My Haunted Childhood

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My childhood home was haunted…or at least we all thought so.

When I was about twelve or so, my family and I became convinced that our house was haunted. We had been living there for at least seven years with no ghostly manifestations, but right around my twelfth birthday everything began to change. Books jumped off shelves when no one was near them. Doors slammed even though there was no wind. Papers blew off desks and tables although the windows were all closed, and footsteps were heard climbing the stairs to the second floor, but when we looked, no one was on the steps. Radios and TVs became filled with static and snow, and electric or battery-powered clocks and watches either slowed or stopped (and sometimes, even went backwards).

It was my father who began noticing that these events most often occurred when I was around—especially the interference with the radios and TVs and the problems with time and clocks. But it was my mom who put it together. Maturing child + playful ghost = poltergeist. What else could it be? Since she was the one who had read all the books, we took her word for it; after all, she was the only “expert” we had. Therefore, what we had was a poltergeist, not a garden-variety ghost or goblin.

So, every few nights this poltergeist would thump its way up the stairs, stopping when it got to the second floor hallway. While every day my mother put up with being unable to listen to the radio in the mornings, and I would pick up the books and papers that ended up strewn about the various rooms. After a while it became so common place and routine that we no longer gave much thought to it when objects were moved or misplaced, when we heard strange noises, or when electrical appliances didn’t always function properly. It was just the way things were in our house. That is until the day the new neighbors came to visit.

My mother was a stickler for presenting the proper face to the world, and that included inviting new neighbors over for a friendly “get-to-know-you” chat. So, here it was a beautiful Sunday spring afternoon, and instead of playing outside or sitting in my reading tree with a book (one of my favorite pastimes) I was stuck inside trying to be nice to the new neighbor’s boring son. Listening to the stilted conversation of the adults, I could tell that even my father found these new neighbors stiff and pretentious. I watched him as his eyes glazed over as the pompous man droned on and on about his important job, and his expensive car, and his notable connections. My father was never impressed by that type of thing. Although my mother was (impressed by just those types of things), I could see that even she was having a tough time warming up to these people.

Suddenly, the piano, which was also in the front room, jangled discordantly. As startled gazes sped to the simple upright piano that held down the front corner of the room, tea cups rattled as guests hurriedly placed their services on the nearest table. My dad gave the guests a quiet, crooked smile, while my mother nervously made suggestions about the wind possibly causing the noise or the cat (we didn’t have) possibly walking across the keyboard. Although the neighbors nodded, they seemed unconvinced, and suddenly had another engagement that they needed to get to.

As the guests hurried to leave, I studied the piano and for the first time an inkling of understanding began to seep in. The poltergeist had never touched the piano before, but about the time that it had jangled to life, I had been wishing that the people would leave so I could at least practice my music. Wondering if what I was suspecting was true, I scrunched up my face and stared at the piano until my eyes watered. The closing of the front door, as the guests scurried away, broke my concentration. I turned away to see my dad put an arm around my mom and reassure her that it was okay, and that our reputation in the neighborhood would be fine.

I glanced again at the piano, wondering if mom would mind if I did my practicing and that’s when the piano plunked out half a chord. My mom jumped a little, then sighed. As she began picking up the cups and dishes, she suggested that maybe if I practiced a little that the poltergeist might quiet down again.

Needing no further encouragement, I scooted over to the bench and slid in front of the keyboard. As I started running scales, I let my mind wander. Understanding as to what a poltergeist really was began to come together for me like some weird jigsaw puzzle. A poltergeist wasn’t some phantasm, like a ghost or ghoul, that was linked to me and so using my energy to haunt the house. A poltergeist was the result of my unfocused emotional energy. I had “powers” (that’s how I thought of it…as if I was some sort of super hero), and I wasn’t controlling them.

Although, it seemed that these occurrences were random or happening due to some outside influences, they were really just responding to my own emotional needs and “outbursts”. Unable to express myself in any other way (such as when those neighbors were visiting), my emotions expressed themselves through my abilities. Even the thumping on the steps was my own emotionalism letting go. I’ve always had very vivid dreams and during that period of my life, parts of the dreams actually “came to life”, that’s all.

Now that I’ve grown up (although, sometimes I feel more childlike than ever), I look back and see how easily those odd events during those few years could be misunderstood. But as much fun as it was to think that our house was haunted, the only ghost was me.

 

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Where is Love?

wave washed heart and pink shovel_4500Where has the romantic gone?

How did she become lost?

Where is the lonely little girl who constantly poured her soul

Into a few choice words—laying bare her life, her heart, and her mind?

I have searched everywhere, yet she remains lost.

