Welcome to part 2! Thanks for coming back.
This blog is going to briefly review the research that I carried out on environmental sensitivity and paranormal experiences. My research was carried out at Mary King’s Close (MKC) which is located on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and has been featured on several television shows including Ghost Hunters International, Most Haunted, and Cities of the Underworld. MKC consists of underground apartments and businesses that were used during the 1600’s. MKC is shrouded in myths and urban legends and is reported to be the setting of many murders. Individuals suffering from the plague were, according to reports, walled up and left for dead in MKC. As with most stories it is unclear how much is true. What is true is that this location has had countless reports of haunt-type phenomena and ghostly experiences. MKC is currently a tourist attraction and numerous historical tours are conducted throughout the day.
A total of 251 participants attended one of my 25 experimental sessions at MKC. During the sessions participants entered MKC with their tour guide, and group, and began the tour. While on the tour participants were asked to report any unusual experiences. Prior to the tour participants completed a questionnaire which categorized them as environmentally sensitive or not. If you recall from my previous blog some individuals are more prone to ghostly experiences, however their increased probability of having ghostly encounters has nothing to do with the mysterious and often controversial “psychic” abilities, but rather something that is as simple and concrete as the ability to taste, touch, and smell. I’m talking about Environmental Sensitivity. I want to make it clear that environmental sensitivity is not related to psychic sensitivity. Those who claim to be psychic sensitives believe they can sense or communicate with the deceased (e.g., John Edwards, Sylvia Brown, or Chip Coffey). Those who are classified as environmentally sensitive are simply affected by the surrounding environment to a higher degree than the normal population. The questionnaire also looked at participants past paranormal experiences.Among the 251 participants there were 601 ghostly experiences reported while visiting Mary King’s Close. The 601 ghostly experiences are indicated in this chart.
The first aim of the study was determining if those categorized as environmentally sensitive did indeed report more prior paranormal experiences. It is important to stress this refers to their past paranormal experiences. In other words, ascertaining if the participant had a previous paranormal experience prior to coming to MKC. As it turns out, environmentally sensitive individuals did report more previous paranormal experiences.
The next part of the study looked at the difference of reported haunt-type experiences people had when they visited MKC. Therefore, the second aim of the study was to determine if environmentally sensitive people had more experiences than non-sensitives while visiting an allegedly haunted location (MKC). As you can tell by the graph below those categorized as environmentally sensitive reported almost twice as many haunt-type experiences than non-sensitives.
Another interesting finding of my research was that environmentally sensitive individuals reported significantly more haunt-type experiences in rooms at MKC that registered higher MF readings; whereas, there was no difference in reports of haunt-type experiences between rooms for non-sensitives. These results considered environmental cues (perceived eeriness and EMF) and prior knowledge, which provides more evidence that environmentally sensitive participants could be responding to actual differences in MF levels.
When I completed my research, I assumed that the findings provided further evidence that individuals were misinterpreting environmental stimuli (MFs) as being paranormal. But after considering my results, and integrating research on entanglement, non-locality, and theories on collective consciousness, I have changed my mind to some degree
Renowned parapsychologist Harvey J. Irwin also looked into environmental sensitivity and was able to find a relationship between sensitivity and both anomalous experiences and paranormal attributes. Irwin uses the term “sensory-processing sensitivity” and, while his categorization methods were different, he was looking at extreme sensitivity to external stimulation. He advocates for further psychometric evaluation of the categorization methods for environmental sensitivity, which I agree, stating “Further research is needed to ascertain whether the relationship with sensory processing are founded on some unusual sensitivity to psi signals or the more mundane hyperaesthesia, a high sensitivity to environmental cues.”
While I still believe that a significant amount of reported haunt-type phenomena is the result of misinterpreting ambiguous stimuli such as MFs, there are some experiences that are truly paranormal in nature. It can also be said that these environmentally sensitive individuals experience a different world than non-sensitives. These sensitives are better at sensing external magnetic fields than the general population, therefore, have a better antennae and biological radio in the electromagnetic spectrum than others.
All radios have the basic equipment to pick up or tune into radio waves, however, some are more refined, sophisticated, and able to pick up stations more clearly. These environmentally sensitive individuals, using their superior biological radios, are better at detecting and gathering information from the environment, specifically magnetic fields. This sensitivity makes them more prone to paranormal, psi, and haunt-type experiences. While the general population has the ability to truly experience paranormal phenomena, it is more likely, to be detected or register among those in this special group. The research presented suggests that those who are environmentally sensitive are more prone to experience apparitions at haunted locations because they are more tuned into the environment than the general population.
Jawer, M. (2005) Environmental sensitivity: neurobiological phenomena. Seminars in Integrative Medicine, 3, 104-109.
Jawer, M. (2006) Environmental sensitivity and apparitional experiences. Journal ofthe Society for Psychical, 70, 25-47
Irwin, H.J., Schofield, M.B., & Baker, I.S. (2014) Dissociative tendencies, sensory-processing sensitivity, and abberant salience as predictors of anomalous experiences and paranormal attributions. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 78, 193-206