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Science and the Unexplainable

Written by: Brian D. Parsons of the Ohio Paranormal Investigation Network

I'm what one would consider an amateur "ghost" hunter, or rather investigator (I use the term 'hunter' merely because of its popularity and familiarity). I was drawn into the world of ghosts by a friend of mine several years ago when we started an "investigation" into an alleged haunting in our area.

I, in my scientific ways, began to research how to research such a thing. I then went to the actual site and looked around, went to the library and researched the site history, and I discovered this real world of "ghost" hunting. I was astounded at every turn when I uncovered more and more information on this subject. My friend had different goals, he just wanted to see or experience a ghost to get a rush. I wanted to probe deeper in this unknown and closed door subject. Plus it makes for an interesting hobby.

Our investigation presented us with disappointing results (depending on your view). We pieced together the stories we had heard from several sources and researched each "fact". I was able to research the site history and it didn't take long until all of the "facts" added up to nothing more than a fabrication. There was no way what was said to have happened could have (nothing more than a ghost story here I'm afraid...or?). I'll finish the story later in my "Local Legend" section. I had been studying psychology in college and decided to take that and spend time doing research into different fields that could help me understand the paranormal world (mainly parapsychology, and also including; meteorology, physics, mathematics, biology, geology, and so on. Basically every field of science has something to offer). Finally, in 1996 our small group that had studied all things paranormal became focused on ghosts, hauntings, etc. We began to do field work and explore sources of knowledge, including the internet for some knowledge, although most sites pertaining to ghost hunting were not very good. Our first site was no spectacle either, although it gave us a place to share with the world and with our local contacts. Now I have reworked and moved the site as our goals have been defined. We seek out others like us that want to uncover the truth by using scientific means. We hold a strict approach to how we conduct our investigations and never seek profit from money, only knowledge.

The facts of ghost hunting are pretty startling. Most of us when we were kids wondered if there is such things as ghosts (at a young age we are taught the answer is no...more on that problem later). We hear unbelievable stories while sitting next to campfires, kids spread stories at school about people they don't know or merely strange houses they've never been in. I finally learned the truth. It took a while to sink in, there is always denial, this is because it goes against the ways your brain was conditioned to think. We are taught that things we can not explain do not exist. Luckily there is always a group of people who believe in the unknown. Eventually the fact will eclipse our deep-rooted disbelief that was handed down from our forefathers. There is such things as "ghosts".

Ghosts have a rich history dating back a thousand plus years. In the U.S. they were an everyday part of the early settlers, although most of what they believed was rubbish, yet they still believed (mostly they were scared to death of them). They seemed to carry over this belief which was not well liked among most English at the time. The Salem Witch trials is the scar that severed the thought of ghosts from the daily household and "proved" that they do not exist. If you've ever read about the trials you can understand why it "debunked" ghosts...for the moment.

The truth remained with some who had occasionally been part of the paranormal world. Ghost sightings have been documented for centuries and have become more commonplace. There are more people- live and dead people, especially troubled dead people (another one for later). The belief system is also starting to go in our favor, there are so many individuals and groups that admit to doing research of the paranormal (in many different ways). The big question still remains though, what are they exactly? Some people have their own theories, but nothing is conclusive. I have yet to experience some of the phenomena that other ghost hunters have observed, but based on the phenomenon I have experienced I'm a believer (my personal proof, which is merely evidence in the big picture) though my skeptical ways still keep me on the straight and narrow. I have read as much on this subject as possible from every source I can find. I have met with friends and family who have had various levels of contact with ghosts. Since then my group and I have worked with others in various fields (including parapsychologists) that may be able to assist us.

I want to research, not remove. There is a difference from what you read on the internet and what you experience in the real world. There's more to ghosts than "orbs" if they are even a form of ghost at all. There has been rumor from different sources that there is an "underground" for ghost researchers who have experience in ridding areas of ghosts. I have been told why they do this and it makes perfect sense. It has also changed the way I feel about "ghost hunting" and made me realize the real danger is not from the dead, but from the living. It will take time to erase the beliefs that block us from understanding what surrounds and becomes us.

