Archive for November, 2020

This was one of my favorite photos. We were in the oldest church in Los Angeles, near Calle Olvera. Miguel’s face became a skull–I had never before and never since been able to reproduce this effect.
The PWH, around eight years ago. We were so young; so excited to be investigating!

We started our journey in June, 2011. We had so much fun. We went on so many investigations that I’ve lost count; we have hundreds, if not thousands, of EVP, all of them little snippets of what we believed were amazing voices from the beyond. We thought our recordings, our data, would change the world. We were going to prove life after death. It all seems so innocent now, something we did when we were young. I don’t feel young or innocent now. I don’t think we, or I, can change the world. I couldn’t even change anyone’s mind. My big paranormal quest fizzled out, and the ‘real’ world beat me down. But perhaps the other ladies found inspiration elsewhere–I hope so. I really don’t know. We are still together, but it’s 2020, so we are also apart.

But it wasn’t simply that our dreams of making a significant and lasting impact didn’t go as planned; through our research, our blogs, and our interviews and media appearances, we discovered some hard truths. People cared more about entertainment than education; most people had already made up their minds regarding what they are willing to accept as evidence, and that is based on their preconceived notions of reality, something that we could not change. I found that the spirit world wasn’t ‘fun’ when your back was scratched, your beliefs shattered, your emotions unleashed and your fear spiked to unmanageable levels. That was the strangest realization for me: our experiences were exciting and addicting when we were not convinced that what we were seeking existed. As soon as it became abundantly clear that consciousness could manifest itself in myriad ways, the fun vanished. What we were looking for was real; and I realized that the more I sought to understand spirit, the less sense I could make of it all.

Marsha and Kimberly, concentrating on something from the beyond

I didn’t believe in demons, and then I walked straight into a house where the owner was possessed; I watched my mind struggle to retain control of logic and critical thinking in the face of overwhelming evidence of the presence of evil. Paranormal investigations affected all of us in different ways; but I think it’s safe to say that as a group, we hit a wall with the spirit world. I became overwhelmed by it all the more that I connected with something that I didn’t understand; Marsha pushed herself further into meditation and personal experiences; Erin just wanted to enjoy herself like we used to, but she was surrounded by the rest of us who were struggling in different ways. Jennifer found herself unable to emotionally connect the way she used to; and Kimberly wanted the data to be scientific and unassailable, and wasn’t finding our data convincing.

Rancho Camulos . . .

We drifted. Our searches led us in different directions. I had started out wanting to be scientific in my approach, and I ended up as something of a medium; I didn’t expect that, and my new-found enthusiasm for impressions and visions embarrassed most of our team. It seemed that we were torn apart by our own success at finding what we were looking for, or by not finding what we wanted or expected. I think we all had some expectation about how our explorations would go and what we would find–and after years of going deep into abandoned buildings, we ended up deep in our own psyches, realizing that we were just as engaged in self exploration as we were spirit seeking. And maybe the ladies won’t agree with that . . . I don’t mean to speak for us all.

Kimberly and Jennifer

My spiritual quest became personal, and I separated myself from the whole concept of communal ‘ghost hunting’. I dove deeply into reincarnation, mediumship, alterations in consciousness, intense meditations, and spiritual awakenings that left me humbled and overwhelmed. During that process, I lost the team. We were, we are, friends; we’ve been through too much as a team to lose that connection completely. Of course, this terrible year hasn’t helped at all; it’s simply reinforced our separation, our isolation. But beyond the horrors of 2020, there is this sense of loss that I feel; a loss that centers around having a common purpose with a group of people who, in the beginning, just wanted to contact the dead. Writing that, I wonder why we wanted to do that in the first place . . .

We were all very different people from the beginning. Connecting with spirit, or consciousness without material form, or ghosts, shadow people, entities without bodies, or whatever the hell is out there that communicated with us, was our common passion. We all knew that non-material beings existed, and we wanted them to communicate with us. Perhaps we all feared death on some level; we all had dealt with serious illnesses and knew that life was fragile, at least material life. We wanted some consolation, perhaps, some evidence that all would not be lost after our deaths. We wanted, maybe, to feel hope that we would have more than just this one opportunity at existence. We also wanted to understand our anomalous experiences, our ghost contacts, our memories of other lives, all the weird phenomena that followed us all for most of our lives.

Me, scared.

Our differences, however, became more marked over time. We formed alliances with each other that shifted and caused pain, even if we didn’t intend for that to happen. We would get annoyed with each other’s eccentricities or newfound spiritual passions that seemed to have little to do with our original goals. Or, we would simply gossip about each other or feel justified in striking out on our own, because we couldn’t agree on what to do next, or how to do it, or even what we were looking for. There were political divisions, emotional divisions, and the sense that we had changed.

