A Meme to Kill For: The Slender Man Phenomenon


by Tony Harrington

originalslenderIt was summer of 2009 when “Something Awful” forum member Eric Knudsen, going by the alias Victor Surge, first introduced web users to the frightening world of Slender Man.

The Slender Man was created by Knudsen as part of the Something Awful photo contest by which users took ordinary photos and edited them to contain creepy supernatural elements.

Knudsen submitted two distinct photographs for the contest and accompanied each photograph with cryptic statements. The photographs depicted groups of children with a strange spectral entity wearing a dark suit amongst them.

The figure was tall and thin and Knudsen called his creation “Slender Man”, going as far as copyrighting the name.

Despite the fact that the creation was not in the public domain, it ended up going viral and soon users all across the internet began elaborating on the creation, adding folklore and varied backstories to the fictional thin man.

Slender Man evolved over time, taking on even more horrifying supernatural abilities including the ability to teleport, control minds, and communicate via telepathy. As the years went by, the story of Slender Man transcended the intent of it’s creator as it took on near-celebrity status in the blogosphere and on social media sites.

As with the inception of the legend of the Blair Witch in the late 90’s, fiction began creeping into reality and the line between the two became blurred as a simple creation for a website morphed into real accounts of kids encountering the Slender Man.creepyslender2

In addition, as the phenomenon caught traction, more and more occurrences of the figure began to arise in pop culture. Video games, comic books, YouTube movies and more, began to feature the entity now deemed an authentic paranormal phenomenon.

The transition from fabrication to full-out supernatural entity didn’t happen overnight and perhaps was spurred on by sightings of the lesser-documented Stick Man encounters, which are wholly different from that of Slender Man.

Perhaps, the most surprising element of this new phenomenon is how ingrained in the psyche of America’s youth this creation is. He has taken on an almost deity-like status, though it appears to have waned greatly in the last few years, until…

May 2014, Wisconsin. Two teenage girls lured an acquaintance into the woods near their house where they stabbed her repeatedly and left her for dead in an apparent attempted sacrifice to appease the Slender man and gain his favor and attain power.

Two weeks later, reports out of Ohio indicate a daughter attempted to stab her mother to death in the kitchen of their home. The intended victim claims the daughter wore a blank white mask with her hoodie pulled up over her head. After the attack, the mother states she found dark writings about Slender Man and acknowledges that her daughter, obsessed with the figure, created a world within the game Minecraft specifically for Slender Man.

In both instances, the victims survived and the accomplices were arrested, charged, and are undergoing much-needed psychiatric evaluations.

What is it though about a fabricated entity having such power over an unstable youth? Is there something to Slender Man? Has a fictional character manifested into a true paranormal event simply by willing him into existence?

In reality, this may be nothing more than a modern “satanic-panic” that gripped America in the early 80s.

creepyslenderWe simply find it difficult to believe that our youth can be capable of such heinous activity and we look for reasons as to why they are “evil”. Slender Man is an easy target because the people who carried out their attacks cited him as the reason. He is a part of the culture of youth in this nation and as the news reports on these attacks, more and more unstable teens and pre-teens will latch on to the idea that this fictional character has some sort of basis in the real world and as a result, has some sort of control over them.

Perhaps these kids are dealing with a form of dissociative disorder whereupon they act out aggressive attacks and claim to be under the influence of supernatural forces. In both attacks, the girls (all three attackers in the reported stories are female) appear to have been in a trance-like state or detached from reality. They claim to have no knowledge of the attacks they committed.

People do bad things. Even children. Because kids are supposed to be innocent and untainted by evil, when they perform horrific acts of violence, we as a nation try to find a reason. In this case we attribute the attacks to a fabrication by proxy. Because the kids say it is the Slender Man, the news reports on it and it creates a cycle where other troubled youth can act out their homicidal inclinations and attribute it to external forces.

In the wake of “The Dark Knight” we saw a surge in crimes committed by people wearing Joker makeup because the character was psychopathic, anarchistic, and just plain dark and ominous. These type of forces have always appealed to children who are developing into adults and are faced with angst, depression, and a myriad of other issues as their bodies and minds transition from childhood into who they are destined to be as adults.

To this day though, there has never been a meme that has solidified its place in the psyche of America’s youth culture. The fact that “he” seems to have such a strong hold over our pre-teen and teenage populace is in itself frightening.

