Thursday, May 20, 2010

After Death Communications

Tea Party for Two; Why It's important to Commune with the Dead

By Robin M. Strom-Mackey

"1 in 6 people experience some type of ADC (After Death Communication) during their lives, making the study of ADC experiences seem all that more important by sheer numerical volume."

It was at my father’s funeral that a long-time friend gave me what turned out to be a truly touching present, a used, somewhat dog-eared book about After Death Communications (ADC). Having been in the paranormal field for a couple of years, I’ve greedily read and spoken to anyone I could that might feed me information about the paranormal. But this book about After Death Communications - or ADC’s - was truly different from the paranormal researcher’s point of view, because it wasn’t written from a paranormal investigator’s point of view.
I can admit that I had never heard the term ADC used before in the paranormal field. I was rather astounded therefore to find that this is a field of study being undertaken, not by parapsychologists but a rogue few in the field of grief counseling, who are using the emerging evidence not to prove or disprove the after death experience, but to use the ADC to help the grieving cope with the hard work of building a new life after loss.
The Society for Psychical Research had spent an insurmountable amount of time in the 1880’s, studying what they labeled Crisis Apparitions. One of the founding fathers of the SPR, Edward Gurney, wrote a two volume set on Crisis Apparitions, entitled Phantasms of the Living. F.W.H. Myers author of the classic book Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death, felt that Crisis Apparitions, apparitions of the deceased that were witnessed  twelve hours before or after bodily death, were the release of the human consciousness from the body.  Myers decided, however, that such events did not necessarily indicate the survival of the soul after death. Other of his associates thought that telepathy or ESP was involved, the living being invoked to have a telepathic experience with the dying with the crisis as instigator. 

But what about an experience among the living and the dead that occurs weeks, months or sometimes years after death? These are much harder to explain as telepathic messages floating about in the ether. Skeptics quite obviously explain them as imaginary constructs. There are reported occurrences, however, where ADC’s have been witnessed or experienced by more than one person at the same time, making fabrication or imagination harder yet to dismiss.
Louis LaGrand in Messages and Miracles was one of the first to research and write on the subject of ADC’s which encompasses Crisis Apparitions, but also experiences that occur a quite some time after death - sometimes several years after death. The experiences range from strong evidence such as the sighting of a full body apparition to rather weaker evidence of interpreting a “sign.” What makes this subject significant are the great number of people who claim to have had an experience. LaGrand cites one study that suggests 1 in 6 people experience some type of ADC during their lives, making the study of ADC experiences seem all that much more important by sheer numerical volume.
The most often reported ADC was the dream visitation, where the grieving party dreamt of the deceased. The ADC dream is usually unlike dreams people normally report in the fact that the ADC dream is usually extremely vivid in the recall. While everyone dreams, few of us can recall in any detail what we dreamt. Adversely the ADC is usually relatable by the dreamer, often down to what the participants were wearing in the dream and what was said. The author suggests that the dream state makes a natural palette for the ADC experience, speculating that in sleep a dreamer is more conducive to psi phenomenon (ESP) as the mind is being directed by the unconscious.

Experiences involving symbols are a common occurrence. The person will report an experience, often with nature, that doesn’t seem to fit with the normal. For example a certain flower will grow in the garden that was the favorite flower of the deceased, and hadn’t been planted there on purpose. In other cases an object will be found that was of significance to the deceased, often just as the grieving party is asking for just such a sign. In other cases something will suddenly start to work that hadn’t operated before, and therefore shouldn’t be working. Clocks and music boxes fall into this category quite often. More markedly they will often work for a short while and then never run again. The symbolic experience is interpreted as being a sign from the deceased.
Olfactory experiences, where people report smelling an odor distinct to the deceased are also reported. It should be pointed out that our sense of smell is actually based in our reptilian brain stems, the most ancient and primitive portion of our brains. The sense of smell evokes instant and deep-seated emotions, often under the radar of our conscious minds. Take the painter I met in Beaufort, South Carolina who told me the story about her ADC that occurred to her when she was alone. Sitting in a chair in her living room suddenly she began to smell her Grandmother’s perfume. Her grandmother had of course been dead for quite a few years at the time, but she was distinctly smelling her Grandmother‘s scent in the room. The ordeal unnerved the painter so much that she literally fled the house, though she admitted that Grandmother had probably only been pay a visit. The woman also told me that her sister had reported a similar experience where she too had smelled the deceased’s perfume.
The why of ADC is variable as well. Some seem to occur to help with the grieving process, I.e. Dad stopping by to tell Mom he’s OK. According to other accounts, sometimes they seem to happen to appease the desires of the departed, like Grandma stopping by to see the new baby, born after she passed. Still others happen during a crisis moment in the life of the living, where the departed makes an appearance in order to be of assistance - as in the story below. In other words the experiences, their time table and the messages behind them are extremely unpredictable and individual. These experiences are different from the traditional haunting in the fact that they occur once or perhaps a couple of times, but then stop.
Bill a troubled youth was doing poorly at school and strung out on drugs. At one point he decided to commit suicide. At the time he was living with his mother and grandfather. Bill’s grandmother had died a couple of years earlier. On the day Bill decided to end his own life he reports that he went down in his grandparent’s basement where he intended to hang himself from a rafter. He started to string up the rope, when he looked at the basement steps where he saw his grandmother motioning to him. Using hand gestures, Bill didn’t report actually hearing her say anything to him, she indicated that he shouldn’t do this. He took the rope down.

