Saturday, 28 November 2009

Poltergeists or something else?

I suppose we are all aware of these pesky anomalies through several ghost investigation TV programmes and that one very notable Hollywood film, but what exactly are they?
I don't think there is one accepted or popular explanation, we just know they move things and throw things etc.
This brings me to my next question. There have been items that I KNOW EXACTLY where I put them down, only for them to totally disappear, then to re-appear some time later. One notable occasion is when I had a very important piece of information on a floppy disc (so you can see it was a few years ago) which I left on my desk just to the right of my monitor and just in front of my mouse mat. I went off into the kitchen to make a cup of tea and when I came back it wasn't there. This was extremely annoying as I had a piece of work to finish to which the information stored on the disc was vital. I ended up lifting every item and piece of equipment off my desk and putting it all down on the floor - the monitor, computer, desk tidy, everything! - all I had left was a completely bare desk top. In defeat, I then lifted everything back onto the desk and went off to make another cuppa (as the previous one had gone stone cold during the hunt). When I came back into the room I couldn't believe what I saw. The disc was back on my desk. Not in the place where I left it but nonetheless in full view. Now, there wasn't one item on my desk after I had cleared it. Not even dust, as I had taken the opportunity to run a duster over it as it was the first time in ages it had been totally clear.
The question I am asking is this. Was that the actions of a poltergeist? - I thought it would have been more likely to throw stuff or be a little more violent. It was very restrained for a poltergeist as that was the only thing it moved.
I think we have a tendancy to pigeon-hole things with a nice convenient title. Poltergeists being one such thing.

Friday, 27 November 2009

The scent of a ghost

Apparently there have been many reports of smells at haunted places. I have to admit, I have had out of place smells around here very occasionally. (Please resist the temptation to be flippant and ask if it was me after a curry or the dog). The kind of smells I mean are things like a very old fashioned perfume - the kind you remember from your granny and now are never worn these days; or in my case here, the smell of strong cigarettes and sometimes pipe tobacco. It isn't drifting in from outside as we live a mile outside of town, so it isn't someone walking past the door and has flicked a fag end into the yard. These smells usually exist for just a few seconds (and we both smell them) and then they disappear entirely as if they never existed. Normal smells don't do that I believe!
If this is the case and these smells exist (and it would be odd if two of us had an olfactory anomaly at the same time) then how are they generated? - from what?. OK, I can deal with the stone tapes theory and the idea that the fabric of a building can act as a film tape and replay happenings from the past when the atmospheric conditions are just right, but this is like saying that smellyvision must exist! - its bizarre!
Is there some logical explanation for it?. If there is I can't think of one. I try to be rational and logical whenever possible, and I am always willing to believe the mundane over the paranormal, but I just think we have a ghost that likes to pop off somewhere for a ciggie now and then.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Dumb and Dumber

The are very few subjects that seem to polarise people's views but the existence of ghosts certainly seems to be one of them. On one extreme you have the sceptical side, where if it can't be touched, tasted, smelled, measured or otherwise quantified with the current knowledge at our fingertips then it plain doesn't exist. At the other extreme you have the believers who are willing to believe just about anything including fairies and angels.
Somewhere in all this is what could laughingly be called the truth. I say "laughingly" because we are dealing with the unknown. It is certainly true to say that many many people have seen what they claim to be ghosts (me included) and sometimes whole groups of people. Only a real bigoted sceptic would put EVERYTHING down to either delusional people or hallucinations.
So where do we go from here? - well science and the educational system have certainly taken it seriously because they have spent taxpayers money by setting up paranormal study groups at several universities. So for the sceptics to say it is all complete nonsense is certainly not within the current academic thought process.
I have no idea whether the mystery will ever be solved. I cannot say that hysteria, delusional people and downright liars don't severely muddy the waters, but I would say (in my humble opinion) that there is certainly a little meat on the spiritual bone. It can't all just be flippantly brushed aside.
Still this will make no difference to the two extreme factions. Belief is a very powerful thing - even if that belief happens to be that you don't believe anything at all!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Can quantum physics partially explain ghost sightings?

OK, before you think I have gone barking mad or I am some kind of eccentric professor from a 50's sci-fi movie, it isn't as daft as you may think.

