Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cognizant Hauntings: A Psychological Ouroboros?

So this might seem like a complete departure from some of my other blogs where I spend most of my time postulating the existence and the source of many of the phenomena that we talk about on our show. It would seem that way because it is. The reason for this? Well, life has a way of forcing us to peer into our souls at times and just like the abyss, when we stare too long into them, they have a tendency to stare right back.

I am convinced that hauntings exist across the board in many different forms, each having their own varied origins, some in science, some in the as-of-yet undiscovered sciences. I am convinced as well that there are “temporal anomalies” that result in the double exposure of our reality, allowing us to see people and events from by-gone and future eras. They are going about their daily chores as we are ours, each party sneaking a brief glimpse at the other, should they know when and where to luck, if not by purpose, then by accident. I am then thusly convinced that some hauntings are cognizant of their own existence, being neither a repeat of the past or a glimpse of the future, but a soul at unrest. It is this cognizant haunting that troubles me the most, not because of its religious implications, although there are many, but because of a message largely ignored.

To say that life is fragile is to equate a great egg to a great omelet. The initial statement has merit, but we largely miss the weight and impact that a commentary on our time on this planet has. Sadder still is the idea that our neglect of our condition and the lack of desire to better it will leave us repeating our mistakes, and sometimes dooming us to ponder them in what can only be described as the ethereal “in-between”.

The paranormal world, or better yet, the paranormal “industry” has its strife, its rivalries, and its standing feuds. Researchers often critique their peers with unabashed malevolence, forgetting that the “right” answer might be wrong in its very context when dealing with the unknown. It is a subjective field that many have come to conclude exists in a state affected by our very perceptions, sometimes altering the very phenomena itself in how it is observed and conceived. The human element, however, persists, and open forums are wrought with jealousy, bigotry, hatred and ignorance. We study the dead with an air of indignant righteousness, holding our own sparks aloft so high and haughty that they would appear immortal of the flesh.

We look at cognizant hauntings and we are brought to the ground zero of human depravity; a stain on reality spurred by cocktails of murder, violence and sadness, yet still we seem to miss the point. We seem to look over the glaring mistakes of our ancestors, our idols, our recently departed and declare ourselves victors of the human condition by clinging to life, where our subjects no longer could. What can we learn? What we already know. That life, in its simplest of commentaries, is fragile. We are all walking phantoms unless we absolve ourselves and seek to enrich and better the lives of those around us. The message might very well be this: Exorcise the demons of your today, lest we be the ghosts of our tomorrow.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Reboot Button On Life

    Hey there, I'm sure you're all aware that there hasn't been a show in a while. We've been on a break from it for personal reasons. A lot has happened to us since the live show at Turtle Run Campground. When we were on our way to the campground I got a call from one of my co-workers stating that my whole department was getting demoted because they were transferring our job to another location. This was the first step in a series of events that left me pretty ravaged, and had a lot to do with the amount of whiskey I drank at that show.

     Shortly after we returned from the campground I went to visit my girlfriend of 2 and a half years and she told me that she wanted to split. This seemed to have come out of nowhere and took me by surprise, but I should have seen it coming as it seemed we had been growing more and more distant. It still really upset me all the same.

The next event happened just days later on May 26th. It was me getting an e-mail from a roommate telling me that the landlord wanted me to be out by the end of the month.  I replied asking if she meant the end of June. No. I had 5 days to pack everything I owned and move it out of the place I had just moved in to in October. I was renting a room on the second floor of a house and two of the other people were moving out and the dick landlord decided at the last minute that he would rather rent the floor to a family instead of renting the rooms to individuals. Unfortunately the matter of where I was supposed to live was unimportant.  I was going to just put all of my belongings in storage and then live in my van until I found another place to live. Luckily I have some amazing friends and one of them has been letting me crash on the futon in the spare room since this has happened.

