Flavor of the month: Spirit Communication and the Charlie Charlie Challenge!

Last month it was sucking on shot-glasses. This month’s episode of ‘What’s sending kids to therapy’ seems to be the #CharlieCharlieChallenge.

The newest craze this month is to scare yourself senseless using two pencils and a piece of paper with the aid of a friendly Mexican Demon called Charlie.

Okay. Stop.

A Mexican Demon called Charlie? Why not Jose`? Or Eduardo? Charlie seems so… not scary…

Oh wait… on second thoughts…

Yep. That's scream-worthy material.

Yep. That’s scream-worthy material.

Yep. There it is.

The story goes that you write your question to Charlie on a piece of paper, drawing a cross in the middle, writing “Yes” and “No” in the diagonal boxes and placing two pencils over the cross that you’ve made.

Spirit Communication-ception... Charlie Charlie on a OUIJA BOARD!

Spirit Communication-ception… Charlie Charlie on a OUIJA BOARD!

You then ask “Charlie, Charlie, are you there?” and the wonderfully co-operative Hispanic Demon will move the pencils to point at the answers.

Sound familiar?

Wheel of Paper-Fortune!

Wheel of Paper-Fortune!

I remember drawing a Ouija board during a sleepover when I was 9 and asking the spirits whether my primary school crush and I would get married.

Just look at me now!

Paracon 2014 - mass Ouija session! Darrin Langbien Photography ©

Paracon 2014 – mass Ouija session!
Darrin Langbien Photography ©

Not to mention I used to be rather fantastic at making those origami Fortune-Teller thingos. I was pretty sure that I’d memorised the number patterns to get the result that I wanted each and every time.

But those were child’s play. We’ve got manipulated objects and floating pencils that seem to agree with teenage girls when they ask whether or not One Direction is the best band on the world.

I must admit that it would make sense for 1D to be in league with a Demon, judging by the unholy noise that reaches my ears whenever “What Makes You Beautiful” comes on the radio.

DEMON CHILD! DEMON CHILD!

DEMON CHILD! DEMON CHILD!

But this seems to have riled up a lot of religious groups. Catholic Online have published a letter allegedly written by a priest from Philadelphia that states;

“There is a dangerous game going around on social media which openly encourages impressionable young people to summon demons… I want to remind you all there is no such thing as ‘innocently’ playing with demons. Please be sure to NOT participate and encourage others to avoid participation as well. The problem with opening yourself up to demonic activity is that it opens a window of possibilities which is not easily closed.”

This is from a faith that used to perform Exorcisms on newborn babies because of their close contact with a woman’s birth canal…

So what makes the Charlie Charlie Challenge different from your run-of-the-mill Ouija Board? The fact that you’re supposedly drawing on an actual Demon by name rather than an ‘unknown spirit’?

#BloodyMary

Oh, of course; like everything else credible on the internet… it’s on Twitter!

In all seriousness though, I was interested at how this seems to be the ‘Bloody Mary’ or ‘Candyman’ of Gen-Z. What used to be locking yourself in a dark bathroom and whispering ‘Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary’ in a mirror has now become a blurry video taken on a mobile phone with “Charlie, Charlie, are you there?” followed usually by several screams when the pencils succumb to gravity and roll onto the floor.

How most Twitter #CharlieCharlieChallenge videos go…

So let’s get the facts.

5 Facts about the Charlie Charlie Challenge from an actual Paranormal Investigator:

1. There is no Mexican Demon called Charlie.

The most predominant religion in Mexico is Roman Catholicism, closely followed by Protestantism. These Christian Demons have classy names like Abaddon, Beelzebub, Malphas and Mammon. If you’re looking for a demon native to Mexico try summoning a Tzitzimitl or asking the Goddess Itzpapalotl to toss some of her ‘devil’ minons your way.

They won’t know much about One Direction though; these feminine deities tend to prefer to cause solar eclipses and generally promote fertility. So if you feel like having a baby or three… go with it!

2. Gravity can be a crafty bastard.

Think about it; you’re balancing a light object on another light object via a tiny, tiny contact point. The smallest breeze, movement on floorboards/uneven floor or stray breath could spell the difference between a disappointing waiting game and a false positive.

If you actually want to give this a go properly use an even surface, angled pencils (with some kind of straight edge) and cover the paper and pencils with some kind of glass dome or windbreak.

Have someone to observe and record, out of the circle and removed from the exercise almost entirely.

Ask control questions to begin with; what will be a ‘Yes’? What will be a ‘No’? (We can’t assume that all spirits know how to read English, right?) And when you have the chance, repeat your questions for clarification.

