Halloween is right around the corner now, which means, of course, it’s already in the stores and at any given moment all things PUMPKIN will rain down upon us and, much like actual rain after a long drought, we will love it at first before slowly descending into saturated madness. But, before that happens, let’s look at Halloween first and what we’re doing this Halloween season - because it is a season, so write it on your calendars.
Step One: Obviously, you need a costume. And, I know you fall into one of two camps: either it has been years since you got dressed up because that is just for kids, or, you get dressed up, you love it, and you know why it is awesome. However, some of you still buy those cheap, mass-marketed drivel called costumes. If you are one of those people, I want you to sit down and listen to me. You can do better. You deserve better. Faux lingerie and three make-up lines on your face does not make you a kitten. Have you not seen all the amazing cosplay outfits at Comic Cons?? Even if you don’t go to them, you know social media has kept you in the know with some mind-blowing pics. Well, cosplay is just costumes done outside of Halloween season. Its like Paris fashion week setting all the styles ahead of time. It is time to up your game, sugar. If you haven’t gotten dressed up in years, you’re seriously missing out because while the kiddies get to go trick-or-treating and get free candy, you can do this right and get all the good candy, get the good drinks, and more. So, get to thinking, get creative, and get yourself a costume. Step one accomplished.
Step Two: you need some good drinks. This is another reason Halloween as an adult is the best - alcohol is legal. The breweries have figured Halloween out and can always be counted on for some good brews. Greenbrier Valley Brewing of course has all tall-tale and legend theme brews, including Zona’s Revenge, a Witbier named after the famous Greenbrier Ghost (more to come on that in just a sec), so you’re set there no matter what style of beer you’re looking for. Plus, their beers are in cans, so they’re perfect for wherever you’re going to be. Big Lick Brewing will have their Oktoberfest and Double White Bronco, but they’re also planning to release several barrel aged beers for Halloween: Champurrado Mexican Stout, Dying Days RIS, and Rusty Cage Barleywine. 7 Dogs Brewpub will have their Oktoberfest, plus several flavor options for their SourPuss beers; Mountain Valley will have their Bonfire Bable (Scotch Ale), Fall Into Winter (Spiced Nut Brown), and Kyle’s Irish Red; Painted Peak Brewing will be releasing their Cocoa Curry Stout as well as having a Hard Seltzer on tap; and while Krikelkay Brewing Co is still brewing up their magic, they’re expecting to have a Pumpkin Beer (possibly a stout??) and a bourbon barrel aged, amped up version of their Honey Brown Ale on tap. Krikelkay Brewing is having not only a Halloween Party on the 26th, but they’re keeping the party going with their 1 Year Anniversary Party on Nov 2nd. Franklin County Distilleries will also be having a Halloween Party, with Costume Contest of course, and they’re going to have a special, Halloween themed cocktail as well … but they’re not letting the cat out of the bag yet because the anticipation of wondering is just too delicious. Oujia boards to figure it out, anyone??
Step Three: who you gonna call? Yes, Halloween parties are mandatory and there’s going to be plenty going on at all the places I just listed above, so definitely plan to hit them up. Corn mazes are fun if you like getting lost for two hours and sweltering among drying stalks of corn (seriously, they are fun though), pumpkin patches are sweet for IG worthy pics, but what about the ghosts? Well, as I mentioned above, Greenbrier County, WV is home to the famous Greenbrier Ghost, Elva Zona Heaster. And, there is a really cool theatre in Lewisburg that will be putting on a show about her! The Greenbrier Valley Theatre will be running shows of “The Greenbrier Ghost” starting on Halloween and going until mid-November.
