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11 August 2010, JellyBean @ 7:01 pm

Mark Higgins’ Mystery Machine is a white Chevy Trailblazer with a “Ghost Hunter” license plate holder, but we’re not blazing trails or hunting ghosts yet. Instead, we’re stuck 10 miles from Pantops Mountain on Route 231, a two-lane road that leads to Gordonsville and to one of the most “active” sites Higgins has investigated: the Exchange Hotel, a former Civil War hospital.

The line of stopped cars extends beyond a bend in the road, so we can’t see the cause of the hold-up. While we wait, we make small talk. Higgins says that paranormal is “a big hot topic right now—it’s all over the news, and there are new shows popping up on cable all the time.” I show Higgins my copy of Dennis Hauck’s Haunted Places directory, and tell him that the trailer for Paranormal Activity 2, the sequel to a 2009 horror film that banked more than $100 million domestically, was pulled from some theaters after it terrified a few Twilight fans.

Higgins hasn’t seen Twilight, but says he liked The Sixth Sense—a movie about a boy who constantly sees dead people around him. Except…

“People who have visions and can see dead people? I’m a little skeptical about that, a little bit on the fence about that,” says Higgins. He adds that he’s seen “strange stuff” during investigations, including what he calls “shadow figures,” but never a dead person.

We’re nearing the bend in the road, but still can’t see the source of the delay. After a few more minutes, Higgins calls ahead to our tour guide, Tim Burnett, president of Historic Gordonsville, Inc., to let him know we may arrive later than planned.

“You know, I don’t believe in coincidence anymore,” says Higgins when he hangs up. “I really don’t.” Cars ahead of us start to turn away from Gordonsville and what waits beyond the bend, and the Mystery Machine lurches slowly forward.

Read more: C-Ville

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