Formal debate: "Existence of ghosts & apparitions"

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Formal debate: "Existence of ghosts & apparitions"

#1  Postby LIFE » May 16, 2010 7:53 pm

A formal debate between members jerome and campermon

Debate topic: "Existence of ghosts & apparitions"

Following this argument:
"Some Ghost cases may represent discarnate consciousness or the remote operation of a living human consciousness"

Defender: jerome
Contender: campermon

  1. Debaters to follow the forum rules at all times.
  2. Only the two participants can make posts in the topic, a seperate thread for comments is available here
  3. Formal debate rules & guidelines (currently WIP)

Agreed Conditions for this Debate:
  • 10 posts per party maximum. (May be decreased by agreement through the course of the debate.)
  • Opening post (1st post each) 1000 words maximum including quotations.
  • 2nd post each maximum 5000 words including quotations;
  • Posts 3-10 3000 words maximum including quotations;
  • 7 day window for follow up posts (eg One party posts Monday, the other party must respond by same time following Monday)

Member jerome to make the first post, in defence of the title claim.
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Re: Formal debate: "Existence of ghosts & apparitions"

#2  Postby jerome » May 17, 2010 1:22 pm

Defender's #1 post: 999 words. -LIFE

"Boo!" How else can one begin a debate on spooks but with that simple word, redolent of the silly ghost stories we told as kids to scare each other? We would talk in hushed voices, build the atmosphere, till our listeners became just a little nervous, just open to the possibility the unquiet dead were waiting, lurking,, just outside the comforting glow of the camp fire – then suddenly shriek "BOO!" at the top of our lungs, and watch them start in terror. That's what ghost stories are aren't they – childish imaginings, simple hoaxes and tales told to impress gullible minds?

Except… the clubs closed, and we are walking through unfamiliar streets, the dim light of the street lamps casting an orange glow over the empty pavements. Suddenly we realise, as the full moon appears from behind scudding clouds, that we are walking alongside the ornate railings of an old Victorian cemetery – we should be afraid of muggers, but instead… We feel a slight chill, as a shadow moves between the graves. We KNOW (of course) it's just a cat out for a little late night romance – yet still an icy thrill creeps through our body, and we hasten our step, just a little…

Evolution has served us well – we are programmed to fear the night where predators may lurk; but something else, some memory of those childhood games persists – and we are, though we would never admit it, frightened of GHOSTS. Little terrors from childhood creep up on us, and our fear of the unknown, our tendency to ascribe meaning to every dimly spied shadow – just in case it's a sabretooth tiger lurking in the bushes – they kick in. We rationalise, we feel better, and once we close the door against the night , safe in our homes, we soon forget it all.

Ghosts are a universal phenomena. Every culture seems to produce them, and I think they speak to something very deep inside of us: perhaps the fear of death, personified in a vaguely seen apparition, but screaming at us the (currently) undeniable fact of our own mortality. All childish imaginings, and the neurological residue of millennia of conflict with predators. Or are they? Do ghost really clank their chains, rattle their bones and walk the streets of our modern cities?

Boswell famously wrote
"It is wonderful that five thousand years have now elapsed since the creation of the world, and still it is undecided whether or not there has ever been an instance of the spirit of any person appearing after death. All argument is against it; but all belief is for it."
He was writing as the Scottish Enlightenment took hold – across Europe, intellectuals cast of the shackles of superstition and adopted empiricism. Writers of the 18th century were sure ghosts were just fantasies, perhaps brought on by bad digestion – waking dreams, of no import. (He had a way to go on the age of the Earth though!)

And you know what? I sympathise with those Enlightenment types. I think they were spot on – many, perhaps most, ghosts are nothing more than imagination, hallucination, or folklore stories repeated to frighten an audience like those spooky childhood tales.

I would imagine every reader of this debate has hallucinated – if not through drugs, fever or exhaustion, then in that most wonderful yet familiar of things, our nightly dreams. That our brains can conjure up convincing people, exotic landscapes, or whole dramas as if we are really there I think anyone who has ever had a dream will admit. Occasionally something of a dream will persist in to our waking hours; we may be a little confused when first waking up, as I was one night when I hurled a bedside lamp at an intruder in my room, smashing the lamp, and only as I woke fully discovering the truth. My cat Summer was vomiting on the duvet, and my then girlfriend had shaken me roughly awake. The intruder was just – a fantasy? Yet I saw him as plainly as I see the coffee cup in front of me now.

I can, and will, give many more examples of such hallucinations, waking dreams, and similar phenomena in this debate. I will invoke the "Old Hag", discuss sleep paralysis, liminal states, and I expect Campermom will want to give many, many more examples of how easily our senses can be fooled. Yet despite all this, and a fairly good knowledge of hallucinations and associated states, I am forced to believe something MUCH weirder is going on, something we have not yet managed to address scientifically. There are many theories – and I shall discuss them – but there are many cases where such simple explanations simply seem to break down. In my second post (the longest one in the debate I note) I shall give a number of those cases, and hopefully then my opponent and I can both cite them to support and build on our positions.

So why do I believe there is more to ghosts than dreams, hallucinations and folklore? Well partly because of my familiarity with the academic literature. In 1894 Eleanor Sidgwick edited the Report on the Census of Hallucinations, still the greatest study of experiences of this kind. 17,000 persons were interviewed and asked to recollect experiences of hallucination while awake and in good health, and 9.8% answered positively that they had had such an experience. Hardly surprising, given our known ability to hallucinate – but a very small number of these "spooks" were seen by multiple witnesses, or conveyed information that could not have been known by the percipient at that time. It is these "veridical hallucinations" that appear to defy our hallucination explanation, and hint that there may be something stranger going on. I will build my case upon cases like these, and upon the "physical phenomena" of purported poltergeist cases.

Let me end with a line from JBS Haldane
"The Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose."
Yours sincerely, Jerome -- a threat to reason & science

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Re: Formal debate: "Existence of ghosts & apparitions"

#3  Postby campermon » May 17, 2010 8:58 pm

Contender's #1 post: 698 words. -LIFE

“Boo Hoo!” is how I must start this debate, for inevitably Jerome will win…...if this debate is to be judged solely on writing style. However, it is not and in my favour I have 400 years of critical thinking and peer reviewed scientific evidence to draw upon as my weapons in debate! But more of that later.

First of all I’d like to explain why I have been drawn to this debate and for that we need to go back in time (to the 1980’s) when Campermon was but a pimply teenager, a ‘Camperboy’ if you will, and not the handsome, erudite fellow you see before you in the avatar ;) . It so happened that one school term I had to produce a project on ‘any’ topic for my English teacher. At the time, I had a passing interest in ghosts (what schoolboy doesn’t?) and naturally decided to write a topic about it. I soon discovered that the subject of ghosts and apparitions was huge and quickly decided to narrow it down to the specific case of Borley Rectory. Interest soon became fascination as I read of the (alleged) goings on at the rectory and the daring deeds of Harry Price in his pursuit of the truth. And thus began my love affair with the paranormal.

Over the next year or so, armed with my trusty library card (do people still use libraries?), I gorged on anything ‘paranormal’, virtually haunting those magical shelves marked 130-139 ( ... psychology ) lapping it all up, from ESP to witchcraft. At this point I must mention that I have always (as far as I can remember) been an atheist, or at least agnostic and have always had a ‘naturalistic’ outlook on the way things are. This did not protect me from, as what happened to be, quite a life changing experience. For want of a better term, I got seriously ‘creeped out’ one night whilst in bed. In the darkened room whilst staring at the patterned bedroom curtains, with a mind full of dewey decimal 130+ , I quite clearly saw the devil.

Now, to say that such an experience ‘shit me up’ is quite an understatement. I was absolutely terrified. But this was not the life changing event. That followed the hasty exit from my chambers to the living room downstairs. And there I sat and thought and rationalized about what had happened. In front of the fire I sat alone (all were asleep) and examined my hunger for section 130+ in the library. I then understood that my insatiable appetite for answers would remain unsated if I were to continue my studies in this area. I also understood the power of the mind to conjure untruths.

And what was the outcome of this blood chilling experience on the pimply young Campermon? Well he found another avenue of study which gave vastly more satisfying answers; Physics!

But enough of the life and adventures of Campermon for now! (although I may have opportunity to tell the tale of how three physics undergraduates got seriously spooked on a camping expedition at Hadrians Wall…).

Now to the subject of ghosts. I agree with Jerome; ghosts do indeed exist. Throughout history and across cultures there are countless reports of ghostly phenomena. This is indisputable. What is at dispute is what are ghosts?

Do ghosts exist as independent objective entities (“discarnate consciousness”)?

Is it possible that ghostly phenomena are due to the “remote operation of a living human consciousness”?

My answer to both these questions being; In all probability, no!

In arguing for these explanations Jerome has set himself the herculean task of providing evidence that

1) any consciousness can exist without a physical substrate
2) any living human consciousness can operate remotely.

It is my position that ghosts are a manifestation in arguably the most complex object in the universe i.e. the human brain, an object we are only just beginning to understand. It is here where we will find the answers.

Having said that, I look forward dissecting the scientific peer reviewed evidence that Jerome will put forward to support his arguments. ;)

To finish with a quote;

Randy Ping wrote:I am a soldier for science!
Scarlett and Ironclad wrote:Campermon,...a middle aged, middle class, Guardian reading, dad of four, knackered hippy, woolly jumper wearing wino and science teacher.
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Re: Formal debate: "Existence of ghosts & apparitions"

#4  Postby jerome » May 25, 2010 11:37 am

Defender's #2 post: 4793 words. -Mr.Samsa

Firstly. Thank you to everyone for your patience –and apologies for any typo in this post, I have not had time to review it properly. Secondly, thanks you to Campermom for his excellent introductory post.

In my first post I noted that there were a number of type of cases that intrigue me and lead me to the bizarre conclusion I tentatively propose: that some ghost cases may involve either discarnate (disembodied) intelligences or human consciousness acting remotely. In this, the largest post of the debate, I plan to cite few exemplar cases.

The first case I shall cite is a poltergeist case – in fact the modern classic of such cases. In 1967 Bavarian lawyer Sigmund Adam reported unusual phenomena in his solicitors practice in Rosenheim, Bavaria. The "haunting" appeared to be in some way connected with a young female employee Anne-Marie Schneider.

Here is Wikipedia on the phenomena reported

The events took place in Rosenheim in southern Bavaria, more specifically in the office of lawyer Sigmund Adam. Starting in 1967 strange phenomena began in the office - the lights would turn themselves off and on again and swing, telephones rang without anybody apparently calling (a silent caller), photocopiers spilled their copier fluid, and desk drawers would open without being touched. The Deutsche Post installed instruments that recorded numerous phone calls which were never made. Within five weeks the instruments recorded roughly 600 calls to the speaking clock (number 0119 in Germany) even though all the phones in the office were disabled and only Adam himself had the key required to enable them. In one 15-minute period the speaking clock had been called 46 times, sometimes at a rate that appeared impossible with the mechanical dialling system of 1967. In October 1967 all light bulbs went out with a huge bang.

This was to be one of the best investigated cases I can think of – as well as the newspaper reporters, the police, psychologist Professor Hans Bender (who I corresponded with on this many years ago) two physicists from the Max Planck Institute came to see the phenomena, and number of electrical and telephone engineers were involved. Just for fun, here is some footage of the investigation -- [youtube][/youtube]

I have quickly reviewed the literature on the case – here are two abstracts –

An Investigation of 'Poltergeist' Occurrences in Ros-enheim" by H. Bender (Institut fur Grenzgebiete der Psychologic) wrote:
A series of unexplained physical disturbances occurred through January, 1968, in a law office in the Bavarian town of Rosenheim. These events consisted primarily of sharp bangs, the blowing of automatic fuses without apparent cause, the spilling of developing fluid in the photostatic copying machines, ringing of all four telephones simultaneously, calls never made being registered, light bulbs exploding, pictures moving, and drawers opening. Through special recording devices, two physicists determined that the oscillographic measurements were not related to defects in the electrical system and could be due only to some unknown energy depending on the presence of a 19-year-old girl who worked in the office as an apprentice. An analysis of the distribution of incidents in time and space showed that they decreased with the distance from the agent and seemed dependent on the intensity of the "affective field" existing in the office situation. When the girl left for a vacation, the phenomena ceased.

The second paper deals with the report by the physicists and technicians…

Physical Investigation of Psychokinetic Phenomena in Rosenheim, Germany, 1967" by F. Karger (Institut fiir Plasmaphysik, Munich) and G. Zicha (Technischen Hochschule, Munich)  wrote:
The events of the Rosenheim poltergeist case (described above by Hans Bender) were analyzed for a physical explanation. A Siemens Unireg 1 line recorder and a Tektronix plug-in unit in a storage oscilloscope were used to record the voltage, electrical deflections, electrical potential, magnetic field near the recorder, and sound amplitude in the office. The following conclusions were reached: (1) Although recorded with the facilities available to experimental physics, the events defied explanation with the means available. (2) The phenomena seemed to be the result of nonperiodic, short-time forces. (3) They did not seem to involve pure electrodynamic effects. (4) Not only were explosive events involved, but also complicated motions. (5) These movements seemed to be performed by intelligently controlled forces with a tendency to evade investigation.

These findings are surprising. Clearly they go further than the negative findings in terms of an explanatory naturalistic hypothesis: simply because no technical cause or trickery could be found does not mean one did not exist. Rosenheim is just one of many hundreds (indeed thousands probably) reported poltergeist cases – I simply cite it because there is a little footage, and because it was well investigated at the time. Recently another spectacular case emerged in Czechoslovakia - ... ed-by.html - with a hilarious quote –"We do not want to fall for occultism. We will try to explain it in a scientific way. However it is hard as these phenomena are really unexplainable," – er ok, I know what he means but that is probably a very bad translation and amused me! -- but also a small bit of local news footage.

The Fortean Times ran an excellent follow up on the investigation in March

Bob Rickard wrote:The focus of attention was the Mráček family in the town of Strašice, in the Plzeň Region, 39 miles (62km) south-west of Prague, where they live in a small bungalow. Precisely how the phenomena came to the attention of the Prague Daily Monitor we don’t know, but the paper was told of a “sudden” onset of cracking windows and light bulbs, and small fires appearing “constantly throughout the house”. They had to extinguish as many as 60 combustions a day involving plastic bags, pictures, towels and curtains, and wall sockets (even though many of the latter are disconnected from the power supply). Similar incidents would keep them awake at night. Once, they found the aquarium water boiling, killing the resident turtle.

Then the case looked done and dusted, with the confession of the twelve year old son Jiri – and after all an emotionally disturbed child acting as an arsonist is far more explicable than a "poltergeist", whatever one of those may be. Except the occurrences happened in front of technicians after the child was sent away, and no means for the starting of the fires has been found. If you are interested in such things you can read Bob Rickard's entire piece here - ... geist.html
--and of course I keep a media watch on poltergeist cases as they break on my blog
You might also find the South Sheilds poltergeist case of interest, because Hallowell and Ritson have documented it thoroughly, and made a lot of material available on their website. SPR investigator Alan Murdie has followed the case up and been convinced of all concerneds sincerity. - slightly over the top, contains sound files!

Now I'm not asking Campermom to refute each and every case I present – (though he is welcome to do so!) The poltergeist phenomena has been recorded for centuries, and back in 1979 the late Tony Cornell and Professor Alan Gauld performed a remarkable study, looking at 500 "poltergeist" cases collected from 5 continents and dating from the first millennium before Christ to the present day (well the 1907's). They broke down the reports (all by "investigators", in most cases first hand reports of the phenomena) by the factors that emerged from the data – loosely a Grounded Theory approach, then uses statistical tests to seek relationships between them. Three clusters were seen to emerge from the data – one with the attributes of a classic "haunting" (apparitional experiences witnessed over decades or centuries in the same location), one that could clearly be described as a "poltergeist" – objects moving, and the same kinds of bizarre behaviour manifested in the cases I have cited so far, and the third smaller group having a mix of both elements. What seems consistent is that the "poltergeist" group does not change much – while it adapts to and incorporates modern technology in its destructive behaviour, the cases are much the same in the phenomena from 5th century BC China to 13th century England to 1187th century India to modern Germany.

So what are the core "poltergeist" phenomena? A few more cases should give you the idea – Rougham, Suffolk, was the location in 1989 for a severe and interesting poltergeist outbreak. The Arnold family, lived in a house at Spinney Cottages. After noticing an uncanny feeling in the cupboard under their stairs the family began to suspect something was seriously wrong with their home. Shortly after this Mrs Arnold felt herself being pushed by an invisible hand and then the family’s pet Bull Terrier began to act strangely, watching "something" walking around the house. The family temporarily moved out but eventually returned and then tragedy struck...

A fire broke out in the cupboard under the stairs, and although the family escaped Mrs Arnold bravely returned to fetch the dog and the other pet, a parrot. Sadly the parrot died shortly afterwards of smoke inhalation. Fire Officers from Bury's brigade were unable to say how the blaze started. Then a few days later Sara, 17, heard a strange metallic voice saying "That was funny, wasn't it?". The voice sounded as if doing a poor imitation of Sara's mother. She believed the voice was referring to the fire.

A bizarrely similar poltergeist case developed in Oklahoma, USA, in the early 1990's. An 18 year old girl, her mother and husband are being disturbed by a stone throwing poltergeist who told lies about family members in a strange metallic voice, scrawled symbols on mirrors in lipstick and terrorised the family parakeets! Were the parrots and parakeets the source of the alleged voices? When I went through the archives of the Bury Free Press I found six poltergeist cases reported in West Suffolk in just over 30 years. They vary in details, but the core phenomena always appear similar.

Tapping noises are heard. Was that scratching mice in the walls? Or even rats? Who was walking in the passage at midnight?

Where are my cufflinks? I swear I put them down here. No I haven't moved your scissors. "In my pockets! I checked there twice! " - or in an extremely unlikely location, when they return at all. (This phenomena is called Small Object Displacement or SOD by parapsychologists. Small items up disappear and reappear where they were – or in unlikely places. This may be down to carelessness, but soon even laymen start to blame the "sodding" ghost.)

Loud knocking sounds, detonations and raps spring from the wall. Who rang the doorbell? There is no one outside. Did you move that vase off the table? Aunt Ethel's portrait is at the bottom of the stairs. Anyone would think this house was haunted.

About this point things start to happen in earnest. Objects fly across the room and impact with a great crashing sound. Often they are not broken, or else they're shattered with incredible violence. The object may have become very hot, and one of my research team burned his fingers on the fragments of a supposedly poltergeist hurled cup.

One classic poltergeist effects that can be found in any book of "real life ghost stories" is what I term the invisible housebreakers. It generally goes something like - "I was asleep with my wife, when we were both startled awake by the thunderous crashes from the dining room. Utterly convinced we were being vandalised by a gang of maniacal burglars I listened in horror. Arming myself and recklessly running downstairs I could hear the sounds of the furniture being hurled about with great violence. Throwing open the door, everything became silent. Fumbling for the light switch I flooded the room with a welcome light. Everything was exactly as it usually is. Confused and dazed I searched the house, but to no avail."

This happens often in poltergeist cases. Rarer events are also possible, such as childish scrawling appearing on the walls of a locked room. Often these messages are threats, such as the classic "Esther Cox you are mine to kill", or entreaties for help as in the famous ‘Marianne’ scripts of the Borley Rectory hauntings.

Voices also feature in a small number of cases. In some instances they come from the unwilling throats of someone in the house, but in other cases they seem to come from nowhere. The Enfield Poltergeist of 1970's London was an example of the first kind, while the latter is demonstrated by a case from Suffolk, England in the 1980's. Such voices often have a metallic or robotic ring to them and are quite eerie to hear. Certain features are especially common. Voices consistently swear and abuse those present, and show a low level of intelligence. The poltergeist voice of the "Watseka Wonder" case in nineteenth century America claimed to be a demon, angel and the deceased spirit of a former resident at different times.

Another odd feature of some cases are pools of water or blood that form about the property. Often rational causes can be found for these, particularly if the dog looks sheepish or the windows are completely misted over with condensation. More distressing are fire poltergeists that delight in minor feats of pyromania. Even fire resistant materials have been known to ignite. Unexplained fires invariably cause great alarm, and they can eventually reach a climax with the house burning down. These are a subtype of poltergeist and a particularly nasty one.

Stone throwing is another particularly irritating feature of some cases. Stones may fall from nowhere, raining down in a room, bombarding the roof or even smashing windows and breaking crockery. These stones may display interesting features such as bizarre trajectories, and may well be hot or freezing to touch. They rarely strike anyone and if they do hit for minimal damage- almost as is gravity was somehow effected.

Perhaps the single most terrifying type of manifestation is the ‘biting poltergeist’. This is extremely rare but there are a few cases such as the Eleanore Zugun poltergeist where bite marks, weal’s and other physical effects occurred on the victim. These seem similar to stigmata and may be psychosomatic, caused by the person's unconscious mind. Miss Zugun attributed them to a ‘dracul’, or devil, invisible to everyone else.

Poltergeists usually begin as mischievous pranksters, yet build up in to something quite terrifying and malevolent. They do seem to follow one unwritten law, which is quite curious. No matter how violent the telekinesis, or how frightening and hostile the entity seems, they never seem to kill or indeed seriously injure anyone. Thrown objects always seem to miss their intended targets, swerving in mid air to do so if necessary. A poltergeist may frighten, harass and baffle investigators but is extremely unlikely to kill them Of course an investigator who insists on trying to catch the flying vase deserves what is coming to her, and there are exceptions to this rule.

One parapsychologist was explaining this rule to a frightened lady during an investigation when he was struck in the head by a flying brick. One wonders if she lost confidence in his ideas! John Bell was killed during the ‘Bell Witch’ affair in the 1830's U.S. when something swapped his medicine for poison. Almost anything is possible, and the investigators should always be careful. There are some cases which break this rule and great physical harm did occur.

Another interesting feature of the poltergeist is that it sometimes recurs years later. Although most evidence does point towards the RSPK and person centred nature of the haunting there are several cases where the "haunting" recurred 10-20 years after the initial disturbance, even though there was not a single person involved in both outbreaks. Here the poltergeist seems area rather than person based. The Syderstone Parsonage, Norfolk, poltergeist was of this type, as was a recent case I investigated in Warwickshire, England.

Sometimes apparitions are also seen. I find these ’polter-ghost’ cases quite common. One theory is that the presence of haunting allows people to manifest psi talents they would not normally do, because they can blame them on the ghost or apparition. These cases tend to last longer than a normal poltergeist, which has a tendency to burn out. It is possible that the ghost somehow allows an agent to create RSPK, whether directly or indirectly as suggested above.

How long does a poltergeist last? In some cases the activity lasts only a few days and then ceases. Often as the phenomena build up to the climax the frightened householders call in "experts" who arrive to find nothing happening.

There is an old German proverb – ‘when the ghosthunter arrives, the ghost flies out of the window.’ Often the poltergeist will persist for a few weeks, and some rare examples exist of poltergeists which lasted for months or even years. This is a major difference between poltergeists and other hauntings, which tend to continue for decades.

One of the strangest aspects of poltergeist cases is that the poltergeist often seems to be reactive. That is it learns new tricks, develops in strength and personality, and reacts to the actions of occupants. It often seems that it is shy around new people and will not manifest until it has become accustomed to them. The Syderstone poltergeist would knock a specific number of times if requested and would beat out time if a tune was hummed or sung. Fancy singing anyone? The recent Cardiff, Wales, poltergeist apparently materialised money at request, though sadly only in small denominations and a single note at a time.

So what do modern parapsychological researchers think cause this? Most seem to agree that people are involved – probably the popular explanation now is the RSPK or Recurrent Spontaneous Psycho-Kinesis theory, which put poltergeists down to a mysterious force named PKE. What is PKE? Psycho-Kinetic Energy (PKE) is an energy supposedly generated by the human mind that is able to move objects at a distance. The RSPK hypothesis suggests that this talent can occasionally occur spontaneously and without warning humans develop the ability to unconsciously chuck stuff around, resulting in a poltergeist haunting. I likened this theory to being as the equivalent of "a nervous breakdown occurring outside the victim's head."
Some parapsychologists hold that there is a sexual factor and suggest psychotherapy for the agent (person at the centre of the outbreak) may prove useful in terminating prolonged poltergeists. Today this theories (largely popularised by psychoanalyst Nandor Fodor have fallen out of fashion) – today we might expect the agent to be any highly creative person placed under great stress, yet forced to repress their emotions. The poltergeist may be a way of letting off steam, an emotional cure. There are MANY problems with this idea however: I shall discuss them in future posts. Why some people and not others?

In fact modern parapsychology is split on the poltergeist – a small minority of researchers hold out for hoaxing, though in many cases where thorough investigation has shown power spikes, strange field fluctuations, and all kinds of other odd physical phenomena that is hard to accept. A slightly larger number hold to the possibility that poltergeist are associated with "spirits" and "dead guys" – still an extreme minority position, but one that does actually appear to have some evidence supporting it, and held by several prominent researcher sin the field. In fact there is a definitely a lot of supporting evidence for an even weirder connection – in many cases in some countries, poltergeist outbreaks begin after the placing of a curse upon the individuals at the centre of them. One such case occurred in Bristol in 1761, at the Lamb Inn. At the centre of the outbreak were two girls, Molly aged 12 and Dobby aged 8. The case began with scratching noises which the parents ascribed to pigeons, but three weeks later an impressive array of phenomena was attested; the kitchen table was overturned, the girls pulled out of bed, and the curtains moved. Durbin, a witness , (who went on to write a book on the case) claims to have seen a glass rise a foot in the air, inclining backwards and then flung across the room hitting the nurse on the hip. Both girls were attacked, pins found in their feet and cut marks appearing on their skin, before being bitten with teeth marks and saliva appearing in a manner reminiscent of the Elenore Zugun case. Something attempted to strangle Molly. Gauld & Cornell found in their literature survey that physical attacks occurred in 77% of the cases surveyed.

