Kevin L. O'Brien

Beside the pleasure derived from acquired knowledge, there lurks in the mind of man . . .
an unsatisfactory longing for something beyond the present -- a striving toward regions yet unknown and unopened.
-- Humboldt

When Jeremiah Arkenton accepted the invitation to dinner from Jaim, January Ian Mariposa, he had not anticipated Méabh hÉireann being there. Nonetheless, once he saw her, he was prepared for her reaction: before Jaim had a chance to introduce them, she took Jeremiah in her arms and kissed him passionately.

Jaim stood to one side, with Bastet cradled in one arm, and watched the tableau with amused interest; Bastet simply purred. When Méabh finally came up for air, he observed, "I take it you two know each other." His voice was a cultured tenor with a hint of a British accent.

"Indeed we do," she confirmed in her sing-song contralto, patting Jeremiah affectionately on the side of his face. "What has it been, five, six years?"

His face its usual stony mask, Jeremiah replied in a robust baritone, "It was the year before Kathleen disappeared."

"And I am still waiting for you to give her up," Méabh countered sternly.

"Yes, well," Jaim intervened quickly, "if you two will follow me, I have appetizers and apéritifs in the parlor." And he headed down the hall from the foyer.

"After you," Méabh told Jeremiah, but as he passed she patted him on his buttocks.

These three people could not have been more different. Jeremiah was slightly taller than average, wiry and muscular despite just having entered his seventies. He was dressed casually in a dark-blue leisure suit and white turtleneck sweater. The aquiline features and steel-blue eyes of his lean face simply accentuated its marble impassiveness, which was only slightly offset by the unruly shock of wavy salt-and-pepper hair, now more salt than pepper. Yet it reflected his normally introverted, taciturn demeanor, which was now stronger since he lost his wife five years before.

Méabh was nearly a full head taller than him, but also more massive, with a generously endowed figure. Her shoulders and hips were wide, her arms and thighs well muscled, and her ample breasts and backside round, firm, and smooth, but her waist was narrow and she had a hard, flat stomach. She wore an exotic outfit consisting of a black velvet jacket and knee-length skirt, with black leather knee-high, high-heeled boots, a black bowler hat, and a white ascot secured with a gold pin. Her long oval face with its sharp features was more handsome than beautiful, but she had perfect skin the color of adobe mud and enchanting emerald green eyes. She wore her gold-tinted bronze hair long, straight, and loose, except for two braids that hung down her front from either side of her head. She exuded a powerful sexual magnetism that was only made stronger by the self-assurance she wore like a cloak, and her flamboyant, regal manner.

Their host Jaim was as tall as Méabh, but much thinner, even compared to Jeremiah. He wore a charcoal gray business suit, complete with vest and tie, decorated by an old fashioned gold pocket watch and a jeweled tie pin. He was distinguished looking, with a round face of soft features, short-cropped jet-black hair, and slate-gray eyes behind wire-rimmed glasses. By nature reserved and courteous, he was nonetheless fairly outgoing and gregarious. His companion Bastet was a small, short-haired black cat with liquid green-gold eyes.

Yet their friendship was abiding despite the squabbling.

Jaim settled his guests into the overstuffed leather chairs of his parlor and filled their glasses; Méabh took a glass of dry sherry and Jeremiah accepted a glass of the Madeira Jaim offered, while he poured a rosé vermouth for himself. Bastet took cream, naturally. Jeremiah then accepted a small plate of crackers and cheese, while Méabh took a bowl of nuts, Bastet a few bay shrimp, and Jaim served himself a plate of potato skins smothered in melted cheese and sour cream, sprinkled with bacon bits.

They made small talk for some minutes before Méabh finally said, "All right, Jaim, out with it; why did you invite us here tonight?"

"Do I need a reason to enjoy the company of two close friends?" he asked, playing at evasion.

Méabh smiled sarcastically. "You very rarely invite me anywhere, and you have never had the two of us together at the same time," she added, indicating Jeremiah, who said nothing.

