When Houses “Look Haunted”

Victorian house looks hauntedCan a house look haunted? Can its appearance attract spirits?

Or, can that trigger residents’ anxiety so they merely think their home is haunted?

Unless someone is unreasonably afraid of ghosts, I don’t think a house that “looks haunted” is enough to make someone call paranormal investigators.

But… maybe it is? I’m not sure.

A friend sent me a link to a MetaFilter thread about Victorian architecture and other cues suggesting a haunted house.

Of course, many (most?) people think about ghosts now & then. A door that slams shut due to a breeze, or seasonal creaking of floorboards… many things can trigger thoughts about ghosts.

That’s normal, and – once the initial fear passes – there’s usually a normal explanation for whatever-it-was.

But… could ghosts be attracted to houses that “look haunted”?

Ghosts and Where They Haunt

Few ghosts change locations. (The ghost of Judith Thompson Tyng is an exception. She haunted the two men she blamed for her death, and then she killed them, one by one.)

In many cases, if ghosts thought they could leave the sites they haunt, they would.

Other ghosts, such as the feuding brothers of Greycourt Castle,  have unfinished business. Neither of the brothers is willing to abandon his claim to the buried treasure.

Those kinds of ghosts choose to remain in our realm, until that business is concluded.

And then there are the “green lady” ghosts, who protect their former homes, and the famous Irish banshees who protect families.

The question is: Do some ghosts choose the locations where they remain?  Is there some reason why some ghosts haunt cemeteries, others haunt houses, and a few haunt the locations where they died?

Or, Do “Haunted Looking” Houses Create the Right Environment?

A more tangled question is whether people expecting ghosts – at spooky looking houses – create the ghosts.

I’m thinking of the eerie results from the Conjuring Up Philip experiments. I had the amazingly good fortune to spend time with one of the original “Philip” group, and talk with him about his experiences. He was a little cryptic about his views, but also confirmed that – yes – what was reported, actually happened.

Here’s a 12-minute video that describes the experiment. (The broadcast was filmed a long time ago, so it’s a bit blurry.)

And, if you can find a copy of the original book, read it.  It’s likely to change how you think about ghosts and haunted places.

IMPORTANT: If the following video won’t play in this window, click through to see it at YouTube. In my opinion, every ghost hunter should know about the Philip experiments.

https://youtu.be/X2lGPT2J1cc

That YouTube video of the Philip Experiment is at: https://youtu.be/X2lGPT2J1cc

I’m interested in your thoughts about these topics. I hope you’ll leave a comment at this website. A dialogue about this could be fascinating.

Hurricanes and the Gray Man of South Carolina

Gray Man - Pawley's Island - foretelling disaster?The “Gray Man” (or, as many locals spell it, the “Grey Man”) has made another appearance. He’s a gray, ghostly figure that appears before each devastating hurricane in the Carolinas (USA).

According to most stories, he’s a young man who died in a devastating storm that – on September 27, 1822  – made landfall around Charleston, South Carolina.

The man been abroad for two years and was rushing home to his fiancée. Her family’s home was near Charleston.

But, seeing an approaching storm, the young man made a fatal decision. He took a shortcut to his fiancée’s home, and that shortcut included a piece of land with quicksand as deadly as landmines.

In his hurry, the young man drove his horse and carriage into quicksand, and – trying to save his horse as well as himself – both were lost. (In another version, his horse threw him, and the young man landed in quicksand. He died grasping at sand and grass, unable to save himself.)

Ever since then, his shadowy figure has appeared – usually around Pawleys Island, just south of Myrtle Beach – before every devastating hurricane. 

Credible stories date back to 1989 and 1954. Other stories – passed down from one generation to the next – describe the Grey Man’s appearance before every major storm that sweeps across the area.

Multiple Gray Man reports have surfaced in the past few days, as Hurricane Florence approaches. I hope it’s just an odd cast of the light, mixed with anxieties over the frightening hurricane approaching the Carolinas.

Who’s the Ghost?

Percival Pawley - Island gray man?Some people insist he’s Percival Pawley, the first settler. In 1711, he received land grants to develop Waccamaw Neck, including all the land from the river to the sea. Part of that land included Pawleys Island, named after Percival’s son.

Obviously, that Percival can’t be the young man who lost his life in 1822.  From my research, the original Percival (also spelled “Percivell”) Pawley died in South Carolina on 14 Nov 1721 (or 1723, in some records).

I also searched South Carolina death records, and the only Pawley who died in 1822 was Martha “Patsy” Pawley, a descendant of Percival Pawley.

Interesting note: The name “Percival Pawley” also appears in many records from Salem, Massachusetts, aka “Witch City.”

I think we can rule out Percival as the victim who died in quicksand.

Other speculate that the Grey Man is Edward Teach. Again, that’s a great story…  but impossible. Edward Teach – aka “Blackbeard” – died in North Carolina, and in 1718.

So, for now, the identity of Grey Man is a mystery. (And yes, I like the Grey spelling better.)

