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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top 10 strangest things to happen in Fresno for 2010

It’s hard to believe that 2010 is almost over. This year saw some good things for Weird Fresno. I’m now a featured writer over at Fresno Famous and I've also started a forum for people to share their stories with others. Going back through all the posts I did over the year, I was able to trim down the 165 posts (this one will make it 166) to what I felt was the top ten posts of the year.

Number 10 - Another strange creature sighted at Millerton Lake

I've done a few posts now on Millerton Lake and the strange things that people have seen in the water. This one story was interesting to me due to the fact I got a phone call from someone who had searched strange creature sightings in Millerton Lake on Google and my site was the first thing that came up. Out of all the e-mails I get, weird things seen at Millerton Lake are the most common. One has to wonder what's lurking under the water's surface.

Original post can be found here.

Number 9 - Strange triangular shaped craft seen over Fresno

Usually I ignore most UFO videos on YouTube, but this one grabbed my attention. To this day I still don't know what it is. But there's been some strange things in the skies above Fresno over the past year.

Original post can be found here.

Number 8 - Was the Chupacabra seen in a Bakersfield park?

It wouldn’t be a Top Ten post without at least one post of the unofficial mascot for Weird Fresno. This time the sighting was in a Bakersfield park and was complete with the grainy cell phone camera image. Most likely this was yet another animal with mange, but for whatever reason they keep being misidentified as chupacabra. One has to wonder how many sightings will occur in 2011?

Original post can be found here.

Number 7 - KMPH 26 reports UFOs seen in Fresno over the Fourth of July weekend

Like I mentioned earlier, some strange things have been seen in the Fresno skies over the past year and there was some crazy UFO stuff going on over the 4th of July weekend in the Fresno area. Several sightings occured, including a large cigar shaped craft flying over a house in Clovis. KMPH 26 even did a small news piece on the sightings.

Original post can be found here.

Number 6 - ABC 30 reports Bigfoot sightings on the rise in Fresno County

Like UFOs, Bigfoot sightings were also on the rise in the Fresno County area this year. What surprised me about this was that the reporter actually took the subject matter seriously. Usually with anything paranormal they always try to make jokes about it, add the X Files theme (happened to me once) or just make the people in the article look like kooks. ABC 30 was different. Granted they didn’t show any conclusive evidence, but still this was better than what other news stations have done. I hope they take note for the next time they do something.

Original post can be found here.

Number 5 - Did a UFO crash near Fresno over the weekend?

This has to be one of the strangest stories of the entire year. A UFO was reported to have crashed east of Fresno in the foothills and was military in origin. Jeffery Gonzalez of the Sanger Paranormal Society claims to have video taped the craft, but it’s hard to really make anything out. Still this story was of interest as it made news on several national paranormal sites. Unfortunately nothing else was ever reported on this story.

Original post can be found here.

Number 4 - Return to Snake Road

This one was interesting just because of what I was unable to do. Bored one night, I decided to head out towards Sanger with a fully charged video camera in tow. I’m on the fence about the story, but wanted to shoot some video to show what the area was like. After a 30 minute drive, I arrived and parked my car on the side of the road, grabbed my camera and started to walk. But when I turned on my camera I was surprised to find out that I only had about five minutes left on the battery (normally it can shoot for 90 minutes or so). So I hastily shot some video on the side of the road (which didn’t come out right as it was too dark) and then jumped back in the car and shot some video driving down the road.

Original post can be found here.

Number 3 -The return to the Fright Night Scream Park

Granted this one isn’t paranormal in nature, but it shows that even I can still get scared. Last year I had done some great promo work with the Scream Park and was asked to do it again this year. The idea I had was to have someone there call the Weird Fresno hotline and goad me into coming back. Problem was they were so busy setting up that when I arrived to shoot the video for the blog post, no one had called. But I had worked out something where I would get a few phone calls and then I would post the video a bit later then I planned.

A few days passed when I received a phone call. I let it go to voice mail (as I always do) and then listened to the message. It sounded nothing like the person who was supposed to call me and didn’t mention anything about the park and figured it was someone else. But before I could get a chance to call them back, they started calling my phone constantly. At work, at home, late at night. And the messages were just weird. The person kept saying they had something to show me, that they wanted to be my best friend and they loved me. Having my fair share of psychos calling me, I got a bit nervous and if you follow either @weirdfresno or my personal twitter feed you would know this. My tweets got the attention of the person who ran their twitter feed and they contacted me and said it wasn’t them, which terrified me even more. The calls continued and finally I started to freak out even more. Finally I received a message via twitter from the park saying it was them all along. I’m to assume it was someone else, as I didn’t recognize the voice. Luckily I was able to work in into the post even though I was expecting something entirely different. But needless to say I fell victim to my own promotion.

Original post can be found here.

Number 2 - Strange things going on at Lost Lake

This was one of my favorites of the year because we have two different types of sightings here. One was the ghost of a small child and the other was of a strange creature. Even more interesting is both accounts are from the same witness, but at different locations in the park. Both were definitely weird and plans to visit the park are in the works for 2011.

