Tomorrow I’m going to talk to dead people. I’ve done this before, you know – a lot of times, actually. I find them to be mildly interesting, and occasionally cryptic, but for the most part, I get to control the conversation and I have yet to hear a single objection to any opinion I’ve offered. I would have to say that they’re an agreeable sort. Consider this – never has one of the deceased tried to cheat me, make weight jokes at my expense, or suggest I would burn in Hell because I’m a liberal.

These days, most of my friends are miscreants. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Not all of them, but the ones I see or talk to frequently have ruined it for the others. They work too much, spend way too much time with their families, and hardly ever want to talk about anything cool like ghosts, or UFOs or Big Foot. They just want to discuss the market, or how little Johnnie is doing in baseball this year. They’re out of touch and way too self-absorbed.

My children are all crazy. Yes, I said it – crazy. Looney Tunes, out of their mind, half-a-bubble-off-plumb crazy – all this moving from one place to another, and spending all their money on diapers and Cable. Who cares if Junior is eating short ribs at 14 months. Good grief! Let me know when he’s in college. You know, when I was a kid, we used to walk 12 miles to school – call me when the little bugger can do that!

My mechanic collected $1247.14 from me for the pleasure of not fixing my car properly. He’s very sorry, and wants me to bring it in again tomorrow, but I have dead people to talk to tomorrow. He knows that. I told him. Maybe he didn’t believe me. Maybe he just doesn’t have his priorities in line.

My neighbors are just rude. The little punks across the street sit out on their steps every morning eating fruit or cereal in a Styrofoam bowl with a plastic spoon. Their parents don’t trust them alone in the house while they’re working, so they roam the streets all day, and deposit their Styrofoam in my recycle bin. Of course, the big noisy truck rejected my entire load at 6:15 because there was breakfast dishes in the can. Wonder where that came from? My other neighbor was up cutting his lawn at 7:00.  I rest my case.

The pharmacy couldn’t fill my eye drops in three days, and then tried to overcharge me. The grocery store sold us ground beef that was already brown in the middle. The gas pump didn’t work. Kids on skateboards fell right in front of our car. My doctor is leaving her practice in the middle of my post-op. My mother thinks the democrats want to kill old people. My sister goes nuts trying to convince her otherwise. The iBookstore messed up my pricing mechanism. The produce stand sold me an ear of bugs masquerading as corn. And the piece-de-resistance – I broke a plastic bag full of goo from summer camp that ran all over the table, floor, and attached itself to the nose of my dog.

Now, these dead people don’t carry any baggage with them. I don’t know them very well – it’s hard to get chummy with someone you can’t see and don’t hear until the next morning, but I still recommend them highly. They’re usually very respectful and almost never have a discouraging word. Usually, they live simply and don’t try to suck the life out of you with phone calls and requests for time or money. When was the last time you ran across a dead person who cared about your politics? I didn’t think so. I’ve never had to ask one of them to clean up their mess, make their bed, or remember not to leave goo from summer camp on the living room table.

So, I can’t wait! I am expecting it will be a quiet evening with the disembodied. No complaining about the rotten selection on Netflix. There won’t be any nonsense about turning the air-conditioning down, or grilling me about how many calories I’ve had today. “Why do you need a dessert? You had an entire meal!” Not one of my friends from beyond the veil will ever give a hoot about how bad I look in those jeans. There will be no “I told you so” comments, no discussions about my smoking too much, no requests to borrow $20, and I guarantee you there won’t be any goo.

I guess what I’m saying is thank God for the paranormal. It’s like a vacation! Just when the whole world is about to come crashing down around your already sagging shoulders – there it is, just like the Lone Ranger or Bohemian Rhapsody uninterrupted.

I’m going to talk to dead people tomorrow, and believe me – there’s nothing wrong with me. Right?

