Naive?

I’ve done my share of paranormal investigating, but I consider myself a simple EVP guy. Arguably, Electronic Voice Phenomena represent the best paranormal evidence we have so far – certainly the most prolific, and I don’t know an investigator who hasn’t captured at least one. This means I’ve got some company – there are more than a few EVP guys out there, and a lot of them are really good.

If there is competition among us, I’m not aware of it. Of course there are always those on the fringe who spend more time criticizing than they do gathering evidence, but serious EVP researchers would rather learn from one another. It’s generally understood that there are pioneers in the field who will always be set apart and held in high esteem – Sarah Estep and Constantine Raudive just to name two. Latter day masters such as Mark and Debbie Constantino deserve special recognition as well. There are others, but to a man (or woman), they would find competition among us to be a distasteful waste of effort and resources.

Debbie Constantino and I once spent ten minutes discussing the possibility of alien communication through EVP. She wasn’t entirely certain whether some of her results were from across the veil or across the galaxy. A controversial concept to be sure, but we were colleagues (of sorts), so the sharing of ideas was beneficial and desired. It was fun too! Debbie is no longer with us, sadly, but I cherished the few moments we shared. She and Mark are EVP heroes of mine, and I was blessed to have met them, but even more significantly, they treated me as an equal. I wasn’t, but they were encouraging and accepting just the same.

This is how it oughta be, right? After all, aren’t we all brothers and sisters-in-arms, sharing the same impossible quest? I was taught from the beginning that the most important thing about any investigation was to take care of my teammates. That was the prime directive, and there were occasions I needed to absolutely know I wasn’t alone. Evidence was a team matter as well. There was no place for individual accomplishments; never time for posturing; no expert opinions or unarguable ideas – the team spoke with one voice. It didn’t matter who captured the best EVP, or whose photo was the more convincing – it was a group thing and we were each “all in.”

Some of what I do now is outside the structure of that comforting team environment, but I often seek the input, opinions, and advice of those I trust. They are my safety net, and without them I think most of the joy in what I do would be gone. I need their candor and generosity, and I need to access the wealth of their knowledge and understanding. From time to time, they require the same of me.

Everything I have ever done in this field was inspired by others in some way. Not to recognize the value of keeping many counsels would be arrogant and foolish, but for some, these are utopian ideas. Naive. Instead, they withhold their most dynamic investigation evidence for their own edification; never share ideas or new methodologies. Being part of a team isn’t enough, and all too often, their rising stature in the field and aspirations of fame are far more important. There’s no room in the field for this, nor is the field so shallow as to allow self-aggrandizing and narrow-minded people to prosper for very long.

I mentioned some pretty lofty names a few paragraphs ago – folks who are held in the highest regard when it comes to EVP. People who kept no secrets; who shared every detail of their life’s work with anyone who wanted to know. People who understood the greatest value of paranormal research could be found in the hopeful benefit to all of mankind. They were inspirational, and their work powerfully broadened our ideas about the human condition; work for which they deserve great recognition and respect. Instead of basking in the glory, they persevered and they made us all feel that we too could contribute. And then they actually showed us how. Naive? I don’t think so.

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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.

Fist Bump

Whenever I watch Ghost Hunters, which hasn’t been for awhile now, I typically cringe when they do the fist bump at the end. For some stupid reason it just annoys me. I don’t remember when my fist bump hostility began, but one evening I found myself in the middle of a tirade. My wife, who would rather not watch the show at all, remarked that if I hated it that much, I should stop watching. “It’s just the fist bump!” I said, completely flabbergasted. “That’s all!” Geeez! I mean, it’s such a small thing, right? I keep all of that to myself now, of course, but I confess, for some reason it’s like fingernails on a chalk board to me. Indeed, when Grant left the show, I was sure the ritual would go with him. It didn’t.

But this morning I accidentally discovered a video lampooning the series, and I’m ashamed to admit I watched just to see if the fist bump would make an appearance there as well. Fittingly, at the end, it did. Now I have to say that watching Ghost Hunters wander through the dark to a soundtrack of fart noises wasn’t particularly amusing to me, and that was the only punchline in this parody. Maybe it’s my age, but when I hear the sound of passed gas, it conjures unpleasant memories, so I rarely find it humorous. Plus, Jason and the team represent something to me that has nothing to do with flatulence, so it just didn’t strike me funny. 

There must not be any respect left in the world, because surely they deserve better than that. Until it comes to that damned fist bump. I am frankly embarrassed at how easily that part entertained me. Not enough to replay it more than three times, but if one stupid laugh is what the satirists we’re going for, they eventually got mine, I’m sorry to say. 

Unfortunately, Ghost Hunters has always been susceptible to this kind of thing. For some reason, people like to analyze every second of every show – searching for fakery and staging, mostly, but also as fodder for the kind of sub-standard satire I witnessed today. And it’s a shame, because the program has had a tremendous impact on a lot of people. I won’t go on and on about it, but it’s almost impossible to successfully disregard the contribution of the show, whether as a catalyst for increased paranormal awareness, or as a primer for the millions of us who wanted to follow in their footsteps. Ghost Hunters is seminal, and represents the first sincere attempt to share anything seriously paranormal with the masses. 

In the beginning, the show was earth shattering, beloved, and highly valued but I guess it’s all come down to this sort of windy twaddle now, so I feel kinda guilty about the whole fist bump thing. After all, what would I have preferred in its place – a full embrace; a chug of Hennessy in the front seat of the van; congratulations over a giant, dovetailed doobie? 

