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 😉

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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.

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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

Why I believe in ghosts

I have a confession to make; I believe in ghosts.

I remember when I was a little girl I had always been afraid of the dark. I would never walk into a room that didn’t have the light on. It was that fear of what I couldn’t see that used to liquefy my innards with terror.

There was many a time when I was a child that I would suddenly wake up from a deep sleep by someone whispering my name in my ear. To this day I’ve never really been able to figure out if it was simply my imagination or something else. It would make sense to blame it on my overactive childish imagination… but at that time, I never even really knew what a ghost – or spirit – really was.

My fear of the dark was so strong that I would always sleep with the quilt covering whatever ear it was that I wouldn’t be lying on, simply to stop the possibility of anyone – or anything – whispering in my ear when I was asleep and helpless.

I had been raised in a moderately Christian household. I remember about 7 or 8 times when we went to church… usually on Christmas Day. My father – like every little girls father – always seemed to have the answer to everything. Whenever I was particularly terrified of going to sleep late at night he’d tell me; “If you ever see a ghost, just tell them this: You’re not wanted here. Go away.” And as all little girls did, I believed him.

I lost count of the times I’d woken up late at night – after hearing my name whispered in my ear – and shakily hissed that phrase into the darkness. I usually ended up running down the length of our federation-style home – the longest 20 or so meters of my life – until I reached the haven of my parents’ room.

At that age – to me – ghosts and spirits were something that existed only to torment the living. I’d always imagined them as twisted souls that weren’t good enough to get into heaven, but not bad enough to get into hell, so they were stuck forever in limbo on the same plane as us humans.

I used to have this re-occurring dream; I’d be too scared to sleep in my own bed and run down to my parents’ room, but just as I passed the kitchen I’d hear this multitude of whispers and slow, like I was running through quicksand. Blackened invisible hands (don’t ask me how they were black AND invisible) would stretch out of the shadows of the china cabinet on the wall and catch me, dragging me down through the concrete floor of the – at the time unfinished – house and trap me under the dank earth of the house whilst my parents slept, oblivious.

When I was about 8 or 9 was the time when movies like the ‘Candyman’, and ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ came out. Although I was never allowed to see these movies, the horror stories spread around my primary school like wildfire. It was the ‘in thing’ to whisper ‘Bloody Mary’ into the school toilet mirrors three times and see who lasted the longest before finally giving into fits of terrified laughter and run out of the toilets squealing.

It wasn’t until I was about 16 or 17 that I had my first real paranormal experience. I grew up on the northern edge of the Southern Highlands, in a little town called Bargo. My parents probably wouldn’t agree with me calling it ‘little’ but in hindsight, let me assure you; it was little.

During high school I’d developed an interest in theatre, specifically musical theatre, and I had the chance to do a number of performances in two known haunted locations in South-Western Sydney; the Picton Community Hall and the Campbelltown Theatre.

My first paranormal experience – and I call it this loosely… there are still a lot of variables that should be acknowledged – happened on the opening night of the Wollondilly Theatre Group’s production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’.

Before all of this happened, I had never known about the hall we were rehearsing and performing in being haunted. I was fresh out of high school and rearing to do my own thing without the judging constraints of the social group I had belonged to at school.

I remember just before the scene where Jesus is overwhelmed by lepers and beggars at the temple (I was a leper) I realized I had forgotten my ‘leper-sheet’. I leapt off the stage into the women’s change-room, through the huge swinging doors at the base of three stairs and began rifling through the pile of costumes that I had heaped in my own little corner of the room.

Behind me, I heard the door swing open so hard that they hit the walls either side of them (on reflection, I realized that I didn’t hear any footsteps). Thinking that it was one of the girls I was performing with, I said “Laura! We’re supposed to be on stage!” I turned and found that the doors were still shut and no-one was there.

I had never run so fast back onto the stage in my life.

I suppose, thinking back, it would be easy to rationalize this as perhaps someone poking their head into the change room and then disappearing once they saw that I was in there. That doesn’t explain the loudness of the banging doors that I heard, nor the lack of footsteps on the old creaky floorboards that lined the old community hall or the fact that everyone in the production was on stage at that very moment besides me.

There was also the issue of the magically moving lights. Between every performance the lighting people had to duct-tape the lights into place, otherwise when we arrived the next night they’d be all over the place in the wrong positions.

My second – and perhaps the most important – paranormal experience happened when I was 18, a year after the incident in the community hall. I was on a historical ghost tour with Liz Vincent in the town of Picton. We had done an entire walkabout of the town of Picton and ended up at the grand finale: the Redbank Tunnel.

