Thursday, March 5, 2009

"Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar"...

Let's face it: the paranormal community can be confusing and filled with misinformation. "Ghost hunting" organizations are a dime a dozen, competing for attention, praise, and even cash. For every website offering the "facts", there is another "true" website out there telling you the exact opposite. The only certainty with the paranormal is that nothing is certain. No undeniable scientific proof of ghosts. No one piece of footage or audio verified to be a ghost. No college-degreed expert in the field with a PhD in ghosts, hauntings, and all things paranormal (sure, some people have more experience and there are a few scattered parapsychologists with degrees, but there is no true degree in "ghost hunting").

We hear a lot of things from a lot of people, amateurs and professionals, saying what they believe. Some speak from personal experience, others from books and websites they've read. There are those who claim to make contact with the deceased. Others are more scientifically-minded, carrying around enough electronic equipment to blackout a small Kansas town. The best psychics in the world are never 100% accurate; even the most tech savvy individuals don't always understand their own equipment or what it detects exactly. Yet everyone is an expert in their own mind. Everyone knows the "right way", what's "undeniably true".

And then, you delve into the muddied waters of speculation and faith-based principles. Some people label certain spirits "demons", or even practice "demonology", often needlessly frightening clients and business owners with unverifiable information biased by their religious beliefs. Another small segment of the field promise to evict a ghost or spirit from a property by "sending it to the light" or making it disappear in a puff of smoke. Still more produce "photographic evidence" which, to the trained eye, is nothing but cold breath, glare from lights, or flying dust-bunnies and mosquitoes. They fail to mention that each above-mentioned item is refutable. There's no proof of demonic entities (and using the term implies a Christian view is the only "right" answer). It's impossible to guarantee the removal of a ghost (how do you guarantee something without proof it exists in the first place; furthermore, if you're dealing with a person having a mental illness and they still "see the ghost", you're up a creek without a paddle). Many pieces of evidence can be replicated quite easily using non-supernatural means, making it impossible to prove that orb is a spirit, that misty smoke covering the lens is a phantom.

There is one person out there shedding a bit of light on the latter: Patrick H. T. Doyle. This author and paranormal investigator noticed that his YouTube promotional videos were being misinterpreted as ghosts when they were mere parlor tricks. So, Doyle set out to create a short series showing how "paranormal" footage you might find online can easily be faked or misinterpreted. Does this make him a non-believer? Hardly... just observant. In fact, he does investigate hauntings and believes he has experienced supernatural things. But what we see isn't always what we perceive. It's important to learn the difference between natural occurrences and spooks.

Here's a clip from his series... discussing the one topic that annoys me so: orbs.

Now, understand that I'm not saying there can't be balls of light seen by people or cameras (I witnessed a blue ball of light myself one night drop from the sky and rush through a field; not a likely behavior of swamp gas), but please, for the sake of humanity, people, stop calling every "orb" a ghost! Don't add fuel to the fire of paranormal paranoia. Think. Research. Educate yourself. And if you're serious about wanting to capture photographic "proof" of a ghost, put down the digital and pick up a 35mm camera. At least that was you have some hard copy that can be scrutinized by photographic experts.


Camevil said...

Oh god. Orbs.

It saddens and frustrates me that people still subscribe to the theory that orbs = spirits. Some say the solid ones "giving off" light are gold. They refuse to admit or actually consider that the brightness is caused by REFLECTIVE light, even IR emitters from night vision equipment. Others say the transparent ones with questionable faces.

Part of the problem is that paranormal investigations have devolved into ghost hunts. And how do you judge a good hunt? Why, trophies. And orbs make such easy trophies.

Ugh. Urgh. This topic sometimes triggers my menstrual cycle spontaneously.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying that you are a ghost researcher that doesn't belive in ghosts? I've been reading your blog and you are writing a book on haunted ocations;, how do you determine if they are haunted if you have no proof and what evidence do you use to say they are?

Ken Summers said...

Anyone who reads (i.e. reads all parts of entries on) my blog should be able to deduce that I do, indeed, believe in ghosts. The difference, however, is that I do not blindly believe every piece of evidence available on the web or passed around in groups or tours. The assumption, "Anonymous", that I am a "ghost researcher is both true and misleading. I research the history behind haunted locations and the people suspected of haunting a place as well as investigate locations to determine if there is paranormal activity.

As a writer, I have the ability to write about a location without investigating it (as many others do) based on historical research and stating experiences of others. I don't blindly assume a place is haunted nor do I emphatically state a place is definitely haunted if I am unsure or undecided. As far as evidence is concerned, it depends. What I was saying in this post was that obvious natural phenomena should be ruled out. But as with most investigation, the evidence that convinces me (such as an EVP recorded in an empty room) won't always convince everyone.

It all boils down to one thing: education.

Ken Summers said...

(As Mary Lou Retton used to say) "And another thing..."

I love having visitor maps on a blog. They're so insightful.


Judy AKA "Spookannie" said...

I'll never look at an orb photo again without thinking they might be flying dust bunnies! Great line.
All good points, Ken.
There's a line between believing and being gullible that we all have to be careful not to cross.

Anonymous said...

Ken, I do agree with you on some things. Yes every orb is not a ghost and every ghost does not an orb make. I am also very critical of spirit photos and the like. Personally I have never evicted a ghost that did not want to leave. Nor can I say where they went when they left. Like I cannot prove to you that I do see spirits as much as others have tried to prove they do not exist. Like I always say "Just because you haven't seen it doesn't mean it doesn't exist". I've never seen a million dollars but I hear tell that it's out there, just like the Yeti.

Ken Summers said...

My point in the post was that many people ignore the differences between real and natural anomalies. A "billion orbs flying right at me!" is most likely the goldenrod pollen on that trail leading to the cemetery, but some individuals post it anyway as a "ghost photo".

This is a rough field. As much as we can make a claim that our picture, video, or EVP is a ghost, there's an obverse view from some skeptical people that cannot be ignored. We have to see that side, understand it, and answer the questions before they are asked. And questions dealing with psychic ability are often the biggest targets for said skepticism. Psi is intangible, therefore faces some of the toughest scrutiny.

As I keep having to reiterate, I do believe in ghosts. What I often call "spirit eviction" is something I've morally objected to for many years. It's not to question if spirits can be swept out with a broom or "sent into the light", it's the right of one person to march into another's home and uproot them. A large percentage of hauntings are both harmless and content to remain where they are happiest. It's not easy to get a ghost to sign an affidavit stating "I, the undersigned, am prepared to leave by my free will." But this does not mean I believe all spirit communication is bunk; all psychic messages are fraudulent. I just ask myself (and others) what the opposing view might ask. Always be prepared.

A million dollars can be handed over or shown. It's tangible, verifiable. We're trying to examine and experience something we cannot hold, count, weight, etc. And it makes for a slippery slope. In over 200 years of paranormal investigation, we haven't proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that ghosts exist. But that doesn't mean we can't believe they exist and pursue the unseen world.