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?

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.

Bring Some

I was sitting awake by the hard blue light of my iPad, trying to figure how best to allocate my time. More and more these days, things grab at it, and I’m left with doing my own thing hurriedly. This week, there was only one day to spend on a very long list of necessary evils, most of which did not get done. So when I turned off the light, and said “goodnight” to the understanding woman beside me, I thought maybe it would be peaceful enough to concentrate and find a solution.

I decided to tap on WavePad, and record while I sat – just because. It’s what I do. No questions to ask; no comments or requests – just the dark, cold air and my thoughts. The recent months have been a time of doubt for me, and occasionally I’ve felt as though my contribution to the paranormal field has been maximized – there’s nothing more I can contribute. But that’s tough to decide – it’s difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.

You know, EVP are a passion for me. I still have my priorities in line, but I feel close to these voices – they’ve found an indelible place on the list. I listen carefully, and my anticipation is not in hearing them so much as in understanding what is behind their words. We have become such strange friends, because we’ve formed a perfectly reciprocating relationship. Nothing unworthy in that. Isn’t that enough to continue what I arrogantly call “my work”? I can make changes, certainly. Less social networking, perhaps. Less worry about book sales. I can cut back on the number of podcasts too. There are lots of ways to solve my time issues.

I stopped the recording, anticipating nothing, but instinctively, reached for my headphones and began to listen. Some kind of whispering was there – nothing anyone could ever understand; whispers that most researchers would label as ambient sounds. I know the room well, and I know what they are, but they’re not voices until there are words. But then… there were words. “Sad,” she said – clear as a bell, and equally as expressive.

I thought she was talking about me. I thought she had gauged my mood; that possibly all the whispering had been centered around my self-absorbed need for over-analysis. Perhaps she was even carefully chosen to express a group sentiment – “sad.” Well, I was a little sad. How intuitive of her; how correctly she had assessed my demeanor. But before I could rest too comfortably in that interpretation, she spoke again. “Bring some,” she said.

Bring some? Really? Doncha just love it? How do you not fall head over heels for these voices? Not only was she not interested in my somber reflection, she didn’t make a lick of sense. I can’t walk away from this; can’t concern myself so stridently with the relevancy of “my work” or whether I’m maximized, marginalized or whatever-ized. There’s a spirit out there doing her best to entertain the bejesus out of me, and maybe someday, along the way, I’ll make some sense out of it. But until then? No need to be “sad,” I’ll just “bring some.”

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.

Brown Bananas

So, I was looking out the front door of the market, and I could see them walking up the road – about a quarter mile away, and they appeared really strange even at that distance. By the time they’d made it close enough to see details, I was no longer alone in my surveillance – they were attracting a great deal of attention.

“They” consisted of a man and a woman in their late twenties; both barefoot, and in tan Biblical-style robes – he with an actual shepherd’s crook, she with a small canvas bag. “Oh Christ, I hope they don’t come in here,” someone said. Someone else called them dirty hippies. Well, it was 1974, but I found them more Tribe of Israel than flower children; more intriguing than startling. They came inside; wanted permission to look through the dumpster for old fruits or vegetables, but the owner wanted them gone, and they left empty-handed without incident.

I lived upstairs, so I offered to feed them. I volunteered a chicken dinner with all the usual accessories, but they would only accept a few brown bananas and some bruised, green apples. But we spent the rest of the day kicking around the ideas of faith, God, and morality. We discussed living joyous lives in the service of our fellow man, and we talked about the responsibility to one another’s soul; about love. They asked to spend the night – out back would be fine, behind the store, near the woods, under the stars, and I watched them till late from my bedroom window. When I awoke, the sun barely new, they were gone. I had hoped to offer a ride – maybe breakfast, and I wanted to ask all the questions I was too polite to ask the night before.

Well, I dreamed about them last night. I had forgotten; had somehow buried the memory, but there they were forty-years later – brown bananas and all. It was one of those incredibly vivid dreams – the kind that lingers with you awhile, and seems to have a purpose; promises to teach you something considerable. “Randy, you have to believe before you can see. It doesn’t work the other way around.” he said, smiling from ear to ear. And then the dream just ended.

