To celebrate the release of the sixth and final Paranormal Activity film, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION, in UK cinemas nationwide from today, we spoke with leading Paranormal Researcher and Anomalist from Los Angeles, Christopher Chacon, who also served as a consultant on the Paranormal Activity franchise, about ghosts, possessions and dealing with harmful spirits.
HCF: Hi Christopher. How did you get involved with the supernatural?
Christopher: I would have to say that I kind of fell into it, that it wasn’t my doing or interest in exploring it, particularly for this long, going on for almost 30 years now. Initially it started back when I was in college and I was paying my way to college as a magician, an illusionist. I had a big illusion show and basically I was approached by some people who said that they had a haunting phenomenon in their home and they wanted to know if I could figure out what was causing it. I said “Sure, okay. I’ll give it a shot”. I assisted those people and one thing led to another and pretty soon I was doing it for three others. I got exteme cases of psychic phenomenon, of re-incarnation and UFO close encounters and it wasn’t long before I was getting dozens of cases. That snowballed into partnering with a parapsychologist and learning the whole parapsychological method in the process. Then we were doing hundreds of cases. When I was thinking “okay I’m about done with this now”, I was recruited by a scientific think-tank who does anomalistic research. Anomalies are basically everything under the umbrella of the paranormal/supernatural: hautings, poltergeists, demonic possessions, strange creatures, witchcraft, UFO’s. Those are considered anomalies. They basically trained me in a whole another method and for a dozen years we went all over the world with scientific teams and incredible resources and technology investigating thousands of cases. It kept on snowballing. Then for the last 12 years or so, I’ve just been doing it as an individual consultant where if someone’s experiencing something, they would refer to me a client after they’ve ruled out a lot of explanations. So really, I just kind of fell into it.
What sort of expertise do the Paranormal Activity films require from you and how has that changed throughout the franchise?
For the most part, they have created their stories and franchise on their own, individually. I know the original director and the producers and basically they approached me after it was created to get my thoughts. It was Paramount and those who brought me on for each one of the films because the films strike a chord with people. Everyone has a ghost story or knows someone who has one or some kind of experience and it starts a dialogue. They wanted me to be there because I actually deal with the stuff day in, day out – the real stuff. So it was really that which did it.
They always create their projects sort of in a vacuum, in a bubble. From my understanding, none of the movies are based on anything even though interestingly the phenomenon in each of those are cases are things that I’ve encounted through people who’ve experienced them.
My involvement comes in after that, once they’ve created the films.
In the new film, there’s a focus of the haunting with children. In your experience, do children tend to be more receptive to spirits and other supernatural phenomena rather than adults?
Well, you know, it’s interesting. Over the last 50 years, the interpretation in the parapsychological community has been that children and animals seem to be more receptive to these events and based on the thousands of cases I’ve been on, that’s actually not been the case. It’s not so much that they’re receptive to it, it’s just that the level of awareness is very different with children and with animals. Animals, of course, come from an entirely different world of how they sense things around them which is why they can sense cancer in people, they can sense electromagnetic fields before an earthquake, they can sense all these incredible things. With most children, you can take any child from any corner of the world and before you start the process of learning, they’re at a congnitive level where it’s very experiential. It’s about the senses and feelings, the complete pure raw emotion and it’s at that point where when they interact with things that is very different. Children have been in the same room with phenomena that people claim to be extremely violent and horrible and yet the children aren’t afraid because they have no basis. They don’t know anything different. If they see a chair flying around the room they think “oh, well, everything flies. That’s no big deal”. They don’t understand that there’s supposed to be laws of nature and physics, gravity, that kind of thing. So they’re open to it that way.
As we get older and, either our analytical process jumps into play and especially our belief systems come into play, cognitively we begin to repress things. We begin to close our mind off to certain things because we want to process things a certain way and what happens is people, overall in that process, whether it’s belief systems or cognitive process, begin to switch things off and they become less perceptive to them. I have found that there is a significant person or people who encounter phenomena or experience just as equally as much as a child would but that is because either they were raised a certain way or they’ve been able to be really good at keeping their mind that open. So in one respect, it is quite true. There is some basis for that but at the other end of the spectrum, if a child could experience phenomena then typically most people can with one caveat and that is unless it’s a subjective phenomenon. That’s a term in parapsychology where it’s almost like telepathic, where it’s a type of haunting. Let’s say, for example, where you have 12 people in a room and the apparition goes to the room and eleven people don’t hear or see anything but one person sees it and hears it. Of course, all the other people are going to think that person is nuts but the idea with the subject of haunt is somehow it’s happening to them on a sensory level which is very different from everyone else. It’s like how groups of people can only hear certain musical notes or some people can recognise different flavours on their palate when they taste wine. It’s something different in their physiology or psychology, something that allows them to experience it differently. They sort of pick it up.
