Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Real Encounters With the Paranormal?

Given that Halloween is upon us, and this is the time for spooky unnatural events to occur, I thought I would share with you a few related personal stories.

I grew up hearing many bizarre stories from my mother concerning her youth. She used to tell me stories about seeing lights bouncing around in the sky and a fireball passing close overhead, so close that her father threw his hat at it. She was not afraid of these things since she had never heard anyone talking about UFOs and flying saucers from other planets, and she saw them often enough to where she just accepted them as normal.

The most intriguing and unbelievable story she told me was of the time she got up in the middle of the night to use the restroom (done outdoors in those days). When she stepped onto the front porch she noticed a multi-floored building across the road with the windows all lit up. This may not sound all that strange except for the fact that my mother lived in the country where there was no electricity, and only trees were across the road.

My mother also told me that she would occasionally hear a disembodied voice telling her something was going to happen, and it would always happen. It was like she had a personal invisible prophet speaking to her from time to time. The first time this happened she was fairly young. She heard the voice say that the barn was on fire. Then, just a minute or so later, a brother came running to the house saying that the barn was on fire. When I was in elementary school, my best friend’s mother came to our house. As my mother was talking to her, the voice told her that my friend’s mother and father were going to get a divorce. A couple of years later this came to pass.

Back in the late 1970’s, soon after my grandmother died, several of my relatives were at my grandfather’s house. An uncle was sitting in a chair directly opposite a wall where a whatnot hung. On a shelf of the whatnot was a small porcelain cup that had belonged to my grandmother. Suddenly my uncle saw the cup slide off the shelf and begin floating in the air toward him. Flabbergasted, all he could do was stare. When the cup got within a few feet of him, it quit moving towards him and the handle turned upward as if someone was holding it. Slowly it descended straight to the floor whereupon the cup appeared to have been released and then rolled over until the handle contacted the floor. He later described it to me as something straight from the TV show “Bewitched.” A second uncle, who was standing nearby but facing the opposite direction, caught a glimpse of the cup as it hit the floor. Thinking a young niece was responsible, he called out for her to stop throwing things. She was not even in the room at the time. A cousin was in the dining room at the time and reported that he also caught a glimpse, through a doorway, of the cup as it was moving though the air. When the second uncle asked the first how the cup got on the floor, the latter was speechless. After asking a few more times, he was finally able to answer that it had just floated over there. Several of the family members got together and tried to determine what had caused the cup to come off the shelf, cross the room, and settle on the floor. During the course of their investigation, they set the cup back on the shelf and pushed it off my hand. The cup sailed quickly through the air and hit the floor with such force as to break it into many pieces. A third uncle, when later told about this incident, said that he would give a hundred dollars to have seen that cup floating through the air. The uncle that saw the whole event responded that he would give a hundred dollars to not have seen it.

What do you think of these stories? Do you believe they happened just as I told them? You are probably expecting me to now tell you that I just made them up for this Halloween season. If so, then you would be wrong. I did not make these stories up. They were told to me by my relatives. And given that the relatives reporting these stories were trustworthy, I have to believe there is something to them. I just don’t know what. What was the point of the lights in the air and the building across the road my mother saw? I don’t know and neither did she. What was the point of the cup floating through the air? Some of my relatives believe that the cup was moved by my recently deceased grandmother, who owned the cup. I don’t know what to make of it. Given that, until the cup incident, my uncle was a diehard skeptic about supposed supernatural occurrences reported by others gives his story even more credence.

I have personally only had a couple of weird experiences that seemed paranormal in nature. Many years ago I went with a female coworker to a new restaurant in town for lunch. It was fixed up with a lot of decorations, TVs on the walls, and a side room with arcade games. While waiting for our food, I began watching an old B&W movie that had just started. The title of the movie was a woman’s name that I cannot remember, so let’s just say it was Amelia. Well, at the point that Amelia makes her first appearance in the movie, she is asked who she is. She responds, “Amelia.” Well, just at the time she said her name, an employee of the restaurant came over the intercom to call out the name of the customer whose order was ready to pick up. You guessed it, the name was Amelia. Kind of bizarre, don’t you think. Anyway, after my friend and I finished eating, we were just sitting there relaxing when I heard a deep male voice behind me say, “Better get back to work.” I quickly turned and looked all around, but there was no one anywhere near me. Just when I thought I might be hearing things, my coworker said, “Yeah, you’re right.” I asked her who she was talking to. She said, “Didn’t you just say we needed to get back to work?” I responded that I had not, but I had heard someone else saying it. To this day I still don’t know whose voice that was or where it came from. Upon telling my mother, she of course believed it was a supernatural warning that we really needed to get back to work.

On March 30, 1981, as I was driving home from work, I heard a report on the radio that President Ronald Reagan, Press Secretary James Brady, and others had been attacked and shot by a crazed gunman. The report went on to say that James Brady, as a result of a gunshot wound to his head, was dead. Being a man of faith at that time, I began praying that Brady would somehow not be dead. I knew this was a rather brazen prayer given that I was in fact praying for nothing less than a resurrection. Later I heard reports that Brady was in fact not dead. The earlier reports had been incorrect. Even so, the report of Brady still being alive gave me pause.

To be honest, I am skeptical of all supernatural or paranormal stories, even MINE. It seems that when such claims are put to the test scientifically, natural explanations are always forthcoming. One person who has been diligent about exposing people with supposed psychic, paranormal, or supernatural abilities is magician James Randi (aka The Amazing Randi, must see this video). For many years now he has had a challenge in which if a person can demonstrate his powers under controlled conditions he will receive a substantial cash prize. Everyone who has taken this challenge has failed. Randi documents many exposés in Flim-Flam!: Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions as well as other books.

Even so, may you have a HAPPY and SPOOKY HALLOWEEN.

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