Friday, December 18, 2015

Messages from the Other Side

I don't believe in certain aspects of the paranormal because I find the various books or TV shows on the topic so wonderfully convincing. I do so because people I trust have told me about their own experiences with powerful and unusual phenomena. 

For instance, I knew a lot of people when I was young who had first or second-hand experiences with hauntings, for instance. It probably wasn't everybody, but it sure felt that way at times. New England seemed to be a hotspot in the 1970s. Some of the stories still retain their numinous potency.

Before our own (clear and unambiguous) sighting this summer I knew a handful of sober-minded people who had UFO experiences, which they were able to report with clarity and without undue agitation. That personal connection goes a long way on my ledger. Longer than the testimony of some creepy debunker who spends all the time he's not indulging god-knows-what paraphilias talking about things he claims not to believe in (seriously, who does that?).

That doesn't mean I dive into the paranormal deep end without my discernment floatation device. Or that I give equal weight to all phenomena. No way; that's an express ticket to Nowheresville, Jack. 

It means that I take serious reports seriously and don't toss out evidence simply because I refuse to accept anything beyond the reach of naturalism and materialism, which are religious philosophies whether they cop to it or not.

In the end result we're really looking at data- whether it feels that way or not- and making personal judgments from a preponderance of such. One event, or even a series of events, is never going to move the needle. It's the accumulation of data over time that determines your attitude towards the paranormal, however you choose to define what is a rather annoyingly nebulous and badly-abused term.

I bring all this up because of a series of strange events that have arisen within the past couple weeks following the recent death of my father-in-law Charlie. To be perfectly frank, I was more than a little hesitant to blog about them since not only can't I provide evidence these events occurred (my history has given me a bit of a hangup for evidence), I only witnessed one of them personally.

But Mr. Gordon White, whose wisdom I always value and usually defer to, thought it was important to blog about it precisely because other people have experienced these kinds of phenomena and would appreciate whatever validation I can offer by reporting what's been going on in the aftermath of Charlie's death.

His passing was unexpected but not exactly shocking. He lived a long and interesting life and passed away suddenly in his bedroom at the age of 85. No long, excruciating illness, just a relatively painless exit at home with his family. We should all be so lucky.

He'd been in relatively good health and in good spirits prior to his death. What's interesting in light of some of the phenomena in question is that he was involved with computers very early on, working on mainframes in the 50s and was a very early adopter of personal computers.

Indeed, the weirdness seems focused on computers. The one event I witnessed was straight out of a Hollywood remake of a superior Japanese horror movie: my wife's phone (a Samsung smartphone) started flashing on and off and started calling up totally random pages and images. She said nothing like that had ever happened before. It hasn't happened again since. Words don't do it justice, believe me.

The kicker is that her sister reported the same thing with her phone. Well, it must have been a problem with the phones or the network, right? Um, wrong. They have totally different phones and use different carriers.

My wife also says that she was getting random email notifications but no email and equally random friend request notifications but no friend requests. Again, she said she'd never experienced this before.

Other strange things happened. She and her sister were scanning and printing photos for montages for the wake but kept having certain photos go missing and reappear. Of course, this could be the ever-popular alternate universe phenomena that all of us deal with when it comes to your car keys and important papers, which you deliberately and consciously put one place only to have them show up somewhere else. Much, much later.

My younger son, who was helping Charlie with his autobiography, had some bizarre problems with his relatively new laptop last night. He'd talk to Apple, think the problem would be fixed and then some totally random text screen would show up. It's still up in the air as of this writing.

The other day a Christmas tree ornament showed up in the middle of the living room. Big deal, it's Christmas, right? Well, sure, but we still haven't gotten the ornaments out of the attic yet.

The strangest thing happened at the wake. My nephew placed a glass on a table, several inches from the edge. No one was near the table. No one was moving around, no one doing jumping jacks or Karate forms. Somehow the glass fell from the middle of the table to the floor. Everyone stopped their conversations to look at the glass.

There were other occurrences, but that was stuff that got my attention. I told my wife and her sister to write everything down. Maybe most of it will have a rational explanation, maybe not. The thing with the wife's phone was truly weird. Neither of us had ever seen it before.

Gordon tells me that these kind of things aren't unusual, that many people have experienced them, they just don't talk (well, write) about them. He believes - and I agree - that it's important to discuss these things when they pop up. 

I'm presenting these anecdotes as they were reported to me but I do think it's important to stay tethered while wading into these murky waters. If there are indeed otherworldly communications at work you should know which are genuine and which are not. If the dead are taking the trouble to contact us they probably have something important to say. It might be a good idea to work out what that is exactly.

I remember that the clock that belonged to my great-grandfather stopped upon his death and was never able to be repaired, even by an expert clockmaker. That's practically a cliche. The arch-skeptic Michael Shermer reported a similar event with an old family radio, and it made such an impession on him that he was willing to risk excommunication from the Church of Suicidal Nihilism by talking about it publicly.

Let me just say that I'm not presenting any of this as definitive because to tell you the truth, I don't know what to make of any of it myself. But I'm willing to bet a lot of you out there have similar stories that you'd like to tell. We might get somewhere interesting if we had a body of compelling evidence of this sort to pore through, especially if we could get some documentation in the mix.

The irony is that this is the kind of thing Charlie would have scoffed at. Maybe that's the whole point, if indeed any of this was genuine communication. Hey kids, look, I was wrong. Joke's on me.