Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Flesh Suspension




I admit to finding the extremes of human fetishes and role playing to bring me some wonderful inspiration for my horror writing. One that I’ve never wanted to explore because it so repels me made me actually decide to shed some light on the practice for that very reason. Didn’t I mention once that I tend to be counterphobic? I wouldn’t be much of a writer of horror if I didn’t take a look at the horror versions of human beings, those who believe their vampires or serial killers or even those who enjoy flesh suspension; the hanging from hooks by one’s own flesh.

Not surprisingly, there is actually a website devoted to it. The motivations for this are extreme and varied. There are those who enjoy self mutilation and feel a kind of emotional purging with it, as if giving yourself physical pain takes precedence over emotional pain; a kind of externalization of the internal. There are those into body modifications from extreme piercings and tattooing to having their ears pointed like elves and implants placed under the skin for decoration. It seems that those into altering their bodies to extremes are searching to feel at home in a body that they for whatever reasons do not accept as the house of their true self. It isn’t enough for them to have certain hobbies, likes, and dislikes; they want to display it publicly for all to see and hopefully cringe. It reassures for them that the world does not understand them and drives the chasm between them even wider. Others believe in the artistic concept of such practices. To suspend from hooks by one’s own flesh it symbolic for a complete and total cathartic freeing of the soul and release of fears and a moment of evolution into a new fearless realm; a kind of twisted rite of passage.

For the majority of people who are afraid of a simple needle in the doctor’s office, the concept of sticking a metal hook into one’s skin and then hanging from it is unthinkable. It’s not actually a new concept for our culture. Ancient man and many tribes used this method as a passage for their men. I admit to getting a tattoo that is a life-sized oak leaf in many colors. This took over 2 hours to complete and was of course quite painful, but as a female the pain was kept within the context of childbirth and admittedly was a cakewalk. So, the pain was not an attraction for the process. For me it was a symbol that brought good luck, that embodied the essence of me, and enhanced my beauty. As hard as it is to get into the mindset of someone who would hang by hooks, for some it’s a badge of honor and a source of pride. Just think, if you can hang by your skin, everything else is pretty simple (like the childbirth pain measure that I carry).

What do I see when I look at someone suspending by their flesh? I see a lot of pain. Oh, not the obvious pain, but a sort of deadness in the eyes. I would liken the practice to pornography. You have your folks who start off with something light like Playboy magazine or soft core porn and then work their way right up to the hard stuff, and then the harder stuff, like an addict needing more drug to provide relief. This is really just the evolution of self-mutilation taken to an extreme with the hopes of finally feeling something. It still repels me as a human being but fascinates me as a horror writer. After all, any good villain should have the same disregard for pain and dead lifeless eyes….

Wednesday's Paranormal Lineup Reminder





SyFy tonight! The lineup is "Ghost Hunters" in an episode called "Touched by Evil" in an old mansion. And, hold everything! Another fantastic episode of "Destination Truth" checking out two things I'm extremely curious about; the Jersey Devil and Yeren (Chinese Bigfoot). If you want to get into the mood, read yesterday's post, another of my series of "LAUGH" poking fun at the ghost hunters in imaginary scenarios.

Monday, March 29, 2010

LAUGH: Ghost Hunters Adventure


(another in my series poking loving fun at our TV leaders in ghost hunting)

Tonight’s moderator is Josh Gates of “Destination Truth”

WARNING: Do not drink while reading this as it is likely it will spew out of your nose!

JOSH NARRATION: Tonight, we’re doing something a little different on “Destination Truth.” We’re including some of the leaders in TV ghost hunting. Jason Hawes, Grant Wilson, Zak Bagans, Ryan Buell, and Barry Klinge. After jumping onto Orbitz.com, we jaunted across the globe to the Himalayas in search of Yeti.

JOSH: (Standing at a Cliffside) After downing an impressive amount of Yak testicles, Zak says he’s jazzed and ready to take on anything. (He waves his arm at Zak who is clinging to a rock ledge 50 feet up) Zak! There’s stair steps, you didn’t have to climb that rock face.

ZAK: I’m not scared of this mountain! In fact, I dare it to shake me off! Yeah, let’s see who’s badass now! (slaps the rock wall) Slap me! Punch me! Poke me in the eye! Knee me in the nuts– oomph! (slides down and straddles a pointed rock with a high-pitched squeal)

JOSH: Score one for the mountain! (Rolls his eyes and shrugs). Hey, Jason and Grant—what are you two doing?

JASON: (Pivots as he’s climbing the stairs with Grant riding him piggyback). I’m our designated driver. You know, Grant always rides shotgun. (Shifts him up a bit higher as he holds onto Grant’s spindly legs).

JOSH: Okay, well, it looks like Jason is carrying a Grant-sized backpack and the fun has just begun!

RYAN: Director’s log. We arrived at this evil site in the God-less mountains of the East. I can feel the red eyes of the demon watching me now—

JOSH: Barry, quit staring at Ryan! (chuckles impishly)

RYAN: (Rolls his eyes). You’re interrupting me. I’m recording my director’s log. I put together this awesome program that alters the sound of my voice and makes it sound really hollow and eerie and really important like Jean Luc Picard. Goes along with the sulking dark stares, doesn’t it (closes his eyes halfway and tilts his head back in a contemplative pose).

JOSH: (Mugs for the camera). So, tell me, when do you finally graduate from college? What are you, 30 now? Did Penn State take you hostage until your parents could pay your tuition? (Turns to the camera and winks). Okay, group, let’s press on!

(Group climbs the stairs and makes their base camp as it grows dark)

JOSH: I’m anxious to see the techniques these hunters bring to hunting a Yeti. Jason and Grant are masters of ghost hunting with all the resources necessary to capture phenomenon. I wonder what bag of tricks they have for us tonight? So, guys, what’s the plan?

JASON: Me and Grant are gonna sit by this campfire over here and talk.

(Josh makes a puzzled face for the camera and shrugs)

GRANT: Jason and I work alone so if you could just…. (waves him away).

JOSH: (Turns to the camera and raises an eyebrow) O-kay. So, Barry, what is your plan?

BARRY: (Waving and pointing to the forest around them). I’m going to drop a net over the whole parameter. I’ll have DVRs running in quadrants 1, 2, 3, and 4. I’ve got 20 wireless recorders along the paths that run north-south, east-west. I’ve got a touchscreen 50-inch TV to monitor it all. I’ve set up speakers in quadrants 1 through 4 and they’ll be blaring out the sounds of my drinking buddies when they tip a cow. They have this great holler—should definitely attract a Yeti cause it’s real close to infrasound which everyone knows is the frequency that Bigfoot and ghosts talk at. Then, I got motion detector lights around the entire periphery. I sprayed some pheromones of monkeys on the bushes. Helicopters will descend above with Flirs. Hell, nothing is getting past us! Oh, I’m also gonna hang steaks from each tree limb within a 50-foot parameter while I holler at him to come out with my big angry voice (said in one breath).

JOSH: A 50-inch TV monitor? (Leans back and studies Barry’s backpack and shrugs). Helicopters? Speakers? Motion detector lights? (Nods briskly) Your noninvasive technique is very subtle and no doubt effective. (Winks at the camera).

RYAN:
They’re all wrong you know? This monster is reported to have red glowing eyes. That means its evil. It’s something of the Devil. We’re going to need my holy water! (holds up a container)

JOSH: Actually, Ryan, I think the eyes reflect red because it has nightvision. And, if I’m not mistaken, that’s your water bottle you’ve been chugging on all day.

