The Importance of Being Earnest…ly Skeptical

draculaIn the world of the “paranormally passionate”, there exists two hemispheres of thought: the believer and the doubter.  For the sake of playing up stereotypes, the believer intuitively knows every knock, whisper, and scent is proof of the existence of communication from the other side.  There are endless conversations with ghosts, encounters with elementals, and fights for souls.  Psychics are sought and tarot cards read and horoscopes consulted if there is a burning question about future love, finances, and career changes.  They don’t question production methods when watching any reality television show dedicated to investigators prowling around abandoned hospitals who manage to witness things *just* to the right or left of the screen.  Believers have devotion that is unflappable, even in the face of derision.  Which they face. Alot.

Skeptics, conversely, look at any unexplained event as less than ghostly. Rats in the walls? A crumbling foundation? Detached retinas? There is always a logical and reasonable explanation for creepy bangs, groans, and white floating orbs.  And yes, while they may enjoy getting an adrenaline rush from being scared, they don’t necessarily believe it is anything but what they have allowed themselves to experience. In other words, they put themselves in a weird, dark place and it would be logical that they would feel heightened awareness and overly sensitive to stimuli.  These folks only use the word “haunted” when describing the famous mansion at Disney World (or Land…their choice.)

But what about those who inhabit both worlds? The Mulder and Scully mashups who eagerly search for things that can’t be seen in the daylight but don’t really expect to find anything. Or those who have no innate psychic abilities but enjoy new age jewelry and have crystals in their homes because they are aesthetically pleasing.  Where do they fit in?

O.K., full disclosure.  I am a Ghost Adventures girl. I’ve watched every season and I’ve read both of Zak’s books and Nick’s as well.  Frankly, I like my paranormal investigators slightly socially awkward and highly reactive.  “Why?” you may ask. “These do not seem to be good reasons based on, well, anything.”

And that would be true.  Except…

It’s entertaining.

I’ve watched the show evolve and the cast change over the past ten seasons and rarely does my attention waver. It’s intriguing. But do I always buy what is happening?  Really?


Do I like watching people my own age engaged in a career that they love?


Can I appreciate their earnest attempts to prove they’ve encountered the paranormal.

Absolutely. Or I wouldn’t watch the show.  My screen time is pretty limited.

Personally, I’ve had encounters that I can’t explain. I’ve also had experiences that I wanted to make paranormal when it was pretty obvious that they could be easily debunked. But have I lost my interest in researching and going on ghost tours?  Not at all.

The fact that I am an open-minded skeptic only works to keep me motivated in my own journey.  Hearing other talk about what they have seen, heard, and/or felt,( and not just through their five senses, mind you) is endlessly appealing to me and I am honored when someone chooses to share a story.

But there are always questions in the back of my mind: was the air conditioning on? Is it a highly intensive area filled with electronics?  Was it a reflection from headlights?

When doing something that brings you joy, thrills, shivers, and bountiful bushels of curiosity, pursue it earnestly.  Bathe in it, breathe it in; welcome it to your life and make room for it on your couch. But always leave room for that little voice in your mind that sounds like “ehhhh” when things don’t ring true. It’s O.K., really. They can share a litter box.

Keep an open mind and I’ll see you when the next storm brews…

Why ‘Freak Show’ Was Better Than We Thought

With the recent release of American Horror Story’s teaser trailer for it’s fifth season, I got to thinking about “Freak Show”.  Widely and resoundedly panned as the worst season yet, critics and fans found this season lackluster, with elements of ridiculousness in the storylines and missed opportunities for viral memes (“ETHEL!!!!”).

I, however, have a slightly different take.  On the scale of fearfully terrifying characters, Twisty The Clown rates about a 1,000+.  I’m going to say that most viewers felt some sort of emotional reaction when he walked through the field to find the two young lovers.  The dead shark eyes. The sinister, grinning half mask.  The filthy costume. Shudder…

Visually, the show was a cotton candy confection. The vibrancy of colors, crinolines, and creep made for a cacophony of crazy that dazzled my senses.  Brilliant liberties were taken with the music, incorporating Nirvana and David Bowie into the age of Do-Wop.  It worked. It just did.

As for the cast, in the words of a dear friend of mine(blogger at Are You Finished Yet…please check her out), “everything Jessica Lange has done in her career has led up to this.”  Truth. She is perfect. Cold-blooded and hardcore. Just how I like my femi-villians. Kathy Bates?  Incomparable.  If you do nothing but base your opinion on her Baltimore dialect.  Angela Basset, Michael Chiklis, and of course, NPH.  What can you say about a PTSD ridden soldier who can’t be without his ‘Marjorie’?  Of course, they are illuminated by the workhouse cast that consist of Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, and Naomi Grossman who have each created indelible characters.

