Turning your back on nonsense

thumb peace

In reflecting my previous blog post called ‘When claims of authority fall flat on their face’ I realise I was too quick to judge the Bomber County Paranormal team. Since writing my criticism is has been brought to my attention that Kerry, who is the founder and organizer of the group, is attempting to turn the team into a rational one after splitting from what is described as a less rational former team. I applaud that attempt, however the original blog post was written based on my initial impression of their team website and that’s an impression that unfortunately no amount of good intent can change.

The impression was based upon the claims the team made about being objective and rational coupled with photos of them, and reports of their investigations, demonstrating behaviour that wasn’t rational or objective. For example, on the front page of their website are photos of table tipping and glass divination. This is the problem that is faced by most paranormal researchers who want to change from being belief-led, biased and pseudo-scientific researchers into those who are objective and reasoned in their actions and investigations. I know now that the Bomber County Paranormal Team used the ASSAP logo on the front of their website to say ‘look, we’re trying to do this right’, rather than to say ‘, yeah! Look how good we are!’. Yet all of that effort is undone by those methods used that make no logical sense, that are justified in the name of fair balance and keeping people happy.

I get that. I’ve been there.

In fact, I recently wrote about my own experiences with this transition and about the lies you tell yourself when you try to defend the irrational things you do despite knowing deep down they’re not rational. This is normally done in the name of trying to keep everyone within your team happy and it puts immense, and unfair pressure upon a team founder or leader. It’s like an internal tug-of-war and you know that at some point someone is going to end up falling into the mud defeated. As the founder of a paranormal research team who went through the same transition I have one piece of advice for any team founder trying to make their team into a rational one, but struggling to stop people doing table tipping, séances, glass divination and other such methods: Put your foot down.

I did.

It was ugly because most of my team members left, but I don’t regret it because I wasn’t being selfish by wanting to change the team into a more rational and less unethical team, but those members who left were being selfish by wanting to continue to act irrationally and unethically for the sole purpose of validating their own belief in the paranormal, ghosts and an afterlife. They didn’t stop to consider how their desire to validate their beliefs could negatively effect those they came into contact with.

Although it is illogical and irrational, there’s nothing wrong with someone wanting to do table tipping or a séance in their own home or in private, but it does become a problem when they take that behaviour into property owned by somebody else in the name of ‘research’.

When I explained to the team I formed and ran that we would no longer be doing glass divination, table tipping and séances, nine out of twelve members of the team left and formed their own irrational team (which lasted a grand total of 3 months before splitting).

Sabotage: This text message was sent to a location owner our team were working with by a former team mate with a grudge.

When those nine people left I was called names on paranormal forums and in email. People sabotaged investigations I organised and I was threatened over the phone by people I considered as friends. One ex team mate even attempted to get me fired by telling my boss at the time that I was secretly filming people for BBC’s Watchdog (shortly after the company I worked for was exposed on Watchdog). To this day I get abuse from people I used to be friends with because I turned my back on irrational belief-led behavior and attempted to stop the team I formed in my name from continuing with unethical behaviour.

I wouldn’t change a thing though. If I was offered the chance to go back in time I’d do exactly the same because ultimately the decision to right your wrongs and stop irrational behavior that has a potentially unethical outcome is a good thing.

You should never expect the members of your team to let go of their beliefs, but you’re certainly entitled to ask that they don’t bring those beliefs into your investigations and research. Anyone who cannot respect that is being slightly selfish.

The Wiltshire Phenomena Research team is still going, by the way. We hardly do investigations as a group, but there’s about ten of us on standby should anyone get in touch for advice or an answer. We don’t do investigations every Saturday night like the old team did, but those odd rare cases are still fun and interesting. A successfully rational paranormal research team know that not every case is possible to investigate, that you don’t need more than a few people at a time, that you don’t need to turn the lights off to research experiences, and that the most valuable research often happens over a cup of tea.

I genuinely wish Kerry and any other team founder trying to turn their team into a more rational team the best of luck, if anyone needs advice, you can get in touch via this site. It’s not easy making a change, but trust me, it’s worth the effort.

Dear new ghost hunter,

You’ve decided to become a ghost hunter and so have applied the title to yourself because after all there is no mandatory training or registration to go through. You just need a team name (maybe), a website and you’re done.

You can check out other ghost hunting team websites and maybe buy the same bits of kit they have, and copy their techniques too – especially if they’re a ghost hunting team who has been on television because if they’re on TV they must know their stuff.

Then all you have to do is visit some locations – those that have ghost stories attached to them, or those that look haunted. Then, on your website make sure to explain to people that you are rational because you debunk stuff with articles like ‘when orbs are and aren’t paranormal’ so people know you’re an open minded skeptic and all…

Congratulations, you are now a ghost hunter.

At some stage you might catch something a bit odd and you’ll think it is news worthy and will send it to your local newspaper, they’ll publish it, but don’t be mistaken in thinking this means you’re a great ghost hunter because newspapers will actually just publish anything.

You’ve probably not realised that there are hundreds of people who have done exactly the same thing as you for years and years before you got the idea. People who don’t properly research their techniques and methods, but happily act as though they’re experts are nothing new – unfortunately.

You can normally tell a copy-cat ghost hunter from those who’ve done proper research because they excitedly present you with “evidence” that is really poor, and they’ve considered it as evidence because they’re desperate to either a) prove to themselves and others that they’re right to think ghosts exist or b) make a name for themselves in the ghost research field (just like dozens of wanna-be ghost hunting celebs before them).

You can tell everyone you debunk stuff as though that’s proof that you’re open minded, but the fact you use pseudo-scientific techniques (because you’ve not actually researched what you’re doing before jumping in the deep end) gives the game away.

Seriously, before you do anything else you should probably learn about the field you’ve decided to join. If you choose to ignore the information out there then it’s evident that you’re not at all open minded like you claim. Also, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been investigating for three years or thirty-three years – you can have been investigating for decades and still get it wrong.

A great resource for reasonable information about Ghost Hunting is the site of the Association for Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena. You don’t have to be a member to read the online articles.

You can click the ‘Ghost basics’ tab at the top of my site to read my summary of basic subjects you will come across as a Ghost Hunter. You can also read through the topics listed under ‘paranormal’ on the Skeptics Dictionary.

Up to date information is available – you just need to bother to find it. As I’ve said many times; it’s easy to copy other people, but thinking for yourself takes effort but it’s worth it. Trust me, I speak from experience.