Was there a discarnate entity behind the attacks? Dobby had visions of an old hag, claiming to have been dragged up three floors and shoved under a bed. Durbin tried to communicate with the entity, inventing a code of raps—one knock for yes, two for no. He concluded based upon the messages received that witchcraft ordered by a commercial rival of the girl’s father was responsible. When the father died four months after the phenomena began his wife went to local cunning women. The advice given was curious to modern ears. She was to take the children’s urine and heat it on the fire, and if all the colours of rainbow were produced by the urine the cunning woman could resolve the problem. This was one, bright colours reported, and the phenomena ceased. (Of course urine samples were a staple of Early Modern medicine, being extensively tasted, sniffed and treated as an aid to diagnose.) It seems hard to believe that such primitive medicine and magic allayed the problem, but as many an investigator has found almost intervention, if believed in by the family, can end a poltergeist outbreak.

This is not necessarily caused by "magic" – one thing I have observed over the years is a consistent effect, which I jokingly call the Mount Pele effect. The story is that tourist who take lave from the volcano in Hawaii are cursed ,and indeed there were some early cases where small scale poltergeist type events seem to be associated with it. The legend has grown and grown, and now some enterprising folks actually provide a service returning your rocks – and I think it's a VERY useful service, even if it does nothing but out the stones back, because it allays peoples superstitions – if you like it's a harmless superstition that acts to reduce anxiety. You can have a look at some of the stories here --

So people experience normal life events that are painful, and seek for a cause. A similar legend has grown up around those who take stones from Ayer's rock. Yet there are other cases that are baffling, and suggest to me something stronger. One case a case that is reported by Guy Lyon Playfair: the agent was a 30 year old Brazilian psychology lecturer, who was in fact a dedicated materialist until these events She found a small statuette from a South American Spiritist religion washed up on a beach, and took it home – and suffered mysterious illness, physical assaults and a full blown spectacular haunting. This is similar to the famous "Hexham Heads" case where Dr Anne Ross (Archeologist and expert in Celtic Brtiain) experienced a bizarre apparition apparently linked to the small heads. Ironically it seems the heads may have been modern toys made for children, of no malevolent import, and dating back only a decade! Another recent case is recounted in Jim Schnabel's book Round In Circles, here after materials were taken from a (subsequently shown to be hoaxed) crop circle, leading to a short intensive poltergeist outbreak. This leads me to ask the obvious question of whether the object is in anyway concerned, or simply acts as a focus for (to coin a phrase) psi-de effects manifested by the victim's unconscious? These cases strongly suggest to me a human psychological element to the causation of the phenomena – but not it would appear to me hoaxing.

I shall end with one last case – I shall email Campermom the papers I am citing from. It occurred in Cardiff in the early 1990's, and is known to parapsychologists as the Cardiff Responsive Case, and to others as "Pete the Poltergeist"– it was investigated by Professor David Fontana of Cardiff University. Here is Fontana describing the phenomena

David Fontana wrote:
1. Small stones, coins or bolts impacting on the walls or floor and occasionally
hitting someone (harmlessly—though Jim had discussed possible customer
injury with his insurance agent). No-one had seen the projectiles actually
thrown, but only as they landed or (less frequently) when they were in mid-air.
2. A paint scraper which had 'gone missing', and then suddenly re-appeared,
as hot to the touch 'as if it had been heated for some minutes with a blowlamp'.
3. The mysterious arrival of objects, usually dropped onto the floor, for
example a pen which fell beside Jim when he had spoken of writing down the
incidents, followed by a piece of headed notepaper which on investigation turned
out to have come, by unknown means, from the office premises on the floor
above. Also coins, most of which appeared to originate from a collection of
pennies and halfpennies kept in the office. When Paul had asked out loud for a
sovereign, a Jubilee crown (which appeared to have come from a drawer in Jim
and Ann's house) had dropped beside him.

Skip a few Brother Maynard…

10. Some strange happenings in the premises upstairs, including a diary which
'disappeared' from a drawer and was unaccountably found on the roof of a
nearby building.
11. A persistent strong smell of burning.
12. Stones thrown at Ann while she was in the toilet at the back of the
workshop, and with the door locked on the inside.
13. Frequent telephone calls to Jim and Ann's house during the day and night
(on one occasion every few minutes throughout an entire afternoon), but the line
dead on answering. British Telecomm. engineers had been asked to check but
had found no fault to account for this.
14. Planks of wood thrown violently into the workshop, originating apparently
in the yard outside, when Jim had said to Ann 'All we need now are some planks
of wood'. (The outer door to the workshop was open at the time, but the planks
were claimed to be far too heavy to have been thrown by hand.)
15. A range of other incidents too numerous to mention here, involving the
movement of objects and their disappearance and re-appearance, loud knocks on
the window of the retail shop with no-one in the vicinity, and the throwing of
stones in the retail shop while customers were present (to the great
embarrassment of staff).

I'll skip a few, because I'm missing a page here!

25. A cache of engineering bolts of the kind used in the workshop and which
were frequently employed as missiles by 'Pete', discovered in the false ceiling
formed by the polycarbonate tiles in the corner of the workshop mentioned in 23
above as a focus of activity. An exploration of this part of the ceiling was
suggested by Jim's daughter, the psychiatric nurse mentioned above. The bolts
were cleared after their discovery, but a similar cache was found in the same
place when a second exploration was carried out some weeks later at Paul's
suggestion and in my presence.
26. Stones thrown at the brass shell case. These phenomena began when Jim
challenged 'Pete' to 'hit the shell' with a stone, a feat almost impossible to carry
out by normal means unless one stood only a few feet away. 'Pete' duly obliged
on a number of occasions, with Jim and his employees on the other side of the
27. House, drawer, car and cupboard keys arriving mysteriously. These would
appear in positions on a work-bench which moments before had been seen to be
clear. The majority of the keys were of unknown origin. (These are now in my
28. Cutlery arriving mysteriously in the kitchen. For example, although Ann
and Yvonne assured me only one tea spoon was normally kept there, three
identical ones were found to have 'arrived' overnight. Sometimes this cutlery
appeared to have been 'set out' crudely, either on the table or on the floor.

OK, not a lot – but hopefully enough to get some discussion going. Sorry to have to dash it off without much time, life very hectic!

J x
Yours sincerely, Jerome -- a threat to reason & science

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Re: Formal debate: "Existence of ghosts & apparitions"

#5  Postby campermon » May 29, 2010 12:03 pm

Condender's #2 post: 4994 words. -LIFE

Thanks Jerome! I enjoyed the ghost stories; It took me back to the salad days of ‘Camperboy’!

I have split this first ‘proper’ post into two sections. In the first part I have expanded upon my position as regards ghosts i.e. that they are purely manifestations of the brain that do not represent objects in objective reality. I have also explained in a little more detail my objections to the two premises we are here to debate; "Some Ghost cases may represent discarnate consciousness or the remote operation of a living human consciousness". Out of necessity (I’m a busy guy!), the first section was been written before Jerome’s first main post. The second part of this post deals with the claims and evidence of Jerome’s first main post.

Ghosts are a manifestation in the Brain

At the outset I would like to state that I am in no way an expert in biology or neuroscience. On these subjects I can only claim to be an educated layman and openly welcome critical feedback (via PM / peanut gallery). If I have I have erred then I humbly apologise and ask you to correct me via the aforementioned routes ;). In my defense, I am a physics graduate and my studies have given me an excellent training in the ‘scientific method’ and the broadest of insights into the workings of the natural world. I must add that this is not an attempt to argue from a position of authority! ;)

The brain is truly a magnificent object, surely the most complex object in the known universe. According to wiki ( this 1.5kg of soft tissues contains between “50–100 billion (1011) neurons,”. This is an impressive fact in itself, but not as awe inspiring as the fact that these neurons self organize, connect and communicate which each other via “1000 trillion (1015) synaptic connections” to achieve the common purpose of keeping you alive.

Just think about this for a few seconds; Up to 100 000 000 000 neurons self organizing to form 1000 000 000 000 000 synaptic connections. Add to the mix millions of receptor cells ( constantly feeding this network with megabits of data per second (a conservative estimate on my part based purely on the number of receptors a human body has) and we have quite a remarkable data processing machine. At this moment just try to imagine what your brain is doing; billions of photons (originating from your computer screen) are streaming into your eyes and firing the receptors in your retina causing a cascade of millions of impulses directed at your visual cortex. Your brain is filtering the extraneous visual data to extract what it is your attention is directed at i.e. the letters and words on this screen. Your brain is now decoding the shapes of the letter / words and turning them it into language, which is calling into play your memory and language centres (can you ‘hear’ the words?). That’s just the beginning. What next? Your brain is constructing meaning and understanding which in turn is firing up other parts of your brain invoking emotions (just imagine your response had I inserted the ‘C’ word here! not ‘Consciousness’ ;) )and memory and on we go anon. All this to read just a few lines of text in a few seconds of time.

Now, as I said, I am a layman on the subject of the brain and there are many out there (some on these boards) who could write, with authority, more inspiring prose on this subject. In the above I clumsily attempt to illustrate how remarkably complex and ‘clever’ our brain is and to also give a hint at the extraordinary processing power it has. In spite of the astronomical numbers of neurons and connections our brains have (and the consequent room for malfunction), our brains are, in general, fairly reliable in the day to day job they do i.e. make sense of the world. To evidence this, I ask you to think about the owners of these 1.5kg’s of soft tissue masses that you may know and think about the many, many observations that you agree on; we call this objective reality. However, the brain, being a complex evolved object is likely to malfunction and at such times it presents its users with the most unusual and fascinating experiences. I invite you to watch this talk given by Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroscientist, who describes the day she had a stroke. ... sight.html

During her talk Jill describes a state of bliss in which she refers to herself being in “La la land”. She goes on to describe the failure of her proprioceptive brain functions which results in the subjective experience of being almost incorporeal and “at one” with the universe around her. As the bleed further inhibits normal brain function she describes to us the feelings of being “lighter in my body”, of “peacefulness”, “euphoria” and having met her “nirvana”. How many times have we heard similar anecdotal experiences presented as evidence for the ‘paranormal’?

I’ll concede that Jill didn’t experience ghosts and her ordeal was due to a life threatening bleed into her brain but what her account does show is that the brain is more than capable of fooling us into experiencing events that many would classify as being ‘paranormal’.

Now back to the subject of ghosts. As I said before, I do agree with Jerome that ghosts are a real phenomena. Our point of dispute is in the nature of this phenomena. I argue that ghosts are a phenomenen associated entirely of and within the individual brain which leads me to the conclusion that ghosts are associated with hallucination. Before I discuss the commonality of and the causes of hallucinations, I must first ask the question; at what time of day do most people claim to have had seen a ghost? Night-time of course! Even a child knows that. But why should ghosts be traditionally associated with a time of darkness and, more often that not, when the observer is on their own? Could it be that our pattern seeking brains, denied of sensory input, begin to fill in the gaps? Let’s see.


First of all, let’s have a look at a rather common phenomenen known as ‘phosphenes’. A phosphene is a visual experience generated in the brain in the absence of light stimulus. You can easily stimulate the production of phosphenes by rubbing your eyes (we’ve all seen the funny patterns), but the curious thing is that phosphenes will spontaneously generate themselves in the absence of any apparent stimulus;

“In general, phosphenes appear spontaneously when the viewer is subjected to prolonged visual deprivation and it has been argued that this occurrence may be related to an increased cortical excitability to the incoming visual input (see Boroojerdi et al., 2000). Phosphenes may appear with a variety of patterns: they often have a chaotic structure in the form of sparks, sometimes they appear as a glowing circle or part of it, or as a spiral moving in concentric circles”

From “Cellular mechanisms underlying the pharmacological induction of phosphenes” ( ... 06998a.pdf )

The paper then goes on to explain that this phenomena is common even where there is no apparent pathology present;

“The perception of phosphenes is very common and often experienced in the absence of an identifiable pathological condition of the retina or of the visual pathways: in a large number of these cases the causes underlying phosphene generation are difficult to assess (Rosenbaum et al., 1987).”

So here we have a phenomena which produces unusual visual experiences for people who are considered to have healthy brains. So, what might happen if we add in other factors?

“More complex and picturesque spontaneous visual phenomena are often indicated as phosphenes, but when associated with emotional factors, drugs, alcohol, stress, fever or psychotic conditions, they should be referred to as visual hallucinations.”

So, with the addition of ‘stress’, for instance, the brain can manifest more intricate visuals resulting in complex hallucination. Who here, with a healthy brain( ;) ), could claim not to feel at all stressed if they were to spend the night in a dark spooky place (a morgue for instance)? Is it not possible that even with your healthy brain, producing phosphenes, and a level of stress (associated with being on your own, at night, in say, a morgue) that hallucinations may follow?

A final note on phosphenes for the moment; Phosphenes can be induced by transcranial simulation by electromagnetic fields. More of this later….

Hypnagogic Hallucination

Put your hands up if this has happened to you :- It’s late at night and you’ve crawled into bed. Your head hits that pillow and you relax, shedding the burden of an oh so busy day. You begin to drift off, leaving this conscious world, edging toward the realm of dreams. You travel that blissful path to unconsciousness wending its way, as it does, around the cul-de-sac of your day and on towards the highways of fantasy (MrsC and I appreciate sleep after having four kids! ;) ) and then. Suddenly you clearly hear someone call your name. Well, if you’ve experienced this, then you’ve had a hypnagogic hallucination. But don’t worry! You don’t have to be carted off to the asylum……yet.

Let’s see what “Complex visual hallucinations, Clinical and neurobiological insights” ( has to say on this matter;

From the Summary;

“Complex visual hallucinations may affect some normal individuals on going to sleep and are also seen in pathological states, often in association with a sleep disturbance. The content of these hallucinations is striking and relatively stereotyped, often involving animals and human figures in bright colours and dramatic settings.”

We then go on to learn that;

“Mauray (1848) coined the term hypnagogic hallucinations to describe his own vivid hallucinations in the state of drowsiness just before sleep.” and “Up to one-third of normal individuals may experience these hallucinations, when going off to sleep,”

The author then describes the experiences of some poor brain injured individuals who have hallucinated, amongst other things, figures in Victorian and 17th century garb, tall men with pink hands and numerous cats. Now, these examples are associated with patients who have demonstrable damage to the the brain. But common with the example of Jill Bolte (see above) we are reading about experiences (such as witnessing people in Victorian garb pushing prams in your living room) which fit very well with what is reported as ‘paranormal’ activity. What’s going on here? Let’s see what the paper says in its summary;

“Normal individuals may experience prolonged hypnagogic hallucinations prior to falling asleep. These are characterized by brilliant scenery, figures and animals, and insight is often preserved. Strikingly similar hallucinations are seen in the lesions of the visual pathways, and in brainstem and thalamic lesions affecting the ascending reticular activating system.”

At this point we need to ask the question; Why do the experiences of brain injured individuals match up so well with reports of the paranormal? Is it reasonable to claim that our immensely complex, imperfect, evolved brains (remember all the zeros in the synaptic connection count) are prone to ‘breaking down’ now again, thus replicating the ‘paranormal’ type of experiences evidenced in the above two cases of brain injury. Or is it more plausible to accept that paranormal phenomena (originating outside of the brain) has an effect such that it exactly replicates the effects of brain injury?

Let’s move on…

Things that go bump in the night….

Why do ghosts make things go ‘bump in the night’? Where does this ‘tradition’ come from? Could it be that during these quiet, sensory deprived, times our data hungry brains are amplifying every piece of auditory input, however tiny, in to something we can comprehend? Very likely, but here is an interesting phenomena I dug up during my research for this debate; “Exploding head syndrome”.

The “Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 1989;52:907-910 Short report Clinical features of the exploding head syndrome” ( ... 9-0093.pdf) describes it thus;

“The syndrome in essence consists of an hitherto unreported benign symptom characterised by a sense of explosion in the head, confined to the hours of sleep, which is harmless but very frightening for the sufferer.”

Contained within the report is a table; “Table 2 Showing Salient features of 30 patients” describing symptoms of hearing noises ranging from ‘clash of cymbals’ to ‘crack of lightening’. The syndrome also appears to leave its victims pretty shaken up. Well wouldn’t you be frightened if you were woken up by a ‘bomb like explosion’?

The phenomena is rarely reported (the paper discusses a total of around 50 known cases), however the author suspects that it is more common;

“As a symptom it is probably fairly common. No less than fifty patients voluntarily wrote about their symptoms within 4 weeks of publication. But, as a source of complaint it is rare; many said they had been ashamed to mention it to their doctors or that their complaint had been greeted with incredulity if not frank disbelief.”

Is it possible that the tales of experiences caused by this syndrome have gotten themselves mixed up over time with the folklore of ghostly happenings and the paranormal? It seems reasonable to me.

The report does point to some suggestions as to the organic cause of this syndrome but does state that these are speculative (if anyone has any up to date research on this area, I’d love to hear!). However, there is a pattern to be found in the patient study;

“The patients are predominantly middle-aged or elderly, slightly more commonly women than men. There is little evidence of relevant past illness and no other CNS disease in evidence. The complaint is exclusively in sleep, but this may include daytime naps.”

So, are we looking at a spooky phenomena that may be explained naturally? Or do ghosts that that make things bump in the night only mainly afflict those in middle to elderly age? If so why?

Summing up my position on ghosts…

I have become conscious that, as well as possibly boring the reader with my waffle ;) , I am using up valuable word space with which I will need discuss my objections to the aforementioned points of debate and critique the evidence Jerome brings to the table. But before I move on, I would urge you to have a read of “Psychobiology of Altered States of Consciousness” ( ... 05-ASC.pdf ). I will not discuss this article further than quoting the abstract and summing up my position that ghosts are manifestations of the brain. From the article;

” The article reviews the current knowledge regarding altered states of consciousness (ASC) (a) occurring spontaneously, (b) evoked by physical and physiological stimulation, (c) induced by psychological means, and (d) caused by diseases. The emphasis is laid on psychological and neurobiological approaches. The phenomenological analysis of the multiple ASC resulted in 4 dimensions by which they can be characterized: activation, awareness span, self-awareness, and sensory dynamics. The neurophysiological approach revealed that the different states of consciousness are mainly brought about by a compromised brain structure, transient changes in brain dynamics (disconnectivity), and neurochemical and metabolic processes. Besides these severe alterations, environmental stimuli, mental practices, and techniques of self-control can also temporarily alter brain functioning and conscious experience.”

What I hope to have shown in the preceding is that paranormal experience can be adequately explained by understanding the mechanisms of the brain through neuroscience. We have seen that the brain can create the range of ‘paranormal’, ‘ghostly’ experiences either through damage or as a natural consequence of it being the highly complex, evolved, input greedy object it is. Why should we look to fanciful theories when the object of our investigation is that 1.5kg mass of wet stuff encased in our heads? I will address this in the following, where I am on more steady ground because it involves a bit of physics! ;)

My objections to the idea that "Some Ghost cases may represent discarnate consciousness..”

Having witnessed the discussions on ‘consciousness’ in the philosophy forum, I don’t want to dwell too much on this! Let’s just go with what wiki says:

“Consciousness is variously defined as subjective experience, or awareness, or wakefulness, or the executive control system of the mind.”

My challenge to Jerome, also open to anyone else on this forum, is to provide valid evidence that any of the defined actions, as described in the wiki quote, can take place without a physical substrate.

There’s nothing more for me to say on this point until the production of valid evidence to support the claim!

My objections to the idea that “Some Ghost cases may represent [...] the remote operation of a living human consciousness”

I must admit that if there is any alternative for the explanation of paranormal events that I would like to believe in that this is it. To start off with, let’s look at “Extra Sensory Perception” (ESP). The idea that our brains are able to extract objective information from the environment through mechanisms other than the common five (ESP) does appeal to me. However, the failure of research to conclusively demonstrate perception of objective reality through senses other than sight, smell, taste, touch and feel consigns this alternative to the scientific trash can. I don’t wish to bore you, and I haven’t the time to trawl through papers and critiques of this area, so I will simply refer you to “James Randi’s One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge” ( Thus far, no one has won the prize (or I believe, passed the preliminary tests) for demonstrating this ability.

I admit that ESP is not strictly on topic, but the lack of valid evidence to support it does indicate that we will not find an example of a consciousness operating remotely in this case.

How about brains influencing other brains directly over distance? Well, I would ask myself first of all is how this could be done? What sort of mechanism could transfer information, via space, directly from one electrochemical object (i.e. brain) to another? What springs to mind ( :nono: ) is magnetic fields. Why? Well, oscillating magnetic fields will induce currents in the brain and thus excite neural activity. So we could be onto a winner because this effect is demonstrated by ‘transcranial magnetic stumulation’ (TMS). This is outlined by wiki quite nicely; ( ... timulation ).

Unfortunately, when we dig down into the physics, it appears that this mechanism does not help. Why? For that we need to look at the magnitude of the fields involved and the way they spread out though space. To answer both these questions, wiki will be out friend.

From the wiki article on TMS we learn that coils in contact with the head emit oscillating magnetic fields with a strength of about 2 Tesla. To put this into context, informs us that;

• 31 µT (3.1×10−5 T) - strength of Earth's magnetic field at 0° latitude (on the equator)
• 5 mT - the strength of a typical refrigerator magnet
• 1 T to 2.4 T - coil gap of a typical loudspeaker magnet
• 9.4 T - Modern high resolution research magnetic resonance imaging system“

OK, so 2T doesn’t sound much, but remember the coils involved in TMS are in close vicinity to the skull. Also, we must not forget that magnetic fields diminish in inverse proportion to the distance squared from their source. Check out the ‘Biot-Savart Law’ which is adequately explained here: In other words, it takes a very large field to have any influence (on the brain) over any sort of reasonable distance; several metres for instance.

To finish, I’ll point you to a recent paper investigating the production of our old friends ‘phosphenes’, which in this case may explain the phenonmema of ‘ball lightening’, via TMS induced by lightening strikes; “Transcranial stimulability of phosphenes by long lightning electromagnetic pulses” ( ... 1153v2.pdf). The paper hypothesizes that the phenomena of ‘ball lightening’ (a phenomena notoriously difficult to recreate) may be caused by phosphenes induced in brains by multiple lightening strikes. I’m not going to go into the details of the paper, merely comment that it appears to take multiple lightening strikes (think of the energy involved here) to induce a magnetic field that will have any effect on a brain that is not in direct danger of being fried by the strike (the paper quotes “20-100m horizontal distance” away). I find it highly unlikely that brains could generate the potentials required to emit magnetic waves over these distances.

Even if it were possible that brains were communicating over distances of several metres via the mechanism of magnetic fields, it would be readily apparent. For example, TV sets and other sensitive electrical equipment would be in constant peril of being damaged, not to mention the fact that using a plotting compass would be futile.

In conclusion, it seems that magnetic fields cannot be a mechanism by which brains may operate influence other brains remotely and I cannot even begin to conceive of a possible mechanism that might allow psychokinetic ability. I will leave it to Jerome to propose a physical mechanism. ;) Oh yes, and some valid evidence to show that it has actually occurred!

Thus ends part one of my post.

Response to Jerome

Well, where do I start Jerome? ;) As I said at the beginning, reading those stories took me back to my ‘salad days’! In particular, that time when I realized that there were no answers to be found in book section 130-139!

My first impressions of your post seem to concur with some who are following this in the peanut gallery i.e. there’s a lot of anecdote! I’m not going to pick apart every nook and cranny of your post, but attempt to give a ‘holistic’ response in the main. I will then focus on any crucial points in which you have failed to give the forum anything of substance to support them. So, I’ll think I’ll begin with a general moan about the quality of evidence supplied by the poltergeist stories you shared with us.

My problem with the paranormal investigations

First of all, thanks to Jerome for sharing the documents with regard to the “Cardiff Responsive Case” from which you quoted in your post. The following quote, by the author Professor David Fontana of Cardiff University, neatly sums up one of my problems with paranormal investigations;

“Although a frequent observer of the consequences of the disturbances detailed above, I did not see any of them actually taking place”

So..erm..I’ll leave that one there!

The next case I’d like to briefly look at is the “South Shields poltergeist”. As a first step I looked up the web site that Jerome referenced in his post; . As the good investigator that I am, I immediately sought out a link button that would take me to ‘Evidence’. I looked hard, but in vain. It appeared that if I were to gain any information about this case I’d have to buy their rather sensational sounding book. Not easily beaten, I found a review here; ... exist.html .

The review quotes a few of the ghostly experiences the householders endured for example;

"It was like ice even with the heating on,” said Sabrina. “It was dull no matter how bright the lights were and there was a horrid smell. It was like living in a mortuary."

And the usual poltergeist antics such as;

“Die bitch”, “RIP”, and “Go bitch now to your mam” appeared unbidden on the message board. They were followed by the appearance of arcane Satanic-looking symbols.”

OK, standard fare so far. The following, however, struck me as potentially good evidence;

“Chilling text messages then began appearing on Marianne’s phone. One warned her: “Going to die today, going to get you.” Another read: “I can get you when you awake and I’ll come for you when you asleep bitch.”

All appeared to be from the poltergeist and arrived seemingly from nowhere. None could be traced to a mobile phone, computer or landline. Once again, there appeared to be no ‘rational’ explanation. “

So, this could possibly be some tangible evidence of paranormal activity i.e. a phone with received text messages which were apparently not routed through a service provider. I can find no mention on the internet of this particular phone having being subject to professional forensic analysis or the service provider being involved in the investigation. If these messages were genuine poltergeist activity it should have been big news. I suspect that in some data centre somewhere there is a log showing the origin of these messages, if indeed they were even sent to the phone.

