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Santa Maria Sun / Cover Story
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 34
Avia Belle Moon explores the Central Coast's paranormal hot pointsLocal author scoured the area for her book 'Spiritland' and her quest to map the other side
BY JOE PAYNE
Civilizations, religions, and philosophies, for as long as they’ve existed, have failed to deliver a verifiable, definite answer as to what awaits us after the ends of our lives. Not even the reign of modern science—with all the electronic technology that comes with—can explain what our consciousness is or where it goes when our bodies stop working.
One local author’s years of experience and study of paranormal activity culminated in the book Spiritland: The Ghosts of California’s Central Coast, which maps several locales that have been host to strange happenings. Avia Belle Moon didn’t have an interest in the paranormal until it found her.
“It was when I returned from Japan in 2008 and moved into a house in Santa Barbara and it was totally haunted,” she said. “The first thing that happened was the light came on one night, out of the blue, in my room. I hadn’t turned it on, my roommate hadn’t turned it on.”
Like many people who have such an encounter, Moon’s first response was fear. What was happening? Is it dangerous? What could she do? Luckily, a team of paranormal investigators from the Los Angeles area was more than willing to make the trip out to Santa Barbara to examine the house where Moon was staying.
“They came with their equipment and electronic recorders,” she said. “Mainly, it was the EVPs, the electronic voice phenomena, that confirmed something paranormal was going on there.”
Ghost catchers have used electronic voice phenomena for quite some time, and pointed to their existence as proof of disembodied spirits and the afterlife. Moon has posted Youtube.com videos relating her experiences with actual clips of her recorded EVPs.
“Sometimes it’s clear; sometimes it’s not clear. Sometimes it’s just breathing,” Moon said. “After a while, you get an ear for them and you can kind of tune in to what they are saying.”
This shred of proof is often not enough for skeptics. It definitely raised more questions for Moon. Who were these entities? Why were they here? What were they trying to say? So she plunged into the world of local ghost stories and paranormal research. She interviewed Ventura-based ghost hunter Richard Senate, who gave her some valuable information to help her understand what these entities are.
“From my understanding, and from Richard Senate’s research, ghosts are not just dead people. It’s more complicated than that,” Moon said. “There is a spirit body that exists, and that body has the potential to leave the physical body.”
This may inform another widespread anecdotal phenomenon, astral projection, better known as an “out-of-body experience.” A common thread that runs through these anecdotes is that they’re usually triggered by an intense emotion. This has led Moon to postulate that perhaps the entities are powerful emotional resonances of deceased people.
“What I’ve discovered in respect to the paranormal is that emotions are what keep people in this world,” she said. “I think a lot of these connotations with evil, negative, and the demonic have really been conjured up by Hollywood in order to make money.”
Perhaps the entities are feared because they’re misunderstood; such confusion can happen when logic is applied to an emotional situation. Moon believes that remaining open and engaging the spirits in an emotional way is the key to contact.
“I think I’m spiritually, on one level, a conduit, or a go between,” she said. “I am very sympathetic to them. My roommate who lived there never experienced anything. It’s like they were waiting for the right person to come along, like it was destiny.”
Along with the paranormal investigators, Moon invited a psychic to try to communicate with the spirits in her house. One of the most powerful and present entities, she explained, was that of a young boy they believed to be the victim of a brutal crime in the house.
“They are kind of stuck,” Moon explained. “His story was told; the psychic was able to speak to him, and we learned his story and he got it off his chest.
“As a writer, I have always been curious,” she continued, “and I wanted to solve the mystery, and we did; we solved the boy’s mystery, and he was released.”
If the boy’s spirit was tethered to our plane due to a traumatic experience, where did he go after Moon and her team listened to his story? To answer those questions, Moon looked to a much older paradigm in hopes of explaining her experiences as well as encounters other people have reported on the Central Coast.
For her book, Moon interviewed a member of the Chumash tribe about cosmology as well as legends regarding the spirits of ancestors.
