If You Think Ghost Hunting is “Weird”…

If you ever meet people who think ghost hunting is a “weird” hobby, this photo of a gravedigger may change their perspective.

gravedigger woman - her hobby

It’s a 1944 photo from the (U.S.) Library of Congress.

Yes, it’s a little old woman, wearing a dress, a hat, and an apron.

And she’s a gravedigger.

The notes with this photo say, “Meet Mrs. Josephine Smith, aged 84, whose hobby is digging graves. She lives in Drouin, a typical little farming town (1100 people), in southern Australia, 60 miles out of the Victorian capital, Melbourne. …”

Maybe I’ve lived an insulated life, but in all my decades of trekking around haunted cemeteries, I’ve never met anyone digging a grave “for fun.”

Armchair Ghost Hunting? TV Show Experiments

This might be “armchair ghost hunting,” and it’s a little early to talk about it. But, thanks to Halloween TV shows & movies, this may be a good opportunity to test a theory I’m exploring.

And, if this idea appeals to you, it’s an ideal time for you to play along, as well.

This is sort of like treating the TV (or your computer monitor) as if it’s haunted.

Here’s what I’m doing

armchair ghost hunting - via the TV?For the past couple of months, I’ve been watching ghost hunting shows — mostly old Ghost Adventures episodes, and the newest season of Most Haunted.

I’ve been watching both shows on Really, a British cable network. (Ghost Adventures is  available on Hulu and online, too, but I haven’t tried those resources, yet. )

I’ve watched TV with my Ovilus III next to me, set to dictionary mode. I’ve used a pen & paper to note the results.

I wanted to see if the Ovilus “said” anything, and if the words were a good match for whatever was happening on the TV.

Ordinarily, my home has few EMF spikes, so the Ovilus is not likely to react, even if I leave it on for an extended time.

The Ovilus III has a 2,048 word vocabulary, but I haven’t estimated the odds of a “close match” during a typical ghost hunting show. (I’m not sure it’s possible to calculate that.)

These are my results, so far

Watching Most Haunted, my results have been vastly better if I research the location, first.

That suggests a connection between my awareness and what the Ovilus says.

Since I haven’t looked ahead in the UKTV listings, to see which Ghost Adventures episodes were scheduled, I haven’t researched them at all.

But, in general, the Ovilus seems more chatty during Ghost Adventures than during Most Haunted. In fact, some Ghost Adventures episodes seem to send the Ovilus on a tirade.

At best, I’ve seen about 20% correlation between the Ovilus’ words and what was on the TV screen at that moment.

Until today, I wasn’t sure this experiment was worth an hour a day.

Ovilus III v. a “control” word list

Today, before turning on Ghost Adventures, I decide to try a “control” list of words. Would they match the TV show as closely as the Ovilus did?

To test this, I printed a list of 50 random words. (I used a random word generator.)*

Right away, I saw six (of 50) words that could match almost any Ghost Adventures episodes: hunt, ask, call, shivering, spooky, and terrify.

Then, it was time for Ghost Adventures. (In the U.S., Eastern time zone, it starts at noon on weekdays.) Today’s episode was from 2012, Horror Hotels and Deadliest Hospitals.

I kept the Ovilus running — and took notes — even through the commercial breaks.

As the Ovilus “spoke,” I noted it by the next sequential word on the random list. (That is, until the Ovilus spoke, I didn’t count the random word, even if it was a good match for the TV show. In addition, I followed the exact sequence of the random words list; I didn’t skip around.)

This is far from scientific, but it’s a start.

Today’s results

During the show and its commercials, the Ovilus spoke 45 times.

11 of the Ovilus’ words were a good match for the what was happening on the TV. (In general, the Ovilus seemed to speak about two to three seconds before the matching moment on the show. I didn’t stretch the window beyond that.)

Only five of the words on the random list were a good match at the same time. And, of the six that seemed likely to fit any Ghost Adventures scene, only one — the word “spooky” — correlated to what was going on, at the time.

Some of my decisions were admittedly biased. When Zak was talking about a skeptic, the Ovilus said “jerk.” That’s the word I would have used, myself, so I counted it.

When two voices spoke in EVP, almost simultaneously, a counted the random word “double” as a good match. (The Ovilus had said “yield” at that moment; clearly, that was not a match.)

As I said, this isn’t scientific at all, but it makes sense to me. It’s a starting point.

The most interesting part of today’s experiment was during the scenes at the Goldfield Hotel, where — as Zak and his team investigated — a brick had moved on its own.

As Zak showed what had happened, my Ovilus said a rapid sequence of words, none of which seemed relevant. (The words were: bones, short, outside, carrier, and eat.)

But, it was so different from the Ovilus’ behavior during the rest of the show — and during my other, similar experiments — it may be noteworthy.