3. It’s all fun and games… until someone gets hurt.

As with any kind of attempted spirit communication; don’t be an asshat. Lining up a big prank to scare the bejesus out of someone can lead to some broken friendships… or serious injuries. Remember that everyone responds differently to fear.

And for the more Paranormally-inclined; be responsible. Summoning a spirit by any means  – paper, board, EVP session or scrying in a mirror – means that you’re open to everything. Specify boundaries before charging in guns blazing and question everything!

4. Get real.

What kind of Demon would actually lie in wait to answer questions about Algebra and One Direction?

Do they draw straws and the Demon who draws the short one today gets ‘Charlie’ duty?

The same goes for spirits; how many times can you stand being asked ‘If you’re there can you make a noise?’. Don’t waste time on trivial things like ‘What’s my middle name?’ and ‘Who will Johnny kiss this summer?’. Get names – first and last names – dates, towns… something tangible that can be researched either online or in archives.

I’ve had a session where we got the first and last name of a spirit that was correlated with an entry that I found in the Australian War Memorial archives. Not only did I scry his first name, our Ouija session found his last name and actual historical research backed that up! Nothing compares to the feeling that you actually connected with someone who was once a living human being – no matter how tragic their story may be.

Mind = Blown.

+

5. Be prepared for… nothing.

Don’t be disappointed if nothing happens. Spirits aren’t circus animals; they don’t float around thinking “Jesus H. Christ I’m bored! I wish someone would ask me to spike a K2 meter!”

And going further than that – reoccuring evidence of spirits is still yet to be proven – be prepared to accept the fact that you may or may not be talking to thin air.

Lastly;

As always, with any sort of spirit communication; if you do get something that may be an answer, thank them! You have no idea how much energy that effort may have required on their part. They’re doing you a favor!

Don’t forget to close off your conversation, even if you don’t get any evidence or movement. I like to finish up with something like “Thankyou for anyone who attempted to communicate with us; we now remove all permissions and ask that you remain here in peace. Have a lovely day!”

(Okay maybe not the ‘have a lovely day bit’… it depends on how overtired I’m feeling…)

If you feel things starting to get creepy or uncomfortable: stop. Don’t just get up and run away though, close the session (see above) immediately and go Google some kittens with your friends. Check that everyone is feeling okay about what they just experienced and if anyone is feeling creeped out then talk it out.

Kittens: the ultimate Paranormal Anti-drug.

Kittens: the ultimate Paranormal Anti-drug.

If you want any tips for spirit communication or feel like an arguement about how Ouija Boards are the portal to the Hell then feel free to contact me and check out my Facebook page for updates 🙂

Peace out!

XxTGWxX

Shortie; Talking Boards; the hangup over “hells hotline”

This is just a small post because I want to show off 🙂

I would like to take this opportunity to tell you all about my newest acquisition; a traditional-style Ouija™ Board signed by the God of talking boards himself, Robert Murch.

Oh and the Emmy-nominated writer of 30 Odd Minutes and Ghost Adventures – Jeff Belanger – but, whatever 😉

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Isn’t she beautiful? The planchette also glows in the dark – useful! – but what I love is the design of the board, which hasn’t changed a great deal for the last 100 years. It has a beautiful old-world Occult feel about it that I love.

I have used talking boards before, though all of my (serious) experiences with them so far have been with the Psychic Circle Board by Amy Zerner. Now I’m not including the times that we made a spirit board whilst sleeping over at my friend’s place when I was 8. That was just… ridiculous, and – I will admit, knowing what I know – rather stupid.

I first saw the Psychic Circle Board in a Psychic Skills workshop with Andrea Kaldy from Validate. I suppose in the beginning I perhaps felt a little comforted, or less afraid, because the board didn’t look anything like a Ouija™ Board (I had no idea that Ouija was actually a brand, not the type of board) so therefore the chances of waking up the morning after the board session tied to a bed, talking in tongues and projectile vomiting would be slim.

I know now that regardless of the look and name of a board, they both do the same thing; they communicate with the other side. A duck is a duck even if it comes in different colours.

However, it did kind of give the entire experience a positive spin. Which is probably why I don’t see the talking board as something ‘evil’ and ‘dangerous’ and likely to start spawning hellportals.

Sure the tool itself, if used the wrong way, can cause harm. But so can anything; matches, knives, hammers, drills etc… you get the idea. I personally would not feel safe using a board by myself, or without declaring boundaries to whatever may – or may not – be listening.

Those are my only rules… and they are mostly because I known of my own inexperience. I’ve used boards between ten to fifteen times; which when I think about it seems like a lot, but in reality is only a very small amount of practice.

I won’t start playing with my new Ouija™ Board at home with my housemates (even if I could get them to try), and I sure as hell won’t be trying it alone, because I don’t know.

