We see dead people. In our news at least. NDEs, hauntings and people crossing over...this is the section.

Sylvia Browne is Dead

Sylvia Browne

The website of 'psychic icon' Sylvia Browne has today announced her passing:

World renowned spiritual teacher, psychic icon, author, and lecturer Sylvia Celeste Browne passed away at 7:10am this morning (Wednesday, November 20) at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, CA. Born October 19, 1936, Browne was 77 years old.

...A best-selling author, Browne published over 50 works throughout her life with 22 appearing on the New York Times Bestsellers List. She was also a frequent guest on radio and television shows including Larry King Live and The Montel Williams Show, where Browne’s appearances quickly became a popular weekly highlight among regular viewers for over 17 years.

"A beacon that shined for so many was extinguished today, but its brightness was relit and will now shine forever for many of us from above,” said Williams. “I, like so many of you, lost a friend today. But, as has been for the last twenty years, she'll always remain a part of me. My thoughts and prayers go out to Sylvia's family in this time of loss."

Browne is survived by her husband Michael Ulery, sons Christopher and Paul Dufresne, three grandchildren, Angelia, Jeffrey, and William; and her sister Sharon Bortolussi.

A private memorial service is to be scheduled.

I have never been a fan of Browne in any sense - everything I saw of her seemed false, and in many cases, downright ugly. She was infamous for her incorrect predictions regarding missing children - Amanda Berry and Shawn Hornbeck being prime examples - and these alone should stand as testament to her lack of care and empathy when it came to discussing such delicate matters. In fact, I find it difficult to understand what made her so famous - she was wrong often, she showed a distinct lack of emotional connection to 'sitters' (to the point of being outright rude to them), and her personality seemed abrasive and self-centred.

Some people obviously did have profound moments via her psychic readings, and she is survived by her children and grandchildren, so I'm sure there will be many who grieve for Browne. I can't include myself on that list though, sad to say.


Afterlife Book in Paperback

Looking for a fun new read on the latest research into near-death experiences, death-bed visions and mediumship? My new book, Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife, Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlifeis now available as a paperback (274 pages) for just $11.95 (and Amazon currently have it discounted to $10.91, if you want to get in quick!). If you buy the paperback you can also get the Kindle version for just $0.99 extra, if you like to have your books in both formats. I'm really proud of this book, and am sure you will get a lot out of it (it might make a fairly good Xmas present for others too...). The feedback and reviews so far have been fantastic, including best-selling author Michael Prescott's description of it as "a world-class addition" to the literature on afterlife research. Michael notes in his review that he has "read a lot of books on evidence for life after death, but the one I would most recommend as a general, nontechnical introduction is Stop Worrying! There Probably Is an Afterlife".

Here's the short blurb:

Did Steve Jobs have a vision of the afterlife on his death-bed? Does quantum physics suggest that our mind might survive the physical death of our body? How do some near-death experiencers 'see' outside of their bodies at a time when they are supposed to be dead?

In Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife, author Greg Taylor covers all these questions and more. From Victorian seance rooms through to modern scientific laboratories, Taylor surveys the fascinating history of research into the survival of human consciousness, and returns with a stunning conclusion: that maybe we should stop worrying so much about death, because there probably is an afterlife.

As always, purchasing books by Daily Grail Publishing is a win for everyone: it helps keep this site running into the future, and (in my opinion!) gives you a great read on fascinating Grail-related topics.

Here's the quick links to the paperback and Kindle editions of Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife for anyone interested in learning more about their (possible) fate beyond death:

Paperback Edition

Kindle Edition

(I will also be selling signed and numbered limited edition hardcovers directly in the near future as well, so drop me a line if you're interested in a collectable.)

Thanks for your support!!

Is There a Ghost in this Image?

Is there a ghost in this image?

Dr. Ciarán O'Keeffe is well-known in the United Kingdom - at least, to the paranormal-inclined - as a result of his appearances on Living TV's paranormal television series Most Haunted, and also on account of his criticism of that show for misleading viewers using "showmanship and dramatics". The problems he came across while working on TV features about the paranormal led O'Keeffe to set up his own team, with whom he is filming investigations under the name Ghostlands.

