Tag Archives: psychology

281 – It’s All In Your Mind: The Paranormal Imagination of John E.L. Tenney

“What you think is weird is weirder than you think” – that’s the slogan that’s on the website of John E.L. Tenney and his weird lectures. That’s a fun turn of phrase but it took me a little bit to figure out what it means. We understand the idea of ghosts, we understand the idea of UFOs, we understand the concept of Bigfoot. Ghosts are the spirits of our consciousness surviving death after the physical body has died. UFOs are populated by beings that evolved on planets in some far off solar system and developed ships that can traverse the universe and they’re coming to visit. Just like us visiting the moon. Bigfoot is a kind of ape that we just haven’t been able to capture and put into a zoo yet. Even if we don’t believe in them, we grok the concepts.

But those explanations are fairly unsatisfactory because they don’t make a ton of sense. If aliens are just travelers from another planet, why are they so secretive? If our consciousness can survive bodily death, why do only some people show up sometimes? Where the #$%! are Bigfoot’s bones?! The way these things operate just doesn’t make sense with the rest of the way our universe works. So what we already think is weird (ghosts, UFOs, Bigfoot) has to be weirder than we think (we don’t know how to wrap our heads around it!)

John explains his Near Death Experience

That’s why John Tenney is fascinating to listen to. Number one, it never sounds like he’s trying to get one over on you (he’s not selling salvation or life after death) and number two, he’s willing to entertain all kinds of ideas that you don’t usually hear from paranormal investigators because they don’t fit the established model.

While John has been researching the paranormal for over 30 years (his cut his teeth in the weird world by apprenticing to a Kennedy Assassination Conspiracy Theorist and then by becoming a researcher for Unsolved Mysteries), his interest was peaked as a young man by being pronounced dead in 1988 and then coming back. His heart stopped for two minutes and he was given a choice to either come back to earth or stay where he was. The next thing he remembered was waking up in the hospital.

From left in the back – Robyn Davis and Ted Williams from Galena Haunted Tour Company, Lisa Van Buskirk from Madison Ghost Walks. From left in the front – Mike Huberty, Allison Jornlin, and Wendy Lynn Staats from See You On The Other Side.

He had a show, Ghost Stalkers, on Destination America and you might have heard him on our podcast before right when the New York Times decided to get into the UFO business. But John really shines in person, when you just put a quarter in him and let him go. The very first time we met him, he was in a casino bar regaling us about witnessing an exorcism and had even met the notorious Father Malachi Martin and we were spellbound. We’ve seen his lectures before at the Michigan Paracon (he lives near Detroit) and when we found out he was coming to Wisconsin, we weren’t going to miss it!

John onstage at the Palace Theater in the Wisconsin Dells

In this episode, we take some time to talk to John before the show and then we take some of the concepts that he discussed in his lecture and try to unravel them a little bit for ourselves, including topics like:

And of course, John’s idea of ghosts as timeslips instead of disembodied consciousness leads “perfectly” into this week’s song. There are some moments where it doesn’t matter what’s going on in the rest of the world, there are some minutes that you wish could be frozen in time and you could slip back to, those moments are “Perfect”.

With flood insurance and bodyguards, 
Humpty Dumpty bought a house of cards. 
I put a heart on layaway, 
but now I think tomorrow may be too late. 
And I say late, and I say late, and I say late, and I say… 

It doesn’t matter if everything’s ugly, 
It doesn’t matter if it’s all unsafe. 
The baby’s out with the bathwater, 
The Rubicon was crossed today. 
It doesn’t matter if we ever notice, 
That the stars have all burnt out. 
It doesn’t matter if things are perfect, 
as long as everything’s perfect right now. 

Some things are done before they start, 
Everything will always fall apart. 
The past is never that far away, 
but do you think that’s where I’m going to stay? 
And I say no, and I say no, and I say no, and I say I don’t think so. 

It doesn’t matter if everything’s ugly, 
It doesn’t matter if it’s all unsafe. 
The baby’s out with the bathwater, 
The Rubicon was crossed today. 
It doesn’t matter if we ever notice, 
That the stars have all burnt out. 
It doesn’t matter if things are perfect, 
as long as everything’s perfect right… 

Now, now now, 
I don’t wanna postpone my, 
Vow, vow vow, 
that this time I will own, 
How how how, 
I don’t care and I don’t know. Don’t know. 
Now, now now, 
I don’t wanna postpone my, 
Vow, vow vow, 
that this time I will own, 
How how how, 
I don’t care and I don’t know. Don’t know. 

