Sunday, January 31, 2010

They Come Out At Night

I'll make a zillion excuses for why this is so awful, but here's how it goes:
1. Working with acrylics--I usually use oils.
2. Have no reference pictures--this is totally a memory in my head of a place I was once on a hunt and the things I thought I saw in the dark.
3. It's only halfway done.
4. I haven't done a painting in like...forever!

I'm thinking, if I can keep the mental state with which I'm trying to recreate the scene, it may work out in the end. The problem with art always is that if someone comes in halfway through, they think you're a no-talent. You really have to go through the ugly awkward parts to get to the finished product. I admit that I'm going to give up acrylics after this attempt at a ghost hunt painting. I need my oils!!! It might be done this week some time and when it is, the (hopefully much more refined) painting will emerge. Right now, I just wanted to get things in the right spots and then work on the details. I can't believe I'm sharing this--it's like putting a picture of me in a bikini for all to see...

Writer's Workshop: Peddling your work

If you’re here in the blog world, you’re already a published author. Yes, what you write on here can be found on the Internet forever. People borrow snippets, copy them, link them, and repeat them to others. You’ve thus in a rather subtle, but nevertheless effective way, left your mark in the literary world.

Should that prospect not frighten you and you wish to be more readily accepted as a writer, I’d suggest you begin with the short story (or poetry). Both of these offer not only plenty of printed and online magazines and contests, but offer you the chance to work your skills before you put all your time and worth into a full-length novel that could be tossed from editor’s desk to editor’s desk ad infinitum.

Google searches for horror writing contests and horror magazines will lead you along to a wide array. To start with, try a magazine that doesn’t offer cash. It sounds absurd, but the ones that do offer cash want a resume. That resume doesn’t write itself. The ones that don’t pay are also more likely to publish a rough story. Being able to say they published you online is priceless to getting a paying editor to read your work. Magazine paying gigs can be 3 cents to 8 cents a word on average. It’s not a lot of cash, but it puts you in magazines whose names publishers will recognize.

As you feel confident in what editors like and what people want to read, you can start submitting to the paying gigs. I admit to keeping short stories I’ve written on vampires, zombies, ghosts, and such just so that when a contest comes up with a theme, I have something to send in right away. Another very popular genre nowadays online are “flash” short stories which are usually 1000 or less words. This has more to do with what audiences desire—a fast read. They’re also fantastic opportunities for you to tell a story with brevity and show your editing skills.

Find those magazines that seem to suit your type of writing. Pull up their guidelines for submittals and read them like a bible. Editors will literally not read your work if you didn’t do one simple thing they asked. In general, most ask you to use a font where all letters are the same size, such as courier. They will ask the font to be 12. They will ask you to double space. They will ask for a header that is “your last name / title of the story” on each page. The cover letter for submittal should be concise and give your writing background briefly (for your first publishing attempt, use your blog as your writing experience) and include the title of the piece, word count, your name, address, phone number, email address, and webpage if you have a blog or your own site. This isn’t always the case, but those the general things you’re going to have to be aware of.

In my last writer’s workshop post, I discussed rejection and it is absolutely inevitable. If you’re lucky, they will tell you what they didn’t like. Sometimes, it’s as simple as your story not fitting into the theme they wanted for that month or that contest. The reasons for picking a story can be as narrow as a target audience of 18-25 or as goofy as a desire for more gore or no sexual content. That’s why reading your target magazine first will tell you if you’ve found a fit.

Patience is key. Some places won’t get back to you for a month or two and others may forget to respond to your submittal. I had one that I was certain they didn’t even read it, but three months later heard back with a positive response. Apparently, the only editor was on a European trip!

Ultimately, to get to your largest goal which is probably a notable publisher, you’re going to need an agent. Pedaling unsolicited work is nearly impossible. Some publishers allow 3 chapters and a synopsis, but the ones who get truly serious consideration have an agent. An agent shows that you had to have a talent and body of work that impressed the agent. The agent sets up the contract and deals with the nasty side of publishing that is the tedium and frustration. With the advent of ebooks, it’s become common for writers to be their own advertisers. You promote your book on your own time.

If you don’t have a goal of being a famous writer or make an income writing (a difficult task), you might consider writing for no-pay publications and entering contests just to keep your skills up and to occasionally get feedback from readers about your work Most of you have a blog and that really is the source of your regular writing and an opportunity to use your creativity through interesting subjects and crazy viewpoints. My periodic posts by Dale the Doll have kept up my skills and the creative minds of my commenters have me thinking about new subjects. My blog definitely satisfies many aspects of my life. Being able to throw out my ideas about the paranormal and see what others think, as well as see if I can ignite a continued conversation on the subjects has been extremely satisfying. Some people might want to be known for their concise and gripping writing, I prefer to be known for making people talk. When you’re writing your posts or your fiction writing, ask yourself the same; what do I want to be known for in terms of my writing?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ghost Content

What are ghosts made up of? There are lots of explanations. In the Victorian era, ghosts were proclaimed to be made of ectoplasm, a nasty substance that looked a bit like vomited cheesecloth (perhaps because most times it was—by the deceptive medium during a séance).

AGH, (my now favorite term for “After Ghost Hunters”), investigators proclaim they are made of energy and they manifest by drawing energy from human bodies, batteries, the heat in the air, and anything else they can steal from. Apparently, these gypsies from the netherworld didn’t get the memo that modern office buildings with all their EMF producing devices make manifestations much quicker and easier and instead take the route of old home with no electricity in place.

So, what are ghosts made of?

If you watched the wonderful clip above from "American Paranormal," (National Geographic Channel) the answer will be similar to the one I proposed quite some time ago on my blog—neutrinos.

As discussed in the short above, if that were so, it would not emit light, sound, or visual. You would not see it in any form or hear it, yet ghosts seem to make plenty of sounds and make themselves shown. I discussed the possibility of neutrinos being the way in which psychics pick up information, such as I do when holding an object. Could it be that a spirit form is actually made up of neutrinos but has the ability in the right environment to charge itself in a way that makes it momentarily heard or seen? Is this why ghosts are so intermittent? Neutrinos are electrically neutral and are the result of solar/radiation decay. Could this explain why Chernobyl is believed to be so haunted? Might it also explain why there is more activity on solar storm active days and geomagnetically active days?

I appreciate theories (no duh), so let's put down some possible explanations for ghosts and what they're made of:

1. Ghosts are psychologically induced by people and perhaps their visual cortex, pineal gland, or telekinetic means. Pros/cons: Ghosts are often times witnessed by people who do believe in their existence and by groups of people seeing the same thing at the same time. However, many sightings are reported by people in times of stress.

2. Ghosts are actually a life form from another dimension with the capability of entering and exiting ours. Pros/cons: This would explain the fleeting nature of ghosts and the sometimes nonsensical sounds and words emitted. It does not explain, however, why they concentrate in areas of death and trauma.

3. Ghosts are made of neutrinos and hence able to go anywhere at any time, even through people, but for reasons unknown to us can somehow interact with the environment to let themselves be known. Pros/cons: This covers how they can move anywhere and go through objects and people. This does not explain how we are able to see them and hear them.

4. Ghosts are made up of a content we do not understand and may never discover because it's not part of our physical world, but another world that allows for occasional random filtration through our world, giving us momentary "contact." In other words, the spiritual realm. Pros/cons: Still, if we can sometimes see and hear them--they are able to manipulate in our physical realm so there should be a time when they can be "trapped" for observation. This, today, seems to be a preferable explanation.

5. Ghosts are pure energy and therefore able to affect people and objects around them. Pros/cons: Then that energy should be measured. It might also explain why they drain other forms of energy.

I'd love to hear your input. What are ghosts made of?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Leave your ghost hunting tools at home!

Admittedly, my ghost hunting kit includes everything from camcorder and digital camera to voice recorder, EMF meter, KII meter, pendulum, dowsing rods, thermometer, and other strange and unusual items. Still, I could put it all away and ghost hunt without tools. In fact, I really enjoy when I do that. I learn more those hours than hours of yanking out tool after tool and chasing things around a site to “capture it.”

