We have a guest post here, from our pals over at DTLA-PICS. We’ve been swamped putting Last Spookstore together, so we appreciate them stepping up and putting something together for us. This is a different angle from the rest of our Halloween posts. Enjoy…
Greetings, Dwarf and Gigantic readers. I’m Dave, here with Joe, and we are the founders of the Downtown Los Angeles Phantom Investigation and Control Society, or DTLA-PICS. Some of our friends call us Dental Picks, on account of not only the name, but because we both happen to be veterinary dentists. That’s our day job. When we’re not fixing dog teeth, or spending time with our families, we intervene in situations of paranormal activity. We help people out. We have been investigating the paranormal – mostly of what you might call the “ghostly” variety – for about 15 years. We’ve been all over Southern California, but we call Los Angeles home and downtown LA homebase.
When Eric and the gang over here at The Last Bookstore – our favorite place to buy books, of course – asked us to share some thoughts on Dwarf and Gigantic about books that are helpful in paranormal research, we jumped at the chance. There are a LOT of books out there for what we do. Over the years, I’d say we’ve been able to narrow down our own library to a few essentials. So, please enjoy, and anyone can feel free to ask us any questions in the comments below.
Dave: Let’s start with Ghosts: A Natural History: 500 Years of Searching for Proof from Roger Clarke. This is deep background. A lot of the really famous ghosts and hauntings are in here – especially the ones in England, which is kind of overrun with supernatural activity. This book also explains a lot of the classic nomenclature and categories of paranormal activity. What’s a poltergeist? What’s an elemental? And so forth. These are ancient and modern, with even some hauntings by phone, ie calls/texts from beyond the grave. You gotta have a sense of what’s out there, if you’re gonna investigate from a place of awareness. Plus, this is just a good read with a lot of fascinating history. As you’ll see below, your best books on the paranormal always include some quality history.
Joe: Dave’s right: knowing your way around the paranormal means knowing your haunted history, folks. There’s a handy compendium by Dave Thompson (as you can see, there are plenty of Daves in the ghost-tracking business) called Haunted America FAQ which should be a mandatory inclusion on any ghost detective’s bookshelf. From the first ghost ever recorded in history (that fine credit goes to the ancient spirit of the prophet Samuel, of Old Testament fame) to recurring haunts across America’s heartland and beyond, organized for your convenience in alphabetical order by state, and with sections from the different TV shows – like the gang over at TAPS and where they investigated. Chapters of note for the local phantom investigator: Ch. 4 for local California haunts and Ch. 9 – should the wandering wraiths of John Lennon or Elvis float into The Last Bookstore’s wicked vinyl record collection.
Dave: I do love that vinyl, but my wife won’t let me add to the collection. She says “You can ghosthunt or you can buy record albums.” No contest. And yeah, Joe – speaking of California – which has more haunts per, like, square mile, than any state in the union – our pals Brian Clune and Bob Davis, over at Planet Paranormal, have written two of my favorites: California’s Historic Haunts and Ghosts of the Queen Mary. The benefit of these is the amount of high quality history and background info. You won’t get any of those greasy stories like “I heard a thump, and I just knew it was the spirit of Captain Jumpy Pants.” They recount their own experiences and others’ with a critical eye. They’re straight-shooters who leave you to draw your own conclusions. California’s Historic Haunts covers locations up and down the state, and is perfect for hitting up the potential hot spots in your area or if you’re going on a trip and want to make a few targeted side-trips. Ghosts of the Queen Mary is fascinating before you even get to the paranormal material. Helluva ship. We’ve investigated with these guys, and they are the real deal. Hey – shout out to Bri and Bobby.
Also interesting for So Cal is Richard Carradine’s soon-to-be-updated “The Park” After Dark. He can’t say it, for copyright reasons, but we can: it’s about that
highly er, I mean – potentially paranormal resort we all know and love, Disneyland D-land. Okay, we’re not saying it, on account of we don’t want our annual passes revoked – ha ha.
Joe: Yeah, seriously, quit screwing around.
Dave: Alright, alright – the place with the Mouse and
Stormtroopers Spacesoldiers. Yeah, that one. Haunted as heck, if you ask us. Because he has personal and family ties to “the park” (his dad was an Imagineer and his mom was Show White), Mr. Carradine knows a few things. This book is a collection of reports and stories of various experiences folks have had. I’d say it shoots more for comprehensive than for scientific, and I haven’t heard any stories about that place that aren’t in this book – so, mission accomplished. If I was gonna die and haunt a place, there’s where I’d wanna go.
Joe: Yeah, me too – And don’t get us in trouble with those guys; my kids would kill me! On the other end of the spectrum, Sandy Schlosser brings us Spooky California, a collection of writings that focus more on local folktales and lore. These stories are tied to specific locations, such as the Lady in Lace who allegedly haunts the roads of Pebble Beach, or the headless chap who longs for his Hollywood lover. So why even read the fairy tale equivalents of paranormal literature? Any ghosthunter worth their salt will tell you that spectral sightings or metaphysical occurrences are very often influenced by a mythical ghost story of some sort. Possessing knowledge of these tales from the proverbial crypt can help you separate fact from fiction, help you figure out what’s fishy or give you some kinda warning or background of things that might need special handling. You’ll always want to do a quick check in this book, when heading to a new spot.
