Continuing my deep dive into nostalgia and the paranormal! Does the way we feel about paranormal investigation tools change their efficacy? How do our emotions (especially nostalgia) interact with the paranormal?
- My continuing fascination with whether the ghosts of living people can haunt us
- Looking at nostalgic paranormal investigation tools through the lens of Amanda D. Paulson's Paranormal Emotive Touchpoint theory
First off, I have an exciting announcement! If you read my blog or follow me on Mastodon or Instagram, you know that I'm part of the cast of a new, queer paranormal investigation show called Inhuman Beings. We filmed some episodes of the show back in March, I'm so excited that I finally get to tell y'all about it!
In each episode, we investigate a different location with a reputation for high strangeness, and we got to explore some really cool places. In addition to using traditional paranormal investigation techniques, we’ve tried some weird stuff, as well. I can't say too much, because I don't want to give it all away, but for example, we did an experiment using dream sigils to communicate with entities, which was totally unique because it was inspired by dreams that two of us had. As for the locations, we've crossed a remote river to visit land ruled by the fae, explored a strange castle with a mysterious past, and we investigated the most haunted building in a small town.
I joined an awesome team of paranormal experts. The core "Scooby Gang" of investigators—which I'm a part of—is made up of fellow podcaster Fen Alankus (who hosts Follow the Woo); Stephanie Bingham, who knows more about the paranormal than just about anyone I've ever met—she's so smart; and Tigresse Bleu, who is an incredibly talented tarot and oracle reader as well as a dancer and poet. The crew members are filmmaker and hedgewitch Aubrey Archer and skeptic-turned-believer Taylor Brown. And the whole thing is co-created by occult expert Michelle Belanger, who's written a zillion amazing books about the paranormal and who has appeared on shows like Paranormal State, Portals to Hell, Conjuring Kesha, and Monsterquest.
So basically it's an amazing group of people—I feel so lucky to be a part of it and to get to work with everyone involved. I've learned so much already and can't wait to see the show once it's completed.
In order to complete the show‚ we've launched a Kickstarter campaign. In addition to Inhuman Beings, a lot of the team was also involved in New Blood, a docu-series that starts as a look at modern vampires and turns into a bit of an initiatory experience for the cast and crew.
We're raising funds for both shows, so we can finish filming and post-production, and bring the shows into the world. (Plus start pre-production on season two.) Season one of both shows are slated to release in fall/winter 2023.
I'm really proud of the work that the team has done on these shows; since they're indie productions, there's no studio or network dictating what can and can't happen. We're allowed to get as weird as we want, try out new experiments, and tell fresh stories.
So if you're able to, please consider supporting the Kickstarter campaign. It'll be linked in the show notes, or you can just go to Kickstarter.com and search "New Blood," and the Kickstarter will show up. If you can't contribute, no worries—telling other people about the project is incredibly helpful as well.
The Kickstarter page also includes the combined trailer for both shows, so you can see the whole team (including yours truly) in action there.
There are a ton of cool Kickstarter perks, including stuff like magically imbued Ouija planchettes, Bigfoot and Pride Demon T-shirts, subtle-body portrait readings, bonus and behind-the-scenes content. There's even a tier where you can choose a topic for me and Fen to do a deep dive on for our podcasts. So if you've ever wanted me to cover something that I haven't yet, now's your chance!
Visit NewBlood.TV to sign up for the email list and get links to our social media. (You should definitely follow our social media to get info on upcoming livestreams and such. I'll be on some of 'em!)
You can expect to hear more about the project as the campaign (and also post-production) continues. But for now, let's get to the episode.
Paranormal nostalgia, gadgets, and our emotions
In the last episode, I talked about the legendary Panasonic RR-DR60, a late 1990s digital recorder that has gained a reputation for supposedly being particularly well suited to capturing EVPs. It's reached such a level of hype that it now sells for $4,000-5,000 on eBay—a testament to the power of the narrative that has grown up around the device.
While some of the story of the DR60 is garden-variety hype, I think that nostalgia is also a major factor. And if you've listened to the last few episodes, you know that I think that nostalgia's at work with many of popular paranormal investigation tools; in particular, I've focused on the nostalgic nature of spirit boxes and instant cameras.
Why is it "easier" to capture paranormal evidence using analog tools?
