Thursday, April 26, 2018

Clairaudience - It's a Thing

When I was growing up, I had a really good friend who was/is an artist. She's the ultimate foundation of every artistic character I have ever written in my books, and I learned a great deal about art and the minds of artists during our long-running friendship. 

She knew my house had issues. Okay, that's a euphemism. She knew my house was fricking haunted. Undaunted, she stayed overnight frequently and at one point, during our college years, moved in for a few weeks due to circumstances. She told me, after she moved back out, that she didn't sleep much while she was there. My bedroom was on the second floor, just to the left of the top of the staircase. At night, while I was out like the proverbial light, she said that she would hear the basement door almost directly my room swing open, and then she would hear footsteps that came from the basement stairs, walked through the hall to the staircase leading to the second floor, climbed those stairs, and then arrived right outside my bedroom, where they would STOP. She assured me that I slept through this every night, and she heard it just about every night. One time when she felt that whatever was out there was trying to enter my room, she woke me up and heard me say, "It's okay. Just go back to sleep." And so she did. The only problem is that she found out later, while talking about to me, that I had 1) never heard her call my name that night and 2) never woke up to say any such thing to reassure her. WEIRD.

When we got to college, she started at the same university in Chicago that I did, but eventually went out to school in California for a degree in art. And she told me that the apartment she rented "had issues." (We know all about those.) She heard voices. Now, before you decide this was schizophrenia or anything related to psychosis, let me assure you that her mental health was just fine. But she did hear voices. They called her name. They had conversations in the next room that she could only just hear. They freaked her out. And that was when she introduced me to the concept of having clairaudience. "It's like clairvoyance, but with hearing instead of sight," she explained.

If you Google "clairaudience" or "clairaudient", you will find a whole slew of articles that come up on the topic. Some of them include indicators that you might have the ability. For instance, talking to yourself is a big indicator. So is having a deep connection to music. And so is hearing footsteps and knockings and things like that around your house. Hmmm. All three of those fit me pretty well. I just never thought of myself as having that ability. And thank God I don't hear someone calling my name, because that would be about my limit. Yes, I survived seeing a dead Union soldier, and yes, I deal with the noises and restlessness in the house when I'm working on my books. But having someone call my name would result in me pulling a J.K. Rowling and writing the rest of my work at a crowded coffee shop in braod daylight. Seriously.

There are noises around my house that I can't explain. Even Jim has heard them. My daughter and I (she of the clairvoyance, when it comes to dead people) frequently hear the same thing, like the footsteps of a child running through the house when there was no child around to do so. There were also noises in the house where I grew up; those were a given. Whether or not I would attribute clairaudient  ability to myself, well, the jury is still out on that.

I'd put the links to some of those relevant articles into this blog, but I haven't learned how to do that yet on Blogger. (Can we say "Techno-doof"?) But if you go and read any of them, you might be surprised at how many of the signs and symptoms of clairaudient ability fit you, too. 

So, if you do Google the topic and read the articles, and if those indicators match up with you, come back and let me know, and we can swap stories!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Any and All Errors in This Book Are Mine and Mine Alone

Even though I write fiction, I still need to do some research for my books because I don't want to make the kinds of mistakes in my work that would jar a reader out of the story and make them, well, distrust me. Forever. Have you ever had that happen? You're happily reading along in a book, turning the pages, enjoying the tale, and all of a sudden the author includes a detail that is just WRONG. And you know it's wrong. And you wonder why that writer didn't know it was wrong. And then it colors the rest of the book (assuming you finish reading it) as well as how you look at that writer for the rest of your reading life. 

That has happened to me on an occasion or two. One particular writer made a mistake that I read waaaay back in 1978, and to this day, I still think of this author as "The one who got that one detail really, really wrong." I know that's horribly judgmental and I hope I never have that effect on a reader. And in an effort to forestall that, I do research.

Now, my kind of research does include what you might think of when I say the word "research". Dead Voices required me to find out about the cholera outbreaks in the Midwest during the 1800's. It also led me to ask a doctor I was working with at the time about the disease itself -how it killed, what the person would look like in death-  which I can tell you, earned me some strange looks.

