Saturday, May 16, 2015

Steve Huff "Doing what people want", but at what price?

The paranormal community has it's fair share of controversial characters, no doubt that Steve Huff is one of those. When it comes to pleasing the masses, no doubt he's a paranormal enthusiast favorite. Steve's a smooth, fast talker who can pretty much sell anything he's putting out there. This includes trying to convince people that he's contacting the dead practically before the coroner has arrived. To him this is probably is alright, as many clamber to his page to get a listen to what people believe are their favorite stars speaking out about their journey to the other side.

Before getting into why this irritates me so, let me start by setting up what's transpired over the last several hours.

His most recent video is what he claims to be spirit interaction concerning the recently deceased B.B. King.King died May 14, 2015 in Las Vegas Nevada. Upon hearing about his death, a buzz across Facebook started already predicting that Huff would be talking to B.B within the next 24 hrs. People were right. May 15th Huff posted a video claiming to have received over 50 requests to hear from King. He did so using his Andre's box and SCD-1. He starts with his Andre's Box. In usual fashion, garbled sounds come through the box. As noises start to form, Steve puts up text across the screen suggesting what's being said. For one, this is misleading and influencing those listening to it. Instead of  allowing the audience to listen and make these determinations for themselves, Steve puts what he wants the audience to believe to supports his claim. He claims matter-of-factly, that this validates the Andre's box. I cannot personally hear what he is claiming to hear and from the reactions many, others cannot either.

Many took to the comments section to express their distaste for Huff's antics. Huff mostly reacted by swiftly removing any rebuttal. Those that he did take the time to reply to, like mine, he claimed he was doing "what I do" and doing "what people want to see".

There's no doubt he's right about that. His counters rose to 10,680 views within the first 17 hrs posted. My thoughts are that people don't care about the reality of the situation. They want the ghost story. Most aren't even really thinking about the stories unfolding in the privacy of these people's homes, as they grieve for their loss. Most people see celebrities as a commodity, not as human beings. There's an air of entitlement that these celebs owe it to everyone to be a public story no matter what.

Even in death they owe it to us to perform? What about their families? Do they sign on for this?

What happened to advocating for the dead? Steve said he feels it would be wrong to not pass on the information. Information, that he tries to convince others, are messages from beyond the grave. Let's face it - he really doesn't know. Nobody does.

Why stir up emotional turmoil over speculation?

My View

I'm not gonna sugar coat here, and I assure you this is not going to be the cliff notes version of how I feel. This is going to be long. This is going to be as direct as possible, as to have no misunderstanding of how I, and many others feel.

There's a lot of issues going on in the paranormal community that I see people addressing daily. Bad moral practices by paranormal teams. Bad business practices by event promoters. False credentials being presented to boost resumes. Bad evidence. Bad people with criminal records -up to child molestation- doing residential investigations. The list goes on and on and on.

What about material being presented publicly, that may cause emotional damage to grieving families?

It's my observation anytime anyone addresses issues like this it's instantly labeled as "para-drama". This has become a safe word for those facing opposition in the community for what many see as unfavorable practices - even if the accused is clearly in the wrong. Label it "para-drama" and it seems instantly those contesting are the ones at fault.

It isn't drama if the situation is potentially harmful, and an adversary is attempting to bring public awareness to immoral practices. Stop abusing the term "drama", and stop displacing accountability in the name of being accepted by these people. If people cared half as much about morality as they do popularity, we may actually begin to evolve and move forward in this "community" without the DRAMA.

So now with that put out there, getting onto with my issue with Steve Huff. Last thing I wanna do is fluff his ego by pointing out that the guy is popular, but its a fact that he is. I don't deny that. I can appreciate another's hard work or rise to success, when done with good intent. He's obviously got the ability and/or talent to tell people what they want to hear, and show them what they want to see. He openly admits, this is what he does. I respect that he's straight forward about that, but where do we draw the line? What price do we pay to "give people what they want"?

