So… Hush!

I haven’t written in this space for quite some time, but it wasn’t for lack of anything to say – I always have something to say. There just wasn’t any time. And you know that happens – one’s time often fills up quickly with important life issues, and before you know it, there’s none left. However, and I shudder to say it, maybe this has been a good thing.

I remember the mother of a childhood friend once saying, “no one cares what you think, Keller.” I was immediately slandered – who wouldn’t be, right? But it remained with me even to this day, and she actually wasn’t wrong. Who cares what I think about Donald Trump, for example? If you’re a supporter, contentious thoughts from me won’t convince you otherwise – more than likely, you’ll become even more entrenched. If I tell you about my belief in God, I’m sure your atheism will continue to flourish just the same. Do we really think our mediocre, everyday banter contains the stuff of greatness; with enough wisdom to move the masses? How many Delhi Llamas can there be, for God’s sake? 

It’s difficult to suggest that there’s a lesson to learn from this, but maybe we need to just keep our mouths shut more often. We seem almost consumed with the notion that there should be more and more people to agree with us – a constantly increasing, all-encompassing inter-galactic consensus. It’s become some kind of an imperative! As though the world itself will cease to exist if “the others” get their hands on it, and possibly that will one day be the case, but history is full of good and bad alike while “the others” were in charge, and we’re still here. There are some life issues that transcend simple opinion, of course – we need to take better care of the planet, one shouldn’t be cruel to animals, murder is bad… Hard to disagree with those, and we can all think of items to add to the list, but these never seem to be the burning passions of the day.

We follow all kinds of temporary mantras instead. Who gets a tax break, should we spend more money to feed the poor, bikinis are sinful, etc. etc. etc. And I’m willing to confess, I want everyone to get a tax break, most of my friends are poor, and bikinis are a clear public service. More and more, I’m leaving these kinds of issues alone. Maybe it’s old age, or a rapid and unexpected loss of electricity in my brain’s microtubules, but I like to think it has something to do with my friend’s mother – “no one cares what you think, Keller.”

I mean, do you? Do you really give a rat’s appendix what I pontificate about? Is your life so wanting that you hang on my every word? I’d be shocked if you did. Will your opinion be changing should I suddenly suggest that cannibalism is an accepted dietary alternative, or if I campaign on the virtues of war with Canada? I think not. You’re so much more intelligent than that! Perhaps you’ll listen with interest if I wax poetic about a subject in which I am proficient – EVP, for instance, but if you’re really smart, even then you’ll listen objectively and with a very large grain of salt.

So what am I saying, then? That we should all walk through life close-mouthed with nothing to say for ourselves, the state of the world, or the human condition? Of course not. I guess what I’m saying is when we do open those gaping caverns of verbal ambiguity, we might want to know going in that what we have to say isn’t so damn important. The compulsion to communicate our thoughts seems to have a greater potential for doing harm than anything else, and unless we relish embracing the dark side of The Force, we should be careful. If we don’t have something good to say, then… Oh geez – you know the rest of that sentence. Do I have to say it – it’s such an overused cliche! But isn’t it also quite true? So… Hush!

Returning to Sensibility

Sometimes, there can be a real problem separating actual life from one’s paranormal activities. When every day centers around pouring over evidence, before you know it the floors are filthy, and the bathroom has become a giant science experiment. Instead of taking care of business, huge chunks of precious time revolve around this cat and mouse game we have with the afterlife, and reality gets lost. It really has to stop.

Returning to sensibility isn’t always as easy as we might hope. It’s really boring staring at the infrared video of a chair for 8 hours, but it does beat the heck out of grocery shopping or paying the bills. Who cares if the dog hasn’t been out in a week, he’s smart – he’ll figure something out. Besides, there’s several hours of thermal footage to go over! One has to keep his priorities in order, right?

