Thursday’s News & Reviews: Suicide In All Its Forms

Topmost in people’s minds this week has been the news of actor/comedian Robin William’s suicide. The outpouring of sadness and compassion from the huge array of his fans has made us all wonder a bit about the painful depths hidden beneath his kind, and comical, grin. My first exposure to Robin was Mork & Mindy (1978-82), a show I adored as a child. His comedic genius was unmatched and the world has lost a light bearer who taught us empathy in the face of tragedy and gave us laughter as a healing salve. The greatest tragedy, perhaps, was his inability to find that healing when he most needed it. I wonder at the high price of comedy when I consider the greats that have been taken from us prematurely: Chris Farley, John Belushi, John Pinette, John Candy, Phil Hartman, Andy Kaufman, etc. etc. etc. Do successful comedians give so much they haven’t anything left for themselves?

On a related note, it never ceases to amaze me the depth of people’s cruelty when someone dies. I have experienced it, witnessed it, and am now stunned to find such vehement disregard for the feelings of friends and family who are suffering a terrible loss. Has our society become so devoid of human compassion that they take a man’s suffering and use it to beat his mourning family? Artists and actors commit suicide all the time with drugs and alcohol. What is it about this kind-hearted and selfless man that brings out the viciousness in people? Rampant jealousy?  Be warned, if I meet someone who says these things and doesn’t hide behind the safety of a computer screen like a fucking coward, I will kick you in the balls.


The recent, and still unchecked, outbreak of Ebola in Africa has westerners fearing contamination as doctors and travelers return home from infected countries. Ignorance and superstition are fueling its spread in Africa, but the centers for disease control within western lands seem to have the issue well in hand. This doesn’t prevent doomsdayers from proclaiming this pestilence another sign of the inevitability of Armageddon. As I mentioned in a previous blog, Jehovah’s Witnesses particularly are likely hoping 2014 will not pass without definite signs of The Great Tribulation, if not Armageddon itself. The ones that aren’t praying it will occur, are terrified it won’t occur and yet another year will pass with no sign of the prophesied “end of this system of things.”


In the last few weeks, the paranormal community has been following the latest kerfuffle involving Ryan Buell and the Paranormal Research Society (PRS). For those of you who don’t know, or don’t care, Ryan Buell has finally burned his last bridge and alienated many of his fans. I will say, however, that PRS fans are amongst the most loyal human beings on earth, as many of them continue to sing Ryan’s praises despite continued disappointments and thousands of dollars unaccounted for.

My first exposure to Ryan was with Paranormal State, a 30 minute A&E program, which portrayed Buell and his fellow Penn State students ridding homes of demons and bringing in priests for weekly exorcisms. I found the show entertaining in that it was saturated with Catholic dogma and demonology. The worst cases of demon possession always seemed to occur in trailer parks with hugely obese people who never left the house.

Ryan had apparently experienced difficulty with dark spirits since childhood. Which may, or may not, explain his constant issues with health. I attempted to take a class offered through PRS a couple of years ago. Elfie Music was the instructor. She always amused me when I watched Paranormal State. I got the impression that the producers of the show had given up trying to get her to look, or act,  presentable. She wore some of the worst ensembles I had ever seen, and I never knew what horrible thing she would do to her hair from one episode to the next. She was supposed to be the occult specialist of the group, but she always seemed a little lost.

I’m not sure why I took her class on the history of spiritualism, but I did. And, together with the book, it cost me $85. The book was mind-numbingly boring and the class was, basically, a waste of money. Elfie spent most of the time commenting on inane chatter in the chat box. She’d giggle, drink something, respond to some question by an empty-headed uber-fan, spend a few minutes discussing some slide in her Powerpoint, then go back to the chat box. The class had endless technical difficulties, and some of the participants had already been disappointed by other classes they had paid for that never transpired. I abandoned the class after the second attempt and wrote the whole PRS community off as badly run.

Sure I lost $85, but that is nothing compared to the hundreds of dollars some fans invested in a tour Ryan announced for this summer that never transpired. Fans all over Canada and the U.S. bought plane tickets, event tickets, and made hotel reservations for a tour that never even got off the ground. Ryan claims, not for the first time, that it is due to ill-health and bad management on the part of others. But like the boy who called wolf, many of his fans are shouting fraud and an investigation is underway. If the money isn’t repaid, a lawsuit will be the natural result.

