Host Rick Palmer and I discuss The Gotobed Diaries, and all things paranormal.
In 1890, the parapsychologist Edmund Gurney put forth an idea that he coined place memory. At its most basic level, place memory postulates that certain locations are capable of ‘recording’ emotions, sights, and sounds, particularly during times of extreme stress and trauma. If the conditions are right, these recordings can be played back, creating what can be called a ‘residual’ haunting.
These replays are strictly that: a facsimile of an event passed. Nothing more, nothing less. They will not, indeed, they cannot, interact with observers (unlike apparent poltergeist activity).
They also appear to be limited to the environment as it was when the initial event occurred. This may explain why these replays sometimes appear to travel through solid walls where a doorway may once have stood, or partially below ground level, perhaps treading where an original floor may have existed.
If such a thing as place memory can occur, it may well explain the scores of accounts I have collected of people witnessing such residual hauntings. Accounts such as that shared by one Harry Martindale*.
From the York Echo, dated 25th October 2014:
Harry Martindale was an 18-year-old plumber’s apprentice in 1953 when he saw at least 20 Roman soldiers, visible only from the knees up, marching through the cellar of the Treasurer’s House.
Harry, who went on to become a policeman for some 25 years, claimed he saw a soldier wearing a helmet emerge from a wall, followed by a cart horse and twenty other soldiers. Scared witless, he fell from his ladder and stumbled into a corner.
He was so terrified by what he saw that he took two weeks off work with shock. Friends laughed at his story, so he kept quiet about his spooky sighting until the 1970s, when he was interviewed by a group of academics for television, and York’s most famous ghostly tale was born.
It emerged that an old Roman road ran through the garrison where the Treasurer’s House was later built, and was about 15 inches lower than the cellar floor. The story also gained legitimacy after Harry described several aspects of the Roman soldiers’ clothing that he would not have known at the time.
His son Andrew said Harry was interviewed by various TV stations as the story blew up but, because he worked for the police, he never made any money out of his experiences.
Now, I believe I should address the metaphorical elephant in the room: there is no record of a residual haunting ever being replicated under strict scientific conditions.
I believe there is a very simple explanation for this.
None of it can be replicated under these conditions.
It is the very nature of the scientific method that removes the factors required for the replay to occur. Even the placing of equipment with which to attempt the observation, measurement and recording of a residual haunting is enough to pollute the location with electromagnetic fields, amongst other things (see the observer effect), that are not conducive to activating the replay. There are simply far too many variables at play, variables that are, at best, difficult to predict, let alone control.
Further to this, if emotion is a key factor in the initial recording and playback of these events, how does one go about measuring it? By its very nature, emotion is subjective: there is no equipment to objectively record fear or love, jealousy or sadness.
To create the perfect conditions required to satisfy the scientific method, an event traumatic enough to create a residual haunting would actually need to have occurred inside a laboratory, under controlled and replicable conditions. With the exception of a pair of highly controversial and sadistic ‘experiments’ that took place at Unit 731 during World War 2, there is, to the best of my knowledge, no record of such an event having ever taken place.
Place memory (more commonly referred to nowadays as stone tape theory, after the BBC play broadcast in 1972) is disregarded by mainstream science, and understandably so. By its very nature, it is vague, unquantifiable, and untestable.
And yet mankind’s history is littered with tales of residual hauntings. And why is it that certain locations such as hospitals, prisons, and mental asylums can provoke an intangible sense of dread, as if the very buildings themselves were trying to share with us memories of past misdeeds that have taken place within their grounds?
If only old walls could speak. What tales they might tell.
Dr Thomas Gotobed
* More information on the late Harry Martindale’s experience can be found here, and what he witnessed is certainly intriguing. My head tells me that ‘place memory’ can’t be a real thing, but, as the good doctor says, even I’ve walked into certain houses and instantly felt that ‘nope’ feeling – C.R.
This is an excerpt from a much larger file. Sadly, a dozen or so of the pages are water damaged beyond repair and only the following section remains legible – C.R.
A key part of the varied palette of recorded phenomena associated with poltergeist activity is the manipulation of solid matter: a much-loved trinket disappearing, only to re-emerge sometime later in a place that had previously been searched thoroughly, a shower of stones apparently falling from the ceiling, a toy building brick thrown through the air by ostensibly invisible hands, mugs and other kitchenware traversing the surface of a table under their own steam.
I could go on.
Here I would like to propose a theory as to the possible mechanism of these phenomena.
First, a thought experiment.
This cheerful fellow is Alan. Imagine, if you will, that Alan is a living person, like you and I, except for one crucial difference; Alan exists on this piece of paper in two dimensions, and two dimensions only. He perceives the world in terms of length and width, but he has no concept of height.
If we hover a finger over to the paper, a little to his left, he has no knowledge of it. If we place that finger down, he perceives a flesh-coloured line next to him.
