What is a Haunting? Most people think of a haunting as a place, or sometimes an object such as a piece of furniture, that is occupied or "possessed" by "ghosts" of "spirits." People generally consider a place "haunted" if there has been a history of apparitional sightings, or if unexplained noises, movements of objects, or other strange physical effects repeatedly occur there. Even when people repeatedly "pick up" or sense eerie feelings or "bad vibes" from a place or an object it is often considered "haunted." However, these experiences may or may not be actual hauntings. Most parapsychologists consider hauntings to be "recordings" of past events that are repetitiously "replayed" and "decoded" by those sensitive enough to perceive them. In other words, an event that occurs in a certain place is somehow recorded and stored in a manner not yet understood, and later circumstances "trigger" the event recording to be "replayed." The environment acts as a sort of audio / video recorder, and like a tape player with the right buttons pressed, the event continues to be replayed at any time the playback or trigger conditions are met. This type of phenomena is known as 'Residual' and is often association with the 'Stone Tape Theory'.
Originally, it is believed the term 'Stone Tape Theory' came from a 1970’s BBC drama called The Stone Tape. Parapsychologists then began to use the term ‘stone tape’ to describe a theory that the materials found in stone or brick may certain properties suitable for recording images and / or sound. It is believed that the stones and ground etc. are able to absorb energy from living beings. Under certain conditions, the absorbed energy can be replayed, just like a video recording. Most hauntings usually stem from an emotionally charged scene such as a murder or time of distress on the part of the participant. It is this scene that has somehow managed to imprint or record itself onto the environment in which it took place; this is usually a building but it is not always the case. It has been suggested that in order to replay this recording it needs to be triggered by a person who sends out the right signal, usually a highly emotional or distressed person. The replay can be visual or audible but the recording is not interactive, aware of the ‘trigger’ or present surroundings in any way. Mediums often refer to this as a residual or imprinted haunting. Should this theory be true then it opens up all sorts of exciting possibilities. Imagine being able to find the signal that can reply scenes from the past. Think about how much history could be embedded in surviving buildings from pyramids to modern accommodation.
Whether these recordings suffer the same fate as videotape and over time degrade, to reveal faint images or quiet sounds and eventually lost is yet to be discovered. The Stone Tape Theory however may help to explain some of the ghosts that appear but don't fit in with their current surroundings or interact with us, unlike their spirit counterparts. There is a counter argument in that the Stone Tape Theory has no scientific basis and therefore it is just a term used by paranormal enthusiasts. When it comes down to the basic mechanism for recording, it seems incredible that the environment can capture and replay full motion, three-dimensional, full colour and sound when there is nothing that comes close to this by today’s technological standards. When you look at how recordings are made, they usually follow a sequence, tape and DVD’s all lay down their information in a chronological sequence. When replayed it will follow that sequence as it was laid down. If, say, a whole murder scene that includes sound and colour information was to take place, how on earth could the environment record and store so much information so quickly and accurately? How, when it is replayed does the stone know the right sequence to replay it, such as forward from the beginning and not from the end and in reverse? This must surely involve some degree of intelligence or programming?
When you start to analyse the practicalities of recording such scenes it seems less plausible, especially when in some circumstances most of the original environment has been removed, buried or destroyed, yet the scene still plays perfectly with no skips, jumps or gaps! After saying all this, something must have happened for people to witness what they claim to be a paranormal scene. If indeed the environment did capture the scene and record it so perfectly then maybe it’s time scientists got involved, as the potential for discovery is fantastic. So until definitive proof is discovered to prove the theory true or false, We personally find the theory a good explanation so long as we don’t dwell on the technicalities!
