In my obsessive ruminations on the paranormal, I am often struck by how we cope with the thought of death and the fear of non-existence. I think one of those ways involves the compulsive collecting, or hoarding, of material items. I have around 150 religious icons, ranging from multiple prints of the Virgin Mary to such an abundance of rosaries that I have run out of places to drape them. My husband has so many knives, watches, small wooden boxes, war books, flashlights, lanterns, and other assorted and sundry items, that they have overflowed their hiding places and now pile up on night stands and dressers. There are enough skulls and Halloween decor in the house, including creepy portraits of people who are not, and never were, related to us, that the house has taken on a Haunted Mansion meets goth antique store vibe. We used to think it was simply cool and we were “collectors”, but now, all I can see is us warding the house against death, loss, and grief by filling it up with items that have emotions and/or memories attached to them, as a way to keep us alive via attachment to physical objects.

My shrine is packed with statues of saints, Buddhas, and assorted religious relics. One of those is a small, ornate, silver box that once belonged to my paternal grandmother. It’s lined with velvet, and for some reason, retains her scent of Oscar de la Renta and an Avon powder. I open it up every now and then and inhale that fragrance, all that I have left of her. I wish that I had more of her items, more than just her broken Buddha and her silver box with a shiny, pink stone inside. And yet, I do not have anything else; and so, I evoke her through those twin items that remind me that once, she hugged me and smelled like powder and Oscar de la Renta perfume; once, she was real. And maybe, just maybe, we can keep our loved ones alive who abandoned us in death if we surround ourselves with their precious items, if we place photographs of them on shrines, if we wind their old clocks . . .

And just to be sure, we buy more icons, owl figurines (my grandmother loved owls), incense (I have two drawers full of incense sticks now, and another drawer filled with essential oils, lighters, and matches) and tiny weapons so that we will feel safe and protected from dark forces that seek to rip us out of this life and take away all of our toys and security blankets, but far worse, rip away our memories, our invocations to loved ones passed, even our emotional lives, wrapped up in the things we buy and collect and lovingly display because, of course, they mean something, and without all those reminders, we might simply forget, and forgetting is like dying itself.

I watch “Hoarders” because I understand the power of objects. When your own emotional life is so rife with pain, loss, and grief, how comforting to think that a photo, a painting, or an old deck of cards can absorb some of your feelings, can provide a safe container for the mysterious despair that pervades this material existence. Of course, it doesn’t work; you can’t retrieve a loved one from the dead by displaying their earring box on your shrine, nor can you find God by displaying hundreds of images of His mother around your house. You can’t banish scary spirits with drawers full of incense nor protect yourself from spiritual harm with one hundred rosaries and assorted crucifixes. You can’t protect yourself from the loss of your object-body by hoarding interesting objects, each one a bit like a body, that maybe you think will contain you and hold you safely so that when you lose your object-body, you will live on in bits and pieces of your collections. If would be lovely if that were true; but even the most die-hard hoarder knows the truth: you can’t live on through your things, and you can’t take them with you wherever we end up going.

And that leaves us with the gaping, empty, hole of existence, whether in our bodies or out of them. If you have faith, real faith, then you hold the get-out-of-jail-free card. If you rely on “evidence”, then all you have is confusion and contradiction, and, once again, the necessity of faith. If you have had a direct experience of the Divine, the Immortal, the Godhead, the Universal Consciousness, then you most assuredly feel, like I do, a real sense of shame for hoarding graven images and lots of non-graven ones, too. Those of us who have been given a glimpse of eternity should know better than to purchase another pink crystal salt lamp, and yet, the temptation is overwhelming to hedge our bets, just in case we can escape the Grim Reaper by diving headfirst into our stuffed pumpkin collection and hiding.

