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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Origins of Ghost Hunting

Pliny the Younger recorded what has been regarded as the first story of a ghost hunt in 100 AD. The story was already a century old when Pliny told it, and concerns a haunted house in ancient Athens being investigated by a philosopher named Athenodoros Cananites.

The Ghost Club, founded in London in 1862, is believed to be the oldest paranormal research organization in the world. Famous members of the club have included Charles Dickens, Sir William Crookes, Sir William Fletcher Barrett and Harry Price.

Early "ghost hunter" Harry Price

In the mid 1880's, William James, philosopher and founder of the American Psychological Association and brother of Henry James suggested applying scientific method to paranormal questions such as the existence of ghosts or spirits. He found allies in England such as Alfred Russel Wallace, Cambridge philosopher Henry Sidgwick and his wife, Eleanor, Edmund Gurney, and others to form the core of the Society for Psychical Research to collect evidence concerning apparitions, haunted houses, and similar phenomena. The investigators gathered case studies, attended séances, designed tests of claimants' veracity, and ran what came to be known as the Census of Hallucinations, which counted apparitions of persons who were said to have made spectral appearances on the day they died.

Similar investigation into hauntings was undertaken by Harry Price through London's National Laboratory of Psychical Research during the 1920s, and later in the 1950s and 60s by American independent researchers such as Hans Holzer and Ed and Lorraine Warren. Other paranormal and parapsychological investigators like Loyd Auerbach, Christopher Chacon and William Roll were each independently conducting field and laboratory investigations in the 1970s and 80s, long before reality TV cast a spotlight onto this subject matter.

Ghost hunting among part-time hobbyists began to be popular in the late 1970s with the founding of the Chicago area Ghost Tracker’s Club, which became the Ghost Research Society (GRS) in 1981. The popularity of the Ghostbusters movie of 1984 may have boosted the proliferation of such "ghost clubs".

In the last decade, the term "paranormal investigation" has increasingly been adopted by hobbyist and professional groups who do not investigate any other aspects of the paranormal such as Extra-sensory perception and Psychokinesis, but whose sole purpose is ghost hunting.