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A disturbed night: the haunted bed part 2
by Maurice Townsend

Early research results from the MADS (Magnetic Anomaly Detection) system were outlined In a previous article. Here, subsequent research is described, including placing a real live human subject into the 'haunted bed'!

Laboratory experiments, notably by Michael Persinger, have demonstrated that certain low-frequency complex magnetic fields can cause susceptible individuals to hallucinate ghostly experiences. It has been suggested that such fields, if found ‘in the wild’, could be responsible for some reports of hauntings. The evidence certainly suggests that there are many different causes of ghost reports and this may be one of them.

Previous MADS research showed that the bed in the Tapestry Room at Muncaster Castle, associated with several vivid haunting experiences from independent witnesses, is the centre of a significant local magnetic anomaly. A flexible iron mattress support in the bed is distorting the local geomagnetic field to create steep magnetic gradients affecting the area where people sleep. It was speculated from that research that someone 'tossing and turning' in a disturbed sleep might induce significant EIFs (experience inducing fields) in their head by such movement distorting the iron support. However, the idea remained to be tested. Those tests are the subject of this article and a paper in the European Journal of Parapsychology.*

A restless night

In experiments in the famously Tapestry Room (TR), a subject (ASSAP and Mysterious Britain's Ian Topham) lay on the 'haunted bed', moving around in a way someone might if they were having a restless night. Just above him there was suspended a sensitive magnetometer measuring changes in the ambient magnetic field. This field, dominated by the geomagnetic field, is significantly distorted by the flexible iron mattress support mesh. Because iron is highly magnetically permeable, it diverts magnetic fields around it, even if it isn't actually magnetised.

As Ian 'tossed and turned', his weight changed the angle of the flexible mattress support. This, in turn, changed the direction of the magnetic field. The effect of this was to cause major changes in the ambient magnetic fields. Such changes would, of course, affect the head of anyone lying in the bed.

Tapstry Room bed movement fields

The figure above shows some typical results from the magnetometer during the experiment. The big changes in the magnetic field correspond with Ian turning over in bed. The biggest changes are of the order of 400 nT with smaller changes of around 300 nT. EIFs need to be over at least 100 nT so these changes are strong enough to qualify. The frequency of the disturbances ranged from around 0.2 to 3 Hz with the highest amplitude disturbances at the lower end.

A second magnetometer measured the field simultaneously in the centre of the room, well away from the bed. It found a virtually negligible field variation during the experiment. The experiment was also repeated in another bed in an adjacent room. This bed had no iron mattress support and, unsurprisingly, there was no disturbance to the ambient magnetic field when Ian moved around on the bed.

Is it just coincidence?

Is it just a coincidence that the location of easily the most striking haunting reports in Muncaster Castle correspond with a location where it has been experimentally demonstrated that witnesses are capable of producing EIFs? Obviously it could be but, if it is, it seems unlikely.

The Tapestry Room is similar to many others within the castle in appearance, layout and environmental variables (like temperature, lighting, etc). This makes it unlikely that the TR haunting experiences are due solely to suggestion eg. that castles look or feel spooky. Otherwise we would expect more widespread reports throughout the building. Expectation can also be ruled out as a significant factor because most of the witnesses were not aware of the reputation of the room before their experiences.

The Tapestry Room bed has a highly unusual iron mesh mattress support (not found in other beds checked in the castle) that deforms with someone lies on it. It turns out that someone suffering disturbed sleep can generate EIFs in their own head. It is people lying in the bed who have reported ghostly occurrences so the experiment reproduces the circumstances of the reports. EIF type fields have not been found in other nearby non-haunted rooms that have been surveyed magnetically.

In fact, EIFs are far better established as a likely cause in this case than are the suggested causes in the vast majority of haunting investigations. To summarise, we have:

  • striking experiences reported by independent witnesses in one small, specific location (TR bed)
  • strikingly similar phenomena reported by witnesses in that location
  • EIFs demonstrated in the TR bed when someone lay in the bed reproducing the witness reports
  • similar areas nearby have no ghostly reports and no EIFs were found when they were surveyed

If it is a coincidence, it is a mightily extraordinary one!

*Braithwaite, J.J, & Townsend, M (2008) 'Sleeping With the Entity; Part II: Temporally Complex Distortions in the Magnetic field from Human Movement in a Bed Located in an English Castles Reputedly Haunted Bedroom'. European Journal of Parapsychology. 23.1, 90-126.

© Maurice Townsend 2008