Or, yes… it may be a coincidence.

What’s next

Today’s test may have been a fluke. My previous experiments weren’t consistent enough (or dramatic enough) to decide anything.

So, ordinarily, I’d wait to talk about this.

But, if you want to try some “armchair ghost hunting,” the next few days will provide some great opportunities… better than usual.

All you need is any device that seems to respond to ghostly energy. (Even a homemade pendulum might work.) It doesn’t have to be as fancy as an Ovilus.

If you’re using an electronic ghost hunting device, turn it on while you’re watching a ghost-related TV show, movie, or documentary.

For lower-tech tools, just set them up as if you’re in a haunted location.

Note the results.

If you test this, I hope you’ll tell me what happens, in comments on the HollowHill.com article.

I’ll continue my own tests. When I reach a conclusion, I’ll post a new article.

For now, I think this could be interesting, but there may be a lot of trial-and-error to fine-tune this. So, your input (and results, even if they’re ho-hum) could be very helpful.

divider

*Since posting this, I’ve improved the control option. I copied the Ovilus III word list and numbered it. (That link – updated so it prints on just 13 pages – is a PDF at Google Drive.)

Then, I’m using a random number generator (selecting 50 numbers among 1 through 2048) to choose enough words for a typical Ghost Adventures episode.

After that, I’m using the numbers to create a sequential list of Ovilus words, based on what the random number generator selected. (Same order, but listing the corresponding words from the Ovilus III list. I hope that makes sense; this is easier than it probably sounds.)

In theory, this should tell me whether the Ovilus’ choice of words is more accurate than a wholly random selection from the same collection of words.

divider

Update: Thursday, 26 Jun 2017

Using the Ovilus III word list is a big improvement. I think it’s a more specialized list than the Random Word Generator list I’d tried, earlier.

In other words (no pun intended), the RWG list included words that were more generic and could fit a wider range of events. So, it seemed to match more moments on the TV.

Today, I tried two different word lists. Both were randomized from the Ovilus III list. After watching the King’s Tavern episode of Ghost Adventures, I was astonished.

During Ghost Adventures, out of 41 times the Ovilus was triggered, 12 words “said” by the Ovilus were a good match, and one more was close (but not quite right).

Usually, the randomized words weren’t even close. One of the lists matched twice (with a so-so third match). The other list had no matches at all.

This suggests that the Ovilus really is doing more than just spitting out random words from its dictionary.

Of course, I’ll continue these experiments. It’s too soon to reach any conclusions, but these early results are intriguing.

Update: Monday, 13 Nov 2017

I’m still testing this, and have expanded my viewing to include Ghost Chasers on Really.

The more I work with this idea, the better it looks. In the past week, there’s been an increase in exact match, topical words said by the Ovilus, seconds before someone on the TV says the same words.

So, yes, it looks like this works.

But, I’m not convinced the percentage of accurate responses is worth the time & effort.

And, I still need to compare my TV research with on-site research at the same site.

New Feature: Ask Fiona

ghostbatAs I’m writing this, Halloween is fast approaching. It’s “ghost season” for those of us who investigate haunted sites.

Many investigators — new and experienced — have questions about ghosts, ghost hunting, and haunted places.

I may be able to answer them.

Ask your question in the comment form, below.

(Though you’ll see it, immediately, the public won’t see your comment until I manually approve it. If you’d like me to keep it hidden, tell me that or use the “comments are always hidden” Ask Fiona page.)

If a question needs a lengthy reply, I’ll write an article to answer it, as time permits. I’m creating an “Ask Fiona” series at this website, for those in-depth replies.

Leave a comment below, and ask me anything about ghosts, haunted places, and related paranormal research.

Haunted History: The Slaughter House, Liverpool

history of the slaughter house, liverpoolIf you’re a ghost hunter interested in the history of the Slaughter House, here are notes from my off-site research.

(If you’re looking for Slaughter House ghost stories, see my related article, Most Haunted: The Slaughter House, Liverpool.)

The following history might connect to ghosts in and near Liverpool’s Slaughter House.

First, I researched Jane Ellison. She was a previous owner of the Slaughter House site. I’m not sure those notes are useful.

Then, I studied old maps — and business directories — looking for local clues. That historical information may be very helpful for future investigations at the Slaughter House.

Jane Ellison

Using Tom Slemen’s list of historical owners of the haunted Slaughter House site, I researched early owner Jane Ellison.

For some reason, Jane’s name seems to “light up” for me. (When I use that expression, it means the item seemed to hold my attention more than it should. That’s when I go looking for something odd to explain it.)

Jane Ellison #1

Here’s one interesting Jane Ellison, but I don’t know if she had any connection to the history of the Slaughter House.

