INTERVIEW(S) WITH VAMPIRE(S)
Copyright 2022 HighStrange magazine
(Bela Lugosi in Dracula. Image courtesy Turner Classic Movies)
“Vampires aren’t real!”
“Vampires are just fictional characters.”
“You’re crazy if you believe in that stuff.”
Really? I beg to differ. In the past several weeks I have interviewed THREE real vampires as they refer to themselves. (OK, one may have been delusional and possibly dangerous. We’ll get to that eventually.) But the other two? And especially one named Belfazaar, (or Papa Zaar as he is known in vampire society) has proven to me that there are REAL vampires living among us.
In fact, vampires have an extremely long history all around the world. (1)(9) Some of those were reported to drink blood. Others did not. (In Bulgaria, the vampire was often said to consume manure.) A possible origin for vampires from Jewish mythology is found in the person of Lillith, Adam’s first wife who refused to be subservient to him and was then rather slyly replaced by Eve in the writing of the Bible. In fact, the earliest likely mention of a vampire-like creature goes all the way to Old Kingdom Egypt, circa 4000BC in the guise of Sekhmet, the lioness-like Egyptian goddess of war, illness and healing. The ancient Greeks spoke of vampires as well.
Sekhmet (cc commons)
No. They do not (usually) sleep in coffins. The possibly unhinged one I mentioned earlier does, but I suspect he is what is referred to as a ‘life styler” by the real vampires if anything he claimed was truth. That is to say that he has simply taken on the persona of a vampire– even drinks blood—but mostly he is simply enamored of the vampire life as depicted in books and movies like Ann Rice’s Interview with the Vampire or Twilight’s glittery, lovelorn vamps. It is either that, or he is psychotic.
No, they are (probably) not immortal, though there are medical reports of those who seem not to age over their lifetime. (Make what you will of that.)
Yes, they do evidence a reflection in the mirror, and they are not negatively affected by crosses or holy water. In fact, some vampires practice traditional religions like Christianity.
(Let that sink in a minute.)
And finally, no. They do not require a greater amount of sunscreen than you and I. (Like us, many enjoy a lovely, sunny day.)
In fact, they liken their condition to that of the LGBTQ community. They feel that true vampirism isn’t a choice. It is an orientation they are born with.
But to be sure, many of them (referred to as sanguine vampires) DO drink blood REGULARLY. They seem to require the energy their own bodies do not produce for some reason not yet explained. Blood supplies that vital energy. Most live by a set of ethics and feed only from willing donors sometimes referred to as ‘Blood Dolls”, “Cattle”, or other names by the more sardonic amongst them. Still, donors are usually treated respectfully. (Pappa Zaar, my final interviewee, even wrote a document called ‘The Donor’s Bill of Rights.”)  Some vampires, referred to as psychic or psi vampires, are able to absorb that vital (pranic/chi/physical/life) energy of humans via psychic means, sometimes with their “midnight snack” entirely unaware. (The average person replenishes that energy in fairly short order with little or no side effects to the donor.) Some can source nature’s energy—thunderstorms for example—to refuel their energy deficit. Others referred to as ‘negs’ can ‘feed’ off the negative energy so prevalent in our world, whether it comes from hatred, sorrow, racism, homophobia, violence or other negative energies our society emits in such enormous amounts.
(image from the movie Twilight, credit Summit Entertainment
Yes, there are (relatively rare) vampires who don’t play by the rules of polite vampire society. I mention them only to contrast them with that majority who can rightfully claim high ethics. The proof of the rarity of these (potentially) dangerous vampires is the fact that you very seldom read of dead human bodies found drained of their blood.
I do wonder if the fact that 60,000 people disappear each year with a small percentage never found may or may not be in play to some extent here.
As case in point, I mention again the “vampire” who alluded vaguely that he, himself, may be responsible for human deaths when he failed to cease drinking before a few of his victims expired of blood loss.
He reported: “If a guy was ‘twoofing’” (vampire slang for one possessed by an intense hunger which can change the personality of a vampire) “and hadn’t fed in weeks, you can’t really blame him, right?
“So how is that not doing the guy a favor? His life was miserable anyway.
“The cops never think twice about it. No reason to. Just another dead bum in a back alley who slit his wrists, right?”
I might ought to clarify that this is the vampire I referred to as probably a ‘lifestyler” and almost certainly batshit crazy. That 27-year-old male reports that he lives in the basement of his parents’ home just outside New Orleans, sleeps in an actual coffin that is lined with fur and only comes out at night to feed or socialize. He arrived at our Zoom meeting wearing a tall, black top hat, black clothing with a red-lined cape and a full set of pointy teeth manufactured by another famous vampire.
