April 27, 2012

Paranormal Fridays: Will a Good Ghost Scare You?

Many people have thought that their house or place of work is haunted. You can turn on the television and watch a myriad of shows with paranormal investigators trying to either validate or debunk claims of hauntings using methods such as EVP (electronic voice phenomena) or thermal imaging. I personally am of the belief that hauntings are not a scientific phenomena, or at least not of a type of science we really understand. For many who view hauntings in a "scientific" light, they are of the opinion that ghosts are not good nor bad, but that they just are.

Try telling that to someone who has experienced what many call demonic activity.

This is my blog with my opinions, so that is exactly what you are about to read. I personally believe that there are indeed both good and bad ghosts, just like there are good and bad people. A subject that has come up in my mind periodically, and one that people bring up with me on a fairly regular basis, is whether or not a good ghost will try to frighten someone.

I don't think a good ghost will intentionally try to scare anyone. I have met people who at the slightest sign of paranormal activity become deathly frightened, like a small child who is afraid of a puppy the size of a grapefruit simply because it is a live animal. If you are such a person (be honest with yourself) then whether of not you are frightened is probably not a good gauge of a ghost's intent.

I have lived in multiple places I believe were haunted. From my own experience I have come to the conclusion that most good ghosts are curious but are cautious to not intrude too much. However, there are some rude ghosts (just like there are some rude humans) who are not malicious and just need to be told firmly to be respectful of the living.

And then there are the bad ghosts. I have had the misfortune of being around a few, and I can tell you that anyone who directly experiences their activity will be shaken sooner or later. If you are a tough person who does not scare easily (like me) then they will up the ante to frighten you. They get a kick out of making people uncomfortable. I personally believe they feed fear, heartache, fighting, violence and anger almost as if it were a drug. They engage in activities to stir up these emotions in the living who have the misfortune of living in "their" house. I can also tell you that such ghosts are not to be toyed with. If you feed them enough with negative feelings or behavior, or if you become aggressive with them, you can risk putting yourself in a very dangerous situation. I also highly advise against trying to communicate with these ghosts since they are manipulative and dangerous. Would you go have a nice talk with Charles Manson? I didn't think so.

So will a good ghost scare you? I don't see why one would do so intentionally. I have experienced and read up on many hauntings where evil ghosts (usually of the worst kind) will masquerade at first as something good, such as a spirit of a small child. But any good ghost, no matter who it claims to be, will not try to severely frighten the living or give poor advice (such as killing other people). Such ghosts need to be treated the same way you would a rude and manipulative person.

April 20, 2012

Paranormal Fridays: Aokigahara, the Haunted Forest of Japan

At the base of Mount Fuji in Japan sits a forest named Aokigahara. It is the second most common place for suicides in the entire world, and many think the souls of those who have died there continue to dwell in the forest. Japanese mythology teaches that demons populate the forest, and it has the looks to back such a claim up.

Aokigahara features large trees and dense foliage that nearly block out any sound, including the wind. You could say the forest is deathly quiet, giving it an ominous and eerie feeling. The trees' gnarled roots snake through volcanic rock left over from when Mount Fuji was an active volcano, adding to the strange ambiance of the forest.

Like in other areas near dormant volcanoes, under Aokigahara are numerous old lava tubes. These tunnels were formed by the lava from Mount Fuji eating its way through the forest's floor. Some of the tunnels are covered in ice, making them very popular tourist magnets.

Countless people have taken their lives in Aokigahara over the centuries. In modern times, Japanese officials claim several dozen suicides are successfully carried out in the forest each year. In fact in 2010 there were 247 attempted suicides in Aokigahara, with only 54 leading to deaths. Most of the suicides happen at the ned of the Japanese fiscal calendar, and are theorized to be caused by people's financial shortcomings. To curb the suicides, the Japanese government has put up signs discouraging people from taking their own life. Some legends also claim that in feudal times people would take the elderly to the forest and abandon them there to die of exposure, rather than waste resources on them.

Aokigahara is not a particularly large forest, measuring only fourteen square miles. The thick vegetation in the area, the numerous caves and the fact that compasses do not work inside the forest combine to make it a foreboding place to visit. An abnormally high level of iron in the forest's soil is what causes compasses to not work properly.

April 13, 2012

Paranormal Fridays: Curse of the Poltergeist Movies

Curses and the entertainment industry is nothing new. Any serious student of Shakespeare knows the Macbeth is considered a cursed play, with some actors even refusing to say the name of the play out of fear they will have a mysterious accident. It has been documented that actors have been seriously hurt or even killed while preparing for or acting in a production of Macbeth.