On Halloween the Ghostlands team posted their first outing on YouTube, an investigation into a supposedly haunted World War II bunker on the Channel Islands. The 20 minute mini-documentary shows the setting up, possible manifestations of EVP, and finishes with a ghostly shadow fleeing the researchers' cameras (screen capture at the beginning of this post). Those that enjoy ghost-hunting shows should find plenty to enjoy in Ghostlands, especially if you're sitting home alone on a dark and stormy night...

This is a brief insight into a paranormal investigation conducted over a number of days where I had control and was not bound by the rules and expectations of television. Where I could choose a location that had never been shown before, one I wanted to investigate, one that I thought you would find as fascinating as I have and with a team I had chosen. But most of all, I wanted to present you with the evidence, to "let the evidence speak".

But this will also be about you. You are ghost enthusiasts, investigators, paranormal fans, cynics, sceptics and believers and those who simply want to find out if the "truth is out there". So get involved by contributing with your comments. It's about recognising that this show is organic and can develop if there are the means available. So say what can be done differently, what can be done better, what you are expecting, what you don't like, but more importantly what you do like, what you've learned, but also...did you notice anything I didn't see?

Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife

Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife

Ladies and gents, I'm very happy to announce that my new book, Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife, is now available from the Amazon Kindle store for just $5.99! And for the launch, I'm looking to use the Grail army to my advantage, if you'll be kind enough to join in. More details after the blurb:

Did Steve Jobs have a vision of the afterlife on his death-bed? Does quantum physics suggest that our mind might survive the physical death of our body? How do some near-death experiencers 'see' outside of their bodies at a time when they are supposed to be dead?

In Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife, author Greg Taylor covers all these questions and more. From Victorian seance rooms through to modern scientific laboratories, Taylor surveys the fascinating history of research into the survival of human consciousness, and returns with a stunning conclusion: that maybe we should stop worrying so much about death, because there probably is an afterlife.

Now, to try and make the maximum splash on entry into the eBook world, I'm asking interested Grail readers to grab a copy as soon as possible to push the book up Amazon's charts and thus make it more visible to other buyers. Here are the relevant Amazon links:

If you can help out by hitting Amazon hard, I'd love to see the result. To add a bit of incentive, I'll give away a couple of limited edition hardcover versions of the book, which will be randomly drawn from those who comment beneath this story letting me know that they've purchased the eBook.

Update: I'll cut entries off on Sunday night, 10pm U.S. West Coast time, to allow non-daily readers a chance at a hardcover) and make the draw soon after. Don't forget to comment beneath when you've grabbed a copy to be in the running!

(For those that still prefer paper to electronic books, the 274-page paperback should be out next week sometime, and will retail for $11.95. Alternatively, if you're a collector I will be selling signed and limited hardcovers directly in the near future as well.)

Stop Worrying! My Book is Finally Done!

Stop Worrying!

It's been a long time coming, but I've finally finished the book I've been working on for the past couple of years, Stop Worrying! There Probably Is An Afterlife. It should be available to purchase in the next week or two, but today eBook copies were sent out to those people who contributed to the crowdfunding effort for the book on IndieGoGo. If you were one of those people, but haven't received an email (due to spam filters, change of email address etc), please get in touch with me so that I can get your long-awaited copy of the book into your hands (I'm greg, and I'm at dailygrail.com)!

I'll of course post an update here when the book is available for purchase on Amazon, for those interested.

Short Documentary 'Surviving Death' Talks to Three Near-Death Experiencers

Surviving Death is a beautifully produced 12-minute-long mini-documentary featuring the near-death experiences (NDEs) of Kimberly Clark Sharp, Roland A. Webb, and Louisa Peck, told in their own words. The interviews are part of a longer series titled Consciousness Continues, the first episode of which will be released on on Amazon instant Streaming in January 2014.

Commonalities of the Near Death Experience

This 'documentary', put together out of various clips of near-death experiencers and NDE researchers, does an excellent job of listing many of the common elements of these strange experiences through first-hand testimony. Definitely worth your time.