Women know this one. When you chase men, you can’t find a good one. The moment you’re in a happy relationship, men start to come to you. Well, ghosts are kinda the same way…
Ghost hunt without tools? How do you get evidence? Any film I take, any EVPs I capture, and photos I take, any video with shadows moving can all be disputed as explainable or hoaxes. So, what is truly the use of trying to gather proof? To prove to whom? If you want to prove to yourself—you go without the equipment. Just you and a flashlight and maybe some mace—just in case humans are afoot. And, always, bring a friend. Don’t go alone.

Everyone should go on a ghost hunt without tools at least once. You need to have the chance to become one with an environment without a task. It’s truly a zen-like experience. We are a task-oriented society. We think that we should be on the cell phone while driving, on the computer while watching TV and watching TV while eating supper. We are so out of touch with our own senses and instincts that should we ghost hunt while juggling lots of tools, we will surely miss everything and be completely unreliable at noticing when things do happen. In fact, the best things I’ve ever come across, I had no camera at hand, no tool in my palm, wasn’t measuring a blasted thing. I was simply sitting there in the dark, long hours in the same place, letting it get used to me.

Our six senses are still our best tools. There is nothing that makes your vision more acute than sitting the dark, nothing that makes your hearing more sharp than when you’re in a quiet resting building, and nothing that makes your skin more sensitive to temperature changes than no air-conditioning or heating or open windows. Your body gives you lots of signals that can make you a wonderful ghost hunting tool.

The most common sensations people report:

Thick heavy air
Off balance
Scalp tingling
Sudden anger/sadness/rage/doom

There are a huge variety of theories and also “old world” ways of explaining why we feel these sensations. Some will tell you the air gets cold because ghosts suck the energy out of the environment and leave behind cold. Hmm… I must have missed that day in science class. There are lots of explanations for the air feeling “thick or heavy” and feeling off balance and lightheaded and headachy, but my first instinct is a change in barometric pressure. Some will say it’s EMF changes, but honestly we live in a world chock full of high EMF levels from our computer screen to our big-screen TV to our alarm clock and we’re not freaking out around that. We have a very high threshold. Goosebumps and chills thrill me the most when they happen out of the blue. If you hear something and then get them, it could be an instinctive reaction to hearing something unseen, but if you get a piloerection (goosebumps) with no instigation, something truly has gotten near. The sudden onset of emotion that makes no sense in the situation, such as walking through a room and stop in the corner and feel overwhelming depression and hopelessness can be accredited to your sixth sense. Yes, we all absolutely have that sense, it's only at times like this that you take note of it.

People ask me often times, how do I find the ghosts? Well, I’ll give you a little tip. Have you ever walked through your house and forgotten why you went into a room—what you were supposed to get? You stand there and have a sense of reflecting back to where you were, what you were thinking, and what this room was supposed to hold within it. If you walk through a supposedly haunted location and you suddenly stop and feel sort of lost as if you didn’t know what you were about to do—you just found the hot spot. You'll know because your mind will start sifting as if you're trying to lock onto a thought-that's a psychic moment.

If you don’t have access to a haunted place but want to get in touch with those senses, turn out the lights, turn off the devices, and be alone in your home for a good 3 hours at least. It’s a hard task, you learn a lot about yourself, but you also learn to pick up clues from the environment. This is really critical for ghost hunting. You have to be okay with being alone, being bored, sitting there, waiting, listening, with nothing to do. If you still want to ghost hunt and you’re okay with your body and your thoughts without distraction, you’ll be an excellent ghost hunter. And, after sitting there so long, you'll be a good debunker, as well. You will definitely see faint things and hear lots of sounds.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Growing up with Ghosts

From toddlerhood into teens, I grew up in a 250-year-old former Civil War field hospital used by both North and South during the war (as it straddled the boundaries of the Mason-Dixon line in Fairfax, Virginia).

The wooden floors were stained with blood in large black splotches. Some parts of it repaired during turmoil with metal plates and rivets. Us five kids spent our free time with the metal detector digging up relics and displaying them in the cases within the huge window-lined art room where my mother taut art classes. I’d wiggle around in the crawlspace in the basement where I could fit more easily than my siblings, shimmying past the black snakes who wintered there, and digging around in the dirt like an amateur archaeologist, delighting in being the first one to touch the item before others corrupted the information it held within. The ability to read objects was as normal as a kid digging up bones and relics and living with ghosts…

As a very young child, my concept of the house being haunted was nonexistent. Things moving on their own, dark shadows, sense of being watched, voices, and things going bump were part of the natural world to me. No one said things couldn’t do that, so it was in my infantile physics bank in my head as “normal house doing normal things.”

In first grade, NBC did a 2-hour special on the ghosts. My teacher had me announce it to the class. They all gasped with delight. A TV show about ghosts in my home! I was both celebrity and pariah. They feared me and were curious of me at the same time. This condition remained forever throughout my schooling. I remember thinking of it in terms of having a lot of pets. We were not haunted, more than we simply housed a lot of lost souls. I took pride in thinking they found us a livable family to coexist with. I never considered them fearsome or creepy or dark and spooky. If the Jones family could have 8 cats, a pony, 2 goats, and 4 dogs, we could have a few lost spirits...

My parents didn’t use the “G” word with me. They often talked of strange things that occurred the night before over the breakfast table. Other siblings chimed in. I was perhaps 8 before my family felt comfortable talking about them as ghosts. The wording of it never mattered to me. It was more or less a natural condition. Some people had a beautiful view out their window or a three-story house or a totally cool teenager’s bedroom in their converted basement, our ancient house in the middle of suburban new tract homes was the meeting place of unseen occupants. If one were to show it on a real estate sale, they might say “Besides these beautifully carved fireplaces and 2-1/2 foot thick walls, the house also comes with its own ghosts.” Just a feature of its construction.

My mother, an historian and artist, had a very romantic and motherly attitude about her spirits. They were soldiers that she respected, as a retired Navy woman from WWII. She was proud to let them coexist with us and could she have conversations with them, she would try. Hence, allowing mediums to visit for seances. Father was an boisterous man who was very successful and often times on the road to give speeches and do his work, but he took pleasure in the concept of the soldiers watching the place while he was gone like his Navy companions in WWII and the Korean War, at his right arm. My siblings had a mixture of delight and caution about it. Some didn’t want to talk about it, others got fearful. Sometimes, the things the ghosts did just made us laugh until we cried. We had one that left things in very weird places.

My siblings were older when we moved into the house, so looking back I realize they had ideas of ghosts before they moved into the house. I was in the house while I was forming ideas about ghosts…

We often had mediums come to the house. My parents would block off the living room with blankets and send the kids to be babysat by one of the residents in the slave cottages out back. I, however, being the baby was allowed to sleep upstairs. A few times, I woke up and came down looking for mommy and daddy to hear the murmuring voices and peek behind the blanket to see the glow of the candle light on the medium’s thickly lined face. Everyone seemed very respectful and quiet, like in our church, so I backed away and went upstairs to sleep as if every family had a chanting woman in a blanket-lined room with candles glowing, talking to the dead.

The soldier who climbed the stairs every evening when all were abed, clicking along in his boots, came down the hall to the middle bedroom where he sat at rest in front of the radiator as the floor board groaned. When I had the room in my tween years, I said “goodnight” each evening and turned over to sleep.

It wasn’t always rosy. I did go through a phase where I set my stuffed animals up along the edge of my canopied bed, each one staring outward to guard me as I slept. I don’t know if I thought the ghosts were going to hurt me, but as my concept of death and souls developed within the Methodist church that we attended vigorously, I began to see souls that weren’t going to their home in Heaven as perhaps something in purgatory. The religious connotations were unsettling and instead of feeling protected and guarded, I often times felt as if I were being stared down in my most intimate moments. I even began to change my clothing inside the closet.

One time, while watching TV in the music room and home alone, I turned to a spot in the room where I felt intensely someone was watching me. I looked up just about where I imagined his eye level was and said, “why don’t you move on? Go to heaven!”

I felt both shame and relief. The sense of someone being there dissolved immediately. I wondered for a long time if I had dispatched a soldier to his final resting place or if I had just pissed him off.

