“Something Wicked This Way Comes”

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Today’s blog is going to be a short one. I usually post my blog Monday morning but it is going up Monday evening instead because I had company over the weekend and I was drawing a blank on what to write.

Then it occurred to me–It’s almost October! October is my favorite month. Autumn colors break forth and the world is filled with my favorite colors of orange and red. Vegetation starts to turn yellow and die. Trees become spooky representations of themselves. People start thinking of ghosts, witches, and jack o’ lanterns. Black candles go on sale everywhere. Wind scatters dead leaves around the tombstones of cemeteries. The veil thins as the Witches New Year approaches. We start thinking of the dead. Some have the custom of preparing the favorite meal of a dead relative and leaving an empty chair for the deceased relative to share in the feast.

My favorite part of October, however, is scary, supernatural movies. I have the custom of watching The Exorcist (1973) every year. This year I’m going to read the book as well. I also want to re-watch The Conjuring (2013) and the first Paranormal Activity (2007). I’m looking forward to the new movies coming out: Annabelle and Ouija. I pretty much do a month-long marathon of all things supernatural. (I don’t like slasher movies. They’re just gross, not scary.) I scour cable, Netflix, and Amazon for anything ghostly or demonic. I literally gorge myself on it and by November I have slaked my hunger for horror for a few months. (It usually re-emerges around the end of winter. Last spring I read The Entity, Lovely Bones and Rosemary’s Baby–which reminds me, I wanted to re-watch The Entity [1982]. That would be a good one to add to my list!)

Rumor has it that Poltergeist is being remade. I didn’t like Spielberg’s version. It was too wholesome. I felt like I was watching E.T. I think it has good potential to be a really great supernatural movie if it is done right.

So, how about you? What are your favorite scary movies?

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Thursday’s News & Reviews: The Dead Files

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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?

 

 

 

Coven Cautions

About eight months after I decided I was done being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses it occurred to me I could believe anything I wanted. I know, I know–why did it take me eight whole months to figure that out? I had 38 years of other stuff to sort through. I spent most of that time unlearning everything I had placed my faith in. I visited a lot of ex JW websites and partook in a lot of forums–all intended to uproot a lifetime of indoctrination.

As I said, at some point I realized I could learn anything I wanted and worship in any way I wanted. I knew I was fed up with Christianity and organized religion as a whole. JW’s spend a lot of time convincing their followers what is wrong with every other religion out there. Once a person realizes there is something wrong with JW’s there really isn’t much left. So I chose a path that has intrigued me since I was 13 years old–Paganism. I remember the stories in the Old Testament of the evil and debauched Canaanites whom God drove out of the Promised Land. Their sex orgies, temple prostitutes, drunken revelries, and illicit sex made their religion sound a whole lot more fun than burgeoning Judaism and its many rules.

Now, I could be a pagan if I wanted. I could study witchcraft or the dark arts, if I wanted. I could even (perish the thought) touch a Ouija board or have a seance, if I wanted. However, I had no idea where or how to get started. I didn’t even know what to look up online. I didn’t know the proper terminology or anything. I was on Craigslist last summer and found a couple in a nearby town looking to form a coven. They even offered instruction for those with little to no experience. I promptly shot them an email and heard back within a day or two. They wanted to meet and interview me before they let me know where they lived. No problem. I met them at the local Barnes & Noble. They were a pudgy couple we will name Jerry and Sandra. Jerry claimed 16 years of practice as a Wiccan and was a high priest. He also, apparently, had numerous large and successful covens in the Portland area. (Even one in which he was the only man and they all tried to put a love spell on him, according to him.) Once i had heard all the foregoing I felt I was in good hands, and, once I apparently passed muster, they informed me of the books I would need for instruction and ritual. I ordered the books (cost me $50) and arranged to attend the first meeting. It was about this time I was informed that the three of us, and one other, made up the whole coven.

We had our first coven gathering the following weekend. It was supposed to be a picnic near the river. I drove 50 miles to attend this coven gathering and the other gal, the other newbie, didn’t show. Not only did she not show this day, she never showed. I never met our potential fourth. The picnic was a disaster and every instinct I had told me to run. They brought four dogs on the picnic and Jerry’s mother, who he proceeded to fight with most of the time. The whole picnic was spent fighting the damn dogs: they didn’t have enough shade, they didn’t have enough water, they wanted to eat our food, they wanted to lay on the blanket after getting wet, etc. Now might be a good time for me to clearly state that I am a cat-person, through and through. I find dogs demanding, messy, needy, loud and irritating (I also find I tend to avoid children who display the same tendencies).

Now that I have alienated 80% of my readers I will continue–soon after this ill-omened picnic, Jerry decided to schedule the first initiation of his wife and I. Sandra and he had only been married two years. She had left her husband and two kids in Louisiana to be with a man 5 years her junior. They had met on the internet. Sandra was more a victim of cult mind control than I. She didn’t have the capacity, intelligence, or self-esteem to escape her southern Baptist roots. She was always apologizing for things, and though I felt a lot of pity for her, I find her shouting at the dogs during rituals rather annoying.

