Friday, September 3, 2010

True Tales of the Unexplained

For those of you who have been asking for a book of the stories from my blog:

Stories from my blog and Examiner articles,edited for print. Black and white 218 pages.
Avalable at Amazon here: TRUE TALES OF THE UNEXPLAINED

Saturday, July 31, 2010

His Eye is on the Sparrow

Generational tales that are passed down from family member to family member over the decades can be very interesting. They also can be greatly exaggerated.

Take my family with the tales of my maternal grandfathers adventures as a rum runner and moonshiner during prohibition and his subsequent death at age 96 from bad shine he brewed in his still. I heard the stories over and over as I grew up, only to find out later in life that they were all untrue. Of course dying quietly of old age in a nursing home is not as adventurous a yarn as an ancient moonshiner dying by his still, but such is life.

Then again a humble old story can become a great adventure when the truth comes clear through the decades. Long has there been rumors in my family of “an ancestor who was granted land in America after being a successful privateer for the English Crown during Queen Ann’s War. Finding out later in life the story was documented and researched. My ancestor owned a large lot in Manhattan and after his unexpected death at this colonial farm, ownership fell into the hands of the colonial government, the land was reapportioned to another pioneer. No one could find the deed and the land was worth billions in the 20 century. In the late 70s, my Uncle claimed to have found the deed in an old family painting, and after showing the document to many and after hiring a lawyer to challenge the ownership of the land, he died in a mysterious car accident in the Hawaiian Mountains. The deed mysteriously disappeared after his death.

Sometimes family stories are steeped in myth, other times they are only portions of a bigger truth that can be quite startling. Consider this old story passed down from the turn of the last century, told to me by an elderly gentleman this summer, dear reader. Of which type is it? You decide.

The Macchovi family had owned the carriage works for generations when they converted it to an automobile garage after World War 1. They transformed the large two story store room into the main bay for repairs and the old assembly area into the parts room to accommodate more vehicles being worked on at the same time. The large old store room was quite cold in the winter time, but in summer its spacious layout with two double doors on both ends and high ceiling made for a comfortable work area. During the summer days the bay was constantly a buzz with the chirping birds that nested in the buildings high wooden rafters. The bird were mostly small sparrows and while the noise was bearable, the constant droppings coating customers cars was not. Ever since the building renovation Uncle Marcel Macchovi had tried to rid the bay of the nuisance of the sparrows. He had tried shooting them, but instead of being rid of his trouble, he added onto them by shooting holes into the ceiling. He tried smoking them out, but the birds would only leave and return when the smoke had cleared. Barn cats were also ineffective, only able to catch a few birds a week of the multitude that called the shop home.

For years Marcel put up with the bird bombing, until one late summer day it abruptly stopped.

The crew didn’t notice the silence in the auto bay until almost noon, all the birds were gone from the rafters. They thought it curious and wondered what had frightened them off. Calling it a blessings, Marcel and his men worked hard into the day until later in the afternoon one of the workers made a disturbing discovery. Behind the shop where they stored the old oil in barrels, one of the workers found a pile of dead birds.

The pile was enormous. Marcel judged that not only were all the sparrows from the shop in the heap, many other birds were put there as well. The strangest thing was that they had no discernible injuries. No bullet holes, cuts, bites or any mark upon them. They were just dead. Many with their eyes open.

It was as their lives were just sucked from them. The bodies were in no ways molested, not a broken bone in the bunch.

It was very odd. Nobody had ever seen anything like it. But they shook it off and continued their busy day. They had almost forgotten it until a week later when they heard the neighboring farmers complain about the mass death of their chickens. The cages chicken coops themselves were undamaged, however when the farmers had entered them, all the chickens were dead and in a pile on the floor of the coop. Like the wild birds, they had no marks upon them. They had all suddenly died and mysteriously gathered in a heap.

A local Veterinarian was called to inspect the birds, but he too could not find a cause of death. There were no outward sign of disease, but would have diagnosed an avian virus if it were not for the bodies being piled up in a single heap. Someone was playing a trick, or the farmers had an unknown enemy, he surmised.

In response the local farmers stepped up their efforts to protect their livestock; both those who lost their fowl as well as those that had no attack. Guard dogs were purchased along with an increased patrol of watchmen pooled from a combined force of work hands who were good with a gun.

Three days later, the guard dogs on all the farms started to make a commotion during the night and as the watchmen came upon the nearest farm, the guard dogs were nowhere in sight, this happened on each farm they investigated that night. They were found the next morning in the middle of a large cornfield. The pile contained all manner of outdoor animals. From wandering house cat to coyote and even a few cougars. It baffled everyone.

Mrs. Rowse lived next to the Macchovi garage, she was a cat lover with a house full of them. When they all disappeared she called upon Marcel for help, he told her the bad news and she took it quite hard. Her countenance changed at the news, and never was the same again. She quietly made her way home, silently sobbing into her handkerchief.

