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.

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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/
______________________________________________________________________
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.

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/

The Sixth Sense

The sixth sense exists. It’s real, there is proof, and I’ve seen it in action. It’s not as strong as our other senses, of course, which is why most of us are not aware of it, but it’s there – absolute, undeniable, and statistically provable.

The experiment goes something like this… Put two curtains in front of a person and let them know that behind one is a photo of something. It could be anything – a rabbit, a family of four, ball bearings; doesn’t matter. Behind the other curtain, there is nothing. Now choose which curtain hides the photo. Sounds like a 50/50 proposition, doesn’t it? It is. On average, people get it right half the time. We’re obviously guessing, and the laws of probability rule the day.

Now replace the random photo with a picture of something erotic, and repeat the experiment. Miraculously, the erotic photo is discovered 53 percent of the time – consistently. Is that because we’re a sex obsessed species? Well, yes, as a matter of fact. Over the millennia, we’ve had to survive varying degrees of a harsh environment, and the key to our survival has been the ability to successfully reproduce sufficiently enough to continue as a viable species. When faced with the promise of something so vital to our subconscious need to exist, our sixth sense is awakened, and we’re no longer merely guessing.

I would imagine that some of us fall below this 53 percent – like me, for example, but that means there’s someone else whose sixth sense is incredibly stronger than the average. I find that encouraging. I love the idea that there are people with a highly developed sixth sense, even if I’m not entirely certain what that means or how it can be reliably put to use. Evidently, this truly is a gift – like throwing a baseball faster, or playing a violin better. Certain people among us just seem to know things the rest of us don’t, and we should revere and celebrate their abilities as much as those of any athlete or musician.

Personally, I’m satisfied that the sixth sense is more than the stuff of coincidence or fiction. Scientists at Harvard and Cornell are convinced as well, and while it’s a tremendous leap to suggest any paranormal implications, that too may be possible. It certainly gives me pause to wonder, and I’m not alone. Studies are being done on willing test subjects with the hope of discovering those individuals whose sixth sense is the most highly developed, and whether this could include the ability to deal with “other” things unseen.

If this sixth sense had a hand in allowing mankind to make wise decisions and recognize better survival choices millennia ago, why couldn’t we use it once again – now, when we seem so hellbent on annihilating ourselves in such a variety of ways. I think we’re missing the boat here! Not that we should become a planet of seers and fortune tellers, but maybe we could finally learn to embrace life without so much misappropriated effort, unfounded prejudice, and lousy decision making.

Personally, I’m all for it. The sixth sense is real – just as real as the moon, the stars, and Hershey’s chocolate. There’s no denying the data. Why deny ourselves the benefit?

Stupid

Okay! I’m gonna try to keep this brief, because frankly, if I say too much I’ll just look stupid. Occasionally, you run across EVP that do that to you – they make you look and feel stupid! Maybe dumb is a better word, or uninformed, incapable, ineffectual, or even reactionary. I don’t know. I was recording around a small child, and doing things the way I do them – pulling out clips of suspicious sounding, possible voices. You know! Hopeful EVP.

I usually don’t return to the clips until I’ve listened to the original file exhaustively, and I had labeled this clip “male voice,” expecting to figure it out later. When I went back to sink my teeth into the thing, no matter how many times I re-listened, it kept saying, “Jesus is close. Forget about him.” I know. I know! But I can’t just ignore it. I can’t pretend it didn’t freak me out. I know the color had to drain from my face; I could feel that weird sensation of warmth and tingling combined. It felt exactly like that time I completely erased my hard drive. It was the same feeling I had seeing my deceased father standing in the hall. Oh, who am I kidding – it’s impossible to explain.

I just felt stupid. Was this voice talking to me, the child, or to someone else I couldn’t see? Was this one of those subliminal attempts to alter behavior? Was it someone “negative” attempting to lure the toddler away from Jesus? Was the voice telling a spirit friend to leave us alone because the boss was coming? It could have been telling us to stop messing around and pay attention to The Lord’s entrance. He might as well have said, “Drop everything. There’s a Beatles reunion in the bedroom!” You’d pay attention to that, right? I mean, come on, when you hear a spirit say, “Jesus is close,” you listen up.

There are so many different ways to interpret what those words could mean, but that could never be a throw-away phrase. Forget the fact that you might not even believe in Jesus – the name Itself definitely ups the ante, and automatically heightens the emotional response. Of course, there’s also a chance that the spirit just decided to freak me out. Well, that worked, didn’t it? Regardless of how many different possible meanings one could attach to this simple statement, it definitely freaked me out.

But that’s how it is with EVP, isn’t it? Just when you least expect it, there’s a controversy of some kind. You’re totally convinced that you know exactly what the voice is saying, and someone else comes along and throws the proverbial wet blanket on the fire. You’re positive that you’ve heard something earth-shattering, but no one else is impressed. A key word could actually be several different words – each one changing the meaning completely. EVP can be very frustrating despite the fact that they’re also such a pure blessing.

So what am I going to do with this “Jesus is close” comment? I don’t know! I suppose eventually I’ll decide what it means to me – I’ll take my best guess. It’s conceivable that I’ll file it away somewhere and re-listen several months later. Who knows, maybe then it will sound like something different, but as for today, I just feel stupid. Stupid because of how I reacted, stupid because I can’t decide what it means, and stupid because I love every minute of it. I do, you know – every last, freaked out minute of it.

Together

Someone once told me to never write anything down late at night. Apparently, reading it the next morning proves the point. What seems so profound in the very early morning becomes stupid and foolish in the light of day. But I couldn’t sleep, and frankly, I’m feeling sorry for myself.