I see a form; it could be her.

Instead I am confronted with some glowering old woman

Whose sour disposition seeps forth from every seam of her face,

and every pore of her skin.

Like the odor of spoiled meat, it surrounds her in a miasma,

full of despair and dislike.

When she sees me, she grabs my sleeve

and demands querulously, “Where is love? Where has it gone?”

“I was a young woman once—in love with life and filled with joy.

Now, here I am dressed in these rags. My hair is coarse and my

face is wrinkled. I do not understand. How did I come to be this way?”

Her tears follow the runnels of her face

until they tumble free and splash against her shawl.

Her claw-like fingers still grip my sleeve

and I find myself patting her age-speckled hand.

Love is so fleeting, so swiftly fading.

With its departure do we lose our youth,

our beauty and our way.

Feeling her pain, I turn her toward the light.

Wiping away her tears, I softly explain

that love is there, in front of her.

For within the light all is joy,

and within the light all is music,

and within the light everything is love.

With a look of awe, she releases me

and reaches toward the light.

As she shuffles forward, her countenance changes.

Her face grows smoother, and her back straighter,

and as the glow surrounds her, somewhere deep

within myself I feel the tones of love resound.

Telling the Story

psychopomp-3d-dls-8pxls-2Do you know the difference between a novel and a non-fiction book? A non-fiction book is based in truth. However, the biggest mistake that non-fiction authors make is equating truth with a dry recitation of facts rather than the telling of a story. Despite your history teacher’s attempts to bore you with lists of dates and tables of facts, history can (and is) actually interesting. People want to know why something happened or why someone acted or reacted as they did. They want to understand the reason for events, and that’s where your story telling ability comes in. You need to show them why; you need to give them the story surrounding the event.

All stories, both fiction and non-fiction, are just that—stories. When writing a memoir, biography, or other bit of non-fiction, you still need to follow the same guidelines as an author writing a novel; however, you have a major advantage. Your story is already loosely defined for you. You have the timeline, timeframe, characters, major conflicts, and key dramatic elements, all you need to do is add the story components.

You need to develop your characters so that your readers can see them the way you do—are they shy, dynamic, geeky, or ne’er do well? The characters need depth, life, purpose, and motivation to go along with that dramatic moment. Does the moment you’re recording have to do with star-crossed lovers, a robbery gone wrong, a heroic deed, or just a crazy moment that changed the character’s life? You also need to build up the environment. What was the time period like, the culture, and the society? Help your readers understand your character’s perspectives, actions, and reactions. (For instance, the American culture and societal mores are much different today than they were in the 1970’s and understanding that can help the reader connect with the character and their plight.)

Also, just as a fictional character has wants, needs, fears, and motivations, so do your non-fictional characters. By using a first- or third-person point of view, action verbs, and a show-not-tell writing style you can catapult your readers into the story and help them appreciate the little slice of true life that you are sharing with them.

Here’s an example of a memoir that, while historically accurate, is rather dry:

In 1973, Terry got a job for the local newspaper. She did many jobs while there, such as typesetting, layout and design, and bundling (which is the bundling of flyers, ads, and other inserts with the paper). However, her favorite job was junior reporter.

Her first really major story involved the murder of a local schoolteacher. When the body was discovered, Terry was at the school to cover the latest protests.

Here is that same example, but written in a more story-like way:

1973 was a tumultuous year. It was the time of flower power, (Viet Nam) war protests, hippies dropping out, dropping in, and dropping acid, flag and bra burnings, and it was the year that Terry saw her first murder victim.

As a junior reporter for the local paper, she was at the school covering the latest protest when the screams ripped through the air.

 

Now, which memoir would you rather read?

Prove It

proofAfter three episodes of Proof, I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised and pleased by the treatment that TNT (and thereby, Hollywood) is giving to the topic of ‘life after death’ and all the related topics (NDEs, ghosts, poltergeist, sceances, mediums, etc.).

They provide enough skepticism and watered-down science to keep it from getting campy and melodramatic; yet, they seem to have an open mind, too. For instance, in the episode pertaining to ghosts and poltergeist, they had the doctor (the primary skeptic) “prove’ that it was a brain lesion causing the dead-wife-sightings. Yet, the poltergeist-type manifestations that were attributed to the ghost of the dead wife continued even after the brain lesion was removed. This left the doctor (and the audience) wondering—were the sightings and manifestations truly caused by the brain lesion; is there something else going on not related to the medical condition of the man who had lost his wife; did the brain lesion only enable the sightings and not cause them; or were the events of ghostly sightings, poltergeist activities, and brain lesion simply random occurrences?

