Guest Lon Strickler - Fortean Researcher, Author and Blogger at Phantoms and Monsters
On this week's episode (080521) of the Afterlife Chronicles, I welcome friend and colleague Lon Strickler - Fortean researcher, author and blogger at phantoms and monsters - http://www.phantomsandmonsters.com
I have been a guest on Lon's radio show a few times and it was wonderful to return the favor and have him on my show. Discussion of cryptids and cryptozoology are popular topics in the supernatural field. For years, Lon has been researching both ghosts / hauntings as well as various cryptids, interdimensional beings and creatures - Bigfoot, Mothman, Black-Eyed Kids, winged creatures, the Dogman, among many others.
During the episode, Lon elaborated on his journey as a paranormal researcher and gave some spine-tingling first-person accounts of Bigfoot and the Dogman. He even discussed the sightings of the winged humanoid creature that's seen near O'Hare Airport in Chicago. He summarized the many sightings people have had of this mysterious being, including some unique behavioral patterns it has.
Not everyone believes in cryptids, UFO encounters and alien species. When there are so many similar sightings among people from all walks of life, it almost begs us to further explore these unknown phenomena. I am of the belief that there is some sort of nexus between ghosts, spirits, aliens, cryptids, the Fae people, interdimensional beings, etc. More and more people are encountering paranormal phenomena, partly because we are more open to it as a society. I do believe there are other elusive reasons, some that us mortals are not yet permitted to know.
But, this doesn't stop us from exploring and wondering!
Personal Thoughts on the Paranormal
Let me provide an analogy to help you, the reader, understand where I am heading with this opinion piece relating to the field of paranormal exploration and research. The beginnings of a tsunami consist of seawater. As it moves onto land, it becomes mixed with all kinds of debris originally foreign to the ocean. As the giant wave and subsequent larger ones, approach dry terrain, the saltwater becomes a muddy mix of trash, dismantled buildings and other materials; cars, gasoline, petroleum, waste; deceased animal and human life, etc. In other words, ocean water is not meant for dry land and vice versa. Once the water comes onshore, it creates a whole host of problems and challenges.
Now, is where I enter into my thoughts about the field of paranormal research and where it’s headed if we don’t stop and look at things from a larger perspective. When I say “paranormal research,” I am including all of the branches of anomalous phenomena that people investigate. The current discipline of supernatural study can be just like the tsunami that’s made its way well onto dry land; at least in some regards. In addition to the many positives, it’s often full of foreign, degrading material, rampant egos, exploitation and misidentification of spiritual energies, make-believe and much more that’s cheapening it in many ways.
While reading this, some may feel that I am looking at the glass half full, ignoring the positives and benefits to studying the unknown. Instead, I feel that I am looking at things from a bigger lens and a wider panoramic view. The following are more or less observations I’ve made over the years, not necessarily criticisms. In life, sometimes we have to look at certain situations, which are often pushed under the rug instead of 1) addressing apprehension over dealing with them head-on and 2) bringing these particular conditions to light as a way to foster wider perspectives.
It's a privilege to study the unknown and supernatural realms. It’s amazing to connect with those who’ve transitioned to the other side. It’s equally enthralling to study and get a glimpse into other life forms and beings. As such, those studying the otherworldly need to approach their work with sincerity, devotion and professionalism. Perhaps, if everyone involved, engaged in this mindset, the field of psychical research would be taken more seriously. Those possessing an unwavering intrigue into the mysteries of the paranormal need to first ask themselves why they want to actively investigate and explore these outer realms. Those who’s desires are dominated by frivolous reasons won’t necessarily last too long in the field nor will they be considered professional. Even people who tirelessly engross themselves in paranormal investigation need an occasional reminder to take their explorations and studies in a more earnest manner. Aside from surveying other preternatural creatures and interdimensional beings, the human spirit realm consists of once-living individuals and animals who’ve crossed the veil into the vast realm of the otherworldly. It is with great opinion that we need to respect and honor those in the afterlife and beyond, just as we would treat the living.
