Archive for November, 2010

When I started “ghost hunting”, I went with groups to the places with the darkest and most disturbing past. The theory was, if anything is going to manifest itself, it will be at places where a great number of people experienced heavy trauma. It was a great theory, and it turned out to be true. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t understand or realize to what extent that negative energy would affect me and my life. Ultimately, I have had to cut way back on my investigations of sites that are marked by unhappiness and pain.My barriers are too porous for such interactions; while I stop short of believing that I “brought something home,” I do believe that my physical and emotional health were adversely affected by what I experienced in places like Camarillo, Rancho Los Amigos and a certain jail that shall go unnamed.

As I delved deeper into the mysteries of the afterlife, my interests have turned to more positive contact with the ‘other side’, or whatever one wishes to call it. I have spent a great deal of time wondering about my long-deceased relatives–where are they now? What has happened to them?

Oddly enough, I received something of an answer while drifting in and out of a sort of twilight sleep (this is when the most interesting things happen to me). I formulated the question: “Where are you now, Nana?” and the answer was instant and very clear: “I’m at home”. And then I saw her and Faf in the back yard on the patio, drinking gin and tonics, laughing. She was wearing a free-flowing early-70s dress with big flowers in yellow, orange and brown. There were very happy. This was not a memory or a flashback; this was now.

It was, however, the kind of “now” that was and is always “now”. I think about time as much as I think about ghosts. There is the kind of time that passes and ages us, and leads us to death; and then there is the kind of time that is not time. I have experienced those moments, as all of us have, where a moment is eternal and out of time. When time ceases to hold any meaning or to have any relevance to our experience of the real, that’s eternity. That is where Nana and Faf were, in that time that was not. I could go to their house right now, and it would belong to someone else; but in the time slot next door, it’s Nana and Faf’s house, and always has been. One version of time is no more real than the other, or perhaps Nana’s world is the one that underlies all of what we think and assume is reality.

In any case, they are there and enjoying their lives. I wish knowing this could take away the physical, animal part of me that needs to cuddle with her and hang off my Faf’s amazing bicep. That, and there is no way around it, feels truly vanished from my life.

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The Story of the Necklace

In an effort to investigate more hospitable, positive and spiritual places, the Paranormal Housewives headed off to see what kind of spirit activity we could find at a church in Brea  (Saturday, November 6th, 2010). We found plenty.

This is not an objective post that speaks for all of us (Marsha, Erin, Kimberly and Liz), but rather a recounting of the most intense experiences that affected me in particular. As soon as we arrived, I felt what I can only describe as “atmosphere” outside in the back of the church buildings. The dark seemed too dark, the quiet too quiet—as if something or someone were observing us as we soaked up the mood of the place. To those who say there is nothing scientific about ghost hunting, I will agree to a certain extent—we place tremendous value on our feelings, impressions and sensations. Over time, we find that we can corroborate our impressions with each other, and we become better at sensing the energies of a room or building. This is not “scientific,” yet it is valuable information when we are able to back up these impressions with facts we learn later, or find out through subsequent research. I include this caveat here because recently I have endured a fair amount of criticism for anything I claim is paranormal. For me, it was confirmation of my growing intuitive skills to learn that a man fell to his death right in the area to which I was drawn. I leave it at that—no one will be convinced of anything based on that tidbit, but if you collect enough of these tidbits, you end up with a fairly convincing picture of the reality of the spirit world and its communication with us.

But I digress. The original church was built in 1913, an “oil man’s church” in the heart of Southern California’s oil boom. There are pictures of the first congregation standing in front of the original building, many of the women decked out in full Victorian outfits and the children in white smocks. It seems hopelessly long ago, impossible to reach; the nursery is the only place, for me, that retains a feeling of that nearly century-old ambiance. On the other side of the original building is the newer section, built at some point in the 1960s (I don’t have the exact date). We started our investigation in the nursery. When we were touring the buildings, our guide told us that the nursery was the place where objects were frequently moved from one place to another, or disappeared entirely, suggesting some kind of poltergeist activity. I was immediately “creeped out” (to quote one of my favorite, if terribly over-used, descriptive phrase) by that room filled with such apparently innocuous toys. Why do the most innocent of things seem so sinister in the dark? Why does a doll or a stuffed animal transform from cute to sinister and diabolical when the children are gone and the moon is out? Another question: why, on that initial tour, were our K-2 meters behaving erratically and spiking unpredictably in the newer section of the church even when the power was off? Why did the K-2 meters utterly die only a couple of hours later when we returned to the sanctuary?

But I digress; again.

