Archive for October, 2011


Well, it finally happened. The Paranormal Housewives attracted some attention: the LA Times ran two stories; CBS2 decided to follow us Halloween night on an investigation; local papers jumped in the mix; and we are now “out” as GMT Films’ next project for a television show. The result? Support from the people who matter, and some vicious hate mail that brought me down hard this morning.

I know. This is what happens when you expose yourself to the public. I used to say that people who put themselves in the limelight deserved what they got; I just didn’t understand how much darkness and hatred is out there, and how much it hurts when you are the target of it. Of course, “you” is a relative word; the people who write such nastiness and spew so much venom don’t know anything about me or any of the ladies. They don’t care to actually learn the truth about who we are and what we do–their purpose is to inflame, hurt, accuse, wound and defame. This is what I am attempting to understand: how could people who purport to support research and investigation into the “paranormal” lash out so violently against a group of people who are involved in the same quest?

The answer is simple: their main interest is NOT research or investigation, it’s tearing down the competition or improving their self-image through insults and accusations. Not a single negative comment comes with an identifying signature or contact information. None of these critics have the courage of their convictions, or they would initiate a discussion and ask some questions instead of hiding behind the anonymous attack. It’s the very anonymity of these diatribes and their clear intent to wound that reminds me of those ‘negative entities’ that we occasionally run into in an investigation. If there are destructive energies in the afterlife, why should I be surprised that such ill-intended people exist on this side of the veil?

I suppose I have a long history of naiveté regarding human beings in general. I always believed that everyone was basically good, with more or less pure intentions; evil, as I used to understand it, was a misinterpretation or a frustration of the good. If someone was vicious, it had to be that I had not fully understood what they meant, or that somehow that individual was communicating poorly. Now, I see how innocent I truly was. There exists a sizable minority of genuinely angry, spiteful and destructive people who take pleasure in inflicting pain. What a terrible realization that has been for me and for my paranormal sisters who have to endure such vitriol, coupled with a bitter dose of sexism and envy.

For some, other people’s joy and happiness (especially when made public) inspires them to tear it down. Others rejoice in their skepticism, using it as a weapon to dismantle anyone else’s differing world view. For them, any excuse is valid to assail one’s education, preparation, intent and competence. For the committed, professional skeptic, no amount of evidence is sufficient and no real dialogue is possible. The hardened cynic is the least scientific of thinkers, since open and honest inquiry is not only discouraged, it is impossible.

Most disturbing are those who use gender as a weapon. I realize that six women investigating the paranormal in a responsible and professional way might be a threat to anyone who sees the world and its workings from an androcentric position. I thought–stupid me–that we had something approaching gender equality in this country, in 2011, but my experience with a few minor players in the ghost hunting circles has shown me that women are still considered side shows in the power plays of the paranormal. Granted, I am talking here about a relatively small minority, but these invisible, angry, divisive characters are very vocal (if not visible: they like to hide in dark corners).

I have kept my peace and not discussed this issue anywhere, thinking that perhaps the naysayers and the living devils poking their pitchforks at the PHW would simply explode in a puff of sulfurous smoke, but they are about to come out of the shadows in force as interest in our group grows. The reason that people write to us, want to hear about us, interview us and ask us questions is because we all share questions and concerns regarding our fate after death, and the destiny of souls. It is a sacred undertaking not for the faint of heart. No one, not a single living human, has the answers to these questions. No one can say what happens to human consciousness after death, not science, not psychology, not literature, not anthropology, not ANYONE. Therefore, those who casually condemn those who have undertaken the search for answers have no moral authority for their attacks.

Ultimately, I must learn to rebuff the remarks that someone tosses off with wounding intent. We must protect ourselves from negative and angry living entities the same way we must ward off  evil spirits. The living in the flesh is so much more dangerous than those alive in spirit; I hope and pray that I can take care of myself and the members of my team as we navigate this thing called publicity. You don’t have to agree with us, you don’t have to “like” us, you don’t have to watch us or read about us; however, you DO have to think about your intentions and how those define you as an individual and as an ethical human being. If one turns to the darkest of human emotions, one will find oneself swimming in ignorance and ending up haunting the corner of some unlucky homeowner’s house, who will then contact us, and we’ll have to shoo you out the window.