I don’t know what he meant for sure, any more than I can grasp who they really were, although I would like to think I am capable of understanding. It was dimestore philosophy, of course, and dreams like this shouldn’t be confused with meaningful moments. It was a dream that made use of an old and obscure memory, while somehow managing to masquerade as significant and elucidating.

I caught myself taking it seriously for a moment – I can admit that. I found myself pondering those words about believing. But disbelief is itself belief, isn’t it? “I believe that I don’t believe?” Doesn’t matter. These days we want more than simply to believe. We want to truly know, and usually, we wish it wasn’t so damn obtuse. Occasionally, really vivid, meaningful encounters are nothing more than dreams, or in this case, just a load of brown bananas. Personally, I’d have taken the chicken dinner and slept on the sofa, but then no one would dream about that 40 years later. Ah, choices choices choices… I bet they sell insurance now.

“So, I had this dream…”

Last night, I experienced part two of an intense dream from a week ago. It was such an incredibly vivid and seemingly significant dream that of course, I have to tell you all about it. I’ll remove the personal, boring details; I’ll combine both dreams into one event. You know, we all have these kinds of vision-like dreams, and while they may be rare, they are something we all have in common.

Mine begins with a simple argument with my wife. I was lying on my back, and she was sitting next to me. It was a very calm dispute, so I knew she was wrong when she said, “Well, that’s it. It’s over.” I understood that I had to leave, but I was certain she would come to miss me, and we’d repair the rift between us. But I knew it would take time.

I moved temporarily into some kind of dormitory – part of a paranormal institute, no less, with fascinating experiments going on all around me. It actually felt weirdly familiar and yet different at the same time, and my roommate was a childhood buddy. Instantly, we became fast friends once again, but it didn’t take long before he started to annoy me. Sloppy and boorish, he couldn’t manage to respect my personal space, and I quickly reached the point where I’d had enough of him. I decided to take a walk to get away, and for the first time I thought of my wife. I considered simply apologizing and admitting to the error of my ways; disavowing my stubborn need to be right. Almost immediately, there she was. I saw her pull up across the street in a very strange red vehicle, and she parked in front of a two-story glass building. I yelled from across the way, so happy to see her, and she turned and waved back – big smile on her face. But there were no words; no eye contact, and she looked right through me, and went inside.

Seeing my wife was difficult, and it preoccupied my mind for a day or two, but it wasn’t long before I found myself on that same street again – across from that same glass building. This time, when she pulled up in the strange vehicle, I felt oddly encouraged. I called out to her again, anticipating a joyous reunion, but my enthusiasm quickly waned. Instead of running into my arms, she completely ignored me. I yelled again even louder, and then several times more, but each time, she refused to acknowledge me. I noticed that she looked old and a little stooped over, but she seemed to straighten up and come alive when she saw a small girl looking out from behind the glass. As she hurriedly opened the door, I heard the child call her “Mama!” and noticed that she looked exactly like our daughter at four. Slowly, I began to understand.

She didn’t answer because she couldn’t see me. She was indeed much older, and the little girl was our daughter’s child. The vehicle was all the rage for the time, and that glass building was where she lived with what was left of her family. I, on the other hand, was no longer alive. Our argument wasn’t an argument at all. It was “over” because it was. When I finally understood, I realized that I could cross the street and get closer, if I wanted, but as I first stepped off the curb, I awoke. For quite some time I laid there. I wasn’t entirely certain whether I was alive and in bed, or whether I was in fact, dead and visiting. I wanted to reach over to wake her, but I was afraid to find out.

Obviously, I know this is all very “Sixth Sense.” It’s not paranormal, or vision-like, or even particularly revelatory. It’s not even original – people have dreams all the time, and many of them touch on this very subject with an even finer sense of enlightenment and verve. But mine was for me, and if nothing else, it was gratefully peaceful and calm. While it was sad to have died, I was content to learn that my loved ones were still close by if I wanted them to be, and that I could still share life with them in some capacity. I knew my wife would join me soon, and that I could be patient – a matter of days in my new life, translated into years in the world. But I also felt encouraged that life goes on regardless, and that the essence of who we are continues through our children, and then through theirs. I felt optimistic that the world could indeed make sense, even if that order required the confusion and the dread of death.

