Russian Hill, Suicide House


Our team was contacted to perform an investigation of a house, which many locals refer to as the, “Suicide House”. The house was originally constructed in 1875 along the banks of the Russian River in California. It is documented that the first owner became distrout over losing his wife to due sickness and a hung himself from the rafters in one of the guest bedrooms.

The house was vacant throughout the years and was even abandoned for 15 years. In 1995 the current owner remodeled the structure and began renting it out. However he has since been having issues keeping tenants due to many odd occurrences that they have been experiencing. Past tenants have reported a short shadow figure darting throughout the property and have also heard voices even when no one else is present.

Paranormal Investigation

Our team arrived on location at 8pm, after unpacking our gear we sent up stationary cameras in the bedroom were the suicide occurred as well as in the hallway, staircase, master, and basement. We surveyed and performed regular EMF sweeps and noticed that several areas of the house were the client reported activity correlated with high emf fields that were being created by exposed wiring under the house. The readings in these areas averaged between 80 to 95 Gauss, which could promote feelings of uneasiness and even foster hallucinations to those that have a sensitivity to high electromagnetic fields.

After preforming several audio recording sessions in hopes of capturing any spirit voices, we determined that due to the street outside and the acoustics of the house, many of the noises that we caused by people walking outside and cars passing by could actually be heard in all areas of the house except for the basement. Was this the cause of the phantom voices?

After evaluating all the data from the investigation, we were unable to confirm of anything paranormal happening on the property.

Queen Anne Hotel San Francisco, Haunted

Queen Anne Hotel History

It is important to note that directly across the street during the late 1800′s and early 1900′s lived a lady who was known as the Voodoo queen of San Francisco, Miss Mary Ellen Pleasant. “Mammy Pleasant” which many refer to her as, was originally from an Augusta, Georgia plantation. She became of high prominence in San Francisco due to the face that many of the SF elite used her to find maids and servants. After accumulating over $30 million dollars in wealth, she soon lost her fortune. Her home before it was torn down was on Bush street about 300 ft from the Queen Anne. After she was evicted from her home, many would see her outside of the house sitting amongst the Eucalyptus trees she once planted yelling obscenities at people passing by.

Paranormal Investigation

Having investigated the Queen Anne hotel numerous times, we wanted to see if we could get any evidence of a connection between the hotel and Mammy Pleasant besides a geographic one. We picked five rooms that all had views facing the Eucalyptus trees, and commenced the investigation. 4 out of the 5 rooms didn’t pick up any anomalous activity, however room 203 were able to pick up numerous EVPs, and very odd environmental data at the same time. All of this occurred while calling out for Mary Ellen Pleasant during the EVP sessions.

Calistoga Paranormal Investigation

Case Background

Last month we received a call from a woman who believed she was seeing her deceased parents in their vacated home that they used to live in. Her parents had died within 6 months of each, with the last passing away in June of 2011. Since they had passed away the home and all of its contents had remained unchanged. She periodically checks on the home during the week the and sometimes notices shadow figures, and unexplainable voices. The house is located on a vineyard in the Napa Valley, away from busy streets, which makes the noises and sounds that she was hearing even hard to believe that it could be caused by non-paranormal forces. The daughter nor the rest of the family had ever experienced anything in the house that was paranormal until the parents had past away.

Paranormal Investigation

The team arrived on location at 9pm and surveyed the house with EMF detectors for about two hours to see if there were any electromagnetic disturbances that could be causing the daughter to be having the experiences that she was having. After doing so we were unable to pick up any unusual readings, as the base only fluctuated between .5 to .9 Milli Gauss. We then conducted several EVP sessions in combination with a EM meter to see if we could get anything, however we were unsuccessful. The only thing that happened was that several investigators smelled what appeared to be phantoms odors of roses and cigar smoke.

Our sensitives without any prior knowledge of the case did pick up on the causes of the deaths of both parents and believed that there was spiritual energy there, however it was residual as opposed to an intelligent nature.

We advised the client of our inconclusive findings and will reschedule a future investigation if the activity increases.

Burlington Hotel, Port Costa Haunted


In the small town of Port Costa rests a hotel that not many people have not heard of or seen before.  Many of the workers and past guests believe that the hotel is haunted.  Being from the Bay Area I had never heard of Port Costa until 2006 when I first learned of this location and its one of kind charm still captivates me to this day.

The town itself is nestled along the Carquinez Delta in California.  Port Costa was founded in 1879, and served as a bustling Port for wheat until the 1930′s.  Many referred to the town as one of the wildest on the west coast.  Early in the 1900′s the town once housed over 3,000 inhabitants, but now it has dwindled down to just over 190.

There are no records that can give us a definitive answer of when the Burlington Hotel was built, or even what it was used for.  The Building oozes of Victorian architecture in both its exterior and interior which leads many to believe it was built some where around 1890 to 1905 when most of the other structures were built in Port Costa.  Many residents and historians believe that it was used for prostitution as well as speakeasy, which could help fuel the paranormal activity there.

Paranormal Investigation

During our last visit in December we were able to capture a couple of electronic voice phenomenas using our Digital Recorders.  Most of the enviromental data we picked up proved rather inconclusive.  However, we did pick up interesting spikes on a natural EM meter that was placed in a room were one of the house keepers had witnessed some anomalous activity in the past.  We were unable to replicate the spikes on the EM device, and they only happened once in that location for 4 hours, it was during this time we picked up our most conclusive EVP for the night.

San Remo San Francisco Haunted

Haunted San Remo Hotel, San Francisco History

Soon after the 1906 earth quake ravage the city of San Francisco, Bank of America founder A.P. Giannini built the “Californian Hotel”.  The hotel was originally constructed to service the large immigrant workforce used to rebuild the city, also it served as a primary place of stay for merchant seaman, waterfront workers, poets, journalists and pensioners.

