There is a saying that the truth is stranger than fiction; this is certainly accurate when it comes to the paranormal. There is a wealth of fiction surrounding the unexplained and supernatural, from the gothic novels of Edgar Allen Poe to Hollywood films such as Paranormal Activity in which ghosts, spirits and demonic forces are depicted in a manner designed to entertain and scare us. The stories may change, and recent films certainly benefit from the enhancements facilitated by modern special effects, but the subjects of haunting, possession, and evil forces, remain constant.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, due to release January 1st, is the fifth film in this successful franchise - which has built it's success on playing with the fear of the unknown. Perhaps the subject is so compelling because it touches on our beliefs and fears; who has not hidden under the bed covers as a child afraid of unseen monsters or believed there was something lurking at the back of the closet? It is comfortable to remember these feelings as childhood memories, but perhaps it is these fears of unseen presences that the films stimulate, and from personal experience I can testify that at least some of our childhood fears may have some basis in reality.
While the films may dramatise and fictionalise paranormal activity, there is often an element of truth. Dark shadows are frequently seen by paranormal investigators in haunted locations, and disembodied voices crying out in the dark can still send a chill down the spine of even the most seasoned ghost hunter. I remember an investigation at a disused, haunted jail which had been converted into a museum. Located in a remote town, the jail had been built in the 18th century, and was the site of executions as well as incarceration. Some modernisation had taken place, but many of the areas which housed the prisoners remained dilapidated, following it's decommissioning in the 1920s. It was in one of these areas that several pictures were taken showing a dark, unexplained mist, and people taking part in the investigation reported suffering from sudden and uncharacteristic mood changes. While these phenomena may be argued as explainable, it is more difficult to explain the physical phenomena, where several people were thrown or dragged to the floor by unseen hands. These phenomena were linked to the location, so when people went home they would escape the negative experiences, and could choose whether or not they ever wished to return.
When the negative or evil forces are attached to an individual rather than a location, the escape is not so easy. In one case a victim who was under a paranormal attack would use a Dictaphone to make recordings in an empty room in their own home. Voices could be heard threatening their health and safety when playing back these recordings. The same results were achieved when repeating the experiment in a different location; with the same voices making themselves heard. Without any other phenomenon this could be a source of extreme psychological stress, but when accompanied by the appearance of scratch marks on the face and arms and back, fears that the threats could be fulfilled caused the victim to seek help. Before the attack they had been dabbling with dark magic and used a Ouija board, inviting through unseen forces in a half-hearted attempt to curse an enemy. It took several weeks of work and ongoing support to break that attachment. It took even longer for the victim to recover from the fear and shock that the demonic forces they had seen in films really did exist.
The occurrence of such extreme paranormal activity is rare, and in some cases can be difficult to believe for those who did not witness it. Films invite us to suspend belief for the time we are sat in a cinema seat, which is easy to when the hustle and bustle of the 21st century with a world full of logic and technology is just outside the theatre doors. However, there are still unexplainable paranormal events, and many really are stranger than fiction.
Daniel MacDonald, Medium and Consultant Demonologist: www.danielmacdonald.co.uk
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is released in UK cinemas January 1st