The Perception of Paranormal Events

The paranormal provides us with many strange coincidences on a regular basis, some of which we may find explanation for and others that will always remain in the realms of the unknown. Over the years these have become more and more evident to me during my investigations, but equally they have continued to provide synchronicities that often boggle the mind.

However, that being said coincidences and misidentified synchronicities have also been provided as some kind of evidence of the paranormal on numerous occasions during public ghost hunts and throughout many television series. Similar to audio, video and photographs, these little oddities have become ‘evidence’ in their own right amongst many ghost hunters in recent times. Something which I believe is down to the simple fact that the odd coincidence or synchronicity can add a level of drama to any ghost hunt that instantly provides those attending with their own personal experience.

If this all sounds a little negative on my part, then I apologise, but I do speak from a position of experience here. Firstly, I am happy to admit that there may have been a time when I was likely to jump at the odd coincidence and write it off as paranormal. However, nowadays I tend to take a little more time to fully understand the situation and comprehend exactly what may be going on. Secondly, I have attended many ghost hunts where I have witnessed many quickly concluding a coincidence as being something paranormal. Furthermore often this is comprehended as some kind of intelligent communication , even though there is little to no real supporting evidence.

Once again we see that many ghost hunters out there are nothing more than thrill seeking, experience grabbing and drama creating individuals, that could not be further away from an investigator if they tried. Although I am sure that is the case for many, I equally know that it is not the case for all. There are also many good investigators out there, that seek real evidence and take the time to collate it too. So, it’s not all doom and gloom, and bad ghost hunters.

The other day I stumbled on a classic internet post that described the odd case of Mary Ashford and Barbara Forrest. Like those strange coincidences that we encounter during ghost hunts, this case presented itself in this form in a dramatic manner, screaming strange paranormal possibility all over it. If you took it as it was without much investigation, then I am sure you would believe the case to be nothing more than weird. In fact, you may even go as far as to suggest some kind of supernatural involvement.

You see at first glance the coincidences of the case as they are reported appear strange. Both Ashford and Forrest were said to have been murdered and their body’s left rough 300 yards from each other, but 157 years apart. With both murders taking place on Whit Monday, Ashford in 1817 and Forrest in 1975. Both girls were also said to have shared the same birth date and were twenty years old when they died. Also, both girls were said to have visited a friends house and changed into a new dress prior to attending a local dance party. Even more chilling was the fact that a man with the surname Thornton had been arrested in both cases and then later acquitted of the murder.

One website even reported that both girls were raped and then strangled to death, providing distinct similarities between the two cases that quickly become something you simply cannot ignore.

If that was not enough to help these two cases become connected with the paranormal, then the addition of a comment that both victims made remarks regarding their upcoming fate. Ashford exclaimed the week before that she had ‘bad feelings’; and Forrest told a colleague about a premonition; stating ‘this is going to be my unlucky month.’ These potential precognitive ventures add to the potential paranormal element of these cases, making them seem even more linked than they may actually be in reality.

Unfortunately I do not have the time to fully investigate these fascinating cases to really see if there is anything paranormal here, but a preliminary overview does provide some interesting thought provoking aspects to consider.

As I briefly looked into these cases the coincidences did seem to fall away bit by bit. First up was the date and the location that apparently links these two cases. Ashford’s body was discovered on the morning of the 27th May by all accounts, which meant she could have been murdered in the early hours of that day. Equally, newspaper reports state that Forres’s body was hidden on the 27th May, matching Ashford’s. In regards to the location, this is a little more complex in my opinion, as a location can change greatly in 157 years. The area of Erdington during Ashford’s time was certainly less built up than it was during Forrest’s time, in which it has become known as Sutton Coldfield. However, as I looked in more detail at the locations where the girls bodies were said to be found; I found it hard to determine how close they may have been. Granted they are not that far apart, but I would not say its the same location.

