Saturday, January 31, 2009

Explainable Phenomenon on Film




I'm a huge advocate of going out there with your camera and getting example shots of things that can give you false positive's. These photos show and cold breath mist and a hair. I've done shots with sprinklers going, rain falling, duststorm, and someone patting the furniture to create dust orbs. Keep these in a file of "explainables" and refer to them when sifting through evidence.

It helps in the first place to avoid the pitfalls. Remove camera straps or tape them down on hunts. Tie hair up. Avoid cold nights or hold your breath when taking a shot. Don't even consider going outdoors in rain or snow or duststorm.

I thought I knew a great deal about avoiding false positives, even avoiding flashes on shiny and glass surfaces, but not so long ago I was at the Yuma Territorial Prison where I got a shot with something amazing. Some kind of streaks! I was thrilled. Then, I was skeptical. They reminded me of shots I had taken on my explainable adventures. I could tell for two reasons; hair tends to look like a bunch of consecutive circles inside of a streak and it was also auburn like my hair color. Hmmm... I examined the camera to see if my hair had someone fallen out of my ponytail and landed in front of the lens. Nope. Then, as I was reaching and touching around the lens area, I saw some hairs. I keep a tiny blue light on a velcro strap on my finger when I hunt so I can have light without using my hands. Apparently, I must have ran my hand over my hair, caught it in the Velcro, and then while holding the camera, it danced in the wind in front of the lens. I retook the photo with the same conditions and got the streaking hair across the shot again.

Debunking is crucial. Everyone else might question your evidence, but you will question it even more if you don't know if you covered every possibility. You owe it to others and to your conscience to keep it clean.

Hey, I think that might be my new ghost hunting motto, "keep it clean."

My First Documented Phenomenon



I won't count the time I was 10 and taped the sound of the booted footsteps in my childhood home. After all, I was immature enough to leave my father's recorder in my room where mother picked it up and put it back on his desk and he taped a lecture over top of it.

This proof, I still have. In fact, it's on a 35 mm negative.

It was 2003 and I had just started ghost hunting with camera in hand (no other equipment yet). There wasn't a lot of helpful info on ghost hunting at the time (this was pre-"Ghost Hunters" show), but I did know enough to nix my camera straps on all my cameras. I cut them right off because I didn't want any false positives. I also tied my hair up behind me. I avoided cold, damp, rainy, dusty, windy nights. Having done all I can to avoid false phenomenon, I decided to go with my ghost hunting buddy and my son to a beautiful cemetery in Phoenix where my son's grandmother was buried. In my unquestioning "ghosts are definitely souls of the departed" mentality, I figured grandson bait might work.

We arrived and were so distracted (my hunting buddy is the artist who designed my tattoo and I'm an artist wannabe) by the beauty around us that we kept taking photos for our own records for potential paintings in the future. We're morbid enough about the beauty of cemeteries to make a series of arts/crafts reflecting these burial grounds and their peacefulness. We thought we'd go right to my mother-in-law's grave by my memory of where it was in location to trees, only I didn't notice the last time I was there for the grandfather-in-law's burial that there's a heck of a lot of trees in this desert-located cemetery.

It was getting dark and this cemetery was very highly guarded by men in golf carts. They warned us we had to leave asap because the sun was going down. Damn! At least it was dim enough for flashes to go off. As we were walking through the cemetery back to our car, in my mind I kept repeating over and over again, "Betty, we're here. Your grandson and daugher-in-law are visiting. Please let us know where your grave is. Show us the way." As we were walking, my son out of the blue said, "mom, can you get a photo of me here." It was a statue of praying hands and my son was an artist, so I figured he'd want a picture near one of the amazing statues, but not one so simple. It seemed very odd that he chose this one when we had passed much more impressive and "hardcore" looking anguished statues.

So, we stopped and I had him stand in front of it. He picked the spot he wanted to be in and I picked up my 35 mm thinking this wasn't a ghost hunting shot, only a shot for his records. I remembering thinking we were very close to the car and about to leave and I begged my mother-in-law one more time to please show us where she was before we left. My son posed, I lifted the camera, and took the picture.

I didn't think anything of it as we left, except let down that I couldn't find her grave. We got home and I sent the photos in for developing. In that time, I talked to my father-in-law and said, "where is Betty's grave?" He replied. "It's a few hundred feet from the praying hands statue." He told me.

In this unbelievably huge cemetery that was made up of several cemeteries, covering an enormous plot of land that an amusement park would envy, we somehow managed to be drawn to that statue. At least, my son was. That intrigued me to no end as I awaited the photo developing.

When they came back, I sat in my car, staring at this crazy streak on the photo. It bothered me so much, my son and I went back to the cemetery and found out where the grave was. It was about 300 feet over his left shoulder. Right about where this streak appears to be coming from as it comes in a position which appears to be right at me. This might also explain the strange sudden lump in my throat when I took the picture and the anguish that my son wouldn't know my mother-in-law (she died long before he was born).

If you look at it closely, the streak is more sheer at the top and solid at the bottom. As a debunker, I'd say the object if there were an object (which I have absolute certainty there was not) was further away or part of it was moving causing the sheer look and the closer it was to the camera, the more solid it would appear. The problem was that at the time I was absolutely a crazed person when it came to taking any shots. I was terrified of getting something and then someone telling me it was hair, dust, or any other means. The shot was taken with me controlling the situation completely, even the timing of the breeze. Another explanation: whatever was moving had zoomed from the top of the picture towards the camera. Even using all logic and explanation, this picture still baffles me. Perhaps because there was no camera strap. My hair was tied back. There was nothing else of this world I can imagine would have possibly made this streak and yet it shows up on the negative, as well as the photo.

I keep this filed away in an unexplained pile. Every now and then I pull those out and look at them, but even with more experience in the field, some things continue to baffle.

This is one of them.

Note to ghost hunters: If you do have a camera strap and don't tuck it in, most camera straps are braided and you'll get a spiral look in the photo. If you get something like this above but it looks spirally, you have a camera strap in your shot. I suggest either removing straps from cameras, although some folks like being able to dangle it in their hands, or you tape it down for ghost hunts. Hair is a huge culprit and it's so easy for it to get wound up in your hands or camera or dance in front of you. You can usually tell hairs by the way they look like a clear streak with some color to it which happens to match your hair color. See my coming blog about explainable shots for more, but I'd suggest you take photos with your hair and your strap in the way so you can have them for reference when debunking in the future, also get rain, breath mists, dust, and other situations for reference.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Fairfax, Virginia; Green Acres Elementary School; Robinson Secondary School

This is shameless, but for the purposes of finding folks I grew up with, I thought I'd do a short blurb so if someone does a search, they can find a fellow Fairfax-ian.
Anyone who attended Green Acres in the late 60s to mid 70s, let me know. I'll almost certainly remember you. Anyone who attended Robinson in the mid 70s, I'll probably know you too. Thought I'd just try and find fellow childhood chums.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Modern Ghost Hunting's Limitations


I'm a huge advocate of science as the manner in which we tackle ghost hunting. If these things are manifested in physical ways, i.e. sounds, moving objects, closing doors, then they have to exist or interact with our physical world. That being said, the instruments for hunting ghosts just haven't made a great progress since the 90s because most folks pass on the "knowledge" of ghost hunting without any real "credence" about how reliable these tools have been.

It's sad to say, but honestly the best tool in my huge arsenal is still my own body and senses. The super computer called the human brain seems to be the most reliable ghost hunting tool and perhaps that's because in a split second it takes five senses and memory and instinct and combines them to give you instantaneous response and a need for self preservation.

