views updated Jun 08 2018


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 centuryC.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.

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. Goodrich-Freer, 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 "noticeeither 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 coatof 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 prayerwhen, 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 conveysa 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 non-human 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 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 intelligence.

"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 well-authenticated 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. Blackburn.

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 "to-morrow" 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 India.

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 any microbe or fungus, and the bread was pronounced absolutely pure.

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 DeathWhat? (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 on-coming 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 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 effortas my paper will, I hope, have shownto 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, Hadeswhich 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 victimthe 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 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.


Anson, Jay. The Amityville Horror. New York: Bantam Books; London: Pan Books, 1978.

Automobile Association of Great Britain. Haunts and Hauntings. Basingstoke, England: Publications Division of the Association, 1974.

Bell, Charles Bailey. The Bell Witch, A Mysterious Spirit. Nashville, Tenn.: Lark Bindery, 1934.

Bord, Janet. Ghosts. Newton Abbot, England: David & Charles, 1974.

Bozzano, Ernesto. Dei Fenomeni d'Infestazione. Rome, 1919.

Cox, Katharine. Haunted Royalties. London: W. Rider, 1916.

Crowe, Catherine. The Night Side of Nature; or Ghosts & Ghost Seers. 2 vols. London, 1848. Reprint, Folcroft, Pa., 1976.

Dingwall, Eric J. Ghosts and Spirits in the Ancient World. London: Kegan Paul, 1930.

Flammarion, Camille. Haunted Houses. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1924. Reprint, Detroit: Tower Books, 1971.

Gauld, Alan, and A. D. Cornell. Poltergeists. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979.

Green, Andrew M. Ghost Hunting: A Practical Guide. London: Garnstone Press, 1973.

Green, Celia, and Charles McGreery. Apparitions. London: Hamish Hamilton; New York: State Mutual Book, 1977.

Gurney, Edmund, F. W. H. Myers, and Frank Podmore. Phantasms of the Living. 2 vols. London, 1886. Rev. ed. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1962. Reprint, Delmar, NY: Scholars Facsimiles and Reprints, 1970.

Haining, Peter. Ghosts: The Illustrated History. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1974. Reprint, New York: Macmillan, 1975.

Harper, Charles G. Haunted Houses. London: Cecil Palmer, 1927.

Harris, John W. Inferences from Haunted Houses and Haunted Men. London, 1901.

Hubbell, Walter. The Great Amherst Mystery. New York, 1888.

Ingram, John H. Haunted Houses and Family Traditions of Great Britain. London, 1884.

Ingram, M. V. An Authenticated History of the Famous Bell Witch. Clarksville, Tenn.: W. P. Titus, 1894.

Lombroso, Cesare. After DeathWhat? London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1909.

Mackenzie, Andrew. Apparitions and Ghosts. London: Barker; New York: Popular Library, 1971.

. Hauntings and Apparitions. London: Heinemann, 1982.

Middleton, Jessie A. The White Ghost Book. London: Cassell, 1918.

Moore, Edward. Bealings Bells. Woodbridge, England, 1841. O'Donnell, Elliot. The Banshee. London: Sands, 1920.

. Family Ghosts & Ghostly Phenomena. London: Philip Allan, 1933.

. Haunted Places in England. London: Sands, 1919.

Podmore, Frank. Apparitions and Thought-Transference. London: Walter Scott Publishing, 1894.

Prince, Walter F. The Psychic in the House. Boston: Boston Society for Psychical Research, 1926.

Roll, W. G. The Poltergeist. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1976.

Schatzman, Morton. The Story of Ruth. London: Duckworth, 1980.

Smith, Susy. Haunted Houses for the Millions. New York: Bell Publishing, 1967.

. Prominent American Ghosts. New York: World Publishing, 1967.

Stead, William T. Real Ghost Stories. London, 1891. Reprinted as Borderland: A Casebook of True Supernatural Stories. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1970.

Thompson, C. J. S. The Mystery and Lore of Apparitions. London: Shaylor, 1930. Reprint, Detroit: Gale Research, 1975.

Tweeddale, Violet C. Ghosts I Have Seen. London: Herbert Jenkins, 1919.

Tyrrell, G. N. M. Apparitions. Rev. ed. London: Duckworth, 1953. Reprint, London: Society for Psychical Research, 1973.

Walter, W. Grey. The Neurophysiological Aspects of Hallucinations and Illusory Experience. London: Society for Psychical Research, 1963.

Wright, Dudley. The Epworth Phenomena. London, 1917.

X, Miss [Ada Goodrich-Freer], and John, Marquess of Bute. The Alleged Haunting of B. House. London, 1899. Rev. ed. 1900.

Zingaropoli, F. Case Infestate degli Spiriti. Naples, 1907.


views updated Jun 27 2018

haunt·ing / ˈhônting; ˈhän-/ • adj. poignant and evocative; difficult to ignore or forget: the melodies were elaborate and of haunting beauty.DERIVATIVES: haunt·ing·ly adv.