By Robin M. Strom-Mackey
“When a family, therefore, calls in a team to investigate an ADC style disturbance, they’re looking for (and probably praying for) affirmation that their loved one is present. They patently don’t want to find that the rattling was the water pipes in the wall, and the clock stopped because the gear broke.”
While I’ve read just about every How To Ghost hunt manual I can get my hands on, and while all of the tomes expend time and energy on classifying different types of hauntings traditional, residual, poltergeist etc.; I’ve never yet come across a ghosthunter who made a distinction between more traditional style hauntings and ADC style encounters. Yet, strangely enough, two recent investigation inquiries I’ve been privy to, have been about ADC style hauntings. And as I started to think about how to approach these investigations I started to realize that the approach to handling these two very different types of “hauntings” has, by necessity, got to be different. Let me first define what I mean by an ADC “haunting” versus a traditional haunting, and then conclude with thoughts I’ve had for dealing with the ADC style haunt, if investigate it you intend to.
ADC is an acronym for After Death Communication, a term phrased by grief counselors not ghost hunters or parapsychologists – although what parapsychologists termed Crisis Apparitions comes closest. The literature on ADC's is fairly new in the area of grief counseling with only a few brave souls in the field actually writing about their ideas. Basically, Dr. Louis LaGrand, a grief counselor and author, said he had started to notice a pattern in testimony given by many of his clients who were actively involved in the grieving process. He started to notice that many of his clients would report various experiences after the death of their loved ones that verified to the living that their loved ones were with them, albeit on the other side of the divide. What’s more the dearly departed seemed to be trying very hard to send verification of their continued existence.
These experiences were in various formats from finding an object that was dear to the departed just as the grieving had asked for a sign, to extremely vivid dreams where the departed often spoke and interacted. Many testimonies included items moving, alarms that went off for no apparent reason, music boxes that were broken suddenly working... Some clients even reported being touched or held by unseen hands, and a few were lucky to see their loved ones as full-bodied apparitions. LaGrand started to realize that these occurrences were actually rather common. And they were unlike Crisis Apparitions in that they didn’t necessarily happen at the time of death of the loved one, but afterwards, sometimes years after the departed had left.
He found that while not everyone that loses a loved one gets such wonderful affirmation, however, many more do receive a sign than ever before believed. These signs are usually a wonderful balm to the living, and can shorten the grieving process. They’re almost always positive and love affirming.
It seems to me ADC’s appear to be different from traditional hauntings in several ways, but most remarkably by their transience. Departed loved ones appear capable of moving great distances at will, and do not appear to be bound by any one location. For instance, my father died in August 2009. Since his passing my mother has had ADC experiences in her summer home in Wisconsin and her winter home in South Carolina. My brother also reported that he had had experiences in Wisconsin and I have had several odd and unexplained phenomenons occur in my home in Delaware. Pop is really racking up the celestial frequent flyer miles! Now you may not believe me. However, how many times have you heard someone say, “I just know fill in the name is still with me”? “I sense his/her presence” or “I feel them about me when…” Plumb a little further and you may find that your perfectly normal acquaintance is one of the many who have had an extraordinary experience.
Traditional haunts seem more hidebound to a place, although there have been some instances where two locations are said to be haunted by the same entity. A theory as to why some sentient spirit hauntings are so stuck to one location is perhaps fodder for a later discussion. Still, it does appear that historical hauntings seem often tied to one building. I recently did a second investigation of a haunting that appears to not only be centered in one location, but peculiarly stuck to one small area of a location; in this case the entities seem to prefer one bedroom a hallway and a staircase, and venture no further. It/they never seem to wander downstairs, or even to invade other rooms upstairs.
This would argue toward a residual haunt, and yet the presence or presences seem strangely sentient. They follow people down the stairs on occasion, and stop when the person walking down the stairs in front of them stops, as if testing them. And the presence or presences seem to enjoy waiting for the unnerving, lone employee left in the building to make their biggest ruckus. That is when the sound of footsteps overhead turns into a chorus of feet running across the floorboards. The lone employee, if she or he is very brave, may venture upstairs in hopes of capturing an intruder only to find out that there is no one else in the building.
