Arguing

As someone who hosts a podcast, and has interviewed a number of people with whom I disagree, one might think I enjoy arguing. I don’t. I hate it. I get nervous and all riled up at any sign of confrontation. That’s why my Facebook page is normally free of politics, and instead is filled with instances of me acting like a dork. I’m just better at being a clown, which is why I usually prefer to joke around and let bygones be bygones whenever possible.

I especially dislike when those arguments I have are with friends. It never feels good for me to argue with people I like. But sometimes, when a friend is being ignorant in public, a public smackdown is very much in order. Still, I don’t like the way it makes me feel.

That’s what happened tonight.  A buddy of mine posted a meme on Facebook that I felt was casually sexist.  It criticized a female politician for what she was wearing instead of focusing on the arguments she was making.  I chimed in, was met with mocking and curses, and it was on.  Each of my replies became more curt in the process.  Not only was I trying to keep up with the mob, but another friend of mine was texting me encouragement.  Whenever I said I wanted to drop out of the conversation, he would go check out what was being said, report it back to me, and tell me I needed to say something back.  Like an idiot, off I would go.

The physical reactions I get during a heated argument are unpleasant.  My chest tightens up, my eyes blur, and I start to get dizzy.  My heart pounds as if I were working out.  I joked with my friend that I’m too overweight to play around with my heart, so I should just relax and eat pizza instead. Seems to me a better way to die.

I’m happy to report that I finally did stop the argument myself.  I informed my buddy that I was unfollowing comments on his post, and would not be replying any longer.  He seemed to be trying to start back up with me by tagging me repeatedly so that I would get a notification, but I resisted the urge to go back and see what he was saying.

Shortly thereafter he deleted his post, and admitted that he had been wrong on a few counts.  While this argument would not have caused me to throw away our friendship, I was still glad it was over.  Ultimately, I have to know to be smarter than to argue on the internet, especially with friends.  I certainly could have handled the situation better, and besides, I don’t need the physical stress of trying to quickly craft the perfect cutting replies.

It’s been several hours now, and even though it ended peacefully, I must admit that I’m not entirely over it.  I can still feel a bit of the tension in my shoulders.  Again, that’s on me.  But I think I understand a bit better the draw of nicotine.  I personally don’t smoke, but I still think I could use a cigarette right about now.

Advertisements

Lost Dog

It’s the middle of the night and I’m browsing Craigslist when I see someone is selling their 3-month-old Beagle.  This puppy’s face is so damn cute, I instantly fall in love with her, and before I know it, I’m emailing the owner with a bunch of questions.  I want to know why they are getting rid of her, stuff about her medical history, and all the other basic queries one might have in this situation.  

beagle

The face that stole my heart

While I’m typing, in my head, it’s already a done deal.  It almost doesn’t matter what the owner replies with.  I’ve calculated it, and spent the money I don’t really have to spend on this dog.  I’ve already picked her up and taken her home with me.  I’m visualizing the Facebook photos I’ll share, the walks we’ll go on, and all the hours spent romping around the house.  I’ve even got a new name picked out:  Lucy.  Me and Lucy are gonna be best buds, and I can’t wait for everyone to meet her.  

Then, the reply comes from the Beagle’s owner…and it’s clearly a scam.  This woman says she lives in Cameroon, works a lot of hours for an international conglomerate or whatever, and needs to ship her dog back to the United States.  But do not worry, because if I’ll only cover the following fees, jump through a couple legal hoops, and then await transport, this beautiful dog will be mine!  I know it’s bullshit right away, but still I wanted to respond in the hope that, somehow, it would all turn out to be legitimate.  I fought that urge and didn’t bother.  The whole situation is a punch in the gut.

I close her stupid email and sit there moping.  I’m almost crying.  An hour before, I wasn’t even looking for a pet, and I’m not looking for one now, yet there I was feeling teary-eyed and alone.  

While the dog in the photo may well exist somewhere, it’s certainly not Miss Cameroon’s to sell, and thus not mine to buy.  I’ll never post those pictures to Facebook, we’ll never go on those walks, and the hours we would’ve spent romping around the house will probably just be replaced by late-night television and snacking. 

It’s 6:30 in the morning and I’m sad at the loss of a dog I never had.  Crazy, that puppy love.

