Over the past 20+ years of researching paranormal claims people willing to rewrite history to make profitable ghost stories have become one of the most upsetting discoveries we have made.
As long as we have had “haunted” locations this has been an issue. When people tell stories about Ghosts they tend to add their own twist to the stories.
The most common version of this is the house that none of the local kids would go in or they would take bets to see who was not afraid to knock on the door. This was usually an abandoned house that over time gained the reputation of being haunted. These stories started out as an abandoned house and through many telling are of the story it becomes the “Old haunted house” the “Witch house”, etc.… The story gets added to with each persons story telling.
While the local house getting stories added to its lore may not be an issue, when the same thing happens to historical locations there is damage that may never be able to be recovered, however there are large profits to be made.
With the popularity of paranormal investigations there has been an increase of people creating new history at truly historic locations. This happens when people are Ghost Hunting / Legend tripping* without any real knowledge of a locations history. The changes take place when these people make uninformed decisions about a location and through the use of social media; websites or publications change the history of a location.
While the changing of the history of location can be accidental, it can also be done through intentional changes to bring interest to a location for promotional purposes, which seems to be the most damaging of the two.
A few examples of the rewriting of history:
A restaurant owner decided to create the story of a haunting to increase
business. This was successful but now the story created by the business owner continues with the property long after the restaurant has closed.
A Bed & Breakfast with old traditional ghost stories is contacted by a reality television show that wants to feature the location. They agree and discover that they have gone from a place with a few ghost stories to a one of the “Most haunted locations in the world”.
A group looking for ghosts visit the site where an accident that killed multiple people. The group uses pseudoscientific methods of paranormal research trying to prove that the location is haunted and come up with “Evidence” that they consider proof of the haunting. This story is then propagated via the Internet and adds to the “true story” of what happened at the location.
There are many issues with the creation of new history of reportedly haunted locations.
This is tragic because these locations have such a rich beautiful history and over time because of the modifications will be lost. When looking into the history of a location it is difficult to tell where the real history ends and the made up history begins. This is unfortunate because future generations will be spreading misinformation written by the uninformed.
Another issue is that the new history being created can damage the reputation of those involved in a terrible tragedy. We have seen this in several cases where a person who has died will become the root cause of a ghostly report because they are now reported to be “Witches”, “Devil Worshipers” or just Evil. Some of these people still have living relatives and the psychological damage to them is inexcusable.
We have to find a way to stop people from modifying history and destroying the reputations of people who are no longer with us. This is something that those interested in history need to watch for and try to protect.
We can all look into claims of the paranormal and research the real facts and history but it should not be necessary for us to create made up versions of the past or those who lived in it.
*Legend tripping is a name recently bestowed by folklorists and anthropologists on an adolescent practice (containing elements of a rite of passage) in which a usually furtive nocturnal pilgrimage is made to a site which is alleged to have been the scene of some tragic, horrific, and possibly supernatural event or haunting. The practice has been documented most thoroughly to date in the United States. ~ Wikipedia