Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Freedom of Not Being Part of a Group...

After spending the last four years with North East Paranormal Society I have decided to leave the structure of a group and be my own voice. Being a part of NEPS was a wonderful experience that allowed me to gain perspective that I never would have had if I wasn't able to actually be on investigations of supposed haunted locations and would probably still be that person who really wanted "that experience" that all para-enthusiast want. Instead of that crazy life-altering experience I gained a lot of common sense. With the team I was allowed to develop my common-sense ideas into protocols, such as strict cross-referencing of audio and video, and using the cameras more of tools to make sure we didn't contaminate the audio more than trying to capture that "elusive" ghost, and from the truth that those protocols gave us came a lot more eye-opening experiences and perspective changing ideas.  I am proud to say that I was instrumental in changing the way NEPS as a whole does things and how they will hopefully continue in the future with ensuring that they don't continue the myths perpetuated by TV ghost shows and other teams, or spend any more money on useless, unproven equipment.

So why leave? Well, in my evolution from "believer of anything people tell me" to "knowing better than to buy the crap you are selling" I have become a lot more vocal and assertive in holding other teams and individuals accountable for their claims of "evidence" such as their EVPs and pictures. What I have been finding is that there are a lot of dubious teams out there that have no qualms about posting pictures of "ghosts" from phone apps and when you politely point that out to them you get banned and blocked. The more of these teams I see out there and the more I have come to realize that other local teams do nothing more than give people terrible evidence such as EVPs that they claim are true examples of ghost voices etc thus inadvertently lying to them and taking advantage of the trust people put in the "expertise" of those who claim they are ghost hunters (god knows why) the more I feel responsible for making sure the public knows the truth. Maybe it's to assuage the guilt I feel over knowing that NEPS and I have probably done just that, given people "evidence" that PROVED the fact their house was haunted only to now realize years later that it was actually a person in the room, or a slow-shutter speed lights streaks that sure looked like a ghost but of course was not (I have a post on false photos that I am working on that will show examples of such things).

NEPS is made up of many members who hold different feelings on my way of doing things and my way of thinking. It simply is not fair for me to say the things I say and such while representing NEPS if it makes other team members uncomfortable or if they feel it's not what they represent. In doing my own thing I can be completely honest to how *I* feel about EVERYHING from TV shows to local teams and the members of NEPS can continue to be a part of a professional team (meaning a group of people who act professionally and responsibly as opposed to a "professional ghost hunting team" which simply does not exist), and not feel uncomfortable, mad, or embarrassed over me. As I continue to do research in the paranormal, such as into perception regarding paranormal claims, the commonality between those who have certain specific paranormal claims, and the ever-present and most common reasons that people THINK they are haunted but are not, I am sure that there will be times when NEPS and I will work together to help further our common goals within the paranormal community.

So now that I am free of the worry of upsetting people I like and out everyone else because I have  LOT to say;)


How To Find A Paranormal Team

Need some help and don’t know where to turn? Let’s talk about how to find a good paranormal investigating team…

Like I’ve said many times before ANYONE can call themselves “Paranormal Investigators,” “ghost hunters,” "researchers," "mediums" etc...and claim they are “professional, scientific” etc… The truth of that matter is that there is no special training, no special skills and no specific aptitude to label oneself as thus. Yet those self-imposed labels seem to hold a lot of weight when it comes to people looking for help.

I have seen it time and time again when a person is looking for help, they hear that you are a paranormal investigator and they suddenly trust you implicitly. They will believe anything you say as they view you as the "expert", and worst of all let you unaccompanied into their house or place of business based on your word that you aren’t going to do anything terrible.  They will also believe any “evidence” that the investigators put forth and say it’s proof of spirit activity.  I also feel that because of the popularity of the ghost hunting TV shows that when a homeowner sees that you have all the gadgets, gizmos, and DVR systems that people do on TV that you MUST know what you are doing. However, none of that makes those investigators good at what they do, or logical in collecting and presenting evidence.  DON’T BE THAT PERSON!


So what do you do when you think you may have something going on and want an opinion?


1)      If they have a website, visit it and see what kind of information they are presenting as fact. If they are passing of pictures of dust orbs and slow-shutter speed light anomalies or orbs  as proof of spirit activity then go to the next team.

2)      Call them. See what kind of personalities they have on the phone and if they would be willing to meet for a short time to discuss what you need from them. A pre-investigation interview is IMPERATIVE as this is your chance to feel them out and honestly, them to feel you out. The safety of the team is important to them and a good team would never just show up at someone’s house without knowing anything about the situation as you never know what you could be walking into.

3)      Ask them how they do their investigations from beginning to end. If there is anything that seems odd to you, then question it. For example, let’s say my method is to come to your house and leave some recorders around your house while you and your family are there. I will come back later, pick up the recorders and review them for EVP evidence. It would be perfectly OK for you to ask “how can you possibly know what is an EVP when you had no control or knowledge of what was going on around the recorder.” Just to be clear that is NOT my method, but it is of another local team. Or maybe they are really into "provoking", and calling out "demons" which may not be something you would be comfortable. Again, not our methods.

4)      Ask them about their evidence. Ask them how they set up their investigations, how they review their evidence and how they determine what is anomalous enough to be given to you as evidence. Answers like “Well this is an orb unlike any I have seen before so it can’t be dust/rain/moisture/spirt/skin cells etc.” or “I know it’s an EVP because it sounds like a man and there were no men in the room.” Or “I know that its and EVP because I know I wouldn’t say something like that.” We have done a lot of research into what we think at the time may be EVPs and it’s shocking how much voices and words can be different from one recorder to another. It doesn’t make it an EVP though!

5)      Ask to see an example of their final client report.  I have seen some from other teams that make me want to get out my red pen and grade it like it was an 8th grade writing project.  If someone cannot have enough attention to detail to make sure that their client report is mostly (we all make mistakes) free of typos, punctuation problems and terrible grammar then how can I trust that that person can pay enough attention to detail to properly review their evidence?

6)      Ask for references. They should be readily available and gladly supplied. The reference should be about their professionalism and manner not evidence.  Remember that just because they got evidence from a former place doesn't make it REAL evidence.

7)      Figure out what you really want from the team. Would you be OK if the team came back with no evidence and instead came back with logical explanations from some of your experiences?  Or do you want that TV show ghost hunter experience to happen in your house and want a load of evidence even if it may be questionable? Some people do want that and if that’s what you want then I would view it more like having a psychic come do a party of yours. It’s fun, you may get something cool out of it but it’s not done for anything more than entertainment purposes.

8)      It is OK to cancel an investigation at any time if you feel like it is not your cup of tea. If the team is using methodologies etc that you don’t feel is appropriate or is setting up a situation that could create fear in your home then stop it. No team should ever start talking about negative spirits or demons in your home and there is absolutely no way they could possibly know for a FACT that such things are in your home. It is irresponsible to make those claims and leave a homeowner worse off than they were before.

9)      Finally, it is also OK for the team to cancel or stop an investigation at any time if they feel like the situation is not what they thought it would be. There are people out there that need much more than what a paranormal investigation team can give them and that usually falls into the mental health category. We are providing a free service that takes up time and energy and if we don’t feel like it would be appropriate to begin or continue with an investigation that is within our, or any teams right. If that happens the best thing to do is to move on. Do not harass the team with constant phone calls or threats.

Just a side note: If you do have an investigation where you leave the team alone in your house make sure you take valuables and medication with you.  I am not suggesting that any of the teams out there would steal or rummage through your medicine cabinet but it's just common sense.  Real estate agents tell homeowners to do the same when they are having an open house so it can't hurt!


As always if you have any question please feel free to contact me! 


Scientific Ghost Hunting or Just Plain Fraud?