I woke up missing those old investigations. I know, it’s weird, but how I loved it there in the quiet and the dark; sharpening my senses; preparing for anything. I miss every part of it – even setting up and tearing down the equipment. I miss all the little things too, and I suppose it makes sense, because it’s hard to replace the intensity. There’s adrenaline flowing, your mind is in full-on observation mode, and there’s this bond you form with fellow investigators; the way you rely on one another. I miss those people most of all.

Oh, it’s great to see them in other settings – on the street, in the mall, or at a restaurant, but it’s not the same. I mean, the guy texts and drives, but there’s no one I’d trust more in a dark abandoned building on a moonless night in the middle of nowhere. It’s the same with each one of my former teammates. Those times together were unique and so totally indelible. We formed a trust that was really quite visceral, and what we didn’t create in the name of friendship, we certainly forged through complete confidence in each other.

You quickly grow to realize that if you have to, you’ll brave anything to stand by their side. You’ll definitely have their back; you’ll never accept fear over their safety; will always walk into the abyss, if need be, to guarantee they’re not alone. And you understand they’ll reciprocate. But at the end of the day, when everything ends and it’s all up to technology to provide the answers, you know that you’ve done something meaningful, and more importantly, you did it together.

We share more on those investigations than is ever obvious. The experience is not dissimilar to being a member of a Super Bowl team, or the campaign staff of the newly elected candidate. You’re like a Blue Angel, a part of Delta Force, or one of The 300. You breathe rarified air, because this thing you do together, week after month after year, is just that special. You’re real spiritual warriors and come what may, you’ll handle whatever you find with grace and valiancy. And you know this because you know these people, and every ounce of your own strength and mettle comes directly from them. Even if you fail, you do so with family.

A little over the top? Will this be embarrassing in the morning? Possibly, but this is what I’m feeling, and why there’s no rest for the weary tonight. Because I miss them as much as I would miss the work. What I wouldn’t give to get the whole gang together again and go haunt some ghosts. What I wouldn’t give for just one more walk through the dark with “the team.” Our mates are so much more than brothers or sisters in arms – they’re our perfect counterparts; our better halves. So before I try to sleep again, thanks guys. I miss ya all the time. Sorry I don’t call very often, but I know you understand.

The One

Everybody knows that most paranormal investigations are boring, and everyone hopes for one that isn’t. You go inside with the anticipation that this will be “the one” that turns out crazy; where things fly off of shelves, and black shadows dart through the upstairs bedrooms. This time, a residual woman in full 19th century regalia might actually walk through the wall of the dining room. You’ll smell cigar smoke in the parlor, hear someone scream from the basement, and a soft hand will stroke your hair repeatedly. By the time you shut things down, everyone will have several mind-blowing experiences, and you will have captured all of it on video and digital recorders. This scenario even includes a few moments of actual fear – the kind that really tests you, but you kept it together; you did your job perfectly.

If we’re honest, that’s the kind of investigation we all yearn for, but sadly, it almost never happens. Most likely, it will be a quiet night instead. You’ll say “what was that?” a couple of times, but it won’t be anything out of the ordinary – a creaky stair, a click of the grandfather clock. Maybe something will fall off the top of the refrigerator – a poorly placed loaf of bread perhaps, dislodged from its precarious perch by gravity or a mouse. If you’re lucky, there will be something you can debunk – a kitchen cabinet that opens on its own or a faint unexplained smell. One of your meters will go off around midnight; the K2 will act a little weird in the living room – nothing too dramatic, and nothing concrete.

You’ll hope something will show up during analysis – EVP perhaps, or maybe some unexplained movement on the video. How many hours of video have you watched this year only to come up empty-handed; how many times has movement in the corner of your eye turned out to be your imagination? How many hours of audio have you labored through – reliving every moment over and over, always with the same excruciatingly predictable result?

That’s how it goes. The field is anti-climactic for the most part. You will probably begin to wonder, at some point, why you even do this. Surely there are better, more productive ways to spend your time. There are better ways to spend your cash too. How many digital recorders do you really need anyway? Secretly, a part of you wants to be Zak or Aaron. You want to hear a voice threaten to “kill Nick,” and it sure would be nice if your Spirit Box performed as well as theirs. If only you could walk the grounds with Jason as he catches something on the thermal, or survey the old mill with Steve – just once.

Oh hell, you’re doing everything right. You’re calm under fire and you know when to be quiet. You’re the consummate professional – you know the equipment, understand how to handle every situation, have totally prepared for any eventuality, and you don’t run. It’s always a great investigation because you’re good at what you do and your team is spectacular – one of the best ever, a well oiled ghost finding machine, ready to take on all comers. If only…

Still, all the training and experience has served you well. You’ve secured your share of solid evidence over the years, so it’s all been worth it, but tonight – on that long drive home as the sun comes up, and the world slowly stirs, you feel a little unsure about things. It’s difficult to explain – you could simply be spent. You’ll probably get over it – all you need is some food and a little rest. But is it all worth the effort?

Well, you can’t answer that one tonight. As you pull into the drive-thru, you hear yourself order that breakfast burrito and a Diet Coke, and you recognize your voice, but you’re not certain you actually spoke. It’s Sunday morning, and people are up. Just an hour ago, it was still Saturday night, and you were still on location; still frosty, and the adrenaline still pumping. While the world slept, you were in search of the truth. You were gaining understanding and knowledge; gathering proof of forever.

Yeah, you just need some sleep. Better get on that evidence as soon as you can though – next Friday night you have to do it all over again, and you need to be ready. People are counting on you. As you pull off the parking lot and onto the highway, your eyes are getting heavy, and your face feels like leather, but all you can think about is next Friday, and you really can’t wait. And so it goes. Maybe next time will be “the one.” Maybe the time after that – who knows? It doesn’t matter, but thanks – we need you. We appreciate the effort, and love the commitment. We’re sure you’ll find “the one” real soon.