The Awakening – The early ghost hunting adventures of Florence Cathcart

image This is an interesting period piece set in 1921 that showcases some early ghost hunting tools as Florence Cathcart works to investigate some mysterious happenings at a boarding school where a phantom boy is said to have been seen and shows up in the school pictures.

Florence is a debunker of the paranormal. We first find her at a séance where she quickly calls fraud on the entire proceedings showing how the ghostly faces appear, how the table shakes and how so many people are in on the game. Quickly, the Spiritualists are rounded up and carted away. Florence has gained quite a reputation for herself and is soon asked to investigate and debunk the claims of a ghostly boy who keeps appearing in the school photographs and has the boys who live there quite scared.

Approaching the matter with her usual skepticism, Florence sets up her early detection equipment and feels quite certain she will catch the boy who is playing this trick. It’s quite interesting and entertaining to see the early EMF detectors, motion sensors and camera hooked to wires so they trigger when someone passes in front of them. And soon, Florence has a young boy in her grasp. But there appears to be more to this place.

There is doll house replicate of the school and inside are little characters that act out the events that Florence has just done. It shows her setting up the cameras, different people in proper rooms and generally retells the story we just witnessed. But Florence already found the boy who played the tricks so what is this? Is there really something going on or is there another accomplice? Is it one of the boys or one of the many staff that seems to have an elusive past and ulterior motives?

I found this to be a very atmospheric movie that does a lot with only a little. There are no wild special effects, or wild scenes of gore, or blood soaked monsters running at the camera. Instead, The Awakening instills a sense of foreboding by mysterious footsteps, giggles, figures that are always just out of reach so we can’t tell who they really are, characters that say one thing then do another and plenty of misdirection. And it keeps building all the way through. Even when the prankster is found, events keep happening. The more Florence seems to deny and debunk the events the more frequent and ghostly they become.

For those who liked The Others like I did, this is a fun movie. It has depth and scope. It makes you think and wonder. It shows that you can make a fun and atmospheric movie without going over the top with special effects and gore. There are lots of twists and turns in this one and the plot keeps getting deeper as we go along. When we get to the end we don’t just learn about what’s been making all the noises, we learn about several of the characters, how they’re connected and how Florence is related to it all. It’s an ending that fits very well with the story, one that doesn’t feel cheap or contrived.

This is a very fun weekend movie to watch with the lights off and this is the perfect time of year for it.

The Awakening (2012)

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Ghost Mine – Phantom Intruder – S02E03

So we last left the Ghost Mine team with a pretty big dilemma on their hands, the fuses for hundred pounds of dynamite they packed into the mine didn’t go off. Now they’re sitting on a powder keg and someone needs to see what happened. Oddly, it’s the job of RIPA to go in there and check out the scene. It’s a good call and there is no reason to risk life and limb over something so dangerous.

Everything looks pretty good, until the fuse re-ignites and goes off. It blows RIPA to hell and causes yet another cave in. The area they were trying to blast through comes down and reveals tons of boards and previous work. This area is looking pretty damn unstable. But, Kristen and Patrick head in to check it out from a paranormal perspective. Everything seems normal, but they keep hearing rocks fall. That’s not usual considering what just happened. But the frequency of the rocks keeps increasing until it sounds like they’re in the middle of a cave-in. They sprint out of the mine and are met by Stan and Eddie. Fearing the worst, Stan and Eddie go check it out. Strangely, nothing is out of place. No rocks are falling, there is no new debris and nothing new appears to have fallen. It appears Patrick and Kristen were in the middle of a residual cave in. It could have been the sound of rocks falling further down the tunnel, but clearly you can hear rocks yet nothing was disturbed.

