Sherri Brake's Blog

October 27, 2015

It's almost Halloween.....
“Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness—for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.”
—From “Spirits of the Dead” by Edgar Allan PoeI simply love Autumn. The cool nights, the crunching of leaves underfoot, the smell of a bonfire and the approaching night of Halloween! Did you know that many of our Halloween traditions had their beginning thousands of years ago?

Halloween had its beginnings in an ancient, pre-Christian Celtic festival of the dead. The Celtic peoples, who were once found all over Europe, divided the year by four major holidays. According to their calendar, the year began on a day corresponding to November 1st on our present calendar. The date marked the beginning of winter. Since they were pastoral people, it was a time when cattle and sheep had to be moved to closer pastures and all livestock had to be secured for the winter months. Crops were harvested and stored. The date marked both an ending and a beginning in an eternal cycle.
The festival observed at this time was called Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween). It was the biggest and most significant holiday of the Celtic year. The Celts believed that at the time of Samhain, more so than any other time of the year, the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living, because at Samhain the souls of those who had died during the year traveled into the otherworld. People gathered to sacrifice animals, fruits, and vegetables.

 They also lit bonfires in honor of the dead, to aid them on their journey, and to keep them away from the living. On that day all manner of beings were abroad: ghosts, fairies, and demons--all part of the dark and dread. Many feared this nights activities and hope to survive unscathed.
So here's to the best holiday of them all. HALLOWEEN!!!!

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on October 27, 2015 14:04

December 4, 2014


Lower Mystic Cemetery in Mystic, Connecticut

I first visited this cemetery back in April 2014. As a taphophile, a lover of cemeteries and all that is related, I had spied this one from the passenger seat as we sped past headed to the historic seaport town of Mystic. I told my husband that we were going to stop on the drive back to Groton...or else.

 I have a 'thing' for old cemeteries and I just KNEW this one had some interesting stones and maybe a mystery or two. After all, I had high hopes for a cemetery with "mystic" in its name!

I first saw the old stone well when I was strolling toward the center of the cemetery. It stood in a large area unmarked by trees, shrubs or headstones for that matter. It looked odd and a bit out of place. I mean, how often do you really see a big well like this in a cemetery?

 As I walked closer, I noticed that it had an old metal handle that looked as if it was still operable. Should I? I have seen PLENTY of horror movies when the innocent chick gets axed because she's more nosy then needed. The curious cat gets does that go? Oh yeah. Curiosity killed the cat.


I had to try the handle though. I couldn't help but look over my shoulder. It felt like I was on the movie set of "The Ring" or that old zombie film of all zombie films, "Night of the Living Dead"..

After my big adventure at the cemetery well, I continued my walk around. I saw many cracked headstones and markers with anchors carved on them. Since this area was on the coast, I knew I would find some burials of old fishermen, sailors and salty sea captains. The cemetery was well kept and I wish I could have spent more time. This cemetery had stories to be told. It's on my list of places to re visit the next time I am in Connecticut.

Hopefully when I crank the old stone well on my next adventure to Mystic, I will remain unscathed from any horror flick creature crawling up from the watery depths. The human imagination is a powerful tool, isn't it? My real hope is to catch the caretaker while he is tending to the grounds. I would LOVE to know the rest of the story!

 Would YOU crank the handle??
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on December 04, 2014 10:36

January 17, 2014

Here the dead sleep – the quiet dead.  No soundDisturbs them ever, and no storm dismays.Winter mid snow caresses the tired ground,And the wind roars about the woodland ways.Springtime and summer and red autumn pass,With leaf and bloom and pipe of wind and bird,And the old earth puts forth her tender grass,By them unfelt, unheeded and unheard.Our centuries to them are but as strokesIn the dim gaunt of some far-off chime.
                                                                           ~ Archibald Lampman

Cemeteries in the snow. Utter silence but for the crunching of the white snow underfoot.  I enjoy walking  through these silent cities of the dead. The snow lies upon various tombs and monuments adding a new dimension to the stauary's stance.

