Theories of the Paranormal and Cassette Week

Welcome to the third in an ongoing series about the paranormal/ghost hunting that I’m writing based on my studies for my upcoming novel, Geist. You can read the second part, about the tools of ghost hunting, here. You can also read the first post, about H.P. Lovecraft as an influence, here.

Having consumed a great deal of ghost hunting material and now digging into the past of the pursuit, both fictional and real, I thought it might be time to pause and take stock of some of the theories surrounding ghost hunting and paranormal activities. First, let’s define just what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about several different classes of “ghostly” activities:

  1. Noises – i.e., voices, unexplained bumps, footsteps, etc.
  2. Physical Manifestations – things moving by themselves, doors shutting on their own, etc.
  3. Apparitions – shadows moving of their own volition, partial-torso apparitions, full-body apparitions. What people think of as “ghosts”.

We need to further break these down into a few other categories that have been observed by ghost hunters:

  1. Ghosts of “people” – These are thought to have once been living human beings.
  2. “Demons” – Apparitions that were never people and seem to be malevolent. The Shadows mentioned above tend to fall into this category.

In addition, hunters talk about “residual” hauntings that play like a recording and “active” hauntings where they observe what they think to be intelligent entities interacting with the hunters.

Right away, you might think that’s a lot of categories and subcategories – what are the odds that they’re even all manifestations of the same thing or class of things? Well, that was my thought, anyway, and I don’t think they are. My own theories at least put those into different frameworks. I’m convinced that something is going on when it comes to this stuff. I’ve seen things that I just could not explain within what we currently know. As to whether it’s the dead or some sort of natural phenomenon playing tricks on the collective unconscious…I can’t say that for certain. Like I said, I have theories of a few different phenomena going on but I’m not ready to talk about my own theories just yet. Hell, I’m still trying to decide which direction Geist will go, though with a certain portion of the plot it has to follow at least a path of theories.

Still, the ghost hunting community has taken a few things as solid fact and have different sets of theories around it. Paranormal Underground has a great post about just this thing, talking about the “dogma” of ghost hunting and how certain things are taken to be truths while they may be partially or completely false.

That said, let’s look at the popular theories:

  • Dead People – The oldest and most obvious of theories; most of these are dead people trying to communicate with the living. They may have refused to “move on” and instead stay in our world in a sort of limbo.
  • Telekinesis/Psychic Powers – This one postulates that these manifestations are the result of untapped, unconscious abilities within the human mind, and go beyond just the ability to affect physical matter at a distance. It includes being able to mess with cameras, electronics, and even the minds of others. Poltergeists are typically supposed to be the result of these.
  • Energy Imprint – This speculates that turbulent emotions or violent actions somehow imprint their energy upon a place and these things replay like a video, looping over and over again. Let me just say I hate this vague “energy” that’s thrown around, but as kooky as this sounds, I have some theories about how this theory could actually work that involve magnetic recording (and I have a feeling the strength of EM fields somehow relates to this).
  • Demonic Activity – To give credit, “demon” is not typically meant in the Judeo-Christian form here. Demon just refers to any entities that feed on negative energy and attack or torment humans. This theory often just assumes that these Shadow People are part of an eternal battle between good and evil fought just out of the view of human eyes.
  • Hallucinations – People who have encounters with the paranormal are subject to some sort of hallucination; these could be the result of micro-seizures or some other mental illness. Some postulate that these are often caused by…
  • Exposure to Low Frequencies/EM – I’ve talked before about how researchers can shoot EM energy into a mind and create a religious experience. This is a variation on that; observers are typically working in high-EM areas with poor electric wiring that can induce either hallucinations or create odd sounds and smells. I think there’s a lot of credence to this one, but it can’t be used to explain things like cameras capturing chairs moving, doors closing on their own, footprints in dust, etc.
  • Carbon Monoxide – Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause confusion and hallucinations. Combine an old edifice that might have a leak with someone in a heightened state of confusion and everyday occurrences could look sinister.
  • Earth Tremors – The moving items I described above could certainly be ascribed to minor, local tremors. Earthquakes also have a connection to the Earth’s electromagnetic field, so those tremors could also be loosing some form of EM on that location in addition to making things move. I suspect this is responsible for a class of hauntings all its own.
There are lots of other theories, but I only have so much space here. I’ll talk about my own theories soon, and how they might relate to the hauntings we’ll see in Geist.