I have been deeply involved in the field of psychical study for twenty years. While that doesn’t make me an expert or any researcher an expert, it does provide me a front row seat in observing some of the discipline’s current trends. There should be a cohesive, universal approach and philosophy when it comes to exploring the unknown. Although researchers have their own unique approaches and styles, there should always be a strict adherence to protocol and standard operating procedures. There should also be greater advocacy for the spiritual energies and beings we come across. Instead, I am seeing some divisions that are catering to an almost polluted and scattered sense of what paranormal research has become. I am also seeing the authentic paranormal world placed next to the paranormal world the living is creating. The two are becoming quite incompatible and let me elaborate as to how.
Let’s examine the definition of the word, “paranormal.” Merriam-Webster, defines the word as, “strange events, abilities, etc., that cannot be explained by what is known about nature and the world.” The definition elaborates by saying, “…not scientifically explainable.” Conscientious researchers don’t use the various impressions left over by entertainment and mass media to try and explain the supernatural. One should never rely on the traits of fictional characters, such as Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers to examine and theoretically explain a ghostly being. Instead, depend on what’s evident in the authentic world, not on what’s part of the world of make-believe and fantasy.
Original anomalous events exist on their own and should be left untainted and untampered with. Of course, they can be explored, studied and analyzed by curious individuals but should be accomplished without instilling the unneeded subjectivity and bias that are completely foreign to the bona fide supernatural realm. We are seeing the mortal world treating these raw events like a blank canvas - adding various types of color and texture that ultimately transforms them into a polluted piece. Once this happens, the once authentic world of the paranormal is now contaminated with what the human element places onto it – judgement of contrasting opinions, ego-based projections, inaccurate classifications and descriptions, superficial desires, among many others.
1. There is entertainment’s idea of what the supernatural realm is based on, which is conveyed through Hollywood’s numerous movies and television shows on the subject.
2. There is the real-life view of what the supernatural domain consists of, which is often swayed by Hollywood’s creations and further influenced by differing ideals and viewpoints. Both of these have created a false sense of what the paranormal truly is.
The field of paranormal research is a melting pot of individuals with various levels of experience (beginner versus seasoned), principles, goals and belief systems. Diversity is often welcomed in other aspects of life. In this case, in order to make the field become a more stable, wholesome environment, not all individuals investigating the supernatural belong in the same pot. For example, those who are just out to thrill-seek and get spooked may not be on the same psychological level as those who passionately devote time to the scientific study of paranormal occurrences. Those who visit a haunted location to mainly thrill-seek most likely, do not have the same incentives as those who truly investigate a location through onsite case studies, historical, geological, archaeological and/or genealogical inquires, witness interviews and tedious data review. Sadly, some are in the field to only try and make a name for themselves and will go to any lengths to do so even if they exploit / disrespect the departed and other types of beings. These groups will not mix with people who are inherently humble and approach their work with ethics, respect and the Golden Rule.
A paranormal occurrence, by itself, is left untainted. It is consistent of the entities and their environment. The structure and intent of each anomalous situation stands on its own with authenticity and purity. It’s when the human element gets into the picture when things become distorted, twisted and manipulated – often with ambiguous outcomes that cater to the naïve and gullible.
Ghosts, spirits, interdimensional beings, alien species – any entity dominating the outer realms – is not meant for our amusement and entertainment. Studying these beings and creatures just like a biologist approaches the study of biology, or a physicist approaches the study of physics, is fine. As long as the investigative study is done with legitimacy and respect. These energies are not here to be misclassified, mocked at or oppressed as is often seen with media and entertainment venues.
As with many professions, one needs a license or permit to practice that occupation. There are sets of bylaws and standard operating procedures that need to be adhered to. One needs to be of sound mind and be considered competent enough to engage in the specifics of his or her type of vocation. Violation of the governing rules typically leads to suspension or expulsion from the position. This same principle should be applied to the study of the supernatural as a way to keep it controlled and realistic.
Mixing Halloween, Horror, Science Fiction with Real-Life Paranormal Phenomena
It’s quite memorable to reminisce on our childhood years around Halloween, October’s main claim to fame. As kids, we would anxiously anticipate, as the days and nights grew closer to the 31st of the month. We’d excitedly plan our chosen costumes, who we’d go trick-or-treating with and what piece(s) of candy to enjoy first. As the numerous decorations of fake ghosts, goblins, pumpkins, witches, zombies and black cats made their arrival into our imaginations, we’d soon learn to associate Halloween with various fear-provoking adjectives - spooky, scary, ghoulish, macabre, horrific, etc.
