The season brings out the troublemaker and avid horror lover in all of us. As kids, we performed many kinds of mayhem, but even as adults, we can't help playing chicken with the unknown. Here's just some of the scariest Halloween practices to explore again (varying levels of fearfulness) -
"Theater for the dead" it is often referred to. It is a particular setup that might allow you to view and make contact with a spirit.
I highly suggest you don't do this if you are newly grieving or if the thought of a missing loved one upsets you too much. You must have a very good and fluid feel for the afterlife, so that the only thing separating you is the physical, but the souls are still very much together. Some people have religious upbringings or belief systems that make them fear seeing the dead, or talking to the dead, or opening portals for demons or whatever their belief system entails. In other words; simply don't try this tool unless you have your head in the right place, an open heart, and no fear of seeing things in a way that is new to you.
Basic configuration: Mirror on the wall with you seated below it, looking up at it but not seeing yourself reflected in it. I use my bathroom. It's the ideal set up. My bathtub with shower curtain is behind the chair and the chair is aimed at the large wall mirror but below the counter level so I don't see myself. I put a small flashlight lying down inside the tub and if the room is too easy to see, I put a cloth over the light to dim it. Ideally, the room should have enough light to see differences in dark and light, but not enough to see every detail of the room.
Mental Prep: To make this truly successful, you need to steep yourself in the focus of your calling all day long. You need to look through photos, have memories, evoke that connection with the departed.
Technique: When you are in the psychomanteum, you can play music if you wish or hold an item of departed or a photo. So far as evoking them, you can converse, you can ask them to come forward in the mirror, or you can simply sit in silence and think about them, but keep your eyes on the mirror the entire time. Mostly, be certain that your heart is reaching out, feel that connection with the loved one.
What to Expect: It can take some time for anything to show itself or happen and when it does, more often than not, it is a dark shape in the mirror that looks like it is leaning in closer. Do not turn your head from the mirror. Continue to only watch it in the reflective surface. You may coax or concentrate, but do not fear. You must be open and receptive to him/her showing his/herself. You may not see them clearly and you may see them as a dark shape and you may get a very fast glimpse at a face. But, remember that this is an opportunity to glimpse someone whose very form has transitioned.
Perspective: Remember, in the scheme of things, our time away from our loved ones is a blink of an eye on the cosmic scale, but we must be willing to let them go and move on. We will have our time to see them again and never risk losing them. The connection in the spirit realm versus the physical realm is a much better meeting ground for us to connect, but each of us must play out our time in physical form. We must get the most out of this experience we can. This perhaps a greater reason why our loved ones do move on when they go to the "other side" because we need to finish this business and not be pulled into their realm and the past.
WARNING: I advise people that if you have trouble letting loved ones move on, this is not a good tool for you. You must have a healthy understanding of the wonder of our world and how we can exist in other realms and retain our memories and lessons learned from those who loved us and moved on.
For a good book about these interactions and Psychomanteums, I suggest the Raymond Moody Jr and Paul Perry book "Reunions: Visionary Encounters With Departed Loved Ones."
Energy: When I feel someone's presence, it is sort of like when you are in a store and someone is standing behind you. You feel them blocking light and have a sense of weight and mass. Even though a spirit form does not have weight and mass as we know it, it has an energy field, just like the aura of energy that comes off your actively electrical/chemical body.
Take your hands and put them palm facing palm in front of you. Don't touch them together, but get them close, bounce them a fraction of an inch toward each other and away to feel the "sponginess" of your own energy field. You do feel something between your hands, don't you? This is the feeling of being near a soul. Hence, the hairs standing on end, tingling, heaviness, and other associated descriptions in haunted locations.
My thoughts on Psychomanteum: What do I think of the process of using a psychomanteum? If used properly, it can be therapeutic or enlightening. If you expect to call on and summon loved ones all the time, it's not a phone booth. It is a moment of sacred allowance to prepare your mind to be in tuned to receive that which you do not perceive other ways. This is also why loved ones often show just after death or upon death when you are in sleep state. With your brain cycling in a different manner, you can now receive that which you cannot when you are in the analytical functioning mind of a working and living human being in daylight hours.
