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Katherine Ramsland, a forensics expert, and Mark Nesbitt, a paranormal investigator, together examine tales of ghosts and murder, haunted crime scenes, serial killer séances, police psychics, and scientific experiments. We asked, what if forensic and paranormal investigation deliberately crossed paths? Can forensics aid ghost hunters, and might ghost hunters who use these tools one day assist in the cause of justice? We fully explore these questions in Blood & Ghosts, including our own investigations and research. Forensics is an applied science and many of its sub-disciplines have a kinship with ghost hunting: its tools and technology were devised to record and analyze evidence or behavior. Given this shared approach to solving mysteries, it makes sense to see how these disciplines can be brought together. From missing persons to mass and serial murder, it’s time to use all of our best resources to solve crimes…and perhaps have a few séances with serial killers.
BLOOD AND GHOSTS
George Pellew (whom psychic researchers referred to as “Pelham”) was a promising young philosopher during the 1890s. He befriended Richard Hodgson, a member of the American Society for Psychical Research. At the time, Hodgson was investigating a quirky but talented medium named Leonora Piper, and Pelham sometimes went with him.
Pelham listened to Hodgson’s ideas about the continuation of the human soul after death, but remained skeptical. He found the concept of a spirit existence absurd, but he jokingly promised that if he died first and if Hodgson and his colleagues were correct, he would return to affirm it. In fact, he vowed, he would make such an obvious appearance no one could deny it. If the spirit world was real, he said, he would prove it. However he did not expect to get this opportunity so quickly.
While riding through Central Park during the winter of 1892, Pelham was killed when his horse slipped on a patch of ice. Hodgson mourned the loss of his friend, but wondered if Pelham’s ghost might now make an appearance. He continued to monitor Mrs. Piper, and now he had a keenly personal interest.
At first, there was no evidence that the young philosopher was going to show, which was disappointing. But a month after Pelham’s death, Mrs. Piper channeled an entity who introduced himself via her regular spirit guide as G. P.
Hodgson was astonished, but not quite ready to call this proof of the afterlife. He put the claim to every scientific test he could think of. To discount the possibility of telepathy, Hodgson invited Pelham’s former friends and relatives to come anonymously and ask questions they believed the medium could never guess. He also brought people there who did not know Pelham at all.
To strangers (the controls), G.P. had nothing to say. To friends and relatives, he offered detailed and accurate answers that satisfied them. In fact, G.P. spoke to them all in the manner he would have used had he been alive, albeit through automatic writing. One man kept a message (several pages long) to himself, but assured Hodgson that he was satisfied that the spirit, G. P., was Pelham.
Hodgson was excited. This untimely death in Central Park, he believed, offered one of the few compelling demonstrations of the possibility of life after death. It is also one of the earliest attempts to test spirit activity with scientific controls. Piper was never exposed as a fraud, and quite a few people reportedly carried on conversations with Pelham after death.
We discussed the case with former FBI profiler Gregg McCrary, who had done forensic analysis of handwriting samples in one of his cases, and who was open to our ideas about paranormal forensics.
“I think they should have done handwriting analysis,” Katherine said.
“But that wouldn’t discount him if it doesn’t match,” Mark pointed out.
Gregg agreed. Mark and Gregg both thought the syntax of such writing should be consistent, and should also show the man’s idiosyncrasies.
Gregg recalled working a case that had required the analysis of a ransom note for a kidnapped CEO in New Jersey, Sidney Reso. The tone of the letter had had a terroristic edge. The authors had signed it “Rainbow Warriors,” but the team thought this was just a deflection. As the communications continued, they’d seen a revealing psychological pattern. They’d concluded that the letter was from a Yuppie couple in Morristown. This came from the tone of the communications and certain items that revealed their identities. Based on dog hairs found in the letter, it was also determined that the couple owned a Golden Retriever.
But back to Pelham.
“You’d be looking for the use of language that was characteristic of the author,” Gregg said. “People can’t help who they are. It leaks out. The linguistics should be from the culture, the era, and something about him.”
We agreed that Hodgson seemed to have done a lot of good investigating of other aspects, and that an analysis of the linguistic characteristics of the communication would have just added a layer.
Yet, we also knew that scientists from that era had tried and failed to expose the Fox sisters, who’d created a worldwide movement, spiritualism, in response to a murder case. However, they were frauds. Their confessions years after they became celebrities revealed their devious tricks.
Today, the debate continues. Despite Pelham’s seemingly remarkable appearance a century ago, there are few other such documented incidents. In fact, despite pushing through from the other side and also being a philosopher, he doesn’t seem to have resolved any of the big questions about the spirit world. His various appearances were mostly limited to mundane chit-chats, which hardly seems “proof” from a man intent on showing Hodgson something worth documenting. Pelham did describe the difficulties of spirit communication and said that entering the discarnate world was jarring and confusing at first.
Few ghost hunters today even know about him. Despite his determination to do so, Pelham hardly made a splash.
Dr. Katherine Ramsland is unique in having extensive experience in researching and writing about criminal psychology, forensics, paranormal events, and the vampire subculture. She holds graduate degrees in forensic psychology, clinical psychology, criminal justice and philosophy. Currently, she teaches forensic psychology and criminal justice at DeSales University in Pennsylvania.
She has published more than 1,000 articles and 46 books, including Psychopath, The Ivy League Killer, The Vampire Trap, The Forensic Psychology of Criminal Minds, The Human Predator: A Historical Chronicle of Serial Murder and Forensic Investigation, Inside the Minds of Serial Killers, Inside the Minds of Sexual Predators, and Inside the Minds of Mass Murderers. Additionally, she has written several books on the vampire subculture, including The Science of Vampires, The Vampire Companion, The Heat Seekers, and Piercing the Darkness: Undercover with Vampires in America Today. She also published the groundbreaking Ghost: Investigating the Other Side.
Ramsland speaks internationally about forensic psychology, forensic science, and serial murder, and has appeared on numerous documentaries, as well as on such programs as The Today Show, 20/20, The Montel Williams Show, NPR, Larry King Live and E! True Hollywood Story. She was the recurring expert for the American Occult series on the ID network and she has consulted for CSI and Bones.
Meet Mark Nesbitt, Co-Author of Blood and Ghosts….
Mark Nesbitt was a National Park Service Ranger/Historian for five years at Gettysburg before starting his own research and writing company. Since then he has published over fifteen books, including Civil War Ghost Trails, The Ghost Hunters Field Guide: Gettysburg & Beyond, and the national award-winning Ghosts of Gettysburgseries. His stories have been seen on The History Channel, A&E, The Discovery Channel, The Travel Channel, Unsolved Mysteries, and numerous regional television shows and heard on Coast to Coast AM, and regional radio. In 1994, he created the commercially successful Ghosts of Gettysburg Candlelight Walking Tours,, and in 2006, the Ghosts of Fredericksburg Tours.
** Mark Nesbitt will be highlighted on Karen’s Killer Fixin’s on Friday with his favorite Halloween recipe as well as a special peek into his books.
Links to Katherine Ramsland ‘s website, blog, books, etc.
**SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Katherine will give away an electronic copy of BLOOD AND GHOSTS to one reader who comments on Monday’s Interview or today’s Karen’s Killer Book Bench blogs. Winner will be randomly selected and announced Friday after 5 p.m. Thanks, Katherine, for sharing your story with us.