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The Bad Witch’s Guide

October, 2018

 

The Bad Witch’s Guide to Ghost Hunting

(Photo by Callie Gibson on Unsplash)

 

It is the season apparently for all things spooky…ooooh!

I don’t ghost hunt as a rule. I ghost shoo! That said I do understand the desire for some titillation and so, on some intellectual level.

It is easier in general to ghost hunt in cities than the wilds and better in Europe than the US purely down to number dead people over thousands of years. There are of course many kinds of haunting and spirit activity but violence and large amounts of people seem to imprint or cause haunting more often. My psychic American bestie used to hangout in New Orleans all the time without much hassle (but that could have been the others spirits influence, nudge, nudge) and was shocked, delighted and amazed visiting Chester for the first time! Chester is an old city, founded by the Romans in 79AD. It has much of the old town still intact as well as the later medieval town and its beautiful buildings. It doesn’t hurt that the river runs near it. Water is a great psychic and spirit conduit. She saw full blown colour spirit figures walking around, was touched, even got some stuff on film!

Hunting ghosts is easier if they are also seeking you!

That said the trend to go to derelict hospitals and such seems distasteful and a bit dangerous to me.

There are two main kinds of haunting. The restless dead (a spirit who is confused, frightened or lost, particularly one that doesn’t know they are dead) and an echo of an event that either happened over and over or was so traumatic it left a mark, a memory on a place.

The echo is just that. It doesn’t interact. It doesn’t change it is just the echo of a place remembering. It can be a bloody battle, a crash or someone leaving out milk bottles. You get a better chance of seeing one of these someone that has had a lot of people to imprint, or the sight of battle or trauma.

The restless dead can and are anywhere. This is why hospitals and the like can be bad because if they don’t know they are dead they can follow you home and get the hump when you ignore then. These poor souls often had a rough enough time in life, they don’t deserve it in death too. I dislike a lot of the ghost hunting shows, especially if they get shouty and rude.

All in all dead people are just that, people. Some of them are lovely. However some of the worst hauntings I have dealt with have been addicts and little kids. You want to see some shit go down have a ghost toddler wobbly. They will throw things, slam things and even bite! Crossing someone over usually requires years of training (which I have) and some reasonable sight, and friends and guides on the Otherside to help people cross.

All in all I’d rather living people than dead around me rather than getting cold or uncomfortable somewhere but to each their own. While I am medium I am also a witch. This means I don’t let spirit in my body, home or circle without permission, in fact I am strict when it comes to spirit. Granted I am a bit of a sucker for kids, but they are pretty easy to cross over.

A spirit guide or guardian is nothing like a haunting. A haunting is a spirit this side of the Veil. They tend to look like regular people whom slowly seem to drain of colour over time becoming shadows. They are stuck, either willingly or unwittingly and can be varying levels of troublesome. When a spirit crosses everything lifts. It is really beautiful. It is as though someone opened a window and let fresh air and light in. Spirit when they have crossed over is different. They are bright, glowing almost with the light of the Otherside. They can appear as how they saw themselves or even how they wished they had looked. They come and go at my request or their own desires rather than being stuck somewhere.

In general my experience with dead people has not been spooky, dark places. It is usually well lit living rooms on a sunny Sunday afternoon, or someone’s kitchen.

My advice is don’t go somewhere derelict especially without permission, you may end up as one of the ghosts! The floors aren’t clear, the ceilings are crumbling and you are far from help if you need it. I am serious these places are abandoned for a reason. If you want to ghost hunt, do a proper tour. You can do them in many cities and even some castles at least in the UK. Take a protective symbol with you (be it pentagram or something else) as a precaution. Cast a circle if it gets ooky. Don’t use a spirit or Ouija board*. Cleanse with salt water and smudge (sage, rosemary and frankincense are great) afterwards. Don’t get drunk or high and ghost hunt. You might be more open but you are also more vulnerable too.

If you are thinking of getting spooky closer to home (is your Aunts house haunted?) and decide to do some spell or rite or other please do not invite anyone or anything. Don’t use a spirit board or Ouija board. If you can get a proper and respected medium to attend do it. You would be surprised how often I get calls this time of year from folks doing this by themselves who get freaked out, and get caught out by something unpleasant. Some get attacked, some get sick, and some even have pets die! Mostly it is purely psychological and I turn up, check nothing weird is about and shut the door they opened. Again if you fail to heed my advice and you need to fix this, you will need a decent medium and they have every right to charge you through the nose (call it an idiot tax).

 

*Creating a doorway you can’t close is not a smart idea ever.

 

Etiary: The First Paranormal Social Network

September, 2015

Etiary: The First Paranormal Social Network

 Etiary1

A revolutionary site has come to change the way the paranormal social networking is being used on the internet. Etiary.com is not just a social networking site where members can connect, but also an information center for the alternative subjects of the metaphysical and science. Etiary’s focus is about the veil we can see through in the mundane world, whether it be quantum physics or a magic spell. Frankly, Etiary is a child of modern paranormal perspectives meeting at a conjunction with modern science in most cases. It offers a plethora of options that are selectively geared toward people who are entranced by the unknown.

