Ghost Hunting – Keeping Tragedy in Context

Ghost hunting often puts us in touch with tragic events from the past. Emotions can influence how we interpret cues and events related to a haunting.

However, what we think is tragic today… it might not have been so horrific in the past.

Understanding history can be essential when you are trying to:

  • Understand the quirky things that seem to activate a residual energy haunting.
  • Identify a ghost, and the era he or she is from.
  • Figure out why the ghost remains here, and whether his (or her) story is true… and enough to trigger a haunting.
  • Put active sites into an historical context that makes sense.

That’s why I wrote Ghost Hunting – Keeping Tragedy in Context.  It’s a three-page report describes some harsh realities of the past.

It explains why many stories and grave markers that seem so tragic, today, may not tell the whole story or even the correct one.  Those hauntings might be related to a very different story.

This isn’t a cheerful report.  You may be shocked by some of the statistics.  But, to really understand ghosts and their stories, a glimpse into the past can be important.

Here’s my related podcast from 2012: Ghost Hunting and Historic Context

Here’s that report link: Ghost Hunting – Keeping Tragedy in Context

Ghost Hunting – Mind Your Manners!

Regency Manners - 1798Ghost hunters should be aware of the rules of etiquette and manners of the ghosts they hope to contact. Of course, it helps if you have an idea of the era when each ghost lived. Manners changed considerably, from time to time.

Remember, through much of the 19th century — and even today, in some cultures — when someone flagrantly or consistently broke rules of etiquette, people with good manners usually ignored them… quite deliberately.

So, learn the manners of the time if you want to establish rapport with a specific ghost.  I discussed this briefly in my earlier article, Consider the Ghosts’ Contexts.

At right is a specific example.  It’s a list of “ill manners” for anyone attending a party or dance in 1789.  These kinds of manners will apply to ghosts from 1750 – 1850, and perhaps a wider time frame.

What might offend your ghost so much that he or she will act as if you’re not there?  Here are a few things not to do, mentioned in the 1789 guide.

  • Arriving with your hat on, and — even worse — leaving it on, indoors.
  • Whispering.
  • Laughing loudly.
  • Tapping or drumming with your hands or feet.
  • Leaning on a chair that a ghost might be sitting in.
  • Throwing something to another person in the room, instead of walking over to them and handing them the object.
  • Ridiculing anyone.  That includes sarcastic comments about other people who aren’t in the room, or making fun of someone else, even as a joke everyone enjoys.
  • Smiling too much.  Frowning (or looking concerned) too much.

If you want to establish rapport with your ghost(s), know the etiquette of their time.  That’s not just about avoiding bad manners, but keeping good manners in mind.

  • Knock before entering a room that might be occupied by a ghost.
  • Introduce yourself, and explain what you’re doing there.
  • Once rapport (any kind of communication) is established and someone else enters the room, you should do the introducing, since you’re already known to the ghost.
  • If you do something that might startle the ghost, apologize.
  • When you’re preparing to leave, explain why you’re leaving, and whether or not you plan to return.

Though most ghost hunters have success without following all (or any) of these guidelines, consider trying this approach to see if it improves your results.

For a wider range of manners and rules of etiquette, visit your public library.   Some of the best authors for our work will include Emily Post and Letitia Baldridge, as well as Miss Manners.

For further reading:  Consider the Ghosts’ Context

More Ways to Use History

Public sites are among my favorite locations for research, and also for training new team members.

I’ve also talked about the importance of using haunted cemeteries for those purposes. (That’s why I go into such detail in Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries.)

They’re still my most important research and training sites.

However, sometimes you’ll want a fresh and unusual location. To find those locations, dusty old books can be among your best friends.

Here’s an example of my book research.

Along coastal New Hampshire (USA), a massacre site — and related burial ground — are on property that’s open to the public.  The magnitude of the violence that occurred there… well, it should be an excellent investigation site.

Frankly, I was saving this location for my own research.  However, with an overloaded writing schedule in 2011, I’m not sure that I’ll have time for this Rye site… not in the near future, anyway.

The site is related to a 1691 massacre that I’ve briefly mentioned in the past.

I found it described in a dusty old book in the library at Harvard University.  Fortunately, the book is also online. It’s called The History of the Town of Rye, New Hampshire: from its discovery and settlement to December 31, 1903.  (You can tell from the title, this isn’t a book that many people look at.)

Several stories in that book suggest sites that could be haunted.  However, the story that begins on page 245 is probably the most lurid and promising for paranormal research.

The tale was summarized, “… a party of savages, variously estimated at from twenty to forty, came from the eastward in canoes and landed at Sandy Beach. They did not attack the garrison house there, but killed some of the defenceless families living on or in near vicinity to Brackett’s lane (now known as Brackett road), took a number of persons captive, and burned several small houses.”

The story is grisly, involving the loss of about 20 people.  Most of them were buried at the Brackett Massacre Burial Ground. [Link to photo & map.]

Driving directions: Brackett Road runs parallel to Rte. 1A.  From either the center of Rye or from Rte. 1A, take Washington Street (in Rye, NH) to Brackett Road and turn north.  Massacre Marsh will be on your right, shortly after you cross a small stream.  If you get to Geremia Street, you’ve gone too far.

Though some websites mention fierce mosquitoes at the burial ground, one person joked that the insects seem to attack everyone except descendants of the Brackett family.  (Yes, I know she was kidding, but I still pay attention to quirky comments like that one.)

The massacre occurred long ago.  The burial site may not be haunted.   The massacre site — around Wallis Sands beach — is far less likely to be active since the energy has be diluted by centuries of tourism.

However, this is such an overlooked episode in history, and the burial site has had so little attention (before this article appeared, anyway), it could be excellent for research.

You can probably find similar sites in your own area, using similar research methods.

During the chilly winter months — or sultry summer days — you may enjoy spending time at public libraries with really old, regional books.  Often, those books are kept in a room used by historians and genealogists.

There are no shortcuts in this kind of preliminary research.  You really do need to sit down and browse a lot of dusty old books.

Tip: Bring change for the copy machine or use your camera to photograph pages of interest.  Many of the best old books cannot be taken out of the library.  Though you may find several books reproduced online (such as the Rye, NH book), don’t count on it.

Whenever I think I’ve taken enough notes, I usually regret not getting copies of relevant pages in the book/s.

People often ask how I find such great haunted sites.  Though I’m now exploring obscure sites revealed by my paranormal patterns work, the simple version — browsing dusty old historical books — still works well.

If you’re not able to conduct much research during winter months, it may be an ideal time to identify sites for future investigations.

Visit the public library.  You may be pleasantly surprised.