Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween and Ghost Hunting

It is interesting that during Halloween week, ghost hunting is the focus. In fact Ghost Hunters, the TV show is going live tonight. They bring in viewers interactively by having connection to their web site in which viewers can press a button to let the investigators know if they saw something. That opens up a lot of doors to pranksters – they said last year they got 10,000 hits on that button! How annoying would that be to have people pranking them. But at the same time, the show is 7 hours long tonight – from 7 pm to 2 a.m. and hopefully it will be better than the Geraldo live show looking for Al Capone’s treasure.

What is interesting to my study is that people are getting information from a mediated event and they are participating with the television show through the Internet, another mediated aspect of the experience. So it is an event in which possibly millions of people are coming together to watch and/or interact around a paranormal-based reality event – to share a lived experience, discuss it, investigate it (albeit through the representation of the show’s experts and their visitors), and be able to determine among themselves if there is evidence, what the evidence is, and what that means to them. It brings to mind the idea of taking “science” into their own hands… something perhaps blasphemous to a trained scientist, but it is in the same vein as when the bible was put into the hands of the masses (via Gutenburg’s press) and people, rather than priests, were allowed to read and interpret for themselves the words of the bible. In a way, television and other forms of media are allowing people to look at this controversial “pseudo-science” as paranormal research has been called, and to determine for themselves if they think there is something to it.

However, the use of media can make the evidence suspect because there is always the possibility of doctoring the video or audio footage. It would be great if the show would occasionally focus on the steps they take to make sure that these images and sounds are legitimately captured and not added or created by the production company – a topic of discussion I have seen on Internet chat groups about the show. They do have investigators, like Donna LaCroix , who are scientists – she is an engineer, apparently, and it would be helpful if the show played up the more objective and scientific (to whatever degree they can) aspects of what they do. They say what the theories are, but who came up with these theories about EMFs and cold spots? That is a big criticism by skeptics that there is no “proof” – and that is a misguided term, they should say “evidence”—that entities give off high EMFs. But perhaps they do, and this show is making an effort to show that evidence. If there are scientists that they work with, it would be great to see input from those scientists and to know who they are and what their credentials are.

While Ghost Hunters does appeal to those who may too easily believe, it also appeals to those who are well-read in these areas and the just-plain-curious among us who want to see what they are doing. There are even web sites that show amateurs who try to do the same thing themselves. But there are also web sites that show people playing pranks on those watching looking for real footage of entities and then doing something on camera to make them jump, like the video Whoopi Goldberg showed on The View. But Ghost Hunters does not, in my opinion, bring itself credibility when it has investigators who think everything is paranormal, like Brian Harnois did. While I liked his enthusiasm and imagine he had a good friendship with the TAPS people, he was a bit too quick to jump to conclusions that a place was haunted or that an event was paranormal.

The show Ghost Hunters is becoming increasingly popular, at least according to a press release from Sci Fi, the station that airs the show. They don’t, however, say what organization has published those stats (Nielsen or otherwise). But at least at this time of year, there is more interest in things paranormal. And people look for things to watch on television related to hauntings and demons, etc. More channels offer shows about famous places that are supposedly haunted, And newspapers, like The New York Times, as I mentioned in my previous post, are featuring stories about hauntings, real and put on.

From that Times article, there is mention of Bonnie Vent of the San Diego Paranormal group, who channels dead people, many of whom are celebrities. The article mentions her channeling of a message from comedian George Carlin who died in June of this year. This video shows her channeling the "lovely stranger" ghost at the Coronado Hotel in San Diego who apparently was murdered and appears to people at the hotel. This is the kind of programming that Halloween inspires. But, as with the widespread popularity in the Christmas season of generosity and good will, these things are appropriate to focus on year ‘round.

I am posting a video of Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson from Ghost Hunters when they appeared on The View this year. They talk about the way they go about debunking sounds and activity and what tools they use to investigate.

So I'm anxious to see them working live -- as I've missed them doing it the last two years.

More comments later this weekend....

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Even the NY Times is talking about ghosts today

Yes, well---Halloween gives the general American public license to talk about ghosts and the supernatural (aka paranormal activity). Here is an article in today's New York Times on Supernatural Cleaning Methods with some great references to books about ghost hunting and cleansing your home (burning sage aka smudging is mentioned).

I'm going to write up something about the Saints for Saturday, All Saints Day. In my belief system about spirits and spirit guides, I (and others) see saints as some of those in spirit who help us in our day-to-day lives. I have certain saints I consider to be helpful to me -- and I've sought them out from the general Catholic understanding of patron saints. More later...

