2013 By The Dozen

I suppose it is appropriate to assess things at year’s end. All the cable channels do it; the radio stations… blogs. I wish I could offer up the wisdom I’ve gained over the past year, but I don’t have any. I don’t think I’m one bit brighter than I was, and when it comes to insight, I may have even regressed a bit. I suppose I could tell you my New Year’s resolutions – that often doubles for wisdom and insight, but alas, I’ve none of those either. I should be resolving to quit smoking, or vowing never to raise my voice at anyone ever again – stuff like that. I’d like to do both of those, but unfortunately, I won’t.

It’s been a tough year! Last January 1st I was in bed with the flu, and that’s exactly where I am now – in bed with the flu. Different flu, but it seems to be trending. Of course, I lost my younger sister this year, and that really sucked. And it also sucks watching the toll that’s taken on my mother as she faces the loss of her child, but life is not all sack cloth and ashes, dammit – this was a good year too. Mostly for small reasons. You know, little things that often go completely unnoticed can mount up and deliver quite a positive punch. All those miscellaneous hugs from grandchildren, for instance, or telling everyone you love them before bed; hearing “I love you” back. Insignificant stuff can just accumulate you right into happiness sometimes, and before you know it, you’re smiling for no reason.

I think this has been a pretty normal year, actually. Life comes packaged with death and sorrow, but it also presents a great deal of the wonderful and the fabulous. I tend not to fixate too long on either side of the spectrum; I try to move on quickly. I like to look for new stuff to think about, and fresh ideas to ponder. I like meeting inventive people with brains and people who understand the deeper realities of life. I especially like spiritual ones, and those who think about things they can’t understand. Weird, I know, but I find folks like that to be more interesting and more life-affirming. I’m sure that’s just me.

So, I expect 2013 to be pretty typical as well – that’ll be okay with me. I don’t require a never-ending flood of spectacular – just some occasional peace and quiet, maybe Duncan Donuts now and then, good pizza, and the continuation of those hugs and kisses from grandchildren. Gotta have those, you know? Maybe a little common decency in Washington would be nice, lower prices on bacon, a Ravens Super Bowl, and I’d really enjoy losing some weight. (Maybe I need to forget the donuts.) But normal or not, I’m glad 2012 is gone – it is definitely time to move on to something new. 2013 seems poised to deliver. For my paranormal friends specifically, I hope everything in your life will be A-class and clear as a bell, and I wish good fortune, peace, and joy for everyone.

Of course, I do have a tiny piece of advice – something from the Beatles, no less. “The love you take is equal to the love you make.” Make some love this year! Any way you want to interpret that is fine with me – it all works, but by all means, do it. Thats all I got. Bury some hatchets, forgive some transgressions, do some good deeds, lift some spirits – you know the kind of things I’m talking about. I know it sounds like some sort of hippie manifesto, or a radical religious creed, but it’s what we do best. We ought to be able to do a lot of “love making.”

Anyway, that’s my advice – take it for what it’s worth; apply that grain of salt. You’ll find me at the donut store, embracing 2013 by the dozen – there’s plenty of time to count calories next year. I say let the goodness begin! Again.

Doomsday Minus One

So I’m sitting in the dark in a $160 a night midwest hotel room that no longer has electricity. I’m in Chicago – ten million light years away from home (by way of Omicron Ceti), and I ask you – when was the last time you, or anyone you know, experienced a blackout at a hotel? There’s no hurricane or impending Lake Michigan tsunami; no raging blizzard, cyclone, forest fire, or foreign attack. They paid the light bill. I suppose it could be an alien invasion, but it doesn’t seem probable – the street lights are working. I think I’d go for them first if I were an alien commander, wouldn’t you?

But it should be obvious, since today is December 20, 2012. The Mayans were off by a day! That’s an acceptable margin of error when you factor in the number of years involved and their lack of technology. I mean no disrespect, but the main thing working against the prediction has always been the fact that… well, they’re Mayans, for god’s sake. Primitives, basically. Tribal people with a predilection for violence and astronomy – no reason to believe they couldn’t be a day off. Personally, I’d understand if they were a whole week off! They didn’t even have bicycles, so why should we expect pinpoint accuracy on a several thousand year old prediction?

So here we are – at the brink of doomsday minus one, and so far, it’s just dark. I guess the rest is on its way and before you know it we’ll feel the earthquakes and the seas will part and John Cusack will be flying over just ahead of the falling buildings… I feel compelled to get this post out there in case there are survivors – kind of my last words before impending doom swallows me whole. There are a couple of things I need to say.

