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“Thank you, Dr. Rogers. I appreciate you coming here this weekend,” Archer said. “As you said, I grew up in Cleveland. As a child, the Franklin Castle fascinated me. I wanted to live here. Everyone thought I was crazy. A few months ago, I worked in Silicon Valley, and I tried to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I saw a real estate listing about this house. I jumped at the chance to purchase the house,” he said with a sigh. “And now, everyone is certain I’m crazy, after recent events, so do I.”
“Mr. Ryan, here is our process,” Dr. Fran said. “As I’ve alluded, this is a scientific study, along with our psychologists and observers. Team members will have little contact with each another. Every fifteen minutes, members write in their journals with precision everything they did and experienced during a fifteen minute period.”
“What will that accomplish?” Archer asked.
“One person may hear tapping on the ceiling. They will write their actions in a journal. A garden-variety ghost investigation will claim this as proof of the existence of ghosts. However, in the case of our investigation, another person writes in their journal during this same period of time they were bouncing a tennis ball on the floor. We read about this following the investigation, and discover the person who heard the noise was in the room beneath the person who bounced the tennis ball, and voila. We have just proven the noise was not a ghost. That is scientific, and validates what we believe.”
Terry propped his feet on the table and rubbed his temples with his fingertips. “So, what happens if you can’t connect the noise with an incident in a journal?”
“That’s a good question, Terry,” Dr. Fran said. “Dr. Baer, would you elaborate?”
“Certainly, Dr. Rogers,” Dr. Baer said, as he stood up and stroked his grey beard. “The second set of proof is in our equipment. In the lab we will set up in the ballroom, we have a tremendous array of tools. In the case of this example, we have motion detectors and sensitive digital sound capturing devices. We will be able to pick up any sound made in this entire house.”
“And if the machine does not pick up the sound?” Terry asked.
“Then nothing happened,” Dr. Baer said in a terse manner.
“I see,” Terry said.
“It’s as simple as that,” Dr. Fran said.
“Let me pose this question, Dr. Baer,” Terry said. “Can your equipment see or hear what I’m thinking?”
Dr. Baer wrinkled his forehead. “Well, no,” he said.
“Then according to your theorem, since the machines did not detect my thoughts, we can conclude I’m not thinking, correct?”
“Terry, I believe you’re oversimplifying this,” Dr. Fran said.
“No, I believe you are oversimplifying,” Terry retorted.
Terry held eye contact. After several moments, Dr. Fran lowered his eyes.
“How long have you owned the house, Mr. Ryan?” Terry asked.
“Two months,” he said. “After what happened on the first day, I don’t even sleep in the main house. I know the legends. I heard them for years growing up here. Something terrible happened the first day I lived here, I don’t even like to talk about the incident. Now that I’ve bought this house, I’d like to know what is going on.”
“Let’s not go into too much detail about the legends, as we agreed Mr. Ryan,” Dr. Fran said. “We do not want to bias our research.”
“A good investigator should be able to be objective enough to hear all the evidence without worrying about being compromised by it,” Terry said.
“This is a scientific investigation, Terry, not a criminal investigation,” Dr. Fran said. “I don’t expect you to fully understand.”
“Yeah, but this isn’t truly a scientific study, is it? You’re not studying particle acceleration in a vacuum or molecular nanotechnology in a lab where the readings are everything,” Terry said. “I know you think you’re studying a phenomenon here, but in reality this investigation is about the study of people. It’s like investigating a murder and not interviewing a single person because their perspective on the matter may not be objective.”
“But, this is not a murder case,” Dr. Fran said. “Besides, I can think of many cases in which science alone convicted someone of murder, without interviewing a single person.”
“I won’t disagree science can be very powerful and an important aspect to an investigation. But, it is only a single aspect of a good investigation. Prosecutors presented overwhelming scientific evidence against OJ Simpson, but still not sufficient to convict him,” Terry said. “A popular conception of police investigation and a public trial is to identify and punish the criminal. To an extent that is true. However, a deeper necessity of the system is to gain a clearer understanding of events. Why did Person A kill Person B? What was going through Person A’s mind at the time? How can we predict this behavior? How can the crime be prevented? How can we learn and grow as a society about these events. An investigation is about knowledge and understanding. Is this investigation about finding ghosts?”
“Hmmph,” Dr. Lyman mumbled. “There are no such things as ghosts.”
“Is that the attitude of the whole team?” Terry asked. “With this preconception about the existence of ghosts, I would think the focus would be even more on the victim. If the preconceived notion were ghosts do not exist, then I would surmise this investigation is entirely about the human aspects of the incident. Why else would are psychology professionals here? And well respected at that.”
The room was silent.
“Okay. Then just what is the goal for this weekend?” Terry asked.
“We’ve found our cultural wastes so much time on the topic of the supernatural,” Dr. Fran raised his voice. “I want to show unequivocally there is not any proof of the validity of the supernatural. I want people to stop believing the charade.”
“Why does that upset you so?” Terry asked.
“What?” Dr. Fran stammered.