The second vampire I interviewed self-reports as considerably less violent, even when in desperate need of blood. It was the rapidity with which he offered his “house” or coven opened to me for a visit in Atlanta, Georgia that gave me pause. Also, evidently, he had been following me on Twitter (yes, on Twitter, Elon!) since I naïvely began my search for a vampire to interview some months ago. I had stupidly offered a bit of my blood to whoever was willing to speak with me. (That’s not quite how it works and might actually have been insulting, I was later to find out. Mea culpa.) Something about this one simply felt wrong to me—a bit too interested in me personally. I declined his offer. (As with the first, I guaranteed journalistic anonymity for my sources who desire it—an inviolable rule in journalism. Sources would never agree to speak with a journalist with a history of ratting out his informants.)
Finally, an elder within the New Orleans vampire community contacted me and offered that whatever he said could be quoted since he has nothing to hide. Enter Papa Zaar, a vampire from birth, who now, at age 58, is a respected leader among his fellow vampires in the very vampirically active, New Orleans area.
After my experiences with the first two alleged vampires, I was somewhat reluctant to interview what I feared might be another insane inhuman or compulsive confabulator. But my research had convinced me that most vampires—real vampires—were not much like the former two I’d spoken with. And as someone who tries to accept folks where they are without judgment, I was invested in writing a factual, balanced, and even sympathetic report.
Papa Zaar, as it turned out, appeared to be as sane as you or I. Since I was already committed to the vampire article in HighStrange magazine, I took him up on his offer.
We arranged to meet on a Zoom call, and I was a bit relieved when the being that appeared on my computer screen looked like a perfectly normal guy. Informally dressed in a sweatshirt and no fake fangs in evidence, Zaar was bright, personable, friendly, very open and showed little reason for me to doubt the veracity of what he told me. (An interest in learning how to tell if a person was lying had, years ago, spurred me to study facial and postural cues of dishonesty. Today, I am rarely incorrect.)
We began our chat with my guarantee of anonymity and my sincere hope that this interview would be different from the previous ones. After pleasantries had been exchanged, I inquired of Papa Zaar how he first realized he was a vampire. I will, from this point on, paraphrase Zaar’s end of the conversation while attempting to remain true to his actual words.
PAPA ZAAR’S STORY
Zaar defines vampirism as follows: “Vampirism is a physiological condition wherein the afflicted person’s body does not produce enough of the daily, essential energy it needs to function.”
“I was a really sickly kid,” Zaar reported. “At seven years old, I was really small, weak and often picked on by family and others. I always felt different. By the time I was 11, I had started looking at other boys like, ‘That’s for me!’ My father, who was extremely religious, made sure I was sent to church where I was, of course, told I was going to hell.”
One day, while traveling on the church bus, my abusive uncle started picking on my little sister rather than me as he usually did.”
Zaar’s demeanor changed a bit during this retelling, convincing me that he was being truthful. Hurt, fear and anger flashed on his face in rapid succession.
“I finally tried to fight back. I became enraged. I flew at my uncle and started flailing at him with all my meager strength. In response, and because he couldn’t do much worse while on the church bus, he grabbed me into a huge bearhug and squeezed as hard as he could, obviously trying to cause me pain.”
“The only thing I could really do with my arms pinned to my sides was to bite him. I bit down so hard that I drew blood. And suddenly, for the first time, as I tasted the blood on my tongue, I felt a rush of energy. I felt…well…healthy.
“Luckily for me, a kind woman on the bus, having seen the abuse my uncle had displayed, took me under her wing—no pun intended. She told me, ‘I think you are like me. A vampire.’”
“Oh great! Just what I need,” thought young Zaar to himself. “Something else to make me different from everyone else!
“This lady even spoke to my mother at length somewhat later and got her permission to look after me.
“And yet, as time passed, I came to believe that I had experienced all that I had for a reason: namely, to help other vampires come out of the shadows safely and responsibly.”
It is worthy to note that Zaar is also extremely active and devotes quite a bit of time in caring for the homeless in New Orleans—a pet project of his along with others in the NOLA vampire community.
Zaar continued, “The lady treated me with a kindness I’d rarely experienced. She understood me. She looked after me. She taught me how to feed properly. I even took her name as my surname in her honor as her adopted son.”
I asked Zaar at this point, “And how did that feel to you? What difference did it make for you to imbibe blood?”
Zaar paused for a moment, remembering. “I suddenly had energy—normal energy. The accustomed feelings of weakness and illness were gone, “ responded Zaar. “I felt healthy like I had never felt before.”
“And what does it feel like to you—how does it affect you– if you can’t feed?” I asked.
Zaar explained, “It shows physically on me. You can actually see the difference. Like when I was that sickly kid. My hair gets limp and stringy, my skin turns ashy, my thinking slows–it’s obvious I am not well. After I feed, I feel much better. I have energy and feel strong and healthy for a while.
“What I believe causes this need for energy,” he went on, “is that my body simply can’t make enough vital energy necessary for normal functioning for some reason.”
This made some sense to me, I thought as I listened to Zaar. I, your reporter, suffer from fibromyalgia and the terrible chronic fatigue which goes hand in hand with it and which, after many years, has still not been explained medically. Likewise, many disorders (such as the blood disorder porphyria or mental illness) have been postulated as a cause for vampirism by physicians and psychiatrists and have been disproven after further research. (3)(4) For myself, after doing tons of research on my truly debilitating disease, I have come to wonder if the mitochondria in my cells which are tasked with generating energy simply can’t keep up with the body’s need for energy to sustain normal functioning. As such, there are times when I literally can’t get out of bed, let alone function like everyone else does. I suffer from ‘brain fog’. I hurt EVERYWHERE, constantly. Sometimes that pain is severe enough that narcotic medication is necessary. Even sleeping for days on end doesn’t always alleviate that exhaustion or if it does, not for very long. Eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and taking vitamins and supplements—all of which are also practices for Zaar– do NOT alter the condition much.
I mentioned this to Zaar and he agreed that what we feel is very similar and that he has spent many days and nights in bed, unable to get out even to feed. (I presume that, during those times, the vampire orders take out to be delivered.)
With some trepidation, I ventured to ask, “OK, So where do you get the blood from?” (I was concerned that his response might reveal him to be no better than the others who feed from unknowing donors.)
“Actually,” he patiently explained, “I have four regular, willing donors and they are treated with the highest respect. I never forget that they are doing me a favor. I never demand blood, and if one of them doesn’t feel like it, they are absolutely welcome to decline. In fact, I wrote The Donor’s Bill of Rights (2) observed by most vampires in New Orleans and the house (or coven) that I eventually founded.”
I asked how often and how much blood he usually required. Zaar reported that he generally needs to feed 1-3 times weekly, and about 1-6 ounces of blood per meal. Well, I supposed, that’s hardly an amount which would harm a healthy person. I did have cause to wonder at the mental health of his donors—what they get out of it– but that’s for another article.
Like the other reports I’d uncovered during my research, Zaar makes a small cut with a razor to the back of his donor, then drinks directly from him. It’s easily covered by a Band-Aid and doesn’t scar much. This seems to be the most common method of feeding. Furthermore, both Zaar and his donors are tested often for any disease that might be passed on through the blood and also practice “safer sex.” Most recently, Covid-19 testing has been added to that preventative regimen and many or most are not only fully vaccinated against the virus but extremely scrupulous about masking and quarantining.
One of our editors (half-jokingly) wondered if vaccinated blood tastes different from the unvaccinated. (He and I are both ‘purebloods’ who’ve refused to take an as-of-yet poorly tested vaccine with high incidences of serious side effects.) The answer was no, according to Zaar, though he did note a personal preference for type A- blood. Another mysterious subject is, according to Zaar, that many, if not most, vampires are RH negative themselves, though it’s not clear why this is so.
Zaar laughed—a bit nervously?–when I warned him that I had some difficult questions to ask. Still, he seemed more or less forthcoming when I asked him how ‘dangerous vampires’ like the one I mentioned earlier are dealt with by the greater vampire community which is at least 5000 strong in the US alone 2 as revealed by a survey done some years ago in association with another vampire leader, Merticus, of the Atlanta Vampire Alliance. My reasoning was that just as there are evil, dangerous people, surely there are also evil, dangerous vampires.
Zaar looked upward and to the right and blinked several times in succession before answering. (This is a possible, but not guaranteed, response when one is either uncertain how to reply or is planning to be dishonest.) He took a moment to reach down to speak gently and pet one of the two cats who joined him during the interview. Hmmm….feeds the homeless AND likes cats (as friends, not food.) How bad could this fellow—and by extension—his cohorts really be?
Finally, he explained that there are protocols when dealing with these rogue vampires. First, they are confronted and given a year and a day to prove to a council of elders that they have changed their ways and no longer present a danger to “mundane” human beings.
“If and when they are not willing to do so, then it is not beyond possibility that the elders might even approach the police and tip them that there is a violent individual in their city.”
(I suspect that just how much is told to the police may have been why Zaar showed some possible uncertainty or prevarication.)
At the end of my conversation with Papa Zaar, I felt as if I had made a bit of a connection with a rather unique individual who gave me no reason for concern toward me or anyone else. (And again, I’m a pretty good judge of character.)
What I discovered was another earthling not very unlike myself. (Although no, I don’t see myself turning to blood to solve my own health problems. Just yuck.) In fact, at the end of our chat I (sincerely) said that if I ever got around to visiting the beautiful, sometimes bizarre, anything-goes city of New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA), I would owe Zaar dinner. “Perhaps a nice, juicy steak?” I hedged my bets and joked.
Zaar never skipped a beat and replied, “Absolutely! I’ll take you to the Vampire Bar, one of several establishments where vampires and donors safely congregate.”
Truth be told, I had to think about that one for a minute. After all, due to my illness, I have ZERO extra energy to spare. But in the end, I decided that I would trust Papa Zaar to keep watch on any psi vampires who might wish to make a snack of me.
Thank you, Papa Zaar, for your time and your willingness to talk about your life and refute some of the lies about vampires. I hope to meet you in person in NOLA someday.
A FINAL NOTE
When I first conceived of this article, I had in mind to inform the audience about vampirism in general. Who. What. Why. When. Where.
