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.

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!

Scratching and ghosties and mirrors… oh my!

Unbeknownst to most; I primarily dabble in writing fiction.

Lately though, I’ve been working on a horror script for about two weeks, which is a new experience in that not only is it horror (as opposed to supernatural/paranormal) but it’s a SCRIPT.

As a result I’ve been having nightmares for all but one night this last week. Not ‘oooh, scary dream’ nightmares, but ‘wake-up-in-a-cold-sweat’ nightmares.

Monday night, I can remember vaguely; we had moved into a beautiful old house that reminded me of those old plantation mansions that you find in America down south.

The entire place made my nerves sing. It felt wrong inside there. Those of you who ghost-hunt or have been investigating before would recognize the feeling; like your body becomes hyper-aware. The typical ‘fight or flight’ reaction.

Things started happening in the house. There were the usual things that I’d seen occasionally on investigations; doors opening and closing, footsteps, lights turning on and off… I could deal with that. What turned the dream into a nightmare was the scratching in the walls.

It wasn’t rats. It was people.

There were people crying in the walls, scratching to get out, and I was the only one who could hear them. At one point I think I tried to smash through the walls with a chair to no avail, but somehow – in true ‘dream’ fashion – I started prying boards free with my bare hands and it worked.

Which hurt, by the way.

When I’d pulled enough boards free I was horrified to see that there was nothing there; the walls were empty… and I was standing back in the middle of the house listening to screams and plea’s for help that made my head hurt.

Suddenly – following most dream ‘logic’ – I realized that I was in the walls.

I suppose that this would be the best time to tell you that I’m rather claustrophobic. Not horribly so, but if I’m in a spot that I can’t turn around in, I start to freak out.

What made it worse was that either side of me was the rotting carcasses of others who had been trapped in the walls and gone mad also. Their skin moldy, rotting and bleeding… their flesh-stripped hands still beating furtively at the wooden boards of the walls.

And that was only Monday!

Tuesday I think was a delayed reaction to watching The Vicious Brother’s: Grave Encounters for the first time on Monday night.

This is an amazing movie, by the way. Hilarious to begin with, from a Paranormal Investigator point of view, but it becomes scary as shit!

Paranormal Activity has got nothing on this film!

Why I didn’t have this nightmare on Monday night, I have no idea (I don’t try to understand how my brain works sometimes) but it was more terrifying than the previous night’s nightmare.

I was in a haunted location that I’d investigated before; an old hospital that we’d got some pretty far-out stuff from and will forever stick in my mind because it was the first place I’d ever investigated. I can’t say where it is, because of privacy issues, but it was one hell of a place to pop my paranormal cherry!

Anyway, I was walking through the wing where I did my solo vigil (yes, my first time in a haunted location and I spent it alone for 20 minutes!) except this time something was different. I was asking questions, and I remember asking whatever was there to show itself.

Fairly standard question for investigators, I might add. 90% of the time, we don’t really expect the spirit to oblige us… however this time it did.

Well… they did.

The entire hallway flickered and was suddenly lined with people in hospital gowns, all of them facing the walls and away from me. They flickered like the reception on a t.v. set – which I’ve always envisioned an apparition would look like (not that I’ve ever seen one yet) – and were so damn pale!

Think lots and lots of these…

What made it worse was that the only way out of this hallway was to walk past them all.

Now this hallway was perhaps 1.5-2m wide. With a person standing either side of it, I was left with very little space – and there was no way in hell that I was risking touching one of them – but I still managed to walk from one end of the hallway to the other. It was a very slow, nerve-wracking trip, but I did it.

However whatever triumph I felt was short-lived because as soon as I reached what I assumed was the exit I looked back and – as if in a Mexican wave – the ghost-patient’s heads snapped up and they looked at me with empty black eyes and no mouths!

Before the ghost-patients closest to me could look up I ran backwards through the exit doors, only to realize that I was now facing another corridor of endless ghost-patients.

See, that’s where the Grave Encounters influence came in.

Then it was just terrified running, bursting from one corridor into another. I think I looked back at one point because I remember seeing the patients crawling after me on their elbows on the roof, walls and floor.

So yeah… that was Tuesday.

Wednesday involved seeing people’s flesh melt off their faces. I don’t want to go into detail with that one. Thursday I can’t remember much other than being trapped in a dark room with something else in there making noises.

Friday was equally as terrifying as Monday and Tuesday.

On Tuesday night I was asking my brother for freaky scene ideas and he said “Looking in a mirror and not seeing your reflection.”

Yeah, creepy, right?

Well my brain decided to take it one step further on Friday; I was in a room with god knows how many mirrors. I could see myself, but I could also see this hooded, faceless (literally… faceless = no face) thing in the mirrors behind me.

I’d turn to look and there was never anyone there, but every time I looked back at the mirrors the figure was getting closer and closer.

Borrowed from http://amarabullen.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/horror-movie-research-shrooms-2007.html Watch the youtube vid… it’s well done 🙂

I looked down at one point and I saw blood and bits of limbs and organs on the concrete floor, so I figured that the Thing was probably going to rip me apart and eat me. Nerve-wracking as it is, the scary part was coming to terms with the fact that I was going to die.

There’s nothing more disturbing than accepting the fact that you’re going to die a horrible, painful death… and being perfectly okay with it.

I started smashing mirrors, one by one until there was only one left. I could see the Thing in my periphery now, and it reached out with one hand.

A hand that was five long, bloodstained and rusty, curved bits of metal.

I smashed the last mirror i.e. the last way that it could actually reach anyone (because I’d rationalized that it existed only as a reflection) just as it grabbed my shoulder. I figured that if I died I could at least stop it from getting to anyone else.

What I didn’t figure was that when the Thing grabbed me and pulled me into the mirror, I’d suddenly become the Thing and start devouring my own body before my eyes.

Which I realize now doesn’t work, because the Thing had no face – ergo no mouth – but we all know how rational ‘dream-logic’ is.

In case anyone is wondering, I taste like runny lukewarm tomato soup with chunks of stringy old beef, a dash of bin-water and particularly chubby bits – like the thighs – tasted like pork fat.

As I felt my own body travel down my throat, I had a horrible realization – between mouthfuls – that this was why the Thing stalked and tried to kill people. Until I found another person to eat, I would be the Thing… and I’d just destroyed my only way to get to people; I was trapped in a room with broken mirrors for the rest of eternity.

Thank god I woke in the daytime that morning. If I had woken at night I’d probably have started screaming and not been able to stop until the sun came up.

Needless to say, I’ve decided to use this week’s rather colourful nightmares by taking bits and pieces to use in my script. The aim is to utilize my small collection of indie-film friends and actually film it over the course of a year or so.

Loosely, the plot involves six paranormal investigators investigating an old hospital. I have two possible locations in mind, both of which have actually reported paranormal activity. The goal is to have a mix of staged and real activity recorded because… well, just because.

So now that I’ve successfully given you nightmares for tonight; what’s the scariest dream/nightmare that you’ve ever had? Do you remember them? It would be nice to know that I’m not alone with having a subconscious that likes to screw with my head!