Jaim gave them both a feline smile while Bastet purred. "Very well; I had not expected to keep it a secret for very long in any event. The Denver Psychical Research Society has asked me to oversee an experiment."

That piqued Jeremiah's interest, as Jaim knew it would. "What sort of experiment?"

"A sheep and goats experiment," Jaim replied.

Jeremiah nodded, but Méabh said, "I do not understand that reference."

"About twenty-five years ago," Jeremiah lectured, "a group of psychologists conducted a study of telepathy in which they tested a group of students who had expressed a belief in psychic powers on a questionnaire. The researchers used a group of students who stated that they did not believe as a control group, but the non-believers scored significantly below chance. When the researchers repeated the experiment, this time with a neutral group as the control, they confirmed that the non-believers, referred to as goats, scored below what was expected by chance, while the believers, called sheep, scored above. This is known as the 'sheep and goats phenomenon' in parapsychology."

Jaim added, "Based on this result, psychical researchers theorize that just as belief puts a subject in a frame of mind that is receptive to psychic stimuli, disbelief does the exact opposite. This has been used, and misused, by proponents of psychic powers to explain why experiments and demonstrations often fail in the presence of skeptics and debunkers. The CPRS wants to conduct a similar experiment, but with two major differences. They want a believer who has actually experienced paranormal phenomenon and a skeptic who is a hardheaded materialist, and they want to conduct the experiment in a haunted house."

"To what end?" Jeremiah pressed.

"To understand that, I need to explain a bit about the site of the experiment. Are either of you familiar with the Doherty House here in Cairnsford?"

Méabh gave him a quizzical look, but Jeremiah remarked, "I seem to remember Kathleen reading a story in The Denver Post about a house of that name."

Mostly for Méabh's benefit, Jaim explained, "The Dohertys were one of the Second Families that settled in Cairnsford after the Civil War. Liam Doherty was a first-generation Irish American who inherited frugal tendencies from his father, who had fled the Great Famine. He made his fortune by mining gold from Willow Whisper Creek canyon, but he also diversified into mining silver and lead from the surrounding mountains and building smelters around Lake Garthyme.

"He built the house in 1878, as a birthday present for his wife. In keeping with his penurious ways, he built it on land no one else wanted. Three generations lived, and died, there, before it was finally abandoned in the late forties. There were several attempts to occupy it by other parties, the latest being in the mid-seventies, but each time the new occupants soon left, so it has remained abandoned to this day. The city had plans to tear it down a few years ago, but the Colorado Historical Society managed to raise sufficient funds to buy and restore it, and now it stands as an historical monument.

"It has been notorious for apparitions, poltergeist activity, suicides, bizarre deaths, insanity, and disappearances for nearly eleven decades now, with manifestations still being reported by caretakers, tour guides, and visitors. As such, last year the Cairnsford Committee of Skeptics decided to investigate. They reported no unexplainable activity and have actively debunked the stories ever since.

"My involvement began when I suggested in a letter to their newsletter last month that the sheep and goats phenomenon could explain their lack of results. The director of the CPRS saw it and contacted me about conducting this experiment. What he proposed was to have three people spend one night in the house and see if they have different experiences. The predicted outcome, in his words, would be that the believer would see ghosts while the non-believer would not; the neutral person would determine which sightings are real based on whether he sees the same thing as the believer. I agreed only if I could choose the believer and non-believer, and conduct the experiment myself, to which they acceded."

"Sounds intriguing," Jeremiah evaluated, "but why us?"

"Three reasons. The first is that you two are not merely a believer and non-believer. Méabh has actually experienced paranormal and ghostly phenomena, whereas you will stop at nothing to find an explanation, even a paranormal one."

"The 'paranormal' is simply a term for natural phenomena that do not as yet have scientific explanations," Jeremiah told him.

"My point exactly," Jaim replied. "You will not simply deny the reality of a manifestation, but will try to understand it, even if you believe it has a natural rather than supernatural explanation."

