Thursday, May 13, 2010

Belief In Haunted Houses

image by night_fate, sxc.hu

It Could Just Be The Environment Playing Tricks On Our Brain

You went to a party with your family, securing the door with lock and key. After returning back, you notice that the newspaper that was placed on the mantelshelf is now lying on the sofa. And you distinctly remember that the milk pouch hadn't been opened before you left; but now here it is, the entire milk poured in a vessel, and the vessel on the gas burner.

image from wiki, Catrinas

Is your house haunted? Or have you watched one ghost movie too many, the previous night?

image by deirdre60, sxc.hu

Depends on how much you believe in ghosts and ghostly apparitions. In an interesting experiment conducted by two Illinois-based psychologists, a group of 22 people was taken around a disused cinema complex. Before they stepped into the complex, the group was divided equally into two teams: A and B. Team A members were told that the complex's ownership has changed hands, and the new ownership is renovating it (which incidentally was a fact). Team B members were told that the complex has fallen out of use because of a very strong belief amongst the locals that the place is haunted. So much so that even the ownership has abandoned it. The two teams were then asked to take a tour of the complex and return.

image by br0, sxc.hu

Let me ask you a question here. If you were a member of team A, would the thought ever have crossed your mind that this place could be haunted? To you, the place indeed looked like it could do with some nice pumping of funds, didn't it? However, if you were a member of team B, would you ever have let go of the thought that this place is infested with ghosts, poltergeists, and the like; and there is somebody or something behind the drum there or a strange smell wafted by your nose as you passed through a vestibule in the right wing? You would swear that you saw somebody wearing a hat rush past you in the vestibule, as if in great hurry. Why did the figure remind you unexpectedly of a childhood friend's father, you wonder? And as you walked out of the complex, you shuddered and shivered, relieved that the experience was over.

image by svilen001, sxc.hu

This is precisely the outcome that the psychologists came up with; here is the paper, published in 1997: http://www.worldcat.org/issn/00315125. Team A members came out with an indifferent look; perhaps they were even wondering what purpose was served in getting them to roam the place. Of the team B members, the majority came out with experiences that will be recounted to the grandchildren with great dramatic effect. The conclusion? That our perceptions about the environment are colored by the contextual information that we hold about it.

image by parium, sxc.hu

Let's take a look at the Hampton Court Palace, a royal palace located in London, UK. Built more than five hundred years ago, it is a set of majestic buildings housing many works of art and furnishings, panoramic gardens and beautiful views. The palace is open to the public, and you and I can go take a look at the palace any time we want to. The Hampton Court Palace is indeed a major tourist attraction. But people go there to also experience for themselves the apparitions that swoosh past them in the semidarkness of the interior rooms. The HCP is considered the most haunted location in the whole of England. Interestingly, believers do come out of the palace with their body shivering. The reason they perceived the apparitions is that they entered the palace with knowledge gleaned from others, or by reading pieces like this article.

Hampton court palace, wiki_*

* Hampton Court Palace, wiki

There is now a considerable body of research that points to some highly-active environmental factors in the vicinity of such places, which factors play tricks on individuals who are especially vulnerable and susceptible. The tool that operates on our brain are extremely-low-frequency (ELF) electromagnetic fields (EMF) emanating from the earth. The emanation may be due to the earth's own magnet, or the movement of tectonic plates against each other, or the presence of minerals or rocks that possess magnetic properties. While EMFs are all-pervasive and omnipresent, the EMFs are unusually high in the places that have been designated as "haunted". In fact, neurologists have managed to simulate the haunted presence right in the laboratory by subjecting volunteers to these EMFs for about 20 to 30 minutes. Even non-believers have reported seeing ghosts and sentient beings, including smelling very odd smells in the laboratory sessions.

image by ninci, sxc.hu

That does appear to resolve one mystery, doesn't it? Now that you have rid yourself of the belief of certain places being haunted... how about enquiring with the owner of that house that has been lying abandoned for so many years because the "haunted" tag has been attached to it? You might get the property at a throwaway price, you know. In fact, the owner will be grateful to you for taking the property off their chest. After buying it and moving in, you just have to will yourself that the wispy figure floating before your eyes is just an illusion created by the brain... no, it is just an illusion... look away, it is not... no, honest ...

image by red-queen, sxc.hu

[The electromagnetic field generated naturally by the earth does more than merely distorting one's sensory perception. It goes subtly deeper in your brain and changes your thoughts, "inserting" its own thoughts into your mind without your knowledge, and you think that the thoughts you are thinking are your own. You do not even get to know that the earth's magnetic field is playing such sinister tricks on you. This phenomenon doesn't happen in the vicinity of haunted areas alone; this happens all over the planet, wherever you may be. An article here gives you the full account of how Nature controls all living beings on Earth: "Ownership Of Thought".]

image by fangol, sxc.hu

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