As paranormal investigators, we all start out the same way: excited, scared, exhilarated, curious and completely passionate about investigating the world of spirit wherever it might manifest itself. Over time, we build reputations, book venues, go to conferences, make a name for ourselves, do lots of posting on social media, take a million photographs and upload countless audio clips. It doesn’t happen all at once, but one day we feel–dare I say it–bored with the whole thing.

Let me be clear: I’m never bored with the world of spirit, or the quest to find out who or what is secretly and subtly occupying a home. That is fascinating and always will be. No, it’s boredom with our methodology, our questions, our endless gadgets and even our very language. I’m tired of the WORDS we have at our disposal: EVP, ghosts, paranormal, anomalies, apparitions, shadow figures, demons, dark eyed children, etc. etc, ad nauseum. I’m tired of Ghost Radar, Ghost Boxes, Spirit Detector, Ouija Boards (no! don’t touch them! blah blah blah), every single “paranormal” app on my iPhone, every radio that’s been altered to pick up voices from the beyond and all of the various cameras, thermals, night vision devices, and so on that we all use. I USE THESE DEVICES, so don’t yell at me for not understanding them. The problem is that I DO understand them; most of the time, I think we are dealing with silliness and prearranged dictionaries meant to inspire awe in novice investigators. Very rarely do they yield anything of true interest, or anything that can be documented as paranormal. In combination, they can be very effective at pointing to something strange occurring in a location; or, are they simply a distraction from true divination of spirit?

I love investigating, but I hate staring at my phone. This is entirely my fault; I know I don’t have to. The apps seem to promise easy communication, something quick that requires no work on my part. I don’t have to go deep into myself to connect with someone who is trying to tell her story. It’s the same problem with Ghost Boxes and AM scanning devices. All my time is spent straining to hear words that may or may not mean anything. I am not entering into that meditative state that is the precursor for spirit contact. I can’t; the distractions all around me, the sounds of my own phone (on airplane mode, of course), the blinking lights on EMF detectors, the dots and blobs and Ghost Radar, all those things keep me out of my head and paying attention to objects, not people. I’ve felt so disconnected every since our lives became “connected” through social media and a million apps, that I no longer feel spirit in my life. My chronic distraction has ruined ghost hunting for me.

The result is boredom and frustration. I’ve been on investigations where I’ve felt on the verge of connection with something in the room, or perhaps with memories still haunting a location, when suddenly a device goes off and I lose it completely. This spiritual connection is HARD WORK and requires concentration. I’ve been lazy lately, deciding that all the techno crap can do the work for me. I think that needs to stop. What I need, what always worked best for me, were the following items: a pen, a pad of paper, an audio recorder, a camera and maybe a hand held night camera. That’s it. That’s all the Paranormal Housewives ever needed to get jaw-dropping EVP. We used to enter into meditative states and wait. For some people, I’m sure that was terribly boring–but to truly meld your consciousness with someone else’s, you CANNOT rush things, you CANNOT distract yourself with bleeping, blaring junk, and you MUST be willing to sit quietly in the dark for long periods of time without talking, laughing, squirming, whispering or poking the person next to you.

I’ve burned out on investigating because I’ve lacked discipline. I’m sick of feeling like I need to entertain myself or others. From now on, I am hiding my phone in my purse, and I refuse to look at it for the number of hours the investigation takes. It was such a cool idea: your phone can connect you to the dead! You don’t have to work at it anymore! But alas, no–it doesn’t work. It may seem old fashioned, but the best evidence for life after death came from seances where no technology was used at all, simply because it did not exist. What did those researchers possess that we do not? Patience. Endless patience and time. I’m starting over, folks. It’s back to basics and time to reconnect.

Much love to you all,

Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW

Santa Barbara

Spiritual Dryness


For awhile now, I’ve experienced a lack of deep, spiritual connection. I remember hearing about this issue when it was discovered that Mother Teresa wrote in her diaries that she had suffered from what she termed ‘spiritual dryness’ for many, many years. She persevered in spite of spiritual disconnect she felt, but apparently died without feeling any assurance that a loving God was watching out for her. I don’t compare myself in any way, shape or form to Mother Teresa, and my spiritual issues aren’t as serious as hers apparently were; however, I have realized that this issue affects a great many people, and it’s usually trauma that kicks it off.

I drove back through the old neighborhood this morning, having felt compelled to do so over tea. Call it a ‘spiritual phone call,’ but I knew that I had to check on something. I just didn’t know what that was. I drove by the old house, and noticed that the fence continues to fall apart, missing boards like a face losing teeth. It bothers me that the new-ish owners won’t replace the missing boards in our fence–it seems a sign to me of neglect, or depression, or a lack of pride in their house. They have left the gargoyle on the roof, the crosses on the side of the garage, the lanterns on the deck and other assorted items that we left behind. The result is, it looks like our house and they are temporary occupants. I wonder why they never seemed to bother to put their stamp on it, to make it their own; I wonder if my attachment and connection to the house and property was just too strong . . .