RYAN: It sucks the blood from goats and rapes the village women! (Finger pointed to the sky in righteous indignation).

JOSH: Whoa, who’s writing the storybooks you kids read in school these days? Dick Cheney? (slaps him on the back as Ryan holds up a cross and enters the woods saying a prayer loudly).

BARRY: He’s a pussy! If those big crying babies at the airport woulda let me, I’d have brought my guns. Now, then we could get some serious pelts for the floor in front of my fireplace. Might even mount a head and shoulders on a plaque in the den. Yeah, shooting yeti—that’d be hardcore! (Rubs his beefy hands together as Josh tiptoes safely out of sight).

JASON: Could you keep it down, for crying out loud? Me and Grant are trying to have an EVP session over here.

JOSH: Jason, I don’t think EVP is going to be helpful when looking for Yeti.

GRANT: It works, man! Just the other night, it was totally crazy. I was like, what the frick? We sat for 12 hours and produced one faint odor of cigar smoke and a voice on the recorder that said “you’re young.”

JASON: No, that was “you’re mine.”

GRANT:
It was “you’re young.” I thought we agreed on that?

JASON:
No, until I say it’s so, it’s not so. I said it was “you’re mine” and that’s our position.

GRANT
: Aw, come on, J. Please? Pretty please? I never get to make up what the sounds say!

ZAK: You smell that? He’s out there! (sniffing at the air).

JOSH: (whispering to camera) It appears that Zak’s noticed something circling our camp. The odor is like wet dog and skunk. It’s been said that’s how Yeti smells. It could be that right now…he’s out there.

ZAK:
(Pumped up and waving his massive arms at the trees). Hey, Yeti, dude! I’m not scared of you!

JOSH: (waves Zak back away from the large white hairy monster as it steps out from behind a tree) Zak, you don’t want to make it angry…

ZAK: (Thumps his chest). Come and get me, dude! I dare you! You can bite me, slap me, (Yeti moves forward, shadowing Zak at this point, his red eyes narrowed), knock me down, call my mama a whore, give me a flat tire, spit in my drink, give me a swirly, kick me in the scrot! (With one sharp well placed kick, Yeti sends Zak into a curled up ball, grabbing his nuts and screaming like a girl).

JOSH:
(snickers). I haven’t heard a high note like that since Tiger Woods got cornered by his wife with a golf club! (turns to Jason). Jason, shouldn’t you be filming the yeti?

JASON: (aiming camera at Grant as he waves). Oh, we don’t actually film phenomenon, we prefer to capture each other’s expressions as we see phenomenon. Leaves more suspense for the viewer so they keep tuning in.

JOSH: (As helicopter descend above with spotlights and sirens sound off, he yells above the chaos) Well, you’ll just have to take our word—we saw a yeti and Barry is now chasing him down with a hand whittled knife made of wood. It appears we’ve reached the end of our journey and I know that because Ryan is right now burying magical coins in the ground and sprinkling Zak's nuts with holy water. Just another fun trip with the top TV ghost hunters!

It's Bloomin' Crazy Around Here!





















The cacti haven't bloomed yet, but I have a huge variety, so when they do bloom, I will be taking shots of those--they make amazing flowers--so exotic! Here's what's going on in the yard right now... (don't worry, I'm back to the paranormal tomorrow!)

ruby red grapefruit (closed white clusters)
tangerine (open white clusters)
pomegranate (the huge red flower)
red bouganvillea
purple bouganvillea
aloe (the tall stacked orange flowers)

New Video: Tamarisk



My son just made this film for his senior year at ASU and also is entering it in a short film contest. His themes in art are all about memories and abandoned places and the blight on old boomtowns. This was taken at Desert Center in California and he used some interesting techniques to get the look. He wanted to do it with his 8mm camera but developing would take too long, so he found out something you often find in art, if you run into a roadblock it can take you to wonderful places. He filmed, edited, and made the sounds for the video. The idea is sort of an old home movie feel of visiting what was supposed to be a huge boomtown and visiting it like a tourist even though it's all dead. It's very haunting and at times I wish I could put my eye to the eyepiece and see it all, but that's part of the charm--it leaves you feeling like you had a strange dream...

p.s. He's always fantastic at naming projects. He looked it up and during the dustbowl era, they planted a plant call the tamarisk because it held up to the dustbowl, but it eventually took over like kudzu does in the south. I thought it was a great name.

This week in paranormal TV




TV this week--not a real thrill, but I'm very very very excited about Wednesday's "Destination Truth"--two of my favorite subjects; Jersey Devil and Yeren (the China equivalent of Bigfoot and probably his great-great-great-great grandpappy if he truly did take off from China across the Behring Straits thousands of years ago).

Monday:
Nope.

Tuesday: Nope

Wednesday:
SyFy channel “Ghost Hunters” In Jersey followed by
Destination Truth” looking for the Jersey Devil and The Yeren

Thursday: Nope


Friday: Travel Channel: A few showings of “Ghost Adventures” in a row.

Keep checking my blog. I’m writing another “Laugh” post involving all the ghost hunting favorites and this one will include Josh Gates as the moderator on a hunt for Yeti in the Himalayas. Should make for goofy fun!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Life is freakin' weird and I'm laughing!


Sometimes, I can't help but notice weird shit. Well, I am kinda in the weird world of ghosts and all things paranormal, horror writing and Halloween antics, but the real world is a lot weirder.

Take for instance automatic soap dispensers. You seen those on TV advertising how germ-free they are? You don't have to touch the pump to dispense soap--so you stay sanitary. He-ll-o? Technically, as soon as you pump the soap into your hands, you're freakin' washing them, right? Well, just gotta say that advertisers are great at making us need things we don't need.

Another freaky but hilarious thing? My son and I for years have detested Sarah Jessica Parker. It probably won't make me any friends, but she has zero talent and is really really hard to look at and her voice is grating. We call her "horse face." Well, the minute you think something, someone else comes along and makes a website. Enjoy! This is going to make you laugh `till ya cry!

Ghost Hunting Disasters Prevented



There’s a million things that can go wrong on a hunt and I guarantee they will. The most common ones are:

Access is denied: Someone didn’t show up with the key. The simple remedy is a reminder just beforehand and a call en route.

Forgot important equipment:
I avoid this by keeping my equipment in a photography fanny pack around my waist. Each pouch holds a different piece of equipment. Then, if something is missing, I’ll know it before I take off on a hunt and when I leave the hunt site. Also, since I know which thing is in which pouch, I can easily retrieve it in the dark. You can do the same thing with a fishing vest or photography vest.

Didn’t bring batteries: I keep some in my bag, but over time they can loose efficacy. I store my batteries in the fridge to last longer and leave my equipment belt near the fridge so I’m reminded to refill the battery pouch.

Forgot equipment behind when you left the study spot:
This one is hard. You’re in a dark place, setting down equipment and walking away. You definitely want to have a pocket for each item and feel those pockets before you leave. Sometimes you don’t have more than a flashlight to see what you have and that has a narrow beam of focus. A simple index card kept in your bag reminds you of what should be in your bag when you leave to and from the site.

Didn’t anticipate the need for 4-wheel drive: Research is important here. Go online. Someone has surely written about getting to this site. We have a ton of ghost towns in AZ, but many are only accessible by 4-wheel drive and you really don’t want to do it during monsoon when the washes fill up.

