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Sutton man’s quest to explain the paranormal

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It’s not easy to explain the unexplained, but, as a parapsychologist, that is exactly what Sutton’s Callum Cooper tries to do.

It’s not easy to explain the unexplained, but, as a parapsychologist, that is exactly what Sutton’s Callum Cooper tries to do.

Although his job title brings predictable tags of ‘ghostbuster’ and ‘ghosthunter’, his role is far more scientific than anything you’d see in fictitious films or television series.

The 25-year-old has been interested in the paranormal since his days as a Lammas School pupil when he visited Sutton library and spent most of his time in the aisle containing fortean phenomena - that is to say strange happenings that science cannot define or yet explain and incorporating everything from UFOs to the Loch Ness Monster.

Among the favourite literature he came across were books by Jane Peters that explored local tales of the paranormal from the likes of Newstead Abbey and Hardwick Hall.

At Newstead, there have been many stories about appearances of the black friar or monk, even though there have been none at the Abbey for hundreds of years.

‘The White Lady’, said to be the ghost of Lord Byron fanatic Sophie Hyatt who was killed by a drayman’s cart because she was deaf and did not hear it coming, has also been seen wandering through the site’s gardens.

At Hardwick, a ghost of a man has been reportedly seen walking the grounds - matching the description of philosopher Thomas Hobbes who was buried in the churchyard at nearby Ault Hucknall - while foot steps have been heard and the figure of a different man has been seen in the west wing of the Old Hall ruins.

Other tales have revealed books dropping off shelves in what is now the estate’s shop in front of disbelieving attendants, not to mention the sounds of children emanating from what were found to be empty rooms upstairs. Callum found it all fascinating stuff. He later joined the The Ashfield Paranormal Investigation Team (TAPIT) and they investigated places such as places like Pleasley Vale Mills and Bentinck Miners’ Welfare.

What started out as a hobby then became a career as Callum studied psychology at the University of Northampton, where he is now a PhD candidate and lecturer there in the Centre for the Study of Anomalous Psychological Processes (CSAPP).

“Parapsychologists look into paranormal experiences and abilities that are beyond our current scientific understanding,” he said. “We look at cases on the edge of science.

“It’s divided into three basic categories. The first is extra-sensory perception (ESP), which includes the likes of clairvoyance, telepathy - mind to mind interaction - and precognition.

“The second is psychokinesis, or PK as it is known, which is the ability to move or manipulate objects with the mind - what Uri Geller is famous for - and includes poltergeist activities.

“The third is survival research, which is anything that suggests the mind can be active beyond the body, such as out-of-body or near death experiences, apparitional experiences of the dead and mediumship, to name a few. This is the area I am most interested in.

“The typical one I get is that I’m a ‘ghostbuster’, or when people know I’m a psychologist they say ‘go on the, read my mind’, but it doesn’t work that way. Parapsychology is about looking into the psychology of the paranormal - looking at human behaviour and how the mind works because we don’t understand everything yet.”

Callum, the 2014 Schmeidler Outstanding Student Award Winner for his research work, is often asked if he believes in ghosts, but has always believed it is in his best interests to remain impartial.

What he does affirm is that others have been the subject of what is deemed paranormal phenomena.

He said: “70 per cent of people claim to have had telepathic experiences, so if you’re to say there is no such thing as psychic phenomena, then you’re claiming that the majority of people are foolishly mistaken or just plain crazy.

“We use the scientific methods of observation and documentation with phenomena such as hauntings and sometimes you can find an experience can be verified.

“People in the past believed that balls of light on photographs, or ‘orbs’, were ghosts and spirits, but it has been shown thorough experimentation (in published research), using stereo-photo cameras (3D cameras), that an ‘orb’ appears on one image and not the other - of the same scene in the same single shot - because it is actually dust particles in the air, or insects, caught in the right place at the right time, out of focus or pixelated by the digital camera.

“But just because one case is proven to be a hoax or a fake doesn’t mean they all are, in the same way that just because some coins are counterfeit, there are still plenty of others that are genuine.”

It’s not just today’s public that are captivated by the paranormal. Interest was particularly piqued by the Napoleonic Wars and again after the First World War, when there were regular reports of people having seen their loved ones in the corner of a room in a premonition or apparition and then later received telegrams confirming their death in battle.

Callum has never seen an apparition during his investigations, but he has witnessed activity classed as typical of a Poltergeist.

“There were incidents at Bentinck Miners’ Welfare where we threw some objects down a room and a different object came back - a metal washer - which whizzed past us and hit the door with a thud,” he said.

“But if you’re sat waiting for something to happen, then it never will.”

Callum’s research has already led him to be a published author, releasing Telephone Calls from the Dead in 2012.

He has now released a new book, Conversations with Ghosts, which explores the unpublished work of American Dr Alex Tanous, and plans to release a third called Paracoustics later this year, co-edited with Steve Parsons.

Callum said: “I read through Dr Tanous’ manuscript that was three chapters long about places he’d investigated in 1970s and 1980s and I’ve updated it and added to his findings.

“His own psychic abilities struggled to gain kudos while growing up and being sent through a religious education, due to the church in the US at the time being so sceptical of the paranormal.

But I felt this unfinished book had value and was worth looking at again.

“He was the first person to investigate the Amityville Horror case and quickly realised it was a load of rubbish, while he also worked in Egypt and uncovered a tomb below the sphinx.”

In a field where there are often more questions than answers, Callum continues to do his utmost to make the unexplained that bit more comprehensible.

 

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