You just mentioned the belief system so would someone who believes be more receptive to the supernatural than a skeptic who doesn’t believe at all?
They’re more apt to see things that are happening. If something’s happening in the environment, they’re more likely to see it or pay attention to it but at the same time if they’re blanket believers they’re also more apt to look at something that is completely explainable and basically exaggerate it to say it’s paranormal or supernatural.
There was some interesting research done when I entered that scientific group where scientists took a room and filled it with special effects and they had two control groups. One group completely believed in ghosts and poltergeists and they put them in one at a time. They didn’t set off any special effects and, when they left the room, people were saying “Oh my God, I was hearing voices and things were moving!” and it was incredible because their mind and imagination and their belief system basically created these things. That was not a surprise. The other group were all hardcore skeptics and atheists. They didn’t believe in anything. The scientists put them one at a time in the room and they let off all the special effects and, interestingly, there was a whole percentage of that group that left the room saying “No, I never saw nothing. I didn’t see the lights blinking, I didn’t hear the voices, I didn’t hear the sounds” and yet the things actually happened because they were special effects. There’s a theory that something called cognitive blindness happens to the skeptic. They’re so hardcore in believing that it can’t happen, they cognitively did not perceive and see when the light moved, the chair moved and they didn’t hear the sound because of their belief system. It’s almost like a defence mechanism. It shut their mind off from that event happening.
So you see, cognitive process and belief systems do play a big part on whether you can actually experience things or perhaps don’t.
Do spirits tend to appear more on photographs and audio recordings rather than manifesting themselves in plain sight?
Not really. The problem with electronic, sometimes they’re referred to as EVP – Electronic Voice Phenomenon – or electronic anomalystic phenomenon, is that it is difficult to ascertain whether it is infact a “spirit” or disembodied entity or if it’s actually a psychic impression. Let’s say you have a camera, you’re taking pictures of something in the environment and you’re looking for a ghost. You’re starting to take pictures and a ghost appears. The problem is that it is difficult to ascertain whether that is infact you who is taking pictures of that entity or you, as the individual, are using a phenomon known as RSPK – Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis. What the psychokinetic energy can do is, you actually project that image psychically into the camera and what you’re taking pictures of is what’s in your mind. It’s difficult to ascertain whether or not you are the person doing it or it’s actually in the environment. Or somebody else in the environment could be projecting those images onto your camera, if we’re talking about psychokinesis. So that’s why it’s difficult to really determine.
There’s a lot of scientific controls to have to go through to determine whether somebody is projecting these images to the environment or if that is in the environment. One of the ways of doing it is by putting remote control cameras in there and everyone has a bunch of blind controls so no-one is thinking about the place nor is the phenomena being documented. If kinetic things are happening in the environment, that’s usually documented, you know if something’s moving in the environment. However, if it’s some kind of phenomena happening of an “entity” or “spirit”, it’s not always the case that it’s being able to be picked up on camera. Going back to the term “subjective”, if the phenomenon that are happening are telepathic then it’s not happening physically in the the environment. It’s happening on a whole different level. To summon the psychic or new age world, they consider the entity to be in your world on a different dimension or plain, in which case no camera equipment or video device can record it. That’s not to say that its not there and you’re sensing it, it’s just that the equipment can’t pick it up.
What’s the most intense case you’ve dealt with?
Wow, that is a tough question. There are a couple which come to mind which are compelling because they twist your mind around. One specific case had to do with a boy who was having dinner with his family in India. While they were talking, having a great dinner, he disappeared in front of them. To my understanding, there were twelve of them having dinner that night, so all eleven witnessed the boy disappearing. They were baffled by this. They called the police, they didn’t know what to make of it. A couple of hours later there was a phone call from a location in the UK who basically said they have someone here who claims he’s your son and, of course, they were baffled by this. They had to send images to show that yes, he is infact here in the UK. How he got there, no-one knew. There was no explanation for it. That person was taken to a secure location and the parents were planning to buy tickets to fly to the UK to get their son when they got a phone call saying he’s gone from the secure location,. He’d disappeared right in front of them on a security camera. The family was once again distraught by this. A couple of hours later, they got a phone call from a location in Japan who said that the police had picked up this boy again, distraught and traumatised by whatever has been happening. So in this particular case, the phenomena, whatever it is, and again there is a myriad of discussions on what this phenomena could be, was basically, for lack of a better word, apertate or teleportate from place to place along with no explanation. That’s very difficult to wrap your head around especially when all the evidence played out,. It’s quite extraordinary.