Let’s all go to the light. We don’t have to wait until we’re dead.

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It appears I might have erred in my interpretation of “discernment of spirits”. Below is a summary of some of what St. Ignatius of Loyola had to say about the issue:

“Good and Evil Spirits

Ignatius believed that these interior movements were caused by “good spirits” and “evil spirits.” We want to follow the action of a good spirit and reject the action of an evil spirit. Discernment of spirits is a way to understand God’s will or desire for us in our life.

Talk of good and evil spirits may seem foreign to us. Psychology gives us other names for what Ignatius called good and evil spirits. Yet Ignatius’s language is useful because it recognizes the reality of evil. Evil is both greater than we are and part of who we are. Our hearts are divided between good and evil impulses. To call these “spirits” simply recognizes the spiritual dimension of this inner struggle.”

‘Discernment of spirits’, then, is not about spirits of the dead withwhom we place ourselves into contact. However, since contacting spirits requires an absolute and precise understanding of one’s impulses, motivations and ‘inner spirit,’ it is legitimate to affirm that you can’t contact spirits if you aren’t able to discern your own tendencies towards Loyola’s rather black and white understanding of ‘good’ and ‘evil’.

If you don’t see, feel or comprehend your own ‘demons’, then you certainly will attract spirits of the  lower order. Like attracts like; what drags you down in to depression, anger, loss of hope or cynicism will return to you in full during an investigation into the survival of the soul. One could see it as a ‘vibrational’ frequency of despair serving as a beacon to all those–in death–who are of like mind and heart. Since so much of what we do in an investigation involves the ‘mirroring’ of ourselves in the spirit world (there are even theories that we are contacting versions of ourselves in parallel dimensions, backwards or forwards in time), we return again and again to the theme of “knowing oneself,” and taking precautions when you are not in the state of mind or spirit to attempt contact with another world.

This is why I caution those who are in the throws of depression, despair, general unhappiness or any chaotic emotional state to stay away from ‘haunted’ sites. Your emotional state serves as a magnet, destroying your chances of any objectivity in the search if you display a lack of control or awareness of your inner spirits. Discernment of spirits, then, is an interior exercise that requires a thorough self-examination before you can attempt any potentially dangerous communication with those that are now on the “other side” of you.

I haven’t answered my original question. So, I ask my readers to please help me out here, and tell me if you think there is any spiritual or religious justification for the ghost hunt. There may be spiritual justification, but my research so far is indicating that no religious sanctions can be found in the Christian Bible.

Thank you for reading,

Kirsten A. Thorne


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 Yesterday, my husband told me how afraid he is that we are summoning demons or negative spirits during our investigations. I wish I had a better answer for this particular concern; admitting, as I have done, that I don’t really know who or what I am communicating with opens up a Pandora’s Box of potential moral and ethical issues. Perhaps the answer lies in the conviction that we are attempting to answer a question and hoping to collect enough data to point us in the right direction. Although I hesitate to compare myself to a scientist, I at least attempt to employ the scientific method when conducting an EVP or ITC session. I am not a scientist because I cannot strictly control my environment to simulate laboratory conditions, and also because I rely on “unscientific” tools to understand a spiritual realm: my intuition, my emotions and my instincts. Of course, simply investigating a “spiritual realm” places me squarely outside of mainstream science, a fact that I accept as not implying that I cannot access the truth.

That, I think, is the point: we are engaged in a search for the truth, which involves an uncomfortable relationship between religion and ‘soft’ science. Religion, at least Christian/Catholic in focus, will not accept “ghost hunting” as a legitimate pursuit; however, even that assertion is debatable. There are “Christian ghost hunters” who can, quite well I believe, defend the existence of the spiritual realm here on earth. If you are a literalist and read the Bible as the exact Word of God, you truly cannot defend paranormal investigations. If Hell is a reality for you and not a spiritual state of disconnection from God, then you can’t hunt ghosts. So much depends upon how one interprets the Bible; if all of the Bible’s rules apply to you, you had better not eat shellfish or lie with a menstruating woman.