I was sad upon waking up, but I am content with these images now. I’m more certain than ever that there is a hereafter and that forever will be as precious as now can ever be. Maybe more, because forever has all the advantages of a dream, and we all know how off the hook those can be. I’m glad to be alive, but more than that, I’m gratified to believe that the only difference between living and dying is found in the waking up.

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.

Goodbye or Hello?

My sister has passed away – I’ve said my “goodbye.” One day, I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it, but I understand and accept her passing. I may not like it much, but life puts us through such ordeals, and like it or not, we must endure with the hope of somehow becoming better people.

I consider myself to be observant, which is a definite plus when you investigate the paranormal. Of course, I don’t catch everything (does anyone?), but I do pay attention, and I give 100% to the task at hand. In everyday life, I find myself fixating on whatever I can’t readily explain. I seek origin, pattern, frequency, and consistency. I think it’s fair to say I’m “always on,” if you will. Or possibly, I’m nuts.

But nuts or not, ever since my sister’s early demise, the folks in my house have been getting touched – frequently! No one actually says it out loud, but I’ve seen the signs. That certain grab of the arm initiating a scan of the room… It’s as unmistakable as the old tapping on the shoulder when no one is there routine. You know what I mean. You’ve seen it before. “A bug or something must have landed on the back of my neck,” someone says – in December. Repeatedly. “Hey, Ran. did you just touch my leg?”

I didn’t, but I made note of eleven separate events, and I began to wonder whether my sister was behind these sudden, gentle assaults. Never before did this kind of thing happen so often. I found myself chuckling at the absurdity of it all – truly I must have “observed” myself head first off the starboard bow. How silly of me. That is, until I was touched as well. I felt a hand on my shoulder. I felt the unmistakable pressure applied, and a few seconds later, I felt it leave. I was alone in the room, and less than a minute later, I was poked in the side. I swear it was not my imagination, nor the result of a strong, subconscious need to retain contact with my deceased sibling.

I tried to record for EVP but there were no definitive results. There were some strange sounds that seemed to emulate speech; a few odd partial syllables, but nothing I could pinpoint as an actual voice. It was as though someone might be trying to speak, but was unable. Well, I expected there might be some audio appearance by her spirit, but I never once considered she would be poking.

Something definitely touched me, and I firmly believe others with similar claims. Of course, this doesn’t prove a thing, and there’s no way to responsibly make any claims, but I continue to wonder. What could suddenly be causing these frequent occurrences? No, it’s not just normal life misinterpreted. No, the house is not infested with shoulder tapping insects. It is not realistic to think that everyone in my house suffers from the same hyper-sensitive skin, or a similar psychosis.

I don’t know what the hell is going on, but I’m not going to be the one who labels any of this as paranormal. I suppose, it just is what it is. I guess, I have no choice but to laugh it off and marvel at the effectiveness and power of coincidence, but I’m not liking it.

This is one of those stories you tell people right before they make some excuse to leave the room; it’s something one considers not mentioning. But just between us, since it’s happening a lot and just to be safe, I’m going to start saying “hello.”

Please Be Quiet!

I recently found myself arguing the authenticity of a photograph that showed an unexplainable anomaly. I wasn’t present when the photo was taken, but I was afforded the honor of viewing an original, raw file less than an hour later. I don’t want to discuss the details of the analysis here except to say that several individuals were involved, and that no stone was left unturned. Is it possible for experienced, qualified, and knowledgeable analysts to have missed something? Absolutely, but the effort was exhaustive, and consumed a great deal of time.

We were stumped. So was the photographer, and I don’t mind saying that I would sooner believe my dog has a Princeton degree in taxidermy than I would entertain the notion that this man would alter, doctor, or hoax any paranormal evidence – ever! The image cannot be explained, in our opinion. Notice that I have not proclaimed it to be a photo of something “paranormal,” even though, by definition alone, I very well could. Everyone involved with analyzing the original image believes it to be unexplainable.