Monday, October 27, 2008

ghost stories 1

My grandmother telling about one experience in which she experienced a ghost on Brindley Street in Ithaca, NY

Grandma's ghost stories 2

Stories about ghosts at Grandma's house on State Street in Ithaca, NY

Grandma Playing Piano

A demonstraton of my grandmother playing piano for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren around 1988.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Science and "The Will to Believe"

Have been reading about the resistance to belief on the part of scientists -- an editorial written by Arthur Hastings, Director of the William James Center for Consciousness Studies at the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology. He discusses a near-death experience (NDE) case in which a patient being operated on had her eyes taped, ears plugged, her brain drained of blood and her body temperature lowered to 58 degrees. She was hooked up to an external heart and lung machine and her brain showed no electrical activity and it was unresponsive to sound. Yet after the operation she claimed to have been outside of her body and described special surgical instruments that were used, conversations she had overheard, and events that occurred during surgery (that were confirmed as true). She also described things corresponding with other NDEs such as a life review, meeting non-physical beings, and moving to an otherwordly place. Yet when scholars were asked to comment on the case, they would not.

Hastings speculates that even in the face of reasonable evidence to support a possible idea, without absolute proof those in the science community are resistant to belief. Reasonable evidence is not simply someone saying they experienced something, but data that indicate a good reason to conclude something, and yet there seems to be a determination not to believe.


The scientific community is built on credibility and acceptance. If researchers deviate from the paradigms that have been absorbed as truths, they risk loss of credibility, sometimes for life. Examples of that in other fields of science -- medicine and physics, for example -- indicate that scientists who have contributed theories based on findings that go against prevailing ideas and paradigms have been ostracized and unsupported in further research.

But Hastings says NO EMPIRICAL CONCLUSIONS CAN BE ABSOLUTELY PROVED, and every scientific conclusion is believed on less than complete logical proof. The ironic part of trying to establish the paradigm of the existence or possibility of a non-physical world is that in order for it to be accepted, it has to be explained by the use of the physical because the rationale is often "something that is not physical simply is not real because "real" means "physical." So how do you show the existence of a non-physical realm within those methods?

Measurement. Matching an experience that does not fit within the accepted paradigm by use of a well-accepted part of the paradigm. Lucid dreaming was not taken seriously until electroencephalography was used to confirm the consciousness state of lucid dreaming.

In late September an announcement of a study on out-of-body experiences (OBEs) that will be done was made by researchers in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.

It makes me wonder if the use of measurement equipment in modern day ghost hunting (electromagnetic field detectors, thermal imagers, and digital voice recorders, as well as new tools that translate digital voice recordings immediately --those that are not picked up by the human ear), will constitute or are constituting now scientific evidence of the possibility of non-physical beings or activity or even communication with a non-physical world. One writer noted that there is no "proof" (or should we say evidence) that spirits emit high electromagnetic fields so we cannot say that unexplained high EMF levels are evidence of spirit activity. What I believe Ghost Hunters personnel usually say is that "the theory is that..." high EMF readings that are not attributable to anything physical may mean there is spiritual activity.

Monday, October 6, 2008

What I Believe, Part 2

Beyond the sense of spiritual guides and physical displays of spiritual activity in my home, I do believe it is possible to communicate with those who have died. My grandmother, who died in 2000 at the age of almost 92, often spoke of her own experiences -- seeing spirits, knowing when someone would be born or when someone would die, and having vivid dreams of visiting her mother in a heavenly place. Her sister also had similar experiences of her dead husband coming to see her and being prevented from speaking with her. As a young girl, I felt these stories were partly normal and partly fantastic. I was just glad I was not experiencing these dead people, myself, but completely believed the information my grandmother was telling me.

She would often visit me in my Long Island home and I used to say to her that when she died she should come and stay with me forever -- in spirit. I don't have any crisis apparition stories to tell (where she would have appeared to me at the time of her death), but as is reportedly the case with people who have passed trying to communicate with their families and friends, there have been interesting signs that lead me to believe she is around. Often, people report smelling a scent associated with the person, or hearing a song, or seeing that person's name in an unlikely place. After my grandmother died, my mother would smell my grandmother's favorite scented powder, even though my mother had given away all that powder when she died. My grandmother loved perfume and covered herself heavily with scented powder or lotion. The scent of the perfume was so strong in my grandmother's old bedroom that my mother was sure she was there. Now, my mother smells cigarette smoke and has seen a mist in the room. No one else will smell the smoke at the time my mother smells it.