On an even smaller scale sometimes objects themselves appear to be haunted a picture of the deceased, a dresser a bed. The “spirits” appear bound to this object and the activity manifests itself only where the object goes. It should be noted that residual hauntings never vary location or action. But then the theory of a residual haunt is that the activity is actually no more than a recording of an event or events of significant energy to cause them to become imbedded and recorded into the environment around them.
Another major difference that should be obvious, is that the ADC style haunting – and I use the term “haunting “loosely, because they’re not so much a haunting as a visit from the other side, is that they are attached to their people. This is a hypothesis not yet tested. However, I would fathom a guess that if you remove the person or persons being affected by an ADC type of haunting and you likely won’t come up with any evidence. Their focus is around and among the people that they care for. And without them present you’re likely to get any interaction.
The residual haunting is tied, if the theory is correct, only to the correct environmental factors. If the moon is full or if the ozone is correct the recording will play. There are no attachments involved at all. A sentient haunt, limited to a location, is a wildcard. Perhaps it will perform for you, if it wants attention, or perhaps it won’t. It may find strength for voicing its existence under certain environmental conditions. It is more tied to the space itself than the people present.
Another difference is that ADC activity tends to occur at precise moments. When a family member is feeling particularly down or lonely, when a new baby is born, when a family member is ill; the entity of the departed attempts to come through in order to communicate a message. In other words the entity is there for a reason, and once the message is conveyed the activity stops. Thus I speculate that an actual investigation of the site may render little in the form of evidence. More traditional style haunts may work better on cue. Because the activity appears to be “hanging around” it may be more inclined to communicate with investigators. And as I said before, a residual will play when the conditions are correct, regardless of whom or what is in the building.
No Room for Debunking
My last ghost hunting group was an average group of amateur ghost hunters, weaned on the television show by the same name. “Throw out any evidence that can be explained rationally, and what you’re left with may be paranormal” was the rules we lived by. And in most cases, I would agree that it is. It wasn’t until my own father passed away that I realized the true pain of death and separation. Those who experience ADC’s have a wonderful affirming experience, and they can glean much healing and hope from their experiences. However the ADC is a fragile and very personal experience. It doesn’t stand up well to the glare of the scientific method or crude man-handling of skeptics.
When a family, therefore, calls in a team to investigate an ADC style disturbance, they’re looking for (and probably praying for) affirmation that their loved one is present. They patently don’t want to find that the rattling was the water pipes in the wall, and the clock stopped because the gear broke. To present them with evidence to this effect is to make them look foolish and sentimental – and damages the bond they felt they had with their departed.
I was speaking with a colleague of mine the other day, about setting up a possible investigation with a woman who believes her departed son haunts her. My colleague looked me in the eye and said, “We can do this investigation but only if you promise they’ll be no debunking.” She explained that the client needs to believe her son is the one behind these experiences, and that if we found a rational explanation for the phenomenon that we simply keep it to ourselves. Ashamedly, I remembered another such investigation interview that I had attended a year or so ago, and a very similar situation, a family that had lost a child. Mainly they were hoping beyond hope that we would come in and prove their child was with them still. This was prior to my own loss and ADC experiences, and I remember, rather shamefully, being the skeptic with the skeptic’s scowl, on the other side of the table. I’d had my ghost hunter hat on, and I couldn’t beyond the bill.
Now I realize that it’s really important to handle ADC investigations with an inordinate amount of care and compassion – or possibly not at all. Perhaps they should remain the purview of the clergy or the psychics. If you do take a case be extremely careful about what information you reveal, and more importantly how you reveal it. Ask yourself whether a strict adherence to protocol is really more important than the delicate psyches of the ones grieving their loved ones. Remember the words of my wise associate, in the ADC investigation there may be, “no room for debunking.”
LaGrand, Louis E, PhD. Messages and Miracles: Extraordinary Experiences of the Bereaved. Llewellyn Worldwide, St. Paul, MN. 1999.
Other Titles of Interest
Devers, Edie. Goodbye Again
Guggenheim, Bill & Judy. Hello From Heaven
Kastenbaum, Patricia, Romanowski. Is There Life After Death: A Scholarly Approach.
Martin, Joel. Love Beyond Life
Morse, Melvin “Parting Visions: