Persistence of Ordinary

The house is on the small side. Nothing special or worthy of note, save the persistence of ordinary. It is clean and well taken care of, and while there are signs of improvements “waiting in the wings,” there’s no sign of neglect. So, the house is nice and pleasant enough – its vibe is normal and average. Wealthy folk have never lived there, and never would, but there is a kind of gentle opulence.

In death there are no wealthy; no landed gentry – just as there are no poor or in-firmed. In death we are more similar, and there is a strong possibility and every indication that spirits visit this house. Sometimes there are “situations” that challenge the people who live there, because things happen which probably should not. At the very least, there are experiences which defy the obvious explanations, or suggests more than meets the eye must surely be afoot. Sometimes, the family just can not understand, and every once in awhile they are afraid.

The oddities which occur do not discriminate; they show no preference or madness of method; they happen when they do, defying predictability and the comfort of something expected. When a cheerful and warm morning sun bursts through the window blinds or especially in the dead of night, it is surely spirit which comes. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it is misunderstood normality – someone visits. There have been voices, and movement, and things from just outside the periphery – a cloud of occasional darkness that confronts the regular. Always subtle at first, occurrences crescendo simply because they cannot be explained. This syndrome of presence screams in its silence and becomes overwhelming by the very fact of its continuance. This is not the stuff of movies – no one is ever harmed, but this is a true horror story because no one knows why. Or who. Or how.

Most of the time, they manage to forget. Or maybe it is that they choose not to remember, because life goes on. People eat; they shower and watch favorite shows or rented movies. They entertain occasionally, splurge occasionally – they plan vacations, make grocery lists, call the plumber – occasionally. They do what we all do, and much the same as we all do it. It is only when they least expect it, and when all things point elsewhere, that their lives are touched by something else.

We might say there is a haunting. We may even think they live horrific lives cloistered within walls of terror, locked in alone with God knows what or who. At the very least, we are not envious, and would not welcome the ordeal they must surely be courageously surviving. But that’s not how it is – they recognize and adjust; make the most of things, and frequently embrace it as though part of the mortgage, or paint on the walls. They’ve even been known to laugh about it, and yet no matter how accepting they are, this will always be too far away from their senses. It will never be relatable; will always seem invasive – like something they must endure. It feels like penance, and it’s all too foreign; distracting. They are the living and do “living” things, so they are finally weary, and it is time for things to change.

So, one day it just stopped. Probably not because some steel-trap-minded investigator came and rummaged through their list of symptoms. Not because a medium sent someone to the light or arrogantly attempted to explain the impact of death to the dead. Not because sage was burned or Holy Water sprinkled. It is over because this was a symbiotic relationship, so simple communication did the deed. Sometimes reasonable people just find a way to work things out, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re “dead” or alive. For all we know, spirit is still there, where it probably belongs – but hiding, since the deeper truth is unimportant here. Regardless, the persistence of ordinary continues, even if we think we know 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.

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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.

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/

Beside Us

The lady misplaced her jacket, and they spent a portion of three months searching for it. She remembers hanging it on a hook in the hall closet, so they were certain it was not lost, but after a while, they forgot about it, and no longer cared. It would show up eventually, no doubt.

Lately, they’ve been experiencing loud, unexplainable banging sounds, and their three year old frequently complains about a strange man in his room. So, yesterday, when the jacket was found hanging on the railing, in plain sight, they were understandably disturbed. The long forgotten jacket appeared on the end piece of the railing at the bottom of the most noticeable place in the living room. Something paranormal was possibly afoot.

But here’s the interesting part, because a story about a missing jacket doesn’t typically qualify as a legitimate “paranormal” event – she found her car keys in the jacket pocket. Car keys that she has used every day while the jacket was on sabbatical. The Mister said she turned a whiter shade of pale and muttered something about seeing the “ghost hunter” down the street. That would be me, and just so we understand each other, I absolutely believe their story.

Now, I’m not saying I think their house is haunted, but I know these people, and inventing this tale would not be their kind of thing. I like to think I have a pretty good BS detector, and everything about them screams “the truth.” Regardless, I volunteered to look into it, if they wanted – they did not. I offered to provide some equipment they could use on their own, if they felt it might help – they thanked me and said no. All I had left to offer were words of comfort, but it seems they really just wanted to talk about it; they’d be fine.

Well, I was glad I could help in some way. More often than not, it’s enough to just lend an understanding ear. People often feel better by getting it off their chest, and the simple act of saying everything out loud becomes a cleansing measure. Besides, I think there are too many people conducting investigations at the drop of a hat these days – investigations that may not be warranted or result in positive experiences for the so-called victims.

