spiritual

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

Personal Thoughts on the Paranormal

Let me provide an analogy to help you, the reader, understand where I am heading with this opinion piece relating to the field of paranormal exploration and research.  The beginnings of a tsunami consist of seawater.  As it moves onto land, it becomes mixed with all kinds of debris originally foreign to the ocean.  As the giant wave and subsequent larger ones, approach dry terrain, the saltwater becomes a muddy mix of trash, dismantled buildings and other materials; cars, gasoline, petroleum, waste; deceased animal and human life, etc.  In other words, ocean water is not meant for dry land and vice versa.  Once the water comes onshore, it creates a whole host of problems and challenges.

Now, is where I enter into my thoughts about the field of paranormal research and where it’s headed if we don’t stop and look at things from a larger perspective. When I say “paranormal research,” I am including all of the branches of anomalous phenomena that people investigate.  The current discipline of supernatural study can be just like the tsunami that’s made its way well onto dry land; at least in some regards.  In addition to the many positives, it’s often full of foreign, degrading material, rampant egos, exploitation and misidentification of spiritual energies, make-believe and much more that’s cheapening it in many ways. 

While reading this, some may feel that I am looking at the glass half full, ignoring the positives and benefits to studying the unknown.  Instead, I feel that I am looking at things from a bigger lens and a wider panoramic view.  The following are more or less observations I’ve made over the years, not necessarily criticisms.  In life, sometimes we have to look at certain situations, which are often pushed under the rug instead of 1) addressing apprehension over dealing with them head-on and 2) bringing these particular conditions to light as a way to foster wider perspectives.

It’s a privilege to study the unknown and supernatural realms.  It’s amazing to connect with those who’ve transitioned to the other side.  It’s equally enthralling to study and get a glimpse into other life forms and beings.  As such, those studying the otherworldly need to approach their work with sincerity, devotion and professionalism. Perhaps, if everyone involved, engaged in this mindset, the field of psychical research would be taken more seriously.  Those possessing an unwavering intrigue into the mysteries of the paranormal need to first ask themselves why they want to actively investigate and explore these outer realms.  Those who’s desires are dominated by frivolous reasons won’t necessarily last too long in the field nor will they be considered professional.  Even people who tirelessly engross themselves in paranormal investigation need an occasional reminder to take their explorations and studies in a more earnest manner.  Aside from surveying other preternatural creatures and interdimensional beings, the human spirit realm consists of once-living individuals and animals who’ve crossed the veil into the vast realm of the otherworldly.  It is with great opinion that we need to respect and honor those in the afterlife and beyond, just as we would treat the living.

I have been deeply involved in the field of psychical study for twenty years.  While that doesn’t make me an expert or any researcher an expert, it does provide me a front row seat in observing some of the discipline’s current trends.  There should be a cohesive, universal approach and philosophy when it comes to exploring the unknown.  Although researchers have their own unique approaches and styles, there should always be a strict adherence to protocol and standard operating procedures.  There should also be greater advocacy for the spiritual energies and beings we come across.  Instead, I am seeing some divisions that are catering to an almost polluted and scattered sense of what paranormal research has become.  I am also seeing the authentic paranormal world placed next to the paranormal world the living is creating.  The two are becoming quite incompatible and let me elaborate as to how.

Let’s examine the definition of the word, “paranormal.” Merriam-Webster, defines the word as, “strange events, abilities, etc., that cannot be explained by what is known about nature and the world.” The definition elaborates by saying, “…not scientifically explainable.”  Conscientious researchers don’t use the various impressions left over by entertainment and mass media to try and explain the supernatural.  One should never rely on the traits of fictional characters, such as Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers to examine and theoretically explain a ghostly being.  Instead, depend on what’s evident in the authentic world, not on what’s part of the world of make-believe and fantasy.

Original anomalous events exist on their own and should be left untainted and untampered with.  Of course, they can be explored, studied and analyzed by curious individuals but should be accomplished without instilling the unneeded subjectivity and bias that are completely foreign to the bona fide supernatural realm.  We are seeing the mortal world treating these raw events like a blank canvas –  adding various types of color and texture that ultimately transforms them into a polluted piece.  Once this happens, the once authentic world of the paranormal is now contaminated with what the human element places onto it – judgement of contrasting opinions, ego-based projections, inaccurate classifications and descriptions, superficial desires, among many others.

1.     There is entertainment’s idea of what the supernatural realm is based on, which is conveyed through Hollywood’s numerous movies and television shows on the subject. 

