Follow by Email

Friday, October 14, 2011

Part IV - A Spirited Debate: What are Ghosts Anyway?

By Robin M. Strom-Mackey
 Included in Part III are the opinions of Rob Conover, Paranormal Investigator and former Ghost Buster, Dr. Robert Baker, Professor Emeritus at University of Kentucky.

 Few questions are like to elicit a stronger response than the question, “do you believe in ghosts?” The naysayers will quickly and adamantly deny any such possibility and call you a fool for asking. The non-committal’s will shrug and move on to another, more comfortable topic. And the dabblers and the believers will expound for long minutes recalling odd experiences they have had.

Truthfully, few topics are as divisive as this one. Those who deny the possibility often do so from vehement religious beliefs.  And, make no mistake, science became the religion of the 20th century, with its scriptures as dogmatically adhered to by its followers as any religious zealot.  Proponents of science vehemently defend the notion of science being able to answer all questions with a rationale answer. The world around us, they tell us, is the only reality, and anything unexplained simply a riddle not yet solved. 

On the other hand, those who believe in the paranormal have a vested interest and will fight to support their beliefs just as strongly.  After all, a belief in spirits is a belief that the soul survives death. And that is a very attractive notion.

Whether you’re a believer, fence sitter or fierce non-believer it is undeniable that people have been seeing (and hearing, and smelling) ghosts since the dawn of mankind.  Not every person among them is a fool, charlatan or notoriety seeker. Indeed most people who experience something paranormal are absolutely normal. Many are reluctant to even talk about their experience, afraid of being ridiculed.  The paranormal knows no class bounds. Emperors and peasants, politicians, and garbage collectors, a paranormal experience can happen (and has) to anyone.  (See my series on famous people and the paranormal to find out what the many of the greatest minds thought on the subject.)

So what is the explanation for these odd events?  There are as many answers to that question as there are people who have experiences.  Compiled here are the opinions of many experts both within and without the field. These are the words of writers, thinkers, scientists, college professors and lifelong investigators.  This is what they have to say about the possibility of ghosts. 
Pros

What Are They
A former Private Investigator, Rob Conover started his career with the paranormal as a non-believer. He set out to disprove a haunting at a building, and quickly changed his mind. “I was very sure there was nothing there and things started to happen to prove otherwise. And as I walked through the door, and as I did it felt like thousands of little, cold icicles blew through me and it got quiet, and I said, ‘they’re gone. And at that point I said, ‘there is something to this.’…. When I walk into an area where there is a spirit there is a feeling that comes over me that is very hard to describe. The nearest I can get is to say is that it is like a cool electrical shock without any pain from toes to head….….When you come face to face with it, then you have to deal with it as reality, because when you’re face to face with something it is reality.”
Rob Conover
Paranormal Investigator

Cons
University of Kentucky Professor Emeritus, Robert Baker (now deceased) was an avowed ‘ghost buster’ believed, “there are no haunted places, just haunted people (Bernstein, 2005).” He argued that in his 50 years studying ghostly phenomena, he came across nothing that deterred him from that stance. According to Washington Post writer, Adam Bernstein, Baker was first and foremost a skeptic, but a skeptic that worked with people who believed they were being haunted or tortured by “unexplained forces.” Baker believed that one should start from a position of non-belief when dealing with unusual phenomena – “ghosts, UFO abductions, lake monsters, remembrances of past lives (Bernstein, 2005).” 
Instead, Baker thought that odd experiences were better explained as “mental states.” For example, he felt hallucinations could explain alien abductions, or "waking dreams," might explain ghostly phenomena seen, “in the twilight zone between fully awake and fully asleep (Bernstein, 2005).” Quoted in the 1997 documentary Hauntings, Baker concludes that ghosts are “an invention of the human mind. And they have invented ghosts because they provide a great deal of psychological satisfaction in people who believe in them. It fills a gap, a void in their lives (Hauntings, 1997).’”
Robert Baker, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Psychology
Noted “Ghost Buster”

Resources

Auerbach, Loyd (2005) A Paranormal Casebook; Ghost Hunting in the New Millennium. Atriad Press, LLC. Dallas, Texas.

 Documentary Produced by The History Channel (1997) The Unexplained: Hauntings.

Conover, Rob. A former private investigator turned paranormal Investigator http://robconover.net/default.aspx

 Steiger, Brad (2003) Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits and Haunted Places. Visible Ink Press. Canton, MI.
 
Taylor, Troy (2007) Ghost Hunter’s Guidebook: The Essential Guide to Investigating Ghosts & Hauntings. American Ghost Society. White Chapel Press: Dark Haven Entertainment. Decatur, Illinois.

Part III - A Spirited Debate: What are Ghosts Anyway?

By Robin M. Strom-Mackey

 Included in Part III are the opinions of Brad Steiger, Author, and Michael Persinger, Ph.D.in Neuroscience, Laurentian University.

Few questions are like to elicit a stronger response than the question, “do you believe in ghosts?” The naysayers will quickly and adamantly deny any such possibility and call you a fool for asking. The non-commital’s will shrug and move on to another, more comfortable topic. And the dabblers and the believers will expound for long minutes recalling odd experiences they have had.

Truthfully, few topics are as divisive as this one. Those who deny the possibility often do so from vehement religious beliefs.  And, make no mistake, science became the religion of the 20th century, with its scriptures as dogmatically adhered to by its followers as any religious zealot.  Proponents of science vehemently defend the notion of science being able to answer all questions with a rationale answer. The world around us, they tell us, is the only reality, and anything unexplained simply a riddle not yet solved. 

