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Across the Great Divide

August 1st, 2013

 

 

“When Fantasy Meets Reality: The Conjuring”


Another old-school horror movie hit the theatres last month called The Conjuring, and it’s doing remarkably well as far as the horror genre goes; but unlike many flicks that are cookie-cutter yarns using the same tired formula, this one is- at least in part- based on a actual events involving real people and two iconic pioneers in paranormal research- Edward and Lorraine Warren.  

Half marketing ploy, half respectful homage, the producers of The Conjuring hype the “based on a true story” aspect, but the names Ed and Lorraine Warren have been well known long before this movie’s release to those who’ve made a career of the serious study of psychical research. They were ghost hunters before ghost hunting was cool, back when it was serious science. They were rock stars to budding scholars like myself.

This isn’t the first film to be based on their work, either. Unless you were born yesterday then you’ve at least heard of, if not seen, the 1975 classic, The Amityville Horror– which led to 10 films.

When Lorraine realized that she had psychic abilities and that she could go into homes where people were having problems such as those in The Conjuring, she saw an incredible chance to use it to help people, and help she did in the years since.

In 1952, the Warrens founded the New England Society for Psychic Research, the oldest ghost-hunting group in New England. With well over 10,000 investigations in their storied career, they have authored numerous books about the paranormal and case studies of various hauntings. Many of their books grace my office library.

During the 1970s and ‘80s, the Warrens were part of some of the most prolific case studies in psychical research and leading contributors to the advancement of Electronic Voice Phenomenon techniques.

Sadly, Ed stepped across the great divide seven years ago, but Lorraine is alive, well, and full of much of the same adventurous spark that made them legends in the paranormal field.

She says that Ed would agree that the haunting and possession depicted in The Conjuring was one of the most extreme cases they’d ever witnessed.

As far as the new film is concerned, it depicts- admittedly in typical sensationalistic Hollywood fashion, the story of the Perrons as they dealt with both benign and malicious spirits in their Rhode Island farmhouse with their five girls in 1971.

Warren says that the movie does a “pretty good job” at keeping the storyline close to what really happened.

“I can remember the places where it was very bad such as the dirt cellar [in the Perron home]. I can remember my husband going down the stairs and there was a professor from a university in New Haven, Connecticut who wanted to see what was happening in the home.

When I came a few minutes later, Ed signaled me to go upstairs. When I got to the top and I looked in this room and it was all dark and this grotesque face was in there and I made the sign of the cross in the air and said, ‘in the name of Jesus Christ I command you to leave and go back to where you came from.’ That was a bad case.”

The Perrons themselves star in some of the promotional materials of The Conjuring, which seems to add truth that the happenings were true. “Because I was the youngest and the most vulnerable, I was approached more than anyone, and I actually had a relationship with that (ghostly) boy,” April Perron says in one trailer.

Many of their cases have been debated over the years, especially the Amityville case- that many say was simply made up. 

The president of the New England Skeptical Society, Steven Novella, doubts the story and told USA Today that “there is absolutely no reason to believe there is any legitimacy” to the Warren’s reports on the Perron case.

Andrea Perron, in return, responded that The Conjuring “is a fair reflection of the chaos and danger we faced at the farm.”

“There are liberties taken and a few discrepancies, but overall, it is what it claims to be- based on a true story, believe it or not.”

Hey, I’ll be the first to stand up and say that a dose of honest skepticism is good. At the end of the day it’s important to keep two things in mind: The Conjuring is a movie; as such, its primary goal is to entertain and make money. Therefore, view it with a light heart. Although the events in the film are glamorized with studio special effects, they are based on actual events that are meant to inspire and encourage debate, research, and- above all else- foster an open mind about a universe that we are only beginning to understand.