Fortunately, strange looks don't bother me. Like the slightly suspicious look I got from my dentist when I asked about identifying a body from dental records. The information he gave me after he got past his initial reaction is invaluable. Or the one I received from a pharmacist, married to a friend, when I asked about possible poisons that would leave absolutely no trace. And he did answer the question.

I have interviewed a police sketch artist, two weapons (guns) experts, a retired deputy federal marshall, a staff member at an adoption agency, a minister ("Do you allow suicides to be buried in your churchyard?"), several artists, two museum curators, a cemetery secretary, two mediums, a ghost hunter, a bridge expert, a police detective, an ER doctor, a bed and breakfast owner, a nutritionist,  and a nurse. I always gather a ton of information because I never know what exact details I will need as each of my stories progress, and it's always better to have more than not enough.

To this end, I am constantly on the look-out for people whose knowledge and expertise I might need at a later date. I "collected" my anatomy and physiology teacher back when I was studying to become a medical assistant. I know more martial artists, both Eastern and Western, than you can shake a stick at. Whatever that means. I know a professional musician, a tarot card reader, several professors in various disciplines, a landscaper, a home remodeler or two, data analysts, hotel and hospitality professionals, two real estate agents, a couple of accountants, an astrologer, two psychics, and a bunch of writers and artists. 

But I wouldn't mind finding a lawyer or two, a firefighter, science teachers at different levels of education, and probably a cab driver.

I realize this must sound strange, but when I write a character who is in a line of work I have never tried myself, I  need details. Details can make or break a story. And details can derail a writer-reader relationship, as mentioned before.

So I guess if I ever post to Facebook, now that I post regularly, that I am looking for an expert who happens to be you, please don't be shy in stepping forward. I can't afford to pay you for your time, but you will ALWAYS get an acknowledgment at the front of my book and also, you'll know you helped this writer get the details right. Or as right as I can make them. As always, any and all errors in my books are mine and mine alone.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Attracting the Dead

Years ago when my older daughter was in grade school, she asked me not to get a wind chime for the front of the house.I have always loved the sound of wind chimes, so when I asked her why not, she said, "They attract ghosts."

That was unsettling. And I didn't get the wind chimes.

Now that she's an adult (who admittedly sees dead people and has, since she was a little tyke), I have actually hung a wind chime close to my front door. It's a tiny metal thing, with a tiny gargoyle sitting on top of it. It's been out there long enough to have developed a nice patina, and the small musical notes that chime when the wind moves its little metal rods always sound cheerful and sunny, even in terrible weather.

But I find myself thinking, does it attract ghosts? Our house, apparently some kind of way station on an avenue for the departed, seems to do that on its own. The fact that I sit here and write ghost stories only adds to the footsteps, bangings, thumps, and thuds we experience here routinely. But still, are there things that attract spirit attention?

Would certain activities bring you to the notice of someone dead? Cooking a particular aromatic food, for instance? Or listening to a particular type of music? Or even a particular song? 

How about certain items? John Zaffis did a whole show centered on the premise that objects can hold spirit attachment. Personal items, sure. But also items involved in tragic or violent episodes. Back when Jim and I were still active in the Chicago Swordplay Guild, we had the opportunity to both see and handle part of a historical sword collection, one of which was a blade that was dated to the time of the ancient Greeks. It was the only blade I tried picking up, with gloved hands, and the impact I felt when I held it was both strong and disturbing. The first thing that popped into my head was that this piece of metal had taken life. The second was that I needed to put it down immediately. 

I do not boast having the ability of psychometry that my character, Philip Corts, has. I can't pick up a necklace, a watch, a scarf, or even a blade and tell you details about its owner. But at that moment, I knew for sure that that particular sword had been used in battle, and that it had bloodletting in its history. I asked the curator who was with the collection if it was possible that the sword had seen war, and he thought it not only possible, but extremely likely. I believed him.

That's also the reason I'm not wild about antique shopping.

