Tuesday, August 31, 2010

You're Not Hallucinating...

In case you hadn't noticed, the blog title image has changed. Why? Well, before any rumors get started, I have liked the past images created by Cullan Hudson and think he does wonderful work. Unfortunately, the image wasn't saved in a format where I could alter it. And why would I want to alter it, you ask? Well... let's just say that I've created a new title image for me trip to Australia. But you will have to wait until late October to see that.

The new image features a house from my book Queer Hauntings and a spot I stood outside of this summer (it's closed for renovations). The tower you see is atop Villa Montezuma, once home to the famed medium Jesse Shepard. I thought it would be fitting, considering there is reason to believe Jesse may have been gay (though there are arguments both for and against it, as with many obscure people from the distant past). San Diego is home to several other haunted places, including a gay-owned inn which I will hopefully be writing about in the coming month. That's right... August is over and autumn approaches!

Lately with so much excitement happening in my life, it's been difficult to focus on the dead. A tidal wave of change has been sweeping over me. Some thoughts and individuals have started getting buried six feet under as life moves in different directions. Other haunting images and people from the dark recesses of my mind have reappeared awakening ideas and feeling long dormant. And still there are new, wonderful people and happenings brightening my present and future. Surrounding yourself with positive, cheerful people helps me feel more positive and cheerful. What has happened has happened. The past cannot be altered, we can only ensure a brighter tomorrow.

Still, it will only be a few more weeks before we notice the chill in the air and feel our slow march toward winter approaching here in the Northern Hemisphere. In two months, children and adults will be dressed in costumes collecting candy and partying with friends. The smell of barbecue and beach breezes will be replaced with wood smoke and decayed leaves. Skeletal trees will remind us of the inevitable death which awaits us all. It's the one time of year most people enjoy a good ghost story or creepy legend.

The countdown is on to All Hallows Eve. And there are plenty of ghostly stories dying to be told. I'll be doing my best to keep up with the blog, writing about some of the hauntings I have yet to write about or have encountered in my travels as well as talk a bit about some Australian ghost stories leading up to my trip. November is still in the planning stages, but if I'm traveling then too I might talk more about other tales from wherever I might be. In the mean time, sleep tight... and pleasant nightmares....

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Life (and Death) Travels on...

As has been the case for a while lately, most of my time has been spent working and sleeping. Mustering the energy to write is not a common occurrence lately, but I tell myself each and every day that it will all be worthwhile soon...

To anyone who has been a reader of this blog, there is no question that I have a variety of interests outside the paranormal realm. Sometimes they overlap. My days of ghost hunting on a regular basis have passed, but I still find a thrill in seeing a new haunted locale or exploring the haunted side of a city or town. And I often have been guilty of making plans inside my head, only for things to fall through and the great ideas never to come to fruition. Because of this I tend to stay quiet on things now until I am sure they will become reality.

Well, a new adventure is looming on my horizon. I have had time to work toward it and discuss it with some people involved in the expedition, so I feel confident now in coming out and saying it. In a few months, I will find myself experiencing summer. Going to the beach, playing tourist (yet in my usual not-so-touristy manner), and exploring a couple haunted spots. How is that possible when December is winter, you ask? Well... it all depends on what hemisphere you're in...

Australia has been a dream destination for me for the past 17 years. I'm a proud "aussiphile" and love the history of the "land down under" and its people. Add to this the fact that one of the most fabulous friends anyone could ever ask for (and someone I've had the pleasure to have know for six years) happens to live in the capital city and there's little confusion why I've chosen for my first true selfish chance at travel, I choose to travel halfway around the globe.

Now, by "selfish" I do mean "a trip done solely because I want to go there. No ulterior motives. No visiting a place because someone else wants me to go there. I've had some remarkably wonderful adventures in various places lately and I can't say I regret a single trip I've taken. But this time, I'm doing it all for me. A wise man told me this summer that "I care more about other people than I do about myself" and he was right. I think I'v earned the right to treat myself for a change, instead of neglecting the self and trying to please everyone else. And it's also the roughest trip planning I've had to date. I'm working harder than ever to scrape together the money for it. Past travels have come from easier-earned income. I am really toiling away to chip away bit by bit to make this fantasy come true.

Likely, I will be there for two weeks before Christmas, but if I can extend it longer I will. Timing is everything. And I have a lot of things coming up in the near future which made an earlier trip out of the question. I have interviews to sit through and a presentation at a library in early October (which will be educational and dealing in part with my book Queer Hauntings, but will include a lot of things not from the book; I hope it's as entertaining as I'm intending it to be). I'm hoping to write more here too about some other places I've encountered to add to a sequel (hopefully I can interview a few business owners and gather together enough to write about them on here) but I will see how much time I manage to have. And I still have to figure out all the accommodations for my Aussie adventure (Yes, of course I'll be blogging from Sydney, Canberra, and Melbourne!) but I still have some time. I will gladly take suggestions on places to see, haunted spots to peruse, and cost-cutting methods. Since my camera take insanely-large videos, I hope to be able to set up my webcam and laptop and perhaps have a few video posts while I'm there so that you can see and explore Australia along with me.

