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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Apports and Asports and Flying Rocks, Oh My!

By Robin M. Strom-Mackey
 
When you find the keys are not on the ring by the door, or when a cherished family watch isn’t in the jewelry box where you left it, but shows up on in the bathroom, you may be blaming the kids or considering early-onset Alzheimer’s. However, there may be another explanation…one that takes you into the realm of the paranormal.  
 
Apports

Apports are objects that appear with no explanation. The term was first coined by  paranormal investigator, Nandor Fodor, who described the phenomenon as the, “’arrival of objects through an apparent penetration of matter (Cheung, 2006).’”  During the height of the spiritualist movement many mediums would produce objects during séances. The objects themselves were often small, like a ring or a medal.  Not surprisingly many of these objects could be hidden in a pocket or clothing of the medium and then produced at the right moment via sleight of hand.  Many such mediums were exposed as frauds by investigators. Many...but not all.  In the eastern religions apports have also played a role. Islamic religious Sufis and Hindu swamis are known to produce apports. Sai Baba of India has been able to produce small items such as sweets from his closed fist, and pull objects such as statues from the sand with no clear explanation as to how (Cheung, 2006).  

 Asports

Asports are objects that  unaccountably disappear. Cheung defines it as, “psychic phenomena involving the disappearance or transportation of objects, supposedly accomplished with the help of the spirit (Cheung, 2006)."

 All this defining may be a bit confusing. It is possible for an object to be both apport and asport. For example, an object can disappear from one room (asport) only to be found in another (apport).  Then again an asport can disappear, never to be seen again, or an object appear (apport) from thin air only to remain with the person.

 Theories

 It has been theorized that spirits or mediums dematerialize an object at its location, and re-materialize the object at a new location, using a kind of “beam me up, Scotty,” quantum teleportation system (zSuzanna, 2006).  Science to date has not been able to dematerialize anything but tiny bits of matter. Thus apports may be ahead of developments in quantum physics, or it may be proven eventually dematerialization/re-materialization is not possible on a larger scale. 
 
Another theory for the phenomenon is that spirits lift the object from another dimension and bring it forth into this dimension using, “a type of psychic magnetism (Cheung, 2006).”

 Poltergeists

Objects moving, disappearing or appearing are one of the classic signs of poltergeist hauntings. The popular theory being that poltergeist hauntings are caused by a human agent and not a spirit.  The human whom is usually identified as an adolescent, is believed to be using (wittingly or unwittingly) telekinesis to move objects or make objects appear or disappear.  For example, a few of the famous poltergeist cases include stones or rocks appearing out of thin air, which then rain down on the house or the inhabitants. These stones can appear outdoors or indoors, and are difficult if not impossible to explain. 

 Haunted Locations

 Apports and asports are phenomenon that has also been known to occur at haunted locations. Balzano and Weisberg  point out that when this type of activity begins to occur many people brush it off, thinking they are the ones being forgetful.  Even when the activity picks up, they may still ignore the phenomenon. However, the authors contend that, “this displacement becomes a type of gateway haunting: an intelligent haunting that involves a spirit that is still holding onto parts of its human self.” This may be the spirit’s initial attempt at communicating, which if ignored may cause the activity to intensify (Balzano, Weisberg 2012).

 Many asports or apports are comforting objects that may show up in one location, and then another, seemingly moving about of their own volition.  In the book Haunted Objects the authors describe the case of Stephany DeSantiago whose deceased father had owned a much loved St. Raphael medal.  When her father died DeSantiago put the St. Raphael medal in the casket, but the funeral director returned it to her explaining that it was their policy not to bury jewelry with the dead.  DeSantiago was beside herself, knowing that her father would have wanted to be buried with the medal.  Shortly after the burial she took a trip out to the graveyard, dug a shallow hole over the grave and buried the medal. A week later she noticed something on the kitchen counter.  The St. Raphael medal had returned.  She then gave the medal to her small son, thinking that Grandpa would have wanted him to have it.

 But tragedy struck the family again, and DeSantiago's young son was killed in an auto accident.  Again she wanted the medal to be with the owner. So she took the medal again to the grave yard, and this time buried it over her son’s grave.  When she went again to the graveyard to lay flowers on her father’s grave she found the medal hanging on the gravestone. This she took as a sign from the two of them, the medal was meant for her. S
 
he took it home, put it in an old cigar box and put it under her bed.  During long nights of mourning she would often take it out and hold it, until one particularly bad night when she reached under her bed for the box only to find the medal gone. She said she figured her father had taken it as a way of saying that she needed to stop mourning and move on with her life.

 She reports that occasionally she finds the chain on either her father’s gravestone or her son’s, but that she doesn’t touch it or move it, having faith that it will reappear in time. She admits she never knows when or where it will appear, but that she takes it as a sign that her loved ones are saying hello.

A  T.A.P.S. paranormal investigator, Nancy Planeta reports an asport/apport that followed her home. The team was investigating the Seven Sisters Inn, in Ocala, Florida.  While on the investigation the quirky tome first appeared on a nightstand in the room which once belonged to Elizabeth Scott. It was a book of the poem, “The Lady of the Lake” by Sir Walter Scott printed in 1893. In a building full of collectibles and antiques, the old book was the only item that was part of the original estate of the building; having been found in the attic.  For some reason Planeta was drawn to the book, spending several minutes leafing through it before setting it down on the nightstand and departing the room.  

Later in the evening, the team was investigating in the loft area of the building (a converted attic).  It was warm in the room, so they decided to switch on the ceiling fan. As they did so an object flew off the fan hitting Planeta in the head.  It was the book again.  Surprised and encouraged, the team took the book back downstairs to Elizatheth’s  room.  The next day as Planeta was unpacking her gear, she found the book buried under her laptop. Surmising that the book was of monetary value, she called the owner of the bed and breakfast to report the finding and offer to return the book.  Surprisingly the owner told her to keep the book, telling Planeta that the book had chosen her as its owner.  Since in possession of the book, Planeta reports it continues to disappear occasionally off the desk in her bedroom, only to reappear in odd places. To date she has found it in a waste basket, the china cabinet and once in the refrigerator (Balzano, Weisberg, 2012).

 So, if you find that the car keys are not on the ring by the door, or your favorite old book is unaccountably found in the trash, you may want to reconsider blaming yourself or the kids….

 References

Balzano, C. Weisberg, T. (2012) Haunted Objects: Stories of Ghosts on Your Shelf. Krause Publications, Iola,  WI.

 Cheung, T. (2006) The Element Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Hauntings. Harper Collins Publishers in cooperation with Barnes and Noble Inc.

