Downside

There’s an upside and a downside to everything. You can’t have one without the other – like good and evil, beautiful and ugly, smart and stupid. You know how it works – if you don’t have one, how do you define the other? So, the downside of researching anything paranormal begins when people outside the field expect you to have answers. Most of my responses have to begin with “I have no idea,” because I don’t. Occasionally, I feel a little bit like a terminally ill patient being asked to conjure a cure. In both cases, a non-committal shrug seems appropriate.

“So, don’t you think it makes sense that…” Well, I guess so, but it’s a little more complicated than that. “Maybe everyone is a sensitive and we just don’t know it.” Maybe so, but if literally no one knows it, how would we be? And why do so many people want to be sensitive anyway? “Ghosts only show up at 3:00 am, right? How come?” Do they? I don’t actually see a lot of ghosts – almost never, but I think it can happen any time. “As long as it’s dark, then?” Good grief, I don’t know!

There’s so much more that I don’t know than I do, and the more experience I gain, the truer that seems to be. It’s not like being a mechanic or a doctor. There are no paranormal carburetors to fix, or broken bones to set, and you can go years without any results whatsoever. I cringe when their interrogations begin because I can see the expectation in their faces. Surely I must know something I can share with them; some other-worldly secrets; some kind of scoop on where the dearly departed have gone.

What they want, I think, are lots of really good, provably true ghost stories. Like the one where the old man walks the halls with an ax every night and watches the children sleep, or how the beautiful heiress meets her dead lover once a year in dreams. (It could happen!) I mean, why would anyone do this kind of research if there’s no payoff, right? It doesn’t make sense to keep coming up empty-handed time after time. Which means I’m either a terrible researcher, enjoy wasting my time, am unwilling to share, or I’m incredibly stupid. Hmmm… I wonder which one fits?

I often try to answer the questions with one of my own – “What do you think?” This usually results in some crazy scenario that I then feel compelled to deflate – out of professional pride, of course. Well, I can’t let them think deceased family members are turning into demons on the other side, or that when someone dies in the house it automatically becomes haunted. It’s a vicious circle! I have no answers, but I better come up with something, or else… Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mind sharing what I’ve learned, and offering a theory or two is certainly not beneath me, but the bottom line is always the same – I know a lot more about what is not paranormal than what actually is paranormal.

The other day, an old friend called me full of questions, and I had absolutely nothing to tell him. “Well, you don’t know anything,” he finally said – incredulously. Oh, we know a lot, I told him – we just don’t know anything conclusive. There’s not very much we can prove. “Let me know when you figure it out,” he snarked. “Okay?”

Sure thing! I’ll get right on that. Whatever happened to “How’s the family?”
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Also visit Voices Unplugged at http://voicesblogunplugged.wordpress.com/
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Voices From Forever by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/ZBBmj Available on Amazon
There Is No Silence by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/U6KY7 Available on Amazon.

Just Around the Corner

The young man was despondent. It was 1933 and times were tough for everyone, but for some, that point of no return was always just around the corner. When he lost his job that fateful and bitter Friday evening – just 3 days before Christmas, he had turned that corner and found himself staring blindly into a limitless and hopeless abyss. It was The Depression – a constant storm of human desperation, and his spirit was crushed; there were no options.

Rumor has it that his youngest had wondered aloud if Santa would still come, so it must have been with a heavy heart that he dove out the second floor window just two days later – head first; fragile skull on tough Pennsylvania slate. It didn’t look like a suicide. Steps were taken – a ladder was nearby, and it gave all the appearance of an accident. No one questioned the wisdom in paying the death benefits, because the lone witness claimed to have been asleep. “The sound was louder than expected,” she would say years later. “It was a horrible sight, but he did not suffer. I wish I could have helped.” With her silence, she did.

Ever since, he has been seen from time to time on Christmas Eve. Always in navy wool coat and white collarless shirt; always with a tip of the cap or a friendly nod; always standing on the slate sidewalk that runs between the houses. Stories say he smiles as he greets you, but not to linger long, he quickly vanishes into the dark.

