All That She Is…

It’s LJ Idol competition time again! I took a ‘bye’ last week due to time constraints but I’m back! (I’m allowed 2  more byes during the course of the competition). This week’s topic is “Build A Better Mousetrap”. My fiance gave me a great idea of how to use the idea of a mousetrap and change it into something much less literal. So this week I’ll once again be reaching into my past with the paranormal and my favorite ‘haunted’ hotel 🙂 What souls might be ‘trapped’ there? Read on to find out!!

She’s a beautiful thing, really. A timeless masterpiece. I cannot look at her without having to catch my breath. Sure, she’s starting to show her age, her exterior beginning to fade and crumble… she is afterall 117 years old. But, she’s beautiful.

The first time I stood outside of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel in Belleair, FL I could feel the energy pouring from her. I entered the doors to the sound of a grand piano playing and the excited chatter of well-dressed tourists. As I roamed the halls, passing the bustling ice cream shoppe, the numerous ballrooms and large staircases I felt as if I had been transported to another era. The Biltmore, though catering to all of the modern amenities that we are used to, remained an elegant slice of history that refused to be forgotten. I was in love.

I was there that night for the first of many ‘ghost tours’ I would go on. Unlike many ghost tours, this was not just a history lesson or led by someone dressed up in a silly period costume. This tour was put on by a group of paranormal investigators out of Orlando, FL that frequently did tours and investigations of reported haunted locations within central Florida. The group shared photos that members of their tours had taken and let us know of some of the more allegedly active places within the hotel. (On that first tour I took an odd photograph that I’ll place at the end of this entry. I won’t say what I find odd about it… you can judge for yourself.)

After a few months of regularly attending tours the group was offering an overnight investigation. This was the night that I’d affirm my beliefs that the Biltmore hotel had not only captured my heart but also trapped something within it’s walls that many could not see.

My aunt Martha attended the investigation with me along with a group of about 10 other people. We entered onto the 4th floor of the hotel that was closed off to the public. Behind the locked doors, in pitch blackness, laid the skeletal remains of a once booming hotel. The floors were bare of carpet, in many places the wood planks were broken or missing. Dust lined all of the walls, toilets and sinks were filled with rust and the doors to the rooms were removed from their hinges. It could have been the atmosphere, or something unseen, but the feeling of suppression in the air was stifling.

Walking down the silent hallways with only the light of our flashlights to lead the way we went into each room. Snapping photos and carrying voice recorders… all hopeful that we’d find some sort of evidence of a spiritual realm. After about a half hour of exploring the west wing of the fourth floor it didn’t seem there would be much activity. We reconvened in the center of the hallway for an EVP session before heading to the east wing. As we stood in a circle, our backs to the gaping doorways of the empty rooms we began to ask questions.

“Is there anyone here with us?”

“Why do you stay here?” 

We began to hear random noises from down the hallway. A knock here, a scratch there… it seemed there was movement happening all around us. Members of our group began to say that they were feeling the temperature drop. That’s when I had my first experienced of being ‘touched’. I clearly remember the pressure against the back of my thigh. It happened very quickly. I assumed my aunt was trying to quietly get my attention but as I turned to her, her arms were crossed and she was looking toward the end of the hallway. I turned to look behind me and noticed I was standing directly in front of an open doorway. Moments later, a self-proclaimed medium in our group said “There are children here.” She claimed that there were small children walking around us and she began talking to them. As I began to think about the positioning of where I had felt the pressing on my leg and the size of the area I became very convinced that I may have been touched by the energy of a small child. In my mind I could easily envision a child standing behind me and peering out from behind my legs to view what was happening in the center of the circle. It certainly could be my imagination running away with me, but for me, it was and is still reality.

The night continued on with many more interesting experiences though none directly affecting me.  The ‘medium’ in our group claimed to channel the disembodied spirit of a widow who committed suicide upon hearing her new husband had been killed in an accident. I am quite skeptical when it comes to ‘psychics’ or ‘mediums’, but it is hard to deny that a person who begins sobbing uncontrollably is feeling an overwhelming emotion. To experience someone feeling this emotion in total darkness, in an empty shell of hotel hallway, the sound of her waling bouncing off the walls can be unsettling to say the least. Another group of people investigating the hotel were investigating the tunnels that run below the hotel and heard a very loud scream which they were able to capture on a recording. There were stories from some of the investigators of being pushed as well.

