Photographing memories, off-season and on.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you probably already know that I’ve been taking more photographs lately. (It’s easy to take a lot of pictures in the good seasons–any season except winter that is–because I actually go out and about instead of huddling like a post-apocalyptic survivor in my home.)

My new (nearly) daily practice makes me more aware of my surroundings and it entertains my muse. Some of the shots are artistic, some are just personally meaningful, but they all capture something about my life that I’d like to remember.

Today I started a Flickr album just for those pictures, because I realized they will get buried in my social media feeds and eventually disappear. I might do something with them here at the blog too, but for now–if you want to see them all in one place–feel free to pop over to my hauntingphotoaday album at Flickr.

I’ve been getting so much satisfaction from this practice that I’ve decided to plunge in just a little bit deeper, by starting to participate in the WordPress sponsored photo a week challenge, which you can read about here:

I'm part of Post A Week 2015

Click the badge to go to the homepage.

“Off-Season” is this week’s photo prompt, which gives me a fine opportunity to embarrass myself. I would have liked to start off with something more like actual photography than the following very-snapshot-y pics, but you get what you get when you’re responding to a prompt.

When I was organizing photos last week, I came across one, taken back in April, in which I am giving the photographer (probably Ogre) The Look. It’s not one of my favorite photos of me, but it nails that particular expression we are all guilty of. It amused me, so I put it up on my personal Facebook page. Here it is:

The Look

Within seconds, I got this comment from a woman I went to high school with: “Is it still Christmas at your house?”

That’s when I saw, for the first time in months, that gold garland hanging on the wall. Oops.

Regular readers know that I’m not a fan of holidays (other than Halloween) and that our family doesn’t do much in the way of decorating for Christmas. This last Christmas, though, I got caught up in the holiday spirit and spent a whole day lining the ceiling in our living room with multi-colored “firefly” blinky lights and garland.

We fell in love with the way the lights reflected off the ceiling and made the room glow when all the lamps were turned off. After Christmas, we still wanted and needed the cheerful lights to get through the winter. So we left them up. When spring came, we discovered we STILL liked the way they looked at night, when we were curled up watching TV or working on our individual projects.

Now it’s summer, and they are still up.

off season

Last night, we noticed that one of the strings is dying. In the next couple of days, I will take them down, because there’s little more depressing than a half-dead string of twinkle lights. If they were still burning brightly, though, I wouldn’t touch them.

So how’s that for off-season?

Edit: I’m doing the neighborly thing and taking a peek at other participant’s responses. Here are some of my favorites:

Off course | And in walks …(An artistic) Christmas Lights in June | Doormats | California Polar Bear Plunge | Off-Season DQ | East Harlem | Long Beach Island in September (These remind me of NC.) | Last of the summer blooms | Chicken Season | Frost Rose | “A rose garden is a still, expectant place in England in late May.” | Lonely Sailor | Germany’s North CoastCougar feasting on carcass (reminds me of working at the wolf center) | TomatoesSummer Cabins, Closed for Winter | South England | Rain Gauge in the Sierra Nevada Foothills |

And the challenge led me to a blog that features “Life & Death in a Small Town (including cemetery photos.)

Building the Paranormal Hotel

Over the last few weeks I’ve been puttering around behind the scenes here at The Paranormalist. There are several improvements and additions coming. One of them is the Paranormal Hotel homepage. Though the project isn’t complete yet, it’s time to share what I’m doing with the Paranormal Hotel posts I’ve written over the years. I’m pretty pleased with the way it’s coming together.

Come see:


Birthday gifts from the sky.

I had a lovely birthday today yesterday, which included a lot of writing, some quality time with Ogre, fried ice cream, and a long walk with my dog, on the first summery late-afternoon of the year. (It was sunny and in the 80s.)

No one in our little family makes a big deal out of birthdays, especially now that the kids are pretty much grown. (You know how I hate holidays.) We might have a cake this weekend, when everyone is home from work, and that will about do it.

We don’t worry about specific birthday presents much. We prefer to give each other gifts throughout the year, whenever we see something that’s just right for someone else. I think none of us are good at delayed gratification. We’d rather give the right thing, at the right moment, whenever that may be.