If we draw an unbroken line next to him, Alan cannot cross this line. He has no way to ‘step over’ it, so to speak.
By drawing further lines around Alan, we can trap him in a square. His only way out is if we are kind enough to erase a segment of one line and create a door for him to come and go. So Alan is free to carry on with his two-dimensional life as he pleases.
And now we can really start to mess with his world.
If we were to take an object, in this case a coin, and place it outside the door, Alan can see it. But if we pick up the coin and place it inside his small room, all Alan can see (remembering that he can only perceive in two dimensions) is the coin disappearing and then reappearing next to him.
If we were to take the coin off the paper and place it in our pocket, as far as Alan knows, that coin has vanished forever.
If we were to blow across Alan, slightly from above, he would see not our pursed lips, but only feel a breeze brush by him in the horizontal plane.
Now, let us extrapolate Alan’s world into three dimensions, bringing his reality into line with our own. What if there were beings that exist ‘above’ Alan and ourselves in a hypothetical fourth dimension? Following our little experiment through to its logical conclusion, would it not be possible for said beings to ‘pick up’ objects from our limited reality and place them in another location, all unperceived by ourselves? And what other little tricks could they play upon us, toying with us in the same way we have been toying with Alan, poking at our reality with hypothetical fingers.
But what purpose would this serve?
I would like to propose another thought experiment. Consider, if you will, a colony of ants living by the side of a footpath. The various member of the colony all have their jobs, and for the most part will go about their business, unconcerned with and untroubled by the lives of the people that stroll by them every day.
But what if one afternoon a small child bends down and prods the ants with a stick? What would these tiny creatures make of such an occurrence? How would such an event fit into their frame of reference?
I am aware of the limitations of this comparison. Ants are not humans; our motivations, our fears and desires, even our very existence, to us appears considerably more complex. But what if there are things outside of our frame of reference, things that are as different from us as we are from insects?
Indeed, prod a line of ants with a stick and they will do their best to minimise the disruption and carry on with their business.
In my experience, most people, when confronted by something far out of their range of comprehension, tend to do the same.
From what I can gather, the next section goes on to detail the good doctor’s ideas as to why teenagers are more susceptible to being harassed by poltergeist phenomenon, and that’s about all I can glean from the ruined pages. It’s a real shame that more of this file hasn’t survived – C.R.
Throughout history there have been cases of strange things raining from the sky, as if some unseen celestial prankster is making merry at our expense.
In Gorsky, Russia, 1940, thousands of silver coins tumble to the earth, much to the delight of the local peasants.
In Kendarington, England, 1989, a couple in a churchyard witness a shower of coins. The coins themselves are dated between 1902 and 1953, ‘old money’ in the UK, and therefore of no real value to anyone.
In Columbus, Ohio, the United States, 1991, thousands of dollar bills descend to the streets. Upstanding citizens hand over $500 to the authorities. One can only presume that the rest of the money is ‘absorbed’ into the local economy.
But it is not always currency that assails us from above.
In Queensland, Australia, 1989, thousands of dead sardines fall from the heavens ‘like a sheet of silver rain’ about the house of Mr and Mrs Degen. The Degen’s fill a bowlful of the fish for their cat, Winksy, and keep a couple for themselves as souvenirs. The police report from that day details that the fall of fish is confined to an area of two acres around the Degen property, and no more. The remaining sardines are quickly snaffled up by the local wildlife, no doubt to Winksy’s dismay.
In Stroud, England, 1987, a two day bout of torrential rain brings with it thousands of tiny striped frogs that bounce off umbrellas and land on pavements, hopping away to nearby lakes and streams. The frogs are of the species Allobates olfersiodes or the Rio Rocket, native to the forests of Eastern Brazil. Two days later, a similar downpour in Cheltenham brings more of these amphibious travellers.
As previously stated, these events are not a modern phenomenon. Indeed, deep within the pages of The History of the Northern Peoples, by the Swedish writer Olaus Magnus, is a woodcut depicting a fall of fish over his homeland. The book in question was published in 1555.
Modern science attempts to explain these showers as the product of waterspouts or tornadoes, whereby objects or creatures are collected up by powerful winds and then deposited elsewhere. Whilst I concede that this is a possibility, it fails to explain why only a certain species of frog fell in Stroud, or only silver pennies in Gorsky. Science will counter this by stating that, during a tornado, the circular winds will separate whatever it picks up according to specific gravity, rather like a centrifuge. But if this is the case, what happens to the rest of the detritus that said tornado must have also gathered up? Surely we should see further showers of a singular species or denomination further along the storm’s path?
As this appears not to be the case, what are the origins of these flurries of animals and objects? Even I find it difficult to believe that matter, living or otherwise, can be spontaneously created. So it stands to reason that these mysterious sky-borne tourists must have started life somewhere.
