In the Netflix docuseries Surviving Death, a ‘non-believer’ film-maker explores the possibility that something else might be waiting for us at the endRadheyan SimonpillaiThu 7 Jan 2021 07.10 GMT
- The Netflix docuseries Surviving Death has no shortage of paranormal activity. Mediums call on the dead. Seances try to manifest them. People claim to be reincarnated actors, pilots or murder victims while others describe feeling a heavenly embrace during near-death experiences. Over six hour-long episodes, the series pores over signs and evidence that there is something to experience beyond our last breath.
Surviving Death’s director, Ricki Stern, is ready for your skepticism. Her show practically invites it.‘It’s not a question of belief’: the film examining government UFO recordsRead more
“I would call myself a sort of non-believer, but someone who was open to it,” Stern told the Guardian from her New York City apartment.
Stern, whose recent docuseries work includes Reversing Roe and Surviving Jeffrey Epstein, doesn’t shy away from cross-examining the mediums and witnesses who appear on-camera saying they speak to or have seen apparitions. The show never dismisses the possibility that a seance can use lighting tricks to conjure a ghost or a medium can dig up information on Facebook and pass it off as info from the great beyond.
But Stern’s series also builds a convincing and provocative case that our consciousness can and does continue beyond life as we know it. The director explained that she wanted to explore the possibilities of a great beyond through legitimate analysis.https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/Cq5V9SgO1_A?wmode=opaque&feature=oembed
To do that Stern followed the lead from journalist Leslie Kean’s book, Surviving Death, which the series is based on. Kean, who also appears in the series, brought a research-heavy scientific approach to discussing an afterlife, which can be a bit like using a stethoscope on a ghost. When the scientific world loves physical evidence, how do you build a persuasive argument for the metaphysical? Kean told the Guardian she enjoyed the inherent challenges of bringing investigative practices to find “truths that you can probably never get to”.
She also pointed out that she is simply following a distinguished lineage of people who have gone down this path for hundreds of years before her. Philosopher and psychologist William James, Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr Ian Stevenson, who founded the division of perceptual studies at the University of Virginia in 1967, are some of the people who produced papers and manuscripts on paranormal investigations.
“They’re not necessarily believers,” Kean said. “But they’re people that take it seriously enough to want to study it.”
Doyle’s popular Victorian-era creation, Sherlock Holmes, was a skeptical, scientific mind. In novels like The Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes would pull back the curtain and disprove theories involving the supernatural and paranormal. But Doyle was surprisingly more open to the possibility that there are people who could communicate with the dead, and even manifest them.
Surviving Death tries to find the tricky balance between that Sherlock skepticism and Doyle’s openness to spiritualism. The series also addresses how finding evidence of an afterlife almost always requires an open mind. You have to be willing to accept that a visit from a persistent cardinal or flickering lights can be signs from the dead. But Stern admitted that such openness is also grounds for dismissal: “You could just say, people are who are looking for signs will see signs.”
“Everybody has to decide for themselves whether something has that meaning for them or not,” Kean added. “With signs, it’s not really objective.”
When investigating life after death, objectivity isn’t really in the cards. With this particular subject, absolutely everyone is personally invested. Journalists and academics, like Kean and Conan Doyle, who explored the subject scientifically can’t help but be affected. Conan Doyle was nudged towards spiritualism following his son’s death. While researching for her book, a close friend to Kean died, bringing her work closer to home.
“If you have these profound experiences in the process of [investigating], then you’re sort of joining your journalism with your personal experience,” Kean said. “But that’s really the only way to study it at the same time. It’s hard sometimes to separate the two.”
Stern’s series departs from Kean’s book by focusing on personal stories about encountering the afterlife. More often than not, the subjects in the series are motivated by a personal loss to find signs of an afterlife.
Mike Anthony is a particularly fascinating character in Surviving Death. After losing his father some years ago, he became a hobbyist of sorts, visiting different mediums who claim to be communicating with his father. These visits have two purposes. Anthony is continuing a relationship with his father. But he’s also vetting and rating these mediums on their abilities, with a willingness to admit that some are probably hustling and taking advantage of his trust. He puts himself through a heavy rinse-and-repeat cycle of emotions between skeptic and believer and back.
“It is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for him,” said Stern, who described Anthony as an audience surrogate. To discover the truth, he repeatedly made himself vulnerable to believing and often met with disappointment as a result.
Stern agreed that such emotional vulnerability is exactly what we “protect ourselves” from when we stay skeptical. Some of us are cynical about the possibility of an afterlife because we don’t want to set ourselves up for the most crushing disappointment.
The other side of that equation is hope.
“I just hope the series is going to help people open up their minds and question the nature of consciousness,” said Kean.
