"What I'm dealing with is so vast and great that it can't be called the truth. It's above the truth." - Sun Ra

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Space Pilot-Ganesha-Scarab-Space Orb-Event Horizon genius of Wilby

I just found this genius guy while searching for collage images and watching Ancient Aliens. Wilby is his name, from Hawaii. It's pretty badass - like Alex Grey Rorschach meets Robert Williams meltdown. Check out his site of Visionary Art here .

The above image is called "Pour L'Amour" and below is "Desire" and "Emergence" is below that. You have to go to his site though and see them all. They make great desktop wallpaper. He's a little more low profile than Grey. Now I love Grey but in some ways I like this guy even better, more abstract, more ambivalent and ambiguous in intention. The two below especially are striking in the way they approach figurativeness -- i.e. implying a center shamanic figure conjuring an EMF loop of psionic energy around him. I aspire to be as open heart-chakra as Grey but I'm just meant to be a little colder and more hardcore, more shamanic which means always a little plunged willingly in near-death darkness rather than light-dwelling illumination. For in pure light or pure dark there can be no hallucinatory shadow patterns, and mama, that's where the fun is... anyway, check him out. Check them all out. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Nephilim Vs. the Koch Brothers

Here's an inspiring video from the Ted Talks series, on the giant skeletons anthropologists have found in New England dating back thousands of years, information that has been gathered and kept from the public by the Smithsonian, which in turn is heavily funded by the Koch Brothers to do their bidding and downplay global warming, among other catastrophes they helped create.

  "....an overwhelming amount of historical evidence to the existence of giants building and living over the North American continent has been getting a lot of attention over this past week. Jim Vieira’s presentation shows and explains what the government has done to shield our eyelids from the truth of our ancient past." 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Terence McKenna - The Weirdness of Information.

"You have to assume that the technology will be beyond your wildest imaginings. The idea that someone is going to come in ships, speaking languages, and with an interest in our gross industrial output or trading with us, this is what I call 'failure of scale' - this is for people who don't understand how weird reality actually is. This is for people who've been watching too much daytime TV. "

On electronic media: "The farther you are away from something the more real it looks.  The closer you get to it the less substantial it becomes..."

He kind of lays into crazy people who see triangles in the sky. Was this before the Phoenix lights?? He seems adamant about the aliens being beyond 3-D space-time, but I would say there's a mess of aliens up in the sky and sometimes their cloaking devices malfunction and whaddaya gonna do. And witnesses have a right to disguise their voices because they're right -- the CIA will come after them if they've seen too much.

The cool painting atop is attached to a cool lecture Terence did on Eros and Eschaton, here --

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Whitley: 'I Hope to God it's a Fake'

I've often wondered about what abductees think of the fakes out there. And if we can really tell the difference, since if the government agencies keeping this all a secret were good at their 'disinformation' and they are, they would naturally be leaking the truth out to us right along, only in mutated form that makes the whole thing hard to believe. Just leave a dummy alien and an empty fill box at a crash site and all concerned will think it was just some consarned kid making a movie, for example.

Victor's footage - "If it's a fake it's made by someone who knows just how they move. I hope to God it's a fake, because if it's not humanity should be ashamed." - Whitley Streiber


This is a long but interesting video examining the truth or fiction around the Victor footage (Creature maker Rick Baker says it looks fake too him, maybe too fake.) With narration by Ronald Reagan!

Here's Victor later, dying, still talking with his muted voice, mentioning among other things that Cheney knows everything and Rumsfeld is a clown (they wont let me embed, go here)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Don't Eat my Pineal Gland!

I recently picked up the magical pineal gland activator kit from Jonathan Goldman. I'm glad I did. Use it along with the pineal gland activator cream (from Daily Om) and listen to Goldman's "Cosmic Om" on full blast and you're really resonating! Another way is to guzzle a lot of Robitussin.

But Robitussin really only works well if you have a fever, and then you want to keep that ball in the air and the fever is gone. How you gonna do that? You can feel Maya's nets closing down on you, lowering you back into the egoic third density slime of time-space and me-first consciousness! Well, that's where Goldman's tuning fork, the music, and the cream and the long periods of meditation come in. Take the time! It sure is worth it. And by all means, research the miracles of the pineal gland. It's your ticket out of here. Don't believe me? Look back through history and you'll see, with your third eye!

There's a veritable treasure trove of trenchant pineal pics over on this Secret Knowledge of the Ancients page (part of logoschristian.org). Though it's funny because after all of this awesome pagan stuff, a pastor shows up and says "no thanks, I'm already bound for heaven via my faith!' Well, I salute this pastor's confidence but sometimes it's good to know about all the exits, rather than just the one you've been promised. Beware a spiritual tradition that says all the other traditions are whack. It seems shady, and I doubt Jesus would have run around telling Buddhist they were going to hell if they didn't convert. In the East for example they respect all the other traditions-- "many paths with the same destination." At any rate, logoschristian points out the patterns well. This one fairly dropped my ball:

"Here is a picture comparing the Eye of Horus, an Egyptian god, with the pineal gland in the human brain. Can you see it?"

Now there's a theory going around that the whole mummification ritual thing was to leave the pineal gland "on" and transmitting, perhaps via one of their strange casqued batteries? In their way, the ancient Egyptians were light years ahead of us. Of course they had "help."

As I wrote over on Divinorum's sister site, Pswar of the Saints: 

And as I've written elsewhere, mummies as receivers for space broadcasts is no fiction, unless the Inca mummy on the moon is some foolish hoax! 

Not called the MUMmers for nothin' 

The pope hat, the conehead of Ackroyd and Newman, the Pine cone, the Pineal Gland, the Saint that come marchin' in Mummer's Day parades and Mardis Gras Gris Gris - it's all the same resonance, as seen in the mummy space stations of the moon and Egypt. Notice the recurring ideas - energy transmuted- beamed - across vast distances of time and space - instantly through the crystaline structures of the pineal gland - the transmigration of soul energy - peace that sutures together the stray strands life and death, time and space, and body and soul. Vibrate along, without judgment if you dare! Snicker if you choose at the pineal's resemblance to the circumcised mushroom cap head, but then wonder which came first, the pruning of the phallus to resemble the pineal / mushroom, or --- no, that one came second. the pruning came second, there's no wondering. I was just beamed the answer.

Hahha --- mirth activates healing and serenity! Never let your insecure ego confuse spirituality with piety; never confuse serenity with sanctimony; never confuse dour righteousness with right-thinking. Truly it is written (in the script for HEAD), "Never loan money to a man with a sense of humor.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Erich's Strangest Art - Slideshow (from the Pratt site)

I'm very proud of my place of employment for the last 12 years, Pratt Institute. This year is also its 125th anniversary. Way to go, Pratt! When you love where you work, what can stop you? You are like a plant thriving in its soil. No hurricane can disturb you, no shockwave from and earthquake ruffle your petals. So I took the time to add my own slide show to their website, and you can see it here! dd

Sunday, November 25, 2012

One Weird Moon: films by David Childress and Kenneth Anger

Herewith are two films about the moon which together I think really illuminate the high strangeness of this incredibly bizarre planet. They are by David Childress and Kenneth Anger,

"The more you know about the moon, the more far out it gets, and the less you really know!" so raves extraterrestrial archaeologist David Childress, who you might know well from the History Channel's beloved show ANCIENT ALIENS.


He makes a good point about how strangely the moon is situated, and so perfect in size, that it covers the sun perfectly during eclipses are very, very telling - the equivalent of an alien astronomer signature. Was the moon brought here and shaped just so ancient astronauts could view the aurora? I love his excited nasal enthusiasm,

This video is Rabbit's Moon by Kenneth Anger, which I like but never dug the soundtrack he did, which was basically an LP side of moon-related doo wop. This is the shorter version Anger re-cut in 1980, about half the length and with a different rock song-track as a present for Stan Brakhage's son. Man oh man, don't you wish Kenneth Anger was your dad's friend? Or that we could escape the hypnotic pull of that old rabbit moon? AUMmmmmm

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Amy Mainzer and Her Brown Dwarfs

She may be stunningly gorgeous, young, healthy skinned and possessed of an impossible Buddha calm, but Amy Mainzer is no mere NASA spokesmodel. She knows her stuff and lays it out strong. She is NASA's Snow White, illuminating the Brown Dwarfs to come through the WISE telescope program.

Last weekend I was having a huge conscious raising DNA vibratory powwow that I thought was going to kill me but I opened up, took the storm energy and smashed my mirrors and now the whole universe is illuminated like the cry of a dawn rooster. I feel like Scrooge on Xmas day throwing money to the goose-buying street urchins. I shall save my own coughing cold-suffering inner Tiny Tim, because I am involved in mankind.