I find this whole situation extremely short-sighted. This young man already had a career and a bevy of devoted fans. All he needed to do was travel around and spend time with people who thought he walked on water. Yeah, they may not be the most intelligent group of people, but who cares right? They’re willing to travel any distance to worship at the feet of their modern-day saint. Ryan has managed to commit professional suicide and will likely never regain the notoriety he enjoyed before he started screwing people over. I don’t get it. I would live that life in a heartbeat, and be way more deserving of the loyalty of my minions. As it is, I have no minions. Even my cats barely tolerate me.


Heal Thyself


I have been battling my weight for more than ten years. Until I got married at 30 I never had a weight issue and could eat and drink whatever I liked without consequences. I married someone who had his own weight problems. Suddenly food took on more importance as I was eating more regularly, eating out more consistently, and hitting the drive-thru more frequently. Marriage was also a huge adjustment for me and I battled with depression off-and-on. By the time I reached my late 30’s I was 100 lbs heavier than I had been on my wedding day–and no, I can’t blame any pregnancies.

I had an “aha” moment a little over a month ago. I was going into the local YWCA for a massage. (I have a membership to the club, but I don’t use it for anything but the pool and the massage therapists.) My physically fit massage therapist came out to greet me and I followed him down the wide hallway past gyms, racquetball courts, and Zumba classes. We weaved our way around ellipticals and treadmills. I kept my eyes on my feet trying to look small despite the fact that I am almost 6 feet tall, 255 lbs, and wearing baggy clothes that only accentuated my size. I imagined everyone looking at me and judging me. I wanted to crawl into a hole.

As I lay on the massage table I thought, If I could just lose the weight I would be happy.” Then it occurred to me that this had been my mantra my entire life. My weight was just one more reason to hate myself–as I had done since primer school. The first thing I hated about myself was my red hair. Then it was because I was too tall. My eyes were too far apart. My mouth was too wide. I had bad acne. I had bad acne scars. My hair was frizzy. I had no personal style. My teeth weren’t white enough. I had an awful personality. I was too fat.

I asked myself what I would do if I lost the weight. Would things really be better? Or would I just find something else to beat myself over? Is it possible the problem isn’t my diet, but me? Why should I take care of myself when I find myself so undeserving? I didn’t have any motivation to improve my physical appearance because I believed it a hopeless endeavor. I had reached a point where I realized that I was my own worst enemy.

As I drove away from the “Y” that day, I squinted into the summer sun and stuck my right index finger into my mouth to chew on the already non-existent fingernail. I asked myself, “What can I do to make myself feel more attractive?” I replaced my right hand on the steering wheel and looked at the fingernails. I had chewed on my fingernails since I had stopped sucking on them at age 8. I had learned about Oral Fixations thanks to my college psych class, but was it possible my ferocious attacks on my digits had a deeper meaning? Wasn’t I literally trying to devour myself–chewing the fingernails down until they bled and hurt? (It’s probably a good thing I am not flexible enough to get my foot up to my mouth…at least not literally.)

I resigned, right then and there, to see if I could stop my habit of feeding on myself. I wanted to determine if that wasn’t somehow contributing to my tendency toward self-annihilation. I have attempted to quit in the past, but it was always very hard and I eventually caved.

This time was different, however. Once I made the decision, I didn’t even have the urge to chew my fingernails. I went out and bought a manicure kit and some black fingernail polish. The black polish appeals to my latent Goth personality. I love it! I have started wearing jewelry more often and it makes me feel a little more feminine.

I have also started a regimen of positive affirmations. I have a wooden rosary (no, I’m not Catholic) and I use it for  affirmations on a daily basis. I have also started meditating again.

My peace of mind is improving. I know exercise would help enormously with improved self-confidence, endorphins, and increased energy. I determine every day to do some exercise and always find reasons not to. So, I am still working on that one.

My husband and I have stopped eating out all the time and we avoid the drive-thru. We are endeavoring to eat better food from better places.

So far I have lost 6 lbs. It is slow progress, but I believe that life-long changes must come gradually or we just return to our old habits.

I wonder how many of us battle with weight, addictions, relationships, or depression because of deep-seated self-hatred? Is that self-hatred brought on by the Western world’s definition of beauty or masculinity? There could be any number of reasons a person may consider themselves unlovable or unattractive. But instead of focusing on what we need to do to change the way we look, we should focus on changing the way we feel:

