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Field Investigations of Hauntings and Poltergeists Utrecht II: Charting the Future of Parapsychology Fátima Regina Machado, Ph.D Pontifical Catholic University.

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Presentation on theme: "Field Investigations of Hauntings and Poltergeists Utrecht II: Charting the Future of Parapsychology Fátima Regina Machado, Ph.D Pontifical Catholic University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Field Investigations of Hauntings and Poltergeists Utrecht II: Charting the Future of Parapsychology Fátima Regina Machado, Ph.D Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo Inter Psi – Grupo de Estudo de Semiótica, Interconectividade e Consciência COG.br – Laboratório de Ciências Cognitivas PF Affiliate Member (Brazil)

2 Hauntings and Poltergeists What have we discovered through field investigations? What have we discovered through field investigations? What are the main questions which remain without answers? What are the main questions which remain without answers? What could we do to improve research procedures and discussion of collected data to try to solve the remaining questions? What could we do to improve research procedures and discussion of collected data to try to solve the remaining questions?

3 Hauntings and Poltergeists In general terms, according to the patterns observed from field investigations: hauntings: directly related to places hauntings: directly related to places poltergeists: directly related to people poltergeists: directly related to people A didactical distinction because not all reported cases can be classified.

4 Hauntings Etymologically: repeated apparition or sense of presence in a specific locale. Etymologically: repeated apparition or sense of presence in a specific locale. They can be visual (in the majority of the reported cases), auditory or olfactory. They can be visual (in the majority of the reported cases), auditory or olfactory. Usually persist through years, decades, or even centuries. Usually persist through years, decades, or even centuries.

5 Poltergeists German origin: German origin: polter = playful or noisy / geist = spirit or mind Can last “just” some hours, days, months or years (the latter is uncommon). Can last “just” some hours, days, months or years (the latter is uncommon). Physical occurrences that seem not to obey known physical laws. Physical occurrences that seem not to obey known physical laws.

6 Poltergeists Another term: recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis (RSPK) psychokinesis: mental action on the environment psychokinesis: mental action on the environment (from Greek, psyche = mind; kinesis = movement); (from Greek, psyche = mind; kinesis = movement); recurrent: events that are repeated; recurrent: events that are repeated; spontaneous: not controllable / not predictable. spontaneous: not controllable / not predictable. Coined based on evidence of the involvement of living agents in the anomalous physical events reported.

7 Hauntings and Poltergeists Other criteria to differentiate them: types of occurrences types of occurrences (physical or apparitional) (physical or apparitional) agency of occurrences: agency of occurrences: –hauntings related to some part of human beings thought to survive physical death and to retain the ability to reveal or relay informtion about past events; –poltergeists related to living people.

8 Expressions of psi in life Hauntings and poltergeists are very complex anomalous phenomena reported in all cultures across the centuries.

9 Hauntings and Poltergeists Different cultural or social groups can use distinct terminology or explanations for haunting and poltergeist occurrences.

10 Hauntings and Poltergeists In urban areas in Brazil events are interpreted as: In urban areas in Brazil events are interpreted as:  Providing evidence for belief in the existence of spirits;  Providing evidence of supposed action of the devil in our world.

11 Hauntings and Poltergeists In the Brazilian country side: Phenomena is caused by the actions of folkloric characters according to the beliefs of the region where they originated.  Saci Pererê, a kind of Brazilian goblin;  Spectral figures (E.g., Lobisomem, Mula- Sem-Cabeça, corresponding to a priest and his lover, respectively);  Entities whose forms are not exactly defined and whose purpose is to scare people, especially naughty children (E.g., Mão de Cabelo, Alma de Gato).

12 Hauntings and Poltergeists Two most common attitudes towards the phenomena are: considering them a mystery considering them a mystery considering them an enigma. considering them an enigma.

13 Hauntings and Poltergeists Those who consider them a mystery adopt a supernaturalist approach.  That is they describe the phenomena and their processes as if they were already completely known.  Descriptions reference mostly religious, religious- like or pseudo-scientific doctrine.

14 Hauntings and Poltergeists Those who consider them an enigma are not satisfied with the ready and easily found supernaturalist explanations. Instead, they are anxious to solve the enigma. Instead, they are anxious to solve the enigma. They look for a permanent solution that draws on patterns, evidence and other clues.

15 Hauntings and Poltergeists Scientific researchers are – or should be – those who consider hauntings and poltergeists like enigmas.

