Archive for the Investigations Category

Ghosts of the White Eagle Saloon

Posted in Commentary, History, Investigations, Locations with tags , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2016 by S. P.
White Eagle

White Eagle Saloon (Photo: McMenamins)

Located in one of the oldest sections of Portland, Oregon, close to the docks and railyards, the neighborhood around the White Eagle Saloon has held a reputation as rather “rough and ready” for most of its history. As the decades progressed, many of the older buildings around the White Eagle found themselves demolished and the area becoming increasingly industrial. However, in keeping with its tough reputation, the White Eagle soldiered on, continually operating as a bar, but also at times alternately as a brothel, cheap hotel, and rooming house. The building itself is two-story brick, about thirty feet wide, seventy feet long, and forty feet tall. The White Eagle is currently a “hip” corporate-owned saloon hosting live music on the main floor and a small historic hotel on the second floor. Along with continuing to host spirits of the alcohol kind, the White Eagle also, apparently, continues to play host to a number of spirits from beyond the grave.

Ghostly manifestations include disembodied voices and mysterious apparitions. Previous owners and employees reported hearing a woman crying on the second floor, only to find it completely deserted upon investigation. In connection with this voice, there are also reports of a vaguely human, teardrop-like form appearing in one of the second floor windows. Additionally, witnesses have reported hearing voices and people walking around in the main floor bar area while working alone in the basement after closing. One unusual report involves a toilet in the men’s room. Witnesses claim to hear in the quiet after closing footsteps leading to the men’s room, the men’s room door open and close, and then the toilet flushing. The only truly distressing report occurred several years ago when a waitress claimed to have been pushed from behind by invisible handles while going down the stairs to the basement. A bartender and doorman who rushed to assist her claim a mop bucket at the top of the stairs came flying towards them. Not surprisingly, the waitress reportedly quit her employment the following day.

The White Eagle certainly has a reputation as a tough and shady joint. The first bar at the location, B. Soboleski and Company Saloon, open in 1905 in a 1880s wood frame building. The present brick building opened in 1914 with a change in ownership and name to the Hryszko Brothers Saloon. During its heyday, the area teemed with saloons filled with dockworkers, rail workers, sailors, and prostitutes. The neighborhood itself served as a melting pot of Chinese, Russians, Germans, Slavs, and Poles. Many saloons in the area, including the Hryszko Brothers Saloon, were rumored to have tunnels leading directly to the wharfs used to shanghai sailors. Reputedly, prostitutes lured unwary drunks to the basements of the establishments with a promise of fun, where waiting thugs rendered the man unconscious, robbed him, and then used the tunnels to dump him on the streets (if he was lucky) or sell him to sea captains in need of crew (if he was especially unlucky). According to legend, the “shanghai tunnel” at the White Eagle was filled-in during the 1910s. However, the Hryszko brothers’ establishment held a reputation for gambling and prostitution. Even after Oregon Prohibition in 1917 forced a name change to the Hryszko Brothers Soft Drink Emporium, old-timers claimed illegal activity and alcohol continued to flow freely.

In 1938, another name change brought the Hryszko Brothers Restaurant and Beer Parlor and an improved reputation. During World War II the bar became known as the Blue Eagle Cafe and business boomed with workers from the nearby shipbuilding yards. A further change in 1941 ushered in the current name: the White Eagle Cafe and Saloon – reportedly a nod to the white eagle on an early Polish flag. Never considered a great neighborhood, the area around the White Eagle slipped into economic decline during the 1960s, with the White Eagle changing hands from the Hryszkos family to Tony Ferrone and becoming known as a rowdy “biker bar.” Things changed in 1978 when a tool and die maker named Chuck Hughes fulfilled his dream of owning a bar by purchasing and “cleaning up” the White Eagle. He continued to run the White Eagle for many years until it finally passed into current ownership by the McMenamin’s company in 1998.