The EMF meter is very likely, in my opinion, to go by way of the Ouija board for ghost hunting reliability. I can't tell you how many times we've experienced all the sensations of something about to happen, felt a drop in temperature, hair standing on end, and had an actual occurrence, and nothing shows on EMF. Then, the meter decides to spike without a single sense of something about to occur. It's ability to accurately measure when things are happening is very lame. It's also extremely vulnerable to so many factors in the environment that if the source of its spike is paranormal or not is indistinguishable.

I understand that we naturally are choosing instruments that we have readily available that can measure natural forces in nature with the hopes that whatever this phenomenon is uses these forces to transport. The problem with that logic, however, is that if it were truly the way it manifested, the EMF meter would be dead on all the time. But, it isn't.

The real tragedy here is that as long as people believe EMF is going to be a great indicator of activity or presence of a haunting, no one is going to do what needs to happen for the industry and science as a whole to evolve. We need to ask ourselves how to weigh and measure that which might exist in a place/time that we can't access with our present instruments.

Using an EMF meter has become kind of like listening to your toaster to get the radio.

I'm sure in retrospect, most serious ghost hunters laugh at the use of Ouija boards, but there was a time when folks thought that was the portal to the "other side." I keep hoping that hunters will eventually get to realize how unreliable a lot of tools are and decide it's time to work alongside science to find ways to weigh and measure things in realms we haven't approach, things along the lines of quantum and string physics.

Since 1972 when I first tape recorded the booted footsteps in my childhood home and was unable to get others to believe that I had not made the sounds myself, I have been faced with this ghost hunting dilemma. If I use a thermometer, I could be measuring a breeze, a cool spot created by a wall that has a chimney on the other side, or any other number of things that can discount it. If I use the EMF meter, the spikes could be caused by our cameras, wall wiring, wiring in the basement ceiling. If I get a digital photo, could it be the limitations of the camera trying to adjust to taking pictures in the dark that caused the phenomenon seen on the picture? If I get audio, was it an open walkie talkie and the recorder (being a receiver) captured voices? Was it really a voice or something that just sounds like a voice when you listen desperately?

There is no way to absolutely prove phenomena. The more folks on YouTube sending in their "haunted house" movies with furniture being moved by strings, the harder it is for all of us who are driven by a desire to prove true phenomenon to make people believe that it's out there.

Ultimately, we are still back to the human factor in ghost hunting. I wouldn't feel comfortable saying a place was haunted because I got some fuzzy voices on tape and a few blurry pictures and maybe a temperature drop. Then, I would be left with team members' accounts of incidents as proof. And there you go, we still have the human in the equation and we know what bad witnesses humans can be.

So, we move on to debunking. We may not have the equipment to prove a haunting yet, but we do have the intelligence and logic to debunk hauntings. What we're left with is still the same...elusive phenomenon as of yet unprovable by any means, even the human eye.

Sometimes, it feels like I'm back to square one with my 1970s tape recorder on the stairs at night waiting for the Civil War ghost to ascend, but I have to say that if one thing comes out of this phase of ghost hunting, we've managed to move from spiritual (Ouija, ectoplasm, seances) to science (debunking,theorizing,using instruments).

It's not great science, some would say pseudoscience, but then they felt the same way about the Theory of Relativity when Einstein proposed it.

Right now it's kind of like we left the horse behind and now have a car that needs a crank. It'll give us the feeling of independence and covering ground a bit faster, but it's not a big step up from the horse yet.

I keep waiting though. Some day, we'll have race cars and hybrids and electric equivalents in the ghost hunting world. When we do, these present tools will seem miserably archaic.

Ultimately, we have to use what we have to figure out what we need. Primitive man used a stick to cook his supper over a fire and he couldn't dream at that time that some day he might have some tongs and a grill with a no-match lighter.

That's kind of where we are. We're making it happen, it's just not real effective yet.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Getting In Trouble on the Hunt



This photo was taken on a very auspicious night. The night I got my son and myself locked into a cemetery.

We went to this particular cemetery before twilight and walked around, cataloging it on our camcorder. I had experienced a voice speaking in Latin in this Catholic Cemetery and realized I had to come back and see if it would happen again. At the time it occurred, there wasn't a soul in sight.

The caretaker came and didn't see my bright red car in the driveway and proceeded to lock all the gates. We found one locked while it was still light (they may say they close at sundown, but to them sundown is 5 pm year-round). I was a bit frantic at first. The cemetery was in a bad neighborhood near the airport and there was no one in sight who could possibly let us out. We climbed into the car and searched the grounds to find every gate locked.

This was pre-cell-phone era for us. We hadn't given in yet to the lure. This night would change that decision.

We climbed the fencing leaving my equipment in the trunk of the car and walked briskly through a neighborhood that knew we didn't belong there. We were followed by several unsavory characters until we found a Circle K. We were in luck to find a family member who could come and get us and take us home.

That Christmas, my father-in-law got me a cell phone as a gift. A subtle hint, no doubt. I ended up giving it to my son. I hate the idea people can contact me anywhere and anytime. That's what answering machines are for. But, I also know as a ghost hunter, you need to have a cell phone for safety, so I bring a trusted friend with a cell phone in her possession. (I'm quirky, but not stupid).

Oh, the fun didn't end there. From that experience (like all good ghost hunters accruing knowledge), I thereafter either parked in the gate so they couldn't close it, or outside the gate so I could climb over and get out. I know you shouldn't be in cemeteries after dark, but I love to go when the sun is dying so I can use the flash. Most cemeteries are very cool about that, some don't have attendants. You need to be ready because you can get in trouble for wandering the grounds after hours. I usually show them my camera, explain I do art and wanted some dim shots with the flash for reference. They look at a middle-aged woman and don't feel I have a trunk full of candles and a sacrificial chicken, so they let me go.

Another time, my ghost hunting partner and I were in a beautiful picturesque cemetery after dark. I left my voice recorder at a headstone where a lot of stuff was showing up on the camera. We ran into a ranger who told us the place was closed. I wasn't going to leave a $100 recorder, so I said, "my friend's cousin is buried there--where the balloons are, I'd like to get a picture of it for her." The ranger let me go and my friend and I walked away into the darkness towards the Mylar-balloon lit grave and she proceeded to take some shots while I raced across the cemetery in the pitch dark and got the recorder. I was breathless, but in time for the ranger to come over to see what was taking us. She looked at the decorated grave and said how sad it was to lose someone so young. I felt a blush of guilt, but not the kind I might have felt if I had to tell the ranger we were ghost hunters and left a voice recorder near a grave. I'd probably be banned from the place.

It's not always going to be easy ghost hunting. Every time you learn to debunk something, you become better at your skill. Every time you screw up on a hunt, you learn practical things, like backup batteries, maps, cell phones, and weapons. Yes, weapons. Abandoned sites are not always as they seem and the ghosts aren't going to hurt you, but the dude trying to get some zzz's might.

Happy safe hunting!

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Baffling House




The client contacted us with issues that ranged from electrical interruptions, footsteps, window blinds ticking, to full body apparitions and someone being hit. Normally, that’s a call that draws my attention, but this one had another element that intrigued me. The client lived in Mesa, AZ right between where the HoHoKam water canals had run centuries ago before the people vanished from the Earth. The area around their old waterway canals has always intrigued me as a source of potential spiritual flow. The reports of hauntings in this particular neighborhood are exceedingly high.

