Things That Make Me Go Aarrgghh!

Things that Make Me Go “Aaarrrggghhh”

This one’s a little different…a commentary on some issues that keep popping up from the “Paranormal Community” that get my blood going more than a little.

1)      “There are no experts on the paranormal….”

Over the last 10 years, I’ve often hear this statement made by individuals at events, on blogs, on podcasts and even seen it in their books. They state this because, they say, there are so many questions about the phenomena we are trying to study (they seem to leave out the word experience), and no absolute proof of even the existence of psychic phenomena.

Correct. There are many questions about the phenomena AND the experiences. But clearly people have been having these experiences in some fashion since time immemorial, AND since the 19th Century, researchers and others have been collecting and investigating the experiences, both outside the lab (in “real life”) and under controlled conditions in the laboratory.

However, we in Parapsychology/Psychical Research HAVE learned much about the patterns of the experiences, about alternative, normal (though sometimes esoteric) explanations for some of the reports and experiences, the apparent behavior of the phenomena, and even some connections to environmental conditions. We have models for the phenomena which, if funding were properly available, are at least somewhat testable. We have hypotheses and even theories which can be tested.

So, when considering people educated in Parapsychology – whether via academic work or by participating in actual scientific research (this does not count most ghost hunting, by the way) – how are they NOT experts? Sure, people in my field have various strengths of experience and knowledge. My focus has been on spontaneous experiences (outside the lab), including apparitions, hauntings, and poltergeists, but I know much about laboratory studies and findings. Others of my colleagues have expertise in experiences and research of remote viewing, psychokinesis, mediumship, and so on.

More maddening, however, is the fact that most of the folks stating “there are no experts” are doing it from a platform that somehow denotes “expertise.” They are main speakers at ghost events. They are authors. They are TV stars of ghost hunting shows.  So, there are no experts except “me” – is that what they’re saying?

On top of it all, most of them often deny the need to know anything about Parapsychology – the only Science to actually study this stuff. Most of them denigrate some of the people in my field, or have never even heard of the top researchers/investigators. Or they have clearly misinterpreted or purposely changed the models, methodologies, and such they attribute to parapsychologists in order to make them fit their own models, methods, etc.

Or they tout how many investigations they’ve done (or for how many years), as if that gives them expertise….

It might, but with no understanding of what folks in my field already concluded, the mistakes made and corrected (the mistakes often being repeated by the “newbies”).

And remember: 30 years of bad methodology or bad assumptions is BAD experience. Makes one an expert in bad investigations and false conclusions, not any sort of expert on the phenomena.

2)      I was recently shown an email statement from someone in a ghost hunting group that is similar to those I’ve heard/seen before: “Anyone who tries to sell you on classes or certifications is disreputable.”

Okay, this one I need to take in two parts. First, the “certification” issue.

I’ve made it clear again and again that one cannot be “certified” as a “ghost hunter,” or “paranormal investigator” and especially not as a “parapsychologist.”  Certification implies a level of expertise in a subject or application of knowledge or in an activity, that the individual has passed some kind of testing to get certified, and that the person/body offering “certification” is empowered (legally and more importantly, ethically) to do so.

Most people who have never gone through a certification program (e.g.. in a Microsoft product, or a particular practice method in psychology, medicine, nursing, etc.) might have no clue as to what “certification” implies. In other words, some people offering certification simply are ignorant, not “disreputable.”

On the other hand, there are those who have demonstrated other behavior that might put them in that negative category. Some have been clearly advised that without approval by an established body such as the Parapsychological Association or even the Rhine Research Center or the Society for Psychical Research, or an actual academic source, the “certification” is relatively worthless – especially when it’s for being a “parapsychologist” when the actual materials don’t even have content from the field (more often than one would even believe). They have not corrected this issue, and therefore are doing what they’re doing in a knowing way, no longer in ignorance.

As for me, I continually have to correct people asking me about or referring to my own Parapsychological Studies Program (through HCH Institute) as a “certification.” It’s not, and it’s never been. It’s a series of non-academic courses providing a deep introduction to several major areas of Parapsychology, and completing all the courses earns the students a “Certificate of Completion” (kind of a non-academic diploma). A certificate is not the same as a certification.

As to the second part, dealing with classes …

I’ve heard many say something as the quote above, or more commonly “you can’t teach this stuff.”

