01/7/16

Paranormal Technology: Failure 101

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Over a decade ago, when I first began my foray into the enigmatic and often entropic world of paranormal research, I found myself in the unfortunate (but common) situation of being reliant on the knowledge of those who came before me.  During this time I recall hearing a lot of mixed messages from various groups and investigators about the proper way to conduct a paranormal investigation. A few of those messages turned out to be good advice, some were highly questionable and others (most) were just outright outrageous. But like many inquisitive people who start out in this research, I would ultimately have to learn the truth (or at least a portion of it) for myself.

I too was once excited by photo orbs, enthralled by the pareidolic effects of white noise and easily taken in by every creak, bang and footstep I would hear in the darkened rooms of numerous “haunted” locations. I once believed that “ghosts” were intelligent, energy hungry electro-magnetic beings that could be discovered with the proper application of time, cameras and a good EMF meter. Yea I was in the dark alright (in more ways than one).

However, For me, what I have learned in the past ten years is not so much about what has been “discovered” through field investigation but more so about what has been “revealed” through proper research. I have found that much of the information that is often professed by multiple researchers as standardized knowledge is typically based on speculation, misinformation or basic belief.  A great example of this can be seen with the application technology in research.

For example, devices such as EMF meters have been historically touted for their usefulness in detecting “spirit presence” through the identification of anomalous electro-magnetic activity. However, aside from the obvious logistical holes in that concept, a little research will reveal that the meter itself is riddled with limitations that render it a very poor choice for scientific exploration. The non-frequency specific design presents an inherent inability to properly identify a true signal source leaving researchers to speculate or falsely identify anomalous phenomena as the cause of the unusual readings (and that’s just not good science). 

Additionally the concept of measuring EMF to identify or locate anomalous beings or activity is scientifically unfounded. To date there has been no significant published research to support the concept that fluctuating electromagnetic signals are indicators of an undiscovered phenomena, let alone a dis-incarnate being (which is in itself unproven). However, there is supporting research to suggest that these electro-magnetic fields may play another role in the “haunting” experience.

The modern practice of measuring EMF signals in “haunted” environments became highly popularized following research conducted by Dr. Michael Persinger at Canada’s Laurentian College during the early 1980’s. Persinger’s research demonstrated that electro-magnetic fields could be responsible for perceived paranormal phenomena (Persinger 2001) and so paranormal researchers began measuring the intensity of these fields on location for the purpose of identifying natural causes to unusual claims. (i.e. if the fields are excessive in a home perhaps they are causing induced delusions)

While the specific signals that Persinger used to induce these delusions were never officially identified as the source of paranormal experiences in a home environment,  the purpose of searching for fluctuating EMF signals got lost to history and eventually researchers simply began to associate high EMF readings with paranormal experiences.


FACT: In the world of physics the acronym ‘EMF’ represents Electro-Motive Force not Electro-Magnetic Fields. Two very different things. An EMF Meter is more correctly identified as an Electro-Magnetometer or Magnetic Flux Density Meter.


The adoption, misrepresentation, misuse and failure of electronics devices in paranormal research certainly doesn’t begin and end with EMF meters. Over the past 50 years alone researches have attempted to employ a large variety of pre-made, non-paranormal devices for paranormal research purposes. Gadgets such as thermometers,  polygraph machines, cameras Barometers,   multi-meters,  baby monitors, radio receivers, televisions, telephones,  tape recorders, computers, oscilloscopes, motion detectors and even flashlights were (and are) used by groups proclaiming a scientific methodology  to find evidence of a ghostly presence, all with the same level of applied conjecture and anticlimactic results.

But what about original equipment? When I first started out in this area of study the popular research community consensus was that  “no equipment exists that was specifically designed for the purpose of paranormal research”. In fact I heard this statement many times at several conventions I visited in 2007. Of course a little research shed some much needed light on the subject and, not surprisingly the information was simply not true.

The fact is many people through-out the 20th century had created equipment with a specific paranormal purpose in mind. In the early 1920’s the American Psychic Institute claimed to have over one hundred specialized scientific instruments many of which were purported to measure the intangible “soul force” or “psychic energy.”


Here are just a few of the mystifying devices:

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Dynamistograph

The “psychic ululometer (or howler)” –  A highly sensitive coil of 3000 finely tuned copper wires that were intended to reveal the presence of any energy, living or disembodied that comes within six feet of the coil. (Appleton [WI] Post-Crescent 28 March 1922: p. 4 – http://www.newspapers.com/newspage/76243876/)

The “dynamistograph” – A device created to measure departed personalities and communicate with the spirit world. (The Walther League Messenger, Vol. 38, 1929. http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3403801485.html)

The “lastrometer” – An apparatus containing a zinc sulfide screen, which glows when a person approaches. The glow varies according to the psychic energy of the person, and it is reasoned that a spirit or dis-incarnate being might reveal its presence through this glow. (Pittsburgh [PA] Press 23 April 1922 http://www.newspapers.com/newspage/76243876/)


Of course while none of these devices were ever successful in officially registering the presence of the dead, those seeking contact through this type of technology (a method known as Instrumental Trans-Communication –  ITC) were certainly not discouraged by the accumulated failures. In fact every generation has had its brand of “inventors” hoping to break the universal code and unlock the door to the other side. Many, though misguided, are sincere in their efforts while others are simply in search of  fame, fortune or both.

The 21st Century Research

With advances in semi-conductor technology and lower component costs, one might expect the twenty first century to play host to the most progressive attempts at spirit communication technology to date. However reality paints quite a different picture.  A good portion of the modern technology used for anomalous investigation relies heavily on an age old form of spirit communication known as divining (i.e. to perceive by intuition or insight)Much like the Ouija Board, rune stones, tarot cards and pendulums the results produced by these devices manifest large amounts of conjecture and present pathways for numerous cognitive biases and misconceptions that can impair the users ability to process information objectively.

Ghost in the Box

Leading the way in modern divining technology is a highly controversial device known as a Spirit Box (also known as Frank’s Box, Ghost Box or Shack Hack). The basic principle behind this device is to automatically scan radio frequencies within the AM and FM band. This is done with the hope that ethereal beings will communicate messages over the barrage of scanned signals.

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As fascinating as it may sound there are some fundamental issues concerning the logic behind the spirit box functionality and these concerns lie within the principles of radio broadcast and the design of the radio itself. I will explain…


 

How Radio Works:

The frequencies that make up music and human speech are simply not powerful enough to travel great distances on their own and the amplification of these low frequencies would require tremendous power at a great expense, two things that are not very appealing to the broadcast industry. Additionally, broadcasting primary frequencies this way would also allow for unwanted interference from other radio like devices and that means unhappy listeners.

To overcome these obstacles radio broadcasters developed a method of packaging the signal with a much higher and more easily transmitted frequency to broadcast their messages.  To accomplish this they simply combine the voice or music signal they want to send (called an input signal) with a much higher frequency (called a carrier signal).  This process is called modulation and the result is an easily transmitted hybrid of the two signals (see image below).

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The new modulated signal is then broadcast through the air and picked up by a radio receiver (i.e. a spirit box). Once it is received, the higher carrier frequency is then filtered out and we are left with only the original voice or music we were intended to hear. The process of removing the carrier frequency is called “demodulation” and because the radio or spirit box demodulates every signal it receives,  stray radio waves are not heard.  That includes the purported ghost of aunt Sally or even Robin Williams.


