Pop Culture
Jun 19, 2009, 12:03PM

Ghost Hunting

You know, but all science-y and stuff

We have a feeling that something is "out there". Are our senses playing tricks on us? Or is the space that we exist in constructed by our senses? Parapsychologists have undertaken rigorous analysis of haunted spaces in order to measure empirical quantities of observable phenomena. Some do so in order to prove that there is something "otherworldly"; others do so in order to prove quite the opposite. What is not in question, however, is that people have sensations that lead them to believe that there are ethereal presences in the vicinity.To talk about haunted spaces is to talk about two things that are explicitly psychological: the sensation of haunting, which is clearly subjective; and the sensation of space, which again depends on the perspective of the particular occupant of that space. Objective analysis of these perceptions always seems to give conflicting results. However, there are some observed spatial phenomena that tend to correlate with a haunted sensation in a space: infrasound: humans can hear sounds in the range of approximately 20 Hz to 20000 Hz. Infrasound (below the threshold of hearing) has featured in some apparently haunted spaces. Frequencies of 18 or 19Hz are just outside our ability to hear, however our bodies can feel these low rumbings subliminally. Such frequencies have been shown to elicit feelings of unease and to upset the sense of balance.humidity: air quality tends to be fairly consistent in most inhabited spaces -- if air is moist in one area then it tends to disperse throughout the space. However, in apparently haunted spaces, one often encounters wide fluctuations in humidity from bone dry to uncomfortably muggy.temperature:one would expect in most spaces for temperature to be fairly consistent throughout a space, given good air movement -- though there is quite a large change as one rises vertically through a space. Again, wide fluctuations in temperature, which can make hair stand on end, have been associated with apparently haunted spaces.air movement: as a substance that is fundamental to our existence and surrounds us yet cannot be seen, air is often regarded with a certain awe. One of the most spooky experiences arises when air moves across our skin without any apparent cause. Air movement (in and of itself, as well as in combination with temperature and humidity effects) is therefore key to a "haunted" sensation.electromagnetism: many studies have been undertaken to gauge the affects of electromagnetic fields (EMF) on people's perceptions. Some have argued that electric fields from appliances, antennae or nearby power cables have created sensations of haunting. Others note cases where none exist nearby. However, it is clear that EMF affects perception, more in some people than in others. As a result of this, the gaussmeter (which measures levels of EMF) is one of the main tools employed by ghost hunters.Other factors also affect the perception of hauntings: the psychology of the individual; the desire to believe that something is happening (also observed when people encounter simulated intelligence systems); the social environment in which the hauntings are observed.There are naturally questions regarding whether these phenomena arise out of existing natural and manmade constructions: power stations, draughty windows, leaking pipes. The project proposed here does not attempt to explain how the phenomena arise, or even how they give rise to haunted perceptions. Rather, the project focuses on how the psychology of human perception gives rise to the construction of space.The projectUntil now, most studies of parapsychology have concentrated on measuring existing phenomena and subject responses. In the project proposed here, we intend to collect together the results of some of these studies and actually synthesise a "haunted" space using infrasound, temperature, humidity, air movement and electromagnetic fields that have been associated with "haunted" environments.The first stage of the project will require rigorous background research of the studies that have already been undertaken in the field of parapsychology and perception.The second stage will consist of taking some of the results of previous studies and "replaying" them; for example, a short experiment might be to create a 19Hz subsonic frequency in a space and gauge the reaction of people entering the space.The third stage will bring together the various phenomena developed in stage 2 into one cohesive space.[...]The intention with this project is not to explain haunting phenomena or to debunk popular wisdom with regard to the paranormal. Rather, the intention is to demonstrate how the perceptions of space and objects in space are intricately affected by things we are not immediately conscious of. The work follows on from previous work we have undertaken to research the architecture of non-visual environments using sound, smell, electromagnetic and thermal phenomena.


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