Strange and poltergeist type events began to occur in my adolescence. I no longer had the romantic imaginary playmate feelings about the ghosts. I was moving on to more serious pursuit of boys—my real obsession. I had a lot of pent-up anger about the drama my older siblings had caused in the 60s and into the 70s, and so I resented being the youngest and everyone forgetting I existed. I felt the tension in the air like a wound up ball of hurt. I knew that those who got the most attention were those who were the loudest. And I was a very quiet adolescent. So, it seemed as if the house came alive with more and more strange occurrences and sometimes threatening, as if too wanted attention. Ceilings caved in, huge Waterford crystal chandeliers jingled when I walked into a room, objects cast themselves from the walls and crashed across the room. It was generally a cauldron of kinetic energy. I avoided the house more and more, staying out from early morning until late at night. I avoided it mostly because of the family dynamics and because quite honestly no one cared if I was gone all day or not.

The dynamics of a family really do affect the energy in the house and the types of haunting. As we packed to move in my mid teens, we had some amazing things happened that for the first time made me so scared, I rushed from the house and refused to stay in it until we moved. I slept on a cot in the yard and in one of the empty slave cottages, but I wouldn’t come back in the house again. Up until that moment, I felt annoyed with the ghosts as if they were embarrassing siblings, sometimes compassionate and concerned for them, other times bored with them and ignoring them. This time; however, I was terrified like I had never been in my life.

Lots of things had been unpacked the following morning after packing them, things were found off a shelf and across a room. It was all purely poltergeist-like activity. This particular time, however, my one sister was married and living away from us, my older brother too. My father and other brother went to Arizona to find us a home. My mother and other sister and I were home alone. We were taking a break from packing and sitting in the breakfast room at one end of the house. We were chatting about hoping that dad found a house with a swimming pool. We heard a huge crash.

What happened next changed my entire attitude about hauntings and my desire to ghost hunt in the future.

I ran first into the other end of the house where the music room was. I stared at the floor in horror. My mother and sister came up beside me and looked in shock. We couldn’t even form a word.

To prepare to move, we took a huge pickle jar (you know those 18” tall ones they have in delis that house gigantic pickles) filled with pennies and put it on the floor. We had a TV tray stand nearby where we were stacking pennies into stacks of 10 to put into paper rolls. Across the room about 12-15 feet away, was an oval picture of my mother’s uncle in a military uniform of WWI. It had a curved glass front over it and had hung there for a few months as my mother was showing the house for the sale. The picture had come off the wall over the fireplace, somehow knocked the TV tray stand so that the legs came out of their plastic clips and splayed open. But, wait—there’s more… The picture was underneath the tray, face down, the tray flat atop of it, legs from the clips and splayed out, and….every stack of pennies was perfectly standing. Not one penny had fallen and there were perhaps 20-30 stands of pennies on the tray. The picture wasn’t broken. None of it made sense and defied physics in any stretch of the imagination.

It is to me the most extraordinary moment in my life in which nothing I was every told about anything made sense.

I had grown up, you see, and so the “natural physics” of the house that I once took for granted as a child no longer existed. I knew the way the world was supposed to be. The way physics are supposed to work. I felt the anger and the coldness and the feeling of seething rage. I started to cry hysterically and pace back and forth. “This can’t be! This can’t happen!”

My mother and sister still couldn’t form words. My sister had the presence of mind and walked me outside. I yelled “I’m staying in a hotel. I won’t stay here!” I felt something turn in the haunting. It was no longer charming and protective. It was angry at the changes in the house and the sense of us leaving. I felt as if it were directed towards me because as the baby, I always felt somehow more doted over and protected by what was within the walls.

I spent my last night on a cot with my friend in the thicket area of the yard. My sister came wandering outside in search of us. She was home alone, as my parents were in a hotel room since the beds were broken down for moving. She begged us to come up and sleep in the house. She was on the sofa downstairs and could hear the “general” as we called him, talking upstairs. In my parents bedroom occasionally you could hear what sounded like men having a low discussion and one voice deeper than the others, there would be pacing and the sounds of chairs moving out from a table, the chandelier below jingling. I was not in the mood for his after the wall hanging incident. I did, however, realize she was really upset. We went and slept on the sofa. My friend fell asleep. My sister fell asleep. I lay there stiffly studying the ceiling when I heard it start up again. The chandelier jingled. I wondered if they knew this was the last time I’d hear them. The last time I’d be there. I wondered if they would follow me somehow to the west. Would they be angry I left?

It would be decades before I started to think about ghosts again. I wondered if what I experienced was unique. I sought out haunted places and touched the buildings and antique objects and found that it was exactly as I had left it. Yes, I wanted to prove that ghosts exist or at least find an explanation for them. I had no doubt the phenomenon existed. I couldn’t possibly forget what I’d experienced. Even more, however, I wanted to find out how and why that occurrence happened that scared me so very much. It was a statement, a blatant one. How had it happened so quickly? The crashing sound and me running to it—couldn’t have been more than 20 seconds! How? How had it done that?

Well, you can see that it takes just one truly unexplainable occurrence to make a person driven to hunt ghosts. Some people would have found the voices, the shadowy figures, the objects moving, and the footsteps at night as exciting finds that motivate hunting ghosts, but to me those were commonplace and acceptable phenomenon. I sought something rare and amazing that changes your life forever and which all logic does not apply.

So, that’s what it’s like growing up with ghosts. It haunts you forever…

It's a Freaky World... or is a Plot?

Does anyone above not belong there? Don't worry, CNN managed to get the blonde girl's hair dyed dark auburn now.

So, what's this mean? Are they hot for auburn-haired lasses? Is CNN so cheap it buys one hair dye kit and divides it? Do they hope we will be comforted to have similar thembots fill in when the regular's shift is over?

You judge.

Quality Upcoming Horror Movies

I periodically go to my favorite horror movie site and check on what's coming up. Luckily, since horror is the "in" thing, more quality moviemakers and actors are jumping on the bandwagon. Here's three promising upcoming horror movies I'm going to have to check out:

Release: December 2010
Director: Clint Eastwood
Actors: Bryce Dallas Howard, Clint Eastwood
Tells the story of three people -- a blue-collar American, a French journalist and a London school boy — who are touched by death in different ways

Dream House
Release: 2010
Director: Jim Sheridan
Actors: Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts
Revolves around a family that moves to a small town in Connecticut and learns that a mother and her two young children had been killed in their home. The killings were believed to be at the hands of the husband, who survived and may now be a threat to the new residents.

Survival of the Dead
Release: Limited May 28, 2010
Director: George Romero
Actors: Alan Van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh, Kathleen Munroe, Devon Bostick, Richard Fitzpatrick, Stefano Colacitti, Athena Karkanis
On a small island off North America's coast, the dead rise to menace the living. Yet, the islanders can't bring themselves to exterminate their loved ones despite the growing danger from those they once held dear. A rebel among them hunts down all the zombies he can find only to be banished from the island for assassinating his neighbors and friends. On the mainland, bent on revenge, he encounters a small band of survivors in in search of an oasis on which to build a new life. Barely surviving an attack from a mass of ravenous flesh-eaters they commandeer a zombie-infested ferry and sail to the island. There, to their horror, they discover the locals have chained the dead inside their homes, pretending to live "normal" lives...with bloody consequences. What ensues is a desperate struggle for survival and the answer to a question never posed in Romero's Dead films: Can the living ever live in peace with the dead?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Plausible Deniability and HAARP

"Plausible deniability is a political doctrine originally developed in the United States of America in the 1950s and applied to operations by the then newly formed Central Intelligence Agency The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Plausible deniability involves the creation of power structures and chains of command loose and informal enough to be denied if necessary. The idea was that the CIA (and, later, other bodies) could be given controversial instructions by powerful figures -- up to and including the president himself -- but that the existence and true source of those instructions could be denied if necessary; if, for example, an operation went disastrously wrong and it was necessary for the administration to disclaim responsibility.

The doctrine had two major flaws. First, it was an open door to the abuse of authority; it required that the bodies in question could be said to have acted independently, which in the end was tantamount to giving them license to act independently. Second, it rarely worked when invoked; the denials made were rarely plausible and were generally seen through by both the media and the populace

You’ve probably heard this phrase a lot in association with alien visitations and especially the infamous Roswell incident. In the case of HAARP (see my a prior post), it would appear to be firmly in place. The supposed researchers working there, the man guarding the gate, and no doubt everyone actually on location, has no idea what the bigger scope of this project is. They go about doing only that which they are allowed to know by levels of “security clearance.” So, they may have their own theories, but they would never endanger their position to talk about rolls around in their head when they’re asked to do certain tasks.

