Scared yet?

October 31, 2019 | Science

“Can we get some flashlights?” asked a student, voice trembling, moments before the lights went out.

She wasn’t alone. Twenty-four psychology students in PSYC 449: Topics in Social Psychology: Pseudoscience were gathered in the sitting room of the allegedly haunted McKenzie House, just north of Whyte Avenue. Led by Associate Professor Dr. Rodney Schmaltz, the students were split into smaller teams and told to search for signs of paranormal activity.

Anyone who has ever watched a horror movie – or even an episode of Scooby-Doo – knows this is a very bad idea.

Undaunted, the “meddling kids” spread throughout the house searching for cold spots, orbs, unusual sounds, or anything else that could be seen as a haunting. Each year, Rodney brings his students to a haunted location in the city and asks them to apply strategies used in ghost hunting TV shows, but with a heavy dose of scientific skepticism. If the students were to see a ghost, they should be able to explain it away with reason.

“The purpose is to debunk ghost hunting shows on TV by using some of the same tools and approaches the shows use, and then show the earthly explanations for what could be considered hauntings,” says Rodney. For example, those earthly explanations could be infrasound causing the hairs on the back of your neck to rise.

Over the course of an hour, students explored the 108-year-old house’s eerie solarium, a second-floor room where a ghostly man in a top hat allegedly stands in the window, and the basement haunted by a ghost girl.

When asked what they would do if they saw one of the house's resident ghosts, a few students proclaimed, "I would just die!" Fortunately for the slightly skittish researchers, no ghosts were spotted. This year.


Take a look through their paranormal (or not) investigation — if you dare!



Educating (and entertaining) a tough crowd

Fourth-year psychology students disseminate their honours research to the most discerning of audiences — junior high students.

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