I'm sorry to say that “spectral evidence” is alive and well in the 21st century. Only problem is, there's no more actual proof now than there was when the afflicted girls of Salem were about the busienss of curing their boredom by faclilitating hangings. Today, it's all about selling the experience of spectral evidence and doing everything possible to manufacture it. If it raises the hair on the back of your neck it must be real, right? I'm Spider...
...and tonight we're kicking off year three of Unbound October with a discussion on ghost investigations. You know... I'm a grown-ass man. I'm a grown-ass man and yet, for a brief time I believed in all of this implicitly. I went on investigations. I even brought my own equipment. I was convinced that it was all real even when 99 percent of our time on an investigation yielded absolutely zip. We're going to talk about how the media hypes up ghost investigations and I'm also going to share some of my experiences with it. The differences just between reality TV and actual reality with this one are staggering to say the least. We'll have more on that in a few minutes, but first...
The transformed wife drops the ball on feminism, how to cure atheism with more Christian rhetoric... or not, and school-sanctioned kiddie porn (no, we aren't kidding) round out this weeks eclectic but no less infuriating edition of CBB I'm affectionately titling CBB: Hot Tub Crime Machine edition....
I think by now we've all heard of Lori Alexander, or “The Transformed Wife” on social media. She's one of these women who tells other women to basically... “sit down and obey your husband.” Her twitter feed is truly toxic. When she was criticised for admonishing women to be at their husband's beck and call for sex at all times, she answered, “well how long does it take?” ...this says far more about her own life than we really want to know.
She's posted yet another one of her excellent lists comparing “feminists” with “christians” and it's...just what you might think. However, the feminist list seems kind of obvious...as I was reading it I was thinking: “yes...yes....well of course...um, duuuuuuh...” I mean, really. Criticising feminists for 'raising their daughter to be feminists'? And dressing how they like, being independent and using birth control? One hilarious thing is that she doesn't seem to conceive of the notion that anyone wouldn't believe in god. She says that feminists “preach in church” and “twist god's word.” I mean, whatever happened to good ol atheism?
The bigger part of the problem is that she seems to think “feminism” or “christian” as if it's one or the other. You can go to college but still have children and raise a family. Any decisions that might lead to personal happiness seems to be anathema to following Christ. The list...isn't doing what she thinks it is. To me, it just seems like it's reinforcing all of the reasons us “feminists” might have left the church behind!
News flash: a southern baptist leader is shocked-- shocked I tell you!-- that some americans are proud of the fact that they do not believe in god. The Family Research Counsel seems to have finally realized that the Pew research group was serious when their survey results found that the religious group known as the “Nones” will be almost half of all Americans by 2070.
In a conversation between the president of the family research council Tony Perkins and a former executive of the southern baptist convention Ronnie Floyd, Perkins asked Floyd what he thought of these results. Here is his completely out of touch answer:
I think that the reality is… that America is becoming a much more secular nation day by day, even by various matters that are described on this program periodically, and almost daily, we are seeing this move toward complete secularism, a vacancy of God in our midst.
But I never, never has there been a greater moment to be able to really pursue deeply the next great Spiritual Awakening in the United States. It is obvious that God alone is our answer, and we must come to Him.
So his brilliant solution to the issue of Americans wanting nothing to do with the Christian God (or any other) is....more Christian God! ...I'm sure that will work. Seriously.
These results cause no cause for introspection or reconsideration of how their own actions—Christianity's own actions—might have caused this shift away from their churches and gatherings. Of course not.
When Perkins asked Floyd what result jumped out at him, he gave another completely tone-deaf answer:
… It was the blatant commitment to declaring yourself a “None.” Someone who has no faith, whatsoever, at all. I think we lived in an America and grew up in an America that, whether or not that was a reality or not in a person’s heart, many times they would not say it.
Today, there is a freedom to say it, and even a pride in saying it.
Um...They’re not proudly “declaring” anything; most of them just can’t bring themselves to use a religious label. But you'd need to really need to read the data to understand that but...why bother? He's right, in his eyes so it doesn't matter what “really” is going on.
He then added that Christians just need to proselytize more… as if that hasn’t done enough damage already. One of the reasons people have non-religious pride is because those old Christian tactics are no longer working.
But sure. Keep doing what you're doing. Maybe it'll have different results this time.
And finally, yet another Christian school demonstrating exactly the wrong way to deal with a student issue...
An eight year old girl was kicked out of victory christian academy in Jacksonville Florida after her parents objected to one of her homework assignments. Among other things like “Practice scripture reading with adult 3 x” (whatever that means) and “practice spelling” is the following:
“Send picture of you doing reading homework in the bathtub.”
Well the parents of an eight year old child found it odd as well, and were very uncomfortable having their child do this. So they wrote on the child's assignment sheet that their child “would not be taking pictures in the bathtub. We do not condone taking pictures in the bathroom.”