2.     There is the real-life view of what the supernatural domain consists of, which is often swayed by Hollywood’s creations and further influenced by differing ideals and viewpoints.  Both of these have created a false sense of what the paranormal truly is.

The field of paranormal research is a melting pot of individuals with various levels of experience (beginner versus seasoned), principles, goals and belief systems.  Diversity is often welcomed in other aspects of life.  In this case, in order to make the field become a more stable, wholesome environment, not all individuals investigating the supernatural belong in the same pot.  For example, those who are just out to thrill-seek and get spooked may not be on the same psychological level as those who passionately devote time to the scientific study of paranormal occurrences.  Those who visit a haunted location to mainly thrill-seek most likely, do not have the same incentives as those who truly investigate a location through onsite case studies, historical, geological, archaeological and/or genealogical inquires, witness interviews and tedious data review.  Sadly, some are in the field to only try and make a name for themselves and will go to any lengths to do so even if they exploit / disrespect the departed and other types of beings.   These groups will not mix with people who are inherently humble and approach their work with ethics, respect and the Golden Rule. 

A paranormal occurrence, by itself, is left untainted.  It is consistent of the entities and their environment. The structure and intent of each anomalous situation stands on its own with authenticity and purity.  It’s when the human element gets into the picture when things become distorted, twisted and manipulated – often with ambiguous outcomes that cater to the naïve and gullible.

Ghosts, spirits, interdimensional beings, alien species – any entity dominating the outer realms – is not meant for our amusement and entertainment. Studying these beings and creatures just like a biologist approaches the study of biology, or a physicist approaches the study of physics, is fine.  As long as the investigative study is done with legitimacy and respect.   These energies are not here to be misclassified, mocked at or oppressed as is often seen with media and entertainment venues.

As with many professions, one needs a license or permit to practice that occupation.  There are sets of bylaws and standard operating procedures that need to be adhered to.  One needs to be of sound mind and be considered competent enough to engage in the specifics of his or her type of vocation.  Violation of the governing rules typically leads to suspension or expulsion from the position.   This same principle should be applied to the study of the supernatural as a way to keep it controlled and realistic.

Mixing Halloween, Horror, Science Fiction with Real-Life Paranormal Phenomena

It’s quite memorable to reminisce on our childhood years around Halloween, October’s main claim to fame.  As kids, we would anxiously anticipate, as the days and nights grew closer to the 31st of the month.  We’d excitedly plan our chosen costumes, who we’d go trick-or-treating with and what piece(s) of candy to enjoy first.  As the numerous decorations of fake ghosts, goblins, pumpkins, witches, zombies and black cats made their arrival into our imaginations, we’d soon learn to associate Halloween with various fear-provoking adjectives – spooky, scary, ghoulish, macabre, horrific, etc. 

Not everyone has read about the true history of Halloween, but that doesn’t interfere with the realization that the events during the month of October have nothing to do with the real-life supernatural realm – other than the thinning veil between our world and the afterlife.  A fake, cartoon drawing of a ghost is not the same as an authentic earthbound entity or evolved spirit.  The two are irrelevant to one another; yet, people are continuing to fuse make-believe with reality.  With this, enters some serious consequences and outcomes for the paranormal research field and its future leaders.  Collectively, we need to teach ourselves and the field’s next generations that genuine anomalous occurrences are mostly unrelated to the highly imaginative and unrealistic plots of numerous fictional television and film ensembles.

In fact, let’s explore the words, “spooky, scary, ghoulish, macabre, horrific,” etc., in more detail.  In reality, it’s not the spiritual entity that’s considered to possess the meaning of these adjectives; it’s the living person’s projections onto and reactions to experiencing something paranormal that are considered, “spooky, scary,” etc.  The spirits of grandma and grandpa don’t have ghastly features as often depicted in horror movies.  No shining, red, demonic eyes, blood and/or pus streaking down their faces, rotten-looking flesh, etc.  Humans are inherently taught to fear the unknown; thus, when we encounter something otherworldly, it’s normal to assign a daunting connotation to what we’re experiencing during that particular event.  However, we need to remember that it’s the living realm conveying these inferences not the other way around. 

As researchers of the unknown, we need to always be cognizant of the ethereal beings we come across; as for the high majority, these are the spirits of those cherished and loved by people.  You never know if you may run into the apparition of someone’s beloved mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, co-worker, etc.  As such, it’s imperative to treat these earthbounds and/or spirits with dignity and respect.  But, if someone chooses to ascribe spooky nuances to such an encounter, it not only denigrates that once-living individual but the paranormal research field at large.