How does one fight something that in reality does not exist? How do you convince a child who believes so strongly in the presence of such a dark force that they have latched on to a fallacy, a cypher? A majority of the responsibility falls on the parents to understand and recognize when their child has fallen dangerously into such a place and remove them from it.

With social networking sites like Facebook and youth-obsession Tumblr doling out self-diagnoses at an alarming rate it is only a matter of time before events like these become pandemic and the chances of recovering the lost become…slender.

The Haunted Highways: Ghosts of the Open Road


by Tony Harrington

spookyroadThere is something indeterminably creepy about a long, dark, and winding stretch of road in a backwoods town that often sets one’s mind racing. For it is on these very roads that most towns boast the presence of a nightly wanderer.

The stories are typically similar from town to town. It was a dark and stormy night, a young man or woman was on their way home when they lost control of their vehicle and crashed and subsequently died on the very road.

Or, the road houses even darker secrets having been witness to rape and murder most foul.

No matter the circumstances, and there is always a story to go with it, these roads are host to a paranormal phenomenon known simply as “Road Ghosts”.

The phenomenon is exactly as it sounds. The presence of a wandering soul whose mortal frame has long since vanished haunts the road and terrifies passers through. They appear on the sides of the road, sometimes as a hitchhiker or someone in distress. They are known to interact with motorists, sometimes going so far as to climb into the backseat of an offered ride only to mysteriously disappear before their destination is reached.

In some instances, upon the reached destination, the final destination is discovered to be a graveyard where the ghost’s earthly vessel is buried. Or the destination is the home of the deceased’s family who will deliver the shocking news to the concerned motorist that the person they witnessed died years ago on the very road from whence they came.

The stories are wide and varied but there is a common thread running through them, that for some people, suggests life after death.

In Arkansas, there is the legend of Woodson Lateral Road. The stories on this particularly long baseline black top are numerous and range from the ghost light of a felled motorcyclist to the apparition of a female hitchhiker who leaves a souvenir in the back seats of concerned motorists who offer her a ride.

Woodson Lateral has the distinction of having many things working in its favor: the road is creepy, a long stretch that leads into an endless abyss of black during the night. The road is flanked by tall trees that hang over the side of the road creating a canopy-like effect. In addition to this, there is actually a cemetery sitting off of the road and periodically, a pentagram is spray painted on the road, as if the place wasn’t creepy enough.

In addition to spectral visitors, local residents and visitors report seeing a myriad of strange creatures like the giant owl-like figure that stands in the middle of the road and flies at the windshields of oncoming cars only to disappear into thin air as if it had never been.

Others report seeing shadow creatures watching from the side of the road, peering with an intense gaze as if they are waiting for you to stop.

Phantom headlights following travellers traversing the landscape have been reported. Sometimes the headlights get so close that drivers think it is a cop and pull over only to realize that the lights have vanished.

I have personally never been on Woodson Lateral, even though I live in Arkansas. The prospect of stopping my vehicle and walking around a poorly lit, long stretch of road doesn’t seem too appealing. I do not wish to be struck and killed and left to wander the road for all eternity while my ghost laments its passing and terrorizes passers by in the process.

Similar to Woodson Lateral, the Rock-a-Dundee Road in Hampden, Massachusetts boasts many spirits ranging from the ghost of a hatchet wielding mad-woman, to the spirit of a young boy named Jared who was struck and killed by a car upon departing his school bus. 

There are also rumors of the ghosts of ten teens who committed a mass-suicide on the road, though in that particular case, local authorities actually weighed in on the rumors and flat-out deny any such incident occurring.

Still, travelers on Rock-a-Dundee road report seeing some pretty crazy things and feeling a sense of dread as if they are being watched from just beyond the adjacent forest treeline.

Ask residents of West Milford, New Jersey about haunted roads and they will openly discuss the tragedy that befell a small boy on Clinton Road. Their legend claims that said boy was playing by himself on the long road when he fell to his death from a bridge.

As with most legends, this one can’t be substantiated, but it has been around long enough that it is taken at face value.

Because of his untimely and tragic death, his spirit is said to wander Clinton Road accompanied by a myriad of other phenomena including ghost lights and even a red-eyed hell-hound.

The award for sheer terror on an open road though belongs to the ominously named Shades of Death Road in Warren County, New Jersey

This aptly named road is said to be cursed by the spirits of the Lenni-Lenape people who were slaughtered by a tribe of Iroquois Indians. There is a litany of reported sightings of spectral beings wandering the road. Shadow creatures and other cryptozoological abnormalities are known to walk the area, and the presence of phantom lights is almost considered the norm.

