Help!

A few years ago, I watched a young woman on tv discuss a rather harrowing personal experience with a spirit she believed to be her deceased former boyfriend. He was an especially horrific young man who beat her and frequently promised to “destroy her,” so regrettably, the only defense she could fathom was to spill his blood while he slept. There was a trial, and remarkably, the young lady emerged a free woman after little more than five years, only to face her tormentor’s ghost on an almost daily basis. I watched as “informed others” suggested it was the onus of murder that haunted her, and that only intense therapy could free such deeply rooted guilt. Still others suggested more time in prayer, Sunday Mass, or the fruitful service of others. I watched, with the millions, as her face broke down. The strain from this new life sentence of daily spiritual battle ripped at her being; persecution from beyond life itself. It was all too much to bear, and she sobbed. She gave in and was defeated.

This is not a particularly common tale, but it is one that touched me significantly, and I clearly remember promising that should I find myself face to face with someone like her, I would be there to help first and ask questions later. I would try somehow to be the difference, even if only by lending an understanding ear or a comforting shoulder. And then time passed and I forgot about her; about all of it, until very early this morning.

Unable to sleep, cigarette in hand, I found myself staring into the 4:00 a.m. freezing blackness of my yard – listening intently as something or someone moved slowly through the leaves closer and closer to my back steps. A fox, perhaps, or a deer? Unfortunately, my senses could only decipher that menacing sound and with it, the certain knowledge something was inching its way ever nearer. I decided this foe in the dark was a man – possibly a vagrant, or worse, some wandering specter of the night. I listened to it reach the bottom of the stairs and stop – the sound of approaching calamity giving way to the beat of my heart, but when the bottom step creaked, I ran. Locking the door behind me, I caught a glimpse of my face in the glass, and saw the same sad trepidation I noticed in that young woman’s eyes so many years before. And I remembered.

The facts of life are difficult enough without facing certain horror from something unknown. For me, the locked door was protection enough – real or imagined, but I wondered how it went for her. I wondered if she still endured attack after relentless revenge-filled attack; whether she is still hopelessly resigned to a life of desperate fright.

It took only twenty-five minutes to find her obituary – she “took her own life” on what was probably a warm summer night, and no mention was made of why. Or how. Only of her crime and sentence; of her parole just three years earlier. She was survived by no one, and I imagine whatever mourning there had been was long since over. So easily forgotten. For a moment or two I just sat there. I could almost see her – trapped in that solitary life, her only companion the tortuous spirit and his unforgiving taunts.

This is my 100th post in The Voices Blog, and I had planned a light-hearted entry about a few of the things I have learned these past months. There was to be some special appreciation for those of you who stop by so frequently; for those who comment; for all who suffer each new attempt at humor or meaning. Some other day perhaps – there is always time for such things. This is, however, a “paranormal” blog, and should represent my personal attempt to make occasional sense of an infinite unknown, so it seems more fitting to tell the story of the young lady on tv instead. Who, in spite of the disintegration of self, was somehow eloquent enough to touch my heart so elegantly. But someone should have helped her.

I am once again reminded of the promise I made that day in front of the tv. It is a good oath to take for those of us who do this work, and I hope I never forget it. I need to be reminded that sometimes things can go very very wrong, and when they do, real people are often in the way. And also, that the smallest choices in life are often prelude to the most difficult challenges, especially if no one is there to help. Help is, after all, the true calling of paranormal investigation. And in spite of all the electro-magnetic forces, infrared cameras, full-spectrum, EVP, and whatever else you can think of, nothing matters if the offer of help is missing.

That’s how I see it. You may disagree, and I accept and respect that. But I ask you… If not to help, then what?
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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.

333

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been waking up at the same time every night – at 3:33 am. At first, this was greatly amusing – I even chuckled aloud once or twice. But then, I began to wonder why, and of course I thought there might be a paranormal connection. What else, right? Oh, I realize how frequently people manage to awaken themselves like this with their own inner clocks, but that’s no fun. Given my proclivity for things paranormal, a supernatural explanation should not be unexpected. You know, I even started to look forward to it.