Not everyone has read about the true history of Halloween, but that doesn’t interfere with the realization that the events during the month of October have nothing to do with the real-life supernatural realm – other than the thinning veil between our world and the afterlife. A fake, cartoon drawing of a ghost is not the same as an authentic earthbound entity or evolved spirit. The two are irrelevant to one another; yet, people are continuing to fuse make-believe with reality. With this, enters some serious consequences and outcomes for the paranormal research field and its future leaders. Collectively, we need to teach ourselves and the field’s next generations that genuine anomalous occurrences are mostly unrelated to the highly imaginative and unrealistic plots of numerous fictional television and film ensembles.
In fact, let’s explore the words, “spooky, scary, ghoulish, macabre, horrific,” etc., in more detail. In reality, it’s not the spiritual entity that’s considered to possess the meaning of these adjectives; it’s the living person’s projections onto and reactions to experiencing something paranormal that are considered, “spooky, scary,” etc. The spirits of grandma and grandpa don’t have ghastly features as often depicted in horror movies. No shining, red, demonic eyes, blood and/or pus streaking down their faces, rotten-looking flesh, etc. Humans are inherently taught to fear the unknown; thus, when we encounter something otherworldly, it’s normal to assign a daunting connotation to what we’re experiencing during that particular event. However, we need to remember that it’s the living realm conveying these inferences not the other way around.
As researchers of the unknown, we need to always be cognizant of the ethereal beings we come across; as for the high majority, these are the spirits of those cherished and loved by people. You never know if you may run into the apparition of someone’s beloved mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, co-worker, etc. As such, it’s imperative to treat these earthbounds and/or spirits with dignity and respect. But, if someone chooses to ascribe spooky nuances to such an encounter, it not only denigrates that once-living individual but the paranormal research field at large.
Motivations for Exploring the Paranormal
Inflated egos, personal entitlement and staunch competition are running rampant in the field of paranormal investigation and research. It’s truly sad. Studying the supernatural isn’t about fame, recognition or notoriety. The quantity of social media followers a ghost hunter has or how many TV shows someone’s been on should not be placed as most important. Just because someone has millions of “likes” on their Facebook page(s) or supporters on their YouTube page(s), doesn’t automatically place them in the category of most experienced and/or respected. It’s often quite the contrary. For example, one extremely famous YouTuber traveled to Japan to visit the Aokigahara forest, dubbed the region’s “suicide forest.” Instead of respecting and honoring the young man who had recently took his own life earlier that day, this particular individual instead, chose to mock and disparage the deceased on video for views. This immediately prompted outrage for this YouTuber who clearly lacked any veneration for the dead, especially someone who suffered with enough hopelessness to end his own life.
What’s imperative is the quality of devotion, time and work someone puts into his or her ongoing psychical enquiries – and what these contributions are doing to advance the discipline of supernatural study. Arrogant attitudes often lend to unknowingly and sometimes knowingly exploitation of the deceased. The afterlife and other realms are not here for humanity’s amusement and entertainment. They are not placed in cages for us to merely gawk at and manipulate. They are not here for us to control or possess. Their preternatural existence is completely independent from those in the physical world. All encounters between the two domains should occur without any misuse, deceit and/or false portrayals.
Misidentifying Entities and Using Incorrect Terminology
We all know the saying, “Words have power…” This is why we all have to choose our words wisely in an effort to avoid misunderstanding. There is no exception with certain terminology relating to paranormal research. I am seeing a lot of individuals misidentifying the ethereal realm and other beings by creating inaccurate descriptions and using incorrect terminology. In reality, is it entirely possible to classify and define something that can’t be proven? Certain beliefs and/or a lack of informed knowledge is usually the cause for this. Let me provide some examples:
Negative versus malevolent: While the two distinctions share some commonalities, there is a difference between the two terms when describing the characteristics of an anomalous entity. Malevolent denotes something purely evil and wicked with an intent to harm. In adjective form, negative means something bleak, pessimistic, cynical, unfavorable, etc. With this in mind, would you use the word “malevolent” or “negative” to describe a human earthbound energy that perhaps, lived a bad life and has the same unlikeable personality traits and behaviors in spirit that he or she had while alive? To me, it makes more sense to use the latter term. In my opinion, malevolent should be reserved for nonhuman entities that are considered malicious and vile.
