Ericka Scott


What’s Not a Ghost – The Basics
Friday, March 18th, 2011
Filed under Uncategorized

I’ve just received page proofs for my upcoming release, Wild Ghost Chase.

Two reality-show ghost-busting teams versus one haunted house – the first team to successfully exorcise the spirits wins the renewal of their television contract. It sounds like a pretty straight-forward competition, but something or someone at Harrington House has another agenda.

Siblings Monica and Malcolm McFee comprise the team for Happily Ever Afterlife. The show is a mixture of science and supernatural, for although they are twins, they couldn’t be more different. Monica is a skeptic. She grew up normal in a paranormal family, and she’s never met phenomena yet that couldn’t be explained away by cold hard science – even love. Her brother is a medium who can see and speak to the dead. Ambitious and proud, he’s the seventh son of a seventh son and determined to sustain his heritage by only dating women who believe in the paranormal. It’s led to some interesting matches, but none so exciting as the one he experienced years ago with a ghost. A ghost who seems to have come to life in the persona of Kylie Harrington, the owner of Harrington House.

Their rivals are Enigma Mysterio and Irene Hopkins. Their show is Bump in the Night, where investigative team participants pay thousands of dollars to be scared to death by either the ghosts or the dramatics. Up until two years ago, Enigma just had a funny name. Dying three times after a car accident changed all that. Now he has the ability to see through the veil separating life from the afterlife. It’s a gift he neither wanted nor asked for, but a man has to make a living somehow, and being the stooge for a beautiful woman on a hit television series isn’t so bad. Or so he thought until he meets Monica and loses his heart to the one woman who can’t see past his psychic ability to the man inside. Irene isn’t a psychic; she just plays one on television. Besides being married to the show’s producer, her one true talent is screaming on cue.

The paranormal investigation was Kylie’s idea; however, the competition wasn’t. All she wants to know is where her ancestor, Amos Harrington, hid his ill-gotten gains so that she can get out from under the mountain of debt she’s inherited along with the supposedly haunted house.

Over the course of the weekend, the two teams with their respective technical advisors, a supposedly impartial network executive, and the beautiful owner of Harrington House find it isn’t just the ghosts who are running amok. A killer is on the loose and if they don’t work together, they could all become permanent residents.

Monica is the skeptic of the team and as such, she’s got the rules laid out in Fiona Broome’s article memorized. If you are investigating a haunting, you might want to keep a few of these in mind as well.

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Sometimes, people are understandably eager for something to be a ghost. A haunted house or graveyard can seem so exciting. A “real” ghost experience grants instant celebrity to the storyteller.

Sometimes the obvious is most easily overlooked, especially under stress, late at night, and in an unfamiliar setting where everyone’s nerves are on edge.

Haunted houses

Do a reality check before deciding that an odd experience is a ghost.

* If an object seems to move by itself, check the floor or surface with a carpenter’s level. You can pick up a cheap one for under $2, and it’ll fit in your purse or pocket. If the object is lightweight, check for drafts, too.
* If you sense a cold spot, check it with a thermometer. Use a candle or other draft detector, to see if you can find where it’s coming from. In old houses, I often find drafts from electrical outlets on outside walls that are not insulated. Check around light switches, too. Carry a roll of masking tape with you, as a short-term way to shut out these drafts.
* If you hear ghostly footsteps, wait until the phenomenon has stopped (or until daylight, if you’re more comfortable) and try to duplicate the sound by walking wherever the footsteps came from. Was it really footsteps, or the house settling or shifting as the temperature dropped at dusk?
* If windows open themselves, check the hardware. Make certain they’re really closed. Try the window to see if the counterweight isn’t right, and the window opens too easily.
* If windows close themselves, try propping them with a piece of pipe or other solid object. Ghosts pop those props out, gravity usually doesn’t.
* Snapping window shades can mean defective hardware. Or, maybe the coil has been too-tightly or too-loosely wound. Let it release, and then rewind it yourself.
* If you genuinely think it’s a ghost and you’re in the dark, use caution when turning on lights. In our experience, lights usually banish the phenomenon. However, shortly after turning the lights off again, if it was a ghost, he/she may return with a vengeance. If you’re nervous, leave the location and return again in daylight hours to look for natural causes of what you witnessed.
* Poltergeist phenomena is its own animal, so to speak. First, try to repeat the incident yourself, using natural means that could have occurred the first time. (A dish can fall off a shelf if the shelf is shaky. A dish cannot fly across the room and smash on the wall unless someone threw it, or rigged it.)If you cannot duplicate what happened, keep a log of similar events that occur at this location in the future. Often, the energy source for poltergeist phenomena is a teen or pre-teen. (Though the spirit itself may be very real, and is not always the same as the “focus” of the energy.)

More poltergeist events will happen when the energy source is nearby, so you’ll have less activity during school hours, for example.
* However, do NOT get caught up in what I call the “Randi complex” (referring to skeptic James Randi). Just because you can make something happen, doesn’t mean that the phenomenon is a fraud, hoax, or error in judgement.Yes, I can probably rig stairs so they sound as if someone is walking on them. No, that doesn’t mean that all stairways have been rigged when people hear spectral footsteps on them.

Ghost photos

Most people are careful when taking “ghost photos.” However, even the most experienced photographer can forget the basics.

* Do not point your camera towards the sun, or so the sun can highlight something on your lens. There are devices made to prevent this, if it’s a regular problem.
* Make certain that nothing reflects the sun towards your lens, such as a polished gravestone, a foil candy wrapper in the grass, a metal veteran’s marker, your car windows/trim, rings on your fingers if one hand is supporting the front of the camera, and so on.
* The following will produce false anomalies: fingerprints on the negative; a folded negative; a scratched negative; rushed printing at the one-hour (check the index print, which should be fine); very old film; film left in a hot car for too long, or in the hot sun; film that goes through the “old” metal detectors in airports (most airport scanners are fine now.)
* This will sound silly, but these things can happen at the worst moments: Watch for floating milkweed or dandelion “puffs” that can look like orbs in the sunlight. If they appear, do not take photos until they’re gone. Or write down the frames that will be affected, and keep the notes with your developed photos and negatives.Do NOT think “Oh, I’ll remember that frames 12 & 13 are just milkweed thingies.” You won’t, three years from now when you review your photos as you’re clearing out your files.
* It can never be said too often: If your camera has a strap, remove it or put it around your neck (or wrist, if small) while taking photos. Yes, most straps are black and the rods in photos are white, but let’s be extra careful for skeptics. (And, no, that is not an invitation to debate the camera-strap issue.)
* Take two photos of everything, as closely together as you can, without moving an inch. Then, if it’s a reflection, it’ll be in both photos and the same. If it’s an anomaly, it’ll either move or vanish. Anomalies are usually static. They are actively moving and will be different in two consecutive photos.
* If you’re scanning a photo (with an anomaly) for online use, try to make an uncompressed, unmodified print available for viewers. This prevents people from saying, “Oh, she just increased the contrast to make that look more dramatic.”

In general, it’s important to rule out normal causes for what seems to be a paranormal event. Experience is the best teacher and will save you hours of confusion as well as embarrassment when a simple explanation is found.

Fiona Broome
Article Reprinted from Hollow Hill with permission

2 comments to “What’s Not a Ghost – The Basics”

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