The investigators were just myself and my closest hunting buddy. We both grew up in very old homes in the East Coast, both of us dealing with haunting situations in our formative years. It has given us a bond that is hard to explain. Something like living through and airplane crash and feeling like those folks on the plane with you are the only ones who can understand. We have a similar take on investigations and are both highly skeptical by nature, trying to weed out the explainable from the extraordinary.

We didn’t hold out a lot of hope this house call would be particularly productive. After all, they rarely are. The chance of these things occurring during the sparse hours you’re visiting are very small. The chances of getting it on film or audio, even more scarce. Still, there was something about the home the moment we stepped inside that made both of us stand at alert. It was a familiar feeling. A kind of tingling of the senses that makes you hyper-alert and a weird sense that you know exactly what parts of the house are active before the owner opens her mouth.

The owner took us around to explain where things had been seen and heard. Some of the characteristics like someone walking down the hall and trying doorknobs was very familiar and sounded like a common complaint in active homes. Other things, like full body apparitions were more intriguing. It took quite a deal of effort to produce one of those. We tested the places where the apparitions were seen and were unable to reproduce similar findings with changes in lighting and positioning.

The woman told us how the hall light was out and the cat sat on the floor and studied the wall and the light just went on by itself. This is where good listening comes in. Earlier, she tried to show us the hallway but the light wouldn’t go on. It was intermittent, she explained. This shot down the cat seeing someone turn on the light. We turned the switch off, hit the wall a few times, and found that it turned itself back on. The wiring was obviously the issue there.

Explaining and debunking aside, we were highly distracted by two interesting finds: 1. The EMF in the house was ridiculously high. The average was 1.4 and in places went up to 3-4. There was no place in the house that read under 1. That was very unusual. The highest readings were in the floor in the hall. I admit to being intrigued by high EMF readings. Of course, we already knew the electrical in her hall was screwed up and the house was fairly older. We couldn’t get the same reads in the same places which intrigued me even more, as if it were electrical, it should have read similar in the same spots.

Studying the hallway which was the seat of all the activity, I paced up and down and noticed a vent. The owner explained the vent at one end of the hall near the floor was some kind of vent for helping with air-conditioning. I asked if it were tied to the air-conditioner and she said that, no, it wasn’t. It was simply a dirt tunnel under the hallway that led to another vent at the other end of the hall. It was some kind of air return. When it rained, she told me, water ran under the house. What an amazing combination of conditions.

If you believe in geology and feng shui, this house was truly screwed.

She was kind enough to let us unscrew the vents and lower a camcorder with night vision into the hole to study the tunnel. Nothing found, except a constant sense of cool air moving in dirt tunnels.

We finished the hunt and reviewed our tapes, film, and audio with no findings. During the hunt we used the camcorder, digital cameras, digital audio recorder, EMF meter, laser thermometer, and I even tried out a strobe light because the theory is that if ghosts move too fast, you won’t see them and the strobe slows everything down. It managed to give me a disco headache, but proved nothing other than I know why I don’t disco anymore. The audio, we discovered was completely negated by the fact we let the owner watch TV in the other room while we investigated. (It pays to keep a sterile environment). Although we found no objective evidence of a haunting, the house continued to haunt my thoughts.

The owner let us know a year later they were still having issues and another full body had been seen. Intrigued, I quickly offered us up to investigate again. This time, we hope to have complete control over the environment and a chance to really look up the geology of the land she’s living on and the canals pathways in regards to her home. We also hope to review her EMF readings and see if they’re tied to the electrical or not. Living with such high EMF levels continually could be irritating. I know the alarm clocks near the head of the bed were ridiculously high (they often are—keep that thing farther from your head). I hope to do a few more tests such as having the owner turn off all the breakers and rechecking the EMF readings to determine if this is electrical or not. All things being said, I'd like her to keep a diary of in what kind of weather these happenings occur. I'm thinking that rushing water under the house might create a kind of energy pathway that's irresistable. Of course, it's all theories until you find ways to test them and find patterns. That's why I'm in this biz. It's one mystery after another.

I’ll keep you updated on our re-visit.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Are You Psychic?

Over the years, people have asked me if I could teach them to be psychic. It's not so much needing to be taught, it's trusting what you know. I usually tell them a good place to start is online at www.gotpsi.org. Every day you can go on and test your skills. I go on frequently. It benefits me because I learn just how it is I get information. If I pick the wrong card, but the right card was one I passed over and didn't choose, I figure out why I talked myself out of the right card. I found over time that my eyes tend to be drawn to the "right" card and yet my minds tell me to choose a different card and that's always the wrong one. My first instinct, always a good one. When I try to inject logic into my choices like, "they just showed the picture of the water earlier, it can't be that one again!" Then, I will surely get it wrong. Some days, I find that by running my cursor over the cards, I can feel a strange electrical tingle when I cross over the right card. Some days, I see in my head a color or a mass and I look for the card that has those features. Sometimes, it's a very fast gut instinct when the card are first flipped. The key is to try it regularly and find out on days when you do well, what you did. Was it the time of day--that's often key. For me, I do lousy in the afternoon, great in the mid morning. I also do better when I think about other things instead of the test before me. I'm a multitasker and I find that if I engage my logical mind thinking about the day's chores, the very basic and primitive part of my brain that uses psychic skills will do its job while the computer on my shoulders is rattling off the grocery list.

When it comes to reading objects, I've found a basic exercise that can help people to figure out which hand they read with and which hand they give people energy with. If you want to know if someone is good or bad in their intentions, you put your reading hand on them and you'll know. If they need your support and love, you use your sending hand on them. To find which hand you read and send with, put both hands in front of your chest, palms facing each other. Keep them about 5" apart. Take your right hand and stroke your fingers towards the left palm, but don't touch the palm with them. Keep doing this and see if you feel the sensation of being stroked. Now, switch hands. When you find the fingers that seem to make your palm "feel" them, those fingers are from the hand that sends energy to help others. The palm that could feel them is your reading palm. In general, you find that most right-handed folks read with their left hand and most lefties read with their right.

The fun comes when you can take a piece of jewelry (I find anything metal is a good start) and put it in your reading hand. You have to free your mind of all preconceived notions about the person's whose jewelry you're reading. I've read good friends and my logical mind wanted to throw out things I read because they didn't fit what I knew about that person. Wrong! You'll kick yourself if you don't go with your first gut feeling.

For me, when I read something, the positioning of my eyes is key. Some folks close their eyes, I can't do that. I look to my right and for some reason that positioning of my eyes is like recalling a memory and I see things. Sometimes, it's like a memory. It's like if you smell chlorine and suddenly you can imagine the public pool and the summer before 10th grade and the sounds of people laughing and playing and the whistle blowing from the lifeguard stand... You might feel like smiling when you're reading, or feel sadness. You might feel like the jewelry is tied to someone else and suddenly you're doing a read on the person who gave it to them or borrowed it.

You practice with people you know and you eventually learn (like you did on the psychic testing site) just how it is you get info. My best friend hears it. To me, it's not auditory so much as a memory. To others, it might be very visual. You'll see faces and details. The more you push yourself, the more you can get the visual frame into focus.

The real test is when you read something of someone's whom you don't know at all. I've done this at parties many many times and it's fun. I like not being limited by knowing whose it is (they pile it on the table and I don't know whose is whose). I just start reading and I ask for no vocalizations and no one to come forward until I'm done. That's a really pure way to read because you can't feed off someone's expressions or make assumptions based on how they look.

We're all psychic, I truly believe it. I just think that like our talents for music or foreign languages, we don't always get to develop them. I believe everyone is an artist, everyone is a writer, everyone is a singer, they just don't practice it all the time. You have to do it with a passion to get the talent to blossom.

