Posted: Jun 12, 2010 10:22 am
by jerome
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!)