Marcel went to console his neighbor on the next day, but she did not answer. He visited again the next day and once again Mrs. Rowse did not answer, he stayed a while and heard not a rustle in the house, banging on both the front and back door and with desperation a knock on the front window. On the third day Marcel was walking along the creek which was a shortcut to the Rowse house, avoiding the turn in the road connecting the properties, when he heard a noise on the other side of the creek above the small cliff side. It was a rustling in the bushes with a raspy breathing. Something was moving along the other side of the creek very slowly. Marcel unsheathed his knife, a large hunting knife he carried on the inside of his boot, carried for situations quite like this.

He quickly and quietly hopped the shale rock to the other side of the creek near the noise. He jumped up the little outcrop with knife drawn to see shat was making the noise.

It was Mrs. Rowse, lying in a little dip in the hill across a path. With a heavy breath her body moved by itself down across the dip. It was if she was being dragged without her body being affected by the woodland floor. She was floating there moving with each deep breath as if upon an invisible blanket.

Marcel jumped across the path to other side and was almost within arms reach of the woman when the sunlight reflected something unnatural.

It was if she were enveloped by a bubble that glistened in the light. A movement to or fro and the bubble vanished from sight. But at a certain angle the sun showed the bubble, heaving as the old woman breathed and dragged her inside of it’s unseen mass.

Marcel approached and poked at the bubble with the point of his blade.

There was a movement of sorts within the bubble, it swelled and became clear to see in the angle of his vision. He saw the movement form into a bulbous blur on the bubble, as if it had a giant zit that was to pop. Then the bulge on the bubble opened.

It was an eye.

An ungodly visage that manifest itself upon the gelatinous form focused its ethereal iris toward Marcel. And so he struck again at the iris.

He told his crew chief later that it was if the thing was real, but not. It was halfway into this world and that with a lucky shot he hit the thing at its weakest point and the thing squealed and faded away. Mrs. Rowse let loose one large sigh and passed on. The county coroner ruled that she died of lung disease because of smoking.

Marcel never knew her to be a smoker.

At the funeral service Marcel left unexpectedly. His chief followed after him and saw Uncle Marcel shoot himself in the head in the backyard of the funeral home. They were in the middle of the chorus of an old gospel hymn that Mrs. Rowse had loved all her life. The chorus to the song, “His Eye is on the Sparrow” is,

“I sing because I'm happy,
I sing because I'm free,
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me

His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches me.”

The strange deaths stopped after Marcel’s suicide.

It is quite an odd tale, you be the judge. Did Uncle Marcel see something in the woods or was it all in his mind?

Was it some transdimensional life draining creature, or a demon from the pit of hell?

To me, the monster reminded me of a creature from the old 1960s cartoon “Johnny Quest”. That knife must have had a fine tip; I want one.

Until Next Time,

Pastor Swope

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ghost Hunting Tips: Makeshift EVPs

With all the Paranormal Investigators and groups out there, there are a lot of personal tricks of the trade that would be of great value to others. With that in mind I will gather together some videos and share them here with a link to the groups website. Once a week a new tip will be highlighted along with my regular content which will come regularly.

Here's the first tip from VIPER Virginia Investigators of Paranormal, Education and Research.

"In this "Budget Ghost Hunting" tutorial Mike St. Clair from VIPER Paranormal shows you how to safely disable your digital or analog voice recorder's microphone for recording EVP. It does not harm your recorder so you can still use it with the microphone as well."

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Giant Indian Mound Builders of Erie

Sometimes while doing research you find a little tidbit that throws you off topic and down a path you never though you would find yourself wandering on. While investigating the topic of lost graveyards in Erie I stumbled upon this curiosity:

“…when the roadway of the Philadelphia & Erie road, where it passes through the Warfel farm, was being widened, another deposit of bones was dug up and summarily deposed of as before (Thrown in a neighboring ditch). Among the skeletons was one of a giant, side by side with a smaller one, probably that of his wife. The arm and leg bones of this native American Goliath were about one-half longer than those of the tallest man among the laborers; the skull was immensely large; the lower jawbone easily slipped over the face and whiskers of a full faced man, and the teeth were in a perfect state of preservation. Another skeleton was dug up in Conneaut Township a few years ago which was quite as remarkable in its dimensions. As in the other instance, a comparison was made with the largest man in the neighborhood , and the jawbone readily covered his face, while the lower bone of the leg was nearly a foot longer than the one with which it was measured, indicating that the man must have been eight to ten feet in height. The bones of a flathead were turned up in the same township some two years ago with a skull of unusual size. Relics of a former time have been gathered in that section by the pailful, and among other curiosities a brass watch was found that was as big as a common saucer.
An ancient graveyard was discovered in 1820, on the land now known as Dr. Carter and Dr. Dickinson places in Erie, which created quite a sensation at the time. Dr. Albert Thayer dug up some of the bones, and all indicated a race of beings of immense size.”
(History of Erie County Volume 1; Warner, Beers and Co., 1884, pp. 166-169)

For more see the article see my new book "Eerie Erie:Tales of the Unexplained from Northwestern Pennsylvania" due in August 2011!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Seers

This past spring I lectured at a paranormal conference and met a few friends. During a break between speakers we wandered to various tables to meet, greet and buy. After having a book autographed by Stan Gordon, I turned to find my friend Cindy Willoughby the case manager for The Greater Pittsburgh Paranormal Society.