The building now also houses one of San Francisco’s oldest Italian Restaurants, Fior d’Italia.

Paranormal Investigation

On the night of our investigation we decided to book several of the rooms which the staff claimed were haunted.  Being that we couldn’t book the whole hotel, and also due to the fact it is on a busy street in the heart of San Francisco we knew we that our EVP sessions would be limited, so we decided to instead focus on still Infrared, and high speed photography sessions.   However first we surveyed the area by preforming a brief EMF sweep, and as with most older structures there were high readings throughout the building.

The most active room proved for the night proved to be #13, were as legend has is associated with the death of an elderly lady who was found in her bed several months after her passing.  It was in this room that we picked up several EM spikes, as well as some interesting pieces of photographic evidence. Below is a sample of what was caught during one of the burst photography sessions.

Whats the deal with ghosts

Okay. I may be wrong, but my guess is that you’re probably reading this in the hope I’ll tell some cool ghost stories. More than that, I’ll add the customary showmanship to the stories. But wait. I’ll give you the real scoop right off the bat: there isn’t a single ghost story in this article, and I warn you that I’ll probably sound a little nerdy. Sure I’m interested in ghosts, but this interest has a lot to do with a sincere desire to understand what ghosts are and how we humans can study them.

If the bitter truth be known, I’m going to tallk a bit about how human consciousness and ghosts have quite a bit in common. Yes, I admit to being biased toward believing that ghosts aren’t something that’s objectively out there. They, in fact, have a lot to do with the subjective observer. No, I don’t believe that ghosts are a figment of imagination, but I suspect that they’re the result of human conscousness interacting with some odd force we don’t yet understand. Dare I suggest that when we finally understand something significant about quantum mechanics, we are likely to understand more about ghosts? In turn, understanding more about
quantum mechanics may link to understanding the human psyche far better than we do now. Sure, at this point in time, all my talk leads to a funky sort-of-science, but it’s (if I say so myself) deeply satisfying. Let’s face it: to understand ghosts or spirits, we have to give up a romantic attachment to fear of the dead. We have to leave old ideas behind. To do so, we need to revise our relationship to consciousness.

Although it may not be the world’s oldest profession, investigation (formal or informal) into phenomena associated with ghosts/spirits certainly comes close being the oldest profession. Early humans called this “profession” shamanism. Among other things, shamans dealt with the dead and with the essential energy of living creatures. That was because not only were ghosts/spirits an ordinary part of daily life, but it was good to have someone around who knew what to do with ghosts/spirits.Nowadays, shamanism is no longer a central part of modern culture but, even after centuries of the scientific skepticism that usurped shamanism, the ghosts/spirits that were once part of shamanic culture are still a compelling mystery to modern Western society. Hmmm. Is scientism working? I have doubts. Regardless of the scientific dogma that surrounds us and defines our lives, we still feel in our gut that science hasn’t managed to explain everything. We certainly don’t know what to do with ghosts/spirits. Denial doesn’t help. Maybe we need a new shamanism that suits Western culture.

We can start by rethinking ghosts/spitrits. Do ghosts and spirits exist? Science is dubious, but then, if science has never been able to offer satisfactory explanations for ghosts/spirits, perhaps it has to do with the fact that science suffers from exceedingly narrow vision. Science is simply not equipped to deal with paranormal phenomena! In the throes of its intellectual arrogance, conventional science doesn’t stop to consider that, in other times and places, ghosts/spirits have almost always been an accepted phenomenon. Science also doesn’t note that ghosts/spirits in accepting cultures don’t usually inspire the paralyzing helplessness that we feel in industrialized Western cultures. Why? The answer is fairly simple: in contrast to a number of indigenous cultures, many Westerners fear death. We don’t know what to do with it.

Let me be honest. Here in the West, we do have genuine trouble with death. This aversion to death wasn’t born overnight. In fact, it probably goes as far back as the early days when aggressive warriors crushed the powerful reign of old Goddess cultures that, yes, believed in ever-repeating cycles of life/death. In this view, death was merely transition. Regrettably, the eventual rise of religious dogma and, later, intellect eclipsed the Goddess-based intuition that would have reconnected humanity to natural life/death cycles. Human (mostly male) domination became more important than insight. The dominant view of death soon suggested that humanity could only view it through the eyes of either religion or science, both of which promoted a vastly restricted vision of anything that openly challenged the power of priests and, somewhat later, scientists. This narrow view, however, was an effective way to prevail over the “common” person. Why? When those in power explained reality to the general public, they exercisd an effective way to control people by teaching them not to think for themselves. That’s what people learned in the Middle Ages. [Either that, or they were executed as witches.] Yes, we have learned more objective facts since the Middle Ages, but, sadly, we still seem to be content with an “expert’s” view of death (and everything else). In short, we are quite lazy about developing personal insight.

Once we embraced a heritage of mental laziness , we began to have difficulty admitting that, yes, we inherited a serious problem with death. Now, we commonly deny the fact that, someday, we too will have to cope with the unknown. Of course, until then, what we don’t see can’t hurt us. Either we close our eyes, or we let other (apparently more qualified) people tell us what to expect. Rather than exploring our innermost instincts, we stick with realities that we have learned we can control. Unfortunately, this control emerges out of the habit of narrow thinking, the same narrow thinking out of which many churches and universities emerged.