That name though, turns out, is very appropriate. Over the many years since the road was cut there have been countless murders, accidents, and horrific deaths that have littered the roadside with mangled corpses. Discarded mutilated bodies have turned up as have the remains of unfortunate souls who have been ravaged by wildcats that are known to roam the area.

No matter your locale, it is a safe bet that there are known roads that harbor dark secrets and ghostly visitors. Share with us in the comments below any experiences you have had on the haunted highways byways of your hometown.

Thank you for stopping by.

So Long and Farewell: The Final Goodbye


by Tony Harrington

partingI remember the last time I spoke with my Grandfather.

It was the early part of 1984 around one O’clock in the morning. I was eight years old and he came into my room and sat on the edge of my bed.

He always called me Nino, explaining that it was the Italian name for Tony. It was a kindred spirit thing as I was named after him. He explained the nickname every time he said it and I would nod and smile as though it was my first time hearing it.

That night, as he came into my room and sat at the foot of my bed, was no different. He just looked at me and said, “Nino, it’s time for me to go. You know why I call you Nino, Right?” I didn’t answer, I couldn’t. Something was different about him. Granted he felt familiar and his presence filled the room as it always had, but there was a profound sadness this time. It was as though he was saying goodbye for the last time.

After he explained what I already knew about the origin of my nickname he said, “I am going down the hall to say goodbye to your mother.” And then he was gone.

A few hours later my mother came into the room that I shared with my twin brother. She leaned in and told us to get up and get dressed, that we had to get to the hospital as my Grandfather was fading fast. He had been hospitalized for the last few weeks in the final stages of lung cancer, a disease he acquired from years of smoking unfiltered Lucky Strike cigarettes.

Due to the horrible physical condition that my Grandfather was in, my twin brother and I were not permitted to see him, we were too young and my parents thought the image would have been devastating. I remember sitting in the waiting room as my older sister was escorted to the hospital room to say her goodbye. She emerged broken, trembling and crying, no words were of comfort to her. I knew it was bad.

The morning stretched on as family filed in and out of the hospital room as my brother and I sat in the waiting room. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, my mother emerged from the room and said the two words that broke me that day. “It’s over.”

After the heartbreak passed I remembered his visit early in the morning and his words to me. “It is time for me to go.” I knew, I just knew, that he had said goodbye in his own way, knowing that he would not get to say goodbye to me properly.

It wasn’t until a few years later when my mother told me of an experience she had the night before his passing. She recounted an experience where she dreamed her father came to her room, sat on the edge of the bed and told her that he had to be going. “You know me,” he said matter of fact. “I am not one to stick around a place for too long.”

She awoke from that dream and woke my father and told him to get ready, that the phone was about to ring. Seconds later it did, it was the hospital letting my mother know that her father was about to pass.

Neither my brother nor my sister ever mentioned a visit from our Grandfather the night before the morning of his passing, so I am not sure if they discounted it as a dream or did not receive the farewell visit.

The phenomenon is what is known as the “Farewell” apparition, and it is experienced more than any other type of paranormal activity.

The realism of the visit is what sticks with most people. It is described as having a dream-like quality, but the visitation is so real, the dialogue and the image of the visitor so lifelike, that afterward it is confounding for the person having experienced it. Most people do not share their experience openly because they either feel that it was simply a dream, their imagination, or they don’t want to face possible ridicule. Some people don’t share it because it is a deeply personal experience and it could raise issues with other family members who did not get a farewell visit.

I am sure it is the latter reason that it took my mother years to talk about her experience, at the time I was too young to understand what it was that I experienced. I never told my mother about my experience until I was well into my adulthood.

What exactly is it that happens during one of these visits? Is it truly paranormal, are we actually seeing the spirit of a departing or departed loved one coming to say goodbye one last time? For the millions of people a year that experience the phenomenon it is real and it offers a glimpse of hope that we truly go on after we shuffle off our mortal coil. It provides closure and healing and a message that love is eternal and transcends the earthly confines of this plane of existence.

Scientists believe that what is actually transpiring is simply a coping mechanism, that our subconscious concocts the visit to help transition us through the stages of grief as a way to lessen the blow caused by the loss of a loved one. We inject our memories of the loved one into the visit, their voice and mannerisms defined by what we remember. It is why the visits often reflect the individual how we remember them, not in the sickly state they are in at the moment of their passing.

