This FAQ covers a range of topics dealing with all branches of parapsychology. Please click on the links below to view the answers.
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What is parapsychology?
A lot of people mistakingly believe that the parapsychology investigates anything that is unusual, anomalous, or just plain weird. This is not the case. Parapsychologists do not research UFOs, crop circles, Bigfoot, the Lock Ness monster, vampires, werewolves, or astrology. In fact, the field of parapsychology, which began in the late 1800s, is limited to just three areas of study. These are: extrasensory perception (ESP); mind-matter interaction (MMI, sometimes called psychokinesis or PK), and the survival of bodily death. They use the word "psi" to refer to all forms of psychic abilities or functioning, and includes both the different types of extrasensory perception (ESP) and mind-matter interaction (MMI), once called psychokinesis (PK). They picked the Greek letter psi as a neutral shorthand term, and it is gradually gaining in popularity and recognition. Psi may be the best way to think of these things, since some parapsychologists believe that ESP and mind-matter interaction cannot truly be separated or thought of as "different." Let's look at each of the fields parapsychology studies.

Extrasensory Perception: ESP is the ability to acquire information through non-ordinary sensory channels. Sometimes it is referred to as "gut instinct," "intuition," a vague "knowing," the kind of ESP one is able to do is often a reflection of need (i.e. what's important to you). ESP appears to be a universal, if often weak, ability. Some factors seem to promote it, such as feelings of close emotional connection to another person, place or thing.

Mind-Matter Interaction: MMI, sometimes called psychokinesis (PK) and once known as telekinesis, is the ability of the mind to influence matter. Examples include metal-bending, poltergeist phenomena, teleportation, psychic photography, and anomalous healing. Rhine did the original studies on MMI with dice after a gambler claimed he had the ability to control which face landed up. RNGs (random number generators) and REGs (random event generators) improved the true randomness of events -- a crucial factor since the only way to determine whether anything had occurred was by comparing it to random chance. Any result away from random chance was considered normal -- whether something occurred far too often or not nearly often enough.

Mind-matter interaction is typically subdivided into one of two rather fuzzy categories: macro-MMI or micro-MMI. Micro-MMI targets that require statistics to know whether you have been successful or not. Typically things that occur on an atomic or sub-atomic scale, such as random number generators, but can also include things like dice. Macro-PK involves targets that are big enough to see with the naked eye and do not require statistics to know whether mind-matter interaction has happened. What makes these categories problematic, is that some targets, like dice or some instances of metal bending, can be considered both macro and micro-MMI. This can be rather confusing. Likewise, random number generator and random event generator research, which are very popular as they are easy to do with computers, could represent ESP or mind-matter interaction--and it may be impossible to tell which, if not both, is/are responsible for the results.

The Survival of Bodily Death: This is whether or not we survive the death of the body. Parapsychologists have used a number of methods since the late 1800s to try to determine whether or not human personality survives the death of the body. Much of this has involved research with mediums, reincarnation research, and instrumental transcommunication.

What is extrasensory perpection (ESP)?
Extrasensory perception (or ESP) is the ability to acquire information through non-ordinary sensory channels. Sometimes it is referred to as "gut instinct," "intuition," a vague "knowing," the kind of ESP one is able to do is often a reflection of need (i.e. what's important to you). Thus, soldiers, firefighters, and police officers may develop psychic abilities as adults to help them survive. Often considered (perhaps wrongly) the "receptive" side of psi, it includes such things as:
  • TELEPATHY: the mind-to-mind transmission of information.
  • CHANNELING: this is where a psychic medium directly acquires mind-to-mind information from a non-human (or non-living) source, whether a discarnate spirit, extraterrestrial being, or other form of intelligence such as a dolphin.
  • CLAIRVOYANCE: literally "seeing" a distant place, which now days may involve remote viewing (a set of techniques for acquiring that information).
  • CLAIRAUDIENCE: literally "hearing" ESP information, i.e. it comes as sound.
  • CLAIRSENTIENCE: "feeling" ESP information in the body.
  • OUT-OF-BODY EXPERIENCES (OBEs): often considered "astral" travel, it is the experience of your consciousness being at a different location than your physical body.
  • PRECOGNITION: which can involve "seeing" or other wise "knowing" the future, often this may involve dreams.
  • PSYCHOMETRY: being able to sense information that appears to be somehow stored on objects (or sometimes locations as "place memory").
  • RETROCOGNITION: viewing past places and events, very handy for archeologists and historians.

ESP appears to be a universal, if often weak, ability. Some factors seem to promote it, such as feelings of close emotional connection to another person, place or thing. Altered states of consciousness, such as hypnosis, meditation and dreaming, also appear to enhance ESP.

There have been a number of studies on ESP over the years, starting with the classic ones of guessing which symbol is on a card (known as Zenar cards or ESP cards) as shown in the image above. Since many psychics state it is hard for them to "get" numbers or "read" things with ESP, such images and photographs have been more commonly used as targets. In recent years, static photographs have often been replaced with videotape images. Many feel that if such pictures carry an emotional impact (such as a war image) they many be easier to receive.

Altered states of consciousness have been used to enhance psychic abilities for millennia. In ancient times, people often went to special shrines or locations to have prophetic dreams. The dream state, and those on the edges of sleep, are still considered to be very psi-conducive (i.e. they make it easier to get psychic information). Meditation and hypnosis have also been noted to be good states for getting ESP. One form of altered state that has been used a lot in the laboratory in controlled situations is that of sensory deprivation in Ganzfeld experiments. Basically these studies involve placing a participant in a comfortable position (often lying down) with ping pong ball halves placed like goggles over their eyes (with colored light - often red - shining into them) and white noise piped in through headphones. The idea is to create very even, but unpatterned, sensory stimulation. This technique seems to facilitate successful ESP.

One of the more intriguing experiments on precognition has involved monitoring participant electrodermal activity (also known by the older term of Galvanic Skin Responses, or GSR), such as is used in polygraph (lie detector) testing. What Dean Radin, Dick Bierman, and other experimenters have found, is that when you show an audience a slideshow of photos, some pleasant and others upsetting, people will respond to the unpleasant ones a moment BEFORE the images appear on the screen. This suggests that on some level they knew what was coming -- in essence, precognition.

What is mind-matter interaction or MMI (previously called psychokinesis)?
Mind-matter interaction (MMI), sometimes called psychokinesis (PK) and also once known as telekinesis (TK), is the ability of the mind to influence matter. The change in terms from TK and PK to MMI reflects our greater understanding of the breadth and range of these phenomena and a desire to be more accurate in how they are described. Forgive me if I digress briefly into history. Many early parapsychologists were Greek and Latin scholars. The term telekinesis was derived from the Greek words "tele" for distant and "kinesis" for movement to refer to how mediums could move objects they weren't touching. As parapsychologists became aware of the importance of consciousness, this was amended to psychokinesis (which combines the Greek words for soul and movement). However, further research made it clear that the influence of a mind (whether existing only in spirit or with a body) on external objects or processes without the mediation of known physical energies or forces need not always involve movement at all, but can involve other kinds of influence, such as metal softening, healing and fire-immunity. Because of this, a new, more accurate and inclusive term was needed. The one chosen was mind-matter interaction or MMI.

Outside of sponstaneous case reveiws, the early MMI research was pretty wild and woolly as researchers struggled to control mediums in the séance parlor. The rampant fraud of the time soon soured most investigators. Because of this, J.B. Rhile decided to bring MMI into the controlled setting of the laboratory and use ordinary folks. But the results were weak. The only solution was to rely on large data pools and statistics to better reveal what could be occurring. The first targets were dice, inspired by a gambler who claimed he had the ability to control which face landed up. Later research improved on the intrinsic randomness of the target by using random number generators (RNGs) and random event generators (REGs).

Why does randomness matter? Because typically the only way to determine whether small-scale MMI occurs is by comparing it to random chance. Any result away from random chance was considered normal -- whether something occurred far too often or not nearly often enough. But here we run into new problems. Many in the past divided mind-matter interaction into two rather fuzzy categories: macro-PK or micro-PK. Micro-PK requires statistics to know whether you have been successful or not. It includes processes that occur on an atomic or sub-atomic scale, such as random number generators, but it can also include things like dice. Macro-PK involves targets that are big enough to see with the naked eye and do not require statistics to know whether mind-matter interaction has happened. What makes these categories particularly problematic, is that some targets, like dice or some instances of metal bending, can be considered both macro and micro-PK. This can be rather confusing. Likewise, it's impossible with random generator generator research to tell whether ESP (see Decision Augmentation Theory) is involved, MMI, or both.

The range of MMI includes:
  • ANOMALOUS HEALING: apparent psychic healing which may involve psychic surgery.
  • BILOCATION: the apparent ability of a body to be in two locations at the same time (multilocation involves being simultaneously in more than two locations).
  • FIRE-IMMUNITY: the alleged ability to come into contact with fire or red-hot coals without being burned. It's been seen by cultures around the world, even in modern day, and is often popular at motivational events. Jack Houck performed some great research on this using thermistors.
  • HEMOGRAPHY: the paranormal patterning of bloodstains on cloth to make meaningful words or symbols. This has mostly been seen in devout Catholic and Muslim believers.
  • INSTRUMENTAL TRANSCOMMUNICATION: the purported communication by discarnate or extraterrestrial beings through an assortment of electronic devices, which may depend at least partly on the mediumship of human operators. It includes electronic voice phenomena (EVPs) on audiotape and videotape. It can also be a useful tool in ghost investigations.
  • LEVITATION: the paranormal suspension of a being or object off the ground, which may sometimes involve flying. Some think it could involve an alteration in weight or direct effect on time/gravity.
  • MATERIALIZATION: producing an object from what appears to be nowhere.
  • METAL-BENDING: the paranormal ability to soften or bend metal, sometimes associated with the ability to teleport and stress. It was popularized by Uri Gellar with spoon-bending.
  • POLTERGEIST PHENOMENA: human stress-related PK including raps, the production of lights, object movement, and a host of other activities. Although most famously caused by teen angst, it's been reported in every age group and can involve groups of agents and not just individuals. The best way to approach it is to consider the who, what, where, when, and why. It's usually fulfilling unconscious needs or expressing repressed feelings/thoughts.
  • TABLE TIPPING: Table tipping has been performed for thousands of years. Often reported in mediumship and séances. Kenneth Batcheldor was one of the first to investigate table movement outside the séance parlor. He used ordinary individuals in good light with no spirits. Batcheldor believed there were three big reasons why mind-matter interaction (MMI) might succeed or fail: (1) BELIEF, as even the slightest doubt can make it hard to results when you're in a skeptical environment; (2) OWNERSHIP RESISTANCE or the reluctance be responsible for mind-matter interaction; and (3) WITNESS INHIBITION or the fact people are sometimes very uncomfortable watching mind-matter interaction, no matter who is responsible for it. Batcheldor felt the best way to get around all three of these problems is to use a group party atmosphere. Often he would have one person prime the pump by faking an event to get around the need for belief to get things rolling. Ownership resistance was less of a problem because no one knew who in the group was actually responsible for the PK. Perhaps most importantly, he used laughter, singing, and a party-like atmosphere to cut down on witness inhibition. This method was used by the Toronto group in their table tipping experiment that became a paperback book, Conjuring up Phillip. This research suggests that the unconscious knows how to do psi -- it just needs to have a set goal and a way to keep the conscious mind from interfering with the production of mind-matter interaction.
  • STIGMATA: the paranormal or miraculous production of marks on the body which in Christians mimic the wounds of Christ and in Muslims mimics those of Muhammad.
  • TELEPORTATION: the paranormal ability of a person to move from one location to another or through objects.
  • THOUGHTOGRAPHY (also called psychic photography): the projected of mental images onto film, photographic plates, or digital media.
  • WEATHER CONTROL: the paranormal ability to affect the weather.
Many people who accept ESP have trouble accepting MMI. Some of their problem may relate to the fact that if our thoughts and feelings are able to directly impact the world around us, then we have to accept responsibility for that. This is a pretty scary notion for most folks.

What is survival research all about?
Since the late 1800s, parapsychologists have used a number of methods to try to determine whether or not human personality survives the death of the body. One of the more complex such methods involved the "cross correspondence" research. This was a scheme dreamed up by some of the founders of the Society for Psychical Research before their deaths -- F. W. H. Myers, Edmund Gurney, and Henry Sidgwick. These men were all classical scholars, well aware of the relative lack of education of most of the psychics of the time. Their plan was purportedly put into action AFTER they died. It involved passing on a series of complex literary messages (often in Latin and Greek) as automatic writing and channeled information through different mediums between 1901 and 1930. These messages only made sense when the they were combined together. The idea was that it showed intentionality on the part of the spirits that were communicating, and contained information and languages that would not have been known or understood by the mediums and could therefore not have simply come from their unconscious minds.

Today, although some investigators like Gary Schwartz (see his book, The Afterlife Experiments) still try to prove survival through checking the accuracy of mediums purportedly passing on messages from the dead, most survival research involves instrumental transcommunication phenomena (ITC). ITC is the supposed communication (whether as writing, audio, or pictures) by discarnate spirits. It can occur through a variety of electronic and related equipment, including tape recorders, telephones, faxes, radios, televisions, and computers. Often these sounds and images are not heard or seen at the time of original recording, but only appear later. It was previously sometimes referred to as electronic voice phenomena (EVP) or Raudive phenomena. The process may involve the mediumistic abilities of the living human operators.

ITC is another area of mind-matter interaction (MMI) research often used in an effort to find proof of survival. It was originated after voices purported to have come from the deceased, which were not audible at the time of recording, were later heard on the magnetic tape playback. Raymond Bayless and Attila von Szalay were the first to formally report these phenomena in 1956. A few years later Swedish film producer Friedrich Juergenson began working in the field, when, by chance, he heard what he thought was his deceased mother's voice in the background of a tape he was making of birds singing in the woods. He later published a book, Radio Contact with the Dead, which inspired Latvian psychologist Konstantin Raudive to enter the field.

The words made audible on tape are generally pronounced in an unmistakably uniform way, regardless of the language used. Identification of the voices is, nevertheless, often a remarkably difficult task. Raudive often obtained names and sentence fragments, which he documented at length in his book, Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment in Electronic Communication with the Dead.

The earliest documented recorded ITC may have occurred in 1902, when Waldemar Bogoras found spirit voices on a phonograph recording. Other early methods included by telegraph and radio. Rogo and Bayless even devoted an entire book to phone calls that people said they had received from the dead. However, the vast majority of early ITC work was done with ordinary tape recorders. Although some of the sounds that appeared were difficult to decipher, others were very clear-cut and recognizably belongs to deceased individuals.

Recent years have seen ITC involved all forms of format—including on telephones, faxes, computers, printers, VCRs, camcorders, and other equipment. Despite this diversity of methods for obtaining ITC, some investigators, such as Al Rauber and Chris Fleming in the United States, work to capture ghosts on audiotape—sometimes comparing what is found on the recording with what psychics and others were simultaneously picking up on as happening in the room, with some truly amazing results. This use of ITC as a simultaneous adjunct to other methods of investigation is growing in popularity and would seem to be an ideal application of the field.

A number of researchers have commented on the fact that they believe spirit beings are actively working to try to improve communication with the living. The purported beings on the 'other side' often refer to the importance of the operator's mediumistic ability for successful transcommunication. Thus, there appears to be an aspect of MMI involvement, either on the part of the sender or the receiver, which is directly affecting the instrument being used for communication, whether magnetic tape, television, computer, or other. Unfortunately, it is impossible to call ITC 'proof' of the survival of bodily death since we cannot differentiate human MMI from that of discarnate sources.

Finally, some of the strongest supporting evidence for survival comes from the reincarnation research performed by Ian Stevenson and others. They have done in-depth studies of children in unindustrialized countries, where there is a lack of television, mass media, or easy transportation (thus limiting other, more ordinary means of them finding out this information). They have found instances where these young children have known not only the names and stories of their previous families (later verified by the researchers), been able to correctly identify photos of those individuals (whom they had never met), had birthmarks related to their manner of death, and even sometimes been able to speak entire languages that they had never been taught (and which their family knew nothing of). For more information on this work, please check out Stevenson's book Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation.

How can I learn parapsychology?
It's nearly impossible to find anywhere to learn parapsychology from those who really know what they are talking about. Schools seem to open and close or change their names and course options with lightning speed. So, even what you see here may be out of date in a month. However, there are a few resources worth checking out.

If you want to get a post-graduate degree in parapsychology, your best option by far is the longest running program in the world is Koestler Parapsychology Unit at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Although most famous for it's brick and mortar program, they have offered online courses in the past, so you can check with them. They tend to have a more skeptical bent than some programs, but you'd get excellent training.

The Rhine Research Center offers an excellent 6 week summer course on parapsychology that allows you to meet with, and learn from, real parapsychologists. It is a wonderful opportunity for students. The location of the class may sometimes vary. Check their website for more information.

The Australian Institute of Parapsychological Research, Inc. has two online courses (a certificate course and an advanced certificate course in parapsychology), which are now available to the public. They are administered by parapsychologist Lance Storm, who is the editor of the Australian Journal of Parapsychology. To go to the AIPR website click here. If you want to learn parapsychology on your own, there are a number of sources that I highly recommend. These include:
  • For general parapsychology, try to find an out-of-print copy of Benjamin B. Wolman's Handbook of Parapsychology. Although published in 1976, it is still an excellent source of information.
  • Psychic Exploration, edited by Edgar D. Mitchell is another good, if dated, basic textbook on parapsychology. To be honest, I prefer Wolman's book, but this is a nice second source to have. Published in 1974, it is now out-of-print, but copies are not hard to find.
  • The Conscious Universe by Dean Radin is an entertaining read that includes an excellent summary of ESP research.
  • Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in an Quantum Reality by Dean Radin mentions a broader range of research, but goes into less detail than his earlier book. Nonetheless, this book is one anyone interested in psi should read, as it details a whole new theory of psi based on quantum entanglement. If true, it has fascinating implications. Dean has sometimes been called the "Einstein of Parapsychology," and there is no doubt that he is one of the leading lights in the field.
  • Mind-Matter Interaction: Historical Reports, Research and Theory by me is the only book that has all of the MMI research up to 2009 in one place. It also talks about people's experiences and a bit about learning how to do PK yourself.
  • The Metal Benders by John Hasted is a personal favorite of mine that talks about a series of experiments done with a number of children metal-benders. This is a tough book to find, because once someone gets it they are unlikely to let it go. It includes photographs taken of wire sculptures created inside glass globes, through which there was only an opening big enough to insert one straightened paper clip at a time.
  • Miracles: A Scientific Exploration of Wonderous Phenomena by D. Scott Rogo is another personal favorite of mine. Rogo was a devout Catholic in addition to being a parapsychologist. Because of this, he looks at miracles from a different viewpoint than most who discuss the topic. An older version of the same book is called Miracles, a Parascientific Inquiry into Wondrous Phenomena. It is quite a good read.
  • Channeling: Investigations on Receiving Information from Paranormal Sources by Jon Klimo is THE classic book on mental mediumship and channeling.
  • The Afterlife Experiments: Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life After Death by Gary E. Schwartz details some fascinating controlled experiments that were performed with the assistance of a number of professional mediums, including John Edward and Suzane Northrop.
  • Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation: Second Edition by Ian Stevenson is a classic work in the field. In it, he carefully analyzes the cases of young children living in isolated parts of the world, who can not only speak languages they were never exposed to this lifetime, but also have knowledge of people, places, and events that appear to be associated with an earlier lifetime. Everyone should read this book.
  • Phone Calls from the Dead by D. Scott Rogo and Raymond Bayless is another personal favorite of mine, which discusses a number of reports of phone calls that appear to have been made by the dead to the living. Although long out of print, a number of copies remain available. Almost any book by D. Scott Rogo is a good read.
  • A Paranormal Casebook by Loyd Auerbach includes a nice mix of cases and how they can be investigated.
  • ESP, Hauntings and Poltergeists: A Parapsychologist's Handbook by Loyd Auerbach is still the classic work in the field, called by Time Magazine the "Bible of ghostbusting." The original book is out of print, but it is still available as an e-book from Loyd's website. This is the book that got me into the field of parapsychology.
  • www.parapsych.orgIf you're looking for a way to find the websites of parapsychologists (many of whom post general information and their journal articles on their websites for you to read for free), the best clearning house is to check out the website for the Parapsychological Association. Want to know whether someone is a true parapsychologist and not just a wanna-be> This is the place to look. They list all their members (including a few dead ones) and have links to many other resources.
  • There are a number of professional journals that you can subscribe to. The Journal of Parapsychology, is heavily oriented towards quantitative proof-oriented research, but is one of the premier journals in the field. The Journal of the Society for Psychical Research is the oldest journal in existence. It is open to a variety of research, including not only formal experiments but also spontaneous case investigations, qualitative studies, and EVP research. The European Journal of Parapsychology and Australian Journal of Parapsychology also also well-respected sources of information on current research. The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research
    , like it's British counterpart, it's open to a variety of research, including spontaneous case investigations and qualitative studies. Finally, the Journal of Scientific Exploration, which is put out by the Society for Scientific Exploration, covers a number of topics that include, but aren't limited to, parapsychology.
  • www.lexscien.org/lexscien/index.jsp: This is the Chi Lit Base, an amazing online database of parapsychology journals. For a fee you can have full searchable access to every journal ever published by the Journal of Parapsychology, the European Journal of Parapsychology, the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, and the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, from their earliest issue on. I think of it as non-stop shopping. This is an incredible resource, well worth the subscription.

How do I know if someone is a real parapsychologist?
I can't tell you how often I've had someone come up and proudly tell me they're a "parapsychologist" (or seen one on TV) when, in fact, the person is NOTHING of the kind. At best, they're a paranormal enthusiast. So, how do I define a parapsychologist? It is someone with a solid grounding in the scientific research (there have been over 125 years worth) who writes, does research, and publishes on the field. The vast majority of parapsychologists (there are about 400 of us in the world; more or less 50 in the USA) belong to the international organization known as the Parapsychological Association. They list all of their members on their website, making it easy to check whether someone belongs or not. However, this is such a small field that most of us know each other by name, if not in person.

For better or worse, most parapsychologists are self-taught. I don't discriminate based on education or what someone got their original degrees in--whether physics, biochemistry, psychology, engineering, or something else. Very few of us (I'm an exception) have a formal post graduate education in parapsychology, because there are only a couple places in the world where you can study it. I once added it up to around 25 or so of us in the world who have a Doctorate degree in parapsychology from an accredited brick-and-mortar school, with several more who had a Masters degree in it. The only difference I've seen between those of us who were formally trained and the self-taught is that the former tend to have a broader knowledge of the field. Those who teach themselves tend to stick to the topics that interest them most, leaving blank spots.

So, what's the upshot of my rant? If someone tells you they're a parapsychologist, find out their credentials. And that goes double for who you see on TV. The media is notorious about misusing titles to make their "experts" sound more impressive. Look them up. Are they on the Paraspychology Association member list? What journals have they published in? How much do they really know? It's good to find all that out before you put any weight on what they tell you. There's a tremendous amount of misinformation floating around out there and Wikipedia may be the worst offender.

What are orbs?
The word "orb" makes most parapsychologists cringe. The vast majority of these photos (like the one I humorously use to your right) are due to perfectly normal artifacts. Al Rauber put it best when he noted "You go on the internet and you see all these different ghost groups and everything and they're putting out all this 'proof' of ghosts, and the proof is nothing. It's nothing. There's a reason for that photograph to look like that, and it has nothing to do with ghosts. I am constantly amazed at how often artifacts are touted off as ghost photos."

So, let's look at some photos that were screwed up in perfectly ordinary ways, where I know no ghosts were involved. Let's start with the classic: dust motes. You know those little pale white (or other color) circles that show up on pictures? They aren't ghosts. No camera is immune from problems, but digital cameras are particularly prone to them, and haven't been around long enough for the population to recognize when it's something truly interesting or just another boring artifact.

For film cameras you can have problems with:
  1. Old or heat-damaged film
  2. A dirty lens, or one with a tiny water droplet on it
  3. Wrong exposures
  4. Lens reflections (with any light source, including other cameras or their autofocus assist beams, but especially with the sun)
  5. Movement during the exposure (either of your camera or the recorded image/light source)
  6. Flash and lighting problems (a major cause of artifacts)
  7. Film development issues
  8. Printing problems
With digital cameras, you may eliminate the film development phase, but they tend to be far more sensitive to dust, fine hairs, etc. on the lens. Furthermore, there are problems with CCD malfunction (the electronic sensor in the camera that needs to translate the image into the final picture) and conversion issues from analog to digital and back again. It is the CCD malfunction that may most often cause the so-called "orbs" that appear in pictures by so many digital cameras. As one parapsychologist recently noted, the cheaper the equipment, the better your odds at getting "anomalies" -- whether "orbs" or what you think are "EVPs."

Common artifacts include getting a comet-like tail from a reflections (often made worse by a bit of movement). Add dust and water droplets (which digital cameras are more sensitive to because of their small apertures) and you can get quite a creative mix. However, the dust and droplets tend to be easier to recognize. They tend to be round and may look slightly unfocused. What can you do? You can't always prevent other sources of light (especially with the sun, artificial lights, and other cameras), but using a tripod and avoiding a flash will help eliminate at least one source of problems. You can get linear streaks or the round classic "orbs" with a bit of movement. And the light source may be an unseen infrared focusing beam from a camera!

Dave Manganelli has humorously noted, "Many AF illuminators will throw out a visible red/black pattern of some sort, so beware others on a ghost hunt who become convinced that that pattern is YET ANOTHER SPIRIT FORM!!!! (Who can take photos, anyway, with all that terror breaking out around them?)"

