Sunday, May 31, 2009

Research Progress Update

Well, I thought this research would take a long time, but it's so interesting, it's hard to put it to rest. This is the map so far of the 50 places I'm studying as samples. I'm finding amazing correlations between geology/waterways/train tracks/history/and building construction. In fact, I'm already able to postulate cities that should have perfect conditions for having ghost phenomenon. Don't know yet what this all means, but I can't wait to get a bit more info so I can tell you more. The hardest part so far is finding out the body of evidence each place has for haunting and the construction of the buildings and geology. I already completed waterways/train tracks and it's really astounding. The most famously and documented haunted places so far have all the elements.

I'll keep you posted as I get more.

Horror Movie Review - "Let the Right One In"

This 2008 Swedish movie was one I’d heard people referring to, but never considered what it was really about. The name made it sound like some kind of independent film about relationships. Well, it kind of is…and it’s kind of not.

Believe it or not, this is a Swedish vampire movie. I didn’t think there was anything about vampire movies that could move me anymore. Been there. Done that. Not true anymore. Apparently, my Swedish relatives are very good at storytelling. The movie is done in the Swedish language with subtitles, but don’t let it put you off at all. Their language sounds as if you can understand it and many of their words correlate with ours so it feels like an English-speaking film in a spooky kind of way.

The setting is amazing amongst months of snow and snow and then more endless snow. The perfect backdrop for a housing tenement with a vampire issue. My father described his similar Norwegian childhood and the winters as being very stark, very bleak, and very long. Yeah, it really is. The director used this kind of hopeless weather to his advantage in putting across his message.

This movie has a twist on vampire stories like none I’ve ever seen. There’s great humanity in it and the characters are so well developed that you can’t help but be caught up in their story. At times, the fact that it’s about vampires was forgotten. It was really a story about doing what you have to do to survive and hopefully finding someone to share the journey with.

I suppose if I had to classify this fantastic award-winning film, I’d probably call it an adolescent vampire story. I can guarantee you haven’t seen something quite like this before and it’s absolutely worth the watch. I caught it on instant watch on Netflix and I was so riveted, I wouldn’t even pause it to use the restroom.

Definitely give this a watch. This movie is unbelievably surprising. If you liked “30 Days of Night,” “The Thing,” or even the remake of “Halloween” by Rob Zombie, you’ll like this. It isn’t a graphic and horrifying on-the-edge-of-your seat kind of film, but it’s very disturbing, very unsettling, and very strangely beautiful and emotionally sensitive.

I promise you’ll walk away from it looking at the horror genre in a new light.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Those Ancient Celts Understood a Thing or Two About the Earth

While working on my newest research into commonalities amongst haunted locations, I can’t help but reflect back on my upbringing at Aspen Grove. It impacted me in more ways than just the experiences of its haunting phenomena.

Growing up with formal boxwood mazes, orchards, arbors, surrounding woods, and all the gentle beauty of Northern Virginia, I couldn’t help but be very tied to nature and to the land. There were gentle reminders of the type of potent environment I lived in, but I never knew how to voice it as a child, except to say “the land knows things.” I became romantic by nature and especially moved by weather and the cycles of the moon. It’s a kind of bonding from an early age that helps to make you more sensitive to earth’s changes, like oncoming earthquakes and tsunami’s, changes in weather patterns, and upcoming tornados. That’s an influence I felt on my own body and spirit, so I can imagine what happens when these earthly conditions occur on a property and affect the course of its history. I could literally feel it in the relics I dug up from the earth, having been hidden away since the Civil War and long before then.

The ancient Celtic pagans understood a thing or two about the land and how to harness its powers, how to use what you have, and amplify its inherent properties for magic and spellbinding. Erecting stone structures such as Stonehenge was just a sample of what drove the ancients to create a powerful place of worship and insight. They were driven to devise a spirituality and a lifestyle that was motivated by the qualities of the land they lived upon and the sensations it evoked within their bodies, like the gentle ebb and flow of the tides on earth pulled by the moon.

Wandering the property of Aspen Grove with much of the same elements of running streams above and below ground, quartz rock, shale beneath the dirt and lining the creek, and a home built of stone in the 1700s, all made for a perfect haunted setting. In fact, the original name of the property was “Springfield” because of the springs all around the property. Our own well pump was just feet away from our house, pumping the best-tasting water ever from a stream that ran below the structure.

We wonder sometimes why the Brit’s have so many haunted places, but why shouldn’t they? They have the ideal conditions and disruptive/dramatic history, as I see it from my research thus far. It will be interesting to see how my research unfolds. It could make it possible to predict likely haunted spots and ones that potentially could be if they have the right “earth stew.”

I will continue to keep you posted. I’m hoping to publish my findings within the next few weeks.

Atchison Kansas: A Case For a Haunted Town

I’ve started doing my research on the most haunted places, using a 50-place sample in the U.S. I’ve started to compare the actual proof of hauntings (to give the place a haunted scale) and then the composition of the earth, the building materials, the presence of running streams/rivers/oceans, and train tracks. In doing so, I’ve come across some common factors that seem to point to the possibility that Atchison, Kansas is a perfect example of a place that HAS to be haunted.

Atchison has many reported hauntings and, in fact, has adopted the moniker “Most Haunted City in Kansas.” (Admittedly, I’d say in the U.S. if it had a more traumatic history.) Those familiar with all things ghostly have heard of the Heartland Haunting and Sally the little girl who supposedly tormented a family in their home in Atchison and scratched up the husband quite a bit. There is the Gargoyle Home built by a man who supposedly had a pact with the devil. He put many gargoyles on the home and a future owner fell to his death on the stairway trying to remove them. Jackson Park supposedly has a ghostly woman wandering its greenbelt, supposedly hung herself after the prom. There are so many other stories of the hauntings that I’d suggest you check this site if you’re interested in learning more.

I began my study with the land upon with Atchison sites. This is limestone and shale; two types of earth that seem to be most associated with haunting sites. What’s so special about limestone and shale? Well, I only profess to be a fair researcher but not a geological expert. (By the way, I’d love to find a geologist who wants to talk haunted sites). In a nutshell, shale is sedimentary rock, a combination of clay, mineral, and mud. More basically spoken, in shale you will find minerals and breakdown from life; plants and animals in the sediment of a floodplain. Limestone also is a sedimentary rock with a high mineral content. Why is this significant? That’s where my knowledge of geology admittedly ends. Until I can interview some geologists, I can make only assumptions that shale is crumbly and unstable and perhaps with its biological makeup is simply easier for earth’s energies to penetrate, but that is only supposition. For now, I can only report that I find the most well-documented haunted places are atop of sedimentary rock.

Another factor that’s common in hauntings that I’ve observed since I was a kid, but my good friend and head of the MVD Ghostchasers, Debe Branning, also voiced this correlation she had made as well; train tracks. It’s not certain just what a series of train tracks can do for a haunting. As I’ve said before, it’s hard to tell if it’s the chicken or the egg. Were more older places built near railroad tracks for travel and so the older homes just happen to be near train tracks, or do train tracks work as a kind of energy pathway for this natural type of phenomenon? Well, in the case of Atchison, Kansas, the whole place is completely scarred by train tracks running back and forth in close cluster. It’s like a beacon for whatever might travel these pathways. Perhaps it’s the iron content? There’s just no way to tell whether train tracks are simply near older more haunted sites and greater concentrations of human population or if they do have an effect on hauntings. It will take finding train tracks that were laid away from human habitation that would be helpful in finding out of perhaps homes built near train tracks after their being laid down actually have more hauntings. For now, I can take note that it seems to be something in common with most haunted places.

Water, especially running water, seems to energize these events even more. The Missouri River runs right through Atchison. Here’s a map to show the intricate makeup of this town which, if it weren’t reported haunted, it should be. Running underground streams, as well, seem to be contributing factors. What does water do for hauntings? Still another unknown factor. My guess in all of this is that it’s earth science-related, but until I gain some superior knowledge in geology and geophysics…well, I can only look for correlations and let others come up with the explanations.

The town of Atchison, Kansas should be haunted, is reported to be haunted, and has all the elements; train tracks, a river, a history as a stopping point for westward settlers, and a ground that’s made up of the sedimentary rock, shale. If you were to add into that factors such as a home being made of stone, I’d say you’d have an even better chance of haunting in that building.

