Nicole Strickland

Oscars 2022 – A Lost Moment in Time

“Now this is the story all about how my life got flip-turned upside-down, and I’d like to take a minute just sit right there, I’ll tell you how I became the…”  We all know the rest of the catchy, iconic theme song of the 90s sensation, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.  What a foreshadowing of eventual future events.  One could honestly argue that those lyrics took on a different meaning during the film industry’s most celebrated night of March 2022. Certainly, not a prince anymore. 

Get my wife’s name out your f*ckin’ mouth!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myjEoDypUD8

What could have been actor Will Smith’s defining evening turned out to be his worst.  Known as the “Slap Seen Around the World,” the incident has left us sickened and disgusted by his display of unhinged violence.  Look, I have nothing against Will Smith.  He has a stellar knack for acting and always displays a likable, comedic personality; that is, until this year’s Oscars when his world was rocked and literally turned upside down – all of his own volition. 

In addition to the ongoing shock and disbelief, the unfathomable incident that took place between Smith and comedic icon Chris Rock has left us wanting answers.  On the surface, it seemed as though King Richard’s leading man was defending his wife from a perceived attack on her medical condition.  Later, Rock admitted that he wasn’t aware of her alopecia.  Many individuals are not shy of pointing out that Smith’s actions stemmed from something deeper; perhaps, a slew of unresolved issues brewing deep within his subconscious.

My Thoughts

I don’t believe his behavior was the direct result of his wife’s hair condition.  Initially, you can see the A-lister laughing along with the rest of the audience.  Beneath that humor was anger rising to the surface. Then, in an awkward twist of events, you see him walking up to greet Rock on stage, and what happened next initiated a shockwave around the globe.  Cue in Nicole Kidman’s reaction, which is hilariously becoming a meme.  Chris Rock displayed nothing but pure professionalism and restraint at a time when he could have chosen not to.  Those actions alone demonstrate the type of individual he is.  He held his head high amidst feeling broken and demeaned by one of his peers.  

We should take the high road here and not take sides.  We need to treat both fellow men as equals, in the sense that they’re both human beings with emotions and flaws.  In no way does this condone Smith’s behavior. Every single living person on this planet has imperfections that cause the wrong decisions to be made.  To err is to be human. Properly atoning for our misdoings is what allows us to rise above the defects that challenge us. 

Denzel Washington’s Salient Advice

Hollywood legend Denzel Washington left us salient advice when he said, “At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you.”  He was referring to the ego and how it can sabotage us when we’re at our best and eclipse our true selves. What was it that caused Smith to lose restraint and let his inner demons reign supreme?  I’m not sure we’ll ever know; in fact, I’m not sure if the 2022 Best Actor recipient will ever know. 

Sure, Will Smith won the Best Actor Oscar Award for his portrayal of Richard Williams, father to tennis prodigies, Serena and Venus Williams.  Indeed, he was deserving of the motion picture accolade for his acting alone.  He should have been escorted out of the facility for his maddened display of sheer bullying and violence.  Not under any circumstances should anyone hit, punch or smack someone for saying words. 

Jim Carrey Weighs in

Comedy aficionado Jim Carrey eloquently alluded to this by saying, “I was sickened. I was sickened by the standing ovation. I felt like Hollywood is just spineless en masse. And it really felt like this is a really clear indication that we’re not the cool club anymore.”  He went on to further reiterate, “I’d have announced this morning that I was suing Will for 200 million dollars, because that video is going to be there forever. It’s going to be ubiquitous. That insult is going to last a very long time. If you want to yell from the audience or disapprove or show disapproval, or say something on Twitter or whatever…you do not have the right to walk up on stage and smack somebody in the face because they said words.” 

A Display of Hypocrisy?

An unscripted exhibition of hypocrisy occurred just moments after Chris Rock was attacked in front of millions of people.  After Smith accepted his award, those in the audience of course, gave him a standing ovation.  Maybe some individuals didn’t want to but consented to it out of peer pressure.  Many feel that the Men in Black star’s acceptance speech was riddled with insincerities when he stated, “Love will make you do crazy things.  In this time in my life, at this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me  to do and be in this world.” He goes on to say, “Richard was a fierce defender of his family.”  With this statement alone, it’s evident that Smith was maybe acting out his character’s traits in real life.  In other words, at that moment when he slapped Rock in the face, maybe he couldn’t differentiate between himself and his character.

Society looks up to those in the public eye and often places them on unneeded pedestals.  There’s this false ideal regarding celebrities; that by living the high life, they’re not subjected to the same challenges and problems as the rest of us.  The incident between Rock and Smith crushed that archetype and brought the truth to the surface – that the stars of Hollywood are just as human as anyone else in this world.  They breathe the same air and eat the same food.  They endure joy, anger, sadness and dejection.  They are subjected to the consequences of their actions.  What we saw occur during this event shattered the fallacy that everything in Hollywood is picture-perfect.  Quite the contrary.

There’s that old saying, “Still waters run deep.”  Will Smith has some profound, inner reflecting to do.  He needs to look within to seek the pain that ebbs deep inside.  Only then will he find some peace.  Anger is a fleeting emotion, one that recedes with the tincture of time.  Sure, the world is feeling quite dismayed as a result of Smith’s aggression.  He needs to embrace whatever penalties come his way.  However, as a human being, he deserves prayers as opposed to being ostracized.

Chris Rock will bounce back from the embarrassment and humiliation.  He’s already validating this by fulfilling his comedy performances.  His friends, family, and colleagues are rallying around him offering lots of support.  Society needs to uplift him and pray for his well-being after such a traumatic event.

Let this entire experience be a reminder of the importance of compassion, love and respect – not just for one’s self but for fellow man and the world at large.  Collectively embracing these three attributes will undoubtedly dry the tears of the world. 

Photo Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

Former Heaven's Gate Mansion

Heaven’s Gate: 25 Years Later and the Allure Still Exists

Background of Heaven’s Gate

The date was March 26, 1997.  For my fellow University of San Diego High School classmates and me, it was a time when we were eagerly preparing for high school commencement: a monumental milestone that paves the way for soon-to-be adulthood.  However, this particular day went down in the history books for something bigger, an event almost unforeseen even for those directly involved.  You see, this was the day when the upscale, sleepy San Diego community of Rancho Santa Fe lost its innocence and became the culprit of a mass media storm.

It was on this day when an anonymous tip to local police suggested that 39 men and women committed mass suicide at 18241 Colina Norte, a 9,000-plus square-foot home, which housed the cult known as Heaven’s Gate.  It’s one of those peculiar situations, albeit 25 years later, that begs us to examine how peoples’ lives can be so dichotomously different, even if they’re just a few miles apart.  People, from all walks of life, engaging in their daily routines of work, school, and family amidst a fanatical group who believed that suicide would grant them entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.

The members of Heaven’s Gate eagerly looked up to their leaders, Bonnie Lu Trousdale Nettles and Marshall Herff Applewhite.  The two went by Ti and Do, respectively.  A self-proclaimed prophet who felt he was the second coming of Jesus Christ, Applewhite, in his earlier years, proved to be a man of normal means. He attended various universities and served in the United States Army.  The son of a Presbyterian minister, he had musical talent and enrolled in the University of St. Thomas, initially pursuing a degree in education.  However, in 1970, Applewhite left the institution due to emotional turmoil.  He was dismissed from his teaching position at a university in Alabama for having a sexual affair with a male student.  Then came the dissolution of his marriage in 1972, prompting voluntary admittance to a psychiatric facility in Houston.  It was here when he met Bonnie and the rest is history, as they say.