Today, then, I was surprised to receive TWO gifts:

birthday gifts

The stick is from a Cooper’s hawk and the “helicopter” seed is from a gray squirrel.

Years ago, I spent a couple of seasons doing observations for a raptor conservation program. I was given a territory to survey for hawks and eagles, and I was lucky enough to find a pair of nesting Cooper’s hawks on my parcel of land … in a damp, tangled thicket of underbrush and old, storm-damaged trees, half a mile off the nearest path. It was beautiful.

I visited the pair weekly through the spring and summer, and was privileged to see them court, mate, (yes, actually do the deed,) build a nest, and raise two healthy and boisterous young. For years afterward, I was immune to the effects of mosquito bites.

Today, as I was pleasure-strolling with my dog, along a perfectly spotless sidewalk, in a high-end neighborhood of White Bear Lake, wearing a sundress and strappy sandals, I heard a familiar call.

(I found this youtube video so you can see and hear a Cooper’s. You’ll have to turn up the volume to hear what I heard.)

I stopped dead and started to scan the branches above me. Sure enough, there was a pair of Cooper’s occupying the highest branches of one of the big old trees that line the avenue.

All I had was my cell phone so I snapped this pic:

Cooper's Hawk blob

The vaguely bird-shaped blob in the Y is the male. I know this because he was hunting for proper nest-building twigs. I watched him break one off, and expected him to take flight, but he chose to drop it instead … right at my feet. Then he broke off another and carried it down the block.

Of course I picked up and kept the one he left for me.

A few blocks later, as I was walking down the middle of a little-used side-street, I noticed a chunky, noisy, gray squirrel above and ahead of us, perched on a high branch that overhung the road. He chattered at my dog and me as we approached, then fled toward the tree’s trunk. When he skittered away, he dislodged a single helicopter seed which began to spin its way toward the ground, 10 or 15 paces in front of me.

I swear to you, I don’t think I altered my stride at all, yet–when I stretched out my hand at the appropriate moment–the damn thing landed in my palm.

(Hey, the paranormal isn’t always dark and scary.)

Right now, both objects are in a place of honor in my writing “office” (otherwise known as a big closet.) I have my own theories about what each gift (and each giver) means, but I’d be interested to hear your ideas.

The Paranormal Hotel: Knock, knock …

… knock, knock.

I’m just recovering from coming away from a long weekend of working at the paranormal hotel. It’s true, I quit that job months ago, but, when I left, I agreed to occasionally fill in when the owners go on vacation. I’ve known, almost since I quit, that I’d be covering four day-shifts in early May.

I didn’t expect anything particularly dramatic to happen, in the hours between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Mother’s Day weekend, and, mostly, I was right.

Of course it was still hard. Having had many weeks away from that environment, I had nearly forgotten how dreary and hopeless if feels there. Just one day of dealing with the hand-to-mouth existence of the residents and guests drained me.

Knock, knock …

To be fair, I wasn’t at my best. Lately I’ve been having some trouble with absent-mindedness. I’m told it’s a function of my age and stage, and that it will pass, but it pisses me off. When my brain stops cooperating with me, I get cranky.

I’m trying to keep a light tone here, but the truth is that it’s scary when I have these little lapses. They aren’t exactly like what you’re probably imagining right now. Yes, we all have occasional brain spasms when we forget where we left our keys, or drive for a few miles on autopilot without really seeing the road. Usually, these things happen when we are sleep deprived, or upset, or trying to multitask too much. A deliberate deep breath and a good mental shake will clear the mind and allow full functionality to return.

This hormonal stuff is more like being drunk. I know there’s a problem, I can try to shake it off, but sometimes I have to accept there’s going to be a period of a few hours, or even most of a day, when I just can’t trust myself to think clearly, or even perceive accurately.

It’s enough to make some small part of my mind start toying with the idea that I just might be going mad.

The paranormal hotel is a terrible place to be for a woman who distrusts her sanity. People there lie to you. Ineptly, yes, but with absolute conviction that you will believe whatever they concoct. On Saturday, in particular, deception seemed to be the order of the day.

… knock, knock.