Knowing what people are like, this makes sense to me as well. If this were a public school I'd be concerned about this assignment, much less at a Christian school. You never know who you might be “sending” pictures to! When the child's mother Misty Dunham, emailed the teacher for a clarification, the teacher replied with, “We have been sending this homework assignment home for years, and you’re the only one complaining about it. Just cover your child in pillows or pajamas then.”
Of course this reply would make me think “a picture of a clothed or covered-up child was the exception to the rule.” What the heck were those people sending this teacher? (Actually, that’s a valid question for another reason. The school’s Facebook page says Irene Castaneda, the child's teacher, was hired in August. So how does she know no one else has complained about it?)
Other parents also seemed as flippant as the teacher about it. But despite that, the child's parents called the school admistration as well as the sheriff's office to document their objections. The police obviously told the parents not to complete the assigment. That's where this story should have ended.
But just a few days later, the family got a call from the school:
“(He said) ‘I think you guys should do a parental withdrawal for the child.’ I said, ‘I can’t. I can’t do that. We refuse to withdraw her,’” Misty Dunham said. “He said, ‘OK thank you for saying that,’ and continued on saying that, ‘Well, we’re going to proceed with an administration withdraw.’”
This, despite the school “withdrawing the assignment out of an abundance of caution.” But despite the Dunhams having a legitimate complaint, their child was still kicked out of the school? No answer from the school on that one.
Hemant Mehta makes the point that:
The whole incident is a microcosm of Christianity’s treatment of sexual abuse: A girl bravely said she was uncomfortable with what an adult was doing, and the church’s response was to punish the girl, not the adult.
It would have been so easy to take care of this problem, but the school’s reaction was to double down on the assignment until the media attention made that impossible, then they took their wrath out on the family, leaving them scrambling to find a new school and forcing the child to make new friends after the school year has already begun.
Next week: mediumship part 1: Preying on Grief
Two Weeks: Tarot Tricksters and Palmistry Players: How Did They Even Know That???
Let’s look first at how popular media handles this subject, and… surprise! It’s incredibly over-sensationalized and even more unbelievable than the “real thing.”
I’ve been on a bunch of investigations, most of which took place inside a year and a half. I’ve visited places I’ve seen on ghost hunting shows and the way they present things vs. the ways I experienced them were the difference between night and day.
I pulled up an article on AZCentral that concurs with a lot of my opinions on this…
“Most of that stuff on TV is bunk,” Vincent Amico said. “It never happens like that.”
Amico has the experience to back up his claim. He’s been investigating the paranormal for 15 years. In 2014 he and his wife started AZ Paranormal Investigations and Research Society.
He went on to say that the kinds of things that seem to happen all the time on these shows are extreme rarities. I’m going to forgive the fact that this guy believes in this stuff. At very least, he’s honest about the media hypes the shit out of this.
“A guy says he felt something touch him, or you hear a door slam off camera,” Amico said. “That’s the easiest stuff to fake. There’s no way to prove he wasn’t touched, or that someone off camera didn’t slam the door.”
And therein lies the problem. Even if someone isn’t slamming the door… um… is someone else opening another one close by? Because that’s a perfectly normal thing that happens. Simple physics… and, really… how do you argue with someone who says something touched him. Ever try proving a negative?
This whole thing started with the show Ghost Hunters in 2004. Good ol’ Sci Fi channel. From there, we got a host of others.
And these shows all follow the same basic formula:
The investigative team arrives onsite with cameras and a bunch of funky equipment
They are typically committed to “spending the night” at the investigation site
They amass a bunch of “evidence” that there are ghosts there before daybreak
Light dawns and they leave, over-inflating the experience for the viewers
Amico said the shows are misleading at best, fake at worst. A typical paranormal investigation takes several visits over weeks or months.
And every investigation I did was part of a larger project. There were people guiding us along that had literally been keeping tabs on these places for years.
Amico also said that ghosts never show up on demand. The overwhelming majority of time in a ghost investigation is idle.
He also has a lot to say about the way ghost hunters exploit electronic voice phenomena (EVP).
Viewers are familiar with the setup. The experts either place an EVP recorder in an empty room (the recording is analyzed later) or use it to “interview” any spirits interested in chatting. Since ghosts have no vocal cords, they use their energy to electrically manipulate sound that can be picked up by EVP recorders, paranormal investigators say.
In most cases, words are almost impossible to make out amid the static and buzzing, and may be nothing more than background sounds, Amico said. That changes once ghost hunters put words to those sounds, interpreting them as voices from beyond the grave.
And this brings us right back to our discussion on backward masking.
Fluctuations in static coupled with other background influences can sort of sound like words. “Get out” or “we’re here” or any number of things people have claimed to hear. And one thing I noticed about these shows was that they almost always put up a subtitle of what we were supposed to hear so that when it came up on the EVP, the audience was already being told what they were hearing.
It was the exact same thing they did to make us hear messages in backward masking. It’s the exact same thing.
Now, to be fair, I’ve been in real-world situations where things came over the EVP and several people instantly gasped and chimed in with what they thought they heard… almost always in 100 percent agreement, too. That just means that we all process phonetic sounds the same way and if our brain hears something it can at least manipulate into speech, it will often put together similarities between that sequence of sounds and words.