 

Sources: TV3 New Zealand, The Christian Post, International Business Times

© 2013 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

Documentation
Just the facts

While the subject of proper documentation has arisen several times in the couse of this procedural manual it is important that we have a  compete and thorough understanding of what constitutes such documentation. It is impossible to over stress the importance of this critical, but sometimes admittedly tedious aspect of conducting a properly scientific investigation of a paranormal incident or event.
As mentioned, our group uses a standard military and police form to record the interviewing of witnesses and a standard military and police incident report. These are available in packages of 100 from any specialty shop dealing with Police and Security supplies and in most cases local police departments and sheriff’s departs do not mind ordering such forms for an investigative group or supplying them with copies that can in turn be copied. The filling out of such a report should follow the guidelines set by the form itself which are basic questions which provide an overview of the incident being investigated and the testimony of witnesses. Keep in mind that all such forms should be made in triplicate and all entries should be initialed as a proof of accuracy after being read over by both the interviewer and interviewee. Likewise a recording of the interview on either videotape or audiotape is highly recommended but in all cases a standard release form permitting the use of such material for research purposes must be signed by the interviewee and notarized with a copy going to the interviewer, interviewee and to the archives of the organization conducting the investigation. Such documentation makes any follow-up on the case or a similar case far easier to undertake since a precedent has already been established. When dealing with an interview always keep in mind the cardinal rules of good journalism which apply to any investigation. Questions should be concerned with who, what, when, where, why and once this information has been gathered the open question of how can be addressed. Investigation reports should be consecutively numbered, dated and should contain the full given names, ages, occupation, physical address and telephone number of the party being interviewed and a statement in the words of the party being interviewed of exactly what happened and/or what was witnessed.
Documentation of this sort, done in a professional manner provides credibility for our field. It lifts our investigations above the level of hearsay and rumor and into the realm of hard science.
A separate form should be used, also in triplicate, which records the results of any and all electronic or photographic evidence gathered on an investigation and as in all other aspects of documentation should bear the signature and contact information of at least three (3) witnesses. Likewise this should also be filed in a coherent system that is readily accessible in the even to f a follow-up investigation of the same incident at a later date or as background material in an investigation of a similar incident.

NOTE: All interview forms should be signed and dated by all parties present and initialed line by line on each statement given by the witness. The form should also be accompanied by a photograph of the witness. Attached to the documentation form in a prominent place. It is highly recommended that any interview forms should also be legally notarized so as to constitute valid testimony in any ongoing investigation at a later date.

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Investigation Procedures: Getting Your Hands Dirty (Part 3 of 5)

Perhaps it’s apropos that we’re on to the actual investigation portion and it’s October- ghosts, goblins, Charlie Brown, and all that jazz.  But, I digress…

Only after some level of background research will you ready to enter the location and explore.  Even still, prior to setting up a mutually agreeable investigation date with the client, put some controls in place for the experiment.

For instance, having the client communicate to their neighbors that there will be strangers parking out front and tiptoeing in the dark with flashlights in their home at an odd hour would be a good idea; police showing up with lights and sirens blaring would definitely slow down an investigation.  Your client should find a sitter for any pets because you wouldn’t want the family cat being responsible for that odd shadow in the basement, nor would you want him jumping out of a closet and giving a team member a heart attack no matter how entertaining that would be at the time (no, I am not speaking from experience on that one).  If at all possible the residents should have a place to stay for the night as well, to not get in the way.  Keeping contact with them at intervals during the night and calling them while wrapping up would be preferable to them contaminating evidence with noises or lights to “prove” their claims, whether done purposefully or through restlessness while they wait out the investigation.  The less disruption in the home, the better.

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The exploration should be fun but your ghost hunt should be a combination of intelligent analytical skills, respectful scientific approach, an open mind, and respect for the people and possessions in the location- living or dead.

It’s embarrassing to wander about not knowing what to do next so set up a guideline for the investigation including team assignments, what equipment to use, and areas to concentrate on.  Have a central command center with one or two people monitoring computers and DVRs, batteries, miscellaneous equipment, and coordinating with everyone providing time, weather, and investigation updates.  Establish a logical time table including session time limits and set-up/tear-down times.  Remember that you are coming into someone’s home or business.  Hours of operation and the personal lives of residents are a factor in the length and time of any investigation; a full night is preferable but rarely feasible.  Other factors include how large of an area to cover divided by the number of investigators on hand.  Have efficient and detailed investigation goals tailored to the case at hand; expertise is the key to success.

