Dead Departed Deceased

Last couple of months have been tough! I’ve been surrounded by death itself or impending death. Half a dozen good friends have passed – two folks I knew from school, a couple of old work buddies, and two ladies in the neighborhood. Add to this 4 co-workers of my wife’s, and it’s been a rather serious autumn. My mother is hanging on for dear life at 97, I have a very sick aunt, and we know of two terminal cancer victims. But I’m not finished yet. Several friends have lost parents, a couple of businesses have failed, old people I know keep falling, and a car accident did some unfortunate damage to three friends of the family. There. That’s it. But what’s next?

Frankly, I haven’t felt much like writing or even talking about the paranormal because so much of it is centered around death, and I’ve had my fill! I just want all this doom and gloom to pass and stay as far away from me as possible. It kinda feels like I could be next, ya know? I’m not immune. I’m already older than several of the recently departed, and I don’t like the odds. Normally I wouldn’t worry about such things but today could be “the” day, ya know? My standard outlook on life isn’t typically dark and gray; I’m not afraid ghouls will take over my brain or that zombies will eat it, but there are no guarantees. There have been 199 Friday 13th’s since I was born, so what might number 200 have in store? A marauding bus on the rampage? An escaped convict with a 38? I could get food poisoning at my local fast food giant – it happens. Anything can happen for that matter, and you know I’m right!

Luckily, it hasn’t yet. I’m still well, and I promise to never leave the house without a month’s supply of nitro pills. But even though life’s good fortune is still with me, I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit that it’s been remarkably depressing. I don’t even like watching the news. Last week, a one year old boy was killed by some idiot crashing into a cop car (which, in turn, hit the boy). He’d just learned how to walk. And this whole ISIS thing doesn’t improve my desire to leave the house any time soon. Republicans don’t seem to be getting any better with important facts, and my recently merged bank has cost me around 500 big ones.

So who cares about ghosts and specters and aliens and furry creatures that look like blood sucking dogs and Bigfoot tracks in the garden? Truth is, no one has the inclination to care about such things when real life is so scary, but I’m trying to get my priorities back in whack. Maybe Thanksgiving will help. Christmas cheer might possibly do the trick. A few hot toddies never hurt a playa…

But all this death and stuff happens to everyone at some point in life, so why should I escape unscathed? We all lose loved ones and close friends, and we all know people going through the same thing. The number of people in my mother’s life who have died is staggering – there’s literally almost no one left. It is the way things happen; part of the cost of a long and healthy life is to watch everything around you become deceased.

In her life, she’s witnessed 24 presidential elections and 48 blue moons. It is estimated she has laughed over 600,000 times during that time, and had approximately 200,000 different dreams. There have been in excess of 305 billion lightning strikes since the day she was born and every one of them missed her, while over 4.5 trillion chickens have been killed in the name of dinner. The actuarial table of her estimated life expectancy bottomed out quite some time ago – it currently predicts her death will occur “today.” So what the heck do I have to complain about? I’ve still got 944 Saturdays left, or so they say. We’ll see, of course, but there’s plenty of time for the paranormal. Or maybe it just doesn’t matter all that much.
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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.

Dear Brunhilda

“Oh my God! Where have you been? Don’t tell me you’ve stopped writing in The Voices Blog!” No,
Brunhilda (a fan, no doubt) I’ve just been very busy. “Busy? Surely there’s time to scribble a few lines once in awhile.” Alas, no! Since my last entry here, I’ve been on vacation, increased the time with my 96 year-old mother, entered into a numbingly rigorous physical therapy regime, and been saddled with an entire renovation of the second floor. Of course, there have been quite a few investigations as well, which means endless hours of boring black and white infrared video to watch. Plus, I’m old now – very very old, so be gentle, whippersnapper!

There just hasn’t been very much of a paranormal nature to write about, but as I settled in for today’s 4-minute nap, I realized I’ve actually had a lot to say – I just haven’t said it. I might have forgotten there even was a blog; it may have escaped my addled mind completely for some awful reason. Can’t blame it on the heat. We conveyed the grass-cutting duties to someone named Buzz. War hasn’t devastated the community. There’s been no alien abductions in the family, and I’m fairly certain I still possess the necessary faculties to actually make a blog entry.

