Richard D. Hendricks
of the Prairie Online Magazine
This month we'll explore a number of haunted resort hotels from across the United States and Canada; take several ghostly tours guided by individuals who are possibly a little too much in character; learn which pop star might soon be singing a different tune; visit a possessed house almost too good to be true in a country known for its religious wars; stumble across a few amorous ghosts in search of living or lost lovers; look in vain for a no-show ghostly pastor; and wonder at a mysterious robed figure haunting a community recreation center. All that, plus ghost researchers scoring orb and EVP action in an Indiana city hall.
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The Prince House has long attracted ghost seekers. Built in downtown Calgary by lumber baron Peter Prince in 1894, the stately Prince House was relocated in 1966 to Heritage Park. An 11-year-old once shot a photograph of what appeared to be a "ghostly apparition floating down the corridor behind her." A famous 1993 photograph shows what appears to be a "dark figure looking out a window." Barbara Smith, author of Ghost Stories of Alberta, says, "It's believed the ghost might be one of Prince's wives." Can a ghost relocate? "Sure they can," says Smith. "Ghosts are associated with people, not places they can also move with artifacts." Years earlier skeptical reporter Bill Kaufmann, following a long string of mysterious events, spent a night by himself in the spacious mansion. "There had been reports of unusual sightings on the upper floors lights would be seen, even though there's no electricity up there," Kaufmann said. "I had a sleeping bag and I got ready to bed down for the night ... but I didn't get much sleep. At one point a screen door in the kitchen rattled around, but I was pretty sure it was because of the wind. Pretty sure ..." Other Calgary ghosts aren't quite so mysterious. For years, stories circulated of Sam, a First World War soldier, who supposedly haunted the Calgary Science Centre. Sam's story goes back to when a planetarium was built on the property. "They insisted on painting the planetarium dome black but we tried to tell them a black dome would absorb heat during the day and radiate it at night," says Robert Nelson, a technical supervisor with the center. "Sure enough, you could hear the dome groaning and creaking. We had some fun with the younger staff, and told them it was a ghost." According to Nelson, these jokes soon took on a life of their own. Unrelated details of a man who had drowned in an onsite swimming pool were grafted to the story to explain the ghost. Some employees were so frightened they "didn't want to go into the planetarium with the lights out." The center's current spokesman, Jeff Hessell, reports that people still swear they see a figure wandering around the dome, many years after Nelson confessed to the practical joke.
Source: "Ghostly Guests Lumber Baron's Wives Said to Haunt Heritage Park Home," Alex Frazer-Harrison, FYI Calgary In-Print, Wednesday, February 7, 2001
The Grand Old Lady of the Ozarks, the Crescent Hotel, overlooks Eureka Springs, a quirky tourist town with the unofficial motto of "Where the misfits fit." Built to resemble a European castle on West Mountain in 1886, it opened May 1 of that year, billed as "the most luxurious resort hotel in America." With its white limestone arches, turrets, and chimney spires, this dazzling five story building designed by Isaac Taylor, architect of the 1904 World's Fair, can best be described as American Gothic. And what Gothic building would be complete without ghosts? Back in 1854, pioneer doctor Alvah Jackson credited area spring waters with curing his 12-year-old son's eye injury. Native Americans had long associated this deep valley, with its fern-filled grottos and sixty three mineral springs where the town now sits, with healing powers. As word of the younger Jackson's miraculous recovery spread, hundreds flocked to the valley seeking cures for everything from baldness to asthma, hemorrhoids, cancer, skin disease, and "female trouble." Powell C. Clayton, a Civil War Union general, knew a goldmine when he saw one, and situated his hotel with grand views of the town to cater to wealthy health seekers. But Clayton's success was short lived, as surgery elbowed aside healing waters as the cure of choice, and the Crescent closed as a year-round hotel in 1908. To stave off dissolution, he rented space to The Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women, an exclusive girls boarding school, which opened that same year. It eventually fell victim to the Depression in 1934 and the building closed. An Iowa doctor, Norman Baker, bought the hotel in 1937. His specialty was "curing" cancer. Baker was described as "an unusual type of person," given to wearing white suits over lavender silk shirts and ties, drove a lavender Cord automobile, wrote with lavender ink on orchid paper, re-painted the lobby purple, and kept two machine guns hanging on the wall of his apartment. In 1940, mail fraud sent him to prison for four years. A succession of owners came and went, until the early 1990s, when Martin and Elise Roenigk, preservationists from Connecticut, bought the Crescent and another hotel to return them to their early splendor. "I'm not really into ghosts," says Elise Roenigk, but notes that her Irish setter, Jazz, "does not want to stay alone in the north penthouse." Four ghosts are Crescent regulars. Michael, "a red-haired Scandinavian carpenter killed in a fall during the construction of the hotel, crashing through Room 218; a nurse pushing a gurney who is only seen after 11 p.m. when they carted the deceased out of the cancer hospital; an older gentleman in a top hat who appears on the staircase; and a female student who either fell or was pushed off a balcony and appears screaming as she falls backward out of a window." However, Tammi Branson-Soto, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, believes there's a fifth. She's filming a documentary about the hotel's ghosts. Room 419, she believes, is home to Theodora, a former cancer patient. She describes Theodora as a "little bitty lady who walks around in a robe" who smells strongly of perfume. The Crescent Hotel remains on commercial ghost tours available in Eureka Springs. The tour also includes a cemetery and other Victorian mansions.
