Unconventional Conventions – John Keel 1966

John Keel is regarded by many as a pioneer in the field of Fortean studies. He popularized, and indeed may have created, the terms “Men In Black” and “Ultraterrestrials” but Keel is most well-known as the main researcher and investigator of the Mothman experiences. He wrote a number of books including The Mothman Prophecies, Disneyland of the Gods, Our Haunted Planet and Jadoo. He challenged the commonly held belief that flying Saucers, cryptozoology and hauntings were unique and separate experiences. In an interview Keel stated that,”The objects and apparitions do not necessarily originate on another planet and may not even exist as permanent constructions of matter. It is more likely that we see what we want to see and interpret such visions according to our contemporary beliefs.”
Without Keel the “paranormal community” would be lacking in much of its insight and humor.

Here for you enjoyment is a lecture by John Keel recorded during a UFO convention in 1966.
John Keel, UFO Convention 1966

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The World’s Most Haunted Location

I am very frequently asked by people, “Where is the most haunted place in the world?” My answer is always the same, “If any place is haunted, it’s the Earth.”

Now, although many people think that I am trying to be funny, which I am, I am also being serious. So, let’s try a little thought experiment.

If ghosts are what people generally believe them to be, the remaining energy/consciousness of a human being who has died, then each person could potentially become a ghost when they pass out of this realm.
I’m bad with math but I can make this easy on myself and you…so hold on.
Since human beings have been “human beings”, (we’ll just go with the genus Homo which will put us around 2 million years ago), estimates of population would show that approximately 75 to 105 billion have been born and died on planet Earth. Now, let’s say that some “ghosts” have passed on and or perhaps never became ghosts; I’ll be generous here and say that out of the 100 billion deaths 85% either never became ghosts or are ghosts that have moved into a different existence that doesn’t interact with us on Earth. That leaves us with approximately 15 billion ghosts still residing with us on this planet.
Now that we know we might have as many as 15 billion “ghostly” friends wandering around we need to look at where they could be. The total land surface area of Earth is about 57 million square miles, of which about 57% is uninhabitable leaving us with about 15 billion acres of land.

See why I was so generous by saying 85% of the ghosts are “gone”? I makes it easy for me to do the math.

So, 15 billion ghosts divided by 15 billion acres of land equals 1 ghost per acre… at least.
So why are people traveling all over to investigate ghosts?
Isn’t there at least one right next to you?

Haunted Hooey – Part Two: Hoaxing Haunts

In the first Haunted Hooey I described some tricks that people have employed during séances to create what would seem to be supernatural happenings. In this brief post I’ll describe what some people have done to convince others that a location is haunted.

Dry Ice:
Believe it or not dry ice not only makes cool looking fog and smoke but it is also used to help create the illusion of spectral denizens. In my original Haunted Hooey post I wrote about people using a mouth full of beans to spit out to create “rapping” sounds; well dry ice, which should not be put in your mouth, can create bumps and bangs in a much more sneaky manner. A person can carry around small chips of dry ice in their coat pocket and whenever they feel so inclined can throw or flick those chips around a room. Now after the “taps” have been heard the only thing they have to do is keep people away from the chip of dry ice until it evaporates. In some cases the evaporation of the dry ice chip will even catch the flash from a vigilant camera-person and create a spooky “mist” which, since coming from the same direction as the “tapping,” must have been the ghost! Another trick utilizing dry ice is performed by slightly compressing a plastic water bottle and placing a small chip inside. Tighten the cap and place the bottle somewhere; as the dry ice evaporates the bottle will start to inflate causing the plastic to snap and pop. In a dark location the sources of the sounds will almost never be found, especially since once the bottle fully expands the sounds will stop and if the bottle is discovered, well, it’s just an empty water bottle.

Invisible Thread:
For those of you, who have ever seen a magician “float” a small object or dollar bill the illusion is created by the use of a monofilament thread, usually made of nylon called “invisible thread”. Even up close and in a well-lit area invisible thread is difficult to see which makes it perfect for close-up illusions. In cases of “haunted” locations the string can be pre-attached to small objects, like a ball or a sheet of paper, to make them move. Once the string is broken or dis-attached from the item it almost completely undetectable. Although invisible thread tends to be very “breakable” if multiple threads are used they can move much larger objects, although only slightly, but sometimes slightly is enough to convince those looking to be convinced. I have also seen a person attach a long strand onto their fingers so that it will, when the arm is raised, brush against the face of someone standing near them creating the feeling of “cobwebs” touching their face.