Well, I understand the value in being free to make fun of our own culture, and I appreciate the talent it takes to do so successfully. Satire is not an easy form of humor to deliver, and someone is always going to be insulted, but fart noises? Really? I think I heard Louis C.K. once say that all fart jokes are funny. Maybe they are, but I wasn’t laughing this time. I just felt a little sad. Until it came to the fist bump, of course. I think that makes me some kind of a hypocrite, doesn’t it?
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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.

Soul to Soul

“That team is better because they have more equipment.” Not! Still, imagine for a second that quality paranormal research and investigation actually does hinge on possessing an abundance of gear. More is better. Bigger is better! Where have I heard that kind of thinking before? How discouraging…

Well, I guess a large library with a gazillion books is better than a small one. Assuming they’re quality books, of course – not just limited to bad romance novels and every Atlas known to mankind. It’s also probably true that a large urban medical group with dozens of specialists is more effective than old Doc Brown (third barn on the left), unless all those specialists are graduates of the Mozambique Academy of Archery and Medicine. That changes the perspective a bit. And certainly all those painters of motel wall art can’t be bad, right?

I still cry hogwash. More equipment does not mean a paranormal team is better. How many laser grids does one need? “Anyone want a FLIR? I’ve got two!” The first paranormal team I was associated with was anything but overly equipped and we managed to capture more evidence than any team I’d heard of, so you’ll never convince me that results have anything to do with how much really cool stuff you’ve got. But there are reasons our team’s investigations were fruitful, and it’s the same for every working paranormal team that succeeds. 

At the top of the list is using your resources wisely. Keep your equipment in working order, know when and how to use it, and understand that these wondrous devices are tools – it’s you who is doing the investigating. Pay attention to your surroundings and above all else, react to what you see and hear. Learn how to follow your core instincts, and don’t be afraid to go in the wrong direction. Be respectful and understanding of those whose environment you may be invading. And certainly not last or least, be as thorough as you can.

Investigating is actually a very dynamic situation – it becomes an entity of its own, and investigators feel their way through like the notes of a song in search of the melody. We become part of the darkness; a breeze in the wind, if you will. We are the peaceful representatives of the living world in a place where life may just be relative. We are ambassadors. “Yeah yeah, wax poetic, old man. A breeze in the wind indeed!” Well, overly hyperbolic or not, none of any of that requires even one piece of equipment. Investigation starts with the humanity of the individual, I think, and success doesn’t hinge on the lux of one’s IR bullet camera.

The team that spends its time bragging about their equipment, probably has their priorities out of line – a fairly understandable statement to make, I think. But what does that say about those of us who assume it makes them better? Not very much, I’m afraid. One doesn’t hire a surgeon for the number of scalpels he owns. His knowledge, creativity, and skill are better reasons. Why should it be any different with paranormal teams? Then again, I’d love to walk through a location armed to the teeth with every possible scientific apparatus available, but then how much time would I spend investigating? Equipment has its place – no doubt, and if used properly, can provide the evidence we all so covet, but I’ve always believed spirit communication is best achieved soul to soul. Equipment isn’t part of that equation.

I’m not saying less is best, or that a highly equipped team is automatically lacking – certainly, we need “things” to do our job, but most of today’s paranormal devices can’t prove a thing; won’t provide a shred of actual evidence. What we really need are well-trained, highly motivated investigators in whose hands to place all that equipment, and even then there are no guarantees.

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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.

Mackenzie is Sensitive

People are way too sensitive these days. I’m not talking about emotional reactions – I’m talking about the increased sensitivity to all things paranormal. I’m pretty sure there is now a sensitive on every corner. There are a couple in my neighborhood, in fact. “Oh! You’re a ghost hunter? You should talk to my Mackenzie – she’s a medium.” Really? The woman I hear screeching her kid’s name every evening at dinner time is a medium? The one in the too tight Ravens sweat pants; drives a Fiesta; the den mother of Troop 732? That Mackenzie? “Yeah! She communicates with her dead relatives all the time.”

Sure, but don’t we all? I talk to mine religiously – in the shower, washing socks, cutting the lawn… And sometimes, I swear, I think they answer, but I’m just not a sensitive. These neo-mystics are like 7/Elevens. They’re everywhere. The world is lousy with people who either commiserate with the deceased, get temporarily possessed, see phantoms in the corner, or burn sage literally everywhere. A chill in the air means a spirit has passed through them; a blowing curtain means grandma is visiting; misplaced keys are the handiwork of a playful poltergeist, and djinn are stealing the petty cash. Shadows in the hall have nothing to do with the dog and a night light – Mackenzie knows better. Mackenzie is sensitive.

Sometimes a paranormal researcher magically develops sensitivity. Where once was a good investigator is now an emotional volcano who already knows where all the spirits are hiding as she (he) offers her body so they can talk directly through her. I just wanna be there when one of them actually takes her up on it. Oh to be a fly on the wall of the afterlife for that! Talk about something being worth the price of admission!

When you think about it though, it’s pretty cool having a genuine sensitive at your beck and call. I should go to more neighborhood functions and make the rounds. Get as much advice as I can; improve my portfolio; rid my house of evil spirits. I don’t know, there must be something. Unfortunately, my initial reaction is to avoid these folks, and I’m very good at disappearing quickly. I don’t really want my future revealed over barbecue. I don’t understand why I need to “hang in there.” It’s good to know things will get better soon, but I thought everything was fine!

