An Open Mind

It has always been my attitude to take Spirit Box results with a rather large grain of salt. Obviously, that’s because the device uses radio frequencies, and frankly, there’s a whole lot of talking on the radio. The thing that can save Spirit Box results from the proverbial circular file, in my opinion, is an abundance of repetitive responses throughout the session. If I am able to get several references to the same name, for instance, then my personal confidence level will increase. Still, the probability of coincidence is built into the Spirit Box by design. In my locale, it is not possible to cycle through the radio bands without hearing fragments of broadcast language. This does not ease my angst, but defines my concerns even more succinctly instead.

However, when response after response fits the conversation, while accompanied by multiple verifications, my belief becomes much less strained. You’ll never convince me that certain phrases will repeat over and over in a relatively random sampling of fast frequency passes – especially at exactly the right moments every time. Frankly, good, compelling Spirit Box results are difficult to discount.

Still, regardless of my over-simplification for the sake of this blog, Spirit Box results are not easy to accept as evidence of authentic spirit communication. And yet, my most recent foray into this arena was shocking. Not only was it easy to get several name verifications (four), but other appropriate responses were surprisingly uncanny. The spirit in question clearly knew the name of a female investigator who was present, and even offered that he found her “pretty.” He mentioned the homeowner by name twice, remarking that he was a good person, and later asking if we worked together. I also have EVP to further confirm much of what the Spirit Box revealed, so all in all, fairly convincing.

None of this is earth-shattering stuff, of course, and I’m not even certain if any of it is actually worthy of mention. Others in the field have had spectacular Spirit Box results for years, and even though the session in question delivers over forty responses of interest, it pales in comparison to countless offerings by other investigators world-wide. But it does represent a milestone for me.

This is the first time I have had such prolific results. The promise of the Spirit Box is that it can provide abundant real-time communication – anything less is much better handled through EVP. A comment here or there only emphasizes the built-in flaws of the device and tends to confuse the basic value of the equipment. But statistically, over forty responses is definitely a different story, and all objections go out the window. I don’t have much choice but to accept these results as some kind of communication between us and “them.”

You know, it’s always wise to have an open mind, but it’s imperative that we recognize forced evidence, ill-conceived equipment, and unsound methodology. However, bias for the sake of bias is even less desirable. I dare not be a strong proponent of the Spirit Box based on one highly successful session, but I’m willing to sit up and take notice. After all, if doesn’t matter what I think anyway. Only the truth counts.

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The Work Matters

A few weeks ago, my so-called ability with EVP was severely challenged by an old friend. He wondered why my evidence wasn’t more spectacularly convincing. He offered the opinion that if I expected to “make it in the paranormal game,” I should start getting better, more dramatic results. Game? This encounter has been on my mind.

Well, honestly, I always thought any bona fide paranormal result was spectacular; that even the most diminutive spirit voice was a pretty big deal. And as for his comment about making it in “the game,” I never thought that was part of the equation. I was kind of appalled. I literally got hot! Well, of course I try to sell books! If you have something to say, you want others to hear it, and I have a point of view I have always considered worth sharing. That might be wrong, but if one’s perspective can only be judged in terms of crass commercialism, then what’s the point?

I considered just giving up the whole thing. I really did. His remarks cut deep, and I figured I should just do my EVP thing as a hermit might – in solitude. God knows there’s no money in it anyway, and by his standards, I was evidently wasting my time. Not to mention, society at large thinks people like me are crackpots.

My friend is right about one thing though – I’m truly not very important in the paranormal field. I didn’t think I had to be, because it was a labor of love, ya know? I contemplated an inconspicuous exit – the equivalent of just slowly walking off into the midnight mist. But why? I don’t record EVP to gain notoriety. I talk and write about them because they seem valuable to me. So many different spirits have taken the bold step of speaking to me specifically, that I feel blessed by it, and so I embrace a very strong commitment to telling their story truthfully and with as much empathy as possible.

Sure I pay attention to how many copies I’ve sold – I’m not oblivious. And it’s only natural to be curious about how many people actually listen to the podcast or read this blog. But those are just numbers. If those numbers measure success, then I guess my friend’s implications are correct, but like I said, I have a point of view. There’s an evangelist inside of me somewhere who wants to spread the word. EVP are not like stumbling onto Mayan gold, or metal-detecting your way to a Rolex on the beach. You can’t buy shares in Apple with them, or turn them into dollars or sense. I’m not even certain what EVP are exactly, but I know they’re incredibly extraordinary and I’m positive I should be paying attention. Writing books about the things I’ve learned seems like a no-brainer, and frankly, I’ve even started to feel that some of these spirit voices are more than acquaintances.

I’m not entirely certain why my friend’s comment bothered me so. Maybe because this has always been like a quest for me, even though I never felt it was a quixotic one. I realize that it doesn’t matter how many EVP I record, or whether my conclusions are absolutely spot on; whether I receive more raised eyebrows today than yesterday. It’s inconsequential whether someone thinks I’m delusional or half-a-bubble-off-plumb. It doesn’t matter if I sell a million books on Amazon, or 17 at the strip mall (each with a free box of Girl Scout Cookies).

