Years ago, I watched an old cemetery caretaker locate occupied, unmarked graves using dowsing rods. George was a devout Christian, yet seemed to have no issues utilizing this bit of witchery to accomplish his tasks.
Last Wednesday, using the same technology, I conversed with some restless souls at old Baptist Cemetery in Hannibal.
It was ostensibly your standard haunted tour, with stops at various decaying structures and stories of “what happened one time” but I did NOT expect the tour to end this way.
It was hotter than Hades, with barely a breath of breeze stirring except when our tour trolley was in motion. There was the expected aforementioned stops and tour guide banter, but as the trolley struggled up the last hill to reach Old Baptist Cemetery, the energy changed. The evening cicadas sang and ancient headstones leaned drunkenly, if they stood at all. Years of obvious neglect had left it in a shambles, and the professional side of me cast a slight frown on the use of a cemetery for tourism, but all that vanished when the dead began to speak.
I got my pair of dowsing rods, grasping them as George had shown me years before, and cleared my mind of any expectation or anticipation.
Then they moved.
They aimed to my left so I turned and they straightened as I faced their desired direction. My footfalls were soft, deliberate as I followed each gentle swing of the rods. Finally, I found myself at a clump of shrubbery, with a jumble of headstones underneath.
The conversation was silent, all mental, with the rods speaking for the other side. If the tips touched, the answer was yes. If they didn’t move, it was no.
Is this where I’m supposed to be?
Are you buried here?
I wanted to take a picture of the stones, but it didn’t seem right to do so with asking.
May I take a picture of the headstones?
I moved some branches aside and snapped a few camera shots, including the one above.
I didn’t know what to ask next so I turned and started to see where to check out next.
The rods quickly swung around, pointing back to the headstones I just turned away from.
OK, I thought. Unfinished business.
We aren’t done visiting yet?
Is there something I can do for you?
I had a strange feeling coming about me… not necessarily sadness but more of gentle anger, if that makes sense.
Are you upset?
I wasn’t sure what to ask next. Then thought occurred:
Would you like me to say a prayer for you? (Now this goes against my heathen nature, but in days of old it was tradition to pray when visiting the graves of family.)
Are you a Christian?
I mustered out a prayer that this restless soul would find peace and rest in the next world.
I paused for a moment, thanked and bid farewell to this soul and turned to see if the rods would swing back that way.
I had a shorter experience at some toppled markers along the tree line. In short, I think they just wanted their presence known.
Now, as this experience unfolded, I had memory of visiting a palm reader and spiritualist a few years back. As she touched my hands, she yanked them back almost immediately, almost as if she had gotten an electric jolt from me.
She seemed very unsettled and surprised as she stammered out a question.
Have you had a lot of relatives die recently?
She continued “I see death all around you” and it obviously didn’t sit well with her.
I smiled. I told her that it was probably my job.
And with that, she relaxed. That makes sense, she said.
She went on to say that I had a unusually large number of spirits attached to me.
Now that surprised me.
She explained that they were attracted to me because of the kindness I had shown them.
She smiled. Yes. Don’t you realize that very often you are the last person to touch their physical form on Earth?
I guess that I had never thought about it, but it sort of made sense.
She closed her eyes. There’s one in particular right out front. A little boy, 8 or 9, maybe. Dark hair. He’s very close to you.
At that moment, I realized exactly who she was talking about. One of the worst funerals I ever had to do. A true heart breaker. A nine year old who died in a house fire. His service was so stressful that I had started smoking again because of it.
I asked her if there were any spirits attached that I needed to be concerned about. She said no. No evil or ill intent found among them.
As I stood in that cemetery, I decided that I would ask if she was right.
Are there spirits attached to me?
Is one a little boy named Brian?
Are there any spirits attached that I need to worry about?
At that point, the tour guide summoned us all to return to the bus. Others with me had some experiences just as interesting. If you find yourself in Hannibal, take the tour. Place your skepticism aside and take a walk through Old Baptist with an open mind. Ask questions that only you know the answer too.
My guess is that you’ll find the answers among the tombstones.