Published in the March 2013 issue of The Paranormal Inquiry
Paranormal investigators come in all flavors. Each one has his or her particular style which usually reflects their personality. Some are shy and timid, some are bold and brash. Some like to be the center of attention and some like to stand in the wings observing. I tend to fall in the latter category. On investigations, I will usually lag behind the group or fade into a nearby corner to observe and document on video, not only the potential paranormal events but also the investigators themselves. I find it gives me a more complete picture of what is going on during a suspected event and aids in confirming and/or debunking the nature of the event.
Over the course my many investigations, I have noticed patterns of behaviors and investigative styles of the different investigators I‘ve worked with. Now I’m not about to level any judgments about what’s the right or wrong way to investigate because, until someone comes up with sustainable, scientifically irrefutable proof of the paranormal, they are all potentially the right way. But I have noticed a growing schism in the paranormal community over the past few years that has to do with the way we investigate. In fact I will say it is a function of techniques. It all boils down to the difference between paranormal investigation and paranormal research.
So what is the difference between paranormal investigation and paranormal research? Well, I thought about that for a while and to understand the difference, I think we need to look at the meanings of the words. Webster’s Dictionary’s definition of investigation is "To observe or study by close examination and systematic inquiry". Webster defines research as "Studious inquiry or examination; especially: investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws". Now I can feel some of you pulling away and starting to flip through the pages for that ghost photo, but bear with me for a moment. These definitions illustrate the difference between a paranormal investigation and paranormal research.
Investigations in the paranormal world are isolated events in that they usually take place in a short time span such as one night or even a few hours. Data collecting tends to be random and unstructured, and reported results are brief time-slices of suspected paranormal events, such as a short EVPs, video clips, and single photos. Research, on the other hand, tends to be long, drawn-out, rigidly structured data collection, followed by massive analysis, replication, review, and publication of methods and results. Now these are examples of the extremes of these two paranormal camps, but you can get a feeling for where the division lies. In simplest terms, it’s the cool kids versus the nerds. And in recent years, the nerds are gaining ground. There are many researchers who are making scientific headway and beginning to bridge the gap between our "pseudo-science" and real science. One of these para-nerds who has made major strides is David M Rountree, who has a Masters in Electrical Engineering and is working on his Doctorate in Physics. He is also the author of "Paranormal Technology: Understanding the Science of Ghost Hunting", a book that should be required reading for anyone interested in paranormal research, and the catalyst for the shift in my own paranormal investigation paradigm.
Next month, I will drag you along on my exploration into the world of paranormal science and show you some of the advances in research and technology. Until then, Happy Hunting!