Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Friday, October 31, 2003

A True Story for Halloween

This didn't happen to a friend, or a friend of a friend. I didn't read about it on the internet, and you won't find a debunking on Snopes. The following stories are real, and they happened to me and my family over the course of sevral years.

While I do believe in the possibility of all kinds of paranormal occurances, everything from ghosts to ESP to Bigfoot, I am a profound skeptic. I look for rational explanations for irrational events, and only after those have been exhausted will I consider other, less rigorous explanations.

As such, I make no claims or attributions about the causes of the events I am about to relate; I can only tell you that they actually happened, and that I personally witnessed several of them. Make of them what you will.

The Haunted Farm

The summer before my sophomore year in high school, we moved from a suburban house in West Knoxville out to an old farmhouse in Dandridge. The house predated the War Between the States, and at one time was the center of a large plantation. There were three barns, and an old log cabin on the property as well.

The place had been neglected terribly; the yard was overgrown; there were broken windows on most of the outbuildings, and the swimming pool outback looked more like a cow pond. The red paint on the extrerior brick walls was cracked and peeling, exposing a whitewash coat underneath. The windows of the house itself were glazed with about a decades dust, and the old glass distorted the view outside, adding hazy ripples to the flat front lawn.

Inside, the house showed its abused beauty. The hardwood floors gently sloped to the north, wrenched out of true as the earth had settled over the decades. There was a gorgeous staircase in the front of the house. Gorgeous that is, until some former owner decided to paint over the hard wood with an ugly gray color. They must not have liked the gray, because they began to cover it with an uglier green. Either they ran out of money, or realized they were just making things worse, because neither coat went all the way to the top, leaving the railing with three distinct colors.

In keeping with its origins, there was no central heat or air, but there were large fireplaces, 3 downstairs and 2 upstairs. A modern kitchen had been added on sometime much later, and was decorated in a horribly ugly 70s motif that even Mike Brady would scorn. In another nod to modernization, a small bathroom was added, just off the front hall.

Yep, 3 kids, two of them teenagers, 2 adults, and one bathroom.

My parents loved the place.

If I remember right, we moved in to the house in late July or early August, before school started. It was hot, and we worked hard getting the house in shape. Well, to be honest, Mom and Dad did most of the work; we helped when we couldn't get out of it. It was actually pretty cool, living in that house. It was built differently than modern houses; the ceilings were very high, there were register holes cut in the floor to allow the warmer air from the downstairs fireplaces to reach the upstairs; there were honest to goodness real wood crown and baseboard moldings; and the walls were plaster and lathe, not drywall. The rooms were large, and there were only a few of them. Upstairs was a landing for the staircase and two bedrooms. My brother and I shared the one on the right, and my sister had the one on the left.

It wasn't long after we moved in that my sister started talking about seeing faces in her room. She was 12 or 13 at the time, and prone to dramatic outbursts, so I'm embarrassed to say we all basically blew her off. We learned what a mistake that was later on.

Then my mom began to experience things in the house as well. She tells the story of standing in the kitchen, doing the dishes, when she felt someone behind her. She looked but there was nobady there. She went back to washing, and the feeling of being watched grew stronger. She turned again, and there was still nothing there. She was starting to get a little nervous, but went back to the dishes, and this time the feeling of being watched was unbearable. She whirled around, and this time, my dad was standing there, having just walked into the kitchen. Mom let out a shriek that nearly gave him a heart attack! Of course, he wanted to know what was going on, why she was so jumpy. When she told him, he dismissed it, just like we'd done with my sister. He's much too grounded in the real world to buy into ghosts.

Then, it was my turn.

One afternoon, I was upstairs in my bedroom, reading. I was laying on my bed, lost somewhere in another world when I was brought crashing back to this one. The foot of my bed, a wood framed twin, jumped about an inch or so off the floor like somebody had grabbed the end, lifted it, then dropped it. This happened three times in about a second or so, then stopped.

I performed my own supernatural feat, levitating off the bed, across the room, around the corner and down the stairs without ever a foot hitting the floor. My parents were downstairs wathcing TV, and I asked them if they'd heard the noise. They hadn't, and asked me what was going on. When I explained (and apologized to my sister) once again, my dad refused to even consider that there was a ghost.

