A little over a week ago, I posted a simple black and white photograph of a chair in an empty looking building. The experiment was simple - could anyone ascertain from the picture alone, whether or not the location was haunted and, if it was, what details might they be able to pick up? There are those who state that, simply by looking at an image, they can somehow psychically provide details or historical information. To remind you, this was the image I chose:
You might be forgiven for thinking that, from the outset, it was my intention to dupe people into thinking the photograph was a fake, part of a set design or theatrical production. Not at all. In fact, you can visit this location for yourself, if you happen to live in the UK.
Before I reveal the details of this location, let me first go through some of the results.
Well, you're a cynical lot with 67% of you believing that this location was most definitely not haunted. Opinions about the photograph included the feeling that this was a fake location; a random image 'to prove the gullibility of people'. Other examples included the belief that the gravel was 'too smooth' and the chair looked like a toilet. There were some lovely compliments about the photography but the general consensus was clear - a nice image but nothing to suggest it was a haunted location.
On the other hand, 26% thought that this location was haunted. Interestingly, there were a few opinions which overlapped. The name 'Peter' was picked up on twice by separate people, as was 'Mary'. There were a number of people that suggested a small number of people associated with the room i.e. one man and one woman, two males and one woman etc. A few people also believed that the chair is somehow linked to a small girl. 7% of people were undecided.
So what do I make of these findings? Was I surprised by any of the revelations? In a word, no. I was not surprised at all. Considering that the vast majority of people who took part in the experiment do not claim to be in any way psychic, it did not surprise me to find so many people taking the stance that the location provided no visual clues to suggest that it might be haunted (whatever that might be!) It was also not surprising for people to think that as I view paranormal phenomena with a healthy dose of skepticism, that I would immediately choose a location with absolutely no history of the paranormal. Indeed, I was pleased to find so many people who took the photograph at face value - exactly the same stance that investigators should have when visiting any location.
Of those that believed the image showed a haunted location, there were sadly no comments that provided accurate, historical information that 'hit the nail on the head' so to speak. Unsurprisingly, most comments were general and included very common names. A few people used the visual clues of the old-looking building to surmise that there might be a general link to religion (nuns, priests) or the military or storage. Talk about hedging your bets. As for the comments about a link with children, again, not surprising. For this you need only look at the chair. It looks rather small in comparison to the rest of the image - childlike almost. It's no wonder really, that children were mentioned in relation to the image, much more than adults.
The photograph was in fact taken inside the Preceptory Tower which was originally part of a church once used by the Knights Templar. Temple Bruer is in the county of Lincolnshire and the Preceptory Tower is one of the very few Knights Templar sites left in England, dating back to the 12th Century. It was founded by Henry II between 1150-1160.
The Knights Templar were among the wealthiest and most powerful religious orders in history. The Templar knights, in their white robes and red cross, were among the most skilled fighters of the Crusades.
Regarding the matter of whether this location is supposed to be haunted. Yes, it is meant to be. There have been numerous reports over the years of ghostly men, dressed in the white robes and red cross of the Templar Knights (with swords and shields no less), walking close to the tower. There have also been reports of figures, clad in white, walking into the path of traffic along the A15 road nearby, but no people could ever be found. The tower itself is, according to some, home to numerous spirits from the same era. I hasten to add that none of these reports can be verified, with some dating back some 40 years.
As for the Empty Chair itself? It was placed inside the Tower as part of a modern Art installation and is quite modern.
Okay, so nobody mentioned the Knights Templar. Was that what I was looking for or what I truly expected? No. The purpose of this experiment was not really to find out whether anyone could provide historical details based on a photograph. It was simply to see what assumptions people would make based on the limited visual clues that the image provided. It was interesting for me to see how many people thought the location was haunted simply because it looked like it might be haunted. I chose a dimly lit interior and a black and white image for that very reason.
I also chose an image that removed as many of the historical clues as possible. Again, this was on purpose. On entering any location, investigators and the public alike, should try to remain impartial; focussing on collecting evidence which seeks to explain the observations of eye-witnesses. We cannot make assumptions about a location based on its age, state of disrepair, its history or any other factors that might otherwise lead us to believe that a location is haunted without any evidence to back up our claims.