I tried using incense to see if I could get manipulation of the smoke. I called on a friend who designed Halloween yard haunts and he passed on. When he was dying, he said he would make himself available to communicate. I asked him to show his face in the smoke.
Interestingly, this was the last prop he was working on before he passed (above).
Smoke Experiment: The air was turned off, no fans, and I did not move so I would not change the natural air currents. So far as the smoke experiment, I tried taking photos while saging my home - got nothing unusual. I took them during Psychomanteum and got those two interesting ones above that lined up with requests.
My thoughts on Smoke Experiment: What do I think of photographing smoke? I think it's a touchy thing because we can see all kinds of shapes in smoke and interpret as we wish, but at the same time, forming and shaping smoke would be a delicate medium to bring a message forth. I am not done experimenting with either. One try does not a conclusion make. I like to stay open-minded and let repeated attempts help me form opinions. Expect more on this in the future!
I have performed many seances over the years and what I can tell you is this; there is no perfect saying or ritual, but there are some basics that should be adhered to -
That being said, the elements of seances are similar, no matter how you word them or pace them.
MEDIUM: You do not need a trained medium, but you should have someone who is psychically sensitive. I would prefer to not use a empathic psychic, but someone who is more in control of the emotions that might bombard him/her, so I'd choose a psychic who has either precognition abilities, physical abilities like PK or psychometry, or someone who is very good at reading people by any means, whether it's tarot or palm reading, tea leaves, or whatever.
GROUP: You will want a group. I have found a group should consist of 4 people but no more than 8. That seems to be ideal. Too few bodies and there is not enough energy. Too many bodies and it's intrusive and too much energy.
Whether they are male or female does not seem to show a difference, but I have found over decades of doing this that having men on one side, women on the other is helpful. My guess is that one side of the table will attract a spirit energy because of its very sex and having them united on one side of the table makes that energy and safe harbor more apparent.
Whether or not the group members are believers seems to do nothing to the results of the seance. Some folks like to blame a dud seance on the nonbelievers, but honestly dud seances are as common as dud ghost hunts. It's a rare thing to have a good hit on a seance, believers or not.
BEGIN: In an ideal situation, I prefer to use rose scented candles or gardenia or lilac, some sort of heirloom flower scent. Some mediums do not use this because they want to be able to tell if a spirit arrives by its scent, but that is rare and I'd rather have the group in the right mindset. The olfactory sense is the most immediate one. Any time you ever were hit with the smell of Coppertone lotion and immediately felt nostalgic, you know how powerful it is. When it comes to being in the right place in one's head to attract spirit interaction, having the group collectively feeling open is more important than worrying about masking scents. As well, if you have photos or items of the dead, place them on the table. If you wish to record, put the recording devices on the table and around the room.
Now that you have placed women on one side of the table, men on the other, I suggest that all participants put their hands on the table, palms up. There is no need to touch each other. Each person will be their own beacon. I often during ghost hunts turn my palms upward to let my own energy (aura) outward like a beacon. If you put your hands down on the table, you are stifling the most powerful outlet of energy in your body, your hands. I know that traditionally, mediums have liked to use hand holding as a way to link the energies into a protective circle, but that is not necessarily productive. Like a chain, you are only as strong as your weakest link. Someone in the group invariably is thinking about tomorrow's supper plans or simply believing there is no way anything can happen. If each individual allows their own energy to emanate from their hands upwards, it is like a dozen fire lights flickering in a forest. As well, the individuals' intent and emotional content, spirituality and latent psychic abilities will produce their own unique signature of outward energy that can attract.
So, palms up, seated comfortably. Candles lit, and I suggest participants look above and beyond the person across from them. This way, all parts of the room are being watched by someone who has over time gotten to know the usual look of that part of the room and can discern changes as well as have a glimpse at anything that might come to that person across the table from them.
