A quick scan through the huge assortment of TV channels available through cable or satellite or even a cautious look at the names of books and magazines various book stores will bear witness to the explosion of interest in “The Paranormal.”
The business now boasts dozens of self-styled pros and a plethora of Paranormal Investigation Teams.
All this begs the basic question…
“if Paranormal Investigators do “investigations” what exactly are they searching for?”
The quick answer is ‘proof’ I guess – but of what?
You see one of the actual challenges needs to be the presuppositions which are made about what’s being looked for; how they will know when they’ve found it and what discovering it will really mean.
All investigations, be they scientific or ‘paranormal’, have the very same challenges.
So here is the question, rephrased sightly…
What type of evidence would support a theory that there’s something specific occurring of a paranormal source?
(I Don’t like the planet paranormal for Many reasons, but take that we will have some idea as to what is meant by this tag)
Being able to answer that question then instantly produces a second…
What quality of evidence do you need to support that there’s something special happening of a paranormal source?
What’s always apparent in almost any discussion of paranormal investigations would be the ‘beliefs’ of the investigators and their apparent swiftness in jumping to a sort of paranormal explanation of (frequently) spurious observations.
Let’s face it our thoughts can be not the best judge of what’s ‘ out there’. It invents things, changes what our perceptions sense into things we could process. It drives how we understand the world. How a noise was heard or a dark silhouette was seen doesn’t necessarily mean that it was really ‘out there’. The illusions our thoughts can, and often does, create are so persuasive and so ‘actual’ which they need to exist beyond our own head.
Perception is an active process and as such is shaped by our attitudes, our beliefs. If we want to engage in purposeful ‘investigations’ we will need to be completely aware of the and consider how we can (can) control for these perceptual factors.
Many “paranormal investigations” do appear to base themselves on what the television has depicted as being the ‘correct way’ to do them. Hence the plethora of misunderstood, misused and improper ‘ghost hunting gear’ out there.
Research, when ran, tends to be very superficial, poorly referenced and one-dimensional.
Research is a particular procedure for questioning, recording, assessing and cross-checking, but for a few of those groups I’ve worked with seems to be a fast check on Wikipedia and possibly a mention or two of an ‘interesting book’ which has been read sometime ago.
The biggest problem of all with paranormal investigations is possibly the ‘intention’ behind the ‘study’.
It’s frequently to ‘prove’ something – such as a place is haunted – or to ‘search for something’ – in other words to reverse search!
I believe that many Paranormal Investigation ‘events’ rather than diagnoses but entertainments despite what the organisers claim
Investigations will need to begin using some very specific questions, based upon some very specific research or theory.
Entertainments don’t have to do this… they’re enjoyable walks in the dark, with a few like minded people all out to find evidence to support pre-existing beliefs. Now there’s no issue with this – actually that is great fun and will almost surely provoke some type of emotional reaction. BUT let us be honest about what they are and what they aren’t!
If you’re seriously interested in investigations then there should be clearly defined protocols that set out to control as many factors as possible; that try to define what’s being researched with some very clear principle or rationale. More importantly any observations caused by such an investigation have to be reported and verified by other classes following the very same methods and approaches.