Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Calling all Succubi

The first time I saw Ghostbusters, as a boy, it made an impression on me. That impression as memory serves me now is as follows: “What the hell was that ghost doing unzipping Dan Ackroyd’s pants and why is he so damn happy about it?!?!?!” A sidenote that I must now include is that Ghostbusters also marked a period of my adolescence where I swore randomly. I think I was just angry because I was being picked on by a man who would later live out his twenties in the basement of a YMCA. It also could have been Turrets Syndrome…

My first impression of Ghostbusters as an adult was as follows: “Where the hell can I find a succubus?” I mean, really, is this the worst that hell’s legions of demons can throw my way? I hear a creak on the stairs (not the “I will drag your almost impossibly endowed girlfriend through the hall and baby-soft talcum powder Paranormal Activity creak”) and a dark horned figure stands in the doorway, pitchfork or whatever bails hay in hell in hand, leveraging a taloned finger at me and says.” Ash Hamilton. Your name has been inked in the book of Leviathan. Prepare to be drained of all bodily fluids by thorough sexing that will not result in pregnancy, an STD that makes you pass wing nuts out your urethra or awkward conversations that begin with. “So did that constitute a “half-and-half” or an “around the world”?

Where was Dante Alighieri when Satan added that particular level of hell, “Lessee, we get uh fire dancing on the soles of the feet, buncha lawyers in a river of boiling blood…uh, hey Mephistopheles! I’m thinking of switching things up a bit…I can’t just put another blood river here.” (Satan here is played by character actor Joe Pantoliano) How did this one get through the cracks? This is a pretty big oversight to make its way outta hell’s audit.

Which brings me to my dilemma. How does one go about procuring one of these little kittens? I tried being virtuous and pious. No succubi. Tried being that “haunted man living on the edge, one step away from losing his soul…and his humanity. This summer ex - cop Tyler Trent learns the very definition of…” No succubi. Apparently there is also one thing that Craigslist does not have…succubi. Did see an ad for a bi-curious Wiccan trying to pay for culinary school. No succubi.

So this is my call to arms. I am looking for a succubi. I am even willing to sublet someone else’s succubi if an arrangement of mutual benefit can be met. I’ll even go Sunday, Monday, Tuesday if I have to. I would prefer a succubus who takes care of herself, maybe late thirties/ early forties, but dishy. Luckily the lack of a corporeal body will probably make this one a sure thing. Oh… if sharing succubi, I don’t want to know what you have named it. I will name it and that will make things less weird for me; probably Raven or Candy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ewww that Smell: Do Olfactory Hallucinations Support the Multiverse Theory?

Phantom smells seem to accompany the paranormal on almost every level. From the smell of rotten eggs that sometimes marks spirit activity to the overwhelming odors of the skunk ape, aptly named for the very smell that precedes it, the paranormal is an odiferous area of study. Are these odors, like the banal and unsuspicious smells we encounter everyday, simply an attribute of the phenomena, or might they allude to a mechanism by which the phenomena presents itself?

Phantosmia is usually an indicator of a serious illness and phantom smells can be the harbingers of horrible medical concerns including epilepsy and brain tumors. Phantosmia, which has been linked to temporal lobe seizures, often accompanies epilepsy stemming from the hippocampus.

Temporal lobe epilepsy in particular has been somewhat of a catchall explanation for ghosts among debunkers and the scientific field in general. Temporal lobe seizures have often been associated with “seeing” ghosts and have even been singled out in possession cases. The aspect of “alien control” associated with temporal lobe conditions replaces the demonic when there is reason to suspect hyperactivity in the temporoparietal cortex, again, making the temporal lobe a convenient neurological patsy when it comes to explaining away the paranormal. It is a patsy so convenient, in fact, that it incurs suspicion through the frequency of its diagnosis.

The temporal lobe itself is not limited to producing just olfactory hallucinations and here is where the skeptic gets a little more fuel for their fire. The ventral part of the temporal cortices are responsible for such high perception recognition as faces and scenes. Put together the instances of phantosmia, alien control (which has a wide range of seemingly paranormal attributes from feeling as though there is a presence in the room to actually losing physical control of your body), and visual hallucinations stemming from the fusiform gyrus and parahippocampal gyrus part of the temporal cortex and you have all the makings of a serious haunting. Or is it that easy?