Check local news, weather websites, and the Ghost Weather Station, if you downloaded it, on the day of an investigation to determine any environmental aspects which could enhance or deter your investigation.  Check this information again just prior to lights out and at intervals throughout to monitor any changes and mark the time of each change so that they can be compared with the other results later.

Make sure all equipment is in proper working order, fully powered, and calibrated prior to arrival at the investigation site.  You’ll want to tape down or conceal equipment wiring throughout the house and perform an extensive tour of the home’s geography for both logistical and safety reasons.  Additional insurance in case of accidental damage by you or your team should also be considered.

Of particular consideration while hunting in closed quarters would be noise control of the team.  Teammates should wear soft-soled shoes rather than heavy boots or shoes that click or squeak, causing unnecessary noise pollution.  Accessories such as jewelry should be removed or tucked away if they have a tendency to produce a jingle.  Check clothing before going through the home for audible friction as some fabrics when rubbed together can cause a disruption.  No baseball caps, brimmed hats, or reflective buttons should be worn either due to the visual obstruction they may cause.  Keep in mind- the less reflective, the better.  Make sure all of your team members have had sufficient food, water, and rest prior to investigating.  Low blood sugar, dehydration or exhaustion can lead to the failure of a ghost hunt.  It goes without saying that any member that arrives at the location intoxicated or under the influence of drugs should be escorted home.  You could keep a water bottle handy; otherwise there should be no eating or drinking while investigating.  You will also want to refrain from using the bathroom as well.  All the extra noise from the plumbing could taint an otherwise perfect EVP being captured elsewhere.  Do your business before arriving to the site.  Do not allow smoking during investigations, regardless if the home owner is a smoker or not, as it can be disruptive in various ways such as coughing, and the clouds can appear as mist giving false positives to photographs or other anomalous readings in visual equipment.  Suppose reported activity is a lady of the house emanating a floral perfume scent.  How can this be detected if someone is smoking in the room or has been near the area recently?

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Do a thorough walkthrough of the location to obtain baseline readings with all your equipment to determine normal energy levels as well as to naturally explain any of the occurrences before going lights out. Best handheld cb radio is used for emergency communications. Once lights are out you will look at anything as being possibly paranormal more so then when in the light.  For one thing your autonomic nervous system kicks in and the darkness makes you revert to fight-or-flight mode.  You are more calm and unbiased when in the light.  That bent metal plate or loose water pipe is more apt to be seen now then in total darkness when all you can hear is the bang it makes as it moves.

Take baseline readings with a compass, EMF meter, K2 meter, geomagnetometer, ion detector, or Geiger counter and if any spikes occur see if they can be traced to natural causes such as common household appliances, so while investigating you’ll know where these are located and can be ruled out.  If during the walkthrough all is quiet and readings teeter between 0 and 1 but during the investigation they bury the needle you may be on to something.  Also check yourself at this time to see where they register.  Remember you are carrying any combination of watch, cell phone, radio, camera, meters, video equipment, and various metals or gems which can amplify the EMF.  You yourself are a walking field.  Perhaps all that equipment is being detected in the next room by another team as an anomalous reading.

Use the equipment at your disposal together or in infinite combinations throughout an investigation.  While you track a suspected EMF spike, also run an EVP session asking questions and making demands for specific reactions to determine intelligence.  Have your teammate take pictures as you follow the readings around the room.  If separate tools record results within the same time index they will support the claim that paranormal activity exists.

Whatever equipment you are using, make sure you are using it correctly.  All man-made equipment emits an alternating electrical current.  This is what the EMF detects.  Remember that a single-axis meter must be turned and tilted along all three dimensional axes to gain a true reading.  Also determine how your particular meter measures activity and analyze the results accordingly.  Some meters measure the amplitude or strength of the field while others detect changes over periods of time.

So if you happen to register a response that is outside the baseline you took prior, stop moving.  First see if it remains stationary or if the point of activity moves around in a random or seemingly intelligent manner.  Try to determine if there is a pattern to the movement that might have a natural explanation, or if the signal grows stronger or leads you to a viable cause.  Even though lights are out there is still power running through the building powering everyday items from alarm clocks to refrigerators.  ALL of these items will generate a response on the meter.  If the high readings can be traced to these items then there is a fault in the appliance that is the cause and not a ghost playing with you.

