Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer Job at Haunted Historical Building

Last summer I had an internship with the Delaware River Mill Society: a historic site in Stockton, New Jersey. My main job was to serve as a docent – or in other words a glorified tour guide. While the complex had many historic buildings I spent most of my time in the Prall House, which was supposedly haunted.Since I had to memorize all sorts of historical trivia about the Prall House – which was over 200 years old – I was also familiar with all the items sold in the gift shop, since it was part of my job to work as the cashier. One of them was a book by Gordon Thomas Ward, titled “Ghosts of Central Jersey: Historic Haunts of the Somerset Hills”.

Here is a link to a blog post that discusses Ward’s book in detail:

Ward claimed to have done a paranormal investigation of the Prall House with a group called Haunted New Jersey, where they took EVP recordings from inside the Prall House. Ward spoke of such phenomena as “…footsteps are heard upstairs near the offices of the Delaware River Mill Society [aka the Prall House]…as well as objects disappearing and reappearing, people being touched and the sound of boots walking across the front lobby carpet.”

Sounds pretty spooky, huh? The entire time I had worked in the Prall House I’d never experienced any of the above events. Wanting to experience these strange happenings ourselves another intern, David, and I decided to camp out in the Prall House overnight. Because everyone knows ghosts only come out at night.

Since we both had keys to the building we snuck in after work one day, ready to give ourselves a scare. Besides the usual TAPS-esque “DID YOU HEAR THAT?” whispering at every pop and crackle the old house made as it settled we didn’t see nor hear any ghosts. We even tried the same thing that Ward had in his book; which was essentially provoking the spirits into answering us by asking the same questions over and over again. When we played back our recordings (admittedly done on a tape recorder and not an EVP-machine, if there’s even a difference) we didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary except our ridiculously nervous sounding voices and the silence of the Prall House answering.

I have always been highly skeptical of the reality of ghosts, seeing as I’ve never seen one myself nor is there any substantial evidence proving their existence. Mr. Ward touches briefly on the subject, stating “I don’t think you can argue against the existence of ghosts … but what I do think you can do is argue what they are. We can’t prove the existence of ghosts, but we can collect evidence that supports the existence of ghosts.”

Okay, sounds a little sketchy to me. You can’t prove that ghosts exist but you can find evidence supporting their existence?

However, there may be some credence to what Mr. Ward says after all. According to him, if a person doesn’t have enough ‘psychic ability’ paranormal phenomena will not occur in their presence. Ward also claims there are different types of paranormal events…not just the stereotypical disembodied voices and pale, translucent apparitions we associate with ghosts.

He explains that there are “…three types of phenomena: poltergeists — energy coming from a living thing in the environment that causes movement and noises without consciously knowing they are doing so; residual hauntings — energy impressed or recorded in an atmosphere that can be replayed; and apparitions — images or figures that can acknowledge the presence of a person and can communicate. When people with enough psychic ability are in these locations, they will pick up on things.”

Perhaps the combined ‘psychic ability’ of Haunted New Jersey was high enough that the ghosts went so far as to touch the paranormal investigators, as well as move stationary objects in their presence and stomp around upstairs to let them know they existed. If the words of Mr. Ward are to be taken completely as fact the only logical conclusion is that David and I did not have enough psychic ability and thus the spirits ignored us.

Mr. Ward’s book, while most likely not entirely factual, does contain EVP recordings taken in the Prall House and other sites (which unfortunately I couldn’t find online) if you would like to hear them yourself.

To the left is the Prall House, featured on the cover of Ward's book: Ghosts of Central Jersey: Historic Haunts of the Somerset Hills. While ordinarily charming and picturesque, with the heavy use of photoshop filters it appears sinister and haunted.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"Heaven is Real"

I came across a story that somewhat illustrates on the connection between an out of body experience and into the world of the unknown. A neurosurgeon himself agreed that he literally experienced an out of body experience so real, he believes he got his first glimpse into heaven. Now normally discussed in the text out of body experiences usually are related to lucid dreaming, trauma, and drug usage. However this neurosurgeon had fallen into a coma for 7 days, where the entire cortex of his brain has shut down. Although I am very bad with explaining science and bodily related functions, from the text I know that the cortex basically controls much of human functioning. With a brain that is basically shut down, shouldn't you anticipate to experience complete... darkness?