Both the Santa Barbara and La Purisima missions are purportedly haunted, with many of those spirits belonging to the enslaved and tortured Chumash who died there, Moon’s source claimed. This would certainly serve the “emotional trace” hypothesis that Moon is keen on, but the some beliefs about the Central Coast could also explain why so many local spots are supposed to be haunted.
Moon explained that her source told a tale of life and reincarnation, and life after death, of a western gate to the afterlife at Point Conception—counterpoint to an eastern gate on the East Coast—where spirits enter and depart from North America.”
A spokesperson for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians told the Sun that a tribal historian said such tales were incorrect, but noted that there are numerous bands of Chumash. Indeed, the Point Conception idea seems to be a controversial one, with questions as to its exact origin.
Still, as a legend and romantic myth, if Point Conception is a gate for spirits to pass from this world into the next—in whatever belief or tradition—that would help explain the paranormal activity in the area, which Moon calls a “spiritual vortex.” The author doesn’t shy away from using old belief structures to explain these phenomena. She noted that Western, modern civilization’s view of death can be considered “primitive.”
Moon hopes to mature our outlook on death with her research by bringing old philosophies into the present and reframing them with some modern language.
“I think that it’s important to have a clear understanding of death,” she said. “From my perspective, we have done so much with technology. We’ve been to the moon and Mars, and we are so involved with [technology that] we are, in some ways, spiritually bankrupt.
“Other so-called ‘primitive’ cultures are actually very sophisticated in regard to astronomy and astrology and life after death,” she added.
There are stories of souls or spirits essentially bound for the heavens, literally the Milky Way. Souls lucky enough to make it to the other side were cleansed in the eternal light of the stars before being returned to Earth via the eastern gate across the country. Moon has used concepts such as other dimensions to explain these outlooks and phenomena. In the end, these questions almost always conjure up even more questions.
“Friends of mine have been to Gettysburg and they will see ghosts marching to war,” she said. “Where [do they] exist? From another time? It’s so much more complicated than we can understand.”
Trying to seriously dive into paranormal research is a slippery endeavor. Strange things are bound to happen whether you go looking for them, or not, as Moon discovered.
“The Cold Spring Tavern is a few hundred years old and there has been some activity there,” she said. “I actually got an EVP while I was there interviewing a person. During the interview, I heard a voice right next to me and it showed up on the recording.”
Other places didn’t give Moon the confirmation she was looking for. The Historic Santa Maria Inn—where Moon will be discussing and signing her book on Halloween—has long been the supposed haunt of several spirits, most famously the silent film actor Rudolph Valentino, who didn’t grace Moon with his presence when she stayed there.
“I stayed [at the Santa Maria Inn], but I didn’t really experience anything,” she said. “Some of these things could just be romantic legend, but I think some things have happened here that have scared people.”
A topic that relies so heavily on personal experience always has its share of detractors. Moon admits she wasn’t particularly interested in the paranormal until she experienced it for herself.
“I personally experienced it—that ‘oh my gosh, there is life after death!’” she said, “and that is huge!”
Moon hopes that through her book and research she has helped to map paranormal activity in a certain part of the world. She hopes it will also serve as a springboard to a more evolved, scientific approach to the paranormal.
“It’s this kind of new science that I am interested in,” she said. “This new science is something that is necessary along with the other sciences that are being developed.”
By describing unknown occurrences with more modern language, Moon hopes to help remove the fear of the paranormal that most people feel. She truly believes that most of the entities aren’t dangerous, but are looking to connect somehow with the living.
“I hope to always come from a positive place and not to scare people,” she said, “but to let people know that the door on death is not so final and that the supernatural exists and is out there and can be positive.”
Moon has used her experiences with the paranormal to inspire a new e-book series she’s currently working on. The fiction series features a paranormal detective who solves crimes with the help of spirits from the other side, similar to her experience with the spirit of the small boy.
“I don’t believe in coincidence,” she said. “I believe in cause and effect and that the powers of the universe align to make positive things happen.”
Contact Arts Editor Joe Payne at email@example.com.
CAUSE AND EFFECT: Avia Belle Moon shares clips of her Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP), which she claims are recordings of her communicating with spirits.
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