The Emily Problem

“The entire town seems to be behind the idea of Emily. She is described as a happy ghost, which seems to put people at ease. She has been seen wandering the halls or heard laughing. Since there is events there daily, many pictures have shown odd lighting or shadows, who people say could be Emily.”

The paragraph describes the haunting of Flanders Hotel, New Jersey but it is also a typical description of hauntings by a young girl across the western world.

In 2011, the popular US tv series ‘Ghost Hunters’ investigated a haunted fraternity house, the show claimed, “The team was called in to deal with the spirit of a little girl (Emily) haunting a frat house after supposedly falling to her death down a flight of secret stairs.”

Leap Castle, Ireland, a location I have had the pleasure of visiting is also haunted by an Emily. The story says that in the 1600s a little girl called “Emily” fell from the top of the castle, the twist here is that she apparently haunts the location with her sister.

Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire, has a very active ghost called “Ellie” said to interact with visitors by holding their hands. Psychics and sensitives claim that she was the daughter of an important person and died when she fell down the castle’s stairs.

Another TV show, Most Haunted visited the Manor House in West Bromwich, said to be haunted by an “Emily”, “The investigation opened in the restaurant where there used to be a Chapel and Derek picked up on the impression of a fire and being engulfed by flames, as well as a little girl who may have lost her life. Moving onwards into the museum part of the building he connected with a man he described as wearing a cape who he felt had been responsible for a murder. Again Derek picked up on the girl (who he called Emily) and a fire in the building when he entered the Bed Chamber. A séance was then held with guest David Wells where they attempted to make contact with the little girl “Emily”, and other than Jon feeling as if he could sense the girl dancing around the circle nothing particularly strange occurred other than a few anomalous sounds.”

When we cast a quick eye over the hauntings over American and British hauntings, we soon see a similar pattern of sightings of that we see with grey ladies and black monks.

Usually the haunting is attributed to a girl called Emily, Ellie or Eleanor, a little girl who didn’t reach her teenage years and is often looking for a parent. In most circumstances she is afraid of a masculine family member, usually the father. Another common attribution is that the girl lost her life due to an accident, such as falling down the stairs or a fire but rarely a murder. The majority of hauntings are said to originate from “Victorian times” and other stereotypical aspects of that era are often included in the ghost’s story.

How can we have un-associated hauntings on different continents but with the same names and incidents? Are they fraudulent hauntings or is something else happening here?

Of course we can rule out some of the hauntings as being copycats – look at the three “radiant boys” of Northumbrian castles but we are still left with a core group of stories that follow a similar format.

As mentioned in my previous articles about “Haunt Fields” we have to look at how the witness reacts within a haunted location and above all how they interpret what they consider anomalous activity.

During a vigil at Tutbury Castle I witnessed one lady’s experience that was quite evidently a muscle spasm in her little finger. Because the witness was within the “Haunt Field” she believed she was experiencing paranormal activity and interacting with the ghost of the little girl “Ellie”.

The experience was captured on video, and although quite distressed the witness believed she could see the outline of the little girl and also regurgitated the story of Ellie – even though she claimed she hadn’t heard the story before.

Was this a psychic experience? I believe far from it but it gave a great insight into a witness experiencing distress and how the brain dealt with an unusual situation.

The witness had placed herself in what I call a “Haunt Field” an area or location that had obtained for itself a reputation of being haunted through historical and social conscious means. (There is a lot more to write about this aspect – I’m not being fluffy.)

When the muscle spasm began the brain went through a series of actions to rule out and explain what was happening. During this process the brain was trying to explain the occurrence, this lead the lady to believe she was interacting with an archetype that most fits within her own character – the “wounded girl”. And hence her experience continues with the archetypal ghost of the castle – Ellie.

The Swiss psychologist Jung described the concept of psychological archetypes as a framework where archetypes are innate prototypes which are used to interpret experiences. In my previous article ‘The Hooded Ones” I detail how basic archetypes – ‘Black Monks’ and ‘Grey Ladies’ have haunted our consciousness since Roman times and beyond. I have no doubt that when placed within the ‘Haunt Field’ and the mind is confronted with stress through uncommon occurrences, this causes the witness to believe they are interacting with one of the many archetypes within us. I believe more and more that triggers such as stress and/or ‘unknown energy’ allows us to manifest an archetype mentally but how that leaps physically, aside from hallucination, and witnessed by multiple witnesses intrigues me the most. It is easy to dismiss as mass hysteria, that is too easy of an explanation, but when you have yourself borne witness to a multiple sighting of a ghost, it certainly makes me question what did I see?

The countless stories of an Emily/Ellie/Eleanor should not be entirely dismissed but should actually receive more focus from the investigator. These stories were somehow ‘seeded’ by an experience like above – a haunting meme as such – and continue to this day to be planted at various locations. We should consider how these archetypal ghosts manifest physically and ask more seriously, why and how can this happen?

There are no doubt subtle changes to the “Emily” haunting, a change of name, addition of a sister (usually called Charlotte) and cause of death, however the basics remain the same. Far greater research needs to take place within the study of archetypal images and apparently ghostly activity, and now is the need for an Aarne–Thompson like classification system of ghosts.