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RRC Talk: Ghosts, poltergeists & hauntings 2013


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The slideshow for a talk given for the Rhine Research Center, March 8th, 2013

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RRC Talk: Ghosts, poltergeists & hauntings 2013

  1. 1. Ghosts, Poltergeists and Hauntings:A Romp through the History of Psychical Research Nancy L. Zingrone, PhD Presentation for the Rhine Research Center March 8th, 2013
  2. 2. The talk:O Selected Ghosts, Poltergeists and Hauntings Across Cultures and TimeO The Well-Heeled 19th Century Ghost Enthusiast & The Beginnings of Psychical ResearchO 20th Century MethodsO Ghost Whispering, Ghost Hunters and Psychical Research
  3. 3. Some definitions:O Ghost: an apparition of a deceased personO Haunting: a recurrent set of phenomena that may or may not include an apparitionO Poltergeist: an unnerving, sometimes dangerous, sometimes destructive, set of phenomena, that may or may not include an apparitionO Apparition: a visual representation of a person or persons, who may or may not be deceased at the time they appear
  4. 4. Ghosts, Hauntings & Poltergeists O Is a deceased individual at the center of the experiences? O Is the phenomena place-centered or person- centered? O Are the perceptions single or multi- sensory? O Is the phenomena recurrent? O Is it responsive or nonresponsive? O Is there a “communicating” intelligence?
  5. 5. 1998, University of Texas Press 1992, Prism Press 1984, Prometheus Press Covers retrieved from 1848, T.C. Newby
  6. 6. 1979, Routledge, Kegan, Paul 1982, Heinemann 1963, University Books Covers retrieved from 2002, John Murray
  7. 7. 2002, Parapsychology Foundation 2004, ParaviewCornell & Roll Covers retrieved Special Education,from; Auerbach original 1972,cover retrieved from Doubleday 2005, Atriad
  8. 8. The divisions within thepresentation: O Ghostly Reenactments on a Grand Scale O Ghosts with a Purpose O Ghost without a Purpose (or with a Purpose We Don‟t Quite Understand) O Poltergeists O Some comments on the impact of worldviews
  9. 9. Ghostly reenactments on a grand scaleO Begin soon after the event they depict is overO Reoccur sometimes over centuriesO Might be only sounds, distant and faint but identifiableO Might be complete visual suggestions of the original event with sounds, smells and identifiable individualsO Seem to fade away as the memory of the event fades awayO Arising from profoundly emotional moments or something quiet, pastoral but elaborate
  10. 10. Pausanias 2nd Century ADRetrieved from,“Pausanias, the Geographer” Battle of Marathon, 490 BCE Retrieved from
  11. 11. The Battle of Edgehill, 1642 Retrieved from
  12. 12. Annie Moberly Eleanor JourdainRetrieved from The Petit Trianon Retrieved from Adventure retrieved from Ghosts of the Trianon retrieved from
  13. 13. British soldiers in aRevolutionary War Re-enactment Retrieved from Field Museum of Natural History Chicago, Illinois Retrieved from
  14. 14. Ghosts with a PurposeO Seem to want to communicateO Seem to be drawing attention to a need of their own or of the living around themO Seem to show emotionO May be dangerous or destructiveO May seem helpful or supportiveO Seem to be place-centered because they want to be or because they must be until they fulfill some purpose
  15. 15. Athenodorus Stoic Philosopher (74-7 BCE) Original source: Letters of Pliny the Younger Traveled in the Greco-Roman world Tutor of Octavian (later Caesar Augustus) The haunted house was in Athens By Henry Ford, “Athenodorus the Philosopher Rents a Haunted House”Retrieved from wikipedia, “Athenodorus Cananites”
  16. 16. The story of Alis de Telieux and Sister Antoinette Titled “Benedictine Nunsof Denmark were not poor” Retrieved from The Abbey of St Pierre at Cluny Retrieved from
  17. 17. Giles Bolacre, suing to break a lease …Actually a painting ofCharles d‟Ambroise in 1507 Painted by The Medieval City in Tours, France Retrieved from Andrea Solario,hangs in the Louvre Retrieved from
  18. 18. Ghosts without a purposeO Appear in a place they frequented in life and seem to see you O React negatively or positively O React passively but seem awareO Appear and go about their business O Seem to show an awareness of the current surroundings O Seem to be totally unaware of the current surroundings
  19. 19. The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall Sightings from 1835 to 1936, at least … Published in 1936 in Country Life Magazine and in 1937 in Life Magazine Taken by Captain Hubert C. Provand & Indre Shira Retrieved from
  20. 20. Lady Dorothy Walpole Captain Frederick Marryat 1686-1726Portrait by Charles Jervas 1792-1848 Retrieved by, Portrait by John Simpson, 1826 “Brown Lady of Raynham Hall” Retrieved from
  21. 21. And now the well-heeled Victorian Ghost Enthusiast … The Cheltenham Ghost SPR Researcher Retrieved from Andrew MacKenzie Retrieved from
  22. 22. SPR LeadersHenry Sidgwick Eleanor Sidgwick F. W. H. Myers Edmund Gurney (1838-1900) (1845-1936) (1843-1901) (1847-1888)
  23. 23. From the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research ExperimentsRichet, C. (1889). Further experiments in hypnotic lucidity or clairvoyance. Theory/ConceptsSidgwick, H. (1889). The canons of evidence in psychical research. Reports, Analysis, and Discussions of Many CasesSidgwick, Mrs. H. (1885). Notes on the evidence, collected by the Society, forphantasms of the dead. Report of a Single CaseMarillier, L. (1891) Apparitions of the Virgin in Dordogne.Morton, R.C. (1892) Report of a haunted house. Reports of SéancesHodgson, R. (1892). A record of observations of certain phenomena of trance. Methodological DiscussionsEdgeworth, F.Y. (1885) The calculus of probability applied to psychical research.
  24. 24. Morton, R.C. (1892) Report of a haunted house.O Rosina Clara Despard (1863-1930) O Moved into St. Anne‟s, then Garden Reach, in 1882 with her family, she was 19 O From 1882 to 1884, she encountered the ghost O In 1886 while taking her preliminary scientific examination for medical school, she met Frederic Myers, was encouraged to write up her investigation