As I scanned the crown, I noticed a family wandering through the chairs in my direction. I felt something was wrong, something out of place as they wandered my way. You could say my spiritual spidey-senses were tingling as the mother, father and young daughter approached. This was not the first time such a feeling came over me, although rare I have experienced this heightened spiritual sense many times. My attention focused on the young girl, it seemed she was enveloped by something. It was if behind the middle aged mother and father there was a large hulkish creature of darkness that was walking in sync with the disheveled homely teen girl.

And then the sense was gone. And I was a bit unnerved.

I then saw Cindy at the other end of the hall and went over to her. I pointed out the family to her and asked her if she felt anything unusual about them. Cindy is a sensitive. She has the gift of second sight, as some would say. She can perceive the unseen and understand the heart of a person without them saying a word. Some call her clairvoyant because she can seemingly read people’s minds. Others call her a medium because she can see spirits. Cindy believes she has been gifted by God to help others. When she looked at the family she told me she she felt an oppressive spirit over the girl. She then turned to me and said, “She’s being abused.” That was the exact feeling I had as I saw the hulking specter attached to her. A confirmation, but sadly in a situation like this the only thing you can do to help is pray. They are after all anonymous strangers who you pass by the way, and even though you can spiritually discern a problem or issue-most of the time the only practical option you can have is prayer.

In historical Biblical language Cindy is a Seer. Most people who have a Judeo-Christian background would have the conception that this giftedness is some New Age though, but the gifts that Cindy has are spoken of throughout Scripture as supernatural gifts from God. In the New Testament book of First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul talks about the diversity of supernatural spiritual gifts:

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: 2 You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

I have highlighted the spiritual gifts, and I will not go into how they all manifest themselves. But I want to investigate two of them; the word of knowledge and discerning of spirits. To many in various denominations the word of knowledge is the supernatural ability to know the unknown. You have a supernatural understanding of a situation or character of a person that could not be gained by the normal six senses. The gift of discernment of spirits manifests itself in various ways. Basically it is the ability to discern good from evil. Some can sense whether a person is worthy of trust or not, and others can also actually perceive spirits either visually or psychically. Many times these two gifts manifest together or with other spiritual gifts. In the Old Testament those who possess such gifts were called Seers.

In early Israel before the time of the kings, the faithful who had questions of faith or spirituality would turn to the seers(1 Samuel 9:9). Seers were prophets, but not all prophets had the gift of supernatural visions. They seem to be a distinct variety of prophet according to many Biblical scholars (Havernick; Introductions to Old Testament, 50 ff, English translation). They knew the unknown and had the ability to discern spirits.

Many people seem to have these paranormal abilities from birth. Others receive them during a spiritual renewal as God’s Spirit fills them. Some in Fundamental religious circles consider that possessing the gifts without a spiritual infilling of the Holy Spirit is possessed with a demonic spirit that mimics the power of God. They also claim this explains the manifestation of psychic abilities outside of the Christian religion. Careful examination would seem to show that like any natural gift, supernatural gifts are inherent in some individuals and while some manifest these abilities at a young age or learn them through time, a spiritual renewal can activate the gift or further empower those who have already manifest the abilities. The spiritual renewal by the infilling of God’s Spirit acts as an anointed consecration of the gift, much like a physical consecration in a religious service of Holy items.

Many confuse the gifts of a Seer with those who practice divination. Divination uses ritual and/or items to gain knowledge. A Seer is supernaturally gifted with any doing of his/her own. Divination is essentially an artificial way to gain what the Seer has been gifted with naturally and supernaturally. There are some people with the gifts of a Seer who rely on techniques of divination. Not only is it unnecessary, it can be dangerous. Divination can attract spiritual entities that can manipulate, harm and harass an individual.

While I myself have had some of the gifts that a Seer has manifest themselves in my spiritual life, I would in no way consider myself a Seer. I remember while ministering in Hell’s Kitchen in the 1980s an urgency to pray for specific individuals in specific circumstances would press upon me. Most times I did not even know the individuals, but I would take a moment to pray. But for the ones whom I prayed for that I knew, it was astounding to see that I was praying for something that was actually happening for which I had no actual knowledge of. This sensitivity went on for many months and then faded. None of the gifts of the Spirit work in me consistently, they seem to ebb and flow when needed. And I did not experience any manifestation of spiritual gifts until after my spiritual renewal with Christ.

There are others who have had experiences since they were children. Many children seem to have the ability to sense spirits or angelic beings. The most common is seeing a person at the end of their bed or lurking in the corner. Some have other gifts of the Seer.

While attending Seminary I had a friend who’s 6 year old daughter who had the same type of prayer gift that I was gifted with, but to a greater degree. At prayer times she would often pray for people the family did not know, and when asked she told her parents that God had told her to pray for them. One time during a blessing before dinner, she blurted out excitedly, “We have to pray for Mr. and Mrs. Lindsey! They are in a car accident!” The Lindsey’s were members of their church and the family remembered them as they blessed the food. A few hours later word came through the telephone prayer chain that the Lindsey’s were in a bad car accident on the thruway while going out to dinner in the city. The accident happened at about the same time as my friend’s daughter interrupted the dinner blessing with her concern.

