Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Book Review for Ghost Stories of Venice

Title---Ghost Stories of Venice: From Historic Spanish Point to Englewood
Author---Kim Cool
Published by Historic Venice Press (2002)
Amazon Purchase Information

I recently returned from a vacation to Cincinnati, Ohio. Usually when I visit another state, I like to pick up a book on that region's ghost stories. But, an impromptu stop at the Half Price Books store near our hotel resulted in the purchase of ANOTHER region's local legends---Venice, Florida. My paranormal library is already filled with titles from the Sunshine State, courtesy of my sister who always brings me home a lil' surprise from her vacations, but at $4, I couldn't just leave this book behind. Overall, I'm pretty pleased with that decision.

As the author discusses, Venice, Florida really isn't known for being haunted. The book gives a pretty good history of the town, which in the grand scheme of things, is actually quite 'new' as a modern city. Of course there is some Native American history there, and a smattering of information on early settlers and explorers, but the town itself really didn't get its start until the 20th century, when city plans were laid out as part of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. But, we students of ghost lore know that just because a place isn't 'old,' doesn't mean it cannot be haunted!

Venice suffers from the same ailment that many cities have---many people just aren't willing to discuss their ghost stories with people. But, as the author discovers, a little digging can result in other leads, culminating with a growing treasure trove of information. Within the book's 112 pages, the author manages to convince the local citizenry to share quite a number of spooky incidents from Venice and nearby locales. A few of the places featured are the Hermitage House, a residential area known as Venice Gardens, and the San Marco Hotel.

Granted, most of the ghost stories are pretty tame, and many are just personal experiences without a whole lot of substance to back them up, but they're entertaining and offer an enlightening glimpse of the unique history of Venice. For the most part, the book is pretty well written, although at times there are awkward repeats of information and the organization seems a little jumbled. However, there are some great photos, lots of interesting history, and a taste of ghost lore from a previously untapped area. If you plan on visiting this area of Florida any time soon, or simply love to read about ghost stories from different regions, this book should be a welcomed addition to your own paranormal library.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Monday Meme: Paranormal Experts

"Reading one hour per day in your chosen field will make you an international expert in 7 years." -Source

Every time I see this image come up, I wince a little internally. It's not that I don't get what the creator is going for--I totally understand. The paranormal field is a field with few absolutes or constants. One cannot be an expert or a professional in a field that specializes in subject matter that by very definition cannot be proven to even exist. And, as such, there can be no real governing bodies regulating and licensing paranormal investigators/ghost hunters. Aside from a few schools left that offer parapsychology degrees, one cannot obtain an accredited degree in chasing ghosts.


And that's a very big but....whether or not its intentional, this particular image represents to me personally much of what is wrong with the paranormal investigation field. We are never going to take this study beyond the fringe sciences with a mindset like this. This field will never be taken seriously until we acknowledge that 'expert' and 'professional' ARE words that are extremely applicable in this field!

The study of the paranormal is a broad subject, and even a more specific subset of that topic, such as afterlife study or afterlife communications (ie, ghost hunting), requires a multi-disciplinary approach. Researchers and investigators need to have a good working knowledge of topics such as history, photography, and of course, ALL of the sciences. These are all fields in which there ARE experts and there ARE professionals. When someone asks me about what type of field they should study in college to prepare for a 'career' in the paranormal, I always encourage them to study whatever it is they love---because just about any field you can study can be an asset to paranormal investigation. And, with a proper education, excellent experience, and being well-read, you CAN be an expert and you CAN be a professional in these areas.

Realistically, though, not everyone can be an expert in their chosen field and NO ONE can be an expert in every sub-field that makes up the paranormal investigation field. That's why its important to know how to network. For example, if you don't feel like your photography skills are up to par, find an expert in that field to examine any anomalous photos you might have. Just make sure to check out their credentials, fully. Your cousin who bought a fancy DSLR camera and takes pictures on the weekends is NOT a photography expert. He might be knowledgeable and even well read. He may even be able to help you out. But, without certain education and experience, he probably isn't an expert. Just keep that in mind before making any outrageous claims.

