Monday, November 29, 2010

The paranormal paradox

I've been pondering a truism that I sort of coined... that while paranormal phenomena are undoubtedly "real," the most vocal and visible proponents of said phenomena are frequently exposed as fraudulent.  I think that this paradox can be understood only in the context of a self-regulating system. What better way to enforce conformity to the accepted laws governing our physical world, than by the punishment of miscreants who try to peek behind the metaphorical curtain?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thoughts on the "Catherine" EVP

I'm by no means an audio engineer--not even close--but I know my way around audio files, and I've spent the past few days listening to the Catherine EVP, hoping that something would jump out at me. My gut impression is that the recording is a valid EVP, primarily because if someone wanted to fake an EVP, he could have done a better job of it. The recording is very primitive and downright strange. Its strange tonal quality reminds me of the EVP presented by Brendan Cook and Barbara McBeath of the Ghost Investigator's Society. Genuine EVP sound slightly mechanical--almost computer-generated. If you've ever heard speech converted to audio by a cheap transcription program, you know what I mean. And I do get hear that "mechanical" timbre in this file.

Not having to software to analyze the file, I did something that I often did to audio files when I was a teen--I listened to the file slowed down to approximately half speed. A couple of things stand out. First, the music: I don't recognize it. It would be interesting if anyone could identify it. (It would also be significant if it *couldn't* be identified.). It almost sounds like music captured by an external microphone from a low-fi source, like a radio. Such a "recording of a recording" adds a slight but recognizable layer of noise that audiophiles can pick out; but I can't hear it here, which is a bit unsettling. Slowed down, the music practically disappears and I hear instead a loud and oscillating vibrational monotone.

At the three-second mark there is a very noticeable artifact that sounds like an externally generated "bump," like the sound of someone jarring a table while recording with an external mic. At half-speed, however, this artifact is noticeably louder and sounds more like a "break," electronic in quality, like the electrical noise created when microphone is plugged to a recorder while recording.

The voice of a woman (Oh, Catherine") intrudes at the last second and is cut off in mid-word. Slowed down to half speed, however, I notice something interesting. The "oh" is at normal pitch even at half speed, and the pitch drops rapidly during the "Catherine" portion. So the speaker starts at a very high pitch (above the audible range) and rapidly modulates downward in pitch. This rapid drop in pitch would be difficult to produce in a natural recording.

I'm not saying that all this "proves" that the recording is an EVP, or that this is even distinctive. But having been a careful listener all my life (going to far as to run my turntable backwards to incontrovertibly hear "Paul is dead" on the White Album), I think it's interesting.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Intriguing EVP

Tennyson, originally uploaded by an0nym0n0us.

I came across an interesting and, potentially verifiable, bit of EVP. It can be found on Jeffrey Long's site, After Death Communication, which I regard as credible. I visit it several times a week. Dr. Long posts testimonials from people who have experienced what they consider to be communications from deceased relatives or loved ones. Accounts such as these are practically universal; taken alone, they are intriguing; taken together, the weight of their evidence almost compels any except the most materialistic skeptic that after-death communication exists.

What is interesting about Catherine's account and attached EVP is that it was apparently generated by the deceased and sent to Catherine via Yahoo! Messenger, from the decedent's Messenger account, after death. I know of no known example of this form of EVP occurring, with the resultant file available for the public to analyze. (Yes, I know all about Spiricom, but Spiricom has been debunked.) I've heard of individuals receiving after-death phone calls, and have heard of people receiving digital communications from the deceased, but again--I'm not aware of the files being made available for public analysis.

As an aside, Catherine states that she tried to contact prominent New Agers John Edward and Carolyn Myss with this information and was ignored.

I've tried to find what I can about the file by downloading some audio analysis software, but haven't been too successful. However, according to iTunes, the EVP is a 34 KB .mp3 file encoded at 32 kbps mono (low quality) with the author indicated as "adough_girl" (apparently, the Messenger account of the decedent). I don't use Yahoo! Messenger and am unfamiliar with the audio codecs used. I know that at one time, Messenger encoded (compressed) audio files with the DSP True Speech codec, but I honestly don't know.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

An olive branch to the New Age movement

Yesterday I wrote a long diatribe re: the New Age movement, but I didn't post it; I try to write when I'm dispassionate. Otherwise I come out sounding dumber than usual. In the past months, I did have several posts trashing some recent guests on Coast To Coast, but I've withdrawn those, too. I don't want to fight anymore. I don't really enjoy attacking beliefs. The New Age is not a philosophy; it's not a science; it's not a perspective: it's a belief. People are entitled to believe what they want without harassment. As a Progressive who voted for Mr. Change, that is the credo I live by.

