I was talking the other day with a colleague at work and the conversation somehow turned toward the paranormal. It seems many of us, at one point or another, have had an encounter with the other-worldly. Maybe your closet made weird noises. Maybe your Mom had conversations with her dead Aunt Sally. Maybe you and your friends played with a Ouija board. At the end of the day, chances are, you’ve had your own paranormal experience. Here’s mine:
When I was very young, my mother was in the Army, but back then, you didn’t really get to take your family with you when you were stationed overseas (this was in 1978). My mother left me with her husband at the time, but he was… well, I won’t go there. Anyway, after the divorce was final, I moved in with my Aunt Francie and my Gramma Parotta (my great-grandmother – she moved to this country from Italy in 1920-something and spoke with a heavy accent). Gramma P was my best friend. We would stay up for hours talking when we were supposed to be sleeping. She taught me how to love cartoons and laugh, and how to love food (though I’m still a pickier eater than she would have liked). She died some few months after I turned 3, so my memories of her are very dim. I do remember, though, some very strange things happening after she died (which I remember VERY clearly).
Three incidents stand out. First, I would see Gramma in the front foyer of the house. My Aunt’s home was a two-flat four-square home, and the original porch area had been walled in to make an entry to into both parts of the house. I shared my bedroom with Gramma and it was in the front next to the foyer (the first room you would have entered had you come in the front door – we all came in the back, though). I very clearly remember seeing her sitting in a chair (that wasn’t there) in the foyer, as if she were waiting for someone. I tried to talk to her, but she didn’t answer. Later, when her daughters were splitting up her things, my Aunt Millie wanted a statue of the Virgin Mary that was in my room. She replaced it with a print of Mary and the baby Jesus (shaped like an oval – a popular style in the late 70′s… yeah I know…). I remember seeing my Gramma’s face in the painting and she was mad about them taking the statue. She wanted me to have it and I refused to go into the room because her face was angry and it scared me (I was three – I might have made it up, but I remember seeing her face). Finally, and this is the real kicker, my Aunt Tina (my mom’s sister) and her husband had recently bought a house in the country. It had been abandoned, and needed a lot of work. She was supposed to come to Aunt Francie’s but she didn’t show up. They didn’t have a phone yet, and well, we were 20 years away from cell phones, and my Aunt Francie was worried. I told her not to worry, and that Aunt Tina wasn’t there because she had a hole in her ceiling and she should see the sky. When she asked how I knew that, I told her that Gramma told me. I remember seeing the hole, and the sky, in my mind, but I never was at their house. The fact was they were installing an attic fan (a common item used to cool a home by pulling air into the house by means of a large fan that vented into the attic). There had been a rain storm coming, so they had to hurry and finish before the rain came. My explanation had been perfectly correct, and it came from beyond the grave.
Of course, they all thought I was a loon.
That’s really the norm, thought, isn’t it? I mean think about it, if one of your co-workers or family members came to you and confessed about having a paranormal experience, you’d probably have a good laugh (or three) at their expense. I think it’s become human nature; we fear what we can’t explain and in the 10′s, we laugh at what we are afraid of. Even with the popularity of shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures, we don’t really consider the Paranormal as… for lack of a better word… normal. It doesn’t help that many of the people involved in Paranormal Investigations are difficult, if not impossible, to take seriously. Chip Coffey (the link goes to his IMDB page), one of the psychics on Paranormal State actually has more acting credits than paranormal references. Personally, I find that questionable at best. How hard would it be for someone who’s been acting since age 5 to ACT like they are psychic? I’m guessing not too difficult. I don’t think the producers realized (or cared) how much that could discredit the Paranormal community at large. Of course, that particular show isn’t one of my favorites. I watched it from the beginning, but I felt they brought in too much Catholicism (which is ironic because the Church doesn’t support these views at all). In doing some research for this piece, I found that there is more debunking going on for this show than all of the other shows combined.
It doesn’t help, either, that documentary-style horrors like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity (and the subsequent sequel and prequel), all depict very realistic paranormal events that mirror those shown on the documentary shows. The Ghost Hunterseven documented, more than once, where people have tried to trick them; once someone tampered with a camera and another time, the owners of the place they were investigating had the place rigged. Of course that only fuels the skeptical fire. Until recently, Hollywood’s treatment of the paranormal was usually very campy and obviously fantastic. Still, two of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen were paranormal horror: Poltergeist and The Amityville Horror (which was based on actual events). I didn’t sleep for a week after seeing Poltergeist for the first time (I actually had one of those clown dolls that’s in the movie, and the paneling in my bedroom had faces in it… seriously… evil faces that looked like the devil). Can you imagine if they had been filmed in the same fashion as Paranormal Activity? I’d never sleep again.
If you’re interested in the paranormal, you should check out the YouTube channel for the Canadian Ghost Hunters (just follow the link) to see some “amateur” footage of modern ghost hunters in action. They use most of the modern tactics; EMF detectors, infrared and night vision so film in near complete darkness. I have to say that their format most closely resembles that of Ghost Adventures, which happens to be one of my favorite shows on TV. I like the idea that even though I know there is editing happening, there isn’t a full production crew involved (or at least that’s the impression given – and perception goes a long way with this stuff). I’m not sure I could do it; deep down in my heart of hearts, I’m still afraid of the dark. That said, I am still fascinated by the prospect of communicating with someone who has died.
Of course, it might be like Ghostbusters… With my luck Slimer is the spirit of my Gramma….