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  • Bryan Williams

Ghosts & Poltergeists in Quarantine?


The COVID-19 pandemic has recently brought upon us the unique and unfamiliar condition of social quarantine, which has impacted people's behavior in a number of ways. Could one of those behavioral impacts include heightened susceptibility to ostensible haunt and poltergeist phenomena? Earlier today, the New York Times published an online article on their website about individuals who claim to have experienced such phenomena while being quarantined in their homes: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/14/style/haunted-house-ghost-quarantine.html As this article notes, it's quite likely that a number of these reported experiences may ultimately be explainable through ordinary physical & psychological factors, although some of their features do sound fairly consistent with what's been reported in other alleged haunt and poltergeist cases, with the several mentions of supposed object movement & materialization/apportation perhaps being more suggestive of poltergeist phenomena in these particular instances. For these, perhaps we might consider an alternate possibility that the article does not: Just as one might expect, studies do indicate that the confining conditions of quarantine can sometimes bring out negative feelings in some people, which can include stress, anxiety, sadness, and anger [1]. Some parapsychological research findings do seem to offer a preliminary indication that feelings of this type may be correlated with psychokinetic (or "mind over matter") effects [2 - 4]; for instance, in her survey of personal accounts suggestive of "mind over matter," Louisa Rhine found hints that some of the individuals who've experienced this phenomenon have felt emotionally stirred around the time it occurred, saying they'd experienced "...a surge of blood running through [their] veins" [2, p. 99], or had just started crying for no reason [p. 112]. In addition, the late psychiatrist Richard Blasband once conducted a field study in which he found significant shifts from expected randomness (like those often seen in "mind over matter" studies in the lab) occurring in the output of a random number generator at times when his therapy clients were expressing strong emotions such as anger and anxious crying [3, see image below].


And so if we assume for the moment that at least some of these reported experiences were anomalous, then perhaps some of them might be related to brief instances of "mind over matter" coming in emotional response to the psychological conditions of quarantine. This would imply that rather than being due to a ghost, some of the phenomena might actually be due to the living inhabitants themselves. Such a viewpoint would also be consistent with the current parapsychological view of poltergeist phenomena, where the phenomena seem to be linked to a particular person who may be producing them through an unconscious form of "mind over matter." Rather intriguing to think about... For additional information about poltergeists, consider checking out the poltergeist phenomena primer available (in Adobe PDF format) on the Public Parapsychology website, as well as the background paper available in a previous entry of the PRF blog. *********** References: [1] Brooks, S. K., Webster, R. K., Smith, L. E., Woodland, L., Wessely, S., Greenberg, N., & Rubin, G. J. (2020). The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: Rapid review of the evidence. Lancet, 395, 912 - 920. [2] Rhine, L. E. (1963). Spontaneous physical effects and the psi process. Journal of Parapsychology, 27, 84 - 122. [3] Blasband, R. A. (2000). The ordering of random events by emotional expression. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 14, 195 - 216. [4] Lumsden-Cook, J. (2005). Mind-matter and emotion. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 69, 1 - 17. [5] Lumsden-Cook, J. (2005). Affect and random events: Examining the effects of induced emotion upon mind-matter interactions. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 69, 128 - 142.

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