And yet, years later, I find myself defending this image online. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, because reasonable analysis is always valuable when it comes to paranormal evidence. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. Most of the comments clearly indicated a severe lack of knowledge about cameras, light, photo manipulation, and definitely, the paranormal. One individual even admitted to this lack of intelligence while arrogantly insisting on an impossible explanation. Truth is, not one single dubious comment indicated even the tiniest amount of scholarship.

I wanted to scream! If I had, it would have been something unintelligible, I’m sure, but somewhere in there I would have said, “You can’t comment intelligently if you don’t know anything. Please, be quiet!” And I would have been right. The problem is, however, that I made assumptions. I assumed paranormal investigators would be trained. I assumed they knew the effect of shutter speeds on a photograph, or how to calculate the approximate speed of a moving object caught on film. I assumed they could recognize the difference between infrared and ultra violet. I assumed they understood that voices you hear with your ears are not EVP. I assumed they knew more than how to spell the word “ghost,” but I should know better than to assume anything.

Folks! We can’t do our jobs as investigators, researchers or analysts with nothing more than an appreciation of the paranormal. We’re supposed to know stuff before we investigate. What’s the point of collecting evidence if you haven’t a clue about how to spot it? If you’re going to be skeptical, then have well-considered reasons behind your opinions. I don’t know how else to say this – no one should be allowed membership on a paranormal team without first indicating that you understand the nature of what you’re doing.

Learn about your equipment and methods, study the manuals, master every setting, and fully understand what kind of results you can expect. Learn how to discredit those results from a position of knowledge. Base nothing on feelings, hunches, or probabilities. Be observant and diligent; pay attention to details and subtleties. And if you don’t know what you’re talking about, for God’s sake – for everyone’s sake, please be quiet!

“Other World” Peace

I’m a fairly even-tempered guy. I don’t yell very often or use intimidation to get my way during evidence review. I’m calm during investigations – not excitable, and able to handle fearful moments with reserve and calm. I assume that spirits can hear a normal tone of voice quite easily, and I go out of my way to be respectful and polite. I’m chill and easy to work with (maybe), don’t name call or point fingers in blame – don’t try to evade my responsibilities. Hell, I’m wonderful!

But sometimes I really want to do all those unpleasant things and worse when forced to deal with a puerile investigator. Fortunately, I haven’t had to deal with too many of those over the years. In fact, absolutely no one has aroused these abhorrent feelings within me for a couple of years now.

I think the last time someone ticked me off so much that I wanted to hurt them, was about two years ago. A lady investigator who insisted on changing her point of view with every question during EVP sessions, last did the deed. She didn’t seem to have any idea at all about what to say, so she just blurted out nonsense. I guess it made sense to her, but would you follow up “did you used to live here?” with “were you a good dancer?” I’m not sure why she went there, but it was like that all night, and by the time I was through with her, I was ready to… I didn’t.

Once, an investigator whispered eerily next to a stationary video camera. Instant A-class EVP! Except, this juvenile wasn’t smart enough to remember that the camera part was working as well. He later asked if I’d gotten any EVP on my video camera that night. “Yes,” I said. “And video too.” I won’t work with him again. Every piece of evidence from that camera had to be rejected, but I wanted to inflict pain on the fool.

I’ve not personally had the pleasure, but I’ve seen video of investigators who broke things on site, rooted through dresser drawers, and refreshed themselves via the family refrigerator. I’ve seen them acting like fifth graders on someone’s bed too – complete with obscene gestures. I’ve heard tell of people making out in every dark corner, drinking the client’s whiskey, tracking mud all over the living room carpet, and the creme de la creme – self-gratification in the master bathroom. On camera, no less!

I dunno what species raised these people, but thank God I wasn’t personally privy to any of this behavior. I might already be doing time in The Big House, were that the case. The team I work with is professional – especially when it comes to behavior. Our founder wouldn’t have thought twice about booting someone for this kind of disrespect – right then and there, on the spot. And I’d have been right there with him.

