(July 28th 1927- May 21st 2004)
It is with great sadness we mark the passing of Andrew Green, ghost hunter, writer and much loved member of the Ghost Club.
Dubbed 'Britain's Spectre Inspector', Andrew Green was for 60 years one of the UK's most active ghost hunters, doing much to popularise the study of ghosts and haunted houses from a scientific perspective. Probably more than any other 20th century researcher Andrew Green was responsible for the approach taken by ghost hunters today when routinely examining haunted sites. The regular use of instrumentation, varying from simple thermometers to sophisticated electronic equipment, are all techniques which Andrew Green promoted to a wide and receptive audience.
Born in Ealing in on July 28th 1927, his life-long interest in the paranormal was stimulated by a near fatal experience at a reputedly haunted house in September 1944. His father, the senior air raid warden for the Ealing, took him to along to an empty Victorian house requisitioned for the storage of furniture retrieved from bombed buildings. During their visit Andrew Green climbed a 70 foot tower at the back of the property. Looking out over a London a mental message came into his mind urging him to jump down to the garden. He was about to comply when his father pulled him back from the parapet. Later Green learned from local police sources that the building had a history of suicides over sixty years, all by people jumping from the tower. The same day Green photographed a house from the exterior and the resultant picture showed the image of young girl at an upstairs window. The picture has never been satisfactorily explained and the story is still well known in the area.
Following two years of national service in the army, Green founded the Ealing Society for Psychical Research in 1949. Both with this group and individually he continued to investigate haunted houses and conducted ESP experiments and tests with mediums, few of which were convincing. During this time Green saw the ghost of a black terrier dog in the house of an uncle at Sidmouth, one of seven people to do so over a twelve month period. Subsequently, he traced the previous owners, an elderly childless couple who confirmed ownership of the dog and admitted that they could not bare to remain in the house after their dog had been killed in an accident. Andrew had a number of other experiences he did not often reveal since he was uncertain as to whether they were purely hallucinatory; these included the figure of an emaciated teenager in a boarding house bedroom and certain experiences at his home when living in Bushygate in Sussex.
During the early 1950s psychic research remained a part-time activity for Andrew Green who worked in a variety of jobs including industrial chemist, electronics engineer, public relations and management, magazine editorship. His own vocation as a writer soon emerged together which he combined with an interest in commercial publishing and he set up his own firm Malcolm Publications. He also obtained a BSc in science from LSE in 1971 and a Masters Degree in Philosophy in 1976.
Throughout this period he accumulated data on contemporary ghost experiences. In 1956 he investigated the "poltergeist girl of Battersea" who claimed to be haunted by the spirit of Donald Capet, an illegitimate son of a member of the French monarchy. Green received a letter purportedly from 'Donald' in mixed English and French, later earning him an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as possessing the only known "letter from a poltergeist". Green in fact realised the letter had been written by the girl herself but he remained puzzled by other phenomena such as raps from a wardrobe which occurred in her presence.
By 1971 he had gathered so much material that he decided to publish his research. His book Our Haunted Kingdom (1973, Wolfe) was a directory of modern ghosts in which broke with previous popular guides in excising traditional folktales and concentrating only on ghost reports within the previous 25 years. It revealed ghosts were more likely to be encountered in modern settings such as offices, factories, cinemas and power stations rather than in ancient castles and manor houses.
Green followed this with his most influential work Ghost Hunting: A Practical Guide (1973, Garnstone Press) the world's first book devoted to scientific ghost hunting techniques. Prior to the 1970s "ghost hunts" often turned into attempts to contact the dead by sťance techniques. Green took the view that ghostly manifestations did not provide prima facie support for a spirit hypothesis and that many "ghosts" were actually examples of telepathy and psychokinesis. For other hauntings, he believed residual electromagnetic energy provided the solution.
The book went into several editions, including an Italian translation and still remains the best guide of its type, promoting the use of tape recorders, video equipment and thermometers in investigations (all of which have since become standard equipment would-be investigators). But more important than purely technical advice was his emphasis on the mental approach needed for objective paranormal investigation. Would-be ghost hunters need to be rational, open-minded, well balanced in outlook and able to apply common sense, not least to themselves. Aside from his stated position that many "ghosts" are in fact actually projections from living people, he always stressed the importance of the human element in each investigation. This may often mean providing constructive help for those suffering distress as a result of a haunting whether the phenomena are real or imagined.
