Project

Investigation of Haunting Experiences

Goal: In addition to the highly related, and tangential, Project:
Review of Academic Ghost, Haunt and Poltergeist Research (2001-2017) (see below* for a description), this project aims to examine all aspects of haunting experiences to aid in our critical understanding of the investigation of such reported phenomena.

It will include: the assessment of contemporary ghosthunting (groups, techniques, applied theories); indepth analysis of ghostly accounts; critical evaluation of environmental, psychological (and pathological) explanations and theories for haunting experiences.

*Along with colleagues, we are reviewing the scholarly literature for studies on "ghostly" phenomena that has been published since the seminal reviews in the edited textbook, Hauntings and Poltergeists: Multidisciplinary Perspectives (2001).

Updates
0 new
1
Recommendations
0 new
5
Followers
0 new
95
Reads
3 new
381

Project log

James Houran
added a research item
We assessed the 29 winning essays of the Bigelow Institute of Consciousness Studies (BICS) contest using an evidence hierarchy approach adopted by many scientific fields. Two independent judges rated the target essays for their quality of scientific evidence, reproducibility, and replicability using an evidence hierarchy adapted from several published models that accommodate both qualitative and quantitative evidence. According to our criteria, six essays (20.7%) were categorized as the highest level of scientific evidence, four essays (13.8%) were categorized at a medium level of scientific evidence, whereas the remaining 19 essays (65.5%) were considered a low level of scientific evidence. The overall agreement of the essay rankings between the present authors' classifications of evidence quality and the rating system used by the BICS judges was only 44.8%, with a non-significant Spearman's rho correlation of .03. This result indicates extremely little concordance (overlap) of the two evaluation systems, which corroborates prior research on the critical shortcomings of evidence hierarchies. The essays representing the highest level of scientific evidence per our criteria involved near-death experiences and mental mediumship. For other anomalies that ostensibly support the survival hypothesis (e.g., physical mediumship or electronic voice phenomena), more studies with refined experimental designs are needed to improve their quality of evidence as defined in current scientific terms. Important considerations and future research directions are likewise discussed.
James Houran
added a research item
Using the tools provided by theoretical work on the fantastic, we examine some of the legends and prose texts surrounding the Witches ' Sabbat beginning with seventeenth century burlesque through to contemporary prose. Contemporary examples of the Witches' Sabbat theme are derived from literary and/or historical texts ("literature") or from contemporary psychological experiences (contemporary local legends) that mimic or parallel the Witches' Sabbat ("abduction by aliens"). Although the psychological processes that gave/ give rise to these local legends (the Witches' Sabbat and abductions by aliens) are in themselves fantastic escapes from the everyday world and consciousness, the legends themselves have not been used in a fantastic way in literature.
James Houran
added a research item
Reports of childhood imaginary companions (IC) sometimes contain "creepy or spooky" perceptions or themes that suggest such occurrences could be overlooked or disguised forms of a "ghostly episode" or "entity encounter experience." This idea was explored via a content analysis of vetted narratives from the Reddit website involving ICs with haunt-type features (n = 143). We tested whether the phenomenology of these experiences: (a) show an "Age × Gender × Anxiety" effect consistent with the assumed psychology of focus persons in poltergeist-like experiences; (b) map to Houran et al.'s (2019b) Rasch hierarchy of anomalies associated with ghostly episodes per the Survey of Strange Events (SSE); and (c) correspond to a specific type of "haunt condition" (i.e., spontaneous, primed, lifestyle, fantasy, or illicit). Results indicated that ICs attributed to "ghosts" corresponded to higher SSE scores. Experients' gender and inferred anxiety likewise showed significant and positive associations with SSE scores. Finally, the SSE features of ghostly IC experiences most strongly correlated to the phenomenologies of "spontaneous" and "induced" haunt conditions as reported in Houran et al. (2019b). We discuss the results in terms of some ICs being anomalous or exceptional human experiences that might require approaches beyond developmental and clinical psychology to understand fully their contents, structure, and ultimate nature.