 

What can Etiary offer you? Etiary is a site that allows you to social network with friends and have powerful information center at hand without all the irrelevant distractions. The sensation about this website is the factor that you can share your thoughts on the paranormal, magick, science, and personal beliefs without persecution; Etiary is for people like you wanting direct data and people who carry the same interests. You can create your own groups, open your own pages, create your own stores, and easily organize the site in your personal settings. Why is Etiary different from other sites on the internet? You are joining a community that is paranormal. No where else will you find the features that can be as functional with these tools.

 

The launch of the site happened on August 13th and then it crashed on the 15th because there was a system overload with the number of people signing up. Within two days of being officially published online there were over 10,000 registered members. Etiary has more than 29,000 members at the current moment. Join a community that is full of like-minded freethinkers like you today in Etiary. There you will help find the people, information, and a site that actually cares about you getting the best resources first hand.

The Upward Spiral

August, 2015

The House on Francis Avenue

I was working in Chicago for a while, with my son, on some remodeling projects. He was in his early thirties and trying to find himself … so, I was helping him out. I enjoyed Chicago with all of its activities and especially with a different culture on every block. And now, I am on the road again heading back home, to Cleveland.

Let me fill you in … even though we had a three family house that we lived in, we also rented out one apartment and it was creating a problem. We lived in one of the poorer areas of the city, with drugs and crime prevalent without cause, only to exist in a society of entanglement. So I am going back to a time of indifference, questioning my life and my thoughts of life.

I should have been happy to get back in the comforts of my own place, and even though there were too many memories haunting my nights, I still called it home. After twenty five years of marriage and living in the house with my wife Charlotte, death had a strange way of imparting a dismal future for happiness.

After a few disappointing relationships I found myself in a mind game that very few people would accept, being deluged with unknown travels of the mind. It had been roughly two years since I met my nocturnal love, Kundalini, who slowly evolved into Aphrodite, placing me on the Path of the Clear Light. I do not know if it was a fantasy world that I had created for myself or if that it was the Kundalini Princess turned Kali, who is describe as wearing a necklace of 49 skulls filled with blood. Either way, it was making my life a spiritual nightmare, causing me to question all of my “make believe” reality.

The problem with the house in Cleveland, was the tenant that we were renting to, was behind a few months in rent. Just two months back, when I was in town, I had a run in with her and told her that it was time for her to leave. She did not care for the idea and she basically told me to go to hell and proceeded to inform me that I would have to take her to court, if I wanted her to move out.

Cleveland, with its dismal weather and my future, seemigly filled with confrontations, placed me in a area of less happiness than I cared for.

When I arrived at my home on Francis Ave. in Cleveland, there seem to be a problem with the lights on the staircase to my apartment. They were not working. Even though I had thought all of our utilities were separate, there appeared to be a problem with some other circuits in my place.

The house was over a hundred years old and things never seemed quite right. The previous owner was an old mortician and there were old stories of strange sightings. Even after my wife’s passing, my two boys saw their mother’s spirit occasionally in the dimly lit shadows of the back apartment.

I headed off to the basement, which had an outside entrance, and found some circuit breakers tripped, so I reset and energized the circuits. By the time I got back to the staircase to my place, I could smell the acrid odor of plastic burning and could see smoke trying to wiggle itself free from under the door of the first floor apartment.

I rushed upstairs to get a key to Connie’s apartment and flew back downstairs, only to find out that she had changed the locks and I could not get in. The only other access would be through the basement door and I headed off quickly to try that route. I had to kick the door open, only to find that there was a padlock on her side of the basement door entrance. I was even more surprise when I tried to open the bathroom door that was adjacent to the other door and there was another padlock securing that passage way, as well.

I knew that she was freaked out on occasion, claiming to hear and see things, and she also complained about “the noises”. She even mentioned that one time while her boyfriend was visiting, they saw some spirits frock-ling around in the living room.

In hindsight, I may have been a little indifferent to her pleas, but I just thought that the normal creaks & noises in an old house were fairly common & that her paranoia was simply being heightened by her use of drugs. After all, we had lived there for many years & were quite accustomed to it.

At any rate, I finally got into the apartment and facing me was a very large & very scared German Shepherd. Since our tenants were not allowed to have dogs or change the locks, I was a bit startled by it all. I suspect every thing changes, when you are frightened of your surroundings.

Fortunately, the only thing that was burning, was a telephone that was left in the oven of the electric stove. Still, a strange place to store a phone and apparently when I reset the breakers, the oven heating elements were turned on and set the phone on fire. Go figure.

As I looked around to the check the place out, it appeared that somebody had been extremely frightened. Everything that was movable was nailed down. The double hung windows, the heating registers and the closet doors even had padlocks on them. It was apparent that there was a problem here, what ever it was. I would have to question why everything that could be moved, had a nail or screw though it, but was it sufficient to prevent what ever was happening.

As I mentioned earlier, she had not paid any rent for several months & I was looking at some work that would need to be done, if I ever could get her out of my house. Fortunately, I had a job across the street, with the old school and church. I had been a committee member, an usher on Sundays and worked on maintenance & repairs for everyday occurrences that came about, for the past twenty years or more.