Source: "A Grand Old Hotel Gets Renovated," Tom Uhlenbrock, reprinted from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in the Chattanooga Times / Chattanooga Free Press, Sunday, February 25, 2001
Pop star Ricky Martin really might be Livin' La Vida Loca if the stories about the new house he's about to purchase are true. The Mediterranean-style mansion on Miami Beach's North Bay Road is reputed to be haunted. Or so says Micky Wolfson, its owner. Wolfson, a philanthropist who opened the Wolfsonian Museum, warns "that no one should live there." He claims he hired an exorcist on three occasions to remove the spirit of a "vindictive old maidish sort of figure" in his home. Wolfson says that parents of a woman who was killed while on her way to her wedding in the 1930s built the house. The house was meant to contain her spirit. When Wolfson's own parents bought the house years ago, the sellers warned them to not make changes to the house, or risk disturbing the interred spirit. When disturbed, Mark Hampton, the house's former architect, says, "the woman's spirit often pulled panels from the ceiling and left radios on." Hampton once heard a groan from the dining room during a discussion about changing the drapes. "We both heard an OOOH it was a little chilling," he says. Coldwell Banker realtor Kent Karlock insists it's all nonsense. "I've been in that house many times and I'm not aware of anything [unexplainable]. It's a special house with a rich history." Martin's former interior designer, Rene Rodriguez, says that "what scared" Wolfson, "were the zeros at the end of the house's price," not ghosts. Priced at $7.5 million, Martin was offering only $6.5 million, well below what Wolfson was hoping to get. Other South Florida hauntings include the Biltmore Hotel, where Fats Walsh, the victim of a gangland slaying in the 1920s, continues to linger on in the hotel's tower; Vizcaya, a mansion haunted by a woman dressed in 1920s party attire; and Villa Paula, where apparitions have been reported in the hallway and doors have been heard to slam. According to Linda Spitzer, the Biltmore's resident storyteller, "Usually unexpected violent deaths cause the person's ghost to keep wandering around." Bob Grasso, self-published author of Real Ghosts of South Florida, says a ghost can raise property values. "I would think of it as an asset," he says. "Some people consider it protection, but it could get out of hand if things start moving around."