16 Hauntings and Poltergeists Being a scientist means: Being a scientist means:  being skeptical enough to avoid accepting any kind of "easy" explanation  being flexible enough not to impose dogmatic beliefs – either pro or con – on the search for explanations

17 Hauntings What have we learned about hauntings up to now?

18 Hauntings are related to places

19 Hauntings and Apparitions One distinction between what we call apparitions from what is classically called hauntings:  Apparitions are usually seen by specific individuals for whom what is seen and/or hear is very familiar to the experiencer.  Hauntings are repeatedly perceived by many different people over time, usually at a particular time of day or night.

20 Hauntings  Ghosts can seem very solid and real (not a linen floating in the middle of the air).  Ghosts have a three-dimensional form, may be seen in the mirror, may not pass through walls.  Ghosts have a three-dimensional form, may be seen in the mirror, may not pass through walls.  In most cases ghosts seem to ignore those who are observing them and perform the same acts, repeatedly. The sense of “realness” of ghosts in some cases arises from their behavior which does not differ from what would be expected if they were a living person in the environment.

21 Hauntings In the 19 th century scientific research of haunting phenomena started to be organized: In the 19 th century scientific research of haunting phenomena started to be organized: –SPR:  Phantasms of the Living, (Gurney, Myers & Podmore,1896)  Census of Hallucinations (Sidgwick, Johnson, Myers & Sidgwick, 1894) Other societies, foundations and research groups: Eg.: ASPR (1885); IMI (1905); IGPP (1950); PF (1951); FRNM, today RRC (1965) FRNM, today RRC (1965)

22 Hauntings and Apparitions Tyrrell´s classification (1953) (reviewed later by Mackenzie)  experimental apparitions;  crisis-apparitions;  apparitions after death;  ghost apparitions, related to the apparitions of a spectral figure at the same location in different occasions.

23 Hauntings (and Poltergeists) For almost three decades (1920s, 1930s and 1940s) parapsychological studies had been especially devoted to laboratory research. For almost three decades (1920s, 1930s and 1940s) parapsychological studies had been especially devoted to laboratory research. More recent surveys have showed that a good portion of population reports having already had a haunting (and poltergeist) experience at least once.

24 Hauntings Louisa Rhine´s case collection Louisa Rhine´s case collection (Hidden Channels of the Mind, 1965) Field investigations have been conducted in forms of: Field investigations have been conducted in forms of: –observational research; –surveys and case investigations in locu; – case collections; –analysis of reported cases (E.g., Alvarado & Zingrone, 1995; Hufford, 2001; Haight, 1979; Haraldsson & Houtkooper, 1991; Haraldsson, 2006; Houran & Range, 2001; Maher, 2000; Maher & Hansen, 1995; McClenon, 1981; McHarg, 1973; Moss & Schmeidler, 1968; Rogo, 1978; Roll & Nichols, 1999;Roll & Brittain, 1986; Roll, Maher & Brown, 1992; Rosenberg, 1974)

25 Hauntings and Apparitions “Do apparitions or ghosts have an objective nature?” Field investigations in locu have been improved with the use of newly developed technological devices to measure physical alterations at the places where haunting phenomena are said to occur.

26 Poltergeists What have we learned about poltergeists up to now?

27 Poltergeists Case collection Case collection (Carrington and Fodor, 1951/1953) Specialized and non-properly-specialized Specialized and non-properly-specialized literature: several reports about poltergeist-like occurrences. Published reports Published reports E.g.: Barret (1911), Lang (1903), Podmore (1896a; 1896b), Hyslop (1913), Bayless (1967, 1984), Bender (1969, 1976), Betty (1984, 1985, 1986), Bononcini & Martelli (1983), Cox (1961), Eeman (1986), Eisler (1975), Flammarion (1924/1980); Fodor (1958, 1959), Gregory (1982), Hasting (1978), Lombroso (1906, 1909); Nichols (2000), Price (1926, 1933, 1945), Rogo (1974, 1979, 1986, 1979/1995) and Roll (1968, 1972, 1977, 1978), Pratt & Roll (1971), among others.

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29 Poltergeists In Brazil: There is not a solid tradition of studies about poltergeist phenomena. There is not a solid tradition of studies about poltergeist phenomena. Few researchers or interested in the subject have written about it and/or presented and analysed some cases. Few researchers or interested in the subject have written about it and/or presented and analysed some cases. (E.g.: Andrade, 1988; Carvalho, 1991, 1992; Friderichs, 1980; Lima, 1994; Machado, 2001; Machado & Zangari; 1995, 1998, 2000; Tinoco, 1989.)

