The Stranger in the Hall

When my mother was 13 years old, she was attending a Buddhist prayer chanting session with her parents at her local temple. The priests carry out the chanting while the patrons listen. It was around 1AM and these sessions last well into the morning with attendees strewn about the hall and near the two opposite exits, many half-asleep.

Ordinarily, even in those times, young girls weren’t sent alone anywhere let alone in the wee hours of the morning, but this was a simpler time and she was in a community where everyone practically knew everyone else. So there was little concern when she was sent back home, just down the street, to bring something back. It was a blanket, she believes.

She was out of the temple gates and walking past a street light and a willow tree that she had passed countless times before, when she saw between the willow and the parapet wall of the neighboring house, a woman standing barefoot on the grass.  It wasn’t unusual for people to be without footwear those days, especially in Sri Lanka, even at night.

The woman looked to be in her 30s or 40s wearing a beige or off-white dress with an unremarkable yet very tired looking face which she didn’t recognize.

Odd, she thought to herself, as she imagined the whole village was either asleep in their homes or at the temple. But as not to waste time, she elected not to dwell on woman’s motives and hurried home.

On her way back, she passed the same willow and street light and found the woman had gone. Possibly to bed.

Thinking nothing of it, she walked back through the gates of the temple and went up the stairs to the hall and back to her spot with her parents and continued listening.  She turned around at one point and found the tired looking woman among the attendees sitting a few yards behind. My mother could have sworn she didn’t see anyone else enter the hall from the opposite exit or come up the stairs behind her.

The chanting continued.

In front of the strange woman was a toddler who was writhing about as toddlers often do and his mother was right next to him already fast asleep. The strange woman drew closer to the toddler. At first she only looked at him and then, quietly, lifted him and placed him on her lap. Still, my mother thought nothing of this.

But this was all it seemed everyone else needed to take note of the toddler and the strange woman. The chanting stopped and a soft murmur went about the hall and my mother was confused. In the company of so many people in a close community, it wasn’t unusual for strangers to pick up other people’s children back then either.

The toddler’s mother had now woken up, looked about, then at her son. At this point all color had left the boy’s mother’s face. My mother asked her parents what was happening and all they had was a puzzled look. “Can’t you see? There’s nothing below!”

One of the priests who was participating in the chant called over a gentleman among the attendees. He told him, “there’s someone here who doesn’t belong” and gave him a small container of holy water. The gentleman proceeded to sprinkle holy water all across the hall starting where the strange woman holding the toddler was and then from exit to exit.

My mom looked back at where the strange woman was seated after following the man sprinkling holy water only to discover the woman had gone. There are only two exits to the hall and she didn’t see her walk out of either one. The toddler was in the same position.

Except now he appeared to be in mid-air.

The boy’s mother grabbed the child, and he began writhing as he did before the incident. She quickly hurried near the priests with her child and the chanting resumed.

My mother asked her parents, “what happened to the woman?” Her parents asked…

“What woman?”

—-

This is the story of an “entity” that my mom once encountered when she was a girl living in central Sri Lanka. The family since moved to Colombo, yet the memories of the old village and this encounter in particular were quite strong.

No one else saw anyone entering the hall, except for my mother, or anything strange until the toddler inexplicably started rising above the floor and then began hovering in a prone position a foot above the ground. Apparently the one priest who gave the holy water to one of the attendees, sensed there was an entity present in need of cleansing, but was not a danger anyone.

As for why no one else saw the entity and why only one other person, the priest, sensed that there was even something else there with them? She’s still at a bit of a loss.

According to my mother, she still didn’t understand what happened until after the session and after she was listening in to everyone talk about the event. This entity, which was evidently not malevolent, had followed her to the temple and entered the hall during a part of the chant that specifically gave merits to those who have passed away and in need of guidance.

None of the people my mother had spoken to afterwards recognized the woman based on her description, but everyone agreed that she was probably a mother.

It’s not in my nature to believe stories like this, but I’ve always found them intriguing enough to share. After all, who doesn’t like to hear good a ghost story on the weekend.

I was prompted to share this after reading Kelly’s post on perceptions.

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Open Paranormal Association for Research (update)

It’s been two years since I announced that I’ll be forming an organization dedicated to paranormal research on this blog, but until now it hadn’t had much momentum.

The fault is entirely mine as I’ve been far too occupied with other affairs to give much thought to it beyond the initial idea. Well, a few contacts past week provided me with the opportunity to advance this further. Namely, I’ll have a chance to create an archive system to document any research in order to present them in a meaningful way and, being a programmer, this will be naturally based on a searchable database.

So far, I have started work on a case management system that will store all documents and research information using an EAV paradigm since I have no way of knowing what type of materials I’ll come across, but still implement thorough record-keeping.

And finally, like all aspiring organizations, a logo will be needed. I chose an encircled, 12-petal, chrysanthemum for cultural and historical reasons. 12 Is an important number in several cultures of the Middle East and subsequently, the West through the spread of religion, and the chrysanthemum is a similarly important symbol of the East. Both, I think, represent what I’m trying to achieve with this.

Open Paranormal Association for Research

Following the choice of color, there will be no doom and gloom associated with this and, by extension, the website for the project. I’m not sure why many other paranormal research organizations insist on darkness as a theme, but just because you may conduct your research at night, doesn’t mean it should be a color choice as well. This organization will stand for knowledge and openness, hence lightness not darkness.

There’s no date yet on when I can start on actual research since I first need the infrastructure in place. The last thing I need is disorganization even before any work starts.

The Paranormal Multimeter

I’m considering going into a DIY project to build my own multimeter designed to detect phenomenon commonly associated with the paranormal. This is in-line with my OPAR project and, hopefully, will be the first of a series of articles on the subject.

