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  • Bryan Williams

The Worker's Spirit: On Apparitional Sightings in the Workplace

While haunted houses may be commonly thought of as the main place for a ghostly encounter, some apparitions of deceased individuals have also been spotted in the businesses where those individuals had once worked in life. One example of this - fitting for the occasion of Labor Day in the United States - comes from the case collection of Icelandic researcher Erlendur Haraldsson [1], which was recounted by a man who'd had such an experience when he was younger: I was 15 or 16 years old and was working in a big company. I saw a man walk from the end of the machine I was working on and towards the wall and the same way back. He was blonde and was wearing brown clothes. I went to see who was there, but did not find anybody. When I told my co-workers about it, they thought it was a ghost who had been seen by several other people. It was the ghost of one of the former directors of the company who had committed suicide. (pp. 92 - 93) Another example, which comes from a small sample of cases collected by the late University of Virginia psychiatrist Ian Stevenson [2], tells of an encounter which had occurred close to the time that a former employee of a Welsh company had died. The employee - known by his initials T.I. - had abruptly left the company some months before and was in the hospital when his spectral figure was apparently seen by his former co-worker, a woman known as R.N. As Stevenson had noted: The experience occurred on the afternoon of July 20, 1989 at around 3:00 P.M. R.N. remembered that she had had that afternoon an appointment with a fellow employee whom she was advising....R.N. and her visitor were seated in her office, but several telephone calls interrupted their conversation. When these occurred, R.N. had to get up from her chair and walk over to her desk in order to answer the telephone. The outer wall of the office behind her desk was a full sheet of glass (from floor to ceiling), and this gave a clear view of a flat walkway between two stairs that led from a parking lot to an entrance for the building. As R.N. asnswered the telephone on one occasion, she noticed T.I. walking past. He was wearing a navy blue shirt, a navy blue sailing sweater, and navy trousers. She remembered his "sailor's gait." (T.I. had sailed a great deail and had developed this kind of gait.) R.N. thought that T.I. seemed to be in a hurry. T.I. ordinarily had a ruddy complexion, but on this occasion - to quote now from R.N.'s account - "he was red and he looked very troubled. He appeared perfectly solid, and I did not attract his attention through the window. I thought no more about this, it was nothing unusual." The distance between R.N. and the appearing figure of T.I. was about 10 - 12 feet. (pp. 354 - 355) The next day, R.N. was told that T.I. had died in the hospital the day before - the very day she'd apparently seen him in spectral form. Of course, there is the chance that R.N. had simply mistaken someone else for T.I., although that seems rather unlikely given the fairly close distance at which she'd seen the figure. It also didn't seem unlikely that she had actually seen T.I. in the flesh because he'd been laying unconscious in his hospital bed throughout the course of that particular day, according to his medical records. (And since he was also no longer working for the company, it wasn't likely that there would've been a reason for him to be there.) It's interesting to note here that when his spectral figure was seen, T.I. was not perceived to be wearing his hospital attire, but instead appeared to be outfitted in clothing that other people who knew him were accustomed to seeing him wear. This appears to be in line with the observation made by parapsychologist Richard Broughton that in many other reported ghostly encounters, "...the clothing that the ghost appeared in was what the deceased customarily wore, not necessarily those in which the person died." [3, p. 150] This may offer us a hint that the sighting of some apparitions may be mediated in part by the memories that the witnesses have of the person whose ghostly figure is seen, which might help shape the figure that they see. If that is so, then this suggests that memory is not just handy for remembering things that we've learned in school and in our daily lives. It may play a role in facilitating encounters of the spectral kind, as well. The PRF wishes everyone a relaxing Labor Day!

References: [1] Haraldsson, E. (2012). The Departed Among the Living: An Investigative Study of Afterlife Encounters. Guildford, UK: White Crow Books. [2] Stevenson, I. (1995). Six modern apparitional experiences. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 9, 351 - 366. [3] Broughton, R. S. (2006). Why do ghosts wear clothes? Examining the role of memory and emotion in anomalous experiences. European Journal of Parapsychology, 21, 148 - 165.

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