     Finally, in the beginning of June I got a break from the insanity and went to California to visit my brother.  I had an amazing time that sadly came to an end all too quickly. As I was on the plane to come back I realized that I had very little to come back to. No girlfriend, shitty job that made me want to kill myself, no home, and the realization that my entire life fit in a 5x10 storage unit. I discovered that I'm 33 years old and have nothing to show for those 33 years. I had plugged headphones into the plug to listen to in flight tv, turned on VH1 and was hoping that the flight would be much shorter than planned, but then decided that I didn't want "Right Here, Right Now" to be the last song that I heard before I died, so I plugged into the iPod and cranked Slayer's "World Painted Blood". That's an album to die to.

     On the flight back I came to the conclusion that I've had enough of New Jersey, and decided to load up my van and move out to California as soon as possible. I was originally planning on leaving at the end of July but that didn't give me enough time to do everything I needed to do.  I ended up changing the leave date to the end of August to stick around and spend more time with friends and take more time to get my belongings in order to find out what I was able to fit in the van, what I would ship, and what I would need to find a way to get to California at a later date or just get rid of.

     During this time period life decided that it hasn't quite shit on me enough and my transmission goes out on my van and I lose my job right around the same time.  So $2500 later I have a van again, and luckily unemployment has started coming in. I've got my belongings in order and I'm going to be moving this Saturday.  I will be driving almost 3,000 miles cross country by myself.

     We are looking into setting up a way for me to do the show remotely when we start broadcasting again. I have my equipment that I will need for it, it's just a matter of getting everything set up and running tests on it to make sure there is no delay, echo, and that everybody comes through clearly. 

So now you're all up to date on what's been going on in my world. The next blog I post will be from the other side of the country, it will probably be pompous drivel about soul searching on the road and finding it behind a cactus on a side street in Nevada or something. If I'm lucky, I'll get abducted somewhere in that region when I'm passing through.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Prepare for Disclosure. Prepare for War.

I hosted a roundtable this past April that consisted of four of some of the most recognizable personalities in UFO research. For the second time I had the pleasure of speaking with disclosure activist Stephen Bassett. More often than not, my thoughts on disclosure have been somewhat polarized. I believe whole-heartedly in letting the public decide for themselves what they should believe and how they should interpret the beliefs of others. It is this free will that defines our desire to be individuals and is part of the essence of being human. I agree that “national security” has been more of a security blanket used as a catch-all for anything that falls outside of the realm of definable and controllable phenomena. So do I agree with the idea that disclosure is needed? Yes, and I also agree that it is our right as Americans and citizens of the world to demand it. Do I think the world is ready for it? No. No, I do not, and this is where I will diverge from the research of many of my peers in saying that I have enormous faith in humanity, yet no faith in humanity’s ability to organize and implement governing systems, and this is where we constantly fall apart.

Disclosure represents many things, but at its core it is about the dissemination of truth. Truth is the seminal double-edged sword. The sigh of relief that accompanies truth is wrought with barbs that often tear, mangle and incapacitate in its release. With disclosure comes truth and I think the brand of truth that many UFOlogists seek often strips the emotion from the experience and looks at validation and confirmation, but not necessarily closure, and I’m talking about the kind of closure that comes from finally coming to terms with trauma. Trauma is a rarely used word in UFO culture. We are all prone to throw around terms like “advanced propulsion”  and “aerial maneuvers” but trauma is a bird of a different feather. If I were inclined to use trauma in reference to the UFO phenomena, and more importantly the ET “problem” I might say. “ the way in which the subject was taken from their home, subjected to multiple tests that were both intrusive physically and of a sexual nature left the victim in a state of shock that led to long term psychiatric issues stemming from the initial trauma”. I think that could be an accurate way to use the word effectively. It might also be the same phrasing used in a police report to describe an assault, a rape, or a kidnapping. It is, however, a phrase you would also expect to hear in an account of an alien abduction, and it is the abduction phenomena that raises not only some serious questions for me about disclosure, but some very serious concerns as well.

How do you try another planet for their crimes? The legal issues alone surrounding disclosure are near insurmountable. Are we expected to wipe the slate clean once the smoke of cloak and dagger has dissipated? What about the victims of abductions that have lost their family, friends, jobs and their credibility over what they have experienced? Is it going to be easy for them to see a race absolved of guilt, while they are expected to still seek closure on their own as victims unavenged? Will there be any recompense for the lost time, the lost dollars on therapy, the lost sanity of the “experiencers” once the veil of conspiracy has lifted. Further more, who does take responsibility?

