Monday, 17 December 2012

Jarring ghostly noises!

Great spotted woodpeckerIt was someone else who discovered it but I was just as puzzled as they were. There was a noticeable buzzing noise coming from a dressing table! It sounded like the sort of the sort of buzzing you hear from so many electronic devices these days. Except there were no electronics nearby. Nor was there anything else present that could obviously be responsible for a buzzing. And yet, it was definitely coming from the table because moving around you could hear the sound get louder and fainter over a short distance. Maybe the dressing table was haunted!

It reminded me of an embarrassing incident when I once called out the electricity company to examine a loud buzzing coming from a fuse box. It turned out not to be the fuse box at all but my coat, hanging nearby! There was a pager (remember them!) in a pocket. The buzzing indicated that its battery was running down. Luckily the man from the electric company recognized the sound. Then there was the time when ... but that's another story, as that frustrating cliche goes.

Anyway, investigation of the dressing table finally revealed the noise was coming from a, presumably haunted, plastic jar containing a cream. On opening the jar, whose lid felt slightly loose, the noise stopped immediately. The noise appears to have been made by air escaping through a tiny gap in the not quite tightly sealed jar. The room had recently been warmed up rapidly, which probably started the buzzing as the air inside the jar expanded.

I've no doubt that such trivial mysteries happen to everyone from time to time. Some are, no doubt, solved by those present. Others will simply be ignored. A few may be reported as haunting phenomena - I can think of one actual case straight away. If such an incident is reported as a case it might be very difficult for an investigator to resolve. Take this incident above as an example. If the owner of the jar subsequently secured it tightly, the buzzing would probably never recur. And even if the buzzing DID recur, would an investigator happen to be present when heat caused the noise?

If a reported haunting consists of just one recurring weird phenomenon, there has to be a high probability it has mundane causes, like the jar. If there are several different phenomena reported, it is important to establish if it all started with just one weird thing. That's because there's a possibility that one odd phenomenon, like the 'haunted jar', might make witnesses believe they are in a haunted location when they are not. They may then start to notice lots of mundane background noises that they had ignored before through habituation. It is like starting a New House Effect at a location where someone has already lived for some time!

There is a tendency to think of the cluster of phenomena that typically make up a haunting as having a single cause - a ghost! But it is easy to make a case for one single unexplained phenomenon triggering over-sensitivity to other perfectly normal stuff. It may well be possible to show that all the phenomena in a haunting actually have quite separate mundane causes. It may be a case of seeing the trees for the wood (hence the illustration).

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