It’s a shame really. I’ve worked with real mediums before, you know. I can’t say they’re always spot on, but they have legitimate track records, and offer insight that coincides with evidence. They’re not a dime a dozen. It’s sad that their hard work and valuable contributions get so watered down by the likes of screechy Mackenzie and the metaphysical mavens of Essex Avenue.

Oh I know… I’m just no fun at all, but I truly don’t mean to be such a wet blanket. I just can’t help it, and I’d bet the entire farm I’m not the only one who feels this way. We’ve all had our run-ins with the occasional psychic correctness – I’ve predicted what will happen now and again; had a fleeting “feeling” that turned out to be right. I’ve definitely seen and heard things no one else did. It’s inevitable, really, but that no more makes me a sensitive than catching a foul ball makes me an athlete. It is also not a brief glimpse at my clairvoyant potential – no matter how hard I worked to develop it. I respect those who have the gift – I prefer my sensitives to be authentic, and I’m pleased as punch not to be one of them. I’ve got my own talents and skills; my own calling. That should be enough, don’t you think?
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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.

What We See

Over the years, I’ve learned that my eyes are not completely trustworthy. As a paranormal investigator, I’ve also learned to adjust them. When I witness something “ghostly,” or highly out of the ordinary, and before I assume that “paranormal” explanation, I look for clarification above my own nose. It turns out, there are a number of fascinating visual conditions which will cause us to see things that may not be there, and I seem to be susceptible to a few.

The first time I noticed a kind of misty, ectoplasmic looking entity floating around the room, it turned out to be the result of Blue Field Disorder. BFD is the ability to see the blood vessels in your eyes as imprints on the normal field of view. All it takes is the slight presence of blue light in a dark room, and depending on your sensitivity, this effect can continue for minutes after the blue light has been extinguished. It turns out I’m very sensitive to this, and for me, BFD is often triggered by no more than the pilot light of an electronic device. You can imagine the awesome creatures I’ve seen – lively and purposeful; each one appearing to interact with the environment, and very interested in being seen. But alas – Blue Field Disorder, and no more real than green cheese on the moon.

Another problem I have is the result of Fuchs Syndrome. It’s Fuchs (a pitting of the cornea) that required I receive a cornea transplant in the right eye. I still need to replace my left cornea, and until I do, I will see the most amazing juxtaposition of shapes and shadows when my eyes are deprived of light for awhile. Combine this with a compression of depth due to a previously detached retina, and I have been known to see full-bodied apparitions that turned out to be nothing more than a lamp and figurine on a shelf.

Now of course, I know how to recognize these issues the minute they occur, and have successfully developed methods to make them go away quickly. Still, even though I have never confused these problems with paranormal events, it does call into question the reliability of any investigator’s visual, anecdotal observations. What we think we are witnessing may, in fact, be nothing at all.

I realize this kind of talk sounds damning coming from an actual investigator, so I should apologize right now to all those paranormal folks whose observations and reports are unaffected by such lugubrious aberrations. Everyone’s vision is not the same, and that’s only one of the many reasons we use cameras. Cameras don’t get BFD. Precision lenses don’t develop Fuchs Syndrome, or become lugubrious. “But I know what I saw!” Of course you do, but if it’s not on tape, it’s not evidence, and therefore becomes just an interesting story you should expect almost no one to believe.

I’ve been doing this for awhile, and I do know the difference between an actual unexplainable phenomenon and a “blue field Fuchs spatial differential whatever anomaly,” but so what? And who cares if I can make it go away? Our eyes are still not completely reliable and are possibly responsible for creating more fantastic sightings than any of us would like to admit. At the end of the day, it’s only the evidence that matters and quite frankly, anything our senses reveal must be backed up with hard data. One cannot declare a haunting based on what is potentially the natural, convoluted misinterpretation of things by the observer’s own body.

Our senses play a major role in leading us through a location; in executing our pursuit; in refining our methods of recording what might be true. Our senses are of great value, but they can also be our most dynamic detriment because we are conditioned to believe what we see and hear above all things. By refusing to recognize this as a limitation, we lessen our effectiveness and diminish our chances for credibility. What we see is not always what we get, but sometimes, it’s not even what we see.

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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.

Trained

Somebody once told me I was a good investigator. I wasn’t sure what his criteria were, but a compliment is a compliment, and I get so few these days that I figured a “thank you” was probably in order. What I said instead was, “I had a lot of help.” Truer words were never spoken – I was trained, preached at, dragged kicking and screaming, and beaten within an inch of my life. Well, maybe it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but I was most definitely trained. I was molded in the image of my mentor, BJ Moylan, and I can honestly say that almost everything I know about paranormal investigation is the result of working alongside him.

Needless to say, field research is also a unique learning experience, and your teammates are your lab partners in a very intense endeavor. You learn and grow from each individual you work with, and the prime directive is to always maintain one another’s health and safety. Teammates come first. It’s therefore certainly necessary to work well with others but trust in the team is of major import. So is knowing your stuff, and being able to cover every base in any situation. We read articles and books, watched documentaries and interviews. We studied everything from angelology to the behavior of djinn in the hopes of being ready for the impossible; wanting to know rather than guess.

