Posted: Jun 19, 2010 5:36 pm
by campermon
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.