Marsha, Erin, and Jennifer

I still struggle with this change. I know that I was part of the problem–I delved so deeply into my research and my spiritual experiences that I no longer cared to ask questions to invisible entities in abandoned buildings. I was tired of ‘them’, whoever they were, doing nothing but leaving one-word responses on my recorder, giving me migraines, making me sick, and never, never, never, identifying themselves. It felt like a game that something was playing with all of us, and that game did not go anywhere. I didn’t know what else to ask, what else to do, because mostly, I didn’t know what I wanted to discover. What closure was I seeking? Perhaps, I should have simply loved my parasisters without taking it all so seriously. Perhaps, the spirits I should have sought were in us.

What’s next? What can happen now, or after this miserable year has dragged itself to the grave? What should happen now? Is there any reasonable way to go back to old-fashioned investigating? I wonder if there is any way to return to the old days, knowing that it leads nowhere, really, in terms of spiritual discovery. Or perhaps I am wrong; it’s possible that something extraordinary could still happen, even though I no longer need any proof of life after death. I don’t think any of us have any doubt about that any more. I don’t know if I am looking for anything anymore; or, maybe, I’m just afraid of what IS out there.

That’s probably the most honest answer. I am afraid of the energies that linger in places they shouldn’t be. I will never understand what is out there; never. It’s hubris to think that any of us will ‘figure it out’. We can’t; we won’t. Any attempt to further investigate fragments of disembodied consciousness can only lead back to ourselves and our interpretations of reality. That’s the ‘paranormal’ game: to reveal you to yourself, and to divide you from those who don’t agree with your version of paranormality.

And that leaves you very much alone with your experiences and your theories. It concerns me that a team could be driven apart by the very forces that we once sought to ‘understand’ and explain. And yes, of course, there were more issues that divided us than the paranormal. The realities of this world and our individual lives and families pushed us apart. During this year of total trauma and division, we are further apart than ever. I don’t want this, really. I don’t know what I want, but I don’t want to be alone with my thoughts and emotions and ideas. I used to share those things. And now, I don’t.

Erin in slow shutter speed

Ultimately, I hope that we find our way again, even if that journey back to each other looks different now than it used to. Maybe, it’s not about the object of our search; perhaps that doesn’t matter so much. Maybe, it’s about a group of people with little in common, that probably would never have been friends outside of our common interest in the paranormal, finding inspiration in a common passion that involves exploring dark and disturbing places filled with mystery. Did we REALLY want to find all the answers, or was the real joy in the search itself? Of course, it was about looking and not finding. Once you answer all your questions, is there anything to do after that? The fun we had was running around places we weren’t supposed to be attempting to accomplish the impossible. It was never about proving anything to anyone, or landing a big show on SyFy. We lost our way, like so many other groups did; but I think we can find it again by giving up the need to be right and the pretense of proving something we already know: we are eternal beings that will have many forms in the future–but the Paranormal Housewives only have this life. We shouldn’t let that go.

Sunset in Idy

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

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Spiritual Crisis - Pilgrimage in Glastonbury
It’s gonna hurt

It’s November 7th, 2020. For many of us, it’s a new day; a new President promises a return to sanity and allows us the audacity of hope. For many, many others, the loss of Trump (and no, this is not a ‘political’ post, so please don’t leave) is a devastating portent of chaos and uncertainty, a signal that the old world of white privilege, law and order, and traditional values is waning. For both world views, there is a spiritual crisis either to recover from or to enter into.

What, exactly, is a spiritual crisis or emergency? For me, it went like this: I lost faith first in institutions during the Great Recession. We lost our house to a bank that no longer exists, with a loan that is now illegal. We trusted banks and representatives of financial institutions to make sure we would be OK. In fact, those institutions were literally banking on our failure. After that, I lost faith in our country and in the concept that we all, fundamentally, wanted the same thing and shared the same, basic values. I learned that we did not; my progressive, academic background was alien to almost half of the country. My first inkling of what was coming happened in August, 2016. We were friends with our real estate agent, and I assumed that we occupied the same territory on human rights issues–I didn’t imagine for a second that our agent would wish to discuss his beliefs with us, and that it would leave me reeling, sick.

“If a gay person came into my cake shop and wanted two brides or grooms on the top, I would refuse to sell that cake to them. It’s my right. Those are not my values, and I have to right to refuse them service”. It felt like I had been hit in the stomach. When I recovered, I informed him that I have dear family members who are gay, and that I can’t imagine why he would tell me something so awful, so inhumane, so . . . regressive. But he was not finished. Knowing that I was a Spanish teacher, he wanted me to hear his views on immigration. “Illegals need to be sent home. Mexicans need to stay in Mexico”. At a certain point, I felt stunned into inaction and passivity. I should have terminated him as our agent, but the deal was done. We had signed the papers. He knew that we couldn’t fire him now.

