Posts from the ‘Realism’ Category

Movies and Television: Artistic Liberty over Reality

Movies and television programs are always fun to watch and are great diversions, but they are never to be taken seriously. This is likely due to the fact that such fare intends foremost to entertain. In this context, then, artistic liberty takes precedence, even when the content claims to promote a sense of realism. Audiences, especially professional researchers, must always remember that point. Unless the research conducted pertains to entertainment, movies and television are not reliable resources for factual information.

That’s not to say that such media offer no valuable insight worthy of intellectual consideration. Frasier was a long-running television series known for its high-brow content dealing with real life issues and personal growth; yet it should be noted that the show was a comedy written and produced to entertain above all else. Viewers are wise not to depend on the show as an authority on psychiatry or to promote therapeutic treatment, though the insights shared do offer watchers an opportunity for personal reflection. Still, everyone should remember that this example serves as a means of artistic expression, not a professional or academic contribution to the behavioral sciences.

As for full-length features, films depicting historical events do not guarantee complete factually based content. The Titanic (one of my specialties, as my readers already know) is an ideal example. The actual event caught the world by storm in April of 1912. Over time, the ship and its story would achieve the status of legend. As a result, the tragedy has inspired no fewer than eight different cinematic incarnations, none of them conveying the reality to a point of indisputability. Yes, many aspects still remain unknown, spurring off personal interpretations that play a role in story progression. This is one reason why movies offer nothing beyond face value. Where gaps or uncertainties exist, filmmakers take artistic liberties for dramatic effect. This is even the case with established specifics (i.e. facts); filmmakers quite often initiate changes in certain details to enhance plot elements, such as suspense and intrigue. Numbers and rating are priority, not scholarly advancement.

Some argue that filmmakers, like James Cameron, conduct research for their historical pieces like Titanic. That is true, but Cameron’s purpose first and foremost is financial, as his films require a substantial return on the initial investment put into production, such as set creation, computer graphics and, of course, performer compensation. If this return is not met, the company loses money.

One must consider also the fictional aspects involved. The central characters of Jack and Rose in Titanic are a great example. Neither of these individuals ever existed, nor were they on board the Titanic. Creating fictional characters in their own fictional story allowed Cameron the means to spread his artistic wings and build suspense and drama as he saw fit, including the impossibility of a romance between a first-class and third-class passenger. Adolescents and young adults between 13 and 30 comprised the bulk of Cameron’s target audience, and so he needed to appeal to the idealism of those in this age range in order to draw them into the story. In doing so, he ensured the movie’s popularity, its eleven subsequent academy awards and the ongoing financial returns. The fiction of the project made this happen, not the reality of the actual event that had inspired it. Since Cameron foresaw this, his sense of artistic liberty superseded the research he conducted. His research served only to create a sense of realism without adhering to all the facts involved.

Other film genres are the same way. One common instance can be seen in science fiction. Futuristic movies that show explosions in space negate the fact that such fiery cataclysms require oxygen, which is not present in the vacuum of space. Therefore, such ignitions would be impossible. Yet the excitement that such an effect generates draws in paying audiences. Time travel movies as well offer cleanly knit plotlines where characters travel back into time to explore or right a wrong. This condition creates a paradox whereby a problem still exists even though the character(s) had eventually gone back to correct it. Movies like Back to the Future, Austin Powers and Star Trek First Contact are popular regardless of the holes and the answered questions that such holes generate. They do not correspond to the principles of Physics, but instead what sounds convincing to progress the plot twists or showcase the ‘glitz’ of future technological innovations. Despite their innovative cinematic conceptualizations, these films are meant to be nothing but escapist fare, although they do drive viewers to ponder the question: “What if . . .?”

The ironic twist behind such visuals is that they captivate the minds and imaginations of the audience. That quality serves as a double-edged sword, meaning that such effects intend to make the story compelling, yet attempt to convince the viewers that what they are experiencing is somehow palpable and genuine. This is where the role of the spectator emerges with regard to the characters and story.

That is not to say that movies and television can not or do not serve a viable role in the research process, as they do offer inspiration with regard to creating visual and auditory dimensions to the subject being researched; these depictions are assimilated into the greater body of research to assume the status of pieces to a larger puzzle, as long as they are utilized appropriately and only to the extent needed. No compilation of research on the Titanic would be complete without the many cinematic representations of the tragedy; something vital would be missing from the whole in their absence.