The Ouija Board

Our good friend Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America and an upcoming book on the positive thinking movement, has previously written about the history of the Ouija Board, both for our print anthology Darklore and also here on TDG. For those with tl;dr syndrome though, the above 6 minute video that Mitch helped create as part of the Midnight Archive series is a nice little introduction, charting the development of Ouija through to its heyday in the 1960s when it outsold Monopoloy, as well as including fascinating anecdotes regarding the board's influence on some well-known poets.

On a related note, readers might also like to check out a recent BBC Future article which attempted to answer the question "What Makes the Ouija Board Move?" in terms of modern consciousness research, and also this response: "Ouija Board Explained, Magicians Unsurprised"

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Esquire Exposé on Proof of Heaven Author Eben Alexander Distorted the Facts of the Case

Eben Alexander

Near-death experiencs (NDEs) were in the news for all the wrong reasons last month, with journalist Luke Dittrich's 'exposé' of bestselling author and NDEr Eben Alexander in Esquire spreading far and wide across the internet. Dittrich painted Alexander as a medical professional of dubious reputation (on the basis of several malpractice suits) who was more than a bit 'creative' when it came to the facts of his case.

In my original story about the Esquire exposé I urged some caution in taking it all at face value, and in a follow-up piece noted one example of how Dittrich himself seems to have a been a bit 'creative' (or at least selective) in quoting the Dalai Lama about Alexander's case. But NDE researcher Robert Mays has gone one step further and put a blowtorch to a number of the claims in the Esquire article (PDF), and discovered that it seems to have distorted the facts of the case. Along with the out-of-context Dalai Lama statements that I covered, Mays gives statements from a number of those involved that corroborate facts which Dittrich claims were fictions by Alexander. Perhaps the most important of which is a statement by Dr. Laura Potter, who was used by Dittrich as the hammer to drive the final nail into the coffin of Eben Alexander's credibility. Dittrich's article squashes Alexander's claim that he was essentially without a mind during his illness in the following words: "I ask Potter whether the manic, agitated state that Alexander exhibited whenever they weaned him off his anesthetics during his first days of coma would meet her definition of conscious. 'Yes', she says. 'Conscious but delirious'." But Mays says that Potter was in fact alarmed by the way her remarks were twisted, with the doctor making the following statement via email:

I am saddened by and gravely disappointed by the article recently published in Esquire. The content attributed to me is both out of context and does not accurately portray the events around Dr. Eben Alexander’s hospitalization. I felt my side of the story was misrepresented by the reporter. I believe Dr. Alexander has made every attempt to be factual in his accounting of events.

In the 15-page article, Robert Mays makes clear his dismay at what appears to be a long list of serious errors and/or misrepresentations made by Dittrich and Esquire, and further aggrieved by the fact that Esquire made a point of asking online readers to pay $1.99 because "great journalism isn't free". Mays concludes:

Dittrich's article was irresponsible because of the impact — the real harm — the resulting distortions have caused. I am sure Luke Dittrich and his editors felt completely justified, based on what they felt was a solid case against Eben Alexander. They probably also considered the negative effect that Dittrich's article and its conclusions would have on Alexander and others, and similarly felt justified. In their minds, Eben Alexander is a complete fraud and deserves to be exposed as such.

But did Luke Dittrich and his editors exercise sufficient care in building their case? In my opinion they did not: the facts presented in the article were distorted or completely wrong and the conclusions are totally unwarranted. And the result has been devastating to those people who know the facts and how utterly wrong they were portrayed in the article. They include all of the people I mentioned two paragraphs above, especially Dr. Laura Potter whose statements were misrepresented and distorted by Luke Dittrich to establish the central fact of his case. Even His Holiness the Dalai Lama would be quite dismayed that his warm, supportive statements to Eben Alexander have been so cleverly distorted into the exact opposite of his meaning.

But the person most harmed is Dr. Eben Alexander, whose reputation has been severely damaged on the basis of Dittrich’s erroneous, distorted judgments. From now on, many people will associate Eben Alexander with altering records, embellishment, fabrication and delusion.

