The Performance of Ghost Hunting, Part I

A Thespian Girl

This is a two-part post about my studies into the relationship between performance and the act of ghost hunting.

Ghostlight-30_webA performance is typically defined as an event where there is someone who is presenting something, and there are a group of people observing. This definition of performance is not limited to only theatres or television and movies. A performance can take place at nearly any time of day at any kind of location. Performances can happen at school with the popular crowd, and they can happen at ghost hunts. Scholars have written thousands of book on performance studies and there are even degrees dedicated to the discipline. As a society that is ever growing and changing on a regular basis, there are so many different types of performances out there that appease almost every person out there. From traditional musicals that warm the heart, to the heart-wrenching dramas that influence…

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Phantom Noises

Photo on 2013-01-19 at 09.17Written By Alex Matsuo

 

Happy 2015! So, I had the pleasure of talking with Adam from the YouTube series, AnythingSTRANGE, and chatting with him about APS, different paranormal experiences, and my upcoming projects. One of the things that came up was a phantom noise I heard while at the El Campo Santo Cemetery in Old Town, San Diego, California.  It was actually one of the first pre-APS investigations as a cohesive group, occurring in August of 2011, just a month shy of our official founding. The investigation of the cemetery from this night solidified my desire to start up a team.

So, what is a “phantom noise” in the first place?

A_somehow_rainbow_effect_by_KissMyBrushA phantom noise is essentially a noise that doesn’t seem to have an origin. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s paranormal (it could very well have an explanation), but a source could not be identified at the time of the experience. Phantom noises are a huge part in the paranormal experience, as we hear sounds every day that we can identify with. But when we hear something that is disturbing or frightful, we have the desire to find out the source as a way to calm our fears. When that source can’t be identified, then we tend to think ghost or demon until an explanation comes along. Whether it’s bells, banging, knocking, humming, singing, speaking, etc. sounds are key in our daily life and help dictate our mental and emotional state. There is no question that dealing with a phantom noise can shake one to the core.

But if you encounter a phantom noise, the first thing you should do is try to identify the source immediately. Look around your surroundings and see what is there that could have made that noise. Walk over to the potential source and examine it (look, touch,etc.). If you can’t find the source, then see if the noise can be recreated. If you believe a presence created the sound, then ask them to do it again. Make sure you have your audio recorders handy and your microphones on your video cameras turned on. If you’re truly having a paranormal experience through noise, then you don’t want to miss it!

After you’ve collected your audio data, it’s time to review it! Having an audio program like Audacity (which is free) or GarageBand (if you’re on Mac) is a great place to start for newbies. Learn what sound waves look like on the computer and how they fluctuate from basic noise like your voice, clapping, etc. Then look for your phantom noise to see what kind of wave it produced. Hopefully, you can then isolate the wave and be able to go further in your examination.

This is short and pretty basic, but I hope you all enjoyed this post and interview! Till next time!

Is Modern Day Ghost Hunting & Investigating Disrespectful?

Photo on 2013-01-19 at 09.17Written by Alex Matsuo

This perhaps may be an armchair critic rant, but given the amount of teams I’ve been working with in terms of consulting for them or doing classes and I’ve been noticing a trend. Now, this is merely an observation that I would honestly love to get input on for anyone who wants to pitch in their .02.

As an investigator and researcher, I’ve always felt as though client work is a form of conflict mediation, which usually results in miscommunication. But I feel like many ghost hunters, teams, etc. automatically pin the presence as the enemy or “the other”. I’m not exactly sure how I feel about that. In most of the cases I’ve worked, the presence has been a deceased human being, and usually the phenomenon is a response to the client’s actions or behavior. Not saying that one or the other is wrong, but where did the whole idea of treating the presence or phenomenon as the enemy right off the bat come from?

When it comes to cases where the client is having a negative experience with an unseen force, of course the team wants to come in and be the problem solvers and help. But keep in mind that client work can be a form of “he said/she said” in terms of miscommunications. What may be the ghost trying to communicate can be interpreted as an attack by the client. And because the client is physically present and able to verbally tell their story, investigators give them the upper hand when in reality, perhaps the client could be inadvertently responsible for some of the conflict.

