Monthly Archives: April 2013

Into A Sky Below, Forever

As I mentioned last night on Paranormal Happy Hour over at LiveParanormal.com, I’m planning on releasing my next book early this fall.

It’s going to be called Into A Sky Below, Forever.

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From the cover:

“In Denver, a young woman grows up terrorized by something unnatural that watches her while she sleeps. In West Texas, a boy’s world unravels as his brother relates an encounter with a strange figure in the woods. In a small suburban neighborhood, a man named Mitch begins speaking to a creature of folklore in the trees behind his house. Along the plains of the Rocky Mountains, two college students discover a house that should not exist. And on the Oregon coast, one young man comes to terms with the inevitability of all things. 

These and other stories make up Karl Pfeiffer’s first collection following his debut novel, Hallowtide. Ranging from fiction to non-fiction, from poetry to the profane, Into A Sky Below, Forever again brings us to Pfeiffer’s territory of the thin places: Thin places where the wild leaks into the refined and the supernatural bleeds into the physical; Places where reality appears in fiction, and where fiction disturbs the delicate fabric of reality; Places where it’s only poetry that can grasp at what it is that’s beyond us, where the only things left holding the world together are the things that truly matter the most.”

Into A Sky Below, Forever is set to be released in September.

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Turns out ESP has SCIENTIFIC PROOF

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But Karl. You have no photos in this blog. Your only video is you talking to a camera. Where’s this proof you speak of? Dammit, I’m going back to Facebook.

Unfortunately, that up above is the way too many of us would-be “ghost hunters” do think. We operate under pop definitions of “proof.” Our “proof” is a distillation of a personal experience. We think that because we’ve experienced something (a certain kind of proof in its own right–but not one without its own flaws), that if we can recreate that experience for others, we have proof. Unfortunately, recreation seems to stop at video, audio, and photography.

In the scientific world, “proof” is different. Proof is an experiment, rigidly designed so that it can be recreated by anyone. Proof is a statistical, mathematical reference. It’s an argument based on a series of facts distilled from an experiment. Proof is then presented in scientific journals. When other scientists read them (skeptical or otherwise), they recreate the experiment, and report back in other scientific journals. If the results are consistent enough, this indicates that the scientists are on to something. If the results are consistent for seven decades, there comes a point where the phenomenon is, in a scientific sense, “proven.”

Is there room for error here? Is there room for misinterpretation? Absolutely. It’s in early stages. And problems arise when too much theorizing happens without enough facts. But after several decades of scientific study, scientists familiar with the researchers do confidently say:

ESP HAPPENS. What it is yet, they don’t know. How it works, they don’t know. Further experimentation is required.

So, before giving you an overview of what experiments were done, the reports published, the recreated experiments and the modifications, I wanted to give you an oversight from the scientists (no, really. Real life scientists with degrees and University funding and everything) who have interacted directly with the research from this past century. If you want to read the legitimate “proof”, start here first, and then begin to reference the bibliography.

“Telepathy, for example, had been extensively studied and documented for a century. The work of J.B. Rhine, Rene Warcollier, S.G. Soal, and many others, including the astounding experiment between Harold Sherman and Sir Hubert Wilkins in the Arctic, could leave no doubt about its existence.” -Edgar Mitchell

Psychic research officially began nearly a century ago, in 1882, when the Society for Psychical Research was founded in London. Three years later, the American Society for Psychical Research was organized in the United States.

“The subject of the societies’ concern can be broadly classified as Extrasensory Perception (ESP, psychokinesis (PK), and survival phenomena (theta). Collectively, they are referred to as psi, the twenty-third letter of the Greek alphabet and the first letter in the Greek word for “psyche”, meaning “mind” or “soul.”  -Mitchell

“ESP is a psychic event in which information is transmitted through channels outside the known sensory channels, either in waking consciousness, trance, or dreams.” Mitchell

“PK is a psychic event in which objects or organisms are physically moved or affected without direct contact or use of any known force that would allow a conventional explanation. PK includes teleportation, materialization and de-materialization, levitation, psychic surgery and psychic healing, thought photography, and out of the body projection.

Theta are events due to the agency of supposed discarnate personalities. Theta include the phenomena of mediumship, ghosts and hauntings, apparitions and poltergeists, spirit photography, spirit possession, and reincarnation.” -Mitchell

“There appears to be a continuum along which we may place occult, psychic, paranormal, and mystic phenomena–a continuum of consciousness. But it is not easy to draw lines of demarcation between them.” Mitchell.

