Archive for the Feature Articles Category

State of Jefferson Paranormal Society

Posted in Feature Articles on August 11, 2012 by
Photo by Joe McGarity


This Fantom Penguin story is brought to you by Palo Cedro Printing, a locally owned green printer, Palo Cedro Printing.

 If you need scientific spirit investigators like the kind they have in the big city, who you gonna call?

 Around here, I mean?

 There is an answer.  The Fantom Penguin stayed up all night talking about ghosts with Marcelo Chavez and the State of Jefferson Paranormal Society.

 “Well, on a normal investigation we usually get hits of any kind of urban legend or stories involving paranormal activity or just claims of paranormal activity and we go out and try and document these claims or anything that correlates with their claim.  We tend to go out and just find reasonable explanations for it, whether it’s environmental and we just collect our data.”

 Does that mean you’re willing to accept a normal explanation without any ‘para’?

 “As our team comes in we train them into debunking and skepticism on anything so there’s no biased opinion with our team.  Rather than going in there and jumping on the paranormal bandwagon, we actually try to find normal explanations for everything.”

 And what sorts of places have you investigated?

 “We’ve done certain cemeteries that have had some kind of paranormal claim throughout Northern California.  We’ve had some residences, private residences which they are on our website.  We tend to be very private with their information.”

 SJPS Co-Founder, Angela Rowden continued,

 “We keep it really discrete.  We never disclose private residences’ locations.  We just label them as a private residence investigation.  They get copies of everything we’ve gone through, everything we find.  On our website, one of our private residences were actually not home at the time.  It was a family member’s home and our best evidence really has come from this residence.  And it’s all on our website, our best EVP’s and just personal experiences.  And this home actually was just part of a training ‘maybe something’s there, maybe something’s not; can you come debunk what goes bump in the night’ and we actually found things. So it was really, really interesting at that one.”

 Evidence that the group gathers is available online for review by the public, including evidence of potential supernatural activity.

 “We label them as ‘unexplained’.  We don’t label them ‘paranormal’.  Certain things on pictures we can’t debunk as far as saying, ‘yes, this is something paranormal’ or ‘no, it’s not; this is environmental’, so we put that out there for the public to decide on their own to see what they picture from what we’ve put as evidence.”

 “There’s a couple of the EVP’s we have on our website where certain members in the group, the EVP has voices on it (it’s Electric Voice Phenomenon) and the voices match certain family members.  And somebody on the outside of listening to that EVP wouldn’t recognize it, but within the group we’ve come to the conclusion that this might or might not be a certain other family member trying to communicate.”

 “Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.  If you don’t believe in the paranormal, you don’t believe in the paranormal.  It’s the same as a religion.  If you believe in a certain religion, that doesn’t make another religion bad.  It doesn’t mean they’re wrong.  You can look at what we do as wasting our time or whatever we get we imagine it ourselves somehow.  We know what we do.  We know what we have.  We put it out to the public for them to decide.”

 What about the other kind of skeptic, the one who believes that what you do is real but that it is dangerous to stir up the spirits?

 “There are certain dangers.  When you go out and some people might say ‘open doors’, there are a couple of things that go along with that, but our group is trained to identify certain situations, not to poke and pry too much.  We don’t ever use things like Ouija boards or opening portals or things like that.  We go in just with equipment.”


 “We go in with equipment and document it scientifically.  The only thing we’ll experiment with is electronic devices, anything that could be used to document any of those claims and provide evidence for future use.”

 What about this thing called ‘provoking’ spirits? 

 “Provoking is used to force a contacting point.  Teams will use provoking, whether it’s just to call out to have anything, any paranormal activity to make their presence known or to provoke some kind of emotional response if an entity has any emotion.  It’s pretty much just drawing something out by using your emotion.  They would use something from time frame that would contradict if a spirit’s there, so they would come out and show their presence.  Provoking can go farther by other teams using spiritual means or by contacting using spiritual relics, which we do not do.  As she said, we don’t use Ouija boards.  There’s certain things that we won’t try because we’ve seen evidence of it backfiring.  We do have points that we don’t cross.  There’s certain points of provoking that we use and then certain ones that depending on the claims we will not even attempt.”