Then perhaps my brain has gone soggy watching all that mindless video. Even though I’ve been spreading it out to avoid the creation of a permanent blank stare, there could be other effects I’m unaware of – colorless eyes, black and white nightmares, attempting to pause and rewind life itself… Viewing investigation footage is more of a commitment than most people realize, and more demanding than a family ever is. I mean, you can’t imagine how many tons of dust I’ve watched fly through the air, or the insane amount of bugs that live in people’s homes. Infrared cameras don’t miss much, and after awhile, I just wanna clean stuff. I can’t see all the nastiness with my eyes, but I know it’s there.

Of course, even though watching investigation footage is like waiting for bark to dance, there’s always the spectacular possibility that you’ll see something unimaginable along the way. Some other-worldly event; an apparition, perhaps – something totally unexplainable and completely not relatable to anything human. And it’s like a drug, kinda, because once you’ve witnessed something, the possibility is always there with each new investigation. I’ve been blessed to have seen something a few times, so I’m irreparably hooked.

So, what have the infrared gods shown me this summer? What have I discovered that was worth the sacrifice of all my free time, sleep time, 4-minute nap time, and quality time with my long-suffering family? Well, nothing really. “Oh come on. Surely you’ve seen something – some anomalous blob or maybe just a little mist. An orb!” Nope. I’ve got something really “cool” on the thermal imager and loads of EVP, but nothing on infrared, full spectrum, or visible light video. It’s been rather unrewarding but also quite exciting in a bizarre sort of way. The Law of Averages being what it is, I’m due to see something again soon, and the suspense is killing me.

I mean, that’s how it goes, right? Results just pop out of nowhere. You’ve been staring at the same ugly carpet and antiquated furniture for hours and all of a sudden, there it is – the holy grail of paranormal evidence. A few, brief seconds of something no one could ever explain, and then it’s gone forever – you’re back to staring at the same atrocious carpet and furniture. But, for those few moments of glory… God forgive me if I ever look away and miss it. 

So, sorry Brunhilda. I meant to tell you all about it, but trust me – my number is due and I can just feel it. I’ll have something to write about real soon, assuming I can stay awake. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to throw some Prussian Blue at a wall.

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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.

“Nothing Here”

I am always amazed when we walk away from an investigation under the opinion that there’s “nothing here.” It’s pretty rare to arrive at such a conclusion so early in the process, but sometimes you can’t help it. The house is neat and tidy, the family is close, there are no unusual noises, bumps, footsteps or bangs. The location seems to be a well balanced, peaceful place. “Nothing out of the ordinary here. This house is clean.”

Still, I always handle a paranormal investigation as a total believer – every one of the client’s claims are true for me, and with good reason, I think. First, by automatically accepting spirit to be present, I have a better chance of actually hearing or seeing one. Second, without evidence one way or the other, a client feels better thinking you are a total supporter. After the data has been gathered, the experiences logged, and analysis completed, there is plenty of time to decide whether spirits were present or not. Unfortunately, more often than not, we come up empty.

But what does that say about the client? Are they simply mistaken? Stupid or crazy? Surely, most people are smart enough to know that ice machines make a racket; that an AC unit is noisy throughout the day. They even realize that sometimes people think they’re hearing voices when in fact, they aren’t. There are house noises, creaky floorboards, and faulty wiring. Most of the clients I’ve dealt with are just normal people who have long ago eliminated these “easy explanations,” and they’re not overly imaginative or prone to outlandish exaggeration. Most clients are honest, concerned people who truly think something is wrong with their life or their space, and they’ve asked us for help.

They open their homes to us; extend hospitality – trust us alone with their worldly goods. They put their fears and sleepless nights – their faith – into what they hope are “professional,” capable hands. In other words, they give us the total respect they deserve in return. Sometimes the stories they tell are just horrific – the children are being bothered by a shadow man every night; someone has tried to push mom down the stairs; you can hear footsteps walking the halls… Sometimes it’s even worse, and they don’t know where to turn.