The immediate issue was that I did not know what to do with the dog, and after two days without Connie showing back up, I called the City Pound.

It was three days later when she finally returned. She came across the street, to where I was working at the old school building. She was looking for her dog. All she said was I give up, you win”. She was in a state of mind that is hard to describe. With tears in her eyes and a voice that emanated the fear in her heart, I did not know where she was coming from. She was talking about rape, a gas mask and it became such a strange scenario, I told her she should go to the police.

I suspect that may have been a mistake, because four days later, two female Cleveland detectives showed up at my door, telling me that that Connie had filed sexual assault charges against me.

They explained that Connie believed that my son and I had hired some local teenagers to spray or fumigate the house. According to the story that Connie had told me, a van pulled up and a half dozen guys jump out, surrounding the house with equipment and started spraying the house with some kind chemical that causes you to pass out.

It appeared that I was being faced by a forty year old black female, who created what appeared to be story of pain and anguish. It is hard to say whether it was factual or a hallucination caused by crack or the relinquishment of fear from some unknown reason.

A week or two had past when the Cleveland Police called saying that there was not sufficient evidence to charge anybody, and they dropped all charges.

My problem was that this was not the first time that strange things were happening in my life. Ever since coming in contact with the Kundalini Princess my life changed considerably. I was questioning her abilities to help me out in problem areas … such as the removal of unwanted tenants … and was she protecting me in ways that were hard to recognize? My life was in turmoil and I was only wondering what my life would be in the future, especially if I am still dancing with Aphrodite and Kali in the background …

Across the Great Divide

July, 2014

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“All Good Things…”

Wolf

 

I sit outside with our dog, feeling the inviting rays of the Sun upon my back, enjoying the crisp air as I type this; and the feeling turns bittersweet. Gone are the long, dark nights of winter as the stirrings of spring harken warmer and sunnier days and the flora and fauna are returning in a triumphant display of color and vibrancy of life’s ever-turning wheel. I suppose that it is fitting that our lives, too, change with the seasons.
What I have accomplished has led me to a wonderful opportunity and I have reached a point where my personal and creative endeavors are at a crossroads. I am pleased to share that I have been granted a role in the upcoming film Aladdin 3477. Additionally, my other writing projects have moved up to the next level and I am both excited and exhausted as I juggle the responsibilities of daily and professional life.
Over the last several months I have contemplated what is to come in the next chapter of my life.
I began this column in the fall of 2009 and every month since I have been honored and blessed to share and discuss with you all a common love and interest in all things paranormal.
I have had many wonderful and thought-provoking discussions on these subjects with fans and friends alike, but, sadly, the time has come for me to say goodbye and put my full attention on other projects that I have put off for far too long.
I want to extend heartfelt gratitude for sharing in this journey as we walked across the great divide into the realms of the unknown. Know that I do not come to this decision carelessly or thoughtlessly. I consider myself truly grateful to have been part of the Pagan Pages family for these many years and to share my knowledge of and experiences in paranormal research.
I hope you learned from me as much as I have from each of you and take that knowledge with you along your personal, spiritual, and academic paths. Always remember that it is on those rare moments when these three paths cross that true wisdom and awakening occur.
Again, thank you and blessed be.

 

Wolf2

 

© 2014 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

Across the Great Divide

June, 2014

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“The Fine Line Between Believer and Skeptic”

I’ve been doing a careful dance as of late on a very thin tightrope.
I have been skeptical, highly critical, and utterly blatant lately in calling out bullshit when it comes to ghost hunting and paranormal research news. However, I want to make it clear that I am as much a believer in the field and open-minded when it comes to the possibilities posited by the many theories as I have always been. That’s because I believe in the existence of those possibilities and that we, as a species, do not and can not know everything about the universe in which we exist. Our collective understanding of how the universe works is akin to the collective understanding of science to the participants in a fifth grade science fair. Every answer only leads to more questions.
Who among you could blame me for being a bit miffed when there is a definite negative correlation between merchandising and the amount of real science these so-called reality shows share- such as a new video game based on that joke of a show, Paranormal State? That’s right. A video game- as if science needed further mocking. Last month I talked about amateurs playing scientist, but now you can- quite literally- play scientist and think that any of the phenomena or “history” experienced in the game will translate over to the real world of science.
Legacy Interactive, A&E Television, and developer Teyon released Paranormal State: Poison Spring on the iPad. In the hidden-object adventure game, available to download for free on the App Store (and a full Collector’s Edition priced $6.99), you can team up with the show’s stars to “investigate” a “terrifying supernatural event” at Poison Spring State Park, the historical site of a horrific Civil War battle.
The gullible continue to frolic through a brightly lit open field, pointing in awe at everything; while the staunch skeptics stumble through the dark, so blinded by their narrow vision that they can’t even see the light in the distance. A smart researcher knows that the road to the truth lies midway between cynicism and naiveté.
For example, do I believe in the possibility that the living can communicate with the dead in real time? Yes. However, the experiences of spirit mediums are highly subjective and the chances of proving those experiences are about as good as being hit by lightning twice.