CEREMONY: Ceremonies begin and end always with a protection blessing. This can be done any manner of way, so long as the participants are comfortable with it. Some teams use Christian prayer, but a member who is not Christian may be uncomfortable with this. My advice to that person is that they participate in so much as forming silence and allowing the members to be comfortable with their own protection blessing and if that person wishes to, they can word a protection silently for himself. The basic wording should include these aspects; we are gathered here in hopes of reaching those in the spirit world, as we seek answers to questions. The members here are of of the living plane. When this ceremony is occurring and when it is over, these physical beings are to be allowed protection from any harm or associations. Our intentions are pure and we expect the intentions of the spirit world to be, as well.
The medium can ask a question and I find that ideally, it's best if after she has asked the question, you wait about 20 seconds before the person to her/his right asks a question with the same wait time, and then the next person, around the table until the medium's turn. Now, that the medium is in charge again, it is time for her to request more information. She is free to reveal any names, images, or other things that come to her as she is "channeling." If there are great pauses and silence in her giving information, it is fine to have the person to her right begin a question again and do this around the table until the medium's turn again. If she has no more information to add, it is time to close the circle.
CLOSING: Closing should begin with a thank you to the spirits and a dismissal, to the effect of, "we appreciate your visit and your communication. Thank you for your cooperation. We wish to release you back to your spiritual realm and these members to their physical realms, free to continue our experiences as before."
As I talked about in my book "Was That a Ghost?" about the "Trinity of Relevance," The same 3 elements are at play in how people react to seances. Context-if one knows he is entering a seance, there is expectation of the theatrical responses seen on TV. Just because he is in a seance, he might believe everything that happens is spirit-related. Belief-if he has a belief system that includes demons, possession, and an evil spirit world, his explanations of what's happening will be colored by this. Explanatory style-how that participant explains the situation to himself can create either peace or unrest.
WARNINGS: Followup with the participants is important. Latent psychics can show very strong reactions, even signs of possession, if they don't realize how highly suggestible they are and how open they are to be a conduit. So, if signs of a "possession" do occur and a member suddenly starts being out of touch with what's happening, it is best to break the circle, have the medium come over to the person, place her hands upon the person's back and give a very gentle shove and say "disperse." This is usually enough to bring the person back to baseline. It is hard to tell whether such a thing as possession is possible, but we do know that in the fervor and belief of religious ceremony, people can speak in tongues and dance with snakes, so it is entirely possible that a suggestible person can get caught up in a feeling or an image and run with it until it's out of control. It's very comparable to a person acting as if they are going to die if they get into a airplane. The mind psyches up the body to react with threat.
For those who have strong religious beliefs that make seances an unacceptable form of communication with the dead, that is fine. I will also remind people that any time you do an EVP session and ask the spirits to knock on the wall or answer your questions, or any time you visit a family member's grave and talk to them, you are having a form of seance.
The Ouija board has been surrounded with myths, legends, terror, misinformation, as well as good old-fashioned urban legends.
How does a Ouija work?
There are a lot of explanation for the device being a subconscious conduit to the psychic aspect of yourself to a device in which the spirit takes over your fingers on the planchette and you are channeling a being of unknown origins; could be good, could be bad.
Is is a doorway for the dead? If we look at it logically, a particle board with a plastic planchette mass produced is not what a spirit is waiting for to get into our realm or else we'd all be screwed using Parcheesi.
So, is it the process of calling on spirits?
Well, we do this all the time on ghost investigations. So, what makes the Ouija different? Is it inviting channeling? Possession? Only vampires need to be invited into the home to actually enter. In the field of spirit realm, if they could bother us this easily, we'd be screwed. It's not so simple as asking them to speak through your fingers. We have yet to see a case of someone carrying a ghost around inside himself after asking one to answer yes or no on the Ouija.
In any case, if you are spooked by the very concept of a Ouija, please do not participate. Real dangers happen when people believe something has a capability to hurt them. People run, they make bad decisions, they think they're cursed, they get depressed, they generally lose it.
How to use a Ouija? It's pretty simple. It's ideal to do have at least 2 people and in a dream scenario, one male/one female so that whatever a spirit might wish to talk to, they are present.
Sit facing each other, knees touching if you can. Lightly place your fingers on the planchette. Make a statement that you are seeking a particular entity or only positive entities who are helpful and kind.
Start with simple questions that are answered by yes or no.
