The following articles were authored by Mary

State of the “Dis-Union” (2013): Learning to Unlearn the “Paranormal World” of “Ghost Hunting”

 There are many different sciences of the past, each with their own methodologies. There is no one “scientific method” (cf. P. Feyerabend, in his book Against Method (2010). Ghost research can become one of them, if only it would discord the emphasis on recognition (via reality television as entertainment), and becomes a discipline of legitimate research and fieldwork that entertains. There are serious alternative forms of science that frames the existence of past presence, perceived as remains that “haunt” the present. Such a multi-disciplinary approach would be a welcome addition to the restricted approach of paranormal reality TV, and “ghost hunting” in general. A multi-disciplinary approach would provide legitimate forms of “beyond the paranormal” research, away from typical “ghost hunting” mentality.

The use (and often abuse) of the past (as “ghostly presences that “haunt” us with their continued uncertainty) engrain mental images as “materializations” of many contemporary egocentric individuals who desire for a “paranormal experience” from the past. This “paranormal” view leaves the conception and perception of that past (for many) vulnerable to entertainment-focused marketing techniques and their hints at “instant” fame.

Are “orbs” (and other light anomalies), “shadows”, garbled “soundings” from various “voice boxes”, and ambient measurements the “objects” and “subjects” of truth of how particular individuals (as “ghosts”) or groups (as “institutional” hauntings) want to be remembered? If these “ghosts” are indeed attempting to “communicate” with us, wouldn’t they have a “voice” and “vision” in that “communication”, instead of the “ghost hunter” as “spokesperson”? Are those images and representations, obtained in most “ghost hunts” (and “ghost tourism” with para-celebrities) not reality, but really are artificial imitations of what “ghost hunters” would like to believe about the appearances of past presences?

What has the use of technology (as “ghost tech”) done to the contemporary socio-cultural perceptions of “authenticity” in their documentations of manifestations of ghostly presence? What is the technological effect on understanding and explanation when individuals and groups “buy into” these homogenized and sanitized mass-produced perceptions of “apparitional experiences”?

The result is an illusion of “authentic”, becoming a “unique” and “paranormal” choice of explanation. What is the significance of all this “staged authenticity” for conceptions of meaningful value within ghost research as a legitimate fieldwork discipline? It has hindered research, such that we, those who seek answers to these questions, have not gained any ground in establishing “proof” of ghosts or a haunting.

The re-production of mannerisms, techniques, and devices from one “ghost hunt” to the next, repeated time and again by different groups at the same location, substitutes a multitude of copies for a unique experience. The repeatability of the same “form and function” in “ghost hunts” calls into question the authenticity of original past cultural behavior it (the “ghost hunt”) purports to document, and any subsequent manifestation of it in a future haunting!

What is “authentic” as an “original” example of actual past presence behavior? It isn’t the “orb”, the “shadow”, or a “sound” that is open for interpretation. It certainly isn’t an ambient-measured change. What is that measured change? Is it a contemporary change due to a manifesting past? Is it a past residual that is manifesting a past ambiance, and thus not relative to a “ghost” of a “dead” individual? And “who” has confirmed with certainty the “authentic” and verified relation between ambient change and a “ghostly manifestation” in a scientific (any scientific) journal?

It’s time, in 2013, that we learn to re-learn how to investigate and do legitimate research and fieldwork at haunted locations! There are experts, and there are fields of expertise, if only one does their “homework”. This website is a baseline for individuals and groups who seek answers, techniques, methodologies, and theories outside the “paranormal box”, and away (far away) from the “para-celebrities”. Let’s bury the egos, as a form of reverse archaeology (“incavate” not “excavate”). Let’s lose the expectations of gaining popularity and quick fame! This is hard work, so let’s work at getting this field a legitimacy that it needs to obtain credible results and institutional funding

The Origin of the Ghost Excavation Methodology

The Origin of the Ghost Excavation Methodology

I work (have worked for more than four decades) among, and with, the remains of the “living dead”. I am not talking about two “recent” (yet old) motifs of contemporary popular culture, the “zombie” and the “vampire”. And the “material remains” that I “unearth” are no mere “walking dead”, the “ghosts” of archaeology. Many of these who remain are real spectral (and “live”) traces of human presence, “unearthed” during a “ghost excavation”.

The format of a “ghost excavation”, its storyboard, allows for the direct telling (and “voicing”) of individual, and personal, stories. These fragmented “stories” are important to the meaning of a “manifestation”, and serve as the primary means to interpret the archaeological remains that are “unearthed”. As a “haunting” version of “oral history”, these past remains can challenge the concept of linear histories, as a perception of a completed (and ended) past. This is an expanded approach to archaeological fieldwork that is not wholly dependent upon the physical presence of remains, but rather those “remains” that can be experienced in other sensory modalities, particularly the aural. This “aural sense” is an acoustemology ( a sonic sense) of understanding “what” and “who” remains from the past in particular spaces at a specific location.

A “ghost excavation” takes ghost research seriously as a subject of inquiry in its own right, and not as a metaphor (something that “haunts” us still), a conceptual devise (the “ghost” as something lost, forgotten, neglected), or a lucrative form of entertainment or personal gain (“ghost tourism”, ego-driven “ghost hunting”, or “paranormal reality TV programming”). But what is this “ghost excavation” methodology, and when was it “unearthed” as a legitimate form of social science investigative methodology?

