When Forrest J Ackerman was alive, he'd scoff at anyone who would claim they could speak to the dead.
Now that he's dead, some people say he's speaking from the Great Beyond.
Ackerman, who passed away in 2008, is a legend in the sci-fi community, for, among other things, coining the phrase "sci-fi." Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Peter Jackson were among the avid readers of his influential Famous Monsters Of Flimland magazine.
Ackerman was a skeptic in the supernatural. But now, some of his followers believe this dead man is trying to make contact with them.
It all started shortly after he passed away, when an odd ink blot mysteriously appeared on a sheet of paper at the home of his friend, filmmaker Paul Davids.
Davids had printed out a sheet of paper that included a list of business meetings. The ink on the paper was completely dry as he left the room. When he returned, he discovered a black ink blot had somehow covered a group of words, "Spoke to Joe Amodei."
"I had no idea why these particular words were blacked out," Davids said. "It made no sense to me until later, when I was researching Forry's editorial style and I found lots of examples of where he blacked out words so completely. I have found 15 examples of where Forry found a name within a name or a word within a word as being a hidden word to make a pun or a point out of it."
Davids believes this was the first in a series of unexplained instances where Ackerman was trying to communicate with him. He eventually involved several university scientists to try to explain these phenomena explored in "The Life After Death Project," a documentary that premiered this week on the Syfy channel.
While some might claim Davids' work is more akin to the Syfy channel's fantasy-based programming, perhaps during hour 72 of a "Twilight Zone" marathon. But Davids is dead serious.
"I first met Forry in 1964 and we were friends for more than 40 years," said Davids, producer-director of "The Life After Death Project."
"Forry professed total skepticism and atheism. He had zero belief in the paranormal, didn't believe there was an afterlife, certainly didn't believe in God and didn't subscribe to any religion," Davids told The Huffington Post.
In 2009, Davids experienced the first of numerous unexplained episodes which led him on a quest to determine if Ackerman's spirit was somehow responsible.
"I felt what had happened was impossible. There was no one in the house but me, I hadn't done it, how could it have happened?"
Davids had the ink blot examined by Jay Siegel, chairman of the chemistry department at the University of Indiana.
"I've been practicing chemistry over 30 years, and when you learn science, you learn to be skeptical of things. You learn to require data and evidence in order to make statements and conclusions that you can rely on," Siegel discusses in the documentary. "
Sometimes there are circumstances which simply can't be explained by your five senses or by all of the tools of science, and I think there are some aspects of that in this situation that give one pause.
"I would say disturbing, a bit, only because I'm a scientist."
The strange ink blot was also examined by John Allison, a chemistry professor at The College of New Jersey and an expert on inks, paints and solvents.
"Everything points to the material that comes from the printer ink," Allison said of his analysis. "How it was created in such a uniform way, we haven't been able to reproduce that. I don't know how to recreate this. I couldn't do it. In forensics, you try to find explanations, and we usually don't resort to interactions or intervention from someone from beyond the grave, but I can't rule that out."
At the University of Arizona, Gary Schwartz directs the Laboratory For Advances In Consciousness And Health. After 15 years investigating the possibility of life after death, he's working on ways of developing actual scientific tools that could herald a breakthrough in communications between the living and the dead.
Schwartz has experimented with something called the Silicon Photomultiplier System, a piece of technology that detects single photons of light in pitch black. "It's used in biomedical imaging and in biochemistry devices. The system is placed within a box, within a box, within a box, so it's truly light-tight.
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