30 Poltergeists From the 17th century there are some reports of a few elementary field investigations. Up to the 18th century: Up to the 18th century: –People believed that poltergeists were provoked by spiritual entities, fairies, witches and the demon. (cases reported were used to discuss religion questions) (cases reported were used to discuss religion questions) From the 19th century: organization of more scientific approaches to poltergeists. From the 19th century: organization of more scientific approaches to poltergeists.

31 Poltergeists For some 19th and early 20th century researchers, poltergeists were nothing more than frauds. For some 19th and early 20th century researchers, poltergeists were nothing more than frauds.  Hyslop (1913), for example, has proposed that poltergeists could result from unconscious human activity during a period of dissociation.

32 Poltergeists 20th century: 20th century:  Marked by psycho-dynamic speculations and interpretations of the poltergeist phenomena based on Psychology and Psychoanalysis.  It has been said that these interpretations influenced field investigation approach and procedures.

33 Poltergeists Carrington (1922): Carrington (1922): Energy irradiated from the body of the agent during the adolescence period. Poltergeist occurrences would be connected to the expression or liberation of sexual/hormonal forces.

34 Poltergeists 1930s: 1930s: Case investigations started to include the application of parapsychological tests to the supposed agents to check if they could manifest any psychic ability. No significant results. Case investigations started to include the application of parapsychological tests to the supposed agents to check if they could manifest any psychic ability. No significant results. Physiological studies to verify whether the supposed agents had any kind of organic alteration. Nothing significant was found.

35 Poltergeists 1940s: 1940s:  Layard (1944): poltergeists would provide "...a covert form of release, and thus curative function, for repressed conflicts“.  Fodor (1948): considered the later called agent a victim of a kind of undesirable guest, not exactly independent of the focus person, but something produced by a psychopathology.

36 Poltergeists 1940s: 1940s: Two events have enhanced the interest for the poltergeist field investigations:  the publication of significant results of psychokinetic experiments with dice that suggested the possibility of mental influence over matter (Rhine & Rhine, 1943);  the interest of the Duke University Parapsychology Laboratory in the spontaneous case studies as sources of insight for the design of future experiments.

37 Poltergeists The hypothesis of living human involvement in the production of poltergeist occurrences gained force. It became so strong that it acts as almost a ready answer to future cases.

38 Poltergeists 1950s and 1960s: 1950s and 1960s: Renewal of interest in poltergeist cases has contributed to the development of a protocol of field investigation. Diagrams of the site where the disturbances occurred; Diagrams of the site where the disturbances occurred; The trajectory of objects were marked and measured; The trajectory of objects were marked and measured; Reports on the position of each person in the house at the time of the occurrences were made; Reports on the position of each person in the house at the time of the occurrences were made; Psychological tests were given to the agents and eventually to other members of the household. Psychological tests were given to the agents and eventually to other members of the household.

39 Poltergeists 1970s and 1980s: 1970s and 1980s: Rogo emphasized the possibility of adopting therapeutic Rogo emphasized the possibility of adopting therapeutic approaches to stop poltergeist manifestations: such as the verbalization of tensions, as in group therapy.

40 Poltergeists Stevenson (1972) and Rogo (1979) have admitted the possibility of the existence of spiritual entities which could provoke poltergeists. Stevenson (1972) and Rogo (1979) have admitted the possibility of the existence of spiritual entities which could provoke poltergeists. Ideas were reinforced by a few field investigations: Ideas were reinforced by a few field investigations:  in which the researchers could not find an agent or central person (Cornell & Gauld, 1960; Osis & McCormick, 1982; Pierce, 1973; Stevenson, 1972);  when the supposed agent or focus person was absent (Roll, 1970, 1976). VERY CONTROVERSIAL! VERY CONTROVERSIAL!

41 Poltergeists We do not know yet the limits of a living human being’s capacities of interaction. We do not know yet the limits of a living human being’s capacities of interaction. If psi does not seem to obey known physical laws we cannot say for sure how psychokinesis would work in every poltergeist occasion. If psi does not seem to obey known physical laws we cannot say for sure how psychokinesis would work in every poltergeist occasion.