“Ghost hunter”…"Paranormal Researcher”…."Paranormal Investigator”. These are labels that ANYONE can give themselves. You, me, your Grandma, the teenager down the street, anyone. The label itself is meaningless as the name itself does not denote any actual skill or advanced knowledge on the subject. If I tell you I have a BS in Chemistry, you may assume that my knowledge level regarding Chemistry is more than someone with a BS in Physics, and you’d be generally correct. If someone says they have a PhD is Chemistry you may assume they have more knowledge regarding Chem than I do and you would most definitely be correct in your assumption.  But what about the paranormal field? What if I said “I have been doing this for 30 years...” Does that make me an expert? The simple answer is NO. There are no experts or professionals in this field,  no one is “scientific” and I will tell you why.


Without a ruling consensus of the generally accepted correct way of doing things, like that is taught in an accredited school with an accredited field of study, what you are left with are myths being presented as facts, hypotheses being presented as theories and “evidence” having hypotheses formed around their origin when the evidence is nothing paranormal in nature to begin with. If a person has been paranormal research for 30 years, and for 30 years been doing things the wrong way then they are an expert in doing things the WRONG way and nothing more. Also, just because you see something on TV does not mean it is the appropriate or most logical way of doing things. Because unlike, let’s say surgery where they is a definite right and wrong way of doing things, you can’t say that with this field. But that doesn’t stop people from saying that they do the things the RIGHT way and making definitive statements about the paranormal based on their “experience” or their in-depth knowledge of how TV para-celebs seem to investigate.  When it comes to TV, we have to remember that what you see is directed, edited, and probably scripted sometimes to form an hour show. The people who are on the shows are beholden to their producers who are beholden to networks that are beholden to the ratings. If they need to make a show different in some way or want their investigators to do something contrary to what they would normally do in an investigation, who do you think wins out? Probably the person paying the bills and not the person who is investigating. Bottom line it is entertainment and should be view as such.


So let’s look at some examples of common beliefs and statements that paranormal “experts” perpetuate:


Example 1:  “We are doing cutting edge research.”


Let’s say a group of investigators are doing “research” around their “EVPs.” OK…well how can they prove to me that their EVPs are EVPs to begin with? It’s really not hard to tell when a EVP is someone in the room or someone breathing etc when you are properly trained, yet people still put up those EVPs on their websites as evidence and then base their research around said false EVPS. Saying “because it sounds like an EVP” or “I know it wasn’t me” is not enough of an answer of certainty to base RESEARCH around the supposed EVPs. Neither is “I remember exactly what was going on at that point” is a good enough reason to base research dependent on that EVP being a true voice of a ghost.


Besides my group I have yet to find another group that has any methodology put into place to help validate their EVPs.


Example 2: “We have to investigate the dark because spirit lights are easier to see in the dark.”  


Well, how do you know that spirits emit light? We can’t scientifically prove the existence of spirits to begin with so how can you then tell me they emit light? What about the homeowners stories of seeing shadows, apparitions etc…aren’t they almost always when it is light in the room?  


I have heard people saying that they investigate in at night (but that doesn’t explain why it needs to be “lights out”) because there are less machines running etc that can throw off their equipment, which leads me to my next example…


Example 3: “We use scientific equipment.” 


You do? Really? Using a KII, a Mel-meter, etc is NOT scientific. Does an electrician go into a house and use an EMF detector and say s/he is doing science? No. Oh, but people on TV and other books I have read said that ghosts emit an EMF so you get a spike when they come around. Other people also say that you should use an EMF pump because spirits need EMF to manifest. Some people run with both hypotheses as fact. Are either of them facts? No. Well, they are theories, right? No, they are merely unproven hypotheses and nothing more.

Can you use tri-field meters and EMF detectors to get readings from the house and make correlations of certain things such as high EMFs in a room and people feeling queasy or dizzy or feel nothing at all? Sure! But you cannot use those devices to prove the presence of a spirit. You may say "but what about if I get an EMF spike when I caught that EVP?" Again, you may have a correlation, but it does not prove that the EVP you caught is the voice of a ghost or that the EMF spike had anything to do with it.