"You do not believe in the supernatural?" Méabh asked Jeremiah. The tone of her voice suggested mild contempt for his lack of imagination.

"In fact, I do," he replied unexpectedly, "but I define 'supernatural' literally, as anything that is beyond the natural world. Natural phenomena operate according to various physiochemical laws and forces that can be understood through science, but there are a number of phenomena that act independently of these laws and forces, and so cannot be explained using naturalistic theories. These require new theories, based on a different set of non-naturalistic laws and forces, which may or may not be amenable to the scientific method. What I do not believe in is the so-called 'spirit world'; in that sense I am a strict materialist, though not a philosophical naturalist."

"So you do not believe there is a realm that transcends the material universe, a realm of spirit rather than of matter and energy?"

"No," he said firmly. "If it is truly transcendent, then it cannot interact with the material universe, and so cannot be investigated. If, on the other hand, it can interact then it should leave traces that we can investigate, at which point it becomes a material phenomenon rather than a spiritual one."

Looking at Jaim, she remarked sardonically, "You made a good choice with this one."

Jeremiah's only response was an arched eyebrow.

"You said there were two other reasons," she went on more evenly. "What are they?"

"One is that you are both highly knowledgeable and experienced; the other is that neither of you are easily frightened or panicked. That last is especially important, because there are aspects of this haunting that are possibly dangerous, which we can discuss over dinner."

"Who will the neutral party be?" Jeremiah asked, as they stood up.

"An investigator from the CPRS," Jaim replied as he opened the panel doors leading into the dining room.

"That doesn't strike me as a good choice," Jeremiah remarked, ever the empiricist.

"You may be right," Jaim conceded, "but she assured me she was without an opinion on the existence of ghosts, so we shall see. Besides, she was the concession I had to make on my side of the bargain."

The conversation turned to more mundane topics as Jaim served them the gourmet dinner he had prepared. Once they were seated, however, and had begun to eat, Méabh asked him to tell them the history of the haunting.

"The manifestations actually start in prehistory; the land the house is built on is taboo to the local Utes."

"Taboo?" Méabh asked before taking a sip of the Médoc claret Jaim served with dinner.

"You would use the term 'geis', but it means the same; the traditional term used by white ethnographers is 'bad medicine'. A shaman I spoke with some decades back explained that it was shunned because it was an abode of spirits so dangerous that only the most evil of skinwalkers would traffic with them, and even they were not entirely safe."

"I take it a shaman is something like a druid," Méabh interrupted, "but what is a skinwalker?"

"A skinwalker," Jaim explained, "is a Navaho term for a witch or shaman who traffics with evil spirits and violates the dead. In any event," he continued, "I have found accounts of local Ute legends that describe spectral lights and strange whispering voices, as well as a few disappearances. One tells of a warrior pursuing a skinwalker who had placed a curse on his wife for spurning him. The witch tried to call up the spirits to eliminate the warrior, but the latter sang of his love for his wife and what the skinwalker had done to her, and instead the spirits took the witch and cured his wife.

"Similar reports of ghost lights, disembodied voices, and vanishings persisted after the white man arrived, but with a twist: some of the prospectors and later settlers began telling of seeing apparitions, particularly a procession of mounted braves and maidens. One witness, a prospector named James Cohen, gave what is generally agreed to be the most detailed account. He was headed for the canyon when he was caught out in the open by a violent thunderstorm. Despite his superstitious fear, he made for the 'Indian burial ground' as it was mistakenly known then and sought shelter inside one of the dolmen."

"Wait a minute," Méabh interrupted again. "There were structures on that land?"

Jaim nodded. "No one knows what they looked like exactly, because there are no drawings or photographs, and most witnesses described them as piles of rock, but from the few more lucid descriptions, including that of Mr. Cohen, they bore a striking resemblance to dolmen and tumuli."

"What happened to them?" she pressed.

"Liam Doherty tore them down when he had the house built. It is rumored he used some of them as part of the construction."

Méabh lapsed into silence as she attacked her meat.

