I Want to Believe

I don’t believe in ghosts or poltergeists.  I am a believer in Occam’s Razor: the simplest explanation is the best explanation.  So that spirit in your house that leaves you chilly, is simply a draft in your old house.  Your piano plays itself, just notes, no songs; well, it’s probably the mice we have seen running about your home.  Oh, but I used to believe.  As a child, I read small books that my older sister got on famous haunted places in America, the Bermuda Triangle, cryptozoology, magic, you name it, I was fascinated.  I pored over pictures of Big Foot, Nessie, Area 51, Edward Cayce’s predictions of Atlantis.  I ate it up with a spoon.

Then I discovered that the famous Nessie and Big Foot photos were admitted hoaxes.  That Crete was more than likely the site of the famous Atlantis.  That if you cordoned off any triangle-shaped place in the ocean and looked up its tragic history, well, the whole darn ocean is one large tragic Bermuda Triangle.  I was heartbroken and lost-my world came tumbling down.  Is there no mystery anymore?

Like Mulder’s poster famously states: I WANT TO BELIEVE. Like the cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, I want to confront a spirit and say, “I do believe in ghosts.  I do, I do.”  But then again, he didn’t really confront a spirit, but Oz, who turned out to just be a scientist.

And for every hoax there is something special, that makes the impossible seem possible.  While the Cottingly Fairies were a hoax, the Nazca Lines are still there.  Nessie may not be real, but the coelacanth, thought long gone was discovered in modern times.  And at one time the general consensus was that  Troy was fictitious place, like Atlantis, but people discovered it.  It is really there.  So maybe, just maybe…the mystery is still out there…and there were really aliens in Roswell, and crop circles are for alien navigations.  I hope so.  Until the truth is known, we can tide ourselves over with stories of the paranormal to feed the need and keep the imagination juices flowing.

Here is the Best of Supposedly True Stories of the Paranormal:

which btw, are books AND movies

9.  Book:  The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis/Movie of the Same Name

The Serpent and the Rainbow is a book about a researcher and ethnobotanist named David Wade who investigated Haitian Vodou and zombification.  Sounds freaky, right?  Well, the book did real well, although was criticized by the scientific community for it’s apparent scientific inaccuracies.  Regardless of it’s veracity, there is still something inherently creepy about a substance that can mimic death so well that people believe they have become what we call zombies.  So freaky that it inspired my favorite genre.  And the book inspired a horror film of the same name.  1988s The Serpent and the Rainbow was directed by Wes Craven.  It stars Bill Pullman and a bunch of other people I don’t know.  Bill Pullman plays Dr. Dennis Alan who, working for Big pharma, goes around looking for the next big drug.  His search takes him to Haiti, for the drug that is used in the making of vodou zombies–because the drug that makes it seem as if a person is dead would be the perfect anesthetic.   What’s really frightening, is that Big Pharma is totally capable of such shenanigans.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers, ya’ll should watch it on your own.  I will say this, the combination of Dr. Alan in a third world country, dealing with something he doesn’t understand is used for religious purposes, in a way he cannot comprehend-well, it’s a horror film version of the fish out of water, so naturally scary things happen.

8.  Book:  Fire in the Sky: The Walton Experience by Travis Walton/Movie: Fire in the Sky (thankfully dropped the second half of the title to keep it from being confused with a band name, just kidding)

Okay some loggers are driving back from their long day of work, when they a bright light in the sky.  Turns out it’s a flying saucer.   One guy, the author-Travis Walton, gets out, and disappears.  The other guys go to the police with the story.  Naturally, the police suspect foul play and not the UFO the guys are going on about.  While the authorities hunt the woods for Travis’ dead body, Travis wakes in an alien lab surrounded by Grays.  They don’t touch him.  He bolts discovers some really beautiful men and women who knock him out and send him back to earth.  Turns out he was missing for 5 whole days, though it seemed to be one day for Travis.  Weird stuff.  Is it true?  According to Travis Walton it is.  This book was made into a movie in 1993.  The movie pretty much just tells the story and lets the viewers judge for themselves whether it’s true or not.  Mulder would have got to the bottom real quick (and nobody would have believed him).

7.  Graphic Novel Series: From Hell/Movie: From Hell.

 Like any other horrorphile or armchair detective, I have been fascinated by the Jack the Ripper since I first heard of him.  If you’re reading this blog, you already know the basics about the Ripper.  Jack the Ripper was a serial killer who slashed the throats of female prostitutes in the slums of the Whitechapel District in London.  The murders were never solved-hence the mystery.  As far as we know, he/she got a way with it.  We know these murders happened.  We know that someone got away with it.  This movie excited me because it presented a theory that I had never heard of:  that the killings were to cover the secret and embarrassing marriage of Prince Albert to a former prostitute.  It’s a decent movie with an exciting premise.  And Ian Holm did a great scary character in Sir William Gull.  Sidenote:  When this movie came out, my friend called me to ask why it was called From Hell.  Naturally, I knew the answer and told her.  I was proud that she knew I would know the answer(google was still a baby then). For those of you that may not know, a letter believed to be from the killer was addressed “From Hell”, I say “the killer” because the letters that gave the name that stuck (Jack the Ripper) are believed to have been hoaxes.

