It’s a rich and storied life that is immortalized in popular film. I would consider myself lucky to one day be essentially sainted by the paranormal community and played onscreen by the likes of Vera Farmiga.
In reality no one is actually a saint and Lorraine Warren and her husband Ed, who died in 2006, certainly had their detractors. But no one can deny that the Warrens were trailblazers in the field for good or ill, or both, as is usually the view history.
Lorraine Warren died April 18th at her home in Connecticut at the age of 92. In life, she claimed to be both a clairvoyant and a trance medium. She and her husband Ed, a self-described demonologist, founded the New England Society for Psychical Research (N.E.S.P.R.) in 1952.
N.E.S.P.R., in contrast to other societies of psychical research, took a religious approach rather than a scientific one to their alleged 10,000 paranormal investigations. The Warrens believed that the entities responsible for hauntings were not “vaporous, indistinct phantoms”, but forces that “exist for the sheer purpose of opposing the works of God”.
They further claimed, according to their website, to have been repeatedly called in by “religious authorities . . . to control some of the most profane outbreaks of diabolical phenomena in the country”. However, it is unlikely that they actually worked with the Catholic Church, as they often claimed, at least in an official capacity.
Lorraine Warren had recently retired from active investigations and personal appearances. She still consulted for N.E.S.P.R., although she passed the directorship to her son-in-law, Tony Spera.
As paranormal personalities the Warrens undeniably led the way in developing opportunities for psychical researchers on the lecture circuit and in the media. In 1952, in addition to founding N.E.S.P.R., they opened the Warren’s Occult Museum. They went full-time paranormal in 1968. By 1974, the Warrens were employing a booking agent to find them paying gigs and writing a regular column about their adventures for a weekly tabloid, The Tattler.
The Warren’s website advises “The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges upon which one we elect to follow.” Unfortunately, for most of us in the paranormal, the path to credibility is seldom clear. Hopefully, we in the field, will learn everything there is to learn from both the light and the dark views of the lives of Lorraine and Ed Warren. Perhaps familiarizing ourselves with both sides of the story will lead us to a more balanced perspective and help us to more carefully select only the attributes we wish to emulate in their example.
Although I have respected colleagues in paranormal investigation who immediately dismiss all poltergeists cases as fraud, to a student of history, this approach seems limited and unreasonable. So many poltergeist cases pop up throughout history and across cultures that such casual dismissals don’t make sense. These eerily similar accounts of blatantly nonsensical manifestations are reported by very different populations dating back to antiquity and differ greatly from the usual ghost story narrative. This strongly suggests something is actually happening that goes far beyond mere imagination.
The German word “poltergeist” means “noisy ghost” and refers to the chaotic, cacophonous, house-wrecking phenomena that have been reported for centuries all over the world. These include, but are not limited to mysterious raps and other loud noises, untraceable fires and water damage, and the reckless hurling around of anything not nailed down by unseen forces. The word was first coined to describe such manifestations in 1638. Later Martin Luther would popularize the term in his religious writings. In 1948, the OG ghost hunter Catherine Crowe introduced the term to English usage in her groundbreaking catalog of the strange, The Night-Side of Nature.
The first recorded poltergeist case was in the 4th Century, according to Christopher Laursen, who wrote his PhD dissertation on the history of poltergeist phenomena at the University of British Columbia. Other sources attest such accounts date back to Ancient Greece.
The prevailing hypothesis maintains these violent outbursts may not be due to ghosts or any external forces at all, but to the power of the mind alone. Today poltergeists are mainly viewed as uncontrolled tantrums of telekinesis perpetrated most commonly by adolescent females. The modern study of the unexplained, parapsychology, has largely reclassified poltergeist activity as a human-centric phenomenon with the new label Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis (RSPK). However, fashionable this current explanation, such activity has not always been blamed on the unconscious psychic machinations of disturbed teenage girls, but to many other monsters including ghosts, demons, fairies, and vampires.