Her book is the perfect litmus test for the response that can be expected for the series, which, given its universal subject matter, has undeniable appeal for a wide audience. Readers reached out to Kean to express how they or someone they know found solace in the book while dealing with grief. Others reached out to talk about how they too experienced possible signs that they were never able to speak openly about before, because there’s a stigma around rational minds believing in an afterlife.
“I think the book opens a door for people to feel more comfortable talking about all this,” Kean explained. “I’m framing it in a way that’s extremely credible and research oriented.”
“We can’t answer the questions,” Kean added. “We don’t try to do that in the series. But it’s about [the possibility that] there is something that happens after we die. Maybe death isn’t the end.”
- Surviving Death is now available on Netflix
By Elliott K. Van Dusen
Ghost Project Canada is a phenomenological research design project managed by parapsychologists Dr. Darryll Walsh and Dr. Elliott Van Dusen. Ghost Project Canada is mandated to collect encounters of the supernatural and other mysterious phenomena. Geographical and statistical analysis will be conducted including the extrapolation of trends, hotspots and classification of phenomena. Explication of the lived human experience surrounding the phenomena will also be examined from a psychosocial and cultural perspective. The results will be published and made available to the general public and submitted to Federal and Provincial Archives.
Parapsychological phenomenological studies are not a modern revelation. Eleanor Sidgwick of the Society for Psychical Research began conducting phenomenological studies involving apparitions as early as 1882. Sidgwick analyzed hundreds of ghost reports and through statistical analysis, was able to determine that apparitions could be seen inside, outside, in daylight, artificial light, at dawn, at dusk, and in various parts of a residence or structure. Conducting such studies helps enlighten one’s understanding of parapsychological phenomena and dispel fallacies. For instance, due to Sidgewick’s phenomenological study, we have known for almost 140 years that darkness does not draw out apparitions. Investigating ghosts with the lights turned out has absolutely nil advantage, except to increase the dramatic effect for television viewers.
Although parapsychological phenomenological studies are not unique, the objectives of Ghost Project Canada’s mandate is believed to be the first of its kind in Canada. Other Canadian academics have participated in separate and unique parapsychological phenomenological studies. The field of parapsychology is eagerly awaiting the final report of Simon Fraser University associate professor of human geography, Dr. Paul Kingsbury. Dr. Kingsbury conducted a four-year-long study which examined why people pursue the paranormal. The growth of paranormal investigation cultures were examined through a study of the lived spaces of field work, conferences, and community events. His research focuses on those who investigate ghosts, those who study the UFO phenomena and those who partake in the search for cryptozoological animals. The project was funded throughtheSocial Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Grant and was in its final phase of research in late 2019.
If you are interested in contributing stories to Ghost Project Canada, please visit our website at www.ghostprojectcanada.com, or you can e-mail email@example.com. Confidentiality is assured. Ghost Project Canada is not a paranormal investigative agency. You can however, visit Paranormal Phenomena Research & Investigation at www.ppri.net or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and an investigator will contact you seeking for further information.
Scientific Exploration of Anomalous Aerospace Phenomena. (2019). Dr. Paul Kingsbury.
Simon Fraser University. (2020). Paul Kingsbury – Department of geography.
Van Dusen, E. (2019). Evil in Exeter. La Vergne: TN. Ingram Content Group LLC.
Prior to mid March there was an overabundance of supposedly true or real ghost hunting shows, which encouraged amateurs, (not the ones on TV; regular people), to go around imitating the ridiculous antics of the supposed ‘experts’ which populated each show. The fact that prior to their being on tv most were plumbers, cooks, truck drivers, etc., none of whom were/are in any way trained as proper investigators as demonstrated in their antics in the overpopulated locations they are supposedly investigating. Dozens of people are often crammed into tight spaces, usually damp basements or crumbling buildings which serve as proper background visuals for the show. This is a perfect way to spread the disease.
Social Distancing is not possible in the way these shows are designed. The host has to be in tight places in order to interact with the crew, other investigators or the ‘ghosts’, usually by yelling at them to speak to him. The ghosts, not the humans, though in outtakes not shown there is a fair number incidents where the more exciting ‘happenings’ occur accompanied by prima donna shouting, shoving and the usual negative and over emotional reactions to technical matters that may be interfering in the smooth running of the show.
The only way the shows could proceed is by remote viewing and recording any incidents in the house, asylum, jail, etc. from a remote location. The house or institution would be wired for sound and visuals. This is actually closer to the proper scientific method that should be applied, but it is also the most boring and tedious method for the medium of TV. Also, the location where the various feed comes in from the location will have to be specially designed and sanitized so the hosts can be safely filmed being bored out of their mind while trying to enlarge some natural occurrence like a creak or static sounds into voices and the movements of the spirits. It would be a thorough boring show that accidentally shows how tedious the real job of parapsychologists is. This however, is death to ratings and hopefully many of the ghost shows will not survive the pandemic and those who are specially trained to actually do the investigations will be left in peace and perhaps regain some of the respect they once had before Reality TV came calling.
