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Posts Tagged ‘ghost hunters’

I dread the ‘reveal’, the ‘outing’, of Kirsten as Paranormal Investigator; or, God forbid, Ghost Hunter. This happens, eventually, at work or at church, which is part of the reason I have joined and abandoned eight churches in five years. The voice changes, lowers: “so . . . ” they say, as if they were about to ask me about a sordid affair I’m having, or query me regarding illicit drug use, or any number of other unsavory possibilities, “I hear you . . . hunt ghosts”. Then they giggle, or raise their eyebrows, cock their heads, and smile in that particular way that tells me that they are thrilled that they have just discovered that I am mad or stupid. They are normal in comparison; they are infinitely stable, acceptable, and logical when standing next to a GHOST HUNTER. Then come the questions. I feel heavy, trapped, and exhausted by this point, because I know exactly how the conversation is going to go. I usually fall into a chair and prepare myself for the stereotypes, the ignorance, and the criticism that is about to come my way. Yes, I could simply refuse to discuss this topic with people and walk away; but deep in my heart, I still think that I have the opportunity to change hearts and minds. And no, it doesn’t usually happen; but hope springs eternal. So, without further delay, here are the Top Three Most Annoying Questions for the Paranormal Investigator:

1. So you believe in ghosts???

No. I don’t believe in them. I don’t believe in you, either. I see you and am talking to you, but I don’t BELIEVE in you. You are not God or Jesus or Buddha. I am interacting with you. Therefore, I ascribe some reality to you. You seem rather material and solid, and you are asking questions that I can hear, and I am responding to you, so you exist–materially and spiritually. Now, for that word, “ghost”, let’s drop that already, OK? Nobody knows what a ghost is. All we can do is describe what we think it is, but since we are talking about a non-material entity that manifests itself in a variety of mysterious ways in this visible universe, let’s stop pretending that we know its identity and purpose. Oh, and if you’re envisioning Caspar floating in a sheet, can we just end this miserable conversation right now???

2. You’re so smart; why do you believe this stuff is real?

Well . . . thank you for the compliment. I am, like, SO SMART. So to prove that to you, let’s deconstruct your assumptions, turn them on their head, and force YOU to define reality. I already discussed the ‘believe in’ issue. Let’s move on to ‘this stuff’: what you mean by this is ANYTHING that you don’t understand or that you can’t sense. If your definition of reality is challenged by what others have discovered, or simply by other people’s observations and experiences that point to something beyond the everyday, ordinary reality of collective consciousness, then you decide to attack someone else’s cosmovision. In other words, if you don’t perceive it or understand it, it doesn’t exist. Let’s talk about the word “real”: this is one of those words like ‘love’ or ‘ghosts’ that simply can’t be defined in a simple, straightforward way. What you REALLY mean by this word is this: real is what is real to me, to my community, to my colleagues, to my family, and is supported by my values, ideologies, politics, beliefs, and stereotypes. If what you experience falls outside of what my community values, or what makes me comfortable, or what my church says, or what my chem professor told me, in other words, if YOUR experience causes me discomfort because it falls outside of what I am willing to accept in my life, I will turn on you and label you delusional or strange. The labels keep you at a distance and allow me to continue to live in my little bubble.

3. Can I go with you on an investigation?

No.

Truth is, most people who ask insulting questions of a paranormal researcher are, deep down, fascinated by the varieties of anomalous consciousness (ghosts). They want to know more, but they’re afraid. I understand that. It’s wise to be afraid. At some point, they admit that they are scared of what I do. So I ask them: “What are you scared of?” The answer is, usually, “I’m afraid that ghosts are real”.

That’s where the conversation can start. Yes, my dear, ghosts are real. Now please stop calling them that.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

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Anyone who meditates on a regular basis knows that some strange material can float to the surface of our minds. I used to dismiss such information as a product of random, subconscious associations, but now I pay attention. I realized that what I used to ignore was teaching that I didn’t want and lessons that contradicted what I desired to believe. It seems, sadly enough, that I don’t grow as a human being unless I suffer the pain of reality contradicting my illusions.

I was far away in space during a meditation where I quickly vanished as a ‘person’. I found myself in an odd, geometric void where there were several points displayed in front of ‘me’, or the observer. A master teacher was explaining that the points represented versions of the self. During our lifetimes, we create multiple copies of the true Self, typically by assigning them roles to play. There is the self as mother, teacher, wife, daughter, and so forth. We come to identify with those roles, and therein lies the pain and suffering that so many of us experience when we realize that the roles we play are primarily determined by our culture, family, country of origin, media, and other forces that act upon us in hidden ways. The ‘false selves’ are only painful when they separate from the true Self and take on a life of their own, divorced from a higher, ultimate reality (some call this God, the Divine, the Field, or the Theory of Everything). When the role-identified ego fragments view themselves as independent, the emotional pain grows and intensifies every time we fail to meet the ego’s standards, which are tied to our culture’s definition of success. We become bad mothers, poor teachers, disappointing wives, or bankrupted entrepreneurs. There are an infinite variety of ways we ‘fail’ in our culture: we are old, fat, unattractive, and unsuccessful. Every negative judgment we struggle with is a result of identifying with a false construct of the self that has broken off from the True Self and become autonomous.