I continued on around the corner to the Big Pink House that we used to walk by on a regular basis. We always thought that there was something wrong with the owners, something ‘off’ about the house, and the big, nasty dog never helped matters. We never spoke to them in the past. I wish we had, because maybe we could have supported each other in the sad business of losing one’s home. A red-haired lady was out front, frazzled, sad, sorting through piles of stuff that she had removed from her house. I know from stalking real estate sites that her house had sold a couple of months back. She waved me down, I stopped the car, and she asked me if I had any use for a punching bag. She wanted, she said, to give all this stuff “to Jesus,” or anyone else who might take it. I said that I had little use for a punching bag, but that I would see if anyone else I knew might want to pick it up. “It cost me a hundred dollars,” she said, “all this stuff has to go. I am happy to give it all away.” She seemed confused, overwhelmed; she said that she now has three days to be completely moved out of the house that she and her husband lived in for 24 years.

For the sixth or seventh time in the last two years, I heard the story of broken dreams, lost homes and forced relocation. “My husband declared bankruptcy, and I took the tiny amount of equity I had here and bought a cabin in the mountains.” Her eyes darted from the pile of stuff, to the upper deck where her husband was wrangling the loud German Shepherd and yelling something incomprehensible, back to me: “please take anything you want, it all has to go.” I told her that it will get better, and it will; I said that I had been in a similar situation a couple of years ago, that it’s going to be OK. Somehow, though, there was something profoundly not OK about her situation, or mine, or the situation of all the others in our old neighborhood who were on the wrong side of the economic crisis that still plays out today.

This is something that most people do not want me to talk about, or write about, or even spend time thinking about. Either they tell me that I am not “accepting responsibility” for the situation I found myself in, or they patiently explain that this is how the economy and capitalism in general works (and I need to accept it, or move to a Communist country and starve) or they tell me to distract myself with other things, anything, because to fully contemplate what’s happened to so many of us in the last few years will only lead to depression and frustration. That’s true; I am depressed and frustrated, but mostly because I can’t start a meaningful conversation with anyone about what it feels like to lose your home, live paycheck to paycheck, and watch the homes in your neighborhood go up for auction to buyers who have all cash and plan to gut the house and turn it into a bland, Home Depot special for rent.

It feels like I have somehow failed in this culture, this community I live in. Maybe it’s like this all across the country; you’re supposed to hide any pain you feel about losing a home. You’re not a real adult if you have financial issues. Or, you’re a whining, ungrateful child because, after all, you have a good job and a nice rental home. Let me make something perfectly clear: I AM GRATEFUL that I have a good job and a nice, rental home to live in. I am not trying to turn myself into a victim for anyone’s pity. That’s not the point. The point is twofold: there is real trauma involved in financial hardship and in the loss of a home, and there is real confusion and pain when you watch outsiders come in, kick out families that have lived there for decades, destroy any historical charm the house may have had, gut it, “remodel” it and turn around and sell it for hugely inflated prices or convert it into a rental with a price tag almost no one can afford.

The pain, the loss, the confusion and the grief are real emotions that we have all been forced to sweep under the rug, because somehow, it’s not ‘serious’ enough to deserve anyone’s attention, or it’s our moral failings that created the problem in the first place: we’re irresponsible because we signed up for a bad loan; if we lose hours at work or end up divorced, we don’t deserve help or even support; after all, we are living in a world of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’, and if we are on the wrong side of the economic and social system, that’s just too bad. We “lost,” so we need to get over it and try harder next time to ‘win’. This is the attitude of our American culture: we deserve no support–emotionally, financially, spiritually or otherwise–for our losses (which were mostly beyond our control) because we somehow brought them on ourselves, and we deserve our fate.

I see the embarrassment and the shame of the person packing up her belongings and moving away after decades in their home. They have been banished because of lay-offs, deaths in the family, medical crises or other misfortune. At the root of the shame is the idea that we failed at the American Dream; never mind that foreign investors, landlords and massive real estate investment trusts have purchased that dream. It’s not their fault that they’ve displaced so many families, so many people who dedicated their lives to a particular community, who put down roots in a neighborhood and raised their children on a particular street and knew all their neighbors. Those companies without a face, those investors we never meet, are winning the game we call capitalism. Our entire system is predicated on winners and losers, and to question that is to be un-American and suspect.

