On skepticism

I wanted to write a short article about the necessity of skepticism.

You hear this word on all the ghost hunting shows. “We have to be skeptics about this,” they say, especially on Ghost Hunters International. While I am skeptical about those shows to begin with, I thoroughly believe in that statement when it comes to ghosts and other such paranormal phenomenon.

Being a skeptic does not mean not believing. It means going into an investigation/ reading a story/ looking at a photograph with the posssibility that what you are investigating/reading/looking at may not be paranormal at all. If we didn’t have skepticism dust would still be orbs and smoke would still be ectoplasm every time.

I hate to admit it but I am what I call a “spooker”. A spooker is someone who jumps pretty easily and will likely die of heart explosion if they can’t overcome the habit. I have yet to personally experience something paranormal in the room with me and if/when I ever do, I very well may die thanks to this attribute. It’ll be awesome, but I’ll jump. It is just this quality that made me want to write about skepticism. Without a healthy dose of it a spooker will never get very far in this field. The time was, before I became more intimate with the field, when just reading a ghost story would make me cold and clammy. I’m proud to say that is no longer the case and I’m much more stalwart than I used to be. But I’m still a spooker.

Learning to be more skeptical has helped with that.

In addition to helping with the jumps, being a skeptic will get you taken more seriously. Well, at least maybe a bit more seriously by the hardcore disbelievers. Alright, so maybe they’ll at least be just a little more likely to pretend to take you seriously. Anyway, it seems to be that if you don’t have at least a small dose of skepticism or willingness to accept skeptical criticism you won’t be taken seriously at all by either non-believers or believers. In a world of ever increasing scientific rationalization skepticism is one of the most important tools to have. If you want to prove anything to the world today you need to have science on your side. Of course few people are quick to point out that while a scientific approach is lovely there are really few ways to prove its effectiveness with the paranormal since we live in the normal world and the phenomenon is, in fact, para-normal, but that’s not the point. Being a skeptic and trying to incorporate a scientific approach to your work will get you not only brownie points but a bit more respect.

So folks, be skeptical. Believe but be bitter believers.

The Borley Rectory

The case of Borley Rectory is one of real fascination for me. It is often titled “the most haunted house in England” which is pretty good for a place that no longer exists. The case was made truly sensational by psychical investigator Harry Price (see my Price post) though some would say he was too much of a show boater, anyway.

Property History

Borley Rectory as it stood during its years of use

Borley Rectory as it stood during its years of use

It is speculated that the land may have been owned by Benedictine monks, Adeliza, the half sister of William the Conqueror, and the Easton family at separate times during its history. It is documented more assuredly that the property was granted to Sir Edward Waldegrave in 1545 (source: hysterlical historian). The Waldegrave family has owned the land until recent times and many generations have lived in a manor house that used to stand in the area. Sir Edward’s grandson, Phillip, was the first to make it a permanent residence in 1621 (source: hysterical historian).

The first rector was a Reverend Henry D. Bull, a relative of the Waldegrave family who was also the one who built the rectory after his appointment in 1863 (source: prairieghosts.com). His son would succeed him in the position.

Haunting History

Supposedly the locals knew the area was haunted before the first Rev. Bull built the rectory but it was not until 1900, 14 years after a maid had quit based on “ghostly footsteps”, that the daughters of Rev. Henry Bull saw what is now known as the famous “phantom nun”, beginning the series of hauntings (source: prairieghosts.com). It was send the Reverend built a house in order to watch the nun walk across the garden. The hauntings never really became a prominent issue until the Rev. Guy Eric Smith took the rector position in 1928.

Rev. Smith came with his family from India and began to hear voices, footsteps and servants bells which would ring on their own accord. Mrs. Smith was said to have found a skull wrapped in brown paper while cleaning out a cupboard (strange but true). The Smiths were the first ones to bring in Harry Price to investigate the phenomenon which then brought on a slew of publicity. The Smiths left in 1929.

The next family to move into the rectory was the Foysters. Rev. Foyster’s wife, Marianne, was to be the center of some of the more famous and contested phenomenon of the haunting. The Foyster’s had just come from a big city and Marianne supposedly miss the big city noise and excitement (source: strange but true?). This is one of the reasons skeptics will discount her stories and the stories surrounding her. She was said to be thrown from her bed several times during the night, windows being broken, bottles and stones being thrown, and most peculiar writings imploring Marianne to light masses and to “get help”. Many of the thrown objects were always when the couple were together but the Reverend was not always looking, also leading to the suspicion that Marianne was fooling the Reverend. Guy L’estrange, a well known psychical medium was brought in at one point and supposedly, during his visit for tea, the group heard a noise from the kitchen. Upon inspection they found broken crockery. Returning to their tea they then heard noises from the hall. Before their eyes they would see bottles levitating and being hurled around. Curiously, some sites will gloss over L’estrange’s mediumship and recall him being only a friend and local magistrate.

A photograph of Marianne Foyster

A photograph of Marianne Foyster

Time magazine wrote a report on the Borley Rectory haunting in 1956 which claimed more apparitions than most sites will, including a mournful woman thought to be Arabella Waldegrave, a 17th century member of the family, an English nun who was supposedly in love with a monk. The two of them were said to have eloped but were caught and both were killed. A phantom coach pulled by phantom horses and headless coachmen were said to be the ghosts of the horses and coachmen who were going to take them away.

When Harry Price became involved with the house himself by renting it after the Foysters left he added two major elements to the story. The first was recognition of the wall writings to Marianne. They were continued well after they left the house but were still often addressed to her. The second was revealing the presence of a French nun who called herself Marie Laire in 1937. The technique used was automatic writing, using a device called a planchette. The planchette may very well have been a predecessor to the Ouija board. It was a heart shaped board much like the one used for a Ouija board but this one had a pencil turned downward so it was able to mark paper. Marie told the séance attendees that she was supposed to be married to a Henry Waldegrave in the 17th century but he had strangled her and then buried her remains in the basement.

Photgraphs of the Borley wall writings. It is unclear whether these appeared during Marianne's occupation or during Price's later investigation.

Photgraphs of the Borley wall writings. It is unclear whether these appeared during Marianne's occupation or during Price's later investigation. The upper left is a request for Marianne to say a mass, the one to the right is asking for help and the bottom is indicipherable.

A short deviation about the Henry Waldegraves

This last piece of information gives a potential researcher a lot to go on. The original Waldegrave of the land was Edward of 1517. Searching down his family line there are two direct descendants named Henry Waldegrave who were alive in the 17th Century.

One Henry appears in 1661, seemingly perfect for this story. He was born in Chewton, Somersetshire, England, however which is about 200 miles west of Borley. He did die in France but at the age of 28 and had no recorded spouses. That could give credence to the version of the tale that says Marie Laire was killed because she refused to marry Henry.

Another Henry was born in 1599 was the grandfather of the above Henry. He was born in Hever Castle in Kent which is only 80 miles from Borley. He was buried in Norfolk, however. His wife was recorded to be Ann Paston of Norfolk, England. He lasted 59 years. It is not entirely unreasonable that he may have been visiting the family homestead in Borley (during his time likely under the ownership of his relative Nicholas, son of the original Edward) and could have killed a nun and buried her there. It is known that Phillip, Nicholas’ sone was the one who first made it a permanent residence so it was in existence during the lives of both of the these Henrys.

One last candidate is the Henry Waldegrave of 1572. He was also born far from Borley in Chewton, Somersethire and was not a direct descendant of the original Edward, but a much earlier common ancester Thomas Waldegrave, the furthest the name goes back in record. Less likely but still potential.

What was the point of that digression? To poke potential skeptical holes in the theory of Marie Laire and Henry Waldegrave. All the evidence has to be considered. Admitedly I have limited access to genealogical information in England, but this is what can be garnered from what is accessibly. Back to our original story.

Another spirit named “Sunes Amures” became known during these same séances in 1938 which predicted the burning of the rectory the very night it made itself known. It also promised that the remains of the nun would be found in the ruins. It took 11 months for this to come true, however. Captain Gregson, while unloading books in the library, knocked over an oil lamp and that was the end of the building of Borley Rectory. The story goes that a figure was seen to be walking in the flames (source: prairieghosts.com)

After the Burning

The ruins of Borley Rectory after the fire which destroyed it

The ruins of Borley Rectory after the fire which destroyed it

After the burning naturally investigations had to be halted. That did not stop the curious and even Price himself from returning to the site. He returned with a photographer from Life magazine to photograph the ruins when a brick levitated in the rubble. The photographer was able to find a picture.

The famous Borley floating brick picture. Many will say it was faked and it is easy to see how it could have been. The photorapher and Harry Price swear to its authenticity.

The famous Borley floating brick picture. Many will say it was faked and it is easy to see how it could have been. The photorapher and Harry Price swear to its authenticity.

One of the most remarkable revelations from the ruins were what Price found in the ashes. A man named Canon Phythian-Adams studied the case extensively but never visited the site. He also did extra research on the Waldegrave family and the village and wrote to Price, telling him where to dig to find the bones of a woman. When Price went to the spot, the exact spot, sure enough he found the bones of a young woman and two religious medals (source: prairieghosts). The group gave the woman a consecrated burial and the nun has not been seen again.

The hauntings, however, have been said to have moved to the church across the way. Organ music has been heard coming from the church when both the church and the organ console were locked. The sound of pebbles was also heard in the church when no one was around as well as EVP sessions recording strange noises when the church was empty (source: strange but true).

Harry Price would go on to write books and make the case, as well as himself quite famous from this haunting. It is also said that his work at the rectory would create an early blue print for how to investiage hauntings. He brought in various scientific instruments to record data and invited multiple witnesses to join his investigation. He would try to systematically record who was there and “boobie trapped” the place so he would know if anyone was fooling with him and the house by “sealing” doorways with cotton threads. The threads were always in place when he returned to check on them but the inside of the room may have been marked or scratched or rumpled.

There was reference to the confessions of Marianne Foyster in the video Strange but true? Borley Rectory Ghosts, a short video produced by the BBC many years ago but I have been unable to find record of Marianne confessing to faking the phenomenon. There was a story associated with the Foyster era of Borley which included a third witness. The magistrate Guy L’estrange was having tea with the couple one afternoon when they heard a commotion from the kitchen. The three went to investigate and found broken crockery but no one around. A second interruption of their tea surprised them all when they saw bottles floating and being hurled around before their very eyes. L’estrange would later personally recount the story.

Sources and links with more information:

The first newspaper account of the Borley Rectory affairs in “The Hysterical Historian” blog

Paper atttempting to find the actual rectory site

Extensive details of the Borley Rectory investigation within a Harry Price biography at “Prairie Ghosts”

Youtube video: 1975 BBC, “Borley Rectory most haunted house in England”

Youtube video: two part British video on Harry Price and the haunting at Borley Rectory

Archived 1956 TIME article on the Borley Rectory

A 23 part account of the Borley Rectory Experience including a photogallery

Harry Price: Forefather to Modern Ghost Hunting

A portrait of Harry Price. It suits his interest in the paranormal, he looks kind of like Dracula in this picture.

A portrait of Harry Price. It suits his interest in the paranormal, he looks kind of like Dracula in this picture.

Harry Price (1881-1948 ) was an English “psychical investigator”, an early term which is akin to a paranormal investigator. Psychical research institutes devote themselves to studying supposed psychic phenomenon and all things paranormal (I apologize now for any deviations into terminology, it’s one of my things). Harry Price himself eventually founded the National Laboratory of Psychical Research of London when he was no longer welcome at the Society for Psychical Research.

It is entirely possible that I call him the “forefather of modern ghost hunting” with some liberty. However, there are some key reasons for feeling that way. First, Price achieved the great dream of all investigators when he married Constance Mary Knight, a wealthy heiress, allowing him to stop any work (he had been an engineer) and devote himself entirely to his paranormal research.

His early career was spent trying to expose fraudulent claims of psychical feats. One of his most famous exposures is of the photographer William Hope who was famous for photographing people and having their dead relatives reveal themselves in the photograph. Price was able to prove him fraudulent when he found out that Hope was able to put trick slides of the “spirits” into his camera, thereby having them appear as apparitions in the photographs. This is a second reason I call him a forefather. A modern paranormal researcher should be skeptical and be just okay exposing fraudulent claims, or at the very least, accepting when there is no evidence to support paranormal claims.

Price himself was a bit of a trickster, being an amateur magician which helped him to understand how to expose frauds.

He was also an inventor. Using his engineering skills Price was able to create machines that would aid him in his investigations. One such machine-the telekinetoscope-was used to help test psychic abilities.

The telekinetoscope set up

The telekinetoscope set up

This apparatus had a red light connected to a telegraph key and was encased under glass so that only psychic powers could touch it. Beyond this Price was one of the first investigators to attempt to use scientific instruments to study paranormal phenomenon. He would use devices for measuring air pressure, temperature and a number of other devices, the nature of which I don’t quite understand. However, these were used to great effect with one of Price’s first psychics, Stella Cranshaw.

Stella Cranshaw, Harry Price's first psychic

Stella Cranshaw, Harry Price's first psychic

Price met Cranshaw on a train and eventually convinced her to work with him to test her abilities. Price and Cranshaw did several series of séances that lasted several years. The telekinetoscope was used and occasionally would turn on during these séances. Supposedly Cranshaw had a spirit guide named “Palma” who would make her presence known during these sittings and occurrences such as the heavy oak table being tossed and turned would happen. At one point a table was levitated off the ground and then three of its legs were broken away and the table then collapsed (source: prairieghosts.com). Price’s careful investigations with Cranshaw earned them both credit within the community.

Eleanor Zugun, the girl who experience poltergeist activity. Notice the scratches on her face.

Eleanor Zugun, the girl who experience poltergeist activity. Notice the scratches on her face.

Apparently this success and Price’s change from investigating frauds to investigating what he considered authentic phenomenon caused rifts between Price and the Society for Psychical Research. He would later work with Eleonore Zugun, a young Romanian woman. Zugun experienced poltergeist activity including scratches that would appear on her body. In Price’s own words:

The stigmatic marks and abrasions which spontaneously appeared on various portions of Eleonore’s body were, as I have remarked, the most interesting of the phenomena said to occur with this medium. I saw several of them during the periods I kept the girl under observation. The marks were of several varieties, including teeth-marks, long scratches, oval, annular, elliptical, and other marks of varying shapes. The teeth-marks, it must be admitted, were similar to those made by Eleonore’s own teeth; arid tests carried out proved that if Eleonore bit her own arm, identical impressions to those alleged to be abnormal were found, except that the number of teeth indentations varied. But no one saw Eleonore play tricks of this description, although she was kept under observation for days by different investigators. Teeth-marks were never found on any part of her body not accessible to the medium’s mouth; they invariably appeared on her arms or hands. This applied also to the scratches and other markings which appeared on her chest, arms, wrists and hands. But she was never caught making these marks, some of which must have been exceedingly painful. The marks were always sore afterwards. And pins and needles in her proximity would suddenly appear in her flesh. (source: text from Harry Price’s Poltergeists over England, Poltergeists that Bite chapter)

There are varying accounts of where Eleonore comes from. The official Harry Price website gives no account of where she came from but prairieghosts.com says she was found at an insane asylum by a fellow investigator. This would give credence to the idea that her scratches were self inflicted, especially if she came from an asylum. It is difficult to discern from Price’s records whether or not this could be a possibility. Continuing Price’s description:

Eleonore would perhaps be playing with a ball when suddenly she would give a sharp cry of pain and immediately come over to us and allow us to roll up her sleeve or uncover her chest, when the progress of the phenomenon could be witnessed. The teeth-marks were at first visible as red indentations on a white ground – the white surround gradually becoming red at the same time as the indentations became white, rising in a thick ridge above the level of the flesh. The ridge became quite white in the course of a few minutes, and rapidly disappeared. Indentations and teeth-marks made in the fleshy part of Eleonore’s hand in a normal manner acted in exactly the same way. Scratches and other marks of alleged abnormal origin produced thick white weals in the course of a few minutes, afterwards rapidly disappearing (source: text from Harry Price’s Poltergeists over England, Poltergeists that Bite chapter)

Price does note on several occasions that he witnessed the creation of these welts spontaneously without the aid of Eleonore or her guardian the Countess Wassilko-Serecki, whom Price had brought with the girl from Vienna in 1926.

Another interesting case handled by Price was Joanna Southcott’s Box. Joanna Southcott was the daughter of a farmer who was a self-proclaimed prophetess. She became convinced that she was the woman spoken of in Revelations 12:1-6

  1. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
  2. And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
  3. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
  4. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
  5. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
  6. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

She said in 1792 that she was visited by the Lord and began to write the documents contained in the “Great Box”. According to Harry Price’s understanding of her history, she believed at one point she was “Jesus Christ in a woman’s body” but after a corrective vision of Jesus Christ himself, she was told he was his “chosen bride”. There was a big media circus over her including a supposed new virgin birth, though her appearance of being pregnant was later found to be dropsy, a condition in which soft tissue swells due to retention of water.

When the box was acquired by Price it had been sealed for 113 years. He decided to invite mediums to try and divine the history of the box which had not been recorded in any way. As of 1929 there is an “Authentic History of the Great Box of Sealed Writings Left by Joanna Southcott” written by a Mary Robertson, who was a follower of Joanna’s. Price invited Mrs. Florence Kingstone, Mrs G.M. Laws, Mrs. Cannock, Mrs. Stahl Wright, Mrs. Eileen Garrett, Mrs. Stella C. (I assume to be Price’s first medium, Stella Cranshaw), Mrs Cantlon and Mr. Vout Peters. The following are Price’s recordings of what the medium’s divined:

Mrs. Kingstone clairvoyantly “saw” on old lady, a small stone cross, a “roll of parchment with writing which slopes to the left,” piles of papers, a long sermon, the name Gerald, prophecies to do with religion and war, etc.

Mrs. Laws clasped the box, and said: ” I get a tremendous warmth; also a curious feeling of deadness.”

Mrs. Cannock held the box between her hands concentrated her mind on it for a few moments, and said: “There is a prophecy inside. A woman in a great white cap – a key – drawings or chart – a hard object – another box – something that is crumpled or rotted (dating to Biblical times) – writings – something made of bone – valuables, whether in money or effects – apparel.

Mrs. Stahl Wright sensed “a little box ” – a jewel – and the names “Edith,” “Yates.”

Mrs. Eileen Garrett said: “Documents very badly written” – loose sheets of papers – manuscript containing prophecies and dates, strongly marked – something metal – bound book – portrait -a seal – scrolls, etc.

The control (“Palma”) of Miss Stella C. informed us (by means of calling out the letters of the alphabet) that the box contained coins, jewel, purse, ring, books, sheet of paper, beads, bag, seal, and the words  “icey “and “loses.”

Mrs. Cantlon got “a piece of jagged marble ” – small roll of paper tied with pink tape, and perhaps sealed – list of names and a short prayer – small white box – beads – quotations from the Bible – old-fasioned watch or compass, perhaps silver and rather dainty – “I am certain there are beads or stones” – “something long and dark” – “I get Jeremiah rather strongly; and Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.”

Mr. Vout Peters went into a trance, and informed us that in the box were “three documents, one bound as a book” – scripts – curious drawings – something that is opaque – something long – lining of box is velvet – the name Jehovah – the year 18I2 – something to do with fabric.

Dr. Arthur Lynch held the box for a few minutes, and said: “In my opinion, the box contains symbols and vestments, one manuscript of doctrine, and some directions to the faithful. Probably there is another box inside it which contains the most secret, sacred directions of all.” (source: Harry Price’s Leaves from a Psychist’s Case Book, chapter Exploding the Southcott Myth)

Dr. Lynch is not a medium but a psychologist present who was interested in trying his hand at analyzing the box.