There were these two brothers who hoarded out an apartment in New York to such an extent that the only way they could escape their home was through a window, and after awhile, they couldn’t even exit the window. The neighbors started to complain about the horrible smell emanating from their apartment, and finally, the authorities were notified. It took days to clear out the apartment to the point that they could search for the brothers. As it turns out, they had passed away under a huge stack of books and papers that had collapsed, crushing and asphyxiating them until their souls escaped their confines (if, indeed, their souls could find their way out). I do not wish this to be my fate, nor anyone else’s. There is no sense of safety when your objects destroy you.

I would love to end these considerations by coming up with a solution to this problem that didn’t sound trite and parental, or condescendingly “spiritual” in nature, but I will not, because fear of death and poor coping mechanisms in the face of trauma are very human concerns, and we all deal with our emotions differently. I don’t judge those who hoard, those who hide behind walls of important objects, collections, or books, because I understand the urge to protect yourself from ineffable, mysterious, incorporeal forces cannot be grasped nor studied nor examined. In the face of the unknown, it is of tremendous comfort to surround yourself with the bodies of your objects, the solid evidence that spirit can be converted into matter, and that matter can enfold and define you. But eventually, that matter will rot away, just as your object-body will decay and decompose, and you need to know that what is left is the only thing worth having in the first place: a sense of self, a belief in your worth as a spiritual being, but most of all, the understanding that you are not, in the end, the equivalent of a giant mound of garbage.

For your items, collections, and objects will serve as your tomb if you live to serve them.

—Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

For more information on the Collyer brothers, go here: https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/collyer-brothers-brownstone-gallery-1.1187698

Researchers explain the science behind "hearing the dead"

Yesterday, after receiving the news that a dear relative was on their deathbed, I was able to communicate to them during meditation. I received clear and detailed messages, one of which concerned the appearance of a dove: that would be the sign that my loved one had passed over and was fine. I went to lunch and while gazing at the tiny birds on the patio, I had a very strange sensation; my mind felt like it was somehow expanding, my consciousness altering, and my reality breaking down. I heard a high pitched sound in my ears that deafened me for a moment. I started to panic, but told myself in that moment that what I was experiencing could be a spiritual communication. I calmed down and gradually returned to normal. The experience was clear; my interpretation of it was the issue.

I decided that what I had experienced was the moment my loved one had passed. I looked online to see if there was any information on the high pitched noise I heard and somewhere I read that “spirit was trying to communicate with me” and that I needed to look for a sign. So I set out for home, searching everywhere for the white dove that my relative had said they chose. I didn’t see any white birds, but as I rounded the corner to my back door, a white feather floated down in front of my face. I grabbed it and ran inside, feeling euphoria and shock that my loved one had sent me this feather as proof that they had made it safely to the Other Side. I was a bit disturbed by the fact that the feather wasn’t completely white; there was some gray on the bottom half, but after searching for “dove feathers” online, I noticed that dove feathers do indeed have a little gray in them. So I placed the feather on the fridge and celebrated the joyous reunion of my family member with God. I thanked them for the sign.

But my dear one had not died. In fact, they were feeling a bit better and had committed to an experimental medication that might buy them a few more weeks or months. They were talking and hanging out with their kids.

The first emotion: shame. Then embarrassment. Then doubt. Then a dose of self hatred for not “intuiting” that this person had not died. I was, to put it mildly, in quite a state of confusion and upset. I had, at the very least, misinterpreted the signs I had received, and the communication that I had with my loved one. Worst case scenario, my messages were simply acts of creative imagination; the weird feelings and high pitched noise were signs of allergies and sinus trouble, and the floating feather was simply a random coincidence in an area filled with lots of birds. The middle ground tells me that the communication and signs were real, but that I had misinterpreted what they meant. My family member is between two worlds every day now; sometimes they are lucid and communicative, and other times they are far away in a world that we cannot access; except that I did access it, briefly, and was able to have a conversation with them in that state.

What you believe in this case reflects who you are and not who I am. It reflects what you believe about human consciousness, telepathy, angels and spirits, signs from other realms and higher intelligence, and simply whether or not you are a committed materialist, a curious seeker of knowledge, or someone who has experienced first hand the varieties of anomalous experience.