This article continues on to explain his experiences with seeing beautiful clouds, feeling so calm, and a lady telling him that the universe is made of nothing but love and you can do no wrong now. Is he indeed witnessing his death? Is this what heaven feels like? I know we have no discussed this in the book, at least not yet, however I thought this experience was awesome! Usually OBE are simply described as "the mind separating from the body". Also, this relates back to the whole "we only use 10% of our brain theory. Was he indeed using other  portions of his brain to experience such wonderful feelings and well... travels? 

I personally believe that OBE are real. As for the brain, I'm undecided if I think we are truly only using only 10%. Like I said I am far from a science major, however, this story I had to share. I want to share it for its eye opening abilities. Showing that these experiences are real. In fact, so real, that people can still wake up from a coma for days being able to describe such wonderful experiences of relaxation. The book talked about one OBE experience where a college student simply saw their body leave their body and return (odd wording, I know). The book turns to a cognitive science approach which goes into explaining how the brain is a central processing unit and uses neurotransmitters to pass messages along. Is the brain just passing messages along to this man? But how can the brain be functioning if the cortex was completely shut down? Something worth thinking about! Truly draws you back to pseudoscience beliefs of whats real, whats not, and how do we really take in and test these beliefs.

Also I thought this was just neat, a video describing all the perfect conditions and steps taken to try and experience an OBE:


Being's that I am a criminal justice major I found high interest in the chapter of graphology. As most of you know the analysis of handwriting is quite relevant in the field. Whether it be examining documents, death threats, and so forth, they have issued many specialists to take on these tasks. An article I came across on the CIA page illustrates some of the basic problems with today's use of graphology. 

First it starts off with a line that captured my attention, "it acknowledges that traditional psychological assessment is preferable to handwriting analysis when direct access to the individual is possible". I love this! Think about it, as the video in the slides gave insight into a place of business which turned to handwriting analysis when interviewing new potential employees. For starters, is this even right? Should a business be allowed to base a pseudoscience belief on hiring employees? Just as this article starts off, I'm questioning why do some people turn to psychological beliefs when direct access and communication with an individual is available? 

As the article continues, it brings up issues discussed within the cognition chapters. Will you begin to relate broad statements to situations that CAN, not always, pertain to a given situation? It begins to talk about a study done in which students were given a survey in which they answered true and false questions about their selves, such as “do you have a tendency to be critical of yourself”. Once you have formed so many true answers, it’s hard to give such broad analysis that would NOT apply to people. Plus, just like stated when dealing with astrology, you must make broad claims. You must leave room so whatever the actual analysis or response is, it can be easily believed by the respondent. Look what happened within the study done with college students and Nostradamus, claims so broad people almost comfortably drew comparisons to his prophecies. So with graphology, isn’t this just basing broad claims on general writing habits in order to get a respondent to agree with a given analysis?

Lastly, the article begins to come to a close on the pros and cons. It states that graphology is an art, not a science. Early on in the book we note that a science can be reproduced.. can graphology really be produced and turn out to be 100% accurate every single time? Questions in my mind would be, couldn’t a person’s current state of mind possibly affect their writing style? And the article states that you cannot predict sex based on handwriting even though it is usually distinguishable. I personally feel as if graphology can be used as supporting factors in life, not as a basis of hiring, firing, guilty or not guilty (unless of course we can successfully match a forged check to a person’s handwriting). If we have direct access to an individual why try to literally “read between the lines?” It might not ALWAYS be accurate.

