SPIRITS AND SPIRITS: SEEING GHOSTS WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Online talk presented by Dr Peter Cowdell of The Folklore Society, followed by a Q&A with the audience.
Stimulants and altered perceptions are a recurrent theme in historical discussions of ghosts. A plot to lay the Hammersmith Ghost by force was hatched in a bar in 1804, resulting in the shooting dead of a man dressed in white. More cheerfully, and perhaps typically, stimulants also turn up in stories of practical jokes, as when 19th-century Cambridgeshire villagers pretended to be voices of the dead to frighten a drunk man settling a wager in the graveyard - to no effect. Stimulants have been interpreted as affecting perception itself, whether in Augustin Calmet's crude argument that drunkenness leads to seeing double, hence apparent ghost experiences, or Jung's more sensitive proposition that it increases 'suggestibility'. Paul's own fieldwork suggests that even this isn't quite the whole story, as informants willingly included their own altered states of consciousness when assessing experiences and beliefs. He will examine informants' negotiations of the relationship between perception and altered states, bringing in material from tales and legends as well as historical examples, in order to place them in the broader context of ghost narratives more generally.