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INVESTIGATING HAUNTINGS Lauren Forcella

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. In similar fashion, an object may contain and then flashback the memory or record of past events or people that have surrounded it or owned it (this ability to "read" an object's history is called psychometry).

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Haunting Apparitions: Since 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. True apparitions or ghosts reportedly act like living people with personality, emotions and intelligence, and the capacity to interact with witnesses. 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).

The Nature of Hauntings: 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. 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. 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 haunted, holding a recording of events and people that have historically associated with the object.

Witnessing a Haunting: 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 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, and evenanilamp.gif (31554 bytes) 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. 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 psychic image onto the actual setting can make for 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.

Practical Problem Solving: 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 anichair.gif (33008 bytes)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 (as with the various "Mystery Spots" around the US which play on your perceptions). If a haunting is suspected, an 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. Psychic practitioners may also be brought in as a form of "detector" to flesh out the experiences and potential patterns. Toward Resolution: 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. Other "psychic shielding" techniques can be taught so that the experience may be blocked from perception. In addition, psychic practitioners have been known to affect hauntings. 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.

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