Dave: Ah – little bonus here – Gourmet Ghosts –
Joe: oh yeah – great for date night, with your old lady or whomever you take out –
Dave: Our pal James Bartlett is a journalist (not a paranormal grunt, like us) and he’s a Brit. This is a good example of solid historical research into the ghost stories you might hear, surrounding a given area or establishment. He focuses on the restaurants and bars of Los Angeles. This – like I said – makes it good for date night: two birds with one stone. We keep a copy at our HQ for cases, but I also keep a copy at home for hitting the town on special occasions. James even covers one of your own stories from there at the Last Bookstore – that poor maintenance worker from the 20s. Tragic stuff. Man, Joe, we have got to get over there for an investigation – I’ve heard so many stories.
Joe: Andrea has some stories, remember that?
Dave: You’re right! Geez, what are we doing?! So, this book is solid background, maybe giving you an idea of where to look, while pampering your #1 with some ice cream covered brownies and a highball – or whatever – but don’t take any story at face value; you gotta do your own investigation, you know – people will say anything –
Joe: – people get drunk and see things –
Dave: Exactly. James is your best guide in this area. On the other hand, if you’re having a nice meal in a nice place, don’t just whip out your EMF and start scanning the room –
Dave: Very. Okay, so Gourmet Ghosts. And hear tell he has Gourmet Ghosts 2 on the near horizon, so we’re gonna keep an eye out for that. Alright, moving towards a couple of practical tools, here: Ghost Hunter’s Research Guide to Free Internet Sources by Elizabeth Eagan Cox is darn near indispensable for us. It lists all the online places where you might need to look for an investigation: everything from official records of all kinds including census, property, etc to various scientific information and historical info. This one will save you a lot of aimless googling and – especially – trips down to city hall or obscure locations where records are kept. It’s a bummer to drive all the way out to the Valley only to find that they don’t have what you’re looking for. Find it online, with this book – which sounds ironic, but it’s true.
Strange Frequencies is Craig Telesha’s tech manual, and unless you have a techno whiz as a permanent member of your team, it’s gonna come in real handy. Cameras, EMF meters, digital recorders and more will likely play a role in your investigations, so you need to be as familiar with their ins and outs as a basketball player is with big, orange balls. Craig also includes some how-tos, as far as building your own equipment, so you’re gonna save some bucks – if you have a little time and a soldering iron. Heck, Joe made some of our equipment right out of this book, and if Joe did it, it can’t be that hard.
Joe: Hey – at least I didn’t burn the place down, Dave! Speaking of do-it-yourself projects, I can’t wait to test out the Ghostbusters ghost trap I slapped together by following the instructions in this YouTube video by DIY Prop Shop…
Dave: Okay, now – Joe’s just busting your chops here. He probably loves Halloween as much as real paranormal investigation. He’s a big fan of these local Ghostbusters, and he’s nowhere near their level, by the way. Except that he named his dogs Spengler and Zuul.
Joe: True on all counts! None of our actual equipment is made of cardboard! Anyway, back to the real equipment. There’s a list of essentials in Chapter 1 of The Everything Ghost Hunting Book by Melissa Martin Ellis; I won’t leave headquarters before double-checking our equipment, so make sure you know this chapter. Really, you should get it memorized like I do! The rest of the book is a hodgepodge of “tips, tools and techniques for doing a solid investigation —think of it like a beginner’s guide. Things can seem a little overwhelming when you’re just starting off as a rookie phantom investigator, and the size of this book might put you off at first. Just remember that preparedness is key in any situation, and the paranormal world is no different. My favorite aspect of Ellis’ book is its practicality: she reminds you to use your brain, remain objective and professional, be wary of hoaxes, acquire appropriate permits, be responsible for your team—and last but not least—utilize your common sense!
And one last caveat: what about the dangerous side of things? Most ghost hunts will not put you in harm’s way, but there’s an outside chance of everything from unwanted spirit “attachments” to demons or some kinda weird psychic sludge. You’re gonna want to steer clear of books that encourage you to go into those areas as some sort of entertainment or out of curiosity. These are like “no bueno” type areas. I know Dave will back me up on this: don’t mess. The dark side is real and it ain’t your friend. It’s like doing dentistry on a dog with rabies. Believe us, we’re professionals.
Dave: Amen. If you’re on an assignment and you suddenly get, say, a headache – for no reason at all – it’s possible you’ve been attacked. Or maybe you start having these really weird dreams and they get darker and scarier, or scratches on your back – it might be something spiritual. You might just have some sorta astral critter latched onto you, or it could be something more serious. If you encounter something dark like that, something doing physical or psychological harm to a person – including yourself – find a legit priest or sing Christmas songs or do something against that darkness. Do not engage with it or encourage it. It’s also why you need to be part of a team and never ever investigate alone. Don’t be a dumbass.
Joe: Anyway, enough of that. Hey – probably it’s just a case of that mac-n-cheese you ate right before bed.
Dave: Right on, Joe. Your gut might get possessed by fatness – oops – too late!
So that’s the basics of our paranormal professional’s library, over here at DTLA PICS. And one of these days, we gotta get over and investigate the Last Bookstore itself. That’s gotta be top of the list. Thanks for the opportunity to do this little post, and if anyone has questions for us, we’ll do our best, or refer you to someone who knows better than us.
Joe: We’re not above referring people out. Unless you’re looking for dental work for your pet, cuz that’s how we pay our rent – ha ha.
Dave: Ain’t that the truth. But yeah – let us know if you need help with anything paranormal. Thanks, all.
Thanks a ton to our pals at DTLA-PICS – any time y’all want to come over and investigate, just say the word.