Of Lucid Dreams and Astral Projections.

Around April of 1995, I began having experiences that I initially could not stretch my mind to fathom — quite an accomplishment for that period, too, as my life had become replete with other flavors of weirdness. Though I had achieved these experiences through effort and experiment, my intention had been to induce an out-of-body experience (OOBE or OBE) in which I could exit my corporeal form by means of the coexisting subtle body, a nonphysical vehicle through which it was said I could explore the physical universe without ever leaving the comfort of the bedroom. I listened to a tape that claimed to teach me this ability, with one side blatantly offering instructions on how to do so while the other offered those same instructions, only subliminally, over the liminal sound of waves crashing upon a beach.

The result was not what I expected. Rather than waking up outside of my body, I awoke in a seemingly endless series of alternate versions of my bedroom: nested false awakenings, I later learned them to be called. And when I ceased listening to the tape I began having what at least experientially constituted OBEs, only I found myself not disembodied in the familiar, physical landscape but alternate versions of familiar physical environments. It seemed to be a different reality entirely, and I later discovered it fit the descriptions many attributed to what they called the astral plane, which essentially fits the description of what others refer to as a parallel universe.

As I came to understand it shortly after these experiences began, the astral plane was the name some people gave to a supposed parallel universe that both echoes and extends beyond the physical universe with which we are familiar. It contains alternate versions or different renditions of familiar, physical environments as well as realms that are unique to that reality. In this place intention was the vehicle; while you could navigate in the environment much as you do in the corporeal form, you could also focus on an aspect of the environment, or even focus on a distant environment, and you would immediately be catapulted there. The objects on this plane were also described as being self-luminous, requiring no external light source. All of this seemed to describe my experiences, most of all those initial experiences, damn near perfectly.

Later I came to suspect that they might instead be what are known as lucid dreams (and more rarely, waking dreams), which are dreams in which the dreamer becomes awake within the dream environment, though there are at least three reasons why lucid dreams did not seem to be a suitable explanation.

First is the fact that during my “astral projections” experiential time often seemed compressed. In his lectures, Stephen LaBerge speaks of the well-known sleep studies, where the rapid eye movements (REM) of subjects were monitored in their sleep. He cites a case in which one subject was recorded to have very regular left-right eye movements in their sleep, and upon being awakened and asked what they had been dreaming about, they reported that they had been watching a ping-pong ball go back and forth across a table. Evidently, at least in some cases, the REM of a sleeping subject was not random but rather followed the movements being made by the subject within the dream. From this LaBerge got the ingenious idea to have subjects consciously commit a series of agreed-upon eye movements when they successfully entered into a lucid dream state during these studies. As a result of this, lucid dreaming was suddenly scientifically respectable; they could also determine at what stage of sleep lucid dreaming occurs. What this also suggests to me is that dream-time, at least when one is lucid, is perfectly aligned with real-time, which puts the lucid dreaming experience at odds with my “astral projections.” An experience in the other realm can last a seeming hour and I awaken to find perhaps fifteen minutes had passed — which shouldn’t even be long enough for me to fall asleep, let alone achieve my first REM cycle.

Second is the fact that in nearly all the cases I’ve read about the issue with lucid dreaming is staying within the dream, whereas my issue has always been waking myself up and out of it. This was particularly true during my initial experiences, though the issue may have continued unabated and the only difference now is that I have come to enjoy the experience and don’t seek to exit as soon as I can. In those initial experiences, however, I was frantically trying to wake up, but the best I could do was exit the otherworldly landscape and enter my paralyzed, corporeal body or a dark, endless void before falling back into another strange environment.

Both of these qualities don’t necessarily disqualify lucid dreaming as an explanation, though it seems as though other factors may be present. It could mean, for instance, that these experiences of mine may be generated by some dissociative disorder or seizure that left my mind awake as it thrust my body into a state of sleep paralysis and total sensory deprivation, inspiring my mind to compensate for the sensory lack with spontaneous, unconsciously-generated material of its own. Maybe the rapidity of my mental processes during these episodes (which might make more sense if it was indeed a seizure of some sort) squeezes a large amount of dream-time experience into a comparatively small amount of real-time. My inability to wake up from this sort of special-case lucid dream could be due to the fact that the seizure or dissociative episode had yet to run its course.