Whatever your worldview of Spiritual gifts, we are charged to use them to help others. There are those who have used them for fame and selfish gain that have tarnished their credibility and even lost their gifts. Some who have had the gifts removed have even relied on trickery and charlatanism to maintain their feeble grasp of power. Others have been overcome by spirits that are in no way holy or benevolent. And the one time rescuers become those who are in need of rescuing.

Until Next Time,

Pastor Swope

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Horror of the Mummy's Head

Clodia's Great-Grandfather fought for Napoleon Bonaparte in the Egyptian Campaign of 1798-1801. Like many who served in the emperor's Armee de Orient Clodia's Great-Grandfather vandalized and plundered many of ancient Egypt's monuments and artifacts. Like other warriors throughout time, many soldiers of Napoleon's Armee de Orient took home souvenirs. The most popular being the mummy. Most were the crudely mummified peasants or workers of Egypt's wonderful monuments. So common was the practice that it became a popular rage in 19th century Europe to ingest the ground up corpse of an Egyptian mummy as a remedy for various ailments or as an aphrodisiac. Clodia's Great-Grandfather, being a common foot soldier could not carry much, so the only artifact he was able to smuggle out of the country was a small head of a mummy. For years he proudly displayed his war time trophy, his grand children often gathering around the family hearth to hear his fanciful stories of the orient and cower in fear of the revolting head on the mantle. Sometimes, Clodia's father told her, it seemed as if the head turned or moved as if it was still alive and listening intently to the stories of the old soldier.

Years passed, as did Clodia's Great-Grandfather. The severed mummy's head was packed up in storage and forgotten, remembered only in family stories retold at the occasional get together.

Until 1922 when Howard Carter discovered the tomb of the boy king, Pharaoh Tutankhamen. The public attention to the discovery unleashed an unprecedented interest in Egyptology, and soon Ancient Egyptian decor and collecting 'artifacts' became the popular vogue. It became stylish to adore your house with an Egyptian motif accented with artifacts, real or fake. It was at this time when Clodia remembered all the hand me down stories of her Great-Grandfather and his adventures in the Egyptian Campaign. And she remembered the mummy's head.

Clodia had spent the good part of an afternoon rummaging through her Grandmother's attic, sorting through all the collected remembrances that her family had horded through the decades. The fruits of her labor eventually payed off, for in an old wooden box buried under a bag full of old clothes she found a metal tin marked with Egyptian symbols and pictures.Inside, wrapped in old musty cloth was the mummy's head.

It was smaller than she expected, about the size of a cantaloupe. Although there were some ancient cloth still attached to the skull, most of the face was uncovered. With empty eyes and no nose the cadaver's head was gruesome, but knowing that it had come from the time of the Pharaohs quelled any loathing she instinctively had for the object and instead instilled her with awe and wonder. With her Grandmother's blessing, she took the head home to her flat in Montoire and placed it on her bedroom dresser. She took the remainder of the day lying on her bed and staring at the gruesome artifact. Her mind wandered, imagining who the person was and what his or her world was like all those millenia ago. Her new decoration was the floodgate of inspiration.

But that night the disturbing dreams began.

Clodia dreamed she was in a dark room, which smelled of rotting flesh and waste. A door opened, and three men came into the room. Two of them were enormous muscular men, carrying some kind of staff or large club. the other was between the two adorned in some sort of robe. It was this small one who spoke, and as he did the large men started to beat her. And in the mixture of their laughing and her screaming she violently awoke, covered in sweat.

Over the course of that week she had the same dream every night, however the imagery became more distinct and vivid. And she no longer awoke with the beginning of the beatings, she endured them all. Each nights dream seemed to add more to the drama, and soon she found herself tied to a stone table with the thin man placing jars around her and holding some crude instruments. Then he took out a long jeweled knife and started to cut her abdomen open.

She woke up screaming that night, for she felt every blow and the horror of the cold metal cutting her open. She quickly pulled aside her blankets and night dress to make sure she was in one piece, only to find a long scratch down her belly where she had dreamed the knife opened her. A chill ran down her spine as she felt reality merge with the dream world. But her nervous hysteria only escalated when she noticed the mummy's head was no longer on the dresser where she usually kept it. It was sitting on her night stand, vacant eyes open as if it were piercing her mind. And most terrifying and impossible to Clodia, it seemed the face had changed.

The face seemed to have a grin that was never there before.

So disheveled by the entire incidents, Clodia took her prized Egyptian relic and put it in a small shed behind her building.

But she did not experience relief from the nightmare's that evening. In fact they seemed more intense and real, more than ever before. She endured the beatings and the disembowelment as if it was happening to her. The robed man took out her organs and put them in small jars. It was then that she understood. She was reliving what must have happened to the mummy. She was some sort of servant girl being mummified alive. But her consciousness endured for longer than seemed possible. With vital organs removed, she should have succumbed to the darkness of death. But she remained conscious through the horrible rite. Experiencing everything. The man who she now recognized as an Egyptian priest moved turned her face with a long hooked instrament, with a quick twist of his wrist he shoved the utensil into her nose and started to dig.

