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Month: April 2014

Ghost Hunters Investigate Hotel

Or, Paranormal Researchers Find Ghost Children

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The ghosts of three children — two boys and a girl — as well as several adults are suspected by the owners and residents of haunting the historic Hotel Somerset, a Main Street boarding house and home of the popular McCormick’s Pub.

During the past five years, three residents have complained of their feet being tickled while sleeping, most recently during the past three weeks by Curtis Jones, a resident of the hotel for seven years. Jones said his neck also gets tickled in the middle of the night, and something messes up the order of his shoes underneath his bed.

While some might think it’s funny that a mischievous ghost could be messing with Jones, the 67-year-old Vietnam veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress said he considers it no laughing matter.

“I just want it to go away!” he said.

So does third-generation operator Tom McCormick. That’s why he called East Brunswick-based Paranormal Diagnostics Group to investigate (see a video of the Hotel Somerset ghost hunt atwww.MyCentralJersey.com/ MyCJVideos).

McCormick said he believes the ghost story because two other residents complained of tickled feet four and five years ago in a different room from Jones, but the same one where a tenant had died many years before.

On two separate evenings during the past week, McCormick said, his new night-vision surveillance system picked up what he said appeared to be three orbs darting in and out of a storage room. He also said that he, his wife, Shannon, and their 5-year-old son have experienced several run-ins with ghosts.

“I was getting soda down in the basement, when I heard a woman or a girl whisper to me, ‘Help me,’ ” Shannon said about an incident that occurred last year.

Two hours later, their son said he saw the ghost of a girl in the basement.

“We get to the bottom of the basement stairs, and he takes four steps and plants,” McCormick said. “I said, ‘Is she here?’ He pointed to the same exact same spot as my wife. I just grabbed his hand, and we ran up the stairs.”

McCormick said he called Paranormal Diagnostics Group because they have a medical background and use scientific equipment and evidence to confirm and more often debunk ghostly activity.

Respiratory therapists in a Somerset County sleep center by day, ghost hunters Robert McCaffrey, 48, of East Brunswick, and Dave Orloff, 42, of Howell, and formerly New Brunswick, have investigated Hotel Somerset three times in as many weeks. They said they have collected more evidence of paranormal activity than typically presented in one episode of “Ghost Hunters,” the Syfy Channel cable show that inspired their growing hobby.

“We have several sound recordings and video of flashes and shadows,” McCaffrey said. “We’re going to continue to investigate.”

The ghost hunters said they have had an interest in paranormal activity since their teens. They said their first investigation was five years ago, when Orloff’s neighbor invited them to Pennhurst Asylum, an infamous property near Valley Forge, Pa., that his family now owns and markets as a haunted attraction.

Originally, the “asylum” was the Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic, then the Pennhurst State School and Hospital. According to the 1968 news report “Suffer the Little Children,” many patients were abused and tortured, which continued until a 1977 lawsuit led to its closure 10 years later. According to a medium who conducted a séance with McCaffrey, Orloff and others at Pennhurst, the spirits of several of the abused, as well as their torturers, haunt the asylum.

“We’ve learned a lot since then,” McCaffrey said, “and have a lot better equipment.”

The ghost hunters use UV meters to measure fields of energy, laser lights and smoke machines to distinguish shadows, orbs and other images, and thermal imaging and night vision video cameras to capture them. After five years, McCaffrey said, they have yet to see a full-bodied apparition but have seen and recorded several other anomalies.

Paranormal Diagnostics also includes McCaffrey’s brother, Jonathan, 33, of Farmingdale, and Orloff’s brother-in-law, Tim Gorrie, 28, of Jackson. They said they hope to add a medium and a photographer/videographer to the team.

“We also would like to work with other paranormal groups,” McCaffrey said, “and break down the barriers that keep them from working together.”

Paranormal Diagnostics also has investigated the Burrowes Mansion, a Revolutionary War site in Matawan, and a Middlesex County home said to be possessed by a demon, whom they apparently recorded asking them less-than-politely to leave. The team also is interested in investigating the Bound Brook Hotel, another Revolutionary War site said to be haunted.

“Central Jersey is loaded with Revolutionary War sites,” McCaffrey said. “We would like to investigate each one of them, and see what kind of stories we can find.”