Bonnie was a registered nurse who was also dealing with marital issues.  Soon, both she and Applewhite would form a close friendship, sharing a mutual interest in theosophy and mysticism.  Believing that they both possessed divine talents, they eventually left to commence their study group and bookstore, known as the Christian Arts Center.  Their unique philosophy mirrored the Bible and the musings of theosophy founder Helena Blavatsky.  Mixed in was an amalgamation of ufology, astrology, and science fiction.  In 1973, Applewhite and Nettles began to travel around the United States to spread their viewpoints.  A hiccup occurred in 1975 when Applewhite was jailed due to failure to return a rental car.  Ample time was granted while incarcerated and he further developed his theological beliefs. 

After his stint in jail, he and Nettles traveled to California and Oregon to spread their philosophy.  While traveling, the pair had little money and often resorted to selling their blood or working odd jobs.  Due to low funds, they camped out and often subsisted on bread.  In a megalomaniac fashion, Do and Ti felt that they were granted higher-level minds and had been chosen to fulfill biblical prophecies.  They concluded that they would be murdered, then return to life and beamed up in a spaceship.  The pair told their followers that the only path for eventual salvation was to go with them and abandon everything associated with their earthly lives.  They also convinced their students that they were the ultimate source of truth and to obey them at all times.  Being the charming and charismatic person that he was, Applewhite was hardly seen as dictatorial.

Do and Ti’s teachings centered on the idea that followers could travel to Heaven after transforming into immortal alien species by discarding their human elements.  They ascribed to the belief that they were sent from beyond to fulfill the same mission as Jesus.  The pair felt that they were very old ETs who reincarnated in human bodies as a way to “harvest souls” to help fulfill their warped undertaking.  Do and Ti referred to themselves as “The Two” based on the two witnesses in the Book of Revelations who were slain and ascended to heaven.  It’s as if they blended the essentials of science fiction, New Age theories, and biblical scriptures and mixed them all together with an added dose of distorted imagination.  Those that chose to follow in their path were obsessed with escaping the reality of human life so much so that it ultimately camouflaged any rational ability to discern mental illness or psychosis in their leaders. 

According to Nettles, her meeting with Applewhite was foretold to her by ETs, ultimately convincing the latter that he was among the divine.  By 1975, the pair adopted the names Bo and Peep and had around 70 followers.  In addition to abandoning friends, family, and sexuality, followers were given biblical names ending in “ody.”  By 1976, Applewhite and Nettles chose the names, Do and Ti and split their members into small groups known as “Star Clusters.”  From 1976 to 1979, the cult resided in campgrounds in various areas, such as the Rocky Mountains and Texas.

Tragedy struck the cult in 1985 when Nettles succumbed to brain cancer.  Two years prior, she had one of her eyes surgically removed due to that diagnosis.  Applewhite failed to inform her children that she passed away alone until many months later.   Sadly, her daughter was located just a few hours away from her and felt ripped to shreds when she found out about her mother’s demise. Do descended into a big depression after her passing and felt that he was left behind because he had more to learn.  He taught his followers to believe that Nettles’ spirit ascended to a spaceship and received a new body and that they, too, would follow in her path.  It seems as though her untimely death was the catalyst for introducing tight regimented schedules for his students.  They were soon taught to dissociate from anything on the outside of their mission. 

Applewhite felt that heaven was a planet inhabited by highly intelligent beings and that physical bodies were mandated to reside there.  Furthermore, he concluded that evolution on other planets would evolve once they reached the Next Level.  He instilled in his pupils that Jesus was an extraterrestrial and boarded a spaceship after he rose from the dead.  Applewhite believed that “every two millennia”, humans were granted an opportunity to reach the Next Level.  The early 90s would be the first time for this opportune chance to reach the Kingdom of Heaven since the time of Jesus.

In the early 90s, the group made nearly $400,000 per year, enabling them to recruit more members and publish an advertisement in USA Today and other newspapers.  Do convinced his members that for them to reach the “Evolutionary Level Above Human,” they must abandon their bodies or “vehicles” and board an alien spacecraft that would arrive as a comet would make its way across Earth’s horizon in 1997.  Once they boarded this eventual spaceship, the group would inhabit other bodies.  Essentially, they were all higher beings who took control of an earthly body as a way to educate humanity and spread their principles.  Applewhite eventually became paranoid, fearing a conspiracy against Heaven’s Gate.  He strongly believed that malevolent aliens known as Luciferians desired to destroy him and his mission.  During this time he discussed how the Earth was an overgrown garden and would soon recycle as a result of an Apocalypse.

The Heaven’s Gate Mass Suicide

The remaining cult members rented a large Rancho Santa Fe mansion in October 1996, the same year that brought about the Hale Bopp Comet, one of the most beautiful celestial showcases in the twentieth century.  Named after Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp, the sky’s event was detectable in the Northern Hemisphere the subsequent year.  During this time frame, Heaven’s Gate members recorded two video messages to let viewers know that this was the “last chance to evacuate Earth.”  Adding fanatical pollution to this natural event, shoddy astronomer Chuck Shramek, went on the Art Bell radio show to discuss how he identified a massive object moving in unison with the comet as it approached Earth’s horizon.  As if this wasn’t enough, a remote viewer named Courtney Brown along with Prudence Calabrese confirmed that a UFO was trailing the comet.  This was done in an attempt to gain notoriety and undoubtedly fueled the belief systems of Heaven’s Gate.

As a way to engage the news reports of the cult, Applewhite chose to announce the group’s coming exodus from the mortal realm:

Whether Hale-Bopp has a ‘companion’ or not is irrelevant from our perspective.  However, its arrival is joyously very significant to us at ‘Heaven’s Gate.’ The joy is that our Older Member in the Evolutionary Level Above Human (the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’) has made it clear to us that Hale-Bopp’s approach is the ‘marker’ we’ve been waiting for – the time for the arrival of the spacecraft from the Level Above Human to take us home to ‘Their World’ – in the literal Heavens.  Our 22 years of classroom here on planet Earth is finally coming to conclusion – the ‘graduation’ from the Human Evolutionary Level.  We are happily prepared to leave ‘this world’ and go with Ti’s crew.

The mass media labeled Heaven’s Gate a “UFO cult.”  Like a flock of vultures, heavy coverage of the group existed before the collective suicide but proliferated after their deaths.  At the time, the story was the primary interest of San Diego news stations.  Even today, some 25 years since the tragedy, you can find various stories, interviews, and opinions about Heaven’s Gate.  The group’s website is still active at http://www.heavensgate.com

Each member recorded exit statements designed to give the public a glimpse into why they chose this path and what it meant to them.  When tuning into these recordings, it is highly likely that they were the victims of mind control and tried so hard to convince themselves of the validity of Ti and Do’s teachings.  Here are just a few quotes from some of these students during their exit statements, to demonstrate this probability.  These examples are offered not to criticize or judge the members, but to showcase the various reasons as to why people join cults.

SRRODY:  “Just about anything that would be of significance to you is already on Heaven’s Gate.” Although he mentioned that it’s “silly”, he urged viewers to read or watch anything related to the cult.  You’ll notice that he tried to convince himself of what he was saying and even questioned at one point if it was okay that he mentioned it.

YRSODY: “What we’re about to do is nothing to think negatively about. We’re all choosing of our own free will to go to the Next Level with Ti and Do.”  Did she voluntarily believe that this was free will? Or, was she coerced into believing that?  Of course, she was referring to the chosen paths of suicide.  This alone demonstrated how she was victimized by Do’s principles.  Throughout her interview, she pledged allegiance to her leaders and placed them on pedestals.

DSTODY: “Suffice to say, when I heard the information, I was overwhelmed.”  He goes on to relay that the information provided by Ti and Do’s teachings resonated with him on a spiritual level.  When listening to his exit statement, you can tell that he was searching for a greater dose of spirituality and the meaning of life.  Hence, he expressed vulnerability.  He even questioned what he did to deserve admittance into Heaven’s Gate.  He described it as an “opportunity” and a “gift.”

MLLODY: In her interview, she describes exactly what a cult is; however, expressed that Heaven’s Gate was anything but that.  She said, “I think everyone in this class wanted something more than what the world could offer.  They were seeking some type of rightness or some type of goodness that they did not feel in this world.”  This aligns with the common denominator of not being content with one’s life and striving for something greater.  In actuality, this is something we all experience and desire at times.