A point source of light can be particularly problematic if you are ghost hunting with a group of others. The flashes and autofocus assist beams pointed at your camera lens can create just such intriguing lines in white, pink, or red. Streetlight ArtifactOf course, movement artifacts can be a lot more subtle. Let's look at a classic "orb" (seen on the right side of this page), which is nothing more than artifact caused by a streetlamp. And we aren't done with the artifacts yet. It only takes a very slight camera movement in low-light conditions to get a double exposure effect - very cool and anomalous looking but NOT paranormal. In essence, the flash cycle is too short for the needed exposure time. This causes the area in the center, where the flash is brightest, to have the equivalent of a double exposure, while the outer edges, where the flash is more dim, will look normal. AlcatrazAlcatraz Island was the infamous home of many of the worst criminals ever convicted. The picture to your left was taken of the Alcatraz dining hall at the same time that Chris Fleming (the sensitive co-host of the British TV show, "Dead Famous") was sensing the place memory of a food riot from the past. The outer portions of the picture appear to be sharp, while there is an odd blurring in the center. However, this is the result of a flash artifact from camera movement in low-light conditions -- and trust me, the camera doesn't have to move very much. In essence, the flash cycle was too short for the needed exposure time. The area in the center, where the flash is brightest, had the equivalent of a double exposure while the outer edges were less sensitive to the slight camera movement after the flash had finished (but the aperture was still open). Now, let me add that Chris Fleming was picking up a lot of energy and place memory at the time, had seen a ghost in the dining room earlier, and felt like a spirit was in front of him. I believe him, which leads to an important point. Just because you take a photo that is completely normal, or has an artifact that can be explained as reflection, flash bounce, movement, etc., doesn't mean that nothing paranormal was present when you took the picture. The fact is that we don't have a camera yet that can truly photograph ghosts. So, a normal picture means only that you don't have paranormal "proof" to wave around and show off to strangers -- ghosts may, or may not, have been present. To be honest, people's experiences, rapid battery drainage, and equipment malfunctions are far more reliable indicators of paranormal activity.

Odd reflections can also occur with any kind of film camera, but they tend to be a bit less sensitive to dust artifacts than are digital cameras.

Flash artifacts are just one of a nearly infinite number of ways you can get "anomalous" photos. This is true even with an expensive film camera. You can get artifacts from the film itself, to the flash, to reflections, to development, and even the actual printing of the photo. And don't forget the possibilities of microscopic drops of water on the lens, or even a dirty lens. Of course, the last one tends to be easy to spot. You get the same artifact on every picture the camera takes. Loyd Auerbach sums the situation up best when he says:

"No matter what one does, not all factors can be accounted for or controlled when taking any kind of photo .... By "factors" I mean anything from problems with film (or the developing process) or the camera or the photographer or unseen influences in the environment. I've seen way too many photos with "mysterious" streaks of light that can be tracked back to point sources of light at the fringes of the camera frame (a little shaking of the photographer's hand is all it takes) .... Finally, photos are subject to manipulation .... What it all boils down to is this: photos are evidence, NOT proof of the existence of ghosts or hauntings."

Some ghost investigators have experimented with infrared photography. Unfortunately, this has it's own set of problems. And if you have infrared focusing beams from other cameras (or reflected back to you by your own) then you're really in trouble. It's artifact city. Another thing worth mentioning is that it is not heat sensitive. Thermal imaging devices are extremely useful in an investigation, but then you're talking a multi-thousand dollar system from someone like Flir. Infrared film will merely see a slightly broader spectrum of reflected light than the human eye can perceive. As with any scientific process the more control of the environment you can have, the less chance for human error adding anomalies to the data. If you want to shoot with infrared, it's important that you be the ONLY one with a camera, turn OFF the auto focus, and use an older manual focus lens. New lenses no longer have an infrared focusing index, slightly different from what we see as sharp. The down side is that this is all time consuming and working with the tripod today was really inconvenient. The only other thing I can suggest is to take something with good optics. The cameras that are suggested for "inexpensive ghost hunting," (and which result in the kind of pictures most people show off as anomalous) have some of the worst optics in the world... little point and shoots that are prone to flare and dust and hazing over in cold temps. And that doesn't even take into account the issue of flare from a flash reflecting off of something (TV, mirrors, and window glass can be particularly notorious for creating suggestion images that are absolutely meaningless). The average person can pick up a cheap used SLR with an excellent lens for about $200 and avoid lots of these problems. I'm told by camera experts that it is good to avoid zooms too... All photographically speaking of course. It is not heat sensitive in the way you'd need to have for it to pick up ghosts, so while you might get some interesting and artistic shots, they aren't likely to give you any better proof than other cameras.

Am I saying that ghosts never effect cameras? Of course not. But what I and other ghost investigators have found is that it usually shows up as batteries draining or equipment malfunction. Too many ghost hunters miss out on the real evidence because of being sidetracked by artifacts. As professional cameraman and producer Dave Manganelli notes, "The most common weirdness that has occurred in my own investigations is equipment failure/malfunction. Now that -- if properly vetted -- is the true puzzling anomaly in all this." Dave has a lot of experience, so let's go more in depth with what he says:

"We've all heard the cliche "The camera never lies." Well, actually – yes, it does, and sometimes it lies a lot. By now, everyone has seen dozens (if not hundreds) of photos of purportedly ghostly 'orbs' spread (with gleeful, giddy abandon) all over the Internet. There are little circles of light, swirling mists, blinding streaks, eerie sprays, luminescent swarms, globular clusters, and they all come in a variety of intensities and colors. The bulk of them are considered to be 'anomalous'; photographic images, things strangely out of the ordinary, manifestations of ghosts or ghostly activity. The thinking goes that these orbs turn up in photos/videos that should otherwise be normal, clear, and free of such curiosities. Even more to the point, these photos/video have been taken in a haunted location; therefore the photographic anomalies must be manifestations of the ghosts themselves. If not of the actual ghosts, then, they are at least manifestations of the spirit energies in the place. Furthermore, the thinking goes that the advanced technology of today's cameras is sensitive enough to finally be able to record this elusive paranormal activity, hence the notable increase in the number and variety of things caught through the eye of the camera."

"My observation: I don't think so. To reach the conclusion that orb photos are pictures of paranormal energies/entities, go ahead and drill right down to the core premise that these images are, in fact, beyond the expectations of what a camera would record, and that the images themselves (colors, shapes, textures, etc.) can only be attributed to paranormal causes. Here's the problem: many of those images, colors, shapes, and textures are things that can and will appear in photographs for reasons that have nothing to do with ghosts. Why are so many people currently convinced that they are 'ghost' pictures? Three reasons: 1) They've been told repeatedly by both ghost enthusiasts and TV shows that the images are ghosts; 2) They're not accustomed to seeing photographic artifacts, so the images are indeed unfamiliar and mysterious to them; 3) Relatively few investigators try hard – if at all – to seek out alternative explanations."

"A common notion that certain cameras, microphones, video recorders, audio recorders (whatever) are more "sensitive" to paranormal phenomena is simply not supported by any evidence of which I'm aware. If any equipment was more "sensitive," results should be more concrete and consistent in haunted places – but they aren't. There's not a single manufacturer of photo, video, or audio equipment that would support the claim that their product records paranormal phenomena – to do so would suggest that engineers have identified certain wavelengths and frequencies as 'paranormal.' They have not."

"In reading through many results from other investigators (most poorly done, others much better), the range of equipment and methodologies used is so all over the map so as to render the whole business incoherent. It's almost better to say that if ghosts want to show up on photo, video, audio, etc., then they'll show up regardless of what equipment you're using. The reason I bring this up is that many investigators prattle on and on about their equipment, provide long laundry lists of what they're using … and by doing so, they imply that the technology is central to capturing anomalous images and sounds. It's not."

"Here's my own laundry list of stuff I've used over the years: 35mm negative film, 35mm slide film, 16mm film, infrared film, infrared video, Polaroids, digital cameras, reel-to-reel analog audio, audiocassette, microcassette, MiniDisc, DAT, U-Matic video, 8mm video, VHS video, S-VHS Video, Hi8 video, Beta-SP video, MiniDV, and DVCAM. When I first began investigating haunted houses 25 years ago, it was from behind the viewfinder of an Arriflex BL 16mm film camera. My goal has always been to attempt to capture some manifestation of paranormal activity on motion-picture film, photographic film, videotape, or audio. I am here to tell you that it's not easy. In fact, I feel comfortable saying that it is extremely difficult to obtain good evidence this way. I have been smack in the middle of several investigations that involve other phenomena breaking out in the room, yet the cameras and tape recorders pick up nothing unusual. If the cameras and recorders were particularly sensitive to ghostly phenomena, then I would expect to have a more vast collection of images and sounds than I do … which is precisely why I don't think ghosts are inclined to manifest that way. Let me be even more direct: for the last 4 years, I've been actively researching the former West Virginia State Penitentiary at Moundsville. The place is haunted (a combination of place memory and a few honest-to-gosh ghosts). The prison was the scene of executions, murders, beatings, stabbings, burnings, and other episodes of mayhem that, quite frankly, boggle the mind. In this 4 year period, I have taken hundreds of photographs, and hours of video and audiotape – most of them taken while I was alone and standing right in the haunted spots. I do not have any inexplicable photos or videos of orbs, streaks, mists, hazes, starbursts, etc. Some people claim they do; I've seen many of their photos. I'm not convinced. Now, why is it that others have orbs and I don't? I can only think of two explanations: 1) darn it, the ghosts just don't like me and won't appear for me (though they apparently have no trouble bothering me in a zillion other ways when they feel like it) 2) I'm a bit more careful than the average bear when I take a photograph."

"Over the years, I've also paid a lot of attention to photos/films/videos taken by other investigators in other cases. To my dismay, I have found some of the most famous ones are hoaxes and fakes, even though some of them have received continuous publicity (in books, websites, and TV shows) as real evidence of ghosts. Even when they're not hoaxes or fakes, then the investigators tend to fall into the trap of thinking that the equipment is more sensitive, etc., etc. In that case, they're putting the cart before the horse by assuming that their 'sensitive' equipment will pick up ghosts. My question: why are you claiming that the equipment is sensitive to ghosts? (This usually prompts a nonsensical response akin to Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap claiming that his guitar amplifier is more powerful than others, because his goes to '11' while the others only go to '10'). Makes you wonder how anyone saw or heard ghosts before the advent of cameras and recorders!

The orb photos began to appear on a wide scale in the mid-to-late 1990s. There is no doubt in my mind that they came to prominence with the rise in the Internet itself, since it became pretty easy to share these photos on a mass scale with all sorts of interested parties. To paraphrase an old joke that a friend of mine loves: 'They wouldn't put it on the Internet if it wasn't true.' And so, apparently, a lot of people have taken orbs as the truth about ghosts. But it's unfortunate that most of the ghosts look exactly like lens flares, bright dust, and rowdy reflections. Before the rise of the 'orb' era, most visual reports of ghosts tended to be of generally human forms and shadowy figures – one would have to assume that, somewhere along the way, ghosts suddenly changed their visual manifestation to look a helluva lot like lens flare. Plus, they decided that it was better to appear only on film/video as orbs. Call it the "Tinkerbell Mandate," if you will."

"Listen – all that's required for orbs to appear on camera is a lens and a light source (room light, street light, window, headlight, firefly, camera flash, moonlight, etc.). Oddly enough, that';s also all you need to get any image to appear on film or video – so it's hard to support the argument that some anomalous photographic process is going on with orbs. Static electricity can cause bright spots of light to appear on both traditional film negatives and on the CCDs of modern digital cameras. I have been in regular film shooting situations where static has caused bright points of light to appear on the image, and where we've had to take special measures – grounding the chassis of the camera with a physical wire, for example – to remedy the problem. (By the way, this same static also interfered with the wireless microphone units, causing pops and crackles in the audio.) Infrared light – used in the "night vision" mode of many camcorders – can appear as wildly bright light in the night vision image and in images from digital still cameras. Since you can't see the infrared with your eye in the same way that the camera sees it, then of course it might seem to be something that just mysteriously appears in the final photo or video. But that doesn't mean it's a ghost! It's more likely that your source of infrared illumination has found its way back to the camera, probably via reflection."

"Polaroid cameras? Pretty cool – but also prone to producing photo artifacts. It has been standard practice in the TV/film world to use Polaroids for taking location photos and snapshots of auditioning actors. Goofy artifacts turn up from time to time – but I have yet to classify any of them as 'paranormal.' To do so, you'd have to assume that these cameras always take photos that are free of flaws; hence, an artifact must really indicate something. Nope. It's also not a good idea to take photographs in the middle of an entire group of people who are taking pictures at the same time – there's too much wild light flying around! These are not what you would call 'controlled' conditions. Not to be gross, but human skin (shed in very small flakes) is one of the chief components of dust. It sticks to your clothes (this is one the reasons that all clothes dryers have lint filters). If you're moving around, you can shake the dust into the air, where it can float for longer than you think — and it only takes a speck the size of a pinhead to produce an image on camera.

Worse, some people carry their cameras around in their jacket or coat pockets, which only increases the chances for dust to be in or on the camera itself. In professional photographic situations, it is part of the gig to be attentive to dust and all the ills it can wreak on the lens. My guess is that it's not the main concern of most casual ghost snap shooters."

"I have yet to work with a professional cinematographer, photographer, or videographer who genuinely thinks that the 'orbs' are paranormal. Why, then, do they get so much attention in the media? Because they're an easy story, that's why. They provide a quick visual hook for news or documentary segments on ghosts – they look good, and if you write some narration that's appropriately spooky, you can create a little ghostly mystery, which is always good for ratings. People love ghost stories – many don't particularly care if they're real or not. In other words, a ghost story does not mean that there is actually a ghost. I'm amazed at the number of investigators who haven't gotten this through their heads. While most of these 'orb'; photographs are hardly important in, say, the scheme of world events, they are actually troublesome to serious investigators because they increase the 'noise' level surrounding paranormal phenomena. By that, I mean that otherwise well-meaning people are more prone to identify something as ghostly (as a result of their photos), and are then more inclined to report their experience as paranormal. Now, don't get me wrong – there is absolutely a need for good research on what constitutes truly anomalous evidence from cameras and audio recorders. Frankly, it's why I keep doing it, despite the disappointments. But let's be more careful out there – we don't want to be caught spooking ourselves. When I was a cameraman in broadcast sports some years ago, the directors were occasionally heard to yell over our headsets: "Hey – get your head out of the viewfinder!" It meant that you needed to look beyond the limited point-of-view of your camera to see a bigger picture of what was actually going on. So, if you're serious about puzzling out true anomalies while ghosthunting, make sure you get your head out of the viewfinder."

That's what Dave says, and I listen to him. He knows what he's talking about. I'll add one last word about orbs on video. As with still photography, you can get reflection and other types of artifacts. However, video has one big advantage over it's SLR and digital brethren--you can study the behavior of the photographic anomaly. This can be interesting indeed. If it behaves like dust kicked up by movement you don't have to waste your time on it. On the other hand, if it seems to behave in an inexplicably intelligent fashion, then perhaps you have something interesting. Video, not still photography, may become the standard for serious ghost investigators in the future.

What's all this about past lives?
I didn't used to believe in reincarnation. I do now. Two things changed my mind. The first, and rather hard to ignore, was the appearance of spontaneous past-life memories. Sometimes it was just a movie image during meditation, other times it was as vivid as I've heard described by LSD flashbacks--where for just a moment, I was there, reliving the scene, in another place and time. Very weird. The second reason I converted to believing in reincarnation was some of the research done by psychiatrist Ian Stevenson of the University of Virginia and others. They have accumulated more than a little solid evidence for it. For those unfamiliar with this work, I'd recommend starting with his book, Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation: Second Edition.

How can you remember them?

There are several books on the topic of how to remember your past lives, but basically there are three ways you can go about it. First, you may find they appear during meditation or dreaming. Second, you can ask a psychic. Or third, you can undergo regression therapy with a trained hypnotherapist. Regardless of how you approach this, you MUST take what you "remember" or are told about with a grain of salt. We tend to distort memories, even those of our current life. So, what would make you think the problem wouldn't also occur, even worse, with memories that go from before we were born?

So I remember a past life. Now what?

The best approach, is to think of your past lives as a metaphor. Whether or not they were literally true (and how many Cleopatras or Alexander the Greats do you think there really were?), there's a reason why you're seeing that lifetime or those images now. The reason tends to fall into one of three categories. It can:
  • Explain what's going on in your current life. This can be extremely helpful, especially if it helps you to understand why you might be reacting a certain way to another person or have a phobia, such as of heights. Sometimes even just seeing what happened before can allow you to let go of those unwelcome feelings or fears.
  • Illustrate a pattern of behavior that you've had in other lives that you don't want to keep repeating. Again, this is helpful. It tells you something useful about your life, the kinds of choices you've made in the past, and whether those choices led to outcomes you wanted or not.
  • Tell you that you've been there, done that, already and there's no need to do it again. This, too, is helpful, as it allows you to focus more on what you want to accomplish this lifetime.
All of these reasons, when approached in this manner, are good ones, which allow your past life memories to help you.

Mistakes to avoid

Where I see people get into trouble with past life memories, is when they get hung up on them. There's a reason why our past lives are hidden from most of us. It's because we're supposed to live in the present. Let me repeat that, because it's important. We are here to live our lives as best we can--not to simply repeat the past or become stuck in self-indulgent dreams of earlier glories. If a given past life comes to mind, there's a reason for it. It's a lesson. A hint. Advice. But it's not something to dwell on or be proud of. The past is the past. Live in the present.

Let me add one more warning. I see people get hung up -- to the point that they completely destroy their lives and that of loved ones around them -- because they feel some other person who they aren't with is their soulmate from another life. Let me tell you, that you have MANY soulmates, especially if you're an old soul. Don't destroy this life to be with them just because you may have enjoyed a previous life together. This is a different life. Treat it so. If you're meant to be together, it will probably work out. If not, there may be a good reason for it -- other things that can be better accomplished with different souls.

What is place memory and what can I do about it?
Place memory is nothing more than an old recording that was made in the past by someone still alive. That's good for you, because it gives you a lot of choices for how to handle it. You have three basic options - none of which require being psychic:
  • Enjoy it, the same as you would a favorite old movie.
  • Ignore it. This is easier to do when you recognize that it can't harm you. It's just an old program on reruns.
  • Erase it. The old pattern can be destroyed by the use of a videotape bulk eraser or strong magnets. Often, redecorating (especially repainting a room) seems to break up an old recording.
  • Record over it. I've already mentioned that place memory is recorded by the living. That means you have the power to change it. Have a great party with friends or do something really fun in that spot. Put your impressions there, replacing the old ones.
If you want to know more about place memory and how our thinking on it has evolved over the decades, check out my journal articles on place memory in the PDF gallery.

What are some basic do's and don'ts of talking to a parapsychologist?
  1. DO your homework. A great many people who call themselves parapsychologists are nothing of the kind. A true parapsychologist has a good knowledge of the experimental research that has been done in the field, has often published in parapsychology journals (not magazines), and is likely to belong to the Parapsychological Association (which lists all of its members on its website at parapsych.org/member_index.html. Please understand that just because a person has appeared on some TV show, is not proof that he or she is a "real" parapsychologist and knows what he or she is talking about. I can't tell you how many times I've shuddered over the blatant misinformation pseudo-parapsychologists have stated as "fact" on TV. Make sure the person you're dealing with really knows what they are talking about!
  2. DO recognize that most haunting cases are complex. There is a human tendency to want to attribute everything that happens to a single cause, like a ghost. However, most of the time, parapsychologists find that cases have a variety of underlying causes that are being wrongly lumped together. Part of our job is to sort out what is paranormal and what is normal, if unusual. It may help to keep a dated journal of events.
  3. DO understand the limits of parapsychology's field of study. Parapsychology involves only three fields of study: ESP, PK (also known as mind over matter), and survival research. That's it. We can answer questions as experts relating to those three topics. We don't as a general rule know much about UFOs, crop circles, witchcraft, cryptozoology, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, etc. unless it is a side interest of a particular individual.
  4. DON'T expect parapsychologists to be interested in odd photos you might have taken. There are literally hundreds of non-paranormal ways to get artifacts, especially with the small lens apertures of today's digital and snapshot film cameras. Add to that the ease with which computer software can manipulate photos, and you need to understand that pictures, no matter how interesting, cannot be considered as proof of anything paranormal. They can support your experiences and, in fact, it is those experiences themselves that are most of interest to parapsychologists, because that is how we sort out what is going on.
  5. DON'T expect your average parapsychologist to be psychic. There are only a few of us (myself included) who are both psychic and a parapsychologist. Most parapsychologists have some psychic sensitivity, but not a lot more than the general public. Parapsychologists can be very helpful explaining how psychic phenomena are thought to occur, and often can provide tips on how to understand these natural abilities when people begin to spontaneously develop them. However, don't expect them to give you a psychic reading or be able to find your lost beagle. They may study psychic abilities, but that doesn't mean they have them.
  6. DON'T confront parapsychologists expecting them to try to convert you. This may sound silly, but a lot of people come up and ask me to "prove" spirits exist. We aren't going to waste our time on this. After all, we can't even "prove" consciousness IN a body exists, why do you expect us to "prove" consciousness can exist without a body? Ditto for "proving" psychic abilities are real. No amount of proof is ever enough for some skeptics. As for the others, they are welcome to read the research literature for themselves--there's over 100 years of controlled research that has been performed on it, much of it double or triple-blind. We'll happily point you in the right direction if you ask politely, but confronting us with demands to "prove" our field exists suggests only that you are too lazy to do your own homework, and too rude to be worth our time to educate.

What is the sheep-goat effect and why does it matter?
The sheep-goat effect was first described by psychologist Gertrude Schmeidler. The "sheep" are those who believe (even if weakly) in the possibility in psychic phenomena, whereas the "goats" are those who do not believe psi is possible. Likewise, there are also "super-sheep" (ardent believers) and "super-goats" (who categorically reject any possiblity psi could exist). What Schmeilder found was that psi success or failure correlates with a research participant's belief. "Sheep" tend score above chance while "goats" score at or below chance.

Where this gets really interesting is where super-goats score so far below chance that there is no possibility their result was due to randomness, inadvertently proving psi exists. In essence, they are using their psi ability to deliberately and consistently miss the target. Many believe skeptics may also unconsciously use their talent to block the natural psychic abilities of others, acting as a dampener of sorts. The sheep-goat effect may also show up in the experimenter effect.

How do parapsychologists use technology?
There are two ways in which technology can be useful: for research and communication. Technology for research has included everything from lasers and computers for formal research, to radios, electronics and audio/video recorders for voice phenomena survival research, and environmental sensors, such as thermal imaging and devices measuring electromagnetic fields for haunting investigations. Computers, in particular, with their ability to run pseudorandom number generated events programs quickly and with entertaining feedback have been particularly useful. In addition, technology that can measure physiological reactions, such as galvanic skin response, heart rate, EEGs, fMRIs, CAT scans, and even video montitoring and measurement of pupil size are used for many current studies.

Secondly, technology is a critial tool for modern networking and communication, both between parapsychological colleagues (of whom there are only about 400 spread out around the world) and between parapsychologists and those looking for help, information, and assistance. Parapsychology conferences have been streamed live and we now have an online parapsychology available to ANYONE around the world that contains nearly every major parapsychology journal in text searchable format from the late 1800s to today. This means we can see for ourselves what work has been done before us and build on that. Before the online library, with limited access to the research, there were many cases of "reinventing the wheel" because experimenters didn't realize those questions had been looked at and answers. And while a certain amount of replication is beneficial, you want it to be deliberate, not because you didn't know any better. So, in many ways, technology is revolutionizing parapsychology.

What skills or memberships are most essential for a parapsychologist?
From its inception, parapsychology has drawn together scientists from a wide range of fields-- biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, philosophy, sociology, psychology, and many others. Each brings different knowledge and a fresh perspective to parapsychology. So, by working together we have a better chance of figuring out how best to approach various topics and ways to interpret any results. Because of this, networking is critical. Much of it is done over the internet, but it helps keep experimenters aware of the research each others are doing, provides emotionally and intellectual support, not only in designing more rigorous and interesting studies, but also in their interpretation. What's important, and unites us, is a mix of openness and curiosity. You have to want to figure things out or explore this mysterious set of phenomena that other scientists would rather sweep under the rug and be open to whatever you find. However, you also need to have a certain amount of skepticism or grounding in reality. It's not necessary to be particularly "psychic" or to have had experiences of your own, but that a mindset of being open yet critically minded is an absolute must.

There are no required organizations, but it's a good idea for multiple reasons to belong to the Parapsychological Association (PA). It is THE organization for a parapsychologist to belong to. It's international, too, which gives you a way to get to know your colleagues and what lines of research are going on. Being a recognized member of the PA also means you have published in the field and are recognized as being a legitimate investigator with academic training and research experience.

There is no such thing as "inside" work hours. It can be a 24 hour job, in the sense that you deal with things at all hours of the night. Haunting investigations, in particular, are more apt to occur at night not because spirits are more active then but because it's easier to get access to locations when their regular clients or staff are gone. Psychology is an extremely useful background to have. Parapsychology appears to be a completely normal, if usually weak, human ability. It responds in the same manner, and to the same kinds of psychological variables, as every other kind of human talent. In poltergeist cases you may run into dysfunctional families who need a licensed therapist. Also, you spend a lot of time counseling folks, both living and dead. Beyond that, patience is a plus. There's a tremendous amount of misinformation in the public arena, both from the media (with paranormal shows using experts who are nothing of the kind) and skeptics, who seldom have taken the time to read, let alone understand, the experimental research. This means parapsychologists have to spend a lot of time correcting people's mistaken beliefs before we can even get to new (and more exciting) ideas of what's going on in the field. Parapsychologists also tend to get attacked (when we aren't ignored) by both psi-believers who feel we are too skeptical and psi-disbelievers (AKA "skeptics") who feel we're credulous fools. You have to have the ego strength to handle being ridiculed, ignored, and dismissed as irrelevant. It is a shame, really, because we have some solid answers from well-designed, controlled experimental research.

Do you have any advice for someone interested in this field?
I give everyone the same advice. First, get a day job. Something to bring in a steady income. Second, read the research. There's an online library full of it, which lets you read nearly every professional journal published in parapsychology from the 1800s on. Don't rely on someone else to give you the Cliff Notes versions. Sometimes you realize the person trying to summarize that material misinterpreted it--whether deliberately, in the case of some skeptics or by mistake.

Are you ever frightened by dealing with the paranormal?
The paranormal doesn't frighten me, though there are times I'm more cautious and take added measures for self-protection. However, generally the living are far more scary than that dead. There are a number of reasons for this:
  1. I have everything a ghost has and more. I have a soul AND a body. It probably doesn't hurt that I have an intense ability to focus, which translates to power when you are talking about psi.
  2. The paranormal is already part of my world view. I see it as being perfectly natural and normal.
  3. I find most paranormal events fun. It's hard to be scared when you're busy having a blast.
  4. This stuff is familiar to me, old hat. I am comfortable talking to, and dealing with, most spirits. Perhaps the only exception to that is that I don't like dealing with the criminally insane, whether living or dead. In those cases, I am more guarded and careful. However, that's talking as a psychic, not as a parapsychologist. The few times I've had a spirit threaten me with physical harm, it just made me angry, which helped me to focus and added to my power.
  5. I feel loved and appreciated by most of those I encounter in spirit. I know my guides and others are always there to help me if I need it ... and I'm not shy about delegating tasks to them.
  6. I shield before I even come near a place that's haunted, whether just psychically tuning in or going in person. Advance protection can save you a lot of grief.

