Just as UFOs have become synonymous with alien visitors, similarly it is often assumed that ghosts, if they are real, must be the spirits of the deceased. There are, however, several paranormal theories to explain ghosts that would be equally paradigm shattering to mainstream science if they could be scientifically verified and proven to be real, and not just the product of overactive imaginations.
Poltergeists cases typically involve objects being moved about seemingly on their own. There are two main schools of thought on what might be responsible for such phenomena, the first being that the spirits of the dead are trying to communicate with the living. The second is that the psychic abilities of the living could cause poltergeist effects. In an interview with Haunted Wales author, Richard Holland, I had the opportunity to ask him about his own childhood poltergeist experiences and whether he thought psychic powers could be the cause:
I’m not sure – well, who is? But the feeling of a presence has stayed with me, that there was something trying to get at me in some unidentifiable way. I’m not sold on the ‘wild talents’ concept entirely for that reason. Nor does a lot of poltergeist behaviour tally with a conscious, reasoning spirit – why spread marmalade down the banisters or lay flowerpots out in a line on the kitchen floor like the Pontefract polt did? When I was at university I read about bacteriophages, viruses so primitive that they can barely be called life at all. They attach themselves to bacteria and pump in their RNA. The rest of it, a protein shell, drifts away. The RNA recodes the bacterial DNA and – lo! – two viruses where once there was one bacterium.
It made me wonder about a primitive consciousness, scarcely a mind at all,just a mass of electrical discharges that floats about and like the phage can only exist in any real form by latching onto a human mind. Perhaps puberty makes our brains susceptible to such encroaches. Perhaps similar twilight entities answer our subconscious needs according to our current superstitious beliefs – become fairies when we believe in fairies, then aliens when we believe in aliens. Perhaps they created some crop circles, too. More recently, I’ve been getting interested in the Islamic concept of the Jinn, incorporeal spirits created out of ‘smokeless fire’ at the same time as Man, and living alongside us. That comes quite close to what I’ve been groping at.
Stone Tape Theory
What has become known inside paranormal circles as the Stone Tape Theory originates from a television play written by Quatermass creator, Nigel Kneale. First shown on BBC1 on Christmas day in 1972, The Stone Tape combined science fiction with the ghost story genre and involved a group of scientists investigating an alleged haunting in hopes of discovering a brand new recording medium.
After observing the apparition themselves, which seems to appear after vibrations from loud noise disturbs the brickwork of the building, the scientists speculate about what the ghost is. After experimenting and making the apposition appear again, the team of researchers speculate that somehow limestone can record moments of the past. In other words, that human memory can be psychically recorded by the brickwork of a building and then later played back by someone sensitive enough to act as a psychic video player.
If true, the Stone Tape Theory might also go some way to explaining some of the problems with ghostly apparitions. For instance, why do witnesses always seem to report ghosts from only a few centuries ago? Why hardly ever from more than a few thousand years ago and seemingly never from pre-history? Perhaps the answer could be that much like old video tape, stone tape recordings have a limited lifespan too; slowly degenerating over the ages until they are unplayable.
The theory might also provide the answer to another oddity of apparition cases; why is it that some people see full blown solid apparitions where others only see transparent figures, shadows, or worse, nothing at all? Again like a conventional video tape, perhaps the older a stone tape recording gets, the more the sound and picture quality suffers. Alternatively, as is the case in Nigel Kneale’s script, it could be that some witnesses might make better psychic video players than others.
The ghost or recording is seen, or “played” might be a better term, inside the witness’s own mind rather than in the outside physical world. Therefore, depending on the sensitivity of the witnesses, it’s quite possible that several people might experience the same apparition very differently. Also, if apparitions are seen only in the mind, it would also explain the difficulty paranormal investigators have had obtaining quality photographs and audio recordings of ghosts.
The theory that ghosts might really be some kind of psychic tape recording rather than the spirits of the dead might not be desirable to some ghost hunters who believe ghosts are proof of life after death. However, if ever proven the Stone Tape Theory would raise equally important questions about the true nature of consciousness and the human mind. In the 1990s Ghost Hunters, shown in the UK on the Discovery channel, Professor Brian Josephson of Cambridge Laboratory suggested that the only way he could understand how a piece of inanimate matter could hold impressions of the past would be if “the stone, or whatever it was, had some kind of consciousness.”
Could time travel to the past explain some paranormal encounters?
A time-slip is an alleged paranormal phenomenon in which a person, or even group of people, seem to somehow travel through time via apparently supernatural means. Although a stable of science fiction since HG Wells penned his novel The Time Machine, Albert Einstein laid down the foundation for the theoretical possibility of time travel with his special theory of relativity.
According to Einstein’s theory time slows down as you approach the speed of light, stopping entirely for any object somehow able to travel at light speed. The assumption of science fiction writers being that if you could somehow travel faster than the speed of light then time should run backwards. So time travel to the past might be possible, although only at super-luminal speeds; but what about in our everyday lives? Is it possible to go round a strange street corner and walk into another time and place? Amazingly, there are many accounts of credible people who believe this is precisely what has happened to them.