My favorite podcast discussion about poltergeists was with Fortean author Geoff Holder. He spoke with us about his masterpiece of research, Poltergeist Over Scotland for which he examined 134 poltergeist cases documented in the historical record. Many different cultural contexts have been imposed upon poltergeist manifestations over the ages. However, in his opinion, no one explanation applies to all cases, even our modern interpretation. He has found that only 1/4 to 1/3 of poltergeists center on an adolescent human agent. To Holder, poltergeist activity usually has no obvious purpose and may just be the work of feckless entities, essentially the “numpties” of the supernatural.
Whereas most hauntings function as memento mori or cold comfort for mortality, poltergeist activity, on the other hand is often so chaotic it’s more likely to remind us that humans are not the center of the universe. Holder asserts that it may represent a non-human intelligence which is almost entirely indifferent to us.
Although Holder admits hoaxes and pranks do account for some poltergeist cases, as they do for any reported phenomena, he maintains that they cannot explain away the literally thousands of poltergeist cases reported by multitudes of reliable witnesses and the consistency of their accounts over centuries. In his study of 134 cases, he found that only 4.5% involved hoaxing. The analyses of other researchers indicate these numbers are between 3% and 15%.
Holder also hopes that the physical nature of poltergeist cases will open up the possibility for the scientific study of this phenomena. He cites one 2010 study of the unique audio signature of poltergeist raps as a step in the right direction. Conceivably studies such as these could some day lead to the scientific breakthrough for which every psychical researcher has been waiting.
For more fascinating poltergeist cases, listen to the following:
Although some claim the thoroughly modern French don’t believe in God or ghosts, let’s be real and face the truth. Everybody believes in something at least bordering on supernatural, even if they don’t readily admit it. The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, brutally ravaged by fire on April 15th, 2019, is a prime example. There’s something in the folklore of Notre Dame Cathedral for everyone — ghosts, curses, holy relics, and miracles.
Dozens and dozens of people have killed themselves at Notre Dame Cathedral, and many others have tried. There seem to be two off-ing options repeated over and over — the classic leap off one of the towers or the showy spectacle of off-loading a pistol into your head at the altar in the middle of mass. Although it’s no match for the Eiffel Tower, where literally hundreds of people have committed suicide, Notre Dame has its fair share of harrowing stories. Although the gun to the face before a packed house might seem like the most dramatic choice, the leapers of Notre Dame, especially those of the female variety, take the prize for sheer horror and eerie echoes of detail.
The death of Marie Felix in 1882 is probably the most famous because it is the goriest. The specifics are so graphic that in the week following Marie’s death, 25,000 Parisians visited the morgueper day just for the chance to view her mangled corpse. Although her name is forgotten by most, her suicide is the reason most cited to explain any paranormal activity in the cathedral.
Marie is described in the newspapers as a beautiful, young woman with extraordinarily long hair arranged into two thick braids which she wore rolled around her head. She was first noticed by the cathedral’s security staff one October morning as she impatiently paced about the cathedral for about two hours. Some say she was denied access to the towers without a chaperone, so she was most likely desperately seeking someone to accompany her. As it happened, she would finally meet an elderly lady that morning, whom she kindly invited to lunch. After Marie provided the unnamed lady with a nice lunch at a local restaurant, they returned to the cathedral at 2 p.m., ostensibly to gaze upon Paris from the vantage point of the towers. However, an unexpectedly heavy downpour forced them to take shelter in the watchman’s sentry-box. Then suddenly, for no apparent reason, Marie made a mad dash, and before anyone could stop her, she climbed the parapet, flinging herself forward.
Marie immediately fell upon the spikes atop one of the railings, which sliced her body in half at the waist. The lower half flew backward onto the flags of the porch while the upper half remained impaled. Her body was broken “completely into pieces by the shock upon the stones of the Place du Paris”, according to another article. Marie was later identified as the daughter of a local tradesman. Her family attested that Marie had often threatened suicide and that her actions were not due to any recent disappointments. The coroner’s post-mortem findings included lesions on the brain which were thought at the time to confirm that Marie suffered from “suicidal monomania” just as her relatives had claimed.