Mays goes on to note the irony that Dittrich used the malpractice suits against Alexander to sow seeds of doubt about the surgeon's character in his readers' minds, and yet "Mr. Dittrich's actions in investigating and writing the article and Esquire's unabashed endorsement of it rise to the level of malpractice" themselves.

Link: "Esquire article on Eben Alexander distorts the facts" (PDF)


Does This New Research Explain the Near-Death Experience?

Near Death Experience

LOTS of news coverage today (BBC, Discovery, Wired, Livescience, Daily Mail, The Telegraph, io9) for some recent experiments conducted on euthanized rats, which appears to show a coherent "surge of synchronous gamma oscillations" that occurred in the first 30 seconds after cardiac arrest in the animals. According to the paper's authors, this data suggests "the mammalian brain can, albeit paradoxically, generate neural correlates of heightened conscious processing at near-death". In interviews with news outlets, they put this into layman's terms, noting how their data might be linked to the near-death experience: All the data, they said, "show the fingerprints of neural consciousness at near-death is at a much higher level compared to the waking state. That explains the realer-than-real human experience".

Coverage, of course, concentrated on what this might mean for the mystery of the 'near-death experience' (NDE) - and most of it took Olympic-sized leaps of logic. For instance, the Smithsonian website wrote that the research shows "near-death experiences are most likely a random jolt of activity in our brain just before it shuts down permanently", while some 'skeptic' sites didn't even blush in proclaiming "Goddidit and supernaturalism sidle into the corner of explanatory power as the march of science proceeds".

But has this study done what these sites are claiming (and certainly, to a fair extent, what the study's authors have concluded)? On his blog, Not Exactly Rocket Science, Ed Yong quotes some cautionary words from Steven Laureys, who leads the Coma Science Group at the University of Liège:

It’s terribly hard to make strong claims about what these rats actually perceived, or about possible conscious experiences. But the study definitely shows that there is a lot more electrical activity than expected, and it’s very interesting activity. It’s tempting to link that to what we hear in patients, but we need to be very careful.

I think this is exactly the right response at this time. This research provides some fascinating data, and a jumping off point for future research. It also should instill some caution in commentators and researchers into the near-death experience, when they say the brain "flat-lines" almost immediately after cardiac arrest (and, therefore, the NDE is unexplainable by physical sciences). Nevertheless, as long-time NDE researcher and resuscitation expert Dr. Sam Parnia notes on Yong's blog, previous EEG studies of humans during cardiac arrest haven’t found similar patterns to this latest experiment - is this fact a death-blow for the theory, or have we not detected this brain activity before because previous efforts with human subjects had the EEG electrodes on the outside of their skull? Regardless, we should remember that vaguely similar studies in the past have generated exactly the same headline, but have not gone much further.

There are further reasons to be careful in jumping to conclusions. Firstly, the 'correlation is not necessarily causation' argument - is this the brain generating the last moments of 'mind' before it perishes completely, as most people (or at least, newspapers and science journalists) probably assume, or is this 'mind' interacting with the brain as it leaves the physical body for the last time? People will generally read in whichever conclusion suits their particular reality tunnel.

Secondly, as near-death experience researcher Bruce Greyson explained to me recently, explaining the NDE isn't as simple as just finding a neural mechanism for the reports of a bright light, or the tunnel experience. Too often, he told me, skeptics completely ignore other evidential features of the experience, such as accurate out-of-body perception and encounters with deceased individuals not known to be dead. There is no shortage of both types of case, and these are truly what constitute a major part of the mystery of the NDE.

But all in all, an interesting piece of research that could possibly lead us to a better understanding of the NDE. Just let's not jump to conclusions either way at this early stage.

Update: Interestingly, the researcher doing these experiments was a co-author with DMT researcher Rick Strassman on a paper earlier this year regarding the presence of DMT in the pineal gland of rats.

Link: "Surge of neurophysiological coherence and connectivity in the dying brain"

Link: In Dying Brains, Signs of Heightened Consciousness (Not Exactly Rocket Science)