With the cave-in experience behind them, they investigate a possible problem with one of the cameras they places in the trees. The memory card is full, but yet there isn’t anything substantial in the photos to have made it go off. There is an odd vertical line that shifts position from frame to frame. It has no bend and is always the same width. Doesn’t seem to be a hair or stem or pine needle. Nor does it seem to be a problem with the lens or the camera itself. It’s the exact same line over and over again, yet it’s not always in the same place. As they investigate the area they stumble across what looks like the remains of an old shack. On one of the rocks there appears to be oriental writing. This shack would have been in the line of the sight of the malfunctioning camera. Stan tells them that Chinese miners were all over these hills, a fact confirmed by the local historian. There may have been as many as 3000 Chinese miners in the area, who worked and labored with everyone else, yet they weren’t treated too kindly.

Patrick takes a rubbing of the rock and is told the translation of the words means, "place of cremation". I suppose we can take that to mean burial ground. There doesn’t appear to be any headstones so whether this is a literal translation or a reference to something else remains to be seen.

Additionally, the current batch of miners keeps running into setbacks. Their equipment has been drug out of the mine and vandalized. Several of the hoses have been cut and it looks like their trespasser is getting bold and vengeful. However, even with all the cameras and all the people wandering around they have yet to actually see this trespasser. If there is such a person, he’s elusive.

Patrick and Kristen also discovered another video glitch that comes right before an unusual event. When RIPA goes into the mine to check the blasting caps, the video footage is fine, except for right when the explosion happens. The picture pixelates the same way it did when Jay felt there was someone walking past him in the mine. So is something showing up on the camera right before something odd happens?

For the final piece of evidence, we have Patrick playing the previous EVP which Patrick sent off to have translated since he believes it’s now tied to the oriental writing. Turns out it mean, "I’m lost" in Cantonese and right as he’s talking about this another huge bang crashes into the side of the shack they’re all sitting in. These are those same incredibly loud and mysterious bangs we heard from last season that had no explanation. Stan, Jay, Eddie and everyone else flies out of the room ready to kick some serious ass only to find there is nothing there. No dust, no rocks, no evidence of anyone running away. Just the calm and serene mountain scenery. Just like last time there is no evidence of rocks smashing into the cabin or someone running away. So where in the hell is this insanely loud banging coming from? And I find this incredibly odd since so many people hear it, it’s during the day time and there is absolutely no trace.

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Ghost Adventures – Haunted Victorian Mansion – S08E06

The location for this episode is located in Nick’s hometown of Boston. Sadly, this episode was recorded right after the tragic events of the Boston Marathon.

The guys are here to investigate the Pierce Victorian Mansion that was built in 1875. It has been in the same family for multiple generations, many of which died in the house. Recently, it received new owners, but things have been less than comfy and cozy. Lillian and Edwin say they have seen shadow figures, a figure with black eyes and that Lillian was held down on the bed by some unseen force. Because of the activity, they have moved out of the house and haven’t come back.

As mentioned, the history of the house includes multiple deaths, which would be typical for the time. Members of the family passed away from cancer and natural causes. There was a child who died at the age of two, Rachel, and her mother died in the house as well, Bessy. Some of the claims include seeing a crying woman and a child at the window.

While there are several deaths of natural causes there is one strange death, the previous owner. It’s claimed the owner burned to death although there was no fire in the house. It’s reported he had burn marks on his face and died of smoke inhalation. It’s believed he was smoking in bed and may have been the victim of some sort of spontaneous combustion. They don’t have too many facts relating to his death. In fact, they don’t have too many facts about any of the events that took place in the house, yet somehow they come to the conclusion that there is a battle of Good vs. Evil going on in the house. There is no evidence whatsoever to support this Evil claim they’re making. With so little factual and recorded evidence to support that, it’s an absurd conclusion to make. Talk about jumping to conclusions.

I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again, I’m so sick and damn tired of their overly dramatic and completely senseless dramas they keep slipping into these episodes. The demonic voices, the shaky images, the split images and distorted camera work needs to come to an end. It’s so damn juvenile and just scream amateur hour. This is supposed to be an investigation not some cheesy ass high school film project.