Not everyone was interested in committing the time; usually they weren’t convinced it mattered enough to warrant such “overkill,” so they didn’t last long. My training included long and intense discussions, attention to nuance, a dedication to detail, and tons of what-if scenarios, but everything I ever did needed to start with education and a thorough understanding of what was true and what was in need of proving. None of us had all the answers, and we were trained to look for solutions in ways that exceeded the current normality. We were taught to look beyond the obvious and that every success was just a logical stepping stone to the next level. We needed to seek that next level.

We were organized and never began an investigation without a plan. Individual ideas were encouraged, but since our best strategies often needed to change in mid-course, we were trained to maintain focus. We were expected to be respectful and diligent in maintaining decorum and attitude, whether toward the living or the dead, but we were taught to always remain in charge no matter what. We had worked hard to become good investigators, and we never let go of the need to continue in our growth.

Fear was never an option, so there was no giving in to it. There’s never a reason to be afraid anyway, but in those rare moments of human frailty, we knew to bury our fear with strength and good decisions. When we entered a location, we were confident – we had been trained well, and were prepared, so while fear can come upon you without warning, we knew how to anchor ourselves in reality – to finish our jobs and deal with misgivings later.

I think I am a good investigator – I agree, but I’d be lost without the gentle guidance of others. Without their help and strong presence, I’d have never succeeded; would never have lasted. Sometimes even the smallest event looms very large when you’re in the field, and I still find myself gratefully remembering those moments all these years later. There’s no substitute for strong leadership or a willingness to learn, and I can still hear BJ’s calm advice during certain situations; still remember what I gained from all that training. 

Paranormal investigation may not be rocket science or advanced medicine, but it’s a worthy subject that deserves the best effort we have to give. I’m just glad someone was there to push me in the right direction; someone who instilled a culture of competence and common sense. I’m grateful for his spirit of generosity. I’m grateful to have learned from the best.

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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.

A Work in Progress

I’m a nice person. I swear! For the most part. I mean, I’ve never gotten an award or testimonial for being nice; no keys to the city, but still… I recognize that there’s room to grow and I believe in trying to improve myself. So, I’ve managed to replace my natural acerbic attitude with politeness and pleasantries. That’s a great start, right? So trust me – I’m a nice person even if I am a work in progress.

But lately… It’s been difficult to maintain. Too many RNs, PAs, MDs, ADMs, Ph.Ds – the alphabet soup alone is taxing my patience, but again, I’m trying. Lately, very trying. I’ve snapped at more people in the last two months than in the previous ten years, and I can’t say the end results have been fabulous, even if it has allowed me to feel better. I need to stop doing that. I need to regroup and recenter my chi (or whatever), and go back to full-time amiability.

“Okay dude, go for it, but why do I care and what does it have to do with the paranormal?” Well, I’m thinking that my EVP sessions may have suffered. I think spirits prefer talking to friendly, affable folks, but I’ve been too matter of fact and all business of late. That’s not good, and certainly not my usual demeanor. Typically, I try to be friendly; make an effort to show an interest in the spirit; try to build a rapport and be compatible. And I’m convinced that tact works well. It seems that I get better responses by asking them how they are than I do with “Is anyone here?”

I used to assume the attitude of knowing they were there, while going to great lengths to show them how important their opinions and feelings really were to me? That was always a winner in the past. “Have you been to see your wife lately? She’s so sweet, and man did she love you.” That sort of thing. None of this ” knock three times to let me know you’re there” kind of crap. I used to go out of my way to build up a camaraderie; I found things in common to talk about. You can’t ask a spirit to chat you up when all you’ve got to say is “why are you here?”

So I definitely need to get back to basics, or rather, my version of the basics (Talking to Spirits 101, by Your’s Truly). But if the living are going to continue to drive me batty, that will probably take more time. Truth is, sometimes I prefer talking to spirits. I often feel a kinship with them; an affinity that I sense might possibly go both ways. Sure they’re a little cryptic; hard to hear on occasion, and they don’t always have the best vocabulary, but spirits don’t break promises, answer with predilection, cut me off on the freeway, or drop my mail in a puddle. Spirits are good people! That’s been my experience, and we’ve always gotten along famously.

Oh, who am I kidding? If I can’t be bothered to actually talk to them and not at them, this relationship will dry up, and I’ll be just another EVP specialist without any EVP. I won’t be alone, of course, because there are a lot of those out there, but no one really wants to join that fraternity. There are already too many of us running around in the dark without a clue – there’s a definite glut of bollixed researchers clogging up the lines of communication and spoiling it for everyone else. I don’t wanna be one of them. It just might be a good idea for all of us to take some stock in our methods and try to improve our paranormal work ethic.

Starting today, I’m regressing – back to the days when I didn’t know what to say so I just had a conversation. Gone are the usual, canned questions and rote paranormal kitsch. I’m removing all those tired, worn out usual approaches from my investigation lexicon, and replacing them with sincere inquiries and honest interest. I’m going back to being a nice guy again – the kind of guy who is less of an investigator and more of a genuinely curious new acquaintance. I’ll still be a work in progress, but at least I’ll be someone worth talking to.
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Voices From Forever by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/ZBBmj Available on Amazon
There Is No Silence by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/U6KY7 Available on Amazon.

