Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What kind of Ghost is that? Part 2. Intelligent Hauntings.

Welcome to part two of What kind of Ghost is that?

The first type of haunting we covered is Residual Haunting.  To quickly review, in a residual haunting ghosts or spirits will not interact with people or the environment in any way.  This type of haunting is thought to be more like a recording of events played back over and over again, sometimes at certain times of the year.

The second type of haunting we're going to look at is called Intelligent Haunting.  With an intelligent haunting, ghosts can and do interact with their environment and other people.  Investigators will receive intelligent and relevant answers to questions or comments during EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) sessions.  The spirits involved in an intelligent haunting usually have some type of connection to the location, or to the people who live or work there.

The interactive ghost is the consciousness of the person that once lived.  It will retain all the knowledge, personality and habits of that person. This person may have purposefully decided to stay behind instead of moving on, or may be "stuck"  because of murder, an accidental death, unfinished business, or undying or unrequited love.

Another reason a spirit might choose to stay behind is fear of judgement.  If a ghost was evil in life it may believe that in the afterlife it would be judged harshly and sent to hell.  In this case a spirit might choose to stay behind in order to avoid that fate.

 Because of the fact that the ghost retains all of the emotions and personality of the living person it once was, there is the potential for there to be benevolent, peaceful spirits, as well as malevolent, angry spirits.  It's important not to confuse malevolent spirits with an inhuman entity...a malevolent spirit was once human and may just give off an angry feel in the air and possible tension and animosity around the area that it is haunting. These negative spirits are not evil but angry. This may be due to confusion and about what is going on around them. This also may mean that in life they may have been an angry person and that it carried over into their death.

 Because they retain their original personalities and intelligence,  they can and sometimes will interact and communicate in many different ways.  They my leave messages via EVP, make other types of noises, or move things about.  As investigators, intelligent hauntings are fascinating cases.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Stingy Jack and the origins of the Jack O'lantern.

Tonight is Halloween Night!  At some point this evening, I'll be driving around the small city I live in, to look at the decorations, and particularly the Jack O'lanterns.  These wonderfully carved pumpkins have always been my favorite Halloween decoration.

In honor of Halloween and my love of Jack O'lantern's, I've decided to tell you the legend of Stingy Jack. and how the Jack O'lantern came to be.

And now!
The Legend of Stingy Jack

Once upon a time, there was, in Ireland, a man known as Stingy Jack.  Jack was mean, drank too much, and delighted in playing tricks on anyone and everyone.

One day, Jack ran into the Devil.  Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him in the local pub.  When the time came to pay, Jack convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to pay for the drinks.  Once the Devil had done so, Jack put the coin into his pocket near a silver cross, so the Devil could not change back to his original form.

Jack eventually told the Devil he'd free him, on the condition that the Devil wouldn't bother Jack for the period of one year, and that when Jack died, the Devil would not come for his soul.  The Devil agreed and Jack freed him to go on his way.

The next year, the Devil returned to see Jack, and Jack, ever the trickster, convinced the Devil to climb a tree to pick some fruit. The Devil agreed, but as soon as he was up the tree, Jack carved the symbol of a cross into the bark of the tree so the Devil could not climb down.   Again Jack told the Devil he would release him, on the condition that this time the Devil would not bother Jack for a space of 10 years, and again, that when Jack died, the Devil would not come for his soul.  Again the Devil agreed and Jack released him from the tree.

When Stingy Jack finally died, God refused to allow him into heaven due to his unpleasant character in life.  The Devil, still stung at having been tricked twice by Jack, turned him away from the gates of hell. Instead, he gave Jack a single glowing coal and condemned Jack's spirit to forever walk the world of the living, with nothing else to light his way.   Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip and used that as a lantern to light his way.

 To this day, in dark and lonely places, you can sometimes still see Jack O'lantern walking through eternity.

In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns.  They would carve scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits.  They would also carve happy or welcoming images in order that friendly spirits, or those of their ancestors, were welcome to visit.  In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack o’lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States and soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack-o’-lanterns.

And so my friends, thus goes the story of Stingy Jack and the origins of our modern day Jack O'lantern.

Whoever you are, and whatever you celebrate and believe...

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Pendle Witches

On December 8, 2011 the BBC News website featured an article about the discovery of the archaeological remains of a 17th century cottage.  The building was found under a grass mound, when workers from United Utilities were sent to survey an area of the Lower Black Moss reservoir in the village of Barley, in the shadow of Pendle Hill.