Our very own celebrity the Jersey Devil

Well as you might have read I wrote about the sneaky creature El Chupacbra.  So I decided to tell you about our own creature which actually resides not to far from Stockton College itself.  The Jersey Devil aka Rosemary's baby or Leed's Devil and no I am not talking about the NHL hockey team.  This legendary creature supposedly lives in the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey.  It is told it is a two legged winged beast with hooves, horns, and a blood-curdling scream which is the most popular version, but different descriptions have come about also.  Yes the NHL team does get its name from this pop culture creature.  The earliest legends of this creature date back to the Lenni Lenape tribes which called the Pine Barrens "Popusessing" meaning place of the dragon.  Explores from Sweden called this area "Drake Kill" Drake meaning dragon and Kill meaning channel or arm of the sea.  So even back then there was a reason for this area to be associated with the word dragon.  Let us look into the most popular and well-know version.  It all started with Mother Leed who had 12 children.  Then one day around the year 1735 she found out she was pregnant with her 13th and stated, " This one will be the Devil".  It is said Mother Leed was a witch and even the child's father was the Devil himself.  The child was said to be born normal but changed to the beast I describe above. After changing shortly after its birth the Jersey Devil let out a blood-curdling scream killed the midwife before flying up the chimney, where after it circled the surrounding village and fled out towards the wilderness.  A clergyman exorcised the demon in 1740 for 100 years and it wasn't seen again, but after the 100 years it was.  Around 1820 reports started to circulate regarding a creature seen hunting in the woods which could not be described.  This first new sighting was reported by the brother of Emperor Napoleon, Joesph Bonaparte, in the Bordentown, NJ with blamed being placed on the Jersey Devil also for killing of livestock.  More reports came about with similar killings of livestock and with tracks and monstrous screams as well.  Stephen Decatur a Commander of the US Navy at this time is also to have seen the creature flying about and order a cannon ball be fired at it, which had no affect.  Sightings of the Jersey devil are reported even till the year 1951.  Many people have said they have seen or even shot at this creature with no affect at all.  This creatures legend grew so fast that even the Philadelphia Zoo posted a $10,000 dollar reward for the creature's dung.
The legend of the Jersey Devil has accounted for many books, stories, movies, and even an appearance of the popular science fiction tv show the X-Files.
The Jersey Devil
   I you see above there are just a few of the examples how the Jersey Devil has reach new heights with its mysterious ways.

I believe this all falls around the same principle as the Chupacabra with its psychological aspect.  A small myth as become a possible delusion and cause for mass hysteria with unexplained killings of livestock. People always need a reason for something to happen and one way or another will come up with one.  Also people during the period of the Jersey Devil people were very quick to blame anything that they could not explain to possible links to the  Jersey Devil.  Quickly it wood start a wildfire with others.  All you need is a rumor to start and you will find someone to keep that rumor going to the next person, before long it is believe to be a fact.  
Now do i personally believe in the Jersey Devil, I will say no but I bet there are those that truly do believe it does exist.  How do we go about finding out if this is true or not.  Will you can always take a midnight ride in the woods.  You can also do one more then, go 5.7 miles northeast of Absecon, NJ to this area code 08220.  Till you see road that goes off to the right aka Leeds Point Rd, take this till you cannot go any further.  After that take a long walk into the woods until you come about the birth place of the Jersey Devil himself, a small broken down cabin.  Camp there for the night take a friend and maybe even record what is going about, maybe if you are lucky you can stay the whole night and see the Jersey Devil yourself.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

