Avoiding the Pitfalls of Paranormal Investigations

The primary goal of an investigation is to either prove

or disprove paranormal phenomena.

Programs that focus on the paranormal have captured the worlds’ interest and imagination, evidenced by the long list of paranormal shows one can find. In fact, it seems you can’t get on the internet or switch on your television without tripping over one or another.  We here at ParanormalInvestigating.com are proud to be ranked among their numbers. By spreading word about the paranormal, we hope to continue to remove the stigma and barriers of disbelief.

With the proliferation of interest in the supernatural and paranormal, it’s sometimes difficult to know who or what to believe.

Television shows are meant for entertainment and not necessarily education.  In an effort to draw viewers, producers and directors of such shows attempt to falsely increase the drama and tension by depicting events in a way that will keep you riveted to your screen, whether true or not. TV personalities and the methods used can sometimes be poor examples of actual investigative techniques and results.  This also gives novice investigators false expectation of what happens at an actual investigation.  True paranormal investigators perform deep research and educate themselves on problem-solving techniques and methods. But can you imagine a program showing the hours of research and learning that goes into each investigation?  You would fall asleep long before they got around to ghost hunting.

When it comes to actual investigations and the equipment used, you must be well-versed on how they work and what limitations you might encounter in the course of finding answers. You must also be ready to discover mundane answers to what might be perceived as paranormal events.  Because the “If It Can’t Be Explained It Must Be Paranormal” approach is a tremendous waste of everyone’s time and energy. False positives are plentiful.  The world is full of strange occurrences, but often there is a natural cause. Therefore, it’s illogical to assume that because something cannot be immediately explained, it’s paranormal. Proving the paranormal requires diligent investigative techniques and analysis leading to scientific thinking.

INVESTIGATIVE EQUIPMENT

Equipment designed for uses other than detecting the paranormal are not always trustworthy, either, no matter how much we want to believe in the contrary. Ghost boxes and Ouija boards are not evidence of the paranormal.  They do not measure anything, but are simply used as a conduit through which alleged paranormal entities communicate. However, you have to wonder why they are so widely used. They provide little or no valid evidence of the paranormal.  They are entertaining, even though they exploit confirmation bias, which is the tendency to interpret new “evidence” as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.

With the proliferation of interest in the supernatural and paranormal, it’s sometimes difficult to know who or what to believe.

Are EVPs evidence of spirit activity? The layperson might latch onto that idea in order to “prove” a haunting or spirit presence.  Electronic Voice Phenomena can have a wide variety of explanations, from errant radio waves to a finger accidentally rubbing against the recording device during an investigation.  Our minds will automatically attempt to find a pattern in those sounds, seek words that may or may not exist.  Good investigators are very careful not to jump to conclusions about a suspected EVP.

Another popular device is the common EMF detector, also known as Gaussometers.  EMF stands for “electro-magnetic field.” It is theorized that when spirits attempt to communicate, they “gather” available energy to do so. There are two primary types of EMF measurements: broadband and frequency selective measurements. Most electromagnetic fields encountered in everyday situations are typically generated by household or industrial appliances, ungrounded electrical cords, or EMF seepage from other unseen sources. Even indoor water pipes might exude detectable EMF.

To say that spikes or drops in temperature or EMF have a paranormal cause may be putting the cart before the horse, so to speak.  Radio signals, inaccurate devices, differences in reflectivity, or a not-so-steady hand can all produce seemingly strange readings.  A well-trained investigator learns how to use their equipment correctly to minimize false positives.

Television producers will often require their acting investigative team to investigate only at night with the lights off.  Why?  Because this dramatically increases tension and automatic belief.  We humans have always feared anything we can’t see, taste, feel, or hear.  It’s far too easy to lay claim to paranormal events when no one can see what they’re doing.  It is much easier to avoid false positives by investigating during the day or at least in well-lit areas.  Investigating in the dark affects our perception and limits what cameras can actually capture. Even with infrared filters in use.

OTHER INVESTIGATIVE RESOURCES

Do you believe in psychic ability? What led you to that belief? If it was because you once saw Lorraine Warren doing a walkthrough and “knowing” things she couldn’t possibly have known, you might be a victim of confirmation bias.  That’s not to say that psychic abilities don’t exist.  Far from it.  However, one must agree that predictions and insights by a psychic are not considered valid evidence, primarily because it is an unproven method.  Again, science is unable to prove many things, so dismissing psychic abilities outright is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  But hold a healthy skepticism when relying on information from psychic sources.

True or False: If you engage in debunking, you are scientific. If you answered “false,” you are correct.  Debunking is a useful way to eliminate false positives, but it is not a guarantee of being scientific.  Real scientific method is complex and takes a great deal of patience, education, and work to understand and apply.

Now we come to eyewitness testimony.  It’s widely known in areas where eyewitness accounts are obtained to prove or disprove something in court that eyewitnesses are typically the least factual when recounting events they claim to have seen. In fact, courts rarely allow eyewitness testimony because of this.  Our recall is heavily influenced by many factors. For instance, if a detective asks a suggestive question – one that implies that a certain answer should be given in response or falsely presents a presupposition in the question as accepted fact – our recall will scramble to confirm their suggestions.

Let’s say that participants in an experiment all view the same video clip of a car crash. Participants are assigned at random in one of two groups. The participants in the first group are asked, “How fast was the car moving when it passed by the stop sign?” The participants in the second group are asked a similar question that does not refer to a stop sign. Later, the participants from the first group are more likely to remember seeing a stop sign in the video clip, even though there was in fact no such sign. Therefore, good investigators know that eyewitness testimony as to the activities in an allegedly haunted building are greatly biased and cannot be used as evidence of paranormal activity. Additionally, low light, short event time, adrenaline, fear, and other factors influence witness testimony.  They’re not being intentionally deceptive, but our brain sometimes interpret reality incorrectly.  A small, fleeting animal can appear to be much larger than it is and a fleeting shadow of unknown origin can seem like a menacing spirit or demon.

Many investigators believe that skeptics must disprove their evidence in order to try and test its veracity. The opposite is actually true.  When a claim is made, like “ghosts exist,” it is up to the claimant to prove it. Skeptics are not required to disprove your “evidence.” But they would have to prove an alternate explanation.

Lastly, it’s a fact that there are people in the world who will do whatever they can to gain their proverbial fifteen minutes of fame.  That includes falsifying paranormal evidence or attempting to con us into believing they’ve experienced true paranormal phenomena.  It’s a con that has existed for decades.

Our best defense against being scammed in this way is to educate ourselves.  The more we know, the better able we are to tell the difference between reality and fiction. And, the more education we get on the proper and improper ways in which to perform an investigation, the better we are at finding indisputable evidence of the paranormal.

 

2 Comments

  1. Mona

    February 25, 2017 at 10:11 am

    Is it true that all the woman in photo with child crying are all now decesed?

    • Marcus Lyons

      February 25, 2017 at 11:29 am

      Nothing that I have personally seen or heard of. But that’s an interesting question!

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