Diggin’ Up Bones

After my previous blog on the ego, I was reminded how powerless we can be before the onslaught of the ego and its demand for retribution and recognition. I was wandering around an auction house last Sunday waiting for the auctioneer to take his stand. I overheard a man a few feet away loudly expressing his opinion on every item he encountered to whomever was around him. I moved in the opposite direction because, as an introvert, I find people who talk for the sake of talking obnoxious.

I was reminded of an event that happened at a summer convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses I attended (around 2006) in Portland, Oregon. My brother, an extrovert and Pisces, was being his normal dramatic self and talking to my other brother, when a man with an “Attendant” badge stepped up to him and asked him to be quiet. (Attendant badges are given to men (only) who have authority over the crowd of minions in his assigned section. Their assignment usually entails finding people seats after the session has started and counting attendees, but it could involve quieting unruly children or asking women with short skirts to sit more modestly in the stadium seating.)

When my brother was asked to be quiet, it was not during the session. It was at lunchtime, and this “brother” told my brother that he needed to lower his voice and stop talking about what he was talking about because nobody else cared what he had to say nor wanted to hear it. My brother, trained as we all were to be doormats, apologized for living and continues to this day (no doubt) with one more memory meant to obliterate any self-esteem he may have deigned to develop after 45 years under Watchtower control.

I was not present for this put-down but heard about it later, after the same man had lectured me about crawling over stadium seating (in my skirt) to avoid a crowd of people blocking my aisle. He also went on to reject my friend’s offer to assist in First Aid, which upset her so much she couldn’t attend the convention and spent the whole time weeping in her car.

Now I take you back to the auction this last Sunday in Cascade, Maryland. I’m walking around remembering all of this, not for the first time, and feeling such anger I am fantasizing about the things I wish I would have said to this stain on humanity, this “Attendant.” I am picturing myself standing beside my brother as this total stranger approaches him and tells him to be quiet and stop ruining everyone else’s day by talking. Before my brother can apologize for being alive, I step forward, point my finger in his face (because misogynistic men love it when women do that), and say, “Who the hell are you to tell this man to be quiet?! Do you think just because you wear that “Attendant” badge you have any right to lecture people on how to act and talk? I want you to turn around and walk away. I don’t want you to address me, my family, or any of my friends with your corrosive presence. As a matter of fact, if you come near anyone I know, I will seriously fuck you up! Now go fuck yourself!!” The original version had about 30 more swear words added in, mainly because I know how much Jehovah’s Witnesses hate that shit–but you get my drift.

At any rate, I was in full ego-mode. I was carrying some serious angst about something that happened almost 10 years ago. Some might say this kind of anger is good because it prevents me from being taken advantage of again–and they would be right–but I have had this same conversation 100 times, at least, in the intervening years. Some days the anger strikes me more aggressively than others, but overall it is the same helpless anger I feel over many similar situations within that organization. Situations where men in power used that power to humiliate and oppress people whose ability to defend themselves has been taken away by their fear of God and his reprisals. (My brother is still in that religion and has likely been the brunt of many more hurtful scenarios. I don’t think he will ever recover in this life. By now his ego likely needs so much propping up that organized religion is the only way he could survive.)

While I was walking around the auction stewing, I happened by this little boy who was excitedly admiring a small antique, tin train. His mother and grandmother assured him they would get it if they could. My first thought? I’m going to bid on that, because mom and grandma didn’t look like they had very much money, just so I can see that little boy cry. (I didn’t. Nobody else did either. He got the train.)

My point is, my ego was having a heyday. I was completely immersed in the past and dwelling on things I can’t do anything about.  My residual anger, which had only gotten stronger over the years, actually had me convinced I wanted to hurt someone else so I wouldn’t feel I needed to shoulder the whole burden of my own pain. In a sense, I had turned into one of the bullies I find so repugnant. I wasn’t targeting another adult. I was targeting a helpless child. Someone who couldn’t defend himself and wouldn’t understand why he couldn’t get the train. Would it have made me feel better? No, I assure you, I would have felt like shit afterwards.

But it got me thinking, how many people have we hurt while in the throes of ego obsession? How many times have we been hurt by those experiencing an ego-reaction that has no bearing on the here and now? I think ego can be good if it encourages us to stand up for ourselves (to an extent), but once the chance has passed, is it really beneficial to keep digging things up and reliving them? If it’s not helping you process your feelings, then no. Move on. Write out your feelings on a scrap of paper and burn them. Shout them out to the moon. Put them in a blog–actually, this is a test, I’ll let you know if it cures my angst surrounding this situation.

The journey to reign in the ego is an arduous one, but I believe it a worthy goal. Imagine the peace we could enjoy if we could control our reactions to the past, present, and future?

Ghosts and Spirits: Is There A Difference?