Can’t access areas you need to because they’re locked up, like the attic or basement:
Whoever owns the place and gave you permission should be called (as above) and reminded to open the place up and allow access to any troubled areas. Sometimes, the basement is necessary if you want to throw the breakers to see if EMF is an issue or not. I was on a hunt one time and a section of the building (where most phenomena happened) was blocked off and no one was allowed because there were offices in it. This didn’t do much for the hunt and should have been clarified before going in.

Someone gets sick/hurt: This invariably happens. You never know when someone is going to get snagged on a nail, fall through a rotted floorboard, stir up a nest of killer bees or get a case of Montezuma’s revenge. Just carry a first aid kit in your car and a cell phone. And please don’t forget extra water. For pete's sake, get a regular tetanus vaccine (suggested every 10 years, but should you run into a dog bite or rusted metal or other injury after 7 years, get a booster again). As well, reconsider your health. I've been on hunts with people packing on 150-200 extra pounds and most hunts are not cake walks. There's a lot of hiking, long hours of standing, sometimes climbing, and locations aren't always right beside your car. It's made me downright nervous to see people wheezing and clutching their chests when they first arrive at a site and haven't even begun the hours of effort ahead of them.

No power: You might want power to plug in some of your camcorders so you don’t have to use batteries, but all in all, not having power is actually a better way to see if EMF is related to something explainable or not.

Noisy location: This one is tough. I run into it a lot. You bring your recording equipment and ready for a nice EVP session and then you realize the house is on a noisy street, there’s an airport nearby with planes buzzing overhead. Once, I let the owner stay in the living room while we did our study and she left the TV on. It came out on every audio recording, even in the far end of the house.

Lighting problems: This one is most often an issue when you have a genuinely pitch black environment. You might be relying on your IR from your camcorder. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten whacked in the head doing that. I’m 5’8” tall but many older places have low hanging things from the ceiling and short doorways. You’re looking through the IR to see where you’re putting your feet and bam!

Facilities: There are lots of other minor inconveniences, as well, such as lack of bathroom facilities. You really can’t be shy about peeing outdoors, it might be entirely necessary. For guys, it’s obviously not an issue. For women who don’t like to moon a passerby, it’s sometimes a more delicate issue. Some places might not have running water either. They might be located near a swampy area and you’ll be eaten alive by bugs. In the summertime, I keep mosquito spray in my bag. There’s nothing worse than leaving a site with West Nile Virus and oozing itchy sores.

Personalities:
Honestly, ghost hunting groups are just like rock bands. Members come and go and someone wants to be the leader and boss everyone else around. No two people who hunt have the exact same take on ghost hunting and how to go about it. Some will be patient and kind as you try to tromp past them while the set up their cameras, others will chew your ass off for talking outdoors before they even turn on their equipment. It’s a fairly costly hobby when you consider equipment and travel, but there will be leaders who expect their team to buy matching t-shirts and everyone must own the same equipment and that leader might also try to get you to buy into half-baked ideas for shooting videos that are going to “make it big on YouTube” or want you to all buy tickets to a group tour in Ireland. I’m most hesitant to associate with groups that make you wear matching t-shirts and don’t have any experts in any of the areas of study. If you don’t have a tech guy or a sound guy or a video guy, I’m going to raise an eyebrow. It’s nice to know how to do everything, but someone on the team should seriously focus on being the best acoustics guy he can possibly be and the best videographer with the most research and practice. It reminds me of when TAPS brought in a Geiger counter and Scooby Doo and Scooby Don't had no clue how to use it or what it was doing. Your equipment is only as efficacious as the people managing it and your proof is only as believable as the person gathering it.

Humor: Of the tons of assorted things that can go wrong, the best tool in a ghost hunter’s arsenal is, above all else, a sense of humor and ability to laugh at oneself. I’ve gone to a hunt only to find out I brought the wrong courier bag (I brought the one with my laptop and not the one I carry equipment in). Without my tools, what good was a hunt, right? Not necessarily… I was able to turn the laptop on, light up a portion of the room and sit and have a chance to look for anything moving and take notes when something did occur by using the computer’s clock to write down in a word document the time it occurred and what it was. As well, I was able to play some of the music I had onboard my laptop to see if I might attract spirit activity. Sure, I had no way to document what I might have found that evening, but sometimes a good hunt is really about having the experiences. No camera or recorder can describe what you ran into. You see that on “Ghost Hunters” a lot. The guys shake their heads and try to explain why they’re so excited, but unless you were there, the evidence is dry as unbuttered stale toast.

Hauntingly Creepy Sculpture--Chillingly Beautiful



This is one of my favorite art installations of all time. It's in Grenada and it's an underwater sculpture garden. Human figures are set up and the sea life was left to grow upon them and make them into something alive and different. I think it's the most beautiful and hauntingly creepy thing in the world!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

My Cruising Mix



Now that I’m making an effort to hit the road more on trips around to film and photograph abandoned places and haunted sites, I’ve fixated on making the best cruising mix ever. The #1 on my list is my favorite song of all time and what I consider to be the sexiest video (if I designed a video—it would have been this one—has the elements I adore, dark, abandoned, sexy, and raw). “Sex is on Fire” by Kings of Leon (above).

I thought I’d share my dream lineup of songs. We’re happily into springtime and everyone’s getting itchy feet to cruise. It sounds like an insane mix, but every one of them is a dream cruising song.

You know how you have a good cruising song?
Put the song on and drive on the open road. Look around you. Does everything you see through your eyes seem like you’re shooting a music video that goes perfectly with the song as if your eyes are the camera filming it? Yeah, that’s the feeling, as if you’re inside of a video and the music is moving to your quest.

Here’s my favorite mix for hitting the open desert:

Kings of Leon “Sex is on Fire”
Tom Petty “American Girl”
Kid Rock “Cowboy”
Blue Oyster Cult “Burning For You”
Stevie Ray Vaughan “Cold Shot”
Danzig “Mother”
Joe Cocker “Night Calls”
America “Ventura Highway”
Sheryl Crow “Leaving Las Vegas”
Tom Cochrane “Life is a Highway”
ZZ Top “Tush”
Black Eyed Peas “I Got a Feeling”
System of a Down “Lonely Day”
George Thorogood “Who Do You Love?”

I’m always looking to collect more ideas for cruising music—let me know if you have some on your IPOD that you can’t live without while on the road.

Friday, March 26, 2010

LAUGH: Ghost Hunters' Dialogue

















I was contemplating it the other night. What if the ghost hunters on TV are really the top of the industry—considered to be our experts? How might a meeting of these ghost hunters go if they had to explain their contributions to the field as a kind of TV personality think tank on the paranormal?

Warning: Do not drink while reading this or it will spew out of your nose!


Moderator: Calling this meeting. Roll call. Jason Hawes, Grant Wilson, Zak Bagans, Ryan Buell, Barry Klinge. Please proceed gentlemen and let us know what you’ve contributed to the field of paranormal research since your time ghost hunting for television.

Jason: I think I talk for all us guys when I say that me and Grant have probably contributed more than anyone else in the field. As plumbers we really know how to root out a problem (Grant snickers). If the ghost phenomenon is something related to pipes rattling and sinks turning themselves on, you’ll get the straight explanation from us professionals. And, you know, I don’t throw the “H” word around.

Grant: (leans in) Yeah, that’s true. Sometimes, I’m like “what the frick, dude!” when he won’t admit a place is haunted.

Jason: We single-handedly invented the segway to explain what EMF and EVPs are before commercial breaks.