Taking it a step further, this image perpetuates the belief that paranormal research should never go beyond the fringe, and that I don't agree with. There is this widespread acceptance right now that anyone can investigate paranormal claims and be involved in paranormal research. I totally disagree---just cruising around the web, I see so many examples of people who absolutely have no business being in this field. These people do more harm than good to the field, spreading poor, incorrect or misleading information and partaking in investigations where they are more likely to just scare the crap out of their client than to provide any insight or answers. We don't allow just anyone to practice why should we allow just anyone to enter a private residence and try to communicate with the dead?

Well, I guess the answer is probably because what we do isn't considered a science, lol. But, within my lifetime, I'd like to see that changed. I'd like to see stricter guidelines and governing bodies in charge of paranormal investigators. I'd like to see increased educational standards and accredited places of learning. I'd like to see researchers and investigators with a healthy dose of common sense being properly trained and presenting themselves in a manner fitting a professional. Maybe then, we can finally do away with graphics like this one. We probably won't have as many paranormal researchers and investigators as we do now, but the idea of quality over quantity has always been MY mantra.  Happy Haunting!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Book Review: Raising the Dead

Title: Raising the Dead: A Doctor Encounters the Miraculous
Author: Chauncey W. Crandall IV, MD
Published: 2010 by FaithWords
Amazon Purchase Information

I was hesitant to even review this book, because it is my own belief system, not the actual writing, that has most heavily influenced my thoughts and feelings. And, I have no one to blame but myself. When I found this book at Goodwill for only $1, I saw the title and the subtitle and didn't bother reading the synopsis. I just assumed that it would be more from a paranormal perspective, rather than a supernatural one. Just a quick warning: if you are NOT a Christian, there's a good chance you will find yourself somewhere between being offended by this book, or simply finding it and its author laughably frustrating. I'm right in the middle...but without further ado:

Raising the Dead is a memoir of sorts, chronicling a Florida cardiologist's journey into the world of faith healing, the power of prayer, and divine intervention. After his own son is diagnosed with leukemia, the doctor and his wife do everything possible to get God on their side. Assisting a Mexican missionary, weekly flights across country to meet with the best doctors, and even a little pandering to the world's most well known televangelists---nothing is spared in the fight to find a cure. Too bad most of us poor folk don't have the funds to take last minute flights, buy and rent several homes at once, and convince famous nuns and other religious celebrities to meet with us personally.

Plunging head first into all this prayer and divine healing, the good doctor starts doing a little laying of the hands and praying over people at revivals himself. He feels he's so good at this, that he plays around with the idea of abandoning being a doctor and doing this full time. God tells him he gave him his off-shore medical degree for a reason and that he's in the perfect spot to save those who would normally not be saved through other means. So, he starts praying for and with his clients until the story culminates with him saving the life of a heart attack patient who had been declared dead for over half an hour.

Aside from the overtly radical Christian ideals, such as the devil being let in through an African fertility statue and watching Peter Pan, I found parts of this book to be absolutely appalling. There are so many statements, NON-religious statements, that this doctor makes that would lead me to NEVER put myself or someone I loved under his care. For starters, his "Yale education" is not exactly what it appears. After being rejected several times for medical school, Dr. Crandall ends up going down to a program in Granada, and only doing some of his clinicals at Yale, basically after (for the second time) playing the "we white English boys gotta stick together card." He also discusses how burdensome it is for him to be on-call for his hospital's emergency room, and doesn't even bother to hurry anymore when getting a code blue, taking his time and hoping that things are resolved by the time he gets there. Oh, and let's not forget about the time while serving with a missionary group that he had to be begged and coerced after refusing to administer aid to a fellow missionary who was involved in an accident.