Dear Mr. Korbus

Faithful readers may recall that I posted a remembrance of a friend I had growing up named Leo on the page here late last year (you can find it by clicking this link).  Leo was older than me, as well as being mentally challenged, but he was also a kind and generous person whose death affected my buddy Adam and I greatly.  To this day, we think and speak of him often.

It turns out that Leo’s cousin found that blog post of mine recently, and wrote me a kind message in reply. I haven’t seen or spoken to her since that day, so it was nice to hear from her. The thoughts she shared mean a great deal to me. If you have a moment, I’d like to share part of that email* with you now:

Dear Mr. Korbus,

I just saw the heartwarming piece on the internet that you wrote about Leo. Leo was my 1st cousin and I am probably the cousin who greeted you at the funeral home. My name is Patti and I made the funeral arrangements and helped my Uncle during this horrible time as did my other 1st cousins.

I and my family appreciate your friendship to Leo and we loved your kindness in coming to the funeral home and sharing your memories with us.

It has come to me in all the days that followed Leo’s passing that he was very much loved in the neighborhood. More than one would ever know. In spite of any of Leo’s problems he had a heart of gold and was constantly wanting to help people or give things away. I loved him and miss him. To know he had friends like you and your friends and that you still remember him gives me the pleasure of knowing that his life meant something. Sometimes people were unkind to him but to know how many lives he touched makes me feel at peace.

Thank you again.

Seriously, how great is that?

I was overwhelmed as I read her email, and though my head was swirling, I quickly responded.  I told her how wonderful it was to hear from her, and that I have never forgotten the warmth and kindness she showed towards Adam and I at the funeral home those many years ago.  I told her that, while Adam and I do not live as close as we once did, and haven’t seen each other in well over a decade, we do use Facebook to keep in touch, and Leo seems to be a part of each and every conversation we have.  Truly, we will never forget him.

We all get beaten down by life from time to time.  Hell, I know I’ve had my share of days where I just want to sit down and cry for a while.  But I have to tell you, hearing from Patti brightened my day, and really made me feel good about myself again.  I know that the relationship I had with Leo was special, but receiving her email reminded me just how much it all meant to his family, too.

I’m all smiles today, friends.  Don’t let anyone ever tell you that kindness isn’t magic.

 

 

*I edited only for clarity, and removed some names to protect the privacy of the family

7 Plans I Have To Own 2016

I’ve been meaning to return to the blog here and write down a few things I plan to do to own 2016. I know I have to make some changes in my life, and sometimes writing it down helps to make it official. So, we don’t have to call these resolutions, or even plans, exactly. They’re just a few things I want to do or change about my life as the year goes on.

1) Get a new job
The place I work now has become pretty stressful, especially over the past year or two. I’ve worked in customer service jobs for the past 15 years, and while much of it has been great, and I’ve enjoyed the comradery of my co-workers, much of it has really become stressful. I dread going into work lately, and literally was on the verge of a panic attack when I started getting dressed today. It’s not any one thing causing it, it’s that I think I just need a change. Unfortunately, the job market kind of sucks right now.  Still, I’m keeping my eyes and options open.

2) Read more books
I do a fair amount of reading each day, but it’s mostly articles online. Not enough, maybe, but likely more than the average person. What I’ve really slacked off on lately has been reading books. I’m a bit of a bibliophile, and because of that, I end up buying a couple dozen books for every one that I read. So my “to-read pile” is just getting ridiculously high. I’d like to make a dent in that as the year goes on, and, more than that, I want to read books (and articles) that educate me, as well as challenge my viewpoints about the world.

3) Write more
I know, I know. I’ve said this a few times on this blog recently, but it really is something I want to do. Truthfully, I do feel like I have done a better job of it lately. True, until this post here, I hadn’t written anything in nearly a month. But, before that, I was writing somewhat regularly. I don’t feel any pressure to pump out a blog every day, or even every week. But if I can put something down two or three times a month, at least, I think I’d be pretty satisfied with that. As much as I’d like to write a few opinion pieces, I may want to focus more on personal stories and “confessional” type writing. This is Confidential Korbus, after all.