A similar incident in May of 1890, claimed the life of a lovelorn 21 year-old. The unidentified woman also leapt from the towers and, according to the account, was “dashed to pieces in the street below”. More recently another pair of suicides claimed additional victims.
In October of 1964, 21 year-old American tourist Veronica Mcconnell had just arrived at Notre Dame, her first sight-seeing spot of the day, when another woman climbed over the balustrade of the North Tower. Only moments later she took the plunge, falling directly onto Veronica, killing them both. An almost identical scenario would transpire in August of 1983. Veronique Stalla-Bourdillon, 24, plummeted to the pavement killing herself and flattening Johanne Pelletier, 29, of Montreal, who had been standing at the doors to the cathedral unaware of her impending doom. Perhaps this morbid history explains the most reported ghost experience at Notre Dame — encounters with female apparitions seen pacing among the towers, flitting between the gargoyles.
During the construction of Notre-Dame, a young artisan called Biscornet was tasked with the creation of elaborate ironwork to decorate the cathedral’s doors. Biscornet soon realized his ambition has gotten the better of him, so he casually called on the Devil for help, as you do. While Biscornet took a nap, a masterpiece of intricate ironwork magically materialized. Once completed, the Devil snatched Biscornet’s soul of course. Yet the doors could not be opened by normal means until they were christened with holy water.
Holy Relics and Miracles
Although many seem ready to deride relics and the miracles with which they are credited, dismissing such notions as magical thinking, there are many more who believe. Can holy objects bestow healing and grace upon the faithful? In the Catholic Church, there is a strong conviction that anything which has come into contact with Christ or the Saints is imbued with extraordinary powers. During WWI, Germans bombed Paris on October 12, 1914. As bombs fell on and around the Notre Dame Cathedral for some reason they did not explode and the cathedral was undamaged. Many might consider this a miracle.
Notre Dame was home to many relics from the Crucifixion including a piece of the True Cross, a crucifixion nail, and, most notably, the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus. A particular miracle attributed to the Crown of Thorns is called “The Miracle of the Thorn”. Once every 70 years, when Good Friday coincides with the Feast of the Annunciation, the Crown of Thorns is said to once again drip with the blood of Christ. This fragile relic is encased in a crystal ring, held together by clasps of gilded bronze. Jean-Marc Fournier, Chaplain of the Paris Fire Department, assisted by a human chain of volunteers, entered the burning cathedral to rescue the Crown of Thorns from the April 15th fire. The relic is currently being housed at the Louvre for safe keeping.
In addition to the ghost stories and legends explored here, in this podcast episode, we uncover:
the real-life inspiration for the fictional Quasimodo
So many people shared our despair about the destruction of such a famous landmark, we decided to share a Sunspot oldie from our first demo tape, that eventually made on our album. Here’s a track about acceptance, when you just can’t fight anymore; it’s one of our saddest songs, “Defeated”.
Never look directly into the, heart of the sun, Never leave your battlefield, before your fight’s been won, and let the ghosts that haunt me, come visit me tonight, I want to join their midnight dance, I want to surrender under the moonlight.
When will the war inside your heart ever end? Why must you fight it all alone? Can you fill your empty soul on your own?
I lay defeated, torn and broken at your feet, Can I make you happy now? I lay defeated, you have brought me to my knees. I cannot fight you anymore.
And I’ll try to hide the bitterness, that my heart holds, I’ll try to regain the innocence, that you bought and sold, And I’ll try to pick my broken pieces up off the ground, Will you care? No, you won’t care, when they fall back down.
When will the war inside your heart ever end? Why must you fight it alone? I see the blood that’s on my hands is my own.
I cannot fight you. I will not fight you. So why can’t I just walk away?
Does he do the things I never did? Does he make you feel wanted? Tell him to make you happy the way I never could. Even though you’re standing next to me, you’re a million miles away.
