“Now and Then”

These days, I find myself more afraid of the surgeon’s knife than anything I might run into at Bobby Mackey’s or beneath the streets of Edinburgh. I’ve had a few close calls in the past – even died on the table once – I remember it better than what happened this morning. It was surprisingly fascinating, and as I slipped away, I understood what was happening. I knew, almost instantly that I was on my way out, and I needed to embrace it quickly.

Of course, I came back, and some months later found myself trying to deal with a very severely detached retina. Those results were less spectacular, and since then, I’ve faced an increasingly darker world come in and out of focus at will. Sometimes, lately, things have seemed so dim that I began closing my eyes completely – practicing; preparing for the worst; hoping to discover something I will be able to do on my own should the almost unthinkable actually come to pass.

But as has been the case so often, for me there is a second chance – cornea transplants. Details aside, there are risks in my case. But it’s exciting! The odds are good, even though they also include the possibility of failure. Failure will mean that I lose what little vision I have now, and my constant dusk will slowly turn to night, as I eventually lose all sight.

I don’t mention this for sympathy. Sympathy, I don’t need. And I don’t need words of encouragement or wisdom or “stiff-upper-lip” stuff. But I am afraid. It overtakes me at least once a day. Only for a few seconds, usually, but long enough to understand the enormity of the predicament I face, and long enough to tell myself that fear is a needless emotion.

I know myself pretty well, and I won’t be bitter or feel cheated. I’ll understand how these things go, and I’ll be able to face the results no matter what they are. I will be thankful too, because I know it won’t matter in the scheme of things, and will lead me to get on with the goodness of living and not dwell on the bad.  I will be strong, so I will prevail.

The paranormal has been responsible for this thinking in many ways. It has given me a perspective on life that I never would have realized on my own. I’m so totally certain that there is a rich afterlife, that upon occasion, I actually begin to glimpse the meaning of this life. Or so I think. But it certainly doesn’t include self-absorption and pity. I’ve heard from so many distant voices that my mind has been opened; my heart as well. My faith has grown stronger, and while I don’t believe it’s my place to preach on such matters, I am compelled to say that God has been good, and I am grateful for the lessons provided through this paranormal.

I believe there are examples in life that speak to the next life – ways we can determine what is in store for us, if we only take the time to look. There are no real mysteries, just undiscovered treasures – bounty for the taking, buried in the beauty that surrounds us in this glorious place. Truths we can only find within our souls. There is nothing hidden, but I think it demands a certain kind of diligence on our part. We’re meant to seek and search as far as our lives will allow us, and with whatever resources we’re given. There’s nothing new under the sun, but the whole of existence is worthy of rediscovery – daily, and we should experience it through the prism of our own vision and thoughts.

I am often reminded of an EVP I once recorded. When asked if he came to visit often, the voice responded “now and then.” On the surface, it is a logical answer to an honest question, but I have come to see it slightly differently. Even though I do not seek wisdom from my invisible friends, they occasionally give me pause. Perhaps because of the nature of their existence, I tend to listen more carefully.

Life in general is a now and then proposition – nothing is always, or never. We love now and then, cry now and then, feel powerful now and then, and now and then, we face our mortality. It’s natural to be fearful of things like the surgeon’s knife; of that nasty anesthesia. Or of anything that threatens us – especially if it threatens us with the unknown.

But the afterlife is different – more mysterious than unknown; unfamiliar, perhaps. It seems to beckon us in a strange and indefinable way. The paranormal doesn’t threaten us with the slip of a knife or the inability to awake from anesthesia. It doesn’t cause infection or give us life-altering diseases. The paranormal doesn’t decimate the population with war or genocide; beat our children, or cause our crops to fail. Instead, it previews the hereafter, introduces us to our inevitability and promises forever. And if we can avoid that “run dude run” moment and stop to learn from the experience instead, it has the potential to enrich us in ways not available elsewhere.

The worst that can happen to me is that I will not awaken here, but somewhere else instead. But I’m okay with that, because I know my fear is not of where, but only of when. I may not be ready just now, but who is? Those of us who have chosen to look into the unfamiliar should not waste the opportunity. We’re afforded the experience so we can learn from it. These glimpses do not come from our ambition or intelligence, or any machinations we create – all of it has always just been there to find. What we call the paranormal is a classroom – an advanced course in the complex curriculum of living. A pass/fail course we’re not required to take, but one that gives us an edge. So, be grateful brethren – the truth is right before you, and you will find it – “now and then.”