 “It also depends on what kind of activity we’re getting at a certain point.  If we get into an area where it’s been a hot hit, we’re hearing things; we’re seeing things; we’re feeling things; we’re getting unexplained pictures or happen to see things out of the corner of our eyes, we’ll start provoking more.  So, instead of seeing personal experience or feeling personal experiences, we want that hard evidence.  So, we’ll provoke to get them to come out more, ‘cause it’s kind of like a little game, kind of hide and seek, ‘come find me’.  So we try to provoke to give them more energy to be like, ‘Hey, we’re not here to hurt you.  Give us something that we can show everyone else that you guys do exist.’”

 And when it comes time to go over the evidence, how do you keep it secure?


 “With every team, they go out with certain equipment they’re assigned and when they come back, when we go to gather the findings we make sure that the devices go out to the people who did not have them so that there won’t be any bias to the video or pictures or audio.  So, the opposite member will actually go over the data and write down the information.  If there’s a questionable piece of evidence, they’ll write down a time or an image number and then it would be shared with the other members to get multiple opinions on the piece of evidence.”


 “So, pretty much if I’m walking around with a Handi-Cam during an investigation and I’m in a group with two other people, that Handi-Cam would not be given back to myself or the two other people in my group.  It would be given to another group within SJPS to go over, so there’s not that biased ‘I knew I saw this when we were out there; I know it’s going to be on the camera’.  That won’t happen because you’re not going over your own piece of evidence, somebody else is.  So if they happen to stumble upon something you know is on it, they ask the group before they come ask you.  So you know there’s no contamination of evidence.”


 “And any bit of information that we can’t find an explanation for, we usually before we even label it anything whatsoever, if we have a chance of debunking it, we will go back several times and actually try and debunk that piece of evidence.  And if there’s any chance that we can duplicate it then we actually just throw it aside as a possible contamination.”


 “The other thing too with doing it that way, not going over your own evidence when somebody else is, if they’re going over, like I said if I’m having the Handi-Cam and they go over that evidence and they think they caught something really legit and they bring it to the group because you haven’t seen that video, you can go, ‘No, that’s a reflection of my flashlight.  I know what that is.  You can pull that off the evidence locker.  It’s nothing.’  So, I mean it goes both ways.  We’ve done that a couple of times, pictures.  You’ve been taking pictures and the group will think it’s some hard-core evidence and it turns out when the person taking the picture knows exactly where they were standing, what they were doing, what was in their pocket, they’ll be the ones that can debunk that specific evidence.”


Garden Hopes to Grow

Posted in Feature Articles on June 2, 2012 by
Photo by Joe McGarity

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This week’s Fantom Penguin story is brought to you by Bog Bean Books & Music on California Street in the Foundry Square and by St. John’s Barbary Coast on Balls Ferry Road in Anderson.

Community gardens continue to sprout up all over town, yet the goal of feeding the hungry within the community is still unmet.  The Fantom Penguin took a walk in the Garden of Hope with Lyle Faudree.

“Garden of Hope is a community garden like so many around the country whose purpose is to feed the hungry and so we grow food and we take it to those people in our community here that feed hungry.  And we do a year-round garden and try and provide as much food as we can.”

“The garden is about three years old.  I’ve been involved for about 18 months, through one growing season and now we’re just stepping into a new one again.”

“Well, we started out last year with around 10,000 square feet of garden and we’ve almost doubled that now.  It’s a little bit over 20,000 square feet.  And we harvested about 7,500 lbs. of produce last year and we’re guestimating this year it’ll be somewhere around 12,000 – 15,000 lbs.”

And where does that harvest end up going?

“Much of it goes to the Good News Rescue Mission.  It goes to Living Hope Compassion Ministries.  Some of it this year we want to take to Salvation Army and we have a lot families that just come to the garden, that are not doing very good, who are marginally employed and just need a little bit of help with their food bill.”

So you don’t have to actually be living on the streets to get some benefit from this?

“No.  We say in our advertising that we’re here to feed the Redding community which just covers every situation that you can think of.”

And you’re planning a farmer’s market?