Mediums are often despised and ridiculed, and I am loathe to admit to anyone that I have any skill in this area. But I do. And usually, this gift does not fail like it did yesterday. And if this gift did not fail, I’m not sure how it worked. I have written before about how the information that mediums receive is not foolproof; there are ups and downs and crossed wires when you attempt to read someone or allow communication with the ‘deceased’. Stunningly accurate information can flow through you easily, and then it stops, leaving you with vague impressions that don’t make sense or worse yet, readings that turn out to have been meaningless for your client. I don’t know how my intuition works or where the information comes from. I simply cannot explain it, just as I cannot explain why it sometimes fails or derails. It is possible that we pick up on people with whom we had no intention of contacting; and yet, when I say that, the skeptics accuse me of covering up or justifying my fraudulent practices.

I sometimes despise my ability to read people and communicate with those in spirit (we are all in spirit, by the way, but some of us lack a body). It goes against my academic training, my critical thinking skills, my family’s beliefs, and tends to confirm what my parents said about me growing up: “she makes shit up” and “she lives in her own reality” and “she’s fantasy prone” and finally, “she has a BIG imagination”. When I think about those messages growing up, and the countless times I have suffered at work or with friends when I’m “outed” as a medium or investigator, I simply want to stop; to forget the fact that most of the time, I am spot on. Most of the time, I know things about people that I shouldn’t know by normal means. Shame creeps in to my soul, and I wonder why I have this “gift” in the first place. Especially because this gift is not always reliable or easy to interpret for myself or others.

I do not know if my loved one actually communicated with me while they were deep in slumber, experiencing vivid dreams. I am not allowed in the hospital room with them, since I am not immediate family. I do not plan on asking my family to question them regarding this communication issue, when they are deep in the process of managing the multiple indignities of a dying body. My need for proof must never outweigh the basic survival needs of my family member. That means, no proof for anyone else, either. However, I understand that what others might accept as proof varies considerably, and that there are those who will never believe in such things as feathers from a loved one or communication with the dead. Or the living, for that matter.

I have no resolution to offer here. No evidence to shock anyone; no final thoughts on the role of mediums and psychics in our culture, and certainly no solution to my own sadness and shame around serving as a medium in a culture that despises what I do and who I am. Maybe some of you can offer your advice and observations on this topic. I would welcome that.

Kirsten A Thorne, PhD

POSTSCRIPT: That day, as it turned out, was the very day that my dear one decided to give up the fight. At the moment I thought they had passed away, they were in a deep sleep experiencing vivid dreams. This was after they had decided to die. One of my in-laws had received messages from them the same day that I did, with signs too bizarre to ignore (but that is her story, and I will leave it to her to tell it if she wishes). So my relative had indeed left their body and was communicating with me and my in-law on the same day. What I thought was a failure of my mediumship was, in reality, a simple demonstration that the spirit can leave the body before the body slips away. I learned that death is not a one-time event, but a long, drawn-out process where one’s spirit comes and goes, in preparation for the ultimate goodbye. This has left me stunned and humbled by how little we know of human consciousness and how it works outside of the constraints of a physical body. R.I.P. RMS.

Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD, Paranormal Housewives



International Society for Paranormal Research

The Existential Crisis Survival Guide
From https://www.mytransformations.com/post/the-existential-crisis-survival-guide

I was reading Robert Lanza’s new book, The Grand Biocentric Design recently, focusing especially on his discussion of the Quantum Suicide paradox and Everett’s multiverse. Briefly, here is the thought experiment summarized:

­­”Amansits down before agun, which is pointed at his head. This is no ordinary gun; i­t is rigged to a machine that measures the spin of aquantum particle. Each time the trigger is pulled, the spin of the quantum particle — orquark– is measured. Depending on the measurement, the gun will either fire, or it won’t. If the quantum particle is measured as spinning in a clockwise motion, the gun will fire. If the quark is spinning counterclockwise, the gun won’t go off. There’ll only be a click.

