It was by far the worst storm I’d ever seen; its deadly, destructive potential smacked against our skin, soaked our clothing, and threatened with every blistering lightning bolt that snapped overhead to fry us like scrambled eggs on the wet sand we were struggling not to sink in. Normally I don’t mind rain, but this wasn’t the kind of thunderstorm you feel comfortable watching even from miles away. It was a lingering, wet gloom so dark and so violent that you might crawl under the couch and hide even if you were so lucky as to be indoors when it arrived… and yet somehow, here I was stuck out in the middle of this mess, grappling with an aluminium rod as tall as I was like some poor lunatic with a twisted desire to meet his ancestors… the hard way. Whether these were proving grounds for manhood, or merely the result of provocation from others like me—people desperate enough to be shoving metal stakes into the ground in the middle of a deluge—it suddenly hit me what this was all about.

Years ago, while I was still in middle school, I learned for the first time about the aristocratic researcher of the unexplained, Joshua P. Warren. Even at nineteen years old, the guy had been the last of a dying breed; a renaissance man who operated on a plane existing somewhere beyond mere cultured gentlemen, and yet falling short of a bizarre mutant with powers that enabled perception of the nether realms. Funny enough, the real-life ghost-buster apparently had no unique “psychic” abilities of his own, but it was his fascination with those who did that he seemed to capitalize on so well. Staking his claim in the spiritual sciences before he even graduated high school, Warren had become an author and successful independent entrepreneur by the time he was in his early twenties.

I’ll never forget seeing his first “breakthrough” book, Haunted Asheville, one morning before school on the local news. Asheville is a unique southern town hidden away in a natural topographic bowl at the base of Beaucatcher Mountain, a tall stark pinnacle that stands like a broad, winding beacon overlooking urban affairs below, and Warren and I were both raised there. Perhaps it was natural that, in 2002, we would meet for the first time in the Great Hall of one of its most unique (and purportedly haunted) landmarks, the Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa. Unnatural, however, were the many odd synchronicities that would spring to life between in the years to come.

For instance, one evening several years later at Josh’s home, I remember overhearing him telling a few colleagues about a strange photo that had once existed among some of his kin. Apparently, it depicted the immediate family of one Claud Calloway, who had disappeared mysteriously, several decades ago. Interestingly, the photograph had developed normally, all except for Claud’s face, which had appeared strangely distorted. According to Josh’s Calloway side of the family, this was odd because the photo had been taken only days before Claud’s disappearance. The circumstances surrounding Josh’s story were strange enough as they were, let alone for the fact that this story was more than vaguely familiar to me already; in fact, I was certain I had heard it already.

Josh,” I shouted, “slow down. Where did you hear this story?”