Slowly but surely, family members and old friends started to parrot the same lines, or versions thereof. Every time, I would tremble in shock and outrage, refusing to believe what I was hearing. A student at my college–an older man, who had serious issues with my authority in the classroom–told me that I was hysterical over the election, and that I needed to seek professional help to “get over it”. People popped up in my life with hostile views; it was all fear-based, anger-fueled resentment or outright hatred they expressed, and I figured out that the world was either off its axis, or I had simply misunderstood and misread a vast number of people around me. The latter was, of course, the truth. I did not understand how deeply these views were hidden and unexpressed until someone came along to legitimize them.

I retreated. I did not fight. I became sick and afraid. Panic, anxiety and depression weighed me down. In 2017, God stepped in, or the Universe, or Cosmic Consciousness, or whatever name you wish to give to the force that drives existence, to the Mystery. After a series of traumas at work, a death in the family, and increasing tension everywhere around me, I came home one day and felt very strange. I tried to go to church, I tried to follow my routine, but something was happening to me that I could not understand. I had to pull over to the side of the road because memories were flooding my mind and pushing at my psyche. These memories, however, were not from this lifetime. I relived my death, my final moments, as someone else. I looked in the mirror and saw someone else’s face. I remembered my life as a teenager in San Francisco who died after her pimp filled her veins with too much heroin. I felt that death; I experienced my death in real time on the side of the road. And yet, I was still here.

What followed was a year and a half of spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical implosion. All my beliefs were tested; my pain, my traumas, my worst fears, were all exposed and revealed to all. There was nowhere to hide, nowhere to run. My brain melted and reformed again and again. I was destroyed and rebuilt more times than I could count. I was brought so low that I considered driving off a cliff or stabbing myself with a kitchen knife. I felt ecstasy at times so overwhelming that I thought I might dissolve into the Light. It was so intense that I feared for my sanity, my very existence.

I survived, clearly. I learned that the world is going to hurt you, beyond what you can imagine, but that this world is only one of an infinite number; that this life is but one in an infinite series. You will always come back to a new challenge; always. We must keep in perspective the outrages and horrors of experience, because we have to learn to endure. We have to learn to help others endure, as well. Even if the person you reach out to believes that immigrants are dangerous or that our cities will implode because “they” (people of color, almost always) are violent and terrifying, we still have to try to bridge the enormous gaps that keep us tied up in our small worlds of fear. In the end, so much of what has driven us is simply fear. We believe that we will be destroyed by forces beyond our control. Historically marginalized people–including women–have excellent reasons for believing that a fearful, White, traditionalist society will seek their repression, at best, and their annihilation, at worst.

And perhaps it’s OK to be really, really, angry about that and decide that reconciliation is not possible nor desirable. I understand the calls to revolution; I do. However, I also understand that we have to learn how to manage the reality of human emotion and how it drives us to irrational acts and violent displays of anger and fear. I would not tell anyone what to do now, nor how to react, nor especially how to feel.

All I can tell you is this: You will be back again and again to confront these forces that drive human behavior. Whatever world you come back into, there is suffering, outrage, horror, and fear. But, there is also love, hope, redemption and grace. Far be it from me to tell you why we are here, or why we will be here again. As I see it, it’s to continually engage with the human condition, to wage battle for good, even if what that looks like is not the same for everyone. What is truly good, what is honestly a move towards what you understand as God or a move away from that, will become clear by the results of your actions. Fear will trap you, keep you distant from the ones you love, sicken you, and hurt the world, no matter how right you know you are.

I am guilty of living my life in fear and desperation. It has tied my stomach in knots, hurt every muscle in my body, robbed me of sleep, sunk me into depression, and hurt those I loved and those who might have benefited from my presence in their lives.

This year, and next year, and all the years after that–until Kirsten is replaced with another version of herself–I vow to fight the fear and take action, even if people don’t understand it, don’t like it, or resist it. I have to live an authentic life, one that God has called me to live again and again by showing me that I cannot be destroyed. Since I cannot be destroyed, there is no reason for hiding, for cowering, for raging alone in my house at thousands of injustices. I will not apologize for who I am, what I believe, and what form my actions must take. The only promise I can make is to do no harm to others; as much as that is possible. I have to do something.

A word of advice: don’t try to stop the pain of a spiritual crisis. Let it burn, let it overwhelm, allow it to push you to the breaking point. Allow yourself to fall apart, to break, and to question everything you held dear. You will recover yourself–remember that your transformation is a function of your willingness to walk a dark path. For awhile. The Light is always there, even if you can’t see it sometimes.

I have to do something for the world beyond my own deconstruction. Maybe writing this is a beginning.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

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