One of the challenges of conducting investigations of paranormal activity is, of course, determining whether an event is worth investigating. That’s because strange noises are often nothing more than completely explainable bumps in the night. Occasionally, however, there are events worth investigating. If there seems to be genuine events, how does an investigator proceed with an investigation?
This article is, in many ways, a rehearsal in which the reader must decide: 1) if events are suspicious enough to warrant an investigation; 2) how to construct an investigation (if events are sufficiently suspicious). The events I will use for this thought experiment are based on an actual interview with a friend from graduate school who experienced some unusual events during a stay in Madrid, Spain about 25 years ago. Unfortunately, the unusual events were never formally investigated. In spite of the passage of 25 years, however, we have an advantage in that, because the reported events were never investigated, we can freely play with what we know about paranormal investigation and match it with a hypothetical investigation that we base on the past events in Madrid.
Our first step is to quickly form a portrait of the person who reports possibly paranormal events. This portrait is often enough to discourage intense efforts that are needed for investigation because, at the end of the initial interview, it may become apparent that the person who reports paranormal events doesn’t inspire complete credibility. In this case study I have a distinct advantage in that the person who gives the report is a trusted personal friend who doesn’t appear to embellish experienced reality. Of course, my word alone should not be enough. We’ve got to focus on the facts. The person who reports the phenomena is a white female (I’ll call her S.) who, at the time, was a student in her twenties who, for a time, studied in Madrid at a university level. During her stay in Madrid, S. was alone, didn’t speak Spanish, and didn’t have many Spanish friends. In spite of her isolation, S. considered her time in Spain a personal test that she was eager to confront. She felt confident in her ability to survive. Nonetheless, S. was/is a sensitive individual.
Since the events in Madrid, S. hasn’t had what she’d consider a paranormal experience. She’s avoided telling people about her experiences in Madrid because she’s certain they’ll think she’s lost her mind. In hindsight, S. has difficulty dealing with what she experienced in Madrid because it was, as S. reports, so unusual.. On the whole, S. would rather forget what she saw and felt. Her willingness to tell me about her experience in Madrid emerged out of knowledge that I’m interested in investigating paranormal phenomena.
The events in question deal with a series of sightings and intense feelings in a two room apartment that S. had rented in Madrid and which, she claimed, never felt like home. S. didn’t share this apartment with another person. A big bed with a mattress stood on one room. The other room contained a cot with a metal frame with a mattress-like cushion covering the metal frame. S. doesn’t remember further details about furnishing because the bed and cot both were the primary focus of paranormal activity. As S. relates, if she wanted peace, she slept on the couch.
Now that we have a sketchy picture of the environment, it’s possible to elaborate on what happened. First, we need to divide our attention between the room with the bed and the room with the metal cot.
I’ll begin with the bedroom. In short, over a number a weeks, S. occasionally looked out of bed in an alert dream-like state to see a nun hovering at the foot of the bed. S. is certain that she was wide awake when she saw the nun. S. doesn’t remember a fluctuation in temperature when the nun appeared.The nun looked solid, although fuzzy. This nun ressembled an unclear black-and-white photograph. In spite of fuzziness, it was possible to tell that the nun was quite stocky. If S. saw the nun move, the nun moved slowly. The nun didn’t speak or gesture, although she seemed to make noises that sounded much like bumping into furniture. Rather than being frightened, S. was intensely curious. With every sighting, she was convinced that she was looking at the impossible. This can’t be happening! S. once asked an acquaintance to spend the night with her in the bed. The nun didn’t appear that night.
The room with the metal cot was a different matter. There were no sightings (nun or otherwise), but this room was, nonetheless, more unsettling. S. describes a heavy, constricting quality about the room that was accompanied by a strong sense of being watched. All S. can say is that there was a definite presence in the room. The presence was not the nun. It was something else. This presence felt overwhelming, absolute. It exerted extreme pressure. S. felt that this presence, like the nun, was completely external to her body. S. also describes lying on the cot when it began to shake violently. S. was, once again, incredulous. I asked S. why she stayed in the apartment. S. replied that she didn’t move because she was mesmerized by the impossibility of the events around her. She saw the events as another challenge she could face.
In the midst of the strange activity, S. remembers telling herself not to get carried away. She also remembers coming to the decision one day to tell the presence/apparition to GO AWAY! It did. S. wasn’t bothered anymore. After the disappearance of the presence/apparition, S. thought about her experience. She was convinced that she didn’t somehow participate in the sightings. S. emphasized that the images felt completely external to herself.
Curious about the history of the apartment, S. asked a Spanish-speaking acquaintance to ask the owners about the history of the apartment. The owners apparently didn’t wish to elaborate in depth about the history, other than to reveal that someone had indeed died in the apartment. It was difficult to acquire further information.
With the information that I gave you, the reader, I’d like to know about the investigation you would propose . . . that is, if you feel that this story warrants an investigation [note that I didn’t embellish the story as it was told to me]. Assuming you’re interested in an investigation, draw up an action plan. Ask yourself if you really would consider conducting an investigation in the apartment. Why? Do you merely want to be there just for the thrills? What would you do if you had to investigate this apartment? Who would you talk to and what instruments would you use? Are there weak spots in this story? If so, what are they? What methods could you use to expose the story as a possible fraud? These are serious questions that must be answered before any serious investigation can take place.