On the other hand, those who believe in the paranormal have a vested interest and will fight to support their beliefs just as strongly.  After all, a belief in spirits is a belief that the soul survives death. And that is a very attractive notion.

Whether you’re a believer, fence sitter or fierce non-believer it is undeniable that people have been seeing (and hearing, and smelling) ghosts since the dawn of mankind.  Not every person among them is a fool, charlatan or notoriety seeker. Indeed most people who experience something paranormal are absolutely normal. Many are reluctant to even talk about their experience, afraid of being ridiculed.  The paranormal knows no class bounds. Emperors and peasants, politicians, and garbage collectors, a paranormal experience can happen (and has) to anyone.  (See my series on famous people and the paranormal to find out what the many of the greatest minds thought on the subject.)

So what is the explanation for these odd events?  There are as many answers to that question as there are people who have experiences.  Compiled here are the opinions of many experts both within and without the field. These are the words of writers, thinkers, scientists, college professors and lifelong investigators.  This is what they have to say about the possibility of ghosts. 

Pros

No Justification Necessary
Brad Steiger, author and co-author of some 150 books on the subject of the paranormal, says, “After researching the paranormal for more than 50 years, I spend little time these days theorizing about what ghosts may be. I accept the reality that within each of us there is a spiritual essence that is imperishable and eternal. I completely accept the existence of spirit phenomena, and I contend that it is extremely multifaceted. While I believe it may be difficult to separate ghostly manifestations into definitions of type and purpose that are truly distinct from one another, I submit that real ghosts and restless spirits often fit into the following categories: spirit residue, spirits of the dead, poltergeists, spirit parasites and spirit masqueraders (Steiger, 2003).”

 What They Are
However, Steiger presents a theory for ghostly activity that he borrows from his colleague Brian A. Schill of the American Society for Paranormal Research and investigation and author of the book entitled The DNA of Ghosts.  Schill attempts to explain the existence of ghosts in scientific terms.  The body, Schill explains, has a “bioelectric cycle” functioning at 60 Hz. This cycle allows our nervous system, brain, heart and organ to both function and communicate with each other within the organism itself.   If one considers the first law of thermodynamics which states that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, only transformed, “we are able to recognize that two-thirds of our total existence is in the form of intangible energy (Steiger, 2003).” What then happens to this energy (which cannot be destroyed but only transformed) when we die?

Schill says that when we die the bioelectric energy is released out of the body into the environment, where one of two things happens.  This “unconscious energy” may disperse freely into the environment and cause no manifestation thereafter. Or the energy may, “through covalent bonding” attach itself to an object or building to which the person was attached and remain in the environment. This covalent bonding can occur anywhere, according to Schill, that has an “electron deficit” which Steiger contends is the reason for repeat hauntings. This is likely to occur when the energy is quickly released (as in an accidental or tragic death). The energy “coagulates” within, “’the local environment over a short period of time, maybe only a couple of minutes or so, and amass to such a degree that the greater portion that was originally in the body has now become self-aware outside of the body.’ Psychological forces of conscious will may also trigger this type of reaction.  When self-awareness occurs, there is generally a degree of confusion because of the new form that the person is in, one of pure energy rather than a physically manifested body (Schill, Steiger, 2003).”

Steiger suggests that there are three striking similarities that paranormal investigators have documented over the years that rather verify Schill’s theory.  First, most haunting phenomena involve low-level electromagnetic field disruptions, generally falling within 3 to 100 mill gauss (Mg).  The low-level disturbances are caused, according to Steiger, by the “intangible bio-magnetic field that makes up the ghost (Steiger, 2003).” He also contends that this bio-magnetic field causes hiccups and malfunctioning of electric devices within the environment.

A second similarity is the occurrence of “cold spots.”  Steiger suggests that air temperature drops somewhere between 10 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit during paranormal activity.  These drops are thought to be due to the “unintentional attraction and condensation of free electrons in an environment.  The condensing of an energy field leaves a momentary void of heat in the area (Steiger, 2003).”

And the third similarity is that many ghostly phenomena is caught using devices that measure in the infrared spectrum  a lower level energy spectrum – which lies just below the visible spectrum of energy and light which we can see with the naked eye.  This lower level of electromagnetic energy seems to be the area of the spectrum, “where the greatest number of manifestations take place (Steiger, 2003).”  Because this lower spectrum borders the lower portion of the visible spectrum where we see red, orange and yellow, he feels that is might explain why entities are often caught only with our peripheral vision versus our “direct line of sight.” “Manifestations seen with peripheral vision also attract the attention of our unburdened subconscious rather than our conscious mind, which bears the fears of social restriction and repression when we experience something that is out of the ordinary (Steiger, 2003).”
Brad Steiger
Author

 Cons
 
Geophysical Forces
Neuroscientist, Michael Persinger suggests a more natural explanation for feelings associated with a haunting. He suggests geophysical forces cause the feelings of a haunt. “’When you have geophysical forces focused, even small ones, even tiny ones in the view of geophysical forces, and you focus them into a small space for a brief time, you can get tremendous magnetic fields generated. If that takes place you can get fluorescent and light thresholds generated much like the will-o-the-wisp or electro-static discharges.  And if they are above the illumino-static threshold you can photograph them just like any other electrostatic phenomena.”

