C.A.S.P.E.R Research Center

Silence is Golden: Ghostspeak and the Hidden Dimension of a Haunting

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Silence is Golden:

                       Ghostspeak and the Hidden Dimension of a Haunting


It is not the case that a ghost who is silent communicates nothing.

            - C.A.S.P.E.R. Research Center Saying.



What conclusion does one draw from the following scenario:

  • You have just concluded a “watch” in an area where ghostly footsteps and other anomalous sensory manifestations have been reported. Yet, you have not heard (or recorded) any phenomena;
  • You have done an EVP “sweep” of a reported location, placing digital recorders in areas of previously-reported anomalies. Yet, a review of these recordings is negative.

What is the analysis of this investigation? Does it indicate that a haunting is not occurring because no anomalies were reported or recorded? Or did something occur that was not recorded by the “scientific instruments”? The answer is that the location may contain many ghostly presences that did not record. Is this possible and, if so, why? This is the subject of this article.



In the past, ghost investigators have paid little attention to the cultural sphere of a field investigation and its significance to the interpretation of haunting manifestations. In particular, how do we account for the “silences” (lack of recorded or measured anomalous sensory manifestations) that frequently occur on field investigations at previously-reported “haunted” locations? If, according to “ghost science”, physical laws allow ghosts to manifest (and thus be recorded on our scientific instruments), why are their “appearances” so infrequently reported on a ghost investigation?


Ghost investigators work with what is left (fragments) of various individual pastscapes, as they are mixed in the symmetrical space of the contemporary environment. Sometimes, interactions with these pasts manifest, while at other times they do not. In the process, a great deal may be overlooked. Silenced in the recording and measuring process of contemporary ghost science, many “voices”, relations, and qualities are often “missed” in the translation to the representation of field data. Why do witnesses speak of some pasts, while, at the same time, ghost investigators silence others? This is a cultural process of “manifestation”, the silencing of pasts in the context of scientific practice and its documentation. We may ask: which qualities of, or relations with, these individual pastscapes are silenced? Likewise, we may ask: which aspects “survive” in the process of translation?


Sociolinguistic studies have shown that communication is fundamentally a decision-making process in which a person (and I would include an interactive ghost) selects a suitable channel of transmission to communicate. This is initiated based on features of the social environment that are directly governed by cultural “rules” (and not physical laws) regarding the conduct of face-to-face interactions. For a “stranger” (the investigative team) to communicate appropriately with the member(s) of an unfamiliar cultural tradition (that of the ghost) it is not enough to have “ghost gear”, or even to learn to formulate messages (both verbal and non-verbal) intelligently. Something else (and much more) is needed. A knowledge of what communicative channels and expressions to use in particular situations (such as a specific haunt drama) is needed. Also, what kind of persons (or ghosts) are we trying to communicate with is essential (the particular social identity of the ghost, not who it is). This requires an ethnographic, as well as an historical, perspective.


In our own culture, for example, such remarks as, “be quiet! Don’t you know when to be still and listen?”; “don’t say anything yet!”; “Hospital: Quiet Zone”; or, “no talking in church…..”.     An individual decision to communicate, during an investigation, may directly rest upon the situation and the “character” of the surroundings. In this context, to the ghost, silence may indeed be golden.  In order to eliminate these “silences”, we should, in ghost research, investigate the original function of a structure, especially as it pertains to its ghosts. Has the function of a structure changed over time? In Gettysburg, for example, residences were once used as “field hospital sites” after the battle. How does this affect communication with the ghosts who may still be occupying these locations?


Silence is a virtue (“silence is golden”) for some people, some of the time. How does this virtue affect the occurrence of ghostly manifestations? We teach children to act accordingly, in a manner appropriate to the particular social situation. How does this affect the recording of sensory manifestations of a ghost child? This particular situation was described in my first book, Ghost Excavator: Unearthing the Drama in the Mine Fields. My encounter (or lack thereof) with the Slovak ghost students was based on their conformity to traditional Slovak cultural values: only speak and communicate in appropriate situations, and never to “strangers”. I did not observe (or record) their haunting drama because I did not properly introduce myself as a socially identifiable person.


Although the form of silences is always the same (no communication), the function of a specific act of silence is dependent upon the social context. Translating this to a haunting drama, it means that, without the use of context in investigative procedures, we may be missing many opportunities for communicating with interactive ghosts. During the survey of a haunted location by an investigative team, for example, the “silence” of the ghost(s) may merely mean that you (the investigative team) are “strangers” or a “socially-unacceptable” person. This may be due to a number of factors:

  • Age: a “young’ team member trying to communicate (with “odd” instruments) with an “elderly” ghost;
  • Sex: an all-male team trying to communicate with a female ghost, who may have had a traumatic encounter with a male (or group of males);
  • Social status: the team, viewed as “commoners” trying to communicate with an “aristocrat” ghost (or a “wealthy” one);
  • Occupation: the team, lacking the proper technical skills and/or word usage trying to communicate with a specialized artisan or tradesman.


The C.A.S.P.E.R. Research Center is now testing an hypothesis concerning these “ghostly silences” in the field at various haunted locations. The assumptions that form the basis of this hypothesis are:

         “Silence involves a specific individual ghost (or group of ghosts). These can be labeled the “nodal participant”, and are found in s.i.m.s.(sensory information memory spatial) zones at haunted locations;

         The status of these nodal participants is based on “ambiguity”. The ghost is unfamiliar with an individual(s) not part of his/her socio-cultural world. These individuals are regarded as “strangers” (social identity is not clearly defined; there is no previous experience of prior contact). These “strangers” are the investigative team. Long-time residents of the location may not (necessarily) be perceived as “strangers”;

         This unfamiliarity with “strangers” leads to an absence of any role expectations for interaction and communication.


Based on these assumptions, I have constructed the following hypothesis:

         “ghostspeak”, the absence of communication at a haunted location, is associated with social situations that are contextually-significant;

         The “status” of the investigative team members produces a situation such that fixed role expectations are lost;

         This creates a non-communicative encounter between the investigative team and their interactions with a haunted location’s interactive entities;

         The result is “silence”, a response to the uncertainty and unpredictability of contact with “strangers”.


In order to test this hypothesis in the field, an auxiliary hypothesis is needed:

  • Communication with interactive entities is possible when the status of participants (investigative team/ghosts) is less ambiguous;
  • Ambiguity is subsequently decreased through contextually-significant activities that give the investigative team an appropriate social identity. This enables them to communicate with the ghost(s).


C.A.S.P.E.R. is using performance-based activities with cultural contextual “target” objects (and other historically-relevant) sensory stimuli in an attempt to communicate with any interactive entity. Non-directed EVP and non-contextual activities are used in the same hauntscape to compare the results. This is accomplished through the use of peripatetic audio-video overlays. The results of these field “test” excavations will be reported in a subsequent article.


But regardless of the final outcome, the situational context of “ghostspeak” is in need of continued inquiry by ghost investigators. As we become more knowledgeable of these phenomena, we should, at the same time, be learning more about those variables that encourage and promote the “silences” we encounter on investigations at haunted locations. Anomalous manifestational absence is not necessarily an absence of ghosts. It may be the entity’s use of his/her own socially-identifying “ghostspeak

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