OBE's in recent movies

Recently, I have noticed a common theme in a few movies where the main character has and OBE. Two of those movies are Heaven is for Real and If I Stay. In Heaven is for Real, which is based on a true story and book, the main character, Colton Burpo, has an OBE while he is in emergency surgery. This four year old boy says that while he was out of his body he saw where and what each of his parents were doing and that he met his great grandfather and baby sister who died during a miscarriage. He then goes on to say that he went to Heaven and met Jesus and God. I find this little boy's story to be unbelievably amazing. Attached are the movie trailer and an interview he and his dad has on Fox news.
Additionally, another movie (which hasn't come out yet) that deals with the main character having and OBE is If I Stay. The main character, Mia Hall, gets into a fatal car accident with her family, who end up dying. While she is in a coma, fighting for her life, Mia has an OBE and sees everyone and everything that is happening around her. She sees the mangled car and her parents dead bodies. When she goes to look for her brother she sees her own body and wonders if she is actually dead. The paramedics arrive and she sees them rush her and her brother to the hospital. She follows them all the way there and watches as the doctors aid her. As she watches her family and boyfriend come in and out to visit, Mia has to make her own life or death decision, whether she is going to die or wake up and live a life that will never be the same. I have also attached the trailer for this movie.

Heaven is for Real Trailer:
Heaven is for Real Interview on Fox:

If I Stay Trailer:

Ouija Boards and Paranormal Activity

Ouija boards, also known as spirit or talking boards, are used by many today to communicate with spirits. It is said that spirits move players hand around the board to deliver a message. My family is very religious, especially my grandparents, and I have always been told to stay away from this game because playing it shows belief in witchcraft. Many people are afraid to use these boards because of the many horror stories that users have shared. According to some, this game can release demonic spirits that stay with you and haunt you, especially if you don't play by the rules. 
However, I don't believe any of that to be true, or at least I didn't. My friends and I always used to play with the ouija board and nothing ever happened. You could always tell that someone in the group was pushing the planchette (the heart shaped piece that everyone touches) around the board, so I was never afraid or a believer. That is until about a year and a half ago. Two winters ago my boyfriend was in a bad accident with a man on a bicycle. This man swerved into the middle of the road, two feet in front of my boyfriend and his two friends. Unfortunately, this man was hit by the car and later on ended up passing away. A few months after this, my sister and I wanted to play with my Ouija board and my boyfriend refused to play. He basically ran out of the house when we mentioned it. I could not believe that he was afraid of a stupid little game. Come to find out, my boyfriend and the two friends he was in an accident with played with a Ouija board the night before their accident. All of them believe the accident happened because they played with the ouija board and messed with spirits. I'm not sure I believe that the accident happened because they played with the ouija board or that it just happens to be a bad coincidence but I am more reluctant to play the game since.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

10% myth of our brains

The big myth is that we only 10 percent of the human brain. Is this true? They are making movies saying it so it must be true right? In fact, this is the biggest myth ever and people actually believe it. I use to believe it because it was in movies and everyone else says it, so why not believe it. They made a movie Limitless years ago stating that myth and a guy takes a pill and had major access to his brain making him super smart. This new movie coming out called Lucy is about a woman who is gaining more power to her brain and is getting smart where she is figuring out new things to do like stop time.

We actually use every part of the brain and the brain functions all the time even when we sleep. The brain actually takes up 3 precent of the human body weight and uses up 20 percent of the bodies energy. It was says humans actually use 100 percent of the brain through a whole day. So with research  through out the past 20 years, why do people still believe that we only use 10 percent of it? 

People probably believe this still because when someone talks about thats the first thing they lern or heard somewhere. The brain is complex and doctors and scientist only understand about 10 percent of it so that has a factor in it too. With a little research people can easily find the answer to this myth and making something that people believe is false. here is a link to an article that explains why the myth bis false. enjoy!

Why do my knees always hurt when it's raining out? Oh wait, they don't.

I played soccer my entire life, up until I was halfway through my first year of college. About half of those fourteen years of playing soccer were riddled with multiple knee injuries, ranging from minor sprains to three separate ACL tears that all required surgery. Basically, I am going to have arthritis in my knees at a very young age.