 Persinger goes on to say that these geophysical anomalies occur at many supposedly haunted locations, often intersecting with the brainwaves of those in the area.  He has tested this theory in his laboratory with some success “Many of the kinds of patterns of fields that are generated of haunted areas that we have found are very complicated, brief transient fields of erratic forces. If these forces stimulate the brain you can have feelings of a presence, sounds of footsteps or movements or voices, and of course that ever-present feeling that there is something looking at you (Persinger, 1997).” He concludes that highly creative individuals are more sensitive to these electrostatic forces, which causes them to report more haunting phenomena (Hauntings, 1997).”
Michael Persinger, Ph.D.
Neuroscientist, Laurentian University

Resources

Auerbach, Loyd (2005) A Paranormal Casebook; Ghost Hunting in the New Millennium. Atriad Press, LLC. Dallas, Texas.

Documentary Produced by The History Channel (1997) The Unexplained: Hauntings.

 Conover, Rob. A former private investigator turned paranormal Investigator http://robconover.net/default.aspx

Steiger, Brad (2003) Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits and Haunted Places. Visible Ink Press. Canton, MI.
Taylor, Troy (2007)  Ghost Hunter’s Guidebook: The Essential Guide to Investigating Ghosts & Hauntings. American Ghost Society. White Chapel Press: Dark Haven Entertainment. Decatur, Illinois.






Part II - A Spirited Debate: What are Ghosts Anyway?

By Robin M. Strom-Mackey

Included in Part II are the opinions of Dr. Loyd Auerbach, Parapsychologist and Professor at JFK University, Dr. Robert Baker, Professor Laureate, University of Kentucky and Dr. Ronald Finucane, Historian.
Few questions are like to elicit a stronger response than the question, “do you believe in ghosts?” The naysayers will quickly and adamantly deny any such possibility and call you a fool for asking. The non-committal’s will shrug and move on to another, more comfortable topic. And the dabblers and the believers will expound for long minutes recalling odd experiences they have had.

Truthfully, few topics are as divisive as this one. Those who deny the possibility often do so from vehement religious beliefs.  And, make no mistake; science became the religion of the 20th century, with its scriptures as dogmatically adhered to by its followers as any religious zealot.  Proponents of science vehemently defend the notion of science being able to answer all questions with a rationale answer. The world around us, they tell us, is the only reality, and anything unexplained simply a riddle not yet solved. 

On the other hand, those who believe in the paranormal have a vested interest and will fight to support their beliefs just as strongly.  After all, a belief in spirits is a belief that the soul survives death. And that is a very attractive notion.

Whether you’re a believer, fence sitter or fierce non-believer it is undeniable that people have been seeing (and hearing, and smelling) ghosts since the dawn of mankind.  Not every person among them is a fool, charlatan or notoriety seeker. Indeed most people who experience something paranormal are absolutely normal. Many are reluctant to even talk about their experience, afraid of being ridiculed.  The paranormal knows no class bounds. Emperors and peasants, politicians, and garbage collectors, a paranormal experience can happen (and has) to anyone.  (See my series on famous people and the paranormal to find out what the many of the greatest minds thought on the subject.)
So what is the explanation for these odd events?  There are as many answers to that question as there are people who have experiences.  Compiled here are the opinions of many experts both within and without the field. These are the words of writers, thinkers, scientists, college professors and lifelong investigators.  This is what they have to say about the possibility of ghosts. 

Pros
The Psi’s Have It
Loyd Auerbach has a Ph.D. in Parapsychology and is a professor at JFK University in Northern California.  He is an author, long-time paranormal investigator and a mentalist performer.  In his book, A Paranormal Casebook: Ghost Hunting in the New Millennium he makes the same point as does Taylor.  He notes that the term ghost is used broadly and generically to describe a whole host of phenomena. He lists three broad categories that he says parapsychologists agree to use, although he concedes that sometimes activity can indicate a combination of the three. He lists apparitions as the first category. “An apparition is our personality (or spirit, soul, consciousness, mind, or whatever you want to call it) surviving the death of the body, and capable of interaction with the living (and presumably other apparitions). It is pure consciousness….Apparitions are seen, heard, felt, or smelled…by people through the process of telepathic communication (Auerbach, 2005).”  Because the entity has no form, they must send information telepathically to a receiver, whose brain’s process the signals and interprets them.

Hauntings are the second main category Auerbach describes. He says hauntings are recorded stimuli which become embedded in the environment - what parapsychologists refer to as Place Memory. Visual images, smells, sounds and emotions all appear to be able to embed themselves into a location and those who experience phenomena are doing so telepathically (psychically). “Objects we’re told, ‘record’ their entire history, and some can decipher that with psi [the new term for telepathy] (Auerbach, 2005).”  While the stimulus radiates and is perceived and interpreted by the receiver, the ‘haunting’ is without consciousness.
 
The third category of ghosts are poltergeists (a German word meaning noisy ghost).  Auerbach takes the popular view that poltergeists are not ghosts at all but disturbances caused by the psi ability of a living agent. In poltergeist cases the main phenomena are physical effects – knocking sounds, objects levitating, objects appearing or disappearing, unusual behavior of electrical appliances etc.  “The model we work from is called recurrent spontaneous psycho kinesis, or RSPK.  It is PK (psycho kinesis) that occurs without conscious control…It doesn’t come from a ghost or apparition but someone living or working in the environment… (Auerbach, 2005).”  Poltergeist experts agree that the human agents in poltergeist cases are most often psychologically distressed teenagers.