There are certainly spirits of one kind or another still holding court at the White Eagle. Whether only of the liquid kind or also of an otherworldly nature is left to the decision (and imagination) of the reader…

[©2016 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

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Plato on Ghosts

Posted in Commentary, History, Investigations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2014 by S. P.
Plato (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Plato (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

With the spirit realm we are dealing with the completely immaterial. This is the realm of the pure intellect. The rational beings which inhabit this realm include God, angelic beings (angels and demons), and human souls separated from their physical body. These beings have absolutely no material element whatsoever; no parts whatsoever. They are not “energy” since energy is a material phenomenon – in many cases, such as with electromagnetic radiation, we cannot see the energy with our bare eyes, yet it nevertheless remains a thing of the physical realm. Thus, beings of pure spirit cannot be called “energy;” however they do have existence and we are able to study and learn about this existence. While the natural sciences are, by definition, mute on nonmaterial things, we do have two sciences which directly study the immaterial: theology and philosophy. Theology used to be known as the “queen of the sciences” and Aristotle tells us that philosophy, particularly metaphysics (the study of being as such) and epistemology (the study of how we know what we claim to know), establishes the foundation from which all the natural sciences operate. Therefore, these are the sciences to which we should turn in order to learn more about the realm of the immaterial and what it means for an immaterial being to exist.

Perhaps it comes as a surprise to some, but the great ancient philosophers were not silent on the subject of “ghosts.” For example, in his dialogue of Socrates called the Phaedo, Plato specifically mentions how “ghosts” come to exist. Plato held to an idealist epistemology which viewed the world we inhabit as a “reflection” of the actual and unchanging world of “ideals.” Consequently, while holding to belief in the existence of an immaterial and immortal soul, Plato saw the physical body as merely the “container” or indeed the “tomb” of the soul. Death of the physical body “releases” this immaterial soul.

Having been “freed” from the body, the soul’s progress then depends on its connection to the physical world. The soul of a person who did not overly connect himself to the physical world is essentially “freed” of the physical world: “If [the soul] is pure when it leaves the body and drags nothing bodily with it, as it had no willing association with the body in life, but avoided it…A soul in this state makes its way to the invisible, which like itself, the divine and immortal and wise, and arriving there it can be happy, having rid itself of confusion, ignorance, fear, violent desires, and the other human ills and, as is said of the initiates, truly spend the rest of time with the gods.”[1]

What about the soul of the person who did not work in life to “detach” himself from the physical world? “But I think that if the soul is polluted and impure when it leaves the body, having always been associated with it and served it, bewitched by physical desires and pleasures to the point at which nothing seems to exist for it but the physical, which one can touch and see or eat and drink or make use of for sexual enjoyment…We must believe, my friend, that this bodily element is heavy, ponderous, earthly, and visible. Through it, such a soul has become heavy and is dragged back to the visible region in fear of the unseen and of Hades. It wanders, we are told, around graves and monuments, where shadowy phantoms, images that such souls produce, have been seen, souls that have not been freed and purified but share in the visible, and are therefore seen.”[2]

Interestingly, Plato proposes precisely what many who’ve never heard of him report: “ghostly” activity often seems associated with those who held a strong connection with the physical world in life. A connection indeed appears to exist between one’s attachment to the physical world in life and the likelihood of that person being associated with a “ghostly” presence after death. It logically follows that the more a person was connected to the physical world, the more difficult it would be for that person’s soul to “let go” of the physical world following death of the physical body. Certainly, this doesn’t explain every type of “haunting,” however it does seem to explain a certain type often encountered. At the same time, we don’t want to lose sight of the bigger picture of the Phaedo, which actually involves Plato making a very strong case, based on multiple arguments, for the continued existence of the immaterial and immortal soul following death of the physical body. This is merely one example of how the study of philosophy and theology brings us to an understanding of what the great thinkers of the past believed regarding what we now call “ghosts.” The more deeply we understand precisely what it is that we’re seeking to investigate, the more likely we are to actually understand the results of our investigations.

1. Plato, “Phaedo,” Introductory Readings in Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy, C.D.C. Reeve and Patrick Lee Miller, eds. (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co., 2006), 80e-81a, p. 119-120.