By all accounts, if you believe in the supernatural, it would seem that there are many souls that still reside at the Belleview Biltmore Hotel, whether by choice or by entrapment. The most unsettling part of this tale for me however, is the current state of the hotel. The hotel has been closed since 2009. Developers say that it will cost millions to repair and preserve the historic icon. Many developers want to demolish the building and build homes on the land.  This hasn’t sat well with the community nor those of us who love her and numerous groups have fought the developers on every level. I pray these groups continue the fight and that I, one day, will be able to enjoy her and all that she houses again.

Photo of a hallway from my first tour (this hallway was not closed off to the public, tho under renovation.) This is an enlarged image so it is a bit grainy, but I have not added any filters. Also, I am not referring to any orbs in the photo… I do not feel orbs are very often proof of anything other than dust, moisture in the air, or bugs.
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Random photos from The Belleview Biltmore Hotel:
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Thirteen

Andddd… we’re back for another week of LJ Idol! This week’s topic is “In Another Castle”. Not being a fiction writer I wasn’t sure at first where I’d go with this. A few people got me brainstorming some ideas and I’ve decided to write about one of my FAVORITE topics…the paranormal. So without further ado, below is my take on this week’s topic.

(and remember to look for the link to vote on Tuesday!)

– M

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It was a warm, breezy fall evening like any other in my hometown of Bradenton, Florida. My neighborhood best friend and I were doing what we had done on many a school night; sitting in the front yard of my home and chatting about boys. The darkness was starting to set in and soon it’d be time to go inside and get ready for the following day. I glanced somewhat nervously in the direction of my back yard.

I had always felt a little apprehensive about going back there at night. I didn’t have any clear reason to be apprehensive but I always felt as if I wasn’t alone.  On this night my apprehension would be replaced by pure terror.

I expected to see the pitch blackness deep in the back of the yard. The yard was filled with large shade-filling trees that rarely let light in. I didn’t expect, however, to see a white figure moving in our direction. I can only describe the figure as a contained mist. It was loosely in the shape of a person but there were no clear distinct features and no sound came from the figure’s movement.

I must have stopped mid-sentence because my friend turned to look in the direction I was facing. Her exact words were “Wha-what is THAT?!” Knowing that I was not the only one seeing the figure sealed the deal. I jumped up and said “I don’t know, but I’m not sticking around to find out!” I made a beeline for the front door with my girlfriend hot on my heels. We stopped before going inside and looked at each other and I asked her, “Did we really just see that?”. She responded with an urgent “Yes!” and we bolted inside. I locked the door and immediately ran to the french doors that lead to the back yard and locked them as well.

I wasn’t sure what we had seen, all that I knew is that I was shaking from fear.  Up to this point in my life I had no interest in the paranormal. I had no reason to believe that there’d be a ‘ghost’ in my yard. I had always figured that my uneasiness with the back yard was due to my fear of the dark, which still, to an extent, exists today.

My girlfriend recounted to me what she had seen and it was most certainly the same thing that I had witnessed. My mother was in the shower when we ran inside so we sat quietly in the living room waiting for her to come out. I’m fairly certain that she told me we were being silly as we told her the story and told me to get ready for bed.

The following day at school I confided the experience to a couple of friends. One of my classmates overheard and said that he believed we were seeing spots because a car must have driven by and the headlights blinded us. At that point in time I would have liked to believe nothing more. Unfortunately there were no cars driving by at the time and our back yard backed up to a creek… not a road.

My childhood best friend lived just two houses down from me. We could see one another’s back yard from our own. There were no dividers and no fences. About a week or two after my experience my friend said to me “Were you in your back yard late last night?” She didn’t know that I was terribly afraid of being in the back yard at night (I was too embarrassed to tell anyone I was afraid of the dark back then). I explained that I wasn’t and she got a confused look on her face. She told me that she had been in the back yard with her boyfriend late the night before and had seen what she thought was me walking around in a white night gown. I told her she must have been mistaken and she said that she was so sure she had seen me that they had even called my name but that “I” hadn’t responded. This was a huge validation for me.