But last night, as I opened my eyes to the now familiar 333; stood and started on my way to the bathroom; as I reached the bedroom door, something caught my t-shirt and held me back. It was actually difficult to pull away – whatever had me used a lot of force. I checked for nails, small slivers of wood – anything out of the ordinary, and I removed the shirt to search for snags, tears, or whatever. You can imagine – there was nothing. Was this what all these 333 moments were about? Was a spirit preparing me for this small tug of war just to let me know he was there? Was this actually paranormal?

Probably not. You know, I realize that we’re not exactly on top of things in the early morning hours; that we’re groggy when we wake up, and our senses are not to be believed. But this was a hefty pull, and I was awake, dammit! I know many of you might prefer I keep this to myself – why incur further embarrassment. You don’t want to think of me as confused and blindly accepting of such esoteric explanations. But what’s the difference? Something pulled my shirt. In fact, it lasted 3 or 4 seconds before I could break free. Does it matter which explanation suits me more?

It’s not so terrible to believe a spirit has been waking me at 333, and pulled my shirt. Mankind has always believed in things that go bump in the night, so frankly, it seems more normal than a lot of rational explanations based on maybe and what if scenarios. In my little world, I reserve the right to believe this fantasy and unexplained nonsense any time I choose.

I think what gets me; what chafes my thighs the most, is that because of this I have become a sleepwalking, dream-dazed, unaware old man, whose commentary on the things he does is now completely unreliable and specious. I couldn’t possibly be getting it right because I was asleep 5 minutes earlier. It couldn’t be a ghost or a spirit. Really? But why on earth does it matter? Why can’t it be Aunt Sue here to tell me that she’s present? “Because that’s just silly!” Who cares?! I like that possibility. It pleases me to think some spirit – whoever he or she might be, went to all the trouble of tugging on my shirt. I like all the foreplay of waking me up every night at 333. And it’s never going to be explained, so I think I prefer the nonsense explanation to the “walking dead” theory.

Even if I am wrong about this, it will never matter. It’ll just be one more fascinating little piece of life that makes me smile. Forget all the serious stuff, and my betrayal of duty as a modern man in a world full of incredible, but true explanations. When I pass this plane, I’m gonna ask everyone I meet on the other side if they pulled on my shirt and woke me up at 333 every night. I’m gonna ask until I find the guy who did it, and then I expect to smile about it all over again.
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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.

The Conjuring

I was fortunate enough to see an advance screening of The Conjuring last night, and even though I promised never to write a movie review, I’m gonna do it anyway. Since the official release date is July 19, I’ll do my best not to ruin it for you.

Basically, I think I may have witnessed the birth of a classic – the kind of paradigmatic film people recommend 40 years later for all the right reasons. The Exorcist and The Sixth Sense” immediately come to mind, and that’s some pretty lofty company. The Conjuring was just that good for me. It’s one of the best directed films I’ve seen in years, and the lack of CGI effects make the experience even more faithful to reality. Every technical aspect seemed wonderfully flawless to me, and the cast was perfectly selected, but that doesn’t explain why this movie works so well. That comes from its honesty, because this film tears right through your soul.

If you’re a fan of Ed and Lorraine Warren, and who isn’t really, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga do them proud with sensitive, realistic performances that can only add to the Warren legacy. And Lili Taylor was spectacular in my opinion. She righteously communicated the most difficult range of emotions to translate on film – that of growing, gripping fear, without any reliance on melodrama or forced reaction. For my money, Ms. Taylor may have turned in the best performance of her career – never over the top, but always on the edge. The entire cast was impressive, and they did it the hard way, with an obvious dedication to character and old-fashioned acting.

Unlike most modern films, The Conjuring doesn’t try too hard. Theres no window dressing or useless frills; no assaultive shock-value or cheap thrills; no bullshit paranormal mumbo-jumbo – just an unassuming but astonishing story that feels completely genuine every second of the experience. Of course there are moments sprinkled throughout the film that make you jump, but they’re natural without ever being obvious. And The Conjuring certainly doesn’t tone down the creepiness factor, but it never seems forced.