 

Ghost
That didn’t matter to a team of ghost hunters known as Haunted Heritage from claiming during a visit to Donington le Heath Manor House near Coalville, Leicestershire, to have made contact with King Richard III after holding a séance by the bed where he spent the night before he died. The site became a beacon for ghost hunting groups after a skeleton found in a Leicester car park last year was identified as the remains of Richard III, sparking newswires and interest worldwide.
Their night at the 700-year-old house was a complete bust (something that happens more often than not in real investigations) until they entered the chamber where Richard slept before his fall at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
When members of the group shouted out “What is your name”, they say a man’s voice clearly replied, “Richard”.
That sounds legitimate, right? After all, he must have been the only man in the whole of written history with that name or something similar, not to mention that the mindset of the investigators had that name foremost on their minds and could have subconsciously thought or spoken the name, thus triggering the captured audio.
The medium in question, Gill Hibbert, was quick to point out that they were “being careful” about saying it was Richard III himself because they can’t prove it and are trying to employ a historian to look into other Richards who may have lived in the residence. Of course, they define “being careful” as plastering the name and the “evidence” all over the internet from their Facebook page, to their website, and all over YouTube; not to mention the various news and media sites covering their story.
The group’s “proof” of this contact? A response on the oft-maligned Ghost Box, a device that’s been routinely slammed by numerous members of psychical research, myself included.
At least the group put their data out there for the world to mull over. Here is a link to the group’s YouTube channel and the audio clip from their session. There is no mention as to whether the audio has been modified in any way (such as removing noise and hisses); had elements or volume enhanced; what the variables were; who were all those present; or what environmental and weather conditions were in effect at the time of recording.
The clip is only 34 seconds long and “Richard” only speaks at the :16 mark. I asked a credible and knowledgeable source on British history what she thought and if the speaking style would have been consistent with the late 15th century. As it turns out, whoever set this up did their research. I share in her summary that “it’s bollocks, but it’s well-researched bollocks.”
The pattern would have been Midland or Rhotic and somewhere between Welsh and the Deleware Islands, but, in her opinion, the accent being from Richard III’s time is believable.
From a purely scientific standpoint had the variables of the event been charged enough for his spiritual energy to become trapped in this dimensional plane, after 500 years it would have dissipated so much that the man known as Richard III no longer exists, nor could he communicate with them or anyone else.
As always, I’ll leave it up to you, my informed readers, to weigh the evidence and draw your own conclusions. If you have an opinion, please share it below and join the discourse of scientific discovery.

© 2014 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

Across the Great Divide

April, 2014

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“The only thing worse than amateur scientists are drunken amateur scientists”

Just when I thought that the bar of integrity in ghost hunting couldn’t get any lower someone went and removed it entirely.

I only allow members to bring a small water bottle on investigations, but the owners of one of the most infamously haunted locations in the country will now allow you to drink alcohol anywhere and everywhere while you play scientist and fall victim to their new amusement park.

Built in the 1880s, the Winchester House has never been registered for lodging let alone licensed for alcohol, but the current owners of the 160-room California mansion, Winchester Investments LLC,  will allow guests to stay the night and drink anywhere on the 6-acre maze of false doors and stairs that lead nowhere. Sarah Winchester reportedly built the famed additions in order to confuse the evil spirits she believed were the tormented souls of those killed by the family’s firearms business haunting the home.

A special use permit, which was approved by the San José planning department on March 5, 2014, will allow overnight guests to stay at the landmark site. It was made clear that their target market won’t be road-weary families on family vacations or traditional hotel renters, but those who want the ‘ultimate Winchester House experience’. In other words- a niche of clients predisposed to fall for their smoke and mirror act.

A reporter for the Silicon Valley Business Journalattempted to contact the owners to ask for plans that are more detailed but, conveniently, his request was ignored.

A visit to the Winchester House website reveals that no room rates have been added yet, but they have plenty of theme tours playing up the haunted history that seem better fit for Cedar Point’s Halloweekends- like their “Friday the 13th Flashlight Tour”. Tour rates range from $26-$65; and you can’t visit any page on their website without a highly-intrusive popup ad for the books and movie that have been made about the House making it perfectly clear that they don’t care whether or not the claims are real and substantiated- they’re going to use it to make a lot of money. The ads hover annoyingly center screen in front of whatever you are trying to read.

The city also approved the remodeling of the existing café into a full service restaurant open to the public.

Basically, this is nothing less than a clever marketing and moneymaking scheme by Winchester Investments to cash in on the legendary status of the residence by exaggerating and accentuating activity while bilking money from those foolish and gullible enough to fall for it. Well, we all know what they say about a fool and his money.

So an iconic and historical landmark will degrade into a booze-filled joyride of misfits and fools looking to play ghost hunter. I wonder how long it will be before the grounds are littered with beer bottles and a once-majestic residence falls prey to countless grubby feet and hands eroding every inch. The addition of alcohol to the equation is just asking for a lot of trouble in terms of increased police patrols, vandalism, and disruptive behavior.