To this day, even after I’ve learned and experienced so many different things, I cannot say exactly what we saw that night. I have since learned that my mother had a stepsister who died of a flu-like virus (Hong Kong flu) when she was only 12 years old. She had frequently stayed the night in the house that I grew up in but had lived (and died) in a house on the next street over. Coincidence? Possibly. Uncanny? Definitely.

That was my first experience with the “paranormal” and it has never left me. From that moment on, I knew that I wanted to find an explanation for what I had seen… be it supernatural, scientific or natural. Over the 21 years that have passed since that first experience I’ve encountered many more unexplained events that have led me to be a firm belief that we are not alone in this world. I’ll never stop looking for the next experience. Will it be in a cemetery? Probably not. Will it be in an old abandoned building? You never know. Will I be prepared when it happens? Definitely not… but I can’t wait.

One Step at a Time

I managed to survive the first week of the LJ IDOL writing competition! This week’s prompt is “The Missing Stair”. Below is my interpretation. If you enjoy, please consider checking back on Tuesday when I post a link to vote for me in the comment section. Thank you for reading!  – M

!!!Vote for me here!!!

You will need to sign into Live Journal using one of your social media IDs or sign up for a free account in order to vote! Thank you for looking and/or voting! 🙂

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In my, not so humble, opinion I feel that society is on a steady decline. We are a society of judgments, hateful remarks, ‘brutal honesty”, and the neverending need to be ‘better’ than someone else. We laugh at others mistakes, we extort others faults and the term ‘bullying’ is as prevalent in our vocabulary as the word potato (probably even more so). We tend to let others opinions on politics, religion, lifestyle that are different than ours to dictate the type of person that they are in our minds and determine whether or not we’d like to allow them into our lives. People are no longer thought of as human beings…they are labels created by very small stereotypical parts of their personalities.

If you are like me, you want no part in being a part of a society of that nature.

Self-reflection can be one of the most difficult and life-changing experiences that we can/will go through. At times, it is unavoidable but it is the times that we choose to become more aware that we will truly see the benefit. It’s also the first step in finding true happiness and contentment in your life.

“I know who I am.”

“I know what I like.”

“I don’t need to reflect to know about myself, I’m who I am and that’s that!”

“I’m not being judgmental or hateful… it’s just my opinion. So what?”

I certainly was (and still, on occasion, am) someone who thought I knew myself inside and out. I liked what I liked. I had opinions/judgments on topics and people that came naturally so why would I even consider researching where these ideas came from?

The reason is that I started to see how I wasn’t much different from the societal norm. I couldn’t figure out why I felt the need to remark on someone’s appearance or behavior when it was less than a positive response. I couldn’t understand why I was letting other’s choices create negativity, stress, disdain and anger in my life when their choices honestly had no effect on me personally. It was then that I realized, if you are not part of the ‘solution’ then you are most likely part of the problem. I don’t want to be the societal norm..and I certainly don’t want to be a problem, do you?

It was around this time that I began to study Buddhism. I submerged myself in books about finding true happiness and understanding the workings of the mind. I listened to Eckhardt Tolle describe the ego. I took in teachings from the local Kadampa temple. I learned so much about self-reflection and understanding why my thoughts were going in the direction that they were.  It is quite a liberating experience to be able to step back and look at your thoughts as impermanent rather than defining fact.

Stepping out of your comfort zone is difficult. Considering the idea that you may be on equal ground with others that are different than you, may make you feel vulnerable. Is feeling vulnerable for a short time a worse feeling than the feelings of stress, anger, resentment or critical judgments? I don’t think so. We all have felt these emotions at one point or another… and some of us feel them on a daily basis. The natural and easiest response is for us to blame others for these feelings being stirred up within ourselves. Is it really another person’s fault that you feel a certain way? Truth be told, no. This is where self-reflection can change your life. It certainly has mine.

For example, we all know someone who will take a photo or post a meme of a stranger who they feel is not dressed appropriately for their body type. This sets off a long “discussion” of insults… each person trying to come up with a better insult for the person in the image. As a poster or participant in the conversation… what could the tangible reason be for saying or posting hate-fueled material? What has the stranger in this image done that was so deserving of your negative reaction. YOU do not know the stranger’s circumstances. YOU assume he/she chose their attire because he/she felt it was attractive. YOU do not find it attractive. It would seem the person with the actual problem in the matter is YOU.

