Author Archives: Tony Harrington

Hearing Voices (Hypnagogic Hallucination)

“Have you been half-asleep? And have you heard voices? I heard them calling my name” -Kermit the Frog

The other night I posted the above quote from the Paul William’s penned song which was featured prominently in the original “The Muppet Movie” as well as the new movie “The Muppets”. I left the last part off and ended it with “And have you heard voices?”

The replies to the post ranged from people who got the reference to those who assumed I was being mysterious, or had mental issues. Others assumed I was talking about a very real phenomenon that some see as paranormal in nature.

When discussing this at work this morning, several people shared stories with me about them being jolted awake by the sound of someone calling their name.

It has happened to me, I freely admit. In fact, the phenomenon is so real and so convincing, that when it does happen I often bolt upright in bed and yell out, “WHAT?!” much to the chagrin of any one who would happen to be next to me.

The event occurred frequently in my late teen years and subsided as I got older. Still, every now and then it returns.

Additionally, in my case at least, it is not always just hearing someone scream my name, but I can actually hear conversations, like someone talking, not necessarily to me, but carrying on the most mundane of conversations with someone. Sometimes it is clear as day, other times it is muted, but still rather unsettling.

For those that experience this phenomenon, it is off-putting but fascinating at the same time. It can be scary, disorienting, and downright confusing. But is it truly paranormal in nature?

Science has a way of trying to explain away the paranormal and the paranormal field is often at odds with such explanations. In true science/medical fashion, scientists and doctors believe that the experience is a very real thing and in fact is so common that it is considered abnormal to NOT experience it.

The scientific name given to the phenomenon is Hypnagogia. The term is rather broad and in actuality describes the stage of transitioning between somnolence and sleep and vice-versa. During this transitional phase, it is common to experience a wide array of sleep-related phenomena, such as “Old Hag Syndrome” and “Out of Body Experiences”

The actual term and subsequent explanations is fairly recent. It was coined and classified in 1983 by Dr. Andreas Mavromatis as a collective noun…so the auditory disturbances we are experiencing falls under the category of Hypnagogia but is more akin to “Sensory Phenomena”. Included in “Sensory Phenomena” is seeing bursts of light from behind closed eyes, odd geometric patterns when staring into the darkness, and even audible disturbances such as hearing odd or nonsensical conversations, bangs or loud explosions (Exploding head syndrome).

Such scientific explanations are mostly based on theory and not fact. Sleep studies continue to be conducted to find out what happens when we enter a different state of consciousness. The human brain is a fascinating maze of untapped regions, synapses, and electrical impulses. Perhaps in all the functions it controls day in and day out…just maybe…it also acts as a receptor to messages from those who have stayed behind long after shuffling off their mortal coil.

Or, the voices and visions we encounter during the transition between the world of sleep and awake can simply be explained away as a misfire in the central processing unit of our very being.

So the question remains…have you been half asleep and have you heard voices?

Share your stories with us in the comments section below.

See also: Old Hag aka Sleep Paralysis

The USS Constellation (Baltimore, MD)

Permanently docked in Baltimore’s “Inner Harbor” at the famous Pier 1, the USS Constellation stands regally amidst a booming tourist destination. She has been returned to her former splendor thanks in part to a restoration effort that spanned over three years, an effort that replaced nearly every square inch of the ships surface with new wood, paint, and fixtures.

There is little of the original ship remaining but it is still indeed the very same ship that served the country from the Civil War to the cessation of World War II in many capacities, from full-fledged battle ship to serving in a diplomatic fashion as a flagship of the USN African Squadron whose duty it was to intercept vessels partaking in the slave-trade.

The ship’s construction was completed in 1854 as a sloop-of-war and named The USS Constellation, a name which would ultimately lead to historical identity confusion in the 1990’s when repairs began on the vessel restoring it to a frigate ship instead of a sloop-of-war. The Frigate Constellation, the ship from which the sloop-of-war took its name, was never struck from the Naval Vessel Register. To this day there seems to be some confusion as to whether the ship in the harbor is a rebuilt sloop or frigate.

Regardless, the storied past of the ship is what lends credence to the claims of paranormal activity.

A vessel can’t simply shrug off its past. From the civil war to WWII the ship served many roles and in its time on the sea it was host to many horrors. Of course, some stories are legend and don’t have a lot of records to back up the claims.

