My First Year as a Tripper

by Natalie Crist


This will be my first dive into the realm of personal online publication. Naturally  I’ve written previously, however it was always for the purpose of professional advertisement, or literature for product knowledge. In short I’ve never put myself out there for the world to read. Wish me luck!

 

In 2016 I was introduced to Christopher Balzano, and quickly learned about his ongoing Legends Project. Immediately I was drawn in by his enthusiasm, and extensive knowledge. Not only was I in presence of someone who truly had a passion for his field, but a highly educated individual who could offer fresh perspective and alternative opinions on the popular or widely accepted ideas the modern paranormal world had to offer. Hell, not even just the world of weird, he has an opinion on everything!  He asked me to join in on the Legends Project – specifically resparking the Tripping on Legends part, and of course I wanted in.  
shirt1At the time I didn’t even really realize what I was signing up for… I’ll never fully grasp why me, but I suppose it has something to do with my naiveté, my natural inclination to trust what’s given to me. Be it words, smells, sounds, or gut instinct, I have a tendency to blindly believe, and ask questions later. And I was a newbie into the paranormal, so I had no preconceived notions of right or wrong when it comes to stepping into the spooky.  


From the very beginning we hit the ground running. I had never been a part of such an engaging adventure.  Picking the theme song for the podcast was like destiny embodied. I’ll never forget that moment. Pure entrancement. Choosing artwork for the cover. (We argued here – for I’m not zombie fan!) We compromised. The picture of the spooky forest, was perfect for us in my humble opinion.. For me it stood as an allegory – a seemingly blank yet terrifying forest, with a touch of mystery – this was us. It calls to me. It has a luring quality, like you just have to know what lies beyond the blackness…  We had both undergone life altering changes in our personal lives, and we were ready for the next chapter. The empty spaces needing to be filled with adventure; paranormal adventures.

 

17626251_10212808826124518_9004207747878773194_nThis adventure came with a set of issues though – I’m prone to spiritual attack, or at least I think I am.  It could just be my empathic tendencies picking up strong emotions, and I can suffer.  Number two, I despise attention (Not really the personality traits of a Paranormal Podcast host, huh?). Thankfully we’ve worked around these issues!  Christopher is kind enough to shoulder my need for anonymity and does most of the publicity. I don’t really love to be seen on camera, and he respects that. (He’s also much more charismatic, and, er, enigmatic, so the role fits him) But, I am slowly stepping up.

 

2016-2017 was a hell of a year!

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Listen to the Tripping on Legends episode about it…

We’ve been to so many places I had never heard of, experienced so many things I never thought possible, had lengthy discussions about the philosophical meaning of legends, but in the same breath joked about them as well. We have had the cards stacked against us, and we’ve had to learn on our feet. We’ve shelled out hundreds, if not thousands of dollars just experiencing new places, and I wouldn’t want a dime back for the lessons, the connections, and the memories are invaluable.

 

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Natalie investigating the difference between traditional Mary hair and the statue’s

The next time I write I think I’ll delve into the what draws me in so strongly and what my reactions have been. One sentence kind of drives me – Often I forget the words that are said, however I feel forget the feelings.

 

Thanks for reading… I welcome feedback!

 

 

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Four Old Ouija Board Stories

Last week Tripping on Legends got the board back out.  It has been years since I had used one, and maybe a decade since I had seriously used one to try and communicate with the dead.  Natalie, on the other hand, had not used one at all.

Watch the video where we explain what’s been going on in Natalie’s house.

Before we sat down and tried to talk to whatever was making itself known in her house, I felt I needed to give her some basics on the board.  This sparked my memory of the experiences I had early one looking into the paranormal and some of the stories I had collected.  Thought it might be time to dust some of them off to share with people again.

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Watch some of the Ouija board session from that night

 

Kelly

I was never really close to Kelly. I actually only knew her in passing and I would never have spoken to her. She was the head cheerleader and three years older than I was. When she graduated from high school she came back and became the assistant cheerleading coach and I would see her in the gym during practice or on the campus talking to old teachers. She was, from afar, someone who enjoyed life and gave back to the community she had gotten from.

While using the board with some friends, I was asked by a spirit to be given permission to come into the room. When I did, it said it knew me from high school. I asked her name and the spirit asked me to open up my freshman yearbook to page 17. It was the seniors. The pointer spelled out Kelly’s name, and she was the fourth picture in the first row on the page. I thought maybe it was a spirit just looking over my shoulder picking out a name a random until I got back together with an old girlfriend. She had been a cheerleader and once she asked me if I knew whether her old cheerleading coach, Kelly, had died in a car accident.