“Yes.  On Saturdays from 8:00 – Noon we’re going to have some people come into the area and we’ll be selling food.  We’ll be selling produce.  People will have leather goods and things like that.  We’re probably going to have some music down here from time to time, so people coming by can stop in and have that experience.  We’d be happy to show them the garden and what we’re doing as well.”

“We grow a lot of onion and garlic because those are used in group settings to feed people for stews and for soups and things like that.  We’re growing some squash this year which gets used as a vegetable of course and for zucchini bread and other dishes that are made out of that.  We probably are going to have about 2,500 – 3,000 lbs. of tomatoes and some that’s canned; some of that salsa is made out of and much of that is just used in the daily feeding of the people in the community.  There’s approximately 1,000 people a day that need food that are unable to get it on their own.”

“And there are about 3,000 people that live on the streets currently in one shape, fashion, form or another out of their car or wherever they’re sleeping and probably about 125 – 150 families that are on the street with no shelter.”

“The big need right now is that we need to get a large rear-tine rotor tiller.  That’s probably the number-one thing we need to help us to continue to cultivate and rotate our crops and to keep that going.  We need soil amendments and people can buy those one bag at a time, one truckload at a time, however they want to do that and there’s a big need for that as well.  We always need garden tools because we have volunteer groups that come down that don’t always have their own tools.  Those are probably some of the more important things right now.”

What about volunteers?

“Anybody that wants to be a volunteer can look on our Facebook page or they can call me directly and we’d be happy to include them.  Most volunteers are coming down on Saturday but now that we have finished our planting for the most part, we need people during the week for watering and weeding as well.  And within about 6 – 8 weeks we’ll be harvesting and so with 300 tomato plants, we’ll need a lot of people just to pick tomatoes and make those available to the public.”

“This is a community garden that we want more and more people to be involved in.  And we have additional acreage that’s been given to us down on Knighton Road and in other areas of town where we could grow gardens if we had the volunteers to do that.  So my vision for this project is to start some other gardens in other geographical areas in town so people can have better access to this.  I don’t think a lot of people realize that the main mode of transportation for a lot of people in this town is either walking or riding a bike and so the closer we can get to where the real need is, the better off we’re going to be.”

“Just to give you an idea, the combined gardens in town that give food to the hungry are producing a little bit less than half of what we really need.  So we could double our output in all of the gardens that exist and it still probably wouldn’t be enough.  And people can grow vegetables right at home and take them to these places as well.  And we encourage that with families that like to garden anyway.”

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Second Saturday Art Night Draws Authors Downtown

Posted in Feature Articles with tags on May 26, 2012 by
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This week’s Fantom Penguin story is brought to you by All About Books, now located in downtown Redding on Court Street.  All About Books.

Art is on display in Redding every month on the Second Saturday Art Night.  You can meet local authors at All About Books on Court Street in Redding.  The Fantom Penguin asked bookstore owner and published author, Richard S. Lucas which came first the books or the bookstore?

“The writing came first.  I started that back around 1998.  The first books I did were e-books published in Canada and then the paper publishing, my first one, Four Paths to Forever, came out a year after we had opened the first location of our bookstore in 2002.”

Isn’t it difficult to become a writer?

“Well, actually I think it’s quite easy to become a writer.  It’s hard to become a published writer.  Big difference there.  I don’t really have any specific thing that keyed me into writing.  I had done some in high school.  I had done poetry a little bit when I was younger.  And at one point the story just started to form.  I said, ‘So let’s try writing this.’  I didn’t have any official education in writing, no formal training so I just started a story and as people read what I was writing they decided that I could put a pretty good story together and it’s just kind of gone along like that since.  I get an idea and away I go with it.”

But what about getting it published?

“Well the very first ones I did them through a Canadian e-book publisher around 2000.  It was actually probably ahead of their times, so it was easy to get that into an e-book format.  It didn’t do very well and that publisher went out of business a couple years after I had released my first one, but it gave me a kind of an idea what could happen there.  Paper printing is a whole lot different.  I think most novelists like I am end up going a self-published or joint-venture publishing way, where you pick up some of the cost and the publisher picks up some of the cost and you work on marketing.  It’s not a traditional package where they pay for everything.  That is very difficult to get these days.”

