The Reel Paranormal (Truth is Stranger Than Paranormal)
From the vampire and werewolf clashes of The Twilight Saga to the disturbing events of Paranormal Activity, there appears to be no end in sight for the overwhelming popularity of stories in film and television that deal with the paranormal and supernatural.
Although a majority of these hair-raising creations are the product of Hollywood's imagination, like the old saying goes, "There is some truth to every story"; and in my quest to find some truth of this elusive world, I was amazed to discover a gold mine of it in a real-life explorer of the paranormal amidst the entertainment industry.
Christopher Chacon is a world adventurer and paranormal explorer who has investigated more real-life paranormal phenomena than any fictional TV series or movie can depict. And if you think this "calling" is unorthodox enough, it's actually the balancing of this extraordinary work and his creative endeavors in the entertainment industry that makes it all the more compelling. Chacon is a writer, director, and producer of feature films and television shows and was the creative force behind the dramatic scripted TV series "PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal" starring Dan Aykroyd, Michael Moriarity, and Matt Frewer. His early creative roots stem from being a professional magician/illusionist, playwrite/director, and filmmaker. Now, by day Chacon is a writer, director, and producer for TV, film, and theatrical stage, but after hours, on weekends, and quite often for extended expeditions out of the country, Chacon deals with what he simply refers to as "paranormal situations". He is regarded as one of the world's foremost authorities on paranormal and supernatural phenomena, anomalies, and the occult and has appeared on hundreds of TV shows, including "Unsolved Mysteries", "National Geographic Explorer", and "Sightings".
Chacon's unique expertise and hybrid method of exploring these phenomena come as a result of interfusing several schools of thought and a lifetime of experiences. For starters, before entering the world of TV, he was an investigator with the Anomalistics Division of the Office of Scientific Investigation and Research (OSIR) and was trained in OSIR's scientifically advanced methods and protocols in analyzing and assessing phenomena. The OSIR is a private organization and scientific think-tank, akin to RTI (Research Triangle Institute), RAND (Research and Development Corporation), or SAIC (Scientific Applications International Corporation); and because of its research relationship with some of the world's largest technology corporations, the group had seemingly unlimited resources, allowing researchers to utilize state-of-the-art technology and cutting-edge methods.
As part of a rotating team of scientists, each specializing in his/her own field, Chacon participated in countless cases from around the world to analyze and study each reported "phenomenon" first-hand. Chacon recalls, "The entire experience with the organization now seems very surreal. Unlike my earlier years doing parapsychological and paranormal research, the time I spent with OSIR had us following protocols that applied every discipline of science and often had extreme blind-control procedures to analyze every aspect of the environment and subjects, as well as the phenomena in question. While we had to always remain in a constant state of complete control, the circumstances we were dealing with were often completely out-of-control." The many years Chacon spent as a scientific investigator were then followed by an equal amount of time exploring these phenomena from metaphysical, mystical, and spiritual perspectives.
In the over twenty years he's been exploring the paranormal, Chacon has dealt with reports of virtually every type of paranormal phenomena imaginable, from violent demonic possessions to extraordinary UFO close encounters. Some of the other types of phenomena he's investigated include encounters with unknown life forms (sometimes referred to as cryptozoology), miracles and divine intervention, poltergeists and haunts, black magic and mysticism, powerful demonstrations of psychic abilities, and ill-defined anomalies like space/time distortions, spontaneous human combustion, and even hailstorms of toads. In addition to his dealings with these astonishing phenomena, Chacon has also participated in international expeditions involving ancient supernatural and metaphysical beliefs and newly discovered mystical sites and relics.
Chacon emphasizes that not all phenomena they dealt with were unexplainable, "While with OSIR, a good seventy to eighty percent of the cases we investigated were determined to have a rational explanation. The dynamics of these cases were just as extraordinary in order to 'appear' so anomalous, but in the end they were explainable. Then there's another twenty to thirty percent that was beyond anything our present-day science can even touch and defied all known laws of nature and physics. It was these truly anomalous phenomena and the ongoing exposure to them that often challenged your ability to maintain a level of normalcy in everyday life." Chacon continues to maintain a compelling balancing act between his work in the entertainment industry and his explorations with the paranormal. He recounts, "At first, it was an ongoing wall of shock to go from a situation dealing with phenomena that are not suppose to exist to the world that the majority of us deal with every day. The only way to function in both worlds and keep your sanity was to have a revolving door of psychological decompression. You either eventually get use to it or you lose it. I haven't lost it yet. At least I don't think so."