I have nothing wrong with an historical site using public funds via tours to help offset the costs of maintaining beloved locations, but this goes far and beyond. It enables amateur and unprofessional individuals and groups to come in and make a sham of legitimate science. Any activity witnessed or recorded at the site from hereafter will be completely unsuitable for detailed analysis due to an exponential cascade of contaminations proving once again that the modern day business of ghost hunting is less about the science and more about the fame.

I look forward to laughing at the first bit of “evidence” put forth by those whom stay at the Winchester House.

 

Sources: io9.com, Silicon Valley Business Journal Photo: San José Library Digital Collections

© 2014 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

 

Paranormal Path

April, 2014

Zozo

 

board

       You know how it is, you’re scanning the web looking for the latest in scary or bizarre happenings, and then something catches your interest next thing you know you find yourself in a spiral of stories and theories.  However, there comes the rare occasion when several stories match exactly or are eerily similar.  This is a rare occurrence in the paranormal community so when it does happen you can sense the universal excitement in the air.

     I came across this the other night.  I can’t even remember how I got there but soon I was reading, stories upon stories of an entity that refers to itself as “Zozo” and usually presents itself during Ouija board sessions.  The fascinating thing with these stories are the similarities, people of different ages, from different parts of the country and even some other parts of the world have had experiences with this entity and the entities associated with him/her. 

     Most research points to contact with this entity being reported through Ouija board sessions for at least 30 years.  The theories of who Zozo actually is go back much further to the early 1800s.  Usually the reports start out the same, a few friends, having a good time, “playing” with the board just to see what if anything will happen.  If Zozo isn’t the first to come through an entity called Lilly will start communication.  Lilly is reported as being nice and sometimes even warning the participant about Zozo.   She has said Zozo is her evil sister.  There are theories that Zozo and Lilly are the same entity and this is just a game it likes to play.  When Zozo does come forth there are some differences to how the session will go.  Some say it will humor the participant by answering questions but this soon gets frightening when it reveals very personal information no one else should know.  Another common report is the entity will come through as very angry, threatening and violent, often manipulating the board or the planchette by making it hot to the touch or launching it away from the participants.  This seems to happen most often if the person comes through as a skeptic or is being purposefully disrespectful.  Zozo is known to control the board, often saying frightening things like promises of death.  Another common report is of an entity called Mama, again there are theories this is all the same entity.  Mama will appear usually during a session, the planchette will just move to M A M A over and over again.  This is believed to be a tactic used by Zozo to confuse and weaken the mental defenses to move on to even more sinister intentions.

     The creepy thing on top of the fact that so many people have made contact with the same entity is that the contact, once initiated, doesn’t stop at the board.  People who have had talked with Zozo have reported very terrifying occurrences days, even weeks later.  Vivid dreams, catatonic states, accidents even deaths have been reported and not just by the person who used the board but to their families as well.  This phenomenon has caught the attention of many people in the paranormal community including demonologists. 

     Is this a demon?  Many have called it such, however usually a demon will not give its name so readily, though there have been theories that Zozo is not really a single name but a name for the group of entities that accompany what seems to be the leader.  Some have called Zozo more of an ancient Deity instead.  Many have tried to find the source of the name saying it is another name for the demon Pazuzu, that it is a rough translation from the ancient Basque language meaning Crow or blackbird, even suggestions this is the 3 headed dog that guards the gates of Hell.  A movie has been made about the encounters and there have been accusations that this is all just a wild publicity stunt to gain popularity on the project.

     Pending upon the part of the world or religion involved the theories of the identity of Zozo are seemingly endless.  Yet each day more and more stories are told of encounters and experiences with this entity and they are all similar in one way or another.  I have never been a fan of the Ouija board for this reason.  You never know what kind of door you’re going to open or who or what is going to come through.  I know there are supposed rules to follow or Ouija etiquette if you will, but in my opinion regardless of if you opened and closed the session properly, if something is strong enough to come in, the less likely it will want to leave and the greater amount of danger you and your loved ones could be in for a long while. 

Across the Great Divide

March, 2014

 

 

 

“Parapsychology’s Database Debacle”


It’s well-known that paranormal research isn’t taken seriously by mainstream scientists- after all there is a big difference between measuring phenomenon like earthquakes and hurricanes, which affect and are witnessed by hundreds of thousands, as opposed to telekinesis and ghosts sightings, which are often the subjective experiences of an individual.

Not only is there a measurement issue, but there is a records issue.

Advancement in medical research and development, for example, hinges on one crucial component- the existence of a database of verified knowledge and investigative research that is shared, and contributed to, by doctors and laboratories around the world. Without that collaboration, medical research does not progress. A doctor can look up the symptoms of his patient and find that a physician on the other side of the world had a patient with similar symptoms; they compare notes and, at some point, not only is a condition defined, but also a course of action determined.

This is at the very core of the issues facing parapsychology that I have covered lately. Gone are many of the world’s leading, official, labs and academic programs- at least in North America; and the few remaining respected and professional names in the field are seldom heard or departed. Meanwhile, amateur and semi-professional ghost hunting groups are concerned more with competing for exposure and fame, and not with the advancement of science.