Walking in the stillness of an old cemetery gives you time to reflect on life as you gaze upon the many who passed before us.

Old stones lie tumbled and crooked with pieces missing 

In winter’s months when all is bareNo flowers to distract looking eyesWe see the gravestones wearing awayAnd the remainder of unfinished good-byes

New tree growth next to old stones can cause them to be buckled upward

President McKinley's Monument standing silently in guard over the cemetery

The mists swirl, the moon shines bright.No one dares stray here.They would never desire to,Unless the earth covers what they hold dear.

I watch as nature masks herself In flakes of snow that leap and twirlThey fall in endless chaosHiding her unveiled cruelty. The stones bear the weight of snow and ice

Graves covered in pure white snow as if a cloud from heaven had descended and shrouded the stones in a ethereal blanket.

Take time out to visit a cemetery in the early months of the new year. Walk gently, dress warmly and take a camera. (and something hot to drink!)
Until next time, Sherri 

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on January 17, 2014 14:32

December 15, 2013

As I sit here and look out the window at sleet falling and snow and ice on the ground, it is hard to think ahead to warm ghost hunting season. Of course, here at the haunted office, GHOSTS are always in season but to the average investigator, warmer weather is required. The older I get though, the more I can agree to that statement! Warmer weather, please!

There is ONE location here in West Virginia that I am anxuous to sink my teeth into. Pardon the vampire reference- but it gets my blood flowing when I have a new location plump for the

Carnegie Hall is located in Lewisburg West Virginia and was built in 1902 by steel baron and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie as a classroom building for the Lewisburg Female Institute, later the Greenbrier College for Women.                               Carnegie Hall, Lewisburg, WV
Carnegie Hall was incorporated in 1983 as a regional not-for-profit arts and education center. According to their website, the cultural center annually serves more than 75,000 patrons with live performances by outstanding companies and artists from around the world. One thing it neclgets to mention at the website is that they have visits from other dimensions. That's right! There are many a person who whisper of the odd events that happen on occasion. Poltergeist activity, shadow people and a few apparitions have been reported in the halls (and some of the rooms) of Carnegie Hall. It's no wonder as the entire town has a haunted history dating back to the Civil War era. remember those tried and true theories of imprinted energy and residual?
Lewsiburg was home to the Battle of Lewisburg which took place here. Going waaay back in history, Lewisburg was formally established in 1782 by an act of the Virginia General Assembly. uring the Civil War a number of engagements were fought in and around Lewisburg. Several of the present buildings in town were used as hospitals and barracks by both sides in the War Between the States. Bullet marks can still be seen in some today!  The Virginia Supreme Court library, which was located in Lewisburg and served as the Greenbrier County Library until 2008, was used as a hospital and has preserved a section of wall with soldiers' graffiti. Can you imagine? 
Up the road from Carnegie Hall is the Confederate Cemetery. A gray garbed soldier has been seen walking from the old Stone Church cemetery in town and up the hill past Carnegie Hall while he makes his way towards the Confederate cemetery. The old Stone Church Cemetery

The Confederate Cemetery

The entire town has stories to share of darker history and paranormal events- you just have to know who to ask. As usual, there are some folks who don't believe or think its a bunch of "hogwash". But then again, there are those who I have spoken to who believe and in hushed tones, have shared with me their experiences.
All in all, I am very excited at the prospects of having another Ghost Hunting class in Lewisburg thru the New River College. I am hopping it all works out schedule wise and that one evening this Spring, we will be packing our equipment into the hushed hallways of Carnegie Hall and ready for a night of investigating.Exit stage left.......
Stay tuned! For more info on Paranormal Classes: 

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on December 15, 2013 13:08

November 9, 2013

Here it is November and I am very glad to have survived the crazy season. Ask anyone who works in haunted houses, plans ghost hunts, has a job at a costume store or works at anything spooky and they will tell you this; we are glad its over!