My research is still early on comparing most haunted places in the US, but when I’m done, I hope to correlate foreign country’s haunted sites as well (information permitting). I’d like to come up with a theory about all of this, but it will take some time to think about and formulate my take on the phenomenon. I do see definite correlations that are hard to ignore, but how it works together is puzzling. I believe it might come down to something as hard to pinpoint as feng shui. Good land, bad land…

I’ll keep you posted as I learn more. p.s. If anyone is interested in helping me do research, let me know. I can give you a list of haunted places and you can find out what evidence is listed in regards to them.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Haunting Formula

Is there an ideal setting/structure/history for haunted places?

I’ve long wanted to sit down when I have free time (which is when?) and mark off the most widely accepted haunted sites in the US and find out a bit about the geology/railways/waterways/and the buildings structural materials to see if there are any similarities. This could be helpful in finding out what creates a haunted, sustains it, and what places are worth researching and which are not.

Randomly, I put the names of a few dozen of the most reportedly haunted places into a hat and pulled out 10. Here’s the findings:

Railroad tracks within a mile: 4
Water within a mile (stream/river/ocean—moving water): 10
Geology (mining land or granite): 6
Building made of stone: 6
Traumatic history: 10

Of course, being logic-minded, I can see correlations, but the question is—chicken or the egg? Do older homes made of stone and placed near waterways for the resources also have train tracks because they were near civilization and over the decades created enough history in the building to haunt it? OR do things like location and materials have a play in whether a place becomes haunted once something dramatic occurs there?

Some day when I get more time to make out a map and pinpoint them all, I can come up with a grading system for how many features they have to give them a scale number for haunting factor.

I’ve long wondered why mining towns carry so much haunting history. Anyone in the west who’s been to Bisbee, Globe, Virginia City, or any other old mining town will tell you that it feels different than other towns. There’s a kind of energy that’s just intense and exhausting. You feel drained by the time you even arrive there. Older homes from the early colonies, built of stone and near streams for water supplies, were surely good conduits, as well, if you believe in the theory that the earth empowers these conditions. Then again, mining towns had lots of accidents and older homes had lots of occupants, so there’s more chances that something bad happened there over the years.

These are all ongoing studies for me and I’m a person with a lot of questions and looking for correlations. I’ll keep you updated as I begin to piece together the map and find what geological/historic conditions they share.


The psychomantium is a gazing mirror used for making contact with those who have passed on. Dr. Raymond Moody (of the book "Life After Life" fame) made this ancient technique popular with his book "Reunions: Visionary Encounters With Departed Loved Ones."

The best description I’ve found of this technique comes from this website’s description:

“The initial setup is a little more complex and costly than that of a scrying mirror. A large mirror (4' high by 3-1\2' wide) is attached to a wall with the bottom edge about 3' from the floor. A comfortable, high backed chair is placed about 3' from the mirror. The top of the backrest of the chair should be below the bottom of the mirror. The feet of the chair should be trimmed to allow the chair to slant farther back than is normal.

The person sitting in the chair should not be able to see his/her reflection in the mirror. The area around the chair and mirror is surrounded by a black velvet curtain. This black void should be all that is reflected in the mirror. A lamp with a 15 watt bulb is placed behind the chair. This is the only illumination in the room.

This procedure is usually performed after dark to alleviate the problem of light entering the room through the windows. Thick, dark curtains or a room without windows would allow you to use the psychomantium even during the day. 

Proper mental preparation is essential for this procedure to work. Dr. Moody starts his participants at 10:00 AM. They are requested to bring personal items from the deceased person that is to be contacted. Throughout the day they discuss the deceased. At dusk the participant enters the psychomantium. He/she is told to stay as long as they like. They were also told to blank their mind except for thoughts of the deceased and to gaze into the mirror. “

Although my own experience with using a psychomantium is minimal (two sessions), I can attest to the fact that at one point a dark man’s shape appeared in the mirror and he stood there for some time before stepping back and out of sight. Whether that was an actual spirit or not is, of course, impossible to prove.

This experiment has two things working against it. One thing is that the participant must immerse herself in items of the deceased, go there with the intention of reaching that loved one, and all the emotional feelings that the desire to talk to the dead produces. The other issue is that a mirror and low lighting are use to see things and as anyone who was brave enough as a kid to call on “Blood Mary” or “Esmerelda come to me” knows, you can see all kinds of things by virtue of the lighting, reflectivity, and matrixing (or finding shapes in inanimate objects).

I would never advise people using this during periods of grief or those seeking a kind of resolution with souls of the departed. This is purely for experimental purposes and best used by people who have no existing emotional issues that might cloud the experience or leave them frightened. I would also want to exclude those of a highly religious background, as they might be more likely to fight against the taboo notions and hysteria that goes with trying to communicate with the dead. A lot of people, even as grownups, do not like gazing into mirrors in dim lighting. Highly suggestible people are most susceptible to ill effects and bad reactions.

If you decide to experience a psychomantium encounter, do not do so alone. Whether you realize it or not, just the active trying to create a portal to the dead can make feelings erupt and having someone there to sort it through with is helpful.

I do not see anything about the psychomantium to suggest it actually will help speak with spirits, but I do believe that such experiments might help to bring the mind into a place where it can receive information, somewhat like meditation or psychic trances. It is, however, an intriguing thought. I personally think it would be interesting in my writer’s office (once I’m a happily published horror author) to have a psychomantium in the corner of the room like some folks keep stationary bicycles. It is a unique way to open the mind to what is beyond our realm in a way that encourages you to be sort of deprived of distractions, a kind of focusing tool.

Whether you believe in the phenomenon of psychomantiums or not, they have been with man for a very long time (ancient Greeks) and will continue to be a curiosity for the living.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bigfoot, My Furry-Butted Relative

(photo above; hopefully the only way we'll ever capture Bigfoot--as a plastic doll)

Sure, I hunt ghosts, but I also have a fascination for Bigfoot. I haven’t had a personal encounter with him like I have with ghost phenomenon, but still for some weird unexplainable reason, I have always believed he is out there. It’s a strange feeling, as if I’ve been separated from a twin at birth. I sense he exists, I feel as if my life is being paralleled, and I also know that when I come face-to-face with him, my world will change and I’ll have a sudden sense of peace, as if everyone is accounted for in my family tree.

People often say, “if Bigfoot is out there, we should be seeing him, seeing his bones, seeing his hiding places.” I don’t know about them, but I’ve lived in the desert Southwest since 1977 and I’ve tried desperately to see a javelina without success. I guess I could say that until I see one, they don’t exist. It’s kind of like ghosts, until you encounter the unexplained, it doesn’t exist. I suppose Bigfoot skeptics will have to be faced with his hairy butt in some thick forest before they’ll say what others who’ve come across him have said, “what the hell was that?

What would keep such a population alive so long would surely be a social grouping. Look at apes and chimps, they have an extended family they live amongst. They breed within the group, they live within the group, they forage for food within the group. Bigfoot cannot be a loner and breed. He must have his own suburbia. I think it would be against his very nature as a primate not to. I also think that, like the Great Ape, he would know how to hide up in the hillside for as long as possible before being found. Some locals might report such a hairy creature for centuries before someone stumbles upon his family’s hideout. Apparently, Bigfoot is still in the legend status as the Great Ape once was. We no longer deny the Great Ape because the locals told stories of him without proof of his existence. This is simply a matter of time and tenacity until we get the real in-the-flesh proof that science and humanity demand.

I personally don’t want to see Bigfoot’s future go the way of the Great Ape. I’m not paying admission to a zoo to see him pacing a big iron cage and being taunted by teens in baggy pants tossing popcorn at him.

My advice, my big cousin, is to continue to find those reaches in the Washington State Mountains and Oregon hillsides where you’ll best protect your family. Don’t do anything stupid one night like eat too many psychedelic mushrooms and stumble onto a roadway to be plowed down by a family’s SUV. Whatever you’re doing, keep it up. Don’t be found. Don’t prove yourself to the satisfaction of us who have always believed in you.

In the long run, prove you’re equally as smart as man because you now what capture means. Hide your furry butt someone where the sun don’t shine and stay icy. Leave only enough evidence to scare off the weak-willed and remind those who believe that their brother is still in the woods.

But, whatever you do, please remain an intriguing legend.

p.s. Thanks for the Patterson-Gimlin home movies, bro, it’s the only way I have to remember you.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Devil's Advocate - The Skeptic's Viewpoint

I’ve been writing this blog for quite some time about ghost hunting theories and have failed to give the side of the skeptic.

