Grieving: When to Leave Skepticism at The Door

A question that’s been posed to me many times is, when is there an inappropriate time to implement or push skeptical values?

This is something that is easily debatable given that skepticism is a very important part of appropriately discerning what has the possibility of being paranormal and what most likely deserves rational explanation. But is there ever a time that maybe we should keep our opinions to ourselves? I believe so.

As someone who spends a good portion of her time talking to people in the paranormal community via social media, time and time again I see people coming online looking for validation that their family members, who’ve passed away, are still with them. This is pretty much the only time I will personally bow out of a debate over paranormal vs. rational explanation.

Many who view the paranormal world through skeptical eyes may disagree. Matter of fact, I know a few who would adamantly insist that this is incorrect. I myself, base my opinions on not only logic, but also compassion. I do what I need to, to bring solace to people like myself who’ve lost loved ones. While I will not feed into their speculations of material being evidence of their loved ones – I won’t argue either.

My Experiences

As many of you who have followed my research, You probably know that I’ve lost both my parents. My mother in 1990, and my father in 2001. I understand how it feels to long for some sort of sign that they’re with me. My mother I hadn’t really received messages that were overwhelmingly solid, that I would consider “paranormal” from her, aside from an experience the night she died. My dad on the other hand, has to me, been somewhat different.

Are my experiences paranormal in nature? I don’t know. But the question is, when these things occurred, did I find relief or comfort from them…. absolutely.

Here is an excerpt from a post I made about my experience, written April 20, 2012:

“At the young age of 13, I lost my mother to suicide. I was tormented by this, but her comforting spirit has managed to come through many times. Usually at times of stress, without thinking of her I suddenly get an overwhelming sense of calm and well being..and then she automatically come to mind. Through her scent, and even once…a loving touch as a “good bye”. I knew there was more to life, after death, although I didn’t understand, and was even frightened by it. I knew this was part of my life.

I also lost my father in 2001. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He grew sick very rapidly. Only a month after diagnosis, he had passed away. I took care of him that entire month. I was running on little sleep, little food, and a lot of love. On his last day of clear lucid thinking, he called me to his bedroom.

Thinking something was wrong, I rushed in. He asked me to please grab a book from his book shelf and to come lay by him. It was the National Audubon Society’s Bird watchers book. He quickly flipped through the pictures and opened the page to a beautiful yellow and black bird. With tears in this eyes he pointed and said “This is my favorite bird. When I was backpacking in the mountains, this bird was always with me. They aren’t native to the valley….but I promise you…if there IS life after death. I will let you know”.

I didn’t invest much thought into it. All I could think of was that my best friend was dying, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I watched him daily grow from the man I thought of as superman, to the equal of an infant who depended on me to love and care for him.

He died two days later.

Several days passed after his death. It was all business. I did the majority of my deepest grieving the day I knew my dad had a terminal illness. I hadn’t had time to really absorb the situation, even though I laid with his body for quite some time before I let the coroner take him away.

The funeral passed, and I was numb. I felt nothing.

On the day in question, I was going through a box of his things that were given to me and it suddenly hit me – He was GONE forever. I dropped everything in my hands and slide them over my face. I let out a deep heartfelt, sorrowful howl. I cried harder than I can ever recall doing before.

I was beside myself with grief. I couldn’t bring myself to catch my own breath. After a few moments I gathered myself and shook my head. I took a deep breath and looked out my living room window. There in my lilac tree sat this magnificent yellow bird. I put my hands over my heart, took a deep oxygenated breath, and sat still. I was in shocked yet, totally calm. A warmth washed over me that I couldn’t describe better than being freezing, and suddenly having warm water rush over you, redirecting your train of thought.

I felt nothing less than love and comfort. I thought to myself “Everything’s going to be alright.”

