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A Longitudinal Modeling Approach Integrating

Archaeology and Anthropology to Haunting Phenomena


The Paranormal Excavation of the Cook-Bingham Site

Pamela Nance



In the field of anthropology, cultural traits have long been used as units of transmission that reflect behavioral characteristics of the individuals or groups demonstrating the traits (Lyman & O’Brien, 2003). Once cultural traits are transmitted, they serve as units of duplication and can be used and modified as part of an individual’s cultural range. Cultural traits are oftentimes evident in haunting phenomena in that spirits are able to replicate their culture’s traits. Fortunately, such units of transmission are manifest in the layers of occupation at these ‘archaeological ruins’ or haunted sites.


Using baseline, follow-up and concluding evidence, I have documented the association between electronic voice phenomena (EVPs), photographic evidence and electromagnetic frequencies, and the longitudinal correlation to the paranormal excavation of the Cook-Bingham site and its occupants. The longitudinal association is interpreted as a means towards understanding a once living population. I show the potential for uncovering the layers of occupation by looking at the longitudinal association from an historical context, and thus using the association as a model for that population.



The study of haunting phenomena from anthropological and archaeological perspectives can provide paranormal investigators with historical accounts of how inhabitants lived. Information such as dietary components, hunting and/or agricultural practices, coping with illness and disease, rituals and beliefs relating to death, whether the occupants worked or traded, and if they were in conflict or at war, can be achieved through the implementation of paranormal archaeology. This methodology is based on the principals of archaeological excavation, but devoid of the lateral layers. The layers of ‘paranormal archaeology’ are entangled and are likely to reveal themselves collectively.  However, inherent in the paranormal study of the past is its fragmented nature, the subjective samples that ‘represent’ the past and problems of interpretation of the evidence. The anthropological and archaeological study of haunting phenomena faces all these limiting factors and more.


For instance, disease and death does not affect the building materials of a haunted site itself and cannot be identified architecturally. Therefore, identification of disease and death or the mortality profile (Steele, 2003) of the haunted site should be identified through ethnographic participatory associations achieved with the historically deceased. Multiple investigations at the Cook-Bingham site over a period of eight months yielded ethnographic participatory evidence which supported the conjecture that Jacob Cook, the family patriarch, died from a mortal head injury in an upstairs bedroom after a fall from the barn mow. This participatory evidence was substantiated by documentation uncovered through oral and historical research of the family and site prior to the preliminary investigation. When one is knowledgeable about the mortality profile of a known historic population, such knowledge can aid in addressing the impact of the mortality profile of that population, thus opening a channel for communication.


Disease and death fell upon historic populations indiscriminately. Thus; it is expected to see a ‘true’ representation of the previously living population represented by the ethnographic participatory associations made in conjunction with the mortality profile.  Conversely, a population not suffering from the impact of disease and death would undoubtedly show a different associative profile.  However, the difference will only manifest if the context from which the non-diseased population communicated with is different than that of the diseased population.




Foremost to constructing an associative profile, is the development of the timeline of occupancy and an ethnographic profile of the occupants. The ethnographic profile (Jones, 1997) will provide the details of the associative profile by applying the cultural and historical influences that affected the occupants during their lifetime. This is achieved through extensive research of the oral and written history of the site. The associative profile is used to determine the most effective line of participatory questions and interaction. The fully developed associative profile is the backbone of the investigative process, and when applied to the methodology in the field, it will reveal the archaeological and ethnographic data available at the site. The Cook family occupation of the site provided the time period of occupation, and extensive research of the occupational timeline supplied the anthropological data needed to construct an accurate and thorough investigation.




Participatory questions and interactions should be allocated equitably according to the known proportion of each component of the associative profile. For example; the occupants in the ‘archaeological strata’ are not equal between all layers since the resulting percentages for each group will be altered by their period of habitation. The premise that haunting phenomena from any time period has an equal probability of resonating is not a valid assumption. True resonance of each ‘archaeological layer’ is achieved through the identification of the inhabitants and the inherent participatory interactions that are developed through the preliminary research of the site.


