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.

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

Australian Paranormal Phenomenon Investigators (APPI) Paranormal Investigation Nights!

Grab a hold of the chance to take up a place on the team for a real investigation in South-Western Sydney!
There’s going to be a special 3-hour investigation of Liverpool TAFE on the 23rd of Feburary, as well as a sleepover event on the 27th!
Of course The Ghost Writer would never pass up the chance to get spooked senseless again! Come join in the fun!
Ticket information is available on their page. Don’t miss out!

Click to buy tickets!

 

Who ‘Ya Gonna Call?

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paranormal Investigators: The Challenge

WSPR – West Sydney Paranormal Research 

Moonlark Media

Or Twitter @teamWSPR

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

Newtown Graveyard: Testing the Waters

Gently warming myself up for the creepier places in life, I went for a stroll through Camperdown Cemetery a few weeks ago.  No ghosts for me… but there were a few places that I didn’t feel like lingering in, which struck me as odd. When I was a child I used to have no problems wondering around cemeteries or graveyards. The last graveyard I went to in fact, at 11pm at night in Picton no less, I felt strangely comfortable.

Now I don’t know if this simply says something about the old Picton Cemetery, or if I was just having a minor psychosomatic creep-out in Camperdown. All I know is that the day was incredibly beautiful and the cemetery makes for some stunning shots!