"Anyway, to get back to the story, despite being cold, wet, and miserable, Mr. Cohen managed to find a dry spot to sleep on and to build a small fire. He fell asleep after dusk, but awoke sometime around about midnight. His fire had died, but at first it looked as if the rain had stopped. Then he saw that beyond the 'burial ground' the storm still raged, but inside, around the dolmen it was clear. The first of the riders came by soon after that. For the next few hours he watched as mounted men and women filed past the opening of his dolmen. He described them as being dressed in robes and feathered headdresses, mounted on white horses, and all aglow with a soft iridescence in the moonlight. He was scared to death at first, but he was in the rear of the dolman, in full darkness, and none of the company gave any indication that they could see him, so after a short while he relaxed and watched them in awe. Then, as the last one came abreast of the opening, she stopped. She kept looking ahead for some moments, then turned her head and glared straight at him. She looked neither angry nor pleased, but when Mr. Cohen considered trying to speak to her, her eyes flashed and he fainted."

"They don't sound like Indians," Jeremiah remarked.

"No, not exactly, but after that night Mr. Cohen was never quite right again, so we cannot be sure his recollections are entirely accurate. He was found the next day, wandering in a daze. The people who found him gave him some bread to eat, but as soon as he swallowed it he fell into a coma. He lay unconscious in a makeshift hospital in Garthyme's Ford for three weeks, but finally revived. After that, he just sat around staring off into space with a slight, happy smile on his face, taking no interest in anything anymore. He took up residence in one of the saloons, where he worked at various odd jobs, but mostly he sat in the common room and told his story to anyone who would buy him a drink. He disappeared in 1875; the last anyone saw of him, he was walking towards the 'burial ground'.

"No strange phenomena were reported while the house was being built or for three years afterward, which led some locals to believe the ghosts had departed. Liam and his wife Maria had by then been married for five years and had four children, one conceived and born in the house itself. Then, starting in the third year, the youngest child caught some kind of wasting disease and died within three days. A year later the next oldest child died, and the following year the next oldest, until only the first-born, Robert, remained. During this time, the family and their friends and guests reported hearing footsteps, raps and tapping, voices, and other strange sounds. The friends and guests also saw ghost lights, but the family claimed to see actual apparitions, occasionally at the same time others saw the lights. The only other person who saw the apparitions was an exorcist, Monsignor Paul O'Malley, and he claimed they chased him out of the house.

"To protect his remaining child from whatever curse hung over the house, Liam sent Robert to boarding school, but while he was safe, the troubles continued. Maria's brother came for a visit; he fell down the stairs one night and died from a broken neck. In Liam's diary he confided that his brother-in-law had a look of stark terror on his face. Once, Robert brought home a friend from boarding school during a holiday break; he disappeared after three days. Liam's recently widowed younger sister came to stay; she soon began reporting that lovers visited her in the night, and she told how she would sometimes accompany them into their world. Over the years she grew increasingly insane, and while she lasted the longest of anyone -- she still lived in the house when the last of her family abandoned it -- she finally hung herself the year the city took possession.

"Maria started claiming she saw her dead children, abetted by her sister-in-law, and she too slipped slowly into madness, only she did not last as long. A couple of years after Robert returned home to stay, she drowned in her bath. There were no signs of violence, yet the coroner did not believe anyone could commit suicide that way, so his verdict was that she had had a stroke, even though there was no evidence of any brain hemorrhage. Yet she never really left the house, because she became the only apparition that anyone could see, family and strangers alike. Whenever someone is to die in the house, she appears in the main ground floor rooms, naked, her skin and hair soaked as if she had just stepped out of a bath. She makes no sounds, says no word, just touches the unfortunate on the shoulder and departs."

"A Bean Sí," Méabh remarked interestedly.