Even though the nursery was old and decidedly creepy, nothing much happened. Some of the PHW did hear voices and odd noises, but I can’t say that I did. I had that familiar feeling that the spirits had taken off soon after we arrived. In fact, the entire original section seemed very quiet, and for me, not at all active or haunted—not on that night, anyway. I think that’s the reason I started behaving in an indecorous fashion, showing off yoga moves in the storage room and later, in the kitchen, performing unspeakable acts on a ghost cookie. We have pictures of this silliness, proving that I had lost all seriousness—momentarily—appropriate to a church and an investigation. Perhaps I was rebelling against the quiet expectation of good behavior a church requires . . . perhaps I was just very tired and had eaten too much whipped cream and pie at dinner. In any case, everything was about to change.

We moved on to the new section of the church, where we heard odd noises in the “pipe room,” where the pipe organs were ensconced. The K-2 meters no longer registered any activity whatsoever, an odd fact considering how active they were previously. After playing some piano and lighting a couple of candles (one for Nana, my paternal grandmother), I decided to get comfortable and lay down on the front pew. I justified this laziness because Marsha was doing the same thing a few pews down from me; heck, the spirits don’t need me to stand up in order to manifest. However, perhaps Marsha and I were still reacting—just a little—to the idea that we were supposed to behave in church.

Allow me to backtrack a little. That night I was wearing a tee-shirt with a long-sleeved shirt under it (I like to layer). The long-sleeved shirt and the tee were both scoop-necked, allowing for some alluring revealing of my chest, but not so low that anyone could see something resembling the outline of a breast. God forbid. No, really—God forbid, I’m too old to show my chest (OK, not really, that was just for effect). I wore two necklaces, one long one with a pendant of the Virgin Mary (highly appropriate for the venue) and one shorter with evil-eye beads and a flat, metal skull that sat on the line of the shirt fabric (not at all appropriate for the venue). I was on my back, head slightly elevated by part of my ghost kit (I wasn’t measuring anything at this point but my own lassitude). I was utterly still; I remember that fact because I made note of it in my head as being conducive to spirit activity (I would, by my theory, notice my surroundings better if I didn’t move at all). Then I felt it. The skull necklace was slowly moving up my neck. It felt as if someone were pulling it slowly and deliberately—I kept thinking that something was going to strangle me with it. I called out to the other PHW to come and see what was happening, and they all did. This is what they reported:

In Kimberly’s words:

“I did see the beads move, but I thought that part was from the vein on your neck.

But I agree with everything Liz said about the skull. I saw it go under your shirt and the shirt flip up as it happened.

Also, Kirsten, you were soooooooo still.  You did not move until that last bit.  Then we all moved. 🙂 I agree 100% that it was paranormal.”

In Liz’s words:

“Kirsten!!!!  I definitely saw the beads move just like Marsha.  I was watching them move as Marsha went to get her camera and everyone else was on their way to join us.  At first I thought it was gravity but it didn’t explain why the beads were moving the way they were moving.  And then the necklace to me looked like it jumped up then flipped and from what I saw…  it looked like your shirt was lifted up and the necklace went underneath it.  It was AMAZING!!!!!  Believe me I convinced people it was paranormal.”

In Erin’s words:

“I saw the skull flip up (as If someone had flicked it) and then fall under your shirt. I did not see your shirt get pulled down. I did see the necklace pulled quite tight around your neck as if someone was holding it…it was not just laying there and gravity was moving it. I think I even said “oh my gosh” because it looked like it was choking you but I didn’t want to freak you out at the time and elaborate. I did not see the beads move because I was not looking at the beads…I was looking at the skull. I saw the skull move.”

Marsha told me on the phone that she saw the beads move as if they were “being twirled by something,” and that she also saw the skill “flip and move under your blouse” and that my blouse was actually pulled down at the same time the skull flipped.

This corroborates, in large part, what I experienced. The necklace seemed to pull tighter and tighter around my neck, and I most definitely felt the skull flip and go under my shirt, although I didn’t feel my shirt move. At that point, I was really, really scared; I finally jumped up and threw the necklace across the room.

OK, so let’s evaluate the facts. This is not a subjective feeling, a story no one can corroborate, a psychic vision or a muddled EVP. This is an event with four (possibly five—I need to locate Jennifer and find out if she saw all this) witnesses whom I asked to describe what they saw. On one point, everyone agrees: the skill flipped up and moved under my shirt. That is a heavy metal skull that does not move on its own, much less flip all by itself.

