Sunday, July 19, 2009

Are You Having a Piloerection? Goosebumps and Ghost Hunts

Piloerection is the fancy word for goosebumps. This is caused by the muscles at the bases of the hairs on our bodies reacting to cold or fear. The body hairs become erect in a desire to insulate the body better by trapping air within the pores. Static electrical charges cause hairs to stand away from other hairs or repel (kind of like that magnet trick in elementary school). Rub a balloon against your shirt and then run it over your hair and it stands on end much the same as what your body hairs do. Encountering static electricity, fear, or cold can cause goosebumps in haunted locations, but can the paranormal do it?

I’m studying static electricity a bit further in my ghost hunting theories. I’ve noticed a trend on ghost hunts between electrical storms and dry windy conditions and higher incidence of phenomenon.

You’ve had it happen before on a dry day, in a dry environment, you reach for a doorknob and zap! Here in the Arizona desert, you get real scared around metal objects. You approach them much as someone would approach an angry dog; from the side, coming up from behind, gently, slowly, nonthreatening. Once while my son was playing a videogame, I reached to tap him and you could actually see the lightning-bolt- like spark several inches between us before I even touched him. Damn that hurt! We were both whimpering for a while after that.

But, do the sensations of hair standing on end during paranormal activity correlate with static electricity or changes in temperature or fear or perhaps a side effect of spirit activity manifesting? My mother used to say (in a soft West Virginia drawl),“I think someone just walked over my grave,” when she got goosebumps. Upon further questioning, she would admit that it came on all of a sudden and left just as quickly. The sensation of being watched was overwhelming when this occurred. That happened quite often at Aspen Grove. In my present day, inactive house, it very rarely occurs.

One thing I have observed about goosebumps is that you almost never get them when you’re at home reading a book or watching TV (unless it’s a spine-tingling read or movie). But, in reportedly haunted locations it almost always happens at least a few times throughout the evening. What’s with that? Is it because were are on constant alert and fearful or is it related to the supernatural? I tend towards the idea that our bodies are more on the alert in such a place and our hearing is keener, our vision, and all other senses we use to interpret our environment. The goosebump phenomenon would then occur more often because our largest organ, the skin on our bodies, would be much more attuned to changes around us.

Admittedly, I’ve been to lots of late night visits to spooky places and I am the most hardcore “walk into complete darkness, completely alone, sit there and listen and never get scared even one iota” type of person, so when I get goosebumps in such places, I have to wonder if something other than fear is occurring. Perhaps a heightened sense of awareness or perhaps even a static electricity situation generated by the phenomenon itself.

The issues of static electricity around electronics is so serious that great measures are taken when dealing with components to assure no static discharges that might ruin the parts. This is very telling in just how much that little spark can affect change in what it comes into contact with. Of course, that telltale zap usually alerts us, but more subtle charges could affect us and make us break into goosebumps for no apparent reason.

I’ve discussed other potential earthly conditions such as geology, waterways, construction, and geomagnetic/solar activity on hauntings, but now I’m studying the static electricity aspect. I’m hoping that the more I learn about each feature, the more I might see how they relate.

My goal eventually is to come up with a way of knowing the most likely haunted sites (by the physical features and history) and the most ideal days of the week to visit them (depending on weather conditions and geomagnetic activity) to almost guarantee a good hunt. I can then begin to keep a log that addresses all of these conditions and helps me find out commonalities on successful nights compared to lame-o nights (you know, like most of the nights TAPS went out on their 4th season). Perhaps such information could help us to not waste time in the field and also see how physical aspects of our natural world enhance or react with that which is paranormal. Most ghost hunters will tell you, “it was a slow night, maybe we just chose the wrong time to be there.” I'd like to make it so that they have the optimal chances of encountering action.

I’ll continue in my ghost hunting theories to probe this and many other aspects of our physical world and the paranormal world, hoping to find the point where they two meet.

Thanks for following the trek.