I am not going to attempt to prove to anyone that I love my country. It’s enough to know that I dedicate my life to my students, I work for the betterment of my community through my church and the community center I founded here. Anyone who knows me knows how much I care about the people in and around my city. It’s damaging to that community when you have to leave your home, when you’re displaced from your neighborhood, when purchasing another home is impossible because housing prices are artificially inflated and when it seems as if the entire real estate industry is not about finding a family a home that they can afford, but about maximizing profits at all costs. People laugh at me for thinking that any business should care about anything else. Is it so naive to think that the American Dream should mean something? Is it so stupid of me to believe that we all benefit from strong and stable neighborhoods?

I don’t have a solution to this crisis, for it’s still a crisis for a great many people in the middle class. We struggle so terribly hard to hang on to that house, because that house becomes a reflection of us, a symbol of who we are, a monument to our dreams and hopes for the future. It’s not a soulless investment or a business opportunity. It’s an extension of WHO WE ARE, our very identity. Americans (and probably most people on the planet) have felt this way about our homes for a very, very long time; and I wonder if the powers that be depend on that very emotional attachment to make money. After all, most financial institutions are well aware that we’ll go broke attempting to save our home and end up losing it anyway. They, so to speak, ‘bank’ on our love for our little castles and our shame over losing them. They amass billions on our fear and shame. That makes me very, very sad.

Grief over loss of one’s home is not allowed, really, because when one compares that grief to losing a loved one, or receiving a terrifying medical diagnosis or even saying goodbye to an adored pet, it seems insignificant by comparison. It isn’t insignificant. I have lost loved ones, both human and feline; I have received terrifying medical diagnoses; I have been on the losing end of a terrible divorce; I have lost a job; I have endured much pain as a parent, and the list goes on. I can tell you that being forced out of a home and a neighborhood that defined you in so many ways as part of a community feels like exile, like a form of shaming. That deep, social shaming is largely unexplored in our culture. We don’t talk about it, we don’t feel comfortable admitting that we have ‘lost’ the game of success and ambition, and we try to hide how much it hurts.

This is why my old neighbors struggling with displacement from their homes and neighborhood avert their eyes when talking to me. This is why they try to end every conversation with something upbeat even if they don’t feel at all hopeful. This is also why, before they start crying, they turn away and end the conversation.

I can’t fix the economy for the middle class, I can’t do anything to help people keep their homes, I can’t stop the foreclosure process, I can’t change how capitalism works, but maybe I can lend a sympathetic ear or give some decent advice about life after short sale/foreclosure/bankruptcy. I can, at the very least, let people know that there is nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to apologize for and no reason to add guilt to all the other emotions that can overwhelm you when you’re packing up your belongings and wondering what’s next. Even if one believes that it’s ‘our fault’ for not fully understanding the 2,000 page contract we signed or how the economy moves in boom and bust cycles, or what real estate valuations have been over the last century or so, or how banks work, or how houses are actually terrible investments for a single family, even if we didn’t ‘get’ that a huge recession was coming or didn’t know in advance that the government programs designed to ‘help’ us were NEVER going to be implemented by our banks, even if we were totally ignorant about how the financial system works, we should NOT be ashamed, embarrassed or silenced.  We didn’t understand the rules and lost the game. Most of us didn’t even realize, until it was too late, that we were in the game at all.

I have realized that the ‘spiritual dryness’ has hit me hard because I have repressed my grief, anger and pain; I have put a lid on those emotions because if feels unacceptable to admit the causes. When one’s general culture defines what is acceptable to grieve and what is not, you shut up and put up. When you feel that someone is about to condemn you for expressing pain over something undeserving and points to others much less fortunate than you, your sadness is compounded by guilt. All of this leads you to question yourself, to think that something is wrong with you, that you need to spend your time and energy figuring out how to break into the 1% and stop sniveling about your loser status in the 99%. Spiritual dryness is the result of the forces in the culture that do not acknowledge a reality that you know has evicted thousands, millions (?) of people from the places where they felt safe, from the homes where they were creating their lives.

If you want to respond to this, please do. If you want to tell your own story, please do. Respond in the comments, and if you want, you can have my private email so that we can keep this conversation going. We can help each other, but not if first we don’t hear each other.

Much love to you all,



The “How Old Do I Look” application says here I look 71, and Ty 42. I always did love those younger men!!