"Exactly," Jaim confirmed, "though the fascinating thing is, everyone can see her except the person fated to die. Her first official act was a year later, when Liam held a dinner party to celebrate making his son a partner in his business. She strode through the dining room, clear as day, visible to everyone except Liam, who did not even notice that his guests were staring off into space. That evening he caught the wasting disease that had killed his children and was dead in three days. Just before he died, however, he became delirious and started raving 'tek plawg, tek plawg', but while everyone heard him clearly, no one knew what he was saying."

"He was saying 'plague house' in ancient Irish," Méabh announced unexpectedly, "and based on what you have told us so far it seems an apt description."

"Did Liam Doherty know Old Irish?" Jeremiah asked.

"He gave no indication of it in life," Jaim confessed, "though he knew some contemporary Irish taught to him by his father. But that is just one of the many mysteries that surround the house. Another is that with Liam's death things seemed to settle down for a time. Except that Robert's paternal aunt still reported her visitations, there were no overt manifestations. Nonetheless, it is clear from Robert's diary that something was preying on his mind; there is a subtle, gradual, yet noticeable deterioration of his faculties over the years. Still, nothing physical happened until after he married a Cairnsford girl named Michelle. At that point the pattern of the first generation repeated itself. At first there was only poltergeist activity -- the rappings, footsteps, and voices -- as well as ghost lights. Then Robert started seeing apparitions, exactly like the ones he saw as a child. Interestingly, Michelle never saw them, but she began to be affected psychologically.

"They had a number of children, but after three years passed they started dying off, one a year starting with the youngest, until only the eldest was left; his name was Michael. As his father had done with him, Robert sent Michael to a boarding school to protect him. Meanwhile, other family members who tried to live in the house either committed suicide or died of bizarre accidents if they were from Michelle's side, or went insane if they were from Robert's side, though there were few of them left. As with Maria, Michelle started saying that she was visited by her dead children, and as before the resident aunt confirmed her belief. Robert finally shot his wife one evening while they were alone in the house. Though he was arrested, his connections kept him from being tried. When Michael turned sixteen, he volunteered into the army and fought in World War One. The same year he returned home Robert shot himself, on the anniversary of the date that he murdered Michelle.

"As before, the manifestations stopped with Robert's death, though the slow mental deterioration of the aunt continued and that of Michael began, but the whole cycle began again when Michael married. This time, however, Michael killed himself when the stock market crashed in 1929, leaving his wife, Carrie, to raise their only surviving son, William, alone. She was unable to send him away as his father and grandfather had been, but as before the physical manifestations mostly stopped with Michael's death, except for a few rare occasions. She was an exceptionally strong woman, and she held out against the influence of the house better than anyone before her, but as William grew older and less dependent upon her, she started retreating into a fantasy world. Like the aunt, she claimed that lovers visited her in the night, and that sometimes she visited them in their world. Unlike Michelle, she could see the apparitions when they appeared, though oddly enough William saw only vague misty glowing forms. He was accepted into West Point in 1936, graduated with honors, and fought heroically in World War Two, winning a number of citations and awards, including the Congressional Medal of Honor. When he left home, however, Carrie went into virtual seclusion. Almost no one saw her for seven years, and then she disappeared entirely in 1943, leaving the house to the aunt. William never returned home; he made the army his career and deeded the home to the aunt; he in turn never married and was killed in the Korean War.

"The aunt committed suicide in 1948, at which time the city seized the house in lieu of property taxes. It was sold at auction to a bank that then intended to rent it out to returning veterans and their families, but as soon as the first moved in the manifestations started again, the only difference being no one reported seeing apparitions other than ghost lights and, of course, the ghost of Maria Doherty. Yet the younger children would die, family members would have accidents, commit suicide, or go insane, and visitors sometimes disappeared. No one would stay in the house longer than five years, and one family left after only seventeen months. Ever since the last family abandoned it, there have been no further deaths or accidents, or reports of insanity, but people do still occasionally disappear. As I have already said, poltergeist activity still occurs, including ghost lights, but other than the banshee there are few reports of apparitions. I have, however, documented numerous emotional and psychological problems among the staff who work regularly in the house or on the grounds. Few people will remain employed for longer than a year, and of those who do, there is an increased chance of some form of emotional or nervous breakdown the longer they stay. And that is pretty much the history of the house."