If it was, we would seemingly see a lack of both EVPs and thermal imagery, you would think. Could mass hallucinations be the culprit again then? Are our ghost hunters all victims of a form of temporal lobe epilepsy specific in it’s conditions? Let’s pose an alternative. Trauma to the brain can often cause temporal lobe lesions. Many people who have temporal lobe lesions may have some of the effects of temporal lobe epilepsy varying in severity. What if exposure to a rip in dimensional barriers could tax both the fusiform gyrus and parahippocampal gyrus areas to such an extent that temporary damage is done to that area of the temporal lobe? Let’s go a step further and ask if these areas of the brain HAVE to be manipulated in order for the multiverse to be seen. If so, can a brush with the paranormal lead to multiple exposures simply due to the damage done to the temporal lobe during that first incident? What if overstimulation caused by paranormal activity results in a small lesion in the temporal lobe? If damage or stress to the temporal lobe opens one up to paranormal experiences can the forming of lesions snowball and intensify these experiences?

(Continued in Part 2)


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Skepticism and The Fourth Kind

Have you ever found yourself, trying to explain your theory on the mole
people or some other paranormal topic to a new friend or coworker? Have
you ever been greeted with skepticism and the "he might be crazy look?"
I have. In fact I was greeted with it not once, not twice, but three
times this week.

So why was met with such skepticism? Was it the topic of abduction? I
don't think so. Was it the words I used to articulate my views?
Probably. One thing I have learned in my years of being open to things
beyond Starbucks and the box we are expected to live within, is that the
saying, "it's not what you say, but how you say it" is true. If you get
the chance email me your experiences with the skeptics, how did you
handle it?

Speaking of abduction, the Fourth Kind is out and I am looking forward to
meeting it with my own kind of skepticism this Friday. Keep your
spoilers out of my inbox :-). Those that may not know The Fourth Kind is
an abduction film that takes place in a very remote Alaskan town. No
soccer moms or minivans in these parts, just Milla Jovovich and a bunch
of really cold abductees. Apparently there is some fact to this film,
but ill avoid looking into that and exploring that, until after I have
seen the movie.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Rise of the Robots: Are we our own Terminators?

On a previous episode of The Parafactor we covered a story about robots that were being designed to perform scientific experiments that would allow them to reason for themselves. This sort of spontaneous intelligence could be
a blessing or a curse. If executed correctly we might be able
to get definitive proof that life either does or did exist on other planets, utilizing the resilience and longevity of thinking machines for prolonged space travel. We might be able to help the severely handicapped through programmed “super providers”; nannies and caregivers that always remember to administer medication, and that never need to sleep.

So let's say that they will be used for good. They have the capacity to
store as much information as their hard drive will hold, and if it gets
full you can always upgrade it or even have the unit itself switch out its own hard drives when need be. This will give them countless different scenarios to run
through where each scenario can be sorted, logged and utilized for reference. We can program thinking machies to sort
through different drugs and find the correct combination of medicines to
cure diseases. We can run situational computations based on our fossil fuel resources to help move away from our reliance on oil. If these are the goals
that we are working towards, then I am all for it.

There is, on the other hand, that whole becoming self aware thing where machines see the apparent aberrations in mankind and start to develop their own contingency plans to deal with it. How will we be able to damage them at all when the scientists/mechanics that built them have built them to survive in the harshest environments on other worlds? The very design that enables their functionality could very spell our ruin. And how long until that functionality is recognized for its hidden resource and the production is moved towards alternative applications.

Let's look at the alternative now; metal killing machines. Is it all that farfetched to think the government will send robots into war against other countries? We see it as an element of blockbuster science fiction, but is it really all that unthinkable? Remember that drone technology is currently siphoning off some major defense dollars. If they do end up going this route, will they be able to differentiate between friends and enemies. Their enemies could be of any race, creed, or
class and the robots will need a way to determine who to shoot. If there is
a malfunction it could turn into a bloodbath for the wrong side, so they
will need to be not only to be intelligent, but also somewhat aware; an astute awareness that goes far beyond our current not-so-successful facial recognition attempts and move into musculature of the face and even potential phoneme recognition and predictive facial feature recognition based on certain dialects. Sounds a little like ethnic profiling doesn’t it? And we haven’t even the time to look at the social implications. Let’s just refer back to Asimov and move on.