Your indifference has defeated me, adding insult to injury. Now that you have beaten me, now that you have victory, now that we are history, will you ever be happy?
Why Hawaii? Besides the glorious spectacle of sun, sea, and sand, Hawaii may just be one of the most crucial destinations in the world for the advancement of paranormal knowledge. The Hawaiian Islands are among the most remote places on the planet geographically. They are not only remote in terms of mileage, but also genetic novelty. For a relatively small archipelago, Hawaii has the highest percentage of species that exist nowhere else on Earth. Given such unique status, you’d expect far more differences than similarities. However, when it comes to the expression of cryptozoological and paranormal phenomena, I’ve found just the opposite.
Although Hawaii is the only state where Bigfoot has not been reported, many other familiar wonders reprise their proverbial roles albeit with a whole, new cultural context. Such startling cross-cultural connections may be the key to uncovering the truth behind these extraordinary experiences. I examine just a few of these intriguing connections below. Investigating recurrent similarities across time and space may reveal that there is some reality to even the most curious of encounters.
Dogmen & Kupua
The Bray Road Beast has been spotted for decades in Wisconsin. Dogmen or werewolves have been reported all over the U.S., especially in the Midwest. Accounts of bipedal wolfmen crouching by the roadside eating roadkill is nothing new here as depicted in this illustration sketched from the recollections of the witness by artist, author, and the OG monster researcher, Linda Godfrey. I was shocked when I heard of an identical sighting along a deserted road on Oahu. In Hawaii such shape-shifting spirits are known as kupua, which can come in many plant, animal, and mineral forms including the form of a dogman. The cultural context in this case is the story of a demigod named Kaupe. But that aside, the witness reports from across thousands of miles of ocean, on the other side of the planet, are remarkably similar to those in Wisconsin and many other Midwestern states of the Mainland — a bipedal creature seemingly half human and half canine.
River Deaths & ‘Uhane Kahea
Another parallel that leapt out and grabbed me on my first trip to Oahu in 2015, involved a far scarier specter called ‘Uhane Kahea or the Calling Spirit. This is no ordinary ghost, but a murderous creature whose sole purpose seems to be luring eligible, young men to their deaths. The phantom appears as a ravishing, wanton young woman who calls the name of the unsuspecting man, drawing him closer with an alluring smile. She leads him on literally and figuratively and he follows blindly, failing to notice a cliff’s edge, surging water, or another equally deadly hidden pitfall. When I heard the story of one such fatal mishap from Lopaka Kapanui, I saw it as one possible answer to a perplexing question. What could drive almost 300 young men on the Mainland to drown mysteriously in rivers and other bodies of water miles away from their last known locations? These cases have collectively become known as the work of a shadowy cabal of Smiley Face Killers. But alternative explanations for mysterious drownings abound throughout the histories of different cultures. The Scottish had the deadly water horse known as the Kelpie. The Japanese have the anally obsessed, but fart-repelled Kappa. The Slavic have the soul-stealing Water Man. Closest to home, the Ojibwe tell tales of the pernicious “Water Panther” also known as Mishipeshu, whose villainy can only be curtailed by the protection of the Thunderbird. Yet are any of these water spooks better suited to ensnare a young man than the irresistible Calling Spirit?
Fairies & Menehune
An ancient race of people who built sacred structures and who may still live among us playing mischievous tricks and cursing road construction projects on the sacred land they guard so fiercely. Wait. Where are we Ireland . . . Iceland? Nope. I’m still talking about Hawaii. However, all of these far-flung cultures seem to harbor the same beliefs just as many native people of the Mainland do. These little people are guardians of nature and must be respected. Some may even be our ancestors. Other fae traditions also appear in a new guise. The Wild Hunt of Germanic and Scandinavian lore, for example, features a threatening procession of fairies or the dead that are an eerie echo of the ancestral Hawaiian warriors called the Nightmarchers. Those unlucky enough to cross the path of either are as good as dead.