Nervously, the man takes a breath and pulls the trigger. The gun clicks. He pulls the trigger again. Click. And…

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International Society for Paranormal Research

Train Tunnel Near Chatsworth

I live in the heart of the old Santa Susana Pass area, just to the south on a one-lane road to nowhere. Never, in all my life, have I lived anywhere that so richly deserves the label “haunted”. I have a great deal to say about what that means, but there is no way to understand this particular haunting without some background. History first.

The Santa Susana Mountains were once home to several Native American tribes, including Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians, the Kizh Nation and Barbareño, Ineseño, and Ventureño Chumash. Traces of their footpaths still run through this area, and there are protected pictographs in caves near Burro Flats, a site that no unauthorized person is allowed to view. Their location is a secret; they are somewhere near the old Santa Susana Field Laboratory, site of the worst…

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Nothing is more difficult for me than accepting what I want. Do I have a destination on this journey? I don’t know; but I keep moving towards something that seems both elusive and thrillingly possible.

Women are typically raised to fulfill the needs of others: husbands, partners, children, supervisors, students, extended family, pets, and anyone else who we can help, save, or serve. I would love to say that this is some antiquated notion that no longer applies, but I see this in myself, my students, my family, and my friends. We exist for so long to make someone else’s existence easier. In the process, we forget who we are and we can’t name what we want. If we do, if we can, we feel searing guilt around placing ourselves “first”, not thinking that those around us are doing that very thing, unworried that they are not serving us or supporting our dreams.

What is this revolutionary act that I wish engage in? What is the wild and crazy scenario that I am pursuing, and feeling so terribly guilty about? I want to live in Idyllwild full time, help build or run a community center, and travel to Spain with my husband a couple times a year. When I write in down, it doesn’t seem so extravagant. And yet, I find myself battling self hatred for simply wanting to create a life that honors my path and not anyone else’s. Why is that the case? Why do so many women, especially as they hit their 50’s, feel like it’s only now that we can timidly and with great caution venture out into the world for ourselves?

For decades, my life was about seeking out others’ approval. I needed to be the best teacher at work, the most dedicated daughter, wife, mother, and friend. My entire life was about what someone else might expect from me and trying to meet those expectations, whether they were stated or implied. But a strange thing happens when you live to please or serve others. Those people for whom you sacrifice yourself pull away. They didn’t ask for your sacrifice; they are usually threatened and defensive around a person who hands over her heart and soul on a platter and cares so little for their own needs and desires. On top of gutting your sense of self, in addition to losing your soul, you feel a crushing sense of failure; your sacrifices did not make your daughter happy, or fix your parents’ various issues and foibles, or inspire your husband, or motivate your students. You might make small differences, but the big, emotional gestures, the list of things you gave up, well, didn’t create the Big Changes you expected. You didn’t save anyone; you were not meant to.

So now, when time feels like it’s growing shorter, our life spans gradually shortening like summer melting into fall, there is this urgent sense that it’s now or never. Do you want that full-time house in the mountains? Then make it happen. Do you want to practice your healing arts, your nascent mediumship? Then get over your shame and doubt and serve people without sacrifice and violation of your boundaries. Do you need to be in Spain half the year? Then give up your ties that bind, and go. Will all this bring searing guilt and fear? Of course. But, in the end, you will find that being true to yourself is not only a gift to you, but to all those who love you, too.

—Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

I hope you enjoy this, dear readers . . .