Not every odd occurrence should become part of the paranormal laboratory, you know – sometimes acceptance is the better path. On rare occasions, we miraculously realize that learning to deal with life as it is presented is the true test of who we are, and that sometimes, spirit life is permanently and intricately intertwined with our own. Sometimes, we come to the understanding that sharing our existence with what we cannot comprehend is only normal, and that truly, if we want to be left alone, we must find the will to reciprocate. Not all ghosts need to go away; some spirits belong beside us.

It’s difficult to think of such things this way, because we seem geared against coexistence, and our fear is so easily justified by peers and society. Fortunately, every now and then, one of us (perhaps even a small family) rises above the dread and apprehension in order to willingly share life’s tranquility. Peace is always more easily found when all involved are allowed to partake.
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Also visit Voices Unplugged at http://voicesblogunplugged.wordpress.com/

Not Suitable for Television

Friends and family frequently come to me with questions about the paranormal TV shows. “Is Ghost Adventures bogus? Celebrity Ghost Story is just for publicity, right? You know John Zaffis, don’t you?” Well, lets see – I don’t think so, no, and I only met him once (for ten seconds). I guess they think because I’m in the field, I’m compelled to watch every single paranormal show. It’s a requirement, right? “You went to Penn State. Was Ryan Beuhl there then?” Good Lord, he wasn’t even born yet! Hush.

Okay, okay – I can name drop if I need to. I sold a copy of Voices From Forever to Debbie Constantino and another to Chris Fleming. They were very nice, but I kinda doubt they read it. Chip Coffey once nodded in my direction – knowingly. That counts! Barry Kling said, “How’s it going?” Then he continued walking toward the Men’s Room. I didn’t follow up on that. So that’s the extent of my hobnobbing with the paranormal immortals. Sorry.

Oh, don’t get me wrong – I’d hang with Jason and Steve for sure; have a beer with Zak. I’d love to spend the day with Amy Allen, or the evening with Jael and Lanisha; me and Josh Gates could do some Parisian Catacombs – in the dark. I’m sure all these folks are just wonderful people – salt of the earth, and I wish ’em all well, but even if I did know them, I wouldn’t be spreading the dirt. I don’t feel one ounce of moral turpitude concerning the authenticity of their programs. I’m too preoccupied with keeping my own house in order to go mess up someone else’s.

Good grief! The business of television is to entertain the masses (that’s us), and I for one turn the damn thing off when I’m not being entertained. So I guess it’s highly possible that some things aren’t on the up and up in Paranormal TVland, but I don’t know anything about it.

No one’s ever offered to give me a show. Imagine that! It’s okay though – I always figured the reason film crews didn’t follow me around is because I’m boring. Really boring! Most of the guys they do film are not, but don’t get me wrong, I still love what I do – that’s why I do it. I’m fairly certain it’s not suitable for television though, but a guy can dream, right?

I can see it now – they’ll call it Ghostly Voices or The Ghost Listener… I hate the name, but the contract is air tight, and I have no say about anything. Section Five provides the usual standard pay of $1,300 per episode, and I have to buy my own lunch. Theres no wardrobe budget. Every week we’ll have a zoom close up of me pressing record; spooky sound effects will swell as I ask “is anyone here?” I’ll look all focused between questions – intense; even cerebral. They’ll find me a sidekick (hopefully Jael or Lanisha) who will pretend every word out of my mouth is pure genius; people will wonder if we’ve worked together long. It’ll be great!

Okay, dream is over. Stop asking me about these stupid shows – it’s too painful having to face the depth of my failure to reach paranormal deification. Think whatever you like, but they don’t deserve your adoration – it’s not like they’re The Beatles or Neil Diamond for God’s sake. Of course, you’d probably be better served not to worry about authenticity so much – just enjoy the show. And if you want to be seriously creeped out, watch Honey Booboo – she can’t possibly be real.

One Year Old Today!

Today The Voices Blog is one year old! Hats and horns are appropriate and all well-wishing is accepted. I sincerely hope everyone will be able to participate in the day’s festivities, beginning with a quick brunch on the third floor of Trans-Allegheny. There is free time until dinner, which will be highlighted by what I expect to be a rousing speech from President Theodore Roosevelt. Make certain you have your recorders ready.