One exception to all of this is documentaries. These projects offer a well-concentrated focus on information pertaining to a particular subject of interest. After all, one of their purposes is to take enthusiasts on a journey of exploration by discussing any and all current information. Still, documentaries are not totally removed from the influence of the numbers; rating ensures broadcast and/or DVD sale priority, which comes before scientific promotion. Moreover, documentaries often reflect the perspective and/or agenda of the filmmakers, even when including expert or witness testimony.

Researchers must maintain a sense of objectivity when assessing movies or television shows and what they intend to do. These presentations are what they are and do have their place. As long as researchers are cognizant of this, they will be able to use such resources efficaciously.

Still, in the end, there is a compromise. The dichotomy between cinematic purview and research must always remained balanced, as should the conciliatory relationship between artistic license and realism. The tasks of justification and responsibility fall equally on both the researcher and the filmmaker.

Mysteries of Lambertville: Putting Research and Influence into Writing

Urban Legends: Real or Unreal?

Urban legends, such as those created and maintained through stories of Lambertville High School, are always assumed to be just that, with no basis of reality, at least not in the major sense with all of the ghost stories prevalent throughout history and the various cultures of the world; most of these stories are believed to be figments of the imagination or tales conjured up through pranksters or hearsay or those weird inexplicable phenomena witnessed by people who find no logical source but that are, again, assumed to have a rational explanation.

Still, with all of the accounts that continue to emerge and be passed along throughout time and space by people from all walks of life—those of imaginative capacity and those who are “respectably level-headed,” as the learned and prominent in society—not all urban legends can be untrue or non-factual, can they? What if some of these urban legends were based on some actual truth in reality? After all, many encounters have been investigated and still remain unexplained. Some even have scores of witnesses.

Such a case would be Columbine High School. The dreadful event took place on 20 April, 1999, almost eleven years ago. Two disturbed high school students burst into the school library and murdered several students in cold blood. Some bodies were even tossed out the windows for terrified onlookers to see. No one ever believed that such a situation could happen, until it did—more than once.

Virginia Tech, even more recently (17 April, 2007), echoed that long-ago scenario, and it occurred in another part of the country (the former in Colorado; the latter in Virginia, farther east). A troubled Asian student burst into a hall while classes were in session and open fired, killing many, this time including instructors.

Both events and others like them have left lingering nightmares in the minds of those who witnessed them or knew those involved—effects that will likely last a lifetime. The country, as a nation, will never forget these horrible scenes and the lives lost. Such indelible impressions have shaken a nation and scarred its conscious so deeply that no one will escape the damage incurred.

As far as haunts go, however, Columbine has already begun manifesting the paranormal residue of its own story based in reality. Accounts reported by both students and teachers attest to feelings of being watched, oppressing pain and apprehension, voices and screaming throughout the school (but especially near the library), orbs and even sightings of mysterious figures. Could this be a result of so many minds still under siege by a persistently lingering nightmare that many are unable to forget? That is entirely possible. Yet, how can one explain the uncanny similarities between accounts, especially with regards to students now attending the school who were too young to remember the actual event of eleven years ago? To those who have experienced these phenomena, the series of variable manifestations are certainly unwaveringly real.

Obsession or Destiny Fulfilled?

The protagonist of my novel, Hallowed Halls, encounters similar manifestations. Nothing so unusual about that, only that he is drawn by forces beyond his control to pursue them in a dire need to uncover answers and is uncertain as to what he might find, even as he is succumbed into what he senses as real. This is subjective, of course, until others from his clan, without knowing anything about his situation, become involved and experience the same overwhelming manifestations that purposefully interact with them as well.

This is a case exploring what it would be like if such urban legends were actually true or based on some fact. My protagonist (and later his comrades) conduct research on the haunted place and discover the horrible event that happened there so many years before, so long ago that it has been left forgotten, except by those who were there and have managed to survive. The answers reveal a story that is surprisingly not as much science fiction, fantasy or as supernatural as human. THIS is enough to weigh upon the heart and mind because it involves actual people. It is such a sad ordeal that no one can or would want ignore it. An obsession turns into a need to help others who are lost, and that attempt, the protagonist learns over time, is his destiny, whether he is ready for it or not.