Pre-recorded EVPS:
Believe it or not strange voices can sometimes be recorded on a digital recorder before they are recorded on a digital recorder! If that sounds confusing…it is. There have been two instances in which I found “investigators” faking EVPS, but playing EVPS. What?

The trick goes something like this. An “investigator” records weird whispering words into their recorder before anyone arrives then after others get to the location and during the EVP sessions the hoaxer plays their recordings while pretending to make recordings along with everyone else! Of course the sounds are sometimes heard as they are being played so people will check their devices and guess what? Some people will have recorded them! Boom! EVPs! Of course EVPS don’t show up on everyone’s recorders, including the person who originally recorded the voices which were played to hoax the EVP in the first place.

More to come in part 3: Cold Readings

Haunted Hooey – Part One: Shifty Seances

Throughout the course of the last 30 years I have on many occasions been invited to, and indeed have partaken in, séances, psychic readings, table turnings/liftings, and all other manner of so called spiritualistic or psychical events. In all of those instances I attended not only to hopefully witness some miracle of unexplainable origin but also satiate my curiosity as to how the phenomena would be made manifest. During the early years of my delving into the world of anomalistic phenomena I realized that I needed to know how I could be tricked. The mind is a complicated but easily fooled machine and with this realization I made the decision to join as many guilds of magic as I could. I threw myself into the study and practice of illusions, mentalism, stage hypnosis and all other manner of trickery which could fool the senses and even more importantly might alter my ideas about actual supernatural phenomena. Now, I’m sure that many of my former breather in the world of magic will be somewhat dismay at this article and details which it will reveal but it is more important, to me, to expose some of the ways which people have fooled so many for so long. I am in no way saying that all psychical experiences are some manner of trickery but I simply want to show how it was done so that those who might one day be introduced into “strange” situations may be able to truly discern if something is blatant hoaxing.

The original séances:
Beginning the late 1800’s séances and mediumistic parlor sittings were becoming a common experience in Europe and America. Traditionally these séances were held in rooms which, at some point of the séance, could be made totally dark. The stage magician F. Shields wrote:

“A dark room is necessary, and I do mean dark, dim or dusky will not do. If the séance is to succeed you must not be able to see the hand in front of the face.”

When it comes time for the “spirit” to make itself known it will be an absolute necessity to have a free hand. But how is this to be accomplished when hands are all on the table? Mentalist William Larson explains how to free your hand.

“Have each guest place his hands on the table in front of him. The fingers should be outstretched. The thumbs should be about three inches apart. The fourth, little finger of each hand should touch the fourth finger of the person next to them”.

By doing so a “psychic -circle” will be formed. Larson continues:

“If anyone of us tries to move a hand or hands, those next to him will know. When you are ready to “black out” the room you should request the guest at your right to do so. Have only one light in the room and make sure it is slightly behind you and to your right. The light is placed so that naturally when you make the request of your guest he will use his left hand. Now, however, instead of placing your right fourth finger on his left fourth finger, you span your left hand so that the left thumb is touching the left fourth finger of the guest at your right.”

Now, obviously all manner of trickery can happen in the dark since you have a free hand.

As early as 1900 “Tapping” had become all the rage at séances and it was commonly known throughout circles of practicing magicians that, as magician Stephen Trulow said, “five to six small beans placed in the mouth and blown one at a time to act as a response to a questioner can provide a variety of “taps” unequaled by spirits.”

Another “strange happening would be the appearance of small luminescent lights while the room was dark. The mentalist Dunninger talked about creating these spirit lights in his “Mystic Series” pamphlets.

“A piece of piece of black cardboard with a good daubing of luminous paint is placed under the medium’s shoe along the instep. Naturally this is kept towards the floor until the lights are turned off. The leg is then lifted and swung to and fro. The glowing object appears and responds to the mediums desires. The foot is of course returned to the floor when the lights are snapped back on.”

Now these are simply a few of the tricks that magicians, and some mediums, used in the deception of others. There are literally thousands more with many being very elaborate. The goal in revealing these “tricks” is so that a casual observer or even a well-versed researcher of the supernatural understands that in many instances deception is more easily created than you may think it is.

In part two of Haunted Hooey we’ll look at Dry Ice and Cold Readings. Stay Tuned.

5 ideas for new paranormal reality shows.

As the networks run out of ideas on how to make people wandering around in the dark interesting I have five new variations on the paranormal theme. How many more can you think of?