These types of visits though are not reserved just for those left behind. It would seem that the ones who are crossing over from this world to the next get their own visits as well. In a related type of apparition called a “Deathbed Apparition”, at the hour of death, the dying sees familiar faces of those who passed on before them.

My family recounted stories of how my Grandfather saw his brother, and several friends and family who had passed standing in his room. He interacted with them as if they were there and conversing with him. Perhaps it was those friends and family who showed him how to transcend his dying frame and say his final goodbye to those who were open to receiving it.

I had a friend who worked as a hospice nurse and she recounted many instances of patients having received visitations from those who have preceded them in death. She reported that they seemed aware of their current surroundings as well as being able to see what she could not; the presence of others in the room. These visitations often brought a sense of peace and more times than not the patient seemed to be relieved of their suffering and pain until their death took them from the world.

Who is to say what is actually happening during these visits? It could very well be our minds providing solace and comfort in the face of a tragic loss, or it could be something more. It could be that our loved ones truly find a way to get their message to us, or, at the end of our lives, find a way to see us once more to carry us home.

What has been your experience with farewell apparitions and the deathbed phenomenon? Have you experienced a visit from a dying or recently deceased loved one or have you witnessed a dying loved one talk of others in the room, people who had gone before them?

Share your experiences with us in the comments section so that others who are new to the experience know that they are not alone.

Make Some Noise: The Poltergeist Phenomenon


by Tony Harrington

poltergeistchairsThanks largely in part to Tobe Hooper and Steven Speilberg, when people hear the word “poltergeist” it immediately conjures images of a young blonde girl perched before her television set and proclaiming, “They’re here.”

In actuality, as scary as many found the film, the actual phenomenon is much more terrifying even if less outlandish than what the film depicts.

To start, we should define exactly what a poltergeist is. In short, it is an amalgamation of two distinct German words: poltern, a verb meaning “to make noise”, and geist, which basically means “spirit”. So poltergeist can literally be translated to “noisy ghost”.

For the most part, that is exactly what a poltergeist haunting typically entails. Rattles, bumps, scratching sounds, footsteps, and moans and groans of indeterminate origin.

You can search YouTube for videos on poltergeist activity and be rewarded with a bevy of amazing clips showing objects moving by themselves: cups sliding across a table, cabinets opening and slamming, drawers sliding open and utensils inexplicably being tossed across the room. It is not uncommon to see chairs sliding across the floor or tipping over. Most, if not all, of the videos are fabrications though created by crafty filmmakers, but do a better job at depicting the true definition of poltergeist activity than the actual film mentioned above.

In addition to the specific physical manifestation of poltergeist activity, it should be noted that the spirit is most often associated as being attached to a particular person or object rather than a location. Families having experienced a poltergeist indicate that even moving to a new location did not stop the activity.

In rare circumstances poltergeist activity has escalated into vicious attacks on an individual within the home. Historically, some of the most well-documented cases of violent poltergeists attacking the living revolve around young girls and teenage women.

The famous Bell Witch legend recounts the story of young Elizabeth Bell, the youngest daughter of the Bell household who became the target of an angry witch spirit. She was shaken, burned and scratched.

In the Enfield poltergeist case of 1977, 11-year-old Janet Hodgson allegedly showed signs of manipulation and possession by a the spirit of a prior tenant of the rented home. Prior to the attacks on Janet, the poltergeist activity was limited to the manipulation of furniture, toys and the requisite knocks, bumps, and moans.

The Amherst Poltergeist case of Esther Cox, a 19-year-old secretary who began being viciously attacked after having survived an attempted rape at gunpoint. The case took place in Amherst, Nova Scotia in 1878 and is perhaps one of the most infamous cases due to the level of violent activity which involved fires and Esther vomiting needles and pins.

In all cases of reported poltergeists, the activity stops as suddenly as it began. Most cases span one to two years before the spirit departs giving the family much-needed peace.

But is activity of this nature supernatural? Science offers many explanations for falling and moving objects. A common belief is that underground rivers, streams, and aquifers cause vibrations that can knock pictures from walls, cause furniture to tip, and cause the sound of moaning.