I was also confused as to why he felt the need to point out how he liked to minister in a fancy suit, yet sit among the "dirty, smelly, cripples" in the back. Why feel the need to distance yourself, to create that barrier, yet claim to tear that same barrier down? To me, that sounds like he was trying to raise himself up as superior in their eyes, make himself god-like, which even as an atheist, I know is spoken against in the Ten Commandments.

I honestly wanted to really like this book, and in all fairness, the story itself is not a bad one. It was a quick, easy read that WILL leave you feeling SOMETHING. I don't disbelieve in the power of prayer and divine healing, but its a topic that I want to learn more about from a scientific perspective. However, even by trying to put my preconceived notions aside and look at things objectively, the over-the-top radicalized Christianity and the cocky, pompous doctor just turned my stomach. That's why I only gave it two stars. But, that's just THIS heathen's opinion. The book has raving reviews on Goodreads, with many people giving it at least a 4 star rating. If the topic is of interest to you, give it a look and let me know what YOU thought of it!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Monday Night Debate: Crossing Over?

This week's Monday Night Debate Question dealt with the idea of whether or not it should be a paranormal investigator/ghost hunter's duty to help an alleged entity 'cross over,' or otherwise remove that entity from a property.  Here are my thoughts on that touchy subject:

Many investigation groups, as part of their services, DO offer to 'remove' an entity or cleanse/bless the property. As this is an unregulated field with no real set rules, if that works for them, that's fine with me. We don't all have to do things the same way and we don't always have to agree. However, I personally do not think these services should be offered and my group does not promise them. The basic reason is that we cannot guarantee that a removal or cleansing will have any effect, and in some cases, it actually seems to make things WORSE. Let's take a closer look...

I have a few reasons I feel that way I do about this subject and the first is simply this---at this point in time, we cannot prove that ghosts, or what we perceive as ghosts, exist. We can't confidently measure or classify these suspected entities and we sure as hell cannot even begin to understand how they operate the way they do. Until we can answer these questions and know exactly what it is we're dealing with, we can't ethically say we can make it go away, never to come back.

Secondly, let's say that it is possible to remove an entity or to cleanse/bless a location. I'm actually all for doing ritualistic cleansing and banishing rituals as part of investigation after care, but such events are so deeply personal and rooted in faith that I feel the investigator should only help the client choose which method they most agree with, and facilitate the ritual. In no circumstance should the investigator be the one to take the lead.  Why? These types of rituals are mentally powerful. In order for a ritual to 'work,' the client must BELIEVE it will work. They need to choose a method that works harmoniously with their own beliefs and own it. Taking an active role in the process is very empowering and shows the entity that the client (and not some stranger that comes onto the property, only to leave again) is the one in charge.

Thirdly, even cleansings and removals that are deemed by those who practice such as being successful, don't always last. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that many times, clients will begin to miss their ghost or spirit. Excessive thinking and talking about that entity might be enough to invite them, or activity back in. There also tends to be certain behaviors that people are guilty of that seemingly attract paranormal activity. Just because one entity is 'removed' doesn't mean that the continuation of such behavior (things like drug abuse, domestic violence, etc.) won't bring in something else. And, if you're dealing with just a simple cleansing, cleansings are really only meant to clear out negative energy....not remove entities. Just like the dirt and dust in your home, it'll build up and you'll have to maintain it on a regular basis.

And lastly, let's look at things from another perspective. Should we make an entity leave a location and cross over? Again, I think that's fine if there's someone with mediumistic abilities that might facilitate a crossing over if that's what the entity wants...but who are we to demand they do so? Despite what some people think, we DON'T have all the answers. Maybe that entity is still here because it has a mission or unfinished business. Our interference could delay or stunt that entities spiritual growth and development. Or, what if what is on the other side actually is worse than what is here?