The historical background of a “ghost excavation” is a story, like all archaeological stories, that works itself backwards to a past, one filled with recollections of highly personal and emotional fieldwork experiences. These experiences affected how I began to do research and how I perceive reality. The story begins as an “excavation” story that “digs” into the habitual and mundane (the true reality of an archaeological excavation) to finally expose and substantiate the authenticity of a different contemporary reality. This “different” contemporary reality is far more expansive (and human in nature) than what is thought of in general academic circles.


It began in the last year of the 6th decade of the 20th c., though it had its antecedents earlier in the previous decade (see my book, Ghost Excavator (2007).). Its true origin, however, began in the 10th century, was “dug out” in a 12th c. ruin, and entered contemporary reality based on 19th c. Victorian Spiritualism. All of this took place in Winchester, the ancient capital associated with Saxon kings, on an isle called England. It seems appropriate that it had its origin here as England has been called the most “haunted” country in the world. The methodology “manifested” during an archaeological excavation, but its haunting relevance was “born” in a 2nd floor apartment on the corner of High and St. Thomas streets during an enlightening seance.

The excavation story begins with Martin Biddle and the Winchester Excavation Committee at Winchester (1961-1971). The excavations in Winchester, six in number at the time of my participation, “represented a landmark in British archaeology in the 20th c.”, introducing into urban archaeology a multi-period, multi-disciplinary approach that became the methodology that was used at other sites throughout Europe and the world. Such an approach became an inspiration and model for the perspective (which includes archaeology, ethnography, performance and sound studies) and methodology (multiple strata of “intellectual uncertainty”) that I use at “haunted” locations during a “ghost excavation”.

Winchester was (is) well-noted for its “ghosts”, many of which inhabit the local pubs (such as the Hyde Tavern and the Eclipse Inn) along with other “spirits”. Winchester Cathedral is a known “haunt”, and the Winchester Cathedral “Close” (where I lived nearby in 1969) is noted for its various apparitions, the most famous being a “limping monk”. The history of hauntings at Winchester goes back centuries. There are stories of funeral processions of ghostly monks dating back to about 1640, and are described as “chanting monks, clanging hand bells, and flapping sacred banners” walk the streets, in burial procession, toward the cemetery.

My “excavation story” was “unearthed” at Wolvesey Palace, a place I came to know intimately for four weeks during that summer of 1969. It was my “Woodstock experience”! I was assigned the task of excavating what became the earliest known water piped system in English history (at that time). This lead-piped water system of the palace complex belonged to the early 12th c. During my time at Wolvesey, I also excavated earlier layers of a Roman occupation. Digging into Roman and Medieval History at Wolvesey, and contemporary reality on the corner of High and St. Thomas Streets, led me back to the past and the “haunting”!


The Ghost Story

“My Ghost Story” began on St. Catherine’s Hill, overlooking the city and the River Itchen. I had come to view (during a day off from the excavation), at the top of the hill, the circular Iron Age fort, built in 150 b.c.  As I descended the hill, I explored the “mismaze” there, a series of nine rounded-edge squares cut sometime during the Medieval Period. There, I happened upon (by chance- ?) a local practioneer of Wicca, the ancient earth-based religion. The city of Winchester and the area around St. Catherine’s hill (in particular) are associated with witchcraft and the ancient arts. In 1440, people were “tried” by the ecclesiastical court for necromancy and sorcery here, and in 1667, a school mistress and her son were accused of witchcraft. The top of St. Catherine’s Hill was an ancient beech grove, and was the site of shamanistic chants and drumming. There is also a local legend which says that the hill was the eye of a pagan dragon.

This particular “wiccan” practioneer, appropriately dressed in black and purple, and looking like what was to be later called the “Gothic” look, had heard that I was interested in local ghost lore. She suggested that we return to her apartment (saying it was “haunted”) and have a séance. I agreed and we, along with three other companions, walked toward her apartment on the corner of High and St. Thomas Streets. We traversed the Winchester Cathedral Close, but did not see or sense the “limping monk”. We also passed through the Royal Oak Passage, before exiting onto High Street toward her apartment. We also did not encounter the “ghostly monk” said to “haunt” the Royal Oak Passage. The night was still young, so I was still “open” to experience something. Little did I know what was to transpire in that small apartment………!

The “Original” Ghost Story

This began, as a resonating factor in a future haunting, long before I worked at Winchester in 1969, and centuries before “England” was recognized as a country! Wolvesey Palace earned its name, so it is recorded in many accounts, after the story of a Saxon king, Egbert (827-828) who demanded to be paid each year with the heads of 300 wolves from the Welsh (G.I. Parkyns 1816:95 in Monastic and Baronial Remains: With Other Interesting Fragments of Antiquity in England, Wales, and Scotland. Some say Wolvesey means “Wolf’s or Ulf’s Ey (Island)”. This tribute in wolf heads is also recounted in the following passage:

“He took great pains in hunting and pursuing these ravenous animals; and when he found that all that escaped him had taken shelter in the mountains and forests of Wales, he changed the tribute of money imposed on the Welsh princes by Athelstan….into an annual tribute of three hundred heads of wolves….” (Chron. Sax. P. 116; H. Hunting Lib. 5 p. 356; Brompton, p. 865; W. Malmes Lib. 2, cap. 8).

