Sunday, June 19, 2011

Collecting Haunted Items

In many ways, the paranormal boom of recent years has been a blessing. Not only has it brought a fringe science into the forefront of the adult collective, it has opened the eyes of many skeptics that once overlooked the spirit world that surrounded them. Research in the paranormal has also opened up a new hobby - paranormal collecting. Ironically, to many people, this pastime is nothing new. Collecting items of interest is something many people do to show off their personality. Personally, I have an affinity for hats, especially older hats that I find at estate sales and such. These sales now receive a boost in business from collectors looking to find the next addition to their collection.

Finding these collectibles is the fun part; for many of us, it is like a treasure hunt or a race, hoping to beat someone to that believed one-of-a-kind artifact that can set you apart. However, if you are a paranormal enthusiast, collecting paranormal items can be more challenging than collecting old hats; yet, it too can be a fun and rewarding experience. The biggest endeavor you must undertake if you are interested in this new arena is to understand the gravity of what you are doing.

People must look within themselves and determine whether they can properly care for an item, or if they would be a doorway for a malevolent spirit to manifest itself into. There are good points and bad points to starting a collection; every aspect must be dissected before any item is handled or purchased. Spirits can often become attached to objects through various rituals associated with witchcraft, or be attached to an object that is familiar to the spirit and may have been important to the spirit when the spirit was in human form. With that said, haunted artifacts can have negative energy attached to them, and they must be treated with the utmost care and respect.

In talking with my friend, Demonologist John Zaffis, who takes care of the Museum of the Paranormal in his home state of Connecticut, it is clear that the primary goal is not to be a collector, but to help those innocent victims that have dealt with the strange world that exists outside of the normal train of thought. After 20 years in the field, John has seen everything imaginable in the hundreds of cases he has been involved with as a paranormal researcher. During those years, he has collected hundreds of artifacts from cases of violent hauntings. Inside his museum there are hundreds of supposed haunted items, many of which had to be removed from homes following many unexplained and often negative phenomenon occurring. Fortunately, he is experienced in dealing with the energies that can exist, unlike many of the new collectors that are building their own personal museums today.

In researching this new phenomenon, I was amazed at how many different avenues can exist for budding collectors. A quick eBay search for the word “haunted” brought out over 5,000 auctions for supposedly haunted items. There was everything from jewelry to dolls to everyday household items. Incredibly, an internet search for “paranormal collecting” garners an amazing 2.5 million pages of information. With that in mind, I needed to take a deeper look at this and see what the fascination is.

I rapidly discovered three areas that people focused on. Those are collecting ghosts, haunted items, or paranormal souvenirs from their different ventures. Many of these collectors are paranormal enthusiasts that have taken refuge in this as way to be closer to something they enjoy doing. I also realized when I ventured into my research that many people might be paranormal collectors without even realizing it, and I will use myself as a perfect example of this. As many may know, I have been researching the legend of the Jersey Devil for some time and recently was able to venture into the Pinelands in search of this mythological creature. While conducting my first venture into the Leeds Point area, I discovered that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of discarded bottles littering this area. At first, I was amazed because of the diverse ages in the bottles that we found. Not thinking about the paranormal aspects that could be involved, I picked up a couple of them. At the time, I thought I was doing a public service by cleaning up the salt marsh, and I actually still feel that way. However, my approach to those bottles has changed after I viewed the pictures from my latest investigation into that area. In those pictures, there were numerous strange shadows, orbs and what appeared to be small vortexes appearing in multiple pictures. Of these, one shadow figure is a bit troubling because of the smell that we encountered in the area right before discovering a tree formation that looked like something out of the Blair Witch Project. Those pictures got me thinking, did those bottles have some kind of connection to them? Are they from the generations of interested bystanders that came to Leeds Point to find Mother Leeds’s son? So far, nothing strange has happened to me in the house, but then again, they are still in the backpack because I have not had a chance to do anything with them.

The idea of these bottles potentially having an energy attachment also brought out another interesting twist. It demonstrated how close the many of the fields of unexplained research are intertwined. My search for the Jersey Devil is more of a cryptozoological hunt and not a paranormal research outing. Yet, it demonstrates how unseen paranormal entities surround us at all times. Therefore, all of these precautions should be followed, regardless of the type of investigation a person is working on.