The Redbank Tunnel was opened in 1867 and was one of the first railway tunnels to be used by Rail NSW. Now condemned and heritage listed, it is apparently plagued by the ghost of Emily Bollard, (there are conflicting stories that she used to set signals or used to travel through the tunnel to see family) who tragically was struck by a train in the tunnel and was carried over 50 meters on the front of the train until it managed to come to a stop.
The tour group had moved into about a third of the way into the tunnel. We had been watching a greenish glow move up and down on the walls. Me in my ‘know-it-all’ teenage mind had put it down as (what I now know is) visual matrixing. I figured that were told to expect something and so we saw it, exactly as described.
There came an opportunity for a few of the younger members of the group – there were quite a few children, from about 11 and older – to turn back and wait with Liz’s husband at the entrance to the tunnel. I decided that I had had enough. My hair was standing on end, I was getting very cold chills and my ever-present fear of the dark was beginning to make breathing hard for me.

My brother and I moved back with the rest of the children and we walked to the entrance of the tunnel. As we crossed the threshold, I remember feeling the hairs on my neck prickle again – more intensely – and I looked back down the tunnel. I couldn’t see my parents, but my eyes flicked down to the wall of the tunnel – barely a meter away from me.
That was when I saw an orb.
Now this isn’t the same as seeing a multitude of dust reflections on a digital photo. I saw this with my own eyes. It was within touching distance… maybe fifty or sixty centimeters from my upper thigh.

Even now, seven years later, I can remember it clearly. It was a perfect circle, maybe 6 or 7 centimeters in diameter, and a colour that I’ve never seen before; almost yellow and almost white, but with the same silver that you get from when you shine a torch at the eyes of a cat.

Of course, I screamed. I was a startled teenager… what else was there to do? I grabbed my brother’s hand as I saw it zip backwards into the wall and ran to the relative safety of Mr Vincent’s car.

Liz is dead now (A huge loss to the community. She was such a wise woman), and the tours no longer operate. I can’t rationalize what I saw as a reflection. At that age time, I simply didn’t let myself think about it… maybe it was a black cat? Maybe it was a glimmer of my torch off a piece of glass? None of my reasons explained why it visibly darted backwards into the wall! Had I scared it? I’d never know. The property is privately owned and as far as I know, you need special permission to go back there.

There have been a few little instances here and there since then of paranormal activity; seeing a man sitting in the seats that the Campbelltown theatre (supposedly Fishers Ghost) and the mysteriously shifting coke can (which we watched over the period of about 5 seconds) and slamming screen door (when no-one else was there) at a house that me and my fiancé used to live in.

Now 24, I’ve managed to grow up enough to realize that not every story that you hear is true. I’ve found that for the last two years I’ve been devouring TAPS, Ghost Hunters International and Ghost Adventures episodes by the handful. I’m an English Major at university, and since the age of 19 I’ve been taught to question everything. For me, questioning everything doesn’t end at the range of comfort either.
I’m terrified of heights, so I took up indoor rock-climbing twice a week. I hear a noise on the other (darkened) side of the house at night so get up and investigate. I purposefully like to be the one to turn off all the lights at night and walk up the stairs with the darkness at my back. Why? Because it terrifies me.
I want to know why. Why am I afraid of the dark? Why are humans afraid of the unexplained? Why is it that other cultures around the globe are so comfortable with the idea of life after death, yet typical Western Culture shuns it and denies any existence? Why are people so quick to believe that the universe was created by some primordial ‘Big Bang’ but ask them to look at footage of an apparent manifestation and have them point out all of the flaws in a Paranormal theory?
Can we re-create a Paranormal occurrence with 100% accuracy? Not yet. Can we re-create a mini ‘Big Bang’ in a Hadron Collider with 100% reliability? With an 8 billion dollar machine, yes! But imagine what a team of Paranormal experts could do with 8 billion dollars!
Because this is an area that is still quite young in its development in mainstream culture there are precious few resources available to hone your knowledge base of the unexplained. There are a great deal less knowledgeable public figures to try and garner information from than the scientific field… and then there is also the question of validity.

One thing that has always interested me is how many parallels there are between the current state of the Paranormal Field and physics in the 17th century. Both are relatively constrained by popular belief and marginalised because of these radical ideas that defied what most people are comfortable with. The idea that the Earth revolved around the sun? How about the idea that there exists multiple layers of perception… that the ‘ghosts’ we see and interact with are a beings that exist within a different layer?
I’m not going to go into Paranormal Metaphysics, but theories of the existence of ghosts are almost as unbelievable as theories of planetary motions were in the 16th and 17th centuries. Now – hundreds of years later – we have the technology to be able to prove that Copernicus was right. Who’s not to say that in a hundred years time we won’t have the technology to communicate with the other side?
I like to keep an open mind about these things, so yes; I believe in ghosts. I believe in the possibility that we haven’t discovered all that there is to discover in the world, physically or metaphysically. So who knows? Maybe our grandchildren will be given the chance to complete doctorates in Spiritual Physics and have their own chance to blow 8 billion dollars communicating with the dead.
I’ll just make sure I give them clear EVPs 🙂