Friday, September 26, 2014

The Eldred House

Well it's that time again, time for one of my favorite (and, let’s be honest, longest) blogs of the year--the Eric/Kimberly annual vacation!

For those of you who are somewhat new to this blog I should probably mention that no, Eric is not my husband; he’s one of my best friends and we go on a short vacation together every year.

And no, my actual husband, Opie, doesn't object to me gallivanting around the country with Eric as long as we don't go someplace that he (Opie) also wants to go. Which is why some of our more memorable trips have included Psychic BootCamp, the Lizzie Borden Bed-and-Breakfast and the International UFO Conventionin Roswell New Mexico.

This year, when I told Opie we planned to go to the Eldred House in Eldred, Illinois for a haunting investigation and séance, he stared at me for a long moment (no doubt contemplating how lucky he’d been to hitch his wagon to this particular star) and finally said “Have a good time.”

However, in spite of Opie's clear apathy towards our proposed destination, the Eldred House seemed like the perfect preternatural vacation--and not just because I really like to say the word preternatural.

It was perfect because while Eric and I might not be professional ghost hunters, we consider ourselves highly qualified amateurs--the kind of amateurs who could ghost hunt in the Olympics. In fact, we're experienced enough that I feel completely comfortable sharing these 2 pieces of advice with the organizers and participants alike:

  1. If you are organizing a ghost hunt and you actually want people to attend, give good directions.

I’m the first to admit that Eric and I are not exactly navigational geniuses so we expect to have a little trouble making it to abandoned houses in the middle of nowhere. However, I think anyone would be challenged by the following “Drive until you are almost to the Eldred Blacktop and turn right after the canopy of trees.”

“How am I supposed to know when I’m almost to the Eldred Blacktop?” Eric demanded.

“I don’t know—what’s a canopy of trees?” I retorted.

(Opie would like to interject that we wouldn’t have these type of directional challenges if we would have followed his advice and not only read the directions in advance but also consulted a map to confirm them. Which just goes to show you that Opie has never been on vacation with Eric and I.)

Luckily, Eldred, Illinois is not exactly a booming metropolis (211 people!) so we resorted to a grid search of the area.

And by grid search I, of course, mean drove around in crazy circles, cursing, until we found a house that we thought looked right.

We did find it within a mere 45 minutes or this would be the worst vacation blog EVER.

But this leads me to my second piece of advice:

2.If you are participating in a ghost hunt and you actually want to see ghosts, don’t be annoying.

Again, I freely admit that Eric and I can be a touch, shall we say trying?  when we’re on a ghost hunt surrounded by people who are taking things a little too seriously (aka The Waverly Hills incident)
However, we were nothing like this woman in our group at the Eldred House…a woman that I like to refer to as MICE (Most Irritating Chick EVER!).

She was annoying because
A.    She was a complete amateur.
B.    She thought she was a professional.
And most importantly
C.   She thought she was a professional because she had downloaded a ghost hunting app on her iPhone.

An app that didn’t work…How do I know the app didn't work?

Because Eric and I had downloaded the same app on our phones--but we tested it by walking around with our phones side by side to see if we got the same readings at the same time.

We are scientists, after all.
In any case, we didn't get the same readings, decided the apps were a bunch of bunk, and immediately began making friends with people who had real EMF meters. Which might seem annoying but I'm sure is 100% acceptable in the ghost hunting world.

Would MICE listen? No. She was convinced that an app that she bought for 99 cents could not only detect the presence of spirits but also hear what they whispered to each other and translate it. This was bad enough when she had the app at full volume and this creepy voice would blare from her phone shouting random words. But it got worse when her husband made her turn it off and SHE just started yelling out random words. “Blood!” she’d yell. “My phone just said blood!

Anyway, the problem with being annoying when you're a ghost hunter is that not only do the other participants start seriously considering ways to turn you into a ghost, the preternatural creatures don't want to waste their valuable energy interacting with someone who makes them glad they're non-corporeal!

They avoided MICE like the plague.

