An investigation into alleged 'hauntings'
In cases of alleged hauntings, a large number of seemingly trustworthy witnesses consistently report experiencing unusual phenomena (e.g. apparitions, sudden changes in temperature, a strong sense of presence) in certain locations. The two studies reported here explored the psychological mechanisms that underlie this apparent evidence of 'ghostly' activity. The experiments took place at two locations that have a considerable reputation for being haunted-Hampton Court Palace (Surrey, England) and the South Bridge Vaults (Edinburgh, Scotland). Both studies involved participants walking around these locations and reporting where they experienced unusual phenomena. Results revealed significantly more reports of unusual experiences in areas that had a reputation for being haunted. This effect was not related to participants' prior knowledge about the reputation of these areas. However, the location of participants' experiences correlated significantly with various environmental factors, including, for example, the variance of local magnetic fields and lighting levels. These findings strongly suggest that alleged hauntings may not necessarily represent evidence for 'ghostly' activity, but could be, at least in part, the result of people responding to 'normal' factors in their surroundings.