Spend an evening with Jeff Morris, author of Haunted Cincinnati, at the Amelia Branch on Monday, June 25 at 6:30p.m. Mr. Morris will discuss local haunts and ghost hunting. Register online.
Mr. Morris was gracious enough to answer some questions about ghost hunting.
What prompted you to begin ghost hunting?
Well, the answer to this question I guess depends upon what exactly is meant by the term ‘ghost hunting.’ My interest in the field started about 7 or 8 years ago in 2004 or 2005. At this time, I lived on the west side of Cincinnati on a road called Wesselman Road. My place was near a supposedly haunted road called Buffalo Ridge Road and as I started to hear more about the stories of ghost cars, ghost children, and haunted abandoned crematoriums from this road, I became more and more fascinated. My friends and I would often drive up and down the road at night, hoping to experience one of the many ghost stories that supposedly happened along the road. It was very exciting and a completely different experience than that which I was used to. It is completely different than a horror movie or one of those theatrical haunted houses that open near Halloween that you know are fake. There was a sense of mystery that amplified the terror whenever I drove up and down this haunted road.
As time passed, I began exploring the rest of the supposedly haunted places in the Cincinnati area. Upon exploring these places, I became more and more interested in the history of the ghost stories. I began to wonder if the story about the hitchhiker dying on the haunted bridge or the children who haunt Weselyan Cemetery were actually based on historical occurrences or if they were urban myths. This research into the history of the city of Cincinnati was as fascinating as the ghosts. I had no sense of the historic and the tragic things that have happened in the city during its years of existence and the research into the history helped to increase my interest in both history and the paranormal.
In 2006, I started a ghost tour in Miamitown, Ohio, not too far from Buffalo Ridge Road that originally started my interest in ghosts. One of the first groups to take my tour was a paranormal investigation group called Cincinnati Area Paranormal Existence Research (CAPER). I became close with this group, and they worked with the tour throughout the next year or so. Eventually, they invited me to join their group. This was a completely different experience than what I had done so far with the paranormal. Up to this point, my research had all been historical research and going to the places hoping to experience something. CAPER took a more scientific approach to ghost hunting, using scientific equipment in order to document any paranormal activity that we experience.
What’s been your scariest experience ghost hunting?
This is another question that is not incredibly easy to answer. I’m not saying this in an attempt to sound macho or anything like that, but ghosts do not scare me. I’ve been startled by ghosts from time to time, but I go to these places hoping to see and capture evidence of ghosts. I’ve seen figures and have chased after them, heard noises and investigated them, and spoken to ghosts in an attempt to get them to exhibit themselves to me. I actually go to haunted places and collect some artifact from the place and bring it back to my house, hoping that a ghost follows me back to my house.
This is not to say that I have never been scared when going to the haunted places. Most of the time though, the fear is based on the things that aren’t paranormal. For example, I worked with a handful of paranormal groups on an overnight investigation of the Mansfield Penitentiary in Mansfield, Ohio. It was a creepy place, but it was also old and at spots unsafe. At one point I was walking along a narrow walkway along a line of cells in one of the wings of the jail. The walkway itself was barely wider than my shoulders. The railing on my right came up no higher than my knees, and a five story drop to a concrete floor was beyond the railing. On top of all this, it was pitch black in the building since the lights had been extinguished. All I had to light my way was a flashlight. I remember thinking that if one of these ghosts that I was looking for were to jump out of one of the cells on my left, I would almost certainly fall those 5 stories to my death. I was scared at that point.
What’s your favorite local haunted site?
In my books, Cincinnati Haunted Handbook and Haunted Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio, I write about 101 different haunted locations all within an hour’s drive of downtown Cincinnati. Each sight took a lot of research and I have become quite attached to many of the sights. I will always hold Buffalo Ridge Road as a personal favorite because it was the first place that interested me in the paranormal. I also hold dear many of the sights in Miamitown where I have been doing the ghost tour for the last 6 years.
Perhaps the most important site with my current line of work though is a place called Satan’s Hollow in Blue Ash. The reason that it is so important to me, is it was a huge factor and inspiration in the genesis of the Haunted Handbook series of books of which I am the series editor and, for many of the books, author. When I was writing my first book, Haunted Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio, I came across stories for Satan’s Hollow. There was very little detail on which to go to find the place though. All the stories say was that it is in Blue Ash. A book about Blue Ash in the library actually mentions the site but says that it does not exist. Eventually, my coauthor and I gave up on finding the place. Later, during one of our book signings, we ran into a paranormal group who said that they had found Satan’s Hollow. They explained the directions to us and we were eventually able to find the place. It is a tunnel system that is very creepy. Voices echo throughout the tunnels and shadows are constantly moving down the dark corridors. It is one of the scarier places to go in Cincinnati.
After having found this place, I mused over how much easier it would have been to find this place if there was a book which described how to get here. This gave me the idea for the Haunted Handbook series which is essentially a travel guide to haunted places near the target city. It tells you how to get to all of the places. It tells you the rules and laws to visiting the places. And of course it tells you the ghost stories and the true history behind the ghost stories. Satan’s Hollow was the location that inspired me to write the first book in the series, Cincinnati Haunted Handbook. Since then I have written Nashville Haunted Handbook, Twin Cities Haunted Handbook, and am currently working on Chicago Haunted Handbook.
What should every ghost hunter carry in his ghost hunting kit?
I’ll give two answers to this question. The first and most obvious answer is “flashlight.” When you are out searching for ghosts, most of the time you will do so at night and in the dark. If you don’t have a flashlight, you won’t be able to move around or see. You won’t be able to investigate anything that you hear or think that you see. Flashlight is definitely the most important tool in any ghost hunter’s kit.
This being said, my personal favorite piece of equipment is the audio recorder. While it can be interesting to notice temperature and EMF fluctuations with many other ghost hunting tools, gauges such as these do not record, only inform you in the moment. I feel that the most important things to bring are audio and video recorders. My favorite is the audio recorder because video evidence is not only more expensive to get but is also much rarer. The digital audio recorder can be purchased at WalMart for less than $30 and collect strange evidence quite often. I can’t count the number of times I’ve reviewed audio from an investigation and come across a voice that wasn’t there when the recording was made. Because of my audio recorder, I have the possible voice of a ghost saved on my computer.
What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read or movie that you’ve watched?
When I was a little kid, I read a book about true ghosts. It was called “Real Ghosts” by Daniel Cohen. In the book, he detailed some of the most famous real ghost stories from history. When I read the book, I was only in the fourth grade and it scared me to death. For about a month straight, I slept with the lights on because I was scared that if the lights went off, I would encounter one of the ghosts from the book. As time went on and I lost more and more sleep to my fears, I began to think about things logically. I began to realize that there wasn’t really anything that a ghost could do to me and that there probably weren’t any ghosts in the house anyway. Eventually the lights went off at night, but I still remember that book as the scariest thing that I’ve ever read.