It’s good to talk and disagree
If you have not yet read Sarah’s article The Strange Light in the Window, then please check it out. In this Sarah reminded me that a massive part of what we wanted to achieve with the resurgence of this series was about generating some intelligent conversation about our experiences. This and the ability to actually disagree on something, seems to be often lacking these days amongst Ghost Hunters.
It brings us back to one aspect which I often hear many Ghost Hunters discuss at length, the capture of various types of evidence. However, evidence in this context most likely refers to photographic, video or audio. These primarily being the core elements that Ghost Hunters record during their visits to various supposedly haunted locations. Some will also look at other elements, such as temperature and the Electromagnetic Field (EMF), but these are usually recorded sporadically. It is this sporadic recording of information that means what is captured has little value as actual evidence.
However, often these pieces of evidence may be related to an experience that the Ghost Hunters have had, which oddly can equally lead to them believing more in their evidence. Belief can play a large part during the Ghost Hunt; it can shape what is considered to be paranormal; how the Ghost Hunters approach their investigation and the conviction they may have in what they experience.
Sarah’s Light in the Window
One thing I am really enjoying about this series, is how Sarah and I are submitting comparable cases. As this really helps us to gain a different perception on similar experiences, which provides good discussion on aspects of the paranormal.
Firstly, I must express a little envy regarding Sarah’s case, as one location type I don’t think I have quite managed to investigate; is a prison for the criminally insane. There’s something about investigating a possibly haunted prison and more so one for the criminally insane; that sparks the imagination in relation to horror films. Which is where belief finds its way back into the Ghost Hunt.
What is particularly interesting about Sarah’s case is that she advises that the event began as they walked down some stairs. It was then that the person next to Sarah froze, overcome with fear as they witnessed a strange flickering light. Sarah saw it too and she yelled ‘look at the light.’
However, this is not simply a case of observation as Sarah highlights a strange feeling of fear that overcome them. It is something I have heard many times before where Experiencers explain certain feelings prior to any probable physical activity. Sometimes that feeling is or could be generated by the circumstances and location the Ghost Hunter finds themselves in, a haunted prison could certainly help that scenario.
As ever Sarah leans directly towards a rational explanation, providing a few obvious possibilities like bugs, some kind of reflection, but still admits that a complete explanation was not quite there.
However, this particular experience is not made on what you’ve read above, it is becomes more interesting when you add in the couple that ran in to join Sarah. They were clearly excited by the fact that Sarah had seen the light and called it out. They had been on an upper lever of the prison conducting a little Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) work when their attention was captured by a loud ‘bang.’ This was when the couple saw a flickering light, which hovered for a brief moment and then travelled downwards. Seconds later they heard Sarah shout ‘look at the light.’ This obviously provides the suggestion that four people have shared the same or even similar experience from two different locations. Something which certainly sounds like it could be a little odd.
Without having all the details of these two probably connected experiences it’s difficult to ascertain if they are actually one event witnessed from two different perceptions, in this case locations; or is it simply two experiences that occurred close together in different locations that are very similar?
The couple were in an upper location from Sarah and witnessed the light anomaly hover in their location and then travel downwards. One assumes that means through the floor. So, we would need to know if they actually both saw it enter the floor of their room confirming it did not vanish in their room but travelled through the floor.
Next is the fact that here we do not have any information to suggest that the couple experienced the same fear as Sarah and the person she was with when they had their experience. Perhaps their response was delayed, perhaps witnessing something strange like this filled them with excitement rather than fear.
Then we have to try and understand the route of travel of the light anomaly here, was it physically travelling towards Sarah’s location or simple down into the floor. We know that the couple heard Sarah yell, so they may not have been too far away. However, in buildings such as these sound travels rather well, so it’s difficult to make an assumption of locality based on sound alone. However, Sarah does mention that roughly ten second after the couple witnessed their light anomaly they heard Sarah yell, which means depending on the rate of travel, the couple were most likely on the floor above, but not directly above Sarah. Although Sarah does mention that the couple were on the top-level, which suggests the possibility of a level in-between them, an empty floor or room perhaps. This may equally account for the ten second delay.
However, there is of course the possibility that the light anomaly dematerialised from the view of the couple and then rematerialised for Sarah, in which case it never really travelled at all.
