Monthly Archives: May 2016

Mirror, Mirror . . .

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I was listening to Into the Fray Radio a while back (sorry, can not pinpoint the exact episode) and Sam Sharon happened to tell a terrifying story about waking up and seeing words and images appearing in the mirrored door of the closet in his room (again, this was a while back so please pardon my lack of specificity).  At the time, I remembered thinking that the subject of mirrors would make a terrific post.

While I have not had any terrifying encounters with mirrors, I knew people, in my youth who had.  Now, I can not be entirely sure that some of these tales were not related to the consumption of controlled substances but I can say that several stories were told to me with right hand raised and the person swearing to me that they were ‘sober as a judge’ when the incidents occurred.  My favorite story comes from a young man who I will call Nate.

If Nate had grown up in another generation, people would have called him a goth.  He tended toward blacks and dark grays in all his clothing, was known to paint his fingernails black and, for the shock factor, sometimes were dark eyeliner when he was going out to bars.  He also, as you might expect, loved Dungeons and Dragons when he was not dabbling in the dark side of the esoteric.  Nate stated to me that he swore off any doings with the occult after the following incident.

Nate was a night owl long before he effected the Goth look.  If allowed to, he would sleep the day away and rise shortly before dark to commence his activities.  On this particular night though, he had to rise the next day for work and so retired at a sedate (for him) time of around midnight or one a.m.  Having consumed a libation or two before bed, he woke in the night and stumbled down the hall to his bathroom.  There was a large, oval mirror hanging in his hall and, when he passed this mirror, he happened to glance into the surface.  Immediately, he stopped, frozen on the spot.

It was not so much what he saw but rather what he felt that terrified Nate that night.  In his mind’s eye, or perhaps even to his physical eye, the mirror was filled with smoke.  What scared the life out of him, however, was the feeling that he was being drawn into the mirror, pulled by an unseen force into and through the surface smoke and into a layer of cold and darkness beyond.  Later, Nate would acknowledge that it was his essence or astral/etheric body that was being pulled but, at the time, Nate felt as if he were being physically sucked through a vortex into the darkness beyond.

Fortunately, Nate’s girlfriend happened to be sleeping over that night and heard something that woke her.  She stuck her head into the hallway and found Nate with his face pressed firmly against the glass.  Assuming that he was sleep walking, she pushed and shoved him away from the mirror and eventually, he “woke up”, wild eyed and inarticulate until he managed to calm himself enough to return to bed.  He did not tell her the full story until the next morning when he took the mirror down and covered it with a dark cloth.

Now, again, I can not attest to the absolute verity of this story.  Nate was a person of intellect and imagination and I know for a fact that he had used psychotropic drugs.  The thing that convinces me that something happened to him that night was the pallor of his skin and trembling when he told me the story later.  Something had genuinely scared the life out of him and whether it was sleep walking combined with dreaming, residual effects from his chemical experimentation or a paranormal experience, it was real enough to him to effect a change in his life.  To my knowledge, he got rid of all the questionable occult volumes in his possession (this was in the age before the internet).  I moved away from the area shortly after this happened and lost contact with Nate so I do not know if the change was permanent.

If you look at The Practice of Magical Evocation, the classic text by Franz Bardon, you will note that there is a whole section on ‘magic mirrors’ in the text.  Bardon notes that mirrors are used in spirit work for a variety of reasons: for scrying (a type of clairvoyance), for transmission of energy into a ritual space, as an energy reservoir, as a telepathic ‘telephone’ and as a protection against undesired influences.  Most important for our purposes though is that  “The mirror may be employed as a magnetic force for attracting the being that is to be evoked . . .”  Now, in the next sentence, Bardon discusses the use of a fluid condenser for bringing about this magnetic force but I would note that, in my experience, mirrors very easily become spirit portals if exposed to those energies over time.  Given this young man’s propensity for ‘messing with’ things of a darker nature, he may have set himself up for this scare through his own carelessness: a lesson to those who would dabble rather than taking the time to learn a system and learn it well before calling forth anything.  Remember the old adage: never summon what you can not put down.

