Over the years I have been fortunate to have carried out many exciting paranormal investigations. Some have been downright terrifying, others have been very subtle, and some have turned out to be nothing more than a case of misinterpretation. But each and every one of them have been a great adventure. My only regret is that I was never “apprenticed”, no one showed me the way and, so, I taught myself.
A quick search on the internet these days will reveal many websites that tell you how to conduct a paranormal investigation, what equipment you should take, and – very importantly – how to keep yourself safe. But what few do is tell you what to do with the data you collect.
I have always been a believer in the scientific study of the paranormal which, as one of my friends pointed out, is something of a contradiction in terms as you cannot scientifically study that which is not scientific. It may be prudent to state that I will undertake a scientific study of anomalous phenomena but, since I don’t want to intrude on the good work of the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP) and I can’t be bothered to type: anomalous phenomena all of the time, I will stick with: the paranormal.
So, why should you read what I have to say about conducting paranormal investigations? Well, I recognise that it is a very exciting past-time and people do get a great deal of pleasure from visiting paranormal locations. I can’t help myself from popping in to the Edinburgh Vaults, or making a quick detour to look at a ruined hall whenever I am on my travels, but unless we, as paranormal investigators, take something back from each of those visits then we are nothing more than tourists. I have seen many “investigations” take place where the participants run around shrieking at shadows, but never formulate any sort of conclusion. Thorough and scientific study can lead to a wider knowledge and understanding of what goes on in our world.
Consider the family, a young family, who every night when they are laid in their beds hear footsteps in the attic. The two young children, afraid to close their eyes in case some apparition appears to steal their life, never sleep. They cry out to their parents in the next room who spend hours comforting them and they, in turn, spend the rest of the day in a state of permanent exhaustion. At their wits end, they consult with a paranormal investigator. The investigator has a very professional looking website and brings along boxes of equipment – digital thermometers, EMF meters, video cameras and so on. Yes, the family think, here is someone who knows what they are doing.
The investigator spends the night at the house, waving his EMF meter around like it’s some ghost detector, and then he hears the first strange sound and dashes to the attic hatch with his video camera – capturing the noise. This continues all night and, when the sun rises, one very excited paranormal investigator proclaims to the family: “Well, it certainly seems as if you have a ghost in your attic!”
So, how does that help the family? They end up no better off, some might argue that they are worse off. Do they sell their house? Get in an exorcist? Whatever they choose to do, they are left with it. And what does the paranormal investigator do? He uploads his “evidence” onto his website for all to see what a great investigator he is, because he found “proof” of a ghost.
Now, some might start rubbing their chins and say: “Hmmm, Robert Johns, he’s one of those sceptics. He doesn’t believe…” So, perhaps I need to give you a bit of my background:
I lived in a house as a child where I used to lie awake at night and listen to footsteps in my attic. My dog was scared to enter the house when we first moved in, my dad had to drag her in, and she certainly wouldn’t stay in the front room! There was a feeling of being watched all the time and many times when my family were out and I was the only person in the house I would stay in my armchair, watching television, too scared to move because I thought there was something stood behind me. My house had once been the village undertaker’s shop. The garage had great woodworking benches where coffins had been made and the front room had been where the deceased had been laid out before their last Earthly journey. I believed that my house was haunted by a ghost. Maybe even a collection of ghosts. But I believed in ghosts and I still do.
But now, I wish I could return to that house and study the phenomena with a scientific mind. Because what I would do is eliminate all possibilities as to what caused those footsteps in the attic, and the feeling of being watched. I would use scientific methods to try to identify what is really going on because if I find out that the footsteps are caused by vibrations from a nearby road or railway then those parents can tell their children not to be scared at night and every one has a better quality of life, and I can provide an explanation for the previously unexplained. But also, if I fail to find what has caused those noises and feelings then, as Sherlock Holmes once said: “when you have eliminated all possibilities, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”. It is at this point, and only at this point, where you should then deduce that the problem is caused by a ghost. This should be your duty, as a paranormal investigator.
Throughout this page I will share with you methodology, equipment, research methods, and some of my own case studies to illustrate how a scientific approach should be used. Don’t get me wrong, you will still have fun conducting your investigations, you will just have better investigations.