A third though entirely subjective and so less convincing reason I felt resistant to the notion that these experiences may merely be lucid dreams were their astounding sense of hyperreality. Though I ultimately came to explain the experience as constituting a “different kind of real,” I originally and perhaps more honestly described it as hyperreal, as more real than the reality I experienced in my mundane, waking existence. Not only was the environment far more vivid than waking experience, but I felt far more awake, alive or aware in these circumstances than I did during so-called waking life. It continues to be difficult to articulate the distinction, but it remains nonetheless. This other world clearly operated in accordance with a distinct set of laws that distinguished it from mundane existence, but the quality of perception and awareness were heightened. This became a dilemma for me. Was I to judge the mundane world as real and the other world as fantasy or dream simply due to the difference in their guiding laws despite the fact that things seemed more real and I felt more aware in the other world? This perspective seemed flawed, which is perhaps why I came to settle on that other world as being merely a different kind of reality than the mundane one.

A former objection of mine that arose when considering whether these were lucid dreams used to be that I was unable to control the environment, merely my position within the dream (much as in waking life). During my first or second experience, during a break period in my fighting and fleeing from the entity that would go on to plague me during these episodes for years, I wondered if I was in a lucid dream and attempted to test the idea by willing something into manifestation. Though with considerable effort I was capable of manifesting a mute, translucent, animated image of a barking dog, it only held as long as my concentration could and I was never able of even getting that far ever again. I have since learned that there are various levels of lucidity and one is not always granted absolute power once one awakens; despite this, I find it suspicious that despite my painful awareness during those initial experiences and my deliberate attempt, this was as far as I was able to get.

Another former objection was that while I am wide awake during these experiences, at least for a time, I wasn’t necessarily certain that I was dreaming, just that I wasn’t awake in the mundane reality, and the act of being awake within a dream while knowing that you are dreaming is, well, the working definition of lucid dreaming. I have since accepted that this just might be a semantic argument, however.

I suppose the real question becomes how one could ever hope to distinguish whether an experience is taking place on the astral plane or in a lucid dream. The only difference in definition seems to be that the astral plane is considered a parallel universe, an objective reality much like our physical world, which is to say a neighboring space composed of a different set of dimensions, and the lucid dream is merely a mind-generated environment. One could add that an additional distinguishing feature is that the astral plane is a single universe accessible to all of us in just the same way the physical universe is, and so it should be possible for two people to independently travel there, share experiences, come back to their physical bodies, document their experiences and then confirm them to one another, thereby providing evidence that such a plane actually exists. This ignores stories where people claim to share the same dream, presumably telepathically, and sometimes in tandem with one or both of them being lucid within the mutual dream in question.

One might also add the argument that the astral plane depends upon dualism in the philosophy of the mind, on the notion that our physical bodies are but one of perhaps numerous transient vessels for our consciousness, and that the living and deceased can mingle on this plane, but this would be ignoring cases of visitation dreams, when the living has a dream of the deceased which provides information that seems to validate it was actually a mutual dream between the living and dead. It would also require ignoring what Dr. Ian Stevenson, in his research into reincarnation, called departure dreams, where the recently deceased visit the living to inform them where they will be incarnating next, and arrival dreams, where the deceased visit the living members of the family into which they will be subsequently incarnating. If the living can share dreams with one another and death is truly not the end of consciousness but merely a period of transition, it is not a leap to assume that the dead and disembodied can dream, and even share dreams as well.

It seems frustratingly unsatisfactory to conclude that there are no potential means of distinguishing between astral projections and lucid dreams, that it is all a matter of interpretation, but this seems to be the case — at least to my eyes, at least so far.

Advertisements

Jumpstart in the Twilight.

Is the soul
a battery or a parasite
for this meat machine,
a resident
or epiphenomenon
of the mangled
bulb of the brain?

Is consciousness,
this self-awareness,
just a mistake? Is it truly
the fatal mutation
of life,

plaguing at the very least
our own species — and if so,
a sickness destined
to weed us out?

Or could a hope
reside behind all this, a mask
(psychological and metaphorical;
literal, as well as corporeal)

and the true and original face
that hides behind,
the face that is there to identify,
confront and ask:

what the fuck is up
with this?
In the end,
what is the message?

Way to go,
leaving me in the dark.

Least you could do is wake
the fuck up and help
me, if only in the twilight,
and not be a total asshole.

Just pretend
my battery’s low,
sound the alarm
in your soul.

For the Masses.