The show leaves it to each viewer to decide these questions, and that’s what makes the show so good. The writers, producers, and actors provide the information and the varying viewpoints, but then they leave it up to each of us to decide what it all means. I enjoy being presented with the information, the different perspectives as to what it all means, and then being allowed to come to my own conclusions. As a partial skeptic myself, I identify with the doctor’s dilemma of wanting proof, and yet I love hearing the explanations from those whose viewpoints rely more on belief and acceptance.

During the past life regression episode I found myself nodding at certain statements made by the skeptics in that particular episode; while at the same time, I know that past lives are real and they do impact your current life (for good or for ill).

So, while I would love for there to be a scientific explanation for everything that occurs in life; I don’t believe that science (or religion) has managed to keep up with all that life has presented to us. Therefore, there are times when we need to say, “Is it possible?” instead of, “Is it provable?”.

As for me, if it seems reasonable and possible, then I’m likely to say, “I’ll consider it.” I don’t always need Proof, but it’s a good show, nonetheless.

What Dreams May Come…What Dreams Have Come

WhatdreamsposterA friend of mine invited me to watch a movie with her. She said it was something she had seen when it first came out and, knowing I hadn’t seen it, thought I would really enjoy it. That’s all she said. She wouldn’t give me the title, tell me who starred in it, or even give me a synopsis of the plot. Deciding to humor her (and wanting to spend time with her, anyway), I agreed to her “movie night”.

The movie she chose was “What Dreams May Come” starring Robin Williams. And to say I was surprised by the movie is an understatement. It was like watching my own book, “Escorting the Dead: My Life as a Psychopomp”, come to life.

The movie was based on a book by Richard Matheson, author of such books as “Bid Time Return” (which became the movie, “Somewhere in Time”) and “I am Legend” (which also became a movie with the same name). I had loved all the movies made from Mr. Matheson’s books, including this one that I had just seen, so I went to the library and got copies of his books.

Reading his words pulled at something deep within me. It waCover3s as if we were connecting on a soul level. It made me wonder just who was Mr. Matheson and how did he come to write these books; what was his inspiration. Did he have a near death experience of his own? Was his just a finely tuned imagination or was there some “secret” knowledge there?

What I found was that he wasn’t all that different from me in his beliefs and in how he built his spiritual foundations.

Fascinated by parapsychology, the paranormal, and metaphysics since boyhood, Mr. Matheson used his storytelling platform to explore and express his beliefs. Having read everything from Emanual Swedenborg and Harold Percival to Raymond Moody and Kubler-Ross, Mr. Matheson compiled his own spiritual belief system which he published in a book called “The Path”, a non-fiction account of his ideas and concepts.

That same belief system was used as the basis for “What Dreams May Come” but was expressed as a story; however, in an introductory note to the book, Matheson explains that the characters are the only fictional component of the novel. Almost everything else was based on research, and the end of the novel includes a lengthy bibliography.

Placing the material in a fictional, story-like format allowed Mr. Matheson to reach a wider audience with his ideas of how life (and death) works. His book explores a range of paranormal and spiritual concepts and puts forth his philosophy of mind over matter, that ideas are the basis of creation, and his beliefs that the human soul is immortal and that a person’s fate in the afterlife is self-imposed.

The book, which was originally published in 1978, received mixed reviews. However, Mr. Matheson considered it one of his greatest achievements and was quoted as saying, “I think ‘What Dreams May Come’ is the most important (read effective) book I’ve written. It has caused a number of readers to lose their fear of death – the finest tribute any writer could receive.”

That quote also fits me. I may not sell very many copies of my book, but that’s okay; because if my book can give even one person some comfort regarding their death or the death of someone they love, than that’s what counts. It’s really the reason why I wrote it.

So, in our own way, I guess Mr. Matheson and I do have a connection. We both developed similar belief systems and have tried to express those beliefs through our writing. It’s nice to have validation of how you think the world functions, and it’s even nicer when that validation comes to you unexpectedly and without strings.

I see you…

Can people really view objects, locations, and people from a distance (remote viewing), or allow part of themselves to travel away from their body to some other place (out of body experiences)? The American and Russian governments believe so (Stargate was a real project within the US military and it was geared toward finding, training, and using people with these talents). And now, finally, the scientists are coming around to believing this, too.

Studies of the mind have identified a particular region of the brain associated with spatial recognition. In other words, there is a part of your brain that helps you fix yourself within a specific time and space; it keeps you within a specific reality. However, some people have the ability to control that aspect of their brain, to turn it off and on at will.