 Zsuzsana (Issue date: Saturday, Sept. 16, 2006) Paranormal Insider. Retrieved November 25, 2012 from http://archives.gophercentral.com/index.aspx?op=i&title=Apports_Asports_and_Ghostly_Hijinks


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Haunted Objects

by Robin M. Strom-Mackey


The call came in late one Saturday evening. The young woman on the phone, we’ll call her Ann, was upset and needing advice.  The house in which she resided with her parents had transformed from a peaceful retreat to a house of fear.  Strange and unaccountable sounds were heard and lights turned on and off. Then one night Ann went down to the basement to flip a breaker that had shut off. As she stepped to the basement floor she witnessed a tarp tied around a box of old books come unaccountably untied and fly across the room. It was this event that made Ann decide to call me.  She was mainly concerned for her parents; being very religious, they were talking about calling in the family pastor to rid the property of evil spirits. Ann on the other hand wasn’t as frightened as she was stymied.  What had caused this sudden onslaught of activity in a home that, until recently, wasn’t haunted? She wanted some answers, and she wanted to know how to make the activity cease in order to restore her parents’ peace of mind.

I made the usual enquiries. The house was recently built. There was no known history of misfortune surrounding the land upon which it sat. The activity was a new occurrence.  I was trying to think of some reasonable explanation and then I remembered the tarp which began to seem like a direct pointer to the activity. I asked her to tell me more about the books.

She explained that she had just recently purchased the box of old books which included some very personal papers [her emphasis] and possibly a journal.  Wanting to protect the box she had put it in the basement with the tarp tied over it to protect it from the damp.  Bingo! I surmised that Ann and her family had unwittingly exposed their home to an haunted object.

 Just as houses, land or people can be the center of a haunting, so too can objects.  Given the premise then, a haunted object moved into a building can cause the start of activity, and moving the object out can make the activity stop.  Often haunted objects are items that were of personal significance, such as a personal diary or a painted portrait. Then again the items themselves may be mundane and  unremarkable. For example, the Discovery Channel documentary True Hauntings reported on a Wisconsin couple that purchased a used, wood bunk bed for their children and underwent a nightmare that ended only when the bed was removed from the home and destroyed.

 Psychometry and the Residual Haunt

Dave Schumacher Director of the Anomalous Research Department of the Pennsylvania and Wisconsin based Paranormal Research Group suggests three theories as to why objects might be haunted.  First is the theory of the residual haunt.  The residual haunt theory contends that certain emotionally charged events can leave an imprint on the environment, such as a location, building or object. This type of activity isn’t really a haunting in the traditional sense, but is more like a recording that plays when the right environmental circumstances occur. Activity may either be auditory, like the sounds of boots walking up a stairs, or visual, such as a woman who appears from nowhere and walks through a wall.

 Think of a residual haunt as being like a music CD. The disk in its case doesn’t play by itself. But put it in the machine, and hit the play button and the recording plays out just as it was recorded. Tomorrow if you hit the play button the exact same recording would play.  The recording doesn’t interact with you, and it doesn’t change.

A residual haunt is like that. It’s a pre-recorded episode that is waiting for the environmental “play” button to be hit. What causes something in the environment to record an episode? No one really knows, though theories abound. If a building or a location can record such things then it may be that a simple household object can as well, given the right circumstances. Then if the object moves to a new location, and when, or if, the environmental factors trigger the “play back” response the residual episode plays out, though the location has changed.

The psi term (pronounced by letter p-s-i) for the ability to read the ‘history’ of an object is psychometry. This unique ability allows a medium to read the history of an object usually by handling the item.  It is usually contended that psychometrists don’t directly interact with spirits when they read objects, but read the ‘history’ - like someone reading the back of the CD jacket.  Sometimes what they read is in images, sometimes in words. They may not read the same thing every time they hold the object, the images may change.  Psychic medium and psychometrist, Pat Patalona (Balzano, Weisberg, 2012) notes that she often sees different episodes in the history of an object, though one may be more emotionally charged than another. Or she may pick up only one person attached to an object, despite the fact that the object had numerous owners. If one person in particular was attached to an object it may only be their history she reads. 

 She explains the recording process thus, “Everything in the universe has an energy field that radiates all around it. These emotions, these impressions they are absorbed with that energy field. It’s not necessarily inside the object, but it exists in that energy field. I read that energy (Balzano, Weisberg, 2012).”  Palatona notes that of the objects she reads rings and other jewelry and in particular gold [also known for its electrical conductivity] tends to hold onto the greatest amount of energy.

 Therefore, it’s not out of the likelihood that someone with perhaps unknown psychometric abilities may bring an object into a home and by touching the object experience phenomenon.
 
Retrocognition

The second theory behind haunted objects is retrocognition, a psi ability of which psychometry and past-life experiences are both elements.  Retrocognition is the ability to perceive experiences from the past clairvoyantly, usually as a spontaneous replaying of past events such as in a vision or a dream. Such visions can include elements of sights, sounds and smells, and can seem to replace the temporal plane with scenes occurring during the past. In other words, instead of seeing an event in your mind (psychometry), a retrocognitive viewing is like literally stepping into that time period for however short a period.  Again, an object may be the unwitting locus of a memory of a past event. In the hands of someone with the ability to read it, it may play back episodes that were otherwise stored, seeming to take the purveyor to the scene of a past event.  It has even been suggested that all hauntings are retrocognitive events where the past scene is read telepathically in the present (Cheung, 2006).
 
Intelligent Haunt
 
 The third possibility is an intelligent haunt. This theory suggests that some part of a human consciousness survives death. This consciousness released from the body may return to a location to which it was attached, or in this case an object. Thus if someone were attached to an object in life they might return to it after death. It might be that the spirit desires to see the object given to the proper person. Or perhaps they might not wish to see their beloved object fall into the wrong hands.

Pyschological Effect
 
 There are also a few psychological possibilities for haunted objects as well.  Dave Schumacher suggests magical thinking, sheer human imagination, and the desire to experience a paranormal event, subjective validation and confirmation bias.  In other words, if a person is inclined toward believing in the paranormal they’re more likely to attribute unexplained phenomenon to being paranormal. For example, I was speaking with a colleague who was house-sitting for a person who collected antiques. One of the beloved antiques was an old church pew.  My colleague said that the object made her uncomfortable, and noted that if anything would be haunted it would be an old church pew.  Given her bias, had she noted strange sounds or movements in the house while she was staying in it, which is likely as she’s already in an unfamiliar environment, (see the article on the New House Theory), it’s quite likely that she would have attributed these things to being paranormal and likely blamed the church pew as the culprit. In other words, she was already suspicious of the object because it seemed “spooky” and needed only the confirmation of a strange event to leap to that conclusion.  Certainly some objects do elicit emotional responses from people. A creepy painting which seems to follow you with its eyes or the leering face of my brother’s Bozo the Clown doll come to mind.  If a person is half the way there, by perceiving something as “spooky,” all that’s needed is a little push toward belief.

Implications for Paranormal Investigators


New Jersey based paranormal investigator, Clinton “Doc” Vick suggests that haunted objects are one instance when using an IR thermometer versus an ambient thermometer is preferable. IR thermometers use a light beam that bounces off a solid object such as a wall or a dresser to determine the temperature not of the room, but of the object. Thus if an haunted object is, for example, several degrees cooler than the surrounding room it can be accurately measured.
 