Now, I'm not normally a foolish person. While I make my share of mistakes, it's rarely the result of some rash action. But my next encounter provedthe exception to this rule.

Late one evening, my mother and I had the bright idea to try and contact whatever seemed to be sharing the house with us. I brought home a Ouija board from a friend at school, and we started to mess around with it. I don't claim to be an expert in psychic phenomena, and I don't know how the planchette is supposed to move, but every time we put our hands on the silly thing, it would sit perfectly still for several minutes, then would jump several inches. We would both yank our hands off the thing, laughing nervously at the shock, then try again. After about the fourth time we went through this cycle, I heard a loud scraping sound coming from the front porch. I went out there to see what was going on.

I looked around on the porch to see what could have made the noise. The only things there were a couple of wrought iron benches that weighed at least 100 lbs apiece. When I went over to check them, I found fresh scratches where one of the benches had been pushed across the brick for about 4 inches.

That's the last time I've touched a Ouija board.

Shortly afterwards, I moved out of the house into the old cabin about 75 yards from the main house. We ran electricity and a phone line, but there was no plumbing, there were gaps between the roof and walls that a cat could climb through, and no heat, except for a woodburning stove we installed, but it was mine, and I wasn't sharing it with anyone, natural or otherwise.

Well, except for a few spiders, and the aforementioned cats.

Everyone continued to encounter our housemate, except for my father, who grew ever more adamant that there was no such thing as ghosts.

Until his turn came.

He was very quiet one morning, which if you know my father, would tell you just how profoundly he was affected by what he'd seen. It took him quite awhile to admit to us what had happened, although he told my mom immediately. Apparently, he woke up to see a woman standing by the door of their room, looking at him. I never got many of the details, because he really didn't like talking about it, but he stopped giving the rest of us a hard time after that.

A couple of years later, I had one more encounter with something odd in that house. I was home alone watching TV downstairs when I heard a loud crash, and heavy footsteps walking across the floor upstairs. The crash was pretty big, and it seemed like it would take a major piece of furntiture to make that kind of noise.

Now, I've watched a lot of horror movies, and I know how the script goes. The hero grabs a poker from the fireplace and goes up stairs, holding the poker in front of him, looking for the cause of the noise. What happens next depends on the movie's rating, but it's rarely good for our hero. He winds up pinned to a door by a monster knife, eaten by some scabrous thing from a crypt, or sucked into an alternate univers inside a haunted TV. None of those fates really appealed to me; neither did the more prosaic possibility of surprising a burlar in mid burgle.

So, I went to the fireplace, grabbed the poker, and carefully held it in front of me as I went to close the damn door leading to the upstairs. I waited there behind the closed door for about 15 minutes, giving whatever it was plenty of time to go about its business. After that, I went back into the living room, and started watching TV again. If it was a burglar, he had time to get out. If it wasn't, well what could I do about it?

The last episode I know about came a couple of years later. One Sunday morning, my family was sitting on the sun porch eating breakfast, when they heard me coming through the living room. My dad called out to me to come eat before it got cold. They waited about 10 seconds or so for me to come in and sit down before they remembered that I had gone into the Navy, and was in Illinois going through training. Dad went into the living room to check, and there was nobody there.

There are other stories of things people saw or experienced in the house, like the time my mom woke up and the entire bedroom was shaking. She thought it was an earthquake or tremor at first, but there was nothing on the news about it, and it was significant enough that it should have been recorded. In all the time we lived there, we never got the feeling of hostility, or danger, just a solid jolt of fear of the unknown from time to time.

The folks who moved into the house after we left told us that things were still happening there. The lady had done some research, and found out that one of the past residents was a nosy spinster, who spent the last years of her life in the house. They think she might still be there, keeping tabs on what goes on.

Like I said at the start, I don't know. I can explain away the sightings, the thuds and thumps, the footsteps, and the paranoia. I can even believe that maybe a large dog pushed up against the wrought iron bench, at the precise moment we were experimenting with the Ouija board, then running off when I opened the front door. But I cannot explain away the bed.