Facebook appears to be sponsoring another application to waste our time: “How Old Do I Look.” Since I have been a pathetic sucker for such things in the past, I very unwisely decided to post a bunch of my photos to see what the app had to say. It started off placing me in my 30s; in one picture, I was 27. Not bad, I thought; and then, I posted one of my favorites. My age? 71. You might be screaming at me right now that these stupid apps cannot read anyone’s face or figure out anyone’s age with any accuracy whatsoever. And you would be right, of course. That didn’t stop me, however, from freaking out. If you’ve been reading my posts, you know that I’m having a bit–just a wee bit–of a crisis over turning 50. I’m not responding maturely, not at all. In fact acting like a hormonal teenager; now that I’ve admitted that, I’m hoping you won’t be too hard on me after you read the rest of this post. I fixed my hair and makeup and decided I was going to reclaim my youth. As I was diligently attempting to act young, I noticed in the car next to me some guy staring at me. He was not old, either, not the usual 89 year old who slaps me on the butt. He was no more than 30. I was starting to feel flattered when he made a gross, lascivious gesture and revved his engine. OMG, seriously, this guy was revving his engine for me? No way. Then he sped off in a cloud of smoke leaving me so impressed that I could hardly drive (kidding). My instant reaction to this was to spit out the word ‘douchebag.’ I also felt something else very familiar: just a tad of fear along with revulsion. Then I remembered all the reasons that this kind of attention is not desirable, not something worthy of chasing or missing or desiring. No, not at all. All those years of dealing with unwanted male attention came flooding back to me. The slightly sick feeling when someone starts following you or continues to contact you long after you tried to dissuade him; and that terrible realization that you allowed unwanted behavior to become abusive because something in you doesn’t value herself enough to put a swift end to it. Suddenly, all the bitching and moaning about ‘not looking young or attractive’ seemed idiotic and counterproductive. I could put myself out there and garner all sorts of attention, if that’s my goal. Some of that attention would be destructive, and tap into that part of me that allows and accepts abuse. That young man and a couple of scary social media dudes who crossed the line reminded me that I am wasting my time lamenting my distance from 20. I should be f*cking CELEBRATING not being 20, or 35, for that matter. Just because I don’t know what the future holds does not mean I should long for the past. When I remember what life was REALLY like before 2002, I am grateful beyond measure to be where I am; and this is the last post about turning 50. That day arrives on Saturday, and I am ready for it. It’s time to get back to the ghosts that are banging around, wondering why I’ve abandoned them to write about me. It’s OK guys, I hear you, and I’m paying attention again. Next post: my long conversation with a deceased lady. It was illuminating . . . —Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

black and white Kitty

I was born in 1965, so this is a big year. You know; half a century and all that. I am the eldest member of Generation X, a much maligned group that was hit hardest by the recession and is the first generation to not reach the social and economic status of their parents, the affluent (comparatively) Baby Boomers.

The big decades for me have been marked by crisis, usually triggered by what my culture/community expects of me versus the reality of my life. Turning 30 was terrible; in my head, I was supposed to be in a happy partnership, enjoying a stable job, drinking wine with my close friends, and wrangling at least one adorable toddler. Instead, I was in a disintegrating marriage, no kids, and battling to be awarded tenure in a place I didn’t want to live long term. My friends were filled with angst and drama, and all we did was complain about Wisconsin and how much we hated most of the people we worked with. So, about 5 minutes after I received tenure, I took off for California, started work at a private high school, watched helplessly as the marriage dissolved and decided I was polyamorous (don’t ask; it’s embarrassing).

Turning 40 was much easier. I had met my true love, married him, become a stepparent, and had a full-time, tenure track job at a local college. It helped that at 40, I still could pass for 28, something that was—sadly—very important to me. The only crisis—comparatively tame, compared to the one ten years prior—was that I hated living in Winnetka. I remedied that by buying an almost 1 million dollar house on a teacher’s salary in those heady days when all you needed was a pulse and any kind of job to get a massive loan. At 41, I was a homeowner, a mom, a wife, a teacher, and there were even friends and healthy parents. I was doing exactly what the culture expected of me, in the acceptable time frame. I fit in, at last! However, Generation X is also defined by their marginality to the dominant culture; the harder we try to fit in to cultural and social expectations, the more we realize that we are fundamentally different from our parents’ generation.

At the end of 2006, when everything was supposed to be perfect, I had a huge crisis. Deep down, I knew that the house was a ticking time bomb. We couldn’t afford it and the cabin I had purchased by taking out money on the previous house. I had built up a lovely, crumbling edifice and hoped it would hold long enough for me to fulfill my fantasies of becoming a famous author or the star of a reality show on the paranormal. In December of 2006, I broke my foot and twisted my ankle as I descending the stairs from the laundry room, and in the process I broke a mirror. “Seven years of bad luck,” I told myself, thinking that was idiotic but still—kind of—believing it. Seven years later, we were forced to sell our home in a short sale. Coincidence?

From 46 onward, it’s fair to say that every expectation that I had for myself unraveled, with the huge exception of my marriage. I had tried very hard to fulfill what I honestly felt that society expected of me. By ‘society,’ I mean the culture of Los Angeles, the mainstream media, my family, my friends (even though they never pushed me in a particular direction; I simply assumed that certain expectations existed and acted accordingly) and everything I was reading about my age, my ‘decade’, and my generation. First of all, the home ownership issue is so engrained in American culture that it dies hard. Second of all, parents assume inauthentic roles attempting to fulfill expectations that we can’t even identify, but direct and define our behavior; and, finally, we fight at work to find ourselves and are bitterly disappointed when work feels like . . . work. Add to that the cultural expectation that women in their late 40s are STILL supposed to pass for 28, and you end up with a recipe for disaster, at least in my case.