I also want to caution anyone from accepting anyone's "facts" as such. There is a lot of speculation as well as a lot of things that make perfect sense, the fact is there are no real hard facts about this subject. I have to admit there are several people who have uncovered some really good evidence to prove parts of the puzzle, but nothing is conclusive. This is what makes this subject so interesting to be part of. There are also a lot of people out there that are out for personal gain. Whether it be notoriety or money, they are everywhere. Be careful of buying courses from others, I have learned plenty from just reading and from genuine experience. Don't buy in to other's belief systems, unless they are comprised of common sense and law abiding tactics. These are for your own good and for the good of the ghost and paranormal research community.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK! I guess that's the advice I'm trying to get across here. Study every angle even if it disputes with something you read somewhere else. We have all had incidents that make us believe handling a ghost situation a certain way is the right and only way. An open mind will always prevail.

There is also a sensitive issue that I feel needs to be addressed. That is about religious beliefs and the spirit world. I think people stumble with the word spirit and automatically connect it to religion. There is no evidence that suggests that ghosts rely on our religious beliefs. Hanging a cross probably won't rid your house of any "evil" beings (except Vampires -just kidding). It has been pretty much agreed upon that ghosts are just like the general public, there are nice ghosts and there are nasty ghosts, happy ones and sad ones, silent ones and mischievous ones (if capable some believe in God -or other deity- and others may not). I'm not saying to completely rid yourself of religion when with ghosts, just not to associate them together. It is suggested that you pray before and after any investigation where you are attempting to study anything in the spirit world, so religion is a good thing to have.

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Lately I have been dealing with a new problem in our "community". Ghost hunting which is a specific field of study that focuses on ghosts and hauntings and the documentation and study of these occurrences. Another community deals with these ghosts and associated occurrences as well, although less interested in the ghosts themselves and more into the "how" aspect. These are the Parapsychologists. To most ghost hunters it seems they are the enemy, and as are ghost hunters to most Parapsychologists. Both seem to have ignorances toward the other and both seem to think the other is full of it.

I will admit I fell into this trap as well. I used to be a student of Psychology, I immersed myself with the idea of the mind and had changed my current degree program in college to compliment my obsession with Psychology. It seemed though, that the more I learned the more I felt things were not looked at objectively. I argued some of the principles dealing with modern Psychology and began to view it as a closed study "a tunnel vision" of the study of the mind. I was so irritated that I cast it aside (along with Parapsychology which I had an interest and respect for since it was not truly considered a part of the illustrious Psychology sect). At the pinnacle of my studies I had actually thought of people who believe in ghosts as having a mental weakness, or just misunderstanding the ways of those with increased mental projection. After walking out on that world I took in the ghost hunting world a few years later. Now as I have studied this world for the last few years I find it becoming more and more speculative in nature (people sitting around contemplating what could be and deciding that it is what they "think" that is right). My old ways of studying a situation and the art of the interview of a subject have not fallen by the wayside. I have found very little true investigating going on in the ghost hunting world. Psychology goes through many steps to prove a simple fact (though sometimes biased). Taking photographs of reflections of humidity or dust particles and showing them to friends is not investigating. There are some that have done great work in this field, they are the ones who document and analyze away from the field and not just in it.

I have heard both sides bicker about who is right and who is wrong, who has an open mind and who doesn't. I began to look back into the Parapsychology world and discovered that it has a lot to offer ghost hunters. Parapsychology has been around for just over a hundred years as a profession and buried deep inside the knowledge within is some very good research on ghosts and hauntings. It seems that Parapsychologists are reluctant to be on site for investigations and would rather draw conclusions from the people who witnessed an event rather than dig into the event itself. Both sides must learn to feed off of each other and basically understand that they are both in the same boat together. Although Parapsychologists have weathered the stormy battle of dealing with the public, the thought of people running around investigating ghosts may threaten the credibility they have built if they were to associate themselves directly to ghost hunters.

Parapsychologists: Listen to what the ghost hunters have to say, they are dedicated to their studies and are continually educating from within. Their principles and beliefs may differ from Para-psi belief, but remember, they are viewing from another angle not from the brain out, but from the outside in.

Ghost hunters: Don't limit the scope of your studies to just dead people. The living have more to do with ghosts than dead people and the keys to understanding ghosts lies within Parapsychological studies. Also, learn to study without photography. Cameras are seemingly confusing the issues at hand and are creating more confusion than understanding. Don't abandon them or stop using them for ghosts, just don't believe every mist or orb you see is ghost related and no matter what the images are not what you are studying (and not how the image was created), but the understanding of ghosts, hauntings, and why they affect us.

Copyright 2005, The Society for Paranormal Investigation and Evaluation

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Copyright 2008, The Society for Paranormal Investigation and Evaluation

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S.P.I.E. is not affiliated with SPI (The Society for Paranormal Investigation).  The SPI webist can be accessed directly at www.paranormalghost.com.