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Archaeologists

My most recent podcast centers around the Spirit Box, and after listening to it several times, I have decided that it sounds a bit negative. That wasn’t my intention, although I don’t wish to retract anything either. I truly do believe it is a viable piece of apparatus that many investigators seem to put to fantastic use. Unfortunately, I have been unable to do so, and while there have been specific circumstances where the device seemed like the perfect tool, it has failed miserably in my hands.

I know it’s more fun to enter an investigation with as many cool devices as possible. I suspect that if a proton pack were real, I’d want one – preferably in Ghost Busters Green. But lately, I have been more impressed with the accuracy of human observation accompanied by the barest minimum of actual equipment. We believe in the recording integrity of still and motion cameras, video, and with any number of audio recording devices. So it stands to reason that this equipment should serve us well. But they are only recording devices – documentarians of our trips in the dark in search of the elusive afterlife. These devices don’t claim to create or initiate contact, they don’t increase visibility, or augment the environment to make it more conducive to spirit manifestations of any kind.

The paranormal world is littered with all sorts of paraphernalia, most of which claim to improve conditions or add to our evidence gathering capability. But there are lingering doubts about so many of these. Perhaps it’s a matter of how they are used, as is the case with the Spirit Box, but it is inescapable that the results from such equipment is frequently questioned, and so often unconvincingly defended.

Still, what can we expect to happen simply by carrying recording equipment? It can document, surely, but does it improve our odds, or increase the opportunities to actually find something to record? Usually not, and we wind up looking at the same old type of footage and listening to the same old hiss on recorder files. And ultimately, all we’ve done is enter a building, wander around, and press some buttons. We can only hope the spirit world will decide to initiate contact and allow us to record it, as success seems completely dependent on them.

If people like me are correct, and spirits are everywhere, constantly, then improving our recording equipment becomes our best chance at documenting paranormal life. We should eventually develop recording devices ever more able to reveal the other side – with greater clarity and frequency. But if spirits are elusive, we will need more. We will need reliable, less hit and miss devices which encourage or cause them to be seen and heard. Regardless, doing that will always carry with it the stigma of human misrepresentation. The rap will always be that the evidence produced by such devices is suspect and therefore, unacceptable by current paranormal standards.

Since the standards, for unquestionable paranormal proof, are extremely high (ever see a piece of video that wasn’t questioned?), we may ultimately be stuck with no better tools than we currently have. We’ll record and capture things on devices whose integrity has passed both the paranormal litmus test, and the test of time.

Better recorders with lower frequency capabilities, and a wider use of thermal and full-spectrum imaging may be the only way we can reasonably go. As they are improved over time, we can expect to see and hear more, thereby learning more with each iteration. And if similar devices are created and can pass the scrutiny of skeptics, our results and credibility can only improve.

But there comes the eternal question… Should we actually be invading their realm? It is a question we don’t hear these days because the paranormal has become, in so many ways, a commercial entity. Is it not enough to record their presence as it presents itself? Must we draw them out against their will, or create an environment that demands their attendance, thereby removing whatever final defenses they have from us?

More and more these days, I think not. More and more, I believe we are like archaeologists, who learn from what they find; who look as deeply as they can – carefully. Methodically. We take our own trip through time in search of truth. Better we respect the artifacts and gently brush away the debris in search of a piece to the puzzle – like fragments of bone in search of the complete animal – ever vigilant, patient, and cautious.

We need to be content with what we know when we know it – regardless of how badly we want it to be now.

Plausible Deniability

I just discovered some early podcasts I created from 2007 – almost exactly five years ago. The podcast was called mpgEVP, which stood for Maryland Paranormal Group, and you can figure out what the EVP part is all about. Of course, I had to give a listen, if for no other reason than to hear how different I sounded. They were very funny, because it was plain to recognize the tone of someone trying to sound like someone else. I must have decided to go with a deeper voice – one without my Baltimore accent. What a poser!

But even more than the obvious surface differences, I found myself saying things I no longer believe to be true. I fully admitted that EVP voices were almost impossible to assign to any particular deceased person, but then time after time, that’s exactly what I did. “This must have been my aunt,” I said as a lead-in to a credible EVP sample. I listened in great horror, because there was nothing about that spirit voice to suggest my dear sweet auntie was speaking. It could just as easily have been Mussolini.

