Category Archives: Personal Stories

12-Year Floods

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The things I’ll remember: the flies.

The smell of sea salt on the air as the rain started falling. This was Tuesday night: the tenth. This was after beers with a buddy. This was the start of the storm, and we couldn’t help but wonder aloud why the fuck it smelled so much like the ocean.

I’ll remember how on Wednesday I sat in a coffeeshop and watched the rain come down, remembering how, twelve years ago, September the 11th wasn’t like this; it was crisp as an autumn morning, the sky as blue as summer, and it was clear enough that we could hear the towers fall from 1800 miles away.

I’ll remember how on Friday, the sea smell was everywhere on my clothes and body when I walked inside from shooting it all. The sun had come out, and I’d ran with sweat as I climbed down the rocks toward the mud and water. I’ll remember how I didn’t know if the salt and smell was me.

I’ll remember:

Most of the rocks were still solid and didn’t wiggle under my feet, even the ones that rested between the base of the concrete overpass and the rushing waters; two sapling trees lasted much longer than the logs that swept downstream; I didn’t notice that the footbridge was gone until my mom pointed it out. Only then did the previously ineffable space the water covered make sense; On the ground, it’s rushing water. From the sky, it’s mostly puddles; This afternoon, children ran and played in the greenbelt behind our house and they seemed totally oblivious, the way our dog seemed totally oblivious–the way I seemed totally oblivious almost twelve years ago to the day.

I remember how September 11th gave my seventh-grade heart a thrill. I remember laughing at my friend for making up stories about planes and bombs and New York. I remember watching teachers staring at a television screen through the glass front window to the office. I remember how I started to realize his laughter wasn’t because he was pulling a fast-one. I remember rushing home with hopes of breaking the news to my folks, as if they didn’t already know. I remember almost rooting for the towers to fall because it would mean something had finally changed, something else had happened: the stasis had broken, something, anything but those towers and the smoke chugging into the air, and the questions and the insecurity and obscurity and the unsurity of the anchors on TV: my blue balls of adolescent need: the attention deficit in being twelve.

I’ll remember, today, people gathered along the rivers and flooded intersections with cameras below the humid sky and a sun that hadn’t been seen in days; they stretched their legs by revelling in the awesome destruction. They feel alive by being alive, where saying “wow” is at once as superficial as cameraphone photos and as resonant as a yawp.

I’ll remember sitting on the couch watching nightly news anchors, the same way that I remember, twelve years ago, standing from the couch to leave the room at eight in the evening because I couldn’t stand watching those goddamn talking heads plaster cameraphone photos and try to say “wow” in every way except “wow.”

I’ll remember how, before, it was a creek: a river at its best. And I’ll remember how, in the night, from our house, we could for the first time hear the water rushing.

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My July

The yearly post! Where I disappeared to in July (or: A chance to share my video with you all).

I’ve discussed SEP in various blogs before this last year and the year before.

SEP is the Summer Enrichment Program. It’s really my home. Affectionately deemed “nerd camp”, because there’s really no other pithy way to describe it, I attended as a camper for five years, and then went through two years of the leadership program in high school before working as a staff member for another six years. I’ve been a night program counselors and a teacher, and this past year I moved up to be the Assistant Night Program Director.

Like a boss.  No, really. Exactly like a boss. I was pretty much assistant boss.

Like a boss.
No, really. Exactly like a boss. I was pretty much assistant boss.

But I’m not the rare one. Though I may be an “SEP-lifer” who has yet to lock down a real job that keeps him from working each July, I’m not rare in finding my home here. The kids, every summer, light up at this place. They find themselves there first. And after (or before, or at the same time — it doesn’t matter when), they find other people, and together they grow and they devour and the world is manageable and tolerable again. Many people don’t think twice on it because we think the world is an oyster for talented people (and because 80’s movies trained us that way), but life is hard for smart kids. The feeling of alienation and boredom and frustration reach breaking points regularly.

Anyhow, I also ran around like a nut all of camp, trying to do both my administration job as well as get some wicked shots for a video I wanted to make.

Unfortunately, after dropping my hard drive down the stairs (yeah, don’t do that), it eventually crashed, and I lost all the extra footage, Final Cut Pro documents, and exported copies I’d had finished. Except for one, slightly less-quality version I’d happened to export to my Desktop.