But as the move on with the investigation there are some interesting aspects to it. There are multiple bangs and knocks throughout the house as well as several EVPs in response to their questions. For example, they if someone is there and get some loud bangs right after. Zak and Aaron also claim to see a ball of light coming toward them and capture something moving with the X-Camera. Orbs have never excited me, by Zak believes this is evidence of a presence.

When it comes to EVPs, they do indeed capture quite a few. When they ask, "What is your name?" They get the response, "David". When they ask if the spirits know Edwin, they get a little girls’ voice saying, "hi". Edwin asks if they should leave the house and there is a response of "no’. When asking if he should sell the house, he gets "not sure". When Edwin asks what is the name of the woman who lives there, he gets "Lillian". So they get multiple responses, but none of those seem evil or malevolent or hateful as this whole Good vs. Evil war Nick was talking about would imply. Quite frankly, if you take these responses at face value, everything seems fine. If anything, you have a little girl saying Hi and another woman who isn’t sure how she feels about the house being in someone else’s hands. Certainly none of this "Get out!" or "I’ll kill you" that would be expected from the supposed dark and demonic spirits Zak says hides in the house.

Suffice it to say I have many issues with this episode. Zak and Nick are jumping to conclusions to try and sell the idea of the house being evil. They want there to be a demonic force so if nothing else, they’ll make one up. The EVPs they capture don’t suggest evil in any way. Sure, they get some banging, but that doesn’t come across as evil either. It seems the spirits might know who the owners are, but in the end, Zak and the team haven’t unraveled or uncovered anything. They haven’t brought the owners any peace or answers. In fact, they leave with as little information as they arrived. There might be some activity going on there but it doesn’t come across as the owners in danger. Perhaps they’re letting their fears get the better of them. Maybe they need to approach the house with cooler heads and do more investigation into the events. It sounds like there are still hundreds of questions that still need to be answered.

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Ghost Adventures – Yost Theater and Ritz Hotel – S08E05

The guys head out to Santa Ana, California to investigate the Yost Theater and the Ritz Hotel. Not the famed Ritz as you may think, rather a flop house where drug use and prostitution were the order of the day. Sadly, the Ritz fell on hard times after a drowning in the basement pool. The Yost Theater has also has also seen a tragedy, Ernest Ball the composer of "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" died in the backstage dressing room. However, their investigation of the Ritz Hotel hits the brakes when they come to find out a construction crew is taking the place apart. Overcoming adversity they turn their attentions to the Willella Howe-Waffle House. Turns out this house has a checkered past with abortions. Obviously these were illegal back in the day, but it’s not clear as to whether this way back alley butchery or a husband and wife trying to help women of the day.

There are many claims about hearing voices as well as the owner hearing a growl in the downstairs area of the theater. Others claim to hear the voice of a little girl, although there is no really history about her. As Zak, Nick and Aaron investigate, they too hear plenty of noises and bumps in the dark. It turns out that most of those bumps, at least in the theater are merely rats. This does go to show that animals live in all sorts of place and plenty of noises can be attributed to the little devils.

They do the usual EVP work and oddly the word "haunting" comes up multiple times. They hear it in the Howe-Waffle House as well as in the Yost theater. They also get the words "in trouble" and "abortion" when trying to get answers about the doctor. Unfortunately, the quality is going down hill. The words are hard to make out and while they can fit into context, it’s not distinct like those earlier ones.

While trying to make contact with Willella, Zak says she should manifest into a ball of light so they can see her. In the lower portion of the screen, they feel they capture evidence of her manifesting as there is a little ball of light. Conclusive? Hard to say.

Also within the Yost they get the security guard to wander into some of the places he’s seen activity before. While there, they claim to see a shadow figure lurking in the corners. Hard to see that one, but possibly something there.

Overall, the three places yield plenty of noises, which is most likely due to animals in the woodwork, and some rather faint EVPs. It’s hard to say if they’re really capturing spirit voices and if those actually say what they interpret. They’re interesting place but I really can’t agree they hold all the dark energy that Zak feels they do. Sure, their past is a little checkered with some less than savory events, but it doesn’t appear to the dark portal of evil they want it to be.

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