Allow me to share some of the versions of reality I heard:

Room 127:

Guest (upon check-in): “I’m supposed to be seeing a doctor tomorrow, but I’m not going to need to do that, because I’ve got an appointment in an hour with a woman who can pray over me and take the tumor away. Isn’t God amazing?”

Me: (Non-committal nod.)

Guest: “So I only need the room for one night, not the two I reserved. It will just be me and my Michael.”

Me: “Not four people? The reservation says you wanted a room with two beds, to accommodate four.”

Guest: “Yes, that’s right, but just one person. I like to lay my stuff out on the second bed.”

Me: “Two people then; just you and a Michael?”

Guest: “He’s my kitty cat.”

Me: “Oh. I’m so sorry, but we don’t allow pets in the hotel.”

Guest: “He’s my service animal. And he’s so good, he always uses his litter box.” (She goes on for a while about the cat.)

Me: “He sounds lovely. I’ll just need to see his papers then.”

Guest: (Absolutely blank stare.) “Umm. They are somewhere in my luggage, and I have to get to that appointment, so I can’t get them for you now. I’ll find them for you later. If you’re still here. When is your shift over?”

Me: “Ma’m, I’m sorry, but I can’t let him in until I see his papers–”

Guest: “But he won’t make any mess.”

Me: “It’s not that. It’s a matter of inoculations and health codes.

Guest: “He has his shots. I don’t understand why hotels don’t welcome a nice clean cat like Michael.

Me: Hotels are legally required to accommodate service animals, but when it comes to pets, they are trying to avoid allergens–”

Guest: “Oh, he’s a Turkish angora, so he’s hypoallergenic.”

Me: (In my head.) Well that’s just not true. You know this, Renae. You raised purebreds when you were a little girl, and you know a hell of a lot about cats. There’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat, really, and a Turkish Angora is NOT on the list of lower-allergen breeds

Guest: “It IS true!” (My face must have shown what I was thinking–which is another sign that I’m not operating at my best.) “I’ve read lots of articles on The Internet.” (I could hear the capitals in her voice.)

I like cats. The paranormal hotel used to accept pet guests, and only really changed its policy because a large dog did some major damage. Plus, I was only filling in for a few shifts. I judged the situation to be not worthy of a fight. I checked her in and warned her that she’d have to show the papers to whomever was at the desk when she returned.

What happened later:

When I cam back the next day, I was told she never produced papers, claimed that she was leaving the cat in the car overnight, then had the inexperienced girl who was covering the early morning shift carry the cat from the hotel room to her car when she checked out. Apparently the cat sprayed on most of the upholstered furniture.

Knock, knock…

Room 343, 410, 112:

Guest(s): “I’m waiting for my friend to bring me some money. I absolutely have to stay here again tonight, because (fill in the blank.) I know I agreed to check out at 11:00, but he/she will be here before noon. I promise I’ll come right down as soon as I have the money.”

What happened later:

They each delayed as long as possible with frequent promises that it would only be a few more minutes until they could pay, then were just gone when I went to clear them out at 12:45 p.m. As far as I can tell, they were in no way affiliated with each other; that’s just the way people are at the paranormal hotel.

knock, knock.

The laundry room:

As the housekeepers strip each room, they gather the dirty linens into a bundle, then toss the bundle down a chute that descends through all five stories of the hotel. The bundles end up in an industrial sized bin in the laundry room. Part of my job is to stand at the bottom of that chute and sort the laundry into loads. Staff members are supposed to shout “clear” before they drop a bundle down the chute, but sometimes they forget to do it.

I can forgive that.

On Saturday morning, I had just spent four or five minutes in the quiet laundry room, emptying the bin. I was bent into it, fetching out a few loose towels from its bottom, when I heard a trap door from somewhere far above me open. I didn’t have enough time to get out of the way before a heavy, wet bundle dropped onto the back of my neck.

It hurt. I swore. In a clearly annoyed voice, I shouted up the chute, “Hello?” There was no response. I thought, You scared him or her. Watch your cranky level, Renae. Then, Well, at least now it shouldn’t happen again today.

Later, the guy who had been helping out by stripping rooms for the housekeepers came up to me, his sky-blue eyes wide with sincerity, and said, “You didn’t hear me when I shouted clear. Good thing it was a light load, huh?”