Interestingly, the month of November 2009 was the first month in 12 years of archiving geomagnetic activity that there was no activity—nada, zip, zero! Following the 90s into 2008, there were so much activity it was practically nothing more than markers and blotches all over the chart, but since late 2008, almost nothing at all whatsoever with many months with no action at all and months that had action had one or two little blips. Why? What changed in our upper atmosphere?


Well, this wonderful knotted bundle of plausible deniability is a bit like metastatic cancer. It can send off little seeds from the primary site to wander the body and enter the lymphatic system, clinging to bone or liver or lung and creating more disease. There may be no one on site at HAARP who knows its ultimate mission. It goes beyond the primary location for safety reasons.

Where are the folks who do know? There are more than likely a few people who know parts of it and manage those parts, but ultimately it more than likely comes down to one scientist and one government official who carry the actual knowledge of what this project’s directives are.

So, it really comes down to the fact that chasing folks who work at Groom Lake or HAARP or Montauk is going to produce no results. The salesperson in the store doesn’t carry the key, doesn’t know the manager’s codes, doesn’t have the combination to the safe.

We know only what we need to know and then we turn to higher’s up.

How will we ever come to know what HAARP is truly about? Well, there is one thing to be said about government programs. They may stay secret, but they can’t stay absolutely secret. Those around Groom Lake have seen experimental planes and some day new planes like the Stealth Bomber will come to the public’s attention. Some day, if aliens have arrived, we cannot stop them from visiting or communicating. So far as HAARP is concerned, keeping an eye on weather and world events and geomagnetic activity will make it very hard to cover up unusual patterns.

It really ultimately falls in our own hands.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


(ABOVE: Wait for the first full screen to go away and when it goes to four screens, look at the upper left screen)

Puckett’s Auto Body, a wrecker service in Oklahoma City, did what any other business does by night; it videotaped sections of its junkyard to be certain no one was sneaking in and taking expensive parts. One night in 2002, however, something came out on one of the cameras that defied logic. An overnight dispatcher watched it live on film and was astounded.

Most of us caught a glimpse of this on local news stations on a quiet news night. It caused a stir of skepticism and excitement. A family came forward. Their daughter had died in the car above which the figure was floating. They believed she was making one last showing for her children.

Skeptical teams came forward to examine the tape and realize that it was a live tape, so the explanation had to be something in the lot. They tried a fishing pole and a toy on a string in front of the camera with a different looking very solid looking object moving quickly in order to keep it in a circular motion. They couldn’t recreate the look of what was found on the tape. Thus far, no one's come up with a real explanation for what was caught on film.

So, what happened that night on the car lot? I’d like to hear your theories.

From Our Hostess of the Ghost Hunt

Debe Branning from MVD Ghostchasers has a wonderful writeup on her Examiner site about the ghost hunt Julie and I attended last Saturday night. Enjoy!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Infrasound: Ghosts and Bigfoot and UFOs

I started off with a simple question that struck me one day when reading about infrasound (a frequency below human hearing’s ability to hear) and how ghosts supposedly communicate at this frequency range. Why, then, are we speaking to them at our Hertz level which is 800-1200 Hertz compared to their supposed 19 Hertz. If we’re having trouble hearing them, imagine what they must go through? Hmm… Well, if we’re going to believe ghosts speak at the level, then why aren’t we converting our voices to a level they can hear? For that matter, why aren’t we carrying meters to detect if that frequency is present? Yes, infrasound meters exist, like the Rion NA-18, but at a cost of 5K to 7K. Ouch!

In studying infrasound I was learned a lot. Volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and even atomic bombs can create this frequency. Some animals use it, such as elephants, to communicate long distances because it creates great oscillations and can travel great distances easily. If you’ve ever felt a bass speaker from a car going by, you might have felt those vibrations through your chest. It can affect human bodies and even objects. Depending on the pitch, infrasound can cause anger and fear. It was said to be used by Hitler to incite crowds to a fevered pitch. It can cause depression, pressure in the ears, and many sensations felt in haunted locations.

What’s more, investigators of Bigfoot believe that they might communicate in this way and I think that’s a very realistic possibility. Why? If you are part of a group of creatures that are not all that common and live in giant forests, how in the world will you tell others you are available for mating over a long distance? Infrasound. It might be also feasible to believe that infrasound is the byproduct of alien spacecraft, causing us to feel strange upon seeing them as the frequencies resonate through our bodies.

What is the future for this knowledge in the field of ghost hunting? Lots. If we can measure such infrasound conditions in a location that is haunted, then we can begin to ask ourselves—what is causing this frequency. Could this be the tie in to geomagnetic storms mixed with geology and building construction and waterways (the very things in my haunted formula?) Could this be either facilitating and energizing a haunting or giving it a pathway to express itself or perhaps causing the sensations and mind tricks that make us think there is a haunting. Some experiments in infrasound would be in order to see just what it does to the human body in say a not-haunted location versus a haunted location. Ah, if only I had a university funding me!

p.s. A fascinating paper on the subject of infrasound and paranormal research applications as well as natural science.

Awesome contest on Season of Shadows

If you love the show "A Haunting," John at Season of Shadows is having a great contest to win a season of it. Two box sets for two separate prizes. Good luck!

Tools We Need to Ghost Hunt: Part 1 Sound

I wanted to do a series exploring some tools the ghost hunting trade needs so we can more easily get results. I was looking at National Geographic's site for their show American Paranormal and there is a video clip on the right called "Bad Vibes." This is a theory I've been knocking around for some time and I'm thrilled someone picked it up and took off with it. The concept is, since ghosts are usually heard on EVPs in the 19 Hertz range, which is below human hearing levels, then what if they put a generator in the building to create this level and see what happens. What they found was that the human body (like the woofers on your sound system) feels the low range through it. The test group sent into Eastern State Penn definitely felt the sensations in their body and felt depressed, anxious, off balance, and heavy. Sound familiar?

My question has always been, if ghosts supposedly speak to us at 19 Hertz, what the heck are we doing talking to them at our level (80-1100 Hertz)?

Shouldn't we be transferring our voices to their level so we can be heard?

Shouldn't we have ways to detect if 19 Hertz level is being put out in a location?

On a side note, the "Ghost Particles" film on that panel right beside the "Bad Vibes" film talked about something I wrote about in my paranormal highway series--neutrinos being the method by which ghosts can go through objects and possibly how us psychics can read objects and people and places by touching them and passing neutrinos and a form of information between us. The sort of paranormal broth...

Okay, now I want to update my cable so I can get National Geographic! Wow! Intelligent ghost hunting and Bigfoot hunting that looks for new and scientific ways to examine the possibilities of life after death and cryptids instead of just towing the same old line passed down by older generations.

Thank you sooooo much!

P.S. Since my husband is a testing engineer and sound expert, I will be speaking with him later on about this subject and some possible test equipment that can be devised. I’ll let you know what he comes up with.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bloggers Ghost Hunt in the Real World

I “virtually met” Julie from Above the Norm probably a year or more ago. I was drawn to her blog because she wrote about lots of paranormal happenings and haunted places, especially in our Arizona region and had a good heart and a sharp mind (two big prerequisites for getting my attention).

When I had an opportunity come up to hunt with the local MVD Ghostchasers at a workshop downtown in Phoenix, I thought of Julie. Why can’t bloggers meet in the real world? Well, I asked her along and she happily accepted. I knew we’d be fast friends and I wasn’t surprised that it seemed like we’d known each other forever.

It was a fair crowd, around 32 people. We all grabbed up trash bags and headed out to clean up the large cemetery before the open house next weekend. We had time to talk and get to know each other as we picked up some weird items including a hospital ID bracelet (thankfully, the gown wasn’t draped over a bush with a pack of matches from the Red Rabbit bar – “Halloween” lovers know that scene), a lot of bottles of booze, cigarette butts, and various other icky things. It was cold and the ground was mushy and there were homeless people rambling to themselves on the streets around us, but we had a purpose. We were bonding.

Once we were done, I got a chance to pull out the tools of the trade and talk to her about some of the items. We got a tour of the famous graves around the cemetery and I was forced to try and recall my speech when I played the first Mayor of Phoenix’s wife in a tour last March. When we were done, we had some supper from the buffet. We had some time to tinker and I had a little time to touch some items around the home and the walls to try and recall the scenario of past residents. I got a good deal of information and dynamics and it was very unsettling, so it showed some promise in possibly leaving some residual.