There are still other accounts:

“The earliest history of Winchester is that Kinegils, soon after his conversion in 635, built a palace there, which Kenewahl, his son, gave to Saint Birinus for his residence, and that of succeeding bishops. After this, nothing seems to be known, except the payment of the tribute of the wolves heads….” (The Gentlemen’s Magazine, Vol. 171 (1842), p. 536).

A Dr. Milner, in his History of Winchester,  wrote:

“Wolvesey is stated to have derived its name from the tribute of wolves heads imposed on the Welsh by King Edgar; and which it is asserted was ordered to be paid here” (The Gentlemen’s Magazine.  Feb. 1829, p. 105).

Wolves were also the subject of “hunts”. Various Norman kings (1066-1152) employed servants as “wolf hunters” which eventually lead to the extinction of the wolf in the British Isles by the time of Henry VII (1485-1509). At the time of my archaeological work at Wolvesey, I did not know this history of Wolvesey, and its relation to wolves. This “unknown history” and relation between wolves and Wolvesey became the “haunting” that followed me one summer night in August, 1969 in a small apartment on High and St.Thomas Streets…..


The Haunting

During that séance, I became “possessed” by the “spirit” of a wolf. For a complete description of this “haunting experience”, please refer to my book, Digging Deep: An Archaeologist Unearths a Haunted Life (2009). The full story is described on pages 60-77. Based on this experience, a symmetry of certain “haunting” questions lingered in my mind for a long time: Did I become “haunted” by a wolf because I worked at Wolvesey, digging up the past? Did I become “possessed” by a wolf because its “ghost” still “haunts” the countryside around Winchester, where it was exhibited as a “trophy” in the form of tribute? Wolvesey Palace is in ruins, and the wolf is extinct in England. What lasts in the memory of that night are what became for me the methodology of a “ghost excavation”. And there is still the possibility of a wolf “possession” or “transformation”. Paul Devereux, in his book, Haunted Land (2001), reported an incident witnessed by a Professor Brian Bates of Sussex University. In “full waking consciousness” (as I was in that apartment) in an Austrian forest, the professor “saw a female ritualist’s head flickingly transform into that of a wolf (2001:161). Did my transformation only occur in my mind, or was it real? That question still “haunts” me! And it is why I continue to explore, after more than four decades, the possibilities of “ghostly” presences at “haunted” locations!

The Methodology

Winchester was (and remains) a city where multiple past presences continue to be experienced, in an archaeological way, as surface assemblages clearly visible to the eye and ear. Yet, beneath the surface, there remain other layers that remain hidden. Sometimes, quite unexpectedly, they become “unearthed” through resonating connections. This lesson was not ‘lost in the translation” of time from past to present, and present to future. It stabilized as a lasting memory of an encounter with a “ghost” from ancient English history and Winchester’s “haunted” past.

Working in the “gardens” at Wolvesey Palace during the day, and investigating what still “haunts” (and manifests) the present at night, has allowed me access to a connecting field – resonating in nature – that linked present to past, the living and the dead. It provided, and still does, a framework in which to expand the “field” of normal reality. In this reality, meaning in the Winchester “digs” (both archaeological and “ghostly”) was created through personal “still points”: Wolvesey and wolves; archaeology and field performance practices as “P.O.P.”; and  resonating field practices that expanded the concept of “ordinary” reality as more than binary opposites: “living” and “dead”; past and present, etc. This extended reality became what is real back to what was “ordinary” not “paranormal”!

The anthropologist Gregory Bateson called this a personal map-making “ideation”. It is a way of imposing order on something once thought unexplainable. It is the recognition of a pattern, and looking for the means to make a connection. For me, this became the connection of a storyteller, an “excavation” story, and something more than a “ghost” story. In storytelling, an important archaeological characteristic in itself, it became the “ghost excavations” that I have been doing in the field all these decades. And that is why the “ghost excavation” attempts to recover this expanded reality, not a “paranormal event!

As Mary and I traveled to Winchester last year (before presenting a video on our “ghost excavations” at Burnside Bridge, Antietam Battlefield), I recalled how it all began, decades earlier. And it brought a tear to my eye as our train from London pulled into the Winchester station. It was my first journey back to Winchester since my fieldwork there in 1969. But the memory of “what happened there” remains actively present in my mind. It will never become just a “phantom” presence. It lingers to “haunt” me in each and every “ghost excavation” we do!









Orbium Coelestium! Scientific anomalies, ghosts, over enthusiasm or misplaced biases? By James E. Beichler, Ph.D.

Presented at The Academy of Spirituality and Paranormal Studies, Inc., Annual Conference 2008 Proceedings:

Orbium Coelestium!

Scientific anomalies, ghosts, over enthusiasm or misplaced biases?

James E. Beichler, Ph.D.

Abstract: Photographing ‘orbs’ in cemeteries and haunted houses has become extremely popular in the past few years, but no one, to my knowledge, has ever conducted a scientific study of these ‘orbs’. Many people, including both professional ghost hunters and skeptics alike, automatically chalk the ‘orbs’ up to reflected light from various types of material particles (either animate or inanimate) using ‘cheap’ low resolution digital cameras. Yet I myself have photographed ‘orbs’ that defy simple explanation as light reflected from dust, insects, water droplets and so on in a variety of physical situations. So my students and I conducted an experiment to determine the nature of the ‘orbs’ in an upper level philosophy of physics course that I taught. We concluded that nearly all ‘orbs’ are more than likely just photographs of common particulate matter that is out of focus, but science should be interested in the very few examples of ‘orbs’ that do not fall into this catchall explanatory category.