The Right Explanation

When I was a young man, someone used a cliché that stuck with me. “I may be paranoid, but that doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me.” Admittedly, it has limited application to real life unless you actually are paranoid, but let’s read between the lines. How about, “Just because there’s an explanation, doesn’t mean it’s correct.” Doesn’t have the same philosophical resonance, does it? But if you’re interested in the paranormal, you should be able to see the correlation here. Sometimes, logical explanations are illogically wrong.

Recently, I’ve heard several people offer perfectly legitimate alternatives for what I think could be paranormal. These aren’t your usual “never-say-yes” skeptics; not typical buzz-kill types. All three of them are intelligent, thoughtful people, each with a genuine degree of interest in the paranormal. I respect them, and their attempt to find reasonable answers to unreasonable occurrences. It’s true skepticism at its best, so well done!

The bedroom window was open just slightly, and a breeze obviously caused the curtain to flow. Even though only the curtain’s middle section moved? Well – one can never really predict what a breeze will do, and there was probably someone inside looking out the window.

Likewise, the golf ball-sized green glowing orb is probably some kind of electro-magnetic anomaly similar to swamp gas, or the lights often seen over gravesites – the result of decomposition. I agree, assuming decomposition can penetrate the several layers of concrete and metal surrounding the decaying body. Any of these are possibilities, I suppose, and my debunking friend was anything but obnoxious about it. Like most of us, he doesn’t want to go off half-crazed at every unusual incident, and much to my chagrin, he is right. It’s irresponsible to affix an automatic paranormal label to anything.

Likewise, a very good friend suggested that I was not touched four times while in the abandoned building in the dark. Bugs are certainly an unseen force in the darkness, and if not a bug, something could have fallen from the ceiling. It could have been the strap from my camera. Or my imagination. But I know when I’m being touched, and two of the four times immediately followed my request to do it again.

I think people too quickly assume that paranormal investigators react without giving proper consideration to the full set of possibilities. The orb moved with purpose, and it exhibited a reaction to me. I don’t believe in orbs and I am not suddenly convinced of anything, but I know what I saw. And I know for a fact that there was no breeze and no one in the house, and yet the curtain moved in exactly the right way. And…

It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t, so I’m ready and completely willing to accept non-paranormal explanations. I have no need to insist these events are evidence or proof of anything, even though my own experience tells me otherwise. Something about each of these occurrences defies the sanitizing versions that come so easily to those who weren’t there. I don’t know what caused them to happen, but then that’s the point, isn’t it? Each of these happened while investigating situations or places that were offering other paranormal symptoms first.

Sometimes we look too hard to offer alternate truths to the uncertain and unsettling events that surround a paranormal situation. It becomes a merit badge of some kind to disavow our observations with disinfected and diluted justifications. Small children rationalize that which terrorizes them by repeating the mantra that “there’s no such thing as monsters” even when thoroughly convinced one lives under the bed.

We forget that one of those plausible explanations is a paranormal one. We bully the paranormal possibility with every fiber of our being, and usually we end up with something uncontroversial, something we feel comfortable with, or something to end the search rather than expand it. A creaking door that opens its latch; footsteps in the attic; a black mist that obliterates the light… Just because there are alternatives to be had, doesn’t mean they’re the right ones. Sometimes, you just know they’re wrong.

Once Upon a Time…

Once upon a time, a million years ago, when I started The Voices Podcast, I forgot to wonder how on earth I would find something interesting to say every month. Someone asked me about that just the other day. She said, “I would have thought you’d run out of things to say in one or two podcasts.” That kinda hit me between the eyes, so I immediately went into self-analysis mode in an attempt to determine if she was right. Maybe I should have just wrapped it all up in a couple of episodes and moved on to something else? I mean, does anybody care enough about this subject to spend more than an hour or so?

I suppose some actually do, because I have a decent number of listeners and it seems to be slowly growing rather than declining. Well, that makes me feel a little better, but her question also made me remember how it was in the good ole days before the podcast – back before I wrote Voices From Forever – back to when it was just me and a couple of hundred lonely spirit voices. I remembered what it was that made me start in the first place.