So, here we are. In effect, the narrow view Western culture practiced in, say, the Middle Ages still dominates. Whether we like it or not, it’s our tradition. Unfortunately, this tradition doesn’t serve us well: instead of developing genuinely curious minds, we unconsciously reinvent old, accepted ideas. That means, when confronted with phenomena that can’t be explained with coventional means, our response is to pull the blankets of selective perception over our heads. The phenomena doesn’t exist. It can’t exist. We don’t consider that, maybe, this nonexistence has more to do with the learned narrowness of scientism than with genuine nonexistence. We don’t acknowledge that solving certain problems can only occur if we allow our minds to include more than strict cause-and-effect events. I don’t propose that formal science is useless, but it has limits. We have to learn to use formal science in conjuction with other ways of knowing. With respect to paranormal investigation, we must acknowlege that the sole use of scientific method will probably never bring significant results. To be effective, paranormal investigation needs an innovative mix of formal analysis and intuition. As radical as it might seem, such a mix reflects archaic methods that, for example, were once used at the oracle of Delphi in ancient Greece. At this oracle, the intuitive impressions of priestesses were noted and later interpreted by priests who were formally trained in interpretation. In short, Delphic divination used both receptive and analytical forms of thought.

Today, this mix appears in paranormal investigation when we integrate the experience of proven phychics with objective facts. Certainly, it’s a useful way to integrate different forms of input into investigation. Nevertheless, my personal feeling is that a more effective way to conduct research is to learn to open the mind of an investigator so that he or she is capable of expressing both metalities . In other words, as investigators, we learn to think in terms of what I call creative intellectualism. That is, we let accepted ideas play within a broad range of possibilities. Since I know that this explanation probably doesn’t make sense, let me give an example. Oddly, I’m going to use Arthur Conan Doyle who, in a surge of creativity, created the consummate analyst, Sherlock Holmes. Although a fictional character, Holmes reflects a genuinely inspired view of analysis. Holmes’ secret was, as Holmes’ character actually explained, to collect apparently meaningless bits of diverse information that someday, by chance, will match up with material evidence in interesting, and creative, ways. He makes it clear that effective investigation depends on unusually broad vision. Using this example, I suggest that there’s probably plenty of evidence out there that we’ve learnednot to see. We exhibit cultural blindness. Who knows what solid information we have ignored that will eventually strengthen paranormal investigation?

Cultural blindness? Does it exist? You bet. As investigators in the West, we see things very differently than, say, an aborigine in the outback who, yes, takes the existence of spirits for granted. The quality of our attention even varies from someone of European extraction who lived on the West Coast of the US about 100 years ago! If we go even further back in time to archaic cultures (particularly those that preceeded Greek and Roman rationality), we discover that what we now consider “paranormal” was, in fact, part of normal life. Did this ability occur because these cultures were less intelligent? More imaginative? More superstitious? In his work The Origin of Consciousness in the Bicameral Mind (1976) Julian Jaynes suggests that early cultures used their brains differently. In effect, they drew more strongly on the side of the brain (i.e., the right hemisphere) that interprets input from a more holistic persective. Fancy words aside, what Jaynes means is that, when they used the right hemisphere, people in old cultures had a tendency to open their minds to such a degree that they saw connections that we can no longer see with our modern minds.

What a pity that we don’t sufficiently honor the right hemisphere . Within the now obscure connections of the right hemisphere, might insight about what we now call paranormal phenomena emerge? Maybe. In this mind, ghosts might cease to inspire fear. Clairvoyance could merely represent an alternate state of mind.

Knowing all this, what do we do now? I suppose we have to get clear on the matter. Ideal use of our modern brains doesn’t mean going back to primal innocence. Return isn’t enough. We have to useboth old and new ways of thinking. We integrate. This integration means that we introduce elements of nonintellectual experience into our thinking mind so that we stimulate as many parts of the brain as we can. How do we do that? We start by learning consciously to access creativity, the sort of creativity that, for example, causes us to see some things in terms of other things. Poets do this every time they use metaphors. [Not surprisingly, poets had greater status in early society than they do today.] Or why not learn to sing? Unbelievably, studies have shown that neuronal activity in the brain changes when we sing. It’s interesting to conjecture that the reason ancient Greek storytellers sang histories and Medieval troubadors sang messages was that sung histories and messages affected listeners on a profound level that was less easily ignored or forgotten. Why? They gripped the listener on a subtle level of feeling. Interesting. I’d think that ghosts/spirits communicate on a level of feeling similar to that of storytellers and musicians. Undoubtedly, that’s why it’s so difficult to use intellect alone to pin down nonordinary phenomena. Ghosts/spirits don’t have brains. That means they don’t make a lot of sense to the intellect. It’s no wonder that science has such a difficult time with ghosts/spirits.

If there is an answer, it might be that we teach ourselves to analyze actively in that part of the brain that we normally reserve for creative efforts. Of course, I realize that this suggestion seems to open the mind to the perils of wild flights of imagination. Well, yes, it does, except that nothing stops us from learning to use both hemispheres together. If nothing else, we can learn to coordinate hemispheres. In short, we balance forms of thinking. For example, we develop an idea in the left hemisphere and then we serve over the idea into the right hemisphere to see what it does with this idea. After the right hemisphere is finished, this hemisphere serves it back to the left for structure Yes, you might ask, but how do I change hemispheres so easily? It’s a good question, particularly since, with our current knowledge, it’s difficult to consciously choose hemispheres. My answer is that we trick ourselves to change hemispheres.

How? Remember that the present-day dominance of the left hemisphere is a learned dominance. If we learned it, we can get rid of it. We can do it by engaging in activities that stimulate both hemispheres. It doesn’t mean that we have to be good at whatever we choose to do, but it certainly means that we learn to enjoy trying both analytical and creative activities. Some of these activities will stimulate the left; some will stimulate the right. The desired end of this experimentation will be that we blend the two hemispheric perspectives when we explore uncommon phenomena. The result of this blend will, yes, be greater than each separate perspective. In effect, we’ll be using the brain in a similar way to early cultures . . . except that we now have a more developed intellect with which to interpret what we see and feel. On the other end of the investigative spectrum, we are able to add archaic intuition to objective measurements.