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Listen to the Tripping on Legends episode about it…

Sarah’s Board

When people tell me stories of unusual things that have happened when they have used the Ouija board, I always ask the same question: Where did you get it? Most of the time the answer is a confused look up as they painfully search their past and then a shrug of the shoulders. I understand that. Ouija boards seem to be the last true artifact handed down from generation to generation. Anyone who has looked for on at their local store can tell you to look in the board game aisle of the toy store to find your new glow-in-the-dark board. You can find one at your local occult dealer, but the casual user won’t go to one except near Halloween. Instead, boards are found in the attic or basement of their parent’s or grandparent’s house. They are found where the boxes and dust of the house have collected, under a quilt, on top of old books, or next to the old game of Operation with the funny bone long lost.
We take them out and breathe life into them, sometimes asking the people who use to use the board about it, but more often not knowing the history.
Sarah know the history of her board, and the colorful path it took to her is as interesting as the events she witnessed with it. The board was made in the 1930’s. It belonged to her great aunt who lived on a farm with her brother and sister, Sarah’s aunt. There was a fire in the barn where she kept the board, but it was untouched although most of the other things in the barn where lost. When Sarah’s aunt left the farm she took the board with her, and years later it ended up with Sarah’s grandmother who didn’t use it. Sarah found it while cleaning her grandmother’s house and has used it since.
Sarah brought the board to a friend’s house who thought she lived in a haunted house. They talked to a while to “nice” spirits before something else spoke up. It spelled out, “DIE DIE DIE” and the temperature in the room dropped. They tried to move the plancette to Goodbye, but it wouldn’t move. The lights started to go on and off and furniture began to move. Sarah’s friend felt cold hands on her neck and began to scream. Sarah threw the board against the wall and everything stopped.
Sarah’s had other occurrences while using the board, usually harmless or amusing like the time they talked to Marie Antoinette who spelled out, “I want your head,” and then had a book fall on her friend’s neck, but the experience at her friend’s house has left her shaken. She has blessed the board, but is still hesitant to use it.

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I’ve had some bad experiences with the board as well. Some have been discouraging and a waste of time, which I consider negative, but one was all out dangerous.

I had been dating a girl my freshman year of college who practiced Wicca, who I shall call Cindy. My roommates and I had wanted to use the board and asked her if she had any knowledge we didn’t. She promised to use some of what she knew to see if we could get anything stronger. I should start out by saying my dorm was the old Charlesgate Hotel, which is now apartments or condo or something. It is considered one of the most haunted buildings in Boston. I saw and experience several occurrences there, but this one was the most intense.

Cindy formed a circle using rope and invited each of us into it. As we entered she blessed us and had us repeat something I don’t remember. She also anointed us with a salt water solution she said it was for protection. When we were all in the circle she closed it and said another prayer. She then cleaned the board with more salt water, the whole time speaking softly under her breath.

We started to use the board and made contact with several spirits. Then a particularly strong spirit came on the board that I shall call Aza. I don’t remember the spirit’s real name or I might use it, although from what I heard I might chose a different name anyway. All I do remember was it had a lot of A’s, Z’s and B’s. After talking to us for a while, Aza told us she was a woman and that she was a witch from three hundred years ago. She surprised us by knowing a lot about us and some very personal things no one in the room would know about the others. She then said she wanted to channel.

Cindy was dead set against it and told us to get off the board and wash it. I was young and intrigued by it. I had never tried to channel a spirit before, and although I didn’t know the first thing about it, I was into doing something new. Cindy went through it step by step. All it really consisted on was deep breathing and opening myself up to Aza coming in. I was unsure what would happen to me, and Cindy didn’t know for sure. Aza might talk through me or just move my hands directly to the letters she wanted.

I started to feel a dull pain in my back and kept crouching over. I was getting really tired, and before I knew what happened, I was lying down. My hands began to rise off the floor, and when I tried to stop them I realized I no longer had control over my arms. I tried to sit up but couldn’t. I was paralyzed, but my hands kept moving. They started going for my neck, and my friends just watched, not knowing what was happening. As they tightened around my throat, my voice came back and I screamed for help. My friends had to pray my own hands from my throat. The whole time I could talk and tell them what was going on, but I couldn’t control my body. I fought against them, kicking and thrashing my arms to break their hold, and I was finally restrained because one of my friends was over two hundred and fifty pounds.

Cindy eventually started yelling at Aza to get out of me and saying prayers over me. Later she told me something about a spirit being able to take over a living person if they caused the physical death of that person, something that has been echoed by a few people I have talked to, but which other people tell me is not true. Cindy was finally able to get the spirit to leave by standing me up and propping me in front of a mirror. Aza, as it turn out, did not really want to be inside of a man.