Happy Halloween!

Posted by Rich
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Protecting the Children

Halloween, that wonderful time when otherwise sane parents protect their children by preventing little Timmy and Suzy from scoring some free candy by dressing up as ghosts and goblins, instead forcing them to attend a Judgment House, where adults dress up like devils and demons and scare the hell out of the little buggers by telling them it's all real, and that's what will happen to them if they don't toe the line.

Go figure.

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, October 30, 2003

Reality Check

Vols are favored by 26 points going in to thier homecoming game against Duke.

Interestingly, the Vols have scored 26 points or more only once during regulation play this season, and that was against Marshall. Yet the Bookies seem to belive that UT will win big over a team that took NC State to the wire last week.

I'm ppicking the Vols, but taking the points.

28-17 Vols.

Posted by Rich
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The wild fires in California have been raging for just over a week now, and 20 people have died.

That's over twice the number of American soldiers who died in combat in Iraq over the same time period.

For additional perspective, DC is expected to have about 325 murders this year, which at current rates is about 100 more deaths than we can expect for US soldiers in Iraq.

Posted by Rich
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Here’s why the UN doesn’t get to be in charge!

For all of you who favor the US turning over the Iraqi reconstruction to the UN, please justify your faith in that spineless organization in light of this:
The United Nations (news - web sites) said Wednesday it was temporarily pulling its remaining international staff out of Baghdad, joining other organizations in withdrawing after Monday's deadly suicide car bombing at the Baghdad headquarters of the Red Cross.

A bombing at another organization's building has led them to bug out! If that's the sum total of their commitment to the Iraqi people then why on earth should we let them run things?

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

A numbers game

I read today about a "milestone" in Iraq. More soldiers have died in combat since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations than died before.

Some folks are spinning this as a sign of further Bush lies, that major combat is still ongoing, that he lied when he said it was over.

I really shouldn't have to say this, since it's evident to anyone without an ax to grind, but the fact that it took roughly 6 months (May 1 to Oct 29) to equal the combat deaths suffered in 6 weeks of combat (Mar 20-May 1) is a fair indication that major combat is, in fact, over.

Posted by Rich
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ANother one for the moonbats

This is also Bush's fault.

Another spectacular eruption on the surface of the Sun could disrupt communications on Earth this week, and may even hamper firefighting efforts in California, scientists say.

"It's headed straight for us like a freight train," said John Kohl, a solar astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. "This is the real thing."

See, there really is no solar flare. Bush is using a second generation HAARP device to beam an electromagnetic mind control ray globally. The tin foil hats have been blocking the signal from the older HAARP, so the FEMA/NSA/DARPA cabal decided to increase the amplitude of the signal by an order of magnitude. The flare is a cover story, because so much energy will be radiated during the broadcast that we will see auroras as far south as Texas. Also, mind control broadcasts take a significant amount of energy. The first use caused the California energy crunch. The second use was aborted when the grid overloaded, causing the blackout. Any effects from this third use will be blamed on the non-existent flare activity.

Posted by Rich
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One for the moonbats

Just as Bush allowed 9-11 in order to give him a defining issue, one that allowed him to impose his radically conservative agenda on America, so too did Arnold Schwarzenegger light the wild fires in California, in order to distract the voters from his total lack of any platform, and to provide a built in excuse for failing to rapidly address the state's financial crisis.

Hey, one good conspiracy deserves another, right?

Posted by Rich
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An Exercise in Modern Liberalism

I think we can all agree that freedom is a good thing. So is democracy. Human rights are a good thing as well. Public education should be supported. A free and vigorous press is essential for a healthy, free society. Ending oppression and maximizing personal freedom are hall marks of a liberal government. These issues have long been major core values of progressive parties.

Except when it comes to Iraq.


The voices on the left urging us to pull out of Iraq now are growing in strength.


Iraq now has more political freedom than any other Middle Eastern nation. They have more newspapers. They have political organizations representing a wide continuum of ideologies. The schools are opened and the political prisons are closed.