The comedy of errors continued to be even more embarrassing the longer I listened. I heard myself referring to hundreds of recorded EVP, when the number is clearly in the thousands just five years later. I was willing to assume so much from those hundreds – assumptions I think the thousands have proven to be incorrect. As I listened, I realized that there are only so many mistakes I am happy to own up to, because there were so many that made me cringe.

Well, they weren’t really that bad, I suppose – I’ve heard worse from people who have a paranormal television career, but they do not reflect attitudes or beliefs I still embrace. I try to base everything on evidence of some kind, and I try not to make stupid assumptions just because they are convenient or add to the narrative in a more interesting way. And obviously, that could not have been my M.O. at the time I recorded those podcasts. That was perhaps the most distressing part of all.

Thankfully, the truth is that we all grow. We all learn a little more with each step down the road, and we all find ourselves pushing back against the crazy ideas we used to welcome so stridently. I am a different person now, I suppose. I have a lot of investigations under my belt, and I am a full-time EVP researcher now. Since those early MPG broadcasts, I have written two books, given lectures, done a number of radio interviews, and created almost 35 new podcasts under the auspices of The Voices Podcast. And I am proud of this later podcast, as I am of all my endeavors dealing with both EVP research and the paranormal in general.

But it makes me think a bit. I expect there will be things I’ve said or written currently that will one day make me want to hide my head in the sand again. Fortunately, that will not prevent me from saying them though. The paranormal field is in constant flux as new ideas surface and either stand the test of time or give way to better incarnations. We’re constantly learning and discovering ways in which newer methods and more efficient technologies reveal different results yielding more current and better-informed conclusions.

I hope it always goes this way, because if we stay stagnant for long, we’ll stop learning new things – we’ll stop discovering. I’m not really embarrassed by those ancient podcasts of mine – they remind me that I’ve grown, and that’s always a good thing. I will just have to be content knowing that at least I was out there looking and searching – putting myself in a position to grow. It makes me wonder what will be next. I can only hope the future will not cause me to refute too much of what I find myself saying now – in such a public way.

Of course, I’m also very pleased that those podcasts from mpgEVP are no longer available. I just hope everyone who downloaded them has long since thrown them away so that I have the only remaining copies. Plausible deniability is a beautiful thing.

Thrill Seeking Ghost Junkies

There seems to be a need for some people in the paranormal to levee a great deal of criticism on everyone else in the field. I’m sure if you’ve been living on the planet for only slightly more than a little while, you know what I mean. It naturally starts with those at the top – the high profile, “famous” people, but it’s even more disturbing when it comes down on those of us who qualify as “small fish.” And frankly, it disturbs me, so it’s time for me to join them and vent.

We all know there are people involved in the field who have no business investigating their own shoe rack much less the home of a scared family or a concerned businessman. Not to mention the thrill seekers, whose only level of investigative participation is directly proportional to the increase in their own adrenaline. It’s too bad, but this is the unfortunate reality of needing personnel – bodies – to execute a credible investigation. There are just too many bad investigators – seasoned un-professionals, who offer nothing more to the field of paranormal studies than the size of their team t-shirt (which could not possibly exceed the size of their egos).

I am reminded of a very competent team leader who once confided that he is sometimes forced to turn down investigations because he can’t get enough team members to commit. And it also seems that the most unpleasant and vocal voices have come from these very same uncommitted ones. Likewise, I’ve seen first hand how team members assure everyone that they will be on time, only to seemingly disappear from the planet. They guarantee an appearance at meetings but manage to contract any number of diseases that very nearly choke the life out of them on meeting day.

Yes, there is no doubt in my mind that vast numbers of the so-called “people in the field” could use some culling. Unfortunately, most of the constant criticism of others that I hear comes from this unworthy rabble of insufficient participants. These uninformed, poorly trained, thrill-seeking ghost junkies have more to say about someone else’s methods than they have knowledge or experience. They always seem to be first in line to sling poison darts into the heart of anyone who succeeds. Perhaps it’s jealousy – I don’t know, but I’ll never understand why it’s easier to blast someone else than it is to buckle down and do some work.

It might be easier to accept the criticism from someone who has put in the hours, understands the field, and takes attention to detail seriously. But alas, that individual doesn’t waste his time running others down. He has too much to do and understands too well that respect is a two-way street. That individual is concerned with her own evidence and contribution to the team – not everyone else’s.

So, while we’re all sitting here being quite certain that none of us are anything like these dreadful undesirables, I think we should take stock and do a little soul searching. (No pun intended.)

Here are seven questions you could ask yourself before you open your mouth indiscrimately yet again. And I heartily encourage you to come up with a few more, but until then, these will serve as a starting point.