Source: "Realtor Not Spooked By Ghostly Rumors, But Others Fear Pop Star in for a Real Scare," Jasmine Kripalani, Miami Herald, Monday, February 12, 2001
Former art professor Jack Richards created one of mansion-rich Savannah's better walking tours, Ghost Talk, Ghost Walk, based on stories of ghosts haunting that city's landmarks. However, Richards moved to Roswell, a city of "antebellum Greek Revival temples and humble mill houses" on the fringes of northern Atlanta. A same-named tour he developed two and a half years ago has yet to reach the same level of recognition as his earlier tour. "I'm not much of a marketer. I just let things develop on their own," says Richards. Unlike his Savannah tour, which depended on Margaret DeBolt's book Savannah Spectres and Other Strange Tales for story material, he looked to Roswell's residents for information and inspiration. "I just walked around talking to people, and within a few weeks we had enough for an hourlong walk," he says. The stories are a "mix of legend, gossip and tall tales, but with enough facts to give the tour legitimacy." However, local historian Michael Hitt finds fault with the historical accuracy of some of Richards' stories. Dotty Etris, executive director of the Historic Roswell Convention & Visitors Bureau, shrugs it off, noting that it all depends on how serious you are about your ghosts. "Some people believe in ghosts, and other people just want to have fun, so people relate to it differently. But the tour is great fun and very entertaining, and it's something to do in Roswell at night," explains Etris. On a recent night complete with full moon, seven people showed up at the bandstand in the Historic Square for the 90 minute tour. The group traveled up Sloan Street to Founders Cemetery, where new houses were built over unmarked graves in the 1970s. Richards says that disturbing the graves resulted in "unusual happenings," and that local voodoo practitioners sometimes leave symbols and dolls beneath the ancient oak tree there. On the way downhill, the tour stops at various restored houses with histories of unexplained electrical and water problems, all signs of "restless spirits" according to Richards. A two-story apartment once home to mill workers, The Old Bricks, has been converted to a private club and is home to a "friendly ghost [who] still plays tricks on the management and staff." Other stops feature the ghost of a murdered woman who haunts a home built on her murder site, a public house with a pair of dancing ghostly lovers, and a mansion where a family of ghosts is seen roaming the attic late at night. When pressed for details, Richards is a little vague, not knowing the identity of the murdered woman and the circumstances of her death, nor is he willing to divulge the names of alleged "[w]ell-known Roswell residents who have reported ghostly sightings." Etris defends Richards. "There are too many unexplained things in this life," she says. "I would always say that these stories are possible, especially in a town as old as Roswell is."
Source: "Ghostly Tales That Stir the Imagination," Tinah Saunders, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Thursday, February 22, 2001
Thirteen members of the Northwest Indiana Ghost Trackers, led by club President Mike McDowell, are in search of restless spirits in the Valparaiso City Hall. After 90 minutes of taking readings, recordings, photos and feelings throughout the building, McDowell reports the group "got a little activity, possibly something upstairs. We had a couple of meter readings, and we had something following one of the psychics around in the meeting room on the first floor." City workers have reported hearing voices in a number of areas of the building, and stories have long circulated that a man committed suicide by jumping out a window back when the structure housed the post office. Psychic Marcia Sills detected a "big presence" on the third floor, and advised team members to shoot plenty of photos. Elsewhere on the third floor, a "dramatic 20-degree drop in temperature was discovered," and in another room, Sills reported that she felt something "that about took my head off." Another psychic, Terry Tucker, observed that several spirits were "floating overhead and looking down on the group's activities." He also felt a heated argument, possibly over a firing, led a young man to climb a chair in a third floor bathroom and leap through a window to his death. "There's a lot more here than meets the eye," says Tucker. "There's a strong Indian sense. I feel someone trying to say something about a burial, being unsettled, disturbed. This building sits on or near a burial site." After examining the evidence, McDowell says, "The [City Hall workers] aren't crazy. From what we can tell, there is something on the third floor. We've gotten pictures that show orbs and the psychics seemed to sense something, and we have a voice recording." McDowell says that Sills' tape recorder picked up a whispered "I love you" very faint above the background static and clatter of his team moving around. Also found on the tape is a faint recording of rock group AC/DC's "Hell's Bells," which could have been from a radio playing elsewhere close by. Regardless, the group is eager to return, "now that we know the areas that are hot spots," says McDowell. One last photo taken as the group left the building appears to show a "ghostly hand waving goodbye."