For stray radio waves to be heard on a radio (spirit box or otherwise) they would need to be part of a modulated signal carried by man-made frequencies that were chosen specifically by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Because the Spirit Box scans a new frequency every second  or so (depending upon the settings) the communication by a dis-incarnate being would need to change the modulating frequency for every portion of the ghostly statement it’s trying to convey. A feat that would not only need to coincide with the frequency limits of the AM or FM radio band but also with the scanning speed of the Spirit Box (as set by the user). An exceedingly unlikely scenario.

While all of this seems pretty damning in terms of logistical support for such a device, proponents of the Spirit Box argue that the vast unknowns about the spirit world may place these exceedingly unlikely scenarios (and many others) within a realm of possibility. Supporters also contend that it’s not uncommon to receive intelligible, relevant communication when the using a spirit box and argue that traditional logic may not apply when researching such an unknown subject.

Still, in spite of the unrelenting support of believers, no reliable research has ever been presented (controversial or otherwise) to support the idea that a spirit box can foster communication with any world beyond our own. According to research conducted by Dr. Lynne Nygaard, professor of psychology at Emory University, the concept of extracting what appears to be intelligent communication from random speech segments (such as those produced by a spirit box) is not uncommon. In fact the experience can be attributed a cognitive function of our brain that processes speech information from the top level down (Nygaard 2005).

In other words, our brain first works to listen for the sounds of words as a whole without paying specific attention to the vowels, consonants or syllables that may be missing. When the fragmented speech contains enough frequencies to closely resemble a word (or words) we then anticipate any missing segments using a variety of biases to adapt the communication to the context of the current conversation or environment. Essentially, what this all means is that the identification of non contextual speech is based largely on anticipation and personal cognitive biases (belief).

In Conclusion

It’s no surprise that the approach to such a broad, widely intangible subject requires the incumbency of an open mind. After all, history has demonstrated time and time again that limited thinking or the resistance of new ideas plays poorly with the concept of discovery. But it seems that far too often researchers find themselves misguided by the practice of nonrestrictive thinking so much so that they tend to often ignore the apparent boundaries of the very tangible, logical, real world elements that can present a viable practical answer to most questions.

Sometimes the most enlightening discoveries are the ones that prove us wrong.

References:

Nygaard, L.C., Pisoni, D.B. (1995). “Speech Perception: New Directions in Research and Theory”. In J.L. Miller, P.D. Eimas.Handbook of Perception and Cognition: Speech, Language, and Communication. San Diego: Academic Press.

Nygaard, L.C., Cook, A.E., & Namy, L.L.  (2009).  Sound to meaning correspondences facilitate word learning.  Cognition, 112, 181-186.

Persinger MA: The Paranormal. Part I: Patterns. New York, MSS 16. Long T, O’Donovan C, Cabe C, et al: Relationship of daily geo- Information, 1974 magnetic activity to the occurrence of temporal lobe seizures 

Persinger MA: Psi phenomena and temporal lobe activity: the an epilepsy monitoring unit (abstract). Epilepsia 1996; 36:94 geomagnetic factor, in Research in Parapsychology 1988, edited 17. 

01/7/16

Five hard to swallow facts about Paranormal Research

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– 1 –  Audio, Video or Photos will NEVER serve as conclusive proof of “paranormal” phenomena 

Oh I know that statement is bound to launch a thousand debates (and a few more hate mails), but let’s be honest here… media is not only easily misunderstood, it’s easily manipulated. Everything that is submitted as evidence on media carries with it a silent requirement to “trust” the source (a.k.a. the person who submitted it) and therein lies the problem.  If you present me with an incredible video of a ghostly being traversing the stairs of some old home,  my acceptance of this as evidence now presents me with an obligation to believe you didn’t fake it, misinterpret it or misrepresent it. I have to believe you that the conditions were as you say they were when it was captured and that everything else you present me with in support of that video is ALSO legitimate (i.e. photos, meter readings, experiences etc.).

That’s a lot of trust… Slow down, we hardly know each other. 

It’s this unstable variable that prevents any media based evidence from being considered conclusive (or even in some cases suggestive). So what DOES constitute conclusive proof?  I’m glad you asked. There is only one factor that will ever conclusively prove the existence of any unusual phenomenon and that is “demonstrability”.  Yep, you need to be able to demonstrate or repeat it to a degree that it can be studied with some element of reliability under strict controls.

You see the scientific method suggests that a concept or idea is more credible when it can be repeated. Even if only through long and tedious means. Repetition and control are key. If it’s a phenomena (and not just an event), it will or can be repeated.

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 –  2 – No matter how “in control and grounded” you claim to be, your brain can and DOES continue to fool you… you are not immune.

Oh people say it all the time. “I’m not crazy.”, “I know what I saw”, “I wasn’t hallucinating”, “I wouldn’t lie about something like that.”, “She told me she was 18”. Well maybe not the last one, but the point is people are exceedingly hard to convince when it comes to doubting their own perceptions. We all want to believe that our senses are relatively infallible, that our brains are not easily fooled and that our rationalization skills are in great working order. But the truth is utterly disappointing.

For decades numerous scientists and researchers around the world have documented the astounding fallibility of our perceptive process. Television shows, games, carnival attractions and even art have been created that specifically take advantage of the holes in our cognitive faculties. We are ALL born suckers and there’s really nothing we can do about it other than understand that the condition exists and honestly consider these shortcomings in our analysis of unusual events.

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3 – Your shining credibility does not make your experience more believable.

Groucho Marx once said, “There’s one way to find out if a man is honest: ask him. If he says yes, then you know he is crooked.”  – That statement was  only funny because it’s true.

Everyone – you, me, your spouse, children, siblings, co-workers, best friends, teachers, employers and even your sweet old grandmother have told lies. By age four, 90% of children have grasped the concept of lying (Osmols 2011), and it just goes downhill from there. According to a 2002 study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, 60% of all adults can’t have a ten minute conversation without telling a lie at least once (UMASS 2002). and according to the study those folks who did lie actually told an average of 3 lies during their short discussion with the researchers.

I know you’re sitting there right now insisting that you would be part of the 40% that didn’t lie but that’s what the liars in the study thought, too. When they reviewed their own conversations, they were flabbergasted at how many lies they had actually told.

Unsurprisingly, we also sometimes lie about important aspects. According to one estimate, 40% of people lie on their resumes (Forbes 2006).  A shocking 90% of people looking for a date online lie in their profile. (Scientific American 2007)   So no matter how honest you believe you are, no matter how accurate your rendition of a paranormal event is (even if it truly happened to you), the majority of the world will never simply “accept” what you are claiming with complete certainty… They just won’t.

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– 4 – Any equipment that requires the “interpretation” of non-repeatable results is complete bullshit.

Yep , I went there….bullshit.  In fact pretty much all of the marketed devices used in “ghost hunting” today  require a personal interpretation of the results in order to determine the significance of their output.  (Yes I’m looking at you spirit box, Ovilus, Paranormal Puck, Vortex Dome, Para-Scope, V-Pod, Rem Pod, Ghost Ark, Dowsing Rods, Pendulums, Ouija Boards, KII Meters, Geo-Pods and yes…EMF Meters)

So what’s wrong with personal interpretation you say?  I will explain…

Scenario 1-  In a hospital, a doctor uses a heart monitor to determine if someone is having  heart trouble. He / She interprets the readings of the heart monitor to make or assist in a diagnosis.

Scenario 2 – In an old home a paranormal investigator uses a specialized device (choose any from the list above) to determine if the home is haunted. He/ She interprets the readout/response of the equipment to make a determination.

