An Experiment for Ghost Hunters

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.

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An Experiment for Ghost Hunters

Dead End Dialog

You may have noticed that our main goal at the Bent Spoon is to promote conversation between the believers and skeptics of the paranormal community, we like to mention that from time to time. If you belong to one of the aforementioned groups, you may have also noticed how frustrating these conversations can be. Being of the skeptical persuasion, I have had a number of mind- numbing debates that left me genuinely annoyed. As, I’m sure, you, the reader, have as well. This is a huge obstacle. As a writer for the Bent Spoon, my objective is to create new paths around this obstacle, so instead of viewing this article as callous, see it as an opportunity to progress and reciprocate. With that, on to the subject.

dead_end_sign_W14-1_large

This is a  list of my least favorite responses I receive when discussing the paranormal, a cop- out compilation.

 

Number one: “Science can’t explain everything”. This one really gets under my skin. Science is not a noun, it’s a verb despite what the dictionary might say. Science is not a person that makes claims or is wrong, it’s an action, a process, a method of investigating, fine tuned for eliminating errors and biases.Everything we know about the world around us was learned by using science.

 

Number two: “We’re not trying to prove anything to anyone.” Really? Is that why we’re having this discussion? Is that why your group posts pictures, videos and EVPs on your website from the frequent investigations you participate in? Next!

 

Number three: “skeptics are just closed minded”. I think everyone is close minded to an extent, but I think that close mindedness has become a misattributed trait of skeptics when it can easily be said about believers as well. As my friend Bobby Nelson enjoys pointing out, most believers are so steadfast in their beliefs, they openly admit that there is nothing that would make them reconsider them. That is the very definition of being close minded.

 

Number four: “we’re just collecting data”. Data is factual information used as a basis for reasoning or calculation. There is no purpose for “Just collecting” it How do these EMF spikes relate to paranormal phenomena and how can you prove that correlation?

 

Number five: “These are all just theories”. a theory is the closest thing to fact as possible. It is a hypothesis that has been thoroughly tested and has gone through the peer review process. The “stone tape theory” is just something someone made up. Theories are not wild, baseless guesses.


I have more examples, but I think my point has been made. Hopefully you’ve made it through this brief article without thinking any worse of me. As I said before, this isn’t intended to be mean- spirited, it’s supposed to inspire you to make your own list and let us know what you’re tired of hearing. Let’s all stop having the same old, tired conversations and move forward. Let’s actually learn from each other.

Dead End Dialog

Psychic Mortician Avoids Skeptical Questioning

Mariah de la Croix, depending on where you look, bills herself as a psychic, medium, empath, and even a “sensitive intuitive.”  She claims to be able to communicate both with the spirits of humans and the “energies of the animal kingdom.”  For modest prices, she offers a variety of services, including, but not limited to:  astrological charts, past life therapy, tarot readings, and something called personal animal totems.  The slogan at LadyMariah.com is “Where answers are given…just not always the ones you want.”  Unfortunately, Mariah herself doesn’t seem to be willing to answer any of my questions at all.

It all started the week before Halloween when her publicist, Liz Donatelli, emailed myself and my co-host Bobby Nelson over at Strange Frequencies Radio.   She was requesting that we book her client for an interview to discuss her book, “Restless in Peace:  A Psychic Mortician’s Encounters with Those Who Refuse to Rest.”  In this paranormal memoir, it is revealed that Mariah de la Croix worked in several funeral homes as a mortician and embalmer and encountered a variety of spirits along the way.  For instance, Mariah relates a tale of a female spirit that left the confines of one mortuary to take up residence in her car for over a year.  Another spirit, who was apparently murdered outside the mortuary, returned annually to the scene of the crime to pursue justice.  Still other spirits Mariah met and communicated with were said to perform such mischievous acts as moving urns and hiding items on the roof of the mortuaries themselves.  And, yes, sometimes the dead assist in their own funeral proceedings.  Ms. de la Croix,  it seemed to us, would make a wonderful guest for our show.  We said yes and booked the date of November 4th with her publicist.

Mariah de la Croix (via: authors.com)

On the Amazon.com page for her book, I had been able to find out a couple names of the mortuaries she is said to have worked at.  I tried googling them but couldn’t find any precise matches in Arizona, where she resides, or anywhere else with an admittedly cursory search.  Because I didn’t have a physical copy of her book at the time, and her website didn’t provide much information, I wrote to Mariah personally to get a bit more background information on her story.  It’s not something that is altogether uncommon for me, and it has never posed a problem before to ask a few questions so I could gather a bit more interview material.  In the interest of full disclosure, here is the unedited text of the email I sent to Mariah:

Hi Mariah,

I was curious about some of the mortuaries you mentioned working at in your book.  Are they in the Phoenix area?  I was interested in checking them out.  Thanks so much!

Jason

Here was her response, also unedited:

Hi Jason,

Thank you so very much for your enquiry, but unfortunately, for legal reasons, plus the privacy of the establishments involved and the families they serve, I can’t give you their locations.  I’m sorry.  I would be able to chat with you about the book, though, if there is anything else you would like to ask.

Mariah

So, okay, fine.  She doesn’t want to give out the locations.  I was unaware that providing the cities or states they were in was a legal concern, particularly when in much of the biographical information of Mariah online, the Phoenix, AZ area is mentioned.  Judging by her response, the names of the mortuaries may very well be real.  But then why wasn’t I able to find them?  I decided to leave it at that and just ask any further questions to her personally during the interview.