So, stay tuned for new things on here... and my greatest adventure to-date.

"The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time." - Mark Twain

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Occult of Personality...

Again, a great amount of time has lapsed since I've taken the time to write. Being back in Ohio has been an interesting experience, to say the least. There have been some good moments which have made me realize what I missed... and more than enough situations which made me think, "Seriously... what was I thinking coming back here? I'd have been better off leaving the Cleveland area a distant memory only seen through a television show!" What little time I've had between returning to mundane day work and battling my ever-determined pursuit of a life free of drama, I'm often too exhausted to think about any long posts... or even find odd news to share with the world. This past weekend was my unpacking-and-getting-my-place-looking-livable days so I feel somewhat more comfortable stepping into a bedroom free of boxes, piles of paperwork, and half-finished projects. But it never ends. Life can be a little overwhelming at times.

Then I asked myself why I neglect my blog as much as I do. And I was surprised to find that I had an answer: change. A decade ago (and even a few mere years ago for that matter) there was so much amusement and enjoyment for me in dealing with the paranormal. It was actually fun more times than not. Investigations were mini adventures with kindred spirits. The Cuyahoga Valley was that magical place I spent my teenage years and some of my happiest memories. There were the occasional bad days but as a whole the journey was a pleasant one.

Then... life changed.

I started looking beyond my own back yard to find places and hauntings, which led to a broader world view and the realization that there is so much life (and death) out there I wasn't exploring. My life went through a series of changes and alterations, each one shifting my perspective and awareness. I began to meet new people, some of whom have become truly wonderful friends and associates. But most of all, the fun frolics turned into contests and drama became the mainstay of that once sleepy hamlet in which I live.

Anyone who watches paranormal television knows there are always behind-the-scenes dramas playing out in paranormal groups and organizations. They just never quite capture the entirety of it in a 30- or 60-minute time slot. Rivalries are rampant and the main reason that advancement NEVER actually happens in the field. It's always about who has the better photograph, who went inside the coolest locale, or what group has the most friends on MySpace or Facebook. It's not about the paranormal, it's about popularity. Who gets to be the regional diva? How do I get the world to notice ME?

So many people want to be famous. Image takes over and obliterates anything else standing in its way. It comes in the form of amassing huge amounts of mediocre-at-best photos and EVPs or distancing yourself from people who aren't a carbon copy of your particular "vision". Really important things like honesty, acceptance, cooperation, and camaraderie are lost in the dust. It's the next Amazing Race or Big Brother. Who can climb their way to the top first and win the grand prize?

The reality is there is no prize. No blue ribbon for hippest spook seeker. No trophy for the best-dressed investigation team. At the end of the day you haven't transformed into Oprah Winfrey. I'm sure some people might say, "HA! But Ken, you wrote Queer Hauntings! Aren't you in it for fame and fortune too, you hypocrite?" The honest answer is no. I don't write to find my name on the New York Times Best Sellers list. I don't to signings and lectures to appease some deep-rooted starvation for affection and admiration. I write about what I find interesting and what I enjoy. I write and do talks to share what I learn with others and to educate people. If I have one person walk up to me and say, "I just wanted to say thank you. You opened my eyes up to a whole new world," then I've succeeded in doing what I set out to do: to make people think.

You might think from all of this that I now hate the paranormal or have banished the whole thing from my mind and life, but that's not the case. I still enjoy the strange and unusual tales and places found in the tiniest recesses of our vast, incredible home called Earth. I love a good ghost story and the history of people, towns, streets, waterways, and buildings. But the mob mentality that comes with being mainstream? That's just not for me. I spent a large portion of my childhood trying to figure out who I was. Another chunk of my years was spent learning to allow myself to be who I was. I'm finally getting to the point where I feel no shame or guilt about being me. My individuality is not negotiable nor will I sell it out to the highest bidder. And being the unique person that I am, I'm entitled to being respected by others for my own originality. I don't ask other people to march in my footsteps (though it has happened in the past on a few occasions). I expect the same decency in return.

Paranormal studies are an examination of freaks. In one sense of another, everything from ghosts to UFOs to bigfoot are freakishly bizarre by their very nature. And those of us in the field can often be described as so as well. But there is nothing wrong with being an oddity, an anomaly. It shows resistance to conformity, the daily battle we all face between who we are and what society wants us to be. If you can honestly say you are truly your own person and unbending to the social and societal waves pummeling you each and every day then give yourself a pat on the back. And remember: you're the only person you have to live with for the rest of your life... and quite possibly beyond that...