The entity I've encountered is scaring the living hell out of me. It's scarier than accidentally catching a glimpse of my naked self in the mirror; scarier than menopause; scarier than 80s music. It's tall, thin and blonde, and it's motioning for me to move forward and stand in front of it. "I don't want to do this. I changed my mind. Let's just get out of here and go have a drink in the bar," I say to Vanessa, my traveling companion. My hesitation is not pleasing the entity. It is impatient. It is not happy, and I'm the cause of it's unhappiness. If a simple look from this thing could actually kill you; I would be dead and buried now. It's too late to leave. I've traveled a great distance to be here, and I must step forward out of the crowd to meet my fate.
"What's your number?" It's asking me through snarling, perfectly capped teeth. I can't think straight. Do I have a number? Surely I was given a number. What's my number? I'm panicking now. I had actually expected to be greeted warmly; perhaps offered a flute of champagne and a canape or two. I had not expected to be snarled at by the she bitch from hell. She's a well-dressed she bitch, I'll give her that. I think she's wearing Armani and Louboutins. She's grabbing at me with her perfectly manicured talons. Oh, okay. I finally figured it out. She wants the reservation number I'm clutching in my trembling hands.
I can do this. I've dealt with this particular kind of entity (she bitch) before. With a huge smile on my face, I gently hand her the sheet of paper containing my information. This particular entity needs to be charmed. This particular entity has spent it's life being fawned over and admired for no other reason than the fact it is young and attractive. This particular entity is utterly appalled at the fact she must deal with common people such as myself. This she bitch is not supposed to be doing this for a living. She is supposed to be married to a doctor or lawyer and living on the upper east side of Manhattan surrounded by "the help." She is not supposed to be "the help." Something has obviously gone wrong in her life, and she is taking it out on every unfortunate soul who crosses her path. She has become the entity.
I'm starting to get irritated. After all, I've paid big money to attend the Strange Escape weekend at the Stanly Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. This is the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write "The Shining." This hotel, built in 1909, is famous for being one of the most haunted establishments in this country. I've come here to see for myself if the stories are true.
Construction is underway as Vanessa and I pull up to the imposing facade. It's not clear how we are supposed to enter the main building, and the homemade signs are not helpful. People are milling about with no idea where to go. This is not quite what I pictured when I wrote the check to attend this event. I pictured myself rocking on the front porch while sipping a cocktail and taking in the view of the vast snow-covered peaks in the distance. Instead, I'm stumbling up and down stairways that lead to nothing, and walking down long hallways that end in locked doors. It's really hard to enjoy the impressive architecture and decorations due to the fact that I'm sucking wind because of the altitude and long hike from the car. Little did I know this was just the beginning of our misbegotten weekend.
After several foolhardy attempts to find the entrance, we eventually stumble down a grand staircase into a packed lobby full of ghost hunters. These are the people we will spend the weekend with, and they've come from all over the country to be here. The ladies behind us are from Kentucky and we strike up a friendly conversation. I immediately feel at ease because they sound and look a little bit like me, except for their big hair, but little did I know that I would soon meet the entity.
Full of a sense of adventure and wonder, I slowly edge forward in the crowd clustered around the Strange Escape reception area, which is basically three or four folding tables piled high with t-shirts, autographed pictures and whatnot. There's kind of a line and kind of not. Appropriate signage would be most helpful, but if there are signs I do not see them which is why I'm standing in this grand lobby with my mouth hanging open and a deer caught in the headlights look on my face. The entity senses my confusion and feeds on my naivete. I'm the very kind of person it despises the most. I'm a rube. I'm a people-pleaser. I'm unsophisticated. I'm not worthy to stand in it's presence.
I realize my grave error in not immediately handing over my registration information. I have made it mad and I will pay. In a very feeble attempt to right my grevious wrong, I start chattering away and trying to make friends with the entity. This usually works for me. After all, it's much easier to catch a fly with honey than with vinegar. The entity isn't having it. The entity doesn't want to be my friend. The entity wants me to step away from the reception area. I would dearly love to do just that; however, the entity has decided that I can't leave before it places a flimsy paper wristband around my wrist. I explain to it that I do not need a wristband at this moment as I will not be attending any events until the next day. I paid only to attend the lectures which will be held tomorrow. It matters not to the entity. I'm not leaving until it attaches the wristband to me. At this point, I'm wondering how I'm supposed to shower whilst wearing the paper wristband. The entity assures me that showering will not be a problem as it firmly and tightly attaches the damn thing around my delicate wrist. I will spend the next 24 hours obsessing over this piece of paper wrapped around my wrist.
To add insult to injury, Vanessa has the audacity to ask the entity if it might be possible for her to purchase a paper wristband for herself. She might as well have asked if it's possible to end world hunger or to cure cancer or to establish peace on this planet. The answer to any of those things would have been simpler than the exasperated answer she got from the entity. In a nutshell, it's simply not possible to buy another wristband and any idiot should know that. This was a piece of information that turned out to be inaccurate. Unfortunately, the entity was wrong about several things, but we didn't know that at the time. We also didn't know that we would deal with the entity several times over the course of the weekend, and it would be the scariest thing we would encounter in what was supposed to be a very scary weekend.
Yes, I paid good money to be scared. I actually got on a plane and flew to Colorado in a feeble attempt to see a ghost/apparition/spirit. I also wanted to see Vanessa, my best friend from high school, who now lives in Colorado and remains one of my best friends almost four decades after we graduated from Seminole High School. The last time she and I took a road trip we didn't wear bifocals or need to pack high blood pressure medicine. Some things have changed, like my hair color, but mostly we are the same two fun-loving gals we were in high school just looking for a little excitement and adventure.