But at the end of the day, what do you really know about the afterlife anyway? I’ve always tried to learn something new each day, but if your entire consciousness is tied up in the evidence analysis of some tedious old house by the river outside of town, there’s a good chance the only thing you’ll learn is how quickly you can become sick and tired. I’ve tried to remedy that in any way possible, and even if the extent of my learning consists of nothing more than useless, non-paranormal facts, at least that’s something. For instance, did you know that Americans spend an average of two weeks a year on the toilet? Or that King Farouk of Egypt was a kleptomaniac who once stole Winston Churchill’s watch. I didn’t, but I do now, and I’m sure it’s useful information, no?

Human nature fascinates me more than most subjects, so I couldn’t resist a quick break from the monitor to watch a Science Channel special on the topic. Good thing too, because I didn’t learn a thing from my research, but I did learn that unbroken eye contact is not a sign of honesty, but a good clue that someone is lying instead. That’s kinda useful info, but how many of you knew that? Plus, people are more likely to lie when they’re in a hurry. Fascinating! Believe it or not, eight percent of Americans even lie on their resumes. You know who you are, but “holy honesty, Batman.” I thought more people were trustworthy than that.

Speaking of lying, it turns out that Olympic medalist Stella Walsh was considered one of the fastest female athletes of her time, until upon her death, she was discovered to have a penis. A penis! Not too much stock in Apple, or an infatuation with other people’s toes… She had (dare I say it again) a penis. And speaking of “those,” it seems that the CIA trades Viagra to aging Afghan warlords in exchange for information. I thought gentlemen weren’t supposed to tell.

See! It’s an interesting world, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised at the amount of functional insanity that’s loose within it. Maybe that’s what drove me to paranormal studies in the first place – a little peace and quiet from all this exciting normalcy, though admittedly, I’d like to be able to say that all the hours spent scrutinizing paranormal evidence has taught me something more significant than mindless trivia. But alas, the living are every bit as intriguing as the dead. In 2013, a woman from Jonesboro, Arkansas, suspected of DUI, was arrested when she tried to flee police on a battery-powered toy truck after crashing her car. I challenge you to top that one with something paranormal. Ghosts are entertaining, but they can’t hold a candle to that poor soul.

Well, intriguing as mankind is, the one thing we don’t know anything about when it comes to the human experience is the afterlife. We guess and theorize, and we use our imaginations at every stop along the way but it’s been a very long journey, and we don’t actually know for sure where we’re going, much less which path to take. South Carolina police were once able to track a convenience store burglar right to his house by following a trail of Doritos. Too bad spirits don’t eat Doritos – we could sure use a break like that. Ah well, back to the video.

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Voices From Forever by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/ZBBmj Available on Amazon

There Is No Silence by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/U6KY7 Available on Amazon

Dear Brunhilda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Voices From Forever by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/ZBBmj Available on Amazon

There Is No Silence by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/U6KY7 Available on Amazon.

Watching

I watched him wither – from a strong, well-considered, vibrant man to a fragile, mentally tortured soul. I watched as dementia quietly slithered inside – molesting his dignity and suffocating his self-respect. And I watched him become simple-minded and confused; cornered and afraid. I watched my father’s mind drift slowly away, as if to sea – a spec on the horizon, and then nothing. I watched his body follow suit; watched him wilt and decay; saw the life struggle to leave him, and then I watched him die.

When disease overwhelmed my sister, its devastation was sudden and careless – seized her essence as though it meant nothing at all; clueless as to the profane loss her absence would create. I could not watch as she quietly surrendered. I couldn’t witness the destruction of someone so dear, and I thought it should have been me. I was older; less significant. I would hardly be missed. But life is imperfect, so she moved along without me.

It is happening again. My mother’s frailty is slowly giving in; her will to live firmly renouncing its hold on life. She flirts with death each day and somehow manages to stay free of its insatiable appetite, but that won’t last long. We know there are no winners in this game – we’ve discussed it. Everyone loses sooner or later, and for her, it has long been later. I confess, there have been times when death seemed the better, more logical servant.