There is also the belief that paranormal activity of this type stems from the afflicted themself. Most documented cases of poltergeist activity involves troubled youth who are often victims of physical and sexual abuse. That is not to say that the trauma welcomes spirits, the implication is that the victims themselves are causing the activity. They are the ones throwing things and blaming disembodied spirits, they contort their bodies and claw at their skin, and fabricate scenarios as part of a dissociative disorder, similar to the survivor of a violent or sexual crime developing a split personality to disassociate themself from the trauma.

Interestingly, most cases of paranormal activity occurred in the late 19th and early twentieth century and have slowly tapered off over time. Only a small handful of documented cases have occurred in the USA with a majority transpiring in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poltergeist#Other_cases)

Not surprisingly, reports of poltergeist activity climbed in the US at the time the film “Poltergeist” was released.

Whatever the case, for those experiencing a poltergeist activity, the situation is real, frightening, and confusing. The fact that there does not seem to be any means of leaving the spirit makes a family feel trapped and seeds of discord begin to bloom.

It is a wide belief in the paranormal field that some negative spirits feed on the energy of distress and grow stronger from it. So perhaps the poltergeist activity is self-sustaining, allowing a mild nuisance ghost to blossom into physical attacks.

Have you had any personal experiences in dealing with a poltergeist? Share your story by leaving a comment. The link to do so is at the top of this article.

I’ll See You In My Dreams: The Shared Dream Phenomenon


by Tony Harrington

dreamsIn 2011, director Christopher Nolan introduced  the concept of shared dreaming with his film “INCEPTION”. Within his world, it was possible for a group of hackers to consciously enter the subconscious mind of an individual, and either extract or implant information.

Prior to the film though, the concept of shared dreaming had been explored many times before. The “Nightmare on Elm Street” films tread these waters ad nauseam, and in the 1980’s adventure “Dreamscape” Dennis Quaid and Kate Capshaw entered the dream world to rescue a President whose mind was trapped there.

In the novel “Mirage” by F. Paul Wilson and Matthew Costello, a young scientist must enter the mind of her comatose sister to unlock the dark secrets buried there.

Is a concept that seems so at home in the world of movies and books even possible in the real world?

The question is hotly debated, mostly because no one really knows of what our minds are capable. Specifically, the brain can be tricked so easily. False memory, for example, is someone remembering an event that never happened. The brain can also be influenced by the movies we watch, the books we read, even the conversations we have.

Our brains are designed to make sense of chaos, and even in a sub-conscious state they can be manipulated. Noises or conversations happening in the physical world manifest themselves into our metaphysical world and become integrated into the very dreams we are experiencing.

I am getting ahead of myself though. Let’s start with a definition of what shared dreaming truly is.

Shared dreaming, also known as “Mutual Dreaming”, describes a phenomena in which two people experience the same dream simultaneously.

Within shared or mutual dreaming, people can experience two distinct stages.

Non-Lucid: These dream types are typically incoherent wherein each person sharing the dream is simply watching the events unfold. Though the people sharing the dream are aware of each others presence, they do not communicate within the dream, and may not even know at the time that they are experiencing a shared-dream.

Lucid:  In this type of shared dream, both dreamers are cognizant of each other, can interact, and are aware they are in a dream state. In a lucid dream, dreamers maintain a logical and functional capacity, operating on a conscious level as opposed to a subconscious level.

Non-Lucid shared dreaming is more widely accepted as a possibility as opposed to the more sci-fi inspired lucid dreaming. In fact, scientists and doctors widely discount the existence of lucid dreaming altogether, claiming that the mind has to be in a subconscious state, in deep (REM) stage sleep to produce dreams.In the mind of these professionals, lucid dreaming is more akin to imagination and less like dreaming.

Despite claims to the contrary, some people are firm believers that shared dreaming is possible, and that it has happened to them.

A reader of the blog from Indonesia shared the following story with me:

Within my dreams I would often find those with whom I am familiar. A passing glance, a wave, or other form of acknowledgement would be made. Upon waking, it would later be revealed in random conversation that my acquaintance had dream’t of me. The dream they would describe would be near identical to the one I experienced. It leaves me with a sense of the supernatural, that we exist on different planes. What is your belief, my friend? Have you dream’t of others and awoke to find that they of you?

The question intrigued me enough to write this blog entry, because growing up there were occasions, looking back on it, that I had experienced such phenomenon.

However, in fair disclosure, the experiences I had were with my twin brother. I would often awake from a dream in which my brother played a prominent role. In the morning I would tell my mother about the dream and during my recanting my brother would chime in with details that I had left out.

I never thought this was strange or odd, I naturally assumed that everyone had these types dreams.