This is basically a throwback film in that it doesn’t rely on gimmicks, illogical horror, or gratuitous violence. Instead, The Conjuring commits to quality of story and just the perfect amount of suspense to seamlessly lead you down the same terrifying path of no return the Perron family is forced to endure. You share their anguish, feel their indescribably damaging and hopeless terror, and suffer every excruciating second along with them. But this film succeeds where so many others fail because it rises above the nonsense and makes you a true believer. I don’t think I spent a single moment questioning either its authenticity or plausibility.

The Conjuring is just very good filmmaking – possibly great. Certainly it is near the top of its genre. This is a must see, and well worth the trip to the theatre. This is what “the movies” are all about.
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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.

Indisputably Worthless

It has been suggested that I write the occasional movie review here on The Voices Blog. Well, it’s true that once upon a time I knew everything there is to know about film, and since I have a BFA in Cinema, I still should, right? But over the years, all the knowledge has slowly drained from my brain into an amorphous lump of unfortunate drivel usually based solely on nothing more than what I like. Since quality is no longer a major concern, I’ve obviously become one of the “great unwashed.”

To help explain this… For me, The Walking Dead isn’t good because of camera angles or point of view; character development is of incidental importance. The rhythm of the editing is meaningless, the acting inconsequential, the special effects of secondary significance, and the underlying definition of the human condition is irrelevant. The Walking Dead is good because there are cool zombies and crazy people. You see? It’s taken a lot of years, but I’ve finally forgotten every last thing I learned in college. When they told me a college education would come in handy, I didn’t think there was an expiration date. It no longer comes in handy.

These days, my usual comments about the films I watch are so pedestrian and personally indulgent that I don’t even enjoy hearing my own opinions as I state them. So, in case you’re still not convinced, here are just ten of the reasons why my opinion on film is totally and indisputably worthless.

1. I have developed an intense hatred for slasher movies. Every time someone gets cut I have to look away. I usually turn to whomever I’m with and say, “This is just stupid. Do you like this crap?”
2. I think “2001: A Space Odyssey” is ground-breaking and seminal, and I still laugh at the instructions for using a zero gravity toilet.
3. When did Monty Python stop making movies? They were just getting the hang of it!
4. I liked “Mama.”
5. I’ve seen “That Thing You Do” 27 times, and I’m not ashamed of it. I want to tell you my favorite part, but it’s too embarrassing.
6. My favorite genre is alien movies. I like ghosts and demons too, but all it takes to get my money is a Gray in his birthday suit.
7. I couldn’t sit through an entire romantic comedy if my life depended on it. Lord save me! Doesn’t matter how much sleep I’ve had the night before, I’m bagging zzzz’s well before that fool decides he can’t live without her. Sometimes I even fall asleep with popcorn still in my mouth.
8. If Bruce Willis is in it, I’m there!
9. I have actually heard myself say, upon occasion, that Tom Cruse is a good actor. When you couple this with the Bruce Willis thing…
10. The whole Jack Sparrow persona still hasn’t gotten old for me.

Watching film is something I do incredibly well – probably because it’s so easy! I do a lot of it too, in one form or another – everything from television shows to movies to footage of my last investigation. I watch it on a big screen tv, iPad, computer, iPhone, and of course, in the theaters. If something has been immortalized on video, celluloid, or digitally mastered, I’m all about it and looking for a front row seat. Problem is, I might know what I like, but I’m no longer certain why. Fortunately, I haven’t lost all semblance of intelligent thought, because I’m smart enough not to attempt a movie review. I wonder what happened to me?
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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.

Physical Evidence

For each of the last three investigations in which I have participated, I’ve returned home sporting a small bruise. Each has been almost identical – on the inside of my upper right arm, smaller than a dime, and circular in shape; very dark at first, but quick to disappear. Folks, these are not major bruises and there has been no pain, itching, burning, or other annoying irritation. (Thanks for your concern, though.) It’s mind-boggling, and I wish I had an explanation.

