Ghosts Or Just Bad Wiring?

Mighty_Emperor

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I know some of Parascience visit the board so I'd be interested in any further information:

How a bit of dodgy wiring could prove ghosts don't exist

Aug 2 2004


SOME have seen them, some have not. Now a Wirral couple have a theory which could explain ghosts. David Charters reports.

Daily Post


THE man or woman who discovers for sure that ghosts don't exist will become the most unpopular person in the world.

Religions would collapse. Gullible Americans would no longer be held in thrall by tales of headless spectres in English stately homes.

Scrooge could return to his miserly ways. There would be some banal explanations for chains clanking in the night or the temperature suddenly dropping. Hollywood scriptwriters would be seen queuing at soup kitchens.

More seriously than all that, though, Uncle Claud would no longer be able to gather all the family around the spitting coals of the Christmas fire to enchant them with tales of mystery, terror and hauntings.

In fact, all good people should cry, "long live our ghosts".

Now, Parascience,a Wirral-based group, which investigates supernatural goings-on, is planning what it hopes will be the most comprehensive survey ever conducted into ghosts.

It comes as researchers offer a possible explanation about why certain people should be more prone than others to ghostly experiences and why these should be far more common in places, which would otherwise seem ordinary.

In short, it seems that such experiences could result from high amplitude electro-magnetic fields (EMF). Laboratory experiments conducted by Prof Michael Persinger at the psychology department of the Laurentian University, Ontario, have suggested that people are susceptible to paranormal sensations when their brains are exposed to high rates of EMF.

To see if similar results could be found outside the laboratory, Parascience visited a supposedly haunted farmhouse in the Knutsford area of Cheshire. Family members, who had been particularly concerned about weird happenings in one room, contacted the group after hearing a radio broadcast about ghosts.

Investigators found two ancient, frayed electricity cables attached to the guttering board outside the room.

Parascience's findings are now available on the internet. The group is composed of individuals, mostly from professional backgrounds, who are interested in paranormal activity. Their painstaking research into hundreds of buildings, where people have experienced peculiar goings-on, has gained thema reputation for sound judgment, at a time when parapsychology courses are being offered at many universities.

On a lighter side, earlier this month, some of them took part in a TV experiment for the Living TV channel at Fyvie Castle, Aberdeenshire, said to be one of the most haunted buildings in the UK and home to the Green Lady.

Among the Parascience investigators in Scotland were Steve Parsons, 42, an instrument technician from Rock Ferry, who left Wirral Grammar School with 11 O levels. He is married to Alison and they have a daughter, Helen, eight.

One of the others there was Ann Winsper, 39, from Ellesmere Port, an old girl of Queen's School, Chester, now a pharmacy technician, who is studying for a degree in psychology at the Liverpool John Moores University.

"We didn't find the Green Lady, but we did find a few odd happenings," she says.

"They all happened in the room (the Dunfermline dressing room) where the furniture was stuffed to keep it out of the way. We think the ghost was hiding in there because were so many people in the castle."

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Doors opened and closed, the room went very cold and Steve felt, "there was a strong sense of presence".

In addition to the programme, the group has also been carrying out its own investigations at the castle. For this work, they use computerised monitoring equipment which measures changes in the atmosphere, traditionally associated with paranormal activity, such as temperature, ionising radiation, humidity, light and electro-magnetic radiation.

Parascience was keen to see whether this happened outside strict laboratory conditions and they have conducted research at a number of locations, including the farmhouse, occupied bya father, mother and three children, two of them teenagers, all of whom were complaining of ghostly experiences.

Ordinary electrical appliances give off electro-magnetic waves without affecting most people in any discernible way.

But the 18-strong Parascience group had been working on the basis that in places, where there is an unusually high concentration of electricity, there will be an increase of paranormal goings-on.

In the farm, the electro-magnetic radiation was measured at more than 50 times the average domestic rate. This was traced to mains electricity cables tied to the gutter-boarding.

The cables were repaired relocated by the electricity board and the incidence of strange happenings dropped sharply.

Now, to add to their research, Parascience is inviting people to take part in a survey by answering a series of questions on their website. http://www.parascience.org.uk
Source
 

James_H

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...So now they have to recreate the experience using household electrical wires, and see if it works.
 

TheQuixote

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How will go about disproving historical ghost/apparation sightings?

i.e. pre-electrical wiring in houses, pylons in the countryside etc.
 

Pete Younger

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Quixote said:
How will go about disproving historical ghost/apparation sightings?

i.e. pre-electrical wiring in houses, pylons in the countryside etc.
Yep, thats what I was thinking.
 

