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With a history that spans millennia, which draws its roots in migrated cultures and secrets of the past; South America lives and breathes mystery. The occult, the odd and the mystical have always existed in places across the continent from strands of Santería and Yoruba practices in Cuba to voodoo and exorcisms in Brazil. With signs papering the subte advertising tarot and fortune telling, I am left wondering if Argentina follows the paranormal pattern. Does Argentina have a third eye?
Psychic Medium Carlos Marcelo Acquistapace Arias, 44, believes that “the paranormal goes hand in hand with civilization,” and that Argentina is no exception to the rule. He implies that a strong ‘informal’ history of the paranormal exists in the Southern Cone.
Paranormal practices such as tarot have been attributed with their own cultural histories; tarot’s roots in Argentina can be credited to the mass immigration to Argentina over the past century from Europe, where many gypsy communities practised the art. However there seems to be a stronger presence of the paranormal in Buenos Aires other than just fortune telling.
Marcelo highlights that there are many “anecdotes and stories, which amplify the fame of psychics that result in the truth being distorted.” On a mission to unravel the facts, he defines himself as a forensic medium, with abilities of foresight, sensitive perceptiveness and the capacity to induce visions and has used his gift to help police in their search for missing and kidnapped people. He documents his experiences and cases to help foster understanding and open the minds of those unwilling to believe.
A Growing Gift
Originally from Uruguay and currently based in Montevideo, Marcelo can trace his gift back to his childhood. He remembers being sensitive to psychic feelings as a child, telling me that he “always had small perceptions that continued to build up; small things, like knowing that the doorbell was going to ring or simply knowing the colour of a car that was about to pass by the block.” With adolescence came the evolution of his gift. Marcelo started to delve into hypnotism, which is used to hone his sense of perception and one such episode is said to have marked Marcelo’s memory for life.
At the age of 17, Marcelo recalls having one of his first lucid visions whilst he was studying for a literature exam with friends from school. “I started to visualise the room with the students and the teachers. A teacher tripped over a bag on the floor and fell over. I looked at the chalkboard and I saw a topic and three questions.” As Marcelo came out of the vision, he noted the questions down and told his friends of his experience. They made sure to prepare the questions well and “on the day of the exam, the teacher entered the room and tripped over a bag and fell to the floor. Minutes later she wrote on the chalkboard the topic and the questions that I had seen days before. We couldn’t do anything but laugh; the teacher was annoyed as she thought we were laughing at her fall!”
Remarkable as his tales might be, Marcelo is aware of the scepticism that exists in South America and has documented his cases thoroughly to fight the idea that psychic mediums are con artists. As a consequence, he has worked with police forces at home in Uruguay and abroad, using his gift to bring closure to people that have had family members go missing and also to prove himself as a psychic.
Marcelo’s blog details how he has used his gift successfully in the past. Receiving several packets a week with photos, case details and garments of missing people, it is certain that people crave his abilities to put their minds at rest.
One such case involved the investigation of the disappearance of five-year-old boy, Jonathan Viera, in 1991 from the beach resort of Salinas in Uruguay. Marcelo discovered the fate of the child by using hypnotism on children that had been with Jonathan at the time of his disappearance. The way he describes his technique evokes the idea of feeding his vision off the subconscious memories of the bystander children. By doing this, he was able to visualise an area where children were playing unaware of a predatory figure in their midst.
“Suddenly I began to see an aerial view of a resort area with pine trees and red dirt roads. I managed to get close and see a group of boys playing football in the street. At one point I saw Jonathan cross in front of the goal, moving towards a house located on the side of the street.” As Jonathan entered the house, Marcelo uses the memories of another child to gather more information from the scene. “Seeing the image of the boys playing football from another perspective, I sensed a feeling of insanity and malice directed towards these children. Immediately I feel a strange feeling of anguish and without being able to hold back the tears, I knew that the child was dead.”
Jonathan’s body was discovered two weeks later after Marcelo allegedly had a second vision that showed the boy’s resting place in a lagoon 2km from where he disappeared. It is thought that Jonathan was a victim of organ trafficking; a crime wave that struck South America in the early 1990s and with Marcelo’s unconventional help, authorities have been able to prevent and reduce these despicable crimes as well as providing closure to families in grief.
The Institute of Paranormal Psychology
With a belief in science, Marcelo believes that there must be an explanation for his gift. It seems that he is not alone. Whilst there are sceptics amongst the Argentine population with as many as 80% of paranormal experiences not being investigated, on the other hand there is certainly a following in the country that wishes to explain the unexplainable.
Secretary for the Institute of Paranormal Psychology, Dr Alejandro Parra is part of a team that scientifically investigates into the paranormal experiences of people in Argentina. Using the latest technology and techniques, the institute aims at breaking the stereotypes imposed upon those that claim to be mediums by confronting sceptics with different events, which help to educate non-believers.
In an interview with La Nación, Parra said that the “parapsychologists work rigorously and critically to give greater seriousness to the investigation.” He went on to say that the Institute of Paranormal Psychology works in conjunction with other Argentine establishments to bring the paranormal into the realm of the everyday. For example, “with the Museo Roca and Institute of Historical Investigations of Recoleta, we have presented a photography exhibition on the theme of ghosts.”
Parra believes that the majority of paranormal experiences are not documented due to a sense of “shame” that is felt by those in such a circumstance. “We invited the public to create a bank of images of the occult with their own photos,” highlighting a want for a change of attitude towards those that claim to have a sixth sense; legitimising what has up until now been condemned as an old wives tale.
A Future Not Foretold
As humans, applying logic is instinctual when confronted with the unknown. It is far easier to label psychic anecdotes down to coincidence than to attribute them to a genuine clairvoyant gift.
With movements such as the Institute of Paranormal Psychology, Argentina seems to be gearing up to accepting new ideas in the field of the paranormal. Rather than negatively branding mediums for their claims as has happened in the past, investigations are underway to logically explain a phenomenon. Ironically, whether or not these movements will prove successful is still unclear. Perhaps, there are things that we are just not meant to know.
Video from the 2006 exhibition “Imagenes Oculto”
Lead Image by Jesus Belzunce