Andrew Green was approached for assistance on a personal basis by people from all walks of life and was dubbed "a secular exorcist" because of the cases he resolved. In these cases, the vast majority of which were kept confidential, many apparent haunts were solved by personal intervention with his kindness, good humour and patience. As his long standing friend Tom Perrott, Chairman of the Ghost Club between 1969-1998 describes it "These are cases where your ghost hunting equipment is a notebook, a pencil and a sympathetic ear". Andrew was always prepared to deploy a sympathetic ear and help anyone in distress. Examples included a man who had been terrified by a reflection from a garish cinema hoarding, Andrew at once recognising he had been a victim of an optical illusion arising from different cultural perception (the man concerned had recently arrived in the UK from a remote village in Bangladesh and had never been exposed to urban lighting or cinema advertising before). Other cases involved mistaken perceptions involving mundane objects including petrol pumps, steam from drains and a garments hanging on washing lines. Andrew was never condescending always recognising the human factor involved. His only real criticisms were directed against mediums and superstitious religious groups who exploited popular fears and researchers who knowingly passed off fictional ghosts stories as fact.
His concern for vulnerable people led to one of his few disagreements with the Society for Psychical Research which he joined in 1972; he felt that generally the SPR tended only observe the exploitation of the bereaved a by fraudulent spiritualists and self-styled occultists; in contrast Green actively opposed such behaviour whenever he encountered it. However, he always remained respectful and tolerant of differing opinions and on occasion worked with medium Eddie Burkes for whom he had high regard. In the 1970s he was the voted the honorary President of the Borderline Science Investigation Group and in 1981was also a founder member of the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP).
His scientific perspective led to numerous media appearances and interviews, including debating the existence of ghosts on Radio 4's "You the Jury" and features in TV Times and Police Review and The Big Issue. Green was also frequently approached by foreign TV companies seeking an insight into the perceived British obsession with ghosts. Having worked in public relations himself Green was adept at handling the media. Avoiding sensationalism he always stressed that the investigation of spontaneous cases required a rational approach. Whilst accepting the evidence for certain psychic phenomena as overwhelming, Green rejected the idea that ghosts proved survival after death. His views were in keeping with the strong humanist philosophy he maintained throughout his life.
Later books included Haunted Houses (1975) Phantom Ladies (1975) Ghosts of the South East (1977) and Ghosts of Today (1980) detailing another 463 modern cases and local books including Haunted Sussex Today (1997) and Haunted Kent Today (1999). At the time of his death he was working on another title Unknown Ghosts of the South East which will be published posthumously. Another achievement was establishing with Hastings College the first part-time evening class in parapsychology. He also taught popular courses on creative writing and publishing for new writers. Established popular authors were also impressed, with horror novelist James Herbert openly acknowledging Andrew Green as the real-life inspiration for his hero parapsychologist hero 'Chris Bishop' in his novel The Dark.
His investigation work led him in 1976 to meet his second wife, teacher and poet, Norah Green who had experienced a strange smell of perfume at her cottage in Sussex. The explanation was found to be perfume which had seeped into the timber of the cottage and was released whenever a fire was lit. Marrying in 1979 they settled near Robertsbridge in Sussex. They enjoyed nearly 25 years of happy married life together with Green also having the opportunity to engage in his enthusiasms for gardening, archaeology and local history and sketching humorous cartoons. He was also a great animal lover.
Despite increasing ill-health in the 1990s Green continued to broadcast and lecture and in 1996 he held an all-night ghost hunt at the Royal Albert Hall, attended by dozens of journalists invited by the management. Green also delivered annual lectures on parapsychology at Pyke House, Battle, which were always enthusiastically received. The most recent in February this year at which he was honoured by the Ghost Club for his lifetime of work in psychical research.
A biography on the life of Andrew Green by Bowen Pearse will appear later this year and our sympathies go to Norah, his step-son Paul and his family and Andrew's many friends.
© Alan Murdie 2004