Ghosts as Imprints: Notes on T. C. Lethbridge

This would be a sorry ghost blog indeed without some mention of this eccentric yet engaging theorist.

T. C. Lethbridge (1901 – 1971) was an English archaeologist who later became intrigued by the paranormal. It then became his focus. I should add that he had been a respectable Cambridge don for some time, prior to striking out with ideas so eccentric he became alienate from the establishment.  I recommend Wikipedia to those who want to read more about Lethbridge; the focus here is his central idea about ghosts, known as the Stone Tape Theory.

Lethbridge believed that ghosts are not spirits of the departed but imprints left by traumatic events which are somehow recorded in damp stone.  People who see ghosts are really seeing replays of these old tapes, he theorized.  Perhaps his fascination with dowsing contributed to the watery element:  but it’s only fair to add that many experts in paranormal studies believe that proximity to water contributes to ghostly manifestations.  (The most haunted places I’ve experienced personally have always been close to water:  a coastal house, an island full of haunting phenomena, etc.)

It will come as no surprise to the reader that the Stone Tape theory was vigorously attacked by academics and other experts.   Perhaps even further out were Lethbridge’s ideas about space aliens: he thought they played a role in earthly evolution.

Often in even the wildest concepts there can be a measure of truth.  I won’t go near the alien thing (that’s another blog!), but the Stone Tape theory bears re-examination.  Forget for a moment about wet rocks as some kind of natural tape recorders. Instead, think about traumatic events and ghosts. Many ghostly manifestations are said to be the result of some trauma experienced in life, and that somehow, these events are imprinted into a place that some of us sometimes glimpse.  It’s a common theme in legend and folklore as well as today’s ghost studies:  so often it is said that the ghost is present because of some powerfully emotional situation from the past.

What do you think?




8 thoughts on “Ghosts as Imprints: Notes on T. C. Lethbridge

  1. A friend of mine (who herself has since passed away) and I were collaborating on a book about haunted locations. As part of our research we went to these places and interviewed people who worked or lived in them; we also researched the history of the spot. I should add that before we began this project I was not convinced that ghosts existed. It just seemed like a fun and interesting project for us to work on.

    The work we managed to do before my friend passed supports many of the observations above. A majority of the locations turned out to be near water. Most of the sites were associated with some traumatic event at some time in their history. Also the way our interviewees described the ghosts reminds me a bit of the above. The ghosts often took the form of energy disturbances rather than apparitions – which for me is somehow reminiscent of the trauma imprints you describe. Kind of like audio recorded on magnetic tape, the impressions looping for eternity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your thoughtful remarks and fascinating story! This is exactly the kind of information and research that I look for but don’t often find! What’s the title of your book? Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Unfortunately the book is unfinished. I did promise my friend that I would complete it, and I intend to keep that promise. So I’ll let you know when it’s out.

        I enjoy reading your blog.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you so much! I will look forward to your book, sounds like it’s right up my alley. There are many books/tv shows/media pieces which explore hauntings, but few who do so thoughtfully.


  2. I can appreciate Lethbridge’s perception of people “playing old tapes” that haunt them. Psychologists see this in patients working through life traumas. The image appearing on on wet stone seems to me like a possible metaphor.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, excellent observation. I should add that there is a whole class of ghosts that look like filmstrips – they appear unaware of the present and sometimes walk through (present day) walls. They appear unaware of anyone present. I call these “ghosts out of time” and they may well be a kind of “recorded” image. There is also the idea that these are not recorded in stone or nature but in the psyche and are picked up sometimes by individuals intuitively. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 2 people

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