More Ghosts on Pawleys Island

One of the more famous ghosts of Pawleys Island makes a regular appearance at his former home, Litchfield Plantation. The ghost is Dr. Henry Norris, who renovated the house in the 1920.

Several ghosts – including two Boston Terrier dogs, a gray figure, and a woman dressed in gingham – have been reported at the Pelican Inn. (Some want to believe the gray figure is the Grey Man, but I think that’s unlikely. Spirits that appear at very specific times and places don’t usually show up in other locations, in the interim.)

A third ghost is Alice Flagg, whose spirit looks for the engagement ring her brother tore from her lifeless body, and discarded. She’s buried in All Saints Episcopal Church Cemetery on Pawleys Island, but she’s been seen in several nearby locations.

Here’s a YouTube video about Pawley’s Island ghosts.

That video about Pawley's Island ghosts is at https://youtu.be/1sTGspTsmTs

Other Spirits that Warn of Danger

The Grey Man isn’t the only spirit who warns of danger.

Of course, there are banshees, but they’re usually heard, not seen. Also, each of them “haunts” (I prefer to say protect) their descendants and relatives. In most cases, they don’t warn strangers of imminent disaster.

Green ladies” also predict danger and possible destruction, but they usually protect their former homes and castles.

Some ghosts not only warn of danger, but lend a hand when the location (or people) they protect is in danger. One example is the ghost of Ocean-Born Mary, who – according to reports – joined a bucket brigade to save her New Hampshire home during a late-night fire.

Other Grey Men

South Carolina’s Grey Man isn’t the only “Grey Man,” either.

In the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland, people report a “Big Grey Man” (Fearlas Mor, aka Am Fear Liath Mòr) near the top of Ben MacDhui. He’s sensed, not seen.

The first written report was by Professor Norman Collie, who encountered the “Big Grey Man” in 1890. Much later, a similar story was confirmed by Dr. A. M. Kellas, though he and his brother, Henry, thought they saw a giant figure in the distance.

To me, that’s interesting. Most ghosts with a lengthy history have a name and a description that fits what people have seen and heard.

In the case of Scotland’s “Big Grey Man,” he’s heard and sensed as a presence. (Only a few, rumored sightings have ever been reported, and – to me – they sound like Bigfoot: tall and covered in short hair.  So, I question those stories’ credibility.)

Here’s a video that describes – and attempts to debunk – Scotland’s “Big Grey Man.”

That YouTube video is about 3 1/2 minutes long, and it's at: https://youtu.be/p_D9dSvC9fA

That apparition reminds me of a North Carolina creature dubbed the “Unseen Tracker.” Like Scotland’s “Big Grey Man,” this entity is heard and sensed, but not seen. According to the book, Monsters Among Us, North Carolina’s Unseen Tracker sounds as if he walks on two feet and is heavy. He’s heard/sensed around Charlotte, NC, in broad daylight, on land formerly held by the Catawba tribe.

What connects those stories? A consistent unexplained, emotional reaction. First, the person is uneasy, then feels a murky sense of depression, and then… panic. 

Many of the witnesses try to explain the depression in a variety of ways. To me, it sounds like they’re desperately grasping for a logical answer.

Note: In reports of “shadow people,” I don’t usually hear anything about depression. So, I don’t think the Grey Man is a typical shadow person.

But, that feeling of panic – a very deep “uh-oh,” beyond being startled by an unexpected figure – is consistent with 2018 reports of the Grey Man of Pawleys Island.

Let’s hope that – this once – the recent Pawleys Island sightings don’t predict devastation and destruction.  As I’m writing this, Hurricane Florence looks like a very dangerous storm, and it’s moving towards the Carolinas.

References

Resources for More Research

Three Kinds of Ghosts You Can See

man-door-roseWhile ghost hunting, I’ve seen weird things like unexplained lights, shadows, and figures just out of the corner of my eye.

Here’s the basic rule: If they can’t be explained by something normal, we consider them paranormal.

Anything that’s seen or sensed that can’t be explained, except in paranormal terms, can be called an anomaly.

In ghost hunting, that means one (or both) of two things:

  1. We can’t explain it.  We see three gravestones, but a fourth one shows up in a photograph.  Or, we can hear a certain investigator’s voice on our EVP recording, but she wasn’t there during the investigation.
  2. Even if we could explain it,  it’s still very weird and doesn’t make sense.  It’s “statistically unlikely” in the context of where it happened or was recorded.  This is the kind of evidence that skeptics pounce on.  Sure, that orb could be humidity, but why did it show up in just two of about 15 photos, each taken within two minutes of each other… and by two different cameras?

So, when we’re at a location that’s supposed to be haunted, we’re researching paranormal activity and we’re documenting anomalies.

Those aren’t necessarily ghosts, or even evidence of ghosts.

However, when it’s something best described as a ghost, we call it a ghost.  It’s as good a label as any, for now, and — when we say “a ghost” — others recognized the kinds of phenomena we’re talking about.  Whether the person believes it represents the spirit of someone dead… that’s another matter.

