By Josette Keelor --firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Stacey Graham's book, "The Girls' Ghost Hunting Guide," has been a long time in coming for the Clarke County resident who, in between writing and editing projects, has spent the last 20 years researching strange phenomena around the region.
It all started when she wrote a college paper about paranormal activity, she said.
"I'm pretty skeptical, so I wanted to find out more," she said. "And everybody has a ghost story."
Since then, the mother of five girls has expanded her list of interests to include humor writing in multiple themes. Over at her website AnArmyofErmas.com, she and other writers emulate the style of humor novelist Erma Bombeck. In recent years Graham has focused much energy in the zombie arena, publishing short stories and even inventing Zombie Tarot cards, which made this year's L.A. Times Summer Reading Guide.
But, like heeding the call of mysteries undiscovered, she always returns to the ghosts.
For as long as she's been hunting ghosts, she said, she's never experienced anything like Hollywood films so often suggest. Once part of the D.C. Metro Area Ghost Hunters, Graham has performed investigations around Virginia, Maryland and in Gettysburg, Pa., but mostly what she has encountered from haunted structures is proof of something remaining long after death.
In July she led an investigation at Paxton Manor in Leesburg, "And we had a great time," she said. "We took 13 new ghost hunters along," a number that might have been coincidental but was fitting, considering it happened on Friday the 13th.
"That's where I had my most physical sensations," Graham said. "I don't use fancy equipment. ... I don't think it's necessary." Usually during ghostly encounters, she'll feel invisible hands brushing against her hair or hear heavy breathing.
At Paxton Manor, she felt a cold spot moving up a hall, but when she chased it into a room, a door slammed in her face. She opened the door, but the cold spot was gone, she said.
"In 20 years I've never been harmed," she said. "I frankly don't believe in bad spirits."
"I think people are more inclined to get scared and run into something and get harmed."
Graham focuses on private homes mainly, but she would like to begin exploring more historic homes.
In her book she explains theories for spirits remaining on Earth. It's possible they want to warn of danger or to avenge a wrong, she said. But not likely.
"I think a lot of them are just confused," said Graham. "They don't know they're dead."
"It's one of those mysteries, and it's what we're trying to find out."
On Oct. 27, she plans to talk about ghost hunting at Abram's Delight in Winchester, which she said is reported to be haunted.
She'll also be at the Bluemont Fair next Saturday and Sunday to sign copies of "The Girls' Ghost Hunting Guide" and boxes of Zombie Tarot cards.
"It's an absolutely workable Tarot deck," Graham said. "It doesn't take itself too seriously. It's fun for the beginner and for the more experienced Tarot readers."
"The Girls' Ghost Hunting Guide" is Graham's first book about ghosts, but the mother of five girls already has left a trail of literary breadcrumbs for fans to follow.
Currently Graham is composing an anthology of short ghost stories that take place on or near the sea, and she's accepting seaworthy stories by interested writers.
As for the future, she plans to begin work on "Wee Beasties," a monster-hunting guide for boys, "focusing on different beasts around the world and how to capture them using a monster mug shot," she said.
She said "Wee Beasties" can complement "The Girls' Ghost Hunting Guide," which she said can entertain anyone, even though it's directed at girls.
"It's also a great sleepover book," Graham said. There's a section on how to write a ghost story and how to design a logo for your own paranormal investigative team.
"It's great information for boys, girls, adults," Graham said. "It encourages curiosity by doing it in a safe manner."
Some other advice she has for young ghost hunters is to bring along a parent.
"I think that you always need to be careful like you would anywhere else," Graham said. "Always have an exit plan."
Also, "Always double-check your sources," she said. But most of all, don't freak out.
"I want these kids to use some deductive reasoning and experiment a little bit," she said. "It's a big world."
Stacey Graham will be at the Bluemont Fair on Sept. 15 and 16 signing copies of "The Girls' Ghost Hunting Guide." For more information, visit http://bluemontfair.com. Her book also can be unearthed at Amazon.com. For more information, visit staceyigraham.com or www.girlsghosthuntingguide.com.