So what is the difference between Scenario 1 and 2? They seem relatively the same right? Well not really.

In scenario 1 the doctor is measuring a tangible object – the human heart. It’s proper function has been well documented and how a healthy one should appear on a heart monitor is academic as is the comparison between the live readings and the expected readings used to help  indicate a problem. The interpretation the doctor makes is based on known and “demonstrated” information.

In scenario 2 the investigator is simply looking for any unusual reaction, especially one that ties into his / her expectations or the context of the location or perhaps even one that correlates with other experiences. This is done because he/she doesn’t know with any certainty what a paranormal experience “should” read. There is no documented historical data for a paranormal occurrence. So responsible comparisons cannot be made and interpretations are based entirely on subjective opinion. Hardly factual.

“Nobody has EVER linked EMF to actual localized paranormal occurrences in any reliable or predictable fashion….EVER.”

Question: So if that’s the case how can manufacturers of paranormal gadgetry even begin to design a device that works?

Answer: They can’t.

(They are all bullshit in my opinion):

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– 5 – There has never been any credible, demonstrable research to even suggest the plausibility of life beyond death.

Sure there have been “sciency” people in history who have attempted to prove the existence of a soul, others who tried to establish communications with those who have passed and still others who have insisted they have been to the other side and back, but in spite of the numerous attempts and claims that flood the internet, we are not any closer to officially proving life after death than we were 5000 years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, who wouldn’t love the idea of a second chance?  To see your departed loved ones again, to be free of the mortal bonds that plague our existence, to have learned from a lifetime of experience, free of illness, free of strife, free of pain. It sure is a comforting thought, but unfortunately, right now, it’s only that… a thought.  The fact is that the research conducted over the past two centuries in the hopes of proving “life after death” have chalked up a big fat zilch in terms of results. If it’s there, we haven’t proven it yet…  no one has.

So for those in search of human souls, ghosts and spirits… to officially claim that you have contacted the dear departed, you must first establish with complete certainty (not just with opinion) that life does go on beyond this mortal veil. That there are dis-incarnate “beings” there to contact. Do this and the rest will go down the scientific gullet like a candy coated gumdrop. Until then… well… you know.


So here we have it five hard to swallow facts about Paranormal Research. I’ll finish by saying that this in no way proclaims that unusual, undiscovered phenomena doesn’t exists. In fact, I’m inclined to believe it does, but once again that’s just my opinion, and you know what they say about those.

No one ever said it was going to be easy.

Resources:

http://www.emaxhealth.com/6705/when-children-lie-they-are-simply-reaching-developmental-milestone

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2002-06/uoma-urf061002.php

http://www.forbes.com/2006/05/20/resume-lies-work_cx_kdt_06work_0523lies.html

http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/C1597486-E7F2-99DF-310BFD76D5647B1D/

11/29/15

Visions and Voices – Paranormal or Psychotic?

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by Michael J. Baker

A belief in the existence of paranormal phenomena is quite common these days. It’s certainly not difficult to find television shows, movies or books touting some sort of paranormal theme nor is it hard to find alleged witnesses to these strange  occurrences. However some paranormal beliefs share a distinct similarity to symptoms of psychosis. For example, mediumistic communication with the dead is starkly similar to hallucinatory symptoms found in patients with acute Schizophrenia. For those experiencing this psychosis, communication with beings not seen by their peers  can be a common occurrence. These beings can appear as one personality or many. They may appear intermittently or continuous. They may manifest as a constant whispering or they may converse directly. All of these traits have not only been historically described by patients suffering from Schizophrenia, but also by mediums in their descriptions of their esoteric communications. This begs the question; Are paranormal witnesses simply suffering from some form of psychosis? or is there an element that adequately differentiates the mediumistic experience from the psychotic?

In the public eye, religious or non religious, there seems to be a greater tendency  to process fortean claims without an implied psychological label. A larger segment of the population  in general has historically been more accepting of astonishing claims when presented in a spiritual context as opposed to secular. But why?  What separates the hallucination and delusions of a psychotic experience from the visions and experiences that are described by those claiming to witness paranormal phenomena; and are the two related?

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry suggested that paranormal believers may not only have cognitive biases similar to those observed in psychotic patients but also problems related to thinking clarity (Lawrence & Peters, 2004; Yorulmaz, Inozu, & Gültepe, 2011). Reasoning abnormalities appear to play a causal role in the formation of unusual beliefs. Additionally cognitive bias, which is our tendency to deviate from rational thinking in support of our beliefs, may represent soft signs of a neurological defect known as the schizoid taxon (Meehl, 1962, 1989) and those biases may in-fact be preliminary indicators of a psychotic risk.  While these findings may outwardly suggest that a paranormal experience is an early indicator of a potential psychosis it should be noted that some authors are suggesting that the mere presence of paranormal belief should not be considered a reliable indicator. In other words, having a paranormal experience doesn’t “necessarily” imply an underlying psychosis.

Dr. J.T. Wigman from the Department of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences at the University of Utrecht, believes that claims of paranormal experiences are typically associated with much lower levels of psychological distress and may be independent of psychosis. (Wigman et al., 2011)   He suggests that a possible way to improve the predictive value of unusual beliefs and experiences for psychosis risk may involve the consideration of associated cognitive features, idiosyncratic thinking styles, the role of belief appraisal, and the associated distress  (Cella, Cooper, Dymond, & Reed, 2008; Garety & Hemsley, 1994; Preti & Cella, 2010 a).

While a definitive causal link between psychosis and claims of paranormal phenomena may remain elusive it’s important to understand that the sources of anomalous phenomena may still potentially be psychological in nature.  Numerous cognitive biases can have adverse effects on how the human mind processes experiences and these “thinking errors” can prevent individuals from accurately understanding reality even when presented with sufficient data and evidence to form an accurate view. Various mood disorders and medications can also affect our interpretation of the outside world and unfortunately, just knowing about these obstacles doesn’t necessarily free us from their effects.

Sources

Lawrence, E., & Peters, E. R. (2004). Reasoning in believers in the paranormal. Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease, 192, 727 e 733

Yorulmaz, O., Inozu, M., & Gültepe, B. (2011). The role of magical thinking in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder symptoms and cognitions in an analogue sample. Journal of Behavioural Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 42,198 e 203

Meehl, P. E. (1962). Schizotaxia, schizotypy, schizophrenia. American Psychologist, 17, 827 e 838.

Wigman, J. T., Vollebergh, W. A., Raaijmakers, Q. A., Iedema, J., van Dorsselaer, S., Ormel, J., et al. (2011). The structure of the extended psychosis phenotype in early adolescence d A cross-sample replication.