Justification
According to Auerbach, only apparitions are a soul or consciousness of the departed.  He says that the theory of the apparition depends on the belief of consciousness.  “Unfortunately, the existence of consciousness and an understanding  of what it is or might be is still up in the air as far as mainstream science is concerned….If we can’t prove consciousness in the body/brain where we assume it is, how can we prove the existence of consciousness outside the body?”  Auerbach sidesteps the issue of needing to prove the existence of ghosts scientifically by stating that parapsychology is primarily a social science, though parapsychologists do bring in instrumentation to measure activity.  “The best evidence,” he says, “comes from people (witnesses). The best cases are those where there are multiple witnesses and information is provided by the ghost that can be verified later (Auerbach, 2005).”
Loyd Auerbach, Ph.D.
Professor and Parapsychologist

Cons

 Human Constructs
Dr. Ronald Finucane, Historian, has an unusual take on the whole ghostly debate. He says essentially that ghosts are a construct created by grieving people as a defense mechanism.  However, he’s says that simply because they were created by the mind doesn’t mean that for that person (people) they don’t exist.
“Ghosts can be used by particular members of the family as a method of self-defense…psychological self-defense, when things are going badly in the rest of the family’s existence. Perhaps this is a way of seizing upon a certain amount of certainty for the people involved, or the individuals involved….In a sense ghosts are in people’s heads, but in another sense, culturally and emotionally, they do exist for them. Indeed for many other people in our society, they are a human construct, so is music, so is poetry. I mean we have to accept these things, these ghosts are a construct of the human mind (Hauntings, 1997).”
Ronald Finucane, Ph.D.
Author of Ghosts: Appearances of the Dead & Cultural Transformation
Professor of Medieval History

 University of Kentucky Professor Emeritus, Robert Baker (now deceased) was an avowed ‘ghost buster’ believed, “there are no haunted places, just haunted people (Bernstein, 2005).” He argued that in his 50 years studying ghostly phenomena, he came across nothing that deterred him from that stance. According to Washington Post writer, Adam Bernstein, Baker was first and foremost a skeptic, but a skeptic that worked with people who believed they were being haunted or tortured by “unexplained forces.”

Baker believed that one should start from a position of non-belief when dealing with unusual phenomena – “ghosts, UFO abductions, lake monsters, remembrances of past lives (Bernstein, 2005).”  Instead, Baker thought that odd experiences were better explained as “mental states.” For example, he felt hallucinations could explain alien abductions, or "waking dreams," might explain ghostly phenomena seen, “in the twilight zone between fully awake and fully asleep (Bernstein, 2005).” Quoted in the 1997 documentary Hauntings, Baker concludes that ghosts are “an invention of the human mind. And they have invented ghosts because they provide a great deal of psychological satisfaction in people who believe in them. It fills a gap, a void in their lives (Hauntings, 1997).’”
Robert Baker, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Psychology
Noted “Ghost Buster”
 

Resources

 Auerbach, Loyd (2005) A Paranormal Casebook; Ghost Hunting in the New Millennium. Atriad Press, LLC. Dallas, Texas.
 

Bernstein, A. (2005) Obituary: “Psychologist, ‘ghost buster’ Robert Baker.”
Washington Post, August 13, 2005 12:00 AM.

Documentary Produced by The History Channel (1997) The Unexplained: Hauntings.

Conover, Rob. a former private investigator turned paranormal Investigator http://robconover.net/default.aspx

Steiger, Brad (2003)  Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits and Haunted Places. Visible Ink Press. Canton, MI.
Taylor, Troy (2007)  Ghost Hunter’s Guidebook: The Essential Guide to Investigating Ghosts & Hauntings. American Ghost Society. White Chapel Press: Dark Haven Entertainment. Decatur, Illinois.

Part I - A Spirited Debate: What are Ghosts Anyway?

By Robin M. Strom-Mackey
 Included in Part I are the opinions of Troy Taylor, ghost hunter and author, Leon Lederman, Nobel winning Physicist,
Few questions are like to elicit a stronger response than the question, “do you believe in ghosts?” The naysayers will quickly and adamantly deny any such possibility and call you a fool for asking. The non-committal’s will shrug and move on to another, more comfortable topic. And the dabblers and the believers will expound for long minutes recalling odd experiences they have had.

Truthfully, few topics are as divisive as this one. Those who deny the possibility often do so from vehement religious beliefs.  And, make no mistake, science became the religion of the 20th century, with its scriptures as dogmatically adhered to by its followers as any religious zealot.  Proponents of science vehemently defend the notion of science being able to answer all questions with a rationale answer. The world around us, they tell us, is the only reality, and anything unexplained simply a riddle not yet solved. 
On the other hand, those who believe in the paranormal have a vested interest and will fight to support their beliefs just as strongly.  After all, a belief in spirits is a belief that the soul survives death. And that is a very attractive notion.

Whether you’re a believer, fence sitter or fierce non-believer it is undeniable that people have been seeing (and hearing, and smelling) ghosts since the dawn of mankind.  Not every person among them is a fool, charlatan or notoriety seeker. Indeed most people who experience something paranormal are absolutely normal. Many are reluctant to even talk about their experience, afraid of being ridiculed.  The paranormal knows no class bounds. Emperors and peasants, politicians, and garbage collectors, a paranormal experience can happen (and has) to anyone.  (See my series on famous people and the paranormal to find out what the many of the greatest minds thought on the subject.)

So what is the explanation for these odd events?  There are as many answers to that question as there are people who have experiences.  Compiled here are the opinions of many experts both within and without the field. These are the words of writers, thinkers, scientists, college professors and lifelong investigators.  This is what they have to say about the possibility of ghosts.

Pros

Justification
Long-time paranormal investigator, Troy Taylor, is the author of 50 books on the subject of ghosts, and founder of the American Ghost Society of Illinois.  With his vast experience investigating he admits that he has experienced events that defy rational explanation.  He understands that science mocks any hint of the supernatural, but says that this doesn’t mean that hauntings are not real. “Unfortunately, the supernatural does not conform to the idea of repeatable experiments. We can measure, document and record, but ghosts do no perform on command, which is what scientists demand….Thanks to this, science tells us ghosts cannot exist (Taylor, 2007).” 