Neil Dagnall
added 3 research items
This is one of the epicenters of paranormal phenomena at Ordall Hall.
One of the atmospheric locations on our visit to Ordsall Hall.
Neil Dagnall
added a research item
During a haunt vigil we explored this atmospheric space.
Neil Dagnall
added a research item
A location at Ordsall Hall associated with ghost-like feelings and sensations.
Ciarán O'Keeffe
added a research item
A frequent characteristic of apparitions is that the percipients experience a feeling of cold (Tyrrell, 1953). In addition, sitters at séances, have since the earliest days of spiritualism, reported apparent falls in temperature (Randall, 2001). Parapsychologists have reported a correlation between unusual temperature experiences and allegedly haunted locations, often without verifying the hypothesised causes of such temperature changes (Wiseman, Watt, Stevens, Greening & O’Keeffe, 2003). Inevitably, perhaps, the majority of such reports from experients and researchers are purely subjective but reports from fieldwork investigations conducted using calibrated monitoring equipment suggest that a number are objective and represent highly unusual sudden changes in the ambient temperature (Turner, 1970) (Para.Science, 2005). Despite evidence from fieldwork, no laboratory studies have attempted to demonstrate the same correlation. Radin and Rebman (1996) constructed an instrumented Psychomanteum1 chamber to examine the relationship between a participant’s mental state and changes in the local physical environment. Temperature was measured using a computerised thermometer with millidegree sensitivity. The temperature sensor was positioned close to floor level behind the participants chair with an output feed to a computer in an adjoining room. The majority of significant correlations between the environmental and physiological variables, were due to temperature changes within the chamber. The temperature initially rose then began to drop. Radin and Rebman (1996) suggested the initial presence of an experimenter , participant and facilitator, prior to the session’s commencement, would raise the temperature, the departure of the experimenter and facilitator then causing the temperature to fall. The continued fall in the temperature throughout the session probably related to the participants general calming. Due to this suggestion that some of the significant ambient temperature and physiological correlations were possibly artefacts of a common downward drift in temperature, Radin and Rebman (1996) excluded all ambient temperature cross-correlations from their subsequent data. The un-tested explanation given is one of a number of possibilities. For example, the lowering may simply be due to the floor level placement of the temperature sensor where it may be expected that cooler air collects after being displaced by warmer rising air that has been heated by the participant. Additionally, the data could represent a real correlation between the participant’s mental state and a change within the physical environment. A hypothesis that is un-tested given the lack of data. This pilot study, therefore, was inspired by Radin and Rebman’s (1996) study (hereafter referred to as the ‘Nevada study’) but with the primary aim to measure any alterations in the ambient temperature coincident with the participant reporting an experience of an apparition appearing.
Ciarán O'Keeffe
added an update
A new book is coming! 2021 will be the 20th anniversary of a unique academic anthology on ghosts. Instead of refreshing the chapters in that classic book, one of its original editors wanted to conduct a new, “next gen” study of these phenomena that picked up where that original book left off:
  • The book will be published by McFarland and is for lay audiences, including amateur paranormal investigators, who are hungry for the latest scientific insights and information on hauntings.
  • It presents a synthesis of a three-year research study using leading-edge analysis of witness reports and environmental data.
  • That study produced over 20 peer-reviewed articles in journals.
  • The book concludes that ghosts should be taken seriously as a scientific topic, but not at face value. That is, these experiences seem to tell us more about the living than the dead.
The authors are a “Global Ghost Gang.” This includes Brian Laythe James Houran Neil Dagnall Ken Drinkwater and me.
The new research group was formed about three years ago to study ghosts and hauntings in a new way:
  • A program that is entirely data-driven via a series of related studies from different perspectives spanning the social and physical sciences.
The book will cover new provocative findings. Our series of studies has revealed many new learnings about “ghosts and haunted houses”:
  • When people talk about experiencing a “ghost” this actually entails a structured and predictable “narrative” involving Subjective and Objective anomalies.
