Neewa the wonder dog and.., p.3
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       Neewa the Wonder Dog and the Ghost Hunters, p.3

          John Cerutti / Thrillers & Crime
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“He exclaimed with frustration in his voice, ’that’s nonsense Elle, it’s the heat. It’s one hundred and nine degrees. You didn’t see anything.’

“She told her husband to hush up, then sat in the old nineteen thirty-five Buick for a while. ‘It’s a nineteen thirty-five Buick. My family had one of these when I was a child.’

“Mrs. Waldo continued her story saying, ’I checked out every nook and cranny of that car. My husband and I checked the car from its headlights to the taillights. Under one of the seats we found an old empty bottle of whiskey.’

“She said that she was feeling around under the dashboard and found that hidden compartment she and her sister had stored stuff in when they were kids. In the compartment were chips, poker chips, lots of poker chips.

“Her husband counted them up. There was twenty thousand dollars.

“’Twenty thousand dollars!’ he said again and again.

“Mrs. Waldo cried out, ’Can you believe it?’

“The newspaper reporter called the casino manager and asked how much the twenty thousand dollars in poker chips are worth?

“The casino spokesperson said, ’The chips are worth twenty thousand dollars at our casino.’”

Dad puts down the paper saying, “Mrs. Waldo was lucky her husband followed her over that mountain and caught up to her. I don’t think it was a “good” ghost that appeared in front of her and wanted to take her to dinner. It was an evil ghost from the Donner Party. I’m sure Mrs. Waldo saw something. She could never have made that story up.”

Some people say spirits use ghosts to trick humans and take possession of their body and soul. After the body dies the spirit lives in the wind or earth and seeks the body of a human. That’s when it possesses the body, returning from that supernatural world to the natural world.

I have read about people who imagine seeing ghosts. But in fact they saw moonlight reflecting off a rock or a broken piece of glass. What they saw might have looked like a ghost to some people.

People high on drugs or alcohol have vivid imaginations when it comes to seeing ghosts. There are always stories in the newspapers about people seeing ghosts out in the lonely desert or isolated mountains. They see a shadow and think it’s a ghost. Their imagination causes them to see things that are not there. They make mistakes, people always do.

Smiling I give Dad a hug, “Dad can we go to Donner Pass and find that ghost? We have to go right away while the trail is still fresh.”

Dad seems distracted as he replies, “Oh, yeah that sounds good. I’ve been working with a brand new thermal scanner for the hurricane search planes. It’s going to be installed in all of them, if we can only get it to work right. It’ll read the temperature inside the storm within a hundredth of a degree. I’ll bring it home on Friday, we can use it for the weekend, but I have to return it by Monday morning.”

Dad always tells the boss the truth, he tells him, “I’m bringing this equipment home to run some tests.” But he doesn’t tell him what tests we are running and he especially won’t tell him we use it to hunt ghosts.

Later at dinner we plan our upcoming trip for this weekend. I’m so excited, this is going to be so cool.

Oh no, I just realized we’re all gonna be in the van together for three hours.

Dad tells Jackie and me, “Okay this is the plan. We’ll camp out Saturday night at the Donner Memorial State Park. Before sunset we set up the equipment where Mrs. Waldo saw the stone-faced lady. I think that is the most likely place to catch that ghost. By the way it is also where the Donner Party was trapped in the winter of eighteen forty-six.”

“Okay Dad, Jackie, and I will pack our stuff, you make a list of everything we need and we can check it before we leave,” I add.

When we go on a hunt we bring all kinds of equipment. Not all of it is ours. Some of it comes from where Dad’s work.

An absolute must is the electromagnetic field meter (EMF) and the infrared thermometer, which detects infrared energy and converts it to a temperature reading. Two more devices measure the electricity in the air, the electrostatic field meter (ESF) and the air ion counter. We also have a radio frequency (RF) field strength meter that detects electrical fields like FM radio and microwave transmissions as low as .5 MHz, all the way up to 3 GHz, and expresses the strength as power density (.001 to 2000 microwatts/cm2). It measures the electricity given off by stuff like transformers, computer screens, telephones, electric motors, and yeah, spirits too. For extra safety we bring a Geiger counter or radiation monitor that detects deadly alpha, beta, and gamma rays.

