Friday, December 2, 2011

The Franklin Castle - Chapter 2

“The most exciting moment in any hunt for the supernatural is the buildup before arrival at the haunted site. At the starting point, the investigation is perfect where anything is possible.”
Sir Nolan Knight from his book The Royal Ghost Hunters Guide


“Geez, Dad, could you have gotten us a car that doesn’t stink?” Ashley Dunbar asked. “You spent long enough at the rental car lot.” She looked at the back of her father’s head.
Ashley pushed a button from the back seat. The gears groaned as the window slowly lowered. The stale air blew out, replaced by the smell of exhaust fumes from the cars in traffic near them and a fine mist produced by the unnatural dark rain clouds formed during their drive. The stained upholstery held a bouquet of old cigarette smoke and sweaty body odor with a layer of deodorant on top. The smell reminded Ashley of the inside of an old outdated motel on a little used road.
Darrin Dunbar sighed. “I take what I can get. The university is not paying for this trip. This car is an upgrade compared to the other cars on the lot. I’m afraid my daughter will have to rough it for the short ride to the investigation site.”
Ashley studied the residential neighborhood. The automobile passed by old homes, made up of large and stately as well as small box homes made up the strange part of town. Vibrant antique colors of road and brick offset by drab grays and whites of deteriorating structures. Everything about this town seemed different from her home, which consisted of new subdivisions, cookie cutter houses, and muted non-offensive colors, which popped up in every conceivable tract of open land.
Dr. Darrin Dunbar removed his Georgia Tech jacket while he steadied the steering wheel with his thighs. Ashley never saw her father wear any clothes other than freebies handed out to the faculty of the Psychology department. She wondered if he ever had to buy clothes anymore. Probably his underwear displayed the college logo.
“Are you aiming at every pothole on the road?” Ashley asked.
Her father peered into the rear view mirror, though at his own reflection, not at his daughter. He brushed a strand of dark brown hair out of his eyes. The traffic snarled with starts and stops not aided by traffic lights situated at every block. The professor wove in and out of lanes in the small four-wheeled torture chamber. Ashley laughed. She noted that it made the point clear his academic excellence did not translate to navigating bargain automobiles through city traffic.
“You’re going to kill us, you know,” Ashley said.
Her father remained focused on the road. He offered no response.
She continued through his silence, straining to think of conversation topics to break the silence. “You told me once that bumps in the road build character, I didn’t think that extended beyond metaphoric, but maybe you meant that,” she said. Ashley wanted to impress her father with her vocabulary, and expected a response.
The lack of response disappointed her.
The springs in the seat poked into Ashley’s behind while the vehicle trudged through potholes. A large rut in the road lifted her off the seat and banged her head on the sloped ceiling of the hatchback.
Dr. Dunbar switched the radio station several times until he arrived at a smooth jazz station.
“And it only took you fifteen minutes to find Cleveland’s version of elevator jazz,” Ashley said. “You’re getting slow.”
Her father shook his head and rolled his eyes. After a pause, Darrin focused on Ashley in the rear view mirror. “I’ve suspected for a longtime my daughter is high-maintenance, and this further proves it.”
Ashley turned her head toward the window and mumbled. “You’d have to spend at least five minutes with me to figure that out.”
In the front seat of the car sat her father’s research partner for investigations, Dr. Joyce Lyman. “What was that, young lady?” Dr. Lyman asked, as she turned in the front seat, she locked Ashley’s gaze with black eyes and hooked nose. A clinical psychiatrist, Dr. Lyman operated a private practice in Atlanta. Ashley despised her as she felt she treated everyone like a patient. Her demeanor appeared cold and judgmental, which happened in the absence of a soul, Ashley thought.
As Ashley’s father dragged her along on these investigations, Dr. Lyman came in tow with her son, Keith, junior to Ashley by a year. The two acted like siblings. Ashley experienced pangs of sympathy for the boy because she watched his mother treat him terribly, belittling him at every turn.
Four times a year, a team of researchers leaves their comfortable careers to assist Dr. Fran Rogers, head of the Physics Department at Georgia Tech University, in his study on paranormal events. Researching ghosts in non-technical language. Ashley accompanied her father for the first time on her fifth birthday nine years ago.
Ashley often pointed out despite all the degrees compiled by members of this team, they have yet to find a ghost, not once.