Now, the tricky part: WHAT DOES IT MEAN? I have a few theories. I was not behaving properly in church, and I had invoked my grandmother, who was a very proper lady (and didn’t miss church). I think, given the intimacy of someone moving my necklace up and out of the way, and then hiding the skull under my shirt, that Nana might have hidden the offending skull. It was a piece of jewelry she would have hated, that I know. However, other PWH were sensing an older lady in the church, and it might have been her.

Honestly? There is no way to know. Was it paranormal? ABSOLUTELY. You can layer on your interpretations, but I was touched by something out of this world. It was incredible, impossible to forget—and is all the proof that I need that there is another realm of reality right next to us at all times. I had to leave shortly after this incident, unable to focus on anything but what had just occurred. I was drained, but I was not exhausted or miserable the next day—in fact, I felt light and free. I felt, in fact, overwhelmed by something uplifting and beautiful, something I have never found at Camarillo or the jail.

I suppose if you seek spirits, a church is the best place to go.

And Nana, if that was you, I promise never to wear that horrible necklace to church again.

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It’s two in the morning. I’m falling asleep in a pile of dirt and leaves in the ward of an old mental hospital. My recorder is running, piling up hours of audio I will either listen to later or never listen to. If I never listen to those audio files waiting patiently on my computer, I will feel a certain amount of guilt every time I walk into the office. I am also dizzy, due to dust and mold allergies that swell up my sinuses and inner ears. Maybe, I wonder, I’m dizzy because the spirits are sucking the life out of me. I ponder that. We are all so tired that our EVP session has dwindled down to a few questions every ten minutes or so, and there is absolutely no activity at the moment. The hope that something will stir up in response to our boring queries keeps us there, trapped, waiting for a little knock or a tentative bang, but nothing happens. When we finally give up, it’s around 2:40. I don’t get to sleep until 4 AM. The next day—or, should I say, the remainder of THAT day—is a total loss. I feel like crap, my eyes are swollen, I have a headache, I can’t manage to take a nap or do anything practical or purposeful, I drag myself through that Sunday attempting to be a good mother and wife, but I know I’m neither after a ghost hunt.

So, here are the reasons I think about quitting the entire enterprise. Maybe after writing this list, I’ll purge my system of the complaints and be ready again for the next adventure:

1)      Exhaustion

I never really considered myself to be any older, really, than my ghost hunting peers. Yes, I was born 10 to 20 years before most of them, but that didn’t seem relevant until I realized that I was a disaster at 2 or 3 in the morning, and they were relatively perky. The next day, most of them recovered quickly, and I was useless for a solid 24 hours or more. My face at 2 AM is a sad reminder of lost youth—I add 10 years to my actual age by the early hours of the morning, whereas my younger counterparts still look all fresh and dewy, maybe just a tad bleary-eyed. Mostly, though, the issue is my inability to take care of family needs the day after. All I want to do is take a nap, but that seems selfish of me. I can’t manage to cook, clean, pay bills or review audio, video or photos. If I go out investigating until the wee hours, I can count on a long recovery period where I really am no good to anyone. That makes me feel guilty and depressed.

2)      Illness

I have a “ghost hunters” syndrome, which starts with a vague headache around 1 AM and gradually worsens throughout the night and the next day. The headache might become a migraine, in which case all bets are off—I will be in bed all day. If not, the pain migrates around my head and shoulders and is usually accompanied by wooziness and a light-headed feeling. My nose is usually stuffy and my head feel heavy. I can’t sleep in this state, either. I usually wake up every hour and stare at the clock. My body hurts, and occasionally I have nightmares or am plain scared by what we’ve experienced.

3)      Spirits suck . . .

Energy, that is. If a location is active, I will end up utterly drained by the end of the investigation. I used to discount this theory, but I know it to be true by experience. If there are raps, bangs, voices, sensations, odors, and the whole gamut of spirit activity, I will feel as if my life source has been tapped and emptied. It’s a very disconcerting feeling, far beyond the normal tiredness of staying up too late. It makes sense that these souls need energy, but I wish I weren’t such an easy supply. I don’t know what to say about this phenomenon, except that it is further proof to me of the reality of the spirit world. However, I’m still not sure what is “using” me in this fashion. That disturbs me on every investigation.

4)      FEAR . . .

