Recently, I (Loyd Auerbach) was interviewed via e-mail by a Bay Area High School student, Here are his questions and my answers.
1. Do you have to go to school to become a paranormal investigator?
There’s no formal training or education for a “paranormal investigator.” In fact, there are currently very few courses in Parapsychology, the field of study that includes apparitions, hauntings and poltergeists, and really only one place to get an advanced degree in the field. In general, it is imperative that an individual who wants to be a paranormal investigator receive a good education, especially one that includes some education in psychology, anthropology, and the physical sciences. It is also essential that a paranormal investigator be well read in the literature of the field of Parapsychology and understands how psychic experiences and research are connected to ghostly experiences and investigations. [Note: See article on “Education in Parapsychology” below]
2. What made you want to become involved with parapsychology?
I’ve been interested in psychic experiences and abilities and in ghosts since I was very little. You could say it’s because of watching too much TV (like THE TWILIGHT ZONE, ONE STEP BEYOND, STAR TREK and especially a 70s show called THE SIXTH SENSE), as well as comic books and science fiction novels.It was really the daily soap DARK SHADOWS that pushed my interests into reading more about parapsychology, psychic abilities, and supernatural folklore. I was lucky enough to have a couple of teachers in high school also interested in the subject, one of whom sponsored a group of us for a Parapsychology club.
Even better was the fact that in the New York area, where I grew up, there were a number of parapsychologists for us to meet and talk with.
3. What would you consider as scientific evidence of a ghosts existence?
The best evidence comes from people (witnesses). A ghost is consciousness, and unfortunately there’s no physical evidence for consciousness among the living other than our own behaviors and thoughts. That means that while we’re trying to confirm something unusual with technology, the only way to study consciousness, whether it is consciousness of the living or dead, is by the experiences of people.Parapsychology is primarily a social science, though we try to bring in measuring tools of the physical sciences.The best cases are those where there are multiple witnesses and information provided by the ghost that can be later verified.
4. I am sure you get asked this a lot, but have you ever seen a ghost?
Most people think that the only ghost encounters are visual. But people also hear ghosts (voices, movements, footsteps), smell scents associated with them (like perfume, cologne), and even feel something (cold, a presence, or even the feeling of being touched). Some people experience one of these, but many experience more than one at a time.I have not seen or heard a ghost, but I have been “touched” by more than a couple, felt presences on occasions where others have seen a ghost, and even smelled a scent associated with a friend who’d recently died.
5. Can a ghost harm you?
Their appearances can frighten people because people think ghosts are dangerous, which can lead to people hurting themselves. Ghosts are just consciousness — mental energy — and when we perceive anything (see, hear, feel, smell), it is just that — a perception. Think of it this way: the ghost “sends” the information about himself or herself into your mind. Your mind makes sense of it — perceives it — and converts it into sights, sounds, smells, or feelings. But nothing a ghost does directly can hurt you.
6. What is the worst spirit you can come across?
Somebody with a bad personality, the kind of person who’d bug you or you would find offensive or even unlikable if he or she was alive. They can annoy, but not harm you.
7. How do you get rid of ghosts exactly?
This depends on the situation. See my article “A Ghostly Review” below, go to the Office of Paranormal Investigations section of this website (http://www.mindreader.com/opi) for more in depth info on apparitions, hauntings and poltergeists and how we deal with them.
8. What skills do you think are most valuable when working on a paranormal investigating team?
Interviewing skills and counseling skills — in other words, the skills needed to deal with the witnesses. Also knowledge of how the world works (so you can eliminate unusual but normal explanations).
9. What do you use to detect ghosts?
The best detectors are actually human beings. When a person senses or perceives something unusual, we can ask questions about those perceptions, and categorize the experience.We do also use some technology, such as magnetic field detectors (magnetometers), temperature sensors, microwave detectors, infra-red detection devices of varying types, cameras, tape recorders and the like. But, for anything unusual on any technological detector to be considered evidence, we must question the reading (like we question people’s experiences), look for other sources/causes of the reading (which we do with people’s experiences) and consider a couple of other factors. An unusual reading or picture in the environment is just an anomaly. It’s just “unusual” and can’t be considered related to a spirit or ghost or to a haunting unless 1) the location is one where human beings have experienced things we call apparitions or hauntings, OR 2) a human being (preferably more than one) is having an apparitional or haunting experience at approximately the same time as the readings/photos are showing as unusual.
10. What is your favorite haunted site?
I have a few in Northern California: the aircraft carrier USS Hornet in Alameda, the Moss Beach Distillery Restaurant in Moss Beach, CA and the Banta Inn in Banta (Tracy), CA.
11. What do you enjoy most about your job?
The great ghost stories I hear and the unusual experiences I sometimes have. Also, figuring out the mystery: what’s really behind the encounters.
12. Do you think that phrase “seeing is believing” is true?
Sometimes. When people see a ghost, whether they believe it or not will depend on many other belief factors and the emotional state they’re in when they have the experience. I know many people who, when they experienced a ghost, began believing, but these were people who were somewhat open to the idea of life after death and to the concept of apparitions.
I know others who so strongly disbelieve that if a ghost appeared in front of them and tried talking to them, they’d completely ignore what was going on or later would toss the experience away as “a trick” or “a waking dream” or some such “nonsense.”
13. What is the worst part about your job?
1) That there’s no funding to doing research on apparitions, hauntings and other phenomena that happens outside the laboratory and 2) many of the people who call me for help are psychologically disturbed and there’s little I can do to help them other than to refer them on to psychologists.