It is also theorised that such a phenomenon could take place on a grander scale such as the mysterious and silent phantom bombers of the Peak District. Maybe the same phenomenon is a play here, using the sky as a large tv screen and the power source being the upwelling of land such as the hill and peaks of the area. The periodic apparition at Lyme Hall in Disley is said to be the horse drawn funeral of Lord Lyme which sometimes includes a whitte lady that is heard to be crying. What is interesting about this particular apparition is that the top of the funeral coach and the heads of the horses seem to be missing. It is thought that whatever the power source capable of creating a recodrd image to play back manifests from the ground upwards, and that this form of 'energy' only rises from the ground to a certain height, thus not showing the top part of the apparition such as the horses heads and top of the funeral coach.
Since some hauntings seem to be repeating performance of recorded past events, the characters involved are part of the recording and their actions are replayed over and over again. The scene and the action do not typically change from showing to showing. The haunting repeats itself like a cinema that bills the same movie for decades. The characters of a haunting are often called "haunting apparitions," but they are not considered true apparitions because they do not seem to possess consciousness, intelligence or personality. This is referred to as 'Non-Interactive'. True apparitions or ghosts reportedly act like living people with personality, emotions and intelligence, and the capacity to interact with witnesses and the environment. In other words, communication and interaction is possible with a ghost, but a haunting apparition is simply part of the "recording" (and interaction is not possible). So therefore hauntings consist of two types of phenomena. Maybe there is a natural force responsible for such things as recorded phenomena. If that's the case then such recorded phenomena may be best termed something else than the word 'Haunting'.
How and why past events are recorded and replayed repetitiously is not understood. Whatever the actual mechanism, it apparently possesses longevity as the encore performances of a haunting can continue for decades or longer. Generally, the haunting is a fragment or portion of an actual event. It is also theorised that such recorded phenomena is the product of inprinting onto the environment, such as traumatic events or times of heightened emotions sometimes seem to be captured and then at a later date played back. Reported hauntings are predominantly of events that involved tragedy, death or emotional trauma. However, this may be more of a reporting artifact that anything else, given that people tend to report and ask for help in situations where they are scared or impacted with negative emotions. The recordings of mundane or even positive events that may play back in hauntings are usually ignored or simply accepted with a smile. Not so with negative or tragic events.
On the rare occasions some incidents of recorded phenomena seem to suggest times of enjoyment can also be captured and played back, such as people witnessing audible phenomena that sounds like people laughing and enjoying themselves. Some researchers have suggested that there is a relationship between hauntings and the electromagnetic or magnetic fields that exist in the natural environment. This concept considers that all events are recorded, but that it is the events with stronger emotional content (essentially "louder" or "brighter" than everyday happenings) that are "sensed" or perceived more readily. Recent case investigations using a magnetometer to detect background and local magnetic fields have indicated an unusual and exciting correlation between higher-than-background magnetic fields and spots in a haunted location where people perceive the haunts. Though classic "haunted house" stories have captured the bulk of public attention, hauntings are also reported outdoors, as with those reported at old battle sites. Objects can also be allegedly haunted, holding a recording of events and people that have historically associated with the object.
The ability to "decode" the recording of a past event is a psychic ability known as psychometry, a subset of clairvoyant ability. Witnessing a haunting seems to depend not only on an alleged psychic ability, but also on the strength of the recording (and this may be related to the emotional content of the event recorded). Moods and emotions of observers also play a role, as do "play-back" conditions. While not well understood or even correlated as yet, these conditions appear to include time of day, weather patterns, geomagnetic (the Earth's) field intensity, lunar, tidal and other astronomical influences. If conditions are right, the haunting is "decoded" and the brain / mind of the observer experiences a playback of the events. Different people experience the same haunting in different ways. For some, the experience is visual, for others auditory, for still others kinesthetic (as in "feeling" a presence). People may even smell aspects of the haunting; this is referred to as 'clairolfaction'. For many, there is a combination of sense-relations in the perceptions of the haunting. Most often, the haunting is "seen" by the mind's eye. When this happens, the image appears to be three-dimensional and looks much like a hologram that is superimposed onto the present day surroundings. This superimposition of the alleged psychic image onto the actual setting can apparent cause strange visual effects.
