Almost every city, town, or village in the world has a bit of folklore about a Phantom Dog with red eyes that guards the grave of a master long dead, a Phantom Nun who still walks the ruins of a convent that burned to the ground decades ago, a Phantom Horseman who patrols the grounds of an old battlefield. Phantoms comprise that category of ghosts that have been seen again and again by countless men and women over many years and have literally begun to assume independent existences of their own, becoming, in a sense, "psychic marionettes," responding to the fears and expectations of their human percipients. In some dramatic instances, an entire section of landscape seems to be haunted. In most cases of this particular type of haunting, a tragic scene from the past is recreated in precise detail, as some cosmic photographer had committed the panorama to ethereal film footage. Battles are waged, trains are wrecked, ships are sunk, the screams of earthquake victims echo through the night—all as it actually took place months, years, or centuries before.
Thomas A. Edison (1847–1931), the electrical wizard, theorized that energy, like matter, is indestructible. He became intrigued by the idea of developing a radio that would be sensitive enough to pick up the sounds of times past—sounds which were no longer audible to any ears but those of the psychically sensitive. Edison hypothesized that the vibrations of every word ever uttered still echoed in the ether. If this theory ever should be established, it would explain such phenomena as the restoration of scenes from the past. Just as the emotions of certain individuals permeate a certain room and cause a ghost to be seen by those possessing similar telepathic affinity, so might it be that emotionally charged scenes of the past may become imprinted upon the psychic ether of an entire landscape. An alternate theory maintains that surviving minds, emotionally held to the area, may telepathically invade the mind of sensitive individuals and enable them to see the scene as they, the original participants, once saw the events occurring.
Whatever the reasons may be, it cannot be denied that some locales definitely have built up their own "atmospheres" over the years and that such auras often give sensitive people feelings of uneasiness—and often sensations of fear and discomfort. Whether this may be caused by surviving minds, a psychic residue, or an impression of the actual event in the psychic ether is a question that remains unsolved at the present stage of parapsychological research.
Paranormally restored battle scenes offer excellent examples of what seem to be phantoms caused by the collective emotions and memories of large groups of people. Perhaps the most well-known, most extensively documented, and most substantially witnessed was the Phantom Battle of Edge Hill which was "refought" on several consecutive weekends during the Christmas season of 1642. The actual battle was waged near the village of Keinton, England, on October 23 between the Royalist Army of King Charles and the Parliamentary Army under the Earl of Essex.
It was on Christmas Eve that several countryfolk were awakened by the noises of violent battle. Fearing that it could only be another clash between soldiers that had come to desecrate the sanctity of the holy evening and the peace of their countryside, the villagers fled from their homes to confront two armies of phantoms. One side bore the king's colors; the other, Parliament's banners. Until three o'clock in the morning, the phantom soldiers restaged the terrible fighting of two months before.
The actual battle had resulted in defeat for King Charles, and the monarch grew greatly disturbed when he heard that two armies of ghosts were determined to remind the populace that the Parliamentary forces had triumphed at Edge Hill. The king suspected that certain Parliamentary sympathizers had fabricated the tale to cause him embarrassment. The king sent three of his most trusted officers to squelch the matter. When the emissaries returned to court, they swore oaths that they themselves had witnessed the clash of the phantom armies. On two consecutive nights, they had watched the ghostly reconstruction and had even recognized several of their comrades who had fallen that day.
On August 4, 1951, two young English-women vacationing in Dieppe, France, were awakened just before dawn by the violent sounds of guns and shell fire, dive bombing planes, shouts, and the scraping of landing craft hitting the beach. Cautiously peering out of their windows, the two young women saw only the peaceful pre-dawn city. They knew, however, that just nine years previously, nearly 1,000 young Canadians had lost their lives in the ill-fated Dieppe raid.
Demonstrating an unusual presence of mind, the young Englishwomen kept a record of the frightening sounds of war, noting the exact times of the ebb and flow of the invisible battle. They presented their report to the Society for Psychical Research, whose investigators checked it against detailed accounts of the event in the war office. The times recorded by the women were, in most cases, identical to the minute of the raid that had taken place nine years before.
Another area which seems to be drenched with the powerful emotions of fighting and dying men is that of the small island of Corregidor, where in the early days of World War II (1939–45), a handful of American and Filipino troops tried desperately to halt the Japanese advance against the city of Manila and the whole Philippine Islands, valiantly fighting almost beyond human endurance. According to several witnesses, their ghosts have gone on fighting.
