Revised Interview with Parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach

A few months ago, The Bent Spoon, released a Ghost Hunting Issue which included an interview with parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach.  Loyd requested that he review his interview to make sure everything he said was sufficient.  We printed the transcribed version without revisions.  This is the interview that should have been in the magazine. – Bobby Nelson

 

What exactly is parapsychology and how does it differ from ghost hunting?

Parapsychology is the study of psychic phenomena, of phenomena and experiences of the human mind, of consciousness, and how it relates to the world around it — which includes apparitions and hauntings and such.  We deal with consciousness-related phenomena that seem to transcend or go beyond what we consider the normal senses and perceptions; whether it be bringing information in through non-normal channels, affecting matter and energy without direct intervention of the body, or survival of consciousness beyond the death of the body, keeping in mind that what’s considered “normal” changes as knowledge expands and society and Science accept new information.

Parapsychology differs from ghost hunting in many different ways.  First of all, people in the field do controlled scientific research in a laboratory. The field research that so often seems that it has been taken over, or seemingly supplanted, by ghost hunting is done in a very measured way with controlled conditions as much as possible but also with including the processes and methods of science as much as possible.  The biggest difference between parapsychology and ghost hunting is that ghost hunting seems to be focused specifically on certain phenomena and happenings, often leaving out the human experience which is at the root of all of this phenomena.  Ghost hunters often ignore the history of research and how it relates to what they’re doing and to the phenomena.

So, I think the biggest divide is that ghost hunters tend not to even know that there is a field of parapsychology, or think that there is anything that parapsychology has to say about these phenomena, when we’ve been studying them for 130 years and clearly what’s studied in the lab has much to do with what’s investigated outside the lab.

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Revised Interview with Parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach

15 Things ghost hunting groups may do that they shouldn’t

One thing that most ghost hunting groups seem to have in common is that they all claim to want to help people. I have no reason to question this; in fact I do believe that most groups do genuinely want to help people. However, the question I often ask is, are they really helping?

Before I became a skeptic I was involved with many ghost hunting teams. I have investigated many houses with the perspective of a believer and I feel that I understand why most groups investigate the way that they do. Nevertheless, I now understand why most of these techniques are wrong, some are even unethical.

I decided to put together a list of 15 things ghost hunting groups may do that they shouldn’t:

Charging someone for a paranormal investigation.
This is something that most ghost hunting groups would agree is wrong. Though there are a few out there that do charge for the service of hunting ghosts. The reason why this is wrong is because if you can’t prove or demonstrate that the paranormal does in fact exist, you have no right charging money for this service. Not only is this wrong, it is also unethical.

Labeling any location, person, or item haunted.
This is something I see many ghost hunting groups doing now. I have even seen locations and items (such as dolls) that are officially “certified” haunted by paranormal teams. Again, if we cannot prove or demonstrate that the paranormal does, in fact, exist, how can we certify anything haunted?

I have also seen teams that will tell a family that a specific family member may be the cause of the paranormal happenings in the home. This is very disturbing and possibly very dangerous, not to mention unethical. And depending on how superstitious the family is, the result could end up as a possible exorcism, another exercise that has never been proven to be authentic.

Classifying the style of haunting.
This is something that I have been guilty of in the past and it is something I continue to see ghost hunting groups do. There are many classifications when it comes to hauntings, but the four most common types are intelligent, residual, poltergeist, and demonic. All of which have no evidence at all that they exist.

The thing that I find so humorous about the classification system is that most ghost hunting groups will say that ghosts have not been proven, however there is a system to label which type of haunting is occurring. This is honestly just a way to make ghost hunting look like it is taken more seriously than it really is.

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15 Things ghost hunting groups may do that they shouldn’t

A Fool’s Gambit

Like the rest of the paranormal “theories” pertaining to ghosts that I have heard, the explanation invoking the first law of thermodynamics has been regurgitated so often in the paranormal echo-chamber that I cannot trace it’s origins. I have to wonder how that misappropriated notion has survived so long. Did our nation’s public school fail us or is it simply a bluff given with the idea that if it sounds scientific, it’s good enough?

The first law of thermodynamics, or conservation of energy, is often given as a possible explanation of what comprises a ghost and how it came to be. Whether this misunderstanding is what led many investigators to believe ghosts are made of “energy,” or that it was given as a supportive hypothesis of the former is unknown to me and, most likely, to the claimant as well. Though the underlying concept is a pretty common one. It’s the general misinterpretation of energy itself.

What is energy really? Energy is a scalar, that is, a quantity of a system’s ability to produce changes or do work. In this sense, some one saying, “Ghosts are just energy,” would be equivalent to saying, “Ghosts are just length,” or any other measurable quantity. To those making the claim, are human bodies like a jar of fireflies, buzzing with a swarm of glowing, free-floating energy that escapes the moment we die?

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A Fool’s Gambit

5 GHOST HUNTER FALLACIES – Jason Korbus

For the most part, ghost hunters have their hearts in the right place.  Many truly care about local history, and want to help the people who are experiencing what they perceive to be paranormal phenomena.  But there are several fallacies that most amateur investigation teams regularly employ that damages not only their own credibility, but also blurs the line between truth and fiction, harming their clients in the process.

One major fallacy that ghost hunters use is working backwards from a conclusion.  While claiming to follow the scientific method, what these individuals and groups are actually doing is starting with a conclusion; in this case that ghosts are real, that they inhabit a particular location, etc. and then working backward to find evidence.  This is improper and harmful because the amateur ghost hunter will try to find the data to match their conclusion instead of allowing the data to lead them to an answer.  Misinterpretations, false positives, and illogical conclusions will often follow this style of investigative protocol.  For instance, when a team attempts to debunk the sound of footsteps in an empty part of a house and fail, they assume it must be the sound of an invisible dead person wandering around, and further stroke their client’s fears by telling them so.

Another fallacy that ghost hunters tend to use, one quite similar to the last, is the logical fallacy of Arguing from Ignorance.  This fallacy asserts that a position is true simply because it has not been proven false.  For instance, a paranormal team may come home with a sound on their recorder, but that doesn’t mean it is a ghost.  It just means it is an anomalous sound they don’t know the source of.  The typical amateur ghost hunter will say that no one whispered during the time of the recording, nor were any noises at all made, therefore the sound they are hearing must be the voice of a dead person.  But that is logically invalid.  Just because you can’t explain something doesn’t mean that the explanation is therefore the least likely reason of all.

The third common fallacy ghost hunters employ is “going lights out.”  Turning out the lights is just about the worst thing you can possibly do when trying to spot a ghost.  It immediately puts you at a disadvantage.  I actually once asked Kris Williams, former cast member of SyFy’s Ghost Hunters, and now employed on Ghost Hunters International, why the team turned out the lights during investigations.  She told me it was because they are looking for things that are “darker than dark.”  But she also told someone else that sometimes ghosts have a fluorescent glow.  So which is it?  Whatever the truth is about ghosts, you would have a much better chance at collecting evidence looking for them with the lights on.  If it is a dark figure you’re trying to find, you’ll see it under well it conditions, not the other way around.  And if it glows, you may see it in the dark, but you’ll see more details in the light.

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5 GHOST HUNTER FALLACIES – Jason Korbus