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Ghost captured at Bachelor Grove Cemetery, Chicago, IL

 

Throughout history humankind has feared the unknown.  Long before the written word stories were told of unseen forces, both good and evil, that lurked in the darkness. Humans have long tried to understand the other side, to understand the nature of death, what we become and where we go when we pass over. Fear of dying has long haunted us and for some a belief in some sort of survival after a physical death helps alleviate those fears. But what do we become? A ghost? A spirit? Are they one and the same thing? Let’s see.

Ghosts seem to have more of a negative connotation in the paranormal world that is not always deserved. Remember, we tell ghost stories to scare each other, not spirit stories. A ghost’s reputation tends to “haunt” where a spirit tends to “help.” In reality the true definition of a ghost is rather sad and tragic. Typically a ghost is the surviving energy of a person who has died suddenly and/or traumatically and in most cases they are unaware of their own tragic passing. A few may realize they have died but are confused about where they are and what they are supposed to do.

To put it simply ghosts can linger because they feel they have unfinished business or they are letting emotions such as guilt, love or revenge push them away from crossing over. These emotions keep them tied to the spot where they died and in some cases reliving the tragedy over and over again. It seems ghosts cannot reason that they are dead and that the replaying of their demise over and over has become an obsession.  Not everyone who dies tragically or violently becomes a ghost. It depends a lot on the person and whether or not they accept their passing.

A spirit is someone who usually passes peacefully and accepts what is happening. They cross over fully and are aware and capable of a level of reasoning that the ghost is not. These are typically the so-called “intelligent hauntings” as they are fully capable of intelligent interaction with the physical world. Spirits tend to be associated with beings who are helpers and guides. Spirits are capable of going back and forth between the physical world and the spiritual plane and are not tied to one side or the other.

Ghosts who are aware they are dead can be frustrated and act out in ways that are intentionally meant to get our attention. That’s when you hear activity such as the slamming of door, footsteps, and some kinds of EVP’s. We must remember that these might be people who are just as frightened as we are. Possibly unaware of their own death, they may be only looking for answers.

When many people hear the word “ghost,” they get nervous. In reality they deserve pity for the situation they may find themselves in having to relive the same tragic event over and over like a looped tape recorder. In most cases they can’t do much else and therefore can do little to harm the living.

Now let me end this article by saying when I use the word “spirit” I mean it in reference to humans who have passed on fully to the other side. There are many who use the word to reference angels, demons, etc. and that is something for another article.

There are no absolute definitions when it comes to the paranormal. What we know we know through experience, observance and deduction. Many have had both positive and negative experiences with ghosts and spirits. Once, they were all people, and like people, you get all kinds…even on the other side. ~ Contributed by Roy Branson

 

Published in: on July 28, 2014 at 10:11 p07  Leave a Comment  
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EVP’s and Digital Recorders: What You Should Know

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Many consider the holy grail of paranormal investigation a full-bodied apparition captured on video or even in a nice clear photo. Now don’t get me wrong, that would be cool, I would love to get evidence like that myself one day. But for me a nice clear E.V.P. gets me excited every time. There is something about knowing that you are in actual communication with someone from the other side that is just more satisfying to me as a paranormal investigator.  Even if it’s just a residual voice from some long gone era that is echoing through time and space I can’t help but think that when it comes to the paranormal, a picture isn’t worth a thousand words.

What are E.V.P’s? E.V.P. stands for “electronic voice phenomena.” Basically it is unexplained sounds, noises and, more often than not, words that are thought to be a recording of a “ghost voice.”  Usually at the time the E.V.P. is recorded the person doing the recording does not hear the voice until later when they review it. The subject of E.V.P.’s is an article unto itself so I will save that discussion for a later time as this is more a nuts and bolts piece.

Really, E.V.P’s are the bread and butter of paranormal investigation. There’s a lot of equipment that can come in handy but none more than a digital recorder. And despite what you see on TV, you don’t need the fancy, multi-directional micro-phoned $300 recorders being toted around. Let me give you the low down on the basics of what you need and what you can expect to spend–it’s less painful than you think.

My Grand Dad used to tell me you get what you pay for, and that’s still true, but it doesn’t mean you have to buy the most expensive recorder there is to get one that will do a good job. Here are some things to consider when you go shopping for a recorder:

1. Choose a digital recorder over an analog recorder. Analog recorders often pick up the sounds of their own internal workings, which can easily be mistaken for EVPs. Some may disagree with this as they believe the internal noise aids in getting E.V.P.’s. I disagree. In my opinion there’s no substitution for a good clean recording.

2. Avoid voice-activated recorders, as they begin recording when sound is detected, they may clip off the first few seconds of sound, which may alter an E.V.P. or cut it off altogether. How frustrating would that be?

3.  The recorder should be equipped with a USB port to make uploading of sound files to your computer easy and painless. This will make listening to the E.V.P.’s easier, and will allow you to import or export your files as needed.

4. While you most likely won’t ever do 1200 hours of recording, having plenty of storage space can be handy, just in case. Many recorders these days have upwards o f 2 to 4 gigs of memory which is way more than even the most zealous investigator will ever use.

