The Performance of Ghost Hunting, Part II

This blog is a continuation of “The Performance of Ghost Hunting, Part I

ghost-2a2b80qThe critically acclaimed actress Fiona Shaw also volunteered to have her brain scanned, where she would switch back and forth from “acting” in the MRI machine to doing static actions such as saying the ABC’s and counting numbers. The results were that while Shaw was acting, she was using a part of her brain that was responsible for visualization. This caused me to question whether this could also lead to the potential of having some sort of psychic abilities, or in the very least, develop empathic abilities since the very essence of acting is to emulate life and present different emotions with legitimacy. However, every actor hasn’t had his or her brain scanned. But based on the fact that Shaw is an extraordinary actress, the brain activity occurring during her performance may very be similar as to the brain activity of those who use the same performance process as Shaw. Given the success rate of the Ganzfeld by artistic people, it is interesting to consider that since the experiment is partially dependent on the send of images and video, the send creates their own visualizations in their mind and send it over to their fellow artist, who may use the same part of their brain.

And if the actor’s visualization skills are stronger than the average person, perhaps it could be the reason why actors are more vulnerable. Actors and musicians are also able to channel in their emotions more efficiently so that they’re available during their performance or writing their own pieces. Could this vulnerability lead to a higher chance of having ghosts interact with these artists? I don’t think that it is a stretch to hypothesize that performance could be summoning these ghosts even those the performer has no intention of doing so. The actor has a much larger role in theatre hauntings than they expect.

Then we have the factoring in of the actual ghost hunts that are taking place. Ghost hunting really is a performance from the perspective of the ghosts are your audience members, and you are saying certain words and doing certain actions for the purpose of getting a response from the ghost, just as when the actor performs on stage, they are anticipating some kind of reaction from laughter to tears. But just as an actor can have a bad performance, the ghost hunter can have a bad investigation. Maybe the wrong questions were being asked, or the ghost hunter and the ghost just weren’t connecting. It can be hard to figure out exactly where the investigation went wrong. But there are things that the ghost hunter to do to ensure a smoother time, which includes doing your historical research as well as making a completely game plan of the events of the investigation.

Even in our day-to-day routine, we are in the midst of a performance until we are alone at home. In the same sense, ghosts are constantly in performance mode as well. Think about it. They might be unaware of the amount of energy they carry, and with the wrong movement, they could reveal their current state. Or if the ghost has a message to send, and is in desperate need to get the sender’s attention, the ghost may put on a performance to make sure that they are being listened.

On that note, will we ever reach a time where we will no longer expect a performance from ghosts and just allow them to talk? That will actually be my next communication experiment at the Tenth. No more expecting “yes” or “no” answers, but instead, just allowing them to talk. Once I approach an investigation in that way, collecting tangible evidence would be more difficult, unless I was able to obtain better equipment that was more sensitive and could play back the information that was collected.

The performance of ghost hunting places responsibility on both sides of the investigation relationship. It is a tug of war relationship between the ghost hunter and the ghost, as they continuously trade roles from performer to audience member, and then back again. However, unlike the ghost hunter, the deceased are forced to perform when requested by the ghost hunter. I almost want to imagine circus animals that are being chained to their cages while the ringleader cracks their whip to get them to perform. In some cases, the ghost hunter may threaten the presence with religious objects such as crosses or threaten to force the deceased to cross over to the other side. The investigation process, while this will be ironic for me to say, shouldn’t be a performance like this, but instead a mutual agreement to engage in conversation and finding the most productive method of establishing that communication. The need to impress or outdo other teams is primarily responsible for the circus-like spectacle since a team’s value seems to lie upon whether they can capture the best evidence or not. While evidence collection is important, it is being used for the wrong way. Which is probably another reason why we have so many people trying to pass off their photos of dust as evidence of a ghost, or why people are faking evidence so that they can get their 15-minutes of fame. It really is a shame, and it does nothing more than harm the research field for the paranormal, and it is the reason why this community has yet to find widespread respect.

Perhaps I am not one to talk since I was interviewed by public television about the Tenth Avenue Theater, but that opportunity came about unexpectedly, and I did not ask for the interview. The field right now is flooded with people who are using the paranormal to gain a celebrity status. Is it right? I don’t know. If I were to criticize it, I would also have to criticize those who use theatre to get famous as well. It is a hard line to tow indeed. As a believer in karma, and the mindset of “what goes around comes around”, I wonder what price we will have to pay for putting the deceased out there in the public eye and not only making them perform tricks, but forcing them to become entertainment for our own pleasure.

I have mixed feelings about guided ghost tours that take place night after night. While I love the idea of having access to haunted locations and investigating, I often find that these tours are there for the specific purpose of entertaining people. So, in this case, the audience is the tourist. I do pay for my ticket to be a part of the ghost hunt, and I often find myself being the most experienced in the group, with the rest of the attendees borrowing equipment from the host team and going around ready to jump at the first sight of a ghost. I have distinctly mixed feelings because while I feel like it is a great opportunity to expose more people to the paranormal field, it is also subjecting the deceased to being performers, all the while the teams that are hosting these tour are proclaiming that they care about the ghosts. When these tours are happening year round and people are paying a good chunk of money to be a part of the experience, I find it comparable to running a circus and cracking the whip on the animals while saying you care about them under the same breath. I have also noticed that these ghost tours actually outnumber any historical research based tours. You can tell whether people would rather learn about history or be entertained, and so which direction is society heading?

It seems that we are at an impasse, both the living and the dead trapped in the world of continuous performances. Even in life, we perform all the time from our work duties, to tasks that need to be taken care of at home. With each changing social circle, our audiences change and thus, our performances change. I don’t act the same way at home as I do with I’m with my best friend at a bar enjoying a drink. In death, it should be our time to rest. But with the constant popularity of ghost hunting, it may be a while before the dead gets a hint of peace and quiet, or “rest in peace” so to speak. Is this what we have to look forward to after we die? It is a wonder why ghosts would even stick around and bother to communicate with the living world in the first place. What if the connection with the living world is worth being objectified and turned into a performer? Or perhaps, the messages from the other side are crucial enough to share that the living world needs to be an audience for these paranormal performers in order for them to receive these messages.

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