Which leads me to my point: why this season was actually better than we (collectively) thought. The introduction of characters who live on the fringe of society because of physical limitations and the casting of actors who live with these same limitations was important.  Watching at home, one may say to themselves, “I would never treat people with that much hate, ignorance, disrespect, etc. These are good people! Just look at their backstories! They just want to be loved and accepted.”

Oh, Murphy and Falchuk, you sly devils (pun intended). Look at you always inserting social issues into blood and gore. For me, this is actually the cornerstone of AHS. From women’s issues to taboo love to discrimination, these themes are tightly interwoven with the “shock and shlock” that draws ratings. Much like pureed squash blended into cheese quesadillas, morality and awareness has been slipped into our scripted tv shows before. But I think this is a fresh application that I don’t mind ingesting.

I can’t wait to see what checks in to AHS: Hotel. So many good things happen in October…

Until the next storm rolls in…

Come To the Dark But Leave With The Light

For the billions of Christians in the world, today is a dark day, filled with time for reflection on the sacrifice of Christ.  It is humbling and mournful, and the thought of one man offering his life for the sins of generations left unborn is staggering.  But a mere forty eight hours later, the skies are lightened and church doors swing open to reveal white lilies and flashes of pink, purple, yellow, and blue.  The music is joyful as the organs, violins, and drum sets echo the good news of Jesus’ triumph over death.

Caveat: As a Presbyterian, I am usually not one to pontificate on religious beliefs or matters.  But, also as a Presbyterian, Holy Week has always been sacred.  As we are taught to confess directly to God, this is a time that allows for some self-assessment, a good dose of self-discipline and a pinch of guilt. Then, in general, I feel pretty good until Palm Sunday rolls around the next year.

My point it this:  You Gotta Take the Dark With The Intent Of Getting Back Into The Light.  For instance, I spend the month of October reading books on hauntings, listening to the soundtrack of “Nightmare Before Christmas” ad nauseum, and watching anything with the word “ghost” in the title. Even Scooby Doo.

But by November 1st I am ready to put all of the paraphilia in the closet until next year.  I’ve gorged on dark thoughts and psychological distress and, much like when you eat to may circus peanuts, delicious in their orange squishiness, I need to take a break in order to develop at taste for them again. And besides, Christmas is coming! Just in time to binge on A Christmas Story… 

Too much of despair and fear can throw your life force off balance.  Yes, it’s fun to dabble in the dark and to dip your paintbrush into nightmarish colors.  But it’s important to balance it out with Springtime rain dances, strawberries, and pastels.  Yes. Pastels do matter.

And laughter matters, too.  The tale of Edgar Allan Poe’s life is very tragic, but I want to believe he could appreciate some levity.  And what happened to Rufus Sewell.

Until the next storm rolls in…


The Psychology Of Fear

From the time that Troglodytes realized that caves and fire provided safety from saber-tooth tigers, they began to look for ways in which they could be scared within their protective confines. And so it has been through the ages, with first verbal, then written accounts of ghosts, ghouls, werewolves, Chupacabras , Bigfoot, and the nightmare departure of Zayn Malik from One Direction, that we as a race of people have chosen to elicit a rush of adrenaline.  Why doe we love to be scared?

The first ghost story was written by Pliny the Younger, sometime between 61-112 AD. The story centered around a traveler whom, when he stumbled upon an abandoned dwelling, was accosted by a spirit. The traveler listened( seriously, he just stood there and listened politely? Must be from the Midwest) as the spirit told him he had been unjustly murdered and buried hastily. If the traveler would unearth his remains, the spirit offered to tell the traveler where he had hidden a stash of treasures.  The traveler complied and became rich beyond his wildest dreams. The moral? Be polite and listen to stories and you will be rich.  Not always in cash, but in varying levels of knowledge. Which could land you on Jeopardy…which could make you rich.  But I digress…

Arguably, the Victorian age produced some of the best and most well-known authors of horror. Ranging from Poe to Stoker with a sprinkle of James, these stories continue to inspire, titillate, and terrify new generations of readers. What would sophomore English be without random cries of “Nevermore” ringing through the halls?  And if you have not read “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, get your hands on a copy.  After you finish reading this, of course.

Wait…was the word “titillate” just used?  Guess I know how to target an audience.


Yes, fear and sex are simultaneous in their physiological responses.  Flushed skin, heavy breathing, sweating…on the surface, it’s hard to tell which is which.  Theoretically, people can get off on being scared.  And it’s why so many horror flicks portray women in lingerie running away from hatchet bearing psychopaths. Remember what happens to Glen (aka Johnny Depp) in “Nightmare on Elm Street?”  Or Laurie’s friends in Halloween? Or why Mrs. Voorhees did what she did?  It all makes sense now, doesn’t it?

