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Home Archives Ritual, Resonance, and Ghost Research: The Play in the Fields

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“We are both onlookers and actors in the great drama of existence.”
– Niels Bohr

"If one wishes to understand ghostly phenomena, one should examine a range of phenomenon that falls outside the traditional scope of psychical research."
-George P. Hansen

In a previous article ("Natural Selection and the Involution of the Gettysburg Ghosts"), I had alluded to the “restimulation” of haunted locations through the process of resonance. Here, I will illustrate the process involved in the resonation of past activity fields. Before beginning, however, I would like to give a little background info concerning the technique and its application to field investigations. To understand “bleeding” from the past (i.e. ghostly phenomenon) we have to be aware of the cultural traditions in which the ghostly activity and/or event was originally conceptualized. It is vital to understand that the phenomena one, as an investigator, is encountering represents a meaningful conceptual aspect of the society in which the individual (ghost) participated and lived.

If we are to change ghost research and investigation from a dominance (and reliance) on individual “collections mentality" (digital “orb” photos; emf/temperature readings; EVP “bits and pieces” recordings), we need to focus on the reconstruction of field events and activities in their context. This would provide the first step in a long series of steps, toward the explanation of sensory manifestations as an integrated-interactive-systematic assemblage at haunted locations.

This is where the use of dramaturgy as a field investigative technique, becomes important. Dramaturgy centers on individuals as performers. The ghost investigator would not only observe but would participate in the recreation of events and activities at the location as well. We have a “play” being performed by the actor-investigator at the field location, and the audience is the particular ghost or ghosts associated with the location, and to whom the performance is being presented. The actor-investigator is the center of attention and the
focus of the investigative process. As Edward T. Hall (1998) has stated: "You (the investigator) are the instrument of research… There is no way to get answers unless you immerse yourself in a situation and pay close attention. From this, the validity and integrity of patterns is experienced…" It is the restimulation of these patterns, through the actor-investigator playing a part in the recreated activities, that stimulates “bleeding” to occur from the past. This is the process of resonance. How does the actor-investigator accomplish this? It is through the performance of rituals in the field. The “play” is in the rituals. Rituals, and associated activities, are specific procedures that target a specific audience through the “recall” of specific events and/or activities. At haunted locations, we “recall” those events and/or activities that are the causal factors that produced the ghostly phenomena. This implies extensive research into the historical and socio-cultural background of the haunted location and the specific individuals involved. This research, though, is essential to understanding the haunting. The key is the ritual of contextual accuracy in recreating the event and associated activities.

Rupert Sheldrake (1995) referring to rituals, has stated: “People deliberately do things in as similar way as possible to the way they were done before: the same words… the same
smells, the same places, the same gestures, the same food…" He further goes on to say that this is "…deliberately recreating a particular pattern of activity or event…. in order to connect with those who have done it before." If ghosts (and associated sensory manifestations) are a “kind of memory… of what has happened there" (at the haunted location), then we can use ritual to recall these past event and activity fields particularly associated with the haunting. This assumes we can interact, at that particular haunted location, with the ghost.

The characteristics of this ghost ritual resonant process should involve:
1. The ritual as an event or a set of activities that expresses the cultural values and traditions in which the ghost had lived and experienced in their lifetime;
2. An emphasis centering on the recreation of the event and/or activities as a totally-integrated and inter-related process;
3. The use of "framing." This involves activities that are initiated in order to obtain responses to the dramatic actions taken. These activities are repeated (in different audio-visual formats), formalized (set sequences), intentional (targeted to individuals), and consist of sensory stimuli directly related to the past event and/or activities associated with the haunting and the location’s original physical characteristics;
4. The “framing” conducted as accurately as is possible within the socio-cultural and historical context of the haunt;
5. The ritual conducted within a clearly-defined spatial area (isolated in the preliminary investigation) and the spatial parameters and sequence of activities are conducted under controlled conditions;
6. A goal that is both emergent and effective, i.e. it solicits a response that is observable and recordable;
7. A ritual process that creates the foundation for resonance because it “duplicates”, as much as possible, the original ambient socio-cultural and physical environment.

These investigative field rituals are part of an evasive methodology, of an overall comprehensive multi-disciplinary approach, that I have been using in field investigations at haunted locations in the Gettysburg area. The ritual itself is meant to penetrate the strategraphic layers of accumulated fields deposited at multi-level haunted locations. This method contrasts with those non-evasive approaches characterized by such field activities as “walking the grounds” with electronic equipment in order to detect possible anomalies; taking random photos and videos; or doing a “ghost watch." It also contrasts with non-directed EVP recording sessions (Is anyone Here? …etc.) as well as in those investigations where digital recorders are left in empty rooms, in the hope of recording something.

This ritual resonating procedure is not meant for all ghost field investigations. For example, the technique should not be applied to those locations containing a residual haunting. Ghostly manifestations, in these contexts, may not be dependent upon the resonating process, and the ritual process is unnecessary. Future articles will give specific applications of this process
to actual cases investigated in these fields of drama. 

Hall, Edward T. E-Journal of Inter-Cultural Relations 1998 Vol. 1(3) “Gifts of Wisdom”
Sheldrake, Rupert , “Nature as Alive: Morphic Resonance and Collective Memory”. The Journal of Primal Psychology. Vol. 1(1): Spring, 1995.

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