Grant: Yeah, we totally came up with that on our own. Sometimes we change the words around a little.

Jason: (Smiles). That’s true. One time I think Steve said, “EVPs are the recording of voices that you don’t hear at the time you record them” and we usually like to say “EVPs are when you record answers to questions that weren’t heard when you’re recording them.”

Grant: (nodding briskly) Yeah, we show that we can grow and evolve in the field like that. I came up with the happy greeting, “we’re here to help.” (beaming with boyish grin)

Ryan: (Sulking) Now just a minute, gentlemen. Your contributions haven’t done anything for the good of the people who have to live with these demons and evil entities trying to possess them and drive them to kill each other. I, although with the barely discernible help of my lackies, have been the one to make the real changes. Do you realize how many less demons possess the homes of good surbanites because I planted magical coins on their properties? (snorts with pride and waves his hand dramatically). And you think you do them a service by sitting them down in an emotionally cold and clinical review of evidence? I don’t even need evidence! I can make people cry and whine and bring in a priest or a psychic and voila! (snaps his fingers), they are changed forever. No more evil in their basements!

Zak: (teeth clenched, T-shirt bursting). Now wait just a minute! I’m the one that’s faced down the portal of hell in every building I’ve ever entered! I’ve been bitch slapped, cat scratched, and grabbed by the ankles more than a few times. I’ve been nearly sexed up by an incubus and danced with snakes. I don’t baby coddle my ghosts like the TAPS team. “Sit down and pull up a chair and have a talk with us” (mocking Jason and Grant). And you—(points to Ryan who is squinting contemplatively) you try and chase away the evil. I want the evil (thumps his chest). I say, “bring it on big bastards!” Dude, me and my bro’s are the shit! I dare you to punch me, slap me, kick me, knee me in the nuts! (thumping his chest again)

Barry Klinge: (Shakes his head, taps his fingers on the table) I have a rolling van for my equipment and a touch screen. Any of you old boys have that? I got myself a barrel chest and a deep booming voice. I can make ghosts cry and run if I want. I even have a girl on my team I use for bait. You call that scrawny girl Kris bait? Humph! I have a blonde chick. Everyone knows ghosts like blonde chicks. I got the biggest team and the biggest van from the biggest state! Try and beat that!

Moderator: Men, it would appear that we’ve gotten distracted by the cameras filming this meeting and you are all off task. We will pick up this conversation later when you aren’t preening.

(I thought I might do a series of these in the future--it's too much fun to write)

Take a Swim With Me



Just a little video for ya'all!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My First Documented Phenomenon




(I wrote about this over a year ago, but it still baffles and fascinates me)


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 strap. I clipped it right off before the first time we went out a few months before this shot. Because as a kid no one believed my audio recording of the footsteps of the soldier, I was fixated on having the cleanest and most indisputable evidence. 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.

I admit, I figured a grandson bait might work.

We arrived and were so distracted by over 30 acres of cemeteries all united into one huge one and so many beautiful gothic statues, my hunting buddy and I were taking photos for future paintings we had planned. I didn't realize how big it would be and how hard to find one single grave there. It was getting dark and we were running out of time. The place was highly guarded by men in golf carts. They warned us we had to leave asap because the sun was going down. Damn!

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 creepy 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 the photos came back from developing, I sat in my car, staring at this crazy streak on the photo. It was on the negative, as well. 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 in the photo--right 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.

"In the Shadow" French Horror Movie



Here is what bloody-disgusting.com has about this upcoming movie "So as to gather pieces of evidence for their doctorate thesis, three criminology students go with a camera to the place where a notorious serial killer performed his murderous deeds. But they are about to realize that entering such a sanctuary does not come without consequences."

RESULTS OF MASS BLOG EXPERIMENT




Today, I sent out for 3 minutes a visual/emotion/words and asked your followers to participate and try to receive anything from the remote encounter. One thing I didn’t mention was that I was going to focus specifically on a few followers hoping to see if there was a correlation with them getting better information because I focused on them; Libby, @eloh, and Devin.

I will tell you now what happened during those 3 minutes. I pinched the back of my hand painfully in front of a green plant and said, “ow, that hurts, stop it, dammit!”

Libby, naughty girl! The biggest killer of psychic skills is using your logical mind to decide what you should see instead of what you do. On the up side, you were fairly good in your description, as I stared at the green plant and the bright pink place on my hand in the middle of the plant the entire time and couldn't help likening it to a flower on the plant--a painful one. You had the colors and placement right, but your let your logical mind interpret what you saw by saying “Autumn’s in Phoenix—it’s gotta be a cactus.” There’s your lesson for today. I’m impressed! You were one the of the three people I focused on the most. One time, I was reading a guy's necklace and I said, "you and your brother are 10 months apart and you're the elder one." I said that because he was the responsible one and his brother was a disaster. I was right about them being 10 months apart and him being responsible and his brother being a disaster, but he was actually the younger one. I let my logical mind make an assumption.

Kim, you had the anxiousness and excitement right. I was actually giggling at one point because it stung so much and it was rather silly too!

Julie, I was whispering the words out loud...

You know I can't do anything without being goofy--I have to laugh because after pinching myself for 3 minutes, I now have a happy little hickey on my hand and I'm not about to tell people I gave it to myself! Guess I'll have to come up with some really titillating scenario...

MASS BLOG EXPERIMENT--TODAY!

Yesterday, if you read my post proposing a kind of remote viewing test today--hope you join me today at the times here: (I will send the words, the emotion and the visual for 3 minutes).

11:00 am Mountain Standard time and Pacific Standard Time
1:00 pm Central time
2:00 Eastern Standard Time
6:00 pm in London
8:00 pm in Greece

Please comment here, whether you got anything, you got words, you got a feeling, you got a visual and even if you weren't sure about what you got. Don't talk yourself out of anything. Something you receive will be familiar. Even if it seems weird, go ahead and put it out there. One of the things that keeps the average person from accessing their psychic pathways is that they use logic and talk themselves out of things. An example would be if you thought you heard a man's voice but you know a woman, so you say "well, that can't be it." Don't do that! Give me whatever you get--no editing. It may change too, like you start out feeling kind of blank and then happy and then confused and then you see a color or a shape or think of a word...whatever you get, just give it over.

Give your comments today by:

6 pm MST
9 pm EST
1 am London (technically tomorrow)
3 am Greece (technically tomorrow)

At 7 pm MST this evening, I will reveal what I was sending.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mass blog experiment: Join me here!



I’ve been knocking around ideas for a mass blog experiment. I have a lot of ideas for future ones, but for this first one I wanted to see just how connected we are and if I could give you all a visual and emotion at the same moment in the day.

The experiment is tomorrow, Thursday the 25th. Mark your calendar; leave a post-it note, whatever you need to do (times below depending on your time zone).

At the time listed below, I want you to take a couple minutes, study my picture on the blog and think of my name “Autumnforest.” Now, close your eyes, take a deep breath and float until you feel like there’s something identifiable in your mind. Keep my name in mind in your head to help focus on me. I will be staring at and concentrating on something—it could be a scene, a photo, an object—you don’t know. I will be trying to study the details and say the words in my head describing it as well as the associated emotion so that if you are empathic you will feel the emotion, if you are auditory you will hear the words and if you are more visual you will see it.