What do you think of of public interest in amateur ghost hunting?
It reminds me of what was going on in the late 1800s with Spiritualism. Everyone was doing séances. And although there was a lot of fraud, it was also fertile ground for the field of parapsychology to develop, if only for debunking. So, even as I applaud the enthusiasm and interest of amateur ghost hunters and desperately hope it transforms into a thirst to learn about the research and come into the field, I worry about the kind of backlash seen in the early 1900s as a result of people realizing that they'd been suckered. There are some paranormal shows out there that are faking things. In their minds, it's entertainment. It's not meant to be taken as real. However, that's not how most audiences feel--they believe it's all real, not just some of it. They could feel betrayed should they find out the truth, which has the potential to turn folks completely off the entire field. My hope is that folks turn their interest into learning about the real research that's been done, and bring their energy, enthusiasm, curiosity, and talents into the field. We'd love to have them join the fray!

What are ghosts and why do they look the way they do?
A ghost is conscious being (human or animal) that no longer has a physical body. Unlike spirit guides, ghosts are generally thought of as not having fully completed their transition to the afterlife, nor have they yet done their life reviews. Because of this, they tend to have the same personality and beliefs as they had while living. They aren't smarter or more enlightened. But neither are they necessarily evil -- although they certainly can get frustrated or sad for being ignored.

How you see psychic information (which is how you see ghosts, not really with your eyes) depends on two things -- the sender and the receiver.

SENDER: Ghosts can appear in different forms and as different ages depending on how they feel that day or what kind of impression they want to make on you. They tend to reflect their self-image in obvious ways, as their actual appearance. Their clothes (ever wonder where ghosts get them?), age, shape, and form, can be reflections of how they feel about themselves.

RECEIVER: Your unconscious mind acts as the filter for psychic information. It literally colors the image. Thus, the color, shape, size, form,and even temperature of the ghost can be your personal code for the ghosts, rather than a literal depiction of them. It is this aspect, the personal filter, which often screws people up because it allows your own biases, wants, needs, and desires to warp the psychic information that you receive. To some extent, it makes understanding yourself -- your own personal wants, needs, desires, and issues -- important for you to look at. The more a person understands themselves and is on good terms with their unconscious mind, the more accurately they are able to perceive the information they receive psychically.

What is place memory (sometimes called "residual haunting")?
Living people release energy, especially when experiencing a traumatic or emotional event. This energy can be recorded by the environment. Some people, who are sensitive to this information, can then pick up on, read these impressions of past events and feelings which have been stored in objects, buildings, and the environment.

One thing that's critical to understand is that place memory is an old recording that was originally laid down by the living. It can't react, or interact with you, the way a ghost can. There is no consciousness involved. And since it was created by the living, not the dead, it means that you person who created it could still be alive and well! It cannot be created by the dead (although I did find one case where they used that place memory as a kind of energy store that they could draw upon).

Perhaps the easiest way to think of it is as a case where the environment acts like a camcorder. If the conditions are right (involving sufficient repetition, environmental factors, and/or really strong emotions), then events can get recorded. When I studied them, it seemed like there are two ways in which they get recorded. One was with long repetition and the other was with high-emotion events where only a single time was needed, suggesting mind-matter interaction could be involved. Regardless of how it's laid down, people sensitive to this information (like psychics) can later watch that information play back for them.

What you need to understand is that in place memory, there is no ghost, simply an old rerun of the past. It won't interact with you and the story always remains the same one. Not a lot is known about the actual way place memory is stored, but the recordings may have an electromagnetic component as a strong magnet can erase them and an eletrical current may trigger them to play.

How can I tell the difference between a ghost and place memory?
It's easy. Pay attention to whether it interacts with you or simply repeats the same actions over and over. It is useful to think of a haunting case as being where the environment simply records strong impressions (either from highly charged or frequently repeated events). Sensitive people may be able to pick up on these recordings, and see or hear events from the past (but not necessarily from the dead -- the living can make these recordings, too). With a haunting you see reruns, over and over. A ghost is different. A "ghost" can sometimes see or react to your presence -- and it's not uncommon that they are the one running away in fear. Ghosts generally don't want to harm you. Some are lost, some confused, some have messages they want to pass on, and some just like hanging out. In rare cases, they're present under the supervision of a Spirit Guide doing part of their life review and didn't intend to be noticed by you at all.

Can a ghost hurt me?
It is rare (but not impossible) for a ghost to be able to hurt you. Why? Because you have everything a ghost has and more. You have a body. Not only do you have just as much mind/soul/spirit as they do, but you have the advantage of being able to do things physically. It's pretty much true that they can't hurt you unless you think they can (with only rare exceptions, involving mind-matter interactions). In some cases, however, they can unwittingly influence you with their emotions if you are sensitive to their energy. I talk more about these issues in Handbook to the Afterlife, but it helps if you suddenly feel a mood swing to try to sort out whether it is coming from outside or inside. Place memory can have a similar influence if the emotion imprinted is really strong.

I have a ghost. What should I do?
What you should do depends on how you feel about the ghost. It's somewhat like a haunting in that respect. You might enjoy it (especially if it's the spirit of a beloved grandparent) or ignore it if it isn't bothering you and the ghost seems happy. However, I think the ethical thing is to often consider the ghost's needs, too. Are they confused? Do they need you to explain to them that it is time to move on to the light? Do they need help moving to the light? After all, if you believe in reincarnation, it may not be in their best interest to remain stuck as a ghost. If you want to move them on to the light, there are many ways to do so (some mentioned above). The simplest is to imagine the tunnel of light opening up, and/or friends and loved ones coming to help the ghost move on. I talk about more ways in Handbook to the Afterlife. However, if it's your spirit guide, don't expect it to go anywhere. It's supposed to be around.

Can animals become ghosts? What should I do about them, if anything?
I've seen and felt animal ghosts, including cats, dogs, and horses. They can haunt a place, whether as place memory (old recordings or residual energy imprints) or as interactive spirits. Many of these spirits seem to continue their daily routines (jumping up on beds or trotting around their favorite locales), which could be either place memory or ghost activity. However, that at least some of these animal spirits are consciously aware would seem to be suggested by parapsychology experiments with small toys placed around a room haunted by a cat. The room was sealed. But when investigators returned, the toys had been moved around the room, like they had been batted about by the ghost cat. (Note: This still is not a proof a ghost cat was responsible since there is no way to guarantee the experimenters did not use their own mind-matter abilities to toss the toys about.)

I belive that some (if not all) animal's personalities survive death. Part of this has to do with animal ghosts I've known and part of it from seeing my own pets cross over into the Light, sometimes guided by the spirits of pets who preceded them. This seems to be particularly true for pets, who may visit their owners in dreams or as ghosts, or wait for them until their owners die. Likewise, many who die have reported (through channeled material) seeing well-loved pets as part of the welcoming committee that greets them to the other side. There appear to be some lovely places in the afterlife for spirits to play and roam while they are waiting for their loved ones to join them.

Why do some animals become ghosts? Probably for the same reasons that people do. The desire to be with, and comfort, loved ones. Unfinished business. Possessiveness of their territory or belongings. Confusion. I'm happy to say that I don't see ghost animals very often. I think that spirit guides bring as many over to the light as they can. However, as with people, some animals may be afraid, unwilling, or (for whatever reason) unable to finish their transitions and become stuck in that in-between state of a ghost. Being stuck as a ghost is not a good thing for animals anymore than it is for people. Since most can't see them or play with them, they get lonely. And there's no way to reincarnate, as I've heard some do to be with their last owners or other loved ones. Although some animal souls may choose to re-merge with a kind of group soul energy, others grow and develop spiritually as individual beings. The kindest thing is to move them on so that they can take whatever option they prefer.

How do this? Basically, just use the same techniques as you would to move on human ghosts. Your explanations may be simpler and you may want to focus more on visuals than words (seeing them playing joyfully with others in a delightful place or other appealing images), but the basic concepts are the same. Comfort. Reassurance. Orientation. Visualize the Light opening up. Finally, ask for companions to come from the light to help them move on. You don't need to be specific, either, in terms of the guides you want to come for them. You can simply ask that whomever or whatever is best or most appropriate be that which comes from the light to help them cross over. This can be any kind, gentle, and loving spirit -- whether human or animal, owner or stranger.

I'll say this again, because it's an important concept. Moving spirits on does not require micro-management. You don't have to be specific when asking for others to come from the light to get lost souls, even with people. Just ask that the best possible being come from the light -- whomever or whatever that might be -- and get it. What is best for one ghost (a well-loved pet) is not going to be best for another (an animal abused by people).

What are poltergeists?
The word "poltergeist" comes from old German, and means a "noisy" or "rackety" ghost-- which probably relates to the fact that in addition to unexplained lights, fires, object materializations, and the movement and breakage of items, poltergeist phenomena often involve raps or other loud sounds. The word itself is somewhat of a misnomer, since most parapsychologists believe that the vast majority of poltergeists are not ghosts at all, but instead due to the living (and not ghosts) performing unconscious human mind-matter interactions. Because of this, most parapsychologists prefer to use the term RSPK, which stands for recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis (an older, but still used term for mind-matter interaction). Poltergeist activity has been reported in every culture and era around the globe.

Poltergeist activity often centers around a single individual, often an adolescent. However poltergeist agents can be any age and may involve a whole group of people. Poltergeist cases differ from hauntings in that apparitions are rarely seen. Poltergeist agents often appear to be using mind-matter interaction (MMI) as a stress reliever and the activity (like most forms of spontaneous MMI) is often deeply personal in meaning. Because of this, the events can be interpreted like metaphors, in must the same way as a dream. To understand what's going on, the investigator needs to act like a newspaper reporter, figuring out the who, what, when, where, and why. Once you've done that, the story usually becomes obvious.

Most poltergeist agents aren't aware that they are the cause of the activity, and, in fact, the activity usually stops when they accept responsibility for it. Psychological counseling is often helpful for these folks, if only for the stress of what's happening.

What kinds of cases do you see in haunting investigations?
Parapsychologists tend to see four kinds of cases when doing haunting investigations:
  1. NOTHING PARANORMAL IS OCCURING: This can be because the person reporting the events is: a) crazy; b) wants attention; c) is opening up psychically and doesn't understand what is happening to them (very common); d) is misinterpreting normal factors in the environment, whether it be faulty wiring or a creaky house; e) they made up the story so they could sell the movie rights; and f) is a skeptic trying to make parapsychologists look gullible and/or stupid.
  2. PLACE MEMORY: Place memory is where you have an old recording, which was made by someone while they were still living. Perhaps the easiest way to think of it is as a case where the environment acts like a camcorder. If the conditions are right (involving sufficient repetition, environmental factors, and/or really strong emotions), then events can get recorded. People sensitive to this information (like psychics) can later play back what was recorded, like with psychometry. In these cases, there is no ghost, simply an old rerun of the past. It won't interact with you and the story always remains the same one.
  3. POLTERGEIST ACTIVITY: The word "poltergeist" comes from German, and means "noisy ghost" -- which probably relates to the fact that poltergeist phenomena often involve raps or other loud sounds. The word itself is a bit misleading, since most parapsychologists believe poltergeists are not ghosts at all, but result from human psychokinesis (PK), or mind over matter. The people involved often appear to be using PK as a stress reliever. Furthermore, the events are meaningful in the same way a dream is. They are metaphors. To understand what's going on, you need to play newspaper reporter, figuring out the who, what, when, where, and why. Once you've done that, the story usually becomes obvious. Psychological counseling is often helpful for these folks, if only for the stress of what's happening.
  4. THERE IS A GHOST: Ghosts are the spirits of the dead, who no longer have bodies but are still conscious and able (if they want) to interact with the living. Some people like their ghosts and just want confirmation while others consider their "visitors" unwanted. Psychics can be helpful in clarifying what is going on (assuming said psychic is the real deal and experienced at investigations). There are many ways to get rid of ghosts. See the fact sheet pages for more information on this and other, related topics.

NOTE: Seeing an apparition does not necessarily mean you have a ghost. Although it is possible that an apparition is of a human or animal spirit, it can also be caused by: 1) human PK; 2) place memory; 3) the imagination (sometimes partly due to misperception); or 4) be a hallucination (whether due to environmental factors, temporal lobe seizures, drugs, illness, or some other cause).

It is important to understand the difference between a real, "live" ghost, and a haunting. The environment can act somewhat like a camcorder or videotape recorder. It can record people, animals, and events from the past (especially when they have high emotional impact) which you can "watch" later. The simplest way to tell the difference between a ghost and a place memory is whether it interacts with you or simply repeats the same actions over and over. It is useful to think of a haunting case as being where the environment simply records strong impressions (either from highly charged or frequently repeated events). Sensitive people may be able to pick up on these recordings, and see or hear events from the past (but not necessarily from the dead -- the living can make these recordings, too). With a haunting you see reruns, over and over. A ghost is different. A "ghost" can sometimes see or react to your presence -- and it's not uncommon that they are the one running away in fear. Ghosts generally don't want to harm you. Some are lost, some confused, some have messages they want to pass on, and some just like hanging out. A great book on this subject is Loyd Auerbach's ESP, Hauntings, and Poltergeists: A Parapsychologist's Handbook. His book, A Paranormal Casebook is also good for beginners. To read Loyd's do's and don'ts click here.

How do you do a haunting investigation?
Before you do ANYTHING else, be sure you have permission to do the investigation. This should be done in advance, BEFORE you set foot on the property. If you're investigating a private home, you may want to get that permission in writing in advance. Never investigate without permission! You may also want to read Loyd Auerbach's do's and don'ts of ghost investigations as a PDF file in that gallery. What you do on an actual investigation varies tremendously based on the information that you initially obtain. However, in all cases, you want to take a careful history. If you have people living in a haunted house, ask them to start keeping a journal of experiences. Be aware that a lot of activity reported may be wrongly attributed to ghosts even if a ghost is present.

It's important to remember that we don't really have ANY equipment that truly detects ghosts. All we have are environmental sensors that may pick up anomalies, which are only SOMETIMES ghosts. In some ways, your most important piece of equipment is yourself, and your own observational skills. That said, basic equipment you want to bring with you on an investigation includes:
  • A notebook
  • Polaroid, 35 mm film, and digital cameras
  • A trifield meter
  • A natural electromagnetic field meter.
  • A thermometer or infrared thermal scanner
  • Digital and audiotape voice recorders (both for interviews and EVPs)
The trifield meter is easy to find. They can be used to measure leakage from a microwave oven, or locate bad electrical wiring. We use them because ghosts seem to leave behind an electromagnetic (EM) footprint. What we look for are moving EM fields, especially if they correlate with what a psychic is seeing. However, be aware that there are many artifacts you can get from bad wiring, fuse boxes, radio alarm clocks, etc. It picks up ANY electromagnetic field, not just those of ghosts.

The natural EM meter (or one of its many variations, such as a Mel Meter or Ovilus) measures a more limited range of EM activity. It is not supposed to pick up humans or typical equipment. Unfortunately, it has two drawbacks. One is that it is affected by movement, so you have to put it somewhere and leave it. The other is that if I'm in an area where there's a lot of psychic activity, I can set it off from as much as 12 feet away, which means I can't get close enough to it to read the dial without changing the reading. As I said, people aren't supposed to do set it off. I'm not sure why I'm the exception to the rule, unless the ghosts (if present) just like me and hang close by. Nonetheless, I don't personally use that one.

Other equipment you can use includes:
  • A Geiger counter or radiation detector - it's a somewhat disturbing fact that ghosts can sometimes set these off.
  • Thermal video monitors - these measure small changes in temperature and can put them on video, but you are talking of something that is very expensive.
  • Geomagnetometers - fluctuations in geomagnetic field can sometime be associated with paranormal phenomena (not just ghosts). However this equipment is expensive, and the human body can affect its readings, which means you need to record the findings from standing 12 feet away (preferably on a laptop).
  • Audio amplifiers - some people feel you can hear EVPs with these, but given that a lot of ghost hunting goes on in urban areas, it's difficult to say what you're really hearing. I don't recommend these.
    Equipment will only help you so far. Your very best tool may be yourself and your ability to listen, observe, analyze stories, and balance openness with a healthy degree of skepticism as you differentiate between fraud, trickery, misperception (not understanding what you're seeing), malobservation (bad observation), and true paranormal activity. The latter can include three types of thing:
    • Apparitions: An apparition is the paranormal visual appearance of something that looks like a being (whether physical or nonphysical) that can be the result of one of two things. Most often, it appears to be a result of our personality (or spirit, soul, consciousness, mind or whatever you want to call it) surviving the death of the body, capable of interacting with the living (and presumably other apparitions) -- what we classically think of as a ghost. However, there are a few reported cases where apparitions can be seen that are not true, discrete, entities, but creations that have been made manifest by human PK (in essence, a form of poltergeist activity).
    • Place Memory: A location (or object) holds/records information about its history. Our own psychic abilities allow us to pick up certain play-backs of this history, including sightings of people. However, these are recordings, not conscious beings. Referred to as "place memory" and "residual hauntings." For more on place memory, download the journal article on it in the PDF gallery.
    • Poltergeist Activity (Human PK): Physical effects, such as moving objects, in a situation caused by the subconscious mind of a living agent, generally someone in the household undergoing emotional and/or psychological stress. Effects are caused by mind-matter interaction (MMI).
    Ghosts are people too. They have personalities and aren't any smarter than they were when alive. Likewise, they have feelings. As Loyd Auerbach likes to say, "If you really want to get rid of a ghost, embarrass it out of your house." He's also been known to use marathon knock-knock joke sessions and playing "It's a Small World After All" repetitively to drive ghosts away - they can't stand it anymore than a normal adult can.

    Most spirits aren't evil. This is because they're people, most of whom aren't evil. Ghosts can be sad, depressed, pissed off, confused, embarrassed, mischievous, or happy, but they aren't generally evil. Of course, you can sometimes make use of their feelings to get them to leave. As Loyd Auerbach likes to say, "If you really want to get rid of a ghost, embarrass it out of your house." He's also been known to use marathon knock-knock joke sessions and playing "It's a Small World After All" repetitively to drive ghosts away - they can't stand it anymore than a normal adult can.
    A key thing to remember is that dying doesn't make you smarter. All it means is you're dead. This is similar to the fact that dying doesn't make you suddenly become evil. You don't suddenly become enlightened. Of course, spirits may change in the afterlife as they go through the debriefing process of reviewing their lives, walking in the shoes of those they helped and harmed, and considering how they could have done things things differently. This can lead to their coming back to ask for forgiveness.

    Key Points to Remember
    1. NEVER do an investigation alone. The dead can be the least of your worries. Most investigations involve a minimum of two people, partly for safety issues (we sometimes encounter rather odd people or situations) and partly to have extra eyes, ears, and intuition.
    2. Most hauntings that do not involve conscious spirits (ghosts) are patterns that repeat themselves. They may vary a bit in how long they go on, but they don't interact with you. This is typical of place memory.
    3. You don't have to be dead to haunt a place. Because place memory is recorded by the living, haunting cases can involve seeing or hearing people who are still alive -- including yourself! This is the so-called Doppelganger effect. Emotional experiences tend to be better recorded and/or better received. It doesn't matter whether the emotion is a positive one or not, as long as that emotion is strongly felt.
    4. On a poltergeist investigation, you need to think of yourself as being like a newspaper reporter. You want to know the who, what, where, why and when. And once you've learned all that, you'll know exactly what's going on. Because the phenomena are always symbolic, like a dream. Pay attention to the metaphors and everything becomes clear.
    Afterward - When you finish the investigation, it's time to talk to the people being haunted. Of course, if there's nothing paranormal, it may simply be a matter of explaining this to the family, or reporting the problem to the Environmental Protection Agency (Swamp gas and sewage seepage have been responsible for more than one "haunting"). With poltergeist cases, it's best to refer the family to a licensed, professional therapist to help them examine, and work out, their issues. If there's place memory, there are three basic courses of action that people can take:
    1. Enjoy it, the same as you would a favorite old movie.
    2. Ignore it. This is easier to do when you recognize that it can't harm you. It's just an old program on reruns.
    3. Erase it. The old pattern can be destroyed by the use of a videotape bulk eraser or strong magnets. Often, redecorating (especially repainting a room) seems to break up an old recording.
    4. Record over it. Have a great party with friends or do something really fun in that spot. Record your energy over the old place memory.

    If there's a ghost, then it's a question of whether this is a problem or not. Some ghosts are friendly and helpful (I know of one that is a terrific baby sitter). If so, acknowledge their presence and let things be. However, if they are problematic, I'd suggest moving them on to the light.

Why should investigators care about the feelings of ghosts? Doesn't provocation work?
Setting aside the issue of appropriate behavior (I mean, would you tell rape victims that you think they weren't raped long or hard enough and you want to do it to them again as a way of getting their cooperation?), let's look at this from a practical standpoint. If you are dealing with place memory (in essence, an old recording sometimes called a "residual haunting"), then it the only thing you are doing with an enactment is entertaining yourself. There isn't anyone else around to react. And when it comes to the dead, provocation works to the same degree on the dead as it does on the living.

Think about it. If you provoke a bully or someone who's already angry, then yes, you'll probably get a response. If you provoke someone nice, they'll walk away. Provoke a victim, and they'll run and hide. So, if you want to get results and have a spirit interact with you, in two of the three situations, IT WON'T WORK. What this means for investigators is that you need to tailor your approach to the specific personality of those you're trying to make contact with. By and large, it only works with spirits who are bullies or evil. Do NOT use it with victims of horrific crimes. Not only is it insensitive, but practically guarantees that you'll have a long and boring investigation with no results to show at the end of it.

What are EVPs? (co-written with Al Rauber of Haunted New Jersey)
There's a lot of interest now in trying to get Electronic Voice Phenomena, or EVPs. What is an EVP? It is the imprinting of sounds (usually voices) not heard at the time the original recording is done on a blank tape (or digital voice recorder), which appear on playback. EVP enthusiasts claim these sounds are of spirits. There are probably thousands of researchers throughout the world taping these voices. And there are all kinds of voices. Voices that are recognized as belonging to departed loved ones. Voices that answer direct and specific questions. Voices that instruct. Voices that warn. Voices that amuse. Voices that beg. And, of course, voices that simply blabber, growl, cry, or scream with no apparent purpose.

But are these voices truly voices of the dead? Critics of EVP usually put forth two basic arguments:
  1. Voices or sounds on tape are merely random radio signals.
  2. Voices or sounds on tape are actually being imprinted by someone present through mind-matter interactions (MMI, sometimes called psychokinesis).
The first argument is certainly true to some extent. Everyone can relate to electrical devices attracting radio transmissions. How many times have air traffic signals or local rescue squad calls disrupted our television viewing? Musicians oftentimes pick up transmissions through amplifiers, and people have even claimed silver tooth fillings to be potential receivers. However, this possibility tends to break down when we consider the meaningfulness of some EVPs. After all, how many times do random radio transmissions address us by name or nickname? How many times do we put forth questions and have them specifically answered by a stray radio signal? How many times have messages that were very personal and meaningful only to us come across as a random signal? Not too often.

Argument number two is more interesting. Are these messages being imprinted by some form of MMI? Could the researcher's mind be imprinting the sounds on tape through a mind-over-matter process? It's certainly possible, and poltergeist phenomena tells us that the conscious mind need not be involved at all. To take this concept a step further, let's consider the following. Many psychologists contend that human personality is merely a "dominant" personality among many. Could these taped messages find their source in a secondary personality belonging to the researcher? Could submissive or secondary personalities be answering the questions put forth by our dominant personality through our own ability to affect matter? If we allow for the fact that mind-matter interaction IS the process by which these voices are imprinted, than this possibility cannot be ignored. This concept might also explain what appear to be segments of conscious conversation between two people, which are sometimes found on the tape. This conversation is normally between two distinct personalities, and often between a male and a female.

But what about the voices that sometimes come across in languages not known, or spoken by, anyone present? Is that super-ESP? Such answers would seem to be more complex than to accept survival. Furthermore, even if MMI by the researcher IS the method that imprints the voices, how do we explain the many other sounds recorded by researchers? Sounds of doors slamming, sounds of footsteps, sounds of furniture moving, sounds of glasses coming together as if in a toast, and other non-vocal sounds? If MMI is the vehicle, wouldn't EVP researchers be getting many more messages from easily identifiable living sources? In my opinion, we seem to be asking an awful lot of MMI.

In some cases, EVP is being used to gather historical data. Researchers have set up recording devices in historical structures or areas, and have received messages relating to the historical significance of the structure. Sarah Estep is the Founder and Director of the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena (www.aaevp.com). Sarah once recalled a taping session which took place in a building which was once part of a Civil War prison complex. Thousands of Confederate POW's were held here and died here. Her taping produced EVP messages relating to the prison and to the war including a male voce stating: "I have seen the war."

Sarah believed that these beings are leaving a magnetic voice imprint on the tape by manipulating available sounds in the atmosphere. As far as the researcher being the source of the message, she argued: "I have voices on the reverse side of the tape, and I have voices coming through OVER my own voice as I am speaking. I don't think that I'm the source." However, it should be noted that most believe the person recording does have an effect, acting in part as a psychic medium. Furthermore, it's possible that human MMI may be fully responsible for some EVPs (i.e. no spirits are involved).

What helps you get EVPs? Doing it. Having enthusiasm. Plus some investigators will run water while recording. This may improve the class A voices (as easy to understand or hear as the speech would be of a normal person) with this technique. Others have used white noise generators, electronic feedback loops, or even Tesla coils to produce stray energy.

Once you're done recording, it's time to listen to it. This is really the hard part, because you may have to train your ear to hear them. It helps to have a denoiser program or sophisticated editing software, such as Adobe Audition or Adobe Soundbooth.

EVPs are rated as falling into one of the following categories:
  • Class A: As clear as a normal human voice or clearer. Does not require headphones and people generally agree on its content.
  • Class B: Requires a headphone to hear the voice, and not everyone may agree about what it says.
  • Class C: Requires a headphone to hear the voice, often needs amplification and filtering, and will seldom even be heard by others.
If you want to know more about EVPs and hear some samples of what you may be able to get, please visit The American Association of EVP

How do you talk to the dead?
Anyone can talk to the dead and probably be heard by them -- of course, whether or not they chose to listen is another matter, and it's hard to carry on much of a conversation if you can't hear or sense their end of it through EVPs or psychic abilities. However, these are general things you may want to tell the dead.