What don’t I know? Everything.

I don’t know for certain if talking boards really speak to the deceased – although I have seen some interesting evidence that implies that they do – or if they can be hijacked by negative spirits or invite in beings that people refer to as demons.

I don’t know that they will… but I also don’t know that they won’t.

Better to practice playing with fire whilst in the presence of a firefighter than my drunken friends or by myself.

This doesn’t mean that I will condemn others who seem to be doing something that I think is irresponsible with a talking board. Hey, it’s their life, their spirit and their limbs. We’re all adults here and we should be able to put on our big-boy pants and do what we feel comfortable doing in a cautious and respectful manner.

Paracon 2014 – Meet the Speakers; Legend Tripping with Jeff Belanger

Let me tell you about one of the scariest experiences of my life.

I was about 8 or 9 years old and in grade 3. It was lunchtime and the concrete veranda walkways past the years three and four classrooms were deserted except for my two schoolmates, who waited diligently outside the forbidden seniors toilets that I had snuck into.

I had been given a challenge; say Bloody Mary in the seniors toilets at lunchtime and I could sit with them at lunchtime.

Yes. This was a big thing to 8-year-old me.

So there I was, standing with my nose almost touching the polished steel of what passed as a mirror in a public school and trying to speak as softly as I could as if Bloody Mary was somehow sleeping on the other side of the mirror.

“Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary…”

Nothing particularly spooky happened, other than the minor panic attack brought on by my two ‘friends’ who thought that it was funny to leap in through the doorway and make me almost wet myself. It definitely made an impression on me as a kid and – I realise now – may be the reason why I have anxiety issues in bathrooms.

How many people would you think have done this exact same thing, I wonder? How may dares and double-dares have resulted in trying to summon a spirit that will drag you down into the depths of Hell or leave you a torn, bloodied corpse, depending on what legend you hear?

This impulse to chase an Urban Legend – in this case Bloody Mary – like some kind of rite or proof of worthiness (as it was when I was 8 years old), is part of the practice of Legend Tripping.

Legend Tripping is one of the subjects that is going to be covered at Paracon this year by American researcher and author Jeff Belanger. As a former journalist, he has published dozens of books both for children and adults alike on Legend Tripping, the unexplained and the just plain weird.

His way of applying social anthropology to the paranormal field in a way that is both understandable and entertaining is what has made him one of the most recognised paranormal researchers in the field.

With 24 sleeps to go until Paracon 2014, I got the opportunity to ask Jeff Belanger about Legend Tripping, Time Travel (another subject he will be presenting at Paracon) and whether or not he’d been warned about Drop Bears…

 

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How did you first get into looking at legends and urban folklore, specifically those of a more paranormal or unexplainable nature?

It was a dark and stormy night… I was ten years old, and attending a sleepover at a friend’s 200-year-old house. He said his house was haunted, so we broke out a Ouija board and tried to make contact.

Growing up in an historic New England town gave me a life-long fascination with ghosts and the paranormal. My first passion was haunted places and the supernatural. Over time, the love of haunted places led me to paranormal investigations. I had the gear and gadgets, and I adored the history of the haunts, but the paranormal community itself left me with more to be desired. I noticed a lot of in-fighting with groups, arguments over who has the right to investigate which locations, and of course what constitutes true evidence and what is just dust floating inches from a camera lens. I had already reached the conclusion that none of us really has a clue. So I decided to strip out all of the parts of this field that annoy me, and what I was left with were great stories.

It’s the story first that draws us in. You hear something that sounds true enough that you want to check it out for yourself. That’s legend tripping. I didn’t invent the term—folklorists have been using it for decades. It’s most often associated with teenage rite of passage events like daring each other to touched an alleged cursed gravestone at midnight under a full moon. To put it simply: legend tripping is putting yourself into the story.

Every paranormal show you’ve ever seen is legend tripping first. A compelling story pulled in the investigator and begged them to ask more questions.

These stories help define a region, who we are, and they connect our cultures. Sharing these stories binds one person to another and offers a direct connection to our ancestors. Even in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and 24×7 news coverage, oral traditions are far from dead.

Now, because of my paranormal roots, I happen to believe that many of these tales are more than just stories. There must have been some kind of paranormal catalyst to birth the legend. The closer we can get the source, the closer we are to truth.

How much fact is usually involved in a legend?

There are always nuggets of truth in any legend, otherwise the legend wouldn’t exist.

If I were to tell you that I saw a yowie, the Loch Ness Monster, and the ghost of Michael Jackson dancing a jig together in front of the Sydney Opera House this morning, you’d think I was crazy. And the story is so unbelievable that you wouldn’t tell others, thus the legend would never be born.