OLLODY: Throughout his statement, you can tell that he’s separated himself from what he once was.  He referred to his body as a “vehicle” and said, “This vehicle knew that it didn’t fit in this world.”  The theme of vulnerability surfaces again.  OLLODY talks about his childhood beliefs in little people (aliens) and his desire to find the meaning of those beliefs even as an adult.  He then found Heaven’s Gate as the perfect means to seek the answers to his convictions.  He said, “The little people I had been looking for had come to take me home.”

TDDODY: “I’m no longer satisfied or fulfilled by any human pursuit, indulgence, or activity. I’ve tried it all and there’s nothing on this planet that is worthwhile or of any interest to me.”  One can argue that he may have been dealing with some depression and yearning to escape reality.  Once again, susceptibility is showcased here.

On March 21st, the Heaven’s Gate clan ate their last meal at a Marie Callender’s restaurant, located at 5980 Avenida Encinas, off the 5 near Palomar Airport Road. They rejoiced and regaled as they consumed salad, turkey pot pie, blueberry cheesecake, and iced tea.  Between March 22nd and 24th, the group helped each other die in shifts.  Applewhite was the last person to pass, obviously making sure that no one chickened out at the last minute. 

After the anonymous tip of mass suicide was provided to the police on March 26th, the first officers on the scene immediately knew that they were contending with death due to the pungent odor of decomposition permeating the sprawling mansion.  Upon entrance, they soon found the entire home neat and orderly, except for the lifeless bodies arranged peculiarly on cots and bunk bed mattresses.  Immediately depicted on televisions across the nation were the scenes of deceased cult members taken out of the Rancho Santa Fe mansion.  These are images seared into the memories of many San Diegans and those across the United States.  

Each person was wearing a matching black uniform with a badge that said, “Heaven’s Gate Away Team.”  Each lifeless body was adorned in black and white Nike shoes with purple shrouds and plastic bags covering their torsos and heads.  It was soon discovered that they died after consuming a lethal concoction of applesauce and phenobarbital chased by vodka.  They all had a passport secured in one hand along with $5.75 in the other. As a result, the Nike slogan of “Just Do It” took on a whole new meaning.  Applewhite chose these particular black shoes with the recognizable white swoosh because he liked their look and was able to get a deal when buying them in bulk.

Now, you may be wondering why they needed passports and this exact amount of change.  According to the book, Weird California: Your Travel Guide to California’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets, the answer may lie in a 1907 story, called “Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Trip to Heaven” by the legendary Mark Twain.  The protagonist in this story departs for “an extended excursion among the heavenly bodies” on the rear of a comet, taking with him a passport and $5.75 in cash.

Ironically, Heaven’s Gate posted an article on its website discussing its stance against suicide.  However, one can’t argue that they chose to commit just that.  They held the conviction that it would be suicide to not go on to the Next Level.  They relayed, “The true meaning of ‘suicide’ is to turn against the Next Level when it is being offered.  These days, we are focused on two primary tasks: one – of making a last attempt at telling the truth about how the Next Level may be entered (our last effort at offering to individuals of this civilization the way to avoid ‘suicide’); and two – taking advantage of the rare opportunity we have each day – to work individually on our personal overcoming and change, in preparation for entering the Kingdom of Heaven.”

The Rancho Santa Fe mansion housing the Heaven’s Gate Away Team eventually sold for less than half its original value.  In an attempt to thwart “lookie-loos” and secure privacy, the new owner changed the address and street name to 18239 Paseo Victoria.  For those that are interested in driving by, be rest assured that the home is safely guarded by a security gate. 

Why Are We Still So Fascinated by Heaven’s Gate?

The allure of these mass-scale cults exists because we yearn to understand the psychology behind them.  We strive to make sense of why a group of seemingly normal and educated individuals would make the conscious (or perhaps, brainwashed) decision to strip everything they had to seek spiritual enlightenment.  We desire to understand the “why” and “how” even though we may never quite unlock all the secrets.  The Heaven’s Gate cult is no exception.  Most will arrive at the consensus that the individuals duped by Ti and Do’s mentality had an insatiable thirst for belonging and togetherness.  Each member most likely found some innate connection to the Heaven’s Gate doctrine. 

When you think about it, aspects of cult mentality mirror that of outside, regular life.  We all desire to belong and have solid relationships.  We have to follow certain rules in our professional lives.  From our infancy, we learn to deal with peer pressure from others.  We learn at a young age that hard work and dedication lead to various levels of success.  The familiarity with these common themes could be one reason why certain people get suckered into these extremist groups. 

According to psychologist Steve Eichel, cults typically look for individuals who possess idealistic and optimistic traits.  These are passionate people who desire to self-improve and live a more fulfilling life.  These are common themes running through all of us.  Intriguingly, a 2017 study of former cult followers discovered that 61% had more than 12 years of education.  When reading about Heaven’s Gate, you will find out that many of its members were highly educated and experienced in their chosen career paths.  Many of them were imaginative dreamers and attracted to spirituality. 

Many radical sects seem attractive and welcoming on the surface but hidden deep within are sinister motives.  Their leaders emphasize an initial sense of community while eventually inclining toward peer pressure.  They aim to force members to separate themselves from society and maintain strict adherence to rules and policies governed by the cult.  These groups discourage any critical thinking, especially if it falls out of the four corners of their forerunner’s mentality.  Yet, they don’t discriminate based on the type of person you are on the outside; their main requirement is for newly indoctrinated members to pledge allegiance to what that group is all about.  Victims that are besieged by its doctrines will not realize their eventual decrease in emotional, psychological, and spiritual growth. 

Hank Hanegraaf of the Christian Research Institute felt that Applewhite was the quintessential spiritual con artist.  According to him, “So often, they follow a leader who is presenting them the skin of the truth stuffed with a deadly lie.  I don’t think that there is a more classic, current case of that than Herff Applewhite.  When he told them that they had been impregnated with an alien spirit and that’s why his message resonated with them, they were immediately willing to follow the seductive siren call of the cult leader.  In this case, follow it right to their deaths.”

Pervading interest in rebellious mentality exists because we crave to understand what propels people from sound minds to become so deceived by zealous creeds.  We desire to scrutinize the exact moment(s) when these victims become so faithful to that, which is duping them.  To comprehend the reasons for this, we must analyze the aspects of these individuals’ emotional and mental statuses, relationships with others, and life’s many challenges.  In doing so, people may be better equipped to save friends or family from joining something that could ultimately destroy them. 

For whatever reason(s), cult victims want security and the desire to make better sense out of their lives.  Perhaps, the standard familial way of living is failing these individuals and they seek a way out.  Maybe their current belief systems aren’t as attractive any longer.  Typically, low self-esteem, depression, and a  perceived lacking in life are underliers for those who find cults appealing.  Those in extremely vulnerable states may find these sorts of groups beneficial.  Whether due to the longing for escapism, the craving for deeper connections, or the aspirations to achieve greater spiritual ascension, the reasons why people join cults are as multifaceted as the groups, themselves.

Some psychologists easily dismiss the idea of cult brainwashing.  Instead, they suggest that group members become dependent on their leaders because they can’t survive without them.  They maintain that followers became enthralled with Applewhite’s narratives as opposed to him psychologically manipulating them.  In this book, The Devil at Heaven’s Gate: Rethinking the Study of Religion in the Age of Cyber-Space, author Hugh Urban asserts that Applewhite’s life exhibited “the intense ambivalence and alienation shared by many individuals lost in the late 20th-century capitalist society” (Urban 268-302). His students shared similar nihilistic views, which further mesmerized them.

