Last week we joined a tour of Milntown House, held by Isle of Man Ghost Tours. While I’m of a sceptical and scientific mind, that is not to say I have an answer to everything. The tours put on by Alan and Barry are always good fun, and offer lots of history, intrigue and anecdotes while maintaining a degree of respect for the properties, history and any residual elements remaining. This is not Most Haunted!
I don’t want to steal the thunder of the Isle of Man Ghost Tours team so will only mention that Milntown House goes back hundreds of years, with the most famous residents being the Christian family, who moved in in the 16th century. Since then, it has been a ‘Home School for the Daughters of Gentlemen’, returned into family use by the Yates and finally by the Edwards before being put into Trust as specified by Sir Clive Edwards before his death. The house and gardens are steeped in history and the estate is but a fraction of its size during its heyday.
I am of a fiercely scientific and analytical mind. There is no god, UFOs are unlikely to come from outer space and even more unlikely to carry extra-terrestrial life. Dowsing is a result of micro-movements in the user’s hand and wrist possible as a result of the idiomotor effect, mediumship and clairvoyance is cold reading (or just plain cheating) and astrology is a load of rubbish.
But a few phenomena stand out and resist my explanation, for what it’s worth. Amongst these is the existence of ghosts. The accepted understanding of a ghost is a spirit form that has occupied some previous time, typically linked to a particular geographic location. This may be our understanding of it, but what is behind this understanding? Can we really say that despite our scientific endeavours we continue to fail to prove outright the existence of the otherworld and its occupants? Or is it more likely that we are drawing on one or more known or little understood phenomena and grouping it into a single, if romantic phenomena?
Five phenomena were highlighted during the evening:
- Corner of the eye phenomena. Why do events typically happen when people least expect them? Are we in a more susceptable state when we’re not actively looking for evidence?
- White noise experiments. Are we seeing patterns that aren’t there? The human brain is primed for pattern recognition, and is a capability afforded to us from the very earliest of our tenure on Earth. We’ve all seen grainy pictures of ghosts or shadows and are more keen to find a colourful, romantic history and accompanying manifestation to explain it than a particular configuration of light and shadow.
- Orbs are reknowned in the ghost-hunting community for being the early forms of a spirit trying to manifest itself in our awareness. Or maybe light reflecting of tiny dust particles? I took a few pictures on our tour of The Gaiety and came across MANY orbs, but I guess it would be difficult to dust everywhere in such an old theatre. (Unfortunately, I can’t for the life of me find them.)
- Electromagnetic Field disturbances are often recorded and explained as manifestation of paranormal phenomena, in particular ghostly activity. Electromagnetism is a complex field (no pun intended) and someone trying to listen to Radio TT by an electrical appliance will tell you that the most innocent items create interference. One man’s interference caused by a mobile phone is another man’s interference from the other side.
- Interaction with ghosts is sometimes described, whereby people converse with ghosts, often not realising that the ghost is not actually a real person. Again, this leads us back to being caught off guard. Maybe we hear what we want to hear. If you ask someone how they are, you expect to hear they’re fine! When was the last time you sent an email and had someone react to that email as if they had actually read it? Yeah, I thought so.
After the event, we are inevitably subject to our own memories, which are not great. Even within our own internal reasonings of activities, we’re prone to exagerating explanations of phenomena if only to come to an ultimate explanation, whether that be scientifically understood or otherwise.
But this is not to take any value away from the ghost experience, phenomena or particularly the Isle of Man Ghost Tours. It remains a mystery, and Alan and Barry are respectful of that. They research tirelessly into local myth and legend, even to the point of identifying 6 Moddee Dhoo! They are also respected in the supernatural phenomena community, being brought in to help with major TV show productions and research projects by key members of the community. What you get is a fascinating insight into history at the very least, but also with a peek into another world delivered in a personal manner.
Until a scientific explanation (even if that scientific explanation proves the existence of ghosts in their commonly understood form) is found, we will continue to be fascinated by ghosts and how they are able to bring even the most mundane history to life in a cynical, dry, modern world. But it is important to challenge one’s understanding of one’s understanding (sic). Without challenging ourselves and our beliefs, faith, understanding or basic “skeet”, our progress will falter.