None of this is rare. Everyone has endured the loss of loved ones, and we each clutch a perspective worth adding to the narrative. Every unique point of view is as poignant as it is destructive, but then why should it be otherwise? Death, after all, is no accident. It is an appointment with eternity that escapes no one, offering the promise of everything, and guaranteeing nothing. We all have watched it happen. I know there are many others who have suffered so much more than I; their anguish almost inconsolable; their loss as close to complete as humans can endure. Death has visited me kindly, by comparison, and offered sweet resolution to destinies of pain, trepidation, and torment. 

Death brought peace to my loved ones, and for that I am grateful. But here I sit, once again watching, as my mother’s life slowly sneaks away, and the powers that be are forced to accept their inadequate defense against such a foe. I watch her spirit abandon countenance and leave only the frightening panic of facing a life she is no longer certain was of value. I watch as she questions her beliefs, doubts her resolve, and seeks a way to somehow regain her dignity and some meager assurance that there will be reconciliation and relief. I watch as fear slowly gives way to acceptance, while only sleep offers refuge from the horror of knowing your time is now measured in days. Hours.

We all go through it. We are all forced to see. Maybe so we will learn how to recognize our own short comings; possibly to prepare us for our own trip toward the end. Maybe we watch so that others can reveal the roadmap; a more prudent path to follow, perhaps. Maybe we watch because we are curious, or because it reassures us that nothing lasts longer than it should. Maybe we watch for no other reason than to accumulate last looks – some attempt to remember the animated soul before its evicted. More than likely, we watch because, at some point, that’s all we can do. It is life’s only inevitability. 

It doesn’t matter how difficult this journey becomes, or how easily we traverse each bump along the way. It always hurts, and sometimes in ways we never really understand. We watch death perform its perverse duty because we have to, and I suspect it watches us as well. Looking away is never an option.

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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.

Right Place, Right Time

I don’t actually believe in luck, but over the past years, I’ve had more than my share of it while witnessing the paranormal. For instance, I’ve seen quite a few black shadows. Not the ones that dance elusively around your peripheral, but the kind you can track; that move purposefully within an environment and menacingly blend in and out of the natural surroundings. I’ve even seen a few in broad daylight, a sight you don’t soon forget, but the difference between a legitimate black mass and anything else is stunning. There’s no room for doubt, and for a moment, you’re acutely aware of just how awesome it is to be in the presence of such a thing. I’ve never found them frightening, but on more than one occasion I’ve been frozen in my tracks.

I’ve also been blessed to have captured thousands of EVP from any number of different devices in any number of situations. I was part of a team that video taped an amazing full-body apparition in a location that was verifiably void of any human contamination. In a similar situation, I watched a tape of translucent humanoid shadows move in and around a space; come and go through walls… And through people. (I was one of them.) I’ve been touched a bunch of times in ways that defy reasonable explanation. I’ve seen a few mists and a pair of glowing orbs. It’s been fun!

And over the years I’ve investigated within inches of newly deceased bodies at a funeral home, observed reflections of movement in standing water at an old restaurant, heard discernible whispers at an abandoned mental hospital, and watched a graveyard entity disappear. I may choose not to believe in luck, but I may have experienced more of it than the average investigator and been able to record far more paranormal events than I would have thought possible.

So, I don’t know how not to believe in all this stuff. I used to embrace skepticism, but that was a long time ago – before that first black shadow came within five feet just to personally stare right through me. Maybe it’s not too difficult to understand why I’ve grown weary of the usual dissociating. Each time someone suggests a possible coincidence, or finds fault with my observational skills, my patience quickly dissipates. Every intimation of an overactive imagination, or suggestion that my senses are being deceived, plucks my last nerve. Of course all of those are highly plausible, but I’ve learned how to look there first. With so many unexplained sightings, were there a rational explanation for each, I would have no choice but to consider myself an impetuous, completely oblivious person with the observational acumen of sand. There’s been way too much paranormal water under the bridge for that.

