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published Uptown Express, Oct. 1990
If you have an appointment for a counseling session with the Reverend Eleanor Button or hypnotherapist Sandee Mac, don't say you have a problem that haunts you unless you mean it. Part of the work that each of these women does is popularly called "ghostbusting," more formally exorcism--but these pros prefer the term "rescue work."
Sandee MacEachern, known to most simply as Sandee Mac, is a tall, lovely woman with auburn hair smoothed sleekly back from her face, fashionably dressed for a day of business. Sandee's 15-year career as a hypnotherapist has earned for her a national reputation. Using Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), she helps people who want to rid their lives of unwanted habit patterns, such as smoking or overeating or anything that disrupts the quality of their lives. But some time in the course of her day, someone will say, "I don't know what got into me," and their meaning will be quite literal.
At The Chapel of Prayer on a sunny Sunday afternoon, the Reverend Eleanor Button settles down after presiding at a wedding to talk about her experiences with haunted buildings. Members of her congregation frequently call her Mother Button, even Ma Button. No pointy ears or bald head, but the petite septuagenarian's large, clear, blue eyes holding kindness and wisdom in a face lined with the experience of her years immediately calls to mind the diminutive Yoda, the master teacher in the film The Empire Strikes Back. The resemblance is striking.
"That's a very small part of what I'm doing," she explains pleasantly. The small part of which she speaks is her work with ghosts, and what's she's doing is a busy ministry with all its attendant duties, including teaching classes several days a week. "When it comes to this time of the year that comes up," she says, referring to the Halloween season interest in ghostly activity. "And I think, too," she continues, "the picture Ghost brought a lot of this along because a lot of what she went through is mainly what we go through, too, in a sense."
What the rest of us call a ghost, Mac and Button call a discarnate entity. Discarnate entities, they say, are quite common phenomena. "And the interesting thing," says Mac, "is that all of the traditional cultures--American Indians, the Aborigines of Australia, most of the tribes in Africa--almost all the simple and traditional cultures had procedures and techniques where they were able to deal with discarnate entities or ghosts or spirits. However I think it's kind of curious that because we're such a civilized culture now and so advanced and scientific that we don't have any way of fitting that into our model of reality."
Even though her study of the broad subject of spirituality has spanned decades, Eleanor Button's "career" as a ghostbuster began only about ten years ago. A young writer interested in ghosts asked Rev. Button and a friend to accompany her on a tour of places in Houston that had reported hauntings. One of their stops was a library that was said to be haunted by the old caretaker who, for many years, made nightly rounds with his dog, checking entrances and grounds to make certain all was secure for the night.
"They were asking us to pick up why we felt that he was still there," Rev. Button says. "What I picked up at the time was that I felt he was there protecting the books because he had been there so long that that was still part of his life." She displays a Polaroid snapshot of the library ghost showing a translucent figure descending a wide staircase.
Following her survey of the library's ghost, she was called to investigate other hauntings, such as the strange goings on that had frightened a secretary at the old George Kirby mansion. The Houston Post picked up the story, and in 1984 Rev. Button was featured in its Sunday magazine, labeling her a "ghostbuster." "They really teased me at work," she says, referring to Shell Oil Company where she worked for 19 years until her retirement in 1986. Only a few of her coworkers had known she was a minister, and none had known about her work with spirits.
Rev. Button explains that ghosts sometimes have the appearance of wearing a white veil because of what she calls ectoplasm. "A lot of times they will try to manifest a form so that it can be seen," she says. "Especially if there's a large group of people that can pull a lot of energy in, we can bring it in in that ectoplasmic state, or they may be just strong enough in that in-between world where they can manifest themselves so that people can see them in order to get help. They may want to get out of that area but don't know how."
This is where the rescue work comes in. Unlike the ghostbusters of movie fame, neither Eleanor Button nor Sandee Mac is trying to defeat the ghosts in some sort of other-worldly duel. In Canada and England, Mac relates, what was once called exorcism is now called rescue work. "Which I think is a much nicer name," she says, "because you really are helping this lost soul to cross on over."