Additionally, one can argue that his students also became magnetized by his charismatic and charming nature.  He was an engaging and articulate speaker, possessing the ability to draw people into his convictions.  One ex-follower described feeling a sense of “fear and awe” upon meeting Do for the first time.  As is the case with the majority of cult leaders, Applewhite was instantly seen as a prophet and all-knowing individual.  Take Jim Jones of the Jonestown People’s Temple or David Koresh of the Branch Davidians: they had the innate aptitudes of captivating people from all walks of life.

In April 1997, People published an article about Heaven’s Gate and featured segments on each cult member.  When reading about them, it’s astonishing but not surprising to learn that they were normal individuals with loving families, close friends, and secure jobs.  However, two common themes existed in each of their biographic accounts:  the need for belonging and the desire to engage their spiritual beliefs.  Still, after all these years, we need to look beyond the curtain and dissect the often-obscure reasons for why these individuals adhered to extreme belief systems.  This is the main impetus for why our ongoing fascination with cults remains in the depths of society. 

Amidst the craziness of cults and their uncanny ability at brainwashing mind control, we do need to remind ourselves that the victims of these so-called groups were human beings tricked into something they felt was beneficial.  The Heaven’s Gate crew all believed in a superior way of life beyond the stars. We can’t fault them for that. They were decent people beloved by their family and friends.  As a communal society, we can try to fathom their principles without dismissing them.  Perhaps, their deaths have given us a deeper glimpse into their lives and a deeper awareness of their motivations.  Maybe that’s their collective legacy, a timeless existence that lets humanity unlock the psychological secrets of cult temperament. Let’s hope that they’ve all found eternal peace and the answers that they were striving for in life on Earth.

Written by Nicole Strickland

References

Bishop, G., Oesterle, J., & Marinacci, M. Weird California: Your Travel Guide to California’s Local

     Legends and Best Kept Secrets. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. 2006

Chryssides, G, D. “ ‘Come On Up and I Will Show Thee’: Heaven’s Gate as a Postmodern Group.”

     England: Oxford University Press. 2005.           

Documentary Central. “Heaven’s Gate: Full UFO Cult Documentary,” YouTube Video, March 24,

     2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9wLAJD_RYI

Gurgel, Barbara. “How Do Normal, Successful, and Smart People End Up Joining a Cult?” Daily

     Beast, May 12, 2021. Accessed March 24, 2022. https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-do-people-

     join-cults

“Our Position Against Suicide,” Heaven’s Gate, accessed March 24, 2022,

https://heavensgate.com/misc/letter.htm

Urban, Hugh. “The Devil at Heaven’s Gate: Rethinking the Study of Religion in the Age of Cyber-

     Space.” California: University of California Press. 2000. 3 (2): 268-302

Must-Do’s When Writing a Book

Writing my very first non-fiction book was one of the most exciting endeavors I have accomplished in my 39 years.  Ten years later, I am proud to say that I have published six non-fiction works with future ones in development. Each phase of the book writing process can seem daunting and tedious; however, once you develop a seamless system that works well, you will be on your way to smooth sailing. 

It’s important to stay true to who you are as a person and author and realize that you can create something entirely original for your audience.  After writing six manuscripts, I can now better recognize my own unique “voice.”  Once you recognize yours, you will find the entire research, development and writing process to be more fun and enjoyable.  Remember that you, the writer, are the best advocate for your book. 

Get Rid of Procrastination

Get Rid of Procrastination:  Clearly set attainable goals.  For example, you can notate on your calendar that you will write 500 words per day or write one chapter per week.  Create a healthy writing space with minimal interruption and while there, study your creative patterns.  Are you more creative in the morning or at night?  Do you write better with some calming music or in complete silence?  Discover what little idiosyncrasies work for you and implement them in your writing repertoire.

An Outline is Your Friend

This is a very important step.  While you don’t need a completed table of contents; having an organized outline is crucial as it will help keep your thoughts / sections of the book more organized.  It’s also beneficial for timeline purposes as well.  For example, you can designate to work on two or more sections of your outline each day.  An outline or table of contents will help you to remain authoritative and in command as well.

Understand the Book Proposal Process

The book proposal process is as equally important to the entire project.  It gives you a front row seat as to why your book stands out among the rest of the competition.  A properly constructed proposal can give you many more choices among publishers.  Research and understand all the components of each publisher’s book proposal process.  There are many sections that are universal across the board, such as 1) table of contents or outline, 2) target audience, 3) about the author, 4) a list of competing titles, 5) content overview, etc.  However, one publisher may require something in its proposal that another doesn’t require, so it’s up to you to understand the process for each publisher you submit to.  Perhaps, the most important step in writing a book proposal is to explain why your book is relevant in today’s competing marketplace.  Even if there are many titles similar to what you are developing, be creative in explaining why yours stands out.

Just Write

While it’s nice to have an outline or developed table of contents, please don’t feel restricted to write in the exact order of your outline or table of contents.  Write what comes up at that very moment as you can always go back later on and developmentally edit the content.  Some of my best writing occurs when I get that sudden “urge” to write.  Whether it is at 8:00 a.m. or midnight, if your creative juices are flowing, it’s best to open up your laptop and type away.  Don’t worry about flow or substantive editing as that can come later.   After you are finished, save your work and come back to it the next day.  You may be surprised at what else you think of to add or change.  Furthermore, make sure to save your written material in a variety of ways.

Be Critical

Place yourself in the shoes of your audience.  Ask yourself what you look for in successful non-fiction writers. Re-read your manuscript several times.  Have other trusted individuals read your book and take notice to their constructive feedback.  Read a lot of non-fiction books.  In doing so, you will discover and take note of the many reasons you prefer one book over the other.  Humans love to hear and share memorable stories, so be creative in how you relay your narrative.  Implement strategies in your writing that will appeal to the emotions of your readers.  They will continue to turn page after page if they discover that your unique author “voice” and style of writing appeals to their everyday life.

Love Your Editor

Always remember that your editor is there to help your book reach success.  Thus, don’t get all twisted and bent out of shape if he or she offers suggestions.  You may not agree with advised changes that need to be made, but at least listen to what your editor suggests because, like you, he or she is also an advocate for your book.  I see too many authors arguing with their editors over petty things – this tense energy will ultimately translate to the page, causing some readers to turn away.  Your editor is there to make your book shine.

Research Publishers

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  Take the time to research various publishers.  At first glance, you may find a publisher that seems perfect for your book; however, after exhausting other outlets, you may discover that others may better suit your manuscript.  Talk to other colleagues and acquire their particular publisher recommendations and the specific reasons why they chose to sign with a particular company.  You can devise a pros and cons list for various publishers, which can make the selection process a little easier.  Once you have definitively decided to go with a particular choice, please make sure that you understand every component of your author contract.  I cannot express how vitally important this is.  Don’t ever be afraid to approach your publisher with questions about your contract. 

I accomplished one of my life’s goals by writing my non-fiction books.  If I can do it, you can, too.  If you have a particular idea for an intriguing book concept, then shoot for the stars.  Don’t let anyone interfere or try to stop you.  As always, my best wishes for you as an author.  I look forward to seeing your book(s) on the shelves one day.

How I Write: Tips for New Writers

Every writer has his or her own unique style.  There really isn’t any one magical way to approach the writing process.  It all depends on the individual and what he or she is actually writing – i.e., fiction, memoir, children’s books or nonfiction, etc.  Some people choose to write first thing in the morning; others, late at night.  Some prefer solitude and quiet when writing; others choose to have music or television on in the background.  Always select one or two places that will allow you to create your best work. 

I have often been told that my writing is very heartfelt and sincere.  Reflecting on that, I will say that I do “write from my heart.”  It’s hard to definitively explain what that means.  I guess I would define it as not writing through my ego.  Rather, I listen to my inner intuition and allow it to guide me through the process.  I focus on topics that I am extremely passionate about and those that I feel can make a positive difference in humanity. 