One phrase that kept coming to me again and again was 'Brown Dwarf' - it cropped up in my writing and thoughts like the voice of Allen Ginsberg reading his "Sunflower Sutra" and Bob Odenkirk acting a Buddha reincarnation writing to his metalhead old school chum, saying, of Led Zeppelin, "like the lotus, they bloom for you again and again." (Mr. Show - S4, EP5)

The radiance of a new awareness courses through me and everyone seems a glow with illumination and higher resonance, or else darkened by unnecessary attachment and murky agendas of dark agencies. One person who definitely seems aglow with calm illumination is Amy Mainzer - the beautiful brilliant star of NASA's WISE program, the Snow White to the Seven Brown Dwarf stars revolving slowly around our solar system, one of which may be what our intergalactic pineal pope hat conehead spy plane telescope calls Nibiru.... but probably not.

If she knew, though, would she tell us?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Through a Dark Symbol: Imaginary, Symbolic, Real = Rock, Paper, Scissors

There's a war going on right now, and it's not between us and them, or good and evil, it's between the imaginary, the symbolic, and the real. The reason is that the 'real' - the immediate issues of food, shelter, warm clothing, electricity, gasoline -- are suddenly 'not there' for so many of us in the northeastern U.S. after Hurrican Sandy. The 'real' really scores one when a natural disaster wipes away our access to the symbolic and imaginary. Stop signs and traffic lights no longer apply. No electricity for phone charging or modems, without the electronic umbilical to the imaginary, the 'real' slowly comes into focus. All the TV could do, for us who still had power, was warn us to stay indoors. Then came the massive clean-up and now we're moving onto elections and marathons and other quintessentially imaginary / symbolic endeavors, but for those who have not yet been able to resume their gentle electric sleep, whose sole pursuit is still the seeking of warmth, food, clothing, shelter, it must be horrific, since so little of the real remains for them to move in. They've inherited a world mostly abandoned as we live so much of our lives in 'the cloud.' Use it or lose it, reality warns. We've lost it, twice-over.

This is important to know in understanding why animals and plants exist only in the 'real' and not the imaginary or symbolic. They don't recognize themselves in photographs (though sometimes in mirrors); they seldom speak, except in a grotesque howling or barking, as if to mock us, we who have dared to leave their realm. Who's laughing now?

In the ghost shows I watch (see my mind-numbing reviews) there's the common belief that any demon would be afraid of crosses, attracted by pentagrams, repulsed by the sting of holy water. This has always fascinated me as my favorite film as a child was DRACULA (1933). Why would a vampire be afraid of a cross? Is it just the symbolic reminder, like a text message from mom coming right when you're trying to break your very first law? Is it like Michael Moore waving a picture of a slain little girl at NRA president Charlton Heston? If it works mainly as it's a blessed item, imbued with holy power, what does a priest's blessing actually accomplish? Does it leave some electro-magnetic charge too sophisticated for modern methods of scientific measurement to detect?

I think horror movies get these symbol-imaginary chains confused, probably because their writers got too much Christian conditioning growing up, so that crosses and holy objects are themselves seen as threatening through a kind of Pavlovian dread response - the mere sign of a cross makes the grown Christian writer scratch ghost echoes of his itchy wool church suit, makes his legs fidget with restless boredom. Before engaging in sex he has to cover up the crosses and pictures of his mama. To such a person, attacking or defacing the symbols directly becomes a very first chakra kind of rebellion, albeit one mired in an id-less prison mentality, like defacing a stop sign, but after you've already stopped for it.

School of the Holy Beast (1974) is an example of this, a 70s Japanese pinku wherein, amongst other things, a nun is stripped and beaten with thorny roses and then made to urinate on the holy cross. This is actually considered pretty subversive in the context of the film, but really, in the end, it's kind of silly and not very interesting. A representation of someone desecrating a representation of someone else. I ended up selling my copy on eBay. I was expecting so much better.

But then again, I went to public school.

Don't Deliver us from Evil (1968) finds two best girlfriends home for the summer from Catholic school, performing similar symbolic 'atrocities' - such as stealing holy articles from their school's chapel and even tossing out a bunch of sacramental wafers into the nearby lake. The shizz with the passing swinger/rapists the girls pick up along the way are one thing, that's human life, that's real, but their litanies and rituals with the pilfered holy items are purely symbolic. It's a very odd breech of the walls between the levels of imaginary, symbolic, real, like a picture of a fire (symbolic) burning up. It's no accident I saw my idol Kim Morgan's picture with her kneeling before a poster for the film while I was writing this and I felt compelled to smudge in some flames. 

Imagine you could see through your own image's eyes, the way characters spy in old dark houses through the eyes of an old portrait. Imagine you could see out of all reproductions of your image, all photos as long as they were of yourself, and so you would look down from gallery walls at the throngs judging whether to buy you (and force you to observe their home life in the room where you're to be hung) and out of scrapbooks and from atop fireplaces in little reproductions, postcards, TV, god knows the horrors you would see.  Is this not what we do to poor Jesus on this cross?

That sounds crazy, yet such symbol-confusion abounds in cinema, and in real life, and especially the hypocrisy of censorship: curse words, offensive gestures such as the middle finger, mean nothing outside their culture, but are pixelated out of movies that have no problem showing graphic cannibalism. Meanwhile, wrongs performed in the real world are presumably righted by other symbolic magic words ("I'm sorry"). Men live and die for one particular symbol, the "$" sign, the three digit mark, an employee makes 'six figures' and you know he's doing all right.

In a wacky 1932 movie I saw recently, THE PHANTOM, the financial jackpot everyone's been scheming and killing for in the haunted house basement turns out to consist of now worthless confederate bills. Did the crazy old lady lie when she said she had three million dollars? No. Then again, if her relatives still had that money it might be worth something as a collector's item probably a lot more than face value!

Similarly, if society falls apart, the US dollar bill will be worth nothing. Gas and cans of corn will be the new gold. We use the gold standard today, it's universal, so all our paper money is allegedly connected to some store of bullion somewhere in Fort Knox, but there's some conspiracy theories that Fort Knox's biggest secret is its staggering emptiness, which we must keep hidden from the other nations lest they see we're broke. But then again, why waste all that gold? It's just sitting there, locked deep in a vault, no good to no one. If we were led to believe it was there, it wouldn't really need to be there, hence could be two places at once.

The shiny base underwriting everything ever created by man - all unused
Undertanding the sheer nonsensicality of this all became easier for me after working at a high end art gallery for eight years. We specialized in original work by Dubuffet, Matisse, Picasso, and Chagall, mostly oils (and Sam Francis gouaches). Though generally lesser works, they were still worth a fortune by most standards. Many of them seemed to me as the artist probably dashed them out in an hour or less. The average price: $100,000. It makes no sense. Did someone like Picasso have to hold onto his shopping list, because the minute he set it down on the desk someone would grab it to sell through Christie's?
So prized was Picasso's signature that it is said that when he paid for things by personal check, the odds were that the recipient of the check would save it rather than cash it. Seeing as a simple Picasso autograph can easily fetch $1,000 today, perhaps this wasn't such an irrational decision. (...) The value came not from any intrinsic source -- it's a fraction of a cent's worth of ink on a piece of paper worth scantly more. Anything touched by Picasso becomes in the eyes of many that much more valuable. It was something that he could have used (and perhaps did use) to his advantage. Why not keep paying with checks if people aren't going to cash them. (fool.com)
Warhol's $ sign silkscreens (which his assistants made, he only signed them) showed he understood the tragic joke at the core of this symbol blindness - but does Dracula? Why would a vampire or a devil need to disgrace religious symbols if they got this cosmic joke? Would the devil create holy statues just to desecrate them? It's not very rational.

Top: Warhol silkscreen; Dubuffet Personnages 5
both on paperest. $50-100,000. (as of 1998)
The idea of a presumably 'real' vampire or ghost stopped cold by religious iconography is only the tip of the iceberg but since we all know the drill (he runs from a cross, is burned by holy water, etc), let's use it as a springboard into this illogic: If a vampire were 'real' -- even merely within a film's diegetic reality -- why would it be cowed by an image within said diegesis, i.e. a brandished cross? We grant the makers of holy objects too much credit if we imagine that every cross on the assembly line has been somehow imbued with holy spirit power. Maybe some priest has blessed the holy water, but what if that priest was just phoning it in that day, not really delivering the required god power? Does that render all his holy water ineffective?

