Arlene’s Grocery has been a lower east side institution since 1995 when the former bodega, and butcher shop were turned in to a venue. Since then, thousands of bands have played in the building; including notable performances by Lady Gaga and The Strokes. Charged performances by electric artists often leave a lasting impression.
While multiple sightings of ghosts have been reported by concert goers, we will be attempting to make contact specifically with Joey Ramone. Joey lived a few blocks from the venue, and is said to wander to the premises when a spectacular show is playing.
“It was two years ago, right around this time, close to Halloween, when Sonja and I found ourselves walking down Atlantic Avenue and, a mimeographed advertisement hanging on a street lamp caught our attention. It was a flyer for a drunken ghost hunting event with the Brooklyn Paranormal Society. Both drinking and ghost hunting are remarkable pastimes, each in their own right, but the combination seemed irresistible.” – Andrew Arnett
Anthony Long, Chief Ectoplasm Officer (CEO) of the Brooklyn Paranormal Society, offered a remarkable proposition – he would, through the means of alcoholic inebriation, open himself up to demonic possession, all for the sake of paranormal science. It seemed like a brave, if foolhardy undertaking, but there is in fact method behind this madness.
Looking at the word “alcohol,” we find that the term originated in the Middle East (interestingly enough, a place that prohibits the use of alcohol) and comes from the Arabic “al-kuhl,” or “al-kuhul,” which originally meant a fine black powder. This powder was used as mascara and was obtained by sublimation, which refers to a process of heating a solid to a vapor and then condensing it down again to a very fine powder. The Arabic term “ghūl,” and the English “ghoul,” referring to a flesh consuming evil spirit, are also derived from the original “al-kuhl.”
By the 16th century, the English co-opted the term, compressing it into one word – alcohol – referring to anything formed through sublimation, and in terms of a liquid – distillation and fermentation. “Spirits” then, were created through distillation and fermentation. By modern times, the term was parred down to refer only to distilled spirits, or liquor.
Health writer and enthusiast Jason Christoff has an interesting take on alcohol and its effects on the human body. He states:
“In alchemy, alcohol is used to extract the soul essence of an entity. Hence, its use in extracting essences for essential oils, and the sterilization of medical instruments. By consuming alcohol into the body, it in effect extracts the very essence of the soul, allowing the body to be more susceptible to neighboring entities most of which are of low frequencies. That is why people who consume excessive amounts of alcohol often black out, not remembering what happened.”
Alcohol, in effect, kicks the spirit out of its physical vehicle, making it vulnerable to be taken for a joy ride by other, malevolent spirits. This may be effective but, as a method for hunting ghosts, has its obvious drawbacks. The idea of using oneself as bait for evil spirits is not a very good one. It’s dangerous. Things can get messy and who knows what disembodied parasitic entity you’ll drag back to the house.
“We’ve had some negative results from alcohol,” Long stated. “Things have, on occasion, gotten out of hand. We’ve been kicked out of a few bars. We have basically moved on from using alcohol as a method for ghost hunting but, we still like to have a few drinks beforehand.”
Fortunately, in our modern day and age, there are a plethora of means by which one can get out there and track down the elusive spirit. Hunting ghosts, ultimately, is really just like hunting anything else – it is a matter of time, place and energy. Time and place are self explanatory – you find a paranormal hot spot and you go there after midnight.
Energy refers to a number of things. It can refer to the “Chi,” or magnetism, of the ghost hunter, medium, psychic, shaman or brujo wishing to make contact with the spirit world.
Energy also refers to the spirit itself. Ghosts are nothing if not energy itself, having shuffled of the mortal coil, and exiting this three dimensional, physical universe, all together.
Finally, there is the energy which surrounds us, such as electricity and radio waves, which spirits can manipulate. Energy is a type of interface, if you will, with the other side. With today’s advanced technology, we have at our disposal, many new devices which can measure these disparate energies and, help us “talk to the dead.”
One such device is Franks “ghost box,” also known as the “telephone to the dead.” The device is used extensively in Brooklyn Paranormal Society Ghost Hunts, it scans AM or FM radio frequencies, allowing you to hear a brief glimpse of the output as they are being scanned. Through this EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon), you can ask the spirit questions and they can “answer” back.
Could such a device actually put us in contact with the other side? Perhaps. In subsequent installments, we shall take a closer look at these devices, and test, to the best of our abilities, their relative efficacy.