Investigating the Investigators
Ghost Hunting and Paranormal Groups Examined
The 21st century has seen an explosion in the number of ghost hunting and paranormal investigation groups. This massive growth in groups and investigators was and continues to be fueled by various reality shows such as Ghost Hunters, a variety of affordable paranormal investigation equipment, the internet and a plethora of haunted locations (both public and private) that these seekers of paranormal activity can investigate.
There is a long list of parapsychology studies in the peer reviewed literature dealing with ghosts and hauntings. However, this is dwarfed by the number of pictures, videos, audio recordings, investigation reports, equipment lists, podcasts, etc… that are found on ghost hunting and paranormal investigation websites.
So, why not have researchers investigate the investigators?
Well, that is exactly what has been done in the past three years.
Below are three studies that examine ghost hunting and paranormal investigation groups in regards to beliefs, practices, equipment used, goals, services, types of people who are part of ghost hunting and paranormal research groups, general procedures and how groups utilize the word ‘science’ and present themselves.
Schumacher, Dave. (2013). Paranormal Beliefs of Those Involved in the Ghost Hunting and Paranormal Investigation Field. Paranormal Research Group – Anomalous Research Department.
Pdf report available at: http://www.paranormalresearchgroup.com/images/PDFs/Beliefs_Study_Short_Report.pdf
Here is the quoted text from the Conclusions and Discussion section.
“There was a high level of experiences and belief in ghost and haunt phenomena among those who are interested in and involved in the ghost hunting and paranormal investigation field. The individual Extraordinary Belief Inventory statements that had the highest frequency of the “7 - Strongly Agree” response were those dealing with a supreme being, life after death, spirits can communicate with the living, immortal soul, ESP, haunted buildings and ghosts. The individual Extraordinary Belief Inventory statements that had the highest frequency of the “1 - Strongly Disagree” response were those dealing with luck.
There were statistically significant differences in the six types of paranormal beliefs with spirits and psychic experiences having the highest levels of belief and creatures and luck having the lowest levels of belief.
These results were expected because of the websites, boards and e-mail lists where survey participants were recruited from as they were mainly focused on ghosts and hauntings. However, they did have information and areas for religion, cryptozoology and skeptics.”
Observations and Comments:
Duffy, Rick. (2012). Survey of Paranormal Research and Ghost Hunting Groups. Independent Investigations Group, Colorado.
Pdf report available at: http://iigcolorado.org/sites/default/files/IIGSurvey2012.pdf
Excel raw data file available at: http://iigcolorado.org/sites/default/files/IIGSurvey2012.xls
Here is the quoted text from Section 3 General Observations.
“Responses sometimes varied quite a bit, and the actual questions and breakout of responses fill out most of the rest of this report. Below are some generalizations of those responses.
Most group names include a local city or area identifier, along with the words Paranormal, Research, Ghost, Investigations, or Society. The most common group was founded 5-6 years ago with 4 people, and has since doubled in size. Their primary goal is to help people reporting strange occurrences, along with conducting investigations and research, and educating others and themselves. Some also have the goal of helping ghosts. Roles include a founder, investigators, technical specialists, and case managers. Many also have psychics or sensitives. While most groups have no specific new goals for the future, they hope to continue what they are doing now, and feel they get better at what they do over time.
Most groups do not consider themselves a business, have not registered a trade name, are not insured, and are not registered as a non-profit organization. The average group spends $1000 a year, and does not charge for their services, or collect membership fees. They have no overall group religious identity, though 41% of the groups indicated their members have been blessed or prayed over during an investigation, and about half have encountered activity they felt was evil. Few have ever encountered anyone they would consider possessed, but those who have often then seek aid from Catholic clergy.
Most members are 20 to 40 years old, though there are older members, but few under 20, and few retirees. Occupations are roughly similar to the US population, with heavier concentrations in photography, writing, and the media industry, and life, physical, and social sciences, and lighter participation in office support, food preparation, and installer/maintainers. Potential new members contact groups out of the blue, often due to information about the group on the web. While groups value any education or training their members may bring, there are not generally any specific educational requirements to becoming a member. Most training occurs in-house by other team members.