Price then decided to x-ray the box as Joanna had left instructions that it should not be opened unless it was a moment of national distress, as the contents were said to be able to save the nation, and in the presence of 24 bishops. This is the list of items Price found upon x-raying:

An old horse pistol (not cocked), date about 1814.


Double-ended fob purse made of steel beads.

Coins in the purse.

A bone puzzle with rings.

Books – one with metal clasps.

A framed painting or miniature.

Pair of gold inlaid, ear-rings.

A cameo or worked pebble.

And here is the list of items Price found upon actually opening the box on 11 July 1927:

The Surprises of Love, Exemplified in the Romance of a Day, or An Adventure in Greenwich Park Last Easter j the Romance of an Evening or Who Would Have Thought It? (London, 1765) with annotations by Joanna; Rider’s British Merlin (London, 17 I 5); Calendier de la Cour (Paris, 1773); Ovid’s Metamorphoses (London, 1794), etc. Rather a worldly collection for a religious ecstatic!

There was a lottery ticket for 1796, and a piece of paper “printed on the River Thames, Feb. 3rd. 1814.”

In the, green silk double-ended fob purse, covered with cut steel beads, were a great number of silver and copper coins and tokens, ranging from a William and Mary 2d. Maundy piece to a ½d. mail-coach token. Some of these coins are rare.

Among the miscellaneous objects were the horse pistol (rusty and quite innocuous!), a miniature case, turned ivory dice-cup, a bone puzzle, a woman’s embroidered night-cap, pair of tortoise-shell and inlaid gold drop ear-rings, and a set of brass money weights.

(source: Harry Price’s Leaves from a Psychist’s Case Book, chapter Exploding the Southcott Myth)

To this day there is still debate about whether Price really opened Joanna’s box or not. There are still people who follow Southcott’s teachings and will defend her to the end. Indeed, the picture and x-ray of the box Price published and the picture of the box shown by the “Joanna Southcott Web Site” at the beginning of the box’s history are vastly different. Perhaps Price was pranked and given a box full of random objects. Perhaps the group who wrote the box’s history are concealing the fact that what is in their possession is not her box but a desperate attempt to hold on to the sanctity of their prophet. Perhaps neither of them are the real box. Unfortunately, without Joanna here to tell us herself, we may never know.

Price would later go on to work on the Borley Rectory case (to be detailed in a later post) which would make him highly famous and would give him material for several best selling books. This case is another reason why I call him the “Forefather of Modern Ghost Hunting”. His use of scientific instruments to try and gather evidence for the hauntings at Borley laid the ground work for modern techniques.

Was he a charlatan as many skeptics claim? Was he genuine? Many in the paranormal field will certainly say he was a sensationalist, but I believe he was someone with a genuine desire to bring science and the supernatural together. He seemed neither to believe the paranormal good nor bad, simply there and he wanted to study it. In the end he was a skeptical believer, which hopefully should be said of all of us who delve into the area of paranormal research and investigation. If you don’t believe, what are you doing there? If you’re not a skeptic, why are you trying to prove anything? Price was both.

Sources and links with more information:

The official Harry Price Web Site with a lot of this information and even more, including exerpts from the books mentioned

Prairieghost.com article on Harry Price

Youtube Video: Interview with Harry Price

A timeline of Harry Price’s life

Joanna Southcott Web Site, including the “Authentic History of the Great Box”

A short essay on Joanna Southcott and her prophetic viewpoint

A Timeline of Joanna Southcott’s life


Let’s start this blog off with something a little personal.

The University of Oregon is not well known for being a supernatural hotspot. In fact, Eugene, while having a few stories of its own, is not well known for that either. On the 9th of January, however, I came up with a photographic anomaly. As this is my first post I wanted to put it out there that I am fully concerned with accuracy and not making speculation into something more than it is. Investigation is absolutely necessary before saying one way or another whether something is a paranormal phenomenon or just some trick of nature or the eye. Having said that, here we go with my anomaly.