This leaves the field with few professional organizations, no official research guidelines, and no reliable, secure central database to pool information that is collected from investigations.

Even if there were such a system-, something that I’ve been an outspoken proponent of for years- there must be a safeguard to certify that the data shared is not falsified, misrepresented, or incompetently interpreted. There have to be similar safeguards for those who are contributing that data. If a chain of people experiment based on fraudulent information, it does a disservice to all and makes the findings worthless. That’s a heavy price for someone’s time wasted and further ridicule of the field.

There must be an independent group  of qualified researchers tasked with keeping contributors to strict submission guidelines and testing and reviewing data to verify the results put forth for others.

These are factors which ruined database initiatives in the past and why any Joe Schmo with a night vision camera and voice recorder can call himself a ghost hunter and get a television show to flaunt his “evidence”.

For that evidence to be proven or disproven, and be taken seriously, it must be willingly and freely shared. There are a number of groups out there that refuse to do this.

I contacted a famous restaurant in Detroit that has been reportedly haunted for decades about doing an investigation only to discover that they have an exclusive contract with another group. No other group or research team is permitted to investigate, collect data, or post evidence of phenomena experienced at the restaurant. This contracted group even holds for-profit “tours” on occasion for mutual benefit of the establishment and “credibility” of their own group. The restaurant bilks patrons on the haunting legends and the group gets street cred for it. It’s a perfect win-win situation. No one is allowed to verify or refute the group’s findings and no one can recreate the exact conditions present when the data was collected to rule out or confirm factors. Not only is this bad science, it’s damn insulting.

There are a few ostensible databases on the internet that claim to collect information for scientific integrity, but beware because many of these are hackneyed and trite websites that merely collect folklore and personal anecdotes from often-anonymous responders looking to merely have their stories heard. It’s more fan fiction than fact.

A quick search on Bing found a number of hits.

Paranormaldatabase.com, for instance, seems like a legitimate attempt at such a database but much of the language in their legal disclaimer is highly suspicious and many of the highlighted phenomena have nothing to do with parapsychology or related theories.

Likewise, if a ‘database” is nothing more than a Facebook page without links to an official external website, or uses gimmicky names or acronyms such as PANICd (Paranormal Database and Research Information), then odds are it’s run by amateurs.

A promising one called ParaDB, created by a Seattle ghost hunting group, is a web-based PHP/MySQL application designed for use by ghost hunting and paranormal research organizations. It’s format and design is akin to many mainstream academic and medical forums.

The most serious and legitimate organizations are the American Society for Psychical Research and the famous Rhine Research Center– considered the last bastions of authoritative and academic paranormal research in North America. They publish The Journal of the ASPR and the Journal of Parapsychology, respectively, and both are world-renowned for the quality of their scientific content including research reports, theoretical discussions, book reviews, correspondence, and abstracts of university and laboratory research papers. I have been a subscriber to both and they hold a special place in my office library.

Until such a time that a verifiable, comprehensive, and worldwide database exists, the ASPR and Parapsychology Association journals will have to carry the weight of scientific discovery, but at least it’s a start.

 

 

© 2014 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

Across the Great Divide

February, 2014

 

 

Paranormal Communication

            To exist is to communicate. Bees in a hive; a pack of wolves on the hunt; two women in a coffee shop; – even the phones we text each other with-; effective communication is occurring everywhere around us every day and in various forms both organic and artificial.

            Humans are quite egocentric when it comes to the physical world and their professed mastery of it. If they cannot hear it, see it, touch it, or understand it then it doesn’t exist or is laughed off as the illogical ramblings of the foolish. A common- and clichéd- axiom is “if a tree falls and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” This naïve reasoning asserts that since no human was around to hear it, then it didn’t happen; that it is impossible to occur. The wildlife that scattered as the sound pierced the serenity might feel differently.

Humanity assumes that the only effective, real, communication between two sentient beings is in the verbal patterns of spoken language; but true communication occurs all around us every day without us even being remotely aware that it is happening or how. Just because we do not readily perceive or understand it does not dismiss this fact.

To effectively communicate with the world around us means that we have to let go of this arrogant mentality and realize that all things are different in the way they speak to each other and to the environment around them. This is the central canon when learning to understand and communicate with the world on a deeper level.

Why is it that emotionally-connected people can know exactly what each other are thinking or feeling without a single word being spoken? A look from a beloved dog or cat can elicit intense understanding in the same way. These are forms of paranormal communication.

When one knows how to listen, communication and understanding come easy.

            We saw last month that parapsychology researchers have made interesting discoveries about the possibilities of telepathic communication between two beings; and we’ve previously covered the topic of Electronic Voice Phenomenon with some intriguing examples that I personally captured. (It should be noted that Instrumental Transcommunication (ITC) is the more general, accepted, term in parapsychological research for any variation of device and corresponding phenomenon collected.)

            Many believe that communication with the dead is a scientific fact and experiment with a variety of techniques for spirit communication to provide evidence of the continuation of life after physical death. Many parapsychologists and ghost hunting groups agree. That is why it is such common practice to attempt communication with spirits using devices such as voice recorders and cameras.