Clodia awoke covered in blood. It was a horrible nose bleed that turned her white cotton sheets a dark crimson. She dashed to the bathroom to stop the bleeding and clean herself up. Crying and shaking she entered her bedroom to change her bed clothes, and through tear blurred eyes she saw something that shattered her world of rational thought.

The mummy's head was on her night stand again. And the head seemed to be turning on its own toward her.

Still covered in blood, she ran from the apartment, blindly making her way to her parents home some miles away. After telling her parents of her horrible ordeal, Clodia's father took the head and burned it in a field far away from any of the family. He also made his daughter move back in with the family, so she would make a clean break with any association with the nightmares of that flat.

Clodia never mentioned the mummy's head or the nightmares to anyone, for fear they would think her mad. Until the 1970s, when the tout of King Tut brought Egyptology to the forefront once more. The nightmares returned, though not as vivid. It was if she was reliving the horror she experienced in the 20s once again. Clodia sought out help from a friend and she was referred to a Christian Counselor who helped her deal with her memories through therapy and hypnotism. The nightmares ceased, and the horror of the mummy's head faded into history as peace through grace quelled Clodia's fears.

Now as when I first heard the story in a small group with the counselor who ministered to Clodia, I cannot help but wonder if Clodia was imagining the paranormal activity surrounding the mummy's head. But after years of witnessing strange unexplained experiences myself, the story seems all the more chilling. What was the purpose of the dreams? Was the disembodied spirit of that long dead servant trying to reach out in sympathy to what it understood as a kindred soul, or was something more sinister happening? Were Clodia's wounds psychosomatic or a paranormal phenomena pointing to some diabolical plan at work?

Until Next time,
Pastor Swope

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter's Dark Secret

In Celebration of the Easter Holiday here is a reprint from my Examiner page...

She took her time going down the stairs, carefully taking each step and swaying her hips seductively for effect.

But she had to be careful not to sway too much down the long staircase for she had the symbol held out before her outstretched arms. And the symbol was almost important as who she represented in this ancient celebration of spring, for held out before her was the egg from heaven that had fallen into the Euphrates and pushed to the shores by the fish,which had given birth to the goddess.


The Babylonian goddess of fertility, love and sex. The queen of heaven.

It is she that the young woman portrays as she slowly descends the Ziggarut with the symbol of her divine birth in her hands. And her descent down the stairs ended the 40 days of weeping for her son Tammuz, who had been slain by a wild pig, and began the festival in her name in which the whole country celebrated the wondrous resurrection of Ishtar’s son through the divine power of the egg of life.

When the young priestess of Ishtar completed her descent the crowd gave up a wild cheer of abandonment and started the festival in the queen of heaven’s name. They would venerate the egg and other fertility symbols, feast on wild pig and with the assistance of the temple priestess and the temple prostitutes abandon themselves in an orgy to commemorate life and resurrection.

Sound familiar?

Ishtar. Easter.

Well except for the temple prostitute part and the wild orgy.

The Easter Holiday we celebrate is an ancient and old one.

We get the word from this most sacred of Christian Holy days from the ancient pagan celebration of Vernal Equinox, or the spring solstice. The fertility festival of Ishtar.

Almost universally celebrated among primitive cultures the spring solstice was chiefly a celebration of fertility. After the cold dead of winter the ground once again opened its nurturing womb for the seed that would eventually sustain life, birds and other animals began the mating process. It was a time of life after seemingly unending death, the death of winter.

If you do a search through the Internet about the origin of Easter, many sites will have you assume that the tradition has arisen within the Christian Era. The modern word Easter came from the Old English word ?astre or ?ostre or Eoaster which originates within the first century A.D. This is the name of the Anglo-Saxon pagan goddess ?ostre the goddess of the dawn who also had a celebration during the Vernal Equinox which also incorporated fertility symbols such as the egg and the hare.

But the Easter tradition goes farther back than the time of Christ, it even pre-dates much of the Old Testament. The symbolic imagery of the Babylonian cult of the fertility and Ishtar, their queen of heaven echoes back far into pre-history. Some of the first religious idols we find primitive man fashioning is that of a mother goddess who is endowed with supernatural sexual power to help the procreation of those who revere it.

We 21st century humans are used to controlling our surroundings. But even we with all our marvelous modern marvels are still bound by the forces of life and death. And to primitive man the dual Equinox both literally and symbolically portrayed the power of life and death over our human condition. But whereas in the Autumnal Equinox man has no power over the death of the earth that encroaches upon him, he can participate in the spring by rebirth by reveling in his own fertility. I think that in essence is why these symbols have lasted so long.

They are empowering.

We have no control over death.

But we can participate in life.

And through the multitude of generations that have passed since the high priestess has last walked down the Ziggurat’s stairs in ancient Babylon, mankind is still the same. We abhor death. It is a constant reminder of our own mortality. But we have power in life. And every spring we can celebrate it.

It would seem that Easter is just a continuation of an age old festival, a festival of new life. It is easy to say that Christianity in its infancy adopted this pagan holiday and its similar theme of rebirth and fashioned a synthesis of ideas from antithetical ideology.

But I see it a bit different.