“We’ve just seen you get upset and raise your voice to me,” Terry said. “This is very out of character. Why are you upset? It is not because of my questions. You and I have engaged wonderful discussions about our opposing viewpoints, and you never raised your voice to me. Are you bothered by how the media treats paranormal experts with more respect than scientists?”
Dr. Fran looked down.
Terry nodded. “You don’t have to answer. I can understand, Dr. Fran. And I can say, for the most part, I agree with you,” Terry said. “I understand why it’s upsetting to see Yuri Geller on the Today show, and how they treat him like a celebrity. I’m just worried you’re becoming the opposite extreme of him.”
Terry walked around the table.
“I find it interesting there are psychics on the team,” Terry said. “But, you don’t believe their powers exist.”
“I do believe they are more perceptive than most people,” Dr. Fran said. “And that is important to me on this team.”
“But, you don’t really believe Mr. Silver can see the future or Ms. Maeder can read my mind, do you?” Terry said.
Dr. Fran exhaled. “No, I don’t.”
“Well, help me understand here,” Terry said. “In a simplistic statement, we can agree the human brain transfers thoughts and feeling by way of electrical impulses. Is that correct?”
“Agreed,” Dr. Fran answered.
“Many materials have the potential to contain electrical currents,” Terry said. ”And electric passes through some material as if they are not substantial. For example, a piece of metal does not stop electric. If I touched a golf club without a rubber handle, and you attached an electrical charge to the other end of the club, I would get electrocuted, correct?”
“Yes, that’s correct,” Dr. Fran said, knitting his eyebrows together.
“Can we agree the human skull, skin, and muscle will not stop electrical currents from escaping from the human brain?”
“I don’t understand?” Dr. Fran said.
“Does bone, muscle, and skin stop electrical impulses or will they pass through?” Terry asked.
“They pass through,” Dr. Fran said in slow terse words.
“So, I’m sitting next to you at the table. Some of the electrical impulses created in my head, which hold my feelings and thoughts, are floating in air around us both…potentially,” Terry stated.
“Sure, I suppose they are,” Dr. Fran said.
“So, if we can receive these electrical impulses in the air, and if I learn to interpret them, I may be able to understand them.”
“Hmmm,” Dr. Fran stammered. “Perhaps my brain views your impulses as a foreign object and does not see them as thoughts at all. Therefore, they would be gibberish to my brain.”
“Excellent,” Terry said as he slapped his palm on the table.
“What?” Dr. Fran said. “I’m not certain what point I just proved.”
“You have just explained why everyone can’t do it,” Terry said. “Another person’s thoughts in the air would either be undecipherable or simply ignored. But, is it possible a very perceptive brain, like Ms. Maeder’s or Mr. Silver’s, could receive those impulses and understand them?”
“I don’t know,” Dr. Fran said. “Wait, no, it is impossible.”
“That flicker of doubt tells me otherwise,” Terry said.
“Ah, someone who believes in what we do,” John Silver said. He crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair.
Terry turned to John. “Your ability has quite a reputation, Mr. Silver. You are legendary.”
“Thank you, sir,” John said.
“Your run in predicting the stock market is unparalleled. Truly amazing.”
“And you’re theory hit the nail on the head,” John said. “I’ve never heard a better explanation.”
“Is that right?” Terry asked. “However, my theory doesn’t explain your success.”
“What?” John asked.
“Your success doesn’t fit the mold of traditional reading of minds. Tell me, whose mind do you read to predict the stock market? The experts barely understand the market enough to predict it, so you are not reading their minds. And I know quite a bit about your success in Vegas. In viewing the surveillance tapes, casino security had fewer problems with your success and more issues with your obvious use of accomplices warming the tables and signaling you.”
“You know about that?” John said.
“It’s my line of work to know about things,” Terry said. “You made your winnings at Black Jack. If we believe your ability, you did not read the dealer’s mind, because the dealer doesn’t look at his cards until after you’ve played. You had accomplices, so you could have been counting cards, but your background and profile does not show enough proficiency in math to do this. You may have used a different ability I don’t know about, so I can’t refute your claims.”
“Thank you,” John said.
“But, your stock market picks are something else amazing. Naturally, the SEC investigated you. They don’t believe in ESP,” Terry said. “Their job is to be suspicious. Your last huge gain was with Invesco Corporation, right?”
“That’s right,” John said. He swallowed hard.
“You had the foresight to sell their stock for a massive profit the day before their earnings conference call,” Terry said. “At that meeting, Invesco announced huge losses for the quarter and the potential fraud indictment of several key sales reps.”
“Yes, I did.”
“Two days before you exercised the stock, you had dinner with Steve Trammel, the President of Invesco.”
“How did you know?”
“It’s my job to know things,” Terry said. “You got close to him, because he was fascinated by what you can do.”
“He didn’t tell me anything about his company,” John said with a defiant tone.
