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.

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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.

The Real Skinny

Change is good. Nothing too revolutionary about that statement – you’ve heard it before in reference to the paranormal. I’m not alone. It’s a wise person who is willing to integrate new methods and ideas, and I’m convinced doing so will make us all better investigators and researchers. It’s a good idea in life as well, don’t you think? I guarantee you that without a willingness to change, I’d be cowering under a rock somewhere – dirty, and mumbling about evil doers and fluoride in the water. The ability to adjust is built into the human condition, so why has it become such a moral dilemma these days when someone abandons the status quo?

I recently came across my first podcasts from 2007 – not published under the name Voices Podcast. Only about six people bothered to listen, but it’s both striking and disconcerting to realize how amply my attitudes and opinions have changed. After all, it’s only been seven years, and that hardly seems like enough time to be doing complete turn-arounds and full-reversals. In many instances, that’s exactly what I’ve done.

I’m reminded of a friend who felt obliged to point out a recent set of contradictions. He was quick to assert that it appears I don’t know what the heck I think. I should “pay better attention to previous claims.” Of course, I tried to explain that with anything paranormal, one has to be able to do that 180 and deal with the dreadful reality that you were probably mistaken. One can’t cling to wrong thinking – that will only maintain a bogus credibility, and credibility is important in the paranormal. Better to be honest with yourself and others throughout. Theres no shame in admitting that you don’t know or in confessing you were wrong.

Because of The Voices Podcast, I’ll be forever stalked by previous, errant conclusions, but there are also a couple of books out there with my name on them – an extensive public record of my inaccuracies and irrelevant ramblings. Good grief, I’m doomed! Maybe not. I’m sure most people realize there’s a learning curve with paranormal research, and that sometimes what you think you know today is less significant than what you don’t know tomorrow. In this field, being wrong should teach you a great deal, but you’ll eat a ton of crow along with it. My critical friend feels that until I am certain of something, I should be quiet – that I do no service offering unsubstantiated opinions and personal speculation. I guess he’s only interested in solid proof and guaranteed outcomes, as if anything paranormal is capable of delivering either.

Regardless, I feel a curious satisfaction from this work. I see it like a puzzle whose pieces are spread all over the neighborhood. I’m pretty sure if I can find enough of them, I’ll know what the picture is, but I doubt I’ll ever be able to completely solve it. Right now, I’m still looking for the pieces, and hoping one or two will connect with the ones I have. They rarely do, and that’s kind of a shame, but it’s also what turns me on about the whole experience. I expect to be wrong – it’s the nature of the beast as far as I’m concerned, and I’d lay you even money that seven years from now I’ll still be off the mark occasionally. Okay, a lot.

But maybe he’s right! Maybe I should just be quiet until I’ve actually solved something. I can accept that, even though I don’t see it happening. As long as I’m able, I intend to be going at it one way or another – wrong most of the time, but hopefully still enthused. I’m guessing I’ll be there until the end. Of course, then I’ll actually know, won’t I? If I can communicate from the other side, I’ll give you the real skinny then. But if I’m right, will you believe me?
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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.

Two!

About a week ago, The Voices Blog quietly celebrated a birthday. It’s been two years since I wrote my first entry and waited pensively to see if anyone would read it. I think if you had asked me then how many people would still be paying attention two years later, I might have suggested it would be a terrible flop and that my singular follower would probably stop actually reading in a few weeks. Well, this blog won’t be breaking any records, but I’m grateful to have exceeded “one” of you, and I’m thrilled every time someone clicks “like.” Everyone wants to be liked, right?

I haven’t strayed too much from my original plans for the blog – once in awhile, maybe. No one is perfect, and sometimes the temptation is just too strong to resist, but I’ve only gone on one political rant. I count that as a major personal victory, because I surmise the rest of you aren’t here for the party polemics. I’ve also only talked about purely personal things a few times – my vacation, time management issues – stuff like that. I’ve tried to write about subjects that are important to me as they relate to the paranormal – to the art of investigation, or the wonder of EVP; perhaps a ghost story or two; occasional humor. I feel successful in that regard, so please, feel free not to burst the bubble with comments accentuating the obvious flaws in my self-analysis.

But after two years, I recognize there are subjects I haven’t touched on as yet that could possibly be of some value to others. Maybe. You probably realize that I’m about to share some of those with you now. So here are ten things I wanted to write about but for one reason or another, decided against. Keep in mind that I resisted the temptation and deserve points for doing so.

1. Why I believe a paranormal team without women is doomed and a stupid idea.
2. If one more medium tells me I am being followed by an Indian Guide, I’m gonna have them scalped. It’s always a Native American with a wolf and he’s very wise and… Sigh. Stop!
3. Is “the paranormal” just another religion?
4. TV ghost shows are not training manuals for good investigations.
5. Why I am convinced that Ouija boards (and similar practices) are dangerous – even if nothing happens.
6. Some Christians should stop abusing scripture as a means to their own selfish ends and refrain from calling themselves Christians altogether. Somewhere in their new name should be one of the following words: film-flam, malarky, hooey, bunkum, poppycock, drivel, or bull.
7. Science, religion, and paranormal research are just different points of view on the same subject. There should be more listening; less evangelizing.
8. Is there sex in the afterlife? Do spirits procreate?
9. What I really think of The Ghost Box and other advanced forms of TransCommunication.
10. Why we will never find the answers to any of our “paranormal” questions.

My list actually exceeds ten by quite a few. Maybe if you’re still reading after this, I’ll find the temerity to post about some of those, but these ten are off the table, thank God. I think the problem with blogs is that we assume other people care what we have to say, which is why I’ve tried so hard to police myself. So, I’m much obliged to those of you who have been so supportive these past two years. I hope you’ll keep coming around and that it’s not too punishing. You never know, I might just find the courage to tackle one of these taboo subjects someday – like those “new” Christians, or spirit propagation. Well, I’ll write something every 7 – 10 days regardless – I just hope it’s not boring or too typical. Thanks!
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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.