It is responsibility that possibly troubles me the most. How will the world’s governments look in the eyes of their people, regardless of how they try to spin it? What will their angle be or, more importantly, is there one that at all? To admit that they were unaware of the phenomena to a point or even unable to adequately control it points toward negligence worthy of a global outcry. If they admit involvement, they become the very enemies of the people they were sworn to protect. If the problem is so far out of their control they are admitting that their protection is, at best, a smokescreen; another lie to placate a public whose interests they haven’t fully served.

Let’s take the former and the implications that the situation is unable to be controlled by our world’s governments. If this is the case, we need to look not only at the criminal activities of the guilty party (Plaedians, greys, Taliban, etc) but the crimes against humanity that they are also responsible for:

  1. Violation of Restricted Air Space – If disclosure reveals that craft have been coming and going at their leisure, that means our national security has been violated innumerable times.

  1. Abduction, Restraint and Torture of Private Citizens – The abduction phenomena,       complex and sometimes terrifying in all of its David Lynchesque facets, represents an intrusion and torture on a level reminiscent of waterboarding.

  1. Animal Cruelty and Terrorism -  Cattle mutilations represent a level of detached indifference that startles and horrifies those who witness the end result. The tendency to leave the carcass could be seen as psychological intimidation as well (think this is a reach? If they really wanted to be discrete, I’m sure they could find a better disposal method rather than just throwing it out their car window into the ditch)

So what does all of this mean? What is means to me is that a party or parties hitherto unidentified have been committing acts of tyranny, violence and psychological intimidation worthy of a declaration of war. Once the parties responsible have been identified (in this case through disclosure) how are we to deal with them in a manner that holds them responsible for what they have done? How would we be able to combat their technologies to even hold them accountable?

I am still an advocate of disclosure, however. The truth, no matter how painful or difficult is still the truth. I think it is just going to be a bittersweet truth that could very possibly blow forth the winds of war.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Book Review: The Ghost Hunter's Survival Guide

The Ghost Hunter’s Survival Guide;

Protection Techniques for Encounters with the Paranormal

By Michelle Belanger

Llewellyn Publications, 2009
[Paperback, 271 pages, no illustrations]

Reviewed by The Ghost Reader

Just as firefighters would be foolish to enter a burning building without a helmet, breathing apparatus, and Kevlar suit, so, too, a ghost hunter would be ill-advised to enter a haunted house without proper protection.  That, at least, is the assertion of Michelle Belanger in her latest book, The Ghost Hunter’s Survival Guide.

Thus asserted, the question arises what type of protection should a ghost hunter use?  a) Dab on some garlic-scented cologne?  b) Strap on one of Egon Spengler’s proton packs to zap the paranasties before they can slime you?  Or, c) don a suit of psychic armor?  If you answered “c” you would be correct.  (Sorry, Ghostbuster fans.)  Psychic armor is what Survival Guide is all about, and Ms. Belanger is one of the leading seamstresses of this fashion in the paranormal field. She is an advisor to A & E’s series Paranormal State and lectures and writes extensively on many aspects of the paranormal, including ghosts, psychic energies, and vampires (what?).  She is a gifted, intelligent writer (not many can use words like “hypnopompic” and “disambiguation” with aplomb) who is deeply studied and expert in her field, which she treats here with great sensitivity.  Though thoroughly convinced of the merits of “energy work” and the psychic realm, Ms. Belanger still presents her material in a very objective manner, not using this book as a soapbox for preaching in behalf of New Age beliefs.

Survival Guide starts by relating how to lay the foundation of psychic protection via “grounding and centering.”  This process gets a ghost hunter in a position with eyes closed, feet slightly spread, hands clasped at the energy center inside his/her chest, and perhaps offering a simple mantra. (Hmm.  Sounds like a certain cowardly lion, clutching his tail to his sternum and repeating, “I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks. I do, I do, I do, I do, I do believe in spooks”) The ghost hunter then adds to this a psychic, egg-shaped shield surrounding the entire body, “made” of bright light, psychic mirrors, or imaginary fire.  (Careful with that last one.  Even psychic eyebrows don’t smell or look very good when singed.)  Protected through this process of ground, center, and shield, the ghost hunter will hopefully never have to stop, drop, and roll due to a psychic attack.

