Saturday, March 19, 2011

Psychic Powers: Nature's Premium Cable?

People who regard psychic ability as nothing more than an impressive act of subconscious intuition won't find much to marvel at here. It's possible, I suppose, that all psychics are delusional or in on some big scam. But it's difficult to dismiss what happened tonight as nothing more than coincidence or skillful deception.

I'm no fan of metaphors. They promise insight and clarity, but more often than not they muddy the truth like clouds in your morning coffee. But I do like this one from Dan Sturges - who describes psychics as having premium cable, while the rest of us only get the basic channels.

Like everyone who's permitted to roam the Merchant House Museum after hours on a paranormal investigation, Cathy Towle was thoroughly vetted before she walked through the front door. She's one of a handful of psychics who work with the Forever Family Foundation - and they're as protective and stingy with their seal of approval as the folks at Merchant's House.

I don't think Cathy's taking anybody for a ride, including herself. She's a modestly confident, instantly calming, genuine presence. That was my first impression (aka poor man's psychic insight).

Cathy's first impressions of the house were dead on. In his exit interview the following day, Dan Sturges noted, "I think the biggest thing last night was finding Cathy, who was very, very good. She mentioned two servants by name: Marie and Jane, which is true. Anthony Bellov backs that up, observing, "A lot of her impressions were accurate. There used to be a big assumption, years ago, that Mr. Tredwell was very stern, even harsh. Cathy talked about he and Mrs. Tredwell as being deeply in love; and the girls, the way she described them, sounded quite content with their lives as well. That's much more in keeping with the current way of thinking."

According to Dan, Cathy didn't know where she was headed that night and had no prior knowledge of the house's haunted reputation. Since many of the "hits" she got (the presence of Irish servant girls, the name of the Tredwell matriarch) are available online, her effectiveness depends largely upon whether or not you're willing to accept that this was a cold reading. Skeptical Dan (who for all his experiences still refuses to say he believes in "ghosts") obviously thinks Cathy's got premium cable - noting that despite our use of EMF meters, "There is no equipment built for ghost hunting. So the best equipment you have is somebody like Cathy. I trusted her right off the bat."

Here's Cathy's take on what's going on at Merchant's House: "There were two kinds of things I picked up on: memories of the house and then the specific energies of entities that are still present in some way...I got the sense that a lot of the entities there were relating to their own time frame. The cook was busy cooking, Mr. Tredwell was reading his newspaper...A lot of times when I do readings, the beings that want to communicate are eagerly waiting to talk for us. In this case, they were just doing what they normally do...This might be why they choose to hang out there instead of moving on. I felt like they really loved their home.

Fourth Floor Servants Quarters
As for those EMF meters, my notebook's filled with dozens of checkmarks only made when the meter's needle moves in response to a question asked or an observation made. Mike, Cathy and I seemed to be having interactions with former tenants of the 4th floor servants quarters, and a lively conversation in Mrs. Tredwell's bedroom - during which she commented on everything from her bedtime routine (reading Hawthorne) to her approval of the museum's frequent music programs.

Regarding that meter activity, Cathy says, "There was a willingness to interact, as opposed to 'I want to scare you so you'll leave.' I felt that was very significant. So it was nice to get that confirmation on the meters."

Dan's take on the wealth of EMF readings typifies his cautious nature: "Cathy was speaking directly to Mr. Tredwell, and she felt he used to read the newspaper in the corner of the room where the meter was. She said, 'If you'd like us to leave you have to set the meter off, you have to approach the meter.' And the meter went off, so we left immediately. Whether she was speaking to a spirit, and whether that spirit was Mr. Tredwell, we can't know. It could have been her subconscious, her energy activating the meter, or one of us in the room."

It's worth noting that about half way through the investigation, normally nonplussed Dan bolted downstairs to check out a strange noise. The day after, he recalled, "I've been in the house plenty of times, and hearing what sounded like the piano...I don't get up and look at stuff because I know the creaks of the house. Your brain filters out the normal background noise; and when something abnormal is heard, it's loud. I heard that noise when we were in Seabury's room. It was a few high notes, like if somebody plinked the keys that were next to each other with two fingers. I'll be interested to see the video."

Nothing was captured on video - and despite several EVP recorders being well within "earshot," no sound was picked up. So either Dan was mistaken or...maybe he managed to tap into his premium cable long enough to hear the dead play the piano. For decades now, plenty of passersby have reported the same sort of thing.