The history

The team’s interest in the Revolutionary War led them to Hotel Somerset, McCaffrey said.

Established in 1748, the Somerset is the oldest continuous hotel in the country, McCormick said. During the American Revolution, Gen. George Washington ate there and his men slept there while Washington stayed at the nearby Dutch Wallace House, McCaffrey added.

The hotel also played a part in the 1926 Halls-Mills murder trial in which a widow and her brothers were acquitted of the murder of her pastor husband and his mistress. During the trial at the historic Somerset County Courthouse, the jury was sequestered across Grove Street at the hotel.

McCaffrey and Orloff said they haven’t been able to determine whether the hotel’s suspected ghosts are related to the American Revolution, the trial or any other aspect of a rich history. But a medium told them that she could sense the presence of three deceased children, confirming the suspicion of McCormick’s son. Without ever having seen it, the medium drew a diagram of Jones’ room and said his closet is a vortex of paranormal activity.

“Something definitely is going on at the foot of his bed,” McCaffrey said in reaction to extensive energy readings usually indicative of electrical wiring or appliances.

“We were able to debunk the readings at Curtis’ front door because there is electrical wiring there, but there’s nothing electrical at the foot of his bed,” he continued. “So where are those readings coming from?”

The haunting

McCormick said he thinks he knows the source, based on a disturbing experience he had five years ago, while he, his wife, and their newborn son temporarily stayed in a room across from Jones, as their home was being remodeled.

“I woke up to a loud popping, like somebody lit a pack of little ladyfinger firecrackers close to my face,” McCormick said. “Turns out another guy, five rooms down, heard it. Four days later, we were out. I was upset because I’ve never really had anything bad happen here, like ‘Boo!’ Okay, I’ve seen some stuff move, I’ve purposely closed doors, and then I come back, and they’re opened again. But it’s always been stuff like that, nothing to scare me, so I was really upset by this.”

McCormick said he recently found out from his parents that throughout their 40-year ownership, five tenants died in the hotel. Another killed himself by jumping out of a window in the same room in which McCormick and his young family had stayed. During the first paranormal investigation of the hotel three weeks ago, McCormick and McCaffrey said they saw and took photos of blue orbs in that room.

In the attic, the team also recorded audio of what seemed to be the name Evelyn. McCormick said he asked his father, Ken, about a connection to that name.

On Friday, McCormick told the team that an Evelyn Epright lived behind the hotel in a home that was torn down in the mid-1960s. As they sat at a booth around a laptop computer, Orloff played back the recording, and McCormick’s jaw dropped when he heard the voice say, “Evelyn Epright.” He burst out of his seat and yelled, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

The team then played the recording several more times at various speeds. The voice clearly said “Evelyn,” then pronounced the same syllables and rhythm as Epright. Yet, other than once living next to the hotel, Evelyn Epright had no connection to it, the McCormicks said. But a Dorothy Epright was a waitress there in 1954, according to a city directory.

The hunting

Paranormal Diagnostics also recorded video in the hotel’s attic, from where footsteps often have been heard despite a lack of floor boards on which to walk. As a machine pumped smoke through a maze of laser lights, the team called out to an Evelyn Epright, as well as to the suspected children, asking them if they wanted to play and if they liked ice cream.

In the basement Saturday night, Shannon reluctantly agreed to participate in the third and latest investigation because “the spirits seem drawn to her,” her husband said. She said she saw someone suddenly poke their head out from behind McCaffrey, as he and her husband stood next to each other videotaping, the ghost hunter with a thermal imaging camera.

“Honey, did you just poke your head out behind Rob?” she asked.

“Uh, no,” her husband replied.

Shannon then bolted up the basement stairs in fright.

“I think it’s safe to say this place definitely is haunted, but by who or what, we don’t know,” McCaffrey said. “We’re going to compile all our evidence over the next couple of weeks and see what we can find out.”

When not busy busting ghosts, Paranormal Diagnostics Group lectures at local libraries and colleges. On Thursday, McCaffrey and Orloff will discuss and give a presentation about various investigations. The 11 a.m. event at the Bridgewater Township Library will focus on Revolutionary War sites and their history but also will demonstrate ghost-hunting equipment, McCaffrey said.