My daughter also felt the pressure to conform to unspoken expectations, and this lead to heartbreaking circumstances. When she broke out of the cage that her family and the wider culture had created for her, she found a freedom that her stepmother is still struggling to discover. Ultimately, everything was supposed to fall apart, because the structure of my life was inauthentic, based on false premises regarding what I supposed to do, how I was supposed to live, and even what people expected me to look like. The three of us endured much pain as our illusions about ourselves and our relationships evaporated and left us staring at each other in shock. What happened? We all discovered that our plans and scripts for ourselves made no sense in the world in which we were living.

I am one month away from 50, and this is what my life looks like from the outside: my husband and I are renting a house. Our kid is 19 and leaving for San Francisco soon, so we hardly have any parenting duties left. My job is the same, on the surface, as it was 25 years ago. I am not rich, or famous, I am not Chair of my department or head of anything, or managing budgets or any other grown up job. I haven’t written a novel or published anything outside of the Internet. We pay our rent, I date Ty, I teach Spanish, I hang out with my cat, I write blog posts instead of writing in a diary, I see my parents when I can, I walk around the neighborhood, and I drink lots of tea. For most of the week, I am in the company of people between 18 and 28.

In other words, I am 25 years old.

That is why turning 50 is so utterly strange. That is why I cringe when I see the bags under my eyes and that annoying loose skin under my chin, because 25 year olds aren’t supposed to look so tired and worn out. 50 feels more like 23 or so than any other age I have ever been. My responsibilities are practically the same as they were then. There are no kids to raise, no big upgrades in status and power at work, no mortgage to pay off, no serious threats to my mortality. My parents are still healthy and don’t look or act their age, so for the time being, here I am: at the weirdest age yet.

I realize that this is very temporary. When the parents have their first age-related crisis, when a serious illness hits, when something catastrophic happens to a loved one or to me, then I will feel the full force of my age. At some point, I’ll be pushing my mother around in a wheel chair and watching my kid get married. At some point, all the lotions, creams and cosmetic procedures won’t be able to hold back the years. When all that hits, I’ll feel my age and maybe feel older; my perspective will change, as it always does. I lived through serious illness and faced my mortality at the ripe, old age of 32; so I do know what it feels like to know that your life is fleeting.

In the meantime, 50 is coming fast, and it seems, for all practical purposes, completely meaningless. I suspect that many members of Gen X feel the same way; the strict markers and delineations that separated one decade from another have all but vanished. When you and your kid are listening to essentially the same music, participating in the same youth culture, and enjoying the same movies and television shows, the generation gap hardly seems to exist. The biggest gap I feel is between my parents and me. They have enjoyed home ownership for many decades; they aren’t even aware of their privilege, because they have always enjoyed a high standard of living. My father worked, and my mother stayed home, free to pursue projects and interests without much worry or care. Their world still makes sense, still has rites of passage, a common culture and expectations. Yes, they have to get old, and that sucks for the Boomers; but they have had the consolation of a predictable world and stable roles, both at home and in their community. My parents have been able to comfortably define themselves within a larger context of their peers, and while they might watch Fox News now instead of protesting the Vietnam War, they have all progressed together towards a common understanding of the world and their place in it.

I have no such understanding. I am weirder and more marginalized now that ever, and all of my attempts at fitting in have ended in disaster. The only message that I can take away from the experience of my life so far is that I must stop trying to be like everyone else or adjusting/adapting my character to fit a social or cultural norm. It simply doesn’t work for me. Anything I do in this world of any meaning will be left of center and incomprehensible to most people, and it behooves me to find peace with that. I don’t know if my X peers feel the same way, but I suspect many of them do. After all, we have never really occupied the power centers of our culture. We are the volunteers, the idealists, the ones willing to strike out on a different path, even if that path meanders and doesn’t seem to lead to a clear destination.

Although it is tremendously confusing to live on the margins of the mainstream, still largely controlled by the Boomers and constructed for the Millennials, there is some comfort in knowing that we are free of cultural expectations. I don’t think our larger community really expects all that much from us, which we can turn to our advantage by not conforming to the various myths that pervade our waking hours. We don’t have to be the boss at work (unless we freely choose to), we don’t have to look 28 anymore, we can spit on the home ownership and upward mobility myths, and we can be interesting and quietly revolutionary parents, citizens and role models. We may work behind the scenes, but that is the work that effects real change. We don’t hold up the status quo or even understand it, but neither then do we have to be victims of it.