Original post can be found here.

Number 1 - Update on video of strange creatures captured on Fresno CCTV


SyFy channel show airs strange video shot in Fresno

These two go together in that they are related in the fact the first post then warranted the second one. One of my first posts was done about this strange video of these “creatures” that someone had captured on a CCTV video. About a year later I was able to find more video, this time showing the person’s house and yard and putting the size of the creatures into perspective. If you watch the video you and compare the size of the tree to the creatures you will see they can’t be more than 18 to 24 inches tall.

What’s even better is the second post put me in touch with a show on the SyFy network. The show was called Fact or Fiction and they try to either prove or debunk supposed paranormal related videos on the internet and had come across the one above. Through Google they had found my site and called me with a few questions. Unfortunately they didn’t offer me a job, but after watching them splicing some footage shot at Woodward Park and saying it was near the person’s house (which it’s not), I wasn’t too upset over this.

Original posts can be found here and here.

So there you have it, the top ten strangest things to happen in around the Fresno area for 2010. With the new year approaching us, that means that 2012 is that much closer (and the end of the world as some people want you to think). Who knows what crazy shit will happen in 2011. All I know is that whatever it is, you'll read about it here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Santa Claus is real. And I have proof.

I’m sure most of us at one time or another believed in Santa Claus. It was part of growing up, writing that letter to Santa and “trying” to be good. Then on Christmas Eve we put a plate of cookies and milk out for dear old St. Nick as a way of thanking him for visiting and (hopefully) leaving us all the toys we asked for. Cue the next morning and we would run to the living room and see a pile of presents under the tree. Being good had paid off this year for little Billy.

But as we grew older we found out the truth. That Santa wasn’t real, that there was no workshop at the North Pole staffed by elves (and Will Ferrell). Turns out it was all our parents doing, they were the one who bought all the gifts and ate the cookies. Santa Claus was nothing more than a make believe story. Or is he? I say he is real. And I have proof.

Santa Claus portrait with Black Background
Photo courtesy of Vanessa Pike-Russel from Flickr.

See this photo? Of course you know who it is. But show this photo to any random person on the street and ask them who it is and 9 times out of 10 they will say it is Santa Claus. If he isn’t real, than why do people recognize him?

The truth is Santa is real, in a way. No he doesn’t fly around the world on a sleigh pulled by reindeer. But the legend does have it’s roots in reality. Santa Claus is based off Saint Nicholas who was a Bishop in what is now modern day Turkey. He was known for secret gift giving, leaving coins in the shoes of the poor. There are also several similarities between the Norse god Odin and Santa Claus. Odin was associated with the Germanic holiday known as Yule. Odin would ride an eight legged horse named Sleipnir that was able to leap great distances. Modern day folklorists compare this to Santa’s reindeer. As Odin was riding his great horse, children would place their boots, filled with carrots, straw, or sugar, near the chimney for Sleipnir to eat. For those children that did this, Odin would reward them by placing gifts and candy into their boots. This tradition is still practiced today as seen in the hanging of stockings by the chimney in homes. In modern times, Saint Nicholas was merged with Father Christmas to create the character known as Santa Claus. Only in the 20th Century is where his now familiar appearance came into being.

So how does this make Santa Claus real? It’s just the history of him, nothing else right? Not necessarily. Let’s go back to again when you were a kid. Who bought all the toys, wrapped them, and hid them under the tree? Most likely your parents. And when they were kids their parents did the same thing. And some of you who are reading this now have children of your own and are doing the same thing. So in a sense we are Santa Claus in that we continue the traditions from one generation to the next.

So there you have it. Santa Claus is most definitely real.

We here at Weird Fresno want to wish everyone happy holidays. It’s hard to believe 2010 is almost over. Let’s hope 2011 is a good year for everyone.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Madera's New Hope Cemetery

New Hope Cemetery - Madera County
Photo by Michael Banti

I first heard the stories of New Hope Cemetery, located in southern Madera County, while I was still in high school. I was with my best friend Tom when a friend of his, who knew of our love of all things paranormal, told us about this cemetery that was located out in the country. At one time it had a church on the grounds, but it had burned down to the ground (all that was left was the steps sometime in the mid 1980's. Rumor had it that a group of Satanist were responsible for the fire as well as performing dark rituals in the cemetery grounds itself. Ever since then the cemetery was reported to be haunted.

Needless to say we were interested. The three of us jumped in Tom's car and headed towards the cemetery. Unfortunately as we got there, we were to chicken to get out of the car (oh to be 17 again) and just drove away. But that wasn't the end of it. A week or so later, Tom and I headed to the cemetery this time armed with baseball bats, knives, sharpened screwdrivers, wooden stakes, and at least a gallon of holy water. We didn't know what to expect, but we were ready (or so we thought). We got there and as we parked next to the cemetery's fence we saw a red glow coming from the cemetery. Freaked out someone had left a candle burning as part of some dark ritual or something, Tom put the car into reverse and started to leave. As he did this I noticed the red glow disappear. I told him to stop and the glow came back. Turns out it was the reflection of his tail lights on a polished gravestone. That's how freaked out we were.