What if there is no agamic
or hermaphroditic
creator,
nor a goddess or god,
yet there is 
the soul?

No collective consciousness,
just one true identity
for each of us, enveloped
in a mind

that may be fragmented,
merely split, at best whole?

Would you embrace the mask,
accept the limitations
you already take for granted,

or would you strive
to wake
the fuck up, do all
you could for yourself

and then invest
in what you’ve done
your best to determine

is the best
possible direction
for the masses?

Into the WILD.

While laying supine on my bed, I listened to the Astral Dreams app on my iPhone as I focused my attention on my breath. White noise layered with tones and what I presume to be subliminal suggestions rushed into my ears through my ear buds. My intent here was to deliberately achieve the state I often find myself in naturally during meditation, hypnosis, or just on the bridge of sleep: a state of sleep paralysis in which hypnagogic imagery begins manifesting in my mind. It turns out that this is the first part of what is known as the Wake-Induced Lucid Dreaming (WILD) technique; all I need to do is try and “step into” the imagery and I can enter into a lucid dream without any breach in the continuity of consciousness.

Once the paralysis began, I felt one of my fingers move involuntarily to touch another — though neither were my actual, physical fingers. I wish there was something less hokey to call it, but calling it an aura or subtle body in and around my physical form is the only language presently available to me. It’s like a full-body form of the phantom limb effect, I guess, though in this case I feel it despite having a body complete with all the typical limbs. And I always feel it — it’s just that states like this make me more sensitive to the sensations.

As the hypnagogic imagery began popping up before my minds eye in a rapid slideshow, I maintained a witnessing perspective, and once the imagery calmed down a bit I began slowly attempting to “step into” the imagery, at which point the images began to gain a sense of dimension. As before, as always, the images appeared as if I were gazing at them through an amber-brown tinted window. Entering into the images was much like entering the mouth of a cave as the closer I got the more the scene seemed to be above and around me until the mouth was finally at my back and I felt as if I was actually inside the image.

I maintained awareness as I entered into an image, a scene in which I was staring at the treetops and the sky, and the scene bursts with color and life. A convincingly real, ideal summer day. I got so excited that it ended as quickly as it began. It was like swiftly stepping out of the mouth of the cave backwards and back behind the amber-brown tinted window of the mind.

Damn it. I was so close.

A Plague of Imposters.

It was August 4th, 2011. They were stoned upon arrival and then proceeded to drink and smoke some more. Though I feel certain this did a lot to facilitate the threesome that then took place in my bedroom, we all enjoyed the experience enough that we proceeded to do it on another two occasions at the very least. It was this first occasion, the death of my threesome virginity, that had the most impact and tends to stick out in my memory, however.

At some point after we had all fooled around for a bit Jen, who was by that time truly stoned out of her gourd, left to go to the restroom. A short time later she came bursting back into the dark, smokey bedroom, face in her hands, and sat on my bed beside Sadie. Crying, speaking unintelligibly, she was evidently rather freaked out, which in turn got both Sadie and I rather freaked out. Though I couldn’t make it out what she was saying exactly, I thought she had said that she had seen something. We both urged her to elaborate, and she finally said that she needed a moment to figure out how to explain this.

A few moments later, in between deeply drawing off a cigarette, she explained that she’d had this recurring dream since childhood, and she had just had it again while she was on the bathroom. Though perhaps the case is different when you’re considerably stoned, people don’t often have dreams while they’re still awake, and so immediately this sounded more to me like a flashback.

Regardless, in what she calls her dream she was really young, perhaps two or three years old. She was on a trampoline with her brother in the yard of someone’s house. This was a house that was familiar to her in real life, from her childhood. Suddenly a man approaches them. He has a pale, expressionless face, dark hair and dark cloths, and the whole time he is just staring at them.

After that, she said, she remembers nothing. She wonders out loud if perhaps she was molested as a child.

Evidently Jen knew nothing about the Imposters, as I have since come to call the bulk of them. Others have called them, or certain groups of them, by various names. They are all joined by their generally peculiar behavior and, to varying degrees, their “passable” human appearance.

It is no news to me, working in the town I currently do, that some people are, relative to the average, simply strange in both appearance and behavior. One who knew me might argue I may even qualify. What interests me are the patterns that run through many of the reports, differing in ways that justify the independent titles attributed to them and yet similar enough in ways that suggest they are ultimately connected.