Just as when the head vampire is killed and all his victims are freed from his spell, does a vampire's scars from holy water disappear when the priest who blessed the fountain is found in the rectory with a choir boy? What if it's a pedophile priest waving a cross at a very decent sort of vampire, one who only targets deserving mobsters like Anne Parillaud does in INNOCENT BLOOD? Could you scare away a priest by waving a pentagram in his face?

I imagine the priest even breaking his vows one tiny bit and BooM! all his slain vampires come back to life.

Every kid in the 70s had seen most of Hammer's Dracula films at least once and we remembered Peter Cushing using two candlesticks to form a cross; so we'd all practice with holding our two fingers together to form crosses, presuming that would work on real vampires the way it did in the movies. We'd make them from popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, anything handy, better safe than sorry, and wave them at whomever was playing the vampire to drive them off.

So.... let us consider, is defending yourself from vampiric attack merely matter of calling the vampire's attention to the cross patterns abounding within the field of his vision? Can he weasel out of his adverse reaction by not paying attention as you frantically gesticulate towards the cross shapes in the tile floor? Did vampires have to avoid checkered floor tiles? Would the cross have power if Dracula couldn't see it, nearsighted and merely needing to take his glasses off to reduce the holy gross to a fuzzy blur? If a gun can shoot through a sack cloth, can a cross repel a vampire through one's coat?

The only answer is that the symbolic is as real as the 'real' and that it is the wellspring from which the daemonic flows. On the surface this wouldn't make sense, but surface is perhaps an illusion more than even the symbolic. A deep, deep down reading leads to a lot of Sesame Street-style fun. Imagine scaring off a vampire with the word 'cross' - One ringy dingy! Two Ringy Dingy!

Behold the word!
Or what else? Why not a photo of a cross? Or even the word 'church' written on a postcard?

This would seem to stem a lot from our own beliefs, the power of the human mind. For example, as a child I was terrorized by a monster in my closet until my dad posted a sign on the door where he'd written in big letters "no monsters allowed" and they never came back. My dad didn't believe in either the monster or the power of the sign in the sense of their being 'real' but as a pharmaceutical market research analyst he understood the importance of symbolic over the imaginary, like the way placebos are so often effective medicine, or the way paper beats rock.

Ohmigod - Rock Paper Scissors = Imaginary real  symbolic: the Paper is the imaginary (the vampire and the monster in the closet); the scissors is the symbolic (the cross); the real is rock (our general well being, i.e. food, shelter, tobacco, warmth, more food, and decent plumbing and all our blood safe in our veins).  Right now in the northeast we are the rock -- reduced to pure 'real' - until our electricity is back and our lives restored. Once the power is restored, scissors and paper will once more manifest. Paper, get ready to be cut!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why didn't I smoke? -Overpopulation, the Elderly, War, Social Security, and Reasonable Life Spans

Have you ever seen this show NOVA? I hate it so much I want to make its head explode with my mind. As a voiceover artist I have to say it's got the most insultingly smug, patronizing voiceovers I've ever heard, clearly meant to 'humor' elderly viewers the way my old friend Alan used to patronize the old folks at the home where he worked. My dad was watching NOVA when I visited him at the hospital. One episode was all about growing ears on mice and how that might lead to even longer life spans than we already have. Oh thank the lord, why should anyone have to die?

I love my dad and dreaded his passing, but at the same time I applauded his decision to refuse a $200,000. enzyme treatment that would postpone his death (cancer) by a few months... maybe. Regardless of its dubious benefits, he could have received the treatment, paid for entirely by Medicare, AKA by you, me, and our unborn grandchildren, but decided he didn't want to burden us just to suffer a few more months. He couldn't in good conscience waste our money. The doctors were pissed! No doubt they had boat payments to make. But I thanked him on behalf of future generations.

Now my family comes from a long line of cynical English and Germans, drunks, artists, witches, and WW1 German draft dodgers -- all sneerers at, and runners from, death. My great-great-great-great-great-etc. Aunt Mary Easty was hung as a witch in the 17th century Salem. (Her family kept excellent records, all now in my possession). When I was born the earth's population was 3.75 billion. Now it is twice that amount. When I was a kid, even at that relatively low number we worried about overpopulation more than we do now. So I'm always a little outraged when some documentary worries that we might lose a few billion in a plague or nuclear war. Good lord that would be great, After all, we have plenty to spare.

Three things run in my family: addiction, wit, and gallows humor. My great grandmother on my dad's side lived to 107 but practically deaf and blind, joking about wishing she'd been a smoker, as the last 20 years of her life were very very boring without being able to read or even hear books on tape (she could still talk in a perfectly measured and eerily intelligent voice). My grandmother on the same side is now closing in on 100, and is in the same boat... why didn't she smoke?

Why? Why do we prize longevity even at the cost of quality? My grandmother joked with the staff of her retirement home about going off her meds and dying a natural death and they put her on round the clock suicide watch. God forbid a woman of 98 years young even consider checking out so soon!

Social Security Reform Bill Encourages Americans To Live Faster, Die Younger

Now you might think its a Hippocratic thing but I know firsthand a lot of this comes from Medicare scamming. I used to volunteer at an alcohol clinic and if you were on medicaid, they wouldn't let you leave. They charged each patient $70 per 45 minute session of group therapy, each (in 2001) so considering there were on average 20 people per session and ten sessions or so a day that's $1,400. they made off medicare through making 20 drunks hang out with me for 45 minutes (I was not making any money) in a crumbling institutional white room. So while the medical industry sucks our future up their snouts to keep the elderly alive for a few more miserable years, NOVA cheerfully assures them death is in the process of being eradicated so we can all live... forever, on Medicare and government pensions... until the retirement age has to be raised to 90 and the voting bloc majority is so old they vote to enforce a mandatory 11 PM bedtime for the entire nation.

The only way we're going to keep health costs and pensions going in this country is if people die at a reasonable age. Otherwise -- your kids and grand kids will inherit nothing. So they buy nothing, because they're too broke from paying your Medicare bill and government pension. Why rack up another half a million dollars on Uncle Sam's tab just to keep shuffling along for another miserable 20 years? I'm not saying institute death panels, but let the old folks die with dignity if they want. I think some of them, like my granny, would dig the chance to attend their own funeral like they were Huck Finn or Robert Duvall.

In closing, fear not death. For death is part of life. But fear doctors, for they love to take our money, promising to stave off the scythe for a few more months no matter what the cost to your children ... do the math and set my granny free!

POST-SCRIPT: I wrote this shortly before my dad died and was saving it til now to make sure I felt the same way after a year. He died one year ago today, just a few months shy of his 70th birthday. He told me about the Medicare $200,000. enzyme treatment he had refused during the last night we spent together while watching, interestingly enough, Long Day's Journey into Night. My dad and I, watching old movies, love you pops! And I even got to say it before he passed, bonus.... RIP, James Kuersten. 1943-2012

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Paranormal Witnesses: Inciting Welles, Inarguable Walton, Unfathomable Leir

For UFO 'enthusiasts' this is surely the best of times. There's been a slow leak in the overinflated air mattress of top secret information these past few years, due partly to so many governmental witnesses and insiders getting old and wanting to clear their conscience before the big fire in the sky comes to claim them. Keeping a secret as big as the alien presence on earth for sixty or so years is no easy feat. And you know how old people are about getting attention.

Among the alleged treasures to be found is the syndicated series Unsealed: The Alien Files which may or may not be on a channel near you and claims to examine all the recently released FBI files and etc. The issue with that of course is, as I pointed out last year in FBI Disclosure: Is that all there is... to a Circus? 
Yes, it's terrifying; the 'disclosure' has begun far to the left of the dial as I and many others have predicted. I'm betting we'll never see an official announcement bigger than the ones we've already received by generals, astronauts, The History Channel, Fox, and now the FBI. But like good sheepherders, the inner circle world leaders know you have to give the masses an out - a way they can avoid asking 'what do they want?' and 'can we stop them?' and 'are we their pets?' and just focus on the question - are they real? And that question blocks out all the others, like the wizard's curtain, and all they have to do to keep that curtain up is make every shred of evidence and disclosure at least on some level 'dubious.'Wrapping truth in lies is like putting peanut butter inside one of those rubber cones you give your dog to chew on. They know it's there, they can't get to it to eat it but they can taste it, and so they are occupied for hours, distracted from their prison of existence. 
It's only when there's no way out of facing the scary truth that the yokels get ornery.  I don't know why I haven't seen ads for UNSEALED. It's not on Syfy, but Syfy is holding its own both on the ghost front and the UFO front, with their current champion a show that combines both areas, PARANORMAL WITNESS. Last night we saw a 90 minute special episode on 'The Walton Case' - which was the subject for the film FIRE IN THE SKY