42 Hauntings and Poltergeists The development of technology has improved the field research of poltergeists: still and motion-picture photography with various types of film media, including infrared film (e.g., Bender, 1969; Karger & Zicha, 1968; Maher & Hansen, 1992; Maher & Schmeidler, 1975; Rosenberg,1974; Taff & Gaynor, 1976; Uphoff & Uphoff, 1984) still and motion-picture photography with various types of film media, including infrared film (e.g., Bender, 1969; Karger & Zicha, 1968; Maher & Hansen, 1992; Maher & Schmeidler, 1975; Rosenberg,1974; Taff & Gaynor, 1976; Uphoff & Uphoff, 1984) thermal sensors (e.g., Andrews, 1977) thermal sensors (e.g., Andrews, 1977) devices to measure geological, geomagnetic and/or meteorological conditions (e.g., Dingwall & Hall, 1958; Persinger & Cameron, 1996; Osis, 1982; Randall & Randall, 1991); devices to measure geological, geomagnetic and/or meteorological conditions (e.g., Dingwall & Hall, 1958; Persinger & Cameron, 1996; Osis, 1982; Randall & Randall, 1991);

43 Hauntings and Poltergeists tape-recorders with or without specialized microphones, parabolic dishes or diodes to capture subsonic and ultrasonic frequencies tape-recorders with or without specialized microphones, parabolic dishes or diodes to capture subsonic and ultrasonic frequencies (e.g., Hovelman, 1982; Pratt & Palmer, 1976) (e.g., Hovelman, 1982; Pratt & Palmer, 1976) devices for psychophysiological measurements such as the portable transistor electroencephalogram–telemetric units (e.g., Solfvin & Roll, 1976) –and those that can measure heart rate, respiration, galvanic skin response (e.g., Hart, Black and Hollinshead, 1999) devices for psychophysiological measurements such as the portable transistor electroencephalogram–telemetric units (e.g., Solfvin & Roll, 1976) –and those that can measure heart rate, respiration, galvanic skin response (e.g., Hart, Black and Hollinshead, 1999) magnetometers (e.g., Radin & Roll, 1994, 1996; Roll, Sheehan, Persinger & Glass, 1996) magnetometers (e.g., Radin & Roll, 1994, 1996; Roll, Sheehan, Persinger & Glass, 1996)

44 Hauntings and Poltergeists radiation detectors such as the Geiger counter (e.g., Maher & Schmeidler, 1975) radiation detectors such as the Geiger counter (e.g., Maher & Schmeidler, 1975) computers, such as a diode-based computerized random number generator (e.g., Maher & Hansen, 1992) computers, such as a diode-based computerized random number generator (e.g., Maher & Hansen, 1992) a multi-energy sensor array called MESA, "a portable computerized multi-energy sensor array... which... can facilitate the task by permitting one researcher instead of a group of investigators to operate the multiple sensors and collect EMF [electromagnetic field] data" (Harte, Hollinshead & Black, 1996). a multi-energy sensor array called MESA, "a portable computerized multi-energy sensor array... which... can facilitate the task by permitting one researcher instead of a group of investigators to operate the multiple sensors and collect EMF [electromagnetic field] data" (Harte, Hollinshead & Black, 1996).

45 Hauntings and Poltergeists Objective results: Objective results: Known conventional physical energies may be mediating or even causing hauntings and poltergeist-like episodes.  ionizing radiation  geomagnetic activity  localized electromagnetic and electrostatic fields  (EMFs) can directly influence the physical environment and the psychophysiological functioning of those who are exposed (Persinger & Cameron, 1986; Persinger & Lafreniere, 1977) (Persinger & Cameron, 1986; Persinger & Lafreniere, 1977)

46 Hauntings and Poltergeists Some researchers have counted on the help of psychics especially at during on-site field investigations of hauntings. Some researchers have counted on the help of psychics especially at during on-site field investigations of hauntings.  It is used the supposed human mediumship as a capacity that can serve as a bridge between the past and the present, and between the environment non-direct-observable data and the researchers. But it is not enough.

47 Hauntings and Poltergeists Explanations... (a) fraud (e.g., Kurtz, 1985; Randi, 1995); (b) misinterpretation of reality (e.g., Gardner, 1985); (c) psychopathology (e.g., Zusne & Jones, 1982); (d) supernatural causes (e.g., Andrade, 1988; Kardec, 1857/1944a); (e) anomalous environmental interactions (e.g., Bender, 1976; Rogo, 1986; Roll, 1978; Houran & Lange, 2001; Mackenzie, 1982; among many others).