Which was too bad for her because this was easily one of the most haunted places that Eric and I have ever been. Definitely more haunted than the Lizzie Borden House and the Waverly Hills Hospital and as haunted, if not more, than the Villisca Iowa Axe MurderHouse.

And I know that some of you don't believe in ghosts, and some of you think that Eric and I are crazy, and some of you blame vodka for everything we see on our trips...but, seriously, this place was haunted.

First of all, a lot of little things happened--we could smell weird things in the sick rooms that other people couldn't smell, I kept hearing carousel music playing when the guide was talking, and we saw things in the shadows that freaked us out.

All of which could have easily been our imaginations or faked by the organizers.

But 2 things happened that we couldn't explain--and that showed how little the ghosts/spirits/demons/whatever liked MICE.

Eric and I, MICE and her husband, and this cool couple with a real EMF were all upstairs in the playroom with one of the guides. The guide was saying how this was one of the most "active" rooms, how things were always moving around and how EMF meters were always going crazy in there. They even keep this child's ball in the room so the ghosts have something to play with.

MICE had her phone app going, she kept yelling out things the ghosts were saying and taking random pictures to check for "orbs" with a flash so bight that the rest of us were blinded every time it went off. Just when I thought I was going to have to physically restrain Eric from grabbing the phone and stomping it to a pulp, MICE's husband dragged her from the room. 

The cool couple told us they were going to take their EMF meter down to the basement--far from MICE-- and did we want to come along? But we decided to stay behind in the playroom and explore a little more. Once we were alone, Eric went over to the ball and gave it a little push. It started to roll toward the window, stopped abruptly, then rolled back, rolled around me and stopped against the side of my foot.

At which point I did what any sensible ghost hunter would do: I got my grandmother's rosary out of my pocket and put it around my neck while simultaneously praying that the ball would move again and that no evil spirits would attach themselves to us.  Or failing that, that they wouldn't attach to me and would only irritate Eric a little.

(Sorry, buddy, but it's every hunter for themselves when it comes to evil spirits.)

A few minutes later, the ball did move again. No matter where we moved in the room or where we pushed it, the ball always stopped, turned around and stopped at one of our feet.

The guide and the cool couple saw what was happening a few minutes later and came back in the room to watch. Their EMF meters went crazy, the ball moved a little...

Until MICE came back in. And then bam! Everything stopped.

Because she was so annoying that the ghosts couldn't stand her.

Which was irritating and amusing at the same time.

But the best preternatural revenge came during the séance.  First of all, it wasn't like a séance  you see on TV; we didn't hold hands while some dressed up stereotypical gypsy woman rolled her eyes back in her head and mumbled nonsense words while faking a seizure.

We did sit in a circle (to concentrate our energy in one place), put an EMF meter in the middle of the room, put a flashlight on a table in the middle of the circle while the guide tried to call the spirits.

Except she kept getting interrupted by MICE who shouted out "Cookie! My phone just said cookie!"

And, when even the guide (also fed up with the most irritating chick ever) said ""Those apps DON'T WORK." MICE kept on nattering away. "You don't understand!" she said. "My husband just went to the car to get a cookie and then my phone said cookie."

I considered saying "That's so weird because my phone said gun and guess what I just got out of the car?" but I was interrupted by Eric announcing "What I don't understand is how one person thinks they can ruin this experience for everyone!"

Which is completely out of character for him and a clear sign that the ghosts were taking over his body.

But that's not the best part of preternatural revenge.

The best part came about 20 minutes later when everyone had pretty much given up on the séance, and left the room--except for Eric and I. We were sitting in the kitchen, trying to decide if we wanted to explore the playroom again or just take off when--I swear this is true--the flashlight turned off.

No one was anywhere near it, but the flashlight turned off.

I'm not too proud to say I almost wet my pants.

But I contained myself long enough to tiptoe across the room and out on the porch to get the guide's attention.

Since she was also completely fed up with MICE, she tiptoed back in without alerting any other participants and we held our own mini- séance. During which time the flashlight turned on and off a couple of more times without any of us touching it.