October came to a close and with it some semblance of "quiet" arrived here at the haunted office. The last ghos thunt of the season is this Saturday November 16th and it will find me hosting a Death by Dessert Ghosthunt at the historic Ohio State Reformatory. I am very excited to be back on site there as it has been a couple of months since I have visited there. What an amazing place and what great staff and volunteers!

The Ohio State Reformatoryphoto by Sherri Brake

Many love the buildings architecture and find themselves drawn to the old reformatory in Mansfield for one reason or another. Me? I was hooked the first time I saw it! In my book "The Haunted History of the Ohio State Reformatory" I said it best in the foreword when I wrote "It was a rainy afternoon back in 1999 when I first laid eyes on it. I peered through the chain-link fence like a sugar-deprived kid in a candy store. There it stood, massive and monstrous, as if plucked from the very hills of Transylvania. I felt as if I had stepped onto the movie set of Bram Stoker’s Dracula as I glanced at the building. Giant stone walls, foreboding doors and massive turrets returned my stare. I had heard stories of this fortress, and now I was finally seeing it, albeit from a distance. I did not go inside the building, as it was closed that day, but I knew that one day I would be back and would venture inside its winding hallways. The building I fell in love with that day was the historic Ohio State Reformatory."

 I continued on  "One year later I returned, and did so with camera in hand, partaking of a normal daytime tour of the building. The tour guide on that day gave tidbits of history, gruesome stories of past prisoners and Hollywood movie trivia of films shot on site. It was an informative tour, and being the history lover that I am, I ate up every detail and factoid that I could. Little did I know that in a couple of years, I would be back and would be leading hundreds of ghost hunters on investigations throughout this castle-like building?   What draws people to visit the Ohio State Reformatory? It’s a compilation of various things, but it basically boils down to three: the grand architecture, the history and the ghost stories. I asked various tour guides what originally drew them to the reformatory to volunteer. One volunteer guide told me that the building picked her…she did not pick the building. That pretty much sums it up!"
Even though the busy season has passed and many of us ghost hunters have packed up the EMF meters and put away our cameras, we at Haunted Heartland Tours continue to study, research and plan for events and investigations in 2014. I have to say that we have some new offerings in 2014 and I am excited to announce them at our website at the end of December.
Stay tuned........
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on November 09, 2013 11:41

February 4, 2013

Yes, I measured snowfall with a bottle of Wild Turkey. Call me creative. :-)
 Besides, it's handy to have around for medicinal purposes...of course.
Yep. It's February and I am blogging for the first time in 2013.

 I am not the resolution type of person...I never have been. Sure, I'd like to lose weight, be a better wife and mom, find more haunted locations, blog more than I do, improve my work writing habits, spend more time discovering the roots of my family tree and solve world peace, but where do the hours fly to? If I could do ANYTHING this year it would be to figure out how to get more hours out of the day.

Snow days in the years of my childhood meant sitting around watching TV, reading a good book or sled riding. I LOVED ice skating when I was in my teens and couldn't wait to hit the local ice pond at the park. The snow days of the last few years seem to revolve around getting more work up on more work and if I am not working...I am THINKING about work. Aye, yi, yi! I thought as you got older you were supposed to slow down a bit?

Today was another snow day off from school for my son, Mason. There were 3 snow days last week and just yesterday I told my husband and son that I would love to go sled riding. We have about 10 inches of snow on the ground and everything is pristine, white and crisp. Did I go sledding? No. What did I do? I came into the office on a Sunday, worked a bit on the next book, organized my office a little and signed a few boxes of books for the next book event.

 Sigh....I looked out the window today at home and saw a huge hill calling my name while I wondered where my sleds were at.