Both Lambertville High School and Columbine play a part in this story’s development, mainly because these are real-life places with real-life stories. Although the legends of the first example are unproven and are assumed by lingering manifestations continually permeating the place eerily destroyed but still standing, the latter has a confirmed account that correlates to the phenomena experienced by those there.

Another chilling point testified by Columbine is the fact that such a possibility of an in-school massacre is, in fact, true, since it actually happened. Such a scenario, though one that no one wishes to imagine, is indeed not beyond the realm of feasibility. As ugly and as tormenting and as disconcerting as it is, such an occurrence forces us to keep an open-mind and never underestimate what is possible and what is not, and never to assume anything is considered too farfetched to be conceived or believed. The protagonist of Hallowed Halls learns this lesson all too well, as do all of those around him, including those who have died.

Another aspect that correlates between Lambertville and Hallowed Halls are the echoes that ring over time through several means to grip the minds of those in the present. Such signals take the form of visual manifestation, such as the mysterious artwork of students on the blackboard and other various images throughout the site to sounds vibrating in the inner conscious, such as calling voices and laughter of those from an earlier time to even the deeply embedded feelings of presences sensed. These are common, true, but they are nonetheless profound on those who experience them, whether young explores at the Lambertville ruins, attendees at Columbine or the protagonist in Hallowed Halls, who encounters his own array of inexplicable visuals and sounds directed specifically at him. They all share similar experiences that draw and tie them to the past where they learn more about their surroundings and themselves. This is the true nature of any haunting, and though it is skeptically contested by many, it is an experience prevalently shared by an even greater number of people than those who deny it. There is no concrete evidence to substantiate any of this, of course, but, then again, those who have experienced such phenomena do not need evidence—their own sensations and how they are affected by said phenomena are absolutely real enough. Perhaps that’s all that is necessary to create impressionable meaning in the human mind.

This is what gives the story of the novel its strength, persistence and solidity, as well as the assurance that so many people will be able to relate to it over time. This is an urban legend that is all too human, just as the readers are; the human factor is what makes the story as real to the reader as the ghostly experience does to the individual. If this is the case, as apparently it is, the story is well-justified, as it achieves its intended purpose.

Lessons on Writing

As writers, we all learn more about writing by actually writing. It’s not too out-of-line to say, then, that each writing project we complete as writers teaches us lessons on writing while simultaneously improving our skill in writing. The two, therefore, go hand-in-hand.

What have I learned about writing through Hallowed Halls?

First: that the characters themselves create the story, just by being the entities they are. If the writer knows and is confident in her/his characters, the story will flow out and write itself. Yes, I already knew this, but this experience has reminded me that such a notion is not merely an ideal, but indeed a truth in creative writing. The Characters are everything; they are the essence of the story. If a writer underestimates them, s/he is wasting time with the story. First thing a writer needs to do—regardless—is to get to know the characters. Before I even started writing on the story itself, I delineated pages upon pages of life story for each of the characters. That took hours, days, even weeks, but it was necessary, and by the time I was done, I knew exactly what the story would be from beginning to end. Yes, some details fluctuated, but the essence of the entire story was already there and out, so I felt confident when I started on the actual novel. All this came to be because I knew my characters well beforehand.

“But if it isn’t going into the novel, why waste your time writing it out?” Many of you might say.

The answer: It doesn’t matter. Not all of the details of a character’s background should go into the body of the novel. The important thing is that you, the writer, must know your characters well enough to write about them.

A fine example would be that which lies in a different field of writing—journalism. One does research on a given subject to familiarize oneself with the subject so that one can write about it, even if much of the information obtained remains unenclosed in the final product. The writer gains an in-depth understanding regarding the overall nature of the subject so that s/he can write about it confidently without the need to include everything.

A writer isn’t wasting time by developing character backgrounds. The principle described above applies to creative writing and the characters one creates. Writers need to know their characters, how they think and feel and what makes them tick, how they relate to others and what motivates them, their families, their childhood friends, their enemies, their issues and pathologies (we all have these). In doing this, the writer IS writing the novel because all of this serves as the basis for the story upon which the novel is founded.

