I sat on the fencepost for over an hour, cursing aloud to the bull penned in the nearby fenceline and the faceless moon hanging above my head. It was a cold autumn Georgia evening, chill even to this New England ex-patriate. With each forced exhale my breath appeared in front of my face like mist on a windshield, disappearing into the night. The bull snorted.
“Fuck this,” I thought to myself. “Fuck this.” Nothing makes sense.
I like to be the one paranormal investigator without any stories. When people find out that I do this beyond just a hobby they first ask me “What is the weirdest thing you have experienced on an investigation?”
“Two flat tires,” I reply. “The odds are astronomical.”
“No, I mean, what is the weirdest thing you have seen in an investigation?”
“Nothing,” I enjoy saying in response. “I’ve never seen a ghost.”
“Never? Have you ever been scared?”
“Because I don’t believe in ghosts,” I will say. “As a matter of fact, the more I investigate, the more of a non-believer I become.”
“Why is that?”
“Because nothing ever happens.”
Everything that has ever occurred to me during an investigation, every event I have experienced, can all be explained naturally, without bringing the supernatural into the equation. The gentle tap on my shoulder that I felt in Decatur? A muscle’s contraction. The lights in the corner in Buffalo? A lack of oxygen flow to my brain and its appropriate response — similar to standing up too fast. The graceful phantom fingertips that brushed the top of my hand in Macon? A spider web caught in the wind and briefly scraping across my skin. In all, the odds of all of these natural events occurring are astronomically greater than a lost soul stuck in a house reaching out and interacting with me.
At each of these experiences, my initial reaction has been the same: the adrenaline flows, the blood rushes to my head, I get excited and my heart rate shatters. Suddenly, my barren, ghost-less life may have its first ray of hope. But after taking my head out of the excitement of the moment, reality comes rushing back and it all becomes secular and reasonable.
It can all be explained: all of it.
In my head, I have conjured the following to explain the paranormal. People who want to see a ghost will see a ghost. People who want to hear voices in the middle of the night will hear them. Not because they are liars or are easily self-persuaded, but because the human brain follows patterns. Your brain is designed to interpret different energies, electrical impulses pumped into your noggin, into data that is experienced: the pulse from a nerve in your fingertip tells your brain that something hot is touching you, your brain receives this information and transforms it into the response of heat and sends the information back to your muscles which respond by taking your hand off of the coffee mug. It is a highway of data transferals, interpretations, and responses, all happening near instantaneously from outside stimuli. This happens to your brain millions and millions of times in a single day — that blob of grey Jell-O in your skull is a nonstop data processing/response machine that also holds memory.
So, your brain is conditioned, through time, to respond to messages from the environment in the appropriate manner and it can do this manually or automatically. The impulse to run up the stairs for fear of something reaching out and grabbing your ankles is a manual response — though in actuality, there’s (probably) nothing there, your brain tells you to feel fear so you do, and you run because of it.
A corollary of this reaction is the purely automatic response. This, my opinion, explains the vast majority of paranormal encounters. At night, right when you are on the cusp of following asleep, your brain’s fatigue misinterprets the coming sleep as death and the body shudders in response to wake your body up — this is an automatic response system that you do not control. Your brain does not understand the messages that your body is sending northbound, the pulsing of electrical current confuses the brain leading it to respond with as much logic as it can muster – it wakes you up for fear of shutting down, similar to HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Your brain is confused and it reacts in a manner that it deems fit. You are flawed. You are one of Nietzsche’s “bungled and botched.” Congratulations.
A group of people standing in a room and bathing in high pulses of either electromagnetic fields, radiation or other forms of energy could easily have their brains tricked. And perhaps that’s why two people in a group of four will hear something the others didn’t hear. What if the person in an old home with faulty wiring swimming in unbridled electric current essentially short circuits his or her brain? Then, that same grey matter interprets this strange new message in a manner that seemingly makes sense: sight, sound, and touch. The person sees, hears, and feels something that is not actually there but is the byproduct of the human brain’s confusion over random currents of energy entering its hemisphere.
