"Hello. My name is Martin Fallon. I believe I have an appointment with Mrs.
Thomas.” The South Carolina heat and humidity outside had been more than
oppressive, but here in the entry hall of the old plantation manor, the air
conditioning was chilling the sweat as it was running down his back and arms.
The slender blond woman at the small desk looked up at him with excitement in her lustrous light brown eyes.
"Oh, yes, Dr. Fallon,” she said in an accent redolent of mint juleps and long evenings on the veranda. “We, er, She's been expecting you. Please, wait here, and I'll fetch her for you." She rose and walked quickly through the door beneath the stairs; a whiff of rose and lemon; her lightweight summer dress billowing about her pale slender legs as she went..
Martin watched appreciatively for a moment, then looked around the room. The decor was in an early 19th century style, marred only by the obtrusive presence of the computer monitor, high gloss explanatory pamphlets, lamp, and telephone on the desk. The lighting was indirect, and somehow conveyed the illusion that it was merely a supplement to the plentiful lighting from the large windows and internal open areas around the main floor.
As he looked, he could see that security cameras discretely covered the room, the alarm panel was obscured by a large porcelain vase on a marble topped side table.. There were two doors to the right, one to the left, the main door behind him, and the door beneath the stairs out the back wall in front of him.
Yes, there it is, he thought, as he felt that barely describable almost vertigo-like tightness of breath and the tightening of the muscles at the juncture of his spine and skull that he thought of as his “spider sense”. This place is definitely haunted
He picked up one of the pamphlets for the house and unfolded it. There was a history of the old Strother plantation and a floorplan of the building, with details for each room. He began to read: “The earliest house on this site was built in the 1750s by the immigrant Matthias Strother …. Plantation was burned and Frederick was hung for his Loyalist activities in 1782 … Frederick’s daughter Sophia married to Henry Claudius Souter in 1792, and the current building of Albemarle began in that year…”
The young lady returned with a shorter African American woman, and introduced her “Mrs. Ethel Thomas, Dr. Martin Fallon.” Fallon tucked the pamphlet into his coat pocket, and took her hand.
Martin and Mrs Thomas walked through the rear door, and into the room the pamphlet described as a pantry, down a narrow flight of steps and through the old kitchen into an office suite built into the old wine cellar. She was clearly uncomfortable about something.
“I hope you had an easy drive in from Columbia. Did you have any difficulty finding the place?” Her accent was more subtle than the young woman’s had been.
“Not too much. The instructions were pretty clear.”
“I’m please to hear it. Some city folks find the maze of unlabeled back roads and pine woods a bit confusing.”
“Not a bit.” He smiled, as he took his seat, trying to look charming and
confident. “So, shal we get down to business?”
“I know, they’ve asked me to come down and determine if the place is really haunted and if so, if the spiritual activity will create a problem for the guests.” It seemed a little silly to Fallon, but it paid the bills.
“I’m sorry but I’m not sure what your needs will be. Parapsychology isn’t something I’ve ever looked into. Amy Farrar – the young woman at the desk, she’s one of our volunteers, has expressed an interest in assisting you if you need any help. I would understandably prefer to have at least one of the staff present if you need to be here overnight – meaning no disrespect to yourself.”
“None taken, I assure you.”
“I'd hope you wouldn't mind. Amy's our most reliable person here, and a bit of a fan of yours. She’s been telling us all about your books and lectures ever since we were told you were coming.”
Martin nodded uncomfortably, fans were something he'd never get used to. On the other hand, he though, I don't have groupies.
“Why don’t you tell me about what sorts of ghosts you are supposed to have around here.”
“There’s the lady in white – although she hasn’t been seen in years. She just moves up and down the stairs, and is said to be Angela Marie Souter, abandoned at the altar during The War when her fiance was called away to fight. He never came back, and she died of a broken heart. There’s the ghost of one of the servants, a young cook I believe, who was beaten to death in the kitchen for burning a roast or something. Frederick Stohler was hung from the big tree in the front – he’s said to roam the grounds at night. There are supposed to be weird voices, a cold spot in the hall upstairs. What I –have- seen is that almost every night, we leave and turn everything off, and in the morning, the lights are on , the computers are running and the television in the next room is on.
“The computers are on?” Martin raised an eyebrow in surprise. That was a new one on him.
“Yes. Even when we put bios passwords and security on them. It doesn’t matter. They are up and running every morning.” She paused… “And another thing… I’ve worked here for ten years, and never once has anyone needed to dust or oil anything.”
Martin chuckled. “Damn. A useful ghost. I don’t think I’ve ever seen THAT before… Although really it sounds more to me like you have someone sneaking in at night.”
“We thought so too. That’s why we put in the security cameras.” Watch this …
She put a tape in the VCR next to the TV and switched both on. The tape showed
the main hall, one shot every few seconds. She forwarded through the still
images. The screen went dark, except for the light coming from the windows.
After a while, the lights flashed on, and she slowed the display. In it could
clearly be seen a smudge heading over to the computer, the computer screen
coming on, and images on it moving and changing. The resolution was poor on the
security camera, to poor to see what was happening on the smaller screen, but
clearly something was happening. A weird chill ran up Martin’s spine. THIS was
going to be interesting.