5. Lil’ S.C.R.E.A.M.E.R.S
Follow the adventures of Supernatural Coalition Researching Eerie Anomalous Matters Everyday Really Seriously as they run around in the dark, scream and run away from the things they don’t understand. This dark gritty reality show takes viewers inside the real world of children who are basically just afraid of the dark. No one on the team is over the age of eight.

4. The House
In an effort to document the strange phenomena occurring on one of America’s most haunted houses a camera will be set up in the living room to broadcast 24 hours a day for 2 years. Viewers are invited to spend hours of their lives staring at the live-feed in the hopes that something will happen. Will it happen? What will happen? Watch and wait and watch…and wait.

3. Paranormal Beach
All of the best looking paranormal investigators in the country descend on one of the world’s most exotic beaches to exchange the information they’ve uncovered… while uncovering each other. Night-Vision has never before revealed images so startling…and sexy.

2. ParaPets
Every week viewers will watch clips of dogs, cats, birds and other pets freaking out at what might be paranormal phenomena but in many cases will be fireworks and loud trucks.

1. X-Treme Ghost Fighting
It looks like only one person is in the ring but wait for the battles to begin! No really, it’s mostly just one guy in a ring yelling at nothing and swinging his arms around, but maybe something will eventually happen!

Talking about weird stuff.

Over the last few years, many people have asked if there is a place online where they can watch one of my “weird lectures.” The simple answer is, “No.”

I very rarely allow my lectures to be filmed.
It has much to do with the ever-changing and fluid nature of the ideas that are discussed during one of my talks. But, it also has to do with my respect and caring for the people who attend one of my lectures.

If you have ever seen me speak you know that I say,
“I know how this lecture starts and I know how it ends, but the middle is going to be brand new.”

This is because, I feel, people who take the time out of their lives to come and see me speak deserve something more than a stock PowerPoint presentation. People who want to come and help me build new ideas deserve to hear something no other crowd has ever heard before. Were I to stand in front of every crowd and mouth the same words, show the same photos, play the same recordings over and over again, I would expect no one to show up and I might as well just record the video of that lecture, post it, and never do a lecture again. Also, many times I don’t use a microphone or a podium; I like to wander about the audience and be close to everyone. It’s important to me that we actually see and hear each other. I let people interrupt me, correct me, question me and together we build ideas that perhaps we couldn’t have done alone. If I were dependant on PowerPoint or note cards, or if the projector was working, or not, I feel that I would be shackled and that my words were simply a script. People deserve more than that. On more than one occasion I have seen well-known persons in this field stumble through their presentations because a laptop crashed or notes were forgotten and I can’t help but think, can’t they talk openly, honestly, and informatively without notes?

I’m sure over time my memory will start to fail and long awkward pauses will find their way into my “lectures,” but when that happens I will be all too happy to stop, sit down in the crowd, and let someone else do the talking.
I just hope it isn’t something I’ve heard before.

10 UFO Books to read this summer (2012)

Every now and again I get asked for book lists, so here is one!  This summer why not take some time and check out some classics of the UFO field. These 10 books will give you a pretty well-rounded idea as to what the UFO community is thinking, where it’s been and where it’s going. Some are a little older but the information they contain will really help out with sparking some fun and interesting thoughts. So here they are in no particular order. Have fun!

The Expanding Case for the UFO – Morris Jessup
They Knew too much about Flying Saucers – Gray Barker
The Threat – David Jacobs
The UFO Evidence – Richard Hall
Passport to Magonia – Jacques & Janine Vallee
Operation Trojan Horse – John Keel
The Hynek UFO Report – J. Allen Hynek
Flying Saucer Occupants – Jim and Carol Lorenzen
Flying Saucers Top Secret – Donald Keyhoe
The Abduction Enigma – Kevin Randle, Russ Estes and William Cone

2012 The year…of events!

Yes, 2012 is in full swing and as we wait for Jörmungandr the midgard serpent to unfurl his mighty tail unleashing the wraith of the cosmos upon us we might as well get together and talk about weird stuff. There are lots of events and meetups already booked for this year and they include something for everyone. UFO and conspiracy lectures, Bigfoot hunts and good old ghosty get-togethers. Now I have no control over some of the ticket prices for these events which is why for every event that charges an entry fee I match it with a free lecture somewhere else. Pretty fair right? Who else does that for you? Nobody. So if you’re interested in hanging out check out the Events page and see when I’m going to be in your area. I am currently booking some other events so if I’m not near you now just wait because I might end up being closer than you want me to be. Not to beat a dead horse or anything but I also have this crazy awesome book for sale called “One Last Thing” and you can buy a copy on Amazon if you want, I don’t really care if you do but if you do I’ll love you until the world ends, which is only like 10  months away.