As I mentioned earlier, antique stores, estate sales and thrift stores often become battlegrounds for collectors of all types of items. It is quite possible that items purchased in these stores could have a spirit attachment that can be energized by the buyer. These often come as impulse buys where the purchaser is drawn to an item for some unknown reason. Maybe that was the case when I had to buy that antique wooden wheelchair at the Dusty Attic last year. Did I need it? No! Nevertheless, I had to have it (although, it did work really well as I used it to scare trick or treater’s on Halloween, so it served a purpose).

This happens because the spirit attached to an item may feel a kinship to the buyer, needing that relationship to stay alive. Items can sit for decades before coming to life if the right relationship is not present. People say that not all of these relationships are bad, and that items can actually lead to luck. Energies manifest in many ways, often providing feedback, guidance, wisdom, companionship, powers and even assistance to owners. However, people should be very careful when strange occurrences begin after bringing something into their house.

One of the most readily item available to people and one of the most collected haunted items are dolls. Sure, the appeal is easy to understand, as dolls take people back to their childhood. To me, I still remember the scene with the clown in Poltergeist and cannot fathom purchasing a haunted doll on purpose, but to many, they view these echoes from their childhood as families and children. Many of the dolls available come from owners who are frightened by the doll. Many people panic when paranormal phenomena is experienced near an item and just want to rid themselves of the burden. Ironically, many collectors search for active items, hoping that it was just a spirit trying to communicate with them. Their view is that the doll is a child, acting up or throwing a tantrum to gain attention.

Haunted jewelry may be even more popular than haunted dolls, as many people claim that one can experience everything from love to financial gain just by purchasing and wearing an item. These items supposedly contain energies, djinns, genies or demons and are powerful tools that can help in any facet the imagination can conceive. More importantly for collectors, both males and females can find these items just for them with warlock rings and or goddess pendants all available for the right price.

These are just some of the more popular items available on the internet, and realistically many of them are not haunted by any means. People collect the items during their hunts and those are the ones that can be the most troublesome and require the most care. There are over 5 million pages on the internet referencing some paranormal research organization. People form many of these organizations have limited or no experience in the field, or are just diving into a curiosity spawned by something they saw on television. These are also the ones who are in danger when they collect an item from a haunted area without understanding what can happen in some instances. For many investigators, the idea of gathering or collecting an item from a location is the furthest thing from their mind. They are focused on the scientific aspect of what they are doing and the only collecting that is taken place comes in the form of pictures and EVPs collected as evidence. However, this is not always the case. Items such as furniture, paintings, dolls, soil and even books are discovered at the center of a haunting or strange occurrence and gathered form the foundation of their new collection. Examples of this can be seen in movies such as The Exorcist, where the idol found during the excavation opened the door for the demon to walk in. Television shows have also shown the dark possibilities that exist with energy attachment with popular shows like The Twilight Zone or Friday the 13th the Series, raising the possibility of items possessing the ability to alter reality. Amazingly, many of the people who swear off items such as OUIJA Boards are the same ones who open their hands for a chance to own that strange painting of a castle.

Collecting items such as photographs and EVPs are a perfect way to be a paranormal collector. After all, the best collection a person can have is one that they made themselves. To do this, become a member of a paranormal research team and, after some training, go out and investigate. The evidence that you collect can make for some interesting conversation pieces and create a great atmosphere as decorations. There is nothing better to impress your friends than explaining your evening and then breaking out the evidence to back up your claims. Not only is this a fun way to collect the stuff you enjoy, it is also much safer than purchasing a haunted item that may introduce you to something more dangerous than you were looking for.

Many of the famed locations offer souvenirs that can let you remember the investigation and location. In these cases, go out and investigate, then pick-up a piece of history about the location. Places such as Gettysburg have extensive collections of items available that may hold a larger appreciation than a vial of dirt or a rock from a battlefield. Most importantly, they would be a great addition to any collection.

Paranormal memorabilia is also another great way of collecting paranormal related items. Many of today’s television shows or movies have items available such as pictures, hats, and other interesting finds that can become nice centerpieces to a collection. In addition, with the rise of investigation teams, many items can be found that are made available to help fund research. Purchasing this merchandise is a great way to build a collection while helping other people who are interested in discovering the truth that exists in the shadows.

