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26. Ghosts in USA during 1985-1990CE

APR. 22, 2021


Spooky goings-on and haunted history. Pete takes Ryan across the spirit barrier to investigate Ghosts in the USA from 1985 to 1990. We ain’t afraid of no ghosts. (Actually, we are a bit).

In this episode Pete took Ryan back to his youth, the years between 1985 and 1990. In particular, the pair visit America, a country you might have heard of.

American is a fairly large place, nearly 10million square kilometers of the North American continent between Canada and Mexico. The country includes 50 states, but also a federal district, 5 major self-governing territories and over 300 native American reservations. It also has about 330million people, so you’re bound to meet someone you like eventually.

In the years 1985 to 1990, the cold war was coming to an end, Ronald Reagan was in charge of the country, and Coca-Cola were optimistically launching the disastrous New Coke.

Movie-wise, the period was bookended by Ghostbusters in late 1984, and Ghost in October 1990, which is thematically handy, because ghosts is what this episode is all about.

The word “ghost” comes to us from the German word geist for “spirit” and almost one in five people from the United States said that they’ve seen or been in the presence of a ghost.

And that’s not a recent phenomenon. In Roman times, in Pliny the Younger’s, Letters (VII.27) he writes:
“I am extremely desirous therefore to know your sentiments concerning spectres, whether you believe they actually exist and have their own proper shapes and a measure of divinity, or are only the false impressions of a terrified imagination?”

“There was at Athens a large and spacious, but ill reputed and pestilential house.”

In the dead of the night a noise, resembling the clashing of iron, was frequently heard. As you listened, it drew nearer… and nearer. Rattling and moaning until suddenly, you saw it, “a phantom appeared in the form of an old man, extremely meagre and squalid, with a long beard and bristling hair”. The old, ragged man was rattling the chains on his feet and hands

Needless to say, the house was soon abandoned by the terrified residents. So the landlords put up the house for sale or rent at a discount price, at which point Athenodorus the philosopher came to Athens. When he learns about the house, he cannot resist eh bargain.
In the house, he sits up waiting the ghost and writing. Soon enough, in the dead of night, the noises start. The ghost appeared and beckoned with its finger. Athenodorus made a sign with his hand that it should wait a little, and bent again to his writing, but the ghost continues rattling its chains over his head as he wrote, he looked round and saw it beckoning as before.
Intrigued, our philosopher followed the ghost as it wafted out to the courtyard and promptly disappeared.

The following day, Athenodorus went to the magistrates, and advised them to order that spot to be dug up. There they found bones commingled and intertwined with chains. A man had been evidently killed and buried in this spot. The bones were collected, and after the ghost was thus duly laid the house was haunted no more. History is silent on whether Athenodorus’ rent then went up.

So the roman spirit just scary really, and wants to go home. So ghosts are harmless right? Wrong - a spirit can literally kill you. Because it’s not just people who have spirits.

This very ancient story shares many very familiar features with much more modern ghost tales, suggesting there might be something universal in the ghost experience.

But not all ghosts are harmless. As became apparent in 1981, in a little town called Brookfield, Connecticut. In this town was a young man called Arne Cheyenne Johnson, who’s fiance’s fiances’s brother was 11-year-old David Glatzel.

All was not well with David.

David would wake up crying hysterically, describing visions of a “man with big black eyes, a thin face with animal features and jagged teeth, pointed ears, horns and hoofs.” The child’s vision continue, he starts hissing, having seizures, and speaking in strange voices

The parents fear the worse- that the boy is becoming possessed. So they call noted demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren who confirm demonic possession. They decide to bring in the exorcists to drive out the demon.

And this was where Arney Johnson went wrong. During the process, he taunted the demon. “Take me on, leave my little buddy alone,” he cried.

Apparently, the exorcism worked. Or did it?

Over time, Arne starts to act a little oddly, he seems moody, not himself.

Then on February 16, 1981, Arne Johnson was with his landlord Bono. They had a fight over Johnson’s fiancé and suddenly, Johnson whips out a five inch pocket knife, stabbing Bono multiple times in the chest and stomach.

It did not take the police long to catch up with Johnson, and when found, he confessed his guilt, well, not HIS guilt. He claims the devil made him do it.

In doing so, Johnson created the first known court case in the United States in which the defense sought to prove innocence based upon the defendant's claim of demonic possession. The judge was not moved though, and threw the claim our, ruling that such a defense could never be proven and was therefore infeasible in a court of law. Johnson was subsequently convicted, though he only served five years of a 10- to 20-year sentence.

As for David – the original possessee - psychiatrists who investigated the case after the fact claimed that David merely had a learning disability.

The incident led to the creation of a television film titled The Demon Murder Case in 1983, and also a book about the incident entitled The Devil in Connecticut, by Gerald Brittle, with the assistance of Lorraine Warren

The Warren’s do tend to pop up a lot in the ghost stories of this era, including the incident of the famous Enfield poltergeist.