My 50th birthday might still inspire a certain fear, but it’s more the animal fear that I am closer to death now than I was at 25; then again, I almost didn’t make it past 32, so there is no comfort in youth. I suppose the secret is to live as freely as possible from all the rules that permeate the fabric of our culture. As scary as that feels, it is much scarier to live someone else’s life and wonder, in your final days, why you wasted your precious time.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

Last night, I woke up from the worst nightmare in recent memory and wondered if I were losing my mind. It felt as if something terribly evil were trying to steal my soul. I briefly contemplated waking up my husband so that he could banish the Unmentionable One from the house and from my mind. I didn’t, however, as I noticed that “Jesus Loves Me” was running through my head and my Virgin Mary lamp had turned itself on. I took these as positive signs that I need not worry about the evil in my dream coming to claim me during my waking hours.

The dream started with me pulling into a driveway of a house. I had the sense that I had not been invited to enter this house, but that it was somehow acceptable that I go inside. It was painted a dark, barn red and had a screened-in front porch. I think that it was built in the 1940s. My purpose, once inside, was to finish a ritual that I had started and failed to complete. I was organizing crosses and other Catholic relics on shelves while simultaneously attempting to ‘fix’ various issues in the house, such as straightening window sills and other odd things that were ‘off’ in the home. I realized that I could not accomplish my goal of cleansing or ‘making safe’ this place, so I went to find my husband and bring him back with me.

He was with me in the bedroom while I continued what appeared to be some sort of Catholic exorcism ritual designed to banish the evil from the house. I was in a race against time; I knew, somehow, that I was losing this battle. Whoever I was trying to save was too far gone, too enmeshed in the Dark Side to be helped. Oddly enough, I was alone in this fight against evil; I didn’t ask my husband for help.

I fall back onto the bed, and the mattress starts to undulate, like a giant serpent. It’s pulling me into the bed, sucking me down into some infernal hole, and I realize that the Evil One is trying to take my soul. My husband grabs my hand and tries to pull me out, but judging by the look on his face, he is not sure that he can save me. I wake up right before I am dragged down into a place I can’t imagine, a place that terrifies me beyond measure.

Those few moments after waking, I feared for my soul. The Virgin Mary light popping on in the living room calmed me down enough to pray and think. What message was contained in this dream? I thought about this for a long, long time. At first, I was concerned about who it was I was attempting to save: did this person have an identity? Was this person me? If this person is me, what am I attempting to save myself from?

Awhile back, I was told by a priest and a pastor–together, in a group meeting to assess the state of my soul–to be very, very careful with Hollywood and their interest in the dark side of the paranormal and how they might use me to portray and explore it. The night before, I had watched an episode of “Aftershocks” where I appeared in an interview with Zak. The whole purpose of the show was basically to warn paranormal investigators of the dangers inherent in our attempts to contact the spirit world. The show ends with a question to Dr. Barry Taft: (Zak) “So, who are these voices?” (Dr. Taft) “I have no idea.”

And none of us have any idea, really, if we have ‘contacted’ the person we intended to. Not only that, we assume that these voices are from ‘people,’ when, in fact, they could be non-human entities finding their way into our consciousness. Once you open that Pandora’s Box, it’s very hard to close. Yes, we can come to these investigations with the best of intentions and ask for only the nice and well-intentioned spirits to manifest, but that doesn’t mean our request shall be granted. The other side of this coin is the fact that most paranormal television loves the idea of dark forces haunting buildings and investigators. There is a drama and fear factor in those negative energies that draws in an audience.

The scary stuff sells. No matter how much we wish to avoid it for the sake of our sanity and mental/emotional health, we will always be brought back to that dark place by those who want to sell a show to an audience who wants to freak out and feel the adrenaline rush of horror and mayhem. Producers respond to what the audience wants, so in no way do I blame them for responding to the obvious demand for such material. The problem with this dynamic is that it ignores the human cost of such a fascination. The investigators involved suffer during investigations where the criminal spirits and non-human entities attempt to invade our lives in any way they can.

Paranormal investigators talk a lot about “protection,” and I used to think that was silly. I didn’t need “protection;” I was just fine in the dark, communicating with someone who cursed at me and scratched my back! Of course I needed protection, and even more now. We all do, if we are seeking to find answers to vexing spiritual questions. I’m not sure, however, if I need to find those answers in hopeless places with lost souls, or if I should find those answers in the ‘thin places’ of my heart: Idyllwild, the Santa Monica Mountains, my little church, in the company of those I love.