Couple-Yelling

I feel to approach the presence and communicate with them defensively is a bit disrespectful. And the thing that gets me more than anything is PROVOKING. When there’s no response, you’re either dealing with something that doesn’t want to communicate (and hey as living beings there are people we don’t want to talk to) or there might not be anything there. And if you’re provoking something that is inhuman or evil…even worse. That’s like poking a sleeping dragon and then being shocked when you get burned. Provoking to me can be dangerous in a client case because we’re not the ones who have to keep living in the house after the investigation is over, and the investigators themselves aren’t the ones who usually don’t deal with the consequences. The idea of communicating with the unseen presence as if they’re the enemy right off the bat is very sad to me and takes away many opportunities for more effective communication that could lead to resolution.

I find the world of investigating and research to be a beautiful thing. It’s communicating with someone who is deceased or something from another realm of existence. Asking the presence to perform tricks for our entertainment is just wrong and on the same level of asking a human being to juggle for us just because we asked. Going in and speaking English and not the native tongue of the presence just shows ignorance. Couldn’t we take the time to learn more about the context of the dead before going in? Perhaps if we approach our investigations with a bit more objectivity and respect, maybe the other side will be more open and willing to communicate with us. Maybe instead of letting the client become so dependent on the investigator, we should educate and empower them by talking to them about what could cause paranormal phenomenon, educate them, and let them know that they still have control over the situation even when they feel helpless. In reality, maybe working client cases is a form of conflict mediation where the investigator is the middle-man helping to resolve a problem between the two worlds of the living and the dead.

Is One Coast More Haunted Than The Other?

Photo on 2013-01-19 at 09.17Written by Alex Matsuo

 

We’re going to take a break from research and academic-y posts and I would like to share something with you that’s been on my mind. Since moving here to Raleigh, NC from San Diego, CA in June of 2013, I’ve been noticing that I experience much more paranormal activity on the east coast. My team here in the “City of Oaks” has nearly double the amount of cases and potential leads than the team in San Diego. Not only in case numbers, but I’ve noticed that the availability of haunted locations to investigate is far greater than the west coast.

The answers can be chalked up to the idea that there’s more history on the east coast than the west coast. But in order to validate that assumption, we have to account for the history and the timeline of both coasts. And of course, that would require extensive research based on demographics. However, I’m fairly certain that there is probably equal amount of paranormal activity on both sides of the country. Both sides have seen war, settlements, sickness, disasters…so what is the difference?

PrintSince I have moved here, I’ve noticed that there is a different perception of the paranormal on the east coast. It’s more accepted and embraced out here. There are more people who acknowledge their experiences and want to get it investigated. There are more haunted locations that are being capitalized by the locals. The paranormal mindset is very different out here. I’ve met more people than I can shake a stick at who openly admit that they believe in the paranormal or they’ve had experiences that they couldn’t explain. It’s rather interesting.

There is also more accessibility to history on the east coast. It seems that no matter where I turn in Raleigh or in my travels up and down this side of the country, I can visit  historical locations that have been well preserved as opposed to a site where history happened. Of course when it comes to American history like the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, there is more on the east coast. But when it comes to the birthplace of America and culture, the west coast has the upper-hand.

I don’t want this post to be a “which coast is better” sort of thing, but I am curious to know: Do you feel that one side of North America is more haunted than the other?

Sleep Paralysis: Is It Paranormal?

Photo on 2013-01-19 at 09.17Written by APS Founder and Mid-Atlantic Director: Alex Matsuo

Probably one of the most popular emails I receive involves the client being awakened for whatever reason, they’re not able to move or speak, they feel a weight on their chest, and they may feel a dark presence in the room. The client may even see things around the room like a ghost, spirit, demon, lights, colors, just to name a few. For anyone, this is a terrifying experience no matter who you are. As someone who dealt with this myself, I know how scary it is when your eyes open and you can’t even move, let alone let out a noise.

It should come as a relief for many that there is actually a logical explanation for this phenomenon. It’s very important to know the difference between sleep paralysis and a paranormal occurrence in this area. Of course, there are always exceptions and variables to this, but generally, this frightening experience can be explained using some logic and science.

Old Hag Syndrom

When we sleep, our body goes through a series of different stages of sleep that involve REM (rapid eye movement) and Non-rapid eye movement (NREM). Our body cycles in and out of REM and NREM and progress through about four stages of sleep, appropriately called Stage 1-5. Our bodies typically spend the most time in the state of NREM and a shorter time in REM, which is where our dreams occur. Studies have shown that the REM stage starts about 90 minutes into sleep.

