Peach Norman Owen, Photographer
I had to go to Albion’s Riverside Cemetery for a class assignment. Naturally, I forgot about it until 10 p.m. the night before it was due. I dragged one of my best friend’s Leah along with me because, 1) She has a car, and 2) I didn’t want to go into a cemetery at night alone.
Getting out of her truck, I said, “If I see a woman dressed in 1800’s Victorian clothing, I am so out of here.” Leah responded, “Peach, if I see so much as a squirrel, I am out of here.”
We were only at Riverside a few minutes while I took photos of a few gravestones. Our time there was uneventful.
After I got back, I walked into my dorm room and my roommate’s TV turned on all by itself. I screamed, convinced that a ghost had followed me home. (Turns out Smart TVs can be triggered by other people turning their own TV on.)
Afraid of the dark, but not scared of ghosts, I dragged fellow Pleiad staff writer Evan Rieth and editors Kellie Brown and Jess Behrman to the cemetery with me. I wanted to see what they thought of the supernatural before and after a night at Riverside.
After arriving at Riverside, I sat down on my five-blanket pile as Evan laid out the two rules we needed to follow in the sub-freezing temperatures. First, no speaking of outside ghost sources or stories — he apparently did not like me bringing up Slenderman. Second, five consecutive minutes had to pass without speaking at some point during the night — I believe this may have been another pointed rule.
Our five minutes of silence was just that, silent. It was actually relaxing to listen to the cars on the nearby highway and the wind rustling the few leaves left in the trees.
We waited at the cemetery to see if anything exciting would happen, but it was all very dull. The most excitement we encountered was a few deer that sprung away from Evan’s sedan while he drove in.
This experience did not do much to change my mind about supernatural experiences. I am glad I got to go with such cool members of the Pleiad staff, as it was a great way to kick off the second part of this semester.
The spookiest thing? Evan’s mustache.
Evan Rieth, Staff Writer
I believe in ghosts. I see them everywhere. The ghost of who I was, staring back at me from a seventh-grade soccer photo. The flutter of wings in my periphery I always hope might be some long-lost Passenger pigeon, but is only a mourning dove.
I can’t walk in an old dairy barn, full of stanchions and decades-old dairy manure, without feeling, smelling, the many lives—human and bovine—who had walked in and out of the weathered, sliding doors. Chilling, yes.
To be fair, though, I’ve never seen a ghost. At least not in the classical sense of a dead person ethereally floating around to accomplish some deed they failed to make during their time on Earth. If this characterization of ghosts was true, I think there would be far more ghosts relegated to the aisles of the grocery store, searching for that obscure Indian curry spice their spouse sent them there to find decades earlier.
Also: Last week I could’ve sworn I baked six chocolate chip cookies. I only remember eating four of them. Where did they go? I know. Spooky.
Are there ghosts in Riverside Cemetery? I’m not sure, but if I find one I’m asking where my cookies went.
After the cemetery:
There are ghosts at Riverside. You could smell them: the musk of a skunk hung in the pre-frost night air. That skunk is probably getting ready to burrow down and hibernate for the winter, and this might be the last time, this fall, he lets those stink glands rip. We didn’t see the skunk, but his pungent essence lets us know he was here earlier, living and breathing, like all the people in their graves did once.
But most convincing, I saw ghosts with my own two eyes. Looking up at the celestial bodies suspended in the depthless darkness, I realized I was watching ghosts.
I found the Big Dipper, then the Little Dipper. Tracing my eyes down the handle of the bent ladle, I honed in on Polaris, the North Star. Astronomers tell us Polaris is somewhere between 323 and 423 light years away. Astronomers also tell us that we will continue to gaze at stars that are already dead, and some of the pinpricks of light that we see are just the last vestiges of a star’s fatal light.
Polaris could have died before the American Revolutionary War, and we wouldn’t be any the wiser.
Some stars are ghosts, ethereal, floating orbs of light that tell us when what we should do, and when we should do it.
For instance, modern-day biodynamic farmers and farmers of past centuries base their planting, cultivating and harvesting schedules off the patterns of the stars. Undoubtedly, some of the stars that were used were already dead, and those farmers had their agrarian decisions informed by ghosts. Spooky.
I still haven’t found my two missing cookies.
Kellie Brown, News Editor
I didn’t have a lot of expectations for my night at Riverside beyond being scared of the dark. I thought the four of us would sit around a cemetery for a little while in far too cold weather and want to go home shortly after.
