The human mind constantly attempts to make sense of what is happening to us on a daily basis. This is certainly done in paranormal investigation, in which the mind is trying to make sense of abnormal phenomena, be it natural or supernatural. However, this becomes a bit more complicated when the mind regularly produces false memories. According to Wolpert’s Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, false memory phenomenon, or confabulation, can happen in everyday life. It can be as minor as memory distortion, i.e., thinking that one has done something when it has not been done, to serious, “like recalling abduction by aliens” (98).
In the field of paranormal investigation, I believe that it is important to note confabulation. As a contact for the SPIRITS of St. Petersburg, I have often dealt with home owner accounts that vary from one telling to the next. It is also pivotal for investigators to also understand how actual events can become magnified in the mind of the individual, both those claiming the haunting and those investigating it.
There are a number of types of false memories which fall into several categories. One is the aspect of momentary confabulation. This can consist of memories constructed from “apparently coherent stories about what happened, which are at the edge of being false” (99). Another example is something that can happen on a daily level: we remember doing something that we haven’t done, or we misremember the correct temporal events of a situation.
I would imagine that this is most easily displayed today through our heavily documented society. A clear example that I have found in paranormal investigation is remembering the general context of a conversation with another team member, only to re-learn the specifics of the wordage when reviewing the tapes used for EVP review. The general memory and the specific event are often similar, but not the same.
Hallucinations also produce false memories. Wolpert cites that “several studies have found that 10 – 15 per cent [sic] of the population have hallucinatory experiences in their lives, and 20 per cent [sic] report delusions” (101). In recent years, the study of caffeine consumption has come of interest. I have posted articles on prior research that indicates caffeine, like alcohol, can alter brain chemistryto produce hallucinations. These may be visual or auditory in nature, and can range from a sense of being watched or that there is a presence in the room to hearing sounds and visual distortions.
Wolpert takes the idea of false memories to a level that may be uncomfortable for some as he moves to the level of neurological illness. However, in the field of paranormal investigation, where many events are subject to personal experience and interpretation, it is important to understand the basic concepts involved with mental illness. Afterall, the para-field, despite the advances in technology and popularity, is still regarded as a mental misfire in some circles. The accusation is not always unfounded as the lines of reality can blur for both the average individual and the mentally ill alike.
The author proposes that illness may result in delusions more than false memories, but the two share similar characteristics. One form of delusion/false memory is known as a Capgras delusion. This happens when, for example, “the patient sees someone he knows very well, a wife or parent, or child, he claims that the person looks like, for example, his spouse, but that she is not really his wife and may be an alien impostor” (101). In other words, the patient recognizes the individual but lacks normative recognition response and thus associates the person as an alien presence.
Patients with schizophrenia, mania, and psychotic depression can certainly have delusions. Some believe that these delusions are similar to religious episodes, where the individual believes that they are the reincarnated soul of a famous individual, that they are being given instructions from a supernatural source (i.e., “the devil made me do it”), or that they are commanded to “kill God” (103). Paranoia may also occur, creating a set of false beliefs about the world. Scientifically speaking, “there is evidence for loss of neurons in specific brain regions, and this may result in the inability of the brain to properly sort out incoming information” (105).
Severe depression provides more “pathological false beliefs” (106). As science progresses, depression is being linked more to a genetic basis, which are triggered by a major loss. Depression can create excessive sadness, with the self “perceived to be ineffective and inadequate” (107). Simple functions may be difficult to do, and the outside world becomes a menacing place.
The role of mental illness continues. To summaries other aspects of how false memories can be creates, we note the following:
*As an opposite to depression, mania sometimes results in false beliefs and memories of exaggerated self-importance. The world is also viewed in a radical manner.
*Anxiety disorder creates a fixation on “the concept of danger and impending loss of some sort, together with the belief of a personal inability to cope with the danger” (108).
*Panic disorders may create an interpretation of bodily sensations in a negative manner.
*Obsessive-compulsive patients “have a compulsive belief that they must carry out some action or think some thought, which at the same time they feel must be resisted” (108).
At the end of the chapter, Wolport concludes his thoughts with the idea that “there are clearly circuits in the brain that can, for example, give rise to paranormal experiences when stimulated with quite simple chemicals” as well as the idea that “genes affect how we believe” (115). In truth, as science advances it is certainly easy to see how these connections can be made.
The issue, however, becomes one of internalization versus externalization. Wolpert writes from the point of view of an anthropologist, who accepts nothing that cannot be empirically proven. While this philosophy is certainly a leading force in the way modern society is taught to perceive the world, it also removes the idea that there are any external forces, such as ghosts or spirits, that can interact with the living. Though the list of explanatory reasons is long, it is certainly not all-inclusive.
Thus, as a paranormalist, I must say that the argument falls to the adage of proof versus no proof, and belief versus non-belief. To an anthropologist, there may be no proof of external forces, yet as a person within the field I have seen direct evidence. Whose opinion is right? Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide.
Wolpert, Lewis. Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast. New York: Faber and Faber Unlimited, 2006. Book.
Odd temperature fluctuations reported.
My video camera died. I put it out in the “hallway” area to monitor that as per the suggestion of our sensitives. I noted that the camera had 37 minutes battery time left and hit the “record” button to the best of my knowledge. However, when we came out to do our second EVP session, the camera was off. In review of the tape, after the initial walk through there is absolutely no recording. I am not sure if it is user era (I thought I did check the camera and I DID look at the battery image) or if it was something else. We later did learn that this was the area of highest activity. EMF was low and the 0 – 3 scale could be used. There were several areas of spikes. At one point, I noted that EMF outside the bar really did flux quite a bit, primarily because of the traffic light outside. My EMF meter started to act strangely, doing “reverse spikes” in which the reading dropped. I did replace the battery and it worked normally again. The odds were pretty high that the battery was simply drained; this is the first battery replacement that I can recall for this particular meter.
At one point, this had been a home. It was converted to a bar in 1938. There is no known history of death or violence in the home. They did start to remodel, and the recent owner of the Sunset Grille died of cancer. It is now under new management.
Kay, the former proprietor and our original contact into the investigation. She died in December, though she reported a number of phenomena for her years in the Sunset Grille. This original digitals taken of the murals showed a large white mark over Kay’s face,,,NOte the image taken by another SPIRITS member, and Sunset Grilel regular. Orb next to the face.
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From: Brandy Stark
Interview with Letta R.
Re: Sunset Grille (via phone interview)
Who is she: Person who worked there, long time customer (Since about 1969)
1970s: Older couple owned it: Jim and Helen Griner (Helen died of cancer a few years ago)
From Mass. and bought it.
Jim: had to be in his 70s. He was a “rascally” guy — nice. Helen was very stern. Jim died died some time ago — he loved that place. He would be the one who would be haunting it.
He’d tend bar, do shopping for supplies, integral part of the bar, smart man.
Their kids ran it – Art and Johanna
Tended and ran it (bar and hamburger joint, sponsored softball and pool team; neighborhood place).
Linda also started the Boxing Ring and Tangelos before selling them off. She would start a business, grow it, then sell it. A marvelous cook…really a wonderful person.