I don’t know what else I can say about this case apart from the fact that it appears to be replete with anecdote and blurry images. I’m not particularly impressed with the investigators, who seemed to miss collecting footage of one apparition because they were so ‘stunned’;

““The entity strode slowly but purposefully from the bathroom and walked across the landing into the master bedroom,” says Mike. “As it passed the door to Robert's room, it paused and stared icily at me. Its face, devoid of all features such as eyes, was cold and menacing. It felt like it was burrowing into my soul. It was large – maybe two metres in height – and midnight black. It was a three-dimensional silhouette that radiated sheer evil.”

Mike was so stunned by what he saw that he didn’t manage to switch the camera on in time.”

I admit that I “LOL’d” as I read that bit! Mike goes on to say;

“”It was gutting,” says Mike. “We all saw it but we didn’t get the proof we needed.””

Yes Mike, but that didn’t stop you from presenting anecdote in the place of evidence (‘proof’) did it?

Now, it would be unfair of me to say much more on this case because I haven’t read the book. But, I strongly suspect that the ‘evidence’ the authors supply will be mix of personal and second hand anecdote. Entertaining though it is (I do love a good ghost story), I’m afraid that’s not good enough. I want valid, quantifiable evidence! Next!

With regards to the Rosenheim case ( I will refer the reader to The_Metatrons commentary in the peanut gallery ( paranormal/peanut-gallery-existence-of-ghosts-apparitions-t6933-100.html#p228934 ) which sums up the sloppy science / reporting of this case.

The fact that two Max Planck Institute physicists were involved in this case doesn’t impress me. Scientists are notoriously easy to deceive in paranormal investigations. One classic example is ‘Project Alpha’ ( ). What amuses me most about this project was that James Randi actually told the investigators how to safeguard themselves against being tricked! By coincidence (or maybe there are hidden forces are at play here…), the JREF has just posted a couple of videos of an interview Randi recently had with one of the tricksters;

Part 1: ... 9n7i9_kAFw

Part 2: ... Mj38lF2U5k

Having read through the numerous poltergeist cases that Jerome has presented I cannot find anything in them that could be termed ‘evidence’ in the scientific sense. Entertaining as they are, the purpose of this debate is not to tell ghost stories. We are here to discuss the evidence that may support that "Some Ghost cases may represent discarnate consciousness or the remote operation of a living human consciousness". Before I move on I must get my LOLsworth from that Professor David Fontana quote;

“Although a frequent observer of the consequences of the disturbances detailed above, I did not see any of them actually taking place”


It is clear that acceptance of anecdote as ‘evidence’ by the parapsychologists is leading them down a slippery slope to disaster. For in treating anecdote as scientific evidence they now have to form an explanatory hypothesis. To quote from Jerome’s post;

“So what do modern parapsychological researchers think cause this? Most seem to agree that people are involved – probably the popular explanation now is the RSPK or Recurrent Spontaneous Psycho-Kinesis theory, which put poltergeists down to a mysterious force named PKE. What is PKE? Psycho-Kinetic Energy (PKE) is an energy supposedly generated by the human mind that is able to move objects at a distance. The RSPK hypothesis suggests that this talent can occasionally occur spontaneously and without warning humans develop the ability to unconsciously chuck stuff around, resulting in a poltergeist haunting. I likened this theory to being as the equivalent of "a nervous breakdown occurring outside the victim's head."”

In hypothesizing this, the parapsychologists are getting themselves into some serious hot water. For example, what is this ‘energy’ they refer to? By what mechanism might a human mind move an object at a distance? Do these energies and mechanisms fit in with the standard model ( )? If not, why have physicists been denied evidence of the existence of these energies and mechanisms?

Before the parapsychologists get carried away with the intricacies of this theory, I would suggest that first of all they provide any reliable evidence that the mind can physically affect an object at a distance. Perhaps when devising their experiments it would be prudent to seek the advice of James Randi?

Summing up

Jerome, if you are to convince me that there is anything more to poltergeist activity than trickery (by self delusion or by pranksters) you are going to have to bring something more substantial to the table. As has been seen, uncritical acceptance of anecdote has led to pseudoscientific hypothesizing (e.g. ‘PKE’). I look forward to your next post in which, no doubt, you will bring the scientific peer reviewed evidence required. ;)

To finish I would like to quote your German proverb; ‘when the ghosthunter arrives, the ghost flies out of the window.’ and ask you to meditate on the question; Why should this be?

Scarlett and Ironclad wrote:Campermon,...a middle aged, middle class, Guardian reading, dad of four, knackered hippy, woolly jumper wearing wino and science teacher.
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Re: Formal debate: "Existence of ghosts & apparitions"

#6  Postby jerome » Jun 04, 2010 2:36 am

Defender's #3 post: 2950 words. -LIFE

My sincere thanks to Campermon for his excellent response, which clear took a great deal of work, and has done much to move the debate forward. What strikes me immediately is how much we agree on. I will take a temporary halt from my catalogue of marvels – or "ghost stories" as many have termed them – to discuss what we have so far established. Firstly Campermon stakes out his position on ghosts clearly; "that they are purely manifestations of the brain that do not represent objects in objective reality." He writes with considerable accuracy and verve on hallucinations, and hypnagogia: fields I have written extensively upon in the past, and where I feel well qualified to comment. And I will comment – I agree absolutely with Campermon here. As I wrote in my opening post

Jerome wrote: I would imagine every reader of this debate has hallucinated – if not through drugs, fever or exhaustion, then in that most wonderful yet familiar of things, our nightly dreams. That our brains can conjure up convincing people, exotic landscapes, or whole dramas as if we are really there I think anyone who has ever had a dream will admit.

If ghosts were confined to sightings by a single individual at a time, then I would be forced to immediately concede the debate. That complicated multi-sensory hallucinations that can draw us in and seem utterly real, along with simple misperceptions and errors of memory, and still rather mysterious sleep phenomena – sleep paralysis, night terrors, 'old hag', hypnogogia and lucid dreams – can occur, that I accept without question. Yet I still hold to the argument I am debating for: and here is why…

Let us assume for a moment a universe where "ghosts" are hallucinatory experiences, generated entirely within the brain. This is a simple and entirely sensible position – in fact I think it's pretty much what the 18th and 19th century consensus of scholars was – ghosts are just imagination, or mental aberrations, or straight misperception of normal (or unusual) events or objects. All of this is perfectly reasonable and doubtless accounts for a very large number of "ghost" experiences. As I have stated from the beginning, we all know we can hallucinate, even if our only experience of hallucination is the weird and wonderful world of dreams. Such "ghosts" will share certain properties, being the product of a "disordered" brain.

The theoretical properties of these hallucinations are --

i) They will only appear to one witness at a time – though a misperception (where there is something there, it just fools the senses, as in an optical illusion – misperceptions are not hallucination technically) could theoretically be shared by many. If a stick in the water looks like Nessie, it is possible that hundreds of observers could simultaneously see it and reach the erroneous conclusion it is a lake monster. ( I don't think Campermon has invoked misperceptions yet, but it seems a fair extension of his position, and a sensible one, to allow for it?)

ii) They will convey no information to the percipient not known to them at the time. Again a caveat – if a ghostly monk now appears tonight to Campermon, and tells him the winner of the Grand National, we would all be impressed, not least Campermon I suspect. If it subsequently turns out to be incorrect, we might wonder if Campermon dreamt the whole affair. Yet even if Campermon was right, that could still be the explanation. The conveying of veridical information adds weight to the apparition being an external "thing", not a hallucination, but does not alone substantiate it.

iii) They will not objectively cause physical 'real world' effects – no opening doors, moving objects, or otherwise impinging upon physical reality. Being mental constructs they can't – if physical effects are ascribed to a ghost, then they must be misattributed.

iv) They will not reappear in the same place over time to different witnesses This requires a little explanation – if it is known that an Oxford courtyard is purportedly haunted by a shot Civil War general, we should not be surprised if others purport to see "the ghost". If however over a period of many years many people witness an apparition, and agree on certain characteristics, independently and without foreknowledge of the purported haunt – then we may be justified in doubting the hallucination explanation.

So how well do ghost accounts meet these criteria? On point i) seen by a single witness, we know this is commonly not the case. About 10% of SPR cases were seen simultaneously by multiple percipients – the experience which got me interested in all this was of that type, shared with four other witnesses. We can invoke misperception as I have already stated – human perception is notoriously fallible, and a whole theatre of people can be wowed by a magicians trick.

Furthermore, in many cases there is communication between the parties – "do you see the monk?" etc, and even where there is no verbal communication there is the possibility of non-verbal prompting. In his classic analysis of the SPR Census cases Tyrell noted that in many multi-percipient cases witnesses saw the apparition from their perspective – a very clever trick for a hallucination. So if I was in front of the ghostly Dawkins, I would see his face – if you were behind, his tailcoats. Yet I would not want to make too much of this (certainly less than Tyrell et al did) – for we have the problem that by the time testimony is recorded there has often been conferring among witnesses, which I suspect does much to shape the memory of the experience. In my own experience (at Thetford Priory, Norfolk, 1987) one of the other percipients (David Aukett) forbade us to discus the experience till we had committed it to paper – and on comparing we found that our descriptions of the apparitional figure were sharply divergent. (We did however all agree on the movements and the staircase which we saw, which did not exist in reality). I am fairly certain (given that none of us can now recall what happened that night with any degree of confidence at all) that the staircase was mentioned in the verbal exchange during the sighting – presumably why we agree on this detail – once someone mentioned it, we all "saw" it.

So i) is in fact, I freely admit, questionable evidence against the hallucination theory, but clearly it must be taken in to account.

Let's move on to ii) where the ghosty tells us something we did not know. A quick anecdote here – because I am feeling self indulgent, at this late hour! Many years ago a group of munchkins, er sorry students, came to my room in college halls and announced they intended to do a Ouija board. I was amused and a bit concerned – I had seen people scare themselves silly by such things, but they wanted me to play as I had a reputation as knowing about such things. I refused, but said they could do it in my room if they wished, and I would observe and banish any horrors they called up from beyond the grave :tongue:

They messed about for a while, the Ouija giving seemingly (seemingly?!!!) nonsensical answers. Finally I was bored, and said I would join in after all. And I cheated – I pushed the glass, and we soon had a message from a chap who was terribly burned, needed help, and I even made up a street address. They freaked out, someone fetched a map, and yes the street existed – well I may have seen it, I had been in to town, and dredged it out of my unconscious. I'd certainly seen maps of Cheltenham. And then to my amusement, they insisted on going and tracking down the house address, expecting to find the chap perished in the flames. I barely dissuaded them from calling the fire brigade! But hey, it was near the Kentucky Fried Chicken, so I tagged along. (I was a vegetarian in theory at the time, prone to late night lapses).

We went to the street, and there was no house at the address – perhaps luckily – but a gap in to a small row called Jenner Walk. "Perhaps it's down there" someone said – and we walked down to find ourselves in a small burial ground. The name on a tombstone corresponded to the name I had invented for my "ghost" – it was a common name I think – but from that moment on they were convinced. I told them I had pushed the glass, and the whole message was made up by me, and it was just coincidence – but they did not believe me. I was a bit puzzled, but more amused than anything. Then one of them said "of course you were pushing the glass how else could it have moved? The message came from the spirit though." Er, actually in poltergeist cases "spirits" seem to move things quite well on there own, but yes he had a point – the medium is not the message after all. Had I telepathically received a message? Actually I don't think so – I think it was just an amusing and slightly freaky coincidence – but there is a theory that ghosts may represent an externalisation (or hallucination) of an ESP (telepathic or clairvoyant) impulse. Campermon has given an excellent explanation of the problems of the "mental radio" model of telepathy – I will address it in my next post in detail, as I think that will take us forward, but the purpose of my anecdote is to illustrate that simply because information is seemingly conveyed there is no need to invoke dead souls or telepathy – it could all be chance.

Now a little on the history of psychical research. The SPR back in the 1890's was pretty much a mixed bag of believers and sceptics as today, but the people who worked on theories of apparitions – Myers and Gurney in particular – were I suspect strongly opposed to a "spiritualist" explanation of spooks.

They believed, from what today appear rather simple experiments, that they had found evidence of telepathy – mind to mind contact. (And again I must say I will return to Campermon's objections to this concept in a future post, as they have considerable weight and good scientific sense behind them). These SPR theorists instead were of the opinion that spooks WERE hallucinations – but hallucinations that were "seeded" by an ESP message. (Well Myers thought this of some cases, but not all). And unsurprisingly their findings seemed to bear out this hypothesis – in the great Census of Hallucinations, they found many examples of what they termed Crisis Apparitions – where the hallucinated ghosty represented a person who at that time (with 12 hours either side allowable) was having a dramatic crisis or dying. I forget the exact number of such cases – one in 48 I think – but it was sufficient for them to decide that there telepathic theories were on the right lines.

They performed some very dodgy statistical calculations on the number of persons dying at any time, and felt they could rule out chance, and got copies of death certificates, sworn testimony from others who were told of these apparitions before the bad news arrived, etc, etc. They ruled out any where the person was known to be ill, or one might reasonably anticipate the events. The "purpose" of these hallucinations was to their mind to give form to a telepathic impulse. Such crisis apparitions are still reported today – but recent studies (including my own 2009 one) have shown them to be nowhere near as prevalent as in 1894. One could argue that with improved communications the news of a death almost always arrives before the ghost – but I suspect there is something else going on. Somehow the phenomena seemed to meet the expectations of the researchers – yet the actual question asked by the Collectors (not the theorists) in the Census

Have you ever, when believing yourself to be completely awake, had a vivid impression of seeing or being touched by a living being or inanimate object, or of hearing a voice; which impression, so far as you could discover, was not due to any external physical cause? (Sidgwick et al, 1894)

In no way seems to me biased towards such results, and similar questions were used on later studies which provided fewer crisis reports. I would suspect folklore stories were providing the explanation – but the collection of independent corroborative testimony and death certificates suggest this was not so. The incidents were believed to have occurred. It is a minor mystery, but an intriguing one…

So why have I dwelt upon this issue? Because the Census question actually ruled out iii) – physical effects, barring the common and I suspect very normal somatosensory hallucination of being touched. The SPR theorists did not ask about objects moving, or ghosts physically effecting objects – because they had decided they were telepathically induced hallucinations, and such clearly ridiculous phenomena were quite evidently incompatible with this theory. In fact Myers theories included an explanation for iv) ghosts seen in a location independently by different witnesses over the decades – he thought a telepathic impulse could somehow be caught in the environment, and then be replayed years later to a suitably sensitive percipient. So if John (z8000783) has just expired laughing at my arguments, his ghost may be seen in the future by later generations – but it is just a recording of the past events. In fact this "recording hypothesis" is one of the most popular lay theories of ghosts today – but it rules out any kind of physical phenomena.

And yet – in a huge number of cases, apparitions appear to correspond with actual physical effects. Objects move, doors open and close, and stuff gets thrown about, etc, etc. Last post I dealt with poltergeists in depth, for this very reason. Parapsychologists usually differentiate between "haunts" (where an apparition is seen in a building many times by different witnesses) and "poltergeists" (where physical effects occur), but there is an overlap. And if ghosties are effecting physical objects, they are clearly not hallucinations, right? Hence my opening gambit – poltergeist cases.

Now it could be that these physical effects are in fact hallucinations, or misperception in themselves. Film exists of Rosenheim where the lights swing, and there are a few other pieces of alleged poltergeist footage – I was once part of a team who videod a toilet seat banging up and down - but the evidence is hardly overwhelming. However smashed items, weird electrical disturbances, peculiar flight and impact characteristics (and as Dr Barrie Colvin has recently discovered, highly unusual acoustic properties in percussive raps associated with poltergeist phenomena) seem to be consistent across many of these poltergeist cases. Why? Physical phenomena are an embarrassment to many psychical researchers – but we find them so often I have to concede they have some basis in fact. The same kind of things have been reported for 2,600 years, across many cultures. What the hell is going on here?

So I pose a challenge to the great people who read this debate, and comment in the peanut gallery. It's in two parts. Firstly, I have no idea where any of you live, but find your local newspapers – a couple will suffice – and type "ghost" and "poltergeist" in to the search engine. Look at what turns up, and identify any purported cases of spooks, and link them in the discussion thread. Are there physical phenomena reported? Do they meet the kind of thing I discuss in my previous thread? I think it will prove interesting, and I can not be accused of selecting cases to meet my theories. You can choose a newspaper somewhere else in the world if you like.

Secondly, can each interested observer, regardless of your personal convictions, ask ten of your acquaintances, at random or selected for convenience, if they have ever experienced a ghost or other weird phenomena, and if so, if you might anonymously give their story? I will be genuinely interested in what comes up – because I predict that when you interview them these pesky physical effects will form part of the narrative. I have a few ideas which might explain why this is so in normal terms – but I am not convinced that hallucinations can explain it.

Now, as I have a couple of hundred words left – ESP. Campermon has shown clearly the objection to telepathy in terms of signal strength – agreed. There is a further, stronger objection to my mind – I think of a blue gorilla. I try to send you the picture. How does my brain encode the signal, and how does your brain unscramble it? It is possible as British parapsychologist Paul Stevens recently explained to build a model for telepathy where no complex information transfer is required – instead, the only signal require is one where I end a simple signal when you coincidentally think of my target image, in this case a blue gorilla. No "blue gorilla" imagery crosses – I simply send a very basic signal when you get it right by chance. I can't do justice to this or his excellent discussion of issues with our assumptions on ESP in the limited words left to me, but refer interested parties to his paper in ANOMALOUS EXPERIENCES: ESSAYS FROM PARAPSYCHOLOGICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES edited by Matthew D. Smith. MacFarlane & co Inc. Publishers, Jefferson, North Carolina and London, 2010. 220 pp. ISBN 978 0 7864 4398 7. It' a very good book overall if you are at all interested in these matters, but not much on spooks in there!

And now I will call it a night, and hope I have clarified my position a little.
Night all
J x
Yours sincerely, Jerome -- a threat to reason & science

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Re: Formal debate: "Existence of ghosts & apparitions"

#7  Postby campermon » Jun 05, 2010 10:55 pm

Condender's #3 post: 2969 words. -LIFE

Many thanks for your last post Jerome. It has challenged me once again to research into topics which I would not normally delve into! Although I will complain that you’re not giving me anything on the scientific evidence front to really get my teeth into! ;)

For the first part of this post I will join you in assuming “for a moment a universe where "ghosts" are hallucinatory experiences, generated entirely within the brain.” and add some commentary in support of my stance. For the second part I will be more ‘holistic’ (once again), a smorgasborg,if you will, of the general themes at debate here. But I will also challenge you on some specifics and also highlight a case where a paranormal investigator has possibly ‘snatched defeat from the jaws of victory’! ;)

“Let’s assume for a moment a universe where……”

“The theoretical properties of these hallucinations are --

i) They will only appear to one witness at a time – though a misperception (where there is something there, it just fools the senses, as in an optical illusion – misperceptions are not hallucination technically) could theoretically be shared by many. If a stick in the water looks like Nessie, it is possible that hundreds of observers could simultaneously see it and reach the erroneous conclusion it is a lake monster. ( I don't think Campermon has invoked misperceptions yet, but it seems a fair extension of his position, and a sensible one, to allow for it?)”

First of all I must apologize for my ambiguous use of the word ‘hallucination’. As Jerome has correctly inferred, hallucination occurs without the action of any external stimulus whereas I have used the term rather loosely to mean ‘seeing stuff that ain’t real’! So, quite rightly, if ghosts were strictly down to hallucination we would only have cases of individual sightings and we know that this is not so.. However, Jerome throws a lifeline to the rationalist ( ;) ), by referring us to the phenomena of ‘misperceptions’. In my previous post I did briefly hint at the ‘input greediness’ of the brain and its habit of filling in the gaps, . What the science of ‘misperception’ shows us is that our brains share many commonalities in how they misperceive certain stimuli. I will urge the reader to peruse this article; ‘Nonveridical Perception’ ( ... _2009b.pdf ) from which we learn that;

“Sensory misperceptions are phenomena in which the subjective perception of a stimulus does not match the physical reality.”

So we have here a mechanism which could allow multiple witnesses to subjectively experience the same ghostly sighting. To quote myself ( ;) ), such ghosts would be “purely manifestations of the brain that do not represent objects in objective reality.”

I will leave the reader with a nice example of misperception. I will ask you to post in the peanut gallery (paranormal/peanut-gallery-existence-of-ghosts-apparitions-t6933.html ) what it is that you see in this picture;


( ... ption.html )

Let’s move onto;

“ii) They will convey no information to the percipient not known to them at the time.”

In response to this I thank you for the anecdote and ask the question; Is there any clear, unambiguous evidence to suggest that any such information has been imparted in any ghost case? I cannot really comment any further in the absence of any robust data that would show the contrary. ;)

Onward we go...

“iii) They will not objectively cause physical 'real world' effects – no opening doors, moving objects, or otherwise impinging upon physical reality. Being mental constructs they can't – if physical effects are ascribed to a ghost, then they must be misattributed.”

Yes, any physical effects ascribed to ghosts must be misattributed. That leads me to the conclusion that witnesses to such phenomena are either a) lying or b) being deluded / tricked in some way or maybe even both!

One of my main complaints about the poltergeist cases brought to this debate was that the ‘evidence’ of physical effects was largely anecdotal and therefore not acceptable for the purposes of forming a scientific hypothesis. Let’s revisit my objections and this time look at the ‘Cardiff Responsive Case’ from which these events were recorded;

“1. Small stones, coins or bolts impacting on the walls or floor and occasionally hitting someone (harmlessly—though Jim had discussed possible customer injury with his insurance agent). No-one had seen the projectiles actually thrown, but only as they landed or (less frequently) when they were in mid-air.
2. A paint scraper which had 'gone missing', and then suddenly re-appeared, as hot to the touch 'as if it had been heated for some minutes with a blowlamp'.
3. The mysterious arrival of objects, usually dropped onto the floor, for example a pen which fell beside Jim when he had spoken of writing down the incidents, followed by a piece of headed notepaper which on investigation turned out to have come, by unknown means, from the office premises on the floor above. Also coins, most of which appeared to originate from a collection of pennies and halfpennies kept in the office. When Paul had asked out loud for a sovereign, aJubilee crown (which appeared to have come from a drawer in Jim and Ann's house) had dropped beside him.”

Discounting the paranormal, I’m sure that we can all come up with explanations for the above. For example, let’s look at the paint scraper incident. Is it not reasonable to hypothesize that somebody actually did take the paint scraper and heat it up with a blowtorch before replacing it? I guess some people would think that to be a neat practical joke. Also worth noting is the fact that the premises is described as a ‘small light-engineering workshop’. Would it be unusual to find a blow torch (even one of those little ‘camping gaz’ ones) in such a premises? In addition to my previously recorded ‘beer mat physics’ experiment ( :mrgreen: physics/beer-mat-physics-the-sun-t8056.html ) I tried out a quick experiment to replicate the paint scraper incident. As is often in beer mat physics experiments I had to make some substitutions; I didn’t have a paint scraper or a blow torch so I replaced them with a butter knife and a gas cigarette lighter. I found that by heating the middle of the butter knife blade with the lighter for just 15 seconds the blade remained too hot to touch for about 50 seconds after heating. It is not unreasonable to predict that had the blade been heated with something more substantial then it would have remained too hot to touch for a much longer time. So we can see that it would take very little time to set up such a trick. I would suspect that either ‘Jim’ or ‘Paul’ fabricated this incident in the manner (or similar way) I suggested in order to trick the other into believing a paranormal event had taken place. Or, that the incident was just made up for the benefit of the investigator. Let’s remind ourselves of what the author of this report, Professor David Fontana, said;

“Although a frequent observer of the consequences of the disturbances detailed above, I did not see any of them actually taking place

As I mentioned in my last post, accepting anecdote as evidence leads the parapsychologist towards the dead end of pseudoscientific hypothesizing. In the instance of the hot paint scraper, if the Professor concludes that it can spontaneously get hot via some as yet unknown mechanism then he has the second law ( ... modynamics ) to deal with. As Seth Lloyd once wrote; “Nothing in life is certain except death, taxes and the second law of thermodynamics.”

Could it be that the Prof and the ‘victims’ of this case have got into some sort of ‘folie à deux’ where both parties are feeding and strengthening each others delusions? Or has the Prof actually found evidence that contravenes the 2nd Law? If it’s the latter, he should look forward to collecting his Nobel.

So, where did the Prof go so disastrously wrong? The clue can be found in his consideration of the reliability of the eye witness accounts;

“In any context other than that of the paranormal, their testimony would be accepted without question, and in my view deliberate fraud by any or all of them is a virtually untenable explanation”

He may be right about the victims not perpetrating a ‘deliberate fraud’, after all they may have deluded themselves into believing the phenomena were paranormal in nature. However, he is wrong about eyewitness accounts being ‘accepted without question’ in other fields. A quick search on the subject of eyewitness accounts highlights many concerns over the reliability of such evidence;

“A considerable amount of research has established that exposure to leading or misleading suggestions can dramatically influence the accuracy of eyewitness reports. This phenomenon, commonly referred to as the “misinformation effect,” has been well documented in the literature and has implications for legal systems worldwide, which depend upon the reliability of eyewitness testimony in their search for justice (Rattner, 1988).”


