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June 29, 2012

Paranormal Fridays: The Curse of Livermore

Unless you are from California you likely have never heard of Livermore. It is a city of about 80,000 situated on the eastern edge of the Bay Area. While not as glamorous as San Francisco, it is also much more quiet and affordable to live in Livermore.

Livermore also has an interesting past, including when it was cursed back in the 1960s by Adam Fortunate Eagle Nordwall. Nordwall was a famous Native American rights activist who used to host wild parties attended by the Black Panthers and other radical rights groups from the area.

Nordwall donated a totem pole to Livermore for the city's centennial celebration. For whatever reason that isn't clear now, the city leaders hacked off several feet from the pole before they set it in the city's main park for all to enjoy. Nordwall was not amused by the desecration of his work, especially since Native Americans consider totem poles to be sacred objects. The white city leaders ignored his pleas to restore the pole to its original condition.

Feeling he had no other choice, Nordwall showed up at the city council's chambers to discuss the matter. Instead of a discussion, though, Nordwall ended up putting a curse on the city since the council would not hear him out on the restoration of the totem pole. What was the curse? The death of every firstborn? Crops would not grow? No, it was something much worse.

Nordwall cursed the city of Livermore's sewer system.

I'm sure people laughed at the curse, thinking it was some hokey idiot trying to extort the city into doing what he wanted. The thing was that within two weeks the city's sewer system backed up. The city leaders panicked and hurriedly joined the two sections of the totem pole before replacing it in the park, hoping it would restore the city's sewer functions. Fortunately the sewer waters began to flow once more and everything was fine in the city of Livermore--or so everyone thought.

Several years ago a documentary crew was creating a piece about the history of Livermore. The incident about the totem pole came up, and so the crew interviewed the former city manager as well as another prominent resident and Nordwall. Nordwall declared that he never received an apology for the incident, and so the curse was not entirely lifted. A few weeks after the documentary was released to the public, the former city manager and the prominent resident both died.

Coincidence? Not taking any chances, the mayor of Livermore began pleading with the city council to issue a formal apology. I guess the mayor didn't want to be next in line for the curse.

As far as I can tell, a formal apology was never issued. Will some other tragedy strike the city, such as a Twilight convention being held there? Only time will tell...

June 15, 2012

Paranormal Fridays: Violent Hauntings

When I was a lot younger and less experienced I genuinely believed hauntings were like holographs: you could see the ghosts and activity but the ghosts couldn't touch you or move objects. Hauntings to me were more like watching a scary movie or going through The Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland. That way of think was a cozy way of dealing with a scary subject, and it worked well for me--until later in life.

As I grew older my belief on hauntings being benign started to change. Countless other people I have met can attest that at least some ghosts can move objects, toy with electronics and appliances and even touch the living. There have been cases documented of ghosts (or what some call demons) slapping, punching, biting and even scratching people to the point they draw blood. It's an unsettling thought, but it seems that at least some hauntings can turn violent.

I know there are a lot of theories floating around out there about how ghosts could possibly affect anything physical, but in the end I am comfortable with saying that I don't really understand it myself. The fact that a haunting can pose a threat to people on multiple levels (physical, emotional and spiritual) should be enough for such activity to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, the large number of hoaxes and people's insistence that if something cannot be proven with our current science it does not exist throws up roadblocks.

Naturally most people--me included--usually dismiss paranormal activity at first as our mind playing tricks on us, or some other thing that is causing the phenomena. I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing, otherwise we would all be claiming natural events were really ghosts in our house. Continuing to ignore obvious signs of a paranormal problem could eventually lead to serious consequences, maybe even physical assault.

I'm not necessarily trying to freak everyone out here, but I am trying to raise awareness and maybe get a conversation started. What can be done to combat violent hauntings? What about prevention? Why is it some hauntings can turn violent while others do not? I don't have all the answers.

June 1, 2012

Paranormal Fridays: Was That the House Settling or a Ghost? When Hauntings Aren't Real

It's that time again for my Paranormal Fridays post! I try to keep these posts varied and fresh and the one for today is no exception. As you can tell from the title this one is about hauntings that aren't really hauntings at all. I'm not talking about hoaxes or those crappy videos of hauntings people upload onto Youtube, complete with special effects that look like they were done by a ten year old. I'm talking about the sounds and other "paranormal" phenomena we all experience in our houses during the darkness of the night.

For those of you who don't read my blog on a regular basis, I'm not the kind of person who thinks all hauntings are fake. Experience has taught me that fairly often there is actually something else causing phenomena that freaks people out, making them think their house is haunted when it really isn't. Just read on and you'll begin to see what I'm talking about.

Houses settle, both new and old, and everyone knows a settling house can cause all kinds of noises. You can sit in your house at night and hear the creaks and pops generated by the settling. Sometimes the settling can sound like knocking or footsteps, especially to someone who is easily spooked or half asleep.

Plumbing problems can also make noises some people mistake for ghostly activity. If a water pipe is not secured properly, it can shake or vibrate as water flows through it, making a loud knocking sound against a wall stud, etc. A leaking toilet tank can even make the toilet appear to flush itself (called phantom flush).

Rats or mice can actually make noise that sounds like footsteps. As the little rodents scurry through your house's subfloor they make noise that can cause you to think someone is walking in the next room or directly above you. Of course there are signs of rodent activity, such as chew marks on your walls, ceiling or floors as well as droppings.

Natural gas leaks can cause people to hallucinate, under the right circumstances. Gas companies put a scent in the gas so you can detect a leak, or you can buy a natural gas detector if your nose is usually plugged up (or you have a really poor sense of smell). Natural gas leaks can lead to other health problems, as well as cause explosions or house fires, so once you know of a leak contact your gas provider immediately.

Interestingly enough, high levels of radon (which naturally emits from different parts of the earth) have also been shown to cause hallucinations. You can buy a test kit at your local hardware store to test out this possibility, since there are no positive signs of a high radon levels. Radon is also tied to cancer, so it is definitely worth testing for.

Hallucinations can also be caused by poor electrical wiring in homes, some people think. This is one reason why some ghost investigators carry electric field detectors with them. There is a healthy chicken-or-the-egg debate about electric fields, with some paranormal investigators arguing that ghost activity is the origin of some strong electromagnetic fields. Scientists have argued that the electrical fields can stimulate different parts of the brain to cause a person to hallucinate, such as getting the feeling someone is standing behind them.

Finally, some "hauntings" are the result of someone who has a real psychological disorder. I have run across this before, not with me but with other people who have contacted me. Most of these people experience the "haunting" wherever they go, including while driving. If you are experiencing a haunting and are afraid that people will think you are crazy, you should know that everyone I ran across who had that fear seemed psychologically well-adjusted. Of course I am not a psychologist, so that is just in my opinion.