I’d have taken a photo, but it didn’t seem important until now – three times in a row seems to defy coincidence, doesn’t it? It’s such an unusual occurrence, to say the least, and one would think the investigator in me would have chosen to document it, but frankly, I feel a little silly even mentioning it. So before you jump out of your seat trying to be the first to insist that it’s not paranormal, relax! I’m making no such claims. It’s just so odd, though; doesn’t make a lick of sense; defies all logic, and there’s nothing to make me think it’s related to the esoteric portion of the investigations in question.

But hold on a second. I can’t seem to debunk the darn things. I don’t even know where to begin! It doesn’t come from a camera strap, the clothes I wore, close proximity to chemicals or fire, or the seat belt in my car (which I don’t wear, by the way because that’s just how I roll). I’m reasonably certain a disease is not involved, and the only consistent factor is a proximity with paranormal investigations. This lack of a credible explanation has me stumped, even if there is physical evidence. I don’t bruise easily – never have, so what ever could it be?

Well, some have suggested these bruises are the possible entry points of spirits attempting to temporarily possess me. Uh huh. If it weren’t for evidence discovered in analysis, you wouldn’t even know there was activity at these locations, so I don’t think spirits entered my body and left a bruise. And likewise, I don’t believe they represent a place where a spirit touched me. I also refuse to accept alien abduction as the culprit, or an ectoplasmic allergic reaction, over-exposure to electro-magnetic fields, an outward manifestation of fear, a warning from God, or radiation poisoning from Hell.

I suppose it could be psychosomatic, but logic suggests I’d have chosen something a little more dramatic. A cry for help? I doubt it. A latent need for attention? Please. My absolute favorite suggestion included my wife’s hair iron, a deep sleep, and her subconscious need to inflict revenge of some kind. I assure you, that’s not the case either. She may have good reason, but she’s not spiteful.

However, it did occur to me that this situation is very much like the paranormal in one overwhelmingly obvious way – it’s unexplainable and will probably remain so. Of course, I’ll be ready after the next investigation. Cameras, meters, and a crack team will be poised for installment number four, but I think we all know how it will go down. Much ado will be made and nothing will happen. Just when I’m primed, prepared, well-equipped and full of my “mature” version of youthful exuberance, nothing will show. Skeptics will suggest I made it up, team members will be supportive, and friends will be polite, but I bet these incidents stop at three. Sigh… Here we go again.
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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
Theree Is No Silence by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/U6KY7 Available on Amazon.

Fool’s Gold

My wife and I watched spellbound as a strange, translucent shadow moved back and forth in the hallway outside our bedroom door. It moved inconsistently at about human height, and bore a strikingly similar shape to that of a person. We watched a while, anticipating movement; looking for clues to its identity; commenting on what we thought it might be. Eventually, I got out of bed and proceeded to the only light source available – the crack in my daughter’s bedroom door. Inside, by the glow of a night light, I found a very small balloon dancing about near a fan and reflecting a faint shadow into the hall through the barely open door. End of mystery. Certainly not paranormal, though it looked every inch the part.

Yesterday, my dog was standing in the kitchen waiting for his snack. This was a bit of a shocker, because Oliver was outside, tied up, and barking. How could he be in two places at once? Was he astral projecting? The spirit of his deceased father, perhaps? His doppelgänger? I’m a trained observer, dog-gone-it, and I know what I saw. Clear as a bell, it was. But it wasn’t. I am always amazed at how such hallucinations are possible, but this was a brief sighting, and obviously not an accurate one – my brain somehow found a way to create Oliver’s “second” and make it appear acceptably real.

This is what we face as paranormal investigators – the natural occurrences of normal life can confound us in a heartbeat, and our imaginations will trigger without any perceivable encouragement. How to recognize the validity of our observations (barring audio or video assistance) becomes a major task, because it appears painfully obvious that we’re terrible eye witnesses and simply can’t be relied upon for accuracy. Occasionally, the things we see are more difficult to dispense with – especially when they span more than a few seconds and are seen by more than one person. Other times, our paranormal experiences are fleeting. They find us alone, and while no less real to our senses, present the same problem – how do we differentiate between reality and illusion. Do we stop trusting our eyes and ears? Is this just part of what it means to be human?