The Fun Factor

It’s difficult for me to find the right way to describe the “fun factor” of paranormal investigating. I know how much I enjoy being with my fellow investigators – 99 percent of them are interesting, easy to work with, and enjoyable to talk to. But it’s not as if a night out with “the team” is better than spending time with lifelong friends or family. I suppose it’s really not a fair comparison, but… Likewise, I can think of a dozen activities that easily rival walking in the dark, lugging equipment, and talking out loud to no one. Setting up cameras and running cables isn’t exactly the same as, let’s say, good sex. Or even bad sex. And having to deal with dead batteries in the dark doesn’t not suck.

So why do we always talk about how much fun it is to investigate the paranormal? I say it all the time and mean it. In fact, I don’t ever recall not totally loving it – before, during, or after. I may complain about the drudgery of listening to hours of boring audio the next day or two, but the truth is, I look forward to it. And I’d be the first to admit that watching all that static video is a lot like watching someone knit – it’s fascinating for a minute or two, but it quickly becomes mind-numbingly repetitive. Still, I wouldn’t miss a single second of it and sometimes I wake up early chomping at the bit to get started. I want to see if possibilities have been realized!

What is it that makes this whole thing so damned entertaining then? Is it a fascination with the cool gear and equipment? You know – boys and their toys? Sometimes I do just open my equipment cases to bask in the glory of each device and accessory. I clean them regularly and think of new ways to put them to better use. In some cases, I re-read the manuals just to guarantee I can operate the device blindly while in the field, but none of this explains the “fun factor.” I mean, I like the stuff, but I wouldn’t take it to a deserted island.

Still, just like every other paranormal investigator I’ve ever talked to, I’m quick to swear that investigating is a blast. Oh, I know it’s serious work and requires dedication and commitment, but so does anything athletic, and it’s not nearly as personally intense as writing or performing music. But the rewards can be spectacular. Good evidence of something unexplainable is like Christmas morning for an eight year old – you don’t know what you’re gonna find, but the possibilities are endless.

So, does that explain why investigating is so satisfying? It’s probably the combination of a bunch of things coupled with one’s own spiritual travels through life, but I have a sneaking suspicion it’s not nearly that complicated. We just need to know. We’re so much a part of the world; such control freaks; so intrenched in every aspect of life, that not knowing something is unacceptable. We take pride in understanding our universe and many among us will go to unbelievable lengths to understand even more. It may be one of our most basic instincts – it is who we are, so investigating becomes just one more way of celebrating our humanity, and reveling in this indefatigable need to know that certainly defines us. It gives us joy.

People have been wondering about our true place on the timeline of life since we first stood upright and felt the need to worship something. The afterlife is arguably one of the most significant parts of living, and the desire to know truth about it has driven us ever since we first recognized the possibilities. We’ve always been paranormal investigators! And scientists. And explorers. And several dozen other similarly curious things.

I think that’s why we do it. I don’t think the “fun factor” matters one bit – we’d do it anyway. We know this, and like it. I’m not even sure we have a choice. We’re a little like that dog in the park who chases the frisbee – even when we’re off by a mile, we never miss the chance to do it again. It’s fun!
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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.

Complicated Creatures

Here’s a dream. I walk down the stairs to my mother’s basement, and there are two cots neatly made up. Each with brilliant white sheets and pillow cases; each with a bright red blanket – one is turned down. To the right and at the foot of the cots, my father sits in a brown leather chair. He is wearing a starched white shirt and an expensive-looking black suit. He is beaming at me and questions, “you don’t like me anymore?” Based on his expression, I take it as some kind of joke that I don’t understand, but I am also confused by his presence and the scene. Since my wife has entered the room, I answer, “Of course. We love you!”

He continues to smile, but my wife is looking for something and does not acknowledge either of us. I go to sit on the cot closest to him and notice two packs of cigarettes (my brand) and a white lighter on the small end table. When I look back at him, he laughs loudly and then we sit in silence – staring at each other for what feels like quite awhile. Eventually, I am distracted as my wife goes up the steps, but when I turn back around, he is gone. I am then alone in a very dark space – still sensing his presence even though I fear he is no longer there. “Dad, are you here?” There is no answer, and I awake.

I can remember every detail because it was one of those hyper-real dreams; the kind some folks say are actually visitations from the spirit of the person you dreamed about. I went over and over the events before I ultimately drifted back asleep – finally convincing myself that it was his way of saying that cigarettes were going to be the death of me; that I had made my bed and would lie in it – the other bed belonging to my deceased sister, a victim of lung cancer. I was certain my wife ignored us because she was unaware we were there – as if the deed was already done; a fete accompli, if you will.

I never pay very much attention to dreams even though they seem like the perfect vehicle through which to deliver important messages. Considering the immense difficulty we have in communicating with the other side, thought to thought through dreams seems like such a flawless method. In theory. However, I am reluctant to put too much stock in them – they seem such fragile nonsense. We jumble them, combine them, and remember them wrong, but once in awhile, a specific dream does stand out – it’s perceived message lingers.

So, did my father use this vague whimsy to visit me? I don’t know. Probably not. More than likely, something within me decided that smoking would do me in – that’s a sensible determination. Besides, I desperately want to quit and have tried almost every cure to no avail. I could have easily expressed my concern through a dream, and one’s deceased father is, after all, a memorable spokesperson. Predictably, the message stayed with me so much longer – indelibly.

On a personal level, I don’t actually need to know where dreams come from, nor do I actually care, if truth be known. I tend to accept things like this on whatever level they’re presented to me, but I enjoy the notion that my father’s spirit might have visited to provide potentially life-saving insight, so I’ll go with that. But every concept we have of spirit is collectively lacking, and since we really haven’t a clue, to think we do can only increase our ignorance and lessen our chance of ever truly understanding. I know enough to be satisfied with wondering.

