In lieu of the current, cookie- cutter methods of modern paranormal investigation routine, I have devised a new approach. One that will, in my opinion, garner more results that the current procedures. My hope is that a number of investigators will employ my method and return their results to the Bent Spoon, to be compiled into a future feature. You may choose to give my template to one member of your team while the rest carry on as normal.
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
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.
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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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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