Monthly Archives: March 2013

Let’s Talk Provoking

I want to talk to you guys today about provoking spirits on a ghost hunt.

This always seems to be a popular topic to be asked about up at the Stanley on our ghost hunts and so I want to clarify it for many of the rest of you too:

Firstly, what is provocation?

Provocation is antagonizing a spirit on a ghost hunt in order to illicit an emotional reaction from them in a way that might manifest something happening. Technically speaking, it’s an incentive for the spirit to do something, albeit a not very nice one.

Most investigators will throw around insults in order to stir up such a reaction.

Usually the reaction is violent. It always makes me laugh on ghost hunts when someone gets super pissed off when a spirit attacks them after provocation.

Some investigators will draw lines about this. TAPS used the framework that they only provoke if it’s a negative entity with a history of attacking people

Provocation usually successfully brings such an entity out… but the results are usually less conclusive in seeing what the true nature of the spirit is. If you want to see if a spirit is violent and malevolent by nature, don’t insult it first. I can think of a number of living people not malevolent in nature who would react violently to such antagonism.

Dustin Pari for example, you might remember him provoking the elemental at Leap Castle in Ireland. He was picked up and thrown down for his verbal assault and he never provoked again.

Ghost Adventures uses the philosophy of putting as much energy as they can into the environment around them and, being as they’re often in dark places with dark histories, they often provoke these seemingly violent negative figures.

Does provoking work?

Yes. Fifty percent of the time. It usually stirs up spirits who are happy to fight. And annoys the ones who don’t want your bullshit.

Problems with provocation:

One of the biggest problems I’ve seen with provocation is this sense of entitlement from people. They pay to go on a ghost hunt, or they visit a haunted place and go out of their way to have an experience, and then they think that means they deserve it. News flash: ghosts are people too. And most spirits aren’t on the payroll for a location. They’re there for personal reasons. You treating them like shit because you think you deserve an experience really poorly reflects on your sense of place in the world.

Another problem is that you don’t know who you’re talking to. Just because reports might have a violent encounter or an ugly history doesn’t mean the spirit is evil or negative. Violent spirits often are violent for a reason. Go figure. If you listen to what they have to say, you’re often going to be surprised. How many living people do you know who had a sad, decidedly human story at the heart of their anger?

Problem three is that good spirits are often provoked. Like our spirit Lucy at the Stanley, who died young when she ran away from home. Provoking her would earn you the status of biggest douchebag ever. And would get you very little activity. She hangs out with us because she enjoys it.

Conclusion:

Give spirits as much respect as you think they deserve, and then be prepared for the consequences.

Many people believe that everyone deserves equal amounts of respect, no matter what their history. Loving everyone because hate is bad, no matter who you’re hating. Other people believe that there are some darker spirits out there, you don’t treat them well, and you might get some good results…. and entertaining television anyway.

Just be prepared when you get a smack to the face.

But that’s all I’ve got this week. As always,

My name is Karl Pfeiffer. I’m a writer, ghost hunter, and blogger/vlogger. I won the first season of the pilot reality series Ghost Hunters Academy, and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team on the same network. Since then I’ve lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published my first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

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American Horror Story Season 4 and Season 5 Brainstorm!

News broke this last week that the new season of American Horror Story was going to be subtitled Coven. (For those of you folks who’ve been googling season 4, Coven is in fact the 3rd season of AHS and premieres in the fall of 2013). This follows on the heels of the news that was announced, at the end of last season, that the season would be taking place primarily in the deep south, much of it being filmed in New Orleans.

This has me excited, because I love to wonder about the themes, settings, and frights that this show will be supplying next.

It’s these things that makes the show brilliant: their handling of social and political and philosophical themes; their refreshing new storylines and sets each season; and the gritty horror that they bring to television.

So, following my blogs last season, in which I wondered at the themes and the developments in Asylum, I’m now broadening my scope. I’m thinking ahead to seasons 4 and 5 (which would air in the falls of 2014 and 2015. But of course, in the world of television, future seasons are never sure until they’re ordered. But I like to dream, and American Horror Story killed it with the ratings for its first two seasons, giving FX some steam to compete with other cable biggies a la Walking Dead).

In the first season, we covered the Murder House story. The marketing color was RED. American GOTHIC. The themes explored were drawing from decades of recent Americana. Murder. Abortion. Adultery. Divorce. Sex. School shootings. Drugs. And a healthy dose of ghosts to boot.