These poor guys were really caught in a crossfire and the episode lets us know that skepticism is not without consequence. Who knows how many lives have been damaged by the one-two punch of alien abduction and public attacks? The poor bastards in the Walton case all had to slink out of town and more or less disappear to escape the constant media and rube harassment. Even the sheriffs involved in the case, who insisted on administering lie detector tests to all five guys (they all passed), can't believe it's not a hoax. They show up and do the talking head interview, but they can't let go of the life raft of believing it's a hoax. It's like Santa Clause in reverse. Imagine if Santa Clause didn't come on Xmas and deliver toys, he came down and grabbed children as he pleased, and whisked them off to perform day labor at his workshop. The only way terrified  parents can get through the day is by pretending Santa Clause isn't real. People can entertain the alien hypothesis easier when they only half believe it (as I do). But when evidence is so irrefutable, enough so that it would win its case in front of any impartial jury then it triggers an irrational panic response. For evidence just remember this:

If you doubt the alien abduction phenomenon is real, concrete, actuality - then watch this week's episode of PARANORMAL WITNESS, and examine the findings of alien implant extractor Dr. Roger Leir. One day he'll be regarded much like Louis Pasteur or Thomas Edison, the man who took out the implants most doctors preferred to deny were there, and had them tested in different laboratories including MIT with the same results every time: the materials in the chip are not of this earth.

Of course skeptics will find some reason to doubt this... as if people were somehow sticking chunks of meteorite under their skin for attention, and found a way to do this without promoting infection, and found a way to power the chip by attaching some transplanted nerve endings. A child could do it! But watch PARANORMAL WITNESS and you'll see just how badly some folks need to believe it's that easy.... any 'rational' explanation, no matter how outlandish, is better than an unpalatable paradigm-shattering truth.

Whatever the reason, the skeptics need to get it out of their systems, because soon those terrified skeptics will be as outmoded as the Flat Earth society, or the Amish. As Ezekiel is my paranormal witness, we'll never be a lonely planet again.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Brakhage Blobsquatch Connection

In order to understand the appeal of cryptozoology we need to understand two things: 1) Anthropomorphism and 2) Stan Brakhage.

Anthropomorphism is the way we tend to look for human characteristics in things... our brains are hard-wired to look for enemies in the bushes - so we see demons and lions forming in the shrubbery, especially when we're tired, tripping, suffering from the flu or delirum tremens, etc. BUT is this merely the misfiring of synapses in an overheated brain or is it that our blinders are down so we see the world as it really is, rich with inter-dimensional life just waiting to manifest via nothing more than our 'seeing' it?

Then there's Stan Brakhage - underground cinema's answer to Jackson Pollock, his films are great touchstones for talking about nearly any aspect of film and art. In grasping the import of his abstract films maybe we can learn to appreciate blobsquatch videos as abstract art, recognize the anthropomorphic hallucinatory quality of cryptids as analogous to 'das ding' in Lacanian terms, the unrecovered aspect of the castrated self hiding in the products of our unconscious - either in art or in our own direct perceptions of nature.

For best meta-textual viewing of the below video, move your glasses down to the end of your nose and your face up close to the screen to see a reflection of your eyes -- if your screen allows it. You can also do this on your TV unless its a non-reflective LED. Use the first minute of darkness to line up your eyes, and try to check to see if your pupils are dilated. Keep the frame size as small as it is in this post, so that your eyes occupy a decent portion of the image:

Now you understand, do you not? Because when dealing with a crafty hominid like Bigfoot... and if you research all the available evidence there's no doubt he exists (and if you think  the idea that a global conspiracy of hoaxes and false sightings and misidentified bears spanning centuries is somehow more believable, than may I suggest it is YOU who are unscientific? Apply the Occam's razor and the most likely probability is that these creatures are real) then you are dealing with a creature who is on some level more advanced than us. We have this problem where science thinks if it can't measure something, or examine it's eating patterns, then it does not exist. But paleontology has been wrong before (i.e. the coelacanth ) and will be again.

There's a theory that Sasquatch is able to sense humans a long way off, and he's big, and fast, and maybe immortal. We've never found the bones of a dead one, so they must know how to bury their dead, or they never die. At any rate, it's baffling.... and thank god there are some things we can't explain. Once science is able to explain and label everything the world will be frustratingly stale.

That is why we can use Brakhage to understand. We should endeavor to see Bigfoot evidence as art in and of itself, as pieces of a mystery we secretly hope to never solve (rest assured if the govt. found a Bigfoot family it would be curtains for them - endless medical tests and kept in cages ala Rise of the Planet of the Apes). Instead of searching for faces and anthropomorphic recognition in all those hazy Bigfoot films on youtube, we should endeavor to see them as abstract art, ala Brakhage above. Only when we can cultivate the love of abstraction, of letting our symbolic alphabet slip away, freeing us to exist if only for a moment in the clear light of the pure real, only when we finally capture Stan Brakhage and give Bigfoot a grant to make his own films, can we actually 'solve' the mystery. Not to be too Zen, but 'we' can't solve the mystery until our 'we' is dissolved, until 'we' in a sense are made as mysterious as Sasquatch is to us now. Only when our egos and self-centered blinders-on fear bases are dissolved, our hearts are open, our doors unlocked, our guns unloaded, will Bigfoot finally come.

For this to happen, science must relax its panicked grip on the throat of humanity and let the right side of the group brain - the intuitive, psychic, artistic, weird - take over. Science is like the crazy king who cuts open the artist looking for art, who would drink the blood of a magician to learn his secrets, who would crucify a butterfly to the bulletin board cross and feel not a twinge of compassion. Those scientists must be brought to trial! Trial by monkey!!! Trial by vagueness! Trial by faith and the ability to trust intuition and inner voices at least as applicable evidence. And in looking at these videos (above and below) aren't we in a sense doing just that? Gazing into hazy images, blurs, dim traces of ghostly movement we are traveling back in time to the world before 'names' reduced the mystery of life. Isn't this what abstract art is all about, resisting anthropomorphism so that our whole structural network of language is sidestepped? Shucker loose from signifier-bound perception and be free!

And don't worry, mystery is patient. It waits for us to join it, to become part of the mystery ourselves, to let Sasquatch come looking for us for a change, let Sasquatch vainly try to capture us on film and then we will remember that he exists outside linear time. He's already seeping into our reality down the road, in our distant future, and then roaring back down the highway in rubber band snaps, into our faces.... so best learn to love not knowing, relish your position of helplessness, trust in whatever higher power serves you, but never judge others, and never kill what you can't understand. 'Dwell in possibility' and let the hairy dude in the mirror approach without fear, and shave.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Guide to Cable's Paranormal / Ghost-Hunting TV Shows

"You're talking about a dimension no one can pinpoint or explain." 
- Former skeptic, A Haunting

If one wished, one could spend a lifetime (and beyond) watching ghost and paranormal shows on cable--there are so damn many. That's fine by me, a man who considers the art of telling ghost stories a sacred rite, and who knows it's important that they seem true (no ghost story is scary if the teller prefaces "now, I just made this all up, so don't believe it," it's always "this totally happened to a friend of mine's aunt and uncle..." or similar. This idea that it needs to be possibly true, may have happened, is what myth is all about. After all, most kids suspect Santa Clause is not really real, but maybe he is... and maybe is enough for the magic to work. I'm into that 'maybe...' I live for it, and I revile the need skeptics have to debunk, to make sure it's etched in stone in front of City Hall that there are no ghosts, no Santa, no God. If there's not, what do they care? Would they go to Disney World and make sure the kids know all the pirates and monsters are animatronic mannequins? Would they make sure everyone at the Louvre knows their precious Rodin sculpture is just a giant hunk of stone?

If you deign to do the research, you may even come to believe that supernatural phenomena abound upon the Earth, that there's no difference between reality and consensual imagination, and when some smug rationalist or science major calls it all a lot of bunk he's just showing his fear of the unknown and demonstrating a very unscientific refusal to entertain the experiences and perceptions of others when they conflict with his (or rather his thesis professor's) idea of how the world works. Until something supernatural has happened to him personally he doesn't believe it, just like illegal drugs are evil and dangerous unless he tries them, or he's anti-gay marriage unless he has a lesbian daughter (Cheney), or anti-immigration unless he was raised by the family's immigrant maid (Bush Jr.).

