I’m still alive! I had an enjoyable board games evening last Friday night, and DC, Tom Nowell and Richard Lay came over for an hour and a half while we played a quick game of Condottierre, a fun card/board eurogame of Italian Renaissance empire building. Unfortunately DC then went down next day with the dreaded lurgy piggy flu, and so after a fairly depressing weekend in which I did not seem to achieve much (apart from being spaced out completely by some pills my doctor gave me) I spent much of Monday trekking about Cheltenham in the rain trying to get him his Tamiflu. Monday night Kevin and Luke came over for Geist, the rpg of the unquiet dead, and last night I slept much of the evening. I’m glad to say it sounds like he is on the mend. Yesterday was taken up largely in running errands for people, and my failing to get my PIN number right so my bank account locked – I never made it to the bank today, but I will tomorrow. So after many hours of walking all over the place in the rain, and aching dreadfully and feeling run down, I have been sleeping most of today, and am glad to report I’m feeling much better and am pretty certain now I don’t have the dreaded lurgy. Anyway that’s my excuse for not having written anything here for a week!
Hope everyone well, cj x
OK, I’m a bit too hot, after nearly an hour in the sun. I also seem to have a lot of road on me, and grease all over my hands. Most annoyingly, I have a bicycle that sounds like Einsturzende Neubauten (did I spell that right?) in concert when I even push it down the road which is all I am likely to be doing with it for the foreseeable. If I try and ride it it sounds like Sooty & Sweep meets the Velvet Underground crossed with Stockhausen on amphetamines. Still apart from that, a few bruises and a twisted ankle are the extent of the damage. I can still hobble about, for which the world can be grateful or callous as the mood takes them. So what happened?
I have no idea. The facts are simple. Took bike out for spin. Notice odd clanking. Get off bike, look, not much wrong, apart from my back brake cable has been taken out – that requires considerable force, but could have happened I guess somehow. My front brake is fine. I turn for home, and noise gets worse, but luckily I’m almost outside Paul Wheeldon’s flat. I decide to wander in and see if he has a moment and any tools, and to see if I can fix it, at least reconnect the back brake. I say hi to Paul’s landlord, a nice chap, and then park my bike by the kitchen window (in the yard) and knock. No reply. I curse my luck! I knock louder, still no reply, so finally remembering Paul is at the back of the house i try the door, and finding it open wander in. Him or Rob might be asleep, but with a spoon I can always fix it. I don’t normally burgle people’s houses! Then I hear someone out back, so I shout “Paul, yahoo, it’s CJ!” And he appears, looking like I have just shot him. Maybe he thought I was a very cheerful homicidal maniac come to slay him in his bed, or in true Mayor Quimby style his bed was actually filled with sexy young interns? Or maybe he really was juts trying to prepare his pub quiz for tonight, and could not be disturbed. He explained politely, but in that manner people have when flustered by unexpectedly being visited by people they really do not want to see right now that he was really busy and I’d have to go. I looked around for a spoon or something, but he did not seem very amenable to any further discussion, just kept repeating “you have to go I’m busy” so I left. And then things got worse.
I’d hurt my foot wearing some shoes which are not utterly disgraceful when I went to Dudley on Friday – the wrath of Becky is far worse than sore feet – and my left foot must be bigger than my right, for it currently has plasters on – so I was limping a little. I climbed on the bike, and gingerly set off up the road, when three things happened at once – firstly a car came down the (dead end to traffic) street far too fast, on my side of the road as people are parked on the other. Secondly my back wheel suddenly stopped turning, and then as the wheel left the ground as I put the front brake on, came off my bike entirely. I’d like to say it went rolling down the road in a cinematic manner – in fact it just seems to have fallen over on the spot, being already stationary. I leapt left, in to a wall, entirely unnecessarily as the oncoming driver stopped, and I believe nearly died of apoplexy laughing at the sight of my ungainly impact with the road. Well actually I think it was quite graceful? Who knows. Of course I land on my bad foot and twist my ankle…
OK, so just superficial bruising, and a twisted ankle. If it had happened on the Tewkesbury Road could have been fatal, but it didn’t, it happened at really slow speed in an alley. I now stood up, and found that my back wheel had come entirely off – the noise was caused by the nuts working free. Someone must have loosened them? That and the back brake not being attached led to the rather odd crash. Never had anything like that happen before! For a paranoid second I wondered if someone was trying to kill me. I keep my bike in the living room, and I never ever leave it unsupervised outside – I don’t even carry a lock nowadays. I just use it for pleasure jaunts. It has no panniers, and it’s hard to ride with shopping balanced on the handlebars. If I leave it at Richard’s while i go to TESCO he stands and frets over it like a mother hen guarding her young. If it was sabotaged it was done in the house – but who would have any reason to kill CJ? Not Lisa for sure! She has access at work to far better methods anyway.