You may not see it in your head. You may just recall a similar feeling looking at something similar before. You may only get a feeling like “happiness” or “it looks like something busy and confusing” or “I see a lot of yellow” or you're minded of your great Aunt Tillie. Whatever you get, comment on my Thursday post which will be a post about receiving your impressions. Even if you feel you drew a blank, let me know.

I will be sending the information for exactly 3 minutes, so from that time period (below) for 3 minutes, you’ll have as much access as possible to what I’m seeing, feeling and thinking.

Thursday the 25th at:
11:00 am Mountain Standard time and Pacific Standard Time
1:00 pm Central time
2:00 Eastern Standard Time
6:00 pm in London
8:00 pm in Greece

Don't Forget TV Tonight!

Jeez--don't forget to watch SyFy tonight! There's a "Ghost Hunters" episode in Atlantic City and my favorite boy, Josh Gates and his team on "Destination Truth" are hitting the Great Wall of China and looking for an Israeli mermaid--too cool! For those who like the creatures, don't miss History Channel's episode of "Monsterquest" showcasing the Dogman of the Midwest.

It's a great night for weird viewing!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ghost Hunting is not always graceful



There’s probably more embarrassments than truly bright and shining moments of genuine phenomenon. If you’re not good at sitting still for long periods of time, ghost hunting is definitely not for you. A lot of folks fill their minds with other thoughts and daydream, and then they miss the voice in the room and when you shake them and ask “did you hear that?” They can only rattle off the grocery list or the chores they have to do tomorrow. You may be physically present, but you also have to be mentally present too.

I’ve had a load of stupid and embarrassing situations in ghost hunting. I’m willing to admit, sometimes I’m like Lucille Ball when it comes to doing things. I’m all arms and legs, flying around, spastic and wanting to do 10 things at one time. When the hunt begins, I buckle down and put on my serious adult face, but even so I’m human and often times bumbling. Add to it the darkness of the hunt, and it can be quite hilarious.

On a recent hunt that example showed itself well when the group EVP session began and I wasn’t prepared to turn on my recorder yet. I reached for my flashlight to try and see the buttons on my recorder and dropped the recorder. Then dropped the flashlight while we were recording. I often times think I took a picture and the camera didn’t work. I turn on the voice recorder only to find out it wasn’t on. I’ve filmed things with the camcorder and when it makes a beep that I stopped or started it, I forget and think I’m filming when I just turned the camera off and then turn it on during the times I’m walking around with it aimed at the ground. That’s always fun to view!

I’ve gotten my son and I locked in a cemetery in a bad part of town, having to climb over the tall metal fencing and walk through a very bad area to find a convenience store with a phone. I’ve been kicked out of a cemetery at night only to have to sneak back in past the guard to get my voice recorder I left on grave. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a group setting and stumbled into the path of their video cameras or recording devices as I trekked through the building. (Oh, and word to the wise, if you’re ever on a large hunt—be very careful about the conversations you carry on, especially about the other members—it’s being recorded—another lesson, including readjusting your bra when nightvision is running and gossiping about other hunters).

One friend who was a newbie at ghost hunting reported this incident. Staying in the city in a haunted room in a high rise (someone died there), she thought for sure she was hearing a conversation. She started asking questions and the person was answering very clearly! What a thrill!

“Hello?”

”Hi.”

“How long have you been here?”

“Five days.”

“Are you lonely?”

“Wanna come over?”

“Where are you?”

”On the balcony. Where are you?”

Sinking feeling. Something wasn’t right. She looked around and studied the bathroom. The vent over the shower led upwards. She stepped out onto her balcony in her robe to realize that the vent came out on the patio above and to the side of her. There was a man having his morning coffee up there and waving her up with a big grin.

I’ve carried on conversations before with a cat, not knowing that was what was responding with a human-sounding cry. I’ve studied pictures that surely held some phenomenon only to go back to the site in the daytime and find the culprit was a cemetery statue. I’ve stood inside of an isolation cell with a hole in the ceiling to hear a motorcycle go by and create a huge echoing moan within the room. One time, I locked myself in and couldn’t get out when a board fell behind the door and pinned me in. I’ve spent a few hours studying one corner of a room for the owner to tell me, “no, I was wrong, it was actually that other corner.”

So, it’s never going to be pretty, but it’s almost always worth it. Even when I leave with no evidence, I leave knowing that I just experienced another place and soaked up the atmosphere. I’m content to just sit in an historic home or walk around an abandoned hospital. There’s so much residual that no ghost hunt is a waste.

I might not always be graceful and neither will you, but it does make you laugh even years later at the fumbling and stumbling. Oh, and if you can’t laugh at yourself, there’s probably no place for you in the biz.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Zombie Transformation



When it comes to zombies, I always say, “Read it. Watch it. Contemplate it. Ultimately, be it.”

Costume? You’ve probably heard me mention that on my bucket list is “join a zombie walk.” I really just want to do it all out and shuffle with the others in some downtown location where people can just gawk at us freaks. The costume idea—not really defined yet, but I’m working it—I’d really love to put together the Resident Evil Apocalypse costume (above) with the kackis, strap on leather un holsters and boots.

Makeup?
I’d start with red lip liner and line my eyes and smudge it up so I look like I have the worst pinkeye in creation. I’d apply some fake skin into a nice ridge going down my cheek and take a pencil and dig a trench into it. Then, take some foundation and mix it with white clown makeup and a touch of green concealer correction. Put that on a nice freshly scrubbed face and then go for the lips. I’d put on the same stuff from my foundation but take some blue eyeshadow and work it into the center of my lips. Next, some bruising. I’d take purple eyeshadow and make a central bruise, then as it goes outward, use green eyeshadow and then yellow eyeshadow on the very outer edges. A light dusting of powder to hold it in place. Lastly, a little blood into the wound ridge on the cheek and from the corner of the mouth.

Where?

There’s one in Phoenix on May 28th—trying to gather a group to do it. The only thing that sucks is it’ll be over 100 degrees-the makeup will no doubt melt, but never fear—another one at Halloween.

What about your city/state?

Pennsylvania
Michigan
New Mexico
Alabama

For all the states go to this site and click on “forum”

RIP: H.P. Lovecraft



(Another in my series about those who have left a huge impact on the horror genre)

Howard Phillips Lovecraft born in 1890 and died in 1937. A very brief life at 47 years of age, but yet an enormously far-reaching effect on horror. HP Lovecraft followers are nearly a cult that assembles itself to study and analyze every aspect of his horror craft to find greater meaning and more insight in his mythos. If you haven’t read Lovecraft, you’ve surely seen movies based on his stories (these are only a sampling):

“The Dunwich Horror”
“Dagon”
“Die Monster Die”
“Necronomicon”

Lovecraft was born precocious and had an insatiable desire for knowledge and reading. This admitedly endears him to me. He was a lonely boy who often suffered from illnesses of a psychological origin. This seems to often make the setting for creativity when a person is isolated and highly intelligent. I’m starting to see how his life would unfold.

Hardships and financial difficulties as a child created a deep depression that made him feel suicidal and resulted in a mental breakdown and inability to graduate from school. He became a hermit who retreated into his own world and studied things of his interest including astronomy and poetry.

Upon writing to a newspaper and starting some popular banter, he got noticed by a writer’s group who asked him to join. They literally saved him from his miserable self-imposed seclusion and gave him a sense of purpose. It kind of reminds me of what some people report about being in the blog world.

He eventually found love, but also found enormous professional and financial problems. It seemed that, although he was making some progress in his writing career, life events and tragedies kept pulling him back under.