4) Make time to meditate
It’s not exactly a secret, nor is it something I talk about regularly, but I have suffered with a fair amount of clinical depression and anxiety in my life. I’ve seen different doctors, been on and off medication, and yes, even read a bunch of the so-called “self-help” books. In my mid-twenties I began to study Buddhism and got into meditation, specifically Samatha to help calm my mind and, to a lesser extent, dabbled in Vipassana as well. I feel like I got a fair amount out of it, too. But, like a lot of things throughout my life, I didn’t keep up with it, and eventually I fell out of practice altogether. Though I definitely do not see it as a substitute for medical help, I’d like to get back into a routine with it, if not daily, at least a few times per week

5) Eat less
Hard as it may be to believe, I was once in decent shape. Granted, it was many years ago, when I played organized baseball, but still! It happened! Though there were small signs of mental illness at the time (I always called them my “quirks”) as I got deeper into my teenage years, they began to take on the form of weight gain. Eating was something I did when I was lonely or sad, or even when I was happy. I ate when I was celebrating, I ate when I was bored. I just ate, period. Even now, when I go to a restaurant, I look at my dinner like a challenge: eat it all, regardless of whether you are even hungry or feel full. Just a couple weeks back, for instance, I was halfway through a burrito at a local Mexican restaurant when I could feel myself hitting a wall. Instead of asking for a container to take the rest home, I pushed myself to finish everything. It was stupid. I was so uncomfortable that I could barely get back to the car afterward. In 2016, I want to stop looking at food like a challenge, like it’s some obstacle to be overcome. Instead, the challenge will be to slow down. Pace myself. And, by all means, not to be afraid to ask for a take-home container.

6) Do more yoga
As a treat for myself around my birthday a couple years ago, I bought a DDP Yoga DVD set. Right away I took to it, and I actually enjoyed it. Within just a few days, I could feel results. For one, I felt stronger. My knees felt better. I seemed to have more energy. After working with the program regularly for a while, I took a weekend off. That weekend turned into a whole week. Next thing I knew, I hadn’t done my workouts in months. I still haven’t. But that laziness ends now. I’m going to clear a space in my bedroom, roll out my mat, grab my yoga block and strap, and get back to work. My goal with yoga isn’t actually to lose weight. I simply want to feel better. If I lose a few pounds as a result, great.

7) Take walks
I spend a lot of time inside.  It’s way past time for me to get out more.  And while I can’t say I live in a nice neighborhood, it is an area I feel safe in both day and night. This little community I call home has a lot of side streets with cute names, and a longer winding road that circles them. All of which provide plenty of room for walking. There’s a park area nearby, along with a playground, and there’s a few interesting characters that plod along around here as well. There’s Teddy, an older gentleman who I kid is an aging mobster responsible for “taking care of business” in the neighborhood. He doesn’t know it, but I refer to him as Capo di Teddy. There’s also a man who I just call “the Philosopher,” for no other reason than that he walks along with his hands clasped behind his back and his head down, as if lost in thought. I don’t know what my nickname will be once I start taking more regular walks, but I hope it’s something cool.

So, there it is!  Are there more things I’d like to change?  Yeah, probably.  But I think these seven things provide a pretty solid foundation.  I’ll be pleased to make progress on all of them as the year goes on, and hopefully continue developing positive habits further on into the future.

How about you?  What are you doing to own the new year?  Leave me a comment on the blog, or drop me an e-mail to let me know.

The Hoaxing of Poasttown

If ghost hunters believe they captured evidence of the paranormal at a location they now admit was not haunted, what does that say about the evidence they captured at any other location?  That’s a question myself and a lot of skeptics are asking now that Poasttown Elementary has been exposed as perpetrating a hoax on the ghost hunting public.

Darrell Whisman

This past Saturday, Aron Houdini released evidence he had of Darrell Whisman, the caretaker of Poasttown Elementary, and Jay Lynch of Hindsight Paranormal, tricking paranormal investigators.  He claims to have personally seen Mr. Whisman “purposely set a door so that it would slam shut,” both Whisman and Lynch, “create shadow figures with flashlights” and “use their cell phones to create noises” that investigators would mistake for EVPs.  He also claims to have witnessed each of them stand in rooms “using open air vents to send noises to other rooms,” flip light switches and breakers on and off, and use night vision cameras to watch people in the dark so they can avoid being caught.  And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  Several other people who have witnessed similar things have also released statements.

But perhaps the most stunning allegation to many ghost hunters was the information that no adult or child has ever died on the property.  This must come as a shock to the many who have seen documentaries from a pair of twins who have helped perpetuate this apparent myth.

Ghost hunters who have visited Poasttown have reacted in a variety of ways.  I have spoken to some who are acknowledging the fact that they were fooled and have vowed to cancel plans for upcoming investigations there.  Another team I know of had planned to stage an event there in the spring of 2013.  They have since decided to change venues.  Others are simply furious that a location they supported for years has turned out to not only not be haunted, but to have flat out taken their money and then lied to their faces.