Motivations for Exploring the Paranormal

Inflated egos, personal entitlement and staunch competition are running rampant in the field of paranormal investigation and research.  It’s truly sad.  Studying the supernatural isn’t about fame, recognition or notoriety.  The quantity of social media followers a ghost hunter has or how many TV shows someone’s been on should not be placed as most important.  Just because someone has millions of “likes” on their Facebook page(s) or supporters on their YouTube page(s), doesn’t automatically place them in the category of most experienced and/or respected.  It’s often quite the contrary.  For example, one extremely famous YouTuber traveled to Japan to visit the Aokigahara forest, dubbed the region’s “suicide forest.”  Instead of respecting and honoring the young man who had recently took his own life earlier that day, this particular individual instead, chose to mock and disparage the deceased on video for views.  This immediately prompted outrage for this YouTuber who clearly lacked any veneration for the dead, especially someone who suffered with enough hopelessness to end his own life.

What’s imperative is the quality of devotion, time and work someone puts into his or her ongoing psychical enquiries – and what these contributions are doing to advance the discipline of supernatural study.  Arrogant attitudes often lend to unknowingly and sometimes knowingly exploitation of the deceased.  The afterlife and other realms are not here for humanity’s amusement and entertainment.  They are not placed in cages for us to merely gawk at and manipulate.  They are not here for us to control or possess.  Their preternatural existence is completely independent from those in the physical world.  All encounters between the two domains should occur without any misuse, deceit and/or false portrayals. 

Misidentifying Entities and Using Incorrect Terminology

We all know the saying, “Words have power…”  This is why we all have to choose our words wisely in an effort to avoid misunderstanding.  There is no exception with certain terminology relating to paranormal research.   I am seeing a lot of individuals misidentifying the ethereal realm and other beings by creating inaccurate descriptions and using incorrect terminology. In reality, is it entirely possible to classify and define something that can’t be proven?  Certain beliefs and/or a lack of informed knowledge is usually the cause for this.  Let me provide some examples:

Negative versus malevolent:  While the two distinctions share some commonalities, there is a difference between the two terms when describing the characteristics of an anomalous entity.  Malevolent denotes something purely evil and wicked with an intent to harm.  In adjective form, negative means something bleak, pessimistic, cynical, unfavorable, etc.   With this in mind, would you use the word “malevolent” or “negative” to describe a human earthbound energy that perhaps, lived a bad life and has the same unlikeable personality traits and behaviors in spirit that he or she had while alive?  To me, it makes more sense to use the latter term.  In my opinion, malevolent should be reserved for nonhuman entities that are considered malicious and vile.

Ghost versus spirit:  Yes, we all use both words interchangeably when describing the ghost or spirit of a once-living individual.  However, there are differences between the two.  A ghost is usually stuck or chooses to remain in the mortal realm due to various reasons.  With this, he or she either cannot or will not move on into the “light” and evolve into the spirit world, eventually moving up the reigns.  Spirits are the ethereal liveliness of those who’ve moved on peacefully but are willfully able to come back to the earthbound realm.  They also advance through the various levels in the afterlife. Thus, they are not stuck on this plane nor do they have unfinished business.

How many paranormal investigative websites have creepy, scary and menacing themes?  For the ones that do, what impression does it give off about the human spirit world and beyond?  What does this do to certain individuals who are experiencing something paranormal in their home or business?  For the ones who are generally unnerved, these sorts of websites may be a turnoff and/or increase their anxiety.  Yes, these sorts of designs cater to the thrill of encountering a ghost, spirit, Bigfoot, UFOs, etc., and may be a bit catchy, but don’t always accurately characterize them.  Does grandpa or grandma have green skin with black eyes and seeping pus?  No, they look just as they were when alive, albeit a bit younger and healthier, perhaps. 

Paranormal research is not something that I do merely for fun.  I am conscientiously devoted to the scientific study of supernatural phenomena and how metaphysics fits into the overall equation.  Not everyone is and that’s fine.  However, if you call yourself a “paranormal researcher,” then you better be doing more than prancing through a cemetery at night to have a thrill.  Researchers of the unknown devote a lot of time to their case studies and exploring the anomalous. 

Investigating the supernatural is both beautiful and mysterious.  It enables us to step outside the confines of mortality and connect with and learn from other beings and those dwelling in the afterlife.  It also gives us a front row seat in knowing that we will eventually learn the secrets of the universe once we transition to the spirit realm.  For these reasons and many others, the field of supernatural investigation and exploration should be treated with dignity and integrity.