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.

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!

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

Challenging the dark – Part 1

This story begins on Tuesday 1/1/2013.

I received a text message from Nicky, a lead investigator from WSPR and one of the team featured in Paranormal Investigators: Phasmophobia (some of you may have seen my post on the series here). She asked if I would like to be one of the ‘Challengers’ for an upcoming episode at <location undisclosed>. Of course, after picking myself up from the floor I agreed. What better way to find out exactly what happens on a real investigation than to be dropped into it head-first?

I will admit, I was starting to have some reservations as the shoot drew closer. First and foremost was my Achluophobia (fear of the dark), then my brain moved onto possession, impression, physical contact and the general terror that I would make a complete fool of myself in front of a camera. This mainly came from the last time something paranormal happened to me (the orbs in the Redbank Tunnel) where I simply screamed and ran. This is hardly the way I wanted myself to react in front of seasoned investigators and the audience of the series… and frankly the idea of going all ‘girly victim’ made my stomach crawl more than the idea of romping around in the dark.

But I stuck with it. On a personal level I like a good challenge and as a journalist this would be an opportunity not to be missed! At least that’s what I told myself…

I met at a local McDonalds with Craig, Nicky and Richie from team WSPR as well as Belinda – the other challenger – and her son. We set out from there and arrived at the location in the late afternoon.

As we drove into the location (I was following the WSPR crew in my car) I saw Nicky point at the sign and thumped my head on the steering wheel: of all of the places in Australia that I would not caught dead in after sunset, this was in the top two.

Each building we passed had broken windows, a surplus of cobwebs and a whole lot of darkness inside. Oh goodie gumdrops.

When we reached the building that HQ was set up in, I was introduced to the rest of the team: the investigators from Validate; Attila, (the director) Andrea, (the host of Phasmophobia) Michelle and Anakin, as well as Jarad, Kat and Beth from team WSPR and Access Paranormal.

Now I can’t divulge too much on the walkthrough that we did around the building, but we were told a few stories on the happenings and what the building was used for when it was operational. There were two buildings that we would be investigating in all (one of them thoroughly gave me the creeps) and after the walkthrough we were given a crash-course on Psychic Awareness as the sun was setting.

I will admit: as open-minded as I (think) I am, I’m just the tiniest bit cynical of psychics. I could probably write an article on why, but I’ll keep this short. At that point in time, I was willing… but not quite believing.

Then the sun set… and there was no backing down.

Fed on a mix of 2-minute-noodles, protein bars and chocolate, I volunteered for a particular challenge first (I can’t say what it was or even how many there were… sorry!). I headed into the building with a DV, my converted full spectrum camera, an IR light and a prayer that whatever it was that liked to hang around in this building didn’t like the taste of Jacqueline.

It was so black that I could barely see two meters in front of me. That was, initially, the scariest aspect of the entire night. I simply couldn’t see what may or may not ‘charge’ me in the dark. Which is stupid, I know… I mean, what was it going to do? Cobweb me to death?

Now I do have some full spectrum shots I did when I was in this building… I’m pretty sure I’m allowed to put them up here. They were taken on a two second timer, one after the other. The movement of the IR light is because I was balancing the camera between my DV and the IR light rig. I didn’t have my tripod with me so I had to try and be as steady as I could. The focusing is also off because I was a little speedy with terror… I wanted to snap these shots and get back to having at least one hand free.

Cause… you know… Ghostly Kung Fu requires one free hand at all times.

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I dunno… but, thankfully, I didn’t examine them close enough to catch the black patch (in the middle shot) on screen when I was in the building. If I had then there would have been a lovely Jacqueline-shaped hole in the wall leading back to HQ.

During that investigation, my experiences in the building changed me. Thinking back on it… as I slowly moved from one end of the room to the other I essentially left the old me sitting on the floor with her back to the wall. The new me was walking slowly deeper into the dark and closer to whatever it was that I could hear at the back of the building.

When the others came to get me I was a little reluctant to leave. I literally skipped out of the door with a stupid grin on my face and headed towards the next challenge/s with a kind of dorky enthusiasm.

In the other building the mood was different, to say the least. It was a bit more guided than the last challenge/s, but yielded some impressive results. (UGH! I want to tell you all so badly, but I can’t!!!)

It was in this building that I had my second pivotal moment. Yet again, I can’t say what it was, but it was fun. By the time we had finished in there, I well and truly had my finger in the pie of Paranormal Investigation.

At the end of the night Belinda and I finally had a chance to talk to each other about our experiences before I had to make the sunrise dash home to catch 45 minutes sleep before I got up to go to work.

That was not fun by the way. Not fun at all.

Night two was a completely different kettle of fish. This time I was an observer at the investigation. I got to see how it’s done by experienced investigators, as well as having the chance to have a go myself.

We were joined by Don from The Spirit Level and two of Jarad’s friends, who were new to the practical side of things like me.

It was a huge learning curve, watching the teams go to work, and a huge buzz to receive so much activity after the events of the previous night. This also may have been due to the thunderstorm that rolled in at sunset and stuck around for a few hours.

There’s a theory that natural energies like thunderstorms, running water or limestone have the ability to charge the atmosphere, thus giving any spiritual entities extra fuel to burn when doing their thing.

The building we first went into (which was the first building I had entered the previous night) did feel different. There was a feeling of anticipation in the room… and it wasn’t just us. The walls, the doorways…the very air itself felt charged.

I was fortunate enough to do four investigations in that building. The first I can’t fully explain – because it will be included in Phasmophobia – but it was more than a little mind-blowing.

Keep tuned for the second half of my recap! Ups coming soon!

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 🙂