The most useful characteristic of participatory questions and interactions is the creation of a formula for ideation (Geertz, 1973).  When intelligent responses are received, one can assume they are an empirical manifestation of an occupational layer.  As a result, this formula may show variations across time in; how well the occupants utilized raw materials; managed traumatic events; absorbed cultural influences; developed skills; coped with lifestyle changes, and so on. Given their ideational structure, formulas can be defined and cultural traits and transmission studied at different gradations.


Participatory questions and interaction used as a formula for ideation, was applied to the Cook- Bingham site and property which encompass two centuries of occupation primarily by Jacob and Nancy Cook and their children. Following Nancy Cook’s death in 1919, the house and property were sold to Charles Cooper, who subsequently sold both the house and property to Hal Bingham in 1947.  I chose a specific line of participatory questions to address these two particular layers of occupation. This exacting line of questioning bore evidentiary results that support habitation by occupants other than the Cook family. These units of evidentiary results are manifest in the electronic voice phenomena transmissions and are supported by the components of the historical record. The precise queries regarding occupation serve as proxies for studying transmission of cultural traits and knowledge.




Paranormal research has shown that not all haunting phenomena preserve equally (Henderson, 1987). An example of this is the occupation of the Cook-Bingham site by multiple families.

Evidence collected from the site’s primary occupants: the Cook family spans the same family over several generations, maintaining a continuous period of occupation which yielded in a higher percentage of results. In addition, the quantity of evidence was significantly detailed and abundant due to the multi-generational occupation, along with the recounted history from those generations.


Foreseeably, the evidence collected from the site regarding secondary occupants which spanned a shorter occupational time period, yielded a lesser percentage of results and details.

Additionally, the evidence collected among the two groups bore entirely different information due to the influence of archaeological strata over time. These factors can lead to a biased evidence profile (Walker, Johnson & Lambert, 1988) if not considered during the review and evaluation of the evidence. Controlling the biases is more difficult than actually coming to terms with the fact that they exist.


Therefore, on the basis of the evidence collected one might infer a difference in the subject matter and the volume of evidence collected between the profiles of the long-term occupants as compared to the short-term occupants. Consequently evidence collected from the long-term occupants provides a more definitive indicator of the living population within that archaeological stratum.




In lieu of, or in addition to multiple investigations, the use of a control group for comparative purposes in paranormal archaeology can alleviate uncertainties and refine details (Madrigal, 1998 & 2012). These uncertainties will arise from inconsistencies during excavation due to the misconception of deceased subjects and overlapping layers of time. Unfortunately, utilizing a control group must be undertaken with caution. A control group has well known and understood attributes (variables) and provides an established baseline of data for educated comparison.  Within this excavation, the long-term occupancy group, the Cook family, is the control group (not the group to be tested), and the short-term occupancy group, the latter occupants, is the test group.


An alternative to the within-site control group is the across-site control group. For example; two plots of land located within the same ward or block range; both subject to the same occupational timeline; population; industry; trauma and cultural influence, will yield similar data during excavation. The initial site investigation will serve as the across-site control and the secondary site investigation will serve as the test.


The effectiveness of a within-site control group is exhibited through the evidence gathered from multiple investigations at the Cook-Bingham site. Significant differences were determined in the responses obtained from the control group: the Cook family, as opposed to the test group: the latter occupants. These differences are related to vernacular, content and cultural influence and show the evolution of language and lifestyle in the southeastern United States over the course of 120 years.




Application of paranormal archaeology to the Cook-Bingham site revealed that the Cook family was greatly affected and influenced by the Civil War. Oral and historical research into the family and property revealed that two of the sons fought in the Civil War. One son died and the other suffered from lifelong disability associated with his wounds. However, none of the preliminary research into the family and property revealed Civil War encampment or fighting on the site or in the vicinity. Nonetheless, evidence collected at the site supports a strong connection to the war at a local level. The evidence reveals food shortages; blockades imposed by the North; encampment of soldiers either on or next to the property and referenced veterans of the Mexican-American War. Historical research supports that veterans of the Mexican- American War later served in the Civil War. In addition, the house and property sat in a pivotal location of trade, bordered by a very important trade route which ran south to north.


