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Room 101


The Stone Tape Theory

This fortnight we're concluding our loose "pure paranormal" trilogy. In part one and two we took a look at the time-slip experience and poltergeist phenomena, respectively. So, this time around, we're finally wrapping things up here with a short piece on what many people in paranormal circles often refer to as the "Stone Tape" theory.

For people who didn't read my Nigel Kneale piece just short of a year ago, the "Stone Tape" theory originates from a 1972 television play of the same name by the iconic sci-fi writer. Combining science fiction with the ghost story genre, in the BBC Christmas special a group of scientists investigate a supposed haunting in the hope of discover a brand new recording medium. Their theory is that somehow limestone (and perhaps other materials) can retain moments of the past. That perhaps human memories or experiences (particularly ones involving intense emotions like the last moments before death) can be someway psychically recorded in the stonework of buildings.

For more on Kneale's "Stone Tape," check out my blog post over @ The Outsider's Edge.

The idea, of course, being that later someone psychic or sensitive enough could act as a kind of psychic video player. Hence the title of the Kneale's original play "The Stone Tape."

As a credit to Nigel Kneale's genius as a writer, despite making its début in a fictional setting, his idea proved very popular with many of the more scientifically inclined paranormal researchers. Finally offering them a real, and perhaps almost equally engaging, alternative to the standard "life after death" explanation of the traditionalists. What more, if true, the "Stone Tape" theory might also go some way to explaining some of the problems and inconsistencies often associated with paranormal encounters.

For instance, why do people always seem to report "ghosts" from only a few centuries ago? Why never from pre-history?

Perhaps the answer to this peculiarity might be that, much like domestic VHS video tape, "Stone Tape" recordings have a limited lifespan too. Steadily degenerating over the ages until they are completely erased and forgotten forever.

This explanation might also provide the answer to another popular problem in the paranormal. Why is it that some people see full blown solid apparitions where others only see transparent figures, shadows or, worse, nothing at all? Again like a conventional video tape perhaps the older a "Stone Tape" recording gets the more the sound and picture quality suffers.

Alternatively, of course, perhaps a better explanation opened up by the theory might be that some people may simply make better psychic video players than others. Maybe an important point to make here is that according to the theory, the "ghost" or recording is seen (perhaps "played" might be a better term) inside the mind rather than in the outside physical universe. Therefore, depending on the sensitivity of the witnesses, it's quite possible that several people might experience the same encounter very differently.

The idea that "ghosts" might really be some kind of psychic tape recording rather than the spirits of the dead might not be desirable to some die hard researchers who believe "ghosts" offer us proof of life after death. (Though the two ideas are not mutually exclusive, it's possible that there could be more than one type of "ghost" each representing something very different.) However, if ever proven the theory would raise perhaps almost equally important questions about the true nature of consciousness and the human mind.

Think about it. The only way such a recording could be made and replayed would be if there was some kind of direct connection between the human mind and stone. It would have to be some form of telepathy between two "minds" (for lack of a better word) suggesting that inanimate matter might have some form of highly primitive consciousness or awareness. It's an exciting, be it somewhat crazy, idea. However, as Richard Holland (editor of Paranormal magazine) noted in our interview last month the "Stone Tape" theory is still a very long way from being proven.

Richard Thomas, BoA UK Correspondent and Columnist.