UK PSYCHICS REPORT - 23 January 2006
Historic Muncaster Castle - reputed to be one of Britain's most haunted buildings - is to become the country's first ghost school for ghost hunters.
The 800-year-old country pile in the scenic Lake district of Northwest England has been chosen for residential ghost hunting courses because of its spine-chilling reputation for spooks and spectres.
The courses, which are due to begin in March 2006, are being organised by Dr. Jason Braithwaite, a cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist from the University of Birmingham, who grew up less than ten miles from the castle.
A self-confessed sceptic about the paranormal, he said the idea was to teach people to apply genuine scientific skills to enable them to decide for themselves what lies behind phenomena that appear to have no rational explanation.
"I'm not saying I can explain these experiences but I am saying that you will have the mental tools to look seriously and sensibly at them. It's not a 'turn-out-the-lights, is there anybody there?' experience," he said. He has theorized that an unusually high magnetic field in the area could account for the ghostly goings-on.
"Some strange perceptions under certain circumstances can be induced by very strange and anomalous magnetic fields in the rooms where things go bump in the night."
The scientist, who works at Birmingham's Behavioural Brain Sciences Centre, likened the strong magnetic fields to an "invisible thunder storm". People with "less inhibited" and "more erratic" brains - such as those who suffer from migraines or epilepsy - were more susceptible to reactions in high energy fields, regardless of their intelligence or education, he argues.
"There's no single explanation for ghosts, apparitions and strange experiences. There are a variety depending on the context and the individual," he explained.
"I don't advance any fanciful notions of the supernatural".
Braithwaite, 34, has spent nearly 15 years researching why there have been so many ghost sightings at Muncaster, reputedly one of the most haunted buildings anywhere in Britain, particularly in the castle's tapestry room.
Sounds of children crying and screaming, feelings of another-worldly presence, the sound of footsteps and fleeting visions have all been reported in the room where guests reputedly never spend a second night.
Other stories concern the "Muncaster Boggle" or White Lady, who is said to haunt the gardens and surrounding roadways. She is said to be the ghost of Mary Bragg, a young girl murdered in the early 19th century near the castle gates.
Another resident spook is said to be the ghost of Tom Fool, the castle's former jester.
The course has the backing of the Penningtons, the family who have lived at Muncaster since the 13th century..
"We're committed to genuine scientific research. We want to find out the truth about why so many people believe they see or experience ghosts at the castle," said Peter Frost Pennington.
For his part, Braithwaite said he aims to encourage dispassionate, critical thinking, and ideal course members will go in with an open mind.
"People are hearing things, seeing things, sensing things, so what is it? Can we explain this psychologically and in terms of the brain?"
The course will costs £120 (€174/US$214).
Dare you spend a night at Muncaster Castle?