The back story is where all paranormal research is conducted. If you follow a legend backward from person-to-person, you can learn where those elements of truth can be found.

Oral tradition and folklore is a valid and somewhat reliable form of communication. Investigators ignore it at their peril. To remove the history and legend behind unexplained phenomena is to remove the setting from the stage. The performance means nothing without the context of time and place.

The Holy Grail (speaking of legends…) of paranormal investigations is to arrive quickly after a legend is born. If a cryptozoologist receives a phone call from someone nearby who says I saw a yowie this morning and can still see its tracks, that researcher has a great chance at getting really close to the truth. Interviewing someone hours after a profound event means the story hasn’t had a chance to change or evolve much. Following and documenting tracks that are fresh are obviously more credible than prints weeks or months old.

When the stories of encounters get older, they naturally change as more people add themselves to the legend. The legend becomes a communal thing. Its roots become fuzzier, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be traced.

So what would be a typical example of Legend Tripping?

Ever hear about that haunted bridge? You know the one… you drive up to it at midnight, flash your headlights three times, and then the ghost of the woman who flung herself from the bridge years ago will appear and approach your car? Legend tripping means you drive there at midnight and try it.

You know where the bridge is, you have a car, the headlights work. Try it. I know you don’t expect the ghost to pop out, but ask yourself this: before you flash those headlights do you have a moment where you think, “Dear God, what if?”

A simpler example would be heading out to Maitland Gaol because you heard it was haunted. And you wanted to see for yourself.

On the subject of Time Travel; do you believe that time travel is possible? And is it likely to be scientific or metaphysical?

Yes, time travel is possible. Right now we’re moving forward one second at a time. We know for a fact that when you travel on a commercial airliner, time dilates slightly because of your rate of speed and distance from the gravitational influence of the earth. When you use your GPS, the software on the ground must account for the time dilation aboard the satellites in space otherwise you will be kilometers away from where you want to be.

Moving forward in time is easy. You just have to go really fast and far away from the influence of gravity. Moving backward in time is the real trick and poses the most problems with physics.

There are no laws of science that break when it comes to time travel. And many have claimed that through their consciousness they have been able to project to both the future and the past.

I believe that it’s a mistake to think of time as a linear thing. If we think of it as a sheets of paper, or perhaps bubbles of existence, then maybe those bubbles bump into each other at certain points where one time is able to temporarily observe another.

Controlling this process… now that’s the trick.

What sorts of things are usually reported when an incident may involve time travel?

I’m fascinated with what I call time slips. Over the past 20 years I have collected and documented thousands of peoples’ ghost experiences from all over the world. Every once in a while I would find a story that didn’t fit in with the others.

For example, a typical ghost encounter may go like this: I walked in to this old restaurant when I saw a woman in Victorian dress float by, then disappear into the wall.

In this example, the woman in Victorian dress is out of place. She doesn’t belong in this place at this time.

With a time slip, the experience goes more like this: I walked into the old restaurant and suddenly I noticed there were candles burning, no televisions or electric lights, everyone was dressed in Victorian era clothes, and I stood there shocked. A few seconds later, the scene disappears and the restaurant is back to its modern self with electric lights, modern clothes, etc.

In this example the witness was the thing out of place. I’ve been documenting many of these types of encounters lately.

Do you think there is any link between time travel and parallel universes?

Absolutely! If there are infinite universes or dimensions, then everything is happening at some point in the timeline somewhere else right now. If those dimensions were to bump into each other, you would most certainly experience a slip in time.

Are there any Australian legends that interest you?

Definitely. I don’t plan to leave until I see and capture a yowie. Australia also has many great haunts. I can’t wait to check out the ghosts of Maitland Gaol!

Lastly… have you been warned about drop bears during your visit?

No, but I have been warned to be on the lookout for the Yaramayhawho… not sure which would be worse to encounter!

 

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Tickets for Paracon are still on sale, and are available from http://www.paraconaustralia.com/. Hurry though, Paracon is on Saturday the 11th and Sunday the 12th of May, so don’t leave until the last minute!

Jeff will also be taking part in the Paracon After Dark event Ouija Board Experience with Robert Murch. Tickets for the event are on sale, but places are strictly limited!

Australian Premiere of Paranormal Investigators: Phasmophobia

On Friday the 25th of January I was granted the opportunity to attend the Australian Premiere and advanced screening of episodes 1 and 2 of Paranormal Investigators: Phasmophobia.

Held at the Creative Spirit Centre in Minchinbury NSW, the screening was to a full house and was complete with showbags, lucky door prizes, raffles and a silent auction with all proceeds going directly back into production for the series.