Our very culture, the medium in which we live and act, promotes the fragmentation of the self. If we are ‘unsuccessful’ at any of the roles assigned to us, then we will spend money to ‘fix’ the problem that our society created for us. We chase solutions to invented problems, and the people responsible for selling us said ‘solutions’ become rich and powerful at our expense. To some extent, we are all responsible for selling ourselves and others the lies of our culture: how many times have we promoted a damaging, false view of who we are ‘supposed’ to be that is in service to a diseased, dominant culture? If we think that we are substandard employees, daughters, sons, parents, citizens, and so on, we exist in a perpetual state of self loathing and criticism, making us far less likely to pursue avenues of change in our environment, politics, educational system, or social networks. How do you keep the population from rebelling or protesting? Make them believe that they are not good enough to try. I have classrooms filled with students who believe that there is no point in attempting change of any kind. They passively accept the version of themselves that their communities and cultures promote, consciously or otherwise.

While I floated in this space of false selves, I decided that I must be ‘the Observer’ who understood the lessons; the student, if you will. But the Voice, very gently, asked me: “Who observes the observer?” This sounded to me like one of those impossible Zen scenarios where there is, for all intents and purposes, no answer. I was then led to, and ‘infused’ with, the Observer of the observer, and discovered that it was God; but God was me. I was God. Of course, this upset the little ‘me’, who considered this blasphemy. The little observer started protesting that she was a miserable sinner, far from God, and that this truth that I was experiencing could not be true (a tautology if there ever was one). This was now the second time that I have been shown that the true self is God. After all, God experiences herself/themselves (no pronoun works here) in an infinite variety of forms and beings, and I am one of those beings whose true identity is with God.

If we were all to believe this, instead of the lies and distortions that we DO believe, how would the world change? Indeed, the world as we know it would look utterly different (to be clear, I am not talking about the ego delusion that one is God; that’s entirely another problem. I am talking about the actual, true, real Self through which God experiences creation). How beautiful our experience on Earth would be if everyone followed the path of the true Self. It’s too painful to see how far we are from that vision. Perhaps the whole point of life on Earth is to overcome the vast distance between our repressive cultures/constructed selves and our true nature. We come back here again and again, learning and remembering these lessons in various ways, in differing circumstances. Pain and suffering are the most effective teachers when we are ready to accept the falling away of the myriad, scattered, ego selves.
This is why we pray, why we meditate, why we alter our consciousness: to get closer to our true identity and to realize that fundamental change is possible. To make that change requires those little selves floating out there in space to self destruct under the weight of their false values and internal contradictions. Losing those fragments hurts. Those painful identities don’t seem to actually ‘die’: they become ghosts and haunt our collective consciousness forever and ever. But they don’t have to define me anymore, or crush me under the weight of their unprocessed emotion. I choose to send them to the far corners of the Earth, where they can rattle their chains, moan and lament, and scare the paranormal investigators and urban explorers. For that is where they belong, after all: in the agonized and remote regions of our worst fears.

I will keep moving towards the Light, which we all need to do long before we die.

–Kirsten A. Thorne

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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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My mother didn’t believe in ghosts until she stayed at the Bella Maggiore Inn. Now, she doesn’t even want to talk about what happened to her in the upstairs sitting room. I’ve never seen my mother so shaken, so upset, and so pale. This was not a pleasant encounter with a benign spirit–this was something terrifying and unforgettable.

The Bella Maggiore Inn in Ventura, CA was once a “flop house” and a brothel. This, of course, was during the 1930s and 1940s. Now, it’s a charming Italianate-style inn with the best breakfast I’ve had in a long, long time. I decided to spend one night of my Spring Break here in the hope I could convince someone to join me and perhaps find some evidence of a haunting. A woman named Sylvia, who had worked here as a prostitute decades ago, hung herself in room 17 (some say room 15, where my parents stayed) over a romantic entanglement. Elsewhere I have read that she was murdered and her killer was never brought to justice. After so long, with the distortions of a story passed down in the great oral tradition of ghost tales, it’s very difficult to know what actually happened. I invited investigators to join me, as well as my parents. To my surprise and delight, not only did my parents join me but so did the two founders of the Southern California Society for Paranormal Research and one additional investigator.