Yes, but is this solid investigation? In terms of strict scientific method, no, it isn’t. But then, it is useful to remember that most truly great scientific insights came from more than pure scientific method. Einstein (a great scientist, I’m sure you will agree) stressed the importance of imagination in research. He was preceded by a host of other great thinkers who shared a similar vision. Moreover, in Western Europe, the Romantic era during the early 1800s was rife with fascinating attempts to blend science and art. Not surprisingly, this regretably short era also included a distinctive fascination with ghosts/spirits.

Considering the limitations of our current thinking, I suppose it’s up to us creative thinkers to revive the spirit of the Romantic era in our unconventional work. Why not? Science and art are closer than we imagine. If we adhere to an integrated vision, I predict we’ll find that paranormal investigation will begin to depend on the elusive blend of science and art that currently escapes classical physics. Instead of belonging to “shady” science, we might find that, in the long run, serious paranormal investigation challenges uninspired science in the same way that quantum physics challenges Newtonian physics. As with quantum physics, paranormal investigation should force us to work with nonsensical contradictions that frustrate the intellect. We can then accept that, with our current thinking, it is impossible to find satisfactory answers.

Of course, it’s logical to ask why I should know this. Can I prove it? No, I can’t. Proof is a personal matter.that transcends the person. All I can say is that, if we are going to progress in the realm of the paranormal, we must begin to consider that we, the observers, can’t solely depend on fancy gadgets. We must also develop into the fine perceptual tools that we are as human beings. There are a number of ways to develop in this way (a few of which I have mentioned), but, in the end, this struggle involves trial-and-error. It also involves the courage for self-exploration. Strange as it might seem, delving into ourselves requires more courage than we need to confront an actual ghost. I’m willing to guess that, the more we develop as sensitive beings, less we will fear the unexplained. Instead, we’ll feel privy to special knowledge.

Happy hunting!

Jaynes, J. (1976). The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Opening your mind to the paranormal

It’s nearly impossible to access nonordinary experience with ordinary consciousness because the ordinary consciousness we learn in this society tends to be exclusive. That is, our consciousness splits up what we see into pieces so that we interpret what we see and feel from a linear cause-and-effect perspective. This sort of mental organization has benefits, but stubborn reliance on exclusive thinking makes it difficult for us to imagine any other way of interpreting our world. In the end, we develop a form of tunnel vision that selects out only a small portion of total reality. In other words, the truth is out there all around us . . . but we (unconsciously, at least) insist on the habit of narrow vision. We miss so much!

Part of our problem is rooted in our dependency on the tidy American life that we have come to love. We are addicted comfort. We don’t want to be bothered by nasty things like death or anything else that pushes the boundaries of what we, by common consent, have decided we want to believe. Certainly, this view does contribute to a sense of safety and security, although, perhaps, our society could profit from the realization that our stubborn pursuit of security isn’t common. In fact, we qualify as a curious, and perhaps unhealthy, anomaly to much of the world. There are cultures in Africa, Asia, or in less developed parts of the Western world, that find our need for a tightly controlled existence the height of foolishness.

In contrast to the dominant North American/Western European view, there are a number of cultures that are comforted by the belief that humanity is connected to the dynamic universe. Humans aren’t a discrete phenomenon. By tapping into a deep understanding of the universe, these cultures are able to transcend the uninteresting “ordinariness” of modern culture. This insight accounts for a number of rites and rituals that these cultures take seriously, but which we, as tourists, consider a quaint photo-op. Sadly, native cultures have become so accustomed to tourist mentality that they usually deliver a tourist-grade version of what they otherwise consider sacred. Since genuine rituals are a subtle play on consciousness, tourists aren’t welcome. Those involved in a genuine ritual prefer to remain focused on their consecrated space. Gawkers disrupt the flow.

In truth, real rituals are notoriously boring for vacationing onlookers because, to be effective, these rituals must be experienced from the inside out. There is little Hollywood-style flash and fury. Emotions and feelings have purpose and power that transcends the individual. They don’t merely represent inferior forms of knowing. They are where the action is! The message is that, in rites and rituals, one can’t be an onlooker; one must be a participant. One’s state of being is vital for the results one is likely to get.

Linking this idea to paranormal investigation that takes place in Western cultures, we might conclude that, to experience phenomena, we must engage in rituals that are common for certain indigenous people that do see ghosts and other spirits. Sure, we can try, but it is a mistake to confuse ritual with the result that the ritual is supposed to elicit. If a ritual is alien to our culture, it will likely appear to us as awkward and artificial. It will just be a show. It is more useful to realize that our task isn’t to emulate other cultures; it is to find a way to work with paranormal investigation within our culture. Is this an unrealistic goal? Not if we learn to arrange our American thought so that it supports paranormal investigation in a way that harmonizes with, and extends, how we have learned to think in our culture. Yes, we continue to use a solid scientific approach during an investigation, but we integrate this scientific approach with subtle elements that deepen our understanding.

Maybe the secret of conducting an investigation lies in learning not to try too hard. Maybe it lies in not taking our mission too seriously. Instead of focusing on the absolute necessity of seeing a ghost, maybe it’s more useful to work on putting ourselves into a state of mind that is most likely to make us receptive to ghostly phenomena. Accessing the right state of mind is tricky. Often, it means that an investigator must not only be able to suspend disbelief, but must also suspend belief. That is, we don’t have expectations about what we might experience. It’s not that we don’t care (which, in a way, is having an opinion); it means our mind freely takes in events to which to it is exposed. In many ways, we are emulating the mind of a child: we take in what is around us, but don’t match up experienced events with learned expectations that take the form of mental chatter.