What I found during my research is that there have been other writers and publications who’ve done just that already. (FATE magazine, for instance, has an excellent article in Issue 728 covering ‘real vampires. 11) Once I spent time chatting with the very personable Zaar, in contrast to the other vampires I’d interviewed, a more personal story took shape in my mind. For those interested, I have included numerous sources of further reading in the references at the end of his article.
If I ever do get to New Orleans to visit with Papa Zaar, his vampiric ‘family’ and the Vampire Bar, I’ll be sure to report on that experience.
Sleep well tonight, gentle reader.
Citations and further reading:
(1) Vampires: The Real History, LiveScience, Benjamin Radford, 2021
(2) Donor Bill of Rights, Belfazaar Ashantison, with a supporting cast of good friends: Demoness Barbie, Maggie Bones, Spooky and his beautiful Des. Copyright 2002. (as follows)
This Bill of Rights is to promote the continued safety of the most precious of gifts to us, their life essence. It is suggested that this be signed by both the vampire and the donor on a 30/60/90-day trial basis. After this, the contract can be resigned for an extended period of time which can be either 30/60/90/ or 6 months to 1 year. At the end of these contracts, discussions can be made as to whether or not changes should be done, and what will be allowed and what will not be allowed.)
- As a donor, I know that it is through my personal sacrifice that the vampires’ needs are met. It is my loving nature that allows this relationship to continue. It is my right to decline to feed the vampire for any reason.
- As a donor to a vampiric being, it is my right to know that I am in a vampiric/donor relationship that will be mutually beneficial to both me and the vampire I am donating my life essence to.
- I am the essence provider. It is for me to decide whether or not I am able to give of my essence to the vampire I am with. I must be allotted time to heal and regain my essence in order to better support my vampiric partner.
- At no time should my wounds not be allowed to heal.
- At no time should I feel stressed about giving of my essence, if at any time I feel stressed, I have the right to back away from the feed, without being or feeling threatened by my vampiric partner.
- Should I feel threatened in any way, shape or form, I have the right to seek guidance and council from other donors and leaders of the vampire community.
- As a donor to a vampiric individual, I have the right to know that my position as lover, friend, family, roommate should not be jeopardized by my not wanting to give of my essence. In the slang, “it should not cost me my ass to be a donor.”
- As a donor, I should also respect the needs of the vampire and try to learn more about his/her feeding habits in order to help stabilize his/her imbalances in energy.
- As a donor in a vampire/donor relationship, I realize that though I have many necessary rights, I must also take cares not to abuse the person I am donating my essence to. These same rights afforded me in this Bill of Rights should also be extended to the vampire I am donating too.
- Ultimately it is my right to know that I will be safe in all aspects of the vampiric/donor relationship and should I ever feel that my safety is jeopardized, I have the right to walk away clear and free.
- Ultimately, it is our (both the donor and the vampire) responsibility to ensure that we are not abused. It is our (both the donor and the vampire) personal responsibility to leave a vampire/donor relationship that we feel is abusive in any nature. We cannot be abused unless we allow ourselves to be. Copyright Belfazaar Ashantison, 2002.
(3) Vampirism & Energy Work Research Study, Suscitatio Enterprises, LLC., http://www.suscitatio.com/images/VEWRS-Question037-OfficialChart.pdf
(4) Diagnosed Physical and Mental Conditions of Self-Identified Real Vampires. Suscitatio Enterprises,. LLC, 2002-2006,
- Vampire 101, Mystic House of Shadows, Belfazaar Ashantison, 2012, https://m.facebook.com/groups/399640100063965/permalink/538353436192630/?mibextid=Nif5oz
- Black Veil Vampire Glossary, Father Sebastiaan, http://www.blackveilvampires.com/glossary
- Atlanta Vampire Alliance, (AVA), Ethical Guidelines, Atlanta Vampire Alliance (AVA), authors Sylvere ap Leanan, Michelle Belanger, Merticus, Zero, Maloryn, & RedRaven, http://www.atlantavampirealliance.com/educational/ethicalguidelines.html
- Website of Merticus, a vampire elder of the Atlanta Vampire Alliance, Merticus.com
- A Complete History of Vampires, Samantha Vincenty, Oprah Daily, 2020 https://www.oprahdaily.com/life/a33514765/history-of-vampires/
- Vampire Characteristics and History, Encyclopedia Brittannica, Alison Eldridge, 2021
- A Grave Matter, excerpted by FATE Magazine, Issue 728 from Vampires, by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Chelsea House, 2008, https://www.fatemag.com/product-page/fate-issue-728-real-vampires
I JUST HAD A VERY PLEASANT AND INFORMATIVE MEETING WITH…WAIT FOR IT…A REAL VAMPIRE.
What’s that? There’s no such thing as vampires? Guess again. A survey from the early 2000’s found that, at the time, there were at least 5000 vampires in the US alone. (Of course, that means there are MANY more worldwide, I am certain.)