Up until recently, I had never heard of the curse phenomena crossing into the movie industry. I read this article on Fear Net about the Poltergeist movies and their supposed curse. It appears that the Poltergeist movies were not only scary to watch, but were also scary for the actors and production crew during filming.

Not convinced? Well, the article details how the scene in the first Poltergeist with the skeletons in the pool might have been where all the trouble started. Apparently those skeletons in the pool were real and not fake plastic reproductions. Using real bones was cheaper, and so to save on production costs they were used. Will Sampson, who played the shaman in the movie, was actually not really acting since he was a real-life shaman. Things on the set got so bad that Sampson actually at one point performed an exorcism on the set. Apparently the exorcism did not stop the strange occurrences. In the clown attack scene the actor who played the son was actually choked by a malfunctioning clown robot, and the production crew had to wrestle him free after her started turning blue.

Death is also a part of the Poltergeist curse, just like the curse of Macbeth. Sampson died after a kidney infection caused complications. Two of the three children died mysterious deaths. Richard Lawson escaped death by a narrow margin several times, including him surviving a plane crash through pure luck.

Perhaps the use of human skeletons in the production of the Poltergeist did lead to a curse hovering over the franchise. Many believe that Macbeth is cursed because the incantation the witches use at the beginning of the play was lifted by Shakespeare directly out of a book of magic, meaning the witches are actually performing black magic. 

So what do you all think? Are some plays and movies cursed?

April 6, 2012

Paranormal Fridays: Vacationing for the End of the World

I thought I had heard of everything, and then I ran into this blog post on ABC News' website about people flocking to a small French town in anticipation of the end of the world (aka Doomsday or Justin Bieber's next live performance).

Someone, somewhere, has decided that not only did the Mayans predict the end of the world this December, but that the aliens who are going to bring about the end of the world are going to show up in this little French town. It sounds like some of these people (whom I suspect wear stylish hats made of tinfoil, live in their mom's basement and collect toys as "investments") claim that the mountain next to the town houses numerous alien spacecraft.

One of the big questions I must ask is if the diner in the town validates for alien-inside-the-mountain-parking? The nut-job conspiracy theorists (I know, what do I really think?) are overrunning the town so much that the French army has been called in to deal with the situation, especially once December rolls around and the amount of visitors is expected to increase dramatically.

On the plus side, there are some people who are smart enough to benefit financially off the end-of-the-world vacationers. Some travel agencies are selling one-way travel packages to the town. Won't that be embarrassing when these people have to buy that return plane ticket and show back up at home without an alien at their side? Also, a nearby town is producing a special wine for the alien invasion (after all, it is France).

So, my question now is where are you vacationing to for the end of the world on December 21st, 2012? Better book your one-way plane tickets today!

April 3, 2012

Book Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I just finished the children's horror book The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. For those of you who are not familiar with the book, it is about an orphaned toddler boy who is raised in a graveyard by a bunch of ghosts. Below is my official (i.e. posted on Goodreads and Amazon) review of the book.

I will just say upfront that I started this book by almost stopping after the first chapter. The target readership is kids between ten and twelve, and the first chapter starts off with a fairly graphic description of a triple murder and the toddler (later called Bod for "nobody") escaping the aggressor. Gaiman even goes so far as to describe how the man wipes the blood off his knife--kind of heavy for a middle reader book if you ask me.

Fortunately I pushed on and continued reading. The rest of Gaiman's book is rewarding. At first I was skeptical that Gaiman could pull off a compelling story about a boy who is raised by a group of ghosts in a graveyard. I was afraid the story would be too off-the-wall for readers to relate to it, and fortunately I was wrong. Gaiman's ghosts have diverse personalities (as they should) and the boy does grapple with some unique challenges brought about by his unique upbringing. At the same time, though, the whole book does not center of the uniqueness of the boy's upbringing, with many normal challenges of growing up thrown in.

I absolutely loved the level of imagination in Gaiman's world of ghosts and other paranormal creatures. Kids should be fascinated by the level of intrigue with ghoul gates and alternate worlds, the Sleer that lives deep below the graveyard and the mystery that surrounds the boy's guardian, Silas. The mystery of the man who killed the boy's family and what he is all about is compelling as well, and it kept me turning the pages rapidly to pursue the ending and a sense of resolution.

Gaiman does deliver a degree of resolution, but like any good author he does not spoon-feed all the answers and tie up all the loose ends. He does leave things tidier at the end than with a book that is written for adults, but kids probably will finish the book with some unanswered questions. Gaiman definitely leaves the option of a future book open, and as a reader I would be open to reading more about Bod and his future adventures.