Schizophrenia Bullettin, 37, 850 e 860

Cella, M., Cooper, A., Dymond, S. O., & Reed, P. (2008). The relationship between dysphoria and proneness to hallucination and delusions among young adults. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 49,544 e 550

Garety, P. A., & Hemsley, D. R. (1994). Delusions: Investigations into the psychology of delusional reasoning. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Preti, A., & Cella, M. (2010b). Randomized controlled trials in people at ultra high risk of psychosis: a review of treatment effectiveness. Schizophrenia Research, 123,30 e 36

(n.d.). Symptoms of schizophrenia. Retrieved from Living with Schizophrenia website:http://www.livingwithschizophreniauk.org/symptoms-of-schizophrenia/

10/15/15

The Jordan Rich Show – WBZ – CBS Radio

Each year Jordan Rich graciously asks Para-Boston to appear on his show.  We are always happy and excited to be a part. Here are several years worth of shows for your listening pleasure!  Enjoy!

www.jordanrich.com


The Jordan Rich Show – 2012 – Hour 1

The Jordan Rich Show – 2012 – Hour 2


 

The Jordan Rich Show – 2013 – Hour 1

The Jordan Rich Show – 2013 – Hour 2


 

The Jordan Rich Show – 2014 – Hour 1

The Jordan Rich Show – 2014 – Hour 2

04/15/15

Red Flags in Paranormal Research – Beware of Bad Information

There is an overwhelming wave of dishonesty in the paranormal research community. It seems every other week there is someone new called out on fraudulent claims. Of course this isn’t anything new, but is it any surprise? For decades, the majority of proponents for paranormal research have blindly accepted whatever stories they’re told. Provided of course it aligns with their beliefs or comes from any one of the dozens of network generated heroes that fill the reality TV roster.

The lacking demand for facts and the unwillingness of many researchers to show their work has created a safe haven for frauds, liars and thieves. A world where anyone with social media skills and a little time can transform themselves into a pseudo-celebrity for fun and profit and shine in a world of people all hungry for the next big thing in paranormal research. Oh the drama! It’s a gloomy picture and of course, this doesn’t describe everyone. There are certainly reputable researchers out there, but this unsettling condition does make it difficult for those honest truth seekers to find reliable information. It is with that sentiment in mind that I have identified four red – flags which I use (and may help you) when reviewing the research and claims of others.

You should be cautious if…

 

1. Information is based on books, television or word of mouth.

 

The most reliable sources of information come from peer reviewed case studies. Independent verification of a concept from multiple independent people is your best chance at securing factual information to support your hypothesis. If a study that supports your hypothesis isn’t peer reviewed, try to replicate the results of the study yourself. Conduct experiments and document your findings for the review of others. After all this is supposed to be research right? Otherwise, be honest and divulge that your source has not yet been reviewed.

There is no shame in being honest. Books, television and word of mouth sources are often loaded with opinions and false perspectives from people who gathered their information in the same “non-reviewed” fashion. It’s a cozy place for liars to hide. If a book references a peer reviewed study as a source, locate the source and find your information there, not from the book. Some authors (not all) have a tendency to embellish, mistake or outright lie in summarizations in order to sell the agenda of the book and will often not mention other important details that can only be found in the case study that supplied the information.  Those details just may change the direction of your original hypothesis.

2. The explanation of a claim or concept requires a leap in logic or should be taken on faith alone.

 

For many people the existence of the line drawn between the presentation of fact and the presentation of opinion is highly erratic. Be cautious of people who inject unsubstantiated conclusions or claims into what might otherwise be a factual recant of an event.

For example, several years ago, at a local lecture of a well-known researcher the lights in the aging (allegedly haunted) lecture hall started to flicker. The presenter then made a statement:

Did you just see the lights flicker? Flickering lights can be a common occurrence at a haunted location. Sometimes the spirits like to mess with us just to let us know they’re here.”

This sentence requires not only a leap in logic but a jump to the conclusion that “spirits” factually exist and that they interact with the lights for the purpose of messing with us.  When I pressed for an information source for this particular claim, I was asked to leave the lecture by the event facilitators. Apparently I was heckling.

The fact is there is no data or information (yet) that can support such a claim. Even if lights do flicker at alleged haunted locations, there is no research currently available to support the claim of a spirit existence let alone their intentions. These concepts are beliefs and a belief is simply an “acceptance” that a statement is true or that something exists. It requires no empirical evidence or data to support it. It serves no purpose in the search for demonstrable facts and any researcher that utilizes belief in their research is pseudo-scientific in their approach (no matter how much electronic technology they use). The injection of belief acts as a loose cannon in their claims and their findings are often no better than a simple opinion, so be careful.

3. Sources of information are not given freely or are not known.

 

If valid information was obtained to form a concept or a claim it should be made readily available for review with the presentation of that claim or concept.  A good, honest researcher will show their work (and not just opinions) to anyone who asks for it and allow them to attempt to come to a similar conclusion. If information is withheld then there is cause for suspicion about the validity of the claim.

By pressing for a source you can often separate the real researchers from the posers.  If the person presenting the claim becomes evasive or aggressive when asked for elaboration this could be a significant red flag they have something to hide (or nothing to tell). The purpose of lecture and publication is to educate and evaluate for the purpose of validation (all important in making any new discovery).  Answering questions and supplying sources should be expected, unless of course there are other motives.

Reputable, planned lectures should come with a list of information sources that support the subject matter being presented.  Additionally there should be a distinct declaration of fact as opposed to opinion in any presentation and if a question can’t be answered, a simple “I don’t know” is a valid, honest response. Similarly, written claims should also have sources cited. Those that don’t should be taken with healthy dose of skepticism.

4. Credentials are used to justify the validity findings

 

It’s been heard a hundred times: “I’ve been doing this for 40 years, I know what I’m talking about”. The problem is a 40 year history of doing things wrong is the negative equivalent of a 40 year history of doing things right. The duration of time in research is only valuable when progress is being made and/or contributions to the cause are verified through peer review.

Education is important, however learning from a friend or relative does NOT qualify as valid credentials, nor does an education from a television or a book series. The lack of an education (college or otherwise) will often become self-evident under scrutiny of the information presented. The more you dig the more you will know. A researcher who tries to justify their claims solely on their history of non-published/reviewed research and undocumented experiences should not be considered a reputable.

Question everything

 

I guess the moral of the story here is simply let the research speak for itself. There are no heroes in paranormal research, nor are there legends. Demonstrable evidence has yet to be found or presented by those who have claimed to find it. So if you want the truth, follow the research, not the researcher and demand the facts before buying the claim.  The overwhelming presence of liars, fakes and unsubstantiated claims in paranormal research is made possible by the failure of people to question what they are told.  Let’s make a change…. Question everything.

04/8/15

Radio Head – Can we “hear” radio transmissions?

 

Just over two years ago my sister told me that she had been hearing what sounded like a muffled radio playing at night when she was in bed. She said it sounded like a radio playing behind a wall. Sometimes playing music and sometimes just talk. The sound was muffled enough that she couldn’t quite make out the words, and the music was not recognizable. Try as she might, she never could find the source. My father who lived with her at the time also heard the mysterious radio in his apartment, but neither of them could find it. She questioned whether the source might be paranormal in nature and asked me to give it some thought.

Interested in this claim I started doing some research. I located a radio broadcast tower just 5 miles from her house. It was an AM broadcast station broadcasting at 770 MHz. Interestingly, it was christian broadcast station that had talk shows and played music. I had my sister tune a radio near her bed to 770 AM and instructed her to turn the radio on when she heard the mystery radio and see if the sounds matched. They did. She didn’t recognize the music because she’s not familiar with christian music and the talk show schedule coincided with her experience of hearing talking. It was an amazing find. I was curious to see if any other people were experiencing this strange phenomena. Doing an internet search I found many forums with people describing the same experience as my sister. It seemed to be a common phenomena.

Later that same year, I put out a call for people who were experiencing these mysterious radio broadcasts. 25 people responded and to my amazement I was able to tie the majority of the reports to radio towers near their homes. All within 15 miles or less. All AM towers, mostly lower band frequencies. This was truly a phenomena, but I simply couldn’t find anyone who was researching it. I was baffled. How could something so strange exist, affecting what I believe to be thousands of people and no body is researching a cause?

