Are there ghosts among us?

Kyler Bland was getting her toddler son, Max, out of his car seat when he suddenly became hysterical. He screamed, sobbed and started throwing his tiny body in the opposite direction of the open car door. Bland was overwhelmed, having no idea what had sent her child into such a frantic state. She tried desperately to calm him down, asking him repeatedly what was wrong.

Then he lifted a small finger, pointed to the woods behind their house and shrieked, “HE’S COMING AT ME! THE MAN IS COMING AT ME. HE’S GETTING CLOSER AND HE’S ANGRY!”

Bland’s heart froze and she whipped around, ready to defend herself and her child.

But no one was there.

“I was terrified,” Bland said. “We were in the process of moving out of the house, but we moved that very day.”

Bland had always felt that the old Poultney house was haunted by a presence, but that was the first time it had ever felt sinister.

Kyler and Max Bland are not the only Vermonters to come in contact with a paranormal life form.

In Fair Haven, there are several buildings that are said to have ghosts lurking the hallways, or in Dave Nelson’s case, the theater. Nelson owns the Lloyd-Jacob’s House, a late 19thcentury brick building that has now been converted into apartments, housing mostly Castleton State College students. Nelson says that he has always felt an unexplained presence in the building, especially in the abandoned theater on the top floor.

“The first time I walked in, I felt it- this energy throughout the room,” he said.

Nelson said he loves bringing people up to the theater just to see how they react. They first must climb the enormously wide and creaky spiraled staircase to the theater entrance. Once they pass the old ticket booth and step square into the room, they are faced with a sense of awe. The old stage supports a dusty piano and a mannequin dressed in vintage clothing. The caramel colored wood floors were once a pride and the high ceilings are elegantly carved.

“When people enter this room, I love watching their faces. They either feel some kind of essence immediately, or they don’t notice at all.”

A few years back, when Nelson was first renovating the building, one of his construction workers had an encounter with some of the former residents of the Lloyd-Jacob’s house.  Jonathan Saw was working quietly by himself on the third floor, in the largest apartment in the building. He suddenly felt uneasy and turned around. To his gut-wrenching shock, there was a man sitting in a chair in the corner. Just sitting and looking at him. Saw closed his eyes and when he opened them again, both the man and the chair were nowhere to be found. Saw never stepped foot in the building again, Nelson said.

Just across the park from the Lloyd-Jacobs house is another residence that has had its fair share of ghostly experiences. The Marble Mansion, now a Bed and Breakfast owned by Sharon Parke, was built in 1867. The owner previous to Parke passed away in the Tea Room, and ever since, guests have reported strange phenomena.  One guest awoke in the middle of the night to see a man standing at the foot of her bed wearing a grey suit. Two children were once locked in a guestroom from the inside. The door would not open even after Parke had unlocked it with the room key. According to Parke, Kevin Durkee, a family friend and local businessman, was once in the basement of the mansion doing simple repairs. He heard footsteps and when he looked up he saw a young woman standing there. He asked her to leave; the area was off limits to guests. She ignored him and simply walked into another room. Durkee followed her, insisting that she leave. When he entered the room, she was no longer there. The room was dark and empty.

A few miles down the road in Castleon, students of Castleton State College have similar stories.

Katie Sault and Kyle Van Gelder are roommates on South Street, and both have had so many eerie encounters that they refuse to be home alone at night. They moved into the house in late August, and that’s when things began to change.

“Living there was like any crappy horror movie. As we started getting familiar with the house, weird things began to happen,” Van Gelder said.

The basement is what gives them the most trouble.

“The light switch is always going on and off and the lock on the outside of the door will be locked one minute and not the next,” Sault explained. “We got so freaked out that we duct taped the basement door closed.”

But the creepiest night in the off-campus house happened one night while Van Gelder was up late studying.

“It was 12:17 a.m. and I was rehearsing a presentation. I suddenly felt as though I was being watched. But the house was still. The feeling wouldn’t go away; even my biggest sweatshirt couldn’t get rid of the chills.”

Later that night, once in bed, Van Gelder thought he could hear a man’s voice over the sound of his radio. He turned off his music, hoping he had imagined the voice. But the voice continued to speak for several long seconds.

“Since then I find myself doing double takes over my shoulder or thinking I’ve heard voices. Feel free to send Ghost Busters my way!”

These students are not alone when it comes to their belief in the paranormal; according to a study done by CBS News, 48 percent of Americans believe in ghosts and 77 percent believe in some sort of afterlife presence —  be it a ghost, angel or spirit. And not only do people seem to believe in the paranormal, but the percentage of believers is increasing every year. One study done by Princeton University found that people between the ages of 18 and 26 are more likely to believe in ghosts, and that the idea of haunted houses is the most popular form of belief. In 1990 roughly 27 percent of college aged people believed in haunted houses. By 2001 that number had increased to 42 percent.

So why has the number jumped so dramatically?

Paranormal Expert William Roll, who has studied everything from ancient religions and cults to the science of death, says that there could be many reasons.

“There are so many drastic events happening in our world today; both tragedies and miracles. As we live through these events, we begin to open our minds to more possibilities. We accept the unexplainable,” Roll said. “Or maybe people are just watching more horror flicks. Who really knows.”

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