Has the Paranormal Bubble Finally Burst?

By Tony Harrington

paranormal bubble

Photo by Fabian Oefner

When “Ghost Hunters” premiered in October of 2004 on the SyFy channel (Then still called SciFI), there was nothing quite like it on the U.S. airwaves. The program introduced the world to Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, two plumbers who in their free time headed up “The Atlantic Paranormal Society” (TAPS) out of the New England colony of Rhode Island.

The program became an instant hit, drawing record numbers and putting the network on the map.
The show spawned several spinoffs including “Ghost Hunters International”, “UFO Hunters”, and “Ghost Hunters Academy”.

Additionally, the immense popularity of Ghost Hunters caused an insurgence of similar thematic programming on other networks. Paranormal State, Ghost Adventures, Most Haunted, and more found their way into the homes and the collection consciousness of American audiences.

Encountering a haunting went from something private and embarrassing to vogue at breakneck speed and suddenly groups of amateur paranormal investigation teams began cropping up across the US to meet the ever-increasing demand of people wanting to have their homes or businesses deemed “haunted”, or to have their home cleansed of unwanted spirits.

At the time, a lot of the organizations that came to fruition on the coattails of TAPS subscribed to the New England company’s model of investigation, taking a lot of what was presented on the show as fact and incorporating it into their investigations.

Many agencies sought out TAPS accreditation, to become a sister company of the famous organization.

While it seems logical for an organization wanting to be connected with the most popular of paranormal teams, it could very well have been the beginning of the end for the paranormal bubble.

As of today, the number of cases organizations are getting has dwindled considerably, often weeks or months separate inquiries and actually landing an investigation has become burdensome. So what caused the sudden decline in paranormal popularity?

A lot of it has to do with trends. At the height of its popularity, Ghost Hunters was probably responsible for the resurgence of paranormal investigations. Conversely, as the show’s viewership began to wane over the decade, so too did the interest in the paranormal. Contributing greatly to the decline was rumors of TAPS faking certain findings to keep viewers hooked. When the team responsible for making the paranormal cool was questioned, that began to signal the beginning of the end.

TAPS can’t take the full brunt of the blame. In addition to the interest in the pop-culture phenomenon declining, there were some high-profile cases of groups doing some rather unethical things such as when a Texas paranormal team burned down a historic building out of anger because they couldn’t capture any EVPs or proof of paranormal activity.

The biggest problem with paranormal investigations is that anyone could start a group. All they needed was some friends, some equipment, and the desire to spend long nights camped out at an allegedly haunted location in the hopes of catching proof that ghosts do indeed exist.

Another issue with the “paranormal bubble” is that there was no unifying body or organization in charge of setting standards of practice for how investigations were to be conducted. Every group could conduct investigations in any manner they saw fit. There was no education being conducted for the most part, any information about the world of the paranormal was obtained from the Ghost Hunters television program, but who were they to set the standard? They are nobodies to be honest. They were simply a group of people doing what other groups of people do all over the world. They just happened to get a television deal. It does not make them subject matter experts. It makes them quasi-celebrities with opinions on certain things.

Market saturation became a problem and it ultimately led to animosity or rivalries between competing local groups. When every group out there is belittling every other group, it undermines the entire industry.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the entire paranormal bubble is that most agencies sprung up simply to cash in. They became more obsessed with becoming celebrities than actually caring about the cases they took on. Radio show appearances, book deals, television appearances, etc…derailed the true focus of the organizations. It could be said that we created our own demise by losing focus on why we chose to become paranormal investigators in the first place.

As with all things, interest in the paranormal is cyclical. Ghost Hunters is still on the air, The Conjuring and Insidious franchises are still strong and rake in some big bucks at the box office, and paranormal themed scripted shows are being produced regularly. In time there will be another resurgence and there will be a great demand for established groups.

The best the remaining long-standing groups can do is use this downtime to educate themselves and revamp their teams in preparation for the next inevitable boom. Let go of people not willing to stick it out. Part ways with team members who don’t contribute to the betterment of the team but are only interested in when the next investigation is. Stay in the public eye by keeping your websites current and conduct networking workshops within your community. Take on social causes such as volunteering to clean up parks, or work adopt a road and maintain it. Doing community services can bolster awareness for your organization and presents your team as upstanding members of society and community. People won’t know how to reach you if you allow your team to slip into obscurity.

Has your organization seen a decline in cases or interest in the paranormal overall?

What, in your opinion, aside from what was mentioned above, do you feel caused the bubble to burst?

Share your thoughts and ideas in our comments section below.