If you watch these ghost shows enough you will come to hate such narrow-minded skeptics. Because time and again you see examples of how their dismissive intolerant attitude regularly endangers the welfare of their pets, wives and children, and serves to counteract why we come to these shows in the first place, to feel a shred of the wonder and mystery of the unknown we felt as kids who didn't understand the world around them. On some level it might be good to ignore spiritual activity, but on another that elephant in the room might just sit on your face if that's what it has to do to get your attention. It's like beating your children for bothering you with their 'lies' about being bullied in school, or burning someone to teach them there's no such thing as fire.

On the other extreme is something I also dislike, known as inductive reasoning, which overtakes a lot of ghost hunters in their bid for scientific credibility. This is where an investigator in an allegedly shadow person-filled room sees an there are a lot of weird reflections thrown around by passing cars outside, and so automatically debunks the sightings. End. Thus no orbs count as evidence, because some might be bugs. That's what I mean by inductive reasoning. If you need physical evidence for something to be real to you--if no sensory perception is valid--then by your same logic no crime ever committed by someone who has effectively covered their tracks has ever happened. Where is the evidence to suggest anyone can effectively conceal evidence? With that attitude it's a wonder science has made the leaps it has.

The following have been classified not as best or worst--who cares?--but by believability, chill factor, pros, cons, and if applicable, 'leader prick factor. "Believability" doesn't imply it's true; it means that it feels authentic enough to add to the chill factor. If it feels scary then I'm a believer, true or not. It's more fun that way. It's not like the ghosts are asking for money, or trying to bilk our rich aunt through a shady fortune-telling racket.

In the interest of science, I also liken each show to a drink or a drug, both analogous to the content and recommended while viewing.

Lastly, if you have a cat, it's recommended you fire up the laser pointer and get her chasing the red dot around the room while watching these ghost shows, to situate yourself in a metatextual fractal chain. The cat finds the very elusive, impossible strangeness of the glowing red dot both baffling and exciting, sometimes frustrating but always beguiling; are ghosts perhaps the red dot our higher power flashes to keep us running around, interested and engaged in an otherwise rather uninteresting environment?

Part one: 

My Ghost Story: Caught on Camera
Spook Factor - 6
Believability - 6.5
"I wuz a skeptic fer a lawng tayme."
This is the only one of these shows where the actual witnesses of hauntings re-enact the actual situations wherein they captured their ghost evidence, including going back to the scene and then having the editor intercut their actual footage and photos with new footage of the actual witnesses taking the pictures (or, as most call them, "pitchers").

There's always debunkers against orbs such as the ones this show's so fond of, but whatever. You watch these shows long enough you come to believe that ghosts exist, so who cares if something or other might be a bug or dust particle? On the other hand, it's important to remember we're hardwired to find faces hidden in everything (anthropomorphic pareidolia), it's good for survival in the woods but bad for restful sleep when alone in a house surrounded by gnarled, rustling, scraping trees. Some My Ghost Story witnesses see the darndest things in shadows and blurs of light: faces, arms, hats, and feet in the clouds of murky shadow or far-off window reflection. If you look really closely at the thing in the window above, for example, it kind of looks like some crude monster drawing, but does that mean it's anything but a trick of light? No, it doesn't, but isn't it adorable someone genuinely believes otherwise? The bottom pane even looks like a giant doberman dog's face staring and the man at the top is wearing an eyeball hat - representing the third eye and commonly used in masonic ceremony... and he's buying a stair... way... to heav...ven.

can you spot the hangin' lady? 
Pros: There's 4-5 stories per hour episode, so if one is a little ridiculous, another is right on its heels. Since there's so much evidence there's little time wasted. And if the evidence is good then the holy shit moments come fast and furious.
Cons: There's an occasional lapse of good editing judgment and talking heads have a tendency to ramble on. Also, some darker lighting choices and face-blurring could be made in the service of positive dentistry. Some of the faces these people see in the orbs and window grime are fun, some downright ridiculous. And the producers on this show should read up on that old anthrophomorhic pareidolia because the ridiculous parts cheapen the rest.

Drug of Choice:  Pabst Blue Ribbon, Skoal

A Haunting
Discovery Channel
Spook Factor - 8
Believability - 7
Re-enacting the story as it's being told is a good for laffs if the acting is really bad and chills when it isn't. If the story involves numerous witnesses who all show up for deposition taping, as in the Northern England pub haunting in the stellar episode, "The Wheatsheaf Horror," the overall effect-- and happy ending with everyone drinking for free as the sun slowly comes up--is cathartic enough that you might feel drained and optimistic for the future, though I'm a sucker for stories that go all night and end still drinking as the sun comes up.

Throughout the various true stories, we learn important things about history, the psychic stain left in crystal deposits by traumatic murders, and how to get rid of ghosts should they ever appear. My opinion's always been why not burn a lot of sage, every few days, just in case? The show makes good use of fhadow figures and demons are appropriately scary, and a real nightmare effect comes regularly when parents are intolerant doubters. Skepticism gets hostile when challenged, so no one believes the pets--who are first to freak out and bark at corners--then the kids see something but no one believes them, the parents think the kid scratched himself to get attention... and then the dad thinks the wife is just crazy once she starts seeing shit, and then finally the dad sees something he can't explain and so the family finally reaches lazily for their laptops and contacts a paranormal group. Experts come in; the rationales behind EMF detectors and EVP recorders are explained...

Pros - Great deep, resonant voiceover work by Anthony Call, with just a bit of creepiness, not enough that it's tacky, just enough that it's fun. It's pretty great how much more attractive some of these jokers become when their stories are re-enacted by up-and-coming TV actors. Without that significant bump in hotness this would just be like My Ghost Story only without any actual evidence (they never show ghost crew footage or play the tapes).
Cons - Smaller cases can drag and drag, and when they decide to employ more scripted dialogue instead of just letting the heads do the talking, then the badness of some the actors and writing really shines through.
Drug of Choice: caffeine + hangover

School Spirits
Spook Factor - 8
Believability - 8
Kind of a parallel to A Haunting in overall style. The college atmosphere ensures the proper pronunciation of 'pictures' and other tricky words. As one expert intones, freshmen year is already traumatic enough on its own, which both might explain some sightings and even cause them, as ghosts love to feed on the unstable energy of insecure, lost, confused young adults.

The above picture is interesting as the mask behind this screaming actress looks both like Tom Cruise's orgywear in Eyes Wide Shut, a poster for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and a grey alien. So... is there a correlation between demons, ghosts, aliens, Arnold, and Tom Cruise? Glad ya axed!

Pros: College is where ghost stories go to ferment... a  perfect storm of students looking to bond through intense retellings of myths and explorations of psyche, and high literacy lends credence to the witnesses, of which there are always several.
Cons: The whiplash editing is enough to create a panic attack all on its own.
Drug of Choice: Whatever you can score from that junior down the hall.

The Haunted
Animal Planet
Spook Factor - 8.5
Believability - 9
The tragic thing about these stories is the length of time it takes for the tortured, terrified animals (emphasized as it's on Animal Planet)--horses in the barn; cats and dogs in the house--to be taken seriously when they react to entities we can't see with our jaded eyes. Who wants to see these pet owners shrugging off their animal's suffering, watching them losing weight, stopping eating, losing their fur, getting into fights, barking and `pleading and whining? Whole weeks go by while these dimwit humans watch their animals slowly die of stress and fear while doing nothing whatsoever to help them. Then again, they're not all like that. In one there's a ghost cat! Sometimes the animals get to ride out most of it on the sidelines, lucky stiffs.

Pros: Generally only really intense cases are reported, and unlike A Haunted, it always blends in actual paranormal team video and EVP evidence where applicable, and with enough talking heads it can reach a real land speed creepiness.
Cons: The narration is all directly from the participants, with the story advanced by intertitles, so the momentum can drag. There is no recreation as such, at least not with human actors - it's just B-roll of the house (or 'a' house) and the surrounding area, trees and stop signs mostly, via long pans and/or shots of pets, close-ups of tchochkes, and FCP effects all vaguely connected to the talking heads.
That's not to say it's not well-edited.

Drug of Choice: Ketamine

Paranormal Witness
Spook Factor - 10
Believability -9.5
An excellent hybrid of recreations and first-person accounts, this show tries to outscare its competition--A Haunting, The Haunted--by eliminating any possibility of resolution. If ghost investigation teams are called we may see their evidence but they're generally depicted as being quite useless, which makes it all the scarier.

If priests are called in they blame the house's inhabitants for the trouble by citing things like plastic pirate skulls inside the fish tank (demonic!) and then go and call child services after doing absolutely nothing to help. While this may not be comforting or offer much resolution, it's definitely scarier to think of the church as hostile and useless, more of a threat than the actual demons. The re-enacting is better quality than most, and all the cowering and crying and screaming is well-done, and scary as hell, if annoying too (Why don't they just get out of the house, even if it's just to sleep in their damned car? Or look in the library if there's no internet yet and call Ed and Lorraine Warren?)

