Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Are Cemetaries Haunted ?

by Angela L Burke

This is a common question and a topic often debated among ghost hunters and paranormal researchers. Skeptics and critics will say that ghosts are figments of our imagination brought on by too much television and over active imaginations. But if you know anything at all about history or the Bible for that matter, you will find that there have been reports of ghosts and spirits in cemeteries for hundreds of years. Before there was such a thing as the syfy channel or scooby doo cartoons. Movie makers and screen play writers didn't invent the idea of ghosts, they borrowed those ideas from historical accounts, legends and stories,Biblical accounts and even works of great poetry from the likes of Poe and Dickens. Many would say, what reason would a ghost have for hanging out with his decaying bones? Why would a ghost want to stay in a cemetery?

Well, I can think of a few reasons right off the top of my head and while I don't believe that all cemeteries are haunted , I do believe that some of them are.

And I will tell you why.

First, cemeteries are filled with sad and lonely emotions that I personally believe can leave, as potent of an imprint on the surroundings, as the emotions that linger in homes, hospitals and other reported haunted places.
It is the place where the body is laid to rest or in some cases is laid in unrest. A place where family members come to visit and grieve, bring flowers and trinkets and spend time talking to their departed loved ones and friends.
I like the way author & paranormal investigator Kenneth Biddle of PIRA put it when he wrote "

" this is not a science with clear-cut rules. The habits and traits of ghosts can change with every case, with every sighting. Cases differ from residual haunting to interactive spirits, all the way to footsteps that go from the second floor to the third but then one night they are heard going from the third to the second. Who knows why that ghost changed its mind? My point here is that ghosts are absolutely the hardest things to predict. The cemetery is also the place we go to visit them, leave flowers or little reminders, to talk to them and to show kids and grandkids that this is where we remember them. We still follow our religious beliefs and say that they are in a better place, but we still associate that grave with the deceased. Well, while we're there, we're putting out emotional energy. Tons of it! Remembering the good times, wishing they could've been hear for some event, missing them. That's a lot of energy, and I would think that that might draw the spirits to us. It would be like a family reunion. Assuming that they can see each other, I would expect grandparents that have passed on to act just as they did while they were alive, showing off their grandkids to other spirits! "

I have to agree that these are valid reasons why a ghost or spirit might choose to hang around the cemetery. Another reason might be that the headstone is the only thing that the deceased has left to tie him to this realm, maybe he doesn't want to let go, out of fear, anger or some other unfinished business. They say that a spirit will likely act the same in death as they did in their earthly life, so is it so hard to fathom, that maybe the spirit just isn't ready to accept his fate and maybe doesn't have anywhere else to go? Or that he has his own reasons for hanging around, be it to protect the bodies of those he loves, possessions or material wealth he may have been interred with, or possibly he was sleeping and some noisy people just woke him up from his rest?

I also think, that it is possible, that spirits can move around wherever they prefer to be. So it is also a possibility that they come and go or appear to just stop in for a visit as some would say, when ever they feel like it. It is also a possibility that they don't understand or don't want to accept their death and by surrendering to the grave they have to admit defeat. I also have a theory that I have never heard anyone mention. Being from a religious upbringing, I have heard many stories about where the spirit supposedly goes after death, some say heaven, some say hell, some say purgatory, some say they sleep until Christ returns in the rapture. Well, I don't know about you , but if you look at my insomniac sleeping patterns, I do little sleeping here in this life and I think it is a possibility that some of them are just plain restless from waiting. Many are also buried near their loved ones, so who is to say they aren't visiting with them while they wait? Not to mention, if you really look at the whole picture, century after century of people have lived, and died on this planet and some have been buried century after century on top of each other. In reality, your house could be sitting on a lost cemetery and you don't even know it. Many of the places that we think of as big cities and subdivisions, were once, farmlands, wood lands, Native American homesteads as well as battlefields and places of skirmishes and places where people may have been buried while migrating to the west or pitching their cabin . So who is to say there aren't bodies buried in your backyard. It is possible. And could be the cause of why some houses are haunted in my opinion.

I have had many personal experiences in cemeteries. I have loved visiting them since I was a child. My grandparents use to take me to the family cemetery all the time when I was little, I would walk around and explore while I waited for them to put out the flowers and clean up the grave sites. I had one experience there when I was a child, I saw a small girl sitting alone under a huge tree, she appeared to be picking clover and humming. She looked up at me and smiled and then vanished into thin air. I have revisited this area of our family cemetery many times over the years and have recorded EVP of a little girl humming on at least two occasions under that same tree.

EVP stands for Electronic Voice Phenomena - the recording of a voice or sound  on a digital or tape recorder not heard by the human ear at the time of recording but is audible on playback. It is theorized that EVP are the disembodied voices of the dead. while there is no scientific proof that they are spirits of the dead, there is so much evidence to support the possibility, that it is widely accepted among many paranormal researchers as scientific data worth including.

I have seen and photographed images that appear to be apparitions, and recorded over 100 EVP or Electronic Voice Phenomena in cemeteries. So I believe that as paranormal investigators, if we are going to include evp as possible evidence of hauntings in homes and other places, why would we exclude those EVP recorded in cemeteries?