Although he ended up divorcing, the last 10 years of his life were filled with the only calm he’d known and great progress in his writing. He traveled extensively and wrote such works as “The Call of Cthulhu,” “At the Mountain of Madness,” and “The Shadow Out of Time.” He also became noted as perhaps the greatest letter writer in the world.

Much of Lovecraft’s work dealt with not a loving God, but deities of other origins who approach man with wrath. His characters were men who believed in science over spiritualism. Many times, he delved into alternate explanations for the universe's beginnings.

I admit to having completely missed the HP Lovecraft boat, other than to see some godawful movies based on his works, but it goes without saying that he had such a huge impact on the world of horror that there are chat rooms that take apart his works and discuss Lovecraftian style and Cthulhu endlessly. So much has been done to pick apart his work and look for some deeper meaning, but the fact remains that through his pain and tragedy and mental illness there was a highly intelligent and sensitive person who was definitely ahead of his time in the genre. To many followers, he was a prophet.

So far, each contributor I’ve featured in my RIP series has had some lesson to teach us. From Stan Winston, we learned that life can take you off the path you expected but if you do your work with all you gusto you’ll succeed at it. From Bram Stoker we learned that you don’t have to lose your day job to do something that can forever change the world of horror. I believe the thing I’ve learned about HP Lovecraft is that from pain comes insight (something I know in my own life) and also that when you join a like-minded group it can take you out of your funk and your self-imposed prison and make you become ambitious as he did when he joined a writer’s group. In a way, he was experiencing the blog effect—another sign he was a man ahead of his time.

Rest in peace

This Week's Paranormal TV





Monday: Nope

Tuesday: Nope, but SyFy is showing “The Dunwich Horror” (for lovers of HP Lovecraft)

Wednesday:
SyFy Channel: “Ghost Hunters” Reports to be a terrifying episode in Atlantic City
“Destination Truth” Josh and his team go near the Great Wall of China and check on an Israeli mermaid.
History Channel:
America’s Wolfman” in the Midwest

Thursday:
Discovery Channel:
"Monsters and Mysteries in Alaska" looks at monsters and UFOs sightings in Alaska.
The show is followed by a show about Alaska, but then a show called “Bermuda Triangle Exposed

Travel Channel:
A marathon of “Ghost Adventures

Friday:
Nope, but you might want to try the new show “Caprica” on SyFy

Sunday, March 21, 2010

When is a ghost a spirit?



The last post got an exciting conversation going which is my favorite thing to ignite. Because I refuse to say that all hauntings are spirit-related, it had me realizing I haven’t spent a lot of time talking about the encounters I’ve had in my life that were very clearly spirit-related. Although I run into a weighty amount of residual hauntings and the explainable, as well as poltergeist activity, it’s the intelligent ones that show human-to-human interaction that truly keep me ghost hunting, even when I can go a whole year without one exciting incident. When they do occur, they’re pure magic. Here’s some incidents:

I was awakened from my sleep with a strange alertness. I looked across the room to see what looked like the outline of a person. I didn’t feel any of the fear I should have for seeing a person in my bedroom at night. Instead, I sensed a lot of physical pain related to the head. There was something not right about this figure, as if he were dazed and confused. I was barely awake, but I was alert enough to speak. My gut instinct rose up and I said quite simply, “you’re dead. You need to go home. Move on.” It had much the same feel about it and vague appearance that I had seen several times as a child at Aspen Grove. I put my head back down, turned over to go to bed only to hear sirens and helicopters outside going nuts. I realized by the hovering of the helicopter that something must have happened on the freeway I live beside. This is a usual air evac type situation. I went to sleep once the buzzing stopped and the next day turned on the morning news to hear the reports of a fatal accident on the freeway right where I live—perhaps 1/8 of a mile from my house. One man died. At the time I had awakened. I know, because I look at the clock every time I awaken (yeah, one of those types hoping it doesn’t say it’s 5 minutes before the alarm goes off).

I admit that I often read the dead for people I know, but what I’m reading I’ve never had proof wasn’t the living person recalling the dead person. This incident was very clearly an episode of seeing a body after death. What makes me curious is, why my house? Why not one of the dozens of other homes nearby? Why my room? Why me? Was it something about my dream state—my psychic abilities—that he was having an out of body experience at first following flatlining? I’ll never know. I’ve had lots of psychic experiences with precognition about plane accidents, earthquakes, terrorist acts and upcoming deaths of people no one expected to die, but this wasn’t like a premonition from a dream in which I can travel to the site. This traveled to me.

Another time was when I was a teen and my father had a heart attack and was in the hospital. He had a good day and we went home and had a party thinking that the worst was over. I went to bed. So, I fell asleep and awakened to someone tugging on my big toe. I looked up and saw the dark outline of my father. I was thinking “wow, he got out of the hospital early.” When I was a little kid and he’d go out of town, he’d always pull on my big toe when he got home as his way of saying he was back because I begged him to wake me up and tell me about his trips and that was our compromise. I remember smiling and lying back down and falling asleep happy that he was home again. Before I even fell back asleep the phone rang. A few minutes later, my sister knocked at the door screaming we needed to go to the hospital. When we arrived, he was unhooked from the monitors and lying there peaceful and dead. I remember having trouble accepting it. He’d just been in my room. Then, I recalled when he had his heart attack days before, he had a near-death experience and described the beautiful place he'd been at and the family who was with him. I thought that the experience helped him accept his death and then him visiting me helped me accept it to.

Just this year I was on a ghost hunt. My ghost hunting partner, Ginny, and I did a KII session alone in a room of an old TB clinic that I felt was very promising. I did my usual extensive testing of the room to be certain there was no EMF issues, set the meter on the table in the middle of the room and we chatted for a while, nothing happening. Then, I addressed the room and explained the device. It lit up. I announced to light it up for "yes" and not light it up for "no." We waited and nothing happened so we began with a question. We got a “yes.” I then asked, “are you a girl?” No answer. “Are you a boy?” No answer. We looked at each other in confusion and then I asked, “are there more than one of you?” Then it lit up. We paused for long periods, we repeated questions, we asked in rapid fire manner. The light never ever went off without answering a question. This continued for at least 15 minutes without one false lighting when nothing was asked. With repeat questions, it answered the same.

This interaction came with it a strange circling energy in the room that made goosebumps, but also felt like static electricity. We had a similar situation in a graveyard in Bisbee one time and the best I can describe is to rub a balloon against the rug and then run your hand over it lightly and feel that tingle? That’s the thing. The conversation would have probably gone on longer, but a group of people entered the room noisily and it stopped. We later picked up the conversation in another room of the building.

We had an abandoned jail for the night and Ginny and I took the attic. It was the room the guards stayed in. We pulled out the Ouija for kicks and kept getting the same name and I felt a rush of awareness like I had at Aspen Grove. I knew we were being watched and I knew where he was standing. Then, a rush of information about him hit me. I knew he cleaned the jail up for work and had the IQ of a 4-year-old. He died in the 1918 pandemic. I had all this information about him. I talked to him gently like a child because I didn’t want to scare him. People in the jail had been cruel to him. He trusted Ginny and I because we were females and we laughed and talked and were nonthreatening. I was aware of his position in the room the entire night. At one point, some people came upstairs to photograph and I looked up where I knew he was standing and the flash lit him up. I saw him full-body. He was standing strangely, his arms flat at this sides, tucked in tightly and shoulders held up around his ears as if he were cringing and he stared directly at me with a look of recognition. I don’t remember ever being freaked by something I’ve seen or heard on a ghost hunt, but I didn’t know what to say. I sat there a long time and just stared where I had seen him. I felt he was gone then. I knew he was hiding again with the strangers in the room, but I didn’t even know how to describe seeing a full body apparition. I sat down in my motel room in the morning and sketched him out and all the information I got about him—mind you, I hadn’t drawn a person in probably 15 years, but I was excited to try and recreate him. I truly felt we connected.