To which I have to reply:  Any class in any arena of human endeavor is only as good as the person who put it together and/or teaches it, and the content of the class.

Parapsychology/Psychical Research as an over 130 year history. Courses in the subject have been and continue to be taught at accredited universities in many countries, though sadly the US has fallen behind in the number of colleges offering even a single course due to severe academic prejudice (the UK leads the pack). Courses have and continue to be at the graduate school level, not just the undergrad.

I not only went through a full academic, accredited university graduate program in Parapsychology (JFK University had one from the late 70s until the late 80s), I ended up back at the university after graduation teaching several of those graduate level courses, including a field investigations class.

Others in my field have taught university classes in field investigations, or at least covering the phenomena and experiences of apparitions, hauntings and poltergeists.

“Disreputable?”

Such a statement comes from someone with an agenda of their own (or, if I’m to be charitable, somebody who’d been “taken” by a phony at some point and is too embarrassed to admit it). Perhaps the agenda is to turn people away from the possibility of learning something very real as opposed to what they’ve learned from other ghost hunters (or heaven forbid, from the TV shows). Perhaps it’s because they have been taken in by ghost hunters who learned their “craft” from watching paranormal shows and taught crappy courses (always seeming to miss anything about Parapsychology).

Or perhaps it’s because they want people to come to them for information, like the people who claim there are no experts.

Personally, I’ve been dedicated to educating the general public about Parapsychology, to helping to off-set the often fearful images of ghosts and such, to educate the members of the media to really look at the questions inherent in psychic experiences (which include poltergeists, ghosts, and hauntings). I push hard against the ignorance of my field in an ever growing “community” that claims to want to study the phenomena, to prove its existence, but seems to be resistant to even considering that there’s a history, literature, and group of scientists who’ve been doing this for more than 100 years longer than their favorite TV shows.

I’ve often felt like I’m beating my head against a brick wall, and statements like the ones quote here just give me more of a headache.

Sometimes I just want to be like William Shatner on the classic Saturday Night Live sketch telling over-the-top Trekkies to “Get a Life!”

There’s more, but this is enough of a rant for now. But one last comment…

Ask questions of the speakers, the “experts,” the “scientific investigators,” the authors and those teaching classes (and certainly those offering “certifications”).

Ask questions of ME. I’m always happy when someone is consumer-smart enough to ask questions like “what do I really get out of taking your classes?” and “why are you qualified to teach these classes or call yourself an expert?”

That leads to a conversation. Conversation is good. Blanket statements are not (hmmm…that’s a blanket statement in itself, so maybe that’s not good….  🙂

New Book on Scientific Research with Mediums

My friend and colleague, Julie Beischel, PhD, has just released a terrific ebook (Kindle format so far, others to come).

AMONG MEDIUMS: A SCIENTIST’S QUEST FOR ANSWERS

Easy to read and understand and with a light-hearted touch, the book is a wonderful introduction to the application of science to a human experience that is thousands of years old yet which has been ignored or dismissed by most of the scientific community. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in mediumship, in the mounting evidence for life after death, in the very real potential for mediums in the grieving process, and in how science can be applied to the so-called paranormal.

Available from Amazon.com by clicking HERE

 

 

Loyd Auerbach on HOTEL IMPOSSIBLE, January 7, 2013

Back in September, I visited the Hotel Leger in Mokelumne Hill, CA (in the Gold Country), at the invitation of the Travel Channel, to participate in the shooting of an episode of HOTEL IMPOSSIBLE.

While the show focuses on helping hotels that need both a facelift and other work to bring them back from a financial brink, as the Hotel Leger had a reputation for being haunted, they’d asked me to do a brief investigative assessment and something more.

With the crew of the show and the entire town working on physical renovations of the hotel, it was really tough to do a great job of investigating. Fortunately, I also had some information from a colleague, Mark Boccuzzi of the Windbridge Institute, who’d done an investigation several years ago. Maria Lagana-Sales, a psychic who has worked with the Office of Paranormal Investigations, came along for a bit to provide her insight as well.

The show aired on Travel Channel last night, and there was no mention of the haunting at all, which also meant I was not in the episode. Given the focus of the show and the oh-so-enormous job they did renovating, it makes sense that the ghost story was simply something that could not fit in the time they had allotted for the episode. That’s Show Biz (and at least I got paid a fair fee for the shoot).