  25. 25. St. Anne‟s — “Garden Reach” — Cheltenham Retrieved from
  26. 26. One of Rosina‟sthree maps
  27. 27. History of the house from 1882:O 1882-1893, Despards in possession of the houseO House empty from 1893-1898O 1898-1907, a boys schoolO Empty until 1910O 1910-1970, housed a convent, a training school for nannies, and a diocesan houseO Empty 1970 to 1973O 1973 reopened as an apartment houseO No hauntings reported within the house from 1907 to the present but ….
  28. 28. Modern history:O Persistent reports of the ghost in the neighborhood around the house from the first sightings in the 1870s to todayO Between 1958 and 1961, on the grounds of a hotel across the street, same description from waist up but bottom half “fading”O In 1933 and during WWII she was reported in Weston House about a half mile away from Garden ReachO In the 1960s Weston House housed doctors offices, no visual sightings, but unexplained noises, sense of being watchedO In 1979, a report of footsteps that drove a staff member from the house in a panic
  29. 29. The SPR Method as apparent in Rosina Despard’s reportO Detailed observations including feelings of witnesses (predominantly a sense of loss of power to the ghost)O Attempts to determine the “reality” of the experiencesO Attempts to interveneO Gathering of observations from others, including letters of corroboration in the reportO Drawing conservative conclusions on the meaning of the sightingsO Set up an experiment to see if they could identify photos from life of the ghost, the photo of Imogen‟s sister was chosen
  30. 30. Poltergeists … O Reports from antiquity / from every culture O Frequent focus on adolescent in home as “focus person” or “agent” O Important to rule out fraud O Important to make careful observations of events, position of all individuals when events occur
  31. 31. Poltergeists … O Noisy spirits, O Psychokinetic targeting an outburst of the individual „focus person‟ O Short duration O Short duration O Frequently O Frequently dangerous dangerous O Cease naturally, O Ceases naturally or through moving, when “stressors” on changes in family the focus person situation are lessened or removed
  32. 32. Tony Cornell (1924-2010)Retrieved from
  33. 33. Carrying on the SPR tradition with a twist … O Healthy skepticism but openness to experience O Detailed observations O Development of technology O Corroboration: O Witness testimony O Independent evidence O Consciousness of alternative explanations O Willingness to help experiencers O Detailed reports
  34. 34. The Antique Shop SpukO 30+ eventsO No “focus person” identified conclusivelyO All breakage confined to goods purchased from a specific estate sale
  35. 35. Bill Roll (1926-2012)Retrieved from Retrieved from
  36. 36. The Miami Poltergeist O More than 200 incidents of movement/breakag e of objects O Measurement of trajectory/condition O Julio Vasquez identified as focal person
  37. 37. An aside … Take home:Haunting cases with apparitions have more features than those without Alvarado, C. & Zingrone, N. (1995). Characteristics of haunting with and without apparitions: An analysis of published cases. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 60,385-397.
  38. 38. Why?o Are hauntings with apparitions more likely to be what they seem: noisy spirits attempting to interfere or communicate with the living?o Or are experiencers who report hauntings with apparitions more likely to project/produce experiences that are more complex?
  39. 39. Depends on your worldview:o Are you a ghost whisperer?o Are you a ghost hunter?o Are you a psychical researcher, academic or scientific parapsychologist?o Are you a psychologist with a skeptical but otherwise open interest in what seem to be paranormal experiences?
  40. 40. Ghost whisperers, ghost hunters and psychicalresearchers …O Differences O In purpose: What questions are we asking and what do we do with the answers? O In method: Are we getting the details to verify a theory? Are we constructing a story to fit our worldview? Are we seeing if there is someone there who needs our help whether the someone is the experiencer, or a “person” who seems to inhabit the apparition? O In ultimate goal: Are we working to add to knowledge, to rack up another case history for the website, or are we trying to the light?
  41. 41. The bad news for psychical researchers: O While the Cheltenham Ghost is seen as the best researched single case in the history of the SPR: O What about Imogen Swinhoe? Can we worry about her and still be seen as scientific? O What do we do with Edgehill, Athenodorus and all the old unverifiable cases can be convincing but: O Is it safe to draw conclusions from them? O Is it enough to just say, this is “inexplicable” or this is “culturally interesting”?
  42. 42. The consequences for all of us:O If we are theory-driven, we may miss some meaning because we just don‟t see it.O If we fail to verify, we may be building a false picture of what is actually going on.O If we define own point of view as the only path to understanding, we will miss the insights of those who hold a different point of view.
  43. 43. And finally, the good news:O 21st century researchers who operate in academic/scientific parapsychology have a wider view than their predecessors: O We are open to other ways of knowing. O We are also worried about the essential questions about what it means to be human.O There are forums where ghost whisperers, ghost hunters and psychical researchers and even skeptics are in the same room: O So there is a chance for mutual influence on our methods as well as a chance to share our assumptions and our stories.
  44. 44. Thank you … Email me: Follow: The AZIRE on FacebookVisit: The AZIRE Learning Center in Second Life Website: Powerpoint is available here: talk-ghosts-poltergeists-hauntings-2013