Second Saturday previously was called the Art Hop.  It was run by a few of the local art businesses in the area.  They eventually gave up on it so the Shasta County Arts Council has taken it over.  At this point there are 14 businesses in town.  We do local authors.  The other ones do local artists, music venues, some performing arts and it’s to help promote both the local businesses and to help promote local artists of all types.”

Isn’t helping other artists like helping your own competition?

“I don’t see it as a competition.  I’m sure some might.  I think that as hard as it is to get recognized as a writer and as expensive as it can be to be recognized as a writer, we’re just giving them an opportunity to get their names out on a local level, to meet more people in the business, maybe more writers, more artists and just start to network that way at no cost to them.”

What about your own books?

“The first book was Four Paths to Forever and it’s an archeological adventure based on a Hopi Indian legend of the Sipapu which was their gateway to the inner world where they say the first people came from and it’s a modern-day archeological search for that gateway.  I then wrote the sequel, Beyond Forever:  Journey to Tulmic, which was the story of what happened when they found that gateway and what they found on the other side.  My next one was a shift, Abrigor:  The First Battle, which was a modern-day Christian-based fantasy about demon fighters, four people brought together by God, trained by the angels to fight in combat against demons and I’m now currently working on the sequel to that.  And then my latest one, Ice Queen, is another archeological adventure, a new set of characters following an image that started in China 3,000 years ago and ends up in Peru and how they link that together.  What I try to do in my novels is put in a little bit of a factual base.  All the archeological information (or most of it) is true and then I form the story around those.”

“There’s a huge pool of talent in the area and unfortunately, I think being in the north end of the state, they don’t get the media coverage that they could if they were in a big metropolitan area.  That why we decided, myself being an author, decided it was worth trying to get the word out there for people to see what’s available from the local people and we’re getting some interest.  We had, as you know, we had the store up on Lake Boulevard that we just closed for eleven years and saw very little interest in the local writers, but in the three months that we’ve been here people come and look at this display behind me all the time.  And so they’re excited to see it and they’re excited to see a bookstore downtown again.”

“With the Saturday Art Night, our focus is, of course, local authors but we also promote local artists and as anyone comes in and walks around the store, they’ll see art on the walls from . . . I think currently we have five different artists, one potter.  We’re trying to give the artists . . . and we tend to lean to what I consider ‘urban art’; that’s probably not an official term, but the younger artists, more free-flowing type things, we try to give them an avenue and a place for them to show their stuff.  Hopefully people come in and of course visit with our authors but look at what some of the local artists are doing also.”

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Roller Girls on Roller Girls

Posted in Feature Articles on May 19, 2012 by
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This week’s Fantom Penguin story is brought to you by, an online book and music store focusing on creators in the Northstate,


Roller Derby continues to pick up speed in the Northstate.  The Fantom Penguin talked to Skater Relations Liaison, Lea White who goes by the skater name, Laya Out.

“We started as the Angry Beavers.  We actually started as a sister of the Nor Cal Roller Girls which skate out of Chico because we didn’t have a venue at that time nor did we have enough girls to form a team of our own, but we tried to with about four or five girls in 2006 or 2007.  I started hanging around a couple of the girls that were skating and they were commuting to Chico for practices and I couldn’t start then because I didn’t have the time to commute to Chico, but as soon as they got in at Big League, which I believe was the end of 2006 – 2007, I started skating here.”

The Fantom Penguin also spoke with Head of PR, Scarz O’ Fury, Brenda Scarbrough.

“Redding Roller Girls is our league name.  We have two teams under the league name.  We have the Angry Beavers and the Rolling Dead.”

“With our team we’re always changing.  We’re always improving.  We have a lot of boot camps that we do.  We bring in nationally ranked skaters to train and condition us.  We travel a lot.  This year the Angry Beavers went to Bakersfield to do an invitational, which was kind of a big deal for us.  And we’re just always adding new skaters to the sport.”

Laya Out:  “A couple years ago we started getting involved with Think Pink.  It’s a really good cause for someone like a roller derby team to be involved with because it’s a disease that affects women primarily and so we get involved with Think Pink.  We go out early in the morning and we hand out the bags of goodies and we have calendars printed to go in those bags, hand out carnations at 5:00 in the morning, so it’s kind of, you know . . . but we do it.  And usually once a year in October we have a bout that is our breast cancer bout.  We call it the Beavers for Boobies Bout and we’ll have breast casts done of some of the team players and auction them off and then give all the proceeds to Think Pink.”