But not all the paranormal investigators are withdrawing their support.  On the Poasttown Elementary Facebook group, I saw some who say they are confident in the evidence they found at the location, despite the recent allegations of fraud and trickery, and plan to continue investigating there.  Another stated that they will not allow one man (Aron Houdini, presumably) to act as judge and jury.

In a recent article I posted before Poasttown was exposed, I stated that the ghost hunters who have helped build the reputation of this location, largely through misguided, unscientific methods and a lack of skepticism, were just as much responsible for the hoax as were the caretakers.  If not for their lack of skepticism, this fraud would have been sniffed out long ago, and the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have paid to investigate there could have saved their money.

But I now go back to the question I asked to open this article.  If the ghost hunters who captured evidence or had paranormal experiences there (EVPs, EMF hits, creepy feelings, etc) are now admitting the location is a fraud and not haunted, what does that say about all the EVPs, EMF hits and creepy feelings they’ve gotten at any other location they’ve visited?  It’s a question they have to ask themselves, but I fear many will not.

The fact is that amateur ghost hunting teams copy their methods from television and have fooled themselves into believing they are acting scientifically.  They clearly do not know how to use their equipment, and seem to have very little idea about the natural means that explain EMF spikes and EVPs and, yes, even the creepy feelings.  Ghost hunters work backwards from a conclusion, going in believing there are ghosts present, then go about labeling any natural phenomena they can’t explain as proof of ghosts.  It is not scientific, it is not logical, and it is unfortunately all too common.

Aron Houdini

So what will become of Poasttown?  My guess is they will experience a fair amount of backlash for a short period, then things will pretty much go back to normal.  Many teams that have been there before will return, believing their old evidence to be legit.  And new groups will file in and out, finding what they wrongly believe to be evidence of ghosts as well.  The cycle will continue, if not at Poasttown, then at another location up the road.

Besides, does the fact that the people they trusted were fooling them all along really bother amateur paranormal investigators all that much?  The anger doesn’t seem to last long.  After all, TAPS was caught faking evidence on live television, and their ratings are as high as ever.

Thanks for reading.

Psychic Mortician Avoids Skeptical Questioning

Mariah de la Croix, depending on where you look, bills herself as a psychic, medium, empath, and even a “sensitive intuitive.”  She claims to be able to communicate both with the spirits of humans and the “energies of the animal kingdom.”  For modest prices, she offers a variety of services, including, but not limited to:  astrological charts, past life therapy, tarot readings, and something called personal animal totems.  The slogan at LadyMariah.com is “Where answers are given…just not always the ones you want.”  Unfortunately, Mariah herself doesn’t seem to be willing to answer any of my questions at all.

It all started the week before Halloween when her publicist, Liz Donatelli, emailed myself and my co-host Bobby Nelson over at Strange Frequencies Radio.   She was requesting that we book her client for an interview to discuss her book, “Restless in Peace:  A Psychic Mortician’s Encounters with Those Who Refuse to Rest.”  In this paranormal memoir, it is revealed that Mariah de la Croix worked in several funeral homes as a mortician and embalmer and encountered a variety of spirits along the way.  For instance, Mariah relates a tale of a female spirit that left the confines of one mortuary to take up residence in her car for over a year.  Another spirit, who was apparently murdered outside the mortuary, returned annually to the scene of the crime to pursue justice.  Still other spirits Mariah met and communicated with were said to perform such mischievous acts as moving urns and hiding items on the roof of the mortuaries themselves.  And, yes, sometimes the dead assist in their own funeral proceedings.  Ms. de la Croix,  it seemed to us, would make a wonderful guest for our show.  We said yes and booked the date of November 4th with her publicist.

Mariah de la Croix (via: authors.com)

On the Amazon.com page for her book, I had been able to find out a couple names of the mortuaries she is said to have worked at.  I tried googling them but couldn’t find any precise matches in Arizona, where she resides, or anywhere else with an admittedly cursory search.  Because I didn’t have a physical copy of her book at the time, and her website didn’t provide much information, I wrote to Mariah personally to get a bit more background information on her story.  It’s not something that is altogether uncommon for me, and it has never posed a problem before to ask a few questions so I could gather a bit more interview material.  In the interest of full disclosure, here is the unedited text of the email I sent to Mariah:

Hi Mariah,

I was curious about some of the mortuaries you mentioned working at in your book.  Are they in the Phoenix area?  I was interested in checking them out.  Thanks so much!

