Who You Gonna Call?
When you hear the familiar movie line "Who you gonna call?" most people think of Ghostbusters Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd.
But right here in Cleveland we have a nationally known and respected "Ghostbuster" of our own - Mary Ann (just Mary Ann).
The story of Ghostbuster Mary Ann, paranormal investigator to be exact, began when she was a very young child.
Born in Cleveland March 10, 1948 Mary Ann grew up having her Italian grandmother very close to her. Her grandmother could always tell when somebody back home in Italy had passed away. She just somehow "knew" before they ever got the official word. She was only able to experience this "feeling" in her sleep.
When Mary Ann was only four her grandmother came into a room and found Mary Ann having a complete conversation with someone - someone who wasn't in the room.
When her grandmother inquired Mary Ann calmly told her who it was she was talking to. It was a relative from Italy that the grandmother "felt" had just died. Just to be sure she asked young Mary Ann to ask the relative some questions, which she did. The answers turned out to be not only accurate, but contained information no one but the grandmother and that relative could have known.
Her grandmother was not surprised that she had been blessed with the gift, but she was surprised that she could see the spirits while she was awake!
She started taking Mary Ann to wakes and funerals. She was seven years old before she realized that not everybody had this ability; she thought it was perfectly natural.
"Actually many children do have the ability when they are very young to see ghosts and communicate with the deceased. But they are often scolded by their parents when they report seeing something that the parent can't see and as they grow up they usually loose their intuitive sense." She was never afraid of ghosts; she just accepted them as a way of life.
With the help of her Grandmother, Mary Ann started clearing houses of ghosts as early as age 8. She tried different methods to rid a home of ghosts, most of which were not very complicated.
She would see a ghost in a home and after chatting with them for a short while in very normal voice tell them to leave. And they did!
She thought this was wonderful until one day when she came across a female ghost who would not leave, saying she had no place to go. Mary Ann had never really considered where they went when they left.
Her grandmother told her to instruct the ghost to go to heaven, but she was told that she couldn't without the white light. Mary Ann knew something about the white light. She knew it was around every dead person at a funeral parlor. She realized that the spirits she cleared from houses did not have that light.
With her grandmother's help, and after many attempts, this young girl was able to create the white light and allow the spirits to walk toward the light as if they had just died.
Mary Ann explains that most people are present at their own wake and funeral and do not walk into the light until after the cemetery service. "Like everything else walking to the light is a matter of free will, it is not forced."
She goes on to explain that there is a window of 72-80 hours in which a person can follow the light and move onto heaven. After that the light goes out and only someone with Mary Ann's powers can help the cross over.
Mary Ann only sees the ghosts who have not crossed over. Once they have crossed she can no longer see them and cannot communicate with them. She has, on many occasions, spoken to people like John Walsh who is famous for talking to the spirits of people who have crossed over.
In her dealings with ghosts she has a normal conversation, albeit a mental not verbal one, with the spirit. They communicate in words and sentences, just as you would if they were alive.
People like John Walsh, who deal with entities who have already crossed often do not. They will tell you that a spirit says a word or a phrase to give you clues rather than a true conversation. They are baffled and amazed at Mary Ann's communication skills.
Mary Ann is called on as a paranormal investigator in many different capacities besides clearing a house or helping someone cross over. She can also remove a curse, and I have no doubt she could place one as well if she were so inclined.
She is often called to attend a funeral of a complete stranger so that she can communicate with the deceased and find out pertinent information, especially if they died without a will. In most cases she can provide enough information to insure the people that she really is in contact with their friend or relative.
Normally she will only give the information to a close family member, but on occasion, when a trusted employee dies suddenly, she may be asked to give password or combinations to an employer. Of course, whether or not the information is given is completely up to the deceased.
Mary Ann can't see or talk to a ghost over the phone, but if the conversation is long enough she can tell you if there are any present. In many instances she has relayed information from a ghost to a family member only to discover the ghost does not speak English and she does not speak their language.
She says she is not aware of it at the time but the grateful relative will often marvel at their luck in finding someone who could not only speak to their deceased relative but who could do it in Armenian or Greek or one of many other languages. It is only then that she realizes she has had a conversation with a ghost in another language.
"Earthbound spirits can not enter dreams," says Mary Ann "but you can teach yourself to be an active part in your dream rather than just an observer". She believes that with time, training and practice you can affect the outcome of your dream and the cast of characters in it.