  • This core narrative holds true regardless of a witness’ age or gender, and it stands out as different from narratives derived from conditions of pure imagination, expectation, or fraud.
  • Most interesting, ghost reports are not random – they tend to occur to people with a particular psychological profile. That profile is a combination of hyper-sensitivity to bodily and environmental fluctuations, as well as the tendency to attribute ambiguous information to supernatural forces.
  • And moreover, ghostly occurrences do not happen to these people one time. Instead, there tends to be serial perceptions over time. Thus, our research seems to identify a “Haunted People Syndrome.”
It will also present the fascinating finding that more “haunted people” likely exist than previously thought. We found that the same set of subjective and objective anomalies that traditionally define “ghost narratives” are also found in other contexts. That is, we seem to have identified examples of “disguised or overlooked” hauntings:
  • Preliminary research hints that children who report imaginary companions/friends sometimes reference creepy themes and experiences that mirror apparitions and haunted houses.
  • Two published studies strongly suggest that accounts of so-called “group or gang stalking” have the same narrative structure and contents as hauntings. Gang-stalking refers to people who report experiences of being “monitored and stalked” over time by a mysterious group of people for unknown reasons. It seems that traditional themes of “spooks and spirits” are being reinterpreted as “stalking and surveillance” in these group-stalking reports.
 
Ciarán O'Keeffe
added 2 research items
Using a sample of self-reported “spontaneous” accounts (ostensibly sincere and unprimed, N = 426), we calibrated a 32-item, Rasch-based “Survey of Strange Events (SSE)” to quantify the phenomenology of ghostly episodes while assessing response biases related to experients’ age and gender. This inventory included psychological experiences typical of haunts, and physical manifestations common to poltergeist-like disturbances. Results supported earlier suggestions that “spontaneous” accounts have a predictable (cumulative) behavioral pattern and show a unidimensional factor structure. Further, compared to spontaneous accounts, we identified strong response biases on the SSE across four control conditions (i.e., Lifestyle, Primed, Fantasy, and Illicit). Statistical modeling successfully predicted group memberships with good accuracy, corroborating that spontaneous experiences differ systematically in certain ways from “impostors.” The SSE is a robust measure of overall intensity of ghostly episodes (Rasch reliability = 0.87) and serves as a standard operationalization of specific anomalies in surveys, fieldwork studies, and investigations that code free-response data or spontaneous case material for quantitative analysis.
Research suggests a Haunted People Syndrome (HP-S) is defined by the recurrent perception of anomalous subjective and objective events. Occurrences are traditionally attributed to supernatural agencies, but we argue that such interpretations have morphed into themes of “surveillance and stalking” in group-stalking reports. We tested a series of related hypotheses by re-analyzing survey data from the 2015 Sheridan and James study to explore statistical patterns in “delusional” group-stalking accounts (N=128) versus“non-delusional” (control) accounts of lone-culprit stalking (N=128). As expected, we found that (i) account types had different Rasch hierachies, (ii) the Rasch hierarchy of group-stalking experiences showed a robust unidimensional model, and (iii) this group-stalking hierarchy correlated significantly with spontanous “ghost“ experiences. However, we found no clear evidence for “event clustering” that might signify contagious processes in symptom perception. Findings support the viability of the HP-S construct and the idea that experiences of group-stalking and haunts share common sources.
