Saturday, July 09, 2011

Best Bet: "Parapsychology and Consciousness" Conference

In this age of paranormal superstars and back-to-back episodes of ghost hunting reality shows, much of the quiet reality of academic paranormal research goes unnoticed. For the most part, hobby or amateur ghost hunters have distanced themselves from the intellectual realm of parapsychology. Some are aware that, for generations, parapsychologists had no use for them. In fact, parapsychology sought to filter out the "spontaneous phenomena" that ghost hunters crave--ghosts, hauntings, poltergeists, and others-- favoring those human psi abilities that could be studied in a proper laboratory. Today, scientists and amateurs are increasingly aware--and needful--of each other. Ghost hunters seek validation via technology more fervently every day; scientists seek to find their principles in action: in "haunted" houses, prisons and hospitals, as viewed by millions of eager fans every night on t.v.

A unique conference this fall on "Parapsychology and Consciousness" is an invitation to all with an interest in parapsychology--and the human mind that is common to all psi experience. Along with numerous stars of the world of academic parapsychology, ghost hunters will be delighted to find such presenters as Loyd Auerbach, who will present his findings from an investigation of the USS Hornet.

Following is an excerpt from conference organizer Nancy Zingrone's blog. A Chicago-area native, Nancy and her husband, Carlos Alvarado, have been working and teaching in parapsychology their whole lives--and championing the cause to the ends of the earth. For ghost hunters used to gathering at informal conventions around the nation, there may be a bit of sticker shock on this one, but I promise you: it will be the best conference you've ever attended. If you've never been to an academic conference, I daresay it will change your life. I'm just going for the hotel, situated right on the beach ;) and to get a look at amazing Atlantic University, which is working on offering a Masters in Parapsychology in the not-so-distant future. Hope to see you there!

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Monday, May 16, 2011 11:41 PM

Atlantic University is a small online graduate school in Virginia Beach, Virigina offering a Masters of Arts in Transpersonal Studies. Last year (a year and 13 days ago), Carlos S. Alvarado and I were hired by AU and started an entirely new phase of our lives.

We've been working on a number of things this year, but one of the most important is the inauguration of a new series of annual conferences to highlight various aspects of the work and interests of Atlantic University. Since 1985, when Atlantic University was a residential school, Doug Richards (known to a lot of PA members) has been teaching a course called 'Principles of Parapsychology." This year, between October 14th and October 16th, 2011, Doug, Carlos and I, and other Atlantic University faculty members Henry Reed, Bob Van de Castle, Loyd Auerbach and Christine Simmonds-Moore are taking part in our conference, "Parapsychology and Consciousness." David McMillan of the Meridian Institute and Kevin Todeschi, the CEO of both Edgar Cayce's A.R.E. and Atlantic University will also be taking part.

We're really excited about all of the folks who will be joining us to give papers: Julie Beischel of The Windbridge Institute, Dean Radin of IONs, Ed May from Laboratories for Fundamental Research, Roger Nelson of the Global Consciousness Project, Steve Braude of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, John Palmer of the Rhine Research Center, Jim Carpenter in private practice in Chapel Hill, Frank Pasciuti in private practice in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Ginette Nachman of Durham, NC. The topics range from "Biomedical Aspects of Psi" (Nachman) to "How Do the Synesthesias Relate to Anomalous Experiences" (Simmonds-Moore) and "Before the Tipping Point: Reconsidering the Nature of Consciousness" (Radin), among many others.

The conference starts at noon on Friday October 14th and continues through 6pm on Sunday October 16th. Of course we think "Parapsychology and Consciousness" brings together a unique and unprecedented mixture of some of the best speakers in the field, as well as some of the most interesting aspects of the varied research in scientific parapsychology.

The Visitor's Center at Edgar Cayce's A.R.E., where the conference will be held, has a great large auditorium and a number of function rooms we'll be using as well, plus a bookstore, a top floor meditation room with a view of the ocean and tons of parking. The campus of the A.R.E. is very unique. It's a block from the Atlantic Ocean (the reason for the great view from the meditation room). The campus also includes a meditation garden, a meditation labyrinth modeled on the one at Chartres, and the A.R.E. Heath Center and Spa. The spa is on the ground floor of the "Headquarters" Building which also houses the Cayce/Reilly School of Massotherapy, Atlantic University, and a variety of units of the A.R.E. Two other buildings complete the campus, and by the time of the conference, construction will have started on the new Educational Building. The campus backs up to First Landing State Park. (Virginia Beach is a very interesting place and we have fallen completely in love with it. More on that in another blog.)

