Since the very beginning of organized psychical research, the one question that has dominated the field is “What is a ghost?”
Are they really human consciousness that survived the death of the body? Or, are they just imprints of a bygone era left behind after great psychic turmoil? To answer that takes a great deal of honesty, because we really don’t know. We may not know what makes up a ghost, but we do know, not all ghosts are made the same.
When I began my education in the unexplained and unexpected, I quickly learned that ghosts are varied and have different purposes. Some appear to have an agenda, while others, not so much. Some can fully interact with the living. While others go about their business with little regard to what’s going on around them. Before we explore the more common classifications of ghosts let’s take a look at the strangest of them all, the time slip.
Early in the 20th century, British schoolteachers Charlotte Anne Moberly and Elenore Jourdain were on their dream trip to France. After taking in the sights of Paris, they paid a visit to one of France’s great historical landmarks, the royal palace of Versailles. While there, the two women got more than they expected.
As they roamed the grounds, they crossed through an arch that led to the beautifully manicured royal gardens. When they entered, they realized they were not alone. Rather than finding fellow tourists, the two women found a scene straight out of the past.
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The royal gardens were alive with men and women wearing attire that would have been common with France’s elite of the 18th century. Some played games, while others drank and ate their fill of delicious cuisine. Moberly and Jourdain were astonished when the people walked past them without regard to their presence. It was clear these people did not belong to the 20th century. But, were they ghosts?
Looking back on this peculiar event experienced by two educated women, you might think they saw ghosts. Researchers believe the two women were given a glimpse into the past in what has come to be known as a time slip.
Some researchers, myself included, believe that a time slip occurs when the wall of time and space is temporarily broken down. When this happens, people are given a glimpse into a time long since passed. Moberly and Jourdain, were in the right place at the right time to witness this little understood anomaly. They witnessed a time before “The Terror” took hold of France and the French monarchy vanished for all time.
It’s a popular misconception that all ghost sightings constitute a haunting. This is not always the case. Some apparition sightings are a one-shot deal with a ghost appearing to impart a message and goes away. This ghost is known as a crisis apparition.
The annals of parapsychology are filled with stories of a dead relative or friend appearing to warn them of a future event. While others have the ghost comforting the witness during a time of trouble. The crisis apparition is not considered a haunting, as it appears once or twice until its’ message is heard or the struggle is over.
Two long held theories to explain why a person sticks around after death are they don’t know they are dead, or they have unfinished business to attend to. The latter theory, I can easily accept, however the second one, I’ve always struggled with. Allow me to explain.
Ok, so you’re dead, bummer. You had a good life with people who loved you. Something unexpected may have happened to put you in this post life predicament you find yourself in. You see people come and go and you do everything to get their attention. Even going as far as screaming in their ear to get their attention. At this point it becomes obvious you are no longer among the living and there isn’t a darn thing you can do about it.
Over time, you realize you can move things or touch people. This is what we refer to as an intelligent haunting. With this phenomenon, the ghost or ghosts are fully aware of their physical surroundings. With this ability to affect the physical environment they can make their presence known and enter into communication with the living. Whether or not you move on from this realm is entirely up to you.
Lastly, some eyewitnesses of ghostly phenomena have reported ghosts that just go about their business, and never interact with the living. Strangely enough, they only seem to appear at certain times of the year, often reliving a specific event from their life. This is what has come to be known as a residual haunting. Believe it or not, this is the most common kind of haunting.
A residual haunting is the result of an event that had so much emotion attached to it that the event somehow gets imprinted on the physical environment. There is no shortage of theories to explain this, but the best in my opinion goes back decades and is known as the stone tape theory.
According to this long-held belief, certain kinds of rocks such as quartz or sandstone have the ability to absorb and play back information. When the time is right, that event is played back in front of the horrified eyes of the unsuspecting witness. Researchers believe this can explain most of the hauntings that occur in castles and old manor homes, as they used these building materials in their construction. These are ghosts in the strictest sense of the word.
These theories to explain the presence of ghosts are just that, theories. Organized psychical research is over 130 years old and we are no closer to explaining what ghosts are, or why they haunt a location. Perhaps, we’re not meant to know until we become that which we hunt.
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