As many things as I’ve experienced of an unexplainable nature, it’s hard to believe it, but I really do understand the skeptic’s viewpoint. A skeptic’s viewpoint is based on science that we know. He’s most likely to repeat Occam’s Razor, a theory that basically says that “the simplest explanation for a phenomenon is most likely the correct explanation.” (Wikipedia simplification)

There is something similar in my industry (medical field) that doctors use in making differential diagnoses. It goes like this; “When you see hoof prints, think horses, not zebras.” I use it my work as a transcriptionist every day when a doctor sounds like he’s saying something quite elaborate and important and it ends up being something very simple. For example, my first day on the job in the early 90s, I heard a doctor say “the patient was 100% on room air.” I spent a good half hour looking for something that to me sounded like “rumair.” I wondered if it was some kind of breathing apparatus. No one in school had taught me the practical sides of transcription and the usual objective exam used by physicians in their wording.

These principles don’t have to be thrown out because one ghost hunts. They are extremely important in debunking. A true skeptic, however, would have you continue to debunk until you make things fit when they are actually unexplainable by any means known to those witnessing the phenomenon. It’s sort of the “UFOs are swamp gas” scenario. They’d say “it’s the house settling” or whatever excuse they must to dismiss the claims without further inquiry.

Skeptic’s are quick to explain that humans are poor witnesses. They hear things out of context, jump to conclusions, make correlations where they don’t appear. Just the process of matrixing, when folks seen shapes in common objects like a leaf on a tree or a reflection on a windowpane, are fine examples of how fallible we are. However, enough human witnesses can convict a person to a death sentence, so there is something in the body of our senses that is right and just.

Whereas skeptics say that ghost hunters are clouded by the belief in an afterlife and seek proof, they themselves are prone to not believing in an afterlife and so therefore any proof must be refuted. This is like the battle between evolutionists versus creationists. So long as someone’s ego and belief system are at stake, no progress can be made in the field. A skeptic is mired by the lack of belief in anything that hasn’t been discovered yet, the believer is often times mired in a belief system that says there is an afterlife and souls are trying to communicate.

I think I’d personally place myself as a seeker of the truth. I have nothing personal to gain or lose one way or the other if there is proof of afterlife or not, souls or physics. I simply want to know why phenomenon?

More than likely it will take someone coming along with the caliber of Einstein in the world of the paranormal to actually find a way to marry the two theories together in a way that explains through physics why something of potentially a spiritual nature could be manifesting in the physical world.

If you hear a loud boom and don’t investigate, you could be parked right next to a neighbor’s house engulfed in flames after a gas explosion. If a skeptic says everything is explainable and doesn’t investigate, then he’s done a disservice to his own belief system, just as a believer in the afterlife and ghosts as spirits is doing a disservice when he doesn’t debunk what he can by explainable means.

If we get past the believers and the nonbelievers and enter as investigators, this field will make leaps and bounds. I’m excited about being involved in it at this time in the world. I think we’re ready for answers. I think we’re ready to set egos and belief systems aside and really ask ourselves, “how can we weigh and measure this phenomenon and then go on to explain it?”

There is definitely a place for skeptics in debunking and a place for believers in accepting phenomenon, and hopefully a middle space filled with those who wonder, ask questions, and feel they don’t know it all yet.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Netflix Instant Watch: Masters of Horror: Don Coscarelli: Incident On and Off a Mountain Road

Last evening, I put a bunch of horror movies in the instant watch queue off of Netflix. I was hoping to have some good background scary movies while I worked on my novel on my laptop. The music and sounds usually help darken the atmosphere. Since I had a long day at work and a 90-minute workout, I was tired, done with my day, and ready to write. Problem is, I got sucked into this movie right away and had to turn the laptop off for the evening. That’s a good sign.

This movie is out on video store shelves and for sale, but I was lucky enough to find it on Netflex Instant Watch. This was a satisfying horror movie for a few reasons. The best reason is the atmosphere. Nighttime. Car breaks down on a mountain road. Running deep into the dark woods to escape “Moonface” the serial killer. This was well acted, perhaps not super well scripted, but the idea was a fine one and there were actually elements that creeped the heck out of me and it’s hard to creep me out.

The best element is the setting. It was ideally lit and satisfactorily spooky. Most “woods” movies are filmed in California and the woods are kind of scrawny and dry. This one takes place in Oregon and looks like it could have been filmed there in a juicy forest.

There were some novel scary elements that I don't want to give away, except to say that when you see it, note the scene as the heroine approaches Moonface’s cabin. The pathway will chill you to the bone (as will the room downstairs). I don't seek out grisly gory movies because I don't like to see it all played out, but this one had an adequate amount of goriness without being graphic. I studied that cabin pathway scene closely, wondering if I could recreate it for my Halloween party but it would take a lot of mannequins. Anyone have free ones they’ d like to get rid of???

The character “Moonface” is quite horrifying and there’s a weird touch of humanity behind him, which makes him even more sinister. He’s not lifeless/soulless, he’s thinking… It makes you believe you might be able to say the right thing and sway him.

The heroine has a lot of great background given to us in bits throughout the film and help us understand both her skill set and her motivations. There’s a twist ending that you really don’t expect and makes you want to clap.

This is a chick horror movie in that the heroine is dealing with a big bad-ass killer and she uses her wits and her knowledge to help her instead of screaming and tripping and giving up.

I have to say that it wasn’t a great horror movie like say “The Haunting” (original), nor was it horrifying like the remake of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” but it had this totally creepy dark element that made me feel as if I myself had just gotten off that mountain by the time it was done. It sticks with you long after. Sort of like the first time you saw the original "Hills Have Eyes" in the 70s.

I must admit, now that I’ve seen one of the “Masters of Horror” series, I’m ready for more. More reviews to follow, no doubt.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Classifications for EVPs

EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) is the supposed capturing of spirit voices on a recorder that aren’t heard by the human ear at the time of the recording. I readily admit that EVP is not an easy thing to gather in the field or evaluate.

There are several obstacles to getting good recordings. The most obvious is sound intrusion. Most sites I’ve been to for study have been too noisy to gather EVP because of road/aircraft sounds and the cries of children playing in the street, and other things that could be interfering.

It would be nearly impossible to set up an environment for complete clean capture by the simple fact that our airwaves are filled with signals from radios to CB’s, from cell phones to satellite phones. A recording device is a receiver and so therefore we can’t really be certain we’ve captured a ghost’s voice. It would take a scientifically designed special room with shielding to get an accurate record. That’s an experiment I’d like to see someone install in a building with a history of a lot of EVPs.

In the event an EVP does truly appear to be a response to the spoken words of the living, it is still impossible to tell if that apparently intelligent voice is a spirit’s voice. There are many other explanations that can include psychic projection, interdimensional, as well as outright fraud. For that reason alone, I wouldn’t use EVP as absolute proof of a haunting, if a haunting is defined by the public as “visitations from the souls of the departed.” However, in the context of other findings at a site, EVP can help to influence the decision that a site is experiencing paranormal phenomenon.

Below are the classifications found on this website.

Class A:
A clear and distinct voice or sound that is universally accepted and undisputed, by anyone listening to it, and does not require audio cleaning or editing. The specifics of what is being said in the EVP is understandable by everyone listening, without being told or prompted beforehand what words or sounds to listen for; in other words a clean and articulate EVP. This is also one of the hardest EVPs to capture; most EVPs out there are typically grade class B or C.

Class B:
This class of EVP is more common and can be heard by most people; especially after being told what to listen for. However these recordings may require some editing or cleaning to pull out what is being said. The more experienced the investigators the less trouble they have locating the EVP within the recording. People will often have differing opinions on what is being said, what the noise is, or may not even be able to understand it. But the sound should be fairly clear and words should be fairly understandable to be a placed in the "B" category.

Class C:
This is the most commonly captured EVP. These are commonly clips that have been cleaned, edited, cleaned again, and is still are a mess. Most of the time the sounds or voices present themselves in a faint and whispery tone or that can barely be heard; sometimes even totally indecipherable and unintelligible. However, if the investigator, or team, is 100% sure that the EVP came from an empty room, or is not the voice of a fellow investigator, it can still be labeled as an EVP; just not a very good one.

In order for an EVP to receive a Class R rating it must have a meaning to it when played in reverse. Some EVPs will have a meaning when played normally and a different meaning in reverse. When this happens it will have two classifications. For example a Class A, EVP with a excellent and clear meaning in reverse as well, would be titled a Class A-RA, EVP. This meaning it was very clear to understand both forward and in reverse. It can not have a Class A-RC because this would mean that it could not be understood in reverse which would not be a Class-R EVP. You may have a Class B-RB or a Class A-RB etc.

If you watch “Ghost Hunters” show, you’ve probably heard a lot of Class C’s that usually sound like noises rather than voices, quite a few Class B’s that sound like words but are hard to make out, and only a couple Class A’s that are very clearly spoken words easily identified. I won’t even comment on Class-R, as I didn’t buy into messages played backwards on LP’s in the 70s anymore than I am on the notion of playing a recording backwards to hear a ghost.