I don’t believe in ghosts and don’t consider myself that much of a superstitious person. I am, however, terrified of horror movies and refuse to watch them because of jump scares. I also don’t like being out after dark because despite my lack of belief about ghost. I still cling to the superstitions I had as a child about being afraid of the dark.
Riverside Cemetery is beautiful but also very wide and open with a large forest behind it, and I thought that would make the experience a bit more disturbing to me because I’m naturally paranoid.
I visited Riverside before that night, and my phone went from 70 percent to five percent in under 20 minutes. Despite the cold and the fact that Riverside is pretty isolated, I firmly believe that the spirits in the cemetery were probably going to war over my soul — at least one of them must like me.
That experience left me disturbed at the thought of what could happen during our Riverside trip.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t frightened during our time at Riverside, like I expected to be. I felt more at peace there than I do walking around campus in the middle of the night.
When we arrived, the smell of skunk spray hit us. Evan insisted it was the presence of a spirit.
We put out blankets and sat under the moon for a few minutes in silence. Sitting in the dark imparted a somber, quiet atmosphere that let me take the assignment more seriously. It also gave me some time to reflect on the fact that Riverside is such a vast, impressive area. It imparted on me the gravity of sitting among so many fascinating lives lived since Albion was first founded.
I don’t think this experience changed my opinion about the supernatural. Perhaps if we had stayed there overnight, I might have felt more concerned about the presence of spirits at Riverside.
I think that if I had gone by myself, I would have found the experience much more disturbing, so I am glad that we were able to go together. I think our group had a great mix of people who did and didn’t have supernatural beliefs, and it made for a fun trip. Next stop? Bobbitt Hall.
Jessica Behrman, Features Editor
I am always up for an adventure, but when it comes to ghosts or the paranormal-type scare, I’ll take a hard pass. Unless, of course, it’s Scooby Doo.
Going out to a cemetery at night in the cold was not what I was planning on doing anytime soon. I’m usually in bed by 10 but I thought, why not? At least now I can check off “see gravestones in the moonlight” from my Halloween bucket list that I don’t have.
Grabbing a blanket to keep myself warm, I headed down to meet the rest of my ghost hunting crew. After scrabbling into the car we headed off to Riverside Cemetery. While Peach and Evan fought over whether eerie music would set the tone in our Mystery Machine, I pondered on the possible creatures we might run into. Ghost? Squirrel? Phantom? Deer? Masked Monster?
I’m not sure what I was expecting. Dark, looming, and sometimes moving, the shadows led way for a very realistic imagination to run wild through the dark hours of the night.
Gazing out the windows as Evan drove us down the paths of the cemetery in the Mystery Machine, I waited and watched. Movement! Oh, it’s just a deer.
As the Mystery Machine rolled to a stop, the gang climbed out to sit among the graves for a bit. The only light came from the moon and stars above, along with a flash here and there from Peach and Kellie’s cameras. The sounds of cars and a train traveled on the wind from nearby roads and tracks, but the crickets could still be heard.
I don’t believe in ghosts, or supernatural monsters, but I still didn’t go close to the trees. Their long limbs, broken in places, created a very unreliable shadow; one that I hoped didn’t hold a creature lurking within.
Both Peach and Kellie moved about, sitting in different places among the shadows, to get the full effect of the graveyard after dark. Peach, stationed on a pile of blankets, seemed to find the setting very peaceful. Kellie wandering back and forth, was trying to orientate what she had learned during her cemetery tour under a new lightning, taking in the fact that maybe the cemetery isn’t that much different in the dark. Evan, on the other hand, seemed to be watching the stars as if they were spinning a grand story, as he took in the sounds.
Watching my fellow ghost hunters as much as I observed the graveyard under moonlight convinced me of one thing: The ghosts weren’t coming out that night. It may have been Peach’s camera flash, the crunch of leaves under my boots or the smell of Evan’s Mystery Machine-esque sedan, but there was no eerie or suspicious feelings.
But then again, is there such a feeling someone gets in the presence of ghosts? Is there good or bad ghosts, or do they all fall under the ‘it depends’?
I’m still not sure about whether ghosts exist. I’m just glad none decided to make an appearance. All I can say is that in the Riverside Cemetery with the crisp cold air and cool moonlight glow, all you might run across is the memory of what used to be. It’s a very peaceful place to sit for awhile, but not one I would go to in the dark, unless you had a team of phantom pondering Pleiad writers in tow.