I. Call to Order
The Chair called to order the regular meeting of the Ghost Hunter Hall of Fame Committee at midnight on Friday, July 22, 2022.
II. Roll Call
The Secretary conducted a roll call. The following members were present:
Andrew Lang (1844-1912), Chair;
Vera Van Slyke (1868-1941), Vice Chair;
Tim Prasil (still living), Secretary; and
Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865), Treasurer.
Our fifth member was missing: Ambrose Bierce (1842-?), Publicity Officer.
III. Approval of Minutes
The minutes of the last meeting were read. Ms. Gaskell moved they be worded in a manner more unnerving, if not alarming, and Ms. Van Slyke seconded. Upon revision, minutes of the last meeting were unanimously approved.
IV. Old Business
“Given the historical emphasis we place on the Hall of Fame,” quipped Ms. Van Slyke, “all we ever do is old business.” The other members chuckled.
V. New Business
Mr. Lang made a case for inducting the Psychical Research’s Committee of Haunted Houses into the Hall of Fame. This committee was* among the first organized when the Society began in 1882. It appears to have lasted two or three years. His rationale was that, while their findings were disappointing, their punctilious methods were commendable. He submitted the attached, clipped from an early issue of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research:
Mr. Prasil explained that it’s certainly true the Committee for Haunted Houses was admirably judicious in assessing witness testimony. The same is true of their efforts to occupy and examine a reputedly haunted site for a long period, thereby improving upon the practice of single-night surveillance. However, he argued, such concerns can be traced back to ghost hunting prior to the Victorians. He asked the members to consider Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832) for induction into the Hall of Fame. Colton repeatedly advocated securing sufficient evidence before announcing a final decision regarding the 1810 haunting in Sampford Peverell.
Ms. Gaskell replied, “I think you’ll find Colton stood in favour of the ghost.”
“I know he later earned that reputation,” explained Prasil, “but his published statements reveal him to be neither for nor against believing a ghost was involved. As I say, he repeatedly argued against arriving at any decision prematurely. While his main opponent, the publisher John Marriot, was quick to proclaim the whole thing a hoax, Colton called for keeping an open mind.”
Mr. Lang submitted, “If memory serves, the Sampford haunting was one of those ‘blame it all on smugglers’ cases so common in Cornwall and the West Country.”
Ms. Van Slyke added, “Tim, you must write a story about the spirits of Cornish smugglers haunting the people who have blamed Cornish smugglers for a haunting. You can put me into it, if you like.”
Ms. Gaskell inquired, “Vera? Are you fictional. Oh, forgive me — were you fictional?”
Ms. Van Slyke and Mr. Prasil exchanged a glance. The latter answered, “Only if my great-grandaunt invented her. I’ve found some indications that Vera might have really existed. Unfortunately, there’s barely a handful of vague indications.”
“Barely a handful of vague indications!” protested Ms. Van Slyke. “What am I, then? Am I one of the ghosts from that Christmas story by — by that fellow who wrote the enormous books?”
“Charles Dickens?” suggested Ms. Gaskell and Mr. Lang and Mr. Prasil.
“More to the point,” Ms. Van Slyke resumed, squinting at Mr. Prasil, “isn’t your recommendation of this Mr. Colford a ploy to sell your last book?”
“No! Not at all! It’s true that, uh, Colton and the, uh, Stamford case are the focus of the last chapter of Certain Nocturnal Disturbance: Ghost Hunting Before the Victorians, which is now available at Amazon. But does this make him any less worthy to be inducted into the Hall of Fame? I’d say it’s a sign of his importance to ghost hunting. By the way, click on the book cover below for more information.”
Mr. Lang motioned, “Let’s take some time to dwell upon our two nominees and finalize a decision at next month’s meeting.” Ms. Gaskell seconded.
Ms. Van Slyke moved we adjourn and go get some beer. The motion was unanimously passed.
*At this point in the meeting, Gaskell and Lang, being British, pointed out that the Committee of Haunted Houses should be recorded as a plural construction (e.g., “the Committee were…”) while Van Slyke and Prasil, both American, retorted, no, it’s a singular body (e.g., “the Committee was…). No agreement was reached after twenty minutes, so the issue was dropped.