Thursday, June 30, 2016

Book Review for Haunted Rock and Roll

Title: Haunted Rock and Roll---Ghostly Tales of Musical Legends
Author: Matthew L. Swayne
Published: 2014 by Llewellyn Publications
Amazon Purchase Information

If you're looking for a really fun, fast-paced, spooky summer read, pick up a copy of Haunted Rock and Roll, by Matthew L. Swayne. It's a wonderful collection of all the legends, curses, and hauntings that permeate the rock and roll industry. The book begins where it all started---the strange tale of the Grandfather of Rock and Roll, Robert Johnson, and his mysterious trip to the crossroads. Other tales of interest include the 27 Club (of which you do NOT want to be a member), the Buddy Holly Curse, and Ricky Nelson's haunted house.

The book is divided into four sections: 1. Rock Star Ghosts, 2. Haunted Studios and Concert Venues, 3. Premonitions, Signs and Omens of Rock and Roll, and 4. Rock and Roll's Most Famous Curses and Mysteries. Each section is filled with chapters providing the best examples of each category.

As I said, this is a fun read, and I definitely recommend it for light reading into the subject of ghosts and rock and roll. For the most part, it was well-written and informative without being boring. However, there were some issues with the formatting that bugged me. It seemed like some of the information overlapped pretty hard---sometimes information would be repeated in various places in the book. Sometimes, a story would be broken up over different sections, with references back and forth between the chapters. I personally prefer books of this nature to be a little more clear-cut and wrap up nicely within a chapter. Still, it was a nice way to kill some time and learn about a few things I wasn't familiar with. Of course, most people interested in ghost lore will have heard of many of the spooky things discussed in the book, such as the 27 Club, Led Zeppelin's occult dealings, etc., but there are a few more obscure references (like the Fohn/Foehn Winds) that make the book worthwhile. Give it a read for yourself and let me know what YOU think!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Wednesday Meme: Photoshopping Evidence

I usually do a Monday Meme, but I thought this was too good an image to wait, lol. And, it asks a very valid question in the paranormal community: "Why do some people fake evidence?"

There's no real right or wrong answer. People are weird and they do weird things, sometimes for no explanation at all. However, I've personally found that there are a few more prominent reasons why people tend to fake paranormal evidence.

1. Some do it for attention and prestige. They want people to ooh and aah over their great captures, and luckily for them, there are PLENTY of gullible folks out there in social media land that blindly accept any and all potential paranormal evidence as the Holy Grail. Just check in at any Facebook paranormal group and you'll see hundreds of "Great capture!" and "I see it, too!" comments on well-known ghost app photos. Other people may have an even more invested reason to fake evidence---those that run haunted tours or public investigations may believe that more people will be willing to spend their hard-earned cash at a location that is more likely to result in the capture of paranormal evidence. I won't name any names, but many of us can probably name at least one example where this has happened in recent years...

2. Sadly, some do it to mock us in the paranormal field. People like to feed off that gullibility that I mentioned in reason number one, and then get their kicks by proving everyone wrong. So, they manufacture 'evidence,' pass it off as real, and after an appropriate amount of oohing and aahing, drop the hammer and let everyone know they faked it. Unfortunately, these types of people often succeed in blemishing the paranormal community's reputation. I've seen countless articles about photos and videos being examined by paranormal 'experts,' only to be proven fraudulent later on. While we know that there really is no such thing as a paranormal 'expert,' it gives the impression that all of us in this field lack the scientific aptitude to come to logical conclusions.

Thankfully, there aren't too many people out there actively faking evidence. More often, you'll see people submitting fraudulent 'evidence,' mainly ghost app photos, simply out of ignorance. They may have found the image online and are looking for opinions, or they have been the victim of an innocent prank by a family member or friend. And, the majority of bad 'evidence' being submitted is still just ol' fashioned misidentification of natural phenomenon!