When you are done with your session, tell them goodbye and place the planchette over the word "goodbye."
Staying overnight in an abandoned building
There are some daring urban explorers who will stay an entire night in an abandoned building. I had a friend who was hiking and it started to get dark, so they decided to sleep in an old prospector's shack. All night long, they heard footsteps in the tiny room, pacing and pacing and then a few times, someone coughed. When they woke up in the morning, all the shutters on the windows had been closed. They did not go back.
Staying in an abandoned building might sound glamorous but consider these issues - rodents and cockroaches (who own the place), animals seeking shelter, humans seeking shelter up to who knows what kind of tasks, rotting floorboards, asbestos inhalation, and arrest for trespassing.
When I was a kid, my friends and I used to sleep overnight in our old barn that wasn't used for anything. We set up some old mattresses and even had an extension cord to a plug outlet so we could watch an old black and white TV. We love the creaking sounds and the rain on the tin roof, but there were also bats, owls, carpenter bees and rodents. We ended up putting the mattresses on a table.
Note: Any building with a "no trespassing" sign should be heeded. Always consider safety too, as most buildings have exposed asbestos and proper masks should be worn. As animals, spiders and bugs, as well as people wanting to perform dirty deals might show up in these buildings during the night, that is also a consideration. Ideally, a talk with the owners of the property can give you a legitimate thumbs up to have a creepy evening you may never forget. Use battery-operated lights only, no flames!
Most graveyards have posted signs that they close at sunset. They even might lock the gates (I've been locked in before). There are a lot of unattended graveyards in rural locations where staying after dark won't get you into trouble and the headstones are much more interesting. I have found, in general, that family cemeteries are oddly more haunted. I'm not sure if it's because they are usually rural in the woods or because they have an entire family represented and so are visited often by family members who sort of activate the family by thinking about them and being related.
My favorite practice in a graveyard after dark is to go to the oldest graves, ones where they died so long ago that even the people they knew, are all gone now. I read their name out loud several times and say hi. I think how long it's been since someone spoke their name on this earthly plane. I often leave flowers and I always pick up fallen vases and get rid of trash people left. I think you should always leave a cemetery with the best of intents toward it.
NOTE: Remember, a cemetery may hold physical remains, but it is meant as a memorial, not a gathering ground for scary things. Apply the appropriate response and consideration and karma has a way of repaying you for coming with curiosity and wonder instead of titillation and mayhem.
Alone in the dark
We are pretty busy with computers, cell phones and TVs while awake, but when we lay in bed at night in the dark, we suddenly hear sounds and sense things around us.
It's a creepy practice to turn off everything and go on sensory deprivation mode for a while. Try your hand at being a ghost investigator, in a way, by simply listening, seeing into the dimness, and becoming very focused on self and space around you and the interaction of the two.
Set a timer. See how long you can do it before you become a bit unnerved. It's one thing to lie with eyes closed in the dark to sleep, another to stay very alert in the dark....
Most cities have ghost tours and around October time, there are more than ever! Ghost tours are great because they create a mood and atmosphere as you see the locations and you learn about history. You also learn where you might want to go back and rent a room and try your hand at sleeping with ghosts. Here's a LINK for US ghost tours.
Staying in a haunted room is a really cool experience. Usually these rooms are decorated in antiques, have a tragic history, and lots of reports from other visitors of what happened during the night. All of that creates a delicious anticipation. Here's a LINK for haunted bed and breakfasts. I would suggest you enhance the experience by bringing a great collection of horror short stories to read before going night-night. This one (below) is my horror short story collection and it has tons of stories - each timed so you know how long they would take to read.
If you want a genuine scream this Halloween, consider going to a haunted attraction. There are soooo many and so many themes too. Find one in your area and see if you can handle it. LINK HERE
If you can sit in the dark or perhaps by candlelight and watch movies alone. I have some great suggestions for movies to see alone -
When a Stranger Calls
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Trilogy of Terror
The Omega Man
The Woman in Black
There are lots of activities we think of around Halloween time including bonfires, storytelling, and designing yard haunts, but some of the activities test our bravery and bring back some of the childhood fears of crossing boundaries into unknown territory.