It is interesting to note that while supernatural entities are clearly disturbed by shouts of "Cookie!" they are not at all put off by profanity and comments about impending incontinence because Eric and I were gripping each other like small children and freaking out like nobody's business.

Particularly when 2 other people (not MICE and her husband) came back in the room, saw what was happening and immediately sat down with us, and the flashlight got even brighter. 

"Turn it the other way," the guide said.

And the flashlight went off again.

Then MICE came in to see what all the commotion was about and, sure enough, the EMF meter went dead and the flashlight never moved again.

I'm pretty sure she thought we were just messing with her--particularly when I said "Did your phone just say SUCK IT?!"

Ok, I didn't say that, at least not very loud, but she did leave in somewhat of a huff.

So, while her blog is probably an annoying rant about how other ghost hunters just don't understand her and how the Eldred House isn't haunted at all, Eric and I can safely say "Another successful investigation!" and start planning our trip for next year!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Feline Intervention

The Great Cupcake Search -- Brandy the Vet Tech's Vanilla Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream.

Well it's been a long time since I've written any blog at all, much less a cupcake review...not because I haven't been EATING cupcakes you understand but because with school starting, doggy surgery and subsequent confinement, not to mention a health issue or two of my own, I just haven't had the time.

But that was before a little thing I like to call Feline Intervention.

As some of you know, Princeton P. Kitty has heart trouble and his cardiologist is in Stillwater, OK. Which means that every few months I get to wrestle an angry cat into his carrier, strap the carrier in the car and listen to him howl with rage for almost the entire ride....until he gets himself so worked up that he vomits (or worse).

Why not let him out of the crate? Because then he spends the entire drive earnestly attempting to balance on my head in the manner of a kitty gymnast.

Which is distracting on the highway.

In any case, this is why last time I went to the cardiologist, I made the insane decision to throw caution to the winds, ignore the rather carefully plotted directions Opie had given me, and take a route that my GPS assured me would get me to Stillwater in record time.

And it should have worked beautifully, there I was zipping down the turnpike, headphones firmly shoved in my ears (yes I know that's illegal but I double dog dare any cop anywhere to give me a ticket after getting a good earful of enraged cat screams!) and  randomly shouting "it's ok, we're almost there!" In Prince's general direction.

Except I zipped right past the exit.

"It's ok!" I shouted encouragingly to Prince, "We'll just turn around at the next exit!"

Except this was a turnpike so the next exit was about five and a half miles away....a situation made infinitely worse by the fact that it was only after I found that exit, exited, turned around and headed back that I realized the original exit I'd missed only exited on the other side of the stupid turnpike. So I had to drive another 11 miles to turn around again and then drive 6 miles back to the original exit.

I will not share the amount of cursing and screaming that accompanied these revelations but I assure you it was prolific.

And, oddly, did nothing to calm an already enraged cat.

So I got to the cardiologists very late, very frustrated, and very tired of listening to the loudest cat in the known universe.

Then the receptionist ushered us into an exam room immediately (possibly because she couldn't hear the phone, the intercom, or nuclear war above Prince's howling) and our favorite technician came in to tell me that they'd let the ridiculous animal roam around the exam room for ten or fifteen minutes so he could calm down before they tried to check his blood pressure.

"Hey," she said then. "Do you want a cupcake while you wait?"

Seriously, I almost kissed her right on the mouth.

And maybe it was just the stress, but that cupcake was AMAZING.

The cake was moist and delicious but the best part was the homemade buttercream frosting drizzled with maple syrup. I could have eaten a bucket of it. I'm not a fan of the little bacon embellishment on top but that is easily forgiven with the appropriate amount of delicious frosting.

So, final verdict:

Size: Average
Price: Free -- unless you figure in the cost of a kitty EKG
 in which case it's pretty exorbitant.
Cake: Moist and delicious
Icing: Fabulous!

The kind of cupcake that almost makes you forget that you still have another hour and a half in the car with a crying cat.