The conference hotel, the Wyndham Oceanfront, is 10 blocks away from the "Parapsychology and Consciousness" conference venue, south of the A.R.E. on Atlantic Avenue. We have rooms blocked off for the conference there. The hotel has a great restaurant, the Surf Grille, with beautiful views of the oceanfront. The Wyndham runs a shuttle to the A.R.E. We also have rooms blocked off for the conference at the Holiday Inn Express, another oceanfront hotel down in the "strip", an area full of hotels and restaurants. The Holiday Inn Express doesn't have a shuttle but the HRT bus is close by, and if you're coming in by car, it's a quick trip up Atlantic Avenue to the A.R.E. The closest airport is Norfolk International Airport. Carlos and I love this airport (having been in a ton of airports over the years); small, easy to get around, with a shuttle.

Anyhow as time goes on, I'll write some more about the details. We're putting together the best experience possible and really looking forward to having all these great speakers in town. If you go to Atlantic University's home page -- http://www.atlanticuniv.edu -- you can find a link to the conference description, and to biographies and abstracts, plus a page for registration (there's an early bird price at the moment) as well as reservation pages for the two conference hotels.

Carlos and I have been involved in a lot of great conferences over the years, but we're really looking forward to this one and hope you'll all be able to join us this October 14th to 16th in Virginia Beach!

Friday, July 08, 2011

From Garbage to "Ghostbusters": The Strange Case of Streeterville


In urban areas around the world, architecture’s brilliant progress has been checked by many faults. For every successful design there are ten that fail--aesthetically, financially, or environmentally. Most troublesome have been the so-called “sick buildings” that have caused everything from nausea and headaches to brain tumors and cancer, due to difficulties with exhaust and ventilation systems, mold growth and other quirks. In Chicago, one of the most controversial buildings in this birthplace of skyscrapers is believed by Chicago paranormal experts to have a much more malicious quality. Since its completion in 1968, the John Hancock Center has been the site of multiple murders, suicides and deadly “accidents.” Why? Windy City occultists are convinced that it is the very design of the place that causes its residents and workers to often take a turn for the worst.

The John Hancock Center was designed as a trapezoidal structure by its chief architect, Bruce Graham, under the counsel of Fazlur Khan, a structural engineer at the esteemed Chicago firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Khan proposed the shape as an economical way to combine larger office spaces on the lower floors with smaller apartment units on the upper levels. But it wasn’t long before some Chicagoans began to question the “innocent” trapezoidal design as a poor one. Was the building’s form, in fact, the shape of things to come?

A little over three years after the Hancock’s completion, a 29-year-old Chicago woman named Lorraine Kowalski fell to her death from her boyfriend’s 90th-floor Hancock Center apartment. To this day, detectives are dumbfounded by the event; the building’s windows are capable of withstanding more than 200 pounds of pressure per square foot and winds of more than 150 miles per hour, yet Kowalski actually broke through the glass. Four years later, a transmitter technician for a local radio station plunged to his death from the 97th floor offices of his television station. Just three months later, a 27-year old tenant “fell” from his 91st-floor apartment while studying for an exam at breakfast. In 1978, a 31-year old woman shot a man to death in his home on the Hancock’s 65th floor, and in 1998, beloved comedian Chris Farley was found dead in the entrance hall of his 60th-floor apartment. Most recently, in March of 2002, a 25-foot aluminum scaffold fell from the building’s 43rd floor, crushing three cars, killing three women and injuring 8 others. All of these incidents were called “baffling,” “inexplicable” and seemingly unmotivated by detectives and journalists.

Many years before construction on the Hancock began, the area it would occupy was part of the most luxurious residential district in the city--the Gold Coast--, and this neighborhood, still known as Streeterville--was already thought to be a cursed tract of land. Cap Streeter was a ragtag former sea captain who made a living ferrying passengers between Chicago and Milwaukee on a beat up old schooner he owned with his wife. After the vessel literally washed up on the Chicago shore during a storm, Cap decided to settle down in the city for good. He staked claim to the very parcel of land on which he had run ashore: prime lakefront property much in demand by Chicago‘s first families. Cap found the land so lovely that he decided to share the beauty. He set up shop in the old Tremont Hotel, selling tracts of “his“ land to willing buyers. Soon a legion of squatters peppered the lakefront, angering Chicago‘s elite and the city council that served them. But when the city tried repeatedly to run off the trespassers, Cap and company responded with shotguns, batons and all manner of homemade weapons . When Cap ran out of land to sell, he quickly made more by inviting residents and contractors to dump their garbage on his land for free . . . creating one of the most desirable garbage dumps in history, the soon-to-be "Gold Coast" of Chicago.