The very basic matter of everything is ghost hunting is not a science, and cannot be done scientifically. You cannot follow the scientific method because you have a variable (the spirit) that you don’t even know exists and cannot be controlled or manipulated for any experiments to be done on it. Until the day when you have a ghost that will do things on command and you can PROVE is there doing things on command then everything is speculation at best, fraudulent misinformation to sell pointless “scientific” devices at worst.


So if you are an established team, a brand-new team, or just someone with an interest in paranormal investigating and tell homeowners, business owners, teach classes on, etc of the common myths in this paranormal field that have no basis in scientific fact then you are perpetuating fraud. Plain  and simple. If you want to be respected and taken seriously then use critical thinking when it comes to the commonly held ideas in this field before you go around and spout them off as fact. And be prepared to be held accountable for your words and your evidence. If you say “this is a picture of a apparition” then you need to tell me exactly how you know that. If you tell me this an EVP of the person who died in the house, you need to prove it. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, not some EMF spikes or someone mumbling under their breath.


If we really want some “paranormal unity” then we need to stop perpetuating myths as facts, use our brains, and hold each other accountable for supposed evidence instead of saying “great catch” anytime someone has something they claim is paranormal. Imagine a baseball team where all the kids had no clue what to do so they came up with ways to play with this bat and ball that they imagine were best, and then taught each other. Meanwhile while they taught each other bad techniques their coaches sat back in the dugouts drinking beer and told them they were great all the time. Would anyone get better? Of course not! This is the paranormal world right now.  Without pressure or peer scrutiny this field will continue its downward spiral into ridiculousness.  And the sad fact is that we are pretty much at bottom as it is but perhaps someday when a person says they are a paranormal investigator, it will mean that they use common sense, good practices, and critical thinking. But we are certainly not there yet.


What I Am, And What I Am Not

I admit it. When I started on North East Paranormal Society around four years ago we were just like all the other teams out there. We all watched the TV shows, read the books written by people on the shows and those wanting fame in the paranormal world, and took what was presented to us as a guide to how to “properly” investigate the paranormal. We did it all…the team acquired the multi-channel DVR system, the mel-meters, the KII, other EMF detectors, the grid, the thermometers, the night vision hand held cameras, the spirit box, and the other random things touted at “ghost hunting equipment.” We would rent vans, set up command central and be TV investigator clones. When asked why we use such equipment we would give the generally accepted answers such as “when spirits are around they can cause a spike in EMF,” and “If a spirit walks in front of the grid it will block out some of the lights,” or “well THIS orb is special because it doesn’t look like any dust we’ve ever seen.” Also in the paranormal world the more equipment you have, the more “professional” you look (and feel), and you don’t EVER want to be behind on the latest and greatest “ghost hunting tool”.

So what happened? Experience and a little critical thinking.  It started with seeing how many people claim they are scientific and me, who has actually has two bachelor degrees in science and have worked for many years in laboratory research, thinking how silly that is because you cannot use the scientific method when you can’t control your main variable (the ghost). However, folks think they are scientific because they have “instruments”. NEPS was the same way, claiming to be scienfic in how we do things so I promptly changed that on the website.
From there I was to the thought of “who the hell came up with this idea that ghosts emit EMF and how could they have ever done any kind of real studies to prove such a thing?” Well, no one of course. Thinking rationally and critically snowballed in to questioning pretty much how we did everything up until that point.  Next was  “Well, how can ghost block out a light from a laser unless they are physically manifesting and if so what the hell are they made of to have a visible, light blocking structure?” And how can people say that are doing “research” and are “scientific” when they have no background or education IN science? Would you seriously get a job working in a laboratory if you had no science education and your only experience was using your toy store microscope to look at dead bugs up close? Of course not. So why should anyone take a person serious who says they do “scientific paranormal research” when they a) have no background in science, b) because they have no background are clueless to the fact that what they are doing is NOT science and c) refuse to see that they CANNOT do “scientific” research of the paranormal to begin with? And if they still insist they are scientific ask to see their protocols, their experiment designs and their data. They should be MORE than willing to provide you with all of that if they are truly looking to increase knowledge about the paranormal world. That is why REAL scientists publish their findings in peer reviewed journals.  But I’m getting off topic…