 Taylor points out that, despite the stance the scientific community takes, many Americans believe in the possibility of the supernatural.  “Nationwide polls tell us that more than 1 in 2 Americans believe that houses can be haunted and more than 20% believe that people can communicate with the dead (Taylor, 2007).”

He goes on to point out that people have been reporting experiences from before written history, and that they still occur today in our so called ‘modern age.’  This he says makes the scientific community uncomfortable, “Not because they are afraid of ghosts but because they are afraid that the grip they have tried to impose on society, demanding that we not believe in anything supernatural, has started to slip once again (Taylor, 2007).”
The scientific stranglehold on reality slipped once before, with the Spiritualist movement of the 1800’s.
“Angered that new innovations in the scientific world had  started to break the monopoly that superstition and religion had on society, they immediately set about to debunk everything possible…And while many hoaxes were exposed there were just enough genuine mediums…to send many of the scientists back to their universities and laboratories in fear (Taylor, 2007).”
And a notable few, such as Sir William Crookes and Sir Oliver Lodge, actually became spiritualist converts using their private time and resources to investigate paranormal phenomena – often to the detriment of the professional reputations. While most people believe that investigators have done little to prove the validity of ghosts in the 150 years of research, he says he disagrees with that assessment, because while we cannot scientifically prove the existence of ghosts, he says we can verify hauntings historically.

What Are They?
So what are ghosts? Taylor points out that paranormal events are extremely varied, making one simple explanation impossible. He does explain that most ghost ‘experts’ do not believe that ghosts “are literally the ‘spirits’ of people who have died and have remained at a location.  This is not to say that they reject the possibility that some hauntings are caused by the activities of the dead, though they don’t believe that the ghosts themselves are the actual forms of the dead.” While this may be a popular notion for novices, Taylor explains that most ghost hunters believe that haunting are not the doings of the dead. Mainly they scoff at this notion because many locations leave no historical evidence of past tragedies or deaths. Therefore, why would the “dead person” be hanging around? “And they also add that no evidence exists in many locations to say that any past personality is present there (Taylor, 2007).”

However, Taylor says he disagrees with this theory:
 “…I agree that many locations do not boast events that might spawn ghosts, but isn’t it possible that the ghost may have stayed behind for other reasons altogether?....There are likely many reasons for hauntings….Just like the theory about what causes a place to become haunted, the idea that a ghost (or type of haunting) could be a single all encompassing thing is a nice idea, but an unrealistic one (Taylor, 2007).”
He explains that the word ghost is an umbrella term in the field of paranormal research, a term that is used to describe both spirits (actual human personalities) and apparitions (recordings of past events) [his terms]. Because of the wide variety of activity, he concludes that “no one theory can be used to describe them all adequately (Taylor, 2007).”
Troy Taylor
Author and Paranormal Investigator

 Cons
Paranormal Phenomena Fail to be Scientifically Verifiable
Nobel Prize Winning Physicist, Leon Lederman scorns the whole notion of ghosts, primarily from the standpoint that the paranormal fails to produce in a laboratory setting. “’You don’t have haunted houses. You have either gullible people or some dishonest people who are making this all up. Science has no room for ghosts.” No ghostly phenomena, according to Letterman, are scientifically verifiable, nor do the claims meet the demands of the scientific method. “The claim that I see it, I have to prove it. It goes beyond I can see it to I have to prove it. The burden is on the owner of that site or the writer of that book, and in 400 years of innumerable claims no one has succeeded in convincing the scientific community (Hauntings, 1997).’”
Leon Lederman, Ph.D.
Nobel Prize Winning Physicist

 Resources
Auerbach, Loyd (2005) A Paranormal Casebook; Ghost Hunting in the New Millennium. Atriad Press, LLC. Dallas, Texas.

 Documentary Produced by The History Channel (1997) The Unexplained: Hauntings.

Conover, Rob. a former private investigator turned paranormal Investigator http://robconover.net/default.aspx

Steiger, Brad (2003)  Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits and Haunted Places. Visible Ink Press. Canton, MI.
Taylor, Troy (2007)  Ghost Hunter’s Guidebook: The Essential Guide to Investigating Ghosts & Hauntings. American Ghost Society. White Chapel Press: Dark Haven Entertainment. Decatur, Illinois.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

The New House Effect


By
Robin Strom-Mackey


It was the first day in our new house, a hard day of hauling and carrying and cleaning. We ate late, sitting on the floor, and then we had put our young son to bed in a sleeping bag, and curled up in our own sleeping bags and fell asleep exhausted. Sometime late in the night I awoke with a start to see a young child peering at me. The child then straightened up, turned around and skipped out of the room and down the hall. I called my son’s name several times, assuming of course that it was him that was up and playing around. When he didn’t answer my calls and I failed to hear him moving in the hall I became confused. I got up and went down the hall to his room…only to find my son in his sleeping bag, sleeping soundly. Had I actually seen a ghost on the very first night in our new home!?
For years I puzzled over that experience. However, recently I came across the theory that really made me rethink the whole incident. Maurice Townsend, in an online article for the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASAP) calls it the ‘New House Effect.’ Basically this common sense theory suggests that in a home where you have lived awhile you become aware and thus immune to the idiosyncratic sounds and sights. For example, I know that the second and third steps in my home will squeak when stepped on, and that if the garage door is open it causes a strange suction that makes mudroom door slam shut. I know these things because I’ve lived here for several years.