Recalling the stories I had collected over the years from family, friends and acquaintances I started to realize that, actually the vast majority of “ghost stories” I had gathered were actually ADC’s. They’re simple and rather homespun in the telling, and I’m guessing most families have their own share of strange stories. It’s the time my Dad knew the phone call was to tell us that Grandmother had died. Or the time my husband reports feeling very down and just knowing suddenly that his departed sister was with him. A former student recalled the morning after her father’s funeral, waking up on the couch in the family room and seeing her dad making up the fire - just as he had always done. They are what they are, stories, unverifiable for the most part., intriguing but not reliable. Indeed, many, if not most, are based merely on gut feelings.
The value of the ADC is that it is personally gratifying to the person left behind. Directly after the ADC most report feeling relieved, happy…even euphoric For many, ADC experiences can literally shorten the grieving process and make loss easier. The ADC is often the springboard into a new relationship between the living and the dead. According to Alexandra Kennedy, Psychotherapist, in her book Your Loved One Lives on Within You, many people develop an internal relationship with their departed loved ones. Kennedy reports that “’many people are surprised to discover the deceased takes for granted that the relationship [with the living] is ongoing.’ That is a powerful force in the coping process. The pivotal factor in structuring the ongoing relationship is the imagination. Reaching the presence within demands a commitment to express deep feelings, to listen, be open and to use dreams as a springboard to inner communication. Developing the inner relationship is not difficult to manage and often results in the belief that direct contact has been made.”
While there is no evidence that contact has occurred, those who have made a practice of internal, imaginative communication feel the new relationship is, “real [my emphasis] and comforting.” At the very least, LaGrange admits, “internal communications ‘attests to the fact that our loved one lives on within us.’”
Paranormal investigators who are in the field because they’re skeptical should tread lightly in the area of ADC’s. For those thirsting for scientific evidence, the ADC can seem the worst of the “touchy-feelies.” However, the real value of the ADC experience is not in the advancement of the paranormal field, but rather in the good it does for the grieving. To be specific, you may interpret the dream your Mom had about your Dad as a fabrication of her unconscious mind under duress. Criticizing her dream, however, is to undo all the potential good it did her in the dreaming. In the case of ADC’s, the significance lies not in the verifying, but in the fact that those who experienced it believe it, and very often the believing is a delicate construct which will not stand up to scrutiny.

I had my own ADC a couple of months after my father died. We were a close family and the separation for all of us was excruciating. It had been a particularly grim day, but no grimmer than others I had had in the recent past. I dreamt that night of my father, but it was vivid. If I’d dreamt of my father since his death I have no recollection. But this dream was clear as if we were two people sitting in a room together. My father was showing me his new stereo system in the dream. My father had custom built stereos and television systems as a career, so it was just like him to be showing off a new system. And the fact that I got the receiver stuck on the Cubs game fit as well. Dad had been an avid baseball fan, though I personally have no interest in the sport. I woke up feeling better than I had in many months…euphoric even…as if Dad had actually come for a visit. I couldn’t wait to share my experience with my loved ones.
My husband took a different approach. He made a joke of it, after which I felt both devastated and embarrassed. Luckily, having read fairly heavily in the area I was able to recognize the experience for what it was, and to explain to my husband that his criticism was out of place.
So, do I really think my father had returned from the grave to visit me in my dreams? I don’t know. Did I feel like he was there visiting me in my dreams? Yes, and it had made me feel happier than I had in a long time. Did it make our separation easier to bear? Unequivocally, yes. Whether it was a construct of my unconscious or an actual visit from my father, the pain was lessened by the experience, and in the consequent memory of the event…after I told my husband not to steal my thunder. And therein lies the real value of the ADC.

La Grand, Louis Messages and Miracles: Extraordinary Experiences of the Bereaved.
Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul Minnesota. 1999

Other Readings in the Area of ADC’s
Devers, Edie. Goodbye Again
Guggenheim, Bill, Judy. Hello From Heaven
Kastenbaum, Patricia Romanski-. Is There Life After Death: A Scholarly Approach
Kennedy, Alexandra Your Loved One Lives On Within You
Martin, Joel Love Beyond Life
Morse, Melvin. Parting Visions

The Politics of Evidence Review

The Politics of Evidence Review:

Some Ideas as to how to make Evidence Review More Equitable For All But the Owls

By Robin M. Strom-Mackey

"Tom presented the clients with what he thought might be an EVP. The sound on the tape was eerie to be sure. But the clients insisted, that while eerie, the sound was really an owl that had apparently made it’s home there. Tom hedged. He didn’t want to admit that the sound was natural. After all, he had a vested interest in that owl…that owl was his evidence."

Scenario: You investigate with your group in an eerie building. The floors creak, strange noises occur overhead. Squeaky floors and pipes? Probably. Maybe you even get a couple of light anomalies on your photograph. During evidence review you find with a couple of faint noises on the voice recorders. They’re quiet and indistinguishable, and leave you scratching your head as to whether they might be valid, or if one of the investigators was actually whispering near the voice recorder?

In other words, it’s the usual ghost hunt, the vast majority of which leaves the group with evidence so ambiguous it undoubtedly makes you wonder why you bother with all the hours you put in, and what you’re going to tell the client who, fed by too many television programs boasting amazing results, is salaciously awaiting your every shred of evidence.

Who decides that an owl is an owl is an owl?

In my own group, evidence review became somewhat of a power struggle. When our second director (in a year) stepped down a new director, we’ll call him Tom for anonymity’s sake, was chosen from the among the ranks. Tom volunteered his services because he was single and had the time to commit. He, sadly, had no more expertise than anyone else in the group. Put in a rather unenviable position he quickly learned to overcome his lack of expertise with what I took to be a blustery, false bravado.

Almost immediately, I started to feel that the evidence that I gathered, sometimes extremely strong evidence, was downplayed or dismissed out of hand. Evidence that he collected or was involved with, however, seemed to be taken for gospel.

During one investigation, two female investigators and I were doing a session in a kitchen when suddenly a large bang resounded through the room. Once we had managed to pull our hearts out of our throats, we investigated the source of the noise. Because it had sounded like a door slamming, we went across the hall, where upon entering the kitchen we had noticed three doors standing open. Thinking one of these doors had slammed shut in a breeze, we were all rather astounded to find all three doors still open.

It should be noted that Tom, directly after the bang, insisted on a thorough search of the grounds. He was convinced that the investigation had been compromised. A search of the area did not however, turn up any evidence of tampering. Tom also made it a point to question the park rangers on duty, very nearly accusing them outright of false play. At the time I was mortified by what I felt was a terrible breach of etiquette. Later, I began to think that it was probably best to check and double check the authenticity of the event to the best of our abilities, and to do so while the gun was still smoking, as it were.

What was really interesting about the bang was that two other investigation groups on previous investigations (one being TAPS) a similar big bang, leading me to postulate that the sound was residual and occurred rather frequently. I thought it was an astounding piece of evidence, especially as two other groups had noted the same phenomenon. Sadly, the rest of the group, or Tom at least, disagreed with my summation.

Months afterwards I heard the incident referred to by Tom and his assistant as, “the time the door slammed shut.” They had not only discounted my findings, and ignored the evidence, but they’d managed to fabricate an explanation in the intervening time. To add insult to injury, Tom later said in a newspaper interview, that the evidence we’d gotten on the investigation was not strong, and he was still waiting for his “smoking gun.”

