Audiocast #3 : Haunted Hikes in the National Parks

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Haunted Hikes

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In this third edition of the Park Remark audiocast, I have a phone conversation with Andrea Lankford who is the author of the book Haunted Hikes: Spine-Tingling Tales and Trails from North America's National Parks. Andrea and I have some fun covering some of the scary stories in her book. We also take a few minutes to cover the larger scope of these stories as they relate to cultural resource protection within the National Park Service. Our program starts with a reading from one of the stories in the book.

Anrdea's set up a website with a little more detail on the book, which can be found at HauntedHiker.com. If you'd like to "try before you buy", she has a number of excerpts that are worth checking into. And while you there, have a look at some of the additional photos she has gathered on her journeys around the country.

Transcript

[PROGRAM START]

Hi, I'm Jeremy Sullivan. Today I'm speaking with Andrea Lankford about her book called Haunted Hikes: Spine-Tingling Tales and Trails from North America's National Parks. This book's got it all, from ghosts, curses and hoaxes, to unsolved mysteries and paranormal events. Andrea's even found room to squeeze in some humor along the way. We'll start today's show with a short reading from the book, then we'll get into the interview.

April 26, 2007

[EXCERPT FROM BOOK, DISTRAUGHT PIANO PLAYS]

Sometime after midnight, the innkeeper heard her only guest pacing his room and talking loudly, "like a lawyer," to person or persons unknown. Then she heard a shot, a person fall heavily to the floor, and the words "O Lord!" Another shot rang out, and a few minutes later, Meriwether Lewis was scratching at her door. "O madam!" he called out. "Give me some water and heal my wounds." Terrified for her own life, Mrs. Grinder remained locked in her room. She heard Lewis crawling toward the kitchen and scraping the bottom of a barrel for water.

At dawn, Lewis's servants, who had been sleeping in the barn, found their master lying on the floor in his bedroom with a bullet wound to the chest and a piece of his forehead blown off.

[EXCERPT END, INTERVIEW START]

JERSU: Well, thanks for joining me today. I've got Andrea Lankford on the phone. She's a former National Park Service Ranger, and has performed firefighting, law enforcement and life saving wilderness medicine. She's the author of Haunted Hikes, which is her third book. Welcome Andrea!

ANDREA: Hi Jeremy! I love your website.

JERSU: Oh, well, thanks! Thanks! So, I've had a chance to read your book here, Haunted Hikes. I've got to tell you, I really enjoyed it. A few things that I've noted as I picked it up, for those who don't know about this book, it is kind of a combo. It is kind of half ghost stories and legend of the parks, and then half trail guide, which I thought was kind of a neat combo. It covers the entire park system, and really, at over 375 pages long, it's a pretty beefy book. I finished it just recently, and I got to tell you, I really enjoyed it.

ANDREA: Oh, I'm glad.

JERSU: Now, there are so many great stories in here, as you were putting this book together, did you get spooked? Did you experience anything kind of unusual during your writing of this?

ANDREA: You know, I didn't get spooked during the writing. But I definitely felt some compassion and empathy for some of the stories that are more tragic, like Floyd Collins, a caver that died in Mammoth Cave who they now say haunts the cave. I just really felt a lot of empathy for his ungodly death. So, that disturbed me and actually brought me to tears at times when I was writing it.

JERSU: Yeah, I know that story. I was a little bit familiar with the story of Floyd Collins before I had read your book, but I think actually your book provided a level of detail that I actually wasn't familiar with, with the story. Particularly sad, I thought, was that they kept his bones on display for a very long time. That's kinda sad.

ANDREA: Yeah, and actually that even ' To me, I extrapolated that into a metaphor, that here I was again telling his story for entertainment purposes, which it wasn't as simple as that. To me, just telling his story was a way of honoring what happened to him, or at least appreciating it. But, I did feel that conflict, of here I was again, exploiting his experience. It was kind of a powerful and not entirely pleasant experience for me, writing about Floyd.

JERSU: There was a story associated with Floyd, and kind of the ghost of Floyd, that I thought was fun. And that was years later a couple of Park Service folks, I think, were in a cavern near where Floyd had been stuck, I think, and, am I correct, there was a telephone that rang or something, is that right?

ANDREA: Yeah, those were scientists, and there used to be telephones that the ticket sellers would communicate back and forth to the tour guides. And these scientists were exploring a part of the cave which happens to be called the Grand Canyon room, of all places where Floyd's coffin used to be. Anyway, the phone rang, they picked it up and there was a strange gasp on the other end of the phone. And when the scientists followed the line back up to the top of the cave, the wires weren't attached to anything.

JERSU: Ooooooo.

ANDREA: So that's pretty spooky. My favorite Floyd story, because I like my whiskey and so did Floyd, was that rangers were in the cave and an old whiskey bottle apparently came out from a ledge, hovered for a moment, and then dropped right in front of them.

JERSU: [laughs] I don't know, I think at that point I would turn on my flashlight and make for the exit.

ANDREA: Sounds like a good plan.