Another important point I accomplished through writing Hallowed Halls relates to foreshadowing. This not only alludes to future developments in the novel’s story, it also ties together the many elements of the plot so that everything is unified. This is done through the employment of metaphors and similes, setting, dialogue, structure, even font. As I mentioned in earlier posts on this blog, modifiers are of the essence. Nouns themselves can and do serve as modifiers for themselves. If such elements are used correctly and innovatively, foreshadowing will be effective.

One should keep in mind, though, that the most efficacious foreshadowing is, believe it or not, the most subtle. Nothing destroys a storyline like foreshadowing that SCREAMS what will be to come. Never underestimate the intelligence of the reader; if they are paying attention, readers will pick them up quicker and easier than the “in-your-face” references, probably because the former are naturally and casually presented, as they are in life, and are therefore more profound.

An instance of the subtle foreshadow would be a conversation between two characters who are joking. An off-the-cuff slur is made that will come into play later on. Do NOT elaborate or explain this right then and there, as the foreshadow will lose its power and so the story will lose its strength. A writer should simply make the slur and move on. Unnecessary explanations and descriptions are not only redundant (please see post on “redundancies”), but also interferes with the flow of the story and bloats the content.

The overall irony about composing a novel is that despite all of the writing that goes into character developments, minimal referencing will make the final product.

A conscientious writer should never underestimate the power of a single word, as long as it is the RIGHT word.

As for Hallowed Halls, this is only the beginning; more writing development and lessons to learn will come with the revisions. That’s where the REAL writing takes place.

I am looking forward to it . . . .

The Importance of Science and Nature

I am a person who believes in the exactness and precision of science and how it serves to explain nature. For that reason, I take it very seriously.

Is it true that science cannot answer every question posed? Yes, but then maybe it doesn’t intend to. Science is an approach whereby we, as humans, look at ourselves and our entire world without biasness or reproach. Only this way can we fully evaluate and appreciate the evidence needed to answer those questions, which is a process that usually brings forth more questions than actually providing a “true” or false” to any mystery. It doesn’t necessarily serve to solve riddles or offer “facts” as much as providing a means of studying ourselves and our world with ongoing regularity.

Still, there are many questions that science cannot answer, such as the meaning of life. This doozy of a conundrum really has no right or wrong answer; each person has her/his own search for personal meaning, and that’s, perhaps, how it should be. Every single person is different than any other, and so profound considerations on a personal level are way beyond that of scientific study.

In the end, science is a part of us all, but it is also a tool to measure what it is geared to study, and, as anything else, it has its limitations. That is why we must rely on it, but not to the exclusion to other aspects of life.

Real science contributes along with everything else–spirituality, nature, society, even art and the humanities–to construct an ever-growing puzzle of existence and probability, of possibility, without necessarily causing conflict. Because of this, we must hold dear the precepts of science and not let it be corrupted in any way. If we fail science, we fail ourselves. That goes for the other aspects of life as well.

These are merely my musings, but they are by no means the extent of my thoughts on the subject. Feel free to contribute, whether you agree or disagree. Your comments are always welcome.

The Mysteries of Lambertville

This is the first of many musings discussing research and how such influences have shaped and driven my works. Perhaps some of this insight will inspire other writers the same way such insight has inspired me.

Also, I must maintain an unbiased perspective, to consider all alternatives, ideas and other possible notions regardless of my personal views or beliefs, in order to develop an intriguing, balanced, credible and realistic story. Ironically enough, opposing arguments contribute to the premise of my novel as much as supporting arguments do.

In the end, I try not to think to hard on these points, but to remain laidback about the whole thing. The well-developed and naturally flowing stories emerge easier that way.

Echoes from the Past

Recently, I found myself becoming absorbed in one intriguing find that serves as a major influence for a novel I am writing, not only because the site correlates in ambiance with a major setting in the story, but also because it speaks to me with distant voices reminiscent to the voices that speak to my story’s protagonist. These voices echo from the past, like those of some resonating entity penetrating me with such a force that pulls me to the site. Everything this place represents is covered in mystique that has captured my imagination.

‘What place is this?’ you may ask.

