The 'Brooklyn Dodger' relates neither to NYC nor baseball, but to Wellington, New Zealand. It was the moniker given to an alleged poltergeist, a prolonged, purportedly paranormal incident in 1963 in which a guest house in Owhiro Road, in the Wellington suburb of Brooklyn, was pelted with stones of unknown origin. This mysterious case caught the public's interest due to extensive media coverage. (Maybe March, 1963 was a slow news month.) Several paranormal-type explanations were put forward, but eventually the stones ceased and so did the interest.
The Brooklyn Dodger case is mentioned in several good, reputable books on the paranormal in New Zealand, including Robyn Jenkins' 'The New Zealand Ghost Book' (AH & AW Reed, 1978, pp45-47), and Nicola McCloy's 'New Zealand Mysteries' (Whitcoulls, 2005, pp21-22) but none of these accounts offers an explanation for the mystery.
So, a year ago yesterday I spent some time on air in the Radio New Zealand studio in Wellington talking paranormal stuff. As preparation for the appearance, I was asked to present some kind of historic ghost story related to Wellington, so I chose the Brooklyn Dodger as it was one that was well documented, and I had plenty of reference material to hand for it. As well as the book references, paranormal aficionado Bruce Mahalski had provided me copies of newspaper clippings from the time. Here are just three days' worth.
Anyway, Radio NZ has this huge sound file, and something they unearthed and played on the afternoon show solved this mystery. If you listen to my interview/guest spot/thing, the sound file occurs 11:30 into the aired clip NZ Retro - Ghosts. (If you want to listen to the entire show from 20th July, 2015, go ahead. There's also an interesting account concerning Larnach's Castle - a famously haunted location in Dunedin, New Zealand.)
If you can't be bothered listening; in a nutshell, a witness says a boy was seen concealing a catapult (a slingshot), and after he was spoken to by the police the stone pelting ceased.
So, case solved! This information was broadcast at the time for all to hear, and in the 1960s people actually listened to the radio so there wasn't much chance of it going unheard.
Why then, is this information not presented in the newspaper stories of the time, or magazine articles and books published later? The answer seems obvious: once there's a probable natural explanation for a paranormal occurrence, you no longer have a story!
One wonders how often this happens in the world of the paranormal. How many famous, well-documented cases were actually solved but the crucial, revealing information was later ignored, skirted around, or merely hinted at, for the sake of preserving a good story?
Please don't read this post if you've received this five-question email survey and have yet to respond!
Not sure about publishing this - just recording these questions and my responses for posterity as I think it threw open some interesting issues that I'd like to explore more deeply in future.
My friend and i are doing an assignment on the supernatural/paranormal and if they are real. We would like to ask you a few questions if that's okay. Please try your best to answer them.
Happy to answer, but I think you need to tie down what you mean by 'the paranormal'.
I think some things that are currently considered paranormal, such as ESP, witnessing time slips, crisis apparitions, and perhaps residual hauntings may indeed occur. I don't believe in the tenets of Spiritualism, but think there are other reasons why people experience ghosts.
I think that while UFO sightings and other things are not strong enough evidence that extraterrestrials have visited Earth, it is highly likely that there are other intelligent life forms in the universe, but it's also possible that they may have contacted humans in some way. Then there's the whole field of cryptozoology, and what are called Earth mysteries. Does this survey blanket-cover all of the above? Because my answers will vary depending on which aspects of the paranormal we're talking about.
Q. What your opinion on the supernatural/paranormal and Do you think it's real?
A. I am agnostic about most things in the paranormal realm; there is simply not yet enough evidence, but I may believe more definitely when there is.
Q. Why do/don't you think so?
A. That's complicated. Like many people, I need strong science-grade evidence to support a belief in something that seems improbable, but I'm also prepared to stick my neck out sometimes and say I think the science hasn't yet addressed an issue adequately, and it may in fact exist - ESP, etc, listed above, are examples. I think science will eventually provide explanations for many things we currently deem paranormal as our understanding of the cosmos expands to include these things.
Q. Do you have any experiences of the supernatural/paranormal?
A. Possibly. One such event is described in the opening of our book 'Spooked', which you can read for free in the preview here. I have had several other experiences that I haven't yet found convincing explanations for, despite years of research. But then again our senses, our brain's processing of the data they provide, and our memory and recall are all far from infallible.
Q. Does this affect your opinion?
A. I remain agnostic, as I'm not sure my experiences were actually paranormal; there may be natural explanations that fit more closely than I care to admit.
Q. Do you think your gender affects your opinion?
A. Good question. I don't think my gender affects my own opinions of my experiences, (but then I can't know the answer because I have no basis for comparison). However, it is interesting to study statistics collected on paranormal beliefs. You may find this in your study, but generally, women admit to believing generally in the paranormal more than men do. Among other reasons, this may be to do with self-perception, with some men possibly not wanting to admit such beliefs because it is considered to be more masculine to maintain a facade of rationality. In career fields such as science, politics and business - all male-dominated - admitting belief in the paranormal could be seen as a sign of mental weakness and have a negative effect on careers. The opening scenes in the new Ghostbusters 3 movie reflect this, as the Erin Gilbert character loses her university job due to her paranormal beliefs. Yes, it's just a comedy, but this stuff happens.
