Field Guide Friday – Stone Tape Theory

There’s a lot of granite here in New England – from the foundations of our houses to the markers above our graves. There are also a lot of hauntings.  This correlation has not gone unnoticed, and there are those who would explain away all freaky happenings as subtle radiation hallucinations. It’s a compelling theory, and one that appeals to Yankee pragmatism. However, I seriously doubt that the rocks in my basement had anything to do with a hand-blown Italian candlestick (much beloved) flying off the sideboard and shattering several feet away. Still, there are a lot of other strange things going on here at Chez Ankhie (even as I type this) that could be explained by material weirdness – sounds, shadows, fogs and fugues. The house is old and has seen much living and dying and emoting over its many years. Perhaps some of that memory has seeped into the wood and brick and horsehair plaster and creeps out like a bad burrito every now and again.  That is the essence of Stone Tape Theory – explained with much more finesse by Paranormalist Judith Joyce in the following passage from The Weiser Field Guide to the Paranormal :

Stone Tape Theory

Are all ghosts independent sentient entities, or is there another explanation for hauntings? Stone Tape Theory is a mystical concept that demystifies ghosts. Also known as residual haunting, energy remnants,
and memory imprints, the theory suggests that intense human emotions can somehow become imprinted into stones, bricks, crystals, fabric, or landscapes in such a way that the image of the person transmitting those emotions is played back periodically in the manner of a tape recording. These images may be witnessed by others and understood as ghosts or phantoms. Thus, although they are interpreted as “ghosts,” they are really only remnants or vestiges of an event that has somehow become imprinted on its surroundings.

Stone Tape Theory does not deny the existence of ghosts. Hypothetically, a house can possess both residual haunting and real ghosts. Ghosts associated with residual hauntings are characterized by specific types of behavior. They act like recordings. The same apparition appears at the same time in the same place doing the same thing almost as if on schedule. Evidence indicates that these entities are not interactive and may not be intelligent. Ghosts associated with Stone Tape Theory tend not to interact with observers, but simply repeat a series of actions before vanishing. They are frightening because of their presence and behavior, but do not actually harm anyone. An example is a ghost that continually reappears at a crime scene, precisely repeating the exact same actions.

Stone Tape Theory ghosts tend to be linked to specific places or objects. Residual hauntings naturally
occur in extreme situations accompanied by intense emotions like terror. They are based on two components. First, information may be imbedded in material. There is an ancient metaphysical theory that stones, crystals, and mirrors retain information and impressions that can be accessed later by those who know how. Second, the ability to experience a haunting may depend on a beholder’s sensitivity. The more sensitive will see or hear the phenomena with greater clarity, while others may essentially receive no “playback.” In other words, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If a ghost haunts a room, but no one can see it, is it really there? Stone Tape Theory suggests that
most hauntings go unperceived.

This is a controversial theory. How Stone Tape Theory actually works—why some events are imprinted,
but not others—is unknown. The official origins of the theory date back to a 1972 BBC Christmas broadcast called The Stone Tape, starring Jane Asher and Michael Bryant, and written by English science-fiction great, Nigel Kneale. In the film, a team of corporate researchers seeking new technology set up headquarters in a Victorian mansion and discover that it is haunted. Some of the researchers, in particular the Jane Asher character, are able to see and hear the ghost vividly. Others can only see or hear it. Some can feel the temperature drop whenever the haunting phenomenon begins. One man is entirely oblivious, although he acknowledges the validity of what others experience. It is finally discovered that the haunting is being produced by a “recording” imbedded in the stone in one room.

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