Anytime that you realize you are feeling a negative emotion toward someone else for ANY reason, step back and consider why you are feeling that emotion. More often than not, you will find that you have no real tangible reason to feel the negativity toward the other person.

Can you imagine how many of today’s societal problems could be solved if more people examined themselves before acting upon their instinctual emotions?

I am far from perfect and I still have my moments when I forget to stop and reflect before acting but they have become much less frequent. Social media (Facebook in particular for me) is a breeding ground for negativity. It is easy to get sucked into a conversation about a current event, celebrity, “friend’s” behavior, etc. and find yourself expressing judgments, hateful insults, self-righteous banter, etc.  If you notice that you often find yourself in the middle of a debate, feeling frustrated with other people, especially people you don’t know personally, it may be time to ask yourself why you are putting yourself through those emotions. A few things that I’ve found helped me on Facebook are:

– Blocking certain people from my News Feed. I do not necessarily want to not be friends with them but their posts often leave me feeling less than happy.

– Removing Celebrity Gossip pages

– Removing local and national News pages (you can still be in the know by watching the news or reading the newspaper online. Avoid the comment threads!)

– Removing pages created solely to mock or evoke negativity. A perfect example of this is People of Walmart. Some pages are harder to recognize as negativity breeding grounds. Gawker, for example, is a ‘news’ site, however it is put together as editorial matter based on opinion. I found the writers to be very negative in their views..even when I tended to agree with their basic points. Basically, if a page makes you laugh at someone (who isn’t a comedian), feel angry, frustrated, irritated, etc. remove it. Learn your tolerance points!

– Following pages that post motivational and inspirational stories, news, etc. 
A GREAT one is The Optimism Revolution!

– Remembering that each and every one of us wants the same thing in life… to be happy! We are on this journey together, though on different paths and at different distances. No one received a rulebook straight out of the womb and each one of us has to make the rules for ourselves as we go. Show compassion to those who seem to have run into a roadblock… don’t worsen their conditions with negativity.

Becoming fully aware of oneself is like climbing a seemingly neverending staircase toward the well lit “PURE HAPPINESS” door at the top. Each day offers you an opportunity for a new stair to take one step closer to the door. Have you taken your first step or are you still missing the stair?

My So-Called Dating Life… The Biggest Jayus of All

I’ve entered myself into a writing competition on Live Journal called LJ Idol. (I’m not sure why… I feel many people in the competition are FAR better writers than myself. I just have a lot of thoughts to put on paper, but don’t actually have the technical skills to go much farther than that. :-D) At any rate, it seemed like fun and it gives me writing prompts even when I’m no longer involved in the competition.

Below is my first entry. Our writing prompt was the word “jayus” which means a joke so UN-funny that you can’t help but laugh.

Also, be on the lookout for the link to vote! I’ll update it as soon as I have it. I’m going to need all of the help I can get 😀

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My So-Called Dating Life… The Biggest Jayus of All

The “single life” has never really suited me. I didn’t date much during high school for a plethora of reasons, though most of them centered on my fear of rejection. Why I lived with such a fear of being embarrassed or betrayed is beyond me but it still plagues me to this day.I managed to have 3 consecutive long term “relationships” (one even lasted for 6 years!) after high school. There was never time for ‘dating’ in between the relationships as it would seem I would end up in a relationship with the first person I’d meet after a breakup. That all ended around the age of 28.

After a breakup that left me completely lost I found myself single for close to 2 years. It became clear that I wasn’t just going to slip, trip and fall into a new relationship this time. I found myself surfing the internet dating pool in search of the next “Mr. Right”. Some could muse that this was my first mistake.

I must have gone on 100 first dates that failed for one reason or another. From the guy who found it hilarious that he punched an ex-girlfriend during a dream, to the guy who was a middle school English teacher and not only allowed his students to curse at him but also confided in me that he accidentally shat himself one day, to the guy who was sure that we were soul mates.

In this technological age where everyone’s every thought is posted on a social media website, I even posted a list of “ideal traits” that I would not compromise on. Of course the first man that I meet who seems to have potential reads my list and is offended because some of my list of ‘demands’ didn’t match up with him. Of course, they didn’t.

I started to wonder if this was the universe’s ultimate jayus. I had no choice but to laugh.