I don't actually believe in ghosts, and I've certainly never seen one; however, I do believe that weird, not easily explained stuff does happen at times. That's interesting to me, and that's what I was hoping to learn more about in between eating some really good food, drinking some really good wine and looking at some really awesome scenery. Estes Park is a beautiful little village nestled on the front range of the Colorado Rockies at an elevation of 7,522 feet. It's very different from where I live in Texas which is flat and stark. Very different is what I want. That's why I decided to go on this little trip in the first place. I just love the idea of travel, but I don't actually love the travel itself. Who does? I also love the anticipation. I don't know what's going to happen. Maybe I really will see a ghost.
At the very least, I'm seeing all sorts of celebrities in the hotel lobby. I have no idea who they are, but they are apparently a big deal in the world of ghost hunting. This Strange Escape weekend is hosted by people from the TV show called Ghost Hunters. I can buy a t-shirt bearing the scowling image of Britt Griffith or an autographed picture of Amy Bruni, but I can't buy an extra ticket to the lectures. Go figure.
Using extreme caution in order to keep my paper wristband dry, I jump in the shower the next day. This is it. This is the day I've anticipated for weeks. This is the day I will learn about the paranormal. I don't even have time for breakfast as I want to leave myself plenty of time to get a good seat. I figured security would be pretty tight given the extreme paranoia about wearing the damn paper wristband. I couldn't have been more wrong. No one checked my wristband. I simply strolled into the room and picked my seat. There were tons of empty seats. Vanessa could have just walked in with me and no one would have been the wiser.
I don't know anyone who doesn't love a good ghost story. I should have been on the edge of my seat during the lecture, but instead these people actually managed to make the paranormal boring. How is that even possible? Within 30 minutes, I was pinching myself in order to stay awake. I wasn't even attempting to listen to the lecture. It was much more interesting to watch people try to unobtrusively sneak out of the room. There was only one way in/out and it was secured with huge, squeeky double doors. I could hear the doors louder than I could hear the lecture because the speaker wasn't using a microphone. He also wasn't using a laser pointer so he would try to point out interesting facts in his powerpoint presentation by simply pointing to the massive screen with his index finger. Finally, the lady sitting next to me offered to loan him her laser pointer. Apparently, she carries one around in her purse. Don't we all?
I wish I could say the day got better. I can't. Vanessa was able to join me for the afternoon session, but only after another ugly encounter with the entity. I won't bore you with the details, but let me just say that if you are representing your company and/or event in public it's probably a good idea not to act like the she bitch from hell. We were offered free tickets for the rest of the weekend events by Amy Bruni who was a very nice woman and very apologetic on behalf of the entity. Against our better judgement we decided to stay for the evening event which was to be an actual ghost hunt in the buildings that comprise the Stanley Hotel.
Okay, now we are talking. Now we are going to get down to the nitty gritty. I'm going to get to see what I came here to see. I'm going to get to see some weird stuff go down. We divide up into groups of ten, and head to the basement of the concert hall. I have to admit I'm a little embarrassed because I'm the only one in my group with no ghost hunting equipment. People have some seriously expensive ghost paraphenalia like 3D cameras, K2 meters, recorders, laser lights, etc. etc. etc.
All ten of us squeeze into a small storage room in the basement. Supposedly this room is haunted by the ghost of Eddie, a former security guard at the hotel, and Lucy, a lady who sang in the concert hall just after the turn of the century. I have to say it's very eerie. It's dark and quiet and everyone is extremely serious. It's very hard for me to be serious. I'm trying to stifle the giggles, and the urgent need to go to the bathroom. There's a bathroom not 20 feet away from me, but there's no way in hell I'm going in there alone.
We all sit in a circle on the floor facing the spirit box, a small round object about the size of a compact disc, and we are staring at it for a reason I can't quite figure out. I really wish I hadn't had wine with dinner because I'm going to pop soon and the damn wristband is digging into my skin. I'm very uncomfortable to say the least. Is something brushing across my back? OMG, the ghost of Eddie is touching me. Never mind, it's not Eddie. It's a fellow ghost hunter with a huge camera on his shoulder. He's filming this cozy little scene for YouTube.
The spirit box is making noises now. It sounds kind of like music and static so obviously it's Lucy singing to us from the great beyond. I don't have the heart to point out that in all likelihood it's not Lucy because she sang opera not country music. The local radio station plays country music, and I'm sure that's what we are hearing. I don't say that out loud because I don't wish to be the party pooper.
The nice, normal lady sitting on the floor next to me swears she smells cigarette smoke. According to legend, Eddie was a heavy smoker so obviously he has joined us in the room. The camera man behind me declares that the temperature on our side of the room has dropped six degrees. I don't smell smoke and I don't feel cold, but again I keep my mouth shut. The excitement is palpable. The anticipation is almost too much to handle. What's going to happen?
Nothing happens, absolutely nothing. We finally leave the room after 30 long minutes, and I finally get to use the bathroom. We look for ghosts in one other building with the exact same result. We have three more hours to go before the ghost hunt ends, but Vanessa and I have had all the fun we can stand so we bug out.
I wish I could tell you I had a paranormal experience, but I can't. Most of the people in my group thought they did, and if they want to think that then that's fine by me. In their mind they had a paranormal experience. It's funny what our minds can do. Our mind can make us believe that an ordinary storage room is haunted. I did have fun and I got to do something different, and that was the point of the whole weekend. It also got me to thinking about how many times the anticipation of a thing is better than the actual thing.
Now I can start anticipating my next big adventure. My mind is full of possibilites. Maybe I'll watch the sun sink into the ocean on Bora Bora, hike the Appalachian Trail, meet the Dalai Lama, or kiss the Blarney Stone. I hope to do all those things before my body gives out, and I take the final and ultimate adventure.