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The Skeptic Eye

If there's one thing I've learned through my years of studying the topic of "the paranormal", it's this; you have your believers, and you have your non-believers.  Your typical non-believer, or "skeptic", carries with him/her the uncanny ability to rationalize, normalize, or otherwise "realize" events which may not have an initial, or obvious, explanation.  The typical "believer" is more likely to "reason" that "anything is possible" and if they can't find an explanation for what's happening, then it could quite possibly be "paranormal" in origin.  There are extreme varieties of both categories and your fanatics come in all flavors.  We see people who will never be convinced of anything paranormal, and we see people who believe a grand majority of "the unexplained" can be reasoned as "paranormal" with little more than a 2nd look into an occurrence which lacks an immediate logical basis.  I've had personal experiences with both types of personalities, as I'm sure is the case with many of you.  As paranormal researchers we find ourselves in a position to represent our chosen field(s) of study.  Are we doing this to convert the skeptic?  Are we doing this to hush the believer?  Are we doing this for ourselves and our own curiosities?  Do we find ourselves in a position of being held to a higher standard than thrill seekers and overnight ghost hunting groups?  It's a challenge to our sense of why we do what we do, to ask this question of ourselves, honestly.   "Why?"

Here's a picture that was taken of 2 Maine Ghost Hunters during an investigation in early 2008.  At first glance, it's a fascinating sight to see.  A "light rod" either originating, or ending, into the mid-section of current Maine Ghost Hunter TonyL.  Amazing, isn't it?   The home we were investigating at the time was a hotbed of activity.  We'd heard many stories of strange and unexplainable incidents from the residents, and during our investigation each of us had personal paranormal experiences that, while not harmful, were difficult to pass off as bad wiring, or drafty windows.  Surely, those reasons alone were enough to give this fantastic picture a more solid base for us to view as our best piece of evidence yet!  I believe, in a moment of excitement, we might actually have been able to use the word "jackpot" when considering what we'd come across with this magnificent light-rod specimen.  Hoo-Rah!  Am I right?  

Let's take a second look at this picture, shall we?  I found the photo, personally, stunning.  It was shocking to me on a

few levels, the most impressive being that the home itself felt very thick with some sort of energy; "be it" true electrical energy due to poor, or old, wiring, or due to some other paranormal source.  I'll be honest and say that it wasn't exactly an "inviting" environment to investigate.  The people were great, but I perceived the environment to be dismal and oppressive, and I'd been to this home (ironically, having nothing to do with this particular ghost investigation, and having not known this home was haunted when I had previously visited) on a few different occasions.  For me, the word "foreboding" could best describe the outside appearance of this home.  Given that unshakeable "feeling" of how this house presented itself to me, I was less than thrilled to see this "light rod" entering, or exiting, investigator TonyL.  Another, more concrete, reason I was less-than-thrilled was the fact that I had been physically touched (lightly grabbed) by an unseen force during my time inside the home.  The incident was chalked up as "par for the course", and isn't something I'm necessarily afraid of, per se.  But a force strong enough to physically wrap it's "hand" around a person's arm or leg, and squeeze, is a force not to be taken lightly.  The "light rod", under these circumstances, while still fascinating, could also be understood as a type of threat, given its direction appears to be either entering, or exiting, the investigator.   I've seen light rods in pictures from other investigators on the internet and a grand majority of them appear orange, and as squiggle marks smearing across the photo, not entering, exiting, or otherwise appearing to be targeting the people in the pictures.

