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  The average investigator knows what a "trigger object" is. The use of something physical to elicit a response from spirit is a now-widely used method in the field.

  Similar in thought to the Singapore Method (where audible cues are used to establish a familiar environment), using a trigger object springs from the supposition that said object will have some meaning to the spirit the investigator wishes to connect with. That meaning can either be positive or negative, but the hopes of a post mortem emotional response is the goal. But what if you don't know what item to use?

The key here is the tapping of emotions. In the absence of a physical body, we still believe spirit carries with it a personality - complete with emotions and responses comparable to the ones they displayed in life. Where an item is very specific, an emotion can be broad and general, brought on by many possible causes. Enter the TRIGGER EVENT.


"Trigger Events"

The Retrial of Lizzie Borden

  For three consecutive years beginning in 2014, I hosted a gathering at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast each August, shortly after the anniversary of the infamous double murders. I dubbed them, "The Retrial of Lizzie Borden" and they were my first attempts at Trigger Events.


  With a place such as the Lizzie Borden House, that sees countless tourists each year, all asking similar questions, one could guess that paranormal activity was typically pretty high. But was it focused?

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  It's been put forward (by me, amongst others) that the entities answering questions there are no longer the infamous former occupants, but other spirits sustaining themselves with the steady attention given the location. "Lizzie", "Andrew", "Emma" and others may respond, but may not have any truth to pass on because it is not their truth to give. Would it be possible to cut through the proverbial static and actually reach the personalities we were looking to speak to? If so, how?

  That is where the Retrial came in. More than merely a publicity stunt, it was a way to get the attendees emotionally involved by giving them stakes. Half were assigned to the Prosecution team, the other half to the Defense. Upon arrival, the teams were given all the materials actually used in the real Lizzie Borden murder trial - the testimonies, the reports, as well as forensic items. They were then given two hours to build a case for their side. The de facto opposition tapped into the competitive nature within us all - which was the first half of the trigger.

  The proposed second half of the trigger was the hope that the emotional involvement of the attendees would provide sufficient energy of a specific signature to attract the genuine personalities assumed to already be in the house.

  In addition to the trial materials provided, the tour guides at the house took on the roles of Lizzie, Emma, Bridget Sullivan, and John Morse; so that if needed, they could be called to the stand to be cross-examined and offer further testimony. Myself, and fellow SCARED! investigator Chris Mancuso, served as the judges during the trial.

  Two hours were then given to the trial itself, complete with opening and closing statements, objections, over-rulings and procedures meant to be as accurate as possible.

  Again referring to the Singapore Method, if a song could possibly call in a temporally-anchored spirit, then what would a full trial reenactment do?


  After the trial wrapped, the traditional investigation began. It was observed that on each of the three investigations during the three consecutive years, the activity seemed to be heightened. While evidence is never guaranteed, the confidence level of the attendees was high, and the trial itself seemed to "pre-heat" the oven, metaphorically speaking. The first method attempted was an EVP session, to which an immediate answer was given on the first question, followed by interactions with several REM pods as well as guests themselves. Each room and floor offered something of interest, and no area seemed "dead".

  Of course, it can be argued that the bit of theater made the attendees open to suggestion, and that the things experienced afterwards were a side effect of their intentions to come away with some proof. After the first year, the event gained some notoriety and the expectations were higher each time. Lizzie was acquitted all three times, and we are still no closer to discovering the truth of the case. However, it did demonstrate how investigators in tune with each other, and acting as one unit (even if on opposite sides of a legality), can improve their results.

Prison Lockdowns

  Another suitable type of location to try a Trigger Event is a prison. They are obvious sets to hold your production and come ready-made to dig out genuine emotions from your attendees.

  At the Burlington County Prison Museum, in Mount Holly, NJ I greeted the attendees as a warden would prisoners. The showers and de-lousing procedures were skipped, but I did confiscate all phones and promptly ushered each "guest" into their own cell.

  They smiled and giggled and thought it was quite the fun adventure - until I bellowed, "LIGHTS OUT!" and shut off all the power in the building. Everyone was spread out in different sections and cell blocks to increase the feeling of isolation. At first there was a bit of chatter, but it was met by silence. I did not respond, nor did I tell anyone how long they would be in their cell. I chose a ten minute period to ignore them and allow the confusion and despair to set in.

  Recently, I did this on a larger scale at Ohio State Reformatory and even enlisted the help of some of the staff to act as guards. They all played their parts perfectly. I could even hear some whimpers as the heavy gates slammed shut.

  Aware of the trigger event concept, some attendees at OSR even went so far as to assume the roles of prisoners themselves, allowing the residual energies of those who had been incarcerated there over the years to find a way across.

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"Somewhere in Time"

  This variant came from the mind of Dustin Pari. He and I have worked well together in recent years and share many opinions about the paranormal. One night at an investigation at a historical site, he and I donned Revolutionary War coats. Partially because they fit so well, but more as a way to embody the past while trying to contact someone from it. 

  That's when he told me he wanted to try an entire evening of dress-up to try and make spirits feel more at home. This very special Trigger Event took place at the Merchants and Drovers Tavern Museum in

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Rahway, NJ. The hosts, staff, and attendees all got dressed up in the threads of different time periods, and did their level best to stay in character. Instead of picking a specific era, I modified the original idea to allow for any and all, to welcome any discarnate entities to our gathering. That, and it made it easier for those who might not have 1700's apparel lying around!

  The night was one of experimentation all around, as we presented different methods of making contact from both the old and new schools.

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  There are many different avenues to explore under the heading of Trigger Events. As far as methodology goes, the particulars are open to experimentation but in order to compare results over the long term, solid anchors need to be established.

  When too many variables are introduced, it becomes difficult to isolate what, if anything, was producing results, or changing perspectives. Be imaginative, yet frugal.

  In each method described above, the intent was to create an atmosphere that would allow for better communication. The "trigger" wasn't always for the spirits, but often for the living. It deserves to be mentioned that a big component of the Trigger Event is empathy.

  •   During the Retrials, attendees got to experience the tug-of-war of opinions versus evidence, and hopefully could relate to the various personalities on both sides of the case. The stakes of a two-hour trial were nil, yet saw all involved invested as if their futures hung in the balance. That ownership of the situation seemed to allow for stronger connections with spirit.

  •   When being locked alone inside a jail cell, the result is the same. The individual knows they will not be there for long, but not knowing exactly how long is unnerving. Being separated from social media and other people is rare these days - it is a shock I counted on. The only connection left is that with the past and the immediate surroundings. When it comes to prisons, those tend to skew darker, so do beware when employing this method.

  •   With the cosplay cover of Somewhere in Time, the focus was on creating a welcoming atmosphere. It's not always easy for people to step outside of their comfort zone and dress in costume. When a gathering all does so, a fellowship is formed and that can set the stage for positive communication. Whereas the prior examples were about active attempts to foster a connection, this was a passive way of figuratively leaving the door open.

  In all cases, the constant was the observer, yet they too were an X factor, since their perceptions were pushed to areas often unexamined. The Trigger Event is as much a way of retraining the investigator as it is a means to improve communication with spirit.

#PARALOSOPHY and Psychic Projection Experiment ™ & © Brian J. Cano

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