Be kind, take your time. 
Be kind, take your time. 

With flood insurance and bodyguards, 
Humpty Dumpty bought a house of cards. 
The past is never that far away, 
but do you think that’s where I’m going to stay? 
And I say no, and I say no, and I say no, and I say I don’t think so. 

It doesn’t matter if everything’s ugly, 
It doesn’t matter if it’s all unsafe. 
The baby’s out with the bathwater, 
The Rubicon was crossed today. 
It doesn’t matter if we ever notice, 
That the stars have all burnt out. 
It doesn’t matter if things are perfect, 
as long as everything’s perfect right… 

Now, now now, 
I don’t wanna postpone my, 
Vow, vow vow, 
that this time I will own, 
How how how, 
I don’t care and I don’t know. Don’t know. 
Now, now now, 
I don’t wanna postpone my, 
Vow, vow vow, 
that this time I will own, 
How how how, 
I don’t care and I don’t know. Don’t know. 

Be kind, take your time.

This Week’s Best Paranormal News – January 25th, 2019


Whew! January is unbelievably almost over. Sometimes it seems like the most paranormal thing is how fast time flies out here. We just released a new podcast about last week’s most interesting paranormal stories (including the Smiley Face Killers, Oumuamua, Glenn Miller’s disappearance solved, and the conspiracy behind Martin Luther King’s assassination) and here we are with more weirdness from this week!

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/01/oumuamua-interstellar-harvard-astrophysicist/580948

When a Harvard Professor Talks About Aliens

Abraham “Avi” Loeb has been the subject of a number of high-profile stories lately and last week he was just in The New Yorker. This week he’s in The Atlantic. It’s time to learn why this Harvard Professor becoming the new face of UFOlogy and this time it’s less about Little Green Men and more about radio telescopes…

https://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/military/ufos-warp-drives-stargates-freedom-of-information-query-reveals-secret-list-of-pentagon-research-projects/news-story/0c1fcffd8aa60239744648eb5c56dded#.h1y0j

Secret Pentagon projects exposed

The United States Defense Intelligence Agency has one great fear: that someone, somewhere, has an unknown advantage … a secret weapon that could topple the world’s sole superpower from its perch. So when it hears talk of UFOs, stargates and warp drives — it takes it seriously. We’ve interviewed members of the DIA before, and they’ve seen some WEIRD stuff!

https://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/witchcraft-demons-child-abuse-religion-15709791

Witchcraft and demonic possession link to Cov child abuse

Government statistics have shown that social services identified 34 potential abuse cases in Coventry linked to faith or belief in 2018. Parents that think their child is a witch or bad luck or possessed by demons. What the Hell is going on in Coventry?

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/long-fuse-big-bang/201901/the-paranormal-can-new-science-explain-old-phenomena

The Paranormal: Can New Science Explain Old Phenomena?

The new field of Epigenetics transforms the impossible into the possible. It’s always nice to see a Fortean story in a respected publication!

https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/9k4exv/china-starts-hunt-for-aliens-in-2019

China to Seriously Start Hunting for Aliens in 2019

Astronomers think extraterrestrials could be trying to communicate with us so Chinese scientists built a huge telescope to find out. But with a government as tight-lipped as the Chinese are they going to be any more free with the alien goods than the U.S.?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jo3F29JSfs

Pixies – Motorway to Roswell

In the mood for some classic Alternative Rock that talks about aliens? We thought you were, here’s the Pixies with one of their most fun tracks. 

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See you on the other side of the weekend!

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222 – Mental Health and the Supernatural: From Schizophrenia to Indigo Children

The shadow of mental illness hangs over supernatural experience. If someone at your office job told you that they really believe that they’d been abducted by aliens, would you look at them the same? I mean, you’re reading the show notes for a paranormal podcast, so maybe you would like them even more. But there is a stigma associated with mental illness in our society and a stigma associated with believing in the supernatural. When you combine them, it’s becomes doubly dubious. 

