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Posts Tagged ‘fake ghosts’

PHW 8

The news was all over Facebook: Aaron from Ghost Adventures had been fired for revealing that the show required him to fake his audio clips! That turned out to be untrue; a “satirical” news site had published the piece to stir up controversy, and they succeeded. I fell for it, because the fake news was not satirical or ironic, simply libelous. Satire requires an exaggeration of the truth for amusing or ironic effect, not the wholesale invention of news designed to tarnish the reputation of an individual or a production.

This ‘fake news’ story was so successful precisely because it touched a nerve with the community of paranormal investigators. There is always the lingering suspicion that the best audio and video clips have been invented or created by a show’s producer. The requirements of the entertainment industry are in direct conflict with the requirements of a good, thorough investigation into a haunting or other paranormal activity.

Hollywood requires melodrama and will invent situations among ‘characters’ (investigators are always turned into characters) in order to provoke conflict, pain, upset and a theatrical expression of emotion. In reality, a team of individuals investigating a location must take themselves out of the equation and focus on the external environment. Any upset or misunderstandings between investigators will hurt the success of the investigation. When one is tuning in to activity around them, you forget yourself and enter into something of a meditative or semi-trance state. That does not make for good television.

Hours may go by where nothing appears to be happening. We are all straining to hear something or ‘catch’ something, but often the result of your efforts is a sore back and exhaustion. Later, we might find gems on our audio clips, but again–the voices are often subtle and odd, not explosive declarations of ‘paranormality’. My team has often sent off some of our best audio to producers who want a sample of our data, only to be told that they need something obvious and definitive: one person actually asked for a clip where the spirit identified itself by name and declared he or she was dead. If these consciousness fragments stated their names, family history, their ontological status and their purpose in contacting us, our jobs would be so much easier!

I was interviewed recently for a national radio show (not Paranormal Kool-Aid–that was a blast!). I didn’t tell anyone about it, because I knew from the beginning that my story would be rejected. I was right, of course. They asked for stories about personal transformation: nothing has transformed my life more than the experiences I have had while investigating the world of spirit. I had one particular story that involved becoming lost and trapped in an abandoned hospital, possessed by the spirits of those who were patients there, and redeemed by a woman in white who freed the three of us. This led to my epiphany that the world of spirit was real and not to be played or trifled with. I was a different person from that point on. I even had spectacular audio from that night that was nothing if not clear. So how could a story like that be rejected?

The answer was: We don’t want to be in the business of proving or disproving the existence of ghosts. Ghosts? I didn’t mention that word a single time to them! And yet: everything always came down to that gross over-simplification of our experiences as investigators. I tried to explain that the popular conception of ‘ghosts’ did not apply here. We were dealing with the anguished remains of suffering patients, who had taken over our conscious minds in order to teach us a divine truth: in order to understand injustice and pain, we must experience it directly sometimes; we must help each other, the living and the ‘dead’. We must transform each other for the good. But no; sadly, the question for the producers remained the same: can you prove the existence of ghosts? No? Well, forget it then.

I didn’t ask the producers to prove anything. The story was about personal transformation. They had fallen into the same trap that almost everyone in the entertainment industry falls into: prove it’s real, or at least fake it so well that most people will believe it. Or, perhaps, they didn’t want to start the ‘real or fake’ discussion with their listeners, and maybe they knew intuitively that nobody would listen to my story for its spiritual value; it would end up where all paranormal stories end up: everyone weighing in with their opinion regarding the veracity of someone’s evidence for ‘ghosts’. Whether this experience “transforms” you or not is entirely beside the point.

I was disappointed and sad, not because I wasn’t going to appear on a national show–that part filled me with a certain amount of dread, due to my fear of misinterpretation and backlash–but because once again, a rep from the ‘industry’ had completely misunderstand the importance of my story. My team and I go through this process on a regular basis. Who we are and why we do what we do is not as important as whether or not we can create the required drama, pain, anger and emotional firestorms that television (and radio) require. The ideal show is one where I turn on my best friends, throw wine in their face during some disagreement about an audio clip, present my friend Wheezer the ghost to the audience, and then throw up on him after a night of drinking margaritas at a haunted restaurant.