For me, the signal that I gave my grandmother to let me know she is around is to let me hear her favorite piano music "Claire de Lune". She used to play it on the piano, and when I made a video of her life, that was the song I used as the introductory song. It is very interesting that I hear this song in many iterations in so many unique situations.

I broke my wrist and my mother had to come up from Florida to help me for a couple of weeks right after my grandmother died. I said to her in my mind, "If you are with us, play Claire de Lune when my mother and I are together." While driving me home from the doctor's office one day, my mother said she did not like the radio station we were listening to and asked me to change it. I said, "Okay, I'll put on the classical station" not even thinking about Claire de Lune. I was chatting away when my mother said, "Oh, listen, they're playing Claire de Lune." I was amazed! I had not even told my mother about the request I made to my grandmother before she came to stay with me.

After that, Claire de Lune was my signal. When I got a Fulbright to go to Germany, I was so grateful and astonished at having that experience. I thought it would have been so wonderful to be able to tell my grandmother about it. On the plane ride home, while watching the movie, Oceans 11, the song came on during the scene of the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel. Since that time, almost every time I go to Europe, I hear that song. The first time I was in Hungary, my friend was changing channels on his television when we saw a woman with a harp preparing to play. When she began playing, it was Claire de Lune. One time, I mentally told my grandmother how amazing it was that I was in Budapest every year -- the home of her parents -- and I said, "Hey, I haven't heard the song!" The next evening, I was walking down a Budapest street that I had not been on before and I noticed a comedy club. Thinking I should go there sometime, I walked past and inside was someone playing the piano, and the song they were playing was Claire de Lune. I even asked her to call me on the telephone (I had read that people claim to have gotten phone calls and messages from dead relatives -- so I asked her to call me). The next day, I got a message on my phone at work and there was no one on the line. Only the song Claire de Lune playing on the other end.

Only one time did I wonder about not hearing the song in Hungary and instead I heard Ravel's Pavan for a Dead Princess, which we played at her funeral, because it is one of my favorite pieces of music, which I hope will be played at my own funeral. (I know, morbid, but I am, after all, a princess).

My last story regarding Claire de Lune relates to a dream I had recently in which I was at a party and saw my grandmother there, sitting in a large upholstered rocking chair, as she always had in life. She was animated and laughing and nibbling on something (probably a mint). A woman at the party said it was funny that the rocking chair was moving on its own. Astonished, I said, "No, my grandmother is there!" The woman did not see her, and at that moment, my grandmother became transparent to me with a bright white light around her. She kissed me and laughed that the woman could not see her. I then partially woke up and said in my head, "Was that a dream or a vision of my grandmother?" And then I asked her to give me a sign if it was really her. When I got out of bed I went in to my living room and turned on the television. It was tuned to a PBS station on which a special about Victor Borge, the pianist, was on. At that moment in the program, he began to play Claire de Lune.

My brother has more vivid visits -- in his dreams -- from dead relatives, who bring him messages or show him they are still around and in good "spirits".

More later...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

What I Believe

It's Complicated, and still evolving -- because I believe no one knows for sure, but there may be a general understanding that comes through the experience of many others.

I believe in spirits, spirits being non-living human entitites; and I believe in angels and demons. I also believe that each of us has a team of spirits who work with us as we go through life. I've begun to rationalize it as a sort of group project -- one of us goes into the physical plane and the others remain in the spiritual plane and we have certain tasks and lessons to accomplish through this experience. How I do here affects all of us, and they provide me with guidance and energy to assist me in the journey.

I truly believe that in the past, when I was half believing in this guidance, that I ignored some strong signals not to do something, and now I know why I got those signals when I did. I believe that my lack of attention to those signals also caused me to create problems for other people in my life, which sets not only me (and my spiritual team) back in growth, but others to whom I was responsible at the time. As a result, I try to be more aware of guidance that is leading me forward in my life to whatever it is I am supposed to do here. And being open to messages and "spiritual help" I believe has allowed situations in my life to unexpectedly develop in ways that I do not control, but are nevertheless for my benefit.

It is difficult to be completely open -- when someone betrays you, when someone is difficult to deal with, when seeming unfairness prevails--but it is like the story of the man with the horse...
it could be a bad thing, or it could be a good thing -- or it could just be the way it is.

I believe in ghosts and poltergeists. I have very little personal experience with them, myself, but I do have some experience and I know others who have seen ghosts. In one friend's house in Sag Harbor, Long Island, many people said they had seen spiritual apparitions, and had heard footsteps, saw lights, and had drawers open up by themselves, I only saw one thing--I was sitting on my friend's bed waiting for her to come back to her room from the kitchen. As I sat there I was watching the door to the attic which was across the hall. The doorknob was turning back and forth by itself. No one was on the other side of the door doing that. I was so amazed that it did not even seem real. When I told my friend, she said, "Oh yeah, that happens all the time."

