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.
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.
“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.)
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:
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.
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:
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:
- In search of the cryptid known as the Linwood Woolly Beast.
- In search of the Linwood Woolly Beast: part II
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.
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:
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.)
ADOPT HISTORICAL SLEEP PATTERNS TO HAVE MORE MYSTICAL DREAMS
From T. M. Luhrmann at nytimes.com:
MEET ARTIST JURY THE CLOWN
From Mitch Lavender at Life in 64 Square Feet:
READ ANOTHER GOOD CREEPY TRUE GHOST STORY
From Christy at Ghosts & Ghouls:
SUPPORT A DOCUMENTARY OF PARANORMAL WISCONSIN
Jessica Freeburg, children’s writer and paranormal investigator, recently contacted me about a paranormal investigation project that is currently seeking funding on INDIEGOGO. After checking into it, and watching a 30-minute webisode, I am intrigued. In the spirit of being a good neighbor (Jessica is from Minnesota, and the film’s subject is paranormal Wisconsin) I thought I’d share some information:
Haunted State: Whispers of History Past is a unique documentary about the state of Wisconsin that has never before been told. The film focuses on the history and folklore surrounding the state, seeking to answer questions that have been asked for generations …
With a scheduled release for fall 2014, the crew is currently running an IndieGoGo campaign to help fund the final phase of production. “This money will help cover things like insurance, permits and travel expenses. Right now, we’ve got a good movie. We want a great movie,” said Michael Brown, the film’s Executive Producer. Take a peek at their website www.hauntedstate.com for more details and information the film, or go directly to their IndieGoGo page at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/haunted-state-whispers-from-history-past/x/7256993 to see how you can become a part of this innovative historical, paranormal film!
Here’s the short trailer for the project, to whet your appetite.
The following 30-minute webisode, however, is what really drew me in. I appreciated the enthusiastic but respectful personality of Michael, who conducts an interesting spirit box session at about the 10-minute mark. I’m also impressed with the captured EVPs.
Check out the INDIEGOGO project:
MOURN A FAD THAT WE ALL WOULD HAVE LOVED
From Patrick Keller at The Big Séance:
READ THE REVIEW THAT INSPIRED ME TO ADD A FEATURE TO MY MOST POPULAR BLOG POST
I think you all know that I don’t often do standard reviews of books and movies here at The Paranormalist. Yes, I have my Courting Creepy Movie Lists, but in them I really only provide a teaser or snippet, my personal reason for recommending the film, and a link to IMDb (or a similar source) so that interested readers can read plot summaries and full-length synopses if they want.
Today, though, I read a review of The Haunting (1963) at one of your blogs that made me think, “Ayup. That’s exactly right. I couldn’t have said it better myself.” That’s when I realized there’s no reason that I can’t link my movies recommendations to reviews written by my blogging peers. (After all, some of you specialize in that art.)
The Haunting happens to rank high on: The 13 most haunting films, for ghost story lovers (and another 13+ worth watching.) Because this is my most popular post, I think it’s the perfect list to host this idea.
The haunting films list is due to be updated, so I’ll start adding review links when I tackle that task. You don’t have to wait until the revamp to see what kind of review I particularly like though … go see an example now:
From Scholar* at The Angry Scholar:
*I do actually know his name, but I learned it AFTER we’d communicated a fair bit, so he will always be Scholar in my mind.
IF YOU HAPPEN TO HAVE A REVIEW (OF ONE OF THE MOVIES ON THIS LIST) HIDDEN AWAY ON YOUR BLOG, DROP A LINK BELOW!
If I agree with your assessment of the film (or if your piece provides an interesting opposing view) I may link it.
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.
I’ve been stricken with the flu since Saturday, but I’m feeling much better. Tonight, I return to work at the paranormal hotel. I’ll work tomorrow too, and maybe venture back to the gym for a nice gentle treadmill walk.
If you follow @RRudeParanormal, you already know that my first trip to our brand new health club on Friday evening delayed my realization that I had the flu. The confusion was compounded by my decision to spend all of Friday night writing … and consuming far too much coffee and too many cigarettes. When I woke Saturday morning, feeling awful, I thought I knew what was going on. I “cleverly” tweeted: Gave myself pseudo-flu. First made body aches @ gym. Then stayed up all night smoking. Voila: fatigue, burning eyes, sore throat & cough.
Having thus appropriately mocked myself, I went about my day.
Halfway through my regular shift at the hotel that night, I found myself sprawled on the floor in the office annex, out of sight of any cameras or guests. It was a long, surreal night. (I don’t do fevers well.) And it’s been a long week. Somewhere in that time, there was a trip to a nice doctor who gave me a miraculous slip of paper that said I shouldn’t go to work, or be near anyone. Mostly I’ve been sleeping (and aching and coughing and sneezing and taking dangerously hot baths) but I did put the finishing touches on the following video.
Back in January, my husband and I spent a few hours practicing our paranormal investigation skills in room 217 at the old hotel. We made many mistakes, forgot to do half of what we intended, and had a great time together.
Right now, I’m working on the EVP session that begins just as this video ends. I’ve been shocked to see that no one is posting the kind of EVP video that I want to see – the kind that shows the waveform / sonograph of the suspected EVP right in the video. Turns out, that isn’t as easy to do as I assumed it would be. I’ll figure it out, but it’s going to take a little time and tech. Though it would be easy to spend more hours tweaking part one, It’s time to move on. Before I become immersed in part two, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned so far:
- Practice using your intended investigation tools more than you think you need to – they will be uncooperative when it’s dark, and there’s a camera recording your every hesitation.
- Don’t think you can ad-lib your way through missing props or non-functional tools. Have a backup plan.
- Don’t forget the tripod.
- Wear contacts if you have to. Glasses are distracting in night vision.
- If you’re over 40, try to avoid profile shots.
- Wear dark, matte clothing. The glowing shirt I’m wearing is just a pastel, cotton, button-up.
- Expect that EVERYTHING you record could end up in the final cut – “orbs” don’t wait for you to be ready.
We’re planning a trip to the infamous Palmer House this April. Maybe, by then, I’ll be ready.