If you’re looking for a more, potentially “direct” experience with ghosts, how about checking out a ghost tour?? Beyond The Dark Paranormal, run by Don and Kelly Johnson out of Thaxton, Va, doesn’t chase ghosts so much as “we chase facts and truth,'' said Don with a laugh. Their team, which includes daughter Heather & son-in-law Harley, offers both private residence investigations and tours at historic places such as The Exchange Hotel in Gordonsville, VA and the well-known Avenel in Bedford, VA - home to the famous ghost, The Lady in White. Just how did the Johnsons get into paranormal investigations? “I’ve had experiences since I was a kid, and I’ve always been curious,” said Kelly. “If you told me seven years ago I would’ve laughed about it” added Don. However, after losing his mother and then “spotting a ghostly image of a head, a shoulder with the arm on its hip, part of the leg and a skirt” looking like it was standing in the bathroom door and looking back at the room and realizing “I know that stance, that’s my mother,” things became more serious. The giggles they heard that would spark a debate of “what’s so funny?” “I didn’t laugh” “I heard you!” became a little more noteworthy and had them wanting to see what was going on. In October of 2012 they officially formed Beyond the Dark.
“We each have our own niche, as to what we each do,” explained Kelly. “He and I do a lot of the research” which involves “Don is more of our tech guy as far as equipment and making that all work, I’m one of the lead investigators, Heather and Harley do whatever is asked of them - taking the lead when they need to, making sure we have equipment in the rooms it needs to be set up in, they ask questions we don’t sometimes think of, and Heather does a lot of our photos. Harley is a biologist and a chemist so his mind is very scientific and he’s very good about, if something happens, he and Don will go into a debunking process of what could’ve caused it to happen. Because, not everything is a haunting.” “We don’t chase ghosts, we chase facts and truth,” said Don. “We try to figure out exactly what’s causing an issue. We’re there to prove or disprove why something’s happening.” “We get calls for more private residences than anything, and we’ve had several cases where we’ve been able to show them ‘this is what your cause is’,'' explained Kelly. Some possible causes that are often attributed to ghosts are noises within water pipes and radiators, or the air conditioner ducts, or something as simple as the house creaking in places the homeowners aren’t terribly familiar with Sometimes it is even poor photos or videos taken with older cellphones that can make it seem like something is there when it really isn’t.
However, they also have had a lot of instances where things happen that cannot simply be explained away. A cellphone sitting on a bed suddenly shooting off onto the floor. An EMF reader that they thought would be attributed to wires and a breaker box but in an area without any of those. A room that is 20 degrees colder than the rest of the house despite the sunlight streaming in the window. Some other possible signs of ghostly activity are seeing a mist or vapor in house, phantom lights that looks like a camera flash going off, or shadow movement that can take the shape of a person. “We do use some of the old methods too,” said Kelly. “One of them is lighting a candle in a room that could have paranormal activity, and you can walk away and come back then the candle suddenly goes out, that could be a good sign.” “Paranormal investigation started back in the time of the Egyptians” added Don, “some of the methods that they used still work.” One of Roanoke’s first ghost hunters, John Riley, was even known to use candles in his work, as well as jumping up and down on beds to try and provoke spirits to do things. Other old ways are bells, vintage Polaroid cameras, water in glasses left out (it can become discolored or evaporate more than expected). Of course, Beyond the Dark primarily uses modern technology - thermal energy, and an SLS camera that uses the XBOX 360 skeletal imaging. That will pop up a stick figure if it detects something. “We were at Avenel for the World’s Largest Ghost Hunt and suddenly this little stick figure goes by,” said Don, explaining how the camera picked up a child ghost running around.
If you’re planning on going on a tour the first thing you need to know and expect is that it is definitely not like what you see on tv. “We start out explaining what some of the equipment is, and then we split the groups up if we have a large enough group,” explained Kelly. Group sizes tend to be about 10 - 15 people, but can be smaller. “We let them ask questions to see if we can get the flashlight to communicate,” she added. “We use MagLites and just barely turn them on and ghosts can produce enough emf to turn them on and off,” said Don. They’ve even been known to let their skeptics unwrap and set up a brand-new flashlight to show them that they aren’t attempting to pull any quick parlor tricks by them.
Tours can last 2 - 3 hours, and you can frequently find them at the nearest local brewery afterwards working through material they got during the evening and talking about what all happened that night. Tickets range in price from $15 - $20, but Beyond the Dark doesn’t make any money off the tours - all proceeds go back to the historic location they’re working at to help them maintain the locations. And, of course, if you think you’re residence is haunted, you’re welcome to contact them and have them come see what’s causing things to go bump in the night.