Are you afraid to tell your family and friends that you are interested in ghosts and conducting ghost investigations? Are you tired of psychologists and psychiatrists saying that every person who thinks they see a ghost needs therapy and drugs, or is on drugs? Are you tired of mainstream science saying there is no such thing as ghosts and they will never accept ghost research or parapsychology as a real science? That’s why it’s so important to maintain credibility in this type of subjective and uncertain field of research.
Of course, much of the criticism is deserved. There are many people and groups that call themselves ghost hunters or paranormal investigators that are an embarrassment to the field. They pick up one book on where the local haunted locations are, buy a cheap camera, maybe get an electromagnetic field (EMF) meter, pick up a flashlight then before becoming educated in the many aspects of paranormal research and investigation they are asked to take on a case and investigate a private residence. These ‘investigators’ show up, take a few pictures, wave their EMF meter around and claim there is a ghost. The evidence they claim to prove a ghost is present is a picture with an orb in it and one EMF spike near a fuse box in the basement. Now, they relay this to the homeowner who is now scared out of their mind because these ‘experts’ have concluded there is a ghost in the house.
Doesn’t sound very credible, does it? Well, it’s not and there are way too many people out there doing this. Now, don’t get me wrong, I realize that many of these people have very good intentions. The problem is that they are not educated enough in the paranormal field to have taken into consideration all of the possible natural causes for that picture and the EMF reading. Perhaps the orb was just a dust particle or pixilation from a cheap digital camera. The EMF spike could very well be from the fuse box itself. Did they interview the homeowners and other witnesses about the reported activity as to what was happening in the home? Did they know and use their equipment properly? Did they provide any useful information to the homeowner? So, how do we prevent this from happening and prove to people that we are serious and credible investigators?
Follow these simple steps for creating and maintaining credibility and you will be golden…
Believer vs. Science vs. Cynic:
Keep an open mind or what we like to call healthy skepticism. We don’t believe everything nor discount all data that suggests paranormal activity. There is certainly no consensus on what a ghost is, but there is plenty of speculation. People certainly do have subjective paranormal experiences but what those experiences are and how they perceived them are certainly open to debate. Be willing to entertain the possibility that there is life after death. However, try to rule out every possible natural explanation first.
If you say you are science based, then use science. Science is not just using fancy electronic equipment and walking around taking thousands of photos. The hardcore skeptics have a field day with this. Being scientific involves much more and can be rather boring and dull at times. When trying to gain new knowledge of something, the scientific method or scientific process is basic to the investigation. You use observations and reasoning to develop possible explanations for the observed phenomena. This is called a hypothesis. Once the hypothesis is formed, you test predictions that come from the hypothesis by doing a variety of experiments. The experiments should be repeatable. Now, once the hypothesis has been confirmed repeatedly by experimentation and research, then it becomes a theory and new predictions are based upon it.
All aspects of the scientific method are subject to review by other researchers. Here is a general guideline to follow:
1. Define the question
2. Get information
3. Develop a hypothesis
5. Analyze the data
6. Interpret the data and draw some conclusions (which may lead to a new hypothesis)
7. Tell people about your results and let them analyze the data and try to replicate your results
You must have good investigation skills. This entails knowing how to interview people, knowing the right questions to ask, how to relate to people, how to know when someone might be stretching the truth, how to listen and paying attention to details. Another big attribute is patience. We have spent hundreds if not thousands of hours sitting and waiting for something to happen. Then you have to add in all of the time it takes to review the hours and hours of video footage, electronic voice phenomena (E.V.P.) recordings, environmental readings, and other data that you collected during the actual investigation. This may seem like a lot, but it isn’t really any different than what a police investigator or crime scene investigator does when working on a case.
You have to know how to use the equipment, it’s limitations, how it works, what it measures, what the readings mean, and what types of natural things can give readings. Equipment should be used in conjunction with good investigative skills and witness testimony. The reason for this is there is no piece of equipment that is a certified ghost detector. Therefore, you can’t use equipment and it’s readings as proof of a ghost. There is data to which certain equipment readings have correlated with locations where people have experienced ghostly phenomena. This includes such things as transient ‘spikes’ in the electromagnetic field when an apparition is present, steady higher than normal background readings in the electromagnetic field in residual hauntings, drops and/or increases in the background radiation levels, and higher than normal positive ion counts. This is meaningful data, but only if you first rule out any natural things that can effect the equipment. The bottom line is that others will take you more seriously if you know how to use your equipment, know what it means, know what natural things can affect it, know it’s limitations, and know how to interpret the data.
Be well versed in the literature. This includes ghost hunting, investigative skills, psychic/metaphysical, religious, environmental studies, psychology, perceptual psychology, anomalistic psychology, and parapsychology. Now you might be asking, why do I need to read about psychology and parapsychology? It may seem academic and boring but you will need to be aware of the theories, concepts, and terminology. It will also help you determine when someone is not having a paranormal experience and they are misinterpreting or misperceiving something. For example, it is a known fact in psychology that people who are under a lot of stress have a much lower tolerance for ambiguous situations and therefore tend to misinterpret things. On the other hand, if you are familiar with the parapsychological literature, you may think about a possible case of Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis (RSPK) or what is typically called a poltergeist. Parapsychologists have determined that poltergeist activity is due to a living human agent that is under a lot of stress and they are releasing this stress subconsciously via RSPK. So, your knowledge of psychology and parapsychology would help you determine what might really be going on in the example above. I have found a variety of good materials in academic journals and books, magazines, and on the Internet.
Knowledge is power! It gives you the power to interpret and understand what might be going on and thereby make you very credible in what you do.
Realize that if people call you to investigate their home or business they are probably looking for help. Of course it is good to collect all of your data and tell them what you found, but remember, nine times out of ten they are looking for help. They are looking for someone to explain what is going on, determine that they are not crazy, and/or make the situation go away.
The final thing you need to know in order to be credible is to know when to either not take a case or tell the client that you can’t help them and it might be better to talk with a qualified professional such as a doctor or counselor.
There are two main reasons that you may have to do this. The first one is that there is certainly the possibility that people are not experiencing anything paranormal and that they may have a mental disorder or another medical condition. Unless you are a licensed doctor or counselor, do not try to help this person. Besides, that sort of activity is illegal. This is both for their best interests and yours. It is also for your safety. People with mental problems can pose serious physical, mental and legal risks to you. The second situation in which you might suggest that they seek help is when there is paranormal activity in the home. People who see an apparition or experience a residual haunting are scared! The unknown can deeply affect people and when you can’t understand something you become afraid and the fear can lead to stress. Another paranormal situation would be that of RSPK. Parapsychologists believe that RSPK is due to stress and that stress is being released subconsciously via RSPK. Both of these examples show that people may need the help of a qualified individual in order to deal with their stress and fear. The hard part is finding a professional in the medical field that won’t immediately label them as “nuts” and start them on all kinds of medication. It is helpful to try to find someone who, at least, has a working knowledge of parapsychology and psychic phenomena. We have been able to get some good people to refer these folks to from the Parapsychology Foundation and the American Society for Psychical Research. If you don’t try to pretend that you are something that you are not and therefore don’t get in over your head, you have truly helped someone and maintained your much-deserved credibility.