Disturbances of a paranormal character, attributed to the
spirits of the dead. Tradition established two main factors in
haunting an old house or other locale and restlessness of a
spirit. The first represents an unbroken link with the past, the
second is believed to be caused by remorse over an evil life or
by the shock of violent death.
The manifestations vary greatly. In most cases, strange
noises are heard alone (auditory effects); in some others objects
are displaced, and lights are seen (visual effects); also, a chilliness
is sometimes felt in the atmosphere, not infrequently unbearable
stench pervades the room, and an evil influence imparts
feelings of unspeakable horror (sensory effects); and
phantoms, both human and animal, appear in various degrees
of solidity. The more noise they make the less solid they are.
The phenomena of haunting are often classed as objective
and subjective. This classification is rather arbitrary as it does
not take count of auditive hyperaesthesia. Sounds below the ordinary
limit of audition may be heard objectively although nobody
else is aware of a beginning disturbance. The phantoms
themselves are often harmless and aimless, sometimes malevolent.
‘‘Since the days of ancient Egypt, ghosts have learned, and
have forgotten nothing,’’ stated Andrew Lang, noted folklorist
and writer on psychical manifestations. The usual type display
no intelligence, appear irregularly, and act like sleepwalkers or
mechanical recordings.
A. W. Monckton, in his Some Experiences of a New Guinea Resident
Magistrate (1927) told the story of ghostly footsteps at Samarai,
in the house where he was staying. In brilliant illumination
he could see depressions at the spots from which the sound
of the footsteps came.
Perhaps the most ancient case of haunting is attributed to
the spirit of the traitorous general Pausanias (second century
C.E.) who was immured in the Temple of Athene of Sparta to
die of starvation. Terrifying noises were heard in the temple
until a necromancer finally laid the ghost to rest.
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Haunting
John H. Ingram, in The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions
of Great Britain (1890), published many accounts of haunting.
According to him there are at least 150 haunted houses in Britain.
From one account published in Notes and Queries (1860) Ingram
noted that Edmund Lenthal Swifte, who was appointed
keeper of the crown jewels in the Tower of London in 1814, experienced
various unaccountable disturbances. One night one
of the sentries saw a huge phantom bear issue from underneath
the jewel room door. The bear dissolved into the air after the
sentry thrust at it with his bayonet. The sentry died of fright the
next day.
Haunted ‘‘B. House’’
Sir Oliver Lodge, F. W. H. Myers, L. M. Taylor, the Marquess
of Bute, and Miss X. (Ada Goodrich-Freer) did the research
for the book The Alleged Haunting of B. House (1899).
Goodrich-Freer, who was in charge of the investigation, spent
about three months at Ballechin House, Perthshire, Scotland.
In her diary she states,
‘‘I was startled by a loud clanging sound which seemed to resound
through the house. The mental image it brought to my
mind was of a long metal bar, such as I have seen near iron
foundries, being struck at intervals with a wooden mallet. The
noise was as of metal struck with wood; it seemed to come diagonally
across the house. It sounded so loud, though distant,
that the idea that any inmate of the house should not hear it
seemed ludicrous.’’
Several phantoms were seen, most often a nun whom the investigators
named ‘‘Ishbel’’ and a lay woman dressed in grey
who was called ‘‘Margaret.’’ The nun was sketched by a member
of the party. She often appeared to be talking with the lay
woman, who seemed to upbraid or reprove her. The attempt
to catch their words was unsuccessful. The phantoms were seen
by the dogs, who were terrified.
The clanging sounds sometimes continued for a long time
and were succeeded by other sounds.
‘‘It might have been made by a very lively kitten, jumping
and pouncing, or even by a very large bird; there was a fluttering
noise too. It was close, exactly opposite the bed. . . . We
heard noises of pattering in Room No. 8 and Scamp [the dog]
got up and sat apparently watching something invisible to us,
turning his head slowly as if following the movements of some
person or thing across the room from West to East. During the
night, Miss Moore had heard footsteps crossing the room, as
of an old man or invalid man shuffling in slippers.’’
Attempts to produce the same noises naturally were unsuccessful.
The phantoms apparently desired to be noticed. GoodrichFreer,
absorbed in writing, was gently, then firmly and more
decidedly pushed to make her look up. Nothing was visible, but
the dog was gazing intently from the hearth-rug at the place
where the phantoms might have been expected.