Donning my Limited Edition PI:P t-shirt (with a few minor alterations due to me overestimating the size of my torso), I did my trademark sunset dash from work to the premiere and arrived just in time to take my seat and start fan-girling it up!

It was a fantastic opportunity for me to finally meet the guys (and girl) behind Ghost Shack and Apparition Technologies. Ghost Shack and Apparition Technologies are the wonderful companies that provide a lot of local investigative teams with their equipment, with App Tech manufacturing their own products on Aussie soil and Ghost Shack distributing the newest paranormal gizmos from the states.

It was a lovely talk about boots, business and ghosts.
(If you have the opportunity, click the links to check out their pages!)

Of the show itself, the production value was flawless. I have a few meager experiences with Indie Films, but this locally produced offering really took the cake. From the soundtrack to the almost documentary-style format, it really was a unique piece of work unlike anything I’ve seen before.
There is less emphasis on investigators producing documentation, with the team from Moonlark Media choosing to focus instead on the psychology of fear and the ways that it affects people in who find themselves in paranormal situations.

This is a refreshing twist on the usual format of Paranormal Reality TV and as such was much more engaging that striving to hear what may possibly be an EVP or the outline of a Shadow Person.

The challengers themselves were very well picked and diverse in their personalities: Rosie – the best lungs of the three, who has no qualms with telling any present spirits exactly what to do (with a few bleeps) and the creator of the catch phrase; “No! You’re just a bathroom!”
Effie – the enthusiastic nerves of steel who was the only challenger during these episodes to conduct her challenge with only the light from her Mini DV, in a location that I would never even enter alone during the daytime.
Sarah – the level-headed thinker who I think showed perhaps the most diversity of reactions amongst the three. Calm and collected during sun-up, logical and aware of her limits when the sun went down.

Aside from my initial outrage when realizing that they had been given torches for their challenges (!!!!!), I found that with the diversity of the challengers it is easy to relate to exactly what they would have been feeling and experiencing – as most of the time it was exactly how I would (and did) react.
Yelling at ghosts to stop making scary noises not included. That just took gusto. Props to Rosie!

Jokes aside, the episode was revealed to be a very insightful lesson into what Paranormal Investigation truly involves when concerning mindset as well as emotional and mental reactions to what may or may not be paranormal activity.

I feel that this hasn’t particularly been something that has been addressed much in the public view. There is very much this ‘us and them’ divide between investigators and the audience. They are seen as superhuman people with insane amounts of bravery who are highly trained ghost hunting machines who laugh in the face of spirits, elementals and demons.

Ala-Zak Bagans.

Just look at that hunk of spunk.

I’m sorry, I just had to use the excuse to post a shirtless Zak.

I’m sorry… where was I? 😛

In a scientific field such as the paranormal, it makes sense that things such as psychology and physical reaction be more closely scrutinized. I believe it is close to – if not more – important as the scrutiny of documented evidence in an investigation. After all, the greatest investigation tool is said to be the investigator themselves. A better understanding of the human reactions that shape the ways in which we see, hear and experience things in a state of adrenalin will birth a better understanding of the things that we are seeing, hearing and experiencing.

It is unfortunate that something like this has not gained much more publicity. As the Director and Co-Producer Attila Kaldy said on the night, unfortunately there is no bankable reason for Australian studios to pick up a production such as this for tens of thousands of dollars when they can pay a fraction of that cost and satiate the mad Bagans fan-girls (and guys) by airing another season of Ghost Adventures.

What locally produced shows like this must rely on is a solid fanbase fed by word of mouth and the wonderful invention known as the internet. The production of Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible caused an avalanche of success and although a large part of that can be attributed to the ‘Whedonverse’ fanbase, the fact still remains that this was a low-budget production that ended up returning production costs TENFOLD.

Yes. Tenfold. From 200k to 2 million (including dvd sales, iTunes purchases etc after the free 5-day premiere online).

Aaah… the sweet smell of hope!

Personally, all I believe that the guys from Moonlark need do is post the trailer online for episodes 3 and 4. The last 30 seconds had me hanging off the edge of my seat.

The good news is that it will be airing on TVS in Sydney during the middle of the year (so lots of winter nights spent curled up on the couch with a doona and a bottle of wine) as well as a few other local stations in Australia. (Check out the Paranormal Investigators: Phasmophobia page on Facebook for more details)

The bad news is that the middle of the year is almost four months away!

The great news is that there’s talk of more advanced screenings! Yay! So make sure you follow them on Facebook to make sure you don’t miss out.
Get ya Ghost on!