Oh, and a quick pet peeve:  'Photoshop' is a brand name. Not every image that is digitally altered is 'Photoshopped, ' especially those that are the result of smart phone apps. Therefore, I prefer to just use the term 'digitally altered' (despite the name of this post) IF in fact it was digitally altered. Well before digital photography was a thing, there were ways, such as the burn and dodge technique, of altering film images. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Psychic Escapologist

Ready for a little weirdness? According to the book, Stupid History: Tales of Stupidity, Strangeness and Mythconceptions Throughout the Ages, by Leland Gregory (and a few other sources):

On April 13, 1977 a woman named Yvonne Whittlesham decided to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee in a somewhat unorthodox way. Billing herself as a 'psychic escapologist,' her plan was to don an iron helmet, which rendered her completely sightless, get in a car, and drive blindly down the road for one mile at 60 mph. Her only source of navigation was to be the telepathic communications of the crowds gathered to watch the spectacle.

Queen's Jubilee Celebration
As you can imagine, this quickly proved to be a bad idea. After the psychic communications allegedly ceased as Wittlesham hit 50 mph, she decided to keep going. However, she felt the urge to sharply turn the car. In doing so, she veered directly into the corner of a barn, knocking herself unconscious. She survived the crash, but I'm guessing her reputation as a 'psychic escapologist' took a hit.

I am all for demonstrations of psychic ability as a means of research and education, but please...don't try this at home. Stick with the Zener cards and random number generators and leave the stunt driving to, well, stunt drivers.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Fact or Fake: Alice Cooper and the Ouija Board

Alice Cooper, formerly known as Vincent Furnier
I love Alice Cooper. I love his music. I love his shock rock/glam rock image. And...I love his love of the paranormal. I've mentioned Alice on my Facebook page a few times due to his social media activity. He often posts stuff you'd typically find in any paranormal themed Facebook group---pictures of creepy looking homes, freaky facts, and paranormal news stories.

It's no surprise that someone so interested in the strange and spooky side of life would be so heavily influenced by it, so much so that he'd actually change his name and become almost another person because of it!

There are different variations of the legend, but the basic story states that Vincent Furnier received a message via Ouija Board that he was the reincarnated soul of Alice Cooper, a young woman accused of being a witch in the 17th century. He quickly adopted that name for himself and his band, and the rest is history. Or is it?

This tale has been passed around for years in some form or another. In one version, young Vincent casually came up with the name at a party, while he and others were brainstorming what to call their band. He likened 'Alice Cooper' to 'Lizzie Borden,' a juxtaposition of sweet and deadly, and when several days later a Ouija board came up with the same name, he knew it was fate. (Source,) We'll save the discussion of the ideomotor principle for another blog.

In another variant, Alice wasn't looking for a name reminiscent of a little girl...but of an old woman, and 'Alice Cooper' seemed like a perfect example (Source). In  yet ANOTHER variant, Alice explains that he personally didn't have anything to do with the Ouija board aspect of the was a guy named Dick Phillips and his mother who learned that Vince was Alice incarnate through their own use of the board (Source).

It seems like with every telling and even with every interview, the story changes slightly. At this point, I don't even think Alice really remembers how and why he became to be known as Alice. It definitely adds to the mystery and the mystique and in this case, I'm personally okay with it! Some things in life are just better left unknown...

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Curse of the Foehn Winds

Arabella High Rise, Munich Germany (Source)

Does weather really have the ability to affect our psyche? Can it lead to suicide....or even murder?

A few days ago, I finished reading a really fun book called Haunted Rock and Roll by Matthew L. Swayne. The book briefly mentions the Musicland Studio in Munich Germany. The studio was a popular one throughout the 1970s and 1980s, with bands such as Led Zeppelin, Queen, and the Rolling Stones recording their hits within its dark walls.

But, there was something strange about studio. Many of the artists who spent time there reported feeling extremely uncomfortable. They claimed that there was an evil sense of foreboding that permeated the space, and sensations such as depression and isolation were common. A few even believed that their careers took a downward turn after time spent there. Some began whispering that the studio might even be cursed.  But, why would the studio be cursed?