Returning to Ann and her dilemma, when she asked again what she should do, I had a definite answer for her.  And the beauty was that the answer didn’t require hours of investigation, nor daunting research into the history of the property. Simply remove that box of books out of her basement and get them out of the house I told her; and then see if the problems ceased. “Why?” She asked. Ann was understandably fond of her little treasure trove of Americana. But I explained to her that she wasn’t the only one.  I told her to move the box out and see if the problems ceased. If not, I opened the door to her to call me back and we could schedule an investigation. That late Saturday call was the only time I ever heard from Ann. I can only speculate, therefore, that moving the box out of the house restored peace and order to their home, making any further intervention unnecessary.  Whatever happened to the box of books I can only guess? It’s probably buried at the back of some shed or garage where it will remain until someone else falls prey to its charms.

 References

Special Thanks to David Schumacher, Director of Anomalous Research Department, Paranormal Research Group paranormalresearchgroup.com for his helpful insight into the article and for pointing me towards other terrific sources of information.
 
Balzano, C. Weisberg, T. (2012) Haunted Objects; Stories of Ghosts on Your Shelf.
Krause Publications, Iola, WI

Cheung, T. (2008) The Element Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Hauntings, 2nd edition Barnes and Noble Inc. by arrangement with Harper-Collins Publishers, China.
 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

High Tech Ghost Hunting - The D.E.A.D. System

By Robin Strom-Mackey
Since the beginning of the spiritualist movement, ghost hunters have sought the best combination of tools with which to search out the elusive phenomenon. With the development of high tech equipment, various instruments have been pressed into service with researchers divided on which is the best to use and when. The problem appears to be that no one device has ever been proven to work in all situations, while different equipment has worked on occasion with startling results, not to work again on another. The list of equipment pressed into service over time, by different researchers includes radiation detectors (Geiger counters), different types of temperature and humidity gauges, ion counters, EMF detectors such as Trifield Natural EM detector (designed to measure the low, natural, electric signals of the earth, DC power - changes below 0 Hz but not at 0 Hz.),EMF detectors designed to pick up household currents, (AC currents - 60 Hz), geomagnetic detectors and a whole host of audio and video and photographic devices.
One obvious problem with equipment is that it was designed for another use in mind. EMF detectors are a perfect example. EMF detectors that are designed to detect household currents for example, may register fluctuations in EMF levels when a paranormal experience is occurring, or they might be picking up the microwave oven or the walkie talkie in your pocket. And even the much vaunted Trifield Natural EMF detectors are not flawless. In a 2006 study by Schumacher and Carter, it was determined that the Trifield Natural EMF detectors, while not picking up household current, were picking up certain weak signals given off by electrical devices about the house. According to Schumacher, household electrical devices do often produce low frequency fields that are detectable by the Trifield. The transformers in televisions and other devices charge and drain, which can produce a change in the magnetic field then detectable. Relays contain electromagnets. When these devices are turned on and power flows through the device, a change in the static field occurs, which again can be picked up. Furnaces, air conditioners, washing machines and vacuum cleaners all contain a magnet in their motors which when rotating, gives off a spark caused by the brushes meeting the commutator, which then can be picked up. Malfunctioning equipment and field leaks from electrical equipment to water pipes were also detectable as was taking an electrical device and turning it off and on several times (2006 Schumacher, Carter). 
 
Another flaw is that equipment designed for another purpose is often narrow in its range of pickup. For example EMF detectors pick up only in the 60 Hz range, but don’t necessarily do well in the higher ranges, while DC natural EMF detectors pick up in the low ranges, leaving an investigator wishing they could get something that could pick up in all the ranges, or according to Schumacher, “a meter that could sample AC and DC fields at a high rate on a multi-axis basis (X,Y,Z and SUM)“ a meter that, “has a fast sample rate of up to 250 samples per second; measures field strength; measure changes down to 0.005 nG; and measures the field strength at any given frequency. Not only can we determine changes in the field BUT we can also determine the frequency (Schumacher, Lauer pg 101).” Schumacher is boasting about the Fluxgate Magnometer - with data sampling PC interface. Those with some understanding of electricity and gadgetry are now drooling. The rest of us have our eyes rolled up in the back of their heads about now, hoping the lesson on EMF detectors will soon be over. It’s over.

Needless to say, according to Schumacher, the Fluxgate Magnometer is the baby to get (if one can afford this $1500 gadget). His research group, the P.R.G. then takes this mother of all EMF detectors, cables it to a laptop, and adds a few other flourishes to create the D.E.A.D. system.
D.E.A.D. System
The Direct Environmental Acquisition Data Logging D.E.A.D. System (got to love a witty acronym) is a data collection system designed and used by Schumacher’s Paranormal Research Group (P.R.G.) Schumacher admits that the idea of developing a data logging system is not unique to his group. (Other systems include the MESA, GEIST, ARCADIA AND MADS - if you‘re looking to do a little light reading.) The D.E.A.D. system is unique in the quality and type of data it can collect, especially in the area of electromagnetic fluctuation.

As I mentioned before, the group started with the Fluxgate Magnometer and a laptop and then added variety of other equipment that is also sampled directly into the laptop giving them a system that reads and records a number of different environmental data simultaneously to give a full picture of what is going on at a location at any given time during an investigation. The D.E.A.D. system also includes:
  • Triaxial ELF magnetic field meter
  • Fluxgate Magnetometer
  • HOBO Temperature date logger
  • Trifield Natural EMF meter modified to be data logged by the HOBO Data Logger
  • GM-10 Radiation Detector (Geiger Counter)
  • Laptop computer - they’re using a Panasonic Toughbook Laptop
Logging data directly into the laptop allows the group to Date and Time Stamp the data, which means that they can look for correlations of two or more environmental changes at a given time. It also allows them to check the data at a location when an investigator reports having an experience. They know exactly what the EMF, temperature and radiation was at any given time, which will allow them to examine the data from one or several situations, looking for correlations, not only at one investigation but across the scope of investigations. Investigators that don’t have this technology are swooning at the moment. How often have you walked into what feels like a cold spot at an investigation, for example, only to be fumbling about looking for your thermometer while the cold spot dissipates.

Schumacher concludes, “Being able to correlate at least two pieces of data (i.e. EMF and a personal experience, radiation drops and an anomaly on a photo, radiation spike and a recorded E.V.P.) provides more credible evidence AND allows us to discover what the correlations might be between paranormal phenomena and environmental changes. Ultimately, this type of quality information may help us determine how a haunting affects the environment, what is normal and what is paranormal, if environmental changes cause people to have subjective paranormal experiences, and what type of information is needed to determine what a haunting is and is not. This is the type of information that is needed in order to advance the field of paranormal investigation (Schumacher, Lauer, pg. 100).”
 
So what have they found with this wonderful system? While the authors don’t belabor their findings, they do point out two distinct situations with “cold spots.” In both the cases sited the “cold spots” weren’t cold. In fact, in both cases mentioned there was absolutely no changes in the room temperature, but there were changes in the radiation and EMF fields. The group includes pictures of the graphs where clear dips (radiation) and spikes (EMF) are quite obvious. Obviously I’ll be keeping a keen eye on the P.R.G. for more developments (their website is listed below) and asking Santa for some hefty presents next year.