For me, investigations into the spiritual realm have refined and transformed my relationships and friendships. I feel more connected to life in all of its manifestations, more open to the possibilities of spirit, more aware of my surroundings, and closer to God. There is more peace in my heart than ever before. The results of sitting in the dark for hours on end and honing in on subtle energies have been positive and life-affirming, revealing truths that have only benefitted my relationships. I asked God awhile back if He was OK with my pursuit of spiritual truths in this particular fashion; although I certainly can’t prove that I received an answer, I believe that I did—“permission granted, but be very careful and always understand your motivations”.

Taking care means not investigating buildings where someone was worshipping or conjuring negative and destructive forces, or where there is any hint of demonic activity. Yes, I do believe in the existence of evil, however one wishes to name it. Evil can be severe mistreatment of patients in a mental hospital, or the residue of domestic violence and abuse, or the rampant desire for personal power. Evil may or may not take on a recognizable form; in that sense, we might occasionally contact an “unclean spirit,” and what is required in that case is DISCERNMENT. This is what I found in the Catholic Encyclopedia:

“Discernment of spirits” is the term given to the judgment whereby to determine from what spirit the impulses of the soul emanate, and it is easy to understand the importance of this judgment both for self-direction and the direction of others. Now this judgment may be formed in two ways. In the first case the discernment is made by means of an intuitive light which infallibly discovers the quality of the movement; it is then a gift of God, a grace gratis data, vouchsafed mainly for the benefit of our neighbor (1 Corinthians 12:10). This charisma or gift was granted in the early Church and in the course of the lives of the saints as, for example, St. Philip Neri. Second, discernment of spirits may be obtained through study and reflection. It is then an acquired human knowledge, more or less perfect, but very useful in the direction of souls. It is procured, always, of course, with the assistance of grace, by the reading of the Holy Bible, of works on theology and asceticism, of autobiographies, and the correspondence of the most distinguished ascetics. The necessity of self-direction and of directing others, when one had charge of souls, produced documents, preserved in spiritual libraries, from the perusal of which one may see that the discernment of spirits is a science that has always flourished in the Church.


The Bible could not predict that ghost hunters would become involved in tracking souls; and, of course, the Bible cannot specifically comment on ITC and EVP sessions; I take the above quote to mean that there is nothing inherently wrong with seeking to understand the realm of spirits as long as true discernment is involved. If you conduct paranormal investigations with the intent to “self-direct or direct others” towards moral ends, then you are protected from the creatures of the night that seek to hurt or destroy the sacredness of life. Again, it involves your intentions. Such investigations into spirit should never be conducted as pure entertainment for you, since surely something will come along to fulfill that desire, and that ‘something’ is not to be trusted. If you join an investigation as part of your evolution towards God, then I can find no evidence that you will be punished for such an undertaking.

I don’t know if the specific methods of ‘ghost hunting’ are sanctioned or not; I do not participate in séances or consult mediums, not because there is something inherently wrong with such activities, but because I am not sure of other’s intentions. I can only know my own; if others are involving me in a quest to speak to those who have passed into spirit, how can I be sure of their motivational purity? If I can’t know the content of someone’s heart and soul, I cannot allow them to serve as my guide to the spirit realm.

As an individual quest, paranormal investigations can either take you to the Light or drag you into the shadows. I have watched both extremes play out in the lives of investigators. The vigilance must be constant and always based on your faith and sincere desire for knowledge. If you are looking for profit, for self aggrandizement, or to gain control over others, you don’t need to go looking for the dark side—it has already found you.

