Stone Tape
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The Stone Tape Theory is the speculation that
ghosts A ghost is the soul (spirit), soul or spirit of a dead Human, person or animal that is believed to be able to appear to the living. In ghostlore, descriptions of ghosts vary widely from an invisible presence to translucent or barely visibl ...
and hauntings are analogous to tape recordings, and that mental impressions during emotional or traumatic events can be projected in the form of energy, "recorded" onto rocks and other items and "replayed" under certain conditions. The idea draws inspiration and shares similarities with views of 19th-century intellectualists and psychic researchers, such as
Charles Babbage Charles Babbage (; 26 December 1791 – 18 October 1871) was an English polymath. A mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer, Babbage originated the concept of a digital programmable computer. Babbage is considered ...
, Eleonor Sidgwick and Edmund Gurney. Contemporarily, the concept was popularized by a 1972 Christmas ghost story called '' The Stone Tape'', produced by the
BBC #REDIRECT BBC
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. Following the play's popularity, the idea and the term "stone tape" were retrospectively and inaccurately attributed to the British
archaeologist Archaeology or archeology is the scientific study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. The archaeological record consists of Artifact (archaeology), artifacts, architecture, biofact (archaeology), biofacts ...
turned parapsychologist T. C. Lethbridge, who believed that ghosts were not spirits of the deceased, but were simply non-interactive recordings similar to a
movie A film also called a movie, motion picture, moving picture, picture, photoplay or (slang) flick is a work of visual art that simulates experiences and otherwise communicates ideas, stories, perceptions, feelings, beauty, or atmosphere ...
.


History

The idea that environmental elements are capable of storing traces of human thoughts or emotions was introduced by multiple 19th-century scholars and philosophers as an attempt to provide natural explanations for supernatural phenomena. In 1837 the
polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, , "having learned much"; la, homo universalis, "universal human") is an individual whose knowledge spans a substantial number of subjects, known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific pro ...
Charles Babbage Charles Babbage (; 26 December 1791 – 18 October 1871) was an English polymath. A mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer, Babbage originated the concept of a digital programmable computer. Babbage is considered ...
published a work on
natural theology Natural theology, once also termed physico-theology, is a type of theology that seeks to provide arguments for theological topics (such as the existence of God, existence of a deity) based on reason and the discoveries of science. This disti ...
called the '' Ninth Bridgewater Treatise''. Babbage speculated that spoken words leave permanent impressions in the air, even though they become inaudible after time. He suggested that it is possible due to transfer of motion between particles. The "Stone tape theory" could also be derived from the concept of "place memory". In the early days of the
Society for Psychical Research The Society for Psychical Research (SPR) is a nonprofit organisation in the United Kingdom. Its stated purpose is to understand events and abilities commonly described as psychic or paranormal. It describes itself as the "first society to condu ...
place memory was considered an explanation for ghostly apparitions, seemingly connected with certain places. In the late 19th century, two of the SPR involved investigators, Edmund Gurney and Eleonor Sidgwick, presented views about certain buildings or materials being capable of storing records of past events, which can be later played back by gifted individuals. Another 19th-century idea associated with the "Stone Tape Theory" is psychometry – a belief, that it is possible to obtain knowledge about history associated with an object through physical contact with it. In the 20th century, the idea that objects are able to store and play back past events was re-introduced in 1939 and 1940 by then- SPR president H. H. Price. Price speculated about "psychic ether" as an intermediate medium between spiritual and physical reality, which can enable objects to carry memory traces of emotions or experiences from the past. In his works, he stated that the existence of such traces should be proveable by means of scientific methods and that they yet remain unproved hypotheses. Following Price's ideas, an archeologist turned paranormal researcher, T. C. Lethbridge, claimed that past events can be stored in objects thanks to fields of energy, that he believed to surround streams, forests or mountains. His 1961 book ''Ghost and Ghoul'' popularized these ideas which allegedly could have inspired the creators of the 1972 BBC play '' The Stone Tape''.


Reception

In their book ''How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age'', authors
Theodore Schick Theodore Schick is an American author in the field of philosophy. His articles have appeared in numerous publications and include topics such as Functionalism (philosophy of mind), functionalism and its effect on immortality, the logic behind the ...
and Lewis Vaughn dismissed the idea as an irrational claim, stating, "The problem is that we know of no mechanism that could record such information in a stone or play it back. Chunks of stone just do not have the same properties as reels of tape." p-326 Sharon Hill, science educator and geologist, claims that "stone tape theory" is a misleading term, as it suggests to encompass structure, credibility and explanatory power or scientific theory, while in reality it is speculation that lacks physical basis. According to her, it is an attempt to present a
pseudoscientific Pseudoscience consists of statements, beliefs, or practices that claim to be both scientific and factual but are incompatible with the scientific method. Pseudoscience is often characterized by contradictory, exaggerated or falsifiability, unfa ...
claim in a seemingly scientific style. Hill also suspects that the "kernel of the idea of stone tape" is psychometry, which is criticized for being a form of cold reading rather than an unexplained supernatural phenomenon.


References


Further reading

*
Tony Cornell Anthony Donald Cornell (born 1924, died 10 April 2010, aged 86) was a British parapsychologist and prominent figure in the investigations of ghost A ghost is the soul (spirit), soul or spirit of a dead Human, person or animal that is ...
. (2002). ''Investigating the Paranormal''. New York: Helix Press. *
Paul Kurtz Paul Kurtz (December 21, 1925 – October 20, 2012) was an American scientific skeptic and Secular humanism, secular humanist. He has been called "the father of secular humanism". He was Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University at Buff ...
. (1985). ''A Skeptic's Handbook of Parapsychology''. Prometheus Books. * T. C. Lethbridge. (1961). ''Ghost and Ghoul''. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. *William Denton, Elizabeth M. Foote Denton. (1863). "The Soul of Things, Or, Psychometric Researches and Discoveries". Boston: Walker, Wise and Company. - https://archive.org/details/soulthingsorpsy00dentgoog {{Ghosts, state=expanded Ghosts Parapsychology Paranormal terminology