The Uncanny and the Paranormal

The “uncanny” is something and someone that is hauntingly familiar. It is the material traces and vestiges of particular individuals and specific events/situations that are “unearthed” in a “ghost excavation”. Within the excavation process, there is a sense of “theatrical ghosting”. It is something that has been done before, but in different situations, and physic-cultural environments. During the “ghost excavation”, time is disrupted. What was once past, buried, and forgotten is now exposed and present.

What is “unearthed” is also uncanny. This is the recovery of similarity, but with a difference. Many times (aka a “ghost hunt”), the remains are “objects”, not “subjects”. These remains, however, though fragmented and traces of a former “personhood”, remain functional and social. The difference is that their perception (in most “ghost hunting”) is not of the original entity. There is an indirect link with the past, by bringing potential past remains into the present without “agency”, the human source of the manifestation.

There are times, however, when past traces of personhood are accompanied by their interpretation as situated cultural behaviors by still “active” past actors. This occurs in a “ghost excavation” through the use of participatory contextual cultural practices in the field. The traces that manifest are sensory in nature: smell, sound, and tactile (usually). This is a difference which makes the experience “uncanny”, but certainly not “paranormal”! This is because those past sensory traces are still human in origin, and is the “afterlife consciousness” that continues to be performed  by a past (physically-dead) actor.