Instead of my fear of haunted places lessening over time, I find that it’s actually worsening. I jump at noises and feel my heart explode in my chest when something touches me or alters the vibration of my immediate environment. Case in point: I saw, quite clearly, a low shadow move deliberately and slowly across a wall. This happened in a jail, and at the same time the temperature dropped, the K-2 went wild, and someone was touched. I was terrified. This was not a pleasant little ghost; this was something watching us, maybe making fun of us, heaping its nastiness and derision on our little team like a warm oil slick. That is how the episode felt. This happens on a regular basis, and I always have the impression that nothing good is happening. Yes, yes, I GET IT: if we go to jails, mental hospitals, and murder sites what the hell do we expect? Flowers and happy Caspers? It used to be so fun, though, playing with evil entities and running around in the cloying darkness. Now, not so much. After a while, it’s no longer a game and becomes terrifyingly real. Criminals and madmen are not my friends in life; why would I want a relationship with them after they died? They’re not any better than they were—maybe they are actually worse. Nothing saved them or made them good people. Why do I really want to contact them, anyway? I can’t save their victims or show them the light; I can just record their nastiness and play it back for everyone to hear later. Why give them this power? Why subject myself to fear and panic just because we want to explore a cool, abandoned building? The adrenaline rush has been like a drug to me, but that’s not why I started this whole project in the first place. I wanted to establish contact with the spirit world. That’s fine, but the spirits don’t need to by psychotic or violent, right?

I woke up with nightmares one night after an investigation at a former mental hospital. Actually, it was more like a vision . . . a fetid, ancient lady leaned over me and bared her teeth, and as she did, she transformed into the most hideous demon I could ever imagine. It didn’t feel like I invented her, though; it felt like she was real. Not only that, but voices on tape have threatened to kill us; they have insulted us; and some activity in certain places has made us ill.

We keep going to these places not because we are masochists, but because our memory is so short. We forget how we felt the last time we were there, and what the next day was like. We also lose our belief in what we experienced. Ghost hunters have the least faith in the spirit world of anyone I know—we have to keep proving the existence of the disembodied soul over and over again, because we really don’t believe in the value of our evidence or the certainty of our experiences. How much evidence is enough? I doubt that there is ever enough to stop us from our nocturnal quests. A ghost could materialize in front of our faces, declare that he exists, disappear, and we would be amazed and convinced . . . for a week; the next weekend, back to the hunt. We always find ways to discount what we should know, by now, is absolutely real.

If ghost hunting gives us a drug-like high, though, then we’ll never give it up until we decide to give up the addiction. Imagine what negative spirits can do to us if we are addicted to their presence—knowing that we need them for all the wrong reasons empowers them to control us and use us to their ends. This is not what I had in mind when I became a paranormal investigator.

SO, what can I do about this? If I am primarily attracted by the mystery and the desire to know, then I need to remind myself every on every investigation what my motives are, and what I hope to gain from the experience. “More contact” with unknown entities is not enough. I need to remember the following:

1)      Pursue the mystery itself, not just its effects.

Keep reading and researching the legitimate efforts to understand the afterlife. Don’t become an EVP junkie, or an Orb Queen. EVPs, orbs, weird photos and video and the readings of a thousand interesting gadgets can become a substitute for the quest of real knowledge about what happens after we die. Pursuing “evidence” can become an exercise in collecting bits and pieces of anomalous information for no other purpose than itself.

2)      Take long breaks from places with a violent or unhappy past.

It’s not necessary to spend every weekend in places with a known history of cruelty, violence, trauma, misery and torture. It is only logical that this will take a toll on you emotionally and physically, and to those who declare that these are the only places with “activity”, I say: how would any of us know? Paranormal investigators, as a whole, do not make much of an effort to seek out positive environments or energies.

3)      Give back to the communities that allow you to investigate their properties.

Consider fund raising events (everyone loves to investigate these days!) for historic sites, conventions at hotels that really need the business, or special events at sites struggling with the bad economy. True, some places don’t want anything to do with ghosts, but most places welcome the publicity.

4)      Remember that there is no rule that says ghosts only come out at 3AM.

In fact, many of the books I have read about spirit activity claim that the most active times are in the morning hours or right at dusk. Why don’t we consider getting up at a reasonable hour and investigating in the morning? We could gather different, perhaps more compelling, evidence of how those lives were lived. If people are more active in the morning and at sunset, why wouldn’t ghosts follow the same schedule?

5)      Don’t forget the living.

If ghost hunting is really about LIFE after death, then let’s concentrate more on LIFE. Let’s not forget those who need us to be awake, alert and involved with the everyday. It also occurs to me that spirits are alive, after all, not dead. They are not manifesting death, but life energy. Let’s share in a celebration of everyone’s life instead of morbidly associating our favorite pastime with death, decay, corruption and general rot.

6)      Don’t forget God.

A Higher Power watches us and knows the content of our hearts and the purity of our intentions.

Enough said.

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