Imperial_Call

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well I saw someone looking out of an upstairs window of an empty house once (subsequently found out there'd been a fire in the house and two children died in that room) don't think that was an electrical fault ...
 

Mighty_Emperor

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My thinking on this:

1. There can't ever be one explanation of ghosts - just about every Fortean field is an accretion of incidents probably derived from a range of underlying phenomena. With this in mind it is a very interesting explanation for ghosts but I'd imagine thy don't intend for it to be a blanket explanation - we Forteans know that kind of approach is always doomed to failure ;)

2. Ther may be natural occuring sources of EMF - various things like ley lines, earthlights, etc. have been thrown out as explanations and there are odd cases of rogue eletricity (there was a report on that old guy's house which seems to be the subject of some very odd electrical activity that couldn't be pinned down, etc.).

We should bear in mind that the ewspapers like to simplfy things which is why I was wondering what the good people from Para.Science had to say on the matter.

Also see the page on their site:

http://www.parascience.org.uk/ohfarm/ohfarm.htm
 
A

Anonymous

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Isnt this old news, dressed up in new clothes ?

I seem too remember TC Lethbridge, bless his eccentricity, wondering if running water could generate a 'field' sufficient too store emotional moments and replay them too suseptible onlookers.

Plus stone tapes seem too have a similar rationale behind them.

Maybe coaching their theories in a modern ubiquitious commodity demystifies it somehow ?
 

ENTIANONMULTI

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IMHO a lot of fortean experiences have a potential rational explanation even if the explanation is just that someone misinterpreted or badly described what they saw, the human mind does a lot of interpretation of what your eyes see.

combine this with a cultural normal explanation of that house is haunted and any odd occurrence is put down to the ghost.
 

pharmcat

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Hi everyone,
You are quite right, the article was edited to make it "light reading". Of course, we are not proposing this as an explanation for all paranormal activity. simply a factor which appears to explain certain specific cases.
We were investigating the farmhouse as a "normal" case, as it says in our web report we were alerted to the unusually high fields by the presence of a pronounced hum on a recording made whilst testing a new microphone. We were aware of Persinger's lab research, also his report from an electrically dense house in Canada. You can read all the details on our website, but following investigation we have extrapolated the results of existing research to propose that amplitude may be a crucial factor in whether people experience these paranormal-like happenings (obviously in combination with social/cultural factors). The weak complexities appear to be present in all locations we have tested (whether haunted or not) the obvious difference being in the amplitude of the fields.
We see the results of this case very much as the beginning of a line of research, as Faggus says, one of our next steps must be to expose people to 50Hz fields and see if varying amplitudes affects people's susceptibility. We are currently devising ways of safely carrying out this research, hopefully with the aid of a local university.
As for historical sightings, they may have nothing to do with EMF, or natural EMF sources may be implicated for example Persinger has also carried out work looking at geomagnetic fields.
There are still elements of this case that cannot be explained by EMF - not only do we not think our results explain all ghosts, but they do not explain everything we have seen at the farmhouse. They do however appear to explain certain key factors in the case and whilst the research for us is still in its infancy, we hope to be able to build on these results in the future.
Regards,
Ann (Para.Science)
 

Mighty_Emperor

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pharmcat: Thanks for the clarification. It sounds like very interesting and worthwhile research and I think its great that you are prepared to take this as far as is required to investigate the phenomena.

I look forward to hearing how things go - keep us updated.
 

Snook25

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Was it Persinger who found that the frequencies generated by a newly installed fan/air con led to him seeing black shapes out of the corner of his eye whilst in his lab?
 

DrPaulLee

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No, that was Vic Tandy at Coventry University, who found an infrasound connection with ghost sightings.
 
A

Anonymous

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some further notes

Hi,
Following Ann's (Pharmcat) posting:

It continues to be the case that we are detecting the 'weak complexities' (first noted by Persinger) in every location so far tested - from the Scottish Highlands to Central England. We are building an extensive library of EM Radiation data runs from every location we think of and gain access to. This we hope will allow us to make more meaningful comparisons and we hope will permit us to discover more about the weak complexities, their cause and their effect.
What is already unexpected is that regardless of location, the nature (eg. Frequency and amplitude) of the complexities are very similar. Persinger proposed a Geo-magnetic source for his 'temporal complexities' but if it were as simple as that we should expect to see a more localised effect on the measurements, this does not appear to be the case.
One possible explanation is that the complexities are actually radio frequency energy (RF). The radio 'blanket' around the Earth being much more of a constant. In addition to the man made RF energy, the Earth and it's enviro-systems also generate a lot of RF energy, from sources such as storms, tectonic movement, volcanos and the weather etc.
Such a possibility might also provide an additional response to the problem of 'ghosts' pre-dating electricity.
A set of experiments are being planned to test this idea further - but we have to be careful of future headlines....
"Radio 2 causes Ghosts to appear" :)

These new tests will run alongside the experiments that hopefully will allow us to expose subjects to controlled 50Hz fields of varying amplitudes.