Throughout my life, I have always heard that bad weather causes joint pain in people with current or previous injury. I never gave much thought to this until the last couple of years after I stopped playing competitive soccer. When I was playing, my knee always hurt, whether it was raining or not, only because I was constantly using it! Now that I do not perform intense exercise everyday, my knees do not hurt everyday. They are only sore after a long day of walking or the day after I play a two hour game of ultimate frisbee. 

Some of these days that I feel a soreness in my joints do coincide with cloudy or rainy days. However, if I performed a study that recorded the days I did and did not have sore knees, the daily weather, and all of the days I exercised, I could come up with a better conclusion. As a scientist, I have always been taught to find correlations in data but to not always assume that the correlation equals causation. In this case, I would like to not only record data about me but record data about many different types of people with different lifestyles and different injuries. A larger data set might offer more significant results.

I was glad to read that there was some scientific study done on this belief that arthritis pain is related to the weather. It was never something I personally noticed with my own joint pain, so I was always confused at why people believed it to be true. 

I found a link on, a trusted weather source, that offers a local aches and pains forecast for people that are worried about how the weather will affect their health. You can type in any location, and it will give you the "Aches & Pains Index," chance of precipitation, humidity change, and temperature change. 

However, other sources, such as WebMD, acknowledge that the general population may believe that arthritis pain and the weather are related, but say that there is no clear scientific evidence that supports this claim. 

Related to Chapter 2.3, page 33.

Long Island Medium

Long Island Medium is a popular show on TLC that features self-proclaimed psychic, Theresa Caputo. Her specialty is communicating with people that have died, and her show is all about performing "readings" for people that need closure after a loved one has passed away. At the beginning of her shows, Theresa says that she only knows the names and phone numbers of the people she is meeting and that her goal is to relay messages from the spirit to the group of people she is meeting with.

When I was much younger, I definitely thought it was possible to be psychic, but as I got older, I started to realize that all of these self-proclaimed mediums were definitely phony. I can understand how people do believe in psychic abilities, especially in the case of the people Theresa Caputo meets with. They are all in a very vulnerable emotional state after losing someone, and they are willing to do and to believe anything to receive closure.

I have attached a link of a private reading that aired on the show. It is clear that this meeting helped the parents deal with the loss of their child, but if you listen closely to what Theresa says, you will notice how generic and vague her predictions and messages are. For example, she simply points out the mother's necklace and mentions that she feels it's connected to a "young soul." The mother then says that it's her daughter's birthstone and that she never takes it off. Notice how broad Theresa's comments were compared to the specific meaning the mother takes away from these comments. Also, when Theresa is relaying the messages from the daughter to the parents, she only uses very generic sayings like "My death is not your fault" or "Remember me when I was happy." She knows what to say to the parents to make them feel better, but it is hard to believe (at least for me) that these messages are really coming from the dead daughter.

This technique of vague prediction is prevalent with all types of psychics, such as the psychic crime detectives that were mentioned in the book. When the medium or psychic acts extremely confident in themselves, just like Theresa Caputo does, it is easy to manipulate the minds of people willing to believe in this ability.

Related to Chapter 5.3, page 140.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Mass Delusions & Hysteria

During the 1960's there was panic spreading through out Salem, Massachusetts due to Witchcraft. Many people believe that this special event was actually a case of Mass Hysteria. Mass Hysteria is a problem affecting various people usually caused by an inexplicable illness, unreasonable behavior/ believes. The two most common types of Mass Hysteria are: Anxiety Hysteria and Motor Hysteria. Anxiety Hysteria is usually triggered by a threatening issue and it usually lasts a day. Motor Hysteria is a social situation where school and religion is important. The Crucible is a play by Arthur Miller that takes you through the 1960's and how the Salem Witch trials took place. It all started when 5 girls where dancing in the forest, and get caught by the local minister who immediately believes that these girls are involved in witchcraft. After the word gets out to the public many people start reporting that they have seen someone preform witchcraft or that they believe someone is involved. These girls go into trial and although they never confessed to being witches the whole town thinks they are. This is a great example of Motor Hysteria in this region religion was such an important role in everyday to day ilife that when a couple girls do something out of the ordinary it turns into something bigger than it should have. This event has been talked about so much during the years because it shows the traits of a mass hysteria an event in which people over react to an event. These events never had an actually conclusion so none really knows if these girls were witches. Most people believe that these girls acted this way because they wanted attention. Since there is no scientific evidence it will always be classified as Mass Hysteria and delusions.