“And then we also lost a dear friend and teammate to diabetes two years ago, Princess Slaya.”

“And she passed away, so we ended up having a bout to benefit a local diabetes cause here in town, so that was cool too.  And there’s a lot of things.  We did an Alzheimer’s walk last year.  Anything that we can do to give back to the community we want to do.”

Scarz O’ Fury:  “We do Blood Source.  We have also participated with Walk to End Alzheimer’s.  We’ve helped the Salvation Army with their yearly Christmas kettle drive.  We’re always looking for new outlets for us to get plugged in with the community.”

Laya Out:  “The sport itself is kind of hard to understand sometimes because so many people will say, ‘Okay, where’s the ball?’ or ‘Where’s the puck?  What’s the point of this?’  A lot of people don’t understand that the jammer is the one that gets the points and the jammer gets a point for every opponent that they legally lap.  So when they go through the pack, every person that has a different color jersey than she does, if she gets around them legally without knocking them over illegally or something like that, then that’s a point.  So that’s how that works.  I think that another misconception about roller derby is that we’re not athletes.  We are athletes.  We work really hard.  We train really hard.  Most girls do other types of athletic activities to make sure that they can do this sport.  It’s not as easy as it looks.  It’s really difficult to get on skates and do what we do.”

“What’s great about derby is that all the women that are a part of this are either students or moms or teachers.  They all have their everyday lives that they take care of and this is their love.  This is what we love to do for ourselves.  It’s a really great sport for girls to be involved with for themselves.  But we’re definitely not mean people or going to beat anybody up.  That’s just who we are when we’re skating.”

Scarz O’ Fury:  “I think a lot of people, especially the older people remember roller derby from the Sixties and Seventies where it was just an all out sport, a lot of elbows, a lot of pushing, shoving.  There’s a lot more rules and regulations.  There’s a lot of strategy that we do.  There is a point to the game.  It’s not just all out skate hard and knock girls over.  There is a point-scoring system.”

Laya Out:  “It’s amazing how into derby our fans get.  They love roller derby.  They love to watch it.  They love to be involved in it.  They like to fill positions like NSO’s, reffing, I mean any way people can be a part of it.  They hold signs up.  They love us.  After a bout there’s nothing better than a little girl coming up to you and asking you for your autograph you know, because you don’t feel like your anything like special or wonderful.  This is just what I love to do.  But then when a little kid asks you to sign, it’s wonderful because it really does inspire some people out there to be strong women, to be independent women, to do something that you love for yourself.  So yeah, that’s where our fans come from.”

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Local Horror Novelist Longs to be a Comedy Writer

Posted in Feature Articles on May 12, 2012 by
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This week’s Fantom Penguin story is brought to you by Cal’s Books, Redding’s Oldest Bookstore, Cal’s Books.

Your locally owned bookstores are still best place to find local authors.  It was at Cal’s Books on Westside Road in Redding that the Fantom Penguin met local author, Ray Garton.

“My first novel was published in 1984.  It had sold the year before and I was about . . . I think I was 20 years old when it sold and since then I’ve done 63 novels, novellas, short story collections.  I’ve done movie and TV tie-ins, young adult books under the name Joseph Locke, mostly horror, but some thrillers and crime novels, that sort of thing.”

Why horror?

“I usually answer that question by saying that I was raised a Seventh Day Adventist.  I was hooked on horror when I was very little; I started watching Dark Shadows.  The first horror movie I ever saw was 13 Ghosts, the original 13 Ghosts.  It hooked me early and I’ve stayed hooked.  I enjoy stories that are grounded in reality but that have some sort of supernatural or twisted threat or menace.  I like horror because it’s a lot like comedy.  Originally I wanted to be a comedy writer.  My dream when I was a boy was to be Rob Petrie when I grew up, which was the character played by Dick Van Dyke on the Dick Van Dyke Show.  He was a comedy writer and wrote jokes for the Alan Brady Show and that’s what I wanted to do, but I ended up writing horror which seems odd but the two aren’t that far apart.  They both rely on surprise and shock and they also both rely on the misfortune of others.  It’s just that the outcome is different.  Comedy laughs at the misfortune of others and horror uses it to frighten you but they’re very similar.”