If you look up "The Double Slit Experiment" on Youtube, you will see a video being explained by a sort of American cartoon character. Don't let that put you off. The content is fascinating. To briefly explain the double slit theory. When they fired electrons through a single slit at a target board behind they made a single stripe (as would any particle - be it a marble or an electron) but when they fired electrons through two slits they made an interference pattern of many stripes on the target board behind, as if they WEREN'T acting like particles but waves. Baffled by this they put up a device to watch the electrons pass throught the slits and how they behave. As soon as they did this the particles switched from behaving like waves back to behaving like particles. It was almost like the particles knew they were being watched and switched their behaviour. Pretty spooky on it's own, and remember this was a scientific experiment, not a paranormal experiment.

Now if we take a small leap of faith (well a massive one actually) and say that spirits are indeed a form of energy. Could it be that they are simply behaving like the electrons in the Double Slit Experiment, and the simple observance of them makes them automatically act differently and even disappear from sight? - could it be that the simple act of pointing a camera or measuring device at them makes them undetectable or disappear altogether from sight? - makes you think doesn't it?
It was a good friend of mine who told me about the double slit experiment and it has intrigued me ever since. This is of course complete and total speculation on my part, but it is at least a semi-rational explanation isn't it?

10 Things that make me smile about paranormal TV programs

1) When a certain female investigator says "everybody keep calm" then runs out of the room screaming accompanied by a row of bleeps on the TV.
2) When the pet sceptic waves around an EMF meter like it is a magic wand when it has never actually been proven to detect the presence of spirits.
3) When the investigators ask the spirits to throw something at them - be careful, one day they just might!
4) When psychics get "possessed" by some spirit and do really bad music hall impersonations of characters from days gone by.
5) When we are told to listen out for background taps and noises and the crew say "did you hear that?" and there is spooky background music playing to the film track - like we could hear a damn thing anyway!
6) The way they demand a spirit shows itself by calling it a coward or some other insult - like THAT's gonna work!. If I were the resident spectre i'd think "well, up yours" and do nothing.
7) When investigators say "we don't mean you any harm". They are dead for goodness sake. Something tells me they are already beyond further damage.
8) The way a whole "new-speak" language has been invented around ghost hunting. We now talk of "residuals" and go on "vigils" etc etc.
9) Celebrity guests on ghost hunts. Why would a pop singer or TV celeb add anything of value to a paranormal investigation?
10) The way I "tut" and comment on every one of these paranormal programs but still watch them avidly.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

A new piece of detection equipment?

I live in an old farmhouse that I believe to be haunted (it's either that or several friends and relatives have all had similar hallucinations). One thing I have noticed is that my old dog who died and my now current dog both follow with their eyes these same shadows that I see out of the corner of my eye. One time, a few years ago my old dog was standing on his hind legs looking through a window at someone outside and wagging his tail. Which is odd as that particular window was bricked up many years ago.

There have been several other examples of them seeing or sensing something that is outside my range of senses. This begs the question that maybe one of the most valuable pieces of detection "equipment" we could take along on a ghost investigation is the humble pooch! - they certainly seem to be as sensitive as we are and indeed probably more so. I wonder if there is any particular breed that is better at this than others, or are they all similarly blessed. Makes you wonder!.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Are we all lost?

Even in these most modern and supposedly enlightened times when we are bombarded almost daily with sceptics and scientists views on all things spiritual or religious, there still appears to be no shortage of people who are willing to believe in the existence of ghosts and/or the afterlife. Why should this be? - well the obvious and truthful answer is that no one is 100% sure why.
My theory (for what it's worth) is that technology is advancing at a mind boggling rate, and even those of us who embrace change and march on with the tide of science still get a little fearful at times. We still wonder where is will all end and we feel more and more insignificant when faced with the enormity of data that is so readily placed before us in ever increasing doses. There is that little voice that says "enough" and we yearn for a little spirituality - a little colour in the sterile and clinical world of science and technology. We are willing to believe our primitive instincts.
This "gut reaction" has nothing whatsoever to do with belief in my opinion. It goes a little deeper than that. It is almost at DNA level. To over-analyse it would make it go away, and the little primitive savage inside us doesn't want it to go away. The mind knows when it needs something and sometimes it does know best, no matter how misguided that may be. As long as the ethereal side doesn't dominate and take over the real side of life it can actually be beneficial I think.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Natural "explanations"

I agree that most ghost sightings can be viewed as being very suspicious. Especially as most of these are anecdotal. Most people point to the fact that no definitive, undisputable, clear and accurate picture of a ghost has ever been taken. But does this mean that they don't exist? The eye is not a camera. It is true that there are some similarities - both having a lens etc. But it has never been proven one way or the other what the accurate range of light waves is that eyes are capable of picking up. It may well be that the eye is able to detect some subtle ranges that the crude camera cannot! Also we have to throw into the equation the fact that high EMF readings can affect our senses. As can infrasound.