2. Ibid., 81b-d, p. 120.

[©2014 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

Religion and the Paranormal

Posted in Commentary, Investigations, Religion with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2013 by S. P.
Aristotle (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Aristotle (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Some have asked whether religion and the study of the paranormal are necessarily connected. This seems an important philosophical question worth considering. As with all philosophical inquiry, it’s critical that we clearly define our terms before proceeding in order to ensure we’re all using these terms in the same sense.

In this case, it seems we should distinguish between “religion” and “theology.” The study of religion is a human-centered anthropological pursuit which seeks to understand a group’s or individual’s beliefs and acts of worship which arise from those particular beliefs. In this sense, “religion” is nearly synonymous with “worldview.” This is why even those who claim to be atheist, agnostic, or “spiritual without religion” all in fact actually have a religion since “religion” describes a person’s particular belief system and their response to that belief system (i.e. worship).

On the other hand, theology proper shares a connection with metaphysics. Despite certain New Age claims, metaphysics has is not some esoteric New Ager term. Instead, it is a well-established branch of philosophy which takes its name from the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle’s Metaphysics, a work so named by a later compiler since the compiler placed it following Aristotle’s Physics. Aristotle’s Physics looks at what today we’d term the “natural sciences.” Metaphysics means “after physics.” It is “after physics” both in the sense of following the work Physics and in the sense of studying that which goes beyond the natural sciences or beyond physics. The study of physics is the study of material bodies. After explaining the workings and interactions of these material bodies, Aristotle asked the next logical question: how and why do these material bodies have existence and what does that mean? These answers are found in metaphysics. The subject of metaphysics is being as being; it seeks to understand precisely what it means for a thing to have existence.

Since things have existence by causes, metaphysics also involves a study of causes as such, the most important of which is First Cause or the divine. “Theology” involves study of this First Cause or what even Aristotle termed “God.” So in theology, we’re not looking at the beliefs and practices of human beings, but instead are looking at what we can know about this Being God – theology is God-centered. Certainly different religions offer different theologies, but all theology is focused on what we can know about the Primary Cause of Being.

With this in mind, it would appear that yes indeed, the study of the paranormal involves both “religion” and “theology.” Religion describes worldview, and everyone has one whether acknowledge or unacknowledged, whether examined or unexamined. Our worldview impacts how we look at things; it is the “filter” through which we see the world – and we can have correct worldviews or false worldviews depending on if it corresponds to objective reality or not. That’s why it’s very important to examine one’s own worldview and not simply unquestioningly accept that of postmodern, post-Christian secular society. Exactly as Socrates put it, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Now theology likewise is clearly involved with the study of the paranormal. We claim to seek knowledge about certain kinds of beings popularly termed “ghosts.” The way in which these beings can have being and the nature of that being goes to the realm of metaphysics. Yet, being must have cause and there cannot be an infinite series of causes within a set, but instead must be a First Cause external to that set – in other words, there must be God. And if there is God, then it is God who gives the beings we claim to investigate their being, so it would seem part of our study must necessarily include coming to some understanding of this First Cause or God.

Again, these are important philosophical questions and show why paranormal investigation involves far more than walking around in the dark with a box that goes “beep” or taking photographs of “orbs” composted of dust and insects. Despite popular postmodern claims to the contrary, objective reality and objective truth exist – and they exist completely independently of our mere “belief” in them or not. Our job is to discover the truth of the reality around us; not to delude ourselves into believing we can “create” our own reality independent of objective reality. Descartes had it completely backwards; it’s not “I think therefore I am,” but “I am, therefore I think.” That’s why this notion that every “theory” has equal validity is utter rubbish!

Socrates was absolutely correct that we do ourselves a great disservice when we lead unexamined lives. No matter how solidly built the house, if it rests on a foundation of quick sand, it will fall. This is why worldview is so critical – it is truly our foundation. A mistake here affects everything else: an incorrect worldview leads to an incorrect metaphysics which leads to an incorrect theology. As St. Thomas Aquinas says in On Being and Essence, “A small error in the beginning grows enormous at the end.” So, in the end, there does seem to be a close connection between religion, theology, and study of the paranormal.