Persevere. I hope to see you on www.gotpsi.org some time. I'll be listed there as Autumnforest and you'll know if I'm having a good day or bad by my scoring. I tend to do it while I'm at work and so I have to rush it... The problem is, I'm at my best around 10 am--and that's when I'm working! You can tell I took my time when my score is high. That's the day when I develop my skills by noting if today is a "color day" or a "sensation day" or a "gut instinct" day, because psychic abilities aren't always in the same form every day. What worked to get you a great score yesterday may totally not work today.

I hope to hear about your adventures in the psychic world. We all travel the psychic path, some of us are just holding up signs while others are watching their feet...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Are We Cells?



Everyone has a theory on the universe and our place in it. Just jump on a plane some time and take off over your city. It's just an aiport, then it's a city block, then it's an entire city, then it's a region of a state... You begin to realize how very small you are. Every day in your little neighborhood you feel so important and so central to everything going on until you see all the other "worker ants" from above.

It got me thinking about the universe. Scientists try to describe the size of it and its origins, but no one can possibly comprehend things that involve light years and distances that are "infinite." We can't get far enough away from it to view it as we did in the plane over our city.

What if every planet we see, every star, every moon, are all nothing more than cells in size to something greater? What if we look at other planets like cells in a body might look at each other and think, "hey, we're part of the important work being done," but then those cells don't see that they're just the tiny parts of a huge unit called a "human." They live their lives thinking that converting oxygen or transporting blood is all there is and their life is what counts the most. They have no idea how very many of them there are and how they are only a tiny component of a huge more important entity.

So, is our planet just a cell in a larger body that we can never stand back far enough to gauge. Are we only performing a tiny task within a bigger "entity?"

When we die do we get to see the bigger perspective? Is that what religious doctrine has been trying to explain in mere mortal words that can't describe something so shocking it changes everything?

I doubt our "little minds" could even imagine what that "bigger entity" is.

This is the kind of thing my mind contemplates when I sit under the stars at night. I guess some folks imagine traveling to the moon or think about tomorrow and the next day and the next. Not me, I wonder what I can't see.

I guess that's why I hunt ghosts.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My SciFi manuscript



I've been so busy working on my horror novel "The Hunt: Ghosts" and the erotic horror novel "The Thicket," that I put aside a fantastic SciFi novel that I'd like to pursue again when I can find a scientific brain to pick about some of the aspects.

The premise is simple:

A scientist, along with a psychic medium, find the pathway by which psychic information is passed and the result is a machine that is basically a computer to the other side. With folks being able to talk to their dead ones when they pass, there is no longer any need for formal funerals. In fact, instead they have a "crossover" ceremony instead where they sit in a room with the machine awaiting their first message from the other side. With this, people don't grieve, they simply treat the dead as living across country and inaccessible, talking to them on the computer like its a telephone. Religion changes its face, as well, becoming a unified church. The government now regulates our access to the other side with rules; you must be blood related to speak to that spirit, you may not ask about the future or ask for advice or ask them what occurs on the other side. This, of course, leaves folks to only discuss the old days and update the "transitioned" family member on the mundane facts of everyday life. All conversations are monitored. Those who have committed suicide, surprisingly can show up on the machine. In order to stop mass suicides which occurred amongst the sick and elderly at the onset of the machine's introduction, the government now blocks suicided spirits from talking to loved ones, therefore reinforcing the idea that they are in purgatory. No one questions the efficacy of the machines, except for the man in charge of designing them. He has his own doubts about whether we can be guaranteed we're talking to heaven. When a virus is launched from the other side, it becomes apparent that dark forces could be accessing the living, as well as those in heaven. The scientist joins forces with a psychic to expose the system for its flaws. He is motivated by the loss of his sister to an online predator when there were no safeguards on the new technology.

There's the plot. I'd love to get input as to whether this sounds like a feasible venture to pursue. I have tentatively called it "Metanet." I've often wondered what would happen if we had reliable means to talk to the other side and my hope that some day we can simply find the "dark energy" or whatever pathway is used to send information from the other side to make a reliable tool for conversation.

I've considered just making this a screenplay instead of a novel, except I fear it will lose some of the subtle descriptions and background that will make it so compelling to read.

Thanks for your opinions in advance.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Reincarnation is Not What We Think



I thought I'd start off this blog with an example of lifecycles. In one picture, you have my grandmother at Ellis Island (off the boat from Norway) with my father, his two older sisters (one brunette, one blonde) and baby sister. Then, there's a picture of me as a baby with my brother and two older sisters (one brunette, one blonde). Cycles of life aren't as random as they sometimes appear. The same scenarios are played over and over again. Have you ever heard someone say "oh, you're not that unique--loads of people like what you do, choose the things you choose, have the same quirks"?

Nothing is really original in this world.

Now, onto reincarnation. I get asked about that a lot. It's a combination of having psychic abilities and being a paranormal investigator which makes people think I might have a stand on this.

And, I do.

Reincarnation doesn't exist. At least, not in the form we see in movies and hear from gurus. People's spirits do not somehow get reborn into new bodies to learn new skills they apparently didn't get the first time around. This isn't elementary school. We aren't getting a second go round at third grade.

That being said, I have had experience with remembering a past life. It's an extremely detailed one that came to me in my sleep for a few nights in a row. I even woke up speaking French and knowing things about the Jewish religion that I could not have known from my life experiences or education. It truly amazed for a few weeks. I even occasionally still wake up during the night speaking French and catch myself and hear my strange voice as I awaken.

Am I reincarnated?

Nope.

Here's how I see the whole phenomenon. When I do a reading on someone, getting information from their jewelry or holding their hand or whatever means I use, I'm getting their history by some means as of yet not explained by science but does absolutely exist. That being said, their memories, their view of their life, their home they grew up in, their summer in Nantucket...they become my memories. They are as real to me as if I had lived that life. It's a very startling thing to experience and I quit reading some time ago because I was bogged down with other people's lives in my head.

The average person isn't in tune with their "psychic radar" so they don't realize the bits and pieces of info they get that way every day. When something occurs in which their radar is on and they got a blip on the screen, it's something they haven't experienced before. Had I not had a lifetime of using my skills to know that I'm opening a portal to view another's life, I would swear that I'm seeing a life that I led. I have the feelings, the physicality, the time period...all so very real in my head that I believe it was me inside that body living that life.

When a person gets a reincarnation memory, for whatever reason (science hasn't caught up to the mechanism by which we receive information), that person is getting signals from a life that was lived some time back. It's vague as to why they latched onto that life passing by at that time and read it, but upon seeing it in their head, it feels very much like their own life including all the feelings and relationships associated with it.

The details of my "past life" that came to me in a dream included things like how Jewish people handle death (my mother had just died in the dream), what was happening in the Nazi era and my father and I and our need to escape France. The details of my village, my home, the covered mirrors inside my house, the term "sitting shiva" were all baffling to me when I woke up, but I know enough from readings to realize that I was reading a life that had been through the eyes of the person.

So, when folks ask me about reincarnation, that's my stand on it--it is a psychic reading postmortem. It's a conclusion made by the knowledge that to read a life that's passed is not so very hard when everything that is and everything that has been still inhabits this dimension. It's the question of how we access it that intrigues me the most. What conditions must be present to pass by a life, feel a bit of it, taste a bit of it, see a bit of it.