This Jane Ellison was born about 7 March 1820 as a “female bastard” child of James Ellison, a laborer (from the nearby borough of Knowsley), and a woman whose name might be Margaret, but I can’t quite read it.

Here’s part of the court record:

court record Jane Ellison Liverpool

However, Ellison isn’t an unusual name in England.

This document does tell us that, in the early 1800s, at least one Liverpool-area Ellison caused some drama. He didn’t show up at court when charged as Jane’s father.

That’s a big red flag, if this Jane Ellison was connected with the history of the Slaughter House.

Also, in the 1766 directory, I found only one Ellison actually in Liverpool. (He was David Ellison, a watch maker on Ranelagh Street, not far from the Slaughter House site.)

So, maybe “Ellison” wasn’t a popular surname in the area, until much later.

Jane Ellison #2

Next, I found a burial record for “Jane, daughter of Jane Ellison,” who was buried 4 Oct 1819 in Liverpool.

The oddity there is that she’s just the “Jane, daughter of Jane Ellison,” without a father listed. Other entries on the same page list the mother and father of each deceased person.

Here’s the burial record:

Jane Ellison burial record 1819 Liverpool

Below, you can read the detail.

Burial record Jane Ellison Liverpool 1819

That record shows:

  • She lived on Dale Street. (It was just around the corner from Fenwick Street, where the Slaughter House is.)
  • She’s noted as a “spinster.”

So, there are two red flags connected with the name “Jane Ellison.” One was an illegitimate child, Jane Ellison, who was born in 1820.

The second (but lesser anomaly) was another Jane Ellison who appears to be a single parent, and – in 1819 – she buried a child named Jane Ellison.

In my research, I always note those kinds of anomalies. At least half the time, if they’re connected to a haunted site, their stories will be related to that site’s ghostly energy.

(Additional — but less unusual — Jane Ellison notes are at the foot of this article.)

Next, I looked at Liverpool maps and city directories. If I were investigating at the Slaughter House, I’d definitely study the maps in greater detail. I’m sure more clues are hidden in the history of the neighborhood.

MAP STUDY

If you’re researching the haunted Slaughter House’s history, here’s how the immediate area looked in 1766 Gore’s Liverpool Directory. (That directory is available, online.)

Slaughter House area Liverpool - 1766

Here’s a transparent overlay of the current Slaughter House site (courtesy Google Maps), on that 1766 map.

Overlay Google Maps and 1766 Liverpool

So, if you’re studying what was where in the late 18th century, the green arrow, on the map below, points to the current Slaughter House site.

I’m not sure what the “Dry Bn” was, or if that’s what the map says. But, I’d look at the history of the area where Fenwick Street (circled in red) intersected with Moore Street and — on the 1766 map — what’s indicated as Castle hill.

I’d also look at what was on Castle Street, in or close to the same building.

Fenwick Street and the Slaughter House 1766

In 1766, these were businesses on or near Fenwick Street:

1766 directory of businesses at or near the Slaughter House

“Peter Carson, dancing-master” caught my attention. From my previous research involving dancing-masters, he’s likely to have a colorful history. (But, to be fair, “dancing-master” didn’t always indicate something other than dancing lessons.)

Other directory notes

Surveying the area, I have an uneasy feeling about nearby Castle Street, where a “cabinetmaker and toyman” business was mentioned. Perhaps something there was connected to the Slaughter House’s ghost stories.

And, Thomas Banner was an innkeeper at the Golden Fleece on nearby Dale Street. It was a long street, so that may not be near the Slaughter House site. It simply caught my attention as I was studying the area. (Also on that street, an inn called the Golden Lion. Interesting juxtaposition of names, particularly if they were near one another.)

Note: Every “Golden Fleece” I’ve researched has had more ghost stories than average. One usually involves a man chasing a woman as she fled for her life. Some of those tales ended more happily than others.

If you find more useful history related to the Slaughter House ghosts, let me know in comments, below.

Slaughter House photo courtesy Rodhullandemu

divider

Additional notes about jane ellison

I’m including the following notes about Jane Ellison of Liverpool, for dedicated researchers who may find them useful. At this point, these Jane Ellisons don’t necessarily connect to the history of the Slaughter House or its ghosts.

Jane Ellison #3

This is not unusual; I’m including it in case it’s pertinent, later.

A Jane Ellison, age 75, was buried on 24 Jan 1838. (Born around 1763.) She died in the workhouse.

Aside from living to a grand old age (for that era), and the sadness of dying in a workhouse on a cold January day, there’s nothing of note in this. But, she could have been the surviving Jane Ellison #2 (above).

Jane Ellison died 1838 Liverpool workhouse

Jane Ellison #4

I’m not sure this has anything to do with the Slaughter House, either, but I found the “Will of Jane Ellison, Spinster” in Liverpool. (Reading it requires a fee, and I’m not that interested… yet.)

