My new short story, Blood Bonds, is now at Amazon for Kindle. The Chinese vampire Fu Sheng is dismayed to learn that the Rufus family, a clan of Roman-era vampires, have arrived in Desert City, the place Fu Sheng calls home in the futuristic New Galaxy. Fu Sheng is invited to a Rufus family wedding, discovering murder and fraud along the way. www.amazon.com/dp/B00EXUJ3WY 99 cents
The paranormal is a cultural phenomenon. Fascination with the spirit world goes back thousands of years, when civilized people had enough time to ask themselves and others about what happens after death. Do we cease to exist? If our awareness changes, how? Where do we go? These questions continue to haunt; so thus, we are drawn to the haunted.
Last Friday, I went to the movies to see The Conjuring. As I watched, my interest in the work Ed and Lorraine Warren grew. Long standing figures in paranormal research, the Warrens have been seen on TV shows and had written books based on their experiences. I recently discovered their basement museum; one of the pieces definitely getting the Hollywood treatment-Annabelle the possessed doll. In The Conjuring, that doll looks like Chucky's psychotic little sister. In real life, Annabelle is a Raggedy Ann. This is what is happening to the paranormal-it's becoming too normal in its commercialism.
The paranormal and supernatural have always been moneymakers for Hollywood since the era of the silent movie. Television naturally followed, but ghosts and other monsters are popular in troubled times; we want the dark magic that surrounds these figures. A creaking step, a faint whisper, an object in the wrong place; no witchcraft here, just scripted 'reality' TV.
I started out a fan of ghost hunting reality shows, my favorite the plumbers-by-day, ghost-hunters by night on the SciFi (now SyFy) Channel. The concept was fairly new then, the ghost hunters likable people. Sometimes they found something-an interesting EVP recording or something on videotape-or maybe they found nothing at all. Jason and Grant did not dress like bikers or like Adam Levine from Maroon 5 but with a few less tattoos. Ghost hunter as rock star had not happened yet, but the glut of imitators soon followed, and I started to lose interest. Donna Lacroix, a former SyFy ghost hunter, mentioned in an interview that the show had become 'fake'. When the very people who claim to want to debunk the fakes are becoming fakes themselves, then a bad influence has taken over-most likely, the promise of a piece of the paranormal pie. Enough money and fame can change almost anyone's mind, integrity stretched thin. Donna Lacroix later denied what she said but as the ghost hunters, ghost adventurers, and psychic kids in a paranormal state keep going, its getting harder to separate the sincere from the con artists. I'm a skeptic, but also open-minded and imaginative. Was the Amityville house really haunted or a hoax? Or the home in the Conjuring? These places were reported to have no paranormal activity after the afflicted families moved out. This has been attributed to the families being more psychically 'sensitive' than other people. But tragedy haunted both of these homes, and even I believe that people and places can only take so much loss and death. Haunted areas such as Gettysburg are known to be very active, along with old castles and cemeteries. A person could travel all around the world searching for ghosts, but they're elusive creatures. From television, I've learned that there are residual hauntings, intelligent hauntings, and 'elementals', which are sometimes demons. I am not a conventionally religious person, I don't believe a brush with the paranormal can easily turn into a battle of good versus evil. I don't believe in demonic possession, although I do believe in reincarnation (I know, interesting dichotomy). But I do believe that people can be severely mentally ill and exorcism can have a cleansing effect on the psyche of some troubled people. Having suffered from anxiety and depression in the past, I felt a bit 'possessed' by my illness. If religious faith gives a painfully troubled mind some comfort, I think that's fine.
I have discovered a new SyFy show, Haunted Collector, that specializes in possessed objects. Possession goes back to ancient Greece, when the oracles were hosts for various gods or goddesses when they deigned to speak to mortals. Spirit possession is also the foundation for voodoo, which brings me back to dolls. I had a friend who was afraid of clowns, but her fear was nothing compared to my nightmare of being locked in a room full of old Victorian dolls. Their faces are just too...life-like. They look human, but they're not. When I was a kid, I played with Barbies, but Barbie was different. I also dislike mannequins. A movie like The Conjuring works because so much of the story is more suggested than shown, until the very end, when we see the real face of the evil that is tormenting the family. When Ed Warren calls its name, the evil goes away. The face of the enemy is always changing, but the truth is the truth. The sincerity of people like the Warrens can't be denied, considering the decades they spent with their research and devoting their lives to helping others. But, after the craze dies down, the ghosts will continue to haunt, relieved that the living don't come around as much anymore. :)