It is well understood that every old house has its creaks and moans, but how do you explain when the creaks turn into footsteps and the moans turn into voices heard in the next room? Some people blame such phenomena on ghosts. Long Branch itself has been the site for reportedly paranormal activity. The previous Historic Site Director, while giving me a tour of the house on the first day of my internship, casually mentioned that the servant’s bell connected to what used to be Adelaide Nelson’s room occasionally went off on its own. She continued the tour of the house without pausing, but my interest was piqued. Several weeks later, I asked the current Historic Site Director, Kris Allen, whether or not he had experienced paranormal activity at Long Branch. He had. While working alone in the house, he had heard the heavy stamping of wooden-soled shoes coming from the upper floors of the house. Spooky. I then asked Long Branch’s Operations Manager, Lizzie Ryan, the same question. Although she had never heard phantom footsteps within the house, she too had heard the servant’s bell inexplicably ringing. That wasn’t all. She had heard the disembodied voice of a male coming from the basement of the house.
Do you believe in ghosts? Some people cling to the idea of ghosts as proof of an afterlife, while others brush them off as mere figments of the imagination. There are many theories behind the phenomena of ghosts, ranging from spiritual to scientific.
According to the Spiritual Science Research Foundation: “When a person dies only his gross [physical] body ceases to exist. His subtle body (consisting of the subconscious mind, intellect, ego and soul…) however continues to exist…” Humans also have a “vital body,” composed of our life sustaining energy. While our vital body is released back into the universe after we die, our subtle body may either ascend to a higher plane, or remain on Earth to continue filling its fleshly desires through manipulation of the living. Thus, does a subtle body become a ghost, enveloped by black energy. Whether or not we become a ghost depends on a wide range of factors. Being a moral person while alive does not guarantee ascension to Heaven, for example, if said person died in a certain way or was not buried properly. Or destiny may control whether or not you becomes a ghost. This may be why people so often report seeing ghosts of those who lived a tragic life or died a tragic death.
Blogger Andrew Black believes that ghosts have a scientific explanation: The Quantum Theory of Ghosts. This theory, developed by Professor Max Bruin, PhD, proposes that what we perceive as ghosts are actually indents left by emotional energy on the “quantum fabric” of the universe. Now, a fundamental property of quantum mechanics must be kept in mind when considering this theory: a particle under observation is altered because it is being observed. So, Dr.Bruin argues, these indents we perceive are actually remnant waves of energy that we have “solidified” by observing them. The more you focus on them—the more energy you give to them—the more real they will seem to be. Black gives the example: “Death of a loved one can cause profound negative emotions from multiple sources, all centered around memories of the deceased, which can then amalgamate into a ghost that appears to be the deceased.” The quantum theory of ghosts could explain what are called “residual hauntings:” an apparition that appears in the same area over and over without ever interacting with the living.
Another scientific theory on ghosts is the Tangent Universe/Parallel Worlds Theory. This theory is based on an academic article published in 2014 by three scientists: Dr. Dirk-Andre Deckert of the University of California, and Professor Howard Wiseman and Dr. Michael Hall of the Griffith’s Centre for Quantum Dynamics. (The article’s findings are summarized here). The parallel worlds theory suggests that ghosts are not remnants of the dead, but are result of the fabric of our universe tangling with another universe only thinly separated from our own. The division between the two universes could conceivably be diffuse enough in places to allow for interaction. Considering this, the ghosts we see could merely be other people—or even ourselves—going about their daily business. They may be just as surprised as we are to see somebody who isn’t really there.
So, are the ringing servants’ bells a phenomenon of faulty wiring or are they being rung by Long Branch spirits who failed to reach Heaven? Are they the shadows of our other-worldly selves just trying to say hello? Is it possible that the footsteps Kris hears are more than his imagination, or did his own focus enable their existence? Can we be so sure that Hugh Nelson Jr. does not still gives tours of Long Branch’s basement to long-dead guests, proudly showing off his new copper plumbing? You decide.
-Casey Marion, Long Branch Plantation Intern