Parapsychology, Flying Objects and a Hanging Ghost: A Conversation with Dr. Barry Taff, Interview by Michelle M. Pillow (Originally published in Paranormal Underground Magazine)
Parapsychology, Flying Objects and a Hanging Ghost: A Conversation with Dr. Barry Taff
By Michelle M. Pillow, www.MichellePillow.com
Parapsychologist, Dr. Barry Taff, has dedicated much of his life to studying the paranormal. Formally trained in the medical field with academic credentials in psychophysiology and biomedical engineering, heís brought his knowledge of brain and body to his paranormal research. In 1969, he began working in UCLAís parapsychology laboratory as a research associate, training people to harness their latent psychic potential. That same year, Dr. Taff himself was the subject of a paranormal study as his psychic abilities were put to the test and later published in a scholarly journal.
In the lab, he extensively studied telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition (now called remote viewing) over an 8 year period. During which time they discovered that people could indeed be trained to develop their abilities. But, his real interest lay in field work. With over 43 years in the field and over 5000 cases under his belt, many of which focus on ghosts, hauntings, doppelganger, apparitions and poltergeists, heís become a world-recognized authority on the subject.
Aside from his haunting and psychic research, Dr. Taff also holds several medical patents, has written screenplays, enjoyed racing cars, and has an interest in UFO research. His first book, Aliens above, Ghosts Below: Explorations of the Unknown, releases June 2011 from Cosmic Pantheon. You can find out more about him or his work on the web at www.BarryTaff.net.
I would like to thank Dr. Taff for taking the time to talk to me about his work.
Michelle: Youíve had a pretty interesting career, one that Iím sure several people would be jealous of.
Taff: Well, if they were in it, they might not be. Most of the time I just sit around and talk to people. Once in a blue moon, youíre in the right place at the right time and something happens; youíre able to document it; youíre able to observe it and learn something from it. The things Iíve learned over the last 43 years have been amazing.
Michelle: Out of those 5000 cases youíve done, what percentage would you say are Ďactiveí cases?
Taff: Active is a very rudimentary term, and a very subjective one. The chance of us running into something while weíre there for two hours in one evening is the chance of winning the lottery. Itís astronomical. Here strangers come into peopleís homes, they donít know us, they donít know anything about us, and we ask a lot of personal, intrusive questions into their medical and psychological backgrounds, the psychodynamic of the family. We take measurements of the environment and of the people; look at their medications, how long theyíve been taking them. And the chance of something reacting while weíre there is, again, like the chance of winning the lottery. Weíre always at the mercy of whatever weíre dealing with, and you never know. We go into every case expecting nothing to happen, and most of the time thatís exactly what happens: Nothing.
Michelle: When you go into these situations, asking people personal information, do you find that most people are forthcoming and honest about what is happening?
Taff: Most of the time they are straightforward. Sometimes, though, they are less than truthful in regard to the psychodynamic of the familyóif itís a dysfunctional family, their at each otherís throats emotionally. If itís a very caustic environment, theyíre not going to admit that to strangers. Who wants to air their dirty laundry in public?
One of the ways I personally analyze what is going on is by the amount of fear on the person. If the people seem to like it, I question the validity of the event. Most people with a brain donít like these things. Itís very disruptive and unnerving, and we donít know what it is or how to get rid of it.
Itís not so much about what theyíre saying, compared to how theyíre saying itóthe tone of their voice, their articulation, their body language, their intonation, all of this is relevant.
Michelle: Is there a degree in parapsychology, or is it more of a field of study with experts in various other areas (anthropology, psychology, etc.) taking part?
Taff: One person got a doctorate in parapsychologyó Jeffrey Mishlove from UC Berkeley. They made him work his butt off, more so than the average doctorate candidate. Of course, even if you have that degree from a major university, what are you going to do with it? Whoís going to hire you? No offense to Dr. Mishlove.
They did offer a Masters degree program at Kennedy State University years ago. It was abandoned due to lack of interest and lack of money.
The real world applications for parapsychology are few and far between. Itís been used in law enforcement, selectively. Itís been used by the military with remote viewing, remote influence, and things of that nature. Thatís been about it. There are healers or medical intuitives like myself, but as far as putting it to use in a pragmatic way that has not come to pass. We just donít know enough about it.
Michelle: Aside from higher, formal education, are there programs you recommend for those who wish to further study?
Taff: Loyd Auerbach is setting up a program at the University of Virginia. These are important, however when thatís said and done, you spend your time, energy and money on these classes which will teach scientific protocols and discipline and methods for doing scientific research. What are you going to do when you have your degree? Youíll be shunned. I was shunned and I didnít even have a degree in parapsychology.
Academic parapsychology is not a place I recommend people to go, because if you want to make a living off of it, youíre in trouble.
Parapsychology wasnít even a science until 1969 when Dr. Margaret Mead, a well known anthropologist, stood up at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, did a filibuster, and got them to accept it. The Parapsychological Association was formed.
Michelle: Switching a little bit from the formal study of the paranormal to the popularity of paranormal in pop culture. Do you have any favorite paranormal shows?
Taff: There is not one paranormal reality TV show on television that I watch. In my opinion, itís a waste of time and energy. They misrepresent the field. They misinform the public. If youíre producing a paranormal reality show, you have got to have something happen at least once per show, which means you have to do one of three things. You fake it. You embellish or exaggerate everything that happened to make it look relevant and important. And/or you populate the show with a bunch of wackos. The formula is pretty basic, but if you have to wait for something to happen for a show to work the logistics are going to be terrible.
Michelle: What interests you most about the paranormal?