“I try to set a book in as real and believable a setting as possible.  I don’t think horror works unless the characters are believable familiar people that you have met or who are like people you’ve met or know and they need to have real problems, familiar recognizable problems that we all share.  And then you throw in something like a werewolf or a vampire or a ghost.  I like to make my characters likable and then do terrible things to them.”

“I grew up pretty much in fear.  Everything was scary to me because of the religion in which I was raised.  It’s a very apocalyptic religion and I lost sleep as a boy over the coming time of trouble and the end of the world and so horror seemed like a relief to me.  I was afraid of everything so horror engaged me and it made being frightened fun and that appealed to me because I was frightened most of the time anyway and it wasn’t fun.  Horror kind of made it enjoyable.”

“I had met an agent through a girlfriend’s family.  A girlfriend of mine, her family knew a guy who was an agent and they introduced me.  And I showed him some short stories and he said he couldn’t sell short stories, but did I have a novel?  And I said, ‘Yes, I have a novel.  I’m half-way done and I’ll send it to you as soon as it’s finished.’  And that was a lie, of course, because I didn’t have a novel at all.  So I quickly wrote Seductions, sent it to him and he sold it almost immediately.  There were no rejections.  There wasn’t the long struggle.  But it’s balanced out because things have gotten harder as the years have gone by.  It’s harder for me to sell something now than it was back then partly because in 1984 the horror genre was huge.  It was very popular in publishing.  There were horror novels everywhere.  Publishers were buying all the horror they could find.  And I was in the right place at the right time and my book sold very easily.  Now horror isn’t what it used to be.  In publishing they don’t even use the word.  So it’s a little harder to sell that genre which is why I’ve been branching out in other genres, but I got lucky very early on and lately I’ve been paying for it.”

“The publishing business has changed so much now with e-books, print-on-demand and it’s not the business it used to be.  It’s almost like I woke up one day and I had to start over again from the beginning.”

What other types of books have you written?

“I’ve written some thrillers.  My most recent novel is Meds and it’s a thriller about a prescription drug that has deadly side effects that are concealed by the manufacturer, the pharmaceutical company.  The book before that was Trailer Park Noir, which is a thriller set in a trailer park.  I have a comedy that hasn’t been published yet called Dismissed from the Front and Center about my two years at a Seventh Day Adventist boarding academy.  And I’ve written crime novels, noir fiction like Loveless and Murder was my Alibi, Trade Secrets.  Those are all thrillers.  Sex and Violence in Hollywood, that’s my favorite of all my works and that’s actually a comedy/thriller, sort of a combination of the two.  I wrote one science fiction story that I wasn’t fond of.  It got published.  Science fiction is not my genre, but I’d like to get more humorous.  I’d like to do stuff that’s funny and maybe fulfill that Rob Petrie dream of mine.”

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Shasta Caverns Receives National Recognition

Posted in Feature Articles on May 5, 2012 by
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This week’s Fantom Penguin story is brought to you by Legacy Medical Equipment and FreedomAlert, the only Personal Emergency Response System with No Monthly Fees.               

Just to the north of Redding and Shasta Lake City lies one of the Northstate’s most unusual natural wonders, recognized as such recently by the National Park Service.  But what exactly is being honored and why?  The Fantom Penguin asked Matthew Doyle, General Manager of Lake Shasta Caverns.

“The caves themselves are approximately 250 million years old and there are two processes within the caverns themselves.  The first, of course, is the hollowing-out stage, which is basically by the force of water.  Water basically creeps in through the cracks and crevices of limestone rock, which this whole mountain range is made out of, and creates small cavities.  There’s a reason they call it a cave.  And then from there we have the filling-in stage.  That’s where we get the most precious part of it, the speleothem or the cave formations.  It is that calcite that’s precipitated throughout the cave that actually creates your stalactites, your stalagmites, helictites and about, well in this cavern we have about 32 different, separate formations that you can see on the tour.”