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In the second season, we covered the Asylum story. The marketing color was WHITE. The themes ranged from religion, to science. Gay rights. Women’s rights. The masculine and the feminine. Mother issues. Medicine. Mental illness. Abortion. Nature versus nurture. Inherent evil. Nazis. Human experimentation. Alien abduction.

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In the third season, we only know that it’s the Coven story. Which says to most of us: witches. And, shooting in the deep south, I can only guess at marketing colors: GREEN. (Update: Now that season three is in the wind, we see there was a tinge of green and a bit of hot pink, this being a season of feminism themes, amongst others) And I can only imagine themes and topics. Racism, I’d imagine? The mingling of “American” ideals with French and African? Magic. Producers have hinted at lots of sex and more comedy. Hoodoo? Voodoo? Vampires? Segregation?

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So now I’m looking past season three and into four and five. The uncharted, un-talked-about, not-even-rumored, here-be-dragons territory.

(I’m not even forecasting here. I’m just spit-balling).

So what’s left on the plate? The core of this show is explicitly American horror, in the sense of both location and theme. And so brainstorming future settings that hold quintessentially American horror roots is interesting. I’ve only come up with two, but my excitement to see the team’s handling of them is palpable.

I want to see season four hit the coast. I’m a sucker for coastal everything. Lighthouses. Water. Storms. Lovecraftian horror. The kind of sea-eroded history. The moodiness of such an atmosphere. Can you see it?

American-Horror-Story-Season-4-Promo-bannerPromos with only a fat phallic tentacle on a couple storm-beaten rocks? (Oh, you know it would be phallic too. Did you SEE the promo posters for Asylum?) An exploration of the mystery of the sea? A throwback historically to the old sailors, both in discovering America and also fishing. HEAVY draws on Lovecraft, if particularly the Shadow Over Innsmouth? Can you imagine? Cult-like worship of strange sea-creatures within the town? Half-man, half-animal hybrids? Perhaps some splicing/cloning scientific play with that?

Play on seclusion and religion and what makes up a homestead. Safety. Security. Especially in the times we live in. Themes perhaps of that question of security versus freedom.

And then into season five. I have a bias. I think every wonderful show on television only has five good seasons in it. It’s the best amount of time to complete a thorough arc before getting into redundant territory.

And what better way to wrap American Horror Story than a return to America’s roots? The midwest and the colonial east. Cornfields. Small towns. Colonial roots and revolution.

American-Horror-Story-Season-5-Promo-BannerAmericana at its heart. Late summer. Autumn. The harvest. Calling upon the classic horror themes we’ve seen season to season during the heart of Halloween. The imminent fears of the long winter. Questions of simple living, American values. Questions of population growth and food in the modern times but also in the past. Throw back to the land itself. Throw back to Native Americans and the disputes with them. Curses. Genocide. Animals and nature and scarecrows guarding the fields.

A sprinkling of Shyamalan with the Village. Some Hawthorne! Dark Romanticism. A bit of Young Goodman Brown. Some twisted Puritan values. Some Washington Irving, a bit of Ichabod Crane and headless horsemen.

The final iconic monster as something Native American. The revelation coming in that it’s not really a monster. Like all monsters, it’s misunderstood. And it’s usually only as monstrous as we make it.

What better way to wrap up the show than with a final look at the heart of America: where it all came from. How it was founded. The sins in the soil.

But I want to know what YOU guys think. Would that be a satisfying wrap to one of the smartest shows on television? Are there more choice selections of classic horrific Americana that I’m forgetting? What do you want to see in the upcoming seasons? Let me know in the comments section down below!

Update (Feb 6, 2014)

Murphy is still skating as to what in particular season 4 will be called, though I suspect we’ll be hearing about it in the next month or two. He’s already hinted that season four will be over many time periods, but mostly in the 50’s, it’ll be as comedic as season four (though five will be something very much out of left field, he says), and a bit gothic. Folks are having fun with the carnival/circus idea, but I quite like the Freakshow art that appeared in a quick google search. Freakshow is certainly a topic that would be VERY much American Horror Story’s alley, and would touch upon the gothic, but he’s already said fans haven’t nailed it yet, and that the circus idea was baseless.

In lieu of the updates, I wanted to update this post, since it still gets a lot of traffic (almost seventy comments? You guys are AWESOME. And some GREAT ideas that I’d completely overlooked).