So a homicidal visitor? A mental review does not suggest any! In fact, I am totally puzzled. Yet there is one prime suspect. A young lady, from Somerset, who has a known history of sabotage…
I have an exercise bike here. Occasionally we ride on it – I used to use it a bit till one day it fell apart under me. Lisa had exactly the same experience. We tighten the bolts, and yet it falls apart as soon as we are riding. And one day we found out how.
The young lady, who is two years old, has uncanny strength in her paws. Hansine, a small tabby cat is also a gremlin with an amazing ability to destroy things. Unlike other cats he does not just chew them – she undoes them, with her paws. She has no malicious intent – she just plays with any loose nut, working at it till the object in question falls apart. I don’t believe she could have disconnected the brakes, but if a nut was loose, she would have amused herself for ages unscrewing it. I would not believe a word of this, had we not witnessed repeatedly her sabotaging the exercise bike. So is she trying to kill me? Nope. But if there is a prime suspect, well Hansine is it. (NB: My cats are rather dangerous. I recently had to inform Cuddles he was not Corgi registered when he started to get very interested in the gas pipes.)
Well I got too hot standing on that blasted road. I would normally have wheeled the bits of my bike back to Paul’s, but he was VERY busy and quite insistent. So I wandered home, having reattached the back wheel after a titanic struggle in which I discovered the British public has an amazing capacity for telling you what you know and stating the obvious “wheel come off?”, “you got a problem with the bike?” and one girl who nervously said “do you live round here?” Yes, of course. I live just opposite. That’s why I’m standing by the side of the road sweltering covered in grease with a dismantled bicycle. I thought it so much more fun than repairing it with tools in the privacy of my own garden! One cheerful bearded fellow offered to help, but that was just as I finally got the wheel on and the forks bent back enough to actually wheel it home, and coast the last few triumphant yards down the alley where I live, bring Tina out to see what the noise was. Maybe she thought a scrap iron merchant pulling a wagon load of metal with a boneshaker, or the Angel of the Millennium heralding the Last Trump. Whatever she thought was drowned out in the cacophony of my triumphant arrival back!
Anyway enough. I’m going to the pub. I know I don’t drink, but hell, I think I might tonight. I won’t be repairing the bike in my perilous current financial state for a month or two, but I might ask DC over to have a look. For now, I’m just glad to be in one piece!
I managed to find this on the Waybackwhen internet archive, and as I frequently cite it, and thought it might be of interest, I’ll reproduce it here. The title is taken from a very famous ghost story, but seemed appropriate! This piece was originally written in 1994, and revised in 1995 and 1997. [[XXXX]] indicates 2006 edits when I put it on my ghost group’s forum.
I note the revision history, but the position stated is very much that I held in 1994 – it has changed in many ways since then, but I think it was one of the first pleas to take an approach that looked at what we might find if both psi and the spirit hypothesis held some truth, or were partially true, but more importantly now is that I had realized the potential of experimental work with psychics even back then. Little did I realize that Most Haunted would happen within a decade, and unfortunately every one would experiment in this direction!
