Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

10 reasons that Halloween is the best holiday of the year

1.There's a good chance someone is going to give you candy. For free.
2.You get to be whatever you want.
3.There's no pressure to buy anyone a present.
4.There's no pressure to cook a giant meal.
5.Amazing halloween parties.
6.When else are you going to get the chance to bob for apples?
7.Did I mention free candy?
8.Scary movie marathons.
9.Haunted houses.
10.If you see a ghost, no one will think you are crazy.

In celebration of Halloween, I'm asking visitors to share their best ghost stories in the comments section. I'll post my own to get the ball rolling. Have fun and happy haunting!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Creature Feature: The Djinn

The Djinn (or Jinn) are creatures rooted in Arabian folklore.  They are the basis for the modern genie, although the original creatures are usually much darker in nature, sometimes being referred to as demons. They are also mention in the Qu’ran and are taught in Islam to be creatures similar to humans in their ability to choose from right and wrong. Said to be created by Allah from smokeless flame, the Djinn are often portrayed as mischievous beings who constantly try to trick humans into getting into trouble. The Djinn are also capable of shifting forms but because they abide to the physical laws of their form, they tend to not stay in one shape for long.

What makes the Djinn interesting is that it’s believed they will be held accountable for their actions. Giving a supernatural creature an element of accountability and humanity makes it easier for us to relate to them. If they have to choose between right and wrong, they can’t be that much different from us. Except for, of course, all their cool super abilities.

There are still many people who believe in the existence of the Djinn, much as many Christians believe in the existence of angels and demons. And really, there’s not a huge difference. Both religions believe in the creation of inhuman beings that serve some greater function in the scheme of things. And both Christian demons and the Islamic Djinn will ultimately have to pay some price for their actions. Their existence is a reminder that out actions matter. And sooner or later those actions are going to catch up with us.

Monday, October 25, 2010

October Haunts

Every year I go to a haunted house. Not the kind with actual ghosts and spirits but the kind where people dress up in ridiculous costumes and jump out at you from behind dark walls. It’s kind of an annual tradition. It’s fun. It’s silly. It gives me a break from thinking about much of anything. These kind of haunted houses give people the chance to escape from reality for a few moments and enter a world where they are engulfed in nothing but pure emotion. Even if the haunted house isn’t actually scary, there’s a good chance someone will jump out and startle you. It’s not actually paranormal, but it’s a safe outlet for people with an interest in ghosts and monsters to have a good time.

As pointless as these things sound, there’s something almost addicting about the surge of excitement you get going through. It starts out with a little bit of anticipation and nervousness because you never really know what to expect. Then you get an opportunity to be scared without ever having to feel like you are in any real danger. Adrenaline rushes through your system as you make your way through. Or you get to laugh at the people your with when something scares them. Either way, it’s win-win. When you emerge you’re granted a brief moment of satisfaction on finding your way though and surviving. You’re in on the joke then. You can laugh at the lines of squealing young girls about to enter because you know that there is nothing to actually be afraid of. And they probably know it too, but it’s all part of the fun.

The new trend in these attractions is using actual ghost stories to lure visitors in. If they tell people they might encounter a real ghost, it adds a level of excitement and maybe even a small edge of danger. People line up in massive numbers in the hopes of being frightened by something scary. In a really well done haunted house, there are brief moments where a scene or creature seems too real. And people usually leave satisfied, because how are they ever going to know if something they see in those attractions is real? You can only go in hoping to have a good time. Maybe someday I’ll hear a story about a real ghost encounter in one of those things from someone besides the staff. I’m not holding my breath though.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Creature Feature: The Wendigo

The Wendigo is a creature rumored to exist in some tribes native to North America. Supposedly the Wendigo is a cannibal, a human turned beast, whose hunger for flesh can’t be controlled. It lives a solitary existence in the forest and is often associated with cold, barren climates. Its appearance ranges from close to human, with leathery skin to almost wolf-like and covered with a coat of dark hair. It’s also reported to look thin and skeletal.

It isn’t just some random monster to be feared though. Ultimately, it represents what can be come of someone if they do something unthinkable-eat human flesh. The Wendigo is especially scary because at least part of it is human.  It’s the physical representation of the dark side in us.

Monsters and fantasy creatures often serve important teaching roles in society about what is (and isn’t) acceptable.  Just as we tell children to behave so that boogey man won’t get them, the tribes told each other not to consume human flesh so they wouldn’t turn into horrible beasts. In times of famine and starvation, it was important that people didn’t turn on each other. The Wendigo legend helped prevent them from seeing each other as a food source.