Olympus and Sony both make good recorders that can be had for less than $50.00. And if you’re   patient and like to play around with auctions you can get great deals on Ebay. Amazon is another great place to shop for a digital recorder.  And yes, even that Mecca of all things red neck, Wal-Mart, has great deals on the afore-mentioned brands. There are those who say you need stereo microphones,  high-sampling rates,  24 bit conversions, and on and on and on.  Not true.

Let’s remember we are dealing with theories here. This is the paranormal. Electronic Voice Phenomenon works on the principle of EMF (Electro Magnetic Field) so it is not the actual recording or sensitivity of the device that matters, but rather the ability for any magnetic influences present that are not related to the sound to imprint themselves on the device. In fact, it has nothing to do with sound, as nearly all E.V.P.’s can’t be heard audibly at the time of recording.  E.V.P.’s are not created in the same manner as a standard human voice recording.

I have seen good simple recorders get incredible E.V.P.’s too many times to be discounted as a solid tool. The digital recorder is by far the best bang for the buck when it comes to evidence collection. So don’t worry about laying down a lot of money for all the bells and whistles. Set a budget, read reviews, and happy hunting.

“If our personality survives, then it is strictly logical or scientific to assume that it retains memory, intellect, other faculties, and knowledge that we acquire on this Earth. Therefore … if we can evolve an instrument so delicate as to be affected by our personality as it survives in the next life, such an instrument, when made available, ought to record something”  Thomas Edison – to a reporter from American Magazine, 1920.

~Contributed by Roy Branson

Are We Creating a Paranormal Drought?

For any of you who still follow this website, you are probably wondering why our evidence has come to a complete halt even though we are now living in one of the most haunted places in America. I was a PI (Paranormal Investigation) junky until our bad experience at Baker City (described in the post The Unsettled Souls of the Geyser Grand). Soon after Baker City, the holidays came and winter set in. Then we had to focus on getting the house ready to put on the market and all the subsequent craziness that followed as we moved and found a place to settle.

We arrived at Gettysburg stressed and apathetic about ghost hunting. We went out to Sachs Bridge only to find busloads of people out there “investigating.” How can you investigate when there are a hundred people milling around?! We went on a couple hosted events and didn’t turn up anything. It became alarmingly clear that any evidence collected on a hosted event, in which 10 to 20 people are all trying to collect evidence, would need to be thrown out from excessive contamination. Even if I was by myself in the basement of a four-story house, which supposedly served as a Civil War Hospital, all EVP evidence was contaminated by the people stomping around overhead and talking loudly. So we stopped going on hosted investigations, which is okay anyway since they are very pricey!

Since we have been doing our own investigations, we have attempted to go to as many haunted places as we can. We always do our research and stay in the most active room of a B&B or Hotel. I am loath to admit, however, that we haven’t collected any evidence since our visit to Gettysburg in the summer of 2012.

I have a theory, and I would be interested in knowing if anyone in the paranormal community agrees with me. Is it possible that some places have been hunted too much? Gettysburg Battlefield, Eastern State Penitentiary, The Ax Murder House of Villisca, Iowa, every McMenamins in Oregon and Washington, the Lizzie Borden House, etc. etc. People pay big bucks to investigate some of these places. For example, on our way east last summer we were going to be passing about 30 miles north of the Villisca Ax Murder House. For $428 a group can be locked down in the house for a whole night. We thought it would be fun to give it a try, but when we went to the website to book a night we found out every night for the rest of the summer was already booked. (I recently watched the Ax Murder House portrayed on Dead Files. The owner said she would not, under any condition, stop opening the house to paranormal groups which only angered the spirits. I can’t say as I blame her. Not counting daytime tour groups, if she sells out every nighttime lockdown during the summer she will gross over $13000 per month!)

Very few people seem to get any really conclusive evidence in these places. Considering how often they are hunted, and how active they supposedly are, I would assume there would be a mountain of evidence. What if the resident spirits are tired of people trying to make contact with them? What if they find it insulting? It has become more and more apparent to me that ghost hunting the places that everyone goes to may be a waste of time and money.

I was recently exploring the world of Paranormal Podcasts and came across one called Stirring the Cauldron by Marla Brooks. In one of her episodes she contemplates the question, “Do haunted locations have a shelf-life?” During that episode, she tells of an experience she had in which she asked medium David Wills the reason the famed Winchester House was devoid of spirit activity. His answer is quite enlightening. He told her the spirits were still in the house, but they were bored with the endless parade of paranormal investigators. They aren’t impressed with us or our attempts to get in contact with them. Her guest Brian Patrick implied they may not want to perform for us like monkeys endlessly beating the drum to our endless inquiries: “Are you there?,” “What’s your name,” “Do you know you’re dead?” etc.

Now don’t get me wrong. If you sat in on one of my EVP sessions I would be asking similar questions in hopes of getting a response, because almost every EVP I have ever gotten have been in direct response to a question I had posed. But I have usually gotten EVP’s after I have made an effort to connect to the area I am in. I have endeavored to mentally reach out to whoever may be in the ether, and empathize with them in the hopes they feel moved to speak to me. I am not a psychic. I may be sensitive, but my self-doubt is stronger than most paranormal entities, so I just do the best I can.

