Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hallowe'en Countdown 5: Police and the Paranormal

The building that served as the set for the haunted police station in Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Image Source: Movie Locations and More. It's actually a Los Angeles library.

Occasionally, the police are called to investigate bizarre paranormal occurrences. And sometimes, although they officially deny it, they get help from psychics in criminal cases.  Retired FBI agents claim that psychics have been used cautiously on difficult cases.  Most police officers remain skeptical about psychic help on cases, certainly publicly, if not privately. Even so, there is a popular perception that law enforcement can border on the paranormal when law enforcement personnel confront criminal situations that are beyond - the beyond.

Law Enforcement Agents and Psychics

FBI agent Dale Cooper and the town Sherriff Harry S. Truman lining up their doughnuts in the Twin Peaks police department.

The rumour about the FBI using psychics obviously inspired film maker David Lynch. He had already toyed with small town cops walking the edge of crime - and of reality - in 1986's Blue Velvet. Four years later, Lynch presented straight-laced psychic FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (played by Kyle MacLachlan), who went to hell and back, but with all the sanity that could be encapsulated in his love of cherry pie and a great cup of coffee.  This storyline took place in Twin Peaks, Lynch's 1990-1991 soap opera about crime, murder and incest in a fictional Washington border town. 

Lynch did not neglect the idea that police and law enforcement agencies are divided about the value of psychic evaluations in horrible cases. Cooper's FBI foil was snarky skeptical forensics expert Albert Rosenfield (played memorably by Miguel Ferrer). When Albert sees the local sheriff's deputy weeping over the death of town prom queen Laura Palmer, he snaps, "Aw Andy, it's a two hankie crime."

Albert the FBI skeptic, played by Miguel Ferrer in Twin Peaks. Image Source: Yurgal's Basement.

The series had a huge influence on dramatic depictions of the police and the paranormal over the next twenty years.  The Twin Peaks movie, Fire Walk With Me (1992), included remarkable cameos from Lynch, Chris Issak, David Bowie, Kiefer Sutherland and David Duchovny all playing psychic FBI agents.  These scenes inspired the ultimate psychic FBI series, the X-files, on which Duchovny starred, and which was wildly popular in the 1990s. It may have provided some inspiration for Sutherland's hit show 24, in spirit and manipulation of the television serial format, if not in terms of directly applied dramatic themes; that show ran from 2001 to 2010.  From 2005 to 2011, a long-running television show Medium, featured a psychic who helps out on criminal cases, starring former Lynch actress Patricia Arquette.

But truth is stranger than fiction: one psychic with an apparently successful reputation with regard to aiding the police is Annette Martin, described on a skeptical site, along with other psychic detectives, here. Martin runs a psychic detective agency called Closure4U.

Maybe the mediums who have more credibility are the ones who aren't on the Internet.  There's something to be said for mystery. Gifted people who don't seek publicity, who don't go to the cops, and who don't already have their own TV show are much more believable.  These are the psychics you've never heard of. And if there is any overlap between dramatizations of the paranormal side to law enforcement and the reality, it's that real psychic detectives who occasionally help police forces are mysterious people.  You can't find them through a Google search.  They're not on Facebook.  They don't have Websites.  They're out there somewhere, off the radar. And you can only find them once you are enmeshed in a mystery of your own.  That's an idea that Lynch would love. This story from Australia rings truer than others; notice how tenuous the connection is between police and the medium, but there is a vague connection nonetheless. The police will investigate a psychic's leads under extreme circumstances:
In 2001, the body of Thomas Braun was located by Perth based Aboriginal clairvoyant Leanna Adams in Western Australia. Police had initially been unable to find the body. The family of Braun had been told to contact Adams, an Aboriginal psychic who lived in Perth. The Braun Family had requested police to do a search based on Adams’ directions but they had not assisted. Adams went to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, and took the family members directly to Braun’s remains, a spot high on a ridge west of the town, some 20 kilometres out. The remains were not immediately identifiable. Police later confirmed the remains to be his using DNA testing.
Sometimes, police flatly reject psychics and mediums, as with psychic Deb Webber's television program which claimed to offer leads to the New Zealand policeWebber provoked controversy and criticism when she gave her psychic impressions on the then-recent 2009 disappearance of Aisling Symes.  An officer responded: "I'm totally aghast - it seems like a totally commercial play."

When Chandra Levy disappeared in Washington DC in 2001, psychics provided plenty of leads that turned out to be totally false.  The police followed these leads and were frustrated by the loss of time and misdirected resources. Psychics were similarly disruptive and unhelpful in the Elizabeth Smart case.