Back in 1977 in Enfield, England, single parent Peggy Hodgson called the police to her rented home in Enfield, claiming she had witnessed furn iture moving and that two of her four children said that knocking sounds were heard on the walls. A police constable said that she saw a chair "wobble and slide" but “could not determine the cause of the movement”

Later claims included disembodied voices, loud noises, thrown toys, overturned chairs, and children levitating were made, which attracted the attention of the Warrens, who diagnosed demons.

Opinions on that matter, and the Warrens in general vary, as became starkly clear in another demon possession case, in Southington Connecticut.

In 1986 Carmen and Al Snedeker moved to town with the purpose of being closer to the hospital at which their oldest son was being treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The family jumped at the chance to rent what appeared to be the perfect house.

But why was the house so cheap?

While they were moving in, they made a startling discovery: In the basement was a peculiar room that was complete with embalming tables and a blood drain. The house, it was revealed, was once a funeral parlour.

Soon enough Carmen claimed she began experiencing strange phenomena. Hearing voices. Seeing strange figures in the window. And her oldest child was changing, showing radical personality shifts, becoming withdrawn and angry.

Something was going on.
Carmen tried to mop the kitchen flood, but every time she applied the mop to the ground, the water would turn thick and red and oozing. Smells of decay would permeate the house with no apparent source.

And friends would report that they didn’t’ want to stay in the house. It felt…….unwelcoming

Worse, some cousins who stayed in the house were reporting something was touching them.

That thing was the oldest child, Stephen who was driven by voices telling him to touch and assault his cousins. Consequently Stephen was arrested and diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Weird happenings continued in the house, strange voices, faces in windows and lights that stay on, flickering, even though there was no bulb in the fitting.

So the Snedekers called in the experts –Ed and Elizabeth Warren. .

The Warrens immediately diagnose demons and suggested it was time for another exorcism.

A priest was drafted in to do battle with the forces of darkness, who had become powerful in the house. The windows rattled and the demons screamed as the priest bravely asserted the dominance of the Lord.

After hours of horrors, finally, the demons were driven out.

So, another victory for Ed and Elizabeth Warren, demon hunters. Or another mentally ill individual used and abused by people for profit, you decide.

In 1992 a novel about the event was published, written by Ray Garton and, well Ed and Lorraine Warren.

But it’s still true right?

Not according to Ray Garton who began to worry that nobody could keep their story straight and took his concerns to Ed Warren.
“He told me not to worry, that the family was ‘crazy.’ I was shocked. He said, ‘All the people who come to us are crazy. You think *sane* people would come to us?’ He knew I’d written a lot of horror novels prior to that, so he told me to just make the story using whatever details I could incorporate into the book, and make it scary.”

Garton said of Lorraine "'if she told me the sun would come up tomorrow morning, I'd get a second opinion

Then again pretty much every culture in every place in every time has some idea of spirits and ghosts, so can something so universal not be real?

Maybe they are some kind of as-yet unexplained phenomenon?

One possibility is that ghosts sighting are related to magnetic fields. Several researchers have reported that poltergeist episodes frequently begin on the day (+/- 1 day) of a sudden and intense increase in global geomagnetic activity.

The results were statistically significant and suggest that these unusual episodes may be some form of natural phenomena that are associated with geophysical factors

Claiming to support this this, Dr Michael Persinger has developed something lined with magnets to run through your brain, called the God Helmet.

Given that the temporal lobes have long been implicated in religious experiences and that e.g. epileptic seizures in that part of the brain can produce mystical experiences and visions, Persinger's helmet stimulates these temporal lobes with weak electromagnetic fields through the skull, in an effort to create similar visions.

In various published papers this stimulation has been shown to induce a "sensed presence", under blinded conditions, although it should be noted that when renowned skeptic Richard Dawkins tried it, he felt ‘dizzy and a tingling in the leg’ but didn’t catch sight of any ghosts.

Unlike Dan Aykroyd, who made his own. The writer of the hit movie Ghostbusters grew up surrounded by spiritualists. His great-grandfather, Samuel A. Aykroyd, was a noted nineteenth century psychic investigator who conducted séances at the Aykroyd family farmhouse in eastern Ontario with a medium named Walter Ashurst.

This gave him the inspiritaion for the film, which was originally intended to star John Belushi as Venkman. Sadly, Belushi died and the role went to Bill Murray. To honour his friend, Aykroyd instructed that the ghost ‘Slimer’ be based on Belushi.

When FX master Steve Johnson who’d been working on the ghost, was told this with just 24 hours notice, he had to act fast.
“So I pulled out a stack of headshots of John Belushi, poured a gram of cocaine on it and started chopping lines up,” Johnson recalls. he "literally thought that John Belushi’s ghost came to [him'] to help [him] out.”

A less illegal and probably healthier means of talking to ghosts is the Ouija board.

Based in spiritualism - these were originally little more than a short short cut for the painful effort of reciting the alphabet and waiting for a knock on the table.

A man called Charles

Kennard in Baltimore, Maryland claims to have invented the board back in the 1890s and although there were likely other types of board around at the time, he did get the patent.

Allegedly, to do this he had to prove the board worked and the patent officer asked the question ‘what is my name’. Miraculously, the board spelled out the correct name. Or possibly Kennard’s patent lawyer, who was there at the time, helped out a bit. We’ll never know.

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