Of course, the reality is that this will be a quiet celebration. I plan to get my hair trimmed, do some late morning EVP, have a Steak-Ums lunch, and begin work on the layout for a book Nick Missos and I plan to release soon. Sound like a fun day? And to think some of you actually have jobs. By the way, the book features original poetry with photos taken “undercover” at what shall remain an unnamed abandoned mental institution. Shameless plug, but I’m excited about it!

Sometimes I make stupid Top Ten lists when I’m annoyed or angry, and when it wears off, I throw the list away. I found one the other day that didn’t make it to the circular file, so it naturally qualifies as the perfect piece of mental self-gratification to share with the entire world. Here it is (unedited) – “Things That Should Be True About TV Paranormal Shows.”

– 1. Female ghosts should never wear white. Just sayin…
– 2. Every time an investigator says “we’re not here to harm you,” something should knock him down.
– 3. There should be no fist bumping at the end of Ghost Hunters episodes.
– 4. Paranormal teams should not pose for group photos that make them look like a stupid death metal band.
– 5. There should be an Ovulus equipped with the entire dictionary – 26 words is not enough.
– 6. It should only be a misdemeanor to investigate Eastern State or The Stanley on TV.
– 7. Bobo from Finding Bigfoot should have to put money in the jar every time he says “squatchy.”
– 8. Haunted Collector clients should embrace the haunting and refuse to fork over the priceless family heirlooms.
– 9. TV investigators should stop yelling at ghosts as though they were hard of hearing.
– 10. Why are paranormal shows considered reality television? Just askin…

When I started The Voices Blog, I didn’t think I could find enough interesting things to say, and actually I still don’t, but it’s been an enjoyable year just the same. Even added a “sister” blog – Voices Unplugged, so It must be true that time flies when you’re having fun. I know – bit of a cliche there. I’d like to use less of those, get more comments, improve my grammar, and find the perfect length per post. Well, there’s time to grow, I suppose.

I’ll just say “thank you” for your support. And for your interest. I love the fact that someone reads this stuff. Peace!

Considered Easy

Paranormal people are supposed to be skeptical. That’s the company line, and it always has been. We just accept it, and for the most part, it makes sense. Everything we don’t immediately understand can not be labeled “paranormal” – mostly because we’d be wrong, but also because we want to know the truth. Truth requires unsusceptible validation. Accepting every bump in the night, or shadow in the dark as an other worldly expression is just too cozy an answer; too easy, and since when have human beings ever been considered easy?

Our religions are insane – even on a good day, and everyone thinks their’s is the true one. Our politics is crazy as well. Forget the dictators and the megalomaniacs – even the planet’s glorious democracies are riddled with nonsense, stupidity and hypocrisy. Inter-personal relationships are a crap shoot at best. All you have to do is observe most marriages, and the horror should make the point for me. Not very much about the human condition seems easy for an excellent reason. It just isn’t.

Faith and belief are frequently comfortable situations – they don’t require much from us, and allow us to accept without reason. They speak to our humanity quite effectively, but they make us lazy and neither represent universal concepts – one man’s faith is another’s call to arms. We seem able to believe in almost anything – often to the exclusion of common sense or without a reasonable parsing of clear facts. Can you imagine investigating the paranormal with only faith and belief in your equipment bag? Skepticism absolutely has its place – especially if it’s informed and enlightened enough to fuel study and research.

But every once in awhile we have to give in to our human frailty. Sometimes, we have to believe. We need it, and resisting can lessen our chances of seeing the truth when it presents itself. For instance, It’s easy to insist that an EVP is a recording aberration no matter how loud or clear it is; simple, because all you have to do is refuse to believe. There is nothing to prove the voice in question is paranormal; there’s as much support that it is not. Without belief, we must decide that what we hear on a recorder is never the voice of a spirit – only a technological mistake. By refusing to believe, we render spirit as completely non-existent. What will we learn from that?

There will never be a way to guarantee a correct paranormal diagnosis as long as the the skeptic and the believer in us remain separate. Staunch skepticism will always win the day because the cry for proof can never be answered – no proof is possible. No “one and one is two” in the paranormal; no sun setting in the west. It will never matter what we experience – verifiable proof will always be lacking.

But we have never been satisfied with a two-dimensional acceptance of only those things that are provable, so why do we insist it be so with the paranormal? Being able to appropriately mix a little belief into the recipe allows us to understand more fully – multi-dimensionally, no matter how untenable it makes us feel. It requires courage to believe; even greater fortitude to know when to stop. By refusing to believe at all, we can never learn the whole truth – only the easy truth. And since when have human beings ever been considered easy?