Resources
Lauer, Jennifer, Schumacher, Dave. Investigating The Haunted; Ghost Hunting Taken to the Next Level. Printed by Lauer and Schumacher. 2007.
Southern Wisconsin Paranormal Research Group www.SWPRG.com

Teach Yourself Automatic Writing

by Robin M. Strom-Mackey
In the article How to Practice Automatic Writing, the author, Stephen Wagner explains how anyone can practice automatic writing. You’ll need 15 minutes to an hour for the experiment, and it may take several sessions before you have success. Don’t be frustrated if you produce nothing at first.

Find a quiet spot without distractions. Turn off the TV, the radio, the computer (yes, even the cell phone) and put the kids to bed. You may want to dim the lights to help create a somnolent mood.

Sit at a desk or table where you can be write comfortably. Bring along a paper and pens or pencils.

Take a few minutes to meditate, clearing your mind of any distractions. Automatic writing usually works best when the mind is in a semi-trance or hypnotic state

Put the paper out, place the pen in your hand and wait…The point is not to consciously write anything. Keep your mind as clear as possible and let your hand write freely. Try not to look at what is being written, you may even wish to close your eyes.

Again, this may take some time, and several attempts so do not get frustrated if nothing happens at first.

When (and if) the writing seems to be done, check out what’s been written there, carefully. Wagner says that the writing may appear to be nonsense or scribbles, but try to decipher it to the best of your ability. Look also for pictures or symbols as well.

If you start to achieve success you can direct the sessions by starting to ask direct questions and see if you receive answers.

Resources
Anonymous (2006) “Automatic Writing” The 1911 Classic Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 12, 2012 from http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Automatic_writing

Blum, Deborah (2006) Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death. Penguin Books. New York, New York.

Taylor, Troy (2002-2008) “The Mystery of Patience Worth”
A St. Louis Housewife & One of the Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of All Time”

The Haunted Museum; The Historic & Haunted Guide to the Supernatural.
Retrieved June13, 2012 from
Taylor, Troy (2003-2008) “Automatic Writing; Communication from Spirits” The Haunted Museum; The Historic & Haunted Guide to the Supernatural.
Retrieved June13, 2012 from

Wagner, Stephen. “How to Practice Automatic Writing.” About.com Retrieved June 12, 2012 from http://paranormal.about.com/cs/automaticwriting/ht/auto_writing.htm

 

Spirit Communication through Automatic Writing

By Robin M. Strom-Mackey

Automatic Writing also known as spirit writing or slate writing came into vogue during the early, American, spiritualist movement (c. 1850-1860). The Fox sisters first began the effort of communication with the dead, using a crude system of knocks and rapping’s. Like a spiritual Morse code, a language was worked out and messages slowly thumped out to be interpreted via the sisters.

It became clear that this form of communication, however, was laborious and thus spiritualists experimented with other forms in an effort to make communication faster and easier. As it evolved automatic writing took several forms. During the early period a planchette was used, a pointer on wheels, that spelled out a spirit message. Other mediums would use a small chalkboard and chalk. They would place the empty chalkboard and chalk under a table. When the scratching on the board was heard, the medium would extract the board, and read the message.

This form of spirit writing was, of course, easy to fake. A board full of markings could be placed under the table, and replaced with the empty board. The “spirit message” on the board could then be brought forth for the amazement and entertainment of the sitters (Blum, 2006).

In a highly publicized case, the British Zoologist, Ray Lankester, denounced the self-styled, American medium Henry Slade. Disgusted by such reports of slate writing, Lankester attended a sitting with Slade. When Slade placed the empty slate below the table, Lankester snatched it out - even before the chalk could be heard making noises. In his letter to the Times, Lankester described finding the board already filled with cryptic messages, obviously written ahead of time. So disgusted with the fraud, Lankester literally had Slade prosecuted. (Blum, 2006).

The simplest form of automatic writing uses a paper and pencil or pen, or even a typewriter. The writer attempts to enter a trance like state, and writes down unconsciously whatever “comes through.” Whether a device for spirit communication or a means to tap one’s subconscious mind remains the debate. One author even suggested that perhaps what was tapped was the writer’s alter-ego which had extra-sensory perception. Leonora Piper, famous medium of her day, proposed this as an explanation of her abilities at automatic writing.

Several trance mediums using automatic writing claimed that they were in contact historical figures including famous authors, composer or politicians. Complete articles, poems, songs and even novels were written and later published, using automatic writing. The wife of the poet William Butler Yeats claimed to be capable of automatic writing, her scribbling becoming the inspiration for Yeats’ poetry.

Automatic Writing isn’t always about the written word. In some cases people with no artistic ability have produced works of professional quality art during automatic writing sessions. And one notable amateur musician has performed original compositions that she claims are channeled through Liszt and Debussy, among others.


Pearl Curran and Automatic Writing
Perhaps the most famous experiment with automatic writing, was the case of Pearl Curran, a St. Louis housewife who produced several novels, one full play, 5000 poems and several short works that were published with critical acclaim, over the course of 25 years. By her own account, Curran had little education, played the piano and never read. Yet she produced materials that were beyond her scope of knowledge, using archaic language and making references to historical events.

The explanation? Curran claimed she was channeling an entity whose name was Patience Worth, born (so she claimed) in Dorset shire, England in either 1694 or 1649 (both years were dictated). (No historical documentation has been found confirming the existence of Patience Worth.) The entity, who was edgy about giving personal details, told Curran that she had come to America but had been murdered by Indians. But Patience said she didn’t really want to talk about her past, saying,
"About me ye would know much. Yesterday is dead. Let thy mind rest as to the past (Taylor, 2002)."
The relationship began with the Ouija board, but Curran finally realized that this method of communication was too cumbersome for the amount of information that Patience was sending through. Noting that whole sentences were forming in her head while the planchette scratched out slow, cumbersome messages, Curran eventually began writing the material out with a paper and pen, and eventually a typewriter (Taylor, 2002).

Curran, unlike other mediums, never entered a trance while dictating. She was by all accounts aware of and even spoke with other people in the room and was known to smoke or eat in the midst of dictation. Not only did she hear Pearl’s words, but Curran was also privy to seeing the scenes enacted. She described a pressure in her head as Pearl’s words began to flow, and then suddenly Curran would see the scenery, the trees, the birds the speakers and the objects. If characters were speaking a foreign language she would hear the language at the same time that Pearl was interpreting. And often Curran literally saw herself in the scene, moving about the characters as an onlooker.

The relationship continued for several years, but eventually became strained. Patience, while tolerant of her secretary, began making condescending remarks about Curran’s intelligence, often becoming exasperated with her lack of knowledge. At the age of 39, Curran became pregnant for the first time, at which time Patience began drifting away; their conversations becoming fewer and farther between, at the same time that public interest waned (Taylor, 2002).