That night, nothing of much interest happened. But a few years later we drove there one night bored as we had nothing going on. We were walking around like we always do when we started to hear what sounded like drums in the distance. Listening to them, they reminded me of the Native American drums I heard when I attended a pow wow a few years previous. I knew the area very well as my family has vineyards a few miles away and couldn't think of where they were coming from. But what I heard next still is fresh in my mind well over a decade later. I heard what sounded like two little girls laughing, almost laughing like they knew something we didn't. I looked at Tom and could tell he heard the same thing. Needless to say we got the hell out of there.

We visited the cemetery over the years, something always strange happening. One night I was driving by it on my way home when I saw a pair of headlights driving literally in the almond orchard next to the cemetery. As I got closer it started to flash it's lights at me. First were high beams, then regular, then completely off, only to repeat the pattern again. As curious as I was, I didn't find out what the hell was going on and got out of there quickly.

Near the steps of the church. You can see the cemetery in the
background. Photo by Michael Banti

I hadn't been by the cemetery in several years when a friend of mine needed a creepy place to shoot some video in Madera. I suggested the cemetery and we headed out there. When we got there I saw the strangest thing. Some guy in a trailer had set up camp on the remains of the church's foundation. Obviously we didn't stop, but I did shoot some video. You can find it and more info on that day here.

I wish I knew if the stories on the cemetery were true or just more urban legends told by teenagers that are bored one night. The only thing I know for certain is the church did burn down as there are records of it. But I haven't been able to find out anything on to what or who caused it. As for the little girls, I went back at a later date and checked to see if there were any young girls buried there (the graves were as recent as the 1990's and went back nearly a century), but couldn't find anything. But I know what I heard and so did Tom. So that begs the question. What did we hear that night?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How Weird Fresno came into existence

It's hard to believe that I've been doing this blog for over two years now and have over 250 posts (this one will make it 264). I've written everything from mangy coyotes being mistaken for Chupacabras (apparently enough to get an honorable mention at the Frebby's) to haunted locales through out the Central Valley and crazy UFO sightings. But I realized that I never really talked about myself, what got me into the paranormal and how I went from an investigator to a blogger. So here's my story.

I've been interested in the strange for as long as I can remember. Around 10 years old I met my best friend Tom, who was also interested in the paranormal and from that friendship grew my interest. My first experience was in my mother's old house when I saw a white figure moving in the hallway. I thought it was my sister, but turns out she was fast asleep. Asking my mom about it, I found that the previous owner's wife had died in the house and she had been seen occasionally.

Fast forward to my early twenties in the summer of 2000, where Tom and I formed our first ghost hunting group with two other friends. We knew nothing at that time and there were no classes or shows on TV so we read everything we could. That group lasted about a year until differences and just regular life events forced us to stop doing that.

Then in July of 2005 I met Jackie Meador of Central California Paranormal Investigators. For the next four years I was part of CCPI, helping Jackie on investigations, teaching her classes at the adult ed. center, and other things.

Then in 2009 I started to grow tired of investigating supposed haunted locations. CCPI was growing in members and I was starting to lose interest as I prefer to work in small groups. With that and some personal issues I decided to leave the group. It was nothing against Jackie or CCPI, in fact I'm still in regular contact with them and pass them any leads I may get. But it was around that time that I made friends with several bloggers in the Fresno area. Encouraged by what they did, I decided to start a blog documenting the paranormal in the Fresno area. And with that Weird Fresno was born.

Over the past two years it has changed. At first I still considered myself a paranormal investigator, just by myself. But as I started to research these legends and tales, I began to remember what got me into the paranormal to begin with. The stories. So I've started to become a bit of a folklorist, studying the stories that I find and sharing them and letting people make up their own mind on if they are real or not.

I still believe in ghosts, UFO's, and strange creatures. But I don't try to prove their existence now. I just tell the stories how I hear them and let others decide.

That being said, I've been wanting to get the readers more involved with Weird Fresno, to not just make it a site where someone can read about the weird tales of the area, but a place where they can share their own story. So I've created a forum for Weird Fresno and invite anyone to sign up for it and to share their stories and just talk in general about the paranormal. I also hope it can be a place for local groups to talk and share stories/ideas as there really isn't one. All I ask is that you be civil and respect each other's beliefs. Mind you it's still new so there aren't many posts yet, just a few I put on there to start things off. I really want the readers to make it their own.

To get to the forum, click the Weird Fresno logo at the top right of the page and it will take you straight to the forum where you can sign up and start posting.

I really want to thank everyone who's read the blog and commented over the past 2 years. You guys make this blog what it is. Thanks.