Dr. Rogers is a top expert in the subject of scientific paranormal research. At Georgia Tech, Dr. Fran, as he likes people to call him, teaches an experimental course called Parapsychology. His studies and research brought a scientific approach to the topic of supernatural and paranormal studies, and his critics suggest his conclusions are too scientific with no emotional elements.
Dr. Fran’s unofficial goal is to disprove anything supernatural exists. He refuses to acknowledge he is against the concept of paranormal as a reality, because that statement is an emotional conclusion and he only recognizes the scientific. Dr. Fran has not seen any scientific proof of supernatural events. For this reason, Dr. Fran’s reputation ranked high in the skeptical community, and his reputation allowed him to search for the most renowned hauntings.
Dr. Fran called his team Psi-Ence. The group covered all bases of paranormal research in the name of science in the form of multiple disciplines. One part of the team consisted of several scientists with high-tech equipment to study the site and the environment.
Another aspect of the group includes several psychics, which Ashley found funny because Dr. Fran thinks psychics are frauds. To back up his thesis a few years ago, he tested many psychics with simple controlled experiments, such as blindfold identification of playing cards. Not one psychic who advertised their professional services tested higher than non-psychic people off the street. Several friends referred a few individuals to Dr. Fran as potential psychics. These individuals were not professional mediums and did not advertise. They displayed an uncanny ability to predict the future and read minds. These people rated many standard deviations above normal guesses. Dr. Fran wrote his conclusions in several periodicals that these “higher than average people” do not read minds in actuality, see the future, or even talk to ghosts. His theory suggests they perceive the world differently by using different portions of their brains. Dr. Fran refers to these individuals as Perceptors and a part of his team.
Doctors Dunbar and Lyman offer psychological viewpoints to the experiments and events. Their running theory consists of two parts. The first is a psychological profile of people that have the need to see ghosts as a way of fulfilling a void in their lives that love or acceptance is absent. The second theory was the study of large rooms versus small rooms. Large rooms are more often perceived as haunted.
The only variance in the team is an occasional objective observer. These individuals bring no scientific expertise, only an honest and open viewpoint. The goal of any Psi-Ence investigation is to gather as much evidence, which can consist of scientific, psychic, and personal experience. From this point, every experience must have corroborating evidence.
To keep the experiment objective, Dr. Fran made all travel arrangements in secret to eliminate the risk of any research performed ahead of time. This morning, the team arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta at ten o’clock. The associates only knew the travels were limited to the United States, as the trip required no passport. Upon arrival at the airport, they discovered the destination as Cleveland.
“So, do you know anything about where we’re going?” Dr. Lyman asked Dr. Dunbar.
“I don’t,” he said. “All I’m aware of is Dr. Fran is excited about this one.”
“Why is he excited?” Ashley asked.
No one in the car made a sound.
“Dad,” she asked again. “What is so different about this one?”
“You know I don’t know,” he said along with a snort.
“I hope we at least have a TV, this is usually boring,” Ashley said. “Unless we should actually see a ghost on this ghost hunt. I don’t think I’d know what to do if we saw a ghost.”
“There are no such things as ghosts,” Dr. Lyman snapped.
“Then why do you spend so much time investigating them?” Ashley asked.
Dr. Lyman sighed. “So we can disprove these silly notions people have about ghosts.”
“You don’t think this house may actually be haunted?” Keith asked in a hushed voice.
His mother shook her head in the front seat while there was silence in the car.
“I remember on our last gig, the scientists were excited when the temperature dropped two degrees,” Ashley said
“That was a big deal,” her Dad said. “At least, to them.” Ashley noticed the inevitable qualification to someone else’s observations in their answers.
“It was night, it gets colder at night, of course,” Dr. Lyman said. “That hardly proves anything.”
 “To think we came all this way to see the temperature change,” Ashley said.
The car jerked to a right turn on Franklin Boulevard. Less than a block on the road, the lead car in the caravan slowed before it turned left into a driveway. The remaining cars followed.
An iron gate opened to allow the vehicles in.

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