The obvious assumption here is because it is a strange flickering light that is travelling through solid objects like floors, then it must be some kind of ghost. It certainly appears not to be normal, so that would make it paranormal by definition. However, in reality we only have a strange occurrence of a flickering light, with little additional information apart from the feeling of fear.
We know that things can not pass through solid objects right? Well back in 1969 Russian theorists, Alexander Andreev and Ilya Lifshitz studied the properties of solids and found that the atomic bounds within certain crystals could be weak enough to squeeze them like sponges. Then in 2005 Moses Chan at Pennsylvania State University believed they created the worlds first ‘supersolids,’ which were ‘bizarre crystals that slid through each other like ghosts.’ So, if physics has been working on ways that will change our understanding of matter and how it works then it presents us with a challenging concept when we analyse a small flickering light that appears to travel between rooms. However, light is not the only thing travelling through solid matter, many poltergeist cases report matter passing through matter. This uncommon reoccurrence presents us with a situation where-by perhaps something we believe to be paranormal may actually be normal, just rarely observed.
To place this into relative dimensions, I have never seen a duck billed platypus, but I know they exist due to the research. They are indigenous to Australia, so wonder if Sarah has seen one? However, they were initially believed to be a hoax, even when a preserved body was presented it was thought to be several animals sewn together by a taxidermist. The point here being, seeing became believing until sufficient evidence was provided. It’s existence had to be proven, poor little platypus.
Things are not always what they seem to be or what we hope them to be.
The light that Sarah experienced could equally be an example of a shared hallucination, which could have propagated from one person to the next once the suggestion was picked up telepathically. The result being a strange feeling of fear for Sarah and the person on the lower level, but visualising in their minds eye an odd flickering light moving through their environment. I am not attempting to take anything from their experiences here, just presenting probable explanations that have equal or comparable value to source being a ghost.
There could be another much more logical explanation here too, not know the physical make up of the environment that they were in makes it difficult to assume. I am assuming that the floors were concrete and not floorboards, meaning that a bug traveling from one level to another through the floor would be unlikely. Where if the floor was floorboards it could be reasonable to consider that a bug could make its way through them down to the level Sarah was on.
Whatever the answer is, this is certainly a fascinating case from the perspective of looking at the many possibilities that we could discuss here. Not to mention the many avenues of conversation that it can provide. I would certainly say that it could be documented as being a light anomaly, as four people are reporting that they saw it, from two different locations too. However, that is where we have to leave it, as there is no additional information to suggest that it is a ghost or spirit. There is certainly nothing here to suggest any intelligent communication occurring, so perhaps suggests a more normal paranormal explanation.
A Freezing Fort, Slamming Doors, Strange Noises and Faces Amongst the Team
Over a decade ago I put together a team to investigate some of the reported paranormal activity at Landguard Fort. An investigation that was not only made challenging by the size of the location itself, but as we completed our overnight ghost hunt during a cold night in March 2010 we battled the weather before we had to finally give in to the freezing conditions. Apparently, below zero and snow is a bit much to contend with during an investigation.
However, this particular ghost hunt left me questioning several things, some where we may jump to a logical explanation without justification and others where I began to see other possibilities beyond simply that of ghosts returning to haunt us.
Landguard Fort is actually one of the latest versions of various fortifications, that have been situated at Landguard Point as far back as 1543. The Fort built around 1628 was more in line with what we may perceive to be the current one, as it was square with a bastion at each corner. However, the brick Fort came later in 1717 and the square became a pentagon. Then fast forward to 1951 and gun casements were converted into a cold war control room.
Follow nearly ten years of military neglect after 1956, the Fort was sealed and left to slowly ruin. The English Heritage then picked it up around 1998, and it has been open to the public ever since.
Paranormally speaking the Fort has provided several reports, which have ranged from voices to footsteps, all the way through to full blown apparitions. Interestingly, this is said to have been documented by the men that lived and worked at the Fort. More recently visitors have also made similar reports, this has led to the belief that there is a resident ghost or three – a Musketeer in the Holland Bastion, a Portuguese woman and a sick soldier in the Chapel Bastion.
