So I went to Sage Paracon in the end…
After much deliberation and belief that this year I wasn’t going to make it to Sage Paracon 2018, fate if you believe in that kind of thing, made it happen once again. That’s two years straight now where it has been my understanding that attending Sage Paracon and catching up with some of my good friends in the field was well and truly out of my grasp. However just as I thought that I would spend the day before my Birthday alone, a small voice in my head persuaded me to just drive up there.
So, as the rest of the UK began to wake up and grab that all important first cup of coffee, I fuelled up, told the Sat Nav where to take me and started my drive north up the M1 motorway. As I drove dialled my good friend Kerry Greenaway (hands free of course) from Parasearch Radio in order to touch base with her. After all Kerry and the team from Parasearch had been covering Sage this year broadcasting a few shows direct from the location. In fact they had done an awesome job already of capturing the event over the airwaves giving everyone who couldn’t make it a fantastic opportunity to experience a little of the event, even if they couldn’t attend. Check out the Parasearch YouTube channel and listen back to some of the guest speaker interviews during the run up to Sage and some of the interviews conducted whilst they were there during the weekend.
Heading back to where I used to live…
This year for me, driving to the location was a little like heading back in time to my early twenties. At that point in my life I lived and worked in Coventry and the girl I was seeing at the time, her mother not only had a keen interest in things paranormal, but also Coombe Abbey Hotel. So, the location itself sparked memories of my curiosity towards things paranormal from my early twenties. Regardless of my memories though, it is not difficult to comprehend how Coombe Abbey can inspire someone towards thoughts of ghosts and hauntings. The place literally gives off an air of history with a dash of gothic horror in places too.
Arrival and recognition of Coombe’s grandeur begins as you turn off the main road onto the driveway and see the building in the distance. I am pretty sure they make you drive at 5mph just to take in its wonder as you slowly approach too. Once parked up, you walk in through a courtyard that takes you over what can only seem like a moat. Then as you walk in the main entrance towards the reception desk the daylight vanishes and you feel that you’ve just stepped back to somewhere medieval. I am pretty sure that the receptionist asked me if she could help a good few times before I realised that I was being spoken too. The place has an atmosphere that distracts straight away with its beautiful historic nature. Certainly inspirational for any author sat within its walls.
Once I had the directions to where the Sage Paracon was on site I headed off confident and sure of myself, but was quickly distracted once again by Coombe’s grand staircase and abbey interior. I think I took a right instead of a left and ended up in some kind of conservatory, where a very nice waiter chap pointed me in the right direction.
Walking in on Barri Ghai…
If memory serves me well and apologies if it does not, but I believe that Sage Paracon was being held in the Court House. As I walked in I was directed by the staff member to the downstairs lecture hall. Before I knew it I was sat down and listening to a lecture by ‘Help My House Is Haunted’s’ Barri Ghai. Bearing in mind that the lecture was in full swing, it was easy to see that Barri was quite engaging with the audience and continued to tell us all about some of the stuff that didn’t make it into the TV episode. What was equally interesting was that Barri Ghai stated something, which I think is very important people to hear, especially those that watch a lot of the paranormal TV programmes currently out there. This is simply that the TV shows follow a format and in essence have to tell a story, they need that beginning, middle and an end. As many of us know that investigate the paranormal, often our nights investigations can become fragmented or contain many threads we attempt to follow. Usually the nights investigations will present us with more questions than answers and certainly don’t conclude in one visit. The format of paranormal TV shows is to tell us the story of the group investigating the location on that occasion and thus must follow a kind of structure, that eventually gives us a conclusion. If you got to the end of the episode and there was no reveal or opinion to conclude the nights activity, then the episode would leave you a little empty. It certainly wouldn’t have you coming back for the next episode, which is what the TV shows would like. As I am sure I have mentioned before; making these quick conclusions may not seem the correct approach, but I see a greater picture on this now. Paranormal TV shows are almost showcasing the locations and cases for investigators to visit and begin more detailed documentation of them. How many of you have investigated a particular location because you saw it on a TV show and wanted to investigate for yourselves?
Catching up with old friends…
As Barri Ghai’s lecture ended I headed back out to find MJ, Sage Paracon’s organiser and my para-sister. We bumped into each other in the main entrance area and hugged. I remember when I first met MJ at a Paracon in Derby, both of us lined up to speak and both of us a little nervous. I could tell then that nothing was going to hold MJ back and she would go on to great things in the field. Her charismatic enthusiasm and excitement is infectious, her thirst for taking on huge projects is inspiring and I am pretty sure that she never sleeps either. If I hadn’t gone to Sage Paracon last Sunday I really would have missed her, as it really had been too long.
After a brief catch up with MJ I headed upstairs to the stalls area to find a few more people. As I walked into the room most seemed engaged in conversation, so I headed over to see Dr Cal Cooper, my friend and fellow SPR member. It was fantastic to also see that an actual Parapsychologist (Cal will thank me for that) was present too. Once again showing how MJ listens to people and looks to include a diverse group of speakers.
However as I stood talking to Cal Cooper, I would be reminded of why Sage Paracon has become a little more than just a paranormal convention. It has become a family or a Sage Tribe. Whilst stood there I found myself embraced by Elizabeth Koert who I hadn’t seen in ages. Another character of Sage and another amazing friend I had made over the years of these things. Elizabeth has a fantastic photographic eye, so keep an eye out for her Sage Paracon 2018 photo’s on social media. I’m hoping that she will release a book of her paranormal related photo’s from around the world one day or at least send me a few for my wall. Please don’t kill me Elizabeth, but your photo’s are awesome.