I have seen that bird native to the Sierra Nevadas, on numerous occasions (and other bright yellow birds). Even having a family of them living at 2 houses I’ve lived at since. NO ONE can ever convince me there isn’t life after death…..never ever…”

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Now, I can’t say with absolution that my experience was paranormal. But, what I can say about my experience is, that I was absolutely lucid. I was thinking clearly and I was not on any drugs, or mind altering medications. I have no diagnosis of mental illness that would interrupt cognitive function or cause hallucinations. And most of all, I am being 100% honest about my experience. I wouldn’t lie about something like this.

Was it paranormal? I do not know.
Did it bring me comfort? You bet it did.
Would I allow anyone to cheapen my experience with some gibberish about reality vs. fantasy?
Hell. No.

Where Does the Responsibility Lie?

When we’re on the internet, a few things happen. One, we’re asked for opinions. Two, we’re willing to give it. Three, sometimes people just want to share an experience without unsolicited advice or opinions.

Is it possible to hear another’s story without being so quick to pick it apart? When are opinions unnecessary?

In my opinion, there’s a line to be drawn between educating, debating, analyzing, and just listening. Sometimes we should be able to see a story at face value, and take it for what it is; a personal experience. No amount of analyzing or speculating will convince a grieving individual that their experience is merely a dust ball, a hallucination or fluke.

In fact, I think if we catch someone in a very fragile state, our words or actions could be detrimental. Over the internet talking to strangers, we don’t know what we’re dealing with.

Had someone taken the time to pick my experience apart in my state, I would have been crushed. Whatever happened, paranormal or not, helped me get through that box of my dad’s stuff. It helped my get my kids to school that day. It helped me to get up and cook dinner. It helped me to open a photo album and talk to my kids about my dad and how much he loved them. It helped me make it to the cemetery every time without worry that this was it – forever. It helped me get dressed every morning after I the man I loved more than anything in the world- and so on.

I think most of you can get my point here?

If I was delusional or had a lapse of sanity in my state – so what? It helped me cope with my situation. It brought me comfort. Today, 14 years later, I’ve learned to cope with my loss. I’ve been able to look at my situation and say, “ok there’s a possibility I just happened to catch these birds during their migration, or maybe its a totally different breed that is native”.

It doesn’t matter. It served it’s purpose in a way I needed

Is it possible that both these are true, but in some spiritual way, spirits able to effect nature to be present at such a time when it’s needed? I don’t know. Maybe this is meant to be a type of coping mechanism. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I do think between the drive to be honest and the mission to seek truth, sometimes makes us forget that we also have responsibility to care for one another. We need to practice empathy and compassion. Before opening your mouth, determine if what you’re about to say has more good coming from it, than harm. Weigh the odds. Use common sense.

Truth will always prevail, in it’s own time.

People will find their truth when it’s the right time, for them. And if they don’t? That’s not our problem. Getting into a debate with someone in a fragile emotional state is not the time, nor place. We shouldn’t impose our belief, (or research for that matter) on another at the price of causing damage. To me this is reprehensible.

Know when to speak up, and know when to shut up. Learn to let shit go. We don’t always have to be right. Your words are your responsibility. Therefore we are responsible for the damage they cause.

Take care of one another. 

Oriole

 

The Art of Discovery and Research

I love a good story. My nose is always buried in a book. If I’m lucky enough to have one told to me – even better! Ghost stories are an American Tradition – they bring up memories from childhood, and for some, they have a deep personal impact.