I saw him once – just thirty years later. It is an old Swiss tradition that St. Nicholas comes on Christmas Eve, so our tradition had the family gather in the kitchen behind closed doors to await his arrival, while someone slipped away to the basement to supposedly add coal to the fire. In 1963, that was me. Once in the basement, I was to exit through the storm cellar, and re-enter through the front. Then, ringing bells the entire time, I was to fling open the parlor doors, and quickly retrace my steps unnoticed.

But that year, the return trip was different, as there he was waiting between the houses. Only partially visible in the shadows, seemingly part of the air and falling snow, I saw his face clearly as he beamed a broad smile, tipped his cap and turned to walk away. I watched him slowly glide down the sidewalk and fade into nothing. By the time I eventually completed my task, the children were already opening presents – well into the celebration.

“What took you so long?” My grandmother asked, and so I recounted the incident. “That was just Richard,” she chuckled, patting my shoulder. “He used to rent the back house. He was just passing through. Everything is fine.”

It was some years later that I finally heard the complete tale of the young man in the back house; of his family and his demise. And as near as I can tell, the truth will die with my mother and I. For others, this is just a story that may or may not be true, but I have seen him, and I know. I like to think that when I am gone his secret will go with me, and he will be free to leave his past behind. No more cold, lonely Christmas Eves on the slate; an end to his hopeless, limitless abyss. Peace, perhaps – finally. Hopefully. I like to think that. And I know it’s not the time for stories of Christmas, but then again, it is just around the corner.
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Also visit Voices Unplugged at http://voicesblogunplugged.wordpress.com/
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Voices From Forever by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/ZBBmj Available on Amazon
There Is No Silence by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/U6KY7 Available on Amazon.

Night Vision Green & Infrared Splendor

Sometimes, I take great pleasure criticizing the paranormal television shows. I like to question techniques, poke fun at personalities, and laugh at the wardrobe choices – the list is long. I enjoy ranting and raving about that which runs contrary to my own practices and experience, but admittedly, I still watch as many of these programs as I can. Gathering more grist for the criticism mill? More easy targets for yet another unkind remark? No, I just like watching them.

I know that much of what we see is staged – or worse, and when things do appear to be credible, I am aware that they probably are not. I’ve been on more than enough real investigations to know what’s up, and I’ve poured over enough evidence to have confidence in what I finally present, so most of what I see on these shows is old hat to me now. It’s certainly true that at this point, I’ve probably surpassed the threshold of what I can learn from them. So again, why watch? Again, because I like them.

Let’s be honest. Almost every one of us currently doing anything within the paranormal field owes a debt of gratitude to these ghost hunters. Jason and Grant threw open the doors, while Zak and the boys dragged us in. Our fascinations may have been lying dormant in the heap of millennial culture, but these early shows taught us that it was okay to act on them. For all of us who wondered if there really were people who studied the paranormal; who secretly wanted to join that team, paranormal tv showed us that it was not only possible, but doable.

Their contribution to popular culture is unquestionable, but the legacy they’ve left us, their professional progeny, is priceless. They’re the reason we do the things we do, and hopefully we’ve taken their techniques and innovations and improved on them. Hopefully we value the culture of their work highly enough to expand upon it; take it seriously enough to understand that our own contributions can only build upon theirs. Maybe that’s why I feel such a strong sense of betrayal whenever I find fault, or have a laugh at their expense. Because I owe them.

I remember watching a 2004 episode of Ghost Hunters (my first) that included a chair moving on its own in an attic. That episode has since been questioned for its authenticity, but at the time, I literally leaped to my feet to get closer to the screen. I had just started my EVP research and was feeling kinda dumb about the whole thing. I questioned everything about it – including my own sanity, but that singular moment gave me hope. It instantly expanded my paranormal horizons and showed me that there might just be as much to it all as I thought. In a way, that one episode gave me the strength to continue, and as with all truly cathartic moments in life, changed me forever.