When we take all this into account, how likely is it that two or more people will have exactly the same hallucination in the same location at the same time. Even mass hysteria needs some time to propagate!
When all reasonable doubt has been removed and two (or more) people see something anomalous then the argument stands that this is a real anomaly.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The new Ghost Train

I suppose it could be said that with the advent of Most Haunted and other such programmes a new industry was spawned - that of the organised ghost hunt. I don't know whether there is an ideal number of investigators in any one haunted location before the resident spirits are driven back into their ethereal boltholes. Maybe there isn't! That said, I can't see how forty or so fee paying people trudging from room to room in organised little groups can be conducive to any serious hunt for the paranormal. The simple answer is that it can't. They are organised for no other reasons than entertainment and making money. This is not to say that it is necessarily a bad thing. In fact I think it's a great idea. Very often the funds raised from renting out many of these historical buildings to the event organisers puts much needed funds into the coffers for maintaining and restoring these places. Several hotels have actively advertised the fact that they are haunted and are all the more popular for it (something that may have had the opposite effect 20 years ago). I suppose the organisation of it all helps to keep people safe and provides the thrill that they seek. A little like the trip on the Ghost Train at the funfair when you were a kid. You were willing to suspend belief for a little while to get a mild fright.
The upshot of it all is the fact that the people are getting what they crave, the building owners are making a few bob, and the ghost hunt companies are making money and consequently employing people. Long may it continue.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Ghostly graphics and digital demons

Since the invention of digital photography and video recorders a reinvention of an old art form seems to have emerged - the ghost picture. I have already discussed my views on orbs (that I think they are dust) but digital photos are a different thing. They can (and should) give proof of something wacky and paranormal happening at a location. I say "should" because of the very nature of digital photography. It isn't like the old 35mm film - with that there was a negative. Something an expert could look at and usually come to a satisfactory conclusion as to whether it was a fake or real. With digital pics they are a bit more transient in nature. They can be played around with using photo editing software. With this in mind I either choose to ignore the obvious flaws in the proof and believe the taker of the photo or I don't. If you go on to good old Youtube and type in the search "Ghost Videos" you will see literally hundreds. I found a few that made me think, a few that made me doubt their authenticity and a few that made me almost cry laughing - but it has to be said that the latter were made with that effect in mind.

I suppose this means that even if a digital pic or video was taken even under the strictest control situations by a team of respected scientists and sceptics, it would still be viewed with some suspicion. The conspiracy theorists would say it is all a government cover-up or some such rubbish. Is there an answer to the conundrum? - I have no idea!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

"For entertainment purposes only"

I don't quite know which law makes programme makers put up that silly announcement before every paranormal programme on TV but it's getting a little tedious. Does the nanny state think us unable to come to our own rational decisions without havine the "there-there" brigade patting us on the shoulder and telling us it's all OK and the big scary bogeymen aren't real. Who cares what these PC-gone-mad little jobsworths think. If I choose to believe, disbelieve, suspend belief or swear vehemently at my TV set whilst these programmes are on TV it is completely my choice. I notice they never put that stuff on just before Songs of Praise!

Belief is a personal choice and still (thank God) something that is a basic, fundamental, personal freedom. Please stop trying to protect us from something that 99.99% of us feel neither unsettled by or worried about. There are some TV programmes (and you know who you are) that I now watch in amusement and fond affection, when one of it's resident psychics gets possessed more often than cars after loan defaults!
You are right about that at least  - it IS entertaining. Now stop being like some boring granny and repeating it endlessly...WE KNOW.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Could ghosts sometimes be Charles Bonnet Syndrome?

Charles Bonnet Syndrome is the name given to explain the situation when people with sight problems start to see things that they know are not real.
Sometimes called visual hallucinations, the things that people see can take all kinds of forms, from simple patterns of straight lines to detailed pictures of people or buildings. These images can be enjoyable, frightening and/or sometimes upsetting. It can be that the sufferers just see a latticework of lines as if the room is covered in strands, but it can also take on a frightening guise when people actually see other human beings that aren't there.
Could this be an explanation for SOME supposed apparitions?. Especially when these visions actually appear as solid flesh and blood.
It is certainly another layer to add to the whole spectrum of ghostly sightings. That said, the sufferers usually do know they suffer from this condition.