Tips for New Writers

For those new to the writing process, my predominant tip is to “just do it.”  In the beginning, don’t worry about the editing, organization or formatting process as that comes later.  Just let your “writing muse” flow and write down what comes forward.  Once you get started, you may find that all of a sudden, the words start to flood the page.  It’s a beautiful thing when this happens.

Don’t compare yourself to others.  Even if you develop a concept for a book that’s already been published, utilize your creative vision to make yours unique.  Writing a book is a big deal; it’s not as easy as it may sound as there are so many facets to the overall process.  You have to WANT it.  If writing isn’t your jam, you may find it hard to finish the product. 

Here are some writing tips that I utilize.  I hope they can be of benefit to you as well. 

  • Keep a notebook or journal near you so you can mark down those amazing ideas that seemingly come out of nowhere. 
  • Engage in creative inspiration, whatever it may be. 
  • Planning is so imperative to the entire manuscript.  Establishing an outline or rough table of contents helps me with organizing the book. 
  • Make sure you do your research.  Cross-reference source material to make sure you have accurate facts and statistics. 
  • When creating an idea for a book, I ask myself, “How would I describe this proposed book to its core audience in one or two concise sentences?” Then, I build upon the main idea(s). 
  • Keep a dictionary, thesaurus and source referencing material handy.  Many publishers use the Chicago Manual of Style. 
  • Remember that procrastination is not your friend.  Make a writing schedule and stick to it. 
  • You don’t have to write the book sequentially.  I tend to write the body of my book first and save the introduction and epilogue for last, for example. 
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread – at least three times.  Have a trusted colleague, friend or relative read your manuscript as well. 
  • Invest in editing resources, such as Grammarly, MasterWriter or SmartEdit in addition to having a professional editor read / critique your work. 
  • Talk and engage with other writers.  Shared learning leads to brightened horizons. 
  • Don’t put too much emphasis on agents and publishers at the beginning.  Just write.
  • Listen to your editor.  He or she is there to help make your book better.  Be open to his or her critiques and constructive criticism. 
  • Take some intriguing writing courses.  There is always something else to learn. 
  • Be motivated. Be courageous.  Be YOU!

Writing is a life-long process.  You’d be surprised at the inspiration you receive each day the sun rises.  Make sure to take note of those sources of inspiration.  Create a vision board for your proposed projects.  Do not let the word “rejection” stop you from moving forward.  Always remember, “when one door closes, another one opens.”  Some of the most renowned authors have been told “no” several times. 

COVID-19’s Message to Humanity

The year 2020 started off with a proverbial bang, initializing a shockwave of disbelief and confusion once COVID-19 made its mark.  This latest pandemic, in all its shape and form, has coerced humanity to readjust to life in so many ways.   By nature, humans are social creatures and when deprived of this daily necessity, can experience a multitude of physical ailments and mental disorders.

Yes, we’ve seen staggering increases in depression, loneliness and emotional upset. As a direct result of COVID-19’s slap in our face, we’ve all – in our own, unique ways – have had to adopt to the virtual way of communicating with one another; it’s not as unforeseen as one may think, especially with the advent of technology; however, when you’re forced to contend with it as your primary means of connection, it can cause an ongoing wave of anxiety, confusion and disconnection.   Each person has been upended by this pervasive pandemic; some worse than others.   Tragic loss of life has occurred, jobs have been lost, financial issues have turned into crises, our primary way of associating has changed and the list goes on.   Without a shred of doubt, our natural order and daily rituals of survival have been overturned in so many drastic ways. 

With all of the challenges that have come about as a direct result of COVID-19, it almost begs us to examine the positives; the inherent message(s) we need to collectively heed from enduring this mass pandemic.  Let’s explore what this global virus is trying to teach us – albeit on a global scale, of course. 

I do want to emphasize that amidst what’s going on, the universe is begging us to take some time out, look inward and apply some self-reflection. Maybe, just maybe, this is the greater good’s way of reminding us to slow down, take deep breaths, get back in touch with our inner core and remember what’s most important.  This is a time, when social disconnect seems to be running the show; perhaps, it’s the ultimate crash course in the true meaning of human connection and togetherness.  Until now, we’ve taken it all for granted; then, in a blink of an eye, when it’s stripped before our eyes, we yearn to have it back again. Social distancing was in need of happening to remind us of the importance of relationships – relationships with ourselves, our loved ones, our friends, our co-workers and the many transient individuals we come across in our daily lives.  Whether we are consciously aware or not, each individual contributes to the nexus of society and the world at large.

We all lead busy, hectic lives. As such, it’s easy to lose sight on some of the smaller, most beautiful aspects of what it is to be human. Of course, we have to remain common-sensed and rational without over-hyped panic; maybe this “virus” is symbolizing the need to spread a sense of homeostasis among humanity – a restoration of balance, humility, wellness and vitality.  It has taken COVID-19 to remind us to live in the now, act with kindness, rest and relax, take up a hobby or creative endeavor that we’ve convinced ourselves we don’t have time for, get in touch with the pureness of nature and its everlasting beauty, stop and pay attention to the things that seem so little in life but are truly momentous.  Perhaps, our society has had to crumble just a bit in order to mutually build back up.  The foundation has always been there but it has taken a global situation to remind us of its importance and strength.  

So, let’s not resist the message that COVID-19 is attempting to impart. Let’s face it, head-on as a society of togetherness.  In the midst of this, let’s always remember the legacies of our fellow brothers and sisters who’ve succumbed to the fight.  If not for ourselves, let’s continue our triumph over tragedy for them and the world at large. 

Let’s Breathe Together

Note:  This was written shortly after George Floyd’s passing. 

As I digest the events surrounding our country – our world – right now, I can’t help but pick up a few things; things that are rather obvious if we each stop, look inward and pay attention.

It isn’t coincidence that a relentless virus is penetrating our globe right now amidst the onslaught of protests over an innocent person’s horrific demise. Let’s stop and each examine the various parallels between the two. I don’t need to sit here and type them out; I think they are fairly visible to those who are willing to see.

Regardless of where we come from, we each breathe the same air; our bodies are made of the same organs and systems; we are exposed to the same viruses; we each experience the emotions that come with anger, grief and loss; we can each stand for what we believe in…the list goes on.

The unfathomable passing of George Floyd – our fellow American, our fellow brother, our fellow son, our fellow father, our fellow friend -has ripped off the scar to a wound that’s been ever-pervasive in our society since the dawning of man. That wound, now fresh and exposed once again, is bleeding with an inescapable urgency and thirst for the greater good among all. In order to penetrate the nucleus and enact the principles we’re begging for, each one of us has to find the answer within. Only from that point, can we extend it outward toward our communities, towns, cities, nations, universes and galaxies beyond. It. Starts. Within. Each. Of. Us.

What exactly is this? It’s the embedded love, innocence and pure goodness that we’re each born with. Many have grasped onto these attributes and have never let go. Sadly, for some, they lose sight of them as they become buried beneath the torments plaguing our world. However, if one searches hard enough, he or she will find the light emanating beneath the rubble. When this occurs, healing and change will take place. The light never turns its back on anyone. It’s a patient friend and ally – to us all. But we have to seek to find it.

“Isms” aren’t innate; they are taught. Until we recognize this, they will continue to be spread and engrained into the mind of society. Every single time the word “race” or “racism” is said, it’s powering the “ism” that continues to divide fellow man. Every single time we use the words, “white, black, purple or red” to describe someone, we are continuing to segregate instead of equalize.

George’s life matters – yes, I say that in present tense for a reason.

Sadly, history has taught us to divide and conquer. Until we all gather together to re-write the scripts of the past, we will sadly continue down the same path of ignorance. Over and over. But we must do this with positivity and responsibility; it must be done with dignity and grace, not with revolting disgust.

Let’s honor George’s life and legacy by finally quenching society’s thirst for equity, respect, empathy and understanding. In order to love and respect our fellow human beings, we must first learn to love and respect ourselves.

Let’s give needed oxygen to brotherhood. Let’s turn “I can’t breathe,” into “I can breathe. We can breathe, together.”

