When the topic of ghosts and the spiritual comes up, many think there are only two categories: sceptics and believers. This could be correct, but I prefer to see it with fewer labels.
On November 16, a colleague and I went on the Cullinan Mystery Ghost Hunt 30km east of Pretoria – much to the bemusement of our boss, who is firmly on the ‘sceptic’ side of the spectrum.
We were in a group of around 20 people and maybe three of them said they were sceptical. Many in the group have been on multiple tours before and claim to have seen proof of the ‘other side’. Most were all too eager to consider the flickering of lights and a cold breeze hard evidence of the paranormal.
You might think I’m a sceptic too, but on the contrary, I consider myself to fall under the pagan umbrella of spiritualism. However, my own knowledge is based on my own research and experimentation with parapsychology and not just “I took a picture in a graveyard and there’s an orb in the corner, so it has to be a ghost trying to communicate”.
The tour itself was informative, with our host, Mark Rose-Christie, telling us a lot about the history of Cullinan as a mining town and repeating a couple of ghost stories that he’s been told himself from some of the locals.
Something that admittedly impressed me was that a lot of his stories of spiritual phenomena and explanations of parapsychology aligned very closely with what I knew myself. The only things that I would consider ‘deviations’ would be things I’ve disproven through my own experiences.
I confess I got bored with much of the history, as I have a very short attention span, and I was even more disheartened when I explored the designated areas and couldn’t find any evidence of the ghosts he was speaking about.
In an amusing twist of events, the areas with the most ‘paranormal activity’ were the ones that our guide completely overlooked.
In the wine cellar of the Premier Hotel as well as throughout the McHardy House, there are minor entities which I refer to as ‘gremlins’. These are small, non-threatening beings that primarily cause mischief by moving and hiding small objects (I could have sworn I put my car keys here…).
They also feed and enjoy the attention and energy they get from people noticing their antics. These can range from people squealing: “Ah, something just brushed my leg!” to caretakers noticing things being in different places the next morning. Apparently one of the windows in the McHardy House doesn’t have curtains because, every morning, the caretakers would arrive to find them yanked down. Whether that is an act of some overzealous gremlin, an exaggerated story, or just an outright lie, I don’t know.
While exploring the house, I entered a bedroom that I promptly exited. It gave me such a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach and there was a sensation of tightness across my shoulders. When my co-worker asked, I just said: “I don’t like that room.”
Rose-Christie told us about the history of the house, pointing to an adjacent bedroom and saying it belonged to a boy, James, who died in an accident. We were asked not to enter it out of respect. You’d think that anything paranormal would be in James’ room, yet it was his brother George’s room that rang my warning bells.
I think what had me really having to hold back on sarcastic comments was when we were advised to download “Ghost Hunting Tools (Detector) Free”.
I tried to hide my doubt. I really did.
The app’s primary interface is split into two sections: one that measures electromagnetic fields (EMF) and one that records (electronic voice phenomena) EVPs.
An app recording sounds that the human ear perhaps couldn’t or didn’t hear is somewhat plausible, but I don’t think we’re yet at a stage where an app, let alone a free one, can read EMF.
The fact that the EMF reader didn’t respond when exposed to electrical outlets or magnets is a little bit of a giveaway.
Another dead giveaway was that despite everyone in the group using the same app at the same time, none of us got the same readings (to my knowledge). If there was a spike in EMF, then all the readers would have simultaneously gone off.
As for the EVPs, the words the app gave us seemed more like randomised nonsense than anything else. My list comprises a few random names as well as some convenient ‘spooky’ words, but nothing that actually linked to any conversations or events that were happening around me. If something was trying to make contact, surely two phones next to one another would pick up the same word.
At least the app was free.
We ended the tour in a graveyard at midnight. The most emotion I felt was just a permeating sadness, but there were no ghosts “lurking behind me”.
At this point, my co-worker and I were mostly bored, hungry, and tired, and a group of now 15 people freaking out about a mysterious red light on a statue (cameras do that) wasn’t exactly exciting.
The night ended with a completely and totally unexpected jumpscare (is there a sarcasm font?) and we drove back to the hotel in silence.
I was disappointed.
I mean, I don’t exactly need to go all the way to Cullinan to see proof of the supernatural. I already have the answer to the question ‘Are ghosts real?’
So what was I expecting out of the tour?
To be honest, I’m not sure.
I enjoyed being able to share my own explanations and experiences with my colleague (I think it served as more of a bonding experience than anything else) and I learnt some fancy terms for things I already knew, which was nice.
I also learnt that free apps won’t pick up EMF.