I am taking a black and white photography class this term and was out shooting some of the campus that night. Villard Hall has some interesting windows. In one of the frames I have come up with a light emitting anomaly. I did not notice this until the 28th of January when looking at the contact sheets. Looking at the original negatives the anomaly is clearly documented in the emulsion, eliminating the possibility that it was a speck of dust on the negative or the enlargers. There are no other such spots on any other negatives for that roll suggesting that there was no screw up in the film development process. What makes this more interesting is the fact that, two frames before, I had taken a wider angle of the same building in which the anomaly does not appear (hence the word anomaly, I suppose). The shots aren’t great, it was fairly dark and to get enough light to register anything I had to have the shutter open long enough that there is some camera shake. Despite all of that, however, quite clearly, there is some type of light emitting anomaly on the roof of Villard in frame three that was not there in frame one. I’m certainly not calling it an orb but I’m not calling it an apparition, yet. It is simply an anomaly. (See scans of the pictures below. No picture has been edited. Click for larger views)

I went back on January 29th, once I realized what was there to see if there was something that could explain the light I photographed on the roof. While there are what appear to be smokestacks on the roof, they do not put out any light and they are also not in the frame of the photograph. On the building there are actually three of the circular windows you see in the pictures above and what is pictured are the left two. There is no possibility of the light from the window on the right causing that light on the roof because the arched sconce above the window actually comes out over it and goes the roof ledge which would block that possibility. I also took some pictures with my digital camera to see if it would happen again or if I could recreate the frames at least.

Alright, enough about the pictures and on to the fun stuff. Researching Villard Hall it turns out it is the second oldest building on the University of Oregon campus having been finished in 1886. Two things have happened there that have anything to do with death and potential ghosties. The first was the funeral of Samuel Friendly, a well loved store owner and eventual regent of the University. While this is interesting it really isn’t that compelling. Continued research led me to this interesting tid bit. On the spot where Villard Hall was built used to be the cabin of one of Eugene’s oldest residents, Hilyard Shaw. Shaw operated the sawmill and was integral in creating the “Millrace” that runs through Eugene in order to create power for other industries as well. Well, the information about Shaw is sadly sparse, but the Lane County Historical Society put out a book called “The Story of Eugene 1846-1946” in 1995. In it they had short biography of Hilyard Shaw which is as follows:

There is little factual information about Hilyard Shaw. Perhaps for that very reason his story interests us. He was in a very literal sense a builder, putting up the first house [actually the house built for Judge Risdon, not his own cabin] and erecting and operating, with William Smith, the first sawmill in Eugene. His own log cabin, one of so few, stood almost underneath the Condon Oaks [a nickname for the Oregon Oaks on the campus] that shade the north side of the University campus, facing northward from the spot where Villard Hall stands. It is said that Hilyard Shaw was a “lovable gentleman” and that he stuttered. One of his promises was when he d-d-d-d-died he would c-c-come b-b-b-back to haunt the shad-shad-shadows of those oak t-t-t-trees.

By no means is any of this conclusive, quite obvious from reading this. It does however suggest there is potential. Now, I am what is known as a broke-ass student, so aside from a tape recorder, I don’t really have any equipment a proper investigation would bring to the table. For now the pictures and the story about Shaw coming back to haunt the shadow of the trees is all I have. After midterms I’ll keep up with this line of inquiry and update my post. What do y’all think about these photos? Trick of the light somehow or potential spectral?

Para-Chronicles Day 1

While Para-Chronicles is getting up and running check out these links.

Para-Chronicles Global– ongoing map collection of all places paranormal. Some are speculated and some are documented, but be sure to check it out for updates and hauntings in your hometown. Updated by Para-Chronicles.

America’s Most Haunted Places-a site about roadside America’s hauntings documenting the author’s picks for the most haunted places.

Jewish Myth Magic and Mysticism-a blog written by Rabbi Geoff Dennis, author of the book by the same name about the mysticism and paranormal in Jewish tradition.

Side note-After a short spurt of curiosity in searching baby names, apparently the Welsh are the only people that have a name which has the distinct meaning of “ghost” or “phantom”. Gaenor and Guenevere both are females names which are interpreted as “white ghost” or “phantom”. Who knew King Arthur had married a ghost?