Marguerite Du Pont Lee and the Spirit Photographs

In the early 1900’s, society icon Marguerite Du Pont Lee (of the Delaware Du Pont’s) began experimenting with automatic writing. After the death of her friend, the Episcopal priest, Kemper Babcock, Lee reported having “episodes” of automatic writing which she contended came from Bocock. The messages told her to take photographs which she did, setting a picture of herself or Bocock on a chair and snapping a shot. Once developed, the photos sometimes revealed wispy, spectral faces and unexplainable balls of light. Some of the faces looked like Bocock himself.

Feeling she was on to something, Lee contacted William Keeler, an alleged spirit photographer. Keeler began taking photos of Lee and imprinting them with fake images of the deceased Bocock, amassing some 4000 fakes. Lee, perhaps sensing she’d been duped, contacted an investigator for the Society of Psychical Research, Walter F. Prince. Prince noted that in all the photos Bocock was always seen in profile either looking left or right, and that while the body changed greatly the heads of Bocock always looked the same. Prince deduced that Keeler was using two photographs of Bocock, the only two taken of him during his life, to create the fake images. Having discredited Keeler, the ordeal receded. What became of Lee’s photographs, which may indeed have revealed real phenomena, no one knows (Taylor, 2003).


Society for Psychical Research Experiments with Automatic Writing

With all the attention to automatic writing, the Society of Psychical Research (SPR) decided they needed to do some research into the phenomena. Edmund Gurney, author of Phantasms of the Living, demonstrated that subjects in a trance state could communicate information given to them, and be induced to write it out, even while the subject was speaking or reading aloud; similarly a mathematical problem could be worked out without the subject knowing they were doing it.

In the book Ghost Hunters; William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death author Deborah Blum describes an experiment in automatic writing that spanned two continents and three sitters; including Leonora Piper, the celebrated medium of her day. The experiment began with Newnham College Classics Lecturer, Margaret Verrall. Verrall had been friends with the late Frederick Myers (one of the founders of the SPR). After Myers passed, Verrall decided to try to reach him from beyond, as she felt he would have desired. In order to do so, she decided to teach herself automatic writing.

For three months the tireless Verrall set aside an hour in the afternoon, when she would sit with paper and pencil at the ready, and wait, willing Myers to channel through her. Nothing happened. Finally she began to use the time to daydream, thinking of other things like her garden, her family, household chores, and she would come to only to find that the paper was covered in simplistic messages in Greek and Latin, and that they were signed at the bottom - “Myers (Blum, 2006).”

In Boston, medium Leonora Piper, through her medium guide Rector, started reporting having conversations with Myers as well. And what was striking was that the messages being reported through Piper’s séances were very similar to the messages showing up on Verrall’s paper. Even more interesting was the fact that the messages that came through to Piper were in the same Greek and Latin. Piper didn’t know either language.

Verrall taught her daughter Helen the trick of automatic writing, and Verrall, her daughter and Piper at their various locations began to receive similar messages which when compared were strikingly similar. Eventually the SPR decided to conduct an experiment in which messages would be given to Piper in Latin. The experimenters knew that Piper did know Latin, but that Myers had. So Myers would receive the message in Latin, translate it and send the translation and the reply to Verrall. They also experimented with sending anagrams Verrall would send the anagram rats, and Piper would receive the message- star - at the other end.

Whether automatic writing is truly communication with the other side or the tapping of a subconscious mind or alter ego remains debatable. But certainly the long history of automatic writing is an interesting chapter in the history of paranormal research.


Resources

Anonymous (2006) “Automatic Writing” The 1911 Classic Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 12, 2012 from http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Automatic_writing

Blum, Deborah (2006) Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death. Penguin Books. New York, New York.

Taylor, Troy (2002-2008) “The Mystery of Patience Worth”
A St. Louis Housewife & One of the Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of All Time”


The Haunted Museum; The Historic & Haunted Guide to the Supernatural

Retrieved June13, 2012 from

Taylor, Troy (2003-2008) “Automatic Writing; Communication from Spirits” The Haunted Museum; The Historic & Haunted Guide to the Supernatural. Retrieved June13, 2012 from


Wagner, Stephen. “How to Practice Automatic Writing.” About.com Retrieved June 12, 2012 from http://paranormal.about.com/cs/automaticwriting/ht/auto_writing.htm



Sunday, June 10, 2012

Experimentation with Table Tilting

By Robin M. Strom-Mackey




In the near complete darkness the sitters circle the table in anticipation; speaking in hushed tones, holding their breath. The minutes tick by. Nothing happens. And then…a series of three quick raps are heard. Someone knocking at the house next door, perhaps? But as they come to this decision they feel it; at first a small shudder skittering across the table top. Then the legs of the table seem to jump and move. A collective gasp from the group, and suddenly the table literally seems to lurch below their hands….

This past-time, popularized during the spiritualist movement of the 1850’s, is referred to as table tipping (or table talking). This phenomenon, was popularized by mediums during the period, many of them charlatans who manipulated the table themselves for a paying audience. However, amateur groups soon discovered that no medium need be in attendance. Often groups of ordinary people would assemble for an evening of free entertainment; invitations sent out for a night of “tea and table tipping (Blum, 2006).“

Essentially table tilting, involved a small table that could be made to move, sliding, shuddering and in some cases levitating or moving across a space. Unexplained sounds such as knocking or rapping were sometimes heard. Table talking sessions were conducted in the near darkness of a séance type of environment, usually involving a small number of individuals who would sit around a table each resting their hands on the table - much the same way as a Ouija board planchette. The sitters were instructed to keep both hands visible on the table top and to move them as little as possible. Sessions might or might not involve a medium.

Experimenting with Table Tilting According to Troy Taylor, author and founder of the American Ghost Society, table tipping has been enjoying a resurgence of late. He notes that a tipping session can be held in a location that is not considered haunted and sitters can still experience phenomenon (Taylor, 2007). That’s because the phenomenon is considered to be an effect of RSPK and not the workings of a spirit. The dramatic effects of table tipping are a collective combining of RSPK. RSPK or Recurrent Spontaneous Psycho Kinesis is an ability to effect the material world with the mind. It is what is theorized to be behind poltergeist (noisy ghost) hauntings, which are created through RSPK of a living agent, usually unconsciously, and not a ghost or spirit. (SPI, 2012).

British psychologist and member of the SPR, Kenneth J. Batchehelder was the first to suggest RSPK as the agent behind table tipping phenomenon. He designed an experiment using table tipping to measure RSPK. Batchelder believed that the heightened sense of expectation, an atmosphere conducive to table tilting, and the group’s collective belief in the success of the experiment created an energy sufficient to effect an agent - in this case directed at a table - creating anomalous noises and movements (Karl, 2007).

Click the link to watch a short video of Kenneth Batcheder demonstrate and explain table tipping. Sadly this historic clip has been poorly preserved
Taylor suggests that groups of individuals can experiment with table tipping with a reasonable assurance of success. The optimum size for a table-tipping group is four to five individuals. Table tipping rarely occurs at the first session, so make sure that the location and the group members will be available for multiple sessions. The group should plan to meet often and regularly - Taylor suggests one to two times a week. The group needs to be dedicated enough to sit through possibly several sessions where nothing occurs.