Of course, I was disappointed, especially since I appeared in a couple of photos posted on the show website. I am also disappointed on behalf of the hotel, as the haunting was yet one more marketable point in its favor, and even a brief mention would have gotten curiosity going which would draw more people to stay there. In fact, besides having me do my assessment (challenging, with all the work going on at the time), the other reason they’d asked me to come was to discuss best ways to “market a haunted hotel,” something I’m familiar with.

However, the Travel Channel did post a video clip about the ghosts and does include me (along with host Anthony Melchiorri and hotel owner Ashley Canty). Watch it at http://www.travelchannel.com/video/hotel-leger-haunted

It’s a good piece, though what’s missing is a short bit on the brief experience host Anthony Melchiorri had in one of the basement areas (which was originally an old jail cell). On the clip, you see me with an EMF meter that’s reacting — you don’t see that this was connected to Anthony’s experience (which is the only thing that made the anomalous magnetic reading have anything to do with a potential psychic/paranormal experience).

More on the Hotel Leger will follow, and I hope to announce an event I’ll be hosting there in the next couple of months within the next few days.

Go to the episode page for the Hotel Leger and check out Anthony Melchiorri’s photos for a  couple of snaps of me as well.

“Why has there been an increase in paranormal programming on TV?

A question that comes to me regularly is whether I know or have an opinion as to this question:

“Why has there been such a surge of television paranormal programs over the last decade?” It’s a two part answer…

First, the fact is that while the quantity of paranormal shows has surged, it’s mainly been on cable – which itself has surged since the mid 1980s. Comparing the number of “paranormal” hours on TV to the total number of cable TV hours, one might be hard pressed to say that the percentage has increased over the days before cable TV (yes, there were days before cable).

As cable networks and channels developed, there was more and more need for the ever-increasing hours to be filled by…something. Yes, it might have been hard to guess that the number of paranormal shows would be as high as today (and seemingly increasing). But in the pre-cable and early days of cable, who would ever have been able to predict an annual week of programming on one channel devoted to sharks?

The second part of the answer is that the paranormal has been with us on television since the early days. Want to see exceptionally good dramatizations of the paranormal? Get yourself some episodes of One Step Beyond. Anyone old enough to remember the exceptional show In Search Of… from the 1970s? Or the first TV show to have a parapsychologist as main character (The Sixth Sense, which later re-ran in edited form on Night Gallery)? Or the real deal investigator, Kolchak: The Night Stalker (the one with Darren McGavin). There was even a short-lived game show in the early days of TV called ESP, and numerous sitcoms with ghostly characters (such as Topper, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, My Mother the Car, to name but a few).

In the 1990s, a show ran for several years covering the unexplained that included a focus on several paranormal investigators (myself included) who investigated with the lights on (No nightshot! How shocking!). That show, Sightings, did a great job (though edited down) of portraying our interactions with people who had paranormal problems – I say “our,” because I did several episodes of the show and helped launch their initial Sightings: Ghosts special, as did my colleague Kerry Gaynor.

And of course, we can’t ignore a key show that ran before, during and after Sightings that featured unexplained/paranormal topics from time to time – Unsolved Mysteries.

Perhaps other than Scooby Doo, there were no team-centered supposed “reality” or “documentary” shows such as today, but that was not for want of trying. I’ve been involved in a number of proposals and pitches for team-centered ghost investigation shows since Ghostbusters (yes, since the mid 80s), and even a couple of pilots before the current crop of shows.

But for whatever reason, the timing was not right, the networks wanted a cheaper show, we refused to fake things, our psychic wasn’t young and pretty enough (or blonde enough, in one case), we didn’t want to do demons (even though they insisted we also be “scientific”), and so on and so on.

In point of fact, a TV pilot I was involved in both on and off camera was shopped around in the early to mid 1990s featuring a team of investigators (folks I pulled together) called Haunted America (Abbitt-Prest Productions, 1993/1994), and there were several good nibbles, including for syndication. Unfortunately, they wanted a cheaper show, etc., etc. [Note: watch this space for an announcement in a couple of months about the release of Haunted America for home viewing]

To this day, I still hear from producers, have been involved in numerous proposals and pitches, and a couple of pilots, and expect this will continue.

I do welcome contact from producers, since I do still hold out hope (however unlikely), that some network will actually be interested in quality, and in presenting the ghost/haunting/poltergeist experiences (the ghost story we’re actually investigating) in a way that captures the true drama of the situation.