So how do we tell them that the evidence doesn’t support a single claim? Obviously, there are ways to guild the Lily well enough to soften the blow, and honestly, just because nothing happened while we were there doesn’t mean it never has, but is that salvo enough to actually help? Probably not. They hope for definitive answers; an end to their personal horror. Maybe they just need to verify things for no other reason than to assure themselves of their own sanity. Sometimes knowing you’re right gives you the strength to live with the paranormal.

It must be difficult to hear “we found nothing while we were here.” That’s a truth we have to tell, but the hard reality of such a statement doesn’t absolve us of our duty to believe them. Paranormal things do not parse well with actual science, so our observations and data analysis seem rather hollow when the children are still being frightened by the man with the mean face in their closet. We may not have found him, but it seems completely reasonable for him to hide from us. The question becomes “what other approaches can we take?”

We have to keep in mind that our empirical findings, or the lack thereof, are not the end all and be all. Evidence isn’t proof of spirit anyway, and the lack of it doesn’t prove the client is wrong. Our efforts to help them do not end when we come up empty-handed – instead, that’s when they begin. And just because there’s “nothing here” doesn’t mean there isn’t.

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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.

That Just Stinks

I need a break – from life in general, actually. It’s getting tough out there! You know what I mean, and I bet I’m not the only one who feels this way from time to time. “But a break from life? Isn’t that a little overly dramatic?” Well yes, but occasionally it feels as if something better change soon or I’ll awaken one day buried up to my receding hairline in the psychic debris modern existence keeps creating.

Of course, I’ll get through it. Like almost everyone else, I’ll pull my beleaguered brain out of the permafrost of life and back to normalcy before I become just another senseless victim. (Yes, the drama continues.) But I ask you, haven’t we all been here at least once? For instance, there’s never enough money and always too many expenses. Sound familiar? The cost of bare essentials rises faster than the Atlantic Ocean on a global warming binge. I used to think I was one of “the smart ones,” believe it or not – that just maybe I could rely on intelligence and accumulated knowledge to get me through this slag heap of a life I’m mired in. Okay, I’m exaggerating as well as over-dramatizing, but that’s how it feels sometimes, right? You’ve been there, so don’t even try to deny it.

Do you smell a list coming? I haven’t done one in awhile, but this one contains no complaints about the blight of existence; no cutesy attempts at humor. This is just a list of random “stuff” I learned this week – diversions from reality; things that don’t do anyone any good, have no real value, and make no promises to alter existence one iota. I mean, who doesn’t want to know that there are more dogs in Paris than people? Or that the average elephant weighs less than the tongue of a blue whale? 

This may not be important stuff, but it’s still cool. This list of useless facts is a guaranteed diversion from the quagmire you’ve created for yourself as well as the long-suffering folks who love you. It’s a public service! Oh who am I kidding? I found this stuff in a book and it made me smile for a few lousy minutes, so here are ten things you never thought about before (for obvious reasons) and will probably want to share with others. Did you know that…

1. Like plants, children grow faster during spring than any other season.

2. A typical toilet flushes in the key of E flat.

3. The square most commonly landed on in the game of Monopoly is Illinois Avenue. (“Go” ranks second.)

4. The first stolen car was reported in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1905.

5. The king of diamonds in a standard card deck is designed after Julius Cesar. The king of spades is for King David; clubs for Alexander the great; and hearts for Charlemagne.

6. At any time, 0.7% of the world’s population is drunk.

7. When the first McDonald’s opened in 1955, a hamburger sold for 15 cents.

8. Brussels sprouts are the most hated vegetable in America.

9. The fastest nonstorm related wind ever recorded was 231 mph at Mount Washington, New Hampshire, in April 1934.

10. Breast reduction is the fifth most popular plastic surgery procedure for men.

Now maybe you already knew a couple of these, but admit it – you’re sorry there aren’t more of them, right? I promise to share more the next time I’m on the verge of going stark, raving mad. But here’s something to think about until then – National Bathroom Reading Week is always the second week in June. Missed it again, didn’t you? Well, that just stinks.

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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.

Fist Bump

Whenever I watch Ghost Hunters, which hasn’t been for awhile now, I typically cringe when they do the fist bump at the end. For some stupid reason it just annoys me. I don’t remember when my fist bump hostility began, but one evening I found myself in the middle of a tirade. My wife, who would rather not watch the show at all, remarked that if I hated it that much, I should stop watching. “It’s just the fist bump!” I said, completely flabbergasted. “That’s all!” Geeez! I mean, it’s such a small thing, right? I keep all of that to myself now, of course, but I confess, for some reason it’s like fingernails on a chalk board to me. Indeed, when Grant left the show, I was sure the ritual would go with him. It didn’t.