 

TGW

Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire! (Challenging the Dark – Part II)

Finally! Part two of my Challenging the Dark duet I have lovingly dubbed: Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire!

When we left off we had just wrapped the filming of Paranormal Investigators: The Challenge at the undisclosed location. I was lucky enough to be invited back for a second night of investigating: unplanned, unscripted and unreal!

After the events of Friday night I did the sunset race from my workplace in Chatswood to the location. Riding high on 45 minutes sleep, sugar, two cans of Mother and a plastic bag full of organic fruit I was ready to charge back into the dark, guns figuratively ablazing. When I arrived the teams had just finished dinner and were getting ready for the night.

We revisited some of the buildings from the night before – including my first challenge building – though this time I had a chance to feel what it was like to be a part of a team investigation.

Seeing seasoned investigators at work was a huge privilege, I think I learnt more that night than I had ever gathered watching 6 seasons of Ghost Hunters.

Nothing compares to the real thing; being out there in on the location and experiencing first-hand what usually only translates on television as a ‘Did you hear that?’ and ‘I think I saw something’. Ironically enough, I don’t think I heard anyone say ‘Did you hear that?’… the noises and phenomena that we did hear were plainly heard by all.

During the night I believe I experienced contact with a spirit for the second time, though this time it was on a much more personal level; I felt something that it wanted me to feel. What was even more interesting was that what I experienced validated an earlier experience that another team member had had earlier that afternoon… and I was oblivious to this until it actually happened.

I will admit, I did slip up once when I forgot to curb my tongue and may have offended whatever spirit may have been present. Which in itself was another lesson; respect!… and never forget exactly what you may be dealing with is a human being that has its own thoughts and feelings. This particular spirit had quite a personality… and was not afraid of letting itself be heard!

Like the first night of investigating, I take these experiences with a grain of salt. I’m not going ‘OHMAIGAWD ITZ A GHOST!’ rather relaying what I believed I experienced. There were so many little things that struck me as seeming beyond coincidental, perfectly timed noises… even a bang in response to a question in which I asked the spirit to do so. Yes… me… speaking to the other side! It’s certainly an exciting prospect!

By far the highlight of the entire weekend (looking back on it now) was the last building of the night, where team members came into contact with something that most probably never had been human. I’m inclined to agree, though my own experiences were based on feelings rather than visual experience… though I did see a team member’s head twisting… when it most certainly was not.

We were separated into pairs for safety. My buddy was Beth from WSPR, who not only grounded me throughout the whole experience but helped me look out for my own sanity.

To describe what was happening during that investigation is hard. As a researcher I place a large amount of value on physical evidence and have been trained to discard a lot of the internal ‘evidence’ so to speak. There was no denying though, that there was something in that building… and it had a frightening sense of humor.

When things turn from small noises and bullet-casings being tossed to visual hallucinations and physical sensations… to put it simply: shit gets real.

One of the team called it a night after being profoundly affected by the presence in the building. Fortunately, Andrea – our medium – had suddenly been taken with the urge to go down to the building barely five minutes earlier, and was on hand to help ground him and get rid of any bad vibes that may attempt to stick around.

I’m going to recount what I felt in this building, what I appeared to experience, and let you make the decision for yourself. I’m not out to be proven right or wrong… this is just my story 🙂

To simply stand or sit in that building was like having a sandbag placed on your head. Like you’ve just eaten a very filling meal, you feel heavy and relaxed… but then… not. Your body is relaxed, but your heart is galloping around your chest.

I remembered at the time what an old Taekwondo instructor had told me about adrenalin; it’s our ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ chemical, back from the days when were weren’t at the top of the food chain. Your body shuts down and your senses open wider, so wide that you can hear the person three feet away from you breathing in the dark.

At the danger of disclosing a little too much from the shooting, we did a little work on our inner senses – yes, the dreaded ‘P’-word: Psychic senses – on Friday evening. Before the investigation started on Saturday night I went through the same exercises and, well, I’m not sure if they worked… but this presence felt… other.

I can’t explain it. It’s like trying to explain to a horse what its like to fly. If you close your eyes in a dark room you can feel the others around you, they have that unmistakable ‘human-ness’. In Essentialist terms: this thing lacked… anything that I was familiar with so I can’t place it within my own paradigm.

It felt alien.

I felt like we were not the most powerful things in the building… and let me tell you: for a moment, it’s terrifying.

Not knowing what something is or what it is capable of really reminds you that the big, bad world out there actually is quite big and bad. There are things that are beyond our understanding.

Hell, even I can’t understand what went on in that building! To quote Sherlock Holmes: “My mind rebels at stagnation”… but this simply drew all the hamsters to a screeching halt on their little squeaky wheels.