We can also see that uncritically accepting eyewitness accounts does have rather serious consequences;

“An eyewitness who has no motive to lie is a powerful form of evidence for jurors, especially if the eyewitness appears to be highly confident about his or her recollection. In the absence of definitive proof to the contrary, the eyewitness’s account is generally accepted by police, prosecutors, judges, and juries. However, the faith the legal system places in eyewitnesses has been shaken recently by the advent of forensic DNA testing. Given the right set of circumstances, forensic DNA testing can prove that a person who was convicted of a crime is, in fact, innocent. Analyses of DNA exoneration cases since 1992 reveal that mistaken eyewitness identification was involved in the vast majority of these convictions, accounting for more convictions of innocent people than all other factors combined.”

(Eyewitness Evidence Improving Its Probative Value ... 5B1%5D.pdf )

It appears that the uncritical use of eyewitness evidence to support poltergeist activity is a recurrent theme in the cases I have studied. Hence my requests for evidence of the reliable scientific kind. ;)

I’ll return to the area of ‘physical effects’ before the end, but for now let’s move on.

“iv) They will not reappear in the same place over time to different witnesses This requires a little explanation – if it is known that an Oxford courtyard is purportedly haunted by a shot Civil War general, we should not be surprised if others purport to see "the ghost". If however over a period of many years many people witness an apparition, and agree on certain characteristics, independently and without foreknowledge of the purported haunt – then we may be justified in doubting the hallucination explanation.”

Yes. I agree that hallucination, in the strictest sense of its meaning, would not explain this phenomena. However, could we not argue that ‘misperception’ adequately explains this? It may be that a particular set of factors in an environment could possibly lead to the induction of a common misperception. Simpler common misperceptions have been well studied and documented (see previous references). I would argue that it is reasonable to suggest that there may be more complex scenarios (for example your haunted churchyard) which may contain the right ‘mix’ of variables that will induce a shared misperception. I will follow with interest research into this area. Indeed, it appears that ‘serious’ paranormal investigators are beginning to take this phenomena into account when investigating. The Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP) discusses this very issue;

“Misperception probably accounts for more paranormal reports than any other single cause. It is therefore very important to eliminate it satisfactorily in any paranormal research. This article outlines theoretical methods for testing if misperception could be involved in a paranormal report.” ... ption.html


So where are we at the moment? We appear to agree that the majority of paranormal phenomena can be explained rationally by hallucinatory and ‘hallucinatory like’ experiences (misperception for instance) and our main area of disagreement appears to be related to the alleged physical effects of ghosts.

Taking a step back for a moment I ask myself, as I asked Jerome before!, ‘Why should this be?’.

Well, the areas that we agree on are well confirmed by scientific evidence. I can only conclude from this that you too value scientific evidence (as I do), but a mystery remains; without scientific evidence to support your position on poltergeists how do you propose to support it? How can I tempt you back from the ‘dark side of the force’ Jerome? ;)

Enough reflection. Next.

On a first scan of your last post, I immediately alighted upon a couple of avenues worth a look at. The first being;

“However smashed items, weird electrical disturbances, peculiar flight and impact characteristics (and as Dr Barrie Colvin has recently discovered, highly unusual acoustic properties in percussive raps associated with poltergeist phenomena) seem to be consistent across many of these poltergeist cases.”

Eagerly, and in vain as it turned out, I scoured the web for references of the research the Dr carried out. However, all I could turn up was a blog about the Dr’s lecture (http://nuncperspeculumaenigmate.blogspo ... geist.html);

“I was fortunate enough to attend the SPR's study day…”

The blogger goes onto tell us about the Dr’s work into ‘rappings’ and their acoustic properties;

“Dr Colvin demonstrated that some of these sounds display unusual acoustic properties, and that the term 'rap' is somewhat misleading. If you tap on a table or wall, the sound will have a distinctive, percussive, signiature; there will be a sudden peak followed by a trailing off. However, the sounds analysed by Dr Colvin in relation to poltergeist cases and table-tipping experiments (of which more below) displayed what could be described as a 'seismic' signature; there is a gradual, albeit rapid, rise to a peak followed by the trailing off. This would be consistent with a build up of tension within the material being suddenly released rather than the sudden contact of one thing against another.

Such sounds, of course, are not at all uncommon; think about the sounds your home makes when it 'settles'. However, when such sounds occur in response to a request (as is frequently reported in poltergeist cases) and display signs of being directed by an intelligent agency, the unusual acoustic signature Dr Colvin has revealed constitutes strong evidence of the phenomena being something other than a misattributed bump or fraud.”

So, like the phone in the ‘South Shields Case’, we potentially have some tangible evidence in support of paranormal phenomena. But once again, search as I may I can find no reference to this research being recorded in the scientific media. Why hasn’t Dr Colvin submitted his work to a respected physics journal so that it may be scrutinized by others who specialize in the field of acoustics? Why can’t I find it at ? Indeed, why can I not find any of his work published in the scientific media? On this forum, I would openly challenge Dr Colvin to share this research so that we might see if we concur with his conclusions! (if anyone knows him, please pass this challenge on! :mrgreen: ).

I can only surmise that we will find little evidence here.

The second item that caught my eye was;

“It is possible as British parapsychologist Paul Stevens recently explained to build a model for telepathy where no complex information transfer is required – instead, the only signal require is one where I end a simple signal when you coincidentally think of my target image, in this case a blue gorilla.”

A quick google revealed to me that Paul may have something interesting to say. From his profile at ... evens.html we learn that Paul has;

B.Sc, Astronomy, 1992, University College London
Ph.D, Psychology, 1997, Edinburgh
Previous Appointments:
1997-2007: Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh
1995: Research Fellow, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Membership of Professional Organisations/External Bodies:
Member of British Psychological Society (BPS)
Member of the Bioelectromagnetics
Society member of the Association for Psychological Science (APS)
Council member for the Society for Psychical Research (SPR)”

Although intriguing as the ‘blue gorilla’ example is, it still relies on some mechanism to transmit a signal from brain to brain. Even though, in this hypothesis, the signal is simple, it would still require large amounts of energy to be expended if it were to be transmitted over any reasonable distance. I will refer you to my previous post were I discuss TMS induced by multiple lightening strikes and I would personally challenge Paul on this point! ;) . Unfortunately, I was unable to access any of the papers that Paul has published. If anyone has copies they wish to share, I would be very grateful!

To finish up I would respectfully ask Jerome, again, to provide the forum with the scientific evidence required to support his position. To summarize our positions as I see it; it appears that Jerome and I both agree that most ghostly sightings / paranormal experiences can be explained with the application of science. Where we diverge is on the point of ‘physical effects’. It is clear from the cases presented by Jerome that looking for evidence of physical effects in ‘the field’ is a strategy filled with pitfalls! Quite simply, there are too many variables involved and too much scope for being tricked! If, as Jerome contends, paranormal physical events can be caused by the mind, corporeal or otherwise, then it is to the lab where he must go.

Once again, I sincerely look forward to reading the scientific evidence that Jerome will, no doubt, present to the forum.

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Re: Formal debate: "Existence of ghosts & apparitions"

#8  Postby jerome » Jun 12, 2010 10:22 am

Defender's #4 post: 2983 words. -LIFE

OK, let’s crack on – as usual I have found myself running out of time. I shall spend this post responding to Campermon, as I did not directly last time!

We have agreed misperception might account for some at least of the multiple observer cases; I will in my next post cite a couple of examples where I feel this is an unlikely explanation. On “ii) They will convey no information to the percipient not known to them at the time.” Campermon responds

Campermon wrote:
Is there any clear, unambiguous evidence to suggest that any such information has been imparted in any ghost case?

A large number of such cases exist on record. Perhaps the most celebrated is The Chaffin Will Case – the original report appeared in The Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Volume 36, 1929. I will refer Campermon to a full account of the case; the article begins

PSPR wrote:
Index No. G. 293.
WE are indebted for the following case to one of our Canadian members who, having had his attention drawn to it by a newspaper report, instructed a lawyer resident in the State (North Carolina), where the events occurred, to investigate the facts on his behalf. The facts had already been put in evidence in a contested law-suit, so that they have on two occasions undergone the scrutiny of persons professionally trained to sift and weigh evidence. The lawyer instructed by our Canadian member, Mr. J. M'N. Johnson, Attorney-at-Law, of Aberdeen, North Carolina, has forwarded to the Society a very full report including (1) the original newspaper article, (2) official records of the proceedings in the Superior Court of Davie County, N.C., and (3) a sworn statement by Mr. Johnson as to interviews he had with some of the principal persons in the case, together with sworn statements by two of these persons themselves. What follows is partly an abstract of these documents, and partly quotations from them. The full case can be studied by those who desire to do so at the Society's Rooms.

Interested parties wishing to conduct further research might today find details of the office and library of the SPR at Now assuming that most readers of the debate do not wish to go trundling down to London or join the SPR, I shall make a brief summary of the pertinent facts here.

On September 7, 1921, James Chaffin a North Carolina farmer dies, leaving a widow and four sons, His will, signed by two witnesses on November 16, 1905, left everything to the third son, Marshall.

Four years pass, then his second son James P Chaffin, the farmer's second son, claims to see the ghost of his father, which tells him "You will find the will in my overcoat pocket,". The overcoat had been left to John Chaffin, so he travels to another county and tells his brother what has been seen. They examine the coat, the lining of the inside pocket had been sewn together, and find inside a piece of paper reading: "Read the 27th chapter of Genesis in my daddie's Old Bible."

Calling witnesses they set out to the mothers house, where a new will, dated January 16, 1919, was found concealed in the spot given, dividing his estate between all four sons.

Although the second will had not been attested, it would, under North Carolina law, be considered valid because it had been written throughout in James Chaffin's own handwriting. All that remained was to present sufficient evidence that the hand that had written the second will was, without doubt, that of the deceased. The son third Marshall having died, his son and widow prepared to dispute the will, but dropped the case after ten witnesses declared the handwriting was that of Chaffin, Sr, and they themselves were convinced.

Because these cases take up rather a lot of words, I shall give only one more for now --the Pacquet Case from Proceedings of the SPR 18, 1891.
Proceedings 7,1891, p.42-43  wrote:
Statement of Accident,
" Ou October 24th, 1889, Edmund Dunn, brother of Mrs. Agnes Paquet, was serving as fireman on the tug Wolf, a small steamer engaged in towing vessels in Chicago Harbour. At about 3 o'clock a.m., the tug fastened to a vessel, inside the piers, to tow her up the river. While adjusting the tow-line Mr. Dunn fell or was thrown overboard by the tow-line, and drowned. The body, though sought for, was not found until about three weeks after the accident, when it came to the surface near the place where Mr. Dunn disappeared."

Mrs. Paquet's Statement.

" I arose about the usual hour on the morning of the accident, probably about six o'clock. I had slept well throughout the night, had no dreams or sudden awakenings. I awoke feeling gloomy and depressed, which feeling I could not shake off. After breakfast my husband went to his work, and, at the proper time, the children were gotten ready and sent to school, leaving me alone in the house. Soon after this I decided to steep and drink some tea, hoping it would relieve me of the gloomy feelings aforementioned. I went into the pantry, took down the tea canister, and as I turned around my brother Edmund—or his exact image—stood before me and only a few feet away. The apparition stood with back toward me, or, rather, partially so, and was in the act of falling forward—away from me—seemingly impelled by two ropes or a loop of rope drawing against his legs. The vision lasted but a moment, disappearing over a low railing or bulwark, but was very distinct. I dropped the tea, clasped my hands to my face, and exclaimed, * My God! Ed. is drowned.'

"At about half-past ten a.m. my husband received a telegram from Chicago,, announcing the drowning of my brother. When he arrived home he said to me, 'Ed. is sick in hospital at Chicago; I have just received a telegram/ to which I replied, ' Ed. is drowned ; I saw him go overboard.' I then gave him a minute description of what I had seen. I stated that my brother, as. I saw him, was bareheaded, had on a heavy, blue sailor's shirt, no coat, and. that he went over the rail or bulwark. I noticed that his pants' legs were rolled up enough to show the white lining inside. I also described the appearance of the boat at the point where my brother went overboard.

"I am not nervous, and neither before nor since have I had any experience in the least degree similar to that above related. My brother was not subject to fainting or vertigo.

Mr. Paquet's Statement
" At about 10.30 o'clock a.m., October 24th, 1889, I received a telegram from Chicago, announcing the drowning of my brother-in-law, Edmund Dunn, at 3 o'clock that morning. I went directly home, and, wishing to break the force of the sad news I had to convey to my wife, I said to her : ' Ed. is, sick in hospital at Chicago ; I have just received a telegram.' To which she replied : ' Ed. is drowned ; I saw him go overboard.' She then described to• me the appearance and dress of her brother as described in her statement ;, also the appearance of the boat, &c.

"I started at once for Chicago, and when I arrived there I found the appearance of that part of the vessel described by my wife to be exactly as she had described it, though she had never seen the vessel ; and the crew verified my wife's description of her brother's dress, &c., except that they thought that he had his hat on at the time of the accident. They said that Mr. Dunn had purchased a pair of pants a few days before the accident occurred, and as they were a trifle long before, wrinkling at the knees, he had worn them rolled up, showing the white lining as seen by my wife.

' ' The captain of the tug, who was at the wheel at the time of the accident, seemed reticent. He thought my brother-in-law was taken with a fainting fit or vertigo and fell over backward ; but a sailor (Frank Yemont) told a friend of mine that he (Yemont) stood on the bow of the vessel that was being towed and saw the accident. He stated that my brother-in-law was caught by the tow-line and thrown overboard, as described by my wife. I think that the captain, in his statement, wished to avoid responsibility, as he had no right to order a fireman—my brother-in-law's occupation—to handle the tow-line."

My brother-in-law was never, to my knowledge, subject to fainting or vertigo.

If any Chicago based member was bale to establish more details of the Pacquet death in local records I would be very interested in hearing the details.

Two such cases of course prove nothing – there are many, many more, where experienced investigators did all they could to establish the facts and take sworn testimony, where the apparition appears to be veridical in some sense. In response to Campermon's challenge I thought it important to cite a couple of such cases, knowing full well that I will again be accused of just telling ghost stories! I am doing just that: it seems clear to me that one cannot really discuss the significance of apparitional experience without doing so and looking carefully at the phenomenological content of the narratives.

Moving on

“iii) They will not objectively cause physical 'real world' effects – no opening doors, moving objects, or otherwise impinging upon physical reality. Being mental constructs they can't – if physical effects are ascribed to a ghost, then they must be misattributed.”

Yes, any physical effects ascribed to ghosts must be misattributed. That leads me to the conclusion that witnesses to such phenomena are either a) lying or b) being deluded / tricked in some way or maybe even both!

No one took me up on the challenge I set, which is a great pity, for I did so with a reason. Despite there being tens of thousands of websites dedicated to ghost stories, spooks and ghosthunters, technical knowledge of the parapsychological literature is extremely rare in my experience. I can think of maybe 50 people in the English speaking world who I would think are conversant with the literature on poltergeist cases at any depth, though I am sure there are many more. Nonetheless, there appears to be a significant gap between popular culture beliefs about poltergeist phenomena and the tedious minutiae that emerge from the literature ( a recent study I trialed on this forum can show us more – I will discuss it later in the debate).

That for 2600 years people have been inventing the same ridiculous kinds of physical phenomena, with relatively minor variations, independently of chronology and culture, suggests strongly to me the phenomenon is strongly rooted in some real events, however misinterpreted they are. Allow me to offer a fairly respectable example of something similar – the "old Hag" phenomena, related to - carefully chronicled and examined by David Hufford in The Terror that Comes in the Night: an experience-centered study of supernatural assault traditions. (Philadelphia:University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982) is clearly based on real states, yet was dismissed as "supernatural nonsense" until we began to explore in the last forty years the underlying causes.

I repeat my challenge – examine your local newspaper online, and search for "ghostly" and "poltergeist", and examine the phenomena reported. Amusingly I think you will find that physical phenomena associated with haunting are by no means as uncommon as the apparitional theorists of parapsychology would have had you believe. Instead you will find recurring patterns that outrage our sense of decency, and challenge our common sense assumptions about reality.

If there were ten or twenty such cases, all within a certain culture, or a century or two, or we could trace a development of them, as we can say in the history of spiritualism in the west, or ghost photography, or Bermuda Triangle beliefs, I would be happy to relate them to folklore. There are not however even just a few hundred of such cases – there are probably thousands of them. I must now quote Charles Fort –

Charles Fort wrote:
We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded. Battalions of the accursed, captained by pallid data that I have exhumed, will march. You'll read them — or they'll march.

Let's get back to that procession…

Campermon wrote:
One of my main complaints about the poltergeist cases brought to this debate was that the ‘evidence’ of physical effects was largely anecdotal and therefore not acceptable for the purposes of forming a scientific hypothesis.

I disagree here. While Fontana (who as Professor of Psychology is clearly fairly conversant with the issues on eye-witness testimony) and the Cardiff Case was based upon carefully collected witness testimony, in Rosenheim we have in fact physical evidence, both in terms of the data read outs from the technical reports demonstrating anomalies (Twistor59 has read independently one of the original German reports and given his thoughts in the commentary thread) and in terms of the film footage of the lampshades etc. The case was VERY carefully investigated by a large number of scientific investigators, as was also the case with the Czech case I cited in my original post. As to the physics of poltergeist cases, William G Roll - - developed some ideas in the 1970's which I shall bring to the table later, as they derive from his careful research – but firstly I think I should cite a case where the researchers were able to witness the phenomena first and – The Andover Poltergeist, reported by Dr Barrie Colvin in the JSPR Vol 72, No 890.

For reasons of space I shall merely cite the abstract.

Colvin wrote: An investigation into alleged poltergeist activity has been carried out at a house in Andover, Hampshire. The principal phenomenon was that of rapping sounds that, by means of a code, could produce meaningful messages. Attempts were made to exclude natural causes, including the transfer of the raps to objects that were under the close scrutiny of the observers. Effects were recorded which bear similarities to other rapping cases.

I shall however refer Campermon as always to the original paper…

Let us briefly as I am running out of words look at Fontana's case again. Campermon cites Fontana…

David Fontana wrote:
“Although a frequent observer of the consequences of the disturbances detailed above, I did not see any of them actually taking place”

This is from Fontana's second paper – but it is in fact inadvertently misleading, though I am really at fault here, not Campermon. Here is Fontana…

Prof. David Fontana wrote:
During my other visits, a sample of the phenomena witnessed by me include:
12A The shell hit by a stone when we invited 'Pete' to do so (only Jim and Ann present at the time, and standing with me on the far side of the workshop, in my full view, and at a distance from which experiments had shown no-one was able to hit the shell).
13A 'Phone calls to the shop. On being invited to do so I answered the 'phone myself on one occasion and ascertained it was dead at the other end.
14A Stones, coins and small objects thrown, usually arriving with characteristic clatter against the walls or floor, but never visible by me in flight.
15A Ann entering the workshop through the door from the empty retail shop and what turned out on inspection to be a large steel strimming wheel crashing against the door from the other side with considerable force—and to her great alarm—just as she closed it behind her. (Had the object arrived a split second sooner it would in all probability have struck her a serious blow on the back of the head.)
16A Myself struck on the back by a stone, with only Michael behind and on the far side of the workshop at the time, and a colleague of mine who I had taken with me on that occasion standing between him and me.

He cites other experiences in his first paper (JSPR, Volume 57, April 1991). So what doe he mean when he says he did not see any of them actually taking place?

Well we need to place the quote in context – its from the second paper, (JSPR Volume 58, April 1992) and reads in full

Fontana wrote:
Although a frequent observer of the consequences of the disturbances detailed above, I did not see any of them actually taking place. With the exception of incidents 5, 7 and 9, and the three incidents associated with the apparition, none of the witnesses saw them actually taking place either. Thus all of them are more open to normal explanations than many of the events detailed in my first report.

Fontana was in fact a witness to the phenomena, as much as anyone was. What was significant, and may well suggest Campermon's hypothesis of trickery, was that no-one saw the initiation of the movement of most of these objects: yet it was according to Fontana clear in context that no-one could have done it on various occasions.

As usual I have run out of space, but in my next post I shall encourage the scientific testing of my initial hypothesis with a very simple experiment, by inviting you all to conjure up a ghost of your own under controlled conditions (and no I'm not asking you to do a Bacheldor inspired "Phillip" experiment – this may be within the time and physical capabilities of every forum member!)
Yours sincerely, Jerome -- a threat to reason & science

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Re: Formal debate: "Existence of ghosts & apparitions"

#9  Postby campermon » Jun 19, 2010 5:36 pm

Thanks for your last post Jerome. Once again it has spurred me to (quickly ;) ) research topics new to me! It also seems that we both suffer from the same ‘malady’; time, or rather lack of it! Therefore in this post I will present a few comments on the cases you presented in your last post, a general summing up of the ‘state of play’ and some suggestions of where we may need to go…… ;) I would also like to apologize for the brevity of my post. MrsC tells me that ‘size doesn’t matter’…………

The Chaffin Will Case

As I’m sure you’ll agree that there is plenty of scope for trickery in this case; the second will being found 4 years later and all. But let’s not worry about that for now. First of all let’s look at this;

“When the trial commenced, Marshall’s widow and son had been prepared to contest the will. However, during the luncheon interval they were shown the second will. Ten witnesses were prepared to give evidence that the second will was in the Testator’s handwriting, and the widow and son themselves seem to have admitted this as soon as they saw it.”

(CASE OF THE WILL OF JAMES L. CHAFFIN. Index No. G. 293. - The Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Volume 36, 1929)

The entire case (both in court and as an example of the paranormal) rests on the authenticity of the handwritten will. From the extract we are encouraged to be impressed that ‘ten witnesses’ were prepared to testify that the handwriting was that of the deceased. I searched, without success, to find out who these witnesses were i.e. to find out if any were any of them forensic handwriting analysts. I also tried to find out about the sophistication of forensic techniques in the 1920’s, without success I may add! If anyone knows, please PM me!

However, our friends the FBI have something to say about handwriting and its analysis;

“The act of handwriting is mastered through practice and repetition. Once this occurs, writers focus on the subject matter rather than the physical act of writing and deviate from the copybook forms, interjecting their own individual characteristics. The writing becomes a pattern of subconscious, habitual formations that are repeated from one writing to the next (Hilton 1982; Huber 1999).

The comparison and evaluation of these individual features or habits enable forensic document examiners to identify or exclude, if possible, a known writer as the source for any questioned writing. Lay people may recognize the handwriting of an individual and differentiate between individuals to some degree; however, they observe only the gross features of the handwriting, such as letter formation, size, or slope of the handwriting. Lay people typically do not consider the subtleties in the writing that may differentiate it from other very similar writing. In contrast, document examiners analyze and can differentiate both the gross features and the less conspicuous elements in the writing.”

(Handwriting Examination: Meeting the Challenges of Science and the Law ... view02.htm )

As can be seen from the rest of the source, handwriting analysis is a highly skilled activity.

I would like to see the results of a 21st century forensic analysis of the documents in question (if they still exist) in order to consider this case further. Perhaps the SPR could sponsor such a venture?

Moving on…

The Paquet Case

Thanks for sharing this case Jerome. To remind the reader, I will quote ‘Mr. Paquet's Statement’ from Jerome’s post;

“ ' ' The captain of the tug, who was at the wheel at the time of the accident, seemed reticent. He thought my brother-in-law was taken with a fainting fit or vertigo and fell over backward ; but a sailor (Frank Yemont) told a friend of mine that he (Yemont) stood on the bow of the vessel that was being towed and saw the accident. He stated that my brother-in-law was caught by the tow-line and thrown overboard, as described by my wife. I think that the captain, in his statement, wished to avoid responsibility, as he had no right to order a fireman—my brother-in-law's occupation—to handle the tow-line."

My brother-in-law was never, to my knowledge, subject to fainting or vertigo.

According to this source; ... rt-32.html the first hand accounts in this case were obtained by a Mr. A. B. Wood.

From my research is appears that there was only one person, Frank Yemont, who actually witnessed the death of the fireman. However, this witness could not be tracked down;

“Mr. Wood writes again on August 12th, 1890: -
In accordance with request, I have had statements made in first person...I have made diligent inquiry, but cannot place the sailor Yemont. A letter sent to his last known, or supposed, address has been returned, marked" Not called for:"... A. B. Wood.”

( ... rt-32.html)

So, we only have the hearsay of friend to confirm the manner of death and the assertion that the captain was holding back the truth. To try and make sense of this story I attempted to find any newspaper account from the period and also any record of the time the telegraph was sent. Both without success. All in all, I could not find enough evidence to consider this case further.

So, on we march….

