Thursday, July 9, 2009

So...we might have a ghost?

Last night the crack ghost hunting team from PARA (the Paranormal Activity Research Association) took up residence within the confines of the shop to see who else might be in residence. Armed with audio and video recorders and a variety of electronic gizmos, they looked and probed and questioned and were generally open to communicating with anyone on the “other side” who may have been here.

I must confess to a considerable amount of skepticism about all this. I don’t believe in ghosts. And I honestly don’t think we’ve got one. At the same time, there are people I respect who tell me that I am 100% wrong on this score. So I’ve elected to doubt my infallibility, and follow this through to the end.

(In case you’re just now coming in on our paranormal exploits, you may want to read some of my other blog posts, from January 3 and July 7, for some background.)

We turned off most of the lights, and the stereo, and sat quietly. And we asked questions; simple, direct questions. Things along the lines of, “What is your name?” And “Do you like it here?” And “Do you mind answering some questions for us?” Each question was followed by a period of silence when we waited for an answer.

We did three different recording sessions, in three different areas of the shop: one by the Westerns and comic books, once in the Whodunits and once up-front near the coffee table. Each session lasted about 30-minutes.

Three different digital audio recorders were going during each session. The theory is that although we might not hear an answer, the recorders would. The files were to be downloaded into a computer and analyzed using special software. Any responses we received (called EVPs, or Electronic Voice Phenomena) would be isolated and enhanced.

I took some pictures of all this, and posted them on our facebook page. If you'd like to take a look, click here.

Kathy Rothenberger, the team’s sensitive member, said she was receiving a number of impressions. She claimed to feel a “psychic pressure” which indicated, to her, a presence. She said that she believed that there were actually multiple entities in here.

Much of this eminated, she said, from our “Blue Monster” display of military artifacts and political buttons. But not all.

She said that she was hearing a muffled conversation between men (two or more) and a woman. It was faint, though, and she couldn’t make out what they were saying…rather like the sound you’d hear from a TV set several rooms away. It sounded, she said, animated and jovial.

She also said that she was getting the feeling of some sort of medical emergency. She had the impression of bandages and either alcohol or ether and something (someone?) being crushed.

Brett Nease was the guy with the electronic gear. After we had finished the third session, he downloaded the audio from one of the recorders to his laptop, and started running it through the analyzing software.

One minute and thirty-five seconds into our first session he detected the first EVP. He found the second about a minute later in that same session.

I heard them. They are distinct and they do sound like a male voice answering a question… but they are pretty faint, and I couldn't make out what was being said. I've got to say that it did sound like the voice way saying something. According to Brett, more work needs to be done to hear exactly what is being said.

He’s going to do the work. He anticipates that by this time next week, he will have at least the preliminary results. I am to look for a report from them then.

When I get those results, I will pass them along.

And all this is to say: we might have a ghost.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Really? We do have a ghost?

Earlier this year I was informed that we have a ghost in the shop. Two customers told me as much after they had actually interacted with it when they were shopping this past January. (If you care to check my blog post of January 3, you’ll find the story). Frankly, I hadn’t given it much thought since then. If we do have one, he’s never said anything to me and I am pretty OK with that.

But two weeks or so ago, our entity made himself known once again during our Horrible Saturday event in late June.

One of our invited guests for the day was PARA (the Paranormal Activity Research Association). These guys are a pair of York-based ghost hunters. Brett does his hunting with technology…special cameras and recorders and gizmos and such. Kathy does her hunting with impressions, since she claims to be sensitive.

Prior to them taking the stage, as it were, for their presentation, Kathy was looking around the shop. Just as she was reaching for one book, another slid/jumped/fell/flew off the shelf (you can pick the appropriate term) and hit her in the arm. It turns out, she says, that this is the one she was supposed to have. Kathy told me about the incident just a few minutes later as I happened to be walking past. At that point, I had not told her about the report I had already received on our alleged ghost.

She also told me that she believes that our entity’s name is Elmer. (That also happens to be my son-in-law’s name and, if he is reading this: Elmer, I swear that I am not making this up.)