Hello From the Other Side: The Ouija Board Explained

by Sandyi Offermann

ouijaboard Ouija Boards, also known as “spirit boards” or “talking boards” are a flat panel of glossed wood, cardboard, or other smooth surface adorned with the letters of the alphabet, numbers ranging from zero to nine, the words “Yes” and “No” and typically “Goodbye”.

Along with the board there is a “planchette” which is typically a piece of plastic, wood, or glass with a circle cut out through which to view a letter on the board the alleged spirit wishes to communicate to you.

The Ouija is designed to be used with two people. Ideally the board is placed on a flat surface between the individuals, or balanced on their laps. Each person places their hands lightly on the planchette, their fingertips barely putting pressure on it.

One person will act as the communicator to the spirit world and will ask questions out loud, allowing time for the spirits to answer. If there are spirits present who wish to communicate, the planchette will slowly begin to move across the board, allegedly on its own without either party pushing or pulling the planchette.

The planchette will slide across the board, stopping over each letter, ultimately spelling out responses to the posed questions.

Due to the laborious process, for best results, ask yes or no questions or simple questions that are best answered with one or two words, nothing that would require a sentence as an answer.

The actual word “Ouija” is a made up word and is derived from “Oui” and “Ja”, the French and German words (respectively) for “Yes”. Ouija Board literally means the “Yes Yes Board”.

The “Mystical Talking Board” made its US debut in the early 1880s having carried over from London which had produced the boards since the mid 1880s with the earliest patent for a precursor to the board having been filed by a professor of music, Adolphus T Wagner in January of 1854. Wagner’s version of the talking board was called a “Psychograph” or “Apparatus for Indicating Person’s Thoughts by the Agency of Nervous Electricity”. It was his hope that his device would allow for spirits to communicate at a broader level that the knocking and rapping heard in parlor seances that were taking the country by storm.

It was during the 1800’s that Europeans became infatuated with communicating with the dead. They began making their own “talking boards” using flat planks of wood with etched markings for letters and a glass or tool that could easily slide across the board.

The paranormal boom of the 1800s in the United States saw an uptick in the number of talking boars per household. They were broken out at dinner parties where consenting adults used them to communicate with the world beyond. Slowly though, the world of the paranormal began to be equated with satanic worship and the Ouija board quickly fell out of favor and was frowned upon.

It wasn’t until the 1980’s, almost a hundred years after their introduction to America, that the movie “Witchboard” thrust the device back into the pop culture zeitgeist. The highly successful horror film spawned two sequels and soon the talking boards were being sold on the shelves of toy stores everywhere. The Ouija was officially back and has remained accessible ever since, with boards continuously in manufacture.

The boards are fascinating, this can’t be denied. The idea that we are able to possibly communicate with those who have crossed over is an intriguing concept, but is it real?

The legitimacy of the Ouija Board has long been contested with science making some strong assertions that it is not ghosts or spirits moving the planchette at all, but subconscious muscle movements of the participants. These minuscule muscle movements produce what is called the ideomotor response or “IMR”. It is a complex process by which the brain forces the muscles of the body into reacting a certain way, subconsciously. In this case, the brain, in trying to formulate a response to stimuli (the asking of a question”, will cause minuscule movements to spell out responses. Simply put, we are moving the planchette and answering our own questions.

There are believers that when we use a board, we are indeed communicating with those who have left the world of the living. There are forums where people share their experiences using the Ouija board and many are convinced of its validity.

Should you decide to use the Ouija board to communicate with the dead, be advised, there are long-held rules by which to abide:

1) Do no use it alone. The board allegedly requires the energy of two or more people that a spirit can channel to move the planchette. According to lore created for the “Witchboard” films, solo use of the board can lead to possession of the individual using the board.

2) Do not provoke the spirit should you be lucky enough to come into contact with one. Be respectful. Ask simple questions, and do not force the spirit to answer any questions it wishes to ignore.

3) Always close out a session by saying good-bye and waiting for the spirit to respond in kind. Some paranormal investigators feel that activity in a haunting can be traced back to an unclosed Ouija board session wherein the board will become a portal through which the spirit world can physically pass.

4) Do not let kids use it. Ouija, though marketed as a game, can become a source of consuming obsession. The concepts of death and spirits/ghosts are best left to mature adults who can process the weighty themes. Children who use the board can become preoccupied with the idea of death resulting in panic, fear, and the belief that there are ghosts, monsters and demons in the home.

Have you personally used a talking board to communicate with the other side? Have you made contact and if so do you feel it was real or was it simple old-fashioned parlor tricks? Did you fear that you consorted with a demonic force?

Share your stories with us in the comments section below.