With Christmas we have a similar problem, for Christmas takes many pagan symbols turns them into Christian ones. But the one problem for Christmas is that even though we celebrate December 25th as the birth date for Christ, most scholars say He was born either in late summer or fall.

But the time of Jesus death and His resurrection is not one of conjecture.

Jesus was crucified and died over the Pesach, the Jewish Passover. And He was resurrected three days later. There is no ambiguity over the time frame according to the scriptural records.

So in my world view the resurrection of Jesus and our celebration of Easter is miraculous in a multifaceted way. Not just for its Theological significance in New Testament Theology. But in that God used the imagery that was already there, in a time celebrated since the first twinkling of man’s intellectual assessment of the relation of himself and his universe. God used this ancient ceremony to show a deeper truth and to reach out to mankind in love and hope.

God met mankind where he was.

Just as today, no matter how desperate the hour for us personally, God meets us where we are. He stands along side us, acknowledges our desires and needs, and gives us hope.

And no matter what you call the time, Easter is above all, a time of hope.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Seminar at the Butler Paranormal Conference

I'm going to make an appearance at the Butler Conference next week, my seminar will also include how to use my book "An Excorcist's Field Guide" to custom make a ceremony for the layman.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Interview with Don Ecker at Dark Matters Radio

This Monday night March 29th it will be my privilage to be interviewed by Don Ecker on Dark Matters Radio. We will cover a range of topics including the cemetery stories told to me by graveyard workers and more recent experiences and stories. I should be on 1am EST /10 PST
follow the link above to go to Dark Matters! Hope you can tune in!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Where the Phantom Panthers Roam

Until the mid 17th Century Erie Pennsylvania held the tribal center of the Eriez Indians. The name Eriez or Erie is a shorter form of the Iroquoian word "Erielhonan" meaning literally "long tail" referring to the native panther skins that many of the tribe wore ceremonially. The panther (cougar or mountain lion) was the native Eriez totem. They honored and emulated the stealthy cats that were the top of the contemporary indigenous food chain. Although a small tribe when compared to their neighbors the Seneca or Susquehannocks, they stood boldly against larger enemies and welcomed refugees from neighboring wars. this did not make them very popular with the other tribes in the area and by the late 17th century the Eriez tribe had been either wiped out by war or assimilated by the Iroquois. Within a century the large panthers that were the totem of the Eriez had also vanished from the lands of North Western Pennsylvania.

Or did they?

Historically the last Indigenous big cats of Western Pennsylvania were in 1871 near a small town Clinton County.

However there are hundred of reported sightings of Pennsylvania Panthers every year. Most have the appearance of a Mountain Lion or Cougar, but some are of the familiar Black Panther type that are being reported across the Eastern United states, great Britain and Europe.

Recently Cryptomundo reported such a Black panther sighting in Loren Coleman's hometown of Decatur Illinois earlier this month (March). A Black Panther was seen scurrying through a Decatur suburban neighborhood.

The previous month, on February 17th 2010 I myself had a simlar experience. However, I have to believe the Black Panther that I experienced that cold February afternoon was not entirely physical.

To read of this incident, plese look to my book, "Eerie Erie:Tales of the Unexplained from Northwestern Pennsylvania" out August 2011 from The History Press.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cult or Culture?

On my Examiner page I am starting a new series of stories that concern modern religious oddities and cult beliefs as they pop up in the news. Most odd beliefs are either a twist of theology or Cultural norms so I am calling this new series Cult or Culture.

First up, a clegryman from Kent tells his congregation that a wife should shut up and obey her husband. What a great Valentine's Day gift! Of course it went over very well with the female congregants. I myself have encountered a simular attitude by clergy as I served in Upstate New York almost 20 years ago. As I have said here before, it all comes down to context. Is this erroneous belief because of cult beliefs of cultural misunderstanding?

Read the story on my Examiner page here: The Pittsburgh Paranormal Examiner

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why Don't They Just Leave??!!

Lately it seems there has been a marked increase in violent paranormal activity when it comes to hauntings.

I have encountered it as well as associates and colleagues. For many workers in the area the cases that need assistance in this have doubled, tripled or just plain gone out of control.

Why? There are as many answers as there are questions, but I think each situation is unique in its own right. But that there is a increase in the general knowledge of the populace that such incidents do happen no wonder we have a remarkable rise on the number of cases reported.

As I have said before, even though they may not be perceived, we are surrounded by a horry host of spirits, both benign and malevolent. Sometimes all it takes is the perception that an encounter or haunting can occur, and you will suddenly be faced with one. Was that noise the wind or an spectral creature? It may well have been the wind, but the perception and mindset of the witness can draw a malevolent being who will be more than willing to take the blame and claim the fear.

Whatever the cause, the need for intervention by trained workers has risen dramatically.

Doing a house blessing, consecration or even exorcism is never a sure thing. And many times the rituals of clergy and laity seem to have no effect.

It is the same with inanimate objects as it is with people; circumstances and influences change radically the effect of a ritual. A ritual may clear the house and the client no longer has issues; the phenomena may come back after a time; or the problems may multiply exponentially.