We then were put into separate teams of 4 to wander the graveyard with a rhyming clue to find a grave, take a picture of it, and come back to show it and see if we’d found the right one. My group managed to come in last and need clues to help us. It was pretty ironic because I’m the one who writes the rhyming clues for the “Cemetery Crawl” event every year that Debe Branning from MVD Ghostchasers and I invented years ago. The event has built up with a 2-day road rally with clues and tasks in an “Amazing Race” style graveyard-to-graveyard around the state event. Apparently, I get my own clues, but not other people’s.

After having time outside to do some dousing and a few KII sessions including one near a crypt and one at a baby’s grave, I was quite impressed with Julie's instincts. She was on top of the process and really good at being poised for evidence. We went inside and had a 30-minute EVP controlled session. The recorders and K-II meters are set out and everyone sits around the room comfortably and then we turn out the lights and people take turns calling out questions. If anyone makes a sound or a car goes by on the street, we call it out so we won’t be confused when listening later. We had a few sounds and smells, but nothing all that promising except perhaps a sigh that someone caught on their recorder.

It was midnight when we said goodbye and parted. My car battery was dead. It was kind of scary because it was a very very unsavory part of town. Luckily, I got a jumpstart and was on my way safely home. After having worked that morning and having to work the next day, I am completely and totally exhausted, but I had a great time.

As ghost hunts go, it was pretty lame, but you know my theory about geomagnetic activity and well, it was a completely stagnant day. We had a few strange things occur, however. One woman was getting some very strange vortex type things on her photos when I told her the spot where the angry uptight man used to sit in the corner of the room. Another time I was standing near the staircase and I heard someone on it, so I turned my head and saw a dark figure coming down the stairs and I figured someone had snuck up (we weren’t allowed upstairs). I turned back to my ghost bag to look for something and looked back again to see who was stupid enough to sneak upstairs and there was no one there. It startled me pretty good. No one below had seen anyone up there, but they were all turned my way when I was looking that way.

I'm thrilled to have met many interesting ghost hunters on this sojourn. Everyone that attended had their own methods, some beginners, others quite experienced. I am probably one of the biggest advocates for training and getting people out there. I'm not one of the competitive ghost hunters who wants to hide findings and locations to myself. I want lots of people in lots of places over and over again to try and confirm findings. Some will mature and season, others will grow bored (it is a tedious "job" with very few moments of reward). Seeing people seeking answers and inventing new methods to do so, is being part of the next generation of ghost hunting. It's still in the childhood age, but with the right "parenting" it will become a rebellious teen and I can hardly wait for that time when people take it in yet a new direction and snub the old ways. We won't get anywhere if we don't evolve. Julie is definitely one of those good parents of ghost hunting help it to mature through the awkward years.

She Made Me Ghost Hunt by Dale the Doll

I was just pleased to have a Saturday night with the humans gone, but no... She was going on a ghost hunt and guess who had to ride shotgun with her? Me. Of all the indignities that must befall a ventriloquist's doll... At least the stupid human belted me in.

We arrived at some creaky old house and I had no steamer trunk to sit upon. I was most uncomfortable. That is, until, the pretty human came to call. My human called her "Julie" and apparently she is a wonderful blogger at Above the Norm. Just the sound of her sweet voice was like music to my jaded ears. (sigh)

No sooner had the humans all huddled together in the old house when they had us out and about, taking a group picture (above, you can see my human on the bottom left with me and the beautiful Julie in the red shirt next to us). I wanted to get alone time with her, but no... My human made me ride around the cemetery inside of her coat, only my head sticking out. People were taking pictures of me, as if I were some kind of freak!

They set me up with the instruments of ghost hunting (I would be rolling my eyes--if I could). Several times, I tried to will the Fair Julie to come and be with me. My human at least let her hold me. She smelled good. I was certain that I felt her heartbeat quicken.

Admittedly, I am devastated that the human had me propped up in the corner for a 30-minute EVP session. I tried to make sounds and frighten the crowd, but they would have none of that. I will admit that, had I tear ducts, they would have shed true tears when my Fair Julie said goodbye in the parking lot and we parted ways. In fact, I was so upset that I drained the car battery and the stupid human had to get a jumpstart.

I will count the days until I see my Fair Julie again. For now, I will report that my human is at work reviewing her evidence and will report more about the hunt later on. I can only hope that she reads Fair Julie's account from her no-doubt brilliant blog. I heard them speaking about future ghost hunting ventures and now I find myself wanting to be a most avid ghost hunter.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cursed Items?

Remember the “Brady Bunch” episode with the cursed tiki object the boys found in Hawaii? It made for a fascinating tale, but can an item be cursed?

I’ve had a lot of people ask me that question. Understandably, as someone who reads objects, I might have some insight. The best way I can put it is this; an item with a history imprinted in it filled with pain and anguish, anger and resentment can, in fact, affect how you feel when you’re in contact with it, it can even make an entire room uncomfortable. Is it “cursed” in the sense that owning it will somehow make bad things befall you? No, not in a sentient way, but perhaps in a subconscious way. It’s more like you will make bad decisions or be influenced by the emotion of it. It can take you to a dark place. That’s not the same as being cursed or possessed, but it can sure as hell feel like a curse.

The Hope diamond and James Dean’s car that he crashed and died in were two items well known to be “cursed.” The hope diamond was repeatedly associated with death, suicide, madness, bankruptcy, and murder. Well, within the context to the diamond itself, being priceless and unbelievably rare, those who would covet it might not be of the best caliber of mind or lifestyle. It’s sort of like the spending rich playboy finding a bad end. That is one element of the “curse” of the stone, but the other one is the negative energy it accrues as it is passed on from owner to owner. For example, a family wedding ring passed on can sometimes be comforting if you believe it to be associated with a marriage that lasted a long time, but if it were worn by an elderly woman who had suffered widowhood and lots of arthritic pain, it may be possessed of melancholy.

James Dean’s car was parted out after his crash and the people who received the parts found horrible deaths, but then these were men who raced cars. The tires of the car being reused blew out and caused an accident, but then again reusing tires from an accident, probably not a good idea.

The curse of items is threefold; the mindset of the people who believe items can be cursed (superstitious nature, religiousness), the cumulative energy the item has accrued affecting the mood and decision-making of the people using it (making you depressed or angry) and the practicality of the item, i.e. some items by their nature beg to give you problems: I took a piece of rusted barbed wire from the desert to use for vines to grow up in my garden. I cut myself on it many times even though it was hanging way above my head. I kept reaching up to hang wind chimes nearby and got caught. That’s not a curse. That’s stupidity. You don’t put barbed wire in your garden and expect to not get snagged.

Some items hold their “history” longer than others. Metals, stone, and wood seem to hold information from past owners better. Paper and fabric are short-lived, sometimes just a few months maximum. If you take a stone from a cemetery, will it curse you? Not likely. The stone was nothing more than a part of an outdoor environment. Now, had that stone been on the ground where someone fell down following a stabbing and died a long and slow death, it might perhaps retain some very painful memories creating a sense of helplessness to those who hold it.

It’s human nature to be superstition and to look for patterns. Some folks can look at a flooding rain and notice it happened mid month. The next month, they notice it again, and the next. Soon, they truly believe that heavy rains only come mid month. We are superstitious about many things, like walking over a person’s grave, under a ladder, or having a black cat cross our path. Depending on your tendency to believe in magic and sometimes your religious upbringing, these superstitions can be strong. Convincing someone they aren’t cursed is not an easy process. If they give the object away, more than likely they will quit focusing on bad things happening to them and begin to focus on the good things and use that as a positive reinforcement that the item was indeed cursed. It’s all about focus. Remember the line from “Skeleton Key”? “It only works if you believe in it.”

Whether you believe you have the ability to read an object or not, you are being influenced by them all the time. People who collect antiques or buy items in flea markets know this sensation. They see something interesting, pick it up, examine it, and suddenly it no longer seems as interesting as it appeared from afar. They set it back down and move on.