     In the fall semester of 2007, I conducted a laboratory experiment on ‘orb’ photography with my students in an upper level college physics course titled ‘Anomalous Science’. The ulterior motive was, of course, to teach my students to be open-minded, but also to approach their open-mindedness with scientific rigor and not jump to unsubstantiated conclusions. The more immediate purpose of the experiment was to determine if, or at least test the plausibility that, ‘orbs’ that are commonly photographed under various circumstances represent something other than normal photographic anomalies. For example, do ‘orbs’ possibly represent anything that could be of interest to either normal scientific or paranormal investigators?

     In essence, we were testing two alternative and opposite hypotheses. On one extreme, there exists an overly skeptical group of people that ‘automatically’ concludes that ‘all orbs’ are just dust, insects, mist, rain drops, snow, or other small particulate matter that is photographed ‘out of focus’ in the light reflected from a camera’s flash. These people usually tend to blame the ‘orb’ problem on the use of ‘cheap’ digital cameras, but usually fail to define what they mean by ‘cheap’. On the other hand, there is a second group of people who claim that ‘orbs’ photographed in graveyards, old houses, hotels and other hot spots associated with haunting are either ‘ghosts’, some form of apparitions or some other undefined phenomenon that accompanies ‘ghosts’ and thus offers ‘proof’ of haunting.

     As with all scientific investigations, science makes predictions from their hypotheses and theories that are then subjected to experimental and observational verification. In this case, we would expect that neither explanation is completely correct, although the dust theory of reflection is probably closer to the truth, so it is being tested in the laboratory portion of the experiment. Under these circumstances, the major goal of the experiment would to be to determine what conditions for a given digital camera will yield photos of ‘orbs’ using different known substances at different distances in the dark. Using the information developed in the experiment, we should be able to set up a table of parameters by which different cameras would yield photos of ‘orbs’ due to ordinary circumstances and substances. Then, and only then, could we determine if photos of ‘orbs’ taken at ‘haunted’ and other suspicious sites could be caused by anything other than normal optical problems and therefore warrant further explanation. This information will help to identify ‘orbs’ photographed with the same camera in graveyards and other ‘hot’ sites.

     The experiment consisted of three separate parts: In part 1, the students and I attempted to duplicate ‘orbs’ under laboratory conditions using various types of particulate matter. In part 2, we took pictures outside of the lab under various conditions in general settings trying to duplicate ‘orbs’ and in part 3, we went to likely haunting sites and attempted to photograph ‘orbs’. We then investigated and analyzed other photos that seemed to exhibit ‘orbs’. The apparatus used in all three parts of the experiment was the same, such that the same cameras were used in all cases. The primary camera used was a Kodak 3.2 Megapixel camera with a flash range of about 7 ft. Most outdoor pictures (outside the lab) used this camera. Only digital cameras were used since film is costly, time consuming and otherwise limited. With digital cameras, it is only necessary to snap away and take as many pictures as can be held in the removable memory. A second camera was also used. This camera was also a Kodak, but it had a resolution of 7.1 Megapixels and a stronger (brighter) flash. Various parts of the experiment were also recorded with either a Sony digital-8 or an Aiptek digital video camera. The results from the video cameras are not included in this report for a lack of video editing computer programs. However, these videos will prove useful for later determining extensions of the basic experiment.

     The lab procedure in part 1 was very simple. All four cameras were set up to take pictures at nearly the same time in the dark. Students would drop (or throw, or spray) a variety of particulate substances when told to ‘go’ and then each of the cameras would alternately take pictures. Sea sand, table salt, house dust, various colors of glitter, rice, demara sugar crystals, Wondra flour, hair spray and water spray were all used. Each substance was dropped (thrown or sprayed) at distances of 2, 5 and 8 feet from the camera.

     Very good ‘orbs’ were obtained with the water and hair sprays at several feet, but the best ‘orbs’ were obtained with the sea sand at distances of three feet and less. In both of these cases, both the 3.2 and 7.1 Megapixel cameras yielded ‘orbs’. So it would seem that the quality or resolution of the camera is not a factor in photographing ‘orbs’. So we can immediately throw out the ‘cheap’ camera hypothesis. The silver and yellow glitter also yielded better ‘orbs’ at two and three feet then the other colors of glitter. This result would seem to indicate that reflective power of the particulate matter is also important in photographing ‘orbs’: The yellow and silver glitter was more reflective than the other colors of glitter, at least in the light spectrum of the camera flash. In normal photography, these would be considered ‘hotter’ colors. The other forms of particulate matter used were not as reflective, so they did not yield sufficient numbers of ‘orbs’ under the specified laboratory conditions. The particles of sea sand and the water and hair spray droplets were the smallest bits of matter used, except for the dust that was not very reflective, so they yielded the most ‘orbs’. The small bits of sea sand are primarily silicon, rendering the sand highly reflective. It could therefore be concluded that the important factors for photographing ‘orbs’ had nothing to do with the quality or ‘cheapness’ of the cameras used. The actual important factors were size, reflectivity and flash intensity, and only then distance from the lens. In any case, it was readily demonstrated that it is easy to duplicate ‘orbs’ in the laboratory.

