Entertainment vs. Science

I first got an inkling that entertainment might be a problem back in the mid 1990’s when a certain well known web site for ghost investigation suddenly became a site for paid membership. Not long later they were selling more books, online courses, and ghost hunting gear than anyone else online at the time.

Around the same time, I finally got around to reading the book that the movie, “The Exorcist” was based on. I would later get a better report on the actual case.

Not long later, I read more about the facts behind the case of the Amityville Horror and how that was blown out of proportion for a hit movie.

Now, to be fair, the case behind The Exorcist was a real one. Real things happened. But Amityville, and now, it seems “A Haunting in Connecticut” were made up almost whole cloth.

I was really hoping there was something behind the Conn. case, because one of the investigators involved is a friend of a friend. Alas, it seems to have started as a book deal between some of the people involved.

This greatly saddens me, as it does a great disservice to those of us trying to investigate these things rationally. It ends up not being science, but rather pure entertainment claiming to be based on a true story.

One REAL, world famous case is that of the “Christmas Ghost” at Hampton Court Palace in December 2003. As is typical of real cases, it didn’t get a lot of press except when it was happening. It seems that for a number of days, a door alarm would sound at one set of fire doors. When security went to investigate, the doors were once again closed and no one was around. This at first looked like it might be bad wiring or some other electrical fault. To test this, the security people aimed a camera at the doors in hopes to see what was going on. Around December 18 or 19, the camera caught the doors opening and someone closing them. The person looks to be dressed in 16th century clothing. No one in the area was dressed as such at the time. Other security cameras showed no one coming or going from that area at the time. You can see the video here and a frame by frame analysis here. The case was mostly dismissed because the figure didn’t look very ghostly. That still doesn’t explain who the person was or how they avoided all the internal cameras. A subsequent “investigation” which had absolutely nothing at all to do with this incident showed there was no correlation between visitors’ feelings of a presence and the supposedly haunted areas of Hampton Court Palace. Thus, the whole incident was neatly swept under the carpet and left as a historical anomaly.

I give this as one example of a sighting with good, hard evidence that got NO proper follow-up investigation. It is typical of a real “ghost” anomaly in that the ghost seems solid and real, but appears and disappears without a trace. It is typical of what is called an “intelligent haunting” in that the apparition seems to interact with normal reality rather than what is called a “residual haunting” where the apparition seems more like an echo, disconnected from this world. These terms of course, are only working terms as we haven’t proven anything, but they accurately describe what is observed.

Most real hauntings go un-investigated. Most of what you see from Hollywood is presented not for documentary evidence, but purely for entertainment. Lately, I have come to be very wary of any investigator who seems out to entertain. It makes me question the motives involved, and as the Amityville and Connecticut cases show, also make me question what really happened.

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