At the reveal for this same investigation, Tom presented the clients with what he thought might be an EVP. The sound on the tape was eerie to be sure. But the clients insisted, that while eerie, the sound was really an owl that had apparently made it’s home there. Tom hedged. He didn’t want to admit that the sound was natural. After all, he had a vested interest in that owl…that owl was his evidence.

What is Revealed and Who Should Decide?

After all the evidence is gathered, someone or perhaps a vaunted group of elite someone’s will have to make the final decision as to what is presented to the client. It’s that razor’s edge between presenting something evidential and not wanting to look like a pack of superstitious fools. Obviously what you reveal, and who makes those decisions are questions of some importance to both the reputation of the group and the desires of the client.

When I started writing this article the two questions I wanted to address was the 1) who decides and the 2) what should be presented. I quickly decided that the what of evidence review was too vast for just one short article, and was strongly dependent on the personality of the group itself. For example, certain groups on the scientific end of the spectrum would probably contend that anything not completely scientific be thrown out. American Association of Parapsychology member and avid ghost hunter, Dr. Clinton L. Vick suggested in an interview that no EVP’s other than Class A’s should ever be presented to a client. While investigators may collect any number of Class C or even B EVP’s, the Class A is a rather rare event, and therefore the presentation to clients of an EVP of that category is rare as well. This may be an approach for only the most serious of groups. Other groups take a markedly softer approach to investigating. I realized that what I was really interested in discussing was not what was presented, but who decided what was presented and how they came to that decision.

In my perusal of the literature of ghost hunting, I found shockingly little written on this topic. In the book Investigating the Haunted: Ghost Hunting Taken to the Next Level by Jennifer Lauer and Dave Schumacher of the SWPRG the authors say rather ambiguously that the reveal process should be handled with care. The authors admit that “you want to reveal everything you find, but that the important part is making sure they understand everything you are telling them.” Troy Taylor in the Ghosthunter’s Guidebook speaks at length about how to collect evidence, tools to use for collection, how to conduct historical research property, but makes no mention as to what should be revealed. I found similar non-commitment from the other handbooks I considered; a growing mound of discarded books collecting on my desk.

My personal philosophy, honed by experience and the literature is that each group should determine beforehand what type of evidence they will consider evidence and what of the evidence is considered strong enough to present to the client. Certainly, I have found that clients are often rabidly interested in collecting any evidence they can, fueled perhaps by the over zealous amount of evidence presented on television to an audience ever eager for anything paranormal. Hence, what we may withhold from a client may make for bad feelings on the part of the client, which can lead to non-cooperation in the future.

In the interest of consistency, if not fairness, the guidelines a paranormal investigation group follows should probably be written and explained so as to be clearly understood by the members of the group and the client. For example, if the group decides that certain personal experiences should never be expressed as evidence, that would probably be best explained to the client and the investigators up front. Again, in the interest of diplomacy, these guidelines should probably be written to be firmly in line with the mission or purpose of the group, and should probably be voted upon by the senior members and clearly understood by the investigators. I realize that this is starting to sound a bit more formal and structured than a lot of groups choose to be. It’s my background as a teacher dealing with teenagers that has taught me that fairness most often starts by having clear, concise and easily understood guidelines, and then following them. Without as much you have evidence collection, review and reveals that are ragged across the board, and members that start to feel that favoritism is occurring.

Second, I’m a firm believer in the evidence review committee. This was the brain child, of DGH’s former director, Domenic Calvetti. He decided on convening a small group, led by a lead investigator, that did evidence review at the same time - consider it the Steve and Tango approach only on a slightly bigger scale. Also the evidence review committee was a sliding committee, meaning one could serve the committee by choice when and if they had the time. Likewise, they could discuss the evidence as they found it versus trying to do it via email or phone calls.

This approach seems to me far more diplomatic than having only one person or one small group make all the decisions all the time, based on what they alone feel is evidence. It is also far more efficient than attempting to throw the evidence out to the discussion of the entire group - which can muddy the waters beyond all recall - as anyone who has ever opened their inbox to find 20 emails regarding the three possible EVP’s from the last investigation can contend. Having a small group, led by a Lead Investigator or possibly two, seems a much more organized environment for true, and unbiased discussion of possible evidence. I should point out, it is also a terrific learning environment for new investigators.

Third, I’m a firm believer that some type of logging form be adopted by the group and used by individuals. These logs (which are available at the back of most ghost hunting handbooks) can be written or adapted to the group should be filled and handed in with the evidence so that the review committee can take this under consideration at the time of review. This alleviates the need for second guessing. Who hasn’t played the Where Was XXXXX (fill in the name most appropriate here) Game, after all? It starts with, “where was Anthony at the time when this creaking board occurred? Was he with Gina’s group?” One look at the log would probably tell the committee exactly what they needed to know - in this case that Anthony was creeping down the stairs to get to sneak a bite of his $5.00 foot-long.

So there it is, my three recommendations. First decide up front the mission of the group and write guidelines for the collection and determination of evidence in line with those goals. Second, determine an evidential review committee, which would consist of at least one senior member of the group and volunteers. In our own group we used a rotating evidence review committee of volunteers, which was an extremely diplomatic approach and allowed for training opportunities for new recruits. Third, have investigators or small groups of investigators adopt a logging system. Have the logs on hand at the review committee if possible. I’d also suggest the group adopt some type of filing system for all the logs and any evidence collected could be kept in one place for posterity.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lazybones EVP's

While ghosthunting itself is thrilling, the actual evidence review is most often, unbelievably, undeniably, hair-pullingly dull. Sitting for hours watching videos of empty rooms or listening to audio of mundane conversations and silence is sleep inducing at the very least. In fact, I usually choose that quiet hour before bedtime to review evidence, because it often proves better than a sleeping pill to keep me snoring all night long. I awake in the morning still wearing my headphones and drooling on my investigation log.

And often, when something that might be evidence is found, it's weeks after the investigation and my memory of those long hours is a bit rusty. I once found what I thought was an EVP. I proudly, and excitedly played it for everyone I could find who would indulge a beginning investigator by listening to what sounded like an unknown male voice whispering in the dark. I was so proud!

It was all well and good, until I got confirmation from several sources that the whisper was saying, "flash." Now why would a ghost from an 1800's farmhouse be whispering that? Grudgingly, I had to admit, that it just might be, possibly could be, alright it had to be far more likely that my EVP was actually my friend, who, being respectful of the quiet, had whispered the word "flash" right before he took a picture. Busted.