You now the Class A because everyone at once knows precisely what was said. There isn’t any question about it, no one is hearing it differently. Class A is also the very hardest and rarest to capture.

Class B is the most common of the exceptional captures and it is clear to the listeners it is a voice speaking, but the exact wording can vary a great deal. There was an episode of “Ghost Hunters” in a family’s home when the parents were listening to the EVP and the mother thought it said “we’re chasin” and the father thought it said, “who’s Jason?” The team agreed that they heard “Who’s Jason,” but they had to prompt her to discern those words, then she heard "Who's Jason?"

On that same episode; however, there was the obvious sound of a child humming in that way they do when they’re busy playing with their toys. That was agreed upon by all and would be classified as a Class A, just as the sounds of booted footfalls might also be clearly understood by the listeners.

Class C is so very common that I usually erase these from my files. When you can’t even tell if it was supposed to be language, it’s a very poor EVP. It amazes me to listen to other’s EVPs when they think they clearly hear words in what sounds like ambient noises.

As a medical transcriptionist professional, I have always adhered to the saying used by doctors in determining differential diagnoses, "when you see footprints, think horses, not zebras." I have listened to thousands of reports swearing the doctor is saying one thing only to have someone else listen to it and hear something completely different. I understand how the mind picks up consonants and vowels and syllables and can focus on one alliteration, ignoring all else.

Although I’m intrigued by EVP findings when they get captured, which is fairly rare, it would take a Class A for me to be truly excited. Even then, I would want to know what context these words were uttered to see if they resemble intelligent interaction or coincidence. It’s not a clean source of evidence gathering, but with enough of these lined up together in search of intelligent interaction, they could show their true efficacy over time.

Why Autumnforest? Why Not?

A chilly nose on an afternoon walk through slippery brown leaves obscuring a partially frozen path, numbed fingers digging into cool pockets in search of warmth

The distant smell of chimney smoke and burning leaves overpowered by the sickeningly sweet scent of rotting apples splayed beneath the orchard, long past their prime

The tang of hot cider spiked with rum inside a cozy room with a fire while your hands are clutching the sinewy insides of a warm pumpkin, awaiting a moment inspiration

The ominous piano notes of "Halloween" playing on a TV set while the laughter and echoing sounds of trick-or-treaters outdoors beat the twilight to enter the dark corridor of Samhain

Tendrils of fog obscuring the trickling creek lined with shiny wet stones, a deer poised to drink, startled by the plinking of random acorns dropping on the forest floor

Swaying trees dabbled in golds, oranges, reds, and browns, the fluttering descent of a leaf aflame waiting to be pressed into wax paper to be remembered for its moment of perfection

A forest has its seasons, some are for growth and sprouting new life, other times for abundance and proliferation, still other times for stasis. Then, there is autumn. It is the little miracle that shows that before suspended animation and after the massive growth spurt, there is a burst of beauty, wisdom, and inescapable brillance in its prime. Living only in that moment.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Shadowperson Account

(Photos: The stained glass at the angle they first saw the shadowperson next to the "altar" thing--my son crouched to show the size of the thing. The second shot is the view they had when it peeked out at them--my son is standing in the shadowperson's spot to reenact it).

I definitely got distracted in paranormal research when I heard first-hand from my son his account of having seen a shadowperson. I have seen a couple myself that were person-height, and then finally saw a short one with my son on an investigation about a year ago. Because of this, I've become quite obsessed with what these are and what is occurring.

My son is one of those extremely level-headed, logic-minded, socially conscious types and to hear him tell what happened to him intrigued me greatly. He told his story on an audition tape for Ghost Hunters New Generation show and I only wish the tape could have been longer because he had to edit out the second half of the encounter with the shadowperson. (After having seen it, the boys went about 20' away to the left of the place they'd seen it and turned to see it actually peeking out of the edge of the window frame area at them. It was perhaps 3 or 3 1/2 feet tall. They realized it saw them and that freaked them out even more. They took off through the cemetery and headed back towards their car when the other boy saw it one more time). Here is the audition tape that recounts the shadowperson event.

Abandoned AZ Site

This was a place (old horse ranch) my son found recently and made a short film of his photos he took. We both get inspiration from weather-aged, worn-down, abandoned, and decaying places for our art. This one inspired me so much, I have to get him to take me there soon before the weather gets ungodly hot here in the desert. I look at this disarray and think “what story does it tell?” Very cool!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Store-Bought Halloween Costumes—How to Customize Cheap!

No, it’s really not too early to think about Halloween costumes. You have a long hot summer ahead of you to prepare. I see a lot of people buying store-bought costumes and I’m totally cool with that. But, why not tell a story with the costume that goes beyond just being a pirate or a barmaid?

For instance, this year I hope to have a Halloween party with a “Dancing in the Graveyard” theme (and hopefully hubby’s band playing). I’m a ghost hunter and folks who want to attend would like to learn more about what I do, so I figured I’d wear the gear and let them play with it. It seems like an easy costume; some cargo shorts, a tank top, some boots, and my equipment belt. It's not telling a story, though. So, how do I take it up a notch? I’m using a Tomb Raider/Resident Evil feel to it. Some leather wrist straps with small flashlights attached, leather garters with more equipment in the holsters, and boom—you have a sort of sexed up hardcore version of a ghost hunter.

Here’s three very easy and extremely affordable ways to take an old costume and make it something more than just the typical. This works with every costume, so choose the one that sounds good and go with it:

VAMPIRE BITES: One simple way to take any costume to a new level is a vampire bite.
My costume (above) is a French Maid. Easy to buy and women like to look nice for parties (the hope) or just be annoyed by men all evening (the reality). My twist? I put a realistic vampire bite on my neck and made my face more pale than usual.(In looking back, I should have probably played up the vampire maid thing a bit more with whiter face makeup and blue lips). How to: A little bit of fake flesh can be bought online at places like I formed the flesh into two lumps and placed them on my neck, spreading the edges out to blend in with my skin. I took a pencil and stuck it into the lumps to make bite marks. Inside the bite marks I used some liquid black eyeliner to make it dark (you could also dab it with a tiny paint brush and some craft store acrylic paint that’s usually 89-99 cents a bottle). To apply some bruising around it, I used eyeshadow powder. The outer area outside of the mounds I dabbed with purple eyeshadow using my finger and along the edges of the dabbed some yellow. Atop of the mounds, I dabbed some green eyeshadow. A few drips of fake blood oozing out of the holes, and you’re set! This is an ideal costume for females who want to go sexy to a party, but also want to be a bit scary without being ugly.

ZOMBIE: Any costume can be turned into a zombie. Remember “Night of the Living Dead?” Folks of all professions became zombies. It turns something that’s cute and benign like say a shepherdess or doctor in scrubs and makes them something sinister. You have to be willing to ruin the costume a bit by cutting the edges of the fabric, pulling on it and tattering it. Try rubbing some dirt on it too so you get a “out of the grave” look. Mess your hair up and spray it in place to remain crazy looking all evening. The makeup is key to this. If you’re lucky enough to have a high-maintenance girl nearby, she can bring her makeup to the table to really get you going. If not, stores like do have the makeup you’ll need. Whites and blues will be the main ingredients for the zombie face. Mostly white, a bit of blue worked in under the eyes and on the lips. I’d go a bit further myself and use the fake flesh on your skin of your cheek. Spread it on and make it a bit thick. Now, you can carve a long jagged cut into the flesh’s surface or peel it back. Either way, you get a creepy flesh look. Dab the makeup on top of it. Seal it all with face powder. You can add blood dripping from your mouth or your wound. Making this a zombie will depend on your ability to act a bit spineless, walk a bit awkward and stiff, and a bit of stumbling. If you want to freak out the folks a bit more when you’re doing your imitation of Dudley Moore in “Arthur,” you can follow them around and tilt your head and study them silently. Now and then emit a wounded growl. This one is a great choice for men who usually don’t mind so much looking a little sloppy.

PRISONER: Lastly, if you’re going with someone else to a party and your costumes don’t seem to go, such as he’s a knight and you’re a dark angel, why not have him clamp a fancy decorated leash on you and guide you around the party all evening? The story behind it would be interesting. How did this knight gather up this dark angel and what does he use her for?

There is no reason not to take a costume and bring a story to it. It’s even more fun in numbers. I always thought that a shipload of folks going dressed as ghostly pirates would be really eerie, with pale faces and blue lips, wandering the party as a wild pack of undead merrymakers.