So she and I were initiated without having the slightest idea what we were doing or why. Jerry performed the Alexandrian First Degree initiation ceremony as laid out in the Witches Bible by Stewart and Janet Farrar. He performed the 5-fold kiss on our nude bodies. I don’t have a problem with nudity, never have. After the ceremony, he lights up some marijuana and I take a drag or two. It’s pretty good stuff so I am feeling it and we’re just sitting around talking. It’s not long before he informs me how much he likes the way I smell, then they start talking about sex. I find they are open to most everything: menage a trois, polygamy, swinging, etc. Well, I should say, that Jerry is open to himself swinging but he gets violently ill whenever his wife tries it. I seemed to be the only one in the room aware of the unfairness in this situation. Eventually, the high tapers off and I go home. I must say, I was feeling pretty good about myself for the first time in a long time–somebody actually found me attractive.

Over the next couple weeks I keep trying to get Jerry to show me things or teach me or even answer questions and he just looks at me with a look so blank that his narrowly spaced eyes almost cross. They live in a huge apartment complex in a one bedroom. Their bed is in the living room so they can make the bedroom the ritual room. There is a big black and white flag on the wall with the words FUCK YOU and a picture of ‘the bird’. Oh, and by the way, Jerry is an ex-con. It is becoming quite clear that I am going to have to educate myself. So I start to ask if they have any recommendation for a good book on solitary witchcraft. He lent me a couple books by Silver Ravenwolf. I devoured them! By the time I was halfway through the first one I started implementing the things I was learning at our coven meetings and I quickly realized I knew more than he. I also had more than he did: a besom (broom used in ritual), a pentagram (also important in ritual), a sword (nice to have but not as necessary as the previous two), a scourge (necessary in some initiation rituals)and a bell (also necessary with certain rituals). I had all these things within the first month (the sword, scourge and bell I had for years). I quickly realized he spent most of his money and time on pot. Sometimes I would drive the distance to attend a coven meeting only to find the plan was just to smoke and talk. That is not what I was there for!

He finally found a fourth. A nice guy who worked at the local Burger King and looked like Captain Jack Sparrow–I am not kidding you. A month after he had joined, Jerry decided to initiate him into the coven. I volunteered to act as High Priestess and spent hours sewing a chiffon ritual robe. On the night of the ritual I brought my sword, bell, athame, robe, scourge and the books I was returning. That night belonged in a SNL skit. As we were burning incense and sage for the ritual space the smoke detector kept going off until I reached up to the ceiling and ripped it down. Then the dog pee’d in the hallway. During the ritual, the neighbor walked into the apartment and informed us she had fallen in the parking lot and was bleeding, but could she please take our pictures in our cute ritual robes. WTF? All of this was occasionally punctuated with Jerry telling me how beautiful I was and what a beautiful body I had. This after informing me some weeks earlier that if I wasn’t getting enough sex at home he could help me with that. Fiasco doesn’t even begin to describe that night, and Captain Jack Sparrow never returned.

About this time, I was introduced to the genuine pagan community of my local area. Where there were full moon ceremonies every month and Tarot and Reiki classes all offered by a licensed professional counselor. I loved the group I met at her house and the energy was intoxicating. I paid one more visit to Jerry and Sandra’s. I wasn’t there for 5 minutes before I felt like someone had sucked the energy right out of me. I could tell there was some negativity in the apartment but I felt like everything in me was telling me to run. I left with some stones they gave me as I was just getting into the power of different gemstones. A few days later I couldn’t figure out why I was so depressed, then I remembered the stones. I hadn’t cleansed them. I quickly burned some sage and cleansed them of any impurities or negativity. I had learned to do that through a school I had found online called Witch School. I had also found a font of books and literature and have joined a group on Facebook of exJW pagans who are always teaching me.

I think I do owe Jerry and Sandra for showing me the proper direction in which to take my self-instruction. Jerry couldn’t teach me anything because I honestly don’t think he knows much. Even after 16 years he didn’t have any ritual, invocation, or chant memorized. Everything was read from a book. Which I think seriously inhibits energy and power. I am constantly working on memorizing rituals and invocations. They keep advertising on Craigslist for coven members and in fact their recent advertisement asks for people only within their city limits–this was a blatant slight against me because I told them I couldn’t come and meet with them since money was tight and I couldn’t afford the gas. I thought that was better than saying I didn’t respect them and couldn’t stand the psychic drain in their company. Why must he surround himself with a coven? His rituals are empty of feeling and spirit, so it couldn’t be the prospect of a greater cone of power. I think it is a power trip for him. He likes being in the lead, with his own private harem. I don’t know what happened in his previous covens but sex, and sex with him particularly, seemed his primary concern. Unfortunately for him, all I needed to do was read a single book before I knew more than he.

Since then I have run into a few solitary witches who flat out refuse to join a coven and I can understand why. If you are a practicing, or aspiring, witch be careful in your choice of covens. Interview them to assure you’re a good fit, and don’t make any commitments until you have attended some rituals. Don’t be too trusting until your trust is earned. And make sure if you choose to have sex with the High Priest/Priestess that you won’t hate yourself afterwards.