The K-II meter is a great tool to use in conjunction with EVP sessions because of the question-and-response means of its use.  Place the meter on a stationary surface and invite spirits to interact by manipulating the LEDs in a particular manner.  You might first notice all lights activate indicating something in its proximity.  Set up rules for 2-way communication such as flash once for yes, twice for no, and ask questions accordingly.  Having a video camera focused on the meter is invaluable so that a record of the experience can be kept without wasting time going back and forth with writing or voice-recording the responses.

Go with your instincts, but if you’ve captured something try to debunk it by recreating it.  Have someone stand in the same position to see if it was just a reflection or light effect.  Often it’s just our imagination impacting our perception of events.

I’ve discussed EVP experiments and Spirit Photography at length previously, so to save time and space, please refer to these links: Experimenting with EVP, Spirit Photography.

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The use of infrared motion detectors can best be used in conjunction with stationary video cameras.  If you have a camera set to continuously monitor a particular room or area, set up the motion sensor in such a way as to alert the group to the presence of activity or to possible contamination of the scene by someone or something.  If there is paranormal activity present on the footage but the sensors have clearly not been tripped and you can disprove the interaction of a person or animal to the scene you stand a better chance of having valid paranormal evidence.  Again, this is why time-stamping every reading and an accurate account of all people in the location is so important to a valid claim.

If the presence of a hot or cold spot is felt, pull out your thermal equipment and begin taking readings.  Remember that an IR thermometer can only read something with a visible surface and NOT the ambient temperature of the room.  Use the IR thermometer to monitor the drop or rise in degrees or trace the cold spot to a draft or some other logical and natural explanation.   For more accurate ambient temperature readings use a thermocouple-based temperature measurement device which can take rapid readings that are essential when dealing with an actual paranormally-induced cold spot.

The Thermal Imaging Scanner can put into visual form what the IR device detects.  This not only measures the temperature but shows the varied temperatures of all objects in its aperture.  If a teammate is sitting on a couch and the scanner starts reading a heat rise in the seat next to them without some kind of natural explanation you may have evidence of a spirit attempting to manifest itself.

You’re now several hours into the investigation and all teams have had sufficient time to explore each area of interest using all the tools at your disposal.  It’s now time to wrap it up and turn the lights back on.  Gather all the teams at command central for a quick debriefing and begin the process of gathering all your equipment.  Take special care to gather everything in a logical and efficient manner- don’t just start pulling up wires at random and throwing them all in a box.  Pull all memory cards out of cameras and place them in special containers along with digital recorders (since it is not possible to backup these items on scene) and correctly save and store all recordings and readings captured on computers and DVR systems.  Simply pulling the plug before saving all your data could prove disastrous when you go to analyze it.  Once it’s gone, it’s gone.  Night wasted.  End of Story.

Collect any twist, zip ties, or cords used to secure equipment.  Make sure that if you taped anything down you leave no residue from the tape and everything in the location is in the same condition and place it was when you first arrived.

After a good rest begins the lengthy process of analyzing the data collected.  Don’t jump to analysis right away; get some sleep and come back to it the next day refreshed but with the night still clear in your memory.  Join me next month when I discuss the analysis phase and all the tips and tricks associated with it.  Happy Hunting and Happy Halloween/Samhain.

Haunted Works of art

Have you ever seen a painting that just gave you an uneasy feeling, or perhaps felt the eyes of a portrait following you?  Is it possible that a simple work of art could be haunted?  Art is made to stir emotion.  Some images stay with us or remind us of evil or darkness.  Simple images can “haunt” a person’s mind, but can something within the painting itself be paranormal?  An artist will put much of them self into a painting and at times can capture the essence of another in a portrait, but can this act stir up more than just hidden emotions?  Here are some example of art pieces believed to have a supernatural touch to them.

