Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The End is Near...

Finally, I'm on the last six chapters of the book. After tonight, that number should be down to five. The final chapter is being saved for the weekend, since I need to make a few phone calls before tackling it. I found the notes I had scribbled from an earlier phone call (in the notebook I've been drafting in... go figure), so that hurdle has been passed. I'll be glad next week when this is all behind me. Then, it's just a matter of getting a hold of the publisher, punching out the introduction and conclusion (which are both partially written on various pages of notes), and crossing my fingers.

Though I did have a decent weekend with Bill and Chris, visiting a haunted place in Canal Fulton, it is all a blur to me. The book has taken precedence over all else lately. I even managed to start one chapter at night before collapsing from exhaustion at Chris' home. But I must finish this early and ahead of schedule in order to have sufficient time for rewrites, fixes, etc. This means another five days printing endless notes, writing out chapters at record pace, and being my usual hermit self.

But it's not all writing and dwelling on the literary for me. Some of it is looking to the future, and therein lies a tantalizing (if unlikely) possibility. The Discovery Channel is in the process of creating a new paranormal television show... and I've decided to take a chance and see if I can make the cut. I signed up with my very brief biography and submitted myself for voting as part of the casting process for The Gray Area. Voting is as easy as signing up for the website (it's not mandatory that you participate ever) and clicking the red VOTE button on the right-hand column of my profile. And best of all, you're allowed one vote per day.

The top candidates will be reviewed and decisions will be made based on their information in one month's time. Do I think it's likely? Hardly... but it's worth a try, right? No one ever said television was easy, and I understand that entirely. But sometimes in life, you just need to throw yourself out there, take a risk, and say, "at least I tried."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Seek and Ye Shall Find...

Even though it's two months away, I thought I might et everyone in the Ohio area know about an event coming up this spring. Details are still being ironed out, but the basic gist of it is in place. And yes, I will be there... unfortunately, not participating but instead helping with the behind-the-scenes goings-on.

Attention all history buffs and paranormal enthusiasts!
Join the folks at Cuyahoga Valley Paranormal for an evening of fun and mystery on Saturday, April 18. Participants will follow historical clues in teams of 2-4 individuals around Beaver Creek State Park to eerie places on the trail of strange and forgotten legends. At each location, color-coded clues will lead you to the next destination. Put on your thinking caps and a sturdy pair of hiking boots, and prepare yourself for a journey into the past. Ages 12 and up. $5 fee includes a donation to the park.

• Registration begins at 7:00pm at the Pioneer Village Pavilion. Hunt begins at 8:00pm. Transportation not provided.

• Participation limited to the first 20 registered teams.

• Door prizes, pizza and hot beverages provided at the Pioneer Village pavilion followed by a midnight bonfire at the `Pretty Boy' Floyd site.

For more information and updates, visit the website.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cold as Ice, Warm as Cat Farts...

I had every intention of spending Valentine's curled up in bed while watching another movie marathon. But it wasn't in the cards. Instead, I was invited to an impromptu ghost hunt at a closed theater again. While no ghosts showed, there was plenty of laughter to be had. I, crowbar in hand, trying to put a hole in a wall which might lead to a secret tunnel... and, with my bowler hat on, looking more like a sadistic Vaudeville murdering act. (I do need to get a copy of that picture taken of me pretending it was a cane.) Then, of course, making Jeri nearly pass out with laughter at my imitation of a local "action news" weatherman with his strange, crack-like jerky movements almost pantomiming the day's forecast.

Strange, but true.

We all nearly froze to death in the auditorium. I crawled into bed late and didn't defrost for a good hour. I managed to collect a few nifty odds and ends from the building. Nothing of any consequence, but then again my flashlight died as soon as I arrived. That's what I get for bringing my cheap plastic one instead of the club-a-man-to-death Mag-Lite.

Today, I spent almost the entire day reading a new book I've wanted for a long time. It is Steve Cooper's first novel, With You in Spirit. After reading Deadline last year, I knew I'd like it. And I was far from disappointed. It's difficult to sum up the books wonderfulness into a few words. Not to mention the comedic cast of characters. A wealthy family of Cape Codders owing their fortune to parking meters. A creepy chauffeur. A ghost with a penchant for Gloria Gaynor. And, best of all, a blind, portly psychic with a flatulent seeing-eye cat. I highly recommend it to anyone.

Otherwise, I'm gearing up for another long writing week. We shall see how far I manage to get over the next five days. I'm trying not to put the cart before the horse. But I am optimistic. April is turning into a busy month for me, so I must get the writing done in a few weeks and any tweaks hammered out through March. Luckily, I am using a day-planner again, so I can keep everything in check.

It's the final push now, so no holds are barred, no waiting for information to add to the book. What I have I have, and that's what I'll use.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Déjà View...