My Journey in Becoming a Paranormal Researcher

What Propelled Me to Investigate the Unknown

I have always had an innate fascination with the supernatural, especially the field of ghosts, spirits and hauntings.  I had some unique experiences growing up in Las Vegas, Nevada.  It was the experience I had with my maternal grandmother’s spirit during undergraduate college that catapulted me into research and investigation of the unknown.  In my twenty years as a paranormal researcher, I have worked with some amazing individuals.  In 2009, I developed the San Diego Paranormal Research Society (SDPRS), which is one of San Diego’s well-respected groups. 

The San Diego Paranormal Research Society

I have always had a dream of founding and directing my own paranormal research team.  That aspiration came to fruition in 2009 when I developed the San Diego Paranormal Research Society (SDPRS).  The team primarily focuses on ghosts, spirits and hauntings but is well-versed in other areas of the supernatural.  You can find out more information by visiting the team’s website at http://www.sandiegoparanormalresearch.com

Investigative Methodologies

The SDPRS team blends various scientific and metaphysical methodologies.  These include paranormal vigils, spirit photography, Instrumental Trans Communication and electronic voice phenomena sessions, environmental monitoring, divining (dowsing) rod and pendulum uses and psychic mediumship. 

Blending Metaphysics with Science

Since no two intelligent energies are alike, it’s imperative to experiment with various methodologies. What works best for us is blending science with metaphysics as it offers a more well-rounded, holistic approach to paranormal research and investigation.  Some locations and ethereal entities will demand different methodologies.  What some experiments work for one locale won’t necessarily work for another.  In addition to client interviews and testimony, it’s important to study the site’s history, genealogy, geology, etc., as it will help you prepare the right experimentation. 

The Importance of Protocols

I am very systematic and methodical when conducting paranormal research work.  I have an overall process to how I approach a case study as well as certain protocol for various experimentation and methodologies.  This is needed to conduct a thorough, cohesive case study. 

Working With Clients

It’s vital that paranormal research teams build a solid, trusting relationship with their clients.  Part of a research team’s responsibility is to properly educate clients on its approach to research; paranormal theories and reasons for why a case study is recommended.  Our client interviews are quite extensive and we interview all eye witnesses separately to avoid bias.  We also offer various resources to our clients so they can better understand their specific situation. 

Top Cases

To date, I have investigated numerous private residences and businesses for paranormal activity.  Additionally, I have been blessed to conduct paranormal case studies at numerous haunted historical locations on the West Coast and in the Midwest.  Since 2005, I have been studying the RMS Queen Mary’s legendary history and paranormal phenomena.  Since 2011, the SDPRS team and I have been researching the Rancho Buena Vista Adobe, an iconic land rancho in Vista, California. 

Private Residence | Historical and Business Locations

The systematic, methodological way of approaching each case study will be similar for all three locations.  With private residence and/or business cases, you may run into a more concerned client(s); with private residences, you have to carefully balance the family dynamic and situation and conduct extensive interviews.  With historical cases, many of the museum curators and site owners know the history and paranormal phenomena that occurs; this is not typically the case with homes and businesses, so a lot of client education goes into these types of cases. 

Don’t Be Lazy

There are many facets to a paranormal case study.  Spending two hours at a location, taking a few pictures and recording some audio is not classified as a paranormal investigation.  There are hours, days and months spent on one supernatural case study.  This time includes supplemental research, client interview(s), preliminary work, actual case studies on the premises, data review and analysis, case study reports and meetings with fellow team members and clients.  It takes due diligence, passion and devotion on the part of each investigator and researcher to complete a research project. 

Core Values of an Excellent Paranormal Researcher

Our core values shape the culture of the SDPRS team and its individual researchers.  They guide us in our interaction with clients, the communities we serve and the paranormal community at large.

  • ACCOUNTABILITY: encouraging commitment and ensuring responsibility of actions
  • INTEGRITY: always being honest and conducting ourselves in an ethical fashion
  • TEAMWORK: working together as a team to accomplish our goals while respecting our individual differences
  • EXCELLENCE: striving to meet our standards, goals and expectations
  • ​RESPECT: treating ourselves, clients, locations and spiritual energies with the highest respect and reverence at all times

Our team principles include:

Listen to client concerns;

Approach each investigation with an open mind;

Treat every client / team member/ with respect and dignity;

Keep all client and investigation information confidential;

Conduct each investigation professionally, ethically and morally;

Treat all entities and spirits respectfully;

Help clients understand their individual situation;

Conduct research pertinent to investigation location;

Refer clients to specialized investigators when necessary;

Analyze all data collected thoroughly and in a timely manner;

Meet with clients to review collected data and possible paranormal evidence;

Recommend further case studies if warranted;

Spiritual Protection

It is vital that all individuals studying the paranormal engage in spiritual protection.  A person must be physically, mentally and emotionally healthy when investigating the unknown.  In addition to meditation practices, the SDPRS partakes in a group grounding session, which helps each member stay centered and on-track.  We also offer an opening statement to the energies where we state our intent for communicating with them.  

One grounding exercise that I have found helpful, goes as follows:

  • Take some deep breaths.Inhale for six seconds; exhale for six seconds. 
  • Imagine yourself sitting on a chair in an empty room. There is one window present.
  • As you envision your feet touching the ground, you will imagine pure energy coming up through your feet, move through each chakra; cleansing it in the process of unwanted energy.
  • Envision a white, pure energy filling through your entire body.Say, “the only energy that is allowed is energy that will serve my highest good.The rest is not welcome.”
  • You can picture the unwanted energy leaving your body and dissipating as it exits through the window 
  • Continue to take some deep breaths.Once you feel grounded, you can say out loud, “I am now grounded and ready to communicate with the spirit world.”

The Importance of the Golden Rule

You will get back what you put out.  It is imperative that all paranormal researchers treat themselves, their clients and the spiritual entities they come across with respect and reverence.  You will be more successful in your case studies and build a trusting relationship with the spirit world. 

For more information, please visit the SDPRS website at http://www.sandiegoparanormalresearch.com

Paranormal Research Trends and Implications

Just as with any other specialty, paranormal research is an ever-evolving field that goes through various changes and trends.  There are many aspects that affect the shifting developments in supernatural study, whether they include new theories, advanced equipment, fresh experimental methodologies, metaphysical approaches, etc.  As with any field, time yields these augmentations so as to prevent stagnation; in other words, it’s imperative that we maneuver through these inevitable trends so we can keep the door open to expanding our knowledge and understanding of what lies beyond the mortal realm.  This article will explore some of the commonly pervasive trends in today’s study of the supernatural and how they affect the field at large.

Technological Advances

Indeed, the field of paranormal study has progressed technologically since the days of the field’s founding fathers.  In the early days, those studying the supernatural relied on non-technological ways of approaching field methodology.  Today, many modern researchers still employ many of these ingenious ways of approaching paranormal investigation in addition to using various constructed devices specifically for supernatural research.  While this article doesn’t focus on this aspect entirely, it will mention that each family of electronics (photography, videography, audio, surveillance and environmental monitoring, etc.) has seen drastic industrial advances and improvements, which obviously provide benefits, and even some drawbacks, to supernatural researchers. Again, this concept should be solely addressed in another article altogether.
 
   One common trend lies in the ability of engineering / technological specialists to augment a device so it functions better for paranormal research standards.  For example, AM/FM radio scanners / ITC devices can be altered to allow for less static noise, ultimately allowing the researcher to better hear any anomalous voices or sounds emanating through the device.  Another illustration is evident in the Xbox Kinect system, which can be plugged into a laptop computer and highlight with lines and dots, the exact positioning of an alleged apparition.  Various environmental monitoring devices have “three-in-one” utilizations.  For example, some of the versions of the “Mel Meter” have EMF, shadow detection and KII functions built into one device.  Of course, this provides for convenience; however, there may be drawbacks to lumping all of these uses together in one device. Please keep in mind that there is no such thing as a “ghost detector.”  There isn’t one piece of equipment that has proven the existence of ghosts, spirits and other paranormal entities. 
 