—Kirsten A. Thorne


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Dear Soulbank readers: I hope you will take the time to read the article below and my comments afterwards. If you are interested in survival of consciousness issues, you MUST know about Sam Parnia’s work.    —Kirsten A. Thorne

Near-death experiences are real and we have the proof, say scientists

Written by Danny Penman
Jeanette Atkinson is surprisingly relaxed about the time she died and went to the edge of heaven.“I do not want to die again in the near future because I still have too much to do,” she says. “But I have no fear of death.“People see the pain and suffering of dying and equate that with death – but they’re not the same. Death is the progression of life.”

Jeanette, a 43-year-old student nurse from Eastbourne, had a near-death experience in 1979 when she was just 18-years-old. It was triggered when a blood clot in her leg broke up into seven pieces and clogged the main vessels in her lungs, starving her body of oxygen. The doctors were certain that she would die. She did – but then returned to tell the tale.

“The first thing I noticed was that the world changed,” says Jeanette. “The light became softer but clearer. Suddenly there was no pain. All I could see was my body from the chest downwards and I noticed that the time was 9:00pm.

“In an instant I found myself looking at the ceiling. It was only a few inches away. I remember thinking it was about time they cleaned the dust from the striplights!

“I then went on a little journey around the ward and along the corridor to see what the nurses were up to. One was writing on a notepad. It never occurred to me that I was dying. It was a lovely experience and very, very serene.”

Jeanette then began the journey that many others before her have reported – being drawn into a long dark tunnel suffused with light.  “Everything went fuzzy,” she says. “I found myself being drawn into a tunnel shaped like a corkscrew.

“All I wanted to do was reach the beautiful lights at the bottom. The longing was so powerful but so gentle. I knew I desperately wanted to be there. But then a voice bellowed at me: ‘Come on you silly old cow it’s not your time yet!’

“I then shot back into my body – it’s all a little unclear – all I can say is that I remember seeing the clock again and it was 9:20pm. The next thing I was aware of was waking up a few days later, surrounded by equipment and feeling terrible. Later on I realised that the voice I’d heard was my grandmother’s. She’d died when I was three years old.”

For decades near-death experiences like Jeanette’s have been written off as delusions by scientists. They are dismissed as no more than the last twitches of a dying brain. Modern science has no place for mysticism and the paranormal. But now a group of British researchers are challenging the scientific establishment by launching a major study into near-death experiences. They hope to settle once and for all the question of whether there truly is life after death.

“We now have the technology and scientific knowledge to begin exploring the ultimate question,” says Dr Sam Parnia, leader of the research team at London’s Hammersmith Hospital. “To be honest, I started off as a sceptic but having weighed up all the evidence I now think that there is something going on.

“It’s not possible to talk in terms of ‘life after death’. In scientific terms we can only say that there is now evidence that consciousness may carry on after clinical death. Our work will prove one way or the other whether a form of consciousness carries on after the body and brain has died.”

Several scientific studies have suggested that the mind – or ‘soul’ – lives on after the body has died and the brain ceased to function. One study published in the prestigious Lancet medical journal found that one in ten cardiac arrest survivors experienced emotions, visions or lucid thoughts while they were clinically dead. In medical terms they were “flatliners” or unconscious with no signs of brain activity, pulse or breathing.

About one in four people who have a near-death experience also have a much more profound – and sometimes disturbing – experience such as watching doctors try and resuscitate their bodies. These ‘out-of-body experiences’ often include seeing a bright light, traveling down a tunnel, seeing their dead body from above, and meeting deceased relatives.

Research in America has uncovered even more bizarre results. Blind people who underwent near-death experiences were able to see whilst they were ‘dead’ – even those who had been blind from birth. They did not experience perfect vision, often it was out of focus or hazy, as if they were seeing the world for the first time through a thin mist. But the vision was sufficiently clear for them to watch doctors trying to resuscitate their clinically dead bodies.

Dr Parnia has previously studied near-death experiences. Two years ago his work was published in the prestigious medical journal Resuscitation. Dr Parnia’s team rigorously interviewed 63 cardiac arrest patients and discovered that seven had memories of their brief period of ‘death’, although only four passed the Grayson scale, the strict medical criteria for assessing near-death experiences. These four recounted feelings of peace and joy, they lost awareness of their own bodies, time speeded up, they saw a bright light and entered another world, encountered a mystical being and faced a “point of no return”.

