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Chasing Ghosts

Author Jorgensen’s book
explores Madison’s spirits

Special to RoundAbout

(October 2012) – When the harvest moon rises in the sky, the leaves turn orange and the air cools, most people look forward to one of the most popular holidays of the year – Halloween. They love the colors, the decorations, the opportunity to legitimately play dress up and the thought of spine-tingling ghost stories.
Just in time for the season, Madison, Ind.-based author, Virginia “Ginger” Dyer Jorgensen is offering up Madison’s very own collection of spine-tingling tales. “The Ghosts of Madison, Indiana,” published by The History Press, will have its official launch on Friday, Oct. 12, at Village Lights Bookstore, 110 E. Main St.
Every so often, during certain times in history, there is an increased interest in spiritual subjects. The recent proliferation of ghost hunting TV shows, paranormal investigation groups, and books on the topic tell us that we are currently experiencing such a period.

Ghosts of Madison Indiana Book Cover

Jorgensen

Jorgensen

“When writing a book about ghosts, you have to have an open mind,” Jorgensen says. “Many people just don’t believe in something they haven’t seen themselves.”
Since moving to Madison, Jorgensen and her husband, Dennis, have become involved in several civic groups, and, with her background in history and research, she wanted to help increase interest in local heritage tourism. She constantly heard from residents and visitors that there wasn’t anything to do in Madison at night, so she started to think about what types of entertainment could draw people to visit the downtown.
“When my husband and I go on vacation, it’s usually to historic locations like Williamsburg or Gettysburg and other Civil War sites. We’ve taken several ‘ghost tours’ during those visits. Madison is an excellent location to support that kind of attraction. I’ve been working on setting up a local ghost tour with a planned launch next spring, in time for the annual Garden Tour and the start of the tourist season.”
The tour will be based on the stories in her book, with a few additions.
To gather background for the book, she has read “mountains” of other books by well-known mediums and owners of ghost tours to gain a good grasp of current views of the supernatural. Along with the local ghost stories, she has also included some ideas about why paranormal activity takes place at certain locations, during certain times.
While doing research at local archival sites and talking to people, she found that there is a lot of conflicting information out there. She thinks that getting all your notes to be consistent is the hardest task in putting the stories together and looking at the finished book, there are still areas where the information doesn’t match up.
“For instance, a homeowner tells me that the original family lived in a building for a certain number of years, but when researching at the courthouse, I find that they owned the house from a different time.”
City employees told her that this is a common issue and that the city records often conflict, too. Early recorders’ not knowing how to spell someone’s name sometimes led to misspellings or outright name changes.
“There’s even a notation in the historic files that says that the recorder was drunk that day, so the records might not be accurate! Trying to resolve conflicts in your information is what takes the most time.”
Jorgensen has found this an enjoyable subject about which to write. “People are usually very happy to discuss their experiences. What makes it fun, is that there are tales about public places like the Broadway Hotel and Tavern, Whitehall Bed and Breakfast, Red Dog Antiques, the Lanier Mansion, and the Ohio Theatre, because you can actually stay at or visit those places.”
There are also several accounts of sightings in local private residences that have never before been heard.
“When you hear one or maybe two stories about these experiences, you might dismiss it as a quirk, but when you assemble a grouping of stories from all over town, it adds up to something quite different. You have a good collection of hauntings.”
Even so, Jorgensen believes she spoke to only a small percentage of people who have had these experiences and that there are many more who didn’t know about her project and didn’t have the chance to tell their story.
“I’ve already heard several new ghost stories and expect to hear many more. Maybe there will be a Volume Two.”
Nathan Montoya, co-owner of Village Lights Bookstore, says, “There are several popular works on ghosts, haunted trails, and such in Indiana and Kentucky. It’s high time Madison had its own, and a very good one it is. I’ve had a ball reading this book. The stories could well change the way many Madison residents look at their old familiar ‘haunts,’ and the book will serve as a terrific guide for visitors who are unable to catch one of Ginger’s future tours.”
The book launch is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 9 pm. Light refreshments will be provided. Jorgensen will be available to sign books and give readings throughout the evening. She also will be signing her book from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, at the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center during the “Night Spirits” annual Halloween event at the Lanier Mansion.

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