Martin and Amy were stretching cable up the stairs, trying hook up the sensor system in the bedrooms. Martin noted that even though she wasn’t dressed for heavy work, that wasn’t stopping her from pitching in and hauling things like a longshoreman.
“Dr. Fallon, may I as you some things?” she said, setting a roll of coaxial at the top of the stairs, careful not to mar the wooden floor.
“Certainly” Martin said, removing the screwdriver from between his teeth. “But if we are going to be spending the night here together, you might as well call me Martin.” He said jokingly.
“Martin? All right. Well Martin, I’ve read your books, a few of them several times – do I understand you right, that you believe that most ghost sightings aren’t real?”
“They are perfectly real to the person experiencing them. They just don’t have any objective external reality. For example, you’re standing there. I can see you, hear you, smell you, the whole shebang. You can make changes in the physical world. If I leave the room, you don’t stop existing like a mass of charged probability waves. You exist outside anyone else’s perceptions.”
“I’d like to think so” she smiled. Was she blushing? Martin thought; he continued,
“Ghost sightings, however, are mostly cases of some sort of mistaken perception. People see what they expect to see. A place is dark and spooky and people’s imaginations go on overdrive trying to fill that darkness, generally with something that will scare the bejesus out of them. Building settling noises, animals in the woodwork, a slight draft – heck, I know that fear causes a chill in me that would be easy to associate with ghosts.”
“So, if ghost sightings are ‘mostly’ confusion of the senses, what are the rest?”
“Ah, that’s where things start to get interesting. Humans – most things
really, are made up of Mind, Body and Soul; the mental, the physical and the
other that makes it all work. To use an analogy, the software, the hardware and
the user. You take away any of the three, nothing happens”
That’s when the baby starts moving.”
“You bet. It’s also where the science breaks down.” He smiled wryly, “The nervous system makes minute changes in the, well, for lack of a better, less baggage laden, term, we refer to as the psychic field. Of course this hasn’t yet been –scientifically- proven to the satisfaction of anyone – me included. However, the evidence does suggest this is a valid explanation. Any way, your body has a particular psychic field. As you age, and your experiences change you, the changes in your particular field create an individual “signature” that is something that can be picked up on by people who are sensitive to that sort of thing. And yes, most instances of THAT are also simple hallucinations and delusions. So, you follow me?”
“Ok, Other things than human bodies have psychic fields. All living things have them. There is an argument that the planet itself has one – it is know that geographical areas can have them. For example, this building has a particular ‘vibe’ that is an accumulation of all the people, pets, and whatnot that have ever been here, from even before the house was built.”
“Most ‘real’ ghosts are manifestations of those psychic fields. An area where there has been a strong emotion, for example, that emotion will imprint a recording on an area. If the emotion is strong enough, that impression may be picked up later as a “ghost”. Most things like cold spots, weird sounds, unexplained movements out of the corner of the eye, feelings of fear, poltergeist effects, that sort of thing, fall into this category. In fact, people who produce a lot of ‘psychic’ energy – there’s the word again – can unintentionally trigger these manifestations by feeding energy into these recordings. This is where the true poltergeist effects, for example, can occur, although most of those are either frauds, or the unconscious result of disturbed telekinetics.”
“Fortunately, most of these sorts of things can also be disrupted by a
focused intentional use of psychic energy through the use of a ritual.“
“So most ‘ghosts’ are just residual psychic recordings on an area. The other type is more rare, and occurs when a person dies, and leaves a little bit of them self behind. Normally, when the body dies, the mind and its built up oyster-like layers of psychic recordings will break down fairly quickly after the chemical reactions that are the active part of the nervous system stop. In some cases, however, the strongest recordings remain sustained by the psychic energy of the people around them, or the natural energy of an area. These are what can produce the more obvious manifestations, like partial materializations that can be recorded on film.”
“Again, rituals can disrupt most of these – although not for the obvious reasons. Just telling a ghost that they are dead is usually pretty pointless. After all, the mind is gone – the ghost can’t really understand things, it can’t learn. It will just repeat things that were important to it when it was a living being.”
“So, how do you know these things?”
“Experience mostly. My family has a long history of seeing ghosts – although most of the time they’ve learned to block the impressions, except when in circumstances that made their experiences dubious. For example, my grandfather used to talk to dead people when he’d been drinking. My mother’s major experience was while she was stuck, starving in the wilderness on a camping trip. What got me started in the field happened in college; I wound up getting an apartment really cheaply because it was haunted. Most of the wild parties that had been there before my roommate and I moved in were badly disturbed by the ghost of a lonely old man who manifested most often as a cloud of smoke. But long before that, I could feel when there were ghosts present, I jokingly refer to it as my ‘spider sense’.”
“How sad, for the old man, I mean.”
“I suppose. We didn’t have too many problems with him.“ Martin turned and patted Amy on the shoulder – only too have his hand pass through her completely.
“Oops.” She said, her eyes wide.