There were a few very strong personal experiences from other investigators, including visual sightings and even physical contact with this thing. An investigator was seen splitting in two! Only for a few seconds though, before the hallucination snapped away.

As for my own experience, I finally got to see a door open by itself. Yay!

As we were leaving the building I was following Craig (from WSPR) along the hallway out of the building. After he passed a doorway on the right, which was cracked open maybe two or three inches, it opened with enough force to bounce back off the hinges and begin to close again. I stopped dead in my tracks and the first thought I had was that he had bumped the door on the way out.

Valid, yes. However at the barely-open angle that it was at, he would have essentially run into it. It would not have swung open by itself. I asked him if he bumped the door and he said no. It was even still coming to a stop as I asked him, and as I’m inclined to believe people when they answer my questions, I chalked it up mentally as unexplained.

I had my full spectrum camera in my hands… alas… the battery had run dead shortly after we entered the building, and I had already changed to my backup from the first building that we investigated that night. The irony of the situation was not lost on me… which made me wonder; is this why a majority of experiences like this go undocumented? Is it simply a case of a being not wishing to be documented?

It was a nice little bang to end the weekend on.. and I finally scratched one of the personal experiences off my Paranormal Bucket List; see a door open by itself!

After the investigation quite a few people were still a bit wired, so we returned to the Nurses Quarters – our rooms for the night – and had a nice long chat over a few cold beers.

Contrary to what I had originally thought, I slept like a baby that night… and that morning… all the way through to 1pm! I was the last to leave, but it gave me a chance to drop into my folks house and spill my guts about my amazing weekend over a well-deserved Maccas lunch 🙂

I suppose in conclusion, the moral to this story is to always take the chance to challenge yourself. I did more than push the boundaries of my own comfort zone, I freaking leapt off the cliff of comfort and dove headfirst into my own fears… and in return, I’ve emerged a much stronger person.

Funnily enough, watching Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures has now become slightly scarier to me. Mainly because I can relate a little bit more than I used to. They still have bucketloads more gusto than I will for a long time… but it’s something to aim for.

I was warned. PI is addictive. I’m already thinking about the next dark and scary place that I can charge headfirst into with my trusty Full Spectrum camera… armed also with my shiny new digital recorder (coming in a few weeks! :D) and my Full Spectrum floodlight!

For those of you who missed my last post: Australian Paranormal Phenomenon Investigators (APPI) is running two public investigation nights in Liverpool in Sydney’s Southwest. Deets can be found here, and places are limited so make sure you pick up a ticket!

Hopefully I’ll see some of you guys there! Until then, keep talking to the darkness… cause one day it just might talk back 🙂

TGW

Who ‘Ya Gonna Call?

The cult following of American television shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures has revealed a new interest in the unexplained. Suddenly it seems like it’s not quite so crazy to believe in ghosts. But are Americans the only ones who like chasing down things that go bump in the night? I decided to investigate the newest Paranormal Investigators to hit the screen… a bit closer to home.

 

It’s already been established that I’m afraid of the dark.

Sure I can potter around the odd graveyard or two by myself in full daylight, but as soon as the sun starts setting I usually hightail it with my tail between my legs to my lovely safe car… with the lights on… and the music blaring.

Yes. I’m recounting last week’s trip to Old Picton Cemetery.

To me the idea of walking around in the pitch darkness and chasing shadows in a 150 year old gaol, or an abandoned asylum seems absolutely crazy. For some, though, it’s exactly how they love to spend a Saturday night.

And then, there are people like WSPR… who stride into the dark deliberately seeking the deepest, creepiest corners you could imagine… and then poke around a bit and see if they can stir anything up.

I was lucky enough to have the chance to speak to Craig Powell, the co-founder of Western Sydney Paranormal Research (WSPR). WSPR is a group of 11 Paranormal Investigators whose hobby it is to chase down the things that live under the bed and make noises in the attic.

Their purpose is to document evidence of the existence of paranormal entities and help clients gain some sort of knowledge about what – or who – they may be dealing with. Mainly, though, they seek to bring this knowledge and understanding of the paranormal to everyone.

Whether it’s a private residence having a problem with strange knockings or a general investigation of a 130 year old asylum, these guys are most definitely not afraid of the dark.

As a team they have investigated countless private homes, as well as more notorious public locations such as The Oaks Historic Homestead, Maitland Gaol and Callan Park Mental Hospital. They were even part of a live investigation at The Hero of Waterloo Hotel which was featured on 2DayFM on January 13th 2012.

Armed with an arsenal consisting of EMF (Electro-Magnetic Field) detectors, digital voice recorders, SB7 Spirit Boxes and a psychic or two, they willingly march into the darkness in the hopes of understanding one of the great mysteries of life; is there life after death?

