What are you looking for?
As many of us know that pass up on sleep in order to try and gain an understanding of those elusive haunted locations around the world, often we head home with more questions than we first arrived with. The paranormal field for me has always done this and each time I feel I find an answer, ten more questions come to mind off the back of the discovery of that one answer. However this may be the very thing that keeps us fuelled on energy drinks and giving up that all important nights sleep. The problem is though that there often becomes a point where you come to a conclusion that the approach may not be benefiting your progress after all. At least that’s something I came to realise over the years.
It’s at this point that generally we begin to question exactly what we may be looking for and why!
A particular term (and I’ve mentioned this before I know) that I am beginning to hear more and more recently is; that many ghost hunters out there just appear to be doing the same old that they’ve been doing for years and in fact; things in the field haven’t really moved forward since the Victorian era. As much as this may be correct it couldn’t be more from the truth and oddly is only based within the ghost hunter community itself. Perhaps within the spiritual field too.
This is really where as an individual and to an extent a team you must begin to ask what it is exactly you are looking for whilst you are giving up you hours of sleep?
Let me explain a little from my own perspective. When I first began to do overnight investigations I started from an understanding that I would aim to debunk in order to leave anything unknown as anomalous phenomena. What happened though was that whilst debunking I found more questions along the way. Part of this approach was to gather ‘evidence’ or at least what we called ‘evidence’ back then. I am of course referring to audio, video and photographic captures, which is something that has become common place representation of ‘evidence’ especially thanks to the boom in paranormal reality TV shows.
In fact it was these three types of ‘evidence’ that helped me to see that as a matter of fact they are far from categorical evidence of the paranormal at all. You see I managed to capture two things during some of my investigations; 1) crystal clear audio or EVP, and 2) video of a moving object. Both of these communicate as being fantastic proof of Paranormal activity by todays comprehension of the ghost hunting approach we have been made all so familiar of thanks to those reality TV shows. The problem was something I hadn’t been expecting at that time, but comprehend much better now. Both elements were rigorously questioned and alternatives were presented which placed the ‘evidence’ I had into question, in fact it highlighted them as being very weak evidence of the paranormal. Now I am sure there maybe individuals or teams out there reading this thinking that perhaps they may be able to provide better ‘evidence’ to support the paranormal in the form of audio, photographic or video. However let me just say, what you know about a piece of ‘evidence’ needs to be beyond doubt when it is comprehended by others that were not present when the said ‘evidence’ was captured. I guarantee that those not present will always have more questions and will be less likely to accept what you have captured, which in reality is how it should be.
This for me, this presented the question ‘what are you looking for exactly?’
A personal experience is okay too…
Over the years one thing I have realised is that although I enjoy the research and searching for solid answers, from time to time I do enjoy a good old fashioned ghost hunt. Now I often approach these in a couple of ways, which is often defined by whether its my investigation or an investigation ran by a friend where they wish to obtain good data; or its an event someone else is running.
I often like to just join a group or head out on a Paranormal event to visit a public location that has had reports of various paranormal activity over the years. It is actually these such events which may lead to me returning to a location to conduct my own more in depth investigation later on. These kind of events are excellent for allowing yourself to simply immerse yourself in the location and its potential haunting. This is usually the time where experience is the more likely result rather than something a little more solid. That said personally, and this is only a personal choice, I still like to jot down a few notes in my journal.
Anomalous experiences after all are where Paranormal research and investigation may begin, understanding what someone believes had occurred somewhere and then looking deeper into that occurrence to gain a better understanding is where my research once began.
The problem I find and this is perhaps a personal thing too being I do love a bit of data, is that often those personal experiences are not documented properly and remain events in memory alone. Alternatively only part of the experience is documented leaving out fundamental details, which when questioned often end up discounting the experience.
Remember its those experiences that if they are documented and analysed properly could help us understand a locations activity or even activity as a whole. Which is why it’s so important to gather some information, if you do experience something.
I know that if your aim is an experience and you’re not really concerned with an understanding or even documenting then that is absolutely fine. At the end of the day we spend our lives having experiences and learning new things, so if that is your approach then to be quite frank that life.
I guess for me I am always thinking about various elements of the paranormal, so even an experience is documented to help with that comprehension of how it all works. Which is why I tend to keep notes on my investigations and experiences on a regular basis.
Searching for evidence and meaning…
Of course if you’re looking for a little more than a random experience that if you’re like me leaves you with a tonne more questions than when you started out, then you are probably trying to find some evidence or meaning in the Paranormal.
Let’s return to that earlier statement about approaches not having moved on since the Victorian era. This is actually extremely far from the truth. Ghost Hunters utilise all kinds of tech these days in order to discover elements of the paranormal, where back in the day the approaches were relatively limited. However the approaches adopted by modern day ghost hunters are on the surface appearing a little stagnant these days.
One of the problems is something I am going to call; ‘the reality TV format mirror approach’! Basically this means that the team or organisation approach their ghost hunt from the perspective similar to that of a TV show. They walk the location discussing its history and activity, then they setup equipment, conduct vigils and then pack up and conclude. This isn’t a bad approach in reality, personally back in the day my investigations followed a very similar structure and it was one that many were happy with. However if change is to occur then perhaps these approaches need to be evaluated and new ones proposed.
Whilst looking for good data and understating within an investigation, one approach that I adopted at smaller locations (especially free ones) was to focus the investigation in one area/room for the night or even bring in approaches such as seances to bridge the gap between the spiritual and the science. These more focused approaches would make documenting the location and events more easier too. Especially as you can cover off the variables in a small area easier and keep an eye on one room much easier.
The problem is cost in regards to most of the locations many of us seek to investigate, you simply couldn’t justify paying for a location and only focussing on one room. Which is a shame, but we understand why the places charge as they do. Well in most cases we do as its to assist with the upkeep and maintenance of a historic location, which we are lucky enough to explore in quiet of night. Granted there may be some out there that the intentions for their high changes may fall into question, but the simple answer is if you don’t like or cant afford it, don’t pay it!
Sometimes the answers aren’t in the dark…
I would like to finish this particular post by highlighting a place that has provided me with more information on the subject of the paranormal than any overnight investigation ever. I am of course referring to the library and the extensive amount of resources that are out there available to those with an interest in the field of the Paranormal.
These days, a little like the odd tech a modern day ghost hunter may have, a library isn’t just a building in the centre of your town governed over by a stern librarian that peers over her glasses at you as you head towards the Paranormal section. Our local libraries are much more interactive and modernised, there is a tonne of online information if you search beyond Wikipedia and there are many academic resources that provide access to some very interesting information.
For example; back in the late 1800 the SPR conducted a census of hallucinations in order to gain a better understanding of anomalous phenomena. Bearing in mind that their use of the term ‘hallucinations’ didn’t mean that people were seeing things due to mental illness as we often associate it today, but more along gathering information on the things people had seen which were not physically present. ‘Phantasms of the Living’ was published around this time by the SPR and discussed more than 600 cases of apparitions probably linked to telepathy. Think about that for a second, 600 cases discussed in one place. That as a resource to build on nowadays is fantastic.
The point I am trying to make here is simple; if you wish to progress the field then you need to build on what has actually already been achieved. Those achievements are not by the popular TV shows, although they have brought more to the field which is great. The advancements were made by the giants of science, the fellows of the SPR and Ghost Club alike as they built the foundations of the field and research approaches. However that has now been picked up by more and more universities pushing the boundaries of research into the field of psi. I remember the day I read my first Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, I immediately thought I had to up my game and do so much more in order to become published in such a journal.
So, as you investigate in a darkened historic location, simply ask; what do you truly seek?