Madame Delphine Lalaurie; A New Orleans Mardi Gras painter named  Ricardo Pustanio, was asked by a resident of the Lalaurie home to paint a portrait of the former socialite.  She became infamous during the 1830’s not only for her high stature in social circles but also because of her involvement with the torture of slaves.  The painting was done in 2003 using whatever images the painter could find. The resident hung the painting and was pleased by the response visitors would give, some even assuming the painting was an original part of the home that was believed to be haunted.  Séances were held as well for tourists and paranormal researchers and they would watch in astonishment as the painting would rock or fall from the wall.  Soon the resident claimed frightening things were happening due to this painting so he gave it to another tenant.  Soon the new owner of the painting returned it to the artist.  She claimed the eyes would follow her, the expression would change, and that she heard it sigh. The painting is now with a private collection and it is unknown if the new owners have experienced anything that was described by the first two.

The Crying Boy; In the early 1980’s the British tabloid The Sun released a story of several house fires occurring in a short period of time.  There was one strange thing these homes had in common, each contained a painting of a young boy shedding a tear and these paintings were always untouched by the flames.  Once the story was published there were several calls from people who owned the print stating that they too had suffered fires.  Several weeks later the paper offered everyone to send in their copies of The Crying Boy to be destroyed and end the “curse”.  One woman claimed to try and set fires to 2 copies of the painting but to her horror they would not burn.  The origin behind the painting is just as mysterious. Some theories are that the boy was an orphan whose parents died in a fire; another is of the painter taking in the young boy only to have his studio burn.  There have also been psychics who have studied the painting and reported the child is stuck inside the print.  There are several variations of this painting; the boy’s age and clothing slightly differ.  There have been reports as recent as early 2000 of fires occurring with this painting in the home, some are still dismissing the story as nothing more than an urban legend.

Pogo The Clown; John Gacy was executed in 1994 for several murders, yet his alter ego is still causing trauma.  Gacy once performed as Pogo the clown at children’s parties.  As an artist he would often paint images of Pogo. These paintings became very sought after.  Soon the people who possessed these works of art would only want to get rid of them, due to tragic events occurring.  These events would range from what seemed like a streak of bad luck, to more serious events such as car crashes and suicides.

So is it possible that such things actually exist?  Can the soul of another be caught in a painting? True art comes from within, and it may be very possible to have that connection between our planes of existence and beyond caught on canvas.  The next time a painting gives you the creeps, try researching the artist and the subject.  There are quite a few pieces of art out there that carry more of a supernatural quality than one may think.

Sources;

http://www.hauntedamericatours.com/museum/haunted.htm

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/73801/the_curse_of_the_crying_boy_paintings.html?cat=38

http://www.hauntedamericatours.com/cursed/CURSEDPAINTINGS.php

The Ghostly Side of Michigan State University


To most folks Michigan State University represents many things: a top-rated education, a sports Mecca, even a party school. But there’s another side of the hallowed college campus that few ever see; and of those who have, most wish they hadn’t.

Michigan may be the 26th State to enter the Union, but it’s in the top 10 for the most haunted.

Stroll with me as I explore the ghostly side of Michigan State University.

The first stop on our tour takes us to Fairchild Auditorium, which is rumored to be haunted by a young boy wandering around the stage and seats. Some report the sound of a boy laughing and the bouncing of a ball; he is often accompanied by other unidentifiable noises coming from the stage area such as loud creaks when no one is on the stage.

The stories are popular and plentiful enough that “Haunted Auditorium” fundraisers have been held in the past with tours of the building and its purported paranormal history.

Next up, we have Holmes Hall, which just might have a permanent resident of unknown identity or origin on its sixth floor. Many students over the years have reported seeing a man entering the elevator, but he is never seen inside it, or anywhere else within the building.

A former student sent in an email account of Yakely-Gilchrist. In the summer of 1995, well after midnight, she awoke to the sound of ‘someone’ pounding on her door. Looking out under the door she could see no one standing in front of the door, yet the pounding continued. Two security staff were called and they could hear the racket. They ran down the hall to stand in front of her door watching it rattle in its frame, with the handle ratcheting back and forth. It stopped after about five minutes.

Residents of Mason hall tell tales of the Oak Room, where a figure is often seen sitting in a chair but then gone upon second glance.