Well in the months that followed I gathered more claims of people experiencing the mysterious radio syndrome, but could only guess at how it could be concurring. My initial thought was that the human brain must be able to detect radio frequencies and transferring them to the auditory system, but that was just a guess. Then last night, in the middle of my endless scouring of published research papers, I found a paper published in 1982 by Chung-Kwang Chou, Arthur W. Guy and Robert Galambos.

They were conducting research to explain the claims of radar workers (since World War II) that they were able to “hear” the microwaves emitted by the radar. What they found was amazing and fully supported the research I had done to date. According to the paper:

” Microwave hearing is most easily explained by the mechanism of thermoelastic expansion, i.e., absorption of microwave energy produces nonuniform heating of the exposed head; a thermoelastic wave of pressure is then launched, presumably through bone conduction, to the cochlea where it is detected. After auditory-nerve excitation in the high-frequency portion of the cochlea, transmission of the microwave-induced neural response follows the same auditory pathways as do all of the .acoustically induced responses through the brainstem and thalamus to the auditory cortex. ”

In other words, through a form of heated expansion the radio waves are absorbed through the bone in the skull and is audibly detected by the cochlea (the spiral cavity of the inner ear containing the organ of Corti, which produces nerve impulses in response to sound vibrations.) and wa la! people are hearing a radio broadcast. The idea is similar to hearing through vibration, and the result would be, as in the many claims, muffled sound not easily to discern.

I know not many people would be excited by finding a paper like this, but for me it was a validating experience and it feels good to know I was on the right track all this time. Here is the paper I discovered (for those interested)

 

[download id=”2530″]
110 – Uploaded 4/8/2015

03/31/15

Frequency : The Secrets & Science of Sound (2014)

Frequency is a new original documentary exploring the mysterious world of sound. The Secrets & Science of Sound explores the areas of Binaural Beats, Synesthesia and Cymatics with a hope to further understand to what extent sound can affect the human brain and body. Binaural beats is a process in which brainwave activity can be altered at will using sound, Synesthesia is a bizarre condition in which sound can be perceived as colour and Cymatics is the world of sound made visible. These exciting and fascinating areas will hopefully expand our future understanding of the creative and potentially destructive power of sound and how in many ways we are always being affected by Frequency.

03/31/15

Edgar Caycee: The Other Nostradamus – Paranormal Documentary

Edgar Caycee: The Other Nostradamus – Paranormal Documentary

He predicted WWII, the deaths of U.S. presidents, and the turmoil of the 1960s. He prophesied that Israel would become a state 15 years before the event and foretold the Great Depression. Many of his visions seemed to pass unfulfilled, but are now being proven accurate. His name is Edgar Cayce, and he is sometimes called the other Nostradamus. Throughout the 1930s and ’40s, Cayce was a well-known figure, renowned for his “healing abilities” as well as his prophecies. An examination of the transcriptions of Cayce’s readings to see which of his predictions have come true, which remain unfulfilled, and which may yet be realized. Filled with expert interviews, the recollections of those who saw Cayce work, and archival photos and footage, THE OTHER NOSTRADAMUS is a compelling look at a unique American figure.

10/27/14

Paranormal Illusions – Reality Check

Peripheral-Drift-Illusion-

The image above appears to be moving, but you know it isn’t. It’s a trick of the brain called the peripheral drift illusion. Many people have seen this and have no problem accepting that the image isn’t really moving.

The image below is caused by the same peripheral shifting of the brain and makes it appear as though the white dots are changing into black dots randomly between the corners of each of the squares. Of course you know they aren’t.

mind-trick-magic-dots

It’s not hard to identify images like these as illusions and accept that our brain isn’t perfect and has truly been fooled – even when we are consciously aware that is not real.  The sites that display images such as these openly profess they are illusions.  Yet we can’t stop our brain from seeing the wrong thing.

If we can accept the fallibility of our brain regarding these images, why then is it so hard to accept that our brain can be wrong in so many other instances such as hearing words in random background noise or faces in window reflections?  The effect of “paraedolic” anthropomorphism has been demonstrated and proven time and time again.  But yet, there are so many people who adamantly insist that what they are seeing or hearing is real…not an illusion.  They insist their mind could not be the culprit behind the anomalies that present themselves in such mundane and non-informative ways.

The reason for this adamant denial is sourced from yet another psychological effect called cognitive bias.  Our brains tendency to “assemble” information that aligns with our desires or beliefs and any idea or bit of information that doesn’t align is sharply rejected.  Often to the point of irrational anger.

As humans (living animals) we rely on our senses and brain for all of our knowledge and experiences. It was our perceptions and critical thinking process that allowed us to speak and understand. It taught us to walk and eat and fend for ourselves. We have no choice but to trust the validity of our own mind and senses… especially when it regards something near and dear to our heart or something into which we have staunchly invested our interest.  Let’s face it, our brain is our only interface to the outside world. It’s not a pleasant experience to conceive its fallible nature.

That being said, it only stands to reason that when a concept or opinion is presented that challenges not only our mind but our beliefs and wants as well (regardless of how logical it may seem), the default reaction is a sharp and swift dismissal.  Be careful. While the cause of a stubborn, non-objective opinion in response to seemingly anomalous phenomena may seem a natural condition of our psyche, it is dangerous to our growth as an intelligent race.  Every “patriotic” defense of an unsubstantiated perspective is a truth left undiscovered and a hindrance of progress.

Next time you see a face in a window reflection or hear your name being called in the heavy background noise of a poor recording, just stop and think for a moment. What seems more likely? That your easily fooled brain has done it again or some mysterious inter-dimensional being is trying to communicate with you through a bad photograph or poor recording

 

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10/12/14

Connors Farm Investigation

Video credit by: Casey Driscoll/ CDspotlight.com

I was contacted on July 24, 2014 by Alexis (a Connors farm employee) who was seeking an investigation of the property at which she works (30 Valley Rd. in Danvers Massachusetts – Connors Farm). Alexis claimed that several employees have had uneasy feelings in various areas of the property and she has experienced, on at least on occasion, the turning off of a power generator located behind the corn field on the South East end of the property. She claimed that following the event she experienced a strong feelings of scopaesthesia and a fight or flight feeling that caused her to exit the area as quickly as possible. Other mentions include children’s laughter late at night and a strange feeling of foreboding present around the mechanical irrigation pump.

The property houses nearly 140 acres of land and was an active settlement and farm for over 300 years. Allegedly a deceased human male was found at one are in the northern corner of the property. The individual apparently died from suicide, although not much is known about the death and records of the event could not be located. The property also contains a cemetery strewn with unmarked graves and a decaying wooden fence. Employees have noted a sense of fear surrounding this area and the origin or age of the cemetery is unknown. Some believe it was native American in nature, and may also have been used all the way through early half of the 20th century. An old farm house that is built on the property (which now functions as a school) is claimed to have large amounts of Paranormal activity including, but not limited to visions of apparitions, sounds and moving objects. This portion of the property is off limits during this investigation however.

After sitting with the Connors Farm team for a quick reiteration of the activity concerns and an explanation of our investigative process we gathered our equipment and began our investigation. The sheer size of the location was a concern since we only had a fixed amount of equipment, investigators and time. Not to mention that outdoor locations are traditionally difficult to investigate due to sound contamination, varying light levels and the interference of people/animals. With this in mind we decided to focus specifically on the areas that were identified as a concern during our initial interview. The corn field, the irrigation pump, the School area and cemetery.

