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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