FIRST: Orientation Comments

The dead are often genuinely confused as to what's going on. Unless I think a spirit is a guide, I always start off the same way I would with a person in the ICU or waking up from an anesthetic (which are other disorienting and confusing situations). The only difference may be that they usually don't need to be orientated as to who they are (which odds are they know better than you do). Basics include what, when, and where. Ask if they understand that they are dead (they often don't) and need to move on. Explain the physical location of where they are (e.g. "You're in my house in Kalamazoo"). Point out the current date and year. If you know it, you may also want to mention how they died (e.g. "You were in a car accident" or "You had a heart attack"). Keep your statements simple and straightforward. You may want to also orient them as to who you are and why you are there. Re-orientation often has a calming or soothing effect.

SECOND: Explanations

There can be many reasons why the dead stick around. It isn't uncommon that they simply don't know how to move on. There's a couple ways you can approach this. One is to tell them to look for the light and move into it. A second method is to tell them that there are spirit helpers already around them (if you're worried this isn't true, then mentally ask for some guides to show up -- they will always respond), to just look/think/listen for these beings and they will be able to see/recognize/hear them. Remember that these are often really stressed out folks. And just like the living, who mentally code terms in auditory, visual, and kinesthetic terms, not every modality will be equally clear to them. If they are visual, saying "listen for your guides and you'll hear them" won't be as effective as saying "look for your guides and you'll see them." How do you know which phrase to you? You often don't. The solution is to simple use different combinations of terms to cover all your possible bases.

There are rare occasions when the dead know what has happened and are simply too possessive or stubborn to go. For these folks, I'll explain firmly that this is no longer their house, it belongs to someone else and it is time for them to go. Period. No arguments.

THIRD: Reassurance

It's sad, but true, that a fear of what might happen to them (or those left behind) can cause some spirits to be afraid to move on. This can be especially true with those who held rigid, fundamentalist beliefs or who think that the bad things (real or imagined) that they did in life have condemned them to an eternity of suffering. Hanging around when you're stuck really serves no good purpose. You can approach this in a variety of ways.

  1. Explain that it is safe to go to the light, that all can be forgiven.
  2. Ask people whom they love or trust who preceded them in death to come from the light and explain what they will find. These beings can then provide their own reassurance and guide them back to the light.
  3. Explain that they CAN return to visit the living again after they've gone to the light. A lot of folks are afraid to go because they want to help those left behind. They can actually learn how to communicate better (often via dreams) and acquire guide skills if they finish their transitions, which lets them better connect to those left behind. Going to the light is not the end. They have choices afterward, which can include visiting (and aiding) loved ones.
FOURTH: Assist Them

Every once in a while there seems to be a spirit who just can't "see" the light. I may visualize or imagine the tunnel of light opening up, "seeing" it as very bright and them walking into it. Sometimes, once I can mentally visualize the light, I will tell them, "Look, there it is. Just go into it. You'll be okay." If necessary, you can ask an angel or guide in the form of a spiritual or religious being to provide reassurance (or, in the case of Catholics, a priest to hear their confession and administer last rites) so they feel safe to move on. You can read the FAQ below for more ideas of ways to deal with ghosts. In the case of pets, you may want to visualize someone coming from the light to get them and care for them (whether their owner or a loving spirit who can fill in until the owner makes his or her own transition to the light, when they can be reunited with their pet).

There are a few cases when the ghost feels like it has unfinished business that it needs your help completing before it can move on. Typically, this involves a message they want passed on to someone who is still living. Murder victims may want to name their assailant. Others may just want to say "I love you" or "I'm okay now." If you aren't psychic yourself, you may need to find someone who is to get this message. HOWEVER, just because a spirit asks you to tell someone something, doesn't mean it's a good idea to do so. There are times when I refuse, whether because it's the wrong time, I'm the wrong messenger, or they need to be the one doing it after they have finished their transitions (when their own guides can help them communicate back to the living through dreams, etc.). Use your best judgment with a heavy leavening of common sense here.

FINAL RULES OF THUMB: Most spirits you'll encounter are either (1) guides (who don't need help), (2) dead people (who usually only need reorientation and reassurance), or (3) the occasional pet. The best overall approach is to talk to spirits in a kind, compassionate way. Some ghosts are smart, some stupid, some mean, some delightful. However, they're seldom dangerous. Calm is the order of the day. You don't need to yell at them -- spirits don't have ears anyway, and they "hear" mental conversation as well as what is said out loud -- and fear tends to escalate situations in a distinctly unhelpful manner. If you need one rule of thumb in all your dealings with the dead, it's to talk to them like you would the living.

How can you get rid of a ghost?
Loyd Auerbach points out that you have to remember ghosts are people too. He's been known to use such drastic measures as telling hours of knock-knock jokes (guaranteed to send ANY being, living or dead away screaming, vowing never to return) or singing It's a Small World, After All over, and over, and over. They are like people in having personalities, likes, and dislikes. However, that may just make the ghost someone else's problem, and doesn't really help the spirit. I prefer to move them onto the light. Sometimes it can be a challenge, but I enjoy the opportunity it gives me to be creative. The options are only as limited as your imagination. And you don't have to be in the place as the spirits you are moving on. In fact, sometimes with unpleasant entities it is even an advantage to work from a distance. Remember, time and space do not exist. Here is everywhere. So, there is no reason you can't shift a ghost on working long-distance.

Regardless of which technique you use, you need to do certain things before you start. And I don't care whether you consider yourself psychic or not -- humor me and go through the motions. You might be surprised at how effective they can be even if a person isn't "psychic." So, let's start by listing the things you should ALWAYS do, regardless of what technique you use:
  1. Before you start, surround yourself with white light for protection. This must be a complete sphere that goes all the way around you, without any holes or gaps.
  2. Visualize a gold cord that goes from your root chakra (or your solar plexus, your choice) to the center of the earth to ground you.
  3. Visualize a silver cord from your crown chakra (or your solar plexus) that goes to the highest source of inspiration for those who serve the light.
  4. Take a moment to really feel and enjoy that sense of balance, safety and protection. This can help make it stronger or more solid in your mind. Remember, intention is everything in psi. Believe you are protected and you are.
  5. If you are psychic and have others you are working with who are unable to provide their own protection, take a moment to shield, ground, and balance them. As a psychic, you are responsible for those around you if they cannot take care of themselves. At the very least, imagine them safely encased in white light. This need not take a lot of energy on your part. Simply visualize it and set the intention that the shields be self-maintaining without effort on your part. Also, it's nice is you can add the extras with seeing the cords. The more the people around you are balanced, the easier it will be for you as a psychic to work.

Once you've completed those steps, you can choose how you want to deal with the ghost. There are a number of techniques that anyone can use to get rid of your average ghost, which don't require any particular psychic ability at all. Mostly these revolve around understanding that ghosts are people, too. Even if they're dead people, they still have the beliefs and feelings that they held when alive. So, you can think of them as simply unwanted house guests. They can leave if they want to. You just have to make them want to. It's about psychology. I've divided the basic options into six categories.
  1. Ask them to leave, explaining that they are dead and it's time to move on. Explain that they need to look around them and listen for spirits who are trying to get their attention to help them into the light. There's nothing wrong with being courteous the first time you ask someone to leave. The newly dead are often confused. They don't understand what's happening to them or why everyone is ignoring them. So, explain it to them kindly. Point out there are those in spirit that are there to help them. In some cases, you may also need to provide reassurance that they aren't going to Hell to burn forever (since if they're afraid of that, there's no way they're going to leave their ghostly existence no matter how bad it is). In the case of family and loved ones who have died, it may also help to let them know they can come back and visit you once they have completed their transitions. The bond of love does not end with death, and they may want to be able to reassure themselves that we are okay.
  2. Tell them to leave. This is a case of being more firm. Sometimes it's just that simple. But say it forcefully, as if you really mean it.
  3. Make the place they're haunting unpleasant to be around. This can involve telling nonstop knock-knock jokes ad nauseam, playing It's a Small World After All for hours on end, or doing just about anything else that would drive a normal adult mad. Personally, I think rap music would work well, but I wouldn't be able to stand it long enough to be effective .... Verbal abuse is another method of annoying them out of your house. Someone I know did nothing but harangue the ghost and say horrible things to it for days on end. It left and didn't come back. However, I'd have to note that you're probably creating a problem for someone else, since the spirit has only left your space, not been moved to the Light.
  4. Embarrass them out of the house. Believe it or not this works. Laugh at them. Unfortunately, to my way of thinking, this has the same problem as the method above. You're not really helping the spirit or whomever they haunt next.
  5. Ask their guides (or yours) to move the spirit on for you. I always figure your guides are there to help you. You just have to ask. Furthermore, since it's really not in a ghost's best interest to be stuck as an earth-bound spirit, their guides don't want them to stay, either. So you can call on both your guides and theirs to move the ghost on. Some people do this in prayer.
  6. Use ritual banishing objects, such as candles or incense. This sometimes works, depending in part of the strength of your beliefs and those of the ghost. Because of this, you should try to be culturally sensitive. Jewish ghosts, for example, are not apt to be terribly impressed by having a crucifix waved at them. If you know who your ghost is, think about what would or would not impress them and tailor your tactics to their belief system. That said, just because you banish them from one house doesn 't mean they'll go to the Light.
If you're psychic, you have more options because it's easier to tailor what you do to their specific needs. Moving spirits on to the Light as a psychic tends to fall into one of three categories:
  • You can force them to go (push them out).
  • You can entice them to the light (pull them towards it).
  • You can do a mixture of the two (a push-pull).
What makes this fun is that you can be really creative here, no holds barred. Again, it helps to think about psychology. I tend to ask the following questions, using my intuition to scan for the answers and how effect my efforts are.

FIRST: Why are they stuck? Is something holding them back? Often ghosts are afraid of going to the light. This can be as simply as ignorance—they don't realize they CAN go anywhere (either because they don't realize they are dead or simply don't know they have a choice after they die). You may need to explain to them what has happened, and, if they lived on the land or in the house before you, that it is no longer their home and it is time for them to move on to continue their journey by moving on to the light. Occasionally they are staying for unfinished business. This can be as simple as being that they just want to say hi or communicate a message before they cross over. Alternatively, they may be worried about those left behind and want to watch over them, not realizing they could do a better job of this if they completed their transitions. However, most of the time it seems to be a fear of moving on, perhaps because the ghost is worried it will end up in Hell or somewhere even worse than it is now. This leads to the next question.

SECOND: What would make it comfortable for them to go? Do they need education? Reassurance? Forgiveness? I ran into one ghost that was a devout Catholic when it died. It had not received absolution and was certain it would be go straight to Hell if it moved on. My solution was to ask a spirit guide (or angel if you prefer that term) to come from the light in the form of a priest to give the ghost its “last rites” and absolution. Then the two returned together to the light. This leads to an important concept: You can ask for anything you need to come from the light and assist a ghost to move on. The spirits that come can take on any form that they desire. So, if you ask for a ghost's mother or grandfather to come from the light and help them to understand their situation, it may not matter whether that particular original soul has reincarnated or is available, an angel or higher being can take that form with knowledge from the Akashic records. Sometimes, particularly with the ghosts of abused children, it is useful to ask for a puppy or kitten to come from the light. The trick is to scan for who or what would be most trusted and reassuring to the ghost. Then have that being or thing come from the light to assist the ghost.

THIRD: Can you make it a happy and enjoyable experience for them to leave? This is something I always try to do. Of course, I've occasionally had a ghost have so much fun leaving that it comes back just so it can leave again, but that’s rare. Mostly, it ensures they won’t balk at the last minute and refuse to finish their transition. I will sometimes send child ghosts off on moving rocking chairs, or adults in whatever vehicles they most enjoyed—whether surreys, a Model T, a plane, or a sports car. I like them to not only be comfortable moving on, but happy about it.

Let me add one thing, in part because it's a pet peeve of mine to see psychics making a big deal about moving a single spirit to the Light at a time, as if it's so much effort and that's the only number they can move. Untrue! They can be moved on as groups! Nor does this have to be draining or a lot of work.

When I am dealing with large numbers of spirits, I will often ask for something like a train to come from the light. Then I'll imagine a spirit conductor (a guide) - or even a number of conductors and other attendants from the Light - who can come out and assist passengers onto the train, perhaps even giving out champagne and free lunch boxes or other goodies like balloons or candy for child spirits. Again, you have to imagine this happening. See it play out in your mind's eye. Often you'll be aware of whether it is working, “see” the ghosts smiling and happy, disappearing into the light with whomever you called to accompany them. If one train isn't enough, you can always bring in more. Similarly, you can imagine a luxury bus, cruise ship, or jumbo jet to take large numbers of spirits back to the light. The main thing is to have it be something that would feel safe for them (if they died in a plane crash, I sure wouldn't expect them to get on another one to go to the light). Likewise, if you're dealing with a bully ghost or its gang stopping spirits from going to the Light, open up a thousand doorways to it simultaneously. Let me tell you from several personal experiences--they can't block them all! Spirits that want to go will be free to do so and the ghosts trying to stop them are helpless to prevent it. There's an important point here. You are only limited by your imagination. This is not hard. Nor are you limited to opening a single door to the Light at a time. The one thing that I will do, is to mentally feel in advance out the likelihood of success of different options, I always trust what my instincts say the spirits will respond to best and go with that option first. If it doesn't work, I try another tact until I find one that works.

What if a ghost refuses to leave?
You have some options if talking to a spirit doesn't get it to move on to the Light. Loyd Auerbach points out that you have to remember ghosts are people too. He's been known to use such drastic measures as telling hours of knock-knock jokes (guaranteed to send ANY being, living or dead away screaming, vowing never to return) or singing It's a Small World, After All over, and over, and over. They are like people in having personalities, likes, and dislikes. However, that may just make the ghost someone else's problem, and doesn't really help the spirit. I prefer to move them onto the light. Sometimes it can be a challenge, but I enjoy the opportunity it gives me to be creative. The options are only as limited as your imagination. And you don't have to be in the place as the spirits you are moving on. In fact, sometimes with unpleasant entities it is even an advantage to work from a distance. Remember, time and space do not exist. Here is everywhere. So, there is no reason you can't shift a ghost on working long-distance.

Regardless of which technique you use, you need to do certain things before you start. It doesn't matter whether you consider yourself psychic or not -- humor me and go through the motions. You might be surprised at how effective they can be even if a person isn't "psychic." So, let's start by listing the things you should ALWAYS do, regardless of what technique you use (this will be familiar to those of you who have read the Psychic Basics fact sheet):
  1. Before you start, surround yourself with white light for protection. This must be a complete sphere that goes all the way around you, without any holes or gaps.
  2. Visualize a gold cord that goes from your root chakra (or your solar plexus, your choice) to the center of the earth to ground you.
  3. Visualize a silver cord from your crown chakra (or your solar plexus) that goes to the highest source of inspiration for those who serve the light.
  4. Take a moment to really feel and enjoy that sense of balance, safety and protection. This can help make it stronger or more solid in your mind. Remember, intention is everything in psi. Believe you are protected and you are.
  5. If you are psychic and have others you are working with who are unable to provide their own protection, take a moment to shield, ground, and balance them. As a psychic, you are responsible for those around you if they cannot take care of themselves. At the very least, imagine them safely encased in white light. This need not take a lot of energy on your part. Simply visualize it and set the intention that the shields be self-maintaining without effort on your part. Also, it's nice is you can add the extras with seeing the cords. The more the people around you are balanced, the easier it will be for you as a psychic to work.

Once you've completed those steps, you can choose how you want to deal with the ghost. There are a number of techniques that anyone can use to get rid of your average ghost, which don't require any particular psychic ability at all. Mostly these revolve around understanding that ghosts are people, too. Even if they're dead people, they still have the beliefs and feelings that they held when alive. So, you can think of them as simply unwanted house guests. They can leave if they want to. You just have to make them want to. It's about psychology. I've divided the basic options into six categories.
  1. Ask them to leave. Explain to them that they are dead and it's time to move on. Explain that they need to look around them and listen for spirits who are trying to get their attention to help them into the light. There's nothing wrong with being courteous the first time you ask someone to leave. The newly dead are often confused or afraid. They may not understand what's happening to them or why everyone is ignoring them. So, explain it to them kindly. Point out there are those in spirit who are there to help them. In some cases, you may also need to provide reassurance that they aren't going to Hell to burn forever (since if they're afraid of that, there's no way they're going to leave their ghostly existence no matter how bad it is). In the case of family and loved ones who have died, it may also help to let them know they can come back and visit you once they have completed their transitions. The bond of love does not end with death, and they may want to be able to reassure themselves that we are okay.
  2. Tell them to leave. This is a case of being more firm. Sometimes it's just that simple. But say it forcefully, as if you really mean it.
  3. Make the place they're haunting unpleasant to be around. This can involve telling nonstop knock-knock jokes ad nauseam, playing It's a Small World After All for hours on end, or doing just about anything else that would drive a normal adult mad. Verbal abuse is another method of annoying them out of your house. Someone I know did nothing but harangue the ghost and say horrible things to it for days on end. It left and didn't come back. However, I have to admit that this isn't my style to make the ghost leave without going to the Light because it could cause someone else problems and your nastiness could escalate their bad behavior -- which creates bad karma for you and them all around.
  4. Embarrass them out of the house. Believe it or not this works. Laugh at them. Again, not my style but some folks use it as a last resort.
  5. Ask their guides (or yours) to move the spirit on for you. I always figure your guides are there to help you. Furthermore, since it's really not in a ghost's best interest to be stuck as an earth-bound spirit, their guides don't want them to stay, either. So you can call on both your guides and theirs to move the ghost on. Some people do this in prayer.
  6. Use ritual banishing objects, such as candles or incense. This sometimes works, depending in part of the strength of your beliefs and those of the ghost.

NOTE: It doesn't hurt to be culturally sensitive. I know this may sound odd, but it's smart to do if you want to be really effective at dealing with ghosts. Jewish ghosts, for example, are not apt to be terribly impressed by having a crucifix waved at them. If you know who your ghost is, think about what would or would not impress them and tailor your tactics to their belief system.

Is is useful to reenact old events as part of a haunting investigation?
TV shows love enactments and do them all the time. This has led to some confusion about WHY they're doing it. It's not for the ghosts, but their human audience watching the show. Television is primarily a visual medium and the enactments are dramatic, entertaining and illustrative. They are NOT FOR THE GHOSTS. I capitalized that because I see amateur investigators copying that behavior without understanding its purpose (TV ratings).

Ghosts don't have eyes to see with or ears to hear with. Instead, they're picking up on whatever energy (which includes thoughts but is fueled primarily by emotion) that you're projecting outward. If you don't believe we project our emotions stand next to someone who is really angry and close your eyes. You can feel it. Ditto with other strong emotions. You don't have to use your eyes to sense the feelings rolling off of someone.

Can enactments ever be useful in an investigation? Sometimes. If they help you to create an internal experience of thoughts and (more importantly) feelings that will draw the spirit closer or make them feel more willing to communicate. However, keep in mind what I said about provocation above. It's true for enactments, as well.

Why should you move ghosts to the Light?
There are a couple reason why it's good to move ghosts on to the Light. If you have entities that are saying bad things to you or getting you into trouble you DON'T want to let them stay. Get rid of them. Likewise, if you believe in reincarnation, allowing a ghost to remain stuck is really not in its best interest because it keeps them from progressing. So, even if you like their company, I'd recommend encouraging them to finish their transitions. Remember, they can always choose to come back and visit you again from the light. They just won't be earth-bound if they do so.

Is there anything you should do after getting rid of a spirit?
Once you've finished getting rid of a spirit (whether moving them on to the light or otherwise) you still aren't done. It's time for a bit of cleanup. After all, you don't want to take chances on it or a similar spirit coming back, and some of that energy may hang around for a while afterwards even though the spirit itself is gone. I think of this cleanup work as involving three stages:
  1. Shielding the person/location that was being haunted. The simplest way of doing this is to visualize white light surrounding the person/place that you evicted the spirit from. This is no different from the ordinary shielding you should be doing regularly as an individual. Make sure that you aren't providing any of the energy for that shield. Set the intention that it be effortlessly self-maintaining, allowing only those with the highest and best intentions to pass through and blocking out anything negative. Also, if I am dealing with a person/place that has had repeated trouble, I may ask some angels/guides to stand guard and ensure nothing gets through. If you do this, it's a good idea to tell the person or people in the house what you've done so they don't get spooked by these protective guardians (remember, they may be feeling pretty jumpy). Regardless, the idea is to make sure whatever was getting in before cannot come back.
  2. Erasing any negative energy. If the entities were nice ones, you aren't likely to have evicted them, and even if you did there's nothing you need to erase. After all, we all like to be surrounded by love and joy. But if (as is more likely) the spirits were unpleasant ones, it's a good idea to do a bit of “house-cleaning” to get rid of any left-over energy from them. This can be any way that is easy for you to imagine—whether a white tornado, Mr. Clean with a mop, a vacuum cleaner of white light that can suck up any leftovers (and spirits, too, if you wish—just have them trapped in the bag and taken to the light or sucked up a hose into the light), or any other visualization that makes you smile. Make sure the place looks and feels squeaky clean when you finish, with no stray shadows or entities around.
  3. Adding positive energy. I think of this as redecorating. There's an old saying, "Nature abhors a vacuum." So, I don't leave the room/house energy as a blank slate vulnerable for anything to fill it. Instead, I'll "decorate" the place in the astral, imagining flowers, rainbows, balloons, and teddy bears or other items as appropriate. (Can you tell I often get asked to "clean" the rooms of psychic children?) Also, if you are doing the work late at night and people need to be able to sleep soon in that house, keep the energy you put in nice and gentle. There's no point buzzing them to the point that they won't be able to get any sleep. Think soft, pink, love energy. NOTE: You can do this even if you aren't psychic by putting flowers in a room or using incense. Mickaharic's book Spiritual Cleansing: A Handbook of Psychic Protectionis full of such techniques for shifting the energy of a place, which anyone can use.

What are some basic do's and don'ts of talking to psychics?
1. DO your homework. Sound familiar? Yes, it's just as true as if you want to talk to a parapsychologist. I'm sorry to say there are a lot of frauds out there. Anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves a psychic, and a lot of people with marginal (or no) talent do exactly that. How can you tell a good psychic from a bad one? There's no easy answer. Even good psychics can have an off day (of course, good ones will often recognize it and tell you so up front and offer to let you reschedule). Sometimes they may not even be "off" in terms of psychic ability, it's just an unrelated piece of information comes in so strongly that it blocks out anything related to the questions the psychic is trying to answer from coming through. Also, the problem can be due to the client, who for whatever reason has a conscious or unconscious wish for the psychic to fail and blocks any information from coming through.

Unlike parapsychologists, there are no membership lists or degrees or even tests that you can check to see whether this person is what they say they are. Your best bet is to rely on word of mouth and a certain amount of common sense. Don't just rely on whether they have written a book or be impressed by a flashing neon sign. Ask around. What's this person's reputation? Does anyone know them? Do they have a criminal record? Does this person sound totally off the wall? Has anyone you know whose judgment you trust gone to this person and had a good experience? It's not always possible to check things out, but you can try.

2. DO understand that different psychics have different strengths. Most good psychics know their own strengths and weaknesses. Some may be good at finding missing persons, others are healers, some can "read" information off of physical items (psychometry), etc. What a psychic is good at reflects what interests them more than anything else. When you talk to a psychic, make sure their abilities match your needs.

3. DO understand that there is an individual, personal level to the process. Working with a psychic requires, at least for an hour, your being able to connect to that person (or allow them to connect to you). Someone who reads well for others may not do a good job for you. It doesn't always relate to how psychic they are that day so much as whether the two of you can establish a rapport. Some clients are easier to read than others. As psychics grow in experience, they tend to get better at connecting to a variety of personalities--but no one bats 100%. A client is more apt to get accurate information if they are open and relaxed.

4. DO remember that even the best psychics are only right about 70-80% of the time. Sure they may occasionally hit one out of the ballpark, but for the most part, remember to take what a psychic tells you with a grain of salt. It may be right. It may not be. Listen to your own gut. What does it tell you? Do their words resonate as truthful? If so, great. Listen. Likewise, maybe you've heard the same thing from all your friends, Aunt Bee and Uncle Harry, but you didn't want to believe it. If so, maybe you should listen to them. But whatever you do, remember that YOU are the one living your life and responsible for your own actions. Consider them well and always make sure your decisions, regardless of the source of information, are truly the right ones for you.

5. DO understand the limits of what psychics can do for you. Psychics can give you impressions. Sometimes they can help you to look at things in a new way. But they can't guarantee that you'll connect with someone who has passed over, and efforts to make the psychic "prove" who they are talking to are more apt to fail than they are to succeed, for a variety of reasons.

6. DO be clear on what they charge. I don't know any psychic who isn't willing to state their fees up front. Make sure that it feels reasonable to you and that you can easily afford it. I have heard some people say psychic abilities are a gift and people shouldn't have to pay anything for reading. I disagree. All psychics donate a certain amount of their work (especially to the police), but people have a tendency to value advice based on what they paid for it. Pay nothing and they feel they don't have to listen to what they were told. This tends to make a psychic feel that they just wasted their time and energy. Why work so hard to pull the information through if it's just going to be ignored? A moderate fee allows psychics to pay their rent and put food on the table and have their work help others.

7. DON'T give the psychic too much information up front. Most real psychics don't want to know too much. This may sound counter-intuitive, but too much information can bias a psychic and make it much harder for them to see to the true heart of the matter. Be nonspecific. You want to know about a recent situation. You would like to see what they can tell you about someone in your life. Be vague--especially at the start of a read. If you want, give us the general category--I want to know about romance, or what can you tell me about my professional life. You can even say, I'm thinking of a question, what's the answer? This is especially good if a "yes" or "no" response will do. I would worry that you are dealing with a fraud or someone who does "cold" (i.e. non-psychic) readings if they want too many details or facts up front. Once you get towards the middle of a psychic reading it's fine to ask detailed questions or confirm what a psychic has said, but DON'T start off that way!

8. DON'T let yourself become a mark for a shyster If at any time someone who claims to be psychic starts asking for big money (or even small regular sums) to remove a curse from you or give you some kind of mumbo jumbo about a black vortex, then RUN. This person is only out to take your money. Don't believe a word they say! If anything, you may want to report them to the police. It's fraud.

9. DON'T give all your power to a psychic. Most good psychics will refuse to give reads to a person more than once or twice a year. Why? Because the things you can pick up as a psychic don't change that often as a general rule. The mistake some people make is to try to get a psychic to make all their decisions for them. You can't do this! Not only does it give away all your power, but nothing says the best course of action for you. Make your own life choices. Don't ask a psychic to tell you what to do.