I think part of the reason I haven’t gotten an EVP in a year and a half is because I don’t try very hard any more, and my mind has become too cluttered with other things (i.e. moving, finding a job, breaking my ankle, etc.). There is nothing remotely appealing about me that would attract the attention of a resident spirit because I have lost my enthusiasm and love for the paranormal hunt.

Like any relationship, if you fire off the same questions every day to the people around you and never get emotionally invested that relationship will suffer. The spirits on the other side need to know we actually care about them. They need to know they matter to us. So, why are we out there gathering evidence? To get answers to the cosmic questions regarding an afterlife? Or is it just an easy path to fame? We need to treat the spirits on the other side as courteously as we treat the person standing next to us. They were once human, and may become human again. They aren’t there for our entertainment.

In a hosted event in which 10 or more people are milling about with cameras flashing and spirit boxes blaring, it is almost impossible to sit quietly and absorb the energy of a room or reach out to the spirits. I would be interested in finding out just how much real evidence is obtained in group investigations. It seems such investigations are for paranormal tourists rather than people really interested in paranormal investigations. I am reminded of my infamous investigation in Baker City in 2012. A middle-aged couple, who seemed inebriated, decided to join the investigation of an area brothel. The man kept “feeling” spirit touch him and would whisper this to his wife (never whisper on an investigation!), while she clicked around in high-heeled boots. I actually felt bad for them because they probably thought it would be a lark, not realizing every other person on the team was going to be glaring at them every time they opened their mouths or took a step. They finally left with some complaints that they were tired of people yelling at them.

So, the logical explanation to this enormous blog (sorry about that) is to avoid group hunts and do our own thing. This is easy to do in open places like battlefields and cemeteries, but not so easy if someone wants to investigate a house, hotel, or asylum. Big bucks must be laid out and a group must be endured. I am constantly threatening to trespass on abandoned places (I would never break and enter–just enter), but my husband’s cooler head prevails and stories of incarceration inevitably discourage me from the adventure. Although I did inform him today that I am going to get my tetanus booster, just in case.

Orbs

Orb reflected in TV screen

Orb reflected in TV screen

Picture immediately following, without the orb.

Picture immediately following, without the orb.

There are few things that inspire more argument and eye-rolling in the paranormal community than Orbs. I remember the first time I heard the word “orb”. I was a naive twenty-something, heavily involved in my religion which taught there was no afterlife. I  was perusing the internet when I came across someone who claimed to have photographic proof of a spirit. I thought, “I have got to see this!” She was on a nighttime ghost tour (here in Gettysburg, believe it or not) and she had captured an orb sitting on a bench next to another person. I remember thinking it was some kind of a joke. I dismissed the photo and its author as evidence that insanity was still very much alive in the world, and stored the word “Orb” away for later use.

After the death of my ancestral faith, I started exploring alternative beliefs. I had always been taught to fear the spirit world as demonic interaction. Now I wanted my own answers. I began my obsession with the paranormal world by watching the Ghost Adventures episode on the Stanley Hotel in Colorado. I had just finished reading The Shining and was dying to visit the Stanley. I was so thrilled to realize it was actually haunted! I loved the way Zak and his crew did the investigation! They were very efficient and business-like in their approach. (I guess I expected to see the cast of Finding Bigfoot, or South Park’s representation of them.) At any rate, some of the earlier episodes of Ghost Adventures pointed out interesting orbs as evidence. I reached into my memory banks and pulled out my first skeptical exposure to orbs. I started to wonder if they knew something I didn’t.

Most paranormal groups start out by cutting their investigative teeth on cemeteries, and we weren’t any different. We weren’t stupid enough to think a picture full of orbs was anything other than dust or moisture, but when we would take a picture of a lone orb that was either very bright, large, or moving we would take notice and think we had gotten some evidence. In fact, when investigating my brother’s house I took a picture of an orb that can be seen reflected in the TV. I thought that was clear evidence that orbs have substance and are real.

I would become angry when people would mock me, or others like me, for thinking orbs were signs of spirit activity. We tried to find books on orbs and only found more inconclusive evidence. Until we picked up a book by Jeff Belanger called Communicating with the Dead. In the chapter on Spirit Photography, author and photographer Ken Milburn called the orbs “Lens Flare. “The lenses in most digital cameras have four to nine elements. That’s four to nine separate lenses that are glued together to correct for various types of aberrations. So each one of those surfaces is capable of taking up a reflection and recording it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be some bright light that you can see inside the frame, either. It could be something that is off to the side that just happens to hit the front of the lens and then reflects on the elements of the lens. Lens flare can even look like a ball in motion because of the multiple lenses.” (71)

Jeff goes on to relate his experiences with orbs and his new digital camera from Olympus. When he questioned Olympus on the cause of the orbs, they said that the flash was picking up the dust particles and moisture droplets found in the air. There is also the possibility that smaller cameras place the flash closer to the lens, which results in more lens flare. Flash travels at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second)–the average point-and-shoot camera has a shutter speed of 1/125 of a second. Imagine the light from the flash bouncing all over the place in the split second the shutter is open. In fact, the light will travel 1488 miles during that time. (Belanger, 71)

I felt that handily explained the reflection of the orb I saw in the TV during the investigation at my brother’s house. I was catching an orb of light expelled by the flash and bouncing around the room. (By the way, I strongly recommend Jeff’s book. It is very pragmatic and logical in its approach to the paranormal.)