  1. Don’t like the guys on tv? Think they’re all fakes and phonies? Ask yourself how quickly you’ll say “yes” when they ask you to join the show.
  2. Don’t understand why so-and-so always gets to put the cameras where he wants? Hmmm… ask yourself why you don’t even know how to connect them yet.
  3. Annoyed that on investigations the team is too regimented and uptight? Ask yourself why you’re still setting off your flash 6 inches from someone’s face, and why you can’t manage to stop talking for more than twenty seconds.
  4. Think you’re a developing sensitive and that there’s not enough team focus on what you’re feeling? Well, it’s probably because no one really cares. Understand that some of us feel like strangling you, so just thank God feelings don’t count all that much.
  5. Can’t understand why you have to clear off your camera and recorder prior to an investigation? Ask yourself at what point in the evening you plan on telling everyone else that you’ve run out of space.
  6. Don’t see what’s wrong with touching a client’s private things, eating their snacks, or smoking in their living room? Really? Come on… You can’t really be as dumb as you let on, can you?
  7. Don’t see why you can’t show up inebriated or high? If your IQ ever reaches double digits, ask yourself to quit. Nicely.

 

 

Forever Together

I’ve always been fascinated with the principle in Quantum Physics that bonded particles remain bonded even when separated. I recall an experiment where two completely separate particles were observed to have no reaction to each other’s existence until they touched. Nothing more, but from this they became eternally bonded – regardless of the distance between them. Even when separated by a thousand miles, if particle A was spun to the left, particle B began to spin in the same direction. The implications of this experiment are mind-blowing, and the ramifications are truly infinite.

Equally as enthralling to me, is the notion of a human soul. And a fascinating thing about the soul, or what we perceive to be “the soul,” is that most hard science doesn’t believe in it at all. Science has long ago dispensed with the 21 grams conjecture. Instead, we know that the neurons in the brain electrically unite with other neurons to create who and what we are. One neuron on its own doesn’t count for much, but once they start communicating with others – bonding, that’s a whole different story. Some people think this Borg-like network of neurons creates the soul – makes it unique, and probably contains the essence of who we are as individuals.

But alas, as neurons die (initiated by our death), the electrical impulses begin to stop, and along with it, the communication between them. The soul follows suit, as it predictably appears to blink out and vanish. First law of Thermodynamics not withstanding (energy cannot be destroyed), there’s no apparent location for what we call our energy; for what many of us assume is our soul. These neurological electrical bursts, small as they are, must go somewhere. Enter religion, I suppose. Or the paranormal, because when there’s not an explanation, there is definitely faith and belief. But all is not lost, fellow soul survivors.

There’s a scientist by the name of Hofstettler who feels that we give pieces of our soul away constantly – that this unknowable energy simply is transferred to other humans. Think of it as a furnace. You can remove fire and heat from the furnace at will, and as long as there is fuel, it will continue to burn – continue to regenerate itself. The fire is a lot like living, and when we run out of fuel, the fire dies. But what of all those pieces of the flame that have been taken, and continue to thrive elsewhere – warming the hearts and minds of others, if you will? What of those?

Perhaps those infinitesimal pieces of our soul – our fire – are literally why ET lives in Elliot’s heart and mind. Through our words and deeds, our creations, our successes and failures, and in all the ways we have touched one another, we’ve deposited these tangible, tiny pieces of ourselves within others. On a quantum level, of course, so they are completely undetectable, yet they possess great power and influence. We are indeed, attached.  Bonded. Forever.

Interesting concept, and while these examples are not the good Dr. Hofstettler’s, I think they make the point. But I ask you, if I am alive and well and living in the depths of your mind; your heart, then who is to say I am not truly a part of you? That my soul is in many others as well, and that everything I was, is still unnoticeably alive and sharing what you are and will be. Much like the particles have touched and remain constantly bonded, would we not also be forever together in a similar way?

And if you look for me when I am gone… If after my demise, you record a voice that seems for all the world to actually be mine… So much so that you feel it with everything you know, then who’s to say it is not? It forces us to contemplate whether these voices; these windows into forever, might possibly be coming from within us?

It’s clear that we touch one another in varying degrees during life. It is only reasonable to think it continues. And perhaps that which haunts us, doesn’t haunt us at all. Perhaps, it’s just that connection – that coldly, scientific, simple joining of mere particles, that somehow manages to fill us with the desire to find one another after death. Always looking for what has always been inside.