Below are three items from Investigator No. 2, 1988 September:

1 Scientist Discusses Life After Death        B Stett

2 My Friend Hairy                                           Donna Pearce

3 Ghostly visions ‘are all in the mind’           The Advertiser


B. Stett

(Investigator 2, 1988 September)

Dr. Thalbourne, a psychologist at Adelaide University, says regarding life after death: "The evidence taken together provides a very interesting case that has to be answered."

The setting was a lecture on July 20 at the Disability Information & Resource Centre in Gilles Street, Adelaide:  "I've been present at seances and the stuff I heard was rubbish. One spoke of my place of birth as New Zealand when it was Adelaide. Another spoke of my sister when I only have three brothers. But other mediumship, documented in the old literature at the start of the century, is impressive."

Michael Thalbourne earned his Honours degree at Adelaide. He won a scholarship to the University of Edinburgh where he got his Ph.D. in parapsychology. ("Parapsychology" refers to all psychological phenomena such as clairvoyance, mind reading, telekinesis, ghosts, etc, which cannot be explained by known scientific laws.) After Edinburgh Dr Thalbourne did research in Iceland, India, and USA. In 1987 he began to tutor in psychology at Adelaide University. But his research interest remains in parapsychology.

The data supporting life after death, as explained at the July 20 lecture, is based on:

The evidence against is:

Dr Thalbourne said, "Life after death refers to continued existence of the consciousness of the individual person for at least some time after the destruction of their physical body. It is not synonymous with immortality."

The prevalence of the belief varies from country to country. We were shown this data:

India           76%
Iceland        68%
USA             67%
Australia     48%
Britain         43%
Japan          18%

The lecture was sponsored by the Skeptics Association which seeks to debunk pseudo science, creation science, and reports of the paranormal and the supernatural. The audience numbered about 40. Ages ranged from about 30 to about 60 and the sexes were equally represented.

Dr. Thalbourne stressed that his research interest is not directly on life after death but rather on why people believe in life after death. He therefore doesn’t want mediums and religious nuts phoning him up to get quotes in support of their beliefs.

The word "why" we were told has four meanings:

1. On what basis of evidence.
2. What causes belief in the first place.
3. What maintains belief.
4. What psychological functions does it fulfil.

The bulk of the lecture then presented "factors associated with belief in life after death".

However: "There is no relationship between life after death belief and neuroticism or schizophrenia."

Said Dr Thalbourne: "In the USA about 40% of Atheists believe in life after death. I'm an Atheist. But I'm neither a believer nor a disbeliever. My position is zetetic – one of skeptical inquiry characterised by suppression of judgement. But I'm persuaded that there is some interesting evidence for life after death."

The function of life after death belief is to reduce fear and to provide comfort and meaning. Dr Thalbourne gave his own experience: "When I had cancer I was very interested in evidences favoring life after death. This made the pain and fear meaningful. But when I was cured I was more interested in evidences against life after death."

Regarding reports about ghosts in Australasian Post and in women's magazines Dr. Thalbourne said: "I don't follow them up. It's a waste of time. The level of research in the reporting is very low."

Dr. Thalbourne recommended five books as being particularly objective:

Blackmore, S. J. 1982. Beyond the Body. Britain.
Gould, A. 1983. Mediumship and Survival. Paladin. Britain.
MacKenzie, A. 1983. Hauntings and Apparitions. Paladin. Britain.
Sabom, S.B. 1982. Recollections of Death. Corgi Books. Britain.
Stevenson, I. 1974. 20 Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. 2nd ed.

My Friend Hairy

Donna Pearce

[An edited version of "My Friend Hairy" was published in "The Australian Women's Weekly" 1988 March]  

MY poltergeist is back. For a while I thought he had gone, but he has once again made his presence known.

Years ago, in the US, when I was a young working mother with two small children we had a poltergeist.

A small reading lamp hung over my favourite chair. After the housework was finished and the kiddies in bed, I would relax with a book and soft music. I don't remember exactly when Hairy first appeared, but the little lamp started turning itself on and off. Trying the switch would do no good. In due course it would turn itself back on. It usually was off for a few seconds, but sometimes lasted a minute or more. I got used to it.

It was strange, but I come from a long line of 'second sight' and 'clairvoyants'. The family history is dotted with little anecdotes. Even I have had enough 'hunches' or premonitions that friends no longer laugh, but listen. So 'Hairy's' shananigans were only a source of mild amusement (or annoyance).

My children too, got used to the blinking light. Some nights were completely uninterrupted, some were hectic.

One night when my parents were visiting and Mom and I were playing canasta, my father, being a most practical man, took the lamp apart, piece by piece. "No such thing as poltergeists," he stated. "Has to be a faulty switch." Dad had gone to electricians trade school. He knew all about such things. He methodically and slowly examined each piece and put it back together.

"There!" he announced. "Nothing wrong with that lamp now." He plugged it in and switched it on. It glowed happily for a few moments and then blinked off. Exasperated, my father pulled the cord from the socket. The little lamp lit up and glowed on mischievously.

"THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE!" roared my father. "No, Boppa," said my small son, "It's only Hairy."

For as long as I had that lamp it went on and off at will. I kept it plugged in, because even I didn't like the sensation I felt when I saw it turn on, unplugged.