International Society for Paranormal Research

Kindred.Spirits.S05E02.Zombie.Boy.720p.WEBRip.x264-KOMPOST[rartv] Torrent  download
Amy Bruni and Adam Berry Providing “zombie boy’ with a back story

In Season 5, Episode 2 of “Kindred Spirits”, investigators Amy Bruni and Adam Berry suspect that “zombie boy”–a supposed ghost that was ramping up activity and scaring investigators at a Massachusetts estate–is a creation of the very people who so fervently believe in him. Much like “Phillip”, the invented ghost from a series of seances in the 1970’s, “zombie boy” had started to appear to investigators and even possess one of them. The photos provided as evidence of his existence were unconvincing to Amy Bruni, and after a few frustrating attempts to figure out his identity, it is she who starts to wonder if “zombie boy” might be an “egregore”:

“Egregore is an occult concept representing a distinct non-physical entity that arises from a collective group of people. Historically, the concept referred to angelic beings, or watchers, and…

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About Me

January 2021

The issue cannot be avoided. Are paranormal investigators qualified to make statements on the afterlife and all things immaterial? What degrees or experience do we have that allow us to analyze “data” with any measure of professionalism? Are there no experts in the paranormal, as fellow member Keith Linder (MUCH more about him coming) affirms in his books? Why do I think that I have anything to contribute to this field of inquiry?

There are no stand-alone degrees in Paranormal Studies. The University of Virginia offers a degree in the Division of Perceptual Studies (https://med.virginia.edu/perceptual-studies/history-of-dops/) through the School of Medicine; you can take courses at the University of Arizona through the Department of Psychology, where the preeminent researcher of consciousness, Gary Schwartz, carries out his research into survival of consciousness (https://psychology.arizona.edu/users/gary-schwartz); and The University of Edinburgh offers programs and courses through the Koestler Parapsychology Unit, housed under the Department of Psychology (https://koestlerunit.wordpress.com/research-overview/). I’m sure there are other micro programs around the world, but my bet is that they are housed under a standard, accepted, academic discipline. This is significant for the following reasons: parapsychology is a sub specialty within Psychology or Medicine, not a stand-alone discipline, and it is quite rare to find this course of study anywhere outside of the places I mention above.

My doctoral degree is in Spanish and Romance Languages from Yale University. How would a degree like mine apply to the study of the paranormal? When you survive the boot camp that is Yale graduate school, you learn how to analyze, deconstruct, and contextualize a wide variety of texts; you conduct research and figure out how to solve problems and puzzles related to the origins, intentions, and purposes of stories, novels, essays, manuals, and historical documents; and you dive deep into Hispanic folklore, much of which centers on tales of ghosts, cryptids, assorted demons, zombies, witches, and supernatural experiences of every conceivable variety.

However, no matter what one’s background, you do need the ability to understand the nature of consciousness and how it survives death; and no, I cannot claim to be able to explain that. Nobody can. Not even Gary Schwartz, who has dedicated his life to understanding consciousness and survival of death, can explain how that might work. In fact, nobody can really claim to explain how consciousness works, how it can either be produced by the brain (materialism) or how it can function without a material body (post-materialism). The continued search for answers and the excitement of the journey is what animates me and gives me a sense of purpose. My entire life has been defined by experiences that are far beyond what scientific materialism can explain; I would like to understand more deeply what those experiences mean.

What I bring to the International Society for Paranormal Research is an ability to cut through theories, data, and narratives to the psychology behind them, the driving forces that animate the search for answers. I am interested in the analysis of data and how we arrive at conclusions. I hope, above all, to create a community of researchers and investigators willing to share their findings and the meaning that they attach to them. The study of the paranormal, the non-material, is multidisciplinary. No single academic discipline can claim to own the field. The notion that only the hard sciences can possibly legitimize our work needs to be revised; for the hard sciences do not, and cannot, make claims on phenomena that falls outside of the material universe. Defending the paranormal is more like building a legal case that incorporates the social sciences, above all. To understand the paranormal, you have to understand the human mind–and our conscious and subconscious experiences. I recommend Victor Zammit’s “A Lawyer Presents Evidence for the Afterlife” for those of you interested in the legal angle for studying anomalous phenomena.

In closing, I invite you to join me in this mission, not because we will arrive at definitive answers sanctioned by Science, but because there is nothing more mysterious and exciting than the journey to the non-material realms where we find, in the end, our true nature.

Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

Take a moment to watch this short video featuring Dr. Gabor Mate

The night that I walked into a house claiming demonic activity, I knew that I should not have. The result of ignoring a ‘gut feeling’ was over a week of spiritual, emotional, and physical illness. I remember sitting on the floor of the bedroom in that house, my teammates arrayed on the bed; I knew that the darkness that surrounded us was ripping holes in my heart and mind and was influencing my friends to behave oddly and out of character. I saw that my camera was malfunctioning in ways that it never had before; I could not take photographs. My recorder spit back loud interference and static; I could not record the activity in the room. I knew that this energy was what we call ‘evil’, in the sense that it sought to confuse, disconnect, distract, divide, and create despair. So why did I stay, when the second I stepped into the foyer my entire psychic alarm system warned me to turn back?

We become disconnected from ourselves in the way Dr. Maté describes when we decide that what we think the world wants or expects from us is more important than our internal alarm systems or our gut feelings or instincts. In my case, my kryptonite is a desire to please. I did not want to let down my team by backing out of a dangerous situation. Of course, they would have understood completely; but I did not give them the chance. I had decided that my own emotional, spiritual, and psychological well being was less important than possibly disappointing my team and the client. I am socially conditioned to seek out others’ approval; I have developed a skill for divining what somebody wants or needs and attempting to supply it for them. This poses a problem in research of any kind: if you seek to please those with whom you are collaborating to the detriment of your own inner compass, you may miss the truth about the case you are investigating and the motivations of those involved.

There are other ways that this disconnection from your core instincts can sink you in your pursuit of the truth. Excessive curiosity can lead one to a sort of arrogance, where you believe that you can figure out a great mystery if you read more, collect more data, conduct more investigations, or write about it from multiple angles. If you keep attacking a problem, it will eventually yield up all the answers. This is my greatest sin, but also my greatest passion; sometimes, it is difficult to disentangle dedication and devotion from arrogant assumptions about one’s ability to ‘solve’ the most intransigent conundrums of the universe. The evil in the house I ‘investigated’ (more like ‘succumbed to’) was not something that had an answer, because I was incapable of posing the right questions. Whatever was there would have laughed at my questions, anyway; one of the characteristics of demonic phenomena is its resistance to logic and reason. When one brings a desire to understand that which resists understanding, the result can be a frustration that leads to despair.

Other forms of disconnection look like a desire for fame, for attention, for money, or for status. The line between true investigation and research into the paranormal is so often blurred by the entertainment industry that I wonder if anyone can trust the ‘evidence’ that emerges from programs designed to sell themselves. I remember the moment I realized that looking cute for the cameras while ‘chasing ghosts’ had replaced any serious attempts at reaching honest answers. It was the beginning of my spiritual crisis.

What do I ask of paranormal investigators? Of parapsychologists? Of anyone studying the nonphysical phenomena that hovers between dimensions? I ask that, in addition to collecting data, to analysis, to publication of findings and reports, that you pay attention to your instincts. Allow your ‘gut feelings’ to guide your way through a difficult case, even if that seems unscientific. Following your deepest compass, your inner voice, will lead you to the truth eventually; and sometimes, it will lead you away from a situation that poses a spiritual danger to your soul.

—Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD; founder, International Society for Paranormal Research

“Surviving Death” on Netflix examines the Big Question: does human consciousness survive physical death? The various episodes cover near death experiences (NDE), ghosts and apparitions (including crisis apparitions and near-death visions), a two-part program on mediums and mediumship, signs from the dead, and reincarnation. The reincarnation episode follows up on some of the most famous American cases: James Leininger (see more about this compelling case here: https://psi-encyclopedia.spr.ac.uk/articles/james-leininger) and Ryan Hammons (https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/boy-says-he-remembers-past-life-hollywood-agent-n327506).

