Monday, July 28, 2014

Why Clowns Are Horrifying

No matter how happily they paint their faces, clowns unsettle us, freak us out, even induce terror. 

Why is that?

It begins in childhood.  Masks and weird makeup and "made up" people are just unsettling. Children don't have a concept that there is a person under the makeup or mask. To them, what they see is reality. If you can play with a baby doll and feel that it's real, then what do you suppose a clown does to the nervous system?

We have a primitive fear about those whose true face we cannot discern. Even someone like me with facial amnesia, still knows facial cues, even if I can't recall the face when I turn away. If you study the painted face of a clown, you have to wonder if their mouth is really turned up beneath the paint or an angry slit. 

It probably doesn't help that popular media has had a field day with our fear....

"It" the Stephen King Miniseries with 
Pennywise, the evil clown

"Killer Klowns From Outer Space"

The Joker from "Batman: the Dark Knight"


"House of 1000 Corpses"

"The Devil's Rejects"

In my huge-content horror short story collection, Don't Go There! (A Flash Horror Anthology) there is a very special clown story in which the question is asked, what if clowns were real beings and not imitators? 

Then, there's real-life clowns that we do need to fear. Sometimes the best cover for bad and naughty deeds is behind the most "likable" character that is encouraged to mingle with children.

Case in point - the movie "Clownhouse" was both a horrifying clown portrayal played upon three young boys, but also a breeding ground for a pedophile director. 

Victor Salva, the director of the movie "Clownhouse" was convicted of molestation with one of the 12-year-old boys who acted in the movie. Later, he went on to be hired by Disney to direct "Powder" and later became well known for "Jeepers Creepers" and "Jeepers Creepers II." To add creep to creepers, this man is allowed to be in a position of authority around movies that center around young men.  

John Wayne Gacy, serial killer, is perhaps the most horrifying clown element in our real world that has ever been exposed. This community respected businessman and weekend clown for benefits had the perfect cover to steal young boys and molest and kill them. It is believed he killed over 30 young men, some of their bodies found buried in his basement.

We have reason to believe clowns are disorienting and unsettling. Anyone who paints on a happy face with a tear, or hides the flesh beneath so we don't see the true person behind the character, is disconcerting. Our very interaction as human being involves facial cues and the ability to relate to the person we speak to. 

It's a rough road for clowns, they are more often rejected than the creators of joy and laughs, but then there are some clowns that have an age-old appeal and it might just be what they are peddling more than their own personality.

Still, you won't see me buying one of these automatons - 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Playing Fair in the Paranormal Arena

Here's how I see the field of study. We are hopefully driven to pursue the unexplained because of our own encounters or our intelligent minds that want to understand something hard to grasp. 

If one enters the field for celeb status, to secure a show, to get attention, those are all the wrong reasons. That is not about the study. That is about the self.  

This will show up in what the person does - from ranting, raving, blaming others, airing issues with colleagues in the public realm.  

The way you comport yourself as a researcher says if you are in this for research or ego, if you are immature or mature, if you are ready to be part of a growing body of research and knowledge as a collective, or you see yourself as an island. Remember, even an island needs a bridge. 

I have seen many attacks by petty self-absorbed people who show their true character when they do this.  If I see a supposed researcher repeatedly bad mouthing others, pointing fingers, blaming others, and generally showing high degrees of self pity, I see that kid on the playground that everyone backed away from because of fits of pique. I know that whatever they do to others, they will at some point turn and do to me, probably the first time I say "no" to them. I avoid them like the plague, and so should others.

Research and securing knowledge is a cooperative. It means a partnership and sharing among us. We will not begin to understand the para-realms until we share knowledge. Two people studying the same site and not sharing information about it, are going to miss very important repetitive features that might give great evidence to a concept.

This is the purpose of Ghost Hunting Theories. To open minds and enlighten and share knowledge so others may take off with it and run.  

Remember, your actions say as much as your words.

Why not spend a bit of time helping out fellow researchers? Daily, I participate in reposting people's events and their book releases, reviewing their books, encouraging and even showing people how to publish on Kindle and Nook, putting up ads for free on my blog, and wishing them all the best luck, retweeting, brainstorming, sharing research, offering tips, and more. 