  1. Look in a mirror and look past the usual flaws you focus on. See the beauty. Look into your eyes and see your incredible soul.
  2. Don’t allow a negative criticism to cross your lips. Everything you say about yourself must be said with admiration and gratitude.
  3. While you’re practicing the art of not criticizing yourself, maybe extend it to others. If you are in the habit of saying negative things about others it creates a dark energy that will only drag you down.
  4. Practice gratitude for your life, body, family, and wealth of knowledge and experience you have gained. You’ve come a long way, Baby!
  5. Stop living in the past and remembering only the parts that include you as being young and/or thin. You had problems then too. Being thin/young doesn’t solve everything.
  6. Stop imagining the future as a time where you will be thinner, healthier, more confident, and more successful. If you push those goals into a nebulous future, that is where they will always remain. Make those goals part of your present, and the future will take care of itself.
  7. Be present! Stop regretting the past and dreading the future. Be completely immersed in every moment. See the wonders of the world around you and bask in the excitement of every minute we are alive and breathing. Live in the present and, trust me, the gratitude will overflow!
  8. Don’t meditate to lose weight (I’ve tried that, it doesn’t work). Meditate for your own mental health. Meditate because you know that anxiety and stress only contribute to weight gain. Meditate because a healthy mind will inspire you to develop a healthy body.
  9. I’m not telling you to keep a food diary. Pour out your thoughts, fears, dreams, ambitions, and disappointments. Download all the mental gobbledygook onto paper so you don’t have to carry it around with you.
  10. Finally, be consistent. I have ADD when it comes to personal improvement. I can’t tell you how many times I have wished I had stuck to something a year later when I have gained 20 more pounds. You will have bad days. You will cheat. Just make sure you keep getting back on that horse. You won’t regret trying, but you will regret not trying.


Thursday’s News & Reviews: Who’s A Psychic


I remember the first time I ever heard the term, “Old Soul.” I was in my mid-20’s and fully entrenched as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I didn’t even believe souls existed. I was taught that we were souls, we didn’t have souls, and those souls died with our physical bodies. There was no after-life. No immortal soul. Death was simply the opposite of life–nothing.

I can’t remember where I was–a coffee shop, a book store, a park–but I overheard two women talking. They were watching their children play, and I heard one say to another, “He’s an old soul.” I didn’t stop to look. My steps hardly faltered, but I knew exactly what she was talking about. I knew she spoke of a child that was more serious than the other children. A child who may prefer looking at the pictures in a book than playing interactive games with the others. I knew, because I had been that child. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was an old soul.

How could I be an old soul when I didn’t even believe they existed? Some people would call that cognitive dissonance. I spent my life giving mocking lip-service to the idea of reincarnation. I used to make my fellow JW’s laugh in the car groups, by telling them I was a dandelion on a golf course in a previous life–but my life was cut short, tragically.

For someone who didn’t believe in reincarnation I gave it a lot of thought. I remember vivid dreams when I was under the age of 5, in which I would dream about people and places  I didn’t recognize but would miss with a melancholy fervor upon waking. Or the dream I had in Junior High of dying in a Nazi Concentration Camp.

I have spoken to a few psychics in the years since I left the JW’s. All of them confirmed what I had already figured out–I was indeed an old soul.

Until I spoke to Joe Who, celebrity psychic and frequent visitor to the paranormal radio show Darkness Radio.  He is a voice recognition psychic. I had listened to a few programs where he told different ones that old souls were night-owls and young souls were morning people. I have always been a night-owl. I have way more energy and ambition after 7 pm than I do before 1 pm. I can count on one hand how many years I’ve spent at jobs which required an alarm clock. I become so miserable after a few weeks that I quit for mental health reasons.

Mr. Who told me I was a young soul. He also said my night-owl tendencies were a learned behavior. I don’t think so. I remember hating the sound of my dad’s chipper voice in the morning. He used to ask me, “Cheri, why are you such a bear in the morning?” “I don’t know dad,” I would say sarcastically, “Maybe you should lower the volume of your voice and try not to sing sunshine songs!” I started drinking coffee at 12, which was unheard of in 1984.

Then Joe Who went on to tell me that my mother’s energy was nowhere near me, whereas my father was always around. Again, this runs counter to what I feel intuitively. Am I a medium? No. Am I psychic? No. I only have my gut instinct, and everything he said conflicted with it. He also told me that my mother and I didn’t get along very well. I adored my mother until the day she died when I was 19.

In the days following the reading, I tried to force myself to succumb to his version of my life. Even now, about 6 weeks later, I am still torn  as to whether or not I am an old or young soul. I believe I am slowly starting to realize that I may not be as old as I thought, or maybe our interpretation of what constitutes an old/young soul is not quite accurate.