According to modern medicine all of these patients were effectively dead. Their brains had shut down and no thoughts or feelings were possible. There was certainly no possibility of the complex brain activity required for dreaming or hallucinating.

Dr Parnia’s initial trial was especially rigorous – he wanted to confound his critics before they could muster their arguments. To rule out the possibility  that near-death experiences resulted from hallucinations after the brain had collapsed through lack of oxygen, he rigorously monitored the concentrations of the vital gas in the patients’ blood. Crucially, none of those who underwent the experiences had low levels of oxygen.

He was also able to rule out claims that unusual combinations of drugs were to blame because the resuscitation procedure was the same in every case, regardless of whether they had a near-death experience or not.

“Arch sceptics will always attack our work,” says Dr Parnia. “I’m content with that. That’s how science progresses. What is clear is that something profound is happening. The mind – the thing that is ‘you’ – your ‘soul’ if you will – carries on after conventional science says it should have drifted into nothingness.”

Dr Parnia says that every near-death experience is subtly different but that they all share eight or nine key features, whatever the nationality, culture or religion of the patient. These include intense feelings of calmness, traveling down a long dark tunnel, being drawn into an intense loving light, seeing your dead body from above, and meeting long-deceased relatives or friends. A few experience a brief form of ‘hell’ where they are drawn, petrified, into a dark swirling well of bitterness, hatred and fear.

There are cultural differences in these experiences. Tribal people may report paddling in a canoe down a long dark river for three days towards the sun, for example, rather than floating down a tunnel towards the light. The experience, whatever the cultural differences, usually has a deep and long lasting effect. It often leaves behind a legacy of profound spirituality and removes the fear of death.

“The worst thing is coming back from the dead,” says Patrick Tierney, who had a near-death experience following a cardiac arrest in 1991. “If dying is anything like the experience I had then it’s not a problem.

Patrick was rushed to hospital in July 1991 following a heart attack. He survived the initial attack and within hours was chatting with his family at the bedside.

“I was talking to my wife and eldest boy when I felt a little pinch in my chest,” says Patrick. “The next thing I knew I was travelling down a corridor in a medieval looking house. I was astounded. It was very real and lucid. I thought to myself ‘what the hell’s going on?’.

“I came to a fork in the corridor and I knew that I had to make a decision. One branch was a dark and sinister looking hole. The other was brightly lit and appeared friendly in some way, so I floated down that one.”

Patrick then found himself in a form of ‘heaven’. He was in front of a beautifully lit landscape bordered with a waist-high white picket fence. He was instantly calmed and soothed by a beautiful translucent light.

He then became aware of his parents, who were behind the white fence, smiling broadly at him. Strangely, they were in their thirties despite the fact that they had both died in their seventies.

“I moved towards a gate in the fence but my father gave me a look that I knew meant ‘don’t come through the gate’, so I didn’t. No words passed between us. I then found myself moving backwards through the corridor but this time it was very disturbing.

“Greeny-grey gargoyle-like figures were staring at me from the roof,” says Patrick. “One, with a face like an evil goat, began to move towards me. All of the warmth and cosiness left and I was terrified. A moment later I saw the face of an angel – it was a nurse from the hospital. It turned out I’d had a cardiac arrest.”

Cardiac arrest survivors like Patrick are tailor-made for Dr Parnia’s study. Scientists know that within seconds of the heart stopping the brain has shut down completely. The patient is effectively dead and there is no chance of dreams or hallucinations mimicking a near-death experience.

As soon as a patient slips into a cardiac arrest, Dr Parnia’s team will swing into action. The first priority will be to get the patient’s heart beating again. Equipment used during the resuscitation will have symbols placed on top of it in such a way that they can only be seen from above. Other symbols will be placed around the patient’s body.