Why would I encourage other authors in the field to write books when I write books? Because, I cannot write their books. They are writing a different book than I write. They are not competition, they are sharing knowledge with a broad audience and I applaud them putting all their thoughts and research into one focus of a book. I wish them well and hope that they find success or at least compliments that reassure them they are on the right track. 

I don't understand the need to tear others apart instead of creating the world you want to be in. If you want a world with dignity, intelligence, and compassion, freaking live it and be it.

Investigating Battlefields

**This is a guest post by a living historian and paranormal enthusiast, "Jay Solomon." 

So you want to experience psychic phenomena. But you don't have any idea where to go. You are not privy to haunted spots or so-called "haunted houses" and you are not a member of an investigating team. You think you would be a good asset to a team because you watched shows like Ghost Hunters. In reality you are as green as grass. You have no experience.

If you want to experience this you need to first know a few things.

The first thing to learn is that paranormal phenomena can happen at any time and anywhere. Most of mine have happened on or near battlefields ; particularly those of the Civil and Revolutionary Wars. And if you want to hopefully experience phenomena those are the best places to start. The battlefield is a good place because of the masses of casualties (killed, wounded, taken prisoner, and missing in action) and what remains afterword.

That brings me to my second point, The Law Of Conservation Of Energy. The human body is a complex mechanism. It is not just a mass of tissue and organs. It requires electrical impulses to function; energy. If you had physics in high school or in college you may remember that energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can be only be transformed. So upon the death or the ceasing of the function of the human body that energy remains behind in some form.

In his book "Ghosts of Gettysburg VII" Mark Nesbitt states that "... the dying human body releases about 1,000 times the normal 12 watts of electricity it constantly produces. ....this 12,000 watts of bioelectricity released at death [is] a "light shout"."1

Major General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Colonel at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg) put a spiritual twist on that. In a speech given at his last visit to the battlefield in a couple of months before the battle's fiftieth anniversary he so eloquently said... “In great deeds, something abides. On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls… generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls.” 

Before visiting a battlefield, it is good to know a little about where you are planning to visit from a historical standpoint. Don't be afraid to pick up a book or do a little surfing on the internet. It will only help you to understand and appreciate what happened there. It will also give you an idea where good spots for potential phenomena would be located. Know what happened at the bridge, the tract of woods or field of a certain crop. They will have names such as 'Burnside's Bridge'. Or simply, 'The Cornfield' or 'The Wheatfield'.

Folklore, too; often has at least a grain of truth behind it and can be a good source. You can use these stories to guide you to locations that have a reputation for being haunted. A fine illustration is a story of a woman who has been reported materializing when Yankees are near her home. The story goes that she has been seen to try and shoo soldiers away with a ghostly broom. A friend and I decided to test the truth of it. And being reenactors and living historians we already had the uniform and gear to go with it. Although Mrs. Otto did not materialize we certainly did feel her presence as well as her intent. She wanted us gone and escorted us to the other side of the bridge! 

Although phenomena can happen any time; the evening hours are good for ghost hunting. The best time, in my experience, is that interval of time between daylight and night time. It seems that at this time the veil between the two planes of existence are the thinnest.
A good illustration of this is when a friend and myself had gone to and in what is known as the Triangular Field At Gettysburg. It is located on Houck's Ridge just west of Devil's Den. On the afternoon of July 2, 1863, Confederates of the 1st Texas were fighting to push 124th NY 'Orange Blossoms' off the ridge as part of Longstreet's Assault. The fight see-sawed back and forth as the 124th tried valiantly to at least delay the attackers advance. Several times the Texans charged and were beaten off. Finally the New Yorkers were beaten off but not after giving as good as they got. The field was littered with the dead and dying of both sides and is an often visited spot.

The vibes were so strong that my friend, whom has almost no ability at all, also sensed the them and the strength beginning to surround us. She also sensed the feeling of urgency to leave that particular spot. It was being conveyed to us that we were not wanted there and that we had to leave. We did; out of respect or consideration for them.