11. DON'T be rude. Sometimes people come in for a psychic reading (or bring a friend) with a really hostile attitude. This doesn't help anyone. If certainly doesn't help the psychic--who may be distracted by the emotion and unable to focus enough to get the information you've requested. And it doesn't help you if you just spent money on someone who isn't going to be able to do the job you paid them for. This is a lose-lose situation. If you think the person is a fraud, then DON'T go to them. If they are real, then show some courtesy by not making their job an impossible one.r

Why do people develop psychic abilities?
One of the common misconceptions about psi is that people are either born with these abilities or not. Although there may be a certain amount of genetic predisposition for the talent, everyone seems to have the potential for it. Many actually don't develop their gift until their 30s, and it can increase in strength at least into a person's 50s. What I've noticed from my years of work in the field, is that psi always develops for a reason. Sometimes that reason is that everyone else in the family has it, and it gets you more attention and better acceptance. Sometimes psychics come from abusive families, and it develops as a survival skill. It also commonly develops in those who have professionals that put their lives at risk their--including law enforcement, the military, and fire fighters--for the same reason. But there ALWAYS seems to be a reason of some kind. Moreover, what type of ability you develop is not random, but rather tells you something about yourself and what is important to your unconscious mind. Perhaps in part this is why so many parents have a telepathic connection to their children. And in my case, as a doctor, I could plan my night on call before it started because I knew what kind of emergency would come in at what hour of the night. So, if you have these abilities, recognize that what you can do doesn't tell you what your limits really are, only what matters at the moment. If your needs change, often so can your gift.

Am I psychic?
The current research data supports the notion that EVERYONE -- male or female, skeptic or believer -- has psi abilities. It is similar to any other talent in that some of us are born with a bit more gift than others, and some of us improve our talents with practice and training, while others deny the gift or ignore it. We aren't sure how much psi functions on an everyday basis, as "intuition," "amazing coincidences," "lucky breaks," etc. Research has shown that psi can operate quite effectively on an unconscious level, and often is goal oriented and purposeful even when we aren't consciously aware of that goal.

It should also be added that men and women are equal in their potential for paranormal phenomena and experiences. This is true whether you look at the formal experimental controlled research, poltergeist agents (as long as the culture is not more sexually repressive of one gender than the other), mediumship, controlled remote viewing. etc. Thus, the illusion of a gender gap is due to culture rather than intrinsic differences.

What kinds of factors affect psychic abilities?
Physical factors that affect psychic abilities:
In recent years, parapsychologists have begun to recognize a number of physical factors that appear to influence psychic functioning. These include:

The Earth's geomagnetic field is in a constant state of flux, affected in part by solar activity, a daily GMF cycle, and the lunar cycle. Some studies suggest that ESP improves as GMF fluctuations decrease. In other words, low GMF may be good for ESP. Similarly, ESP hit rates appear to increase both in the lab and in the casino around the time of the full moon. On the other hand, geomagnetic highs have been reported with  the onset of some poltergeists. However, this finding has not been a consistent one, and the effect may either be an indirect one (known in statistics as a "third variable" that co-correlates with the true significant factor) or involve a complex interaction with other variables.

Local sidereal time is an Astronomy term, referring to how the planet is oriented relative to the position of the stars. Once a year it will match clock time (on the Autumn equinox), otherwise it's different, changing by 6 minutes a day. Fortunately. it is easy to find free software to calculate it out for you on the internet. Why do parapsychologists care about LST? Because if you look at studies done around 18:00-19:00 hours local sidereal time (LST) ESP hit rates drop to zero. However, if you look at around 13:30 hours LST, there is a 400% increase in ESP hit rate. Moreover, this appears to be the most consistent finding across over two decades of research by every experimenter in every laboratory around the world. It is consistent. Some have speculated that the effect has to do with how we are positioned on Earth relative to the galactic core. When most of the Milky Way Galaxy is hidden below the horizon, ESP peaks. On the other hand, when the galactic center is overhead, the ESP hit rates drop to zero.

Some studies suggest there may be an interaction between the phase of the moon (in particular, a full moon) and solar activity which can modulate some types of psi. However, this has not been well studied and it is probably too early to draw much in the way of conclusions.

Other than Telepathine (also known as Ayahuasca), which is used in religious ceremonies in Brazil, there really aren't any drugs which are thought to enhance psi abilities. In the 1960s a great many people used hallucinogens to enter altered states, but most of the investigators who explored these lines found them to be dead ends in the long run, and now recommend using either meditation or holotropic breathing methods (a form of hyperventilation) instead. I have seen a number of cases in which amphetamines, or speed, triggered paranoid hallucinations (both visual and psychic), which could persist for a surprisingly long time after the drug was ingested, sometimes for many months. Those with psychic talent may be quite sensitive to chemical substances, and should be very careful about using them.

Psychological factors that affect psychic abilities
A number of factors affect psychic abilities, including mood and emotion, energy level, psychological need, and others. However, one of the biggest is your state of consciousness. People are naturally more psychic when dreaming and on the cusp of sleep (either waking up or falling asleep). Other states, such as hypnotic trance and during meditation also facilitate psi. I've also noticed that the more you listen the the psychic information your unconscous mind feeds you (since it acts as the gateway, filter and translator), the more it will share.

How can I develop my psychic abilities?
Everyone is psychic. What a person can or cannot do is not an indication of your true abilities, only what interests you (at least on an unconscious level). Furthermore, intuition is interesting. The more you listen to your intuition, the more feedback it will give you, and the better you'll get. So, you really want to practice paying attention to the way your unconscious mind tells you information. For some it's a simple "knowing" in the quiet moments of meditation. For others, it may be a gut feeling or a body sensation like itching or warmth. Basically, the unconscious mind can use any of your senses to communicate, whether:
  • VISION - this can involve isolated images or symbols you "see" or can be more detailed images of clairvoyance or remote viewing.
  • HEARING - also known as clairaudience, often it seems to involve hearing words or sounds in one ear and not the other. This can be somewhat scary for those who aren't familiar with it, as "hearing voices" is traditionally a sign of insanity.
  • TOUCH - which could probably also be considered clairsentience, it is feeling intuition as physical body sensations.
  • SMELL - sometimes psychic information is transmitted as a smell, whether simple or complex.
  • TASTE - although far less common than the other methods, some people can get tastes in their mouths that, when interpreted, give them psychic information. I know when I first started as a psychic, I got auras as complex tastes and had to figure out all of the different flavors to what degree and what they meant. The result was a complex mosaic of information -- but very time-consuming to unravel.
It may also simply give you information as "knowing." This is the easiest to understand, especially when an entire paragraph of thought pops into your head as a whole.

There are countless ways you can practice your intuition. Annette Martin wrote a workbook of exercises for her students called Discovering Your Psychic World which you can use if you want some examples. The main thing is to make it something you would care about or that is useful in everyday life. For example, when I first became psychic, I would use it to sense what kind of emergency cases I would be doing on call, and at what time of the night. As an anesthesiologist, it was extremely useful to be able to plan ahead. And I always got feedback in that if I got called in to do a case, I would note the time and type of case and compare it to what my intuition had told me. I found I was nearly 100% accurate for up to 8 hours. However, there are a great many other ways you can practice:
  • TRAFFIC: If you live in a city with frequent traffic reports, try to "guess" which roads (if any) are bad and why. This works even better if you have two routes to get home, each with an equal chance of having delays, and you guess which road would get you home faster then listen to the report. It is not helpful if one road is always bad or always worse on certain days of the week, because then logic takes over.
  • SHOPPING: Without checking the adds, try to "guess" what you're going to pay for something and where is the best place to buy it. Then check out the facts.
  • PARKING: Try to let your intuition guide you to the best parking space. This is particularly useful during the holiday shopping season.
  • THE TELEPHONE: "Guess" who is calling when the phone rings (and no cheating by looking at caller ID).
  • SPORTS: Without knowing anything about the game or the teams (or the horses) try to guess who or what will win and by how much. Then check on your results.
  • li>COMPUTER GAMES: There are lots of computer games with electronic ESP cards or their equivalent, both on CD-ROMs and the internet. Some will even calculate out your score. The problem with this is that you may not really care whether you do well on it or not because it's not important to you.
The trick is to find something you: 1) care about; 2) can't know for sure based on past knowledge and experience; and 3) can get feedback on. Then pay attention to the difference in feeling between that which proved to be right and that which was wrong. Also, notice if you ignored intuitions that you later regret not acting upon, and be aware of how that information came to you so that the next time it happens you DON'T ignore it.

What are some basics that psychics should do or know?
There are certain basic things that a psychic should do every time they sit down to work (or even at night before they go to sleep if they plan to do a bit of astral traveling) regardless of their degree of experience or talent. Make this a habit! Be consistent and it will save you a lot of grief.

1. Protection: The first thing you should always do is protect yourself! This doesn't just means when you decide to play with a Ouija board (which can be a lot more trouble than it's worth and far more cumbersome than simply picking up the information directly). It means ALL THE TIME. So, if you're going to do any kind of psychic work at all, take a moment and protect yourself. If you're working with others who may not have the skill or talent to take care of this for themselves, then protect them, as well. This is doubly true if you are sending healing to someone. Two quick and simple ways to protect yourself are:

(A) Before you meditate, always contact your guide and tell him/her that you are not working, but you are meditating and building your energy.  Surround yourself in white light (like a yolk in the white of an egg), center and ground yourself, and ask your guide to protect you while you meditate.

(B) Before you work, surround yourself in white light, setting the intention that nothing but good can come to you, and nothing but good can go from you to others. Take a second to really "see" yourself in that light, surrounded, safe, and protected.

NOTE: Some people also like to say a prayer before they work or light a white candle. These are helpful (but not necessary) rituals. Rituals are great at providing comfort, making it easier to relax and focus, and enhancing that sense of protection. What that ritual consists of may not be so important as whether you like it and it works for you. They work by making it easier to feel protected and setting a stronger intention.

Intention really is EVERYTHING in psi. That which you intend to be true and really "feel" (no secret doubts or insecurity) will be true in the astral. After all, have you ever heard of a true skeptical disbeliever being successfully psychically attacked? No! And the reason is because in their minds it's impossible for you to attack them using psi because psi doesn't exist. Their confidence in this belief protects them.

2. Centering and Grounding: After you are protected you need to balance and ground yourself. Visualize a silver cord coming from either your solar plexus or crown chakra and reaching up through space to infinity or state that it is going to "the highest source of information for those who serve the light." Then visualize a gold cord coming from your solar plexus or your root chakra and reaching down to the center of the earth. You may feel a tug up and/or down as you visualize the silver and gold cords reaching out. Allow yourself to take a second and really "feel" that connection. Have a sense of how balanced you are now, and let yourself enjoy that feeling knowing you are now centered and grounded.

Remember to Meditate!
Meditation is important! Take the time to regularly clear your mind and mediate. Make it a habit! All first year students are instructed to meditate before they have a circle, and for 20 minutes each day. An easy way to reach a meditative state is:
  1. Sit in a comfortable position – do not cross your legs or ankles, just relax.
  2. Now tell your guide to be with you and protect you while you meditate, wrap yourself in white light, remind your guide that you will not be working (getting messages), then center and ground yourself (see above).
  3. Start the meditation by visualizing the color red – visualize an apple or whatever helps you to see in your mind’s eye the color red.
  4. Next visualize the color orange – visualize an orange or whatever helps you to see in my mind’s eye the color orange.
  5. Once you have visualized the color orange, concentrate on visualizing the color yellow.
  6. Once you have maintained the color yellow, concentrate on visualizing the color green.
  7. Continue to the color blue, then on to lavender, and finally to white.

This may take you several meditations, it is different for each person, but it is a good stress reliever, and will prepare you for working in a circle, communicating with your guide, or giving a reading.

Other Musts:
1. Learn to listen to feedback from your body on the psychic hits you get:  One of the best basic psychic development techniques for learning to tell when you are getting information that is "right" or "wrong" appears in Lysa Mateu's book Psychic Diaries.

2. Work on your issues: People hear this all the time, but they rarely do it. You have to work on your psychological baggage! I can't emphasize this enough! All information is accessed and processed through the unconscious mind. If you have issues you don't want to look at, they will color and distort the psychic information you receive. And many the student has found him or herself blocked by the spirit realm from further progress because they are unwilling to tackle their own issues. It's smart to seek the help of an experienced professional, too. Most of them are more open to psi than you might think.

3. Be ethical. There are stories of many psychics who have been said to lose their powers because they abused their gift. It's impossible to say whether this is really the spirit realm turning off the spigot or their own guilt unconscious mind/soul, trying to tell them they are on the wrong path. But even if you don't lose your abilities, you certainly run the risk of other difficulties, from angering another psychic who does not appreciate your scanning them without their permission, or in more extreme cases, criminal prosecution for fraud. Be ethical. Be considerate. Always ask for permission before you scan someone. And never promise what you may not be able to deliver, whether it be a sure-fire investment scheme or the spirit of someone's long-lost grandfather. Honesty truly is the best policy. Everyone has "off" days. Psychics aren't any different. The research we have on local sidereal time suggests there may also be better and worse times of day to tune in and acquire accurate psychic information.

EVP researcher Konstantin Raudive once said, "Transcommunication is not a hobby for those who can't cope with the realities of life." The same can be said for those who want to "dabble" in psychic self-development or become a parapsychologist. This isn't a game. It's serious work, with serious consequences -- not only for others, but for also yourself because it brings up unconscious issues, which must be addressed for you to proceed.

Key Points to Remember
If you find yourself wondering if you're crazy, it probably means you're sane. People having an initial psychic opening often start their conversations with lines like "You're going to think I'm crazy but..." or "You're never going to believe me, but..." What they soon learn is that parapsychologists have just about heard it all. The mere fact that a person doubts his or her own sanity is a reassuring sign that they are still in touch with reality - simply trying to figure out what their new reality is.

The issue isn't whether you're hearing voices, but what those voices are saying. Parapsychologists have a rule of thumb. If the voices are saying helpful, supportive things, then it doesn't matter whether those voices are a part of your unconscious mind or discarnate entities, its okay to have them around. But if the comments are destructive or negative, hurting you, then it's time to get rid of the source, whether through professional counseling or moving a spirit onto the light.

The hardest thing to learn is what not to say. You get a lot of information that is better left unsaid. This is probably the most difficult thing to learn, because it requires good judgment, which sometimes only comes with time and practice. Some psychics claim they say EVERYTHING that comes to them. In these cases, I suspect their guides try to filter the information before it get to their mouths. However, for most of us, it's wise to consider what might be helpful (if you can word it right) and what would only be harmful (whether true or false).

Timing is everything. Time is a tough subject for many psychics. You spend so much time in the astral, where there are no boundaries of any kind (including time), that it can be harder for psychics to be aware of time. But without time, you cannot have timing. And to be the most effective as a psychic you need to have timing and know what to say when.

It's important to remember to live in the present. And I'm not just talking about from a Zen perspective, although that's not bad. You may be vividly aware of past lives and able to slide mentally with ease into the future. But you are living in the present, and that's where you need to focus. Most people forget their past lives for a reason--they're PAST and that's where they should belong. The future will take care of itself if you remember to focus on the present without being pulled off balance by the past or future.

Help! How can I shut off the flow of psychic information?
This is one of the commonest questions that I get asked. It's not how to turn psychic abilities on, but how to turn them OFF. It's common when people are first starting to open up as a psychic that they will see colors or images (especially faces) at night. This is partly because the normal shift in consciousness that occurs as people fall off to sleep or are waking up increases the ability to sense things. So, to some extent it's normal. Unconscious issues can (and will) also arise - but for that you need to work with a licensed therapist.

So, how do you turn your psychic talent off? What works for one may not for another. But there are a number of things you can try. See what works for you.
  1. Shield. To put it simply, imagine yourself surrounded by white light for protection. You can control the solidness of that shield - make it impenetrable so that others can't see in and you can't 'see' out. Set the intention that it will effortlessly maintain itself throughout the night. Intention has tremendous power in psychic work.
  2. Ask your guides for help. They can shield you and keep other spirits away.
  3. Use the "control room." This is a technique used by hypnotists. Imagine your sensitivity to psychic information as a number on a control screen in your mind. Then, visualize that number going down, decreasing, until you are no longer aware of psychic information. In the morning, you can always reverse the process and return the number back to where is was before. However, I wouldn't increase it by more than that.

How can I defend myself against psychic attack?
Parapsychologists get a lot of calls from people who believe they are under psychic attack. Let's look at the possibilities that you have to consider when sorting these things out, then talk about what they might be able to do in these situations.

No one wants to hear this, but the commonest reason why people feel they are under attack is because of mental illness or a temporary psychosis due to drug usage or (particularly in the case of alcohol) drug withdrawal.

The second most common reason for believing that you are under psychic attack is because an individual is experiencing a psychic opening and doesn't understand the faces they may be seeing hovering around them, or sounds that they may be hearing, are just those of normal spirits. Even some channelers may become distressed and feel like they have been hit by an electric shock if a spirit that is of too high an energy to be compatible with them innocently tries to connect in order to communicate. In both these cases there is no harm intended by the spirits. The problem is created innocently.

Lastly, we come to the case where people truly ARE under psychic attack. I cannot emphasize enough how rare this is. Granted there are cases of people who fall into groups that engage in psychic power struggles, but they aren't common. Sometimes there is just a general ill-wishing by another person, but other times individuals may resort to ritual magic, an unscrupulous psychic, or have the background and talent to form the attack themselves. Regardless, feeling yourself under attack is not pleasant if you are sensitive to it.

So, what do you do? First of all, understand that if you are psychic you may be much more sensitive than the average person to drugs, whether legal or illegal. If you have a diagnosed medical or mental illness, PLEASE keep taking your medications unless otherwise directed by your physician. If you feel you are being overdosed, talk to your doctor about the possibility of tapering it down or trying a different medicine. Some psychotropic drugs, particularly in the SSRI antidepressant category, can cause as much or more problems if suddenly discontinued as if taken as directed. When it comes to illegal drug use, people with psychic sensitivity should stay away from them, pure and simple. Amphetamines, taken by many as diet pills or to stay awake, are particularly nasty at triggering paranoid schizophrenia. What's worse, it can take five years after a person has stopped using drugs before their brain returns to normal. So, stopping for a week is not likely to make the delusions disappear.

In cases of a true psychic opening, what often works best is reassurance and education. Understand that these spirits are probably just curious and have no desire to harm you. They can sometimes sense that you are aware of them, which makes them come closer. Nor are you going crazy just because you hear them or see them. As a parapsychologist, I like to consider what the spirits are telling you. If they seem nice, are encouraging you in good ways, provide helpful information, then great. They might even be your spirit guide in that case! But regardless, there would be no harm in letting them stick around. But if they are negative or hostile, it's definitely time to move them on. You have a number of options here. You can ignore them. You can ask them to leave. You can ask your guides to get rid of them for you. Of course, you can also send any stray spirits directly to the light. Also, one thing that I always talk about with people who are just opening up in how to shield (which we'll talk about more in a moment).

The best defense for a true psychic attack is, ironically, to be a skeptic. No true disbeliever of psi has ever been successfully attacked. In their minds, they don't even permit the possibility. What this tells us, is that to a certain extent, you have to buy into the psychic attack for it to work. This is a problem because of lot of people who are just developing as psychics DO spend a lot of time dwelling on their impressions and sensations and may even be actively looking for attack and seeing it, even if it isn't really there. The more you focus on negative stuff (whether real or imagined) the more you feed into the problem and make the situation more scary. This can be a tough cycle to break. There are different ways to approach this. Some people perform rituals or ask other psychics for aid to feel safer. This primarily works is by making you feel invulnerable. If you feel invulnerable, then you are (at least to psychic attacks - not to knives or guns). In other words, all you really have to do is to stop buying into the situation. I always recommend shielding as a general principle.

Every person with any psychic sensitivity at all should learn how to shield themselves -- not so much from attack as from unwanted information. There are many ways to shield yourself. The important things are that it surround you completely in all dimensions -- above, below, in front, in back, and on both sides -- and be a natural or comfortable barrier for you to maintain. Most people use imagery for this (although you could create a sound barrier if you wished). It doesn't really matter what you imagine for your shield as long as it completely encases you. Don't leave any holes. If you want a "window" or "door" you can think of it as something that lets you see out but doesn't let anything in. Your shield itself could be a concrete bunker, a sturdy castle, a sphere of white light, a mirror that surrounds you, or anything else that appeals to you. It is important to set the intention as you create your shield that this will surround you completely 24 hours a day, awake or asleep, seven days a week. Furthermore, it should be effortless. Anything you want to block out (like negative thoughts from others) can not only bounce harmlessly off the shield, but be designated to power it and make it even stronger without any effort on your part. If you need help creating a shield, you can try listening to my mp3 visualization for creating a Mirror Shield, which will basically walk you through the process. The nice thing about a mirror shield is that it is easy for people to think of it as self-maintaining. Shielding should never take any of your energy or take effort. Just let it do its thing. Anything negative can be reflected back to the person who sent it or to some Universal ground.

Don't fall into the temptation to strike back at the one attacking you. It only leads to bad karma and strengthens the connection they may be using to attack you. Second, if you feel you are under psychic attack it's not a bad idea to talk to a professional psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist to deal with the stress that feeling this way puts you under. It's unpleasant feeling like others would want to harm you. Such things are difficult for anyone to deal with. It's good to have help.

Finally, there are lots of books out on psychic self-defense. One of my favorites is Dion Fortune's book Psychic Self-Defense. Although old, it's still useful and covers all the basics. You may also find it helpful to look at the FAQ below on spiritual house cleansing, which lets you shift the energy -- often useful after you've already shielded).

What are psychic tools and how to they work?
There are a number of what I'll call "psychic tools" out there. Examples include things like Tarot cards, runes, yarrow sticks, I Ching coins, Ouija boards, dowsing rods and pendulums. Psychics often use these tools as a way to get extra information, particularly if it doesn't instantly start to flow with mental imagery or thoughts. Contrary to what people might think, there is nothing intrinsically magical about these tools, and which one works best for you may be a matter of your mood, the time of day, and your personal taste. I like Tarot cards. They just feel good in my hands and, as an artist, I can relate to the images.

Regardless of which psychic tools you use, the basic purpose of them is the same -- to help you find a way to bypass the conscious mind. This is because the conscious mind is notorious for blocking, biasing, and distorting psychic information. Assuming you're not consciously cheating (and really, why would you?), these tools allow a person to get information directly from the unconscious mind, which is the access point for accurate psychic information. In techniques like remote viewing, busy work is also used to actively distract the conscious mind from what the unconscious is telling you to write on the page. Nonetheless, in the case of most psychic tools, it's simply a matter of allowing the unconscious mind the free rein to communicate through ideomotor activity and/or free association. Let's look at what I mean by this.

Ideomotor Activity

This term is probably known best to psychologists and hypnotists. It refers to unconscious body movements. These may be as small as a slight muscle twitch or a big jerking motion. And they aren't rare. In fact, they happen all the time. After all, how often do you really think about every muscle you need to use to stand, walk, drive, or ride a bicycle? Once you master a skill, the actual movements required to do it become unconscious, and you operate on automatic pilot. Individuals who are skilled at reading body language know that the unconscious makes revealing comments about your inner thoughts and feelings all the time through gestures and movements. There are even a number of good books out there on the subject, like How to Read a Person like a Book by Gerard Nierenberg. But ideomotor activity can be used for far more than just everyday tasks. You can actually open up a dialog with your unconscious mind, creating a direct line of communication with it by asking the unconscious to give you ideomotor signals for things like "yes" and "no." In essence, you want to create a shared language. Better still, this language need not be restricted to simple yes/no answers. With practice, remote viewers can create an extraordinarily complex shared language with their unconscious minds, complete with grammar and syntax, using ideomotor lines or ideograms that are drawn without conscious input.

There are two really important things for people to understand about ideomotor activity. First, that it is the root underlying mechanism by which MOST pendulums, dowsing rods, and Ouija boards operate, and may variously influence (if not control) the shuffling, pick and fall of your Tarot cards, runes, yarrow sticks and I Ching coins. Second, that just because it is the muscles of your own hands that are causing the movement of the pendulum, dowsing rods or planchette, DOESN'T mean the answer you derive from it may not be true and accurate psychic information. This is something that a lot of skeptics don't understand. Just because the source of information doesn't come through psychokinesis (mind over matter or spirit moving matter) or some mystical energy field doesn't mean that it's not psychic. It may be the real deal. Of course, because it comes through your unconscious mind, it also may get biased or distorted by unconscious issues, the same way the conscious mind can bias or distort information. It's important to recognize this. Psychic information is often mixed together with non-psychic information, which is why psychics typically have a 60-80% hit rate. If you want to get psychic information that is any good, you're going to have to work on your issues. And I don't mean for ten minutes, either. This tends to be a lifetime process. And in a way, it makes sense. You've had an entire lifetime to accumulate psychological baggage. Both your conscious and your unconscious mind will color, distort, bias, and otherwise totally mess up whatever real psychic information you receive unless you create a clean filter by dealing with your stuff. It is only by being clear on what belongs to you and getting rid of any little land mines lying around the unconscious that you will be able to create a free, unhindered, and unbiased flow of psychic information. Remote viewing uses techniques to deliberately distract the conscious mind in order to minimize it's interference, but even in these cases, unless you have a good working relationship with the unconscious mind (see the Unconscious FAQ for how to do this), you're still going to have the problem of unconscious bias to deal with. My recommendation is to work with your dreams, be honest with yourself, and find a good therapist ... because if you really want to be really good as a psychic, you have to deal with your baggage.

Free Association:

A great many psychic readings that are based on tools involve a certain amount of interpretation. This is where unconscious free association may actually bias you in the right way, leaning you towards a more accurate answer. Perhaps nowhere is this better seen than with Tarot cards. You receive evocative images that can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Good cards may also have a number of small, usually unnoticed symbols and images. What your eyes are drawn towards or what jumps out at you in the picture is (at least for me) often meaningful psychic information. In these cases, it may be a combination of seeing what thoughts/images/feelings come up for you in free association and paying attention to whatever draws the eye.

Mind-Matter Interaction
It's rare, but there are times when the unconscious mind may communicate through mind-over-matter acts - whether moving objects, the productions of lights, banging sounds, or something else. I have heard of Ouija board sessions, for example, especially when teenagers were involved, where things seemed to fly on their own across the room and it didn't appear to be simple fraud. However, I'd like to emphasize that the vast majority of psychic tools operate by ideomotor activity. Why? Because the unconscious mind will use what's easiest to get its message across. Most of the time that means fine motor movements of the hands - not mind-matter interaction.

Ouija Boards
The topic of Ouija boards comes up a lot in our business. I don't like them. And it's not just because they can draw unwelcome spirits, set you up for possession, and trigger unpleasant hauntings. It's because no matter what answer you get, it may be lose-lose. To see what I mean by this, see the next FAQ.