Source: "Ghost Trackers Seek City Hall Skeletons," Phil Wieland, The Times [Valparaiso], Monday, February 26, 2001 and "Group Confirms Valparaiso City Hall's Ghostly Guests," Phil Wieldand, The Times [Valparaiso], Friday, March 3, 2001
The Fahey family, of Corrib Park, Galway, claim their house is the most haunted in Ireland. And they live in absolute terror its ghost may return. "Every time we hear a sound in the house I say to myself, It's back', but then I calm down and realise it is just the neighbor banging the door," says Jackie Fahey, 49, and father of two. The Faheys claim that their house is possessed by the spirit of a baby murdered in the 19th century. Worse, the baby had been fathered by a Catholic priest to a nun, who then killed the child to hide the scandal. "It all started when my eight-month-old grandchild, Sarah Louise, came into the house," says Fahey. "It awakened something terrible. After that all hell broke loose. There was this awful smell in the house and then mad things started to happen. The furniture was flung about the place and things were smashed. The feeling in the house was just terrible. We even got the local priest to say a mass there, but it did no good. In fact, whatever was there didn't like it and went mad all together." Desperate, the family called in Sandra Ramdhanie, a leading psychic, who performed a ritual to "put the tormented spirit to rest." Jackie says, "It was our own version of The Exorcist, but a million times more frightening." Readers can relive the terror in Re-Awakening, a full-blown account of the possessed house, by Padhraig Faherty, published by Castle Print, Galway.
Source: "Haunted By Fear: Family's Terror That Ghost of Murdered Baby Will Return," Pat Flanagan, The Mirror, Monday, December 4, 2000
Thick fog, referred to as "sea smoke" by residents, rolls in slowly over icy waves in St. John's harbor. Soon the cold fog envelops everything in a thick humid blanket, adding a sense of romance, danger, and mystery to Newfoundland's island capital. Residents, used to the heavy fog, flock to George Street with its raucous lively nightclubs and pubs. (Many claim that George Street has the highest concentration of pubs per capita on the continent.) Away from the bright lights and laughter, out in the fog, you'll hear stories straight from John Fitzgerald's book, Strange But True Newfoundland Stories, told by The Reverend Thomas Wyckham Jarvis, that is, if you take his St. John's Haunted Hike. Jarvis, dressed as the vampire Barnabas from the 1960s soap opera Dark Shadows, guides tourists to the Faran Hotel downtown. He tells them that one cold night guests there heard loud knocking from an upstairs room. Upon entering the room, the noises stopped. Searchers found nothing to account for the noise. Each night the knocking resumed, but on investigation, the noises always stopped by the time the room was entered. One day a prankster staff member offered this mostly unused haunted room to an overnight guest. At midnight, "thunderous knocking exploded." Rushing to the room, the hotel manager began opening the door as the knocking ceased. Inside, he found the poor guest, lying on the floor, "a look of terror frozen on his face," cold dead. As the undertaker removed the body, the knocking briefly resumed, then ended forever, never to be explained. Other tales include that of a mysterious black stag, which a 19th century man tried shooting to no effect. He fired again and again with no harm coming to the beast. The man was later found dead at the scene, the "contents of his gunpowder pouch scattered over his face." His wife and child soon left town to stay with relatives. On their eventual return home, the family arrived at the same spot where the man had died. The entire group was later found, dead, "their tracks indicating that first they had met something and run around in terror." And if by chance you pass the harbor on the way to a warm pub to cast off the evening's chill, remember the story area fishermen tell. One day several saw a creature with "a human face and body like a fish" emerge from the water. It tried clambering aboard a small boat, but the fishermen onboard beat it off with oars and clubs, and it slipped back beneath the cold dark waters. It's probably out there still, lying in wait in the heavy obscuring fog.
