February 28, 2006
Natural Selection and the Involution of the Gettysburg GhostsBy John Sabol
“The Past is never dead, it isn’t even past”
- William Faulkner
This article proposes that ghostly phenomena occurs at a location due to the existence of activity and/or event fields, including rhythmic behavioral movements, (such as walking, reading, and gazing) that are repeating over and over again in a given area. This repetitive situation soon forms a habitual pattern and, through a process of resonance, continues to manifest long after the pattern originally occurred. If there is a continuity of these field patterns at these locations, the phenomenon should increase through time because they are constantly being reinforced through repetition and association.
At Gettysburg, re-enactors and their activities resonate the past field patterns (manifested as behavioral activity fields related to aspects of military life in general; and specific events associated with the battle.) Casual ghost hunters, serious investigators, and battlefield and ghost tour guides, also reinforce this resonance by often times recalling the past events. This phenomena is what Richard Senate has labeled “Re-Simulation.” He suggests that the living play a pivotal role in energizing an already haunted location. As this resonance continues, the “paranormal” activities (manifesting as past activity fields) become clearer, stronger, and more varied. They are similar to the notes made on a musical instrument, where the continuing vibrations (resonance) alter the structure of the wood, making the next note stronger. So too, the resonance from these contemporary activities at Gettysburg help to create a stronger and clearer sensory manifestations from the past which then bleed into the present. These sensory manifestations, and their accompanying fields of influence are being naturally selected because, through resonance, they become stronger and are continually being reinforced. These sensory manifestations are not mere residual recordings of past events and activities. They are, in some cases, interactive and are continuing to evolve. Can this be proven? I am currently investigating this possibility as part of a long-term field project. The focus of the investigation centers on three civil war battlefields; Gettysburg, Antietam, and the battlefields surrounding the town of Fredericksburg, Virginia. These particular sites were chosen because:
A. Gettysburg has an extensive history of paranormal activity in the town and on the battlefield associated almost exclusively, with the battle; In contrast.
B. The Fredericksburg area has been called the country’s most haunted town for its size where “nearly every building boasts an apparition or two” (Taylor 1991: VI). However, civil war ghosts are few, yet the area was the site of four major military engagements. As Taylor has asked, “Why are there not more ghost stories about civil war soldiers?”
C. At Antietam, The Civil War battle was the bloodiest single day engagement in American history. Yet Civil War ghostly manifestations are not prevalent or dominant (See Wilmer Mumma’s archeological report, “Ghosts of Antietam”).
Why is Gettysburg so different and unique?
At Gettysburg, the impact of tourism, and its related economic development and marketing, centers primarily on the battlefield event including its ghosts. Is there a relation between the ghost-related activities and ghostly manifestations? I think that there is. The presence of haunting in the Gettysburg area, in contrast to Antietam and Fredericksburg, is based on the resonance of multiple and varied activities related to the Civil War battle and its ghosts. This in turn serves to re-stimulate Civil War-era field patterns, allowing them to become more dominant and more actively present. These ghostly manifestations occur where:
1. There is “bleeding” from the past due to these resonation activities.
2. There is a paranormal phenomenon that has been observed and recorded in the past.
3. The contemporary environment is Civil War battle-themed and/or ghost related.
4. There is “suppression” of other past activity due to the dominating influence of the battle-related field resonance.
Further, the intensity of resonance, i.e., the amount and variety of ghostly sensory phenomena reported, is directly proportional to the degree of contextual similarity to the events and/or activities that have been documented at that location for the period in history relative to the Civil War battle. This I have termed “affective resonance.” I am currently investigating the manifestations of affective resonance and its differential effects on the ghosts of Civil War soldiers (as opposed to other battlefield ghosts) and the specific variations between paranormal phenomenon associated with Confederate and Union ghosts.
Conversely, at those sites where the Civil War or battle are not contemporaneously the dominant theme, there should be little or no ghostly fields associated with the military engagement. However, other past ghostly fields are possible at these sites. I have been testing this hypothesis and documenting the results at a number of locations in the town and surrounding area. This project will continue.
Finally, if the contemporary field patterns at a location are the dominant (i.e. emphasizing modern decor, 20th century recreational activities, and modern conveniences), there should be little or no bleeding from the past, and hence no past fields would be manifesting on a regular basis. This would also mean there would be no haunting at these sites since the past fields would be suppressed. One consequence of this is the possibility of developing new, more contemporary fields of influence. Would this be the birth (evolution) of a future haunt?
In summary, the occurrence, frequency, distribution, and duration (through fluctuating periods of “bleeding” and “suppression”) of ghostly manifestations at any location in the Gettysburg area is subject to a type of selection process:
Only those field patterns that have (are) occurring again and again would result in the possibility that a particular pattern will recur again under certain conditions (resonance). The more frequent, and thus more successful, the field activity the stronger it would become, and the more stabilized it would be at a particular location.
This is a “natural” selection process and is governed by human, not paranormal (or supernatural), behavior, since it would be the result, as a primary instrument of causation, of repetitions of human activity. (Note: This is what appears to be occurring in Gettysburg and there is also the possibility that this process is also occurring, albeit to a lesser extent, on other Civil War battlefields.)
“If you came back this way taking any route
starting from anywhere, any time, or any season.
It would always be the same:
You would have put off sense and motion”
-T. S Eliot, “Little Gidding”)
Do all roads indeed lead back to Gettysburg, and the events of three days in July 1863?
Reference: Taylor, L.B. Jr. The Ghosts of Fredericksburg. Progress Printing Co. 1991.
John Sabol is the founder and principal investigator for the Center for the Anthropological Studies of the Paranormal for the Eastern Region C.A.S.P.E.R. Research Center, 725 East Mahanoy St., Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania 17948, USA.