            Mainstream science has generally ignored ITC, finding the results less than credible, and references a percentage of recordings that turn out to be hoaxes created by frauds or pranksters. Many also regard the examples put forward by proponents as simply misinterpretations of natural phenomena, explained via a variety of known psychological and physical phenomena- the tendency of the human brain to recognize patterns in random stimuli and radio interference are respective examples. I am not arguing the validity of the recorded samples that I or others have collected over the years as absolute proof of spiritual communication nor am I completely debunking them but if anyone has sound, logical explanations for their origin then, please, enlighten us; if not, then take it with a grain of salt and an intellectually open mind.

            Pareidolia and Apophenia are the most common basis for arguments against the legitimacy of ITC.

Auditory pareidolia is a situation created when the brain incorrectly interprets random patterns as being familiar patterns. In the case of ITC, it could result in an observer interpreting random noise on an audio recording as being the familiar sound of a human voice. The tendency for a “voice” heard in white noise recordings to be in a language understood well by those researching it, rather than in an unfamiliar language, has been cited as evidence of this; and a broad class of phenomena, referred to by author Joe Banks as “Rorschach Audio”, has been described as a global explanation for all manifestations of ITC.

            Apophenia is related to, but distinct from pareidolia, in that it is the spontaneous finding of connections or meaning in things that are random, unconnected, or meaningless, and has been put forward as a possible explanation.

            Suppose, for example, that an English-speaking group such as Ghost Hunters International were in Germany on an investigation. Would it not seem logical that any samples recorded and cited be in German rather than English? If a group’s team members are walking around an Italian castle asking questions in English how do they expect any possible spirit to understand the question, let alone respond correctly and in English? When they analyze the audio, are they listening for English and Italian words, or perhaps another language entirely?

            I have developed a theory that attempts to explain Rorschach Audio.

Everything about life I learned from watching Star Trek. (Humour me for a moment.) Ever wonder how the intrepid crew of the Enterprise can travel the galaxy and always find alien cultures speaking perfect English? Well, they have an ingenious little device called a universal translator that puts the spoken words through a sound algorithm that searches for patterns and then correlates them to the correct English vernacular. Neat trick, I think. However, there’s often a fine line between science fiction and reality.

In Jungian psychology, there is a bedrock principle that part of the unconscious mind is common and accessible to a group, a society, or even all of humanity, which is the product of all the ancestral experiences of a people throughout time and shared by all, termed the Collective Unconscious. Based on this model, if- as many world cultures similarly believe- we are all related, and taking into account the scientific theory that we revert to pure energy after the death of the physical body, then it stands to reason that as we pass from the material world into the realm of pure energy we have access to all of the knowledge of our fellow man. Therefore, if one were Russian in physical life, then such a being would have knowledge of the English language after death and would thus be able to communicate freely and fluently with an English-speaking researcher conducting an ITC session.

            It might not be too hard to imagine the possibility. It is a known fact that the human body creates, stores, and uses electrical energy. Our neurology is much like a computer’s in that it transmits data in much the same way as a circuit board. This explains how ITC is possible because if, after death, we revert back to pure energy then that energy is quite capable of manipulating and being captured by recording devices that operate on the same principles.

            The old-style method of using cassettes to communicate with spirits is a testable theory because those mediums rely on the creation of electromagnetic fields to imprint the data on the magnetic strips. This is also why spikes in EM fields are of major interest to researchers and ghost hunters because it hints that spirits must draw upon the energy in the environment in order to be discovered. The modern digital recorders are similarly valid because of the means by which they retain information.

            In a recent conversation online, it was jested that if ghosts did exist, it was doubtful that they would be using Facebook as a means to communicate. Based on the points raised today I would have to disagree. The internet is a digital world, using electrical currents and electromagnetics to transmit data from one side of the globe to another in an instant, and is just one more avenue that a being of energy could manipulate in order to communicate- a literal “ghost in the machine” as it makes its voice heard.

            It is said that we have two ears but one mouth because listening is twice as hard as speaking. This is a universal truth. If we simply learn to listen to the world around us in a different way, we just might hear things that we were previously unaware were there.

            Until next time, quiet yourselves and listen carefully to the sounds of the universe. The truth- and understanding- are out there if we are simply willing to listen with an open mind.

© 2014 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

 

Across the Great Divide

January, 2014

 

 

 

“Where, Oh Where, Has the Science Gone?”

There was a time, about 40 years ago, when paranormal research was fueled more by a passion for science and understanding than for fame and glory. It was a time when some of the world’s most prestigious universities were home to large parapsychology departments conducting cutting-edge research and publishing their theories and findings in the world’s top academic journals where they were discussed and graded on their methodology and scholastic merit. It was a great time for the field- before Hollywood and groups using poor techniques and duct-taped equipment stumbled around with night vision cameras looking for ratings rather than answers.

Somewhere, lost in the shadows of the scripted “results”, camera magic, and glitz of reality television’s idea of what paranormal research is, the honest, academic exploration of parapsychology has all but disappeared from the public eye, vanishing into the mists like a Gray Lady on a windy autumn night. Or has it?