Ciarán O'Keeffe
added a research item
This paper contains a narrative overview of the past 20-years of environmental research on anomalous experiences attributed to "haunted house." This exercise served as a much-needed update to an anthology of noteworthy overviews on ghosts, haunts, and poltergeists (Houran and Lange, 2001b). We also considered whether new studies had incorporated certain recommendations made in this anthology. Our search revealed a relative paucity of studies (n = 66) on environmental factors that ostensibly stimulate haunt-type experiences. This literature was diverse and often lacked methodological consistency and adherence to the prior suggestions. However, critical consideration of the content revealed a recurring focus on six ambient variables: embedded (static) cues, lighting levels, air quality, temperature, infrasound, and electromagnetic fields. Their relation to the onset or structure of witness reports showed mostly null, though sometimes inconsistent or weak outcomes. However, such research as related to haunts is arguably in its infancy and new designs are needed to account better for environmental and architectural phenomenology. Future studies should therefore address four areas: (i) more consistent and precise measurements of discrete ambient variables; (ii) the potential role of "Gestalt influences" that involve holistic environment-person interactions; (iii) individual differences in attentional or perceptual sensitivities of percipients to environmental variables; and (iv) the role of attitudinal and normative influences in the interpretation of environmental stimuli. Focused scrutiny on these issues should clarify the explanatory power of evolutionary-environmental models for these and related anomalous experiences.
Ken Drinkwater
added a research item
Building on the world-renowned reputation of Parapsychology at MMU, Fabrizio Cocchiarella (Interior Design) and Dr Ken Drinkwater (Psychology) recently visited Holland to deliver an ERASMUS workshop to students from Product Design at ArtEZ (Institute for the Arts). Sessions focused on the synergy between the paranormal and design (para-design). Para-design is an MMU inspired concept, which involves thinking beyond or outside of 'normal' design scenarios in order to determine the extent to which paranormal belief and experiences influence human interactions with the designed environment. The workshop lasted a week and students participated in a series of themed activities:  Through discussion, learners investigated how the psychology of the paranormal informed and influenced design. This included a consideration of how design can produce paranormal-like experiences and perceptions.  Scholars modelled and tested ideas via creation of experiential scenarios; prototypes included creating environments and devices designed to capture and channel paranormal phenomena.  A field trip to Utrecht, where the staff and students visited two important locations: Stichting Het Johan Borgman Fonds where they viewed the 20th-century Dutch academic Parapsychology, Spiritualism and Mediumistic Art Collections. At the centre, psychologist Dr Wim Kramer and Lotje Vermeulen talked with the attendees about the archives and research. The Harmonia Spiritualist HQ. This involved a building exploration similar to the events organised in the UK at Ordsall Hall, where the students visited locations in the building and recorded paranormal sensations, feelings and perceptions.
Neil Dagnall
added a research item
This study used a modified White Christmas task to examine reports of electronic voice phenomena (EVP) within random noise. Following familiarization with the concept of EVP, 107 participants listened to an audio track combining white and pink noise. Instructions directed participants to press a keyboard button to indicate if they heard EVP. At the end of the track, participants provided an overall confidence rating of EVP perception. Thirty-nine participants (36%) reported the presence of EVP. Comparisons between EVP experiencers vs. non-experiencers on cognitive-perceptual (schizotypy, hallucinations, and fantasy proneness) and paranormal belief measures (general and haunting) revealed no significant differences. A path analysis indicated that belief in haunting mediated the relations between paranormal belief and hallucination proneness with EVP outcomes (number and confidence). However, fantasy proneness and schizotypy did not have significant relations with EVP. Results were consistent with previous findings, where participants imagine hearing the famous White Christmas song. Within this study, a non-trivial minority of participants experienced EVP as a form of belief congruent hallucination. These findings support the notion that anomalous beliefs provide a framework for structuring unusual cognitions and perceptions.
Ciarán O'Keeffe
added a research item
The VAPUS model (Hill et al., 2018, 2019) characterizes the powerful "brand personality" of ghost narratives in terms of their Versatility, Adaptability, Participatory Nature, Universality, and Scalability. This suggests that these narratives act as cultural memes that partly reflect interpersonal or group dynamics. We use these themes in a review and conceptual synthesis of key literature to address the phenomenon of "gaslighting," which denotes the determined efforts of an influencer to alter the perceptions of a targeted individual. Modelling ghost narratives as psychosocial constructions implies malleability via attitudinal and normative influences. Accordingly, we specify and discuss two apparent manifestations of this narrative plasticity, i.e., "positive (reinforcing) gaslighting" (i.e., confirmation biases) or "negative (rejecting) gaslighting" (i.e., second-guessing or self-doubt). These ideas clarify some Trickster-type effects and imply that all ghost narratives likely involve gaslighting to an extent.