From a scientific standpoint, shared dreaming is possible, but with a very specific caveat. When two or more people share a room, if one of those people happen to be dreaming and talking in their sleep about the events in the dream, it is possible that those within the room (and earshot) can subconsciously interpret what is being said into a dream, thereby having a similar dream to the sleep talker.

For me, the jury is still out. I am skeptical of lucid shared dreams, but I am not as quick to write off the possibility of the non-lucid variety.

What experiences with shared dreaming have you had? Share your experiences, stories, etc with us by commenting on this article.

 

I Feel You: The Empath Phenomenon


by Tony Harrington

Empathy: (n) The ability to understand and share the feelings of another

Empath: (n) An individual able to assume the feelings of other individuals through a psychic link

Traversing the world of psychic phenomenon is confusing, laborious, and often wrought with speculation and “what-if” scenarios. Those who do not believe that it is possible to foresee events, glimpse into the past, or communicate with those who have crossed over are quick to dismiss any claim of psychic ability or phenomena.

However, even the most die-hard skeptics are quick to concede that they themselves have picked up on uneasy feelings upon entering a house. They have felt an overwhelming sense of sorrow at sites of great tragedy, and felt joy in arenas of pleasure such as hospital delivery rooms, and old family homes.

These feelings are hard to quantify if the person in question happens to know the history of the location at which they are overcome with an emotion. It is when the individual has no hindsight with regard to the location and become overwhelmed with feelings that are appropriate to events that have unfolded there that one has to stop and consider that we, as a species, are more intricately connected to one another and our environment than we might suspect.

It has been said that emotions are contagious.  Have you ever seen a group of people laughing hysterically at an event to which you were not privy, only to find yourself starting to smile and laugh with them even though you have no idea what triggered the initial laughter?

Have you ever looked at a stranger who is forlorn and crying only to find yourself inexplicably saddened?

It has happened to everyone, because we are empathetic by nature. It is engrained in us and is a throwback to our early survival instincts. We are a pack species, we look for leaders to guide us, we nest with one another, and we emote openly. When we put out an intense emotion we leave an imprint on those around us and that emotion is absorbed.

In this modern era of social networking, empathy for our fellow human has escalated. We are quick to anger when friends post of a misfortune, we rally a prayer vigil when we receive word of a sick or dying child, and we feel a collective outrage when an establishment openly admits to views considered contrary to political correctness.

Some say that the internet has distanced us from our fellow humans but many disagree. It has connected us to them in ways we have never imagined possible. We are now receiving a steady stream of consciousness from those we interact with daily. We do not get a reprieve from their emotions and thoughts when we step away from them, we can now see what our friends, family, and enemies are feeling at any given moment.

This heightened level of social awareness may have opened a psychic floodgate and more and more individuals are experiencing empathy phenomena without knowing there is a name for it.

People who visit the site of Ground Zero in New York still break down and cry; many report that they cannot control it. Visitors report feeling an overwhelming sense of anguish, fear, and sadness, even the most controlled have reported these sensations and have been taken by surprise at their outpouring of uncontrolled emotion.

It is more than just being aware of what happened there, it is the overwhelming wave of emotion that overcomes a person and disables their ability to control what they are feeling. That is when we know that we have tapped into the collective conscience of those around us and tapped into the imprinted emotion of those that came before.

These emotions linger in the air like an unseen current and we as humans act as an antenna, we draw in the signals and those signals alter our chemistry. We can actually pick up on the feelings of those who have passed on.

Gettysburg, PA is a modern town with a booming tourist trade. Cars zoom up and down the busy street day in and day out as locals shop, dine, attend schools and move about their life. But when the locals stop long enough to remember that beneath their feet is soil that has absorbed the blood of thousands of fallen Americans in one of the deadliest battles in US Military history, they can’t help but feel melancholy.

Visitors have reported feeling sorrow, fear, and loss. People have actually broken down in tears as they marched a route through town that was once traversed by union and confederate soldiers on their way to certain death.

If you stop by the battlefield at Picket’s Charge you can witness visitors at their most serene, everyone is joined in some unspoken communion of sorrow, their heads bowed in reverence.

There is a certain feeling that hangs in the air over Gettysburg, like a heavy pall. It is this feeling coupled with great loss and violence that has caused Gettysburg to be considered one of the most haunted towns in America.

