Saturday, December 16, 2006

Brooklyn Ghosts -- Trapping the Otherworldly

First, my thanks goes to all those who have been supplying me with tales of ghosts in New York. If you're unfamiliar with why I'm collecting such information, it is for an upcoming book about ghosts in Brooklyn. If you have any tales, rumors, or supernatural critters in a cage, please feel free to email me. Below is an interesting bit from my research:

[Not actual image. Special thanks to for their wonderful library of ghostly images.]

When people think of ghosts, they often think of non-physical apparitions. But, in the 1800s, the Society for Physical Research offered a reward for the capture of a ghost. There were a few takers…

At least one fellow devised a clever plan. By placing asphalt in an area where a ghost was commonly reported to go out for evening strolls, he hoped to makeng something like ghostly-flypaper, and trap the ethereal trespasser. According to newspaper accounts of 1885, it seems he had moderate success. One night, the ghost appeared, and when pacing about, found itself held fast by the sticky asphalt. The "trapper," overrun with enthusiasm for his success, trotted into the asphalt as well, to apprehend his "prize." Unfortunately, asphalt is just as useful in capturing corporeal entities as non-corporeal.

By the time the man was able to free himself, the ghost had also escaped, returning to its otherworldly domain. But it wasn't all for naught. This "experiment" seemed to indicate that ghosts could be apprehended by physical means. Unfortunately, the man who conceived the clever trap had no known successes in the afterword. I'm not sure if the reward is still being offered. The society, however, still exists.

1 comment:

Vwriter said...

This is the posting where anyone that comments might already suspect, but I have an interest in this field. And I have a few ideas on how to approach the identification and capture of spectral phenomena.

My thinking is based on my first encounter with a ghost- and before going ahead with this, let me qualify what I'm going to say by that it deals with only one section of the phenomena labeled "ghosts."

I was sixteen, in East Grand Forks, South Dakota, and doing the wanderer in search of what to write about. I was also hiding from the cops, on my own, the temperature was somewhere below zero, and I was looking for a place to sleep. It was, I think, about two o'clock in the morning. East Grand Forks in the cold months can best be described as "bleak." I thought I was going to freeze to death.

I saw a police car cruising down nearby so I took off running. My glasses fell off and I kept pumping my arms. When I stopped for breath and to see where the cop car was, I saw that the street behind me was completely empty.

Being blind in East Grand Forks, South Dakota is worse than being in East Grand Forks, South Dakota with glasses, so I started walking back toward the spot where the only pair of glasses I had with me fallen. I was about twenty feet away from that spot, when I saw what looked to be a mist form roughly the same distance away on the ohter side of the spot where I thought my lenses lay on the sidewalk. Every step closer I got to my glasses, the vapor moved that much closer as well, and with each of my steps forward, the mist not came closer, but it grew more substantive.

At no time did I think this form was a living, solid human being, although I knew that it was moving with intent. When I moved, it moved. When I stopped, it stopped.

It did not seem to be solid. It reminded me of light gray fog. I'll move on from what happened next and how I finally got my glasses back the next day, and get to what I think was interesting years later as a more technically oriented person.

First, how exactly do we see a ghost? I'm going to go with the idea that we can and do see at least some of them physically. Therefore they either relect or emit light.

When I eventually "touched" the ghost that I saw in SD, it was cool, and almost moist. I wondered later if I had touched something not much different than a cloud. Clouds have shape and form and are essentially condensed water droplets and they do relect light.

There are several ways that clouds are thought to form. The most common idea requirement is a "condensation nucleus," where atmospheric moisture droplets gather around a tiny particle of smoke, dust, ash, or salt when the temperature drops sufficiently for this to occur.

Another possibility that is relatively new is the "hot ice theory," that postulates the formation of certain clouds as a result of fields of electrical charge. As an extreme example of the effect of electricity on water that could lead to such condensation, consider that room temperature water can almost instantaneously be converted to ice by the application of a charge of 1,000,000 per cubic meter.

So, we need humidified air, cool enough temperatures, and, possibly, electricity to create clouds. Remember the appearance of ghosts are associated with a sudden "chilling" in the room.

If visible ghosts of a certain type are clouds "with identity- an electric grid," however the appearance is accomplished by the spectre, my first idea would be arrange to drop the temperature radically and quickly (say a blast of liquid nitrogen) if the ghost could be induced to appear in a "controlled" room environment. We could essentially then "quick-freeze" the ghost the way that the huge surge of electricity I mentioned earlier could quick freeze water.

I have never heard much about ghosts in the arctic. Perhaps they know better.

Incidentally, a friend of mine suggested that ghosts never materialize in a house of mirrors because they never find their way out. "If you could only lead them there," she said.

This brings up the question of, "What kind of bait do you use to lure a ghost?"