I hope that's some help.
These days, communication is a big part of what we do in our paranormal group, but from day one it's been important in every aspect of things. From writing for the website, blogs, and articles, posting and commenting on social media (we maintain a public Facebook page and a Closed Group for discussions), and long-running email communications with clients, to talking to clients directly, working with the news media, and occasional public speaking engagements, most of us in paranormal team leadership and client management roles spend more of our time on communicating than we do in active investigation. For me, the emphasis has gradually shifted from one role to the other over the ten-or-so years since our paranormal group was founded. Certainly, running round in old, deserted buildings at night armed with EMF meters, voice recorders and full spectrum video cameras is a lot more fun than evenings indoors typing into a computer; and, frankly, this is not really exactly what I signed up for. But it’s still more interesting than evidence reviewing!
And the prospect of giving a public talk at Te Papa (on a somewhat ominous date - 16-6-16) is actually more scary than any paranormal investigation, even on the occasions when we've actually experienced something possibly ghostly.
The theme of the talk/event was The Gothic in New Zealand Art, and my co-speaker was the Curator of Modern Art at Te Papa, Chelsea Nichols (4th curator down on this page). So having someone with a Ph.D. in art history to help carry the can meant I was freer to talk about the paranormal aspects without having to attempt to sound academic.
One aspect of this talk was the relationship between early original photographic works in the exhibition of Athol McCredie's book ‘New Zealand Photography Collected’ and the presence or spirit of the people photographed. Sometimes it is joked about that primitive peoples thought photography was magic and that taking a photograph of someone was akin to stealing their soul; but, like many superstitions, there is an element of truth in it. Certainly, in the nineteenth century (at least before 1890, when the Kodak ‘Brownie’ snapshot camera put photography in the hands of the people), the only folk who understood photography were professional photographers and scientists. To the rest it was a complete mystery, if not somewhat magical.
The Daguerreotype was the first commercial form of photography and was used in the early portrait studios. If you’ve seen Mike Leigh's 2014 film Mr Turner, there’s a humorous scene where the artist enters such a studio to have his portrait made. He has to sit still for quite some time while enough of the window light reflected off his face and body is collected by the camera lens and focused onto the sensitised metal plate to make an image. (An iron neck brace is used to hold his head still.) I remember a friend taking a indoor portrait of me using a large format, sheet film camera, which required a shutter speed of about 10 seconds. Unlike a snapshot, I was very aware of the time that the lens was open and the image was forming. As I looked into the opening in the lens it felt very much like my personal energy was being drawn into the camera, and I wanted the Te Papa audience to understand this and try to have a similar experience.
After looking at the centuried Daguerreotypes on display, which were direct, first-generation images of their subjects (more closely related to their subjects than second-generation prints from a negative), I demonstrated that light really is energy by holding up an old selenium-cell light meter facing the gallery lights and showing the meter needle moving. There is no battery in this meter: it’s the energy of the light that moves the needle, via a small electric current generated when photons strike the gold-selenium sensor. Then I got everyone to stand very still in a group for thirty seconds while I took their photo. While the shutter was open I asked them to be very aware of their energy being captured on the light-sensitive film. (The two photos were taken on a Hasselblad SWC camera like this one.)
For the second photo (below), I asked some people to remain still, others to move a little or a lot, and some to walk away after a time to create photographic ghosts. The array of lights coming in from the top of the photo is caused by lens flare from the gallery lighting. I had to take these photos a bit hurriedly as we were running short of time, but I like this accidental effect, which adds a little 'supernaturalness'.
The thing about talking to such a group – one which was largely brought together via publicity Te Papa put out, so to me it comprised mostly strangers – is that they’re hard to read; you can’t really tell how what you’re saying is being received. And even though both Chelsea and I tried at times during the evening to encourage people to relate their own paranormal experiences and beliefs, people are understandably reticent when to talk about such things in public, in front of other strangers. After all, some people might think maybe your cheese has slipped off your cracker.
When I tell people I’m going to be speaking at such and such and I’m really nervous about it, the advice I'm usually offered is just this: be yourself. The jury's still out on whether it’s good advice, in my case. But, still, I look forward to the next opportunity to speak in public and so perhaps make some contribution to people's understanding and appreciation of things in the paranormal realm, even if, or especially if, the topic intersects with other fields of interest, such as art.
The Andrew Ross photograph above is not in the Te Papa exhibition, but I referred to it in my slide talk because of the effect of light streaks apparently emanating from the letterbox. The photographer has no idea what caused this particular, strange photographic anomaly.
is a blog by James Gilberd - leader and co-founder of Strange Occurrences. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the Strange Occurrences team.
James Gilberd is an amateur paranormalist, writer and musician, and a professional photographer, living in Wellington, New Zealand.