I can’t stress the matter strongly enough: adult chatter is a powerful blocking mechanism. This adult blocking mechanism frequently appears in standard scientific studies in which an investigator sets out to “prove” a selected slice of reality. In this quest to prove, the selected slice will soon begin to appear in everything from corned beef hash to the kitchen sink. Although convenient for exploring specific details, the capacity to block leads to a narrow black-and-white view of the world that stubbornly insists that one only reality is absolutely correct. Such rigidity doesn’t apply to children. A child has a natural advantage because the child hasn’t acquired the adult capacity for mental chatter that covers what, in essence, may be perfectly natural phenomena that only we inflexible adults consider “nonordinary” experience. A child’s mind is fluid, not exclusive. It is open. It does not emulate the adult mind by recognizing some information and by blocking other information.

To review, a child’s thinking is remarkably fluid-which may account for the unusual propensity of children to experience phenomena that escapes our attention. The reason is that their mind is more open than the mind of an adult. That is because they haven’t collected enough information to lead to a black-and-white mentality. This mental flexibility may be why children are more capable of exhibiting sensitivity to paranormal activity.

Of course, paranormal researchers are adults. We have to work with the mentality we have. We can, however, still learn by observing the fluidity of children (that is, when they aren’t busy developing the ego identity that will eventually lead to blocking). We have to be able to admit that we don’t know it all. We must acknowledge that our thinking can be as fluid as that of a child. When our thoughts reach the desired level of fluidity, our powers of observation will peak.

This all sounds good, but I suspect you might be thinking that fluidity is easier said than done. Although this conclusion is true, fluidity is not the impossible dream. With a little dedicated effort, we can open our minds. We can explore mental fluidity. But how?

My suggestion is that we try out some meditation practices. I don’t mean that we begin adhering to this or that religion. What I mean is that we learn to quiet the mind so that our habit of blocking relaxes. By practicing meditation. we might realize that, in essence, the mind is fluid. That is its nature. It’s fluid for a child because, once again, a child hasn’t learned to block the natural flow with learned information that sets up patterns of neuronal firing that we use again and again to support a consistent reality. Such patterns may seem comforting, but the sad truth is that habits of thinking quickly make us into fuddy-duddies. Meditation breaks up fuddy-duddy pattern holding by breaking up dependence on accustomed patterns of thinking so that new ideas can filter through. One way of illustrating the meditative process is to imagine a piece of elastic netting that’s tightly scrunched up into a knot. There isn’t much we can introduce into the knot because, if it is very elastic, the knot pulls itself together so tightly that there’s no room for anything else. If, however, we pick up the knot and pull at it for awhile, the knot’s elasticity will eventually lose its snap. The knot relaxes. When it relaxes, we can see what was blocked by the knot. Maybe it was a dresser. Maybe it was a mirror. Maybe it was an entity standing on the other side of the room. The point is that the more we relax the mind, the more we are likely to increase our perceptions.

No, I can’t guarantee that a meditative practice will increase receptivity to paranormal phenomena, but I can point out that a number of cultures that honor the practice of meditation demonstrate an unusual sensitivity to paranormal activity. It isn’t because people in these cultures are unusually psychic (or gullible); it’s because they are open to the paranormal. Actually, according to these cultures, such activity isn’t paranormal. What we call nonordinary experience is, in fact, a normal part of life. Why? Possibly because the culture has allowed minds to embrace subtle elements in the environment that we Westerners routinely miss. A sensitive culture isn’t more imaginative; we are more closed. We can profit from experimenting with different ways of using our minds. Meditation is a good start.

What sort of practice should we try? It doesn’t matter. The best approach is to look around and see what’s out there, and then, on the basis of collected information, to choose a method with which each of us feels comfortable. Often we are attracted to a particular practice because of a particular quality about the practice that resonates with us as an individual. This resonance is important because, sometimes, we learn a practice and, in the course of practicing, we find a way to explain the practice so that it suddenly harmonizes with, and enhances, our personal understanding. I can use myself as an example: I always had trouble working through the idea of having “nothing” in my head. What is nothing? I felt like I had to fight to have nothing in my mind. I was doing too much work! Then, one day, I realized that it was far better for me to pursue a feeling of “everythingness.” That is, I relaxed the mind so that I could “step back” and let the whole universe flow into my mind. I realized that “everythingness” is nothing in particular. This realization helped. In opening the mind in this way, I experienced a heightened state of receptivity, the sort of receptivity that, yes, is ideal for experiencing paranormal phenomena. In this state of mind, it, as of yet, hasn’t occurred to me to feel fear, or have a feeling of being “creeped out” (both of which are sensations that lead to blocks) when confronted with unusual experience. If I see anything out of the ordinary, I’m curious, but neither surprised nor excited. I’m merely in a receptive state of mind.

In this discussion, I don’t refer to meditation as a spiritual practice. I’ve been more pragmatic: a meditative mind is a great mental state from which to observe paranormal phenomena. There’s plenty of room to experience the nonordinary without the blocks of expectation. I encourage meditative practice, not just for its ability to allow us to cope with our lives, but also because its value as a tool for rediscovering the unencumbered child mind that opens us to unaccustomed experience. It’s where we want to be! Once our mind is open, we are ready to progress to the introduction of scientific method into research. . . .

How to write a paranormal investigation report

Ask people who routinely conduct paranormal investigations what the most terrifying part of an investigation is and there is a huge chance that the person you ask will begin to shake uncontrollably and mumble almost incorherently that, without question, the most terrifying part is . . . writing up the investigative report.

I understand the horror. It reminds me of having to write book reports in school, especially reports about boring books that never quite got fully read. I had to make up a lot of fancy words that sounded really intelligent. These reports weren’t fun.

Let’s get it straight: investigative reports aren’t book reports. A well-organized investigative report isn’t a bad thing. It’s like a map that it lets us know in clear unambiguous terms what went on during an investigation. It tells us so exactly that, if we wanted to do so, we could either exactly reproduce the investigation, or introduce something new that might make all the difference. An investigative report also lets us know that, if we try to reproduce a particular investigation, this effort, for one reason or another, might be a complete waste of time. Whatever the reasons, a good report is not only worth the effort, it’s a valuable contribution to the community of paranormal investigators. There’s no reason we investigators can’t help each other.