“I believe there’s life after this life,” Craig says, “… but I am probably one of the biggest skeptics. There’s no use knowing that there’s a ghost in a room unless I can document it.”

And document it they do! Aside from audio clips and photos on their website (http://www.westsydneyparanormal.org), videos of their exploits are regularly uploaded to Youtube in a serial fashion. Since 2010 they have clocked over 50 thousand views on their channel ‘WestSydneyParanormal’ and managed to catch the eye of the American producers of Bio Channel’s ‘My Ghost Story’.

Craig and his partner Nicky (also a lead investigator of WSPR) were lucky to travel to L.A. in January to film an episode concerning their experiences for ‘My Ghost Story’. The series, which airs on Bio Channel through pay TV, is a collection of personal ‘ghost stories’ told by the witnesses themselves and backed up by whatever footage or evidence they managed to capture at the time of the happening.

Craig’s own ‘ghost story’ happened in the historic Maitland Gaol, which is a favourite of the WSPR team. It concerned an incident where an inmate – believed to be the spirit of George Savvas – had left a mark indicating his method of death (which was by hanging) across Craig’s neck whilst fellow WSPR investigator Jared Weston filmed the event.

“I asked the spirit how they died.” Craig explains, “As Jared is filming me, this dirty big mark is coming up from across my throat… like a big red welt from ear to ear.”

The story, however, does not end there. Eerily enough, when the ‘My Ghost Story’ crew was shooting the ‘B-roll’ footage back in Australia during May, it seemed that the spirit also wanted his own airtime.

Upon re-entering Maitland Gaol, the director of the shoot gave them instructions to recreate the scene for the show. Craig explained to him what had happened.

“The director said ‘Okay boys, stand there and pretend to look at his neck.” Craig recalls, “And wouldn’t you know it? This dirty big red mark started to appear again… on cue.”

I will admit that when I heard this story, my hair stood on end. Luckily happenings like this, when people are touched, are rare. Any other person – myself included – would take that as a cue to leave, but not WSPR.

“When you get that feeling that you shouldn’t be there, that’s exactly where you need to be. We want something to happen. The places you don’t wanna be are the places that you have to go.”

Now, after working in the dark for almost 3 years, Craig, his partner Nicky and the WSPRS crew are featured in their own version of reality tv; ghost hunting with local film-maker and friend Attila Kaldy in his newest independent film series.

Paranormal Investigators: Phasmaphobia is being produced by Moonlark Media, a local film-making company run by Attila and his wife Andrea. They already have a few notches on their belt from series such as My Project UFO and PI: Paranormal Investigators.

It was Attila’s own childhood experiences were what first prompted his interest in the explained. He received his first book on UFOs at the age of 7, which started the ball rolling.

“I’m passionate about story-telling and art,” He says, “Film-making is… a form of art.”

Attila has been working closely with WSPR for while, sharing time on and off camera whilst editing and producing his own work in the background. Phasmaphobia, as his newest realization, is something that Attila says will be unique to the genre of Paranormal Reality TV.

“[Phasmaphobia] is where people have the opportunity to face one of their greatest fears. It looks at the psychological effects and how interpretations can vary when under stress.”

So far production for the series is going full steam ahead. The spirits are compliant, the problems have been quite minimal, and they are not letting distance play any part in holding them back.

A few weeks ago they travelled to an undisclosed country town 1.5 hours south of Sydney to film for the series in an old local pub. More recently, however, they finished an investigation at Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains in Sydney’s West.

With apparently no shortage of potential sites to investigate, and an enthusiasm that knows very few boundaries, there seems to be nothing that can hold them back…. But is there a market for this in Australia? Attila believes there is.

“Without a doubt. However it is still a niche audience in Australia with our limited population as opposed to Europe [and] the US.”

Although American television has helped promote discussion about the unexplained – spurred on by fan-based social media coverage – it can be a double-edged blade. Many of these shows have been rife with rumors of being staged or even fabricating evidence for views.

“Sometimes media and reality a two very different beasts, especially with a large network controlling the content.” Attila says, “It’s great working with Craig, Nicky and the WSPR team. The personalities in front of the camera are genuine. They’re honest people. That is one of the many reasons why we chose to work with WSPR on this project.”

Paranormal Investigators: Phasmophobia is due to hit TVS Television Sydney in 2013. For more information on the series log on to Facebook to follow:

Paranormal Investigators: The Challenge

WSPR – West Sydney Paranormal Research 

Moonlark Media

Or Twitter @teamWSPR

Peace out Paranormal Peeps!\m/ Jaq \m/
TheGhostWriter