“No, I don’t suspect he did,” Terry said. “I know Steve fairly well. He’s an honest man. He would not reveal inside information to you or anyone. The charges of fraud upset him considerably, he decided to do the honorable thing and take responsibility. You see, in the months prior to the allegations, Steve received weekly chemotherapy that made him sick as a dog. He found himself unable to run the company during that time. Things quickly got out of hand. He did a very honorable thing, even if that meant a drop in the stock price and diminished credibility of the company.”
“You see, even you agree with me,” John said.
Terry paused. “But you did read his mind, didn’t you?”
John fingers stroked his goatee beard. “I told the SEC I used my psychic ability to pick the stock. And technically, I did. Yes, I did read his mind. I was on the up and up.”
Terry winced for a moment. “Except--“
All eyes looked up at him.
“You used your ability to find out information you were not allowed to see. That’s the same as if you broke into Invesco’s headquarters and rummaged through their files and stole the information.”
“But--" John stammered.
“In using your ability to read his mind, you committed a crime,” Terry said. “Plain and simple.”
“I didn’t hurt anybody,” John said as he bowed his head.
“Only the investor’s who bought the stock from you,” Terry said.
“Are you going to turn me in?” John said.
“No,” Terry said. “Like I said, the SEC doesn’t believe in ESP and they would never accept that as an explanation. In many ways, they are very much like this investigation team. They have one way of investigating something, and they aren’t open to alternate avenues.”
Terry sat down next to John. “It’s funny,” Terry said.
“What is?” John asked.
“You have an amazing ability, you can read a CEO’s mind and invest or divest in his company,” Terry said. “However, I surprised you. That means you couldn’t read my mind or know what I was going to say, could you?”
John shook his head. “No, you felt foggy to me.”
“Interesting term,” Terry said. “Twenty-five years ago the CIA funded Project Yuri. This was a project to explore using psychics in espionage. The results on the espionage front turned out to be very sketchy. The psychics had to be too close in proximity to the subject in order to work. When the subject was the head of state, they found getting close surprisingly difficult. The project produced some interesting side results. We learned how to protect ourselves from psychic attacks and espionage. I just had a little time to research the results in preparation of coming here, so I’m just scratching the surface. I would love to spend time with you all later to test this further. A defensive strategy against psychic intrusion is to lower the waking brain activity to a beta state. The studies found psychics experienced a lower rate of success reading the minds of people in lowered state of consciousness. I’ve spent the last few weeks reading and practicing their research. And apparently it works.”
“Interesting, something I never thought of,” Dr. Fran said.
“Back to the topic of investigation tools,” Terry said. “How do you feel after your interrogation, Dr. Fran and Mr. Silver?”
“What interrogation?” Dr. Fran said.
“I’ve been interrogating you for the last ten minutes,” Terry said.
“You’ve just been talking with us, and being something of an argumentative pest, I must add. But not interrogation,” Dr. Fran said.
“But it was,” Terry said. “And I learned a great deal about both of you. I know what buttons to push on both of you. After I found your anger buttons, I found the keys to take you back down and engage you into cooperation. You didn’t even know I was doing it. That just shows an investigation doesn’t have to look and feel like a standard investigation to produce results.”
“I’ll give you points, Terry,” Dr. Fran said. “You sure know how to be convincing. I propose we do something a little different. I would like Terry to conduct his own investigation, using whatever means he wants to, while we proceed with ours. At the end, we’ll compare the results. Does that sound fair?”
“That works for me,” Terry said.
“I honestly don’t think you’ll succeed,” Dr. Fran said. “But, good luck anyway.”
“Well then, I had better pick my team and get cracking,” Terry said.
“Okay, everyone,” Dr. Fran said. “Let’s get setup, and you know the drill.”
“I have a last question,” Terry said. “This has bothering me for the last few minutes.”
“What is it now?” Dr. Fran asked.
“If I were Mr. Ryan here, I would be a little upset regarding the course our conversation has taken over the last half hour,” Terry said. “Dr. Fran, you and Dr. Lyman have all but said that anyone who sees a ghost or believes in them is deluded. I would take offense to that if I was you, but you seem to be taking your opinions in stride. Why is that? Did Dr. Fran tell you about his hidden agenda on this matter ahead of time? I would be surprised if he did.”
Archer cleared his throat. “No, he didn’t tell me about ahead of time.”
“So, the turn of events of this conversation is not a surprise to you?” Terry said.
Archer smiled. “No, it’s not. Like you, I like to know a little bit about people before I invite them into my home. I did some research of my own, and discovered this is how they do business.”
“Then why invite them?” Terry asked. “I doubt they are going to return a ghost to you. And they aren’t the least bit interested in why you have a ghost here.”
Archer looked up at Dr. Fran and smiled.
“I’m curious as well,” Dr. Fran said.
“Mr. Ryan, I think you let us all know the bad news,” Terry said.
Archer stood up, before he spoke, a knock came to the door into the dining room. Archer opened the door.
A man walked into the door with a flourish. His long silver hair flowed with his motion. With gloved hands, he removed his long black cape revealing a black suit.
“Welcome to my home, Sir Nolan,” Archer said.
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