Although my recipe for a report follows basic scientific method, there’s no need to be nervous about a report that follows scientific method. That’s because, unlike paranormal phenomena, a good report follows an easy 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 recipe. All we have to do is follow this recipe. Sure, an argument might be that scientific method extinguishes sensitivity for the paranormal, but following scientific method doesn’t mean we must be as closed as traditional scientists. Following scientific method only means we learn to organize information, no matter how unconventional this information might be. Organization is vital.

To cover each of the eight steps in an organized fashion, it’s useful to prepare one or two sheets of paper for each step. That way, it’s possible to scribble quick notes that will be useful in the final report. These sheets are useful for significant insights or ideas that arise during the course of investigation. The sheets order our thoughts.

So, now that I’ve spoken about the importance of organization, what are the eight steps? What does each step involve? How we one use the steps for paranormal investigation?

I’ll go through each of the eight steps:

I. Abstract. Call it a blurb that briefly tells what the investigation was about. It tells the reader what to expect. The abstract is short (ca. 250 words at most) and concise.

II. General statement of the Research Problem. If the abstract has piqued our interest, the general statement goes into greater detail. We find out where we conducted the investigation. Why did we conduct this investigation? The reader also learns who exactly participated in the investigation and what their qualifications are. What jobs did they do? What did these investigators wish to accomplish? Strong, clear statements are desirable.

III. Background of the problem. There are two steps here. First, the reader learns about history that makes an investigation relevent. In short, what happened here? How often has phenomena been reported? Second, we look into the history of other investigations that were conducted at the site. Most critical questions are: 1) Has there been a formal study? 2) How recent was the study? 3) Who did it? 4) What did they do? 5) Is there existent literature about prior studies? If not, who is available for interview?

IV. Design of Study. This section tells how we intend to conduct the investigation. What tools will we use? How long will we stay on the site? Who will be doing what? How will we record observations? This part describes the investigation plan.

V. Results from Data collection. Now reality sets in. The investigation has been done. This section tells us how we really collected data. This part is nitty-gritty. It doesn’t say anything about cool stuff that might have happened (that comes later). The focus is straightforward. What tools worked; what tools didn’t work? When did we collect data? How long? Were there unforseen problems?

VI. Analysis of Data. Numbers. Graphs. The down-and-dirty information goes on. We focus on numerical information. What are the numbers? If it is possible to create a visual graph of events, do so. The idea is to see if there are any unexpected readings. Sometimes, a graph will reveal oddities that were missed during observation. It may also show there was nothing that could be recorded at the site. Lack of significant numbers doesn’t necessarily mean there was nothing. It means our measurements showed nothing.

VII. Discussion. Discussion is the fun part. Why? It’s subjective. We can interpret what we experienced. We get to talk about everything we couldn’t measure with mechanical tools. We can talk about feelings. We can talk about the input of psychics (if psychics were available). All in all, we make suggestions about what happened, including the suggestion that mechanical (or other) tools were inadequate. We tell what we think the investigation proved. We examine whether our results support earlier reports. On the basis of our results, we can say what we think the investigation was all about.

VIII. Conclusion. Conclusion is the wrap-up. Was the investigation successful? How do we feel the investigation contributed to research? What were strong points and what were weak points? If the investigation were done again, what should be added? Taken away? How would it be possible to improve future investigations of the same site?

I know this all still sounds like hard science, but it’s difficult to deny that this format is a great way to structure an investigation. It’s a great way to tell others about an investigation. My guess is that this format also provides the best chance for publication in a reputable journal. Above all, the sort of investigation helps us to gain the image of being more than “flaky science.” Although we are somewhat off the mainstream, we are still serious investigators who deserve to be acknowledged!

Starting a Ghost Investigation

From what most of us have learned from TV and films, ghost hunting is exciting, right? Wrong. In fact, use of the word “hunting” is misleading: paranormal investigations mostly consist of fruitless waiting around without results. Our chance of winning the lottery is similar to experiencing genuine phenomena during an investigation. . If investigations are so dull, then, why do we do them? Okay. The friend of a friend of someone’s aunt won the lottery jackpot in some state. We can too. Let’s face it: the lure of the unknown is so irresistable to committed investigators that they are more than willing to put up with less than desirable results. Everyone else will drift away to more pedestrian thrills.

Seeking gratification in the unknown gets frustrating at times. Why not enjoy something we cancontrol in paranormal investigations? For example, we can enjoy the challenge of interviewing people who claim paranormal experience. Really? Yes. It’s because we are sure to encounter some interesting people about whom we can later tell stories around the campfire. Let’s face it: most people we interview are panicked (or worse) . . . and panicked people tend to make imaginative assumptions. To add to further difficulties, I’m willing to guess that most budding paranormal investigators are as imaginative and ready to see extraordinary events as those being interviewed. You could say it’s an occupational hazard. To overcome the natural tendency to be, uh, overzealous in our search for the paranormal, it’s helpful to remind ourselves that, when playing the role of serious investigator, we’ve got to go against our fanciful nature and play investigations with a straight face. We are, in effect, creating a science. Sure, we may explore apparent “oddities,” but that doen’t mean we turn our back on reality. In fact, it is to our advantage to be that much more concerned about the meaning of reality. This concern belongs to good science.

