The Country Squire Inn has seen a number of strange things in its time. There was a botched amateur sex-change operation in one of its rooms. A murdered girl was last seen there. It makes me want to infiltrate the staff and listen to their stories. Hotel staff are gold mines for the macabre.
We knew we had truly arrived at The Paranormal Symposium when we were directed to go through the sparkly purple curtain to access the event:
To me, the place made me feel as though I had stepped into the early 1990s. Back then, I knew a number of people who believed in the power of pyramids, semi-precious stones, and otherworldly emissaries. Because I have grown up and changed since that period of my life, I suppose I had expected there to be some change in baubles sold alongside talk of past life regression, channelling, and the vibration of stones.
It hasn't changed, and I found it vaguely embarrassing to witness.
The exhibition floor decorations gave The Paranormal Symposium a Christmas-y, wedding-ish, Halloween-esque air:
This is probably partly what put me off. I'm not a fan of Christmas, weddings, or Halloween.
There were ceramic castles lit blue from within, laughing Buddhas hoisting glass globes dancing with electric shocks above their heads, sculptures of angels with perfect human bodies, miniature quartz fountains glowing orange, alien head candy dispensers, children's music shakers sold as aura cleansers, Kirlian photography of the paw of a St. Bernard, and sparkly, purple baby dragons bursting out of sparkly, purple eggs as though terrifying mythical beasts re-envisioned as cartoon infants have anything whatsoever to do with the paranormal or metaphysical state of our place in the universe.
It smacks of a strong reversion to childish things, not just a sense of curiosity and wonder, which is a gift, but to a completely uncultivated magnetism to schtick.
I really do believe that the universe is a fascinating place with more going on in it for everyone than what we can slap with our hands, but the weird magic store baubles and games kill the suspension of disbelief.
I have a vivid imagination, and I can follow along with your stories of how your metal filings encased in a polymer breast can create blue sky holes in government airplane contrails, but that you're selling your stock out of a repurposed kitty litter bucket that declares its litter to be purr-fect, and that it is a cheap kind of litter that is known to physically damage your cat, makes me lose interest in the thread of our conversation. I start to doubt that you really believe what you're saying when you don't honour the objects you say have so much power.
We went to a talk on past life regression, which I am really neither here nor there about. Maybe I have been alive before. Maybe there are ongoing themes that string a succession of lives together. Maybe not. It seems, though, that what people are working out by looking at the overarching storylines of their many lives is a more objective reflection on this one. Whether past life regression points at anything actual or not, it has practical application.
Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
We decided to grab something to eat in the hotel lounge, but to get from the exhibition floor to the lounge without looping around the outside of the building, we had to go through a series of back rooms filled with maintenance tools and empty liquor bottles. This is why I like visiting small towns. There is funny intimacy that is allowed here, a bit of exposed belly that ushers you in.
We ate and decompressed:
We noted the classy decor:
A teddy bear with a giant penis! Complete with pubic hair!
We braved our way back onto the exhibition floor:
We learned about orbs:
We dipped into the Supernatural Discovery Theatre, which was a maintenance workshop converted with swathes of plastic sheeting and stacking chairs, where a man zigzagged back and forth in front of the projection talking on his cell phone. We couldn't have watched for long, anyway. The video wasn't in English, and the subtitles were cut off at the bottom of the screen.
And then it was time to go:
I felt grim on the way home. I'm an introvert who loves people but feels bled dry after being around too many of them for too long, and the cheez of cheap crap mixed with hopeful earnestness had me feeling critical. I need to recharge in a quiet room with words and a cup of good coffee.
Would I go again? Maybe, but I would avoid the sales tables and maybe just attend a talk or two and the evening seance. I've never been to a seance.
But, because I can be a judgy asshole with an attitude problem, if there was any hint of a sparkly purple curtain or cutesy warlock figurines, I'd be out of there.
[Edited to add: I think I would be remiss not to mention that I have been known to see colours around people, detect illness, and know things about people without having been told about them. I am not a wholesale disbeliever and critic of the paranormal. I do, however, have a nose for bullshit.]
If you want to be believed, if you have an important message that you would like to get across, Kirlean photographs of your St. Bernard's feet, selling your stock out of kitty litter buckets, or bringing along your collection of appropriately themed stuffed animals won't lend creedence to your story. I'm just saying.