Even a respectable show doesn’t want to be part of the conversation about the reality of the soul or the world of spirit (with the exception of the shows our own paranormal community produces). A national radio program that wishes to be taken seriously has to turn its back on the entire question–arguably, the most important question for all humankind–in order to avoid the idiocy of Hollywood’s ‘ghost shows’. We tried to change that. The ladies of the PHW stuck to their guns and refused to fabricate emotions or data in the service of selling a show. My personal role models are still the boys of Ghost Adventures. I worked with them on an episode (“Linda Vista”), and I never saw anything remotely fabricated during those long hours of filming. Not only that, we collected some truly amazing evidence right there on camera. You don’t have to believe me. See the episode yourself and make up your minds.

As soon as I wrote that, it occurred to me that anyone reading Soulbank could accuse me of self promotion. That’s how deeply I’ve been affected by the poisonous environment of entertainment. By simply inviting people to make up their own minds, I’ve fallen into my own trap: ghosts are real! This is what I truly want to say: my life has been utterly changed by the data I have collected on investigations. I think that anyone with a sincere interest in life after life could do exactly what I have done and find themselves flabbergasted by what they discover. What I can’t change is the apathy and lack of interest that many people seem to feel about pretty much everything of importance in their lives. Television is responding to what they see people care about: confusion, discord, negative emotions, dysfunction and theatrics.

But maybe, just maybe, there is a sizable market out there of people who truly, honestly care about the Big Questions; could the ‘industry’ change the entertainment culture by taking us seriously? Of course it could; it’s just easier and more profitable to sell shows that roll in the mud instead of fly with the angels.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

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(Please note that I have changed all identities involved in this account)

Whenever someone I don’t know—a psychic, a medium or anyone claiming paranormal powers—offers to take me on an investigation, I start feeling just a tad nervous. You enter the twilight zone of truth vs. fiction, the authentic vs. the fabricated and entertainment vs. fraud. My husband and I participated in a ‘paranormal’ investigation of a historical site recently, and we were fleeced in what I can only describe as a good, old-fashioned hoodwinking by someone swearing to be clairvoyant/sentient/audient and so on. We lost 50 bucks and a few hours of our lives, but the lessons were priceless.

Our ‘guide’ played for us some ‘class A’ EVP, and immediately my hackles rose. One of the EVP was so clearly faked, that I was convinced the whole thing was a joke; but the punch line never came. After years of listening to EVP, I’ve discovered that they have certain characteristics. A good EVP does not sound like something you can (easily, anyway) recreate. It has an ‘otherworldly’ quality to it, and at times the real clips sound slightly distorted or mediated by either distance or their particular frequency. Figuring out the difference comes from experience. The laughing children on the fake EVP were an insult to anyone who spends hours slogging through audio; but the real fun was yet to come.

While standing in a dismal hallway, our psychic announced that a female ghost was present, and we would know for sure that she was with us by the scent of her lavender perfume. One of our tour mates—a cop, no less—heard a distinctive spritz before we were inundated with a very worldly scent, concentrated around the psychic who, for the rest of the night, dragged around that flowery cloud everywhere he went. At this point, I was starting to feel depressed. This was so obvious, so silly, that I continued to believe that at some point our guide would burst out laughing and declare that he was just kidding. That didn’t happen.

We wandered off to an abandoned house and were regaled with stories about a fourteen-year-old girl who died there. We stood around the living room, my husband filming in night vision mode, when I heard the strangest squeak. It didn’t sound like anything paranormal, but the third time I heard it, I declared it an equipment noise. It was then I noticed that my husband was moving his camera to follow our psychic. Every time he focused on him, our guide moved out of camera range. This little dance went on for the several minutes before the medium declared that it was time to move on. My husband and the cop informed us that the bizarre squeaks were actually our guide attempting to throw his voice; however, he had trouble disguising his facial expressions as he tried to recreate the sound of a fourteen-year-old girl ‘communicating’ with the investigators.

I was thoroughly discouraged by this point. I wanted the whole thing to stop, but I plodded on so that we could see other abandoned properties and maybe take some cool photos. It was hard to believe that something so ridiculous was happening to us, something so obvious and cheap. We finished up that portion of the so-called investigation, and I took a break in the lobby to drink tea and discuss the evening’s antics with some other guests on the tour. Everyone was surprised, but the reactions were different: some were offended, as I was, others found the whole thing amusing, and others professed that they were having a good time regardless. Within a few minutes, we were summoned to an old bathroom with communal showers for a ‘big surprise’. I dragged myself down the hallway and into the abandoned area of the building, feeling as if all my energy had been drained from my body. I suspected that the ‘surprise’ was not going to be pleasant for me.