The resident historian and possibly the locations ghost expert, Richard Bradshaw, told me about his own experience. In this items fell off of shelves by themselves in the shop and he also saw an odd apparition towards the back of the shop.
So, all in all the location was quite inviting considering its history and reports of paranormal experiences.
During our investigation of Landguard Fort many of the team had little experiences throughout the evening, which could be classed as faint voices, knocking or seeing things out the corner of their eyes.
The first main experience, which be nothing at all though, was where the team encountered a door that closed on its own. Initially most of the team disregarded this stating that it was simply the wind flowing through an external door which forced this door closed. This made perfect sense until the person operating the camera advised they saw a white blur through the camera viewfinder that seemed to move around the door as it closed.
This brief encounter, that could be perfectly natural triggered some thought in my mind, but equally raised discussion. Were we seeing something paranormal, were we seeing something perfectly normal and simply hoping for paranormal or was it simply the wind?
At the time I raised this point, but asked simply that if it was the wind then surely it would happen again, as it was a relatively windy night. All we had to do was ensure the conditions were the same to have the door close on its own accord. Some agreed others believed it was a one off natural event that would be difficult to recreate.
The point being is that in that particular point in time, within the same group, some felt that they had witnessed something paranormal whilst others wrote it off as a natural occurrence. Something that happens all the time and something that made me realise that in order to fully understand the events we may encounter during an investigation, we need to document everything we can and then analyse it. Very Sherlock Holmes I know.
However, I was to learn yet another lesson from Landguard Fort before I left, which would highlight aspects of psychology to me in the future.
Our last are to investigate was the War Room and it’s smaller joining rooms, which we did so as one whole group, rather than the two groups we had been using throughout the night. At this point it was snowing, it was freezing and the team were tired. However, many were still hoping for a paranormal experience of some kind, especially as some had reported minor experiences throughout the night.
Two events occurred here, the first was an audible one where Liz heard a noise coming from the joining rooms, so a few of us headed to investigate. As we did so Jim looked back as he thought he saw a face he did not recognise between me and Ian. He then heard a noise from a nearby room too. The noise in question was later believed to be very similar to the keys being gently tapped on one of the tele-typers.
Back in the main War Room, some of the team identified further oddities. Some of the group discovered a drop in temperature in one particular area. As this was being investigated Jim believed he saw a shadow block out the light on the stairs behind Martin. Whilst they tried to recreate this they quickly realised that it would require someone to be stood between Martin and Leanne.
Finally, as the cold got the better of us and we headed towards the door, Leanne, Jim and Ian all thought they heard something which sounded very similar to a woman on a radio.
These small grouped experiences got me thinking though and their perfect timing too. We entered the War Room knowing it would be the last place we would investigate that night before heading home. So, the scene was set should anyone wish to have an experience. The desire and want, or perhaps intention was in all our minds I am sure.
Perhaps simple events which may have been paranormal or even had a more logical explanation quickly evolved into several and were confirmed by more and more of the group. Jim Houran would likely refer to this as psychological contagion. Basically this is referring to the fact that without realising it, when one of the group identified a noise or experience the group in their tired cold state imitated this belief. Something I have seen often in the field since Landguard Fort.
This psychological contagion makes small less significant events become larger more dramatic events with more meaning. For example, a random noise becomes identified as the tele-typer keys perhaps, a gap between the group becomes a face amongst the group. Whilst I am not discounting these experiences, I am suggesting that there may be more going on here. Not just in the location itself, but the minds of the investigators too.
Another reason why I have learned over the years to capture as much data, and notes as possible during investigations. Equally to step back and assess that information as a whole where I can, but be honest if I do not know. Something I often find in the paranormal, is that many do not seem to have the courage to simply say ‘I don’t know’ as they never seem to want to admit that they may not have an answer. Instead they offer a possibility that may be well justified, but often is not. Fundamentally it is a guess. We should not be guessing we should be analysing the information.
That is where I will leave this case, thinking about the importance of capturing all the information regarding your time somewhere. It’s why I always prefer a notepad and pen to any gadget. Understanding all the events combined is a far greater method of investigation than trying to capture a single piece of ‘evidence’ that will be unlikely to hold up beyond your group. Create a case to document the experience and all that occurred at that point in time.
Zoom out and see the bigger picture.