Beyond being a creature of legend, there are still people who believe the Wendigo exists. There have been numerous sightings of a bigfoot like creature in Minnesota attributed to the Wendigo. The Wendigo has also been thought to be responsible for several disappearances in the woods. Even if this monster is little more than a local legend, it’s fun to think of the possibility of it lurking through the forest, as long as you don’t have to run into it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ghost Hunting and the Scientific Method

Many ghost hunters claim to be scientific. They use tools and equipment to measure what happens around them. They take recordings, create theories and try to be as objective as possible. Sounds great, right? Right?? The problem with using the scientific method in ghost hunting is that science requires results to be repeatable. And anyone who has spent any time looking or ghosts knows how unpredictable they can be. They have a tendency to show up exactly when you aren’t prepared, when a camera is set down. When you are looking in the other direction. Sometimes it seems like it’s on purpose. Maybe it is.

Ghost hunters haven’t figured out how to get responses perfectly on cue and until they do, we're left with what we can capture on cameras and recorders. Of course any kind of equipment can (and will) fail. And it doesn’t help that there are so many people willing to fake evidence. A ghost hunter is only as good as their reputation. In the end it all boils down to whether or not you believe what they are telling or showing you.

The positive side of this is that people are working on finding better ways to capture information. Equipment is constantly evolving and I think that someday we will have a much more reliable way to find evidence of their existence. Ghost hunting is a relatively new field which means there’s a lot of room for growth.

Perhaps one day we really will be able to capture ghosts and interact with them. For now we will have to settle for whatever evidence we can find. Whether it’s a blurry picture or a garbled voice recording, it’s still one step in a good direction.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Spotting a fake: photos part 1

It’s inevitable that sooner or later someone is going to try and show you a picture or video of a ‘ghost’ or ‘monster’ or something of the sort. You may have already seen quite a few of these pictures. Maybe it was obvious the image was fake. Maybe it left you scratching your head. Either way, I want to give you some tools to help you identify when an image isn’t always what it seems.

A lot of these images are taken by people who aren’t actually trying to fool anybody. They may have captured some weird anomaly and believe it to be something paranormal. It could be something a simple as a camera strap or a light reflection. Most of the time it’s just a case of misidentification. On the other end of the spectrum are people who enjoy faking images. They may be looking to get famous or just want some attention. Or they’re just bored. These images are sometimes harder to catch as the fakers get smarter and more tech-savvy all the time. For now I’m going to focus on the first group of people-the well intentioned friend/family/coworker and a common debate among paranormal groups-orbs.

In case you are wondering what I’m talking about, an orb is basically a round feature that shows up in a picture. They’ve caused a lot of confusion for something so small. Many people believe they are the manifestation of a spirit. The truth of the matter is that most orbs are little more than dust. Dust orbs tend to be white and are sometimes partially see-through they can reflect a camera flash which gives them a colorful glow from time to time. They show up both on video and still photos. They can appear tiny or gigantic depending on how close the dust is to the camera.

If you’ve got some free time and just feel like doing an experiment, take a digital camera and a broom to an area you know it dusty. (Attics and basements work well.)  Sit still for a minute or two then take some pictures (use the camera flash). Then use the broom to stir up as much dust as possible and take some more pictures. There’s a good change you will see dust orbs in your photos, especially in the second batch.

An example of 'orbs'       

Another thing that causes orbs to appear in photos are insects. Some insects are easy to recognize with wings and distinct features, but if a bug travels fast enough it often can take on an orb-like appearance. Bugs usually show up as white. If you are outside taking photos there is a good chance of capturing a bug in flight. They hang out inside as well though. Be aware of them.

Light reflections are another orb source that appear over and over again. Light from the flash hits reflective surfaces and can create the illusion of a ball of light. Car lights can also pass through windows, creating unusual features in your photos. Spotting normal light reflection is something that really just takes practice. If you’re looking at a photo, try and identify surfaces that could be reflecting flashes, car lights, and flashlights. Look for natural explanations of what may be causing the orb.

There are other causes for orbs as well-too many to cover on a short blog. The main thing is to look at photos with a critical eye. Understand how light works and moves across a space. Don’t be afraid to question the validity of a photo. Examine them, understand them.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Creature Feature: Vampires and why we (still) love them

I want to start doing a regular feature that discusses a creature from legends, folklore, or crypto zoology. Here's the first in the series! I'm starting with a classic but I hope to focus more on relatively unkown creatures in the future.

Vampires have become more than just a legend in today’s world. They’re everywhere you look. On tv. On bookshelves. Even on the forgotten world of radio. It’s hard not to notice something that has taken over so much of popular culture. Everybody is talking about them and they aren’t showing any signs of going away any time soon. But why are they so popular? Why is it that vampires are truly proving their immortality? Let’s take a look.

-Vampires are able to violate every rule of society and usually get away with it. Murder? No problem! Unbelievable supernatural abilities like shape-shifting and flying? Why not? They get to do all the cool stuff we wish we could get away with. We mere humans know we will never get away with much of anything so it’s fun to live through a world where rules are meant to be broken.

-They symbolize so many different things it can be hard to keep up. This is great because it means they appeal to people for different reasons. They can be symbols or immortality, divinity, addiction, sexuality, and death, just to name a few. Vampires are whatever we want them to be. Which brings me to my next point.