And in the Shawn Hornbeck case, psychic Sylvia Browne told Hornbeck's parents on the Montel Williams Show that their son, who had disappeared, was dead.  Hornbeck was later found alive and the details of his abduction wildly differed from Browne's predictions.  Wiki: "A  detailed three-year study of her predictions about 115 missing persons and murder cases, published in Skeptical Inquirer, concluded that despite her repeated claims to be more than 85% correct, 'Browne has not even been mostly correct in a single case.'"

Ghost Calls

Sometimes, the police are called to investigate supposedly paranormal happenings. Officers have to square any supernatural unreality they confront with their standard modes of procedure. These methods don't help much, say, in a story about the Houston Police getting a 911 emergency phone call from the dead; or when police were called to investigate a 1974 phantom hitchhiker case in Kent, UK.

On a police message board, one member put out a 2007 request for stories from fellow board users: "When I was a deputy in Northern California one of my buddies told me that he had gone to his first 'ghost call.'  He told me the story of a calling party that called dispatch because he had witnessed something paranormal. My friend [al]luded to the fact that most police officers had been called to something like that in their career. I have never responded to such a thing. However, I am interested in finding out if anyone else has had a similar experience with some sort of paranormal call. I think it would be interesting to know how often the public is involving law enforcement in these types of events that they believe are paranormal." 

One person responded to his query regarding the police, Roswell and aliens.  Reports of aliens, although related in folkloric terms to ghostly apparitions, have slightly more 'credibility,' as with these examples from the UK:
A number of sightings of paranormal activity, including UFOs and ghosts, have been investigated by police in the Tayside region, a report has revealed.

Although officers in Dundee, Perthshire and Angus did not receive any reports of zombies, witches or vampires, several people raised the alarm with police about an "alien spacecraft".

One person also contacted Tayside Police in January 2009 claiming they were being attacked by ghosts in their Dundee house.

But officers who attended found that the person who raised the alarm was hallucinating.

The weird and wonderful cases that officers from Tayside Police have been called out for in the last three years has been revealed in their response to a Freedom of Information request.

Three of the five incidents of paranormal activity in Tayside reported between 2009 and 2011 have been given explanations by officers, while the other two remain unexplained.

Apart from the hallucinatory incident involving ghosts in Dundee, officers also explained to a witness reporting a UFO sighting in Crieff, Perthshire, in February 2010, that the orange lights in the sky were not from an unknown life-form, but that of Chinese lanterns.

The next month police received a report of another UFO in Fife, which officers investigated and found out was in fact a radio transmitter.

However, in an incident that would have got X Files' Mulder and Scully excited, at 11.11pm on May 13, 2009, a witness reported a UFO sighting in Glen Lyon, Perthshire.

They described a triangular shaped bright white light in the sky, which police have still classified as "unexplained".

Almost a year later at around 2am on April 27, 2010, a Dundee resident reported a sighting of lights in the sky over the city, believed by the caller to be either UFOs or day break[.] No police attendance was requested or required, although the incident has been recorded as "unexplained".
In 2010, the American TV channel A&E created a series called Paranormal Cops. It ran for one season and featured a team of Chicago police officers who participated in after hours ghost hunting investigations using the investigative and analytical detection techniques of their trade. You can see some of their episodes on Youtube, start here.

It's more often the case that police officers have to assess whether paranormal reports are deceptive distractions to conceal crimes, as when the chief inspector at Khardah police station in Kolkata (Calcutta) got a strange call in 2008:
Sukumar Das, the inspector-in-charge of Khardah police station, got the shock of his life when he picked up the phone on Monday afternoon. The agitated voice at the other end pleaded with the inspector to rush to his aid as soon as possible. Was it a thief? A local tough? A fraudster? No. Ratan Das, the caller, was complaining of ghost attacks in his house. ... The Khardah inspector went to the house with his team. News of the ghost attacks had spread like wildfire in the area and curious neighbours had gathered there to see what was going on.

Some local social activists, who heard of the incident, also arrived at the house to find out what was happening. They found the house in a mess, with the mattress on the bed half-burnt.

Police suspect that some neighbours may be behind the mischief. "We are trying to give the family moral support and probing who is causing trouble," said an officer.
In other words, officers' first instinct is to expect concealed crime in any kind of allegedly ghostly setting.

Maybe that rule of thumb applies for cops in obviously fake ghostly settings, too. One of the solutions to crumbling properties, especially big houses and institutions that were being neglected even before the current Great Recession, was to transform those old buildings into fake haunted houses.  Unfortunately, in 2009, a Baltimore policeman acted on pure instinct and ingrained training when confronted by a menacing 'ghost' in one of these fake venues. It sounds from the story as though the cop was off duty. Regardless, in a heart-stopping post-Postmodern moment, when the Postmodern bullshit finally got real again, he pulled his loaded gun on an actor who was being paid to scare him:
Baltimore County Police Sgt. Eric Janik, 36, was charged with assault after he pulled a handgun on a chainsaw wielding haunted house character. Janik ... pulled his gun on a haunted house employee dressed up as the killer from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” at the House of Screams show in Essex on Sunday.

