July 22, 2010

I Want To Believe

When I was younger, I would regularly watch a then-new, fascinating series on Fox, called the X-Files. For those of you not familiar with the show, it follows the exploits of two FBI agents as they investigate a number of strange crimes, missing persons cases and just about anything else that could have a potential link to the paranormal. Before I had a driver's license, I would spend quite a few Friday nights home alone with the TV and a frozen pizza. Yes, to borrow a line from the rock group Barenaked Ladies, I watched X-Files with no lights on.

One of the FBI agents was more of a skeptic, while the other was a staunch believer in the paranormal. Needless to say, this created an interesting dynamic for the series. The believing agent had a poster on his wall, which said "I Want To Believe." The statement is an interesting one from a language arts standpoint, particularly the word choice. "Want" shows that the person has a desire to believe, rather than having the belief in the paranormal forced on them. Whoever put the poster together could have just as easily made it say "I Believe" but the meaning would have been drastically altered.

During my interview with Lisa Williams, a British clairvoyant now living in the United States, she told me something interesting about skeptics. She claimed, interestingly enough, that skeptics were almost always easy to do psychic readings on. When I probed her about the reason, she explained that many skeptics want to believe in the paranormal, but they just don't know how. I was taken aback a little at her claim and have been thinking about it ever since. Perhaps this conflict raging inside the minds of so many skeptics accounts for the sometimes almost violent reaction they display toward anyone who claims to have witnessed (or even believe in) a paranormal event.

So there is some food for thought. I have suspended final judgment on much of this, which honestly is my general practice with most of the notoriously puzzling paranormal cases in the history of the world.

May 8, 2010

Skinwalker Ranch

Recently I wrote a two-part story on Examiner about a place here in Utah called Skinwalker Ranch. You can read the first part here and the second part here. The reported facts surrounding the story of Skinwalker Ranch is admittedly extremely bizarre. I was not able to find any conclusive evidence that the Ute Tribe has a directive for members to avoid the land due to some curse from the Navajos, so I did not focus too much on that aspect of the story. I also was not able to find any information about why the Navajos would place such a curse on another tribe.

Perhaps most strange to me is the involvement of scientists in the case, at the bidding of a billionaire who has great interest in space tourism and colonization. The more I dig into Skinwalker Ranch the more unbelievable the whole thing becomes. It is very rare indeed that anyone claims poltergeist activity, cryptid sightings, and extraterrestrial sightings all in the same area, especially in a short amount of time. So there are some who think the Chupacabra is an alien, but this is on a whole other plane...

What do I think of Skinwalker Ranch? Is it an elaborate hoax or is something else going on? A part of me always remains skeptical about paranormal events, not because I don't believe in them but because there are so many hoaxes out there. The ol' Bigfoot-in-the-freezer has been about the most enraging -- and stupid -- hoaxes of recent history. I know of websites that proudly declare things like 5,000 people in southern Belgium saw an alien craft land and aliens come out of it or other completely ridiculous things. Sadly, there are those who believe anything presented to them, and there are those who prey on that.

So did any of those reported events at Skinwalker Ranch actually happen? I have no idea, but the stuff seems almost too strange to have been made up. Still, a part of me remains healthfully skeptical.

March 4, 2010

Cryptids in Utah

I have lived in Utah for about ten years now, but I still am finding out things about the place that surprise me. As I dig further into tales of cryptids (undiscovered or legendary animals) in Utah I am surprised by how many stories exist here. Being that Utah has a lot of desert landscape, I ignorantly thought not many legendary animals would exist in the state. I have read up on the strange sightings of the Jersey Devil in New Jersey, unusually large wolves (that may or may not walk on two legs) in the Great Lakes region, and Chupacabra sightings centralizing in Texas but spreading across the nation and the world.

When I was younger, I spent at least of few summer family reunions on Bear Lake. Apparently there have been quite a few sightings of a monster in the lake, somewhat similar to the Loch Ness Monster but not. You can read more about this Bear Lake Monster and see video from Animal Planet on it here. It goes to show that wherever humans are, strange, inexplicable animals will be seen. Are these creatures real or merely the figment of peoples' imaginations? It is possible some could be real creatures (for example, gorillas were thought to be imaginary until their discovery in the early 20th century) while others are the product of peoples' fears, need for attention, or the misidentification of known animals.

Now that I am finding out more about the cryptids here in Utah, more stories will be coming in the future. Does the Bear Lake Monster exist? I'm not really sure, and like with other cryptid stories I'll let the reader decide.

February 17, 2010

Utah's Haunted Mansion: McCune Mansion

Every place has its old haunted mansion. Utah's haunted mansion is a place called McCune Mansion, located in downtown Salt Lake City. The mansion is not one of those scary, falling apart type places often shown in older movies. Instead, McCune Mansion is breathtakingly beautiful both inside and out. I have talked to many people about the mansion, and so many of them have noticed McCune for its beauty just from driving by. It is surprising to me, though, how many of these people don't know it's haunted.

One of the first Examiner articles I wrote was on McCune Mansion - you can read it here. When I started doing the paranormal column I knew I had to do a piece on McCune. I went there once when I was younger and something about the place felt off, yet the mansion felt almost like a mini castle. I would even go so far as to say McCune Mansion is Utah's version of The Bilmore Estate (although the Biltmore is much more breathtaking, I have to admit). When I visited the place before I was a teenager and my sister was searching for a location to hold her wedding reception. I am sure she was drawn to the dramatic elements throughout McCune (as well as a prime location). The guide who showed us through explained to my sister that she needed to know before booking the location that it was haunted. The guide went on to explain that many wedding parties had come set up hours before a reception, left, and come back to things rearranged. Not understanding what happened, the parties have accused cleaning crews or others of messing their place settings and such up when in fact nobody had been in the room since the wedding party left it.

My sister did not end up having her reception at McCune Mansion, but I don't think it had to do with the haunting going on there. In a way I was not dissapointed, though. When we went through the building the ballroom there gave me the creeps, and I have not been back inside that room since.