Fog and snow on the hill Even though we have had massive amounts of snow this year, the cats seem to enjoy it. We have 5 outdoor cats and they all weather well. Please don't think they stay outside in the horrid temperature's. Perry has a lovely 8 car garage with a cat door. They have it made!  Petey I am looking forward to spring time this year as I never have before. The warmth of the breeze and the promise of warmer days, more sunshine and no more bone chilling nights with air so cold your nostrils stick together! It cannot get here fast enough.                                 The deer seem to not mind the snow
  With spring arriving I look at my haunted calendar for 2013. I cannot wait till my first overnight ghost hunt of the year! April 20th will find me haunting the halls of the West Virginia Pen in Moundsville. I cannot wait to see old familiar friends, the great staff at the Pen and my home sweet haunt!  The West Virginia Pen cover shot from my book "The Haunted History of the West Virginia Penitentiary" Today, the sky is gray and there is hardly any sunshine. One day this week, I am hoping to go find my sled and perhaps steal a few hours away from the work schedule. I hope to dig my heels into the snowy slope and perhaps fly as fast as I can on that plastic saucer sled that keeps calling my name. I hope you get time to steal a few hours as well and perhaps do something fun. Snow Angels anyone??    
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on February 04, 2013 09:20

December 12, 2012

Well, here we are again. Winter weather is here!
It's the end of another year, and perhaps the end of the world if we listen to some of the folks who believe it all comes to a grinding stop on December 21st.  I am of the belief that perhaps this will not be the dire event that some people believe it to be, but rather a bit of an awakening spiritual for many people. I think the sun will set on December 21st and will rise again on December 22nd and life will continue on. (hopefully!)
It's been a busy year. Even though I cut my schedule down quite a bit, it was still chaotic! The last book came out in January, there were book signings to attend, haunted events to put together, overnight ghosthunts to attend, kids to enjoy, a house to plan, a husband to supervise and all while working on yet another book. 
It seems as if research is never done. I love the research part of any project to the point that I believe I must have been a project manager in another life. (that would be sandwiched between my previous life as a country singer and my other past life as a Confederate soldier LOL)

  Research on book #5 (2014 Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum) will continue and I hope it will be out in late 2014. Before my favorite holiday of Halloween would be ideal! 
Book #4 should be out in a week or two...and will hopefully be a great resource for lovers of West Virginia hauntings and folklore. It is called "Fireside Folklore of West Virginia"

The new book will feature 24 chapters with each chapter focusing on old, and not so old, haunting's and folklore across the Mountain State. I was very happy to have Lisa Minney, owner and publisher of West Virginia's largest independent publication, write the foreward for the book. Thank you, Lisa and thank you Two-Lane Livin'!! To write a book is like giving birth. Cigars, anyone?

Power outages during the Franken -Storm
Halloween this year was very odd. Never before have I seen that much snow at one time!We had the effects of a Noreaster hit us while Hurricaine Sandys moisture added to the mix. All in all we had about 3 feet of snow in central West Virginia. The power was off for 8 days. What fun though! I DID miss hot water, but it was great to slow down a bit and enjoy life. Farm chores had to be done in daylight hours, house cleaning was minimal, and water to wash with was warmed on the woodstove. I read by oil lamp and flashlight at night. Kinda cool. On the down side of the storm, people lost homes, business roofs collapsed (8 here in Nicholas County WV) and food spoiled. Many people lost entire freezers and fridges full of food. Gas stations couldn't pump gas if they did not have electric and of course, that added to the chaos. We survived though!
Snow on the Swinging Bridge and broken trees

Website Updates!
Tour dates, festivals, conferences, and events that I am scheduling will be posted at my website this month   I have already listed the Ohio State Reformatory dates for 2013. They will go up for sale online on Saturday January 5th at noon. The Reformatory holds a warm spot in my heart...and always will. Strange how a building can "grab" you like that. One of the volunteers told me years ago that the building picked her...not the other way around, So true!
The Ohio State Reformatory

Mobile Phone update
Our website is now a more mobile friendly website with text that is much easier to read on smaller screens and a sleeker more simple design. Check it out on your smart phone at

As the month draws nearer to its end, I hope you have a great Christmas season and a wonderful, memory filled New Year!
Sherri Brake

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on December 12, 2012 11:04

March 1, 2012

It's March?


I just got done packing away the last of my Christmas wreaths last week.

