I am not an easy sell. Although I am quite convinced that spirits are among us, whether we can always perceive them or not, I still roam this plane with a solid and healthy sense of skepticism. Along with my skepticism comes some degree of psychic ability, especially clairaudio and (as you will see) something called "radiosentesis" which means the ability to feel the emotions of the dead at a particular location, linked to an event.
I've had a few instances of what I call real connection with the dead, but what I am about to relay to you was so profound and powerful that it changed my view on the afterlife, forever.
Last spring, my wife and I decided to make good on a long time desire - to go on a "ghost hunt" with a local paranormal research group here in Salt Lake City. The hunt started with a couple of orientation classes at a local High School (Taylorsville High, for any Salt Lakers who might know of the place) and then in three subsequent weeks we would be off to our various investigation stops around the area.
When we first walked into the school, we entered from the West side, and I was smacked dead in the face with such a bone chilling, foreboding cold that I immediately wondered if the school's air conditioning system was raging out of control. We continued on to the east side of the school where the class was first to meet.
The teacher was also the director of the paranormal group leading this foray. He informed us that in three weeks, the last stop of the investigation would be the very school we were in, because back in 2001 this very school was the sight of a tragic student suicide. He wouldn't give us any details past that, but said the school had reported quite a few incidents of ghostly activity which definitely pointed to the continued presence of the dead student.
He suggested to us that we use our acquired skills from the earlier site investigations to help us in learning about this suicide, and any presences we felt at the school. He wouldn't tell us the student's gender, name, or where the student killed themselves in the school. That was up to us to "feel" in the final trek of the class.
We proceeded to the various haunting sites, but I just couldn't shake the story of this poor student, who I definitely got the impression was a male. Over the days, it mounted an increasing pressure on my mind and heart. It invaded my dreams. I would be working on something and suddenly be overcome with this intense, near suffocating dread and regret that often forced me to get up and take a walk or run an errand to try and expel it from my thoughts.
It culminated in a sudden breakdown of some kind, where I just exploded into a crying fit, unable to catch my breath. I talked to my wife, who is a licensed counselor, about it and she said that I should not push it completely away but try to put up some boundaries in order to protect myself.
At the end of the class, we were unfortunately unable to attend the search for the Taylorsville High ghost. But to be honest, I was a bit relieved because this poor soul had been haunting me since the class began.
The internet is a wonderful thing, and would have been very easy to use and "cheat" on the instructors challenge for us to learn what we could about the school ghost by using our senses alone. I resisted that temptation, until it became clear we couldn't do school investigation. About two weeks after the class ended, I got online and started digging into the Taylorsville suicide.
And there it was. On October 21st, 2001, Edward "Rusty" Riddle, a student at Taylorsville High, reportedly despondent over a recent breakup with his girlfriend, shot himself in the head in the school hallway of the West Wing - exactly where I first walked into the school and felt that icy, deathly chill that ran the length of the hall.
Immediately that awful set of feelings flooded me again, but this time with such clarity. It was like Rusty was conveying to me that he was still around, confused, angry and profoundly regretful of what he had done to himself and his family. I didn't see anything, I didn't hear anything, it was as if the entirety of his emotions were bound into a large ball and that suddenly settled over me, connecting completely with my heart and mind in an attempt to cry out to someone...anyone...who would listen and feel what he did.
That wasn't the end of events. Several weeks later, I felt I was getting some peace again. I was communicating in my own way with Rusty, to let him know that regret is a hellish prison which should never keep his poor tortured soul attached to that school. I was out one night and wanted to pick up some dinner through a drive thru, to take home.
I pulled into the Sconecutter on 5430 South and 900 East and ordered through the drive up window. While I was waiting, and processing all these events to make some sort of end to it, my gaze wandered over the bricks on the outside of the building by the pay window. And there I saw it. Engraved in one of the bricks, like one does when the bricks are not yet hardened, was the date 10/21. The date of Rusty's death.
I just about passed out.
Now, it's easy to shrug and claim grand coincidence. But seriously, what are the chances? What are the chances I'd feel that icy chill in the exact spot of his death? That I would be picking up some dinner at a fast food joint and see the date of his death etched into the outside wall? No, as skeptical as I am, today I stand forever convinced that Rusty's emotions, his "voice" reached out and connected with me across a great divide. He not only touched me in a way that no one else has, but taught me that who we are and what we feel can stay around long after we are gone. Especially if we are hurting because we are "stuck".
I still silently pray for Rusty. He was so angrily imprisoned by his own regret. I can only hope that now, or soon, he will be released from that awful burden.