But it wasn’t real, you might say – possibly disingenuous. It doesn’t matter, because it moved me. It propelled me head first into a field of study that has taught me more about myself; about life in general, than I ever could have hoped for, and like some modern parable, it was inspirational. I remember standing there, watching that small clip of video, and knowing that not only could I continue, but that there was value in doing so.

So, gratitude is definitely called for, I think. Respect, appreciation, and admiration as well – for all the obvious reasons, but also for opening my eyes and ears; for awakening a side of my spiritual self that was truly going to waste; for challenging the fear within and transforming it into knowledge. And to all those trailblazers – especially those guys on tv decked out in night vision green and infrared splendor, much love. I don’t know where I’d be without you, but I’m glad I’m not there.
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Also visit Voices Unplugged at http://voicesblogunplugged.wordpress.com/
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Voices From Forever by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/ZBBmj Available on Amazon
There Is No Silence by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/U6KY7 Available on Amazon.

Demons

You know, sometimes this paranormal world I’ve attached myself to really gets me frazzled. It’s difficult to put my finger on, but I’m frequently tempted to simply disappear from “the scene” – never to be heard from again. I don’t know where it comes from, or even why – I just know that it comes on me when I least expect it.

Everybody sees demons – maybe that’s where this originates. It’s an obvious exaggeration, but if everyone I’ve met who claimed to be besieged by demons actually was, I’d be hiding beneath the alter in a monastery. There’s a demon epidemic! And silly me, I have yet to meet one after all this time and all these investigations. I’m sans diablo, and frankly, I’m not sure how I feel about that. I hate being left out of things.

Or maybe it’s other investigators. Specifically, the photos of super cool paranormal groups threaten my lucidity. You know, the ones with creatures on their matching shirts and that “I’m a rock star look.” Rock stars in search of demons, no doubt. (See, they’re everywhere.) “Fred, remember that time you wrestled with Satan?” Now don’t smile. Click. I think I may have developed an inexplicable intolerance of useless posturing. It’s just that I keep wondering if these folks are good for the field, or whether they’re what’s wrong with it.

What a crappy attitude I have, right? But it might not be my fault entirely. Maybe the paranormal tv shows are a contributing factor. The Celebrity Ghostly Fear Encounters kind of show. You know, where everyday people are dragged into the Old Mill by the local Bad Boys from the previous paragraph? Or Famous Dave recalls his summers in the Adirondacks with a family of… demons? I especially love the one where the local soccer mom photographs an indistinguishable blob and proudly announces that she alone has “the proof that ghosts are real.” God bless her. Where’s a demon when you really need one?

I swear. If I hear the word “debunk” one more time this week… In fact, there are lots of words that really need to take a short sabbatical from my life. Too much orbs, footsteps, ghost boxes, poltergeists, evil entities, and feelings. If you’re inclined to suggest out loud, in my presence, that a spirit should “make himself known” to you, you may want to duck. You won’t have to debunk the origin of that flying Mel-meter. And I say it time and time again – stop yelling, the spirits can hear you!

So, okay – we’ve established that it’s my attitude at fault here. And I’m sorry! I’m probably just going through something. But I’m not gonna quit “the biz” and take up needlepoint or southwestern cooking. I guess I just need a break from the nonsense – including the demons. I know things will still be the same when my brain gets back – the Rock Stars will still be wrestling with Satan, Demonic Infestation Syndrome will still be running rampant, TV shows that used to serve as resources will remain stupid, and paranormal buzz words will rattle through my head like some possessed game of pong, but what the heck!

I’ll still have my EVP, right? I think they make more sense anyway, and they never even mention demons. What happened to good ole investigations? You know what I mean? Am I getting old?
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Also visit Voices Unplugged at http://voicesblogunplugged.wordpress.com/
______________________________________________________________________
Voices From Forever by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/ZBBmj Available on Amazon
There Is No Silence by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/U6KY7 Available on Amazon.