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Monday, January 16, 2012

A Ghostly Database

This is an outline of the general database structure that Sveta, my research assistant, and I are working on for the big ghost project.  I figured now that I'm at the drafting stage I actually know enough to put it together!

With that in mind, I've posted this outline here--albeit it with some minor formatting changes courtesy of get input from folks about things that you might want to know or think are worth knowing that I've left out.  In some cases, I made conscious decisions not to itemize things, but I'm sure there are areas I've left out here just because I've spaced out.  The highlighted areas are comments or questions I have that are specifically geared to me and Sveta, but any input you have there would be great, too.  Really, any help would be much appreciated.
Of course, I'd also love to hear from those of you who have experience in database design.  My last experience was years upon years ago, and the main thing I took from that is to try my best to have ALL my duck in a row BEFORE I started entering.  In other words, that it's much harder to change things mid-stream, and it's very likely to invalidate any of your conclusions.  Sveta is the database guru, and she assures me that we can do all of this will FileMaker 11 for the Mac.
Please send any comments to or post them in the comments section here.
Thanks in advance for any time you spend and help you give!!



Since I'm trying to find patterns in the stories more than I'm trying to find patterns within an author or genre, I want to do a separate entry for each story.  With that in mind, here's the information I would ideally like to obtain for each one.  The writings in black are the fields I imagine for the database; the writings in blue are the possible entries I can imagine for each field.  (I've done it this way because I want to be certain that I'm consistent in what I enter from the very beginning of the database.) 
A "haunting" in this case can be a single story, albeit one found in a collection of stories, such as the stories found in Glanvill.  It can also be a series of stories that can amount to 100s of individuals appearing to one person, such as Sister Francisca.  What makes them a discreet haunting is that they are perceive as having one discreet event or characteristic that unites them; for example, in the case of Sister Francisca it is her ability to perceive purgatorial spirits on earth.
A "percipient" is someone who perceives the ghost by his/herself.  In other words, a woman who sees a ghost is a percipient, as is another person who just feels the ghost, but someone who relies on their reports for perceptions about the ghost is not a percipient.
By "other individuals specifically involved with haunting" I mean those people who are distinguished in the story from the general crowd, community, or region that also knows about the haunting.  These individuals may be given a specific name or they may just be identified by profession or relationship to the percipient or ghost.

Characteristics of haunting
·      When it occurs (need to be able to give a date range here)
·      Location of haunting
o   church
§  by place of sermon
§  high altar
§  in pew
§  near eucharist
§  other altar
§  other location
§  over familal tomb
§  over personal tomb
o   churchyard
o   graveyard
o   home
§  bedroom
§  kitchen
§  living room
§  other areas
§  yard
o   other locations
o   woods
·      Number of entities who appear
·      Methods used to assess spirit's intentions
o   curse
o   magic
o   no attempt to assess intentions
o   other methods
o   prayer
o   questioning
o   sacramental
·      Resolution of haunting (overall) 
·      Demonic causation
o   exorcized
o   expelled through prayer
o   remains
o   removed in other way
·      Human ghost appeared
o   goes to ambiguous place
o   goes to Heaven
o   goes to Hell
o   goes to Purgatory
o   remains on earth
o   returns to Purgatory
·      Other Supernatural Entity involved
o   leaves
o   remains
o   transforms
·      No resolution
o   author stops recording
o   no resolution is recorded
o   people lose interest
o   spirit just disappears

Individual entities within a haunting
I will need areas here for at least 5 entities with the ability to add more.  The same fields will hold for each entity.
Entity #1
·      Time since entity #1's death
o   days
o   months
o   years
·      Cause of death
o   violent
o   natural
§  illness
§  old age
o   self-inflicted
·      Sensible characteristics
Since I have not yet run into a ghost who was universally sensible, I'm going to assume that these categories are for those who can perceive the spirit, not just those who rely on the percipient(s)' descriptions.
o   visible
§  as animal
·      amphibian
·      bear
·      cat
·      dog
·      reptile
·      wolf
§  as form of fire
§  as human
·      as self when alive
·      clergy
·      female
·      laity
·      male
·      old
·      young
§  as shadow
§  folkloric
·      dwarf
·      elf
·      Mesuline-type
·      wild hunt
§  other
o   invisible, perceived through
§  disturbance of animals
§  disturbance of objects
§  disturbance of "special" people
·      children
·      disabled
·      elderly
·      mentally disturbed
§  marks
§  noise
o   touch
§  spirit can be felt
§  spirit can touch others
§  spirit can touch others or objects hard enough to leave a mark
o   smell
§  "heavenly" odor
§  no odor
§  odor of excrement
§  odor of living person
§  other "hellish" odor
§  sulfurous odor
o   hearing
§  converses normally
§  makes "unnatural" sounds
§  screams and/or moans
§  silent
·      Gender
o   male
o   female
o   indeterminant
·      Previous knowledge of percipient(s)
o   descendant
o   family
o   friend
o   no knowledge
o   professional
o   same homeland (village, city, etc.)
o   same religious order
o   same residence
·      Location of remains
o   body of water
o   tomb
o   unburied
o   unknown
·      Current primary location of spirit
o   "heavens"
o   amorphous "ether"
o   Heaven
o   Hell
o   on earth
o   Purgatory
o   underground
o   variable
·      Spirit acting alone?
o   with aide of living person
o   with other spirits present  I will either need space here to list the other spirits or a way to link this field to fields involving those spirits.
o   with other spirits that aren't present
·      Activities of ghost
o   Main activities
·      Need about 3 fields here.  Is there a way of linking these fields with the fields of those who perceived these activities?  (I have an extensive list of ghostly activities and I'm sure I'll come up with more.  I just don't want to list them here.  I'm also not sure if I'll be able to sort them until I have the database mainly complete.)
o   Secondary activities
·      Need about 10 fields here
·      Demands of Ghost
o   intercession: fulfill a vow
·      pilgrimage
·      bequest
·      restitution for crime
·      other
o   intercession: make heirs act appopriately
o   intercession: prayers
o   no demand
o   proper burial
o   revenge
o   restitution