The sitting room on the second floor has what can only be described as a creepy ambiance; you feel as if you are surrounded by something or watched by someone as soon as you walk in. My mother sat in one chair, my father on the love seat next to her, and I on the chair next to him. It was quiet and deserted; we had come back from dinner and were looking for a place to chat. My mother called my sister on her cell phone. They were talking about my nephew and all the new things he has learned how to do, when I noticed my mother’s face change. She seemed both surprised and upset. “Is that you? Do you hear that? Is Connor OK?” she asked, appearing more and more shaken as she spoke. My sister was clearly asking her what she was talking about, my mother was trying to explain, but there was a communication gap. She held the phone away from her, frowned, tried to continue the conversation, but finally couldn’t. She hung up, and I saw that she was shaking. “Someone was screaming on the phone, a woman . . .  it was horrible. She screamed over and over again. It wasn’t interference from the cell phone. I’ve never heard anything like this. It was like someone was murdering her. It was horrible.” She repeated those lines again and again, unable to understand what she had heard, and what it might mean. During her phone call, before I knew what was happening, I felt a chill run up my left side, as if someone were standing there and congealing the atmosphere. The lights flickered and everything felt darker. Even my father was glancing around as if someone had entered the room.

Later, after my mother had calmed down, she crawled into bed early and didn’t want to talk about it anymore. My father looked up a few stories about Sylvia, but she didn’t want to hear them, and I decided that it was time to head to my own room. If someone had hanged herself in the place I supposed to sleep, I wanted to at least run some audio. I found that the EMF meter was behaving strangely in the hallway, but I didn’t feel much in the room itself. I was getting

lonely when Frank and Louis showed up and rescued me from the rather gloomy hotel and took me to dessert at the Busy Bee. Before that, they set up their equipment in my room hoping to catch something. I hoped that they would, and I hoped that they wouldn’t. I was tired, and it was going to be a long night. Kimberly from SCSPR joined us later, and the discussion was lively. I had shaken off the strangeness of the Bella Maggiore, but it was not to last.

We returned to my room and listened to the audio. There was a constant, low-level conversation in the background. It was silent in the hallway, and there was no one in the rooms on either side of me. The male voices were obviously engaged in a significant discussion, yet there was no way to decipher the words. It sounded so far away, decades away, from another place and time. Every now and then one of the male voices would say something I could almost understand, but after straining to hear them for so long, we finally gave up.

We gathered our equipment and headed towards the sitting room where my mother had experienced such horror over the cell phone. We walked in and said hello, as is polite when there are spirits waiting for you. We all heard a response; when we played back the audio, the “Hello” was as clear as day. Our second greeting was also returned, and we captured that as well. A few minutes into the EVP session, Louis asks if anyone has anything to say. We heard no response at the time, but when he played back the audio a male voice said:  “He still loves you.” Three EVPs within minutes of each other is quite rare. Although we investigated the rest of the hotel that night, nothing was as active as that room. We are still reviewing evidence from that night, so it’s possible that we captured more fragments of those lost lives.

“He still loves you.” I don’t know what that means. I don’t think I am going to ever know, since that is the nature of paranormal investigations. You can’t figure out the specifics of the story, only experience the vague and tantalizing after-effects of the lingering spirits. Of course, I ask myself what it is that we found. It occurs to me that sometimes, as “ghost hunters,” we find ourselves at intersections of the tragic and the lost. I suppose that most of the voices are all “residual,” meaning that the imprints of those lives and deaths are embedded like a recording in the very walls of the hotel. The responses we received upon entering the sitting room, however, point to an intelligent entity who could and did respond to visitors.

I don’t like what this implies about life after death. But then again, I know nothing more about the specifics of the afterlife than I did before I started this journey, with the huge exception that SOMETHING survives of us. I have more questions than answers, and some better theories, but I want to know who screamed in terror over my mother’s cell phone, who greeted us as we walked in, and who was carrying on the distant conversations in Room 17. I want to know all this, yet I will never know.

And not knowing will compel me back, to the place, to the time, to the desire to learn more. Someone might decide to tell me something substantive, because they want their story told . . . I can do that, but only if–for the dead–communication with the living  weren’t so much like “standing behind a sheet of frosted glass which blurs sight and deadens sound, [attempting to dictate] feebly to a reluctant and somewhat obtuse secretary” (Wilson 1987: 176). That was the message of the late Frederic Myers, one of the pioneers of the Society for Psychical Research in the late 1800s. In this case, us ghost hunters are the reluctant and somewhat obtuse secretaries, trying desperately to interpret the messages.

But we will never quit trying. The mystery is too great, and the need to know too imperious; and of course, we are happy to cast our lot with the world’s greatest enigma. This is why I close with Louis smiling. At the end of the night, the truth is–we are alive. We can eat apple pie and hot fudge sundaes and review our evidence and write our blog posts. I hope the afterlife permits such pleasures . . . but for some, I know it does not.

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