Once the phantom of a living man, Rev. Father H., was seen.
He was supposedly sleeping at the time. Twice the vision of a
wooden crucifix presented itself, preceded by an acute chill on
the part of someone present. Phantom dogs were heard pattering
and bounding in play, and one was seen. Goodrich-Freer
and a Miss Moore felt more than once that they were being
pushed as if by a dog, and on one occasion two forepaws of a
large black dog were seen resting on the edge of a table. Gradually
the manifestations died down and finally ceased altogether.
Animal Ghosts
The family history of the owners of this haunted house appears
to bear out the theory that the animals seen in haunted
houses have also lived there. Major S., who was commonly believed
to be one of the haunting spirits, was convinced in his
lifetime that the spirits of the dead can enter the bodies of animals,
and intended to possess, after his death, the body of a favorite
black spaniel from among his many dogs. The family was
so distressed by the idea that they had all his dogs shot after his
burial. Curiously enough, among the dog apparitions at B.
House several witnesses saw a black spaniel.
Elliott O’Donnell suggested that there are as many animal
phantasms as human, the most frequent being the cat, as cats
meet more often with a sudden and violent end in the house
in which they live than any other animal. When investigating
a haunted house, he generally used to take a dog with him as
a dog seldom fails to give early ‘‘notice—either by whining, or
growling, or crouching shivering on one’s feet, or springing on
one’s lap and trying to bury its head in one’s coat—of the proximity
of a ghost.’’ O’Donnell stated that belief in spectral dogs
was common all over the British Isles.
Haunted Hampton Court
Goodrich-Freer claimed to have seen ghost manifestations
in Hampton Court, the famous London palace built for Cardinal
Wolsey but taken over by Henry VIII. ‘‘In the darkness before
me there began to glow a soft light. I watched it increase
in brightness and in extent. It seemed to radiate from a central
point, which gradually took form, and became a tall, slight
woman, moving slowly across the floor.’’ She asked the phantom
whether she could help her. ‘‘She then raised her hands,
which were long and white, and held them before her as she
sank upon her knees and slowly buried the face in her palms,
in the attitude of prayer—when, quite suddenly, the light went
out, and I was alone in the darkness.’’
Goodrich-Freer nevertheless did not believe that the visitor
in this case was a departed spirit. She conjectured that it was
a telepathic impression of the dreams of the dead, ‘‘just as the
figure which, it may be, sits at my dining-table, is not the friend
whose visit a few hours later it announces but only a representation
of him, having no objective existence apart from the truth
of the information it conveys—a thought which is personal to
the brain which thinks it.’’
A Haunted Chateau
At the Chateau T. in Normandy, near Caen, a resident recorded
in a diary various knocking phenomena (later published
in Annales des Sciences Psychique, 1892–93).
‘‘One o’clock. Twelve blows followed by a long drumming,
then 30 rapid single knocks. One would have thought that the
house was shaken; we were rocked in our beds on every storey
. . . then a long rush of feet; the whole lasting only five minutes.
A minute later the whole house was shaken again from top to
bottom; ten tremendous blows on the door of the green room.
Twelve cries outside, three bellowings, followed by furious outcries.
Very loud drumming in the vestibule, rhythmical up to
50 knocks. 1.30 A.M. The house shaken 20 times; strokes so
quick that they could not be counted. Walls and furniture alike
quivered; nine heavy blows on the door of the green room, a
drumming accompanied by heavy blows. At this moment bellowings
like those of a bull were heard, followed by wild nonhuman
cries in the corridor. We rang up all the servants and
when all were up we again heard two bellowings and one cry.’’
The Laying to Rest of Uneasy Spirits
There are many cases of hauntings by uneasy spirits that required
certain acts to take place before the manifestation
ceased. A highly curious mixture of haunting, poltergeist, and
obsession phenomena is found in the old case of The Maid of
Orlach, told in Justinus Kerner’s Geschichten Besessener neurer
Zeit (1834). The disturbances began in the cowhouse. The cows
were found tied up in unusual ways and places. Sometimes
their tails were finely plaited together, as if by a lace weaver.