It’s not really common to get intelligent interactions. I’m highly skeptical about EVPs but mainly because they can pick up all kinds of signals since they’re receivers. As well, people have a tendency to make things fit the questions. An EVP could sound to them like “get along” and they’ll say, “I asked him why he’s here, maybe he was telling me to leave.”

These are just the kinds of interactions that keep me going. I have witnessed so much residual that I don't think much about it, it's pretty commonplace. I've also experienced a lot of electrical issues and poltergeist activity and even things moving on their own, but these interpersonal connections are what really ignite my desire to witness, test, and theorize in the field.

"My Paranormal Beats Your Paranormal"



It’s inevitable. Every one of us out there in the world of paranormal searching runs into a guy from “the other team” who wants to kick sand in our faces and make fat knuckled threats.

You have your monster hunters, your UFO folks, your psychic/PSI types, and then you have your ghost hunters. There’s a lot of other variations of this including those into magic and such, but most will adhere to one of these groups if forced to find their “people.”

A problem I’ve heard Gummerfan at “Gummerfan’s Monster Hunters HQ” blog discuss quite eloquently is the issue of the groups having poor communication (to say the least) and refusing to release information that could help the "other" group.

I can’t tell you how bizarre some of the conversations can be. One time, talking to a man about why I ghost hunt, he proceeded to laugh arrogantly and tell me “ghosts don’t exist. You really believe that?” He snorted as he shoved his pants over his pot belly for them to only slip back down the 12th time in 10 minutes. “You need to put that energy into something real.”

“Like?” I just had to prompt him. Arrogant men are one of my favorite victims.

“UFO’s. Now, those have been proven. You have to stick with things that we can study and capture. The government knows all about it…” He then proceeded to dive into a diatribe about Roswell and Area 51, Nellis Air Force Base, Phoenix Lights, yada yada yada…

“What do you suppose UFOs are?” I asked innocently.

“Aliens.” He snorted again. This time, I was ready and stepped out of his spittle’s reach.

“Hmm..” I considered that answer. “So, we’ve captured and studied these aliens?”

“Weren’t you listening?” His face turns bright red. “Roswell! Wright-Patterson!”

“Oh, yes.” I nod. “Have you seen the body?”

”You think the government’s gonna let us poke around at their bodies and know aliens are coming to take over the world?”

“So, these UFOs that you have not yet seen yourself, driven by aliens that we have not seen and examined ourselves, have a motive to take over the world without giving us an actual threat that any of us can read or listen to?”

He frowned, his face furrowing like a bull dog. “What are you trying to say?”

Oh, good ole boy knew what I was trying to say.

“Have you ever seen something move across a room on its own? Ever seen a shadowperson dart down your hallway? Ever hear a conversation in another room in an empty house?”

At that point he pivoted and walked away and I’m sure warned everyone at the party from the “crazy” lady.

The problem is that everyone has “degrees” by which they can believe. Some believe totally that ghostly activity involves the spirits of the dead. Others think it’s completely explainable. Still, others believe there might be some rules of science we haven’t yet determined that are causing this. Some people believe in Bigfoot and Yeti (the faithful). Others think it’s totally hoo-ha (the monster athiests). Still, others believe that until they see it, it doesn’t exist (the monster agnostics). A Bigfoot believer might not believe UFOs are ships run by aliens. Ghost hunters might not believe in the Loch Ness monster.

We all have lines we draw in the paranormal sand. "I believe this, but I'm not about to believe that."

For me, my general rule is that I’m completely open to any explanation for the paranormal. I’m not going to tell you that a ghost is a spirit of someone who passed on, but I will tell you I believe in the phenomenon—I’ve witnessed it way too many times. I’m also not going to tell you UFOs don’t exist—I’ve seen them myself, but I can’t tell you they’re driven by aliens. If there are legends passed down about phenomenon, I disregard them as folklore. Show me the person who proved that spirit activity is a soul trapped in a place because of a hasty death or unable to find a breadcrumb trail to heaven. Those are explanations passed down to us—but who proved those??? That we assume what appears to be a vehicle in the sky is driven by creatures from other planets is yet another explanation, but when did it become THE explanation?

So, until we look at the evidence we have and wipe the slate clean about the explanations for what they are—we won’t get anywhere. People are running around trying to prove spirits. What does that do for us? What if they’re not spirits? What if they’re from another dimension or another time period or perhaps nothing more than recorded residual? How will we ever prove what ghostly activity is until we admit we don’t know what it is—and anything is possible?

There is snobbery within each group, as well based upon what you believe in. I'm sure the cryptid folks run into issues, as well. I once stated that I absolutely believe in Bigfoot as a real creature sharing our family tree, but I don't believe in Loch Ness Monster in the least. That caused a lively conversation of which I was able to slip out of without the others even noticing. Sometimes, I'm a firestarter. I just set the fire and let people rush around it not recalling how it started.

I’d like to see more dialogue between paranormal researchers. We never get anywhere until we open up dialogue. No one’s paranormal is better or worse or more provable than the other’s.

In fact, it wouldn’t be paranormal if it wasn’t outside of the normal. It would be proven science.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ghost Hunting Characters: Searching for my tribe




I’ve looked my entire life for “my people.” They are extremely hard to find. I had to turn to the blog world where I've pleasantly found (through my followers) that I have a tribe!

Like a single seeking out a mate, I went in search of my people by taking weird classes like palm reading and Reiki or going to events at local metaphysical shops and more. When I realized I wanted to hunt ghosts in a very conservative southwestern state, I had to seek out “my kind.” What I found was a mixed bag of nuts. You know how someone can like SciFi and go to a convention and get excited to hear about upcoming movies and talk about Star Trek and others have to go in costume and speak Klingon the entire time? Well, the ghost hunting world is the same with great differences in the tiers.

Here’s some of the types and grades of ghost hunters I’ve discovered in my search for my “tribe,” but none of these ones were a fit for me:

“Big Bad Benny” This guy is likely to be a robust man (that’s being polite), with a shaved head, goatee, a slow drawl to his voice, a bossy attitude, and a T-shirt with his team’s name on it. Sounds familiar, huh? “Ghost Lab,” right? When a team shows up with matching T-shirts I want to cringe. It’s actually very unprofessional and anyone calling in a ghost hunter does not want him to arrive at the door wearing shirts announcing to the neighborhood their intent. He doesn’t take much to women telling him their opinion on matters, but he doesn’t mind having a token one on the team as “bait.”

“Psychic Susie” She’ll arrive in dramatics, with overdone nails and red lips and hair teased up looking like a beauty queen past her prime. She probably has an entourage of hangers on that follow her. She doesn’t speak at first, just cues you to shut up and let her move around and “feel” the place. She builds up to her dramatics cautiously. She begins with the walk through, stopping and closing her eyes, feeling the area, thinking a moment, moving on. Stopping, turning, squinting, holding her head. Eventually, she’s ready to tell her story. She walks the group through the place, at times trembling, quivering, sobbing, putting her hand to her chest and throat often, and eventually leaving because she “can’t take it anymore.”