But in the instance of the sword, that is more about spirit attachment than it is spirit attraction. I don't know if objects can pull in the deceased, but I know that people can. I have heard more than one medium say that the dead view a person with that kind of psychic ability as a beacon of light, and flock to that light. That's why children with the ability get visitors in their bedrooms late at night. And that's why adults who are using that talent are sometimes visited by spirits connected to a particular property before the medium even knows that he or she is going to be asked to investigate the place. Sometimes days or weeks in advance of the investigation. Someone with that kind of psychic ability can't help it; he or she will attract the dead.

So I am sitting here in my office, writing this at my desk and glancing around at what I have that could gain the attention of someone who is no longer in corporeal form. I have an antique writing desk in here, so there's that. I have several candles, although none of them are lit as of yet. (Didn't I hear candles also attract spirit? Isn't that why they use them at seances?) And then there's me, writing about this chosen topic. Already there are noises and disturbances in the hall beyond the kitchen. I know they're just waiting for me to resume work on the book...

On a related note, it's almost the time of year for us to go back north and reopen our three-season cabin, as winter draws (hopefully) to a close. Up north, there is a shop in town that specializes in wind chimes. They must have ten to fifteen of them hanging on their porch, and three times that number of wind chimes available within the store itself. I've been looking at those wind chimes for a few years now, and maybe this season, I'll bring a new one home to keep my gargoyle company. And if it should attract more ghosts? Well, at this point I ask myself the question: Given this house, and given my job, will it really make that much of a difference?

Thursday, April 5, 2018

And Yet Another Haunted Hotel

The St. James Hotel in Cimarron, NM is one of the more famous haunted hotels in the U.S. Its history dates back to the 1800's, and it is steeped in Wild West lore and legend, for such legendaries as Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill Cody, Jesse James, and Doc Holiday were known to have lodged there. It is also steeped in late nineteenth-century Wild West Violence.

From the twenty-two bullet holes that are still lodged in the three-inch wooden overlay above the bar's ceiling, to the ghostly perfume of the hotel founder's wife, the St. James is a hotbed of paranormal activity. It has been investigated and featured on Ghost Adventures as well as The Haunted Collector. The hotel boasts at least one room that is kept closed off to everyone, from staff to guests. And it has a ghostly cowboy who can only be seen in the mirror behind the bar.

Jim and I have friends who spent the night there, and while their experience isn't hair-raising or blood-curdling, it is definitely eerie.

Our friends are both musicians: she is a retired music teacher, he is a professional musician and producer who still travels for gigs and performances. Such was the reason for their journey to the St. James Hotel; he and his colleagues were booked to do a show there.

They had both heard that the place was haunted. She was more excited about it than he was, so while he went up to bed late that night, following the concert, she stayed downstairs and spent some time in the lobby and the bar, hoping to catch something paranormal in nature. When nothing happened for her and the hour was getting to be too late, she gave up and went to bed.

The next morning, she got up earlier than her husband and went downstairs to have breakfast, leaving him to sleep in as he usually does after a show. And that's how she missed the incident, and he had the experience she had been hoping for.

How aware he was that his wife had gotten up and left the room, I don't know. What he did tell me, however, is that he was awakened to someone knocking sharply on the bedroom door. It took him a little bit to realize what had disturbed his sleep, but the knocking came again, and he heard a voice calling out his name. So he got up, stumbled over to the door, and opened it, only to find no one there. He looked up and down the hall, left and right, and verified that nope, no one was anywhere near his room.

Confused and maybe a little annoyed at having to get up, he got dressed and went downstairs to find his wife. She was enjoying her breakfast when he came up to her and asked what she wanted. She looked at him in surprise and confusion. No, she told him. I don't need anything. And I didn't come and knock on the door. I've been down here eating. Her answer left him both astounded and perplexed.

This happened a while ago, but he can still hear what he heard that morning at the St. James Hotel: the knock, the voice. He thought it was one thing to find out that no one was waiting for him in the hall. That was strange. But I think what bothers him the most is that whoever, or whatever, stopped outside his hotel room, it knew him by name.