For a moment today, I thought I was losing my mind. A friend told me she wished I had said I was going to be on television because she'd have "pimped it"... a woman emailed me about a paranormal photo, mentioning having seen me on television. Yet I had no clue what they were talking about...

So, I checked into it a little. In honor of Friday the 13th, That's Life with Robin Swoboda re-aired the Halloween episode from last year. Some people must have assumed it was new or tuned in too late to notice. I didn't catch it myself, but I have the DVD copy so I could watch it whenever I wanted to anyway.

So I've been reduced to a rerun. Who knew? They say everything's better the second time around...

But I'm Wearing a Freudian Slip...

Friday the 13th is upon us once more. Another jinxed day which, for those of us who are single and/or unfortunate in love, quite fittingly is a precursor to Valentine's Day. But perhaps black cats, dead people, and lunatics deserve just as much love...

I have had a very productive week with writing and after today's frantic typing, I should be on track for an early deadline. It's a relief to know that in a few short weeks, this book should be complete. While it won't be completely written to my own satisfaction, gathering all the required information and history would require another year and a small fortune in travel, inquiries, and hands-on investigation. So, I'll settle for being more thorough than others in the past and giving as full a story as I can in the alloted time.

My thoughts this week have drifted to psychology, perhaps in part from reading William March's The Bad Seed. That, combined with past experience and discussions in psychology, made me realize what a pseudoscience the field really is. I know some people may disagree, but the truth is we still know little about the mind, its functions, and human behavior. For every shrink who states emphatically the causes of one human thought process, another declares the exact opposite as truth. People are categorized into boxes as they best fit for diagnosis. Dreams are interpreted by some as subliminal messages, and to others as the mind discarding useless crud. When some personality traits and outside that "type", they are discarded and dismissed... it is "close enough", they say.

What's scientific about being "close enough"? Should a panther be lumped into the canine family simply because it shares many characteristics? Hardly. And when it comes to the paranormal, we often make the same hasty assumptions. An orb is paranormal because it's semi-transparent and odd. Sometimes, it coincides with other experiences. We assume so much is paranormal because it's "close enough". Therefore, if psychology is viewed as legitimate science, shouldn't parapsychology be just as accepted?

I'm not saying any one is true and the other false. It's just a random thought. I've always been an odd thinker. I remember back in my early school years being taught in basic science about light and color. Teachers told me that objects appear as a certain color because they reflect that shade of the light spectrum. Leaves are green because they reflect green light, etc. My initial thought (which has never been answered sufficiently) was this: if that's true, then what color are things really? Is the world composed merely of black, white, and all shades between? Color is merely an illusion, is it not? Things have certain properties which cause them to reflect colors, so they aren't really those colors, right?

Yes. I think far too much.

Reality is very subjective. The world around us is entirely open to interpretation. Like psychology and the paranormal. And the insane. What if insanity is really sanity? What if being sane is, in fact, being delusional? Who can say for sure? Is a black-and-white photograph a true representation of our world? Is someone who talks to "invisible people" simply seeing and hearing what we cannot? Is life one prolonged dream from which we only awake at our death to realize our life has only begun? These are all strange and frightening ideas. But what if they're true?

The more we try to unravel the mysteries of the universe, the more puzzling everything becomes. If religion is nonsense, paranormal is bunk, and magic doesn't exist, is life the biggest delusional sham? Isn't everything we do beyond basic survival and propagation of the species one big lie to fool ourselves into believing we have meaning? Remember, we're just animals in the grand scheme of things. Is love just an accidental chemical reaction?

The real question is, do we want to know the answers? Human beings dislike reality. Illusion is safer. Fiction more tantalizing. Reality is a sleeping pitbull in the corner of the room. Better not wake it up...

"...and how does that make you feel?"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dragging It Out...

It's another slow week for my blog. Conversely, it's a good week for writing elsewhere. I'm pounding out as much as I can again and putting major dents in my book workload. There is quite a lot to get through today and more planned throughout this week. If I keep going at this pace, I should be able to breathe a sigh of relief by Friday.

Last weekend was fun, exhausting, and interesting. Saturday night's trip to Union Station was more interesting than usual. Logo was there filming for a program involving drag queens, though we missed whatever minutely interesting moments there might have been. Instead, we left for the Cedar Lee Theater in Coventry for the midnight showing of Clue. By then I was a bit exhausted, but I did get my second wind for long enough to enjoy the show. Sunday, I spent having a mini movie marathon at home, watching David DeCoteau B movies and trying to stay awake through them all.

But now it's back to the research and writing. So much to do, so little time...

Friday, February 6, 2009

News That's Beyond Bizarre...

To end the week on an interesting note, here are some unusual stories from our weird world. And that's no hat trick...