But I ask again – do I think my father actually visited me in a dream? Well why not? It doesn’t matter if I really know the correct answer. It was just nice to see him again, and very comforting to think he is still able to care. And let me add, he was rocking that suit, but even better, he looked really healthy. That’s encouraging, you know. We are such complicated creatures.
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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.

An End in Sight

I haven’t made an entry in this blog for a month now. I wish it was because of vacation, or due to some kind of wonderful life-affirming experience. Childbirth, perhaps, or a stint in Africa fighting the Ebola virus. But alas, we’re having our kitchen remodeled and who knew it would take this long. We were so full of hope; thrilled at the thought of finally realizing a dream, and it’s truly getting there. Or so I’m told.

Now, you may wonder why a simple remodel should hamper my ability to scribe 750 words once in awhile. Surely there’ve been paranormal investigations worthy of discussion during this time. Certainly, there have been interesting personal events I could have written about. I assure you, it’s not that I’ve been completely uninspired, because there are tons of subjects I’d like to talk about. I could have broken my “no politics” rule, or discussed the new fall television schedule… I could have shared something; done my duty as a “blogger”; created some fiction; told some tall tales. But no! I haven’t dared, and if truth be known, I haven’t given this blog, or anything else I hold dearly, even a moment’s thought. However, yesterday, while cutting the grass and listening to the Beatles White Album, I finally realized why I’ve been so quiet. (Thanks again, Fab Four.)

During the past month without a kitchen, I’ve endured more horrific assaults on my person than I would have thought was possible. You don’t want to write while your sensibilities are being bombarded non-stop. Just the simple act of searching for a salt shaker in hopes of adding some meager seasoning to a microwaveable dinner is enough deprecation to ruin several hours by itself. Who knew it would be inside the toaster oven, which was hidden between the box of plates and a large trash bag of potholders, aprons, and cutting boards. Likewise, I haven’t a clue as to the whereabouts of an entire case of microwave popcorn, or the donuts I bought last week that everyone else claims I imagined.

The box of plastic forks and spoons keeps moving on me – it’s never where I last saw it. I keep spilling the ice trays walking from the bathroom to the frig. And speaking of refrigerators, I could have written several blog entries about why we don’t keep them in the living room. Our house mouse, Socrates Swahili Strindberg, stuck his head out in confusion and has moved next door. And I shudder when I think of Oliver the dog, wandering the house aimlessly in search of his dish. In the end, he gave up, sighed heavily, and laid down defeated. Our robot vacuum has given up as well. It came out as programmed one Friday and stopped somewhere behind the sofa, which is blocked in by the stove and refrigerator. I half expected to find the salt shaker back there as well – hiding. On purpose. Oh! I almost forgot, someone tripped and fell on the box with our glasses inside. I won’t say who, but old age had nothing to do with it.

A month doesn’t seem like such a long time in someone’s lifetime, but it is. This month has been an eternity, but when you add the indignity of having cabinets arrive at the wrong size, drawers without stops, live exposed electrical wires in the wall, and a dented microwave/exhaust hood, it has become forever. Yesterday, two days from installation, we were informed that our granite slab has cracked, and we must choose another.

Is there an end in sight? One would hope so, and certainly I’m mustering every ounce of optimism I can find (even though I’m convinced most of that is behind the sofa with the robot). We’re all holding up quite well, considering, because we know that when the dust finally clears, we’ll have a beautiful kitchen that we’ll cherish for many years. (We’re not doing this again in my lifetime.) Yes, we’re stiff-upper-lipping it, and dealing with adversity like true DIY champs. We’re a few dollars poorer and have noticeably aged during the process, but it will all be worth it – we’re just hoping we can hold on long enough to actually see the finished project. Besides, tonight we’re going to TGIFridays instead of Boston Market. Or MacDonalds. Or Sonic. The first thing I’m gonna do when the kitchen is completed is make spaghetti. I’m pretty sure we’re storing the sauce under the bathroom sink.
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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.

A Recollection of Facts

Here’s a story for you. Recently, during one of my regular trips to Mom’s, she asked me to delete messages from her answering machine – something she was able to do as recently as last month, but has since forgotten. The fifth message originated at 7:57pm on Tuesday of the week before, and the usually very clear recording consisted of about ten seconds of strange static through which a voice was laboring to be heard. Unable to understand a word, I noted the date and time and pressed delete. The next message was the same, but this time, I tried to figure out what was being spoken. This time, the paranormal investigator woke up, and I spent several minutes playing it over and over. The message was recorded at 11:28am on Wednesday of the week before, and like the first one, bore a strong similarity to EVP I’ve recorded over the years. I am completely certain that a voice was attempting to form words.

Having noted the times, I proceeded with deleting messages and thought nothing more about it. That is, until my mother informed me several days later that she had received a phone call from herself. Apparently, while watching yet another episode of Law & Order, her phone rang, and across the bottom of the tv screen scrolled her own name and number. You can imagine how this might completely bewilder a 95 year old, and by the time she gathered her wits enough to reach for the receiver, it was too late. I, of course, did not believe her until I scrolled through the list of missed calls on the Caller-ID. And yes, she seems to have called herself twice – once at 7:57pm on Tuesday of the previous week, and again at 11:28am the following morning.

