OPS Central - Itís A Jungle Out There!
Itís A Jungle Out There!
Written by Kevin Woodrow
SUBJECT: OPS Animal Encounters
DATE: 04 - 06 - 07
On the way to my first investigation after joining OPS, the guys told me that there was a pattern forming with their outings and different types of animals. I thought it was because they hadn’t been on many investigations yet, and the encounters were merely a coincidence. Maybe I even thought they were a little crazy. However, after becoming entrenched with the team, and having notched numerous investigations on by belt, I can honestly say… I think there might be something to this animal thing.
With this week’s installment, I’m not going to delve into the world of the paranormal. Instead, I’m going to discuss something a little “wilder” - the jungle in our own backyards. I’m going to discuss each of the OPS Team’s animal encounters, detailing each untamed ordeal. And, with an assist from our Technical Specialist Lance Johnston, I am going to add a bit a symbolic twist to each. With his help I was able to discover several believed meanings that each of these animals are symbols of, and I will try to explain how they may be important to our investigations.
Now, I don’t consider myself a superstitious guy by any means. However, I have to admit that I do find it interesting how some of these animal meanings seem to coincide with our mission. So, please humor me, if you will.
During our investigations, by far, the type of animal we’ve seen the most is the dog. That should come as no surprise as dogs are very common.
Before I joined the team, Mark and Dewey had gone up to Cemetery Mountain (see “Alabama Folklore” section) one afternoon to scout out the area before a nighttime investigation. When they arrived, their vehicle was greeted by a group of wild dogs. The dogs seemed threatening, yet never growled, and would not allow either team member to exit the vehicle.
Another encounter was at The Foundry in Munford (see “Alabama Folklore“ section). While taking a drive-by look at The Foundry a dog pursued our vehicle for quite a distance. Then, without warning, it shot right in front of our truck, causing Lance to hit the breaks in order to avoid an accident. However, we do know that things like this happen all the time. That’s just a dog being a dog.
Then, on our most recent excursion to the Munford Cemetery (see “Alabama Folklore“ section), upon arriving we witnessed a large beagle running through the graveyard. The dog had an orange collar, and we aren’t sure whether our presence frightened the animal or if it was just out for a nightly jog.
It is very interesting that we’ve encountered dogs as much as we have, because the dog is believed to symbolize companionship, service, loyalty, and future prosperity. Companionship is key because that is how OPS was born, through friends sharing a common interest. Service is obviously important since that is exactly what we are trying to provide, a service that is uncommon, yet we believe it is very needed. Loyalty is very important, because we need to remain loyal to our team, to the community, and to the field that we are studying. And, we definitely hope that the last meaning holds true, as we want this team to be very prosperous. We want OPS to grow, so that we can help more people and learn more about paranormal occurrences.
The story of how our cow encounter took place is quite funny. Well, in my opinion, it’s funny. We were conducting our first residential investigation at a home in Clay County (see “Cases Section“). We were there to attempt to document possible hauntings in a barn on the property. One of our Field Researchers, Deborah, accompanied us on that particular night. Dewey and Deborah were in the very back of the barn, while I was towards the front. Behind me, I heard Dewey and Deborah begin to discuss a sound they had noticed coming from behind the barn. According to them it sounded like a growling. A few moments after I heard them mention a “growl”, they proceeded to head for the front of the barn and straight out the front door, with myself right with them. Needless to say, the possibility of something growling out there in the middle of the night somewhat startled us.
A few minutes later, however, myself and the property owner went around behind the barn to investigate the sound. Soon, we discovered that it apparently was only a cow in the distance. But, we both agreed that at first the sound did have the audible qualities of a growl. It was an odd sound indeed.
The symbolic meaning behind the cow is that it holds a sense of hope and nurturing efforts. That is very important for this particular investigation because it was our first residential case, and it was the first time that we set up the entirety of our equipment for one outing. It was a definite learning period for us, and we cannot send enough appreciation to the residents who allowed us on their property that night. Those people, whether they knew it or not, were definitely nurturing our efforts as they patiently allowed us to investigate their property. And, it’s people like them, who allow us to come into their lives for a short period, that truly give us a sense of hope for our future.