I know his followers are going to come over here, read this and say nasty shit about me and I'm cool with that. For the record I'm not a 'hater", or jealous. I'm someone who sincerely sees moral fault with what others see as entertainment or God-forbid "research" (used loosely in this case). I rather pursue what I do with my integrity intact. I don't, in fact, give people what they want. I tell people what they don't want to hear, and what they need to hear.

I'm not claiming to be perfect. I have made mistakes in the past that make me cringe today, but I learned from them. I have endless faults, but I can say in good conscious I try my best to be honorable in my actions. I feel I do my best to advocate for the living and the deceased. I would never pervert or exploit the tragedy of another for my popularity nor my pocket book. Seeing this type of non-sense makes me want to be a part of this "community", less and less.

Why does this situation get under my skin? Why do I care what Steve Huff does? I'll let my message to Steve himself explain. Excuse the language, I was angry at the moment after reading his response. (sorry that the screen shot bounces around a bit)

I took a few minutes to reflect on the fact that maybe my anger was overriding what I really wanted to do, which was to express why I felt it was wrong. I'm human. I realized through my reaction, I was probably going to receive a "shut down" response because of my name calling. I decided to go ahead and really express why his practices upset me personally. I have no clue if he'll respond or not, probably not because my best guess is that he really doesn't give a shit. If you're not with him, your opinion is worthless.

**I just want to add as a side note that Robin William's daughter Zelda left social media after her fathers death because of the 3 ring circus the internet became with people harrassing her and cashing in on her father's death. Why in the fuck would anyone want to contribute to that?

I'm not going to sit here and try to bash Steve as a person. I don't personally know the man. All I know him for is what he puts out there for the public, and for that I am entitled to an opinion. I am openly going to say that I absolutely disagree with his practices.

I pose the question to you all.

At what price are we willing to sacrifice another's emotional welfare; for ratings, for crowd pleasing, for spectatorship, or for monetary gain? 

Steve Huff isn't the only one guilty of this. I see it all the time. But like any one in the public eye, as he is, I feel that comes with some responsibility to be a good role mode and to set the standard for others out there.

Sometimes the RIGHT thing, isn't the popular thing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Grieving: When to Leave Skepticism at The Door

A question that's been posed to me many times is, when is there an inappropriate time to implement or push skeptical values?
This is something that is easily debatable given that skepticism is a very important part of appropriately discerning what has the possibility of being paranormal and what most likely deserves rational explanation.But is there ever a time that maybe we should keep our opinions to ourselves? I believe so.

As someone who spends a good portion of her time talking to people in the paranormal community via social media, time and time again I see people coming online looking for validation that their family members, who've passed away, are still with them. This is pretty much the only time I will personally bow out of a debate over paranormal vs. rational explanation.

Many who view the paranormal world through skeptical eyes may disagree. Matter of fact, I know a few who would adamantly insist that this is incorrect. I myself, base my opinions on not only logic, but also compassion. I do what I need to, to bring solace to people like myself who've lost loved ones. While I will not feed into their speculations of material being evidence of their loved ones- I won't argue either.

My Experiences

As many of you who have followed my research, You probably know that I've lost both my parents. My mother in 1990, and my father in 2001. I understand how it feels to long for some sort of sign that they're with me. My mother I hadn't really received messages that were overwhemlingly solid, that I would consider "paranormal" from her, aside from an experience the night she died. My dad on the other hand, has to me, been somewhat different.

Are my experiences paranormal in nature? I don't know. But the question is, when these things occurred, did I find relief or comfort from them.... absolutely.

