QUESTION: What kind of haunting cases do parapsychologists get?

ANSWER: Parapsychologists tend to see four kinds of cases when doing haunting investigations:
  1. NOTHING PARANORMAL IS OCCURING: This can be because the person reporting the events is: a) crazy; b) wants attention; c) is opening up psychically and doesn't understand what is happening to them (very common); d) is misinterpreting normal factors in the environment, whether it be faulty wiring or a creaky house; e) they made up the story so they could sell the movie rights; and f) is a skeptic trying to make parapsychologists look gullible and/or stupid.
  2. PLACE MEMORY: Place memory is where you have an old recording, which was made by someone while they were still living. Perhaps the easiest way to think of it is as a case where the environment acts like a camcorder. If the conditions are right (involving sufficient repetition, environmental factors, and/or really strong emotions), then events can get recorded. People sensitive to this information (like psychics) can later play back what was recorded, like with psychometry. In these cases, there is no ghost, simply an old rerun of the past. It won't interact with you and the story always remains the same one.
  3. POLTERGEIST ACTIVITY: The word "poltergeist" comes from German, and means "noisy ghost" -- which probably relates to the fact that poltergeist phenomena often involve raps or other loud sounds. The word itself is a bit misleading, since most parapsychologists believe poltergeists are not ghosts at all, but result from human psychokinesis (PK), or mind over matter. The people involved often appear to be using PK as a stress reliever. Furthermore, the events are meaningful in the same way a dream is. They are metaphors. To understand what's going on, you need to play newspaper reporter, figuring out the who, what, when, where, and why. Once you've done that, the story usually becomes obvious. Psychological counseling is often helpful for these folks, if only for the stress of what's happening.
  4. THERE IS A GHOST: Ghosts are the spirits of the dead, who no longer have bodies but are still conscious and able (if they want) to interact with the living. Some people like their ghosts and just want confirmation while others consider their "visitors" unwanted. Psychics can be helpful in clarifying what is going on (assuming said psychic is the real deal and experienced at investigations). There are many ways to get rid of ghosts. See the fact sheet pages for more information on this and other, related topics.
NOTE: Seeing an apparition does not necessarily mean you have a ghost. Although it is possible that an apparition is of a human or animal spirit, it can also be caused by: 1) human PK; 2) place memory; 3) the imagination (sometimes partly due to misperception); or 4) be a hallucination (whether due to environmental factors, temporal lobe seizures, drugs, illness, or some other cause).

It is important to understand the difference between a real, "live" ghost, and a haunting. The environment can act somewhat like a camcorder or videotape recorder. It can record people, animals, and events from the past (especially when they have high emotional impact) which you can "watch" later. The simplest way to tell the difference between a ghost and a place memory is whether it interacts with you or simply repeats the same actions over and over. It is useful to think of a haunting case as being where the environment simply records strong impressions (either from highly charged or frequently repeated events). Sensitive people may be able to pick up on these recordings, and see or hear events from the past (but not necessarily from the dead -- the living can make these recordings, too). With a haunting you see reruns, over and over. A ghost is different. A "ghost" can sometimes see or react to your presence -- and its not uncommon that they are the one running away in fear. Ghosts generally don't want to harm you. Some are lost, some confused, some have messages they want to pass on, and some just like hanging out. A great book on this subject is Loyd Auerbach's ESP, Hauntings, and Poltergeists: A Parapsychologist's Handbook. His book, A Paranormal Casebook is also quite good.

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