After rereading David Taylor’s article, Spaces of Transition (At The Edge Magazine No 10 1998), I began to explore to points highlighted by both articles.
David Taylor makes some keen observations on how as investigators we approach the archetypal haunted house. Hopefully the standard approach is to interview the witness and listen to “the claim” before even any research or investigation has taken place. Most investigators will then clarify the haunting with a very nuts and bolt methodology that seems as prevalent as it were in 1998, when David wrote the original article.
However often the personality and the psychology of the witness’s relationship with the house is not even taken into account, David uses this reference to make his point, “To the new occupant, the “incomer”, the haunted house has a “history” or a “reputation” in a personal, almost sexual way. The house is not a “virgin”. It has been violated by the presence of other human activity . . .’ (ROGERSON, Peter, 1987, ‘And the dogs began to howl’, Magonia No. 27 p7–10.)
As an ex-inhabitant of a “haunted house” I can vouch how paranoia can increase after the first “incident”. At first my family scrambled to find some sort of explanation, and almost instantly it was ascertained it was a former inhabitant, without any further research or discussion with neighbours on the matter.
Instead of concealing the experiences and our own thoughts on the ‘ghost’, we asked very leading questions of our neighbours, and indeed it seemed that an “old man” once lived in the property. The majority of my family believed that our house was haunted by this man – and yet looking back thirty years later it is hard to accept that we took the word of neighbours who never even met this “old man” or what his interests or appearance was actually like.
David Taylor talks further about a case he investigated,
When I visited them it was clear that the present occupants believed that a past resident, who they believed had died in the house, was responsible for the phenomena. These occurrences, they believed, had apparently also been experienced by previous occupants of the house – with the result that no one ever stayed long in the property. An hour in the local records office soon showed that, despite what the neighbours had told them, a normal number of families had stayed in the house over a reasonable period of time and, even though past occupiers may have died, there was no evidence to suggest that they had died in the house. This I feel illustrates the point: faced with apparently unexplained phenomena the family believe that the only explanation can be the ‘spirit’ of a past resident who died in the house. Their belief is reinforced by neighbours who appear to have ‘invented’ a history of the house.
Our story developed further with the over-active mind of my mother – she believed the “old man” had dabbled in the occult after they found a broken up ouija board in our garden. I have investigated many other “haunted houses” and not analysed (enough) at how the witness related to their own, direct surroundings. It is to easy to say that a location is “haunted” because of the stereotypical reasons, but how many times do we say that it could be a case of psychology and local folklore?
their neighbours certainly seem to have projected their concerns onto the house. The house had become a sort of psychic scapegoat. We can then get entangled in a chicken and egg situation. Rumours that a house is haunted could lead the family to turn normal ‘bumps’ and ‘bangs’ into a tormented ‘spirit’, and before you know it the entire family is convinced the house, which prior to the rumours everyone was happy to live in, is haunted.
And this is not a recent phenomenon. During my research of “ghost hunters” in Victorian Britain, many deserted houses were classed as being haunted with large crowds gathering nightly to witness the “ghost”. The famed case of “50 Berkeley Square” has it’s origins in a case of mistaken identity. During the 1870s when it was rented or used as a part-time residence, it slowly gained a reputation of being haunted – one that has stuck even until day. Yet in the 1890s, and also by the work of Jessie Adelaide Middleton, it was ascertained the property was inhabited during the time of the alleged appearances of “ghosts”.
I certainly plan on investigating further how the appearance of a house can affect the inhabitants, Most people know or have a story about a house that has bad luck, haunted or has a “strange feeling” – I would like to explore what aesthetics can enhance the witness’s thoughts to come to these decisions.
David’s article is well worth checking out – you can read it here:- http://www.indigogroup.co.uk/edge/spaces.htm
Another trip down memory lane and this time to 1970s Birmingham and to the demolished factory of Thomas Haddon and Stokes. One witness I interviewed said, “There was a chap who worked in the stores area in the basement. One day he was walking to the lift when he saw an oddly dressed man step into the lift, the chap shouted “I will come up with you” but when he reached the lift no one was there.”
The following is an ATV/Central News report when a reporter visited the factory of Thomas Haddon and Stokes, Birmingham (since demolished) to discuss the ghostly sightings of a man believed to be Protestant martyr John Rogers, who was burned at the stake on this site February 4 1555. Was he really the shoe factory ghost?”
The marvellous “Apparitions” by GNM Tyrrell is a book that has been a constant companion through my life as a ghost hunter/paranormal explorer. I believe it is essential reading, even if just to open your mind to various theories and an insight into the first ventures into physical research. As much as I love this book, sadly I am not a statistician and couldn’t even repeat something as wonderful as this passage..
“A case is given in which a man came out of an upstairs room, in which he had been alone, on to the landing noting the time as he did so. He saw the apparition of an old lady, dressed like his mother, come out of another room on the same floor and descend the stairs. As he watched the figure going down, his wife came up the stairs, and passed so close to the descending figure that she appeared to him to brush against it. But she had neither seen nor felt it. At precisely the same time the percipient’s mother dressed in outdoor clothes as the figure has been, died in another town…
Let us say that the percipient has had only 30 years of intelligent life, and that during those 30 years he has slept for 9 hours a day. He has then had 15x30x365= 164,250 hours of waking, intelligent life. Now, in this space of time, he has had one apparition, which resembled his mother and was within a few minutes of her death. Now, if we say only that it was within a quarter of an hour in which death occurred, there are 164,250 hours = 657,000 quarter hours of life in which that apparition might come; so that the chance of its coming in the right quarter hour was 1/657,000. But this is on the supposition that the only apparition which could possibly appear to him would be his mother’s, or at least one which resembled his mother.”
Tyrell continues in the chapter to work out the possible chances of witnessing the spectre of his mother exactly at the right time but he sums it up brilliantly, “The weakness of statistics when applied to spontaneous cases is that they unable to deal with the qualitatively complex events in any satisfactory manner.”
And here lies the problem when science approaches paranormal subjects, an experiment must be able to be replicated over and over again, but when dealing with something like the paranormal this simply is not achievable. Although I wish it was possible to ‘test’ a psychic, I very much doubt that the conditions that Randi places on the psychic are conducive to obtain a psychic reading – but then we have to ask why?
I have spent nearly four months researching and delving into America’s archives hunting for reports of ghostly sightings and occurrences, and what an informative journey it has been. Aside from uncovering some of the most strangest ghost stories I have ever read, I have also discovered the following about American Ghosts:
I have been able to compile 50 ghost stories from the archives that not only provide the usual scare, but will also give the reader an impression of 19th century America and it’s belief system towards ghosts. Hopefully the book should be released at the beginning of October.
Who or what is the little devil that keeps appearing in Virginia? Monkeys? Or Satan himself? The story begins in the small town of Crewe, Virginia in May…
An author witnesses a scene from over 400 hundred years ago and an off-duty policemen relives 1950’s Liverpool. Do people really slip through time as easy as entering…
We all know Halloween is a silly season in the media where it is common to read about the ‘top 10 Britain’s most haunted cities’, ‘UK’s most haunted…
After rereading David Taylor’s article, Spaces of Transition (At The Edge Magazine No 10 1998), I began to explore to points highlighted by both articles. David Taylor makes…