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Quantifying the Phenomenology of Ghostly Episodes: Part II - A Rasch Model of Spontaneous Accounts

Houran, James and Lange, Rense and Laythe, Brian and Dagnall, Neil and Drinkwater, Ken and O'Keeffe, Ciaran (2019) Quantifying the Phenomenology of Ghostly Episodes: Part II - A Rasch Model of Spontaneous Accounts. Journal of Parapsychology, 83 (2). pp. 168-192. ISSN 0022-3387

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Using a sample of self-reported “spontaneous” accounts (ostensibly sincere and unprimed, N = 426), we calibrated a 32-item, Rasch-based “Survey of Strange Events (SSE)” to quantify the phenomenology of ghostly episodes while assessing response biases related to experients’ age and gender. This inventory included psychological experiences typical of haunts, and physical manifestations common to poltergeist-like disturbances. Results supported earlier suggestions that “spontaneous” accounts have a predictable (cumulative) behavioral pattern and show a unidimensional factor structure. Further, compared to spontaneous accounts, we identified strong response biases on the SSE across four control conditions (i.e., Lifestyle, Primed, Fantasy, and Illicit). Statistical modeling successfully predicted group memberships with good accuracy, corroborating that spontaneous experiences differ systematically in certain ways from “impostors.” The SSE is a robust measure of overall intensity of ghostly episodes (Rasch reliability = 0.87) and serves as a standard operationalization of specific anomalies in surveys, fieldwork studies, and investigations that code free-response data or spontaneous case material for quantitative analysis.

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