Again, as a “Skeptic”, this is where things get tricky. If you are telling me a story based on a fictional narrative; I get to enjoy  the story-telling tradition. However, if you are saying that your story is based on actual events and individuals who lived and died, you can bet your bottom dollar someone like me is going to ask what research you have done. This is where a paranormal investigator can step up to the plate and hit a home run!  Research!

research-390297_1920Research and Discovery. I know it can be considered tedious, boring, a waste of time. You may trust that the story you are telling is true. The individual who passed it on to you is someone who you have complete confidence in. This is where I bring up a childhood game, called “whisper down the line”. In the game, you have 20 students sitting in a line, you tell the 1st student a simple descriptive sentence, and have them whisper it to the next student. The process repeats itself until we get to the last student. The line you whispered to that 1st student is “the red balloon is floating in the classroom”. By the time it has reached the 20th student, that simple line has changed to ” the red baboon is sitting in his own poo”! No, you are not a little kid but you are human, and we all suffer from the human condition. Meaning? People hear, see, and remember things differently. The bonus of being human? We like to keep records. Federal, state and even local municipalities keep records on file for both property and for individuals. Checking the census records for the years that you believe the deceased lived and resided in that location lends validity to your claims. Making your ghost story something with factual backing and documentation!

When an individual tells of a “true” haunting, explaining who they believe the ghost to be, how they died, and why they are haunting the location… yet they have not done any background research – they lose credibility. Yes, there are stories that can not be backed by a long line of paperwork. These are usually referred to as legend, folklore or myth. When you do the research you may discover hidden details that add depth and validity to your work. Here’s an added bonus, when you discover their name, hand written in some ledger, you have created a connection to them – proof that they really existed, and they have a story to be told! Getting the story right is worth all the time and effort, because the past deserves nothing less.

Why Do Ghost Hunters Investigate in the Dark?

You’ve all seen the shows and heard the stories as after midnight as the moon barely lights the room as…. something paranormal happens… cue dramatic music.  But have you ever asked why so many investigate in the dark or maybe more importantly do we really need to?

flashlight in darkWhy do so many hunt/investigate at night? Most would say that’s the best time, but have you ever heard WHY it was the best time? Could be from the Victorian era with seances or more recently with Paranormal State’s use of “Dead Time” (witching hours/psychic hours) as one reason to do at night. Almost all the groups you see is night shots with night vision… One of the biggest pet peeves I have in life is the “it’s always been done this way” mentality.  Yes, at times what’s broke don’t need fixing, but sometimes it can use a tweak… So again why do so many investigate at night? Spook factor maybe?  Reality is I’ve investigated at night because I follow the evidence (reports, sightings, stories) of a particular location – and at times have been their all hours of the day chasing what clients said happens.  So when the sightings, noises or whatever that are being reported is at night then you want to be around when/if it happens – makes sense right? But blindly investigating at night just because its “the only way to do it” is more the amateur hour thrill seeker way to me.  Before anyone goes off – yes, I realize the paying job limits time to investigate and forces it to the later hours of the day mostly, what i’m saying is if you want to be serious about what you do then follow the trail given to you – not some idea of what and where the trail should be or lead.

I’ve labeled this under para-tips because I hope someone whether they be new or a seasoned paranormal veteran can take a different look at the why and how we investigate.  Paranormal activity by definition is above the range of normal experiences, so it can happen anywhere, anytime, anyplace. Now whether what happens is a ghost or not… well that’s another story for another article… So until then follow the trail wherever it leads to day or night.

 

Offering a solution: After the investigation

So you’ve completed your investigation and it’s time to pack up. You go home, review your evidence, and you end up with countless EVP, and whatever else. You determine that in fact the place you’ve investigated is most likely haunted. Well, now what?

Chances are after we return to give our reveal of information we’ve collected, and it turns up that we do believe a location is indeed haunted, the home or business owner is going to have more questions than ever. What solutions would you leave that client?

I guess this is about the time I should tell you, this blog is solely the opinion of Angels of Light Paranormal Society, and does not necessarily mean that what we think is the end all be all of paranormal solutions. But after our years of experience, we’ve come to the conclusion that this is what works best for our team, and for our clients.

The first step in my opinion, is trying to find out what we’re dealing with. Now even though the paranormal field mostly based on theory, this part is easily debatable. Is whatever the client dealing with malevolent in nature? Is it causing damage emotionally or physically? Or is it possible the the client is perceiving it this way, and is simply misunderstanding whatever is there (if anything at all).