     In the second part of the experiment, hundreds of photographs of insects and other objects were taken outdoors under various lighting conditions in an attempt to duplicate ‘orbs’ under more natural conditions. No evidence was found that photographing insects could produce ‘orbs’ in this part of the experiment. In the most significant attempt made, swarms of hundreds of small gnats about a half-millimeter to millimeter in size were photographed under several lighting conditions: bright sunlight, shadow, twilight and total darkness with a flash. The swarms were important, because it can be assumed that the gnats were present at all distances from the camera, from a fraction of an inch to six or seven feet, at the same time. In spite of all attempts to get the gnats to yield ‘orbs’, absolutely no ‘orbs’ resulted from photographing the gnats. Nor was there any evidence that any other insects photographed produced ‘orbs’. When ‘orbs’ were obtained under the circumstances, the ‘orbs’ seemed to be random and no source could be found even though the pictures were taken in common places such as backyards, bushes, trees and above grass in fields. If these randomly photographed ‘orbs’ were caused by insects reflecting the camera’s flash, then the insects causing the ‘orbs’ must have been far too small to detect, otherwise they may have just been ‘orbs’ of some type of inanimate particulate matter blowing in the night breeze.

     Of all the ‘orbs’ that were photographed in the dark with a flash, none could be specifically related to any insects, so it can only be concluded that insects would have to be smaller that the size of the gnats (less than a half-millimeter) and far more reflective than the gnats to produce ‘orbs’ when photographed. More random photos of insects and a greater variety of insects need to be photographed in the future before any conclusions can be reached if insects produce ‘orbs’ or not. However, spider webs, under the correct conditions, did yield multiple ‘orbs’. When the 3.2 Megapixel camera was placed as close as possible to the strands in a spider web, approximately two or three centimeters in front of the camera, the strands of spider silk began to look like a line of linked ‘orbs’. So, if such small strands or filaments of web or filaments of other types are blowing in the night air, they could yield ‘orbs’ when photographed in the dark with a flash.

     All that is needed to obtain ‘orbs’ in the dark with a flash are extremely small sources of light that can be photographed out-of-focus with any particular camera. Normal sources of light could be reflected light, original light sources or even light diffracted by particulate matter. When photographs were taken in the second part of the experiment, we found that embers from camp fires and even bright stars produced ‘orbs’. Both are direct sources of light rather than reflected light. A very bright light source can also produce ‘orbs’ due to a reflection off of the camera lenses themselves when pictures are taken in darkened situations. For example, if a person takes pictures of a night football game under the lights, the internal camera light meter will adjust to the darker football field and then the bright overhead lights will produce ‘orbs’ due to reflection between the internal camera lenses. In the final case, ‘orbs’ could also be produced by diffracted light. Diffracted light is light that bends around an object and then causes interference patterns. Diffraction interference patterns from a point source would be small, but larger than the object causing the diffraction, and appear round or spherical. When the light source is behind an extremely small object that is out-of-focus, like the spider web silk, an ‘orb’ can also appear in the camera lens and the resulting photo. Clearly, not all ‘orbs’ are produced by reflected camera flashes. They can be produced by a number of normal circumstances and these circumstances must be taken into account when analyzing ‘orb’ photos.

     However, these explanations do not account for all ‘orbs’. During the experiment, at least in parts two and three of the experiment, some ‘orbs’ were obtained in photographs that seem to defy any easy explanation. In particular, a few cases of ‘orbs’ appearing in background shadow areas during a period of bright daylight were obtained. These orbs could not be connected to any source of light, such that they were could not have been due to either reflected or diffracted light, yet they were not their own sources of light. So their origin is still in question. In yet another case, photographs that I personally took under very dark circumstances, without flashes (because they were not allowed), at Saint Stephan’s cathedral in Vienna, Austria, yielded a few ‘orbs’ like those obtained in the lab, but also bright points of light that mimicked ‘orbs’. These bright point ‘orbs’ seemed to be truly anomalous and without explanation. Until these anomalous ‘orbs’ are accounted for, no conclusions regarding the relationship of ‘orbs’ to haunted sites can be made with complete accuracy. All that can be said is that most of the ‘orbs’ obtained by amateurs in sites associated with haunting are more than likely light reflected from some form of dust particles or microscopic water mist droplets.

     As part of the experiment, I also attempted to have my results repeated and confirmed on the popular TV show, Mythbusters. To suggest a topic for the show, you must first submit the questions to the Mythbusters forum for discussion, which I did. The following is my initial statement proposing the ‘orb’ myths and the first response to my suggestion. My nom de plume on the Mythbusters Forum was Professor Who.

Professor Who: I am a college teacher and I am teaching a course on Anomalous Science. We are looking into the question of whether the orbs that are photographed in cemeteries and supposedly haunted sites can be explained by any other means, such as insects, water mist and etc., that are out of focus. I am conducting an ongoing experiment in photography to discover the conditions under which I can photograph orbs. The myth according to those who believe in hauntings is this: Orbs can only be photographed in cemeteries and haunted sites because they are associated with haunting. Another myth proposed the nay-sayers and doubters is just the opposite: All orbs are just insects, stars, water droplets, mist and such explainable phenomena that are just out of focus. So can the Mythbusters consider which of the myths is true or untrue? Would the Mythbusters be interested in my and my class’s experimental results? This would make a great segment of Mythbusters given the popularity of the subject and the vast number of TV shows on the topic of hauntings.