   The utilization of technology in paranormal research may seem fool-proof; thus, it’s always beneficial to realize that even the most advanced, up-to-date apparatus comes with imperfection and flaws.  This is why it’s mandatory that all researches completely understand a gadget’s design, function and reasons for use.  I continuously ask myself this question, “Do all of these various improvements in technology help or hinder us in terms of paranormal research?”  In discussing this aspect with trusted colleagues, I have found pros and cons to modern-day leaps in technology.  As you shop around for more modern types of equipment, please be aware that your chances of capturing an anomaly may be increased with more gadgetry.  However, too many pieces of technology may create a distracting environment for the energies. Another drawback affects the investigator directly as he or she will have to spend more time monitoring excessive technological pieces when he or she could be entirely focused on the environment.  In my opinion, you don’t have to own every single technological gadget utilized in paranormal research.  That would be ridiculous.  Carefully study and choose which devices you want to own so you can create an equipment arsenal that includes those designed for photography, videography, audio and environmental monitoring, etc.

Metaphysical Instruments

This leads me to the next popular trend occurring in today’s supernatural research field.  In addition to electronic gadgetry, the use of metaphysical instruments is becoming more mainstream for many researchers, including psychics and mediums.  Many intuitively inclined individuals use metaphysical tools in communicating with spiritual energy.  Those deeply based in scientific approaches may cringe at the thought of using items like gems and crystals; however, you have to realize that paranormal study is not an exact science.  Thus, all the more, should someone welcome a variety of approaches to the field’s ongoing study.
 
   Historically speaking, various gems and crystals are deemed to hold supernatural powers of their own.  Wearing them on your person may assist (almost like a liaison) in communing with spiritual energy and empowering your innate psychic powers.  Using them in conjunction with technology may assist the device in picking up spiritual energy. I believe that everyone has some intuitive ability; however, it’s similar to a sport in that the more you practice, the better you will get.  Various gemstones and crystals are utilized for promoting mental and psychic clarity (Amethyst), absorbing or deflecting negative energy (Amber, Black Tourmaline), removing stress and unwanted tension (Celestite), uniting the mind, body and soul (Celestite), etc. – all useful for anyone working in the paranormal research realm and beyond.
 
   In my opinion, blending intuition, technology and metaphysics allows for a more holistic approach to working with spiritual energy.  It is for this reason why the San Diego Paranormal Research Society often employs the use of divining rods, pendulums and certain crystals as they can serve as an adjunct to technology.  For example, let’s say we capture an EVP of “Yes” in response to the question, “Is anyone here with us?” in addition to our divining rods also crossing, which can indicate a “Yes” response.  That’s two pieces of corroborating evidence, ultimately authenticating the spirit reply all the more.  
 

Spirit Resolution versus “Paratainment”

 Thankfully, many paranormal investigators and psychics are taking up more of an interest in providing spirit resolution to many ethereal beings that may need assistance.  This is the focus of the San Diego Paranormal Research Society whose projects are twofold: conducting an investigation as well as offering some spirit counseling.  If our research is suggesting that life does exist after the physical body ceases to function, then all the more should we offer to help provide peace and harmony to those in the spirit realm.
 
   Investigating and acquiring potential evidence of the paranormal is important for the ongoing study of the supernatural.  However, I am always left with the question, “Okay, what now?”  It seems that the cosmic universe is onboard with assisting us in the appropriate communing with the ethereal world.  Perhaps, the pervasive intrigue into the supernatural realm exists as a way to recruit those who will genuinely assist those who are in need of help.  There seems to be a shift in our collective outlook regarding mainstream media and “para-tainment” as far as the paranormal is concerned.  More and more people are realizing that the various sensational TV shows do little to authentically advance the field of paranormal research.  While these shows serve mainly to entertain the masses, they don’t accurately portray real-life supernatural research and investigation.  Furthermore, the sensationalism surrounding these shows does little to promote spirit resolution as it more or less exploits the dead via egotistical objectives.
 
   It seems as though the once feverish intrigue into the ghost hunting phenomenon is finally on its way out as more and more individuals are on a quest to delve deeply into what matters: not only discovering what lies beyond the mortal curtain but devising ways to genuinely connect with spirits and other ethereal beings.  Those who fervently engage themselves in down-to-earth paranormal research, including proper protocol, standard operating procedures and empathy, are becoming more comfortable calling out those amateur groups of people who act in manners that disrespect the departed and the field at large. All in all, I do see more and more genuine, grounded paranormal research teams expanding their repertoire by helping the ethereal energies they investigate and commune with.  In my opinion, this is vital in the rapport building between the living and departed – the ultimate, natural way to improve not only the research arena but how the public at large perceives it.
 

Getting Rid of Ego

This brings me to my next point, which is to highlight how human ego and working with spiritual energy do not mix.  In a sense, they are like oil and water, having nothing in common.  Ghost hunting teams sprouted like grass after a long rain once the televised paranormal shows commenced their craze.  During this time, it was common to see teams sporting their t-shirts and other team promotional items, initializing a phase of competition between groups.  As the concept of ghost hunting wanes, we are seeing an influx of those who want to delve deeper beyond a superficial façade.  We are seeing certain groups of paranormal investigators coming together to not only assist each other but to improve paranormal research as a whole.  This is so vital and necessary for the eventual building of one, giant collective supernatural study unit – where all like-minded teams can unite for the purposes of not only advancing the field but helping those otherworldly beings in need of assistance.  I am hoping that one day, this will be accomplished in entirety; but for now, we need to all realize that “ego” needs to be removed from the equation when communicating, studying and working with the ethereal world.
 

Education is Needed

More and more paranormal research specialists are jumping onboard to educate the public and each other about various aspects related to the supernatural.  Again, technological strides and improvements in social media directly assist in these educational concepts reaching the masses.  Individuals are volunteering their time to lecture at libraries, local events and national conferences all designed to bring together those who possess a budding interest in the paranormal.  The same goes for researchers who educate those at colleges, universities or via local avenues.  The online presence is even expanding with new radio shows, informative documentaries and television designed to teach those about haunted locations and history, paranormal research experimentation, etc.  Many teams are starting to blog more about their conducted investigations and findings or even offer live-viewings of actual investigations.  More and more books discussing diverse aspects related to the supernatural are being published.  Indeed, education is at the forefront as it allows people to come together and expand their minds; in doing so, the field of paranormal study will also continue to develop.


 

Halloween and the Paranormal

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, where people would ignite bonfires and adorn themselves in costumes to forbid ghostly energies.  In America, Halloween wasn’t always celebrated.  By the mid 19th century, yearly revelries around autumn were typical but not everyone observed Halloween.  The large amounts of Irish immigrants in the latter part of the 19th century popularized the holiday on a national scale.   As the years progressed, the yearly celebration  has evolved to include carving jack-o-lanterns, trick-or-treating, scary mazes and carnival rides and gorging on enough sugar for an elephant.  These are fun times that both adults and kids of all ages look forward to.  Of course, this depends on cultural affiliation as some don’t celebrate the day.

There’s Just Something About Halloween

There’s just something about Halloween that brings a smile to my face.  It’s a time to celebrate mystery, magic and superstition.  Maybe it also has to do with my love for autumn and the soothing colors of orange, yellow and brown trees that come with the summertime going in slumber mode.  As October rears its head, I have always looked forward to the spooky decorations of pumpkins, ghosts, goblins, black cats and witches; decorating my house with purple and orange lights, fake headstones and fog machines.  Certainly, an honorable mention goes to the plethora of fun costumes to choose from; as Garfield would say, there’s the “…candy, candy, candy, candy, CANDY.”  Then, there’s the night sky coming earlier in the day, which gives the moon center stage at night.  All of these combine to produce Halloween’s enchanting setting. 