This New Orleans vampire elder was very candid in his responses to my sometimes difficult questions. Although I had already done a lot of research into REAL vampirism, he was able to explain some things that I hadn’t been certain of. He also revealed much of his life and the very interesting way he realized he is, indeed, a vampire. His story was touching, funny at times, and I believe very sincere.
Watch for the interview in the December issue of HighStrange magazine coming up for sale on December 20th, if not a bit sooner.
LOVE LIFE OF THE DEAD: THE CONCEPT OF REINCARNATION IN AFRICA
By Olaoluwa Adeyemi
In Yoruba communicative competence theory, akudaya refers to the return, transformation, or transmigration of a dead person into a living creature after an early demise. Akudaya concept is one of the metaphysical propensities found in Africa, particularly in Nigeria and Yoruba culture.
To begin, Akudaya is a Yoruba word that means ghost, or, to put it another way, a revived person who has moved away from family and friends to avoid being recognized. Akudaya can also be known as a “wraith,” which is a phantasm or double of a living person or a ghostlike apparition of someone observed shortly before or after their death.
It’s a widely held idea in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. Wraiths are thought to be a sign of impending death. In the flesh, the wraith closely resembles its original form, down to the smallest of nuances. There are reports of people seeing their wraiths, and Queen Elizabeth I, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Catherine of Russia are among those reported to have been warned of approaching death in this fashion. Catherine of Russia allegedly saw her doppelganger seated on the throne and commanded her guards to fire upon it.
The wraith varies from the Akudaya in that they appear and disappear at random intervals. The Akudaya, as they are known in Yoruba, are thought to stay and live a long life, and they are even said to have offspring. (I understand that this can be disconcerting; how do we know they are related if they’re dead and buried somewhere?)
I’ll tell you about a story I heard a good while ago.
Sharon (real identity withheld) looked for a partner to call her own for several years, disregarding her mother’s urge to marry because she was getting on in years. Her desperation was accentuated when Caroline, a close friend, kissed her farewell to spinsterhood at a fancy wedding that lingered in her mind.
She met an attractive young man on a business trip and later fell in love with him. She was swept off her feet by a reticent, attractive stranger who emanated a romantic elegance cloaked in mystery.
When she arrived in her village to begin the traditional marriage rites, her parents were overjoyed, but payment of the bride price was postponed because she was already pregnant, which was against tradition. Regardless, they returned to the city, where they settled down and cohabited for nearly five years as a pair and did eventually marry.
She gave birth to a baby boy a few months after presenting her beau to her parents, a circumstance that elevated her spirits and strengthened their friendship even more. She also suffered two miscarriages in a five-year period, which she believed were an act of God.
Unexpectedly, over time, she discovered that she had been living with a deceased man she called her husband, the father of her child, for nearly six years.
It may sound like something from a fairy tale, but it’s true. This is the story of Sharon, a vivacious woman of Tiv ethnicity who lived in an African metropolis until a grisly encounter changed her life.
The Phantom Lover Goes Missing
An unannounced visit by two guests to her family’s house blew the shroud off her ghost marriage; she still shakes from the devastation. Her phantom lover went missing the day she discovered the truth. Shockingly, he took along with him her four-year-old son, David Jr., to an unknown realm, leaving her bereft and terrified.
The truth was finally revealed when Sharon, who sells oranges, wanted to rent a shop in a plaza in the same city to expand her business. The property owner, Alhaji Usman (real identity withheld), demanded to meet her husband as part of the agreement, ostensibly to check if she was a responsible lady, as is traditional in some parts of Africa. Unfortunately, her alleged 42-year-old husband, David was too preoccupied to meet Usman immediately.
On that fatal day, however, Usman was accompanied by a mason whom Usman had hired for a construction job. Usman and the mason had met in the city for an interstate trip. But before proceeding on the journey, Usman decided to meet Sharon’s husband.
He arrived at the couple’s home without warning, accompanied by the mason, unknowing that the mason knew Sharon’s husband from the same village that he hailed from. When the unexpected happened, Sharon had just ushered the visitors into the sitting room.
When her husband came from his bedroom to greet his visitors, the mason was startled. While David, who was known as Big Dave when he was alive, saw one of his guests, there was a deafening stillness. “Big Dave! But you are no longer, why are you here?” the mason reportedly said after summoning bravery and addressing him by his nickname. There was a raucous response and her husband and child vanished.
Sharon passed out and went completely blank. She was told after being awakened that her husband had died in a car accident over 11 years ago. His brutally damaged body was buried in his hamlet the same month he died. Members of his family were wiped out four months later when his hamlet was destroyed during a conflict between farmers and Fulani ranchers in the state. The mason, who claimed to have been there during David’s burial, described the event in graphic detail. (One must understand that there may be some omissions or additions within the story because this story isn’t written down and is simply passed down verbally from era to era. So don’t worry if you’ve heard this Akudaya story before and it doesn’t sound exactly like this. To be honest, this one got to me).
Akudayaism is not exclusive to Africa; other continents have also seen the presence of such a mystery.