Jason

Here was her response, also unedited:

Hi Jason,

Thank you so very much for your enquiry, but unfortunately, for legal reasons, plus the privacy of the establishments involved and the families they serve, I can’t give you their locations.  I’m sorry.  I would be able to chat with you about the book, though, if there is anything else you would like to ask.

Mariah

So, okay, fine.  She doesn’t want to give out the locations.  I was unaware that providing the cities or states they were in was a legal concern, particularly when in much of the biographical information of Mariah online, the Phoenix, AZ area is mentioned.  Judging by her response, the names of the mortuaries may very well be real.  But then why wasn’t I able to find them?  I decided to leave it at that and just ask any further questions to her personally during the interview.

Except, that ended up being canceled shortly thereafter.  We received an email from Liz Donatelli, the publicist, later that night to rescind approval for the interview.  Liz claimed that Mariah felt my email to her was “inappropriate” and had decided to cancel after listening to an archive episode of our show.

I was incredulous.  My email to her was in no way inappropriate.  And judging by her response, she didn’t think so at first either.  I began to suspect that Mariah checked out our show, saw we were skeptical, and backed out for fear of tough questioning.  At the time she canceled, the most recent archived episode involved us speaking about a recent psychic failure involving a missing child.  Could Mariah have seen this and decided to go into hiding?

At this point, it would seem so.  I tried emailing her again directly to express my confusion.  I explained that I have never had someone respond to an email query with a phrase like “thank you,” as well as an open-ended invitation for more questions, only to later determine my original communication was inappropriate.  I also asked Mariah to please tell me what about our show she suddenly found unfavorable.  I explained to her that, in the four years we have been doing Strange Frequencies Radio, we have never had anyone, from scientist or philosopher to ghost hunter or psychic, claim that we treated them unfairly.  I told her that, even in the cases where we disagree with our guests, the vast majority of the time we end up laughing and having a good time with them.  The point of Strange Frequencies Radio, I said, is conversation, not confrontation.  We only want the truth.  I hoped my email would calm any fears she may have and that she would reconsider.

Well, I can’t say that I anticipated getting a response.  I assumed by that time her publicist had already told her to avoid further communication from us.  As of this writing, now several days after sending that last email, she has not gotten back with me.

Later, after talking to a friend, I decided to run a search with the Arizona Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers to see if Mariah de la Croix was licensed in the state.  She’s not.  There is no listing for her as a funeral director, embalmer or cremationist.  She’s not even an intern.  My friend and I have both sent messages to her on Twitter on successive days since neither she or her publicist have been responding to emails.  I asked if she is using a pseudonym or is perhaps no longer licensed.  The latter wouldn’t be a good answer, however, since the Board lists both current and former licensees right on their website.  Anyone can access them, both to verify licensure or even to see whether or not the person in question has faced any disciplinary action related to their profession.  Unsurprisingly, she hasn’t responded.

As of now, it has gotten to the point where I think Mariah de la Croix is hiding something.  She may or may not be using a fictitious name for her psychic business and book, but then she won’t divulge any information regarding the whereabouts of the mortuaries she is said to have worked at either.  A quick phone call to verify her employment and spiritual encounters is all I would like to do.  But since I can’t find record of her even having a license to do the type of work she says she has done, I have no evidence by which to back up any of the claims she is making.

Is it all a misunderstanding that Mariah de la Croix refuses to help clear up?  If so, why?  Or, even worse, is her entire story built on a foundation of lies and misinformation?  Only Mariah has the answers to the questions I have been asking.  And it seems that, after all this time, neither her or the spirits are interested in talking.
This article originally appeared in The Bent Spoon

Mothman Festival Review

credit:  JoshKingDesign.com

Along with my friends Bobby Nelson, Nick Callis and Jamie Coffin, I attended the 11th Annual Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant, WV over the weekend.  I’ve been several times before, so it was nothing new for me.  Still, we had some fun adventures along the way and back, got into some kooky conversations, and also interacted with some odd people.

Bobby and I talked about it today on Strange Frequencies Radio.  If you’d like to hear about some weird wild stuff, give it a listen:

http://strangefrequenciesradio.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/episode-207-mothman-festival-review/