Yet some on the left would have us leave before making sure that a newly liberated Iraq has the strength to keep their new freedoms.


It's funny; a conservative President is deeply engaged in bringing a liberal democracy to an oppressed people, and the people fighting him most viciously are not Ba'athists and Islamic extremists, but liberal democrats.


Could it be that their hatred of Bush and conservatism is so strong that they will automatically oppose anything he tries, regardless of the merits?

I hope not.

Posted by Rich
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Did I just hear Frank DeFord on NPR's Morning Edition compare athletic doping to terrorism?

Yep! (Scroll down to Commentary: Sports and Drugs for audio link)

Let's see; one results in a few extra home runs, the other in children getting blown to pieces on the way to school.

I don't have the words...

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, October 28, 2003

This is too perfect!

Porphyrogenitus has a good question:
Ok, so I've been reading the news accounts of the latest round of bombings in Iraq. I figured that if anything was deserving of such protection as having a ring of human shields to prevent bombing, it might be a Red Cross facility dedicated to succoring the Iraqi people. But no mention of any human shields.

I guess it's a question of sincerity. It's a whole lot easier to stand in front of buildings you know aren't going to be targeted.

Presented on the off chance that somebody who reads me doesn't read Instapundit

Posted by Rich
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Monday, October 27, 2003

Forest Fires and Terrorism

Here's an article linking al Qaida agents to a plot to light several simultaneous fires in the US West, in an attempt to spread fear and weaken US resolve.
In August, Australian authorities launched an investigation into reports al-Qaida planned to spark bushfires in a new wave of devastating terror attacks.

A June 25 FBI memo to United States law enforcement agencies revealed a senior al-Qaida detainee claimed to have developed a plan to start midsummer forest fires in the U.S.

The terrorist hoped to mimic the destruction that devastated Canberra last summer, killing four people and destroying more than 500 homes, as well as in other parts of Australia.

Southern California was ripe for wildfires, and we haven't heard any claims of responsibility coming from the terrorists, so I doubt that any connection exists. Still, the possibility of a link should be looked into.

Posted by Rich
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KNS Sports Team:  Reporters or PR men?

Reading the News-Sentinel on Sunday and today leads me to one inescapable conclusion: the KNS sportwriters are little more than PR flacks for the University of Tennessee. Reading the stuff they call reporting would make you think that Saturday's game was a tremendous victory for the Vol program, on a par with great games like the 86 Sugar Bowl trouncing of Miami, or the Miracle at South Bend in 1991.

Think I'm exaggerating? Read Gary Lundy's take on the game:
The term "classic"' is overused in sports, but this time it fits.

Tennessee's 51-43, five-overtime victory over Alabama on Saturday meets every definition of the word.

Oh really? Lets see. Bama 3 and out. UT fumbles. Bama goes 20 yards and punts. UT fumbles. Bama picks up 10 yards in 6 plays, then kicks a FG. UT nets 31 yards and fumbles.

I have a hard time calling any performance that includes three lost fumbles in one quarter a "classic." But maybe that's just me.

Speaking of Lundy, it appears that Vickie Fulmer has recalibrated the erstwhile Clausen critic, who now gives Clausen his Best Spine Award.

Even John Adams, a man we used to count on to give it to us straight, has succumbed to the pressure. Check out his column from the 22nd:
And no matter how poorly Alabama is faring, you always expect a certain toughness from the Tide. You didn't see that toughness last Saturday in a 43-28 loss to the Rebels, who repeatedly whipped Alabama at the line of scrimmage.

Based on its most-recent performance, Alabama hasn't just gone bad. It has gone soft.

Yet now, after it took us 5 overtimes to win, he writes this:

Have you ever seen a UT team make more clutch plays to stay in a game or a division race than the one that beat Alabama 51-43 in five overtimes?

Should a former top ten team really have to make clutch plays to win against a team that got whipped by Ole Miss? A team that lost to Northern Illinois? Alabama out rushed UT. They got more first downs than UT. They held the ball longer than UT. And for 58 minutes, they beat UT. Oddly, the KNS sportswriters don't seem to remember that part of the game. They focus instead on Clausen's 'heroic' last minute drive to tie the game.