The Whisperer and the Ghost...

Yes, Jennifer Love Hewitt, star of Ghost Whisperer, does believe in ghosts in real life. In fact, she recently had a conversation with her dead grandmother, thanks to psychic James Van Praagh. She told OK! Magazine, "She just wanted to say hello and tell me that she was looking out for me. It was really nice." I'm sure Hewitt was an easier audience for Van Praagh than Barbara Walters.

Please, No Pictures...

The hunt for Storsjöodjuret, the infamous lake monster of Sweden, continues. But there is one slight snag for cryptozoologists: cameras have been banned by the council from being used on the shores of Lake Storsjön. Under-water surveillance has passed through local ordinance four times, but if you're planning an impromptu jaunt with a digital, you had better think twice. Who needs evidence, anyway?

Those Bloody Lesbians...

Perth was shaken in 2006 by the slaying of a 16-year-old girl. The two assailants, Jessica Stasinowsky and her lover Valerie Parashmuti, both pleaded guilty this week to bludgeoning their roommate to death with a concrete block. Apparently, the deed turned them on and they proceeded to make out while standing over her body. Parashmuti, 19, belonged to a vampire cult which engaged in the ritualistic drinking of blood. Their motive? They thought the girl was "annoying" and believed she was flirting with the girls significant other. Thus perpetuating the belief that lesbians are tough, vicious creatures...

Was Darby O'Gill Delusional?

If you're seeing faeries outside of the nearest gay bar, you might be suffering from Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS). British doctors estimate as many as 100,000 people in England may suffer from CBS. The disturbance causes hallucinations of people, objects, and even little winged human figures while the sufferer remains otherwise of sound mind. Scientists say it is caused by a lack of visual stimulation, not mental illness. Theories for ending CBS vary from stimulating the fingertips to holding your breath to (in extreme cases) medication. In the case of visual hallucinations of leprechauns, I might recommend looking for that pot of gold anyway...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What the Surgeon General Forgot to Tell You...

Teenagers becoming possessed after paranormal investigations. People becoming obsessed to an unhealthy degree with EVPs. Evil spirits coming through Ouija boards. These are just a few of the topics tackled by the Southern California Paranormal Research Society (SOCALPRS) on their website, Dangers of the Paranormal.

The aim is to show the downside to ghost hunting. The situations are a tad bit extreme, wouldn't you say? Now, most of us who have been on and conducted investigations don't lie awake at night overcome with paranoia that something horrible will happen. More often than not, nothing happens. In the words of Mad Magazine's Alfred E. Neuman, "What, me worry?"

In my 13+ years in the field, I've never been so much as slapped. Perhaps they're afraid I'd slap back. Maybe I'm just lucky or put up a good defense without realizing it. My head hasn't spun around and spit out pea soup. I've never been mauled by a demon dog. No vampire bunnies bit me. No hand has ever tried to strangle me through a television set. And the one time I used a Ouija board as a child, my sister moved the planchette to spell out a woman's name of who I would marry.

Oh, dear sister. How wrong you were...

Does it mean there aren't any concerns to be had? Hardly. Abandoned buildings and remote locations pose physical risks to health and safety. I've known people who have been temporarily possessed, had cameras smacked out of their hand, and been hit by unseen forces. Some of it might have been a bit of a stretch for me to wrap my brain around (especially the seemingly sane people who've told me their car was attacked by cults or Bigfoot, without any evidence to substantiate the claim), but I keep an open mind. If my best friend starts speaking in tongues in front of me, who am I to judge?

At the same time, the horrific accounts you hear about on this and other sites are few and far between. If it really were so hazardous to your health, none of us would dare do it. More often than not, this is the most boring field to enter. You sit. You wait. Nothing happens. You doze off listening to 12 hours of blank audio tape. You spend $50 bucks to stay overnight at a "haunted" business and don't even get a stupid t-shirt. The only time hairs raise on the back of your neck is when that creepy guy with the lazy eye won't stop staring at you and breathing in your face with pizza-tainted breath.

So, I may chuckle a little at the site. But I've known better than to stay in certain locations when I feel very uncomfortable. Maybe common sense has kept me in the clear for all these years. Yet it is good to err on the side of caution. Good judgment is sound advice. It's better to know the extreme (and occasionally absurd) than walk into the field blind as a bat. It is my nature to find humor in everything. So when I come across a site listing dangers including "insomnia" (hey, I have that naturally), "unexplained financial difficulties" (you spent five grand on a thermal camera instead of paying a bill?), "arrest" (I told you not to trespass), and "mental problems" (I know people who qualified long before becoming investigators) among many others as hazards of the field, I can't resist a little 'tee-hee'.