These options provide great alternatives for creating a remarkable paranormal-related collection. In addition, with our economy in turmoil, they may also offer cheaper options as well. However, as history has shown, not everyone is willing to look at an alternative and many would rather push the limits with the spirit world. In these cases, these collectors need to realize the dangers involved. Like the old adage says, “be careful what you wish for, it may actually come true!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Big Cat in Connecticut

I was watching the news last night here in New Jersey and to my surprise a story came on about a Mountain Lion sighting in Connecticut in the New York City suburbs. Ironically, roughly six years ago when I was working with my friends at the Smoking Gun Research Agency and doubling as Editorial Director for Haunted Times Magazine, I was called into that same area to research some big cat sightings. In talking with the state park agency, me and my teammates were basically told that we were insane, that it was impossible for any type of Mountain Lion to be alive in this area. I guess, that maybe they should have paid attention to our group and the citizens that originally reported the sightings. The following is the article that was originally published in the Premier Issue of Haunted Times Magazine in August 2005.

Big Cat in Connecticut,
Connecticut based paranormal research group search for answers.
By Mark A. Mihalko

Right now researchers from around the world are searching the far ends of the earth for new, previously undiscovered animals. Most people have heard of the expeditions searching for Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, or the Yeti. But, while these researchers are off searching for these famous cryptids, others are having success rediscovering animals that were once thought to be extinct. Recently, wildlife scientists rediscovered North America's largest woodpecker in central Arkansas in April 2005. The discovery of the Ivory-Billed Woodpeckerwas the culmination of an intensive year-long effort focusing in on an area of the Cache River and White River national wildlife refuges. It involved more than 50 experts and field biologists working together as part of the Big Woods Partnership. In the end it was a year well spent, with the group capturing a male ivory-billed woodpecker on video, providing proof to the skeptics that doubted the cryptids existence.

Rediscovery of thought to be extinct animals plays a huge part in the world of Cryptozoology. Sure, in some ways it is less exhilarating then searching for Bigfoot, but in the end it can be more satisfying. Everyone has heard of the mountain lion, or Felis Concolor, it is a large, tawny, long-tailed cat also known as a cougar, puma, or panther. These animals are believed to have been forced to extinction in the Eastern United States and Eastern Canada since the early 1900's. However, increased environmental protection and improved habitat has led to a rise in mountain lion populations in the Western United States, which has caused speculation that the species has migrated to the East.

These large cats can grow to 5 to 7 feet in length, 2 to 3 feet in height, and weight between 70 and 150 pounds. They are solitary, extremely elusive and difficult to track; mountain lions are predators of deer, birds and smaller animals and would not be a friendly visitor on an afternoon hike. Sightings and stories of these large predators have been reported throughout Massachusetts and along the Appalachian Trail which winds through this region.

We started our ongoing investigation after receiving multiple sighting reports documenting the potential existence in the Burlington region of the Blue Trail.

"The first was a dead on sighting and the critter was about 5 feet long, tan, and very smooth looking with a long tail about 25% the length of its body. It was carrying a bloody lump of dead animal in its mouth. Not sure what it was chewing on but it was not looking very healthy. This was definitely not a Bobcat which I have encountered many times in those woods."

The second sighting was a little less distinct, "characterized by a shrill growl and a glimpse of a long body with a long tail running across a ridge and into the tree line."

Even though the vague descriptions provided in these reports have the characteristics of a Mountain Lion, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) remains skeptical. In fact, the DEP runs multiple programs looking for new animals in the forests. Every year they investigate possible sightings by taking photos, analyzing prints and scat, or animal feces and in each case, they have come up empty. After concluding an initial fact finding mission on the habitat and tendencies of a Mountain Lion, members of the Smoking Gun Research Agency (SGRA) hit the field for a detailed field investigation. Over the next 12 hours the team would make some interesting discoveries.

The group centered their investigation on an area of the Tunxis Blue Trail between Burlington and Bristol Connecticut. The terrain in the area seems ripe for Mountain Lion habitat, having large rocky outcrops surrounded by lush wetlands. During their hike the group noticed quite a few tracks that were the general size and shape of a Mountain Lion (3 inches by 4 inches). Unfortunately, none of the tracks were cast-able. Casting tracks in that area will be extremely difficult due to the amount of leaves on the ground.

In one area roughly 3/4 mile behind the Lampson Corner Cemetery (which in itself is a noted haunted cemetery in Connecticut), the group discovered an interesting set of tracks intermixed with deer and dog tracks. These tracks had the same characteristics as the above mentioned track with a stride measurement of 39 inches. This stride is also on par with a mountain lion.

Right outside of a marsh area in the same area of one of the sightings, the group stumbled across the remnants of a large bird. These remains were on a pathway that ran between the marsh and a hill full of rocky outcrops.

While the group found no definitive proof during their first field investigation, they did uncover enough evidence to warrant a return. The 12 hours the team has invested is a far cry from the year spent to uncover the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. But, with any luck their search will be just as successful.