But when you move into a new house or apartment these new, strange sights and sounds can cause a person to feel anxious, especially at night as the noise of the day abates and shadows descend. Think about the last time you stayed at a hotel, for example, and found yourself unable to sleep. When in a new location new sounds or sights can not only be confusing but may start to feel alarming as well. The way a door casts a shadow in a hall late at night or a pipe in the wall makes noise when it expands or contracts. Floor boards may squeak spookily even without someone walking upon them. A door may swing shut, seemingly on its own. Already feeling anxious, a person in this situation may jump to conclusions and interpret these events as being paranormal.

Still not convinced? Consider this fact; most people who report a haunting do so immediately after they move in. This occurs at locations where the previous tenant reported no activity. Why? Because the former tenants were accustomed to the location, whereas the new tenant is not.

Odd Sounds

The most often reported phenomena are strange sounds, which is not surprising.
Consider the plumbing, heating and electrical wiring that run all over a house,
hidden behind the walls. Wood floors can also makes sounds when the temperature
changes. Most of these sounds are caused by things we cannot see or thus
identify, which means they can easily be mistaken for something paranormal.



Strange Sights
Strange sights are less often reported, according to Townsend, because something that can be seen can also be investigated. Still strange shadows can appear to look like figures in the dark. Trees and vegetation can also throw shadows upon the walls, shadows that will appear to move when the tree branch shifts in a breeze. Car
lights, in particular, can play havoc with the lighting in a location as they move down the street. You may notice moving shadows, or balls of light moving on the walls. In the dead of night, at a new location, this can seem very sinister. I once investigated a locale where it was reported that strange balls of light could be seen on the security camera but could not be seen with the naked eye. Upon investigation we concluded that a car light shining up at an angle through a window hit a computer screen which created the ball of light which was obvious on the security camera but which we could not see. Conclusion? Light and shadows can behave in very strange ways but still have completely natural explanations.

Old House, New House
Often when renovations begin in a building an uptick of paranormal activity is reported. The popular theory of paranormal investigators suggests that the spirit is unhappy with the changes to their ‘home.’ But a more prosaic answer might be the ‘New House Effect.’ When one tears down walls, changes plumbing, replaces windows the old house changes. Sound will carry differently, noises never heard before may become audible, and the quality of light may change. The once familiar domain is changed. The old house has become a new house once again.
The Snowball Effect

Once a person has labeled their location as haunted they will tend to start interpreting every odd occurrence as being ‘the ghost. ‘The keys go missing blame the ghost. The light in hallway keeps burning out, it must be the ghost. Heard a strange whispering sound? It's obviously the ghost. In the same house where I had the odd experience my son’s toys would often go off by themselves. I noticed that after we moved out of the house it didn’t happen. Ghost? Probably not, though I attributed it to the ghost at the time. In retrospect, I realize that he was very young and had many cheap, noise making toys which required batteries. As he got older the noise makers got weaned out for Leggos and action figures and the noises stopped.
The New House Effect and Paranormal Investigations
The point is, as soon s a house is labeled as haunted, everything starts to be attributed to the aunting. If the residents are anxious to begin with, they may grow
increasingly frightened of their surroundings. Even those who take the haunting’ in stride may not consider more rational answers to their odd ccurrences. Just telling someone that a locale is haunted changes the way they ill iterpret anything they hear or see the human mind is extremely susceptible to suggestion. nce a locale is labeled as haunted it is very difficult to dispel the label.

Paranormal investigators should keep the ‘New House Effect’ in mind during investigations. Townsend points out that a first investigation to a locale will often turn up much more ‘evidence’ than subsequent investigations. The answer to the puzzle, again, is the ‘New House Effect.’ Investigators start an investigation in a location labeled as ‘haunted’ thus they begin with a bias. Add to that the oddities of the new locale, the strange sounds and sights…and voila, a haunted house is verified. On subsequent visits to a building, however, the investigator will experience less odd occurrences. They have grown accustomed to the location. The New House has become the Old House.

Resources
Townsend, Maurice (2007) The New House Effect. Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena: Paranormal Education and Research Charity. Retrieved August 11, 2011 from www.assap.ac.uk/newsite/htmlfiles/new%29house.html



Image by Seb Hoggane, Deviant Art
Article written for the Delaware Paranormal Research Group




Sunday, May 22, 2011

Home Invasion

by Robin M. Strom-Mackey


Recently we had an unsettling course of events; unsettling even for a ghost hunter with some experience. The first premise in ghost hunting is always to help out the family, but sometimes I think investigative groups forget that premise in the heat of the quest.  We're so focused on investigating the mystery that we forget that for the homeowner it’s more a nightmare.  That is true until you find yourself in the same situation. Recently I found out, quite unequivocally, that it really isn’t fun to live in a house with paranormal activity.

My son and I were alone in the house as my husband was away on business. Any single mother can tell you that staying by yourself with a small child, or children, is an unsettling experience. There are enough explainable but frightening things with which to contend. Burglars, rapists, thieves who knows who might break in to hurt you or your family as you lie groggily asleep.
The Dark Man

Mythology speaks to archetypes
Archetypes are personalities that show up again and again in legends and verbal histories of a culture. They encompass the most basic fears, hopes and desires of a people. The enthralling aspect about the theory of archetypes - whether the legends are from Russia, Africa, Asia, Europe or North America – is the similarity of experience across the human spectrum. Symbolized by a fox in one culture or a mongoose in another, the basic characters represent the same human desires or fears. And living alone, what I feared most was the dark man, that nameless danger, that dark shape in the night.