Strange cats and birds came and went and invisible hands
boxed the cowmaid Magdalene’s ears while she was milking
and struck her cap off with violence. Mysterious fires broke out
from time to time in the cottage and a contest between a black
and a white spirit ensued.
There was a white spirit, a benign influence, a nun born at
Orlach in 1412, who was guilty of many crimes. She tried to
Haunting Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
give protection against the increasing violence of the black
spirit and asked for the house to be pulled down. The black
spirit threw Magdalene into a cataleptic state and obsessed her.
The persecution suddenly stopped when the house was demolished.
Under an ancient piece of masonry a mass of human
bones, among them the remains of several infants, was discovered.
The girl never saw ghosts thereafter.
According to Emma Hardinge Britten’s Modern American
Spiritualism (1869) the Hydesville phenomena developed into
a formal haunting some time after the discovery of the rapping
‘‘The furniture was frequently moved about; the girls were
often clasped by hard, cold hands; doors were opened and shut
with much violence; their beds were so shaken that they were
compelled to ‘‘camp out’’ as they termed it, on the ground;
their bed-clothes were dragged off from them, and the very
floor and house made to rock as in an earthquake. Night after
night they would be appalled by hearing a sound like a death
struggle, the gurgling of the throat, a sudden rush as of falling
blood, the dragging as if of a helpless body across the room,
and down the cellar stairs; the digging of a grave, nailing of
boards, and the filling in of a new-made grave. These sounds
have been subsequently produced by request.’’
The Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (vol.
11, p. 547–549) contains one of the most curious and wellauthenticated
cases in which a haunting spirit established communication
with a living person and was laid to rest after its
wishes were carried out. The incident occurred in 1893 to a
Mrs. Claughton, a resident of 6 Blake St., a house reputed to
have been haunted by the spirit of its former owner, a Mrs.
Claughton was awakened in the night by a female apparition,
which was also perceived by her elder child. The apparition
bid her ‘‘follow me,’’ led her to the drawing room, said ‘‘tomorrow’’
and disappeared. The next night the apparition
returned, made a statement to Claughton and asked her to do
certain things. To prove to her the reality of her experience,
the apparition gave the date of Blackburn’s marriage, which,
on subsequent inquiry, was found to be correct.
During this period, a second phantom appeared who stated
himself to be George Howard, buried in Meresby churchyard,
and gave the date of his marriage and death. He asked Claughton
to go to Meresby (she had never heard of the place before),
verify the dates and wait at Richard Hart’s grave in the aisle of
the church after midnight. He also said that her railway ticket
would not be taken, that Joseph Wright, a dark man to whom
she should describe him, would help her, and that she would
lodge with a woman who had a drowned child buried in the
same churchyard. The rest of the story would be told to her at
the churchyard.
A third phantom also appeared. He was in great trouble and
stood with his hands on his face, behind Blackburn. Thereafter
the three phantoms disappeared. Claughton found that such
a place as Meresby existed, went there, and found lodgings with
Joseph Wright, who turned out to be the parish clerk. The
woman who lost a child was Wright’s wife. She spoke to Joseph
Wright about George Howard, and he took her to Howard’s
and Richard Hart’s graves. Richard Hart appeared and made
a communication that Claughton did not feel at liberty to disclose.
She carried out the desires of the dead in full and received
no communications from them thereafter.
Justinus Kerner’s book The Seeress of Prevorst (1845) includes
an account of a poor German family in Weinsberg that was disturbed
by a ghost. Kerner brought the women of the house to
see Frederica Hauffe. The ghost attached itself to Hauffe and
told her that he had lived in about 1700 under the name Belon
in the house he haunted, had died at the age of 79, and could
not rest because he had defrauded two orphans. After a search
in the records it was found that the information tallied with a
burgomaster of the town who died in 1740 at the age of 79 and
had been guardian of orphans.
