I never used to believe in the supernatural, but it took two jaw-dropping experiences in my life to realize that ghosts may be real after all.
The first was an interview with a psychic medium five years ago who told me very specific things about myself no one else could have possibly known.
The second was a visit to the Governor's Mansion in Hampton Falls a few weeks ago — a Victorian era home on the site of what a century ago was one of the most prosperous farms in Rockingham County.
It was owned by former state senator and Governor's Executive Councilor Warren Brown (1836-1919) and wife Sarah Brown (1841-1917). It even looks creepy, as does a four-story windmill on the property.
As with many old homes, there are deaths and tragedy tied to it — if any place would be haunted, this would fit the bill.
Still, I was skeptical. But, as I've said many times since my visit, "If I hadn't seen it myself, I would have never believed it."
It all began with a flashlight that turned itself on and off as it lay on a table as I sat in a dark dining room with homeowner George Blaisdell and the ghost-hunting team from "Adventure Cam Paranormal" — Jerry Seavey, Rich Damboise and usually Christian Whitton. Whitton couldn't make it the day of our visit, but their friend Meaghan Hull did.
I was told if there really were spirits in the 137-year-old, 12-bedroom home, they would show their presence by manipulating the energy used to power the flashlight and other electronics, including an EMF meter that measures changes in the electromagnetic field.
Something did just that — the flashlight went on and off not once or twice, but literally dozens of times as the curious ghost hunters asked four "spirits" to answer specific questions about their past lives and current existence.
Since I was a guest and writing about the filming, I sat there quietly and tried not to interfere.
But I must admit I nearly jumped out of my seat when the bright lights began flashing as George and the others began asking for Sarah Brown and then Gertrude Brown.
Only a few minutes later, I saw for the first time something I will remember until the day I die.
That was when I saw the flashlight flicker repeatedly before throwing off an unusually bright beam of light. The beams of light would brighten and then dim as questions were asked.
When they asked a spirit to shut off a flashlight, the video camera suddenly shut off as well.
I was stunned and, I think, frightened at the same time. I'm still not sure.
As a journalist who has seen a lot of tragedy in my 52 years and 32-year career, it takes a lot to make me cry.
I felt chills up and down my spine as tears flowed uncontrollably down my face. I'm not afraid to admit my nose was suddenly running uncontrollably as well.
I wanted to shout in disbelief, but couldn't because I didn't want to ruin the recording. When the activity ceased, we began to head for another room. A monitor suddenly began flashing near where I had sat.
Something also set off the sensitive equipment — EVP and K2 meters — used by modern paranormal investigators to determine if spirits may be present.
Jerry and Rich began testing with the meters and detected what they believed to be the 5-year-old housekeeper's son, who we think was named Johnny, hiding underneath the table near where my feet had been.
As we walked through and staked out several rooms and buildings, including a scary-looking four-story windmill, the meter seemed to indicate Johnny was following us — apparently standing only an inch or two away.
It would only go off when held about 3 feet off the ground — the approximate height of a 5-year-old.
I just had to record some of it using my phone. We tried communicating with him using the flashlight and had surprising results, as we did with an unidentified hired hand in the windmill. Blaisdell said mediums told him the spirit there was of an ex-convict who murdered the child.
In the two weeks since my visit, I've literally looked at the several videos I took at least a hundred times.
I still wasn't convinced what I saw was real.
But it was. I was, needless to say, freaked out.
And that wasn't all.
There were occasional noises and voices, sharp drops in room temperature as if a door were left open on winter's day.
But all the doors were closed and it was a warm spring day.
Two six-hour batteries used to power the video camera were each drained in 34 minutes. On another occasion, the power would go from three bars to one, back to three and then to one again.
Then, Meaghan said it felt like there was a hand touching her hair and that she suddenly felt smothered. George said at least a few female guests reported having their hair touched in that same spot. She would leave that night feeling ill but made it through the entire visit.
Seconds later, Jerry said he felt dizzy and was losing his balance.
Later, I talked to a 83-year-old former owner of the home who said she and her husband didn't believe in ghosts, but there were numerous unusual occurrences while they lived there.
Some guests, and even a piano tuner, reported seeing ghosts and vowed never to return, she said.
When I left that night, I was afraid to walk through the dark alone to my car, worried something was following me or that it suddenly won't start. It started, but then I had to drive on several dark back roads with no streetlights.
When I finally got home, I slept on the couch — with the light on.
I was freaked out then and still am today — but it was worth it. Do I believe in the supernatural?
What do you think?