On the 4th of March 2002, I received a call from a distressed individual in Hereford, requesting my assistance with one such occurrence. I duly travelled west and was greeted by a local farmer, who regaled me with a tale of several hundred large fish following from the sky the previous night. The fish had landed only on his house and a neighbouring field, and they were very much alive when this occurred. The majority of them had suffocated out of water, but the farmer had managed to save a couple, placing them in a large water butt.
I was a little surprised upon viewing the survivors: they were a pair of mature Koi carp.
I took the fish with the farmer’s blessing and gifted them to a local aquarium, where, to the best of my knowledge, they still reside.
I was at a loss to explain this and, I must concede, it was not long before other, more pressing cases began to occupy my time.
A few months later, a colleague of mine based in Japan sent me a translation of a local newspaper cutting. The article details a Koi farm in the Aichi Prefecture that managed to misplace its entire stock of fish overnight. There were no signs of a break-in, and one suspects the stealing of two hundred-odd examples of valuable carp from a locked building would not only attract some attention, but also be terribly time consuming.
The date this piscatorial heist took place? The 3rd of March, 2002.
Whilst it is definitely possible to draw a correlation between these two events, if some type of a transference did take place, the actual mechanics are, at best, an enigma.
Perhaps it is the work of some unseen celestial prankster after all.
Dr Thomas Gotobed
“Dr Gotobed, my friends/colleagues/associates and I are planning to hold a séance, what guidance can you offer us?”
In my line of work, this is the question I receive the most, from thrill seekers, the recently bereaved, and the occasional member of law enforcement. I have one simple piece of advice that I tell everyone who asks me this question:
Don’t do it.
The potential risk far outweighs any giddy rush of excitement or snippet of verifiable information that maybe gleaned from attempting to commune with the spirit world. Even if initial contact is successful, there is no guarantee that further sessions will elicit the same results. Indeed, once a door is opened to the other side, it is often very difficult to close.
I have rarely spoken of this, but many moons ago, when I was attending university and not yet a doctor, some friends and I gained possession of an Ouija board. Being young and fearless we decided one night to hold a makeshift sitting. Four of us sneaked into an abandoned and derelict farmhouse, rightly or wrongly believing it to be the appropriate setting for a spiritual adventure. We sat in a circle around our new board, each placed a finger upon the planchette, and began to ask questions of those that dwell in the ether.
Suffice to say, our initial probings were of the mundane variety: the names of first pets, the occupations of long dead grandparents, etc. Much to our surprise, all of our questions were answered correctly. So our interrogation took a darker hue. Spurred on by our success, we began to enquire of things that had yet to pass, and then to challenge whoever or whatever it was that we were communicating with to perform certain acts for us, acts that would prove its existence as a sentient being.
But our hubris was almost our undoing.
I will not share the events of the rest of that fateful evening. All I will say is this; one does not expect to encounter a pale and haggard version of one’s self in a dilapidated farmhouse on a windy night in the East Midlands.
Whatever we contacted that night followed us back to our halls of residence and tormented my friends and I for the next fortnight. Only with the assistance of one of our more open-minded tutors did we manage to shut whatever door we had opened. Of the four of us involved in that ill-fated attempt to contact the ‘other side’, two dropped out of university to return home, starting their studies anew the next year at a different location. The third resides a gibbering wreck in a secure psychiatric hospital.
As for me, this is the incident that set me on the path I currently walk now.
So, to reiterate: my advice to those that are planning to hold a séance? Don’t, for you know not what you meddle with.
Please do not mistake my desire to deter would-be spiritualists or amateur ghost hunters for fear. My only wish is that others do not have to experience the same things I have. Even now, a veritable lifetime later, the sound of a cold wind blowing through a broken window on a dark night still causes me to shudder.
Dr Thomas Gotobed
‘Dr Gotobed!’ I hear you cry. ‘There are no such things as ghosts! Shoals of fish do not just fall from the sky! People do not meet exact duplicates of themselves! The dead do not speak!’
I could go on.
My response to that is simple: of all the people I have dealt with over many, many years, the majority of them have said the same thing. And the truth is, no-one sane or rational believes in such things, until such things happen to them.
I was the same, once. But personal experience argues both persuasively and powerfully.
‘But Dr Gotobed!’ I hear you cry once more. ‘Science tells us that such things cannot exist!’
Whilst I admire those of you who steadfastly maintain this view, it would be remiss of me not to point out that up until 1794, it was also a strongly held belief amongst scientists that ‘fragments of rock and metal do not fall from the sky’. Nowadays we know that to be false, thanks to the pioneering work of the German Physicist Ernst Chladni, the founder of modern meteoritic research. Initially ridiculed for his theories on the extra-terrestrial origin of meteorites, Chladni’s ideas ignited the fires of curiosity within the scientific community, and more and more researchers began to lend their support to his theories, theories that are now acknowledged as fact.
Perhaps one day there will be a similar pioneer in the field of pyschical investigation.
One can but hope.
Dr. Thomas Gotobed