I should point out that though there are at times a greenish tinge, AHS seems to have deviated from the color schemes I guessed about above. It seems the black, white, and red will always be their base, with a touch of extra color that might connect with the theme, the way green reflected the south and the witches. That obviously would influence my marketing brainstorms up above a bit.

I still love the ideas of a coastal, Lovecraftian AHS, as well as a midwestern corn-fields and autumnal feel, so I wanted to add some applicable titles and extra promo photo mockups, particularly since I’ve gotten a bit more deft at the photoshop in the year since I posted this bad boy. Enjoy, rock on, and hope to see you on the other side of season four!

(Seasons one through three courtesy and property of FX. Of course, the American Horror Story and FXs logos are copyright FX):

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As always,

My name is Karl Pfeiffer. I’m a writer, ghost hunter, and photographer. I won the first season of the pilot reality series Ghost Hunters Academy, and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team on the same network. Since then I’ve lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published my first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. I’m also a conceptual and portrait photographer working out of Northern Colorado. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

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Why Do Ghost Hunters Investigate in the Dark?

This week we’re tackling a big issue: Why do we investigate in the dark?

Many investigators will echo TAPS in the sense that they’ll say that if phenomena is happening during the day and not at night, they’ll investigate in the day. But why do we investigate in the dark? Why not the day? Many don’t have answers.

So I’m going to do quick points on both sides of the issue,  but it’s first important to differentiate between investigating in the dark and investigating at night. Think about that as we go.

Reasons to investigate in the dark number ONE: One of my first responses to this question was that if a spirit appears and is producing light, it’s easier to see in dim lighting the same way that a flashlight is easier to see in dimmer light.

This does of course apply more in the instances of “orbs” (balls of energy producing light–not the dust in your photos) and the odd instances of trick-of-the-eye-type “sparks.” Whereas the more traditional idea of “spirits” actually producing light is something I’ve never experienced and begins to seem a bit outdated. Most apparitions are either shadows or look just like you and I.

Reason number TWO! Barry Fitzgerald has shared with me a compelling reason suggesting that UV light might be harmful to spirits as they try to manifest. When you consider the EMF spectrum, the frequency of the waves increases as you move to the right on the spectrum. Because these waves are more frequent, they impact matter with much more violence and regularity, causing damage. This is why UV light gives us sunburns. This is why X-Rays will melt our brains, and why gamma radiation will forever be my greatest fear.

Barry operates under the idea that sunlight, in the same way that it harms our skin, may in fact scatter spirits as they delicately try to assemble themselves into something visible.

Consider, he suggests, how spirits in folklore seem drawn to the darkest parts of the room, perhaps not because they are the most frightening places, but because they’re the furthest from sunlight. Also consider the amount of shadow figures captured by various ghost programs and teams that–if legit–demonstrate the apparition often crouching and peeking out of the direct light.

Reason number THREE!

Many investigators will cite that they turn the lights–and all other power–off in order to lower the ambient EMF energy of an area to get more accurate readings.

This isn’t without controversy though. Many other investigators believe that lowering the ambient EMF reduces a kind of natural energy shield within a residence, allowing more stray EMF to travel through (seemingly randomly) that otherwise wouldn’t, and may contaminate an investigation.

Also, some investigators believe that you should keep the environment as close to the conditions in which the entity manifested in the first place for the most honest investigation. Which seems to make sense, doesn’t it?

Reason FOUR! Many investigators investigate at night because there’s just too many people around during the day. There’s too much noise, too much activity, and specifying what is anomalous and what is the living is challenging in many locations. I did this last summer, investigating a bed and breakfast during the day. Nightmare.

Final reason number FIVE! It’s more theatrical and entertaining. Though not necessarily good for objective investigation, if you’re going out there to have some fun and get spooked, lights off is the best way.

So, flip side? Why should we investigate in the light?

(PS, many of these reasons I’m stealing from Mr. Jeff Allen Danelek who wrote the book A Case for Ghosts and reps my home state of Colorado. Check him out here.)

Reason number ONE! Ghosts manifest during the day, don’t they? There’s a million ghost pictures from the daytime, right? So what’s the difference? And doesn’t that defeat Barry’s idea of UV harm?