We decided to run our own experiment. We went out just as it was getting dark and took multiple photos with and without flash. If orbs only showed up in the pictures using flash, we would know that the orbs are, in fact, related to the flash.

The experiment was not as conclusive as I expected, but we got enough orbs to demonstrate part of my point.

With Flash Without Flash

 

 

There are no orbs in either of the above photos. In such a wide open space as this I don’t think there would be the possibility of light bouncing around, but lens flare would still be possible off the interior lenses…but it didn’t happen here. There also does not appear to be as much dust and moisture during the winter as there is in summer. So these pictures are inconclusive. No doubt partially due to the fact that it is still not full dark out.

 

This picture was taken as we were driving down the driveway of a bed and breakfast. The driveway was gravel and we can see the flash formed orbs around the dust in the air.

This picture was taken as we were driving down the driveway of a rumored haunted bed and breakfast. The driveway was gravel and we can see the flash formed orbs around the dust in the air.

Here's a lone orb we picked up down in the slaughter pen near Devil's Den. I took this picture and there was nothing visible to the naked eye before I captured this. There was a creek rushing among the boulders in the distance, however. Which would indicate the orb was most likely moisture.

Here’s a lone orb we picked up down in the slaughter pen near Devil’s Den. I took this picture and there was nothing visible to the naked eye before I captured this. There was a creek rushing among the boulders in the distance, however. Which would indicate the orb was most likely moisture.

 

The above picture is of my Craft room. As you can see, it has books on Witchcraft, Ouija boards, Tarot decks, a voodoo doll, a crystal ball, and crystals. I took over 50 pictures, with flash, in this room and didn't get a single orb. Every picture looks exactly like the above. Then I took 50 pictures of the room without flash and every picture looks like the picture below.

The above picture is of my Craft room. As you can see, it has books on Witchcraft, a couple Ouija boards, Tarot decks, a voodoo doll, a crystal ball, and crystals. I took over 50 pictures, with flash, in this room and didn’t get a single orb. Every picture looks exactly like the above. Then I took 50 pictures of the room without flash and every picture looks like the picture below.

Craft Room

The only thing I believe I have proved with this short experiment is that dust and moisture cause orbs. I’m not so sure about lens flare, however. It seems if the flash alone could cause orbs I would have gotten at least one. We have taken more than 200 photos in the last few days and orbs have been almost nonexistent, except in the presence of dust and moisture.

Jeff Belanger concludes his chapter on Spirit Photography without a dogmatic stance against orbs. In fact, the picture on the cover of his book includes a couple of bright orbs found in a darkened cemetery. I think it would be silly of us to claim no orb is ever a sign of spirit presence. I have seen and captured orbs with faces in them. But now that we know dust and moisture cause orbs, and flash flare could cause orbs, we must cave to reasonable doubt and dismiss the vast majority of the orbs we see.

If anyone in the paranormal community would like to present evidence supporting or negating my experiment, please do

The Paranormal: Techno Geek Style

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Let’s face it, the paranormal is a great field to get your geek on. If you love gadgets, electronic wibbles and  flashy thingamajigs then being a paranormal investigator will thrill you to death…no pun intended. A couple of weeks ago I finished a book about all those wonderful things we like to take out into the dark of night in our never-ending endeavor to capture the crucial pieces of evidence that bring us closer to answering  all those perplexing questions about the other side.

The book is called “Strange Frequencies: A Practical Guide to Paranormal Technology” by Craig Telesha. First let me say: this is not a how-to book on ghost hunting. It is about all the equipment we use to ghost hunt and the history behind it. This is an excellent guide for the non-techie. It is chock full of information about photography, video, audio recording, EMF detectors, and the use of radios such as spirit boxes. The author compares the old and the new and talks in-depth about the advantages and disadvantages of each. There is even a chapter on how to build your own gadgets, including schematics, for use in the field.

He talks about photo and audio contamination from a technical viewpoint. Telesha discusses some of the other pieces of equipment we know and love such as EMF meters, thermometers, ion counters, Geiger counters, motion detectors, radar detectors, compasses, as well as giving you a basic understanding of how they all work.

The theme of this book isn’t paranormal investigating but the science behind it. Page after page is turned without one mention of ghosts. This is a great book to reference when researching new equipment or when looking to go old school. The book was published in 2008 and in technological years that’s eons ago. But the history and principles of the technology that we use in our investigations is as relevant today as it was when the book hit the press.