In the spirit of scientific investigation, the variables should be kept the same at table tipping sessions. Therefore, all the sessions should be held in the same location and with the same individuals present for each session. Do not invite onlookers, at least at the beginning. The group needs to be alone with each other in order to learn to direct their collective RSPK.
Select a table that is small and lightweight. You can usually find a cheap, small table at a second-hand store. But if you’re using Mom’s huge oak dining room table for your table tipping sessions, you’re not likely to see results any time soon! Again, the same table should be used for all sessions.

Sessions should be free of distractions. Turn off televisions, radios, put the kids to bed, turn off the ringer on the phone etc. Dim the lights to near darkness. Table tipping tends to work better in a séance like environment, probably because the mind and body are free of other distractions. A dim environment also has the added bonus of creating a rather creepy mood, which is also beneficial.

Sitting down to begin your sessions keep a calm, relaxed atmosphere. Talk normally, make jokes and try to relax. Taylor suggests that if a member or members are too uptight about making something happen, the less likely activity is likely to occur (Taylor, 2007). Make sure all members keep their hands relaxed, and in sight, on the table top at all times. When activity does begin to occur, it is easy for members to move their hands unconsciously.
Invariably someone in the group may become bored or over-anxious and may desire to shake things up a bit by experimenting. Taylor suggests that only one variable be changed at any one session (Taylor, 2007). For example, if you desire to bring in a new member, don’t also change the location. If you try a different location keep the same table and all the same members.

Video taping all the sessions is suggested. Use a video camera with an IR setting. If you don’t have such a camera available, IR adapters can be purchased from many electronics stores for very little money. Make sure the video camera is set on the widest shot available, use a tripod or other stable device. It is best, of course, to have all of the group members and the table is in the shot at all times, so that any cheating (i.e. members moving the table on their own) is detectable. It will also provide proof of any occurring phenomenon. You can also track the increase or changes in phenomenon over time. You may also want to keep an audio track recording on the session as well.
That is not to say that cheating is altogether a bad thing. Taylor notes that often faking something can induce real activity to begin. “In one experiment, a sitter experimented with this and found that he was able to induce real rapping’s after he faked rapping noises or moved the table. He was never seen doing this as the sessions were held in near darkness (Taylor, 2007).” Taylor speculates that the reason faking can help is because most people have an inherent disbelief in the existence of psi. This disbelief may be buried deeply within the unconscious, but he admits it is almost always there. “Faking it” seems to trick the conscience into believing that it can happen, and then the mind is free to channel without the block of disbelief.

Even though table tipping sessions are an experiment of RSPK versus actually trying to contact a spirit, still such experiments can be beneficial for paranormal investigators. Taylor notes, experimenting with table tipping can give paranormal investigators a better understanding of what to expect should they come across an investigation involving poltergeist style activity.
Table Tipping at a Ghost Hunt
Obviously table tipping can be attempted at locations that are thought to have paranormal activity. Taylor suggests if a group attempts a table tipping session at a suspected haunted location that the group use the parameters above with some additional caveats.
The group may elect to include a medium into the session as well. If so, only use one as a control for the group. Also, when selecting group members avoid those who are openly or brazenly skeptical. Those “goats” in the group can block the activity with their disbelief.
For an investigation session the group will want to monitor with more devices than simply a video camera. Taylor suggests setting up at least two video cameras, an audio recorder, at least one if not several EMF detectors (Trifield Natural EMF detectors suggested) which can be set up around the outside of the circle to monitor changes. Stationary temperature gauges and humidity gauges should also be set up and monitored. In addition Taylor suggests having one to two individuals take photographs throughout the session and another take notes of anything that occurs during the session. This is in addition to the 4 or 5 individuals needed for the circle.
The session itself may be conducted differently. The group may elect to hold a type of EVP session with questions asked and answers encouraged. Or, if a medium is present, a type of medium-type contact may be used. This type of experiment, Taylor notes, makes any solid, verifiable evidence difficult. However, all the equipment should be monitored closely during the session and any changes notated carefully.

Resources

Blum, Deborah (2006) Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death. Penguin Books. New York, New York.
Karl, Jason (2007) An Illustrated History of the Haunted World. Barnes and Noble, New York, New York.
Society for Paranormal Investigation (SPI) Retrieved via world wide web June 10, 2012 at
http://www.paranormalghost.com/rspk.htm

Taylor, Troy (2007) Ghost Hunter’s Guidebook: The Essential Guide to Investigating Ghosts and Hauntings. Whitechapel Press. Decatur, Illinois.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Part II - How to Run a Ghost Hunting Group: Interview with P.R.G. Founder & Director Jennifer Lauer

By Robin M. Strom-Mackey

The only two people that should know what is going on are the people that were on that pre-investigation; any of the weird things. The investigators that are going in are going in blind. Yes. We feel that’s the best way to go, because then there are no pre-conceived notions…”

 Jennifer Lauer is the Founder  and Director of the Paranormal Research Group, (P.R.G.) [formerly the Southern Wisconsin Paranormal Research Group.] The organization recently expanded to include Pennsylvania as well as Wisconsin. In this interview Lauer shares some very thoughtful information about how she founded and continues to run this very successful paranormal investigation group. If you’re thinking about starting a paranormal group or revising group protocols, this is a must read article. Lauer has also co-written two books and is a frequent public speaker on the topic of paranormal investigation.

Robin: Can you tell me about how your group does an investigation from the screening of possible clients to the actual investigation?

Jennifer:  When someone is interested in having us come out and check out their place they’ll either call or send an email and they’ll say I’ve got some stuff going on and I’m really interested in talking about it or having someone come out and do something.

The first thing we do is send out a question set.  It’s an extremely long questionnaire.  It’s something like 150 to 200 questions and it has a variety of different questions that will help us to get a better understanding of what they are experiencing. It also has a couple of different areas in it that allows for some psychological testing, just so we know that we’re not sending our people into an unstable environment.  They’re actual tests that are taken out of psychological texts. And we can score them. It’s really more for our protection than anything else. I don’t want to send anyone into a dangerous environment. So this allows us to screen an applicant and make sure that it is a safe environment in which to send our investigators.

After they send us back the questionnaire, we look at it to kind of get a feel for what they might have going on, what they might be experiencing. And then we set up a pre-investigation which is just two of our investigators going out to the location, sitting down with the people, talking to them and getting a feel for the area where things are happening. We’ll have them take us on a tour of the location, show us where things were happening, tell us who was experiencing them and who was involved.

We also videotape the whole session.  That way we can take it back to the group when we have a meeting, and we can say, “This was happening here, and they can see it.” We also do background readings with either our D.E.A.D. system or with just hand-held equipment just to see if there is a natural reason for that experience in that location at that time.