Sadly, I’ve been approached time and again to help develop something “different” or “closer to what parapsychologists actually do and find” or “more scientific,” even at the request of the network, only to have the network turn down the idea in favor of some other production company’s copy-cat of one of the current crop of ghost hunting shows.

I’ve been doing TV on this subject since 1983, and radio before that. I’ve done hundreds of TV shows and news interviews, thousands of radio (broadcast and internet) and podcasts and appeared in thousands of print interviews and articles. I’ve consulted on numerous TV projects (including some episodes of TV dramas and comedies) and even some movies. I say all this because it provides some basis for those who may not know me to ask “who the hell is this guy and why is he qualified to comment on TV and other media?”

But I also know TV and radio from another angle: growing up in the industry. My father (producer) and one of his brothers (director) worked in TV, another uncle was a radio newscaster and taught radio broadcasting, and both my brothers are in the industry (one in TV, the other in film). I grew up behind the scenes of television broadcasting and intended to work with the medium to try to change people’s opinions and perspectives (and perceptions) of psychic phenomena as I entered the field of Parapsychology – at least a little.

Will the increase in paranormal shows continue?

Certainly, as long as there’s an audience, and more and hours to fill on cable.

Will the quality of the portrayals of the experiences, phenomena, or investigations and research ever get better?

Not until the viewing public expresses more vocal interest in that, and supports whatever show first tries to venture into the actual arena of research and investigation of paranormal/psychic phenomena.

Though I can still hope, can’t I?

“How are you different from the TV ghost hunters/investigators?”

When Ghostbusters came out in 1984, the most common question I was asked by media people (and so many others) was an important one: “We know real parapsychologists don’t do what the guys in Ghostbusters did, so what do you do?”  That question was the absolute best one folks in Parapsychology could be asked, and allowed us to respond with clear answers that we could contrast against the fantasy of the methodology, equipment and phenomena from the film.

Prior to that, the media seemed to always ask “Can you take us to a place like the house in The Amityville Horror…with stuff flying around and walls bleeding?” Or “Can you discuss cases you’ve had like the girl in The Exorcist?” Or even “How much of the movie Poltergeist was based in reality?” I had lots of pat answers for those questions, and being more of a New Yorker early in my career, many of them were more than a little sarcastic.

These days, thanks to so much paranormal TV, I’m constantly asked either how much our investigations “resemble the folks on TV?” or “how much of what’s on TV is faked?” Those questions come often from folks in television themselves. Considering the fact that for the most part, what one sees on the screen is under the control (and editing) of the producers not the investigators, that’s actually a pretty odd question to come from others in the same business.

If you’ve read any of my books, heard me speak on the numerous podcasts and radio shows I’ve done, or explored the material on this website, it should be clear that what parapsychologists do when conducting field investigations is somewhat resembled by what people see on television, but that there are dramatic differences. Rarely does the media rarely goes into any depth of coverage (if at all). These range from:

  1. How we approach the cases: always starting with and staying with people’s experiences.
  2. How we use equipment: it’s for looking at potential connections between the environment, the experiences and the phenomena, not to detect anything paranormal.
  3. How we do not conduct our investigations in the dark: partly because that’s not when most folks are experiencing things and partly because it’s been shown quite clearly and repeatedly that people are terrible observers in the dark.
  4. How we base our work in the work of our predecessors: most ghost hunters seem blithely unaware that a) there’s a real history of investigation, documented, back to the late 1800s and b) there’s a field of science, Parapsychology, that deals with the research and investigation of these phenomena and experiences and c) how ghosts, hauntings and poltergeists relate to each other and more importantly, to other psi phenomena (ESP and PK).
  5. How with family-based cases especially, where the goal of helping the family/individuals in their reported paranormal situation/experiences is more important, ethically, than following scientific data-gathering protocols. In other words, many of our investigations end up being more artful than scientific, even though there’s decades of science behind them.

Want to know more? I am teaching an online course on Investigations of Apparitions, Hauntings, and Poltergeists for the Rhine Research Center beginning January 30th, 2013. For more information, including a syllabus, go to http://www.rhineeducationcenter.org/edu/ — pass the course and become part of my own network of investigators.

Or consider a self-paced distance learning course (or our entire series of courses) with the mp3 based Parapsychological Studies Program classes offered by HCH Institute. Visit http://www.hypnotherapytraining.com/parapsych.cfm  Again, work through the courses (mainly the investigations course), and become part of my own network of investigators — and much more.

