When J.B. Rhine promoted the term "parapsychology"
during his early studies, he had meant to draw a division between
laboratory studies of psi phenomena, such as ESP
and PK, and
anecdotal psi phenomena, such as hauntings, poltergeists,
and near death experiences.
However, as the years passed, such topics, previously left to psychical
researchers, were brought under the heading of parapsychology. 2
popular belief, formal parapsychological research into phenomena
such as hauntings is relatively scarce. The reason for this is mainly
because such research is highly inefficient. With haunting investigations
especially, the researcher must devote a lot of time and energy
into the investigation, and despite walking away with "a meticulously
documented story with numerous reliable witnesses and...audio or
film recordings," the researcher will still have just another
story to tell. Critics will, upon confronting the evidence collected,
"challenge the credibility of the testimony and the authenticity
of the recordings." 2
In the end, parapsychology as a science
will not have advanced very far, and researchers will still not
have the necessary information to understand the causes of such
However, there are a few parapsychologists,
psychical researchers, and interested individuals who continue to
investigate phenomena such as hauntings, believing that such phenomena
is genuine and worthy of study in order to obtain a greater knowledge
of the world. 2
Because many people often confuse the
terms apparitions, hauntings, and poltergeists, we will begin with
brief descriptions of these phenomena.
Many apparitions are simply one-time
apparitions, often considered hallucinations, or some form of ESP-induced
What is popularly referred to as a ghost, however, is a recurrent
localized apparition. This typically consist of different people
at different times viewing the same form in roughly the same place.
Another branch of this type of apparition is the collective apparition,
which is seem by several people at the same time.
To account for the occurrence of recurrent
apparitions, theories have been put forward regarding "super-ESP."
These theories basically state that a prior, often terrible, event
leaves some sort of psychic residue in the place of the occurrence,
and that later visitors are somehow able to perceive this residue
through ESP. 2
Others speculate that the apparition
is caused by some physical aspect that survives the body after death,
such as a soul, spirit, or some type of consciousness. This theory
is called the discarnate-entity theory.
Some characteristics of recurrent apparitions
that researchers have noted include: the apparition appearing to
be performing the same actions each time it is viewed, for example,
pacing up and down a hallway; the apparition rarely interacts with
observers or even acknowledges their presence; and the apparition
is typically viewed in the same relative location. Reports of such
apparitions can continue for years or even decades. 2
fall in between apparitions and poltergeist activity. Hauntings
are usually centered around a place and include recurrent visual
apparitions, as with ghosts. However, like poltergeists, they also
include poorly-defined sounds (such as thumps, bumps, or rappings),
well-defined sounds (such as footsteps, the opening of doors, crockery
breaking, human voices, or groaning), and movement of objects (such
as doors opening and closing or clothes being tugged at). 2
While parapsychologists do not yet
have the information necessary to make any valid or scientific conjectures
as to what causes hauntings, several theories have been put forward.
One theory applies the assumptions
to hauntings. The original explanation for psychometry was that
the information conveyed through the object was somehow recorded
onto those objects by the people previously associated with them.
Transferred to hauntings, the explanation would then become that
the memories of an emotional event would be held by its surroundings,
such as a building, and the surroundings would then replay those
memories as hauntings.
English philosopher Henry Price built upon this theory by expressing
his belief in a "psychic ether which existed beyond space and
time." This "ether" would then record emotional events
and store their existence in a timeless dimension. 3
Tom Lethbridge, in 1963, added his
own theories to this explanation. He suggested that nature generates
fields of static electricity and that these fields are capable of
recording the feelings of people. "As every person also has
an electric field, if someone enters a natural field (called a 'ghoul'),
the feelings could be transferred to the newcomer." 3
This theory was tested by Dr. Robert
Morris in an experiment in which he took a dog, a cat, a rat, and
a rattlesnake into a room in which a murder had been committed.
"The dog snarled and refused to go in. The cat leapt up on
to its owner's shoulder. The rat didn't seem to mind that much,
but the rattlesnake immediately adopted its attack posture."
As with psychometry,
has also been offered as an explanation for hauntings. These theorists
believe that the source of information that comprises a haunting
comes directly into the mind and manifests itself as a hallucination.
The location in which the hallucination occurs is simply a trigger
that serves to stimulate the clairvoyant.