The Andover Case

Thank you for sharing with me the SPR document on this case. For those who cannot access this document I quote the outline of this case here:

“The paranormal activity had started without warning, the two Andrews girls in bed one night heard a curious tapping noise coming from somewhere in the room. This happened on several consecutive nights. The raps seemed to coming from within the wall, at first the girls thought the noise was coming from the house next door. Soon they began to realize that the noise was responding to them, even when they whispered questions so quietly that no one outside the room could possibly hear.
The girls started to communicate with it, by asking questions and getting it to knock once for yes, two for no, and three for don't know. For more complex queries it would rap out the letter of the alphabet (five knocks for E, 13 for M, etc).
The Andrews family from Andover, Hampshire, in 1974, invited Paranormal Investigator Barrie G. Colvin to their home. Mr Colvin later said he was prevented by the family from publishing more than an outline at the time. Ten years later they were still unwilling to have the results of the investigation publicised but now that more than 30 years have elapsed, and the family has moved from the area, there is no longer an issue about this, and he has written it up in the SPR Journal, using pseudonyms.
Mr Colvin made a total of nine visits to the property over a ten week period. As well as interviewing the family about the origins of the case he had plenty of opportunity to hear the raps himself and establish that they were not the result of trickery or other visible cause. The focus of the activity seemed to have been Theresa, the younger of the two girls aged 12. Colvin also established to his own satisfaction that the source had intelligence of a sort, calling itself Eric Waters, although it did not seem to have provided any coherent information beyond that.
A medium that Mr Andrews had previously invited to the property had claimed the noises were being made by a young boy whose body was buried under the floorboards. Further investigation by the family failed to turn up anyone of that name who had lived in the area.
Colvin attempted a small experiment, persuading 'Eric' to transfer the noises from the wall of the room to the headboard of Theresa's bed. Mrs Andrews asked Eric, to knock on the headboard. This was followed by a very soft tap which was heard by all Mrs Andrews her Husband and Mr Colvin. Mrs Andrews repeated the request and the raps were progressively louder on the headboard.
The Andrews family seem to have been rather ambivalent about the case, enjoying the novelty of communicating with an unseen entity, but becoming frightened when the knocks and raps turned into loud banging's, especially when they went on for hours and deprived them of sleep. By Colvin's last visit the phenomena seemed to have faded out. While the family treated Eric as a deceased spirit, Colvin's view was that the case fitted the pattern of repressed emotion in the living, although there was no outward sign of this, the family being apparently happy and stable.
A medium that Mr Andrews had invited to the property had claimed the noises were being made by a young boy whose body was buried under the floorboards. Further investigation by the family failed to turn up anyone of that name who had lived in the area.”

( ... geist.html )

Throughout the investigation Colvin was a first hand witness to rappings taking place in the house. He also explains how he actually felt the vibrations of the rappings in the bed headboard. From the SPR journal he concludes;

“In Summary, it can be concluded that the Andrews family, Reinhart Schiffauer and I were unable to determine a natural cause for the rapping sounds in this case. I was particularly intrigued by the vibrations, which could be felt at the time of the rappings, and the relative ease with which the sounds could be produced on various items of furniture in good daylight conditions.”

(The Andover Poltergeist, reported by Dr Barrie Colvin in the JSPR Vol 72, No 890)

However, having read the journal extract I do not agree with his conclusion that he was ‘unable to determine a natural cause’ for these phenomena. I would conclude that he did not fully attempt to determine a natural cause. For example, during his investigation Colvin witnessed;

“Following this, I slowly walked into the bedroom and stood beside the headboard end of Theresa's bed. Theresa was lying on top of her bed and Maria too was lying on her own bed with a light cover over her body. The rapping sounds continued and appeared to come from the centre of the wall adjacent to the bed.”

“I was at that moment standing very close indeed to the headboard, with my ear about 15 cm from it. As Mrs Andrews repeated the request, I put my hand on the headboard to see whether I could feel any sensation. Eric rapped progressively louder on the headboard and I could clearly feel the vibration. I noted, however, that on each occasion the onset of the vibration appeared to be slightly before the moment when we heard the rapping sound.”

“I gently moved towards Theresa's bed and was able to ascertain that the knocking sounds came from the wooden headboard of the bed. The headboard was a simple wooden structure composed of two main uprights and a top horizontal baton screwed to the uprights. The space between the uprights consisted of eight pieces of thin wooden rod in the shape of four crosses. These were designed to give additional rigidity to the bed-head. This very simple structure would have prevented the use of any concealed apparatus designed to produce rapping sounds on the bed-head by normal means.

I placed my left hand on the horizontal upper section of the headboard and was clearly able to feel the vibration of the wood at the precise moment that a loud rapping sound was heard. At this point, Theresa was lying on her bed, there was no significant movement from anyone else in the room and the ambient light conditions were good. Kevin continued with his rather pointed remarks and Eric continued to produce a very loud series of replies. By this time the communication was good with very few errors being made in determining the letters being spelt out by Eric. Clearly, under such close scrutiny it was quite obvious that no fraudulent activity was taking place, or that the effects could be produced by simple changes in ambient conditions.”

I disagree with Covin’s final comment from the quote that ‘Clearly, under such close scrutiny it was quite obvious that no fraudulent activity was taking place’. How can he dismiss all rational explanations when he didn’t do the obvious i.e. take the bed and room to pieces in order to identify the source of the vibrations?

Once again I am disappointed with Colvin (I’m still awaiting his paper on acoustics to be published in the scientific arena

OK…Where do we go from here?............

The ‘state of play’…

Thus far what have we been presented with? My view is that the paranormal cases presented consist of a mix of anecdotal evidence and ‘un-thorough’ (is that a word?) investigation. For instance, why didn’t Colvin ‘forensically’ investigate the vibrating headboard or wall? If it had been me, I’d have taken the room apart in search of a mechanism. With the historical cases (‘Chaffin’ and ‘Paquet’) there is simply not enough available information to form a conclusion. With the Rosenheim case, I cannot find any scientific papers which expand upon the ‘tabloid’ style reporting of the case.

In short; I have found the evidence of paranormal phenomena to be lacking in the detail required of a scientific investigation. I need more.

I’ll move on.

Where do we go?......

Let’s remind ourselves of the point of debate, i.e. that;

“Some Ghost cases may represent discarnate consciousness or the remote operation of a living human consciousness".

To hold such a position demands that such evidence be provided that it overturns our current thinking in physics. Thus far we haven’t seen such evidence provided. In its place we have read accounts of paranormal events. Entertaining though they are, they do not provide the quality of scientific evidence required to support the points of debate.

Jerome, I need some scientifically validated evidence.
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Re: Formal debate: "Existence of ghosts & apparitions"

#10  Postby jerome » Jun 26, 2010 2:27 pm

OK, I'm in a playful mood. Last week I ended with a promise – that we would create a "ghost" in the lab, or our own homes, and experiment with it. And that, dear reader, is exactly what we are going to do today… if you want to! I will skip the philosophical stuff, and the discussion of the cases I referenced last time for now – Campermon wants science, and while I think we have been doing science from the start let’s play with something empirical. Let's see a ghost!

Now the obvious caveat – calling up ghosts is technically necromancy. The term is not fashionable these days – since Derek Acorah styled himself a "psychic medium" that seems to be the preferred parlance, though I sometimes called him Derek the Necromancer, which at least conjures up amusing visions of him in a track suit leading a shuffling army of bewildered zombies…. Anyway, necromancy is possibly illegal (please check before proceeding for your country), generally considered immoral and definitely frowned upon by most sensible religions. I take no responsibility as to the results -- "Noli evocare quod reprimere non potes" as Charles Dexter Ward sagely reminded us, and if Yog Sothoth eats your soul you have no one to blame but yourself. Ah but you are atheists, so you don't have souls – fine carry on then!

I would also note this practice may be emotionally harmful, and I guess spiritually dangerous. Some people have claimed the same about reading the works of Richard Dawkins though, so providing you are sensible adults and tell a friend what you are up to I guess it will be OK. I am completely serious in my warnings though, and if you are disturbed by the experiment do feel free to contact me and chat. I'm pretty level headed and have a lot of experience of dealing with freaked out "psychonauts". If you are concerned about your emotional stability or mental health I would advise you to stick to theory, and see how others get on??? I accept no responsibility for what happens to you, though I doubt it will upset you lot!

I suppose I could set this out formally, as a proper experiment, or I could write it as a recipe. I won't do either – this is Punk Science – I'll just make some notes on the basic idea, and let you play with the variables, refine the controls and think of ways to do something useful with your "ghost".


A small dark room, with as little light pollution as possible.
A mirror – a full length one works best.
A table and candle – please don't burn your house down
A chair
A black sheet or bin bags taped to wall.

That’s it for the basics.


I would recommend a small space, such as a short corridor. Your basic set up is as follows – you black out one wall with your sheet or bin bags, and place the mirror in front of it, facing down the room. You place your chair near the other end, in front of the table. You put the candle on the table, so when it is lit it's behind your body, and only dimly casts flickering light down to the mirror.

The mirror should be positioned not more than a few feet in front of you, at a level so you can see your face fully reflected in it – so if a small mirror you will want to hang it at eye level. You sit on the chair, light the candle, and turn out all the lights. (If you have access to lots of black cloth drape all the walls, and build a small dark chamber for the experiment.)

What you have produced is a very basic "psychomanteum", or as it was known in the classical world, a "necromanteum". Dr Raymond Moody, the chap who started most of the modern interest in Near Death Experiences named it the "psychomanteum", and describes his pioneering work with the technique in his book Reunions: Visionary Encounters with Departed Loved Ones, Little, Brown and Co., 1993, ISBN 978-0679425700., Since the mid-1990's parapsychologists, psychologists and neurologists have been experimenting with the technique, which I assume (though I do not have the research in front of me as I write) works by generating some kind of feedback loop. What it definitely does do a repeated trials have shown, is allow one to experience something at least very similar to the "ghost experience."

Remember that from the beginning of the debate I conceded that many ghost experiences are simply hallucinations? Well, this experiment allows you to hallucinate. As Tim Leary used to say "set and setting" define much – your set up and your expectations – but even hard core sceptics of my acquaintance have been startled by the power of this very simple set up to invoke powerful hallucinatory experiences. You may wish to experiment with playing classical music – or do as I did for my trials, and use a pink noise or white noise generator and put headphones on your subject.

Dr Moody's approach was to use the psychomanteum or apparitional chamber in grief therapy, to allow the bereaved to have a visionary encounter with a deceased loved one. I can see vast potential for psychological damage if this was tried without proper therapeutic support – we will be more modest, and simply aim to see a "ghost" of someone, anyone. Expectation undoubtedly plays a huge part in the process, as demonstrated in Terhune, D. B., & Smith, M. D. (2006) 'The induction of anomalous experiences in a mirror-gazing facility: Suggestion, cognitive perceptual personality traits and phenomenological state effects'. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 194, 415 – 421, so if you do try this with multiple subjects (which I hope you will) then make sure they KNOW exactly what it is supposed to do.

OK, so try it. I think the minimum length for sitting gazing at the mirror should realistically be thirty minutes, though fifty minutes to an hour would be better. I think this set up is basic enough that you can explore your capacity for visual hallucination, and see your own ghost, sometime this week, and of course discuss your results in the commentary thread. Hopefully you can find a few interested friends to participate.

Now what I have described is an incredibly basic set up – if you want to see the full lab research version of the apparatus I refer you to Lange, R., & Houran, J. (1997). 'Context-induced paranormal experiences: Support for Houran and Lange's model of haunting phenomena.' Perceptual and Motor Skills, 84, 1455 – 1458 and Radin, D. I., & Rebman, J. M. (1996). 'Are phantasms fact or fantasy? A preliminary investigation of apparitions evoked in the laboratory' Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 61, 65 – 87, though the best description of the methodology and a decent set up is probably Dean I. Radin (2001). "Seeking Spirits in the Laboratory" in James Houran and Rense Lange. Hauntings and Poltergeists: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. McFarland & Company. pp. 165–174. ISBN 0786409843. There is a great short essay on the web in the form of Ventola, Wison & Williams (2009) -- ... er_23.html -- which will give you a detailed overview of the research to date. (There is also some superb research that was recently conducted under Dr Ian Hume at Coventry University, but that is not presented or published yet, though I believe it will be this summer at the PA conference?)

So why have I proposed this experiment? Well it's empirical: it shows you something about the brain and the capacity to hallucinate; it's rather interesting; and theoretically if we get enough data we can use qualitative analysis to compare the "apparitions" seen in this set up with "spontaneous cases" – apparitions reported in "real life", and see how these artificially induced ghosties compare with the classic apparitions reported by Tyrell, Sidgwick et al.

However, I can imagine Campermon reclining in his deck chair, discarding a stack of marking and a pile of beer mats covered in equations, and dancing a little jig of delight. Surely I have shot myself in the foot here? After all, I am defending the claim ""Some Ghost cases may represent discarnate consciousness or the remote operation of a living human consciousness". It is surely immensely stupid of me to concede that one can mimic the nature of "ghost sightings" by hallucination? Yet I have as we all know concede this point from the very beginning. So a stronger argument might be my experiment is an irrelevance – it shows us what we already know to be true???

Yet no, I can actually cite these experiments in support of my hypothesis. Yes, really – because study of the environmental variables during the sessions has produced a most unusual and intriguing result. Unfortunately my copy of Hauntings and Poltergeists: Multidisciplinary Perspectives has been borrowed by a friend, so rather than try to summarise inaccurately, I shall wait for her to return it, or for my girlfriend to pick up her copy when she returns home tomorrow. In my next post I'll describe the interesting aspects which imply some form of relationship between consciousness and the environment, or perhaps even suggest these apparitions possess some kind of independent existence. For now it is best that I do not discuss these anyway – as we have already seen expectation plays a huge part in the experience – so let us do some simple "beermat parapsychology" experiments with this very uncontrolled set up, and then later if anyone is interested we can refine it. I strongly suspect that both Campermon and Twistor (at least) have access to the equipment we will need to allow to test all this further. And most importantly, you can now go and see a ghost!

Just in case anyone is confused – there is nothing "psychic", "mystical" or "spiritualist" about this experiment. There is a considerable literature – I have not cited for example Simon Sherwood's excellent paper on hypnagogic imagery and the psychomanteum, and several others – but I don't think any discussion of the academic literature can take the place of actual practical experimentation. I hope at least a few of you will run some trials and see what you experience, and preferable use a Dictaphone or write it up immediately afterwards so that we can discuss the experiences in the commentary thread.
OK, I have some words left for once! However today I'm immensely pushed for time – my girlfriend goes back tomorrow, so I want to spend a little time with her, and I'm sure me wittering on will only bore. So instead I encourage you to go try the experiment, well after nightfall if you find darkness hard to achieve in your home on this glorious June day.

Campermon likes theories I know, so I'll use the rest of the word count on some proposed models for psi -- well, this is a useful overview of the physical models proposed from 1993 from the Koestler Parapsychological Unit at Edinburgh University - bit heavy going in places, but useful nonetheless and gives you some article to look up and read---

Theories on the Physical Basis of Psi - KPU 1993

The following are summaries of some of the attempts to look for theories which might help explain how psi operates. These are written for a non-technical audience. Interested parties should look at the references provided for a better idea of the specifics.

1 - Teleological Model (TM) of Psi

Helmudt Schmidt proposed a teleological (goal-seeking) model that postulated psi as representing a modification of the probabilities for different world histories. That is, the psi agent need concentrate only on the desired outcome of an event. Psi would act to skew the probability of that event happening or having happened in the case of retrospective psychokinesis (retro-PK).

As such, this theory was not a theory of a psi mechanism but rather one which looked at the way psi was experienced by the psi agent. It was one of the first parapsychological theories to include a unified psi. PK, ESP, precognition -- all were aspects of one common psi principle wherein reality was altered to match expectation. This theory also meant that psi would be independent of space and time as when-and-where in the world history psi occurred would be irrelevant. And that psi is independent of task complexity as the psi agent aims only for the desired end-point.

As most human actions are essentially teleological (i.e., when we want to pick something up, we do not consider in detail which muscles we wish to move, and so on), this brought psi more into the realms of human experience. Feedback was considered to be vital. The psi agent can have an effect only if it is coupled to its environment in such a way that it may receive a stimulus.

There was also what was called a "divergence problem". That is, all Future psi agents could so have an effect on the Present world history. In effect, this meant that for any experiment, the psi agent was not only the experimental participant but also all Future readers of the experimental paper!

● Schmidt, H. (1975). "Towards a Mathematical Theory of Psi". The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research 69(4): 301-320

2 - Quantum Mechanical Theory of Psi (QMTP)

Evan Harris Walker identified consciousness with quantum-mechanical hidden variables. In Quantum Theory, any system may be described in terms of a wave-function. It is a complex superposition of waves, the squared amplitude of each being related to the probability of an individual event occurring. The complete wave-function describes all possible outcomes of that system. Thus the wave-function of a coin-toss will describe the outcomes of heads-or-tails, with the amplitude of each being equal to the square-root of the 50% probability of getting a head or a tail.

The problem is that this wave-function describes all the outcomes at once, whereas conscious experience tells us that we will observe only one outcome. This naturally led to the idea that conscious observation somehow affects the system, causing the wave-function to "collapse" (decohere) into one specific state (i.e., the one we experience. If this is indeed the case, then perhaps the consciousness can actually choose (to some extent) which outcome actually occurs -- a process which sounds very much like the concept of psychokinesis.

Walker developed this theory by pointing out that the brain itself is also a physical system. And so it too develops probabilistically into a number of superposed potential states. That is, the collapse doesn’t take place due to the physical act of observation but is linked to an act of mind (consciousness taking on the role of a "hidden variable" of the wave-function which describes the physical system). Schmidt also explicitly stated that PK was related to the collapse of the wave-function in an extension to his original teleological model.

An important feature of this theory is the unity of psi. PK, ESP, and precognition are all aspects of the observation process. In fact, the basic process may be seen as similar to the idea of retro-psychokinesis in that the observation of the system would appear to affect the outcome of the system, no matter at what time that outcome would be said to have been determined in a classical sense. For example, the collection of random number data at time t=0 could be "affected" at any subsequent time as long as it was not observed at t=0. ESP then becomes the selection of the system to correspond to the prediction.

Psi is also seen as being independent of space and time. A requirement of hidden variables is that they must (according to a well-known tenet of Quantum theory called Bell's Theorem) be non-local in nature. In real-terms, this would mean that the space-time location of the system to be affected is not important -- only the feedback to the observer is.

Psi is also independent of task complexity. Again, the important feature is the act of observation, so it is only the feedback which is important. This does mean that some form of true feedback to the observer is vital. However, this again brings up the divergence problem. Although in this model, while Future psi agents can also have an effect, it is argued that they can act only to increase the variance of experimental results rather than change what has already been observed.

● Walker, E. H. (1975). "Foundations of Paraphysical and Parapsychological Phenomena". In L. Oteri (Ed.) Quantum Physics and Parapsychology, Parapsychology Foundation

● Walker, E. H. (1984). "A Review of Criticisms of the Quantum Mechanical Theory of Psi Phenomena", Journal of Parapsychology 48: 277-332

● Schmidt, H. (1984). "Comparison of a Teleological Model with a Quantum Collapse Model of Psi", Journal of Parapsychology 48(4): 261-276

Thermal Fluctuation Model

Richard Mattuck presents an interesting variation of the QMTP based on the idea that the mind somehow utilizes the thermal energy of molecules to alter the outcome of an event.

It is well known that there is an degree of uncertainty associated with any measurement with the actual measured values showing small fluctuations around a mean value. These fluctuations are partially due to the agitation of the measured system by the random thermal energies of particles in the system (Remember that an atom at a given temperature is equivalent to that atom having a certain kinetic energy in a random direction. The hotter the material, the more its atoms are "jiggling" about). They have been shown to be related to the Uncertainty Principle in Quantum Theory.

Mattuck relates a PK effect to the processing of information at a certain rate. He offers a detailed analysis of the rate of information change associated with a theoretical PK effect on various components of an example target system.

● Mattuck, R. D (1982). "Some Possible Thermal Quantum Fluctuation Models for Psychokinetic Influence on Light". Psychoenergetics 4: 211-225.
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Re: Formal debate: "Existence of ghosts & apparitions"

#11  Postby campermon » Jul 04, 2010 5:10 pm

Apologies to all for the delay in posting…this weekend has been very…er..’interesting’! (keen youtubers will see why…;) )

I have decided to use this post to have a breather, to summarize and to crystallize the claims, theories and evidence we have thus far served up to the table. I will also throw in a few of my own assertions. I will be careful to warn the reader when this happens by prefixing assertion with the following: *Warning – pure assertion by Campermon* :lol:

Let’s first of all remind ourselves of the arguments up for discussion;

"Some Ghost cases may represent discarnate consciousness or the remote operation of a living human consciousness"

Now, I might be biased here ( ;)), but thus far we haven’t been presented with quality evidence (i.e. evidence which goes beyond sloppy investigation and personal anecdote) that would support the case that discarnate or disembodied consciousness’s can exist. I, however, have produced (and cited) many and varied scientific explanations which account for the wide range of reported phenomena. Jerome, rather sensibly, agrees with these explanations. ;) but, stubbornly, maintains that there are some cases which do present ‘real’ paranormal phenomena. Let’s review the case list so far, summarize the stories and highlight my criticisms of the evidence presented. My critical summary italicized;

A review of the cases so far…..

The Rosenhenheim Case

All manner of crazy phone call stuff happening in office. Investigated by physicists from the ‘Max Plank’ institute;

Metatrons response (paranormal/peanut-gallery-existence-of-ghosts-apparitions-t6933-100.html#p228934 ) neatly deals with some of the errors that the scientists possibly made. I also pointed out that scientists, on their own, are perhaps not the best people to investigate these sorts of cases as they are easily fooled. This was clearly demonstrated by ‘Project Alpha’;
Part 1: ... 9n7i9_kAFw
Part 2: ... Mj38lF2U5k

The South Shields Case

Spooky text messages and assorted poltergoose activites; ... exist.html

The investigators here are clearly out to sell their book ( ). The evidence presented by the ghost busting duo (who I internally refer to as ‘Laurel and Hardy’ ;) ) is purely anecdotal. The intrepid investigators were so shocked by an apparition that they forgot to turn on their video camera. :doh: The one piece of possibly tangible evidence (spooky text messages) was not investigated thoroughly, i.e. I can find no account from them that the phone was forensically analysed or the service providers requested to investigate the source of the texts.

The Cardiff Responsive Case

A veritable miscellany of poltergoose activity. Objects thrown, money turning up, objects disappearing and appearing again, but hot to the touch.

The investigator (Professor Fontana) apparently could not find physical explanations for much of the phenomena (which he did not even directly observe). Fontana cannot find an explanation for the hot paint scraper turning up;

“2. A paint scraper which had 'gone missing', and then suddenly re-appeared, as hot to the touch 'as if it had been heated for some minutes with a blowlamp'. “.

Campermon’s Beer Mat PhysicsTM experiment quickly shows the reader that a metal implement (a butter knife in my experiment) can be heated very quickly with a cigarette lighter so that it becomes too hot to touch for a long period.

The Chaffin Case

Ghost father returns to tell son the whereabouts of a new will. The will is found and many laypersons agree that the will was written in Chaffin’s own hand.

There is much scope for trickery in this case. The one piece of evidence, the will, is key. As can be seen from “Handwriting Examination: Meeting the Challenges of Science and the Law “ ( ... view02.htm ), identifying the authenticity of handwritten documents is beyond the skill of the layperson. I would very like to see the document in this case analysed by 21st century forensic scientists. That is, if it still exists.

The Paquet Case

Sister sees apparition of brother falling off boat to meet his death. She allegedly learnt this news before the arrival of a telegram. Her description of her brother’s death coincides with the description given by a sea mate of the deceased.

The source; ... rt-32.html, tells us that the mysterious sea man who witnessed the death, could not be located. The confirmation of the manner of death comes from a ‘friend’ who was told the story by the ‘witness’. I could find no record detailing at what time the telegram was sent. This whole case rests on anecdote and the details are most probably lost in the mists of time.

The Andover Case

Various shenanigans of the spooky-natural type summarized here; ( ... geist.html ). Investigated by the fearless Dr Barrie Colvin who recorded ghostly rappings in the walls and various objects in the house.

The good Dr insists that he could find no source or explanation (beyond the paranormal) for the rappings which occurred in the walls and the bed. However, he did not go beyond what I would call a ‘brief inspection’. Why didn’t he take apart the wall and the bed in order to seek a source? Very sloppy investigation on the whole, however, the Dr has collected various recordings of poltergeist raps which apparently have an identifiable acoustic signature. However, the Dr is not fearless enough to share his findings with the physics community at large.

*Dr Colvin update*

Many thanks to Jerome for sharing this update with us; “Scientific evidence of poltergeist knocking?”
( ... st-rapping )

We are presented with some pretty pictures which apparently differentiate ‘normal’ from ‘paranormal’ raps;


The article informs us that;

“The sample involved 10 separate recordings recorded on different recording apparatus.
In each of the recordings, when subjected to acoustic analysis, a particular sound pattern is detected which so far remains unexplained. Attempts to replicate this pattern in ordinary ways have so far been unsuccessful.”

So, we have ’10 separate recordings’; not really a good sample size but I let that one roll. However, this sample was ‘recorded on different recording apparatus’. Surely, this could invalidate the experiment? Or has the Dr taken this into his account in his analysis?

Also the Dr tells us;

"Ever since my personal involvement in the investigation of a rapping poltergeist at Andover, Hampshire, in which it was absolutely clear that no normal explanation could account for the observed phenomena, I wondered whether the recorded raps were in any way different to those produced by normal methods. It is now clear that they are indeed different".

Very interesting Dr Colvin. Maybe when your research is published in a peer reviewed physics journal, the physics community may be able to supply the explanations which ‘will account for the observed phenomena’.

So, where can the career physicist get hold of this paper?

“Dr Colvin’s research is published in his article ‘The Acoustic Properties of Unexplained Rapping Sounds’ in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research [2010] Vol 73.2 Number 899 pp 65-93.”


Why is Dr Barrie Colvin reluctant to publish his piece of physics research in a physics journal?

As I have attempted to demonstrate in all my posts, a large part of my argument is that there is no evidence to suggest that paranormal activity even happens. When the ‘evidence’ for paranormal activity is put under the scrutiny of the scientific eye, it is reduced to anecdote. As I have argued before, to accept this evidence is folly. As I wrote in a previous post;

“In hypothesizing this, the parapsychologists are getting themselves into some serious hot water. For example, what is this ‘energy’ they refer to? By what mechanism might a human mind move an object at a distance? Do these energies and mechanisms fit in with the standard model ( )? If not, why have physicists been denied evidence of the existence of these energies and mechanisms?