Yes, the whole ambience Halloween creates ignites an enjoyable fire in my belly.  Each year, I prep in anticipation for it only to be disappointed once it leaves.  With as fast as time goes by, it won’t be too much longer until the next Halloween adventure.  I remind myself that Thanksgiving and Christmas are popular contenders that follow pumpkin season; two of my favorite holidays.

Although I love Halloween and the unique setting it brings, there’s one aspect about it that I have to contend with each year:  it brings about peoples’ curiosity in what goes bump in the night or day.  However, this is not always a good thing.  Many individuals seem to correlate the fictional characters of Halloween with the real-life spirit realm.  In other words, the ghosts and spirits we come across in our daily lives have nothing in common with Halloween’s central cast members.  It’s like oil and water.  They really don’t mix nor should they. 

Halloween’s Influence on the Paranormal

The San Diego Paranormal Research Society receives a preponderance of e-mails from those requesting a paranormal case study this time of year.  This happens every single year.  There’s no coincidence to this.  Furthermore, we receive e-mails from people with unusual, bizarre paranormal encounters that aren’t typical during other months.  There’s also an influx of people expressing fear and anxiety related to their ghostly experiences during Halloween season.  As researchers of the unknown, we need to examine the origins of this phenomenon.  I offer a few theories that can potentially explain why this occurs. 

Pagan belief says that the veil between our world and the afterlife is thinner during Halloween season.  The full moon around October 31st also thins the shroud separating the two worlds.  Obviously, people are more sensitive to and susceptible of experiencing a paranormal event. 

Along with that, the subliminal messages via mainstream media this time of year also contribute to this.  People are tuning into horror-themed movies and television shows that portray the ghostly world as evil and something to be feared.  It’s at this point when individuals need to remind themselves that these entertainment pieces are illusory and fictitious. 

Certainly, Halloween coupled with the thinned veil partner up to influence the gullable and naïve.  Those who are already predisposed to certain negative beliefs in the supernatural and spirit world will be adversely affected around this time.  The same goes for those experiencing physical and/or mental disorders; around Halloween, these individuals could experience more delusions and  psychoses related to perceived anomalous encounters stemming from the various influences derived from Halloween.  I am not saying that certain occurrences aren’t truly anomalous in nature during the month of October.  I am making the point that power of suggestion and unconscious manipulation can confuse certain people, making them associate the events of October with that of real-life spirit phenomena.     I have always vocalized the importance of spirit realm advocacy and ongoing education about genuine paranormal research methods.  Engaging in this around October is no exception.  It’s sorely needed.

As a veteran paranormal researcher, I do feel that there’s a benefit to Halloween exposing the field of supernatural study.  Many researchers, including myself, give presentations and lectures about paranormal research this time of year.  Whether it’s education about the classifications of ghosts, hauntings and other energies or the foundations of paranormal study, people are given a fun platform to learn this time of the year.  As mentioned, that’s a huge benefit all around. 

Dreams and Goals: The Afterlife Chronicles Radio Show

I think every person understands the amazing feeling you get when dreams and goals are achieved.  For some, it may take years to finally achieve personal aspirations; for others, it can happen almost instantaneously.  I personally believe that our individual desires emanate from the nucleus of our soul.  The universe places wishes and wants on our path where they patiently await our arrival.  Beautiful things happen when we eventually meet up with them. 

I have been a paranormal investigator and researcher for twenty years.  Having an innate fascination with the unknown since childhood, it wasn’t until a profound experience with the spirit of my maternal grandmother that catapulted me out of the lab – so to speak – and into the trenches of active exploration of anomalous phenomena.  Over time, I have not only met some amazing, like-minded individuals, I have also discovered more about my own unique personal makeup, skills and interests.

Being a paranormal researcher has granted me opportunities I never thought I would accomplish.  When I was younger, I loved to read.  I still do as an adult.  Not in a million years did I ever think I would become a writer and publish books.  To date, I have authored various books, which were all joys to research and write.  As a child, I was always super nervous to step up in front of the class and give a presentation.  Yes, I had that proverbial stage fright complete with sweaty palms and a racing heart.  Yet, as I have grown into myself as an adult, I have learned to cherish public speaking.  It’s something I am quite confident in; I yearn and desire it just as a painter craves his or her next artistic creation. 

Over the years, I have been a guest on numerous supernatural-themed television, film, radio and print mediums.  Out of all the media outlets, there is just something uniquely special about radio and podcasts.  The stars aligned just right in 2009 when I met radio guru Todd Bates aboard the RMS Queen Mary for its then annual “Ghost Fest IV,” a yearly paranormal conference set aboard the glorious liner.  Prior to the convention, I knew of Todd Bates and his accomplishments in the field as an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) specialist.  He was even mentored by the late Sarah Estep, who was a forerunner in EVP research and founder of the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena.  Like a little kid meeting her idol, I was electrified when I saw Todd in person and got to shake his hand.  As they say, the rest is history.  Since our very first meeting aboard the ocean’s most iconic ship, Todd and I have become dear friends.  

It was an honor when Todd asked me to be a guest on his veteran radio show, “Haunted Voices Radio,” one of the field’s longest running radio programs.  This started a chain of future guest appearances on the show, including annual “Queen Mary specials,” where he and I, along with other special guests, discussed various aspects of the legendary ship, including her rich historical tapestry and internationally known paranormal phenomena.  Although 2020 has brought its own inimitable set of challenges for all, it has granted me an opportunity to further flex my hankering for being on air in the radio field.  Back in May (2020), I became the executive producer of the exact show (Haunted Voices Radio) I revered back in 2009.  The show, as well as others, is broadcast via the WLTK-db or “The Let’s Talk” network.  This producer role has allowed me to join forces with other commendable investigators in the various branches of paranormal research. 

Over the years, I have contemplated having my own radio show.  For a long time, the desire for it was more or less the occasional fleeting thought of, “Maybe I should have my own show some day.”  Like bees attracted to honey, that notion never left.  I am a firm believer that the astral stars need to align just right for destiny to meet its fate.  It just so happened that Todd had some open radio show slots on the WLTK-db network.  So, I went for it and created my own program, which is an extension of my upcoming book, The Afterlife Chronicles: Exploring the Connection Between Life, Death and Beyond.  Aptly called “The Afterlife Chronicles and Beyond,” my show focuses on the undying connection between mortality and the spirit realm.  Various topics will be explored, including afterlife encounters, spirit guides, spirit communication, paranormal research methodology, metaphysics, psi experiences, near-death experiences (NDEs), grief and loss, and much more.

The show debuted on October 8, 2020 at 9pm EST with my mom, Norma Strickland, as my first guest.  She shared some of her unique encounters with the spirit domain as well as some of her experiences with the dying process as a registered nurse of 30 years.  Since then, I have interviewed Linda Myers, a paranormal researcher, reiki master and intuitive hailing from the Pacific Northwest as well as Tami Benjamin and Jason Cobb, accomplished paranormal investigators I teamed up with aboard the USS Hornet in Alameda, California.  I have a strong line-up of individuals for future shows. 

Todd once said, “I am warning you; radio is addicting.”  He’s absolutely right about that.  There is just something so filling about talking with folks on air.  It’s so engaging and a lot of fun.  I am indebted to Todd and his WLTK-db network for granting me this opportunity to flex my wings as a radio host.  I am enjoying every single bit of it!

Show Deets!

“The Afterlife Chronicles and Beyond” radio show airs LIVE on Thursday nights from 9pm EST to 10pm EST at http://www.wltkdb.com or http://www.theletstalk.com  “Haunted Voices Radio” airs LIVE on Tuesday nights from 9pm EST to 11pm EST on the above websites. Check out the other amazing shows on the network! Archives of all the shows can be heard on the major audio listening platforms. 

Here at the Afterlife Chronicles, we’re bridging the gap between mortality and the afterlife one experience at a time.