Better Options for Spirit Communication
Since it's clear that I don't recommend Ouija boards, you might ask whether I recommend any form of spirit communication. Yes, I do. I think trained mediums have a big edge over using Ouija boards for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it's often possible to get a sense of whether you're being lied to by the spirit. Second, it's a faster and less cumbersome form of communication since you're not limited to spelling words out one letter at a time, but can get entire complex ideas in one quick mental image. Third, they are better able to provide psychic protection and, when needed, move spirits on to the light. But you would need to first learn how to communicate with spirits under the guidance and tutelage of an experienced teacher - not by playing around on your own. If you're not a psychic medium and you want to communicate with friends and family who have passed into the other side, you can do so through your dreams. This is a technique that has been successfully used for thousands of years. As you lie in bed getting ready to fall asleep, think about with whom you would like to speak - perhaps mentally imagine yourself sending out an invitation or setting out a tea table for them to share with you that night. Then, write down your dreams the next morning. See if you have messages or simply a warm, comforted feeling. If there is one thing that is clear in channeled messages, it's that the bond of love doesn't end when a soul crosses over into the afterlife - it lives on.

What do you think about Ouija boards?
Let me be honest here. I don't like them. And it's not just because Ouija boards can draw unwelcome spirits, set you up for possession, and trigger unpleasant hauntings. It's because no matter what answer you get, it may be lose-lose. Let me walk you through the combinations of what kinds of situations occur when people play around with a Ouija board so you understand what I mean by this. We'll start with the most common situations and work our way up in complexity. Although conscious fraud can occur in all situations, it's complicating effect is pretty obvious, so I'll only go through it for the first two situations.

FIRST SCENARIO: No Spirit - No Unconscious Input - No Conscious Fraud:

You can have one of two situations when there are no spirits present, nothing coming through ideomotor or as psi from the unconscious mind, and no one playing games: either nothing happens (which is really boring) or you can get results that are due to artifact. "How is this?" you might ask. Well, boards get sticky, especially with use. It can be as simple as from the oil in your skin. Regardless, if you run your fingertips lightly over the surface of your board before you start, you can often feel if there are changes in texture that will tend to catch or stop the glass or planchette over certain letters. Likewise, if you notice when using the board that you keep getting certain letters of the alphabet, be suspicious. It may just be artifact from the board itself.

SECOND SCENARIO: No Spirits - No Unconscious Input - Conscious Fraud Present:

This is a common occurence. Usually one person around the table (or more) decides to play a joke on someone else and pushes the planchette around. The information isn't accurate, but it often really freaks people out.

THIRD SCENARIO: No Spirits - Unconscious Input Present:
This is also frequently seen. The unconscious mind can get involved in one of three ways.
  1. The unconscious mind can provide true information, either psychically or from your own memory storage banks. Even though these are accurate answers, they may not always be helpful or desirable. I've heard of situations like when an affair someone didn't want others to know about came out. Everyone has a few skeletons in their closet or feelings that they'd rather not be made public. Using the Ouija board may open the door to something you regret getting out. And every psychic knows that the most important part of doing a reading may not be what you say, but knowing what to withhold because it may not only not be helpful, but actively harm. The Ouija board shows no such discretion. Furthermore, opening the door to the unconscious mind can cause people to have an unexpected psychic opening they aren't ready for and don't know how to handle. This can be a big problem.
  2. The unconscious mind can provide false information. This is usually either because the psychic answers are distorted by someone's personal issues or because the unconscious mind honestly doesn't know the answer to what was asked but wants to be helpful, so it makes something up. This can lead to people falsely believing something is true that isn't, or at least make them question and doubt what they shouldn't. You want to destroy a relationship? This is a great way to do it.
  3. The unconscious mind performs mind-matter interaction. Objects can start moving on their own or flying through the air. Usually this occurs in highly emotionally charged situations or when people (especially teenagers) are under stress. The latter can be a vicious cycle because it freaks people out and the freaked out people are apt to perform more PK  which then leads to people getting even more freaked out...and you get the picture. Individuals with significant psychic ability may get so freaked out that they block their own gift and refuse to ever use it again. This is a problem because it often appears to lead to major health problems for those folks down the road.
You'll notice that NONE of these outcomes are necessarily good ones - not even when you get accurate psychic information if it spills the beans on someone's secret or is hurtful information. And there's no easy way to know if what you learn is true or false.  Add a bit of conscious fraud with someone playing around, trying to raise the stakes, and it get even worse.

FOURTH SCENARIO: Spirits Present - No Unconscious Input:

This is the situation that most people probably hope for, or think they're going to get, with a Ouija board. In fact, having a circle and asking that any spirits come through without setting parameters can cause all kinds of trouble. Spirits may be able to use their minds through psychokinesis (PK) to move the planchette and provide answers. I'd say this is actually very rare. Nonetheless it can create one of four situations, none of which are great:
  1. The spirits provide true, accurate information. This is sometimes a setup to get you to falsely trust them down the road when they'll feed you inaccurate information. Unless you build up a LONG track record with a spirit and you know it has positive intentions AND information worth hearing (which usually means they're already your spirit guide and there are better ways to communicate) then be skeptical. Or to put a twist on a common slogan, distrust and verify.
  2. The spirits provide false information that you are either tricked into believing or that cause you to doubt something that it true. I know of NO WAY to guarantee that a spirit tell the truth. I've heard people claim if you ask a spirit the same question 3 times that they'll have to tell the truth. Wrong. The spirit might get bored and wander off, but nothing FORCES them to tell the truth. So, you need to be really, really careful about believing what comes through.
  3. The PK used by spirits to communicate may totally freak everyone out. This is especially a problem if one or more people at the Ouija board has significant psychic talent and gets scared to the point that they totally shut down their gift. As mentioned before, blocking your psi appears to cause major health problems down the road.
  4. The spirit may take advantage of the open door created by those using the Ouija board by trying to possess one or more of the people present. I've also heard of situations where a Ouija board session attracted negative spirits that then began to haunt those involved. Neither of these are good situations to get into.
FIFTH SCENARIO: Spirits Present - Unconscious Input:
This is a bit more common than the fourth situation, as the spirits are not limited to PK but can communicate with participants and influence their movement of the planchette. Nonetheless, it has all the potential problems and pitfalls listed above.
  1. The spirits provide true, accurate information. As before, this can be a setup to get you to falsely trust them and may not be helpful information.
  2. Your unconscious mind, whether through psi or by retrieving something from memory (whether consciously forgotten or otherwise) provides true, accurate information. This is okay as long as it isn't something you didn't want others to know about or that doesn't cause harm by being made public.
  3. The spirits provide you with false information that you are tricked into believing or that cause you to doubt something that it true. As before, I know of no sure way to force spirits to tell the truth, even if they know it (which they may not).
  4. Your unconscious mind may provide false information either because of your own bias/distortion of psychic data or because it doesn't know the answer and is just trying to be helpful by making one up. The result can trick you into believing something that isn't really true, or at least create false doubt.
  5. The PK used by spirits and/or the participants may really freak people out. This is especially a problem if one or more people at the Ouija board has significant psychic talent and gets scared to the point that they totally shut down their gift. As mentioned before, blocking your psi appears to cause major health problems down the road.
  6. The spirit may take advantage of the open door created by those using the Ouija board and asking spirits to come in by trying to possess one or more of the people present. I've also heard of situations where a Ouija board session attracted negative spirits that then began to haunt those involved. Neither of these are good situations to get into.
Of course, there are some experienced Ouija board users out there who get solid information, either from their own psi or a genuine spirit and who know how to be wary of, and protect themselves from, these pitfalls. Nonetheless, I really don't recommend people treating Ouija boards (or any other form of spirit communication) as a game. Take it seriously. Take precautions. Don't ask for just any spirit, but only the highest and best (but recognize others may come through). Perhaps most importantly, don't get sucked into putting too much faith into whatever answers you get - keep at least a grain of doubt about it's truthfulness.

Since it's clear that I don't recommend Ouija boards, you might ask whether I recommend any form of spirit communication. Trained mediums have a big edge over using Ouija boards for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it's often possible to get a sense of whether you're being lied to by the spirit. Second, it's a faster and less cumbersome form of communication since you're not limited to spelling words out one letter at a time, but can get entire complex ideas in one quick mental image. Third, they are better able to provide psychic protection and, when needed, move spirits on to the light. But you would need to first learn how to communicate with spirits under the guidance and tutelage of an experienced teacher - not by playing around on your own. If you're not a psychic medium and you want to communicate with friends and family who have passed into the other side, you can do so through your dreams. This is a technique that has been successfully used for thousands of years. As you lie in bed getting ready to fall asleep, think about with whom you would like to speak - perhaps mentally imagine yourself sending out an invitation or setting out a tea table for them to share with you that night. Then, write down your dreams the next morning. See if you have messages or simply a warm, comforted feeling. If there is one thing that is clear in channeled messages, it's that the bond of love doesn't end when a soul crosses over into the afterlife - it lives on.

What happens to people after their physical bodies die?
The truth is that no one knows absolutely for sure what happens after we die. But we do have some hints, glimmers based on the channeled literature, reincarnation research, and information from past-life hypnotherapy regression sessions. And what we see is the soul continues on on a different, higher, vibrational level and, just as the lifespan development we see in life, move through a series of developmental stages. These involve recognizing they are dead (not as easy as you might think), orienting to the afterlife, moving through levels, recovering, reviewing and judging their recent lives, spiritual work, and (at least for some) preparing to reincarnate. For more information, check out my slideshow here or pick up a copy of Handbook to the Afterlife.

What are spirit guides?
A lot of people want to know about their spirit guides, and I see a number of books sold on the topic, but I've never understood why people want to make it more complex than it is. These are simply spirits that are around you to help you. Unlike ghosts, they have already been to the light and returned for a specific purpose -- to aid you -- and are not "stuck." One of the advantages of them having gone to the light and done their life-reviews is that they may have gained considerable wisdom and insight before coming back to work as a guide. So, let's look at some common questions:

How is a spirit guide different from a ghost?  Spirit guides are like ghosts in that they are consciously aware beings that do not have physical bodies. However, unlike ghosts, they have already fully made their transitions to the afterlife, gone to guide school, and come back by their own choice to help the living.

Who are they?  Guides can run the gamut. I've seen some that were never-human, other-dimensional beings, and others that were relatives to the person they were guiding in this or other lives. Most people feel that the spirits who guide us volunteer for their task. They may do so for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to) because they: 1) knew us in this life or an earlier one; 2) simply like us; 3) are performing spiritual work (and helping us is part of that); 4) have similar interests (like painting or writing); or 5) are working through us on a chosen task.

Can they be animals?  Let me put it this way. They can look like animals, especially if dealing with children who might be afraid of humans. Remember that, like a ghost, a spirit guide can look however they want to look. If they want to appear to you as an angel, they can do so. If they want you to know they were Uncle Fred, they can show themselves to you in that way, too. There are no limits to what appearance they can take on. I will often see relatives around a person, especially deceased mothers or grandmothers. Sometimes their role is a simple one, of providing emotional support or insight into other still-living members of your family. Deceased pets will sometimes appear around a person and I have seen them return to guide other, newly-deceased pets to the Light. However, most animal spirits come and go as needed, rather than be constant. However, it may comfort you to know that they will frequently appear when the time comes for their former beloved owner to make his or her transition into the afterlife.

How many guides do you have?  The number of guides a person has with them can vary over time. We usually have at least one regular guide--although who that person is may change as your needs do. Often one guide takes the role of a protector (what you might call a guardian angel), and others as teachers. Frequently I'll notice a guide show up just to pass a particular message along, then leave. Quite often people will have three or four guides with them.

Why do spirit guides take on certain forms, or use certain names?   My personal opinion, is that like other spirits, guides can take on any form, or use any name they want to. There's no patent on names or forms. Entities tend to take the form which either reflects their self-image (i.e. who they are), or best serves their purpose. If you only want to speak to Freud, then fine, they'll play Freud, if that's what it takes to do the job, and help you along. Some entities play tricks on people this way, but I suspect that most of them, like us, just want to be listened to. That's part of why most mediums who channel spirits will tell you not to focus on who claims to be speaking through them, and only on the message. Is it useful? Does it make sense? Is it informative? If not, DON'T LISTEN TO IT.

How long are they with you?  Some people may have the same guide for their entire lifetime, while others (like myself) may have a series of guides that come and go, depending on their needs. So the answer to how long they are with you is "It varies."

What kinds of spirit guides are there?  Most people feel that you have a variety of guides that may come in and out of your life. The most consistent one is a protective guide. However, you may also have guides to bring greater joy into your life, teaching guides, healing guides, guides for passing messages through their chosen medium or channel, and a variety of others that come and go as needed.

How do you get your guides?  No one knows for sure exactly how you get your guides. From what we have been told in channeled material, however, spirit guides generally appear to be volunteers, often because they have known their charges in a previous lifetime and are fond of them. Rarely, they may speak of having been assigned their task by some unknown agency because of something the guide wishes to work on.

What is the best way to contact your spirit guide?   This is probably best accomplished by meditation, stilling your mind to allow other thoughts to come into your consciousness. Guides will say it is in the quiet moments, little interludes, that they are best able to reach us with their truths. Try to set aside a few minutes every day at a regular time, and let your busy thoughts become still. This can be done while jogging, staring at a candle, or listening to soothing music. It doesn't matter how you meditate as long as you find what works well for you. For those who need help with ideas for how to try doing this, Lawrence LeShan wrote a book called, How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery, which many different styles and techniques. It is also a good idea to work on your own issues, as these will come up when you meditate and may get in the way of good communication.

How can you better talk to your guides?  If you want to work well with your guides, you need to build the relationship that you have with them, just the same as you would build a good friendship. Regular meditation, where you clear the mind and allow your guides to communicate information to you or shift your energy, is a must whether you are psychic (and aware of what they are doing) or not. They also tell us to simply listen to the quiet moments, the quiet thoughts. That's when they may insert a word. The main thing is to take time to LISTEN. You may also be able to talk to your guides (or others who have passed into the afterlife) in dreams. For this, I recommend imagining as you are going to sleep that you are going to invite you guide (or other spirit) into your home for coffee or tea and a chat. Mentally open the door and ask them inside. Then as soon as you wake up again, write down your dreams and see whether you received a visit or any messages.

Will they tell us what to do? One thing that you sometimes see, both with people who regularly visit psychics and those who constantly ask their guides to tell them what to do, is an abdication of responsibility. You can't do that. Each of us are in our lives in order to make choices. Those choices lead to lessons. Some lessons are harder than others, but if we make a choice that leads to a given lesson then, clearly, we needed that lesson. Guides tell us there is no "right" or "wrong" answer, because whatever choice we make is the best one for us at a given moment in time, and leads us to the next step in life. That means that although they are here to support and guide us, they cannot and will not tell us what to do. Doing so would subvert the whole reason of why we are here--to learn from our successes and mistakes.

Do they run errands?  This may sound silly, but I sometimes see guides sent out on particular errands. The only thing I'd suggest is to not abuse this privilege or their trust by sending them off for silly things. If it's important, then yes, you can ask them to do things for you. They may refuse and, if abused, eventually leave.

Are all the spirits around you guides?  Not all of the spirits around you are guides. Sometimes you have friends or relatives who haven't moved on to the light. For that matter, sometimes I've had absolute strangers as ghosts hang out with me just because they liked my energy or because I (as a doctor) was one of the last people they saw before they died. So, don't assume that all the beings with you are necessarily guides. Some might be ghosts that just aren't ready to move on to the light (although I certainly would encourage them to do so). You always want to consider any advice you get from those around you, whether living or dead, carefully to see whether it "feels right" to you before you proceed. In a few cases, And just like medicine, there's nothing wrong with getting a second opinion from another spirit as long as you don't go indefinitely "doctor shopping." Eventually you will need to make a choice. That's what life is all about.

Are auras real? What do the colors mean?
Although human beings have been shown to have a form of bio-energetic field, this does not appear to be what psychics see as auras. Studies have shown that the auras people see are not physical, but your unconscious mind's way of giving you psychic (and possibly other) information. Why do I say other? Because the unconscious mind is extraordinarily observant. It notices subtle cues and body language and remembers every detail of the past, and may put that information together in a way the conscious mind is incapable of to form a meaningful pattern or message. This gets combined with true psychic input. How the unconscious mind relays that to you in a way the conscious mind can understand it, varies from one person to the next. It can use any of the senses--taste, smell, hearing, touch or sight. Most often auras are "seen" as colors. However, there are psychics who will "taste" this information as flavors, "hear" it as different musical pitches and tones, "smell" it, or "feel" it as changes in their body (most often anomalous healers or psychic medical diagnosticians). It is completely up to your unconscious mind how it communicates, which means that form of communication can vary over time, especially if it wants to broaden your vocabulary. This can actually be useful, as it gives the unconscious mind more flexibility in how to communicate nuances and details to the sometimes-dense conscious mind.

When it comes to the specific meaning of the colors (or patterns) you see in an aura, it is best to think of this as a language developed between you and your unconscious mind. As with dreams, it may include both universal symbols and idiosyncratic elements, unique to you. This means you are ultimately your own best source for figuring out what each color, shade, taste, smell, sound, feeling, or mixture means. However, I find it is often helpful to describe what I am sensing/seeing out loud, and consider what it reminds me of. Sometimes it evokes a memory, or I realize it is a common word phrase, analogy, or metaphor made literal.

Always remember that this is coming from an inner part of YOU. I can assure you that whatever it picks has personal (and sometimes also universal) meaning. It is worthwhile figuring it out. Not only will it give you a source of often-accurate psychic information, but it can also be a doorway to valuable self-insight.

What is Controlled Remote Viewing (CRV)?
Remote viewing was originally a term indicating a specific technique was used to acquire remote information from a distance. However, rightly or wrongly, recent years have seen it sometimes inappropriately used to refer to just about any kind of clairvoyance.

Originally developed by Ingo Swann in conjunction with the military for psychic spying, Controlled Remote Viewing (CRV) is a rigorous technique of acquiring information at a distance. In it's most basic form, coordinates (sets of numbers) are used to indicate the target, which can be anything and any time -- a document to be read, a location, an idea, a person, an object, a society, a result--anything. Upon hearing these coordinates, the viewer draws an ideogram--a line which comes not from the conscious mind, but a deeper part of the self, and which represents an idiosyncratic language that conveys psychic information. Feeling that line gives one mental and physical impressions. These may appear in a stream of consciousness or free association manner. Nouns are set aside to the right side of the page and descriptors are placed to the left (telling the unconscious/subconscious mind you don't want to name it, but describe it). At some point, the viewer becomes aware of having created a virtual reality version of the target that they can interact with. Advanced CRV methods include symbolic pictures, charts, 3D graphs, models (created in sand, clay or by other means), time lines, and a variety of other techniques. The kind and depth of information that can be obtained is virtually limitless.

Other forms of remote viewing include Extended Remote Viewing or ERV (which uses a deeper state of consciousness) and Associative Remote Viewing or ARV (where the target viewed is actually the feedback point, and hard to view information, like a number, is associated with something easy to view, such as a flavor). To work, ARV involves a loop that must be created and maintained. The viewer MUST be given the correct feedback taste or impression that was set up in advance to represent the true target outcome.

One of the interesting things I discovered during my training, is that CRV comes at psychic information in an opposite direction from ordinary psychic work. Normally, psychics first acquire overall impressions and gradually works down to specifics. Remote viewers, on the other hand, will begin with individual details and gradually work up to overriding themes and concepts. At the end, you choose what will be included in the final report that gets graded. However, I found CRV somewhat frustrating compared to my normal way of working in that I could have a 100% hit rate in my final summary and still not have the foggiest clue what I'd been remote viewing. Nonetheless, there have been times when I couldn't get information through more-traditional psychic means and this gave me solid information. While overt psychic abilities are not required for successful training as a controlled remote viewer, a lot of controlled remote viewers seem to develop psychic abilities.

What do psychics say about working with police?
I asked four very different folks about this to get the best overall understanding of the topic. Rather than summarize what they said, I'm going to present what they tell other intuitives who are interested in police work. All of them are folks who have tremendous experience with law enforcement. They've been there, done that, and know the ropes. I start with Annette Martin. She worked as a psychic detective for many years with her partner, Richard Keaton, a former homicide detective with the Marin County Sheriff's Office. This was her take on things:


1. How do you do police cases?   When I'm doing police work, which is the most strenuous thing that I do because I go on for hours, the top of my head will hurt when I finish. We generally will work 2 1/2 hours at a time. Some cases we'll do 3 sessions. When I work, I always start with the white light [for protection]. Then I go into an altered state, and move into the energy of the victim. I will immediately physically go to the scene where the victim was last seen. And I'll see her or him, feel the emotions, see what is happening to that person. It's like going to the movies. Then, at some point I usually see the perpetrator come into the movie. And I'll feel his emotions, what he says. What the victim says back. And I replay it, what happened, the whole thing. Also, I usually know whether they're going to find the body or not or the perpetrator. It helps to have a partner to work with to ask questions. Because I'll get so caught up in watching the movie, that I forget to talk. Richard is good about that. He'll be asking me questions and record everything on the tape recorder as well as make notes. He will ask, "What else do you see? Is there a car? What color is it? What is he wearing?" That kind of thing. I would recommend not doing this alone at least until you're experienced. A partner can help guide questioning and record everything. Sometimes I forget it when it's done. You must record your sessions as you will undoubtedly forget after awhile what was said.

2. You've mentioned before that, even though you may be hired by a victim's family, you make it clear to them from the start that everything you get will go only to the police. Can you explain why that is?  If you're going to work for the family of a victim, be sure they understand in advance that all of your information will go directly to the police. Then it's up to the police to decide what will or will not be released to the family. They're the ones who decide what's appropriate to pass on. I mean, what if it's a family member who did this? Usually if you explain that, they understand.

3. What recommendations would you make for those who want to do intuitive detective work?  Keep it as professional as possible, from the first contact with the family onward. The family is often crying and upset. Don't become emotionally involved with them. Explain how you work and what you'll do. Keep your ego out of it. Don't pass on anything. Write down any immediate hits you get when talking to them, but don't let your ego make you tell them something right off the bat.

4. What was the most surprising thing to you about doing police work?  It all played out like a movie. I didn't expect it to be as intense or as visual.

5. What do you think most people don't understand when they get into this?  That they're going to see some very gory things. If you can't handle that, then you can't be doing that. It can be very bad. In fact, Pam Coronado and I have talked about that. It can be hard to take. I'll usually distance myself from feeling it, become the observer. It's about the same as a gory horror movie.

6. What's the best way to break into the business?  That's the difficult part. Sometimes you get lucky and other times you don't. Often the police will laugh at you.

7. What's it like working with law enforcement as a psychic? Do you do anything differently?  It is a little bit different, because I will go to their offices. That changes the dynamics completely. Generally they want to have 2 or 4 other officers listening. It can be very intimidating. They may be firing questions and putting out negative energy, "It's a bunch of crap." Also, they're generally very stoic and won't respond at all. Sometimes they deny what's true or accurate. So, when I do it in their office, it's a little more intense than when I'm working in my own space.

8. Is there any difference working with the FBI?  The FBI are more stoic than the police. More unbelieving. Very skeptical.

9. What would you tell other people who want to do police work? What's the up side? The down side?  Any time you can bring closure to a family, that is one of the most wonderful things a human being can do. I mean, what more wonderful things can you do? I have found so many bodies. It's the unknowingness that drives people mad. It's better if they can take the body home, bury it, and find closure. It's just a wonderful feeling to be a tool to help the police solve the crime. I mean, I'm counseling people all the time, but when I do the police work, it's just amazing. And not just the families--the detectives, too. A lot of people don't realize that. These guys are working themselves to death. And they care. They really do. And they spend hours and hours and hours. If I can help them solve the case, I feel good about that and they can, too. I do get tired, but I don't look at that as a down side. Sometimes you do not get any feedback from the police agencies and you wonder if you have seen everything correctly. So you must not feel rejected and know that what you picked up was what you saw or felt. It may not prove correct for quite awhile, until the police have discovered more things about the case. So be patient with your self and keep a positive attitude. Do not go over and over the case in your head, trying to see if it is different. Generally your very first impressions are the correct ones.

10. Do you ever feel threatened?  No. I know some psychics have carried guns and felt threatened, but I don't.

11. I read in Psychic Criminology that some psychics won't do certain cases is they think they involve karma. How do you feel about that?  Well that's just bogus! I mean, come on! You kill somebody, that's a no no. A very big no no. There's no two ways about it. You must still think about the family that is left with no answers as to what happened to their loved one. I feel that the crime must be solved one way or the other.

12. What helps you most?  If I'm not working with Richard, which doesn't happen very often now, then I prep the detective. I tell them the process, what I'm going to do. That I'm going to close my eyes and hold the object or photo of the victim. Then I want them to ask me questions. Have them guide me and ask me questions. By asking questions they get more details. You're so busy watching that you don't want to talk. You're picking up the emotions from the perpetrator and the victim. I'm getting what the perpetrator is saying to the victim and the victim is saying to the perpetrator. Then I have to move back to the observer. So where is he going now? What is he doing now? I also draw things on paper, which I think is kind of an interesting phenomena, because I can't draw normally. I always use a pencil and a yellow pad. It also helps for the detective to give the psychic a little feedback if they can. To encourage. That's going to take a detective who really wants to solve the case, and doesn't have a big ego. That can be hard to find. It's easier if you have a long track record.

13. What hinders you? Can it be a problem working with a detective who doesn't want you to be on the case?  That's not so much of a problem now as we have a track record. If it's the family who calls us, we ask the family for the name of the detective in charge of the case. The detective has to be willing to work with us. Usually, my partner, Richard, is the one who talks to them. Or if the agency calls then they are open to what we do. We ask for photos and maps to Richard's office, then he comes to my office and we work. There are times when you have to walk away from a case, if the police don't want to work with you. That is indeed sad, and we feel helpless in that situation. You do not want the family going out trying to solve the case and that is just what would happen if the police were not involved.


Pam Coronado was one of the stars of Sensing Murderand had some unique things to say about working with police.
  • The most important thing I tell intuitives is not to approach law enforcement involved in a high profile case. The FBI agent I work with received literally thousands of tips from psychics on the Chandra Levy case. It's overwhelming for them and they can't even begin to sort it all out.
  • If you are serious about working with the police, approach them and offer to demonstrate your skills by working on a closed case (as I did on Proof Positive, episode #106). Once you prove yourself, they will be more willing to work with you on cases they don't know the answers to.
  • Earn their trust. The minute I get involved in a case officially, I am bound to confidentiality.
  • Keep in mind that police work is not for all intuitives. You have to learn to keep your distance emotionally and that can be tough for a sensitive.

