Ghosts and Cemeteries; What A Grave Subject

Everyone knows if you come across a property exhibiting signs of ghostly activity, especially those with a tendency toward malevolence and spite, the cause is always due to that property’s proximity to the sacred land of an ancient Indian burial ground.  Everyone knows this, right?   Hollywood has trained us all too well; but of course, Hollywood would also have us believe that the plains and mountain regions of Canada and the northern US were chocked full of native tribes, with the landscape of most areas being packed shoulder to shoulder with whooping and dancing Indians.  This must be an accurate picture, for, in order for there to currently be the vast number of scared burial sites currently rumoured to be infringed on by certain paranormal enthusiast, the native populations would have to have been in the hundreds of millions.

The AIBG hypothesis, otherwise known as the silliness that is ancient Indian burial grounds being blamed for every manner of paranormal activity in North America, is just about as ridiculous as the hyperbole surrounding Ouija Boards (and you all know how I feel about that).  The reality of this situation, as with so many others in this genre of interest, is that Hollywood has twisted our minds into forgetting our own history and that of our native hosts.

Quite possibly the most famous instance of the AIBG hypothesis showing up in entertainment history is the convoluted and confusing story of Poltergeist (1982), though this is hardly the first introduction of cultural prejudice fuelling our wild and easily manipulated imaginations.  Stephen King even used this contrived idea as the basis for his 1983 novel Pet Sematary [sic], which was adapted to the big screen in 1989.  But whatever the origin of the myth, there are some poignant truths people tend to forget when they let their imaginations run wild.

To some this will come as painfully obvious disclosure, but I shall offer it anyway.  Sacred ground, as identified by First Nations people is quite rare, and likely due to the fact that it’s considered sacred, is rarely lost to their knowledge, thereby allowing the “white man” to develop and build on top of it.  This is in contrast to burial grounds, which can also be sacred though aren’t always so, but which are much more common.  And here we come to yet another one of those unfortunate truths I so revel in sharing; in the world of paranormal research, the burial of human remains bears so little connection to ghostly activity that most reputable researchers cringe at the very mention of an amateur seeking evidence of paranormal activity at cemeteries, grave yards and burial sites.

There are, as is so often the case, a few opposing schools of thought among the paranormal community, the defining lines of which are often blurred beyond recognition.  Some researchers, or more accurately, ghost hunters, seem to be of the impression that burial sites (whether ancient or modern) are the perfect locations to gather their so-called evidence of spirits run amuck.   Others still suggest that the spirit activity at these locations is too intense and potentially dangerous to make evidence collection feasible.  Though, as any who’ve undertaken to read my work in the past can attest, not only do I not subscribe to these schools of thought, I typically scoff at such ignorance.

The truth of the matter is that certain assumptions must be made before a person can genuinely believe such claims, assumptions that are not supported by the facts of our collective understanding. A term coined by a colleague of mine with the leading Canadian paranormal research body (PSICAN) encompasses the nature of one such assumption: the Dead Person Hypothesis.  This is as the term suggests; the idea that ghosts or spirits (or whichever other term you might choose to ascribe) are the immortal manifestations of dead people.  This is a popular idea and one that is adopted by many without even a moment’s consideration for alternatives.  An extension of this idea, for some, is the notion that spirits (in this line of logic being the essence or soul of a dead person) are tied in some way to the physical remains of their corporeal self, and in turn are likely to be found in proximity to their grave.

Even with a most charitable attitude toward this idea, one can scarcely ignore the logical flaws encountered therein.  Namely, if ghosts are bound to their physical remains then ghosts could not be encountered in areas where their physical remains are not.  Most researchers will understand that this is simply not the case.

A variation on the above is the idea that such ghosts, under the DPH, will frequent locations that hold emotional context for their own psyche (whatever that may be), though again, there are some undeniable flaws of logic in this idea.  Notwithstanding the notion that we cannot, through a lack of verifiable information, reasonably assert that there is a discernable psychology to ghosts and their behaviour, does it not follow (with certain exceptions) that the spirit of a passed-on human, would rank many other places as being more emotionally significant than the location of their grave?  This of course, takes other unverifiable notions for granted as well, such as the idea that such a spirit is bound by some physical law, to appear only in one location at one time.

Beyond the above exercise of logic, is the undeniable fact that the huge amounts of data and information collected by enthusiasts and researchers over the past 200 years has shown that gravesites are notably poor locations for the study of ghosts.

So is this conflated notion that ghosts show some favour to cemeteries and the like the result of a Hollywood agenda, or is it a simple misunderstanding of facts based on an ever more present anthropomorphisation of such ghostly activity.  I personally have great difficulty accepting even the DPH, let alone ascribing any support to the notion that ghosts or spirits or what-have-you, are compelled, whether by emotion or some physical law, to accompany the dusty remains of their physical body in death.  There is much we need to learn, and even more we need to forget, before we can come to any real understanding of the phenomena of ghosts.

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