Well, what does matter then? It’s hard to say – I just know that something does. The work matters. And there are perks. I’ve learned more about myself than I could ever have without the voices. I’ve developed an unshakable conviction that the hereafter is real. I’ve learned that I’m never alone, even in my darkest moments. I’ve learned that we’re much more attached to eternity than we can completely comprehend.

And if there are others out there like me, I say “carry on.” With pride. Know that what you do is of tremendous value, and understand that you were chosen. Not chosen to be important or significant; not because you’re wonderful or even particularly bright. You’re not a guru or leader; wise or super-spiritual. You’re just someone who documents and professes an odd truth. You’re a weapon in the war of spiritual understanding, and you can’t quit – the other side needs you. It’s not a game. There has to be someone out there who realizes just how much the work matters. And it really should be someone who cares enough to share.

The Sound of Life

It makes sense to me that if any part of the paranormal were to be deemed believable, it would be EVP – initially, because of the amount of available evidence. Every paranormal investigator participates in EVP sessions – it’s standard, and in all probability, every investigator can offer some amount of EVP results, so there’s an army out there. That’s a lot of voices. Everyone in the field does it, and everyone has opinions about how to do it.

So, it’s understood that paranormal investigation almost always provides some EVP evidence, but there’s another reason why EVP might be the standard bearer for paranormal substantiation. There is also the ample truth that it makes sense to us. EVP easily fit the expectations of what our own “spirithood” ought to be like. Most of us hope there will be a way to make contact from beyond the grave, and many of us are counting on it. In that light, EVP make perfect sense because they speak so well to our own self-awareness.

The idea of being presented with an apparition is much more unsettling – for anyone, even the most experienced among us. It’s exciting – even exhilarating, but suddenly the world in which we live comfortably and securely, becomes a less familiar place. Seeing a spirit is an intensely unusual proposition, and instantly life-altering. I’m not talking about a shadow figure, a mist, or a light-emitting orb, but an honest to goodness apparition. A ghost. And seeing one first-hand explodes into a game-changing piece of memory that will always haunt us in some way.

Not so with a voice. A voice is almost always less spectacular, and easily absorbed as part of life. Who hasn’t been faced with hearing an unusual voice from time to time – alone in a field, while driving – in just about any place or circumstance? “Must have been my imagination…” Sometimes we’re not even certain an unidentifiable, unexplainable voice isn’t something we’ve said ourselves, or something we were thinking. The idea that there could be an actual spirit voice to hear simply by going out of our way to record it, is electrifying, not terrifying. EVP offer us the choice to hear or not to hear, so they play to our expectations, and more often than not, they become friendly evidence.

There’s almost never any palpable danger associated with an EVP. It can be creepy, sure, and unexpected, and cause you to question the wisdom of being where you are, but there’s still a strong sense that you can evade it if need be. It has no form, no evident power over you, and offers no threat to your well-being. If you hear a voice you don’t like, you can always leave and vow to never come back, but if a spirit is strong enough and inclined to make itself visible, well then anything is possible. It is an immediate threat, whether accurate or not. By recording for spirit voices, we know what we’re in for and have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

The idea that spirit voices are the easiest aspect of paranormal evidence in which to believe, may also have something to do with the fact that there’s always the possibility of a credible, real-life explanation. Once you’ve unsuccessfully attempted to discredit one, it’s unproblematic to have confidence in what passes the tests. But there’s a more universal reason we hold EVP in such high evidentiary esteem – because they represent a form of communication we innately practice every day of our lives. EVP speak to us. They talk, and it’s as simple as that, I think, because there’s an intimacy associated with talking to someone. When something is wrong, “we need to talk.” When everything is wonderful and exciting, we channel those manic feelings and tell anyone within earshot. We talk about dinner, the NFL, property values, UFOs, and our favorite color. We discuss politics, religion, sexuality, and stuff no one really wants to hear.

You can’t talk to a menacing apparition, and if you could, I doubt it would be a very engaging conversation. But EVP? They sound like you or I; say what we would; speak as we do. They are the sound of life everlasting, and they stand as a testament that the hereafter we all hope is real, probably really is. We identify with spirit voices because we understand who they are. We may not know them personally, or understand a single motivation or life experience they’ve traversed, but we know who they are. And we know, admit it or not, who we will become.

Wallflowers

I’m sitting alone in a house that is a provably “active” location. Just thinking. Of course, to alleviate the trepidation of others who “know the place,” there’s no reason to be afraid – I’ve truly never felt a moment’s discomfort. Well, that fear cage in the basement doesn’t count – you can’t expect 148 Gauss to have no effect whatsoever, right? Believe me, “the house is clean” but I recommend visitors stay upstairs and let someone else go down there for cans of soup and paper towels.