Returning to Mr. Shearon’s fright, I would be interested in knowing what sorts of energies the closet mirrors in that bedroom had been exposed to.  What is the history of the apartment for example?  Had someone died violently there or perhaps even performed some magical act that had left an imprint.  Artists often have an gift for clairvoyance (known or unknown) so Mr. Shearon may simply have been picking up on something that was ‘left behind’ in the place.  If I wanted to get into really wild theorizing, I would wonder what projects, Mr. Shearon was working on at the time of the event?  Is it possible that the terrifying event was actually an inspiration for a horror piece that he was working on (or will be working on) transmitted into his consciousness as a vision of sorts?  Stranger things have happened.

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Movie Review: Minerva Monster

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As most of you know, I am an inveterate podcast listener and I could not help but hear about the folks over at Small Town Monsters and the series of films they are making about classic Sasquatch encounters.   I have listened to the interviews with interest and last night (15 May) I finally had a chance to go on Vimeo and rent the first in this film series.

I am not a fan of the “let’s run around in the woods, scare ourselves silly and do ridiculous things to attract Sasquatch’s attention” genre.  I watch the show that must not be named when there is a locale that I want to see and I can tolerate 45 minutes of people trying to pass off coyote howls and owl calls as Sasquatch vocalizations.  I am not totally against this mis-named show – it does raise awareness of Sasquatch and make people think about the creature – but I would think that people who spend as much time in the woods as these folks do would have better woodcraft.  I suppose it is simply a matter of generating suspense for viewers whose idea of the great outdoors is their backyard but I find it irritating after the first episode or two.

Having said that, I can assure you that Minerva Monster does not succumb to the temptation to copy the “successful” formula.  This movie is a straight up, serious documentary with no narrator about a classic Sasquatch sighting that happened in and around the Cayton property in Minerva, Ohio area in the summer of 1978.  The entire story is told from the perspective of people who were there and who witnessed the events or their aftermath.  Even the background on the town of Minerva is handled by the mayor and a local historian so that, often, the viewer feels as though he or she is simply sitting in a room with the person on camera, hearing their story.

I enjoyed the fact that there was no attempt to sell a particular viewpoint.  The cameras recorded whatever the witnesses told them no matter how outlandish. The most blatant example of this occurred when testimony was presented that indicated that the ‘monster’ was seen in the company of two large cats!  Anyone trying to present the bipedal ape or relict hominid angle would have cut this testimony but the director, Seth Breedlove, leaves it in and let’s the audience parse out what they make of it.

Another good example of this insistence on witness voice is the fact that no one in the film comes out and says that the Minerva Monster was a Sasquatch (or Bigfoot).  Some people say that they looked into the Sasquatch phenomenon after the episodes but most of the people in the film are of the opinion that something was there, something was seen but they really have no idea what it was.  I found this willingness to not try to explain the witness sightings and the findings most refreshing.

There were a number of other aspects of the film that were well done.  The closest that the documentary comes to computer animation is a series of drawings about events that are being discussed but which could not, of course, be recorded.  I believe these may be renderings from the talented artist who did the movie posters, Sam Shearon, but I am not certain on this point.  The production values are quite good for a small production shot on a tight budget.  As you would expect, there is nothing fancy in the camera work and sound but everything is clear and the only glitches with sound come from outside sources that could not be screened.  The background footage of the areas being discussed was useful in helping me visualize what the witnesses were talking about.  I would have liked to see a little more of the Cayton’s property and how it relates to the surrounding area but, again, given the limited resources for the film, editing decisions had to be made.

I would whole-heartedly recommend this documentary to anyone interested in the Sasquatch phenomenon and an in-depth presentation of a case that created a storm of media attention.  Not only does the film cover the sighting itself, it also talks about the aftermath of the sighting. The Caytons were faced with “yahoos” with pick up trucks full of beer and guns wanting to go on their land to hunt the creature, people blocking the street where they lived hoping for a sighting and subtle but pervasive ridicule in the town.  We often forget that sighting of an unknown anything can change people’s lives and not always for the better.

As noted, the video is available for purchase or rent through Vimeo On Demand but if, like me, you are impressed with the film, then you can purchase a DVD here.