Before the parapsychologists get carried away with the intricacies of this theory, I would suggest that first of all they provide any reliable evidence that the mind can physically affect an object at a distance. Perhaps when devising their experiments it would be prudent to seek the advice of James Randi?”

( formal-debates/formal-debate-existence-of-ghosts-apparitions-t6927.html#p236728 )

I’ll state it again;

Before the parapsychologists get carried away with theories, which often rely on invoking quantum woo (see Jerome’s last post), they must first verify that the evidence they have collected stands up to the rigors of scientific peer review. For the second time in this debate I challenge Dr Barrie Colvin to make his research publicly available to the physicists of the world!

For a moment, let’s have a brief look at the science (which is, by far, more interesting! ;) which supports my argument that paranormal activity is confined to the brain….

The Brain

A humungously powerful processing piece of warm wet hardware; ( Just check out the numbers and complexity. Also imagine the scope for malfunction.

The brain going wrong…

A fascinating insight into the experience of having a brain that bleeds; ... sight.html. How much of what Jill said resonates with the ‘woo’ we hear?


Visual weirdness that is quite ‘natural’; ( ... 06998a.pdf )

*No spooks included.

Hypnagogic Hallucination

Totally cool visuals and auditory hallucination experienced by many. Don’t worry though, you ain’t going crackers. (

Exploding head syndrome

I’d love to get hold of some new research on this topic….
( ... 9-0093.pdf)


Inducing visuals with intense oscillating B fields. Also, some excellent physics (in the tradition of Campermon’s Beer Mat PhysicsTM) by these guys; ( ... 1153v2.pdf).

Doesn’t science rock your world? :lol:

OK, that’s the good stuff. Here follows just a few ideas that have scudded across the skies of my brainscape in past years;

*Warning – pure assertion by Campermon*

As I outlined in my opening post, young camperboy was fascinated by tales of the supernatural but was ‘turned on’ to the scientific way of thinking and went on to become ‘captain physics’.. ;)

Now, I don’t rule out the possible existence of psi ability per se. I do, however, question the evidence that has been presented thus far. But let’s forget that for just one moment and imagine that psi ability does exist within the permitted laws of the universe. As we know from biology, we inherit all of our physical traits (and possibly a lot of our behavioural ones) from our parents; they are encoded in our genome. Would it not therefore be reasonable to assume that if humans have the ability, say for example, to gain information by remote viewing, then this would be inherited via our genes? In such a case, clear unambiguous evidence of psi ability would be common. Just think of the selection advantage that such an ability would give to an organism i.e. in outwitting predators, finding food and obtaining mates. We don’t observe this.

Taking a different tack. Let’s consider that psi ability is due to some rare mutation. A quick google shows me that haemophillia B has an occurrence of 0.03 births per 1000 (, ).That’s a pretty rare event that has been identified by science. Let’s imagine for a moment that psi ability is due to a mutation that has a similar frequency of occurrence. Let’s do some sums;

The UK population is approximately 60 000 000 people. What if there were some rare mutation (on the order of 0.03 births per 1000) that might occur such that it imbues the owner with clear, unambiguous, demonstrable psi ability? That would mean that; (60 000 000/1000)*0.03 = 1800 individuals in the UK would be able to demonstrate this. Where are they?

In a similar evolutionary vein; If discarnate consciousness’s exist in nature, then why don’t we observe more of them? Our energy greedy lumps of wet brain matter, which enable consciousness, give us (and many other organisms) a clear selection advantage. On the other hand, a discarnate consciousness does not appear to rely on the daily intake of energy rich carbohydrates to keep it running. Ignoring the fact that we have never observed a consciousness that does not rely on a physical substrate, if such a consciousness has evolved wouldn’t evolutionary selective pressures have driven virtually all organisms down this energy free route?

The only alternative, if we are to accept discarnate consciousness’s, is to abandon the scientific knowledge and understanding we have gained as a species over the last 500 years.

Thus end my own personal ramblings! ;)

*/ Campermon’s idle assertions*

Sitting in Dark rooms….

I must confess that I have yet to try out the experiment outlined by Jerome in his last post. However, I fail to see how the results of such an experiment might support his argument that; "Some Ghost cases may represent discarnate consciousness or the remote operation of a living human consciousness".

The results of such experiments may possibly lead us to a greater understanding of the workings of a brains and consciousnesses. But what else? How might they provide evidence that discarnate entities exist in this universe?

In providing evidence and explanation for the arguments at debate, Jerome still has the unenviable task of convincing the forum that consciousnesses can exist without a physical substrate, that the second law can be disapplied on occasion and that there is actually some evidence worthy of consideration by those who have a discerning scientific mind! ;)

We live in a very interesting and wonderful universe; just pick up a science book or peruse the science forums if you’re lazy! I don’t see the necessity to invent mysteries when there are already enough out there to keep us homo sapiens busy for a long time to come! One of my favourite authors *shows geek credentials* said it much better than I could;

“Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"

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Re: Formal debate: "Existence of ghosts & apparitions"

#12  Postby jerome » Jul 11, 2010 9:24 pm

Defender's #6 post: 2929 words - Mr.Samsa

Thanks to Campermon for his useful and engaging survey of the discussions so far. In today's response I plan to concentrate upon two of the issues we have discussed – namely Dr. Barrie Colvin's analysis of acoustic materials associated with purported poltergeist phenomena, and the psychomanteum data.

At the time I brought up Dr.Colvin's research it was unpublished: now fortuitously it is in print, and we can discuss it in a little more depth. Campermon (I am not sure if he has seen the paper in full yet, but I shall ensure he does) cites the SPR news item on the article

SPR wrote:
“The sample involved 10 separate recordings recorded on different recording apparatus. In each of the recordings, when subjected to acoustic analysis, a particular sound pattern is detected which so far remains unexplained. Attempts to replicate this pattern in ordinary ways have so far been unsuccessful.”

He then raises a sensible objection

Campermon wrote:
So, we have ’10 separate recordings’; not really a good sample size but I let that one roll. However, this sample was ‘recorded on different recording apparatus’. Surely, this could invalidate the experiment? Or has the Dr taken this into his account in his analysis?

Well, any reader with experience of sound engineering or acoustics will be aware that the characteristics of a given recording can be shaped by the recording device used. For example, a certain type of microphone may produce distinctive 'patterns' of distortion, suppression or in other ways 'process' the signal. Dr Colvin was certainly aware of this possibility – if the unusual characteristics detected were all recorded with the same make, model and type of microphone, we would be entirely justified in believing that the recording equipment was the source of the artefact.

Remember, this is not a lab experiment. Even if it was, we would want a plethora of different microphones to rule out the possibility that the equipment, not the sound itself, was causing the unusual acoustic characteristics. Instead we are looking at ten recordings from 'the field', from cases in which Dr Colvin was for the most part not involved – Andover (1981) being the exception. The other cases which provided recordings were

Sauchie, Scotland (1960) – from Broadcasting House, from the BBC recordings taken at the time. ... icle23.htm has more on the case for those not familiar with it - Owen, A.R.G. Can We Explain the Poltergeist? New York: Helix Press / Garrett Publications, 1964 gives a full account by the principle investigator.

Thun, near Bern, Switzerland (1967)
The recordings were taken from a CD. ... iale+Musik

Schleswig , Switzerland, (1967
) taken from a CD. ... iale+Musik

Pursruck, Germany (1971) – from a recording by Prof. Hans Bender (16-bit stereo, 44100Hz)

Ipiranga, Brazil (1973)
– recording by Guy Lyon Playfair taken during the IBPP investigation. More on the case can be found in Playfair's 1975 book The Flying Cow.

La Machine, France (1973) –
recording by Dr Alfred Krantz.

Enfield, England (1977)
– from original reel to reel tapes, which was running "at the rather slow speed of 15/16 of inch per second" (Colvin 2010); recording taken by SPR investigator Maurice Grosse. A recent Channel 4 documentary on the case well worth watching can be seen here -- ... oltergeist - you can see the equipment used and context.

Andover, England (1981) - already discussed in this debate.

Santa Rosa, Brazil (1988)
– taken from a recording made of a television broadcast (by TV Globo) on the case.

Euston Square, England (2000)
This case has recordings by both Maurice Grosse and Mary Rose Barrington available.

Ten cases, none recent, because recordings of acoustic phenomena associated with poltergeists are by their nature difficult to collect: one need a poltergeist after all! The two Swiss cases are from a digital CD recording commercially available of recordings of parapsychological phenomena – it is impossible to say to what extent they have been edited and processed, so I would say they were VERY weak evidence. The Brazilian cases rely on recordings taken by Guy Lyon Playfair at the time, and by him off the TV, and he was present at Enfield – yet fraud seems unthinkable, given the dates, unless he somehow had access to very high end studio equipment and knowledge of acoustics in a pre-digital sound age. Therefore, I think that so long as we trust Dr Colvin's acoustic analysis, the sound signatures he claims to detect in his varied collection of poltergeist sounds are authentic. Colvin's claims are checkable -- at least some of these recordings – the Enfield sounds and the two from the CD, and possibly if you are willing to approach the BBC Sauchie – are available in their original form to interested independent parties wishing to check the results. I suspect someone with appropriate acoustics knowledge could acquire copies of all the recordings by request to the SPR. ( Adobe Audition was used for the analysis, in case anyone fancies trying a replication. I do favour a hands on approach as you all know by now!

So what does Colvin claim to have found? Well let's start with a normal waveform. It follows a characteristic pattern – a wave form showing a sharp rise in amplitude or immediately to maximum amplitude, followed by a gradual decrease to zero. Adobe Audition has a free trial, but there is plenty of freeware on the web you can download which allows you to experiment with banging various substances yourself. I did so, analysing some sounds submitted by Wayne Morris from his paranormal investigation at Landguard Fort, Felixstowe last year, and found that the banging noises there followed the same type of acoustic signature I could get by kicking the wall or banging my desk – the above pattern, suggesting a normal explanation for those (non-poltergeist) sounds. Simple experimentation with a large number of substances demonstrated that the pattern is consistent, and that Colvin's comment on this is correct. I encourage everyone reading to try this for themselves, to familiarise themselves with the standard way the amplitude and frequency can be analysed and the common pattern one sees.

Colvin gives a couple examples of frequency ranges in mundane sounds – a hammer hitting an oak desk gives a frequency band of mainly 50Hz to 300Hz – a teaspoon on a crystal glass 300Hz to 3000Hz, with a decay of amplitude lasting three seconds. What one might expect in short. However, once again I strongly suggest a few minutes experimentation at home, and posting the results???

So how do the acoustic properties of the raps in the ten cases in question vary? They show a consistently odd rise in amplitude, a waveform that slowly rises rather building to a sudden peak and then falling away. One can test this on the knocks from the Channel 4 shows recordings from Enfield I guess, or armed with some money, order the CD Colvin took the Swiss cases from: I have too date done neither. Given the fact the JSPR article is clearly copyright, I shall simply reproduce two of the figures here, showing a knock deliberately made by Grosse at Enfield as he tried to replicate the noises,and one of the anomalous raps...


So why do the waveforms show these unusual characteristics? Colvin thought of a possibility, which takes us right back to Campermon's original problem, and my response with which I opened this post…

Dr. Barrie Colvin, [i]JSPR[/i] 73.2, Number 899, April 2010 wrote:
One of the possible normal explanations put forward to explain the results is that certain types of microphones may give rise to the anomalous results because of their inherent qualities and mode of operation. A microphone is simply a sensor that converts sound in to an electrical signal. The most common types consist of a thin membrane that vibrates in response to sound pressure.

As you will recall this is how I opened my post…

Dr. Barrie Colvin, [i]JSPR [/i]73.2, Number 899, April 2010 wrote:
This movement is subsequently translated in to an electrical signal using one of several techniques. Most examples use electromagnetic induction, capacitance change, piezoelectric generation or light modulation to convert the mechanical vibration of the signal to an electrical signal. The question that arises is relation to a short impulse such as a rap is whether or not there could a be a delay between production of the sound and vibration of the membrane. Could the inertia of the membrane, particularly with microphones dating back to the 1970's, lead to a relatively slow increase to maximum amplitude when subjected to a short burst of acoustic energy?

This is why I suggested in a lab set up we would require several microphones, of different makes, models and manufacture. Colvin experimented making raps with a number of microphones dating from 1959 (including the Phillips EL3549A & the EL3782 with impedance 583 ohms) to present day microphones, looking at the waveforms, to falsify this hypothesis. Again, with old microphones common in attics if my house is anything to go by, I suggest interested parties can do at home…

However there is another reason to believe the results are not an artefact of the microphones. Three of the recordings include the investigators making their own raps. These investigator produced raps possess the normal waveform, not the slow rise in amplitude associated with the "poltergeist knockings". As such, we have an inadvertent control, which demonstrates the microphone was NOT the source of the unusual waveforms.

Colvin has managed to find similar acoustic waveforms to those recorded in these ten cases – in recordings of seismic activity. His paper gives two examples – a recording of an earthquake at Ascension Island in 2007, and a British Geological Survey recording of a seismic event at Folkestone in 2009, described as being "like an explosion". Colvin theorises that the sound signatures associated with the poltergeist events imply they are caused by a sudden release of tension or alteration in the substance of an object, not with as one would assume a rapping of one thing on another. An intriguing suggestion, but clearly one that requires further high quality recordings to test adequately. Perhaps Campermon and Twistor can think of some experiments to create waveforms from stress induced noises? One of my parapsychology interested friends is a DLitt (or some postdoc) in metallurgy with special reference to airframe fatigue, and happens to have a background in sound engineering, so I might ask him to run some tests for next post in generating waveforms.

Campermon's next comment unfortunately could easily consume my entire response!

Campermon wrote:
So, where can the career physicist get hold of this paper?

“Dr Colvin’s research is published in his article ‘The Acoustic Properties of Unexplained Rapping Sounds’ in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research [2010] Vol 73.2 Number 899 pp 65-93.”

Well, the career physicist could email me, or join the SPR ( ) or subscribe to LEXSCIEN or wander in to 49 Marloes Rd and ask the SPR librarian if they could have a gander. The question really is "why not publish in Nature, or a physics or acoustic journal?" the answer is simple: try it! Nature has a long standing policy of rejecting parapsychology papers on principle – a few are published, but they are extremely rare, and often result in a heated debate. Pretty much no physics journal will touch parapsychology papers – yet the SPR has no shortage of physicists, now or historically (though currently only one Nobel winner in the field I think – Brian Josephson – earlier ones being Marie Curie, Lord Rayleigh, and JJ Thomson – just an amusing historical side, I'm not saying that means anything!). Professor Bernard Carr was of course the previous President. So anyone interested in the physics of poltergeist papers has to publish in a dedicated parapsychology journal, and as the EJP Is more psychology orientated, that means the JSPR for a peer reviewed physics article on something like this. (Well you could publish here like these gentleman - - but Brian Josephson described that paper as "flaky" in New Scientist April 2008, and I think it's a parody ;). I assumed it was an April Fool's joke!

So, in short, if you are writing a parapsychology article, you publish in a peer reviewed parapsychology journal – though if you flip back through this debate and look at the articles I reference you will note that is far from always the case – in fact I have provided a fairly inter-disciplinary set of journal citations, in keeping with the nature of the subject. Someone joked years ago that parapsychology is a game for polymaths, sadly I'm not even bright -- I think I might count as just "not as dumb as my wife seem to think!"

So in response to Campermon's sensible question

Campermon wrote:
Why is Dr Barrie Colvin reluctant to publish his piece of physics research in a physics journal?

I think the answer is, speaking for Dr. Colvin which is always unwise, find one interested and I'm sure he will!

Ok, time to turn to the psychomanteum research. Firstly, here is Radin & Rebman's set up from Lange & Houran's Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Hauntings & Poltergeists (2001) ISBN 0786409843.


If you want to try this at home, here is the equipment list with specifications for these (1996) trials

JSPR Vol 61, No 843 wrote:
List of Equipment Used in Pilot Experiment

FLIR Prism SP high resolution infrared video spectral range 3.6 to 5 microns, O.l" C sensitivity
FLIRIQ-810 high resolution infrared video spectral range 8 to 12 microns, 0.06° C sensitivity
Astroscope night vision light amplifier visual range, with IO" {4} lux sensitivity
Canon LI video camcorder high resolution camera used with Astroscope
Applied Physics 3-axis fluxgate magnetometers 1 μθ3Η55 sensitivity, DC - 300 Hz response
Systems 534 (2)
Hewlett Packard 500 MHz digital oscilloscope used to display magnetometer outputs
Hewlett Packard spectrum analyzer continuously scanned electromagnetic spectrum,
8561E 30 Hz - 6 GHz
JVC GR-AX75 VHS-C camcorder recorded display of EM signal analyzer
Sony WM-D6C audio cassette recorder recorded sounds inside psychomanteum
RNG random number generator truly random, based on electronic noise
EFM battery-powered AC magnetic (0 - 300 Hz), DC magnetic, AC electric
EMDEX-C electromagnetic field monitor (0 - 300 Hz)
Ertco-Hart 850 temperature monitor computer-based, millidegree sensitivity
Aware RM-60 Geiger counter computer-based, sensitive to α, β, γ and x-rays
Panasonic video quad system combined infrared, light-amplified videos, and normal
WJ-450 video signals into one display
Panasonic 20" video monitor used to display quad video signal
RCA VR 323 video cassette recorder usd to record combined video signals
Computers controlled computer-based two 80486DX2 computers, one 80286 computer;
equipment custom-designed software
J&JI-410 computer-based physiological electrodermal (EDA), blood volume pulse (BVP), heart
monitoring system rate (HR), skin temperature (temp),
electroencephalograph power (beta, alpha & theta)

As you can see, it is slightly more sophisticated than our "Blue Peter" try-this-at-home version, though doubtless could be improved a decade on. Radin & Rebman (1996) collected what one might expect during the sessions – subjective data as to the percipients experiences (the percipient activated a microswitch during the apparitional/hallucinatory parts of the trial), physiological monitoring of the subject; but they also decided to do environmental monitoring, to check if the experience correlated with any changes in the physical environment. Their results were to put it mildly surprising --- a weak but significant correlation was found between the physiological and environmental variables. The authors postulate some kind of reciprocal feedback relationship between body, mind and environment.

The most common physiological versus environmental correlation was probably caused by a simple experimental flaw – three people were in the psychomanteum before the beginning of each session, then only one for the session. The temperature inside therefore declined, and it would not be surprising if this was to result in a physiological response as Radin and Rebman note. However to quote Radin

Radin wrote:
After exclusion of all Atemp cross-correlations, 152 correlations remained, of which 7.6 were expected to be significant by chance. Because 24 significant correlations were observed among the remaining physical variables, there is suggestive evidence that some of the physical vs. physiological correlations reflect genuine relationships.

Anyway here are the data tables from Houran and Lange, so you can see for yourself what was recorded, and think of possible explanations. When I get my book back I'll go in to this in more detail, and hopefully briefly talk about Parsons and O Keefe's 2006 replication – I have emailed Ciaran to ask him if he can let me have a summary of his findings for the debate. Here are the figures from Radin and Rebman's 1996 trials…


So does the psychomanteum produce something more than just hallucinations? Is the mind actually effecting the environment, or is it simply a one-way relationship? I'll discuss this in my next post. For now I just wanted to give Campermon something he could get his teeth in to, as people keep accusing me of just "telling ghost stories". I have aimed for a spirited defence of my position, but in my next post I will bring some more scientific studies to bear, from names familiar to many readers of this forum (Richard Wiseman among others) and then start to tie my argument together in to a defence of my apparently unlikely claim, and to make what I hope will be a strong defence of my position.
Yours sincerely, Jerome -- a threat to reason & science

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Re: Formal debate: "Existence of ghosts & apparitions"

#13  Postby campermon » Jul 25, 2010 10:46 am

Contender's #6 post: 1704 words - Mr.Samsa

I’d like to thank all of you, Jerome in particular, for your patience! School’s out now (yay!), so I have a little more time on my hands for extra-curricular pursuits!

In this post I will respond to the claims made by Dr Barry Colvin and the psychomanteum experimenters. I will also include some Campermon Beer Mat Physics TM.

Without further ado, let’s crack on….

Dr Barrie Colvin’s Paper – “The Acoustic Properties of Unexplained Rapping Sounds”

First of all, many thanks to Jerome who shared the paper with me. In the following I will discuss the findings of Colvin’s paper and also add some of my own brand of beer mat physics in order to suggest some further work that Colvin may wish to pursue.

To give you a flavour of the paper I hereby reproduce the abstract;

The wave characteristics of unexplained rapping sounds have been studied and compared with similar-sounding raps produced using normal tapping methods. Differences in low-frequency wave properties between the two classes of sounds have been noted. There are indications that the acoustic properties of the two classes of sound are different and that this technique can be used to differentiate between normal and inexplicable rapping sounds witnessed during RSPK activity. A tentative theory of localized stress development followed by a sudden release of tension has been put forward to account for the rapping sounds.

At the outset I must state that I agree with Colvin’s conclusion that the ‘genuine’ rapping sounds presented in this paper are indeed distinguishable from the ‘normal’ rapping sounds that have been produced for the matter of this study. However, once again I feel that Dr Colvin has not being thorough enough in his investigations and has thus led himself to the edge of the abyss in trying to formulate an explanation for the ‘genuine’ rappings. But more of that later.

In the paper, Colvin essentially shows that there are quantitative differences between manufactured ‘normal’ raps and ‘genuine’ ones. Even if, qualitatively, these raps appear to sound the same, differences can be shown with the use of acoustic analysis as is shown here;



As well as rapping knuckles on walls, Colvin also goes on to investigate the acoustic signatures of impacting rubber hammers on objects and tapping glasses. All of the results show a similar acoustic picture i.e. a rapid increase in amplitude followed by some sort of exponential decay, which is exactly what one might expect. It is obvious that the raps that he has manufactured are indeed quantitatively different from the ‘real’ thing.

So, what can we conclude from Colvin’s findings? Well; hitting objects does not produce similar acoustic signatures to the similar that are allegedly genuine poltergeist raps. And that’s it. Basically he’s ruled out hitting objects as being a possible mechanism.

Colvin, to his credit, does acknowledge and account for variability due to the differing microphone technology that was used to gather the data but, crucially, he does not investigate other means of generating raps that might, qualitatively, appear to sound the same as a ‘real’ rap. He writes;

“There appear to be reasonable grounds for concluding that the unexplained rapping effect produced at various apparent poltergeist cases in a variety of countries exhibit an unusual acoustic waveform pattern, characterized by a relatively slow rise to maximum amplitude, followed by an equally slow decline in amplitude.”

He then goes on to conjecture that;

“The unexplained rapping effects described in this study are clearly different from this [raps produced by hitting objects] and appear to involve the relatively slow build up of stress within the material, culminating in an audible sound when the stress reaches a specific magnitude. The reasons for and the precise physics of this mechanism are unknown and will require a substantial amount of experimental work to determine the underlying principles in their production.”

Colvin then shows us that the acoustic signature of a ‘real’ rap is similar in shape (but on a different amplitude / time scale) to seismic events. Here is an example from the paper;


So, what are we to make of all this? Do we need to search for new mechanisms that would allow stresses to spontaneously build up and release in materials? Where do we begin?

The similarity of ‘real’ raps with seismic ‘raps’ got me thinking. In particular, I got to thinking about earthquakes and how they generate waves. One way to make an earthquake to happen is to allow two surfaces to slide past each other. If the surfaces happen to be ‘rough’ they can get stuck which leads to a build up of stress (which stores energy) which is eventually released as seismic waves (an earthquake). This is an extremely simple explanation! You can read more here;

Now, this is where I believe that Colvin has gone wrong in his investigation; he concludes that this build up of stress is actually occurring within the material that the raps are apparently emitted from. If we go down this route, we are indeed in trouble because we need to explain why the material, in a table for example, would spontaneously get stressed / de-stressed etc.. Where does the energy come from? And so on.

A tricky problem which required a little thought, some beer and a Campermon Beer Mat PhysicsTM experiment…

Inspired by the mechanics of earthquakes (and a couple of beers), I set out to see if I could generate a ‘rap’ which would have an acoustic signature which would have a relatively long build up in amplitude when compared to a rap which was generated by hitting an object BUT would qualitatively sound very similar.

For this experiment I used;

An ‘Easysense Q3’ data logger – utilizing its built in dB meter
MS Office Excel
The nail on my right hand index finger (it’s long because I play guitar)

The method I followed was simple;

1) Place the microphone in contact with the kitchen work top.
2) Start logging direct to the computer
3) Place the index finger underneath the work top
4) ‘Rap’ the underneath of the work top.

I experimented by tapping with my finger nail (i.e. hitting the surface) and also scratching the surface with my nail. I discovered that I could make the ‘scratches’ sound very similar to the taps.

I obtained a number of results and a cursory look at these showed me that the scratching ‘rap’ did produce signatures with a slightly larger build up to maximum amplitude. Please note that the two sounds shown did sound qualitatively similar. I’m afraid that I don’t have any recording gear, so you’ll have to take my word for it! ;)

A typical tapping sound produced a signature which reached maximum amplitude within 0.05 seconds:


A typical scratching sound produced a signature which reached a maximum amplitude within a relatively longer time of 0.09 seconds:


As can be seen, the amplitude signatures of these raps does show slight differences i.e. the scratching ‘raps’ do show a relatively longer build up time. This can be explained if we consider what is happening to the nail as it passes along the surface of the worktop; As the nail is dragged across the surface it gets stuck, stress builds up (energy is stored in the elastic nail) and this energy is released to produce vibrations.