I’m the only one who ever saw an apparition here, and both of those were extremely quick and easily explainable as a trick of the mind. That is, in fact, how I do explain them, and I’m the paranormal investigator here, so lighten up! I guess it must be the idea that I’ve recorded over a thousand EVP in the house. Well, I suppose I see your point, but look on the bright side – no one has ever heard an actual disembodied voice here. If I had never mentioned those silly ole EVP, would you still be looking around every corner? Would you still be telling your friends that Granny’s house is haunted? Would there still be a need to travel the halls in packs of two or more?

No one has ever experienced a single out-of-the-ordinary thing here. My EVP represent the entirety of it, and even those would have remained hidden if I had just kept my mouth shut. It’s an open floor plan with tons of windows, and there’s a light switch at every corner. Not a single stick of creepy furniture or pre-World War I photos; no strange artifacts from dead people no one ever met… Like I’ve always said, “it’s the least haunted place I know.” Get a grip for God’s sake!

It just goes to show that spiritual activity doesn’t have to come in a stereotypical box – those prejudices originate with us. The large number of spirit voices at this location don’t reflect pain, suffering, malice or even mild discontent – they just sound like extra people. Slight participants. Wallflowers. An active location can often be the most difficult to recognize simply because the ethereal residents prefer it that way, but I would take it a step further. Spiritual activity is normal. It’s as much a fact of life as any other thing is, so get used to it. We accept religion, intuition, feelings, and even ESP, so why is simple spiritual presence such a problem? Grow up, I say, because it’s as natural as anything else in life. It’s a requirement, and it’s everywhere.

Sometimes I imagine those spirits all just sitting there – bored to the gills, looking at one another, waiting patiently for visitors they can ogle. I wonder if they’ve figured out why everyone acts so strange around the place? Even I keep wondering why you peek into rooms before you open the door. You must amuse them so, but at the rate they talk on my recorder, I must be the real attraction. I must remind them of the young man who once asked them to dance; who made that long walk to the other side of the ballroom where the wallflowers sit; who reached out a hand and requested they trip the light fantastic once again.

Well, why not? I’m game. I never was much of a dancer, but I guess if you’re a wallflower, it’s not about who brought you as much as who bothers to actually make that long walk and extend that hand. Party on, old friends! Let the kiddies miss all the fun. Now, “tell me something about yourself.”

October

Perhaps not surprisingly, October seems to be almost everyone’s favorite month. And it’s not unusual to hear that Halloween plays a major part in delivering that favor. Well, I like Halloween too, but that’s not why October is my favorite month. For me, it has more to do with the weather, the colorful trees, and the beginning of a festive spirit lasting till Christmas.

Past few seasons have been too warm for a typical east coast October, and that seems to confuse the trees. The beautiful October colors came and went so quickly, that I missed them – it was just too warm. I may have forgotten to look, but regardless, It hurt my feelings. I dearly love those fall colors, and frequently head into the woods in search of that perfect photo – you know the one I mean. The last two years, I found myself surrounded by a sea of brown instead of vibrant color. I too felt confused.

But this year is different – Fall is back, baby! I am encouraged. The leaves seem to be falling properly, color is beginning to slowly show… I better get my camera ready soon; keep my eyes open, if for no other reason, than because you never know when it might be your final Autumn.

I don’t mean to be an instant downer, but am I wrong? Any number of personal or universal calamities could befall us. Climate change could totally destroy the kind of Autumn affability that so many of us love. Personal tragedy can come suddenly, with swift finality. City planners could decide to unearth our color-bearing friends to make way for yet another strip mall.

We need to embrace this whole concept of Fall right now, or as Paul Simon said, hold it “close to our hearts – warm against cold” (something like that). We should celebrate the transformation of each leaf, revel in the majesty of the process, and admire the message that even the most beautiful of all, must fall to the ground, crumble and disappear. Dust to dust.

Yes, I am reminded of the metaphor because someone close to me is fighting for her life, but it’s so much more obvious than that – we need to pay attention and rejoice in the sheer, unmitigated gall of the season. Autumn shares its glorious arrogance and gracefully blesses us so memorably in the face of certain dissolution. How dare we not notice such a powerful exit, as if saying “Look at me. I will be back, even better!” So righteous and beatific.

I suppose it makes sense to celebrate Halloween as the color starts to fade, because In spite of what Halloween commemorates, it also marks our acceptance of the seasonal change; heralds in the winter; gives us cause to celebrate the assurance that there is beauty in all times, and in all ways. I’m too old for tricks or treats; too achy and tentative for apple bobbing. My days of dressing up have long passed, and my desire to decorate wanes a little more each year. Warm feet are my irritable priority now, but more and more these days, I find great elation in those colorful leaves, and I bid them adieu sadly, hopefully believing they will return soon – bigger and brighter. They remind me that a more complete meaning of life is not found solely in the living of it. Sometimes there is revival in demise – that even in endings there is the hope of commencement. So I will not say goodbye, for we will meet again.