My purpose here is not to review the individual cases or the series as a whole, but rather to discuss two scenes that exemplify the challenges of psychical research. Nicole de Haas appears in the “Medium” episodes, as one of the leaders and featured physical trance mediums at a mediumship development seminar in the Netherlands. When Ms. de Haas in a trance state, or when she’s behind the curtain in a darkened seance room where she produces ectoplasm off camera, she speaks in various voices that transmit messages to the audience/client. One voice is that of an elderly doctor, and the other is that of a nine-year-old boy. All of the various voices sound like de Haas herself, using vocal gymnastics to sound like her spirit guides. That does not mean that she isn’t channeling these characters; they have to use her physical voice to express themselves. And yet, there is the uncomfortable and inescapable realization that she is not providing anyone information that is not easily found on the Internet.

One of the main participants in the series is searching for evidence of his father’s continued existence after a sudden departure from this world that left him in a deep state of grief. He consults various mediums throughout these two episodes; de Haas initially impresses him and his family with details about the “green car” his brother in law owned and an oft-repeated phrase his father used in his family restaurant: “hook ’em up”. However, all of this information is easy to find on Facebook and on other sites. Does this mean she looked it all up beforehand and used the little boy voice to transmit this information to the family? Not necessarily; but the look of disappointment on her client’s face as he realizes that his father probably did not come through is heartbreaking.

The second uncomfortable moment comes when Ryan Hammons, now 15, is taken to California to meet the daughter of Marty Martyn, who was a Hollywood extra and a talent agent (he died in 1964). Ryan, as a child, recounted Marty’s past life memories with remarkable accuracy. However, by the time this documentary was filmed, he has very few actual memories. He is ceremoniously flown to Los Angeles for the big meeting with Marty’s daughter and niece, who was the only one who knew him as an adult. Ryan’s mother is very enthusiastic about this trip, but her son is clearly uncomfortable and self conscious. The meeting between families is excruciating to witness. Ryan cannot identify relatives and friends in family photos; he has no recollection of the incidents Marty’s niece recounts; and he can’t answer anyone’s questions in order to ascertain his identity as Marty reincarnated. There are long moments of strained silence. When the meeting is finally over, it’s clear that Ryan has not made a convincing case; in fact, he has made no case at all. However, prompted no doubt by the producers, Marty’s niece and daughter make encouraging statements about Ryan’s previous personality.

Ryan and his mother end up at the grave site of Marty Martyn; she has her arm around him, comforting him unnecessarily, because it is not at all clear that Ryan is upset, grieving, confused, or anything but embarrassed and overwhelmed with all the attention. What stands out in this story is a simple fact: you can’t force memory to return once it has fled. There is no holding onto the past; Marty Martyn is, quite simply, not a part of Ryan Hammond’s life anymore, and that is entirely appropriate. James Leininger is clearly still affected by the death of his previous personality; he still relives his death trapped in a burning plane that was crashing near Iwo Jima during WWII.

What do I make of these moments? Nicole de Haas seems to be creating voices and relaying information that she did not obtain in a paranormal fashion, judging by the documentary; no cameras are allowed in the seance room, so there is no way to know if she actually produces ectoplasm. Ryan is a normal teenager who had extraordinary memories that have now vanished. Nicole de Haas might produce amazing and life-changing readings for her clients that do not appear on television. Actually, I’m sure she does; but is what she does paranormal, or simply the confirmation of the obvious messages that she knows people need to hear when they are wading through the deep waters of grief? Did Ryan experience some kind of extrasensory perception, soul connection, or mild possession by Marty Martyn, or is he truly the reincarnation of the deceased actor? Is it possible that his statements were rather vague, but once an eager parent seized them, the narrative coalesced?

So much of what we study in the field of the paranormal relies on believing, on taking at face value, someone’s narrative, or several people’s narratives. I could be completely wrong about Nicole de Haas. She might be an authentic physical medium with extraordinary skills, and I could be the ignorant skeptic. I’m am prepared to accept that possibility. This points out the need for deep and ongoing research; one documentary is not going to provide enough proof for or against physical and/or trance mediumship, for or against the reality of reincarnation, or the truth of the near death experience.