The bones of a cat were found bricked into one wall of the cottage.  It's believed that the cat may have been buried alive to protect the inhabitants from evil.

From an archaeological standpoint, the discovery of the cottage was a treasure trove of information about daily life for the poor in 17th century England.  However, it's the assumption that was made about the people who lived there that leads us into the paranormal.

Pendle Hill is well known for a series of witch trials held in 1612. In all, twenty people were accused of witchcraft and tried.  Ten of them were hanged, and one died in jail.  One was sentenced to stand in the pillory, and the rest were acquitted.

In what almost feels like a precursor to the Salem Witch trials of 1692, the testimony of a child was key to the proceedings.  Nine year old Jennet Device gave evidence against her mother, brother, and several other members of her family and neighbors.  Jennet's testimony, even at that young age, was allowed under King James' rules.  Under his system, all the normal rules of evidence were suspended for witch trials.

There are other similarities to the Salem Witch trials as well.  The families involved in the Pendle trials were long time rivals, much like the many of the families involved at Salem were.  Elizabeth Southerns (Old Demdike) and Anne Whittle (Mother Chattox) and their families, had been at odds for years.  In those days, women who were known as witches didn't just perform hexes and cause the neighbors milk to spoil in the cow.  They were also the local healers and even midwives, using herbs for their medicinal properties to help the sick and ease childbirth.   Both Chattox and Demdike were known as witches and were obviously competitors for whatever business was to be had in the area.  Both families were also known as beggars and there was likely competition there as well.

All in all, the story of the Pendle Witches is fascinating and well worth looking into!

If you're interested in knowing more about the Pendle Witches, and young Jennet Device in particular, there is an excellent documentary called The Pendle Witch Child.

You can read more about the witches at The Pendle Witches.

Also, this page on Google is where I started my research for this article.

NOTE:  The cottage was reburied in 2012 to prevent further damage harsh weather, and overzealous tourists.  You can read the BBC article here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What Kind of Ghost is That? Part 1.

Not all ghosts are the same!  In fact, there are several different types of haunting activity that are recognized by the paranormal community.  As an investigator, it's important to be able to identify these various types of activity.

I'll be writing several posts detailing the various types of hauntings.   First up, the Residual Haunting!

Residual Haunting:  A residual haunting is a playback of a specific time or event. One theory on how residual hauntings come about postulates that when a particular location experiences an event or a series of events, the emotional energy generated can imprint itself on the atmosphere of that location.

In some cases, it's thought that the very building materials used, particularly at older locations, aid in the imprinting process. This is called the Stone Tape theory. Video and audio tapes capture sounds and images on a film of special material that has been oxidized or rusted.  Certain building materials, such as slate used in older castles and stone structures and iron nails used in many older buildings, have properties similar to that of the tapes.  When a traumatic event or a time of heightened emotions occurs , these materials are thought to be able to "record" the event.

The apparitions seen are not actual spirits, but recordings of whatever events took place at the location. Most often residual hauntings are associated with traumatic, highly emotional events such as war, or murder, but in some cases can be associated with simple repetition of an event. Apparitions will not interact with witnesses, and can seem oblivious to the fact that anyone is there at all.  They will perform the same actions every time they are seen. A Figure moving through a wall where once a door stood, or climbing a long removed staircase are classic examples of such encounters.  EVP recordings have also been made of residual haunting activity. In some cases, activity will only be seen at particular times, such as the anniversary of whatever event caused the haunting in the first place.

Residual hauntings can be brought about by either positive or negative events, though there seem to be more examples of negative ones.  Likely due to the fact that negative emotions are much stronger than positive ones.

An excellent example of residual haunting is the ghost of Anne Boleyn.  Anne was the second wife of King Henry VIII.  Henry desperately needed a male heir to secure the family line, but Anne bore him only a daughter.  In a remarkable twist of fate and irony, that daughter went on to become Queen Elizabeth I. But still, Anne bore him no son.

 On May 19, 1536, Anne was beheaded on patently false charges of witchcraft, incest and adultery.  Numerous sightings of Anne's ghost have been reported at several locations throughout England, including the Tower of London.  Typical of a residual haunting, the apparition never interacts with witnesses, and she does the same things each time she is seen, depending on the given location.  In a unique twist, sightings of Anne's apparition have been reported at several different locations, at different times of the year.