Let your imagination soar. You have a good five months to sit on it and stew. Look through your old costumes. You just might be able to come up with something new and intriguing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Erotic Horror Movies - Something For Everyone

I’m covering just about all the categories within horror movies in upcoming weeks, so I figured I should probably cover erotic horror, especially since I’m in the process of editing my own erotic horror novel, “The Thicket.”

We will begin with the more graphic erotic horror movies (rated XXX) and pretty much all of them are foreign films. It appears American filmmakers who decide to do X-rated would rather involve plots with pool boys and swing clubs (rather mundane subjects compared to thirsty vampires and monsters on the hungry prowl for a mate).

There’s not a lot of great stuff out there in this genre. In fact, it’s sadly devoid of substance. On one end of the spectrum, you have more or less rated XXX clinkers like “Erotic Nights of the Living Dead.” I anticipated at least an intriguing plot line with visitors to an exotic location where the zombies were attacking the living in ways that might make one blush. Unfortunately, it ended up being a cheesy X-rated movie in which upon occasion zombies wandered past the lens. Otherwise, the graphic in-your-face sex was one or two scenes by rather bored looking actors. Not that one expects greatness from an XXX-rated film, however, it would be nice to marry horror and erotica—they seem very much a compatible mix by virtue that being horrified and uninhibited at the same time is a juxtaposition…

One that sticks out in my mind is “The Beast” (aka “La Bete) by erotic horror king, Walerian Borowczyk who had a fascination for women and beasts. This one actually has a storyline. This isn’t for the faint of heart because it has a beast that wants to mate with women and even though it’s done rather hilariously, it’s still pretty…graphic. I personally liked it, but then I enjoy anything with a kind of a fairytale storyline and picturesque scenes. I like the clash between horror and eroticism in such a beautiful pastoral setting. If you're looking for the more quality work in XXX erotic horror, this group of directors were the big daddies in this foreign industry; Jess Franco, Walerian Borowczyk, and Joe d’Amato.

There are whole categories out there for any desire and some I never imagined were intriguing to folks like; Nazi sexploitation, Nun sexploitation, prison sexploitation, blaxploitation, vampire sexploitation, biker sexploitation, swinger sexploitation, rape sexploitation. You name it and there’s a fetish movie for it. There are some that will make you cringe and others that might intrigue. No doubt if you can think it, a sexploitation film has been done about it. You get what you asked for in these, cinematic fast food sex made-to-order.

It should be said that homosexuals have had the hardest time finding any lighthearted or romantic portrayals of their relationships. The masses are still freaky afraid to see men kiss. Just look at what a stir "Brokeback Mountain" created and this was in the new millenium! Thus far, the "softer" erotic horror involving homosexuals has been relegated to being hinted at amongst vampires, i.e. "Interview with the Vampire." I totally don't get the freak out, but it has helped me understand how it made homosexual erotic horror have to go way deep underground.

For those who wish theater-friendly lightweight erotic horror, I’d suggest movies such as “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” staring Keanu Reeves in a rich and beautiful tale with loads of sensuality. “The Wicker Man” (original version 1973) starring Edward Woodward as a policeman sent to a British Isle where everyone is pagan in search of a missing girl. “The Howling,” starring Dee Wallace as a reporter who goes for a vacation in the woods only to find she’s amongst werewolves. “Brotherhood of the Wolf,” which is a beautiful French horror movie about werewolves. “Darkwolf,” a movie about a werewolf with a need to find his mate “Embrace of the Vampire,” is starring child star Alyssa Milano as a college girl with a vampire admirer (most gals will like this one--vampires are usually a big thrill). As a female who enjoys both romance and high sensuality and horror, all these movies listed in this paragraph are good ones, except perhaps “Darkwolf” which didn’t have a strong romantic feel but more of a horror feel.

Considering the crescendo one feels in both lovemaking and being horrified, the two seem to be an ideal match, and if they're done well--both make you scream (yeah, get used to me, I have a bawdy sense of humor). As I continue to edit my own erotic horror novel, I think of what I’d like to see out there on the movie market too. I hope I can come to the right marriage of tension and bliss, fear and longing.

If you want to find some erotic horror movies, you might try horrormovies (they have an erotic category) or Trashpalace (they have lots of specialty and erotic horror listings), or Alternativecinema. Like I said, there’s a huge array of choices out there, but they seem to run from very mild to very graphic. There’s not a lot of in between. It’s a real mixed bag of nuts (pun intended), so good luck finding your fit.

Oh, and as always, let me know your fav's. I'm always looking for new vid's.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Horror Movie Remakes; More Hit Than Miss

When you consider the major movie genres, horror is generally relegated to a teen-audience and therefore not usually the most well-made, well-plotted, scripted, or even acted movies. The return is great on these low-budget flicks because teens are the biggest movie-going audience out there. Even considering how meager horror movie fare can be, somehow folks in the industry keep spitting out remakes. I’m not sure whether it’s lack of imagination or simply egos at hand thinking they can do something new with the great original idea. Either way, it’s almost always an insult and I will never go to one on opening night, but wait for it to come out on DVD, order it from Netflix, and sit back on a desperately boring evening and attempt to sit through it without comparing it to the original. Part of the charm of horror movies is that you don’t know what will happen, so remaking one seems rather pointless. It’s like taking more blood out of someone who just donated. The well’s dry, guys! It’s already been tapped!

There’s been some good remakes admittedly that surpassed the original but a lot more that were horribly worse. For example, “The Haunting” was a 1963 movie done in black-and-white based on a fantastic Shirley Jackson story. This was well-acted, well cast, a beautiful set, wonderful script, perfect tension, great editing and directing. It was a masterpiece in the world of horror. Someone along the line some bozo had to get the bright idea to do a remake of something that could never be beat and then he had to be brain dead enough to think “Owen Wilson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Liam Neeson, of course!” when casting it. A horribly ridiculous set, completely butchered plot and subplots, bored or medicated-appearing actors (take your pick), and the worst Nellie in all the world.

Other total clunkers that had classic originals were “The Hills Have Eyes,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th,” “Night of the Living Dead,” “House of Wax,” “When a Stranger Calls,” “The Birds,” and “The Fog.”

But, there are occasions when a remake surpasses the original, but only by a very small margin. The original always gives it a run for its money because at the time it was made, the idea was fresh and new and the audience therefore more willing to pay for tickets for something they've never seen. (Keep that in mind, Hollywood!)

I feel “Dawn of the Dead” was better in the remake. The original was unbelievably fun but lame on the zombie factor and the dynamics of the people stuck in the mall who were kind of doll-like and lifeless. I didn’t really root for anyone to survive. The remake was funny, horrifying, and was a true story of survival. I think it worked better. I never yawned once and the ending left me wondering. I rather liked the remake of “Black Christmas” which was called “Black Xmas.” It dealt a bit deeper with the killer and his motives and had more terror than the original, although at the time the original was unique. The thing the newer version had going for it was that very few people saw the original to compare it with or recall how original it was at the time when slasher movies were still new. I much preferred “The House on Haunted Hill” remake. I think the original was so hilarious and meant to be a mystery within a spooky setting, but hardly horror. I even stored that one in “comedy” in my movie collection. It was extremely benign. The remake really made you feel demented after a time of watching the people in the house. It was very unsettling and working with the original idea, they took it to a new level. That is the case where the original was so murky that a remake made it sharper. It amazes me that someone looked at the Vincent Price movie and thought “this needs a redo.” I’m glad they did, though. I didn’t feel disappointed like I did in the original one when I wanted it to be something ghostly in the house and it wasn’t. Personally, I preferred “Omega Man” to “Last Man on Earth,” but that’s probably because it had a more compelling lead actor as far as his background and his drive. I felt like Vincent Price’s character was chronically depressed and it seemed hard to want him to survive. There was also something more attractive about the downtown location versus the suburban locations of the two movies. Lastly, “13 Ghosts” was better as a remake with horrifying ghosts and no cheesy adolescent boy and hokey ghosts. It was really terrifying and helped to take the original movie to a serious level instead of total campiness.

They won’t stop redoing horror movies, no doubt. I just hope that someone can find a mediocre original idea in a movie and turn it into something shiny and new. Don’t go after the classics. Please do not redo “The Changeling,” or “Legend of Hell House,” and please leave “Poltergeist” alone.

If Hollywood needs suggestions, here’s some I would recommend have an element that could spark but fizzled when they originally made it: “Burnt Offerings,” “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death,” "The Watcher in the Woods," “The Evil,” “and “Alone in the Dark” (not the SciFi one, the horror one).