“This is a limestone solutional cave.  The ones that you see out in Modoc County and over in Lassen County, those are volcanic caves, so there are different types of caves.  We have ice caves.  Of course, this one is a limestone solutional cave which is the most common and it doesn’t necessarily have to be limestone.  It could be a number of different soluble rocks or sedimentary rocks that can create caves.”

“The designation that we received was the National Natural Landmark designation.  That’s very important for us because of a number of reasons.  Anybody can say they have the best hotel, the best restaurant or in our case the best caves.  What this is actually saying is the National Park Service, a federal agency, has said we have the most extraordinary example of a limestone solutional cave within our region.”

“The caves and about 40 acres surrounding the caves are privately owned and run through a corporation called Lake Shasta Properties, Inc.  Now our main gift store and our main picnic area, that is leased from the Forest Service but we do pay the Forest Service for that.  Other than that, everything we do pride ourselves in is the fact that our customers give us the money.  We do not take any federal grants, any type of grants whatsoever, whether it’s city, federal, state.  We bring it back in from our customers.  Everything you see from the buses to our boats to the handrails to the uniforms that we wear, that’s all from our customers.  So, it’s very important for us to portray that to our customers and make sure that they have an educational and very informative visit to the caverns.”

“Although we do have the availability for grants from the government due to this NNL, we’re still going to stay away from that only because we do pride ourselves in being able to appease our customers and make sure they have a worthwhile visit.  But the biggest thing about the NNL is that it’s going to spur tourism within Shasta County, not only Shasta County but Shasta Lake, Redding, the whole Northstate of California.  For every family that comes up just to visit us because it’s an NNL, that means there’s more people that are going to be spending a night at a hotel, eating at a local restaurant like Jack’s, visiting some of the culture that Redding has to offer.”

“We’re actually members of the National Cave Association which is a very elite group of show cave ownership and managers.  They have very strict guidelines as far as conservation and stewardship of the caves, so we’re very proud to be a part of that group.  I actually sit on one of the boards there and a couple of committees of that.  Now the big thing about caves is every single one of them is like a fingerprint.  Every single one of them is different and every single one of them has something a little bit different to offer.  So, we’re just part of a family that can add a little something unique to the whole thing.  Of course here in the United States this is the only cave tour that has a bus associated with it as well as a boat.  We are geographically landlocked.  We’re not your typical, ‘the cave is right outside the gift store’.  It takes actually about a half hour from our gift store to reach the cavern entrance.”

“A large reason that we have such large numbers coming through here at the caverns is because of the local economy, is because of the local word-of-mouth advertising that we do get.  So of course we pay that back through a various number of events that we do throughout the year, anything from C.A.S.T. for Kids, which is Catch a Special Thrill for Kids put on by the BLM and it’s for special needs kids, whether it’s physical or developmental handicaps, we take them out on the boat, go fishing for a day.  In a couple of weeks, we have a 3rd Grade fishing trip with the Forest Service.  We take them out for a free fishing day; take them out and just have a blast, hot dogs and hamburgers, all the way to the ‘Tis Your Season event with Salvation Army where we have food drives.  Last year we made I think it was 300 lbs. of fudge and doled it out to those who donated back to the Salvation Army.”

“It’s one of the unique areas, not only that — it’s exploration.  It’s getting back out there in Nature.  We’ve all been tied to our Smart Phones, our PS3’s, a number of different technological devices.  We need to get back out there and really explore a little bit more and be active.  Get outdoors.  Enjoy it.  We have, as far as I’m concerned, one of the biggest gems here in Northern California that there is to offer and it’s right in your backyard.”

Lake Shasta Caverns is open all year.  You can probably just show up and get on the next tour, unless it’s a busy holiday.  To book in advance call 1 (800) 795-CAVE or go to the website at

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Local Author Pens Psychic Thriller

Posted in Feature Articles on April 28, 2012 by
Photo by Joe McGarity

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This week’s Fantom Penguin story is brought to you by Lisa’s Book Nook.  Let’s meet at Lisa’s Book Nook!

Your locally owned bookstores are still best place to find local authors.  It was at Lisa’s Book Nook on Railroad Avenue in Redding that the Fantom Penguin sat down with local author, Tim Hemeon.