There has to be a better, and far less humiliating way to review evidence, right? Reading another paranormal blog recently, I came across a bit of advice that might help with these late night hours of harrowing boredom, and might help clear up these, admittedly embarassing, misunderstandings. The suggestion, by a professedly lazy ghost hunter was this. He had long ago decided that he would do EVP recordings in short 2-minute segments. After the 2 minutes are up he hits the stop record button, and right there on the spot reviews his audio.

This of course has a couple of advantages. The first I've mentioned already, no long hours of evidence review after the fact. The second is that he knows, immediately, if there's some activity going on in the location, after which he can decide to stay in the location or move on to another perhaps hotter spot. And the third reason is that everything that had happened in the last two minutes is still fresh in his mind. So he knows when a possible EVP is real, or his compassionate cohort whispering "flash."

History and Theory Behind Divining Rods

By Robin Strom-Mackey
Dowsing rods, also called, divining rods, Y-rods or L-rods are an ancient tool, and one that has had as many proponents as skeptics. Without a doubt the tools have a vast history and have been employed for many uses. Most people, when they think of divining rods, probably envision someone walking a property with a forked stick in their hands looking for water. But finding water tables are only one of the uses for dowsing rods, they also have a long history of being employed to find mineral lodes, metallic ores and even petroleum. They have also a long history as a divination tool by fortune telling tellers. They have been used to foretell the future, find lost items and even commune with the dead, or so dowsers claim.
In their oldest and crudest form, the a dowsing rod is a single forked twig usually of hazel wood. The forked ends of the twig were held in either hand by the dowser, who then walks about looking for water or minerals,. When a vein is crossed the end of the twig is said to bend down, or in some cases snap down decisively, indicating where to dig. Diviners claim that under the effect of "rhabdic force," the rod twists or revolves by its own force, called “rhabdic force;” the term rhabdic deriving from the Greek for rod. The ability to dowse, is supposedly an innate ability held by only the chosen few, a talent much like (or perhaps is the same as) ESP or psi.
The history of dowsing rods is both rich and long. They appear in the literature as far back as ancient Egypt. The Roman Statesmen Cicero and Tacitus both wrote about the “virgula divina” during the first century B.C. The Germans used the Wunschelrute or “wishing rod,” eventually teaching the art to the English sometime around the era of Queen Elizabeth.
According to the Occult and Parapsychology Encyclopedia, the rods are written of in, “Agricola's De Re Metallica, published at Basle at the beginning of the sixteenth century.” Agricula distinguished the forked mechanism as the “virgula furcata” distinguishing it from the “virgula divina”. The “virgula furcata’ were a tool used specifically by miners to discover mineral lodes.
Use of the rods hasn’t always been an accepted practice. In fact , during the sixteenth century it was downright bad for one’s health. The Church included the use of diving rods under their list of magics and witchcraft, declaring dowsers demons in disguise. The penalty for witchcraft being torture and death - most often by burning.
Fact or Fiction
It is indisputable that the rods have a long and interesting history. What is disputable is whether there is anything to this ancient art. It is interesting that in the age of modern science a device as crude and mysterious as the diving rod is still in use. But then even science as been divided on the rods.
The Society of Psychical Research did some study on the rods, thinking to discount their use, and found instead that there appeared to be something to the ancient tools. Albert Einstein apparently did some analysis of the devices and concluded, “I know very well that many scientists consider dowsing as they do astrology, as a type of ancient superstition. According to my conviction this is, however, unjustified. The dowsing rod is a simple instrument which shows the reaction of the human nervous system to certain factors which are unknown to us at this time”.
Author Christopher Balzano in the book Picture Yourself Ghost Hunting, grouped dowsing rods with pendulums, postulating that the actual power of the rods lay not with the rods themselves, but suggesting that they acted as a tool that helped direct the psi ability of the user. (Psi is the more modern, umbrella ,term for abilities such as ESP or telepathy)
Other literature has suggested a similar conclusion, which is perhaps why the rods have come under such attack over the years. Held in the hands of a skeptic it becomes fathomable that that the rods can be a method for cheating. A quick and hardly perceptible twist of the wrist can set a rod to spinning making the devices appear to be working when they are not, which fuels the fire for skeptics. Another reason skeptics might remain skeptical is the “Sheep-Goat Effect” suggested by Dr. Gertrude Schmeidler.
Basically put, Dr. Schmeidler found a difference in scoring between those who believed in psi (sheep) and those who did not (goats). Basically put, when goats were tested, they not only did not demonstrate an ability in psi, but they often scored below chance. Sheep on the other hand, those who either believed in psi or were at least open to the idea of the existence of psi (ESP) did much better on the tests, scoring at the chance level, if not above. It seems that subjects who discount the very possibility of psi somehow or another act as a barrier to having a psi experience - which Loyd Auerbach believes is an innate ability of some magnitude in all of us.
Those who have studied dowsing rods seem to believe, like Einstein suggests, that the power to move the rods lie not with the rods but within the user herself. According to the article, Dowsing: Subconscious and the Paranormal; How Does Dowsing Work? Stephen Wagner interviewed the Director of the Western New Rock Paranormal [Group] of Rochester, Dwayne Claud, who suggested, “It’s not psychic ability, its biomechanics. The rods move through unconscious micro-muscular movements. The subconscious is in control of the responses the dowsing instrument provides.” Claud seems to affirm Einstein’s reaction that the rods react to the user, and the user to his/her subconscious.
 But if that is true then are the rods merely picking up information from the mind of the person holding them? If one believes the subconscious houses only the thoughts, history, memory and imagination of the user than it would seem true that the rods act from the direction of the user and could go no further in divining information than that which was stored in the mind of the user.
However, there has been a debate for some time as to the possible vastness of the human subconscious. The famous Swiss Psychiatrist, Carl Jung suggested that the human subconscious encompassed more, much more, than just the memories of a single human brain, but the collective memories of the entire species. In the book, Messages and Miracles: Extraordinary Experiences of the Bereaved, Dr. Louis LaGrand explains, that if we go “one step further into the collective unconscious, where Jung suggested we are all connected, then we have to entertain the belief there are non-local characteristics as well. Or as Jungians are wont to say, ‘in the collective unconscious there is no space or time.’ [And] if there is no space or time, then whatever occurs in it can occur everywhere and at the same time.”
It’s as if the subconscious were a giant river, to the banks of which we all come occasionally. This river holds all species memories, emotions, dreams and creativity, and is not barred by time or space restrictions. Those that can tap into the river of the subconscious then are able to glean whatever happens to be floating by at the time. And like a river, it’s vastness makes it impossible to see anything but a small portion at any one time. Think of a river going around a bend.
Granted the jury is still out on Jung’s theory of a collective unconscious. However, if he was correct, and if dowsing rods allowed a user a tool for expressing what she/he had tapped into by delving the subconscious, then the dousing rods might actually be a legitimate tool. Certainly many of the greatest minds in the world have not been able to discount these fascinating tools entirely.