An apology from him would have been followed by one from me, for snapping. His words, though, left me speechless. I had to wonder if I was going crazy. Maybe I had missed his warning, even though the machines hadn’t been running yet. Maybe it had been a small, dry load, but my neck was still sore from the blow I’d received. Then I remembered another encounter I’d had with him.

What happened before:

The guy lives at the paranormal hotel, of course. He and his wife have a habit of narrating the world to be as they prefer it to be. They are convinced that they are good liars, too.

Once, they found a very expensive bottle of liquor in a room and appropriated it for themselves. (This doesn’t bother me much. I can see how they could have considered it a gratuity.) I didn’t know about the cognac until the guest who had left the bottle behind came looking for it. When I contacted the couple to see if either of them had found it, they told me they’d thrown it out, and that they’d fetch it from the dumpster for me. (It’s common to find liquor at the hotel, by the way, and it’s standard practice to bring it to the laundry room in case a guest returns for it. Usually, though, it’s  a half-case of cheap beer.)

Eventually they brought the bottle to the front desk, in pristine condition, with its contents intact. The husband regaled me with how he had to climb into the dumpster and move bags until he found it. He also let me know he’d washed it off in his bathroom before bringing it to me. The couple was anxious to tell me that they had no idea it was valuable because they don’t drink ever.

But back to the stories from Saturday.

Knock, knock …

Room 317:

Guest (on the phone, at about 11 a.m.): “Can I get a noon checkout?”

Me: I’m sorry, we are booked up for later today, so we need to get the housekeepers into the rooms as soon as possible. I can give you until 11:30 though. Will that help?”

Guest: “Yes. I’ll have time for a quick shower then. I really appreciate that, and I’ll try to hurry. Thank you.”

What happened later:

Just before noon I called all the rooms that hadn’t yet checked out, (including 317,) in preparation for my first sweep of the hotel. This is standard routine. When the phone is unanswered, it’s an indication that the guests have probably left. Once I’ve noted all the rooms that are likely empty, I go check each one in person, by first knocking, then–assuming there is no response–opening the door with my pass key to confirm the room is empty. Once I’ve visited all the rooms in this way, I can give the maids an update on where they can go next.

When I got to room 317, I knocked, then slid my pass key into the lock and tried to open the door. I immediately hit the security bar which can only be fastened from the room’s interior. I let the door close, then called the room with the portable phone I was carrying. I heard it ring five or six times before the same woman I’d given the 11:30 checkout to answered. Her voice was groggy. I told her it was now past noon, and she’d agreed to leave by 11:30.

She said she’d never spoken to me. I didn’t argue; I just told her she had to vacate the room as soon as possible.

When she finally cleared the room, after 12:30 p.m., she left a wad of foil-lined paper and some food scraps in the microwave with the timer set to maximum.

… knock, knock.

Room 432:

432 was another of the rooms I had called just before noon. There had been no answer, so I had every reason to believe it was vacant. By the time I got to the fourth floor, however, I had run into several rooms that were still occupied, despite the unanswered calls, (including 317, above, where the security bar had been engaged.) When I came to 432, I was a little gun shy. I rapped firmly on the door

Knock, knock.

then paused to listen carefully.

… knock, knock.

From inside the room someone rapped back. It was a soft sound, but distinct. I looked up and down the hall, in case someone was knocking at another room, but I was alone. I tried again and got the same response. My cordless doesn’t always work well above the third floor, but I dialed the room anyway. The phone behind the door rang ten times as I strained to hear any movement beyond the door, but all was silent, save for the rings.

I tucked the phone into my back pocket and tried again, this time with a louder, triple strike

Knock. Knock. Knock.

which was promptly returned.

… knock, knock, knock.

It occurred to me that maybe someone was messing with me deliberately. I checked my occupancy list and found that the rooms on either side of  432 were empty — one had been so all night, and the other had checked out earlier, by turning in their keys to me. Again, I looked up and down the hallway. I paged through the papers on my clipboard. Telling myself it must be an echo, or a sound coming up from the floor below, I raised my had to knock one more time, but I didn’t have the chance. From inside the room came an impatient-sounding


It’s my job to open that door, no matter what I think I might see or not see, so I did.

empty hotel room by Renae Rude

What’s going to happen now:

I think it’s best for me to avoid the hotel until I have a little more confidence in my ability to perceive things are they really are. It’s bad enough when the residents and guests are lying to me, but when the hotel itself gets in the game, I’m out … at least temporarily.