The initial client interview is rooted fully in reality. This interview is essential in deciding whether a client’s experience warrants serious investigation. The good news is that a well-constructed interview is not boring. In fact, it gives us a chance to be something of a psychologist in addition to being an investigator. No, our job isn’t to become a therapist who patiently listens to a client’s ghost stories. Our job is to separate out those who experience quirks of their own mind from those who present genuine events that warrant a formal investigation. [It isn’t a pleasant thing to say, but there are times when people who claim paranormal phenomena actually suffer from mental illness. These people deserve our courteous respect . . . but they are not our responsibility.] Since an investigation is no minor expenditure of time and money, we want to to certain that that we’re, well, not barking up a rubber tree.

By this time, it should be clear that the initial interview covers more than asking a few questions. Yes, we ask questions, but there’s more to the interview than questions. We also get a non-verbal feeling of who the client is, and why they want an investigation. In other words, we are sensitive to more than just words. Yes, words are important, but appearance and gestures are equally important. Moreover, we want to be aware of how words are spoken. In effect, we interview the whole person. My suggestion is that we conduct the initial interview in a very small group. To assure the correct degree of concentration, this interview should be independent of other activities.

It takes a lot of energy to interview in this way, mainly because our attention is fully focused on the potential client. We use all instinct and intuition we can muster. We are never rude. If anything, we show that we genuinely want to know the client’s experience. We look into the client’s eyes. For the inreviewer’s optimal focus, it is useful to conduct the interview with a colleague who writes down the client’s answers. Better yet, the colleague, with permission of the client, records the client’s answers on a cassette recorder. That way, investigators can later review the tape as a group.

Aside from observations, there are, of course, the actual questions. What should they be? Actually, the questions are straightforward. The art isn’t in the question. It is in receiving, and in later interpreting, answers.Good questions are surprisingly simple in a “just the facts, ma’am” sort of way. Don’t let the client begin telling extended stories. Gently remind them to stick to answering the questions. Basic questions are:

1) What is your complaint? How does the problem manifest?
2) How many times has the phenomena occurred?
3) Where is the problem located?
4) When does the phenomena occur?
5) Have you seen anything? If so, what?
6) Did you investigate further? If so, what did you see?
7) Besides yourself, who lives in this house/apartment? What are their ages?
8) Has anyone else experienced the phenomenon? Who? Will they be available for questions? If not, why?
9) When phenomena occurs, is a particular person always present? Will he or she be available for questions? If not, why?
10) Will you allow our group to investigate as thoroughly as possible?

These questions aren’t set in stone. Depending on the situation, some questions will be more relevent than others. Moreover, the client will likely supply some of the answers on his or her own. The most important point is that the interviewer briefly repeats every answer the client gives. That way, the client hears once again what he or she has said, and the interviewer knows he or she has understood correctly. More importantly, the interviewer shows that the client’s words have been heard. This receptivity establishes a strong level of trust.

Even with trust and a colleague who records answers, an interview is work. That’s because, as interviewers, we are, once again, concerned with the whole client. For example, what does the client do when you look into his or her eyes? Does the client look back . . . or does the client look at the floor or out the windows? What does the client do with his or her hands? Does the client twist clothes or play with hair? Does the client cross arms or restrict hands or arms in any way? How about the voice? Is it steady and audible, or is the client overly excited or has a tendency to whisper? How about the client’s environment or how he or she is groomed? If any questions asked seem to make the potential client uncomfortable, what are they? Obviously, we can’t ask the client about his or her mental health, but we can extract quite a bit of information from suble signs.

As soon as the interview is completed, the interviewer should go home, or to a private place (not the client’s home) to write a report of behavior that occurred during the interview. The idea is to write down the client’s behavior while it is still fresh in the mind. In addition, the investigator should write down personal feelings felt during the course of the interview. If more than one investigator was present at the interview [another witness is desirable] , this investigator should also write an independent report focusing on similar issues.

It should be noted that reports only cover observed behavior, not interpretations of behavior. Interpretations will occur when the full group of investigators has been assembled and all observations are presented to the group. If a cassette has been recorded, the cassette is played for the group. The advantage of presenting reports to the group is that all recorded behavior falls together into a general view of client and environment.

The strength of discussing a potential client in a group is that there will be a variety of opinions about the potential client and the environment in question.. An eventual consensus will be reached about the viability of an investigation. Once we have decided to conduct an investigation, we can feel confident. This confidence won’t mean that we shall experience paranormal phenomena, but it will inspire enthusiasm to persevere, even when we spend endless nights sitting in the unyielding dark.

Tibetan Philosophy and Ghosts

If asked to name the most exotic place that comes to mind, we might answer “Tibet.” Certainly, Tibet seems wildly unconventional (and maybe a little frightening) to Westerners, but most of what we hear is based on horror stories that play on our fascination with, and fear of, things like corpses and magic.

Yes, Tibetans think differently than we do, but they are not obsessed with the horrible in the same way that we Westerners are. If anything, Tibetans have an everyday reality that mixes Buddhist thought with local traditions.

About Tibetans
Local traditions in Tibet are the outcome of a culture living in an extremely remote area that is surrounded by the unusually riveting majesty of nature. Like Native Americans who lived near the natural wonders of an unspoiled America, Tibetans honor nature. They value the spiritual essence of their land and their ancient culture. Spirits, whether human or nonhuman, are an ordinary part of life.

In general, Tibetans have a strong interest in death. Why? Learning about death is valuable becauseTibetans feel that death is nothing more than a continuation of life. Understanding death completes human experience. It is as important as life.

While it is true that, traditionally, Tibetans are attracted to death and spirits, this attraction is not based on revulsion. It is based, rather, on a wish to understand, and work harmoniously, with nature. For this reason, Tibetans do not see spirits as something to fear or abhor. If anything, the Tibetan fascination with spirits reflects a wish to learn what spirits have to teach the living.

Educating the Dead
Learning about what happens after death is highly desirable for the living because knowledge is essential for the positive transition of the dead into a new life. Since the dead cannot reason, it is up to the living to learn about death before it happens. In addition, it is an act of compassion to help the uninformed dead effectively deal with their new existence. In order to be useful, however, the living cannot fear death. They must honor death as if it is as desirable as life.