JERSU: Well, let's see. As I read through the book, you've got a number of stories in here. I think the story that got me the most spooked, were the stories out of Harper's Ferry in West Virginia. A couple of government employees were staying in some old building and in the middle of the night one fellow woke up and saw his partner trying to hold up the wall, or something? Do you remember that story?

ANDREA: Yeah, these stories are well documented, and other writers did the research for that story. But yes, one government employee, it was a roommate situation, they were sharing a room. He wakes up in the middle of the night and his roommate is pushing on the wall as if the Hounds of Hell are trying to get in from the other side. He asked, 'what are you doing?' And the guy says, 'trying to keep the ghosts out!'. In that same building, there are many stories of people seeing a man in a brocade vest and a very stoic looking woman with a small child in period dress have appeared to more than one government employee in that same building.

JERSU: Whoa. I mean, even now, that sends chills up my spine. I mean, it's just ' you know, because these are people you would think, 'what good would there be in them lying about these stories?'. It sort of feels like there is some authenticity behind these stories.

ANDREA: Well, therein lies the inspiration for Haunted Hikes. I was a ranger for 12 years. Many night we'd be sitting around the campfire sipping on beers, and I'd hear other rangers tell stories of things that they had either experienced or another ranger had experienced. And like you said, I tend to be skeptical myself, but when someone you trust and respect tells you a story like this, it definitely causes you to pause.

JERSU: Yeah, for sure. One of the things that you and I had discussed in the email leading up to this interview, is where these stories should fit in the, sort of, overall framework of the Park Service. As you know, the Park Service has this mission to protect the cultural resources within their care. Do you think these stories have a place in that framework?

ANDREA: I do believe they have a place, obviously, I devoted a whole year to writing a book about it. I have sensed some controversy that there are, although most Park Service people were very helpful in my research, that some people don't see them as significant or even worthy of mentioning. But, I believe that this mythology is the same as Native American mythology, and is definitely of historical significance. Also, they are fun ways to get people to remember the history of the parks, and death is a part of the history of the National Parks. So, I think we should remember these things.

JERSU: Yeah, I think they are important, and you are right. I was a former park interpreter, and I think the stories connecting people with these places can be real powerful. And so, just as we celebrate the living, I think we can kind of learn something from these stories of tragedy and other things.

ANDREA: Absolutely, and that's why I also made this a trail guide, because I, you know, to go there and see these places where these things happened, it just makes that visit that much more rich. I'm the first one to get all googly-eyed over nature, but also just the history of the people who have been there before you. It's haunting of the place, both literally and figuratively.

JERSU: And some of these stories, some of them are recent - I think of a story at Lake Powell which is still an open investigation - and some of them are very, very old going back even before Europeans landed on the East Coast.

ANDREA: Absolutely. You have your Anasazi myth that go back to whether there were cannibals during that time, and you've got Galen Clark - who some believe is our nation's first park ranger - who heard a ghost when he hiked to Grouse Lake in Yosemite.

JERSU: So, Andrea, not only are your stories good, but I also enjoyed the descriptions of some of these hikes, including the trailhead report. Here's one at Redwood National Park in California. You describe the trailhead, and you say, 'be sure to remove all valuables from your car, this lot is haunted by vehicle break-ins.'

ANDREA: Yeah! It sure is. And while I was there doing my research, I had come into the parking lot and there is glass all over the place, and sure enough here comes the park ranger and they are investigating a car clout.

JERSU: Now, there are so many great stories in here, I wonder, is there room for a sequel?

ANDREA: There is tons of room for a sequel. I still get emails from people all over the country giving me leads for other stories that I missed in the first Haunted Hikes. And, I'm doing research ' I've just come back from Mojave National Preserve and came up with some good stories there that I'll probably write about sometime.

JERSU: Cool, cool. Well, so you've got a ton of good advice in here, and as I said, it is very entertaining, if not somewhat spine-tingling at times. I wanted to mention your website, or could you tell me what that website is so I make sure I don't get it wrong?

ANDERA: At HauntedHiker.com, you can read excerpts and you can contact me if you've got a good story that I have not heard about yet. And also there's lots of photos there that you can see of some of these places.

JERSU: And can they, can listeners order the book through your website?

ANDREA: You know, it's best to either go to your local bookstore or you can go to Amazon.com.

JERSU: Great, well I'll provide links on my website, and I'm sure you've got links on your website, and Andrea, it was a lot of fun to talk with you and as I said, I really enjoyed your book. And, thanks for your time today.

ANDREA: Yeah, you bet Jeremy. You are doing great work, keep it up.

JERSU: Will do!

[INTERVIEW END, CONCLUDING MUSIC PLAYS]

If you find yourself around a campfire this summer, you may want to pick up a copy of this book. You'll certainly learn some new stories about our National Parks, but what's more fun is that you'll get a good scare in the process. I'm Jeremy Sullivan, and I'll catch you next time on the Park Remark.

This has been show number 3

[PROGRAM END]

Comments

Enjoyed this interview.
I have read Andrea's book. It is very well researched and extremely well written. Each story captivates the imagination. For those who enjoy a night out in the parks, sleeping with one eye open, this book is a must read.