I ask Jackie, “Did you pack the motion detectors? We need them for the cameras we will set up on the trail. If anything moves in front of one of them, the camera will turn on and, Wham! We will catch that phantom.”

My new digital video camera has audio capability, which records every sound. The recordings are important because we can capture electronic voice phenomena (EVPs), or footsteps, knocks and banging during the hunt.

Temperature changes like uncommon cold or hot spots can be detected with our infrared thermal camera and the infrared thermometer. Both of them will detect variations in temperature and signal the presence of a spirit.

Difficult to document events like telepathic communications, odors, and scents like sulfur, ammonia, perfume, and flowers are written down in my notepad. I take a writing pad with me on every investigation.

If I’m checking out a house haunting and someone is still living there or a past resident is nearby? I like to interview them to find out if they’re having nightmares, apparitions, seeing moving objects, or even just having simple electrical problems. All the notes from my interviews are written down for later comparison.

“Jackie, you packed the anemometer? That’s the weathervane looking thingy with the four cups. It spins and records wind speed.”

“I’ll get the spectrometer which analyzes light intensity and somehow figures out what an object is.”

This weekend we are bringing the cameras, motion detectors, EMF meters, digital thermometer, night vision goggles, light meter, anemometer, radio frequency field strength meter, and a spectrometer.

Of course we always have flashlights, cell phones, a laptop to view the video we take, and our camping stuff. We try to bring all our equipment, but it doesn’t all fit in our backpacks. It makes no sense taking more than we can carry.

Hunting the Donner Party ghost is going to be risky for two reasons. First, this ghost is active. It’s trying to lure someone for some reason. Mrs. Waldo almost fell into its spell. Who knows what would have happened to her if she had followed it to “dinner?” Second, some of those people in the Donner Party died horrible, agonizing deaths. I think this ghost is still in pain and therefore wicked and dangerous.

I learned about the Donner Party in school. They were settlers headed to California in a wagon train in eighteen forty-six. There were about ninety people of all ages. Winter came early and heavy snow trapped them in the mountains. Not all of them lived through it.

The wagon train didn’t have enough food and blankets, and many of the settlers died of hunger, exposure, and frostbite. Those few settlers that did live, told stories of terrible hardship and horrible acts. They did things that people are not supposed to do.

I’m pretty sure this ghost we are going to hunt is not resting in peace, if you know what I mean.

***

Finally it’s Saturday morning. We are packed and ready to go. A three-hour ride will give me plenty of time to do my homework. I have to finish writing a book report about ghost hunting. I’ll do my math and chemistry after that.

Let’s see, I have Neewa’s bowls and a chain to keep her tied up. I’m sure Neewa will love hiking the trails, camping, and ghost hunting. She loves to run and play with me—this trip will be fun for her too. I feel so much better, just having her around.

As I carry the last of our gear out to the van Dad announces, “Okay we’re ready to go, all aboard. Jackie you sit in front, Neewa and Christina in the back.”

“No Dad, I’m sitting in the front, I called it. Jackie, you get the front seat on the way home.”

Jackie scoffs, “You always say you called it, but I never hear you. That’s okay, I get to sit next to Neewa, ha.”

We all get in the van and drive off to Donner Pass on our ghost hunting adventure out west. Driving on the interstate is fun because the speed limit is eighty miles an hour. This is so cool. We will be driving over mountains, through deserts, and valleys. Small towns about the size of a swimming pool dot the highway as we speed by.

When we get to the Sierra Mountains it’s going to be just like back East, all green with lush meadows and streams. Not like this boring desert where everything is flat and faded beige with nothing but empty wasteland full of sand and sagebrush.

