Ghost Hunting

Ghost Hunting

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Photo courtesy of www.ghostoutlet.com

Photo courtesy of www.ghostoutlet.com

By Kris Sedersten

(Originally posted on her website on October 31, 2012: http://www.krissedersten.com/ghost-hunting)

Ghost hunting, or paranormal investigating as it is commonly called, is a rapidly growing, worldwide phenomenon. Adventurous pseudo-scientists painstakingly record and review evidence of the paranormal while chasing the spirit world. They utilize a wide variety of scientific equipment to support the existence of ghostly beings.

The demographics of the enthusiastic pursuers of the afterlife cross all the usual boundaries. Ghost hunters are culturally diverse, young and old, male and female, upper and middle class and white collar and blue collar workers combined. There is no stereotypical picture of a paranormal investigator, and anyone can join the hunt. There are no clear cut rules for either avid researchers, or curiosity seekers who are trying out a new hobby.

However, serious ghost hunters are very particular about what types of evidence they put out as factual proof of a haunting. Amateurs should be careful about what they choose to display to the world as actual evidence of the paranormal. Those who consider themselves to be the real deal are on a mission to present clear and irrefutable evidence to the skeptics of the world that the paranormal truly exists. Hoaxes and questionable pieces of evidence damage the credibility of the entire community. It might be wise to keep smiley faced orbs to yourself.

The upsurge in popularity of the paranormal has been spurred on by the numerous reality shows about ghost hunting on television, celebrity ghost stories and the growing acceptance of unexplained phenomenon in today’s culture. The concept is no longer taboo in most circles and has become essentially mainstreamed in the media.

Related industry and celebrated ghost tours have enjoyed an overall increase in popularity, as well. In some major cities, ghost tours have almost doubled in size since 2006. Haunted hotels, historical sites and other locations frequented by the dearly departed have become solidly booked tourist attractions.

One survey conducted in 2008 by the Associated Press and Ipsos reported a full 34% of Americans believe in ghosts. A Gallup poll conducted in 2005 showed one third, 32%, said they believed, which indicates the numbers are on the rise. Other surveys cite the belief in haunted houses as one of the more compelling items on the test. Evidently, everyone loves a haunted house.

Ghost hunters utilize a wide variety of tools of the trade to aid in their quest to prove the paranormal is real. The equipment ranges in price and sophistication from the ridiculously simple to the outrageously complex—and expensive. Most items are easily accessible and can be purchased at the hardware store or from online ghost hunting equipment shops.

Common LED flashlights, digital and mercury thermometers, walkie-talkies and motion detectors are staples in most ghost hunting kits. EMF (electromagnetic field) detectors are fairly inexpensive tools, as well. These small but mighty gadgets pick up electrical fields at varying frequencies. Paranormal research theories perpetuate the belief that spiritual energy will create changes in electromagnetic fields as it manifests itself in the environment. Unfortunately, so will man-made electricity. Some investigators use a simple compass as a back up to the EMF detector because it will also react to changes in the Earth’s magnetic field and remains unaffected by modern sources of electricity.

More complex, high dollar equipment can be incorporated into the array of ghost hunting gadgets, such as infrared thermal imaging devices or scanners used to enable the investigator to view temperature variations from a distance. They may also use ion counters that measure positive and negative ions in the air that serve to capture anomalous conditions in the haunted environment.

One can purchase white noise generators and computer software designed to enhance EVP’s (electromagnet voice phenomenon) in conjunction with laptops and tablet PC’s. The EVP’s are purported to be spirit sounds or voices that operate on sound frequencies not audible to the human ear. They can only be heard when audio recording devices are played at a later time. Most EVP’s are widely open to interpretation, but they can be tons of fun, and extremely compelling, even to the untrained ear.  Nothing says “Boo!” like a good EVP.

In contrast to the scientific route of collecting evidence, some paranormal investigating teams are more metaphysically minded and choose to use mystic methods of communicating with the dead. They may defer to Reike Masters, dowsing rods, old-fashioned séances or psychic mediums in their quest for answers. Demonologists and members of the clergy may even be asked to lend a helping hand in extreme cases of negative spiritual energy.

Yet other teams use a combination of all of the above in their quest for answers. Whatever the methodology, a healthy dose of skepticism is a necessary component for any ghost hunting crew. Finding real world answers and debunking claims of spiritual activity is a huge part of the process. Sorting out very simple logical explanations from extraordinary evidence requires a rational attitude and the heart of a skeptic.

Some paranormal researchers report that greater than 90 % of paranormal claims can be debunked by an experienced team of investigators. Most often, things that go bump in the night can be easily removed by any number of real world problem solving techniques—and plumbers or electricians. But, it is the other 10% that keep the crafty ghost hunters going back for more.

Many profound personal experiences with the paranormal are just that. They are profoundly personal and occur spontaneously, and involve the senses of touch or smell in addition to sight and hearing. It can be impossible to adequately share that type of personal experience with others, except by verbal description. Sometimes the sensory perceptions have no particular significance to anyone other than the one who experiences it, and even then it is easier to pass an unexplainable incident off as random cosmic coincidence rather than to consider spiritual explanations.

I don’t believe science will ever confirm the existence of ghosts in the physical world. No scientific link has ever been provided thus far despite the feverish attempts of the world’s ghost hunters to provide one. Scientific methodology is not likely to effectively provide that link. Ghosts do not act on command. Most often when an amazing paranormal event is captured on video or audio equipment, it is a one-time-only thing; it isn’t likely to happen again in exactly the same way. That makes it extremely difficult to duplicate results over time. It is impossible to validate studies.

Does that mean ghosts don’t exist? I think that is up to each individual to decide. I believe there are mysteries in our world that we just won’t solve. I understand the curiosity, the desire to explore the unknown, and like many others, I am fascinated by it. But some things are just not meant to be understood in this lifetime. Someday, we will all know what happens to us when we die. Until then, I hope people will keep on exploring, developing new technology and sharing their experiences.

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