva Halloween, who features a short horror video at her blog almost every Friday night, has picked out 5 favorites. Read:  Friday Night Features: Our Top 5 Horror Shorts of 2013.

*****

READ A McCAMMON SHORT STORY

Robert McCammon has gifted us with a fresh short story called White. Get the link to the story, or to EPUB (for Nook) or MOBI (for Kindle) at his post: Kick the New Year off with a new short story by Robert McCammon!

robert mccammon

*****

RECONSIDER A CLASSIC BOOK

I’ve recently started following an (often) irascible teacher at the blog Infinitefreetime. I always enjoy his style, but this post in particular drew me in. Since reading it, I’ve found myself thinking I should re-read Gone With the Wind with an adult’s eyes and awareness. Read: In which I don’t like liking things.

gone

*****

APPRECIATE THE SENSIBILITIES OF A UNIQUE BLOGGER

Madeleine Swann finds the coolest stuff.

There are four more selections over at: The eerie and enchanting world of early cinema. (I just love that title.)

*****

TRACK DOWN THE ORIGINS OF THIS FANTASTIC PIECE OF WISDOM

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Aside from committing to writing more, I’ve also made resolutions to improve my health and finances in 2014.  (Like most everyone.) In early December, I started hunting for tools to help me achieve this year’s goals, and I think I’ve found a couple of good ones. (Yes, I plan to tell you about them, but that’s for another kind of post entirely.) Today I found the above quote, unattributed, in the wilds of one of those tools. 

I had to hunt it down, of course.

I found my answer at a blog called Quote Investigator. Read about the hotly debated source of the quote in: Watch Your Thoughts, They Become Words; Watch Your Words, They Become Actions (Ralph Waldo Emerson? Lao Tzu? Frank Outlaw? Gautama Buddha? Bishop Beckwaith? Father of Margaret Thatcher?)

*****

NOW LET’S TALK TV!

One of the things I hate about the holiday season is how my favorite shows go on hiatus.

I’m quite excited that AHS: Coven is coming back on Wednesday the 8th. I’ve been waiting for the upcoming special guest episode since I first met Misty Day in the bayou. (Yes, I suspected it would happen, even back then – ask Ogre.) Anyway, squee aside, here’s the latest teaser:

My other favorite 2013 show, The Blacklist, returns Jan. 13. (The Walking Dead isn’t coming back until Feb. 9th.)

What I’m REALLY excited about, though, is Downton Abbey which will begin its 4th season TOMORROW! (Sunday, Jan. 5th.)

Finally, this is just a heads-up that BATES MOTEL Season 2 will premiere on A&E March 3rd and is expected to have a 10 episode run.


*****

There is no way I’m going to capture every great thing that happens in my personal web, let alone on the wider internet. The posts I feature here just happened to catch my eye. They resonated with me and whatever is going on in my life right now. And they are worth sharing.

‘NetNet

#NetNet

*****