Neil Dagnall
added 2 research items
Presentation outlines a 2015 survey (UK university based sample), which investigated prevalence of subjective paranormal experiences (SPEs) and potentially related beliefs.
Neil Dagnall
added a research item
Ordsall Hall is a historical building with a reputation for being haunted. Drawing upon the principles of para-design this paper examined participants' perceptions of locations within the Hall. The building alongside renovated spaces contains period architectural features. These combine to produce a rich setting in which to investigate the interaction between the physical environment and perceptions of the anomalous. Participants, in small groups, undertook a guided tour of the building. To determine whether certain areas generated 'ghost-evoking' perceptions participants visited supposedly haunted locations and control sites. Within each location, participants recorded feelings/sensations and noted anomalous/paranormal experiences. Analysis revealed that sensations/feelings related to Temperature, Presence, Dizziness, Emotion, and Uneasiness were higher in the haunted (vs. control) locations. Generally, participants anticipated higher levels of unusual phenomena in haunted locations, but there was no difference in the tendency to attribute these phenomena to spirits/ghosts. Additionally, as reporting of sensations increased so did belief in the paranormal (general and haunting) and the inclination to detect anomalies and attribute paranormal causation to environmental stimuli. Finally, regression analysis revealed that sense of presence best predicted the perception of spirits/ghosts across all locations. Findings were consistent with contemporary design research, which has established associations between environmental cues and anomalous/paranormal perceptions (i.e., staged haunted experiential scenarios). Although, the authors recommend cautious interpretation of findings and acknowledge the need for further research, this paper is important because it provides vital insights into the effects of experience and perception on the appreciation of location and place. Furthermore, the results suggest ways that experiential perceptual experiences can shape and 'tune' paranormal interpretations. In this context, findings suggest prototypes, which inform creation and comprehension of 'paranormal' spaces.
Neil Dagnall
added a research item
The concept of 'para-design' (paranormal design) examines the degree to which paranormal belief influences the perception of the designed environment. Through a series of collaborative projects with paranormal psychologists, design based projects explore supernatural phenomena, such as ESP (Extra-Sensory Perception) (Bem et al., 2001), paranormal beliefs and haunting. This ongoing research project explores the potential to generate data that can inform new design parameters, both for extending psychical research and in developing design approaches for future environments that explore phenomenological and psycho-spatial experience. Contemporary work examining the anomalous (Irwin, 2009) (e.g., haunted locations) has established associations between the designed environment through staged haunted experiential scenarios and its effect on well-being and behaviour (Anette et al., 2016); allowing opportunity to consider alternative factors in designing for experience. Design practice through para-design utilises psychical research as a lens from which to re-invent design scenarios that explore the phenomenology of experience and the human processing of sensory information. Explorative projects investigate the potential to inform a broad range of 'design scenarios' informing applications of research for health and well-being, enriching social and cultural relationships with place, establishing new connections with environmental ecology and developing new insights for architecture, design and spatial planning. Through adopting a scientific approach to design to inform and evaluate the success of designed objects and environments, research explores how design can 'emotionally engineer' the built environment as an interface from which to explore 'para-normality' and extend psychical research.
James Houran
added a research item
We review the premise, popularity, and profitability of paranormal tourism, which involves visits to any setting or locale for the explicit purpose of encountering apparent supernatural phenomena for leisure, investigation, services, products, or conventions. This niche sector can offer an inherently engaging conceptual framework for seasonal or year-round space activation and monetization by businesses situated in specific settings or cities. On a broader level, the niche also illustrates how tourism–hospitality brands and operations can navigate and even capitalize on three paradigm shifts that have disrupted contemporary markets, that is, the mobilities, performative, and creative turns. This assertion is underscored with a case analysis of a historic site that successfully leveraged paranormal themes as part of its space reactivation and rebranding. Finally, our market study suggests that the success factors of paranormal tourism might indicate a fourth paradigm shift across the wider tourism–hospitality industry, whereby the experience economy is transforming to an enchantment economy.