TV ghost investigators also can - and probably do - manipulate devices that detect changes in the electromagnetic field. And ANYTHING can do this. Electrostatic discharge can do it. A passing car can do it (TPMS and other sensors on cars can cause blips in the EMF). Cellphones are huge culprits. We were always asked to turn our phones off but you have to know some people didn’t. Now imagine, you decide to just silence your phone and then you get a text or a call comes in and the EMF sensor starts going batshit. Now you have a room full of people who think something is there.
The Yes/No game
Changes in Temperature
Dowsing rods and pendulums
Night vision photos / orbs
And sometimes the things TV Ghost investigators do are so brazen… I have to think that plenty of people caught onto this when it happened, but I liked this clip from the blog of one of the DJs at WPDH:
He’s talking about an episode of Ghost Adventures, arguably the most popular of this kind of show.
They utilized a Go-Pro in one episode and used an app that allows you to view what the Go-Pro is seeing in real-time. It's a really cool feature of the Go-Pro, and they used it to allude to the fact that a ghost was making some sort of contact. They found themselves in an old building that had some sort of waterway underneath it, and they mounted a Go-Pro to a remote control boat and the app lost connection once the boat reached a certain distance. Oh No! I guess that means a ghost is coming!
They attempted sending the remote-controlled boat out again and it shut off at the same point, which they used as concrete evidence of a ghost encounter. OR, for someone who has used a Go-Pro and said app used in the show, I know from personal experience that there is a certain distance that the app can sync with the Go-Pro. Mostly because while using it I got too far ahead of the person viewing through the app and it lost connection.
And when this stuff makes its way off the screen, freelance ghost hunters are the target of a pretty big marketing campaign. If you’re cheap, you go for something like… phone apps. No, I’m not kidding.
Now, if you’re super-serious and have the money to waste on it, there are literal e-comms devoted to ghost investigation equipment and some of it ain’t cheap.
If you’re really obsessed with this stuff you could go broke. I spent SOME money on a few things but I never even considered dropping four or five bills on it.
Still every penny I did spend was a complete waste.
But I did have fun and I want to talk about a couple of the investigations I went on and even one or two things I still can’t explain…
The S. K. Pierce Mansion (The Haunted Victorian) - FOUR TIMES
That Hotel that no one remembers the name of
So what’s the bottom line on ghost hunting? Well… as we say around here, dead is dead. People don’t leave metaphysical footprints, they don’t leave energy signatures, they don’t turn into electrical impulses that make lights flicker… the only thing about it is our imagination. Yes, I thought at least twice that I had been touched. Yes, I heard voices that I can’t pinpoint the source of, and yes, at the end of the day there’s a short list of reasons why, most of which come right back to my own imagination.
To be quite honest, I didn’t see much or experience much on these investigations. I was hopeful, but didn’t see much. I was good at agreeing with other people about what they experienced, but all I ever got out of it were feelings that ran the gambit between exhilaration and foreboding and the opportunity to spend a fun evening with some interesting people who were all looking for the same thing: proof of life after death. And guess what… we still don’t have any. Because, at the end of the day (or night, as the case may be), we may have assigned meaning to certain things. We might have experienced a few moments of group hysteria. We might have experienced the psychology of the bandwagon effect, but what we never experienced was iron clad proof of anything beyond the fact that we were in an old house with a long history and some of that history might not have been terribly pleasant. So our brains geared up for something foreboding and our imaginations delivered. I felt everything I was told I might - changes in temperatures, different atmospheres in different parts of the houses and buildings we were in, shifts in light… all of it. And all of it had simple, logical explanations whether those explanations were immediately apparent or not. Maybe one room was colder than another at S.K. Pierce because the house was well over a century old and maybe… just maybe… some of those ancient radiators worked better than others. Maybe the previous owners saw shit because that ancient furnace let out just enough carbon monoxide to mess with their brains but not kill them (this is a thing that happens).
We have all seen things move out of the corner of our eye. Many of us have seen shadow people and other things that we equate with apparitions. Our senses have a way of sending information to our brains that sometimes gets lost in the translation. There’s no such thing as ghosts.
Don’t waste your time on an investigation unless you’re doing it purely for entertainment - because that’s all it is. Don’t waste your money on expensive ghost hunting equipment only to ooh and ahh over someone in the room getting a text. And lastly, don’t go looking for proof of life after death. That’s not something for ghost investigators to uncover; it’s the task of science and it’s a task that isn’t likely to be completed anytime soon. Stay focused on the physical world and the very real things that occupy it.
There’s nothing wrong with a little fun in this arena, but don’t make the mistake of taking it seriously, because, seriously, you’re gonna be disappointed. Don’t look to popular media for your answers either. I mean, we all know how reliable “reality” TV is at conveying… um… reality. Keep your focus on things you KNOW to be real, and keep demanding proof of things that other people TELL you are real, but can’t produce proof of. Keeping your ability to do that sharp is proof positive that you’re at least on the right path: the one that leads to getting and staying unbound.