Haunted Locations on Vancouver Island

My new book The Haunting of Vancouver Island is now available. Many of these stories are told in full, complete with images.

Haunted Vancouver Island

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Science and Ghosts

Science and Ghosts

“Science itself does not always know why a thing is so.” – God’s World: A Treatise on Spiritualism (T. W. Stead. 1919)

So Mote It Be

Ghosts, they’re everywhere! From the pages of the Bible to the old building down the street, people have been reporting hauntings for thousands of years. Every family has a ghost story or two, as does every town. They’ve even spawned a multimillion-dollar industry in the form of books, movies and television. Whether we see them as a fantastical source of entertainment, or as dark messengers from an unseen world, one thing’s entirely certain: ghosts are here to stay.

If you’ve ever made even a cursory visit to any of those online ghost sites, however, you would’ve noticed that there’s an even darker side to the stories of hauntings: Trolls! Hundreds of people – maybe even thousands – have taken it upon themselves to declare – because they claim they’ve never seen or experienced anything “paranormal” themselves – that the rest of us are just plain, bat-shit crazy.

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The Girl and the Ghosts

Ghost Mask by Edwin Neel

The following is a short Nuu-Chah-Nulth legend from the 1895 German book ‘Indian Myths and Legends from the North Pacific Coast of America’ by Franz Boas ~ Dietrich Bertz translation. What fascinated me the most about the Girl and the Ghosts tale was the similarities to many of the Celtic spirit-abduction stories:

Once upon a time there was an ill-tempered girl. When she was given food, she complained that it wasn’t good enough, and no one was able to satisfy her. One evening someone gave food to her parents and her, but she cried and wanted to have something better. When her parents had finished their meal and wanted to go to bed, she was still crying and didn’t want to go to bed. Her mother said, “Come to bed, my child! I cannot give you what you ask for.” Since she sat there obstinately, her parents finally went to bed by themselves and went to sleep.

After a while the woman woke up. She called her daughter, but received no answer, so she got up and looked for the girl, yet was unable to find her. Then she woke up her husband and asked him whether he had seen their daughter. He also did not know what had become of her, and all their searching was in vain.

Suddenly they heard the girl’s voice calling deep under the ground. “Oh, give me good food, only a very small piece!” Thereupon the father called the whole tribe together and they considered what to do to get the girl back.

They decided to dig after her. They dug ten deep holes, but were unable to reach her, so they gave up. When they had assembled for a council again, one of the men said, “The ghosts (of the dead) must have got her. You know, when a village is abandoned, the ghosts always come back and look at the houses. Let’s all move away! Two men shall hide, and when the ghosts come with the girl, they shall take her away with them.”

The people resolved to follow his advice. They loaded their canoes and set out. Two men hid on the roof-beam of a house. When it got dark the ghosts appeared. They lit a fire and sang and danced. The girl sat among them and the ghosts sang magic incantations in order to change her too, into a ghost, but these didn’t bring the desired effect. Before the men could rush at the girl, they were scented by the ghosts, who vanished into the ground with the girl.

So the two men went down to the river and washed themselves for four days. Then they returned to the house and hid again on the roof-beam. When it got dark, the ghosts came again to sing and to dance. This time they didn’t scent the men, who rushed upon the girl and seized her before the ghosts were able to pull her down into the depths with them.

This is the tale of the girl and the ghosts. If you are interested in more Vancouver Island ghost stories, check out my new book The Haunting of Vancouver Island.

Girl and the Ghosts
Illustration by J. Semeyn from A. Carmichael’s Indian Legends of Vancouver Island, 1922

The Skippy Experiment

Skippy Experiment

The Philip Experiment, discussed last week, has since been replicated several times. The most successful of these efforts, to date, has been the Skippy Experiment, which has also been referred to as the “Sydney Experiment.” This study took place in Sydney, Australia and is often said to be ongoing.

From the start, the Australian team focused on a fictitious character named Skippy Cartman. Skippy was a 14-year-old girl who had been murdered by an older man. According to the story, Skippy had been having an affair with her Catholic schoolteacher, Brother Monk. When the beautiful girl became pregnant, she went to this man – who she loved – for direction and advice. Fearing discovery by the church or other schoolchildren’s parents, however, Brother Monk murdered her by strangling her. He then buried Skippy in a shallow grave. This grave was beneath the floorboards of a work shed on her parent’s property. When the body was discovered, it had already suffered a year of exposure to earthly elements and decomposition. As a result, investigators were unable to determine that the young girl had been pregnant at the time of death. Also, Brother Monk had since moved to another community and did not fall under suspicion. His crimes against Skippy were never discovered.