I always enjoyed listening to him do readings on Darkness Radio because he does teach a lot about soul age, but I am less impressed with him as a psychic. I believe everyone has a bad day. I could give an awesome massage on some days, and then fall flat on others. A few days after that Malaysian airplane disappeared some months ago, Dave of Darkness Radio asked Joe if the passengers were still alive. He said they were, whereas another woman who was channeling that day said they were all dead. Again, I think he got it wrong.

I have read a lot about psychics and how they channel their messages. Most, if not all, get images they have to try to interpret based upon their own experiences. Sometimes, they might misinterpret  a message. Does that mean Joe Who is not a good psychic? No. I have heard him read many people on the radio and most are impressed at his abilities. The reason I sought him out was because I liked his tendency to tell people what they needed to hear rather than what they wanted to hear. He’s not very tactful about it either, which is kind of fun–when it’s happening to someone else, that is.

Give him a try and judge for yourself. I’d be interested in hearing your experiences with him.



Lurkers Are Welcome!


On February 14, 2012, I published a blog here called, “Lurkers Beware!” It was in response to some contact we had received from a friend who was still a practicing Jehovah’s Witness. He thought Jehovah had directed him to contact us and try to save us from abandoning the “only true religion.” Once he realized he couldn’t convince us to “return to the fold,” he said his final goodbyes claiming we no longer had anything in common. Forget the fact that he and Roy still had a lot in common. All they ever did was discuss history and the Civil War. But because we could no longer worship in the same way as he, we were no longer deserving of his association.

I couldn’t let the situation rest though. I would not let him get in the last word. So, I sent him a message, unsigned. I didn’t want him knowing it was from me, I wanted him to think it was my husband whose opinion mattered more to him. I said, “As we are, you will be. Soon you will tire of the lies and hypocrisy. When that happens, you know where to find me.”

I didn’t realize till much later, but as a practicing witch, those words sounded remarkably like a spell. I didn’t light any candles, or cast any circles. I simply had my emotions to back-up my intention.

Exactly one year later, this soon-to-be Ex-Jehovah’s Witness contacted us and told us his story. He spoke of witch hunts, lying, manipulation and injustice within the organization. He spoke of being railroaded by false testimonies and a body of elders who wanted him out of their ranks. It was disastrous. He stepped down as an elder just before they disfellowshipped him for drinking–in spite of the fact that he brought witnesses forward that testified he was not drunk.

His family was torn apart. Everything they had ever known and valued was ripped out from under him in a matter of a few weeks.

That was a little more than a year ago. He has come to realize that the JW’s actually did him a favor by severing the tie. He and his family no longer want anything to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I’d like to think we helped a little, but I believe the Universe did the bulk of the work. Some people leave willingly, others need to be kicked in the backside. It’s a wonderful thing when someone gets the opportunity to start all over again with a clean slate. It’s a gift.

I admitted it was me that sent that last email. He admitted he couldn’t get it out of his head. Roy has his friend back and they text continually about history, the Civil War, and why they are grateful to be out of the Watchtower organization.

Happy endings can occur. Not everyone will leave that religion, but I believe as time goes on that more and more people will start to recognize the lies. We live in an age of information. It is getting harder and harder to pull the wool over people’s eyes. Even as a JW, my limit was 2014. I knew if Armageddon hadn’t come by then (100 years after the JW’s claimed Jesus took his throne in heaven), then it wasn’t going to come and I was going to stop wasting my time. I believe a lot of people feel the same way. Once October passes (an auspicious month for JW’s), I believe we will see a mass exodus similar to the years following 1975 (the last time they tried predicting Armageddon).

I now have a small circle of family and friends who have left the JW religion. We love buying presents for each other and wishing one another Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas! We are like adolescents, learning new things, like how to make special brownies or smoke a pipe, and how to sing The National Anthem or wrap a present. We may not fit entirely into the world-at-large, but we can finally rejoice in the knowledge that we have the freedom to choose.


Thursday’s News & Reviews: The Dead Files


I love to watch anything on the paranormal. There have been quite a few shows I have started to watch only to realize they were too sensational and fake–or I felt like the producers were actually trying to insult my intelligence (i.e. My Ghost Story Caught on Camera).

The first time I watched The Dead Files I wasn’t a fan. I thought Amy acted a little too weird, like she was putting on a show for the camera. I gave it another try on the second season. By this time, I had read a few books by psychics and knew a lot of Amy’s behavior may have been her authentic reactions to what she was seeing. I became a fan and haven’t missed an episode since.

Amy Allan and her partner Steve DiSchiavi investigate haunted locations from two different perspectives: Amy communicates with the dead and gets impressions of the site by walking around and interacting with the spirits; Steve is a retired New York Homicide Detective and he investigates the claims of the living and explores the history of the location to corroborate or deny Amy’s findings. Usually, their evidence fits together perfectly, as is presented in the final moments of the show. One of the show’s highlights is when Amy gets an area sketch artist to draw who, or what, she sees and reveals these sketches, with shocking results, to the home-owners.