Opening to the Paranormal

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Between blog posts and my fiction writing, I have been putting in some hours getting words on the page lately so, when the evening rolls around, I like to watch an hour or so of TV to let my mind unwind.  Of course, some of the things that I watch are back episodes of paranormal shows and, of course again, watching those shows queued me up for yet another blog post.

If you have been following the blog for a while, you will know that I am all for people doing paranormal investigation (and I include things like looking for Sasquatch here) as long as they do it in a safe manner.   Safety starts in the physical world with using your common sense and staying out of crime ridden neighborhoods and old unstable structures, not trespassing, having survival gear packed if you are going into the woods and so on.  I should not even have to mention this but the tragic stories that come out, now and then, about people who are injured or killed because they ignore basic safety precautions encourage me to remind folks to be careful out there.  Chasing ghosts and other things that go bump in the night does not obviate the need to pay attention to what is happening on this level of reality.

Watching these paranormal shows, though, I am struck, over and over, by the need for investigators to follow some basic energetic safety protocols.  I can not count the number of times I heard someone on one of the shows talk about opening themselves up to whatever was going on in the site they were investigating.  As I have pointed out, again and again in these pages, you want to know what you are opening to before you make such an invitation.  It is the height of idiocy to walk into any haunting, especially one that is being presented as hostile and open yourself to whatever presences are there.  Even mediums, who work day in and day out with spirits, know that there are basic protocols to follow when making contact with the Otherworld and that those protocols help to keep them safe.

Safety is not gained by trying out your new Shakti Helmet in the midst of a haunting where  a young girl is being plagued by a being described as a ‘lady vampire’.  While, in actuality, this entity did not turn out to be one of the astral predators that feed on energy, the investigator in this case did not know that at the time that he undertook this experiment.  As I have pointed out on a number of occasions as well, safety is also not gained by going into hauntings with a deliberately provocative and belligerent attitude.  Such behavior may stir up activity and make for good television but there is a reason why magicians have a saying that one should not call up what one can not put back down.

In a very real sense, the paranormal investigators who are walking around, calling out to spirits that are supposed to be in a place are practicing a rough form of evocation that can lead not only to paranormal activity but to attachments and worse.   I am minded of one investigator who stated that he was effected for several days after a particular encounter.  This should not happen; investigators should, at a minimum, have the tools to cleanse themselves energetically after ghost hunting.

Every occultist has favorite techniques for protecting themselves but, if you have no experience in this realm then I encourage you to read Michelle Belanger’s The Ghost Hunter’s Survival Guide: Protection Techniques for Encounters with the Paranormal.  Occultists of all stripes love their ‘tech’ and, reading some of the books out there on psychic protection and/or self defense, you might become convinced that you have to become a practicing witch or ceremonial magician to take care of yourself energetically during a paranormal investigation.  Ms. Belanger approaches psychic hygiene from a non-denominational viewpoint and allows anyone with an open mind to learn how to work with energy and how to use it to protect and cleanse themselves in the ghost hunting milieu.  This is a good book to get the rookie ghost hunter started in protecting themselves and makes a good companion volume for Ms. Belanger’s other book, The Psychic Energy Codex: A Manual for Developing Your Subtle Senses, a book that will get the novice started on developing the sensitivity to know what sorts of energies they are coming into contact with and what level of protection they might need.  Sometimes, with some wrathful entities, it is better to back away and re-group than to stay.

Be aware though that, in my experience, once you have developed some talent for energy work, you begin to ask “well, what else can you do with this stuff” and the next thing you know your bookshelves and Kindle are crowded with books on esoteric subjects.  You have been warned, the rabbit hole awaits!!

 


The Role of Psychism in the Paranormal

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I was listening to Marie D Jones on Into the Fray radio today and something that she and Ryan Sprague were talking about hit the “I need to write a blog on that” chord.  Basically, the discussion revolved around how, in some paranormal cases, one person will experience an event while another will stand to the side and wonder what all the fuss is about.

