“Nothing Here”

I am always amazed when we walk away from an investigation under the opinion that there’s “nothing here.” It’s pretty rare to arrive at such a conclusion so early in the process, but sometimes you can’t help it. The house is neat and tidy, the family is close, there are no unusual noises, bumps, footsteps or bangs. The location seems to be a well balanced, peaceful place. “Nothing out of the ordinary here. This house is clean.”

Still, I always handle a paranormal investigation as a total believer – every one of the client’s claims are true for me, and with good reason, I think. First, by automatically accepting spirit to be present, I have a better chance of actually hearing or seeing one. Second, without evidence one way or the other, a client feels better thinking you are a total supporter. After the data has been gathered, the experiences logged, and analysis completed, there is plenty of time to decide whether spirits were present or not. Unfortunately, more often than not, we come up empty.

But what does that say about the client? Are they simply mistaken? Stupid or crazy? Surely, most people are smart enough to know that ice machines make a racket; that an AC unit is noisy throughout the day. They even realize that sometimes people think they’re hearing voices when in fact, they aren’t. There are house noises, creaky floorboards, and faulty wiring. Most of the clients I’ve dealt with are just normal people who have long ago eliminated these “easy explanations,” and they’re not overly imaginative or prone to outlandish exaggeration. Most clients are honest, concerned people who truly think something is wrong with their life or their space, and they’ve asked us for help.

They open their homes to us; extend hospitality – trust us alone with their worldly goods. They put their fears and sleepless nights – their faith – into what they hope are “professional,” capable hands. In other words, they give us the total respect they deserve in return. Sometimes the stories they tell are just horrific – the children are being bothered by a shadow man every night; someone has tried to push mom down the stairs; you can hear footsteps walking the halls… Sometimes it’s even worse, and they don’t know where to turn.

So how do we tell them that the evidence doesn’t support a single claim? Obviously, there are ways to guild the Lily well enough to soften the blow, and honestly, just because nothing happened while we were there doesn’t mean it never has, but is that salvo enough to actually help? Probably not. They hope for definitive answers; an end to their personal horror. Maybe they just need to verify things for no other reason than to assure themselves of their own sanity. Sometimes knowing you’re right gives you the strength to live with the paranormal.

It must be difficult to hear “we found nothing while we were here.” That’s a truth we have to tell, but the hard reality of such a statement doesn’t absolve us of our duty to believe them. Paranormal things do not parse well with actual science, so our observations and data analysis seem rather hollow when the children are still being frightened by the man with the mean face in their closet. We may not have found him, but it seems completely reasonable for him to hide from us. The question becomes “what other approaches can we take?”

We have to keep in mind that our empirical findings, or the lack thereof, are not the end all and be all. Evidence isn’t proof of spirit anyway, and the lack of it doesn’t prove the client is wrong. Our efforts to help them do not end when we come up empty-handed – instead, that’s when they begin. And just because there’s “nothing here” doesn’t mean there isn’t.

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Voices From Forever by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/ZBBmj Available on Amazon

There Is No Silence by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/U6KY7 Available on Amazon.

Right Place, Right Time

I don’t actually believe in luck, but over the past years, I’ve had more than my share of it while witnessing the paranormal. For instance, I’ve seen quite a few black shadows. Not the ones that dance elusively around your peripheral, but the kind you can track; that move purposefully within an environment and menacingly blend in and out of the natural surroundings. I’ve even seen a few in broad daylight, a sight you don’t soon forget, but the difference between a legitimate black mass and anything else is stunning. There’s no room for doubt, and for a moment, you’re acutely aware of just how awesome it is to be in the presence of such a thing. I’ve never found them frightening, but on more than one occasion I’ve been frozen in my tracks.

I’ve also been blessed to have captured thousands of EVP from any number of different devices in any number of situations. I was part of a team that video taped an amazing full-body apparition in a location that was verifiably void of any human contamination. In a similar situation, I watched a tape of translucent humanoid shadows move in and around a space; come and go through walls… And through people. (I was one of them.) I’ve been touched a bunch of times in ways that defy reasonable explanation. I’ve seen a few mists and a pair of glowing orbs. It’s been fun!

And over the years I’ve investigated within inches of newly deceased bodies at a funeral home, observed reflections of movement in standing water at an old restaurant, heard discernible whispers at an abandoned mental hospital, and watched a graveyard entity disappear. I may choose not to believe in luck, but I may have experienced more of it than the average investigator and been able to record far more paranormal events than I would have thought possible.

So, I don’t know how not to believe in all this stuff. I used to embrace skepticism, but that was a long time ago – before that first black shadow came within five feet just to personally stare right through me. Maybe it’s not too difficult to understand why I’ve grown weary of the usual dissociating. Each time someone suggests a possible coincidence, or finds fault with my observational skills, my patience quickly dissipates. Every intimation of an overactive imagination, or suggestion that my senses are being deceived, plucks my last nerve. Of course all of those are highly plausible, but I’ve learned how to look there first. With so many unexplained sightings, were there a rational explanation for each, I would have no choice but to consider myself an impetuous, completely oblivious person with the observational acumen of sand. There’s been way too much paranormal water under the bridge for that.