I was excited to realize that last week’s episode was filmed less than 30 miles from my home. In the episode entitled Assaulted she and Steve visit Hanover, PA. Many of the overhead pictures of Steve driving to and from his destinations are filmed right here in Gettysburg.

My initial impression of the episode was that the female householder wasn’t a very good actor. I really got the feeling she was grandstanding for the sake of the cameras. I’ve watched enough of these shows to realize that there are some people who use Amy and Steve as free advertising (like Villisca Ax Murder House, and the Lizzie Borden B&B). I’m not sure if this woman is hoping to turn her house into a paranormal tourist spot, but I did get the impression she was enjoying her 15 minutes of fame.

At the end of the episode, Amy does her usual prescription for ridding the home of the nasty haunting. This week it was a male witch. Apparently, Tom and DeAnna Simpson called in the male witch and reported that activity had subsided, but the news reports tell a different story. Hanover’s local newspaper, The Evening Sun, reports the male witch left after only six hours and refused to return. Since then, activity has actually increased and the Simpsons have had to close up parts of the house because of it. A local FOX news crew’s reaction to attacks they experienced while filming the home also prove to be very interesting with captured scratches, orbs, and a shadow hand.

I found the newscast very interesting as spirits rarely perform for cameras. Especially since these cameras were likely only there for a few minutes. To have that much happen in a short amount of time, during the day, makes me think this place may be very haunted. The Evening Sun reports a lot of looky-loos passing the house, and with the huge number of paranormal groups in and around Gettysburg, I’m sure DeAnna’s getting many phone calls offering investigations and cleansings–which have so far only managed to aggravate the situation.

One observation I would like to make about The Dead Files, in general, is their total lack of physical evidence in all the places they visit. Amy reports some pretty horrific encounters, and she always wanders the place at night with everyone gone. You would think her interaction with the spirits would bring them out and there would be captured orbs, shadows, or even poltergeist activity,but I have never seen anything like that captured on camera. Not even footsteps, which seems to be Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters bread and butter. Is it possible The Dead Files have never captured any visual evidence on their cameras? Or are they under some sort of contract that inhibits them from showing it? As a paranormal enthusiast, I would love for them to share some of that to corroborate what Amy is feeling!

I also find some of Amy’s prescriptions for house cleansers a bit random. Shaman, witches, Latin witches, Voodoo practitioners, Native American Witch Doctors. Many of Amy’s suggestions can’t be followed by the people because they can’t find the person Amy describes. Even in the age of the internet, apparently these people don’t advertise a lot. It seems Amy should provide more of a full service and provide contact information for some of these people. They seem to be able to dig up area sketch artists, so the producers of the show should set up some sort of network directory for skilled cleansers to join. I seem to remember earlier episodes where she would tell people how to cleanse their own houses. I found that extremely informative and thought it was a good idea to return the homeowner to a position of power. I think it’s important for people to realize they can be powerful in the face of supernatural encounters. Perhaps the producers get better ratings with fear tactics, however.

Also, I find Amy’s strong reaction against anyone else who does paranormal stuff, or dabbles in the occult, a bit off-putting. She gets angry if people have a Ouija board around or attempt séances. She turns up her nose to paranormal groups who only manage to stir things up. I know she is a pro, but she must understand that her gifts are rare. Many of us have a lot of unanswered questions regarding death and the afterlife and we search for answers in the only way we know how. I wonder how she can criticize witches who dabble with the occult in one breath, then prescribe their services in the next.

Overall, I’d say the show is extremely formulaic but it works. I enjoy it. I am entertained by Amy’s terrifying descriptions of strange entities that always want to harm the householder.  My favorite person in the show is Steve. He seems like he would be cool to hang out with. I’m sure he has some interesting stories. I hope someday to attend a paranormal event where they are sitting on a panel, then I can ask some of the questions above.

If you are a paranormal enthusiast, what do you think of this show?




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?


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. It has resulted in us not doing very much paranormal investigation anymore. I’m just not interested in investigating a place that is frequented by huge crowds with digital recorders. I can see why evidence is sparse in such groups. If you were a spirit, would you be willing to perform for people demanding your response? While paranormal investigating is such big business, I don’t believe things are going to improve. For those of us interested in the answers and the evidence rather than the money and fame, we may have to find our own places–or wait till the craze dies down.


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