Knowledge is power. Knowing how the gadgets in our hands work will go a long way in helping us identify and debunk any “evidence” we get during our investigations. Telesha does a good job in demystifying the tech side of what we do. It’s well written and really caters to those whose knowledge of ghost tech is minimal.

I’ve read a lot of books on the paranormal and ghost hunting. Many touch on the equipment you need but few tell you why you need it or how it works. This book fills that gap. I have no doubt that this volume should be on every investigators reference shelf. Dive in! It’s a quick and easy read and will pay off in your investigations for years to come. ~Guest post by Roy Branson

Died in House

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Our house is in the old part of Gettysburg, but it was built-in 1979. Apparently the original structure burned down and they rebuilt a period appropriate house on the foundation of the original.

For anyone who knows much about the battle of Gettysburg, the battle ranged all over town. On July 1, 1863, the northern soldiers were chased through the streets of town as they retreated from the rebels. Some were killed on the streets, others took refuge inside the houses and escaped or were captured. There have been reports of haunting in most of the structures in town, including the houses built-in the last half of the 20th century, due to the activity of the ground on which they stand.

When we knew we were going to be moving into this house we decided to look up its address on diedinhouse.com. This is a handy website that will provide the history of houses for the small fee of $11. All I did was enter the address and the names of all the people who have ever owned the house, died in the house or died since moving from the house are displayed.

When I entered the address for this house it came up that a young man died here just last spring. Thanks to Facebook, I was able to track him down and the reason for his demise–suicide. With the already active soil around Gettysburg, I expected the possibility of some bad residual energy. Nothing really obvious has presented itself, however.

We did an investigation around Halloween and turned up nothing…but there have been some, possibly, interesting events since then.

After moving into the house we noticed one of the doors to an upstairs bedroom is lacking a doorknob and  the door frame is separated in a way that suggests the door was kicked open. So, we assume this is the room the suicide may have occurred in. On New Year’s Eve, we had gone to the Battlefield Bed and Breakfast to socialize then returned to put on warm clothes and head down to the square for the festivities. We opened the door to the room mentioned above and were confronted by a very unpleasant smell. When I first smelled it I thought of a locker room with its stinking socks and unwashed bodies, but the more I smelled it the more it changed to something like vomit or spoiled food. Roy thought he smelled vomit and poo combined. We checked the garbage for food, but only found paper. We looked around and didn’t find any evidence of the cats, and we keep the door closed to this room because we don’t want the cats making it smell. We popped open a window, turned on the fan, and closed the door again to keep the cats out. When we returned one hour later, there was no hint of the smell. The smell was so strong, initially, that I would expect it to have a lingering suggestion, but no. We tried to recreate the smell a couple of nights later by closing up the room for a few hours and were unable to duplicate the smell. Were we smelling a phantom smell? Perhaps of the suicide victim?

One night, I was abruptly wakened between the hours of 3 and 4 am. As I lay in bed, I heard what sounded like a plastic cup being set down on the kitchen counter. It sounded too controlled to be the result of an animal knocking something over, and both cats were on the bed. So I lay there listening for something more, and watching the cats to see if they sensed anything, but they went on sleeping. I fell asleep and had a dream that the house was haunted by a young boy the age of 10. He kept shadowing us in the dream and finally admitted to me that he was afraid to cross over because his parents were abusive to him and he was afraid they’d be waiting for him. The dream was very vivid and the story was not related to anything I might have heard somewhere else.

When we came home from a 7 day excursion to Oregon (when I broke my leg) we found the TV and living room lights on. We dismissed the TV since a cat stepping on the remote could cause that, but what about the lights? It is very fishy, since I am anal about making sure all lights are off–especially since we spent a lot of time figuring out which lights to leave on to give the impression the house was occupied. But since I cannot state with absolute clarity that we didn’t accidentally leave the lights on, I must dismiss it as possible paranormal activity.

Then there was the night just last week when we were both awakened by a loud noise downstairs, between the hours of 3 and 4 am. Once again, it didn’t sound like an animal. It sounded like someone kicked the door open. Roy went downstairs clutching his pocket knife, but there was nothing amiss.

Recently, our cats have been acting very strange. One of them has gotten really skittish, and I will catch him staring into empty corners or darkened rooms.

We have decided to do another investigation of the house, including the cellar. This time we will do it between 3 and 4 am since that seems to be the most active time. I have heard some people call that hour, “Dead Time.” It is also considered the time of darker entities since 3 am is the counterpart of 3 pm–when Jesus died (if you believe in that stuff). We will report any evidence we receive.

