Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The good old days!

VigilOne of the perils of growing older is an increasing tendency to believe that things used to be better in the 'old days'. In most cases this belief is no more than pleasant nostalgia. But there are sometimes instances where one could make a case that the way things used to happen in the 'old days' was indeed better. Take ghost vigils.

I looked up some contemporary practical hints for setting up ghost investigations on the web just now. It is certainly a lot different to how we used to do things in the early days of ASSAP. The websites I found all obviously assumed that ghosts are spirits, despite the lack of any compelling evidence to support this popular idea. Assumption-led methods, rather than evidence-led ones, are also now central to such investigations, if these websites are any guide. So how were things better in the old days?

One highly important factor is prior research. We always tried to avoid participants knowing anything about what to expect before going on a particular ghost vigil. Thus, if they came up with the same phenomena that had been previously reported by independent witnesses, it tended to reinforce the reality of the haunting, however caused. Nowadays, it is virtually impossible to stop people researching a ghost vigil venue on the web before they arrive. There are lots of reports online and even entire TV programmes about some locations. The trouble is, if you are expecting the smell of violets in the Blue Room, it is only too easy to get that sensation there, purely from psychological suggestion.

Vigil participants can also now easily research the history of a location before they go. Once again, if you know that a place was once used as a coaching inn, it becomes all too easy to 'hear' the sounds of horses's hooves, purely through expectation. We can't uninvent the internet, and nor would I want to, but it has effectively removed one important tool for controlling suggestion.

So, I think that, in some respects, things were better definitely better in ghost vigils in the 'old days'. But, given that we can't go backwards in time, there are always other ways to improve current vigils to make therm more useful - see here for instance.

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