The battle over “Cap’s” land--which he called Streeterville--raged until the man’s dying hour--and beyond. On his deathbed, Cap cursed “his” land and swore that no one would ever be happy on it again. Then is the “Curse of Cap Streeter” the source of the Hancock’s problem?

Not likely. But it can’t help.

In 1930, a baby boy was born in his family’s posh home in the 800 block of Chicago’s North Michigan Boulevard, the same block as the Hancock would someday occupy. Musically gifted, Anton Szandor LaVey grew to enjoy a colorful career with many facets, playing in nightclubs and even taming lions for a time. On a spring night in the 1960s, LaVey brought some like-minded friends together, ceremoniously shaved his head, and founded what he called the “Church of Satan,” an institution that was part religion, part philosophy, and all based on his own extensive ideas about love, hate, pleasure and will.

When occultists like LaVey saw the plans for the Hancock revealed, they were devastated. The problem? Not necessarily one for the city itself, but for the residents and workers of the Hancock structure.

LaVey wrote many essays during his time as the Satanic Church’s leader, including fascinating analyses of the problems of modern architecture. LaVey knew--as most occultists do--that the trapezoidal shape holds significant power for arcane forces: traditionally, the shape is believed to serve as a doorway or “portal” for occult--or even diabolical--forces. As a young man, LaVey was fascinated with the thought of H.P. Lovecraft, whose horror novels often feature characters grappling with the dangers of “strange angles,” and it was Lovecraft’s work which led LaVey to first pursue his study of modern architecture’s sometimes deadly capabilities.

The Hancock center offers both apartments and offices, and all of the apartments are on the outer edge of the structure, wrapping around the outside as in any other such building. Unfortunately, in the Hancock, every one of these apartments has, due to the trapezoidal structure of the building, an outer wall that is “off-kilter” because it does not rise at 90 degrees. Many--LaVey among them--have believed that these “strange angles” have caused residents of the Hancock to behave in strange and deadly ways, and that the superhuman strength of those who have forced themselves or others through the building’s seemingly impenetrable windows were calling on a ready supply of supernatural energy in the Hancock itself: energy coming through the “portal” of its trapezoidal structure.

Students of popular culture will want to note three intriguing facts about the Hancock. First, the structure’s legend inspired Harold Ramis’s Hollywood dream of a diabolical building: the centerpiece of his film, “Ghostbusters.” Second, the late, little Heather O’Rourke, myth-shrouded star of the “Poltergeist“ films, took a turn for the worst after a final publicity plug . . . held in one of the Hancock’s studios. Third, a number of controversial or distressed personalities have called the Hancock home; among them, talk show host Jerry Springer, Catholic priest and novelist Andrew Greeley, and--as mentioned--comedian Farley, whose time in the building was riddled with drug and alcohol abuse, the eventual cause of his death.

(For more quick looks at the ghosts of Chicago, visit www.chicagohauntings.com. Chicago magazine called us one of "the most important web sites for local history!)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

New Book Now Available for Pre-order!


Exposed, Uncovered, and Declassified: Ghosts, Spirits, & Hauntings

Am I Being Haunted?


By Michael Pye and Kirsten Dalley, with original Essays From Loyd Auerbach, Michelle Belanger, Ursula Bielski, Raymond Buckland, Dr. Bob Curran, John Lerma, Nick Refern, Joshua P. Warren, and Many More

“Behind every man now alive stand 30 ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living.”
—Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey

What are ghosts, spirits, and other apparitions?
Why do they visit, and what do they want from us?
Are OBEs, NDEs, and PDEs real?

"Exposed, Uncovered, and Declassified: Ghosts, Spirits, & Hauntings" tackles these questions and more, as some of the world’s best-known paranormal experts come together in a tour de force of investigative journalism. Ghosts have been an integral part of the folklore of almost every culture; indeed, extant references to them stretch as far back as the ancient civilization of Babylon. And the evidence for their existence is mounting.

Professor of parapsychology Loyd Auerbach tells us what every ghost hunter should know about parapsychology. Noted expert on paranormal research Joshua P. Warren carefully examines some startling photographic evidence of ghosts.

Andrew Nichols, PhD, director of the American Institute of Parapsychology, discusses his theory of haunted houses, which posits hauntings as manifestations of ESP and/or psychological projection. Raymond Buckland (Buckland’s Book of Spirit Communications) looks at ghosts as spirits and gives a take on how to talk to ghosts . . . and get a response.