But that doesn’t make for interesting entertainment, and therein lies the rub.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

Kirsten A. Thorne

This is an interesting consideration of what causes illness. Of course, this is not to say that anyone is to blame for a serious illness; it’s not that one can ‘make’ it happen or ‘make’ it disappear. However, this tells me that we in the Western world all too often ignore the spiritual causes of physical distress and disease. The ‘first cause’ is disharmony, which the author weaves into the second cause, ‘fear’.

The second classic cause of illness is fear. A person who is walking around with a chronic sense of fear gnawing away at them is doubly vulnerable to illness because their anxiety aggressively and progressively diminishes their sense of well-being, and this, in turn, affects their feeling of being safe in the world.

This sense of well-being is the base upon which our personal health system stands. When this foundation is affected negatively, it diminishes the ability of our immune system to function. And when our immune system goes down, we’re in trouble.

It’s not too difficult to see that there is a feedback mechanism at work here. Fear, and the anxiety it creates, produces disharmony. In the same breath, disharmony generates fear, and if the two of them are working together, it doubly affects the protective mantle of the body’s immune system, as well as the energetic matrix. Illness is the inevitable result.

It is no surprise to Western medical practitioners that disharmony and fear can manifest themselves in diseases that are recognizable to science. Almost 500 years ago, the Renaissance physician Paracelsus observed that “the fear of disease is more dangerous than the disease itself.”
This brings us to consider the third classic cause of illness–the phenomenon known to indigenous healers as soul loss.

Soul Loss
Among the traditionals, soul loss is regarded as the most serious diagnosis and the major cause of premature death and serious illness, yet curiously, it’s not even mentioned in our Western medical textbooks. The closest acknowledged context is “He/she has lost the will to live”.
In Western society, soul loss is most easily understood as damage to a person’s life essence, a phenomenon that usually occurs in response to trauma. When the traumas are severe, this may result in a fragmentation of that person’s soul cluster, with the shattered soul parts dissociating, fleeing an intolerable situation. In overwhelming circumstances, these soul parts may not return.

The causes of soul loss can be many and varied. There may be traumatic perinatal issues that happen around the child’s birth experience such as arriving into life only to discover that they are not wanted, or that they are the wrong gender—they’ve come in as a girl when everyone was hoping for a boy.
Soul loss can also occur when a child is mercilessly bullied or teased at home or at school, day after day, or when a young person is molested by the one who is supposed to be caring for them. When someone has been raped or assaulted, has suffered a shocking betrayal, a bitter divorce, a traumatic abortion, a terrible car accident, or even a serious surgery, soul loss is assured.”

Those of us who have endured some of—or even all—of the traumas listed in the last paragraph, know that recovery involves chasing down those pieces of your soul and attempting to convince them to please come back. This can also be understood as losing bits of your consciousness that have decided to find refuge elsewhere in the universe. This is what a ‘ghost’ is, and you can be physically alive and give them life. What happens then is that your ghost is free to interact with everyone else’s, living or post-living, in a supernatural display of fragmentation and loss.

How does one help the ghosts you and others have created? I think that is what you spend your life figuring out, or several lives figuring out. As Paul told the Philippians, “12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This doesn’t mean that your actions can accomplish this alone, but that you allow God to work through you to resolve and remove trauma and its effects. This doesn’t have to be the Christian God with the beard and the scepter, and indeed, that is not what I think this passage is referring to.

Call God what you will, envision God however you must, but the key is not banging your head against the wall in this life, trying to understand why you have arrived at the point where you now are. You can’t understand the overall purpose of the pain you experienced right now, but you will one day: 12” For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

For everyone of any religion or spiritual tradition, this is valuable information. You are on a trajectory that you can only dimly perceive right now, due to the limitations of your physical form. It will not always be this way. Don’t rip out your hair because your life doesn’t look like, from the outside, how you thought it was ‘supposed’ to look, or you aren’t doing what you expected to be. Wherever you are in your evolution, there is time to work it out, or observe as it is worked out through you.
Don’t allow for trauma to make you sick. There are ways out of the trap of emotional pain. I won’t be so pretentious as to pretend to give you a recipe for how this is accomplished. For some, it’s as simple as watching an endangered bird find a mate. For others, you have to apply spiritual lessons every day from a variety of angles. For many of us, paranormal investigations are a way of exploring and comprehending our own trauma, and that may stop working one day; and so you move on, always pressing forward, always looking for that next epiphany, that next shock to your spiritual system. Every day, you must work out your salvation; and that might mean giving up all control and plunging into faith with a trembling heart.

fake ghosts

It was dinnertime at my family’s house. The topic had turned to one of my investigations, and my stomach was already in knots. I knew that we were entering dangerous territory. Whenever this subject comes up, I feel one of two things: fear that I will be ridiculed (but in the nicest possible way) or defensive (because someone will brush off what I am saying as ‘unscientific’ or ‘impossible to prove’). The worst outcome is polite interest for a few moments, followed by a change of subject. In that case, I know that I have been treated as the eccentric who needs to have her silly beliefs validated every now and then.