Since non-contaminated sound samples are nearly impossible to record outdoors we decided to focus on energy measurements (EMF) and video. For energy measurement we would use several EMVP coils designed to detect a broad range of frequencies within the electromagnetic spectrum (.01 to 10,000Hz). EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) has been demonstrated to record well within the frequency limits of this equipment. For this investigation we used several coil designs including multiple solenoid coils of varying sizes and one concentric circle (disk coil) designed for lower 60 cycle hum detection.

Our initial sweep was on the South East end of the property just behind the corn field. It was here that Alexis (one of the Farm’s employees) experienced the power failure and symptoms of  scopaesthesia. Using three solenoid coils we began sweeping for power sources. Our hope was to confirm or eliminate the possibility of a potential power source capable of triggering electro-magnetic hypersensitivity. EMF concentrations could be a possible explanation for the mechanical failures and strange feelings that have occurred here.

We soon discovered that this area of the field contained no adverse emanations of EMF capable of causing the claims. It should be noted that this area is also the approximate location that Alexis claimed to hear children’s laughter late at night and while the area does seem remote, one of our investigators did notice children playing at a nearby home. Of course this doesn’t conclusively dismiss the voices, but it does offer a possible explanation. The energy emissions being captured at this time were fairly quiet. Distant power line noise was present, although minute and certainly not strong enough to contribute to any form of temporal reaction/mechanical failures. A crackling sound was heard and attributed to air ion discharges against the coil.

investigation-photo

Initially everything was quiet and non-eventful. However, during an energy sweep along the back area of the corn field, I had heard what I assumed to be a tapping sound being picked up from the largest solenoid. It seemed rhythmic and hard to identify, but I soon realized that the quality of the headphones I was using prevented me from making a valid initial judgment about what it actually was. I moved the coil in different positions to try and get a better lock on the anomaly, but the sound just seemed to dissipate, so I moved it back into the original position and the sound resumed. The occurrence lasted only about 20 seconds. Because it was such a stark anomaly from the other readings I decided to play back the audio and let the team review as well.

 

We were astonished to hear what sounded like native drums. Everyone agreed. The sound was very similar to a natural skin drum head being hit in succession. Excited by the find we tried to replicate the results but were unsuccessful.

spec

The “Drum” sounds pictured in spectrograph format above were truly an unusual anomaly. We have calculated that the tempo of the beat is 122 bmp (Beats per minute) and the overall audio amplitude of the original recording was just under 4Db. The average frequency analysis of the sample (shown below) showed 59.91Hz. This frequency is a standard “power hum” frequency typically picked up from power lines. Because the sample was so low in volume the power lines (shown as purple horizontal lines above) over-powered the average. It should be noted that there were no power lines in the immediate area of recording. The nearest transit lines were approximately 200 yards away, however, due to the high sensitivity of the equipment, our sample was still ultimately contaminated (although scarcely).

The spectrum analysis (shown above) confirms the recording is within the appropriate frequency range of a large native drum and shows signs of echo dissipation with each beat. Additionally, there are signs of a second set of drum hits not easily seen or heard in our recording. This indicates that either there was a second drum which didn’t quite record or the beat was truly faster than we counted (perhaps double speed)

After sending this file to several individuals familiar with native drumming it is suggested that the drum pattern (as it appears) is ceremonial in nature, however, many have pointed out that it is peculiar for the sound to be lacking a singer or singers (something that traditionally accompanies Native American Drums). It should be noted that if the sample is indeed a faster tempo than believed, the drum meaning may take on a more war like intention. There is also the possibility that these drums were intended for communications. Communication with drums over great distances was also a common practice of Native Tribes.

Some research was done to identify the possible native tribes that once inhabited this properties. While not much information was available to pin point a specific sects or individuals, we did determine that primitive inhabitants of this land were likely part of the Massachusett or Wampanoag Indians. They were the predominant tribes inhabiting

Since the direction of our Indian drum recent find was pointing in a North Western direction it was determined that the sound may have emanated from either the Cemetery/Cornfield or the marsh which was directly behind us. Since we were unable to investigate the Marsh, our next location was the cemetery.

When we arrived at the cemetery we once again took sample energy readings. The area was quiet with the exception of ION activity emanating within a higher frequency range. At this location we conducted an EVP session led by or researcher “Laura”. We recorded audio and EMF for the entire session. While Laura was asking questions, Alexis claimed to feel a sensation of being touched on her left shoulder. No sensations were noted by any of the other 8 people there but at this time I recorded an increase in ION discharges that seemed to emanate from same direction of Alexis’ encounter. The significance/source of the ION increase and touching sensation was unknown. With no other notable experiences we made marked the file for analysis and continued on.

The last areas of investigation was the irrigation pump and the Farm house (School) areas. Similar investigation methods were applied here but no notable experiences were recorded with the exception of a light headed feeling from one of our researchers.  The equipment was then packed up and the investigation concluded.

In the weeks that followed there was a significant increase in activity claims. One of the farm owners brothers (who lives on the edge of the property) claimed that he and his wife were woken at 3:00AM by the sound of native drums. Several employees of the farm claimed to have been touched or overcome by extreme feelings of nausea, light headedness  or fear.  As part of their annual Halloween festivities the Connors Farm, they opened up the cemetery to public tours and employed two people to bring groups the abandoned burial ground.

On September 26th, 2014 the first Cemetery tours were given. Both tour guides had experiences that would subsequently cause them to resign. One guide “Colleen” claimed that a music box (which she brought and opened at the cemetery) slammed shut and leaped off of the headstone. That evening when Colleen returned home allegedly the pots and pans in her kitchen would rattle by themselves throughout the night. Colleen quit her job the next day.  The second tour guide also made claims of being touched and due to excessive fear the management at Connors farm decided to replace them both.  It was then they called in Para~Boston to conduct the tours. We welcomed the opportunity.

We saw this as a research opportunity and so each night of tours we would leave equipment in the cemetery hoping to gather additional data to help explain some of the unusual feelings and experiences. We also noted the claims by the visitors to the cemetery.  Without telling them the specifics related to the experiences of others we asked them to point out the areas they felt produced unusual experiences for them. Our findings so far (investigation is still underway) are very interesting. Out of a group of nearly 110 tourists, 19 thus far have had experiences ranging from being severely lightheaded and nauseous to being grabbed, touched, poked and even scratched. Our data from these tours has yet to be analyzed and there are still many tours to complete before we can process the data completely, but please check back for future updates to this blog as more information becomes available.

10/8/14

Paranormal Research & The Scientific Method

2013-updated_scientific-method-steps_v6_noheader

In the world of paranormal research there is an ongoing debate as to the validity of this subject within the realm of true scientific study.  Many claim this to be a pseudo-science, some claim that it can’t be studied using science and others think it’s just plain outright hokum.  Well as a person who has studied this alleged “pseudo-non-scientific hokum” for nearly a decade I can tell you there is a lot more to the story than the opponents of this field (yes field) take into consideration.  I have found that anyone who makes use the above mentioned terms very often doesn’t understand what science really is. I will be the first to agree that there are a lot of pseudo-scientific approaches being taken in this field today. Far too many in fact. There are people racing to conclusions, making assumptions, failing to research principles, manipulating and just outright lying to support their claims. They do this under the guise of self-proclaimed gifts/expertise, personal experiences and photographic, video and audible evidence that has absolutely zero scientific support.

