Venture into the study of the unusual with Annalisa Ventola

Parapsychology is the scientific and scholarly study of unusual events and experiences. But before you break out your ghost-hunting equipment, book of spells and inverted pentagram, you should know that the field is only focused on three categories: extrasensory perception, mind-matter interaction and survival after bodily death. And there isn't much evidence to support the latter.

“Parapsychology is being conflated with other paranormal topics,” said Annalisa Ventola, a published researcher and executive director of the Parapsychological Association. “The bulk of what we do is in a laboratory.”

To better explain that work, Ventola will host a four-part lecture series at WitchLab beginning Wednesday, April 10.

“I came to the field as a skeptic and I started to slowly become convinced by the research,” said Ventola, who studied comparative religions and completed a parapsychology program in her early 20s. She points to the recent publication of precognition research in mainstream, scientific journals as evidence of parapsychology's growing acceptance.

But there's still a long way to go.

“The field is really underfunded,” Ventola said. “We're falling just a little bit behind on meeting the demands of open access in the sciences. … The reputation and the quality of the journal are really important. If you expect a free product from your journal and you still want it to be reputable, you have to hire copy editors. You have to hire an editor.”

Beyond her academic writing, parapsychology also informs Ventola's music. A trained pianist, singer and trombonist, she and her husband provide lessons at Whitney and Ventola Music Studios in Clintonville. Ventola is currently working on a song cycle for voice and piano based on metaphysical concepts.

“The traveling that I do as an administrator in the field of parapsychology affords me the opportunity to visit sacred spaces for songwriting and contemplation,” Ventola said. “There are both exoteric and esoteric levels to my songwriting.”

Listeners may recognize archetypes and numerological concepts in Ventola's songs, some of which have numbers as titles. For example, “Two” is about “an encounter with the feminine divine,” she said. The sheet music for the song is packaged in a book with a cover of a woman in blue, illustrated by local artist Kassandra Murray.

Other aspects of Ventola's music are hidden. But attending her lecture series will provide more insight into the parapsychology field as a whole.

“I try to bring it down into lay person's language and go through each experiment: how it worked, what happened, what the result was,” she said. “What I'm trying to do is help make this work accessible.”