Premonitory Haunting
Premonitory haunting, foretelling death or another catastrophe,
is in a class by itself. The White Lady of the Royal Palace
in Berlin and of the Castle of Schönbrunn, the White Lady
of Avenel (in Sir Walter Scott’s book The Monastery), the Dark
Lady of Norfolk, and the Grey Lady of Windsor are all said to
be heralds of death. The White Lady of the Royal Palace of Berlin
is supposed to be the ghost of the Countess Agnes of Orlemunde,
who murdered her two children. She appeared in
1589, eight days before the death of the Prince Elector John
George, in 1619, 23 days before the death of Sigismund, and
also in 1688. In 1850 her appearance preceded the attempt on
the life of Count Frederick Williams. The White Lady of Schönbrunn
was seen in 1867 before the tragic death of Emperor
Maximilian of Mexico; in 1889, prior to the Mayerling drama;
and before the news arrived that John Orth, the ex-Archduke,
was lost at sea.
The forms of premonitory haunting show great variety,
from death lights and phantom funeral processions to symbolic
sounds, the stopping of clocks, the apparition of banshees, and
ominous animals. Deathbed visions are in a different class as
there is no periodicity in their occurrence.
Augustus Hare, in his book The Story of My Life (1896), tells
of the visit of Sir David Brewster to the Stirling family at Kippenross,
in Scotland. Brewster was so terrified by strange noises
heard in the night that he fled to his daughter’s room. His
daughter then saw at the head of the stairs a tall woman leaning
against the banisters. She asked her to send her maid. She nodded
three times and, pointing to a door in the hall, descended
the stairs. When the daughter spoke of the matter to Miss Stirling
she became deeply agitated. A Major Wedderburn and his
wife were sleeping in the room the spirit had pointed to. The
tradition said that whoever was pointed out by the ghost died
within the year. Strangely enough, before the year was out both
the major and his wife were killed in the Sepoy rebellion in
The Vanishing Bread and Other Weird Phenomena
The British Spiritualist publication Light (October 24,
1903), reprinted an account from the Daily Express newspaper
of the mystery of the vanishing bread of Raikes Farm, Beverley,
Yorkshire. The Websters, a family with seven children, apparently
lived in a haunted farmstead. Strange noises, footsteps,
and mysterious choir singing were heard in the night but what
really disturbed the family was that the bread, from the first
week of March 1903, crumbled away during the night. It
looked as if it had been gnawed by rats or mice.
All sorts of precautions were taken but nothing could arrest
the dwindling of the loaves. They were set in a closed pan, with
a rat-trap set inside and another on top of the lid, the floor was
sprinkled with flour, two lengths of cotton were stretched across
the room, and the doors were locked. In the morning, everything
was found intact, but one of the loaves had entirely disappeared,
and the other had dwindled to half of its original size.
For nearly three months the Websters kept the mystery to
themselves. The situation became desperate. Mrs. Webster had
seen the end of a loaf waste to nothingness on the kitchen table
within an hour.
The family requested the services of a former police constable
named Berridge, and he was put in sole charge of the dairy
for several days. But Berridge frankly confessed that he was baffled.
He came with two loaves of bread to the farm, and locked
them in the dairy with his own special lock. The next day they
appeared to be all right, but a day after, cutting them open, he
found the loaves quite hollow. He suspected faulty baking but
the cavity gradually grew wider and wider, and the second loaf
began to dwindle before his eyes.
He secreted pieces of bread in other places about the house,
but in every instance they wasted away to nothing. Ten leading
chemists of Beverley and Hull visited the farm and analyzed the
bread. Microscopic examination did not reveal the presence of
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Haunting
any microbe or fungus, and the bread was pronounced absolutely
When Mrs. Webster resorted to baking cakes for the household,
she was relieved to find that although they lay side by side
with the blighted bread they showed no sign of harmful contact.
But when the last crumb of bread disappeared, the mysterious
destroyer of the loaves attacked the cakes as well. The
decay of a loaf was immediately arrested if it was removed from
the precincts of the farmhouse. This proved that the blight was
local and possibly a bizarre form of haunting.
The gruesome traits of the traditional ghost are well reflected
in the story the Earl of Bective told British psychical researcher
Harry Price. As reported in Psychic Research (June
1930), the earl was staying with some friends at a Scottish castle
and wished to explore a certain wing, which had been closed
for generations. In the state ballroom, he saw to his amazement,
‘‘The trunk of a man near the door by which he had just entered
and which he had closed after him. No head, arms or legs
were visible, and the trunk was dressed in red velvet, with slashings
of white across the breast and a good deal of lace. The period
was perhaps Elizabethan and the trunk was undoubtedly
that of a man. . . .
‘‘The apparition gradually became less distinct and finally
vanished, apparently through the closed door. Lord Bective
then hurried to the other end of the room with the intention
of ascertaining whether the phantom had passed into the next
apartment. . . .
‘‘And now comes the most extraordinary part of the story.
Although he had a few minutes previously passed through the
doorway (the door swinging very easily and with a simple latch),
he now found that something was on the other side of the door
which prevented his opening it. He could still raise the latch
and the door would give a fraction of an inch, with a pronounced
resilience, exactly as if someone were on the far side
attempting to bar his entry into the room. After two or three
good pushes he gave an extra powerful one and the door flew
open and he was alone.’’
The story of the haunted vaults at Barbados sounds like fiction,
yet Commander R. T. Gould, R.N., assures us in his book
Oddities A Book of Unexplained Facts (1928) that it is a true tale.
Time after time, heavy leaden coffins were found standing on
end and tossed about as if by the hand of a giant. Lord Combermere,
governor of Barbados, decided to test the matter. The six
coffins of the haunted vault were placed in order, a stone
weighing five tons was cemented into the doorway and Combermere
and others placed their seals on the vault. On April 18,
1820, eight months later, the vault was opened. The sand on
the floor bore no mark, yet the six coffins were found thrown
all over the vault.
A recurring spectral light, subsequently named the Fire of
St. Bernardo, was seen in Italy in Quargnento by Signor Sirembo
during the early months of 1895, and afterward by one Professor
Garzino, the civil engineer Capello and others. At about
half past eight in the evening, a luminous mass, sometimes of
a diameter of 24–28 inches, appeared and moved by leaps from
the little church of St. Bernardo to the cemetery and about
midnight returned to the church. The event took place at all
seasons, but it was not seen by everybody. The case was described
in Cesare Lombroso’s book After Death—What (1909).
The medium Elizabeth d’Esperance, as a young girl, was
greatly frightened on the Mediterranean in 1867 seeing a
‘‘strange ship . . . her white sails gleaming rosy red in the light
of the setting sun,’’ looming full over the bows of the S.S. Sardinian,
on which she was sailing. ‘‘One man on her deck was
leaning with folded arms against the bulwarks watching the oncoming
of our vessel.’’ The strange ship passed through their
own. D’Esperance saw the vessel in the wake of her boat, with
sails fully set; she saw each rope of the rigging, men moving
about on the deck, and the pennant flying at the mast-head.
Lieutenant N., standing next to the girl, saw nothing.
To Charles Richet, the idea that nonhuman intelligences
might be behind the phenomena of haunting was greatly appealing.
However, almost nothing that would amount to evidence
is available of such haunting. The German ‘‘Berg
Geister,’’ (the spirits of mountains and mines) or the ‘‘little people’’
(fairies) would be of this class.
In Nineteenth Century Miracles (1884), Emma Hardinge Britten
related that a Mr. Kalozdy, a Hungarian author on mineralogy
and teacher in the Hungarian School of Mines, collected
many narratives of knockings in Hungarian and Bohemian
mines. He and his pupils often heard these knockings. The
miners took them for signals from the Kobolds (underground
goblins) not to work in the direction against which they were
warned. The materialized appearance of these Kobolds was
seen by Mrs. Kalozdy, herself an author, in the hut of a peasant,
Michael Engelbrecht. Lights the size of a cheese plate suddenly
emerged; surrounding each one was the dim outline of a small
human figure, black and grotesque. They flitted about in a wavering
dance and then vanished one by one. This visit was announced
to Engelbrecht by knockings in the mine. The more
prosaic explanation of underground knockings is that they are
caused by seismic disturbances.
Speculations of the Early Psychical Researchers
Such instances, complemented with poltergeist disturbances
and other famous cases (such as the Bealings bells, the
Drummer of Tedworth, the Epworth phenomena, the house
of Eliakim Phelps, and Willington Mill), give a comprehensive
idea of the complexity of haunting. What did psychical researchers
make out of it Early investigation pointed to a disapproval
of the general belief that some great crime or
catastrophe is always to be sought as the cause of haunting.
The chapter on ‘‘Local Apparitions’’ in the Report on the Census
of Hallucinations published by the Society for Psychical Research,
London, in 1894, concludes
‘‘The cases we have given, in addition to others of the same
kind to be found in previous numbers of the Proceedings, constitute,
we think, a strong body of evidence, showing that apparitions
are seen in certain places independently by several percipients,
under circumstances which make it difficult to
suppose that the phenomena are merely subjective, or that they
can be explained by telepathy without considerable straining of
our general conception of it. It appears, however, that there is
in most cases very little ground for attributing the phenomena
to the agency of dead persons, but as we have said, in the great
majority of cases they are unrecognised; and in these cases, if
they really represent any actual person, there is often no more
reason to suppose the person dead than living.’’
Folklorist Andrew Lang objected to the SPR’s investigation
mainly on the grounds that the committee ‘‘neglected to add
a seer to their number.’’ This he considered a wanton mistake.
He added that ghosts do not have benefit nights, that they are
not always on view, and even where they have appeared there
are breaks of years without any manifestations. Eleanor Sidgwick,
who drew up the report, was the first to make a serious
attempt to face the difficulties of the problem of hauntings. In
an 1885 paper she offers four hypotheses for consideration
1. The apparition is something belonging to the external
world that, like ordinary matter, it occupies and moves through
space, and would be in the room whether the percipient were
there to see it or not.
2. The apparition has no relation to the external world but
is an hallucination caused in some way by some communication,
without the intervention of the senses, between the disembodied
spirit and the percipient, its form depending on the
mind of either the spirit or of the percipient, or of both. This
hypothesis does not account for the apparent dependence of
the haunting on the locality.
3. The first appearance in haunted houses is a purely subjective
hallucination, and subsequent similar appearances, both to
the original percipient and to others, are the result of the first
Haunting Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
appearance, unconscious expectancy causing them in the case
of the original percipient and in the case of others. This hypothesis
assumes that a tendency to a particular hallucination
is very infectious.
4. There is something in the actual building itself which produces
in the brain that effect which, in its turn, becomes the
cause of hallucination.
Personally, she did not find any of these hypotheses satisfactory
and concludes,
‘‘I can only say that having made every effort—as my paper
will, I hope, have shown—to exercise a reasonable scepticism,
I yet do not feel equal to the degree of unbelief in human testimony
necessary to avoid accepting, at least provisionally, the
conclusion that there are in a certain sense, haunted houses,
i.e., that there are houses in which similar quasi-human apparitions
have occurred at different times to different inhabitants,
under circumstances which exclude the hypothesis of suggestion
or expectation.’’
Frank Podmore believed that the story of a haunting was
begun by some subjective hallucination on the part of a living
person, which lingered on in the atmosphere and was telepathically
transmitted to the next occupant of the room or house in
question. Ada Goodrich-Freer, in her Essays in Psychical Research,
aptly remarks that on this theory the story of her vision
in Hampton Court Palace ought to be transmitted to future occupants
of her room whether she really saw or only imagined
what she saw, or mistook what she saw, or even if she told lies
as to what she saw.
F. W. H. Myers defined the ghost as a manifestation of persistent
personal energy. He made many interesting suggestions.
One was that haunting may be the result of past mental
actions that may persist in some perceptible manner, without
fresh reinforcement, just as the result of our bodily actions persist.
The perception may be retro-cognition owing to some curious
relation of supernormal phenomena in haunted houses
to time. In another suggestion he attributed the phenomena to
the dreams of the dead, which are somehow being made objective
and visible to the living. In his Human Personality and its Survival
of Bodily Death (1903) he went much further and offered
for consideration his theory of ‘‘psychorrhagic diathesis’’ as applied
to a spirit. He defined it as ‘‘a special idiosyncrasy which
tends to make the phantasm of a person easily perceptible; the
breaking loose of a psychical element, definable mainly by its
power of producing a phantasm, perceptible by one or more
persons in some portion of space.’’
The theory is a bolder exposition of what Edmund Gurney
suggested that spectral pictures, like the recurring figure of an
old woman on the bed where she was murdered, may be veridical
after-images impressed we know not how on what we cannot
guess by that person’s physical organism and perceptible at
times to those endowed with some cognate form of sensitiveness.
The image is veridical because it contains information regarding
the former inhabitant of the haunted place.