By this time they had reached the dessert course. "What was the maiden name of the third wife, the one who could see taibhsí; Carrie I believe her name was?" Méabh asked around mouthfuls of Dutch apple pie à la mode.

"Speak English please," Jeremiah admonished her.

Giving him a mischievous grin, Méabh said, "Sorry, Jerry, that would be ghosts to you."

"I believe it was McGrath," Jaim replied. Then: "Do you have some insight on what has been happening there?"

Méabh grinned as she as she drained a large glass of mead in one gulp. "I have a couple of ideas," she said evasively.

"I have a few of my own," Jeremiah announced absently, as he sipped a glass of port. "But please explain exactly what the CPRS hopes to discover from this experiment?"

"The Skeptics witnessed no apparitions, not even ghost lights, and only heard a few tappings which they explained away as the house settling. The Society hopes to show that belief, and particularly strong belief at that, will influence one's experience. They hope Méabh will see apparitions while you will not, and they hope their member will see at least some of what Méabh sees, thereby demonstrating that they are real and not just illusions. They then plan to return with special equipment to record the apparitions and gather telemetry that will show some physical manifestation is taking place."

"Too bad one of the skeptics was not fated to die, or they could have seen Maria," Méabh remarked as she downed yet another full glass of mead.

"The experimental design seems reasonable in principle," Jeremiah evaluated, "provided this Society member is truly neutral. As a proper control she should counter Méabh's overactive imagination."

She gave Jeremiah a dirty look, but addressed Jaim instead. "By the way, what is her name, and when is this 'experiment' to take place?"

"Her name is Anna Regan, and we are to meet her at the Doherty House late tomorrow afternoon." Méabh smiled thinly at the information, but said nothing.

Méabh was, however, surprised by the appearance of Ms. Regan when she and the two men arrived at the house the next evening. She had expected a scholarly type, middle-aged, dumpy, homely, and frumpish, dressed even more conservatively than Jaim and with her hair bound into a severe bun behind her head. Instead, Anna was young and quite pretty, with a peaches-and-cream complexion, big, soft hazel eyes in a round face of diminutive features, and a billowing mane of caramel-colored hair. Though of above-average height, she had a slim, petite figure and incredibly long, athletic legs. She was dressed in the latest pantsuit style, with a scarf around her neck and platform shoes on her feet, and she wore earrings, bracelets, and a decorative ring on her right hand. Méabh felt an instinctive antagonism towards this woman, but then she felt the same about any woman better looking than herself. As such, she was able to affect friendliness as she shook her hand after Jaim introduce them.

For her part, Anna looked curiously askance at Méabh's attire. While the men were dressed no differently from the day before, Méabh wore a simple red velvet robe held closed by a matching rope belt, and she was barefoot. Her head was also bare, but her hair was secured with a band of silverish metal around her brow. More odd was her heavy neck-ring, open at the throat, made of braided gold with large red, uncut gems at the ends.

Méabh ignored her questioning gaze and turned her attention to the house instead. It was a simple two-story affair, with the second story inside the gabled roof. It was block-shaped, constructed from tan-colored bricks reinforced by a wooden frame, with slate roof tiles. Its front was dominated by a porch that ran its entire width; it was covered by an extension of the roof supported by six square pillars of solid stone. Méabh pointed them out to Jaim; "Those look like rough-cut blocks used in dolmen," she speculated.

"Quite possibly," he agreed after a moment's inspection, as he stroked Bastet absently.

"As a matter of fact, the historical society confirmed that they had been part of the original structures on this plot of land," Anna confirmed, in a bubbly soprano that made Méabh wince mentally.

"Were any more used in the construction?" she asked her.

"I believe some were used in the fireplace and mantle, and in the archways between the rooms on the main floor; oh, and the stairs are made from them as well."

"Is that significant?" Jaim asked.