What We Experienced

Therefore, it’s not surprising that the dark man is exactly who appeared to us. My son awoke three mornings and reported a strange man standing in the hallway. He felt the form he saw was more than merely the shadow thrown against the wall as he sat up in bed. On the first sighting he described the form as wearing a striped shirt. On two occasions he described the being as standing in the hallway and looking around the corner and into my bedroom. On the third occasion he described the dark form as bobbing up and down in a strange way, and then dissipating as my son called to me.

With the plasticity of youth, my son first interpreted the dark man as being his grandfather who had recently passed away. On subsequent viewings he wasn’t so sure, however. And, after sensing my own uneasiness, he became increasingly disconcerted. It goes without saying that children feed off their parent’s reactions. My son became increasingly uncomfortable being alone on his room, and if I came into his room unannounced he reacted violently, often with a, “why didn’t you say you were coming in!” I must admit, that I have never caught sight of the dark man. But I did find myself looking over my shoulder while dressing, and waking up several times a night to look out in the hall. I wasn’t getting much sleep. I was edgy. During the day I was tired, distracted and cranky. Worst of all, I didn’t know to whom I should turn. Now I admit all this rather sheepishly. I’ve been researching the paranormal field for a number of years, and I’ve willingly walked into situations just to experience paranormal phenomenon. It is vastly different however, to seek out the paranormal in someone else’s domicile or building, than to have an unknown quantity in your own home.

I realized that I was literally walking in the shoes of those homeowner’s that had become before. But I realized how I might use the experience to become a more empathetic investigator.

Seeking Help

Being a single mother, I tried to bear my fears on my own. I didn’t feel that there was anyone close enough to me to confide what sounded, understandably like a wacky story. I knew that a sane adult didn’t normally go up to another casual acquaintance and say, “I say, Joe, it appears I may have a ghost in my house.” You do feel that such an assertion will land you a full psychiatric evaluation, and large doses of anti-psychotic medications. But on about the third night of little sleep this was the avenue I was forced to take. I found the most liberal group of individuals I knew, and explained to them my rather unusual problem. To my shock they neither laughed at me nor called for the paddy wagon. One individual told me contact a ghost hunting group in my area, which was ironic to say the least, but a good idea. The others were sympathetic. We discussed for awhile all the possible explanations both normal and not so normal. I didn’t come away with any answers, but I felt so much stronger and relaxed about the situation. It’s one thing to bear the burden alone, another to bear the burden with sympathetic friends. If you do find yourself in a similar situation, my first piece of advice is to find someone empathetic and sympathetic to discuss the situation. I can’t overstate how cathartic it is just to get the problem off your chest and discuss all the possibilities as to what is happening.

Seeking Answers

As I said before, my friends and I discussed all the possibilities about what could be happening in the house and what it was my son might be seeing. We talked about natural as well as supernatural causes, how light and shadows might be flitting across the walls as cars drove by. It was late in the winter and was getting light late in the morning. When my son and I arose it was still very dark, and thus my friends and I speculated that headlights thrown against the wall of the stairwell might cause the illusion of movement. We further hypothesized that someone standing on the street corner waiting for a ride and illuminated by headlights might be causing the illusion of a form.

And as my friend had suggested calling in an investigative team I realized that once I stopped thinking like a victim, and started thinking like a rational investigator again, that I had the tools to start unraveling the mystery. So, one early morning I set up my equipment and recorded video and audio recordings. I used my EMF detector to check for any odd electrical anomalies. After which I went through all the evidence. And I got…absolutely nothing. Not only did I not capture a moving form in my hallway, I recorded no electromagnetic spikes or any odd audio recordings. I also did not see any strange lights moving across the walls casting shadows that might be interpreted by a small boy as a moving form.

Taking Back Control

What I did glean from my own personal investigation was a feeling of taking back the power. Instead of being reactive I was now being proactive. Instead of suffering from the experience I was actively trying to unravel the mystery. My second word of advice would be to take a stand against whatever is happening. Even if you, as a homeowner don’t feel up to investigating the phenomena yourself, there are groups out there that can investigate it for you. Most of these groups are headed by amateurs who volunteer their time. When contacting a group I would suggest you ask what they feel their qualifications are, and what their investigative methodology entails. Find a group that acts professionally and has investigated a number of sites. In other words, shop around and to find a group that has a similar outlook as yours.

My son finally stopped seeing the form, and our lives returned to normal. What a relief! While my investigation turned up nothing I decided that the most rational explanation for the situation was that the quality of light and dark during that brief period was what was causing the shadows on the walls that appeared to my son as a form. After a couple of weeks obviously the quality of the light and darkness would have changed, as they do rapidly at that time of the year. Hence, no more dark man. My final piece of advice is to look for rational explanations first, before descending into the labyrinth of the irrational. While frightening, most experiences of this kind have a rational explanation.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Current Debate Part V:The Infrared Spectrum and Implications for Paranormal Investigating


See Parts I, II and III of the Current Debate under July 2010 heading, Part IV under January 2011 heading to learn about AC vs. DC power, atoms and electrons, and a description of how electricity works in the human body.
By Robin M. Strom-Mackey"The Infrared spectrum may be important to ghost hunting because this area of the electromagnetic spectrum seems to be, according to Steiger, where the greatest number of paranormal manifestations occurs."
A Simple Explanation of Electromagnetic Energy
Electromagnetic energy is a combination of electrical impulses and magnetic force coupled together. The two forces move together in waves. The lower end of the spectrum has looser waves with the crests further apart. At the low end of the spectrum, and not shown on this graph are the Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) electro-magnetic fields of AC power, which we use to power most of our electric appliances. Above that (shown below) are the Intermediate Frequency Fields (IF) with the wave crests closer together. This is the radio wave and microwaves portions of the spectrum. The infrared spectrum is just below what is visible light to humans. Just beyond the visible light spectrum are the ultraviolet rays. Undoubtedly you’ve heard of ultraviolet rays in connection with using sunscreen on a hot day. These light rays are faster moving and thus have more energy which can be harmful to exposed flesh.