We also look at, which a lot of groups don’t, if the homeowner says that when they lie in bed they see something across the hall walking down the stairway. What most groups will do is  go to that stairway and they’ll investigate that. What we do is we go to the bed and try to find out if anything is happening in that area that has a natural explanation as to why that person might have hallucinated something. A lot of times a clock radio sitting next to the headboard can really scramble your brain waves because there’s are a lot of electro-magnetic fields coming out of those things. If you’ve ever checked them, you can get 50 milligaus coming off those things and your brainwaves can actually get scrambled. And if your brain neurons aren’t firing properly you can start to see shadows; a variety of different things can affect the human brain.  Those are the types of things that we want to look at.

What we do after the pre-investigation is we go back to the team. We explain what happened and give an overall concept of what is going on. If we have EVP we will listen to it or we give it to Cindy. If we think there is a good chance that something is going on here we’ll go ahead and set up a full investigation which, depending upon the size of the house will determine how many investigators we will take. We don’t want to take too many because then our equipment will pick up their natural electro-magnetic fields. We want to stay as small a team as possible; I think that’s really key.

Then we’ll talk to the homeowners again. We have them take the entire team on a tour of the house so that everyone knows where the areas are, except we won’t have them explain anything about what is going on. The only two people that should know what is going on are the people that were on that pre-investigation; any of the weird things. The investigators that are going in are going in blind. Yes. We feel that’s the best way to go because then there are no pre-conceived notions or anything like that.

Then we’ll do the investigation. We do them in a variety of ways. We may take a couple of investigators and set them off with a couple of hand-held sweeps of the environment. They’ll sweep for ions, radiation and EMF in different rooms. And then they’ll record them. Then we’ll have somebody else setting up the video equipment. And we’ll have somebody else setting up the D.E.A.D. equipment. Another person will get everything together – whatever else needs to be done at that time. Once everything is set up we’ll all get together and do an EVP session in one of the areas where something is going on. Then we’ll also do controlled sessions  in rooms where there aren’t reported happenings. That way we have a control.

We pretty much do investigations in layers. First we do sweeps, then an EVP session and then throughout the night we’ll maybe do a lights-out quiet time, an observation time depending on what’s been going on.  We’ll do another set of sweeps later on. We’ll run the D.E.A.D. system in different areas to see what we can pick up.  We may have several EVP sessions throughout the night.

And then, when we’re done, I have every one of the investigators fill out a little report sheet that they have.  Actually they’re supposed to be filling that out throughout the night, any experiences, anything they noticed that was odd or strange. And they turn in that with any readings they have for the ions. For example if they’re doing an ion sweep in the bathroom they have to record that, and they have to turn that in at the end of the night with the investigation notes. That way the Lead Investigator can write the report. 

Then we take all of the equipment back and the data is analyzed through the D.E.A.D. system to look for any correlations with any EVP that might be caught. So Dave will do the analysis of the D.E.A.D. system, Cindy will do the analysis of the EVP, someone else may watch the video.

Actually I just stopped that because I’ve had people watch hundreds of hours of video and seeing nothing. So what we’ve decided to do now, is  if we notice anything on any of the recorders or the data, we will go back to that time, because everything is date-time stamped. We can go back to the video at that time, just to make sure that anything natural happened that might be caught on video – like a child ran by at the time. We could understand that, because everything is date-time stamped.  Dave or Cindy may say, “Well, I noticed something at this date and at this time.” Then they can compare notes and we’ll look at the equipment readings at that time, the hand-held sweep information, we can see if everything jives or looks strange. Then we can create the report from that.

And we’ve got all the sheets from all the investigators so that we can look at that and correlate that time with everything.  And everything is put into a full report. If EVP is collected we put that on a CD. We go to the owner and we do the reveal. We’ll sit down at the table and we’ll go over the whole report with them. We’ll explain what we found, what we experienced.   If we caught any EVP we will play the disk and have them listen to it. They’ll keep that as well as the report. And there’s always a conclusion at the end of the report of what we believe may be happening.

We always tell them that client care is one of our biggest concerns. If things continue and you’re worried about it, please get back in touch with us – especially if we didn’t find anything. Because they spend 24 hours a day there, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re there for one brief four to six hour session.  A lot of times we don’t collect everything. You can’t be at the right place at the right time all the time. So we make sure they know that, “Unfortunately we didn’t catch anything at this time. But we don’t think you’re crazy.”

The people who have had these experiences, there has to be something that’s creating these experiences, whether that be a ghost or whether that be something natural in the field that you are seeing. Client care is really important, and we want them to know that we’re here for them…So often they say, “Oh, I’m not crazy. That’s all I wanted to know! I knew I wasn’t crazy and now I have proof.” A lot of times that alone makes everything better for them.

We don’t have a lot of clients that say, “I have to leave my house.” More often we have people that just want to be assured that they’re not crazy. They say, “You’ve collected that evidence. You’ve shown me that I’m not crazy. That makes them happy.”

Robin: So you’re saying that the majority of people you deal with just want assurance that they now know what is going on and they’re not insane?

I would say that 80% of the people that call us just want to make sure that they’re not seeing something and that they’re not crazy.

Robin:  There is a contingent out there, however, that’s scared to death. You’ve met the client group out there that’s scared to death? How do you deal with the scared ones?

Jennifer: Sure. There was one [client] in particular that had called us. They called us at night time and we had to drop everything and get a team and go out there. It was a case of RSPK which is Recurrent, Spontaneous Psycho-kinesis (the current term for poltergeist activity). The popular theory behind poltergeist activity being that there is a human agent that is affecting the environment with their minds.

It had to do with a young female. And after we did an investigation and told her that’s what we felt that the case was,  we explained that the activity was probably coming from her. We explained how the brain works and how the brain functions and how that can happen, and that it’s a natural cause. We explained that it’s been studied under lab conditions and how it has been reproduced and that it’s not a “crazy-person” thing but that it happens more frequently than people understand or recognize. She didn’t want to believe it; she wanted to believe something else. However, after we brought that from her sub-conscious into her conscious by making her aware of it, it stopped.

So a lot of times making someone aware of the fact that it could be them, if it’s P.K. [psycho-kinesis] it will definitely stop it. That happens a lot. A lot of times we’ll hear, “well, I don’t know what you did but it’s gone now.”  Well, we didn’t do anything, we didn’t do anything. Just the fact that we were there and you thought that we were doing something, brought the issue that you were facing in your subconscious to your conscious…It’s the, “O.K., someone is here now and they’re going to take care of me. I’m going to be safe and everything is going to be O.K.” And then in fact, everything is O.K., because the issue is resolved in their  mind. Especially if it’s P.K.; because P.K. is done in their mind. So just by making them aware of it, it solves a lot of them.

Robin: Well, we always wonder if we’re going to come across the truly dangerous investigation. Has your group ever experienced anything…I hate to use the word demonic, but have you ever experienced anything of a questionable nature? Or that was a little frightening for you, perhaps?

Jennifer: Not really. I think there was one time in Milwaukee that I got scratched and that Heather got scratched too. But, to be perfectly honest, I don’t think it had to do with anything. There was a huge pulse in the electro-magnetic field of the home. I was sitting on the floor and where I got scratched was very level to an outlet.  And I think it could have been ball lightning coming out of that outlet, and it burned my arm coming down. I think that’s pretty much what it was.

