I’ve researched and investigated paranormal phenomena for a decade or so now and so the terrible treatment that the most vulnerable people who claim to be paranormal eye-witnesses receive comes as no surprise to me anymore. Yet I still feel an anger bubbling when I read atrocious pieces like the one written by The Daily Record. It isn’t enough to point out that ghosts aren’t real, sometimes we have to stand up and say “what’s happening here isn’t right”, and what’s happening here isn’t right.
In it we meet a couple who are apparently plagued by paranormal activity referred to as “a demon” which whips up terrible visions of dread and danger. The Record reports that ‘in a story reminiscent of the film Paranormal Activity, the Fry family say they have been molested by an evil poltergeist for months. Mum Tracey, 46, even says she is beaten up in the night by the phantom – leaving her covered with bruises in the morning. In desperation her husband Keiron, 32, forked out £100 to a specialist to “cleanse” the house and has brought a vicar in to bless their cursed abode.’
It’s all very Hollywood and it makes for an excellent story but only if you stop thinking of the people at the centre of the story as people. Any person who researches the paranormal in a rational manner knows that the majority of cases reported to them will be symptoms of underlying physical and mental health issues or complicated social or domestic problems. As such, every individual that a researcher comes into contact with has to be handled with great care to ensure that they are not exploited and do not come to emotional or physical harm. I’ve written extensively on this blog about the ethics of ghost research before, but to summarise – ghost researchers should not work with children, the recently bereaved and vulnerable adults. Who fits into the brackets as a vulnerable adult can be open to interpretation but it is often better to be safe than sorry in these situations.
I don’t like to focus discussions of ethics upon individuals but in this case I feel that more damage has already been done that I could ever inflict upon the family at the centre of the latest grotesque headlines.
Had this case been presented to me I would not have taken it on because I have huge doubts about the evidence being presented by the family. The photo of the “ghost” (above) is clearly a pile of laundry and when a faked photo is presented in a case like this it suggests that there is a motivation, but what? Perhaps the family are keen to move house (a common phenomena)? Perhaps this is a cry for help? Perhaps this is fame seeking?
I don’t know and it isn’t my place to make these presumptions. Had the family approached me I would have suggested they speak to their GP about the issues occurring when they sleep and, if they were religious, their faith leader for guidance. I would be honest and tell them that I don’t believe in the paranormal but that I wasn’t able to take the case because it wouldn’t be ethical of me to do so, and I would have promised them full confidentiality because these stories, one leaked, will stay with you which is why I would also have advised them to not speak to the media at any cost.
The way in which the media treat people at the centre of these cases is reprehensible. There is a certain level of sensitivity with which paranormal researchers handle cases such as these, and the way the journalists have handled these potentially vulnerable people has the potential to make their situation even worse as all sorts of unethical and questionable people see their case as a chance to further their own ambitions and needs.
We already see that the family have handed money over to a “house cleanser” which is a completely bogus industry that offers, at best, a placebo solution because these hauntings are often a symptom of something much more serious the “ghost” often returns soon after the allegedly successful cleansing because the real causes have not been addressed.
Regardless of the motivation at the centre of this case, no matter what the cause of the alleged haunting and regardless of what the ambitions of those involved, there is one certainty that applies to all cases of this nature – becoming a headline story does not offer resolutions to the haunted.