Are Some Ghosts
All In The Mind?
Reported by Sheryl WuDunn, Judith Miller, and William Broad
Written by William Broad
New York Times
The recent news story that certain scientists now appear to accept that the power of the mind can influence physical objects has thrown up some interesting questions. If the mind can control matter, can it also involuntarily influence one's environment along certain subconcious thought processes producing the classic signs of a 'haunting'? Does the confirmation of 'Mind over Matter' by scientists at Princeton University in New Jersey call into question many years of paranormal research?
In 1964, three British researchers, Brooke's-Smith, Hunt and Batchelor, began experiments which eventually suggested to them that paranormal phenomena could be produced without the intervention of any psychic entity. In 1970 they published their results, claiming that such phenomena could be produced by anyone in the right frame of mind.
However, in 1972, a Toronto-based psychic research group took the idea a stage further and decided to actually 'create' a ghost. A member of the group wrote a detailed but entirely fictional account of a 17th century aristocrat called Philip, his life, his family and his mistress. They based this story in Warwickshire, using a real house as the 'aristocrat's' home. The basic facts of the invented haunting were that Philip fell in love with a gypsy girl called Margot, who was denounced by Philip's jealous wife as a witch. Margot was burned at the stake and full of remorse at his lack of intervention on her behalf Philip killed himself.
The group studied this story at length and also immersed themselves in the history of the area in which the 'hauntings' were to take place. They then attempted to 'contact' Philip. After a while, they actually began to produce results which increased in intensity, beginning as vibrations through the table at which they all sat, leading then to inexplicable rappings and scratchings until eventually, at the behest of the members, Philip was able to move the table and cause lights to flicker. Food for thought!
Up and down the country there are enthusiastic ghosthunters who could just be chasing their own tails. When called to investigate a haunted building, can paranormal investigators be sure that the 'phenomena' they encounter are not creations of their own collective subconsious? According to the studies by Brooke's-Smith, Hunt and Batchelor, results can be produced when the possiblity of a paranormal event is firmly believed in and even expected. It would seem likely, then, that if a group is too 'keen' to produce results the events they are hoping for will actually occur. Indeed we are aware of situations where over-enthusiastic investigators have found spirits in places which had no previous paranormal occurences.
When the findings of Dr Brenda Dunne of Princeton University are assessed together with other researches in this field it must surely bring into question some of the methods employed by paranormal investigators. Even the use of highly sophisticated equipment might be found to be unreliable if the evidence that the human mind can influence the physical world is proven.
Scientists have handed paranormal researchers a double-edged sword. On one hand they seem to be endorsing a phenomena that many have long accepted as a reality and will be pleased to see gaining credibility. However, the same 'discovery' has thrown a spanner in the works for the paranormal investigators 'out in the field' who must now surely have niggling doubts about the phenomena they encounter.

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