I haven’t seen much of this lately, but I know it still goes on. And it’s troubling! Hopefully, we’ll be able to resist giving in to anger when dealing with these mooncalves and degenerates; hopefully they will consistently be drummed out of the field. I hate to be such a stick in the mud, but by getting rid of this dead weight, we will be doing our part toward achieving “other world” peace. A worthy cause.

An Open Mind

It has always been my attitude to take Spirit Box results with a rather large grain of salt. Obviously, that’s because the device uses radio frequencies, and frankly, there’s a whole lot of talking on the radio. The thing that can save Spirit Box results from the proverbial circular file, in my opinion, is an abundance of repetitive responses throughout the session. If I am able to get several references to the same name, for instance, then my personal confidence level will increase. Still, the probability of coincidence is built into the Spirit Box by design. In my locale, it is not possible to cycle through the radio bands without hearing fragments of broadcast language. This does not ease my angst, but defines my concerns even more succinctly instead.

However, when response after response fits the conversation, while accompanied by multiple verifications, my belief becomes much less strained. You’ll never convince me that certain phrases will repeat over and over in a relatively random sampling of fast frequency passes – especially at exactly the right moments every time. Frankly, good, compelling Spirit Box results are difficult to discount.

Still, regardless of my over-simplification for the sake of this blog, Spirit Box results are not easy to accept as evidence of authentic spirit communication. And yet, my most recent foray into this arena was shocking. Not only was it easy to get several name verifications (four), but other appropriate responses were surprisingly uncanny. The spirit in question clearly knew the name of a female investigator who was present, and even offered that he found her “pretty.” He mentioned the homeowner by name twice, remarking that he was a good person, and later asking if we worked together. I also have EVP to further confirm much of what the Spirit Box revealed, so all in all, fairly convincing.

None of this is earth-shattering stuff, of course, and I’m not even certain if any of it is actually worthy of mention. Others in the field have had spectacular Spirit Box results for years, and even though the session in question delivers over forty responses of interest, it pales in comparison to countless offerings by other investigators world-wide. But it does represent a milestone for me.

This is the first time I have had such prolific results. The promise of the Spirit Box is that it can provide abundant real-time communication – anything less is much better handled through EVP. A comment here or there only emphasizes the built-in flaws of the device and tends to confuse the basic value of the equipment. But statistically, over forty responses is definitely a different story, and all objections go out the window. I don’t have much choice but to accept these results as some kind of communication between us and “them.”

You know, it’s always wise to have an open mind, but it’s imperative that we recognize forced evidence, ill-conceived equipment, and unsound methodology. However, bias for the sake of bias is even less desirable. I dare not be a strong proponent of the Spirit Box based on one highly successful session, but I’m willing to sit up and take notice. After all, if doesn’t matter what I think anyway. Only the truth counts.

The Work Matters

A few weeks ago, my so-called ability with EVP was severely challenged by an old friend. He wondered why my evidence wasn’t more spectacularly convincing. He offered the opinion that if I expected to “make it in the paranormal game,” I should start getting better, more dramatic results. Game? This encounter has been on my mind.

Well, honestly, I always thought any bona fide paranormal result was spectacular; that even the most diminutive spirit voice was a pretty big deal. And as for his comment about making it in “the game,” I never thought that was part of the equation. I was kind of appalled. I literally got hot! Well, of course I try to sell books! If you have something to say, you want others to hear it, and I have a point of view I have always considered worth sharing. That might be wrong, but if one’s perspective can only be judged in terms of crass commercialism, then what’s the point?

I considered just giving up the whole thing. I really did. His remarks cut deep, and I figured I should just do my EVP thing as a hermit might – in solitude. God knows there’s no money in it anyway, and by his standards, I was evidently wasting my time. Not to mention, society at large thinks people like me are crackpots.

My friend is right about one thing though – I’m truly not very important in the paranormal field. I didn’t think I had to be, because it was a labor of love, ya know? I contemplated an inconspicuous exit – the equivalent of just slowly walking off into the midnight mist. But why? I don’t record EVP to gain notoriety. I talk and write about them because they seem valuable to me. So many different spirits have taken the bold step of speaking to me specifically, that I feel blessed by it, and so I embrace a very strong commitment to telling their story truthfully and with as much empathy as possible.