And that brings me to another point. When doing this activity a good rule of thumb is to treat the dead as they were still among us. Remember that they may not have the physical bodies but their personalities, their souls, remain. Treat them with respect. If you get the feeling that you are not wanted somewhere, by all means leave. Use the analogy that you have entered in to someone's home. How you are treated is a reflection of how you behaved. If you show bad manners your host will show you the door. But if you are non-threatening and courteous you can be treated as an invited guest.

Another thing to remember is that many of these battlefields have hours. They are managed and maintained by the National Park service (NPS). For example, Gettysburg during the summer is open from 6 AM to 10 PM. At that time you had better be off the battlefield or at least on your way. The National Park Service can take off-hour or unsanctioned visits quite seriously. If caught during this time one can be subject to a fine of at least $100 per violation. So please don't be on a battlefield after hours.

There are times that the NPS may allow investigation teams to go over the battlefield. They must be arranged with permission with the NPS and sometimes involve signing a waiver and paying a fee. The group may be monitored by a ranger or some other employee of the battlefield park. And that means to stick to paranormal investigations. Don't take it as a good opportunity to commit acts of vandalism or to dig for artifacts. You will ruin it for everyone, including yourself, should you get caught. The NPS has severe penalties for those who get caught. So unless you don't mind paying huge fines and doing some time in a federal penitentiary, stick to the purpose of your visit!

The following are examples of experiences of the paranormal at Gettysburg:

One man told me that he had been up on Culp's Hill at Gettysburg exploring the summit where the observation tower is and various markers. On their way up the road was a group of fellow tourist. Suddenly a volley of rifle fire rang out. This was not a company of reenaactors shooting blank cartridges, but a full-fledged, honest-to-goodness volley of fully loaded rifles. And it happened in broad daylight so close to the group walking up the hill, that some of the women covered their ears and screamed. The man on top the hill went down to the group. He had heard the volley, too. No reenactors were nearby and everyone was quite shaken up over the experience.

Another story involved three reenactors arriving at Gettysburg for a small reenactment and encampment on a July 4th weekend some time in the late '80s.  They had arrived just after midnight,  got dressed in their uniforms and began walking down Hunt Ave to the camp site. As they made their way down the road, a  mist appeared; and out of it walked three figures. Three figures of just the purest black. As the reenactors approached the figures; the figures turned in the direction from where they came and walked beyond a bend in the road. When the reenactors reached the area, nothing or no one was seen. They walked further up the road and saw the figures again some distance away, leaning on a fence and appearing to be smoking cigars. But as they got nearer to the figures, they faded. Upon reaching the spot where they had been they saw that there was chicken wire stapled to the outside of the fence.  Whomever or whatever was leaning on the fence had to leaning through the chicken wire.  Suddenly, something in the grass in the field in front of them was heard.  They looked and saw a set of footprints being formed in the grass. That was enough for the trio of  reenactors. They fled down the road cursing like sailors and running for the supposed safety of the car where they stayed until morning.

So there you have it.  Men and boys (and on the rare occasion, women) made the supreme sacrifice.  Sometimes they died slowly.  Other times they died in an instant.  But because they have not made the transition to the next plane of existence, their spirit, their souls remain earth-bound.  There are a few reasons why this happens.  They don't realize that they are no longer of the flesh.  Or,  they are afraid of judgment.  Another possibility is that they actually prefer to remain here.  Hence, they walk those fields.  And sometimes, when the conditions are right, our world will meld with theirs.

Jay Solomon is a  pseudonym for a New York City area living historian and paranormal enthusiast.
1 Nesbitt, Mark. Ghosts Of Gettysburg VII. Gettysburg, PA: Second Chance Publications, copyright 2011, page 162.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Archaeoastronomy: Ancient Astronomical Sites

Stonehenge, UK
Back and forth, back and forth, there are ongoing debates about the importance of Stonehenge's reported astronomical significance. Some believe the "heel stone" is meant to mark the summer solstice, others say it simply frames the sunrise.
Apparently, growing evidence has shown that people visited it during winter solstice, not summer solstice, and so alignment features might be incidental. There are, however, some other sites in the UK that show more clear alignment, like Newgrange.