This is a place known as Lambertville. No, it’s not an abandoned military base or some obscure American Civil War battlefield—it is, of all places, an old high school.

Lambertville High School, in western New Jersey, has a long history filled with more than just a few inexplicable if not interesting stories. A once-lively place consisting of a small building and a bell tower, the school is now a decrepit hulk, resting under a veil of trees on a hill overlooking New Hope, Pennsylvania. The roof and third floor are gone, and the interior is a cold darkness screaming with a sense of foreboding.

This place has come to be what I consider the ‘Titanic’ of abandoned high schools, and for good reason—the mysteries behind this place are more than just imaginary.

A Legend Built on Mysteries . . .

According to a tribute stone erected at the site, the school was built in 1854—before the Civil War. That means Lambertville was open for classes during a time prior to that long-ago war serving as but a distant memory to us today. That’s how antiquated the school is. The stone rests in the ground near the center of the western wall, situated so that it may watch the sun set everyday. Painted graffiti scrawled across its face reflects the vandalism it has endured over the years, but the stone refuses to falter. Truly inspirational and extraordinary indeed!

This is but the first mystery. The tribute was erected by the class of 1927, after a fire gutted most of the school back in the early-1920s (the date carved into the brick over both doors—‘1924’—provides some indication as to the time period). The fury that consumed Lambertville came about as a result of unknown causes, though some enthusiasts believe the culprit to have been a boiler explosion (common in many stories regarding school fires). The tribute is reminiscent of a tombstone. Even more eerie, that representation was apparently intended.

The story goes that this fire took the lives of 150 students and some staff and that the stone is in memory of them. Other indications related to these deaths resonate here as well: the disturbing chalkboard drawings that depict praying and burning students, voices and laughter on the top level, steady footsteps, and messages scribbled along the walls here and there that allude to some horrible tragedy long ago . . .

Still, city officials, graduates of the high school (from the 1950s) and others who have studied the background of the place have attested that such an event never occurred, that the deaths are all hearsay and fiction created by someone’s imagination. Supposedly, the fire was at night when the school was empty, despite the inference through historical records that students used to live on the upper level during the school’s early years. When did this arrangement change? I don’t dispute any of this. These sources serve as greater authorities on the subject than I, but I am curious.

I have to ask, though: Who would conceive such stories and why? Every story has a basis of reality somewhere. Whatever that reality is, this mystery has grabbed the attention of so many people, many of whom have visited the school from all over the United States. They have taken pictures as if the place were some vacation spot, and then subsequently posted those images on their own respective websites. Hell, the school even has a page on Wikipedia. No other abandoned high school can make that claim.

So I ask again: Who would conceive such stories and why?

The chalkboard theory, which leads into another mystery, seems to have been true; as the website alluded to above actually features images of students drawn in elaborate detail.

Yet there are simple explanations behind this one. One woman who claimed to have graduated back in 1954 said in a personal account that she knew the art teacher who had drawn them on the boards before leaving the school. She never explained why the teacher would do this, and I find it problematic for that reason. Also, even if a teacher from the 1950s had drawn these images, it’s doubtful that said images would have lasted so long without fading, being erased, or marred in someway (though there are methods to freeze chalk on a blackboard). Vandals would have assured and even facilitated this. Another possibility is that, at some point, an artist thrill-seeker could have drawn the images on the boards to generate excitement. If is true, apparently, s/he succeeded.

Alas, all the chalkboards are gone now, likely stolen by souvenir-hunters who wished to hang them in their basements or sell them on eBay. Needless to say, the place is a smorgasbord; everyone goes there to snatch up something before the building finally collapses. It’s not like the owner is protective of such items; if he wanted anything in there, he would have had it removed and stored away long ago. Before long, nothing will be left except the shell itself—and maybe the ghosts, if there are any.

As for ghosts, or spirits, there are other stories as well. Take, for example, the case of Buckeye Bill, probably the most famous mystery associated with Lambertville. This entity and the story on which he is based have become a unified legend.

