The Penny Ghost: Spirits, Synchronicity, and Symbolism

N. A. Reiter and L.L. Schillig

21 June, 2003


We had seen this one coming for quite a while. Since the earliest days of our investigative efforts, we have been forced to confront an aspect of haunts and ghostly activity that has been covered minimally or not at all in existing ghost literature. The aspect we speak of consists essentially of dual elements: symbolism and archetypal appearance and interaction. As we began to probe the phenomenology of this case, we were struck by both the intensity and the pervasive nature of the aforementioned elements. We mutually suspected that this case was going to turn into something far deeper than most, and might at long last open up a new paradigm for our research that would integrate the concepts of consciousness, symbolism, and anomalous physical events.

In late 2002, a mutual friend in a prominant town in central Ohio had informed us of a large Victorian home in her neighborhood that had been the scene of on-going ghostly activity of a fairly classical sort. The house had recently been remodeled and re-zoned for office use, and was now being used as a psychology clinic! Despite this oddly ironic aspect, with many other issues looming, we placed it on a back burner, priority wise. However, in early 2003, our friend informed us that a new twist in the case had occurred. The occupants of the house had been finding recent era American pennies lying about under unusual circumstances, and in one instance, a penny was seen to drop out of mid-air! By the time in late May that we finally settled on a date to examine the situation, five pennies had been found since the first one had dropped from apparent mid-air after New Years. Two were found on high traffic floors, and two had been found strategically placed on chairs by the woman who had been the first to open the house in the early AM. It was claimed that the discovered pennies had not been at the locations when this same woman had been the last to leave the day before. We focused our hopes and curiosity on this particular set of events. In our six years of research, we had only been contacted on one other occasion regarding possible apported physical objects, and that case ended up in all likelihood to be an elaborate hoax.

Contact was established with the owner of the clinic, herself a psychologist. We struck up a correspondence by e-mail and phone, and more background information was provided. However, LS was kept even further from incoming information than usual. No chance could be taken for informational / intuitive contamination! The correspondence between "Dr. M" (as we will refer to her) and NR was kept on file.

Dr. M disclosed that most of the anomalous activity (apart from the pennies) noted by herself and at least two other of her colleagues and co-workers emanated from the second floor (primarily clinic offices) and the spacious third floor (a carpeted but mostly vacant storage area). The most frequently reported phenomena were auditory in nature, such as footsteps, dragging sounds, and rolling or slamming sounds, all reported when no known active party was in the area. Several of the clinic colleagues and clients had reported uncomfortable cold spots that would come and go on both the first and second floors. Dr. M herself had become quite sensitive to areas of the house that made her feel uncomfortable, by way of feelings of presence or dread. It was further disclosed that previous owners and tenants of the home had reported disquieting phenomena, amongst which was a white female apparition seen on the third floor.

In initial conversations with Dr. M, NR suggested that the penny phenomenon and other activity might be linked or entangled with the presence of one or more particular colleague, office worker, or client. This has been examined in an on-going way, and we will discuss the implications later.

Dr. M decided in the spirit of objective investigation to set up some audio and video after-hours surveillance in the house, on the first floor. We continue to examine these tapes, which were found to contain several interesting events. In two instances, brief flashes of illumination are seen to cross the fronts of several kitchen cabinets. The origin of this illumination is not known, although it may constitute some chance interplay or reflection of auto headlights from a nearby parking lot. These same tapes also contain frequent thumpings or concussive sounds of unknown origin.

By May, we finally established a mutually amenable day for our first on-site visit. On May 31, 2003, we pulled up in front of the imposing Victorian manse and began our investigation in earnest.

Our Visit:

The weather on the afternoon of our visit was well accessorized to the task at hand. Prevailing conditions were overcast, with intermittent light rain, and temperatures in the low 50s F. We were greeted by Dr. M and her husband "Steven," himself a professor at a nearby college. None of the other colleagues of the clinic or employees were present.

The luxurious old abode displayed the fruits of a very unique and successful effort! With careful remodeling and decorating schemes performed since late 2002, the house was allowed to retain all of the antique charm of a Victorian residence, with the privacy and internal space division needed by the professionals working there. We had no doubt that the gentle and elegant theme of the house was helpful in a subtle way for the psychological and emotional needs of the clients coming there. No doctor's office mystique here - warmth and gentility and Home-ness flow from the walls.

LS promptly began her "walk-about" with dowsing rods in hand, while I made some initial explanations to Dr. M as to how we felt we might be able to examine this case. We also examined the five pennies found up to that date, as well as a heavy chain weight for a grandfather clock that had been found recently in an out-of-place manner. In usual fashion, I began tailing LS with our "light assortment" of instruments, making several rounds. Among the accoutrements for the day were our digital camera, Hall gaussmeter, ultrasonic detector, digital thermometer and a recently acquired lab grade environmental multi-meter (reading dew point, relative humidity, and temperature).

Our general route took us through the first floor office areas, then to the second floor, finally to the third. Both LS and I then made several backtrack visits to specific locations of interest, for matching up dowsing response areas with any physical anomalies. During one of these visits back to the third floor, LS made a discovery that surprised us intensely, and that pointed toward an actual interactive synchronistic event in our presence. Another area of interest was a set of three locations on the first floor where both Dr. M and LS noticed some localized chill or temperature gradient. Following some relating of the house history to LS, we did make a single pass through the basement of the building also.

Upon completion of our house touring, we kicked back and let Dr. M run some of the video and audio footage from her after-hours taping experiments. There did appear to be several interesting features, which we caught. These will be discussed later in this report. While watching Dr. M's video, we also discussed some of the synchronistic and archetypal implications of assorted phenomena in the house, and how it could point to an answer or understanding of the phenomena there.

As the afternoon turned to evening, we bid Dr. M and Steven adieu. We were given several video and audio tapes for further review, as well as the set of pennies found. The following sections of this report outline our basic findings, and several key stories and theories. We will finally conclude with a discussion of our future plans for this case, and how a new paradigm in ghost investigation may be birthing.

Physical and Photographic Evidence:

Overall, the house seemed to be fairly free of strong electromagnetic anomaly zones, which was surprising considering the likelihood of some remaining unbalanced field old style wiring. No significant E-M anomalies were disclosed with our Hall gaussmeter on the first floor. On the second floor, a modest rise or distortion of background ambient (about 10%) was found near one wall of the room in which LS had independently found a dowsing reaction and strong impression of a young male child energy pattern. We also find a stronger rise due to vertical field lines at a point on the middle landing of the main stairway, very close to the corner. This also had been independently determined by LS to be a location of an informational or energetic pattern of a young woman.

On the third floor, we find two modest distortions in the background geomagnetic ambient. One of these was near the center of the bay or tower window (SE corner). The other was near the center of the SW window set.

No appreciable acoustic anomalies or electrostatic anomalies were observed. LS, myself, and Dr. M spent some time on the first floor, examining some spots that subjectively appeared to be colder than the rest of the room, however we could not confirm this thermometrically or by gauging humidity levels. As an overall condition, the humidity of the house appears to be slightly above normal, measured at 63% RH at a typical indoor temperature of 68F.

Several photographs were taken that show orb-like images. Two of these are included with this report.

Photo A
Photo A

In photo A, we see a prominent orb near a very significant point on the floor of the third story. (We will discuss this in a following report section)

Photo B
Photo B

Photo B shows two orbs near the doorway to the stairs leading from the second floor to the third.

No high strangeness photographic anomalies, such as vapor images or apparitions were captured.

LS' Intuitive Impressions:

The following are transcribed from LS' notes.

Impressions were primarily encountered in the following areas with descriptions to follow:

Waiting room/lobby area

This area seemed to have several cold spots, however no specific impressions were attainable.

Former dining room/current office

Dowsable energy was found near the north corner of the clinician’s desk, however no specific impressions were attainable.

Closet under staircase

A young male energy is present, who seems to be either hiding in the closet or who has been confined. I believe it to be the same energy encountered in the upper levels of the house, which will be described in more detail later.

Main staircase landing

This are gave the impression of a young woman in her upper teens or early twenties. She seems to be somewhat frail, either emotionally or physically. I had a difficult time breathing, and I would question where I was experiencing sympathetic asthma-like condition.

Second floor - front room

The young male is faintly present near the west front window.

Second floor - northeastern most bedroom

This is an area where the energy is most intense. The young male of an early to mid-elementary school age is quite angry. His energy is dowsable near the doorway. I believe he has been confined or even locked in this room for control purposes. He seems to be autistic with wide mood swings from anger to cowering.

Second floor - middle room on east side

The young woman on the steps is present in this room. She seems quite if she is experiencing "the vapors."

Second floor - northwest bedroom

Uneasiness is experienced here, but no distinct imagery.

Back staircase

There is a great sense of uneasiness, however no specific imagery. It may be female.

Third floor - maid's quarters

A great deal of anxiety-like emotions are felt in here. It is an intense feeling of dizziness. It may be female, but no distinct imagery.

Third floor - main area

The southwestern gable has strong energy from the autistic boy in a fetal position. I spent quite a bit of time in this area, and noticed nothing out of place. It was a bare carpeted area, which upon revisiting it several minutes later displayed a nickel.