Newgrange, Ireland
This monument was built in Ireland around 3200 BC (earlier than the supposed 1500 BC of Stonehenge - closer perhaps to the "creators" of the knowledge).  This large circular monument had stone passageways and chambers within. This structure aligns with the rising sun and light floods the chamber during winter solstice.  Interestingly, there were other structures nearly identical in other areas of Europe. There was, apparently, a common knowledge.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, Arizona
The ancient tribe of the HoHoKam in Arizona had built an extensive canal system that was very advanced, and built this astronomical site that was abandoned around the time the tribe went "missing" in 1450.  The walls were constructed aligned with the points of the compass and the windows opened onto sun and moon positions. Of course, if it were that simple, they were simply utilizing the rising and setting sun and moon for light within. Likely these "latter" people picked up the canal system knowledge and their knowledge of utilizing the heavens without understanding them as anything but practical concerns. Evidence of earlier "giant" civilization in Arizona was found many times over.

Mayans, Mexico/Central America
The Mayan civilization in Mexico and Central America began around 500 BCE. Interestingly, like Stonehenge in comparison to Newgrange, the Mayans came after the oldest civilization in MesoAmerica, the Olmecs. The Olmecs were the originators of the ancient astronomical and calendar knowledge later carried out by the Aztecs and Mayans.  This culture began around 1200 BCE and ended around 400 BCE. Coinicidentally, this is much like latter "Native" culture that adopted the knowledge of earlier civilizations, the "originator" civilization "disappeared.

Cheomseongdae, South Korea
This was built some time in the 600s CE (common era/AD). Built out of 362 granite stones, some believe they represent the lunar days of the calendar. The 12 large set stones that hold it up, represent the months. This is the oldest observatory in East Asia. 

Ocmulgee, Georgia USA
Dating around 900 CE (AD), this mound has 55 seats inside and an altar the shape of a bird. The eye of the bird had a "forked leaf" design that is common for drawing comets. It also has astronomical alignments. On October 22nd, the sun aligns with the doorway and lights the chamber inside. There were also two pyramids and other buildings on the complex. 

Interestingly, ancient man was not as archaic as we seem to think he was. There were lots of astronomical discoveries by people like Aristotle in the 4th century BCE, Copernicus in the 15th century, and Galileo in the 16th and 17th century, but it is apparent that man who was outdoors an enormous amount of his time and dependent on the seasons, had quite the obsession with the sky and the odd relationship between "feet on earth" humans and "up there" sky. 

Is it possible that such knowledge and such structures were first incorporated by the originator culture of "first human migration" people? More than likely with a few hundred thousand years on us homo sapiens, they were already gathering vast knowledge that was utterly lost on our ancestors who came out of Africa, spreading throughout the globe and encountering people with god-like knowledge. 

We homo sapiens were able to cobble together, steal, and imitate much of what they did, but we did not really grasp the deeper understanding, sort of like those of us who know enough about using a computer to talk to folks online and research, but not enough to fix it when it breaks down or understand just how it works and what its potential is.

This is why, I believe, these early astronomers we hold up as heroes were re-learning something already known by an ancient peoples and it seemed like a big "aha" moment for us, but looking at ancient sites, we must confess there is a discrepancy about when "man" discovered astronomical features and when "ancients" knew this stuff long before.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ghosts and Legends of Oklahoma

I just got finished reading Ghosts and Legends of Oklahoma. 

I was pleasantly surprised. I've read a lot of state books about ghosts and they are usually the same old reiterated stories and boring passages and photos. This not only had attractive graphics and photos, but the stories were ones I had not heard, at least a great majority of them.

Some of the subjects, I had some basic knowledge of and it was great to get the deeper insight. In fact, I do hope to make a trek to visit a dear friend in Oklahoma soon and I am carrying the book as a guide. That's the highest compliment for this anal-retentive trip organizer! 

I highly recommend this book. Oklahoma is teeming with history and strangeness and they come together beautifully in this book by Mike Rickesecker.


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