I believe in my home on Long Island there were some ghostly or poltergeist experiences, as well. Several times while I was in bed in the mornings on the weekend (maybe a little later than I should have been) I either heard my name called or actually felt someone shove me in the back as I lay there. I also felt my bed go down as if someone had sat down by my feet, and once, as I lay on my stomach, it felt as if some invisible body had climbed on top of me and was holding me down.

One evening, my younger son came into my room after I had fallen asleep and said to me, "What are you doing in here?" He said he was in the room below my room and it sounded as if I were jumping up and down on the floor making loud banging noises. I had been sound asleep and heard nothing, and when he came in, I woke up and the noise had stopped.

On another occasion, when his girlfriend was living with us (these experiences seemed to have increased when she was there -- there is a theory that females in a house contribute to poltergeist experiences), I had gotten up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. It was about 3 a.m. when I went back to my bed and lay there trying to get back to sleep. As I lay there, I heard what sounded like someone else go into the bathroom and open and shut the drawers loudly, and then what sounded like plastic laundry baskets being thrown down the stairway which was on the other side of the wall where my bed was situated. I got up to see what was going on, and as I opened my door and looked in the bathroom, no one was there, but at the end of the hall, both sons were coming out of their rooms. The older one, whose room was directly across from the younger son's room, thought that the younger son was banging loudly on his door. The younger son, and his girlfriend, said they heard banging, but then the door to their bedroom slammed open and then shut again. He thought it was his older brother coming in late and waking them up deliberately. I told them what I had thought the noise was, and I looked down the stairs and saw nothing at the bottom to explain what sounded like something being thrown down. To this day we do not know what caused those noises, doors banging open and shutting.

What I believe (to be continued)....

The Fear Factor

Focusing again on how knowing what you believe, or knowing what to expect eases fears of the unknown, I found the following post on The Archives of Scientists' Transcendent Experiences (TASTE), which is a site that provides scientists with a forum for sharing their own transcendent experiences and builds a database of those experiences.

This is the other side of the fear related to death -- scientific proof -- scientists are afraid to take any kind of report or research related to death and the dying experience as a serious account. But these scientists have had their own experiences and are documenting their observations and analyses related to their experiences. Note how the person who posted below is using a pseudonym -- and many of the scientists on this site do the same.

Here is William's:

William (pseudonym) has a Masters degree, when that was sufficient to begin in a field of science, and is now a Director of a research and development facility in Aerospace Engineering. This experience with a deceased friend happened to him as a teenager and totally changed his attitude toward life and death.

"My best friend, Mike, was in a car accident and for approx. a month was in a coma. One night I dreamed that he came to my parent's house. The dream was extremely vivid. We sat and talked for what seemed about an hour, about all kinds of subjects. Mike told me about the wreck, that his girlfriend had not died instantly (like the papers had reported) but that she was okay now, and that he was fine and would see me again one day. The odd thing about the dream was that it was completely real, but not surreal like most of my 'vivid' dreams. It really felt like reality. When Mike got up to leave, he mentioned that he wouldn't see me again for a long time, but that I wasn't to be upset, because he was fine. As he walked out the door, he looked back and said that his mom was about to call, and to let her know everything would be okay. I awoke with a start from the dream, and sat up in my bed. About one minute later, at around five in the morning, the phone rang. I had a room downstairs that had been a family room, and it had a phone. I got to the phone before the third ring and answered it. It was Mike's mother. She simply said Mike had died earlier that morning. I was still quite groggy from my sudden awakening, and all I could think of to say was, "I know. He told me." She started crying and hung up the phone.

"The thing that struck me about this incident was that at the time, it did not seem odd at all. It was simply a fact that Mike and I had talked prior to his leaving. It did not surprise me that Mike had died, because we had talked about that in our conversation, and Mike had told me that his mom would call, so the call did not even seem notable. I did notice a sudden change in my attitude after this event. Prior to Mike's death, I had been consumed by fear of death, often crying myself to sleep worrying about dying, even though I was brought up in a church environment that taught that death was not to be feared. After this incident, I lost my fear of death, but more than that, I gained a love of life, the absence of which had stifled my childhood.

"I never considered this a case of transcendental experience, in part because it was so normal and natural. However, had I not had this experience, I don't believe I would have had the courage to follow my creative scientific thoughts that lead to my leading an R&D team."

Copyright 1999 by the Institute for the Scientific Study of Consciousness. All rights reserved except as noted.