Hauntings are past integrated systems of contextual sensory assemblages. They are not isolated sense "attributes," be they visual (orb", mists, tracers, ectoplasm, shadow people, etc.), auditory (footsteps, EVP recordings, etc.), tactile sensations or olfactory scents. Rather, they are complex fields of dramatic emotional experiences and mundane/habitual activities. Each haunt has its own script, largely dependent upon the cultural traditions and perceptual world in which the entity had lived. These scripts may be mere “recordings” of events and/or activities. This is “residual” or “ghostly” phenomena. In contrast, a haunting may consist of an individual personality (or personalities) that continue to interact to stimuli in the contemporary environment. These are “spirit” or apparitional haunts. It should be our goal, as the investigative audience, to read, interpret, and respond to that ongoing (and possibly changing) script.
My field research consists of a culturally-obtrusive, intensive "excavations" of these layered haunt fields, through the application of long-term investigative methods at individual “haunted” sites. How do I conduct this intensive, and an extensive excavation of a haunted location? I use a three-fold methodological approach, the goal of which is to determine the structural levels associated with the haunting phenomena. I identify three structural levels. These are:
1. “surface” residual experiences (su.r.e.): These are subjective experiences, perceived as real, by eyewitnesses and/or occupants at a location to anomalous sensory manifestations they encounter. There is no control mechanism in place (without protocols, context, recording/measuring devises). These observations are potential datum points (S.I.M.S. zones [stored information memory sensory]/hot spots) for follow-up investigation.
2. “surface” structural capta (that which is “captured”): These are recorded and/or measured S.I.M.S. zones “captured” by technology (EMF meters, thermal scanners, cameras
video, audio recorders). These locations may only be relevant to the investigator (not necessarily the entity), since they are detections of possible anomalous phenomena in a non-contextual/uncontrolled environment. A “ghost watch” would be included in this structural level.
3. “deep structure” communicative exchange: This is data recorded/measured and given by the entity in a contextual situation that has meaning to the apparition. This data serves as investigative evidence. Four parameters need to be satisfied:
- “controlled environment”: The spatial parameters of a “haunt network” were clearly defined and the haunt phase delineated. Motion detectors are in place. Each investigator is assigned a contextual space and task, and temporal parameters are defined.
- “contextual setting”: The sociocultural traditions and behavioral patterns of the historical occupants at the location have been determined. This information is correlated to the environmental spatio-functional patterns at the location. The “ghost script” is written.
- "Response recorded”: The communication link between the investigator and entity is established through resonating activities of the “ghost script” and recorded and measured during the framing sequence.
- "repeatable": A response from the entity continues to be recorded/measured through additional activities associated with the “ghost script”.
The focus of the investigation is the entity-investigator interactional sphere, the deep structure communicative exchange. Field investigative techniques from the disciplines of archaeology and anthropology, and the use of what I term “theatrical séances," are used to make this communicative link with the entity. These approaches can be summarized:
1. I apply archaeological survey and excavation methods to: a) map the spatial distribution of the haunting; b) determine the particular stratagraphic layering of past haunt fields, and then; c) organize the data into a conceptual framework, I use the term r.e.s.I.d.u.a.l. matrix (Reports of Encountered Spirits that are Identified and the Dwellings Underlying Associated linkages) of interrelated haunt networks. This serves as the foundation for the development of hypotheses concerning the haunting and the specific sensory assemblages manifesting at the location.
2. I use an anthropological approach to determine the components of the entity’s sociocultural and behavioral world that is manifesting in the observed/reported haunt networks, defined in method 1. This approach contains four elements: a) “holism”: organize the manifestations into sensory assemblages; b) "comparative": compare to assemblages to known occupants of the location and their cultural traditions; c) "systemic": organize the sensory assemblages, cultural traditions, sociobehavioral environment, and physical layout into haunt patterns; d) "haunt relativity”: organize these haunt patterns into stages, each one associated with each known occupational historical phase at the location. The communicative link is on their terms, within their sociocultural context. There is no mixing of historical elements (including phased events and/or habitual activities).
3. Finally, after mapping the site and determining its haunt stratigraphy (approach 1), and analyzing the cultural traditions (approach 2), we are ready to resonate with the past activity/event fields associated with the location. This is not a “ghost watch," dull and passive. It is active, emotional, and focused, and is accomplished through the use of theatre. Here a “ghost script” is developed to resonate with the script of the past that is continuing to interact in the contemporary environment. We create the script to resonate. We participate to restimulate the past, and put the entity “at ease” because we are communicating something they understand in their sociocultural context. This is the drama in the fields, and we, as investigators, are active participants in these fields of the play.
The specific methodological field investigative sequence consists of five phases. These are:
1. Site survey of the contemporary environment with baseline observations and readings from datum points. The datum points are the locations of movement and flow in the contemporary environment. These would include entrance ways, halls, and stairs. This initial survey records the present natural conditions of the location. It is not used to detect “evidence” of a haunting, since the activities do not resonate with the past. This is a daylight field activity. Also, at this time, an EVP/IC (invitation to communicate" and “psychic sweep" (If available) is done to identify potential S.I.M.S. zones.
2. Site historical research is done. This includes the documentation of the observational history (eyewitness accounts) of the location, and the spacio-occupational history (identification of occupants linked to construction parameters and intra-site physical/décor modifications.).
3. The site excavation is done. This consists of determining the haunt types (residual vs. interactive apparitional), and origin (grounded vs. visitational). The stratigraphic layers of haunt fields and their spatial influence, by historical phases, are also ascertained. Also, during this phase, the perceptual environment (societal), and cultural tradition (individual) of the haunt ("ghost view”) is determined. Finally, the delineation of the site investigative conceptual framework (the haunt n.e.t.w.o.r.k. and r.e.s.I.d.u.a.l. matrix) is outlined. These define the horizontal (n.e.t.w.o.r.k.) and vertical components ("stratigraphy") of the haunting (matrix).
4. A site theatrical séance is done, beginning with the development of the “ghost script." The execution and recording of the interactional communication between the performer (investigator) and the audience (entity) is done using the basic tech kit (EMF meter, thermal scanner, digital recorders, video camera, 35mm/digital camera). An essential person in the filming and recording of this production is the continuity person who works outside the target zone. This person notes all sensory manifestations occurring during the performance.
5. The ongoing site excavation strategies continue. This includes the further development and refinement of hypotheses and their test procedures, and changes to, and modifications in, the “ghost script”. These changes are based on the data observed and recorded during the performance of the "play."
These procedures should determine the four basic queries of any field investigation: 1) "who" (individuals continuing to occupy the contemporary space: grounded (ghost and/or spirit)
or visitational (spirit= human vs. non-human); 2)"what" residual vs. interactive haunting); 3) "where" (haunt network consisting of individual s.I.m.s. zones); 4) "when" the identification of haunt phases, reflecting the occupational history of the location, and the events and activities that occurred there).
It is hoped that the development, use, and revision of these methodological field procedures is one step, albeit a small one, toward the evolution of a paranormal paradigm. It is hoped that these procedures may help to interpret, for future research and investigations, the anomalous phenomena that occur at specific locations.