Living People Involved with Haunting
I'm still debating here the extent to which I need the database to reflect each individual and his/her characteristics or if I can just generalize.

Percipient #1
For now I need about 4 percipient areas, but I will need to be able to add percipients.
·      Age
·      Confessional Affiliation
§  Anglican
§  Calvinist
§  Dissenter
§  Generic "Protestant" (not defined more specifically)
§  Lutheran
§  None given
§  Not practicing (my phrase for basically religiously neutral--not giving a damn)
§  Other
§  Roman Catholic
§  Unclassifiable
·      Distinguishing Characteristics
Here I'm just going to need a space to write in the things that the author felt or believed that the community felt made this person distinct, if there are any such things.  Give me 5 distinct spaces.
·      Education
o   no formal education
o   apprenticeship
o   basic university training
o   literate in vernacular (apparently)
o   doctorate in law
o   doctorate in canon law
o   medical doctor
o   other
·      Gender
o   male
o   female
·      Profession
Is there a way to minimize the gender bias here?
o   member of "clergy"
Will need to be able to list what function within the clergy they have, but I'm not entirely sure how to do that.
§  Generic "Protestant" (not defined more specifically)
§  Lutheran
§  Calvinist
§  Dissenter
§  Anglican
§  Roman Catholic
o   priest
o   higher clergy (bishop, abbot, other office holder)
o   member of religious order (name of order)
§  Other
o   lay administrator
o   landowner
o   craftsman/artisan
o   day laborer
o   farmer
o   pieceworker
o   no profession stated
·      Reaction to spirit
o   fear
o   curiosity
o   anger
o   change over time
o   frustration
·      Relationship to ghost
o   family
o   friend
o   colleague
o   same religion
o   same town/village/city
o   none
·      Relationship to percipient #2
o   family
o   friend
o   colleague
o   same religion
o   same town/village/city
o   none
·      Relationship to percipient #3
o   family
o   friend
o   colleague
o   same religion
o   same town/village/city
o   none
·      Relationship to percipient #4
o   family
o   friend
o   colleague
o   same religion
o   same town/village/city
o   none
Percipient #2
Same categories as "percipient #1".

Other Individuals Specifically (OISIH) Involved with Haunting #1
For now I need 10 OISIH fields, but as with percipients, I will need to add more.  Use the same fields as for percipients.

Indeterminant percipients ("the crowd")
§  Activities in the haunting
Need about 10 spaces here for general activities: gossip, pilgrimage, prayers, curses, silent watching, heard sermons, etc.
§  Reactions to spirit
§  fear
§  curiosity
§  anger
§  change over time
§  disinterest
§  mocking
§  shock
§  frustration

Publication information
·      Author
o   Name
§  anonymous
§  initials
§  last name, first name
§  pseudonym
o   Dates
§  birth
§  death
§  other significant dates
o   Profession
§  primary profession
§  secondary profession
§  secondary profession
o   Stated Confessional Affiliation
If the author changes confessions, I will put the date of the change to the confession after a comma in the entry field if that date is available.
§  Generic "Protestant" (not defined more specifically)
§  Lutheran
§  Calvinist
§  Dissenter
§  Anglican
§  Roman Catholic
§  Other
o   Other information  Please leave 3 blank fields for me to enter information that might be important but that I didn't originally anticipate.
·      Genre 
o   I know there are lots of others I need to think of.
o   autobiography
o   biography
o   broadsheet "true history"
o   exempla
o   play
o   poetry
o   political pamphlet
o   sermon
o   song
o   treatise (will list type after a comma)
o   vita
·      Place of publication
·      Date of Publication
·      Publisher
·      Edition
o   of this source
o   total number of editions
·      Translation
o   yes/no
o   from what language
§  Dutch
§  English
§  French
§  German
§  Italian
§  Latin
§  Spanish
o   by whom
§  anonymous
§  initials
§  last name, first name
§  pseudonym

Key religious debates mentioned
Here I'll need space so that I can note where information about these topics can be found.  I note using author's last name, abbreviated title (1-4 words), and page or folio number; sometimes I use date between the title and page number if there are multiple editions of a work.
·      Purgatory
·      Confession
·      Physical state/body after death
·      Good works
·      Good death
·      Saints
·      Role of papacy
·      Quality of pastoral clergy
·      Tensions between religious orders.
·      Lay spirituality
·      Mysticism/spiritism

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