One of the stories revolves around a ship-hand tried for and found guilty of treason. He was tied to the front of one of the cannons on the ship and the cannon were fired, literally blowing the man apart and sending him to a watery grave.

During reconstruction efforts while the ship was dry-docked at the haunted Fort McHenry, crew reported the sensation of being watched, seeing an apparition of a man dressed in Civil War era dress, while others reported hearing crying followed by the sound of cannon fire. Could the ghost of the treasonous sailor be playing out his horrific ordeal time and again?

Another atrocity aboard the ship is the undocumented death of a young boy who was serving as a powder-monkey. Allegedly the young boy was attacked and killed within the bowels of the ship and to this day, visitors claim to hear a young boy screaming followed by the sounds of a struggle as the child is forced to play out his untimely and violent death over and over.

A very friendly ghost, thought to be that of a former captain of the vessel has allegedly given full-fledged tours of his ship to unsuspecting visitors who thought they were being entertained by a docent. Turns out their docent had the distinction of actually having served on the ship, over 100 years ago.

The ship, docked at the Inner Harbor can be boarded and toured for a small fee and during the Halloween season, if you are brave enough, board the ship for an entertaining haunted attraction but don’t be surprised if the ghosts you encounter are not actors playing a role, but the spirits of those who served and lost their lives aboard the USS Constellation.

For more in-depth historical information on the Constellation, and other historic ships docked in Baltimore, or to plan your trip to walk the ship in real life, please visit http://www.historicships.org/.

The Black Stick Man Phenomenon

In the world of the paranormal, there is seldom anything new to write home about. Ghosts are ghosts after all, the tried and true staple of an investigator’s diet.

Rarely do we see an emergence of a new phenomenon. We might see an older type of entity experience resurgence in popularity due to a high-profile expose on shows like “Ghost Hunters” or “Destination Truth”, but that is not the same as a true emergence of a previously undocumented event.

That theory was flipped on its ear in 2009 when website http://www.Listverse.com featured “Black Stick Men” as one of their top 10 most bizarre modern paranormal phenomena.

The list; which included Black Eyed Kids, Dog-Head Man, and other cryptids immediately caught fire due to the inclusion of the Black Stick Men. As it turns out, there was something to be said of the recent phenomenon.

The black stick men are just that…walking stick figures, the kind you would draw as a child, or as an adult if you lacked any ability to draw whatsoever. The male gender is usually attached to the figures, though to be honest, they seem rather gender-neutral.

The figures have been described as unusually tall, black in appearance, lacking any facial or bodily features and very lean. Their appearances have been documented on message forums and websites since 2008 and unlike shadow people as a whole, do not coincide with a mention on Ghost Hunters or other paranormal program. Accounts of encountering the figures just started creeping up.

Could they be part of a viral marketing campaign, in similar fashion to an alien being caught on a game camera in Louisiana turned out to be viral marketing for the film Super-8 or could they be some part of a collective of urban legends?

The complete lack of photographic or video evidence quickly discounts the fact that these stories are part of a marketing campaign of any sort. They also do not appear to be centralized to one location such as the mysterious www.thisman.org website which seemed to be more of a performance art piece rather than a fully-realized otherworldly phenomenon.

Also, there is no “A friend of a friend” accounts to tie these encounters to an urban legend. The details involved in the accounts are scant at best, mostly fleeting glimpses. So, unlike true urban legends, there is no moral or sense of irony.

The details, of what little there are, about these creatures/apparitions seem to be consistent from story to story.  The appearance usually takes place along a deserted road, or in an alley way, away from bright lights and prying eyes.  The person encountering the stick men more times than not report being tired. The figures move smoothly as if gliding, they do not make any sound although the air around them is reportedly charged with static.

The actual stick men themselves seem indifferent to us unless provoked or if they realize they have been spotted. Then they will flee quickly or in some rare instances will approach quickly in a frightening display of aggravation. However, there have been no reported incidents of anyone being touched or harmed by the mysterious beings.

The only indications of their intent have been reports of vague feelings of malevolence, though some feel this has to do with the disturbances in the atmospheric/barometric pressures that often accompany a sighting.

Are they paranormal? Who is to say? Most of the accounts are not associated with a known haunted spot and most sightings are not tied to any other ghostly phenomenon. They are simply things that exist outside of our realm of the normal. So in that sense, yes, they are paranormal…but not necessarily ghosts of any type.

