In the spring of 2011, Eileen Janowicz, a PhD in Forensic Psychology and Industrial Organizational Psychology, and her colleague, Keith Richard (not Richards), a PhD in Parapsychology, concluded after an eleven year experiment that spanned four continents, that ghosts, are in fact, real. However, their findings and what they determine as the definition of "ghosts" is pretty loose. But if that weren't enough, what they did discover and prove beyond a reasonable doubt is far more fascinating and shocking. Of course, what's more shocking than scientific proof of life after death?
"Everything we think we've known about ghosts up till this point has come from films and literature," says Janowicz. "I think the biggest misconception - which I shared up until very recently - is that they're deceased."
And with that miraculous claim, Janowicz and Richard are in full agreement that some ghosts... are alive?!
"Once you accept that, you can begin to understand how the rest of it falls into place," Richard says coyly. So, what is 'the rest of it?'
"This isn't just about ghosts," says Richard. "This also covers telepathy, astral projection, time travel, past lives, telekinesis, and maybe even the existence of a higher power." He confesses this with such casual abandon, it could either hurt his credibility as someone who's not taking it seriously, or, he believes in it with such certainty that it must be true.
Janowicz is quite the opposite - at least in demeanor. Her timidness is due, somewhat, to the fact that this amazing discovery received almost no notice from the press or public. The reason for this is strangely coincidental. "When we began the process of testing and gathering data and gaining some credibility and momentum, the attack on the World Trade Center happened," she says. "When we finally reached a conclusion, and wanted to share it with the world, the very next day, Osama bin Laden was killed." Once again, Public Enemy #1 had overshadowed the possibility of the world's potential for galactic enlightenment. "Something like that," laugh Janowicz. "I've reached a point where I'm just happy being aware of it, and I'm less concerned with spreading the word, as it were."
Well, perhaps just this once, they'll make another attempt to spread the word - at least to us. At the very least, how about an explanation into what any of this is. What is this amazing discovery?
"The bigger picture is what's important here," says Janowicz. "What we've determined is that, basically, every square inch of this planet is haunted." While 'haunted' conjures up a lot of gothic imagery to you and I, it ended up being the key word amongst Janowicz, Richard, and their team of nearly two dozen researchers. "In every home, school, office, shopping mall, or wide open space, there is some level of paranormal activity. There are some people in the [parapsychology] field who will agree with that. What we've determined is that we - you and me, who are still alive - can add to or even create this activity with our presence, and that it will linger once we've left that space."
This is what this scientific team refers to as The Metaphysical Footprint.
"Try and think of a place - a physical space or dwelling - where you had an intense emotional experience. Or perhaps several experiences. Maybe your childhood home. What we're stating, very plainly, is that the house you grew up in is currently haunted. By you."
If this statement by Janowicz doesn't perfectly illustrate the discovery, Richard has a similar, broader take.
"It's like The Shining," he says. "Everything leaves a trace of itself behind - whether you've left the Earth or left the room. Simply put, if you're feeling something, having an emotion, and you're standing in this spot, you're leaving a bruise on the ground. And anybody who passes over that spot after you can feel it, like a bruise."
A theory such as this sounds like it's more suited to geological surveyors than psychologists.
"Oh, we've covered that," Janowicz says with an almost laugh. "We left nothing to chance. We've thought of everything."
So, what of the ghosts we always thought were there, but weren't sure? Do we 'haunt' after we die?
"Technically, yes," says Richard. "But, it's part of your living self that's doing the haunting. Speaking in physical terms, if you leave dirty dishes in the sink, and then you died, the dishes are still in that sink. You leave behind more than you take with you."
Does this provide an explanation for every and any ghost sighting claim in history?
"The legitimate ones, yeah!" says Richard. "Most claims have been seeing people - faded images that - that float or move in nonspecific ways. Additionally, and notably, they're always clothed. If these are 'souls' that have passed on, why are they dressed? Did their wardrobe die with them? When someone is fortunate or perceptive enough to see a ghost, what they are seeing is... it's like, a home movie of someone's memory. They may be dead, or still alive somewhere. It may be a conscious memory or subconscious, but they are witnessing the past."
There have been claims - many claims, in fact - of people communicating with the dead, even interacting. If these are not souls that have passed on, but just moving memories, how exactly is this possible? Are we manipulating the past by 'contacting spirits?' Is there such a thing as an intelligent haunting? What about mediums and those who claim to speak with the dead?
"We never set out to prove the validity of any of that stuff," says Janowicz. "Based on what we've found, all of that seems highly improbable. But, if it is true, then it must somehow exist alongside what we now know to be absolutely true."
They are very, very certain of their claims. But in this short interview format, what we've been told raises more questions than answers.
Apart from the apparent 9/11 curse, there must be some larger reason as to why this kind of find isn't on the news every single day.
"It clashes with most religious beliefs," says Richard. "Like a lot of science, that's always gonna be a tough sell."
That makes sense. Janowicz has an even more realistic, sobering explanation.
"It's like climate change. If it doesn't present an immediate, tangible obstacle in people's lives, they either don't believe it or they don't care."
Ironically, that is very true, except when it comes to religion. Dean Keith Simonton, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UC Davis points out, "Most articles published in the sciences are never cited by anybody. Most compositions are not recorded. Most works of art aren't displayed."
Apart from maybe being too fantastic to believe, people may be disheartened to learn that, perhaps, the afterlife is just a recording for others to watch. "It's simply palpable nostalgia," says Richard. "People already dislike nostalgia - it stifles progress." Janowicz adds, "It illustrates the strength in the fabric of our existence - that we're all connected. We all want to be remembered after we're gone; to leave our mark. We're here to say that we all do!"
At the end of the day, after all of this, we're left with the two biggest questions: what were the methods used that led to this conclusion, and, what exactly is the proof?
Janowicz and Richard both remain vague on these two points specifically, for reasons that aren't entirely clear. It may perhaps be bitterness regarding the lack of attention their efforts have garnered. (Janowicz's book on the subject, Our Own Shadow, has yet to find a publisher). Of course, a more skeptical person could claim that there never were any answers. The latter seems unlikely, especially if one takes the time to do some digging.
In the timespan of the experiment (2000-2011) there are many recorded instances of experts and students alike in various scientific fields conducting seemingly bizarre or random tests all over the globe - all contributing a piece to The Metaphysical Footprint. Sandra Waters of Oxford University may or may not have been conducting experiments utilizing animal torture and the possibility of distress transference from subject to subject. Rex Jung, a neuroscientist from New Mexico, mapped our neural networks between previously unrelated parts of the brain. There was someone by the name of Shawn (could be first or last) who may or may not have been a geologist who visited Alcatraz, The Bermuda Triangle, Pompeii, Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and lastly, Disney World. The purpose of these visits or what kind of data was gathered from these locations is not entirely clear. Most of the reports of these instances are just as nonspecific, or even more so. The bulk of the details are in the yet-to-be-published book, which Janowicz is wisely guarding as unsolicited property.
As for proof? Richard says, "Go down to your local shopping mall. That's all the proof you'll ever need."