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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. 

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.