Assume with me for a minute that ghosts really are, without a doubt, real. The dead really can contact us. EVPs/Raudive voices/ghost box voices are the real deal. That said, it follows that it’s pointless to try and get any decent EVP’s in a cemetery. Why would ghosts be hanging around a cemetery full of strangers when they can go back to their still-living families or the places that were near and dear to them in life? Sure, cemeteries can be creepy and I’m not sure I’d enjoy traipsing around in one at night, but really my belief is that they are generally ghost-free.
Unless a particular grave or cemetery is historically believed to be haunted; then, it might be worth a look. Take the notorious Bachelor Grove Cemetery outside of Chicago which I plan to visit in March during my trek on the California Zephyr for my Amtrak Writers Residency. Or the Dennison family crypt in Kolkata’s South Park Street Cemetery, one of my favorite haunts in West Bengal, India. When I was last there earlier this month I took my trusty P-SB7 spirit box with me, the one I use live onstage in Boneyards, to check it out.
As I already explain in my show, Mrs. Dennison and her baby daughter both died and were buried together on September 30th, 1806. Her husband, Captain Dennison, was “united to them in death” just 16 days later. No reasons are given. Their crypt is also called “the bleeding grave” because small red droplets of a liquid resembling blood sometimes appear on its surface. Is it any wonder that this young family’s hearts are still bleeding, and that they want desperately for someone to notice their pain, I ask in my show?
The spirit box bore that out as you can see from the above video. A British woman (Mrs. Dennison in reference to her infant daughter?) tells us “Death caught/got her…Death’s bitter,” after which a male voice (Captain Dennison?) says “Benediction for ‘em…Dennison…Dennison” in answer to my offscreen question just before I started recording, “Are you really here, and can you tell me why you’re haunting your crypt?”
My interpretation: as the entire family is there together there’d be no household and loved ones to go home to haunt would there? So they linger in the Bardo clinging to each other in fear and understandable sentimentality rather than going off into their separate incarnations never to see each other in this form again. They know what they have to do, they just don’t want to do it.
That’s my thing. You have your own thing. While you decide what that is, why not score a ticket to Boneyards‘ upcoming New York City shows at the Morbid Anatomy Museum? Seating is limited, only 20 seats per show to maintain the intimacy of this unique theatrical experience.
Har har, I sent a news tip to India Abroad about a debacle in the New York visa office run by Cox & Kings and they instead ran it as a full page piece with the header “Nightmare.” I know some of you will feel my pain.
London-based Cox & Kings is one of the world’s oldest travel agencies and has offices around the world. Increasingly India and other countries outsource their entire visa application process to companies like this one, with results that are often a Kafkaesque exercise in frustration but on my final visit — it took me a record 4 visits to New York from Philly to get mine and my family’s visas approved — I watched a near-riot ensue.
Obviously there are larger issues in the world to complain about (to wit, this week’s cover story pictured above) but chronic problems with Cox & Kings have been an ongoing saga in this paper, so perhaps my recent tirade will help in some small way with the many thousands of people who travel from the US to India each year. Here’s to the power of the press.
To add insult to injury, I got outta there with visa in hand and made the long trek back to Philly, but the next morning they sent me an email telling me my visa was ready and had been Fedexed to me! They even included a tracking number! I thought maybe it would be one of the many lost passports they’re notorious for but fortunately nothing ever arrived.
When it comes to humidity-induced itching, a monsoon country like India don’t mess around when it comes to quick, potent, no-nonsense remedies.
Come wake the dead. BONEYARDS returns for 2 final shows this Saturday and Sunday 11/2 and 11/3 in Philadelphia. Times and tickets.
Meanwhile please enjoy my latest article in today’s Washington Post about my theatrical experiments in contacting the dead as performance art over the past two years. Thank you for your support and patronage, and Happy Halloween.
Supernatural Skeptics Don’t Know What They’re Missing
by Jeffrey Stanley
I try contacting the spirit world before live audiences to keep an element of hope simmering on the back burner of my mind.
I like Ouija boards. I’ve used them since I was a teenager. More recently I’ve messed around with electric spirit boxes, also known as Frank’s boxes after their inventor Frank Sumption. They’re radio receivers which allow you to listen to and record voices of the dead, also known as EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) or Raudive voices, after one of their early discoverers. Over the past two years I have frequently used Ouija boards and spirit boxes in my performance art, attempting to conjure up the dead as my co-stars before a live audience. At one of the universities where I teach playwriting and screenwriting part-time I am also the faculty adviser for a student-led paranormal investigation club. Friends and fans assume I am a true believer but the truth is that I am not. I am a healthy skeptic. And that’s depressing for me because it means that on some level I feel certain there’s nothing out there. I try contacting the spirit world before live audiences to keep an element of hope simmering on the back burner of my mind. CONT’D>>
And also out today from Drexel University a story about the PIG of which I’m the proud faculty adviser…
Drexel Paranormal Investigators Haunted by the Unknown
by Alissa Falcone
…It doesn’t hurt that the group’s faculty adviser also has an interest with the undead: By day, Jeffrey Stanley teaches classes in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design’s Screenwriting and Playwriting Department, but at night he transforms into undead residents of cemeteries from all over the world during “Boneyards,” his performance that imagines supernatural comic monologues.CONT’D at drexel.edu>>
Boneyards Reopens 10/17/13
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10/14/13 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Philadelphia, PA –A real seance with real ghosts. But we don’t need to tell you that, you’ve already seen it. There are lots of Halloween events being promoted right now, especially of the big budget “haunted” house/prison/hayride/forest/valley variety with a cast of dozens of monsters/zombies/vampires/murder victims and we love those and patronize them as much as the next guy and gal every year, but why not consider something different for you or your friends eager to freak themselves out while also being profoundly moved on a spooky October night?
