I consider the paranormal to be normal. Not that I wouldn’t be scared if my bed suddenly took off across the room or if the windows slammed up and down, but I would ask myself if I wasn’t causing all the ruckus with my angst or pent-up emotion, much like a teenaged telekinetic. Of course, the first thing I would do is pray.
I believe that our ancestors took the paranormal on faith, without proof. For the most part, in modern times, we refuse to take the paranormal seriously because we don’t understand it. That’s the key. One day we will have all the scientific proof we need. But, for now, the paranormal is truly “para” – outside the normal.
I used the paranormal in Dreamwater as a device to help my characters move ahead – not as a deus ex machina – God coming down from on high to intervene – but as a normal, every day tool used by extraordinary people who know how to use it.
I hardly know where to begin when talking about Dreamwater. The paranormal abounds! That’s just the way it is.
In Dreamwater, two psychics warn New Low that he must return to Marblehead because his mother is in danger of being arrested as a witch. Jordana, a young prostitute, Ned’s friend and consort, tells him that “the Devil is in Marblehead” and Jordana’s mother, an Oracle, gives Ned instructions on how to rescue his mother, “Hide her in the sacred temples, the ones that are built of heavy stones, stones that are aligned with the rising sun, along the path of the snakes.”
Marblehead is laced with tunnels, or so the legend goes – called the snakes in Dreamwater. Several shops and houses in Marblehead are joined by tunnels that also lead to the sea. These tunnels were probably once used by smugglers, and later, most likely used again by escaped slaves in the Underground Railroad. However, like most secrets, the use, even the existence, of the tunnels is very hard to prove as little evidence survives. In Dreamwater, the snakes have paranormal powers.
Marblehead is built on granite. While researching Dreamwater, I wanted to find a book about phenomenon associated with ancient sites such as the Witch’s Cave in Nahant where Ned hides his mother. I found only one – Paul Devereux’s Places of Power, Secret Energies at Ancient Sites: A Guide to Observed or Measured Phenomena.
Burial Hill, Marblehead, MA
It was Devereux who had some success in measuring the sounds granite makes when he used ultra-sound and was rewarded with what I like to call granite’s “heart beat.” I gave the Witch’s Cave a sunrise alignment (a real cave I discovered in Robert Ellis Cahill’s New England’s Ancient Mysteries) as well as a drumming beat that only Molly can hear. In real life, I can tell you that one is transformed in Marblehead. Marblehead is enchanted. Perhaps the living granite has something to do with its powerful force. However, most places, when left natural, have that very power. Earth is beautiful and powerful. If only we didn’t pave over Nature or build malls where marshes should be, we would still be experiencing this force more directly.
In Dreamwater, Molly is an innocent young girl who is attracted to Ned’s dangerous character. When Molly is accused of witchcraft, Jordana has a dream in which the sun and blue sky are hidden away in a dark hole. She knows Ned’s true love has been arrested and thrown into a cell. Reluctantly, she sends Ned a dream. He wakes in terror as he witnesses the black hanging sack being thrown over Molly’s fair head.
As someone who is sensitive and just a little bit psychic, the idea of sending someone a dream in order to communicate or the idea that granite has a heart beat, is not so far-fetched. These are matters of course. Modern psychics live their lives every day using psychic tools the same way they would pick up a knife to cut a vegetable or turn on the faucet for water.
I know how normal the paranormal can be. I know psychics have dreams of great consequence, and true psychics can send information to others, psychic or not, through forms of energy like dreams, visions, sometimes even TV or the internet.
An interesting example of this kind of communication happened a few years ago when I was doing research for When Two Women Die. I came across the website (no longer available) of the psychic, Lynne Olson, who said as she watched TV, in this case, the show Ghost Adventures, she had spoken to one of the spirits in a particularly evil Las Vegas house. She asked why he was still there, and the ghost answered, “There’s no heaven for the likes of me. This is a pretty good deal for me. Me and this house clicked.” Later, lead ghost hunter, Zac Bagans remarked, “The house and I clicked.” Zac had no way of knowing what the psychic had heard or what the ghost had said.
I’ve been following ghost hunting for decades now. I have never forgotten a ghost hunting show (years before the Dan Ackroyd’s Psi Factor) by Peter Ackroyd, Dan Ackroyd’s father, that revealed some of the best film footage I have ever seen to this day, including night footage of a very lively kitchen where drawers and cabinet doors were opening and closing, plus some lovely ghost writing in the air. This show is also no longer available. Early ghost hunting used a lot of Polaroids, recordings, and night cameras, still used today. In Dreamwater, in 1995, Peter Treadwell is struggling to come to terms with his wife, Beth’s murder (When Two Women Die). Meanwhile, his little girl, Emily, sees and speaks to her mother’s ghost. Peter’s son, Pete, is eager to invite ghost hunters in to investigate. Young Pete takes a quick Polaroid after his little sister says their mom is right there in the kitchen. The snap develops right before their eyes into a shining orb with a world of special effects within it. Later, the fifteen-year-old ghost hunters – using early 1995 technology - find more evidence, including Polaroids of ghost writing, EVP recordings, night vision (One of the fifteen-year-old ghost hunters has a laptop with early Army technology.) and night film of a stuffed animal being petted (obviously, night vision filming is more “earlier-than-the-rest-of-us” U.S. Army technology). In Dreamwater, a psychic is used by the ghost hunters to communicate with Beth’s spirit. Questions are asked and answered through a child’s toy. Later, Beth’s spirit has a unique interchange with her husband, comforting him as only she can.
(Each one as unique as each spirit!)
Last, but hardly least, I haven’t mentioned Edward Dimond’s magic telescope, which allowed Ned’s mother Rosie to view her son far away in the Jamaicas, a comfort that got her arrested for witchcraft. Dimond’s telescope is legendary in Marblehead and was used by the old psychic to watch for Marblehead’s fishing vessels in trouble on the high seas (When Two Women Die).
When we think of the paranormal being “para” or outside normal experience, we are ignoring, or at least, taking for granted the wonders going on all around us. When someone says to me, “I don’t believe in all that crap. I need scientific evidence,” I like to say, “Look around you. Do you see anything that is less fantastic than the paranormal? Anything science truly understands? A tree? A flower? A dog? The sun?” I doubt it.
©Patricia Goodwin 2013
Patricia Goodwin is the author of When Two Women Die, about Marblehead legends and true crime and its sequel, Dreamwater, about the Salem witch trials and the vicious 11-year-old pirate Ned Low. Holy Days is her third novel, about the sexual, psychological seduction of Gloria Wisher and her subsequent transformation. Her newest poetry books are Telling Time By Apples, And Other Poems About Life On The Remnants of Olde Humphrey Farme, illustrated by the author, and Java Love: Poems of a Coffeehouse.