I think that innately, we trust physical, analog ways of cataloging and interacting with the paranormal. It's easier to fake a digital photograph of strange phenomena or use a possibly untrustworthy spirit box app on your phone. But in addition to that, there's a sense that it's easier for the paranormal to interact with these more physical, analog, retro forms of communication and documentation.
In past episodes, I talked about the risks of trusting pictures taken by phones and other devices using computational photography, since that can change the evidence that we capture. That's one potential reason to trust analog tools over digital ones, but that's a fairly niche subject, and a lot of those news stories just came out this year. So I doubt that everyone in the paranormal is up to date on that.
In the last episode, I had questions about whether cassette tape and magnetic tape might be more effective for paranormal investigation, since there's plenty of lore around phenomena and magnetism.
So that's a real, solid reason to want to try out an analog device for collecting paranormal evidence. And I'm sure they're many others.
Analog devices have all sorts of moving parts and elements that you could argue that an entity might have an easier time interacting with, for one reason or another.
I'm not saying that there're no rational reasons to believe that paranormal investigation is best done with analog devices. But I am saying that the way we feel about a particular gadget probably compels us more when it comes to choosing what to use when investigating. And I don't think that's a bad thing.
We don't trust devices because they're analog; we trust them because they're nostalgic
To loop back to the Panasonic RR-DR60: The DR60 isn't an analog device. It's a digital recorder.
So people don't trust it because it's analog, since it isn't analog.
I would argue that the people who trust DR60s do so for two reasons:
- Something weird is obviously happening with those recordings, be it a tech glitch or something paranormal.
- It's a nostalgic device.
So I'd argue that people are more likely to trust nostalgic pieces of tech rather than analog pieces of tech. It's easy to lump older devices in with analog ones, even if they're actually digital, because we're responding to how the devices make us feel, not what they actually are.
After all, why do we think that a ghost, spirit, or other paranormal phenomena would have a harder time interacting with a digital device like a smartphone or a laptop than it would with a older electronic device like a radio or a instant camera?
Shouldn't it be easier to adjust a line of code than to move something in the physical world?
After all, an entity might be incorporeal, but so is much of our modern technology. We're living in a world of cloud computing and code. Even looking at our devices, the components have been trimmed down to have fewer moving parts to fiddle with. (One example is the shift away from spinning old-school hard drives toward SSDs.)
Why wouldn't they be able to communicate with us through our smartphones, tablets, and computers just as easily—or more easily—than they might through analog media?
Even with the rise of things like computational photography, which make us more skeptical about the images collected by our devices, would it be harder for an entity to manipulate code and create anomalies in digital images than to manipulate a physical device?
There are a ton of theories about how the paranormal manifests and what forces are behind it, but one claims that entities need energy to physically appear. (That's one explanation for why batteries seem to drain more quickly in the presence of weirdness.)
So if that's the case, might it be easier to not manifest physically and instead interact with us on a purely digital level?
Does nostalgia give things power?
One question keeps pinging around in my head: Do we think that some paranormal investigation devices are more effective because we're nostalgic about them? Or do they become more potent because of our nostalgia?
I'm fascinated by how nostalgia might power our paranormal investigation tools.
I can't remember if I've mentioned this yet in this podcast series or on my blog (or if it's just something I've explored in my longhand private notes—I write too much to keep track of it all), but I'm curious whether our feelings of nostalgia or anemoia (nostalgia for something before our time) actually helps with the investigation.
Human emotions are powerful, and if we feel nostalgic toward a particular device, does that help to give the device more of metaphysical boost? Or is it the other way around?
Put another way: Does our nostalgia make some paranormal investigation devices more effective for paranormal investigation? Or do some paranormal investigation devices make us feel nostalgia, and does that sense of nostalgia open new doors for us during the investigation?
So, in that vein, before I dive back into analog paranormal investigation devices and nostalgia in the next episode, I'd like to spend the rest of this episode talking about the concept of the Paranormal Emotive Touchpoint (PET), which was developed by paranormal investigator, researcher, and medium Amanda D. Paulson in—I believe—early 2022. I think that this theory helps shed light on some of the stuff I'm exploring.
Paranormal Emotive Touchpoint (PET) theory
While I was originally prompted to look at paranormal nostalgia because of the nostalgia and anemoia I noticed in the cryptidcore and cryptid academia aesthetics, I follow Amanda on Instagram, and I'm sure that her PET theory has influenced my thought here as well.