Dickfez: If you really are a professor, you shouldn’t be teaching such BS as anything other than an urban legend. “Orbs” are a simple phenomenon caused by brightly lit, out of focus, objects between the camera and the object it is focused on. This can be easily demonstrated by taking a digital camera with flash out in the rain or snow under low light conditions and shooting an object.

It is easy to see from Dickfez’ reply that many people, especially skeptics, regard ‘orbs’ as an emotionally charged issue and are willing to suspend scientific rigor and objectivity to have their own opinions accepted, without question. However, the subject of ‘orbs’ will not so easily be dropped by the people who associate them with haunting, either correctly or incorrectly. Science clearly needs to determine if any of the ‘orbs’ could be the product of anything other than common identifiable causes.

     Given the popularity of the subject of ‘orbs’ and the many myths that surround them, as well as the shear prejudice and bias that anyone encounters if he or she attempts to treat the subject scientifically, it has been difficult for most people to take this experiment seriously. No completely definitive conclusions were reached with the experiment as conducted, even though some of the myths associated with ‘orbs’ were exposed to the light of scientific logic and reason. What is certain is that a great deal more research on this subject is needed and this experiment will be continued and expanded.

James E. Beichler

Professor Beichler has been teaching Physics, Mathematics and the History and Philosophy of Science at West Virginia University at Parkersburg for the past seven years, but will soon take an early retirement to conduct his own independent research. He has taught these as well as other related subjects at the university and college level for more than two decades, but only obtained his Ph.D. in 1999 from the Union Institute and University. He earned his Ph.D. in Paraphysics, a branch of theoretical physics. It is the only such degree from an accredited university in the world. Professor Beichler designed his own course of study for the Ph.D. He combined past advanced degrees and doctoral work in Physics and the History and Philosophy of Science with new studies in Parapsychology. He presently edits an online journal, Yggdrasil: The Journal of Paraphysics, and is also conducting theoretical research in Cosmology to explain Dark Matter and Dark Energy, in Physics to explain the nature of life, mind, consciousness and matter and will soon develop a new physical model of the atom. All of these advances are applications of a new fundamental theory of physical reality, called ‘single field theory’ or SOFT, which he has developed. SOFT is based upon a five-dimensional Einstein-Kaluza space-time geometry. Explanations of paranormal phenomena emerge naturally from this space-time structure. Professor Beichler has just published a book, To Die For: The physical reality of conscious survival, upon which this article is based.

Ghost Excavation: EOCs (EVPS) – The Brunswick Railroad Museum


Examples of EOCs (EVPs) During the Ghost Excavation

at The Brunswick Railroad Museum

John Explaining A Scenario to the Investigators

John Sabol, in front of the doorway, was giving instructions for a scenario on the second floor hall area of the museum when this EOC was recorded.  You will hear two different voices – John’s and an unidentified male voice.  According to Herman (Mike) Stevenson, the EOC appears to be a class 1 electronic voice with a fundamental frequency of 753 htz and a top frequency of 1186 htz.  It is possible to fake an EOC or EVP by coincidence of frequency.  If it was, it would have been heard by others.  None of the investigators heard the voice live.  (Photo credit:  Misty Bastian)

REC006-000304401-000311401 (EOC credit:  Herman (Mike) Stevenson)




School Children

This scenario involves the wall photo of Brunswick school children from the late 1800s, early 1900s.  In the display are other school-related items that include books, desks, a Benjamin Franklin stove, etc., from the era.  Investigators Misty Bastian, Linda Good, and Mary Becker (Miss Mary) portrayed schoolmarms starting the school day with The Pledge of Allegiance and continued with other school activities.  The only man in the area was Investigator Herman (Mike) Stevenson who was listening in on RT-EVP audio and did not participate vocally.  Below are two versions of the EOC.   (1) is the longer version with Miss Mary introducing herself; (2) is concentrating on the voice speaking to Miss Mary.  Apparently a male adult was not happy with Miss Mary…(Photo credit:  John Sabol)

(1) REC005-002408441-002416501EVP+24.wav (EOC credit:  Herman (Mike) Stevenson)

(2) REC005-002408441-idontlikemissmary (EOC credit:  Herman (Mike) Stevenson)







Ghost Excavation: EOCs (EVPs) – The Knickerbocker Experience and Expanding the Ordinary


Examples of EOCs During the Ghost Excavation at The Knickerbocker


Investigator Bert Richards interacting with a past presence

Investigator Bert Richards communicating with a presence in Clara Arnold’s room.  According to the history on The Knickerbocker website…In 1885, only three years after the completion of the new hotel, Mrs. Arnold died of consumption, or what we know today as tuberculosis. Being that they were hotel keepers, they more than likely also lived there in either an upstairs, or downstairs family quarters and this is likely where Clara Arnold died.

Credit Investigator Guy Fazio for EOC:  (c)Guy_Fazio-3rd floor-thank you






3rd Floor - The Knickerbocker Hotel

On the 3rd floor outside the family quarters, Investigator Mary Becker played a game of hide and seek as well as a counting game with past presences of children said to be in the hotel.  In one EOC, the child said the number “10″ before Mary did and in the other EOC, the child(ren) would call out random numbers including the number 5 various times.

Credit Investigator Guy Fazio for the following EOCs:

(c)Guy_Fazio-3rd_floor-boy saying 10




2nd Floor Landing area


Investigator James Castle portrayed Eugene.  Eugene was an actual tenant who resided in the hotel on the 2nd floor along with his dog named Boozer.  We have two EOCs of a dog barking – the November 2012 ghost excavation and the second from the November 2011 ghost excavation.