The Impostors preceded and seem to have provided inspiration for many characters we are now quite familiar with in popular culture. There are the Men in Black comics and movies, of course, and that one X-Files episode “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” featuring two MIBs played by Jessie Ventura and Alex Trebek. Less obvious, perhaps, are the Agents of The Matrix trilogy, the Observers from the television show Fringe as well as the Strangers from the movie Dark City.

In real life these Impostors engage in the same scenarios with their subjects over and over. There are cases of plumbers entering the basement of numerous houses only to vanish, the supposed government agents (“the silencers” or MIBs) that arrive at your doorstep after a UFO encounter, the phantom photographers, strange job interviewers or the children with black eyes that want inside your house or car for some reason. Sometimes their script is event-specific, however, and at what turn out to be moments of cultural significance, such as during the JFK Assassination or during the plague.

The Impostors often have strange eyes and peculiar voices. With respect to the eyes, this is typically in terms of shape, and for both the effects are often described as hypnotic. They often wear inappropriate attire, either long out of fashion or absurdly out of season, but have also been reported in more conventional and modern attire, such as khakis and jeans.

Regardless of their type they all play the same roles, ask the same questions. The specific roles they play and scripts they adhere to seem to fall into one of several kind of scenes and they all typically exhibit the same strange, seemingly scripted behavior, though the talent or capacity of the individual actors vary. Some are almost robotic in their behavior or tone of voice, others seem a bit more capable but seem to have poorly rehearsed, and still others behave in an over-the-top, dramatic and deliberately archetypal manner. They often express knowledge about the contacted subject that they should not and one would think could not know. Even so, they seem ignorant of the most conventional things in human society. Regardless of their type, individual talent and dress, however, if you force them to go too far off script, they panic. If they offer their names or occupations they are invariably false ones, and while the references they provide are on occasion real people upon contacting them those real people claim to have never heard of them.

Immediately Jen’s story made me think of two events in my own life. One I do not recall, though it was relayed to me by my parents; the other occurred when I was in my twenties.

My parent’s story involved picking my sister and I up from the two-week Bible camp the summer of 1986. My childhood friend, Jimmy, had gotten my sister and I to go with him and his brother. Though I have committed what I recall of my experience there to writing elsewhere, relevant here are the men my parents remember seeing in the chapel, men who unnerved them both. They wore black suits and were standing at every wall, faces pale and expressionless. They had explained those men just as Jen had explained that ominous stranger.

The other event took place on the anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, in November of 1998. Sandra had brought me to the JFK Lecture at Kent State, where a writer from the Free Times, who had for years studied the assassination, was prepared to speak. As we walked in, an oriental-looking fellow with a scowl about his face walked passed everyone quite angrily, holding his hands up to the cameras to block them as he went passed. His eyes seemed fixated on something ahead of him, or perhaps something in his mind. Strangely, I didn’t think too much of it. Sandra and I took our seats, got out some paper to take some notes during the lecture. There was an empty seat, Sandra, and then me. The creepy, scowl-faced oriental fellow sat in the empty seat beside Sandra. It was then that I started feeling a bit weird about the guy. Sandra scooted toward me, tugging at my shirt. What she was trying to tell me then came to my attention — because I realized it, too.

This scowling fellow, in a suit and a big, dark-purple, almost black trench coat, was mumbling into his coat pocket, or into his sleeve, his eyes never leaving the stage. He mumbled into it as if it were completely natural, as if no one should think twice about it, as if none of us even existed or it was a perfectly natural thing to mumble into your coat. The lecture started, and he continued doing it. He then got up in a fuss and left as bitterly as he had arrived.

It struck me as odd that I hadn’t realized just what he was — not that, until that point, I had believed in Men in Black or even knew all that much about them, but I should’ve made the connection. Only later, at home, did it suddenly hit me.

Solace Via Recurrence.

Sip my poison,
see my own truth.
Strive to convey
it, find solace

in the fact
that there’s no use.

It’s like watching
a house of cards collapse in slow
motion, its foundation
of lies having finally suffered
collision with actuality.

Nothing left
now but to document
the downfall,
smooth the transition
through open
ear and subtle mouth.

Could have sworn
I’d heard this story.

Understand:
I may be mad,
given my vision
of how all this ends.

Politics, Aerodynamics, Choreography and Fate.

Look to the left.
Look to the right.
Go ahead: choose
your arbitrary side.

