Alan Murdie (1964– ) English Ghost and paranormal investigator, author, and former chairman of the Ghost Club.
Alan Murdie was born in 1964 at Fornham St. Martin near Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, England, an area brimming with stories of ghostly white ladies, phantom monks, ghost dogs, and witchcraft. He became interested in the paranormal in his early teens. He joined the Borderline Science Investigation Group (now defunct), which was dedicated to investigating ghosts and mysterious phenomena in the eastern part of England.
Murdie attended Leicester Polytechnic, now De Montfort University and earned a degree in law. He is a barrister and legal consultant specializing in intellectual property law, environmental, and local government law. He has been involved in many test cases on civil liberties and has written and broadcast extensively on legal issues, including four legal textbooks. He was also a part-time lecturer at Thames Valley University (formerly the Ealing College), London, for eight years. He lived in London for 13 years and then returned to his home area to live in Bury St. Edmunds.
Murdie’s main interest in life is the paranormal. He joined the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in 1988 and was elected a council member of the society and a member of their Spontaneous Cases Committee in 1999. The same year, he became chairman of the ghost club, succeeding Tom Perrott, who retired from the post. In 2005, Murdie stepped down as chairman in order to pursue other tour, research, and investigation activities, but remained legal adviser for the club.
In investigations, Murdie believes that technical approaches are useful in studying haunted sites, but the best detecting mechanism remains the human mind and body. The cultural aspects of paranormal experience are as important as technical data. (See Paranormal Investigation.) He has reversed his belief that ghosts can be captured in photographic images (see Spirit Photography). Rather, ghosts are closer to visions and dreams, occurring on a deep sensory level that is beyond the ability of present technology to record.
Although he has never knowingly seen an Apparition, Murdie has been present when Poltergeist manifestations have taken place. He finds the accumulated weight of human testimony ultimately convincing for the existence of paranormal phenomena and extrasensory faculties in human beings.
According to Murdie, “Applying the rules of evidence as they would be applied in a courtroom, I conclude that there exists real and cogent evidence for many types of paranormal phenomena. When one encounters identical testimonies across different cultures many thousands of miles and often many years apart without explanation, you can only conclude that there is a real basis for many of these phenomena.”
Murdie also believes that ghost hunting has been too centred on the English-speaking world, and that it is necessary for psychical researchers to carry out comparative studies in different parts of the world among non-Western cultures. To this end, he has undertaken numerous visits to Colombia, South America, since 1997 to gather and investigate reports of psi phenomena. He is the first English-speaking researcher to study ghosts and hauntings in that country.
His areas of study in Colombia have included shamanism and the use of hallucinogens by indigenous tribes, cryptozoology, and earth light phenomena. He has travelled extensively in Colombia conducting investigations in haunted Spanish colonial mansions and buildings at Cartagena and Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast. He has also made visits to sacred mountains in the Andes where strange lights have been reported and has joined studies by Colombian forensic medicine practitioners into strange cases of preservation of the dead at various sites in the country.
Following a Ghost Club trip to Romania in September 1999, Murdie compiled dossiers on psychic phenomena in Romania, another country overlooked by Western psychic researchers.
Murdie still maintains a strong interest in ghosts and paranormal phenomena in his native area of East Anglia. He researched Hauntings in Bury St. Edmunds—one of the major monastic sites in England—and also in the surrounding countryside. One case featured a disappearing phantom house at the village of Bradfield St. George, reported over a 90-year period. No satisfactory explanation has been made, though Murdie has remained skeptical about it.
Murdie conducts ghost walks and tours in various cities. He founded the Cambridge Ghost Walk, a guided walk around some of the most haunted sites in Cambridge, England. In 2000, he co-authored the Cambridge Ghost Book with archaeologist Robert Halliday to augment the tour.
The Cambridge Ghost Walk is noted for the unexplained smell of opium in a medieval passageway next to the oldest pub in the town. The smell was first reported in 1950 by a married undergraduate and his family who noticed a persistent pungent odour like a perfume being burned. Investigation revealed that during the 19th century the building had been used as an opium den by sailors and bargemen who had travelled up the River Cam to Kings Lynn on the Norfolk coast. Here they would buy Chinese opium on the docks and smoke it upon their return to Cambridge. One of the addicted sailors is reputed to have collapsed in an intoxicated stupor and dropped his pipe, accidentally setting fire to his clothes. Because of his intoxicated condition he burned to death in his chair.
The smell has been experienced on six occasions since the summer of 1998 by some people on the walk. Some— but not all—participants have been adamant that they were experiencing a strange smell before being told the story. A strange, unexplained burning smell has also been reported in shops and offices in the vicinity where the sailor was believed to have lodged until speedily evicted because of his addiction. Murdie first experienced the phenomena himself in July 1999.
Other cities where Murdie conducts tours are Bournemouth, Brighton, Windsor, and London. He founded Ghost Tours, which provides specialist vacation advice and guiding service across the United Kingdom for travellers.
In addition to the Cambridge Ghost Book, Murdie is the author of Haunted Brighton (2006) and Haunted Bury St. Edmunds (2007). He writes the “Ghostwatch” column for Fortean Times magazine.