There can be a multitude of reasons, most of them fall innto one of the more following categories:

1) Ownership: Many spirits are territorial. Although the battle is in the spiritual realm (Ephesians 6:12 ), tradition and experience of those engaging the demonic have noticed that they tend to be either tied to a general area or are drawn to specific areas. Spirits that are considered the disembodied residue of the deceased also tend to lurk in specific areas.

Therefore whatever the nature of the spiritual being, it has a vested interest in the area where it dwells and claims it as its own.

Sometimes the mere fact that the area now belongs to someone else can not be counted on as the impetus for persuading the spirit to leave. Many times they need to be commanded out through the authority of a higher power. The spirit needs to be driven out against their will. Prayers, Scripture, and specific commands can be used to loosen the spirit's hold on the area and force it to leave.

Many times the subject of ownership is not one of a subjective metaphysical nature, but rather one of a concrete physical legal status.

A renter may consent to the ritual and claim the territory, but they are not the owner in reality. The spirit will know this and this fact gives it reason to not obey the pleading and commands of anyone who tries to make it move on. Therefore it is essential that the consent of the owner or landlord be given before one

2) Faith: In the book of Matthew 17, the writer relates how Jesus' Disciples were not able to heal an affliced boy, but all Jesus had to do was touch him and the boy was healed. the Disciples asked Jesus, “Why could we not cast it out?” So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

Doubt and fear are natural when coming face to face with supernatural entities. In fact some demonic presences thrive on it. But the power to do the rite and the power to protect you is not from within, it comes from the Creator and Lord of the Cosmos. Faith is a nebulous concept, but without the assurance you draw from faith in these confrontations, the spirits will have no right or desire to obey you. The concept of prayer and fasting advised by Jesus can give us clarity and dynamic spiritual power. It can increase faith and spiritual awareness.

3) Invitation: Simply put, one or more of the persons living in the dwelling directly or indirectly invites the spirit back.
There could be a spiritual dynamic between the spirit and one of the clients. It's presence could actually give one of the residents comfort while causing stress and fear to all the others abiding there. It could be a conscious relationship or a subconscious bonding. It is hard to discern when the bond is an indirect connection, but most times things add up. the hardest part of such an instance is the confrontation with the client who unwittingly invited the entity back.
With direct connections while it might be more easy to identify, it will be harder to reconcile. The individual clearly wants the relationship and derives some satisfaction from the spirits presence. the client who is bonded must be willing to give up all connections to desires or activities that invite the spirit back.

Another way to invite a spirit back is sin. While sin and wrong doing is part of human nature, certain activities open up the individual to addiction and spiritual invasion. Some sins seem to draw demonic entities more than others: incest, abuse, and sexual addiction can "give ground to the enemy" and open one up for oppression or even possession. While committing such sins do not inherently involve demonic forces, depending on the individual one can become heavily harassed. However, it does not have to be these 'big' sins. Sometimes it can even be the mundane but equally destructive negative behaviors such as gossip or slander. Like everything else, it depends upon the individual and the circumstances. Negative behavior usually destroys relationships or personal integrity. They produce very intense emotions, and some malevolent entities thrive on raw emotions.

4) Misidentification: I remember going in a house where the residents were having violent encounters. We first performed a blessing and when that did not work a exorcism. It did not work. The family had two adolescent girls. No matter what your opinion of psychic abilities or latent abilities in adolescents...or their causes...there has been enough documentation of paranormal phenomena associated with adolescent girls that it cannot be ignored. The conclusion I came to at this juncture was that the phenomena was the product of these two young girls and that once they pass puberty the instances will gradually stop. And they did.

What causes this phenomena? that is worthy of a long discussion in and of itself. However most of these girls display no psychic abilities once past the 'poltergeist' stage. Is it latent psychic power that manifests itself with the hormonal rush of puberty? Another line of though dwells upon the physical changes in the girl herself. The beginning of the menstrual cycle and the flowing of virgin blood, has been the focus of many rituals in indigenous tribes throughout history. The thought that certain spirits are drawn to young woman beginning their menstrual cycles is mostly associated with pagan and animistic religions, but the idea has also evolved into many benign rituals such as the Niddah of Judaism.

Conclusion: Sometimes you may never fully get rid of the spirit. Sometimes the third time truly is the charm. If a blessing, consecration or exorcism does not remove the entity, all avenues as to why must be explored. Something is awry. Be it the clients, the location or the officiant.

I cover more on this subject in my book, An Exorcist's Field Guide. It is relatively inexpensive and hopefully a good resource for the ritual's officiant.

Until Next Time,
Pastor Swope

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Something in the Storm

This year we in the United States have had a more aggressive winter than usual.

Depending on your geographical location you may have experienced a few feet to a few inches when you otherwise would have not experienced little or no snowfall whatsoever.

Here in Erie PA, we usually get our fair share of white out conditions and blizzards. In fact snowfall is so commonplace that many of the local residents do not even shovel their driveways until at least 6 inches fall. You get used to living and driving in many feet of accumulated snow.

But you never get used to the blizzards.