Forget the fact that EVP are like a drug, or that sometimes it can be a freaky way to spend your time. Friends used to find it amazing and strangely weird that I wasn’t afraid of hearing those kinds of voices. They couldn’t decide if it made me courageous or stupid. What they don’t realize is that once you start with EVP, you’re hooked. Its like paranormal crack, God help me. But it’s true. If you record over and over again and never get a response – ever, then I guess you quit, but if you get results, you’re definitely addicted. It may not be an expensive habit, but depending on your commitment, it can be rather life-consuming.

All those years ago, before the podcast, I just wanted to tell the world all about this stuff. I just never thought about anything else – it became some kind of weird mission for me – something I felt I was called to do. I hoped to be a benefit to others by honestly and openly sharing my results. Lofty notions, I suppose, and idealistic to say the least, but it seemed worth the effort.

I remember telling the wife that I was almost bursting at the seams. I told her everything I learned along the way and how important it all felt to me. “All these people out there have no idea what’s going on. Shouldn’t I tell them what I’ve learned?”  Wouldn’t they want to know?

She emphatically told me that I should write a book about it. She encouraged me rather than begin the process of commitment papers, so I started writing on the subject and dove head first into all aspects of it. I thought that if I could encourage just one other person in the field through my work with EVP, then it was a good thing. It wasn’t about money or book sales.

But the podcast is a little different from writing books. Since I believed that I was able to hear so many voices for a reason, then being a potential help to others in the field was a good thing.

As a result, I became even more passionate about the subject. I bought into it full-tilt, ya know? I decided not to have axes to grind or enemies to make, and definitely no secrets to withhold. But it wasn’t totally selfless either. It would be good for me as well. I was an older person, who had some free time, and I wasn’t gonna push myself into the grave through inactivity and the inability to care about life – EVP helped me as much as I hoped my results would aid others. Even if the subject of my salvation was kind of centered around what we call death, it felt vibrant to me for some reason. Still does. It feels to be more about life than death. I can’t explain it.

But I encourage everyone out there who is fortunate enough to gather solid paranormal evidence – whether it’s EVP or something else, to share what you’ve learned. Take the time to make your evidence, ideas, and suppositions available for the rest of us. There will always be someone who is critical – it never fails, but there will be more of us who thank you for it. And you never know what good you can do, or how many others you can influence. And one never knows when influence stops. Sarah Estep, the grand dame of EVP and a true hero to many of us, is still highly influential – her work is still fascinating and educational.

And after all these years, I still feel good about it. So here I am, 39 episodes and 22 hours later – still talking. Maybe I should have been done with it somewhere in the middle of episode 2, but I suppose I won’t stop doing it until I run out of things to say. And when I do, I’ll have to take up golf, I guess. Oh no! What a scary thought that is – golf. I shudder at the thought of that!

It Just Happened

Religion – one of those taboo subjects. Don’t bring it up, whatever you do – religion divides us faster than any other topic of conversation. That’s a shame, because it can make for some fascinating discussions! But in the final analysis, we can’t help what we believe, and I believe in God. Sorry, but I’m no more ashamed of that than I am of my belief in ghosts or UFOs and God knows what else.

I’m a Christian. “Oh no! Not one of those!” Well, no – I’m not one of those, if by “one of those” you are referring to the standard-issue Christian. I could care less what you believe in. No offense meant by that, but it just doesn’t matter to me. I embrace all people because I was raised believing that was my Christian duty. Muslims, Budhists, Catholics – even Atheists – it’s all good with me. I just don’t see my personal views as important beyond my self. I don’t feel the urge to judge people, or pre-stamp their thickets “heaven” or “hell.” I don’t define sin for the world, I hope everyone has a fantastic sex life, I’m against capital punishment, war, letting the poor starve, withholding health care from sick people, and I frankly don’t understand all this pro-life stuff. Just being honest! I don’t mean to offend anyone, but I’ve never seen it as my duty to convert the masses, and I would hope you would return the favor.