6. Book:  The Exorcism of Annaliese Michel/Movie:  The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

 Your personal beliefs may cloud what you think of each of these.  Of course that could be said for any movie or book based on the supernatural.  Basically:  a devout young lady is begins to have visions (0r hallucinations, depending on your point of view).  Her parents believe she is possessed, and in a failed exorcism, the young lady dies.  The movie takes the point of  view of the lawyer who took the priest’s case for the murder of Emily Rose(I believe it was neglectful homicide).  The lawyer ends up believing in the possession as supernatural events begin to occur around her and to her.  The priest in the movie is convicted of murder, but gets “time served”, which basically means, no more jail time for him.  The real life priest was never prosecuted because of his age.  The book concludes that she was not, in fact, possessed but in an altered state, which the “ritual” of exorcism could have helped her to “find her way”.  Whatever the reason, the real Annaliese Michel who had IN FACT been diagnosed with epilepsy as a young girl was a mere 68 lbs. at her death.  I don’t how I feel about this movie–the neglectful death of a young troubled girl angers me–and the cause of her death is criminal.

5.  Book:  A Dark Place by Ray Garton/Movie:  The Haunting in Connecticut.

 I remember watching the story on the Discovery Channel, long before I saw the movie.  As a matter of fact, while I watched the movie the first time, I just kept thinking, “why do know what exactly is going to happen?”.  “When did I watch this before?”  It’s an interesting story.  A family moves  to a different town to be closer to the hospital for their son, who has lymphoma.  Turns out the house used to be a funeral home, and it’s haunted.  Haunting phenomena ensues.  Now, the author of book says that the story is false, and the families stories were unbelievable, yet he was told to make a coherent story and make up what he could and he did.  Personally, I hope the family got enough money to cover the costs of their son’s medical bills.  I honestly don’t think it was just for their five minutes of fame.  Real or not–great story.  Watch it, read it…make up your own mind.

4. Book:  The Bell Witch:  An American Haunting by Brent Monahan/Movie:   An American Haunting.

 Personally, I wanted to see this because I love Sissy Spacek, not because of Carrie, but because I love Coal Miner’s Daughter.  Anyway, the tagline for the movie was intriguing as well: Based on the true events of the only case in US History where a spirit caused the death of a man.  Well, that intrigued the hell out of me.  The book is based on the account of Richard Powell, the school teacher who eventually married Betsey Bell, and the author maintains this.  However, these papers don’t exist. The family, in particular, Betsey Bell, is haunted by an apparition.  Spooky things happen, like a black wolf in the woods, and Betsey suspended in the air. What I found really interesting is that Betsey tells her husband about the sexual abuse she endured at the hands of her father, these caused the supposed manifestations.  The movie stays true to the book, yet we see the truth come to light through Sissy Spacek’s eyes.  Is it true?  Did the haunting kill John Bell?  Or was there never a haunting, as the book postulates?I think a good way to think about this movie is that a person can be “haunted” by the abuse they endure, and in this case a young Betsey Bell not only repressed the memory but created an equally horrible supernatural monster to blame.   I don’t know, but the spin the author puts on it is a compelling one.  A good movie too.

3. Book:   The Mothman Prophesies by John Peel/Movie:  The Mothman Prophecies.

I always love stories about supernatural, I don’t mean ghosts, but those stories that have to do with other beings, like aliens or men in black.  This is one of those tales.  I was more fascinated with the character of Indrid Cold than in the Mothman himself (herself? I mean, who knows, right?).  I find the story of the Mothman and the UFO sightings intriguing.  But I don’t get why Peel had to add the disaster of the collapsing Silver Bridge.  It felt (to me) like he was exploiting the catastrophe.  Interesting story, sad ending.  Should have dealt more with Indrid Cold and the Mothman and less on Richard Gere, just my opinion.

2. Book:   The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson based in the stories told by the infamous Lutz’s/Movie: The Amityville Horror.

Okay here is another story that exploits the horror of another.  Ronald “Butch” Defeo shot and killed his parents and four siblings.  His story changed many times:  his mother did it, he had accomplices, it was him with help from his father and sister.  Either way, the tragedy was used by the Lutz’s, who purchased the Defeo home, furniture included, to create a tale of haunting.  According to George and Kathy Lutz they endured for 28 days horrible smells, something unseen touching them, even unto choking Kathy into unconsciousness.  The scariest part for me was the daughter’s new friend, a demonic pig with red eyes named Jodie.  Well, actually the scariest bits for me was in the movie:  the changing personality of George Lutz into a malevolent person.  It may be a hoax, but it created one of my favorite films and spawned many sequels and a remake.  Plus, you can’t deny the power of a story that can make quarter house windows seem evil.  Also, I could never stand pigs named Jodie after watching this–Go to hell, Jodie!

1.  Book:  The Exorcist By William Peter Blatty/Movie:  The Exorcist.

 Well, we know that exorcisms are real. Some people believe they are necessary.  I, personally, don’t know.  But I know there are others that would bet their life on their validity and necessity.  Once again, I don’t know.  I won’t even go into whether or not it’s true.  Because it is a wonderfully told tale–book and movie.  And it just doesn’t have my endorsement, but the Pope’s as well.  People were driven to churches in flocks after watching the movie.  People vomited and fainted during showings of the movie.  It was practically required for catholic viewings.  No one can really substantiate the truth behind the story.  But the effect of the movie cannot be denied.  I heart this movie.  Sidenote:  the only time I have ever projectile vomited was when I was possessed by Jose Cuervo, but that’s a whole other horror story.

Why do I love these stories even though I’m pretty durn positive that they aren’t based on truth?  Well, I will tell you why.  Because I wish they were true.  I wish that Big Foot existed and one day we will find Atlantis.  One day I will meet a Man in Black and be blown away by his/her stories.  These little mysteries give faces and names to the unknown that we fear.  And if we can name it maybe we can face it.  And even though I internally roll my eyes when someone begins their own personal haunting tale, I still listen attentively because I am searching for the one-that supernatural El Dorado–the True Story.  The one that that little part of me, that little girl who pored over the TimeLife collection of Mysteries of the Unknown and watched every supernatural episode of Unsolved Mysteries–that little girl wants to find the Truth because it is out there.

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