Instead of worrying about these types of issues, my preferred methodology when it comes to investigation aftercare is educating the client and helping them with the tools they need to feel comfortable in their own homes or places of business. In an overwhelming majority of cases, its is entirely possible to coexist peacefully with those on the other side, and aside from documenting potential evidence of those beings, that is my goal as an investigator.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Monday Meme: Pokemon Go Vs. Ghost Hunting

Unless you've been living under a rock, I'm sure you've heard all about Pokemon Go!, the new app that allows you to relive your childhood fantasies of becoming a Pokemon Master. The app takes users all over in search of PokeStops, gyms, and rare Pokemon. And, I gotta say....I love it!

Not everyone does, however. There have already been plenty of news stories about people getting hurt and breaking numerous laws in quest of the ultimate Pokemon capture. And then, there's the memes like this one above. Actually, this is a rather nice meme in comparison to some of the REALLY condescending memes made and shared by people who not only avoid the game, but feel superior to anyone who does play.

I think this particular image is rather interesting though...because I do both. And, as I found out this weekend, you can do both ALMOST at the same time and at the same place!

On Friday evening, HPIR attended the premier of the new Ghost Busters movie at Marquee Cinemas in Pullman Plaza. We were part of a promotional meet and greet for the film's opening, and had a wonderful time meeting other groups and talking to the public. Marquee Cinemas is also a PokeStop, so every five minutes or so, those with the app could reap the benefit of collecting some additional balls and items. We even caught a few Pokemon!

After the premier a few of us weren't quite ready to go home we did some impromptu ghost exploration at a popular cemetery in the area rumored to be haunted. We stayed at the cemetery less than 2 hours and encountered multiple cars and hoards of roaming walkers, all in search of Pokemon. And, for good reason. This cemetery had 20+ PokeStops within its boundaries. Seriously, I had never seen so many people in one cemetery at the same time, not even for a burial.

It was a fun experience, but it wasn't a very scientific one in terms of being able to accurately document potential paranormal activity. I like to think of the whole thing as a social experiment, though...and as hands-on learning experience. If you also enjoy Pokemon Go AND ghost hunting, here are a few things to take into consideration:

*It's loud. I did a quick EVP session at one of the legendary tombstones in the cemetery. Not only is the audio tainted with my own, 'I caught another Eevee!' commentary, but I also picked up the voices of OTHER Pokemon players who were flocking to the area because of a lure that was set off. Oh, and the traffic...picked up traffic noises, too, lol. Photographic data was tainted as well. In a few of my pictures, you could clearly see the glow of a stranger's cell phone, which could easily be mistaken for something anomalous.

*When a Pokemon shows up, its enough to set off sensitive equipment, such as a K-II. In fact, most smart phone notifications and updates will sett off equipment, which is why during a formal paranormal investigation, we would never actually have our phones out and turned on.

*And speaking of having phones out and turned on, it is rather difficult to observe and concentrate on potential paranormal stuff when you're more excited about the CP of the 50th Weedle you've seen that night. It's also hard to observe and concentrate when there are so many other people around you.

*Not everyone is on-board with the idea of hunting Pokemon in cemeteries and similar places. Some believe it is very disrespectful, and a few places, Arlington National Cemetery in particular, have put a stop to such activities. If you are in a cemetery for ANY REASON, especially ghost hunting or playing Pokemon, please remember to be respectful. If requested to leave, do so quietly, and be aware of any local laws or ordinances that may affect what you're doing.

*Speaking of laws and ordinances, most WV cemeteries, whether posted or not, close at dusk. The cemetery we visited is a county owned location that is popular among walkers and joggers at all hours, so I think they are a little more lax when it comes to enforcing that particular piece of WV code. However, please keep in mind that local law enforcement might not be as forgiving in smaller or more rural cemeteries. Again, if you are asked to leave, do so IMMEDIATELY without fuss, and if there are NO TRESPASSING signs or if the entrances are gated, do not attempt to enter the area.

