Paranormal investigation has been around for a long time, but the popularity of the the television show, Ghost Hunters, has launched a new wave of hobbyists frantically searching to find their own ghost phenomenon. Groups of people gather just about every weekend to head to a supposedly haunted site in the hopes of capturing a glowing ghostly image or recording an eerie whispery spirit voice.
Many ghost hunters prefer to be called paranormal investigators, claiming that scientific methods are utilized in their investigations. In addition to the usual digital camera and recorder, other equipment used are EMF meters, digital thermometers, video cameras, and thermographic or night vision cameras. They may also bring a computer with special software for analyzing the data captured at the site.
Whether you see yourself as a scientifically driven paranormal investigator or simply a hobbyist looking for a few thrills, it’s always best to include one or two skeptics in the group. Too often those who research the existence of ghosts and other paranormal phenomenon are already believers with a need to find proof to pass on to non-believers. Such firmly held beliefs can contaminate the results of an investigation because an already established belief violates the use of scientific method.
True scientific method is aimed at minimizing the influence of bias on the outcome of the experiment. The idea is to rule out every other explanation for any given theory. In other words, determine what it is not before settling on an explanation that supports the theory. Ghost hunters have a bias when investigating possible hauntings because they already hold the belief that the phenomenon is of paranormal origin. Their preference isn’t necessarily aimed at proving the existence of a ghost, so much as it is about catching a glimpse or establishing communication. These types of ghost hunters/hobbyists tend to accept the theory as the explanation for the phenomenon, rather than conducting any real tests as defined by the scientific method
Scientific method calls for systematic observation, measurement and testing with proper controls in place. A true scientific investigation can not be completed in only a few hours and would cost a large amount of money to complete. Most paranormal investigators don’t have access to the precision equipment used in scientific labs, nor do they have the time to observe and test a location over a period of weeks or months.
That’s why it’s important to have a skeptic or two as part of the group. They add a healthy dose of questioning and doubt. Being a skeptic doesn’t translate to being negative or biased. Skepticism is about the methodology used to gain knowledge. The tools of science are utilized – reason, logic, critical thinking, and evidence – to evaluate claims. For true skeptics, it wouldn’t be logical to deny facts just because they may not support their beliefs. It would be more logical to update beliefs to account for the facts.
Someone who believes a ghost is present and responsible for a chair beginning to rock with no one seated, may not look for other explanations. A skeptic will look for possible sources of drafts, or perhaps smaller animals moving in the shadows. A believer will be more likely to attribute the sound of a human voice to that of a ghost trying to be heard, but a skeptic will look for other sources. Is there an open window that might allow sounds from a neighboring building? Are there people talking nearby on the outside? Was music from a distant radio perhaps picked up on a recording?
If you’re an avid ghost hunter, you’ve probably been met with plenty of skepticism from friends and acquaintances. Don’t let fear of ridicule stop you from including skeptics on your team. Their presence will provide for a well-rounded team that lends authority and credence to the business of paranormal investigation.