Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Seriously Spooked

Seriously SpookedASSAP's Seriously Spooked conference, held last Saturday at Aston University, could have been entitled 'an alternative view on ghosts'. But why?

When ASSAP was formed, and for a while after that, the number of people actively investigating ghosts was relatively small. Within that community one of the most popular ideas was that ghosts were some kind of recording somehow imprinted onto the local environment (see here). Another view, fairly widely held, was that there were many different causes for ghost sightings that varied from case to case. Surprisingly few members of the ghost community thought that any ghosts were spirits for the simple reason that there was no compelling evidence from investigations.

Today, of course, the ghost investigation scene has changed out of all recognition. Far more people are involved and the majority take the view, popular among the public, that ghosts are spirits as a given. This is, no doubt, why assumption-led techniques are widely used. Witness interviewing is now much rarer with the emphasis on ghost vigils.

But there are still a small number of people who persist with the 'old' ideas and techniques of investigation. There is a good reason for this. In spite of all the vigils going on, there remains no compelling evidence that ghosts are actually spirits (see here). This group of people effectively form an 'alternative' ghost investigation scene. Many of them are highly experienced, having investigated for decades.

Members of this 'alternative scene' continue researching in their own way. Despite their small numbers, progress is still being made in ghost research. For instance, we have always known, through investigations, that a high proportion of ghost cases are caused by misperception. However, a central mystery remained - how could a witness see details, such as hair colour and clothing when they were, in fact, looking at a poorly-seen tree stump? We now that the visual substitution does this trick. Witnesses really do SEE 'details' about figures because their own brains add them to their visual field. Once this was realised it became obvious that an even greater proportion of ghost cases could be explained in this way. Many others are explained by hallucination and coincidences. There still remain, however, a small proportion of intriguing well-documented cases that are not explainable by these causes.

So Seriously Spooked was mainly for those people who have taken the 'alternative' path to ghost research, or maybe would like to. It was reassuring to see that the 'alternative scene' is thriving.

PS: For more on what actually happened on the day read one person's view here.

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