Playing Moses to a host of earthbound spirits may be work that just "happens along," but Sandee Mac and Eleanor Button have each, in her own way, prepared for their work with years of study and training.
Mac, who makes no claim to psychic abilities, states that she is not clairvoyant and does not see spirits. Eleanor Button, whose late husband is said to have been born with a psychic gift, says she has developed some abilities through 35 years of study, training, and practice. Both women seem to have reached their status and reputation in a very down-to-earth way--hard work and determination.
Nearly all ghostly communications require the services of a medium, someone who purportedly lends their body to the ghost as a means to communicate with the physical world. Mac always uses another person as a medium, usually someone directly affected by the haunting. This leaves her personally free to talk with the ghost or entity and convince them to be on their way.
Acting, herself, as a medium for the departed soul, Rev. Button depends on others present to converse with the spirit who will speak through her. She instructs everyone in their role in the communication. Their job is to inform the ghost that they are dead, that times have changed, and that they have a better place to be now that they've left their physical body behind. "They need help to go to the tunnel and to the light," she explains, "and so I will allow some of these characters, so to speak, to use me as an instrument to come in."
Both Mac and Button use prayer and call upon angels and other spiritual entities to protect everyone present during any attempt to communicate with ghosts. They repeatedly emphasize the importance of protection when anyone attempts to communicate with discarnate entities.
Rev. Button has no standard ritual for rescuing spirits. "Mainly it's going into the area in which the ghost might be," she explains, "and feeling it and sensing it and start working with it, putting out prayers, putting out positive thinking, and explaining to the individual or individuals that they need to go on, talking to them and letting them know that they can go to a better place."
Sandee Mac's method is more formalized, using a combination of several old techniques as well as some fairly traditional Christian procedures. "There are at least seven cases in the Bible of Christ casting out unclean spirits," she says, "and each one of those experiences was a teaching for his disciples of a different type of procedure that was necessary for the releasing of these energies."
For do-it-yourselfers, Mac recommends a book titled Spiritual Cleansing by Draja Mickharic. "It's sort of a layman's guide to clearing things, and it contains a lot of folk remedies that have a lot of validity," she explains, "but my personal thinking is rather than just run them off, it's much better to create a force field of light, perhaps involve some of the angels, and help them actually go on across so they can be with their own people and go on into the light, instead of just running them off to the neighbors."
Using her skills as a hypnotist, when checking for possibilities of hauntings, Mac guides the person who suspects he is being affected into a trance state to "check with his unconscious." She uses a ritual of protection, she says, to secure everyone present from harm, and then gives the ghost a voice through the medium of the person who is in trance. "I find out who they are, how long they've been there, what they're doing to that person, and in many cases determine whether they're even aware they're dead."
Button and Mac both say that ghosts typically do not understand that they are dead. "Ninety percent of the entities or ghosts are what I call just plain old every day garden variety," says Mac. "They're not some evil, demonic, horrible thing that's going to have green pea soup all over the office." The average person, she says, is not likely to come in contact with what she terms a non-negotiable ghost.
"They really just are lost," Mac states. "They don't know where they are, they don't know what they're doing, and they don't know what they're doing is out of alignment, and they need some help crossing on over. No matter how mean and nasty they are, to me that's just a measure of how frightened they are. So if you don't go in there trying to do battle, and you go in there with a lot of compassion and love, you're going to get a lot further along than if you go in and try to scare the daylights out of everybody on the block."
One of the devices Mac uses in her ghost negotiations is to ask them to remember someone in their lives who loved them very much, "someone who will help them in their crossing."
"What's really sad," she muses quietly, "is there are a lot of times entities who cannot think of or have had no experience of anyone ever loving them. That's really sad to think that they had such a really unhappy lifetime that they can't think of anyone that loved them, and they're going to be coming from a lot of fear and confusion." Mac does not give up on the unloved ghosts, though. She will inquire about pets that may have meant a lot to them. "One person," she relates, "had a little rabbit that they loved. They were able to see it on the other side, so they were willing to go on up."