OK, I’ll admit that this is pretty rough experiment and I haven’t taken into account the limitations of the apparatus (i.e. uncertainty in time measurements etc). What I have tried to show is that there maybe an alternative, mundane, method for creating raps which exhibit the properties Colvin presents. Plus, if I was to trick someone into believing that raps were ‘genuine’ I’d pick a method such as scratching or clicking some mechanism simply because the action of making the sound would be less apparent than having to hit something.

In closing, I would advise Colvin to perhaps consider broadening his investigations into generating raps before he begins to theorize that stresses may be building up in the actual fabric of the rapping medium.

Psychomanteum results

Thanks to Jerome for sharing the results of this experiment with us;


So, what’s it all about? Well, I managed to get the gist of what the experimenters were trying to do from here; ... &q&f=false page 164+

Unfortunately, because it is a google book preview, a few of the pages are missing, but a read of what’s there gives you the general idea of what these guys were up to!

Basically, the experimenters wired up participants with lots of physiological data probes and stuck them in the psychomanteum which was also wired up with lots of probes to record environmental data. All of this data, from the environment and the participant, was recording during the sessions, the data then synchronized and number crunched to look for correlations (shown in the table Jerome shared with us).

Now….Call me cynical, but my immediate thoughts led me to think:


OK, we all know that correlation does not imply causation, so I won’t labour the point.

I do not doubt that the researchers have found some correlations in their datasets and I salute them for their number crunching abilities. Given enough data, and they had lots, we can always find a correlation.

Without the raw results of their experiments I cannot comment any further!

Now, I’ve kept this post short so I could get it out quickly! (Sorry for the delay). In my next post I will look forward to spending some time discussing the ‘defence’ that Jerome will present;

“….in my next post I will bring some more scientific studies to bear, from names familiar to many readers of this forum (Richard Wiseman among others) and then start to tie my argument together in to a defence of my apparently unlikely claim, and to make what I hope will be a strong defence of my position.”

As is customary in these affairs, I will finish with a quote which I dedicate to Dr Barrie Colvin;

"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler."
Alert Einstein

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Re: Formal debate: "Existence of ghosts & apparitions"

#14  Postby jerome » Aug 07, 2010 2:07 am

Defender's #7 post: 2219 words - Mr.Samsa

Campermon has offered an elegant potential solution to the anomalous recordings from the various poltergeist cases put forward by Dr Colvin and discussed by me in the debate. In this post I intend to briefly raise a few points in Response, and consider ways of testing further his hypothesis.

Scratching Fanny of Cock Lane

I could not resist the title, but it's actually relevant -- ... fanny.html for a decent account of what does sound like a rather dodgy pornographic work, but was actually a celebrated 18th century poltergeist case. Apart from my impish sense of humour, why raise this case? Well because she was Scratching Fanny: and Campermon's hypothesis requires are ten cases to all be created by this method of fraud. It relies on short sounds (like raps) produced by a rubbing method – yes, I can see that.

The problem is that if you are going to fake poltergeist phenomena, then I don't think I am revealing any magicians tricks to say there are rather more methods available. The most famous poltergeist case of them all was probably the Fox Sister in Hydesville – from those rappings a whole religion was born. Margaret Fox produced a confession , (later recanted), in which she described how they created the rappings after starting out a mediums

Margaret Fox, 1888 wrote:
"Mrs. Underhill, my eldest sister, took Katie and me to Rochester. There it was that we discovered a new way to make the raps. My sister Katie was the first to observe that by swishing her fingers she could produce certain noises with her knuckles and joints, and that the same effect could be made with the toes. Finding that we could make raps with our feet - first with one foot and then with both - we practiced until we could do this easily when the room was dark. Like most perplexing things when made clear, it is astonishing how easily it is done. The rapping are simply the result of a perfect control of the muscles of the leg below the knee, which govern the tendons of the foot and allow action of the toe and ankle bones that is not commonly known. Such perfect control is only possible when the child is taken at an early age and carefully and continually taught to practice the muscles, which grow stiffer in later years. ... This, then, is the simple explanation of the whole method of the knocks and raps."

Now a few things to note. This was not how the original Hydesville rappings were created – this confession deals with the period after that initial phenomena, when the 'poltergeist' type events have given way to a career as professional mediums. So how did Margaret say the original rapping sounds were created?

Margaret Fox, 1888 wrote:
"When we went to bed at night we used to tie an apple to a string and move the string up and down, causing the apple to bump on the floor, or we would drop the apple on the floor, making a strange noise every time it would rebound. Mother listened to this for a time. She would not understand it and did not suspect us as being capable of a trick because we were so young."

She was 15 at the time, her sister 12. Now there are sound reasons to assume Margaret's confession many be false – she was battling alcoholism, depression, was reportedly jealous of her sisters success and good marriages, and was paid for the confession a sum she needed badly. She recanted as soon as her position improved. As such I don't see any reason to assume she is telling the truth about their methods (assuming it was all a hoax), but if she was, these things, cracking toe joints and bobbing apples, produce perfectly normal acoustic signatures, as a few minutes experimentation has shown.

So if the phenomena are fakes, we have to assume in all ten cases the hoaxers hit on the same method – scratching (experimentation with a 'clicker' has shown a normal pattern, not the anomalous one demonstrated by Dr Colvin). I feel this is pretty unlikely, given all the ways there are to create rapping sounds? Bear in mind all of the cases feature other classic effects – object movement for example, and none of the hoaxers, if such they were, could have known that 50-7 years later someone would apply sophisticated audio analysis to the sounds. Why not just knock, knock, knock on wood? (like thunder, lightning, the way you love m is frightening – er, sorry, for the musical interlude!)

Unlikely, but not impossible. :)

Knock, Knock Knocking on Heaven's Door

So Campermon has provided an explanation that appears elegant and simple. And I would have gotten away with it if not for you pesky physicists! Well maybe…
Now we need to test it, and check the explanatory power of the hypothesis. So I emailed Dr Colvin, and me having a reputation as a dodgy Arch-Woo, (ok SPR member) he kindly emailed me a selection of the .wav files from the relevant cases, from the Andover and Euston cases in fact. The samples are short, and rather unexciting in themselves.

Being notoriously dull and thorough, I went to ... &loc=en_us and registered for a free 30 day trial, downloaded and installed the software, and read the help files. (This takes a while, but please, *do try this at home*)

I then took the preliminary step of checking the sound files displayed the characteristics reported by Dr Colvin in his paper.

So from Andover, here is a normal rap (knuckles on wall) ... knock1.gif -- image too big to include

EDIT: I'm writing this note just before hitting submit. It's 3am, and I have not the heart to go back and edit all the images and re-upload them to my blog to make them no more than 700 pixels wide. The post may not look as pretty this way, but by clicking on the links you can at least see them properly.

And here is a purportedly 'polt' rap ... knock1.gif - image too big to include

From Euston, a normal rap ... malrap.gif -- image too big to include

and a purportedly 'polt' rap ... ousrap.gif -- image too big to include

Not very enlightening: they simply confirm what Dr Colvin has claimed: the raps have unusual characteristics.

So know comes the more interesting bit – can Campermon's scratching produce this amplitude signature? Well only one way to find out – Beer Mat Parapsychology! :)

OK, sample rate set to default, 44100. Microphone attached. Here goes! To start with I'll just bang on my table… ... onwood.gif -- image too big to include

OK, I had to increase the gain by 20 to make my pathetic little knock show clearly, but you can see what it looks like when cranked up to 11. That's a tired Jerome knocking on a cheap computer desk.

Now what if the distance makes a difference? I'll try knocking on a wood table five feet from the microphone. ... knock1.gif -- image too big to include

I did not increase the gain this time, just in case it has an effect on how this all works and distorts my results…

Now Ladies & Gentlemen, The Doors…

Now this one took a bit more setting up. I stood on the other side of a door, with the microphone about six inches away, and ot make sure it was loud enough hit the door once with a screwdriver handle, to make a nice loud knock, that travelled through the door to the microphone. ... 8/door.gif

Finally, Campermon's Scratching!

OK so now I have to create a short sharp scratching sound as postulated by Campermon. Will the hypothesis when tested produce the pattern we want??? I experimented with creating short scratches that could sound like raps (I was not convinced, but hey I tried). I then recorded a sequence of attempts by me…

And what do we get? ... atches.gif -- image too big to include

Just like normal raps. Campermon might be able to do it, I couldn't. Or could I? I spent a while trying…

And no luck.

Just one more thing...

EXCEPT – just at the end of my recording, when I had stopped scratching, suddenly I recorded a classic "polt" shape, with a slow build. I'm not sure how I did it – possibly jarring my rickety wooden desk. I have spent dozens of attempts trying to recreate it: to absolutely no effect. I have blown on the mike, kicked my feet, shaken the desk till it is near collapse, squirmed in my chair. Nothing. :However, assuming there is not a poltergeist in my basement, there is some way of doing it…

And why don't I show you this remarkable pattern? Because I deleted it, as I was messing about trying to paste the scratching, I closed the files. I have no reason to lie – after all it is severely weakens my case. It' really late now (well 2am, and I need sleep) but I have plenty of time on this Adobe Audition trial to try again, and I will, because I want to know what created it. Moronically having lost it I can't play it back to check what it sounded like, but one last guess springs to mind – was it the movement of my mouse? (A Campermon scratch, given the pitted surcace of the desk?)


this is shown with a gain of 10 to make it clearer) ... cratch.gif -- image too big to include

And it was not the mouse, but Campermon's hypothesis led me to to identify the source. It is the base of the microphone unit, made of plastic, scratching over the very rough desk surface! As Campermon correctly predicted, a scratching generates this kind of amplitude pattern.

A triumph for science over spookery?

Maybe. Firstly, you can compare the pattern I managed to achieve with the anomalous ones above. I suspect if I could set the timescale on the graphs to be similar, they would look more alike – so I tried. Sleep and work can wait! ... chmike.gif -- image too big to include

OK, so I have managed to create a similar pattern, by rubbing the base of the microphone against a rough surface. This is in line with the prediction of Campermon that abrasion is the key here -- but there remains one crucial difficulty.

I do not believe that anyone could mistake that sound for a rap or bang. It sounds like, well sandpaper on wood, or someone rubbing two bricks together.

It sounds nothing like the raps I am hearing from the poltergeist cases.

The problem is this may be subjective. I don't think it is, remotely, but we need to test it. I know I can rely on Campermon's honesty, and Twistor59 may want to join in this as well as we have exchanged a few emails during the debate.

So what I propose is this

Firstly, everyone tries this at home. The software is actually remarkably easy to use. Try to get the "anomalous" amplitude pattern, with something that sounds like a bang. Then record it as a .wav file and upload it somewhere. (I have that scratch if I can find somewhere that will host it – Wordpress do not support sound files.)

Secondly, we do two blind tests as an experiment. Ten sounds files, with two purportedly anomalous ones hidden in. 5 bangs, 5 scratches. Campermon decided which are which – I think that will be fairly easy. Secondly, he tries to identify which are the two spooky ones, based on Colvin's paper, and looking at the waveforms?

A Quick Aside

On the psychomanteum study, the number of expected correlations by chance was seven a I recall, and the number found was therefore highly significant. I'll leave discussion of it till another time, and for once sign off with half my word left unused.

Oh yes, and I have effectively conceded the debate because I seem to recall the rules state we can only use one picture per 500 words of text. That would limit me to six if I had used my whole word count, and I have used seven. I fully appreciate this is a blatant breach of the rules, but hell, I could not think of any other way to accurately show how various suggestions made in the thread about how the sound characteristics may occur without using ten. I hope Campermon (and the readers) will forgive me… I jsut wish I had made them small enough to include in the post for easier viewing :(

I will end by saying I still think Dr Colvin is on to something, but clearly a lot more work and some practical experimentation is needed. Thanks to Campermon for his tolerance of my lengthy delay, and let's see if we can actually get some answers to how the raps were produced, if not by Maxwell's Demon in a malevolent mood demonstrating the only statistical validity of the Second Law, or the unquiet spirit of Lion IRC rapping from beyond the grave. :cheers:

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Re: Formal debate: "Existence of ghosts & apparitions"

#15  Postby campermon » Aug 14, 2010 3:46 pm

First of all; apologies for a short post!

As you may be aware, Jerome and I have had a little diversion from regular debating practice in order to carry out some beer mat physics to investigate the claims made by Dr Barrie Colvin (see previous posts).

In order to keep everyone up to date, I decided that this post should be a quick Campermon Beer Mat Physics AnalysisTM of the results.

Jerome very kindly supplied the forum some of the ‘anomalous’ poltergeist raps that were used in the study and he also made a number of raps of his own.

Twistor very generously gave up his time to produce graphs of the waveforms of these sounds (using Oracle), take measurements of the attack times and calculate attack times as a percentage of the total sound length.

Many thanks also to Grahamh who, despite my cynicism ( ;) ), managed to superimpose an ‘anomalous’ rap waveform on top of a normal rap that he produced.

The full story can be found in the 'peanut gallery' from here; paranormal/peanut-gallery-existence-of-ghosts-apparitions-t6933-380.html#p393697

Beer Mat Physics Analysis…….

Being a beer mat experiment, I won’t go into detail about the method. Essentially, Jerome provided us with various raps in *.wav form which he made with his PC. Jerome then shared these and some ‘anomalous’ rap files with us. Using various free software, we looked at the waveforms to see if we could identify the ‘anomalous’ raps qualitatively. Twistor, very kindly, put the analysis on a quantitative level by taking some measurements of these sound waves:


The sound waves can be viewed here; http://www.weirdscience.pwp.blueyonder. ... waves.html

Before we move on, let’s look at what Colvin concluded in his paper;

“There appear to be reasonable grounds for concluding that the unexplained rapping effect produced at various apparent poltergeist cases in a variety of countries exhibit an unusual acoustic waveform pattern, characterized by a relatively slow rise to maximum amplitude, followed by an equally slow decline in amplitude.”

Colvin makes the claim that a characteristic of the ‘anomalous’ raps was ‘a relatively slow rise to maximum amplitude, followed by an equally slow decline in amplitude’. If this is the case, then a plot of ‘Attack time’ and ‘Attack time as a % of total’ should show plots of anomalous points in a clear ‘band’ well above other plotted points. This is what the results show (Poltergeist raps arrowed);


A larger version can be found here: http://www.weirdscience.pwp.blueyonder. ... catter.jpg

As you can see, the ‘anomalous’ sounds do not appear to ‘stick out’.

Intriguingly, there does appear to be a correlation between ‘attack time’ and ‘attack time as a % of total’. If indeed there is such a correlation, then sound ‘CJ03’ (Jerome’s ex wife bouncing upstairs) appears to be anomalous….. ;)

However, there are not enough data points to make any claims of correlation. The purpose of this plot was to show that there appears to be no characteristic features of the four identified ‘anomalous’ poltergeist raps that separate them from ‘normal’ raps.

I would suggest that if Colvin were to show that poltergeist raps were ‘anomalous’ then he should, as we have done in a half arsed manner (‘a bit Heath-Robinson’ as Twistor put it!), make quantitative measurements on these raps and compare them to many (100+) self produced raps. If the poltergeist raps are indeed different, then they should stick out like a ‘dog log in a swimming pool’.

Further thoughts on this….

One thing that has nagged me from the Colvin paper was this statement from the abstract;

‘Differences in low-frequency wave properties between the two classes of sounds have been noted.’

OK, this has bugged me because in the body of the paper he doesn’t mention much about this. He doesn’t explain in any detail how he treated the recordings, for example, did he filter out the low frequencies only for his analysis? If so, what band of frequencies? Colvin does not make it at all clear, which is one of my original criticisms of the paper.

One explanation for any anomalous low frequency waves observed on the poltergeist recordings may lie in the fact that they were originally recorded on analogue gear and then digitized. Colvin states that he did digitize some himself, but other, digitized sources, were provided by others. Perhaps these recordings suffered from ‘aliasing’? Aliasing occurs in the digitization of a signal when the input signal frequency is higher than the sampling rate. It results in the addition of low frequency signals appearing on the digitized copy. More here;

In Conclusion….

We didn’t find anything anomalous about the poltergeist raps and Colvin’s findings have not been reported in sufficient detail. Perhaps Colvin should take the advice of Grahamh and reanalyze his findings according to this method;

‘For starters...

1. Define a measurement methodology
2. Quantify Colvin's results, following 1. (since it seems he failed to do this!). Establish a two-set classification.
3. Describe the natural source hypotheses.
4. Confirm the predictions of 3. with tests and quantitative results.
5. Establish if any particular natural methodology is precluded by the details of the incidents his results relate to
6. Try various natural methods to reproduce the effects Colvin reports, both his raps and the polt recordings.
7. Quantify the degree of agreement achieved in populating both classes defined in 2.
8. Conclude that there are no anomalous sounds in Colvin's polt data if all can be reproduced by feasible natural methods.’

Where to know?

To those readers who have studied all the posts in this debate you will spot a pattern. Evidence for the supernatural largely rests on story and anecdote. Where evidence of the scientific kind has been presented by the ‘paranormalists’, as in the Colvin case, it demonstrates poor methodology and even poorer reporting of the results. In contrast, the reader will see that there is a wealth of science that adequately explains much of the phenomena we have discussed.

We haven’t yet seen any cases, with quality supporting evidence, that may support the statement that some ghosts may represent discarnate consciousness. Metatron said it best;

“Whenever the scientific method is applied properly to the field, parapsychology delivers nothing.”
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Re: Formal debate: "Existence of ghosts & apparitions"

#16  Postby jerome » Sep 05, 2010 2:25 pm

Defender's #8 post: 2959 words - Mr.Samsa

Knocked off?

Even by the standards of the debate it has been a long time, while I took s much needed holiday away from the net to run a games convention. After the frenetic and extremely valuable burst of activity on the commentary thread while we analysed Dr Colvin’s paper I hope I can be forgiven!
In his last post Campemon gave a superb and concise description of our attempts with GrahamH and Twistor59 to test the claims made by Colvin in the JSPR. I created the control files myself, and then gave them blind to he other three – and my method for creating the control files was extremely simple – I banged on furniture! One file was created by my ex-wife bouncing upstairs on the floor and me recording the noise in the basement, another dropped from the analysis was an abrasion; we dropped this simply because it did not sound like a rap in any sense, though it certainly showed the purportedly characteristic waveform.

Dr. Barrie Colvin wrote:
“There appear to be reasonable grounds for concluding that the unexplained rapping effect produced at various apparent poltergeist cases in a variety of countries exhibit an unusual acoustic waveform pattern, characterized by a relatively slow rise to maximum amplitude, followed by an equally slow decline in amplitude.”

We only tested attack time. I am not convinced that it would have made much difference if we had tested the decline as well: it was Twistor59 who meticulously developed a set of parameters for what constitutes “attack time” and applied them to the data; this numerical analysis proved invaluable. I fully agree with Campermon when he writes

Campermon wrote:
I would suggest that if Colvin were to show that poltergeist raps were ‘anomalous’ then he should, as we have done in a half arsed manner (‘a bit Heath-Robinson’ as Twistor put it!), make quantitative measurements on these raps and compare them to many (100+) self produced raps. If the poltergeist raps are indeed different, then they should stick out like a ‘dog log in a swimming pool’.

I am intrigued by Campermon’s suggestion of aliasing: it should have been addressed in the paper; though to be fair to Dr Colvin, he s carefully conducting further research. I have invited the main contributors to our “beer mat physics” experiments and one other authority on acoustics physics to collaborate on a paper critiquing the claims, which hopefully we can put together quite quickly. It was certainly extremely useful to bring our full critical attention to bear on the paper, and I think I can safely accept that the paper I brought to the debate has been demolished by the experiments I instigated and the critical thinking of Campermon and the commentary participants. I am confident that our critique will be published; since Honorton 1981 the parapsychological journals have published negative findings almost irrespective of the quality of the paper, to prevent file drawer effects (most important in something like the Ganzfeld meta-analyses). So we have made what I feel is a very important contribution to the field of parapsychology.

How does it work?

Campermon has not really addressed why some waveforms (NOT just ‘poltergeist’ ones!) acquire this odd slow attack/decline pattern: which is odd as he is the sceptic and also his suggestion of abrasion (which was a brilliant one, and certainly correct in that rubbing two rough surfaces together generate the waveform in question, just sounds wrong) led me to decide to run the simple tests we used. I will therefore address it: please note that what I know about acoustic physics could be written on the back of my fingernails, so please feel free to correct me in the commentary thread!

I think two factors are involved, a) the presence of blank wall space that ‘reflects’ the sounds, creating a sustained rise – but I cant be sure that is a factor, I just think it possible b) the transmission of the sounds through two mediums (as demonstrated by the wav file of my wife bouncing above me through the floor). In most cases my final success in replicating the noises came from hitting an object some distance from the mc stand which rested on my desk – I suspect but do not know that the varying rates of propagation of the sound waves through two different mediums (the air and the desk) led to attenuation of the sound and the waveform characteristic displayed.

In fact the first reason I suspected this was the comments on my blog Polterwotsit when the commenter JG wrote
JG wrote: There is one thing I don’t understand though. The ‘normal’ sounds are indeed what you would expect if you hit something with nothing but a short stretch of air between you and the tape recorder. However, in poltergeist cases, aren’t the sounds usually said to come from inside or behind walls or furniture? If so, there is at least one layer of wood or plaster, etc between the origin of the sound and the air. This would have the effect of damping down the higher frequencies in the sound. Since the lower frequencies of a percussive sound take longer to reach full intensity, isn’t the slower build up overall what we might expect? Thus, the sound intensity build up would be normal at the point of origin of the sound but altered, with a lower build up and higher frequencies missing, once it had gone through a layer of wood. The same affect would occur if someone actually hit the other side of a wall from the room where the tape recorder was positioned.

Just to clarify my previous comments: when sound waves move through a solid, they split into two modes – transverse and longitudinal. These travel at different speeds (one approximately twice the speed of the other). Thus not all the sound will arrive together, so making the build up to peak intensity slower than if it was travelling purely through air. So, if the rap goes through a wall or item of furniture, you would expect a slower build up in sound intensity compared to simply going through air.

You can try this as an experiment by comparing someone hitting a wall inside a room and then again outside.

Absolutely JG, you hit the nail on the head, and my slow response to your comments has been caused by my testing this with the folks here!

And I would have gotten away with it…

Dr Colvin’s paper was very interesting, and I’m glad we dedicated so much time to it. Of course it proved worthless to my case: I am even now dedicating words where I should be making a positive case to analysing a failed line of argument: but let’s face it, if I had never brought it to the table we would never have critiqued it, and the critique is to my mind as valuable as the original claims.

We simply don’t know exactly where the microphone was positioned in most of these cases; however further acoustic analysis should perhaps use the cases where the filming of the person holding the microphone allows for a better understanding of the condition under which they were recorded. Was the mic on a table? Held in the air? On October 31st a Radio Four broadcast I was present during the recording of will feature some purportedly anomalous knocks (and hopefully make you laugh, you will understand when it is aired I promise!) where I happen to know the conditions under which it was recorded. I look forward to analysing those sounds, but don’t expect to find anything unusual.

Now of course some people will inevitably cite all this as proof that poltergeist cases are nonsense: that is clearly untrue. What we have demonstrated is that the sounds that were claimed as anomalous are not anomalous after all, or at least were replicable without any real effort by very simple techniques perfectly consistent with the conditions in which they were recorded – banging on walls or furniture!

This makes me wonder about the assumptions that underlie the original claim, that poltergeists make sounds somehow different to ‘normal’ sounds. So I looked carefully at what Dr Colvin proposed; he suggests the sounds may originate from within the substance of a material, say a table for example, from which the raps appear to emanate. This is indeed consistent with the waveform characteristics – unfortunately so is someone knocking on an adjoining wall, or even within the same room.

Dr Colvin has suggested experiments with “sitters” at séances designed to cause physical phenomena trying to create anomalous sounds. Oddly I don’t think Colvin holds to the spirit hypothesis; he is working on the assumption that poltergeists are a result of an unknown living agent performing some form of psychokinesis as far as I understand. I may be wrong! However if the waveforms were anomalous a whole new technique for investigating PK would open up: Colvin is working within a naturalistic paradigm, where he believes that poltergeists work within the laws of physics – as we would expect from a parapsychologist. He does not claim in any way that these sounds are “supernatural” – merely that they are consistent with having originated in a physical change within the structure of an object. Sure, that is true: however as I hope we have demonstrated they are also consistent with plenty of other options. One, banging on the walls, makes me think…

Back to Andover!

It is an important precept of rational discourse that one attacks the ideas, not the person holding them. However in this case I was curious about how Dr Colvin came to look for unusual characteristics in the rapping phenomena (and secondly, why the paper was not subjected to some simple tests and greater critique in peer review, but I am afraid that lacking is normal in many fields.). It was a great idea: but why did Dr Colvin develop it?
The answer appears to me simple: back in ’74 he investigated a poltergeist case in Andover, England. We have referenced it and discussed it in passing earlier in the debate (for a brief discussion read the blog post here -- ... r-pol.html )

What struck me as interesting was that the phenomena there chiefly occurred in a room that was adjacent to another house in a semi-detached property; because the family wanted no publicity, delaying the publication of Colvin’s paper on that case for over twenty years. However, it remains possible the neighbours were involved in faking the phenomenon – people being people, and the neighbours being unaware one assumes of the investigation, it my take a television account of the case before the neighbours come forward if they were involved, if they do even then..

Against that possibility is the original newspaper story featuring the ghost – Mystery ghost making their lives a misery. Andover Advertiser (26 April, 1974) which means that if the neighbours were hoaxing they had good reason to know what was occurring next door.