Before I joined up with the team, they conducted an investigation in a school that is believed to be haunted. During that outing they recorded a couple of strange noises and walked away with several odd photos. However, although they acquired a good deal of evidence, the most exciting moment of that night was when they were unpleasantly surprised by a nocturnal creature. According to their report, they were searching an area of the building when all of the sudden, out the darkness, a bat flew straight towards them. Then, it vanished back into the shadows as it bolted away down a hall. The guys said that the incident definitely wouldn’t be classified as a “bat attack”, but something tells me that it almost gave them a “heart attack”.
According to what I’ve read, the bat symbolizes good luck, joy, and longevity. While I’d love to tell you that we don’t need good luck because we are just so good at what we do… it’s not totally the truth. I mean, I like to think we’re proficient at paranormal investigations, but no matter how GOOD we are, with the unpredictable nature of things that are paranormal, luck can be a great ally. Sometimes we just have to be in the right place at the right time in order to capture the evidence that we want. And, believe me, it is a great joy when we do find the truth behind a case. However, even if we don’t uncover any answers, we do find joy in the amazing people that we meet along the way. We do meet some truly wonderful people each and every day. And, we do indeed hope that we find longevity in what we are doing, because we would love to be learning about the paranormal and helping people for years to come.
On a recent trip back to the Munford Cemetery (see “Alabama Folklore” section), we were accompanied by two prospects for future investigators. While Mark and Lance were sweeping the lower part of the cemetery with the two prospects, Dewey and I took a walk up to the upper part of the graveyard that is fenced in. As we approached Dewey spotted a small rabbit sitting near a headstone inside the fence. However, as soon as I opened the gate, the rabbit bolted off into the darkness, which was no surprise at all. This rabbit sighting wasn’t something that was amazing, but I have to ask the question… was this an early appearance of the Easter Bunny? Your guess is as good as mine.
From a symbolic approach, the rabbit holds many meanings, a few of which are fear, courage, and strength. When I first read about what the rabbit symbolizes, I wondered how it could mean both fear AND courage. They are basically polar opposites. So, how could a rabbit mean both? Then, I realized something. You have to fear something in order be courageous and face it. So, without fear, there can be no courage. And, although most of us rarely admit it, there at least has to be an ounce of fear in each of us of what we might find. Could it be that we fear what we might see, or of what paranormal answers we may uncover? Or, are we afraid that we may find no answers at all? None-the-less, strength plays a key roll in this, as me must indeed be strong in order face whatever fear we may have. Even if we never admit that those fears exist at all.
Once again, there was an animal encounter before I was ever apart of the team. As the story was told to me, Mark, Lance, and Dewey were on their first case at the old jail grounds at Fort McClellan (see “Cases” section), and were investigating the many small buildings in the area. While inside one of the buildings, they kept hearing a noise coming from outside. Deciding to find out exactly what, or who, was making the sounds, they opened the back door to the building, only to be ungratefully greeted by the gobbles of a couple of wild turkeys. The guys had a good laugh as the feathered creatures hurried away.
From what I can gather, the turkey is a profound symbol of self sacrifice. This indeed rings true with us as we sacrifice much of our time and money in order to continue with our endeavors. And, there are countless others who donate their time and money to help us as well, and we greatly appreciate every bit of that. We can also never forget those who allow us to come into their homes and on their property with each investigation. That, in itself, is a form of sacrifice.
There is also something very noteworthy in regards to where this symbolic animal was seen. The turkeys were seen at Fort McClellan, which would be considered “military grounds“. And, what greater example of self sacrifice is there than to give your life to protect others, as those in the military do each and every day. So, without a doubt, this particular animal sighting is symbolic indeed.