Located in Clemmonsville, NC, the Cook-Bingham site can be traced to a map of 1866. The structure was located on a main thoroughfare that ran past the property from Salisbury, NC to Salem, NC (later known as Winston-Salem). Salisbury was a major military depot for the Confederacy, containing several military hospitals, a Union prison, an ordnance plant and the state district headquarters for the Commissary of Subsistence. The town supplied weapons and whiskey to the Confederate troops and at one point during the war sent 10,000 shells and 4,000 horseshoes to Atlanta. Towards the end of the war, the arsenal had 1,000 muskets on order for the Confederate troops. The town was home to the notorious Salisbury Civil War Prison that housed in excess of 10,000 Union soldiers at its peak of occupancy. Today, 11,700 unknown Union soldiers are buried in Salisbury National Cemetery. When these facts are applied to the evidence excavated at the Cook-Bingham site, it is logical to deduce that the road from Salisbury to Salem and onward to Virginia was worthy of a Union Army blockade.


Union General Stoneman laid siege to central and Western North Carolina as Sherman simultaneously moved through the Eastern Carolinas to Georgia. General Stoneman and his troops are documented as journeying through the Clemmonsville area of North Carolina heading south on the main road that ran next to the Cook-Bingham site. Stoneman planned to lay siege to the southern town of Salisbury which held a pivotal position during the Civil War. On April 12 & 13, 1865, Union General George Stoneman burned the prison leaving only the Garrison house which still stands today.

Given these historical verities, one can rule out interference from pre-Civil War layers by looking closely at the evidence and its relation to the time period. In the earliest days of occupation, American Indians lived and died on the land. Following their occupation, early American colonists settled throughout the area. On the heels of colonization came the Revolutionary War. It is well known that this area was sparsely settled and remained a ‘frontier’ of sorts well into the 19th century. It would not be expected to obtain evidence indicating a blockade during the Revolutionary War simply because the land was uninhabited to a large degree. At that time in history, one would expect blockades to have been imposed near coastal regions or areas of industrialization, not the backwoods of western North Carolina. In light of these additional facts, one can assume that the formula for ideation supports the Civil War era and none of the aforementioned periods.


Historical documentation confirmed that James Jarvis, Nancy’s father, owned slaves. In the will dated 1837, James allotted Nancy two slaves: David & Lidder. However, to our surprise an ‘archaeological layer’ revealed that in addition to David & Lidder, Nancy acquired two other slaves: Clyde & Octavia. The evidence further revealed that Nancy, who was known for her charitable contributions in the community, was a strict disciplinarian and at times resorted to corporeal punishment to keep the slaves under her dominance.




There is growing recognition that many cases of unexplained phenomena is not within the range of normal experience, nor is it currently explainable using standard scientific methodology. The increased popularity of paranormal research presents a unique opportunity to develop critical strategies regarding research methodology, data collection, data analyses and outcomes.


The historic 1820s Cook-Bingham site in Clemmons, NC provides the perfect opportunity to test and validate proven methods of paranormal investigative techniques, as well as new and innovative methodologies. Using baseline, follow-up and concluding evidence, I have documented the association among electronic voice phenomena (EVPs), photographic evidence and electromagnetic frequencies and their correlation longitudinally to the family and property. As a result of these findings, I believe the study of paranormal phenomena should remain as a means towards understanding a once living population, and ought to be undertaken with that goal in mind.




Geertz, C.; The Interpretation of Culture, NY: Basic Books, 1973


Henderson, J.; Death, Decay and Reconstruction: Approaches to Archaeology and Forensic Science, 43-54: Manchester University Press, 1987


Jones, S.; The Archaeology of Ethnicity: Constructing Identities in the Past, London: Routledge, 1997


Lyman, R.L.; O’Brien, M.J.; Journal of Anthropological Research, 59:225-250, 2003 Madrigal, L.; Statistics for Anthropology, Cambridge University Press, 1998, 2012 Steele, T.E.; Journal of Mammalogy, 84(2):418–430, 2003


Walker, P.L., Johnson, J.R.; Lambert, P.M.; American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 76: 183-188, 1998

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