"I believe that if we are to make any real progress in psychic investigation, we must do it with scientific apparatus and in a scientific manner, just as we do in medicine, electricity, chemistry, and other fields."

- Thomas Edison (The Scientific American, October 1920)

I wanted to begin this first installment of Haunted Holidaze with a quote from one of the greatest scientific minds mankind has ever known in order to emphasize the position that I most adhere to when it comes to matters involving the supernatural.  Since I spent the first 39 years of my life filled with a great deal of skepticism (which I now believe was more of an unbending cynicism) regarding stories dealing with life after death and spiritual encounters, I was never receptive to people’s accounts of their encounters with occurrences that fell outside of the realm of my personal understanding or experience.  What I later learned about myself, however, was that the intense interest that developed within me while studying the social and physical sciences in college, set me on a path of pessimism and distrust that jaded me to such a degree that I was incapable of ever entertaining any findings that did not fit neatly within the paradigms I had set in stone in my mind.  As a young adult in my mid-twenties and well into my thirties, I failed to realize that this cognitive impliability prevented me from practicing the scientific method in the manner in which it was intended.  In order for the scientific method to be employed properly, the observer must maintain a mind that is open to outcomes that may not fit with his or her current understanding of the topic being examined, along with a healthy skepticism designed to protect against being led astray by unsubstantiated findings.  However, for one reason or another in the spring of 2010 my mind was forced open by an event that took place in a location that was as controlled an environment as can be expected outside of a laboratory setting.

For a couple of years I had been taking guitar lessons and had ignored my instructor’s advice to record my practice sessions so that I could play them back and determine where I was making my mistakes.  At the time I suppose I was a little self-conscious about hearing myself on a recording, but after a while I became a little more open to the idea as the instructor continued to make the request.  One day at practice the instructor added that it might be beneficial to make a recording if a melody popped into my head that I would like to learn the chords for.  Shortly thereafter, I found myself humming a tune while I was taking a shower before work at around 6:00 AM.  After I got out of the shower and woke up my wife I decided I would grab my cell phone and try to record the tune that I had in my head.  I waited for my wife to get into the shower and then hit the record button.  I began humming the simple melody (probably a tune inspired by our recent trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras), made it through one time, took a breath to hum it a second time and, much to my complete astonishment, I heard the giggle of a little girl a few feet in front of me while I sat on the couch in the living room leaning into the cell phone that was resting on the coffee table.  I was shocked but tried to shake it off and continue humming the tune a second time.  However, I wasn’t able to persist very long until I had to stop the recording and collect myself.  Still not wanting to believe what I had just heard very loudly right in front of my face, I walked around the room to verify that all of the windows were closed, the TV was off, no one was walking outside and that my wife was still in the shower with the bathroom door fully closed.  After confirming all of these things and checking to make sure there weren’t any other applications open on my cell phone, I finally mustered up the nerve to play back the recording fully expecting not to hear anything other than my feeble attempt to recreate the melody I was humming in the shower earlier.  To my complete amazement however, I heard as clear as day the sound of a little girl giggling just as I took a breath between the humming of the two melodies.  To say the least I was stunned and played it for my wife the second she got out of the shower.  Having experienced paranormal activity in the past herself, my wife had very little difficulty believing that I had just recorded the voice of a spirit.  However, I was not so easily convinced so I brought my cell phone to work to play it for my co-workers and received mixed reactions.  Those who believed in ghosts previously were convinced by the recording and those who did not believe in ghosts prior to hearing the recording attempted to come up with any alternative explanation they could possibly muster in order to explain away the occurrence (a technic that I was very familiar with since I had spent the previous 39 years of my life doing the very same thing when confronted with other people’s experiences with paranormal events).  However, for the first time in my life I realized that the alternatives provided gave no reasonable explanation to what I had documented, and in fact most seemed more improbable than the possibility that it might be feasible, with an extremely sensitive device, to record a residual auditory signal contained within the environment by some means not yet understood by science.  But at this point I would once again yield to Thomas Edison to better explain my feelings about mankind’s ability to comprehend occurrences that take place outside the human level of understanding and the potential for technology to bridge the gap between this world and the next:

"I don't claim that our personalities pass on to another existence or sphere, I don't claim anything because I don't know anything about the subject. For that matter, no human being knows. But I do claim that it is possible to construct an apparatus which will be so delicate that if there are personalities in another existence or sphere who wish to get in touch with us in this existence or sphere, the apparatus will at least give them a better opportunity to express themselves than the tilting tables and raps and ouija boards and mediums and the other crude methods now purported to be the only means of communication."

- Thomas Edison (The Scientific American, October 1920)

I share Edison’s skepticism regarding many of the methods that are used to study psychic phenomena including the ones he lists in his quote above.  However, it also seems fairly evident to me that, even with the advancements that have been made over the past century in the technology associated with the recording of sound waves and moving images (two of Thomas Edison’s greatest contributions to mankind along with the invention of electric light), paranormal research will continue to be discredited by the scientific community due to the paranormal researcher’s inability to adequately control & replicate the documented phenomena.  However, the extensive amount of auditory and visual evidence that exists out there today captured with state of the art digital recorders, full spectrum video & still cameras and electromagnetic field measuring devices (although much of it is fabricated or misinterpreted) cannot be ignored and must be examined with an open mind even if this particular field of research is resistant to control & replication, similar to the study of living human beings (i.e. Psychology).

In future installments of Haunted Holidaze I will be describing my experiences with the paranormal while investigating locations that are purported to be haunted.  In some instances the data collected proved to be inconclusive.  However, in many locations the documented findings could not be debunked regardless of how hard I tried to find other plausible explanations for the visual and/or auditory anomalies.  It is really amazing for me to look back at the person I was just a few years ago and realize how much one disembodied giggle can change a person’s outlook on life, the afterlife and ignite a fire of curiosity that is impossible to extinguish.  In closing I would like to leave you with one more quote by Thomas Edison that clearly conveys his excitement and belief in the ability to someday develop a means to communicate with that which lies beyond the veil:

"I do hope that our personality survives. If it does, then my apparatus ought to be of some use. That is why I am now at work on the most sensitive apparatus I have ever undertaken to build, and I await the results with the keenest interest."

- Thomas Edison (The Scientific American, October 1920)