Blair is a character. The son of two funeral directors, he’s an eager explorer, but more important, he’s been my companion into realms that few people dare enter. A documentarian of unique experiences and a willing risk-taker, he invited me to come ghosting in one of more extraordinary places I’ve ever been.

When I met Blair, he lived in California, but a few years back he purchased an old hotel on eBay up in the mountains of western Pennsylvania.  I can’t offer an address, but I can reveal that it’s near Johnstown, where a dam burst in 1889 and caused a sudden flood that injured and killed thousands of people. So you know there are ghosts. In fact, according to the Johnstown Flood Museum, because of the harsh conditions, it used to be said of this town where the hotel stands, that you went there to die.

The hotel is not open for business, but Blair made it his home and along the way, he collected stories from townspeople about the old place. There were deaths of various kinds, from homicides to accidents, and whispers of bodies buried in the basement. When a psychic confirmed this, I mentioned that I knew a Native American cadaver dog handler whom I was hoping to test for spiritual receptivity. Two birds with one stone, as they say. So on May 7, we orchestrated a convergence.

Four people were present: Blair; Cassandra, the dog handler; Dana, who desperately wants to be a coroner; and me, a.k.a., Indie Annie Jones. A fearsome and strange quartet ready to delve into god-knows-what.  Appropriately, it was a day of thunderstorms and rain. That made the dark, old three-story building more ominous from the kitchen to the second floor that everyone wanted to avoid. The dog showed a mild interest in a few areas in the dirt basement, including the corner where the psychic said someone was buried, but not enough to get excited. But upstairs on the second floor, on a wall situated between what we had dubbed the dead monkey room (for the taxidermy monkey from the movie Medicine Man that lay across a chair) and the cactus room, he grew quite excited. We learned from Blair that someone who had lived in the cactus room for a while was always uncharacteristically irritated.  That was significant some negative energy there.

So with Blair’s permission, we broke down the suspect wall and scooped out some debris. The dog whimpered over some hunks of rock that looked like mummified bone. Whatever it was, we were later to learn that we may have disturbed something in the room. (We were also later to learn that the substance had calcium deposits, possibly indicative of bone.)

With Cassandra’s help, we decided that night to do a ceremony. To get into the spirit, so to speak. Blair contributed the requested milk and blueberries (as per the instructions from our long-distance consultant, Iron Bear) and my sister had sent the finest acorns from the post-winter Michigan soil. Cass had her bells and rattles and I set up the ghosting equipment. She led the ceremony that night and each person participated as he or she was able. We went from the bar, where a man had been killed, and into Blair’s quarters, where the psychic had said a ghostly prostitute does whatever such entities do (no evidence of that), and then into the room where we had knocked through the wall. Cass reported numerous instances of feeling cold, even when she was very active with her dancing. This was a first for her, and she’d never had an interest in the gothic, so she was apprehensive. Her chanting was quiet and repetitive, part of a specific ritual, and it felt like the perfect way to “whisper” a ghost.

We got plenty of infrared footage and digital photos, and these we watched on Blair’s TV. There were orbs, to be sure, both thin and opaque, but no evp that I could hear. Around 2:30 a.m., exhausted, we wrapped it up and went our separate ways. We’d had fun, but it seemed that the ghosting was pretty much done. Little did we know what was brewing in the dead monkey room.

In the morning, we considered leaving right away. Cass was still inside, using the bathroom that was under the tall staircase to the second floor, while Dana, Blair and I were outside with the dog. Soon we heard Cass yelling something we couldn’t make out. I thought it might be part of her cleansing ritual watch. He went inside and found Cass halfway up the stairs.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

She turned, beckoned to him, and said, “Come on, Katherine wants us upstairs.”

I came in behind him and Cass looked at me in shock. “How did you get down there?” she asked.

“What do you mean?”

“You were upstairs just now. I heard you. You yelled, ‘Cass, get up here.’ It was your voice.”

Blair and I looked at each other. We were thinking the same thing. I had not been upstairs. I hadnOt even been talking. This was a haunting event. I could only shake my head and say to Cass, “I sure wish you’d have gone all the way up.”

I asked her to describe exactly what had happened, and she said that when she was in the bathroom she had heard footsteps go up the stairs over her head and then a shuffling sound, like someone moving furniture. She thought we were back at it. Just then she heard me yell quite sharply, “Cass! Cass!”

“What?” she had shouted back. She left the bathroom and came to the foot of the steps to ask, “Do you want the dog?”

“I” apparently then said, “Get up here!” But the first part was slurred.

She asked again, “Do you want the dog?”

