Given the popularity and depictions of "paranormal and supernatural phenomena" in movies and TV, one of the world's foremost scientific experts on writing paranormal and supernatural phenomena explains how his expertise assists filmmakers and writers. Portions of this article were originally published for the Writers Guild of America Journal in February 1993 and is posted here with permission of the author.
By Mark Stemper and Toni Osborne
You’re a writer and the story you’re working on calls for you to describe, in detail, a paranormal or supernatural phenomenon with a jaw-dropping new perspective. Whether it’s a possession, acts of sorcery or witchcraft, an alien abduction, some type of psychic phenomena, a creature attack, or a poltergeist, you know this is a crucial element of your story so you want to be certain it is not only riveting, but also as realistic and authentic as possible. With only the mundane resources found in traditional literature, much of it redundant revisiting of the same old outdated schools-of-thought or the exceedingly questionable content found online, you lack the resources and access to credible, authentic information and refreshingly different research in this area.
So, who do you call to get that pivotal story-making information? The world’s top expert of course! That being Christopher Chacon.
Chacon is one of the world’s foremost authorities on paranormal, supernatural and anomalous phenomena, as well as the occult and metaphysics. A world-renowned Anomalist, UFOlogist and one of the few remaining Parapsychologists, in addition to having conducted thousands upon thousands of scientific investigations around the world, he has participated on countless expeditions and research projects. With almost forty years of experience traveling the world investigating and researching every type of phenomena imaginable, Chacon brings with him a massive and incomparable array of knowledge and experience.
As a result, he has perfected a one-of-a-kind hybrid multi-disciplinary approach that allows him a perspective into these phenomena that is unparalleled. His credibility and reputation, along with his methods and strict requirements for client-confidentiality (notoriously selective in taking on new clients that must adhere to a special criteria), has placed him in the highest demand, receiving thousands of requests each year. His clients come from every corner of the world and include, everyday people, government agencies, academic institutions, corporations and religious institutions.
When talking to Chacon about the sheer volumes of data and research he has documented and collected, a lot of it revelatory in nature, he references some of the analysis done while at the scientific think-tank where he was trained as an Anomalist
”Of the thousands of cases investigated when I was there, approximately 70–80% of them were determined to have rational explanations. That left us with some 20–30% that were determined to be ‘true anomalous phenomena’ that defied the known laws of nature and physics and had to be categorized as 'inconclusive' since it could not be defined even by our advanced scientific methods of investigating.”
Chacon goes on to describe the methods of investigating:
”We were trained on a very unique all-encompassing method of scientific investigation unlike anything I’ve ever heard of which took into account the 'observer effect' and 'observational bias' and how that can affect not only the results of the data, but the phenomena itself. They utilized a variety of high-tech methods in controlling those factors. Those methods were complimented by strict procedural protocols while utilizing state-of-the-art technology, a lot of it prototype and next-generation.”
Though Chacon is no longer with the scientific organization, he still applies the methods (as well as others from specialized and alternative disciplines) in the cases he now takes-on to first rule out all rational explanations (psychological, physiological, environmental and circumstantial/situational which includes hoaxes) before ever engaging in a case.
In addition to his unequaled expertise as a multi-disciplinary specialist, Chacon has a long-time background as a Magician/Illusionist performing professionally long before he ever got into investigating phenomena. He also spent decades traveling, studying and researching metaphysical and occult practices and beliefs, including those that are so ancient and arcane no written record exists on them.
Glancing over a few of the thousands of cases Chacon has investigated in every corner of the world, it becomes quite apparent that he has had experiences that few could hardly imagine. Some of the reported phenomena include reanimated corpses, all types of possessions, poltergeists and haunts (yes there are actually many types), alien/close encounters, divine-encounters from miracle-healings to stigmata, encounters with strange and unknown life-forms (cryptids), all types of psychic phenomena from precognition to remote viewing, all manner of anomalies from raining worms to distortions in space/time, witchcraft/sorcery and curses, and the list goes on and on.
When asked what is the most extraordinary phenomenon he has ever experienced in his almost 40 years, Chacon replied, “That is a tough question to answer for a lot of reasons, especially since each phenomena seems to be different in its own way, depending on the circumstances, individuals involved (if any) and the dynamics of the phenomenon itself.”
After he quickly described a dozen cases that were indeed extraordinary, Chacon raced through a laundry list of injuries he incurred from his many years in the field, including broken bones, internal injuries, being burned, bitten and slashed, electrocuted and asphyxiated just to name a few.
When asked what were the most terrifying or frightening phenomena he’s dealt with, he replied, “I’m very rarely ever afraid of the phenomenon I’m dealing with no matter how volatile it is. I believe there are a few reasons for that. But what does affect me is the degree of trauma that my clients go through, especially children, often experiencing severe PTSD. I can’t imagine anyone walking away and not being affected by the degree and types of trauma and suffering they encounter.” This is especially true for the cases of possession that Chacon has dealt with, having participated on over a thousand around the world.
Chacon states that one of the most common mistakes made when dealing with phenomena is either the misinterpretation of it or the rush to define it, often resulting in misdiagnosis.