A few months later a high school friend of mine who was there that night called me. He told me he remembered the full name of the spirit and had asked a friend of his who was into the occult and a practicing “wizard”. The man told him to never say the word out loud again. It seems we had made contact with a non-living spirit, something like a demon. He said that although it was probably not the demon herself, people who devoted their lives to her often took her name in ceremonies and that they were often practitioners of some pretty powerful black magic.

Read the story of Federal Government, another Charlesgate board story

Jay

A group of five of us had gone on an investigation that had proven somewhat successful. Although we had gotten no solid proof, there had been a history at the sight witnessed by one of us and I believe I made contact with something. Nevertheless, the lack of seeing a concrete apparition that night had left us a bit teased. We went back to Matt’s house and decided to use the board to try and get something.

It was pretty casual, and two people had fallen asleep by the time we got settled in. After a few spirits had talked to us, we got a man who claimed his name was Jay. Jay was very angry, and said he had been in the apartment for a few weeks because he liked watching Matt and his girlfriend. He was able to give a few details about things they had done over the past few days, and with each right answer, Matt’s jaw got closer to the floor. When talking about Matt and his girlfriend, Jay’s movements around the board were smooth and even. As soon as he started to talk about himself he got aggitated and moved quickly. He said he was going to stay and there was nothing we could do.

I had recently read in a book about an angry spirit that appeared to a woman who eventually brought in an investigator and a physic. In the story the physic had asked the spirit to ask for help from a friend or relative from the other side. He had said he was so mean in life he didn’t think anyone would help him. Someone eventually came and took him away. I was drawn to the story by a line the ghost said upon leaving; “She was the only one that could see me.”
I asked Jay to call to someone to help him. He said he didn’t like anyone and no one liked him. That was why he had killed himself. I asked about family and he got abusive to Matt, Jenna and I. I tried to calm him down and asked him to try at least. He told me someone was now with him. I asked him to reach out to that person, who he then said was his father.

Now, I try to be as skeptical as I can. If I allow my imagination to get the better of me, I can invent about anything. It is easy to say I just imposed a story I had read onto a situation. I can see that, but there was an added, uplifting aspect to the session. Jay never said good-bye. When I asked him to talk to his father, he said okay and the pointer stopped. I don’t just mean it stopped moving, it stopped in mid-spell. I was overwhelmed by a feeling that what had just happened was real, and I felt I had touched the spiritual side of my searches.

Mr. Mustache

People who have experienced the paranormal react differently.  Some believe themselves cursed or marked by evil spirits, even if the activity is not evil in nature.  Others consider themselves blessed, seeing it as an opportunity to touch something that brings them hope of an afterlife.  The majority of activity goes unnoticed, however.  People do not see the signs around them.

Of course, the opposite happens at times as well.  People with activity in their house become so used to the spirits they share their lives with they hardly notice them any more.  Disturbances that would give the average person chills becomes as normal as the clock chiming the hour or the furnace turning on.  Sometimes this is due to denial, at times to familiarity, but most of the time, a true conscious spirit will up the stakes to make himself known.

This is what Jessica and her family experience.

Massachusetts Crossroads first interviewed Jessica and people surrounding her in 2002 when the activity was already a few years old.  It had started in their old apartment in Cambridge and intensified when they reached Woburn.  The spirits were thought to be that of an older man from the late 19th century known as Mr. Mustache and a smaller child perhaps held prisoner by the man who never gave his name.  The activity consisted of toys being misplaced and turning on by themselves, footsteps and the sound of doors being opened and closed, weird smells and several sightings of different spirits.  One of our original hypothesis of the hauntings was a poltergeist, but a change in the home dynamics and the duration of the haunting has caused us to focus more on the idea there are three or more conscience personalities trapped in the house.

Our complete report can be read here.

Jessica and her family had become so used to the haunting they did not notice them anymore, although for two years Jessica refused to admit there was a chance anything was in the home.  The day to day bumps and missing items were not thought about.  The two girls continued to grow.  Jessica put it out of her mind when she would walk upstairs and hear either of them talking to themselves in their rooms even though the other was asleep.  When they went away for the weekends to spend it with their father and when her boyfriend was out of the house, she would fill the house with as many friends as possible and hope they didn’t hear the banging upstairs.

But activity still continues to happen in the house, although no one has reported seeing anything.  The hauntings seem to be more focused on the rooms upstairs and mainly consists of unexplained noises.

Due to work being done on the bathroom downstairs, Jessica and anyone hanging out at the house must now use the upstairs bathroom.  People have said they get the strangest feeling when they reach the top of the stairs.  People have lost their breath or had the feeling of being watched.  More than once the girls have been heard speaking to some unseen person late at night when they should have been asleep or woke up from nightmare saying there was something in the room.  A child’s imagination perhaps, but once when Jessica went upstairs to get something from her room she heard Julie talking.  When she approached her door, she heard Julie start to cry, as if someone had told her something bad or left her.