The ghost hunters also will visit Raritan Valley Community College in the North Branch section of Branchburg on May 20. For more information, emailparanormaldiagnostics@aol.com or like Paranormal Diagnostics Group on Facebook.

–Written Bob Makin on April 9, 2014

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Flirty Clip Friday #28

Or, I’m Sharing My Favorite Romantic Video Montages

I can’t stop thinking about Buffy and Angel, so here’s a beautiful video of their strife set to one of my fave songs. Enjoy!

Video created by DanaKirk

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Review of Texas Rain by Jodi Thomas

Or, Why More Subplots Aren’t Always Better

texas rain

The main romantic plot is great and worth reading. The writing is solid, the characters are layered, but the subplots just aren’t that interesting. Specifically, the subplots are snoozers. I skimmed A LOT of stuff that was just happening. It felt to me like the author padded a good romantic plot with a bunch of stuff because she had to make her word count, but if she’d cut all the subplots about pies and whores and kooky boarding house customers, the story would have made a fantastic novella.

My favorite part was the section where the hero and heroine open up to each other through letters, writing personal things they never would have said out loud to each other in person.

<3 Anna

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Review of Jennifer Echols’ Major Crush

Or, A Re-Reading Of One Of My All-Time Faves

major crush

Reading Major Crush, or reading it for the third time, is such an unexpected pleasure. It’s a sparkly, hilarious, witty, frothy YA delight from beginning to end.

Virginia has a lot of problems. Her best friend is in love with her. The boy she crushes on doesn’t know she exists. She’s not getting along with her dad. And she has to share being drum major of her high school band, even though she deserves to be the one-and-only girl in charge.

If you love funny, sweet, smart YA then you won’t go wrong with Major Crush. Or anything Jennifer Echols writes, to be honest.

<3 Anna

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Another Haunted House

Or, Photos From Rural Duplin County, NC

I adore old houses. The creepier the better. So when my daughter and I took a road trip through the back roads of North Carolina and spotted this home I had to stop and take pictures.
Carr Plantation 1790 5


Lucky for me, the current owner of the house (and descendant of the original owners) saw me snapping photos and ambled out of the auto parts store next door. He told me the rear of the home was built in 1790 by his ancestors the Carr Family. The original plantation went on for miles, but has been whittled down over the centuries.

Carr Plantation 1790 2


He assured me the interior is structurally sound, but the front roof leaked and damaged the side facing the road. Photos of the home have been featured in a book on the history of Duplin County.


grave tree 4


Not too far from the Carr Plantation House I found this extremely creepy family cemetery built around a giant, leafless tree. Naturally, I had to stop and take a closer look.

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A New 5-Star Review for Elixir

Or, Pretty Little Pages Reviewed The 1st Volume In The Red Plague Trilogy

You can visit the site here or read the review below.


  I cannot get enough of zombies stories lately, and Elixir delivered my next fix perfectly! Anna Abner penned a unique story that left me wanting more of this series. Her writing flows so well, and this story pulled me in immediately.

The characters in Elixir were a very dynamic bunch. Ben was my favorite one, because I was so intrigued by him. I’m dying to know what happens to him during the rest of this series! Maya is a great main character. I very much enjoyed following her journey and learning about her life and the world around her. Hunny did get annoying, though. At first, I thought she’d be endearing but she quickly got on my nerves.

The detail in this book is amazing. I’ve been all over North Carolina except the Raleigh-Durham area, but I still felt like I was there. I was never left wondering how, and what, things were happening because Anna Abner did an excellent job at keeping the reader informed and invested.

If you’re a fan of zombies books, I would recommend Elixir to you in a heartbeat. Fans of Tracey Ward and her kick-ass heroines will enjoy this quick and inviting read, too!

5 out of 5 stars


<3 Anna

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Divergent by Veronica Roth Book Review

Or, My Thoughts On An Exciting YA Novel


I enjoyed the story, which is very similar to the Hunger Games, and am looking forward to reading the next book in the series. I especially liked watching Tris’ development from a shy, weak little girl into a tough, independent young woman.

I felt like it fell apart a little at the end as suddenly the book, which had been about a girl discovering her inner strength and going through initiation trials, became a more political story. But overall, very fun and entertaining.

<3 Anna

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