Earthbound Spirits
The same suggestion was contained in Ernesto Bozzano’s
‘‘psychical infestation’’ theory. Bozzano made a special study of
haunting and compiled statistics that indicated that out of 532
cases of haunting, 374 were caused by ordinary ghosts and 158
by the poltergeist type. Psychometric impressions are frequently
referred to as another possibility of explanation. As Longfellow
writes, ‘‘All houses wherein men have lived and died are
haunted houses, through the open doors the harmless phantoms
on their errands glide, with feet that make no sound upon
the floors.’’
To explain how psychometric impressions may become intensified,
the theory may be combined with the emotional energy
of the dreams or the remorse of the dead. Remorse is said
to make a spirit earthbound, but additional theories have also
been brought forth.
Plato quotes Socrates in Phaedo,
‘‘And in this case [impure life] the soul which survives the
body must be wrapped up in a helpless and earthy covering,
which makes it heavy and visible, and drags it down to the visible
region, away from the invisible region of spirit world,
Hades—which it fears. And thus these wandering souls haunt,
as we call it, the tombs and monuments of the dead, where such
phantoms are sometimes seen. These are apparitions of souls
which departed from the body in a state of impurity, and still
partake of corruption and the visible world, and therefore are
liable to be still seen. And these are not the souls of good men,
but of bad, who are thus obliged to wander about suffering punishment
for their former manner of life which was evil.’’
In Per Amica Silentia Lunae (1918), poet W. B. Yeats was less
censorious in suggesting that ‘‘We carry to Anima Mundi our
memory, and that memory is for a time our external world; and
all passionate moments recur again and again, for passion desires
is own recurrence more than any event.’’
In the book The Projection of the Astral Body written in collaboration
with Hereward Carrington (1929), Sylvan J. Muldoon
states, ‘‘. . . the most upright earthly being is just as apt to become
the victim of an earthbound condition as the most wicked.’’
It is not the moral but the psychic conditions that make a
spirit earthbound. ‘‘How often do we hear of the murderer
haunting a place No, it is always the victim—the innocent
party, who figures in haunted house phenomena.’’ This is not
always true, however, as there have been many accounts of
hauntings by murderers.
Spirits may be earthbound for four reasons desire, habit,
dreams, and insanity. Revenge may be just as potent a factor
in making a spirit earthbound as love. Often the haunter appears
to be dreaming, yet occasionally he can be drawn into
conversation. According to Muldoon, it is the ‘‘cryptoconscious’’
mind which does the talking, while the conscious
mind is engaged in the dream.
The crypto-conscious mind of Muldoon is a department of
the unconscious which has a will of its own. Violent death is,
however, the most frequent cause of haunting. It results in a
stress on the mind that influences the crypto-conscious mind
to re-enact the last scene on earth. As an analogy Muldoon
pointed to the ‘‘very common occurrence during the World
War to see soldiers, while dreaming, jump from their beds and
re-enact terrors which they had met with and which had left a
deep stress in their subconscious minds.’’
Lombroso investigated many cases of haunting and always
found a certain purpose inflicting punishment for the reoccupation
of the house, revenging the honor of the family, or
moral or religious warning. The disturbances are especially
powerful if the victims of the tragedy, enacted perhaps centuries
before, died a violent death in the flower of their life. Lombroso
called the haunted houses ‘‘necrophanic houses.’’
Vexed by the problem of how haunting spirits obtain matter
for their materializations in uninhabited houses where no
human organism is available, he asked for an explanation from
the control during a séance and twice received the answer that
the haunters derive the material for their incarnations from the
animals and plants of the deserted house. Nevertheless, human
organisms, if available, may be drawn upon by the haunters.
R. C. Morton, in her record of a haunted house (Proceedings
of the SPR, vol. 8, p. 311) states
‘‘I was conscious of a feeling of loss, as if I had lost power to
the figure. Most of the other percipients speak of a feeling of
cold wind, but I myself had not experienced this.’’ The ghosts
Morton saw sometimes appeared to be so solid that they were
mistaken for the living. A dog mistook the phantom for a living
man and fled in abject terror after discovering his mistake.
However solid the phantoms are, material objects do not apparently
impede their progress.
Successful experiments were conducted in haunted houses
by crystal gazers to locate the source of the trouble. The picture
of the haunter was often disclosed when no materialization
took place. J. Grasset recorded a case in the Proceedings of the
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Haunting
SPR (vol. 18, p. 464) in which a girl saw the haunting spirit in
a glass of water.