Moviemakers will continue to target the teen/young adult group when making horror movies. What they’ve really missed out on is all the folks who grew up in the 70s when horror was kicking butt. We’re sentimental about it too, even though we’re middle-aged now. I say broaden the genre, quit beating dead horses. Horror is a really simple thing to write and produce. Every one of us has fears, most of them quite inherent. There’s a huge vat of wonderful elements to work with from fear of dolls and clowns, fear of the dark, fear of ghosts, fear of heights, fear of not having control, fear of being thought insane, fear of dying, fear of invasion…

Hey Hollywood, how many more suggestions do we need to make before you come up with something new?

Creepiest Movie Scenes Ever

I’ve compiled a list of some of what I consider to be the most chilling moments in horror movies that really were disturbing. There are several candidates for each category. I’d love to hear your scariest moments too.

Most disturbing torture scene:

Saw II: When they throw the woman into the vat of syringes

House of Wax: When the man is made into a wax figure while still alive, shaved and then poured with wax and left alive under the wax coating

Hills Have Eyes: Dad strapped to a cactus and burning.

Most prolonged dramatic death scene:

Psycho: Shower scene

Halloween: When the babysitter climbs into the car and the windows are steamed up and Michael strangles her as she hits the horn.

Best “oh Jeez! The bad guy just saw me” moment”

Jeepers Creepers: When the brother and sister see the Creeper throw something down the pipe and drive by slowly. The Creeper comes around the corner of the church and stands there staring them down—aware that now they know his secret. (To me, that one really does it the best!)

The Best, “He/It knows I’m in here” moment”

The Haunting (1963): When Nelly and Theo are locked up in Theo’s room and it’s pounding on the door and Nelly screams at it.

Jamie Lee Curtis in the closet on Halloween with only a hanger as a weapon.

The best “I’m not alone” moment:

When A Stranger Calls: When the cop calls back and tells the girl the man is calling from inside the house.

The Changeling: When the man replays the tape from the séance and hears the ghost’s voice.

The Fog: When the DJ’s lighthouse is infested with ghosts in the fog and she must climb onto the rooftop.

Cloverfield: When they’re in the dark tunnel and the “things” attack and they can’t see them.

Silence of the Lambs: When Jodie Foster’s character finds the killer’s house and is in the dark and the killer can see her with his nightvision goggles.

The best “we’re in the boondocks now” moment:

Wrong Turn: When the group comes across the hillbilly shack and all the car parts and human parts therein.

Hills Have Eyes: When they stop at the gas station near the beginning.

The best “This would be how it’d go down in real life” scene:

Signs: When the brother is watching TV in the closet and wanting to watch and not wanting to watch the CNN-like footage of an alien filmed at a birthday party. It was one of those – this is how it would really go down moments!

Poltergeist: When they set up the equipment and watch the ghosts march down the stairs.

Cloverfield: When they're filming at the party and the monster attacks, the scene through the lens.

The “scariest childhood fear realized” moments:

Poltergeist: When the clown doll attacking the kid and the tree taking him out through the window.

The Changeling: When the boy comes through the floorboards and the kid screams.

Dead Silence: When the man comes home to find his wife dead and the doll moved.

It: When the clown was down in the storm drain enticing the child.

The scariest, “I’m afraid to peak out and see what it is” moment:

“Sixth Sense” when the kid hides inside his blanket fort, but still manages to go face-to-face with a ghost.

“Darkness Falls” Near the beginning of the movie when the kid is under the covers waiting for the tooth fairy.

The Scariest facing your tormentor moment:

Legend of Hell House when Roddy McDowell’s character faces off with the ghost in the chapel and torments him back.

Jaws: When the sheriff is on the boat’s mast aiming the harpoon gun at the shark.

Friday the 13th: When the girl faces off with Mrs. Voorhees and chops her head off.

Jeepers Creepers: When the siblings face the monster in the police station and the sister begs him to take her instead of her brother.

Best Séance scene:

Legend of Hell House: When the ectoplasm forms.

The Changeling: When they do automatic writing and record the voice.

Poltergeist: Talking to the kid over the TV set.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Inspiration from Abandoned Places

I've been painting for decades, but never used acrylics or done modern art. I had a tall wall in my living room and wanted to draw the eye upwards and at the same time keep a contemporary clean look to it. I wanted something that reminded me of rusted metal/aged boards/copper verdigris, so I did these two panels. I'm pretty pleased with the effect since I have no clue what I'm doing with plain modern pieces or acrylic paints (I usually use oil). A recent walk around an abandoned place inspired themes of concrete whitewashed walls soiled with rust stains and copper verdigris striping. It's neat to think ghost hunting isn't just productive in gathering evidence, but can also inspire art. I hope soon to start collecting found items from sites and adding appropriate gemstones to amplify the psychometric qualities of the found pieces. I'll keep you posted as I get moving along with that inspiration.

The Bad, The Badder, and the Baddest: Witchcraft Movies

I’m intrigued by the connection made in the 1960s and 70s movies between witchcraft and devil worship. It does make me laugh, but a lot of folks take this very seriously. Their only introduction to pagan practices is through supposed nighttime ceremonies involving candles and evoking something that isn’t their traditional God. Therefore, it must be Satan they call upon.

Okay, whatever (rolling my eyes and sighing). I really thought we passed that in the 1600s but I still know pagan practitioners who are terrified to tell people what religion they are. What country do we live in?

Well, in respect for those I know who do practice paganism, I thought I’d point out just some of what they’ve had to deal with in the film industry alone. Needless to say the list of negative films is so very long that I couldn’t possibly cover them all, but I have managed to put some of the more prominent ones on the lists.

First, we have the “bad.” These films display some very simplistic and naïve views of witchcraft that often times make it more palatable for general audiences, especially when a beloved character is a witch. The message here is, don't mess with witchcraft. These witches seem to have no control over their spells and are bumbling at best:

Bell, Book & Candle
Practical Magic
Harry Potter (series)
Hocus Pocus
Bewitched (TV)
Bed Knobs and Broomsticks

The belief that practicing spellbinding is going to lead to power lust and evil outcomes is a very common one. Christians are often of the mistaken view that spellbinding is practiced for the purpose of manipulating something that only God should control. They don’t seem to understand that, as Catholics have their rituals and prayer, witches practice their “positive energy and focus” to the natural world. Here is a list of films that are on my "badder" list and equate witchcraft with ultimately powerlust and evil:

The Craft
The Witches of Eastwick
Midnight Offerings
The Blair Witch Project
The Covenant
Mark of the Witch
Wizard of Oz

The very “baddest” of the witch films portrays them as minions of Lucifer. In actuality, the witches I have known do believe in the threefold rule that what you send out comes back to you three times over. There is no practice of negative spells or even manipulation of other human beings without their consent. Here’s a list of movies that equate witchcraft with dark arts and devil worshipping:

The Wicker Man
Race With the Devil
Rosemary’s Disciples (aka “The Witching” aka “Necromancy”)
Crowhaven Farm
The Blood on Satan’s Claw
The Brotherhood of Satan

There is and always will be a place for paganism in our world. Every Easter Christians participate equally in Christian ceremonies, as well as pagan. “Ostara” is a fertility celebration in the springtime and the symbol for this is the egg. When people decorate and hide eggs, they are practicing pagan customs. When they enjoy a yule log at Christmas, they are participating in pagan customs. The very foundation of Christian customs and beliefs are based on elements of paganism influencing the “new” belief system. It is nearly impossible to separate the two including such things as toteism, the symbolism of “eating the flesh” and “drinking the blood.”

If you enjoy movies involving dark arts and Satanism, have at it, but if you’re insulted by the defiling of a nature-based religion, then I’d suggest you avoid some of the films mentioned above. If you can watch them and know that they’re entertainment only, I say enjoy. But, if you have no knowledge of paganism and believe these films to be actual proof of witchcraft being a dark art exclusively, then you might want to reconsider movies such as “Harvey” because it obviously represents an actual invisible 6’ rabbit and we should all be cowering in our beds.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Haunted Feelings

This will be the last in the series of haunted senses. I’d put in haunted tastes, but it’s not really a sense that’s used for ghost hunting, (at least not on my ghost hunts).

Sensations often associated with ghostly appearances are goosebumps, chills, “someone walking over my grave,” hair standing on end, head pressure, nausea, dizziness, light-headedness, and weakness. There is also a huge laundry list of actual medical conditions that can cause these symptoms. There also times that these symptoms suggest something of a paranormal nature.

TAPS refers to EMF (electromagnetic field) sensitivity as a potential reason for these symptoms. In fact, people living near power lines often report more psychic powers than the average citizen. For me the only time an EMF meter is truly helpful in a ghost hunt is in finding places where the fields might be so high they’re producing some low-level body sensations that cause general unease.