The year was 1935: Lambertville and New Hope high schools engaged in their famous football game. During the game, one of the New Hope Buckeye quarterbacks caught the ball. A pile-up ended his attempt to make a touchdown. When the players rose, everyone stood horrified to see that the quarterback lay dead with a broken neck, his head twisted 180 degrees (his face was over his back). The parents of the New Hope student body subsequently insisted that the school no longer sponsor football. To this day, New Hope High School does not have a football team. This entire story is supposedly documented and true, although it doesn’t serve as evidence to substantiate the paranormal stories that were to follow.

As the legend goes, if one stands on the front landing to the main floor of the west wing and challenges Billy with “Billy, I challenge you to a game of football!” a football is said to fly from within the darkness and slam into the challenger’s face, breaking her/his neck. Another variation of this legend assumes that if one stands on the old football field (which lies up the hill, assuming anyone can ever find it) and cries “Billy, I challenge you to a race!” a breeze sweeps overhead and/or a pair of red eyes appears and a deep voice growls “run to the other end of the field or die!” If the challenger doesn’t run or runs and doesn’t make it to the other side, s/he dies.

This second variation derives from a questionable event that also occurred back in 1935 immediately following the game that had claimed the life of Buckeye Billy. Allegedly, five boys were on the football field. One jokingly challenged Billy. A pair of eyes appeared and said “run or die!” The boys jumped, startled, and four ran while the fifth didn’t. Three made it across the field, but the fourth stumbled and could not be found. The next day, the authorities found the last two boys at the field. They were dead and their heads were turned 180 degrees. The story is supposedly true, yet it was passed along as hearsay, perhaps by someone who might have wanted simply to scare his friends. Teenagers can be and frequently are this way. Personally, this story sounds too fantastic to be true, so I am inclined to adhere to a great deal of skepticism.

By the way, this is the story around which the movie Only Go There at Night revolves. Five friends go on a thrill adventure to a supposedly haunted high school in New Jersey where two get killed and, upon investigation, the police come to realize that the killer might not be a living human being (i.e. a spirit, presumably based on Buckeye Billy). The simple difference here, however, is that the five boys live in present-day, not seventy-five years ago. I haven’t yet seen the movie, but the fact that these boys are going to a supposedly ‘haunted’ high school suggests that a significant amount of time has past since the school was in use for classes. The premise here seems to consider, among other things: What if the legends WERE true?

Let’s also keep in mind that several thrill-seekers have gone to the school at night and have challenged Buckeye Billy according to version #1 (the stair landing scenario) and nothing happened. Does Billy choose when to come out? Could something else explain why nothing happened? I don’t mean to mock this, because I do believe in spirits and a spirit realm, but if nothing happened, the story would be difficult to believe and/or accept. That’s not saying that there isn’t some aspect of reality on which the legend is based. After all, as said, every story has its origins in some basis of reality.

Still, how could a story like this be true? What could have possibly caused this? Why would Billy have red eyes and threaten the lives of those who ‘challenge’ him? And at a high school he didn’t even attend? The story seems farfetched, but that’s only because we don’t know the account on which it’s based, the story that inspired it, and there likely was one. What was it? Was it the experience the five boys had in 1935?

If these stories and legends are not true, where did they originate?

Yet, another fire broke out soon afterward, but the exact year is not known. This event resulted in no deaths or injuries, but significant damage still incurred and repairs initiated. Apparently, Lambertville was developing a pattern of attracting fire.

The school finally closed its doors somewhere between 1954 and 1959 (sources conflict on the date). The closing had nothing to do with the fire as commonly believed, but to zoning issues and the need for city expansion. The Lambertville community had outgrown it and the area consolidated all students into the larger South Hunterdon High School, which is still in operation today. Not only does this new structure easily house all the students in one place, but a single school cuts down on city expenses and minimizes taxes involved. The old high school was disregarded at that point, but it was not razed.

Also of special note is the strange fact that the school closed one century, perhaps to the year, from the time it was constructed and opened. The second fire occurred around this time, but, as said, the specific year is not known.

After sitting empty in excess of ten years, Lambertville High School reopened for business—literally. During the 1970s, a private machine press company occupied the basement and changed the area into workspace (the equipment is still there, though not operational) while families rented the upper level and had the total run of the building. It’s admirable that the high school, instead of being destroyed, took on the role of a shelter for homeless families who might have even worked downstairs. How convenient and surreal, considering the structure’s earlier past.