I suppose I sound a little defensive, and there’s some truth to that, I’m sure, but why not? Where’s the value in denying certain events in the name of skepticism when the truth appears to be otherwise? Telling it like it is makes more sense to me than telling it like we think it probably should be. And I’m used to having my veracity questioned, my sanity in doubt, and my motivation examined. I’m sorry that everyone hasn’t seen these things, or heard those voices. I’m sorry some people feel that because it hasn’t happened to them, it couldn’t have happened to me. And others. But whenever I get too annoyed, I consider the fact that I am just a drop in the proverbial bucket, because I am not alone.

There are thousands just like me, and in a way, we draw strength from one another. It doesn’t take a lot of talent to be in the right place at the right time, but you do have to learn how to stand your ground. Not with the paranormal life you might encounter, but with the living who can’t believe it happened. In the paranormal deck of cards, the motivated skeptic card always trumps the red-eyed demon. I can’t help wishing it was the other way around – sometimes.
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Voices From Forever by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/ZBBmj Available on Amazon
There Is No Silence by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/U6KY7 Available on Amazon.

“Where’s the party?”

So often, while investigating, we act as though the spirits are right beside us wherever we go. We behave as if the doors to rooms are impassible barriers, and that the invisible residents trapped within are patiently waiting for us to enter. The extent to which we tend to limit spirit movement is alarming to me, so I try very hard not to make those kinds of assumptions. Spirits may indeed be hold-up in the bedroom, but where’s the guarantee? Why are we so certain of that?

I frequently move in and out of rooms unpredictably or position myself in hallways, foyers, and staircases – more centralized areas, because I believe they more comfortably watch us from a “safe distance.” I think it’s human nature, and therefore spirit nature, to establish a kind of DMZ between strangers – especially considering the intensity of a paranormal investigation and the potential for heightened emotions. I think this is backed up by the frequency of EVP I’ve captured on remote devices planted in adjoining areas. A recent investigation serves as a clear example. Most of our attention was given to the living room. The previous homeowner died in that room, and it was the only spot that provided any contact with the team medium. However, one of my personal video cameras was parked in an adjoining family room throughout our visit, and produced more EVP than any other device – by far.

There are really very few indicators available to aid in determining location “hot spots,” so I try to place remote devices in the least interesting areas and visit them less often during the proceedings. On the aforementioned investigation, not only was I able to record more EVP on that remote device, I was also blessed with some interesting, though inconclusive, video anomalies. One EVP was especially fascinating and actually makes my point. It said, “The party’s in here,” and that certainly seemed to be the case. If I relied solely on recording devices I could carry, that gem and others would have been lost, and that would have been a shame. Perhaps we would be better served to look where we’re not.
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Also visit The Voices Blog at http://thevoicesblog.wordpress.com

Settling In

Often, after setting up the equipment, we vacate the building and let it rest. There’s an obvious and necessary flutter of activity getting everything in place for a good investigation, but letting the location settle for awhile might be the best tactic of the day. It makes perfect sense too – offers a resident spirit (or more) the chance to feel at peace again. Investigations are almost always tranquil endeavors; not usually loud or active – a striking contrast to the set-up. A few minutes of silence and a return to the status quo is a reasonable segway to the actual investigation.

Over the years, this methodology has provided us with some compelling footage. On one occasion, we observed video of an apparition moving freely throughout one of the rooms, while we cooled our heels outside. It was the only verifiable video evidence we were ever blessed to gather during seven visits. Video evidence can be more acceptable when there’s no danger of investigator contamination – audio, as well, so if everyone on the team is locked outside, whatever is recorded leaps on the credibility scale.

Personally, I’ve always felt that these moments of peace give spirits a time to accept our presence; to begin viewing us as an inevitability. We’ve left our calling card of cameras, recorders, and meters, and when we finally return in person, they’ve had time to acclimate and consider the level to which they intend to cooperate. We give them time to adjust, and maybe even to explore the devices we’ve left.

Perhaps most importantly, the results seem to indicate that this tact is productive. Statistically, we’ve recorded more EVP throughout the night, and captured more video evidence when we’ve allowed the location this time to settle and prepare.

There are all kinds of ways to conduct a successful investigation, and the ambience of the location itself is a huge contributing factor, but I think it’s always a good idea to pause, take this metaphorical deep breath, and let the spiritual inhabitants do the same. Since most investigations are less than fruitful, we need all the help we can get, and by allowing the location to rest, the idea of “us” settles in as well.
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Also visit The Voices Blog at http://thevoicesblog.wordpress.com

“Is anyone here?”

A paranormal investigator walks into an abandoned bar and asks, “Is anyone here?” And a disembodied voice says no.

That’s it. Thats the punchline, folks. That’s all there is, and it actually happened to me, once upon a time, exactly that way. Well, it seemed like a perfectly reasonable question to ask at the time. When I heard the answer, I got quite a laugh, but then I slowly began to feel incredibly stupid. I don’t ask that question any more. I rank it right up there with the times that an EVP voice has outright told me my questions were “dumb.” (I appear to be the only person to ever admit to such a response.)