Credit Investigator Guy Fazio for EOC:  (c)Guy_Fazio-2nd_Floor-dog_bark

Credit Investigator Mike Stevenson for EOC:  Investigator Mike Stevenson EOC – Dog bark

(QuickTime version EOC Mike Stevenson:  100-4798-001421324-001429671 – Dog bark








Ghost Excavation: The Knickerbocker Experience and Expanding the Ordinary

The Knickerbocker Hotel

The “Knick”:  Expanding the Ordinary

The everyday is haunted by what use to be part of it, and the ghostly becomes an association to (and interaction with) repetitive, unchanging routines, not “paranormal” events.  This is a wider perception and understanding of space as deeply historical, already inhabited by the past, and living, not dead.  The ghost is no longer a source for possible knowledge of the “afterlife”, as the everyday at the hotel becomes a “life” with ghosts.

The Knick is a concrete example of continually evolving scenes of haunting scenarios that remind us of the presence of the past.  Its rooms, through their décor, antiques, and historical records haunt us and link us to multiple presences through a commonality of normal (not paranormal) experiences.  The “hotel” itself is a culturally-hybrid space of physical remains attached to particular memories of past acts, behaviors, and events.

Here, we (as investigators) can exist as ourselves and as “ghosts” of ourselves through our remembrance of experiences from our past.  We can use these particular memories to form an empathetic link (as we perform contextual scenarios) with those of the “ghosts” of the hotel.  This link, forming a “field” of common and mutual experience, helps us to “unearth” these past presences in particular spaces and rooms in the “hotel”.

As a fieldwork experience, this is working with what remains, what presently exists as “triggers” and who is left from the past at The Knick.  Our “ghost excavation” is a performance-based and personally-experienced, not instrument-based, exploration of the “ruins” of past occupations at the hotel.  The recording and documentation is achieved through this commonality of experience between present and past that creates a future manifestation, one that is not initiated by a “demand and command” mentality (“Show us a sign”!…”Do something”!) or the issuance of irrelevant questions (“Is anyone here with us”?), characteristic of a typical “ghost hunt”.

The Knickerbocker Hotel becomes (is), in a ghost excavation, a laboratory for a controlled and contextual documentation (through auditory means) of an acoustemology of presence, a specific way of knowing about what (and who) remains from the hotel’s history.  This is a humanistic (and therapeutic) approach to ghost research.  This personal attitude and approach to fieldwork enables The Knick to evolve into a prime location as an academic center for learning about the past and its individual histories of “afterlife consciousness”.

As Rev. (and PhD) Louis Richard Batzler (former president of The Academy of Spirituality and Paranormal Studies, Inc.) has said:

“Ghosts can help to affirm the indestructible and worth of persons.  Seeking to understand ghosts can provide insights and approaches to truth.  Life visible needs life invisible for life to be indivisible and whole”.


Click “here” to listen to an example of  EOCs (EVPs).  More to follow…


Group Photo in Period Ensembles

   Group photo of the investigators readying to portray characters that have manifested in the hotel.  Some of the names are included with the investigator – from left  to right:  James McCann (George Jensen, newspaper reporter); Mary Becker (Miss Jennie, meeting her salesman husband and listen to the opera); Margaret Byl (Miss Margaret, guest and irritated with the opera singer “Stella”); Bert Richards; James Castle (aka, Eugene); Guy Fazio (military soldier); Mari Chastain (Stella and opera singer)

John Sabol - Scenario

  John Sabol gaining permission to enter one of the children’s rooms as the interactive past

presence of a child’s voice was heard to be upset after being sent to bed.

Bert Richards During a Scenarion

This photo is relevant to an EOC we were recording via audio and

further documented by those viewing via the live u-stream cameras. (Investigator Bert Richards)

  Setting up a scenario in the family’s living quarters. (Investigators, left to

right:  John Sabol, Shian Gordon, James Castle, James McCann)

Mari Chastain and James McCann During a Scenario

  An impromptu scenario in one of the children’s rooms. (Investigators James McCann and Mari Chastain)

Mari Chastain as opera singer "Stella"

  Stella practices her aria for the evening’s opera event. (Investigator Mari Chastain)

Upper Hall Level

Upper Hall Level where audio of children counting backwards and randomly crying out

numbers that were heard during hide and seek by both investigators and u-streamer viewers.


VA Paraquest Conference – Friday, April 26 to Saturday, April 27, 2013


is an event presented by Bedford Paranormal and Seven Hills Paranormal
to celebrate and explore all aspects of the paranormal world.
It all begins Friday, April 26, and continues until Saturday,  April 27, 2013.
The conference will be held at the Holiday Inn, 601 Main Street Lynchburg, VA 24504

Come join us and have a great time exchanging ideas.

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.


Metaphoric Interplay: “Indiana Jones” and “Ghost Hunting”

“Archaeology has become a metaphor for going underground, which in turn is a metaphor for the truth” (Holtorf 2005:33).

The “truth” lies beneath the surface of things, though not necessarily located “deep down”. The truth has become lost today because many have evaded what is true, and others have not be truthful to what remains of a past that is still “buried”. The real nature of a haunting lies buried in this mesh of “untruths”! Context, association, and resonance (together with a moral stance) still remain “buried” on many “ghost hunts”, and certainly on what is shown on paranormal reality TV!