Anyway, as people keep coming here looking for the Edinburgh Science of Ghosts event (and one more time – http://www.scienceofghosts.com/) which I will be attending as a punter like you, well I may as well publish one of my articles on the topic. Please note I am in no way at all connected with said event — I just thought it looked fun and advertised it on my blog after it was first mentioned on the parapsychology mailing lists!
The Haunted or The Haunters;
The House and The Brain
(from copy dated July 18th, 1997)
When investigating a “haunting” there are two main schools of thought in the [[group]].
The first takes the ‘common sense’ view that the disturbances we look at are caused by external agencies, such as ghosts, spirits and the like.
This could be called the haunted school for it believes that paranormal events do occur and are something like an affliction, or at least little to do with the witnesses.
The second school is that of the haunters, those who believe that the occurrences are primarily the responsibility of the witnesses themselves.
This could be further subdivided into those who do not believe in the paranormal except as hallucination or delusion (the sceptic’s camp), and the position I intend to consider, that which holds that paranormal events do have an objective existence but originate within ourselves [as a result of unknown psychical powers.]
It is quite a remarkable claim. Imagine Mr. Jones has called us in to investigate mysterious goings on in his home. The last thing he expects to hear in reply to his worried question “What’s haunting my home?” is the answer “You are, Mr. Jones.”
Now of course for many years parapsychologists have postulated the idea that poltergeist phenomena are created by PKE or psycho-kinetic energy; that is that a human being is responsible for the haunting. Unfortunately popular works on parapsychology have created a popular conception of haunting as either by ghosts (apparitions appear, chains clank, doors open and close, etc.) or by poltergeists (an emotionally repressed and deeply frustrated youngster lets off steam by throwing furniture about psychically and generally having a nervous breakdown outside of their head).
This is the basis for the concept of the person-centered versus place-centered haunting; the former “poltergeist”, the latter a “ghost”.
Could it be the distinction is false? One of the great strengths of the [[my group then]] is that the investigators tend to make repeated visits to a property and spend several hundred hours at any site, and hence come to analyse cases thoroughly. Most of our investigations have included both traditional ‘ghost’ effects such as apparitions and a history of disturbance through several tenants, and traditional ‘poltergeist’ phenomena such as objects moving and in many cases S.O.D.
(Author’s note: SOD is an acronymn for small object displacement. A good example is a craft knife which vanished while repairs were underway at The Bell in Dursley, and reappeared a few minutes later on a table where it certainly was not a moment before. SOD is easy to explain away as misperception but I am personally convinced by the fact this phenomena has been mentioned to me on almost every case I have investigated without leading questions, yet it is not considered part of the traditional repertoire of a haunt. SOD is easy to remember; indeed rarely has a technical term been so appropriate. The mnemonic to recall this is “Where’s the sodding ghost put my car keys/cufflinks/whatever?!”)
So how then does one set about haunting oneself? Well according to most proponents of the RSPK [Recurrent Spontaneous Psycho-Kinesis - Star Trek style technobabble at its finest that I have critiques elsewhere] or poltergeist theory the human agent who creates the disturbance is unaware of their actions, at least on a conscious level. After suffering a set of paranormal events such as SOD and object displacement what is more natural than to start seeing ghosts?
In the 1950′s the then President of the S.P.R., G.W. Lambert devised his much maligned geophysical explanation for haunting resulting from underground water. His theory was in essence that an underground water course may flow under the ‘haunted’ house and that after heavy rainfall the stream results in subsidence of the property or other structural movement, possibly causing the house to vibrate and knock objects flying simulating ‘poltergeistery.’ He took the theory one stage further, stating that these odd noises could the be psychologically ‘rationalized’ by the percipients minds creating a ‘ghost’ to account for them, and then seeing the imaginary ‘ghost.’
In essence I think Lambert may have been on to something. Environmental cues such as the ‘Corridor’ and ‘occulted space’ things I found in my work with Curtin and Lay, as well as a variety of other stimuli, may lead a sucession of tenants to the same conclusion, namely that their house is haunted, even if no knowledgeable local tells them so.