The Use of Dowsing Rods in Paranormal Research

By Robin M. Strom-Mackey

When I pull out my dowsing rods at an investigation I get a mixed reaction, from those extremely interested in their use to those who feel the rods are useless and wonder why a paranormal researcher would bring a tool for finding water to a paranormal investigation.

A little research into the subject shows, however, that dowsing rods are an ancient tool that have been used to find, not only water deposits, but minerals, metals and petroleum. At the same time they’ve been used by occultists as a tool of divination. And yes, many paranormal researchers are incorporating them into their investigations.
The rods are a tool used by the dowser to tap into energy sources, which are believed to be channeled through the user’s subconscious, and manifested by the movement of the rods. Carl Jung, noted Swiss Psychiatrist theorized that the subconscious was the portion of our psyche capable of tapping into the collective human pool of knowledge. It’s also the portion of the psyche many believe capable of picking up and interpreting psi or ESP information. In other words the rods are thought to be a tool that reads messages from the user’s subconscious, and is therefore divining that which the user directs it to divine.

If you would like to learn how to make your own dousing rods, click the link below 

Spinning Rods and Yes/No Communication

In the article by Stephen Wagner entitled, Dowsing: Subconscious and the Paranormal, Director of Western New York Paranormal of Rochester. Dwayne Claud explains, “researchers will often use these instruments to demonstrate through a physical means a reading of spiritual energy.” For example, the dowser will ask the instrument to ‘show the energy in the area,’ and their pendulum or rod will spin. The faster the spin, the more energy that is registering in the area.
Another way to use the rods is as a form of Morse Code communication with the spiritual world. The user can set simple parameters of communication and then ask a series of questions, the simplest allowing for yes/no responses. For example a yes response is often the rods crossing, while a no response is the rods uncrossing. I’ve often seen dowsers use the uncrossed position as a neutral position as well, directing the rods to return to the uncrossed position in between questions in readiness of the next question.
Using an EMF detector to measure the electro magnetic energy in the area can further confirm any unusual energy fields. Therefore, it’s usually recommended that the rods be used in conjunction with an EMF detector. The Long Island Paranormal Investigators group list dowsing rods on their website as a tool they incorporate in their investigations. The group gauges the range of dowsing rods as reactive to energy fields 0 – 2 feet away from the user, and estimate that the field increases up to a ¼ mile, if a body of water is in the surrounding area. The article also suggests that while the rods can be made of any type of material, such as wood or metal, that users seeking electro magnetic field anomalies should use rods made of metals.  

Holding and Working the Rods

No rods? Most experts agree that rods can be made as easily as purchased, although many apparently believe brass to be the metal of choice. Several suggested bending metal coat hangers into a L-shape. Obviously a piece of wood in a Y shape can also be pressed into service.
When using L-Rods, the rods should be held with hands as flat as possible, not tilted, so that gravity can’t be counted as a contributing factor in the spin or movement. Hands should be loose around the rods so as not to restrict their movement in any way. Brian of Nature suggests in his video that arms should be held straight out from the body, so that the rods don’t pick up the user’s energy. He further instructs the user to use the index finger to curl around and hold the rod just below the bend, and to rest the handles against the palm of the hand. The hands should be held about 9 inches apart with the palms of the hands facing each other vertical to the floor. The dowser can either walk about with the rods in order to test different areas of the environment, or stay in one spot with the rods and invite whatever energy is in the area to come to them.

Learning and Calibrating the Rods

Several sources suggest that some type of meditation or prayer is necessary before using the rods. Whatever the user’s spiritual background, all the sources I found agreed that the user should be in a relaxed state before attempting to use the rods Sherry Sims, in the article Dowsing Rods on contends that the use of the rods is not a matter of control but of channeling. When using new rods she suggests the user ask the rods what is a “yes” response and which a “no” first, allowing the rods to dictate to the user the way in which they should be used. Sims says that after each question and response the user should thank the rods mentally for answering.
It has already been established that the rods can be used for yes/no communication. Sims suggests that after the yes/no signal has been agreed upon by user and rods, that the new dowser should then warm up to the use of the rods by asking simple, direct, non-emotional questions such as, “is today Monday?” or, “is my sweater blue” She indicates that the questions need to be specific. For example instead of asking the rods whether or not you will buy a new car, ask instead if you will buy a car in the next three months. It is important that the dowser be unemotionally attached to the question, in order to not direct the rods but to allow them to channel for the proper response.
In the Wikipedia article “How to Use “L” Type Dowsing Rods” by of Jack H you can train or test your ability to use dowsing rods. Make a few number cards, and then place them on the floor, face up, in a line with the cards about 1-2 feet apart. Starting at one end of the line, hold up the rods as indicated and ask the rods to identify one of the numbers with a yes response. For example, you might ask the rods to give a yes response over the number three. Walk slowly down the line until the rods give you the correct yes response for the number.
Next, close your eyes and visualize the number you would like the rods to find. Again walk down the line and wait for the yes response, pausing over each one and see if the card you requested is the one to which the rods respond.
Finally, take the cards and shuffle them randomly, placing them face downward on the floor 1-2 feet apart. Visualize or ask the rods to find a number, and walk the line pausing over each card. When the rods give the signal for yes, see if the response was correct. If the rods are not responding properly the author suggests several reasons; either that the user is not relaxed enough, is holding the rods improperly, is psychically challenged or is simply too skeptical of their usage.

Cheats and Sneaks?

I’ve spoken with many investigators that have gone on ghost tours and seen amazing things that left them questioning the validity of the experiences. A question that seems to come up on message boards and blog sites often, is whether the rods can be cheated. To them I say yes, certainly it is a simple thing to cheat with the rods. A simple, subtle flick of the wrist, hardly noticeable by watchers, can set the rods spinning. Again, before seeing is believing one should confirm activity with an EMF detector. However, we are a society mired in scientific dogma, believing anything electronic must needs be more reliable than divining rods. Before putting all your faith in EMF detectors, please note that these too are easily cheated. EMF detectors detect electricity - any electricity. That includes live walkie talkies and cell phones. Put a live walkie talkie in your pocket and move a K2 meter in front of it, and voila you’ve got spikes. I would suggest if you pay the price of admission at one of these ghost tours you consider what you experience as entertainment not valid spiritual activity.