I walked in and saw that a few members of our tour group had already experienced the ‘surprise’; one lady was trembling on her husband’s lap. There was, apparently, a stone-throwing ghost that was terrifying some of our group. As we all settled in, my husband set up the camera and our guide told us about the gang-rape of some poor soul that occurred in this bathroom. Stories of rape are not entertaining; it sickens me if they are fabricated in order to produce an emotional reaction and prepare us all for paranormal trickery. Indeed, that is what happened: rocks sailed across the room, warmed by our psychic’s hands. He was throwing them around the room while my husband attempted to film his hands. One member of our group was staring at the floor in what looked like despair; another was laughing; I sat there in stunned silence. When our guide announced that one of these rocks had hit his wife ‘square in the head,’ I was also worried.

Part of the show in the bathroom included random K2 spikes that appeared every 32 seconds. This, of course, was ‘proof’ that something paranormal was happening, according to Mr. Medium (later, about three of us returned to that bathroom and debunked the K2 hits: they were caused by the Wi-Fi signal that waxed and waned in different areas of the building. Our guide surely knew that the bathroom was a Wi-Fi hot spot). By that point, none of us really believed anything he had to say. When our guide realized that my husband was trying to film his hands, he decided that our ‘investigation’ was over, and he finally left us alone. We all wandered back to the lobby, where I threw a monumental fit.

Looking back, I should have expected that fraud was bound to happen some time in my paranormal career. However, I was not prepared that night to be lied to in such a grievous way. I always give people the benefit of the doubt. Even if I think someone has interpreted an event as paranormal when I don’t think it is, I respect everyone’s reading of reality. I keep an open mind, I always strive for complete honesty and I have never in my life invented a paranormal event or phenomenon. I could be mistaken about some of my data, but I would never represent something as paranormal when I know that it isn’t. This ‘event’ was called an investigation (NOT a ‘show’ or a ‘tour’, even though I have referred to it that way in this post) and there were paranormal investigators in that group of people, all of whom had paid for an experience they expected would be genuine.

I felt betrayed. My intelligence was not only insulted, it was mocked. A true investigation is a spiritual experience by definition. If you seek spirits, you are attempting to make contact with real people who are—by the grace of God—willing to contact you in some way so that you might believe in and understand the realm of non-physical existence. As such, a genuine investigation is a communion with the souls of those who have passed on, and it something that deserves awe, respect and gratitude. Anyone who has had an authentic paranormal experience knows that such moments can be intensely beautiful and change your life.

I have experienced such moments many times alone and with my investigative team. Imagine watching spirits form all around you in a distant and lost little cemetery; imagine watching your equipment go crazy when you are in a building with no power sources whatsoever; try to feel what I did when I uploaded a picture of a filmy, undulating spirit in the old pantry of the San Juan Capistrano Mission. I have countless such moments of grace and power in my life, and I have those experiences to thank for discovering just how much I believe in God and the pattern and purpose in all of life. That is why it is not only unnecessary to fake phenomena of this nature; it’s an act of emotional violence to spiritual seekers everywhere. It’s more than simply a lie. It’s an offense.

If that is the case, why don’t I come out with names, dates, locations and exact details so that this person and his operation might be revealed? I wanted to, originally. There were members of our group that did not want me to drag this into the light, and I respect their wishes. I believe that the truth will come out, at some point, and perhaps those involved in such a demeaning show will think twice before trying such chicanery again. It was quite clear to our psychic guide that most of us were well aware of his actions.

I want to end this by warning those who find paranormal phenomena fascinating (and might be interested in paying for a ‘paranormal investigation’) to be careful and always use your critical reasoning and logical brain. Know who your guide is, don’t be afraid to do some of your own research both on the people leading you around an abandoned building and the site/stories themselves. Don’t depend on a group who profits from a haunting to tell you the absolute truth; many will, perhaps most, but there will always be the unscrupulous character, who—like the medium of old who used elaborate contraptions to create fun séances—is not above throwing some rocks at your head in a dark, stinky bathroom.

Better to go see a scary movie and know what you’re paying for.

Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

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