The more things change the more they stay strange.

Every few years I read articles about how the paranormal field has changed; how it’s falling apart by becoming more hyperbolic and less credible. “TV has ruined everything!” is shouted from the rooftops and people who feel disenchanted with this loose-knit community feel the need to remind us of a better time, an era when things were taken more seriously.

To this commonly and oft repeated mantra I wonder, “When was that time? the late-1800’s?”

No, because in the 1800’s and early 1900’s and with the rise of Spiritualism you had an ever growing amount of fake wonder-workers who turned psychical research into a spiritualist circus. Perhaps it was the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s… Nope then too came the rise of the Contactee movement and everyone was throwing pie-tins in the air to get on the front page of their local newspaper.

Well, what about the 60’s and 70’s when most people were also experimenting with LSD and mind-expanding/consciousness-raising chemicals which allowed them to channel everyone from Hercules to Zontar the Venusian. Okay, but the 80’s, ah the 80’s a time when once again everyone was being hypnotized to recover their alien abductions and Ghostbusters turned every curious soul into a Geiger-counter carrying Venkman.

From there it’s the 90’s to present day and guess what? It’s still a mess…just the way it’s always been. Sure faces and stories and technology change but the “community” has always been fractured. There have always been well-meaning, intelligent researchers who feel foiled by those hoaxers and bandwagon-jumpers and the generally ill-informed. This is not new.

The splintering of weirdness that happened in the early 2000’s was interesting; UFOlogists who refused to study ghosts, ghosthunters that refused to study Bigfoot, etc. but even that is coming back around and people are once again diversifying their weirdness.

While cleaning up my file cabinets last week I stumbled across a folder labeled “Random”. The folder contained scraps of paper, flyers and notes that have, over the years, lost their home. One of those notes was a handwritten account of a “Metapsychical Convention” I had attended sometime in the 1990’s. Let’s take a look at how different it was 20 years ago.

(I have transcribed to the best of my ability my strange writings found on the note)

Day #1: Opening day opens and all the speakers/vendors/contactees are setup it’s 9:05, clock was wrong, and I’m the 14th person who is here who bought a ticket.

Tables: As follows:
10 New Age Dealers – (the usual crystals, auras, dowsing, crystals, crystals, crystals, shaman (looks more like Super Tonto Halloween costume)
6 tables of videos, UFOs, old lectures (cool Long John cassettes), 4 tape set of Gimlin footage the cover is a disaster, Aetherius is here so is Eckankar, Kirlian table charging tooo much for a photograph. Greers here, Ghost Team, Jordan Maxwell is creepier in person, just refused to buy a reading from someone dressed like Sai Baba, Morton is here (ask to play frisbee Monk Style later) empty tables so far: Gersten, Crop Circle table looks like 6th grade science project but worse!
In walks Ecker.
Smoke-break.
People starting to show up.
Guy in alien costume drives up in shitty car covered in poster paint “The Truth is in this car”
I wish I drank.

See how much it’s changed? Not much.

Here are some notes for clarification on my note above.

  • Long John Nebel was a paranormal radio show host, I never bought the cassettes but the recordings are now available online.
  • Morton is a reference to Sean David Morton who at the time was claiming to be a reincarnated Tibetan Monk who played frisbee.
  • Gersten is probably Peter Gersten, the ufologist, last seen waiting for the world to end in 2000.
  • Ecker is probably either Don or Vicki Ecker, the ufologists and former publishers of UFO Magazine.

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