As a result of his stint with OSIR and his ongoing global explorations, Chacon has established a discreet clientele from all walks of life in every corner of the world, ranging from Vatican representatives to government intelligence agencies. Chacon states, "Whether I'm working with medical doctors and scientists, religious leaders and shamans, governments or the military, or just plain everyday people, they often simply need another perspective on a 'situation' to assess the proper course of action in dealing with it." His unique perspective and reputation have placed Chacon in high demand among those who deal with legitimate phenomena and require very discreet assessments of extraordinary circumstances. Chacon was referenced in an interview given by the late Father James LeBar, the country's highest Vatican authority on exorcism, before his passing, "Few have acquired such a vast array of experiences regarding the dark mysteries of our universe and how to deal with them. This is why he (Chacon) is so highly regarded by myself and my colleagues around the world." An Australian Government Official who prefers to remain anonymous also stated, "Chacon has assisted us and one of our top scientific institutions on several occasions in assessing some extraordinary events that have occurred. His discretion, work ethic, and expertise are beyond compare. While many who utilize his skills consider him to be the last resort, he is also often the first person you track down when you need an objective and accurate opinion."
While he is reticent to discuss his present-day paranormal "work", Chacon is quick to point out that "phenomena" are often not what they appear to be. Unlike any other investigator or researcher in this realm, Chacon possesses a unique hybrid approach in dealing with phenomena that incorporates his specialized scientific training along with additional "outside-the-box" methods that involve metaphysical techniques/skills. Because of his vast experience, Chacon offers an amazing insight not only into these elusive phenomena but also into the challenging research and investigation of them. "When investigating these types of phenomena, the biggest mistake a person can make is to jump to conclusions and rush to define and categorize them." Chacon spoke of how he has encountered hundreds of cases where phenomena have been misdiagnosed and incorrectly defined. "Because of the mercurial and enigmatic nature of these type of phenomena, the old adage where 'you can't judge a book by its cover' holds true more than ever."
In a past lecture Chacon demonstrated how easy it would be for an inexperienced person to assume they are dealing with one type of phenomenon when, in fact, they are encountering something entirely different. In his presentation six separate cases that were previously categorized by others as a poltergeist, a UFO close encounter, spontaneous human combustion, an out-of-body-experience, an unknown subterranean creature, and a reincarnation were each determined to be something entirely different. By encountering phenomena time and time again that dispel commonly accepted beliefs and age-old preconceptions, many of Chacon's explorations redefine these phenomena and our expectations of how we presumed they worked. With the ever-growing demand in film and television for better original stories and breathtaking new phenomena, Chacon's real-life expertise and breakthrough insights into the paranormal offers fans of this genre mind-bending new takes on it.
Aided by the ever-growing Internet culture and real-time connection to the world, audiences have become more and more fixated on all things with a "reality spin", consequentially boosting the demand for fact-based stories. And while movies "based on actual events" have always enticed audiences, such films as The Exorcism of Emily Rose (review here), The Haunting in Connecticut (review here), and the recently released The Fourth Kind (review here) have fueled an already fascinated audience while appealing to an even wider demographic because of their basis in reality. And if the hook of a fact-based story isn't good enough to get your "reality fix" of the paranormal, then you can always take the chilling next step and immerse yourself in the "reality experience" vis-à-vis Paranormal Activity (review here). This supernatural mock reality film suspends your disbelief into thinking you are seeing real paranormal phenomena unfolding, much like The Blair Witch Project did some ten years ago. But whether capitalizing on fact-based stories or just fooling you into thinking it's real, good writing and directing can't take all the credit for the popularity of paranormal and supernatural genres since recent Gallup polls reveal that 75% of Americans have some sort of "paranormal belief". Similarly, a CBS poll revealed that one in five Americans has seen or physically encountered a ghost, and still another survey taken from over 400 college students with the highest GPA's found seniors and grad students more likely to believe in the paranormal than their "uneducated" freshman counterparts.
This demand for stories, settings, and characters that are either fact-based or simply feel more real is directly in line with the overall appeal of elevated genre pictures that seek to be relevant to contemporary audiences by keeping elements of the story as grounded and believable as possible no matter how extraordinary the story is. Certainly any paranormal or supernatural creation that is "based on" or "inspired by" actual events or has a creative mind behind it that is rooted in the "real thing" is far more compelling to today's plugged-in audiences than those simply spun from fantasy. Chacon emphasizes, "Stories that are based on documented paranormal phenomena can not only better attract fans of the genre but obviously also help to ensure a believable creative storytelling foundation for an otherwise extraordinary story." Chacon adds, "However, like any movie, the difference between a good story and great story comes with nurturing compelling characters and an overall fascinating story arc that complements any foundation, whether fact-based or fictional."
For more on the paranormal, be sure to check out Dread Central's Cold Spots feature, in which our resident horror author/paranormal investigator Scott Johnson takes us to real haunted places across the globe.
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