I mean, where does one end and the other begin? Are spirits actual spirits, or are they projections of our minds into someone else’s mind? Do spirits manifest by appearing in our brains psychically, accounting for why sometimes only one or a handful of people “see” them? Look at PK versus clairvoyance. Do you know what is about to happen, or do we create it? On the flip side, do we create something happening, or just know what’s going to happen?

Now, on the scientific side,

Mitchell points out that science is made up of two components: objectivity and materialism. Objectivity being that the human being should have no necessary relationship with the world around it. Materialism in that everything fundamental to science is made up of matter.

So, according to Mitchell:

“Psychic research is leading to an extraordinarily challenging conclusion: science’s basic image of man and the universe must be revised… Science will have to divest itself not only of some deeply cherished “facts” but also of its philosophic foundations — the whole intellectual outlook upon which our present civilization is based.”

This isn’t an attack on science. It’s not a revolution, it’s a revelation. This IS science. Science is constantly updating to new facts, new realizations. This one has been pushed to the side for long enough because it doesn’t fit the framework. As soon as it becomes credible, we may see a shift more radical than any discovery in the past couple hundred years.

“The only possible bias for rejecting the evidence of psychic research is prejudice and diehard stubbornness born of insecurity.” -Mitchell

S.G. Soal of London University writes:

“It would be interesting to meet the psychiatrist or psychologist who has perused every page of the 49 volumes of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, and who remains a skeptic. It is no coincidence that those most skeptical of ESP research are almost invariable those who are the least acquainted with the facts.”

H.J. Eysenck, head of the Department of Psychology at Maudsley Hosptial in London, answers the charge of fraud like this:

“Unless there is a gigantic conspiracy involving 30 University departments all over the world, and several hundred highly respected scientists in various fields, many of them originally hostile to the claims of the psychic researchers, the only conclusion the unbiased observer can come to must be that there are people who obtain knowledge existing either in other people’s minds, or in the outer world, by means yet unknown to science.”

Dr. Montague Ullman of Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY:

“If the only answer to the vast amount of solid experimental evidence is incompetence or fraud on a global scale by men with credentials equal to those of their scientific peers, working in academic surroundings, and whose work extends historically in time over at least three generations, then the adherents of this position would seem to have adopted a stance that is even more difficult to defend than the psi hypothesis. In fact, it would seem to represent a last ditch stand–in short, the bankruptcy of the critical effort.”

New Scientist Magazine did a questionaire on parapsychology in 1973. It’s first conclusion reported that

“parapsychology is clearly counted as being exceedingly interesting and relevant by a very large number of today’s working scientists.”

25% of the respondents held ESP to be an established fact, with another 42% declaring it a likely possibility.

“This positive attitude was based, in about 40% of the sample, on reading reports in scientific books and journals. Moreso came from a majority whose convictions arose from personal experience. There was a strong undercurrent among respondents that too much time was being spent proving the existence of ESP, when the real need was to “get on with finding out how it works.”

By that same note, Gerald Feinberg points out:

“I believe it would be appropriate for researchers to emphasize detailed studied of psychic phenomena rather than to concentrate on further efforts whose primary purpose is to convince others that the phenomena exists.”

This Advice is good for paranormal researchers too. Stop trying to “prove it”, start trying to figure out what is going on.

As you try to figure out what’s going on, you might just stumble across some real science on your way.

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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John Tenney Talks Patience. And Fishing.

New Vlog this week! Today we’re featuring paranormal researcher John EL Tenney, who’s amassed nearly thirty years experience in the field, documenting and studying everything from conspiracies to PSI. Staying consistent with the vlog’s theme toward misconceptions and new ways of thinking about ghost hunting, today we’re angling at patience. And fishing.

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Ghosts and Flares and Mists and Photos

Following last week’s blog about Orbs and photography, I want to use this week to talk some about other issues in photography, primarily camera flares, mists, and the importance of paying attention.

So what is a lens flare?

Most of you guys are familiar with lens flares if you’ve seen the movie Star Trek by JJ Abrams. It’s called “anamorphic lens flare” because it’s a lens flare on an anamorphic wide screen lens, so it’s very wide and very dramatic. He uses it because he loves this idea of the future being so bright that the light can’t be contained outside of the lens.

Lens flare though is when your camera is set up and you have a really bright light source either in the shot, or just outside of it. The light then strikes your camera lens and it’s redirected into your camera, giving you glare and often illuminating odd-looking artifacts.