When the last fire broke out around 1992, the city decided not to rebuild. The families disappeared and the business apparently moved on without taking its machinery. That’s odd, isn’t it? I say that because the last fire supposedly destroyed only the upper floors, not the main floor or the basement (had the fire consumed those lower levels as well, nothing would have remained there; they would now be in the same condition as that of the upper floor), so there was no reason to leave this equipment.

The chaotic state which resulted from this final conflagration is the same in which the building is today, except that over the years the second floor collapsed in on the main floor in some areas, especially the east wing, which is essentially nothing more than four walls enclosing a great heap of rubble. Some classrooms and offices on the main floor there are still accessible. The upper-floor corridor in the central hub has caved in, exposing the hallway beneath to open air. Trees have sprouted in a rough terrain of dirt and grown throughout these upper levels, creating the appearance of some ancient ruins. Cracked doors are suspended or lie askew. Window panes are shattered and their frames wrenched or obliterated. The west wing windows are blown out and nothing more than a row of six large square holes. Rusted pipes twist around like weird sculptures. Sections of walls still stand amidst piles of scrap consisting of timber and bricks. Plaster, which was at one time shiny white and pristine, is now chipped or completely stripped away. Sooty tiles are among what little remains of the showers for a non-existent gymnasium. A few scorched girders dangle precariously around a chimney that, once stately, shoots up in the air like some aged sentinel attempting to continue standing guard over its charge.

When one realizes that this is a century-and-a-half-old high school with a unique and legendary background, not something typical of the inner-city ghetto, the feeling becomes quite surreal and sobering, indigenous to a history struggling to maintain itself, but in some morphed, dreamlike manner. The sight is unbelievable, but it’s real, though many people question whether or not some deeper aspects of it are a part of the physical world or something else only sensed.

This is possibly the ultimate mystery. We know how the devastation occurred, yet we have no evidence that the fire had a particular source, like a flame out of thin air, just as the previous fires. The effect on the mind when one views the chaos reflects on the mystique of deeper meaning resonating there, whatever that meaning may be. Amidst all of this incredible destruction, Lambertville High School continues to live on.

Final Thoughts . . .

Lambertville High School is indeed a spell attraction. Even I have found myself pondering about this place, although I wonder from time to time why. After all, it is only an abandoned building, dilapidated and crumbling; an empty shell that people who have attended it have claimed is or was nothing more than a regular high school.

Or, again, is it something more?

This place has not become a legend for nothing. Several high schools in the United States have ghost stories connected to them, yet THIS one inspired a movie, a plethora of websites and a wiki page. As said, droves of people from all over the United States have traveled to see and explore the site. In fact, some have scheduled vacations to the place, as if this abandoned building were an attraction that cannot be missed, like the haunted house at Disney World.

This, I guess, is the final mystery, the great irony.

The reason: THIS high school is real, actual, not fabricated or imaginary. That fact alone is more than enough to create a spell on the human mind. The paranormal legends associated with it make it even more magical, regardless of whether or not such phenomena are true or real. Visiting the school allows one to become a part of that legend, a part of the reality.

The mysteries of Lambertville are likely never to be resolved, and that’s fine because the longer the mysteries last, so will the legends, and as long as these legends persist, Lambertville will never die.

Lambertville High School, as said, serves as one of the main inspirations for my novel Hallowed Halls, which is another story reflecting the possibilities of spiritual haunting and what it would be like if such haunts were real. Again, I believe in a spiritual realm, as I have had encountered some profound experiences. There is something to it, and I am thoroughly compelled to explore that conceptualization in light of human nature and how we’re driven to learn about the forces within and around us through life and death, just as the case is with Lambertville.

In the follow-up, I will discuss more about how Lambertville and another growing legend of death, based on truth—Columbine in Littleton, Colorado—relate to the novel with regard to similarities, differences, parallels and background development.

Those who are curious to know more please stay tuned . . . .

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I wish to thank Lostdestinations.com, Surrealnewjersey.com, WeirdNJ.com, The Goop blog and Randy Kline (a.k.a. StangGT), whose Lambertville High School photostream can be found at Flickr.com, for providing their photos. Great pictures, guys! Anyone interested in reading up on or seeing more images of Lambertville High School please feel free to visit their sites as well as those listed below . . .