Which is this:

The song is Radioactive, by Imagine Dragons, of course, but I remixed together four or five different versions for the video. I don’t pretend to be any kind of master on that, so it’s a bit shoddy if you crank your volume, but many of the campers asked me for the song, so that’s available here:

And, as always, if you know of a child between 5th-12th grade, who you think would love a camp like this, you can find more information here. 

We’re always trying to boost our numbers and would love to have more applicants each year. Dates go out around December. It’s at UNC’s campus in Greeley Colorado. And it’s awesome.

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And I took this picture while there. So you know. There was that too.

 

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Jung Wanted Hard Drive Crashes

So my hard drive crashed.

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I’d lost everything I’d done in the month of July because I hadn’t backed it up. Dropped it down a couple stairs, and I was lucky enough to have it fight through another week. It fought through that week when I needed it most, which was a blessing. But the week’s false sense of security led to only surprise when it finally quit, and the data was gone.

Data which included the video I’d shot at camp, the video I’d shot for my how to play Gooberball video, and, most heartbreaking, the video of my girlfriend’s puppy Skye on the fourth of July.

I held out some hope by running a recovery scan on my computer, to dig up files I’d trashed two weeks before, and the process was poetic.

Amanda Palmer tweeted a few weeks ago that Jung wanted Twitter.

Jung being the early 20th century psychologist who theorized the collective unconscious, laying the foundation for theories about recurring elements of stories across cultures. Anyone who studied Campbell’s Hero’s Journey in high school understands this framework.

Palmer said Jung wanted Twitter because Twitter is a continuous snapshot of the world, two sentences at a time. What people are thinking, doing, eating, and consuming.

As I went through the recovered fragments of the scan, I realized that Jung wanted more than Twitter; He wanted hard drive crashes.

Here am I, on a sweaty summer afternoon, desperately paging through movie and mp4 files, searching for a lost puppy, trying to resurrect something I killed. But in-between, I only find snapshots. Peculiar, too. There were half-second video clips of people at a beach, running about with young women on their shoulders. There were stills of smiling adults and B-roll footage of foreign docks and cities. I have no idea where this stuff came from. Likely it was B-roll movie clips included in editing software and extras for DVD burning programs. But these weren’t clips from my life. From a Coke commercial, maybe.

But here I am, trying to resurrect the dead, searching about in a strange underworld brought to light, and though there are snippets of my past (recent music albums I’d tossed after duplicating, old photos, recent documents), here are fragments from someone else’s past. Many someone else’s.

It’s as if I reached into some collective whole and brought out a shattered mirror that not only reflected myself, my own history, but the world’s too.

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Recommended Paranormal Reading

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A fantastic question, and one that I wish I get more often. I answered this one a couple months ago, but thought it might be easier to lay it out in a blog.

Caveats of course come in the sense that there’s still dozens upon dozens of wonderful and mind-bending books on the paranormal that I haven’t gotten to yet. But there are a few that I think would be wonderful if people started getting their hands on.

9781450253567_p0_v1_s260x4201. Paranormal Technology: Understanding the Science of Ghost Hunting by David Rountree. 

If there is one book any serious technical investigator of the paranormal should read, it’s this one. Where in today’s paranormal world many teams are largely ignorant to scientific theories, equipment, and genuine methodologies, this book is quintessential reading to help understand not only how the tools you’re using work, but what they’re measuring. Some is over my head. Some is borderline scientistic and narrow-sighted, but overall required reading. There’s a big part of me that wants to suggest to any investigator to not use any piece of technology again until after reading this book.

 

 

images2. Psychic Explorations: A Challenge for Science, Understanding the Nature and Power of Consciousness by Edgar D. Mitchell. 

The paranormal extends SO much farther than simply ghosts. If you want your mind BLOWN when it comes to the paranormal, you absolutely must read this book. A compilation of articles from psi researchers in 1973, this book synthesizes data collected by three generations of psychical researchers, whose conclusions come up again and again that the existence of psychic abilities have been effectively proven to exist, and that the next step is learning more about how they work. Readable. Mind-bending. Wonderful. It’s thoroughly referenced and footnoted, so opportunities for further reading abound. 

(From my reading in this, I’ve got sitting near my headboard my on-deck reading, Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death by FWH Myers and The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena by Dean Radin, which has gotten a wealth of wonderful reader reviews on Amazon.)

