“Is anyone here?” the intrepid ghost hunter asks while walking into an empty room. Nothing is heard, but later while listening to audio recordings of the session, there can be heard a faint response. The presence says very clearly, “No, I am not here!”
Some may interpret that answer as a lie; I tend to think of it as a great sense of humor.
If you subscribe to the theory that ghosts are the energy form of a deceased human, then you also have to deal with the reality of individual personality. The world is full of humans, some happy, some sad, some helpful and some basically nasty. We can expect nothing less of their earthbound spirits. We all know people who can’t lie, it is not in their nature to tell a fib, while we all also know habitual liars whose very existence depends of the game of misleading those around them. So too with ghosts, we can only assume, with every other variation in between.
At least one researcher from the turn of the last century theorized that in fact, what a ghost says is dependent on the mind of the person asking the question or someone close to them, suggesting that the consciousness associated with a ghost is in actuality the projection of a living human. We will come back to that hypothesis a little later on, but for the present, let’s explore the possibilities.
The earliest forms of spirit communication can be traced back to scryers and the reading of objects to receive a message, this eventually led to the use of the pendulum, swinging from a subject’s hand, first to signify yes or no and later, with the use of a board with letters and numbers, to spell out words. Finally, came the Ouija Board, which replaced the pendulum with a planchette which glided over the smooth surface of a lettered board at the touch of two subjects. The progression is noteworthy for several reasons, the most obvious the fact that the communications passed from soothsayers to the general public as time progressed, eliminating the “middle man.”
In the later 20th century, as the concepts of radio and TV were introduced, so too moved the notion of spirit communication through electronics, most notably the ITC experiments and later Franks Box and those that followed, giving a “voice” to the spirit. The observer might assume all of these systems are interrelated, but on close scrutiny, while they share a common goal, there are worlds apart. The one thing they do share is the need for interpretation, be it the soothsayer and his magic crystal ball or the Ghost Box operator listening for Aunt Hattie to send a message. Truth, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, one might comment.
In order to separate the wheat from the rest, you have to set some realistic limits to any communications inquiry. To keep it simple, the best way is to limit the information being sought to simple answers; yes or no to start with. While all of the communications devices I have mentioned can communicate longer and more extensive messages, the researcher will classify most of them as flawed to some degree, thus the rating system used today by most researchers when classifying Electronic Voice Phenomenon. A Class One EVP is completely understandable, no room for interpretation, no noise factor to deal with. This message is “in the clear” with no room for error. For example, “What is your name?” followed by an appropriate response in context, “Charles.” These are not EVPs open to conjecture or interpretation, we are not saying “It sounds like it is saying Charles.” The Class One EVP could be played to a thousand people and all would say the tape is vocalizing the name, “Charles.” Every other class of EVP is open to conjecture, so if you want to make a case for real spirit communication, only the Class One will suffice. Many may disagree, but this is the only logical direction to follow.
The same is true for any other communication in this genre, be it a ghost box or a Ouija Board. Once you enter the realm of interpreting the message, you are opening a can of worms, so a superficial glance at the most significant data is probably the best place to start, not that some very complicated messages can’t be gleaned from these devices. Within the scope of my work in this area, I have heard or witnessed dozens of complicated messages that begged to be confirmed and a good deal of time has been dedicated to researching the truth behind them.
The one case that comes to mind is from a Ouija Board study conducted at NYU many years ago. During those sessions, multiple subjects received messages from a spirit reported to be a young boy, who had been killed in a trolley car accident at the turn of the century, not too far from the cmpus. More and more information was collected from this spirit and researchers then set to the task to prove or disprove his existence in history. This was not easy at the time, it required hours of work searching microfiche files and thumbing through dusty newspaper morgues; the Internet did not yet exist. All of that work did pay off however; the boy did live in the area he said and the accident was reported in the newspaper. As to what else he told the subjects, we have to leave to conjecture, but the basic element, the boy’s existence in context, was astounding to most.
Of course, that should not have surprised the team all that much. Almost a century before, under the supervision of Dr. William James, a Boston psychic made contact with a recently passed member of the ASPR, who entered into elaborate conversations with his late colleagues. Richard Hodgson was a great researcher, probably the first full-time paid paranormal investigator, who had risen from being a self avowed skeptic and debunker into one of the great investigators of his or any later era. Hodgson was an Australian, who earned multiple degrees before undertaking, “the search for the source and secret of all life.”
Hodgson later joined James Hyslop and William James at the ASPR where he acted as the group’s Secretary, field investigator and principal researcher. Hodgson became the point man in the ASPR’s study of Leonore Piper, possibly the most gifted psychic of her generation. During this period he hypothesized that talk of the subliminal self and psychic communications were incompatible. He had earlier considered that psychics were reading the minds of their clients, either consciously or subconsciously, which he later abandoned in favor of the spirit communications theory. Hodgson later began to have direct communications with what might be called “spirit guides,” in today’s vernacular. He later wrote that, “It adds a great deal to life to be assured of the nearness and help of particular discarnate spirits.”
Hodgson died at the age of 50 and was missed by his associates, but none were expecting what was to happen next. Eight days after Hodgson’s death, Ms. Theodate Pope who was a friend of the last researcher, had a sitting with Leonore Piper, who worked primarily through automatic writing. She began to write the letter H, and her pencil broke. Once replaces, the message was written, HODGSON.
One January 23rd, 1906, on a third sitting, Mrs. William James and her son went for a sitting with Piper as part of the ASPRs ongoing study. This time Hodgson communicated directly using Piper’s voice, “Why there is Billy! Mrs. James and Billy, God Bless You! Well, well, this is good! (laughter) I have found my way and I am here… have patience with me…Where is William? I am not strong, but have patience with me…I will tell you all.”
