Show no fear: Documentary explores the paranormal
Editor's note: The existence of the creatures and energies mentioned in the following article are the subject of debate. All claims of spiritual or paranormal activity are made by the subject, not by the editor. See box for clarification of terms.
When author/filmmaker Jill Marie Morris was two years old her paternal grandfather came to her and told her a secret. She repeated this secret to her grandmother, who was shocked that Morris could have this information, considering her grandfather died six months prior to this encounter.
"207" is the name of Morris's documentary film about paranormal activity in Watervliet, N.Y. and the surrounding area. "207" blends Morris's own story of encounters with the supernatural (specifically, a demonic possession which led to her former husband's attempted murder of her and her son, and his own suicide), with historical facts about tragedies in the area including sixteen suicides.
She said she is making the documentary "to raise awareness that the history, the spiritual world, merge together to affect one another in the environment. People don't realize that there is a deep history in Watervliet."
"207" was also the name of Morris's first book, which detailed her time spent at 207 19th Street, Watervliet, N.Y. The film will include flashbacks to that time, but will be centrally focused on the content of her second book: "Saints, Sinners, and Sacred Ground," a historical survey of paranormal activity in upstate N.Y. which is set to be released in April 2013.
"All of these people having similar experiences in a small area and we're talking pretty intense things," Morris said. "I've done a lot of investigative research it's drawing the line where coincidence no longer applies."
The film includes interviews with several of the area's residents, from all walks of life: Young, old, men, women, clergy, firefighters, homemakers, police officers and other residents who have made claims of encountering the paranormal.
Morris sees a problem with the way that the spiritual world is portrayed in modern media.
"The more I deal with this," she said. "I think movies like "Paranormal Activity" are, entertainment value wise, excellent. But there's a fine line between the paranormal (which exists) versus the horror industry, which is the entertainment."
Morris stressed that she has gone out of her way to make sure there are no sensationalized elements to the story she tells. That it is the most accurate account of activity in the area possible.
"There's no need to fictionalize it, it's scary enough on its own," she said. "It's going to be intense. This isn't sensationalized. This is timelines, this is history."
Additionally, Morris warns that there are consequences to portraying ghost hunting or demonology on TV. Problems that involve both the spiritual world, and the law. People who go out in search of ghosts or seek to cleanse demons from their homes without proper training risk making the situation worse, said Morris. And those who would go into tombs or abandoned buildings to find spirits also risk running afoul of the law, by investigating in areas without permission from the landowners. She added that her team always goes through proper channels to get permission to investigate.
When she isn't busy with her creative work, marketing job, or her family life, Morris works as a medium to help detect spirits in area and clear negative energy. She refuses to charge for her services, but accepts donations to help fund "207."
"I do that because I feel that I've been given a gift that I've had all my life," she said. "You can't put a price value on that."
Morris advises that if someone finds themselves in a paranormal situation that they keep these tips in mind: "Show no fear do not mimic what you see in movies, because you will make it worse it's best to keep everybody calm, just give them tools for self-empowerment (and) there are no guarantees (in cleansings), if someone is guaranteeing you something. Don't talk to them."
The most important tip she had was to find an actual demonologist.
"Somebody may say they are a demonologist, but to handle these things you need someone who is educated and trained or someone who has a good, strong working knowledge of how these things work," she cautioned, adding that she was not a demonologist.
The Kickstarter for "207" ends on Nov. 9, but Morris won't stop if it doesn't reach its goal by then.
"Even if we don't reach our funding goal, we're still going to do this, it's going to take longer," she said.
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