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 1.25.29 PMIf it’s off the side of your shot, you will see evidence of this object in the photo even if the object is not in your shot.

You might sometimes get dusty looking elements, a washed out effect, and sometimes a mirroring of the lens, in which you see curves and orb-like shapes.

The first thing you want to do then if you get one of these bright glowing oddly-shaped objects, is to look for bright objects just off to the side of the shot. Lens flare is not always a crazy disruptive streak of light. Sometimes it’s only a  haze, bad contrast, or strange orb anomalies.

CCTV_Lens_flare

What else shows up in pictures aside from flares?

Mists. And the easiest way to experience a false mist is to be taking pictures outside in the winter. You’ll be holding your camera in front of your face, or near your face, and your breath is illuminated in the flash.

Most people claim to not remember seeing their breath while taking pictures. Which can be true. Normally we don’t look immediately in front of our cameras when using a flash, and the flash can sometimes illuminate vapors more brightly than whatever ambient lighting is around at the time (the way that afternoon sun illuminates the dust floating through your living room).

It’s important to also remember that seeing your breath does not necessarily only occur in freezing temperatures. Sometimes, with the help of additional environmental factors, it can appear on a humid day with temperatures as high as forty or fifty degrees. Cold is important because what you’re seeing is condensation of water vapor as you breathe out. If it’s cold enough, it turns the vapor into a more dense form, and you see breath.

But this segues into the third part, which is observation.

This is a hard topic to discuss with people who are enthusiastic about their ghost photo. Why?

Because everyone thinks that they’re very observant.

I see a fair amount of photos that people have taken with figures in the background. Oftentimes this is from my stomping grounds, the Stanley Hotel, in which folks on a tour will capture of a photo of something eerie.

My problem is that I wasn’t there, so I don’t know how controlled the situation was. I don’t know for sure if that room was indeed locked down and if the photographer was as alone as they thought they were. Without a video setup or having been there myself, it’s too hard to make that call.

Oftentimes though this is seen in reflections. Most people will be taking a picture of a shiny surface and later find a figure in the background of the reflection. What’s challenging here is that most times, you don’t pay attention to what’s in the reflection itself. You pay attention to what’s in the space between you and the reflecting surface.

But think too about the time it takes to snap three photos, the delay between each photo, and then the time it takes before you study the photo. By the time most people have found a strange figure, zoomed in, and realized it is significant, when they look up again, if that person who was in the photo was on the move, often times they’re gone. Mysteriously vanishing.

And further still, we think observation and experience is the best form of evidence. However, what’s interesting is that it’s actually  not.

I worked for the cops for a couple years in their explorer program, and we studied this idea about the unreliability of witness testimony. In fact, if you want to run the same experiment that we did, put a bunch of friends in a room together. Have one person walk into your group and say something to you briefly. Then, after they go, give a few minutes delay, and ask everyone in the room to (first without talking) record what they remember the person to be wearing and what the person looked like. Emphasis on colors of clothes, hair cut, types of clothes.

It’s incredible the amount of radically different answers you will get.

In fact, it’s interesting to consider how unreliable this testimony is in court, despite how high we hold it qualitatively.

Look even at some of your childhood memories. Compare them to old photos.

Try this.

So be as observant as possible if you’re trying to actually capture a ghost. Such “evidence” should not be presented lightly. And it shouldn’t be acquired lightly either.

That’s all I got this week! Thoughts? Leave them in the comments down below, AND, 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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Evil Dead. Gratuitous and Brilliant.

I was having nightmares about the new Evil Dead movie a week before I even saw it.

It wasn’t a particularly frightening trailer and I only ever have nightmares every few months. But obviously something about this movie was doing work.

I won’t read into it.

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Even still, I didn’t have very high hopes going into this one. A remake of a gratuitous and campy B-movie classic that looks like an utter squirm-fest for the squeamish. But I love the Evil Dead trilogy. And reviews have been relatively positive. And. Well. Jane Levy. 

But five minutes in and I was blown away.

The camerawork was phenomenal. The shots were gorgeous. It started out atmospheric and moody and was happy to linger within the setting before diving into the violence.

What impressed me most was the confidence of this film.

In a time when most horror films are any director with a camera with a camera who’s seen a jump scare or two and may (or usually not) have a good script (Cough…. Cough.), this guy, Fede Alvarez, stepping behind the camera for his first full feature, knows what he’s doing. He keeps the camera on his scares. He knows his atmosphere is well-constructed enough that it breathes and seethes. He knows that his scares are violent and hard. He has the confidence of a good script and story and it’s an epic story to tell.