As we drive along the highway, I get to see a lot of places I want to visit. There are huge cattle ranches and casinos near every gas station and rest stop. Located about half way to Donnar Pass is a gold mine where you can take trips into the mine and see just how it was a hundred years ago. And near that is a secret military base where they supposedly keep the bodies of aliens that have crash-landed on Earth.

After driving for hours and sleeping most of the trip, I realized we had gone almost two hundred miles through the desert. Ahead in the distance, I see the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. Peaks the size of Mt. Everest jutting into the blue sky. Donner Pass is right under one of those peaks.

As we near our destination I see small meadows hidden here and there, fluorescing green, blue, and yellow. Then we pass an amazing huge marsh that seems to go on and on forever to a distant mountain. The whole swamp is blooming purple right at this moment. Deep lavender flowers on pale green stems blanket the landscape. Endless colors as far as the eye can see. Miles awash with heavenly violet flowers so thick they look like a carpet extending into forever.

We’ve left the desert and start our way up the lush mountainside, entering a steep gorge, the only route in. The two-lane road leading up to Donner Pass goes through a gorge so narrow the road has no shoulders or anyplace to pull over and rest. Just a tiny gap in the between mountains squeezing the roadway into a thin passage the switches back and forth, meandering up, rising steadily, disappearing before us into the forest.

Behind us the desert colors are so dull and blurred, with beige sand and brown dirt all muddled together with an occasional clump of pale olive sagebrush. Except for a rare grove of green scrub pine, there isn’t any color to see back there.

If I want to get away from that wretched house where we live now. I have to travel twenty-five miles to a nearby canyon to find a lush mountain stream, with quaking aspen, and green thick mosses that smell like morning dew.

Only after it rains on the dessert does it come alive with budding flowers, grass shoots, and the wonderful desert smell of wet sage and sand. Only problem is it only rains a few times a year.

Dad points out the window, “That road is for runaway trucks. It’s an escape ramp for heavy eighteen-wheelers if they lose their brakes and can’t stop. Sometimes the trucks can’t stop when they are coming down the long steep mountain roads. The escape ramp is there for them to exit onto the or they will lose control on the turns and crash.”

Sure enough I spot a road that goes to into the forest, basically nowhere. It shoots off of this side road onto a path along the rocky ledge. It’s a mile-long ramp carved into the mountain and its slope up. Slowly the grade of the road starts rise, then the angle rapidly increases until it ends abruptly in a pile of sand and a railroad tie barrier above the trees.

“That ramp saves a lot of lives,” Dad adds.

“What do they need that for?” Jackie asks.

Mocking I answer, “Jackie, if a truck is coming down the mountain and loses its brakes, it can turn onto that ramp. The ramp is so steep it slows the truck down, even if it has no brakes!”

“Yeah, so what does he do when he starts to roll backwards toward the road?” Jackie counters.

“Yeah, that would be a big problem. Hopefully, he slows down enough that he is able to stop his rig somewhere on that ramp,” Dad chimes in.

“Yeah, hopefully,” I comment.

Red cedar and white pine trees reach up into the blue sky. I can see the sap leaching onto the bark, reflecting the sunlight. Little bubbles of the stuff drip down the tree creating a stream of light reflecting juice that eventually forms a droplet. The dribble grows until it is a blob, and the blob to a glop of sap so oversized it drops to the ground. Plunk.

The steamy air carries the fragrance of pine to my senses. Little evergreen needles float down to the ground in the wind. Layer after layer fall, creating a soft bed of yellow and rust covering the clay soil.

Higher and higher we go. The forest begins to thin out. Only small clusters of trees dot the rocky terrain. We are at the timberline, above which little grows. A huge mountain peak with a waterfall pouring over its rock face is revealed as we climb to still higher elevations.

Nearing the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, we are about to enter Donner Memorial State Park. At the entrance stands a statue in memory of the settlers who lost their lives on that fateful wagon train trip west to the Promised Land.

Dad pulls over near a sign on the side of the road that reads, “Elevation 10,000 Ft.” We get out to stretch and have a look around. Neewa runs into the woods for a quick sniffing adventure.