*Keep safety in mind. You should never ghost hunt alone and you should never Pokemon Go alone, either. Be aware of your surroundings and the other people who might be around. There are already reports of being getting hurt and/or being mugged/attacked while out playing. Let someone know where you're going and when you'll be back, and always bring a friend along. It's more fun that way!

*In summation, I don't necessarily recommend playing Pokemon Go AND ghost hunting at the same time...and I sure don't recommend playing the game during any formal investigation. There are lots of great Pokemon Stops at or near places with a haunted reputation, but its probably best to keep the two interests separate from each other. It's also in your best interest to remember a few key points: use common sense, be respectful at all times, and be aware of your surroundings. I like to hunt ghosts, but I'm not ready to become one yet, and I'm certainly not ready to investigate any Pokemon Go related deaths!  Be careful out there and have fun!

*Do you have a Pokemon Go story that relates to the paranormal? Have an encounter with a ghost, a cryptid, or an alien craft while out trying to 'catch 'em all?' I want to hear from you! Join me over on Facebook to tell your story!*

Friday, July 8, 2016

Animal Facts--Paranormal Edition

Did you know that the Southern Crested Screamer screams because it sees ghosts?  Me either...but thanks to comedian, Obvious Plant (otherwise known as Jeff Wysaski ), visitors to the Los Angeles Zoo were recently enlightened of that fact. They also learned about a cheating flamingo, meerkats with the ability to telepathically control electronics, and the TRUE identity of our nation's first president.

The signs, posted throughout the zoo as a joke, quickly went viral...with a little help of Jeff, himself. That's a good thing, though. Now we can ALL get a lil' more educated on why owls love the theme from Friends, what would happen if you give 76 ducklings trombones, and other important pieces of data! For a collection of these important images, check out the Facebook page linked above, or go to THIS ARTICLE.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Spooky YouTube Subscriptions, Volume 1

Hey, everyone! It's a yucky rainy day here in my part of West Virginia...a day perfect for sitting around the house watching spooky videos.  So, today I thought I would discuss where I find a lot of the spooky paranormal lectures, documentaries, podcasts, and other short videos that I love to watch and share with you all.

If you're familiar with my blog and/or my Facebook page, you know I often stress two things: 1. Education in the paranormal field; and 2. FREE or cheap resources. That makes YouTube a perfect site for paranormal investigators and enthusiasts. There are so many awesome videos out there for us. You can find documentaries and television shows on just about any paranormal topic you can think of. You can see how other teams engage in the investigation process. You can analyze potential evidence. And, my favorite have access to lectures and conferences that time, cost, or distance might keep you from physically attending.

It would be impossible to cover all the great YouTube channels that provide this information, free of cost to anyone with internet access, but here's a few channels that I love and subscribe to. As usual, check me out over on Facebook to let me know what channels YOU would recommend to those in the paranormal community!

1. Appalachian UFO Research Society--A look at UFO footage and case summaries from the Appalachian region.

2. ASSAP Conference Films--Conference footage from various events hosted by the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomenon.

3. Captain Disillusion--Funny and educational, Captain Disillusion debunks viral videos, many deemed paranormal, that are just too good to be true.

4. ghosting12--This is the channel for a paranormal investigation team based in Ohio. Lots of history of the places they investigate, plus footage from investigations.

5. Haunted Road Media--Anything and everything paranormal, including new, original content posted every Tuesday.

6. Kenneth Biddle--Kenneth Biddle, of I Am Kenny Biddle fame, critically examines and offers a healthy dose of logic and common sense towards some of the paranormal community's more incredulous claims.

Like I said, it would be impossible to share EVERY awesome channel here with you, but here are six great channels to get you started. Again, hop on over to my Facebook page to let me know which channel you enjoy the most, and share some recommendations of your own! They just might show up in Spooky YouTube Subscriptions, Volume 2...