Yet another animal encounter occurred at the old jail grounds at Fort McClellan (see “Cases” section), but this time I was present. As we pulled up in the truck to the jail site, a pack of deer were standing near the side of the road, which is something that is very common around here. Obviously, as soon as our headlights hit them, they trotted off into the woods - a fate much better than that of many deer that get caught in a vehicle’s headlights.
Not surprisingly, the gentle deer symbolizes kindness and compassion. These two characteristics need to be instilled with us on each of our investigations, and they truly are. We must always keep in mind that when you’re attempting to capture evidence of a ghost or haunting, that if it truly is a ghost that you’re dealing with… he or she used to be a person as well. And, that person also has loved ones. Especially when we’re on a case in someone’s home or at a cemetery, we must always treat everyone and everything with the utmost respect, kindness, and compassion. And, believe me when I say this, the OPS Team does exactly that.
During an investigation one night at a bridge referred to by many as Hell’s Gate Bridge (see “Alabama Folklore” section), the guys were doing EVP work and snapping photos while on the structure. All of the sudden, they heard something coming towards them from the darkness. However, as soon as one of them shined their flashlight in the sound’s direction, the mystery was solved. The nightly intruder was an armadillo. If that armadillo had set out in search of ghost hunters, it’s hunt had definitely been a success.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that, with it’s natural body armor, the armadillo embodies the characteristic of self protection. This is extremely important since we, on many occasions, find ourselves out in the woods in “the middle nowhere“ on some of our cases. We always need to be prepared for the worst on each investigation. You never know what injuries may come our way in the midnight hours, and it is always best to be as prepared as possible. Just like the old saying goes, “It’s better to be safe than sorry”.
The final animal I will discuss was encountered while conducting an investigation at a residence in Talladega County (see “Cases” section) where sightings of a Civil War soldier were reported. On several occasions that night, while spending time in the woods on the property taking audio recordings near a strange rock, each member of the team heard a loud screeching sound. The noise had a very piercing quality, and we actually caught it on our digital audio recorders. After hearing it a few times we finally asked the property owner if he knew of anything that might be causing the sound. He then told us that there was a rather large owl that has often been seen in those woods. With that, we realized that we had just encountered yet another animal without ever actually seeing it.
Owls are often seen as wise creatures, and the owl’s symbolic meaning holds true to that. The owl stands for clairvoyance and wisdom. Clairvoyance, among other more supernatural things, means that a person can have perceptions and keen insights about people and life situations. This is key to our operations, in a more mundane way, as we try to learn as much as we possibly can about the history, geography, people, places, and all aspects that pertain to a haunting before pursuing it. We believe that knowing as much about a haunted place before you do an investigation can only help us in trying to find the true nature of the possible paranormal occurrences. And, through this and other ways that we “do our homework” both before and after each investigation, we learn so much each and every day. We gain knowledge through the things that we read, images that we view, sounds that we hear, places that we visit, and people that we meet. The wisdom that we acquire doing what we do is truly priceless.
There is definitely a nice collection of animals that we have encountered during OPS investigations throughout the area. Many of those took place before I was around to see them, but enough of them have taken place in my presence for me to realize that maybe… just maybe… there might be some meanings to their sightings.
Now, I know that seeing animals isn’t what we set out to do on each trip. However, when the creatures keep bolting out of the darkness, invading our work areas, corrupting our audio recordings, getting in front of our vehicles, and taking nightly strolls through cemeteries… it’s kind of hard to ignore them. I’m not saying I’m starting to believe in all of these animal symbols or anything. However, like with ghosts and spirits, I definitely believe in the possibility.
In closing, I’d like to point out that if I did truly believe in the symbolism of animals there is one animal out there that I wish I could run into during one of our nightly endeavors. It is the animal that I have learned, through my readings, that symbolizes a great ability for record keeping. This has never been a strong skill of mine, and I would truly welcome the help. That animal is the WHALE. During our investigations here in Alabama… please… wish me luck in finding one.
Until next time,