The Anatomy of A.G.E. (“Applied Ghost Excavations”) in Haunted Buildings

The “A.G.E.” of a haunted building begins with an anthropological theory of human culture:

“Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun. I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretative in search of meaning” (Clifford Geertz, anthropologist).

The “A.G.E.” at haunted locations does not follow physical sciences, but rather social science. And there are no laws of human behavior, even of “humans” as “ghosts”.

“A.G.E.” also uses archaeological methodology and field techniques to collect data for analysis and further research. This data focuses on “what” and “who” remains from the past. “A.G.E.” is a selective process. It “selects” what agendas will be researched at haunted locations. This is not a “hunt” for ghosts!

In How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built (1994), Stewart Brand explores how buildings “live” in time, and how different layers of function are changed to accommodate new uses. As Henri Lefebvre has said: “No space ever vanishes utterly leaving no trace” (in The Production of Space). Brand’s concept of a building’s layers includes the following:

  • Site: This is the geographical setting;
  • Structure: This is the foundation and load-bearing elements;
  • Skin: These are the exterior surfaces;
  • Services: These are the “working guts”;
  • Space: This is the interior layout; and
  • ‘Stuff’: This is the furniture and décor.

These layers can provide a “blueprint” for fieldwork in a haunted building:

  • Site: This is the historic and ethnographic setting upon which investigative performance scenarios are “built”;
  • Structure: This is the “material” that could serve as surfaces for recording “residual” elements;
  • Skin: This is the “affect” that a “haunting” appearance may have on meaning and documentation;
  • Services: This would have an “effect” on the measuring of the location’s ambience (EMF readings, temperature fluctuations, etc.);
  • Space: This would contain the strata of various uncertainties, regarding room function and social situations; and
  • ‘Stuff’: This would be the historical and ethnographic “triggers”.

This “blueprint” is a much better “working model” of “excavating” a haunted building than a mere search and scan that is characteristic of a typical “ghost hunt”.