My best advice is to allow yourself to handle used items before thinking of bringing them home and adding them to the family’s environment. This is much like the decision to adopt a puppy, you need to make sure it’s a good fit. Trust your instincts. If you can hold the item and it fascinates you and you find it beautiful, turn it in your hands, and imagine yourself already purchasing it, that’s a good sign. If you hold it in your hands and want to place it back quickly, frown at the price, wonder if it would work at home, and talk yourself out of it, those might sound like practical considerations, but something positively radiating will be worth the price tag and you know you’ll find a niche for it.

Son's Blog

Just because I'm a typical proud mom and because I talk about it from time to time and you get the sense he's a lot like me, I thought you might like to see his blog. He just started it and he's sharing the process of a college art student. It's called "The Artistic Endeavors of Alex Clauss"

Ghost Adventures: Special 90-minute of Poveglia Island, Italy

Kid Rock “Cowoby”

The video this week? As Zak and the boys headed out to Italy and bring us this sweet extended version of their time at Povelgia Island, one of the most amazingly horrific sites ever, I chose the appropriate send-off song, “Cowboy” by Kid Rock.

If you saw the original “Poveglia Island” episode last fall and were entranced by the amazing tragic setting and the super creepy structure, you’ll have a blast seeing this 90-minute extended version with footage we never saw before. Don't forget: Friday night, Travel Channel.

I’m hyped. You know why? 90 minutes of the drinking game and Zak and the gang locked down on the island! Tonight’s drink, in respect for the beautiful setting of Italy, will be Chianti. The rules: One sip for every “dude, “bro” and “man,” and another one for every time Aaron’s mouth comes unhinged in shock and fear.

This is definitely a curled up in your jammies (or other unmentionables), safe and warm kind of watching night.

Happy viewing!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

When They Prove Ghosts: What Next?

Suppose you’re watching TV when you get home from work, flipping through the channels and see a “Special Report” message. You stop and wait to see if it’s some disaster or shooting somewhere. No, this ends up being introduced not by a local, but a national reporter. The tone is serious. The message is stupifying, it must be a prank!

“A press conference is about to begin. Scientists from Yale University are going to discuss a finding that, well,” his voice deepens, “this is hard to say, but reportedly proof of the afterlife has been discovered and these top scientists in their field will be making an official announcement.” The reporter turns to the other reporter at the desk. “Did you ever think this day would come?”

The other reporter clears his throat. “I-I can’t imagine what can constitute proof of afterlife, but apparently we’re about to hear. They’re ready to speak.”

The screen then switches off to a room with a panel of men and women at a table, one standing at the lectern, leaning into a cluster of microphones, his eyes rather stricken, his body tense, his hands trembling slightly as he shifts his papers and waits for the reporters to quiet down.

At this point, I leave you to your imagination. As a hunter of the paranormal, I can’t imagine what “proof” would be irrefutable, as even an answering spirit could be interpreted as a hoax. Still, the day might very well come where the lines between our world and the next level of existence will be probed by science and perhaps, if we’re lucky, it will probe back and contact will be made.

We spend a lot of time talking about finding proof of the other side, but like the question of who we’ll clone when we clone people overrides the question of whether we should clone people, sometimes we get ahead of ourselves. Do we really want to clone the DNA of those who had their time on earth and do we really know what it will mean if we chase ghosts and we finally catch them?

Every aspect of our lives would change should we prove the afterlife.

That might sound like a silly statement. After all, those with faith believe in the afterlife already. Yes, they have belief, but with proof comes a conflict. What if the afterlife proves to be unconditional of what we practiced religiously on earth or perhaps even if we believed at all? Should you no longer be obliged to have a faith or practice a faith, what becomes of churches? Religious wars?

Some might say that without faith and the guidelines of one’s religious doctrines, the world would go mad with chaos and evil. Not true! I know a huge group of atheists, some of the kindness and most considerate and “Christian-like” people I’ve ever known. Their morals are deeply seated and cannot be bribed by heaven or greed. The roads would not fill with mayhem and looting, but the way we handle our lives might change dramatically.

Supposing there was no lingering doubt that you could be part of an eternal world without pain and hunger? Would a large group of sickly and elderly opt out of physical life? Would communication with the dead make it so families no longer grieved their dead? Instead, they simply wired themselves into the system and caught them up on their lives? Would the dead then become "slaves" to our need to continue to "keep them alive" by contacting them constantly? Would they have any "rest" in the afterlife?

These questions are the basis of a Sci-Fi novel I started many years ago and keep meaning to finish finally. I’m thinking of picking it back up and finishing it off finally, but I’d really like to pick your brilliant minds (I really do have the smartest followers in the blog world) to find out what you think the ramifications would be?

Mary Celeste: Ghost Ship?

In 1872, the merchant ship, “Mary Celeste” sailed left in November from New York to Genoa. On December 5th, halfway between the Azores and Portugal, the captain of the ship “Dei Gratia” sighted the Mary Celeste ship that he recognized. The only problem was it was riding out of control which was not at all something the ship’s pious and stern captain, Benjamin Spooner Briggs, would have ever allowed. The captain hailed the other ship, but for hours he got no response.

He then set off on a small boat with some men to board her.

The men found the ship to be seaworthy and having the appearance of being left in a rush. The investigating captain’s impression by the possessions left behind is that the crew left in a rush for fear the ship was sinking. The ship had contained 7 crewmen, the captain, the captain’s wife, and his small child.

Over the years, this story has become filled with tales of steaming cups of coffee and food on the stove and such being found. This was not the actual case. Here is what the captain of the “Dei Gratia” found:

One pump out of order
Two hatches off and a fair amount of water between the decks
The clock and compass were destroyed
No alcohol was found on board
The chronometer and sextant were not found on board
The ship’s register and captain’s log were both gone
The stove was off kilter and dishes strewn and lots of water in the galley
There were no boats on board

We’re left with many theories from a small explosion caused by munitions onboard to a rogue wave, and the fact that there had been strong storms for days that may have overwhelmed the ship’s capabilities. With the crew and captain and his family exiting on the small boats, they would have become victims of the rough sea.

Many legends have continued about the ship being a victim of some supernatural occurrence of the Bermuda Triangle variety. Even though these were dismissed, the fact remains; for a time the Mary Celeste was a ghost ship in the true sense, wandering the sea without a crew.

But why?

Did "Ghost Hunters" Change the Ghost Hunting World?

Even though (according to my theory) geomagnetic activity has been almost completely flat-lined since the latter half of 2008 and therefore ghost hunting is not a profitable venture of late, the TAPS team will always be known for changing America’s view of ghost hunting.

Prior to Ghost Hunters or BGH (“before Ghost Hunters”), ghost hunting was something people giggled about as frivolous and born of the spiritualists movement involving hoaxes such as ectoplasm, Ouija boards, and (dare we say) séances. People who believed in ghosts were in with the ranks of UFO witnesses and Bigfoot peepers; all of them taken as overzealous nerd fantasies.

But, after Ghost Hunters (AGH), Americans who had believed in ghosts and would not readily admit such a predisposition, were now turning to their friends and admitting their “affliction.” I had been hunting a few years before the show came to be, but when I heard a show about ghost hunters was going to be on national TV, I thought “times are changing! I might finally come out of the closet.”

AGH, a large amount of Americans not only admitted to believing, but having experienced the paranormal, and a huge mass of them were rushing out to hunt on their own. Search of the paranormal became accessible to every Joe and Jane. You didn’t need a psychic (thank you Ghost Hunters for proving that. Even thought I’m psychic, I would never use my readings as proof). You didn’t need fancy equipment even, just a digital camera, maybe a thermometer, and if you’re lucky an audio recording device. AGH, it was quite a different world for paranormal believers.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a very logic-minded and a fairly orderly person (Virgo), but I’m also very giggly, silly, and child-like.

BGH: When I told people I ghost hunt, they thought it was some kind of joke or need to be eccentric and goofy, but they never asked and never knew that I packed “heat” (EMF meters, thermometers, cameras, voice recorders, etc). I was serious about it. I had enough of experiencing the paranormal and not being able to prove it. I feared sharing my hobby because people who took me seriously would now look at me as if I’d just become a Scientologist and had a belief system set in the stars. Others who were devoutly religious would say I’m calling in the Devil.

AGH: When I told people proudly that I hunt ghosts, they were intrigued. They wanted to know all the details, try the equipment, ask questions, share paranormal experiences that they never would have told anyone about BGH. I was able to bring people in and help them learn about the business and advise them. Birthing newly inquisitive people is a great honor. Sending them out into the world to find their own paranormal puzzles is very gratifying. I’m not protective of ghost hunting like some hunters. I want more of us out there; more eyes watching things, more minds wondering how to make it better, to improve the industry.