About the Author:

Sandyi Offermann  has been involved with the Paranormal & Supernatural  for over 3 decades. She has studied Occultism and is a Professional Medium, Reiki teacher , Holistic Therapist  .and has worked with various paranormal groups over the years . She teaches various tools and divination to others to help them move through this life with as much balance as possible .  Sandyi has studied and practiced Transpersonal Psychology (The psychology of spirituality and of those  areas of the human mind which search for higher meanings in life , and which move beyond the limited boundaries of ego .) 

“I keep an opened mind to all that is and all that could be . The Universe is vast and filled with knowledge . I am a seeker of the truth ! I believe that wisdom makes us stronger and compassionate to all . I am Student of the Universe .” -Sandyi Offermann

O.B.E: The Out of Body Experience Phenomenon

OBEby Tony Harrington

OBE or “Out of Body Experince” is a term that was first used in 1943 by author George N. M. Tyrell.

Tyrell was looking for a broader scientific term to replace more supernatural or mystical terms such as “Spirit Walking”, or the more common “Astral Projection”.

The concept of OBE, simply put, is a sensation or hallucinatory experience of an individual leaving their physical bodies. Most OBE’s are encountered during near death experiences, as a result of hallucinogenic drugs, or in stages of deep sleep or comatose conditions.

According to Wikipedia, an estimated 10% of the population has experienced the OBE phenomenon, at least once, some on a recurring basis. While most recorded instances of reports of OBE have fallen under NDE (Near Death Experience) or as a result of hallucinogens, there have been viable studies where participants in sensory deprivation studies report having encountered an OBE.

During NDEs, the experience is greatly different compared to those who claim to “Astral Project”.  When somoene comes close to dying, or experiencing a traumatic event, they may experience the sensation of leaving their bodies. Many survivors of horrific accidents or other NDEs report leaving their body, hovering above it, and the sensation of moving toward a white light with a small percentage reporting on the presence of a deity such as a god or angel. They also hear voices calling to them and may encounter a departed loved one in the ether.

For those encountering this type of OBE, it can be a powerful life affirming experience that solidifies or reinforces the belief in a god. Most people reporting on these experiences almost always share a similar experience. There have even been few instances of individuals claiming to have seen the devil and hell.

These types of NDE OBEs are often exploited by the religious fanatics as proof that a higher power exists, some going so far as to fabricate their encounter with God during an OBE for monetary gain, only to admit later that they lied or were coerced. Case in point, Andrew Malarkey, whose book about his OBE and subsequent grand tour of Paradise was the basis for the film “Heaven is For Real”. He later recanted and admitted to faking his experiences, including his near death.

For many others, OBEs are very real and happen frequently.

There are individuals who claim that they have the ability to astral project. This is when they are able to leave their physical form and travel via the astral plane (spirit world) to destinations beyond. Whether it is to check on loved ones, visit friends or family, or simply go to places that being trapped within their physical shell simply does not allow.

“M” states that she is able to do this nightly. Her voyages take her to see her grandchildren who live 800 miles away. She claims to have walked around malls that have long closed for the night. One of her favorite OBE activities is encountering other “travelers” on the astral plane. Some are those with abilities just like hers, others are those who are on the final journey. Perhaps “M” is one of the kind faces those crossing over see on their way to the hereafter.

While some claim to be able to do this on a whim, others encounter a very real phenomenon that is terrifying and beyond comprehension, and completely unplanned.

“T” Shares his story:

“I had a dream, I guess. It was so real. One moment I was falling asleep in my bed, the next I was suddenly in my parents house. It was late at night, just as it was in the real world. I could smell the familiar smells of the house, hear the creaking of the floors as the house settled, I could hear dogs barking outside. I was aware of my parents’ dogs shuffling about in the back room. I was there, I can’t explain it, but I was actually there, cognizant of my surroundings. I became suddenly aware of something there with me, something evil, malevolent. It moved toward me, and the next thing I know I am back in my own bed, in the familiar surroundings of my own home.”

There have been numerous studies conducted on OBEs and astral projection with results ranging from inconclusive to rational scientific explanations garnered from brain function studies of participants who claim to experience OBEs regularly.

One of the most famous study cases was that of “Miss Z”. She was a study participant who while asleep was able to reveal a set of numbers posted above her bed without having seen them. There were factors that skewed the results to a positive outcome, such as the fact that she was unobserved during the nighttime hours. She simply could have stood up and seen the numbers, though the neurologists behind the study state that her brainwave activity was consistent with sleep state and if she had moved, the sensors to which she was connected would have triggered movement or transition from a stage of sleep to alert.

For more information on this historical case study visit http://www.psywww.com/asc/obe/missz.html

Out of Body experiences are, like most supernatural or paranormal phenomenon, completely subjective as not everyone experiences them and those who do can only convey the experience to us, making us a secondhand source of information.

What do you believe? Have you experienced any type of OBE? Are you able to project? Share your experiences with us in the comments field on this entry.