LYN BUCHANAN SAYS: Lyn Buchanan is a controlled remote viewer who trained me in remote viewing and still offers classes and other good information on the topic at www.crviewer.com. However, what he doesn't publicize so much is his extensive work with law enforcement. Given his military background, it may be no surprise that he has a very practical set of comments, which are listed below:
  • Gone are the days when you had to be weird to be psychic. Gone are the days when people were dazzled by mysticism and strange jargon. You are a business person. Act like it, and look like it! They can be quick to label you. They want a quiet, professional manner. If you're at all ditzy, they'll write you off.
  • Cops are notorious about not being able to communicate with anyone.
  • Start the relationship with a clear explanation of what will or won't be done.
  • Don't promise anything you'll have to explain or apologize for later.
  • You have to meet to the standards of professionalism held by other fields. Professionalism is more important than presence. Be professional in appearance, terminology, conduct, and product.
  • Talk in language they understand. Use their terms for things.
  • Don't make them feel you're going to make them look like an idiot.
  • Understand their needs and routines. Be a team player. Remember that you are a tool for them. You are there to be an asset. Show an interest in learning and understanding what they need done.
  • Don't have flowers, doves, dolphins, or esoteric symbols on your stationary or reports to them. Learn what format they prefer for receiving information and use that format in your reports. Cops often like an anonymous tip sheet or eyewitness report. Alternatively, a formal report with a business-like cover page looks good and can score you points. State your findings in clear terms (preferably their terminology). Give a non-mystical explanation of who you are and what you do (i.e. advertise) and include a glossary of any special terms.
  • Offer to explain anything you have provided to anyone who asks them questions (i.e. you'll back them up).
  • Suggest how you can be of further assistance and be sure they have your contact information (a nice, professional business card and/or brochure is a good idea).
  • Never work for the family of a missing child. Deal only with law enforcement.
  • Always maintain confidentiality.


I end with Noreen Renier, even though she skeptics have relentlessly attacked her credibility for years. My feeling is that regardless of what she can or can't do now, her answers are useful.

1. How did you get started in police work?  I was grabbed. I had just started being psychic, didn't know much. I was teaching. I didn't want to teach, either! And a college grabbed me for a continuing education course. I didn't even know much what I was saying or how it would help. Then, I started lecturing at different colleges. And there was a series of rapes. A serial rapist was on the loose. I wouldn't do this now, but I gave some clues to my class. And a reporter heard about it and wrote it up and it got out. Now I would be more scared, because they gave my clues out before the person was arrested. But the police heard about it, and the FBI, and they got in touch with me. Fortunately, I was young and didn't know much, so they [law enforcement agents] taught me. They told me what they wanted, what to do. I did a lot of work for them. I also worked with some parapsychologists from the Parapsychology Foundation, and they taught me a lot.

2. How do you do police cases?   Typically, I'm called in 2, 5, 20 years later, after the crime. Not right away. Hopefully, that won't be the case in the future. I found I've rather not be around the cops, because of telepathy. I do cases from all over the world. So, I do 90% of my work by phone. I don't want a lot of information. I don't want to know what the police think. If they were right they would have found the person. I don't even know the last name. I don't know how they're killed. They send me an actual object. A shoe. Some clothing. Something from the crime. And I want to touch it. I'm a psychometrist. I go into a semi-trance, or an altered state, but it's not "me." And I can be anyone. The victim. The perpetrator. An observer. I'll play each of them out. I can be all of them, one perspective at a time. I get asked a question and just get an answer. I try to give as much accurate information as possible with as few mistakes. I always describe the person and what they looked like alive, and how they died because you have to show them you're psychic. So, I don't just say who did it. I forget two seconds after I say it. There's no emotion and I don't have any recall afterward. I don't do too much interpretation. I don't always know what the numbers are associated with. I may get 35, but not know if it's 35 miles or 35 minutes. Hopefully, it will come to me. So everything has to be transcribed to be checked over later. I have over 400 cases. And Court TV is going through all the files and everything is right but they didn't always know where it belonged. I have a doctor who helps, she questions me. It's easier. A session lasts about 45-60 minutes. I also have an artist who can draw the face. We tape it and transcribe everything for them. They might need two sessions for a case, they might not. I won't have the family around if I'm working with the police. I don't want them to go into shock if I see the body and they hoped they were still alive. And the telepathy thing can be very strong. There's not a question of timeliness. The police are calling me. I can't put it off.

3. What's your take on charging?  I charge. Everyone is suspicious of what's free. They don't trust it. If you're professional you charge. I mean, maybe, rarely, I do if they beg me enough. But I haven't raised my police price for 10-15 years.

4. What's the best way for others to break into police work?  You need a track record and it's not that hard to build, you just have to work in your own backyard. People are always losing objects and animals. You have to practice. Eventually, you'll get known. People will hear that you're good and they'll come to you.

5. What are your do's and don'ts?  Do be specific. What they need is not an image but what it means. You have to be very, very specific. Don't solicit your abilities. It makes everyone look foolish when everyone gets a different thing. Don't give up. There are so many aspects of fun to it [psi]. You can use your abilities in so many useful ways, don't limit yourself to detective work. If you can't do that, there are other wonderful ways to be psychic, like healing.

6. Is there any difference working with the FBI?  They are more self-assured.

7. What helps you most?   The object. I do psychometry. Although, it doesn't even matter that much. I've done cases where I couldn't find the object and I needed to do the read, because they're calling me. And I can still do it. And, of course, remote viewers may just get some numbers, so they don't need anything.

8. What hinders you?  They do everything wrong half the time anyway. They don't know how to work with us. No multiple choices, just questions. One way to help them understand how to work with you, is to give them a letter that provides them with some basic information. I have a sample of what I give police at my website. That way, they have a better idea what to expect and how to get the best information out of me.

9. What was the most surprising thing to you about doing police work?   I was doing homicide when I first started. And I knew I could do that. But the first time they wanted me to find a plane, I didn't want to. I mean, I even lose my car keys. And they wanted me to find something? But found out I could find people and things.

10. Do you ever feel threatened?  No. I have no fear. I've been working with bad guys in my head for a long time, now. And I'm surrounded by objects from crimes, people's pain. But I figure I'm psychic enough that if there was danger, I would pick it up. So, I don't worry.

11. What recommendations would you make for those who want to do intuitive detective work?  Practice new techniques. Make sure there are games you can play to prove you're still on. Practice looking at faces and being able to describe them accurately to an artist. A way you can do this is to practice describing the faces that you see on TV, etc. Glance at the face briefly, then try to describe it. Do they have upturned eyebrows? What kind of eyes? Hair? If you want to be good at this, constantly practice.

12. What should you NOT do if you want to get into intuitive detective work?  First of all, DON'T solicit your abilities. The police hate it when people call. A wonderful learning lesson for me, in Virginia, was a high profile case. The police got hundreds of calls from people who said they were psychic. And they didn't know what to do with them, so they started just passing the calls all on to me. And I could see what the problem was. Each one was totally different. One would say the person was dead, and another that they were alive and hiding in Alaska. If I had been a cop, I would have been totally discouraged, too, and felt that all psychics were frauds. It's hundreds upon hundreds of calls, all different. And how can you sort them out? You can't. And I have met my share of frauds--they exist. Unless they [the psychic] have some background or credibility the police don't know who to listen to. But fortunately it's easy to get a track record as a psychic. Just don't start with the high profile cases. Start local. You can help your friends. Work with neighbors, local victims, not high profile.

13. What do you think most people don't understand when they get into this?  It's a lot of hard work. It's not that glamorous. Unless you're making headlines every day people forget you. It's slow. People forget you. I've starved more than I've made money. You don't make money at this.

14. What do you think is the future of intuitive detecting work? How I did it 25 years ago doesn't exist today. Psychics were still in the closet 25 years ago. I'm not going to hide who I am, not when I'm good at it. But it's different now. People are more open about it. It may not be a long-term career for amateurs. Eventually I think that in the future only professionals who work for departments or the government will be doing psychic work.

15. Any other thoughts?  I turn down cases if they are closed by the police. The family may not be happy if it's declared a suicide, but the police won't reopen it, and it will only cause more pain if you tell the family something that stirs things up. So, I stay away from it. You don't have a lot of chances with the cops. You have one shot. That's all.

What do police say about working with psychics?
Although many psychics talk about wanting to work with police, few actually do so. The problem can be multileveled. Drawing on the comments of FBI agents and police (who have requested anonymity) here are some basic things to keep in mind if you want to succeed. They are broken down by the following stages:
  • What to be aware of before you get involved.
  • The initial approach to whatever agency you feel your information needs to go to.
  • Your first contact with the law enforcement agent or agents.
  • How to maintain a good working relationship after they agree to work with you.
  • What to remember after the case is solved.

So, let's start at the beginning. Say you had a strong psychic flash or dream about a case, or heard of a situation (kidnapping/murder/other) that you really feel you could help with and you want to volunteer your aid. What do you do?

Before You Get Involved:

Recognize that law enforcement agents unusually don't really understand how you work. What they know is how they work. Understand who you are going to be working with. Key points include:
  1. They may be drastically overworked and have little time to talk to you.
  2. They can't afford publicity when they screw up.
  3. Many have a military background and are very disciplined. Often they are conscientious, matter-of-fact, logical, thorough, and work long, hard hours (many crimes are best solved in the first 72 hours).
Another crucial point to recognize is that this is not a chance for you to practice your gift! It has real life ramifications. Failure matters. Don't get into this unless you already have a lot of experience and a good track record. Know your own strengths--what you can and cannot do well. Be clear about this. It's important.

Also, recognize that you may be a suspect until they clear you. This is not a fun situation to be gotten into lightly. Be aware that it's a lot better if they contact you than the other way around. If you contact them the problem is:
  1. They may not be interested.
  2. You may be polluted (biased) because of what you have read in the papers.
  3. You may become the prime suspect if you do too good a job. This can cause them to waste valuable time and resources on investigating you (not to mention cause you potential grief). It's much better if they are the ones to contact you. It's far less suspicious to them and means they were interested enough in what you might say not to immediately write you off. If you feel strongly that you have valuable information and they haven't come to you, consider whether you would be better off turning in a witness form, which is sometimes a safer method of passing on psychic information.
First Contact:

You may have about five minutes to explain what you can do for them in plain terms and offer to help. Sell yourself, but don't try to push anything down their throats. Let them come to the conclusion that it's a good idea to talk to you. Tell what training you've had and from whom and list any success stories of other cases you're been involved in. Make sure they understand the shortcomings of psychic information. Be honest about it. Expect a likely reaction (they'll laugh at you). Of course, if you have information that they have kept private, you may get grilled. IF they do work with you, they'll be very tight-lipped about what they have.

If They Agree to Work With You:
  • Assure them of confidentiality. They hate it to get out that they are using psychics. You don't talk about it to anybody EVER. Keep your word.
  • Be ready to work hard. Trying to get helpful psychic information for the police can be both emotionally and physically draining. Interview sessions can go on for hours.
  • Be timely. This not only means showing up on time for meetings with your contact in law enforcement, but in doing what you need to to come up with useful information in a timely manner.
  • The police want usable information that will help them solve the case. Be specific. Don't speculate or elaborate. It isn't helpful.
  • Communicate, but don't harass. These are busy people. Only touch bases if you have something of value to offer or they ask to hear from you.
  • Be professional. This may involve:
    • Dressing as a professional (a suit and tie are not a bad idea for men; dress appropriately for the situation if you are a woman).
    • Having a professional demeanor when you are with them.
    • Using professional stationary for letters or reports.
    • Always give them a cleanly typed report from a good computer printer. NEVER give law enforcement hand-written documents or reports.
    • Any information you pass on to law enforcement should sound objective and factual.
    • Don't let your ego get involved. Remember you are there to help them, not the other way around.
    • Be willing and able to stop if the police won't use the information. There are times when it truly is best for both sides if you just walk away.

    The FBI Perspective on Psychics:

    Being fortunate enough to know an ex-FBI agent, I was able to get their particular perspective (again off the record) on what they want from a psychic. Much of this is similar to the general comments above, but bears repeating:

    "What I would say for the most part is that law enforcement officers, including FBI agents, especially those in Violent Crimes and Gang squads, are extremely busy. They don't want to waste their time. They might consider an offer from a psychic who wants to help on a case -- with skepticism. I would say as a former FBI agent, I would be looking for a psychic to tell me, in an short time, what they can do to help me with a case. Perhaps they give me a quick bio on other cases they have assisted with and success stories. I have an open mind, but other's might be married to their investigative techniques. However, everyone is usually open to help if the case has gone stale. 'So, What can you do for me?' would be my first question to them."

    "Professionalism, really the standard stuff. With FBI agents they will be looking for someone put together. If you go in with your sandals and retro 60's hair due you would raise some eye browns and probably lose credibility. Us standard business sense, first impressions are important."

    "Confidentiality. Most law enforcement agencies will require some sort of background check to work with them and this takes time. Also, they'll need some sort of disclosure noticed that you won't blab about what your working on. Trying to do this early on would be a good idea, so you're ready to go when it comes time to work a case. Check with what the law enforcement agency you want to work with requires."

    Accuracy. When working with law enforcement this is critical. The facts, Ma'am and only the facts. These cases go to court. Agents have to testify on the information, sometimes long into the future. Be accurate, write everything down in the format they require. A willingness to do this will be important."

    "What to Avoid? - Lengthy speeches! Again, these agents are busy, get your pitch and information down to a quick, concise format. You'll have their attention for about 60 seconds-- at best, if you want to keep it, sell yourself in the way they need you to do it."

    My source added one more comment: "The FBI is very aware of bad PR." So, if you want to work with these people make sure that you won't draw the wrong kind of attention their way. Respect their needs, provide a service, and you have the change to build a mutually satisfying long-term relationship.

    Good Books
    To learn more, I recommend the reading following two books:
    • Psychic Criminology: A Guide for Using Psychics in Investigations by Whitney S. Hibbard, Raymond W. Worring, and Richard Brennan. This is the 2nd edition of this book. It's a terrific resource whether you're in law enforcement and want to know about parapsychology and how to work with psychics, and for psychics to understand the mind set of the police.
    • The Blue Sense: Psychic Detectives and Crime by Arthur Lyons and Marcello Truzzi. This out-of-print book was one of the earlier works you could get that talked about psychic detectives. It includes a number of interesting case histories.

How can I do psychic healing?
Please note that psychic healing does NOT replace traditional medicine! If you have appendicitis, you're better off getting your appendix out the good old-fashioned way by surgery. Where I think anomalous healing works best is as an adjunct, augmenting traditional medical care.

BEFORE YOU START: Psychic healing is no different than any other form of work in that it should always start with the following basics:
  1. Protection: The first thing you should always do is protect yourself! Surround yourself with white light. Ask for additional protection from the spirit guides that are present. Some will also say a prayer or sing a hymn. I like to set the intention by mentally stating "I am surrounded and protected by white light. Nothing but good can come to me. Nothing but good can go from me." Then do the same thing for your patient. Say they are surrounded and protected by white light. Nothing but good can go to them. Nothing but good can come from them.
  2. Centering and grounding: After you are protected you need to balance and ground yourself. I visualize a gold cord going from the core of my being to the center of the Earth. Then I visualize a second cord, which is silver, going from me to the highest point of inspiration for those of the light (whatever that may be). I take a moment to feel that balance.
  3. Ask permission: This may be hard to understand, but some people have their illnesses for a reason -- ask for permission before you blindly interfere!If you can't ask them in person, you can still ask their spirit guide(s) if it's okay to do the work. Alternatively you can visualize the patient's spirit and ask whether they would like you to try to help or not. Respect their wishes if they say no or shake their head. Any energy you sent will probably be rejected by them, and even if it were to get through, might not have the effect you intended.
Once these basic steps are completed, there are a nearly infinite number of ways you can heal, from the very simple to the complex.

It is important thing to remember is that you don't need to understand how healing occurs to have it happen. You can use whatever technique "feels" best or easiest to you at the time. There is no one right way or best way to work. All of these methods involve a light trance state where the mind can be focused.

Hands on healing:

I have never found working in person to be more effective to distance work, although I sometimes do it if I am feeling lazy (it takes less concentration). There are many different ways to perform hands-on healing or the balancing of energy (including polarity therapy), however will mention two basic techniques.
  1. Hold your palms over whatever body part you are trying to heal and send energy. The traditional "laying on of hands," often this can be felt by both the healer and the patient variously as heat, energy, cold, or tingling. This has the disadvantages that it can drain the healer and risks whatever disease the patient has passing onto them. I don't recommend it, although sometimes when I'm feeling lazy I've been known to do it because it's so easy. You don't even have to focus. The more they need or accept your healing, the more energy you'll feel flow. As they are healed, you'll feel it draw less energy from you. It's usually obvious when to quit.
  2. Use your hands over (not touching) the patients body to help you redistribute the energy flow until it feels balanced. This can be combined with imagining energy flowing directly into the patient from the universe.
WARNING: I was taught you should never try to heal others when you are sick because it's possible to pass your illness on to them.

Distant healing:

These are just a few of a great many techniques (including some not described here using controlled remote viewing) that you can use for distant healing.
  1. Visualize the patient as simply being well, perhaps even bursting with energy and good health.
  2. Visualize yourself standing in front of the patient. As you breathe out, they breathe in. Then when they breathe out, you breathe their air in. Imagine yourself becoming as one.
  3. Imagine white light and/or whatever color you associate with healing coming directly from the universe and surrounding your patient, completely filling and healing every cell in their body. I have found some types of illness respond better to particular colors. For example, fungal infections seem to respond better to purple light. Often I use a pale blue. If they need emotional healing, I always use pink energy, for love.
  4. Visualize the entire process of wound healing or recovery from the illness (which I only recommend for those who can do this effortlessly). However, please note that most studies show people are more effective when focusing on the desired outcome, not the process of what it takes to get there.
  5. Imagine a musical note of just the right pitch resonating the patients body and healing it completely. (If you are used to Mental Plane work, this can also be done as rewriting the patient's mathematical formula).
  6. Imagine the illness as a color. See yourself pulling it out of the patient, and transforming that color to something else (or letting it flow into the ground). Then add healing color/energy to replace what you took out. Some people use their hands to assist in this visualization.

For healing yourself when you are ill, I use the following technique after I have performed the usual basics of shielding, grounding, or centering. Place the hand you receive energy best from (for most people their left hand) over your solar plexus, the hand you send energy out of best at the back of the head (the occiput), and perform the following visualization. As you breathe in, imagine pulling energy directly from the universe, into your hand that rests on the solar plexus, through your arm, and across your shoulders to your other arm. As you breathe out, imagine that energy flowing out of your hand on the back of your head and into your aura as a pale blue wave that flows around whatever body part you are trying to heal. Focus on doing this for several minutes. This technique was passed on to me by spiritualist healer Mary Smiley. I find if I perform it in a light trance state at night, that not a lot of time is required for me to be able to wake up fully recovered or healed.

How do you spiritually clean a house? (by Dorothy O'Donnell & others)
There are times when it's helpful to be able to clean the energy of a place. An old-fashioned thorough house-cleaning (maybe moving some furniture around to change the energy) will do a lot for you. But if you need something more, try checking out the book Spiritual Cleansing by Draja Mickaharic. This is a terrific reference source for techniques anyone can use to change the energy in a room or aid spiritual cleaning. This is one of the few I've seen that considers the cultural beliefs of the spirit you are trying to get rid of. This page will include some simple suggestions for house cleansing, written with the help of a number of people, including Mary Lynn Schatke, Heather Blome, and Dorothy O'Donnell.

"Before starting this, walk around the house and open all the internal doors including toilet and bathroom.

In the rooms with most activity light a scented candle, doesn't matter what type, (except black) or burn an incense stick (lavender or sandlewood).

While the incense is burning go fill a pail with warm water, and add about 4 tablespoons of sea salt stir till dissolved.

If the house is two stories, start up at the top and work your way down.

With a clean damp sponge from the salted water, wipe around the highest point of access first; usually the door to the attic or the trapdoor to the loft. Then move to each room wipe around the bottom of the window frames. Then do the door frames and across the bottom of the open door. Work your way around the house, so all rooms including bathroom, toilet and laundry are done.

When you work on the ground floor, start from the back door (Leave this door closed) and work to the front door. The front door should be the last place wiped with the salted water.

At this point all the doors and window frames in the house should have been wiped with the salted water. All the internal doors are open except the back and front door.

Now open the door the family most often use to enter and exit the house. One door only; front or back. Outside this door leave the remains of any salt water in the bucket.

When this is done go back to the top of the house and work you way through each room one at a time. Repeat one of the following two prayers in each of the rooms and once at the top of the stairs.

The same thing is repeated on the ground floor; walk from room to room repeating one only of the two prayers.

You should now be at the last open door (front or back) step outside and repeat the prayer for the last time.

Take any remains of the salt water in the bucket and dispose of them in an outside drain (Not on the property). Or sprinkle the remains along the boundary fence.

Then I will say a prayer. Here are two, one Christian, one less specific:


The first one is Christian:

Bless this house oh lord I pray
Protect it from all evil way
Bless the folk who call it home
A refuge safe for them alone
Place around these walls your light
Your warmth and hope; power and might.
Against this house may none prevail
And no one in it loose or fail
To you oh Lord all glory be,
both now and for eternity.
This house we leave with you alone
Let heaven call its people home.
     (Author unknown)

The second is non-religious or non-denominational (the one I most often use).

Touch the lintel
Touch the walls.
Nothing but blessings, here befall.
Bless the candle
That stands by itself.
Bless the book on the mantle shelf.
Bless the pillows for the tired head.
Bless the hearth and the warmth it shed.
Spirits who tarry let them know
A three fold blessing before they go.
Sleep for weariness, peace for sorrow
Tracing yesterday and tomorrow
Grant them go from here to there.
A blessing of hope where ever they fair.
Lintel and window
Doors and walls
Nothing but good; This place befall.
     (Author Unknown)

Now I know that this works. I have used it on many, many occasions. Without failure.

Make it a family experience, but if you do it as a family, keep the atmosphere light and friendly. If you make a big deal of it, you could frighten the kids. Within hours of using this cleansing you should notice a difference."
(Dorothy O'Donnell)
Variations on House Cleansing

Some people would suggest cracking open a window or door to the outside BEFORE starting the cleansing to encourage any spirits to leave peacefully. (Mary Lynn Schatke)

A pinch of sea salt salt can be placed over every lintel--whether a doorway or a window--and in the corner of every room. Don't forget the closets! (Some people have been known to put a pinch of salt of the back of the neck of those thought to be possessed to encourage the spirits to go.) Spirits don't seem to like the vibration that sea salt sets up. (Mary Lynn Schatke & Pamela Heath)

You can smudge the rooms, closets, hallways, stairwells, and basements (opening a basement window or door) with sage beginning at the top of the house and working your way down. You may also want to smudge the people who live in the house. (Mary Lynn Schatke)

Another variation is to first clean the house thoroughly, physically (old-fashioned mop and bucket, dust, and vacuum). Then go from the top to bottom using candles, incense, and prayer, remembering to clap everywhere, especially in all the closed spaces and corners (with the idea that the vibrations will disrupt the old energy). (Heather Blome)

What should I do if I get a premonition of something bad happening?
It is always very disturbing to have a premonition of something bad that might happen in the future. People often ask me what they should do. The answer to that is something each of us must answer for ourselves. However, the answer may become more clear if you ask yourself certain questions.

First, is it a real premonition or a product of your own fears and imagination? This is a problem with all psychic information. The unconscious mind need not just filter and distort information, it can create it from scratch. So, you always have to ask yourself what is the true source--psychic or internal? If you think it is a real premonition, it is time to consider the next question.

Second, is there anything you can do about the event you foresee? If this is something under your control, such as a car accident, then the prudent thing might be to treat the premonition as a warning and change things. However, much of the time, you have insufficient knowledge or power to influence things. This can be very disturbing. It is critical to recognize that having a premonition by itself does not make you responsible for the events that you foresee. This is particularly true if it is a large scale event. However, there are two things anyone can do, which I see as options that may not help but certainly can't hurt.

If you are comfortable with your own psychic abilities, you can visualize or imagine things occurring with a different, more positive outcome. Will it make a difference? Perhaps not. But perhaps it will. Consciousness is capable of influencing reality, particularly when minds are banded together. However, each of us has some power and influence, which we can use as we will. Doing so in meditation, with a focused mind, gives one the best chance of making a difference. However, because reality is co-created, it is not our fault if we fail. All we can do is try. But by trying, we can at least feel less helpless.

Why do psychic experiences sometimes seem random or purposeless?
Psychic experiences are never truly random or without purpose -- they only appear that way because the unconscious mind is the gatekeeper to paranormal experiences, determining what gets blocked and what matters enough to be allowed to rise to conscious awareness.

A person's unconscious beliefs can be astonishingly different from their conscious ones--often radically so! Since psychic experiences serve an unconscious purpose, they can provide valuable self-insight as to what matters to your unconscious mind--even if it as as simple as wanting the conscious mind to accept that these phenomena are real and should not be ignored.

By and large, the more you listen to your intuition, the more your unconscious will share with you--and vice versa. However, it is important to recognize that what you can or cannot do will alter if your unconscious needs change, whether because of psychotherapy or life events.

What can I do if I'm being overwhelmed by psychic impressions?
There are short and long-term answers to this. First off all, stop doing those things that may be fueling the situation. When you are being overwhelmed by psychic input, consider the following:
  • STOP DOING ANY FORMS OF MEDITATION. This would include forms of energy work, such as yoga, qigong and tai chi that access mildly altered states of consciousness. These can increase your sensitivity to psychic input and are the last thing you need to be doing if you are already getting too much information.
  • AVOID TAKING ALCOHOL AND DRUGS, whether illegal or over the counter. Many psychics are very sensitive to drugs. While plain aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen are safe, many over-the-counter cold medicines, sleep aids, and diet pills can wreak havoc. The latter are particularly good at triggering paranoid schizophrenia. In addition, alcohol and mind-altering chemicals take away the natural protection of an intact aura and make you far more vulnerable to influence by low level entities and other spirits.
  • FIND OUT IF IT COULD BE A MEDICATION SIDE EFFECT. If you are on prescription drugs, ask your doctor whether your experiences could be a side effect from either taking or discontinuing a medication. There are drugs that cannot be stopped cold turkey without very unpleasant side effects. Nor can you trust the internet to always get it right when it comes to medications. Talk to your doctor about whatever he or she has prescribed and whether a different medication might work better for you.
  • CREATE A MENTAL OFF SWITCH. Since the unconscious mind is the gate keeper for psychic info, you can ask it through hypnosis or self-hypnosis to give you a key for closing that door. Some may visualize a concrete bunker in their minds that they can retreat to for quiet time. However, a great many professional psychics train themselves to respond to a signal, such as opening or closing the hands, which tells the unconscious mind to either let info through or shut it down. This is a long-term solution.
For myself, I tune my state of consciousness like a radio, dialing in or out various levels of psychic info. Eventually, you may want to find a teacher to help guide your development so you can do that. However, if you are already overwhelmed by everything that is coming to you, the best thing is a time out from any and all psychic work. Give yourself a breathing space to build up your inner defenses. That way, when you're ready to find the right teacher or accept psychic info again, you'll be better able to handle it.

