What is the truth behind the Bigfoot legend? Area 51 and UFO’s? Crop circles? Time travel? Mermaids and Mind Control? In her first book – Paranormal Oddities and Government Conspiracies – paranormal investigator Katie Christopher of NEPA Paranormal’s television series Ghost Detectives thoughtfully examines some of the most pervasive and controversial theories of our time. The Los Angeles Post-Examiner is pleased to present an excerpt of Paranormal Oddities and Government Conspiracies just in time for Halloween. Paranormal Oddities and Government Conspiracies is available online at Amazon.
Paranormal Activity At Halloween
As a paranormal investigator, Halloween is naturally my favorite holiday. Even as a child, I loved the holiday more than any other. In my field of research, Halloween has always had almost an enigma around it. Those involved in the paranormal always get more attention at this time, and every investigator has the same goal of an amazing investigation on Halloween night. It got me to wondering why. Many people operate under the theory that paranormal activity picks up on Halloween. I’ve heard the theory myself, but I never knew the back story. I’d like to visit some areas of the Halloween season which are very much alive today, and dig into what makes them relevant, and why we celebrate with such strangely specific traditions. I also want to visit the theory that paranormal activity is more prevalent on Halloween than any other day of the year and see if there is truly any merit to it.
Trick or treating, pumpkin carving, haunted attractions, and costumes are all activities synonymous with Halloween. Every October 31st, millions of children dress up in costumes and go door to door in an effort to secure candy from each of the homes owners. Autumn hayrides transform into scream inducing thrill rides, and pumpkins are gutted, cleaned out, and carved with some of the most detailed and intricate designs one may see all year. These are traditions we have all come to know and love. We grew up taking part in these activities, and the fun of it all keeps us from questioning, where did this all come from? Why am I dressed up like some sort of insect with neon wings strapped to my back begging my neighbors for candy?
The truth of the story is that these activities did derive from things that were practiced centuries before any of us were born. The word Halloween originated in the 16th century and is of Scottish decent. It roughly translates to All Hallows Eve which would be the day before All Hallows Day, or more commonly known as All Saints Day, which is immediately followed by All Souls Day. Though the word itself is 16th century, the traditions of Halloween are much much older. 2000 years ago, the Celts celebrated the Festival of Samhain on November 1st. This Festival marked the start of a new year, and October 31st was like an ancient New Years Eve. On this eve, they would build bonfires, and dress in costume and dance around a fire. They would burn dying crops, and give sacrifices. Ancient lore says that the Celts believed that on this day, the veil between the living and the dead grew weaker, and the spirits of the dead walked the Earth with the living. The costumes were used as a disguise as to blend in so they would not be recognized as living for fear of what the dead would do to them. It was also believed that at this time, when the gap between those living and dead was so small, that the Celtic priests, or Druids, could make accurate predictions of the future, so fortune-telling was also a large part of their celebration.
So now that we know where the practice of dressing in costume came from, what about the other traditions? What would give us the idea to send our children door to door for candy? Why are we carving faces in pumpkins? Believe it or not, there are old day practices that tie in with these beloved Halloween traditions as well. In the 18th century, the poor would go door to door knocking on the homes of their more fortunate neighbors asking for money, food, or clothing in exchange for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day. They would do this every year on All Hallows Eve. Because it was dark out, they would pick turnips and carve out the middles, and turn them into lanterns to help light their way as they traveled. As time went on, this practice was laid to rest, but it was enough to pave the way for a long lasting tradition of traveling the neighborhoods for goodies. With time, turnips were changed to pumpkins and now we decorate them every year. In later years, as the Catholic Church became more dominant, the Festival of Samhain would be no more, but tradition always has a way of continuing on.
As the America’s became populated, some these traditions would carry over as well. Because of the mixed ethnicity of those living in the Americas however, the celebration of Halloween would become a mixture of many different customs. As more people came to the United States, the festivities began to spread across our nation. As witchcraft became more popular, young women took to doing “tricks” and spells. It was believed that on Halloween, they could reveal the names of their future husbands using objects such as apples, yarn and mirrors. People would also host parties where they would sing, dance, and tell fortunes, much like the Festival of Samhain, but to add an American twist, they also told the scariest ghost stories they could think of. In the late 1800’s, America made the decision to change.
