The Phantom Hand of 5th Ave

With the 2019 Downtown West Bend Ghost Walk season kicking off on September 7th, my mind has been wandering back to seasons past. Guiding these walks is a lot of fun for a lot of reasons. It allows me to tell stories, it allows me to meet open minded people, but it also sometimes allows a large group to experience paranormal activity.

Before I get into exactly what I mean, please understand no guarantee can be made that anyone will experience unexplainable phenomena on a walk. In fact, most walks happen without anyone reporting anything peculiar. I especially never experience it, because my back is always to the alleged haunt—though I’ve had a few occasions where people shriek and take pictures over my shoulder.

However, usually a couple of times a year, one or more tour patrons are fortunate enough—or unfortunate depending on your point of view—to see, hear, or even feel something. I’ve been waiting to share a particular event for a while, as it occurred between stops on the walk, thus it is rarely told.

It was a few years back, on an early October Saturday night. It was a very small walking group, thanks to some terrible, unseasonably cold drizzle. Only three patrons had proven sturdy enough to endure the unpredictable Wisconsin weather. As the tour neared its conclusion, the weather began to clear. We left the exterior of the Old West Bend Theater and we marched back towards our meeting place in front of History Center of Washington County on 5th and Chestnut. We were silently walking past the corner of 5th and Walnut when one of the young women cried out. I turned around to see if someone had fell, and she was looking at the other two women who were following a good eight or nine feet behind her, talking amongst themselves.

“Did you just touch me!?” she asked urgently.

I had turned quickly and knew there was no way they could have been within arm’s length of her, nor had they been paying the slightest attention to anyone but each other. The two young women looked at each other in confusion, and said they hadn’t.

According to the alarmed patron, as we got a few feet beyond the crosswalk, she’d felt a large, heavy human hand rest itself on the middle of her back, and move to the right, as if brushing something from her clothing.

The woman was very disturbed by the encounter. She’d not expected to have physical contact with paranormal phenomena, especially when we weren’t even in front of a (known) haunted location. After having explained what had happen, she regained her composure and we walked on and finished the tour. As I told the final story of the night, she remained on guard, as did the others, who were now nearly as frightened as she was.

I suppose it just goes to show you, when you go out seeking the paranormal, sometimes it seeks you. One woman found that out first hand, when she became to first person to experience the phantom hand of 5th Ave.

-J. Nathan Couch

The Next Book

I write books about monsters. I lead walking tours past, and occasionally into, locations said to be haunted. If someone calls me or the rest of the Paranormal Investigation and Research Society (PIRS), claiming a malevolent shadow person terrorizes the hallways of their home, I grab my gear and charge half-cocked into an unfamiliar and potentially dangerous situation. I do not write under any pseudonym. The name on the cover of this book you’re holding is who I am. To borrow a Jimi Hendrix lyric, “I wave my freak flag high.” I chose said lyric, because often a freak is exactly what some people think I am, in more conventional social circles. In a way, perhaps they’re right. After all, it takes a certain sort to do the things I do.

But no matter what sort of societal situation I’m in, be it a dinner party with the stuffiest of stuffed shirts, or a paranormal convention in a cheap hotel bar surrounded by my fellow Fortean enthusiasts I’m always asked the exact same question when they learn of my unconventional vocation—“have you ever had any paranormal experiences?”—and each and every time I struggle for an adequate answer.

That tidbit of information speaks volumes about my lifelong inability to prepare for even the most anticipated of chitchat, but it is the truth. I will stutter, and stammer, and then I will draw a complete and total blank. When this happens, I quickly blurt out something to the effect of “Oh, I’ve seen a shadow or two out of the corner of my eye, but nothing terribly dramatic.”

One of two things invariably will occur. Either the person will crush me with a groundswell of disinterest and wander away to find the crab dip, or they’ll enthusiastically tell me about some unexplainable episode from their own lives, ever so pleased to find out that a Fortean author and ghost hunter has somehow managed to lead such a thoroughly unremarkable life compared to their own.

After such occasions, I find myself lying in bed hours later, replaying the interaction in my head unceasingly. Because mere moments after such conversations conclude, my mind is flooded by a torrent of thrilling and unexplainable personal experiences. Then I get out of bed, unable to sleep, and in disgust, order pizza. Yes, I have problems. This new book will chronicle my various personal experiences, including but not limited to:

  • A pack of terrifying, and potentially spectral black dogs that chased my friends and I away from a haunted country lane in Cleveland, Georgia.
  • A Germantown, Wisconsin investigation where I captured an audio recording of a ghost chastising my fellow investigator for talking during an EVP session.
  • The large scratches I found on my shoulder after getting ill during a tour of Louisville’s Waverly Hills Sanatorium.
  • The time a sepia tone woman’s face materialized right in front of me in Mammoth Cave National Park.
  • Phantom footsteps following me in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. The site of the infamous John Brown insurrection that was meant to end slavery, but instead ended in slaughter.

I intend to post regular updates regarding my progress on this as yet unnamed book, both to keep you informed, and me motivated to continue my writing. Watch this blog, subscribe to my email list (the subscription box is to the left of this blog), or follow my Facebook Page

I’ve had many puzzling experiences that have left their mark on me. Some of which have actually showed up on camera. Now, back to work.

Scratches from a ghost during a tour of Waverly Hills Sanitorium
Scratches I seemingly received during a visit to Waverly Hills Sanitorium.