Perhaps these strange similarities between Hawaiian tales and Mainland lore are just due to coincidence or the cultural contamination resulting from colonization. The only way to know is to investigate. It’s worth studying if there’s even a small chance that such close connections between cultures separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles point to consistent attributes of authentic phenomena.
For a closer look and a chance to conduct your own investigation, join us in this curious paranormal paradise for Hawaii ParaCon. The next conference is July 19-21, 2019.
It’s not just a staple of low budget horror movies—the Evil Eye is very real. Sort of.
In the 1800s, Italian immigrants brought their hopes, dreams, and superstitions with them to the New World. Among these was the belief in an Evil Eye, the “mal’occhio” (MAL-OAK-EE-OH). According to Italian folklore, stragas(witches) could use this power at will. But even a normal person gripped by jealousy was believed to be capable of cursing you.
And, where there’s a curse, the Evil Eye also had a cure. Victims of this ocular curse were diagnosed using a basin filled with holy water and a bottle of olive oil. The basin was placed before the afflicted while an incantation was recited. The olive oil was then poured into the water in the form of a cross. If the cross of oil remained, you were fine, but if the oil dispersed, you were cursed!
Of course, if you didn’t want to perform this ceremony yourself, you could always consult an evil-eye doctor. The evil-eye doctors were believed to have cured countless victims through prayer and the laying on of hands, but the exact ritual they used to cure their patients is still unknown. It was only passed down through families once a year, at Midnight on Christmas Eve. At any other time, the ritual would lose its power to cure. Today, the evil eye doctors’ cure is still a secret.
If you’re wondering, the concept of the evil eye was not confined to Italy. In other parts of the world, belief in the evil eye is still strong, and people wear talismans to protect themselves, such as necklaces and bracelets.
While an evil eye curse isn’t a common thing these days, the effects of the belief in mal’occhio can be seen in modern popular culture. It’s likely you’ve seen the hand sign that people use to protect themselves from the evil eye, but probably thought it represented something else like partying or Rock n’ Roll. The late Ronny James Dio a heavy metal musician who once played with Black Sabbath, claims to have popularized the use of this symbol during rock concerts. After Ozzy Ozbourne left Black Sabbath, the rest of the band felt very competitive with him and his solo career. They noticed that Ozzy would often use the double peace sign, more commonly associated with Richard Nixon, during his shows. During their Heaven and Hell tour in 1980, they thought, “We need a hand sign that represents us!” That’s when Dio says he suggested the hand sign taught to him by his Italian grandmother.
Dio believed it was thought to work when the two outstretched fingers served as lightning rods to suck up the negative effect of mal’occhio. However, it is more probable that like the little golden horn so often worn by Italian men, the horn-like hand placement represents the male symbol of the bull. One mal’occhio researcher believes that the fear of the evil eye has its origins all the way back in ancient Mesopotamia. He believes it stems from a change in the way people worshipped the goddess. Originally goddess idols were very rotund, grossly emphasizing the torso. Then suddenly goddess idols drastically changed. They became thin with grossly exaggerated eyes. He believes that mal’occhio represents the all-seeing eyes of this goddess. In that case, using the male symbol of the bull to protect yourself makes more sense. Perhaps the male energy is meant to deflect the female power of mal’occhio.
If you’re not a fan of Rock and Roll, or you don’t ever find yourself at odds with an Italian, you aren’t in the clear. If you have ever been to an optometrist for an eye exam, you have crossed paths with the evil eye. In fact, according to optometrists, we all have an evil eye. More specifically, it’s our left eye, which, in eyeglasses prescriptions, is noted as “OS” (the right eye is noted as “OD”). OS is an abbreviation of the Latin term Oculus Sinister, or “evil eye” (OD is short for oculus dexter, the right eye).
Sinister is literally the Latin term for “left”, but owing to Old World superstitions, left-handed people were considered evil—and thus the term sinister came to mean something bad, or evil.
Remember that the next time you go to pick out a new set of frames.