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Spiritual realm meets showbiz in Hollywood

Published May 31, 2012 06:14am


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Members of the media watch a reenacted hospital scene unfold during a tour inside the darkened hallways of the the Linda Vista Community Hospital in Los Angeles, California.–Photo by AFP 

Los Angeles: Mystic healers, UFO hunters, spirit mediums: people claiming psychic powers turn up everywhere. But in Hollywood, where dreams are made, the spiritual realm meets show business.

Drive down a typical boulevard in Los Angeles, and within minutes you will spot a “psychic” sign with offers to sort out your problems. Cults and gurus abound, as well as a galaxy of sects and “churches”.

“LA is a total vortex,” says Maja D'Aoust, who calls herself the White Witch of LA, receiving AFP in a white dress, silver high-heeled shoes, white feathers as earrings and long blond hair to her waist.

Maja D'Aoust, known as the White Witch of Los Angeles.

“You know, (Indian yogi Paramahansa) Yogananda came here, the Evangelical movement started here, the Pentecostal movement, we have all kinds of UFO cults, yoga groups, you name it,” she told AFP.

She describes herself as an expert in exorcism, levitation, demonology, shamanism and astrology, among other subjects. “There is a giant conglomeration of any religion you can think of.” Mark Edward, member of the Independent Investigations Group (IIG), is skeptical. He presents himself as a magician and psychic, but is transparent about the tricks of the trade.

“It's not so much in LA, it's Hollywood. Because everybody wants to make it in Hollywood, it attracts a lot of people from all over the world who come here,” he told AFP.

“It's a known fact that actors and people who are involved in the arts, a lot of them are very superstitious. They carry lucky charms, they believe their luck is going to change... it's been that way since the '20s and '30s.” Sure enough, of the 50 “haunted” buildings registered by the Los Angeles Paranormal Association, more than half are in fact concentrated in Hollywood

Further east, however, in a mostly Hispanic-populated district is the former Linda Vista Community Hospital, reputedly one of LA's most haunted buildings, and used as the set for countless horror movies.

“It's a hotspot,” said D'Aoust. “I can feel it in my physical body,” she said in one of the drab hospital rooms, adding that she had cured four men of prostate cancer here.

– 'No evidence of anything' –

The hospital was abandoned 21 years ago, but has since then been used as a movie shoot location, as well as for real-life “ghost-busters”.

“We actually had a 6 to 7 foot (around two meters) tall shadow walking inside the main lobby,” said Richard Berni, head of the Boyle Heights Paranormal Project, a research group in east LA.

“We've established that that's happened a lot,” he added.

The makers of a new horror film, “The Devil Inside”, arranged a tour for the press –almost exactly the same as a $20 dollar tour offered to the public, including a blessing for visitors as they leave, to remove “bad energy.” Berni said his group had made recordings in the building which, when played back, turned out to include Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP), supposedly of paranormal origin, namely voices of the dead.

An interior view of the Linda Vista Community Hospital.

Again, Edward is skeptical. “If there was a real ghost over there, they wouldn't have to charge anything (20 dollars), they would have the greatest scientific achievement in history,” he said.

“There's no evidence of anything. Basically it's audio pareidolia,” he said, referring to a psychological phenomenon involving a vague sound stimulus being perceived as significant.

“The visual version of pareidolia is when you look at a cloud and it looks like a dragon or it looks like a face, you see a face in a tree and you think it is Jesus.

“Audio pareidolia is the same thing. In our investigation, if you don't know what the words being said are, you won't hear anything.” If the “ghostbusters” could prove they really have recorded voices from beyond the grave, they could win not only a Nobel medicine or physics prize, but $1 million offered by the James Randi Foundation.

The prize was created in 1964 by Randi, a Canadian stage magician. Several other bodies have offered similar enticements for anyone who can come up with scientific, physical proof of paranormal activity.

Edward's group, IIG, has a standing offer of $50,000 for anyone who can. Hundreds of people have taken up the challenge over the last 20 years, but none has succeeded.

“Of course not. Because what we do is we sit down and we put together a testable protocol with the claimer. “I mean, the person who's making the claim sits down with us and we say 'ok what is your claim' and we do it mutually so everybody agrees. And so far we haven't had anybody passed.

“Of course, once you pass, you would change science, you wouldn't need any money anyway.”


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Comments (3) Closed

Lattaif May 31, 2012 08:40am
Interesting ! but our masses beleive in pshycics and super natural too... There are many offices and shops of such people in all majore cities claming super natural abilities and powers...
Fardeen Khan May 31, 2012 10:07am
Ginns do exist but they appear in different form. You cannot recognize them. Some are good while others are bad. But no one can testify their experiences.
hassan Jun 01, 2012 03:58am
Well! believe in -existence of supernatural beings- exist in almost every culture. It is quite fascinating that in every human society, men inclined towards these believes. It can be mere superstition or some common dis-functionality of human brain. Having said that, one cannot rule out the possibility of some truth behind this phenomena, which might requires further sophistication and understanding, in terms of scientific research.