The majority of the sounds from upstairs are heard when someone is downstairs.  The two girls who sleep upstairs are often caught out of bed, but these noises are not made by little girls.  Often loud unexplained bangs are heard.  They are described as if some has picked up several large books and thrown them to the floor.  It was once described as someone lifting the corner of a bureau and letting it fall to the ground.  At times the noise become more intense.  It might even sound like someone has tipped over the bureau.  They does not seem to be anything consistent with the volume of the noises, but most of them are heard coming from one of the girl’s rooms or the master bedroom.  When Jessica has gone up to investigate, she has found nothing and the girls have been fast asleep.  Rarely is there more than one bang a night.

The girls now often sleep together in bunk beds located in the room where the activity seems the worst.  Several weeks ago Jessica heard the loudest of the noises coming from upstairs.  She was alone in the house when she heard a noise so loud it shook the house.  “When you hear that noise, you know someone fell out of bed,” she said in a recent interview.  When she went upstairs the two girls were both sound asleep in the bed and nothing else was out of place.  She knows what she heard, and refuses to listen to people when they she must have imagine it.  “You can’t imagine that.  I mean, when it’s real, it’s real.”

An even more disturbing occurrence happened a few nights later.  She and her boyfriend Matt were sitting on the couch watching television when they heard a long crack and a noise like a wine glass being broken.  The noise was loud, and they both heard it because they immediately looked at each other and went into the kitchen to investigate.  “We knew it came from the kitchen.  It wasn’t muffled.”  Both agree the crack lasted at least four seconds, building up to the crack.  The breaking glass sounded as if the glass had exploded or was thrown to the ground.  They investigated the all of the cabinets and found no glasses broken or out of place.  They found nothing in the dishwasher or on the floor.  It was if the glass shattered and the shards were picked up and thrown away.  

It should be noted the glasses are found in the cabinet next to the stove.  There has been several recorded instances of activity in that part of the kitchen and it is directly downstairs from the heart of the activity in the house.

When we last sat down with Jessica in her house we all made a startling realization.  The activity over the past four years has always gotten worse in January and February.  Does this time of year have some significance to the people that might remain in the house?  Jessica is not sure, but we will continue to investigate and update you when more information is known.

Horn Pond’s Little Demons

 

100_0203Most of the locals who walk along the picturesque trails  circling Horn Pond know little of its history. They do not know how it was once used to carry supplies in and out of nearby Boston. They look across its empty surface and do not know that boats and swimmers used to sail and play and laugh.

They do not know it is haunted.

Horn Pond has been a source of mystery since before it was settled. Native Americans in the area stayed away from the pond. Their legends tell of a great battle between the gods of light and the gods of darkness. The bad guys were winning victories all across the land, forcing the good guys to run and hide and try to regroup.   Finding a hiding place in Woburn, they made the mountains of Woburn their home until they got word the bad guys had found their hiding place.  They dug out a trench, waited for the evil ones to enter it and then filled it with water, trapping the demons beneath the surface but not killing them.

It’s not a new story.  In fact, there are several similar references to this kind of battle, including one in Lakeville, Massachusetts, where the legend is attached to Pukwudgies.  There the curse was responsible for the sketchy murder of  John Sassamon, the spark of King Phillip’s War.  The backstory is also responsible for haunted ponds and lakes in Minnesota, Michigan, and Oregon.

It may be the demons that have taken the lives of the people on Horn Pond, but it the human spirits people believe they see at night. In the past two hundred years the body of water has taken the life of over forty-five people, an amount made even more outrageous by the size of the pond. Most of the accidents involved boating errors or small children. There have been some reports of falling through the ice, but what is unusual is that there is no curse or negative Native American-settler story attached to the area. Most bodies of water considered this haunted in New England have a story of a settler taking the life of a Native and the pond becoming a source of death as revenge. Natives and modern Americans seem equally affected by the forces.

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The haunting happen at night and during the day. The pond is used for nature walks and has foot traffic even on the coldest day. Some people have said the mood changes when they reach certain spots. They have feeling fine and then need to stop walking and turn around. They often feel as if they are being watched. Dogs have been known to bark or whimper and then become normal again.

At night lights have been seen above the water. They have been described as bright blue, round, several feet tall and hovering above the water. Several people have seen people walking on the water, always with their back to the viewer. One local tells of a canoe she has seen several times. The canoe always is seen sailing to the middle of the pond and then fades away as she watches. The water itself is closed to both boats and swimmers.