Here are the different stages of sleep

  • Stage 1: Starts about 5-10 minutes into sleep, and the eyes are closed. It’s not hard to wake up from this stage, however, you won’t feel like you got any rest. Have you ever had a dream early on in your sleeping time where you trip and fall and your body jolts you awake? That’s called hypnic myoclonia. Also at this stage, the brain begins to produce theta waves, which are slow brain waves.
  • Stage 2: This is a period of light sleep while the muscles relax that help you transition into a deeper sleep. This lasts about 20 minutes.
  • Stage 3: This is officially the stage between light sleep and deep sleep and deeper, slow brain waves occur.
  • Stage 4: This is a deep sleep that lasts about 30 minutes, and also known as delta sleep due to the delta brain waves that are occurring.
  • Stage 5: The body enters into REM sleep and this is where dreaming occurs.

Now, keep in mind that the body cycles through stages of sleep, and sometimes it is out-of-order. This is all fine and dandy, but what does this have to do with sleep paralysis?

Well, when we enter the stage of REM sleep, our brain emit a chemical that paralyzes our body. This is so that we don’t physically act out our dreams. During the REM stage, our minds are very vivid with intense dreams, and it can be dangerous for our bodies to physically act out what’s going on in our minds. This chemical paralyzes everything from legs to arms, to fingers and toes.

When our body is awakened, for whatever reason, sometimes our body is still under this paralyzing chemical. Our eyes are open and we’re awake, but our body is still asleep, which can bring on the effect of feeling like you’re being pinned down. In some cases, our brains are still dreaming, which can cause hallucinations or literally seeing our dreams before our eyes.

Of course, there are always variables and exceptions. But knowing the possible explanations for this scary occurrence is very important before immediately resorting to a paranormal explanation. If you are experiencing sleep paralysis regularly, you may want to see your doctor and look into possible being tested for a sleep disorder. For me personally, I was able to stop my own sleep paralysis incidents by stopping my consumption of caffeine by noon and not watching TV immediately before bed.

But if you’re experiencing the effect of being pinned down, and seeing things before you’re even asleep, then perhaps there’s something more going on, and it would be worth it to contact a local paranormal team to ask some questions. Most importantly, rule out logical explanation before moving on to the next step. Below are some reference links with much more in-depth information, and I encourage you all to read them with a fine-toothed comb and look into more books and websites with information if this interests you.

References:

http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/sleep-101

http://www.livescience.com/21653-brain-chemicals-sleep-paralysis.html

http://psychology.about.com/od/statesofconsciousness/a/SleepStages.htm

Mediums, Spirits, and Ectoplasm…Oh My!

1238249_1395261277371679_1954880206_nWritten by San Diego Team Member:

Flo Stair

 

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition ectoplasm pertaining to the supernatural is “a substance held to produce spirit materialization and telekinesis”. Ectoplasm is better remembered as green slime that ghosts left behind in the 1984 blockbuster hit “Ghostbusters”.  Whether ectoplasm is actually real or not has been much debated in the scientific and paranormal community.

After World War I there was an increased interest in spiritualism, a religious warner3movement that involved contacting deceased loved ones using a psychic medium. The increased interest in this movement was mostly likely brought on by all the soldiers and that had died during the war, and their family wanting to contact their loved ones beyond the grave.

Ectoplasm was supposed to be physical proof that they were communicating with the dead. It was a term used to define a physical emanation of the supernatural, most like coming out one of the medium’s orifices such as the mouth, nose or ears. Some early researchers merged the idea of ectoplasm with the theory of “ectenic force,” these researchers were trying to find a physical explanation for psychokinetic experiences happening during séances.  Count Agenor de Gasparin and his colleage M. Thury hypothesized its existence to explain the phenomena of tables turning and the sounds of tapping during séances. The two researchers claimed they have had success with their experiments on ectenic force, but their results have not been verified independently.

Ectoplasm was so commonplace that it was revered in the scientific community and was featured in scientific journals, its existence was confirmed by such great minds of the times such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and William Butler Yeats. Once Scientific America offered $5,000 to anyone that could demonstrate this phenomena to a scientific panel, this money was a means to an end to the validity of ectoplasm.