Interview processing is extremely important. This is your chance to get to know your client. Lots of questions can give you some insight to your client and how their train of thought is. Simply asking them what their favorite shows are can tell you a lot. If they have every paranormal show DVR’d in existence, they COULD be reading a little too deep into those bumps in the night.

*It is NOT our job to impede on a person’s personal life. We DO NOT have the right to ask questions that makes anyone uncomfortable. We need to be sure to let people know they only have to answer the questions that they are comfortable answering. We always simply let people know, “You have the right to answer only what you are comfortable revealing. But the questions we are asking are part of finding a solution for you, should we find something” Explain each question, and RESPECT PEOPLES PRIVACY. NEVER RELEASE PERSONAL INFORMATION WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF THE CLIENT. USE COMMON SENSE!

I cannot stress how important this step is. Before we even begin to start jumping into paranormal reasoning, we need to figure out first of all if there is anything even paranormal in nature causing the havoc within the location. Whether its low lying branches on a roof top, a highway of headlights in the distance, a pest control problem or even high amount of EMF in the home- we need to exhaust EVERY chance of this being a nature occurrence that is being misconstrued as supernatural. It’s easy for the mind to play tricks when we really don’t understand the cause of certain things. Our team does consider themselves a debunking team. We would rather explain to someone they need an exterminator over needing an exorcism any day of the week. Keeping from adding to people’s fears is probably the most important job of a paranormal investigator. WE WANT TO BE PART OF THE SOLUTION, NOT PART OF THE PROBLEM. This subject could be a whole ‘nother subject but will save this for another time.

OK so now you’ve exhausted every natural solution there is, and have determined that something strange is indeed going on in the home. We should do our best to look at the bigger picture. Has anything presented itself as malevolent? What experiences are the clients having? Are they just curious about the activity, or are they living in fear? What information can you provide the client that is useful? Should you release everything to them that you find? What has the potential to be misconstrued?

As a team, Angels of Light believes the goal is to empower the client to take their life back and learn to live in harmony within their home or business. Private space such as this should be an individuals fortress and safe haven.  An unhealthy environment can cause issues in all aspect of a persons life, and they can easily be over ruled by unhappiness if they no longer feel safe in these places. This can cause a slough of issues including health issues, relationship issues, financial issues, and pretty much the entire gamut of personal problems. What solution can we offer, that makes it possible to gain these things back?

An important question we ask in our interview process, is the persons religious preference or faith system. This is an important factor 9 times out of 10 in finding a solution that suits the individual. This is why we feel its important as a team to understand different religions and faith systems. You will find out quickly if you are doing something that goes against ones religious standards. This, in my opinion, is detrimental in building a trust with your client. If you begin smudging (saging) in a persons home who’s never seen such a thing, they may associate you with witchcraft which is not necessarily well understood by many people. Occultist type cleansing may be interpreted as something dark and even evil. You want to be sure to communicate well with your client and explain your processes before beginning any ceremonial type activity.

Some faiths may require simple prayer, while others may require asking for a member of clergy to enter the home. We do ask that the client be involved in the process of taking their home back. After reviewing we do try to explain that most of the time a mutual agreement can be made between the living and the dead, by simply laying down some ground rules.

For example; In my own house, I do have a man who wanders around and sometimes spooks me. Until I was used to this, the things he did, did have me worried that he may have been unfriendly. But after witnessing him a few times, especially at bed time, I realized he was merely observing or passing through, he just happened to be noisy. After cursing him out a few times for spooking me (which I profusely apologized, that’s rude to do), I laid down ground rules for him. I let him know that during daylight hours he was free to roam. Neutral spaces are neutral spaces. If I happened to pass him, then that was fine, it was his home too. But when people are trying to go to sleep, I asked for the same courtesy that I would ask of anyone in my room while I trying to go to sleep: to leave me alone, that it was my private time. I did give him run of the areas of my home that were unoccupied during those hours, my workout room, the office, the kitchen, living room, hallways. After all these are free range areas I allow any member of my home to wander, why would I deny him freedom of movement? My kids rooms were absolutely off limits no matter what time of day. These are ground rules that seem to work well for us, and he has yet to violate them since being set in place.