Because such is life at:

This Week in Macabre & Mysterious Media: May 11 – 17, 2015


Nostra Morte | Perséfone

Thanks to Joanna Wagner, who brought this to my attention.

This week, I think I’m most excited about:

Wayward Pines



Granite Flats (2013, 2014, 2015) TV series from BYUtv(!)

All three seasons of this series will become available on Netflix streaming on May 15th. (No link available yet.)
This blurb caught my eye: “It’s the 1960s. The height of the Cold War. The rural town of Granite Flats, Colorado, suddenly becomes a hotbed for mystery and intrigue.” (IMDb) A little more research reveals that this is an original, scripted drama from the folks at Brigham Young University TV. That’s interesting in its own right. Apparently the show has been on for BYUtv for the last three season, but now they have partnered up with Netflix to screen the whole show. To be honest, the few trailers I can find feel a little “after school special” to me, but I want to give it a fair shake because I love this era.
On IMDb here.

Extraterrestrial (2014) NR
Available on Netflix streaming on May 12th.
This looks fairly average, but I do love anything with Michael Ironside in it.
On IMDb here.


Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) R
Opens in general release, Friday, May 15th.
Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult
[UPDATE] I had my doubts for the first 15-20 minutes, but in the end I came out stoked about this movie. The visuals are stunning. (I can close my eyes and “see” the sandstorm sequence.) The tone is much closer to Mad Max and The Road Warrior than to Beyond Thunderdome. The story is fine, but it’s the spectacle that will impress you. Don’t wait for it to come to DVD — this is one that deserves to be seen on the big screen.
On IMDb here.

Every Secret Thing (2015) R
In general release, Friday, May 15th.
Diane Lane, Elizabeth Banks, Dakota Fanning
I’ve not seen any previews for this on TV or in the theaters, which surprises me a bit, considering it opens Friday. Looks suspenseful. And I love what I see of the cast.
On IMDb here.


Wayward Pines | FOX | Thursdays | 9/8c | Starts this week, May 14th.
10 episodes
From the homepage:
“Imagine the perfect American town, beautiful homes, manicured lawns, children playing safely in the streets…Now imagine never being able to leave. You have no communication with the outside world. You think you’re going insane. You must be in Wayward Pines.”

“Based on Blake Crouch’s bestselling series of books and brought to life by M. Night Shyamalan. An “intense psychological thriller evocative of the classic hit Twin Peaks.””
UPDATE #1: I’m giving this orange status for now, based on one episode. I realized as I watched that I don’t really trust M. Night Shyamalan anymore. I adored The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, but somewhere along the line, I realized that everythinghe’s done since is a trope, and there aren’t a lot of genuine twists to enjoy. I fear this is going to be like The Village, which was pretty and creepy, but essentially flat in the end.

UPDATE #2: I’m several episodes in now, and I think I hate it. I am willing to continue for a while longer, because I’m hoping things will become clear and/or something will happen to make it not so frustratingly bland. (A turn-around … I need a good turn-around.)
On IMDb here.


And that’s pretty much it for this week. I’m just coming off a four-day stint at the Paranormal Hotel, so I’m a bit worn out, but I hope to finish and post the next installment of Investigating a Haunting: Carlos Avery WMA, MN on Friday or Saturday. I also promised a little story to go along with a snapshot of an empty hotel room that I tweeted/facebooked a couple of days ago. (If everything goes just right, you might see that on Wednesday.) Right now, though, I have to catch-up to my word count goal for my novel project. Have a great week, Folks.



The color of the title is keyed as follows:
Black = Have not yet experienced. I’m interested … or I think you’ll be interested.
Red = Have experienced. Not recommended. Worse than the reviews or buzz indicated.
Orange = Have experienced. Recommended, with reservations or cautions.
Green = Have experienced. Recommended. A good movie that lives up to its reputation.