With it turned off, a person is no longer situated just where their body is. Instead, a part of them (let’s call it their awareness) is able to expand outward to any given coordinates whether on Earth or in space. These people have given accurate reports as to what they saw, heard, and experienced, yet their bodies never left the researcher’s sight. A rare few of these “travelers” or “viewers” have even been able to sense emotions of those in the target area, and some have reported being able to actually touch people and things in the target area (confirmed by contacting the target people who said they felt a push or hug during the experiment).

These studies have used MRI’s and brain scans during the travel and viewing experiments, which have shown the parts of the brains that were triggered. Each time the participant claimed to have launched themselves free of their bodies, the spatial recognition area of their brains has been shut down, and it didn’t come back on until the participants were “back”. During their travels, various other portions of the mind triggered, such as the visual cortex, even though the physical body had its eyes closed. All of which, the scientists claim shows that something real is happening and that while the body remains fixed in place, the mind (and perhaps more than the mind) has traveled somewhere else.

However, other scientists have shown that the brain can be fooled. By having the participants wear virtual reality goggles, these scientists have shown that substitute bodies (such as mannequins) can be used to fool the participants into believing what they’re not really experiencing. Scientists have positioned mannequins or other false body parts (arms or legs) in such a way that when the participants with the goggles see them being poked or swatted, they reach for their own stomach, arm, leg or body area and state that they felt the swat, poke, or prod. Yet, the scientists never touched the actual participant.

But fooling the brain into thinking that another [fake] body is your own body isn’t the same as actually describing a location across the globe that you’ve never been to. We all know that the brain is not infallible. It’s only as good as the input it receives. If presented with a perspective that the brain cannot quite understand, the brain will supply answers based on past experience and current input. That may not be accurate, but it’s the only data the brain has, so that’s what it goes with.

Unfortunately, this does affect the results of any remote viewing or out of body experience. What you see when you “travel” may not be something you can easily comprehend, it may not be visually clear (almost everyone who remote views or who steps out of body, claims that their vision becomes foggy or cloudy—maybe because we’re no longer using our physical eyes and senses to see a physical world), and it has to travel through our own personal filters (prejudices and beliefs). Therefore, while I believe it’s possible, it’s also not always easy to explain or quantify. It’s like everything else in this world…uniquely personal and individually distinctive.

What is real?

Near death experiences…what are they really? Most people who have near death experiences feel that they truly left their bodies. Some even feel that they traveled beyond this Earthly existence to another place (heaven, the astral plane, somewhere). However, some scientists and medical experts claim that these sensations and experiences are nothing more than the misfirings of the brain caused by the lack of oxygen and the chemicals released by our bodies as we begin to shut down into death.

So, is there something more beyond the physical realm, or is it just our own body’s reactions that we experience when we die?

I’m no expert, but I’ve had at least 1 NDE myself. When I combine that with what I’ve experienced as a planer, I’m pretty confident in my beliefs. I know that what I recognize as “me” is much more than this physical body. I know that my soul (awareness, consciousness, Ka, the sentient portion of who I am) will continue even when the physical form is no longer functioning (dead). But, just like those who have had near death experiences, I have no “proof” other than what I remember of my planer and out of body experiences. Unfortunately, those folks of a more scientific nature discount memories of these types of incidents because they can’t measure and quantify them. Memories, like rainbows, can’t be captured, bottled, tested and measured.

Some scientific and medical experts have tried to recreate near death experiences using a type of virtual reality, while others have tried to induce it through chemical means. However, because these experts have not experienced the bright light, the visions of ghostly loved ones, or the feelings of expansiveness and all encompassing love, they refuse to believe in the possibility of another reality, a reality where physical bodies are not needed, a reality where consciousness and awareness exist without physicality.

They insist that since they can only measure what is happening within the physical mind and body, that all those feelings and visions are nothing more than hallucinations, self-deception based on expectations and beliefs, or are created by chemical imbalances within the mind as the body prepares itself for death. But they have not yet figured out how to measure awareness or consciousness, and if they can’t measure or recognize this fundamental aspect of humanness, how can they say for certain that life cannot exist outside of the physical body? How can they be certain that what the mind remembers during death (or rather, near death) are the memories or experiences of the soul (consciousness and awareness) as it is leaving the body, yet is still connected to the body?

After all, all of life is lived within the brain and mind, so to say something is not real because it only exists within our mind, is to say that nothing is real. I think these scientists and medical experts who refuse to even consider the possibility that consciousness and awareness can exist beyond the physical body, are so limited by their own fears that they will never “believe” or “prove” that there is life beyond the death of the physical body. At least not until they die and see it for themselves.