So what did I do with this picture?  Well, at first, I admired it for all it's paranormal awe and wonder.  That lasted a few days, until I came across an EVP that raised my eyebrows (let's just say it sounded… less than pleasant).  After editing, reviewing, and reviewing the EVP some more, I developed an understanding that the voice(s) I was hearing – no matter how I tried to rationalize it – weren't sounding "friendly".  So I took the picture and I started asking around for advice and expert opinions.  To my chagrin, what I was looking for was quite difficult to find.  I'll follow that up with a statement that "opinions", on the internet, are not at all hard to find.   Lots of people think they're experts, and yet, the only as-close-to-experts I actually had the pleasure of dealing with were the first people to admit to me that they weren't, "experts", at all.  The information these people gave me about their knowledge of cameras, shutter speeds, lighting conditions, EXIF, stability issues, etc… was downright amazing.  The skeptics, on the other hand, presented themselves so brashly and rudely that I could hardly believe what I was experiencing.  Thank goodn
ess I received private e-mails from people who had also been targeted by these same skeptics, letting me know the heavy dose of skepticism I was seeing was not the general consensus of the forum(s) itself.  The problem with the skepticism we were witnessing, and trying to discuss through, was that the skeptics were extremists.  It seemed I couldn't explain myself thoroughly enough for their understanding.   I wasn't looking to prove the photograph authentically paranormal, I was looking for information on how to decipher what was written within the photograph itself.  No matter how I presented that question, I was bombarded with accusations of (1) creating a hoax (2) doctoring the photograph with Adobe Photoshop (3) removing the EXIF information manually so the authenticity could not be proven, and the list continued on from there.  I even had 1 person send the photo to a "friend" who specializes in scrutinizing doctored photographs, who told me he could "prove" I was presenting a hoax because of pixelation issues within the photograph itself.  He went on to explain that the lighting patterns and the pixelation do not occur, naturally, as I had presented in this photograph.  My reply was that I didn't doctor the picture, so that left only 2 options.  The first was that photograph is, indeed, of a paranormal light source.  The 2nd was that his "friend" didn't know what he was talking about.  And I voluntarily opened myself up to accepting one of those 2 choices from this not-so-nice skeptic.

One of the other, most impressive, responses I received was from a paranormal researcher who had experience with different camera types and lighting conditions.   He reviewed all of my EXIF data, thoroughly and with an open mind.  He asked me pertinent questions, such as; time of day, lighting conditions, weather conditions, moisture levels, time of year, etc… He made astute observations of the shutter speeds and stability issues related to the camera itself, which allowed me to come to the conclusion that this was most likely nothing more than an extended light streak from an LED light source.  Incidentally, all investigators on-scene were certain there was no light source present during the investigation, however, we were wrapping it up and heading home when this picture was taken.  It is very possible, and quite probable, that investigator TonyL had turned on his cell phone, which caused the resulting light streak.  

The point of this blog is multi-fold.  First, it's aimed at addressing the concept of having an "open mind".  When investigators are in a particular environment "investigating", it can be very easy to perceive, even the slightest of odd incidents, to be paranormal.  An open mind is something that helps the client as much as the investigative team because in the end, hopefully, both parties are seeking the same end – knowledge through truth.  The 2nd point is aimed at the belief structure of the individual, be they an investigator or not, and how that belief system is presented to someone with opposite or opposing viewpoints.  An exchange of knowledge is how we become enlightened on subjects of shared interest. Reciprocal respect is not something we should take lightly, and will hopefully be that one thing we have in common when we can't agree on anything else.

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Why We "Hunt"

Waverly Hills Sanatorium.  I have to tell ya, I can't wait until we make a trip there; there, and to the Eastern State Penitentiary.  I ran across this Waverly Hills website, not too long ago, where Tom Halstead of the Missouri Paranormal Research group posted quite a few incredibly disturbing spirit photos.  Full bodied apparitions in a few cases, and I'll post those here for you to catch a quick glimpse of.

The topic of "haunted places" these days seems to be more of something people talk about when they're looking for a "rush" or a "scare" than they are of places of wonder and curiosity of the human condition.   There was a time in this country, and all around the world, when people considered a haunted environment to be a friendly one.  Where spirits of past relatives came back to such places as old family homes – homes that stayed in a family for generations – to "check on" still-living relatives.  Rarely were there cases of demon possessions or evil hauntings reported, but, with the rise of modern media came the rise of modern "hauntings".  Perhaps they were always there, the demon possessions and evil spirits, and were poorly reported, or perhaps they're simply more prevalent now because, either, media sources have allowed us to become knowledgable of them, or because there are more "beings" presently in spirit form than there ever were before… who knows what the real reasons could be?