Women Personalities and Paranormal Television Shows

Where Did All the Strong Women Go?: Women Paranormal Television Personalities
By Robin Strom-Mackey

"I want it understood that this editorial is not meant to bash the females that make their fame and fortune [or at least their fame] on paranormal television shows, nor the men, but the television producers who go out of their way to cast women in comely, subservient roles - who do this knowingly and pointedly."

My son and I sat down the other night to watch Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the action flick with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. It is one of my son’s all time favorite movies, so we watch it often. If you’re unfamiliar with the movie, it involves a couple who are under-cover assassins. In fact, they’re so under cover that neither know what the other does for a living, nor that they‘re actually working for competing organizations. Of course, during the course of the movie they come to realize the truth, and then set about to do the only rational thing two undercover assassins can do; kill eachother. In one hilarious scene they actually beat the living tar out of one another, meanwhile destroying their home. It’s only after they’ve shot bullet holes in the refrigerator and broken every glass in the house that they realize that they’re made for one another. What I really enjoy about the movie is the fact that Jolie gives as good, if not better, than she gets.
Why am I going on about an action movie in a paranormal blog? Because Jolie is one sexy, strong woman, and it is that strength that makes the movie so intriguing to watch. Granted Angelina Jolie has the face of an angel, and could make a cat food commercial look sexy. But anyone familiar with Jolie’s personality both onscreen and off, must realize that it’s not just the face and body that make her so interesting to watch; but the strength of her personality. I’m not trying to set her up for hero worship. Certainly some of the things she has done during her career, especially early on, were (to be candid) rather…odd. But while a fan might not always understand or agree with her actions, one must always contend that she makes things interesting. Certainly there’s no denying that her character is both fascinating and strikingly sexy, in a dangerous, bone breaking way.

Things are not always that interesting in the world of women and paranormal television shows. Ghost Hunters is back with a new season, and their producer’s have made more of their predictable improvements, setting Jason and Grant up for most of the big, evidential finds, and the minor characters up for… comic relief? When was the last time or Steve and Tango did anything but set up the equipment and complain about spiders? And the women… What a big, sad sigh over the women. Lovely, shapely, 20 something’s Kris Williams and Ami Bruni, are a matched pair of milk and white bread, decorative and bland; they are about as interesting to watch as grass growing.

Gone are the days of Donna La Croix. I’m not sure there are any fans of the show’s early years that don’t miss La Croix. Donna didn’t necessarily have a in-your-face, strong personality, it’s just that she did have a personality. She had a kind of homespun, girl-next-door simplicity that made her interesting to watch. Also gone was the older lady who graced the early seasons, Kristyn Gartland. Again, a woman with personality; but, sadly, not 20 and not a size 2.

I, like many of my fellow investigators, have been watching the reality show competition of “Ghost Hunter’s Academy” with somewhat bated breath, wondering where this new dimension of paranormal television might lead.
The first thing I noticed is that “reality” is a term to used lightly. All the candidates are 20 and comely, it’s American television after all. Second, they chose the two male tech directors of T.A.P.S. to run the competition, Steve Gonsalves and Dave Tango. Not only do they come with a male bias, but I’ve observed that they tend to hold technical abilities as the litmus test for success for paranormal investigating. Of course none of the women candidates appear to have a strong technical background, so some may argue that they entered the competition at a disadvantage.

I’ve also noticed that the number of comments by Gonsalves and Tango, the judges on the show, are about two to one negative comments against the female candidates versus the male candidates. In one of the early episodes Gonsalves and Tango literally call a male contestant out of an investigation in order to berate him for agreeing with a female contestant. And another episode is pointedly entitled, “Drama Queen” in honor to the candidate named Jane Riley. Riley had a good idea which her male counterpart apparently ignored. Feeling slighted, and wanting to gain an edge, she bluntly told the judges at the setup conference that it had been her idea and that the male contestant had tried to slight her. Gonsalves responded by saying that Jane had thrown her male counterpart, “under the bus,” and that they must learn to work together with their team members.

While this might be true on a team of paranormal investigators, it’s markedly not true in a reality show competition where all of the competitors but one are to be eliminated, and where the very atmosphere must needs be one of every woman for themselves. I think, for this type of competition, the real ability is the cool use of duplicity, the ability to pretend one is a good teammate, while all the while searching out ways to show ones self to advantage over the other contestants. Arguably, Jane was far too forthright in her behavior and won only animosity for herself.

There are seven contestants on the show, three being women, with a fourth added later in the season. Of the four women, only two seemed to have a strong personality. The first was Heathyr Hoffman who granted made some errors in judgment and was the first to be eliminated. Hoffman, a self-professed medium was arguably not a good fit for the T.A.P.S. team, which leads me to wonder why she was chosen as a candidate in the first place - out of a pool of god only knows how many candidates. The second is Jane Riley. Riley, who I mentioned before, has not made many friends and will likely be the next one to go. This will leave only one female contestant and three males. Susan Utemark, while intelligent, appears to fit the more traditional female role of follower to her male counterparts. When Gonsalves and Tango were asked to comment on who they thought were the strongest contenders, they listed only two males.

The Lasses Are Not To Blame

I want it understood that this editorial is not meant to bash the females that make their fame and fortune [or at least their fame] on paranormal television shows, nor the men, but the television producers who go out of their way to cast women in comely, subservient roles - who do this knowingly and pointedly. In a telling interview on the pod cast Crossroads Paranormal Radio, Shannon Slyvia of Ghost Hunters International 2008 series said that while making the shows they had the cameras trained on them for hours on end. She explained that the television crew waited and watched for signs of weakness in her ,which were then edited so as to be interpreted by the audience as fear or questioning. Slyvia contends that she had as much training and experience as the team leader, Robb Demarest, but that clips were edited to look like she was seeking his direction. Slyvia also speaks of one investigation in Scotland in the middle of the summer. It being high summer, Slvia had brought lighter clothes, not realizing the Scottish climate to be chilly. In simple terms she was undressed for the conditions, and was cold. The camera operator caught Slvia shivering and edited the scene to look like she was scared or spooked.

Why Weak Women?