To quote from Amanda's blog, the PET theory posits that:
There are touchpoints, or soft spots, in the world, where the other side is easier to communicate with and is shown to us by making us experience odd emotions. Similar to hitting the right button on an intercom system or standing where there is better phone reception; a paranormal touchpoint is that place or moment time when talking to ghosts (or whatever else might be on the other side) is easier. And those touchpoints communicate with us by making us feel WEIRD.
I also like that we seem to be on a parallel path in looking at paranormal nostalgia—she recently posted an Instagram reel about how [[nostalgia]] can be a helpful feeling to tap into for ghost hunting, which felt really related to some of the stuff I've been looking at in this series.
Amanda Paulson, also known as @prettyfnspooky on social media platforms, maintains a blog at prettyfnspooky.com, so that'll be the main source that I'm drawing on as I look at the Paranormal Emotive Touchpoint theory.
Just a sidenote: you should absolutely follow her blog, add it to your RSS reader, etc. While I've been following Amanda on Instagram since early 2020, the algorithm was definitely hiding some of her stuff from me, so I actually found out about her PET theory because someone else mentioned it to me a few months ago and directed me to her blog. Prettyfnspooky.com is an awesome resource, and I know she's doing daily blog posts this month, so you should check out the great stuff she's posting over there.
In her first post about PETs, from February 2022, Amanda introduces a few different terms: Paranormal Emotive Touchpoints, Odd Emotions, and Emotive Hauntings.
Odd Emotions are exactly what they sound like: to read directly from her blog, they're "emotions AND psychological experiences that evoke emotion and are perceived as paranormal in nature." You don't have to be particularly sensitive to feel them. It's familiar stuff, like (to quote from her again):
- Ambiguous euphoria, sorrow, contemplation, or intensity
- Déjà Vu
- Day Dreaming
- Extra Sensory Experiences
- Sleep Paralysis
One note of explanation: hypnagogia is that borderline state when you transition between being awake and being asleep.
We can probably also assume that hypnopompia, which is where you go from being asleep to being awake, is also a moment of likely Odd Emotion. I've certainly experienced sleep paralysis while in this state, and I've heard plenty of stories of weirdness in the borderlands between being asleep and being awake.
Amanda specifically calls out certain physical locations where these emotions might occur, such as the types of places that might be depicted in liminal space aesthetic imagery: nostalgic, empty locations like malls, playgrounds, and staircases. She also calls out natural settings like bodies of water or locations with a lot of [[limestone]] or [[quartz]], two materials that are often cited as having paranormal properties. And she brings up specific weather conditions with eerie or liminal properties, like fog and mist, powerful winds, and sun showers.
The Paranormal Emotive Touchpoint (PET)
When people experience an Odd Emotion, that can create a Paranormal Emotive Touchpoint.
Basically, you can investigate a paranormal emotive touchpoint in multiple ways, looking into the feeling itself or an entity that you think might be at the touchpoint.
An Emotive Haunting is the "paranormal manifestation" of an Odd Emotion. So basically if something weird and paranormal seems to have sprung forth from the PET, now you have something to investigate.
Amanda suggests making a note of factors like heartbeat, temperature, physical sensations, current emotion, time, moon phase, astrological factors, date, and any physical things that might have some bearing over the emotion. You can ask yourself where the feeling might have come from, what you're supposed to learn from the feeling, what entities might be present (if any), and whether the entity is tied to the emotion in any way. Also, relevant to nostalgia and deja vu: you can look at what time and place you're feeling drawn back to and what moment in the past you might be remembering.
My own experiences with paranormal emotive touchpoints
Ghosts of the living
Back on February 24 of this year, I dropped an episode about local spirits, ghosts of living people, and haunted churches.
Listen to the episode if you want to hear me really getting into it, but the experiences I was describing seem a lot like the concept of a paranormal emotive touchpoint.
In the episode, I also talked about something that I have been really fixated on pretty much since moving to New York City: the idea of living humans being able to haunt a location.
When I first moved to New York, back when I was a teenager, my mental health was pretty bad. I had a general miasma of psychic distress and despair and pain.
And I remember—even when I was still in college in my early twenties, just a couple years after moving here—walking around different parts of the city. I would get a visceral feeling that if I looked around, I would see myself.
It was like how sometimes you can feel something paranormal right next to you, that weird, bone-deep sense of not being alone.