I couldn’t tell you for sure, but the area and the circumstance that I was in, watching it on the D.E.A.D. system; we could tell that it was really erratic. So, I’m going to go with the natural explanation because there was no other possible rational explanation for that. But, other than that, when we go into an investigation, it’s a job and we don’t let our emotions get the better of us. And when something happens we’re more likely to say, “All right! Come on let’s do this [laughs].”

I think we use our minds a little more for…patterns. We’re always looking for patterns. Our mindset is a little bit different, we don’t go based off of emotions, or based off our perception, because we have so much equipment.  We can ask, “Oh, hey, did something happen? I felt something.” And you can see in the environment [using our sensors] whether something did change. So if something did change, and I felt something, then I can say wow [laughs] I’m pretty good! I’m able to detect the changes in the electromagnetic field. So that’s the way we look at things. We’re more fascinated than scared. Fear comes from the unknown. Because of what we know about the field we’re less involved and less scared. We bring more research and science into it.

Robin: Are there any specialized pieces of equipment that your group uses that maybe others don’t?

Jennifer: Yeah, we have a Fluxgate  Magnetometer. It is about $15,000 if you’re going to buy it.  It’s very expensive, but it’s very detailed. It’s an electromagnetic field detector, but it collects 400 samples a second. So it gives us a great range of what is going on. I mean you can walk around with those Dr. Gauss and if you happen to get a really big signal you might pick it up.  This thing can detect changes within the whole house. It’s just so sensitive that if anything happens it’s going to detect it.  You can vary the bit rate if you desire. You can set it for one sample per second if you want or up to 400, which is just amazing.

It takes a lot of space on your computer to do it [laughs] but it gives you a really great look at the environment, especially the electromagnetic in the room, because that can just cause havoc.  It can create mood swings in people. What it does is it interrupts your natural brain flow or pattern, the electricity in your brain.  And when that happens you experience things.

Robin: I imagine a lot of groups would love to have a $15,000 detector but...

Jennifer: Well, we’ve been doing this for so long that we just collect as we go.

Robin: So do you charge dues from your members?

Jennifer: We do.

Robin: Do you charge fees for your services?

Jennifer: No. We charge membership one time, and one time only. We’ve got people who have been here for six or seven years that have never paid but once. The website does say we charge a yearly membership. But I tell people if you stay active in the group I’ll never charge you again.  However, if you don’t stay active for over half a year, even if you’re an Associate member, we will drop you out.

 If you stay active in the group you can stay a member for life. However, if you don’t stay active then step aside and let someone else take your spot and be active. I don’t want 600 members who aren’t active.  It just doesn’t make sense.  So they lose their membership. If they want to rejoin again they can. But if you just remain active you would never have to pay again.  It’s an incentive for the people to just stay active.

Robin: How do you screen potential members?

Jennifer: I really don’t. I think everyone has great in them…bad in them. But that’s one of the reasons I charge people to join; because people put more into something that they’re putting their money into.  If they’re a complete nutcase [laughs] we’ll eventually find out. But we’ve got a lot of nutcases in the group that are really good people.  We’ve had a couple of issues where people are just out of their mind, weird, strange, kind of scary…I refund money. I just say, “I don’t think this is the right place for you.”  But I don’t deny anybody. I don’t want it to be like they feel they have to perform in order to be in this group.  I don’t want that. If you want to be in active in this group then we want you.

Robin: So for you it’s more about willingness than credentials.

Jennifer: Yes, but right now we don’t have open membership for onsite members. We’re at our limit for investigators. But it’s still a great opportunity to get involved as an Associate member.  And it’s a great opportunity for us too, to get to know them before we put them in a situation that could be dangerous – for us too.  Before we take someone into an investigation we want to know how they’ll act. So it gives us an opportunity to get to know them before they become an investigator, before we move them up to that place.

We also do full training sessions. We have a manual, not the actual book that you saw, but an actual manual. It’s a members’ manual that is about this thick. And we sit down for a whole day and we train them on every piece of equipment, every theory, everything that we have. So that they’re well informed before we go out on any investigation.

Robin: So we all have our favorite stories, our favorite paranormal experience. So what is yours? What really set your heart racing?

Jennifer: I did have one. It was before I got into the paranormal field. I was 21. I was living with my mom. I was trying to save my money because I was getting married.  My fiancé lived in the house with us.  We lived in the house where my grandparents had lived their entire married life. My grandfather had died in the front room of a heart attack as my brother watched.  It was back in 1977.

My fiancé and I were staying in the room where my grandparents had [lived].  It was in the front of the house. It was the most beautiful room, all the light from outside would come in at night. It was just a very warm and inviting room.

At the time I was working a second-shift job and I wouldn’t get home until around 11 o’clock at night. When I got home my fiancé was already sleeping in bed and my mom in bed too. She was in a bedroom that was way down the hall. 

When you get home late you can’t always go to bed right away.  So I sat up and watched TV for maybe an hour or two.  It was maybe around 1 o’clock when I decided to go to bed. So, I went in and got ready for bed, my fiancé at the other side of the bed. I laid down, and within 2 seconds I felt this breath on my ear. I could hear it. It was whispering so quick and so wispy that I could hear it, but I couldn’t understand what it was saying. \ I could feel it, its hot breath on my ear. And, of course I froze. I thought, “what the… what the heck was that?” But the really weird part was that I could feel the breath on my ear. So I panicked. I pulled the pillow up over my head. I was 21 at the time [laughs], but I was panicked!  And all of a sudden it happened again. It was like the pillow wasn’t even there. I could feel the breath on my ear and I could hear the whispering. And I passed out. I don’t know if it was from fear or what it was. But I don’t remember anything after that.

Of course I never told anyone about it. It was freaking me out.  And three months later, I was talking to my mom about something, and she said I have something to tell you. You’re into that paranormal stuff, and I’ve got to tell you this. I had this really weird thing happen to me last night.”  She was in her bedroom and had the same, exact thing happen with the whispering in the ear. And she described it exactly as I did. I had not told her. But then I did - that I had had the same experience.  It’s never happened since and I can’t explain it. It really got me wondering what it could have been.

Resources

Auerbach, Loyd (2005) A Paranormal Casebook: Ghost Hunting in the New Millennium. Atriad Press LLC. Dallas, TX.
Auerbach, Loyd (1986) ESP, Hauntings and Poltergeists: A Parapsychologist’s Handbook. Warner Books. NY, NY.
Fluxgate Magnetometer http://beta.globalspec.com/search/products?query_2=flux-gate%20magnetometer&comp=4934&pg=0&pageSize=10&show=undefined measures the strength and direction of magnetic fields.
Lauer, J., Schumacher D. (2007) Investigating the Haunted: Ghost Hunting Taken to the Next Level. Xlibris Corporation. Additional Copies of the Book can be ordered at Orders@Xlibris.com
PRG.’s website (2012) www.http://paranormalresearchgroup.com/