Yes, sometimes they are harder to record due to external noises and audio contaminates, which is why cemetery recordings are excellent training for EVP techs and investigators, after many hours of listening to them, you become familiar with the sounds that natural things make, such as leaves crunching, wind,walking in grass, birds, passing cars, airplanes and voices that carry, but when a voice speaks into your recorder clear and plain, or answers your questions directly and you know that you were alone....well, then you might have a different opinion of the possibility of ghosts in cemeteries.The argument that there is too much daytime noise contamination might be true depending on the location, but if you have ever been on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a summer night at a cemetery, you will realize that the night time is not as quiet as you might think and comes with its own set of noises to be logged and identified. Exp, crickets, frogs, owls, critters, etc... I personally believe that if you are experienced with EVP and the documenting of sounds you do hear during the session, that you will be able to pick out what is natural and what is unexplainable. I have been on many home and indoor invewstigations where external traffic noise and voices from the outside have been audible. Working with recordings from cemeteries is an excellent way to train the ear to recognize external noise. A good , clear EVP is usually hard to discredit especially if you are a good note taker and are paying attention to your surroundings..

I have recorded voices telling me their names without my asking and then I stop and read their headstone, not knowing that they had whispered it to me, just prior. I have heard angry voices, telling me to leave, recorded voices asking me to take their picture and I have heard recordings of voices telling me how they died as well as asking for specific members of their families or items they are looking for. I have been told that I'm stepping on their grave as well as being told that they are standing right behind me and don't seem to understand why I can't see them.

I think it is important when investigating cemeteries or any other areas presumed to have spirit activity, that investigators show respect for the dead and speak to them as you would want to be spoken to. I am not very impressed by researchers who provoke in cemeteries, or any other places for that matter except maybe the jail house or a place where hard core spirits might loom such as pubs and saloons. I think that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, but that is my own personal opinion, but, I do make it known to those who I investigate with, that I do not approve of provoking spirits for the sake of a reaction in the cemetery. I have the utmost respect for burial grounds and those who are interred there. Cemeteries are sacred , hallow ground in my opinion and should be treated as such.

I also do not discredit the theory that cemeteries could hold portals, where spirits can possibly enter and leave our realm at certain times. One Sunday morning several hours before church, at the family cemetery I spoke of earlier, my fiance' Tony and I  went to investigate on a beautiful sunny morning, no wind, no noise other than an occasional bird or cow from a nearby pasture and out of 2 hours of audio we recorded 19 minutes of the strangest sounding EVPs I had ever heard. Increasing weird static mixed with voices of men and women some talking, some crying, some screaming. the static escalated the farther into the old section we walked. The clip was taken apart and analyzed by a retired Navy Radio Specialist and he sent it back to me in disbelief, he claimed to have counted over 23 unexplained voices all recorded on decibel levels that cannot be heard by the human ear,so many in fact he could not separate them all. At this same time, Tony and I both had experiences of hearing footsteps, having cold chills, static charge on the hair of the neck,  feeling dizzy and nauseated, difficulty breathing and the general feeling of being rushed out of the cemetery. We never heard any of the sounds at the time. We ruled out external utility wires and radio contamination due to the decibel levels of the recordings, the lack of visible electrical lines, and the rural location and we have been back on numerous occasions to the same area and have not been successful in recreating this noise which ended as abruptly as it started as soon as we left the old section of the cemetery. the recording returned to normal for the remainder of our time there. we could find nothing wrong with our equipment.

One tip I would suggest to new investigators is that they don't limit themselves to doing just night time visits. The majority of paranormal activity I have experienced in cemeteries has occurred in the daytime.In fact I can probably count on both hands the EVP I have recorded at a night time investigation. I do not believe that ghosts only come out at night. Not to mention, it is a lot safer to go in the daytime. Cemeteries, especially rural ones are filled with sinking holes, uneven ground and obstacles that can be dangerous to your physical well being, even if there are no ghost, not to mention random sometimes deadly critters and creepy humans that like to come out at night. The last night time investigation I went on, was cut short, due to the very ,scary screeching/screaming sounds of what my dad describes as, a wild cat or a panther. So I would suggest that until you have been there several times in the daylight and know your way around the area very well, that you avoid concentrating on night time investigations. In fact, in some states, such as our Great State of Mississippi, it is illegal to be in the cemetery after dusk especially if gated, without specific permission from the cemetery owners. On daytime investigations, there usually, is not a problem with permissions, unless it is private owned. If you are unsure about the laws in your area, contact the local authorities who will be more than happy to tell you.

I would also recommend that if you are able to record an EVP in a cemetery, that you visit that area frequently, so that if there is a presence there, that it has a chance to get to know you. I have found it to be most helpful when visiting ethnic cemeteries or places where I have no personal family or friends interred. I can only imagine what the spirits present must think of a white girl they have never seen before,walking into their territoryand  asking them all sorts of questions. I frequently bring flowers and spend a great deal of time just sitting and talking at the headstones where I have recorded EVP on previous visits. One cemetery in particular that I visit often , I feel a strong attachment to several particular headstones and on the last visit, I recorded a woman's voice announcing my arrival by saying my name. It sounds very much like the same voice I have had the privilege of recording in that same area.

The study of the paranormal and the subject of ghost has no clear cut answers, only theories and questions, which is why I do not think cemeteries should be discounted. Just because it might not be our own first choice of places we think, we would haunt. There are many places I can't imagine being stuck in, that are presumed haunted. So what better place to start than at the sites that hold the dead. I think too many paranormal investigators think it is silly to pursue them, and that's fine with me, it just means it will be a little quieter in the places I record and investigate. So in closing, are cemeteries haunted? There is only one way to find out, and that is by investigating them with the same dedication we would give a house or any other place that has reported activity. Visit and investigate one yourself and draw your own conclusions.

If you are interested in hearing some of the cemetery EVP we have recorded, visit our paranormal web site at www.mississippi-spi.com there are numerous cemetery EVP posted on our cemetery pages.

If you have thoughts or comments or stories about cemetery hauntings, please feel free to share them with me in the form of a comment.

Until Next Time............

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