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

Symmetrical Ghost Excavation: The Future of the Field (Work)

Media/Press Announcements

Ghost research and investigation is in need of an “attitude adjustment”. A symmetrical approach, one that involves the use of multiple fields (that involve the politics of practice and representation) is needed to unearth the haunt dramas. The radical separation of a past (to be studied) and the contemporary environment and viewpoint (of an investigation) needs to be abandoned. Intertwined fields of influence involving theory, field methodology, ethnographic research and analysis, historicity, cultural heritage, the tourism industry, and political power needs to be adopted by all ghost investigators.


Symmetry is an attitude that involves attending to mutual arrangements and relationships between past and present actions, and people and material (sensory) remains. There are a number of connective components that comprise this attitude. These include:



         Mediation and representative immersion; and

         Re-contextualization and genealogical linkage.



We, as ghost investigators, do not “discover” a haunting. We engage what is left of a lifetime of experiences, events, activities, and memories. The past exists in contemporary space as haunting potential. We encounter this potentiality initially through survey work. These encounters are measured and recorded as fragments (of a more complete haunt drama). They may take the form of residuals, or may be associated with the activities of an interactive entity. These elements may also be “suppressed” by more contemporary elements and patterns, or “bleed” (come to the surface) in contemporary space. What we have is a “patchwork” of haunting activity. The excavation of this “patchwork” helps to determine their communicative potential that would identify an interactive agency. There is an archaeological sensitivity (and sensibility) to this, whereby we identify those traces that can unite individual and collective memories of a ghostly presence. In doing so, we work with a past that makes us who we are to become. This is also a dynamic process. It keeps on going. The process is iterative, accumulating (and repeating) through time and memories. It means that “ghosts” are not essentially different from us, because, one day, we may be as they are. The only difference between us and the ghost is environmental, and this is a cultural (not a physical) difference.



This symmetrical process (and attitude) is also creative. The past is not a datum point, a measurement of EM fields or temperature fluctuations. It is an achieved interaction. The past, as haunting phenomena, is communicative, and is the outcome of processes of uncovering and engaging. This haunted past is constantly being re-created and performed. However, that past is not a chronological date, set in time. It is the historical present that percolates in contemporary (and future) presence. Its absence, in particular situations (investigation) is a matter of “silence” (“ghostspeak”), and is related to a lack of “social identity”, or is a form of “suppression” (dominant contemporary patterns). The interactive past does not end at some point. It re-surfaces through performative connections that are both ethnographically and historically-contextual. The interactive past is staged action and a performing activity. Accessibility (social identity) and agency (excavation) determine how it emerges, and under what conditions.



The creative process of investigating the interactive past is one of translation and mediation, of identifying and recalling the ghostly presence that is present in the present. This is a process of transformation, a re-contextualization of contemporary performance and memory, an action involving the symmetrical alignment of ghostly and contemporary socially-identifying roles. It turns the possibility of a haunting into something else – a ghostly presence. The historical present is re-presented. The performance, recorded by peripatetic and soundscape audio-video overlays, is the medium of representation. This directs us to the politics of this representation: who directs and controls the information flow? The answer should not be a matter of association, politics, or exclusivity. The focus should not center on who transmits the data, but what is transmitted, and how it was observed and recorded in the multiple fields of engagement. Our interest (and concern) should be directed to the narrative practices of reference (ghost books), embodied representation (paranormal websites), and mobilization of the data (ghost tours/investigation packages; seminars and conferences). The question is this: How do we want (and need) our field data to be written, distributed, and represented?


Re-Contextualization and Genealogical Linkage (Reiteration):

The re-contextualization of haunting phenomena lies in its systemization and relativity. It is about the many, as opposed to the few. The interactive past becomes what it is (in the historical present) through its connections to the present. This is a vital (and living) part of the symmetry and the creativity. It is about a network of relationships that continually reconstitute the past in the present. This is just like memory, and is how the past unfolds in the present. We remember, and so does the interactive ghost. We connect to our own past, which only gains significance through recollection. The past (our past) becomes the historical present. We are symmetrically-related to that past, and it is that relationship that binds us to the ghost’s own (and past) memories. This is to recognize that understanding (the present as well as the historical presence) is contingent upon relationships and participation, and putting things in their proper context.


Finally, this mutual contextuality means that there is a genealogical link between the ghost’s memory and that of the investigator (or investigative team). A process of potential recognition does continue, even after physical death. The key lies in the excavation of the field performances. The link can only be engaged through excavation, not survey and/or “watch”. The excavation is a participatory iteration of contextual activity, rather than a passive recording and measuring process. In the end, we perform, not watch, the underlying drama in the field.

"We excavate your haunts"
To build a better foundation for the study of ghost research.
"Unearthing the drama in the fields"

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