Tailfeathers spread skyward,
beak aimed down.
Though eagle hasn’t landed:
fated for the ground.

Our collective trajectory
is the direction to question.

In a tailspin,
hellbound.

Each wing striving
to wind ’round the other,
caught in a dizzy choreography

towards the floor
in time
to this remixed
dirge,

our ode
to our lies.

The Hunting Party.

8/23/08

The four of us had taken our leisurely positions just outside the Main Street Grille and Brewery, my flashlight serving as the makeshift doorstop for the front door. I sat on the steps of the wooden porch, breathing cigarette smoke as I flipped through the random pictures I had taken on the digital camera Mitch had lent me. Eyes hungry to see a translucent orb, a white mist, a mysterious figure. Looking for something, anything, but trying to keep my emotions in balance.

If I suspended expectation, I reminded myself, I couldn’t be let down. It was best to approach with a controlled curiosity, a cautious hope, and I knew that. It was the same reason I was not at all disappointed with how the evening had gone so far, that we hadn’t seen a full-body apparition or a physical object moved, untouched. I was glad Mitch seemed to echo this unspoken sentiment of mine, too. He had gone even further, really, at least verbally proclaiming as much, telling the owner of the place before we had began our ”ghost hunting” that evening that he prefers to go into these situations with the attitude that there’s nothing to it. With an effort of debunking it all as a natural phenomenon, so he can rule out all the knowns, dodge false positives. Still, I felt that he was more than slightly disappointed with the way the night had gone so far, and it was a vibe I caught from him even before we stepped outside the old mill-turned-brewery-and-grille.

Before we had come on the porch, each of our two-man teams had simultaneously been prowling the three levels of the place — or four, if you’re counting that creepy-looking crawl space. There were six of us in all. The first team was Mitch’s brother-in-law and some young-looking guy who’s name I never caught. Mitch’s brother-in-law seemed like a cool guy, fully capable of taking Mitch’s ”So, I’m fucking your sister” comments. On the drive there they talked over the hand-held walkie talkies, seeming more like blood brothers who had grown up with one another than brothers merely through marriage.

As for his partner, the young guy, he was clean-cut, healthy-looking, reasonably-strong, not too skinny and not too fat. Nice, evenly-trimmed hair. The kind of guy that a guy like me holds a secret hate for, but only because he probably has a hot girlfriend he’s banging every night. Throughout the evening, at least from the standpoint of my limited contact with him, he seemed almost two-dimensional, nearly invisible to the eye. A stand in. Like one of the red shirted guys off of Star Trek; the ones that always go down to the planet with the main characters and since you’ve never seen the guy before you know you’ll never see him again. He’s never coming back. That he’s good as gone. No doubt, if this had been a horror flick or a supernatural thriller he would have been the first one to get eaten by the monster, infected with the alien virus, killed by the psychopath. I wish him no ill-will, of course; he seemed rather polite and level-headed. I just couldn’t escape that outlook on him in this context. Needless to say, he survived. Hope I didn’t ruin it for you.

The third two-man team was an odd and interesting pairing. One of the guys was a plump, pasty, baby-faced fellow, looking a bit like a more serious version of the Pillsbury Doughboy clad in street cloths. By behavior alone, you might have considered him the Egon Spengler of the group, only rather than clutching the mythical PK Meter he held the super-expensive thermal camera he had borrowed from the Fire Department where he was employed. Him and I said little to each other, but he seemed to be a nice enough guy. Lurking in the midst of the general populace he might have seemed rather reserved, but him, and almost anyone short of a chronically shy mute, looked downright extroverted next to me. Out of all of us, though, he seemed to be the most wary, the most skeptical, not willing to lean either way regardless. When you got down to it, he was a bit curious, but just a pace away from indifference. That’s what I got from him, anyway. I did find it strange and more than slightly ironic that Mitch teamed him up with the guy I will call Twitch.

Twitch was a friendly though rather wild-eyed guy who had what seemed to me to have a rather child-like naivette. He seemed to go into all this with uncritical certitude; convinced there was something to it. His certainty developed at least in part, I’m sure, due to his disposition coupled with two experiences of his — one took place here in the mill, the other in the nearby Historical Society building. Before becoming a police officer, he had worked in the mill. There had been a break-in one night or some ordeal that made it necessary for him to spent the night in the place alone. Though he freely confessed to having seen nothing, he was adamant about the weird noises he had heard all night long.