Sure I pay attention to how many copies I’ve sold – I’m not oblivious. And it’s only natural to be curious about how many people actually listen to the podcast or read this blog. But those are just numbers. If those numbers measure success, then I guess my friend’s implications are correct, but like I said, I have a point of view. There’s an evangelist inside of me somewhere who wants to spread the word. EVP are not like stumbling onto Mayan gold, or metal-detecting your way to a Rolex on the beach. You can’t buy shares in Apple with them, or turn them into dollars or sense. I’m not even certain what EVP are exactly, but I know they’re incredibly extraordinary and I’m positive I should be paying attention. Writing books about the things I’ve learned seems like a no-brainer, and frankly, I’ve even started to feel that some of these spirit voices are more than acquaintances.

I’m not entirely certain why my friend’s comment bothered me so. Maybe because this has always been like a quest for me, even though I never felt it was a quixotic one. I realize that it doesn’t matter how many EVP I record, or whether my conclusions are absolutely spot on; whether I receive more raised eyebrows today than yesterday. It’s inconsequential whether someone thinks I’m delusional or half-a-bubble-off-plumb. It doesn’t matter if I sell a million books on Amazon, or 17 at the strip mall (each with a free box of Girl Scout Cookies).

Well, what does matter then? It’s hard to say – I just know that something does. The work matters. And there are perks. I’ve learned more about myself than I could ever have without the voices. I’ve developed an unshakable conviction that the hereafter is real. I’ve learned that I’m never alone, even in my darkest moments. I’ve learned that we’re much more attached to eternity than we can completely comprehend.

And if there are others out there like me, I say “carry on.” With pride. Know that what you do is of tremendous value, and understand that you were chosen. Not chosen to be important or significant; not because you’re wonderful or even particularly bright. You’re not a guru or leader; wise or super-spiritual. You’re just someone who documents and professes an odd truth. You’re a weapon in the war of spiritual understanding, and you can’t quit – the other side needs you. It’s not a game. There has to be someone out there who realizes just how much the work matters. And it really should be someone who cares enough to share.

The Sound of Life

It makes sense to me that if any part of the paranormal were to be deemed believable, it would be EVP – initially, because of the amount of available evidence. Every paranormal investigator participates in EVP sessions – it’s standard, and in all probability, every investigator can offer some amount of EVP results, so there’s an army out there. That’s a lot of voices. Everyone in the field does it, and everyone has opinions about how to do it.

So, it’s understood that paranormal investigation almost always provides some EVP evidence, but there’s another reason why EVP might be the standard bearer for paranormal substantiation. There is also the ample truth that it makes sense to us. EVP easily fit the expectations of what our own “spirithood” ought to be like. Most of us hope there will be a way to make contact from beyond the grave, and many of us are counting on it. In that light, EVP make perfect sense because they speak so well to our own self-awareness.

The idea of being presented with an apparition is much more unsettling – for anyone, even the most experienced among us. It’s exciting – even exhilarating, but suddenly the world in which we live comfortably and securely, becomes a less familiar place. Seeing a spirit is an intensely unusual proposition, and instantly life-altering. I’m not talking about a shadow figure, a mist, or a light-emitting orb, but an honest to goodness apparition. A ghost. And seeing one first-hand explodes into a game-changing piece of memory that will always haunt us in some way.

Not so with a voice. A voice is almost always less spectacular, and easily absorbed as part of life. Who hasn’t been faced with hearing an unusual voice from time to time – alone in a field, while driving – in just about any place or circumstance? “Must have been my imagination…” Sometimes we’re not even certain an unidentifiable, unexplainable voice isn’t something we’ve said ourselves, or something we were thinking. The idea that there could be an actual spirit voice to hear simply by going out of our way to record it, is electrifying, not terrifying. EVP offer us the choice to hear or not to hear, so they play to our expectations, and more often than not, they become friendly evidence.