Pros-- The show picks only the most extreme cases and shoehorns smaller cases at the end of the hour if there's room rather than rely on filler. Photographic evidence is included where possible, like the image of an investigator tied by the neck to an attic rafter in the new season's premiere episode (left). Unlike all the other shows on this list, PW also covers UFO and Bigfoot encounters, and when there's multiple witnesses it makes for a really startling, convincing heap of evidence.

Cons -- Very little self-reliance or courage is shown. As with The Haunted, so often those who suffer are animals and children, harassed and terrorized only to have closed-minded, bullying dads come home and ignore the happenings, and dismiss their family's fears as the prattling of imbeciles who want to rob him of much needed sleep.

Drug of Choice: Mandrake root

Ghostly Encounters
Spook Factor - 3
Believability - 4
This show vaguely tries to hide its Canadian origins, but there's plenty other things here to rankle one's Yankee staidness, like a trite opening theme that's equal parts Tim Burton whimsy and Masterpiece Theater PBS pomp; a host (Lawrence Chow) so blandly professional in style and tone he could be introducing anything from a vacuum commercial to a 'welcome to jury duty' infomercial. And his head is too wide, making his footage seem anamorphically stretched.

Pros: I think the show's here in the State on Bio because there just aren't enough Celebrity Ghost Stories to go around. Yet, it's also, in its way, better than Celebrity Ghost Stories, maybe because these everyday Canadians are less familiar to us, therefore more believable
Cons: Then again, like Celebrity Ghost Stories, these are all single-witness testimony--no corroboration and no evidence. Those Canadians may be too trusting, or maybe they're right to be. Even Chow's backdrop is all wrong, like he stepped out to the porch during a wedding reception to get this over with before going back in to his real job as a hotelier.
Drug of Choice: skunked Molsons

Celebrity Ghost Stories
Spook Factor - 5
Believability - 4
As with Ghostly Encounters, this involves a talking head telling the story directly to camera intercut with re-enactments by no-name actors. Knowing these people are professional actors and/or celebs who will do or say nearly anything to get on camera makes these tales sometimes resonate less than they might with just anonymous Canadians or total strangers as subjects. Occasionally a story is so hopelessly 'familiar' that astute viewers may get the impression there's a pile of campfire ghost tale scripts on set in case celebs don't have a true one of their own. Sometimes these tales just seem trite and self-serving: Rowdy Roddy Piper fills us in with his whole life story before the reveal that his dead wrestling buddy was protecting his family. Hey, I'm happy for him and like his work in They Live and Frogtown, but c'mon, man - don't get treacly. Others recount their darkest pre-frame moment, when they were saved from a grungy overdose by a shimmering dead grandmother. Nice, but again, boring as hell and self-serving way to just get yourself telling your life story onscreen.

Pros: There's something surreal about seeing no-name actors re-enacting the memories of famous actors who speak directly into the camera. It's meta! And when it's good, it's very riveting, for in the end, don't hauntings exist for the re-telling? That's what myth is!

Celebrities haunted by ghosts of celebrities are especially interesting: Debbie Gibson is haunted by Liberace; Beverly De Angelo by Mama Cass; Kaya Jones by Dorothy Dandridge; Ellen Barkin by Sonja Henie, to name a few. Maybe it's because they all live in the same old Hollywood mansions and travel to a lot of weird overseas hotels, but after watching this show I think it's also something to do with mystery of celebrity itself. Maybe the sudden surge of spiritual power an artist feels when they go from struggling anonymity to staggering success--sometimes overnight-- generates a bright spotlight in the dark that attracts has-been spirits looking for one more minute of fame? 

Cons: Some scan as flat out tall tales: the worst is Marilyn Manson's high school memory of reading the Necronomicon aloud in an excavated cellar in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night after stealing the book from his friend's brother's pig intestine-bedecked Satanic altar. First of all, it seems pretty unlikely that, after seeing a big bloody altar up in a barn loft, Manson and his buddy would want to up the ante on their own elsewhere; but the main craw-sticker to the story--as an alleged super freak like Manson should know--is that the Necronomicon isn't a real book! There might be 'fake' editions created by diehard Lovecraft fans, but it was a ficcione invented by Lovecraft for his Chthulu mythos.

Still, even if these all ain't true, or scary, it's fascinating --with ghost celebs like Deanna Durbin and Errol Flynn and girls who died in parties at Rita Hayworth's mansion, etc.--encountering one another, and the way the tellers really embellish and relish every syllable provides insight into the celebrity gift of enhancing even the smallest gesture with dramatic flourish.

META BONUS ROUND! - Melissa George, the actress who played real-life haunting victim Kathy Lutz (the wife) in the recent remake of Amytiville Horror, was haunted on the set! The Celebrity Ghost Stories crew recreate the behind-the-scenes footage of George being haunted during the shoot (the reamke was filmed at a real, similar-looking house, not the same one, but it didn't matter to the ghost). Think about it a minute: here we have a professional young actress recounting a real haunting on the set of a film about a real life haunting--a remake of a 70s film about a real life haunting, mind you--so that's like two stops of real paranormal and three stops of meta-reflective recreation, and the footage shot by the show to illustrate her story is even color-styled to look really washed-out and old even though the remake came out just a few years ago. The only way it could be any more meta would be if the actress who plays Lutz in the re-enactment had a ghostly encounter on the Celebrity Ghost Story set and it just went deeper into infinity from there.

Drug of Choice: cocaine and Xanax - at a party attended by the ghost of Samuel Fuller and his French interpreter.

Haunted History
History Channel
Spook Factor - 3
Believability - 3
A bit too tour guide-ish, there's a "though at times unnerving, these spirits are part of the rich history of this Colorado landmark" kind of tour guide banality. You can't conjure true spooky believability when it might make your tourist bureau richer to paint them as benign actors in suspiciously unsoiled period clothes. When people are interviewed it's generally while they are at the historic sites and their filmed at a crooked, low angle, for extra-scarifying!

Pros: Informative, some talking heads don't seem like they've told the story three thousand times already during their tour-giving career.
Cons: The tacky re-enactments always seem like you're watching a re-enactment with your mom and some other tourist snapping pictures over your shoulder. The way the voiceover guy accents nearly every other word is a little too professional to conjure any fear.
Drug of Choice: old-fashioned opium resin


Ghost Adventures
Travel Channel
Spook Factor - 10
Believability - 9
Some of these shows feel like they have a big mission to save people, rescuing troubled, haunted families. The Ghost Adventures boys on the other hand are in it to scare themselves shitless, to go deeper and darker and evoke some old school ballyhoo and in the process fulfill their Travel Channel obligations (showing the countryside, local history) and work towards their overall mission of legitimizing their field and letting those haunted at home watching know they're not alone. Some research teams go to the small homes and families in need, the GA crew tackle big empty prisons, demonic locales like Bob Mackey's Music World and skeevy landmarks like the Shanghai Tunnels in Portland. These are dudes who are going into dark, scary places and as Aaron says in the Return to Bobby Mackey's episode, starting to like it. As the seasons continue these boys look more and more like ghosts themselves --they're nocturnal, like boozy vampires. I keep imagining them investigating my apartment, and me trying to kick them out but they're transparent, and can't hear me. Are they dead or am I?

These three are like the guys who you meet on the first day of summer camp and first you're a little skeeved out but then suddenly someone says "Dude! What the hell was THAT?" in the dead of night when none of you can sleep, and not only do you suddenly dig them, you're scared shitless together - bonded by fear. Plus you have to dig the eagle eye view of their boilerplate boy's group pecking order - Zak - the arrogant narcissistic leader who presumes every girl he interviews wants to sleep with him, regardless of her age or living/dead status; Nick - the beta male, second-in-command; Aaron - the whipping boy, tagging up the rear, the comic relief, though slowly losing weight as the seasons accrue (demonic attacks will do that). You can imagine being inside the places with these guys, and they get a lot of good evidence. It helps that they travel with--as Zak says in the intro,--"no big camera crews following us around" and their shoot-from-the-hip kinetic style is refreshing.

Pros: The evidence is reviewed on the spot, the EVPs are played as they're caught, a bunch of times, like a tape loop rap, so that by the time the sun comes up the credits are coming up too, rather than the patient slogs through evidence and final presentation that tedium up some of the other investigator shows.
Cons:  It's a bit off-putting when Zak does the expository dialogue with innocent bystanders, boasting to them about how he eats tattoo-hating ghost nuns for breakfast, or whatever. And the flash cuts to goofy hardcore horror images are dumb and ineffective.