Television seems to relish its traditional roles of women as lovely, dumb and subservient, and television producers are still going out of their way to set women up in these roles. The why is what I would like to know. During an age when we have women in the Supreme Court, the House and the Senate, when women hold top management positions in huge corporations, when Angelina Jolie and several bold others have demonstrated that a woman can be strong, intelligent and interesting, are the producers of television shows still afraid to demonstrate this onscreen? The problem is that the weak female roles on paranormal investigation shows might arguably be making it tougher for the rest of us poor, non 20 something, non size 2, women in the paranormal field by downplaying the abilities of women as paranormal investigators. We watch “reality” shows on TV, and like it or not, both women and men internalize these behaviors. I really don’t want my ability as a paranormal investigator to be based on my ability to set up an I.R. camera - although with 15 years in the television industry I could probably show both Steve and Tango a thing or two about camera setup; which is exactly why I’ll never be chosen to make an appearance on their TV show.
Strom Mackey is owner and operator of Bianco Spirito Productions, Wedding, Event & Corporate Videography. She is also a former broadcast journalist and Television Production Instructor.

Ghosts in Court: Historic Lowes Cottage Decision

Ghosts In Court: Historic Lowes Cottage Decision

By Robin Strom-Mackey

In the English countryside of upper Mayfield, Derbyshire, England is a small, rather dowdy, country cottage of some antiquity; which despite it’s quiet surroundings and distance from humanity became the center of no small amount of controversy in the 1990’s.

Lowes [or Loews] Cottage was purchased in 1994  by Andrew and Josie Smith, when the couple moved into the dilapidated cottage with their children. Because of its condition, the Smiths had gotten the cottage for a low price, purchasing it with the intention to fix and flip it quickly for a hefty profit.  But according to the Smith’s, that dream was broken when they found out that the little cottage was home to more than them. According to the Smiths, a spirit or spirits had already taken up residence at the home, and did not appear particularly amenable to sharing the abode with the family.
In a television interview for Unsolved Mysteries: Ghosts, Josie Smith said that she recalled definite temperature drops in certain rooms in the house; and reported that in select areas one could, “never really see the ceiling for the hazziness.” Josie is on record saying, “We think the place is haunted. We’ve seen ghosts, we’ve seen articles thrown about, we’ve seen candles move.” And in his own interview, Andrew Smith indicated that inhabiting the house was stressful. “ Inside of you is churning up expecting something to happen. Even when it’s quiet you’re still on edge.“ He summed it up as being, “quite frightening.”

According to local legend, Lowes Cottage had been home to a milkmaid named Elaine Harry and her lover, a man by the name of Joseph Phillips, back in the 1860’s. It is purportedly Elaine’s former employer who murdered the comely milkmaid, perhaps due to jealousy, and buried her in the basement of Lowes Cottage (where the kitchen is now). Upon learning that his lover had been murdered, Phillips hung himself in despair, dying next to the body of his love - according to one version. The Smiths state that they found town records that verify the existence of the fateful couple.
Josie Smith contends that she once witnessed an apparition of a young Victorian lady in that very room. Josie apparently turned around to find a woman standing in the room with her. According to Josie the woman was dressed like a Victorian, with a “gathered top” tucked into a floor length skirt. But what really was unnerving was when Josie realized that the figure was semi-opaque, and that she could literally see the window frame behind which the woman was standing.

While the apparition of the young woman was frightening, that was nothing to the events of one fateful night. Josie reports that she awoke from sleep because of a pressure on her neck. She came fully awake to find that something or someone was seemingly trying to choke her. Andrew, in bed next to his wife was unable to help against the invisible assailant, and by the time the encounter ended, both were extremely frightened.

Understandably upset, the Smith’s sought religious counsel in the way of the Vicar of Blurton, Church of England Reverend Peter Mockford. The Smith’s enlisted the help of Mockford, who agreed to do a house blessing for the couple. Andrew Smith says that during the house blessing the entire cottage seemed to get visibly lighter, and that the atmosphere in the home seemed to lighten as well.
The Smith’s reprieve was sadly short lived. That very night, apparently, the ghost or ghosts began their onslaught anew.
As the Smith’s asked questions and sought counsel from religious and paranormal experts, notoriety about the small cottage began to build. At one point the Smith’s tried to refinance the mortgage on the home, only to have the bank turn down their request. It was at this point that the Smiths did something arguably different from the many other families that report having moved into haunted locations, the Smiths decided to sue the former owners for non-disclosure. The Smith’s attorney reasoned that, just as an owner would disclose bad plumbing or a faulty roof to a potential buyer, so too should the previous owners have disclosed the home’s otherworldly inhabitants.
The former owners were sisters Susan Melbourne and Sandra Podmore, whose childhood residence the cottage had been. Their father had passed away, leaving the cottage to them as an inheritance. They had then sold the residence to the Smith’s for a sum of $87,000.

The sisters were outraged by the suit, both claiming that they had never, in the twenty or more years they had resided at the property, experienced anything out of the ordinary. In her television interview Sandra states, It’s “rubbish, absolute rubbish. We never saw anything, heard anything, nothing unusual happened. There was nothing flying around rooms, there was no vile smells or mists - nothing at all.” And Susan Melbourne, agreed by stating that in her 25 years of living at the cottage, she had never heard or saw anything unusual, and certainly nothing associated with the “paranormal.”

Podmore and Melbourne answered the suit filed by the Smiths by countersuing for the final $6,000 they said the Smiths had failed to pay them for the property. The sisters agreed that the Smiths were lying about their ghostly inhabitants in an attempt to get out of paying for the cottage.

The landmark case was resolved in January 1999, by Judge Peter Stretton who ruled in favor of the cottage’s former owners, the sisters Melbourne and Podmore, saying, “I do not accept that it is haunted now or has been at any other time.” Judge Stretton described the actions of the Smith’s as “extraordinary.”
Since the court decision the Smith’s have moved out and have moved on. Lowes Cottage has since changed hands, and the new owners made fully aware of the supposed happenings at the now infamous cottage. Nothing new in the way of paranormal occurrences has been reported thus far. Did the Smith’s make the whole story up for publicity’s sake or are the Lowes Cottage spooks simply behaving for the time being? Very few people seem to know for sure. One thing is clear, however, and that is that ghosts appear to be very difficult to defend in court.