Mr. Mustache

People who have experienced the paranormal react differently.  Some believe themselves cursed or marked by evil spirits, even if the activity is not evil in nature.  Others consider themselves blessed, seeing it as an opportunity to touch something that brings them hope of an afterlife.  The majority of activity goes unnoticed, however.  People do not see the signs around them.

Of course, the opposite happens at times as well.  People with activity in their house become so used to the spirits they share their lives with they hardly notice them any more.  Disturbances that would give the average person chills becomes as normal as the clock chiming the hour or the furnace turning on.  Sometimes this is due to denial, at times to familiarity, but most of the time, a true conscious spirit will up the stakes to make himself known.

This is what Jessica and her family experience.

Massachusetts Crossroads first interviewed Jessica and people surrounding her in 2002 when the activity was already a few years old.  It had started in their old apartment in Cambridge and intensified when they reached Woburn.  The spirits were thought to be that of an older man from the late 19th century known as Mr. Mustache and a smaller child perhaps held prisoner by the man who never gave his name.  The activity consisted of toys being misplaced and turning on by themselves, footsteps and the sound of doors being opened and closed, weird smells and several sightings of different spirits.  One of our original hypothesis of the hauntings was a poltergeist, but a change in the home dynamics and the duration of the haunting has caused us to focus more on the idea there are three or more conscience personalities trapped in the house.

Our complete report can be read here.

Jessica and her family had become so used to the haunting they did not notice them anymore, although for two years Jessica refused to admit there was a chance anything was in the home.  The day to day bumps and missing items were not thought about.  The two girls continued to grow.  Jessica put it out of her mind when she would walk upstairs and hear either of them talking to themselves in their rooms even though the other was asleep.  When they went away for the weekends to spend it with their father and when her boyfriend was out of the house, she would fill the house with as many friends as possible and hope they didn’t hear the banging upstairs.

But activity still continues to happen in the house, although no one has reported seeing anything.  The hauntings seem to be more focused on the rooms upstairs and mainly consists of unexplained noises.

Due to work being done on the bathroom downstairs, Jessica and anyone hanging out at the house must now use the upstairs bathroom.  People have said they get the strangest feeling when they reach the top of the stairs.  People have lost their breath or had the feeling of being watched.  More than once the girls have been heard speaking to some unseen person late at night when they should have been asleep or woke up from nightmare saying there was something in the room.  A child’s imagination perhaps, but once when Jessica went upstairs to get something from her room she heard Julie talking.  When she approached her door, she heard Julie start to cry, as if someone had told her something bad or left her.

The majority of the sounds from upstairs are heard when someone is downstairs.  The two girls who sleep upstairs are often caught out of bed, but these noises are not made by little girls.  Often loud unexplained bangs are heard.  They are described as if some has picked up several large books and thrown them to the floor.  It was once described as someone lifting the corner of a bureau and letting it fall to the ground.  At times the noise become more intense.  It might even sound like someone has tipped over the bureau.  They does not seem to be anything consistent with the volume of the noises, but most of them are heard coming from one of the girl’s rooms or the master bedroom.  When Jessica has gone up to investigate, she has found nothing and the girls have been fast asleep.  Rarely is there more than one bang a night.

The girls now often sleep together in bunk beds located in the room where the activity seems the worst.  Several weeks ago Jessica heard the loudest of the noises coming from upstairs.  She was alone in the house when she heard a noise so loud it shook the house.  “When you hear that noise, you know someone fell out of bed,” she said in a recent interview.  When she went upstairs the two girls were both sound asleep in the bed and nothing else was out of place.  She knows what she heard, and refuses to listen to people when they she must have imagine it.  “You can’t imagine that.  I mean, when it’s real, it’s real.”

An even more disturbing occurrence happened a few nights later.  She and her boyfriend Matt were sitting on the couch watching television when they heard a long crack and a noise like a wine glass being broken.  The noise was loud, and they both heard it because they immediately looked at each other and went into the kitchen to investigate.  “We knew it came from the kitchen.  It wasn’t muffled.”  Both agree the crack lasted at least four seconds, building up to the crack.  The breaking glass sounded as if the glass had exploded or was thrown to the ground.  They investigated the all of the cabinets and found no glasses broken or out of place.  They found nothing in the dishwasher or on the floor.  It was if the glass shattered and the shards were picked up and thrown away.  

It should be noted the glasses are found in the cabinet next to the stove.  There has been several recorded instances of activity in that part of the kitchen and it is directly downstairs from the heart of the activity in the house.

When we last sat down with Jessica in her house we all made a startling realization.  The activity over the past four years has always gotten worse in January and February.  Does this time of year have some significance to the people that might remain in the house?  Jessica is not sure, but we will continue to investigate and update you when more information is known.