2013 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

PIA Conference Presentation – On the Nature of Ghosts

Posted in Commentary, Events, History, Investigations, News, Poltergeists, Religion with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2011 by S. P.

White Noise Paranormal Network

Thanks to White Noise Paranormal Network, you can click on the link below to view my presentation, On the Nature of Ghosts, from the 2011 PIA Conference:

http://justin.tv/whitenoise02/b/291569213

You can also access videos of the other presentations through this link:

http://www.ghostshow.net/pia/

Degrees Now Accredited, but Phony as Ever

Posted in Commentary, Investigations with tags , , , , , , , on July 26, 2011 by S. P.

Step Right Up - Get Your "Degree" (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

As if fake “certifications” in a field for which no certification exists wasn’t worse enough, as if fake “degrees” from fake schools weren’t enough, we now have “accredited” “degrees” waiting to separate fools from their money. I’ve shared my thoughts on “certifications” and “degrees” in paranormal studies in a previous post. I continue to stand behind those comments. There is no such thing as a “certification” in a field for which no objective standards exist. People can certainly receive training in methodology or learn about various theories, but none of this in no way can or should be construed as “certification” or a higher educational “degree.”

However, as if this weren’t enough, I’ve recently ran across “organizations” (which generally consist of one person in his or her home office with a computer and printer – although many are now skipping even the printer and going completely “paperless”) which now proffer their “degrees” in paranormal studies, up to and including doctoral “degrees,” as “accredited.” The only slight problem is that the “accreditation” agency is merely another front organization ran by the same person. In other words, the provider of the “degree” is providing the “accreditation” for the degree.

As with “certification,” this is a complete fraud since, just like real certification, real accreditation involves a third party verifying the academic fitness of an institution’s education offerings. At least one “school” in particular adds ever further fuel to the fraud by claiming that it’s perfectly fine for its own “accreditation” agency to accredit its “degrees” since the “degrees” and “non-secular.” They imply that only “secular” academic programs receive accreditation from third party accreditation agencies. This is a complete lie. Even theological seminaries which clearly offer “non-secular” degrees are accredited by third-party accreditation programs.

As someone who holds a real bachelor’s degree, a real master’s degree, and is working on a second master’s degree, these fake diploma mills really rub me the wrong way. There is a serious amount of work involved in earning a real higher education degree – even honest distance learning programs are accredited by third party agencies – and they receive that accreditation because those programs are found by a third party to be academically sound and rigorous. They are not some guy in his home office cranking out “diplomas.”

Again, as I said in my earlier post, I believe in the right of people to spend their hard-earned money as they chose. However, don’t buy yourself one of these fake “degrees” and they attempt to pass yourself off as the holder of an actual advanced academic degree. And for those of you running these fake diploma and certification mills: shame on you! You leave yourself just enough “outs” in order to be legal, but you are clearly preying on the uninformed, leading them into thinking they are receiving something they are not. What goes around, comes around – all I can say is be careful – being greedy in the material world does not bode well for one’s eternal afterlife in the spiritual world. You might just find yourself as one of those tormented spirits you “certify” people to “hunt.”

Pleasant dreams…

2011 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

What is Help?

Posted in Commentary, Investigations, Religion with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2011 by S. P.

At the United Paranormal International website (unitedparanormalinternational.ning.com), a member recently posed an excellent question: most paranormal groups claim to offer clients “help,” but what really is this “help?” The question goes to the heart of paranormal research and is one I’ve been contemplating for some time. What “help” can paranormal groups really offer to clients? I’m sure many will not like my answer: not much.

Groups’ claims of assistance, while generally well-intended, often go far beyond factual reality. Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying paranormal groups are pointless. Instead, I think we need to be clear on our limitations. We need to recognize what we truly can and cannot accomplish. I believe the only legitimate “help” falls into the categories of so-called “debunking” and support.

