A Haunting Adventure
DO THINGS THAT GO BUMP in the night fascinate you? Whether you're looking to spook yourself with historical tales or chase after wandering spirits, Casper offers one haunting adventure after another! If you're searching for a cozy place to stay that just might offer some spine-chilling activity, Adventure Guide Tom Johnson and his wife Kathy are your hosts at the Ivy House Inn. Not only was this Bed & Breakfast "voted eighth best B&B in the United States and Canada for catering to travelers' needs," (Arrington's Bed and Breakfast Journal "Book of Lists 2002") it's also reported to be haunted by former owner Mrs. White and her Siamese cats!
"It wasn't until I started remodeling that things started happening to us," Johnson says. "Smells would come and go. One of the smells, I know, is Dove soap. My wife gets the smell of chocolate. There was a smell of something like burnt rubber or burnt ozone that would come and go."
Phantom scents aren't the only things the Johnsons have experienced. He has lots of photographs - things like orbs (balls of light), a full body in the hallway, and a ghostly face in the mirror. He also has other-worldly voices on audio-tape!
Although there have been folks who have come from all over the country to stay after reading about the haunted inn on the internet, Johnson admits that "We don't usually advertise the paranormal. During the week, mostly what we have here are business people." No matter who's hanging their hat at the inn, there are plenty of non-ghostly adventures Johnson suggests for out-of-towners, and he sends folks to the Convention and Visitors Bureau (according to Johnson, they have all the information on hanging in Casper!).
If you're determined to garner goose-bumps, Casper is a great place for ghost hunting. One reason, Johnson muses, is "it was always on the trails." (Oregon, Mormon, etc.) He mentions, too, places like Fort Caspar where phantom soldiers still keep their posts, and Reshaw's Bridge in Evansville, where ghostly footsteps of long-dead soldiers audibly continue their march. Hurtling through the decades, the 30's saw a lot of turmoil in the Sandbar area and Downtown itself. Oftentimes, people who are staying at the Inn can request a tour of these areas. In the past, Johnson would gather folks together, do a class on ghost hunting, then head downtown to places he's previously investigated.
Whether you're interested in the historical or the paranormal aspects of Casper, there are quite a few places in town you can scare up some colorful information. The parking lot of the old fire station on David Street is where the original hangings took place here in town. Right behind Don Juan Mexican Restaurant in the alley is the former site of Casper's first jail, which burned to the ground with a prisoner trapped inside. His ghost is reputed to still scream out on occasion. Don't miss The Wonder Bar, where patrons and employees alike have reported some strange happenings on the second floor. The Townsend Hotel in Downtown Casper was home to several murders, including as recently as 1976. You might catch a spectral reenactment, and screams can be heard on occasion from the upper floors. Eggington's, now a great place to eat, used to be the Mountain States Telephone Company. It's been said that when it's quiet, you can still hear the operators who once worked there. And even the modern architecture of the Downtown parking garage on Center Street has been rumored to harbor ghosts. Once the location of a dance hall - and several murders - the East End lower level is a good place to try to catch some spirit photographs!
These places and many more have been attracting folks for years. One organization in town, Painted Past Enterprises offers tours both historical and haunted in nature. There's an 1890's Tour, and Sand Bar Tour, and a Ghost Tour. Also, for two weekends in the fall, there's a Cemetery Tour! Contact Painted Past for more information on exact times, dates, and fees.
If you're determined to explore on your own, there are some things to keep in mind. It's always a good idea to talk to eyewitnesses if you're investigating a specific incident. Check places out during the day, for safety, and possible impediments to the investigation. Don't go where you're not invited, or not supposed to be. Johnson says he never allows drinking before, during or after his tours, and to ask permission if you're going to take pictures.
As for equipment? The cheapest thing to get, according to Johnson, is a compass. If you're somewhere where the magnetic field changes, the needle on the compass will go back and forth. A digital recorder (no moving parts, which can be mistaken for background noises!) can help pick up possible otherworldly sounds. A camera of any sort will also help record your experience.
Johnson says he's still skeptical. But his own experiences have led him to believe that sometimes, spirits do wander about, night or day. "I think it happens all the time," he agrees, "but when it's quietest is when you tune into it the most."
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