 

5676823. The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel

But the paranormal doesn’t stop at spirits and psychic phenomena. In fact, much of my reading list strays away from ghosts on their own entirely. Because of popular culture right now, we all get the general ideas behind the existence of ghosts. How many of us, after watching the first two seasons of Ghost Hunters can relay the three types of haunting and how EVP is different from disembodied voice? Keel’s Mothman Prophecies is a true achievement in paranormal research. Though I’m a big fan of the Pellington-directed movie, the book is fantastic reading. Diving so deeply into the strange events at point pleasant, Keel can’t help but become a part of the story. Despite breaking one of the first rules of journalism, the book then becomes instantly engaging on a level not purely intellectual, but reads as good as a fiction thriller. Mothman Prophecies brings together UFOlogy, some of the earliest reports of the Men in Black phenomena, poltergeist-type happenings, cryptids, and the titular prophecies. Where one phenomena stops and another begins? That’s the real question below this book.

(Note: Keel also wrote the wonderful Our Haunted Planet, which, while eye-opening as it dissects ancient mythology and the potential reality of gods, aliens, and faeries, is poorly referenced throughout, making many of his lofty claims immediately suspect to the careful reader. Though I’ve only read the opening chapters, it seems that Jacques Vallee’s Passport to Magonia–which is available used for $400 dollars on amazon, or as a free PDF on a quick google search–is a much better presented exploration of similar study).

9780253221810_med4. Phenomenology and Mysticism: The Verticality of Religious Experience by Anthony Steinbock

Readers familiar with my areas of research know that in much of college, I focused a lot of study on philosophy of religions (both east and west) as well as an emphasis on mysticism. Mysticism is the practice of having an experience of something divine or transcendent of the world around us. Steinbock’s textbook examines what makes a spiritual experience inherently spiritual and where it crosses with the world around us. Indeed, as paranormal researchers, if we are coming into contact with beings or creatures from a plane truly beyond our own, the similarities in experiences immediately come together. If any researchers are interested in the broader implications of what it means to contact beings from “somewhere beyond”, Steinbock is a must read.

(Mystical experience is broadly classified and broadly researched in a way that much of the paranormal hasn’t. Some other books for reading on the subject include William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience. James was one of the founding members of the Society for Psychical research, which is necessarily referenced in Mitchell’s Psychic Explorations book. Funny how they all start linking together again, isn’t it? Also, try Sufism and Taoism: A Comparative Study of Key Philosophical Concepts, Cosmos and Transcendence: Breaking Through the Barrier of Scientistic Beliefand Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience.)

9780060653378 5. Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans by Malachi Martin

It should be noted that I have a problem with fundamental religious belief (which you’ll understand far more deeply if you pursue the mystical readings), but Martin’s book on possession is one of the best. It very thoroughly documents five case studies on various possessions that he researched. Where many television shows today like to throw around the “demon” word to keep their episodes exciting for the audience at home, the reality of demonic possession is shocking and very different. This book explores not only the exorcisms, but the circumstances surrounding the onset of the possession. This can be difficult to digest for the non-religious reader, as its very fundamentalist. But Martin is a professional and does a fine job of presenting the circumstances with very little bias. Even from the 1970s and with deeply religious background, such topics as transgender individuals are handled gracefully, though certain implications do leave a critical reader a bit wary. Regardless, as a study on the fact of possession, there’s much that cannot be denied, and the presentation here borders on masterpiece.

(If demonology is your thing, there is some fascinating reading on the subject. I also recommend The Dark Sacrament by David Kiely and Christina McKenna and The Rite by Matt Baglio).

41NPF555BTLHonorable Mention: The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion by James George Frazer.

The first time I tossed out these books on twitter, I added also that you should read anything that John Tenney recommends. If he told me there was insight in the phone book, I’d take to the phone book with a magnifying glass. At the time, his go-to book to add to the list was The Golden Bough. Because of his recommendation, this fat tome is sitting on my shelf patiently waiting my read. Written around the turn of the 20th century, this book is considered a foundation for modern-day Anthropology, studying how beliefs over time have changed from magic to religion, and from religion to science.

Those are my suggestions, caveats and thoughts and all. I do hope these help. If you have any suggestions of your own, feel free to sound off in the comments down below!