Published in: on July 28, 2014 at 10:11 p07  Leave a Comment  

Me, My Ego, and I

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In the fall of 2011 I started studying Tarot. This in spite of a lifetime of being taught it was forbidden by God and was direct contact with the Devil himself. Many of the books and magazines published by the Watchtower Society show images of Tarot cards and Ouija boards as examples of Satanic practices. (I am now the proud owner of 4 Ouija Boards and 3 Tarot decks.)
One of the first things I learned when I started studying Tarot was how to figure my life and year cards. By adding the numbers of our birthday and our birth year, or the current year, we get a number that coincides with a Tarot card and establishes the theme for our life/year.
I was so fascinated by this prospect that I actually went through and figured out every year card from the day I was born until 2016. It took me hours, but I was intrigued to notice how the cards corresponded with various key moments in my life. Every year now, I carefully consider the theme of the year and do a year-ahead reading to get a grasp on what the year will bring. I was able to predict the exact time in which our house in Oregon would sell and even predicted my mother-in-law’s death.
This year, from my last birthday in September 2013,  I am in the energy of the Death card. This is the first time I have ever had this card as a year card. Rarely does it mean literal death (although it did in the case of my father). It usually means profound change. Something dies so something else can be reborn. It often relates to parts of the ego dying.
I have been interested to see how things would play out this year, and since the year is winding down (Death card energies will end at my next birthday, Sept. 7th), I have seen some interesting shifts. I didn’t even know what the ego was a year ago, but I am beginning to grasp its significance. I had a friend explain it to me and I have been reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power Of Now. I liken the ego to a toddler within us who sometimes throws tantrums, thinks the world revolves around them, and obsesses over inane things–like believing the world is way more concerned with what we do and how we look than it actually is.
When we feel persecuted, or forget to appreciate what we have because of the many things we want, we need to remind ourselves that our ego is taking over and we need to reign in our inner toddler. Eckart Tolle calls the ego “a false self, created by unconscious identification with the mind.” He goes on to say that “to the ego, the present moment hardly exists. Only the past and future are considered important…It is always concerned with keeping the past alive, because without it–who are you? It constantly projects itself into the future to ensure its continued survival and to seek some kind of release or fulfillment there. It says: ‘One day, when this, that, or the other happens, I am going to be okay, happy, at peace.’” (Tolle, 18)
Dwelling on the past, or future, and preventing us from being fully present is a state of the ego, the false self who only makes us (and sometimes others) miserable. If we could focus more on the here and now, we could increase our gratitude and reduce our anxiety and angst.
How do we separate ourselves from our ego? Start noticing its existence. As you mentally stand back and observe its negative reaction to things, notice that a separate part of yourself is detached from the ego–it has to be in order to notice your behavior. (Most of us can remember times in which we have reacted to something and a part of us was detached enough to recognize our reaction as a speculative, or critical, observer.) The more we practice this ability to detach, the more we can control our reactions.
Since I’ve been studying the metaphysical, I have received lots of guidance to meditate in order to quiet the mind. When reading The Artists Way by Julia Cameron, she encouraged writing three pages of Morning Pages every day. I heard a friend recently refer to these as “stream of consciousness” writing, but I didn’t really get the significance of either. I have tried meditation and Morning Pages off and on over the years but could never see the long-term benefits enough to continue for long.
Thanks to Eckhart Tolle, I finally understand why we are encouraged to meditate and write without necessarily having something concrete to write about. He says on page 19 of The Power of Now, “Thinking and consciousness are not synonymous. Thinking is only a small aspect of consciousness. Thought cannot exist without consciousness, but consciousness does not need thought.”  Consciousness, the place where the thinking mind is quieted, is where creativity is born. If you are anything like me, you have insisted that you cannot be creative. But if we could learn to stop thinking, stop the ego from taking over and regurgitating the past and projecting it into the future, or over-analyzing everything we do, say, or write–we could find creativity hidden within us. How do we quiet the mind and tap into the super-consciousness where creativity lives and breathes? Meditation, stream of consciousness writing, anything that quiets the mind and allows it to drift. I can already tell you this isn’t easy. My mind is very stubborn and I have spent my entire life thinking my intelligence was the only thing I have going for me, but now I understand why I should learn to quiet my mind.
I recently read a book on Dowsing by author Joey Korn. He says, again and again, that it’s not the rods, pendulum, or willow twig that does the dowsing–it’s the dowser. The earth’s energies interact with our own and communicate what we are looking for, be it water or energy fields. Since most of us aren’t in-tune enough with our psychic abilities, the rods (etc) give us the answers we need.  If we aren’t getting the reactions we need, it’s the fault of our own mind disabling, or second guessing, the pull of the earth’s energies. So, once again, the thinking mind is getting in the way of our super-conscious mind which knows how to interact with energies, spirits, and our own creative potential. If we can learn to control our thoughts and emotions by quieting our ego and our intellect, I believe the possibilities are endless!
“Enlightenment means rising above thought…In the enlightened state, you still use your thinking mind when needed, but in a much more focused and effective way than before.” (Tolle, 19) It’s time we reached out for enlightenment and gained control of our minds. Imagine what kind of world this would be if we were all more creative and less reactive!