The Devil is in the Details

I was conducting one of many long interviews with Alan Alves while writing Dark Woods.  Thicase2s one was at his house as he worked on a project outside, and as he railed against the evils of Satan and the occult, I noticed his granddaughter’s backpack leaning against the side of the house…covered in occult symbols.  I brought this up to him, and he laughed it off and continued to tell me about the dark path the youth of the country was so tempted to go down, seemingly unconcerned that his little one might be one of them.

That’s the way the occult works in our society.  As I wrote in a recent article for Spooky Southcoast, “What if familiarity doesn’t breed contempt?  What if instead it fosters a slow, subtle acceptance?”  As I read through George Case’s “Here’s to My Sweet Satan” leading up to his interview on the show, I was struck by the patterns of indoctrination he explored and was left wondering who or what might be behind it all.  While the book avoids asking some questions, I was left seeing design in some of the patterns Case explored in the book.

What is the draw to Satan.  One thing Case’s book clearly shows is our appetite for the idea of the Devil and our obsessive need to be drawn in and repelled by the occult.  It tracks the rebirth of Tolkien and the rise of heavy metal music while examining the occult undertones and symbols of mass murderers and serial killers at the time.  It might be easy to pass off these trends as just giving the public what it wants, and moving beyond what he covers in the book, to look at the 80s through today as the reaction to those movements he covers.  That would be dismissive.  Whether obvious or subliminal, we live in a time that can be seen as the shadow of the Devil, and if it is impossible to say who the source of the conditioning is, we should at least be able to see the signs around us.

It might be a case of the left hand being unaware, or at least trying to make US unaware, of what the right is doing.  While the devil tries to convince us that he is not real, occult and satanic imagery and ideas filter into our daily lives.  There might just be groundwork being laid for our acceptance and embrace of these ideas.  As people who work in the paranormal, the occult does not mean evil, not does it imply a path to the dark side, and that’s a dangerous message I don’t want to send.  Witchcraft and the Hobbit are not gateway ideas to hell or hell on earth.  For many, however, those lines are blurred and those might be the people the storm is looking to sweep up.

I first noticed a trend while working with juvenile criminal offenders, many of whom were having paranormal experiences in some of the state facilities across Massachusetts.  A student was not allowed to wear a baseball hat for the Pittsburgh Pirates because it was their way to represent their gang.  Assignments handed it had to be devoid of stars and crosses and their hair couldn’t be parted certain ways.  As one member of the Vice Lords sat explaining his gang symbols to me, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities to markings at the Assonet Ledge.

Then I published an article about Freetown for the magazine Haunted Times and a reader corrected me about a picture I posted of a Blue Oyster Cult symbol on the Ledge.  He explained he and his friends marked up walls all the time as kids with their favorite bands.  What he failed to see was that BOC may have been part of getting these designs into our consciousness.  He also ignored the fact it was upside down and contained other markings connected to cults.  This is an example of the shadowy way the uncommon hides itself within the common.

For years gang culture in this country has borrowed heavily, mainly unknowingly, from Satanic imagery.  The most well known biker gang in the country is the Hell’s Angels.  Modern urban gangs rely heavily on five pointed stars and upside down crosses, and new members are trained to tag things from right to left, mirroring the technique used by practitioners of dark magick.  Joseph Stalin talked about being able to control and train the youth through their music and literature so in several generations an idea becomes bible truth.  It may be oversimplifying it, but gang life gave rise to rap and hip hop which has found its way into the suburbs and every aspect of pop culture.  Who is doing the feeding and who is doing the eating?  Hand gestures and greetings used in gangs are the same as those used by secret societies though to run this country.

There are other connections to be made, some of which became more obvious while reading “Here’s to My Sweet Satan.”  There is a general rise in nonfiction publications about the occult once a successful movie comes out about the topic.  While this is not unusual, the fact that this has been happening with this particular topic over decades means the general public blurs the lines between what is real and what is fiction.  Middle school students I talk to think Paranormal Activity and Slenderman are real.

In Case’s book, he talks about how the climate gave rise to horror writer Stephen King, who has only gotten more popular in the four decades since he was first published.  His works, especially the 1977 novella Rage have been sighted by several of the modern school shooters as offering inspiration, to the point King has come out and said he wish he had never published it.  Add to this that the location of some of the most covered shootings occur near famous occult centers.  For example, Columbine and the Dark Knight shootings happened in the shadow of Denver International Airport, well known for containing occult symbols.  To further connect things, in King’s seminal work The Stand, the survivors of its apoclypse gather in that state to rebuild.