Groups rarely investigate in cemeteries. The most common locations are private residences. When a client contacts the group with concerns about possible paranormal activity, the group begins to collect more information and to determine the next step. Often an investigation is recommended. Occasionally a group will also recommend the client keep a journal to document any unusual disturbances.
The typical group has performed at least 70 total investigations, and now performs about 2 per month. Investigating with another group is uncommon. Investigations usually occur in the evening into the morning hours, since that is when the client requests, or the activity is reported, and since that is the time that conflicts least with the investigators outside work schedules. Nighttime (with the lights off) also is said to be beneficial because of less environmental noise (sounds, light, and so on), and because some of the equipment used works best in the dark. The most common equipment used is audio/video, EMF detectors, thermometers, and IR or night vision technology. Very few groups use things like dowsing rods, religious items, or Ouija boards.
Actually finding something a group would consider paranormal does not happen every time, but it does occur at least half the time. About half the groups have encountered clients they felt should seek psychological help.”
Observations and Comments:
Hill, Sharon. (2010). Being Scientifical: Popularity, Purpose and Promotion of Amateur Research and Investigation Groups in the U.S. A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University at Buffalo, State University of New York in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Education (EdM).
Pdf Report available at: http://idoubtit.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/hill_arigs_being_scientifical_thesis.pdf
Here is the quoted abstract from the study.
“21st century television and the Internet are awash in content regarding amateur paranormal investigators and research groups. These groups proliferated after reality investigation programs appeared on television. Exactly how many groups are active in the U.S. at any time is not known. The Internet provides an ideal means for people with niche interests to find each other and organize activities. This study collected information from 1000 websites of amateur research and investigation groups (ARIGs) to determine their location, area of inquiry, methodology and, particularly, to determine if they state that they use science as part of their mission, methods or goals. 57.3% of the ARIGs examined specifically noted or suggested use of science as part of the groups’ approach to investigation and research. Even when not explicit, ARIGs often used science-like language, symbols and methods to describe their groups’ views or activities. Yet, non-scientific and subjective methods were described as employed in conjunction with objective methods. Furthermore, what were considered scientific processes by ARIGs did not match with established methods and the ethos of the scientific research community or scientific processes of investigation. ARIGs failed to display fundamental understanding regarding objectivity, methodological naturalism, peer review, critical thought and theoretical plausibility. The processes of science appear to be mimicked to present a serious and credible reputation to the non-scientific public. These processes are also actively promoted in the media and directly to the local public as “scientific”. These results highlight the gap between the scientific community and the lay public regarding the understanding of what it means to do science and what criteria are necessary to establish reliable knowledge about the world.”
Observations and Comments:
Sunday, 30 June 2013 12:34 Written by Dave
The Long Awaited SWPRG film, "Ghosts of Door County" has finally been released!!! For those of you not familiar with the film, the SWPRG (PRG) traveled to Wisconsin's picturesque Door County peninsula to dig deep into the area's haunted past.
Ghost stories abound in this historic area, yet ten locations stand above the rest as the most notorious supernatural hot-spots. Armed with an assortment of high-tech devices and years of experience, the team sets out to determine if these locations are truly haunted or merely the birthplace of ghostly legends.
In the end, what they find will challenge everything you've come to believe about the nature of these unearthly phenomena. Remember, legends have to come from someplace ...
PURCHASE THE LONG AWAITED FILM, HERE!
Monday, 10 June 2013 00:42 Written by Dave
A residual haunting, or the more recent term of place memory, is a paranormal hypothesis in which the environment (being a location or object) can record highly emotional (both good and bad) events. The activity is imprinted on the environment much like an image or sound is recorded on a video or audiotape. Those events with higher emotional content seem to be recorded and perceived better. Then, under the right environmental conditions (magnetic fields, electrical charge, weather, or who knows what) and with the right person, the recorded event is re-played and perceived. You can simply think of it as a looped video playing over and over again.
The identifying characteristics are:
There is little acceptance of the residual haunting phenomena outside of the paranormal and ghost hunting community. The lack of solid repeatable data in mainstream science seems to be the problematic issue.
The main challenges to the hypothesis are:
1) Can human emotions affect the environment?
2) What is it in the environment that actually serves as the recording medium?
3) Is there a residual event that is truly residual and repeatable?
The following studies provide data to address the above challenges.