But I keep hearing from paranormal enthusiasts that all the latest science is proving religion to be dead, and that mystifies me. They tell me that the idea of alternative universes, dark matter theories, evolution in general, brain research, sub-atomic dimensions, and the extreme vastness of the universe have all made the idea of God quite obsolete. They tell me the very concept of a God is too small to encompass all of this; that if I accept the truth of science, and all its ramifications, then I can’t possibly believe in any God.

Well, of course, I accept science! But to me, God is science, pure and simple. He is the inclusion and embodiment of such a deeply creative genius that you’d have to call it Holy. The scripture of every major religion on earth suggests that God is everything – all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-wise. What does it matter that the scriptures have been edited and rearranged, or that people misinterpret the passages. The truth of this universe is God’s truth to me, and I just don’t understand why we have so much trouble accepting the possibility that a creator by any name would have no difficulty accomplishing the creation.

“Yes, but there’s no proof.” That’s true. There is no proof, so I’ll just believe – that works. I am reminded of a story I once heard about Benjamin Franklin, who was not known to be especially religious. In fact, by today’s standards, he might have earned the titles of heathen, hedonist, and Agnostic. And while Franklin was ambassador to France, he found himself in a discussion of the solar system with a young aristocrat of the opinion that the latest discoveries regarding space had ruled out the existence of God. Franklin was amazed, and he wondered how the young man could explain the solar system’s origin, and what we refer to today as the singularity – the beginning of everything?

“Who knows of such things. It just happened,” the young man proclaimed. Franklin quizzed him further, but ended the evening by inviting the young man to his apartment the next night for dinner.

Late into the night and most of the next day, Franklin proceeded to create an incredibly elaborate replica of the known solar system. Being a rather inventive individual, it didn’t take him long to fashion planets that would rotate, as they revolved around the sun. He was even able to include the known moons of the day, and applied the appropriate coloring. It was a marvelous achievement and the model was reportedly displayed for a time in the Louvre. Apparently, Franklin’s reputation for excellence and attention to detail was well founded.

That evening, the young Parisian arrived on time for what he was certain would be an elegant dinner with stimulating conversation. As he entered the apartment, he could not help but notice the elaborate solar system in all its glory and he began to make over it. Franklin seemingly ignored the comments and busied himself with the chores of dinner until finally, the young man cornered him. “Pray tell, sir. This is stunning,” he is reported to have said.

“You are referring to our solar system?” Franklin asked, feigning much interest in the topic.

“Why yes!” And assuming the workmanship was too involved for a man of Franklin’s age, he asked, “Where did it come from, sir?”

Franklin replied, “Who knows of such things. It just happened.” Well, the young man was well educated and reportedly went on to become Prime Minister or something. But it is reported that he learned the intended lesson that night and was never again heard to disparage God or His abilities.

I suppose that argument wouldn’t work in the science rich atmosphere of the 21st century, but I think the core premise of religion is exposed nonetheless. The heart of all religion is that nothing just happens, I think. There is intent behind the muse, and perhaps the singularity has a name. And that makes a whole lot more sense than hellfire and damnation any day of the week.

Old Folks

Frequently, I need to take a break from “the paranormal.” I say that because I actually consider myself to be a full-time researcher. I spend more than the usual 40 hours a week writing about, experimenting with, and recording for EVP. It may not provide a health plan or disability insurance, and I can’t exactly claim unemployment when the spirits aren’t talkative, but there are other benefits, I think. One of those is the blessing of being able to take a vacation from “work” whenever I find it necessary. Imagine that! Someone who gets sick and tired of listening to disembodied voices wax poetic and commentate on life… “Whatever.”