The campus green area by Beaumont Tower is known for images of couples in old-fashioned dress holding hands and walking slowly by on foggy mornings; and glimpses of a man in tails and a stovepipe hat on particularly dark nights.

Perhaps the most talked about incidents center on Mayo Hall.

The story goes that the ghost of Mary Mayo, for whom the building is named, may wander its halls; and the building is equipped with a secret fourth floor “Red Room” reportedly once used for devil worship.

Located on the college’s section known as “West Circle,” alongside other historical buildings, it is the oldest residential hall on campus and was built in 1931 as a standalone women’s dormitory.

Mayo had progressive ideas about women’s education which led to the first female professor of Domestic Economy and Household Science at the college. She fought for expanding the education of women and rallied for a women’s dormitory on campus until her death in 1903. Rumors spread that it was murder or suicide, which have helped elevate the spooky tale to legendary status, but the truth is she died of an illness. It should be noted that she never once set foot in the building that bears her name. So what, if any, ethereal connection she has to the building remains a mystery. (photo of Mary Mayo from the Michigan State University Archives)

No one has ever officially died in the house, but there is some merit to the stories of satanic rituals that took place on the fourth floor, but these have no connection to Mayo herself and the floor has been locked for years.

Many personal anecdotes, nevertheless, pepper the internet of alumni experiences in Mayo Hall including one from a sophomore who was told stories of various apparitions walking the halls and of the lobby piano that reportedly played itself, making her sheepish about sitting at its bench.

These were supported, though, by the student who reported the incident at Yakely-Gilchrist. She recounted a similar story of how she and a small group heard the piano playing a Back minuet when no one was in the room.

A resident once woke up in the middle of the night and the overhead lamp in her dorm room was on. Her roommate was asleep and the girl just assumed the other had forgotten to turn it off and went back to sleep.
When they got up the next morning for class, her roommate asked if the other had gotten up during the night, to which she responded in the negative.
She said that she woke up in the middle of the night and the light was on and the door was unlocked. Her roommate affirmed that she’d turned it off because she couldn’t sleep with the lights on.

Whatever the truth of these reports may be, one thing is certain- Michigan State University has a rich and vibrant history. Countless individuals have walked its grounds creating more memories than there are stars in the sky. Whether in a crowded lecture hall or alone in a dark library corner, its history is shaped by each new student. Its alumni know with fondness that they are part of its history; and be it figuratively or literally, the next time a chill goes down your spine as you cram for that big exam, you just might not be as alone with your studies as you might think.

If anyone has other stories from their time at Michigan State, please feel free to share them in the comments. Until then, happy hunting.

© 2011 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

Do We Need Parapsychology?

When one speaks about a topic which is controversial it is important to understand the concept of a paradigm, or underlying worldview. It can be thought of as a framework of beliefs which are so taken for granted that most people are not even aware they have made any assumptions. A paradigm helps us to make sense of the world around us. In terms of science, it not only determines what is true, but how truth itself is determined. There is an obvious “catch 22” to this. If one doesn’t recognize the underlying assumptions made with a paradigm, it has the potential to limit our perception of the world, what we can discover, and how we can determine that knowledge.

The old paradigm, which many have held since the days of Descartes, states that the subjective and objective worlds are completely distinct, with no overlap. Subjective is “here, in the head,” and objective is “there, out in the world.” The Cartesian paradigm presupposes that there are objective ways to define and measure the fixed external world, which the followers of this paradigm would say is the only world that matters.

Writer and philosopher Elbert Hubbard (1857-1915) eloquently quipped that “the supernatural is the natural, just not yet understood.”

The formal scientific study of paranormal phenomena began in 1882 with the foundation of the Society for Psychical Research in London, England. Early efforts attempted to dissociate psychical phenomena from the pop culture trend of Spiritualism and superstition, and to investigate mediums and their claims of evoking spirits or apparitions.

But 100 years later most people still think that paranormal research is either a group armed with night-vision tech stumbling around buildings in the dark in search of ghosts and fame, or simply the study of any subject that is weird or bizarre (i.e. Bigfoot and UFOs/aliens). Parapsychology is, and has always been, so much more than the former, and has nothing at all to do with the latter.