But on a serious note, there is good information to be found out there. The site has interviews with investigatiors, demonologists, and everything in-between. Here are some very good words of advice and answers from Chip Coffey's interview. It best sums up my own thoughts on the field and I couldn't have said it better myself (and yes, believe it or not, I have the ability to be serious on an investigation... sometimes):

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

When a Stranger Calls...

After an uneventful day, I received a phone call tonight. Expecting it to either be a telemarketer or friend, I answered nonchalantly. A masculine monotone voice was on the other end.

"Hello, this is Deputy _____ _______ of the Summit County Sheriff's Department. How are you tonight, sir?"

I think my heart skipped twelve beats. Oh crap, what did I do?! What happened?! I swear I was just sitting here checking email!!

"I'm good...?" I tentatively replied.

Then he launched into a pitch looking for donations for the Fraternal Order of Police. In moments I was off the phone... half relieved, half laughing at myself.

What is it about law enforcement officials that makes us immediately question any possible wrong move we've made in the past decade of life? Now, I haven't committed any crime I should be losing sleep over or panicking about. Yet I automatically assumed the defensive without the blink of an eye.

Yes, it's funny. It's downright hilarious in retrospect. No one is dead. I haven't committed armed robbery. I haven't even trespassed in years! Still, a policeman asking for a donation is enough to drain all color from my face.

Who needs to live in a haunted house? I can scare the pants off myself with a little unsolicited help from the living...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Curses! Foiled Again!

Criminy. My luck is horrible lately. First, the groundhog saw his shadow today. Six more weeks of his befrigged winter!! Then I get an email about my order. Discontinued! They say the third time's the charm, so hopefully I'll still be getting my early birthday gift as the new item. The Fates are proving evil but I won't allow them to win.

On the plus side, I did find confirmation of one haunting for the book. I have plenty of writing to tackle today, but I'm feeling less glum today (finally) so I should have a chance at getting somewhere without everything coming out like garbage. Boy, am I looking forward to spring. I could really use some natural anti-depressant in the form of tolerable weather. It's my one chance to feel better, I'm beginning to believe...

A little happiness would go a long way about now. And I don't mean lithium. Perhaps getting this book wrapped up would help. As well as good, enlightening, cheerful conversation with positive undertones. I think this could turn into a good week... but that all depends on how I view it (and what I allow to bother me). Accentuate the positive; elinimate the negative. And so, with semi-renewed vigor, I do believe I should get back to work...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Everything Old is New Again...

To most people, the whistle and chug of a steam locomotive is a haunting memory from the past. Specters of a time when steam was king still are scattered throughout the world in museums and (in some rare instances) as working dinosaurs brought back from the railroad boneyard. The golden age of steam is gone. These trains are a thing of the past.

Or are they?

On first glance, Britain's Class A1 Number 60163, named the Tornado, looks like just any other resurrection of the past. In reality, while the plans date back about 5o years, the locomotive itself first took its trial run in August of 2008. It's a brand-new steam locomotive built in Darlington by Hopetown Carriage Works which took 18 years and £3 million to create. Saturday marked her maiden voyage from York to Newcastle.

In fact, with booming fuel costs, people the world over are rethinking the use of diesel over steam. In Paraguay, steam has been brought back for tourist trains. Switzerland and Austria added new steam locomotives to some rail lines. A steam line from Chile to Argentina also is in the works. In fact, the Hunslet Engine Company (founded in 1864) is back to producing steam locomotives in Leeds after 35 years out of the locomotive business.

There is a certain mystique to steam engines which are lacking in cold diesel locos carrying freight to and fro across the US and many other nations. The beauty of the intricate gears spinning in clockwork unison harkens back to the time when travel wasn't only about the destination, it was about how you got there. Today, we speed along in a hurry to get somewhere while missing everything along the way. We clambor into planes hoping for a quick flight or drive at fastest speeds to get from point A to B.

But for many of us, the ghosts of steam still haunt us with pleasant longing. We long for excellent meals in dining cars instead of inedible rubbish on a plastic airline plate. Hopefully, with such specters as these rising from the grave, people will start to rethink their priorities. Instead of insane breakneck speeds in automobiles, applying make-up in rear view mirror while texting and risking accidents for that not-very-important instant message, we still might be able to relearn allowing someone else to take the reins as we sit back, enjoy the ride, and have more time to do these daily mundane tasks as scenery flies by our windows. To interact with other people in public transportation instead of closing ourselves into little boxes and avoiding the world around us.

Dead or alive, we're all a part of something greater than ourselves. We're a unique blend of thoughts, history, and cultures. The world isn't something to be afraif of and avoid; it's something to embrace, learn from, and become involved with. Perhaps our world would be a better place is we took the time to think about what lies beyond the dashboard and step on board a railway once in a while...