Regardless, that’s actually very good advice from beyond the veil; I consider myself blessed. Our comments often suggest that we’re just not operating with functioning brains, but we shouldn’t feel too bad – we all do it. “Show yourself. Give me a sign. Do you know you’re dead? I won’t hurt you. Are you lost? Go to the light. Didn’t you used to be so-and-so?” And on and on… The totality of our thickheadedness seems to be endless. We appear quite willing to be nothing more than the purveyors of hackneyed nonsense, and like a mouse in a trap, we’re a stereotype. At first, it’s all cheese heaven, but eventually…

I won’t presume to tell you how to talk on an investigation, but appearing to be more of a mental equal might give the spirit better motivation to converse with you. At the very least, we ought to act as though we have some sense; maybe spend more time expressing an interest in “them” than we do in repeating our same worn-out, silly routine. We can capture just as much proof that someone is there by asking smarter questions, and the better choices we make improves our chances of learning something significant. We have to see it from their point of view and stop wasting everyone’s time.

“But Randy,” you may say, “at least in the joke, the paranormal investigator got an answer.” Yes, but thats not the real punch line. The real punch line is that he heard nothing at all. And that’s not funny either.
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Also visit The Voices Blog at http://thevoicesblog.wordpress.com

Seen and Not Heard

A little quiet goes a long long way. I’m amazed at how many paranormal investigators have trouble keeping their mouths shut. I know that’s blunt, but sometimes being blunt is the only way to get the message across. We need to understand that our incessant chatter bothers everyone – including spirits. How could they possibly communicate with us when we’re so busy finding new reasons to flap our gums? We’re supposed to be providing a natural and inviting environment for them to speak; an encouraging atmosphere that’s focused on them – not us.

My most satisfying investigations are always the quiet ones, when hardly a word is spoken. I think we should indicate that we’re ready to listen, and that usually comes by being quiet. I’ve remained totally hushed for ten minutes or more before breaching the silence with my first question or comment – spacing my remarks within long gaps of nothing. This doesn’t always provide a ton of EVP, but sometimes it does, and the results are clean and easier to decipher.

Once, I only asked three short questions in the space of half an hour. “Do you live here with the Smiths? What do you do here? Why don’t you just calm down and give these people some peace?” I captured eleven responses during that time and discovered that the spirit did not actually stay in the house, that he liked to visit in the morning, and that he came there because they made him laugh. That’s a lot, don’t you think? It was a great exchange, and to this day, I think the spirit was so forthcoming because he knew I was actually listening. My visit was clearly all about him – not me, and why not – that’s the whole point.

Unfortunately, not all investigations can provide the kind of laid back situation I just described, but there’s no reason for us to contaminate the scene with our constant yammering. The goal isn’t to see how many questions we can ask, you know. The goal is to see how many responses we can capture. My grandmother used to say that “children should be seen and not heard.” Sometimes that applies to paranormal investigators as well.
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Also visit The Voices Blog at http://thevoicesblog.wordpress.com

Comfortable Paradigm

Sometimes I misread things. I’ve heard more EVP than most, but I still manage to draw the wrong conclusions way too frequently for comfort. Occasionally, the most outstanding learning opportunity is staring right at me, but I just don’t see it. That’s how it is with my recordings around small children. I have been so busy trying to figure the identity of the EVP voice, or trying to discover great significance with every comment, that I totally missed a fascinating trend.
 
Since I’ve finally wised-up, it looms rather monumental to me, and even though I’m a little ashamed to admit my dereliction of duty, I have to share with you. When I have recorded around children, while spending most of my time observing, there are a lot of EVP recorded. They are engaged with the child, speak to him directly, or discuss his activities. They even seem to be looking out for his welfare – a comforting thought, actually. 
 
However, when I spend time playing or interacting with the child instead of merely watching, there are noticeably less EVP. Additionally, the nature of the voices change from protective, playful, and intensely interested to uninvolved and typical. To put it another way, the voices seem to reflect a guardian attitude when I am not devoting my complete attention to the child. As I become more actively involved, the spirit comments have reverted to familiar and more ordinary response patterns. It’s almost as if they no longer feel responsible within the situation; they don’t feel obligated to pick up my slack.
 
Of course, as of now, this is conjecture on my part, but it has been consistent over a substantial number of sessions, so I realize specific tests now need to be done. I also understand that this conclusion is based on some pretty flimsy circumstances, and there’s not nearly enough data to support it, but it kinda makes sense – it fits with what we know about human nature. Still, it seems surprising to me, and at the same time, I wonder why it took so long to notice the trend. 
 
There are two lessons for me to learn here, the first of which is obvious, but the second stands as a bonus. Simply put, I need to focus a little more on the bigger picture. We spend so much time proceeding with our preconceived notions and comfortable paradigms that we sometimes miss large chunks of the puzzle. It’s amazing what we can learn from children.
 
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Also visit The Voices Blog at http://thevoicesblog.wordpress.com