“Well, I’ve been interested in writing for a long time.  I started a couple of children’s stories back in the 80’s when I first started teaching, never quite finished them.  I did finally end up writing a science curriculum back in ’99 and I had an offer for publishing that ended up falling through (it was a science kit) and that was a little discouraging but as I thought about it, I thought I did like the writing.  I want to continue writing and I decided to branch out.  Instead of just doing education, (this was a science kit that had physical components), I thought I’ll do something that’s just words on paper.  And then the more I thought about it, I decided I wanted to break out of education and widen my niche.  And as I thought about that, I decided to write a novel about a certain topic that was in my heart at the time.”

“The issue is the topic of healing.  You read in the Bible about Jesus touching someone that can’t walk and then they can walk.  Someone that can’t see, he comes across their path; now they can see.  And you read about this in the four Gospels, in a lot of religious texts.  You hear this preached in churches.  And as someone of faith I many times prayed for people I knew who had diseases, who were injured, who were hurting and I didn’t see them healed.  In some cases their body naturally healed, but I’m talking about a miraculous healing, a biblical type of healing.  And as I was mulling this over for several years I asked ‘What would this look like if someone had this power today in today’s society?’  And it was kind of a neat idea to think about.  It’s not necessarily an original idea but it was a new seed in my heart and as that began to grow I thought, ‘There’s a story here.  I could write a story about this.  What would it look like if someone had this power to know things, to touch people, to heal people and why would they have this power?’”

“This was new ground for me and the book actually took me places I didn’t plan to go because as I’ve got a main character with these great gifts, he’s coming up against opposition and some of the opposition, terrorism, a serial killer and whatnot, it took me into . . . like I have detectives and I have police procedure, SWAT teams, an autopsy, all kinds of things I really didn’t know anything about.  I did have to do quite a bit of research.  I didn’t want a policeman or law enforcement agent to read the book and laugh.  I wanted it to look right, smell right; I wanted them to read it and say, ‘Yeah, that’s accurate.’  A good friend of mine from high school is a cold case murder detective in Southern California that has been to over thirty autopsies in the last few years and he was a great source, Brett Seckinger, a great source down there.  He’s one of the sheriff’s deputies.  I had several other policemen, including my brother, a retired lieutenant, who gave me great feedback and direction.  So I wouldn’t have been able to do it.  I learned real quick you can’t go alone on this.  You have to do a lot of research whether it’s in books or talking to people and I like talking to people, so that was fun.”

“Over the years at different churches I had seen presentations by travelling speakers or guest speakers who had healing services and I had a bit of background in that as well.  And I think I tried to use all of my experiences plus the research to create a pretty good story where this is happening but it’s not an orthodox situation.  I made it sort of an exception to what we would normally think.  It wasn’t like a healing service where people are going and being healed at a church.  It wasn’t like that at all.  It’s an ordinary guy, a sort of Everyman that we could all relate to getting powers he’s not necessarily asking for and doesn’t really know what to do with and where does that take him?”

“I wrote this whole thing by hand in journals.  I’m a bit of an antiquarianist, I guess, old-fashioned just with Bic pens and spiral binders.  Once I had six or seven binders full and the plot was pretty much done then I had to jump into the digital age and type it on a computer, revision over and over and over, constantly polishing.  And then I selected five or six trusted readers, gave them copies of the manuscript after I had copyrighted the book, got their feedback, didn’t take all of it, but I took a good amount of it and used their input to revise even again and again and again.  Finally I had a product I thought was publishable and that’s when the query letter writing stage began.  You write to try to get an agent or to publishers themselves and see who’s interested in this topic and you don’t get to send your book.  I imagined when I finished my book there would be a man maybe with a long beard or a woman very astute with her glasses sitting in a room with a leather chair by a fire and my manuscript would arrive at a high-rise office in New York and they would sit there and read it over an evening and fall in love with it and offer me a contract and well, that’s just a stereotype, right?  So it doesn’t work that way.  It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of query letter writing and most of the people don’t want you to send any of your manuscript; they just want the letter.  So you have to write a darn good letter to get their attention.  If they like it, then they request 5, 10, 50 pages, 100 pages, the whole manuscript and if they like that, you move on.”

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Click here to purchase Soul Storm by Tim Hemeon: