Phoenix man turns to social media for help with paranormal activity

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Rudy Calderon talks about strange happenings in his family's Phoenix home. Uriel J. Garcia/azcentral

Rudy Calderon points to writing discovered ion the wall n his family‘s Phoenix home.(Photo: Uriel J. Garcia/The Republic)

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It started with knickknacks being moved around the house. Then it was kitchen drawers being opened.  

The haunting experience culminated when Rudy Calderon‘s family saw a Yiddish word scrawled on a bathroom wall with what appears to be charcoal.

The word, based on Google translate, means “danger.”

Calderon, 28, thought someone in the Phoenix home was pranking the family with a series of paranormal stunts.

If that‘s the case, no one has confessed, even after another, potentially damaging incident on Christmas in which both bathrooms flooded, he said.

Now, he believes it‘s supernatural activity.

“I don’t think this is natural, I think there’s a supernatural entity involved,” Calderon said. “But I can’t say one way or another.”

Calderon uploaded the pictures and a video of the ominous images to his Facebook account on Christmas Eve. Since then, more than 450 people had shared the post as of Wednesday afternoon and the video has been viewed 70,000 times.

Dozens of comments have been posted, many of them offering advice on how to deal with troublesome spirits.

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It‘s no viral sensation, which by today‘s standards would require at least a million views within a week, but It‘s more interaction than Calderon has ever seen.

“For the past few days our house that my grandfather, aunt, two cousins and myself have been living in has been ‘acting up,‘ ” he wrote on his Facebook on Christmas Eve. “We have been hearing noises, objects appear out of nowhere, they move around and yesterday all of our kitchen cabinets were left open. All doors were locked so no one could have gotten in and we tried to blame each other but then things got weirder.”

Various people from across the country have commented on the post offering spiritual suggestions.

To his surprise, most of the comments seem genuinely concerned for Calderon and his family‘s well being. He expected more ridicule than what he has received, he said.

“If you have someone pray over your house, the person that prays has to be someone very powerful spiritually or else you will just make it angry,” a Facebook user named Frank Ibarra recommended.

Others insist it‘s all some hoax.

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Are there such things as ghosts? Roughly half of Americans believe so.  Getty Images/iStockphoto The wind was howling when Vincent Amico and a team from the AZ Paranormal Investigation and Research Society arrived at the abandoned Phelps Dodge Hospital in Ajo. The breeze whistled through cracks and broken windows, making it seem as if the building was howling too.  AZ Paranormal Investigation and Research Society Members of the AZ Paranormal Investigation and Research Society set up equipment in the abandoned Phelps Dodge Hospital in Ajo, where paranormal investigator Vincent Amico said he had one of his most frightening encounters.  AZ Paranormal Investigation and Research Society Paint chips litter a room inside the abandoned Phelps Dodge Hospital. At one point, paranormal investigators Vincent and Pamela Amico swore they heard someone walking on paint chips, but opened the door to find an empty room.  AZ Paranormal Investigation and Research Society Michael Foster isn‘t a big believer in ghosts, but senses there is something strange inhabiting the Carr House, where he is the official host.  Michael Foster The Carr House sits at the foot of the Huachuca Mountains. Michael Foster, who hosts weekend visitors at the house, wonders if the building holds an essence of those who died after falling from the cliffs.  Michael Foster Monsoon storms feed a waterfall behind the Carr House. Host Michael Foster said dozens have plummeted to their deaths near the falls, and that their spirits may be linked to the strange sensations he experiences within the house.  Michael Foster The Carr House was built in 1939  Michael Foster Workers renovating the historic Sunkist packing plant in Mesa spoke of seeing a shadowy figure in the basement, said paranormal investigator Jay Yates.  Mark Henle/The Republic Spirits are said to still inhabit cell blocks at Yuma‘s Territorial Prison  Mark Henle/The Republic As bad as conditions were at Yuma‘s Territorial Prison, it‘s believed by some that ghostly inmates linger.  Roger Naylor/Special for the Rep The Dark Cell at the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, once used to discipline unruly prisoners, may house the spirit of a young girl who pinches visitors as they pass by.  The Republic Inmates line up at the Yuma Territorial Prison, circa 1800s. Perhaps some are still lining up, if you believe in ghosts.  Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, Arizona Historical Society The Yuma Territorial Prison along the Colorado River, circa 1800s.  Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, Arizona Historical Society The front gate at the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park.  Arizona State Parks The Yuma Territorial Prison is a popular tourist attraction, and is said to be nearly as popular with spirits.  The Republic The Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park housed a number of lifers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Now it‘s said to host after-lifers.  Yuma Visitors Bureau The entrance into the Crystal Room at Grand Canyon Caverns is 220 feet below the surface. The dark, quiet surroundings seem perfect for various ghost stories.  Grand Canyon Caverns Visitors and tour guides alike have reported strange phenomenon inside Grand Canyon Caverns. Some speculate the cave holds the spirits of those who have fallen to their deaths.  Grand Canyon Caverns Visitors trek into Grand Canyon Caverns, circa the 1970s.  The Republic Those on the Grand Canyon Caverns ghost tour are treated to tales of phantoms and spirits spied inside the stone chambers.  Mark Henle/The Republic The entrance to the Vulture Mine near Wickenburg.  Jon Brooks, Jon Brooks The assay building near the Vulture Mine in Wickenburg may be home to spirits still waiting for gold.  Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce The infamous “Hanging Tree” at Vulture Mine.  The Republic Legend has it that 18 miners met their maker after stealing gold, and some of their spirits may still linger. Historians say the only thing hanged there was the truth out to dry.  Vulture Mine Tours Precious ore pulled from the Vulture Mine fueled a boomtown in the 1800s. Now it‘s a ghost town, perhaps in more ways than one.  The Republic Formerly a hotel, the Hassayampa Building in Wickenburg is said to contain the spirit of the initial proprietor.  Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce The London Bridge dates back to 1831, plenty of time to pick up a few ghostly hitchhikers when it was moved to Lake Havasu City in 1967.  The Republic There have been reports of a couple dressed in old-fashioned English clothing strolling across London Bridge and then vanishing as quickly as they appeared.  The Republic The London Bridge heavily trafficked at the turn of the 20th century. Today, it‘s much quieter in comparison with plenty of room for spirited strolls.  HistoGrafica Should you find yourself on the London Bridge on a quiet night, keep an eye out for a ghostly couple enjoying the fresh air.  The Republic Starting its life as a movie theater, the Orpheum in downtown Phoenix hosts live performances that may or may not attract the dead.  Cheryl Evans/The Republic If the ghostly Mattie inhabits the Orpheum Theater, this would be her view from the balcony.  Mark Henle/The Republic Various performers have claimed to see a ghost or two on stage, and not just during “A Christmas Carol.”  The Republic 22176 — Exterior of the The Orpheum Theater is said to be haunted by Mattie, a benign spirit.  Chery Evans/The Republic Mae West appears in front of the Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix to promote her new movie, in 1933. No one has reported seeing her ghost inside the Orpheum. Yet.  Eric Hertzfield While spirits have been seen inside the historic Otero Ranch house, no paranormal activity has been reported on the golf course. Unless you count those rookie golfers who swore they finished under par.  Tubac Golf Resort & Spa Pesky poltergiests have been reported at the Otero Ranch house at the Tubac Golf Resort & Spa. One person napping on a couch said the piece of furniture levitate beneath him.  Courtesy of Tubac Golf Resort &

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‘It‘s pretty widespread‘

Still, the wave of support that Calderon has received is part of a trend that more Americans believe in ghost stories, professors say.

But those who have these experiences, like Calderon, are left with a lot of questions and few answers. 

“The past week has been pretty miserable for us. We’re tired and we’re low on energy,” Calderon said. “We’re stumped as to why it’s happening now. The reason I went to social media is because I‘ve never experienced anything like this before.”

Christopher Bader, a sociology professor at Chapman University in Orange, California, who researches ghost hunters, said Calderon‘s experiences are not unique.

He said that based on his research, such experiences, with the exception of the Yiddish writing, are common and can happen to anyone.

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Diane Goldstein, a folklore professor at Indiana University, said she has never heard of Yiddish writing on the wall in the ghost stories she‘s researched. However, she agreed with Bader that such ghost stories are common among people, regardless of their cultural, educational background or income.

“It‘s pretty widespread,” she said.

Bader, who co-authored the book, “Paranormal America,” also said that TV shows in recent years have helped legitimized anecdotes of paranormal activity. 

“You can read this in one of two ways, some of my friends say that this is a negative aspect of our culture and we‘re becoming more gullible,” he said. “But other people believe that people are less afraid to speak out about these experiences.”

Bader said he‘s heard of ghost stories of people seeing Yiddish writing but it‘s rare.

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The Hassayampa Inn in Prescott was designed by architect Henry Trost and completed in 1927.  Hassayampa Inn The spirits are always welcome here, whether in bottles or shadows.  Mark Henle/The Republic If you happen to see a shadowy figure hanging out near the fireplace at the Hassayampa Inn in Prescott, you‘re not the first.  Mark Henle/The Republic While ghosts have yet to be spotted within the Hassaymapa Inn‘s Balcony Suite, the spirit of a jilted bride has been known to roam, followed by the scent of lilac.  Mark Henle/The Republic In Prescott, the Hassayampa Inn is said to be haunted by a bride who took extreme measures when her husband abandoned her.  Mark Henle, The Arizona Republic There are lots of creepy stories at the Jerome Grand Hotel, such as the caretaker who committed suicide in the boiler room or when a maintenance man was crushed by an elevator in 1935.  Jerome Grand Hotel When you start out as a hospital, odds are good spirits of a few unlucky patients will be hanging around. The Jerome Grand Hotel is one of Arizona‘s most notable haunt spots.  The Republic The Jerome Grant Hotel, upper right, looms over the town, just as a haunted hotel should.  Mark Henle/The Republic There‘s something about the Hotel Monte Vista in Flagstaff that is irresistible to lifesign-challenged. From a phantom bellboy to a murdered prostitute, many spirits have found a comfortable home.  The Republic The Copper Queen Hotel is one of the most popular spots to stay in Bisbee.  Republic file photo Originally built as a school in 1907, the Noftsger Hill Inn looms over Globe, providing friendly accommodations to those afterlife travelers needing a break from the spirit world.  David James Classrooms have been turned into spacious rooms at the Noftsger Hill Inn in Globe. Guests enjoy relaxing stays, at least until ghostly footsteps are heard trudging across hardwood floors.  Noftsger Hill Inn Ghostly orbs or floating specks of dust? The owner says the latter, and that they‘ve been spotted several times, typically floating near the staircase.  Noftsger Hill Inn The Hotel Gadsden has anchored downtown Douglas since 1907.  City of Douglas The lobby of the Hotel Gadsden in Douglas features floor-to-ceiling marble pillars decorated in 14-karat gold leaf, a curving white-marble staircase and a Tiffany stained-glass mural that stretches 42 feet across one wall.  Mark Henle/The Republic According to legend, Pancho Villa once rode his horse down this staircase at the Hotel Gadsden. However, his spirit has not been spotted. Yet.  Kelli Donley, Gadsden Hotel Some have reported the unearthly presence of a man in a cowboy hat and duster at the Hotel Gadsden in Douglas.  Mark Henle/The Republic A ghostly cat is among the spirits said to have taken up residence at Prescott‘s Hotel Vendome.  Hotel Vendome If you hear disembodied mewing inside the Hotel Vendome in Prescott, no worries. It‘s just the ghost cat.  Jag Fergus An heirloom clock that hadn‘t worked in years is said to still chime inside the Hotel Vendome in Prescott.  The Republic This guest room at Prescott‘s Hotel Vendome is spirit-free, but it‘s not far from another room said to be occupied by ghosts of a previous resident and her cat.  Handout, Hotel Vendome Oatie the pesky ghost has been known to turn out lights and move glasses at the Oatman Hotel, but he keeps his paranormal mitts off the dollar bills that paper the hotel‘s bar.  Roger Naylor/Special for the Rep Now a broom closet, the infamous Room 55 at Flagstaff‘s Weatherford Hotel was said to have been inhabited by the ghost of a woman who hung herself when abandoned by her husband.  Weatherford Hotel Established in 1922, Triangle T is one of Arizona‘s oldest guest ranches, and is believed to have attracted a handful of spirits along the way.  John Harriman One of the cabins at the supposedly haunted Triangle T Ranch in the Dragoon Mountains in southern Arizona.  John Harriman The Triangle T Ranch in southern Arizona is said to be haunted by the cantankerous Grandmother, who often locks the door to Cabin 1, allowing guests in only when they ask her permission.  Triangle T Historic Ranch