“How we interpret a phenomena and/or situation can play a huge part in dealing with it. Just as a psychotherapist must be self-aware of the dynamics of counter-transference and mindful of their own experiences and beliefs, so must any professional who is directly dealing with clients and a phenomenon. For example, what might be considered evil or demonic to one person could very well be benevolent and benign to another, the product of a type of cognitive distortion that can result in misinterpretations. I can’t count the number of clients/cases I’ve been referred (whether by other experts or lay-people), that were labeled, defined or diagnosed as a specific type of phenomena, only to find that the situation and/or the phenomena is something entirely different. That goes for both rationally explainable cases and those with real phenomena.”
This is another reason why Chacon’s methods are superior and ideal for taking into consideration the unlimited possibilities of each situation and phenomena.
Having worked with a wide range of writers, as well as directors and producers, Chacon’s involvement ranges from being a creative consulting/technical advising on film/TV projects to full-on collaboration, from inception to co-writing. While Chacon has at his disposal a compendium of case files scientifically documenting actual phenomena by which stories can be based on or inspired by, he also brings with him a invaluable wealth of experiences, research and perspectives that can be used to create gripping stories or enhance existing ones that deal with the paranormal.
When asked what is one of the aspects that most surprises the writers that he works with, Chacon replied, “There are quite a few, but one for certain would be the realization of how many fallacies and inaccuracies exist regarding the majority of commonly known phenomena.”
Having investigated and researched thousands of phenomena around the world, in almost every imaginable culture and setting, with state-of-the-art technology, advanced scientific methods and elite scientific professionals, Chacon offers an extraordinary one-of-a-kind perspective into all manner of phenomena that is without compare. He continues:
“From poltergeists to reincarnation to alien abductions, and everything in between, there is an overwhelming disparity between what the majority of people believe and what the actual documented findings are. For the most part, the fallacies and inaccuracies of phenomena are a product of misinterpretations, disinformation and fabrications being perpetuated in cultures, belief systems (religious or otherwise), literature and the many forms of media and entertainment. The creation of the Internet has served greatly to help propagate these fallacies and inaccuracies. Over the course of time and in the absence of accurate information and true research, these inaccuracies have become the foundation for many common beliefs on the origins and mechanics of these phenomena and unfortunately have been accepted as conventional wisdom.”
Chacon emphasizes that maintaining the “rules” of the phenomenon in any story is pivotal in sustaining the world that your story takes place. Chacon says, “Continuity of ‘phenomenon’ is just as important as continuity of story, since the two go hand in hand. In maintaining credibility and accuracy in any supernatural/paranormal story, it usually comes down to one or both of two specific story aspects: the phenomenon and the reaction to it.”
He points out that even if a phenomenon is depicted accurately in a TV series or film, because of the need for drama and to accommodate story structure, the reaction or method of dealing with the phenomenon is rarely accurate. Chacon admits, “Unless its a documentary, flexibility with these two aspects is a given, since the objective at the end of the day is to entertain.”
According to Chacon, some movies do an exceptional job at depicting both quite well, like in the cases of The Exorcist, the original Poltergeist and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Furthermore, Chacon notes how Paranormal Activity created the illusion that we were watching home movies which inadvertently introduced a subliminal psychodynamic into the movie-going experience, affecting audiences more organically. Ironically enough, the movie itself bears a resemblance to thousands of hours of footage that Chacon has been receiving from people from all over the world since the early 1990’s who all claim to be experiencing some manner of phenomena.
The combination of Chacon’s remarkable background and experiences and his comprehensive perspectives on phenomena, from scientific to ancient occult/metaphysical belief systems, makes him ideally suited for all types of film and TV projects, from a realistic grounded scientific take to a period horror fantasy. Whether dealing with close encounter/alien phenomena, demonic possessions, psychic phenomena, sorcery and witchcraft or near death experiences, his extensive expertise allows him refreshing and innovative new perspectives into whatever the phenomena might be. With a reputation and credibility that is beyond compare in the world of the paranormal, he is often brought-in by other writers, directors, producers and studio/network executives for collaboration or to just pick his brain.
Recognized by movie studios as one of the world’s top authorities on the paranormal and supernatural, he has been utilized for such movies as Paranormal Activity (and its entire franchise), The Exorcist and Poltergeist. In addition to his unequalled knowledge of all things paranormal, supernatural and unexplainable, Chacon is also an accomplished writer, producer and director in his own right.
In fact, the co-creator of Ghostbusters himself, Dan Aykroyd, an aficionado of the paranormal, was so taken by Chacon’s unparalleled background and expertise, as well as his craftsmanship as a writer, partnered with him for the paranormal-drama TV series, PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal, an acclaimed international hit.
More recently, Chacon’s outside-the-box thinking, vast knowledge and unprecedented access to extremely rare supernatural/occult materials made him the ideal Creative Consultant/Technical Advisor for the NBC TV series Constantine working intimately with the showrunner, producers and writers.
Chacon’s real-world insights into the paranormal and supernatural come from thousands of cases and decades of investigations, expeditions and research from all over the world. He has participated on research projects at some of the most extraordinary places including the legendary Area 51, a secret Amazonian tribal village and a classified Vatican high-tech research lab, just to name a few.
As he continues to take on clients, cases, expeditions and research projects of every type his prowess continues to grow offering even more creative possibilities to anyone he might collaborate with. So in this day and age where the demand for “realism” is greater than ever, Chacon can add a powerful, authentic and compelling dimension to any film and TV creation that takes place in the ever-fascinating and mysterious world of the paranormal and supernatural.
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