To be clear, I am speaking of climate controlled, completely consensual scaring.  Not harming someone on purpose, like scaring them for no reason (telling them “The Walking Dead” has been cancelled) just because you think it’s funny. I mean, sometimes it . Like when it’s not happening to you.

Case in point:  Exhibit A, the video that is linked above.  Steve G goes into some crazy scary places, but he really hates spiders and bugs.  It’s fun to watch him freak out because it’s ironic.  I would not laugh at him. With him, yes, certainly ( and I HAVE!) But not at him. He used to be a cop.

Fear, like religious teachings and hairspray, is to be used responsibly.

Until darkness falls…

Opinions Are Like Kleenex: Great To Have When You Need Them, But They Should Not Always Be Shared


So, yeah, everyone has an opinion on everything, even if they don’t (mind=blown).  With the advent of social media and the crop of college graduates who have moved back home, there seems to be no end to ways in which opinions can be expressed and people can be judged.  And there does not seem to be any time restraint or barrier to these critiques, since anyone anywhere can whip out an iPhone and call someone “stupid”, “ugly”, or cowardly.” Or accuse them of using a filter. I’ll leave it to you to decide which is worse.

Since I’ve started following others in the paranormal field, ( not in a creepy, “the calls are coming from inside your house” way, but via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram… wow, when it’s written out, it does look a little…obsessive) I’ve noticed a good deal of insensitivity directed towards some of the more notable investigators.  And I think (opinion) that it’s unnecessary, if the point is to only disagree. Instead, these comments turn into personal attacks.

One of my favorite female investigator generously (opinion #2) shares a lot of personal pictures and an anecdotes about her family. They are fun and light hearted and positive. But inevitably there are comments that demean and question her parenting skills: everything from taking her child to a purportedly haunted location that is open to the public to the use of binkies.  Also on the radar is a male investigator who is not afraid to self-promote, even if it puts him in vulnerable (re: open season) positions.  He’s been called out for being ridiculous in his investigations, and criticized for his investigative methods, as well as his fashion sense.  While I am not trying to defend these actions of these investigators, because I think (opinion #4) they are more than capable to defend themselves, I do think (you get the idea) that being hateful and trolling is ineffective and passive-aggressive (thanks, psychology degree!)

I would recommend that anyone greatly disturbed by their choices just stop following them. Why get worked up about someone else’s life, no matter how public of a figure.  Try reading the news; there is some scary stuff out there and a lot more things to be worried about.  Maybe even more than the paranormal.

Perspective….it’s a good thing.

Until the next night falls…

About Two Corsets Short Of Gothic

I love the paranormal. Halloween is by far my most favorite season (yeah, it starts on Sept. 15 in my world) and my bookshelf groans under the weight of books that address paranormal encounters.  I will give at least five minutes of my time to a television show that deals with ghosts, even if it airs on The Weather Channel and will tour any historical district of a town if it promises a history of unexplained encounters.  I know the story of Vlad Tepes forward and backward and also am familiar with the story of his female counterpart, Elizabeth Bathory.  I own black nail polish and lipstick, both of which I hope to put into my regular beauty rotation someday.  I admire Amy Lee’s fashion sense.  And yet…

Nearly twenty years ago I was club hopping with some girlfriends. One of them wanted to try out a new bar which had just opened downtown that actually housed three different clubs: one was a total bro/frat guy joint, one was dance, and the last was Goth.  I, being the cosmopolitan club goer that I was, veered right into the world of black leather and Type O Negative.  I grooved on it for awhile, admiring the pancake makeup on both guys and girls, and their unabashed confidence.  But after awhile the mood began to change, tinged with more sinister and darker tones.  I realized then that Goth is a lifestyle, and it was one I would probably admire from a not too close distance.

Call me a poser if you want…I’ll even do it myself.  I love the superficial aspects: the Victorian style clothing, the architecture, the slimming black of everything, from roses to veils, and of course the literature.  I think graveyards are lovely. The dedication it takes to live the Goth lifestyle…eh, I’m just not motivated.

I’m carving out my own niche here, as a mainstreamer who likes things that other people might find creepy.  I’m also an open-minded skeptic, who, when I watch my two favorite ghost shows-Hunters and Adventures- sees the investigators first as people who drive their kids to school, pay taxes, and take out the trash. Really brave people, actually. Let me be totally clear on that point.

So, if you like “AHS”, Poe, and a good English ghost story, but have never dyed your hair pink, this may be the place for you.  Drop me your calling card and sit by the fireside in the parlor…there’s a look of a storm brewin’.