Which is refreshing, not simply because horror movies suck these days.

But because this is a remake.

Well. Companion movie.

Well. Sequel.

Evil Dead is a strange blend of what’s come before, and what’s new, and what’s rebooted. A different movie, different characters: same story. In much the way that Evil Dead 2 was sequelesque to the original The Evil Dead, Evil Dead is sequelesque to them both.

And it’s so elegantly done. In fact, it’s where half the genius of the work comes from. How does a writer/director adapt a campy b-movie classic to the modern screen? He blends the perfect amounts of gratuitous violence and gore with echoes of what’s come before. What better way to make the (let’s be honest, distinct) Exorcist references blend with the modern? Make Regan put a razor blade through her tongue.

Every moment you got to see the strings (which is to say, every time it felt too over the top) was a seamless nod to the original. The reboot nods right and left to the originals (molesting trees, the infected-arm, the chainsaw-hand) exactly as you’d expect and hope. 

The dialogue was–bear with me–perfectly terrible. The director more than made up for it, and the cheesy, flat lines (“I’m not going to become Hell’s bitch!”) added flavor without taking away from the intensity or suspense.

I didn’t believe it was possible. But there you have it. A blend of the lovably-terrible classics with a modern vibrancy.

When no one in the audience laughed at the yawning POV shot through the woods, I knew they’d done it absolutely right.

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Yes, I would have preferred a bit more pacing, a bit more atmosphere, a bit more milking before hitting the fan. But you know, it’s not that kind of movie.

Yes, I would have preferred a little more philosophy and depth as always. But it’s not that kind of movie. It’s too busy being GODDAMN EPIC.

Yes, the violence was stomach-churning. The camera refuses to look away (that confidence bit, remember). And the Evil Deads were always known as blood-fests. But where before it was camp, today it’s real. It’s visceral. And it has to be to keep true to what came before it (while staying fresh, do you see?)

This movie, for what it was (a reboot of a classic b-horror movie directly in line with the possession/slasher movies of the last forty years), was ASTOUNDING. and BRILLIANT. and hands down a MASTERPIECE. It fully realized the genre, embracing everything that came before it and elevating it to another level.

This film gets an

A+

BUT! Should you go see it?

Maybe not.

If you’re not into the old Evil Deads, if you’re not into modern slasher movies, or violent tongue-splitting, arm-cutting, cheek-slicing, eye-stabbing, hand-ripping movies: Don’t go see it. It’s disgusting and there’s little else to redeem it for you. It’ll seem like blood for the sake of blood.

But if you’re familiar with the classics, if an epic power-punch of a visceral, raw, bloody, fiery horror film is up your alley. GO FUCKING SEE THIS MOVIE.

(Note: I’d say wait two weeks though. Go on a Tuesday night or hit up one of the cheap theaters. See it by yourself or with a close buddy. It’s not a Friday night drinking comedy with your buddies like the original trilogy. This one is for taking seriously. Don’t go on a night with a packed house and a row of 25 theater kids who think they’re groupies because they have Evil Dead hoodies from that one time they put on the Evil Dead Musical at their school.

When only THREE people in the whole theater cheered when she picks up the chainsaw, I WAS OFFENDED. When the girl in front of me said she was scared to watch this because she’s terrified of zombies, I WAS OFFENDED (it’s a possession movie, dammit!). When homeboy laughed at EVERY establishing shot, funny, scary, or otherwise, I WAS OFFENDED.

If any of these things would offend you too: GO SEE THIS MOVIE).

Karl out.

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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CRAZY GHOST PHOTOGRAPHY!

First of all, what are orbs? Orbs are theorized to be concentrated pinpoints of energy that have manifested intensely enough to present as a small ball of light, or as a small pocket of matter.

Often confused, orbs are not evidence of–nor even indicative of paranormal activity. Energy orbs are just that, balls of energy floating around in the air.

Scientists have been concerned with balls of energy for many years now, including ball lighting–which is a phenomena naturally occurring but so rare that scientists have a hard time studying it. They’ve managed to reproduce the phenomena in a laboratory, but whether or not the process is anything similar to what happens in nature is still a mystery.

However, some people believe that in the same way that we track anomalous and often-times communicative sources of “energy” on a ghost hunt, these balls of energy may well have something to do with ghostly activity.

But if we’re gonna talk about orbs, we first need to break down some photography.

First of all, DEPTH OF FIELD. What is it? Depth of field is the depth that your camera keeps objects in focus.