The really depressing thing is that there are still legions of ghostbusters offering their services conducting 'scientific' ghosthunting with their 'Ghost Detector' EMF meters:headbutt:

Regards

Steve (Para.Science)
 

DrPaulLee

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Hi Steve,
Your research sounds very similar to the work being perfomed
by ASSAP (in particular, Dr.Jason Braithwaite who has found interesting field fluctuations at Muncaster Castle).
 
A

Anonymous

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Hi, DPL,
We are aware of the work of Jason at Muncaster and the ASSAP MADS experiment. We have recently spoken at length to Jason about both his own and our research.
There are some similarities between the two lines of research but there are also some crucial differences too - perhaps it would be best to describe the two experiments as being complimentary to each other.

MADS may be one method of unlocking more of the details of these weak complexities and we are awaiting Jason publishing his results with interest.

It is an exciting avenue for research and one that may go some way toward demonstrating how some ghosts are perceived. I think it is also important to stress that we are not suggesting (unlike Jason) that Electro magnetism is the explanation for ALL ghostly activity. In many ways we believe that by being able to explain how some ghosts are created it may bring closer to understanding that remaining small minority of cases in which Electro Magnetics and other explainable causes can offer no reasonable explanation.

Cheers

Steve
 

TheOrigDesperado

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Interesting, but I'm not hopeful anything can come of such a study. I don't mean to sound negative, but if 20% (for example) of "ghost" sightings are proved to be due to some electromagnetic effect, so what? I suppose it's interesting in itself, but it doesn't help in define what a ghost really is, or why these fields provide such a consistent set of experiences. A typical interpretation of the word is for it to mean spirits of the dead (despite the majority of apartitions being of people who are still alive.) But proving what ghosts aren't doesn't go any way to proving what they actually are. Showing that some apparitions can be caused by magnetic fields doesn't help define what a ghost is. We know hallucinations can be caused by external stimulation (as can any human experience) so in this instance all a positive result would do was demonstrate the existence of a previously unsuspected origin of such stimulation. This is what Persinger seemed to be confused about. Stimulating a person's brain and that person seeing an apparition doesn't disprove the independent reality of apparitions any more than a vision of an elephant would disprove the existence of elephants.
 
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Anonymous

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Desperado,
I can't agree with your sentiments. By understanding the mechanisms of perception we are gaining a better understanding of the phenomena that are being reported.
It may be that one day such an understanding will provide us with explanations about the true nature of ghosts. By clarifying experiences we can more easily sort out those which are simply misperceptions and not spend an undue amount of time examining them. By eliminating 'false' ghosts we can perhaps take further steps in discovering the real ghosts that remain.

Take for example a case where by careful investigation all the known causes of hallucination and misperception are eliminated. Then what we are left with is something that is difficult or maybe impossible to explain away. If such evidence can be obtained and shown to have been obtained properly then we are closer to being able to demonstrate the existence of a genuine paranormal event.
Investigation is a process of elimination. carefully examining all the possibilities that exist - normal or paranormal it must be understood before we can move on toward a better understanding of what is actually being witnessed.
Otherwise we may as well continue to sit in the darkness, tied together with string. Or rush headlong around a building exclaiming every bump and creak to be a ghost!
Sorry, that's is the method used by Most Haunted in their 'scientific' investigations.
Regards
Steve
 

TheOrigDesperado

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parascience said:
Take for example a case where by careful investigation all the known causes of hallucination and misperception are eliminated. Then what we are left with is something that is difficult or maybe impossible to explain away. If such evidence can be obtained and shown to have been obtained properly then we are closer to being able to demonstrate the existence of a genuine paranormal event
No, I don't see it that way. Science doesn't define a phenomenon on the basis of things that it isn't. We already know that reports of ghosts can be misidentifications and hallucinations. I accept that this type of experiment could give us a better idea of what may cause these hallucinations, but I don't see how quantifying what we already know would serve to further our understanding of what ghosts are. For instance, we can at this present time say quite validly, "Some ghosts are caused by hallucinations". If this experiment (and others of a similar type) yielded results, we may be able to say, "Approximately 20% of ghost sightings are due to electromagnetic waves produced by... whatever means... and these waves cause perceptual changes in certain individuals" Which I agree is interesting, but we're no further forwards in explaining what ghosts are, just as 40% of UFO sightings being misidentifications of planetary bodies doesn't help us in the slightest explain what the UFO phenomenon is all about. I suppose it depends on the aims of the experiment. If the aim is to add to the knowledge of how human perception works (a very worthy aim) then that goal may well be realised. If it's to give us more understanding of what ghosts are then I doubt it can contribute anything.
 