With the fictitious story in hand, the six participants in the Skippy Experiment claimed to make headway in the creation of their own “ghost.” According to one source, the experimenters met with success only after they changed the type of table they were seated around during the experiment:

“The group met once a week for five months but saw no results. Frustrated, they dispensed with the agency Skippy and began sitting around a light, three-leg card table. Success! The first night, they heard a light tapping noise from somewhere inside the table. The second sitting brought startling results, as well. After 15 minutes, the table began to move seemingly of its own accord. Soon, it was spinning around, balanced on one leg, dragging participants behind it.”

This was a fantastical claim, and it could only be supported by hard evidence. The group – under the leadership of veteran paranormal researcher Michael Williams – reported a great deal of continued success including unexplained knocking and scratching sounds. As late as 2007, there were claims that experimenters would soon capture audio or visual evidence of these manifestations and share these with the public. No evidence from the Skippy Experiment, however, has ever been shared. We can only assume, after so many years, that all attempts to capture this evidence has failed.


Mathews, Rupert. Poltergeists and Other Hauntings. 2009.




Image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:BolexH16.jpg

The Philip Experiment

Philip Experiment
Séance conducted by John Beattie, Bristol, England, 1872

The Philip Experiment

“A poltergeist will usually claim to be whatever its human observers believe it to be” – Poltergeists & Other Hauntings (Rupert Mathews. 2009)

In 1972, Canadian Dr. G. Owen conducted the Philip Experiment. This was a study that would test his theory that, “Ghosts have an objective reality, but they are created out of the minds of those who see them.” A ghost, he proposed, was basically a hallucination created by those who believed in it.

In the Philip Experiment a group of individuals met regularly and began to focus on a fictitious character with the aim of creating a ghost. This “spirit” was named Philip and was given a complete life biography including a tragic end. According to the group, Philip’s wife had murdered Philip’s real love by having her tortured and burnt at the stake for being a witch. The man had then fallen into a deep depression before eventually killing himself.

For a period of time nothing happened to the experimenters. The group then decided to add the 19th century practice of table turning, which was used by earlier experimenters to produce some interesting phenomena. All of the participants, it was agreed upon, needed to believe in the paranormal but not feel responsible for creating any phenomena themselves. If something unusual did occur, they all agreed that it would be met with a lighthearted acceptance.

After about a month into the Philip Experiment the table actually began to tremor. In the weeks that followed, the table then began to rock back and forth dramatically. Finally, a knocking sound was heard while they were seated around it.

The experimenters told the “ghost” to knock once for “yes” and twice for “no” and began to ask it questions. They always addressed this entity as Philip. Through the knocking communication, Philip gave a biography of himself that matched the fabricated story. This was complete to the smallest detail. Philip, however, continued to add unmentioned smaller details to the stories that had not been created by the group. When these details were checked, however, it would be determined that they were not always historically accurate.

The table itself then began to demonstrate some very strange behaviors. All of the participants were frisked and the environment was controlled. The table began to move even when no one was touching it. At one point, it even became stuck in the doorway as it attempted to leave the room. When this entity, Philip, was asked to manipulate the lights he would do so and they would flicker.

The volunteers’ knocks were recorded and compared with the knocks produced by Philip. There were distinct differences, however, as Philip’s knocks did not vibrate as long.

This activity was recorded and later captured on film. The table was moved to various locations but the activity continued. At a later period of time, the experiment was replicated by a new group of participants.

Many have noted the similarities between Philip’s abilities and those of the poltergeist. These experimenters had tried to create a physical manifestation of a ghost, but instead were rewarded with a different type of haunting altogether: the Poltergeist.

There have been those who’ve claimed that the original results from the experiment were hoaxed, but this has never been confirmed. The usual criticism is that the experiment lacked the control factors, which would have made it scientific. Attempts by other groups to replicate the Philip Experiment have usually, but not always, failed. The most successful – though not as powerful – replication has been the Sydney or “Skippy” Experiment.

Interestingly, the Philip Experiment is often quoted as being the inspiration for the upcoming movie the Quiet Ones, which Hammer Films says is a “follow-up” to Woman in Black. The movie’s scheduled for release on April 25th, 2014.

The first Quiet Ones trailer was released on October 31, 2013.

So Mote It Be

Philip Experiment documentary with actual footage (7:40, 9:40, etc.).

Mathews, Rupert. Poltergeists and Other Hauntings. Arcturus. 2009.

Owen, Iris. Sparrow, Margaret. Conjuring up Philip. Harper and Row. 1976.

Schill, Brian. Stalking Darkness. IPRF. 2008.