“Danny Dark-O” These ones usually arrive in a pack of goth glum with black hair, lined eyes, piercings and tattoos. They want to outdo each other with scariness and don’t show a real regard to history or setting as they shove at each other and dare them to do things alone. They’re preoccupied with death and with wanting to bring on dark elements. It’s a form of mental S&M for this group.

“Dowdy Duo” These ones are hilarious cute. A couple of plump middle-aged women wearing t-shirts that are four times too big for them, looking tired and worn and dowdy as all hell, but they’re in giggling fits over doing something “crazy” like a ghost hunt. They constantly squeal like schoolgirls and dash around trembling in fear and pushing at each other to go into a room alone. They don’t leave each other’s sides and they mostly just want one ghostly experience on their “to-do” list, but they also fear it at the same time.

“Religious Rehab” He starts out as a perfectly normal person with a clear attitude about ghost hunting. Then, somewhere into the experience, he expresses a concern about possession and bringing home bad mojo and so wants to do a cleansing prayer. He mentions he’s moved away from religion (almost every time it’s an ex-Catholic) and considers himself spiritual. Yet, no matter what he does, the residual of magical thinking and rituals has not been shaken from this religious rehab. He still believes in concepts like evil and demons, prayer and cleansing tools.

Have I found any of my people on ghost hunts? Yeah, but it’s actually pretty rare. My people are creative and artistic, intelligent and have a wicked bawdy sense of humor, are skeptical and yet open-minded, have a high threshold for horror and dark places and would rather spend a day rooting around abandoned buildings than going to a concert. In other words, should Dane Cook decide to take up ghost hunting, I’d be first to sign up to ride shotgun.

Oh, and thank ya’all for being my tribe. You meet all my requirements and exceed them in many ways.

RIP: Bram Stoker




(Another in my series commemorating people who are immortal for changing the horror genre forever)

Abraham (“Bram”) Stoker was born in 1847 and died in 1912. He was an Irish novelist and short story writer. We best know him for his novel “Dracula.” Because he was bed-ridden until the age of seven, he claimed that was why his mind was so active with creative thoughts. He started out as a film critic for the theatre. He wrote many short stories and a non-fiction book. He got married, moved to London and became an acting manager and business manager for the Lyceum Theatre. He was no a flighty man. Stoker did that job for 27 years. It was during this time that he began to write novels, the most famous one being “Dracula” in 1897 at the height of the Victorian Era. Many people don’t realize it, but he was also known for “The Lady of the Shroud” and “The Lair of the White Worm,” other horror novels.

As a writer of horror, I am proud to see someone keeping a day job and making a literary piece that changed the horror genre forever. How did he go about this feat? For years, he studied European folklore and mythological stories of vampires. You might say “Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity” owed their success to the technique which Stoker used. By writing the novel with ship logs, diary entries, telegrams and letters (all fictional), it created a very non-fiction sounding story, making it even more horrifying. Isn’t the best horror the kind that sounds feasible?

Adding to his mystique, (Wikipedia) the original annotated 541-page manuscript of “Dracula,” believed to have been lost, was found in a barn in northwestern Pennsylvania during the early 1980s. It included the typed manuscript with many corrections, and handwritten on the title page was "THE UN-DEAD." The author's name was shown at the bottom as Bram Stoker. Author Robert Latham notes, "the most famous horror novel ever published, its title changed at the last minute.”

As if a final note to his mystery-loving life, Stoker died in 1912 of tertiary syphilis.

This writer proved to us that with the study of mythology and folklore, we can find the richest concepts for horror stories. Man has already sat down around campfires for centuries telling stories of creatures such as leprechauns and minotaurs. Carrying a daytime job, studying up on a subject and writing about it—all possible achievements. Sometimes, a side hobby becomes a life-defining moment. We’re not likely to be remembered for the papers were shuffled every day in the office, but that painting we created, that rug we weaved, or that story we told—they can life on forever.

Rest in peace.

RIP: Stan Winston



(This is the first in a series of people who changed the horror genre forever and who are eternally thanked for their contributions.))

This amazingly talented man passed away in 2008 and the industry seems a bit confused what to do next. He was the go-to man to make horror images become reality. Stan Winston did makeup, special effects and directing. He was a man of many talents and remembered most for the “Terminator” series, “Jurassic Park,” “Aliens,” “Predator,” “Iron Man,” and “Edward Scissorhands.”

Stan worked alongside James Cameron a good deal. He was an expert in makeup, puppets, and effects including digital. Not many people know this, but he actually went to Hollywood to become an actor and ended up an apprentice for Disney Studios in makeup artistry. He won four well-deserved Academy awards. As he was working on “Terminator Salvation” upon his death from multiple myeloma, the movie credits him. He had plans to work on “Avatar” for his good friend James Cameron, as well (admittedly, I might have watched it if he had).

He did leave the earth much too soon at 62, but what he did while he was here forever changed the genre that I love best. His vision for fictional creatures was so realistic, it was hard to imagine during movies like “Predator” that we weren’t witnessing a feasible and menacing killer from another planet. I would give anything to just have been inside his head for a couple days, rolling around ideas for how to tackle a new monster.

For the movie “Aliens,” Winston helped work with James Cameron on how he envisioned this 14-foot tall monster. Using black plastic bags and foam core, Stan built a mockup that was the same size for testing. This creature won him an Oscar. More importantly, he changed forever the technology and methods by which Hollywood could create feasible monsters. His work makes computer-generated monsters seem cartoonish. Having a real true interactive and life-sized creature to engage with actors even brings out the best in the actors who no longer have to stare a green wall and imagine such as Will Smith in many of his movies like "I Am Legend" and "I-Robot." (horrible!)

He left behind a philosophy that is very zen-like. Whenever life starts you in one direction and you take another, remember that you could very well be on a path that leads to your true talent. Stan started out wanting to be an actor and ended up learning how to do makeup. Decades later he was the master of puppetry and monster creations. When he packed his car to take off across country to California, he had visions in his head of making a career in the industry, maybe even winning an Academy award some day. It was a combination of finding his true talent and a hunger to succeed in whatever his career was that made him history-changing.

To learn more about him, go to his studios online—very awesome.

Rest in Peace

Friday, March 19, 2010

what zombie movies teach us about life



“Your friends will have your back”
(Example: “28 Days Later” Killing off a buddy who’s about to “turn” and keeping your promises.)

“It ain't over till it's over.”
(Example: “Night of the Living Dead” when the leader makes it through the night, only to be shot in the daylight by the posse. Don’t ever relax your defenses!)

“There's strength in numbers”

(Example: “Dawn of the Dead” (remake) There were more to construct and protect)

"If you can’t beat `em, join `em.”

(Example: “Fido” when they decide to domesticate the zombies as servants, they solve the issue of what to do with the dead.)

“There’s no place like home.”
(Example: “Shaun of the Dead” The Winchester was really the best place to hide and it had unlimited booze and pork rinds!)

“Nazis suck, dead or alive.”

(Example: “Dead Snow” You can’t kill them even when they’re dead, but it’s oh so fun to try)

“Sex is only for the living.”
(Example: “Erotic Night of the Living Dead.” They sort of wandered around while the living enjoyed themselves)

“The government really isn’t there for you, you’re on your own.”
(Example “Quarantine” when the government blocks up the building and makes the folks inside stay there with those who are turning)

Now, I want to hear what you learned from zombie movies…
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