If you get symptoms and you don’t seem to have a reason for it, you might want to attribute it to something either physical going on in your body like impending illness or something of a supernatural nature. The truth is that people get sensations for many reasons; changes in temperatures and humidity, breezes, lack of air circulation, low levels of carbon monoxide near gas/fuel burning devices, and loads of other reasons.

EMF can potentially be upsetting to your system in high enough levels. On one house call, the parents had a lot of sightings in the bedroom and difficulty sleeping. That usually makes me skeptical because sleep can cause a lot of issues, as well as darkness, and disorientation. So, I checked the room out with my EMF meter. Alarm clocks, especially older ones, give off a good deal of EMF. I always suggest having them placed at least 4 feet away if possible. It might even help you wake up to have to get up and go to the clock, but it also could make you sleep better. Some levels of EMF coming off clocks can be high and even where the pillow is located can be still uncomfortable. This one couple, however, had a lot of devices plugged into their nightstands. Their bedroom had essentially become their home office and the EMF was nearly off the charts coming off the power strips near their headboard and where there pillows were it was amazingly high.

I laid down on the bed for a while and began to feel someone was watching me. The feeling was very intense. I turned my head and thought I saw something move. I broke out into goosebumps and shivers. I tried to go into my meditative state and it was impossible to enter. My mind was highly active, even though my body was relaxed. I moved to the end of the bed and laid down and was able to enter meditative state. We worked to move all the equipment to a side of the room where no one sat or relaxed to slept. The last report, they were sleeping fine and not waking up constantly and seeing and feeling things.

EMF aside, the variables that go into getting the “heebie jeebies” are vast. Our bodies are ready to discern changes in temperature without out advice, adjusting our internal thermometer when necessary. Sometimes, just feeling as if you’re entering a potentially haunted site can make your senses even more acute. Your skin surface area is prepared to sense a threat by touch or temperature. When you’re focused on a task, not really thinking about other things, and suddenly get deep chills running through you as if something actually passed through one side of the body and out the other, I say grab your electronic voice recorder and camera. It’s show time! There’s a very distinctive sensation that is associated with paranormal events and it’s shivers that feel as if they go from the inside outward, (some people call it "cold electriticity") often going through one side of the body and out the other, or front to back, back to front, hair stands on end, goosebumps form, and you might even feel a bit queasy.

Hair and clothing being touched is another very common event in active spots. Once you feel reasonably assured there are no spider webs, things catching on your clothing, or your hair getting caught under your collar, you can begin to take some measurements, do some recordings.

The body is an amazing receiver for paranormal activity. When you tune yourself to know the differences, you can decide whether to pursue things in the physical world as explanations for your sensations or things in the paranormal world. I honestly think that the body does more for warning you about activity than EMF meters and thermometers. Become used to how your body feels in certain situations. If you have the opportunity to try and relax next to something with high EMF, you can discern how your body reacts to high levels of EMF. I usually try to go through a place and find the hot spots electrically first and then compare those to where the owners report activity. Once we’ve gone through that first step, we can probe further the haunting possibilities.

Even the most budget ghost hunter can witness and experience a haunting with nothing more than his own senses. He doesn’t need documentation for his own satisfaction, but he does need to know his body well and use his senses as his instruments.

Of the five senses, I'd say the most important in a ghost hunt are in order:
1. Touch
2. Sound (you are more likely to hear something than see it, such as footsteps)
3. Vision
4. Smell
5. Taste (really not applicable)

I personally would like to add the sixth sense, but not everyone's tuned into that band.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Haunted Visuals

(photo above: someone's knees--when I look at them, I see cherub faces--their curly short hair, their full cheeks, their eyes and nose... You often hear Grant from TAPS talking about the phenomenon of matrixing which is when the human eye looks for familiar shapes in objects, such as seeing shapes in clouds or faces in photographed window's reflections)

The third part of my sensory series is to explore how to go about debunking visual hauntings. The most commonly reported forms of these are full-body apparitions, dark shadows, unexplained lights, something blocking out the light, movement of objects, and mists.

Even growing up in one of the most haunted houses in America, I never saw a full-body apparition until I was middle-aged and living in Arizona. These things take just the right combination of elements to be seen. It’s a rare and special phenomenon. There are some people who are more able to discern a figure when it forms than others. A very small percentage of psychics are very visually-oriented. That is, to them, both a curse and a blessing.

One of our biggest obstacles as investigators is the limitation of vision at night, in dark places, and through the nightvision screen of a camcorder and the narrow spread of a flashlight’s beam. Not even considering pupils dilation and restriction when lights are turned off and on. When you are in an unfamiliar home, the usual lighting and objects in the room are all new to you. It’s really important to take the time to evaluate your surroundings by sitting in the room for a time and getting used to its cycles. When you know your surroundings, you can make better assumptions of what is out of place and what isn’t.

One room reportedly had a shadowperson. It’s one of my favorite subjects, so I was curious. It’s pretty rare that they show up in the same place, but I figured, why not? So, I waited to see what would unfold. The houses were set very close together with an alleyway between them and a neighbor with a motion detector light near the entrance. When the owner came home from his late shift as a doctor, he passed by the motion detector light, walking down the alley past the window, casting a very strong shadow into the room through the fabric shade, and went to his backdoor to enter his home. Not real glamorous, but these things have to be considered. It can often times be difficult to tell if something passed in front of the window inside the house blocking out the light, or if it moved outside the window blocking out the light. There's a big distinction between the two. If you're located in a business doing a study and there's access along a walkway out front, it's entirely possible that things blocking out the light are people walking past the windows outside. Just keep everything within the context of an investigation.

For another, a glass prism decorative ornament on a shelf cast sparkling lights when the TV was turned on. The small glow from the large-screen would make the prisms dance randomly. That one had the owner uncomfortable for some time before it was suggested that dancing lights sounded like prisms and, hey, do you happen to have anything glass or faceted nearby?

If someone sees a full-body apparition, it’s important to gather information as soon as they see it. Notes should be taken of details of clothing and coloring. Then, standing in the same spot in the room with the same lighting, make comparisons. I remember once swearing there was a man in my bedroom when I was a kid. That wasn’t too surprising, given that the booted footsteps stopped in front of my radiator every night, only this particular man was on the other wall that faced the floor to ceiling windows. One night, I remember pulling the covers up over my head when the man started moving. Then, he looked like he was dancing rather comically. It took a great deal of bravery on my part to get up and go over to him only to realize that as I got near, the light from the window shined on my face. It was a clear full moon night and the dancing man was the limbs of a honey locust tree. I felt a bit foolish, but had I not gotten up, he would have forever been a ghost in my mind. I don’t like to leave people with the impression they are haunted if they aren’t. It causes a great deal of unnecessary grief and counseling is really important to me and helping people form a healthy cognitive explanatory style.

There is that small percentage of sightings that can’t be explained by shapes in the room, reflections on shiny surfaces, or lights coming from outside. Those are the most intriguing of all phenomena. I will generally dismiss mists in photographs as well as anything that looks like a corded braid of a camera strap, a hair, or an orb (pollen, dust, moisture). But, when a witness has no other explainable reason for their vision, what they saw had some good witnessed detail, and there are no environmental contributing factors, I feel like shouting “Bingo!” It’s a rare combination and when it happens, it’s sort of like TAPS likes to say, “the Holy Grail of ghost hunting.”

Visual sightings are rare, but very exciting. If something can manifest enough to be seen, have the right conditions to be visual to our limited human eyesight, then it's pretty exciting stuff!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Haunted Scents

This is the second in my series about the senses and debunking. Scent is one of the most common reported haunting features. The smell of cigar/pipe smoke, rosewater cologne, and sulfur are three frequently reported scents. People most often report sulfur as the smell of rotten eggs or the scent of a recently lit match. A popular theory is that’s the smell of evil, as in “fire and brimstone.” Biblical themes aside, that is a very offense and distinct smell that makes most people back off real quick. The smell of rosewater is associated with female ghosts and its origins come from the a popular fragrance historically. Cigar and pipe smoke are most associated with male ghosts.

The issues I have with scent are that they are very subjective. If you’ve ever had the chance to get a full neurological workup, they actually wave scents under your nose when your eyes are covered. Without the context of being able to see an object and anticipate its scent, it’s actually kind of a weird thing to do. I had someone conduct the test on me out of curiosity. I thought the smell of rubbing alcohol was ammonia and the scent of coffee was chocolate at first, then I backtracked and came up with the right name, but without seeing it, I didn’t know what would come next. When you walk through a building, it’s very much the same. You aren’t expecting to be assaulted by scents and sometimes they can go by so quickly that you don’t realize what it was.