Deja vu and the sense of having been to a city before when you arrive to a new place and know the way to a location without having traveled there before, can all be tacked onto the reincarnation phenomenon. The passing of a fragrance, the hint of music, the ability to know an outcome and not know why...all tied into that crazy "invisible railroad" that moves all events like the Mayans predicted...to replay over and over again, inspired by people now who are influenced by events and people who have been.

There is nothing original in our world. It's a holding place for new people and old events to meet again and again and again.

Now, that's reincarnation.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Headed for Hades or Redemption?


Mushroom cloud or sunset?

Going off track from my usual ghost hunting observations, I'd like to discuss personal explanatory style. As a ghost hunter, counseling and helping people reframe things often gives them great relief. I can reveal this to you by discussing present times.

It does appear to most that we are reaching the end-of-world times, but it's sort of a glass half full or half empty observation for most.

I remember one day not long ago I was checking out at Target store and the older gentlemen ringing me up said something about a child acting up nearby and commented. "It certainly isn't like the old days anymore." I said, "Thank goodness," automatically and he looked at me strangely and then scowled. "What do you mean? In the old days a parent would have walloped a kid for that behavior." I looked him square in the eye and said, "you mean the old days when Blacks rode in the back of the bus and there was no cure for infections like TB? Those old days?" That shut him up, but I realized that people can explain the world in vastly different ways.

What's going on right now in the world seems to many to be absolute chaos. My parents grew up in the Depression era and were both in the military in WWII. They saw the invention of the bomb and the start of the Cold War. They raised teens in the 60s. They had some of the worst conditions to grow up in and yet they were the greatest contributors to our society that I know of.

Before 9-1-1 would you have seen a New Yorker standing on the street trying to feed workers as they dug through rubble? How about all the flag stickers on the back of cars and folks proud to be Americans when they took it for granted prior to that time. What about the global warming and high costs of gasoline finally making us have to face alternative fuel issues? Remember the government having no water for Katrina survivors but their neighbors taking in entire families to help them out and then working to rebuild their houses for them?

Things have to get worse before they get better. I am thankful for this time period that has helped us to quit taking everything for granted from fuel to credit card charges to creatures like polar bears. We went from the "me" of the 80s to the "us of the millenium.

Yeah, it's gonna hurt, but the only way to nirvana is to make the hard decisions, the hard sacrifices, and the knowledge that what you do has effects on future generations.

It's not the end of times, folks. It's the end of selfishness and self pity. It's the times of personal and social responsibility. And my parents if they were here today would say that it's about time we went from the sulking kids of the 60s into mature folks with personal and global responsibility.

It's all in your explanatory style. You can blame "them" or you can blame "us." If you blame "them" there's nothing you can do but go to war. If you blame us, there's nothing you can do but change. If you think these things occurring are signs of threat to your personal security, you feel a sense of scarcity and that results in anger and fear. If you see these things occurring as possibilities for change, you experience the emotion of hope.

I'm extremely thankful for Obama. I don't know how much he can do with the restraints of our absurdly convoluted and selfish Congress, but I have hopes that if nothing comes from his tenure but the message that we are personally responsible and to quit kicking and screaming and roll up our sleeves, then I think he's going to be immortalized for reminding us what America was supposed to be in the first place. Hope, change, no more status quo, and the example for the rest of the world of the possibilities if you eliminate the fear.

That said, I go on record as having a positive explanatory style.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How to Tote Your Ghost Hunting Gear



I started out with just a camera in hand going to cemeteries. Later, I got a big purse so I could put a sketchbook inside because cemeteries inspired me and so I could carry the contents of my regular purse and only carry one bag. Well, one thing leads to another and before long I had an electronic voice recorder, divining rods, a pendulum, a laser thermometer... I moved up to a courier bag. It would have worked pretty well, except every time I fished around in the dark for something, everything felt the same. Was that the digital recorder or the digital camera? Was that my mag flashlight or my EMF meter? Where's the batteries? I need a pen and paper to take notes quickly... Darn!

Okay, so I moved up finally to something that makes absolute sense. I got myself a photographer's fanny pack. I considered a fisherman's vest but I live in the desert and it's freakin' hot enough already. Yeah, I suppose it screams nerd, but my first time out using it on a hunt in an abandoned prison all night, I fished things out without needing any light and was the only one with recorder handy upon a moment's notice. My hands were free so I could use my camcorder. It worked out fantastic. There were inside zippers for keys and ID.

Since every pocket has a purpose, I know where my thermometer is, my EMF meter, my KII meter, my digital camera, my digital recorder, a tap light (a round tap light that can be used to try to provoke a ghost to tap it and show you they're present), and a pocket for the batteries. There's places I can clip my flashlight off the edge. I even got a little Velcro ring that has a blue light on it and I wear it on my finger all night while on a hunt and I can click it on and off and have light without using my hands.

If you wondered, I'm a Virgo. Yeah, everything about me screams organization and simplicity versus sentimentality and chaos.

In considering ways to organize your ghost hunting gear for the best efficiency and mobility and hands-free, try looking up photography and fishing vests/fanny packs/bags. I honestly don't care if I look like a geared-up geek when I know that those seconds between a phenomenon occurring and recording it is the difference between a successful hunt and one filled with stories but no proof.

I will admit, too that while wearing so much battery-operated equipment near you body, you do seem to have more sensations during the hunt. I'll take a wild guess that this is kind of like the episode of "Ghost Hunters" where the sound dude carrying his huge battery pack got walloped by the unseen. Having a ready source of power nearby could make you a beacon of sorts, but hey, the good side is that if you're wearing the easily accessible tools, you can probably record proof of your little visitor.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ghost Hunters Use Their Senses (All Six of Them)



Don't let the photo above fool you. The person taking the shot was an amateur and didn't know how to use my digital camera when I had removed the strap so I'd get no false positives. His finger ended up waving in front of the lense as he took the shot (what you get with a ham-fisted football player and a tiny camera).

I'll use "Ghost Hunters" show team, TAPS, as my example to explain why our senses cannot beat any equipment. Sure, everything we process goes through the brain and all our perceptions and explanatory style so that it's no longer objective, but that's what the instruments are for, to hopefully take note of what our own computer-containing heads already discerned.

TAPS as seen on their weekly SciFi show does one of the most basic necessitities of ghost hunting. They go into the room, lights out, and sit with the ambient sounds, ambient lighting, and ambient temperature. They deal with road traffic, outside lights, and refrigerators turning on. They learn the feel and the smell and the sound of the place they're evaluating. To us, the viewers, they seem to have ample light. We, of course, are seeing them with infrared camera assistance so that we can see them in what to them can be complete dark or near darkness. It may surprise you then to hear them say, "did you just see that move in the corner?" Well, even your house probably isn't completely dark at night. You can tell degrees of darkness and light.

Of course in the dark, visual perception can be askew. Some of us have poor night vision. Some of us are prone to middle-aged eyes which tend to get black moving blotches out of the corner of our peripheral vision when there's inadequate lighting. Then, there's the perception that you often hear TAPS comment on, "something just moved in front of that window and blocked out the light." The problem with that is that it doesn't necessarily mean something is inside the room, it could just as well be outside the window passing by, cutting out the outdoor light from their view. Keeping in mind that your vision has to adjust to darkness and any presence of light can capture something moving in front of it quite obviously, your vision is a trusted tool in your arsenal.