(The case had been covered in Dr Terry White’s The Sceptical Occultist, in the mid-1990’s but pseudonyms were used.) The family still want no publicity – and so while I have seen plenty of evidence that the case occurred and developed as Colvin reports (photographs, an unpublished manuscript of Colvin’s write up on the case that accidentally came in to my possession fifteen years ago, and footage and recordings that he shared at the SPR Study Day on Poltergeists) what led Colvin to eschew the neighbours as a likely source, and look for something odd in the sounds?
It certainly was an explanation considered at the time – in fact the very first explanation that occurred to the family. I have edited the girl’s names down to initials to protect their identities – the internet is rather wider circulation than the JSPR, though these may be pseudonyms anyway, I have not checked.

Colvin, JSPR, vol. 72; No.890; January 2008 wrote:
The sounds were first heard by T and M during the Easter weekend. The two girls explained that light tapping sounds were first heard when they lay quietly in bed on Good Friday, 12 April. At first they thought that the sounds were being made by someone next door, especially since the tapping sounds always emanated from the wall adjacent to T's bed. However, the girls soon became convinced that this was not the real explanation because they obtained knocking replies to questions which Theresa whispered so softly that her sister M, lying in the adjacent bed, could hardly hear. They felt that in these circumstances no one in the adjacent house could have heard them talking. M and T explained that at first they were not at all troubled by these events, which occurred nightly. In fact, they positively enjoyed the experience and looked forward to going to bed each evening.

So yes, that was the very first possibility considered. However what made the case startling was the fact that the ‘poltergeist’ communicated with a simple alphabetical code of knocks – A was 1, B was 2, and so on. I have heard recordings (at the study Day) of these coded messages, and they were delivered swiftly and without error; something I would find impossible I fear, but which is not beyond the sound of possibility for someone willing to train themselves in the skill I expect. Dr Colvin now tried an interesting experiment

Colvin, JSPR, vol. 72; No.890; January 2008 wrote:
Having prepared a total of 40 shuffled cards, each one depicting a number from 1 to 10 (i.e. 4 sets), I carried out several runs in the following manner: Theresa was lying on her bed, face down, with her head turned slightly towards the wall. Mrs Andrews and Kevin sat on Maria's bed and I stood close to the window, facing Theresa. I picked a card at random and showed it to everyone in the room, including Theresa, without actually stating what the number was. I held it up so that it faced the wall and asked Eric to tap out the number on the card. Four slow but definite raps were heard to come from the wall. The last rap was louder than the others. After the fourth rap, I continued to hold the card in place in case any further raps were forthcoming. When it was clear that the rapping had finished, I confirmed to Eric that the answer was correct. This procedure was repeated five times and on each occasion Eric produced the correct number of raps.

The tests were then continued in a slightly different manner. I picked a card out of the pack and, ensuring that Theresa was facing the wall, looked at the number in such a manner that no one else in the room could see it. Again I held it up, facing the wall and asked Eric to tap out the number. In one series of 7 tests, all calls were correct. However, in another set of 10 tests, two numbers were incorrect, each being one short of the required value. As a final test, I repeated the procedure but in this case I didn't look at the cards before holding them up to the wall. In this set, again two numbers were wrong out of a total of ten. By this time I had become certain that, whatever was responsible for the rapping sounds, they were not coming from someone on the other side of the wall. The fact that these number tests had been largely successful, and that the raps had been produced during previous visits on surfaces other than the wall, led to the conclusion that the occupants of the house next door were not responsible.

I think this falsifies the neighbour hypothesis. Indeed assuming Dr Colvin’s honesty, it makes the whole thing a bizarre episode and extremely suggestive of a discarnate intelligence, or living agent using some kind of ESP; even Dr Colvin can not see the card in the final test.

Colvin, JSPR, vol. 72; No.890; January 2008 wrote:
It is clear that in the Andover case we are not discussing the sudden unexpected movement of objects within the house; we are discussing a lengthy series of knocking sounds, capable of providing intelligent messages using a code. The idea that non-personal mechanical forces could explain these responsive phenomena cannot be seriously considered. The only normal explanation that was ever justified for further consideration was that of deception and only then during the initial phases of the investigation. During the period when rapping sounds were heard from the partitioning wall only, the deception theory was regarded as a possible explanation of events — not because there was any evidence positively to suggest this, but simply important and ultimately significant that the rapping sounds be made to emanate from objects other than the partitioning wall between the Andrews' home and that of their neighbours.

And so the case must rely on Dr Colvin’s observations. That this experience has led him to analyse the raps and resulted in the paper we have critiqued is obvious – but clearly even after 36 years Dr Colvin continues to seek answers to his experiences in Andover. Why have I placed so much emphasis on this? We must not throw out the baby with the bath water – a promising line of enquiry has closed it seems, unless future analysis shows some fault in our conclusions, but we are no nearer to understanding the original poltergeist case that led us here.

We are running out of debate: after this interesting excursion I will return to my main argument next post, and look at some findings of Dr Richard Wiseman. For those who want to do some homework, look at the papers linked here

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Re: Formal debate: "Existence of ghosts & apparitions"

#17  Postby campermon » Oct 26, 2010 1:57 pm

First of all I must apologize for the long delay in posting this response and secondly I will ask for your indulgence!! In defense of my tardiness, I can only say that my work associated with the beginning of the school year has dominated virtually every waking hour since the beginning of September. The work load has begun to ease off now, which means I have a little more time to devote to other stuff, such as living!!

I ask for your indulgence because this post may appear, at first, to veer off topic as I tell you the story of how I came to be where I am; both in terms of my position in this debate and literally! Are you sitting comfortably? Excellent, I shall begin........

My story begins a long, long time ago. I would like to add ‘in a galaxy far, far away’ because I’m a ‘Star Wars’ nerd, but I can’t because this story begins way long before any galaxies existed.

Let’s miss out the very beginning of the universe, because that is quite tricksy ( ;) ). Instead, let us zoom ahead to around 10-37seconds later when the universe was a broiling plasma out of which the first elementary particles began to condense and the matter dominated the anti-matter.

Several minutes later the first atoms of He, along with protons (H atoms) begin to form. Electrons have got their act sorted out and the forces have decided their future careers. The universe is in a position to become even more interesting, as far as the making of Campermon is concerned.

To save time, I’ll fast forward through an absolutely humungous amount of it; Thus we jump ahead by about 9 billion years from t=0 and arrive at approx 4.5 billion years ago. To summarize, in the meantime; the universe had expanded and cooled by many orders of magnitude; gravity has condensed huge amounts of H and He gas which under contraction has heated it enough to fuse and form the first stars; the first stars have gone nova, thus spreading the goodies made via nucleosynthesis far and wide; there’s now an abundance of heavier, more ‘versatile’ elements, just hanging around in clouds waiting for gravitational collapse to shape them into second generation stars leaving just a little extra matter over to grow planets.

Ok, we’re 4.5 billions years ago now and the Earth, to be honest, is in a right state – high temperatures, impacts from space and all sorts of crazy chemistry occurring. Certainly not the sort of place you’d want to go for a visit. We need to wait for another half billion years before some very clever chemistry gets going and thus we have the first semblance of self replicating ‘life’. We need to stick around another half a billion until we get something that may resemble our most ancient ancestors.

.....I’m not going to dwell on the details of what happened over the proceeding eons of time (I understand that one or two books have been written about it…), but I will summarize it thus with a quote from Dawkins with the addition of a few words of my own;

“Life results from the non-random survival of randomly varying replicators” and the interplay of ‘non-random’ selection and ‘randomly varying’ variation begat a whole host of interesting (although now largely extinct) organisms which eventually led to our species arising about 100-150 000 years ago. From the loins of these early humans it is only a short hop and skip (in geological time) to a pair of 20th century gonads which are crucial to the arrival of Campermon on the cosmic scene…

1942 was not a good year for many. The Japanese were attacking the US, the Nazi’s were shifting the holocaust into top gear and war raged across every continent on the planet. It was, however, a fantastically good year for both Enrico Fermi and I. Good for Fermi because he managed to create the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction in a nuclear pile built on the racquet courts of the University of Chicago. Even better for me, because during that year another, far more complex, self sustaining system was quietly constructing itself out of some basic elements (C, O, H, N and a few trace elements) as the bombs were deconstructing Europe. Whilst the rest of the world was descending into the madness of total war, one particular specialized cell quietly got on with its job of migrating to a suitable place on it’s ‘building site’. Once there, it began the process of meiosis which subsequently halted, waiting for the right moment to proceed……

.......Something similar had happened in another ‘construction site’ in 1938. But for the ‘potential’ me, things didn’t start to get interesting until the 1950’s and we have to wait until the 1960’s, 1969 to be precise, until the real action begins.

They say that if you remember the 60’s then you weren’t there. I was there, but unfortunately I didn’t have the apparatus to ‘not even’ remember them. Moving on; about the same time that Judy Garland was thinking of killing herself by an overdose, one particular spermatocyte favourably positioned in Pa Campermons gonads began, for whatever reason, the process of dividing itself to form a haploid cell. Over the next couple of months, this cell quietly got on with what it was doing. Meanwhile; Prince Charles got invested, a couple of blokes landed on the moon and the halfpenny became obsolete. By about August time, the real action began. I’ll miss out the details, I can imagine that all of us find it at the very least mildly distasteful to think of our own parents getting up to such stuff…. Let’s just say, that around the time that the Woodstock festival was in full swing, two tiny, insignificant haploid cells (one that had been sitting around for nearly three decades and the other ‘freshly minted’ if you will), managed to fuse and thus brought about the potentiality that would become ‘Campermon’. Yay! If it had been any other two (after all there were millions of each gamete to choose from), ‘I’ wouldn’t be writing this. That’s quite an incredible thing to think about… ( ;) )

The Autumn / Winter of ’69 and the Spring of 1970 was a fairly busy time for me, after all I was constructing myself, quite unconsciously, from a few basic ingredients using some remarkable biological software (open source of course!). Even more remarkable, it only took approximately 40 weeks for me to fabricate for myself the various apparatus which in the future would enable me to do all sorts of neat stuff like; detect radiations, sense pressures, orient myself in a gravity field, respire and so on.

So it was written, that whilst Swigert and Lovell reported hearing a ‘bang’ as they stirred the O2 tanks, a boy was born in Birmingham. What’s more, the boy was equipped with a neural net containing some basic firmware and, crucially, a certain plasticity that enabled it to ‘rewire’ itself based on stimulus gained from the environment via various sense organs.

The 70’s were really quite a poor decade for music (although Led Zep and the Floyd knocked out a few classics) but a great time for me. During the early part of the decade my brain worked out how to make sense of gigabytes of sensory data being chucked at it (I attribute my fondness for Autumn on the fact that my earliest dwelling was decorated in the oranges and browns that were most fashionable at the time ;) ). Once these fundamentals were wired in, I began to get to grips with language, walking, toileting myself etc... More crucially, my brain began to create the sense of self, ‘I’ became ‘me’ if you see what I mean. Every parent knows when this happens; it’s called the ‘terrible two’s’!

By the 1980’s (a truly appalling decade for music :nono: ) my neural machine was operating at full capacity, enabling me to do all sorts of neat stuff like synthesize knowledge and concepts. Let’s head to the 90’s and 2000’s. During this period I did lot’s of things to hamper the efficient operation of my control unit. However, the music did get slightly better and I also enjoyed taking part in the same sort of shenanigans that got me here…..

Let us come to the ‘now’, whatever that is, and see how the story of Campermon has a bearing on this debate.

A simple conclusion; this is where I am coming from; “I am, therefore I think!”. The ‘am’ that I am is what my body makes for me. That intricate arrangement of matter, made possible by Ma and Pa Campermon which in turn was made possible by the near endless precession of their ancestors which in turn was made possible by the complex chemistry on an early Earth which was made possible by the elements synthesized in stars which in turn was made possible etc…You get the idea.

It took approximately 13 700 000 000 years for the universe to create me! (and you too!). There is, and only will be, one Campermon (MrsC is always telling me that I’m ‘one of a kind’… :ask: ). I am constructed out of a collection of units and sub-units that will exist only once in this particular configuration, in this particular universe. The ‘I’ that is ‘me’, is an illusion conjured by the brain that I possess. It is such a convincing illusion that I can not imagine being no longer ‘I’. In essence, I have a delusion that ‘I’ am something separate from the arrangement of mainly C O N H that is ‘me’. Ultimately, the system which has been sustained by a constant throughput of mass and energized by photons from our Sun will fail. When it does, what is ‘Campermon’ will fail with it. I can assure you that there will be no ghosty Campermon following the tragic increase in entropy that will inevitably befall this bag of organic chemistry that I carry around. If anything remains of Campermon, it will be encoded in the fragments carried by his children or the arrangement of neural fibres of others for a short while.

Even though the story has such a sad ending ( ;) ), isn’t it such a great one? What makes this story even more remarkable is that it based on evidence gained from reality. Do we need to include trivialities such as ‘discarnate consciousness’ into this story? It’d suit me just fine if we could. After all, who likes the idea that one day they will cease to exist? It’s a much more pleasant thought to believe that after the body is gone, ones ‘spirit’ consciousness will persist in some state. Unfortunately, the evidence appears to be telling us that it just ain’t going to happen.

The story I have told (badly, I know! ;) ), is a tale which tells us that such things as ‘discarnate consciousness’s’ most probably don’t exist. To paraphrase Feynman, if you don’t like the story ‘then go somewhere else!’ because this is the way nature has revealed itself to us. Of course there are lots of gaps in this story. Making up stuff to fill them isn’t going to get us very far. This brings me to my final point.

Throughout the debate we have been presented with the ‘evidence’ in support of supernatural events. Repeatedly it has been shown that the ‘evidence’ is of poor scientific quality and that the investigators are trying to obtain evidence to fit their own conclusions. In doing so, they are attempting to shoehorn their particular (badly written) chapter into the ‘story’. I say to them; “Shame on you!”.

We live in a truly fascinating universe. A universe that has created bumble bees that solve complex problems that have confounded mathematicians for centuries. No really!; ... th-problem

With mysteries such as these, do we really need to bother ourselves investigating the clearly man-made ones such as ghosts and ghoulies?

I may have quoted the following before. I won’t apologize if I have because this quote always deserves an outing;

“Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”

Douglas Adams


'A Universe From Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009

Richard Feynman on doubt, uncertainty and religion

You don't like it? Go somewhere else! by Richard Feynman

Carl Sagan on Evolution ... an_problem

‘Entropy in Biology’
Scarlett and Ironclad wrote:Campermon,...a middle aged, middle class, Guardian reading, dad of four, knackered hippy, woolly jumper wearing wino and science teacher.
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Re: Formal debate: "Existence of ghosts & apparitions"

#18  Postby jerome » May 02, 2012 6:50 pm

Firstly, I apologize for being a little late in my response to Campermon (about 15 months i think) If Croc and LionIRC had not started another debate, I may well have forgotten to ever reply! It is hard to respond adequately
to Campermon's beautiful poetic history of everything: I will however, because after we met up a few weeks ago I
promised I would. This is my penultimate post of the debate - and what a ride it has been. If you were not paying attention, well I think you might enjoy reading what went before, which had some real rational scepticism applied.

In Campermon's last post "Life the Universe and Campermon" he gave a really cool, informed and poetic account of the mechanisms by which the universe arose, life arose, and Campermon arose. We agree on the mechanics: it is the meaning of these things, and my belief that the problem of consciousness is far from resolved (I'm a neutral monist philosophically) that differentiates our perspective on those mechanisms: I'm theist, Campermon atheist. Neither really has any bearing on the question of life after death -- I debated that on the old RD forum as a few of you may recall (and the existence of God too if I remember correctly).

Spooks can be fully consistent with an atheist worldview - indeed we could be dealing with entities more like something from Doctor Who than the smiling departed grannies reported by cheap psychic shysters to bereaved clients. I don't claim to know what causes these experiences, but it to my mind appears like an intelligence. I could be wrong - the purpose might be a result of our anthropomorphizing utterly senseless events, but I'm pretty sure something deeply weird is going on. I don't actually find that a very comforting thought -- I have no emotional desire to believe in "things" toying with us...

Except I'm probably the only person on this forum mad enough to even consider the possibility, or have immersed myself in the evidence. I knew this would be a hard case to argue, but hey I'm going to have a go...

So, let's start with where Campermon left off

campermon wrote:

With mysteries such as these, do we really need to bother ourselves investigating the clearly man-made ones such
as ghosts and ghoulies?

Well, I don't think they are clearly man made, in the normal sense of being cultural artifacts. I have been
experimenting, as you might have guessed and researching, and one thing that has been clear to me is that actually
the ghost and the poltergeist experience does seem to stand somewhat independent of culture and geography: while
the folklore of nations is wildly variable, a poltergeist case or apparitional sighting in 19th century Poona is
much the same as one in 20th century Berlin or 15th century England.

That may tell us something about the nature of the experience - an underlying shared pathology, something inherent
to humans, a psychological condition that makes them hallucinate figures, hear voices and see things being chucked
about, or rocks falling through ceilings. We might speculate the mechanism is the same as that which leads to
sightings of faieries, or faeries in modern garb in those Pesky UFO cases, or the Marian Apparitions, or Sasquatch
claims. Thes ethings don't seem to reside in the physical universe, so maybe they are all weird beasticles of the
psyche, bubbling up from the reptile brain and irrupting in to every day life as phantasmal symbols serving who
knows what purpose?

I gave early on my reason for thinking not all ghosts are hallucinations. I could well be wrong, but I still think
the case I made is strong. I don't think the spooks are man made: if they are, I don't think they are all emergiong
from our cultural and fictional preconceptions, sympathetic as I am to psycho-social explanations in the Magonian
style. I'll give one simple reason why, though I could cite many many more -- my girlfriend is currently
researching for her Ph.D. the apparitional experience, and she ran a very short test survey before she began the Ph.D.
(which I will not have the results of till she submits for data confidentiality reasons), that I do have the data
from. I have similar data from earlier research - here is a list of British studies. I have never seen the data
from Wiseman & Watt - it was presented at conference, but never published but I have seen the others --

    1894 The SPR’s Census of Hallucinations

    1948 D.J West’s Mass Observation Survey

    1974 McCreeley & Green

    1990’s D.J. West’s Pilot Survey

    2002 Dr Hilary Evans Seeing Ghosts

    2008 Wiseman and Watt Online study

    2008 Dave Wood (ASSAP Chair)

    2009 Romer & Smith: The Accidental Census

Now given that these are all British studies, that deal with people who believe they have experienced apparitions,
what might we expect to find drawing from our knowledge of ghost fiction? Transparent spooks! Rooms that go icy
cold! Terrible mind shattering fear in the witness!

And do we? Nope. These staples of horror movies occur quite rarely in the cases. Let's take temperature drops --
something I think generally associated with ghosties in popular imagination. Or icy chills in the witness at least? Well from 1894 when the idea was well established, to 2009, these occur in less than 1% of cases reported. There are many other similar oddities I noted over my reading, but we appear to have a consistent pattern of phenomena that are not given much attention in campfire ghost stories like the SOD (small object displacement) discussed earlier, and a consistent body of phenomena that we might expect - like cold spots - which while much loved by ghosthunters of the "Most Haunted" type, don't actually show up in these reports from people who had their experience while not looking for it. Other oddities: old houses, ruined castles and graveyards are no more likely to be "haunted" than modern places as mundane as offices, flats and shopping malls. Ghosts seem to appear irrespective of time of day, with a roughly even distribution between night and day once you remove probable sleep paralysis cases from the data set. The witness is nearly always engaged in day to day activities: and claims the experience is unexpected.

An analysis of phenomena recorded by Smith (2008) among groups "ghosthunting", and the records of people experiencing spontaneous ghost experiences reveal the two set of phenomena to be almost completely disparate. The first set deals with liminal ambigous stimuli - a single rap, a rustling crisp packet,a shadowy figure - the second set are far more dramatic, and far more "normal" in terms of sensory observations. Whatever most ghost hunters are finding, it does not seem to be the same as what those who have the experiences uncalled for are reporting - and they report large numbers of drops in temperature, transparent misty or shadowy figures and so forth - absent from the "spontaneous" witness reports.

I could go on, but I would bore you. For these reasons I don't think the mystery is down to people telling tall tales though, and indeed Robin Wooffitt's excellent book on Conversation Analysis in these matters, Telling Tales
of the Unexpected
, while showing that supernatural experiences are reported in certain linguistic ways as one might
expect, seems to me to offer scope for examining the truth content of the reports - something Wooffitt is not himself interested in as I understand it, being instead concerned wit the structure of the narratives not the veridicality of the underlying experiences.

So my position has not moved an inch. I still think that somehow there is some external intelligence involved, be it the human mind operating at a distance, or some other discarnate intelligence. I have incidentally over the last year completed a few theoretical essays and some research, and have totally dropped the traditional distinction between apparitions and poltergeists -- they appear to fall upon a spectrum, with physical effects almost ubiquitous even in what are classified as apparitional cases, and I suspect the distinction arose for theoretical reasons in the early history of parapsychology/psychical research, but is not borne out by the evidence. (I have discussed this in detail elsewhere).

Now I have dug out the paper on Psychomanteum research that seemed to show a correlation between apparitional experience periods and unusual environmental conditions (see post 8) I won't invoke it here though, cos I want Campermon to have a chance to read the full paper, so I will pass it on. I'm not convinced that pirates and global warming explains it away, but with the full data Campermon might be able to think of another reasonable cause. So moving on, last time I promised to invoke the Great Richard Wiseman and use his research to argue for my "ghosts". (This is a bit like using Dawkins to argue for Catholicism in most peoples eyes...)

I cited at the end of post 8 three papers by Wiseman et al,and invited people to read them. The full texts are
available here --

Now let's be fair: most people probably don't have the time, but you can at least check what I am saying, and be certain there is no jiggery pokery or quote mining going down from me here. Now the first one links to some famous papers, including Vic Tandy on infrasound, but I feel that subsequent research has pretty firmly debunked much that has been written about that as a cause for hauntings. Variable magnetic fields seem popular too; the point is that there may well be some environmental stimuli that causes people to have this experience. I'm guessing without reading back I covered this in depth earlier in the debate: if not I'm happy to get involved in the peanut thread, but I spent much of the 1990's looking for a naturalistic environmental cause for the "ghost" experience. I ruled out a lot of options, that is true, and while those more technically proficient than me have taken it much further, I like to think I did some useful work in reducing the hypotheses that remain viable. I never experimented with recording infrasound or gauss levels, because the equipment and calibration required is expensive and time recording, but that is what Wiseman et al did. So page one introduce major themes - oh and links to McCues paper which I like cos it cites me :)

Anyway let's move on: page 2 links to something rather more interesting, Wiseman et al's research at Hampton Court Palace. Now the technical set up they employed has been critiqued as somewhat inadequate, but overall the research is sound. Let's quote a bit to save you having to leave this page

The study involved over 600 members of the public walking through certain areas of the Palace and noting down their
location whenever they experienced any unusual phenomena. At night, a wide range of monitoring equipment (including
thermal imagers and electromagnetic sensors) were placed in these locations to monitor the environment.

Results revealed that:

- people consistently experienced unusual sensations in certain locations

- people who believed in the existence of ghosts reported more experiences than disbelievers

- some of these experiences were caused by natural phenomena, such as subtle draughts and changes in air

- there was some tentative evidence linking the locations in which participants reported their experiences with
certain types of geomagnetic activity.

Now I recommend downloading the papers. Here is the BJP one. ... ntings.pdf

Now let's look at the Journal of Parapsychology one

Let's assume you have lives: just read the last paragraph of each for now. It is a write up of the same data, the same experiment, by the same authors, but the first was published in a mainstream psychology journal, the second in a peer reviewed parapsychology journal. I don't know if you can detect any subtle differences in tone, but one thing is interesting: suggestibility does not explain the fact that people consistently selected the same "haunted" spots, without knowing where they are supposed to be. Yet no consistent environmental cues were detected: and while Braithwaite has critiqued the monitoring equipment, no strong evidence for magnetic fields or other environmental factors was discovered.

So as Wiseman says, people could tell where the ghost were supposed to be in a double blind experiment: this is proof there are no ghosts, but unknown environmental factors are at work. :scratch: :D Er, yeah quite. The experiment can't prove or disprove spooks, but it does seem to suggest the environmental variables usually invoked are in fact NOT the cause of the ghosthunters" weird sensations. I would put it down to suggestibility: the paper denies that. The fact that more people who believe in ghost than do not believe in ghosts report sensations strikes me as trivial and non-interesting: it is exactly in line with any other influence of perception by a priori expectation result surely? People who don't believe in ghosts are less likely to report ghost experiences. ;)

Interested? If so join Campermon in reading through the two papers and looking for what they have missed. Or have Wiseman et all really found evidence for the spooks of Hampton Palace after all?

OK Let's move on to the Edinburgh Vaults and page 3. ( ) Have a look at the link above to get the background: then read the full paper which is here... ... ntings.pdf

The question is, have the authors really moved us forward in identifying the environmental variables involved? I don't think they have really: the evidence is at best suggestive, but to my mind weak. It could just as well be that what the people were detecting was the presence of spooks. :D Now actually I don't think that likely, because the "ghosthunt" produced ghosthunting style phenomena, not those of the spontaneous cases, and as I stated above the two are quite distinct. Still as many people are likely to invoke these experiments to explain both disparate types of experience, I think it is worth reading through the papers, and the sy seem to suggest something is going on, something that can quite easily be measured by humans, but which is currently evading simple explanation.

Anyway, this is a long enough post. I'll leave it there, and in my final post I'll sum up, and make a case for why I think all this matters, and try and convince you all of the reality of the spooks. My question to Campermon – how do you account for the findings of Wiseman et al? :)

j x
Yours sincerely, Jerome -- a threat to reason & science

I am an Anglican Prejudice declared - My blog:
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