Over the next seven months, several ASPR investigators worked with Pipe full time and the spirit of Hodgson emerged with remarkable results. He admitted that some earthly names come and go and that was very difficult to remember some events. For example, he could recall his last meal with some associates at the Tavern Club, but could not recall the names of those present. This may not have been a defect of being on the other side however; several colleagues noted that in life, Hodgson was very poor when remembering names. The spirit suggested that it was also difficult to manipulate the “organism” (the medium Piper) to communicate. When writing, the lettering was sometimes illegible, but it was noted that in life, Hodgson had such a bad handwriting that James often had to ask his daughter to decipher it.
The key to believing that this was actually Hodgson communicating was a fact he offered, in a session with several witnesses, alluding to a past affair in Australia, before any of them knew him. James hired a private investigator, who was able, with great difficulty, to confirm the relationship. The spirit was most comfortable working with a spirit guide named Rector. When James asked if he could communicate without Rector, Hodgson explained, “Rector understands the management of the light.” He offered no further explanation. He told James he was far too skeptical and that he (James) had to understand that communications in this fashion are far more difficult than when he was alive. In time the contacts became less frequent and eventually nothing more was heard from Hodgson.
Of course, the skeptics would say this could be any number of other phenomena, but James and Hyslop admitted that during their sessions and other, the voice of Hodgson was speaking on several topics and ongoing research that was frankly way beyond the understanding or vocabulary of the psychic. They also felt that the information given was true and accurate, but that there were questions left unanswered, either because Hodgson did not have the answer, or was not willing to share it with them. The problems associated with the stated difficulty in communicating, loss of memory in some areas and a fading link for the continued communications were all potholes on the road to better understanding, but universally, those involved in this case were convinced that they had communicated with their departed colleague.
So, in theory, real communications is possible, based on this early ASPR study, but that begs the question of how to eliminate the false or fictitious from reality in spirit echanges. The first step is the research. While I may not have encountered the phenomena personally, there are many cases where investigators claim that a presence followed them from a haunted location to the individual’s home. The first question is not the obvious one, however. Rather than questioning the validity of the claim, it is better to look at the details that have led the investigator to believe that this is true. This is also where the separation of research from field work is important. If the investigator does not have access to the history of the case beforehand, it is fairly simple to compare the “personality” of the reported traveling spirit with the assumed presence in the target location. If the “guest ghost” can’t articulate specifics as to his history and nature, then it is probably not the same. This would especially be true in long running phenomena, where the presence at the original target location has been residing and active for some time.
If it is assumed that the two are one in the same, then you have to go back to the original client for further follow-up. Is the activity still in that location, specific to the “spirit” being identified. If so, it is unlikely to have achieved the ability to be in more than one place at a time, and whatever is happening, it is unlikely that it can be attributed to a bilocating ghost. But if that is not the answer, what could it be? There are two possibilities; first it could be another spirit who is playing with the individual, part of a cosmic game that seems to show up all too often, especially in those not fully versed in the field, a kind of initiation prank from the other side. The second is also possible, a kind of mental projection created by the individual in response to being in close contact, usually again for the first time, by a real spirit. A mental construct is certainly powerful, can manifest in many ways and be very real.
The point here however is the fact that when dealing with a presumed ghost, you can’t necessarily depend on the information you receive, whether it is an EVP or any other form of communication. The integrity of the information is limited by the honesty and possibly the intention of the spirit. Sometimes the spirit will reveal meaningful information, other times mindless babble. Many times they will simply agree with you or tell you what you hope to hear. Dozens of folks each year write and call me because they are communicating with a spirit who simply says, “Help me!” which in some ways is very similar to an EVP that says it isn’t there. It is simply something to say, mindless chatter, part of a game. On the other hand, the message may be revealing and meaningful and a simple “Help me,” might be very real. How do you know? Again, go back to the research.
First, identify the entity; don’t assume anything! Carefully question motivation, why would it follow you home? For what purpose? Hodgson communicated with his colleagues in an attempt to conduct unfinished business. That is true, as we all know, in most haunting cases; so what is the reason for this hitchhiker? Ghosts do not just go visiting, they do not take vacations, there has to be a purpose. These are no easy answers to these questions, but the alternative is to ignore the activity all together.
Returning for a moment to the subject at hand, this is not to suggest that all ghosts lie or mislead, nor does in suggest that a spirit who misleads is in some way “demonic.” That would be mixing apples and oranges. Scrying does not open a door to the damned, if it opens a door at all. We have yet to prove empirically that any of this is “real.” Voices from a ghost box could be simple audio matrixing, and messages from a Ouija Board simple electrical impulses that move the planchette; psychics could be channeling their own abilities through ESP. Yes, there is a long anecdotal record that suggests it is something else but what, is the question and until as much time is devoted to research in these areas, we are no further along this path than James, Hyslop and Richard Hodgson.
It is nevertheless prudent to take all “communications” with a grain of salt and not be misled. All too often I hear of folks who allow themselves to be manipulated by spirits, they consult with them before any decision of consequence and blindly follow their lead. This is a pitfall that anyone could easily fall into and one that we have to avoid. There is no proof that what they are hearing is true or in their best interests. That does not mean it is demonic in nature, just dishonest and there is nothing to suggest otherwise. Yes, folklore runs rampant in this context with all sorts of claims, but as with anything else, first you have to confirm the existence of activity, then research its history. Only after all of that can you hope to find answers. That is our quest.
© 2010 – Rick Moran and the ASUP, Inc. All Rights Reserved.