Here is an excerpt from a post I made about my experience, written April 20, 2012:

"At the young age of 13, I lost my mother to suicide. I was tormented by this, but her comforting spirit has managed to come through many times. Usually at times of stress, without thinking of her I suddenly get an overwhelming sense of calm and well being..and then she automatically come to mind. Through her scent, and even once...a loving touch as a "good bye". I knew there was more to life, after death, although I didn't understand, and was even frightened by it. I knew this was part of my life.
I also lost my father in 2001. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He grew sick very rapidly. Only a month after diagnosis, he had passed away. I took care of him that entire month. I was running on little sleep, little food, and a lot of love. On his last day of clear lucid thinking, he called me to his bedroom.

Thinking something was wrong, I rushed in. He asked me to please grab a book from his book shelf and to come lay by him. It was the National Audubon Society's Bird watchers book. He quickly flipped through the pictures and opened the page to a beautiful yellow and black bird. With tears in this eyes he pointed and said "This is my favorite bird. When I was backpacking in the mountains, this bird was always with me. They aren't native to the valley....but I promise you...if there IS life after death. I will let you know".
I didn't invest much thought into it. All I could think of was that my best friend was dying, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I watched him daily grow from the man I thought of as superman, to the equal of an infant who depended on me to love and care for him.
He died two days later.
Several days passed after his death. It was all business. I did the majority of my deepest grieving the day I knew my dad had a terminal illness. I hadn't had time to really absorb the situation, even though I laid with his body for quite some time before I let the coroner take him away.
The funeral passed, and I was numb. I felt nothing.
On the day in question, I was going through a box of his things that were given to me and it suddenly hit me - He was GONE forever. I dropped everything in my hands and slide them over my face. I let out a deep heartful, sorrowful howl. I cried harder than I can ever recall doing before.

I was beside myself with grief. I couldn't bring myself to catch my own breath. After a few moments I gathered myself and shook my head. I took a deep breath and looked out my living room window. There in my lilac tree sat this magnificent yellow bird. I put my hands over my heart, took a deep oxgenated breath, and sat still. I was in shocked yet, totally calm. A warmth washed over me that I couldn't describe better than being freezing, and suddenly having warm water rush over you, redirecting your train of thought.
I felt nothing less than love and comfort. I thought to myself "Everything's going to be alright."
I have seen that bird native to the Sierra Nevadas, on numerous occasions (and other bright yellow birds). Even having a family of them living at 2 houses I've lived at since. NO ONE can ever convince me there isn't life after death.....never ever..."

Now, I can't say with absolution that my experience was paranormal. But, what I can say about my experience is, that I was absolutely lucid. I was thinking clearly and I was not on any drugs, or mind altering medications. I have no diagnosis of mental illness that would interrupt cognitive function or cause hallucinations. And most of all, I am being 100% honest about my experience. I wouldn't lie about something like this.

Was it paranormal? I do not know.
Did it bring me comfort? You bet it did.
Would I allow anyone to cheapen my experience with some gibberish about reality vs. fantasy?
Hell. No.

My Conclusion: Where Does the Responsibility Lie?

When we're on the internet, a few things happen. One, we're asked for opinions. Two, we're willing to give it. Three, sometimes people just want to share an experience without unsolicited advice or opinions.

Is it possible to hear another's story without being so quick to pick it apart? When are opinions unnecessary?

In my opinion, there's a line to be drawn between educating, debating, analyzing, and just listening. Sometimes we should be able to see a story at face value, and take it for what it is; a personal experience. No amount of analyzing or speculating will convince a grieving individual that their experience is merely a dustball, a hallucination or fluke.

In fact, I think if we catch someone in a very fragile state, our words or actions could be detrimental. Over the internet talking to strangers, we don't know what we're dealing with.

Had someone taken the time to pick my experience apart in my state, I would have been crushed. Whatever happened, paranormal or not, helped me get through that box of my dad's stuff. It helped my get my kids to school that day. It helped me to get up and cook dinner. It helped me to open a photo album and talk to my kids about my dad and how much he loved them. It helped me make it to the cemetery every time without worry that this was it - forever. It helped me get dressed every morning after I the man I loved more than anything in the world- and so on.

I think most of you can get my point here?