First, to Sally Mae Hornsby, I’m sorry I left you at the alter. I’m not dead (yet) and I never caught an incurable disease from the trip to Africa I never took. Second, I have never gotten over the guilt of voting for John Anderson in 1980. It was a wasted vote – President Carter, forgive me. Third, I should cop to the sad fact that on four occasions, when I was 15, I pocketed the money I was supposed to put in the collection plate at church. I played hookie instead, and didn’t know what to do with the cash. There are no excuses. Fourth, yes I did trade the Willie Mays rookie card, but I was 11 and how was I to know it was worth so much? I should have owned up to it and taken my punishment, but I got 4 cards in return and it seemed like such a steal.

And finally, the hardest thing there is for me to admit to. I never thought it would come to this, but doomsday was always such a myth until now. Reality just bites sometimes, doesn’t it? Wait! Hold on… We’re saved! The lights just came back on. Never mind.

I don’t know what will happen tomorrow – probably doom and gloom all over again and, of course, the end of everything. So who wouldn’t get confused by a massive power issue on the eve of destruction? I mean, it coulda been a day early, right? I suppose the real thing will be a little more dramatic, but sometimes things happen slowly.

Oh come on, people. I knew this wasn’t the end. This is just my strange sense of humor. You know, I’ve never been the same since that horrible disease I caught on the trip to Africa many years ago when I was young. Honest! You know how it is…

Goodbye or Hello?

My sister has passed away – I’ve said my “goodbye.” One day, I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it, but I understand and accept her passing. I may not like it much, but life puts us through such ordeals, and like it or not, we must endure with the hope of somehow becoming better people.

I consider myself to be observant, which is a definite plus when you investigate the paranormal. Of course, I don’t catch everything (does anyone?), but I do pay attention, and I give 100% to the task at hand. In everyday life, I find myself fixating on whatever I can’t readily explain. I seek origin, pattern, frequency, and consistency. I think it’s fair to say I’m “always on,” if you will. Or possibly, I’m nuts.

But nuts or not, ever since my sister’s early demise, the folks in my house have been getting touched – frequently! No one actually says it out loud, but I’ve seen the signs. That certain grab of the arm initiating a scan of the room… It’s as unmistakable as the old tapping on the shoulder when no one is there routine. You know what I mean. You’ve seen it before. “A bug or something must have landed on the back of my neck,” someone says – in December. Repeatedly. “Hey, Ran. did you just touch my leg?”

I didn’t, but I made note of eleven separate events, and I began to wonder whether my sister was behind these sudden, gentle assaults. Never before did this kind of thing happen so often. I found myself chuckling at the absurdity of it all – truly I must have “observed” myself head first off the starboard bow. How silly of me. That is, until I was touched as well. I felt a hand on my shoulder. I felt the unmistakable pressure applied, and a few seconds later, I felt it leave. I was alone in the room, and less than a minute later, I was poked in the side. I swear it was not my imagination, nor the result of a strong, subconscious need to retain contact with my deceased sibling.

I tried to record for EVP but there were no definitive results. There were some strange sounds that seemed to emulate speech; a few odd partial syllables, but nothing I could pinpoint as an actual voice. It was as though someone might be trying to speak, but was unable. Well, I expected there might be some audio appearance by her spirit, but I never once considered she would be poking.

Something definitely touched me, and I firmly believe others with similar claims. Of course, this doesn’t prove a thing, and there’s no way to responsibly make any claims, but I continue to wonder. What could suddenly be causing these frequent occurrences? No, it’s not just normal life misinterpreted. No, the house is not infested with shoulder tapping insects. It is not realistic to think that everyone in my house suffers from the same hyper-sensitive skin, or a similar psychosis.

I don’t know what the hell is going on, but I’m not going to be the one who labels any of this as paranormal. I suppose, it just is what it is. I guess, I have no choice but to laugh it off and marvel at the effectiveness and power of coincidence, but I’m not liking it.

This is one of those stories you tell people right before they make some excuse to leave the room; it’s something one considers not mentioning. But just between us, since it’s happening a lot and just to be safe, I’m going to start saying “hello.”

Please Be Quiet!

I recently found myself arguing the authenticity of a photograph that showed an unexplainable anomaly. I wasn’t present when the photo was taken, but I was afforded the honor of viewing an original, raw file less than an hour later. I don’t want to discuss the details of the analysis here except to say that several individuals were involved, and that no stone was left unturned. Is it possible for experienced, qualified, and knowledgeable analysts to have missed something? Absolutely, but the effort was exhaustive, and consumed a great deal of time.