We should perhaps take this with a grain of salt since the ‘paranormal investigator’ is associated with a show called ‘Ghost Stalkers‘, and reality shows are anything but real and designed to be artificial, planned and as a form of entertainment not a source of real information about ghosts, hauntings, parapsychology, true investigations, etc. This article from the CBC News site is covered under the “Fair Use” principle since the subject matter and statements therein are being critiqued and analyzed for their social/cultural importance. Should CBC disagree or requires a different disclaimer please contact us at email@example.com.
Haunted house reports on the rise during pandemic, says paranormal researcher
John E.L. Tenney says more people are at home and taking notice of their environment
The new normal is bringing out the paranormal, says John E.L. Tenney.
Tenney, a paranormal researcher and former host of TV’s Ghost Stalkers, says he used to receive two to five calls a month from people convinced their homes are haunted.
But since the COVID-19 restrictions started, he says he gets five to 10 calls a week.
The New York Times also noticed the uptick. The newspaper interviewed Tenney this week for a feature about the many people around the U.S. who are stuck at home with what they believe are roommates from beyond the grave.
“There is no scientific evidence for the existence of ghosts,” the newspaper helpfully notes.
Tenney spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about what’s got people so spooked. Here is part of their conversation.
What kind of stories are you getting?
Everything from typical knocks and footsteps in the hallway, to some very new, strange occurrences, like people hearing whispered voices through their television sets or getting text messages from long deceased friends and relatives. (Highly unlikely that these phenomena, if real, are suddenly exploding into our consciousness)
And what do you make of this?
If we’re going to allow or believe that ghosts exist, then people are seeing an uptick of ghosts.
They’re in a heightened emotional state. They’ve been sequestered. They’re spending time in their house, which they normally don’t do at certain hours.
Most people are gone at work and so they’re not used to hearing the pops and creaks in their house normally. But if there are ghosts, perhaps they’ve had a ghost in their house all along and they’ve just never noticed that.
Perhaps the ghosts are getting bored too.
Is it possible that the ghosts themselves are getting more active, given that these people are at home all day long?
If ghosts are the way that we traditionally think about them, which is, you know, were once people, then perhaps the ghosts are getting bored too, and they’re making themselves a little more known to the people that they’re not commonly used to seeing at all hours of the day and night. (Bored ghosts? It is a stretch and very unscientific to assign emotions to an ethereal entity, should it even exist, sine they possibly occupy a location in time and space we know little about. I’m sure if they were bored they could easily move on to somewhere else on their plane of existence or leave us altogether.)
Maybe they don’t want that company. I mean, some of the reports that I was seeing in this New York Times article, this sounds quite annoying — like little petty things of doors slamming and towels on the floor and rattling the shades and things. I mean, maybe it’s a message that they just want to be left alone in these houses.
It’s possible. (But unlikely. Doors slamming and towels on the floor are common everyday occurrences and not directly correlated to hauntings/ghosts.)
As human beings, we have difficulty communicating and discerning the motives of other living human beings that are right in front of us. So for us to try and divine what the intention is of an ethereal, invisible being that we can’t really see? (Psychological studies have show we are very good at ‘determining’ the motives of other humans and we bitch about them everyday in our coffee houses or at the pub over a cold beer. He is right in that determining motives, if there are any , which is highly unlikely, is an impossible task in this modern age. In the history of ghostly lore over thousands of years ghosts had a purpose and were not shy in expressing it. Since today we have trouble determining any motivation, this could mean that: (a) ghosts are less communicative for reasons we do not understand, (b) reality TV shows are incompetent in locating true hauntings, (c), ghosts are a social construct which has changed over time, and (d), we are not looking for them in the right way.)
They might just be trying to get attention, and they’re doing it the only way they know how, which is slamming a door or pulling a window shade or slamming a window.
Is it possible … that people, being confined and seeing no one, are just going a little nuts? (GPC Ed: We would not use the word nuts to explain this, but the question is certainly valid and boredom and imagination combined with stress, which is the main ingredient in any haunting, is the probably reason for the alleged uptick in reports. We are trying to validate his claims.)
I tell people to kind of take copious notes, journal about it, keep track of when it happens, because the majority of cases that I investigated over the past 30 years have had a natural solution to them. (Almost all.)
There might be something happening in your house, whether it be your furnace turning on or a truck driving down the street every day at the same time, that you never noticed before. But once you start to take notes, you’ll notice that it’s a repeating pattern or something that’s very familiar.
How often do you actually … find something that’s there?
I’ve investigated thousands of cases and there are probably maybe less than a hundred where something really unique and strange is happening.
What was the strangest?
