Know any good ghost stories? How about a tale of a local “Lovers Lane” killer or a spirit or floating light hanging out at a railroad crossing somewhere? Surely many Texarkana area residents have had or know someone who’s experienced a “Fouke Monster” sighting and swear by its truth or guffaw at the very thought of such a preposterous claim. Chad Lewis’ latest book, “Hidden Headlines of Texas: Strange, Bizarre and Unusual Newspaper Stories from 1860-1910,” examines another Texarkana tale.
Lewis has penned “Road Guides” to ghostly sites and unexplained happenings in a series of books focusing on the “Haunted Locations” of Iowa, South Dakota, Minnesota and Illinois. His “Hidden Headlines” series includes stories for residents of New York and Wisconsin in addition to the new Texas “Headlines.” It was while researching events in Aurora, where a UFO allegedly collided with a windmill in 1887, that Lewis decided to tackle Texas’ “hidden” stories from the past. One of the more locally intriguing articles Lewis located in the Dallas Morning News tells of the experience of “Mrs. Rachel P. Moores, one of Texarkana’s oldest residents, a lady of education, refinement and wealth, and one of the leaders of the First Baptist Church.”
In narrative fashion, Lewis describes the Moores’ lives at their plantation “near Alamo Mills” and a case of buried treasure found in the land of dreams by a loving, lifelong mate. Jamie Simmons, exhibits curator at Texarkana Museum of Regional History, read the account and said the information was plausible and fitting of one of Texarkana’s pioneer couples. “We have transcripts from her diary and original letters she and her husband exchanged. They were a very close couple, and when he passed away, she mourned for quite a long time,” Simmons said. “We have a picture of her in mourning that had been taken some time after his passing. I haven’t heard that particular story, and we don’t have anything on file which speaks to that, but that sounds like her.”
Lewis, of Eau Claire, Wis., has traveled the world tracking down unexplained events and conducting research on “why people believe what they believe.” And he is having a blast digging up these oddities from the past. Lewis hopes to stimulate others to look for curiosities in their own part of the world. “Above all, it’s an adventure,” he says. “These programs and books reveal what’s available to us all just by digging around in your own backyard. The travel and time demands got to be too much to handle after a while, so last year I quit my job as a grant writer to do this full time.”
It seems out-of-the-ordinary events can happen at any time, any place around the globe these days. Some people’s curiosity just never seems to be satisfied when it comes to the oddities of human behavior and belief systems about “paranormal” events—phenomena that seem to defy the laws of science. Lewis also has such an insatiable appetite for the collective of creatures created by what our brains tell us after it is filtered by biological, environmental and cultural screens.
Is there any truth to the tales of Nessie, the monster alleged to live in Loch Ness in Scotland? Or the chupacabra in Latin American lore? Let’s not forget the unidentified objects flitting above parts of Great Britain earlier this week were viewed by more than 100 observers on the ground for almost 30 minutes, according to wire service reports. Lewis’ fascination with the public’s attitudes toward the unexplained blossomed more than 14 years ago while he was a psychology student at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
“I have always been curious about why people choose to believe or not believe the paranormal. I began conducting research on the differences in perceptions and responses by gender, age, religious or spiritual beliefs. Now, after all these years, I’m left with more questions than I have answers,” Lewis said from Iowa, where he is conducting other research. “When I first began my research, UFOs were a big topic. I was interested in talking to the believers and nonbelievers about alien abductions and other facets, and it just spiraled out from there because I’ve become fascinated with all of it. I have been to some very interesting places doing this research.” Interesting is an understatement of the first-rate adventures, which always seem to accompany visits to Transylvania, the jungles of Belize, Area 51 and the Aurora UFO crash site.
In Belize, Lewis and associates trudged into the bush seeking evidence of the legendary Tata Duende, described as an overgrown gnome-like creature who carries a large hatchet and is there to protect the jungle. To avoid being caught or seen, the Tata’s feet are backward to throw off trackers. Unfortunately, no sighting occurred, Lewis said. But it is all a great adventure and a challenge to suspend disbelief long enough to seriously consider paranormal situations while looking for scientific evidence supporting or refuting the claims of individuals, groups and, in some cases, cultures.
Along his circuitous Midwest Americana roadtrips conducting research in libraries and newspaper records, Lewis became an in-demand public speaker on an ever-increasing variety of paranormal subjects. While at one such engagement, Lewis encountered and became associates with Terry Fisk, a paranormal investigator and practitioner of Shamanic Buddhism. Fisk studied philosophy and religion at the University of Wisconsin and is Lewis’ co-author of the “Haunted” series and co-hosts the regional television and radio program “The Unexplained.” Lewis and Fisk’s Website, www.unexplainedresearch.com, provides viewers and listeners a chance to hear archived radio talk-show programs along the lines of international “weirdologist” Art Bell’s deep-night approach to the radio airwaves.
But Lewis doesn’t expect everyone to believe everything he and others uncover. He’s not a crusader with alien connections. He’s just interested in what you believe.