Most victims of accidents, fires, terrible diseases, and other causes of sudden death, according to Yoruba belief, may as a result be granted the grace of returning to the corporeal world.
Transcendence is a belief in African philosophy not always accepted in Western philosophy. Many academics have debated the merits of this technical portrayal of the metaphysical topic of reincarnation in Africa. Rene Descartes’ argument is one of the arguments that supports this. He considers man to be an entity made up of the body and the soul. The soul is ensconced in the body to oversee its operations. What is going on in the soul gets projected onto the body (Cogito egosum).
Another philosopher who adheres to this school of thinking argues that man does not die; rather, just the body of a man dies, and the soul returns to its source. As a result, the Yorubas compare the universe to a bus and its occupants to passengers. Different people join a bus from various areas with different destinations, according to their analogies. When a person arrives at his destination, he exits the bus while the rest of the passengers continue their journey. And as soon as the bus arrives at a new bus stop, he waits and picks up additional passengers who are headed in various directions. However, when a member of an Akudaya’s old family notices his or her existence, he ceases to exist or vanishes.
Since we can see a connection between the living and the dead in Sharon and David’s story, it seems an aberration to deny that reincarnation is real.
What’s Going On At HighStrange Magazine?
Excitement is high here at HighStrange! Our amazing group of writers produced a terrific free sample issue of the magazine. Now we are working hard on both the December issue and the Haunted America booklet which lists thousands of haunted places around the US. (Haunted America will be a free gift for our subscribers and has taken at least a hundred man-hours to compile.) We are all psyched to produce a fine, fun and informative magazine that has something for everyone including the littlest monsters in your families.
New changes include the very deserved addition of Mark Davies as managing editor and Karen Wilburn as our new media liaison! Both have worked SO hard and deserve huge kudos for their efforts.
But…all of our writers absolutely amaze me daily. These talented folks have literally donated their time, talent and creative energies to make HighStrange an amazing and unique publication. THANK YOU ALL for what you’ve done. There is no way I, Ranee, (editor-in-chief and the crazy lady who dreamed this up) could ever have done this without you all.
The December issue will be available on December 15th, and a subscription would make a great Christmas gift for your paranormal-minded friends and family. You can get the October sample issue for free on the shop page of the website–no credit card required. We hope you’ll check us out and we know you’re gonna’ love what you see.
Happy Halloween from the HighStrange team around the world!
And to my team: I am honored to not only call you my team—but also my friends.
Have a great, spooky Halloween everybody!
THINGS AREN’T ALWAYS WHAT YOU THINK THEY ARE: Pareidolia, the Issues, and How to Identify Them.
By Mark Davies
We’ve all been there – a satisfactory investigation with many images and videos to review and analyse. Soon, zooming into an image on your computer you think to yourself – it can’t be! There’s a face in the corner of the upstairs window looking down at us… and then… the disappointment kicks in as you zoom in further for a closer look and slowly realize the ‘face’ is no more than a dirty smudge on the glass.
Welcome to the world of pareidolia.
What does the term Pareidolia mean?
Pareidolia? If you’re not familiar with the term, is the psychological effect which can provide us with the stimulus to ‘see’ a meaningful image from random patterns and shapes observed in the environment around us, or in photographic images or videos.
Although usually referred to as a visual stimulus, the term can also be used in an audible context, frequently encountered when analysing audio recordings for EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) captured during investigations.
Someone with a great imagination decided to refer to this as Auditory Pareidolia, which has stuck with us ever since. 
Pareidolia (or simulacra as it’s sometimes referred to), has been with us ever since humanity opened its eyes and could see. It predates paranormal investigation photographs by many, many millennia. Clouds and foliage provided enough stimuli for our ancient ancestors to see faces, silhouettes, animals and many other objects, perhaps the most famous being the Man in the Moon or, more recently, the Face on Mars.
Deriving from the Greek term ‘pará eídōlon’ (beside/alongside/instead and image/form/shape), it was first adopted by the German Psychiatrist Karl Ludwig Kahlbaum (1828 – 1899) in the mid-19th Century, who used the word ‘Pareidolie’ in a series of papers and articles , subsequently making its way into the English Language as our more familiar ‘Pareidolia’, when first used by John Sibbald, the Medical Superintendent of the District Asylum for Argyleshire (Scotland) in 1867 .
In 2009, a Magnetoencephalography study  discovered that the ability to experience pareidolia is present at a very early age, and is presumed to assist babies to recognise faces (of their parents or carers), thus enabling them to ‘protect’ themselves from birth, albeit it at a fairly rudimentary level.
This was subsequently supported in 2011 by a fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) study that established humans interpret ambiguous stimuli depending on processes generated by known objects to the subject. 
This research goes some way to illustrate exactly why people are able to see ‘faces’ within even the most obscure stimuli. Effectively, we are hard-wired to interpret what we are seeing this way and it’s very difficult to avoid, although some people are more prone to this effect than others.