In more earthly news, my other blog, Found Music, is featuring cassette music this week; specifically, Sugamyth, a New York-based R&B indie group and Denzil, an obscure but well-respected alternative pop band from the mid-90s:

Sugamyth appears to be a New York-based R&B/rock band featuring three lead singers that trade off songs. I say “appears to be” because information on the band is incredibly limited online. I really could only find a blurb from their former drummer. I actually found what I think is a former member online and asked for an interview, but she didn’t get back to me in time for this post. Shame, really…


If I were pressed to describe the band’s sound, I’d say (Denzil) show definite signs of being influenced by that legendary English pop band, XTC, with perhaps a littleElvis Costello-meets-the-Kinks. For a more modern point of reference, they’re something of a Kooks progenitor (if you’re familiar with them). The first track, Useless, is the big hit here, if you can call it that. It’s very radio-friendly and actually got some radio airplay back in 1994, but failed to catch on even when they won every award under the sun. This one most clearly shows the XTC influence, sounding like something off of Skylarking infused with a 1990′s sensibility.


Head on over and check them out!

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  1. So, does this research creep you out a little bit? I’m curious about your own encounters…

    It sure would be fun to try to capture the creepiness in a novel. I look forward to reading it, say, around Halloween?

    • Jonathan D Allen

      Nah, I’m endlessly fascinated by it and I’m not sure that anything that’s going on can be severe enough to be life-threatening. I have talked to people who have ended up with unexplained scratches and bites, though. That would just fascinate me more, unfortunately.

      I was hoping to get it out around Halloween, but not sure I’m going to make it now! Probably more like the 1st of next year. It’s an ongoing series, though, so I may try to get a short story from the same “universe” out for Halloween.

      • Hello. Very interesting site. Have you ever been to Natchez Mississippi? Lots of history and paranormal activities there as you may know. I used to visit the old Kings Tavern restaurant in Natchez. I am sure you know the history there. It is now closed. I was going to make special arrangements to stay over night there. Mike Koskie, Jackson, Miss.

  2. Pingback: Theories of the Paranormal and Cassette Week | Shaggin the Muse | Haunting Investigations

  3. Pure awesome. Whether or not this stuff is real, imagined, or the product of a gas leak, it’s fascinating. I remember this one episode of Paranormal State. Normally the crew are pretty quick to announce demonic possessions and the like and often come across as somewhat less than serious researchers. However, there was one amusing episode that boiled down to this witness claiming all sorts of haunting activity, only to have it all be carbon monoxide.

    • Jonathan D Allen

      Haven’t seen that one, I’ll have to check it out. I’m fascinated with this stuff, too, and had no idea that I would be. I’ve seen enough to know that it can’t all be just one thing, and that it’s not all easily explained.

  4. I love this stuff! I’ve had so many bizarre – and some terrifying – encounters! I tend to doubt the hallucination explanation mostly because there just can’t be gas leaks *everywhere* I go! 😉 Seriously, I’m really REALLY excited that you’re writing a book on hauntings. Looking forward to reading it!

    • Jonathan D Allen

      I’m with you. I don’t buy that they’re all hallucinations, either. Too much weird stuff has been captured on video that I just can’t explain. Some of it is obvious tricks of the light messing with camera autofocus and stuff like that, but I’ve seen shadows that move of their own accord quite clearly, furniture that moves on it own, and doors that close on their own (not getting into EVPs – I think 99% of those are useless). If it were truly hallucinations, even mass ones, they shouldn’t show up on video. If, however, some sort of “encoding” of past events were being played out…well, that sort of feeds into my theories.

      And thanks! I want to make it an ongoing series with an arc of its own (from obscure hunters to having a web show and so on). With a ghost hunting team I can always rotate characters in and out.

  5. Fascinating post. I think of ghosts kind of like God and aliens. I want to believe, and I mostly think that I do believe, but I’m still waiting on my proof. Maybe I need to go to a haunted B&B or something. Room 1408, anyone?

    And it was interesting reading through the theories. My first “plausible” theory was the telekinesis. Is that odd that I more easily buy into the powers of our own minds over other things than I do spirits? Hmm. I don’t think I realized this about myself until I read your post.

    Anyway, I thought the high-EM was also interesting, but as you say, it doesn’t explain physical manifestations.

    Ah, look at us funny monkeys trying to explain everything 🙂

    Paul D. Dail A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

    • Jonathan D Allen

      I’m in the same boat as you, honestly. I really WANT to believe in these things, but even when I see great video evidence (like things moving on their own), I start picking it apart. That is interesting that telekinesis came to mind for you, but oddly enough it did for me, too. Something about that old quantum entanglement chestnut, action at a distance. Probably wildly inaccurate understanding of the science behind it, but it does occur to me.

      My theory about the whole thing revolves around the high-EM concentration, though. I’ll be writing more about it next week, but the gist involves the fact that magnetism can store data. Hmmm…

  6. Oh, and p.s., I seem to recall that you were supposed to actually go out with some ghost hunters or something like that. Did that every materialize?

    You see what I just did there?

    Paul D. Dail A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

    • Jonathan D Allen

      Hah! No luck so far. I’ve been in contact with a few, but they either return emails sporadically or don’t return phone calls. Ghost hunters flaky, who would have thought?? 🙂

  7. I need to find a ghost friend. Some one low on maintenance-(so to speak). Lol

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