Leader's Prick Factor - Zak's a douche not a prick, but since he's just with two other dudes and living in scary dark basements on a nightly basis it counts more as needed whistle-in-the-dark bravado than skeeviness. Every group of dudes has an alpha wiseguy acting all douchey, who picks on the tech guy and thinks every girl he meets automatically wants him... it's just the way packs of dudes are. Also there's the whole sadomasochistic edge to his obsession with the lock-down: "This is how the Ghost Adventure's crew gets locked down!"
Drug of Choice: Whiskey!

Ghost Hunters 
Spook Factor - 2
Believability - 10
These guys are so chill. This is the most relaxing ghost doc. in the world. They're the Xanax of ghost hunting. Unfortunately, while thoroughly professional, they never catch shit as far as evidence. It doesn't help that the camera crew is always filming the team looking for ghosts and never the ghosts they look at; the show itself isn't worried about evidence --it wants to catch their faces looking scared or surprised. But dude, we don't care.

Pros: Investigator Kris Williams looks great in night vision.  You can watch a whole day marathon and not get too bored, or excited, for that matter. It's the NPR of ghost docs.
Cons: The documentary crew for the reality show are never any help in getting evidence, so the result is we basically follow the crew around and then we sit with them while they examine all their footage. Like watching someone sift sandzzz.

Leader Prick Factor - N/A, Jason Hawes is pretty cool  - a kind of mega chill Louis CK of ghost hunters
Drug of Choice: Diet Sarsaparilla and Laudanum.

Ghost Hunters International
Spook Factor - 4
Believability - 9
Well, here's the little sister of the main GH show. These guys take it on themselves to decide if a place is haunted or not. The gist is they have a lot of personal experiences (being touched, etc.), and occasionally they get an EVP but they almost never get any photographic evidence. Part of this is their yen for debunking, but debunk too much and you become like Obama thinking he can appease Republicans. No skeptic is going to watch the show anyway, and if they do your debunking isn't going to reduce their sneering level. And by going to an ancient Italian church and announcing their holy 'crying pillar' is just suffering water leakage, who are you doing a favor to? You're robbing the magic from the world, squashing myths to make the world a duller place.

Pros - Their insistence on speaking English to all ghosts, irregardless of the country they're in, is hilariously on point for the idiot American tourist archetype. Occasionally there's a real freak, such as the girl at left, who appears in the fourth or fifth episode of the first season (avail on Netflix Streaming).
Cons - Like their stateside brother GHI never gets more than a few trifling EVPs.... and their insistence on debunking and inductive reasoning gets annoying and defeats the purpose. Just because the orbs could be dust doesn't mean they are - it's like saying all dust particles are spirit orbs. It gets pretty maddening that they have all these cameras and never get any evidence; they just see shadow people and run away. 

Leader Prick Factor - Robb Demarest it the official leader early on and his Manson-esque eyes, meth head hair, weak chin, and perennial cowboy stubble evince a strong, skeevy leader.  Still, he left when Syfy told him if his team didn't start getting some more evidence, some special ghost ringers would have to be flown in (rumor has it), so don't doubt he's got character. Better is multilingual Barry Fitzpatrick (from Ireland), but but both can get very sanctimonious about their hallowed chair of decision-making on what is and isn't haunted. Dude, you guys show up for a few hours and get a few EVPs and think you've done all that needs to be done, and that you are the bellwether expert court opinion? I'd get a second one.
Drug of Choice: Librium

Ghost Lab
Discovery Channel
Spook Factor - 0.003
Believability - 10
Come with good old boy Texas brothers Barry and Brad Klinge in their giant trailer ghost lab to various spots around the country, there to set up an elaborate 'net' of EVP recorders and cameras, all for a night or two before moving on. The Kinge crew are their own roadies, so there's a lot of packing up and unpacking involved in each episode. While the show is consistent, the amount of evidence never seems to warrant their cohesive approach. There's not much point to do all that wiring unless you're going to stay for weeks. Seems to me.

Pros: Overall its convincing; there's a girl, Katie Burr (above) to provide some relief from the facial and leg hair. She seems like a real girl, too--someone they know, not assigned by the network.
Cons: When you look at the relative evidence garnered on these shows, it seems more and more like the more crap you bring and set up the less you actually get. And they have a lot of crap.

Leader's Prick Factor - None. These brothers seem like genuinely cool dudes. I like that Brad gets all psyched when they get evidence and starts to swagger around like a good old boy.
Drug of Choice: A half-gone but still cold keg of Busch.

Paranormal State
Spook Factor - 7
Believability - 5
I've read a thing deriding the show as a hoax (see here) and saying the team's leader, Ryan Buell, is a hopelessly vain control freak, and I can certainly see that. But on the other hand, these documentaries are all about sleight of hand wrought by reality show producers, a sleight of hand not necessarily belonging the team being documented. Every layer adds deception - so if the family's concerns are legit, and the team documenting the family is legit, the team documenting the team documenting the family may not be. You might capture some weird shit in your investigation and you might not -- maybe the ghosts are sleeping or staying with a friend the night you show up. The cameras still need to get a show, a money shot, a bump in the night to keep us glued through all the commercials for catheters and auto loans; so they always make it seem like some big bump is about to be discovered. Then, after the commercial, no bump, it was just the wind.

In an interview Buell said "As with any reality show, the realness of what happens on screen seems to always come into question. Buell said that he often tells the producers that different things they ask for can't be done." You can guess the rest... if you're psychic or understand video editing.
Pros: I like the idea of Ryan having a whole Rolodex of experts, healers, shamen, therapists, and even exorcist Father Bob Bailey he can call as needed. When it's serious demon attack time, that's when all my reservations about the Catholic church are abandoned like an atheist in the foxhole.
Cons: The half-hour length makes things feel rushed, especially with the heavy exorcism and Native American spirit haunting cases. Make it an hour, y'all, and just do two cases if one is a bust.
Drug of Choice: Aderall

Leader's Prick Factor - High. Ryan gets a few points shaved off for the excuse that he's young and TV can make you vain. But is he any worse than Zak from Ghost Adventures? Well, yes. But he is quick to acknowledge his own errors, though his self-serious pomp must annoy the hell out of his team. Critic's log - final entry: Upon closer investigation I think Ryan's desire to help others is genuine. Indeed, it's hard to do what he does without a strong moral compass, and you can't blame him if he falls in line with A&E's attempt to model the show around him in a cult of personality.

Destination Truth
Spook Factor - 6
Believability - 7
I have some doubts about whether this show belongs in this list. They only occasionally look for ghosts and then only in colorful, mostly outdoor locales (usually they're hunting exotic monsters). Still there's enough ghost stuff it's worth including. Team leader Josh Gates looks and acts like if he wasn't hunting ghosts and monsters he'd be inventing Cliff Bars or going wherever his Mastercard takes him, but his crew includes some cute girls who clearly know what the hell they're doing. As usual with these shows the truth proves continuously slippery and lack of evidence is covered up by the editors to imply something wild is always around the next commercial break. And there's some great episodes, like when they go to Mexico's awesome creepy doll island (see top image).

Pros: They seem to always almost get some real good evidence; travelogue factor is extreme -- going to places no one ever goes, looking for the monsters only they would know lay da lie! Erin Ryder is cute and looks good in night vision. There's occasionally the hot girl investigators from other Syfy shows, like Fact or Faked's Jael de Pardo.

Cons: Although they do make some attempts to not be disrespectful, the implication is if they don't find evidence the local witnesses are nuts. In places like Iceland, where the team goes to investigate elves, their attitude is downright snotty. If you had magical creatures in your backyard would you want a bunch of dudes with video cameras traipsing around deciding whether you're crazy or it's real enough to warrant your property be besieged by reporters and monster hunters for seasons to come? What a choice. Those elves need to be invisible because of ugly American attitudes like this.
Drug of Choice: ayahuasca, drunk in the Amazon basin with an experienced shaman, who you then throw up on and don't even apologize.

Leader's Prick Factor -  Josh Gates is blandly handsome if you ask his producers --they fetishize his leadership and shorts and shortsleeves. That said, he is rather ballsy: scuba diving into dark underwater caverns in the dead of night, etc., and he keeps a levelheaded sense of humor.

The Haunted Collector
Spook Factor - 4.2
Believability -3
"Now that the item has been removed, I can get back to tranquility," notes one lucky client. This guy who removes it, John Staffis may be be legit but how come on no other show are objects haunted? I can do a good impression of his Boston accent in the opening credits when he announces "Spirts may sometimes attach themselves to ahhb-jects" And how come every episode covers two cases and both are always solved when one symbolic object is found and removed?