Those are the facts. Hopefully, you’ve noticed that the times and dates of the “homemade” calls corresponded exactly with those of the strange static-riddled messages. End of story – let the wild speculation begin! In fact, let me save you the trouble and start the ball rolling. It could be a telemarketing tool that prevents the Caller-ID feature from showing the proper number. After all, wouldn’t you be more inclined to answer a call from yourself? I would. Who wouldn’t? The poor quality of the recordings are probably the result of a bad connection. Or perhaps there was some kind of problem with the local 256 exchange station and the “wires got crossed” (to coin a phrase). Surely that could happen. That could also have messed with the sound quality.

But I bet you’re waiting for me to suggest something paranormal, aren’t you? Well, I have heard strange voices on the phone before – voices that definitely didn’t belong; that said very accurate and personal things. And I’ve recorded EVP on my own answering machine several times. They’re difficult to prove, of course, so I rarely mention them. They’re very random and therefore too unpredictable for experimentation, but I am definitely convinced that spirits use the phone, and since Mom doesn’t record for EVP, that seems like an effective alternative method of communication.

“But come on, dude – theres a reasonable, common sense explanation.” And I’m sure there is. It’s just that I’m fairly certain the second message said “Randy, where are you?” (I kinda left that out – writer’s prerogative.) Well, it is true that I’ve stopped recording at Mom’s house. It makes her uncomfortable and it’s been feeling a little stale anyway. Besides, these days we don’t sit and talk during my visits – I do stuff, run errands, and yell things into her hearing aids. It’s all very exhausting, actually, and man does not live by paranormal investigation alone, so… Still, maybe they miss me.

However, it occurs to me that personal paranormal experiences never provide indisputable proof. There’s always someone who can explain them away or chalk them up to coincidence. Even the purveyors of certified paranormal evidence must suffer the indignation of disbelief or the inevitable label of charlatanism. So, no – there won’t be any claims made about these two extremely rare phone calls. It’s just an interesting story – an accurate recollection of facts that used my name and made a request, which I do intend to honor. I’ll begin recording again at Mom’s, and I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes. I’ll ask them if they called, and who knows – they might even answer. Maybe i should ask them to call me back.
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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.

“I know it was real.”

Having just watched the film Heaven Is For Real, I was reminded of a conversation I had many years ago with a man who had his own near death experience. At the time, such things just seemed preposterous to me, and I’m now a little ashamed to admit that I was less than kind as I incessantly grilled him. I’ve forgotten most of what he claimed, but amazingly, this film seemed to unlock some of the details, and foremost among them were the words “I know it was real.” I can see him say them; picture the look in his eyes and the angst he was experiencing over my disbelief – an outright rejection with which he was probably accustomed.

Nevertheless, he was completely convinced that every second of the incident was accurate and profoundly true. Nothing could shake or even temper his faith – he knew “it was real.” As I said, I’ve forgotten most of the details, but I clearly remember that he claimed to have visited what he assumed was heaven and that he met several deceased family members; some who had passed before he was born. I also remember that his time was brief there and that he knew he would be revived and returned to the living.

There’s not much you can make of such a tale, especially since these days science offers many convincing explanations that would quickly label the experience an honest hallucination. But the fact is that he had indeed died on an operating table and was gone for several minutes due to an unsuspected issue with the anesthesia. God only knows the kinds of dreamlike thoughts that might occur under anesthesia, and how can we possibly be certain the so-called NDE coincided with the actual moments of temporary death?

My own “NDE” was a total non-event. In fact, my description of flatlining was that of complete and utter nothingness. Since I was not under anesthesia, it does seem very convincing that his “hallucination” was the result of mind altering drugs, while I experienced the real thing. Regardless, I have stated before on this blog that I was aware of my nothingness – a much more difficult experience to describe than a trip through heaven with the family. And yet, no one questions my story. For the most part, people listen intently and then go on about their business. In fact, I have yet to hear a single expression of doubt from anyone, and most people find it interesting.

I guess it’s just easier to see the expressive near death experience as an explainable occurrence based on the right amounts of imagination, brain activity, and drugs. Typically, many of us prefer our real life to be understandable and wholly predictable. Anything else is just too far out for acceptance, and almost any natural explanation is more tolerable than something other-worldly. But “I know it was real,” he said – clear as a bell, and full of confidence, and now, ten thousand EVP later, I find it almost impossible to doubt a single word of the story.

Surely, if I can listen to EVP voices from beyond the veil, the idea of an NDE that can be cogently described is not so farfetched. The notion that we are occasionally chosen to gain momentary and limited access to the next plane seems like an obvious no-brainer to me now, and I owe that guy an apology, I think. But no amount of disbelief from others could alter his resolve then, so I would guess he still stridently believes. Time doesn’t seem to remove the life-altering impact of a near death experience; I’m sure he still knows “it was real.” He’d better. I would think the dangers inherent in denying such a gift might be immense. I certainly wouldn’t do it – no matter how crazy it sounded. Would you?
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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.

Jerks

“Most of the people I’ve met in the paranormal field are jerks.” Just saying that makes me kind of a jerk too, right? Well, I didn’t say it – someone else did. Actually, he said something a little stronger, and if you really wanna get technical, I’m not sure very many of us could even do what it is he suggested we should do. But the problem is…. I kinda know what he means.