This brings us to the final aspect of this PGH (post Ghost Hunters). That is, when the show is off and gone and all its little clones have deceased… Where will the ghost hunting world be? No doubt, at a standstill. BGH, they were still using psychics and Ouija boards, but PGH, we’ll unfortunately still be cornering the market in electrician’s devices with the hopes they can detect ghosts (which is kind of like saying I hope my rectal thermometer can measure the exhaust coming out of my car’s tail pipe).

We still have a long way to go in the paranormal research world. As much as GH was unbelievably important in teaching us debunking and being skeptical, they also carried with them old-world views of what ghosts and hauntings are. They had their “belief” system already in place. They became inbred and unable to grow in their research because they knew what ghosts were and how they present themselves and that they suck energy from your batteries and they make the EMF meter spike and yada yada yada. As open-minded as they were about a haunting possibly being explainable events and debunking a great deal of evidence, they also weren’t open-minded enough about just what a haunting is. So long as they defined what a ghost was and the different varieties, i.e. residual, intelligent, noncorporeal, etc, they never went to the next level. All their explanations were tailor fit for their belief system.

What is the next level for ghost hunting PGH? It’s going to take scientists and electrical engineers, geologists and psychologists and other professionals who hid during the BGH days to come forward and start some research with open minds. Sort of reverse engineering hauntings by looking at the evidence and backtracking for how it could have been set into motion. It will take very broad-minds in the field. There can be no more “religion of ghost hunting” allowed. So long as people think they know what is causing phenomenon and have already graded, tiered, and labeled it without any way of verifying these notions, they’ve just entered into the murky waters of a belief system(i.e. "Paranormal State").

BGH, when people asked me what a ghost was, I’d shrug and say “heck if I know.

AGH, when people asked me what a ghost was, I’d shrug and say “Heck if I know.”

I’m hoping some day PGH, I’ll be able to give a more definitive answer, but that will only come with much testing of every aspect from the psychological and psychic to the spiritual to quantum physics and forward-thinking options.

Ultimately, GH should go down in history as making ghosts not a chains and moans kind of castle-dwelling figure, but something that we all encounter at one point or another in one place or another and wonder, “what the heck was that?” and then weren’t afraid to seek answers, whether they were a squeaky door or something unexplainable.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What Casper the Friendly ghost taught me about ghosts

As a kid watching the Casper cartoons, I always assumed they were contemporary, but by the time I saw them, they were vintage already. It amazes me that this cartoon was embraced by America. The concepts of a friendly ghost and a friendly witch (Wendy) were way open-minded. Even though I lived in an actively haunted house, the concept of a ghost being a little mischief maker who’s lousy at scaring people and just wants some friends gave me an empathy for the presences that seemed to linger within the walls. It also gave me a concept of witches as embracing life and its elements to enhance healing and creating love and good fortune.

Can a cartoon in childhood really influence one? Hell ya! Other cartoons that impressed my tastes even as an adult were “The Jetsons.” New-gadgets entertain me greatly. I also appreciate mid century homes and retro vinyl diner booths and robots. What about “Scooby-Doo?” Well, it taught me about debunking as a ghost hunter in the future. There might be other explanations for a haunting (like a greedy butler). How about “Flintstones?” Okay, I’m purely female, it was Wilma’s chunky necklace that impressed me most. (I wasn't into brontosaurus ribs). “Johnny Quest” (my very favorite) made me adore digging up relics (good thing since I was doing it at Aspen Grove) and kind of made me have a super crush on guys in khakis and jeeps.

People say all the time that TV influences kids. As a kid, “Brady Bunch” was fun to watch but it didn’t affect any likes or dislikes in me. "Partridge Family" had me singing songs that later I would hate, but they didn't make me feel excitement about the future. I didn’t dream and wonder when I watched it.

Cartoons made me think there were no limits on life and what one could do. That the world was still magical. Yes, Casper definitely affected me and gave me a great relationship with very thing I’m hunting.

Bless his little transparent heart!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Are Ghost Hunting Shows Ruining Belief?

It isn’t just the rumors spreading about tyrant ghost hunters, shifty producers, and faking of proof, but the complete barrage of new shows hitting the cable channels that are bringing viewers close to mental exhaustion and even worse…apathy.

When “Ghost Hunters” show premiered, I’d been hunting a few years and was thrilled that someone else was out there not only using similar techniques, but was going to make everyone see what ghost hunting these days is really like compared to the old-fashioned methods of the spiritualist movement.

The first few seasons were admittedly a total thrill. I was seeing locations I hadn’t hunted in, seeing similar results to things I’d experienced, and everyone around me was saying, “I don’t think I could do that, it’s so scary!”

The average person can go a whole lifetime without one paranormal occurrence and for him to turn on the TV and watch a show where he heard and saw explainable and unexplainable things, he is living vicariously and understanding what drives us hunters to sit there all night long while cold, uncomfortable, and then sent home to review hours and hours of footage until even more bleary eyed.

“Psychic Kids: Paranormal Children”
“Ghost Hunters”
“Ghost Hunters International”
“Ghost Hunters Academy”
"Ghost Adventures
“Paranormal State”
“Paranormal Cops” (BTW, showing tonight the first time after “Paranormal State” on A&E)
“Ghost Lab”
“Ghost Chicks”
“Paranormal Intervention”
(Not to mention all the shows that died even more quickly and whose names do not stick out in any of our minds for obvious reasons)

Is this gluttony of new shows overwhelming us? Making us doubt the findings? Doubt true hauntings exist? I’ve heard several people say that the shows are the same thing over and over; people walking around talking to the walls, stopping to listen to sounds of the building, and then desperately trying to eek EVPs out of garbled background sounds with what does not resemble language in the least. With a yawn and sigh, they’re turning their channels.

It’s not as if they’re not trying to draw us in. They’ve resorted to priests and holy water, gadgets and taunting, experts and psychologists, psychics and reality show competitions. They’ve attempted attractive young women, bulky steroid-fed males, middle-aged Texans and just about every blue-collar worker.

I think the only thing left is a geriatric paranormal show where the hunters are looking for their recently deceased friends from the nursing home.

I’d like to propose some new fresh alternatives. No, not a show about a family with 10 kids that bakes cakes in the daytime and hunts at night. (I’ll leave that to the miserable TLC channel).

Here’s my choices:

Bigfoot Hunters: A team of men in cami’s, trekking into the woods, setting up a surveillance parameter (think “Predator” movie), lighting a bonfire, sitting there at night listening to the sounds and watching the shadows. Aren’t all people a little uncomfortable with the concept of the dark woods and a thin nylon tent between you and who knows what? Afraid of the hoot of owls? The plink of an acorn dropping on the forest floor? These are all the things that made “Blair Witch Project” wildly popular.

Haunted House: This is a reality show take on ghost hunting shows. A haunted location set up with cameras everywhere. People stay in this B&B setting and asked to join the hunt. They are regular people with no training. They stay for a week and then another team comes in. Each evening, the owners of the location sit before a fireplace and tell the group a tale of one of the ghosts that haunts the place. The people are then sent out to try and find the ghost with instruments and equipment. They sleep by day, hunt by night, each time a different story they must test out after the scary fireside tale. This has two benefits; regular people doing it instead of professionals and the team changes all the time and they aren’t hunting just one night like most shows—but for a period of time where something could actually be found.

UFO Hot Spots: When I was planning up a UFO sighting trip with others, I realized there’s a lot of great hot spots around the country and if you watch the UFO news through MUFON and others, you’ll see that they crop up in areas for a while and then move on to other locations. What if you assembled a group of perhaps a dozen or more members that head it out to the newest hot spot, sitting in a circle facing outward with cameras, each handling different quadrants of the sky in places where UFOs are frequently sighted?

I’d love to hear your concepts for replacements shows. I know ya’all and I expect some awesome ideas.

Creating a Zombie: Is It Possible?

Come on, haven't you ever wondered if it's scientifically feasible?