For the new season, John's brought a long a dull debunker. I'm so bored of debunkers. Will this addition convince skeptics? Wouldn't they have to watch it first? They're not watching, John. Sorry. Second, for the debunker: do you really think 'average' people can't tell the difference between a gust of wind and a ghost? Most people intrinsically know the difference, and it's not your job to just presume no one is as smart as you are; that's not what a ghost hunter is. Its not even what a skeptic is. What it is is being a wiseass just asking to get clocked in the kisser by a blunt ahh-bject.

Frankly, whenever there's too much attention to debunking I smell a con. Thou dost protest too much. The second problem is that even with debunking in effect, Staffis magically finds, without fail, some cool tchotchke stashed in a conspicuous easter egg hunt-style spot, the second night of the investigation. It magically appears right when he's about to give up. And then he gets to take it home to his museum of haunted objects, and problem solved. Hmmm. I'm not saying it's a plant, just that it's strange that no other TV paranormal team finds haunted objects, or removes them -- having a kind of mystical Pawn Stars x Ghost Hunters hybrid is a little too... I don't know... convenient? Sometimes there's tons of paranormal activity right off the bat, or the owners of the house have some relevant object they just unearthed during renovations but if not, well...

I want to stress on thing having said this: I don't think Zaffis or his team are guilty of object-planting, mind  you -- I think it's the field producer on orders from the network, there's way too much time and money invested to go home empty-handed. Found so far: garrotes, mysterious portraits, Native American fetish objects, pocket watches given as gifts to spurned lovers in 1819, and etc. There's always a relevant antiques expert in town to show the object to who can explain the roots of its presence and use, almost as if he sold it to them the day before. Hmmmm.

Pros: You just might learn a little about history. Hot girl investigators like Jocelyn Brown provide relief from the endless objectifying and dudes telling us about how EMF detectors work. Beth Ezzo comes later and is cute in night vision; we have to take her word that Zaffis is respected in the paranormal field. Apparently he worked on the 'Haunting in Connecticut' and Amityville horror cases. Like I said, I don't think he would deliberately fake evidence, but producers? Yes.

Cons: Staffis' proclamation that ghosts haunt during the day as well as at night seems a bit like an old man who doesn't want to stay awake for the normal three AM haunting hour. When he asks the client at the end "What would you like to do with this item?" it's suddenly way too Pawn Stars-ish for comfort. He has the inflection of someone trying to talk the seller down on price.

Drug of Choice: Imodium
Leader Prick Factor:  John's too old and historically relevant to be called a prick, but his cranky old man status comes through at times, making it seem like he's just assigning leg work to the young men rather than do things himself, because his joints hurt. That's fine, but don't act like you're coordinating D-day.

Fact or Faked
Spook Factor - 2
Believability - N/A
For some reason these guys think if they use their substantial Syfy funds to recreate videos they find on youtube then they get to be the ones to decide whether they're fact or faked. Just because something can be recreated doesn't mean it's not true, you kids, and anyway, who put you in charge?

Hate to break it to you, FOF troupe, but all you guys are here because you're photogenic and young and dumb enough to believe puny science can save you! It can't, and your opinion on whether something is fact or faked is just that, an opinion... and a rather worthless one, based on your inductive reasoning methods (i.e. if you can somehow duplicate the video, the video is a hoax)

Pros: Investigator Jael de Pardo is a sharp, American Apparel-style babe and seems relatively open-minded.
Cons: The show's smarmy concept is insulting to those who post the videos in good faith. I'm all for hoaxers being exposed but just because you can duplicate the video doesn't mean it's faked, it just means you have lots of money and nothing to do with your time other than follow others' footsteps. Besides, we need hoaxers - they keep us guessing, keep our lives infused with myth and wonder, and at the same time help us take everything we see and hear with a grain of salt.
Drug of Choice: None, cuz that would interfere with the purity of their investi (yawn) gation.

Haunted Highway
Spook Factor - 6
Believability - 4
Two sets of kids--each equipped with a vaguely ethnic hottie and a pasty rich kid nerd--go after creatures and remote hauntings. One team is Jack Osborne and clear-skinned investigator Dana Workman. The other is that hot girl from Fact or Faked, Jael de Pardo, and some dude in glasses named Devin.

So far the advantage of this show is speedy editing that creates a sense of constant momentum. Craziest is just how good the video and audio is while being so off-the-cuff. True to her previous show, Pardo has a habit of misinterpreting evidence. An expert biologist tells her the hair they recovered was more human or humanoid than animal so she conjectures it was a dude in a suit scaring them. But that makes no sense. Why wouldn't a hairy ape-man hybrid be more human than ape? If it was fake, wouldn't the hair be acrylic?

Pros: The girls are gorgeous, much too gorgeous to be out on the road or racing through the no-man's lands in the dead of night with just a frail slacker boy for protection and no hairdresser--they must have some great shampoo in their backpacks because the morning after sleeping in their car or a tent, they look perfect. Jack's not as obnoxious as you might think. He's older now. His relatively deep voice and trace of a posh British accent and poker-faced go-getter spirit drives the show. (ED Note- medical problems have taken him out of the game so it's just Jael and Devin lately).
Cons: They seem to think by shooting it all themselves (no big camera crews following them around) they're trailblazing, but the Ghost Adventures crew have been doing that for years! Another thing: it's a bit fishy that they go out one night and bam, get some tantalizing but inconclusive evidence--then feel they can decide if anything strange is going on. I can only imagine what it would be like to investigate and come up with nothing and still deliver a show. I've seen HOT TO HANDLE, where Clark Gable is a roving journalist who fakes the pictures he wants, if he can't get them any other way. Just sayin'. He tries to get them the real way, but he still needs to get them. But what about all that debunking you were doing on the show, Jael? None are clean.

Drug of Choice: Ritalin

The Dead Files
Travel Channel
Spook Factor - 9
Believability - 10
Amy Allan is the psychic (she sometimes shows up in A Haunting). She goes through the haunted house and her wispy hipster husband videotapes her impressions. Her eyes bug out, her voice quivers with the unearthly horror, some unseen guy films the filming through a better camera. She then gets a sketch artist to draw the main perp spirit she's seen "on her walk." Meanwhile, ex-NYPD homicide detective Steve De Schiavi figures it out from his end via the usual interviews and library visits. Then they get together to reveal their findings with the client. With gravitas galore, a thousand yard cop stare, and an unflappable poise (his eyes may bug out at times, but his shoulders never betray), De Schiavi lets you know he's seen some fucked shit in his tenure on the force.

Since there's no paranormal evidence gathering aside from Amy's psychic impressions, we have to take their word it's not fake. Frankly, I don't think it is. Some mediums are legit, and Allan's got the cred. My own psychic sense says she's truly psychic.

Pros - De Schiavi and Allan are a good team, not for any personal connection per se, but because they both have seen a lot of horrifying, evil things: he in the NYPD, she in the spirit realms. Naturally their respective defense mechanisms both includes a certain level of reserve; all the emotion and feeling is in their eyes, which dilate and narrow and widen as the creepy info comes. You can tell he has paternal-style concern for Allan, which helps rudder the show's heavy displacement.
Cons - There's no real point to the show, except to demonstrate the eerie rapport and prowess of these two disparate people united by their life of unblinking stares into scenes of pure horror.
Drug of Choice: jimson weed

Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal
Spook Factor - 6.9
Believability -5
First of all, Chip Coffey rules! But those other people who take his place as host at times, I don't know --some are great, but the main 'other' guy seems way too much like a flimflam man about to sell you a sham-wow. Second of all, Chip's partner, child therapist Edy is strangely sexy. But something never quite gels in that all the cases end the same: the kids never guess anything wrong and if parents start out rabid skeptics they invariably come around at the end.

But even if it doesn't seem too credible at times, it's a reality show about socially ostracized kids coming together and learning to face their fears, mentored by a ballsy gay man who has clearly 'outed' his way to a fuller expression of human potential than most of us will ever reach. So bravo, Chip.

Pros: Chip is great and if nothing else you can use his "I'm here, I'm queer, I'll kick your ghost ass or help you into the light based on how you treat me" mantra as your own. If that message actually helps kids, be they queer, psychic or just weird enough to feel ostracized, it's awesome.
Cons: After the retreat, these kids go back home to their shit towns and deal with the same old shit. Why isn't there a Coffey school for gifted mutants? Shouldn't a shadowy CIA guy be recruiting them or something? Imagine how awesome that show would be.
Drug of Choice: sleep apnea