Today, the only living inhabitants of the island are a small detachment of Filipino marines, a few firewood cutters, and a caretaker and his family. And then there are the nonliving inhabitants.
Terrified wood cutters have returned to the base to tell of bleeding and wounded men who stumble about in the jungle. Always, they describe the men as grim-faced and carrying rifles at the ready. Marines on jungle maneuvers have reported coming face to face with silently stalking phantom scouts of that desperate last-stand conflict of more than 60 years ago. Many have claimed to have seen a beautiful red-headed woman moving silently among rows of ghostly wounded, ministering to their injuries. Most often seen is the ghost of a nurse in a Red Cross uniform. Soldiers on night duty who have spotted the phantom have reported that, shortly after she fades into the jungle moonlight, they find themselves surrounded by rows and rows of groaning and dying men in attitudes of extreme suffering. According to the caretaker and his family, the sounds that come with evening are the most disconcerting part of living on an island full of phantoms. Every night the air is filled with horrible moans of pain and the sounds of invisible soldiers rallying to defend themselves against phantom invaders.
Veterans of the Korean conflict returned with tales of a phantom town that came to life on cold, still nights. By day, Kumsong, Korea, was nothing but piles of battered rubble. The population had long since given up residence of their war-ravished village to the rats. The American troops, who looked down on the charred ruins from their positions in the front-line bunkers, called Kumsong "The Capital of No Man's Land." But on some nights, soldiers would come back from their frozen bunkers with stories of music, singing, and the laughter of women that had drifted up from the ghost town. So many Allied troops heard the ghostly music that "Ching and his violin" became a reality to the front-line soldiers.
Although both haunted landscapes and haunted houses seem most liable to receive their emotional energy from the psychic charges generated by scenes of violence and tragedy, there have been reports of pleasant restorations of the past.
On a rainy evening in October of 1916, Edith Olivier was driving from Devizes to Swindon in Wiltshire, England. The evening was so dreary that Olivier wished earnestly for a nice, warm inn in which to spend the night. Leaving the main road, she found herself passing along a strange avenue lined by huge gray megaliths. She concluded that she must have been approaching Avebury. Although Olivier had never been to Avebury before, she was familiar with pictures of the area and knew that the place had originally been a circular megalithic temple that had been reached by long stone avenues.
When she reached the end of an avenue, she got out of her automobile so that she might better view the irregularly falling megaliths. As she stood on the bank of a large earthwork, she could see a number of cottages, which had been built among the megaliths, and she was surprised to see that, in spite of the rain, there seemed to be a village fair in progress. The laughing villagers were walking merrily about with flares and torches, trying their skill at various booths and applauding lustily for the talented performers of various shows.
Olivier became greatly amused at the carefree manner in which the villagers enjoyed themselves, completely oblivious to the rain. Men, women, and children walked about without any protective outer garments and not a single umbrella could be seen. She would have joined the happy villagers at their fair if she had not been growing increasingly uncomfortable in the rain, which was becoming steadily heavy. She decided that she was not made of such hardy stock as the sturdy villagers and got back into her automobile to resume her trip.
Edith Olivier did not visit Avebury again until nine years had passed. At that time, she was perplexed to read in the guidebook that, although a village fair had once been an annual occurrence in Avebury, the custom had been abolished in 1850. When she protested that she had personally witnessed a village fair in Avebury in 1916, the guide offered Olivier a sound and convincing rebuttal. Even more astounding, perhaps, was the information she acquired concerning the megaliths. The particular avenue on which she had driven on that rainy night of her first visit had disappeared before 1800.
Edith Olivier's experience begs the question: Just how substantial is a phantom? Can a scene from the past return and assume temporary physical reality once again? Did Olivier drive her automobile on an avenue that was no longer there, or did she drive on a solid surface that had once been there and had temporarily returned?
According to those who have encountered them, a materialized phantom seems as solid as any human. Modern science no longer regards solids as solids at all but rather as congealed wave patterns. Psychical researcher James Crenshaw notes that the whole imposing array of subatomic particles—electrons, protons, positrons, neutrinos, mesons—achieve "particle-like characteristics" in a manner similar to the way that wave patterns in tones and overtones produce characteristic sounds. Crenshaw theorizes that ghosts may be made up of transitory, emergent matter that "…appears and disappears, can sometimes be seen and felt before disappearing…behaves like ordinary matter but still has no permanent existence in the framework of our conception of space and time. In fact, after its transitory manifestations, it seems to be absorbed back into another dimension or dimensions.…"