Neil Dagnall
added 2 research items
Suggestion, Belief in the Paranormal, Proneness to Reality testing deficits & Perception of an Allegedly Haunted Building
An Overview of Famous Manchester Ghosts. Clips link to videos previously available via internet. Unfortunately, not available in this format.
Neil Dagnall
added 3 research items
What is the Paranormal? An Accessible Presentation at Rochdale Town Hall
Drinkwater and Cocchiarella (2019) delivered a session to Birmingham Midland Institute as part of the : The Thrill of the Dark: Heritages of Fear, Fascination and Fantasy Birmingham, 25-27 April 2019 Venue: Birmingham Midland Institute, 9 Margaret Street, Birmingham B3 3BS
Academics from MMU, led by Senior Lecturer and paranormal researcher Dr Ken Drinkwater, with the support of the Ordsall Hall management team, arranged an event to explore feelings and perceptions experienced within Ordsall Hall.
Neil Dagnall
added a research item
An interest in the effects of paranormal/anomalous history on the experience of space motivated a visit to an old disused warehouse in Manchester, Hotspur Press.
Neil Dagnall
added a research item
Ordsall Hall is a historical building with a reputation for being haunted. Drawing upon the principles of para-design this paper examined participants' perceptions of key locations within the Hall. The building alongside renovated spaces contains period features and architecture. These combine to produce a rich environment in which to investigate the interaction between the physical environment and perceptions of the anomalous and paranormal. Participants, in small groups, undertook a guided tour of the building. To determine whether certain areas generated 'ghost-evoking' perceptions participants visited supposedly haunted locations and control sites. Within each location, participants recorded feelings/sensations and noted anomalous/paranormal experiences. Analysis revealed that sensations/feelings related to Temperature, Presence, Dizziness, Emotion, and Uneasiness were higher in the haunted (vs. control) locations. Generally, participants anticipated higher levels of unusual phenomena in haunted locations but there was no difference in the tendency to attribute these phenomena to spirits/ghosts. Additionally, as reporting of sensations increased so did belief in the paranormal (general and haunting) and the inclination to detect anomalies and attribute paranormal causation to environmental stimuli. Finally, regression analysis revealed that sense of presence best predicted the perception of spirits/ghosts across all locations. Findings were consistent with contemporary design research, which has established associations between anomalous/paranormal perceptions and environmental features (i.e., staged haunted experiential scenarios). Although, the authors recommend cautious interpretation of findings and acknowledge the need for further research, this paper is important because it provides vital insights into the effects of experience and perception on the appreciation of location and place. Furthermore, the results suggest ways that paranormal interpretations can shape and 'tune' experiential perceptual experiences. In this context, findings suggest prototypes, which inform creation and comprehension of 'paranormal' spaces.
Neil Dagnall
added 2 research items
Neil Dagnall
added a research item
Research suggests a “Haunted People Syndrome (HP-S)” defined by recurrent and systematic perceptions of anomalous subjective and objective anomalies. Such signs or symptoms are traditionally attributed to “spirits and the supernatural,” but these themes are hypothesised to morph to “surveillance and stalking” in reports of “group-(or gang) stalking,” We tested this premise with a quali-quantitative exercise that mapped group-stalking experiences from a published first-hand account to a Rasch measure of haunt-type anomalies. This comparison found significant agreement in the specific “signs or symptoms” of both phenomena. Meta-patterns likewise showed clear conceptual similarities between the phenomenology of haunts and group-stalking. Findings are consistent with the idea that both anomalous episodes involve the same, or similar, attentional or perceptual processes and thereby support the viability of the HP-S construct.