For several decades, Duke University ran one of the largest centers for paranormal research in the world: The Duke Parapsychology Laboratory, established in 1935 as part of the college’s main psychology department. Other programs at Stanford and UCLA followed; but the academic environment was about to change.

Remember what happened to Dr. Venkman and company in “Ghostbusters” when they were kicked out? Those scenes were based on the real history of the Duke program when skeptics derided the field of parapsychology as pseudoscience and Duke ended its affiliation with the program. J.B. Rhine moved his labs across the street- literally- and continued the work off-campus that he and William McDougall started as the independent and privately-funded Rhine Research Center.

While it may be true that in recent years the field has become fragmented and underfunded, it still manages to hold on, even as the mainstream scientific community has once again ignored it. John Kruth, executive director of the Rhine, says, “It hasn’t gone anywhere. People have never stopped doing research in these areas, but the skeptic community is strong and vocal, and they’re much better at working the media.”

Kruth points to media-savvy skeptics such as James Randi for much of the academic community’s attitude toward the field. I would have to agree with him, at least in part, but it’s this level of blind skepticism that can’t accept anything that does not fit into rigid definitions and worldviews. Anyone who dares look at other possibilities is immediately labeled a fraud and excommunicated via a round of laughter.

This is a mindset summed up in the words of  Michael Shermer, editor of the quarterly journal, Skeptic, and columnist for Scientific American: “It’s [parapsychology] fallen into disuse due to the fact that there’s just nothing there.”

“Certainly there are fraudulent practitioners out there, and we’re always watching for that,” Kruth said. “It’s like we have the frauds on one side and the debunkers on the other, and we’re in the middle, still trying to do science.”

Critics retort that parapsychology, as a field of scientific study, has a fundamental evidence problem. I would have to agree, but I think Shermer is wrong when he arrogantly claims that “parapsychology has been around for more than a century. (Yet) there’s no research protocol that generates useful working hypotheses for other labs to test and develop into a model, and eventually a paradigm that becomes a field. It just isn’t there.”

At a recent presentation on the campus of Duke University, three parapsychology researchers presented results from their latest studies. The presentation topics:

“Synesthesia, Time and the Geography of Anomalous Experiences”

“Synchronicity and Psi: A Controlled Comparison”

“The Bio-Energy Lab at The Rhine and The O.B.E. (Out of Body Experience) Project”

Other recent research has huge implications in both parapsychology and mainstream clinical psychology. Surely it’s not your Vulcan mind-meld level of telepathy, but researchers came closer than ever to getting one mammal to read another mammal’s mind.

A research team had wired together the brains of two rats, allowing them to transmit information between each other and cooperate. The results, detailed in the journal Scientific Reports, could help improve the design of neural-controlled prosthetic devices and perhaps even show that one day we could network brains as well as computers, or communicate by translating neural activity in the brain into electronic signals.

In the experiment, the Duke scientists trained two rats to press one of two levers when a particular light switched on. Next, they connected the animals’ brains with tiny electrodes, each a fraction the size of a human hair, that linked the parts of the rats’ brains that process motor signals. Rat #1 was the “encoder” while rat #2 was the “decoder.” The first rat’s job was to receive the visual cue to press the lever. If it got it right, it got a reward.

As the encoder rat did its task, the electrical activity in the encoder rat’s brain was then translated into a signal and transmitted to the decoder rat. That rat would then press its own lever. For the second rat, though, there was no light cue to tell it which corresponding lever was correct. It could only go by the signal it received from the other rat.

It hit the correct lever an average of about 64% of the time, sometimes up to 72%- a result much greater than possible by chance. To confirm that this was an effect of the signals from the encoder rat’s brain, the team gave the decoder rat the same stimulation, but this time from a computer, with similar results.

Another experiment tested whether the rat’s brain could transmit information about touch. This time the rats were trained to put their nose through an opening and, using their whiskers, distinguish whether the opening was wide or narrow. For wide openings, the rats were taught to poke a computer port on their right. For narrow openings, they poked to the left.

Once trained, the rats were wired to each other. When the encoder rat poked the relevant port, the scientists recorded the brain activity and sent the signal to the decoder rat. The decoder chose the correct side- left or right- to poke 60-65% of the time.

These research models show promise for parapsychologists as they examine psi and other extra-sensory forms of communication.

Perhaps what researchers should do is employ a bit of psychology when publishing their findings to show just how much there is valid “research protocol and working hypotheses” in the field. By running their experiments with parapsychological theories in mind, make no mention of that fact and publish their experiments as typical mainstream neuropsychology, and see just how the scientific community reacts. Then we may be able to see just how deep the animosity and arrogance truly is among the world’s scientists. Remember that some of history’s greatest minds were laughed at in their own time, only to be repeatedly proven correct decades and centuries later, especially once the correct level of technology came along.

Until next month, keep your minds and your eyes open as you peer across the Great Divide. In the meantime, enjoy this video showing the most detailed map to ever be drawn of the human brain: Play Video

 

Sources: Discovery News

© 2013 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

 

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