”Like this,” he said, turning around and pointing to the floorboards beneath our feet, which creaked and squeaked as we made our way. He told us this shortly before opening the door to the basement, where a light bulb in the stairwell went out before his eyes. I didn’t see it burn out just then myself, however, only that it was burnt out. ”Someone doesn’t want us here,” he said less than half-jokingly, laughing nervously under his breath and we proceeded down.

The other experience of his occurred after he had become a police officer, when he had gone to inspect the Historical Society building one night when an alarm, a motion detector, was tripped on the second floor. “Not the first floor,'”he would say on both occasions he told the swift story that evening, ‘”the second floor.” His penchant for the dramatic was pretty evident, I think; he spoke of things the way you would when telling a ghost story around the campfire to children.

As the four of us were outside, a cop car drove around, said something none of us could hear, and then drove around again, parking beside the building. Two of the group, both Mitch and Twitch, were police officers themselves, so the feeling of paranoia that seems to be a programmed response to officers of the law didn’t hit too hard. Two cops emerged from the car, one which Mitch seemed to know well and who’s name rung a bell; I’m almost sure he’s mentioned him to me a few times. This was Lane, who looked a bit like a buff version of Riker off of Star Trek (and no, I’m not a fucking Trekkie).

With him was some incredibly young-looking officer who made the whole, ”There’s a rational explanation for everything,” remark after discussion arose regarding apparently paranormal experiences. I assumed the kid was some rookie Lane was meant to wean in; though he didn’t seem inexperienced, he did give off that aura of feeling awkward, feeling like he didn’t entirely belong. He buried it in his trying-to-be-a-badass posture, which was almost convincing, but still had that faint air of the contrived. That kind of alpha male body language seemed more authentic in Lane and Mitch. But fake it till you make it, I guess.

As for Lane, he carried a portable coffee mug and, though a smoker, wasn’t nearly the chimney I was. He smoked maybe one or two for the hour I saw him, whereas I sucked down maybe three or four. He had that deep, controlled voice that made me think he would make a good speaker. I couldn’t imagine him stuttering, slurring, or pausing and reversing to rephrase. He was calm and comfortable with himself. Out of the two of them, Lane was the only one to shake my hand and look me dead in the eye. Granted, Mitch had introduced him and I and had not done so with the kid, so I suppose that could be the reason. Still, it seemed as though Lane would’ve shaken my hand given the chance anyway. He was a peculiar fellow; there was something about the guy I just immediately liked, I must admit. He displayed that perfect balance of the humble and confident; he never seemed arrogant, nor did he seem willing to make himself look smaller than he was. His mind wasn’t closed, but it wasn’t so damned open all his brains fell out and splattered on the concrete sidewalk beneath his feet, either.

When Twitch told his story to Lane — “Not the first floor; the second floor,” — which was his second telling, Lane gave him a mildly dismissive but nonetheless sympathetic shrug. He explained how depending on the settings, such motion detectors could pick up mice, even a calm breath of wind vibrating a spiderweb. In other words, while there could be something to it, an alarm being tripped on the second floor and not the first didn’t necessarily constitute something unusual. Without boasting or trying to one-up him, Lane’s experience, by comparison, held quite a bit more water. He had gotten a call at the same damned place. The front door had this old lock — he gave a good description of it, gave its name, but I can’t recall it exactly. Suffice it to say you had to turn the lock quite a bit; in other words, it had to be very purposeful. There was no accidentally locking this door. And while he would lock and unlock doors as he went from room to room, he didn’t bother with the front door lock. Regardless, when he returned, having found no prowler, he found it locked. That was pretty hard to explain away.

Even more difficult to explain away was Mitch’s experience inside the Historical building, which initially stirred his interest. Of all of them, at least by virtue of the stories I’d heard from them, Mitch had perhaps the most qualification to believe — and yet at the same time he was the strictest and most resistant to accept something unusual. He was cautious. It was at his direction that we were now taking half-hour shifts during which four of us would stay outside while the two others had full and free reign inside the place.

Mitch was right, of course; going in shifts like this would decrease the potentiality of false indications of a ghostly presence. The creaking floorboards as the six of us crept around the three levels were a bit difficult to separate from any truly potential unknown. It was hard enough with the whirring of the machines, the sound of them clicking on and off, and even the sound of the rushing water in the back of the place. As Mitch and I had sat in the dining room earlier, we watched moving lights and shadows as cars passed by on the street outside and he noted, after he put some thought into it, how such effects could produce illusions.