What would  you expect of a roomate? Expect that of your spectre friend.

Now I understand that this is something that might not work for every situation. There are people who are absolutely terrified of the paranormal and want nothing to do with a ghost in their home, especially people who have children. This is where I believe faith steps in. Giving the person strength to stand up to whatever frightens them, is extremely empowering. This is not only in this situation, but in all aspects of life. Building self esteem from becoming a victim to their situation is very important. During this time I will actually have the personal vocalize (sometimes it takes a few cause some people have never spoke with the dead), how the spirit makes them feel, and what they want to ask of the spirit. Whether its to leave them alone, to stay away from their children, or simply to hang out in the garage after dark, is fair game.

As I said earlier, we try to figure out what the client believes in. In my experience, if you don’t believe in it- its not going to work. While some people are religious, I have found that most people are spiritual and open to whatever offers some solice. At this time our team will conduct a smudging with the client, (with their permission) to help neutralize the environment spiritually. We teach the client how to do this so that they can continue after we leave. Depending on the situation, we usually leave a care package with whatever we use in the cleansing. (Sage, salt, holy water, etc.) This is where self empowerment comes into play. Teaching the client to take back control of their house, but to do so in a respectful manner.

The key for us, is treating the spirit as if they are human, because they are.

After this part ensues, we reiterate to the client that our services will continue to be available until they feel that they are able to live in harmony in their home with whatever is present. Should something arise that they no longer feel that they are able to maintain this neutral living with whatever maybe present, we will return and either investigate or move on to a harsher step. Where we draw the line is with malevolence or physical harm. This is very rare for this to happen, but has on occasion. Sometimes more cantankerous personalities require much harsher ground rules or much more aggressive means of cleansing. Regardless we do try to remain respectful, but firm.

We do try to avoid moving spirits over, because this is very personal. That alone is an entirely different blog.

We find that baby steps are usually the best best. The most non-invasive steps first, and then slowly moving on to other bigger solutions if necessary. Running in like an authority can sometimes cause more resistance. Give what is present the chance to resolve the issue.

If we are unable to come to a working solution, we feel there is no need to kick a dead horse, so to speak. This is the time we will call on a team that we trust within the region for a a second opinion. We cannot stress ENOUGH to make sure you know this team well. You do not want the hard work you have done to come undone. You want to make sure this team will work fluidly with your own standards of investigation, and work with integrity. The client is whats most important here. We will then relay the information and case file of procedures over to that team if they want it, and other times they will want to go in blindly so they are not swayed with previous findings. This is extremely rare that we need to call on an outside team, but it has happened. Sometimes swallowing your pride and recognizing that your solution has not worked is the best bet. Sometimes the client simply hearing the same information from a second team is all they need to feel as if they have an understanding of what is occurring. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!

******NEVER- I REPEAT NEVER SUGGEST OR JUMP TO THE CONCLUSION THAT WHATEVER IS IN THE HOME IS DEMONIC. This is something I believe, that should be left to someone who specializes in this, such as clergy. I firmly believe that anyone who has not dealt with demons previously should leave this to the church. We are here to help, not cause more harm or confusion. Because we have worked with spirits, or read books, does not make us an authority on this subject. If a true demon is at play, take heed and consult someone who is actually able to help the family. If you suspect demonic activity, you and your teams safety should trump. SAFETY FIRST! It is not our job to play a super hero. Our job is to find the client the appropriate help.