However, this doesn’t mean that real scientific research in this field is not be conducted. The people doing the poorest job tend to have the better press and so most often, the public perception of this field is represented by people who quite frankly have no idea what they are doing.  The claim that this research in general is pseudo-scientific isn’t new.  Since science started researching this field back in the 1800’s there have been accusations that the research just isn’t viable.  The battles between those for and against have carried on for more than 100 years. France has recently denounced the subject of paranormal in general as “Pseudo-scientific fraud” and will no longer broadcast paranormal related programming. I must admit, the programming is junk. But that does not speak to the real research being done around the world.

In 2003 an in depth study was conducted by Marie-Catherine Mousseau (in Dublin, Ireland)  to establish if paranormal research meets the criteria often said to characterize pseudo-science. She searched the planet to find evidence of paranormal study being conducted to the standards of the mainstream scientific community.

Her results:

I completed the analysis of written communication with an attempt to evaluate the peer-review process. I concluded that fringe journals practice peer review in the same general way as mainstream journals. Experience of the 45th convention of the PA was, again, no different from what is experienced at mainstream meetings; researchers questioned and criticized each other’s work, albeit perhaps not to the same extent as at mainstream conferences. A less competitive and more friendly atmosphere could be partly explained by the unusually large range of subjects dealt with compared to the smallness of the community (the ninety-five attending people included psychologists, philosophers, historians, neuro-scientists, and physicists). Few researchers would be competent enough to argue in all these areas. On the other hand, this interdisciplinary atmosphere was intellectually very stimulating. To conclude, the contemptuous attitude of French scholars regarding research into the paranormal does not appear to be justified. This research fulfills most of the scientific methodological criteria that characterize ‘‘real’’ science. Communication among researchers in parapsychology reflects the essence of a scientific attitude: they constantly question their work, confront theories and facts, and seek critical comments from their peers.

The first thing to understand is that science is this: “The measurement and study of the physical elements pertaining to the natural world”.  It’s essentially a system of knowledge that started out in the 17th century as more a philosophy than the strict method of research. Although many of the elements of scrutiny, analysis and evaluation founded in this philosophy are still in use today.

Let’s look at the definition of Science a little closer. “The study of the physical elements pertaining to the natural world”. First, everything is part of the natural world, no matter how bizarre it may be. Even man-made things are made from elements found naturally on this planet. We may mix things together to create derivatives but the pieces we use are from this Earth and subject to be studied and broken down by science.

If we have a paranormal experience, the elements that make up that experience are tangible to some degree. To see something it must reflect or emit light. To hear something it must move air molecules to produce sound. To move an object it must be able to produce a force etc. All of these things are measurable within the guidelines of proper science. Even if the experience were to be entirely psychological and contains none of the elements mentioned above, it is still able to be scientifically studied because our mind must perceive the event and process the experience and that is still worthy of true scientific study.

The process of this strict scientific study involves what is known as “The Scientific Method” which came into popular use in the 19th century. This method has been used for countless discoveries including cures for sickness, energy production and even the discovery and understanding of living organisms. It’s truly transformed the world we live in and there is not a day that goes by that you don’t encounter a product of the proper scientific method.

So how does one apply this to paranormal research?  Glad you asked. There are 7 steps to the scientific method (shown on the chart above).  I will explain each as best I can.

Ask a Question

Sounds pretty simple right? Well, there’s a little more to consider than simply busting out with a question. The scientific method starts when you ask a question about something that you are able to observe: How, What, When, Who, Which, Why, or Where? This establishes a purpose to your research and helps keep your work properly focused.  While it’s an exciting thought that the proper application of science may help answer your questions, it’s important to understand that in order for this method to work your question  must also be about something that you can measure, preferably with a number (such as temperature, electro-magnetic fields, ION counts, frequency, distance, weight etc.) The trick here is to be specific and try to keep the question as closed ended as possible (i.e. Yes or No). Doing this will help your results become more definitive and easier to process and a smoother process means better conclusions.

It’s important to understand that the answers to the “big questions” such “why are we here?” are usually found after many tedious years of answering countless smaller (more specific) questions. For example, the question “Do Ghosts Exist?” is a fairly “big” question and while it may seem like a great fit here since it is a relatively specific question and closed ended, it does have some inherent problems. First, it uses the label “Ghost” which is, as of yet, undefined to a degree that it can be used in scientific research. Currently, the term “Ghost” means different things to different people. Some believe ghosts are the souls of deceased human beings, some believe they are beings from other dimensions, some believe they are residual energy, some believe they are aliens, some believe they are demons etc. You get the idea.  Before we can define a label for a phenomena we must first have sufficient evidence that the phenomena exists at all and enough data to determine the smaller characteristics that represent its origin.  The other problem with this question is that it requires a conclusive result to a non-specific chain of processes and that’s just not how science works.

I will explain…

First, for demonstration purposes, let’s assume that a “Ghost” is the soul of a deceased human. To muster scientific support for the question “Do Ghosts Exist?” will require preliminary answers to a very large and pre-existing subset of questions, which in turn will present and even larger subset questions of their own and all of those questions require will require experimental support before the “big” question can be answered. It’s a very detailed, tedious process that can take literally years to complete.

Here is a VERY generic process of how it would work if we were to explore the question “Do Ghosts Exists?” (Assuming “Ghosts” are the product of deceased human souls of course):

Ghosts

 

The chart above this is just a very high overview of the complex path that would need to be taken in order determine if “Ghosts” (as a product of deceased humans) were likely to exist. Keep in mind that each of those blue areas in the chart above would also have many question subsets of their own that would need to be answered before a “Yes” or a “No” path could be determined. As you can see, answering the question “Do Ghosts Exist” is not as simple as simply taking a photo or video, recording audio or even having a personal experience (no matter how compelling it might be). For science to fully process the concept of Paranormal Activity, it needs be demonstrable and repeatable. Clearly getting a spirit to manifest on demand in order to be studied is not within the current realm of possibility. However, conducting demonstrable experimentation to help support the concept of paranormal activity is a good place to start.  Following the process in the chart above will not conclusively prove that ‘Ghosts” exist, but it will strengthen the possibility and open a door to further scientific consideration.

Now that you have a general understanding of how (and why) questions are posed in scientific research, we can move on to the second element in the scientific method.

Background Research

For many, Background Research involves scouring the internet and local archives for historic mentions of an investigation location or its inhabitants. While this is still an important process, it’s only a small part of the whole picture. Location, person and property research are valuable when conducting a field “investigation” but if your goal is to make discoveries that benefit the field (and future research) as a whole, you need to step it up.

In many cases, background research is as important (if not more important) than the current research you’re doing to answer your question and it’s a step that far too many people skip over halfheartedly. When working with unknowns background research comes in two main categories:

Physical Principle Research (i.e. technology)
&
Historic Experimental Research (i.e. what’s been researched before & the results)

 

“Physical Principle Research” involves developing a functional understanding of the physical elements that you may encounter throughout the course of the study. This could involve several environmental field elements such as electromagnetic energy, ION’s and Sound or be equipment specific for any or all of the elements mentioned and more. Which areas to research really depend upon the focus of your study.   Without this important aspect you may, for example, be examining changes in temperature which you consider to be unusual, but are in fact quite normal. You may see an increase or decrease in electromagnetic fields and assume the change is significant when in fact it isn’t. The general rule is that if you don’t understand what your equipment does, what it measures and why, your hypothesis and interpretation is fairly useless in terms of scientific evidence. Not to mention that you will be made to look like a fool when someone who does understand these concepts attempts to repeat your results.