Hairy made himself known in other ways. One night when we were all in bed, I heard a crash in the living room. It was a large room, four by six metres, and had a long marble coffee table approximately in the center of the room. From the table to the far wall was a distance of more than two metres. There on the floor in front of the wall was a huge pottery ashtray that normally resided on the coffee table. It was smashed to pieces, and there was a mark on the wall almost a metre above the floor where you could see the ashtray had hit. Some one or some thing had picked up the ashtray and hurled it with enough force to hit the wall and break at that distance. I checked the kids, both asleep with their doors shut. The dog shut in my daughter's room. I checked the doors. All locked. Windows secured.

In the morning when I told the kids they said simultaneously, "Hairy!" I told my mother. "It was the cat," she said. "The cat was with me," I said. "Besides, how could the cat throw it that distance?" "That's not possible," my mother declared. "No," I said, "It isn't."

I stopped talking about Hairy. People would smirk or raise their eyebrows. But things kept happening. Doors slamming, things disappearing and breaking. On two occasions my TV set spoke in a strange garbled language that I always hoped was fatigue on the part of my ears.

One day my son met me at the door. "Mom, I know where Hairy lives! Watch." His face and one arm had huge scratches. "What happened?" "Look," he said, and picked up our Siamese cat. The cat was normally very docile and un-Siamese in temperament. My son advanced down the hall to a cupboard that held our central heating unit, turned off for the summer. As he approached the door the cat began to squirm and wriggle in his arms, and when my son opened the cupboard door, the cat went beserk. He flew down the hall with his tail fluffed up like a bottlebrush.

"I reckon that's where Hairy lives," proclaimed Scott. I reckon it was too.

Later, when we moved into a large mobile home, there was another cupboard the cat would not go near, and because the cupboard was situated just past my bedroom door, the cat, who for years had regarded my bed as his, no longer slept in my room. The whole time we lived there, the cat never once went past that cupboard door. Once we tried to pick him up and carry him past, but got the same hysterical reaction as we had had with the heating closet.

In time, I remarried. My new husband, at first laughing at the tales of "Hairy" but later reacting only in thoughtful silence. He got used to the things that went ‘bump’ in the night, and the breakages and disappearance (and reappearance) of things.

After a time, things calmed down. We moved to Australia. The children grew up. I had two more. For a long while I thought Hairy was gone, left in the U.S.

We bought a little old, old house in Beenleigh. Little things began to disappear, and reappear. Doors slammed, (the wind, we said). But nothing major. My two younger children enjoyed the tales of Hairy, but never really got to know him.

When my husband and I separated, the children and I moved off the property into town. We found a new, very modern little house. I thought finally Hairy was gone.

Last year my brother-in-law died suddenly in a tragic accident. My sister used to correspond on tape. My brother-in-law was shy and with his strong Georgia accent, disliked being recorded. However, my Australian children loved to hear the slow southern accents of their uncle and cousins, unmet and far away, and once my sister coaxed her husband, into speaking to us. We treasured the tape and it was put away with the tapes of my mother and father, both now gone.

About a month ago, my sister wrote and asked for a copy of that tape. It was the only one Ralph had ever made. It would mean so much to her. I went straight to the box where all my 'correspondence' tapes were kept. The dust on the box showed months of undisturbed rest. There were all the tapes of Mom and Dad; of my aunt and uncle, even one from my older son when he visited the U.S., but no tape from Sue and Ralph. I went through all of our music tapes thinking perhaps they had gotten mixed up. Still no tape. Systematically I worked my way through the cupboards and wardrobes, storage boxes, even the Christmas ornament box. The tape was gone. I felt terrible.

On the first anniversary of her husband's death, I rang Sue in America. I wanted to let her know we were thinking of her. Her voice was bright and cheerful. She was thrilled, she said, to get the tape.

I couldn't believe my ears. Her oldest son, looking through some music tapes in his room, had found a tape with her handwriting on it. They played the tape. It's the one I was looking for here.

She doesn't know how she got it. Neither do I. But I bet Hairy could explain it.

Copyright (c) Donna Pearce

Ghostly visions 'are all in the mind'

(The Advertiser, 1988, Saturday, July 16 p. 1)

BRISBANE – A Brisbane study has found that people do see ghosts – but it's more likely to be their minds playing tricks than evidence of the supernatural.

The study, by neurological researcher Dr Thomas Mayze, found that ghost sightings were normal hallucinations – produced as a result of prolonged concentration or sensory deprivation.

Dr Mayze is a consulting psychiatrist at the Princess Alexandra Hospital on Brisbane's south side.

His team recently completed a study of 24 ghost sightings; by Brisbane people, a hospital statement said.

"We were not concerned with the question of whether ghosts existed.

"Rather we were looking at the circumstances surrounding the sightings and we found that there was a high correlation between the processes under which ghosts are seen and other perceptual experiences," Dr Mayze said.

"For example, people often have hallucinations when they have been concentrating on something for a long time. Students working at their books might register a movement on the floor, glance up and be sure they saw a mouse scurrying for cover."

"That's normal hallucination," he said.

Dr Mayze said a person’s mind would choose the image of a ghost if the subconscious encouraged it.

He said people also had hallucinations when their rnind experienced sensory deprivation because, their mind was starved of stimulation for long periods – citing desert mirages as an example.

The fact that ghosts were usually seen in human form and clothed, but often without legs or feet and floating above the ground, could be the mind revealing memories of our earliest experiences, such as seeing humans leaning over us as babies in our cots or cribs.

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