Transcripts and videos from previous shows are online for you and your colleagues’ perusal. We recommend you start here . You might also want to check out the first EVP recording made in the 118-year-old synagogue that is the show’s location when New York City playwright and Drexel University Performing Arts faculty Jeffrey Stanley held the world’s first ghost auditions. Stanley, who often writes about religion for the Washington Post, will be discussing seance as performance art in that publication later this month.
Performance dates are 10/17, 10/20, 11/2 and 11/3. Thanks for your consideration and for supporting independent theatre in Philly.
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10/7/13 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Philadelphia, PA – The ongoing seance-as-theatre experiment continues. After a successful run in the 2013 Philly Fringe BONEYARDS is back from the dead to rock your underworld just in time for Halloween. Same autobiographical, spooky show, same mouldering location, same real ghosts. 4 dates: 10/17, 10/20, 11/2 and 11/3. Tickets $10, seating is limited to 20.
The hilarious, eloquent and haunting follow-up to Stanley’s 2011 hit “Beautiful Zion: A Book of the Dead,” this true to life romp resurrects the cadaverous–from Philly’s Laurel Hill Cemetery to a British colonial graveyard in India to ancient Greek tomb worshippers. Paranormal activity guaranteed.
Times, tickets, photos, press, playbill, and real voices from the dead here.
About Your Destination
Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and beyond crowded South Philadelphia in the 1880s. They pushed south from the original “Jewish Quarter” near South Street, opening Jewish schools, hospitals and some 140 synagogues along the way. Hard to believe today, eh? In 1909 (continue reading…)
BONEYARDS is back from the dead to rock your underworld just in time for Halloween. Shiva3 is proud to announce the return of Jeffrey Stanley’s solo show BONEYARDS which was a hit in the 2013 Philly Fringe. The 80-minute show will again be performed in the dark, dank coal cellar of the century-old storefront Shivtei Yeshuron Ezras-Israel Synagogue, also known as “the little shul” (part of the June 2013 Hidden City Festival) at 2015 South 4th Street in South Philly near Snyder Avenue for 4 performances. Stanley’s solo show is a followup to his 2011 Fringe hit BEAUTIFUL ZION: A BOOK OF THE DEAD. Stanley is also a dramatic writing faculty at New York University Tisch School of the Arts and at Drexel University Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. He is a religion blogger for the Washington Post.
About the Show
A funeral for the living. A coming-of-age embalming. A suicidal decapitation by coal train. A cross-dressing hillbilly named Doodlebug. This metatheatrical, taphophilic, true-to-life monologue resurrects and converses with the cadaverous– (continue reading…)
A Jewish-Hindu connection
Jeffrey Stanley, 7/23/13
Talk about a crazy commute. After a spiritual encounter, a stranger and I spent the next 90 minutes discussing the nature of the universe.
Not so long ago after nearly 25 years as a hidebound New Yorker I moved to Philadelphia for my wife Pia’s career needs, inadvertently becoming part of a popular regional migration known to urban statisticians as the 6th borough phenomenon. She’s Indian-American and we’re raising our child in a bilingual home. I’m a writer and professor. She’s a scientist by day and an Indian classical dance professional by night. Religiously we are at best agnostic but culturally we are Hindus, and will identify ourselves as such when pressed, like on the hospital intake form the first time we took our baby in for a routine doctor’s visit.
This identification sits well with me. Despite growing up Nazarene in the Bible Belt I had long ago developed an affinity for Hindu philosophy—ever since I’d come across a used copy of the Bhagavad Gita at a flea market in high school and realized how similar it was to the New Testament. I still remember the perplexed look on my Sunday school teacher’s face the morning I brought the Gita to church. I had marked the sections that reminded me of Christ’s words in the Sermon on the Mount with an orange highlighter and asked him why Hindus were all going to Hell and we Christians weren’t. Suffice it say I quit going to church not long after that. Christianity just wasn’t speaking to me. When I met my wife-to-be years later while canoeing in Brooklyn’s fetid Gowanus Canal I fell in easily with her cultural worldview. We were a match made in moksha.
Imagine my surprise when, on a recent Friday afternoon while returning to Philly on a crowded New Jersey Transit train out of Manhattan’s Penn Station I came face to face with the power of YHWH. (continue reading…)
Four Pairs of Sandals as an Act of Faith
Walking a mile in another man’s shoes leads to kismet.
by Jeffrey Stanley
Three years ago I got married to my wife Bidisha in a traditional Bengali ceremony in Kolkata and spent three weeks touring the country. I bought a pair of sandals there which I wore throughout my trip and back home here in the States. This December my wife, our young son and I went back to India for a month to visit relatives. I brought my well-worn “India sandals” with me. A week into the visit they broke irreparably and I tossed them. The location of their demise seemed appropriate — from India they had come and to India they would return. The next day while we were out sightseeing we stumbled upon a tiny shoe store, one of a zillion in Kolkata, where I found the perfect pair of replacement sandals. They were simple but unique enough that they suited me as a souvenir.
A few days later I struck out on my own to visit Nakhoda Masjid, the largest mosque in Kolkata, built in 1926. A billboard told me with no intended irony that this was Road Safety Week in India. Still the taxis, auto-rickshaws and pedestrians were up to their usual danse macabre.
After a requisite insane cab ride and a short walk down a crowded, narrow street full of screaming sidewalk merchants selling Muslim prayer rugs and other Islam-themed souvenirs I found the mosque. It was sparsely populated at that late morning hour. The (continue reading…)
[10/31/13 – Supernatural Skeptics Don’t Know What They’re Missing. “I try contacting the spirit world before live audiences to keep an element of hope simmering on the back burner of my mind.” - read Jeffrey Stanley’s latest in the Washington Post]