Note: If she is related to history of the Slaughter House, I’d read that will. Wills and probate records sometimes include the oddest details that can shed light on paranormal activity.

Jane Ellison #5

Here’s the marriage record of another Jane Ellison. Nothing odd here, but it may be useful, later.

Marriage: 26 Oct 1871 St Michael in the Hamlet, Aigburth, Lancs. (in Liverpool)
Joseph Craven – 25 Mariner Bachelor of St James Place
Jane Ellison – 22 Spinster of Collins St
Groom’s Father: William Craven, Builder
Bride’s Father: John Ellison, Labourer
Witness: Thomas Craven; Mary Ann Ellison

Sites – Legal and Illegal

video camera warning to ghost hunters
photo courtesy of Jason Antony and FreeImages.com

In the past, ghost hunters could discreetly slip into haunted sites that weren’t clearly open to the public. If it was public property — or abandoned — and it wasn’t posted, some investigators thought, “Why not?”

I’ve always advised against investigating sites that aren’t clearly open to the public for ghost research.

For example, in New England, Danvers (MA) State Hospital site has been notorious for trespassing, vandalism, and arrests of well-meaning ghost enthusiasts.

It’s one of many locations with eerie reputations, and vigilant security or police patrols.

Like many other locations in isolated spots, it’s easy for police to observe trespassers from a distance. Ghost hunters are at risk as soon as they drive up the road or driveway, or turn on their flashlights. Quite literally, they shed light on their own crimes.

Today, surveillance cameras and other devices — similar to the tools we use in our research — make trespassing even more risky.

The following December 2015 story —  from KUTV (Utah, USA) — is a good example of what can happen if you break the law.

‘Haunted’ Property Owner Asks Trespassers to Keep Out

(KUTV)In Northern Utah, authorities are looking to the public in help finding a few people they want to talk to after vandalism was discovered at a former Catholic retreat believed to be haunted. The pictures are clear, taken from surveillance video a new property owner installed in recent weeks… Despite multiple signs posted on the property – “No Trespassing” and “Keep Out”, threatening fines and jail time for violators, individuals are still coming through the area… In some publications and online sites, the area has been described as a good ghost hunting location, a fun place to take a date and get a thrill, but authorities say this is no laughing matter. (Emphasis added.)

[Click here to read the rest of the article at KUTV’s website.]

That particular location — St. Anne’s, in Logan Canyon — is mentioned at many websites, including credible YouTube videos, as a reliable place to find ghosts. You can even find St. Anne’s ghost story at otherwise-trustworthy websites like the Weird US site.

This is why you must investigate site accessibility, even before you decide if a location might be haunted enough to explore.

If you don’t, or if you choose to risk getting caught, the quality of surveillance footage — day or night — can be good enough to convict you.

Don’t expect to see warning signs.

Don’t waste your time looking for the cameras, either. They can be tiny or well-concealed in hollowed-out tree branches or fence posts.

Ghost hunting might not be as popular as it once was, but modern surveillance equipment has become inexpensive and easy to use. Many locations are using it to detect trespassers, and fine them for vandalism they might be responsible for.

In the case of the Utah ghost hunters, that’s a $10,000 door that someone had kicked in.

(Really, if you’re facing a jury and trying to explain that, yes, you did trespass, but no, you didn’t damage anything, do you expect them to believe you? Is ghost hunting worth that risk?)

Trespassing can be a felony in some American communities. Jail time can be as much as a year, and fines can be as high as $4,000 per person, at the discretion of the judge.

If you’re an American convicted of a felony, you can be denied your right to vote in the U.S. You can also be denied travel to some other countries, including Canada and parts of Europe. If an employer or landlord runs a background check on you, a felony conviction looks very bad.

Since my earliest articles at Yankee Haunts (mid-1990s) and HollowHill.com, I’ve always focused on haunted locations people can investigate, with permission. Nearly all sites I talk about — at websites, on TV and radio, and in books — are open to the public.

What happened to the kids who were caught in Utah could happen to anyone. Don’t take that chance.

If you’re not sure whether a location is open to the public for ghost investigations:

  • Visit the location and look for signs, or ask the staff (if any) about restrictions.
  • Ask the reference librarian at the local public library, or check with the regional historical society.
  • Stop at the local visitors’ center or chamber of commerce, and verify the location and the hours it’s open to the public.

Of course, I always recommend visiting each haunted site during the daytime, to evaluate it for research and plan your investigation.

But, if that’s not possible, be sure to confirm when the location is open to the public for ghost hunting, and if any fees, rules, or limits apply.

Or, limit your ghost hunting to daytime hours, as well as ghost tours, public ghost hunting events, and ghost vigils.