When I look at a place like Waverly Hills, or the Eastern State Penitentiary, or a more local environment such as the

Pinelands facility in Maine, I think of the people who were condemned to live their last days on earth in such deplorable conditions that their spiritual well-being never fully recovered.  People who lived a misunderstood life and who died, often times, forgotten.  I remember investigating the cemetery out at Pineland (in Maine) and feeling such a sense of grief and depression for those unnamed, forgotten souls who's only mark made in this world was the one left behind with their anonymous "number" carved on their gravestones.  They lived anonymously, died alone, and seem to exist in a  perpetual state of solitary state of irresolution.   I think that's the human connection thrill seekers lack when they walk into the space of a haunted environment looking for that perfect picture or that perfect EVP.   The thrill of the hunt supercedes the displacement of energies, which we cause as physical beings, when we put ourselves into the space of a restless soul.  We forget how to be human because we forget, lose touch, or have lost touch, with why it is we do what we do – "ghost hunt".  Is it to make a connection with the spirit world?  Or is it just to prove that spirits exist.  Because one of those options shows respect before personal satisfaction, where the other is just self-centered.

Waverly Hills represents a dying ground of immense proportion.  There's no other way to describe it.  No matter how protective the medical staff was, no matter how desperate the situation became, no matter how badly they wanted to succeed, it just wasn't meant to be at the time.  People who weren't ready to die, died miserable, long, drawn out deaths which probably resulted from a slow suffocation they could feel invading their airway(s) for … who knows how long.  Good people, strong people, kids, adults, teens, rich, poor, innocent and guilty… they all died in the same place and in a similar way.   So many, in such large numbers, that no matter what their contribution to society was, they were still a number among numbers.  Good people who'd lived Godly lives, who put family above self, watched as their livelyhood – their mothers, fathers, sons and daughters – died before their eyes, before they, themselves, passed from this world scared, alone, and probably a little ticked-off at the unfairness of the whole experience.

Yet when we think of Waverly Hills Sanatorium today we're more likely to think of TAPS and the gang "going back to Waverly", or of reality shows like "World's Scariest Places" and the rush we get when we see people walking around the place in the dead of night.   Who do we ever see walking into a spirit's "space", a space they've either chosen to walk for … eternity… or a place they've been condemned to for reasons we cannot explain, and cannot remedy for them?  Who?  As Ghost Hunters we're not looking for inanimate objects with no consciousness, we're looking for
proof of spiritual life, life-after-death, and in order to do this we must accept the possibility that if, and when, we run into something spiritual in nature, it's roots are deep within the consciousness of the human experience.  In other worse, "that's a person without a body".  The spirit isn't a thing, it's energy, it's emotion, it's all of those intangible things that make us human.   Why this is so easy for some of us Ghost Hunters to forget, is beyond me, personally.

And the Eastern State Penitentiary?  Sheesh, I didn't even want to start in on this place, but I'm here now so I might as

well do it up.  The Eastern State Penn was designed in good faith with a solid plan for psychological rehabilitation.  The model was extremely progressive.  Basically, the plan was to build a very large institution with extra thick (2+ feet) concrete walls in a strong effort to recreate the conditions of a super-quiet monastery.  This way, the criminals interred there could spend their rehabilitative time focusing on their future successes as responsible and respectful members of society.  The entire facility, from its building design to its daily breakdown of structured, rigid routines of exercise times and meal times, was focused on that 1 goal of maintaining a meditative silence which would last 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Prisoners were not allowed to communicate with each other, or the guards and any attempt at doing so was cause for strict and immediate disciplinary action.   The consequences would start with removing the prisoner's only source of light, "the window to God" which was located in the concrete ceiling.  This "window" was the only window in the prisoner's rooms, and the only thing keeping them out of complete and total darkness.  If removing this light did not work, then the physical torture began.  The torture was "by the books", not something the guards or warden made up on the spot, so it was methodical by design and follow through, which meant that all prisoners were subject to similar disciplinary standards, but that didn't make it any less tragic or traumatic.  