 So then what happened with me? I realized how misguided I was. Seriously. What we were doing was not necessary to help people who think they are being haunted. If anything it fed into the previously held believes about ghosts and hauntings and not the truth of the matter.  Also, we were inadvertently being fraudulent by telling people these myths about EMFs and ghosts, or that spirits can do this or cannot do that. How could we possibly know anything about what ghosts can or cannot do when we cannot even prove they exist? 
Now, am I saying the personal experiences people have had are wrong and that I don’t believe them? No, not at all. I cannot dismiss their personal experiences as fabrications from their imaginations, or them accidentally being too concerned with a noise that has a rational explanation, but I can’t say it was a definitely a ghost either. Also, maybe the reason they have experiences with this spirit is because it’s a personal thing between their psychic mind (should such a thing exist) and the spirit.  Working under the assumption that spirits ARE real, how do we know that the experiences that happen between them and the spirits aren’t completely a telepathic connection and thus the spirits is never actually tangibly IN the room and thus cannot be sensed or captured by any kind of equipment? But my point here is WHO THE HELL KNOWS? No one, but I firmly believe that we are never going to get any answers by sitting in the dark with a KII, a EMF app on your tablet and some audio recording equipment.

What about EVPs? I have to say that I am starting to doubt them more and more. I mean, I have captured voices on audio that I could not discredit as one of us in the building or any noise outside of the building due to the rigorous cross checking we do. However, can I be certain that my recorder didn’t have the ability to pick up some errant signal from something else that causes a voice sound at that time? No. And if I can’t be certain of that, then I cannot be certain that what I captured is an “EVP.” So from now on I am going to call them Sounds of Unknown Origins or SUO’s. I don’t care if anyone uses this term because I didn’t come up with it for anyone else, only to ensure I am not being fraudulent by claiming something I think at the time is an unexplained voice, only to find out at some point that it was something else. Also I am getting sick of people using the acronym “EVP” in an odd way. For example today on a show where they "collect" haunted items I heard someone say “let’s try some EVPs in here” and then recently on a ghost story telling TV show I heard people say “we are taking EVPs” and “We are doing EVPs.” What? You are doing Electronic Voice Phenomena? Does that mean you are creating them if you are “doing” them? And you are taking Electronic Voice Phenomena? Where are you taking them? To the movies? It just goes to show that any person, any IQ level, and any common sense level can call themselves paranormal investigators and take myths and misinformation and regurgitate them as fact. 

So I have changed. I no longer embrace the myths and misguidance from TV show ghost hunting and decided to use critical thinking and logic instead. Unfortunately that means we have a lot of useless toys and also it means that we have actually discredited a lot of the things we used to consider “evidence” such as slow shutter light streaks, hairs that look like orbs with trails, and other audio and video clips that we either figured out was something else or is too questionable to be considering anything interesting. What I am left with are things that are SUO’s that we cannot find obvious explanations for at this point.  But who is to say that won’t change? Or maybe we will find some crazy amazing evidence or have that life-altering encounter with a spirit that will change us forever. Who knows…but at this point we would like precede using best practices and logic. 

What does that mean for people who call me in for help figuring out what is going on? It means you will not get some EVPs that I “know” are EVPs because “I just know what to listen for” or pictures of orbs, or anything else that can be proven to be something non-paranormal. You will get from me is kindness, compassion, and the truth of what we think is going on. No hysteria, no demons, no crazy stuff.  I often work with mediums who I have found to be very impressive but they do what THEY do and we do what I do. I will also never give you definitive statement about what ghosts are or are not, and what they can or cannot do because no one, no matter how experienced or impressive they seem, can know until they are dead. End of story