Auditory phenomenon is probably even more often reported than visual. Homes make sounds. Devices make sounds. Wood floors make sounds. Pipes make sounds. Even unaccounted for hunters can be the source of mysterious sounds. While I appreciate rapping sounds on ghost hunts, I'd want there to be an absolute three to four question reply without too much length between question and rapping. If they don't answer some questions, or they quit rapping back and then come back later, I'd say it's too intermittent to count. But, if you ask this presence three or four questions and get prompt replies, that is impressive and I'd really hope you had your voice recorders rolling. Footfalls are probably the very most reported sound, other than doors creaking and whispering voices. I've lived in a house with over 100-year-old wood floors and they certainly make sounds without provocation. What they shouldn't do, however, is make the very clear sound of boots hitting, heel first and then toe in a regular rhythmic walking pattern. You hear that, and you know you have a residual. It's as if the sound itself was recorded by the house to be played back later. I've heard those footfalls in a home where the new owners put in carpet over the wood floors. That'll impress you. You have to be careful though to learn the sounds of the place you're studying. You need to open doors, cabinets, turn on sinks, wiggle pipes, turn on the air-conditioner to hear its startup, and listen at vents for the sound of voices carried from outside. I'd say you're almost always likely to get sounds in a place, very likely to get visual, so keep your ears open and force the environment to be pure with as few people as possible in the room and if they're there, keep them all in one room. No shuffling. No coughing. No small talk.

I admit I only had the sense of taste come into play one time in a jail. I got a metallic taste in my mouth all at once that was overpowering and then completely disappeared after four or five seconds. It was kind of an odd thing, but it was accompanied thereafter by a gunpowder smell. It was intriguing. I think of our other senses; taste, smell, and touch, you'll find touch is most often activated. Smell does occur but buildings can hold everything from urine to cigar smoke to fragrances for a very long time. I once had a favorite coffee-scented candle and it left a smell in the wall of coffee. Even a few years after I got rid of the candle, if I passed by the wall on a warm humid day--boom! I'm smelling coffee quite clearly. I don't rely on scents at all, even if they engulf you all at once. I've had way too many explanable phantom scents occur and they can be on the most gentle stream of air. Touch, however, is very helpful. This is mainly felt as temperature and barometric changes. When the head feels like its squeezing, it's feels tight to breathe, the air takes on a sudden plummeting chill...

Don't confuse your sense of touch with your sixth sense, however. The sixth sense in an investigation comes in the way of hairs standing on end, a feeling of cold electricity running through one side of your body and out the other, the sense of being watched, and a feeling of impending doom. That's a very critical sense in a ghost hunt. Pull out your instruments, get out your recorder and your camera. This is the time things are cooking.

If I had to say which sense is the most accurate in a ghost hunt, I'll put it on the line and say that the only really good barometer of ghostly activity is your sixth sense. Any time I've smelled a scent or heard a sound, the meters and cameras and recorders aren't likely to get a thing. The time I feel something rush through my body and take my breath away, I get actual recordable data.

You're human and you have to go into the hunt with your senses, but don't ever discount the one sense that'll tell you in the most primitive way that something's there...your sixth sense.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Growing up in a Haunted House


Growing up at Aspen Grove in Fairfax, Virginia, I had no idea the house was haunted. Really. It's hard to believe, but when you move in as a toddler, nothing seems strange to you. Everything is possible, including a dark shadow pacing in the bedroom and booted footsteps without a body to create them, and things flying across the room without a person to launch them. I didn't know my house was "haunted" until I was in first grade. NBC did a two-hour special on the ghosts. I think my mom set me aside and told me the house may have ghosts, but at the time I thought it was ridiculous to call it ghosts. After all, to me it was alive. The house itself seemed alive. The very walls seemed to watch you, the sense of being tagged along or even protected emanated from every open area of the house. To call it "ghosts" seemed to cheapen it. Of course, at the age of 6, I think the only ghosts I knew of were "Casper" and I could attest to it, there was nothing like that in my home!

It was certainly no surprise to me that our house had something a little unusual going on. If you didn't smell it in the musty basement or while peering into the crawlspace down there were we uncovered loads of relics, you heard it every night in the booted footsteps heading up the stairs and down the hall to the middle bedroom. You caught a whiff occasionally of a fragrance that smelled old and delicate and feminine in places it shouldn't have been, like the library room where no one rarely went. Objects moving on their own? Things missing? Something in the periphery darting away...were all manifestations that seemed very common place.

I don't know about other kids growing up in haunted homes, but to me it was a very comforting thing. It was as if I had my own soldier body guards. They were separated from family and loved ones and continued to walk the halls every night like invisible sentinels protecting a family that they had adopted. In moments in childhood when things would be miserable, I'd sit on my bed and cry. Sometimes, I felt the strange stroke of a hand on my hair and suddenly feel a weight lifted from my soul and a relief as if I weren't going through it alone. Admittedly, even a few times I spoke out loud to the invisible tenants and I felt like we struck a strange alliance.

When I was sick with the Hong Kong flu in the late 60s, I felt someone pull the blanket off me every time I tried to tug it back on. Eventually, my mother heard me yell at the invisible nurse and came in to find my fever was ridiculously high. She carried me into the bathroom and put me in a tub of ice water (I never said my mother was a nurse). Still, I have to wonder if someone was watching out for me when no one else was around to keep me from making my fever worse with my blanket.

In a lot of ways, having ghosts was like having more pets. The house is crowded, you feel like you can never be alone, but at the same time, you know they'd wrestle any intruder to the ground (at least you'd like to think they could). All my friends in the suburbs surrounding our property lived in modern cookie-cutter homes and I lived in an antique gargoyle of a mansion, but I learned to see that as not so much something different as something richer. They had houses with no history. Furnishings with no history. It seemed rather hollow to me. Staying the night at a friend's house was uneventful. If they braved staying at mine, they might not get much sleep.

It's funny how, all these years later I'm not only trying to find the answer to ghosts and hauntings, but I actually feel incredibly at home when I step into some dusty old B&B and get a room. The creaking floors, the musty smell, the fussy dolls and doilies and old furnishings make me feel strangely comforted. There really isn't a single place I've ever been that genuinely scared me and I can thank the basement at Aspen Grove for that. Perhaps it made me what I am, a lover of history, a seeker of the truth, a person with a healthy explanatory style, and a romantic streak for the atmospheric mood of Halloween.

I wouldn't trade my haunted house for a clean and sterile tract house ever. The depth of my character is a direct result of the influences I had as a child, including the influences of the unseen forces in that 250+ year old house.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Hills Have Eyes



I've never really acclimated to Arizona (even though being here 32 years). I don't know what it is about the place, but it's extremely unsettling. At first, I was certain it was the unlimited sky and the lack of trees. You can see a car coming at you on the highway a half hour before it reaches you--really! I think it's the feeling of being exposed or the sun beating down on you relentlessly...

My first road trip to California, I really felt that unease at a whole new level. If you've ever seen the movie "The Hills Have Eyes," you know that director had to have made a few forays across the Sonoran Desert to understand how an entire horror movie could be based on the most basic human fear--what if I break down here???

I grew up with thick woodlands and, yeah, you do often feel like you're being watched in the woods. It feels like woodland creatures hiding and studying you, wondering if you're friend or foe. The desert, however, feels like giant eyes. Like God's eyes. Like you're nothing more than a bacteria on a glass slide and that sun beating down on you, it's really the light from the microscope...

Every road trip in the desert leaves me with the mortal fear of breaking down, of rattlesnakes, of dehydration, of sunburn, and especially of weird rednecks that would call such a place their home.

You're never as vulnerable as you are driving the stretches of the I-10 past Tucson or the 8 towards Yuma. If it weren't for the constant buzz of air force planes, you'd swear you're in a post-apocalyptic world. Nothing thrives here except the most ornery and prickly things imagineable. (Makes you understand how folks like the Earps took such a liking to it.)