People, by nature, are social creatures.  To deny social creatures the inability to socialize is to deny them the right to be human.  It is also a means of torture the likes of  "no other" because verbal self expression of personal unhappiness falls on deaf ears.  There's nothing more tragic for people, or a person, than the feeling of "loneliness"; of being alone in a struggle in life or -  as we experience in our paranormal investigations – in death.  A person who truly doesn't care about the human experience of others, or of themselves, isn't just a criminal, they are a sociopath.  The criminals at the Eastern State Penitentiary may have done "bad" things, they may have done evil things in life, but if there was one thing many of them did not lack, it was a "will" to have that all important human connection.  If they didn't care about it, many of them wouldn't still be there today.  Whether they're searching for personal resolution, acceptance, or forgiveness… whether they're just looking to be recognized, or looking for a way to take care of unfinished business, the one thing most of them have in common is that they're looking for that "connection".  They're still looking for that "human connection", that "social connection".   You know a place has to be representative of abhorrent conditions when Charles Dickens, the author of some of the most bleak and depressing novels to hit bookshelves world-wide, tours it and subsequently chastises it as a place so deplorable he never wants to hear its name again.  That's the Eastern State Penitentiary; it's a good place gone bad.  Gone very, very bad.

I guess this posting is really about keeping that in mind.  That we ghost hunt, not primarily for ourselves and not primarily for the evidence or the data or the "look what I found!" factor.  We do it because we long to make that "connection".  We want the rewards that come with the struggle to find that connection, yes;  but what we really want is validation that when we reach out, we're reaching out "to" someone.  That the someone we're reaching out to is more than a concept, they're real, and they're wanting to reach back and communicate with us, in return.  If we didn't do it for those reasons we'd be better off chasing Bigfoot or hunting down UFO's because those "things" have been deemed as "physical", in nature. No, we hunt outwardly because we're constantly hunting "inwardly", and it's a good thing for ghost hunters to keep in mind.  Hunt a spirit as you would appreciate being hunted.

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What, exactly, *is* "paranormal"?

In all honesty, I think this might apply.  I find myself staring at it with a combination of confusion and childlike delight.  Naturally, I had to share.  Comments welcome, of course.

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Maine Ghost Hunters… full steam ahead

                    Well, things are really starting to shape up around here for Maine Ghost Hunters.  We're finally getting a little eye candy added to the website. Tony put together a neat little logo, and I made a super-duper-nifty Maine Ghost Hunters banner.   The pages are really starting to come together quite seamlessly, and while we're still discovering new and exciting places our pages don't quite match up on internet browsers across the board, I think we're handling the edits pretty darned smoothly.  It's not too many sites that a person can go to and actually, realistically say, "this site works on all major browsers, not just Internet Explorer, but FireFox, Safari, and Opera as well".  It's great to have a coding guru working overtime on our site, or should I say "on our side" (*chuckle*).  There are some fantastic paranormal sites out there that really make for great website presences, and they help set the standard for what a positive web experience should be.   I feel very fortunate to have the ability to say we have a talented guy like TonyL. coding his heart out to make this thing work as wonderfully as it has since it's birth less than 2 weeks ago.

Other than the obvious, the face of the site and the content that's being added daily, (!Go Tony!  As I type this out, TonyL has just completed creating a brand new RSS news feed program especially for yours truly.  Thanks Tony!) our Maine Ghost Hunters experience, as a group, has been nothing short of … amazing.  I had no idea people would take to us as well as they have, or as openly as they have, considering how young our group is.  We went to the Psychic Fair at Fort Knox this past weekend and met some incredibly interesting people.  We networked with quite a few local, and not-so-local, paranormal investigators and came away from the experience feeling emotionally charged, and with a "the sky's the limit" mentality.


The Fort Knox Psychic Fair, itself, was fantastic.  We arrived just in time to hear the Bangor Ghost Hunter's Association give a talk on the different aspects of ghost hunting and the tools, tricks of the trade, and skepticism involved in having a fair and balanced perspective to serve the best interests of the clients as well as the field of parapsychology at-large.  We met a few eager beavers from that group and learned about some interesting facets of their organization.  It was great to put into perspective "where we are" as a young group with incredible potential, and "where we could be" in just a few years down the road.