Pareidolia has even been used to explain away sightings of ‘Shadow People’ and similar entities  or, even apparitions themselves, under the ‘one shoe fits all’ explanation that less ‘informed’ people are so fond to utiliZe. [7
So, now we know that pareidolia is almost impossible to avoid, how do we approach this when we’re asked to analyse alleged anomalous objects present in media output?
Tips to avoid pareidolia when analyzing media
Try, as best as you can, to approach any evaluation or analysis with no preconceived ideas, no expectations or bias, personal or otherwise.
Attempt to maintain an open mind and only begin to formulate a conclusion once you’ve completed your FULL analysis and are summarising your findings.
Don’t review the media in isolation – track down anything recorded, filmed or photographed immediately prior and after the analysis subject matter. This includes media from other individuals, not just the originator. If this is not available (sometimes this will be the case), and the media was taken at a public or well-known venue, search for other media of the area where the media was taken to act as ‘ground zero’ for your analysis.
With digital stills, always obtain an example of the original media, not a copy, edited or otherwise. This allows the EXIF data (Exchangeable Image File Format), in some ways the digital equivalent of a photographic negative, to be accessible for inspection. This will always reveal if an image has been edited, a flash used, shutter speed and other useful information. EXIF is your friend; and
Finally, always remember that the human brain, even your own, in spite of its complexity, is not always right and can easily become confused with certain imagery, especially when considering a paranormal context with the subject matter.
It’s pareidolia, but……
What I’m going to write about next is controversial. Nevertheless, it illustrates where the paranormal is concerned, things can never be straightforward, every time.
A few years ago, my partner, Laura, as a location psychometry exercise , was provided with a set of five ‘blind’ images from a location, from a third party, for Laura to attempt to retrieve information from the images psychically.
Whilst we found the entire exercise interesting, providing many leads for further research, as Laura was finishing her commentary for one of the images, she drew my attention to the face of a mature male she could see in the trees, at the rear of the photograph.
The face had a beard and appeared on the right-hand side of the photograph, which you can see highlighted in the image below.
Laura immediately acknowledged this as pareidolia (caused by the foliage of the tree), however, she was at pains to state regardless, this is the method the male chooses to reveal himself to everyone at the location.
Pareidolia? For sure.
However, are things in the paranormal field ever simple?
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1 Leonard Zusne, Warren H Jones. Anomalistic Psychology: A Study of Magical Thinking. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. pp. 77–79. ISBN 978-0-8058-0508-6 (1989)
2 Karl Ludwig Kahlbaum “Die Sinnesdelirien”. Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie und psychisch-gerichtliche Medizin (1866)
3 John Sibbald, M.D. “Report on the Progress of Psychological Medicine; German Psychological Literature”, The Journal of Mental Science, Volume 13. 1867. p. 238
4 Nouchine Hadjikhani, Kestutis Kveraga, Paulami Naik, Seppo P Ahlfors “Early (M170) activation of face-specific cortex by face-like objects”. NeuroReport (2009).
5 J. L. Voss, K. D. Federmeier, K. A. Paller. “The Potato Chip Really Does Look Like Elvis! Neural Hallmarks of Conceptual Processing Associated with Finding Novel Shapes Subjectively Meaningful”. Cerebral Cortex. 22 (10): 2354–64. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhr315. PMC 3432238. PMID 22079921. (2012).
6 Diane Ahlquist. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Life After Death. US: Penguin Group. p. 122. ISBN 978-1-59257-651-7. (2007)
7 Robert Todd Carroll “pareidolia”. skepdic.com. (June 2001)
Egregores: how many ghosts have we created?
By Ranee Decker and Mark Davies
“Most of the world is unconscious of the fact that they live in a world of phantasmagoria.” Alexandra David-Neel
The history of egregores.
One of the earliest mentions of egregores (also known as thoughtforms or tulpa) is in the Book of Enoch, an apocryphal book of the Bible. Rightly or wrongly, it is not included in the original canon of the Church for reasons I am sure will become clear. In the Book of Enoch, egregores are referred to as the “Watchers”, angelic beings of good or evil intent, depending on whom you ask. Certainly, it is agreed that these “beings”, after being “fed” over and over with focused attention, can and will turn on their creator if threatened with extinction.
Important to those of us who wonder what to believe while settled in to watch our favorite ghost hunting show, the concept of egregores complicates the matter. Since fun fakery abounds on many shows anyway (though some are, no doubt real) and ghost hunting tech continues to evolve and is often suspect, confusion, for some, turns off one’s brain to the real truth that might be found sprinkled amongst the silly capers which are merely for effect and, naturally, ratings.
Image credit Zak Bagans, Ghost-Hunting for Dummies, Learning Made Easy
How to create an egregore.
Jean Dubuis, the 20th-century French alchemist, defined the term egregore as: “The psychic and astral entity of a group.” And yes, these “beings” are real…and created. In this case, by us. And so, the question arises, how many ghosts have we created?
Egregores were also mentioned in the writings of Tibetan Buddhists using the term “tulpas” or “tulku.” A tulpa, in Tibetan mysticism, is “a being or object which is created through willpower, visualization, attention and focus, concerted intentionally and ritually.” 