The play was turned into a movie here is the trailer:

VooDoo Science, Laura Caruso

Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud, written by Robert Park, is a collection of alternative sciences in which complex theories are used to confuse the general public and to explain the laws of nature that even they cannot understand. In simpler terms, “voodoo science” is a term for pseudoscience or fraudulent science, according to a review by Richard A. Pizzi.
            This pathway avoids the outskirts and rushes right in to the heart of fringe science, in which Park is essentially explaining to his readers that it is much easier to spot voodoo science than most would think. However, author Robert Park manages to keep his head when writing about the billions of dollars wasted on countless research and therapies backed up by fraudulent claims, like the Jarvik 7, an artificial heart that was placed in the body of a Seattle dentist named Barney Clark.
            Although research for an artificial heart may be highly effective in the long run, this dying man was forced to live in “a man-made Hell somewhere between life and death” for 112 days, according to Park in Chapter Five of Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud. Although Clark survived his own heart, his agreement to undergo the procedure was not to live longer than he was destined to; rather, it was to help advance scientific research, a fact that most ill-informed media sources neglected to mention. When Chase Peterson, a retired M.D. by training put on his white smock and hung a stethoscope around his neck each day before appearing in front of the camera to update America on Barney Clark’s condition, the nation was convinced that this man had just returned from Clark’s bedside, and that Clark was living out a happy and grateful life post heart failure.
            This example is the definition of voodoo science; people who go to school and earn a degree deem themselves scientists, and begin fraudulent research on things that will encourage the rest of the country to hop on the bandwagon. This is where scientific fads come from, like super diets, UFO sightings, and paranormal activity, among many others. Maybe some of these claims are true, and maybe they are false. Most of us will never know, and we can thank the supporters of voodoo science for that one.
            My favorite part of Voodoo Science had to do with one particular suspicion related to the cause of cancer. Chapter Seven, titled “Currents of Fear in which Power Lines Are Suspected of Causing Cancer,” is based on a three year study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in which the NAS reviewed the possible health effects of exposure to residential electromagnetic fields. This study focused not only on power lines, but on the recent “microwave” epidemic. Yes, the microwave oven epidemic. These appliances “exert a profound effect on the central nervous system of rhesus monkeys and other primates,” according to an article written by Paul Brodeur. The actual radiation had been studied for thirty years, and the list of health problems connected to microwaves included miscarriages, birth defects, and cancer.
            This created mass hysteria, in which people who were exposed to microwaves (essentially every family that owned a microwave oven) would blame their sudden health issues on the radiation. I have a cold at the moment, but I am not blaming that cold on the microwavable dinner I had last night.
            The best part about this cancer causing fad (and I mean fad in the heaviest, non-humorous sense) is that there are tons of studies about people who were already diagnosed with cancer, but none about cancer before birth. It would be a wonderful thing to find a cure to cancer, but wouldn’t it be even better to find a way to prevent the disease? It would be much more effective to “discover the true biologic causes of the leukemic clones that threaten the lives of children,” as stated in an accompanying editorial to the New England Journal of Medicine.

            I related this novel to class in a way that most other people would; I associated the theories and phenomena explained by Robert Park to the ones in the textbook, and I began to question much of what I have read. I have always been skeptical of most studies that have been broadcasted throughout the media, but never to this extent. I think that is what makes this book so powerful—and interesting—because Park not only elaborates on these theories, but opens your eyes to other fraudulent headlines you have seen throughout your life.

Posted for Laura Caruso