This is merely an observation I made when I spent an evening at a notoriously haunted location in Alton. Originally printed in 2005.
How many times have we viewed a scary movie only to hear noises within our room or see shadows moving on the walls? Are those noises or shadows actually there? Probably, but they are not paranormal activity. If your mind was not “running on fear” you could easily see the shadowy figure is just the hat on the bedpost and the noises are just the old house settling.
The effects of fear on the body are well documented. Fear can cause body temperature to rise and fall. It excites the brain and stimulates chemicals within the body which can cause hallucinations and lead to the brain misinterpreting events. Normal effects of fear on the body include: a sudden rise or fall of body temperature, sweating, stomach aches, goose bumps, shivering, hallucinations, and feeling touched.
I have read many stories of amputees who claimed to feel their severed limb. In one case a man lost his leg in a war but could still feel his foot itch, and could still move his toes but there was no foot to scratch and no toes to move. This could also explain how people claim to be touched by an invisible presence. The mind is mysterious so it is important to be aware of this before you start your investigations.
I have a theory that telling spooky stories, having séances, using Ouija boards and such before or while entering a suspected haunted location will condition your mind to be susceptible to encounter things or see things that are not really there. So when conducting a paranormal investigation listen to all of the “spooky” stories beforehand so your mind is not clouded with negative or fearful thoughts.
Our brain is a filter. It receives data from the eyes, ears and other nerves within the body and presents it to us so we know what is happening. The problem is when emotions like fear cloud the mind and cause the brain to interpret events in a way that generate false readings. This is why it is important to have scientific devices to document strange changes in the environment. Cold spots can be attributed to the body’s response to a fearful situation; but if you have a thermometer and can measure the falling temperature, you have proof of something happening. Never investigate alone because you want a witness to verify events you see and hear. Take cameras and recorders to document events so you can replay them to verify situations. It is important to investigate with a digital video recorder, a digital camera (5 mega pixel or higher) and a digital voice recorder.
Know the history of the haunting in advance of your arrival so you can enter the location fear free. You should always enter a location with a neutral, peaceful mindset free from emotional baggage so you can avoid your brain giving false interpretations of your surroundings.