From this beginning, the book goes on to describe other psychic techniques that ghost hunters should find of value.  The book is divided into 9 chapters, with each loosely divided into three sections.  Ms. Belanger begins each chapter with a segment from one of her investigations, in this case a story of an aspiring musician living with a demented grandmother in an extremely cluttered house – which just happens to be infested with psychic vermin.  The chapters’ middle sections are devoted to full descriptions and teaching sessions of psychic techniques relating to what just transpired in the investigation.  And the final part of each chapter, called “The Least You Should Know,” is a simplified summary of the techniques described in the mid-section.  Sprinkled throughout the book are “Sidebars” (Thank you, O.J. Simpson trial, for popularizing this term.)  These are entitled either “Skeptic’s Corner” or “Beyond Belief.”  The former put forward scientific, psychological interpretations of some of the concepts raised in the body of the chapter, and the latter give interesting religious insights and snippets of cultural history related to other concepts.

The question arises when reading Survival Guide, just who is it written for?  The author herself states, early in the book, that it is for those “actively involved in paranormal investigation.”  That is probably true.  And despite the enormous popularity of, and interest in, ghost hunting today, that is not a very large number of people.  So the guide will probably not be a best seller. (The publishers at Llewellyn just winced.)  In order for other, non-investigator types to enjoy this book, they will need to be into New Age material and accept the basic psychic tenets that Ms. Belanger describes at length, some of which will strain the credulity of more strictly science-oriented readers.  Or, they will need to read the openings of the chapters and then skip to the summaries, since some of the detailed step-by-step instructions of “energy work” and psychic exercises get a bit tedious and repetitive.

Perhaps the best chapter in The Ghost Hunter’s Survival Guide is the last.  In it, Ms. Belanger recognizes and reflects on the misgivings some might have with her approach and how different people’s “energy types” affect their degrees of psychic ability.  She also warmly embraces the idea that, in a speculative area of study like paranormal investigating, many different approaches, including psychic and scientific, are all necessary.  She also deftly touches on the ethics of paranormal investigating.  And she does all of this in a thoughtful, intelligent, open-minded way, a way that cannot help but inspire a reader to respect her and the sincerity of her convictions.   

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Book Review: Seeking Spirits

They’re baaaaaaack!

America’s favorite ghost hunters, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, return to the print world with their second book, Seeking Spirits, a follow-up to their 2007 best-seller, Ghost Hunting. This new book, with the exact same number of pages as its predecessor, carries the somewhat curious sub-title, The Lost Cases of the Atlantic Paranormal Society. Lost? From whom? Certainly the authors had enough in their files to recount the early, pre-TV show adventures of the T.A.P.S. investigators in their local New England haunts. Lost? Seemingly these cases are lost only to exploitation by the SyFy Channel, which, in case you have been astral projecting to Venus for the last several years, broadcasts the popular TV series “Ghost Hunters”, which our boys Jason and Grant produce.

Anyway …

Seeking Spirits, like Ghost Hunting before it, is a collection of short (mainly 4 to 8 page) recountings of paranormal investigations. And, like Mama Gump’s observation about life, the book resembles the proverbial “box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Well, what you get here are 36 chocolates – er, chapters – and what’s inside each is often a surprise. There are tales of poltergeists, demons, an incubus or two, hallucinogenic drug combinations, a client suffering from dementia, ouija boards, a doppleganger, and, of course, your every day garden-variety ghosts. Strangest of all is a case involving peeping-Tom gray aliens. (The boys had to refer their client to an E.T. exterminator here, not wanting to cross union lines.) In a strange twist, perhaps the book’s scariest chapter has its fear generated by humans, with Jason and Grant escaping a pesky gang of Satan worshippers. (“Run, Forrest, run!”) The book derives strength from its variety, keeping you guessing what’s lurking, waiting for you in the shadows of the next chapter.

