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Interview-Alternate Perceptions Magazine, August 2015

An Interview with:
Lyn Halper, Ph.D:
Investigating the Seances of a Jamaican born Shaman

by: Brent Raynes

Lyn Halper, Ph.D., formerly professor of Religious Studies at Rockland Community College of the State University of New York, holds a degree of Master of Science in Education, an Advanced Certificate in Marriage and Family Counseling, and a Doctorate in Transpersonal Psychology. For a number of years, Dr. Halper has maintained a private practice as a transpersonal psychologist, as well as acted as professor of psychology at Mercy College. She is the author of Adventures of a Suburban Mystic(Trafford, 2001), which recounts her personal Kundalini experiences and she is also the author of Mystic Souls: Nineteen Remarkable People Tell Their Stories (Universe, 2003), a compilation of narratives from shamans, mystics, and clergy who relate their struggles and triumphs with the mystical life.

Brent Raynes: Back in the April issue of Alternate Perceptions, we did an interview with you in which you mentioned how you and parapsychologist Dr. Alex Imich conducted a series of séances in the windowless basement of the brownstone home of noted New York artist and psychic Ingo Swann, famous for his work in the field of Remote Viewing. You said that “many eerie occurrences” had transpired as a result of those sessions, wherein Jamaican-born shaman Heshheru acted as a medium. You said that cameras with infrared film had recorded some unusual things, but that was a story for another time. Now seems the perfect time to share this story. What can you tell us about those sessions?

Lyn Halper: I think Alex and Heshheru cooked up the idea, and Ingo was nice enough to offer his basement studio as a venue. At the time, Alex was 90 years old and had witnessed extraordinary phenomena at séances when spiritualism was in its Golden Age. They were the days when powerful mediums like Mirabelli, Palladino, Matylda, Indridi Indridason, were causing a sensation in Europe. Alex, as a sitter at various séances in Poland, had himself experienced a ghostly kiss by warm fleshy lips, had his head scratched by a three fingered hand, seen discarnate spirits materialize – some that looked and acted just as they had in life. He wanted that kind of phenomena to happen again. As for me, I doubted we would get anything close to that – that era was over, but, I was willing to give it a try.

Anomalous photo of bearded man in hood, as it appeared in Alex Imich's Incredible Tales of the Paranormal (Bramble Books, NY 1995).

I had a lot of confidence in Heshheru’s psychic abilities. His magic circle was astonishing when he drew on forces that were strong enough to knock us off our feet and send us sprawling onto the floor. One afternoon we were in Alex’s apartment with friends who had come to experience Heshheru’s “magic.” I’ll never forget the look of shock on Alex’s face when we helped him to his feet. Heshheru was raised on the island of Jamaica, a place that quaked with weird psychic phenomena, and he was a product of that environment.

His séances were a strange mix of Jamaican rituals and African magic. He had us sit on bridge chairs in a circle where we banged away at percussion instruments like cow bells, maracas, sticks, and plain old knee-slapping. This was to increase the tension in the room since phenomena happens in the presence of emotion. After the racket, sitters held hands and sang, Rock of Ages. I, however, sat inside the circle with my camera loaded with infra-red film on its tripod and Ilford photographic papers spread around on the floor. We also had an audio cassette player in case the spirits wanted to vocalize.

Brent Raynes: Did you feel nervous or afraid?

Lyn Halper: Yes. I was concerned about stirring things up that we know little about. Heshheru assured me I’d be okay because he would forbid the spirits to enter the circle. Colleagues had said, “Oh, you’re a researcher, you’ll be all right.” Neither of these rationales made sense to me, but I pushed anxiety aside to get on with the work.

Brent Raynes: In our interview back in April, you described how popular author and journalist John A. Keel had been a frequent guest at Dr. Imich’s gatherings. In fact, you shared how Heshheru had given Keel a psychic reading that appeared to go quite well. I read in Andrew Covin’s book, The Mothman’s Photographer II, how Keel experimented with photography in the ultraviolet and infrared ranges going back to 1968. I wonder if he also might have been involved in those séances.