48 Hauntings and Poltergeists Persistent questions and possible ways to answer them

49 Hauntings and Poltergeists What do they mean? What is their function in our daily life? Why doesn’t everybody have these kinds of experiences? Psychological and physiological measures of agents or percipients´ features are not different from other people who have never had such experiences or who have never provoked any poltergeist event. So, what makes the difference? What is the specific role of context in poltergeist cases? And what about its importance in haunting cases?

50 Hauntings and Poltergeists Why do haunting and poltergeist occurrences happen in specific places and not in other places where the same measurements of environment forces (electromagnetic fields, for example) can be found? Are poltergeists and hauntings provoked exclusively by living human beings or are they provoked by disembodied spirits or entities? How can we deal with the rareness/elusiveness of the phenomena?

51 Hauntings and Poltergeists Strategies to try to solve these questions (Future directions)

52 Hauntings and Poltergeists Valuing field investigations. Strongly considering the subjects of such experiences. A balanced integration between research directed at proof and research directed at process. A balanced integration between research directed at proof and research directed at process. Pay more attention to “daily less exciting phenomena” psi experiences, such as reports of apparently ESP dreams and supposed isolated psychokinetic occurrences/experiences. Pay more attention to “daily less exciting phenomena” psi experiences, such as reports of apparently ESP dreams and supposed isolated psychokinetic occurrences/experiences. Consider the fraudulent cases as valuable in their symbolic aspects. Consider the fraudulent cases as valuable in their symbolic aspects.

53 Hauntings and Poltergeists Do more field investigations that consider subjective and objective aspects of the phenomena in order to understand them. Real interdisciplinary work is needed. Do more field investigations that consider subjective and objective aspects of the phenomena in order to understand them. Real interdisciplinary work is needed. Field Research + Experimental Research Field Research + Experimental Research Longitudinal studies Longitudinal studies Concentrate on knowing more about the reach of human mind/capacity. Concentrate on knowing more about the reach of human mind/capacity. Consider hauntings and poltergeists as enigmas. Consider hauntings and poltergeists as enigmas.

54 Hauntings and Poltergeists Suggestion: Suggestion: A network of field investigation could be created. It would bring together researchers from different areas and perspectives who are dedicated to spontaneous case research, who focus on integrating results with those of experimental research involving the experiencers related to the cases investigated.

55 Network of Field Investigators of Hauntings and Poltergeists Exchange ideas about the development of research methodologies. Exchange ideas about the development of research methodologies. Share technology. Share technology. Facilitate the analysis of correlations of data collected from experimental studies and the context of occurrences. Facilitate the analysis of correlations of data collected from experimental studies and the context of occurrences. Serve as an “observatory” so as to accummulate information about the people and places involved in spontaneous cases longitudinally in order to map subsequent effects of psi spontaneous experiences or even the consequences of fraudulent cases that have been investigated. Serve as an “observatory” so as to accummulate information about the people and places involved in spontaneous cases longitudinally in order to map subsequent effects of psi spontaneous experiences or even the consequences of fraudulent cases that have been investigated.

56 Network of Field Investigators of Hauntings and Poltergeists Break language barriers. Break language barriers. Try to get grants to fund research in locu. Try to get grants to fund research in locu. Establish protocols of field research (including how to deal with the police, the press and religious interferences), periodically peer-reviewed. Establish protocols of field research (including how to deal with the police, the press and religious interferences), periodically peer-reviewed. Circulate any new and exciting case among the network. Circulate any new and exciting case among the network.

57 Hauntings and Poltergeists We have to decide: Do we contemplate haunting and poltergeist cases as merely astonishing or do we work together to solve the enigma?

58 Hauntings and Poltergeists I vote that we improve our joint work in order to solve the enigma.

59 Field Investigations of Hauntings and Poltergeists: future directions Put a great value on field investigations. Consider fraudulent cases as valuable in their symbolic aspects. Consider fraudulent cases as valuable in their symbolic aspects. Strongly consider the experiencers (subjects). Real interdisciplinary research. Real interdisciplinary research. Balanced integration between research directed at proof and research directed at process. Balanced integration between research directed at proof and research directed at process. Field Research + Experimental Research Field Research + Experimental Research (integrated research) Pay attention to “ less exciting ” supposed psi occurrences/experiences. Pay attention to “ less exciting ” supposed psi occurrences/experiences. Longitudinal studies of hauntings and poltergeists’ experiencers. Longitudinal studies of hauntings and poltergeists’ experiencers.


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