Well, not really but has time flown by or what? May be that time went by so quickly as I had my little head buried in my new little book.

The new book
Me at the "haunted" office with the first of the books rolling in. Happy day!

It published December 31st 2011, and just in time for me to celebrate New Years Eve! Actually, it's not THAT little. 618 pages and a weight of 2.2 pounds make it's a tad bit bigger than my "Birds of West Virginia"  manual. Seriously was a labor of love. What is it with me and old prisons? My mom is starting to worry!

That would be me at the Pen in the "alamo" section of North Hall.
With all the hubub about 2012, polar shifts, planets aligning, and the Mayan calender, I think it'll be an interesting year for sure! How about you? I thought about planning an End of the World party on Friday December 21st and thought twice about it. Hey, why tempt fate?

So March is here and with it the arrival of spring is sure thing. Outdoor chores will start back up and oh....nice weather arrives and beckons me to explore some haunts and old cemeteries. Not that I don't mind checking out old buildings and cemeteries in sub zero weather but these bones are getting, dare I say it, old? If I can't have heated truck seats and a thermos of hot coffee, I may actually think twice about heading out anymore. HA!

Well, it felt good to stretch the typing fingers a bit today. Everyone keeps pestering me to blog more and I promise I will try harder!I've been a bit out of commission with bronchitis this past week and it put me behind. I'm ready to open up the widows, breathe deeply, and get outside to investigate haunted locations and spooky cemeteries. Just as long as I can sit on those heated truck seats and sip my coffee outta my favorite WV Pen travel mug. :-)
 Life is....haunted.
Now how about some suggestions for places to explore???
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on March 01, 2012 12:15

October 31, 2011

The end of October has arrived.

The air is crisp again. Green has turned to red and gold as the hand of autumn begins to make itself seen upon the mountains. Many leaves are scattered to the ground crunching underfoot as they are trod upon. Pumpkins are wearing faces. Black cats, scarecrows, ghosts and cornstalks stand watch in front yards. Halloween is here and I am ready.

The past month is a busy one for people like me. I often laugh and say October is like Christmas retail season around the haunted office. Many people call and email with spooky stories, unusual photographs and questions about the paranormal. This past month was filled with library presentations, book festivals, haunted cemetery walks and haunted history walks and I loved every minute of it!

[image error]
The 2 cemetery walks I held in Massillon Ohio in mid October went very well. One night we had a bit of rain but it did little to dampen the 60 some souls who attended on those 2 nights.I always enjoy the stroll by lantern light and cannot wait to go back next year!

Twilight in the Potters Field of Massillon Cemetery

The Civil War Memorial
We had several people who captured EVPS in the area of the soldiers memorial on our walk. The statue was unveiled in 1876 and is in honor of the fallen Vets.
The cemetery office building as seen on October 11th.  There are always questions asked about this structure. Is it vacant? How old is it? Is it haunted? Find out when you come and do the walk with us next year. (tease tease)I cannot wait to return to the cemetery in 2012!
The Haunted America presentation with the Tuscarawas County Public Library was a blast. 220 souls attended and I had a great time presenting this new slideshow on haunted locations across the nation. Lemp Mansion, Area 51, Salem, Mansfield Reformatory,Winchester Mansion, and the Trans Allegheny Luntatic Asylum to name a few. It was nice to see old friends and meet new ones as well. Very cool!

The West Virginia Book Festival was held in Charleston, WV at the Civic Center. This was a first time event for me and I enjoyed meeting all who stopped by our booth.

I enjoyed hearing the spooky tales people shared with me and hope to see you on one of our haunts!

I greatly enjoyed leading haunted history walks in Ohio and West Virginia this year. Hard to believe I have been doing this since 2003! The weather was good on the walks and many people brought cameras , tape recorders and camcorders as well.  Local Cleveland news and Metromix covered out walking tours in Canal Fulton. There were kind enough to send us some photos.