Except, that ended up being canceled shortly thereafter.  We received an email from Liz Donatelli, the publicist, later that night to rescind approval for the interview.  Liz claimed that Mariah felt my email to her was “inappropriate” and had decided to cancel after listening to an archive episode of our show.
I was incredulous.  My email to her was in no way inappropriate.  And judging by her response, she didn’t think so at first either.  I began to suspect that Mariah checked out our show, saw we were skeptical, and backed out for fear of tough questioning.  At the time she canceled, the most recent archived episode involved us speaking about a recent psychic failure involving a missing child.  Could Mariah have seen this and decided to go into hiding?

At this point, it would seem so.  I tried emailing her again directly to express my confusion.  I explained that I have never had someone respond to an email query with a phrase like “thank you,” as well as an open-ended invitation for more questions, only to later determine my original communication was inappropriate.  I also asked Mariah to please tell me what about our show she suddenly found unfavorable.  I explained to her that, in the four years we have been doing Strange Frequencies Radio, we have never had anyone, from scientist or philosopher to ghost hunter or psychic, claim that we treated them unfairly.  I told her that, even in the cases where we disagree with our guests, the vast majority of the time we end up laughing and having a good time with them.  The point of Strange Frequencies Radio, I said, is conversation, not confrontation.  We only want the truth.  I hoped my email would calm any fears she may have and that she would reconsider.

Well, I can’t say that I anticipated getting a response.  I assumed by that time her publicist had already told her to avoid further communication from us.  As of this writing, now several days after sending that last email, she has not gotten back with me.

Later, after talking to a friend, I decided to run a search with the Arizona Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers to see if Mariah de la Croix was licensed in the state.  She’s not.  There is no listing for her as a funeral director, embalmer or cremationist.  She’s not even an intern.  My friend and I have both sent messages to her on Twitter on successive days since neither she or her publicist have been responding to emails.  I asked if she is using a pseudonym or is perhaps no longer licensed.  The latter wouldn’t be a good answer, however, since the Board lists both current and former licensees right on their website.  Anyone can access them, both to verify licensure or even to see whether or not the person in question has faced any disciplinary action related to their profession.  Unsurprisingly, she hasn’t responded.

As of now, it has gotten to the point where I think Mariah de la Croix is hiding something.  She may or may not be using a fictitious name for her psychic business and book, but then she won’t divulge any information regarding the whereabouts of the mortuaries she is said to have worked at either.  A quick phone call to verify her employment and spiritual encounters is all I would like to do.  But since I can’t find record of her even having a license to do the type of work she says she has done, I have no evidence by which to back up any of the claims she is making.

Is it all a misunderstanding that Mariah de la Croix refuses to help clear up?  If so, why?  Or, even worse, is her entire story built on a foundation of lies and misinformation?  Only Mariah has the answers to the questions I have been asking.  And it seems that, after all this time, neither her or the spirits are interested in talking.

Psychic Mortician Avoids Skeptical Questioning

Progression

by Nicholas Callis

Say I am in my bedroom and I want to go to the kitchen. The most efficient path, being a straight line, is obstructed by a wall. Let’s also say that I am… inexperienced in traversing my home. I plot my kitchen- bound course and, of course, I am impeded by the wall. What is my next plan of action? Continuing on my path, I can by no means make any progress to the kitchen.
As absurd as this analogy is, there is a parallel to modern ghost hunting. The assortment of tools and techniques used by the majority of paranormal investigators is fully known to be found lacking, to say the least. So why not abandon the K2 meters and digital thermometers? Why continue talking to dictaphones and “going dark”? It’s time we give up the ghost, so to speak, and make a course adjustment in the field of paranormal investigation.

While many make the claim, I have yet to see a ghost hunting team employ the scientific method. But why, you might ask, would we use the scientific method when investigating phenomena outside the realm of science? Well, to those who would ask this, know that the term paranormal does not mean outside the realm of science, but maybe more precisely, seemingly outside the realm. You see, by claiming that it is, indeed, outside of science’s reach, you are making leap of judgement about a phenomenon that has no true characteristics that have been documented or established by the field at large.
The reader should also be aware that the term science does not represent a body of knowledge, but a method of pursuing truth. An endeavour that I would assume appeals to all ghost hunters.

So, where does it all begin then? How do we tackle these extraordinary claims using science? Simple, We employ a Null Hypothesis! A null hypothesis is a prediction made by the investigator that they try to disprove or nullify. So, for example, instead of beginning an investigation by deliberately seeking the paranormal explanation, instead propose that all the claims are the effect of natural causes. Then you simply create tests to either confirm or reject your proposal. k2 meters and digital voice recorders don’t come into play. And why should they? There is no empirical evidence to support their use and so, should be discarded.

The next step is creating and performing tests to disprove your prediction. This would entail creating events and circumstances that would produce the effect of the paranormal claim. If they are successful, you will have supported your hypothesis that the phenomena was indeed natural. Of course, we should keep in mind that unexplained does not mean unexplainable. In other words, if your tests fail, it is still unwise to jump to the paranormal conclusion, since you may not have all of the factors at your disposal. Whatever caused the phenomena in question took place in an uncontrolled environment, so there are bound to be lurking variables that you cannot possibly account for. The most important thing to know is that it’s OK to say “I don’t know”.

Finally, we come to the results and what to do with them. Instead of pouring over hours of audio and video, searching for anomalies, publish your collected data (consisting of the claims, your hypothesis, and your tests) to a blog or your team’s facebook page so that your peers and colleagues can review and repeat the tests you created and add valuable input to your investigation.

Hopefully I’ve made a case for progression in paranormal research. While I understand that it may be hard to reject the familiar form of “tradition” in ghost hunting, we should all make sure not to trade what is rational for ritual.

Progression

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