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Looking for answers 

Calderon can‘t explain it and said nobody in his family is Jewish or can write in Yiddish. 

He lives in a single-family home in west Phoenix with his aunt, his 14- and 17-year-old cousins and his grandfather, who converted from Catholicism and is now an evangelical.

In 2013, he graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor‘s degree in global studies. A year ago he started his own business that organizes affordable 10-day trips for college students who are minorities who want to travel but can‘t afford a full semester abroad.

He said the activities started on Dec. 21 when he noticed a plush Santa Claus being moved from a corner in the living room to his laundry bin in his bedroom when the whole family was out shopping.

Later that day he noticed a box filled with coins he has collected from his travels around the world that was moved from his luggage to the kitchen counter. 

Then on Dec. 23, he walked into the bathroom about half hour after her cousin used it and noticed the writing on the wall: געפאר.

He said that‘s when the family began to accuse each other of taking the prank too far. The cousin said in an interview she doesn‘t know Yiddish writing and didn‘t notice the scrawl on the wall.

“That‘s what threw us off,” Calderon said.

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On Christmas Day, he said, the family found the home‘s two toilets and two bathtubs overflowing with water. His aunt called the landlord‘s husband, a plumber. He did some maintenance work but found nothing wrong, he said. 

On Tuesday night, as Calderon and his aunt began praying, they heard someone banging on the front door. Calderon hurriedly ran to the door and opened it, but found no one there.

“If it‘s someone coming in then that‘s scarier because they can hurt us,” said Stephanie Garcia, 17, one of Calderon‘s cousins.  “I don‘t know what to think.”

Calderon‘s aunt Cristina Torres, 47, said she was “terrified” because she doesn‘t know who or what has been doing the sinister activities.

Bader, the California professor, said a common theory among ghost hunters is that teenagers‘ energy manifests into telekinetic powers. He added that if Calderon travels a lot and brings back pre-owned souvenirs, some ghost hunters believe that a spirit may still be attached to the item.

Calderon said the family hasn‘t called police because they don‘t have any proof someone has broken into the house.

“What would we tell the police? Things are moving around?” he said. “We have no evidence of someone breaking into the house. They may laugh at us.”

Goldstein, the Indiana professor, warns not to criticize people who share their ghost stories. She said that she can‘t answer if such stories are real or not, but those who experience such events wholeheartedly believe they happened. 

“I think it’s very important that with these stories, to take into consideration the people who report them that it’s not always a story that should be taken to attack someone or taken to create a fictional account of something or casts aspersions on a community,” she said.

“It’s simply what they believe happened.” 

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