As an example, the haunting may be of someone climbing a staircase, whereas the actual, now remodeled physical setting has no staircase in that location but a wall instead. In this case, the haunting apparition would appear to walk upward into thin air and pass through a wall. Because hauntings are experienced at the perceptual level (in the mind), there are no actual images and sound there that reflect light or create sound waves, and therefore nothing to be photographed, videotaped, or recorded. Whether or not a haunting is witnessed, the anxiety and heightened expectancy experienced by people who believe they are at a "haunted" site can trigger observer effects. These observer effects can be a combination of misperceptions and misidentifications of ordinary happenings and unusual physical object movements. The unusual physical activity is typically a result of unconscious psychokinesis, mind over matter (PK), and is not directly related to the haunting phenomena. In other words, the witnesses cause the PK effects, which can include strange noises, lights, and object movements. These physical effects are generally confused with the perceptual effects of the haunting or are attributed to ghosts. RSPK (Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis) is when PK can be demonstrated more than once and is often associated in the studies of parapsychology.
In investigating a reported haunting, multiple / independent witnesses to the haunting are sought. Extensive interviewing of witnesses and participants is undertaken in order to assess each person's experience, and to try to determine if there is a pattern to the perceptions of the events. Because hauntings are easily confused with other paranormal phenomena, and with more normal noises in the environment, it must first be determined what phenomenon (or combination of phenomena) is happening. As mentioned, true apparitions are often confused with haunting apparitions. Also, PK effects or poltergeist phenomena can cause unexplained physical effects that are often confused with or triggered by the experience of a haunting. Good, bad or strange "vibes" felt repeatedly in a certain location could be the result of a haunting, or could be related to the way the place is decorated or even the way it's constructed play on your perceptions). If a haunting is suspected, a historical study of the location is generally undertaken in an attempt to correlate the experience with actual past events. Investigators may also bring in magnetically sensitive detectors to look for correlations between the experiences and unusual or unlikely magnetic fields.
In the case of a haunting, witnesses typically experience fear, anxiety, and long-term stress. For this reason, an ongoing primary theme of the investigation involves teaching witnesses the innocuous nature of hauntings. Because hauntings and haunting apparitions are recordings, fear and anxiety are unnecessary as there is no connection or interaction possible between witnesses and any aspect of the haunting (any more than there is if there's a scary movie on the TV). Often clients wish to discontinue the haunting, or to stop experiencing it. In many cases "removal" of a haunting is akin to getting used to living next to a busy highway; before long, the noise fades into the background or is not even noticed. Finally, one might "tape over" the recorded haunt-event, whereby the haunting location becomes the site of some positive, emotionally charged event such as a fun party or other "good vibes" situation.
The MAPIT Paranormal Social Experiment - Case 26411 conducted in November of 1995.
This social experiment consisted of taking 15 students to a location during the night. The students were told that they were to spend several hours in a haunted location and they were also told of many paranormal disturbances that had recently taken place. This form of social experiment was to demonstrate the psychological and physiological conditions experienced by the subjects during the experiment. The two main points given to the students were: (1). Prior Knowledge and (2). Expectation of paranormal events. Students were then asked to write down any of their experiences as they went about their investigation. What the students did not know was that the building was not haunted and had never had any reported paranormal events there. After just several minutes, reports came flooding in.
Some students had experienced the feeling of being watched, others reported odd smells. Some even reported being touched, hearing strange sounds and seeing an apparition. Lights were kept low as light deprivation can also assist with psychological affects. Many people feel different in the dark as if fearful of the dark corners and have the anticipation of a paranormal events hang over them. Our natural survival instinct takes over and we naturally look into and fear the most dark of places. Maybe this is because we are somehow aware that a predator may be lurking in the dark areas, waiting to pounce onto us. All the students witnessed fear and could not help showing psychological reactions such as glancing often at exit points throughout the building. When the students were told that they had been part of a social experiment at the end of the night, they were amazed at their responses and laughed at what they had wrote down on their incident forms.
Compiled by Lauren Forcella & Steve Mera.