Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Did you see that?

Have you caught sight of someone in the corner of your eye, turned to speak to them, only to find there is no one there?  Or perhaps you have seen them walk from one room to another only for the room to be empty with no other way out of the room?  It is even possible that you could describe the clothes they were wearing, the style of their hair or the smell of their perfume or tobacco. 
Not all such sightings are solid; some can be fuzzy, out of focus, wispy or seen as streaks or patches of light.  They can come and go at will, appear and disappear quickly or just fade away.  They can even walk through, what to us is a solid object.   These sorts of things are called apparitions.
Some researchers consider apparitions to be hallucinations or a state of mind that has no true reality.  Others believe they could be a form of telepathy passing from the dead to the living.  However, while most sightings occur to a single percipient around eight percent are collective.  

Apparitions are classed as collective when more than one person sees the same thing either independently or simultaneously, under conditions where collaboration is not possible.  In a group situation, if one person sees an apparition, there is about forty percent likelihood that others will share the perception.
One famous collective apparition occurred on the 2nd of July 1863 during the fierce Battle of Gettysburg between Union and Confederate forces.  As both sides were taking heavy casualties a single Union soldier suddenly appeared on a horse.  He rode through the battle field while being repeatedly shot at and although he seemed to be hit many times, he never fell.  This untouchable soldier eventually disappeared. 
Later that same day the Union forces made a final charge on Little Round Top Hill.  As soon as the charge began the same bulletproof soldier reappeared and rode through the battlefield before disappearing again.  
Union soldiers reported their experiences to Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain, these eventually ended up at the War Department from where Colonel Pittenger was sent to investigate upon the orders of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. 
It appears that an official report was never produced but Colonel Pittenger did document his many interviews with people who collectively witnessed the ghostly apparition including General Oliver O. Howard of Maine. 
Collective apparitions can also occur in peaceful times; only a few years ago a small team of ghost hunters reported seeing a group of four headstones against the outside wall of a ruined Welsh chapel.  The headstones were of different heights, one appeared to be a double or at least two stones standing so close at to touch and in a neat row.  They also appeared to have writing on them; when one member of the team stepped forward to move the brambles aside so that the words could be studied in the hope of finding a name, the headstones are said to have simply vanished. 
It is possible that a small group could conspire to deceive but what about a large group, or people in different places?  For instance there is the strange case of George Roberts. 
It was about 09.45hrs while getting ready to go to church that his mother heard a voice cry out, ‘mother!  Mother!’ His father was already at church ringing the bells when he was positive that there was someone standing behind him, watching him.  When he turned around, no one was there.  Meanwhile around 1,500 miles away in Louisiana, Port Hudson was being attacked by confederate troops.  It is reported that George Roberts died in that battle at around 10am on June 14th, 1863.  It was some time later that his parents were informed that he had died around the time they had had their experiences. 

No other teams visiting that ruined Welsh chapel have reported seeing such an apparition, and no records of graves have been found for that chapel so what did they see?  If it was a trick of light and shadow why did they all report the same thing when they would be viewing it from different angles due to the undulation of the ground, the narrowness of the track and differences in their own heights?  Was it a case of group hallucination? 
These are just a few examples of collective apparitions, the last can also be classed as a Crisis Apparition; an apparition that occurs when one person is experiencing a crisis or life-threatening situation and are perceived by another person usually someone who has an emotional connection to them. 

One thing is for certain; reports of such apparitions will continue to capture the interest of paranormal investigators.  

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Erasmus Darwin House 13th April 2013

In the shadow of Lichfield Cathedral, the only sandstone  built medieval English cathedral with three spires, stands Erasmus Darwin House.  This Grade 1 listed building was the home of Erasmus Darwin between the years of 1758 and 1781.  Grandfather to Charles, Erasmus was a poet, scientist, inventor and physician.  It was a family home, the base for his medical practice, scientific experiments, and meetings of the Lunar Society.
Erasmus Darwin bought the medieval half-timbered building in 1758 and converted it into a large red brick Georgian town house. Originally the front of the house was separated from Beacon Street by a narrow, deep ditch which once formed the moat of the Cathedral Close.  Darwin built a bridge from his fall door to the street across this overgrown ditch and created a two-tier terrace on the bank.  The ditch he planted with lilacs and rose bushes to screen the house from passers-by.
Erasmus Darwin with his back to the Cathedral
Erasmus Darwin developed the theory of evolution through natural selection, a belief that led to him having a falling out with the Church.  It was his grandson, Charles, working from his notes whom eventually proved the biology of evolution some years later.  Erasmus Darwin also had a great interest in anatomy; the cellar is said to be where he carried out public dissections and his anatomy experiments. Not normally open to the public this area of the house is only accessible by lift.
Even before we had finished setting up the cameras the fund and games began.  All the doors were held open by large wooden blocks and are fitted with anti slam devices but as one member of our team walked into the Library to set up a camera the door was slammed into him, hitting him quite hard on the chest.  Experiments ruled out movement of floorboards, the door did not reach the floor and no matter how many or how often people walked through that doorway afterwards, the door did not move again.
With everyone seated in a first floor room we began a séance.  There was possibly a few taps and bangs but the road was still reasonably busy and not all that far from the front of the house so no definite conclusions can be drawn from them.  As usual during the séance we asked if any spirit(s) could move the table or touch one of us. one gentleman became aware that he was swaying against his will.  When we asked for the table to be moved faster his swaying sped up.  Saying that he was beginning to feel none too good the gentleman left the circle and immediately began to feel better.
Another peculiar thing occurred when we were all on the first floor.  Without warning or anyone summoning it the lift suddenly descended to basement.  The only way this could happen was for someone to be in the lift or to press the button calling it to the basement. 
While in the Library one of our customers received personal messages over the talking board.   After this it was as if there was a long queue of ‘spirits’ wanting to pop in to say ‘hello’, then, while there was four people on the glass the table itself began moving but quite often in the opposite direction to that of the glass.  Still with a single finger each upon the glass, and while they were taking it in turn to lift said finger, the four-legged table would balance on two legs.  To make sure there was no ‘monkey-business’ with feet being used to move the table we had a sceptic constantly watching the underside of the table, he confirmed that no-one was moving their feet or making contact with the table other than through the glass.