If I was delusional or had a lapse of sanity in my state - so what? It helped me cope with my situation. It brought me comfort. Today, 14 years later, I've learned to cope with my loss. I've been able to look at my situation and say, "ok there's a possibility I just happened to catch these birds during their migration, or maybe its a totally different breed that is native".

It doesn't matter. It served it's purpose in a way I needed

Is it possible that both these are true, but in some spiritual way, spirits able to effect nature to be present at such a time when it's needed? I don't know. Maybe this is meant to be a type of coping mechanism. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I do think between the drive to be honest and the mission to seek truth, sometimes makes us forget that we also have responsibility to care for one another. We need to practice empathy and compassion. Before opening your mouth, determine if what you're about to say has more good coming from it, than harm. Weigh the odds. Use common sense.

Truth will always prevail, in it's own time.

People will find their truth when it's the right time, for them. And if they don't? That's not our problem. Getting into a debate with someone in a fragile emotional state is not the time, nor place. We shouldn't impose our belief, (or research for that matter) on another at the price of causing damage. To me this is reprehensible.

Know when to speak up, and know when to shut up. Learn to let shit go. We don't always have to be right. Your words are your responsibility. Therefore we are responsible for the damage they cause.

Take care of one another. 

Balancing The Believer and The Skeptic

One of the hardest thing I've had to balance being a paranormal enthusiast is being both a believer and a skeptic. I grew up believing in the paranormal from a very young age and I often had things happen to me that now as an adult I am able to rationalize, while others I am still perplexed.....

To continue reading, check out this article on 
Paranormal Enlightenment Magazine: 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Spirit Boards: The Never Ending Debate

As a paranormal investigator, there are few subjects that really get under my skin. One subject that never fails to ruffle my feathers in nearly any debate setting, is the infamous Ouija Board. Mention talking boards in any given group and you will  be guaranteed to hear a slough of conflicting opinions spoken with the conviction we usually only see with topics such as politics or religion. Wanna ruin dinner or a friendship, just talk about the Ouija Board.

While this might sound extreme, its nothing short of just that.

In my lifetime I've had my fair share of run ins with spirit boards. If you had asked me 20 years ago my opinions of them, you would see a stark contrast in my opinions now. Matter of fact, a year ago you'd see a jump in the views I hold today. There's no doubt that people who've used them at an early age like I did, have quite a vast array of colorful stories revolving around their usage of Ouija boards. Many are honest, and many, not so much.

So how is that I've come to the opinions I have today? In a very straightforward, honest fashion I will tell you that I was the one whom created what I'm sure is now a thing of legendary Hollywood proportions, to those who shared my experience with me. That's right, I pranked my friends. Admitting such a thing is less than favorable, and most people would not do it. I, myself, wish to be known for my integrity if nothing else. Clearing my conscious of that is step one. So here I openly admit that as a teenager, I regrettably lied to many people. In my defense, it was with the help of a few friends who "talked me into it".

While I had already played with a Ouija board long before this experience, this to me was my most memorable time using in one, and in a few minutes you will see why. Before this moment in all honesty I believed in them. Experiences before this I can honestly say I did not move the planchette, but "something" did. I now assume that was one of my friends.

Borrowed from The Mary Sue
Act One

At around the age of 15, I was at a large birthday party for my cousin, where we decided to use a Ouija Board. This was a huge group of my cousins friends, and of course she was in attendance. Many alcoholic beverages had been consumed well into the wee hours of morning (Seagram's wine coolers were pretty damn popular back then). Someone suggested playing with the Ouija board and of course, we were all game. Before beginning, a group of us got together and decided we really wanted to scare everyone. I, of course agreed, that is until it was suggested that one of us "get possessed". Guess who? That's right, me. Being that my cousin was the birthday girl, everyone particularly wanted to freak her out. I adamantly refused at first, but then as we began to talk about it, it began to seem like a great idea. What harm could it cause?