Meurer, Terry Dunn & Cosgrove, John, Executive Producers. Stack, Robert, Host. Unsolved Mysteries: Ghosts. Cosgrove & Meurer Productions, Inc. 1994

Karl, Jason. An Illustrated History of the Haunted World.
Barnes & Noble Inc. in Cooperation with New Holland Publishers, Ltd.: UK 2007.

High Tech Ghost Hunting

High Tech Ghost Hunting Gadgetry - 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 0.005nG; 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 S.W.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 S.W.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 S.W.P.R.G. for more developments (their website is listed below) and asking Santa for some hefty presents next year.

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

Haunting at the Old Town Hall

Haunting at the Old Town Hall

By Robin M. Strom-Mackey

In May of 2009 my ghost hunting group was contacted by Sarah Ferguson, Town Clerk at the Felton Town Hall, regarding strange activity in the building. Felton is a small town and the Town Hall houses not only offices, but a meeting room, summer library and police department. The building itself is an older home renovated for the purpose, with offices located in prior bedrooms and the conference table situated in the former parlor. Having stood in the middle of this tiny town for so long, the building has seen many such changes. In the 1800’s it was owned by a doctor who used the building for office visits. Later it was used as a nursing home, and later still it was a bank. In between its business uses, it was a home. A couple owned and lived in the building as late as the 1970’s.

Ferguson and Town Manager, Rebecca Greene, are in accord that there appear to be residents of the old building that haven’t left quite yet. The building was purchased from the bank in 2001, and nearly as soon as the deed was signed, the former residents made their presence known to the newest owners. The bank clerks had already informed the town employees of the unaccountable disturbances in the building– unexplained banging and knocking noises. The very evening of the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Town Hall, one of the Town Councilmen jokingly dared the haunts to do something to prove their existence. Almost at the moment the gentleman laid down his dare, the alarm system at the building went off. The alarm company came to turn off the alarm. Later they notified the Town that they had no explanation for the disturbance.

Activity in the building appears to be centered upstairs, namely in the hallway, bedroom, and on the lovely old staircase –one of the few remaining focal points. In particular, the spirits seem to love discomfiting the police officers. Burly and commanding, Police Chief, Levi Brown doesn’t appear to be an individual easily swayed by ghost stories. However, Brown told our team that he had occasionally been alone in the building on weekends, and had on more than one occasion heard noises for which he could not account. His first floor office lies under a portion of the upstairs hallway and the bathroom. The Chief reported that he would be working at his computer when he would hear what he described as the sounds of feet running, banging and knocking sounds, and what he distinctly said sounded like drawers in a wooden desk being pulled open and closed. When he went upstairs to investigate, invariably he found himself alone. A study of the space directly over the Chief’s office showed that the only set of drawers was in the bathroom. We attempted to manufacture the sound by pulling the drawers open and closed, only to find that the sound wasn’t audible in the office downstairs.

Town employee Michelle Schlimer recounted that her husband, Corporal Joe Schlimer refuses to come into the building at night when he is on duty alone, preferring to do his reports on the long, lonely nights from the relative safety of his squad car. Corporal Joe Schlimer admits that he, like Chief Brown, has heard footsteps in the building overhead and the sound, again, of drawers opening and closing. He admitted he only heard these sounds when he was downstairs, and only when he was alone in the building. A search of the upstairs always turned up the same results, there was no one else in the building. Schlimer also reports that he has had the uncomfortable experience of hearing footfalls following him down the stairs.

When not harassing police officers, the spirits often turn their attention on the office employees. Town Manager, Rebecca Greene, has her office on the second floor across the hall from one of the former bedrooms in the building, a room which seems to be the center of much activity. Greene told us that she hears the sound of a squeaky office chair at least once a week. She described the sound as an old spring chair such as a doctor might have used.

Greene admitted that she had also heard and seen some oddly unexplainable things in the building from time to time. Her office has the building’s security cameras routed to a computer and monitor sitting on her desk. Greene explained how on occasion she had witnessed strange lights in the IR cameras. She spoke of a reddish tinted light she had witnessed in the parking lot a couple of times. And one evening in particular, she was in her office after a Town Hall meeting when she saw a strange light in one of the downstairs rooms. She asked one of the Councilmen to go down to the office to take a look. The councilman stood in the same office with the light, which Green says was still visible on the screen in her office, but said he could see nothing. The unexplainable light lasted for a few minutes more, and has not been seen again.

The staunch Greene seems to take the strange occurrences in stride, finding the odd events more fascinating than frightening, even when one of the spirits decided to play a trick on her. Greene reports that after the initial investigation, activity in the building seemed to increase for awhile, as if someone were agitated by the interest. One evening she was coming downstairs when she distinctly heard the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs behind her. She turned around to see who was there and saw no one, though the footfalls followed her all the way down the stairs.

Investigation Results

The initial investigation of the Old Town Hall yielded some interesting result. In particular investigators in the upstairs “bedroom” reported several odd temperature fluctuations throughout the evening. It was a hot summer night, and yet several times during the evening the temperature in the room went down – even with the AC unit turned off. During one session an investigator managed to get the temperature to go down incrementally with voice commands, from 77 degrees to 70 degrees Fahrenheit at which time the AC unit kicked on!

Looking for the noise of the squeaky chair that Greene had reported didn’t render any results. Upon examination of the room we found no such chair, nor any chair in the room that seemed to duplicate that same spring sound. Greene admitted that she hears this sound a few times a week, leading me to wonder if it isn’t actually something left in the walls that perhaps contracts and expands with the changing temperature conditions in the building thus creating the sound. During the investigation of the building we neither heard nor recorded this sound.

While the team heard no chair sound, they did hear and capture a faint sound like a door opening and closing, in the second floor hallway. Upon questioning it was determined that no investigators were present in the hallway when the sound occurred.

The Town Hall folk feel that at least one of the spirits is a remnant of the building’s nursing home days. It is believed that an elderly woman was simply dropped off at the nursing home, abandoned there when her care became too much for her family. The team caught an EVP that seems to suggest this may be the case. During questioning one of the investigators asked, “Were you so sick that they couldn’t keep any longer?” On the recorder a “yes” response is heard. An EVP is a recording on some type of audio device that wasn’t heard at the time of the questioning, but is audible on the final recording. The “yes” response was not heard by the investigators at the time of the investigation. Not only does it appear to be a legitimate EVP, but it also seems to be in direct response to a question, which is suggestive of an intelligent haunt.

While the investigation did not produce enough evidence to prove or disprove a haunting at the location, it was sufficiently intriguing enough to justify another investigation which the Town Hall will sponsor this winter.