Monday, 9 November 2009

The Ubiquitous Orb

Is it only me that thinks that orbs are just dust?
I took a few pictures at a wedding a couple of years ago where there was a roomful of dancers all leaping around wildly at the wedding reception (as you do after a few alcoholic libations) - there we orbs by the dozen on most pics, including some large and wonderful technicolor jobs. Now - either this council owned, modern municipal building is one of the most haunted locations in Britain, (which it isn't) or the dust being kicked up by a few dozen feet was the culprit.
I can't quite remember when this phenomenon first came into the public domain, but I doubted it from day one.
A few questions to ponder:
1) Why do materialising spirits always appear as perfectly round orbs all of a similar colour?
2) Who first hypothecised that this is what they were?
3) Why have they only started showing themselves in abundance since the advent of digital photography?

The "professional" sceptic

I agree with the fact that any supposedly serious paranormal investigations show should have an on-board sceptic. It is a requirement to have someone who isn't as ready to believe the odd creak or other noise is always of a paranormal nature. I do find it amusing though that these sceptics have received wide public recognition by appearing on shows who's aims and findings they are largely out to disprove. I would imagine that their services are also being paid for by these very shows. If a sceptic IS being paid by the television company who's show he/she is appearing on then how unbiased is it possible to be?. After all they can't be TOO critical of the show and it's findings or they would swiftly find themselves being replaced by a "gentler" sceptic - perhaps they should do it as a public service free-of-charge and really tell us what they think (says he grinning)
A few shows spring to mind, but I think you probably know the ones I have in mind.
Please don't think that I am decrying them in any way, because I am most definitely not. I think most happenings that have been described as paranormal have some rational, earthly explanation. It's the anomalies that can't be rationalised that are obviously the most intriguing.

Saturday, 7 November 2009


I suppose I have always been in touch with the paranormal and taken it as a matter of course. My mother was certainly very mediumistic and often as a child at night I would hear her having conversations and I would only be able to hear one voice. It was a bit like eavesdropping on a telephone conversation someone was having. I never saw it as unusual as it was just part of our normal family life.
I haven't inherited her gifts (sadly) but I do seem to have certain abilities. If I was a little more open-minded I could possibly be a little better at it, but I still have the sceptic side to me. It's a Jekyll and Hyde existence I am a firm believing non-believer!!
There are a handful of happenings that I will go into in depth later on some time, but yes, I HAVE seen a ghost.
Fervent sceptics will always scoff when you say that, and claim it was a hallucination or hysteria. Then there are others who do believe you but say "I have never seen a ghost myself". When they say that I always say the same thing. Which is "how do you know?" They look a little confused when I say that, but if you think it through, when we are walking down a street or road and there are people, we always make the very natural assumption that they are all solid, living beings. We may have seen dozens of ghosts in our lifetime but been unaware. That strange looking man or woman in outdated clothing that we gave a glance and merely thought "how oddly dressed" may well have not been there at all in the real sense. OK, I am being dramatic and maybe a little silly, but it IS a possibility.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Spooky stuff on TV

After getting Sky TV some years ago I found (to my joy) that there were programmes on ghosts and the paranormal. I watched all the Ghost Hunters programmes over and over. Not the TAPS thing, the British ones that were single episodes for each story. I have them all on DVD now.
After that "Most Haunted" came on TV on Living and I was hooked (well both me and the missus actually) - we were avid fans and waited with anticipation for each episode.
It seems now there's a glut of all things paranormal and ghostly. We have become almost de-sensitised. It takes more to impress us these days!
At one time we used to get excited if they recorded knocks and bumps - now we take it as standard fayre.
Speaking personally, this de-sensitisation has actually helped to keep my sceptical side healthy. Although I believe in the existence of ghosts (whatever they may be) I am still unsure as to if they exist as more than just images that are replayed when conditions are right. The fact that some entities seem to interract with the living would suggest that they do exist as free thinking entities - now THERE'S the journey. Investigating the possibility that it may be true.
I will share my thoughts, feelings and journey so far on this blog. Feel free to send me your thoughts.

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