In 1999, as the new millennium approached, movies and books explored the proposed fictional link between numbers and the coming of the antichrist.  From the top of rooftops people claimed everything from Nostradamus to the Book of Revelations to coded messages from World War I saw the Devil as gaining power as the calendar turned.  It’s difficult for me to agree with this.  Every generation has their hope or fear that they are living in the end of days, and modern times seems to have an armageddon set for every few months.  There does seem to be a form of training going on that goes beyond just our desire to be scared or explore what happens when we die.

I lived in the wake of the era “Here’s to My Sweet Satan” explores.  I remember seeing the Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby and the Omen on Channel 38, unedited, as a child.  Amityville was based on a true story and there was no story made up while drinking glasses of wine.  My grandparents and mother took me with them to see A Nightmare on Elm Street when I was 9, two years younger than my son is now, which was also around the time Gremlins and Trolls was being marketed to me.  I’m from a generation who absorbed this fictional battles between good and evil as near fact, understanding I was watching a movie, but thinking they were based on real stories or at least real ideas.  I watched GI Joe and every other episode involved Cobra using the occult to try to gain control of the world, the same thing those Nazis did in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I was that kid who spend their time doodling the symbols of my favorite bands on desks and on paper book covers; designs Case and others claim are so simple that their occult meaning is lost and their lines easy to duplicate.  By the time I was in my teens, the urban legends surrounding Led Zeppelin’s submergence into Satanic subculture was solid fact and KISS really did mean Knights in Satan’s Service, even if they were taking their makeup off.  I did not have the filter of an adult, so they became part of what I knew to be true.  As Tim Weisberg is so fond of saying, “When the legend is bigger than the truth, print the legend.”  

But to what end?  

Most parents would never agree to introduce their children to evil, but might not think twice about letting them watch Teen Titans Go, and show where one of the main characters is the daughter of a demon.  On the first day of school I noticed the same symbols associated with acts like King Diamond and Iron Maiden hidden in designs by Hollister and Justice.  The connections gets tighter when you get into the more obscure, at least for me, fashions of the urban youth.  

They have been trained to see these symbols as holding no power, and it that ignorance might be giving power.  When I was handed a copy of the Necronomicon, I was told to not read it out loud for fear I would raise a demon without meaning to.  However silly that might seem, there was a power in those words.  That same power might lie in the markings of the occult.  There might be something to a cultural incantation brought on by making the paranormal normal, a sort of negative spiritual awakening sparked by tracing these designs and accepting the occult into our minds without protection or wonder.  Think of the myths surrounding certain patterns of music being able to draw out Satan, the same keys and chords used heavily in heavy metal and borrowed by many of the modern bands we listen to.  Who is to say all of this media doesn’t have the same end impact on our culture.  We are more willing to let it in and might be actually be actively calling it out.  

All of the liberal, free speech fibers of my being wants to believe this sounds like the rantings of fundamentalists who see the devil in power drinks, but I think indoctrination might have a more human cause.   Either way, the occult is no longer in the hands of the officially initiated, and the effect of that is unknown.  

When I was a kid I was talking to a friend about a book I was reading on serial killers.  He was into the conversation and then something changed in him.  This kid, who would go on to commit some horrific acts in the future, looked at me with dead eyes and said, “We should stop talking about this.  It makes me want to do bad things.”  The normalization of the Devil as explored by George Case might not reach that kind of dramatic conclusion.  It should be clear, he is not saying reading Harry Potter will make people want to hurt their friends or listening to the Beatles will make people want to kill.  But then again, Mark David Chapman did kill a Beatle…outside the Dakota…where they filmed Rosemary’s Baby…which urban legend says Anton LaVey was involved in…who once…

3 Lies Poltergeist Taught Me

This article was originally published on the Spooky Southcoast Web site, but was recently lost when we redid some of our format.  As I was reading Ghosts in Popular Culture and Legend, whose author Dr. June Pulliam will appear on the show August 27th, and after listening to so much nostalgia based on the new Ghostbusters movie, I thought back to the impact this movie had on me and decided to repost this…

Like many people my age, my ideas about the paranormal were formed from the movies of the 1970s and 1980s. I remember being left in the library for hours on end and gravitating to the books of ghost and UFO stories, but there was something in the easy access visual medium of those movies that stuck with me. I can more easily remember the glowing eyes and red room of Amityville Horror and the spinning head of the Exorcist than I can the lessons of Hans Holzer and Brad Steiger. There was something exclusive and esoteric about those books, but the movies were for us all, lessons taught crouching behind the sofa while my parents watched HBO or staying up late in my sisters’ room watching the late version of The Movie Loft on 38. They formed what I knew ghosts were and whet my appetite for shows like In Search of and Sightings. Those were the reinforcement, but cinema was my hook.