I personally dislike the term “debunking” since it seems to have a negative connotation. Instead I prefer the wordier (but I believe more accurate) “seeking natural explanations for suspected ‘paranormal’ activity.” I think this is one of the most important “helps” a group can provide clients. A legitimate paranormal group should be well-versed in indentifying “normal” things which can mimic the “paranormal,” for example high EMF, faulty plumbing, poor or aging construction and so forth. An important function of a legitimate group involves educating a client on these types of things which at first glance appear “mysterious,” but actually have perfectly natural causes.

The other area of “help” involves support. It’s in this area of “support” where many groups over-sell their ability to “help.” We are dealing with the unknown. The very best we can accomplish is verifying a reported activity has no apparent explanation. However, simply because we don’t find an immediate explanation, doesn’t mean it’s automatically “paranormal.” The best we can do is verify for the client that something without an apparent “natural” explanation is happening. We can reassure the client that he or she isn’t imagining the activity. I believe this is a great service in itself since many times people feel better simply knowing it’s not “all in their head.”

We cannot prove the existence of the paranormal. It bothers me when a certain television program constantly tells people their site is “haunted” (the same show took a much more realistic and cautious approach in its early seasons by claiming only that “unexplained” activity was present). We can document anomalies which point to the possibility of something unexplained happening, however, as mortals, we cannot “prove” existence of the spirit world.

Similarly, we cannot legitimately claim to “cleanse” locations. First, any sort of “cleansing” is a belief-system based activity and not fact. As a belief-system based activity, its success or failure has much more to do with the belief-system of the affected person than with the belief-system of any particular group. Second, if we assume entities in need of “cleansing” are spiritual beings, as mortals in the material world, we are sadly deluding ourselves if we believe we have any sort of power over these entities.

One area of support I rarely see mentioned involves referring people to professional medical assistance. There are numerous medical and psychological conditions which can mimic the paranormal. The Catholic Church refuses to even consider exorcism until a person undergoes a full medical evaluation to eliminate that possibility first. Yet, some groups apparently believe they can handle such things on their own. No amount of “investigation” or “cleansing” will help if there’s an untreated medical condition as the underlying cause. We do no “help” by playing into people’s delusions. Most of us are not medical professionals and we have absolutely no business playing doctor or psychologist, but I believe we do have an obligation to seek this help for those we believe need it.

So there you have it. What help can paranormal groups legitimately offer? They can help clients discover “normal” explanations for apparent “paranormal” activity. They can also offer clients support when activity is discovered with no apparent “normal” explanation. “Cleansings,” “proving” hauntings, even identifying specific “ghosts” I believe all go beyond our legitimate capabilities – at least at the present time.

Sherlock Holmes and the Paranormal

Posted in Commentary, Equipment, Investigations, UAP/UFO with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2010 by S. P.

Sherlock Holmes by Sidney Paget (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Although a fictional character, Sherlock Holmes provides us with solid wisdom when it comes to research and investigation.  What advice did the world’s first consulting detective leave us which might prove useful in our investigations?  Let’s consider some of his sage guidance.

I consider this first bit of counsel the most important:

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.  Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” – Sherlock Holmes, A Scandal in Bohemia

Not following this edict is the greatest problem plaguing paranormal research today.  We see it time after time with constantly predictable results.  A “researcher” assumes a “UFO” event represents contact by space aliens or another assumes unusual activity is “proof” of a ghost.  Just as Holmes warned, as soon as we approach an event with a pre-formed theory, we begin to twist the facts to match our explanation.  Some purposely twist the facts, while others do so without direct intention, yet the result is the same – data is formed to fit the conclusion instead of a conclusion formed to fit the data.

In exploring the unknown, we claim to be seeking the truth.  Despite this, many seem reluctant to accept the truth if it does not match a preconceived notion.  This seems especially the case when “believers” are confronted with evidence which proves an event has nothing to do with aliens or ghosts or Bigfoot or any other paranormal explanation, but instead has a completely natural explanation.  The truth is what it is.  We might not like the truth, but that does not prevent it from being the truth.