Musicland was established in the late 1960s by Giorgio Moroder, an Italian record producer. The studios were located in the basement of Munich's Arabella High-Rise Building. The Arabella is a 23-storey skyscraper, built between 1966 and 1969. Over the years, rumors began circulating among the bands that recorded at Musicland that the Arabella was a popular place for suicide victims, the preferred method being to jump off the roof.

A theory has emerged as to why this particular building attracted such a high number of suicides and why so many who used the basement studios felt a curse was attached to the property: the Arabella Hotel is in the line of a weather phenomenon called the Foen (or Fohn, in Germany) Winds. The term 'Foen Winds' originally was used to describe the mass of warm winds that would quickly blow south, down over the Alps, melting the snows and significantly raising temperatures. Today, the term is used to describe the same phenomenon occurring at any mountain.

These strong, hot winds didn't just bring higher temperatures, they also brought weird behaviors. Over the years, studies have shown that those in the path of these winds are likely to suffer higher rates of migraines, suicides, homicides, and delusions. Munich University did a study that seemed to show at least a 10% increase in suicides during Foehn Winds. But HOW does a wind cause so much turmoil in people?

In the 1950s, an Israeli team studied the effects of a similar weather pattern and concluded that the culprit was the concentration of ions in the air. According to an article by Joe Kloc, "When the wind blows, it accumulates positive ions. This causes a rise in serotonin production, which in turn leads to nausea, vomiting, migraines, and a number of potential other side effects." 

For over a hundred years, the Foehn Winds have been great source material for legends and superstitions, and have been mentioned in literature over and over for their strange ways of affecting people. Now, science is finally helping explain WHY. Fortunately for recording artists, the Musicland Studios no longer occupy the basement area of the Arabella. In the early 1990s, a new subway route nearby began to affect the quality of the recordings, so the studios were shut down. 

Sources/Further Reading

Friday, June 17, 2016

Friday Funny: Hell Hounds Welcome!

Ha! Here's a little Demon Week humor for you. I'm not gonna lie---I had to read that twice. I guess Hell Hounds are perfectly acceptable in the common areas of Pendle College's student housing?

Hehehehe...anyway, apparently this sign is a clever lil' play on words in reference to the Pendle Witch Trials, England's most famous and well documented set of witch trials in history. What do you this sign funny, meh, or just in poor taste?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Book Review for Ghosts: A Natural History

Title--Ghosts: A Natural History: 500 Years of Searching for Proof
Author--Roger Clarke
Published--by St. Martin's Press, October 2014
Amazon Purchase Information

If I could only use one word to describe this book it would be: British. Very, very British. That makes sense, though, since it was written by a British author who follows the advice of 'write what you know.' The book starts out with the author's own experiences with a potential haunting, and then goes into an excellent and critical look at some of England's most famous paranormal cases and paranormal researchers.

The term, 'British,' however, doesn't just describe the subject matter. The tone of this book is very 'British' as well, and quite honestly, it took me awhile to really get used to the dry, subtle humor, some of the more obscure references, and general tone of the book, which was very sophisticated and academic. That doesn't mean this book wasn't EXCELLENT, though, because it was! Anyone with an interest in paranormal research will likely be familiar with the majority of topics discussed in the book, such as the Borley Rectory haunting, the Brown Lady of Raynam Hall photo, and the spooky goings-on at Cock Lane. But, whatever you THINK you knew to be facts about these cases, Clarke challenges with his in-depth research. Clarke manages to uncover and present to the reader details about famous paranormal subjects and incidents that other books tend to leave out. I've definitely had MY perception about a few cases changed, but better yet, I've been inspired to do a lot more digging of my own.

Overall, I would HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who is passionate about the paranormal. It makes a great addition to any investigator's library and definitely should be required reading for anyone serious about the study of the unknown. I do, however, believe that this is a book better suited to someone who already has a good working knowledge of British ghost history. While Clarke does a VERY thorough job describing each topic, much of the writing comes across as if he is taking for granted that the reader isn't a complete novice to the field. And, while it is a very objective and fair book that represents the facts of each case with very little personal analysis, it might be better suited to a reader who is open to the more skeptical side of paranormal research, because not everything is what it seems....