An editorial by Christopher Balzano, Ghostvillage news editor
The second anniversary of Rachel Barezinsky’s shooting is approaching. On August 22, 2006, she was shot while trespassing on property in an attempt to get close to a rumored haunted house. She remains permanently injured from the attack, and Allen S. Davis, the man who fired the shot, is serving a 19 year prison sentence and was recently denied a new trial. The sides can be drawn over who was to blame for the assault, but the shock it sent through the community, as well as those in the paranormal world, was measurable. Towns seemed to tighten trespassing laws for ghost hunters, becoming more hesitant to allow investigators in and applying more pressure to those found without permission.
The message was clear. There was lawlessness among those strange people who walk the night looking for spirits. The reputation stuck with some.
In the two years since there have been more paranormal shows finding their way to radio and television, more regional books focusing on every state in the union being published, and more people flocking to conferences and finding, and founding, communities with likeminded people. This allows those interested in the supernatural to feel minds have shifted. The cocoon’s skin gets thicker, however. When polls like the one last week are released and state 75% of Americans believe in ghosts, those pressed up against that cocoon think the general public is catching up to what they have thought for a while.
The public face of the paranormal is not that clear. The majority of Americans may believe in ghosts, but that does not mean they believe in ghost hunters. Many have had an experience or are open minded enough to admit they might exist, but most still view those who investigate them as a bit off their rocker.
The nightly news, the morning paper, the front pages of Internet sites. These are the paranormal public relations machine, and business has not been good in the month of July. There have been two exorcism cases in the news in the past weeks, the most recent out of Colleyville, Texas, where a woman claims an exorcism performed by her youth group more than a decade ago has left her physically and emotional wounded. With the media helping to mold their ideas, the public has a hard time separating the casting out of demons with investigating the paranormal.
Hidden within generic accounts of local investigations are stories of crooked psychic, faked television evidence, and even a case of a spiritualist faith healer in Sweden who talks to the dead and uses his position to sexually assault teens. These are the stories molding minds. This is the paranormal face the public digests.
Not on the radar of the newsfeeds are softer stories that do not move the eyes or get the blood running. When the Divas of Darkness released a calendar a few years back to benefit charity it was largely ignored by the mainstream media. Local graveyard cleanup programs sponsored by investigative groups, such as the one organized by Dusty Smith’s International Association of Cemetery Preservationists (www.iacpinc.org) are almost never carried. In New Bedford, Massachusetts, a group known as Urban Fusion (www.urbanfusiononline.org)that uses music to keep kids off the streets is planning a ghost tour to raise money. There as been no media pickup on this event.
The ghost community is somewhat to blame. They do a great job of trying to promote their groups but rarely use the same vigor to shine light on the good things they do.
Consider this a call to arms. Step to the forefront and tell people what you are doing. It is not enough to tell everyone on your e-mail list or merely post it on your site. Flood the inboxes of local and national media outlets to let them know the difference you are trying to make.
The call extends to the rest of the paranormal community. News outlets print what they think people want to hear, and in this way they act as a barometer of their audience. If you are there audience, let your voice be heard. When you hear about something done by your peers, type something up and send it to your town’s news department. It may be a drop in the bucket, but that still makes a sound. Enough drops and heads might start to turn.
Allow those in the field to determine the face the world sees.
For questions and comments, please write Christopher Balzano at firstname.lastname@example.org.