  1. Great stuff! It would be great to know when the ideal time for experiencing paranormal phenomena.
    Whenever we got the shivers out of the blue, we would say that the devil touched us.

  2. Sandra;
    I hadn't heard that term before. That's pretty cool. I'd love to collect a bunch of sayings that have origins in brushes with the paranormal. You may have just given me another idea for a post. I am so intrigued by finding the best places/times to hit a spot. I really think there are good nights and bad nights and instead of just brushing them off as happenstance, I think there might be an actual reason for them.

  3. I agree, I think there are good times and bad times to experience the paranormal.
    That saying was from my Spanish speaking side of the family, we would say, "Me toco el diablo"

  4. Sandra;
    It sounds much sexier the way your family said it! I'll add that to my list. Hope to have that post out soon.

  5. Do you any recommendations for a good cementary for a creative engagement photography session? It looks like you know all the great ones in Arizona! Email me for more details. Thanks for your help!

  6. Yet another interesting idea! I've often wondered if such things as EMF might have applications in areas of paranormal research othe than haunting investigations. What about UFO sightings? Bigfoot encounters? I might just need to add an EMF meter to the monster hunting gear.

  7. Julie, I'll email you. I'm kind of an expert at our AZ graveyards.

    Yeah, and EMF meter is a good choice. You might also want to stay tapped into the charts showing geomagnetic activity online. They archive them so you can see if on a day when something weird went down, something might have happened with the activity that day. Sometimes, we get geomagnetic storms that last a few days and those are great times to go out and about. Yes, I think you'll find a strong correlation between earth changes and Bigfoot's reaction, as well as UFO sightings. It might even be that UFO sightings create more static electricity. I'd like to see if that correlates, myself. You can check the archives online at:

  8. Haha-I can't tell you the image that flashed through my mind when I read the title of your article!! You learn something new everyday! You are not kidding about Arizona dryness-when i pet clementina I think I almost elecrocute her-or her me! best to you as always!!

  9. Poor clementina. I started doing things like putting pans of water under my houseplants and a shallow pan with a block of ice (frozen into a cottage cheese container) in front of a fan and letting it moisturize the rooms a bit.

  10. Lately, i have had the goosebumps very often, even in the middle of the summer and all. I thought it was kinda spooky but never thought it could be a ghost in my house! Oh dear!

  11. Greekwitch;
    More than likely it's humidity and air-conditioning in the summertime. We tend to get them in one spot in our living room in the late afternoon when the air-conditioning is running and a storm's about to arrive. It could be an increase in static electricity that's causing it too. It seems that the more static electricity, the greater the chance of witnessing something in a haunted location. Sometimes using your body as a meter to measure your environment is helpful in a haunted spot. In an unhaunted place, if static goes up, it's probably not going to produce any phenomenon.

  12. wow...interesting stuff! all of those physical reactions are nature's way of telling us to be observant. if you try the cake let me know if you like it!

  13. Jaz;

    Speaking of body reactions--last night we got a lightning storm and I got massive tingles and my hair standing on end horribly and my gut knew what it meant and then BOOM! Lightning hit within a few yards of the house. Everyone in the area raced out to see where it hit. I was still seeing sparkles. My body told me before the lightning strike though--still smelled the ozone when we went outside. Just another example of the body reacting to the atmosphere... p.s. I'm excited to make the cake. I had an old vinegar sheet cake that's really moist too, but it never had that traditional taste that my mom used to make for tea time. When she passed on, she took the recipe with her. I got all the old recipes and made them into a family cookbook but I never found that one. She was a "dash of this and that" kind of gal. She used to like to do up tea time real nice every day--I thought it was just a Virginia thing, but I have other friends along the eastern seaboard that say they did tea time too. I still do my own tea-time but without the sweets. Still, about twice a year I like to have a girl's clothing exchange party. Everyone brings tons of stuff and we hang it up around the living room and try things on and trade in the old for new and I do a formal tea time. That'd be ideal for that. Thanks for the recipe.