I recently published part of a report I wrote for the Society of Psychical Research called ‘After Death Communications From Parents’ which looked at the two experiences of a gentleman following the loss of each of his parents; over a decade apart. This particular post has received some good attention since it was published and as such I wanted to follow up a little on After Death Communications (or ADC’s) as they do not appear to receive that much discussion specifically within the ghost hunter community these days.
An after-death communication (ADC) is a spontaneous experience of communication with a deceased friend or family member. Various types of ADC’s have been recorded throughout history, often including religious visions. Surprisingly they are said to occur to roughly 30-40% of the population (Streit-Horn, 2011). These experiences are not limited by age group, race or religion either; the ADC experience appears to be present in all walks of life.
The ADC experience fro many is said to be comforting and especially helpful for those dealing with grief, (Streit-Horn,2011). Something which I can completely understand after documenting a couple of these types of cases. The experience itself can provide a brief connection to those we have lost, but equally in many cases provide a sense that all is well; that they have moved on to a good place. Equally and provide the experiencer with a new outlook on their life as it is, certainly something that could be said of the gentleman that experienced communications form both his parents.
ADC cases are usually either individually or a mixture of visual, auditory, significant tactile contact, and/or a sense of presence. Equally these experiences are said to be not restricted by the experiencers state; occurring when they are awake, asleep or even in-between.
Many ADC cases can be said to fall into the following three commonly researched categories;
- Apparitions appearing prior to experiencers knowledge of their death (APD).
- Apparitions appearing to multiple witnesses (AMW).
- Apparitions that convey knowledge unknown to the experiencer that is later proven to be true (AKU).
Below is a simple example of an ADC;
‘About two weeks after my father died, he appeared to me in a vivid dream and said; “Son, being dead takes some getting used to, but you’ll like it.” This vivid dream was comforting to me, although before the dream I had no doubt that my father was in a good place.’
What is interesting about looking at ADCs for me is how we see some good structure in the research, which is something that the ghost hunting community lacks greatly in my opinion. If we are ever to truly promote modern ghost hunting to a level where its helping the academics with their research, we are going to need better structure. Interestingly, when I first began my time as a ghost hunter many years ago now, I personally believe we may have actually had better structure back then. We certainly seemed to be collating information on experiences and locations with an aim to understand their potential cause. These days many seem to have fallen into the realms of an urban explorer, the closest we have to investigation reports are YouTube videos of them roaming around purportedly haunted locations.
Oddly I believe that academic research like that on ADCs could greatly help our understanding of what we do and potentially experience during a ghost hunt. Whilst it is often defined that ghost hunters are not really attempting to communicate with friends or family members that have passed, whilst they investigate various haunted locations; that does not mean that during those scenarios communication does not occur. I have personally attended quite a few ghost hunts where members of the team have experienced communication from deceased family members or friends. In fact on one occasion during one of the many seances we held at the Royal Oak in Swanage, my sister and I were convinced that potentially the spirit communicating was our grandfather. Of course in reflection on this, the evidence itself to support this is very limited. However, it is not a piece of information limited to that location or to those Mediums alone. On numerous occasions whilst investigating, it has been advised that my other grandfather has been present and simply there to observe and help. Granted this could simply be Mediums providing vague communication from someone important to me in order to verify their ability with me. Verification of communication by the more spiritually sensitive in the group, is in my opinion is a regular occurrence during the ghost hunt.
One thing to think about in regards to a ghost hunt, is if the above ADC categories fit around the ghost hunt approach. Personally I think they might, just a little. For example, often ghost hunters may investigate a location and not know those that may have died there; as such the experiencer has no prior know of their death. This is similar to the APD’s mentioned above, as the ghost hunters may receive some communication from a spirit that identifies itself during their hunt, but that spirit would only be clarified as someone that had actually died later. Equally, and more likely during ghost hunts, an apparition may appear to multiple members of the team; similar to an AMW. And equally likely there maybe information conveyed during the hunt that is later clarified as a part of further research.
The problem I currently see is that whilst all these things may be present in modern ghost hunting, we are failing to document them in a manner that can be properly peer reviewed. I am by no means discounting video as a method of documenting cases, the problem is that video may often be presented in a manner that is dramatised. This dramatisation is often to make the piece more entertaining and as such increase the reach of it. After all we all want to share what we find and experience with others in some way or another. So, how can we turn these videos into usable research data?
Actually the use of video in research is far from something new, it has been used for many years to help document various aspects and provide a perspective that we can return to after the event. As a paranormal investigator, I have used (with permission) video to capture witness interviews where available. Whilst a digital voice recorder is perfect for capturing the experience, video adds further depth to the individuals account; as we do not simply speak audibly, we also say much more with our body language and behaviour. If you have ever seen a true crime documentary, then you would know that they usually video their interviews. This provides supporting evidence of the Police officers conduct and approach, but also the all important responses from those they are interviewing.
So, whilst I am not a huge fan of the modern approach of documenting everything on video and then uploading it to YouTube, perhaps in this era where high quality video is available on our mobile phones; I should give more time to reviewing social media video that relates to paranormal experiences. From my own interest, this may provide me with some good behavioural analysis of those said to be experiencing the paranormal. Granted that this would equally require an approach that allows us to cut through the unnecessary drama often included. Perhaps there are even some videos out there that document some ADC experiences.
If you have experienced the paranormal and have posted it to social media sites like YouTube or FaceBook; please feel free to let me know. Perhaps I will review it and make it the subject of a future post.