Loosely based conclusions
Whilst some are driven by their beliefs and others their desire to understand, we often see a large variation in what is considered to be conclusions within the ghost hunting or paranormal investigation community. These conclusion are often quick decisions based on little data or information, making them realistically weak should they be placed under scrutiny or review.
However, it would seem that in many cases these conclusions are not reached by proper research or experimentation, but as a means to follow formats that have been presented as the norm by TV shows. We have likely seen it in many of the shows, where after their investigation they we provide an overview of the captured ‘evidence’ and then communicate their conclusions. As Ghost Hunters we often fall into this trap, I certainly did with many of my early investigations, where you feel obliged to provide some kind of conclusion based on your limited number of hours of investigation at the location. Take into consideration that you’re also working then with a bias of such, as you’ve likely arrived with the plan to either draw conclusions based on that one visit that will determine the answer to a question; is the location haunted? As I mentioned, this was my plan too when I used to run investigations, investigate the location – analyse what we found – write it up and end with a conclusion that looked at that very question. There were the odd occasions where I remained very much on the fence, but these were often met by others with slight conflict, asking me politely to dismount the fence and make a decision. It was something that quickly began to trouble me, as in my own opinion we lacked the data and information, sometimes even experiences to determine either way. This oddly led to me questioning the concept of a haunting too, asking what it actually was and trying to determine factors that would help with the decisioning making process.
Perhaps this is what troubles me these days, is that every location appears to be haunted and these conclusions are based on subjective reasoning, but worse still they are often based on social acceptance. As a community, few people stand against others pointing out that there is a lack of true evidence to support a particular location being haunted at all.
The literature I have read more recently on the subject; including the ‘Guidance Notes for Investigators of Spontaneous Cases‘ by Steven T. Parsons; suggest drawing conclusions on individual aspects, but being cautious when it comes to making an overall conclusion. For example, you may conclude that a high EMF reading in the basement is not paranormal and is actually being generated by the mains power supply; or the spooky knocks that the person is hearing is the water pipes perhaps. You may equally conclude that there doesn’t appear to be an explanation for the sound of footsteps everyone heard. Singular events that lack explanation at the time, should be determined unexplained, rather than the cause being a ghost. This presents us with a few unexplained events then, rather than events that potentially related to a haunting. That way if we do desire to present a conclusion of sort, it may contain that there were a few unexplained events that require further investigation, analysis, experimentation; before we can further comprehend exactly what their cause was.
Whilst its fun to attribute a location the title of haunted, if we are to be serious investigators we should focus on objectivity and seek out more solid grounds to provide explanations.
Sometimes even history is wrong
Recently I watch a documentary series on Disney Plus (I got it for the kids honest and it has nothing to do with Star Wars or Marvel) about the Maya and how recent technological advances using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR). The archaeologists were using LiDAR to scan the jungle for previously undiscovered settlements of the Maya people in order to investigate them. This amazing technology would allow them to remove the jungle layer revealing the shape of the ground and where there were settlements or man made structures they could determine their position and head there to investigate. Although there wasn’t a Fedora in sight, these guys were using it as a modern day treasure map to the Maya settlements. They even downloaded the data onto an iPad and used it to generate Augmented Reality, so they could see where the structures were when they were close. I found it fascinating of course.
The point here being that this new approach for them revealed hundreds (I think) of brand new settlements previously undiscovered, as well as additions they didn’t know about current ones. It also revealed connections between some too, which suggested even more to the Maya story. The new information they gained from this new technology was fascinating, it has literally re-written the history books, because what they previously concluded based on the limited data they had has now been changed. This new data provides a new perspective on their work regarding the Maya civilisation.
Sometimes even our perception of history based on what we thought we knew can change rapidly with the introduction of new technology or approaches.
Could we apply an Agile approach
This all got me thinking in regards to our approaches to investigations, currently we have a few variations of the same approach. Some more controlled than others. Some certainly more scientific than others and others believe their scientific and probably are not. I think we have all got caught in the moment and been too excited to follow good protocol.
On the aspects of project management I have been reading up about in relation to my day job; is the Agile Scrum Method. In this you have a main goal or primary objective; say its create a piece of software. That goal or epic is broken down into stories, smaller chunks to make everything easier to handle, but more important so you can ascertain a balance between what you can deliver and what your customer would like first. Think they call that ‘bang for your buck’ if memory serves. Once you understand the top items you then proceed to a sprint to work on and deliver those items. All the while you have regular updates to ensure that you’re on track and this is important, because the plan can change if needed to.
The idea being that everyone involved is focused on their tasks and help collectively to move things forwards.
Why am I talking about this, because this could be applied to ghost hunting / paranormal investigation in my opinion. Think about it – the main goal is to investigate a location that has had reports of paranormal activity; that is our epic. We break that down into stories, but for the paranormal investigation that almost becomes literal. The stories would be the reports that link certain type of activity to a certain place within the location. We can then look at those stories to ascertain which may yield the greatest results. This can simply be achieved by analysing the previous reports for that story or activity and then seeing if it holds higher or lower value to another place within the location. The higher value targets become your main concern and focus for your first investigation (or your sprint). After each vigil you re-assess where you are and what you’re focussing on and adjust your investigation accordingly.
This means you have to start with a plan to begin with when you first arrive at a location, but it also means that its possible to change that plan as you move along. However, you must still capture that data, personal experiences and any other information as those would feed into your scrums after each vigil and then determine your next step.
If you like the sound of this approach – please comment below and I will dedicate a post and some time to designing some proper instructions around how it might work. Personally I think it makes sense in regards to ghost hunting and paranormal investigation; especially as I often hear ‘its hard to plan investigations in detail, as they can change during the night itself.’ So, if that’s the case, lets not allow the night to rule us, lets approach using the Agile methodology and capture the data to drive the investigation.
Be cautious of your conclusions
Remember though, no matter what approach you take you investigation in, please lets start being cautious with our conclusions and ensure that we are making informed decisions based on the data. Defining whether a location is haunted is often a given in our field, but as we still have little knowledge that really comprehends what that means are we being true to the term investigation if we make conclusions based on subjective information and experience alone?