Neil Dagnall
added a research item
This study investigated personal accounts of subjective paranormal experiences (SPEs). Ten UK-based participants took part in semi-structured interviews, where they discussed how alleged paranormal experiences made them feel, whether the narrated event(s) was unusual/strange, and what they believed caused the occurrence(s). Interview transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis; a qualitative method that identifies patterns within data. Five central themes emerged (sensory experiences, you are not alone, distortion of reality, personal growth, and socio-cultural factors). Consideration of themes revealed an intricate, inextricable link between perception, interpretation and belief. Generally, SPEs were associated with the desire to comprehend the unknown and a reluctance to accept the uncertain. Findings provided important insights into the phenomenology of paranormal experience, suggested avenues for future research and were consistent with previous findings.
Ciarán O'Keeffe
added a project goal
In addition to the highly related, and tangential, Project:
Review of Academic Ghost, Haunt and Poltergeist Research (2001-2017) (see below* for a description), this project aims to examine all aspects of haunting experiences to aid in our critical understanding of the investigation of such reported phenomena.
It will include: the assessment of contemporary ghosthunting (groups, techniques, applied theories); indepth analysis of ghostly accounts; critical evaluation of environmental, psychological (and pathological) explanations and theories for haunting experiences.
*Along with colleagues, we are reviewing the scholarly literature for studies on "ghostly" phenomena that has been published since the seminal reviews in the edited textbook, Hauntings and Poltergeists: Multidisciplinary Perspectives (2001).
 
Ciarán O'Keeffe
added 2 research items
A review of nearly 20 years of sociocultural research and trends on "ghostly episodes" (ghosts, haunted houses, and poltergeists) suggests that personal accounts, group investigations, and popular depictions of anomalous experiences function as active, meaningful, and potent cultural memes. These, in part, reflect interpersonal or group dynamics grounded in Durkheimian models, as well as Social Identity and Conflict theories. Expanding on and integrating these themes, this paper provides a general framework that explains the enduring popularity of ghost narratives in terms of their versatility, adaptability, participatory nature, universality, and scalability (VAPUS model). This perspective implies that ghostly episodes, as experiences and narratives, embody and exemplify the marketing concepts of "brand personality" and consumer engagement. Accordingly, social and cultural influences are discussed as important and inherent contextual variables that help to produce, promote, shape, and sustain these narratives.
We continue our integrative review of nearly 20 years of sociocultural research and popular trends on ghosts, haunted houses, and poltergeists (collectively termed "ghostly episodes") that commenced in Part I (Hill, O'Keeffe, Laythe, Dagnall, Drinkwater, Ventola, & Houran, 2018). That analysis characterized the powerful brand personality of ghost narratives in terms of their Versatility, Adaptability, Participatory nature, Universality, and Scalability. This VAPUS model emphasizes that these narratives serve as cultural memes which, in part, reflect interpersonal or group dynamics. We illustrate these themes via three analyses that explore the role of the media, the use of technology to legitimatize amateur organizations, and the resulting conflict between popularized ghost-hunting groups, skeptic organizations, and parapsychology. Optimistically, we expect the VAPUS model can guide the development of new means or methods that aim to delineate and even bridge some of the competing social forces that shape or sustain these narratives in the popular culture and thereby constructively advance research in this domain.
Ciarán O'Keeffe
added a research item
A review of nearly 20 years of sociocultural research and trends on “ghostly episodes” (ghosts, haunted houses, and poltergeists) suggests that personal accounts, group investigations, and popular depictions of anomalous experiences function as active, meaningful, and potent cultural memes. These, in part, reflect interpersonal or group dynamics grounded in Durkheimian models, as well as Social Identity and Conflict theories. Expanding on and integrating these themes, this paper provides a general framework that explains the enduring popularity of ghost narratives in terms of their versatility, adaptability, participatory nature, universality, and scalability (VAPUS model). This perspective implies that ghostly episodes, as experiences and narratives, embody and exemplify the marketing concepts of “brand personality” and consumer engagement. Accordingly, social and cultural influences are discussed as important and inherent contextual variables that help to produce, promote, shape, and sustain these narratives.