I’ve been in a situation where I was in a room with 13 people and we had the lights off and this room was allegedly haunted. And so we were sitting in the dark and everybody was saying their name, kind of introducing themselves to the ghost, for lack of a better word. ( A very unscientific way to investigate ghosts)
And one woman in the corner refused to say her name. And that’s fine, but when I asked if she could say where she was from, she didn’t respond.
So I turned the light on, and that’s when everybody in the room realized that that woman that we had all thought was with us had never been there. There was an empty spot where we thought she had been sitting. (Since true ghosts appear as solid, three-dimensional entities indistinguishable from real people, this could be a true case of a ghost since human sight is the only way to locate them, ie, all the equipment int the world is useless in locating them. Assuming this is true as related to the reporter of course.)
I have had, you know, situations where I’ve seen strange coloured mist floating around a room or through a cemetery.
But sometimes it’s almost so typical that it’s hard to believe you’re looking at something that’s cloaked with a skeleton-like face. Your mind just says, “Oh, that’s gotta be something from a movie. It’s got to be something I’m imagining. (Ah, no. Didn’t happen)
When you have an experience where someone says, “Oh, I’m seeing a very spooky movie-like ghost” … you have to wonder how much their mind is playing into how they perceive their reality.
So that brings us back to this quarantine thing. I haven’t heard anyone say that they’ve experienced something paranormal, but lots of people saying that since they’ve been locked in lockdown, they’re having a lot of … strange dreams. So [is] a lot of this in the imagination, do you think?
I saw a spike like this before, right at the Y2K in 1999. There was another minor spike around 9/11.
Times of stress really do something to human psychology, and so you see people having deeper, stranger dreams. You have people reporting a higher amount of ghosts in their house or haunted houses. (Very true!)
I have even had an increase in UFO reports since the quarantine. And that might just be because people, you know, go outside and look up at the sky and have time to reflect. (Also very true)
It doesn’t mean so much that they’re going crazy, but perhaps they’re just becoming a little more introverted and perhaps getting to know themselves a little better.
Would you tell people to be receptive to these experiences?
I would. I think that our world is so strange, you should have as many weird experiences as possible. I also think that once you open yourself up to a weird experience, you start to have more of them. (That is something we call the Kitchen Sink Phenomena. When a paranormal even occurs, normal events, as well as unusual but innocent events are suddenly being classified as supernatural and often falsely related to the original event when they are not. Or the person begins to believe that the supernatural follows them around and becomes paranoid or accepts the false believe and treats it as almost a religious revelation and ‘honours’ this ability accordingly. It is not acceptable parapsychological practice to encourage this. )
The majority of cases that I’ve ever investigated, people don’t get hurt. It’s not scary. It’s startling, but it’s not scary. If someone does get hurt, it’s because they are startled and fall off of a ladder or run down the steps and trip on their own feet. (Correct)
But I think that if ghosts are here, they’re a part of our environment and we should get to know them. (And thus the reason for the scientific work of Ghost Project Canada)
There is no question that the east coast of Canada is the most haunted area of Canada. The main reason is because it has been settled and fought over for the longest period of time. It also has the most cosmopolitan heritage and folklore. English, French, Irish, and Scottish are the strongest influences, but Native, German, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish have played their part too. The Portuguese, Italian and Spanish influences on the east coast are generally ignored and almost unknown, both in the timeline of history and their effect upon the land and the emerging culture and it’s representation in folklore. For instance, though Cape Breton Island was French for much of its history, the influx of Scottish after the Acadian deportation in 1755-57 has masked much of its heritage, and little evidence of the French occupation exists outside of Fortress Lousibourg and the French areas and names between Port Hawksbury and the former port and fort Toulouse at what is now St. Peters.
So too, other than the story of Glooscap, Native folklore is ignored and generally unknown even though they have some of the most disturbing folk beliefs. Glooscap is over represented in Native mythology so much so that he obscures many more interesting aspects of Native mythology.
It is almost certain that the Norse were aware of Cape Breton Island though no archeological remains have been found. We know they must have been to the Miramichi River area to gather beechnuts that only grow there, and this, coupled with their exploration-minded mindset makes it almost certain they were the first people to explore and roughly map Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec though nothing of their explorations still exists, either in the archeological record or in their literature. Still, only the most pedantic or obtuse observers could believe that the Norse only settled L’anse aux Meadows and didn’t dare go any farther.
After them came the Basque fishermen from France and Spain prior to Columbus discovering Central America and John Cabot discovering Newfoundland in the great European western migration. The Basque never established permanent settlements, and no one asked them about their fishing areas, so no one in power knew they were the second people in Europe to find North America. Thus, both the Norse and Basque folklore has not been recorded in relation to eastern Canada. We are instead left with primarily French, English, Scottish and Irish folklore. And there is plenty of that. Much more than the rest of Canada, with Quebec following close behind because of its early settlement. @haunted @ghosts @Canada