The Black Stick Man phenomenon is fairly new, not enough research/evidence has been conducted on just what or who they are and why they are visiting us. They could be ghosts, or a result of interdimensional “crossover.”  The fact that in some reports they don’t seem to notice the humans around them may be key to discerning their origins.

Either way, to those who have seen these things, they are very real and are among us. As to where they go and what they do once out of our line of sight can only be speculated.

Have you encountered one of these mysterious beings? If so, please share your story with us in the comments below.

Make Some Noise: The Poltergeist Phenomenon

Thanks largely in part to Tobe Hooper and Steven Speilberg, when people hear the word “poltergeist” it immediately conjures images of a young blonde girl perched before her television set and proclaiming, “They’re here.”

In actuality, as scary as many found the film, the actual phenomenon is much more terrifying even if less outlandish than what the film depicts.

To start, we should define exactly what a poltergeist is. In short, it is an amalgamation of two distinct German words: poltern, a verb meaning “to make noise”, and geist, which basically means “spirit”. So poltergeist can literally be translated to “noisy ghost”.

For the most part, that is exactly what a poltergeist haunting typically entails. Rattles, bumps, scratching sounds, footsteps, and moans and groans of indeterminate origin.

You can search YouTube for videos on poltergeist activity and be rewarded with a bevy of amazing clips showing objects moving by themselves: cups sliding across a table, cabinets opening and slamming, drawers sliding open and utensils inexplicably being tossed across the room. It is not uncommon to see chairs sliding across the floor or tipping over. Most, if not all, of the videos are fabrications though created by crafty filmmakers, but do a better job at depicting the true definition of poltergeist activity than the actual film mentioned above.

In addition to the specific physical manifestation of poltergeist activity, it should be noted that the spirit is most often associated as being attached to a particular person or object rather than a location. Families having experienced a poltergeist indicate that even moving to a new location did not stop the activity.

In rare circumstances poltergeist activity has escalated into vicious attacks on an individual within the home. Historically, some of the most well-documented cases of violent poltergeists attacking the living revolve around young girls and teenage women.

The famous Bell Witch legend recounts the story of young Elizabeth Bell, the youngest daughter of the Bell household who became the target of an angry witch spirit. She was shaken, burned and scratched.

In the Enfield poltergeist case of 1977, 11-year-old Janet Hodgson allegedly showed signs of manipulation and possession by a the spirit of a prior tenant of the rented home. Prior to the attacks on Janet, the poltergeist activity was limited to the manipulation of furniture, toys and the requisite knocks, bumps, and moans.

The Amherst Poltergeist case of Esther Cox, a 19-year-old secretary who began being viciously attacked after having survived an attempted rape at gunpoint. The case took place in Amherst, Nova Scotia in 1878 and is perhaps one of the most infamous cases due to the level of violent activity which involved fires and Esther vomiting needles and pins.
In all cases of reported poltergeists, the activity stops as suddenly as it began. Most cases span one to two years before the spirit departs giving the family much-needed peace.

But is activity of this nature supernatural? Science offers many explanations for falling and moving objects. A common belief is that underground rivers, streams, and aquifers cause vibrations that can knock pictures from walls, cause furniture to tip, and cause the sound of moaning.

There is also the belief that paranormal activity of this type stems from the afflicted themself. Most documented cases of poltergeist activity involves troubled youth who are often victims of physical and sexual abuse. That is not to say that the trauma welcomes spirits, the implication is that the victims themselves are causing the activity. They are the ones throwing things and blaming disembodied spirits, they contort their bodies and claw at their skin, and fabricate scenarios as part of a dissociative disorder, similar to the survivor of a violent or sexual crime developing a split personality to disassociate themself from the trauma.

Interestingly, most cases of paranormal activity occurred in the late 19th and early twentieth century and have slowly tapered off over time. Only a small handful of documented cases have occurred in the USA with a majority transpiring in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poltergeist#Other_cases)  Not surprisingly, reports of poltergeist activity climbed in the US at the time the film “Poltergeist” was released.

Whatever the case, for those experiencing a poltergeist activity, the situation is real, frightening, and confusing. The fact that there does not seem to be any means of leaving the spirit makes a family feel trapped and seeds of discord begin to bloom.

It is a wide belief in the paranormal field that some negative spirits feed on the energy of distress and grow stronger from it. So perhaps the poltergeist activity is self-sustaining, allowing a mild nuisance ghost to blossom into physical attacks.

Have you had any personal experiences in dealing with a poltergeist? Share your story by leaving a comment. The link to do so is at the top of this article.