As a paranormal investigator, this explanation is far more believable than ghosts.
Meaning, the people who experience hauntings, who fully believe that they experience spirits, are necessarily flawed people. They have brains that are easily confused and interpret wayward power surges as phantoms, mists, and voices. It is a sign of human weakness and something we must be aware of as investigators.
Tonight, the house is an abandoned farmhouse in Elberton, GA. The owner claims to see things moving around at night. When he resided here many years ago a television turned on by itself when it wasn’t plugged in. Voices can be heard throughout the house when you are alone in it and the sound of doors slamming can be heard even though every door was removed many moons ago. There is a rumor that a man killed himself at the summit of the second floor.
There is no electricity in the house.
Earlier, I was standing at the top of the stairs looking down into complete darkness. Our cameras are being powered in the horse barn that is still in use to this day. The house sits alone in the field, the closest neighbor and roadway can barely be seen in the evening night. It is completely and utterly isolated from all outside distortion.
Crystal is next to me in a neighboring room. She holds an EMF detector. Dragon and Jason are in the barn watching the cameras with Mike. No one else is here.
All night the EMF detector read flat – ranging from 0.0 to 0.1 — the fluctuation can come from a myriad of things: our own equipment, our own bodies, passing radio waves, or the sun itself. Never has it passed 0.1 this evening. We are going on the third hour of watching the gauge lie flat.
The hair on my neck stands on end.
Crystal calls out, reading a sudden pulse on the EMF: “7.1!” — a very high number.
I turn to her and reply, “Really?” I look back down the stairs in time to see it.
It’s the outline of a woman. She is roughly 5’6. I can make out her shoulders and neckline. She is a milky-blue white liquid that appears to glow in the night, but surrounding objects cast no shadows away from her.
She glides at the bottom of the stairs, turns a corner, and moves gracefully out the front door.
“Oh my God!” I scream into the night and rush down the stairs. Crystal follows after me, she is the perfect wingman tonight. I tell her what I saw. Dragon, Mike, and Jason come into the house and I repeat the story. Dragon and Jason were both watching the monitors more than 100 feet away from the house — I am told that Mike stepped outside for a moment but was only two or three feet out the barn door. We go back to our original positions and do our best to recreate what I saw with no luck.
We roll the IR camera’s tape back and see nothing. Just the black and white glow of the staircase and, after a few moments, me rushing down them in a frantic search for whatever it is I saw.
All in all, there was nothing there to back up what I experienced: nothing on film, nothing on audio. We had an IR camera positioned at the bottom of the stairs and the only thing visible was my rushing body and the startled expression on my face.
And now I am thinking out loud to the bull, who paces back and forth in his pen and yearns for me to shut up. I rationalize what I saw to him. I saw it, I swear to God, I saw it. Clearly. Just like a person standing in front of me. It must have been that EMF pulse that triggered something in my head to see her. She wasn’t there, at all, she wasn’t there. My brain was confused and interpreted the data as it deemed fit. But where did the EMF reading come from? Crystal read it, but I felt the damn thing.
The bull, the fence post, and I never came to a conclusion.
My skepticism still exists. It was easy to toss aside the stories of others who experienced the same occurrence before tonight in their own homes. It was easy to say “she wants her house to be haunted, so it is” or “he wants people to come to his restaurant so he is unknowingly trying to make it haunted.” It’s far simpler to rationalize the stories of others without coming out and saying they are liars.Yet under my my paranormal investigation gear beats the heart of someone looking for organic answers and would rather find fault with the human body than spirituality, or God, or the afterlife in general, or the ever plaguing fear in my head that it might be possible that once you die you may get stuck in this world alone and unwatched, bereft of an ultimate destination.
It’s easier to say people are flawed than face those thoughts. But that is hard to do now that I know that I am now one of the bungled and botched.