What is a paradigm and why does it matter?
To some extent, before you ever even begin to spend any time with skeptics (more often accurately called disbelievers), you need to understand the concept of paradigms. There are important precepts to science that are such an integral part of our lives and culture that we are completely unaware of them. But the fact that we are not conscious of their influence, doesn't make them unimportant. In fact, the opposite is true. It is critical to recognize and understand what these precepts are, and how they affect us.

So, what is a paradigm? And why does it matter to parapsychology? In fact, it's crucial.

I often get the comment that psychic phenomena don't exist and anyone who believes in them is delusional. When I ask whether the people making that comment have bothered to read any journals or see what science says, they invariably respond that they don't need to, because no scientific journal of repute would waste its time on something so bogus. At this point, I could start listing journals in fields that include parapsychology, physics, electrical engineering, and medicine, but I realize there's no point. The real problem comes from a difference in opinion about what science is.

How can that be, you ask? Surely science is the same for everyone? It's facts, right?


The problem is one that Thomas Kuhn elegantly described in his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. What he demonstrated, using examples from chemistry and other fields, is that science is as fallible as people are. In fact, it can be extremely limited because it is based on beliefs. These beliefs are such an intrinsic part of our normal, everyday world view that we typically never even realize that we've made any assumptions. But we have. They are part of the underlying beliefs that make up a "paradigm."

A paradigm can be thought of as the way we make sense of the world. An old paradigm -- such as the belief that the sun and stars circled around the earth -- sometimes has to give way to a new paradigm -- such as the belief that the earth rotates around the sun. However, anyone who's read about Galileo understands that the period when two paradigms are fighting for dominance can be rough on the scientists who get caught in the fray.

Thus, a paradigm is infrastructure of beliefs that underlie science and determine how we see the world around us. It acts as a model to help us make sense of things. Moreover, it not only determines what is true, but how truth can be determined. Indeed, it is so fundamental that most people aren't even aware that it exists or could be questioned. It simply is how the world "is."

It is important to recognize that a paradigm is both a help and a hindrance. It helps us make sense what is going on around us, but it also limits our perception of the world and what knowledge we can arrive at. Anthropologists give us an example of this. When the Spanish galleons originally arrived at some of the South Pacific Islands, the natives did not see them. In fact, it was only when the Spanish got into their rowboats to come ashore that the islanders were suddenly able to see them, as if appearing from nowhere. Why? Because their world view did not include the concept of a ship that big, they were literally unable to see it.

There comes a time when scientists start to realize that their paradigm doesn't do a good job of answering enough questions. Granted, it may answer many questions correctly, but not all of them. Like a puzzle, where more and more pieces don't fit, scientists suddenly realize that they may have gotten the frame or border wrong. Then it's time to experiment and try the pieces in different combinations to see what fits best. During these periods, there can be a battle between paradigms, trying to figure out which one does the best job of making sense of the puzzle pieces we have of knowledge. A "paradigm shift" occurs when there is a major change in how we look at the world and is in active conflict with "normal science." Eventually, the new paradigm is accepted or rejected. However, if accepted, it can lead to new insights and understandings that allows science to more farther forward. It then becomes the new "normal science."

What makes these paradigm shifts so bloody is that the paradigm itself determines what is "proof." Scientists from competing paradigms have trouble agreeing on almost anything. It is as if they speak two completely different languages and have no one to translate between them. What is "proof" in one paradigm is "worthless" in another. There can be no agreement. Typically, as Max Planck said, "an important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents ... what does happen is that its opponents gradually die out." Thus, the new paradigm generally "wins" when the scientists who believed in the old one die off and younger scientists see the advantages of the new paradigm in explaining things.

We are now in the middle of a paradigm shift. The classical paradigm, which has been held since Descartes, is based in the underlying assumption that the observer is separate from the observed. In essence, duality. It says that there is a fundamental subject-object (or mind-body) split. This presupposes that there are objective ways to define and measure the fixed external world--which the proponents of this paradigm would say is the only world that matters. The classical paradigm favors experimental research design, which presumes to measure the world in an objective way.

Anyone who has grown up in today's school systems might be justified in being a little confused at this point. We are taught that the double blind controlled experiment is the gold standard research methodology. What happened?


The emergence of quantum theory started a fundamental shift in how we understand the world. Physicists suddenly realized that there is always some indeterminacy in our measurements. This is because the act of measurement itself can define and change that which is being measured. This means that the experimenter is always part of the experiment, and all our "objective" facts are, in fact, potentially flawed. This insight led to the idea of a paradigm based on nonlocality. Somewhat amusingly, people who are unaware of this revolution in physics often become confused at this point, and accuse scientists of going off the deep end, falling for the trap of religion. Not true, although the ancient Hindu and Buddhist literature is in agreement about the oneness of the universe. This is science. Physics, to be specific. And while not all physicists agree, the new paradigm that is emerging is one in which the universe is a single whole, within which every part is intimately connected to every other part. Thus, the so-called objectivity of the classical paradigm is the true illusion, as an "observer effect" is inevitable in any observation. The experimenter is a part of his or her experiment. This new paradigm does not, in itself, "prove" psi exists (which I believe has already been done using meta-analysis of Ganzfeld studies). However, it is quite compatible with the possible existence of psi, and may lead to our better understanding the phenomena.

The conflict between these two paradigms is ongoing. Because these belief systems are far more deeply ingrained and widespread than religion, topics that touch on these fundamentally different world views cause bitter and violent debate, with no room for compromise. The lack of common ground means that the question cannot be solved by discussion. Understanding the role that paradigms play makes it easier for advocates of competing world views to agree to disagree with mutual respect, which the best that one can hope for in these situations.

It is always wise to remember that the new paradigm, if it wins, will eventually be supplanted by another. That's how science evolves. My advice to skeptics is "Get used to it.""

What is the best way to deal with skeptics?
One of the things psychics and (to a lesser extent) parapsychologists have to deal with is harassment by skeptics. This is no laughing matter, and, in the case of psychics, may even affect your ability to perform. Unfortunately, it's a problem that won't be going away any time soon. The page looks at paradigms--which is why rational arguments and scientific proof often get you nowhere with these folks--and offers some thoughts and suggestions for how you might want to respond to them. We'll look first at the issue of paradigms, what they are and why you need to be aware of them.

The best approach for dealing with these individuals is to start by determining whether or not you are dealing with a true skeptic -- in other words, someone who doubts the existence of psi yet remains open to the possibility of it -- or a devout disbeliever of psychic phenomena. Most of the time you'll find they are simply a disbeliever. In these cases, be polite, but don't waste your time on them! You'll NEVER convince or convert them, and no amount of evidence will ever be sufficient. The problem is one of paradigms and competing world-views.

Various approaches for dealing with psi disbelievers include: 1) ignoring them; 2) changing the subject to something other than psi (I recommend diverting them into a discussion on paradigms); 3) politely agreeing to disagree; or 4) walking away. I usually opt for one of the latter three.

If you are dealing with an open-minded skeptic (and believe it or not, this isn't an oxymoron, they do exist), then it is something completely different. In this case, it may be worth your time to sit and talk with these folks. Not only might you be able to correct their misconceptions or lack of knowledge about what experimental parapsychology and quantum physics suggest about psi, but if you are a researcher, you may get valuable tips and ideas for how to design better experiments. It is this form of skeptic that helps, not hinders, the advancement of science (including parapsychology).


"Originally formed to critically and scientifically investigate claims of the paranormal, critics argue that CSICOP is in actuality a pseudo-scientific, fundamentalist, elitist, irresponsible, specialist interest advocacy group whose sole intent is vehemently condemning--not scientifically investigating --any and all claims of the paranormal." (From Psychic Criminology by Hibbard, Worring, and Brennan)

"When pressured to account for psychic phenomena, critics will .... attempt to discredit the investigator, ignore reports by credible laboratories, declare positive experiments hoaxes, credit positive results to chance, pay undue attention to negative results, attack the experimental procedure and statistical analysis, and twist and reinterpret the experience or experimental results, so that it correlates with what is known and accepted .... "The 'debunkers' have thus become the very thing they claim to despise: evangelical 'true believers,' standing on unexamined faith rather than objective analysis." (From Psychic Criminology by Hibbard, Worring, and Brennan, pages 43-44.)

"Regardless of your track record, there's always someone who wants you to prove it to THEM. There are five billion people in the world. Are you going to do this for EVERY one of them? Don't waste your time!" (Lyn Buchanan, controlled remote viewer)

"Well I have to say this, that I know when the psychic connection works best, is because the person has a genuine need, and is not just curious, or skeptical and wanting to be convinced, that sort of thing, you know? But they want something to be able explain away.... So, I find myself not caring one way or the other, don’t bother me, go do it yourself, if you want to convince yourself." (Alan Vaughan, parapsychologist & psychic)

"It is not easy to change a lifelong, strongly held belief, even when there is strong evidence that the belief is wrong, so the publicly proclaimed skeptics are not likely ever to admit that psi per se is genuine ... The core assertion is the tired claim that after one hundred years of research, parapsychology has failed to provide convincing evidence for psi phenomena. This argument follows a certain logic. Skeptics refuse to belief that psi experiments, which they admit are successfully demonstrating something, are in fact demonstrating psi itself. By acknowledging that the results are real and unexplainable on the one hand, but by stubbornly insisting that those results could not possibly be due to psi on the other, then of course they can claim that parapsychology is a failure." (Dean Radin from The Conscious Universe, pages 210-211)

"What the debunkers state doesn’t matter. What someone can do or cannot do is absolutely not proportional in any way to anyone else’s belief or disbelief … Just go back through your history books and you’ll discover that just about everything you take for granted today in your daily lives was absolutely impossible not so many years ago." (Martin Caidin) What I say is this. If someone comes to me and truly wants to understand psi, then I'm happy to answer their questions. But if they're really a disbeliever and all they want to do is argue, then my feeling is don't waste my time. Because I have no interest in that. I'd far rather spend my time aiding people who already know this stuff exists and need help dealing with it.

What is the role of the unconscious mind in psi?
Whether you call it the unconscious or the subconscious mind, it's important to recognize a bit about the basic nature of this part of you. Why? Because not only can understanding it make your life easier, it will also help you to be a better psychic. The unconscious mind is the doorway to psychic information. All psi - whether ESP or MMI - appears to operate through its mediation. And it not only acts as an access point, but as a filter for everything that passes through it. Some psychologists make the mistake of treating the unconscious mind like the "bad guy" part of you, responsible for all you problems. Now, think about it. Do you really believe it's going to want to cooperate with you if you approach it with such a negative attitude? Of course not! Like us, it wants to be respected and appreciated. And like us, it's trying to do the best job it can. However, the unconscious mind can be a bit like a computer with old programming. It can't upgrade its own software to do a better job. That's the job of the conscious mind - its the main programmer (although it takes a lot of its programming in from the family when very young).

The good news is that unconscious is often delighted to switch to easier, more effective techniques as long as it meets two key criteria: the unconscious mind must feel the new way of doing things keeps you safer and more protected, and it must believe it helps you to survive better. However, it's important to understand when talking about safety and survival, that the key issue for the unconscious mind is whether it has a track record of surviving that situation in the past. If, for example, you grew up in an abusive home, you're likely to seek abusive relationships. That may sound crazy, but to the unconscious mind, you survived that abuse when you were young, so clearly you have a track record of surviving it or you wouldn't still be around. Whereas, you don't know whether you could survive a healthy, non-abusive situation because you haven't tried it. There's no track record. The good news is that the unconscious mind is usually willing (with a bit of negotiation) to try something new if it thinks it might make it safer, even without the track record. Let's talk about some basic unconscious traits, some of which are pretty universal and others of which are a bit more individualized.

We've already mentioned a few universal unconscious traits: 1) it likes to be appreciated and treated with respect; 2) it can't change it's programming on its own; and 3) its top priorities are safety and survival. Let's look at some other common characteristics. First and foremost, the unconscious mind is very concrete. It can be like dealing with a brilliant two-year-old child. It takes things literally. I really mean that. You need to be extremely careful with your words because it will take them at their exact meaning - no more, and no less. You'll also find the unconscious mind has a tremendous sense of humor. It loves puns and plays on words. Some of this probably relates to its concrete nature. Why should you care what its sense of humor is? Because the unconscious mind can be very playful. And if you play with it, it will like you... and that means it do things for you that it wouldn't otherwise do. This is important if you want it to help you out by giving you accurate psychic information or letting go of some of your old baggage, which is holding you back in life. Trust me. You want to be on it's good side. Humor will do that. Another thing that it's important to remember about the unconscious mind, is that it remembers everything. And I mean everything! It may not share those memories with the conscious mind (especially if it is trying to protect the conscious mind from trauma or something it considers dangerous) but it stores them nonetheless. That's why those memories, complete with smells, tastes, sight, sound, and touch can be retrieved under hypnosis. Why is this important? For a couple reasons, which are important enough that I'm going to go into some detail here.

If you are one of those people who is forgetful, recognize that the unconscious mind may be doing that on purpose. It's not accidental or "just the way you are." Nope. Untrue. It's deliberate. Your unconscious could make sure you remembered if it wanted you to. So, it's sometimes useful to ask yourself why it might not want you to have remembered whatever it was you forgot. It's amazing how much your memory can improve when you start holding the unconscious mind accountable for what it has caused you to forget. However, be aware that for some people, forgetting is a way of protecting them from painful or traumatic memories. In those cases, the unconscious may be in a default forget-everything mode that won't change until and unless those memories are dealt with and their emotional charge has been defused.

It's critical to understand that the unconscious mind remembers everything, because you MUST ALWAYS KEEP YOUR WORD if you make a promise to it when negotiating a deal. Don't lie to it, because it will never forget that, and may never trust you again. And believe me, you aren't going to get very far making the changes you want for yourself without that trust. So, don't make any promises that you can't - or won't - be able to keep. Be honest and follow through with whatever you agree to. Only then can you trust the unconscious mind to keep its end of the agreement.

Before the unconscious mind will make any big shifts for you, it will want the security of knowing that you understand it. Some of this may be the respect of not pushing it too far or too hard, or of recognizing the importance of a track record of safety and survival. But often - perhaps partly as a mark of respect - there are times that the unconscious mind won't tell you things but wants you to play guessing games with it. One way of looking at it is that it likes you - it's giving you a chance to make it feel understood. This is because if you can correctly guess the answer, that means you understand it. That makes the unconscious mind really happy, which it turns mean it will do things for you, make changes, because you've built up a rapport and demonstrated your trustworthiness. I haven't met an unconscious mind yet that didn't love a good story. Because of this, hypnotists often use stories as learning tools or ways to get the unconscious mind to make a shift. Typically these stories involve the protagonist (which need not be a person) having a problem, meeting a wise person who gives them a solution, and the solution working. Unconscious minds love stories so much that they are sometimes treated as a reward. They REALLY like them.

Although we often think of the unconscious mind as a unitary process, this isn't terribly accurate. Instead, it often seems to consist of multiple different parts, which may have different roles and divergent opinions about things. This can lead to conflicts, sabotage, and the interrupting of changes. The best way to avoid such problems is to consult the unconscious in advance in such a way that everything can get worked out ahead of time, so all parts of the unconscious agree to make a given shift and set aside any sabotaging behaviors.

Finally, perhaps in part because of what I just mentioned above, the unconscious mind is the ultimate multi-tasker. It can quite literally do thousands of things at the same time, and do them well. Also, because it is capable of dealing well with complex, integrated, and sometimes even multi-dimensional tasks, you may want to take advantage of its skills and expertise. It can be a great consultant when you want to figure out a better way of getting things done. Just make sure it agrees on four parameters up front - that whatever it comes up with will be: Beneficial to you and those around you.

Delightful to the unconscious mind.

Unanimously acceptable to the entire unconscious.

Keep you safer, more protected than you have ever been before and help you to survive better.

Does the unconscious mind have its own distinct personality?
Yes. People sometimes treat the unconscious mind as if it were a blank slate. Not so. It has a distinct personality if you take the time to get to know it. Moreover, it may not be surprising to know that its personality may in some ways reflect key aspects of your own personality. Mine, for example, is very stubborn. I also know when I'm getting close to a touchy area because it starts getting very, very picky. And I can recognize and own those traits in myself, although they are displayed a bit differently by the unconscious than they are by me as a whole. Of course, everyone's will be different. Over time, your unconscious mind will reveal various aspects of itself. This can actually not only lead to some personal insights, but also be a lot of fun -- especially if your unconscious mind is a creative one.

Building a relationship with your unconscious is the same as building a relationship with another person or even your guide (although guides cut you a lot more slack). Take the time to get to know the quirks of your unconscious mind and enjoy those quirks. After all, it's very much a part of you. Make friends with it.

A good rule of thumb when dealing with the conscious mind is to be considerate of it, show respect for it, and always thank it when your unconscious mind does something nice for you! It will pay off for you down the road in big dividends.

I spoke about this before, but ideomotor activity it a great way to chat directly with your unconscious mind. The word ideomotor refers to unconscious body movements. These may be as small as a slight muscle twitch or big a big coordinated motion. They happen all the time. Once you master a skill, whether sitting, walking, running, riding a bike, driving a car, or anything else, the actual muscle actions required to do it become unconscious, and you operate on automatic pilot. It can also reveal hidden thoughts and feelings to observant readers of body language and everyday tasks.

How can you communicate with the unconscious mind?
Ideomotor activity can be used to open up a dialog with your unconscious mind, creating a direct line of communication with it. The best way to start is by asking the unconscious to give you ideomotor signals (like moving a finger) for things like "yes" and "no." In essence, you create a shared language. Nor does this language need to be restricted to simple yes/no answers. Depending on how much time and effort you want to put into it, you can create quite an extensive vocabulary. With practice, remote viewers can build an extraordinarily complex shared language with their unconscious minds, complete with grammar and syntax, using ideomotor lines or ideograms that are drawn without conscious input.

Once it gets the knack down, the unconscious mind LOVES to communicate. You'll find it commenting on things all the time, whether you ask it to or not. This can lead to some amusing insights, but also be the start of a higher psychic hit rate. I've noticed, if I say something and the unconscious mind agrees, that it tends to be right. Whereas if I guess at something and the unconscious mind says "no" or "not exactly," that it is almost always correct.

In addition, the unconscious mind isn't limited to communicating with you by ideomotor activity. For many (if not most people) it uses other lines of communication, including dreams, imagery (I often see specific colors or images as comments from my unconscious mind, which I then have to interpret), smells (a great way of evoking feelings, making comments, or letting you know that you have a certain spirit visitor present), body feelings (like the classic "bad feeling" in your gut). Indeed, nothing limits the unconscious mind from using any of your senses - sight, sound, touch, taste, or smell - as a line of communication.

Another important point to recognize, is that the unconscious mind may not keep the same form of communication all the time. Instead - especially at first - it may change modes just to keep you on your toes and make sure you're paying attention to it. I recommend being flexible and remaining alert to all avenues of communication. Eventually, the unconscious mind will settle on the one it likes best, and you can build a terrific line of two-way communication, that not only makes you a better psychic, but have a happier and healthier life.

What kind of unconscious baggage needs to be dealt with?
Although working on our own unconscious stuff is important for anyone, it is critical for a psychic. So, let me go into a bit more detail by what I mean by "psychological baggage." Although this can be as simple as the emotional charge on a memory (like a car accident or an embarrassing moment), which is easy enough to deal with, it more often involves one or more of the following levels:

HABITS - this is usually the easiest to shift. You can often simply ask the unconscious mind to let go of it.

SECONDARY GAINS - much as we often hate to admit it, we often get a number of needs met by what the conscious mind wants to get rid of. For example, if we have back pain it may get us out of some kind of work or get us sympathy from others. Typically, this can be handled by negotiating a better way of getting our needs met. You just have to make sure that all of the above four parameters are considered before choosing what you are going to replace it with. Also, it's generally a good idea to let the unconscious mind find three new ways to get your needs met, so it can have some flexibility. Also, if you make a deal with your unconscious mind, ALWAYS keep it. So, don't promise something you aren't willing to follow through with. Otherwise, not only will it not keep its end of the bargain, but it won't believe you in future negotiations.

BELIEFS - Beliefs are hard to shift. Often psychological baggage may have one or more beliefs, which can be intertwined. There are a variety of ways to work on this level, but typically you go back to before you began believing that belief, and in a safe way (keeping the earlier you surrounded by light, the essence of love, safety and protection, and put all the knowledge you have both consciously and unconsciously into that earlier you) change the situation so in essence you need to replace the old belief with a new one that supports your new way of being. Sometimes this can also involve giving the earlier you new resources, someone or something for moral support, and even transforming other people or the situation itself in imagination.

PATTERNS - Patterns are complex systems of belief, many of which may extend back in time through your family. This is the hardest level to shift -- but if you do, it may not only help you but also all of the others in your family who struggle with the same patterns. If you believe in past lives (which I do), then it is possible that some patterns and beliefs may extend to past lives. In these cases, you may need to consider working in such a way that you do not limit yourself to this lifetime.

Always - and I mean ALWAYS - block homeostatic pull (our tendency to be pulled back into our old way of being by other people, situational or emotional triggers, and sabotaging parts of the unconscious mind). I have a mantra that I say before I finish any hypnosis session where work has been accomplished: "If any person, place, or thing tries to pull me back into the old way of being, block them in kind, gentle, loving, but strong ways that are beneficial to me and those around me, delightful to the conscious mind, unanimously acceptable to the entire unconscious, and keep me safer, more protected, than I've ever been before."

Lastly, there is a saying hypnotists use: Resistance is a gift. This is because that resistance is the unconscious mind telling you that (assuming you're not simply beyond the growing edge of what's possible for you at this point in your life) you're probably working right where you need to be. The harder it is to make a change, the greater the effect will be in that ripples through your life when you finally succeed at it. That way, instead of getting frustrated when you're struggling to make a change, you can smile to yourself and say "I'm right where I need to be."

We all have psychological baggage. We spend years accumulating it even though a surprising amount of our beliefs are formed by age of two or three. It takes time, practice, and help to deal with these issues. Often I'm reminded of an onion, where you peel one layer only to realize another one lies underneath it. I strongly recommend you to take advantage of the skilled help of a licensed professional - whether a psychologist, psychiatrist, MFT, or hypnotherapist - before you start down this path. You'd be amazed what a difference it can make, especially as we are often blind to things that are obvious to a more dispassionate eye and may have techniques that greatly smooth the process. The work may be long and difficult, but the payoff is well worth it. After all, when you die as we all must, psychological baggage is the one thing we take with us. I advise traveling light.

How does intuition differ from ESP?
Most people who talk about using their intuition are using ALL of the information that comes to them from their unconscious mind. This not only includes ESP, but also normal channels of information, such as subtle cues the unconscious mind has gleaned from body language or intonation and forgotten sources of data (known as cryptomnesia). So, it is best to think of intuition as involving a much broader range of input that may or may not include psychic channels.

What is the advantage of doing MMI in a group?
MMI doesn't have to be done solo. In fact, there are advantages to doing it with others, which in part explain some of the long popularity of séances, table-tipping parties, and fire-walking events. A number of factors can make it easier to do MMI in a group, including distraction, combined talent, and the factors described by Kenneth Batcheldor in his sitter-group work: belief, ownership resistance, and witness inhibition.

What is a PK party?
Spoon bending parties were started in California in the 1960s by Jack Houck, a mechanical and aerospace engineer. He was interested in showing people that everyone has the ability to perform mind-matter interaction by letting them bend silverware into curlicues and a variety of other shapes that are beyond what is capable by physical force alone. Indeed some metal strips which were sealed inside glass bottles at the party were seen to bend not only during the party, but for several days afterward as well. Houck thinks the same energy can be used for healing purposes, and is available to us all. PK parties have about a 85% first time success rate, with the key being not to get overly analytical. His three step program is:
  • FIRST: Make a mental connection with the target (or spoon)
  • SECOND: Command your intention (he recommends shouting "Bend")
  • THIRD: Let go mentally (distract yourself or think of something else for a moment)
Mr. Houck also recommends "asking" your target item if it is willing to bend for you before you start, using a pendulum. This is a clever way of accessing the unconscious mind, and checking whether it is willing to bend the item, or not. The short, positive, present tense command used ("Bend") is also a hypnotic technique which seems to work well with the unconscious mind. Many experimenters have commented on the fact that the unconscious mind seems to be what really controls or mediates our access to psi abilities, so using techniques designed to enlist its cooperation seem very smart. The party atmosphere is very helpful in making people feel comfortable doing mind-matter interaction.

Are there limits to anomalous healing?
There are a number of limited to psychic healing. I am unaware of anyone who can heal a broken tooth. In addition, MMI is difficult, if not impossible for even the most gifted healers to perform on someone they love who is seriously ill. As best I can tell, it is a case of them being too invested in the outcome, which blocks their success. Even if you are working with a stranger, it will only temporarily improve chronic illness. That makes healing a treadmill of having to keep doing it over and over or lose ground.

Where psychic healing seems to work best with with acute problems--whether a broken bone, short illness, or cut. Once healed, those folks can stay that way. However, there can be two types of toll it takes on the healer. One is that they may exhaust themselves to the point they temporarily lose their psychic abilities (ESP as well as MMI). The other is a risk of illness transfer from the healer to the patient or from the patient to the healer. Because of this, anomalous healing should only be done with care, with proper shielding and using direct energy transfer from the universe to the healee without making the healer part of the circuit.

Can MMI be taught?
This is an odd distinction that we don't often make in our culture. The reason is that (1) MMI is controlled by unconscious needs (the conscious mind doesn't get a vote here) and (2) the state of consciousness that works best may not be the same for everyone I offer tips for doing MMI in my old Do's and Don'ts flyer. However, there is always a certain amount of figuring things out for yourself. However, before you do so, make sure you are clear as to your own motivations. This opens a door that cannot be easily shut again. A lot of unconscious stuff will come up. Whether you pursue MMI or ESP development, I highly recommend working with a licensed, professional therapist to deal with whatever arises.