For we have Lake Effect Snow here in Erie, it is common place to have a foot or more of accumulated snow overnight multiple times during the season. But every decade or so this area gets blasted with a massive storm that shuts down the entire community. Even though equipped with fleets of government snow removal vehicles and scores of private snow plow businesses, these operators cannot keep up with the overwhelming snowfall.

This year the storms were bad, but in the mix there was no storm of a lifetime. Though snowdrifts of 7 feet or more were scattered throughout the region, there have been times that a rough wintry blast has left drifts up to 12 feet or more in many places. However what this season's storms lacked in volume, they made up with sheer force. The violent winds and driving snow brought down trees, damaged buildings and prevented anyone but the foolhardy or daring and resolved emergency workers to venture forth into the tempest's grasp. I was one of those, delivering medicine to hospice patients during the heart of the storm, and I have to say that it was one of the worst conditions I have ever experienced. The driving wind blew the light snow that had already fallen and mixed it with the flakes that were still coming down to limit visibility to only a foot in front of my vehicle. I was surreal to suddenly see a jack knifed tractor trailer emerge from the blinding snow. It had tried to take a shortcut from the closed highway and landed in a 45 degree angle across three fourths of the road. The wind had blown it across the road and the ice prevented it's brakes from stopping it from ending in the ditch. My car shuddered throughout the whole trip, being hit by barrage after barrage of gusts from the mighty storm.

In the midst of it, knowing you were experiencing an unusual storm there were times you could feel like there was some willful force behind the gail. A destructive force of chaos that mercilessly cut a path across the country. Of course one would think this is a natural response, being faced with the raw poawer of nature is an awesome experience.

However within the last month I have received two e-mails that makes one suppose that perhaps there was something in the storm that was not wholly natural, at least as to what norms of nature that we are accustomed to. From "Jacob"

"...It was on this past December 19th, just less than a month ago. It was early morning and I always check on the chicken coop first thing. The wind was whipping hard and there was a huge pile of snow on the side of the shed. The wind had pushed almost all the snow from the field up to it. The wind was making a loud wild sound, and as I came up to the barn, I was sure that I was hearin something strange in the wind. I stopped there since I thought it could be a neighbor or some other stuck outside since it sounded like a human scream. It was not right though. It seemed really wrong, like wounded animal crying at the top of it's lungs but with a man's voice. All I could think of was someone stuck out in the storm, so I walked out to the field to see where the screaming was coming from. "

Jacob then recalls how he wandered into the field, and the location of the screaming voice seemed to always be out of reach. It seemed to always dwell just outside the edge of sight in the storm, and every time he turned away to give up in his search, the voice became more frantic. So he kept on his quest only to find himself caught up and lost in a blinding blizzard. It was then as his panic set in he believes he saw the source of the screams:
"It was like a big shadow in the blowing snow, I knew it was the person i was lookin for so I ran to it. then I saw how big it was. It was like a giant, almost twice the size of a man, but with a man's shape. It was either covered in fur or wore an animal fur coat because I could see the hair moving in the wind. As I got to it, the screamin became louder and louder, and from the sight of it and the sound of it I knew that this thing was just wrong. I had to get away from it as fast as possible. I ran as fast as I could and made sure the screaming thing was behind me. After a few minutes the snow was not coming down as hard and I found myself back in the field behind the shed. It was then that the screaming voice had stopped... I don't know what it was out there, but I knew I was in danger of my life, and that thing was not of this world. I think it was pure evil..."

Jacob was not sure what he had encountered last December during thst storm, but he is resolute ass to the reality of what he saw. He was sure he was not hallucinating or observing amirage due to the blinding snow.

Something evil was in the storm.

Something that tried to lure him to his doom.

So what was it? There are a lot of possibilities.

Immediately to me it brings to mind the mythological Sirens as portrayed in the greek classics of Homer and Ovid. However what Jacob saw was not a beautiful seductress, but a hideous monster like unto Typhon. Since this encounter happened in old Seneca Indian territory perhaps we should look into Native American mythology and the destructive wind spirit Dagwanoenyent of the Iroquois.

It's appearance is similar to a Sasquatch as well. Pennsylvania certainly has its fair share of Sasquatch sightings according to the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Societies reports.

Perhaps an exact nomenclatural designation for the creature is moot; as spirits do assume a different persona depending upon the circumstances. Be it Typhon, Dagwanoenyent, Set or Thor; the names may change but their mythological archetype speaks to us in the same basic way.

There is something in the storm.

Something powerful, dangerous and malevolent.

Until Next Time,

Pastor Swope

Defeat of the Cyber Pirates!

Although it feels like forever since I have published anything here, I am finally back after an attack by cyber pirates. I have had a suspicion for months that my computer had been assaulted and turned into a zombie for someones nefarious plans, then the old hard drive was boarded and pillaged!

Speaking of zombies, Brad Steiger is about to release a follow up to his wildly successful "Real Vampires" called "Real Zombies". It is packed full of true tales of encounters with the undead by various authors. Like "Real Vampires" I am humbly privileged to be one of the contributors. You can pre-order it here by clicking on the book cover!

I am putting the finishing touches on a new story that should be up today or tomorrow. Hopefully I will be back in full swing after this long lull and new updates will be coming regularly!

Until Next Time,
Pastor Swope