Another issue crept up, and came to my attention for the first time, when Mitch and I were interrupted during our first round on the ground level of the place by Twitch and Egon, who wanted Mitch to check out something in the basement. We followed them down and we all paused at the bottom of the steps.

“Do you feel that?” Twitch asked hauntingly. There was agreement all around, and I had to admit a creepy feeling. “Somethings here,” Twitch went on.

Before we started, before Twitch had even guided us on our tour, the boss hovered around the group a bit. He had a mustache and seemed to have that way of carrying himself that existed somewhere in the realm between the laid back and the strict, professional type. Before he went home for the night he told us of his own personal experience. He had been alone, walking down the steps to the basement when he felt an unmistakable presence. As he continued walking, he tried to shake it off, to no avail. Eventually it came on so strong he was stricken with terror. He felt sure something was there and bolted up the steps, feeling as though something unseen was chasing him.

So now, as we all seemed to feel something comparable, we spread out a bit and looked around. Taking pictures, asking questions with our microcassette recorder in hand. That’s when Mitch brought up the issue, which was the issue of electromagnetism. More than once downstairs I’d heard Mitch or Egon say something akin to, “Damn, I wish we had an EMF Detector.” Someone else raised the question; had the case been otherwise, I would have inevitably asked about it. I knew they were talking about an electromagnetic field detector, but I was lost otherwise.

According to Mitch, the presence of electromagnetism can have an odd effect on the human nervous system, resulting in sensations we might, for the sake of argument, wrap up under the umbrella term “the creeps.” Down in the basement, he pointed to the wires hanging down from the ceiling, implying that there might be more conventional factors to blame for the sense of an unknown presence that we all more or less shared.

As far as I can determine, the four of us all felt that feeling at the base of the steps, but when Mitch and I journeyed down there the second time alone I, in the least, no longer felt it in that location. Even the first time, while we were all down there, for awhile something seemed off in the environment and then it just, well, went away. Now, this could mean that a disembodied entity had been hanging around at first and then meandered about elsewhere, but it could also mean that nearby wires or machines that had initially been on had later clicked off, thereby eliminating the eerie atmosphere. I also wasn’t blind to the fact that the expectation of sensing something (provided in part by ever-dramatic Twitch) could have alone produced the initial effect and when the expectation died, so did the creepy sensation.

If it had something to do with electromagnetism, however, I still wasn’t sure how the detector would help us determine it one way or the other. I mean, it could tell us there were EM fields present, but not necessarily their source. So I looked a bit online after the hunting party and found that there are some EMF detectors available that screen out man-made sources of electromagnetism, thereby allowing paranormal investigators the ability to determine whether or not “the creeps” are a true unknown. Damned if I know how the thing can tell the difference, but that’s how its advertised.

Still, we all certainly shared the hope of finding something suggesting the unusual, the unconventional. Mitch and I let the tiny microcassette recorder run, with us, mostly him, asking questions to any hypothetical spirits that might be wandering about as we ourselves meandered from room to room. How old are you? What’s your name? Do you know you’re dead? How did you die? Why do you like this place? Does it bother you we’re here?

And really, out of all of them the only question that made me wince was, Do you know that you’re dead? It might be goofy, but I thought if someone was wandering about here, long since departed, there were two likely responses to that question. One, they did know they were dead and would be angry at the needless reminder as well as at the suggestion that they lacked sufficient awareness to grasp a hold of that fact. They would interpret the question as the act of us talking down to them, in other words. The other possibility is that they didn’t know, or that they were at least in denial of the fact they were dead. In that case I felt this question would either frighten or enrage them, perhaps both in one, foul swoop. Either possibility, I felt certain, wouldn’t make them any more inclined to communicate with us.

Regardless, I must confess that I did feel presences, though I wouldn’t be so bold as to proclaim there was anything more to this than my overactive imagination. On both occasions that Mitch and I visited the kitchen I felt certain something was there. I also felt this in the basement, though only on the first time Mitch and I went down there when the team in the basement wanted Mitch to check out something. Three times between both places I somehow felt we might get a substantial EVP on the recorder. I suppose that time, and Mitch’s initial review of the evidence, will tell.