We were stumped. So was the photographer, and I don’t mind saying that I would sooner believe my dog has a Princeton degree in taxidermy than I would entertain the notion that this man would alter, doctor, or hoax any paranormal evidence – ever! The image cannot be explained, in our opinion. Notice that I have not proclaimed it to be a photo of something “paranormal,” even though, by definition alone, I very well could. Everyone involved with analyzing the original image believes it to be unexplainable.

And yet, years later, I find myself defending this image online. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, because reasonable analysis is always valuable when it comes to paranormal evidence. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. Most of the comments clearly indicated a severe lack of knowledge about cameras, light, photo manipulation, and definitely, the paranormal. One individual even admitted to this lack of intelligence while arrogantly insisting on an impossible explanation. Truth is, not one single dubious comment indicated even the tiniest amount of scholarship.

I wanted to scream! If I had, it would have been something unintelligible, I’m sure, but somewhere in there I would have said, “You can’t comment intelligently if you don’t know anything. Please, be quiet!” And I would have been right. The problem is, however, that I made assumptions. I assumed paranormal investigators would be trained. I assumed they knew the effect of shutter speeds on a photograph, or how to calculate the approximate speed of a moving object caught on film. I assumed they could recognize the difference between infrared and ultra violet. I assumed they understood that voices you hear with your ears are not EVP. I assumed they knew more than how to spell the word “ghost,” but I should know better than to assume anything.

Folks! We can’t do our jobs as investigators, researchers or analysts with nothing more than an appreciation of the paranormal. We’re supposed to know stuff before we investigate. What’s the point of collecting evidence if you haven’t a clue about how to spot it? If you’re going to be skeptical, then have well-considered reasons behind your opinions. I don’t know how else to say this – no one should be allowed membership on a paranormal team without first indicating that you understand the nature of what you’re doing.

Learn about your equipment and methods, study the manuals, master every setting, and fully understand what kind of results you can expect. Learn how to discredit those results from a position of knowledge. Base nothing on feelings, hunches, or probabilities. Be observant and diligent; pay attention to details and subtleties. And if you don’t know what you’re talking about, for God’s sake – for everyone’s sake, please be quiet!

“Other World” Peace

I’m a fairly even-tempered guy. I don’t yell very often or use intimidation to get my way during evidence review. I’m calm during investigations – not excitable, and able to handle fearful moments with reserve and calm. I assume that spirits can hear a normal tone of voice quite easily, and I go out of my way to be respectful and polite. I’m chill and easy to work with (maybe), don’t name call or point fingers in blame – don’t try to evade my responsibilities. Hell, I’m wonderful!

But sometimes I really want to do all those unpleasant things and worse when forced to deal with a puerile investigator. Fortunately, I haven’t had to deal with too many of those over the years. In fact, absolutely no one has aroused these abhorrent feelings within me for a couple of years now.

I think the last time someone ticked me off so much that I wanted to hurt them, was about two years ago. A lady investigator who insisted on changing her point of view with every question during EVP sessions, last did the deed. She didn’t seem to have any idea at all about what to say, so she just blurted out nonsense. I guess it made sense to her, but would you follow up “did you used to live here?” with “were you a good dancer?” I’m not sure why she went there, but it was like that all night, and by the time I was through with her, I was ready to… I didn’t.

Once, an investigator whispered eerily next to a stationary video camera. Instant A-class EVP! Except, this juvenile wasn’t smart enough to remember that the camera part was working as well. He later asked if I’d gotten any EVP on my video camera that night. “Yes,” I said. “And video too.” I won’t work with him again. Every piece of evidence from that camera had to be rejected, but I wanted to inflict pain on the fool.

I’ve not personally had the pleasure, but I’ve seen video of investigators who broke things on site, rooted through dresser drawers, and refreshed themselves via the family refrigerator. I’ve seen them acting like fifth graders on someone’s bed too – complete with obscene gestures. I’ve heard tell of people making out in every dark corner, drinking the client’s whiskey, tracking mud all over the living room carpet, and the creme de la creme – self-gratification in the master bathroom. On camera, no less!

I dunno what species raised these people, but thank God I wasn’t personally privy to any of this behavior. I might already be doing time in The Big House, were that the case. The team I work with is professional – especially when it comes to behavior. Our founder wouldn’t have thought twice about booting someone for this kind of disrespect – right then and there, on the spot. And I’d have been right there with him.

I haven’t seen much of this lately, but I know it still goes on. And it’s troubling! Hopefully, we’ll be able to resist giving in to anger when dealing with these mooncalves and degenerates; hopefully they will consistently be drummed out of the field. I hate to be such a stick in the mud, but by getting rid of this dead weight, we will be doing our part toward achieving “other world” peace. A worthy cause.