Where Have All the
Dave Wood asks that infrequently posed question: where have all the
PSI’s book, Haunted Swindon: A Census of Hauntings, led to an article
submitted to the
Psychical Research’s Paranormal
Review magazine. Whilst it would not be appropriate to publish the
article here, some key findings can be shared.
Few surveys or censuses are completed these days about the nature of
‘ghosts’ and ‘hauntings’. The major censuses – Phantasms of the Living
and a Census of Hallucinations – of the Victorian period concentrated on
the prevalent haunting feature of the time: apparitions. In the 1970s
Green and McCreery concluded that the vast
majority of haunting cases involved apparitions. In her book
Parapsychology in 2005 Jane Henry stated that the other studies have
drawn similar conclusions. Certainly the traditional ghost
account or story almost always involved an apparition of a dead (or
living) person (animal or object). So why is the experience of so many
modern day paranormal investigators so different?
Various paranormal investigators and
researchers have, anecdotally, commented that haunting cases of the last
decade seem to
involve fewer apparitions than those of the past. A haunting case today
seems more likely to report cold spots, light anomalies, strange noises
and feelings rather than a full-on sighting of a ghost.
The Haunted Swindon Census found that over 50 years more than 80% of
haunting cases involved at least one apparition. But comparing this to
haunting cases over the last 10 years this number dropped, staggeringly,
to around 30% involving an apparition seen. The figures may well be
unrepresentative, but the findings seem to ring true with the experience
of so many researchers today. But why?
It is almost impossible to conclusively say. Perceptions of hauntings
involve so many factors, and very few of these are really understood.
One theory that has been advanced is that of
the role of the media.
Some rational theorists have concluded that our interpretation of
ambiguous events as hauntings is driven by our perception of what a
haunting ‘should be’ – after all, no-one is born with the knowledge of
what a haunting is: we learn it from our environment - often the media.
For more than a century, until recent times, most paranormal media –
from TV programmes to
stories, and films – seemed to involve a ghost apparition. The last 10
years has seen a
renaissance in the paranormal media, coinciding with the rise of
Immensely popular ghost-related reality TV shows show viewers very few
apparitions – one could only guess why that would be! Indeed in the
latest PSI Journal Nicky Sewell and Malcolm Gould found that, in one
paranormal TV show, only 5% of experiences related to some form of
apparition. To take the place of the traditional ‘ghost’, these shows
have showed the public that haunting symptoms include light anomalies,
strange noises, feelings and the like.
Is the decrease in apparitions simply down to the sharp change how TV
shows tell people that a ‘haunting’ is present? We might never know, but
it food for thought.
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