Scent also can be absorbed in woodwork and fabrics and released with the right humidity or physical contact. My mother was a smoker and when I would visit her home where she hadn’t been able to go upstairs for years because of her ailing health, the woodwork up there smelled like smoke if you rubbed your hand on it or scuffed your feet on the floorboards. The oils from tobacco smoke can really stain the surroundings for years and years, penetrating far into the wood and wallpaper. Scents can be carried through bathroom vents, oven hoods, and like in my neighborhood, the dryer vent that goes outside, making the neighborhood smell like—gag—synthetic dryer sheets all day long. Rose scents, as well, can be caused by cleaning agents or other forgotten scents like plug-in's and air sprays.

This story is about one of those situations.

I was invited to a baby shower and it ended up being a very small group of women, about 5 of us all together. The woman having the baby was in her mother’s house for the shower and she said she didn’t like being there. She thought it was haunted.

I looked around the nice home and found it hard to believe, but then it was about 30 years old, certainly old enough to have history, and it was on the foothills of a rocky mountain, so it might have had some geological issues.

Taking the request seriously, I listened to her tell me that she was accosted by the scent of roses and worried it was her grandmother, a woman from the Old Country that she was frightened of as a child. The woman practically bathed in rosewater. I asked if grandmother had ever been to that house and she said that she had spent her last months there before she passed on.

So, I had a place with potential good geology, relative who died there, someone who wore rosewater. I tried not to get excited. These things have a way of explaining themselves and then I feel foolish, but I couldn’t resist, so I pursued a cursory investigation.

I walked around the room where she caught the scent. She pointed to the areas in the room she smelled it. I stood there and paced between the spots and looked around. This was a huge living room and there were no cleaning agents, no plug in scents in the walls, and her mother never used air sprays because her sinuses were sensitive to aerosols.


I walked up to the wall and studied the air-conditioner vent. The family had put an open bookcase in front of it, perhaps to hide its ugliness on the wall. I studied the pictures and godawful chachki’s and thought to myself, “Feng Shui alone, this place should be haunted.” I fingered a picture on the shelf.

“That’s her.” The pregnant woman shuddered.

I sighed. This was looking promising, but why would the woman just be leaving her scent in the living room? Shouldn't it be the room she was convalescing in?

“Where did she die?”

“The hospital. Near the end, my mom couldn’t take seeing her pass, so she had her go in the hospital where they could give her the pain meds.”


I lifted the items on the shelf, opening a little glass container that had a key inside. I didn’t see anything that could be causing the scent. I thought after seeing the vent in front of the bookcase, I had solved the puzzled. Then, my fingers grasped the edge of a basket that looked empty. I pulled it down from up high and felt something shake inside of it. I looked in to see it was filled with seed pods and rose petals. I inhaled.


“Oh.” The woman blushed as I held the basket out for her to smell. She shivered. “Yeah, that’s it.” She nodded briskly.

We put the basket on the shelf which was directly in front of the vent, and turned on the air conditioner. Wham! Within a few minutes, the spots in the center of the room where the air was directed carried the scent.

My suggestion to her to feel more comfortable there and change her mind's associations? Put grandma’s scary picture up on a higher shelf (she was a petite woman so she wouldn't be able to see it) and fill the potpourri with something not floral, maybe a cinnamon or pine scent.

It’s not always this easy, but perseverance is key. It had all the elements for a real haunting, but I tried not to let myself get too excited. Sometimes people put things together to make them fit. When she smelled the rose scent, she thought of grandma, and then she remembered she was there when she was dying and all the feelings associated with that. Hence, the scent had to be grandma.

First, we work in the physical world we’re acquainted with and when we’ve tapped that, we can start to explore the paranormal world for answers (at least, that's my method).

I have had some of those phantom scents completely out of the proper setting. But, it’s a very difficult thing to detect because they are fleeting and because air can carry scent amazing distances in the strangest conditions, mixing with other local scents and creating something out of place.

My advice? Keep your nose to the grindstone when debunking a haunting. Scent is very low on my list of proof of hauntings, but if you’re lucky it might be in a place that divulges other activity, so don’t stray. Investigate vigorously once you’ve found there’s no other possible source for the scent. This can sometimes be your place marker for a haunted spot.

Haunted Sounds

I thought I might type up a few in a series about the senses and some incidents of debunking I’ve had over the past several years. More often than not, when friends, relatives, and their friends and relatives find out what I do, I’m called to someone’s home to check something out. As a person who loves mind puzzles, this is a great practice for me in debunking. I bring my ghost hunting equipment along, but keep it packed up. I don’t go in EMF meter blazing. First, I want a good interview and a really thorough check of the house before I think to look for the supernatural. It can be quite embarrassing to get excited over a phenomenon when it could have been explained with closer trial and error.

This woman was a friend of mine (we’ll call her Helen) who admitted that she as afraid to go into the backside of her house. Helen said she heard a rolling sound emanating from the recesses of the house and she had no idea what to attribute it to. Most folks know the common sounds of their icemaker in the freezer and the sound of the house snapping and creaking during nighttime temperature changes, but this sound baffled her. She got so startled the first time that she nearly called 9-1-1 thinking someone had broken in. She had rushed through the rooms off the hall searching for the source of the sound to find nothing out of place.

Interviewing someone is key. They give away in their adjectives the clues that get you headed in the right direction. When she used the term “rolling,” I knew the first place I wanted to look. I recalled her kitchen island was on wheels, so I went to move it, but the wheels were locked. We unlocked them and rolled it, but it definitely wasn’t the sound or even the part of the house where she heard the sound.

On further probing, Helen explained to me,“It’s a sort of a loud sigh and then something hard rolling or whooshing.” I considered her floors. If they had been carpeted, I would have been quite impressed, but they were hardwood floors. If anything rolled on them, it would certainly make a significant sound.

I went through the side of the house she avoided. The guest bedrooms were in order, nothing on wheels, no gliding doors on the closets, no other potential sources of the sound.

I stopped at the home office and studied her computer desk. There sat a big hulking heavy metal looking chair from the 60s. She told me it was her dad’s work chair at his government job when she was a kid. I pushed the chair around on the floor and the wheels moved easily. “Is that the sound?” She frowned. “No not really.”

I sat down in the chair and it let out a sigh. I pushed it around the floor and the sounds was more pronounced. “That’s it!” She clapped. Then we both frowned. We found the sound; a weight upon the chair and that weight pushing the chair around. Not exactly the comforting results I wanted to be able to give her for peace of mind. Helen admitted that now she knew it was the chair, she was afraid her father might be haunting it.

I don’t like anyone jumping to the haunting conclusion unless there’s some merit, so I needed some time to contemplate how the chair was getting weight and moving on its own. Putting this supposed haunting in the context of the home, it seemed extremely unlikely the place could have issues. The house was nearly brand new, the land having really no history or geology to it, the house was decorated modern and very organized, just not the kind of feng shui you expect for a classic haunting. They had lived in it for 15 years.

As I thought this over, I circled the living room, considering what step to take next when I saw a movement on top of one of the armoire. A fat black cat stared down at me with huge green eyes. My friend laughed and introduced me to the cat and four more that came rushing up for attention.

“The girls are fostering the cats until we can find them homes.” She explained.

“Do you leave the office door open?”

She nodded.

“Do the cats ever go in there?”

She saw where I was going with it.

“Bo goes in there.” She admitted as she held up the ridiculously plump cat. “He usually sits on my lap while I type.”

We both nodded.

The cat was used to jumping onto her lap as she worked on the computer. We promptly put the cat in the room and waited with the door closed. Sure enough, he circled the room, rubbed against a few objects, and then promptly leapt up onto the chair, causing it to squeak and roll.

Case closed.

Although sounds can sometimes be recreated and explained, it’s the ones that can’t that most intrigue me. Practice runs like this one are good for both the homeowner and myself. I was able to assure my friend her house wasn’t haunted and she could proceed with life as usual, and at the same time I solved a puzzle that was both intriguing and perplexing.

It’s amazing to me that, had I stopped this investigation at any point and said “I have no explanation” and called her home haunted, her life would have been changed forever and I wouldn’t have grown as an investigator. Luckily, even after realizing the chair needed weight to make the sounds, I didn’t give up. Nothing in this whole scenario added up to a haunting. She had the chair for a decade and never had an issue with it. The time frame from which the sounds started and the cats were being fostered strangely coincided.

It’s the 1-2% of truly absolutely unexplainable sounds that intrigue me and keep me searching for answers.


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