Visiting other arenas of great tragedy such as the concentration camps in Europe produces the same unexplained feelings of anguish. These feelings also attach themselves to relics on display at the holocaust museum in Washington, DC.

We are built to be empathetic, to take on the feelings of those we share space with. There is an old saying that “Misery loves company” and it is an old saying for a reason; it has been proven true.

 The most amazing part about empathy is that it transcends the human species. Dogs are extremely empathetic to the emotions of the humans to whom they attach themselves. How many dog owners out there have been upset, perhaps crying or heavily grieving, only to find your four-legged friend at your side and looking up at you with forlorn eyes that convey wisdom beyond their alleged comprehension? How many times as your dog laid at your side and whimpered with you?

(I am sure cats are just as in tune with their humans, but never personally having owned one I cannot attest to their level of empathy. Sorry cat lovers.)

When looked at with an objective eye and an understanding of the way the human brain works, it should not be such a far stretch to accept that there may be people out there who are just more in tune with the people and animals with whom they share this world as well as those that have gone before us.

 Have you experienced an unexplained empathy event that you wish to share with our readers? Leave your story in the comments section below and someone just may understand how you feel about it.

The Black Stick Man Phenomenon


by Tony Harrington

In the world of the paranormal, there is seldom anything new to write home about. Ghosts are ghosts after all, the tried and true staple of an investigator’s diet.

Rarely do we see an emergence of a new phenomenon. We might see an older type of entity experience resurgence in popularity due to a high-profile expose on shows like “Ghost Hunters” or “Destination Truth”, but that is not the same as a true emergence of a previously undocumented event.

That theory was flipped on its ear in 2009 when website http://www.Listverse.com featured “Black Stick Men” as one of their top 10 most bizarre modern paranormal phenomena.

The list; which included Black Eyed Kids, Dog-Head Man, and other cryptids immediately caught fire due to the inclusion of the Black Stick Men. As it turns out, there was something to be said of the recent phenomenon.

The black stick men are just that…walking stick figures, the kind you would draw as a child, or as an adult if you lacked any ability to draw whatsoever. The male gender is usually attached to the figures, though to be honest, they seem rather gender-neutral.

The figures have been described as unusually tall, black in appearance, lacking any facial or bodily features and very lean. Their appearances have been documented on message forums and websites since 2008 and unlike shadow people as a whole, do not coincide with a mention on Ghost Hunters or other paranormal program. Accounts of encountering the figures just started creeping up.

Could they be part of a viral marketing campaign, in similar fashion to an alien being caught on a game camera in Louisiana turned out to be viral marketing for the film Super-8 or could they be some part of a collective of urban legends?

The complete lack of photographic or video evidence quickly discounts the fact that these stories are part of a marketing campaign of any sort. They also do not appear to be centralized to one location such as the mysterious www.thisman.org website which seemed to be more of a performance art piece rather than a fully-realized otherworldly phenomenon.

Also, there is no “A friend of a friend” accounts to tie these encounters to an urban legend. The details involved in the accounts are scant at best, mostly fleeting glimpses. So, unlike true urban legends, there is no moral or sense of irony.

The details, of what little there are, about these creatures/apparitions seem to be consistent from story to story.  The appearance usually takes place along a deserted road, or in an alley way, away from bright lights and prying eyes.  The person encountering the stick men more times than not report being tired. The figures move smoothly as if gliding, they do not make any sound although the air around them is reportedly charged with static.

The actual stick men themselves seem indifferent to us unless provoked or if they realize they have been spotted. Then they will flee quickly or in some rare instances will approach quickly in a frightening display of aggravation. However, there have been no reported incidents of anyone being touched or harmed by the mysterious beings.

The only indications of their intent have been reports of vague feelings of malevolence, though some feel this has to do with the disturbances in the atmospheric/barometric pressures that often accompany a sighting.

Are they paranormal? Who is to say? Most of the accounts are not associated with a known haunted spot and most sightings are not tied to any other ghostly phenomenon. They are simply things that exist outside of our realm of the normal. So in that sense, yes, they are paranormal…but not necessarily ghosts of any type.

The Black Stick Man phenomenon is fairly new, not enough research/evidence has been conducted on just what or who they are and why they are visiting us. They could be ghosts, yet they could be alien as well if you are inclined to believe that we are not alone in this world.

Either way, to those who have seen these things, they are very real and are among us. As to where they go and what they do once out of our line of sight can only be speculated.

Have you encountered one of these mysterious beings? If so, please share your story with us in the comments below.

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