The gable on the northeastern side also has this boy’s energy, but with much less intensity.

The Nickel Event:

On our first walk through, LS had proceeded me to the third floor, and had pretty well completed a tour there before I arrived. I followed up with my Hall gaussmeter and digital camera. It was at this point that I did notice, though with little attention given, that one of the photos I had taken showed several dramatic orbs on the third floor, near the southwest corner. I made no mention of this at the time, either to LS or Dr. M.

Somewhat later in the afternoon, LS went back up to the third floor with Dr. M and Steven to see where Dr. M had indicated a previous "apport" type event had occurred, involving a plastic rose found on the floor. As LS was walking near the southern wall, she spied a US nickel lying on the carpet, about 18 inches from the wall. LS felt that this coin had not been in that location when she and I had been to the third floor previously. I certainly had not seen it myself! Had the "penny dropper" dropped a five pence for us in a symbolic show of some sort? I collected the nickel and examined it later. It is an average looking 1984 US nickel, with no distinguishing residue, corrosion, or markings.

It was shortly after this that I was showing the third floor orb photos to all involved, playing them back on the LCD screen of our Mavica camera. LS was aghast to find that the location of the most prominent orb in the one photo appeared to be (operative phrase, of course) precisely at the location where she had found the nickel! Was there symbology here? What was the meaning of this event, if an event it was? A nickel had been preceded by five pennies since the beginning of the year. Change? Making change? A message for Dr. M or Steven? Or for us?

Analysis of Pennies:

As mentioned previously, we procured the five previously found pennies for analysis and some careful deductive reasoning. Dr. M was certainly correct - several of the pennies were highly corroded for being comparatively recent. On three of the pennies, both pennies found on chairs and one of the floor pennies, we find an unequal corrosion from side to side. That is to say, either the obverse or reverse side would be much more corroded than the other side. It was noted by Dr. M that the penny observed falling from the ceiling area in the kitchen had been highly corroded as well on first examination, but had later been cleaned and scrubbed by the employee who had originally observed the event.

Figure A
Figure A

We examined three corroded penny areas with EDS spectroscopy in our search for clues. (See Fig.A) We find copper, oxygen, carbon (a component of verdigris), and in the case of the most corroded penny found on a chair, some evidence of zinc oxide (presumably from the internal alloy of the penny, since modern American pennies are a clad alloy.) There was no evidence of excessive heating - usually evidenced by both black CuO and an underlying layer of red Cu2O. Instead, it appears as though the corrosion on the pennies given to us is due to water or moisture. We also note that the one sided corrosion might indicate that the pennies had been lying on a moist surface (outdoor dirt or pavement?) for an extended time before finding their way (by whatever means!) into the house.

No other unusual attributes were noted, such as radioactivity, metal embrittlement, etc.

Audio and Video Evidence:

The VHS video recordings made by Dr. M after hours - with the house empty - may provide some interesting evidence. We reviewed some of this footage with Dr. M and Steven on the afternoon of our visit.

EVP / audio evidence in cases of purported hauntings has always prompted some of our harshest skepticism. To date, we have never captured what we felt was compelling evidence for a genuine audio anomaly. The EVP recordings made during many "ghost hunts" rarely provide even the opportunity for careful study or analysis. At high volume, electronic noise from a tape recorder or amplifier itself may occasionally be resolved into pseudo-voices. Many EVP "ghost voices" are likely from distant or unheard real-life conversations from the ghost hunters or nearby third parties. Louder, more distinctive non-vocal sounds may provide better evidence for genuine paranormal activity. Some evidence of this sort may exist on Dr. M's tapes. Most frequently heard on an intermittent basis are creakings and thumpings that do genuinely resemble footsteps or movement of furniture, etc. We are still in the process of searching for and evaluating the most interesting of these audio events.

While we were in the company of Dr. M and Steven, we examined two interesting visual events on the VHS tape recorded in late winter, set up to record approximately two hours of early evening time in the kitchen (on the first floor). In one case, a flickering sheen is seen to briefly move across the face of two cabinet doors. Approximately an hour later, we see another moving light event, but this one resembles a mottled shadow and light pattern in the shape of tree leaves. Inspection of the kitchen windows and their orientations showed that indeed, a strong light source (car headlights?) in a neighboring carport could play past some tree boughs, through one window, and across the kitchen cabinet faces. However Dr. M pointed out a bizarre inconsistency! The recording was made in February of 2003 - and no leaves were on any tree anywhere in the area. This is puzzling.

Phenomena and Symbology:

It seemed ironic enough, in a house of psychology, we went looking for evidence of phenomena normally shunned by psychology, yet this very same set of phenomena carried with it elements of potentially deep psychological significance. CG Jung goes ghost hunting...

