If history has taught us anything, it’s that being wrong is normal but also that anyone who stubbornly holds on to a particular concept without the willingness to change stands a fair chance of growing obsolete as the rest of the ‘thinking’ world moves forward. The study of anomalous phenomena is certainly no exception to that rule, but unfortunately when you’re dealing with the unknown, what’s right and what’s wrong isn’t always so clearly defined and that’s where the quality and diversity of your own research is vital to justifying your theoretical position.
When I started my research nearly a decade ago I, like most people adopted the rationale of the popular perception. I was inexperienced and uneducated to what had become a monumental task at hand and so, initially, I followed the path I was shown. “Ghost Hunters” had just hit it big on television and the world exploded with thousands of paranormal team’s armed with gear and concepts, that for the most part, they didn’t really understand. Still, they carried on hell bent on capturing that elusive golden flag – proof – and possibly scoring an element of popularity (maybe even a television appearance) in the process.
The caveat to that endeavor is that in the non-conventional science realm “proof” is sort of a dirty word. The truth is, unless you can get the activity to repeat on demand for all to see, the best you can ever hope for is “supporting evidence”. The preponderance of that evidence is the big vat from which so many people draw their conclusions, but proof has yet to be found.
My first exposure to the paranormal research world came a midst my research for a documentary film I was making at the time called “14 Degrees”. The dozens of investigation teams and individuals I encountered during that time painted a fairly clear picture of the current “state of the union” and as inexperienced as I was, what I saw was quite a disappointment.
Nearly everyone I encountered seemed to be mimicking what they saw on television. They used the same equipment, had the same theories, and used the same techniques. All in homage to their Sci-Fi television leaders, one group even carried around a plunger in tribute to Jason & Grant (the founders of our proverbial feast). I couldn’t help but think “How could any discoveries be made under these conditions?” Nobody was breaking any new ground. No one was really trying anything different or thinking outside what was clearly a very defined and restricting box.
It was clear to me that what I was witnessing were not researchers, but thrill seekers who were simply there for the experience. Even worse was the foundation (or lack thereof) of their pseudo “research”. Hardly anyone could tell me anything about the history behind the principles and claims that they not only followed but would publicly TEACH at seminars and conventions.
I admit I was disillusioned and disappointed by the experience. I had always thought there was so much more to being a researcher than just copying what you see on television… and as it turns out…I was right.
In the world of paranormal research there is a clear divide between the serious and supercilious and the most important qualification is understanding. Not an understanding of the legendary hokum handed down through generations, not an understanding of the popular concepts of what makes up a “haunting”, not an understanding of demons, ghosts, angels, poltergeists or which hyped up divining gadget works best, but a good thorough, unbiased understanding of the real world (not your perception of the world), the physics behind it and above all the fallible, inaccurate, emotional beast that is the human element.
Over the next month (June) I will be publishing a 4 part series on the tangible scientific elements of paranormal research.
In the coming weeks I will present the following:
- A history of study – Some of the popular and productive experiments and studies of the 20th century.
- Elements of human perception and how understanding the behavioral processes of human mind can adversely affect the outcome of your research.
- The various aspects of the technological approach as applied to field research & why most modern equipment just isn’t good enough.
- The application of critical thinking and identifying the potential for misconception.