There is a very informative article about Anne's ghost at On the Tudor Trail.

Other examples of residual hauntings include The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, and the battlefield at Gettysburg.

While witnessing residual haunting activity can be startling, they are by nature, completely harmless. If given the opportunity to visit or investigate the site of a residual haunting, do so and enjoy the show!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Brightest Blessings and Farewell: Debbie and Mark Constantino

By now most of the paranormal community knows that on September 22nd, we lost Debbie and Mark Constantino.

The Constantino's were a valuable and respected resource for their work with Electronic Voice Phenomena.  It is with a sense of sad irony that I note that I am posting this just days after covering EVP for the first time on this blog, with Who is Sara Estep?.

Most recently, the couple were best known for their appearances on the Ghost Adventures television show. Their deaths represent a great loss to the Paranormal Community and they shall be sorely missed.

I would like to offer my sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Debbie and Mark.  

The Paranormal Pundit.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Who is: Sarah Estep?

Sara Wilson Estep began experimenting with EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) in 1976 after reading The Handbook of Psi Discoveries by Sheila Ostrander and Lynn Shroeder.  She is known as one of the world's leading experts in the field.  

Sara's experiments with EVP began on her husband's old reel to reel tape recorder.  Over the course of her career she collected thousands of recordings and eventually popularized the classification system originated by Konstantin Raudive. This system is still in use today, as a tool for amateur and professional EVP investigators to specify the quality of their recordings.

Sara went on to found the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena in 1982.  Until 2000, when she retired, Sara published newsletters, wrote two books, and helped thousands of researchers learn more about EVP and best practices for recording and analyzing their findings.  

The AA-EVP is still active today as the Association Trans Communication.  You can find their website here.  The site is a treasure trove of information.  You can listen to recordings Sara and many others have made there.  I listened to quite a few of the recordings while researching this post and, I'm amazed at the audio quality of many of them.  Given that Sara never used electronic equipment, but tape only recorders in her research, the quality and clarity of many of the samples rivals or surpasses much of what you'll hear today, recorded on electronic equipment.

One of my favorite pages on the site, and the one I personally consider most informative, is titled EVP Online Listening Trials.  It contains theoretical explanations of how spirits are able to create EVP and even talks about Agnosia, which is the loss of ability to interpret sensory stimuli, and pareidolia, which I covered briefly in a previous post entitled Am I really seeing that?

Anyone interested in EVP phenomena would do well to include the site, and the work of Sara Estep in their research.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Local New England Legends #2; Spider Gates Cemetery

The Quaker Cemetery is a privately owned cemetery in Leicester, Massachusetts. It lies on land donated to the local Quakers that is positioned between the Worcester Regional Airport and Worcester Reservoir.

The actual name of the place is Friends Cemetery, but because of the unique gates at the entrance, locals know it as Spider Gates   The gates are actually an art deco style but you can see the spider motif happening there and it goes nicely with the stories of hauntings and weird happenings.

Stories and rumors abound about this place, and there's even been a song written about it, which you can listen to here.

So, what do the stories say?

The gates are said to be the eighth gate to hell.

There is a large oak tree where a teenaged boy allegedly hanged himself.  Rumors say that the rope with the noose in it are still there, hanging from a branch of the tree.  I've been there.  It's not.  However, there is another story that says the rope and noose will show up in pictures taken of the tree.

There are stories of an altar in the middle of the cemetery that was used for Satanic rituals.  Again, NOT.  There is a raised area in the approximate center of the cemetery, but there are no signs of an altar ever having been there.

It is said that a white substance sometimes oozes from the ground.

There are runes carved into some of the stones.   There's no detail as to whether this means that there are runes carved into the headstones, but one site I found stated that the runes can be found by turning over loose stones from the stone wall.

It is said that at night you can hear moaning and roaring sounds coming from the surrounding woods. The cemetery, however, is closed at night.

There is a small culvert located just outside the cemetery.  It is said that the body of a young girl who was murdered and dismembered was stuffed into the small space.

There is no documentation for ANY of this.  Most of the stories you'll read if you Google, contain nothing but hearsay and exaggeration. I looked at dozens of websites while researching this story.  There are a lot of personal experiences but very little solid documentation to be found about those experiences.  Most of the photos that show anything odd about this site are either obvious fakes or camera flare and whatnot.

