An Article by Scott Lowther
We have all seen the “ghost shows” running on the upper channels of basic cable. TV personalities with a claim to fame at hunting down ghosts and gathering evidence of their ghastly existence. Seemingly absurd black and white night shots of wide-eyed paranormal investigators yelling “Who’s there?” and “Did you hear that?” while skull graving music drowns out any discernable disembodied voices that the viewing audience would likely hear. Thus, my opinion of so-called paranormal investigators could have be summed up as fast food entertainers or reality TV wannabe’s that spend an exorbitant amount of time and money on non-sensical ghost detection devices, chasing down shadows.
Ironic though, because as a ceremonial magician and hermeticist I too have spent an exorbitant amount of time and money on what most would consider a non-sensical pursuit of spirit contact. The study of ancient grimoires as well as modern texts dealing with spirit contact , the making of ritual implements, the observation of diet, meditative state, planetary timing, and the journaling of experiments and exercises all seemed to me worthwhile and somehow much more “scientific” than going to an old dilapidated building and shouting in the dark. That is until I secured a graveyard shift, cashier’s position at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia.
The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is a 242,000 square foot, echelon styled Kirkbride mental institution made of hand cut sandstone. Construction of the asylum started in 1858 and involved forced labor, local river rock, and walnut wood harvested on site. The finishing touches of the asylum’s construction was handled by Irish stonemasons which added false windows and gargoyles or grotesques to the outside of the building. I only mention the detail above because of the occult virtue and sympathies associated. The asylum housed the mentally ill and the criminally insane from 1864 to 1994 when it was shuttered. The asylum was privately purchased in 2007 by a local asbestos remover and is a restoration in progress deriving its funding from events and tours held onsite.
My wife is an historic tour guide with the asylum in Weston which made it somewhat easy for me to score the cashier’s position. The cashier is responsible for running the giftshop and attending the public breakroom during the Asylum’s overnight ghost hunts. My main objective was to earn a little extra money and maybe get afforded the chance to explore the nine acres of inner floor space within the gigantic gothic monstrosity.
My first night on the job seemed to confirm my opinions of ghost hunting and ghost hunters. My fellow employees, the paranormal guides / investigators, that would lead people on the search for spooks in the building, seemed better suited as roadies for Rob Zombie than as professionals at ethereal contact and communication. They dressed in black, most had numerous piercings and tattoos, and they had a penchant for what most of us magicians would call “dark fluff”, (a zeal for the dark side complete with heavy metal, demonic symbolism, and eyeliner). That was in April of 2017, and in the two and a half years that I have been employed at the asylum, my opinions of paranormal investigations and the investigators has changed quite a bit.
My first opinion to change was of the guides / investigators. Each investigator employed at the asylum has a deep love of the building, the spirits within, and for one another. Their intuitive knack for discerning between an authentic spiritual encounter and imaginary bullshit is second to none. By observing the guides and their guests and the overwhelming amount of anecdotal and physical evidence they were producing in the first month of my employment, I knew that the asylum was haunted, but to my astonishment and Hermetic anguish absolutely no one was recording the events for further research or posterity. I set out to change this and in July of 2017 I started a record of as many paranormal events as I could feasibly memorialize with the goal of producing an opinion of the types of spirits that haunt places like the asylum and how best to contact and work with them. To this end, my coworkers were invaluable and a blessing. They readily reported the events and experiences they had as well as their guests. I am truly indebted to them for humoring my nerdy pursuit.
It has been two and a half years of gathering data and interacting one on one with the guides / investigators and local spirits of the asylum. What follows is a brief magical / Hermetic opinion contrasting the paranormal record of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum’s (TALA) paranormal activity to some of the traditional theories about chthonic or local spirits found in grimoires and popular esoteric literature. It is my hope to put together even more observances and write in length about the results obtained.
Planetary Timing: Day / Hour – According to traditional grimoires the most advantageous day and hour to contact chthonic / local spirits is on the day and hour of Saturday while the moon is located in an Earth Sign.