Science is all about debate, proving and disproving. Philosophy involves critical examination of viewpoints that, to an extent, can be weighed and tested. Beliefs can only be affirmed or attacked.  "So what," I think, "if Bruce Goldberg appears on Coast To Coast and claims to be a time traveler from 10,000 years in the future, what's the harm in that?" If people want to believe this rubbish, let them.

My love-hate relationship with the New Age movement goes back years.

At this stage of my life, however, I want to extend the New Age an olive branch. I won't ridicule your silly beliefs any more. After all, I was once one of you. I've attended New Age conferences and read Shirley MacClaine. I ended my subscription of "Fate" magazine in 1999 because I was convinced that the world would end soon after and I didn't want to squander my money. I've dabbled in bunches of stuff that most New Agers aren't aware ever existed. Remember biorhythms? I studied those. I have a grand trine AND a grand cross in my horoscope, from a horoscope that I charted on paper before there were computers. I've handled crystals.

So, what happened?  Well, for one, the world didn't end. Disclosure didn't occur. Sylvia Browne was exposed as a fraud--on Coast To Coast, no less! Hillary stopped going to seances.  It wasn't one thing, but many little ones, over the years, to the morning when I rolled out of bed, looked in the mirror and said, "I don't believe."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kim Carlsberg on Paratopia

Some preliminary thoughts...

I haven't listened to the post-interview portion yet, but I was struck by one significant aspect of the Kim Carlsberg experience--the two-dimensional quality to it. It's the same two-dimensional quality that I found in the string of "abduction" episodes that the Paracast recently, and inexplicably, aired. Even Coast To Coast, which strives to be the modern equivalent of a traveling county fair medicine show, features abduction accounts that rarely depart from the script.

When I first began about these accounts in the early '80s, beginning with Budd Hopkins' "Missing Time," these abduction scenarios intruded into my psyche with brutal chilliness. Practically everyone who studied these accounts (except maybe Phil Klass) were likewise terrified. The Human Abduction Syndrome (as it's now called) was possibly our worst human nightmare, and it brought forth a new breed of researchers (Hopkins, Jacobs) to confront them.

What's remarkable to me now--beyond the lack of terror that these accounts evoke--is that these abduction account all sound alike now, and they no longer strike me as being "real." Which is not to say that they are total confabulations; just that they do not come across as flesh-and-blood, time-and-space experiences. Sorta like the Wicked Witch of the West, after she's had some water tossed on her. The accounts are strangely uniform, which does not make a lot of sense. Physical experiences are messy, prone to mistakes. They disrupt; not only should they leave traces, they ought to leave gaping holes, particularly after thirty years of mass abductions.

One aspect of the abduction experience that goes largely unnoticed now is that, at the time, there was a specific timetable mentioned by several abductees. Several abductees pointed specifically to the year 2000 as the time when the "aliens" would accomplish their tasks. This dovetailed nicely with date cited by a slew of New Age prognosticators who foresaw an "axis shift" and a general worldwide calamity that year (which might still occur, in any event).

It's possible that when 2000 came and went without a crisis (the election of George Bush notwithstanding), we stopped paying attention.

But I think something else is going on.

There were--and still are--core experiences of a few people that take the appearance of "abductions." These core experiences resonated with a large segment of the Western public, creating a sort of mini-hysteria, and an empathetic response by anyone who has suffered some psychic trauma.

Or, to interpret it in "Sethian" terms, there was an intrusion in the mass consciousness of an event that was essentially non-physical, but quite profound, and reverberated in the dreams and nightmares of quite a few people for a number of years.

(I noted that Ms. Carlsberg had read "Seth Speaks," but unlike her, I am very skeptical of "channeling.")

Ms. Carlsberg defended herself by saying that whole swaths of the human experience (such as love) are very real, but also intangible and non-physical. She is correct, but she curiously does not apply this insight to her own abduction experiences.

If she and other abductees were to dig a bit deeper, we might be able to advance our understanding of the Human Abduction Syndrome.

Despite this, I am actually believe that progress is being made in understanding this phenomenon. We can be reasonably sure what the phenomenon is not--it is not a mass human breeding program conducted by biological entities from another physical planet. It is not a conservation attempt at saving the human race in advance of a planetary disaster. (It *might,* however, be a type of forced evolution of the human race, a sort of accelerated evolution, but it may not be physical in origin.)