5724940_f260

Many researchers uncovered fraud, and do not believe ectoplasm is plausible. Many séances were conducted in poor lighting which enabled the mediums to follow through with their illusion of ectoplasm. Researcher Harry Price debunked medium Helen Duncan’s ectoplasm, by analyzing a sample of the ectoplasm she produced from her mouth. His finding determined it was a piece of cheesecloth that she had swallowed and regurgitated later. Duncan also used dolls and masks that would ooze fake ectoplasm.

What the scientific panel uncovered was even more disturbing than what Price discovered. Many methods and materials were used to create the illusion of ectoplasm. Some mediums would cut magazines or photographs and stick them to cheesecloth and pass them off as spirits of the dead. The medium examined by the scientific panel had a very creative methodology. She concealed a sheep gut and fat mixture in her vagina, which she would expulse at a certain time to make it look like she was expelling ectoplasm.

With the exposure of these frauds the displays of ectoplasm and credibility of mediums waned. After the were war fake mediums preyed and exploiting desperate people wishing to contact their loved ones, and ruined the credibility of real mediums. Although this term is widespread in popular culture, it is mostly rejected in the science community and is still debatable up until this day if it is real or faux.

Anna the Prophetess

Photo on 2013-01-19 at 09.17Written by Founder and Mid-Atlantic Director:

Alex Matsuo

 

Today is Christmas! And Christians around the world will be celebrating it as the birth of Jesus Screen shot 2013-12-24 at 4.58.34 PMChrist.  Yes, while we know Jesus was most likely not born on December 25th, it is the day designated for the celebration.  Growing up Christian, what fascinated me the most wasn’t the birth of Christ (I know, very irreverent of me), but instead, a “prophetess” named Anna.  She is probably one of the Bible’s most interesting women, one of the most commonly forgotten, and she remains a great mystery to me.

I know there has been debate as to whether she is a prophet or a psychic, and the differences being that a prophet gets their information from God while psychics get their information for other source (and whose to say it isn’t God giving all the information).  Anyway, while that discussion is interesting, we’ll save it for another time.  Let’s focus on Anna, as she’s depicted in the Bible.

Anna is introduced at the end of the Birth Narrative (Luke 1:1-2:40) and she arrives at the Temple where the purification of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is taking place, traditionally 40 days after the birth of the firstborn son.  This tradition is based on the written law of the Lord and a sacrifice of a lamb, two pigeons, or two turtledoves is offered as well (Leviticus 12:2-8).

The family is first greeted by Simeon, an old man described as “righteous and devout” who was told by the Holy Spirit that he will not die until he has seen the Messiah.  Simeon takes Jesus into his arms, praises God, declares Jesus is God’s salvation and says, ““Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:28-32).  Simeon is now ready to die.  An extra note regarding Simeon, he very well may have been a priest since he held Jesus.

Anna then approaches the family, and Simeon describes her as a “prophetess” (Luke 2:29-32, 34-36).  These two individuals arrived separately, but scholars and Christians believe that divine intervention took place on this day.

Luke describes Anna as a woman who is deserving the honor that is bestowed on the elderly in the ancient Mediterranean world.

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. – Luke 2:36-38, New International Version (NIV)

anna-rembrandt

Anna, as painted by Rembrandt

Anna is the only female in the Bible described as a prophetess.  It’s rather interesting to consider that Luke mentions her tribe (Asher) as well as the name of her father (Phanuel), but not her deceased husband.  Also, her dialogue is narrated, where Simeon is directly quoted.  Anna is described as someone who never leaves the Temple, she prays and worships night and day by fasting and praying, as well as being available 24/7.  It is clear that Anna is depicted as someone who listens to God and is devout.  She recognizes the baby immediately and knows who He is.  She prays as directed and fasts often, aware that it brings results.  She is depicted as being of very advanced age of at least 84 years old.

I’ve always found Anna’s depiction in the Bible very fascinating.  She’s a prophetess, but not a psychic, but yet she possesses knowledge that no one else knew and could identify the baby Messiah.  And finally, we don’t know much about her, her family, whether she had any children before her husband passed, and her life in the Temple.

Even if you don’t believe in God, or Jesus, or the Bible…it’s worthy to take a glance at Anna and how she is portrayed in a book and religion where consulting psychics was considered as dealing with the Devil.

APS wishes everyone a blessed holiday celebration!