Electricity can be static. For instance, when you break the electrical circuit by turning off a light switch, the electrons that would normally be shifting down the circuit from one atom to the next stall out and merely rotate around their own nucleus. Magnetism can also be static. Consider the magnets you use to pin important pictures to the refrigerator. However, when electricity and magnetism become coupled, and when one of these forces change, it causes a change in the other force. Both begin moving together in waves -electromagnetic waves. The magnetic and electric fields of an electromagnetic wave are perpendicular to each and to the direction in which the wave is moving. Electromagnetic waves appear impervious to such concerns as gravitation or friction. Once created, an electromagnetic wave will continue moving forever unless it becomes absorbed by matter (nasa.gov).
The Infrared Spectrum and Implications for Paranormal Investigating
Infrared light has a wave range just as visible light. The wave length of the farther region of infrared (i.e. closer to microwave) are about the distance of a pin head. Nearer the visible light spectrum, infrared wavelength is about the distance of a one celled organism. The infrared light band can be divided into three regions: Near IR, Middle IR and Far IR depending on their wavelength measurements. The infrared waves in the Far IR region are thermal in nature. Hence, while we cannot see infrared waves as visible light with our eyes, we can feel it in the form of heat – or thermal radiation. The warmth released by a radiator or the heat coming off a sidewalk on a hot, summer afternoon are examples of infrared waves. Thermal IR cameras work in this region recording the thermal heat waves. The NEAR IR waves emit light waves versus heat. (Nasa.gov)

The infrared spectrum may be important to ghost hunting because this area of the electromagnetic spectrum seems to be, according to Steiger, where the greatest number of paranormal manifestations occurs. Many cameras, both video and still, come with the ability to work in near darkness using an IR setting. It should be noted that these cameras work in only the Near IR region, that region closest to the visible light spectrum that we can see with our eyes.
Many digital cameras are still sensitive to both the visible light spectrum and the Near IR region, even when not placed in a specific IR setting. This can account for photographs taken that show an anomaly not witnessed when the photograph was taken.
To determine if your camera is sensitive to Near IR light waves, Haunted Chicago suggests using a TV remote. The end used to direct the television works on the Near IR spectrum. Thus, when depressed and pointed toward a camera the light rays should be visible if the camera is sensitive to this region.
The thermal properties of energy given off by Far IR infrared waves, might also account for temperature fluctuations that are reported so often during or slightly before paranormal manifestations. Odd fluctuations in temperature are often noted during paranormal activity – in particular odd cold spots. According to Steiger these cold areas can demonstrate a measurable drop of anywhere from 10 to 40 degrees. It should be noted that during this temperature dip, temperatures don’t fall throughout the entire building, nor even the entire room, but appear to be localized to one small area. Steiger accounts for this oddity by explaining that entities are attracting to themselves the “condensation of free electrons in the environment. (Steiger, pg. XI).”
By free electrons Steiger means the naturally produced air ions. These ions are created when an atom of a natural gas loses one of its electrons, creating a positively charged molecule and a negative free floating electron. Steiger seems to suggest it is the gathering of these “free electrons” by the entity that it uses to fuel itself. Steiger contends that the movement of dispersed electrons to a specific spot would cause the momentary feeling of chill in the surrounding areas. It is also why many investigators use ion detectors during investigations.
The third similarity, Steiger contends, is found in the infrared spectrum, the area just below visible light.
Based on research and discussions it appears that entities, ghosts, spirits etc. are more sensitive to being seen in IR light than UV light. This is in line with another theory that ghosts move very quickly through our space. A high speed object would be better illuminated with a low frequency/long wave light source than a high frequency/short wave source. It is also possible that whatever the composition of ghosts is (including ectoplasm) is more sensitive to reflecting IR light.
Resources
Electromagnetic Spectrum (1996) http://www.its.bldrdoc.gov/fs-1037/dir-013/_1941.htm
Retrieved January 6, 2011.
Jennifer. Infrared Imagery Springfield Paranormal Research Group

Layton, J. How Does the Body Make Electricity - and How Does It Use It? http://health.howstuffworks.com/human-body/ Retrieved January 11, 2011.

Magnetic Flux Definition http://www.answers.com/topic/magnetic-flux#ixzz1AMTK2txP Retrieved January 7, 2011.
Rowlett, R. How Many? A Dictionary of Units of Measurementthe University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
www.unc.edu/~rowlett/units/dictG.html retrieved January 6, 2011

Steiger, B. (2003) Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits and Haunted Places
Visible Ink Press. Canton, MI.

The Electromagnetic Spectrum: What are Electromagnetic Waves? (2007) http://science.hq.nasa.gov/kids/imagers/ems/waves2.html Retrieved January 6, 2011
The Appearance on Electronic Video Capture Devices of Anomalous Images That Are Normally Not Visible to Humans. (1998-2002) http://www.hauntedchicago.com/research.htm. Retrieved January 7, 2011.
Types of Electromagnetic Fields http://corrosion-doctors.org/Voltage/electromagnetic-def.htm#various_forms Retrieved January 6, 2011.
Using Alternate Light Spectrums for Paranormal Investigations (2003-2011) Long Island Paranormal Investigators. http://www.liparanormalinvestigators.com/light.shtml Retrieved January 7, 2011.