Sunday, 12 June 2016

Instruments on ghost vigils

ASSAPTwo days ago it was the thirty-fifth anniversary of ASSAP's foundation. Such days inevitably make me think of the 'old days'. For instance, ASSAP has always been enthusiastic about using instruments on ghost vigils. But we never envisaged how their use would become so extensive nor how they would used.

In the early days of ASSAP (I feel terribly old writing that) there were three main ideas about instrumenting ghost vigils. One was, obviously, to try to record ghosts and haunting phenomena. So cameras were a priority as well as such things as thermometers to capture possible 'cold spots'. A second use of instruments was to ensure controls were in place to avoid accidental human intervention, by investigators for instance. So motion detectors were a priority there.

The third use for instruments was rather different. Then, as now, there was no compelling evidence that ghosts are spirits. An idea quite widely accepted by researchers then was that of 'recording ghosts'. Briefly, this says that ghosts are actually 'recordings' of some past human activity somehow captured on the local environment and 'replayed' by witnesses. One of the reasons for the popularity of recording ghosts then was the existence of 'haunting hot spots'. A haunted building does not typically exhibit haunting phenomenon in all areas. Instead it is concentrated in particular rooms, or even parts of rooms, where the same phenomenon is recorded repeatedly, often by independent witnesses. This clearly fits in with the idea of something being recorded in those hot spots.

The 'third use' of instruments was therefore to see if there was anything 'different' about these haunting hot spots compared to other places nearby. The idea was to deploy a range of environmental monitoring instruments over a long period of time to see if any differences appeared. The range of instruments was limited only by what was available. Sadly the 'third use' was never really developed for many reasons, mainly practical.

As it turns out, there is another possible explanation for haunting hot spots besides recording ghosts. Misperception relies on certain objects, or a configuration of objects, that can be seen as human figures in the correct conditions. Many such objects, like trees for instance, are static so obviously the same ghost is going to be misperceived at the same place from time to time, usually to different witnesses.

There may be other causes of haunting hot spots. Certain magnetic fields may, for instance, cause hallucinations and these may be tied to a specific location. There has been some preliminary research in this area that has showed promise but lots more needs to be done to verify it. Until then I would say it is a possibility worth examining rather than a definite phenomenon.

Anyway, here ends the trip down memory lane ...

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