Once the belief is there, or even the vaguest shadow of a doubt, it must surely become that much easier for the mind to generate micro-PK (or minor poltergeist) phenomena. It has been repeatedly claimed that believers score higher than sceptics on ESP tests, and there is some reason to believe that motivational factors should also be considered. Once the idea of a haunting is broached, do the family then begin to generate the haunting?
What follows? As the Psi/haunting builds up more and more people within the family become convinced, and their scepticism breaks down. Thus the haunting becomes increasingly severe. Members of the family then begin to explain the events by reference to a guilty third party or ‘ghost’ and may in line with Lambert’s theory begin to see or hallucinate apparitions. It may only be at this stage that they consciously begin to consider themselves “haunted”, the build-up having been largely ignored by the conscious mind. Then again a sighting of a ‘ghost’ with its origin in misperception, temporal lobe epilepsy or other stimuli may actually initiate the sequence.
If the hallucinatory nature of the apparitions seen seems unlikely, as in a case where two witnesses see an apparition simultaneously, it is still hard to rule out the possibility of one telepathically transmitting the image to the other. More problematic is the situation where two witnesses, many years distant in time and with no knowledge of the earlier experience both see an identical figure. This could be rather unconvincingly explained by recourse to archetypal or locationally suggested visions (a monk in a church for instance) or possibly by evoking the idea of Super-ESP which is sometimes used in discussions of mediumship.
Why does it end? Well if the initial PKE disturbance is occasioned by psychological forces then we may expect those feelings to eventually be alleviated as the chief instigator or focuses circumstances change. Often all that is needed to cure such a ‘haunt’ is the intervention of someone with counseling skills who is able to pay a little attention to the frustrated person. Of course it is significantly better if the person who ‘cures’ the situation has an air of authority and possibly even some hi-tech gadgetry to wave around. Simply announcing ‘the ghost’s gone’ may sadly stop the exteriorization of the internal complex and lead to the eventual breakdown of the agent if they can not find a better way of ‘letting off steam.’
What of ‘exorcism’, ‘deliverance’ or ‘moving on’? If the exorcist has less than full confidence in their own abilities or the focus has developed a dislike for the would-be helper then we might expect a violent reaction; the ejection of the exorcist or the worsening of the haunt. This is not a game for idiots or fools, but requires a mature sensible person who is likable and possesses certain counseling skills.
It is with the matter of exorcism however that we find the greatest problem with this theory. Practical experience, not as yet backed by any theorectical or experimental basis, has shown that haunting tends to reoccur some three months after exorcism. Unless there is some compatible pattern in the fields of psychotherapy, counselling or psychoanalysis I find it hard to see why this should occur. The second outbreak is rarely as severe as the first and is usually not a source of worry to anyone involved.
A word of apology and a disclaimer. This article has been hard to develop and reflects my own developing ideas. Although I am a [[group]] member this article is in no way representative of the ideas of the group. The group holds no corporate religious or philosophical beliefs, and all views are those of individual members. I certainly do not intend to denigrate the psychics, especially Miss M. A——, who is just as vital if these ideas are true, for she is the best ‘cure’ I know of for ‘psychic disturbances’. I therefore offer a brief word on the psychic, haunter and the haunted.
I have never rejected psychism as a belief system. This is a constant source of amusement to my more sceptical colleagues, but I see no conflict in my position. If poltergeists are caused by the mind of a human agent we do not necessarily have to give a psychosomatic explanation for their ‘exorcism’. The psychics energies may well be one and the same as those which are causing the haunt; that is the agent is in fact a latent psychic who simply does not know how to control the energy they are generating. The problem for me is that against my wishes I am being led further and further towards an epiphenomenalist rather than dualist position, and hence am rather inclined to see ‘spirits’ as exteriorized fragments or sub-personalities of the human agent or psychic, a convenient label or mental device to perform the task. I am however willing to be proved wrong, and end by stating that if anyone has any doubts about a psychic’s talent then they should meet a good one, and listen. The results are edifying. [[Obviously this should not be read as an endorsement of the reality of psychic powers!]]