Are the roadways of Arizona haunted? Oh yeah. Stop your car alongside the road some time on the way past a place like Sentinel heading towards Aqua Caliente (the scariest feeling stretch of AZ roadway, I believe). Pull over (you can because you'll run into zero cars) Turn off the car (if you dare to hope it'll start when you try the key again). Just stand there and listen and feel and look.

My riding buddy light-heartedly asked me one time on a road trip to Yuma, "who's the sentinel of Sentinel?" I jokingly responded, "maybe we should stop and knock on every door and ask." We turned off into the Sentinel exit and there was one house and an empty purple building. We opted not to knock, but to continue west on the road towards Aqua Caliente (always in search of a new graveyard to see).

It was on that roadway that I decided what the sentinel of Sentinel was... the desert. It's watching you. It's summing you up like potential prey.

As we thankfully finished visiting the farm-workers graveyard, we turned to go back without mishap until we sited a beautiful vulture sitting on a dead tree studying the desert as if it owned the place. I had her pull over so I could take a picture and then it dawned on me (as the bird was completely unintimidated by us) that this is the sentinel of Sentinel and he commands the desert to do his bidding.

I won't be back on that road trip again any time soon. Somehow, I feel like I tested fate there more than on an ghost hunt. That is definitely the most scared I've been in the daylight. It's hard to explain to folks who haven't seen the desert, but it's something everyone should have to experience and the reason why only the hardest survived here.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Arizona Unexplained



Just when you think your state might not be all that active for the paranormal, all it takes is a bit of digging and the craziness begins to rise to the surface. Although only officially a state for almost 97 years, Arizona carries a serious reputation as a haven for all things paranormal and unexplained. Moving here from the D.C. area, I scoffed at the concept that anything in the Southwest could possibly be weird, other than the mountains being naked and the soil being hard-baked. Admittedly, it is kind of like living on Mars, but because so much of the state is exposed to the eye (nowhere to hide), it reveals some truly intriguing phenomenon that can't go missed.

Perhaps it’s the geology. From the Grand Canyon to the red rocks of Sedona to the mining hills of Globe and Bisbee, the state offers a scarred landscape that one could imagine giving birth to all sorts of strange energy. Sedona’s red rocks are said to give off strong magnetism and the ability to heal the body. The town is the site of four spiritual vortices that supposedly attract strange phenomenon and those seeking spiritual health. The very stones we find in the Arizona soil, from Apache Tears to turquoise to quartz, are all “healing” stones. What if we lived amongst rock that had heavy iron content? Quartz? Ancient volcanic beds? What might that do to our energy? Our power? Our healing abilities?

Having been transplanted here as a teen from Northern Virginia, I can attest to the fact that the sheer amount of sky can be unsettling at first. The fact that Arizona is a Mecca for UFO sightings doesn’t surprising me at all. With clear nights the majority of the year and tons of sky to view, if there’s anything there—we’re seeing it. The “Phoenix Lights” event in the 1990s might be one of the top 10 biggest and best documented and viewed UFO events in the history of mankind. The truth is, however, Arizonans have been seeing UFOs with such commonality that most folks I know just shrug when you tell them you saw one. UFO watching in Sedona is the newest hotspot and you can see it reflected in the town with aliens and UFO models showing up all over the place. Folks gather on the red rock to watch nightly unexplained lights in the sky. Sure, Arizona has a lot of Air Force present and the Barry Goldwater Range, but does that mean we’re seeing our own stuff or does it mean that someone else is watching our stuff? Maybe the creators of the Gila Bend Space Age Restaurant were only modeling after something so common they knew everyone would relate. You don’t usually see a UFO cafĂ© in Massachusetts or North Carolina, but Arizona sports a few.

Running waterways are often associated with carrying spiritual energy. The Colorado cutting through the Grand Canyon would be a fine example of the power and influence of a river. When we think of the desert, we don’t often think of water, but because of it being such a precious commodity, it’s actually been our number one infrastructure preoccupation. The ancient HoHoKam tribe knew its importance and carved a massive canal system branching off from Mesa, Arizona. In fact, I don’t think it’s necessarily a coincidence that Mesa seems to have a higher level of reporting ghostly activities than other parts of The Valley. They might be onto something. Something as importance as water was used in ritual, bathing, and the water of crops for a people who were extremely spiritual. It could be assumed that perhaps water isn’t just a conductor of electricity, but perhaps spiritual energy, as well. It might not be a coincidence that baptisms involve such a precious and life-giving element. It has to make you wonder.

My favorite subject (just after ghosts) is Bigfoot. According to those in the White Mountains, he’s present in our state, as well. Although I’ve heard stories of Bigfoot clomping around South Mountain Park and Gila Bend, I find that a stretch of the imagination, but the concept a large hairy humanoid could be living in the White Mountains is entirely feasible. The sightings of Bigfoot in the White Mountains are some of the most professionally documented sightings in the world with the local police often being the witnesses, along with concerned citizens. And you know what they about “where there’s smoke…”

From Route 66 to Jerome, from Bisbee to Yuma, Arizona sites saw a great deal of fighting and unrest, vigilantism, outlaws, train robbers, sheriffs, and the forced “assimilation” of Native American citizens. The very ground is steeped in violent history, great adversity against the elements, and fighting over resources and mining rights. Arizona is haunted. Perhaps even more haunted than where I grew up in the Mid-Atlantic. That history was beaten down and lived over top of and “cleansed” of its past with shining polished woodwork and overly trampled battlefields. The West, however, feels like a still healing sore. Sometimes, you get the feeling the original dust still coats towns like Bisbee and Tombstone. You can almost taste the tang of it in your mouth. Most of the tales of hauntings involve outlaws, lawmen, and prostitutes. There are, however, tragic tales involving the hardships of living in the desert and the people haunted even after death by the tragedy. The one thing that struck me as a ghost hunter is that the East Coast seems to have a lot of haunted structures, but the West seems to have haunted land.

As if the history of the state isn’t full of enough oddities, at one point we formed the Camel Military Corps. In 1855, Congress agreed to the use of these camels for military purposes because of their ability to do long hauls in the desert. A Syrian named Hadji Ali trained the men to ride and care for the camels. A monument stands in Quartzite in his memory with his nickname “Hi Jolly” on it. With the coming of the Civil War, however, the program faded away and the last camel was released into the desert near Gila Bend. To his dying day, Hadji Ali believed that the camels still roamed the desert. Locals often reported seeing them. Eventually, over time, fewer reported seeing them, but an ominous ghost camel with a skeleton man riding it replaced the living camel stories. "The Red Ghost Camel" was reportedly a ghostly camel seen riding with a dead horseman atop of him. Still, folks who make a hobby of cryptozoology might be intrigued by the possibility that the camels that were released might still have been able to breed and exist in the Sonoran Desert all these decades later.

The 33rd parallel north latitude runs through Arizona, more closely to absolute 33rd parallel in towns like Florence and Clifton, although places like Chandler and Ahwatukee and Maricopa all share the 33rd parallel. The cemetery in Adamsville is located upon it and a medicine wheel in stone placed on the site (see picture above). The way the graves lie makes folks wonder if the Masons buried within the grounds were lining up along the parallel. The 33rd parallel has been associated with Freemasonry as a symbolic latitude. Although there is a great deal of secrecy about its importance, it’s been often associated with places of great conflict and death, such as the death row at Florence Prison and other sites along the 33rd parallel such as numerous other US death rows, and countries like Lebanon, Pakistan, and Iraq. I'm not sure I can personally vouch for the 33rd parallel doing anything unusual to my EMF meter, pendulum, or divining rods, but you know I had to go and test it. I did note, however, that the Adamsville Cemetery has a certain feeling when you stand in the medicine wheel and face north so that the 33rd parallel runs through your right and left arms...