Lyn Halper: John attended the first two séances. It amuses me now to think that at the time I hadn’t yet read any of his books. If I had, I might not have been so quick to jump into this project. Back in 1911, James Coates had done extensive experiments with spirit photography that he recounted in his book, “Photographing the Invisible.” Then, he used ordinary film, and images of deceased people and “extras,” as he called them, would appear in the developed picture. He attributed the production of these anomalies to discarnate humans who had passed over to the other side. John, of course, would never agree with this sort of explanation. He theorized an all-encompassing force he called the Superspectrum that controlled our lives, and used ultraterrestrial entities to interact with us. He felt these entities (acting in service of the force) were responsible for the images in “spirit” photography. He believed these entities moved between the ultra-violet to infra-red spectrums and so used corresponding film.

Anamolous Photo of quartz crystal produced in conditions of total darkness, without camera or lens.

I believe John Keel attended our séances because Alex and he were good friends and Alex asked him to come. Whenever he was with us, John was always polite and dignified and seldom spoke. By the time we ran our series of sittings in 2000, he had completed the bulk of his own experiments, had many hair-raising personal experiences, and reached his conclusions about paranormal phenomena that he reported in his books and articles. For him, there was nothing more to do or say on the matter. He had figured it all out As far as the séances themselves, during the sittings, nothing remarkable happened. Heshheru went around the circle, psychically reading each person and delivering messages to them that came, purportedly, from deceased relatives.

When it was my turn, he said that my recently deceased uncle was with his sister and they said, “Hello.” At first I was elated that my mother and uncle had survived death. They were close in life and it made sense they would be together. Later, I felt less convinced. His information could have come from his imagination or my subconscious. Also, I never sensed the presence of my relatives in the room. Back home in Westchester it took several phone calls before I found a lab that would develop the infra-red film. When I picked it up a few days later, I opened the reel to the light but all the frames were blank. I asked the clerk, “Why didn’t they print it?” He answered, “Probably because there isn’t anything on it.” I took my film and left feeling disappointed. My instinct was to toss the roll of film out, then thought, no, and slipped it into an envelope.

Well, if the film was a bust, I still had the audio tapes. That night, I listened to the audio cassette and at the end of the second side heard a cry that wasn’t quite animal and wasn’t quite human. I played it for my twelve-year-old daughter and she said, “Congratulations! You’ve caught a weird something.”

By the time the next sitting rolled around we didn’t feel we could impose on Ingo’s hospitality again – especially since one of the guests had knocked over a huge floor to ceiling bookcase that had volumes arranged in a certain order, and no one, including Ingo, knew how to set them up again.

So, we decided to hold the séance in Alex’s apartment in Manhattan and the only invited guests were the Russian scientists/inventors Moisei Dobruskin and Vladmir Vayntraub , and the physicist, Agung Hertanto. As usual I set up my equipment, but this time, Heshheru issued a new command to the spirits to, “Use our photographic equipment to communicate with us!”

Because it was getting expensive to develop the film and papers at the lab, I bought a simple photography kit and used our basement laundry as a dark room. I dragged out an old Nok-Hockey board to serve as a surface for drying Ilford papers. Since I didn’t know how the photographic papers worked I decided to test them out by using quartz crystals for their piezoelectric qualities. First, I built a cardboard pyramid and lined it with aluminum tinfoil. I set it on a bridge table and put a large generator crystal inside it and a photographic paper under the crystal. I spread a few photographic papers under the table, covered everything with a black quilt and let it incubate for 72 hours. When I developed the papers – what do you think – one had an image of the quartz crystal. Strangely, the image of the crystal didn’t seem to have any correspondence to the placement of the photographic papers. For a photo to be considered anomalous, there must be a complete absence of light. Here, there was no camera, no lens, no light – it was an anomaly.