My personal opinion is that this particular "haunt", simply isn't.  It is a beautiful graveyard, lovingly tended and cared for by the Worcester - Pleasant Street Meeting of Friends (Quakers) and to the best of my knowledge is still in use.  

If you love old cemeteries, then a respectful daytime visit is definitely worth the effort of finding the place.  Ghost hunters, however, probably don't want to bother.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Local New England Legends #1; The Red Headed Hitchhiker of Rt 44

The Red Headed Hitchhiker of Rt 44 is one of the creepiest ghost stories I've ever heard about my little corner of the world.  

Location:  The Seekonk/Rehoboth line on Rt 44, Rehoboth, Massachusetts

This is actually a pretty well known story in this area, even though there have been no reported sightings in years, and the sightings you can find info about are REALLY sketchy on details. 

 The legend states that folks driving down RT 44 near the town line between Rehoboth and Seekonk, have seen an older, red headed man, wearing a flannel shirt, walking down the road.  He sometimes simply walks into the woods or stands in the middle of the road.  Some reports state that he appears suddenly in the middle of the road, and disappears as the car passes right through him!  Mad giggling is then heard coming from inside the car.  

There are one or two stories that have the hitchhiker interacting with his victims.  One man reported that he picked the hitchhiker up by the side of the road and offered him a ride.  The red headed man got into the back seat and when the driver asked him where he was going, the hitchhiker simply pointed down the road.  As the driver continued on his way, the hitchhiker began to giggle softly.  The driver asked the man what was funny, but the hitchhiker only laughed more loudly. Finally the driver told the hitchhiker to knock off the laughing if he wanted a ride.  As the driver looked into the rear view mirror to further confront the man, he the hitchhiker simply disappeared, leaving nothing but lingering laughter ringing through the car.  

I've been hearing this story for years and it still gives me the creeps.  You can read about the ghost of Rt. 44 in Haunted Massachusetts by Thomas D'Agostino and in Weird New England by Joseph Citro.  

NOTE:  I have not personally investigated this story.  If you do, please feel free to comment here!  I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Am I really seeing that?

The camera is one of the biggest tools in the paranormal investigators arsenal. Photographs give us the opportunity to distance our minds a bit from the atmosphere in which the photo was taken, and look at just the photo itself. They provide us with "hard copy" evidence that we can study closely and objectively, after an investigation is over.  Or do they?

Google "ghost photos" or something similar, and you'll find page upon page of photos posted by everyone from the most famous investigators you could name, right down to some average bloke taking pictures of the basement of his new house.  And every one of them claims to be a photo of the real deal.

As a paranormal investigator, it's tough enough weeding out things like lense flare, intentional fakery, and in older pictures, double exposure, in order to narrow down what might be an actual photo of spirit.  But we also have to contend with the inner workings of our own minds.  

The human mind has the ability to fool us into thinking we hear and even see things in photos, that simply aren't there.The phenomenon is called pareidolia, and it's definitely something investigators and enthusiasts should be aware of.  Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it:

"Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a stimulus (an image or a sound) wherein the mind perceives a familiar pattern where none actually exists.
Pareidolia is the visual or auditory form of apophenia, which is the perception of patterns within random data. Combined with apophenia and heirophany (manifestation of the sacred), pareidolia may have helped ancient societies organize chaos and make the world intelligible."

You can read the entire Wiki article here.

Yep, our own minds can and will trick us into seeing ghosts in photos when there's nothing there but fog or shadow. It's the same type of phenomenon that's present when we see images of the Virgin Mary in photos cheese sandwiches.  

Like this.

(Personally, pareidolia has me seeing Marilyn Monroe. Just sayin'.)

Now, let's have a look at a couple of famous ghost photos that may, or may not, be pareidolia inspired.

The image below can be found dozens of times over by searching "famous ghost photos".  It was taken at the Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana.  It is believed to be of the ghost of a woman named Chloe.  Legend has it that Chloe was a slave on the plantation and died there under violent circumstances. Look at the image.

Can you see her standing right at the corner, kind of peeking out from behind the column?  Yeah, so can I. 
(Don't even get me started on the "orb".  That's a whole other article!)

 Let's take a closer look.