The plethora of “orb” photographs which continue to liter the internet prove a perfect example of this.  So many people want to believe in life after death, despite the overwhelming evidence that 99.99% of “orbs” are photographic artifacts cause by things like dust or insects, they decide “orbs” are “spirits” and steadfastly refuse to be swayed by facts.

The solution?  Follow Holmes’s advice: first collect the data then analyze it to form a conclusion.

We find similar advice here:

“We approached the case, you remember, with an absolutely blank mind, which is always an advantage.  We had formed no theories.  We were simply there to observe and to draw inferences from our observations.” – Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Cardboard Box

Again, Holmes emphasizes the importance of approaching an investigation with a blank mind.  We don’t go charging in with the assumption “the butler did it” and then selectively sift through the data to prove our conclusion.  Instead, we gather evidence and follow the facts to wherever they lead.  This might lead us to conclude an event is of paranormal origin or it might not.  We follow the facts.  We don’t make the facts follow us.

“It is of the highest importance in the art of detection to be able to recognize out of a number of facts which are incidental and which vital.  Otherwise your energy and attention must be dissipated instead of being concentrated.” – Sherlock Holmes, The Reigate Puzzle

This is yet another critical bit of advice for investigators.  We must develop the ability to “separate the wheat from the chaff.”  We must determine what is relevant and what is not.  Background research is one way to develop this ability.  The more we know our subject, the more we gain the ability to recognize the important from the unimportant.

We see this “rule” violated anytime a researcher focuses on an unimportant bit of trivia or attempts to connect unrelated events.  As an example, a MUFON journal article several years ago mentioned the fact a British researcher was claiming he received highly classified information on UFOs from members of GCHQ (the British equivalent of the NSA).  The author tells us following these claims this researcher received a visit from British security personnel.  The author then violates Holmes advice by inappropriately connecting the two events, claiming the visit from the security personnel proved the researcher did in fact have leaked classified information on UFOs.  The article’s author failed to consider the fact the researcher was claiming GCHQ personnel were leaking top-secret information.  Such an assertion would of course prompt an investigation to determine if any information was actually being leaked.  It has nothing to do with claims about the content of the information.  Instead it’s a prime example of how some researchers in their zeal for “evidence” will connect unrelated events in an attempt to “prove” their assertions.

Finally…

“When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” – Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier

This represents the real task of our investigations.  We must eliminate what cannot be in order to reach what is.  This is not an easy process.  Far too often researchers are content to eliminate only some of the impossible.  Yet, before reaching the conclusion an event was the result of the paranormal or unexplained, we must first eliminate other natural explanations as impossible.  To do otherwise means we’ve done nothing more than perhaps arrived at a possible explanation, but we have certainly not arrived at the truth.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

This is where I have a problem with so-called “alien abductions.”  In nearly every case, “proof” of abduction is based on nothing more than the person’s belief he or she was abducted by aliens.  Mere belief does not prove abduction.  I have no doubt that in their minds many of these people are convinced they were abducted by aliens.  However, there are other possible explanations for these experiences.  Any reasonable person must admit alien abduction is rather improbable.  Therefore to show it’s the truth, we must first eliminate the impossible, which means proving other causes are not the explanation.  Until this happens, the “truth” of alien abduction remains pure conjecture.

What happened to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when he failed to follow his character’s advice?  Despite being a highly educated and intelligent person, Doyle allowed himself to be drawn into the “believer” camp.  He so wanted the fantastic to be true, he uncritically accepted it as such.  For example, he became so drawn into spiritualism, even when shown solid evidence of fraudulent activity, he continued to believe.  On another occasion, he famously pronounced as genuine photographs of fairies which were later proven nothing more than cardboard cutouts.

Cottingley Fairies (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

In order to conduct valid research and reach truthful conclusions, we must forego the uncritical “belief” of the good Dr. Doyle and instead follow the sage advice of his creation, Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

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