2018: Volume 18

Abstracts from Australian Journal of Parapsychology


Volume 18(1), pp. 7-22

Exploring Ostensible Poltergeist vs. Haunt Phenomena via a Reassessment of Spontaneous Case Data


Abstract: Dixon (2016) previously described the manifestation of anomalous experiences and events in a small bar in Sydney, NSW, before and after the departure of a staff member who displayed traits typical of focal persons who are hypothesized agents of ‘recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis’ (RSPK). On both occasions (before and after the focal person’s departure), bar staff were surveyed about any unexplained disturbances they may have experienced. Survey results suggested physically-oriented “poltergeist” phenomena initially occurred at the bar but, following the departure of the focal person, these disturbances ceased and appeared to be replaced by typical psychologically-oriented “haunt” phenomena. This conclusion was based, in part, on a statistically significant difference between two datasets of eye-witness responses. In this paper, we revisited the dataset to shore up the anomalous experience categories, and applied alternative and more rigid statistical analyses. Results were confirmatory: observable (poltergeist) disturbances subsided significantly, although there was no significant increase in sensed (haunt) phenomena. Repercussions of these findings for the Dixon case and implications for future research are evaluated.


Volume 18(1), pp. 23-48

Perceptual-Personality Variables Associated With Entity Encounter Experiences


Abstract: This study evaluates data from two independent samples, active paranormal believers (Study 1, N = 239) and undergraduate students (Study 2, N = 554), to find psychological variables related to self-reported Entity Encounter Experiences (EEE)—specifically, Sense of Presence, Apparitional Experience, and Spirit Possession. Sense of Presence (75%), Apparitional Experience (29%), and Spirit Possession (19%), were more frequent in S1 compared to S2 (34%, 5%, and 5%, respectively). For S1, respondents with a high frequency of EEEs tended to be extroverted, have a high propensity for unusual experiences (a schizotypy factor), and score high on ‘thin’ boundary and transliminality. For S2, respondents with a high frequency of EEEs tended to be neurotic and fantasy-prone, have cognitive-perceptual schizotypy, dissociative tendencies, and score high on absorption factors. For paranormal believers, the ‘thin’ boundary variable predicted EEE group membership. For students, EEE group membership was predicted by schizotypy, absorption, and dissociation.


Volume 18(1), pp. 49-55

Research Note: Comments on Stokes (2017) “A Murder of White Crows”


Abstract: Stokes (2017a, 2017c) argues that the existence of psi may be better established through qualitative studies of certain cases of spontaneous phenomena. In this paper, it is argued that Stokes provides no ontological or epistemological foundation within which the existence of psi can be explained with respect to either mechanisms of operation or a coherent position concerning the nature of the mind-matter relationship. It is also argued that it is difficult to see how qualitative research should be less prone to fraud than quantitative studies as scientific integrity is indispensable in both circumstances.


Volume 18(1), pp. 57-69

Research Note: Demonstrating the Concurrent Validity of Two Coincidence Measures


Abstract: Given the hypothesized relationship between paranormal belief and attribution of psychic causes to coincidences, two coincidence measures (each with five items about coincidences) are tested for their concurrent validity against Thalbourne’s (1995) Australian Sheep-Goat Scale (ASGS). The two measures significantly predict ASGS scores, and for both measures, sheep tended to give higher ratings to the coincidences than did goats. It is concluded that coincidence measures do not necessarily serve the same function as paranormal belief/experience scales, but they may be serviceable substitutes or aids in specific research situations.


Volume 18(2), pp. 117-152

“Meme-Spirited”: I. The VAPUS Model for Understanding the Prevalence and Potency of Ghost Narratives


Abstract: A review of nearly 20 years of sociocultural research and trends on “ghostly episodes” (ghosts, haunted houses, and poltergeists) suggests that personal accounts, group investigations, and popular depictions of anomalous experiences function as active, meaningful, and potent cultural memes. These, in part, reflect interpersonal or group dynamics grounded in Durkheimian models, as well as Social Identity and Conflict theories. Expanding on and integrating these themes, this paper provides a general framework that explains the enduring popularity of ghost narratives in terms of their versatility, adaptability, participatory nature, universality, and scalability (VAPUS model). This perspective implies that ghostly episodes, as experiences and narratives, embody and exemplify the marketing concepts of “brand personality” and consumer engagement. Accordingly, social and cultural influences are discussed as important and inherent contextual variables that help to produce, promote, shape, and sustain these narratives.


Volume 18(2), pp. 153-193

Differences in Gambling Approaches between Informed Paranormal Believers and Quasi-Believers: A Pilot Study


Abstract: This pilot study examined the relationship between paranormal belief and gambling attitudes and behaviours, and thus extends previous research on informedness in relation to paranormal beliefs (Storm, Drinkwater, & Jinks, 2017). The newly constructed Paranormal Belief Informedness Scale (Storm et al., 2017) was used to select four interviewees from a sample of 85 respondents. Prior to the interviews, level of informedness in relation to paranormal beliefs was the main selection criterion for determining interviewee suitability. Five types of gambling were covered (Bingo, Cards, Horses, Slot Machines, and Sports Betting), which served to guide the thematic process, and led to the generation of basic themes and subsequent organising themes. Interview transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis; a qualitative method that classifies configurations and patterns found in transcript material. Generally, interviews revealed a wide range of themes associated with a propensity to gamble. Interviewees expressed views outlining perceived control, luck, paranormal (including superstitious) belief, and gambling strategies that they employed. A range of gambling fallacies and ineffectual strategies seemed to perpetuate gambling attitudes and consequently drive gambling behaviours, but reports differed between informed believers and quasi-believers (i.e., the latter are those who have not fully considered the implications of their beliefs). Most salient were the statements indicating informed paranormal believers were less likely to commit the gambler’s fallacy and engage in fruitless gambling strategies. Findings provide important insights into the assumptions made about paranormal beliefs and gambling attitudes and behaviours.


Volume 18(2), pp. 195-200

Research Note: What’s in a Name? The Best Descriptor for People Reporting Anomalous Experiences


Abstract: The way researchers or authors talk about people who report anomalous or unusual experiences arguably imparts a value judgment that can bias readers’ impressions overtly or covertly, can also positively or negatively affect the very people who participate in academic studies. Investigators in this domain might address the topic to determine if an ideal term exists and should be used as standard practice to ensure a standard operationalization across the literature—and one which also happens to ‘sit well’ with those from whom the research derives.