"Most likely," Méabh replied, looking rather grave, but she would not elaborate further.

By this time Jeremiah had walked up onto the porch carrying a good-sized trunk. Anna eyed it curiously, then gave him an amused grin. "Planning on a long stay?" she asked rhetorically.

Her gloom lifting, Méabh cracked, "And men complain about women packing too much junk."

Jeremiah made no reply; he just stared at Anna with his usual granite expression. Anna found that scrutiny unnerving, and misinterpreting it, she said, "I'm sorry, Dr. Arkenton, I was only kidding."

"Call me Jeremiah," was all he said; his face showed no change.

"Jerry is the consummate scientist," Jaim explained; "sometimes I believe he feels naked without some instrument or other device in his hands."

Jeremiah betrayed no insult as he explained: "I brought along a few items to gather some tangible evidence we can show the Skeptics. It's highly unlikely that they will agree to participate in a new investigation without it."

"That's an excellent idea," Anna agreed, relieved.

"Come on, Jerry," Jaim said, "I will help you get set up." And he and Jeremiah went into the house, leaving the two women on the porch.

"Try not to let Jerry offend you," Méabh advised Anna.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to overreact, but I just felt like a bug in a bell jar."

"Everyone feels like that the first few times, but it is nothing personal. He reacts the same way to anyone, friend and stranger alike. Shall we go in?"

The entryway was narrow and short, and it terminated in a closet door. On either side, however, were arched entries, one leading left into the dining room and the opposite leading into what would have been a living room in a modern house. Each opening was framed by blocks and slabs of stone identical to the dolmen stones supporting the roof over the porch.

Jaim and Jeremiah were in the front room, finishing the setup. Anna looked the devices over and frowned. "I thought you agreed not to use any electronic equipment tonight. I don't want anything to interfere with any manifestations."

"You do not need to worry about that," Méabh said enigmatically.

"This equipment is all passive," Jaim explained. "These cameras --" he pointed to a tripod with three SLRs attached "-- are loaded with low-light, infrared, and ultraviolet sensitive film, respectively. This --" he indicated a parabolic dish attached to another tripod "-- is a highly sensitive microphone, capable of picking up sounds too soft for human ears. And this --" he picked up a device about the size of a pack of cigarettes with a dial on it "-- measures the strength of electromagnetic fields. If the manifestations are physical in any way, we should be able to record some form of visual, audio, or electrical evidence."

"I also have this," Jeremiah said without looking up from the cameras; he pulled another device from a jacket pocket and handed it to Jaim. It looked much like the electrical field meter, but it had what looked like a thick thermometer attached to it by a long wire.

"This is a thermocouple for measuring temperature," Jaim told Anna. "Many manifestations are accompanied by a significant drop in temperature. Jerry theorizes that the supernatural forces that produce them essentially reverse entropy by converting waste heat into useful work; this causes the drop in temperature."

"We'll have to calibrate the equipment before we can attempt to make any measurements," Jeremiah lectured, "but I want to wait until after dark before we do that. What we have isn't adequate for a proper investigation, but we should be able to collect some useful data."

"The purpose of this experiment isn't to get data," Anna objected, but Jaim interrupted with, "We understand, however, there is no reason not to try if we can."

"Jaim, can you give me a hand please?" Jeremiah asked him. "I want to put the cameras in this corner. With their wide angle lenses they should be able to cover the whole room." Jaim put Bastet on the floor and helped Jeremiah move a leather chair. The cat watched the activity for a few minutes, then dashed off into the dining area.

"Where's she going?" Anna asked. "I doubt she'll find any mice."

"She is probably doing some investigating of her own," Méabh replied, "though I doubt she would pass up a mouse if she found one. Let us get out of their way; show me the rest of the ground floor."


© 2006 Edward P. Berglund
"A Region Yet Unknown": © 2006 Kevin L. O'Brien. All rights reserved.
Graphics © 1998-2006 Erebus Graphic Design. All rights reserved. Email to: James V. Kracht.

Created: October 28, 2006