This one is extremely grainy because it's an enlargement.  But you can still kinda see Chloe standing there, can't you?  Or can you?  Is it possible that what you and I see as Chloe is actually an example of pareidolia at work.  Could it be that what we are really seeing is the bushes between the two buildings extending out past the column, but  because we "know" The Myrtles is haunted, and we know Chloe's legend, we are being victimized by pareidolia?

Now here's the thing. I believe that ghosts are real.  I believe that paranormal phenomenon exist and can be documented through photography. And I believe that the Myrtles is an active paranormal site.  But as an investigator who knows that pareidolia is an acknowledged and scientifically provable phenomenon, I would be hard pressed to accept these particular photos as evidence of ghostly activity.

 NOTE: You can read the excellent article that inspired this post here.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Charlie Charlie, wherefore art thou?

Recently social media has exploded with something called the Charlie Charlie Challenge. The idea is that you lay two pencils in a cross shape, one balanced on top of the other, on a piece of paper with the words "yes" and "no" written in the corners. Like this:

Once that's done, you can ask questions, which will be answered by a Mexican demon named Charlie.

First, a little history: The Washington Post says that the American version of Charlie Charlie began as an amalgam of two very similar games that Spanish speaking school children have played for years. From what I understand, both games had paranormal connotations attached to them. The name of one of the games, “Juego de la Lapicera”, translates as "The poor man's Ouija board".

The Charlie Charlie version of the game we are seeing explode, here in the U.S., became part of internet history on May 4, when a young woman from Georgia played the game and threw her experience up on Instagram with the #charliecharliechallenge hashtag. You can view that here. Now, just four days later, the game is the first listing on Google when you type the word "charlie".

Hmmmm...How many ways do I hate this?

The Instagram video shows the young lady slamming her hand on the floor, over and over again, near where the game is laid out. You can see the corner of the paper fanning upwards when she does this. Her hand is, logically, causing impact tremors on the floor. (Remember that scene from Jurassic Park when the T-rex is coming? Yeah, just like that.) That pencil is going to become unbalanced and move. Period.

There are plenty of other videos, now, showing participants in the game, not slamming their hands on the surface where the game is set up. However, in every single one I've viewed, people are crowded around the table,or on the floor around the game. There's a lot of movement, generally a lot of nervous laughter and talking, and no one is paying attention to what anyone else is doing. The likelihood that someone is barely hitting a corner of the paper, or even breathing too hard in the direction of the balanced pencils, thereby moving them, is about 100%. I do not believe that a single one of these videos shows anything involving spirit.

Now, do I believe that under the right circumstances, the game could be used as a very basic method of communication with spirit? Sure. Why not? There are plenty of "tools" and methods that folks used pretty well i.e. dowsing rods and the like, before all the high tech stuff we have today. But what's happening with Charlie Charlie is misleading a lot of people into thinking they're communicating with not only the dead, but a demon. There's just so much wrong with that I can't even go into it here. It would be another post all on its own.

I'm likely making a big fuss over nothing. This thing will pass into obscurity soon enough. But for right now, it's bugging the crap out of me.

Also, there is no Mexican Demon named Charlie. Just sayin'.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Paranormal Pundit?

Pundit:  pundit (sometimes also called a talking head) is a person who offers to mass media their opinion or commentary on a particular subject area on which they are knowledgeable (or can at least appear to be knowledgeable), or considered a scholar in said area.

Hi there,
Welcome to my first blog post!

I should probably tell you a little bit about myself and why I've decided to become The Paranormal Pundit.

My real name is Colleen Johnson and I love ghosts, hants, spectres and all the rest.  I believe in the paranormal.  I believe that ghosts are one of the things that science has yet to discover the way to prove.  I applaud the efforts of every individual and group, whether amateur or professional, who get out there and investigate.  I watch, avidly, every paranormal show, good or bad, that I have time for. I've had personal experiences that cannot be explained. I'm going to talk about all of those things here, and more. 
I guarantee you that some of what I post here is going to be controversial.  I'm going to talk about both the good and bad of the paranormal industry.  I'm going to relate personal experiences and first hand knowledge.  I'm going to talk about science vs. psychics and why I think both are important.
You'll also see lighter fare like movie reviews and maybe, if I can get some of my more well-known paranormal peeps to get on board, an interview or two. 

So why become the Paranormal Pundit?  Because the paranormal is my passion.

Let's have some fun!