A

Anonymous

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Desperado:
You slightly misunderstand my point in the quote - I wasn't saying that by showing evidence of the 'false' ghosts we are somehow proving the existence of real phenomena.
I was making the point that only by fully exploring and understanding the nature of the misperceptions we will then know which are the genuine events that can then be further investigated to obtain understanding of their nature.

Science demands that we prove what we are claiming.
The witness is also entitled to the same level of respect.
It is insufficient to simply say that a certain percentage of ghosts are the result of misperception, we have to be able to demonstrate and prove which are false and which are genuine.

In medicine a doctor cannot make a diagnosis about illness without first fully understanding wellness, an engineer cannot rectify a faulty device without first obtaining a comprehensive knowledge of how it put together and operates.
It is only once we fully understand what is 'normal', that we will be able to say with a degree of confidence what is paranormal, then and only then are we in a position to be able to investigate those remaining unexplained events and obtain by the same careful techniques that understanding of what ghosts are we all seek.
 

OldTimeRadio

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parascience~ said:
By eliminating 'false' ghosts we can perhaps take further steps in discovering the real ghosts that remain.
But can we be so certain that those "false" ghosts we're defenestrating are "false"?

Contemporary Skeptics dismiss ghosts as "just" perceptions of peripatetic electromagnetic fields. But many of us have suspected for decades that that's precisely what ghosts are.

And we're also told that ghosts are "just" human reactions to sub-sonic sounds. But might it be that ghosts use such sounds to materialize, especially where two or more low-frequency sound waves cross at angles? In fact, might this explain all those ghost sightings traditionally associated with THUNDER?

These investigators seem absolutely brilliant at discovering the triggers for Paranormal behaviors, but they then experience real difficulty in differentiating between triggers and CAUSES.
 

rynner2

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I understand why para-researchers would want to go to allegedly haunted houses with measuring equipment, but this is giving a very selective view of e-m anomalies.

What should be investigated is how widespread these anomalies really are.
What would be the implications if every house in a particular town was tested, and a certain proportion of them showed e-m anomalies - but most of these 'anomalous' houses had never had reports of paranormal activity?

Or perhaps readings should be taken at the corners of every 1 km grid square shown on UK Ordnance Survey maps, whether that point is indoors or out.

And then, of course, these wider investigations should be repeated at regular intervals, or, even better, the locations should be continuously monitored!

I feel that rushing off to the latest ghost sighting clutching an emf meter is only giving a very partial view of what's going on. It's like trying to explore a very large cave system with a very tiny torch.
 

OldTimeRadio

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Over the past four or five years we've been assured that "ghosts" are "just" magnetic fields, "just" vibrations, "just" sub-sonics.

For decades we were told that people who claim that they they can in some manner exteriorize their minds/spirits beyond the confines of their physical bodies are either lying or crazy (and possibly both). But now we're informed that these people sincerely and even rationally believe they can "project," but it is all due to a "glitch" within the brain.

I'm beginning to think that these guys may have themselves studied under the famous Seven Blind Men of Serendip, as they researched the elephant. As you'll recall, the elephant was both "very like a rope" and "very like a wall."
 

rynner2

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Muncaster castle has been mentioned on this thread, but not elsewhere on FTMB, as far as I can tell. Well, today's Flog It! came from Muncaster castle, so, with the aid of iPlayer, you can experience it for yourself:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b072w4y4/flog-it-series-14-23-muncaster-castle-29

First, it hit me with a coincidence: yesterday I had a stuck tune in my head, D'Ye Ken John Peel? One of the first items for evaluation was a John Peel commemorative jug or vase! 05m 12s

Then a ghost story, the tale of Margaret Pennington, who died aged just 11... 08m 30s (Paul Martin gets to wave a compass around her room...)
...followed by a spooky doll!

Then a look at Tom Skelton, Muncaster's one-time court jester and the cause of another gruesome haunting. 18m 35s
...followed by some modern takes on jesting. All quite different in a fortean way.

From 27m 00s it's back to antiques!

(I had another stuck tune today, 'Sailing' by Rod Stewart. Will that pop up tomorrow somewhere unexpected?)
 
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