I suppose I sound a little defensive, and there’s some truth to that, I’m sure, but why not? Where’s the value in denying certain events in the name of skepticism when the truth appears to be otherwise? Telling it like it is makes more sense to me than telling it like we think it probably should be. And I’m used to having my veracity questioned, my sanity in doubt, and my motivation examined. I’m sorry that everyone hasn’t seen these things, or heard those voices. I’m sorry some people feel that because it hasn’t happened to them, it couldn’t have happened to me. And others. But whenever I get too annoyed, I consider the fact that I am just a drop in the proverbial bucket, because I am not alone.

There are thousands just like me, and in a way, we draw strength from one another. It doesn’t take a lot of talent to be in the right place at the right time, but you do have to learn how to stand your ground. Not with the paranormal life you might encounter, but with the living who can’t believe it happened. In the paranormal deck of cards, the motivated skeptic card always trumps the red-eyed demon. I can’t help wishing it was the other way around – sometimes.
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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.

Paranormal Trust

If I don’t trust you, I don’t want to investigate with you. I know you’re not a thief, and the odds are slim that you’ll murder me in a dark hallway on the third floor, but trust is still a major issue for me. I don’t mind if you gossip a little too much, or if you chew like a cow at the diner. I can handle those political differences and the fact that we can’t agree on whether orbs are paranormal or not. I can even tolerate the nagging feeling that everything I tell you will be retold behind my back incorrectly. I may not like anything about you – your wardrobe, the sound of your ridiculous voice, or the fact that you’re as ugly as sin. I don’t have to like anything about you, but I do need to trust you.

I’ll call this paranormal trust – an unquestionable knowledge that you’ve got my back as much as I’ve got yours, and that when all is said and done, I can be confident in your total and unwavering support. You will always have the team’s best interests at heart, your evidence will always be honest, your attitude will exude a willingness to learn, and if I ever turn to look for help, you’ll be there.

Acting on fear is not an option. You can certainly be frightened, but I need to know you’re doing your job regardless, and I will rely upon you to place a team member’s well-being before your own. That’s how I was trained; you can require the same of me. Safety needs to be at the beginning of every decision, and you can never place your actions in conflict with team objectives.

You must respect the environment being investigated. No rifling through a client’s dresser drawers, raiding their refrigerator, or leaving trash on the premises. Likewise, I can’t abide attempting to confuse the equipment, or faking evidence. In fact, I need to feel confident that you will relentlessly try to debunk even the most convincing occurrence. The same with evidence – no matter who submits it, but I also expect you to defend what you know to be true.

Be on time. Never wander off alone in sensitive areas, or allow a partner to be out of sight or mind. Always maintain your personal equipment, and treat team equipment respectfully and with great care. These may seem like silly points to some, but attention to these kinds of details is a good sign that an investigator is disciplined, reliable, and serious. Be those things.

Obviously, trust is a very personal determination. I’m less concerned about whether or not I think you ask stupid EVP session questions than I am with whether you’re making an honest effort. Spirits can’t be predicted, so they frequently respond to the dumbest stuff, but I need to feel that you’re “in the game” and not just parroting some tv show hotshot.

I don’t personally require my fellow team members to be “good” investigators. That’s relative and wholly subjective, and we can all benefit from improvement. But I definitely insist that your efforts be forthright and that you learn from mistakes. I expect you to be an extension and reflection of me when we’re together, and you should demand the same. In my opinion, being a good investigator comes with time and experience, but being a great one requires a partner you can trust.

Paranormal trust isn’t easy to come by. It’s also not especially difficult to achieve. In my experience, this is very idiosyncratic, and relies on a great deal of luck, unfortunately. Most of the people I’ve investigated with meet my qualifications – I probably couldn’t tolerate otherwise, but it’s not about meeting my standards at all. It’s about setting standards for ourselves. Paranormal investigation is a challenge that deserves our best effort. Anything less is a violation of trust.
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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.

Fool’s Gold

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

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

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

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

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