Folklorist Dr. Bob Curran delves into the connection between poltergeists and human origins, and regales us with three classic cases of poltergeist activity. Journalist Nick Redfern examines cases of ancient animal ghost apparitions.

Noted folklorist Ursula Bielski gives a spooky and detailed account of the “Vanishing Hitchhiker” phenomenon.

Evidence of ghosts is everywhere—if you know what to look for. Whether you’re a believer, a skeptic, or somewhere in between, "Exposed, Uncovered, and Declassified: Ghosts, Spirits, & Hauntings" is sure to entertain and educate.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Hello Again!

After a long absence, our blog is back. I hope to share with you regularly news, events, and musings from the Chicago paranormal world. I hope that you will subscribe to Haunting Chicago--and that you will enjoy what we share here. We begin with one of my favorite topics: the graveyards of Chicago.

I was recently asked some questions that really had me thinking hard. "What cemetery in Chicago hold the most historical significance?" was the first question. A doozie, right? I had to seriously ponder this one, and this is what I came up with:

This is a very difficult question to answer. Each cemetery in Chicago has a unique place in Chicago's history, so it's quite hard to choose. Pressed, I have to pick the burial ground of St. James Church at Sag Bridge. The oldest cemetery in Cook County, it was founded in the 1830s but had a long history as a sacred site even before this. The Native Americans are said to have used the area as a sacred ground along this ancient Indian Road (Archer Avenue). Even today, burial mounds dot the area just over the existing woods. During the time of French exploration of the interior, the land hosted a French signal fort, and this is when the first Catholic church stood on the site. Some of the first burials here were of the vanquished workers on the Illinois and Michigan Canal, one of the most important engineering projects in American history The canal workers were mostly Irish immigrants who built the canal up from their Bridgeport neighborhood, and who perished from starvation, thirst, disease and violence along the ill-funded canal-building route.

"What is the most striking piece of architecture you have encountered at a Chicago cemetery?" was the second question. Here's my long-pondered answer:

Another very difficult question. There are so many incredible monuments and mausoleums. When I was a girl I was astonished by the striking and varied family mausoleums at Graceland Cemetery, near my childhood home: the Getty Tomb, with gates designed by architect Louis Sullivan (also buried at Graceland); the Goodman crypt, whose roof is a terrace which overlooks Lake Willowmere; the towering Pullman monument at the pinnacle of a lakeside embankment; the underground tomb of Ludwig Wolf. Today, however, I continue to be astounded by the community mausoleum at Rosehill Cemetery, which houses tens of thousands of crypts on four levels, in a neoclassical fortress. Along with countless individual crypts, the mausoleum also has scores of "family rooms," the final resting places of some of Chicago's most familiar families, including the John G. Shedds. The Shedd room is the centerpiece of a beautiful skylit chapel in the center of the building. The chapel is completel with chairs decorated with marine-inspired ironwork depicting seahorses and shells: tributes to Shedd, who loved the sea and dedicated his namesake Aquarium to the city he loved. The Shedd room is illuminated by a breathtaking window created by Louis Comfort Tiffany. At dusk, the setting sun shines through, making the room look as if it were underwater. In fact, the comunity mausoleum is home to the largest secular collection of Tiffany glass. Many of the family rooms contain one of a kind commissions of stained glass, depicting gentle streams, flowers, sunsets and other Paradisal images. It's a truly awe-inspiring, moving place.



Lastly, I was asked the following: "Overall, Chicago is home to some exquisite places of rest, and their aesthetic ranges from the creepy to serene. What do you tell people who are frightened of these locations?"

This is something I've been trying to answer for most of my life, as I was one of those "odd children" who enjoyed spending time in cemeteries from my earliest years. Drawing others into an appreciation of cemeteries has not been easy. The stigma has, however, been greatly worn down in recent years . . . for most. But for those truly afraid of death, the old reassurance that "death is a part of life" does not offer much comfort, but it's true. And just as death is a part of life, so cemeteries are a part of our culture, our history and our city. Truth be told, cemeteries have always been constructed as much for the living as the dead: as places of beauty and peace and comfort. I would say to please give one of these places a try, perhaps on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon. Truth be told, cemeteries have always been constructed as much for the living as the dead: as places of beauty and peace and comfort.


(If you are interested in learning more about the cemeteries of Chicago, check out the book I wrote with Matt Hucke: Graveyards of Chicago. Lake Claremont Press, 1999.)