I don’t really believe in this stuff, but I do have friends that do. Occasionally they would ask me to build something similar so they can take one on their “ghost hunts”.  I used to live next door to a cemetery for many years and never once saw a ghost. But in the interest of science, I’m willing to suspend disbelief and wade in with an open mind.

I’ve seen similar devices being sold for ungodly amounts of money. If you’re going to blow that amount of cash on something like this, you might as well put one together yourself. Rather than let everyone get ripped off, I thought I’d look into how these things actually work so everyone can build one of their own (far superior) device using publicily available schematics and easily obtainable parts. I’m not going to get all super fancy with this, but it will be a decent effort to build a functional yet semi-sophisticated device.

Think bar graphs, not digital readouts.

So what is it that we should be detecting?
Since this will be a “multimeter” for paranormal investigations, it should incorporate more than one type of sensor. For this device, there should be an EMF detector, Ion meter(+/-), air pressure/sound meter, and temprature gauge.

Electromagnetic Fields

Ah yes! What ghost hunt wouldn’t be complete without the proverbial EMF detector? Well the (in)famous K-II meter you see being sold everywhere is just that. An EMF detector inside a cheesey plastic case.

Behold! The bane of poltergeists everywhere...

Behold! The bane of poltergeists everywhere!

Why is it so popular?
It’s supposed to be idiot-proof. Also a ghost from the 1800 or so may find it easy to use as well. Just by walking (or floating) up to it, the LED’s will light up giving a clear reaction to its actions. With the LED’s lighting up clearly, there’s little doubt there is a presence in the vicinity.

And that’s about it… There’s no other benefit in using the K-II vs any other garden variety EMF detector. In fact, you may be better off using a garden variety one as those tend to be much cheaper, more precise in indications and generally feature better construction. But that’s your call.

Sound/Air Pressure

One of the often mentioned symptoms of a paranormal event is the feeling of stuffy or heavy air. I figured if the air pressure actually rises or fluctuates, it can be measured to some degree. It can also double as a sound meter as Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP) events tend to be present in recording devices, but not heard by the investigators. If this is the case, then a sound level meter can pinpoint the exact moment such an event takes place.

For the sake of simplicity, I won’t be incorporating a recording mechanism to the sound. Merely a sound level meter.

Ions

I’m sure you’ve seen the “Ionic Breeze” commecials all over the place. Well, it does generate ions, but this is a side-effect of the high voltage grid used to trap debris and pollution. The difference in voltage causes the air to ionise in the process as well.

Negative ions are supposed to be good for you and positive ions detrimental. I don’t know how much of this is hype and how much real science, but for paranormal purposes, both should be monitored… apparently. Seriously, I’m just repeating what I’ve been told by my ghost hunting friends.

Of course, if you do have one of these ionic filters at home or have a purpose built negative ion generator for health reasons, you should turn it off and wait a while before embarking on your investigation.

Temprature

COLD SPOTS are what every ghost hunter should be conscious of whenever embarking on an investigation.

Apparently, a ghost or spirit will “darw energy from the surrounding environment trying to manifest itself, thereby reducing the temprature”. Or there may be a breeze which would have the same effect, but that’s why you shouldn’t rely on gadgets alone.


Construction…

I’ll need to place all the components in something. The obvious choice is a project box.

I chose the Hammond 1593Y(PDF) series because it has a nice flat top to work with as well as standoffs for dual circuit boards. I’m thinking of placing all the displays on the upper circuit board and instrument components in the lower one. The battery compartment is also a nice plus so you don’t have to take it apart to change the cell.

Now I’m off to hunt down some schematics and components… Wish me luck!

Open Paranormal Association for Research (OPAR)

I’m officially announcing the start of a new paranormal research organization… Yes, I’m totally serious.

The Open Paranormal Association for Research or OPAR.
I had another name in mind:
Open Paranormal Research Association for Hunters or OPRAH, but that may cause some issues…

So why this one when there are already countless other paranormal this and that organizations out there?
I don’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural. I’ve lived, literally, next door to a cemetery for many years and never once encountered anything paranormal. So I want to approach this from a perspective of someone who’s never experienced any of this. Perhaps that would give me some perspective on what’s really going on.

Are these things real or just figments of a collective imagination? Can so many people be hallucinating or making up stories or are there actual phenomenon that could be construed as paranormal?

I want to see what all the hubbub is about.

And what’s with the name?

Open

All research and investigations conducted within the organization will be available for public review. This includes logs, video and audio (when available) and other records collected during the course of the affair. Furthermore, every effort will be made to ensure the majority, if not all, the content of the research will be available outright in the public domain or at least free (under “fair use” in copyright law if external material is involved) whenever possible.

Paranormal

Or as the good folks at TAPS would elaborate “above-normal”. Floating balls of dust, your strap or finger caught on camera, and fog, do not constitute a “paranormal” event. Neither do “feelings of discomfort or paranoia” which could easily be caused by food poisoning or inhaling chemicals or dust from a particular structure, as much a ghost.

Association

So this won’t be a party of one, obviously. I’ll need some volunteers at some point. Also it’s good to have more than one perspective on anything as you’re likely to observe the non-existent or miss the existent if you only have one set of eyes and ears. And good ideas are always more likely to come by in groups.

Research

We’re actually going to be finding stuff and documenting everything. Even if we find nothing, documentation will still exist. More importantly, if what’s found is nothing, what’s shown will be nothing along with the data showing nothing. Everything will fall within objective and unbiased scrutiny.

The subjects of research will be ghosts, mainly, and hauntings as well as poltergeist activity. No UFOs, extraterrestrials kryptids or other such things. I want to stick to things that are actually feasible for testing purposes. Challenging the government to declassify documents and going into the woods looking for Bigfoot is a no-go.

——–

And so… Onward and upward!