Another two séances followed at Alex’s place. It was only Alex and I, Heshheru, and two of Alex’s friends. The next day in my makeshift darkroom, I used plastic tongs to immerse the papers, and the first primitive shapes began to emerge! There were black swirls on a white rippled surface and inky circles – none of which seemed to have any meaning. Later that night, I felt compelled to take another look at the roll of infra-red film I had stored in an envelope. This time, I could see the bare outline of a figure on the tail of the film – the part that gets coiled inside the camera. I looked closer, and sure enough, it was the image of an old man with a full beard dressed in a hooded robe, and a look of…I don’t know, sadness or madness in his eyes. I took the film strip to the lab to ask if they would enlarge the image. This time, the clerk brought his father out. I explained to the older man about our experiments. He looked at the image and said, “You have caught a restless spirit. In China we believe this is dangerous. It is better to leave these things alone – even in the interest of science.”

Soon after this, there began to be disturbances in the house. Loud knocks came from behind my closet doors and sometimes from the bookcases in my study. I reported this to Alex, noted it in my journal, felt uneasy but determined to keep going with our experiments.

Another séance followed at Alex’s apartment and Heshheru urged the spirits to “use the photographic papers.” When Heshheru came to my home to see the developed papers, I pointed out the rippled surfaces. Using a high intensity magnifying glass, he said, “Do you know there’s writing on this one?” “You’re right,” I said, “but it’s all backwards.” Backwards writing - that’s mirror writing. I knew that mirror writing was a common phenomenon of the Victorian era where it appeared as hand written script, sometimes in the hand-writing of the deceased. Now here was a modern twist with the letters appearing as if printed by mechanical fonts. When looked at through a mirror, the writing was still too small to read. We scanned it through an enlarger, and then could see: …uried. Her head…adventurers can… {We} will be able to… If the fragments could be read as, “buried.” “Her head,” and “adventurers can,” we will be able to,” then the message assumed a slightly sinister tone.

One night, wanting to experiment, I took new photographic papers into my study and turned off the lights. Then, reclining on the day bed, covered myself with a dark quilt and placed one paper on my lap, and two on either side of my hips. I drew the quilt up to my neck, and held my right hand over the paper. This was not a séance and no spirit entities were being called in. It was quiet and I was alone. When I developed the papers, the results were astonishing. Two papers were blank, but one had been imprinted. It showed a full length image of myself in profile with my arm extended. It was as if someone had taken a photograph with a camera on the left side of the bed, and as if the quilt was transparent. How had this occurred? In addition, the house continued to be “unhospitable.” I felt a chill whenever I walked through an upstairs hall and the knocking became more insistent.

One morning I woke up with a heavy nosebleed. So heavy was the flow, I used wads of paper towels to contain it. Then, as abruptly as it started, it stopped. On the next day I got a call from Alex that two of our guests called him reporting strange nosebleeds and asked if he had any idea about it. I told him I had had one also. He became silent at the other end, and finally said, “It’s just a coincidence. People do not get hurt at séances.”

I was skeptical and recalled reading about séances where sitters were tossed about the room, pummeled, women dragged onto the surfaces of tables. Mirabelli himself had been injured by the materialization of a stone statue falling from the ceiling onto his leg.

In a jarring synchronicity, I came upon literature that associated nosebleeds with paranormal phenomena such as abductions. Now, I was panicked and called a Feng Shui Master to do a cleansing in my house. He walked through the house, chanting and sprinkling holy water, and leaving coins in red envelopes on door frames as protection.

The backlash was immediate. A foul odor emanated from the basement and up into the mudroom. I called in a crew to wash down the walls and steam the carpets, knowing in my heart these efforts were meaningless.

As I sat feeling overwhelmed, a sudden flash of insight came over me and I knew what to do. I gathered all my photo equipment and heaved it into the garbage. Every occult artifact I owned – books, Tarot cards, I Ching, was also discarded. I then brought a statue of Buddha from the living room and placed it on my nightstand. I began wearing religious symbols on a chain around my neck. In a relatively short time, the atmosphere in my house settled down and everything returned to normal. Though Alex and I continued to research and publish, the days of my spirit photography ended forever.

After completing my own research, I came to the conclusion that infra-red film and all such equipment and paraphernalia were irrelevant. In other times messages were received on paper or through Ouija boards. Old recorded photos show innumerable inconsistencies. If the powers that be want to deliver a message they will, one way or another.


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