Ghost hunter contradictions

Recently, along with my friend and fellow co-host of Strange Frequencies Radio, Bobby Nelson, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jenny Stewart.  Jenny is the founder of the Paranormal Research and Resource Society, and we had her on the show to discuss a few of her beliefs about the philosophy of ghost hunting, as well as her own research into spirit communication.  While we disagreed on pretty much everything, the conversation was pleasant until close to the end, when Jenny began to raise her voice in objection to a line of questioning that pertained to a myriad of contradictions we were noticing.  While those contradictions are certainly not unique to her, I thought a post about them might elucidate some of my thoughts on the frequency of which they appear in the ghost hunting community.

Early in the interview, I talked about how many paranormal investigators have things they don’t like about their community, and asked her if there was anything in particular she found distasteful.  She responded by saying that too many investigative team’s websites are like trophy cases, indicating they appear more interested in fame than in helping anyone.  I agreed, but I found it curious when, just moments later, she mentioned working on a television series for A&E about her team’s ghost hunting activities.

Later, we began talking about her ghost box research.  She is quite fond of it, believing that she has contacted entities that have given her team pertinent information on several cases.  She even recounted a story where her ghost box divined the future; foretelling a murder, in fact.  While she went to great lengths to testify to the usefulness of this particular technique, she said she uses it only as a tool; not as evidence.  How funny, then, that her team’s website has a copious amount of ghost box sound files on their evidence pages.

Finally, we talked about her rationale for being in the paranormal community.  While she does not consider herself a ghost hunter in the traditional sense, she does seek her own style of evidence for the existence of ghosts and the paranormal.  She also said that she isn’t trying to prove anything to anyone.  In my opinion, many ghost hunters get into the field because they want to prove the existence of ghosts.  I know that was one of my reasons, and I’ve talked to many who say the same.  But it is strange to hear someone say they aren’t looking to prove ghosts but then, as Mrs. Stewart did, say we are basically denying reality unless we agreed she has captured the image of a spectral baby in a window.  While Bobby told her it could be an example of pareidolia, I told her it was unfair to try and force our opinion when we had never seen the photograph in question.

This article is not about what is or is not proof of ghosts.  I’ve made it clear before that I used to believe and have explained the reasons I no longer do.  This isn’t even about whether or not people should go ghost hunting.  I have nothing against it.  I may not believe in ghosts, but even I enjoy creeping around allegedly haunted locations.  No, this is about the lack of honesty and consistency I see among ghost hunters.

I’m sick of hearing ghost hunters say they aren’t in it for fame while simultaneously seeking out their own reality show.  You have an ego; we all do, so at least be honest.  I host an internet radio show and, while I don’t want to be “famous,” I know a little something about wanting attention for what I do or say.  If you so much as have a Facebook or Twitter page, you have to admit that you do as well.

I also don’t have time to listen while you tell me your team doesn’t use certain items as evidence, or how you aren’t trying to prove anything to anyone.  I especially don’t want to hear it when what you are saying is demonstrably false, or while you are yelling in my ear about how right you are, like Mrs. Stewart did.

Now, to be fair, Jenny did end up writing to apologize a couple of days later.  She said that she originally got angry when one of us brought up science but, upon listening to the interview again, she doesn’t understand why she got mad [1].  And that’s fine.  It is not like I harbor any kind of grudge.  Many people have written to me to express their surprise at Mrs. Stewart’s reaction to the questions we posed on the show.  It surprised me too, but I also very much want to have her back on sometime to discuss the points we disagreed on.  One thing I want Strange Frequencies Radio to be known for is that we went out of our way to invite guests on simply because they disagree with us.  I continue to believe those types of conversations are important, particularly in the paranormal world.

Why are so many in the paranormal community so inconsistent?  Do they really not recognize their own contradictions, or is it, as I suspect at times, they divert attention away from their motivations in the presence of someone they perceive as an outsider?  In other words, when they are around other people who believe as they do, will they still downplay the significance of their ghost box, or talk about how little they want attention or to prove anything?  Somehow, I seriously doubt it.

Why?  Because I’ve been there.


[1] This is the impression I got from Bobby, who received her letter of apology.  However, Jenny has written in the comments of this blog that she was apologizing for having done the show at all, since she was exhausted from lack of sleep.

Blinded by the lies: Tracking Dannion Brinkley’s continued fabrications

This article originally appeared in the “Miracles” issue of The Bent Spoon.  To check out this free magazine, click here.

Dannion Brinkley tells a lot of tales to a lot of people.  Some of them are even true.  For instance, it is a fact that, in the early evening of September 17th 1975, he was struck by lightning while on the phone at his house.  But the stories that came out of that – the events related to his alleged out-of-body experience – are predicated upon a pack of lies.