One of the most well documented time-slip cases is that of the Simpsons and the Gisbys. The 1979 incident was featured in a memorable episode of the ITV television series Strange But True? In the programme, the two English couples described how while traveling through France en route to a holiday in Spain, they stayed the night at a strangely antiquated hotel. Bedding in very basic rooms, they were a little unnerved to discover no glass in any of the building’s windows, only wooden shutters that closed from the outside. It wasn’t just the building though, all the people they met, which included everyone from police officers to locals, seemed strangely old fashioned too, dressed almost as if they had just stepped out of the 19th century. In fact, everything even cutlery they ate with seemed out-dated by a century. Not being able to speak much French, the English couples couldn’t ask about it.
Putting all the strange anachronisms down to simply being in rural France and impressed by the mere 18 francs their stay had cost them, the four decided to look for the same hotel again on their return journey. However, this time, despite searching for several hours, they were unable to find it again. What more, when they returned home they were puzzled when all the photos they had taken there turned out blank. As if the hotel and its inhabitants had somehow simply vanished, disappearing even from their film negatives.
Another time-slip case involved the famous psychiatrist Carl Jung. While traveling through Italy in the 1930s the great philosopher visited the tomb of a Roman Empress in Ravenna. Impressed with the remarkable beauty of the mosaics depicting maritime scenes in an eerily pale blue light, he discussed them with his companion for about half an hour and, on leaving the mausoleum, even tried to purchase postcards of them; surprisingly though there weren’t any for sale. Sometime later, Jung asked a friend visiting Ravenna if he could obtain pictures for him.
It was only after seeing them that he finally learned the truth. The mosaics he had seen and discussed in great detail were totally different to the mosaics now decorating the mausoleum. However, they did exist once but had been destroyed in a fire some 700 years previously. So what is going on? Rather than physically travelling back in time, Jung believed that his consciousness had somehow travelled back in time to when the mausoleum had been first constructed, 1400 years prior to his visit to Ravenna. Jung’s theory would definitely explain why the Simpsons and the Gisbys weren’t able to get any photographs.
It might also solve why their French hosts didn’t make a fuss about the English tourists using modern currency; maybe their 19th century hosts simply saw money from their own era. Also, Time-slip experiencers often report bouts of depression or unease just prior to, or, at the start of their experience. Perhaps indicating that the mind or human consciousness is involved, as Jung believed. Below is part of an email I received from a reader of my blog about an alleged time-slip experience:
What happened was this: Up until the 4th grade, all of my teachers had been attentive, benevolent creatures, I excelled, and school was a joy to me. That year, however, instead of spending all day in “home-room,” we began to change classes for different subjects and I found myself in a math classroom with a teacher who was always angry, especially at me for some reason. She would call on me incessantly and find a reason to upbraid me. I became so afraid that I would feel physically ill every day on the way to her class.
A few weeks into the year, she reassigned our seats because we were all “bad.” I now found myself much further back in the room, and near a sidewall. Along with all of the usual things found on elementary school walls, there was a painting there, just at eye level, that I had never noticed before. I would sit and stare at it, and it made me feel calm and safe. The teacher never called on me again, despite the fact that I was clearly paying no attention. I must have done my work and turned it in; although I have no memory of doing any work in there after the painting appeared. So far, sounds psychological, right?
Then it gets strange. Near the close of the year, an art teacher visited our homeroom. He talked about various artists, gave us some simple drawing supplies, and passed around a humanities book with some colour plates of paintings. One reminded me of the painting hanging in the math room; I raised my hand and said so. To my surprise, other students who shared that class with me said there was no such thing. My homeroom teacher trusted me and asked that I go down the hall and see if the math teacher would mind very much if we borrowed it for the day’s art lesson. I happily went, but when I got there, it was gone. There was nothing on that part of the wall at all, and the teacher said there never had been. I was confused and embarrassed. It did not reappear.
Afterward, I did my best to describe the painting to my mother, but it wasn’t enough to go on to track down the artist/image. I wondered about it on and off, but could never make sense of it. Many years later, I came across a café selling postcards and foam-board posters on a sidewalk. While idly flipping through them, I spotted it. It was a Wyeth entitled Christina’s World; I was stunned. So, it did exist!
Okay, my brain did not create a painting out of nothing…but rather brought us together somehow? How? Was I transported, or was it? Why that image? What is the connection?
I still have no idea, but do think that Jung was correct about the existence of a collective unconsciousness, and that certain conditions can spark connections. Since then, prints and copies of Christina’s World have continued to unexpectedly pop up in my life, seemingly only during times of great stress. But it is such a famous image; I would have to concede that there is some chance of coincidence.
While hard to verify, stories like the above would seem indicate that the human mind and consciousness may not be limited by the same laws of physics that prevent time travel in our everyday lives. Is it possible we all share a “collective unconsciousness”, which under rare circumstance can act like a psychic bridge connecting us to people living in the past?
Author of Para-News, Sci-Fi Worlds
and the Bretwalda UFO Files Ebooks.