When they become aware of the world around them, they will shortly then become “self-aware”. It’s a more term we apply more to Cyberdine Industries, but pop cultural references aside, it is the turning point that we all fear. If they become self aware, they may realize that they are being used as killing
machines and that self awareness may turn from quizzical to philosophical to pragmatic in just a few beats of the war drum. There is a fine line between patriotism and sadism, and personality often drives the latter. Sure,
we think Data from Star Trek was cool, but they won't be him.. It could be Cyberdine’s Skynet, and it wouldn't be pretty.
It has already happened once
in the S.W.O.R.D.S. project (Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance
Direct-action System). Luckily nobody was hurt this time. So what do you
do when you try it once and it doesn't work? The only logical answer is
to try, try again. This time
, they're making transformers as part of a project
called M.A.A.R.S. (Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System). What will
happen next?


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Shadow People and Poltergeist Activity: A Connection?

Just recently we were fortunate enough to interview Jason Offutt concerning all of the reports he has collected on the subject of shadow people. The idea of shadow people is one that tends to divide the paranormal community over those who feel that pre-internet reports of shadow people were labeled under different monickers and that the phenomena itself has been around far longer than the advent of the web, and those that feel that the phenomena itself is a web generated, or more aptly put, web propagated experience. Regardless of it's origins, reports never cease to make their way across his desk, or as in this story, into our inbox.

Considering that my own humble beginnings started in the midwest I will occasionally ask for , and receive, stories from that region. Below is a recent email received shortly after the Jason Offutt broadcast:

"I live in a Large Two Story house in Illinois with my husband and three children. There has been a lot of personal turmoil in the last few years and we have all been through some troubled times. About a year ago I kept feeling that I was being watched especially when I was alone and the kids were in school. I would see something out of the corner of my eye but, being someone that does not follow any super natural experiences or who even watches those kind of shows, I decided that I was just imagining that I saw something. This was happening quite often and then we had Thanksgiving last year and after we sat down my mother's eyes got big and by her expression I just knew that she had seen something. I looked at her and said, "Mom what is wrong?", and before she spoke I said "let's talk about it after dinner". When we were alone in the kitchen she said that she saw two dark figures walk from the foyer and move towards the stairs. My mom is very interested in the Paranormal and told me that she thought that what we saw were shadow people. Things had been fairly quiet this past summer but now I have a teenage son that is having problems in school and he has started to see these beings as well. At first he would just act funny and say that nothing was wrong but now he has confided in me about what he sees. He is another non believer and for him to be upset I believe he is truly seeing them. I also have two dogs and several times I see them cock their heads and bark and absolutely nothing. I have heard that animals are very sensitive to this so maybe they see something also."

The idea that emotional turmoil has an impact on supernatural phenomena is not a new one. In many poltergeist cases, there is usually a child entering puberty or working through a broken marriage or move that becomes a central figure in the phenomena. This is also the case in instances of demonic possession.

I was able to contact the family and soon realized I had stumbled onto something that exceeded their original story. When asked if the family had experienced anything preceding these events the mother said no, then followed with, "Well, my youngest used to have imaginary friends,but I don't see where that has anything to do with this." I pressed a little further and she revealed that immediately following her divorce with her previous husband her youngest son began to tell stories of two children who would play with him late at night when everyone would go to sleep. Her son also remarked on the appearance of the children. Both children were apparently wearing what he called "short pants". His mother had, at first believed this to just be his own jargon for shorts or even boxers. Upon seeing an antique picture, however, the boy pointed to the style of dress and exclaimed, "Short pants!".

Of particular interest to me is the fact that both phenomena started after a traumatic event in the "children's lives". Being that much poltergeist activity deals with a physical interaction of the entity and its immediate surroundings, my line of inquiry migrated to the child's toys and was met with a short story revolving around the placement toys in the room always being disturbed after the child's late night play sessions. Many toys were also displaced never to be found again.

My question now has to be whether we are seeing a troubled adolescence as a gateway phenomena or simply as fuel allowing entities to manifest themselves after leaching off of the child's distress. Hopefully with the growing number of shadow people cases that bloggers like Offutt are collecting we will see the correlation between these two phenomena and gain greater awareness of its origins.