So, for this brief vacation from craft, I decided to embark upon a journey I’ve been dying to begin for many years now – discovering my ancestry. I spent the first 3 days of this week tracking down the Keller portion of the family tree. I’d reached a dead-end for my mother’s side of things as well as for the families of both wives, but I was certain that exploring the Keller branch would be gratifying. As many of you know, I searched for my father through EVP for quite some time, so it only seems natural to continue the search within his background – that which made him who he was.

And what a background it is. I went all the way back to the first Keller to arrive in America – some time around 1735. I found several high profile Lutheran pastors, a Revolutionary War soldier, a Union soldier who died at Gettysburg, one of the founders of Muhlenberg College, a couple of professors, and an author. And those were just the famous people; there were a lot of seriously rich Keller’s in Pennsylvania as well.

But I made a mistake. I turned right at Andrew when I should have hung a Leroy at George. Somewhere along the way, I adopted Andrew Keller as my great grandfather. Poor fellow is still getting the raw end of things 140 years later. But this error was made all the more painful by discovering that Johann Keller arrived from Germany in 1735 – not Holland. I should have known better. Family talk has always been that we were Dutch. I was so unashamedly enthralled with Johann’s brood, that I just assumed the legend was wrong. I fell into a Keller-induced-funk. I wanted to just chuck the whole stupid venture. I even considered living in denial. Who would know, right? The line of Andrew Keller was so ample – no one would even notice I was crashing the party. But, I couldn’t sleep. I should have been recording for EVP, but noooo. I started over – this time with George – Andrew and all his relatives would be free from the pretender.

Now, I realize that these names have already sent you spinning for the back button, but stay with me just a little longer, because it’s not bad news. My real family may not have been wealthy and nationally famous, but it turns out they were just as wonderful. We still have a Revolutionary War soldier, except this one was given some land for being brave. Not too shabby. He served for the full duration of the War, so I guess he earned that land. And we still have a Union soldier who died at Gettysburg. Imagine the coincidence! One of my relatives was even named Ulysses Simpson Grant Keller – USG, for short. He turned out to be quite the teacher and commanded great respect in his community.

My branch of the family also has quite a few preachers, and except for their lack of national prominence, I am sure they were bastions of the community – Reformed Church variety. And then there is Jacob John, who came to America in 1753. From Holland, actually – who’d-a-thunk the legend was true. In fact, I can trace the Keller’s back to 1605, so far.

Still bored? Well, then I better tie this in to EVP somehow. Now wait! I’m not gonna claim that I’ve recorded the voices of Johann and Jacob John. Haven’t heard a word from USG or Albertus; Elizabeth Lizzie, Lucy Ann, or Katie McCoy. Yes, I said McCoy – the Irish branch of this menagerie. None of these ancestors have ever introduced themselves to my recorder, to my knowledge, but it could happen, right? What could possibly prevent my seventh great grandfather from popping in once in awhile to pontificate about the old days – the “really” old days? Not a thing. It could have already happened. Who am I to say it hasn’t?

I found a photo of an old painting of one of my ancient aunts – someone from 1791, posing in her bonnet and dire black, buttoned up dress. What a spectacular shock it was; one of those truly amazing moments that grab your ankles and consume your soul. It was something I cannot find words to express, because scowling back at me from that painting was the face of my dad. If he had worn bonnets, that is exactly as he would have appeared. She had the same nose and deep-set eyes; the same straight mouth and slightly square jaw; the same intelligence peeking out from within, and the same look of determination I esteemed all those years.

I finally found him! Right there in the face of Anna Cecilia!

I can’t wait to see him one day and let him know how cute he looks in a bonnet. Maybe I’ll get him and Anna Cecilia side-by-side for comparison, and laugh for a century or two. Of course, that doesn’t do me much good now, does it? Still, this is what vacations are for, I guess. We have to take a moment away from our quests in life and spend a little time with the old folks – even when they won’t talk back.