Blasband, R.A. (2000). The Ordering of Random Events by Emotional Expression. Journal of Scientific Exploration. Vol. 14(2). 195-216. Article
This study shows that a patient’s emotions in a biopsychiatric therapy setting can affect the output of a Random Event Generator (REG). Therefore, it seems as if human emotions can affect the environment.
Radin, D., Taft, R. and Yount, G. (2004). Effects of Healing Intention on Cultured Cells and Truly Random Events. The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine. Vol. 10(1). 103-112. Article
This study shows that intentional healing and space conditioning affected the output of a Random Number Generator (RNG) and the effect was still seen when there was not active intentional healing and space conditioning being conducted in the environment. Evidence of a residual effect!
Persinger, M.A. and Dotta, B.T. (2011). Temporal Patterns of Photon Emissions Can Be Stored and Retrieved Several Days Later From the “Same Space”: Experimental and Quantitative Evidence. NeuroQuantology. Vol. 9(4). 605-613. Article
This study shows that photon emissions from a hydrogen peroxide-hypochlorite reaction can be entangled in time and space and can be ‘stored’ and retrieved long after the event took place when in the presence of complex magnetic fields (and no they can’t be detected with a KII Meter). This shows that ‘events’ could be stored just within space itself under complex magnetic fields and there doesn’t need to be a substrate such as quartz, house structures, furniture, etc. Pages 610 to 612 are especially worthwhile reading!
Tuesday, 28 May 2013 00:44 Written by PRG ADMIN
PRG Staff member - Dave Schumacher
Memorial Day is a time to remember those brave men and women in the military who gave their lives in the line of duty to protect America and promote freedom throughout the world.
Having the day off to honor our military heroes and having taken a recent trip to Gettysburg makes me pause and consider the emotional and traumatic times of war that affect those both on and off the battlefield in natural and sometimes paranormal ways. It also makes me remember that certain types of ghost sightings and paranormal phenomena have been occurring for a very long time and are frequently reported during times of war.
There is no shortage of paranormal reports from the American Civil War. Two types of experiences, collective and crisis apparitions, provide fascinating phenomena for paranormal researchers to study and data that is hard to reconcile with natural explanations.
A Battlefield Collective Apparitional Experience
On July 2nd, 1863 Union and Confederate forces were engaged in the fierce and bloody Battle of Gettysburg at Little Round Top. Both sides were taking heavy casualties when all of a sudden a single Union soldier on horse rode through the battlefield. Soldiers took aim, fired and their shots looked to hit the brave soldier over and over again. However, the soldier never went down and continued to ride on, which left both Union and Confederate soldiers in a state if disbelief. The untouchable soldier eventually disappeared.
Later in the day the Union forces decided to make a final charge. They grabbed whatever ammunition they could, attached their bayonets to their rifles and charged with full force down the hill at Little Round Top.
No sooner had the charge began when the bulletproof phantom soldier from earlier returned to the battlefield. Once again a barrage of bullets could not bring down the seemingly invincible soldier. The fight raged on and eventually the mysterious soldier disappeared.
Union soldiers reported their experiences to Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain and eventually the stories made their way to the War Department. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton took notice of the paranormal reports emerging from the battlefield and decided to send Colonel Pittenger to investigate. Colonel Pittenger interviewed many people including General Oliver O. Howard of Maine. Colonel Pittenger never produced an official report but did document the many people collectively witnessed the ghostly apparition.
The Census of Hallucinations conducted by the Society for Psychical Research showed that approximately 8% of experiences are shared or ‘collective.’ More than one person perceives these experiences at the same time and these experiences can be visual, auditory, olfactory and/or a sensed presence. Different people can experience something at the same time but can experience it using different senses. The important point is that they are collectively perceived and that is especially interesting because it makes reconciling these experiences with natural processes more difficult. One would think people would have different experiences when interpreting natural phenomena since we all have different backgrounds, beliefs and experiences to frame our interpretation.
So, the question is then, why do different people who have no prior knowledge of a location with different backgrounds and different beliefs all have the same experiences? This is why collective paranormal experiences are so interesting, need further investigation and may provide insight into the true nature of paranormal experiences. Apparently the War Department thought it was interesting enough to investigate in 1863!