The Fort itself is such an amazing throwback to the past.  I remember being in one of the tunnel areas, a few years back, and smelling a heavy dose of cigarette smoke.  I commented, quite audibly, through the pitch-dark to my family that there's a no-smoking rule in public places, which includes, especially-so, underground tunnels.  There's no ventilation down there and the smokey smell was so obviously thick in the area that it was hard to avoid.  As we continued down the hall it became apparent that there was no one but us in the immediate, or extended, vicinity.  The smell seemed to be specifically in that small area I was standing in and my husband, who was standing a good 10+ feet away from me, claimed he couldn't smell a thing.  It never occurred to me, at the time, that we may have been in the midst of a paranormal situation.    Cigarette smoke is one of those signature smells associated with paranormal, or "haunting", situations.  I had no idea, until 

recently, that Fort Knox was considered to be haunted, but alas, apparently it is.  We learned of the depth of some of the different haunted areas of the Fort from a psychic who was offering readings in one of the officer's quarters.  She said she was involved in an investigation of the Fort with another psychic who was also offering readings that day, and that they met a few interesting spirits along the way.  She told us of one particular man, an officer, who walks a particular hallway and made contact with her.  Of course, we felt compelled to ask where this guy hung out so we could take a gander down there and have a look-see for ourselves, and sure enough, after snapping only a few pictures we each discovered an interestingly intense orb on both of our digital camera view screens.  The orb photos weren't taken at the same time, and the orbs aren't in the same exact areas, but they are stunningly similar when viewed on the digital camera view screen. I haven't seen DavidH's orb in full view yet, but I have taken the time to insert mine in this blog entry to give everyone a chance to form their own conclusions and opinions.

After emerging from the tunnels and the innards of the Fort we headed back up to the main building to catch the next oralpresentation.  This talk was on the subject of Cryptozoology and was given by Maine's very own Cryptozoology expert, Loren Coleman.  For anyone who isn't familiar with Loren, he's been involved with the study of "hidden animals" for over 25 years.  He's written 30 books and has guest authored for stateside, and international magazines,  and consulted for TV shows such as "In Search Of", "Unsolved Mysteries", "Ancient Mysteries", "In Search Of History", "History's Mysteries", "MonsterQuest", to name just a few.  Loren settled here in Maine roughly 15 years ago and owns/operates the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.  The museum is in dire circumstances right now, and is on the verge of being lost forever due to circumstances surrounding a tax audit and the IRS.  Loren has sent out a plea for help, from the East coast to the West coast, and on the internet as well.

On our way to wrapping up our adventures at The Fort Knox Psychic Fair we were approached by a Channel-2 WLBZ 

news journalist for our "take" on the fair and our reasons for making ourselves a part of the whole experience.  We were more than happy to oblige!  The camera seemed to be everywhere we went and when the news piece ran on-air we can be seen in quite a few frames.  TonyL. was given a wonderful opportunity to represent our group in a 1-on-1 impromptu interview with WLBZ Backpack Journalist Scott Sassone.  They must have talked for a good 10 minutes, or so, which gave TonyL. a good chance to convey Maine Ghost Hunters' mission and methods.  DavidH. and I spent that time taking pictures of TonyL. during the interview, which we could later use to plaster all over our website in, as I've said before, a "shameless brag" of our first "on-air TV spot".  !Go Maine Ghost Hunters!  WOO-HOO!   We thank TonyL. for sending the message, loud and clear, that Maine Ghost Hunters concerns itself with the scientific and spiritual aspects of "ghost hunting" to the best benefit of our clients, as well as peer-groups involved with paranormal research. 

Since this interview, we've experienced a pretty steady run of positive results including an invitation to be a guest on a national paranormal radio show which will air at the end of the week.  We've also been presented with a few potential future investigations and have secured, as of this morning, 2 new investigations soon to be announced on the Maine Ghost Hunters website.  We've been inundated with busy-ness and new ideas to make our website a better online experience for visitors and hope to see an increase in site memberships as time rolls on.  We're doing what we can to get the message out that Maine Ghost Hunters means business.  Our focus is tight, our direction is "straight ahead".  We have structure, organization and a plan of action that's taking us places and we couldn't be happier about it.

Come visit us as  

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