As ghost hunters, we’re collecting evidence, trying to figure out what’s going on in haunted places.  Often, ghosts are the most logical explanation, so that’s the word I’ll use in this article and at this website.

There are at least three kinds of ghosts you can see:  Ghosts that emit light, ghosts that are shadows, and ghosts that are apparitions.  (There may be a fourth category, ghosts that absorb light, but we’re not sure yet.)

Ghosts that emit light

The most frequently photographed ghosts are those that emit light.  We see orbs (translucent circles or spheres) in our photos.  Those orbs usually have fairly crisp edges; they’re not reflections from headlights or lens flares.

In the photo below, the orb is very faint, and over the EMF meter on the right.  In a series of photos, the orb seemed to float between the meters, back and forth.  When it was near one of the EMF meters, that meter would signal. Then, the orb would float back to the other meter, leaving both meters dark in the interim.

At the time, we described it as spiritual ping pong.

This photo was not altered with Photoshop or any software, so the orb is very faint.  My photo is among many taken that night, at Tenney Gate House (Methuen, MA), showing the orb floating back and forth, triggering the EMF meters.

Two EMF meters and a faint orb, at Tenney Gate House, Methuen, MA.
Two EMF meters, spiking alternately, and the orb that floated between them.

Using Photoshop with a typical orb, the characteristic colors are revealed.  This next photo could have been taken anywhere, but I was at Fort George in Ontario, Canada.  Though skeptics will look at this kind of photo and explain it as dust, pollen, or moisture, this orb was photographed by about four of us, each standing about 10 – 30 feet apart, pointing our cameras in the same direction.  Mapping its location relative to landmarks we were seeing from different angles, it was easy to show that we were all photographing the same orb.

Typical orb. Perfectly circular. Looks three dimensional.
Typical orb. Perfectly circular. Looks three dimensional.

Some photos show a streak of light, often described as a vortex.  Unfortunately, a large number of vortices (plural of vortex) look identical to camera straps.  So, we’re not sure how many of those photos show something paranormal.  It’s too easy to explain them as a forgotten camera strap that fell in front of the camera.

However, if you have a photo with an image like this and you’re sure no camera strap or similar object was near the lens of the camera, you might have an anomaly we call a vortex.

This is a camera strap.
This is a camera strap.

Sometimes, we see light-emitting shapes or figures in real life, not just in photos.  Weirdly, those anomalies rarely show up in photographs.

They could be circular shapes or spheres.  They might be rods of light.  Or, in very rare cases, they assume the form of a figure, like an apparition.

These kinds of ghostly figures are best seen and photographed after dark.  Though I’ve taken photos of daytime orbs, with no flash or possibility of lens flare, the vast majority of light-related anomalies are photographed at night.

That’s one reason for a lights-out investigation at haunted sites.

Ghosts that are shadows

Ghostly shadows — sometimes “shadow figures” — are among the most disturbing ghostly phenomena we encounter.  We don’t know what they are, but they can seem a lot more covert and sinister than the ghosts we usually study.

The photo below, taken at a private residence near Laconia, New Hampshire, shows an eerie shadow figure we saw in a fully-lit basement.  It’s one of many troubling photos from that investigation.  In real life, the figure looked like a tall man.  There was nothing to explain that shadow.  I could see the cause of almost every other shadow, but not that one.

Laconia-basement3-shadow-230x300

The figure in the photo, above, is unusual because shadow figures usually seem to hide among other shadows.

We’re not sure what these figures represent. Sometimes, they appear individually. At other times, they seem to travel in groups or packs.

In general, I don’t recommend lingering at any location where you see shadow figures.  We’re not sure that they’re as benign as what we usually call “ghosts.”

Ghosts that Absorb Light

At the present time, we’re not sure if shadow figures or “ghost shadows” are actually casting a shadow, if they are simply dark figures, or if they’re absorbing light like a black hole.

If they’re absorbing light (and perhaps energy), that’s another very good reason to be cautious if you ever see a shadow figure.

We don’t know what these are, and if they’re a separate kind of entity.

Ghosts that are apparitions

Apparitions are ghosts that look like they did in life.  Sometimes they’re more-or-less translucent.  Others look like living people, but they may appear to be in historical costumes.

It seems that there are very few photos of apparitions.  Here’s a classic, the Brown Lady, photographed in 1936 by Captain Hubert C. Provand.

Brown_lady

I have three of theories about why we don’t see more credible photos of apparitions:

  1. Most apparition photos aren’t credible, and look like double exposures or as if they’ve been created in Adobe Photoshop.
  2. Often, the anomalies we see in real life don’t show up in our photos, and vice versa.
  3. Many apparitions seem so lifelike, we don’t realize they’re ghosts until they fade or abruptly disappear… and then it’s too late to get a photo.

Those are the three kinds of ghosts you can see… maybe:  Ghosts that emit light, ghosts that are shadows, and ghosts that seem to have physical form and look a lot like they’re living people.

A fourth category, ghosts that absorb light so they’re not just shadows but something like black holes, is a troubling concept that has yet to be explored.