Hence, the term egregore (pronounced EGG-ree-gor), also commonly used in hermetic traditions, became associated with beings created by a group of magical practitioners. But how do they create such creatures?
By putting so much psychic energy into an allegedly haunted place, especially a place where many ghost hunting groups have investigated, an egregore (or thoughtform) is “fed”. It “becomes an autonomous psychic entity composed of and influencing the thoughts of a group of people.” 
Zombieboy. A case in point.
Before you poo-poo the idea out of hand, let me put it into perspective with a real-world example.
In Season 5, Episode 2 of Kindred Spirits paranormal television show,  with Amy Bruni and Adam Berry along with psychic Chip Coffee—an issue was raised that concerns ALL serious ghost hunters.
While investigating the historic Oliver House in Massachusetts, Bruni was struck by an idea after being called to the residence by the owner. Because the current owner mentioned that a “ghost” dubbed Zombieboy had only recently appeared during ghost hunts, Bruni wondered where he had come from. Since Bruni understood the concept of the egregore, she was startled to realize that Zombieboy might, in fact, be an egregore.
To test the theory, Bruni suggested a plan to validate (or not) the idea that an egregore might be the cause of this new haunt. She and Berry would create a whole fictional profile for Zombieboy and then see if the creature responded in line with their story.
First, they retreated to the outdoors where, they surmised, Zombieboy would not be as likely to hear them while they concocted an entirely fictional story about Zombieboy. In this fictitious story, they stated that Zombieboy had died in a horseback riding accident where his face was terribly disfigured. His father, the story goes, was killed in the Civil War, leaving his mother to raise him until his death at twelve years old. They further conjured the idea that Zombieboy liked the K2 meter ghost hunting tech the most and would respond to invitations to use it as a means of communication. After making up this history of Zombieboy, Bruni and Berry returned to the house and acted as if they were discussing Zombieboy. Finally, they left the room to let the idea coalesce in the room where Zombieboy had been detected previously. They later returned to the room to conduct an EVP/K2 session.
When they returned to the room and began asking questions directed at Zombieboy, he began communicating through the K2. When asked how old he was, he responded by lighting up the K2 twelve times. From that point on, Zombieboy mentioned all the aspects of the made-up story, shocking the investigators as he answered questions entirely in agreement with the made-up biography of Zombieboy. In fact, working remotely and knowing nothing of the day’s events, Chip Coffee picked up on several of the attributes Bruni created for Zombieboy.
“This is a major problem,” stated Bruni whom, I personally believe, is one of the more serious investigators on the paranormal television shows block. And, indeed, it is. This is a problem that all ghost hunting groups should be aware of and research thoroughly if there is any seriousness to their investigations.
For if repeated ghost hunting expeditions can create a form of consciousness imbued with sentience and the ability to act on the environment in a literal way, the question arises: How many of our ghosts have been created by us?
As if that were not enough…
As we review the different types of egregores again and look a little deeper, it becomes clear they’re all based upon the construct ‘Man, the Creator’ – ‘beings’ created from
our own consciousness. However, what if we’ve not taken in the full picture? What other explanations might we consider?
Is it not possible that these entities already existed in some shape or form , before anyone thought to create them? What if our conscious efforts to ‘create’ them merely caused them to come forward as we imagined them?
Is it not possible they’re an expression of some Cosmic Joker, (call it God or a demon as your worldview purports) responsible for phenomena of a black-humored or perverse nature?
It’s not our suggestion this is indeed the case, just that we should be wary of accepting what has gone before us and explore all possibilities until a phenomena has been definitively identified, rather than simply accept what has already been written without thought. THIS is the HighStrange approach to learning about, writing, and investigating the paranormal.
Where do we go from here?
Where multiple groups have investigated a location over a period of time, are they creating beings with an agenda of their own precisely because of the energy and thought put into an alleged haunting? Hmmm…yes, this is certainly a problem when you consider how many locations are repeatedly investigated by numerous groups over time. The Borden House. Alcatraz. Insane asylums. Are many of these “haunts”are actually created beings rather than true ghosts? Or do they have another origin?
To be sure, I have done enough investigating on my own. I’ve even been run off a couple of sites which had, to my knowledge, never before been studied. I know that ghosts are real. The question posed by this “thought experiment” is how many of those phenomena are actually creations of our own imagination? And just as important, how would we know?
What I do know is that, in the future, I will attempt to focus on “haunts” where few other investigators have gone. Though it is possible for one person to create an egregore, I seriously doubt that my rather feckless imagination would be enough to create such a being.
References and additional reading:
- Tulpa-Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias, https://en-academic.com
varieties-of-tulpa- experiences-sentient- imaginary-friends-embodied- joint-attention-and-hypnotic- sociality-in-a-wired-world. html/
- Zombieboy. Kindred Spirits, season 5, episode 13, Paper Route Productions, 2019.
- Egregores: The Occult Entities That Watch Over Human Destiny, Mark Stavish, Inner Traditions, Rochester Vermont 2018