Paranormal research does NOT concern itself with UFOs, urban legends, vampires, witchcraft, or mythical creatures (a study known as cryptozoology). What parapsychology DOES study is the seemingly abnormal qualities of the physical universe in a scientific quest to find order and meaning in life. It is the ultimate exploration of the human condition and the discovery of all that the brain is capable of becoming; some of these concepts the legendary Carl Jung touched on with his theories of the collective unconscious and synchronicity.

A lot of people inappropriately use it as a synonym for “paranormal investigators,” such as when referencing the cast of Ghost Hunters or Paranormal Adventures; what’s more, parapsychologists have also been linked with “psychic” entertainers, magicians, and illusionists. Some self-proclaimed “psychic practitioners” even falsely claim to be parapsychologists, going so far as to wave about bogus doctoral credentials.

This is not to say that all psychics are that way. I am personally acquainted with a few very adept and talented psychics here in the Detroit area. Life, however, is rarely as glamorous as Hollywood portrays for them. At best they are ignored or written off as delusional; at worst they are harassed and fired from work. Often psychics are exploited by mainstream media for fluff pieces in October, and mocked by the same the other 11 months of the year.

There are the inevitable frauds, scammers, and crooks. This is an unfortunate truth, and a few bad apples have spoiled it for everyone else. It is inexcusable that these charlatans con money out of vulnerable and naïve people. This is why no respectable group ever charges for its services.

It should be noted that many parapsychologists take an empirical, data-oriented approach to psi phenomena. However, some researchers regard the current findings of parapsychology as having a wide variety of important implications about the spiritual, physical, and psychological nature of humankind.

Parapsychology is fascinating because of the implications it places on society, science, and how we understand the very nature of existence. Psi phenomena suggests that what science knows about the nature of the universe is incomplete; that the accepted limitations of human potential have been underestimated; that western assumptions and philosophical beliefs about the separation of mind and body may be incorrect; and that religious assumptions about the divine nature of miracles might have been misguided.

Physicists have an interest because of the proposition that we have a misunderstanding about space and time, and the transfer of energy and information.

Biologists are interested because psi implies the existence of non-physical methods of sensing the world.

Psychologists are interested in the theories regarding the nature of perception and memory.

Philosophers are interested because psi phenomena specifically address many age-old philosophical debates concerning the role of the mind in the physical world, and the nature of the objective vs. the subjective.

Theologians and the general public tend to be interested because personal psi experiences are often accompanied by feelings of profound, deep meaning.

A cornerstone of the current scientific worldview is that human consciousness is nothing more than a result of the functioning of brain, body, and nervous system. No matter how different the mind may seem from solid matter, it is generated solely by electrochemical functioning and so it is absolutely dependent on it. When the brain dies, so does consciousness.   From this perspective, claims of the survival of bodily death and the resulting apparitions are mere wishful thinking. Furthermore, the limits of material functioning automatically determine the limits of mental functioning, thus ESP and PK are impossible, given the establishment’s understanding of how the world works.

Still, psi phenomena have occurred in all cultures throughout history, and continue to occur; and some of the reported phenomena have been convincingly verified using scientific methods. Because psi seems to transcend the assumed limits of material functioning some interpret psi as supporting the idea that there is something more to the mind than just the firing of neurons and electrochemical reactions.

This “non-physical” aspect, which is not restricted by space or time, might survive bodily death. If so, there may be important truths contained in some spiritual ideas and practices.

The research in parapsychology may have implications for spiritual concepts but parapsychologists are not driven by some hidden spiritual agenda. Some critics of parapsychology seem to believe that all parapsychologists have hidden religious motives, and that they are really out to prove the existence of the soul. This argument is as absurd as claiming that all chemists have a secret agenda in alchemy, and the quest to attain riches by turning lead into gold.

Despite all its claims, there are just some things that mainstream science can’t explain about the universe. Parapsychology really acts as the center of scientific doctrine and theory, with lines leading to and from every branch of the other sciences. Together they form an intricate web of knowledge and understanding that is only limited by the egotistical whimsy of those who think they know all there is to know about the nature of the universe based on their blind obedience to one limited train of thought.

© 2012 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

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