Grant Wilson, the “good cop”, of our paranormal pair, is a much more active participant in Seeking Spirits than he was in Ghost Hunting, and the book is much the better for it. He fully narrates half the stories here, as opposed to adding sporadic one or two sentence comments as he did in Ghost Hunting. He also recounts, in the book’s introduction, the extended experience he had as a youth that motivated his fascination with the paranormal. Interesting stuff.

Many of the chapters end with sub-sections entitled “Ghost Hunter’s Manual.” These give back-stories, histories, or explanatory information about ghost hunting techniques, devices, or definitions, and they’re usually quite informative. Topics range from the history of the “talking ouija board” (invented in 1890) to the onset of EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon), “discovered” in Sweden in 1959. (No wonder some EVPs are hard to understand … the ghosts are speaking Swedish!) Sophisticated, serious readers of books and articles on the paranormal and its investigative equipment may find the information basic, but others will find it enlightening.

Which brings us to the basic tone of the book. Ultimately, Seeking Spirits is conversational. It’s like sitting down at a table in a bar and, while chasing down some liquid spirits, listening to two regular guys talk about chasing spirits of the more ephemeral kind. There is no tightly controlled scientific research into the paranormal related here, with data and numbers and analyses leading to objective conclusions about the realm of ghosts. It’s two guys telling stories about helping clients with strange and very unwanted problems. That is exactly what they claim the goal of their investigations to be … and what this book is all about.

All in all … a very enjoyable read.

The Ghost Reader

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Time Travelling in Your Mind

It was many, many years ago, I was around the age of 3 or 4 and I remember sitting in front of dad's reel to reel player listening to a Steppenwolf album that I enjoyed the music and thought had a cool cover. All I remembered about the cover was the band was green on it and there were 2 skulls in the background (even then in my little mind, skulls = pretty cool). I would always ask my dad to put it on because I didn't know how to work the thing to make it play and I spent a lot of time listening to it. A few weeks ago, I randomly thought of this album cover again and wondered what I would think of it now if I were to listen to it 30 years later. I searched out Steppenwolf album covers and found the image below and instantly sought out a way to acquire a copy of the album.

After I was able to get it, I loaded it onto the mighty iPod and went for a drive. As the first song came on I was instantly transported back in time 30 years to being that little kid listening to rock n' roll on dad's reel to reel, sitting there with the big 70's style headphones on upside-down because they were too big to fit on my head, then something else happened. I started singing along with the song. This completely took me by surprise. I had not even heard any of these songs, even in passing, since I was 4, how the hell do I know the words?!?

The brain is a very complex organ that we still don't fully understand or know how to use it to its full potential. It would have been nice to know how to quickly call upon stored memory through high school, it would have made things much easier. What is it about sights, sounds, and smells that instantly trigger memories from times long gone?

I understand how some mnemonic devices work, like for reading music you remember the lines of E, G, B, D, and F with "Every Good Boy Does Fine" and the spaces with F, A, C, and E as the word face. That makes sense to me, but I don't understand how songs I've not listened to or even thought of for 30 years is still hanging around in there when I can't even remember things I did 2 weeks ago.

Since there is so much more that we are unaware of that our brain does and how it operates there is so much potential to improve on our thought process. We just need to find a way to tap into the ability to just reach in and grab those memories on command. If there was a way to remember everything we've ever been told, taught, learned, and read just by mentally accessing it in seconds, I believe the world would be a much better place. It may even give us the ability to travel back in time in our mind to fully see what was going on around us, and experience it all over again, we will not be able to change anything, but we will still be able to re-live the experience. So come on scientists, let's try to figure out how we can access the reaches of our mind for things on command.

And I still think that's a badass album cover


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nine Tenths: 3rd Installment

“Do we look like thieves to you?” Garret asked. It was a rhetorical question. One scan of the three travelers showed them to be in remarkably good shape save for the lifeless limb hanging on the younger man. “You have a Watcher with you. She’s strong enough to keep herself and the others with you hidden. I need to see her.”