Or consider a mentoring session, one-on-one, with me via phone or Skype. Email me at profparanormal@gmail.com for more information.

 

 

Guest post: The Academic Route to Parapsychology

The Academic Route to Professional Parapsychology

Guest post by Linda Forshaw

At first glance you might be forgiven for thinking that mainstream science and parapsychology have little in common. Indeed a bias against acceptance of the validity of parapsychological research has often led to the closure of academic parapsychology laboratories in the U.S.

Although there are still a number of private institutions and organizations conducting parapsychological research, just two public universities in the U.S. currently have laboratories of this kind: The Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health at the University of Arizona and the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia, and no colleges or universities have degree programs in the field of Parapsychology in the United States.

So how does one become a professional parapsychologist with limited study opportunities available? Perhaps surprisingly, the answer could actually lie with mainstream science. One possible route to a professional career in the field of parapsychology is similar to that of the study of any academic field – in that it typically involves between two and three stages.

The first stage many students will undertake is that of a Bachelors degree; typically in psychology, but may also be within the fields of physics or cultural anthropology. The length of study is three to four years. The second (optional) stage is that of a Masters of Science/Masters of Art degree studied for a period of between one and two years. The third (also optional) stage is that of a Doctoral degree (Ph.D). Most already in the field strongly suggest either the M.S./M.A. or Ph.D. to move into the field.

Some students will have encountered some opportunity to take courses in parapsychology during the Bachelors and Masters stages, as there are a number of colleges and universities and a few reputable organizations that offer a course in or related to the subject. In some Masters’ programs, work can be directed at a parapsychological topic, provided at least some faculty are open to the subject’s exploration. However, it is mainly during the three to five year Doctoral stage that the majority of opportunities to focus on parapsychology will occur.

It’s a not insignificant commitment that can involve up to eleven years of study. With that level of commitment in mind it goes without saying that a parapsychology student should be fully committed and sure of their interest in the field. There are a number of ways in which this can be achieved.

A must is to read “An Introduction to Parapsychology” by Harvey Irwin and Caroline Watt (5th Edition, 2007). Covering subjects including extrasensory perception, psychokinesis, reincarnation, and poltergeist experiences, the book offers an excellent all-round introduction to parapsychology from an academic perspective and is considered the core text for many teaching in the field of parapsychology.

It is also important to stay abreast of current developments from relevant professional bodies. The Parapsychological Association is an excellent place to start. Founded in 1957, publications of interest include the Mindfield Bulletin and the Journal of Parapsychology. Aspirational guidelines concerning ethical and professional standards for parapsychologists are also provided.

Also worth considering is how the Internet has opened up the possibility for students to take distance learning courses from institutions based both in the U.S. and overseas. A number of universities in the U.K. actually have Parapsychology offered on-site, and it’s likely online versions of the course will follow. Atlantic University in Virginia Beach, VA, currently offers one course online, for academic or continuing education credit, though it can also be taken by anyone even if no credit is needed.

One of the most highly recommended of such distance learning courses is “An Introduction to Parapsychology,” taught by the internationally respected Koestler Parapsychology Unit at the University of Edinburgh in the U.K. Closer to home is The Rhine Research Center, which, through its various research methodologies, seeks to bridge the gap between science and spirituality, and offers recommended online courses through its Education Center. Other non-academic courses are taught via distance learning by parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach through HCH Institute.

Throughout one’s academic studies – even if one does not get the opportunity to do parapsychological research as part of a Masters’ or Doctorate program – students should make their interest known to those in the field, through the various organizations like the Parapsychological Association and Rhine Research Center, as well as smaller institutes such as the Windbridge Institute and related groups like the Forever Family Foundation, and in the U.K. with the Society for Psychical Research.

Following academic studies, it’s most important to become active in some way with the organizations and foundations, and to attend professional conferences such as those offered by some of the organizations mentioned above, in order to find opportunities for moving directly into the field.

Clearly, and unfortunately, there is no quick route to becoming a professional parapsychologist, but those who are sufficiently determined to do so stand to enjoy an extremely interesting and diverse career path.

Author Bio

Linda Forshaw is a Business Information Systems graduate from Lancaster University in the UK. A leading contributor to Degree Jungle, Linda is also a full time writer and blogger specializing in education, social media, and entrepreneurship. Contact her on Twitter @seelindaplay