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Abstract

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.
... The authors accepted the referral after first determining that the circumstances likely did not involve a mental disorder with religious themes, as well as gaining approval from the afflicted family for the arrangement. The outline and goals for this study were subsequently approved by Ethics Committee at ISRAE to guarantee compliance with ethical guidelines proposed for this subject area (Baker and O'Keeffe, 2007), including informed consent in writing by each family member pertinent to data collection and its subsequent use for research and reporting purposes (Gavey and Braun, 1997). The family's participation was entirely voluntary, involved no financial compensation, and could be stopped at any point. ...
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Haunted People Syndrome (HP-S) denotes individuals who recurrently report various “supernatural” encounters in everyday settings ostensibly due to heightened somatic-sensory sensitivities to dis-ease states (e.g., marked but sub-clinical levels of distress), which are contextualized by paranormal beliefs and reinforced by perceptual contagion effects. This view helps to explain why these anomalous experiences often appear to be idioms of stress or trauma. We tested the validity and practical utility of the HP-S concept in an empirical study of an active and reportedly intense ghostly episode that was a clinical referral. The case centered on the life story of the primary percipient, a retired female healthcare worker. Secondary percipients included her husband and adult daughter, all of whom reported an array of benign and threatening anomalies (psychological and physical in nature) across five successive residences. Guided by prior research, we administered the family online measures of transliminality, sensory-processing sensitivity, paranormal belief, locus of control, desirability for control, and a standardized checklist of haunt-type phenomena. The primary percipient also completed a measure of adverse childhood events and supplied an event diary of her anomalous experiences. We found reasonably consistent support for HP-S from a set of quantitative observations that compared five proposed syndrome features against the family members’ psychometric profiles and the structure and contents of their anomalous experiences. Specifically, the reported anomalies both correlated with the family’s scores on transliminality and paranormal belief, as well as elicited attributions and reaction patterns aligned with threat (agency) detection. There was also some evidence of perceptual congruency among the family members’ anomalous experiences. Putative psi cannot be ruled out, but we conclude that the family’s ordeal fundamentally involved the symptoms and manifestations of thin (or “permeable”) mental boundary functioning in the face of unfavorable circumstances or overstimulating environments and subsequently acerbated by poor emotion regulation, histrionic and catastrophizing reactions, and active confirmation biases.
... Legend-trippers and investigators sometimes trespass and vandalize in their quest for experiences-perhaps not unlike admirers or stalkers in an unbridled attempt to interact with celebrities who are the objects of their affection or obsession (see also Lange, Houran, & McCutcheon, 2011). As a counter to this proliferation of unethical behavior, Baker and O'Keeffe (2007) produced a set of ethical guidelines for the investigation of haunts by professionals and amateur ghost-hunters. ...
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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.
... It should further be recognized that entering one's home for the purposes of investigation can for many individuals be an impingement on one's privacy, and thus might serve to further magnify the unease associated with haunt effects, as appears to have occurred in the present case. Accordingly, this case compels us to remind researchers to be cognizant of ethical issues involved in haunt investigations (Baker & O'Keeffe, 2005), especially with respect to the treatment of experients and experimental participants (American Psychological Association, 2002). ...
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This field study assessed whether areas in an alleged haunt and a control site, and active and inactive areas within the haunt site, differed with respect to the presence of contextual variables that might contribute to haunt experiences and exhibited differential incidences of photographic anomalies. Contextual (aesthetic, physical, and structural) variables were measured, and randomized photographic (black-and-white, color, digital, infrared, and Polaroid) data were recorded under blind conditions in fourteen representative areas of the two sites. The haunt site displayed lower ambient temperature and higher humidity levels than the control site, but only suggestive differences were found between the active and inactive areas of the haunt site. Ratings from experimentally-blind photographic consultants indicated that the haunt site exhibited a higher incidence of photographic anomalies than the control site, as did the active areas of the haunt site, relative to the inactive areas. Color prints exhibited a higher incidence of photographic anomalies than all other media types. The results are discussed within the context of contemporary theoretical accounts of hauntings and methodological protocols employed in haunt research.
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