Rev. Button believes that some souls are grounded in their effort to "take it with them." Some people, she says, are so attached to their money or possessions that they actually choose to remain on the "lower levels."
"But you can choose to lift yourself out of that and come up if you want. And that's where we can help them if they choose to leave that."
According to these experts, ghosts can come singly or in groups of as many as several hundred or more. About a year ago Mac was contacted by the management of a senior citizens residential facility in Galveston. Previously, the structure had been an old hotel and had been completely remodeled and refurbished to suit the needs of its new function. Several of the residents had complained of "weird things going on," and a few had refused to sleep in the building until something was done. There had been trouble during construction, too.
Using one of the facility's management staff as a medium, Mac states she learned of 12 different entities who were affecting the property. One was a gambler whose appearance in a mirror had frightened a staff member. There were also those, including several children, who had perished in the great hurricane of 1900. "One of them was so ornery," she declares, "that he had driven one of the people that was in the construction crew to suicide and someone else had fallen from some scaffolding and died."
Like any good negotiator, when Mac finds herself dealing with a group, she asks for the leader. This time she got quite a surprise. The leader was a Karankawa Indian who, she says, told her he died "when the rains and the water came," an allusion Mac thinks to another hurricane that laid waste to the island long before there were any modern structures. He had been guarding his land for several hundred years, she says, and had no intention of leaving. "I ended up challenging him to go into the light," she states, "and he saw the other elders from his tribe that were there trying to help him across." The Indian, finally convinced, she relates, led the other spirits across. "He was very grateful," she says. "He saw the white light, the Great Spirit."
This Galveston community of ghosts living in a refurbished old hotel, spanned deaths as much as a hundred years apart, some pre-dating construction of the original structure. But, Mac states, this is a situation she confronts with some frequency, but for which she knows no explanation. "You're talking about a multi-dimensional phenomena and you're trying to understand it in linear three-dimensional terms," she declares. "I think they get some sort of sense of reality support from each other."
Mac tells of investigating a Memorial area haunting several years ago that revealed a group of soldiers from the Texas War of Independence. Mac thinks the area may have been a field hospital. "It was really kind of cute," she says, "because one of the last ones when we were taking them on up said, 'By the way, who won the war?'"
Recently, in Katy, Mac dealt with another group of ghosts, all of whom had met a tragic death. "There was a connection between that house through some type of ley lines or fault lines or noxious rays underground that connected with another area some distance away where there had been a lot of people that had been killed through some type of satanic or cult type activity," she says, "and there were about 60 of them that had been murdered." The homeowners, who sought her help, now plan to research historical documents for evidence of the incident.
Recently Rev. Button was called to a building site where an old home had been demolished to make way for new construction. The contractor insisted that "something" was there.
"I guess they had told all their friends," says Button, "because when I got there, there were about 25 people, children and all." Not one to let anyone stand idly by while others work, Mother Button put them all to work, using the amassed energy to contact the ghosts (there were two--victims of a murder/suicide) and help them on their way.
More often than not, says Sandee Mac, the personality of the spirit is distinct when speaking through the medium. "Often you'll notice a real different intonation of their voice," she says. "They'll use words or speech patterns that they don't ordinarily use in their own common speaking. And sometimes they come through and they're just spitting and sputtering and cursing and swearing and really, really angry. It's kind of strange for this person that may be just a petite young woman, sophisticated and intelligent, come through with some old sailor or old codger of some kind who's just really angry about a lot of stuff."
Rev. Button reports such an incident once in Detroit when she permitted a ghost to use her vocal chords. "He came in with all kinds of language," she says, describing the astonishment of those in attendance who observed this gentle minister blustering in a loud, gruff voice, turning the air blue with epithets that scorched the ears of all within hearing. This one, she says, turned out to be a member of Detroit's Purple Gang from the Al Capone era, still raging from the shock of having been liquidated by someone he thought to be a friend. She says the group was successful in getting him to join his family, and he returned several weeks later to express his gratitude for the help he had received.