This Week in Macabre & Mysterious Media: May 4 -10, 2015


Buckle up, Folks…

Nekromantix – Gargoyles Over Copenhagen


You know I don’t feature many books here, in my Macabre & Mysterious Media posts, (which is CRAZY, I know, all things considered) but occasionally something new comes along that I just have to share. Recently I had a chance to read an advance copy of The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave, by J.H. Moncrieff, and I loved it.

There’s even a spiffy book trailer:

This novella becomes available on Tuesday, May 5th, for just $2.66.

Support this debut author by grabbing a copy HERE.

You’ll want to have read it by the time June rolls around, because … (I’m excited to announce) … I’ll be interviewing J.H. Moncrieff on Skype at the end of May!

We’ve been in contact for the last month or so, working out the details of our plan. We still need to nail down a firm date and time for the conversation and decide what specific cocktail we’ll be sampling together. FYI, we have agreed the concoction we settle on must 1) be something that neither of us has every tried 2) include Malibu rum, and 3) have a spooky name.

I’ll be creating one or more videos from the raw footage, and will post the end product(s) in early to mid June. Of course we’ll be discussing The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave, and there might be spoilers in the video(s). (Especially if we choose to indulge in strong cocktails.)



It’s a quiet week on Netflix except for this:

Grace & Frankie (2015) TV SHOW

All 13 episodes will become available on Netflix on May 8th.

Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, Sam Waterson

Not even a tinge of spooky here, but I’m really looking forward to this cast! It’s going to be a perfect binge on a rainy weekend. Update: On first viewing, I thought it was too on the nose and over the top, but Ogre fell asleep while we were watching the second episode, so I had re-watched it last night. It was better. Perhaps because I’m already invested in the happiness of the characters? 

On IMDb here.

Also, my favorite Angry Scholar has led me to something I missed:

The Road (2011) R

Avaliable on Netflix streaming.

On IMDb here.

Warning: this is hard to find on Netflix, because of the OTHER movie titled The Road (2009). (You know, the deeply depressing one, based on the Cormac McCarthy novel.) Scholar mentioned THIS movie in his recent post:

 Smart, Beautiful, Horrible: Horror’s Thoughtful (and Funny) Filmmakers

…where he also recommended Starry Eyes (2014) which I featured last week. (I’m going to have watch that one, despite my reservations.)


Maggie (2015) R

Opening Friday the 8th, though it may not be in wide release yet.

(I can’t find it playing near me this coming weekend, though a couple of theaters say it’s “coming soon.”)

Another zombie movie, this one starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. WAIT! Don’t just skip along. I’m hearing really good things about this one.

(I’ll probably share it again, when I believe it’s ACTUALLY going to be available to a lot of us.)

On IMDb here.


Nothing exciting on TV this week, except for that Grace & Frankie show, which is really a Netflix thing.

Last week, I rounded up the best of April’s paranormal entertainment. Most of that stuff is still around, so if you need more, check there.


The color of the title is keyed as follows:
Black = Have not yet experienced. I’m interested … or I think you’ll be interested.
Red = Have experienced. Not recommended. Worse than the reviews or buzz indicated.
Orange = Have experienced. Recommended, with reservations or cautions.
Green = Have experienced. Recommended. A good movie that lives up to its reputation.

You will be returned to your regularly scheduled investigation report next week.

Apparently, I’m going to be engaged in an entirely different set of adventures this weekend. (More details will follow — assuming anything interesting happens.) In the meantime, now might be a good time to catch up on the first two installments of Investigating a Haunting: Carlos Avery WMA, MN. 

To make up for my absence this weekend, I’ll post a random little something for you now.

(By the way, these are a bit raw and non-PC. Watch at your own risk.)

Epic Rap Battles with a Paranormal Spin

Stephen King v. Edgar Allan Poe

Jack the Ripper v. Hannibal Lecter

Rick Grimes v. Walter White

Stephen Spielberg v. Alfred Hitchcock
(This one is just filthy with the language, as my imaginary grand-mama would say. Enjoy.)

For more battles, suited to your particular tastes, check out all the videos on the ERB channel.

I hope you can get your spook on this weekend. (I’m certainly going to try.) If you’re looking for more paranormal entertainment to fill the time, feel free to wander through some recent

Macabre & Mysterious Media posts HERE.

Se ya.


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