Epic history changes in human history are likely presaged by all sorts of psychic manifestations and trauma; we only understand these changes much later, long after the fact. We may, in fact, be well down the path of change and simply not know it.

Future developments in the human consciousness will, I believe, explain (or allow us to understand) the Human Abduction Syndrome... what it actually is, what it actually means. Just as today, we no longer see it as terrifying; perhaps tomorrow, we will no longer regard it as alien.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Raymond Moody on Coast To Coast and Dreamland

Caught Raymond Moody on "Coast To Coast" earlier, and am currently listening to him on "Dreamland." Everyone, of course, is familiar with his seminal works on "life after life," which I've read over the years. I also have some of his more obscure books. Despite the fact that he sounds like Dannion Brinkley (both are Southerners), I have always found him credible. Being a credentialed physician adds heft to his theories (although this academic gloss cannot begin to redeem Bruce Goldberg, Steven Greer and the like).

Dr. Moody has a unique and (IMO) important perspective on the NDE subject--he believes that within five years, we will be able to logically establish the validity of life after death; not by scientific evidence, but by a shift in thought and the employment of new logical methods and tools. Of course, where the mind goes, technology soon follows, so it may not be long before we develop the mechanical interface with this "other world." This is, I think, what Whitley Strieber is suggesting in his recent postings, and it agrees with what I've read by other credible thinkers.

This shift in awareness will, over time, fundamentally change not only our relationship with physical earth, but also with each other. What we will be left with is a direct connection with the greater reality that is, according to many thinkers, our true home. It can't happen soon enough, and if we are lucky, it will happen just in time. Here's my drop into the ocean of hope.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Almost thou persuadeth me to believe in the ETH

Timothy Good, Coast To Coast, August 30, 2010

Timothy Good is a proponent of the old skool "extra-terrestrial hypothesis" who nevertheless I've always enjoyed listening to. He always *sounds* credible, although I have not done the homework necessary to verify the volumes of information he presents--which, I think, would be required before the serious student of the paranormal invested too much belief in it.

I've learned to filter out the dubious stories and the exopolitical-type buzzwords: "hybrids," "disclosure," "cover-up," which cropped up regularly in Good's interview. Usually, in fact, I stop listening when a researcher drops these words because they have become owned by the exopolitical movement. Still, I won't dismiss outright the notion of hybrids or a cover-up; I just think that the evidence for these things is not as solid as ETH schoolers think it is.

Regarding hybrids, for example. I have always thought the Bill Chalker "Hair Of The Alien" story to be very intriguing. Ingo Swann also mentioned hybrid-type beings in "Penetration: The Question of Extraterrestrial and Human Telepathy." It's hard to prove a negative.

Whole swaths of Timothy Good's information is, as he disclaims, over twenty years old, and he is no longer current on exopolitical jive. What remains of his claims are so fantastic as to be unfathomable. The notion, for example, that Vice President Dan Quayle vetted Ringling Brothers to assemble a traveling exhibit of crashed alien paraphernalia. Mr. Good claims to have been invited to oversee this enterprise but could not participate because he could not get a connecting flight in time.

Still--still, there was some stuff he mentioned that I thought significant, and I wished I had the time to delve into. "Everyone," of course, knows that George Adamski was a fraud, but Mr. Good finds him credible on the basis of his alleged meetings with the CIA and one meeting with President Kennedy. Presumably, Adamski's family confirmed these meetings. If, in fact, the meetings can be proven (or disproved), we can finally write Mr. Adamski off. (I do remember hearing an interview with George Adamski's son and concluded that the son was no more credible than his father.)

And significantly, Good mentions the Aztec crash. Forget Roswell--I think that the Aztec "crash," and the vehicle presumably recovered from it, might be the best hope to substantiating the ETH.

While I think that there is a huge paranormal dimension to the UFO experience, I believe that we are probably observing many different phenomena, having different causes. I think that location-based paranormal phenomena (like Gilliland's ranch) might be archetypal in nature--ancient phenomena that seem to follow rigid patterns, while still responding to the unconscious beliefs of the experiencers. We shouldn't assume that "we" have been the only advanced race to inhabit this planet; there might have been others, and they might have left mechanisms at various places around the world that appear, to us, to be conscious, supernatural beings. We also can't rule out the extra-dimensional theories--mostly because they are so handy at explaining a lot of stuff that our current physics can't. And, I still believe, we can't rule out the ETH. After all--it just takes one crashed saucer to prove it.