I first noticed this phenomenon in magical circles many moons ago.  In the more public era of my pagan life, I participated in quite a number of different rituals.  I would often come out of these rituals thrilled at the energies I had experienced only to have someone standing around at the feast afterward saying something like “it was a lovely ritual but I did not feel much”.  I remember thinking, in my more youthful hubris, that such people must be “concrete heads” not to have experienced anything in the ceremony.

In the same manner, two investigators may walk into a house that is allegedly haunted. One investigator may have multiple experiences while the other sits in the dark all night and experiences nothing, even with a coterie of electronic devices to keep that investigator company.

It seems, at times, as though the paranormal is controlled by an intelligence that is determined to leave humans standing, scratching their heads.  Given the many legends of trickster spirits, I think there is likely something to that idea but I also think that, often, there is a much simpler explanation of the seemingly random firing of the phenomenon that we study: sensitivity.

In the more public period that I spoke of above, I used to earn part of my living doing readings at my local metaphysical book store.  I can not begin to tell you how many people I looked at and asked “why are you talking to me, you could be doing this reading for yourself?”  Mouths would drop open and expressions of denial would spring to their lips but the truth was that , even though they denied it, these people had a lot of latent psychic ability.

You might recognize these folks: they are the people who ‘just have  a feeling’ that they should turn right instead of left and avoid an accident, who always seem to know who is calling or who have dreams about things that subsequently happen.  They do not think of themselves as psychic since only “those” people (you know the ones with the dark, incense laden parlors, cheesy robes and turbans) are psychic.  Whether they own the title or not, these people have enough ‘bleed through’ of their psychic abilities to respond to them, even if it is only at a barely conscious level.

On the other hand, you have people who, for one reason or the other, have sealed themselves away from their psychic selves, put those abilities behind a door and throw away the key.  I referred to these people as ‘concrete heads’ above and this is a pretty apt description; nothing short of the physical manifestation of the Archangel Michael or a strong poltergeist slapping them in the back of the head is going to get through to these people.  Whether it is their upbringing in a fundamentalist setting or simply their fear of being outside societal norms, these folks will not allow themselves to utilize the psychic, at least not consciously.

Psychic sensitivity runs a continuum, of course, from those that are aware of their abilities and use then to those that simply refuse to acknowledge psychicsm at all and will consciously ignore any input that does not arise from rational thought.  Add to this the fact (at least in my world) that no two psychics are the same and may have quite different modes of psychic perception and you begin to understand why two or more people in the presence of a paranormal phenomenon may have markedly different experiences.

Let’s go back to our haunted house and add another ghost hunter.  So, we have one ‘concrete head’, one sensitive person of some sort and one person who identifies as a medium.  The person who has shut away their psychism will very likely experience nothing or only have vague feelings of disturbance that they may or may not be able to verify with their equipment.  The sensitive may feel cold spots, have the feeling of being watched or may actually feel that they have been touched.  The medium, if there are spirits present may actually be able to see or hear those spirits and communicate with them.  Different level and varieties of psychic talent; different experiences.

I would make the argument that it is good to have different types of people on an investigation team.  If you have a whole team of mediums on a ghost hunt things are going to get out of hand pretty quickly.  On the other hand, a team of concrete heads will find that their investigations are, for the most part, not very interesting.  If you have different levels of ability on a team though then you have the opportunity to cross check what is going on around you.  If the medium on point says that they feel a spirit in a location and the concrete head tells you that there is a twenty degree temperature drop in the area the medium is pointing to then you can be pretty sure something is happening.  If the concrete head is even feeling a vibe about a place, then you might want to hold your medium in reserve or have them go in shielded to avoid over-taxing them.

 


The Extraterrestrial Hypothesis

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I am an occasional listener to Where Did the Road Go?, a podcast that covers a variety of paranormal/Fortean topics and which often features very interesting guests.  In the linked podcast, Seriah Azkath, the host of the show, is discussing the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) with author Joshua Cutchin, writer of the fascinating A Trojan Feast, a book that explores food in faery, UFO and Sasquatch legends.  The interview itself is quite interesting but it got me thinking about why I am not a huge fan of the ETH either.