Experience shows that a decent burial of the remains of the
victims of foul deeds, division of an ill-gotten treasure, exorcism,
prayer, or mass often lays the ghost to rest. This suggests
that the haunters are conscious of causing the disturbance, that
the physical effects are not simple repercussions of the spirit’s
tormented mental state. But, as Andrew Lang remarked, ‘‘the
ghost can make signs, but not the right signs.’’ They suffer from
what he calls ‘‘spectral aphasia,’’ imperfect expression on the
physical plane. He believed that lights in haunted houses are
partial failures of ghosts to appear in form. The possibility of
causing physical effects often disappears if the haunted house
is rebuilt, or if the furniture is taken out. The psychical researcher
Col. Taylor once cured a haunted house by ordering
the inhabitants to burn an old, moth-eaten bed he had discovered
in the attic. Whether the bed was a focal point of evil or
not, the manifestations soon ceased.
Ancient laws made special dispositions in the case of haunting.
In Cock Lane and Common Sense (1894) Andrew Lang gave
a summary of old cases carried to court. Lawsuits over haunting
were started in 1915 at Altavilla (Italy), in 1907 at Naples, and
in 1907 at Egham, England, in the latter case by the author Stephen
Philips. In November 1930, the question came up before
the Berlin courts in Germany whether one had the right to
keep his family ghosts on the premises. An eleven-year-old girl,
Lucie Regulski, was pursued by poltergeist disturbances that
purported to emanate from her dead uncle. As the house acquired
the reputation of being haunted, the owner applied for
an order of eviction. The court decided in favor of the tenant,
stating that Lucie’s father could harbor as many ghosts as he
pleased and that they did not lessen the value of the house.
Present Position
Cases of haunting are still reported in modern times and
old-fashioned apparitions are said to appear occasionally in
their traditional locales. However, in spite of the development
of scientific apparatus superior to that of the past, such as tape
recorders, temperature measurement devices, infra-red photography,
etc., investigation of haunting is still difficult. Ghosts
do not appear to order, and many individuals do not report
their experiences for fear of ridicule. On the other hand, the
tendency of the mass media to sensationalize claims of haunting
raises doubts about cases that are reported or that become
publicized in bestselling paperbacks (such as the fraudulent
Amityville Horror).
Apparitions possess a strong subjective aspect, and most informants
speak of reactions that suggest energy being drawn
from themselves to assist the manifestations in haunting. In this
sense those who perceive apparitions appear to function like
mediums in séances and such subjective factors do not register
on cameras and tape recorders. Moreover spontaneous cases
and anecdotal reports are difficult for modern parapsychologists
to evaluate.
Much more frequent than traditional hauntings are reports
of poltergeist phenomena, which appear to be impersonal, as
distinct from the personalities of apparitions. Poltergeist phenomena
is more accessible to psychical investigation with cameras
and tape recorders.
Although there are many well-authenticated cases of haunting
over a long period of time, there is still no evidence to show
how apparitions are produced and why they persist. An intriguing
aspect of apparitions is the question of those of living individuals,
of which there are many reliable reports (see Phantasms
of the Living by Gurney, Myers, and Podmore, 1886). It should
be mentioned that hypnotists have shown that apparently real
apparitions may be evoked in subjects by suggestion and one
subject was able to produce such images at will (see The Story of
Ruth by Morton Schatzman, 1980). The term ‘‘hallucination’’
(without popular misconceptions of lunacy) still seems a useful
scientific description of apparitions until there is decisive evidence
of how haunting takes place.
In 1970, a team of sociologists at Birmingham University,
England, investigated religious beliefs and behavior in one
Shropshire town and found that 15 percent of the 8,000 inhabitants
accepted the existence of ghosts, while ten percent
claimed to have seen or felt a ghost. Another survey by the Institute
of Psychophysical Research in Oxford, England, collated
1,500 first-hand accounts of encounters with ghosts reported
by individuals in all walks of life. This report, edited by
Celia Green and Charles McGreery under the title Apparitions
(1977), emphasized that the majority of ghost sightings are in
the familiar surroundings of people’s homes rather than at
eerie old sites.
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