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:
- How we approach the cases: always starting with and staying with people’s experiences.
- How we use equipment: it’s for looking at potential connections between the environment, the experiences and the phenomena, not to detect anything paranormal.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.