Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My paranormal pursuit of life after death

The idea of immortality lives on in messages from beyond the grave and near-death experiences. What’s the evidence?

A seance in Paris, circa 1900. Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty 

She was nothing like the sweet old lady in Poltergeist, a film that gave me, an overly imaginative child growing up in the 1980s, my most memorable brush with the spirit world. In fact, Caroline seemed so down-to-earth that I wondered if she truly believed this stuff. Maybe she just enjoyed pulling people’s legs and catching the money falling out of their pockets.

‘Well, don’t force it,’ I told her. ‘I mean, if he’s not here, he’s not here, right?’
"Ian’s definitely here,’ she snapped. ‘I feel like he’s outside, not in the house. It’s just, either he doesn’t want to do this, or something won’t let him."
I thought of Poltergeist again, the final tug-of-war between the forces of good and evil over that creepy little blonde girl, who died of an illness in real life. That’s real life for you. We live and we die: that’s it. If I were to be convinced that there’s more to the afterlife than frauds, wishful thinking and special effects, I’d need evidence. And I’d come here — to a sprawling 300-acre estate just outside Charlottesville, Virginia — to get that evidence from the property’s former owner, Ian Stevenson.

I’d tagged along with Caroline the psychic and Emily Williams Kelly, who has a PhD in parapsychology from the University of Edinburgh, and was a trusted protégé of Professor Stevenson. Stevenson died six years ago, aged 88, after a bout of pneumonia. What happened to his conscious mind after that, or where ‘he’ went, nobody knows. Then again, if the mind is what the brain does, why do we even bother to ask where our minds ‘go’ when our brains power down? Isn’t it obvious that the mind is dead too?

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