Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year, Time Slipping

One of the mysteries related to ghosts is how it is that people occasionally appear to see events that happened many years ago, such as in a residual haunting. You see an event played out, but the players are unaware of your presence, and the event, which may be witnessed by many individuals at different times, seems like a taped event replaying over and over in a loop.

I once experienced hearing an explosion as I was touring a World War I French fort, Fort Douamont, near Verdun. The explosion sounded distant, yet it was very clear and I have no doubt about what I heard. About 30 feet down the hallway I was walking, I entered a room that had been partially sealed off. A wall had been built across it to entomb the men who had died there as result of an artillery explosion. Did I hear that same explosion approximately 100 years later? How is that possible? Does this have something to do with the nature of time?

Einstein said that time passes more slowly as you approach the speed of light, and that time for a person traveling on a train passes more slowly than for the person standing watching the train from the train station. Einstein also said that time travel was possible, but according to his theory of relativity, travel could only be in one direction: the future. Hence, people on a long space journey might return to find that 200 years had passed on Earth while they had only experienced the passage of two.

This doesn't seem to apply to what people witness in hauntings. Along with residual hauntings, which are not uncommon, there have been scattered accounts of time slips: people moving into the past and interacting with its occupants and then returning to the present. This is much more rare. In one well-known case, two British women, Charlotte Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain, visited the Palace of Versailles in 1901. They walked across the grounds to the Trianon, where they encountered and spoke to people dressed in clothes of the era of Marie Antoinette and may have seen her painting. It is also possible that they encountered people dressed up doing some kind of reenactment. However, in 1979, two British couples, the Simpsons and the Gisbys, driving in France on their way to Spain, spent the night in an old French inn with few amenities, oddly dressed people, bad coffee and cheap prices only to find, when they returned to the spot on their way home, that no such inn was currently in existence. The whole building was missing. However, since the photos they took there mysteriously disappeared from the roll of film, this one is also dependent on the word of the witnesses. Several people have reported slipping back to an earlier time in Bold Street in Liverpool, UK. In each case, the people eventually return to their current time. Click on the title of this post to read the article on time slips at Wikipedia.

None of these events can be explained by Einstein's theory of relativity in which time travel seems to apply only to the time distortion caused by space travel. There must be a solution to this puzzle of time. Perhaps string theory, which conceives time and events existing on strands of time that loop around and occasionally overlap. The philosophers may be right when they tell us that all time exists at the same time, past, present and future. In that case, the string of time we are standing on may occasionally intersect that of another and allow us to catch a glimpse or a snippet of sound from long ago or even to step briefly into the past.

However one part of Einstein's theory seems to be true. No one has ever heard of a ghost haunting before its own death. If time flowed backward, a ghost could go back in time and warn its human host to avoid the event that lead to its death. No, all of the hauntings seem to take place in the future, at least as far as the ghost is concerned. Perhaps what seems like a hundred years to us, is only moments to him. There may be something to Einstein's theory after all.

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