Lambertville High School:

Buckstore

Experience Project: Get the Paranormal Report

Forgotten USA

Hub Pages: Haunted Places – Lambertville, New Jersey

Lost in New Jersey

Spectral Review: Lambertville High School

STU of Doom

The Lambertville High School Story

Other [Haunted] High School Stories:

Forgotten Ohio

Forgetten Ohio – Stivers Middle School

Ghost Village

Newsweek.com – Ghosts of Columbine High Schools

OMA Haunted.com – Columbine High School

Snopes.com – Discussion on Columbine

StrangUSA – Discussion on Columbine

Unexplainable.net – Article on Columbine

Unexplainable.net – Haunted High Schools in the United States – Columbine

Your Ghost Stories – Real Ghost Story – Columbine

Reminder: I do believe in spirits, but that doesn’t mean that I automatically believe these stories; I am fair and skeptical about everything without evidence, which is why I ask questions. I included ghost and haunt sites to show how prevalent in number these sources are with regard to Stivers Middle/High School, Lambertville High School, Columbine High School and others. That’s how one conducts ongoing research—by asking questions and following through with leads to form her/his own conclusions. I encourage everyone to do the same

What Is Research?

Research is a challenging field. As a matter of fact, it’s a job in and of itself.

There are many forms of research: reading books, compiling documentation, gathering photo images and videos, conducting surveys, testing theories, internet search engines, interviewing key personnel, and simply observing what goes on in one’s own surroundings. Research, then, covers a vast area of data acquisition.

As expected, field research comprises all of these to some extent, and since each case is different, the extent to which they apply is not always the same. That can make research interesting, to say the least. This form of research–what I call the visual or, more aptly, experiential–is by far one of the most significant and important kinds of research undertaken. Why? People gain tremendous insight from just interacting physically with a subject’s foundation; one can learn more, say, about a place by simply being there than reading about it or reviewing images of it.  The latter is where research starts; the research doesn’t end (if it does at all) until a person is able to merge physically with it. Anyone who visits Mexico, for example, gains knowledge of the country than someone else who merely collects data on it, although I would not dismiss the latter by any means, only to say that the former develops a sense of the place that her/his counterpart has not attained—a sense that is oh-so important with regards to understanding said place, such as Mexico. This is why field research is so important.

Unfortunately, traveling, as exciting as it is, costs money and time, which many people don’t have.  Field research must be planned and conducted according at all times, as both a budget and deadline are usually integral and necessary components to the project.

That should not discourage anyone, however. Those who are motivated by their sense of adventure should go with it; doing field work is never impossible. The important thing is for those interested to know what research field work entails. If one thing is missed or disregarded, the project will have problems and quite possibly come to a halt; knowing about such things ahead of time will ensure that the project runs smoothly.

Knowledge acquisition is not merely finding and collecting data; it quite often requires analysis, deduction and asking questions. These will lead those doing research to determine where and how they should go as well as to piece together bits of data. Since answers are rarely offered up in affirmation, researchers will frequently have to formulate their own conclusions. Interestingly, one researcher’s conclusions will not necessarily coincide with the conclusions of another. Each person’s thinking is different than any other. This is why sharing and collaborating is important; multiple perspectives add depth and dimension to a growing body of knowledge.

Theories make up guiding pointers, yet rarely does the data collected support any theory one hundred percent conclusively. Theories are beliefs one has based on one’s present understanding of data already obtained, nothing else.  They should therefore never be misconstrued as ‘fact,’ regardless of one’s personal or professional standing. Critical analysis is always necessary for continued growth in any subject area, which is why research is boundless.

This blog will feature ongoing discussions regarding my research on own projects as well as issues pertaining to research in general: techniques, the preferred method of research for any given project (and each one is different), gaining permission to enter private property or the best time to visit, the equipment used, traveling, reputable versus questionable sources/resources, money, data interpretation, objective versus biased evaluation, and simply sharing one’s own insights from personal experience. Everything related to research is welcome here.

Please feel free to link this to your sites, too, if you wish. The more readers involved, the merrier!

Have a good day and I’ll see you soon.

ResearcherOne