So it began. We all played with the board for awhile and of course questions like "Who's my next boyfriend?" and "Is Ashley a total whore?" came up, until we moved onto some darker questions. We mixed the groups up pretty good and at any given point we had at least one of the girls who were in on our gag in the circle with the planchette. At this point I broke away from the circle and sat off to the side drinking my wine cooler. It was apparent that some of the girls were getting pretty freaked out, including my cousin. One of the main girls in on the joke gave me a gesture, indicating it was the prime time to really freak everyone out.

And I will say, I'm a damned good actress.

On que, I fell back on the floor, appearing to pass out. This of course drew attention to myself and everyone was deathly quiet. No one said much of anything, nor approached me. I rolled my eyes back and arched my back a little letting out a strange guttural noise that even surprised myself. From what must have been 20 different directions I hear girls take off screaming. "Now what?" I thought to myself once I had realized I was really deep into this. I shook a little and continued to growl. One of the girls in on the joke came over to me and helped to sit me up. For good measure I drooled a little and appeared to "come to". Opening my eyes, I could see that not only did I thoroughly do a good job freaking everyone out, I think I may have actually traumatized this very large group of girls.

Now, I will say- I feel like a total asshole now in hindsight, but as a teen, this was actually pretty cool. I totally pulled off the coolest damned prank - ever. I got to my feet and we walked outside. At this point only a couple of the girls in on the prank walked out with me. I began to ask when we should let everyone off the hook, we then entered this pat of "NEVER". So it was.

This to me was like an induction to a secret society of badassery. Now, it's silly of course, but it's how it was. I break my silence. I totally lied

So does this make me a jerk now? Probably since now of those 20-30 girls...this is a memory that probably haunts them today and I have absolutely no way of fixing it since I'm not in contact with any of them. Ask anyone of these girls today their stance on the Ouija Board and you will hear a passionate conviction of how evil they are. Unfortunately I created a problem that today I wish to change. I'm a little embarrassed that under the vice of peer pressure, I have been part of the problem. But here it is. Not nearly as honorable as being a martyr, for something I believe in. *face palm*

As goofy and shaming this situation is, there are situations like this happening all over. Teens are fooling each other daily using this same type of bs (perhaps without as much possession). How many times was my story shared and how many times was it blown up way bigger than it was?

Only a few times after, did the situation come up. While I never worked to further the lie, I never worked to fix it either. I decided the best course of action was to say nothing about it at all. Which is all honesty, is just as bad.

A Change in Perspective

So now these days, as I said earlier, my views have changed immensely. The last 5 years have brought me in touch with many people who have varying views on talking boards. This has given me the opportunity to research both sides of the issue openly, and honestly. I can say I've been on all sides of the issue as a believer, a cheater, and now a skeptic. In my research I've discovered somethings that have helped me form the view I have today.

What makes the planchette move? One possibility is in the quite earnest confession I expressed above: tomfoolery. Let's face it, any time we have to put a group of people together to generate an outcome, we widen the margin for error and shenanigans. It's human nature to want to trust people, especially at a young age. Teens have not become jaded enough to utilize skepticism as most adults do. If the Ouija board only required one user, it would be much easier to convince people that the planchette will not move without human intervention. After all, if we didn't moved the planchette, we'd know for sure, right?

Not necessarily.

When asked if the planchette works, an honest answer can be "yes", but not for the reasons you may think. Another, more complicated possibility is a psychological phenomena called the ideomotor effect. Coined by the William B Carpenter in 1852, the ideomotor effect was explained: "Of or relating to an unconscious or involuntary bodily movement made in response to a thought or idea rather than to a sensory stimulus." Meaning, that the users hands can respond to subconscious thoughts or suggestions of the mind.