But this morning I accidentally discovered a video lampooning the series, and I’m ashamed to admit I watched just to see if the fist bump would make an appearance there as well. Fittingly, at the end, it did. Now I have to say that watching Ghost Hunters wander through the dark to a soundtrack of fart noises wasn’t particularly amusing to me, and that was the only punchline in this parody. Maybe it’s my age, but when I hear the sound of passed gas, it conjures unpleasant memories, so I rarely find it humorous. Plus, Jason and the team represent something to me that has nothing to do with flatulence, so it just didn’t strike me funny. 

There must not be any respect left in the world, because surely they deserve better than that. Until it comes to that damned fist bump. I am frankly embarrassed at how easily that part entertained me. Not enough to replay it more than three times, but if one stupid laugh is what the satirists we’re going for, they eventually got mine, I’m sorry to say. 

Unfortunately, Ghost Hunters has always been susceptible to this kind of thing. For some reason, people like to analyze every second of every show – searching for fakery and staging, mostly, but also as fodder for the kind of sub-standard satire I witnessed today. And it’s a shame, because the program has had a tremendous impact on a lot of people. I won’t go on and on about it, but it’s almost impossible to successfully disregard the contribution of the show, whether as a catalyst for increased paranormal awareness, or as a primer for the millions of us who wanted to follow in their footsteps. Ghost Hunters is seminal, and represents the first sincere attempt to share anything seriously paranormal with the masses. 

In the beginning, the show was earth shattering, beloved, and highly valued but I guess it’s all come down to this sort of windy twaddle now, so I feel kinda guilty about the whole fist bump thing. After all, what would I have preferred in its place – a full embrace; a chug of Hennessy in the front seat of the van; congratulations over a giant, dovetailed doobie? 

Well, I understand the value in being free to make fun of our own culture, and I appreciate the talent it takes to do so successfully. Satire is not an easy form of humor to deliver, and someone is always going to be insulted, but fart noises? Really? I think I heard Louis C.K. once say that all fart jokes are funny. Maybe they are, but I wasn’t laughing this time. I just felt a little sad. Until it came to the fist bump, of course. I think that makes me some kind of a hypocrite, doesn’t it?
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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.

Denial

Over the past month, I’ve written and trashed several different blog entries. Each one fell unceremoniously by the wayside for a number of different reasons – boring, too self-indulgent, pretentious, overly political, and the blog has gone seemingly dormant as a result. Basically, I didn’t feel comfortable making any of those efforts public, so I may have saved you from some horrible writing about some horrendous topics. No applause necessary, just throw money…

Of course, I have always suspected that blogs in general are little more than emotional regurgitation – just a different kind of “selfie,” so why not flood the Internet with them; let the masses figure out what to do with them. Seems fair, I guess, in this new digital age. What used to be “quality first” has obviously changed – we emphasize quantity these days. Everyone appears to fancy themselves a writer and it’s so easy now to actually live the dream, that we are bombarded with page after page of horrid, self-aggrandizing, ego-inflating literary excrement – often in the form of a blog.

Uh oh. That makes me part of the problem, not part of the solution. That means there’s a high statistical probability that every word I’ve crafted here has been complete garbage. I don’t like that thought one little bit, and I’ll probably go into immediate denial about my own culpability in the furthering of this world-wide literary crisis. However, it should be obvious to anyone with a brain exceeding that of a toddler that entries here are painstakingly forged; that each word in every phrase is chosen carefully to extract just the right amount of pathos within the reader; that every subject discussed is fascinating and life-affirming… I could go on, you know – more superlatives are right on the tip of my tongue.

But deep down, I know it’s all just nonsense. Very little (if anything) separates my work from anyone else’s, and I could moan and groan about it until I passed this mortal coil, but at the end of the day, what am I actually gonna do about it? What are we all going to do? Surely I’m not the only blogger here, right, so the odds are high that many of us are going to be sharing the blame, and that includes you. “I’m not taking this rap alone, Rocky – if I go down, I’m taking you with me!”