In some magic-based practices, the process of making a zombie is taken as fact. With the right mix of ingredients, a person can ingest the concoction and go into a kind of stasis (think SciFi long-distance space travel). The body’s systems would shut down to almost a halt, maintaining just enough to keep and element of life present (yeah, like a glowing pilot light on a gas heater). There is no doubt this is possible. Every time we undergo anesthesia for a surgery, we are quieting down conscious brain function, but maintaining autonomic function so our hearts still beat and we still breathe. With anesthesia comes a dulling of pain senses and the creation of amnesia when it is over. Of course, this wouldn't make for a real zombie, just a dead-looking person. The zombie would supposedly occur when you reanimate the person. In the case of anesthesia or even primitive mixes of powders, it wouldn't make a zombie, it would make an awake person after deep sleep.

These logistics aside, the problem with creating a zombie is the basic knowledge that when you shut down body functions to the degree that breathing is not detectable, then not enough blood is reaching the brain. Even if you reanimate a person by say CPR means, if the person has been without oxygen for enough a period of time, the brain functions will not reengage. You will have anoxic brain injury and a vegetative state.

Saying you reanimate a person’s body, in order for them to be a walking eating threat, they would have to have some of the brain functions in order to still move about. The concept of a zombie being directed by its master to do tasks is absolutely impossible. It would be like telling a person in coma to sit up on the edge of the bed. So, in the case of this type of “zombie” they would not be able to perform the functions of wandering the streets. They would also be mortal and able to be killed.

So, let’s conceive of some situations in which a zombie-type creature could be created. It would take a few elements. There would need to be severe retardation of brain function to the point that the person is perhaps at the mental level of a 2-year-old and therefore understanding of commands, but not understanding of whether these commands are fair or unfair, right or wrong. In order to get this unfortunate person to eat flesh, it would take a condition of pica. Pica is a condition in which a person craves things to eat that are not eatable, such as clay, metal, soil, and the like. Along with perhaps an ongoing iron-deficiency anemia, this lame-minded host could potentially be talked into cannibalism. In this case, at best, you’d get a docile child-like person who could be talked into eating flesh but would not have the natural tendencies to go out and seek flesh to eat. They would also be mortal and easily killed.

Other considerations: There is a disease called Kuru. It attacks the brain in a sort of mad cow disease type of way. It was found in New Guinea to be caused by cannibalism and the eating of the brains of those infected. This disease kills usually within 12 months and is also called the “shaking” disease or the “laughing” disease because it causes uncontrollable shaking and outbursts of laughter. That would make for a much different zombie, as this one would walk and talk, but also shake and laugh uncontrollably. Probably not that threatening. They would also be mortal and able to be killed, but would die on their own within several months in an agonizing manner.

The true zombies of pop folklore are an interesting concept, but the reanimation of flesh would also include an anoxic body that would not be able to have a brain function to move about, think, desire to eat, or any other features we’ve come to know.

Just because zombies can’t physiologically exist in the manner shown in movies presently, there are other aspects of medicine upcoming in the field right now that could change the present impossibility. Doctors are working on a kind of patient stasis that would keep their body functions on the lowest level of existence until they can come up with cures for what ails them. This is different than “putting a head on ice” cryogenics. Still, these two forms of putting people in stasis and then reanimating them could very well create conditions we aren’t aware of. Certain parts of the brain could feasibly be revived while others die off creating an imbalance in behaviors and tendencies. This might be like a football head injury can make someone suddenly very angry when they were kind before. Still, this would be a mortal condition and able to be destroyed.

Ultimately, the only true flesh-eating, killing, ruthless, nearly indestructible zombie you could ever invent would involve some very savvy Japanese engineers. It would have to be robotic. This could be programmed in many ways and the thought is actually a bit more chilling than flesh and blood, shoot `em in the head zombies.

Whether zombies exist in the future or not, the concept of a person dead but walking, alive but soulless is one that continues to fascinate and repel.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Writer's Workshop: Handling Rejection

I submitted three romance novels in the early 90s. Great concepts: A woman meteorologist scared of tornadoes after losing her father in a tornado as a kid and the misanthrope inventor she has to work with to test his invention to measure tornadoes (sound familiar? a few years later, a very similar movie called “Twister” came out), another about a woman trying to save her childhood historic home from the contractor who wants to tear it down, another about a woman who is hired to restore a lighthouse to its original splendor and the womanizer she must work for on the solitary island.

My strong points according to the editor of the large publishing house were my atmospheric descriptions and my characters and their psychological aspects, as well as the sensuality. The point that got me no sale—my plotting.

Every writer has an Achilles heel, mine was plotting.

By now, ya’all know that I’m a spaz. I like to do a lot of things and I do them really fast. If I do a painting, it better be done that day, because I likely will have lost the focus and it will turn into something completely wrong from my intention. I get a concept and I just start writing. In fact, in the past I only wrote scenes and then found ways to interlock them, often times writing them completely out of sequence. Artistically, I thought each scene should stand on its own. Nice concept, but how do you introduce characters and events and make them work as a bigger picture?

It took years of maturing and growing in other aspects of my life to realize I missed writing and I shouldn't take rejection as a failure or a sign I shouldn't write. Writing doesn't have to have a product, it can be a process. It simply has to satisfy the soul. So, I began to write again. I kept it to myself. I did it in spare stolen moments. It made me work my skills and get a handle finally on my runaway plotting. It wasn't wasted time, but I did ultimately want to get published. So, I had to learn to submit work again.

The only point of multiple submissions and refusals is to help me grow as a writer, but I had taken it much like I took the complaints in the modeling world when they said my hair was too wavy or my eyes too brown, it was a personal insult.

Maturity brings with it the ability to make sense of common things people keep telling you. Repeatedly, I heard “atmospheric, fully developed characters, sensuality,” but I never heard “I like the pacing.”

All refusals are little tidbits of insight.

Refusals often times have nothing to do with your writing and everything to do with the publishing house where you’re trying to submit it. Researching their works and seeing if there’s a fit is critical. Also, many publishers go through trends. They might be totally consumed with vampires right now instead of ghosts. They might be looking for flash (very short) stories or satires. When I submitted the tornado chaser manuscript, the editor told me it was very good but they didn't do action novels and I should send it to somebody else. Since this was the third one she'd rejected, I just put it aside. And, years later a very similar plot was used for a successful movie. The sad thing is that when I wrote it, I had a feeling that tornado chasing would be a future sport. I let my ego crush my instinct.

One time, I was turned down for a huge clothing maker for a catalog modeling job because I was not “ethnic” looking. It should have dawned on me that this Middle Eastern clothing line had only women of color in their ads and I was wasting both our time by appearing for the go-see. The same goes for the writing world. You need a perfect match or you’re wasting both of your time. Now, imagine submitting a work and waiting 4-6 weeks, sometimes months, for a response? You could have spent that time submitting it somewhere it fit in the first place.

I’ve heard people say that they had hundreds of refusals and that it’s the mark of a writer’s life, some even pasting their walls with them. I wondered why they would take pride in someone not liking their work. Well, that was before I found a new way to reframe it in my mind. Instead of a refusal as a commentary of my writing style, I’ve come to see it as a concert pass.

A concert pass?

You know, those crazy little stubs you’ve kept from every “Steely Dan,” “Peter Frampton,” and “Fleetwood Mac” concert you went to in your youth? You tucked them away and maybe pulled them out and nostalgically viewed them. They are little reminders that in your youth, you did a lot. You went to all those concerts. These are all evidence of having taken action, done things, lived, taken risks, did instead of dreamed.

My refusals from publishers are all happy reminders that I kept sending stuff in. Over and over and over again.

Looking at it in a bigger sense, when you started dating before you found your mate, did you just date one person and say, “yup, this is the guy.” You had to test drive them, interview them, spend time with them. You had to meet some super duds. You had to meet some rude people. You had to meet some slackers. Eventually, the chemistry was right. Should the timing be right as well (you found him as an adult and not in third grade or when you’re married already), you are truly blessed. It’s a kind of alchemy that no one can explain. Almost like a cosmic convergence.

It’s not personal when you get a refusal. I’ve had a few the last few months I’ve been submitting my short stories. I realize that it’s a combination of poor timing, a poor fit, a poor chemistry, dazzling competitors, and even subtle things like marketing trends and advertiser’s needs.

Tuck them away into a little box. Take them out when you’re an old (and successful) writer and realize that these are all your little badges of every time you tried. In fact, (note to future self) that’s what got you where you are that day.