Source: "Mist-Shrouded Newfoundland Brings to Mind Eerie Tales for Tourists," Sidney Schuhmann, Reporter-News, Sunday, October 29, 2000
Ghost or marketing tool? That's the question asked about the ghost at the 90-year-old Lodge at Cloudcroft. Called Rebecca, she's described as a "young, red-haired, blue-eyed, beautiful, mischievous, flirtatious" chambermaid who suddenly disappeared from her quarters in the 1930s just after her lumberjack lover caught her in the arms of another man. Rebecca still gets around. She haunts the "halls, rooms, restaurant, lounge, lookout tower, basement offices and golf facilities" at this Lodge located in the Sacramento Mountains east of Alamogordo. Some say Rebecca is always in search of a new lover. Marty Mills, the hotel's recreation director, says the "Lodge has a spirit. I'm not just talking about Rebecca. I don't know much about the paranormal, but there is a presence here." At 49, Mills has been feeling a presence and seeing things she can't explain for a number of years, going back to the 1960s, when her father managed the golf course. As a child, she often played in the Lodge's dimly lit corridors in search of subterranean passageways rumored to exist there. "If you believe in the spirit, whether you call it Rebecca or whatever, the spirit will leave you alone," she adds. "If you do good for the Lodge, you're OK. But you better not push the spirit's buttons." Guests and other staff members have reported seeing an apparition, and tell about toilets that flush themselves, ashtrays that move, champagne glasses that explode, and the woman who appeared in a mirror only, but wasn't seen in the room. Strangest of all may be the stories of the moving golf carts, which happened in 1976 when Mills was 26. "There was this shed here about full of golf carts, and when we unlocked it we would find that all the carts had been moved around and jammed together so tight you could hardly budge them. That wasn't how we'd left them the night before." Thinking at first it was a prankster, Mills changed the locks and plugged all holes in the shed. On her return the next day, the carts again were all jumbled together. The jumbling repeated every two or three nights for the next two weeks, until one morning she went into the shed and said, "Look, I believe you're here. I believe you exist. But you're filling my life with grief, and I'm getting tired of it. I'd rather you not mess with my carts." Sure enough, the carts weren't moved again. Over the years the Lodge has played host to many famous guests, including Pancho Villa, Judy Garland, and Clark Gable, but Rebecca, for whom the Lodge's restaurant is named, remains it's most well known lodger. Sandra Naylor, who works in the gift shop, says at first she was skeptical about the ghost. In the spring of 1994, she was interviewing a young woman, also named Rebecca, for a job in the shop. "I was saying to her that if she came to work here she would get kidded a lot because our ghost's name was Rebecca, too," says Naylor. "Just as I was saying that, one of the books in the gift shop, a book about ghosts called The Ghostly Register, fell over. There was no reason for it to fall. There were no fans on, no windows open, no breeze." The book landed open. "It was open to the page about Rebecca," says Naylor. "It made a believer out of me."
Source: "Chambermaid's Ghost Prowls Lodge Set in New Mexico Mountain Range," Ollie Reed Jr., reprinted from the Albuquerque Tribune in The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Sunday, February 11, 2001
Portland's First Presbyterian Church/Columbia Arts Center is haunted by a former pastor, according to Steve Sappington, an officer with a company that is interested in purchasing the building. In his research, Sappington discovered that Charles E. Baskerville was the church's pastor from 1920 until his death in September, 1929. While picnicking on the banks of the Columbia River, Baskerville's wife and daughter had waded into the water. A current swept them up, and Baskerville dove in to the river in an attempt to save them. In a strange twist, he was pulled under, never to be seen again living while the other members of his family were saved. The former pastor "has been seen many times in the building, usually doing maintenance-type chores, like sweeping up, or working in the kitchen," says Sappington. "[H]e usually appears when he's unhappy about something in the building."
Source: "Ghost-Pastor a No-Show for New Tenants," Andrew Mershon, The Oregonian [Portland], Thursday, February 22, 2001
Fredericksburg may not be only one of the nation's most historic towns, but one of it's most haunted as well. "We're the site of four major battles of the 19th century and seven federal occupations. We're also the 18th century site of Revolutionary War skirmishes and hospitals. You be the judge," says Helen Marler. Seven years ago Marler adopted the persona of Jane Beale, a woman from a prosperous family in the 1800s. Having thrown off her previous 20th century existence, Marler now answers only to the name Mrs. Beale. As Mrs. Beale she leads visitors on Halloween on ghost walks through town. One concession to modernity is the photo album she carries, an album with pictures of strange shapes and ghostly images taken from around town. The "most provocative" is of the Hugh Mercer Apothecary on Princess Anne Street. A New Jersey woman took the photo in 1995. It shows "an image hovering around an upstairs window." The image is that of the Mercer Phantom, says Mrs. Beale, though the "gold-flecked dots and geometric shapes" could just as easily be a camera flash reflected. Most of Mrs. Beale's tour consists of history lessons rather than ghosts, however, although tour takers hear about the ax murder which took place at Merriman's Restaurant in the early 1900s or the fact that police dogs are reluctant to enter the St. George's Episcopal Church sanctuary "because of spirits." Visitors hungry for other Fredericksburg ghost tales can look in L.B. Taylor Jr's book, The Ghosts of Fredericksburg and Nearby Environs. Tales include the story of a Union soldier who took "an artillery shell to the gut and died instantly" in the Willis home on Princess Anne Street. His body was buried in the garden in back of the house. Repeatedly, throughout the 1920s, his ghost could be seen entering a side porch door and then walking upstairs. A cook finally decided to "lay his soul to rest." She kneeled at his grave, whispering something. The apparition was not seen again. At Chatham, the headquarters of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, on June 21, every seven years, a "disconsolate young Englishwoman frantically searches the grounds." Legend has it that this "flowing white figure" is in search of her lover, whom the woman's father refused to let her marry. On the night the woman planned to rendevous with her lover, she climbed down a rope ladder outside her bedroom window, landing in the arms of none other than George Washington, who was visiting the estate. She was then spirited back to England where, as Fate would have it, she married another man, and bore ten children. But she vowed she would return to Chatham on the day of her death, which was June 21. Offices are kept open late that night each year because of the public's fascination with the story. To date, the woman has not appeared on this anniversary. "The whole thing smacks of somebody making up a nice ghost story," says Donald Pfanz, a park historian.