 

Karl Pfeiffer won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team. He’s the author of the novel Hallowtide, writes for the TAPS Paramagazine and Paranormal Pop Culture Blog, works with investigative teams across Colorado, lectures across America, and leads the public ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

 

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New Blog! Another Intro

As I disappear and return again to talk some paranormal issues that…really need talked about.

But here it’s mostly to fill you in on the last six months.

Day One – Vlog Ten. Theaters and Coke Cans

Boulder Theater was the third investigation I ever did as a young ghost hunter, the second with any kind of organized team. The first was a small restaurant called the Morrison Inn up by Red Rocks. There, I stayed quiet and watched the team, participating occasionally but seeing and beginning to understand how such a team works. It was the theater where I discovered that I could do this, that I’d done my research, I’d studied the techniques, I’d read the articles, and I was ready to go out and get some hands on experience. It was a few months later that I was cast on Academy and everything took off from there.

And so last night, sitting up in the nest that overlooked the stage, above one of the lighting booths, near the speaker controls, just out of sight of the audience seats and looking down at the curtains and stage lights, I thought back to four years ago. Sitting in this same spot. A novice. Where the dark wrapped me up and gave me that fluttery feeling in the deeper part of my stomach, the open door to the hallway behind me giving the sense of being watched, that I might be approached at any moment. Proud of myself for doing it, alone, but listening to the dark. Seeing what might happen. Wondering if there was someone else there beside me, watching and waiting as well.

Four years later wasn’t so different. And it was in the nest that I started my investigation that Sunday night again, alone. The darkness was different now. Less pressing. With more of a settled feeling. After a few minutes I softly asked questions, voice recorder running, flashlights on the floor. I’d gone back to using a few small devices, not feeling under-prepared the way I had four years before with only my two EMF meters and a voice recorder. Now, I prefered it in the dark with barely a handful of tools. I wasn’t there anymore to prove this to anyone, to record on six cameras, to take readings that would prove more scientific in conclusion. I wasn’t a part of the group, emulating TAPS, arriving ‘to help.’ I was there to watch. To learn, to listen. To experience and understand. To be a friend to the spirits in the dark.

In the past four years I traveled across the country, the world, helped with dozens of investigations at the Stanley, more still for frightened homeowners. I’ve lectured. I’ve studied. Researched. Theorized. Had experiences I cannot explain that fit no easy or obvious frameworks. I got a college degree.  I wrote for magazines and blogs. Now I’m writing books. And I don’t know what the future will be. I don’t know where I’ll live come January. I don’t know if the books will take off or if the scraps will finally run out. I don’t know where next my fascination with this field will lead me. I’m exhausted and intimidated, lonely and poor, climbing up hill one step and a time with little support.

But in that moment, surrounded by darkness, invisible to the stage, to the team wandering about as they started their investigation, I wondered if this was how the spirits felt. If they could see both behind the curtain and in front, had to go out of their way to see the audience. If they were otherwise invisible in the dark and were happy enough just to sit, to watch, to wait.

And I felt at peace. It didn’t matter that I’d been couch-surfing for a week. That I had no place to call mine, any constant close friends, a significant other, or any hint of a steady income in my future. The stage creaked and popped and the curtains dangled heavy and the flashlights would occasionally flicker and my voice recorder rolled, and I knew that this was exactly where I was supposed to be. And that was just fine.

Day One – Vlog Nine. Denver and Dinner

While eating and waiting for the sun to go down so that my friend could get out of class and we could get together, I watched the neighborhood children playing, running from one house to the next. Many of the small homes had bars on their windows, but their lawns were neat–not in the neat way that old folk’s and suburbanites yards are neat, but in the way that they were contained, tended to, and not overgrown. There was a general sense of upkeep. Families talking in the evening sun. A gentleman working on a garden.

I’m supposed to be outside because Miguel is getting in trouble. One little boy says, spinning a silver plastic gun with an orange tip around his finger.

Your parents fight a lot, his buddy says.

Yeah.

So do mine. A lot. And for a moment they look distant before the neighbor boy’s sister touches the other neighbor boy on the hand and he jumps back exclaiming that she touched him, She just touched my hand! He repeats himself and laughs and the girl in the skirt ducks and hangs against the fence and laughs.

Back away! They shout. Back away! And their laughter turns to teasing and bantering and running about the yard.And I remember long ago when I was their age and a girl’s briefest touch could mean the world and the game was dancing away and pointing and laughing and stealing hats and chasing them about a playground to get them back, where in the simple motion of running and laughing and smiling with a pretty girl, the world was a rush, a surge of excitement in the smallest things.