I want to believe everybody. I do not want to think that someone would deliberately mislead anyone in the pursuit of fortune or fame. I know, however, that this happens; human beings fall into temptation on a regular basis. I also know that once something extraordinary and anomalous happens, there is an additional temptation: faking evidence or phenomena in order to keep the attention coming. This creates a mix of authentic and fraudulent paranormal phenomena that ends up tainting an entire case, resulting in investigators ignoring or discounting data that might otherwise have been deeply insightful.

This is the eternal frustration of the paranormal investigator. We have to live between truth and falsehoods, lies and revelations, stunning evidence and demoralizing disappointments. It is very easy to be the skeptic; far too easy. We can decide that a whiff of fraud destroys an entire case, no matter how carefully constructed and researched that case might be. We can leap on one piece of questionable data and decide to deride and ignore years of work. It’s satisfying to the ego to rip someone to shreds on Facebook, crying fake and foul. It is far more difficult to entertain the possibility that extraordinary claims could be true.

It requires far more from me to think that perhaps Nicole de Haas is truly channeling spirits and producing ectoplasm, or to accept that Ryan Hammonds is the reincarnation of Marty Martyn. It means that I have to keep working, investigating, thinking, writing, and searching for the truth. That’s work. Most people don’t have patience for this level of work, this depth of inquiry. I understand that; I am regularly tempted to play the skeptic and write something snarky about a medium or a case. Then I remember my own paranormal and anomalous experiences, and recall how it felt when my reputation was tarnished at work after revealing them. I remember the derision of people in my own family and the pain that lingered for years as a result. That keeps me honest. And compassionate.

—Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

Welcome, friends, to the International Society for Paranormal Research. If you are interested in becoming a member, please read below:


Criteria for membership in the ISPR:

  1. A body of investigative work in the field of the paranormal or of anomalous experiences and/or phenomena;
  2. A willingness to publicize your work for professional review and to contribute to the ongoing work of the ISPR;
  3. Demonstrated integrity and adherence to the highest values of transparency, honesty, and open communication with those working in the field and the interested public.

As a Member:

You will be part of a ISPR’s growth as a society and will contribute to future endeavors such as investigations, conferences, and professional reviews of contributor’s work; you will have priority for publication of your work and findings in the field; you will be a part of Founder’s and Members’ meetings to discuss and determine policies for review of specific cases presented and/or under investigation; and you will have an open invitation to participate in investigations with other members of the Society.

In order to remain in good standing in the ISPR, you must adhere to the member qualifications at all times. As the Founder, I can call for removal of any member who violates the guidelines. Removal from the group may be initiated due to extended inactivity of a member, knowingly engaging in fraud, collusion, deception or falsification of results, or due to lack of communication and/or cooperation with the members of the ISPR.

I would personally like to extend an invitation to all interested readers to join us on this (ad)venture. If you have something to contribute, please consider contacting me with your bio and a sample of your work (this can be data from investigations or any summaries, analyses, or discussions of said data).

The ISPR is an open organization dedicated to investigating and presenting evidence for all aspects of the “paranormal”, including, but not limited to: all manifestations of human consciousness in post-material form; alleged hauntings of homes and sites; poltergeist activity; the work of mediums, psychics, clairvoyants and empaths; anomalous experiences that include UFO activity or any other unusual or unprecedented event, sighting, or manifestation. We are:

  • Open to all amateur and professional investigators who wish to contribute their data and conclusions for review;
  • A forum for investigators and researchers to share their research and data, but also a site for meaningful conversations among investigators regarding methodology, personal experiences, concerns, and questions;
  • International in scope, since we are all interconnected more now than ever, and paranormal phenomena is not restricted to one, particular country;
  • Non profit, with no financial or professional interests that would interfere with our primary mission;
  • Not a ‘team’ of investigators, but may announce investigations and/or invite participants.

I hope you are all as excited as I am!


Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD; Founder, ISPR