In his book, “Saved By the Light,” Dannion recounts his story and embellishes upon the details.  He claims that he was dead for 28 minutes.  During this time, he floated above his body, watching as his wife attempted to revive him in the moments after the lightning strike.  He says he heard a paramedic pronounce him dead.  Later, he talks about traveling to heaven, where he met and spoke with angels, saw a crystal city and cathedral of light.  And then, he woke up in the hospital just before being taken to the morgue.

It is an incredible story; one that saw his book at the top of the New York Times bestseller list, as well as spawning a highly rated television movie.  Dannion has since used his notoriety to become a psychic, charging $250 for a half hour reading [1], and a spiritual advisor, lecturing to large groups of people around the world about the “secrets” he found in the light – secrets that you, too, can share – if only you can afford tickets at places like the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.  But if his story were true, we can reasonably expect that he would have told a similar one in the days following his injury.  But it’s not, because he didn’t.  In fact, he told a remarkably different story at the time, and continues to change the details to this day when confronted.

Carl Langley was a newspaper reporter for the Augusta Herald at the time of Dannion’s ordeal.  He interviewed him, and in the September 19th 1975 edition, published a story about the incident titled “Phone Call Almost Cost Him His Life.”  The story as Mr. Brinkley told it then is dramatically different than the one he tells now in his books and interviews [2].  Remember how Dannion said he was dead for 28 minutes, and the paramedic pronounced him dead?  Langley’s newspaper article says otherwise:

“Frantically, Mrs. Brinkley began pounding away on her husband’s chest, stopping only to grasp his tongue and pull it away from his windpipe so he could breathe.

“I was out for a few minutes, and she saved my life, “Danny said.  With breathing restored, Mrs. Brinkley called the paramedics.'”

How long did Dannion, or Danny as he was called then, say he was out for?  “A few minutes.”  Who saved his life?  His wife.  And it all happened before the paramedics even arrived!

But there’s more.  Remember, Dannion also tells people that he woke up in the hospital later, after having traveled to heaven and talking to angels.  But that is definitively contradicted by Dannion’s own doctor, who was interviewed by investigative journalist Jon Ronson in the film, “Reverend Death.”  Dr. Gilmore Eaves says he was at Dannion’s side within an hour of his brush with lightning.  Was Dannion terribly hurt?  Was he talking about his incredible Out-of-Body Experience?

“When I saw him he was completely lucid,” Dr. Eaves said.  He tells Ronson that he read stories later about how Dannion Brinkley had been pronounced dead and how he recalled a sheet being pulled over his head.  But as Dr. Eaves says, “That’s just not true.”  Nor did he ever tell him about seeing a light or seeing a cathedral.

In the film, Ronson actually goes to see Brinkley himself, showing him the article by Carl Langley in the Augusta Herald.  Brinkley laughs it off, explaining that he was young and embarrassed and, “wasn’t gonna start ranting and raving about a near-death experience.”  He states that it is true that his wife, by pounding on his chest, did bring him back to his body, but that then he left it again.  That is a dramatically different account; one that seems clearly invented on the fly after being cornered with his earlier statements [3].

But the film “Reverend Death” came out in 2008.  It is three years later now, and Dannion has had some time to make up a new version of what happened.  In a video posted on his website on May 18th of 2011, Dannion now claims to not remember much about the days of the events in question, which is funny since he has never had problems remembering in radio and television interviews before.  Dannion says now that he was paralyzed for “6 or 7 days,” and couldn’t talk.  So did Langley just invent the quotes in his article when he spoke with him the day after the lightning strike?  Did Dr. Eaves have an imaginary conversation with a “completely lucid” Dannion Brinkley at the hospital?  If Dannion’s newest story of not remembering details and being paralyzed and unable to talk is true, why didn’t he tell this to Ronson during the filming of “Reverend Death”?  It is a complete and total contradiction to give interviews to newspaper reporters that your wife saved you after a few minutes, then write books claiming you were dead for 28 minutes and spoke with angels, to then saying your wife did save you but then you left your body again immediately after, then saying you don’t remember the details, to then saying everyone else is lying about everything except you because, hey, you were paralyzed and couldn’t talk at the time.  It is also interesting that he has waited until after Mr. Langley and Dr. Eaves have passed away to say all this [4].

The truth is that Dannion Brinkley is a fraud.  He has invented a fictional story about an Out-of-Body experience to sell books.  He has given people false hope about heaven, angels, and crystal cities, and has made a fortune doing it.  That type of cruelty makes him among the worst people imaginable.  When confronted with his fictions, he changes his story or infers that everyone else is lying about what happened.

Dannion has since written two more books about two more near-death and out-of-body experiences he has had.  He claims to have been saved by the light, and to have found both peace and secrets in the light.  But the more he talks, and the more you look into his story, the more you’ll find yourself blinded – not by the light, but by his lies.