Then there is the crime itself. The newspaper report on the Forrest case certainly outlines this as being a rape, followed by strangulation and then the body was hidden on the fringes of Pype Hayes Park. As this occurred in 1974 (not 1975 as earlier described in a different website), it is likely that criminal science would have been able to determine this as what had occurred. However, the Ashford case falls a little down on this aspect. Whilst there was initial thought that Ashford had been raped, this was based on her no longer being a virgin. Equally it is possible that she had previously had consensual sex either with Thornton or someone else prior to that. To be clear I am not writing off the possibility that Ashford was raped, but simply stating that there may not have been sufficient evidence to support that as cause. Equally, Ashford did not die from strangulation, she drowned. As she was found in a water-filled pit near Penns Lane, we could then speculate that she was either murdered by drowning or that she may have somehow fallen into the pit and drowned. As I previously mentioned, I have not investigated this is much detail, but this preliminary overview does provide more questions that make me begin to believe that these two cases are far from related.

Whilst these two cases occurring on the same day 157 years apart, with some interestingly similar aspects, does make them more interesting and does potentially make us want to connect them; we really shouldn’t. These are sad cases where two young women lost their lives, possibly in both cases at the hands of another person. Whilst Ashford’s case may now be too far in the past for us to discover the truth, Forrest’s case is still one that can return a result. In 2012, Erika, Barbara’s sister called Police to take action and review her sisters cold case. Perhaps they are and if not I hope they do soon, as this brutal senseless murder should find a resolution.

Barbara Forrest

The point here is to demonstrate how easy it is to associate to things because of similarities, even when they occur 157 years apart. We often seek patterns in all we do and would rather rest on something being a coincidence or paranormal, if those patterns are realised. Our perception of events can lead us to jump to the wrong conclusions, following what we desire to find rather than the truth we should be seeking. The Ashford and Forrest cases are overshadowed by the connection of their coincidences, and whilst fascinating we should examine these cases singularly determining the facts until such point that the facts collide.

We should be acknowledging this in our ghost hunts and paranormal investigations too; following the facts at all times. Granted when we deal with paranormal cases, we sometimes have to manage strange elements that are beyond belief and have us question the facts; but that does not mean we can not remain level headed.

Whilst the drama of the ghost hunt can be exciting and a paranormal experience something we hold dear; if you are looking to gain a serious understanding of the paranormal then you must question all and weigh the information you have to determine the facts. Equally, if you are reacting to the events of a ghost hunt and adding to the drama you could be placing others in a state where they believe more is going on. If we are all collectively to understand this vast country of exploration called the paranormal, then we need to do it with a level balanced head.

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.  Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

Sherlock Holmes

  • A Scandal in Bohemia by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

4 thoughts on “The Perception of Paranormal Events

  1. So Penn’s Lane was roughly where the Edward Campion school is or slightly east south east? I am going from the line of the extant canal and the position of Tyburn House? I will review the trial record tomorrow as I have a copy (for the first case) but the landscape has changed greatly.

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    1. Pretty much Chris, whilst they are likely in the same area I don’t believe they were at the same location. Please feel free to share on here what you find, but as I said mine was only a brief overview from a couple of extra sources.

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  2. Great article (The Perception of Paranormal Events)! Three questionable things that in my opinion perpetuate throughout concerning paranormal investigation are (1) no definition/testing standards for what acceptable conclusive data actual is (2) a place is considered “haunted” based solely on previous, carried-forward-in-time folklore (3) automatic suspicion of paranormal activity based solely on fact of previous deaths (by whatever means), societal negative character traits (prisons, jails, etc), or simply because a building is old. Paranormal investigation has become stuck in the quicksand of stagnation of pseudoscience and lack of new ideas that fail to keep pace with the alleged advanced capabilities of the deceased to communicate with those of us attempting communication.

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    1. Valid points well made. Although I wouldn’t say paranormal investigation is completely stuck and there are certainly ideas trickling through. However, we could do with more original thinking rather than the constant regurgitation of that which is presented through the reality paranormal TV shows on a regular basis!

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