The boy was genuinely puzzled and offered a reply. “ I don’t even know what a Watcher …,”

Garret cut him off before he could finish opening his hand and gazing at the gun on the boy’s lap. The boy turned the handle of the gun towards his interrogator and willingly gave him the weapon back. “Time is short for both of us, son. You have one among you that can read minds, dream of things that happen days later, things like that, right?”

This time the boys eyes looked toward the ground as he spoke and the tell was obvious to everyone in the room. “No. No, we don’t”

Garrett had to keep himself from smiling the wry smile that had a knack for making everyone in the room nervous. “You really can’t lie for shit, but I respect you for looking after your own. Now, normally I’m a fair man…um…what’s your name.”

The boy replied almost instinctively, “Kevin”, then put his hand to his mouth; an embarrassing afterthought.

Garret leaned in and put the gun into its holster. “Kevin, I’m a fair man, when I have the time, but right now I have eight minutes. Eight minutes doesn’t give a man time to be fair. In eight minutes the things you have been hiding from will be here, and without your friend’s gifts we, you me, my friends and yours, will die.”

Garret was looking the young man in the eyes; eyes that still had hope even if it believed it remote. The boy sighed and returned Garret’s stare as he hesitantly opened his mouth, painfully searching for the words to betray his own sister. He was spared the humiliation as a low moan filled the room. It sounded inside their heads and a million miles away at the same time. It could have come from a child or a mad animal but either way, it sought to disorient it’s audience, displacing itself like a ventriloquist’s stage trick. Joe tilted his head and brought a small vial of yellow brown liquid out from inside of his overcoat. He raced to a nearby window, it’s stained glass long broken and replaced with the ugly black rot of old wood. He winced as he shifted his weight to stand on the tips of his toes bringing the small glass to catch the moonlight. “ Five minutes, brother. They’re making good time tonight!”

Garret looked down at his watch, shook his head and turned toward the now empty pew. “That went well. “ He could see the outline of the boy racing down the hall, back towards the safety of the basement retreat. The teen was so thin that his clothes hung off of him as though they weighed more than he did. Chris thought he resembled a marionette, almost defying gravity as if the air itself supported his frame. One thing was for sure though, he was quicker than the three had given him credit for and they were almost out of time.

The vial had begun to pulsate an unearthly green when the moonlight had struck it but the glow now subsided as Joe gave it toss, caught it, and swung it into his inner pocket in one deft movement. He threw his thumb over his shoulder, gesturing to the hallway and said, “I’ll go get him, he’s just scared.

Garret shook his head disapprovingly and grabbed the twin pistols from his belt. “No time. We make our stand now.” He was worried, but he had lived worried ever since the incident. It was one thing to know that death is the wild card in the race, it was another to hear the pounding of his cleats against the track every waking moment of your life. Garret chased off his fear and uncertainty with routine as he checked the clips of the 9 mms. Death was moving to the inside and gaining on him. He looked up at Joe who was doing his best with one arm and whistled between his teeth to get his attention. “ I don’t suppose our neighbors downstairs had any brownbottle on them, did they.”

Joe hung his head, he knew what was next. “If I asked, I can’t remember. After the boobytrapped door and the smell that came with it, I sorta lost focus...” He was remaining calm, but the thought of what lay ahead twisted his stomach and churned his nerves.

“That’s too bad.” Joe was as tough as any 22 year old could be, but everyone had their limits, and endorphins could only get you so far. He stepped toward the younger man, still checking the clips, his head down, but steady. Joe took a deep breath and turned towards the window. Somehow he knew if he saw the man do what he had to do, he would learn to hate him. Pain was often a catalyst for hate in Joe’s world and he didn’t want to hate this man. Joe managed a false grin and a half-chuckle, “Guess we best get it done then, eh?”

Garret put his pistols away and put a hand on Joe’s shoulder. “I guess we best.”

A voice blasted from the back of the room and both men turned as the boy named Kevin entered, a young girl with a cream colored nightgown to his left, an older boy in his late teens to his right, and a man presumably in his sixties trailing a few paces behind the group. “Jesus Christ!!! Is that a bone coming outta his arm?”

Garret glared out the boy and nodded, “Yes.”