They do appear in the day! The question of such appearances first becomes, are these spirits a different type of manifestation? Residual? Time slip? Interactive? If it’s residual, the spirit is only a kind of energetic echo, one that is potentially a different makeup than a manifesting interactive entity. Time slips too are a different constitution entirely, the theory being that we’re for a moment crossing over into a different time. So, perhaps what’s being seen is a manifestation not affected by UV the way others are. The way a character in a movie doesn’t get a sunburn if you watch it outside.

That said, go where the ghosts go. Absolutely investigate during the day.

Reason number TWO! It’s so much easier to freak yourself out in the dark. I do it myself every time. Mostly because of THIS CLIP.

Damn you, Slenderman.

If a lamp is knocked across the room in the light, my reaction is going to be far more mild than a lamp’s sudden motion in the middle of a mostly-dark room. It’s easier to be objective about what is happening around you when you have the lights on.

Reason number THREE! If spirits are manifesting as something with mass rather than simply an energy conglomeration, they should reflect light, which would make them easier to see in the light.

Reason number FOUR!

Additionally, if spirits draw from energy to manifest, isn’t it better to leave sources of energy on around the investigation area? We see this happening with battery drain, why not with electric circuits inside an investigation area? Some investigators have tried using small “EM pumps” to encourage activity: why not just leave the lights on?

And finally, reason number FIVE!

It’s safer. How many investigators do you see running around in the dark in a decrepit location on television and in real life? Holes in the floors. Debris everywhere. Homeless people lounging about.

If it’s all the same, why not just poke around with the lights on?

But which do you prefer? Investigating with the lights on or off? Daytime or nighttime? Leave a comment in the comment section down below.

That’s all I’ve got this week. Stay tuned in the next few weeks as we dive into provoking, ORBS and photography, and as always, new ways of looking at ghost hunting that you may not have thought of before!

Karl Pfeiffer is a writer, ghost hunter, and blogger/vlogger. He won the first season of the pilot reality series Ghost Hunters Academy, and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team on the same network. Since then he’s lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published his first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

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FREE PDF of HALLOWTIDE

I self-published my first novel, Hallowtide, this past October. It’s March now and I want to give it away for free. I put seven years into this book, writing revision after revision, enlisted the help of a number of brilliant editors, and worked on the book’s design for six months before its publication. There’s always errors and more to fix, but I wouldn’t release something I’m not proud of, and there’s nothing I’ve done yet in life that I’m more proud of than this novel.

To go to a free PDF of the novel Hallowtide, go ahead and click this link: Hallowtide Free PDF

or click the photo below.

A self-published debut novel is a hard sell. I get that. There’s a lot of crap out there. I also get that free is the way of the future. It’s more important to me to have my work spread first, and trust that it’s good enough to help support me later. Writing is one of my two greatest passions, and it’s the dream to be able to support myself financially while working on the next project.

The only thing I ask in return is your time to read it and chew on it a bit and, if you feel so moved, to maybe toss a review on amazon to help generate more interest. Of course, digital and hard copies are also available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes if you’d like something fancier.

Thanks all! I hope it moves you the way it has moved me for the past seven years.

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Hallowtide is the story of one young man and a journey to Hell. Thought he can’t remember it, Will Andrews was a victim of a high school shooting in 2001. They found Will, bleeding out beside the gunman, pistol in his hand, apparently having saved what could have been hundreds of lives. Now, five years later, he’s crippled by nightmares of Hell.

These nightmares, his therapist  believes, are likely one half of himself desperately trying to communicate with the other. But the deeper Will digs at both the dreams and the shooting, the more the lines between reality and fiction are blurred, and he finds himself in a place where nightmare bleeds into memory, the spiritual leaks into the physical, and the world as he knows it threatens to dissolve entirely. 

Both heart-wrenchingly beautiful, and deeply harrowing, Hallowtide combines Jungian theory with echoes of classic descent narratives, deconstructing western philosophy, depression, religion, and the 21st century sense of the self, while following one young man’s fall into Stygian wasteland and the journey that will change him forever. 

Again, you can click the graphic above to read the free PDF,

You can always find more at HallowtideNovel.com

And you can always find me at www.KarlPfeiffer.com and on twitter @KarlPfeiffer

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Moral Issues in Ghost Hunting

New Vlog this week! This one is a bit more casual, with me just talking to the camera about some of these ghost hunting topics, including the ethics of investigating a place of tragedy and the problems with charging for investigations.

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