It wouldn’t be very long before my presence at Sage Paracon 2018 would be completely announced by another friend, this time from the US and perhaps a voice some investigators may recognise too. As I stood talking to Cal Coop and Elizabeth Koert, Susan Cummins exclaimed ‘ASHLEY’ for the entire room to hear! It was great to see Susan again and I think that if it wasn’t for Sage Paracon I wouldn’t know Susan. Seem to remember her asking me loads of questions during my first Sage Paracon lecture a few years back now. Although I still think I manage to catch Susan out with my Cards Against Humanity choices lol.
You see that’s Sage Paracon in a nutshell really. It has become a little more than a paranormal convention where you can listen to a bunch of speakers from the field or from TV, it’s a place where like-minded people meet and chat over a topic that means something to them. It’s a place where your opinion is respected and it’s a place where friends become great friends, sometimes even a little like family.
Parapsychologist Cal Cooper steps up to talk…
My Sunday at Sage Paracon progressed really well from there on out. I sat in on Dr Cal Coopers lecture on Parapsychology, which from my own perspective was really good. Cal Cooper delivered something that was in my opinion ‘just right’ for the Sage Tribe audience. He covered off a lot about what Parapsychology is all about and also stressed the point that it’s actually something that many universities world-wide are now engaging in. The research that’s being conducted is very interesting too and something we should all keep an eye on moving forwards. Cal also delivers is lecture in quite an excitable manner showing that he is excited about what he does and certainly has a huge passion for it too. It was also great to see that Northampton University are exploring psi in such a big way, I am not going to call it the paranormal, as I am sure Dr Cooper will correct me on that one.
After Cal’s lecture I bumped into a few more friends that deserve a mention I feel. I am of course talking about Sam Mason and Jo Woolley. The quiet, but lovely ‘Sam I Am’ and the budding detective Jo; another pair of friends that I owe Sage for really. It was great to see you both and catch up with you too.
Time to be a roaming radio reporter…
Then my day went a little south, thanks to another great friend, my para-brother Carl Hutchinson. Throughout Sage Paracon Carl had been working closely with Kerry Greenaway to deliver the Parasearch Radio coverage of the event. However at this point Carl got me to connect with Kerry and before I knew I was live on Parasearch Radio, acting as their roaming reporter at Sage Paracon! Something I had not prepared for at all. So, please check out my on the fly presenting skills at the Parasearch Radio YouTube channel. On the plus side this roaming reporter stint had Kerry and I talking to a couple of the stall holders, including Paul Stevenson from Haunted Magazine. We also caught Cal Cooper on the stairs for a catch up, passed Elizabeth Koert to Kerry without letting her know she was live and caught up with MJ too. All of which came to a dramatic and well placed conclusion when I lost connection with the studio. Classic roaming reporter stuff right? Although very much on the fly, it was all good fun.
As we made our way through the afternoon, I caught Richard Estep’s lecture on becoming a paranormal writer. I actually found this lecture really useful and a little like a ‘kick up the ass’ too. I have a few projects for books that I am working on and he reminded me that there is really no reason why I shouldn’t get them finished and out there soon. So, keep an eye out as there will be some books coming soon. Who knows I might even see if I can get a publisher to pick them up. I also liked the idea of Richard Estep’s Haunted Hospitals book too, as I have spoken to a few people in elderly care that have reports on such things and attended a lecture by Alejandro Parra at the SPR too where they have conducted research into this area. It’s not just about haunted hospitals, it has a few more possibilities than that.
Unfortunately I had missed lectures by some of the other guest speakers such as Katrina Weidman, Karen A Dahlman, Aaron Sagers, Chris Flemming and MJ herself. However I did catch the tail end of one of Barrie John’s where he attempted what Cal Cooper dubbed ‘speed-reading’, which was interesting. I believe that Barrie and Cal are old friends and from my brief meeting with Barrie, he certainly was a lovely guy. It still fascinates me what he can do in regards to mediumship.
Round table time and a little tradition…
As we approached the end of the day, the remaining speakers gathered in the lecture room for a brief round table session with us all. Although there were a few questions back and forth, what was humbling was that both speakers and those in the audience recognised the intimate nature of Sage Paracon. Rather than it being speakers and the ticket buying audience, it was a group of friends that were present and what followed in that round table session is something that I think I will leave in the memories of those present. We were a group of friends having a chat and that’s all I am saying.
Sage Paracon should really have ended there and in a way it did, but as many were friends and this would be the last night together; well it wouldn’t be Sage without one last drink and Cards Against Humanity would it. Sage Tribe Tradition is very important after all.
As midnight drew close, yes midnight! Our game came to an end and as those at Coombe were heading out to their rooms and me off home, friends decided that allowing me to go before marking my birthday wouldn’t be right. I don’t know if they remembered, Facebook reminded them or Jo Woolley (the only person I mentioned it to) spread the word to MJ, but just like good friends and indeed family do, they all sang me ‘Happy Birthday’! It was really humbling and I did manage to hold it together too. So, thank you all that were present there, that sang to me and celebrated the first few minutes of my day with me. Once again this is a true reminder of why Sage Paracon is a little more than just simply a paranormal convention. It really is a family atmosphere, a tribe that now has members from the world over. Often friendships in our lives are unexpected, there is always those few people that we wonder how we really became friends. There are those I have met at Sage that have become such friends. I know that it doesn’t matter where my own paranormal or psi research journey takes me, they will be friends or perhaps a para-family for life.