Training and paranormal investigators

You’re at home alone. You hear a noise downstairs. It’s a burglar! The creep must have thought you were out since the lights were down and you were listening to music. Now he’s coming up the stairs. What are you going to do? Should call the police? It could be 10 minutes or more before they got there. Wait a minute! Your neighbor Joe across the street has seen every episode of COPS since 2002! Surely he must be qualified to handle this situation!

Sound insane? As crazy as letting someone operate on you because they have every season of Scrubs on DVD, right? Yet, every day in this country someone is going to into the homes of average American’s claiming to be a qualified scientifically oriented paranormal investigator. When someone thinks they are experiencing paranormal phenomena they usually go online, do a Google search on their immediate area along the lines of something like “Hoboken ghost hunters”. When the search results come back you may see several ghost hunting teams for your immediate area.

On the website Paranormal Hot Spots page for known US paranormal societies ( there is listing, by US state, paranormal teams from all over the country. Since I already mentioned Hoboken I took a look at New Jersey. There were nearly 50 teams listed on that page alone. Not to mention teams from other states that claimed to service New Jersey as well. I am sure there must be close to 100 such groups or more in the Garden State that haven’t even been mentioned on Paranormal Hot Spots yet.

A quick look at the descriptions of many of these teams all suggest, for the most part, the same thing. They usually are scientific, serious, have lots of gadgets, have years of experience, are 100% free and have accumulated tons of evidence. Sounds nice enough. I haven’t even mentioned the websites yet! Flashy and expensive looking, the website of the average paranormal team looks like it was designed by Bill Gates’ own personal web team. Does that denote a truly professional, well trained team? Are they going to be able to tell the difference between mice in the walls, demons from Hell or a poltergeist agent?

Truth be told, most ghost hunting teams, with few exceptions, get all their training from TV shows. The paranormal reality shows specifically. They might own a few books, usually by the stars of those shows, but training? Some might claim that they have been to conferences and seminars on paranormal research. But, those are usually little more than autograph sessions with reality show celebrities in the case of the bigger ones. As far as the smaller events are concerned, they are usually hosted by some local group and are still propagating the same concepts as those TV shows. So, what are those concepts?

The TV shows tend to be flashy with an element of danger and adventure. They visit a location, usually just once or for a single weekend, and decide whether or not it is haunted and that is usually yes. For those who watch the shows, you have heard ghost hunting terminology like “portals”, “vortexes”, “matrixing” and “orbs. Parapsychologists, the real scientific researchers of the paranormal in the world, in which some belong to organizations more than 100 years old, for the most part, do not think that those four concepts are actually valid. Oh, they believe in ghosts and psychic phenomena, they have more than a century’s worth of real research to add credit to it. However, that research has shown that some concepts are not what they appear.

The concept of portals and vortexes evolved from the 19th century concept (indeed, it is still a popular theory) of higher dimensions. A concept only mathematicians and physicists truly understand. Matrixing is a made-up term which, I suppose is easier to say than Pareidolia. From the Greek para- amiss, faulty, wrong and eidolon, diminutive of eidos appearance, form, seeing defined objects in non-defined subjects. Example: seeing the Virgin Mary in a tree stump or the devil in a fireplace. Also called, although inaccurately, simulacra.

No serious psi field researcher, parapsychologist or well-trained paranormal researcher condones the concept of “orbs”. Although orbs, little balls of light that show up in spirit photographs, have been reported in a few actual paranormal cases, they are as rare as pictures of full fledged apparitions. Even those are subject to criticism. They look just like the orbs in ghost hunter’s photos. Those? 99.9% of the time those orbs are dust, bugs and other types of air particles. Modern camera technology is usually the culprit with lenses too close to the flash.

Psi field researchers also understand that science and magic don’t mix well. Neither does, for the most part, theology. Although important to know and understand, theological concepts are, by their nature, unprovable. Belief does not need to be proven. That’s why it’s called “belief”. In many of the reality shows metaphysical concepts and pseudo-science are shoved together serendipitously. In such a way that it almost makes sense if not over analyzed.

So, how can you tell if you are dealing with a psi field researcher or a TV ghost hunter?

The average ghost hunter not follow procedures common to any true field of study. They do not follow the Scientific Method. They do not submit their evidence to a peer review journal. They do not usually even keep records or document their cases very well.

Any researcher in any field should know the history and evolution of their field. In the case of the paranormal researcher, they should know about the Spiritualist Movement, the first psychical researchers, ASPR and people like JB Rhine, Harry Price and George Tyrrell. They should also know the theories such as that of consciousness survival, quantum mechanical interpretation, probability variances, Reoccurring Spontaneous Psychokinesis, etc.

Associations with established psi field researchers and parapsychologists and parapsychological organizations would also help. Some Psi Field Research organizations include The International Paranormal Consortium, The American Institute of Parapsychology and The Paranormal Investigators Coalition. Associations with known psi field researchers and parapsychologists are also good. Most importantly, they should have trained under more experienced researchers. If they say “I have been hunting ghosts for years” or “I’ve been doing this for twenty-years, ever since I saw a ghost” they are probably not who you want walking through your house.

  • When interviewing a potential paranormal researcher, ask them some simple questions to see if they know what they are doing. Look up the answers online, I don’t want to create a cheat sheet here.
  • Who are some significant names that were involved in the Spiritualist Movement?
  • Could my house have demons in it? (I’ll help with this one – a polite answer should be “unlikely”)
  • Have you ever heard of JB Rhine or Harry Price?
  • What is a Ganzfeld experiment?

This isn’t a perfect trial mind you. Even with the more experienced and highly trained investigators there are bad ones. Good luck!

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