Tonight's guest, Dr. Richard Wiseman, has conducted scientific investigations into a number of interesting areas, including that of ghostly phenomena. He and his associates set up two large scale experiments to study why some people report ghostly sensations (such as seeing apparitions or feeling cold spots) in allegedly haunted locations.
The first study took place in 1999 in England's Hampton Court Palace, which has long been said to be haunted by Catherine Howard, who was beheaded by order of her husband King Henry VIII. Over the years, some 300 people have reported strange occurrences in the gallery, where Catherine is said to have pleaded for her life. The study involved 1,000 members of the public who were given questionnaires about their experiences and also employed high tech equipment such as thermal-imaging. The results showed unusual sensations were tied to specific locations, though Wiseman believes "some of these experiences were caused by natural phenomena, such as subtle draughts and changes in air temperature."
In 2001, underground vaults at Edinburgh Castle were the site of a second large study. Participants did not know which vaults had the reputation as being haunted, yet they consistently reported more odd experiences in the haunted ones. "Hauntings exist, in the sense that places exist where people reliably have unusual experiences," Wiseman said in an article(1) on BBC News. Still he doesn't necessarily think ghosts are the culprit, citing again the evidence of environmental cues.