Surviving patients will then be gently quizzed about their experiences when they regain consciousness. Those that claim to have left their bodies will be questioned in more detail to see if they can identify the symbols.

Dr Parnia has designed the experiments to be bullet-proof. He is only too keenly aware that critics will tear his work apart if he leaves even the slightest doubt about the rigour of his team’s efforts. It will also destroy his career as a scientist. Even the exact experimental details are shrouded in secrecy.

“We can’t run the risk of prejudicing the experiment,” says Dr Parnia. “I won’t even know some of the details. We have a researcher who will be hiding the symbols on the equipment. Somebody else will be doing the interviews with the patients. It’s what’s known as a double-blind trial. It prevents scientists from unconsciously altering the results of their experiments.”

Other scientists acknowledge Dr Parnia’s formidable reputation and the care he takes over his experiments but are still sceptical about his aims.

Dr Susan Blackmore, who has herself had a near-death experience but since written it off as a delusion, says such experiences “probably result from random firings in the brain.”

“I think that people have near-death experiences not when they are flatlining but when they are drifting into or out of consciousness,” she says. “Having said that, I’m curious to know the results. If they are positive then they could change the world.”

Because of the implications of his work – and the potential for ridicule from his fellow scientists – Dr Parnia is being very cautious in the claims he is making for the study. He is not trying to prove that we all die and go to heaven. He is instead trying to find out whether the mind continues to function after the brain has effectively died, or at least ceased to function.

If the mind does continue after the brain has died then this will prove, by default, that the ‘soul’ is independent of the body. Dr Parnia will have proved that the mind – in essence, the soul – continues to live after the body has died.

“It comes back to the question of whether the mind or consciousness is produced by the brain,” says Dr Parnia. “If we can prove that the mind is produced by the brain then I don’t think that there is anything after we die. If the brain dies then we die. It’s final and irreversible.”

“If, on the contrary, the brain is like an intermediary which manifests the mind, like a television will act as an intermediary to manifest radio waves into a picture or a sound, then we should be able to show that the mind is still there after the brain is clinically dead. That will be a significant discovery.”

But all of the theories and questions posed by scientists are academic to those who have had a near-death experience. They know the answers.

“There is no doubt in my mind that there’s life after death because I’ve seen the other side,” says Jeanette. “I don’t believe in a benevolent God. I’ve seen too much suffering for that but I’m very spiritual.

“I saw my daughter suffer for four years with cancer. She died when she was only 17. I know she has gone to a better place.”


Although there is nothing new about near-death experiences, there is something new regarding the weight of the evidence: it has increased over the years. This conscious experience during a shutdown of all conscious awareness has not only NOT been debunked since it was first introduced to the public in the 1970s by Raymond Moody, M.D., it has actually been strengthened by new experiments and better technology. Although I am not a scientist and cannot explain the neuro-physiological details of consciousness (and I don’t believe any scientist can!), I can affirm that the preponderance of the evidence is pointing towards the existence of a personal identity after clinical death.

That’s an amazing statement. Of course, it leaves some big questions unanswered: is there an afterlife? How long might that afterlife last? What about God? Angels? Demons? Hell? Heaven? Do we “move on”? If so, where do we go? Is there such a thing as reincarnation? If you care about these issues, you have to learn to live with a certain level of discomfort. Your current understanding of what is real and possible is probably insufficient. What you understand about time is probably quite limited. Even what we understand about reality and the “world” is probably wrong on many levels. Every now and then, there is a piece of information that further rips apart my understanding of pretty much everything.

An example: a friend of mine, the dearest friend of mine, has a child with unique abilities. The other day, while at school, he saw a little girl reading in a chair. Problem? The little girl wasn’t there until ten minutes later. He had “previewed” an event that had not yet occurred.

Time flows strangely; it is non-chronological. Reality shifts, repeats and multiplies. Life moves in a cycle. Death, it appears, is a seamless transition from one state to the next. We must, therefore, revise what we assume to be true. Our world is stranger, more fantastic, than we are capable of imagining.

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