Then she heard some mumbling, as if “I” were now farther away, so she went halfway up the steps to shout my name, and that’s when Blair came in.  I bolted up the staircase to look around. Nothing there. I took some pictures, and tried to get some recordings. Nothing. It was exhilarating but also disappointing. Something had happened, most definitely, but I couldn’t pin it down.

We went outside to discuss it, and a curious neighbor happened by with a dress which has its own ghost story involving a building near the hotel.  I got this sudden Dark Shadows idea and thought that maybe Cass looked like her. I urged her to put on the dress, and to her credit, she did. And, small as it was, it fit perfectly. So she put her hair up in the style of olden times and we went up the steps to film her in the dead monkey room on the second floor. Orbs showed up, but I wanted more. Again, nothing.

When we finally stopped and Cass went downstairs, I checked the room again. There was a pile of old ledgers stacked on a table, a lot of plaster on the floor, and the stuffed monkey, of course, on his chair. Nothing out of the ordinary. I was the last one out. The light was off. Everything was quiet.

Outside, Cass decided to go look through the window of that room once more, and Dana went with her. Suddenly they both screamed and came running.  They insisted that as they were watching, the curtain had been pulled aside and the light had come on. Blair went up to see, and I followed. The ledgers were now scattered across the floor, the light was on, and the curtain had indeed been pulled aside and set in a certain way that defied an explanation that any stray breeze had done it. (No windows were open, anyway.) I wasn’t certain that it had not already been that way, so I checked the photos and films. In all of those, the curtain hung straight down room.

So it seemed that there had been some activity. We tried again to record something but again came up empty. Finally, by the end of that afternoon, we did the cleansing ceremony. We were ready to go. But it was not done. A number of incidents indicated the possibility of active residual energy. I call these AIEs, for “ambiguously interpretable events.”  The night before, I had lost my gray pearl earring. Dana watched me go through everything in my bags looking for it. I looked all over the hotel as well, to no avail, and I was unhappy. When I got home that night, some five hours from the hotel, I went to bed and had a dream or impression that the earring was in my overnight bag–the one I had searched three times.  When I got up the next morning, I opened the bag and there it was, right on top of the clothing I had taken out, shaken, and searched through. I had not taken that bag back into the hotel, but had left it in my car. I have no idea how the earring got there. Yes, perhaps it had been caught in some flap of clothing, but why had I had an impression of it exactly where it lay? Okay, the foibles of memory and the subconscious. But I hadn’t opened the bag when I got home, accidentally glimpsing it. So it remained an AIE. Then Blair emailed me that same day to let me know that, after we left, he had decided to go get coffee. When he opened the car door, it sprang at him, smacking him hard in the face and cutting him badly. It nearly took out an eye. I remembered the good-bye hug that Cass had given him, and thought about the way this “energy” seemed to have some connection to her. Had we disturbed something? Another AIE? Hard to say.

The following weekend, Cass took eight other dog handlers to the hotel, and all of the dogs showed strong interest in the dead monkey room, reacting to the very same spot that her dog had. Larry, a former police officer, was in the room with Cass that evening and saw her shadow against the wall, but next to hers was a second shadow that launched him into a hasty exit.  Everyone felt the cold air around Cass, despite the heat that summer night, and a few even saw frost on their breath guy who made fun of the supposed ghost ended up getting three flat tires on his way home the next night, one in each of three different states. Another AIE.

During the following week, Cass had the first of a series of dreams that offered information that we were able to verify. In it, she heard her name and she called, “Katherine.” Someone said, “What?”

She walked up the stairs to a tall, lean man with an aquiline nose, dressed in charcoal pants, a long dark coat with silver buttons, a white linen shirt and scruffy boots, who took her hand. She described him as “pretty boy handsome.” His hand was warm as he led her to the back stairway and she floated down and then back up. As she returned, he hugged her to his chest.  He did not talk to her, but he smiled sadly. He brushed her bangs away from her eyes, gestured down the back stairs, and then was gone.

Cass said that he had seemed familiar. She had not been afraid of him, but sensed that he was trying to show her something. She referred to him as “Liam” another dream that same week, he offered a long last name that began with T and did sound Slavic.  Something like Thryelwoki. I wrote it down as she told it to me, and she then asked Larry to use his research resources to see what he could find. Not long after, Larry called back to say that in the census records, he had had found a Liam Trithaneylwi in that town in the early 1900s, who was from Poland. He was 39.

Okay, that was strange. The name was very much like the one Cass and I had tried to spell out. It was one thing to have AIEs, quite another to get verifiable information. And we continued to get more, but no definite answers as to what this entity–if that’s what it is have some ideas.

And that’s what came of our search of only two rooms of this 32-room building. We plan to return for more extensive research. After years of ghost whispering in various types of places, this PA-based mystery one has been one of my most intriguing experiences.