6…make that 8 things you will most likely not see me do on TV,(or anywhere else for that matter)

**Updated for 2012**

I originally wrote this post and titled it “6 things you will most likely not see me do on TV. (or anywhere else for that matter)” about a year ago after the first episode of Paranormal State: The New Class. Since that time somethings have happened in the world of paranormal “reality” TV that have made me adjust the list, nothing has been subtracted but some have been altered and others have been added. The original post is located HERE.

8. I will not deal in absolutes. Paranormal research is a speculative field. The theories that are in the process of evolving will keep me from saying “This is absolutely a ghost” or “This can only be Demon.” When you start stating that you “know” without a doubt that something has to be a certain way you are setting yourself up to be wrong. I will try and use the words “maybe,” “probably” and “alledgedly” because I understand that I might be wrong. I have no problem with being wrong or not knowing something. And,even though I say “will not” in this list…none of it is certain or absolute, but it’s pretty close.

7. I will not sell sex. We all know that sex and sexiness sells… but I am not selling. I am trying to advance the field of paranormal research. I am trying to help people who are going through traumatic and difficult times. I am concerned about how the field of paranormal research is understood and recognized by the general public – flexing muscles, spray tans and bikini tops are not variables in that equation.

6. I will dress as if I am the professional I proclaim to be. I will not wear a baseball hat in a client’s home or during an investigation. Although I am balding, and self-conscious of it, I, personally, do not feel that baseball hats,concert t-shirts and cut-off shorts represent a professional attitude while performing an investigation. Additionally, you will never see me wearing a t-shirt with a ghost, skull, bat or gravestone on it. My clothing will reflect the professional nature of my attitude toward investigations. I may dress comfortably but I will not look like I just came from a rock concert. I know many people will argue that you “shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover” but in all honesty, in one way or another, everyone does.

5. I will not dress up in costumes. I know that some researchers believe “getting into the spirit” of the spirits helps during an investigation but I do not think that way. The chances of seeing me dressed as a civil war solider or a turn-of-the-century barber are the same as seeing me with a sheet over my head…zero.

4. I will not present clients with absolutes. If I collect data from an investigation then that is exactly what it is, collected data. It is not evidence or proof of anything and that is how it will presented to the client. If I was ever convinced that a location is truly and without question “haunted” then I would need to refocus all my time and energy, right now and until, I had recognized scientists and acedemics come to that location so that the data could be continued to be collected, peer reviewed and reproduced as to advance this field. My goal is not to prove that something is haunted it is to add information to the collective field so that we as a community have more information about phantasmagorical events.

3. I will not yell at ghosts…in a mean way. If ghosts are real they do not exist as we do, meaning, they don’t have physical bodies which have ears that pick up sound vibrations and convert it to electrical impulses which are then interpreted by a brain into sound. If research has shown us anything it is that the non-corporal communicate through vocalisation and auditory abilities are difficult. Screaming and yelling should work just as well as normal voice levels or whispers. Also, even if I postulate that an entity is “mean” or “evil” I have no assurance that my assumption is correct. In our day-to-day lives we often misinterpret “anger” with confusion and “maliciousness” for fear. The last thing I want to do is scream at something/person/spirit which may already be frightened and confused.

2. I will not be afraid that a “ghost” “demon” or any other spirit is going to kill me. Over the past 20 years I have been placed in some harrowing situations and have always been unharmed. My mental stability and faith in my abilities to deal with unknown situations provides me with a level of comfort wherein I will not be afraid that I will be killed by a paranormal entity.

1. I will not, ever, consume alcohol near, during, around or immediately before or after an investigation. The field of paranormal research is already subject to scorn and ridicule by the “accepted” scientific community. We must perform above and beyond professional standards if we expect to be taken seriously. Anyone who thinks it’s funny or acceptable to drink alcohol while in the midst of an investigation is doing an incredible disservice to hard-working paranormal investigators everywhere who have struggled for decades to make paranormal research a respected field of research.

***

These opinions are mine and I know everyone has different ideas on how investigations should happen. Hopefully though we can agree that the paranormal community has become overrun by individuals that are more concerned with being movie-stars than researchers. Remember, it’s about the data, process of investigation and helping people to feel more secure in their day-to-day lives.