It’s ninety degrees, unusually hot for this late in the afternoon. There is little breeze to cool us down and an unusual amount of humidity in the air.

My face is flushed and red from the heat. I always turn red when I’m out in the heat for a while. It would always happen when I played tennis back east and it took forever for the redness in my face to go away.

Dad gets all paranoid, “Tina your face is red, do you have a fever?” He touches my cheek and forehead with his lips to take my temperature.

“Dad stop it,” I tell him, “I’m fine.”

I look up at the fifteen feet of statue depicting three pioneers: a man, a woman, and a child. The embossed bronze plaque on the monument reads, “The Donner Party Memorial.”

I wonder if the ghost that Mrs. Waldo saw is the woman in the bronze sculpture? Tonight we will be looking for her.

It’s peaceful around the monument. Whispering breezes curve around the contours of the statue as a trickling stream in the background is fed by the snowcaps still remaining on the highest peaks. I hear a woodpecker tunneling in a hollow tree, consuming its bugs.

After exploring around the monument, we drive to the camping area. The Donner State Park campground is about a half-mile in the opposite direction from Donner Pass, where we are setting up our equipment to catch that rogue spirit. Entering the park we pull up to the large wooden welcome sign for a paper copy of the layout with all the rules, regulations, and warnings to campers on the back. The picture of the campground depicts a circular dirt road with forty campsites. And in the middle of all the numbered areas is a common bathhouse with showers.

Picking a campsite is not easy. There is a lot to think about.

After parking in one of the driveways, we walk around the circle assessing the pros and cons of the available camping spots. About three or four of them are taken and have tents already set up. There’s not that many people up here for some reason.

Each site has a driveway that leads to a small flat picnic area with a table, barbeque, tent platform, and a sunken campfire surrounded by rocks.

Jackie, Neewa, and I pick out the site with a view of a small meadow and the most shade trees. Dad begins unpacking and setting up the tents, while Jackie and I unload the rest of the stuff.

Next to our picnic table is a sign with the word ”Warning” in big letters across the top. Below that is a picture and description of the many possible visitors that might be lurking around the park during the night. I’m least concerned about bears because Neewa will bark at them and keep them away. Besides, we’ll put our food in the metal bear-resistant food locker provided at the campsite. But the scorpions—they give me the creeps. Good thing our tents zip up tight. Funny thing though, the sign doesn’t say anything about ghosts.

It’s still light out, time to go exploring for the best location to set our trap to catch that phantom.









Chapter 4 - Fetch

Neewa loves to play fetch and run like the wind to get whatever I throw. It doesn’t matter if I toss rocks, small logs, old rag dolls, shoes, or anything.

She makes me laugh so hard when I play with her. She scampers about and circles me. And if I’ve been away from her for a while she’s really glad to see me, jumps up in the air and spins around too. Even after I take out the garbage and gone for a few minutes, it’s as if I’ve been away forever. When she first sees me or hears my voice she barks and growls playfully. It even seems like she is commanding me, saying, “Play with me now,” or “I’m ready to play, let’s go out and I’ll run around and you can watch me.”

I throw a stick into the driveway of our campsite and she is quick to fetch it. Then she frolics around me teasing me keeping it out of my reach. She crouches down with her front paws stretched out in front of her and drops the stick between them, watching my every move.

“Give it here girl,” I request.

But she won’t give it to me. It’s hers now. Instead she grabs it and shakes it vigorously while staring at me, begging me to chase her.

Standing about ten feet away, she drops it, “cluck,” and barks while looking at me as if to say, “I dare you.”

The game is on, if I make the slightest move or even just flinch, she will run.

Contemplating my next move to distract or divert her attention, I dive at the stick trying to steal it from her.

Lunging forward, she easily beats me to the stick and runs off holding her head up proudly, snarling in an affectionate way.

As usual Neewa has decided not to give the stick to me and runs around challenging me to snatch the prize from her.

She struts by me like a matador circling a bull. I reach out to grab it. But she only lets me put a fingertip on her trophy and quickly pulls it away, positioning herself just out of reach.
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