What’s The Deal With Self-Styled Exorcists?

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Ghost Hunters claiming to clear spirits from a property is nothing new and yet many people who offer this nonsense service brand themselves as exorcists and they seem to be as popular as ever. So, what’s the deal?

A survey conducted in 2012 found that 57% of Americans believe in demonic possession. A survey in 2013 showed that 18% of Brits did too. In October 2013 the Pope commended exorcist priests for their fight against “the Devil’s works” and said that the Church needed to help “those possessed by evil.” The Catholic church responded by training more priests to perform exorcisms with a conference last year seeing at least 160 priests in attendance.

It seems that the “cool” new Pope that many people (atheists included) praise for being a more modern version of his predecessors is actually a bit obsessed with the fictional devil. When this man is praised by atheists it makes my skin itch, but that’s another blog post for another day.

“Pope Francis talks about the Devil all the time and that has certainly raised awareness about exorcisms,” Father Cesare Truqui  told The Telegraph, “but all Latin Americans have this sensibility – for them, the existence of the Devil is part of their faith.”

Traditionally people associated ill luck with demonic entities, and as the media modernises and we see news reports from all around the world 24/7 it is easy to see why people may turn to the more traditional aspects of their religion and believe in the work of the devil when they did not before. The world seems like such a darker place when you are constantly bombarded with news of terrorism, war, humanitarian crises, poverty and natural disasters.

Suddenly the darkness that was thousands of miles away is in your living room, invading your house. You can’t quite escape it.

The risk is, of course, that exorcisms often replace what should be a trip to see a health professional, and this is alarming given the number of people being killed or grievously harmed while being exorcised because friends or family members believe they are possessed.

People who are thought to be possessed are usually displaying symptoms of underlying mental or physical health conditions, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes you could have a lifestyle that is not approved of by relatives and they’ll consider this sin to be the result of evil in your life.

This is why I find it concerning that ghost hunters present themselves as people who conduct exorcisms when ridding homes of a ghost. This is probably done because it makes you sound important and mysterious –  an appeal to authority, if you will. Yet to do this adds a sinister layer to a haunting that could actually make the situation worse because of the negative connotation that the use of the word ‘exorcism’ drums up. Suddenly your traditional ghost is something much more scary because a ghost hunter is stroking their ego. It’s all quite vulgar really.

 

The very amusing “What are you so afraid of?” question

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Those not familiar with Don Philips and the GSI Paranormal team can read past posts of mine about them by clicking this link here. To summarise, Don and his team often demonstrate pseudo-scientific techniques on their ghost hunts and make outrageous claims about spirits they encounter and then “exorcise”. Whenever anybody has criticised or questioned such practices and claims, or when it has been pointed out that what this group does has the potential to be very unethical, Don goes on the attack (as you will see if you read back through my posts).

Recent media coverage of Don Philips and GSI’s investigations have set Don on the defensive again after many people have been openly critical of his work, behaviour and the claims he and his team members make. Criticism from people who believe and don’t believe in ghosts alike. This defensiveness is behaviour that many have come to expect of Don who refuses to consider anything said critically of what he and his team does.

Today it was pointed out to me that on the GSI Paranormal UK Facebook page the Admin (who I presume is Don) made the following post:

GSI are happy to put our working practices / evidence out in the public domain for all to see, some may like it others may not but after all we have nothing to hide and as such are totally transparent. But for those few who like to criticize other groups including those who claim to have been paranormal investigators themselves who now don’t believe:I, have seen lots on your blogs and websites about how scientific & great you are and indeed that you may be, but unfortunately apart from lack of anything other than the odd photo of you on location with some equipment or pics with buddy’s & lot’s of writing, there does seem to be a distinct lack of any video’s of you actually doing an investigation. A cynic may therefore conclude you either fail to produce anything worthwhile, or maybe your concerned of letting others see and comment on your own working practices & conclusions, after you have been so free with your comments towards others.

I presume (possibly incorrectly) that this is aimed at me as well as others, as did the person who sent me the link to it. I’m not sure of any other non-believers that Don Philips so openly dislikes. I know of many people who don’t identify as non-believers that he dislikes – The Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena, the Society for Psychical Research, Steve Parsons of Para.Science and many others, for example. With that in mind I felt it was only fair to be able to respond to the accusation that I may be too scared to share my research.

Firstly, I work with quite a few eyewitnesses who are scared or confused, but you wont find anything in the public domain about this because I respect their privacy before anything else. You’ll only find my research regarding public cases (those that have been in the media, or are already documented publicly) written about on my websites.

Secondly, I’m quite fussy about cases I take on. Possibly too fussy, to be honest. If I can’t replicate things or I don’t have a good idea of what might be happening then it’s likely I will decline the case or ask for assistance from someone with more experience. I am always aware of how easy it is for my conduct as a researcher to become unethical so that is always at the front of my mind.

Thirdly, you can find writing about many of my cases here, here, here and here. You can ask me about others if you are that interested. The idea that I have something to hide is humorous, to say the least.

Fourthly, the idea that you have to visit someones house under the cover of darkness and spend hours at a time there and provide videos of you doing this to successfully investigate a paranormal claim is nonsense.

In another post on the Facebook page I noticed that Don Philips wrote an open invite to Professor Chris French, Professor Richard Wiseman and Derren Brown to work with the GSI team. He wrote:

I & my team will be doing many more investigations this year, Id like to invite, Professor Chris French, Dr Richard Wiseman , Derren to join me in an attempt to find / offer an alternative explanation or debunk my spirit replies, you will be made most welcome and work together as a team.

I can only hope that these respected individuals do not work with Don and his team for fear that they would give these ghost hunters credibility that they do not deserve. If there was one piece of advice I could give to Don that I knew he would listen to, it would be to listen to his critics, but that will never happen. Instead I predict there will be a condescending blog comment left in 5… 4… 3… 2…