Taff: When you see a 220 pound man picked up and thrown around the room like a rag doll, yet no heat is produced, youíre seeing an event that is impossible based on what we know about the universe. The energies we know ofómagnetism, nuclear forces, and gravityóbefore they would make an event like that occur the amount of heat liberated by that process would burn not only the person but everything in the room would catch fire. Not only does that not happen, the room gets colder. Weíre looking at a force of nature that works without heat. The data collected on this is massive. Iím convinced that the kind of energy weíre seeing with objects flying around the room can theoretically take us to the stars and back. It could possibly alter time and space and change the way we run the planetówithout heat.
Michelle: This case of the 220 pound man, was this a real case you worked on?
Taff: Yes, itís from Chapter Three of my book called The Hazardous Haunting of 1989. Jeff Wheatcraft was one of our assistants and something tried to hang him in the attic of the San Pedro House. Fortunately, someone else was up there and they saved him. Then, many months later, the woman (of the house) had moved. I was unavailable, but Barry Conrad and Jeff went up there to meet with Jackie Hernandez. Jeff and his chair were levitated into the air and thrown across the room to the ceiling. He was knocked out. And, yet, the room got ice cold before it occurred.
Michelle: So, the picture of the man by the rafters in the attic. Is that real or a reenactment of the hanging event?
Taff: Barry (Conrad) heard a moan. It was pitch black. He fired the camera as Jeff was being picked up by this clothesline wrapped around his neck and pulled over the rafter. He grabbed the shot just before Jeff was about to be pulled up tight against the rafter. It was amazing. He had a rope burn on his neck and he developed post traumatic stress disorder. Before he didnít really believe too much, but this totally messed his life up, big time.
I think weíre looking at the tip of a very large iceberg here. Weíre being shown something. The question is what are we going to do about it? We have got to get beyond the question of: Is it real? We know itís real. What we need to know is what we can do with it.
Michelle: Before you got into this field, did you had any personal paranormal experiences?
Taff: Yes. Part of it was curiosity, but the curiosity was provoked by psychic experiences as a kid. Precognitive, clairvoyance, out of body, these were all very normal for me. I thought everyone had them. Then I learned at a very young age that most people either donít have them or they donít discuss them.
Iíd know things people were thinking, what they were doing when I wasnít with them. The first instance I remember was ten years old, the fifth grade, during recess this little blonde girl came walking towards me and like a colored x-ray I could see under her dress was a plastic bag attached to her side and there was a tube going into her. Remember, I was ten years old, I didnít know what a colostomy was, and I went up to her and I asked her what it was. She panicked, ran and got a teacher, who brought me to the principalís office. The principal through that I had snuck in the girlsí bathroom. I said, no that it was there as a color x-ray. Then I looked at him and said you have that appendix scar that never healed properly, itís always purple. He called my parents and said, what is he? My parents said, donít ask.
Michelle: So did your parents understand about your abilities?
Taff: No, they didnít want to even deal with it. They just wanted to stay away from it completely.
Michelle: now that you are a paranormal investigator, do you work with groups? Or do you prefer to work solo?
Taff: Iíve never worked with a group. Iíve worked with different people over time, most have come and gone. I worked with a man named Barry Conrad for over 20 years (up until a year ago). Heís been a good friend and colleague. Now I work with a very gifted man named Jack Rourke, a psychic and researcher, and Alex Mistretta, a researcher. We donít have a name, we just go out and we donít charge people ever.
Michelle: Are these mainly poltergeist type cases?
Taff: Right. 90% of my cases are poltergeist, but itís really hard to say when one thing ends and another begins. Itís all intertwined. Is there really any real difference between a ghost and a poltergeist? It could all be the same thing. Itís a question of interpretation.
Michelle: Clearly, by reading your book, we can hear about some of the more fascinating investigations that youíve done, but what about the most comicalóthose that arenít necessarily filled with evidence, but are memorable nonetheless?
Taff: In 1971 in Van Nuys, nice family, classic poltergeist activity and apparitions. At one point they were finding money floating down from the ceiling. Thousands of dollars were found. I asked if they were upset by this. They said yeah. I asked, are you declaring it? They said no. Well, then itís free money. Imagine that.
They had a 17 year old son, a football player. He saw one of the apparitions one night while going to the bathroom. He locked himself in and wouldnít come out of the bathroom until morning.
Another case not in the book, was mid-70s in an old building Rudolph Valentino used to live in. A family living in one of the apartments would eat dinner, pile dishes in the sink, go out, and when they came back everything was clean.
Michelle: Does that thing travel? Iíd kind of like that one.
Taff: Yeah, weíll call it Rent-A-Geist.
We had a case in Hollywood that was still active. Itís in Chapter One of my book. Thereís a body buried under the house from 1922 named Regina. There have been a lot of psychokinetic manifestations. Thereís a headstone there. No one wanted to pay to have the body excavated.
Michelle: Iíll let readers check out your book, Aliens Above, Ghosts Below, for those details. Itís an interesting case.
What do you say to ďhardnosedĒ skeptics of the paranormal?
Taff: Iíll give you an example. I was on a show in 1978 to talk about the field in general. There was an actor, John Bennett Perry, who said I donít believe in this sort of garbage. So I said to him, on the air, who cares if you believe, youíre an actor. If you were a scientist or did academic research and studied the data and then donít believe it you can say something. How can you comment on something you know nothing about?
Itís really easy to be a skeptic if you donít know anything.
Michelle: What is it like being Dr Barry Taff?
Taff: Itís like being a stranger in a strange land. I think I was born 2000 years too early. The older I get, the less I have in common with more people. The best thing is to leave a legacy, that youíve left the world in a far better place than when you entered it.
To learn more about Dr. Taff, or his first book, Aliens above, Ghosts Below: Explorations of the Unknown (June 2011, Cosmic Pantheon), visit him on the web at www.BarryTaff.net.