Paranormal Phenomen-huh?


What is Paranormal Phenomena?

It’s a good question.  There are many and varied theories in the Paranormal Investigation field as to what exactly the paranormal is.  It’s hard to define any one leading theory, so here at Port Arthur we’re exploring four of them in our investigations.

THEORY #1 – “Ghosts are Dead People”

It is a belief held by many cultures right throughout the world – that the body and spirit are separate, and that when a person dies their spirit comes away from the body.  In some beliefs the spirit moves on to a different plane of existence, for others the spirit continues to walk the earth as a ghostly entity.
We tend to base our ghost tours on this theory, but a few nights ago I decided to find out what my ghost tour group thought about ghosts, so I asked them!  I had a school group of 13-14 year old kids from a remote region of Tasmania, who all came up with ideas of what they thought ghosts were:

“I think they’re dead people’s souls”

“When you die you might have unfinished things to do so you hang around”

“It’s dead people”

“When i was little my pop used to talk to me.  He died before i was born”

“It’s like, your spirit”

Inevitably, these kids’ theories all revolved around the idea of ghosts being dead people. 

THEORY #2 – “Parallel Universes”

The thought of parallel universes existing can be a thought that makes your brain hurt if you dwell on it for too long.  But it’s an interesting thought at the same time!
Imagine the world as a sheet hanging on a clothesline, alongside possibly one or more other sheets/worlds.  They exist side by side, but separate from one another.  Now picture what happens when the wind blows – the sheets connect every now and then for brief but significant moments.  (This is not to suggest that paranormal phenomena will happen only on windy days)

We have a ghost story from the 1870s at Port Arthur that makes you stop and wonder about the possible legitimacy of this theory.
In the Parsonage (Port Arthur’s historically haunted house) there lived a family by the name of Hayward.  They had experienced many odd things in the house, but one story talks of a servant walking into a front room of the house only to find a figure at the window in ‘strange garb’ holding a raised object like a dagger ‘as though to strike’.
This would be a terrifying experience, no doubt.  Reverend Hayward was said to have had to ‘box her ears’ to bring sense to the servant after the episode.  But here’s a thought: What if what that servant saw was a ghost tour guide in present time, holding a torch and peering in to the house?  (Brain explodes!)

THEORY #3 – “The Power of Suggestion” 

The human mind is incredible.  Scientists are only just beginning to understand the limitations and possibilities of the human brain.  There is still so much that is unknown about our capabilities!

I’ve seen (as I’m sure most of my fellow guides have too) just how strong the power of suggestion can be.  Without giving away too many tricks of the trade, in the job of tour guide where your tour group are expecting to be scared you soon learn to develop a few subtle skills in creating atmosphere.  Many’s the time I’ve had people ‘experience’ the paranormal on tour, though about 75% of the time when asked to describe exactly what’s happened to them they will regurgitate something they’ve already been told on tour.  In many cases this is a ploy for attention, however there are cases where visitors are completely convinced that they have experienced something, and will even have physiological reactions to the event.

THEORY #4 – “This is All a Pile of Poo”

A very valid theory that can’t be discounted.  There are studies being done in parts of the world on various external influences on the human experience.  Factors such as Electro Magnetic Fields and Infrasound are being tested for their potential to create a “haunted” atmosphere.  There are suggestions that various external factors can produce hallucinations, feelings of unease, and even that wonderful and comforting sensation of seeing movement out of the corner of your eye.

So these are the theories we’re working with at Port Arthur, and by concentrating on all of these different possibilities it’s helping us to remain open-minded about the various experiences reported on site.  It also helps bring us back to the importance of always asking questions.

Just because someone talks to their Pop as a kid, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are talking to a dead person’s spirit.  Maybe they are talking to their Pop from another world (after all, having never known their Pop, they would be unaware of how any behaviour might differ from their actual Pop).  Maybe, having never met their Pop, this kid wanted to talk to him and was convinced by their own mind that it was really happening.  Or maybe the location of the home combined with any number of external factors created the illusion that Pop was indeed present and chatty.  Oh the possibilities!

‘Til next time, the P.I.E. team.

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Stories in the dark


Wednesday night we had UK journalist Tim Robey out on site with us for a few hours, though sadly the anomalous events didn’t quite amp up like we’d hoped.  We did, however, spend a good deal of time in the Commandant’s House, and let me tell you that building just doesn’t get any friendlier-feeling in the dark.

With just 4 of us in there the place was quite atmospheric.  Particularly when we took a moment to sit on the stairs and talk about the spooky events we’ve experienced in there.  Story-teller extraordinaire Caitlin never fails to give me the creeps when she talks about events in any of these buildings (i can happily admit that the first time i did her ghost tour many years ago, i was scared to come back to Port Arthur!).  The house itself delivered on some fairly ominous creaking noises, but as is the nature of old buildings, the place tends to creak a lot. We also experimented a bit with the fascinating way the human mind picks patterns out of the darkness.  There’s nothing quite like standing in a dark old house watching what appears to be a dark figure walking down a corridor towards you!  It’s amazing what our eyes do to us in the dark!  If you’re coming on an investigation soon, ask us about this and we’ll demonstrate.

We’re yet to go over the footage of our time in the building on Wednesday night, but based on our personal experiences i think it will be highly unlikely that we recorded much at all.

In other news, today we farewell our Director of Tourism Operations, Danial Rochford, who is leaving Port Arthur to move to a much sunnier locale.  Danial was hugely supportive of the team setting up the Paranormal Investigation Experience at the Site, and heavily involved in the development of what is now proving to be a very popular and successful venture.  Thanks Danial!

As i write this I’m also multi-tasking.  Beside me is the Paranormal laptop which is churning out the last of our data discs to send out to prior groups, so keep an eye on your mail boxes, the discs will be there soon.

To wrap up, tomorrow night is Paranormal Investigation Night for November!  If you’re in the area and feel like joining us, head to our bookings site now to secure the last spaces.