This is only the tip of all things strange and paranormal in this 48th state. I’d advise you to do some research before coming to AZ. Knowing the best spots to get your bang for your buck are key. If you want an artist mountain retreat with spookiness, you might shoot for Jerome. If you want the same thing in an old-time westerner mining town and don't mind hanging with folks who don't want to be found, Bisbee is your spot. If you want to meet with spiritualists, get your aura photo taken, head to a vortex to stand in a medicine wheel, and study for UFOs at night, Sedona is the number one spot. Feeling nostalgic and like abandoned buildings, try Rt. 66 up north. Want to do a little antiquing in some quaint little desert towns, try Miami/Globe. If you want to walk through haunted buildings, I think density-wise, downtown Bisbee, Prescott,and Globe have more public buildings that just feel eerily haunted.

Got some time, google your own state for paranormal findings. You probably can't beat Arizona, but you might find something universal about the paranormal--it knows no Mason-Dixon lines or other boundaries. It settles in where the conditions are ripe and develops a rich history over generations.

Friday, January 9, 2009

What Do We Do With Orbs?




When I started out in early 2003 with my first digital camera aiming it at anything that stood still and hoping for proof of ghosts, I didnt realize what I was asking for. I live in the desert Southwest, so you can imagine that dust is a huge issue for me and moisture a rare one. I have yet to go to any Old West town such as Globe or Bisbee and not get tons of orbs in my shots. When I first started out, I kept them in cute-named files in PhotoShop and visited them often, wondering at their meaning.

Now, six years later, I promptly throw them out.

I did like most people and went online and read opinions and then solicited the advice of photographers and decided that, like any good ghost hunter, I had to learn to debunk. I took my camera outside in a duststorm, in sprinklers, near a tree shaking pollen, outside on a sunny day with the sunlight able to enter the lens, in a house where I used a feather duster seconds before to clear a shelf. Once I learned what these sorts of orbs looked like on my specific camera, I was able to easily throw out orb shots that were irrelevant.

All that being said, I've probably kept maybe 5 orb shots over the years that intrigued me. These ones (above) show a picture of a tree in my yard in the evening. I was actually hoping to get a picture of the leaves lit by the flash for a painting I was working on, but I got these orbs. I didn't think much of them, but as I was still in the experimental stage, I figured, why not zoom in? I zoomed in and found an orb that appears to be behind the limb. That intrigued me because the limb was perhaps 15-18 feet away from me, making the idea of pollen or dust near the lens impossible. But, being a die-hard skeptic, I still go back to that shot and the closeup periodically in search of an explanation for why it appears that the orb is behind the limb. In shots I've taken in the past where the orb appeared behind a fencing post or some other object and I zoomed in, I could see the other half of the orb very very faint in front of the object. In this case, I couldn't find a hint. But, then, perhaps it's the color of the limb or the quality of the zoom...

So, you see why I can't rely on orbs to tell me anything about the activity in a site. They are quite distracting. It's kind of like going to a beach. You can enjoy the beautiful people in swimsuits, but their presence doesn't tell you if the waves are good for surfing.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Debunking in Action



I work from home, so my days are fairly quiet, except for the sound of doctor's dictations that I'm typing up. One day, while sitting in my office, I heard a woman's voice suddenly very clearly, very loudly, as if she were in the nearby living room at the other end of the hallway. She spoke several sentences. Although I did not capture any words because I was too startled to comprehend, I did catch something at the end about "coming around again."

Of course, like any homeowner, I know the sounds of my house. This was not a sound I had ever heard here and it was so ridiculously "real" that it had to be. But, how could it be? I checked the windows, walked around, waited. Looked at the clock as if it might provide information. Finally, I gave up and went back to my office to work again.

I'm a skeptical person by nature and when something is that clear, I doubt seriously it's a "ghost," however, it left me feeling a bit unsettled. There was no TV or radio on. I wasn't using my pedal for my dictations on my computer. After a few minutes, I got up and wandered into my son's room to see if he'd left something on his computer. It wasn't turned on.

Good sleuthing so far. I looked for environmental factors like TVs, computers, radios, and open windows. Still, I was left with phenomenon. It's always phenomenon when it hasn't been explained yet, but it isn't always ghosts when it's phenomenon.

So, I tried to go back to editing the report. Still, my mind loves a good mystery. I thought about the way it sounded. Did it sound like someone in the next room? Quite clearly it did, but it also had a strange tinny sound to it. In fact, it was almost identical to the sound in my answering machine. If I don't answer the phone and hear someone leaving a message, that is precisely the quality of their voice.

I sighed with relief. This was definitely the answer!

I stopped before the answering machine and studied it. The light wasn't blinking. In fact, I never heard the phone and the phone is on my desk. It reported zero messages. I figured, maybe it's stupid, so I tried to play it. No messages. But, I know it was that sound...

I went back to work for a third time and gave in. Then, on the hour it happened again. Same lady voice, same amount of talking, and something at the end about "I'm leaving now." Wow, sounds pretty supernatural if you think about it. I rushed into the next room, certain the light would be blinking on the machine. It wasn't.

But, there was a part of me no matter how much I couldn't explain it that felt really and truly the voice came from the machine. If I were a more gullible person, I might consider ghosts are talking to me through my answering machine (so inconvenient they didn't leave a message!)

Hubby got home from work. It helps when you're a ghost hunter to be married to an engineer who specializes in sound issues and testing equipment and all kinds of gadgetry and who lives on a "all there is is on this plane" kind of mentality. I sat him down and asked if I was going crazy because I think my answering machine was very clearly talking to me.

He thought about it a moment, went to the machine, turned to me and said, "you're not crazy. You did hear a voice coming out of it." He proceded to tell me that, even though the phone did not ring, the machine did not record, the voice was able to come over it because it's a receiver. A woman driving down the street with a cell phone could potentially "bleed" (my own take on the explanation) through our machine and be heard.

Wow. That not only was a relief to learn, but it made me begin to skeptical about all kinds of ghost hunting gadgets. After all, we use digital recorders all the time which are receivers. He proceded to ruin my world with talk of there being no way to verify if something at the right frequency didn't crossover onto our recording devices. There is no real controlled way to handle it, except in a controlled laboratory environment.

Not the words you want to hear, but in the long run it helps me. I realize that as long as I'm in earshot of any such devices, I have to wonder about what's coming across my recordings. I can feel pretty confident in a shack in the middle of the desert if I get an EVP, but what can I trust in a house in the city?

It's definitely something worth pursuing further. I'm about to begin my education on transmitting and receiving. I hope to do an update when I learn more. I want anything I get in the field to be reliable.

Most of all, I'm just glad that I am logic-minded and sought answers. I could have gone the rest of my life thinking a ghost talked to me in my house one day. I might have run around with divining rods and a ouija board hoping to bring her back again when it was probably a pushy real estate lady on her way to lunch.

What I'm saying is, listen to your gut. If it sounds real, it probably is real. There's no way a ghost is going to get such a great speaking voice and say so many sentences so clearly twice in one hour. So, look for the cause.

I'll keep on debunking and hope to tell you more about other de-bunks I've done in the past and am doing in the present so you can learn along with me.

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