Greetings Hoogly fans! It’s that time of year again: the nights are getting longer; the temperature has fallen and the bulging darkness begins to encroach on our every flank. Before long it will be that most spooky of occasions: Halloween, and we will once again take to the streets like an army of the undead, dressed like vampires or monsters or ghouls, helping our kids score chocolate and sweets from ordinary humans, and listening carefully to every bang, rustle and clank in the shadows. But how can we explain our continued fascination with all things ghastly and spectral? Stories of spirits and otherworldly entities have run through all cultures since the dawn of civilisation, woven and overlapping with stories that seek to explain death and the journeys we take after our mortal race has run.
The most compelling and persistent story is that of the ghost: from Pliny the Elder in ancient Rome describing a spectre with rattling chains, to Hamlet’s father in Shakespeare, all the way up to the Victorian tales of Charles Dickens and Henry James, and the contemporary tales of modern Hollywood, such as Ghostbusters, Paranormal Activity and the Blair Witch Project. But what exactly is a ghost? Is there as scientific basis for them? Is it possible to find out? Should we even question such an ancient and mysterious phenomenon, or should we perhaps accept that some things at the fringes of our understanding are meant to remain there, tantalising, but always out of reach?
Science, as it tends to do, has had a good stab at trying to define the ghost. Here are some ideas that experts have touched upon over time:
SUGGESTION. It appears that people are more likely to report paranormal activity if they believe a location is haunted. Studies have shown that groups of people shown around old buildings will react differently based on the information they have been given: those that have been told the location is haunted nearly always report more ghostly goings-on than those who have been told there is no spectral infestation. There is also the possibility that our will and power of belief is much stronger than once thought: simply wanting to see a spirit go bump in the night may be enough to create something in the mind that appears—or perhaps is—real!
ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS. Some scientists have posited that pulsed magnetic fields—undetectable on conscious level—may be responsible for our perception of ghostly presences. The magnetic fields, it’s thought, could contribute to unusual patterns in the brain’s temporal lobes—a theory which other scientists have refuted, but nevertheless many ‘haunted’ locations do have unusual magnetic fields.
MOULD. Strange as it may sound, there is anecdotal evidence that toxins linked to mould growth can create hallucinations and visions, with other symptoms including irrational fear and dementia-like complaints. It’s not too much of a stretch to link classic haunted locations like unused castles or unkept houses to widespread mould growth, so perhaps there is something to this!
CARBON MONOXIDE. In the 1920s, a family reported a haunting after moving to an old house. After investigation, a leaky pipe was discovered, and carbon monoxide was blamed for the family’s ghostly hallucinations. There’s more than one reason to make sure your alarm is in working order!
OUIJA BOARDS. Hollywood has immortalised this spirit-summoning board-game where users move a planchette over a board covered with letters and words allowing a spirit to communicate from beyond and pass on a message for those they have left behind. The odd thing is—on many occasions, players’ hands do seem to move independently, giving rise to a fascination with the process, but scientists have insisted that these movements are involuntary, unconscious physical movements called the ‘ideomotor effect,’ where our bodies respond to our deep-rooted yearnings and desires without our brain giving instructions. Ghost-hunters will tell you that there are things that science can’t explain, and perhaps they are right. But I don’t dare take out a Ouija board to prove the experts wrong!
Well, in order to calm down after all that talk of ghastly ghouls, let’s take a moment to enjoy some lovely Hoogly tea. This month, we think it’s important warm up and rediscover one of our classic cuppas: Around the Fire Oolong Tea. One of our original blends, this customer favourite is perfect for the winter months, combining smoky leaves with safflower and crushed chilli, making this your go-to fiery friend!
To complement our Oolong, why not try Masala Chai black tea? Based on the iconic India brew, this rich and malty assam is blended with warm, aromatic spices to enchant your senses and stave off the frigid winter evenings! Brew it strong with milk and sugar to the complete Hoogly experience, allowing you to wind down, relax and let go of the day’s stress!
That’s it for this time, folks. Enjoy Halloween; fangs for reading!
Written by Chris Bedford