Religion vs. Spirituality

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Spirituality is an ever-evolving thing. Over the last year and a half, I moved across country, broke my leg, and struggled to secure a new career. As things have settled down into a routine, I have noticed spirituality is lacking from my life due to the many distractions. I am not, in any way, hungering for the kind of spirituality I was brought up with. I wouldn’t call that tyrannical paradigm spirituality. Religion and spirituality are often two diametrically opposed entities. Spirituality can be felt anywhere, by anyone, and it is transformative. Religion is abiding by rules set by someone else and judging anyone who doesn’t abide by the same rules. It is destructive to individuality and authenticity.

I prefer being responsible for my own spirituality, as defined by me. I am minister and laity all in one. My church is mother nature, or my very own house. I can practice my faith in the nude, if I so choose (and I often do). Such practice helps me rid myself of the shame heaped upon me as a child of Christianity. Religion teaches that we are all one step away from damnation because of our sinful flesh and never-ending streams of temptation. When people spend their lives obsessing over sexuality and fleshly desires it is no wonder it becomes the first thing they turn to when their resistance is low. The forbidden fruit is always the most appealing. If we as a society were taught to love our bodies despite their imperfections and desires we wouldn’t wallow in perceived weakness. We would be strong, capable of making wise choices.

What happens, though, if we realize we are strong and worthwhile? What happens if we grasp the fact that we are spiritual beings apart from churches and organizations? What if we comprehend that salvation doesn’t rest within a certain denomination? Then the churches would empty. People would find happiness without the spiritual leaders. The financial backing these churches need would crumble. Civilization would finally rid themselves of a weight that has been holding evolution back for thousands of years. The next millennia would be a time of unprecedented scientific and societal advancement. And it would all be because we have finally cast off the detritus that has kept us in the Dark Ages.

I have reached the sweet spot where I rarely think of Jehovah’s Witnesses, or talk of them. Such is the benefit of moving 3000 miles away from anyone I knew attached to that religion. I live in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania now and I haven’t even laid my eyes on a JW, let alone had them knock on my door in almost a year. I am reviving this blog because I feel the need to make spirituality a part of my life again. Ultimately, I do believe we are spiritual beings (something the JW’s teach quite regularly to prove the existence of God). Not everyone finds spiritual fulfillment within the walls of a church, however. I think it can be found wherever someone finds fulfillment, happiness, and gratitude. This can be found in a career, on a hike, or within the pages of a book; and it neither confirms nor denies the existence of God.

I have not found the form of spirituality that brings me great contentment. I’m not even sure if I ever will. As I said at the beginning of this post, spirituality evolves over time. But I do feel like I am in a better position to fill the holes left after departing Christianity.

I have also recently agreed to read and review books on alternative spirituality published by Moon Books. So when you see book reviews pop up, that is why. Feel free to read them, or not.

Thank you for going with me on this journey, and please share in it if you so choose. Cheers!

“Witchcraft Today–60 Years On”

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Witchcraft Today–60 Years On is an anthology of written work gathered from various expert sources. Pagans, Wiccans, Fae, Druids, male and female all contribute information regarding their path, beliefs, and journeys. The reader is given a nicely rounded-out account of how witchcraft has developed in the 60 years since Gerald Gardner’s seminal work.

The first chapter gives us a succinct look into Gardner’s Witchcraft Today (1954)and its development. Following are chapters on  Alexandrian Witchcraft, Seax, Eclectic, Dianic, Hedge, and Egyptian traditions. There’s even a chapter on the future of Witchcraft as an ever-growing entity. What may sound like a boring subject is made fascinating by the personal, heartfelt accounts of each of the contributors. Their devotion is inspiring, and their knowledge and intelligence captivating!

The final part of the book is devoted to personal accounts of various adherents who were forced to take a circuitous path to their calling in the Craft. The stories of those who began in controlling Christian religions resonated with me the most.  As a child, I remember feeling intrigued by talk of Witchcraft and the occult, even though I was taught to fear it. I was fascinated to learn of others who felt the same pull between 10-14 years of age, but were more courageous than I. Some of them followed their heart at an early age–I waited another 20+ years before I had the courage to do so.

Recently, I have allowed my Craft to wane since I moved across country and most of my supplies are still in storage. Reading this book has fired my enthusiasm to get back to something that brought me so much comfort and empowerment as I recovered from my Patriarchal roots. The chapter on Hekatean Witchcraft showed me where my next path lay. When I first started studying Witchcraft in 2011, I was drawn to Hecate. I was born in the dark of the moon and it is my favorite time of the month. Samhain is my favorite holiday and Autumn my favorite season. I am fascinated with the world of the dead and beyond. I was informed only older women can be devotees of Hecate, so I chose someone else, but it never felt right. Now I realize I can embrace the patron who feels right to me and I am excited to do so!

This book is for anyone who is curious about Witchcraft and its various paths. It is faith inspiring to read of how others live in accord with the earth and its spirit. And it can fire up anyone whose interest has waned or wandered.

Witchcraft Today–60 Years On is available as an e-book or paperback for a very affordable price. (In fact, it is the first e-book I have read entirely on my Nook, something I have been viciously opposed to till now.) It is brand new from Moon Books and edited by Trevor Greenfield. You can find it through the publisher’s website or  Amazon.

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