Once she has cleared a house Mary Ann puts quince seeds in the doorjambs to prevent spirits from coming back in. They are special seeds that are sent to her form Italy and she is not sure what is done to them before she gets them. "You'd be surprised at the people who carry my quince seeds in their pockets or around their neck!"
Mary Ann is well aware that not everyone believes her and that some people call her a fake. In fact she was married for two years before she told her husband, Ted, of her skills. They've now been married thirty-five years.
She and her husband have two children, Amber (named for Forever Amber) and Tara (Gone With The Wind). Amber is in her 17th year in the Coast Guard and cannot see any spirits at all, although she wishes she could. Tara, a media buyer for a major insurance company does it all. She can clear out a house, create a white light and end a curse.
How can you tell if you have a "visitor"? Well, according to Mary Ann there are some very obvious signs. Children will often suffer from Upper Respiratory Infections and Ear, Nose and Throat problems in an uncleared house.
Adults will suffer from lower intestinal problems, have a hard time sleeping and often suffer from headaches. The affected people will feel better out of the house.
Then there are the mechanical elements. Computers or phones that don't work. Plumbing problems. Misplaced items.
Why? Mary Ann explains that the spirit needs energy. They get their energy from you and you have the most energy when you are worked up or angry. So they do what they can to make that happen.
There is increased energy in a full moon and a new moon as well. "Don't believe it if you don't want to, but talk to the workers in mental hospitals and psychiatrists. They'll tell you how strong the moon is"
If you do have a ghost in your home it could have been there a long time or it could come in with a friend, or an item you bought at a flea market or antique show, or really just about anywhere. They are not necessarily an old inhabitant of your house.
Mary Ann has cleared out a number of famous places, including our own Playhouse Square and all of its theaters. There is no doubt in her mind that the Cleveland Indians have a curse on them and that she could remove the curse in a matter of minutes if she was given the opportunity.
"I just need to hold the Team's legal papers. I don't need to read them or know what they say, just hold them while I'm doing it"
The Cleveland Browns are another story. The team is not cursed "But the grounds are. We tore down one building and put up another in the same place. I could remove that in a matter of seconds".
She says she would remove the curses without fanfare or publicity "This is my home and my teams. I want them to be winners, too"
As for the Cavaliers, she's not quite sure. The Gund is full of spirits, but she has never been in it while it is empty, so the spirits may come in with the spectators or team members. They could also be resident spirits, in which case clearing the Gund could only help.
Ghosts have the same personality as when they were alive. Dying does not make a spirit nicer or easier to get along with. They don't get fatter or thinner, younger or older, they remain the same.
It is good news that a ghost cannot kill you. "Oh they can pull your hair or tug your shirt, but they can't hurt you. Of course if they tripped you and you fell down the stairs, they didn't technically kill you, so you always want to be careful.
Mary Ann herself would not hesitate to cross over when her time comes. She is a practicing Catholic who believes the next life is the life we are striving for and would not risk going to heaven for more time on earth.
Mary Ann's life is full even when she is not ghostbusting. She and her husband were foster parents to infant children while she was living in Wooster. They also ran a Grooming Shop and Kennel for 16 years where she raised her Siberian Husky, Bichon Frise and Tibetan Terriers.
She is a breast cancer survivor of two years with a wonderful attitude of endurance and contentment.
As alive, so dead: Investigating the paranormal
She moved to North Royalton and in 1990 opened her business as a Paranormal Investigator. Mary Ann also gives classes (including one on how to remove curses) and has written a book, "As Alive, So Dead".
She has made a video "Ghosts of Ohio" with visits to such places as The Spitzer B&B in Medina, Worthington Inn in Columbus, Body Works in Cleveland and Playhouse Square. There is another video in the making.
(Click for a listing of Mary Ann's upcoming appearances.)
It is hard to believe the stories she tells, unless you sit across from her and hear her tell them. There is something about her that you want to believe, even if you're not sure if you do.
She does not try to convince you. She just tells the stories. And there are a lot of them and each one is more interesting than the last.
Ghostbuster or Delightful Storyteller? You decide.
One thing I can guarantee. Next time you misplace your keys or your computer takes on a mind of it's own you'll think about Mary Ann and wonder all over again.
Profiled by Debbie Hanson
Mary Ann is the subject of a new TV series called The Ghost Whisperer which will be on Friday nights at 8:00 on CBS. It stars Jennifer Love Hewitt. Read more about it.
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