And, of course, in those instances, I was standing on a busy street corner in, say, lower Manhattan. So of course I wasn't alone—there were people all around me. But I didn't feel like I was about to turn around and see someone else. In those moments, I felt like I was going to blink—or turn my head—and see myself.
These were locations that had some meaning to me, usually because of something that I was going through in my life at the time that I went to a particular location. But in these locations where I've felt haunted by myself, it's not like anything specific happened to me at this location. Rather, I was having a bad time every day and there were certain places that I really liked going, and it felt like I left an imprint on those locations. Maybe an imprint that only I can feel, but an imprint nonetheless.
I still occasionally get that sense, especially if I go back to a location that I haven't been to in a long time.
It's almost like this sense of seeing a doppelganger or something. I'm there as the present version of myself, but also I feel like another, ghostly version of me is also there.
Now that I have this framework about nostalgia as an Odd Emotion and PETs, it feels like that's what was going on.
I like the PET theory because it suggests that there might be a reason why certain locations seem to bring me echo of my past emotions. In these locations, maybe there's also a bit of stickiness that made the emotions that I felt years before cling to a particular spot because it's a "soft" or thin place.
One touch of weirdness here: if you asked me to come up with a list of these places, I'm not sure that I could. It's just a feeling that comes upon me suddenly and unexpectedly, but then fades so much when I leave that it's hard to keep track of what places and conditions make me feel that way.
The Hell Gate
In my podcast, I've talked a decent amount about my feelings about the Hell Gate, a haunted part of the East River near where I live. But if you haven't listened to those episodes, just know that I've gotten a really bad vibe there, and have grown so upset, so suddenly, while alone on a particular part of the river (running alongside Astoria Park) that I now avoid going there by myself.
The other day, I was thinking about the [[paranormal emotive touchpoint]], and it really made me think of my experiences at the Hell Gate. I wonder if all of the death there (it was the site of the largest loss of life in New York City prior to 9/11), as well as some intense explosives that have been detonated there, wore the veil thin a bit, or—in Amanda's words—created a sort of soft place.
If that's the case, though, I wonder why more people don't feel bad in that park? Are they just less sensitive? It seems hard to believe that I could be more sensitive than other people (I always think of myself like I'm as mundane as mud), but maybe I'm sensing something that not everyone is aware of. Maybe some other people notice but just ignore it. Many people go to the park with a group of people, to hang out or work out or to let their kids play at the playground or swim at the pool.
It's a popular park, so maybe the presence of other people is distracting or cheering enough that, for some people, it helps to soften the emotions at the touchpoint.
I do notice that when I go to the park with a friend, I don't feel as bad. I'm not sure if I'm distracted enough to not pick up on anything, or what.
It's only when I'm alone that a deep, terrible sense of dread and depression descends on me out of nowhere. It feels awful, physical and visceral and very real. It's a dark cloud that makes me feel lonely and alone.
It's always a very sudden feeling. And it's always baffled me, because the park is so beautiful. Though also it's also worth noting that in addition to being bordered by the Hell Gate portion of the East River, two bridges run over the park, looming and liminal, one of which is constantly full of cars. And the park is on the river, which transports people. So maybe there's also a sense of flux and liminality that adds to the strange feeling there.
So I think that, using the framework of the Paranormal Emotive Touchpoint, we can delve a bit deeper into why we're so drawn to nostalgic devices—and why so many of them seem to be so effective.
I love that the PET theory leaves space for paranormal investigation to be more than just hunting for entities outside ourselves. It also makes space for us to explore our own thoughts, feelings, emotions, and experiences.
Though a lot of ghost hunting media is focused on scientific method-style investigations, I think those miss the point. The paranormal is subjective.
While I love pattern-finding and am fascinated by the interesting bits of data that seem to accrue around the paranormal—such as how certain materials seem to attract the paranormal, theories about visible light and UFOs, ideas about why phenomena might be accompanied by cold spots—that's only part of what's happening here.
To me, as a paranormal researcher and investigator, it's impossible to interact with the paranormal and not make yourself part of the story. Our bodies and minds are paranormal investigation tools, as well—we see things and we feel things (both physically and emotionally). If you deny the evidence of your senses, then you thrown out important information.
So it feels particularly fitting, to me, that so many of the tools we use to investigate are nostalgic (or cause anemoia). Without realizing it, perhaps our own thoughts, feelings, and emotions are imbuing our paranormal investigation gadgets with additional power, with an invisible resonance that makes them more effective.