I am an odd mixture of Classical scholar and secular paranormalist.   When an opportunity came up to visit the ancient ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum I was, of course, intrigued and excited.    These two locations were caught in the violent eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE.  Residents disregarded the warning signs; Pompeii’s residents died from toxic fumes from the volcano while Herculaneum was hit in the middle of the night by a flash flood of molten mud and ash.

Though this sounds like a great place for ghosts, I had to overcome some issues. For one, Italy doesn’t easily give up its ghost tales -- after years of asking, I’ve only gotten a handful of them. Secondly, the state of the world makes it inconvenient to me to bring my full ghost investigation kit.  Thus, I have to utilize more standard items: a magnetic compass which can serve as a low-tech EMF (electromagnetic field) meter and cameras (film, video, and digital). 

Haunted Herculaneum © Brandy Stark

There are no night ghost investigations at these locations since the ruins are open only during the day. I didn’t mind since I have the fallback love of all things ancient. In Pompeii, I walked through cobblestone streets, sat in ancient theaters, examined the building construction and admired the frescos.  Though not overly-crowded, I did have to duck out of the way to avoid photo-bombing family vacation pictures. With so much activity from the living, nothing showed up from the dead..

Herculaneum, however, was a different story.  Scheduling was tight and I could only visit it late in the afternoon.  Italy had one of its rare cloudy afternoons and the threat of rain hung in the air. When I walked into the city I found myself virtually alone.  I shuffled silently through the streets, compass in hand, assessing the area. 

That is when it happened.  I had stepped from the road into one of the buildings open to tourists.  I was in a first floor structure that likely housed a workshop.  As I had done before, I walked slowly in a straight line with the compass resting in the palm of my outstretched hand.  Though I was steady, I watched the compass needle moving to the left.  This was something new. I stopped, but still the needle continued to move to the side.  This meant that there was EMF in the area. I looked around, but saw nothing to produce it.

Haunted Herculaneum © Brandy Stark

That is when I was suddenly hit with a wave of intense sadness.  One moment I was looking around, the next my eyes started to fill with tears.   Any curiosity that I had quickly twisted a soul-searing sadness that reached deep into my core.  I could not account for the intense shift in mood – my trip through the area had been wonderful.  I had no real expectations of finding anything paranormal, and I was enjoying my solitude in the ruins.

As suddenly and intensely as this experience started, it ended just as quickly.  The compass in my hand shifted back to normal and the sadness that had consumed me was simply gone.  Though it took a moment to turn the camera on, I opted to take a couple of digital pictures.  The only thing I captured was an odd double-orb image just in front of me – easily explainable with the dusty conditions around me. 

Nothing unusual happened for the rest of my time there.  I stayed until closing and as I exited the ruins, I did stop to whisper a quick goodbye to whoever had visited with me that day.  Perhaps my experience was meant to remind me that this place was a site where human life was lost in a tragic and violent way.  I understood and respected that.  And, though no one answered my farewell, I have no doubt that the message was received.

Guest author Brandy Stark is an Artist, Traveller and PHD and you can visit her website at B Stark Arts: Metal Myths & More.