The professional ghostbuster, or rescue worker, as they prefer to be called, does not always wait to be called by someone with a haunting problem. Rev. Button says that if she knows someone has passed suddenly and she feels they may not have "made the crossing," she will check to see if they need help completing their passage.
Sandee Mac has participated in groups who have voluntarily gone to Yucatan to "set up a whole meditation to call in beings that have been kind of stuck there for a long time." In that area, she says, souls may have been stuck after being victims of human sacrifice.
She tells of another example of a group who gathered after the Armenian earthquake to set up a force field to help earthquake victims cross over. This time they didn't travel to the site of the disaster, she explains, they "did it on an other-dimensional level."
Because of the number of victims who died under mountains of rubble, the group tried to "bring the light deep into the ground," with some unanticipated results. Not only did they report witnessing the crossing of earthquake casualties, but they also say they found soldiers from World War II that had died during the war and had been earthbound there since.
Haunted houses are something all of us have familiarity with, at least in stories, but haunted bodies is a new concept to most of us. Mac mentions this as a more common circumstance than haunted real estate. "They think it [the body] is their own," says Mac, "and they just need to be re-educated that it's not."
Mac receives referrals from physicians and psychiatrists who have exhausted all other avenues. She listens to the language people use for clues that may indicate a "haunted body"--phrases like "I just don't know why I did that, something came over me" or "I don't know what possessed me to do that." She explains that such phrases more frequently have nothing to do with spirits or ghosts. "But when I hear those kinds of phrases," she continues, "I start checking with pains in certain parts of the body, with troubled sleep, with unexplained medical or psychological problems, with several other classic symptoms, then I'll start to put together a composite in a way that says maybe I should at least check to see if there are some entities around this person or their energy field." Mac states that the extent of the influence of an entity can vary from slight to full blown possession.
Rev. Button expresses her belief that many of the people in insane asylums are not insane at all. "They are very high strung individuals. They are people that are very open," she declares.
Mac concurs. "I worked in a mental hospital when I got out of college many years ago--a backwards psychiatric facility," says Mac, "and I'm real convinced that a significant number of those people were there strictly because they had entity possession around them." She attributes this, again, to "our sophisticated way of dealing with the world which leaves no way to deal with these people except to keep them heavily drugged with psychotropic drugs."
"To me," she said, "the much more intelligent and kinder thing would be to just take them in, clear the spirit out, and help them get back grounded in reality. But those poor souls when they came to the hospital, if they didn't have one, they'd sure pick one up when they were there."
Other places where people can pick up entities, according to Mac, are in bars and clubs "where there's a lot of alcohol and drugs hanging out." She also states that people need to know "how to protect their energies" when they go to hospitals.
"There's a lot of dead people there and a lot of people that are dead that didn't know that they died. Maybe they were in a coma for a long time, maybe they died during surgery, maybe they were in some type of trauma situation, in an accident, and they just didn't know that they were dead."
Because of her long history of successfully working in this area, Mac says she works with many people in the medical field, "a lot of nurses and health care professionals that continually are bombarded with discarnate souls." She teaches them to do their own protection and releasing "so they can come home from work, identify if there's anything in their field and very effectively take them on out and take them across."
"Otherwise," she states, "they end up being drained and sick and cranky and having all kinds of weird things happen to them as well."
Mac states that drugs and alcohol create the primary conditions that leave a body open for ghostly habitation, "because it damages the energy field, puts big holes in their aura." She says this is true even of recovering substance abusers who have been clean for some period of time. If they're still having a hard struggle staying clean, Mac says they may have discarnates in their energy field. "And these people [the ghosts] almost always were people that died as an alcoholic or OD'd on drugs, and they're trying to get that person to go get drunk so that they can sort of live vicariously and feel that energy."
Flip Wilson used to say, "The devil made me do it!" Well, maybe the devil did--or maybe it was just the ghost of some other guy named Lucifer who got run over by a taxi in The Bronx.