Signing some books on the Haunted History Walk of Canal Fulton Ohio

                                                    Instructing dowsing at the cemetery in Ohio

I was invited to film a show in Macedonia Ohio on Cable CHANNEL 9 called Teen Focus and had a great time. The hosts had wonderful questions and the entire program can be seen here
The hosts are local students and did a fantastic job!

                                                      MORE ON HALLOWEEN
Halloween is a holiday filled with mystery, ancient meanings and best of all....candy!I remember dressing up as a kid and try to carry the tradition on as much as I can every October... to the chagrin of my teenage kids. This year I dressed as a evil Catholic school girl.

Here are my kiddies a few years ago at a Halloween costume contest in Ohio. Mason is a spooky Confederate and Sage is the girl "thing" from the movie The Ring.  Needless to say, Sage took First Place!


MYSTERY & LOREThe origination of Halloween is veiled in mystery and lore. Halloween has its roots in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced: sow-in). As the festival of Beltaine (another Celtic festival) celebrates the return of lush vegetation to the earth, the birth of animals and the fullness of life, Samhain celebrates the end of these things. Samhain was and is the recognition of the other half of the eternal cycle of life. After the last harvest had been gathered in and before the onset of the harsh cold of winter the people of the Celtic lands marked this time with observations that have been carried forward into our own time and across the sea into the mountains of Appalachia.
It was at Samhain time when livestock was slaughtered and the meat was preserved for winter use. Even today, on family farms in America it is the first of November that marks the time after which hogs are slaughtered. It also marks the beginning of hunting season.

For many centuries throughout Celtic Europe it was believed that the souls of the dead returned at Samhain to visit their old homes and families. It was customary to welcome them in, to once again warm themselves by the hearth fire and share in the family meal. The family would prepare a meal consisting of traditional foods that were always eaten at Samhain for good luck. In Ireland this would have consisted of colcannon which is a mixture of potatoes and cabbage or kale, brown bread and porridge made from the grain harvest. A place was set at the table for each family member and visitor present as usual. But, at Samhain one more place was always laid. This was for the visiting spirits. The extra plate was filled with food just as those of the living participants in the feast. The meal shared with the spirits was known as the "dumb supper" and is still a part of both the European Celtic and Appalachian celebration of Halloween in many families.

Samhain was a natural time for the living to ask advice of the spirit world since the spirits were traveling about the earth at this time. Many customs and games came about as a result of attempts to divine the future with the help of the departed spirits. One old custom is to place two nuts in the embers of a fire, naming one after yourself and one after your sweetheart. If one of the nuts pops and jumps from the fire the match is ill fated. If both of the nuts stay near each other in the fire and burn to ashes, the match is true love. A custom that is still very common in Ireland today is to serve a special fruit cake called a barmbrack. Inside the cake there are charms such as a button for bachelorhood, a thimble for spinsterhood, a coin for wealth and a small horseshoe for good luck. Whoever gets one of the charms is destined for the next year to be blessed by whatever the charm signifies. Since Samhain is the beginning of the dark season of winter, the twilight time of the year, and the Celtic way of reckoning time begins with the onset of darkness, Samhain was considered in many regions of the Celtic world to be the true beginning of the year. Thus, whatever could be divined on this night was fated to be until Samhain came round again. The consuming of special foods for luck during the coming year was an important part of Samhain and later on was transferred to our modern custom of eating special foods on New Year's Day.

The true meaning of Samhain never has been based on Satan, evil spirits or wickedness in any form. In the modern western world, where infant mortality is low and death is confined largely to the sterile environment of hospitals, we have little exposure to the end of life. This was not so in the world of our remote ancestors nor even in the world of our grandparents. Humans have always had difficulty facing death and the Samhain traditions that have been passed down through the centuries were how the Celts did so. It is an affirmation that life and death walk hand in hand.

wanes and the dying light of the shorter days is brightened by the warm glowing fire in the hearth, let us remember the true spirit of Halloween. Let us remember and cherish those that have walked this earth before us.

                                                       Happy Samhain

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on October 31, 2011 14:10 • 69 views

October 7, 2011