The myth of the archaeologist as “Indiana Jones” is not a cinematic stereotype. It was once as real as “ghost hunting” is today:

“Those were the great days of collecting. Anything from which a fancy was taken, from a scarab to an obelisk, was just appropriated, and if there was a difference of opinion with a brother excavator, one laid for him with a gun”.

  • Howard Carter

I would suggest that contemporary “ghost hunting”, compared to a scientifically-controlled contemporary ghost research/ field practice, is certainly akin to the practice of archaeology at the turn of the 20th c. and the cinematic exploits of Indiana Jones! Many “ghost hunters” are (or consider themselves to be) an “Indiana Jones” character at haunted locations. The “collecting” mentality (seen as number of haunted locations “investigated”; amount of “anomalous” photos and EVP’s recorded) is clearly evident in “ghost hunting”. So, too is the opinionated politics and oft times “hostile” relations between various groups of “ghost hunters”! Lost in the melee of “paranormal politics” and “territoriality” is the understanding that both archaeology and ghost research do not (cannot) offer an exact translation (nor a complete record) of past presence. Rather, ghost research should follow archaeology’s lead: archaeology is a mediation between past and present. It works with what is left of the past. I propose that ghost research should follow similar intentions. Let’s end these pretensions of ego-driven fieldwork, territoriality, research as entertainment, and the controlling power of TV producers (rather than educated and knowledgeable investigators)!

Another relation between contemporary “ghost hunting” and “Indiana Jones” is the search for the “Holy Grail”. Many “ghost hunters” today continue to mention this “Holy Grail” find. In “ghost hunting” terms, the “Holy Grail” is a video or photo of a “full-bodied” apparition. What is less mentioned or emphasized is the importance of contextual documentation. This “contextuality” means that this video or photo must be a result of a contextual and resonating field practice that is relative to a particular historical period and known individual agency, and not the result of a random scan or survey of the contemporary environment.

My concern is this use of “Holy Grail” as a principal objective in many “ghost hunts”, variants of which come in many guises (many as EVP recordings). The “Holy Grail” is a major motif of Modern Western mythology. It is a mystical object in legends, serving as a metaphor for intense and fervent religious belief. It also involves an emotionally-charged “belief” in its mystical (“paranormal”) importance. Are these “ghost hunters” searching for the documentation of “authenticity” in past presence, or a mythical one, metaphorically- speaking? Should a religiously-focused “belief” be part of a science of ghost research? Should ghost research, as a “ghost hunt” for a “Holy Grail”, continue its “Indiana Jones” façade and metaphor?

Archaeology today as a scientific discipline determines the precise location of material remains, and then carefully digs down to extract the objects and structural features without (as much as possible) damaging content and context. Archaeologists keep accurate records of this content and context because many (if not most) sites are multi-layered, occupied by more than one cultural group through time. Archaeology is not an exact science, but rather a discipline that works with what remains of the past. Still, it is a good (and adequate) model on how to conduct ghost research.

Most haunted sites contain numerous layers of haunting (intellectual) uncertainties. Fieldworkers must determine the precise location of haunted space(s) by these layers of uncertainty. A careful non-evasive “excavation” must be conducted. This is accomplished through field performance, and contextual, resonating cultural practices to determine if the “traces” that remain are “interactive”. These field performance acts, I propose, “awaken” former memory (habitual) practices of past presence. Once a space is determined to be “interactive”, it must be accurately recorded, layer by layer. Without this control, any trace manifestations cannot be assigned to particular historical/cultural horizons and specific individual past actors.

Ghost hunting today, in large measure, is similar to archaeology, as it was practiced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The first excavations were not performed by “professionals” and archaeology was more a “hobby” (or a “treasure hunt”) than a scientific discipline. Entire layers of past presence were destroyed in search of “treasured” artifacts. Records were sketchy and context was lost. Similarly, many “ghost hunters” today conduct surface instrument scans and the monitoring of space without taken into consideration layered context, the association between field practice/manifestation/content/space, and past human behavioral patterns (rather than physical anomalies).

There are some forms of archaeological “excavation”, as a practice rather than a metaphor, than can “unearth” past layers of presence. This, I propose, is a “ghost excavation”. Sometimes, past presence may be more than mere material, inanimate remains, even more than a residual replay of a past event. Sometimes, within the symmetrical layers of haunted space, there may be the continuation of ancient rites that, though contextual for the time, are “out of time” today by their acts of behavioral practices. And that is a time when there is a need for a real investigator, not a reel one, or the metaphor of a “ghost hunt” investigation! Is this possible? Such a possibility has been written and recorded on British TV. The Stone Tape (1972) is one example! When this occurs at a haunted “ruined” site, it’s time to call a real archaeologist, a “ghost excavator”, but certainly not an “Indiana Jones” ghost hunting type!!

Holtorf, Cornelius.  2005.  From Stonehenge to Los Vegas: Archaeology as Popular Culture.  AltaMira Press.

Little Round Top, The Enactment of the Engagement Between Co. G (15th Ala.) and the 20th Maine



At the wall where Co. B of the 20th Maine were located in the woods below Little Round Top.  This photo was taken during the daytime peripatetic walk to get a sense of the landscape.













This is explaining to the team the purpose of the peripatetic walk.













The 20th Maine position, waiting to enact the scenario with Co. G of the 15th Alabama.













The 20th Maine position, just prior to the enactment of the attack by Co. G of the    15th Alabama.