In previous cases, generally involving readily identifiable poltergeist motifs, we have found that material objects comprising the focii for the phenomena are meaningful in symbolism. In one case from Newark, Ohio, we found that a small Star Wars commemorative knickknack was often found to be displaced around the home in strange fashion. However the allegorical symbolism of the piece - a mini-diorama of the Light and Dark sides of the Force - provided not only a breakthrough clue toward understanding the emotional turmoil behind the poltergeist, but also provided understanding and empowerment for the person likely generating the poltergeist effects. The anomalous phenomena in that house stopped completely after our discovery was made, shared, and then understood by the participants.

We shared with Dr. D our various thoughts on the matter. Could some of the phenomena be related empirically to the presence of either a particular client, colleague, or worker whose emotional life was resonating with embedded informational patterns / energy in the house? We consider that the majority of the "mystery pennies" found in this case were either discovered by or were co-witnessed in the presence of one of the office employees. Likewise, many of the rolling or footstep sounds from the third floor have been reported by one particular colleague of Dr. M.

Thus, symbolism could be our guide, as well as careful examination of those whose presence the phenomena manifested most completely in. This cross-referencing with participants is ongoing by Dr. M, and will be reported to us periodically. LS feels that one or more autistic juvenile clients of the clinic may be invoking resonance and re-activation of the one old pattern involving a disturbed autistic boy from a previous century.

Several possible interpretations of the penny phenomena may be pondered. Nearly all pennies found have been corroded or "dirty". Dirty money? Perhaps some exposition or commentary about activities in the house from past times, such as the Prohibition era? Five pennies for a nickel? Making change - time to make change? Or perhaps something to do with "penny for your thoughts?" Such possibilities may be very valuable to match up with any potential human "attractors" or empirical focii that are pinpointed.

Another enigmatic (and synchronistic) symbology involves the other dramatic "out-of-place" item, found on the floor of the third story - a single red plastic rose. Neither Dr. M nor Steven found any immediate significance in the event, occurring in the early spring of 2003. However, as we neared the end of our visit on 31 May, we sat back and were idly admiring the large stained glass window over the center landing of the main stairway. The scene portrayed was vaguely Hellenic, with a flutist playing for a reclining woman in a marble courtyard. Suddenly, LS said, "hey there is a rose on the floor!" We looked again, and lo! So there is! In the ancient Greek scene of the stained glass, a single red rose is lying on the marble floor in front of the reclining woman and her piper. Could the appearance of the rose on the third floor be related to the scene in the stained glass window? We are still attempting to determine if the scene in the window is generic, or if it represents a specific myth or tale. Could PK resonate in form to the symbolism of myth and archetypes?

General Conclusions:

With this case, a certain initiation in our methodology was passed. We have simply observed too many instances of deep - sometimes archetypal - symbolism in our tramping about to not consider the power of this force. By careful examination of not just the history and participants of a haunting (both live and dead), but the inherent symbology as well, we believe that the core phenomena may be understood. We will never view another ghost investigation in quite the same way, ever again.

In the Victorian magnificence of the clinic operated by Dr. M and her colleagues we believe there may be a variety of highly potent subtle energy patterns or informational fields from days gone by. The echoes of a disturbed little boy, perhaps, or a fretful and angry young woman, among others. LS did not detect intuitively the distinct but difficult to express characteristics of a conscious entity. We further believe that it is possible that these old patterns and fields, expressing emotions, personalities, maybe even thoughts of long departed folk may be reconstituted. The mechanism of this reconstitution remains unknown, but we believe that resonance with modern era (living) participants with similar issues plays the key role.

Our best chance of proving or disproving this overall hypothesis may lie in matching the symbolism of phenomena with participants. We would even step a little further, and allow ourselves to ponder what influence the establishing of this knowledge will have on the course of the phenomena! When symbolism and archetypal appearance are acknowledged and absorbed by the participant, does the PK or poltergeist phenomenon dissipate? Jung reminded us that synchronicity is the hallmark of personal transformation, and when such transformational / initiatory periods in our lives are fulfilled, the engines of synchronicity become dormant... until next time. What if psychokinesis is, in actuality, a form of pure synchronicity?

We have further plans brewing with Dr. M and the clinic. LS and I plan to return later in 2003 for some overnight instrumentation and analysis, as well as deeper consultation with the clinic occupants on the appearance of more phenomena.

In closing, we would like to extend our deepest gratitude to Dr. M and Steven, the colleagues and employees of the clinic, and to our mutual friends Shelley and Dan who made it all come together... in a very synchronistic way!

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