Professor Smith's Lecture

A transcript of the lecture given by Professor Julius A. Smith at the Challenger Banquet-Lecture, regarding the characteristics of hauntings.

“There proves to be, however, categories of reptititious phenomenon offering no simple explanation. I refer to the “poltergeist”, to the traveler who suddenly finds himself dozens or thousands of miles from where he stood moments before, and to the “haunting.” My presentation tonight concerns the last.

“I say haunting and not ‘ghost’ or ‘spirit’ because alone of such phenomenon, haunters can be buildings, lanterns, coaches, swords, men, women, dogs, bears, processions, even armies. World wide, the store of casual anecdote concerning haunters is enormous.

“And I say phenomenon because the hauntings are not linked with specific observers, and the haunting presumably occurs with or without human witnesses, as we shall see. Thus perception of such an event is secondary to the event itself.

“The essential characteristics of hauntings are simple: the person or thing must have existed, must have disappeared in some sense, and then must reappear. No other conditions are needed.”

Dr. Smith then discusses three hauntings in detail – a French fishing boat, a Norwegian woman, and a London cab. Slides of each event are projected. Each incident was studied and photographed simultaneously from at least three positions, allowing accurate scaling. Dr. Smith discusses several characteristics shared by the three.

  • The apparitions do not coalesce from points, but slowly emerge whole from invisible planes, as if passing through “curtains of perception.”
  • Each is semi-transparent. Smith notes the passage of a wave through the fishing boat, and that it does not resit the water. In other slides, the audience can see the other photographers through the image of the apparition.
  • Each apparition glows. Sampling attributes part of the glow to ionization, but not all. The level of ionization varied randomly during each event.
  • The rate at which these three apparitions manifested motion was, in comparison to normal movement, slowed by a consistent half.
  • Each of these three apparitions was held to have disappeared, not been killed or destroyed, although this is not true of every apparition.
  • Comparatively, instances of solid, touchable apparitions are rare.
  • Such apparitions are not uniformly preserved. The south of England has been settled by man for many thousands of years, yet the vast majority of hauntings seem to have been produced in the past five centuries. Only a handful of hauntings are from Roman times.

“It is my belief that such hauntings represent clues concerning a natural universe much larger and much stranger than we imagine. The walls of what we perceive as normality have a subtle flexibility. Occasionally, conditions allow for crossing. The spectral haunting I have discussed represent attempts to return to this time and space by elements of it somehow removed. If we are energetic, and a little lucky, students of paraphysicality may be one day be able to move up and down in time, or to travel globally with minor effort. Whether that which waits beyond is lightness, darkness, or simply different is the supreme question, which, for the present, each must answer for himself.”

Professor Smith's Lecture

Horror on the Orient Express rubyotter