The Eight Stages of a Poltergeist Haunting

Poltergeist – Therese Selles. 1911

The eight stages of a poltergeist haunting has been taken from Rupert Mathews’ book Poltergeists. For anyone interested, Mathews’ book is well researched and a great read. He covers the many different characteristics of what we would now consider to be the classic poltergeist haunting. Mathews does not necessarily subscribe to the common poltergeist theories of ghosts or psychokinesis, but instead offers many other possible explanations such as fraud or misidentification. Within the book, Mathews covers historic and modern cases, investigations and scientific experiments, as well as famous early mediums and fraudsters. Mathews concludes there are generally eight stages to an “idealized poltergeist visitation” or haunting where fraud has not been detected:

Stage One: Beginnings

The activity usually begins with faintly registered sounds. This is usually a scratching noise, which may be disregarded as being made by rodents or to be the sounds of water pipes. These noises are usually only heard at night.

Stage Two: Noises

These sounds will then become harder to ignore. These noises resemble knuckles knocking on wood or other objects such as glass. Sometimes, very loud cracking or unexplained banging noises are heard but this is less likely. Objects can sometimes be felt to vibrate. At this stage the activity may also be heard during daylight hours.

Stage Three: Moving Objects

Mathews does state that sometimes Stage Three begins at the same time as Stage Two. Objects may be moved inexplicably. Stone throwing, or lithobolia, is very common. Objects may disappear and reappear. This activity usually focuses around a certain type of object such as a specific ornament or keys. It’s rare to actually see the item be moved. Items may be hot to the touch immediately thereafter.

Stage Four: Apports and Disapports

When an object appears from out of nowhere it’s called an apport. When an object disappears “into oblivion” it is called a disapport. These types of activities are extremely rare but have been reported.

Stage Five: Communication

In some cases communication is established through a code of knocks. This may be two knocks indicating a “yes” and one knock indicating a “no” or some other established pattern. Sometimes speech is achieved. In almost all of these cases there seems to be a gradual process which starts with whistles, slurps, growls and so on. At first, mutterings or distant voices will be heard. Next, the voice will be said to sound robotic. Finally, witnesses will claim regular speech is achieved. The poltergeist will then be able to speak as a normal person and will begin to make statements. Claims by the poltergeist about their identity are usually grande. They may claim to have been a murderer, a victim, a suicide, or even a famous person. When claims are checked out they will usually be determined to be false. According to Mathews, it is rare for a poltergeist to have knowledge of events outside of what is widely known within the community. Mathews does not mention this, but it is interesting that many claimed spirit-contacts through a Ouija board also share these same characteristics of deceit[i].

Stage Six: Climax

The poltergeist activity will suddenly increase to a point it had never reached before. This may last several hours or several days. If the poltergeist can talk it may state that it’s going to be leaving soon. Unlike previous claims, however, this will generally turn out to be true.

Stage Seven: Decline

According to Mathews, “the decline is almost always much shorter than the build-up.” The poltergeist will lose its abilities in reverse and gradually become weaker.

Stage Eight: Endings

The activity may slowly skip to an end. Sometimes, this poltergeist activity will reach a dramatic conclusion. In many cases, exorcisms or blessings may prematurely kill the activity. Sometimes, the focus person leaving the premise may cause the activity to cease.

Other Features

The “idealized” poltergeist haunting will usually have a focus person. According to Mathews, this focus person is usually a teenage female but may be of any age or gender. Some investigators believe that this poltergeist activity will center around one person but this is not always the case. Mathews also states that, “it is often said that focus people are usually in a stressful situation of some kind.” Examples given within the book are a divorce and an attempted rape.

Also of note, poltergeists sometimes manifest physically. This apparition may be smoky or misty. Sometimes it will take on a human form. Sometimes the apparition may appear very strange such as in an animal or part animal form. Wet spots may also manifest which smell like urine. Sometimes this manifestation can be seen as it is occurring and seems to come out of nowhere.

Witnesses will sometimes claim to have been harmed by the poltergeist entity. Scratches and bite marks are often reported to have appeared on the person’s skin without explanation. In some cases, animals will perish. Fires will sometimes start in the home inexplicably. In the Bell Witch case the poltergeist claimed to have killed Jack Bell. In one case – which is not in Mathews book – a woman named Doris Bither claimed to have been raped by a poltergeist. Witnesses later supported her claim. The Bithers’ poltergeist account and investigation was made into the 1981 movie ‘the Entity’ starring Barbara Hershey. For the full interview of Doris Bither’s surviving son please go to: ghost theory

It’s important to note that the poltergeist distinction is not as clear as many imagine. The characteristics of these hauntings often share many similarities with conventional hauntings. The word poltergeist basically means “noisy ghost” but has come to represent a specific idealized type of haunting. Many individuals separate poltergeists from traditional ghosts because they believe that the spirits of the deceased causes other types of hauntings and there are psychic explanations for poltergeist activity. One early theory was that poltergeist activity was caused by uncontrolled female teenage sexual energy, an unfounded belief that persists to this day.

Poltergeist Haunting

[i] For more on the apparent deceptive nature of spirits consider reading Hungry Ghosts by Joe Fisher 1991, which is a very interesting study.

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