And I sat there and I reflected on the past and drank the nostalgia like I’d mixed it in my water bottle and shaken until it was frothy and I shook my head and tried to–

And then the street lamps turn on as if to match the disappearing sun exactly. The kids fade back into their homes. The neighbor boy and his sister’s mother comes out and places her hands on her hips and scolds them for their noise and ruckus and they wander inside before wanding back outside, lingering before closing up shop for good. A lone bat flickers and stumbles about against the purpling sky and eventually, when night has fallen completely, I get the call and drive a few blocks and leave it behind for conversation, catching up, and a couch to crash on.

A thousand pardons, for I’ve been a lousy blogger.

I hope to adjust that in the coming weeks. Graduation is May 12. After that everything will change.

More to come on that later. But first,

So, the other night I’m at this party in Boulder for a friend of mine’s twenty-third birthday. Inside, he’s playing the drums behind his band in his basement and there is standing room only, backing up into the stairs. It’s the first time I’ve seen his band play and they’re into their second set now. Upstairs are college kids playing beer pong and digging at the ice in the sink for cans of PBR, and out back kids are smoking pot and talking about 420 from the day before and I wonder about the truth of stereotypes.

I don’t know anyone at this party aside from my friend, now wiping sweat from his brow, backlit by blacklights, before starting the next song. Another friend of mine texts me to see if I am still in town, of which I say yes and he says good, because he has something for me and can I text him the address.

I finish my beer (a can of Fat Tire, a beer that’s generally nice, but from a can tastes like, well, a beer from a can, and I take the last few swallows quickly because I’m tired of it already). I set the can on the porch and walk to my car, where I pull out a jacket and lean on the hood and wait for my friend to show up.

Outside it’s nearing eleven (inside, it could be any time. inside, time is not marked by clocks and phones but by tiredness and sensitivity to noise and level of drunkenness and for them it’s still early, for me it’s been creeping into the early morning hours for the last few years now).

Outside, there is a cat under a car across the street and I psst at it and am surprised when the cat trots toward me before hesitating after a few feet. I am not an animal person nor a cat person and I make no effort to sit and stroke the animal, but we watch each other for some time and I enjoy our connection, we two strangers in the night, and then the cat hustles off down the sidewalk before returning and doing the same on the other side, ignoring me but keeping me near.

I’d speak but don’t know what I’d say.

I think of David McKean’s book, Cages, which I’d started to read one quiet morning at my friend’s house after working on a film project the night before. The book was checked out from the library by his roommate and plays a subtle but moving role in the background of a number of shots, should anyone care to look. The book begins with a series of creationist stories and a connection between cats and gods and then, in the first chapter, we follow a cat as he visits lonely strangers in an apartment complex, first a man playing a pipe. With the cat follows the suggestion of godlike knowledge or visitation and I remember this as I watch the cat sit down on the sidewalk and disappear into shadow.

My friend drives past, finds a place to park, then jogs to the door of the house where inside the party burbles and I shout his name twice before he wanders toward me.

What are you doing out here? He asks and I tell him I’m waiting for him and he says, Oh.

Then he hands me Cages and thanks me for my help on a project he’s been working tirelessly upon

and I say, for me? You didn’t need to do this man, flipping the book back and forth in my hands first, trying to understand that this isn’t the same library copy that he’s taken it upon himself to loan me.

Sure I did. Thank you for you help, he says.

And I study the cover and flip through the first pages and see the black and blue sketches of the black cat and beside me the cat runs under the car and I say thanks.

Little Things

Watching Me

We watched you last night, they said.

I said, wait what?

My roommates said, on Ghost Hunters.

Last night I was writing until three in the morning at that place with paintings on the ceiling and where they serve coffee and stay open all night. At home, we don’t have cable, nor were there reruns of old GHI episodes on a Tuesday night. On YouTube then? My roommates? Who care as little about ghost hunting as my couch does? Going out of their way to watch me, their moody, socially uncomfortable friend who lives in the basement, on TV?

On Netflix, my roommates said.

On Netflix, I repeated. Old GHIs are on Netflix?

Indeed they said. And we watched.

So, it seems, can you. Like me. Every day, should I have only a mirror. And an England to wander about in.