It gets worse.

Mike Griffith writes a piece about how wonderfully Clausen played.
Clausen turned it around on the final drive, going 6-for-9 for 87 yards. He opened the pivotal drive with a 16-yard completion to James Banks over the middle of the field, and the clock was running.

Clausen was 10-for-17 for 146 yards and four touchdowns from the final drive of regulation to the end of the fifth overtime.

Given that his totals for the game were 23 of 43 for 283 yards, that means that over 58 minutes of play, he was 13 of 36 for 137 yards, in the second half going 2 of 8 for a pitiful 14 yards.

I'm not impressed; why is Mike?

Next, we take a peek at Mike's Report Card. Students could only wish to be graded on a curve this generous. Of course, after the Vols got a C from Griffith for taking that Georgia butt-stomping two weeks ago, I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the B they got for this game, but tell me, how does Clausen's mediocrity grade out higher than the special team's play? Clausen's stats are only slightly better than Brodie Croyle's, who, rather than making empty boasts after a game, really was playing with only one arm. Croyle actually had the higher connect percentage. On the special teams side, Colquitt kicked the cover off the ball, Wilhoit made every crucial kick, and one critical tackle, and we decimated Alabama in return yardage. But Clausen gets an A- while special teams gets a B.

Go figure.

I'm a fan. I have the luxury of rooting for the Vols unreservedly. I can have unrealistic expectations; I can dream big; I can believe we can win every game. I can be delusional in my support for the team. I expect better from a reporter. I expect him to counter my enthusiasm with honesty, my wild expectations with hard facts, and my dreams with reality. I expect him to provide that quiet voice of reason that prepares me for the let down when the Vols come up short.

When he doesn't do that, it forces me to do it for him.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, October 24, 2003

The Skunk Ape in LaFollette

Uncle and CJ are all over this.

Except I found a relevant article in last week's Metro Pulse that they might have missed. The article detailed the search for a rumored beast in the Smokies, one that legend has it has run here for hundereds of years. The article talked to eyewitnesses who've seen the critter, scientists who've studied it, park rangers familiar with the areas where the beast has been spotted, and they all agree that there's something to these wild tales.

Then the article asks other scientists and researchers from out of state, who pooh-pooh the possibility that all these people know what they are talking about. The ascribe the stories to misidentification of other, more common animals.

Sounds exactly like what we're reading about the skunk ape, right?

The article was about cougars in the Smokies.

My point? Don't know that I really have one, except maybe that the further removed an 'expert' is from a situation, the less likely he is to accept unusual possibilities.

Posted by Rich
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Rumsfeld’s memo

Here's the deal folks. I've read the memo. It is not a harsh critique of a failing effort, as it has been described by left leaning pundits. Neither is it an indication of faltering confidence, failing leadership, or loss of vision.

Instead it is the logical summation of points and possibilities used to frame a forthcoming discussion on how to improve our efforts in the war on terrorism.

As an ex-Navy Nuke, I had drilled into me the concept that no ongoing effort lacked room for improvement. No matter how good our performance was on our annual operations and safeguards reviews, our only feedback from the examining team was a list of areas that needed improvement.

This constant inspection and self reflection is a hallmark of performance excellence, and I'm pleased to see it in use at the highest levels of our military. It means that our fighting forces will continue to adapt to new global situations, and increase their efficacy and efficiency.

AS for the details of the memo, the questions Rumsfeld posed to his subordinates, they are all formulated to spur creative thought for new approaches to face the military problems of a new world. In short, this is the opening document for a brainstorming session. It wouldn't make sense to start a brainstorming session with a premise that basically says "Everything's fine!"

Rummy gave his men a list of areas for improvement, and challenged them to come up with ways to make those improvements. That's simply good leadership.

But it makes a better story to scream how Rummy thinks we're losing, how all the positive news out of Iraq was just propaganda, so that's what we hear.

At some point, it would be nice if reporters decided to, you know, report the facts, rather than spin the story to fit some ideologically driven angle.

Posted by Rich
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