There’s almost never any palpable danger associated with an EVP. It can be creepy, sure, and unexpected, and cause you to question the wisdom of being where you are, but there’s still a strong sense that you can evade it if need be. It has no form, no evident power over you, and offers no threat to your well-being. If you hear a voice you don’t like, you can always leave and vow to never come back, but if a spirit is strong enough and inclined to make itself visible, well then anything is possible. It is an immediate threat, whether accurate or not. By recording for spirit voices, we know what we’re in for and have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

The idea that spirit voices are the easiest aspect of paranormal evidence in which to believe, may also have something to do with the fact that there’s always the possibility of a credible, real-life explanation. Once you’ve unsuccessfully attempted to discredit one, it’s unproblematic to have confidence in what passes the tests. But there’s a more universal reason we hold EVP in such high evidentiary esteem – because they represent a form of communication we innately practice every day of our lives. EVP speak to us. They talk, and it’s as simple as that, I think, because there’s an intimacy associated with talking to someone. When something is wrong, “we need to talk.” When everything is wonderful and exciting, we channel those manic feelings and tell anyone within earshot. We talk about dinner, the NFL, property values, UFOs, and our favorite color. We discuss politics, religion, sexuality, and stuff no one really wants to hear.

You can’t talk to a menacing apparition, and if you could, I doubt it would be a very engaging conversation. But EVP? They sound like you or I; say what we would; speak as we do. They are the sound of life everlasting, and they stand as a testament that the hereafter we all hope is real, probably really is. We identify with spirit voices because we understand who they are. We may not know them personally, or understand a single motivation or life experience they’ve traversed, but we know who they are. And we know, admit it or not, who we will become.

Homeward Through the Haze

The other day I was asked to babysit a one year-old toddler named Kenny, who also happens to be my grandson. He’s a funny little boy who has mastered the art of getting into everything – a future demolition expert, no doubt. Kenny is a good boy though, and he listens well when he thinks he knows what you’re saying. Of course, my experiences in babysitting are not the focus of this post.

I turned on the digital recorder while Kenny was visiting. I’ve done this with other grandchildren and have always recorded lots of voices around them, which has led to a sort of theory. It’s not new, but I think all children are under some kind of protection by spirits. I’ve captured EVP that seem to further the theory – voices that give the impression of dealing solely and directly with the child. These are unfamiliar voices to me, and seem less random than the usual EVP I record.  Beyond this different nature of presence, unfortunately, I know of nothing concrete to prove my theory.

But something caught my attention this time, and it startled me. At one point, Kenny pushed a toy into the glass door of a cd cabinet, and he turned and offered an anxious “uh oh.” You can probably imagine that – it’s a fairly common thing for kids to say, but Kenny doesn’t say many words, so it was memorable to hear him use a new one so appropriately. “Uh oh!”

On the recorder, you clearly hear a female voice say those same words less than a second before Kenny, and it caused me to wonder… Was she teaching him what to say? Was he able to hear her and repeat what he heard? Just exactly what kind of relationship does this voice have with my grandson? A lot of questions for which I have no answers, but it certainly has me thinking.

A lot of people believe that children see spirits when they’re very young, and I’m not the only one who has ever tried to capture EVP during those alone moments with a child. But I’ve never heard anyone suggest they are teachers. It’s hard enough being born, and what follows must be a nightmare for kids. Perhaps the presence of spirit is how it’s done. It could be a real comfort to a child to have omnipresent, visible and audible protection, comfort, and emotional understanding. I don’t think it’s out of the question there might also be a few teachable moments.

There’s very little proof of anything paranormal, so attempting to advance certain theories will never result in unquestionable belief. Certainly, this one-time occurrence does not serve as evidence, but now I want to know! I want to know if my EVP voice was Kenny’s coach, and not a random spirit with too much to say. If she had a hand in his “uh oh” that would be an amazing thing to know.

Of course I plan on recording as much as possible – it isn’t always an easy hookup, but what if I were able to capture this again? Or a few more times? How many examples of this interaction will be necessary to serve as circumstantial proof that we get our first life coaches very early?

I’m reminded of a David Crosby song where he says: “It’s the blind leading the blind and I am amazed, how they stumble homeward through the haze.” It wouldn’t surprise me to discover that we all have a little help now and then.