This past weekend one of the ladies who first reported the entity’s presence came into the shop. I was bringing her up-to-date on what Kathy of PARA had told me. And she said,”Oh yeah! But I’ve forgotten…didn’t his name start with ‘E’?”


In January she didn’t know a name. In January, she couldn’t tell me if our ghost was a he or a she.

And when she was in the shop this past weekend, I hadn’t yet said anything about the ghost being named Elmer.

I think it may be time for some spooky music.

What the heck is going on here?

We are going to attempt to find out. Tomorrow night PARA is coming to do a full-fledged investigation. They will be setting up after we close shop for the night and after all the distracting day-time noises are gone.

They’re bringing special cameras. And recorders. And gizmos. And Kathy.

And I will be there, too. I may not be excited about it, but I will be there. (If you should ever see a video, you will know it is me because I will be the guy sitting in the corner being very VERY aware of every noise and every flying book in the place.)

Stay tuned. I will keep you posted……

Friday, July 3, 2009

Mr. Adam

A week or so ago we were working our way through another estate. We had boxed literally hundreds of paperbacks to bring back to the store. During the heat of battle, we don’t really stop to look at what’s there. The mission is to get it out of there, and then back to the shop where we could go through it.

As we were going through it, some pretty interesting things started to emerge. The paperbacks were vintage; many of them pre-1960. This doesn’t necessarily make them more valuable (often it is just the opposite), but it does make them much more fun.

With all due respect to the artists and writers working today (and much respect is, indeed, due), there’s nothing quite like the sensational artwork to be found on a 25¢ paperback novel of the early 1950s.

So as I was sitting and sifting through the piles and enjoying the covers, I came across one that just made me stop and grin. It is one of the (now) lesser-known novels of a (now) lesser-known novelist, but it also happens to be one of my favorite books of all time: Mr. Adam.

Whenever we get one in here at the shop, it doesn’t last too long because I am always recommending it. “Pushing it” is probably a more accurate way of putting it.

It is very much a work of the Cold War. The idea is that one of the major powers conducts a nuclear test that goes wrong. Sub-atomic particles are unleashed and spread across the globe sterilizing every male, including the unborn in the womb.

All, that is, except one milquetoast scientist who happened to be inspecting the lower levels of a lead mine at the time of the accident. He is suddenly the only fertile male left on the planet, and he will be the father of the human race. He is Mr. Adam. And just as suddenly this guy is absolutely irresistible to every woman on the planet.

That’s how the book begins. What the book is about is what happens to him once the government gets their hands on him, tries to regulate him, and builds a huge bureaucracy around him. It is a very funny book.

It was authored by Pat Frank, who was best known for his post-apocalyptic novel Alas, Babylon.

He was born Harry Hart Frank on May 5, 1908 in Chicago. He started his career as a journalist and fought World War II behind a typewriter for the Office of Strategic Services (the OSS, precursor of the CIA) and the Office of War Information.

Mr. Adam, published in 1946, was his first novel. It sold over 2-million copies. And it was followed by Hold Back the Night, An Affair of State, Forbidden Area and Alas, Babylon. He also wrote and published a non-fiction book, How To Survive The H-bomb And Why, in 1962.

He made no bones about the fact that he wrote a book whenever he needed some cash. The rest of his time was devoted to liquor and women…not necessarily in that order. Apparently he was quite a lady killer in his day. There are reports of people coming to visit him who had to make their way through jungles of bottles and ladies (plural) in various stages of decency. And that was pretty much the regular state of affairs around his writing studio.

Alas, Babylon was a whopping success when it was first published in 1959. Fifty years later it is still a staple of high school reading lists.

Frank died on October 12, 1964.

Doing a quick search of the shop, I find that we have copies of several of his books in here. Some are in our Vintage Fiction area. Others are in Science Fiction. But this particular book is going onto the paperback rack at the front, near the register. I’ll put it there not because it is a place of honor, but because it will make it much easier for me to point it out to the next customer who comes in “just looking for a good read.”

I can’t think of a better book to fit that description.