You can imagine my surprise when a relative of mine told me that he had seen a ghost in his house, on the stairs leading up to the third floor. At first, I was sure he was joking; but he was dead serious and very detailed in his description of her. He told me the story, and it was interesting. I decided to ask him questions and take him seriously, and for quite a few minutes he answered me and speculated as to the cause of the haunting. And then he smiled and tilted his head, and I knew: once again, I had been the victim of a joke. No big deal, right? I shouldn’t be so sensitive. He does this to everybody. No harm, no foul.

There was, however, harm. Every time someone laughs at me, condescends to hear a story or two and then quickly changes the subject, engages in debate with the intention of demonstrating to the world that I am gullible and ‘unscientific’, or simply behaves as if I were someone slightly ‘off’ or a tad weird, there is harm. The damage consists of the intention to degrade a person’s experience of reality. If I were to tell certain people that I sensed danger as I walked down a particular street and so decided to switch my route, no one would question my grasp of reality. I would be praised for making a wise decision and avoiding possible trouble by following my gut instinct. If, however, I tell certain people that I walked into a particular room and felt the strong presence of a spirit, I would be ridiculed—in the nicest possible way. Or, I would be politely rebuffed as a harmless eccentric. In the first case, following my gut instinct reaffirms my solid grasp of reality, even though there is no direct evidence that a particular, dangerous individual was following me. In the second case, I am judged for having the exact, same experience but in a different context. After all, I cannot ‘see’ the person I sense in the room, but I know that someone is there, and I adjust my behavior accordingly.

Part of the problem is our vocabulary. Paranormal investigators have a language, and that language is often mocked by the dominant culture. It is not scientific language; it is not religious language; it is not academic language: it is a linguistic ‘no-man’s land’ where no discipline or area of study can claim it. It belongs, perhaps, to the language of renegade Spiritualists from decades past, or to the more recent New Age lexicon so derided by pretty much everyone. Our language, therefore, has a kind of hippy taint to it, or the vague whiff of fraud associated with nutty mediums and psychics. There isn’t much we can do about that association besides change our use of language to a reasonable degree.

“Ghost,” “spirit,” “discarnate entity,” “specter” and the like all make us look like we’ve wandered into the marginal territory of psience. Even naming our teams is problematic. It takes hours, days, and weeks even, of thought and debate to find a name that is respectable. The “Paranormal Housewives” is a silly name, admittedly, but one that I am terribly fond of, because the ladies on the team are quite serious. The name belies who we actually are, and the contrast embraces the stereotypes while simultaneously fighting them. So, if we are to find a better way, what would that look like?

If we stopped using the old terminology, we would simply say something like this:

“I feel someone in the room.”
“I think there is a woman here with us.”
“I am picking up the presence of a man in his early 40s, beard, glasses, very thin.”
“I believe, based on the data we have collected, that there are several people either living in or visiting your house.”

If we avoid the words ‘spirit’ or ‘ghost’, we restore people to their former status. Yes, I realize that I have stated before that we don’t know who or what we are dealing with in many—if not most—investigations, and sometimes a ‘person’ is something else entirely, something not human; however, I wonder if our results would be more specific and informative if we treated the ‘presences’ as fully formed people? If they do turn out to be fragments of a consciousness or the energy of a residual haunting without intelligence, or God forbid, something nasty from the underworld, at least we will not have run the risk of speaking to a person as if he were something DIFFERENT from us, something “other” that shares nothing with our human, physical condition.

Often our results have an intimate relationship with what we seek. If we seek full human beings that we happen to not be able to see, perhaps we will find more actual people willing to communicate with us. It’s certainly worth a try. I think that that the PHW are particularly good at treating people well and with respect. Our attitude towards all the people in a house—both visible and invisible to us—is probably the reason that we have so much solid evidence for the so-called ‘paranormal’ (another term that has outlived its usefulness).

I can’t stop anyone from displaying a bad attitude towards me because I seek to know people who have changed their ontological status from material bodies to something else (and no, I don’t pretend to know what that ‘something else’ feels like, but I doubt that it changes your level of humanity and probably increases it). We will always run across those who believe in a cop’s ‘sixth sense’ but thinks that a person who has contact with someone without a material body is a nut job. I don’t do this to defend it to the critics or try to convince someone who has a vested interest in defending their world view. It’s scary to work on the margins of reality; it’s so much easier to stomp your foot on the ground and declare that if you can’t use your five senses to perceive it, then it ain’t there. No how. No way.

Until the haters have their own, mind-boggling experience, they will keep it up. Or, they will simply refuse to believe that what they have experienced could possibly be the portal to a much larger truth; how very unscientific of them.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW


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