Ciarán O'Keeffe
added a research item
We review conceptualizations and measurements of base (or core) experiences commonly attributed to haunts and poltergeists (i.e., “ghostly episodes”). Case analyses, surveys, controlled experiments, and field studies have attempted to gauge anomalous experiences in this domain, albeit with methods that do not cumulatively build on earlier research. Although most approaches agree, to an extent, on the base experiences or events that witnesses report, the literature lacks a standard operationalization that can be used to test the factor structure of these occurrences or allow meaningful comparisons of findings across studies. Towards filling this gap, we identified 28 base experiences that include subjective (or psychological) experiences, more typical of haunts, and objective (or physical) manifestations, more common to poltergeist-like disturbances. This qualitatively-vetted list is proposed as the foundation for new measurement approaches, research designs, and analytical methods aimed to advance model-building and theory-formation. Keywords: ghost, haunt, phenomenology, poltergeist, psychometrics
Ciarán O'Keeffe
added 3 research items
Hampton Court Palace is reputed to be one of the most haunted places in England, with both staff and visitors reporting unusual phenomena in many areas of the building. Our investigation aimed to discover the extent to which these reports were related to three variables often proposed to account for alleged hauntings, namely, belief in ghosts, suggestion and magnetic fields. Over 600 members of the public took part in the experiment. Participants completed Likert-type questionnaires measuring their belief in ghosts, the unusual phenomena they had experienced in the past and whether they thought these phenomena were due to ghosts. Participants who believed in ghosts reported significantly more unusual phenomena than disbelievers, and were significantly more likely to attribute the phenomena to ghosts. Participants then walked around an allegedly haunted area of the Palace and provided reports about unusual phenomena they experienced. Believers reported significantly more anomalous experiences than disbelievers, and were significantly more likely to indicate that these had been due to a ghost. Prior to visiting the locations, half of the participants were told that the area was associated with a recent increase in unusual phenomena, whilst the others were told the opposite. In line with previous work on the psychology of paranormal belief, the number of unusual experiences reported by participants showed a significant interaction between belief in ghosts and these suggestions. Results also provided partial support of a possible relationship between the locations in which participants reported their experiences and local magnetic fields. Competing interpretations of the data and possible future research are discussed.
In cases of alleged hauntings, a large number of seemingly trustworthy witnesses consistently report experiencing unusual phenomena (e.g. apparitions, sudden changes in temperature, a strong sense of presence) in certain locations. The two studies reported here explored the psychological mechanisms that underlie this apparent evidence of 'ghostly' activity. The experiments took place at two locations that have a considerable reputation for being haunted-Hampton Court Palace (Surrey, England) and the South Bridge Vaults (Edinburgh, Scotland). Both studies involved participants walking around these locations and reporting where they experienced unusual phenomena. Results revealed significantly more reports of unusual experiences in areas that had a reputation for being haunted. This effect was not related to participants' prior knowledge about the reputation of these areas. However, the location of participants' experiences correlated significantly with various environmental factors, including, for example, the variance of local magnetic fields and lighting levels. These findings strongly suggest that alleged hauntings may not necessarily represent evidence for 'ghostly' activity, but could be, at least in part, the result of people responding to 'normal' factors in their surroundings.
Due to the number of investigations provided by individuals, groups and organisations into haunting experiences and the lack of any governing body, there is a need for a set of guidelines to provide investigators and members of the public with an outline for how such investigations should be conducted ethically. This paper is intended to provide a set of such guidelines. The paper is divided into three sections: (a) general issues – discussing overall issues for investigations, such as informed consent, confidentiality, charging, power, etc; (b) case-specific issues – issues informed by specific methods for investigating cases, such as interviewing, location investigation and overnight examinations; and, (c) other ethical issues – covering more exceptional issues, such as referral to other parties, and the pastoral role of investigators. These guidelines are meant to highlight ethical issues in investigations of this type, and are not designed to dictate specific procedural guidelines that different groups might follow. It is hoped that these guidelines demonstrate the difficulties inherent in these investigations, and promote a much needed debate about such issues.