Ghost versus spirit: Yes, we all use both words interchangeably when describing the ghost or spirit of a once-living individual. However, there are differences between the two. A ghost is usually stuck or chooses to remain in the mortal realm due to various reasons. With this, he or she either cannot or will not move on into the “light” and evolve into the spirit world, eventually moving up the reigns. Spirits are the ethereal liveliness of those who’ve moved on peacefully but are willfully able to come back to the earthbound realm. They also advance through the various levels in the afterlife. Thus, they are not stuck on this plane nor do they have unfinished business.
How many paranormal investigative websites have creepy, scary and menacing themes? For the ones that do, what impression does it give off about the human spirit world and beyond? What does this do to certain individuals who are experiencing something paranormal in their home or business? For the ones who are generally unnerved, these sorts of websites may be a turnoff and/or increase their anxiety. Yes, these sorts of designs cater to the thrill of encountering a ghost, spirit, Bigfoot, UFOs, etc., and may be a bit catchy, but don’t always accurately characterize them. Does grandpa or grandma have green skin with black eyes and seeping pus? No, they look just as they were when alive, albeit a bit younger and healthier, perhaps.
Paranormal research is not something that I do merely for fun. I am conscientiously devoted to the scientific study of supernatural phenomena and how metaphysics fits into the overall equation. Not everyone is and that’s fine. However, if you call yourself a “paranormal researcher,” then you better be doing more than prancing through a cemetery at night to have a thrill. Researchers of the unknown devote a lot of time to their case studies and exploring the anomalous.
Investigating the supernatural is both beautiful and mysterious. It enables us to step outside the confines of mortality and connect with and learn from other beings and those dwelling in the afterlife. It also gives us a front row seat in knowing that we will eventually learn the secrets of the universe once we transition to the spirit realm. For these reasons and many others, the field of supernatural investigation and exploration should be treated with dignity and integrity.
"Formula of a Haunting" Review
“Formula of a Haunting”
"Insightful, engaging and thought-provoking – 'Formula of a Haunting' is the essential content the paranormal realm begs for!"
Having a bachelor’s degree in the media arts spectrum, I know that specific aspects need to be met for a video series and/or film to be successful. Specifically, the framework of the project – i.e., the filming, editing, special effects, sound, lighting, etc. – need to be spot on. However, that’s just one side of the coin; the content featured in the project needs to have a depth that not only grabs a person’s attention, but leaves an everlasting impact on the viewer. “Formula of a Haunting” does just that and more!
It’s no surprise as it’s spearheaded by Brandon Alvis, a passionate filmmaker and one of the paranormal research field’s most accomplished and dedicated. In this engaging film series, Brandon and his crew have answered the clarion call to do what many in the field won’t even attempt to touch: the careful examination and meticulous scrutiny of a haunting’s nucleus; dissecting it bit-by-bit to see if humanity can potentially answer the many questions it has regarding ghosts, spirits and hauntings.
“Formula of a Haunting” comes at the perfect time as the proverbial spotlight is on the paranormal these days. More than ever, ghost investigators and supernatural researchers need to step out of their comfort zones and apply better objective observation and critical thinking. “Formula of a Haunting” serves as a motivator to get this done; it further showcases the importance of utilizing the symbolic magnifying glass to look at each piece of a haunting from various different angles. It’s only then will we be able to gain a further understanding of what goes bump in the day or night.
“Formula of a Haunting” is not only expertly filmed and produced, it provides a healthy dose of profound substance that is often lacking in the field of paranormal research.
My Journey into Paranormal Research and Investigation
What propelled me to investigate the unknown
I have always had an innate fascination with the supernatural, especially the field of ghosts, spirits and hauntings. I had some unique experiences growing up in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was the experience I had with my maternal grandmother’s spirit during undergraduate college that catapulted me into research and investigation of the unknown. In my twenty years as a paranormal researcher, I have worked with some amazing individuals. In 2009, I developed the San Diego Paranormal Research Society (SDPRS), which is one of San Diego’s well-respected groups.