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Paranormal in Mystery

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 18, 2011

Mystery Panel

Diane, Brenda, Mary, Britin

Paranormal in Mystery

Who do you call when things go bump in the night or when you need help solving the mystery of a missing person, beyond the usual methods of investigation? The paranormal team, that’s who.

At a recent meeting of the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America, four illustrious panelists discussed their experiences with the paranormal. Neil Plakcy, author of the Mahu Hawaiian mystery series, moderated the panel.

First speaker was Diane Stuckhart who writes historical romance and mysteries. Writing as Ali Brandon, she’s author of the Black Cat Bookshop mystery series. Mummified cats are an element in her stories.

Next came Brenda Elizabeth, a spiritual intuitive who belongs to a psychic detective agency. She helps the authorities find missing persons and teaches workshops to help others develop their abilities.

Mary Stanton, a prolific writer of fantasy and mysteries, pens the Beaufort & Company paranormal series set in Savannah. Writing as Claudia Bishop, she’s author of the Hemlock Falls mysteries as well.

Long time MWA member Britin Haller terms herself a paranormal profiler. She’s co-founder of the Messengers Paranormal Support Squad based in Miami. While accompanying paranormal investigators to haunted sites, she interviews family members to see if their interpersonal dynamics may be responsible for the phenomena.

Here are some questions posed to the panel.

Panel

Paranormal Panelists

How did you get interested in this field?

Diane said her interest began at a young age. To those who feel powerless, the thought of having power is attractive, and that’s how she gravitated to the field. She went to a Meetup group for paranormal interests and joined. Brenda admitted that her mother was a medical intuitive who helped discern people’s ailments, so that made her open-minded. She feels everyone is intuitive in some way, and she began helping others with her gift. Mary loved to read fantasy when young. At one point, Berkley asked her to write a ghost hunter series, but she decided she’d rather write about angels. Thus was her first Beaufort & Company mystery, Defending Angels, born. As for Britin, her father died when she was young and “the paranormal got into me.”

How do you incorporate elements of paranormal into your writing?

In Mary’s series, Brianna is a lawyer whose clients are souls condemned to hell, and her job is to take charge of their appeals process. Mary is fascinated by medieval theology and uses Dante as a resource. Her world building is all about angels. Diane advises other writers that the paranormal elements should be organic to the story, and they should be subtle. Britin suggests you keep the reader wondering if the element is real or not. Brenda spoke from the viewpoint of a practicing psychic. She said most true mediums are evidential. They bring in information through words. “It’s a mental process. The message comes to you, and you speak the words. It isn’t as dramatic as on TV. Spirits have moved beyond daily concerns, so they might say things like, ‘I forgive you, so let’s move on.’”

Britin described her paranormal investigations. A “dude run” is when you see something scary and you want to scream, “Dude, run!” Real-life investigators are more low key. If they hear a noise, they go investigate. There’s no screaming, running, or cursing. Britin showed us a meter that she uses to indicate changes in energy. Her team has to be careful to eliminate interference from outside sources like cell phones. Britin’s group offers support to families who have requested help. As a skeptic, she tries to learn the family dynamics to explain away the phenomena.

Someone in the audience asked, why are old houses often haunted? Britin explained that this occurrence is more common with static hauntings, for example, where a spirit repeats its actions at the same time each year. It can be due to the “battery acid” environment of old houses. Lead paint and old metal pipes may make these houses more resonant, especially if the house is built on land with quartz.

Brenda works more like the heroine in one of our novels. She helps authorities find missing people. Location is the critical factor. First she’ll meditate to clear her mind. Sometimes an object belonging to the person is given to her, but most often she’ll get an email about the person with a photo and a brief background. From looking at the person’s eyes, she may be able to tell if they’re dead or alive. If dead, she’ll communicate with them directly. If alive, she’ll tap into the energy around them. She works through a detective agency.

Can you discuss world building in relation to the paranormal?

Mary said the writer has an obligation to the reader to be consistent. She’s done extensive research on angels for her work. Diane has studied Egyptology for her stories about mummified cats.

What’s on the other side?

One panelist claimed that it’s a Judaic-Christian concept that there is another side. Other cultures believe past, present, and future are all one continuum. As for predicting the future, it “changes all the time, but we may be able to pick up some elements.”

Speaking of paranormal elements, here are two of my Bad Hair Day mysteries that feature ghosts, spooky locales, and psychics: Dead Roots

Dead Roots
Marla’s family reunion at a haunted Florida resort turns up dead bodies instead of fond memories. She and her fiancé, Detective Dalton Vail, launch another murder investigation in the midst of Thanksgiving dinner.

“Ghost stories, nifty secret passages, tales of gemstones and family secrets enliven this tale.” Sun-Sentinel                          

“If you like ghosts and ghoulies and things that go blink in the night, you’ll love this book.” Mysterious Women

Died Blonde
Hairstylist Marla Shore stumbles over her rival’s body in the meter room behind their competing salons. The stakes rise when the victim’s trusted psychic warns Marla that someone she loves is in great danger. Her investigation takes her to a smoky bingo parlor, a spooky town run by spiritualists, and sultry Delray Beach.Died Blonde

Intrepid Marla Shore is up to her elbows in hot water when a rival salon owner turns up dead and shorn. Marla follows a path of clues that includes a wacky psychic, bingo mamas and mysterious keepsakes…Another follicle‑raising frolic with a wry twist of romance.” – P.J. Parrish, NY Times bestselling author of Dead of Winter and Island of Bones.

Have you personally had any paranormal experiences?

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8 Responses to “Paranormal in Mystery”

  1. Hi Nancy,
    I especially enjoyed this post because I sometimes incorporate paranormal elements in my books. My ghost mystery, GIVING UP THE GHOST, is coming out with Uncial Press as an ebook in the spring. My ghost, Cameron Leeds–former romeo wheeler-dealer–asks my sleuth to find his murderer.

  2. Sounds like a good premise, Marilyn! Cool title, too.

  3. I definitely enjoy light paranormal touches in mysteries, and I have enjoyed mysteries where ghosts either leave subtle clues or openly help the sleuth solve the crime. Just an added layer of fun!

  4. Jacqueline Seewald said

    I haven’t personally had any paranormal experiences. However, the librarian/amateur sleuth who has these abilities is based on a real person here in NJ who acted as a consultant for the police, finding dead bodies and giving closure to suffering relatives.

    Jacqueline Seewald, THE TRUTH SLEUTH

  5. That’s interesting, Jacqueline. Makes you want to believe in “the other side”, doesn’t it? Allison, I like a light paranormal touch to a mystery on occasion, too. Ghosts are fun, but for the most part, I prefer mysteries grounded in reality.

  6. Hi Nancy. I shared your blog post on our paranormal FB page (Gold Coast Paranormal Society). 🙂

  7. Great, thanks! I enjoyed hearing you speak.

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