Source: "Tales of Ghosts Abound in Fredericksburg," Elizabeth Pezzullo, The Fairfax Journal, Friday, October 27, 2000
A mysterious hooded figure has been seen wandering Prairie du Chien's Hoffman Hall recreational center around closing time. On at least five occasions between the middle of January and February 5, there have been reports of flickering lights, food disappearing, and a mysterious figure in a dark cloak that doesn't acknowledge those who see him. "I've had a lot of people tell me they're certain it's a ghost," says Police Chief Mike King. Although he's open-minded about supernatural possibilities, King thinks the hooded figure is more likely a "transient or a wacko." The figure has been seen walking in the gym, near the swimming pool, and even buying a soda. A bodyguard swimming in the pool late one night caught the figure staring at her from an overhead balcony. Employees called to the figure as it walked across the gym, but the figure didn't look up, and continued on. Ted Sheckler, 66, says, "That's our friendly ghost." "It is the talk of the town here," says Marge, his wife. Sheckler, a member of the City Council, thinks he knows who the ghost is. He recalls that in the early 1960s he used to deliver mail to the building when it was a Jesuit high school fieldhouse. Brother Murphy, who received the mail, often mentioned seeing the spirit of a priest who'd died on the grounds. "By the way," says Sheckler, "I'm not senile." Don Lochner, 80, says the "sightings are the products of vivid imaginations and jokesters." Referring to Sheckler, he says, "Ted gets kind of excited about things. There was never any priest that died there." A patron at Jim's Bar thinks the sightings are related to a Civil War death. Although most refused comment, one worker at the center calls the sightings "overrated." Chief King jokingly asks, "Where is Fox Mulder when you need him? There is no rational explanation." The mystery continues.
Source: "Police Baffled By Sightings of Mysterious Hooded Man," Ed Hoskin, La Crosse Tribune, Saturday, February 10, 2001 and "Ghost Sighting Reports Doubted: Is It the Robed Ghost or Just a Transient Slipping Around a City Building?" Unattributed, Wisconsin State Journal [Madison], Sunday, February 25, 2001
Most ghost researcher's kit bags
are pretty much alike. The equipment may differ, but all are stuffed
with batteries of various voltages, an assortment of camera and video
film, small tools, notebooks, pens and pencils, flashlights, and the
like. I'm interested in what sets one researcher's bag apart from
another's. For instance, although my group adheres to a stringent ban on
alcohol and illicit drugs prior to an investigation, I sometimes carry
around a small flask of Isle of Jura Scot Whisky. The flask was a joke
gift that I figured I'd get some use out of. For months I anticipated
chancing upon a phantom so scary that one of our team members would
buckle and run away in stark terror. I long hoped for the moment I could
pull that flask out of my bag and hand it to my trembling comrade,
saying, "Here. Drink this. It'll put the steel back in your
spine." Alas, terrifying phantoms have been few and, uh,
unfortunately, non-existent, and my flask's contents have yet to be
tapped. Let me know what sort of odd things you carry in your kit bag
and maybe I'll feature them here. Thanks!
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Posted: March 9, 2001
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