Historic Experimental Research will help prevent you starting from scratch on a question or concept that may have already been answered or principle that has already been established. It will also insure you don’t the repeat mistakes that someone else might have made and it will give you a very clear understanding of the task at hand when seen from multiple perspectives.

Historic research can be done on-line or with books and publications (although bear in mind that the books route will be more tedious). Our website has a growing research library that may help present ideas or answers. If you are searching using Google, keep in mind that many published research papers will include an “Abstract” segment, which is essentially a summary of the research contained in the paper. A quick and easy way to apply this information would be to include the word “Abstract” in your search term. For example to search for paranormal research conducted involving magnetic fields you could search for “Abstract Paranormal EMF” or “Abstract Paranormal Electromagnetic” etc.


Construct a Hypothesis

So now you have your question/purpose, and you have done your research to the best of your ability (or should have).  Now it is time for form your hypothesis. A hypothesis is essentially an educated guess about how things work.

For example:

“If I do this, then this will happen.”

A hypothesis is a key element in your experimentation process. It challenges your current understanding of the question in play and allows you to take apart (at least mentally) the principle or element you are trying understand and explore its behavior and limitations. This is the precursor to learning, and it’s vital.

You must state your hypothesis in a way that you can easily measure, and of course, your hypothesis should be constructed in a way to help you answer your original question.

Here’s an example:

One of the many subset questions that could be explored when researching our “Do Ghosts Exist” question is:

“Does sunlight have an effect on the measured electromagnetic fields in a subject location?”

From here you form an opinion which ultimately becomes your hypothesis:

 Your potential hypothesis:

“Sunlight will have no effect on the measured Electromagnetic fields in the room”

But what do you think?  Do you think it WILL have an effect?  If so, will it increase or decrease the EMF levels? If it does have an effect what does this say about research conducted during the day? How do the readings compare to night time?  How much of the effect is due to people in the neighborhood not using their lights during the day? As you can see there are many questions that will arise from the attempt at answering that one simple question and subsequently you will form a hypothesis about each one. That’s how science is done (at least correctly). Essentially you’re looking for ways to test the boundaries and elements that make up your questions and forming an opinion about will happen when you perform those tests. To find the answers to these questions we’ll need to continue to the next step in the scientific method.

Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment

Here goes, I’m going to say it…”Significant discoveries are never made on a paranormal investigation that does not have an experimentation component”. I can hear the uproar already. Well it’s true and if you don’t believe me try to name one significant discovery that HAS been made on an investigation without experimentation?  Keep in mind photos, videos and even audio are, subjective, inconclusive and are ultimately only Data (compelling or not). They do not constitute an advancement of the cause in terms of technology or demonstrable evidence.  The only investigations that have ever yielded tangible, useful information (i.e. things that benefit future generations of research) are the ones that have had an experimentation component. Need some examples?  OK here’s a few (They are not in any specific order):

An investigation into the alleged haunting of Hampton Court Palace: Psychological variables and magnetic fields
Published in Journal of Parapsychology, 66(4), 387-408.

“Results suggested a significant overall relationship between the location of experiences and variance of local magnetic fields.”

 

Experimenter Effect In Para-psychological Research
Original publication and copyright: Journal of Parapsychology, 1976

 A review of the literature suggests that experimenter PK can influence laboratory investigations of psychokinesis and precognition.

 

Future Telling – A Meta-Analysis of Forced Choice Precognition, 1935-1987
Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 53, December 1989

“Our meta-analysis of forced-choice precognition experiments confirms the existence of a small but highly significant precognition effect. The effect appears to be replicable; significant outcomes are reported by 40 investigators using a variety of methodological paradigms and subject populations.”

 

A Compendium of the Evidence for Psi
European Journal of Parapsychology, 2003, 18, 33-52

“While the conditions for precise replication and for producing the phenomena to hand, still elude researchers, the psi-effect is replicable to the extent that it permits meaningful and productive research.”

 

The information in these research results may not be the smoking gun in terms of paranormal evidence, but it is VERY significant in terms of inserting yet another piece into what is ultimately a very large, complex puzzle. There are no shortcuts to a definitive answer when dealing with something so incredibly unknown. An investigation is useful for confirming claims, understanding the subject environment, debunking, and as fodder for developing a research plan or even a hypothesis. But to understand (or even attempt to understand) what is truly going on requires multiple levels of focused experimentation.

This is where the real work is done and main body of discoveries are made. It’s also the area that separates the serious minded researcher from the hobby minded enthusiast. Your experiment tests whether your hypothesis is supported or not.

Keep in mind that it is vitally important for your experiment to be a “fair” test. You conduct a fair test by making sure that you change ONLY ONE factor at a time while keeping ALL other conditions the same. You should also repeat your experiments several times to make sure that the first results weren’t just an accident.

Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion

This stage is fairly self-explanatory. Once your experimentation is complete, you collect your measurements and analyze them to see if they support your hypothesis or not. During this stage you may produce statistical information and comparisons between controlled elements and elements involved in the experimental process to verify that changes did indeed occur. You then determine if those changes support your hypothesis.

Here’s a basic example:

“We measure EMF readings near a window. To establish a “control” reading we have a second covered, data logging meter set up in the same area (covered with a 12-inch by 12-inch black box so no light can reach the readable area of the meter). We then measure EMF in the same place on all meters during the day and night. When the experiment is done we compare the readings from the covered meter (Our control) with the readings from the uncovered meter. If there is a variance we can say that “light” may have an effect on EMF readings. This will of course open the doors to further experiments where we can vary the elements of the test such as location, season, time of day etc. We can even vary the equipment and use a spectroscope to establish frequencies.”

Many scientists often find that their hypothesis was not supported. If that happens to you don’t be discouraged. Any result is an answer, and that’s progress. When a hypothesis is not supported, very often the response is to construct a new hypothesis based on the information learned during the experiment. This starts the entire process of the scientific method over again. Even if you find that your hypothesis IS supported, you may want to test it again in a new way to help gain a deeper understanding of the principles at play.  Repetition helps to confirm results and helps eliminate the possibility of errors or the element of chance.

Communicate Your Results

Communication of your results and the methods you used to achieve them for peer review is extremely important. The more other people test your findings and arrive at the same result, the more significant your findings become to the scientific world. Like I said before Science thrives on repeatable and demonstrable concepts. So don’t horde your findings and hide your evidence to prevent it from being “stolen” like so many groups do today. There is no need to worry, if you publish your results in as many places as you can find it will be date stamped and the world will know who found it first. Not sharing means no one else can benefit from what you have learned and remember if it’s not repeatable it’s not proof. I know photos, audio and video seem like compelling evidence, but they will never, ever be proof no matter how good they are because they are not repeatable for peer review.  Proof of a paranormal existence lies in the micro experimentation of the many elements that support the concept. It is only through this method that the concept of an after-life, alternate dimensions, psychic ability or paranormal energy could ever be shown viable.  I know many people feel that personal experiences are the most convincing, but if you research the fallibility of the human mind you will find that we can’t simply trust our experiences. There are too many factors that can fool or sway our perceptions.

Even though we show the scientific method as a series of steps, keep in mind that new information or thinking might cause a reason to back up and repeat steps at any point during the process (something known as the iterative process).

There is never a final answer and the best advice I can ever give anyone setting out on the path of scientific research (paranormal or otherwise) is:

“Be prepared to be wrong”

Happy hunting.