Other ghost hunting teams have also reported doors that open or close without explanation; the sounds of people moving around in empty rooms, disembodied voices, children laughing and a disturbing moan.   Strange EMF (electromagnetic field) spikes, the intermittent odour of tobacco smoke, rapid fluctuations in temperature and, inexplicable flashes of lights have all been experienced at Erasmus Darwin House as well as strange knocks and raps.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The pendulum and ghost hunting.

 The use of a pendulum is a form of dowsing and can be traced to the ancient times; it is possible that pictoglyphs on the walls of the Tassili Caves in southern Algeria in Africa are the earliest evidence to date.  The Chinese emperor Yu went on a dowsing expedition over 2,000 years BC and the art has been used by kings and psychics from then, though the middle ages to present times. 
This form of dowsing is a popular method of attempting to communicate with spirits when on a ghost hunting investigation.  This is possibly because being a small piece of equipment a pendulum does not take up much room in a bag and is light in weight; it has no moving parts to jam nor requires any batteries that can flatten.  Likewise it does not need any great technical skills or psychic powers to operate it and yet the fact that this lump of rock, metal, wood, glass or even plastic dangling from a length of a chain or piece of string can seemingly answer questions is rather mysterious
Is the pendulum made to move by the person holding it?  That is always a possibility, every living person breaths and has a pulse making absolute stillness impossible.  The possibility that the subconscious thoughts and desires of the dowser could also be affecting the pendulum has to be taken into account.  And there are people who, for whatever reason, will deliberately make the pendulum move.  Of course questions have to be worded so a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer will fit, which, when put together with the many ways of indicating answers, can leave much to individual interpretation.
Is there a right way to hold the pendulum?  Some say the end of the chain should be gripped between forefinger and thumb others that the chain should be looped over the middle finger and yet others go as far to say the gem at the end of the chain should be on the thumb side on the finger, but does it really matter.  Surely it is a question of personal taste, of which way is the most comfortable, and depends on the weight of the pendulum and the size of the gem, or whatever marks the end of the chain, provided the dowser is able to keep their arm and hand as still as possible.
Another point of contention between dowsers is how the pendulum displays its ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers.  Again, no one seems to be able to agree.  Some say ‘yes’ should be a clockwise movement others a back and forth movement like nodding your head, that ‘no’ should be a counter clockwise movement while their counterparts say ‘no’ is a side-to-side movement like a shake of the head as, to them, a clockwise circular moment means ‘I don’t know’, and a counter clockwise movement means ‘I won’t tell’.  Some say the word ‘stop’ should be used to ensure that the pendulum settles before answering the next question.  Yet others believe the pendulum, or the spirit in attendance, should dictate their own ‘yes’ and ‘no’ movements.  This, to me, makes more sense; what if you get a spirit who does not understand ‘clockwise’.  It is, after all, only in the past 100 years that clocks have become common place household item for common folk, hence the now fading practise of gifting a clock to a retiring worker.  The evidence is found in places like Worsley, where the workers used the Bridgewater clock in Worsley yard, which had been set to strike 13 at 1.00pm on purpose, to mark the end of their lunch breaks.  Again, I feel, it comes down to personal preferences. Likewise, just how much you believe the information gained through the answers to be real is down to how you interpret them.
It is fascinating to watch a pendulum begin to swing in the desired direction or in an apparent answer to a question, and then to stop moving again on demand.  I have seen pendulums make very clear movements, then at other times indistinct or even no movement at all.  Is this because some ‘ghosts’ are more willing to communicate or are stronger than others or is it down to one dowser being more anxious to ‘put on a good performance’ for their audience than another?  Holding your arm as still as possible gets tiring, does this contribute to the pendulum’s movements?  Are lighter pendulums more likely to give answers, or would that be because they are more susceptible to autonomic movements?  Would two people using pendulums in the same place at the same time get the same answer to the same question?  
For now, I seem to have more question than answers.  Perhaps that is part of the mystery attached to using a pendulum.  Perhaps I’ll find more answers the more I experiment.