According to reports, the haunted house employee approached Janik after the haunted house tour was over in a effort to get “one last scream.” Instead, it was the employee that got a scare when Janik pulled his gun and pointed it at the chest of Michael Morrison, the man in the costume.

I was doing my normal scene at the haunted house, and as I was going out the back door with the chainsaw, the officer pulled his gun on me. Basically, he put his gun to my chest and as I was going back in, he said he was a cop,” Morrison said.

He said he dropped the chain saw, which had no chain and was not dangerous. Janik was with four other people, including his 9-year-old daughter and a female officer.

Charging documents show he denied pointing his loaded service weapon at Morrison. He said he pointed it at the ground. Police said he also appeared to be drinking.

Police investigation of poltergeist activity in Melbourne, August 1966; from the documentary, Haunting. Video Source: Youtube.

Haunted Police Stations

Police station hauntings are pretty commonly reported around the world. There's a big list of ghost sightings in UK police stations here. The Isle of Wight has an unsettled police department. Other stations rumoured to have bad vibes are: Market Rasen's Old Police Station; Pemberton Police Station (no longer standing); and the former Vine Street Police Station in London.

Haunted, Australian documentary commented on spectral activity in the Rose Bay Police Station. Video Source: Youtube.

Caption for the above video: "Haunted" is an Australian documentary from the 1980's that investigates 14 credible cases of paranormal activity. It is hosted by Dr. Maurice Marsh of the University of New England, New South Wales, Australia.  - You might want to see the rest of the Haunted series. It presents the accepted range of rational explanations for paranormal occurrences and is entertaining and interesting; it starts on Youtube here.

Australia is reputed to have several supernaturally troubled police stations including: Rose Bay Police Station; Old Pyrmont Police Station; Leichhardt Police Station; Old Melbourne Gaol; Old Kapunda Police Station; the historic convict centre at Port Arthur; and Old Adelaide Gaol.

This countdown has shown that televised paranormal investigations using ghost hunting tech tools are now a worldwide fad, and a clearly Millennial, neo-Victorian phenomenon. No matter where you are, haunted police stations are a favourite topic on these shows.  The Pakistani program, Woh kia hai? from August 2011, filmed hosts Sajjad Saleem and Ashfaq Ahmed checking out the historic and haunted Jackson Police Station in Karachi. You can watch that episode here (it's on Youtube here).  GRIP has investigated a haunted police station in Meenapur (Muzaffarpur), India (here). The Times of India reports that this is due to the murder in 1942 of the English officer-in-charge. He was burned to death. There is a news report about haunted Mehsana police station in Gujarat, India (here). A Muslim cleric reportedly haunts a room in the Tarkaluwa police station in Deoria, about 300 km from the state capital Luckno, India. Another haunted room plagues the police station at Mewadia in Jaunpur District of Uttar Pradesh, India; it is so frightening that the staff there have not opened the door to the room for 25 years.

Police in Betong District Police Station, Sarawak, claim (reported via blogs and tabloids here, here, here) that a Pontianak ghost (a female Malaysian vampire) haunts their station and has even eerily mimicked the visage of one of the officers:
Malaysian cops have reported that a ghostly apparition of a woman with long hair in a white dress has been haunting their police lock-up. According to the Harian Metro, the ghost has apparently been disturbing officers on night duty at the Betong district police headquarters about 150km from Kuching, and it has also been seen around the police station.

“Its face is similar to an officer here. When it is given instructions, it would only keep quiet,” the Star Online quoted a source as saying.

Such incidents have been happening ever since the police headquarters shifted to the current location in April.

The police sought the services of an ustaz to get rid of the ghost, and it was found the spirit of the woman was not in peace. “We were told that the woman, when she was alive, was a rape victim and was murdered here,” the police said.

Betong OCPD Deputy Supt Mohd Bukhori Saffai said the ghost had disturbed three policemen over the past month, with the latest incident taking place just last week. (ANI)
The haunted Niagara Falls former police station and customs house. Image Source: Out of the Dark.

The US and Canada report many cases of haunted police departments. Here are  just a few:

Video Source: Youtube.

On a lighter note, the Devonshire Division of the LAPD sets up a haunted house in their back parking lot every Hallowe'en to raise money for charity. Somerville Police in Massachusetts organize a similar event as do many other police departments. Usually they invite neighbourhood children to dress up in costume, set up a few scares, and give out treats.

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