There are times when we’re a rather “direct” bunch. Some might say we’re full of piss and vinegar; men and women of conviction; strong-willed champions of truth; even spiritual explorers and supernatural warriors. Wow! Fancy that, eh? Yes, but we definitely speak before we know what we’re saying – a lot, and that can make it pretty difficult to grow or change our minds. When I think of all the times I’ve heard one of us stand on our principles and lash out at the “infidels and idiots,” it makes me shudder. Even harder to digest when I do it myself. Invariably, the day of reckoning arrives and we have to back pedal our way into accepting the very methods and ideas we ridiculed only weeks before.

I wish I knew why we’re so hell-bent on denouncing someone else’s hard work! I don’t understand why their evidence is so frequently weak and ill founded, while our own feeble offerings are nothing short of earth-shattering or game-changing. Credibility doesn’t increase with the verbal persecution of others. And I’ve heard tell of more than a couple of great investigators who just tossed it all in rather than deal one more minute with this jaw-flapping horde of self-righteous evidence hawks. (Did I really just say that?)

But it does seem that just when you need a colleague to intelligently discuss something; just when you crave that understanding which can only come from another investigator, you run across a bunch of these predators instead. Maybe jerk is the right word after all – sometimes. I try really hard not to be that way myself, and even though I’m well aware of my own identical transgressions, I can recall a number of times when I just bit my tongue and quietly nodded instead.

“You should challenge everything! You owe it to the sanctity of the field!” No I don’t. I don’t know much about the sanctity of stuff (including that of “the field”), but I do know a little something about how to behave, and I just hate when I can’t manage to do that. It’s true that we shouldn’t have to accept lies, fakery, and unbridled stupidity, but most of the things we hear, see, and read in the paranormal are none of those. When we do, of course, something must be said, but aren’t we frequently a little quick on the draw? The way I see it, most of the so-called stupid ideas we find ourselves confronting come from people every bit as reasonable as ourselves, whose only real error seems to be sharing their thoughts with perceived compatriots. That’s a shame. Besides, today’s stupid is frequently tomorrow’s smart.

Perhaps I’m just being too hard on people, or misinterpreting the good intentions of solid paranormal researchers whose only desire is to find the real truth. Maybe, but such a lofty task must surely include a great deal of listening and a willingness to learn from others. The reality of the paranormal is every bit as big as that of the universe, and what we actually understand might not quite fill a thimble. So, how much of that small knowledge have any of us contributed? Some? None? Why place such high standards on everyone else when our own contributions are so minuscule? Maybe we are being jerks a lot of the time, and that just makes us useless. Being useless is much worse than being wrong, don’t you think?
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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.

May 65th

The month of May has always been my favorite – primarily because of the weather, but also because I was born in May. This year I’ll reach the noteworthy milestone of turning 65, and so far, I don’t feel any different. In some cultures the count begins at conception, so I’m already there by those standards, but either way, by definition, I am now officially old.

When I was very young, this event seemed about as insurmountable as landing on the moon. The average male life expectancy was only 68, so reaching 65 would make me downright ancient. I might be confined to a wheelchair, suffer dementia, or surrender to the vapors. Thankfully, things have changed – people don’t get the vapors any more, and obviously we’ve been to the moon a few times.

In fact, according to what I’ve read, there have been more advancements during my lifetime than in any other period of history. When I was young, we didn’t even know what the word computer meant. There were no cigarettes with filters, automatic transmissions, non-stick cookware, radial tires, or watches you didn’t have to wind. We had 6-cent coke machines, penny candy, rotary telephones, push mowers, home milk delivery, and there was no such thing as The Grammys. We thought everyone from Great Britain sounded like Winston Churchill. We watched Gandhi in newsreels at 15-cent double features. There were reasonable Republicans, way too many petticoats, corner grocers, and everyone went to church.

So I figured if I made it to 65 there’d be a party, and then I’d probably be led away somewhere to die. Life would be over, or I’d opt to sit slowly rocking on someone else’s back porch comparing sunsets, smoking my pipe, and whittling until the end came. And now, none of that is going to happen. I can’t say I’m sorry either, since mentally, I feel about 40, and I’ve still got shit to do, dammit! Being this old is a whole lot less of a drag than I ever would have imagined.

But having officially reached old age also means I’ve got regular bellyaching to do, and much to the chagrin of others, I don’t give a hoot. The things that bother me the most seem to have finally achieved some sort of boiling point and I haven’t an ounce of patience for anything contrary. For instance, I don’t recommend you rub my nose in right-wing politics anymore – I’ve had enough of that selfish, short-sighted garbage, and I’m likely to go off on your tediously immature sense of morality and that self-righteous pomposity you pretend represents well considered thought. (See! I told you.) Likewise, I’m sick to death of thinly cloaked racism and homophobic fear mongering, and honestly have to fight the urge to punch people sometimes. That’s not good, of course, but the nonsense has been building up for so long that I’ve embraced the intransigence of old age as a surprising and comforting character flaw.

But life is a process with many bottom lines, and milestones aside, I still have goals that don’t involve a medical diagnosis. There are the obvious family hopes and desires – that goes without saying, but I also want to learn how to take great photographs, understand quantum physics, bake outstanding sourdough, visit London, and a thousand other things – so I’m just not ready to pack it all in yet. This is only my 65th May, and that doesn’t seem like a lot, does it?

Let’s face it. We’re all going to get old, and I’m pretty sure it’s downhill from here. So, if I had one piece of advice to offer, it would be to make the most of it while you can, but buy a rocking chair. Learn to whittle. It might come in handy any day now.
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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.