-Vampires are constantly changing. They have evolved with the times, morphing from the image of death to a creature known for its beauty and strength. Sure, there are still plenty of dark, violent vampire stories out there but the ones that illuminate the internal struggle of misunderstood creatures are immensely popular. People want the hope that even evil can change sides. And today’s vampire lore is giving them that hope. As long as vampires continue to change with the times, they aren’t going anywhere.

Friday, October 15, 2010

So you want to be a ghost hunter

Just about every tv-watching person in America has caught at least a glimpse of those shows about ghost hunters. There are tons of them out there-shows with weird looking cameras and gadgets, shows were people stand around waiting for a bump in the night, shows where people run away in fear whenever anything actually happens, well you get the idea. And for the most part, they are hugely successful.

 There’s just something intriguing about the unknown. You can’t help but get a little pulled in on the idea that these people might be discovering something truly amazing. They take the viewers on that journey with them every time they venture into some dark, creepy place. So it’s natural that a lot of people want the chance to experience the excitement first hand. And it’s not as hard as it might seem. So here are some tips to help someone who is thinking about testing the waters of paranormal investigation.

-The easiest way to get started is to contact a local paranormal group. There are tons of them around. They aren’t hard to find most of the time. Google is your friend. Use it. Many groups welcome new members. It doesn’t hurt to shoot off an e-mail and find out.

Just make sure you look for a group with similar ideas or preferences. Every group out there does things differently so it’s best to make sure the group is a good fit before you invest time and energy in it. That doesn’t mean you have to share all the same beliefs or ideals as the others members-variety is a good thing to have. It just means you have to be able to work with these people.

-If you can’t find a group near you or at least find one that’s a good fit, you can always start your own. Talk to your friends. Your family. Random people you meet. You might be surprised who shows an interest when you start mentioning ghosts. Do your research and know what you want to accomplish before you start. It’s a lot of work but totally worth it.

-Expect a lot of hard work. Despite popular belief, ghost hunting isn’t easy. There’s always equipment to set up, wires to run, interviews to do. It often means spending time in dark attics, dirty basements and much less pleasant locations. You get very little sleep.  You can’t be afraid to try new things. There’s also a lot of standing and walking involved so it also doesn’t hurt to be in good shape.

-Be ready to learn. Try and research as much information as you can. Read books. Checkout websites. Attend conferences even. Yes, they really do have ghost hunting conferences.

-Have an open mind. This field is full of surprises so you need to be ready for them!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A day in the life of a ghost hunter

To celebrate the launch of the blog i'm doing two post on the same day. Yes, you heard right-two. So, just for fun, here's a day in the life of a ghost hunter

 9am- Wake up. Charge batteries
10am- Eat breakfast. Check equipment. Check that batteries are charging.

12pm- Eat lunch. Reorganize equipment. Check batteries. You never can be too careful. Spend next six hours doing as little as possible.

6pm- Pack equipment. Including batteries.

7pm- Arrive at site. Set up equipment. Talk to everyone possible. Swap a few good stories while waiting for dark to actually arive.

8 or 9ish- Begin investigation!! Surely, this will be the one to remember.

10pm- Camera batteries die. Recorder batteries die. Blame the ghosts for sucking up all the energy. Replace.

11pm- Giant crash in attic-time to check it out. Followed by disappointment when it's discovered to simply be a noisy vent.

12pm- Sit. Wait. Repeat. Something must happen soon...

1am- Someone saw something! In that dark room in the back there may have been a shadow they saw out of the corner of their eye. Everyone goes to investigate.

 2am- Ok, there was a shadow. For real. And a noise. Somewhere. I swear.

3am- The exhaustion hits. Team members begin to actually resemble ghosts.

4am- Clean up time. If only I wasn't so tired...

5am- Stuffs packed. Batteries are drained. Must drive home...

6am- Home at last! Time for bed. Wait, I really need to see that thirty seconds of footage where something may have happened. I just can't stand to wait till tommorow.

8am- Evidence found. Now i'm too tired to actually watch it.

9am- Bedtime. Well, once I recharge those batteries...
Starting a blog is something i've been planning for quite awhile. It's finally here! You might be wondering what the point of this thing is so here's some of what I hope to cover:
-News and events in the ghost hunting and paranormal community
-Stories and ancedotes about ghost hunting
-General information and theories surrounding the paranormal

These are, of course, just starting points. There's a lot of ground to cover in this field. I'll also try to add an occasional dash of humor, so you aren't bored to tears.

You might also be wondering who I am and why on earth i've decided to write about this. Or not. Either way you're getting an anwer.

I've been a paranormal investigator with North Ohio Paranormal for two years and have been interested in anything paranormal for as long as I can remember. I noticed that there weren't a lot of blogs dedicated to this field, which is sad considering how popular it is. Ghost hunters and paranormal aficiondo's are generally  busy working which doesn't leave a lot of time for writing. I happen to enjoy writing so hopefully I can get this thing functioning and remember to actually update it once in awhile. I'm shooting for once a week but we'll see how that goes. For now, happy hunting. :)