Confessions of a Paranormal Researcher Pt. 1
– Guest Post by the Banshee
Anyone who tells you that he or she is a “paranormal expert” should probably not be trusted. This might be a strange way to start a series of posts on The Ghost Diaries about my own paranormal work and research. Call me way too traditional, but I do not consider myself an expert on anything I don’t have a degree in – so while I can say easily that I am an expert on music (in which I hold a Ph.D.), and Botany, in which I hold an undergraduate degree, my paranormal “street cred” stems from other things – what they call in professorial job descriptions “equivalent professional experience.”
First, I grew up in a house built in the 19th century, in a town founded in the 17th century. This house, where members of my family still live, was a great early training ground for me as a child sensitive and energy healer. As you might imagine, the house and many of the places I hung out as a kid were haunted. I couldn’t always see dead people, but I could hear them (musician, what do you expect) and I always knew when they were around. I talked to them because they sometimes seemed to be the most sane folk around me (see more on that below).
Many decades later, after traveling the world (literally and figuratively through my music and scholarship), I began to research paranormal media. My music scholarship stretched to encompass all aspects of music and culture, and I was fascinated by the explosion of paranormal television just after the turn of the millennium. I am working on a book on sound in paranormal media, and have published articles in journals and given papers at conferences in Asia, Europe and the U.S. on the culture of paranormal reality television (or what I like to call, “surreality TV”).
So trained as a scientist, artist, performer and an academic (I’ve been a professor of music for decades) I have a more than “rigorous” approach to what I believe and what I don’t. I can tell you flatly and outright that spirits exist beyond the physical body. How do I know this? Because I have experienced them (not Djinn, not Demons, not the Fay, not Wraiths, not Aliens, not “the Devil,” Shadow people, the Old Hag or Hat Man, not Angels, not Death, not even Jesus in disguise, Yahweh in dark glasses, Buddha wearing a mustache or Allah in drag) I’ve experienced all of these as well and they are, well, quite different.
I am probably one of the only people I know who watches paranormal media like an athlete watches sport matches. I shout at the television (“HOW can you be so stupid to do that?” “How can you NOT know what is standing next to you??” “I really, really wouldn’t go THERE and I’ve been to hell and back…”) particularly when I see inexperienced researchers with telegenic faces create massive drama out of a couple of taps and a few blobs of light.
Helping the dead, you ask?
Most researchers into the paranormal who are NOT mediums or sensitives cannot actually DO anything except document the noises, cries, shadows or light emanations of spirit. They don’t ask the right questions, and therefore don’t help anything. Many cultures have ancient practices in honoring the dead – shrines in homes, festivals in temples, rituals for burial and care of the dead long after they pass. Heck, in small villages in Peru the mummified bones of your ancestors occupy nooks in the wall of your home, and are paraded around during certain religious festivals as a way of demonstrating that you belong to this land and it belongs to you – think, bones of your ancestors as a three-dimensional deeds to the land! In the United States mainstream culture, we have lost much of this awareness, and wiped out or otherwise silenced the populations that could tell us how to honor the land and the ancestors (most likely because the population already here in North America wasn’t interested in unbridled capitalism, and thought the gifts of the land were plenty for all).
Sadly, it is hard to get this information from the people you wiped out with blankets soaked in Small Pox years before the Mayflower even landed (look it up). It is also hard to get such information out of chattel slaves that became the subject of the worst human trafficking in history – yes, America, I’m talking about SLAVES. In the spirit world, slavery isn’t over. In the spirit world, the trail of tears is still being tread. In the spirit world, these things are still happening – time is irrelevant.The massive stench of Auschwitz and Buchenwald is still rising from chimneys. So when one provokes spirits to get a response, instead of honoring our dead, we are poking them with a pointy stick – decades or centuries after they were killed with that VERY SAME stick.
I don’t mean this to sound dismissive, it is just that much of this media “research” rattles my scientist brain. Growing up in that old house, living in dorms and apartments on campuses that were hundreds of years old – even living in France from 1984 to 1985 in a house built in the 17th century (!), I could tell the difference between bugs, dust, random crap floating through the air and actual spirit lights (orbs). I can also tell the difference between taps created by changes in humidity, temperature, seismic shifts (thank you, California!), and those made by spirits trying to reach out.
I don’t believe anything I cannot either document, touch/see/hear/smell/taste or experience. Nonetheless, I also don’t dismiss anything out of hand. Something weird happens? I’m the first girl rushing in to figure out whether it is truly WEIRD, or just unusual and explainable. I realize that many researchers without their own shows on Syfy or the Travel Channel would agree with me, so I’m not unusual in that regard. But I notice there are some major gaps in many approaches. Blind spots that are especially apparent in the media produced for mass consumption in the United States. This is especially true of those who are documenting the paranormal for their own purposes, their own curiosities, their own questions, those who cannot actually help the dead.
So, in fear of spending too much time on this soapbox, I will offer in this introductory blog post some actual advice to help. Ignore it if you wish (most do), but if you embrace it, you might find that your life changes for the better. The advice is to never think about the land you walk as NEW – there is NO NEW LAND on the planet. Someone was there, at some point. So know ‘who’ as much as you can – about who they were, who they are, and act appropriately. If you are anywhere on the North or South American continent, then be prepared to honor the native ancestors who still guard the land.
When I am called out to a house or land to clear it from negative energies, I generally begin flat on my face in the dirt. Yes, I mean that. I lay myself out on the earth face down, facing North, and thank the Earth and the guardians of the land for their service. I ask them humbly, beg them, to accept my offerings – generally many species of dried sage, sweet grass, tobacco, and other medicinal herbs. I bring gifts of water to slake their thirst, and food to feed their spirit bellies. I come “proper.” While I know I, myself, am a spiritual potency, the place to begin is often apologizing for my white European ancestors (I am a mix of French Canadian, Indigenous Canadian and whatever my mother is – but she is an orphan so we can only guess).
I let my tears soak down into the earth, and rub the dirt into my skin in deep gratitude and humility. Apologizing for white people?? I am sure that makes many shudder as we profess something called “manifest destiny” or our right to screw up everything in any way we want as long as we end up rich. Happily, no one gets away with murder, or violence, or incest, or abuse, or racism, sexism, homophobia, gender hegemony, whatever… these things generate the most negative entities and energies I have ever met. They soak into the land and poison it for centuries – until the right sensitive comes along (usually in solitude) and quietly heals the energies, returning balance (often with her own tears).
I am simply willing to experience their pain, to channel it out of them in back into the earth where it can be transformed into something that nourishes instead of harms. I am not afraid of evil, I grew up with it in my crib – I know what it is capable of, and I know that compassion conquers ALL. I know I have healed a place, land, or person when the pain passes and compassion fills me, spilling out onto the earth, the body, the air, the space, the planet, etc. I never look for how I am different from the energies around me, but how they resonate in me.