- While most of the TALA ghost hunts take place on Saturdays, there are more than enough reports in the record of activity taking place throughout the week and in different moon signs. One notable observation though is that spirit activity seemed to increase when the larger planets (Saturn and Jupiter) were conjunct with smaller ones (Venus, Mercury, Mars) and were visible in the night sky. This coincides with the direction in “Sacred Magic” by Abramelin that planetary hours are discerned by when the planet reaches midheaven and therefore visible in the night sky.
Ritual Offerings – According to traditional grimoires offerings such as incense, candles, and some foods help to enable spirit communication.
- This coincides with the modern paranormal investigation tactic of providing “triggers and rewards”. During an investigation an investigator may offer a cigarette, candy, or a toy as an offering in exchange for communication. There are more than enough reports to suggest that this indeed works. Within TALA the spirits are more inclined to tobacco and peppermint candies.
Protective rituals such as circles and purifications – The traditional grimoires drone on and on with protective prayers and the use of implements such as swords and circles to set up a barrier between the magician and the spirit as a form of protection. Many magicians warn that without the use of these protective devices, the conjurer risks certain injury to themselves and others, even with low level chthonic spirits.
- I have found this to be true to a certain degree. Swords, open flames, incense, and the carving of magical circles is forbidden in the asylum for obvious safety concerns and public stigmas. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to see multiple reports of persons getting scratched, feeling nausea and dizzy, losing track of time, and having runs of bad luck.
Lower astral spirits (ghosts) are electromagnetic, ethereal shells inhabited by elemental spirits. - Some of the more modern magical literature dealing with the separation of the soul according to kabalistic concepts deduce that ghosts are the discarded shells of the dead and that they are inhabited by natural local spirits.
- The jury is still out on this concept. Although it is without a doubt that the spirits of the asylum can manipulate electronic devices such as certain EMF meters and digital voice recorders, this does not necessarily mean that the spirits are made of the same energy. It is curious though that a non-physical entity that may identify itself as a disembodied person of the early 1900’s has such a knowledge of modern electronic devices that they can manipulate them into giving consistent intelligent responses.
Once conjured a spirit may be bound and brought into the service of the Necromancer. – This is the common theme when using magic to obtain spirit contact dating back to Ancient Greco-Egyptian texts to roughly the early 1800’s BEL (Before Eliphas Levi). The summoning or conjuration of a spirit was not for any curiosity or educational sake, but to bind said spirit into the service of the magician. Through the spirit the magician could divine the future, have others love with them, and even exact revenge on others.
- I have never witnessed, nor have I ever tried to summon a spirit of the asylum to do anything other than communicate. It’s my belief and the faith that I have in my coworkers that leads me to believe that they also have never tried to bind an asylum spirit into service. All of this said, it appears as though some spirits have favorite guides and vice versa. One wonders if two coworkers were to have an argument whether their “favorite” spirits would perform an act of revenge on their behalf and possibly without their knowledge.
Meditative States and Scrying Devices – Literature about traditional Ceremonial Magick consisting of evocation and conjuration of spirits usually contains instruction or advises the magician to obtain an altered and / or meditative state in order to best receive the spirit communication. The same literature would advise also using a scrying device of some sort, i.e. incense smoke, dark mirrors, scrying bowls, and crystal balls.
- Most paranormal investigators would readily tell you that being in a meditative state and/or using a scrying device is not necessary to obtain spirit communication, although may admit that it could be useful. Grounding, centering, and purification rituals as well as scrying devices like a psychomanteum have found their way into mainstream ghost hunting. Indeed, there may be much more to the connection between the state of consciousness of a magician and the receptibility to receive spirit contact and communication. Scrying devices may produce a phenomenon above and beyond common pareidolia.
As more and more evidence is brought to bear about the existence of non physical entities, it is my hope to be able to show that some of the ancient spiritual tech as well as modern paranormal investigation techniques will be invaluable as tools when used in conjunction with each other. Ultimately, there will be techniques that can be employed with a high rate of success from both spectrums of Necromancy as well as certain techniques that can be discarded as superfluous or superstitious.