I think that there are some huge barriers to the ETH and the first of these is the assumption that aliens are rather like us and have similar motivations.  Ask the man on the street what an alien looks like and, chances are, the image of the grey alien from the cover of Communion will pop into most people’s minds.  In most science fiction, aliens are depicted as organisms with two arms, two legs and a head.  The writers and movie makers may make them look insectoid or reptilian to make them strange but they are still basically modeled on the human frame.  Given the vastness of the universe, I think it entirely likely that life may have evolved in a variety of forms, some which we would not recognize or even, possibly, be able to perceive.  Being a person who saw every one of the original Star Trek episodes multiple times when I was young, I am minded of the episode “The Devil in the Dark” where the Enterprise crew encounters a silicon based life form.  The being was certainly intelligent but it was in no way space faring and had no desire to be.

In line with the above idea, intelligence does not equal the desire to explore the galaxy or even make one’s presence known.  I think it entirely likely that an advanced civilization could evolve with a decidedly isolationist bent.  Even if they were aware of other beings out in space, their culture might be such that they had no desire or interest in contact or in seeking those other beings out.  We saw a classic example of this here on Earth with the Japanese.  Until Commodore Perry and the forced entry of the West into Japan, the Japanese were quite happy to keep their country to themselves.  Foreigners were welcome to trade but were kept strictly in port cities and Japanese society and culture developed during this time with very little input from the outside world.  No one would argue that the Japanese are not an intelligent people; they chose, as some alien cultures might, to keep to themselves.

Now, let us say, for the sake of argument that an advanced civilization develops out in the depths of space and that they are interested in exploring deep space.  The next huge hurtle that we have to overcome is distance.  Even traveling near the speed of light, it would take inordinate amounts of time to travel from point A to point B in this galaxy alone.  Even if the aliens were capable of some technological feat that allowed them to travel faster than light (something our physics does not seem to allow, at this time), there would still be a considerable investment of time, resources, energy, etc. in such travel.

Why on earth would these technologically advanced aliens be coming to a backwater planet inhabited by hairless bipedal apes that are intent on destroying not only themselves but also the planet they live on?  Why would they want to have anything to do with a species so barbaric that it slays intelligent beings living in the sea because it is more profitable to allow their deaths than to take precautions to save the intelligent creatures (dolphins for those who missed it)?  Why would these aliens not simply do a quick scan of our planet and take themselves elsewhere, assuming that they bothered to visit at all?  There is no guarantee, after all, that a space faring race would be using ‘space lanes’ close enough to Earth for them to even notice us.

The ‘space brother’ sector of believers in the ETH would have us believe that the aliens are visiting to help us, to guide us to a more peaceful existence and awareness of our place in the cosmic interweave.  This is a nice thought, but it seems to me that, if the space brothers wanted to do this, they certainly, with their tech, could have found a better way to get their message out than sending a few half-mad channelers out to announce the good news.  All in all, the space brother concept smacks of wishful thinking derived from the beginnings of the Atomic Age.

Other ETH supporters put forth the the idea that the aliens want something from us and, in the abduction scenario, it often seems that the aliens are engaged in some type of genetic experimentation.  Again, a race with the technological sophistication to bridge interstellar space would, I think, be quite capable of taking whatever they want from us.  If it happened to be mineral wealth of some kind, I am sure that they would have developed the tech to do basic mining.  If they had decided to do genetic work with us, I doubt seriously that they would have the need to repeatedly kidnap people, perform painful procedures on them with brutal instrumentation, impregnate them and then steal the fetuses as some have claimed they do.  It might be a bit of a logical jump, but I suspect that a race capable of bridging the stars would have the medical tech to perform their experiments with minimal invasiveness and absolutely no awareness on the part of the test subject.

Now, as I have said repeatedly in these pages, something is happening to abductees but I do not think we really have a clue what that something is and I doubt seriously that it has anything to do with extra-terrestrials.  Before we look to an outer space solution for this complex of issues, I think we need to look hard at explanations ranging from the possibility of beings existing on our planet that we can not perceive with our senses (the theory of plasma beings, for example) to the possibility (probability in my mind) of inter-dimensional beings coming through to our world.