In short, the living must accept death. It is not enough to be a horrified onlooker. In Tibetan lore, if a spirit has returned as a ghost, the fault does not lie with, say, a violent death and a confused spirit. It lies with the inability of the living to guide sucessfully the spirit to the world of the dead. It is this idea that led to the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Westerners might classify The Tibetan Book of the Dead as dark and forboding, but, actually, the book was written as a manual to help the living to fulfill their ability to be compassionate guides for the dead. This help is vital because the world beyond death is confusing and a dead spirit can get into trouble (Christian, 1972). As living people, it is dishonorable to abandon the dead.

Being Spiritual for Spirits
Spirits need help? It seems that, if anything, the living need protection from the dead. But wait.Should spirits scare us? Tibetans would say “no.” If we are scared, then we must reframe the problem from a higher spiritual understanding. In a successful reframing, we must come to the realisation that a spirit problem has less to do with an unruly spirit than with the level of our spiritual awareness. In short, the dead need our help. If anything, we must work on ourselves if we are to supply help. To begin, our consciousness must evolve so that spirits no longer frighten us. The prevailing idea is that, to help a spirit, we must convince it to choose rebirth (Christian, 1972).

If human minds are going to guide the dead, then human minds must be concerned with how they interact with spirits. Spiritual evolution is critical. For this reason, Tibetans who are concerned with the evolution of human spirit usually engage in rigorous psycho-spiritual training that focuses the mind to such one-pointedness that the mind acquires the intensity that is needed for communication and interaction with spirits. Not surprisingly, such one-pointedness of mind is the core of psycho-spiritual training that is the foundation of monastic life in Tibet (Christian, 1972; David-Neel, 1977 ).

Psycho-spiritual Training
As one might imagine, psycho-spiritual training requires long hours of meditation in which a student silences the incessant activity of the brain (i.e., mentally talking to oneself) by repeating a simple mantra over and over until mind and spirit are so focused there is only the mantra. When a student reaches this level of one-pointedness, the mind becomes so open that it invites experience that does not reflect what we consider “normal.” In other words, when in this state of mind, a student enters a broad understanding in which it becomes clear that the phenomenal world is purely subjective (Christian, 1972). Spirits and what we consider paranormal activity are as valid as what we consider “solid” reality. Paranormal phenomena are no longer, well, phenomenal . . . and what seems solid is an illusion that springs from a learned conviction that only what we see, hear, touch, and taste is real.

One-minded Vision
When a student’s one-pointed focus begins to be a natural part of his/her expression, the student is spiritually ready to work with spirits. There will, however, be tests, some of which will seem as horrifying as Hollywood would like us to believe. Nonetheless, a spiritually elevated mind intuitively knows that these visions are not worth a second glance. If the mind is in the right place, ghosts and demons are no more challenging than anything else in “real” life. We learn from the horrible. We discover that ghosts are no more than souls in need of a little help.

Working With Ghosts and Demons
To a Tibetan who follows tradition, ghosts and demons are part of reality. To work constuctively with ghosts and demons, it is useless to convince oneself that they do not exist. With denial, a person does not fulfill his or her abilities as a conscious human.

To learn about human potential, it is most useful to learn to identify with other creatures-whether these creatures be of this world or another world (David-Neel, 1977). Identification leads to deep understanding in which a student learns to move and interact with phenomena, not merely observe it.

Once a student has learned to move with phenomena, it becomes obvious that true communication does not depend on words, or on the part of the brain that produces words or analysis. Indentification depends on subtle feeling. That is why communication between an advanced student and guru often does not consist of words; it consists, rather, of mental images that move between teacher and student (Christian, 1972). These images communicate far more than words.

Not surprisingly, the intense concentration that an adept uses to transmit images to a student also taps into the same focused concentration that one not only uses to work with spirits, but also gives ideas a perceptible shape and injects a spirit into objects that seems to bring them alive (Christian, 1972; David-Neel, 197). With this intense concentration, it is not unusual, for example, for an artist to indentify so strongly with a deity being painted that the artist begins to express qualities of the deity (David-Neel, 1977).

More interestingly, there are those who have reached such a pinnacle of concentration that their bodies no longer function as a material object. In effect, these bodies freely move between the world of the living and the world of the dead because they transcend the physical laws that define our lives. Perhaps, it is possible to say that these people are both dead and alive.

Living Ghosts?
Does Tibetan spirituality seem improbable? Consider the adepts who, as living people, have been able to create a ghostly double of themselves. These ghostly doubles are like ghosts, except that they are projections of a person who, having been away for a long time and lacking a telephone or other modern conveniences, is concerned about sending a message that he or she will arrive in a matter of days (David-Neel, 1977). In contrast to the unconscious dead, a living person consciously projects his or her own ghostly image to those who are waiting for the person to arrive.

Such living phantoms surely represent a configuration of energies that are similar to that of a dead spirit. Does this use of energy seem strange? If it does, we must remember that, whether we understand it or not, Tibetans who follow their traditional spirituality make little distinction between life and death. Stepping over the boundary between the two might, to analytic Westerners, seem unsettling and confusing, but that is only because we have learned to deny what is obvious to many Tibetans. Still, there is no reason to despair: heightened understanding of spirit is not as unthinkable as we in the West make it out to be. In fact, we may benefit from a consolidation of analytical and mystical thought. Such consolidation might lead to a new and fruitful study of ghosts and spirits in which we, as investigators, play a more complex role.

Christian, P. (1972). The History and Practice of Magic. (J. Kirkup and J. Shaw, Trans., Ross Nichols, Rev. and Ed.). Seacaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press. (Original work published 1870)

David-Neel, A. (1977). Magic and Mystery in Tibet. London: Abacus Press.