I think we need to start by flipping things back to normal – quality over quantity once again. Who cares whether this is post number 900 if the reader has to endure cerebral torture or psychological torment? After all, do we really think anyone cares how we feel about all these things? We have to be better stewards of the words we choose; should resist sharing those moments of pure anger or ecstasy, and recognize them for the psychopathic, mental masturbation they truly are. 

But who am I kidding? By the time I pen my next entry, I’ll have either forgotten about all of this, or convinced myself that I am somehow exempt – free to continue my personal psychiatric experiment in text with the reassurance that my efforts are both interesting and significant. I suppose it’s possible any one of us could be an exception. There might be a Hemingway among us, or the next Dickens, or this generation’s answer to Hunter S. Thompson – hidden out there somewhere in the pseudo-intellectual soup. 

When I was a child, someone told me that if we provided monkeys with typewriters, eventually one of them would type the Bible word for word. I realize that statement was part of a science lesson – an example of probability or something, but still, what would monkeys do with computers, tablets, and smartphones? I wonder. Look at all we’ve accomplished so far, and we’re not even monkeys. So… On with the show, I guess. Whatever comes next should be better.
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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.

Soul to Soul

“That team is better because they have more equipment.” Not! Still, imagine for a second that quality paranormal research and investigation actually does hinge on possessing an abundance of gear. More is better. Bigger is better! Where have I heard that kind of thinking before? How discouraging…

Well, I guess a large library with a gazillion books is better than a small one. Assuming they’re quality books, of course – not just limited to bad romance novels and every Atlas known to mankind. It’s also probably true that a large urban medical group with dozens of specialists is more effective than old Doc Brown (third barn on the left), unless all those specialists are graduates of the Mozambique Academy of Archery and Medicine. That changes the perspective a bit. And certainly all those painters of motel wall art can’t be bad, right?

I still cry hogwash. More equipment does not mean a paranormal team is better. How many laser grids does one need? “Anyone want a FLIR? I’ve got two!” The first paranormal team I was associated with was anything but overly equipped and we managed to capture more evidence than any team I’d heard of, so you’ll never convince me that results have anything to do with how much really cool stuff you’ve got. But there are reasons our team’s investigations were fruitful, and it’s the same for every working paranormal team that succeeds. 

At the top of the list is using your resources wisely. Keep your equipment in working order, know when and how to use it, and understand that these wondrous devices are tools – it’s you who is doing the investigating. Pay attention to your surroundings and above all else, react to what you see and hear. Learn how to follow your core instincts, and don’t be afraid to go in the wrong direction. Be respectful and understanding of those whose environment you may be invading. And certainly not last or least, be as thorough as you can.

Investigating is actually a very dynamic situation – it becomes an entity of its own, and investigators feel their way through like the notes of a song in search of the melody. We become part of the darkness; a breeze in the wind, if you will. We are the peaceful representatives of the living world in a place where life may just be relative. We are ambassadors. “Yeah yeah, wax poetic, old man. A breeze in the wind indeed!” Well, overly hyperbolic or not, none of any of that requires even one piece of equipment. Investigation starts with the humanity of the individual, I think, and success doesn’t hinge on the lux of one’s IR bullet camera.

The team that spends its time bragging about their equipment, probably has their priorities out of line – a fairly understandable statement to make, I think. But what does that say about those of us who assume it makes them better? Not very much, I’m afraid. One doesn’t hire a surgeon for the number of scalpels he owns. His knowledge, creativity, and skill are better reasons. Why should it be any different with paranormal teams? Then again, I’d love to walk through a location armed to the teeth with every possible scientific apparatus available, but then how much time would I spend investigating? Equipment has its place – no doubt, and if used properly, can provide the evidence we all so covet, but I’ve always believed spirit communication is best achieved soul to soul. Equipment isn’t part of that equation.

I’m not saying less is best, or that a highly equipped team is automatically lacking – certainly, we need “things” to do our job, but most of today’s paranormal devices can’t prove a thing; won’t provide a shred of actual evidence. What we really need are well-trained, highly motivated investigators in whose hands to place all that equipment, and even then there are no guarantees.

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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.