The other ones that immediately come to mind are the ones that are most disturbing. Those are the cases I get the most of where extremely volatile phenomenon, be it possession, exorcism or poltergeist activity or whatever phenomenon is being claimed or reported allegedly happening, where there’s victims, people involved, either fatalities or people being injured in a particular possession. There was a case of a person possessed and in the process of this long possession he had ripped his cheek off, he had gouged out his eyes and he was mutilating his own body. So it’s an extremely horrific event. Everyone is traumatised around, even the people who are performing it. Those are the ones that unfortunately leave an indelible mark where you think about it and you can’t help but kind of erase it, especially when there’s children involved.
Unfortunately the most disturbing cases are the ones that leave an impression as well as the ones that are simply just mind-boggling to wrap your head around.
With possession cases, is it like the movies where the church gets involved to perform exorcisms?
Oh yeah. Definitely. Actually, the majority of all religious institutions have their version of exorcism or various rite to expel some version of possession. They all have their own version. Some of them are more ancient than others. The Roman Catholic church of course has the one everyone is most familiar with because of the movie The Exorcist: the Roman Catholic Rituale Romanum exorcism. Yes, they’re still performed quite frequently, more than most people can imagine in some particular countries.They have a backlog of people waiting to be exorcised.
The Roman Catholic church is probably the most stringent in following a protocol. They want to rule out psychosis, physiology, things like that. Other religions aren’t so much so and their methods of doing it are way more extreme. If they bring me in and I’m involved, that means there’s some kind of phenomena happening that they’ve never seen happening in the environment, or something regarding the person, and quite often I’m there to give them a consultation and make suggestions. Quite often enough, I often suggest not to do the rite, the ritual, because there’s more to investigate to see what’s more behind it. There’s more to process but a lot of people don’t want to. They want to cut to the chase and just do the ritual, whatever the ritual is. But it is very frequent still, yes.
In hauntings, how can you tell a spirit has wicked intentions?
Well, I guess it depends on what your belief system is because if you’re open to embracing some of the metaphysical occult beliefs then most definitely. For a lot of those, whether it be some ancient religions, religious belief or occult practices, there are definitely methods and rituals you could do. Some of them, again, are very ancient whereby you could interpret if there’s a “spirit” or “entity” in the house and what is its intentions are. There’s no really clear cut and dry way if it’s the occult that are doing it. Obviously, if something is happening in their house, you want to rule out rational explanations first by ruling out that it’s not environmental, psychological, physiological, circumstantial or that someone’s not hoaxing you. If it is actually happening and you just want to find out what its intent is, the simple thing is to address it. Treat it like it’s a next door neighbour’s child who’s been harassing you and comes into your house. If this is your home, it’s your domain, you want to empower yourself. You want to go up to it and say “what do you want?” or “leave us alone!”. You want to address it that way. Quite often enough, for a lot of people, especially if they say “stop it”, make it go away or do something constructive, that kind of empowering, psychologically taking control of your environment, it often works. Obviously if something is detrimental, if you’re waking up and it’s holding you down in bed or hitting you or the situation is becoming abusive, physically or psychologically, you want to get out of the situation. Just like if it’s a domestic abuse situation. You should not be there. You should get out immediately. Get other people involved, be it authorities or a priest or whoever, but you want to get out the situation. You shouldn’t try to deal with it any further if it’s becoming physical or psychological in that regard.
Is it common for entities to physically harm humans, be it spirits grabbing people or poltergeists launching objects at them?
It is the rare of the phenomenon when phenomena gets that volatile. If you remember the other Paranormal Activity films, especially the first one, there is that kind of assault. Actually, in this film too you see a little bit of that element as well. Those are the rare circumstances when things like that happen. The majority of cases that I get to know aren’t like that. Usually people have pretty sound minds, and of course there are people out there who are skeptics. They’ll say, “Okay, I’m out of here”. I don’t care if it’s poltergeists or it’s a toxic chemical in the house. Most people are rational and they’ll get out. Those cases do happen and infact I’m dealing with one right now where a family of four were all being hit and slapped by something in the house. They bought this brand new house and they were there for about a week, they moved out and it’s empty right now.
Many thanks to Christopher Chacon for his time.
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PARARNORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION is in UK cinemas now.