This theory has been tested by many people including Scientist Michael Faraday, Chemist Michael Chevreul, Psychologist Ray Hyman, and Psychologist William James. Each agreed that many of the things that are attributed to paranormal intervention, may in fact be associated with the ideomotor phenomena.  Hyman explains, "that honest, intelligent people can unconsciously engage in muscular activity that is consistent with their expectations". This shows possibility as to why so many adamantly believe that their experiences with talking boards are in fact due to paranormal intervention. After all, if we are unaware of such rational psychological phenomena, what else could it be?

The next possibility is, paranormal intervention. When this argument arises the answer is nearly unanimous, that the board is evil. The Ouija board being "evil" is nothing more than a Hollywood novelty, in my opinion. There is no evidence proving spirits cause the planchette to move. Even if that were true, why would spirits require a plastic planchette to communicate with the living? Why do people think that a force as powerful as Satan, or his demons, would require a mass produced plastic and cardboard game to wreak havoc? I'm pretty sure if a demon wants in, it would do so with out any provocation.

Despite my opinion, there will always be people out there who insist that the talking board is Satan's tool. In fact according to Google, since last years horror blockbuster "Ouija" came out, the sales of Ouija Board has rose to nearly 300%. With this surge, the Ouija-talk online has run rampant, which drives individuals like myself insane.

"Ouija" The Movie (2014)

Testing the Board

For anyone who cares to challenge their belief in the board or are looking to simply gain a better understanding of the usage of spirit boards; I challenge you to try this.

In any mix of individuals, pick 3-4 people to participate as board users.

Be sure to have 1-2 unbiased individuals to record the results on paper for each question and result.

If possible, it wouldn't hurt to record your results using a video recorder.

Might be a good idea to have questions prepared with answers attached to that only the questioner will know the answer to. Mix these questions into the basic questions, which can include simple yes/no. These questions should not be viewable to the participants.

Phase 1, allow the individuals to use the board openly in traditional fashion. Record the results.

Phase 2, Blindfold the individuals and record in the same fashion. Note any changes in the "performance" of the board and planchette.

Phase 3, Users remain blind folded and this time, without the users knowing, turn the board so that the top of the board is now where the foot of the board was. Continue to ask questions in the same manner as phase 1 and 2. Record the results and note any changes.

The videos below will give you an idea of what you can expect during this experiment. This is taken from Penn and Teller's program, "Bullshit".

Now I have presented this experiment to many as a way to test the talking board, but by many have told me that this will not work, as the spirits require the human senses to work. This perplexes me. How can a spirit, let alone a demon that is capable of wreaking absolutely havoc, require the human senses, let alone a mass produced plastic planchette in order to work? A handmade witches board, I'd be more inclined to give a little more thought, but not a Parker Bros board. Doesn't make much sense to me.

Weak ass demons. 

The Difference in Divination Tools

Another aspect into the legend of the spirit board that makes me curious is, what makes a Ouija board different than any other divination tool? What makes them different as tools such as a pendulum, scrying, a KII, a voice recorder, or a Ghost Meter? Why is it that a spirit board carries the stigma of evil while other forms of divination remain "safe". It's always been a little funny to me that the same people who will run into a building using flashing gadgets with the intention to conjure a reaction from the paranormal, would suddenly feel differently when it comes to a board game. Most EVP sessions I've been involved with usually go about them the same way as any spirit board session I've been involved with. Usually some generic calling is given, like "Is anyone present? If so, please come forward and communicate with us". I see no difference.

Sometimes honestly the rationale behind these fears make absolutely no sense to me.


Its apparent that the fears surrounding the spirit board is quite complex, and that they are absolutely real. As most feared things, lack of understanding and education mixed with the hype of television and legend are responsible for the misconceptions behind the board. While many have been honest about their experiences with its usage, deception and naivety seem to play a huge part in why many cannot let go of their convictions of the board being evil. In my opinion the only way to change this stigma is through education, and participation in controlled groups that show that the board is powerless without human interventions. The fear factor that drives sales to continue to climb since the Ouija board's commercial introduction in 1890, will always be, so long as people refuse to look at them in a rational manner.