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May 5, 2006
Theatre, Séance, and the Ghost Script: Performances at Haunted LocationsBy John Sabol
Theatre and theatrical productions contain the same ritual resonating elements as a séance: Both are social events between a performer and a "targeted" audience. They usually occur within the context of a darkened location in a specific area. The performance usually takes place at night. There is a feeling of communal presence, which is focused, and purposeful. Non-living entities and past events are evoked. Intense concentration is needed, and high emotion is transmitted. Finally, there is an attempt at establishing communication via unseen forces through a link between the authenticity of the actor's performance and the personal experiences of the "targeted" audience.
Communication is established when these productions create a resonance with the audience. Social interaction is achieved through the theatrical performance because the communication is focused on activities of shared experiences. The participants, and their intent, are equally communicated through the resonating qualities of a script. If we use theatrical production and develop this script relative to the past events and activities that occurred at a haunted location, and we ourselves perform as actor-investigators to an ongoing drama, we may create a direct resonance with the past and stimulate a response from our "targeted" audience. We may resurrect, or restimulate, the "ghosts" of the past.
Theatre is the key to unlocking the door to the past. Theatrical productions during ghost field investigations are an invitation for the entities who remain to participate in something that they themselves are fully aware of having experienced during their lifetimes. The script itself should be composed of three basic elements: 1) traditional texts that would create a resonating effect (such as contextual stories and poetry); 2) media events of audio and video programming such as songs, melodies, and historical video reenactments; and 3) the use of symbols ("trigger" objects keyed to the previous two elements). The performance of the script is enacted through the technique of "framing." This consists of four components: 1) an ideological component which is composed of the underlying themes of the presentation. For example, if we are dealing with a Civil War haunting, our ideological component would take into account specific characteristics of the particular engagement and targeted at the known individuals who were involved, the military "environment," and, most importantly, the socio-cultural background of these individual soldiers; 2) a structural component which is composed of the organization of the themes into a plot that is controlled and sequential in character. For example, using the Civil War haunting, this would involve incorporating such elements as family/home, loyalty to one's roots, bonding with fellow combatants, and elements of fear, loneliness, etc.; 3) a sensory component which consists of presenting the plot using auditory, visual, olfactory, etc. sensory imaging and sensations to recreate the appropriate "atmosphere"; and 4) a transactional component which consists of the actual "playing out" of the themes. This means how "physically active" the presentation should be, and when to incorporate such acting techniques as targeted pauses, silent contemplative moments, use of specific grammar, vocabulary and slang, voice tone and pitch, non-verbal cues, and dress/auxiliary "interpretative tools" (such as military gear and equipment). It also matters who is the person performing. Sex and age factors are important considerations, and depend on the socio-cultural context of the "haunt."
Many times, at this stage of an investigation, when "haunt patterns" have been detected, the next step is to begin a "watch." We install our equipment at appropriate locations ("hot spots"), set the proper controls, and "wait", usually away from the potential interactional zones, for something to happen, so our equipment, and not us, can measure and record the phenomena. This is precisely the time, however, when a "watch" should not be used because this "investigative tactic" does not create a resonance or communication link with the past. Therefore, few, if any, sensory "responses" may be observed/recorded. Once we have identified who (or what) may be causing the haunting phenomena mapped the spatial distributions (location of "hot spots" and their influence) of the manifestations, and researched the cultural/physical context of the ghost's "perceptual environment," it is time for active participation in the continuing drama. It is not the time for passive inactivity, such as a "watch." It is "opening night" for our play! In performing our script in the field, the interactive past is recalled, restimulated, and relived. The present becomes a part of the drama of the past and visa versa. This is the essence of a ritualized ghost investigative resonating field technique. This is our version of a séance directed at, and seeking responses from, targeted individuals.
If ghosts, and their associated influences, are potentially interactive fields of contextual sensory assemblages that manifest and can be felt, sensed, seen, heard, smelled, etc. in the contemporary environment, we need to utilize all of our own senses in a theatrical investigative performance with a script that resonates with a "targeted" audience. Only then can we begin to communicate and interact. The time for "watching" will come soon enough for us in the future as we, ourselves, become the audience, and the "ghosts" of the past!
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. Visit his Web site at: http://mysite.verizon.net/vzeoqapc/ghostexcavator/