Ghost Hunting 101: The Basics

Throughout the years I’ve been asked how I got started in the paranormal field. Naturally as a teacher, leader, and author, I decided I would write a series of articles called “Ghost Hunting 101” to help those understand how I began my own personal journey. These are just a few tips and tricks not only which I used but these are from my mentors and from the mentors who taught them.

Where to begin:

While naturally; finding your way into, earning respect from, and all while learning as much as possible from the paranormal community can be quite intimidating. Trust me, we all had to start somewhere. Here are a few tips to make the newcomer, remind the seasoned investigator, or help the new team member get a crash course in ghost hunting.

  • Contact your local team. Not only are paranormal investigators used to educating the public about paranormal phenomenon, they enjoy training new people in the field. Get active in any public events they are hosting and ask if there are any public cases you can attend.
  • Read up on it. There are many great books on the topic of how to get started in the paranormal field as well as an array of websites and articles to educate you.
  • Do your research. Whether it’s a local legend, myth, or town tragedy, it’s impossible not to find a place to investigate right in your very own back yard. Talk to your historian or the local elders. They are a wealth of knowledge and can help steer you in the right direction.

The Basics:

Here are a few of the basic rules and responsibilities of paranormal investigators and enthusiast. There are very important and need to be taken very seriously. Ignoring these, or your local team’s rules and regulations could result in injury, prison, or even worse…death.

  • Never go alone. Of course there are many dangers to going alone such as abduction, getting hurt or getting lost. Always bring a friend with you when investigating and make sure to have a cell phone handy in case of emergency but the risk of going alone can be even more complex. It is good to go with someone you know well so they can keep your personality and emotions in check. Although rare, it has been reported for spirits to affect your mood, emotions, or even cause you physical harm.
  • Never trespass. Not only can this possibly get you arrested and in legal trouble, it makes other paranormal teams look bad. Make sure to secure permission from the land or property owner and, if it’s in an outdoor space, you need to contact your local police station. It’s always a good idea to bring your I.D. to verify your identity if need be.
  • Pack the proper equipment. Many items get overlooked when packing for an investigation. Make sure you make a detailed list and go over it thoroughly before leaving. A few things you should remember to bring are your cell phone, a flashlight, extra batteries, a first aid kit and plenty of snacks and water. Make sure to wear a proper outfit and pack warm clothing. Be aware that cell phones can effect equipment so I suggest putting your phone on silence and in airplane mode while investigating. Just remember, pulling out your cell phone while on a client investigation is never professional.
  • Respect the rules. Not only do rules help establish a line of what is acceptable, it also makes investigations run smoothly. Never disrespect a person’s property and always obey the owner’s requests. Any person not obeying the rules and regulations should be escorted off the property and not allowed to participate in the investigation.

Basic equipment:

I get asked all the times at lectures, what are the most important piece(s) of equipment to have while on an investigation. All researchers will have a favorite but I will always stand by my answer on “myself”. Think about it…you know your body well, we have ears to hear, eyes to see, a nose to smell, and we usually can get a good feel for a place once we allow ourselves to calm down. While our body, mind, and feelings are a great start here are a few other great pieces of equipment to bring along.

  • Pen and Paper. Ghost hunting is all about noticing subtle changes in your environment. Having a pen and paper around is a wonderful way to quickly jot down things the client claims, any changes within the environment around you, any personal experiences, and note anything in the area that can be mistaken for paranormal activity.
  • Digital Camera. You don’t have to have the best camera, but a digital camera works the best. Along with the convenience of digital, they are easily uploaded to a computer for easier viewing.
  • Digital Voice Recorder. Digital voice recorders are used to obtain to capture EVP’s or Electronic Voice Phenomenon. Again, this doesn’t have to be the most expensive model and works with software to hear and see the audio for better evidence.

Like I stated earlier, whether you are new to this, helping a new member, or a seasoned investigator, it is important to remember these basics. I truly hope this helps and please keep an eye out for my next article – Ghost Hunting 101: Dangers of Ghost Hunting.