Archive for Ghost Hunting

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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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/

5th Annual PIA Conference a Success

Posted in Events with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2011 by S. P.

2011 PIA Conference

The fifth annual Paranormal Information Association Conference came to a successful conclusion this past Sunday in Sebring, Florida. The PIA, which began life as the Florida Ghost Gathering, aims to bring together researchers of anomalous phenomena from around the state in order to share ideas, network, and build friendships. Unlike other conferences which largely cater to “fans” of “paranormal” television, the PIA Conference is open only to members of organized research and investigation groups. Another key feature of the PIA Conferences is the fact they are held “at cost” – everyone, including speakers, pays a modest registration fee and no one makes money off the conference. No, you won’t hear the latest “celebrity” speaking about the latest “hit” television show. Instead, you will encounter people with decades of actual field experience in anomalous phenomena research eager to share ideas and information with fellow colleagues. Also, unlike other conferences, the PIA Conference is not limited to merely the discussion of “ghosts,” but includes all areas of anomalous phenomena research including cryptozoology and UFOs/UAPs.

This year’s gathering was held at the historic Kenilworth Lodge in Sebring, Florida. The lodge opened in 1916 and has seen its share of well-known guests, including playing host to a meeting of US governors in 1924. The Kenilworth served as the perfect backdrop for the PIA Conference. The organizers of the PIA Conference hope to establish good relationships with a few historic hotels around the state in order to set-up something of a “rotation” for future PIA gatherings.

The event featured an excellent line-up of speakers on a wide variety of topics. Along with a variety of presentations, another hallmark of PIA Conferences are social activities to encourage networking and the building of relationships and friendships among various teams and investigators. This year’s event delivered in this aspect as well with all of Saturday evening devoted to social activities.

PIA’s organizers understand that the “turf wars” and personality conflicts which seem to dominate the field are not helpful. Their events are dedicated to breaking down those barriers by helping everyone understand we’re all working towards the same goal and we can more easily reach it by working together rather than by working against each other.

If you’ve already attended a PIA Conference, I’m sure you need no further motivation to keep attending. If you haven’t attended, I highly encourage you to do so – I strongly suspect it will only take one time to make you a regular!

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.]

“Celebrity” Ghost Hunt

Posted in Commentary, Investigations, Locations, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2010 by S. P.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

I just received an announcement from a ghost walk operator advertising “special” pricing for a “ghost hunt” with a TV ghost-show “celebrity.”  Yes, for the low, low price of $150 (normally $250, so we’re told), you and forty-nine complete strangers get the “opportunity of a lifetime” to “ghost hunt” in a semi-well known location.

I’ve visited the location in question.  I know for a fact any sort of serious investigation of the location would accommodate no more than four to six – maybe eight – people at the most.  When I visited this location during its normal operating hours, less than fifty people we present – and that didn’t exactly make it empty!  I simply cannot fathom fifty people milling around, “ghost hunting” at this location at one time.

As I’ve said before in regards paranormal “certification” and “degrees,” people are welcome to spend their hard-earned money however they see fit.  Yet, I think it’s extremely disingenuous of promoters to bill events such as this as an “investigation.”  At the most, it’s a group tour of an interesting location.  Anyone who attends events such as these and believes he or she is conducting actual paranormal research is deluding him- or herself.

My advice: if you’re interested serious paranormal research, skip the “celebrity ghost hunts” and instead invest your $150 in quality books which will give you a firm foundation in the subject.  Then visit locations with your own small group for the low, low cost of nothing!

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

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