If the general public knows what they know about serial killers from Psycho and Silence of the Lambs and what they know about sharks from Jaws, I learned everything I know about noisy ghosts from 1983’s Poltergeist. I was about to watch it at the tender age of 9 (when it came out on HBO) because it was only PG, and for that same reason I was able to frighten a room full of teenagers thirty years later by showing it to my class on the last day of school. In the age of Paranormal Activity and shows like Ghost Hunters you would think they would have been yawning, but that was not the case. They were literally on the edge of their seats, jumping at the right moments and covering their eyes from time to time.

The movie holds up, but does its ideas on the paranormal, especially what it tells us about poltergeists.

This week, as we welcome in poltergeist authority Geoff Holder, I reflect back on what I learned from the flick I have seen more time than just about any other movie. If you take into account we really don’t know much about any kind of paranormal activity, that there is no straightforward ideas we can cast our anchor on, there are some general ideas brought about by the movie that spit in the face of modern ideas about poltergeists. I ask you to ignore the other movies in the series (an idea that will passionately fought about by Tim Weisberg) and understand that as we have developed more of a social exploration of the topic, we have dissected different aspects of hauntings to try and classify things.

None of what I say takes away the impact of the movie for me. I still cringe thinking about certain parts and embrace the idea of the curse (that’s another post altogether) while watching every single time I see it is on.

Poltergeists are the spirits of people and can act together to haunt people

One of the fundamental ideas put forward by the original movie is that the activity in the house is due to the people still buried underneath the house. Their spirits have been disturbed and disrespected, and they together decide to exact revenge on the humans living above them. I know the idea changes as the movies progress, but as a stand alone work of art, Poltergeist teaches us that the spirits form some sort of union and collectively decide to strike. There would seem to be some overpowering spirit that acts as the shop steward in this, but this idea has no real place in the paranormal world we know now. While this may be more the direction of demonic spirits, it would seem most ghosts, even if they are existing in the same space, have very little interaction with each other, especially if there was no connection to the people in life. There are some notable exceptions to this, but for the most part strangers in life, dying at different times, don’t act together.

That point can be argued, but when you then think about what poltergeist spirits mean to most people today, the movie misses the mark dramatically. Most people don’t even think of these spirits as people but rather telekinetic energy of the living who suffer some sort of trauma in the house. The activity is almost always the work of one spirit that focuses the activity on one member of the family, although everyone in the house is disturbed by what is going on. That disruption can create something very real with its own personality, but the personality usually reflects the id part of the person who created it, doing the things the helpless can’t. Things can get as physical as they do in the movies, one of the things that separate poltergeists from other types of hauntings, but this points to them being more the product of usable energy than spiritual energy. Ghosts can impact the physical world, especially electronics, but they don’t strike out with the same force as poltergeists.

Poltergeists, and ghosts in general, can abduct children and bring them to the ether of the spirit world

This may be the most disturbing moment of the movie and the one my parents often sited when I was being bad a child or they wanted me stay in line. If you don’t clean your room, the ghosts might come and take you away (I’d expand on that, but that psychological damage is for my personal journal). This idea feels ridiculous now; great cinema, but more artistic license than supernatural moment, but it was a real fear for people when they saw this movie. There have been example of time slips or stories of potential parallel universe bumps, and many people who have Near Death Experiences talk about being brought over to the other side for moments before deciding to come back. That is not what happens in the movie. They take Carolann from her bedroom hold her hostage in the veil, and confuse her into thinking she is playing with children until she is rescued by her father.

There are stories of people, mainly children, being taken from their homes, but most of these fall more into the urban legends we come across in the paranormal world. Ghosts, even poltergeists, have been caught in lies, and again there are many of these kinds of tales when it comes to the demonic, but the whole thing seems like something I read in my collection of Irish folklore, and even they only carry their children into the fairy realm.

Poltergeists can be photographed or can be talked to using the television

The most memorial moment of the movie, the catchphrase that survives the series, might be its most seminal lie. This one might the one uncomfortable for some people, and in that way we really need to understand that there is no formal classification of spirits and no set characteristics of any single part of the paranormal. That being said, there are some accepted classifications of spirits and set characteristics of the paranormal. Poltergeists can tear a room apart and throw people across the room, but they are not thought of as having any aspect of themselves presented in a corporal way to the people they haunt. Maybe you can capture a smear of energy, but not couples walking calmly down the stairs. This is even more strongly a media creation if you accept the idea that they are the energy of the living.

Most reports of poltergeist activity reflects a very remedial form of communication. There are a series of knocks for basic answers to questions. They are not known for leaving EVPs or written messages, and you never hear of that kind of spirit having a long conversation with someone. These things all exist in other forms of ghosts, and are the touchstone moments in many of our paranormal lives. In this situation though, the ghost just would not talk that way.