This varies depending on the lens. A narrow depth of field creates very blurry backgrounds, where the object in focus is only a very shallow part of the image.

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With a deep depth of field, objects in the foreground are mostly in focus, while objects in the far background are also mostly in focus.

Also FLASH. Okay, we all know what a flash is: an intense burst of light from your camera to illuminate the room. But also keep in mind that holding a flashlight or other bright light source (including those invisible to the naked eye, like IR illuminators) are all in essence the same thing.

Now, the common explanation in paranormal research is that supposed “orbs” that appear on camera are actually dust particles. The dust is illuminated by the flash on your camera, and then, because your camera has focused on something deeper in the frame, farther away, the dust that is close to your camera lens is out of focus, forming a pretty sphere.

Consider this video here, in which out of focus lights turn to pretty, perfect circles with sometimes strange little squiggles or swirls inside.

These little squiggles are the product of the out of focus object. Play with the focus on your cameras. This very easily becomes the MATRIXING effect, also called PAREIDOLIA. Our human brain is trained to recognize facial features as part of our psychological development. So when you think you see a face because you’re zoomed in to the pixels, it’s not a ghost. The “orb” is a perfect sphere because it’s out of focus. Even if that was a spirit manifesting, they’re not going to manifest so that the more out of focus your camera is, the more in focus they are. If the “orb” was far enough away that your camera could focus on it AND see a face within it, everyone in the room would be aware of that orb.

The key is also this: Most orbs, if they are self-contained energy, would be characterized by their PRODUCTION of light, and the brightest point would be the center, radiating light OUTWARD, and in best case scenarios, casting that light onto another nearby object.

Most dust particles captured in photography are REFLECTING light. You can clearly see an outer edge is illuminated, or the orb is for the most part simply transparent.

House_Dust_Orbs

This is oftentimes witnessed on video camera too. Video usually utilizes a powerful light source, the IR light, that investigators use often. Think of it as a constant flash. Anything drifts in front of the lens, you have an orb. Often because this light is so powerful and direct in an otherwise dark room, insects and floating particulates, when they hit the light beam, are brightly illuminated, and move in odd patterns.

Sometimes they’re close enough to the camera to see wings. Sometimes they’re far and small enough they seem only like a small dot.

Why are they sometimes in colors? I was told that if they were purple, it’s my uncle. Oftentimes, the flash illuminates the room and bounces off the dust particle. If the particle looks red, it’s usually because there was something red in the room that the flash bounced from, and this is what illuminated the dust.

This can also be due to water particles, insects, and dust. All of which are around us constantly. If you show me a picture of an orb from a dusty tunnel, old attic, or outside during a snowstorm, I’m obviously going to rule it out.

If you show me an orb from anywhere else, let’s face it, I’m gonna rule that out too. Dust is everywhere.

HOWEVER. Let’s play some devil’s advocate here.

Orb’s DO seem to be a recurring phenomena. I’ve seen then with my own eyes in a dark room. Often they seem to be a trick of my eyes, those semi-supernova-esque type appearances that oddly enough are often validated by other people in the room. I’ve seen them under chairs, near people’s bodies, floating by the ceiling and along the floor.

I’ve never seen one photographed.

However, there is something to be said too for the idea that if a spirit concentrates its manifestation to an individual point, perhaps it can come through as MATTER in a very tiny space. In which case, wouldn’t it look just like a dust orb on camera?

Certainly so. If that’s what’s happening, if matter is actually forming before your camera, close enough to the lens to be out of focus and illuminated by the flash, maybe it is indeed a ghost. My problem is that if it in all likelihood is a piece of dust or moisture or bug(which are all EVERYWHERE), what are the chances you’ve captured proof positive of a ghost?

Cropped_Chromatic_aberration_with_cats_eye_effect

In my opinion? Slim. Very slim.

Other ways to try to capture orbs then would be such:

Set up an experiment in which you put two cameras a few feet from each other, on tripods. Using the flash on both, and rigging a remote to set both off at the same time, an orb should appear in both of the photos if it is indeed deeper in the room.

However, this also supplies problems. In a dusty room, you might get two separate orbs in the photos. So, I’d trust using an SLR camera with no flash or bright light source close to the camera, and a lens hood.

If you get an orb in one of those photos, check to see if it seems to be producing light or reflecting light. If reflecting, where is it coming from?

But that’s all I’ve got this week. Disagree? Agree? Let me know more down in the comment section down below!

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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