A Civil War Crisis Apparition
George Roberts was a Union Soldier in Port Hudson, Louisiana. Port Hudson was attacked on June 14th, 1863 and George was killed in the battle around 10am.
Approximately 1,500 miles away, George’s parents were in the State of New York. Around 9:45am George’s mother was getting ready for church when she suddenly and clearly heard her son’s voice calling out, “Mother! Mother!” Around the same time George’s dad was at church ringing the church bell and he had a strong feeling that someone was standing behind him. He turned around but no one was there.
Mr. and Mrs. Roberts did not find out until later that their son had been killed around the same time they both had their experiences.
This is not only another collective experience, but also an excellent example of a crisis apparition. These experiences happen when one person is in a crisis or life-threatening situation and are perceived by another person who is emotionally connected to them, such as a family member or friend. Most people are familiar with the visual crisis apparition. However, the experience can also be auditory (as Mrs. Roberts experienced), a sensed presence (as Mr. Roberts experienced) or part of a dream. When an apparition is seen, the people experiencing it do not realize it is an apparition until it is gone. The final characteristic of these types of experiences is that the person who has the experience does not know that the person they are seeing or sensing in other ways is in danger, dying or just deceased.
These two types of paranormal phenomena, collective experiences and crisis apparitions, provide for interesting study by paranormal investigators and should be evaluated carefully since they contain certain characteristics such as: collectively perceived, emotional connections, spontaneous, happen to people who don’t expect them and the people who experience a crisis apparition have no idea that the person they are seeing are in a crisis situation or have just died. These make them more difficult to just explain away with normal causation. It is also different than the phenomena that most paranormal investigators and ghost hunters investigate.
Chamberlain, J.L. (1915). The Passing of Armies: An Account of the Final Campaign of the Army of the Potomac. Reprinted by Stan Clark (1994). Military Books, Gettysburg, PA.
Coleman, C.K. (1999). Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War: Authentic Accounts of the Strange and Unexplained. Thomas Nelson Publishing Company. Nashville, TN.
Gurney, E., Myers, F.W. and Podmore, F. (1886). Phantasms of the Living. Volume 2. London: Rooms of the Society for Psychical Research: Trubner & Company.
Hardison, S.A. (2013). Paranthropology: Journal of Anthropological Approaches to the Paranormal. Vol. 4(1), 62-67.
Tyrell, G.N.M. (1953). Apparitions. Pantheon Books Inc. New York, NY.
From Investigationg the Haunted: Ghost Hunting Taken to the Next Level. (2007). Lauer & Schumacher. Xlibris.
"If you say you are science based, then use science. Science is NOT just using fancy electronic equipment and walking around taking thousands of photos. The hardcore skeptics have a field day with this. Being scientific involves much more and can be rather boring and dull at times. When trying to gain new knowledge of something, the scientific method or scientific process is basic to the investigation. You use observations and reasoning to develop possible explanations for the observed phenomena. This is called a hypothesis. Once the hypothesis is formed, you test predictions that come from the hypothesis by doing a variety of experiments. The experiments should be repeatable. Now, once the hypothesis has been confirmed repeatedly by experimentation and research, then it becomes a theory and new predictions are based upon it.
All aspects of the scientific method are subject to review by other researchers. Here is a general guideline to follow:
Research and observation can involve looking into the history of a location or reviewing published literature for information (both natural and paranormal) and cases like those you are working on... Hopefully, one day, this will lead to the development of a paranormal theory that can be validated over and over again both by ghost researchers and mainstream science. Knowing your stuff and applying the appropriate scientific terminology and really using the scientific method will go a long way in making you appear legitimate."
Monday, 06 May 2013 22:17 Written by Dave
If you use EMF meters and think electromagnetic fields are correlated with ghostly paranormal phenomena, then you absolutely need to read this critical review by Dr. Jason Braithwaite. You can download the article for free.
Magnetic fields, hallucinations and anomalous experiences: A sceptical critique of the current evidence
The Skeptic | Volume 22. Issue 4 / Volume 23. Issue 1
Sunday, 29 January 2012 16:15 Written by Dave
Many people ask what books they should read and what websites should they visit in order to get information about parapsychology, paranormal investigating, ghosts and hauntings, etc… Below is a list of books and websites that provide excellent information on these things.