Absolutely it is, but this is not a black and white issue – it is ten thousand shades of gray. Seeing my dog where he was not doesn’t deny the existence or the richness of credible paranormal experiences. The weight of one single incident has no bearing on any other. The fact that our minds are capable of manufacturing such visions does not categorically explain or discredit every unexplainable event we encounter. The truth is always found in the middle – between the obvious and the impossible; in spite of belief or doubt. Our job as investigators is to accurately recognize enough of the facts to shed a small light on what is real, while never losing sight of the false or the convincing.

Things paranormal can offer up a frustrating road to travel; can make us appear foolish and gullible, and frankly, will waste our time. The paranormal can be fool’s gold, as it cloaks the truth amid just enough glitter and shine to catch our eye and capture our imaginations. But just because we can be deceived, doesn’t mean we are. Sometimes, there truly is “gold in them thar hills” – buried between the facts and the deceptions. Ya just gotta keep looking, and learn to laugh at yourself along the way.
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Also visit Voices Unplugged at http://voicesblogunplugged.wordpress.com

Definitely Kinda Sorta

I have a problem. I’ve captured video of some thingy that travels unpredictably, is incredibly fast, changes shapes, and casts its own very bright light. I recorded it during a private daytime investigation, so duh… It’s not a bug, flashlight, or car lights. Besides, no one was even in the building. But listen, I know what it’s not – I just don’t know what it is.

At first I was disappointed to see it a second time because that suggested a naturally recurring situation, but everything about it was completely different from the first one, so I labeled both of the anomalies as temporarily unexplainable. Likewise for the third, fourth, and fifth occurrences – each different, and each completely without sensible interpretation. However, by the time number six arrived, I was pretty jaded and with much chagrin, decided that I couldn’t accept any of them as paranormal. Into the proverbial trash with them all.

No, I had to re-evaluate. I knew eventually I would have to discredit the darn things because that’s my job, so I pushed it aside for later and moved on to the final video file. And there it was – number seven. This time, it was the shape and size of a bright orange baseball. I watched transfixed; spellbound and incredulous, as it moved up the stairs casting a soft, golden glow on the far wall of the stairwell. Basically, I just stared at the screen – fully awake and focused – watching it take the shape of a perfect orb, and slowly float away.

Wait. An orb? Oh Lord, not an orb! I don’t believe in orbs. Not even a little bit. In order for me to believe in an orb it would have to introduce itself verbally and sit in my hand while singing Handel’s Messiah and juggling. Orbs are never paranormal, dammit! And that’s final. But I dunno what this is! It was round just that once, which suggests I can probably avoid the word “orb,” so I’m calling it a light anomaly. But just because I don’t know what the phenomenon is, doesn’t mean I don’t know what I think, and I definitely kinda sorta don’t think it’s paranormal. Am I just being stubborn? I prefer prudent, cautious, and sensible, but if that’s so, then why does it feel so wrong? Well, it’s one of those things, right? Sometimes it doesn’t matter how unexplainable something appears to be, ya just can’t call it paranormal. Sometimes you just suck it up and try to muddle through.

But why? Am I actually going to ignore this just because it’s an orb? I could have been wrong all these years. Orbs might actually be paranormal. Not the silly ones that supposedly have faces and only happen at the exact same moment as lens flare, of course, but what kind of investigator refuses to recognize evidence just because it differs from his “other” world view? Either this is real or it isn’t – there’s no middle ground here. But an orb? Sigh… I’d have preferred a tap dancing T-Rex.

Well, I’ll be okay – don’t worry about me. I’ll just do a lot of shoulder shrugging and say things like, “I dunno what it is. What do you think?” My reputation will stay in tact; my credibility will come back. There’s nothing to fret about because it is sooo not an orb, but then what is it? Okay, I know. I get it! It’s a light anomaly, and there’s an explanation out there somewhere. I’ll figure it out. Geeez… Why me?
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Also visit Voices Unplugged at http://voicesblogunplugged.wordpress.com/