And I admit, that I’m pretty skeptical. Like most Americans (52%), I believe   in the possibility of ghosts and like 57% of my countrymen and women, I’m also down with psychic powers but if you told me that you had a real deal supernatural encounter, like talking to a demon or you hear spirits in your head, I’m a doubting Thomas.

We have to be somewhat skeptical because while mental health treatment is still a very inexact science and we’re obviously overmedicating many of our most vulnerable patients, when you read stories of schools being closed because of evil spirits or hundreds of child abuse cases a year being attributed to demonic possession, the whole thing feels medieval. Like treating these problems as a spiritual instead of mental health matter might be causing more harm than good.

But are there any actual cases where there might be some kind of supernatural phenomena beyond the mental health issue? 

And that’s the trouble with stigmas, they make things so touchy that people are afraid to tell the truth. No one wants to be associated with mental illness because they don’t want to sound “crazy”, even though almost every single person will fight some kind of psychological disorder at some point in their life. Most people want to steer clear of the supernatural, even though 80% of Americans profess to believe in some kind of God. People need to be able to discuss their experience without everyone judging them. 

Sometimes art can help remove stigmas and sometimes they can make them worse. Sybil famously brought the world of dissociative personality disorder (multiple personality) to the public but Psycho was inspired by the real-life story of Ed Gein, a murderer diagnosed with schizophrenia. Getting our opinions on mental health from movies is dangerous because it paints an unrealistic and sometimes unsympathetic picture of illness. C’mon, in exorcism films, are the possessed ever really just sick? No, then there wouldn’t be a movie, at least not the kind that sells tickets to horror fans. 

In this episode, we discuss the relationships between mental illness and the paranormal. Here’s some of the topics we cover:

Our band Sunspot wrote the song for this week in the late 90s, when Prozac was at its prescriptive height and it seemed that more and more children were being given the drug. My psych professors at the University of Wisconsin would tell me about the lunches that the pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly would put on for psychiatric clinics, they were lobbyists for their drugs. They would actively try to get doctors to prescribe them.

I remember when one of my teenage friends told me she was on Prozac and it shocked me, not that I thought she was crazy, but that she was so young and already on medication. I was shocked that kids weren’t being allowed to “pass through a phase”, they were getting pills right away. Maybe I was reacting to the stigma of mental illness I felt with people in my own family who were on medication, but it felt like maybe we should give kids a chance to be moody. Maybe we shouldn’t be interfering with brain chemistry that’s still so plastic, still developing, still trying to find its way.

And now it’s more than ever, 80 million Americans take a psychiatric drug and over 7 million them are under 18. Maybe we wrote this song too early? 

Is she a victim of her own physiology
Or just a victim of some bad psychology
All I do know is she’s fifteen and she’s on Prozac

She sits in her room and cries all night
Never had a real boyfriend in her life
Her mommy wonders why she doesn’t have any friends
Daddy only sees her when he has her on the weekends

Is she a victim of her own physiology
Or just a victim of some bad psychology
All I do know is she’s fifteen and she’s on Prozac

And the doctor said, “you better take your meds
To fix what’s wrong inside your mind.”
Just a Prozac Girl in a Prozac world
Shift the blame and everything will be just fine

Her grandma thinks that it might be bad luck
I think we used to call it “just growing up”
When you feel that your life is just pathetic
You slap it in a textbook, and blame it on genetics

Is she a victim of her own physiology
Or just a victim of some bad psychology
All I do know is she’s fifteen and she’s on Prozac

And the doctor said, “you better take your meds
To fix what’s wrong inside your mind.”
Just a Prozac Girl in a Prozac world
Shift the blame and everything will be just fine

She doesn’t cry anymore
She doesn’t laugh anymore
She doesn’t know how she should feel anymore
A chemical imbalance
That’s covered by insurance
It’s hard to be a little girl
When you’re numb to the world

Is she a victim of her own physiology
Or just a victim of some bad psychology
All I do know is she’s fifteen and she’s on Prozac

And the doctor said, “you better take your meds
To fix what’s wrong inside your mind.”
Just a Prozac Girl in a Prozac world
Shift the blame and everything will be just fine