Halloween. Instead of focusing on the scary, spell casting, and dark side of the holiday, they decided to make it more about the family and friends aspects, and from that point on up until the early 1900’s, Halloween was just that. There was no more talk of ghosts and the dead. Parents of children were urged by local leaders, and even seasonal newspaper articles to keep the frightening and ghostly aspect out of their children’s costumes. These efforts proved to be effective, and much of the ghastly aspect of the holiday was forgotten.
As time went by however, ancient tales and superstitions would not be completely quieted, and today, the scary side of Halloween is much alive. This would surely explain the fear factor we experience every year; however unlike the Celts, instead of taking preventative measures to make sure we are not identified by the dead, society now seems to enjoy the scare. It’s a thrill, an adrenaline rush, and we don’t think twice about paying whatever admission fee we have to, to enter a building where hundreds of premeditated arrangements await us in order to give us the scariest 10 minutes they can come up with. Men dressed in black hiding in the shadows waiting for us to come near so they can jump out. Others in hockey masks toting chainsaws delight in our blood curdling screams, but this is the fun we’ve come to expect from Halloween. Tales of ghostly encounters and creatures of the night such as zombies, werewolves, and vampires would not be silenced. It is amazing how the times change, and traditions once sacred and holy, or even desperate acts for survival are now what make up this unique fall holiday.
Paranormal Activity on All Hallows Eve
Perhaps the most interesting piece of history of all surrounding Halloween is the Celtic theory that Halloween is the day the dead walk among the living. This explains the practice of dressing in costume, but for one who researches the paranormal it means so much more. Historically, Celtic traditions on this sacred holiday include a celebratory dinner in which seats are left open for the spirits of loved ones, offerings are made in the name of deceased loved ones that are more over the top on this day than any other, and candles are lit on window sills to act as a tool to help guide the spirit of a loved one into the light and over to the other side. On a more sinister side of things, it is also believed that the spirits present can seek out revenge as much as they can comfort a loved one. Criminals and murderers feared their victims would come back in search of justice. It was also believed inhuman spirits roamed free as well. The average person carried the fear of encountering something demonic. It was even said that fairies would steal people never allowing them to return. Meals were often left at the doors of homes for the fairies to prevent them from entering a home. One thing is for sure, if costumes really were used specifically to blend in with the dead, one can bet they were some of the scariest most elaborate costumes you will ever see!
As a paranormal investigator, to think a day exists where that veil truly is thinner making the task of communication easier is like hitting the lottery. We spend exponential amounts of our lives researching. We spend hundreds of dollars on the latest tools in communication, and countless hours in the darkest most potentially haunted locations in the world, all in the name of finding that one piece of data we can present as evidence of the existence of life after death. Could there really be a day where we can do this and the odds of getting solid results are increasingly better than any other day of the year?
History and tradition are incredibly important, and as you can see, they shape us in so many ways, and are profound influences on things we practice today; however as a modern day society, it is clear that the dead do not roam freely on Halloween for all to see. I have spent many years in the paranormal field, and personally I believe if there is activity in a location, those spirits are present no matter what time of year it is. We do not know what makes it easy or difficult to communicate, so there really is no way to confidently say that the conditions surrounding one specific day prove to make communication easier. I am sure conditions do exist, and it is possible that on the right day, when everything aligns just so, contact may be easier, but it doesn’t mean that day is Halloween.
With such a gruesome history, as well as the fact that Halloween is a time when we like to be scared, it is easy to see where the theory came from. I have personally seen some amazing pieces of evidence picked up on Halloween investigations, but I have also seen equally amazing pieces of evidence that did not happen on Halloween. Since nothing in the paranormal field is a science, I guess it is still possible that the veil between worlds could be lifted. It is an interesting theory, and something that was clearly taken seriously years ago. I sincerely hope I can provide some evidence to support that theory someday, but as with many questions we have on the paranormal, I think this may be something we will never know for sure until we see the other side for ourselves.
Banner picture: Halloween at Greenmount Cemetery ~ Anthony C. Hayes