Recently, the so-called “Paranormal Academy” shared a post via Social media about how to put together a ghost hunting kit for less than £50. Their guide recommends that people buy a collection of gadgets that are actually not designed for paranormal research at all. In response, I thought I’d put together an actual guide for those who want to start researching ghosts scientifically…
1 – Don’t waste your money on online courses
The Paranormal Academy actually sell a range of courses covering various paranormal topics. They’re not the only ones, either. You can purchase courses on discount sites like Groupon, Wowcher, and more. However, you’re better off saving your money for something else because these courses are a waste of cash.
In fact, I personally undertook the Paranormal Academy course on Demonology and it was, quite frankly, ridiculous. To gain a certification in Demonology all I needed to do was memorise types of demons and facts about Ed and Lorraine Warren. The information learned doesn’t actually help anybody. Not only that, but the Paranormal Academy advertise their courses as discounted at £34 from an original price of £135, but I’ve never seen their courses actually sold at full price, which seems misleading. They were also subject of a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for marketing their courses as accredited, when this isn’t the case. They agreed to remove such claims when approached by the ASA.
Anyone can put together a paranormal course, so you cannot be sure that the information you are paying to learn is good quality. Not to mention that the certifications are worthless because they’re not real qualifications and they’e not accredited. For example, in 2016 I uncovered how one UK-based Parapsychologist offering paranormal courses was being very misleading…
2 – Don’t Be a Ghost Hunter
There is a distinct difference between ghost hunters and ghost researchers today. Someone like Peter Underwood was a ghost hunter in his time, but the behaviour of modern-day ghost hunters doesn’t resemble traditional ghost hunting at all. Ghost hunters of today usually pay to go on events at famously haunted places. They’ll turn the lights off, use the same techniques on every investigation without any tailoring. They’re usually looking for evidence that ghosts are present.
None of this is very scientific. It’s more… nighttime tourism than anything else.
A ghost researcher, on the other hand, should try to document as much of the eye-witness account of the alleged haunting or occurrence as possible. Although skeptics rightly point out that eye-witness testimony is not reliable as evidence, it certainly provides us with useful data about what has happened and how it has been interpreted (and even why it has been interpreted in such a way.)
A researcher’s priority aim should be to work out the cause of the strange occurrences reported to them. This does not involve immediately using such methods which search for paranormal causes, but instead looking at alternatives. Many ghost hunters claim to do this, but in reality do not offer enough time to the careful considerations such a task requires. Six hours spent at a location overnight, for example, may not be enough to take into account all contributing factors – especially when the majority of that time will involve the lights being switched off, and spiritualistic techniques being employed to communicate with spirits!
If you want to run around in the dark looking for ghosts, knock yourself out, but you’re not being scientific and you shouldn’t claim that you are.
3 – People Will Try To Sell You Rubbish
You’ll be told that you should buy specific equipment to help you in your search for ghosts, but in reality you don’t need 99% of the equipment that modern ghost hunters use. Remember, a researcher should be trying to establish the actual causes of strange activity and so your main tool will be an open mind and inquisitive nature!
There will be times when you do need to record data and document what happened, where it happened, when and how. Some of the equipment marketed to ghost hunters may help with this. However, most ghost hunting equipment is sold and marketed in a way that suggests it will help you to detect ghosts, when this simply isn’t possible.
You might see other ghost hunters using an array of equipment such as EMF meters, laser pens, audio recording equipment and more. Yet, hardly any of this equipment is used correctly by ghost hunters, and doesn’t do what ghost shows might suggest. It’s best to resist the temptation to copy what others are doing and focus on creating a scientific method instead.
4 – You’re Probably More Biased Than You Realise
As humans, we’re really good at finding meaning where there is none. We see familiar faces or objects in the clouds and we hear voices in random noises. We’re good at linking events and presuming that one caused the other. As a ghost researcher, the one thing that you must learn about are the different types of cognitive biases that people are susceptible to. From confirmation bias, expectation bias, illusory correlation, pareidolia, subjective validation, false memory, suggestibility and many more…
These biases will affect you as a researcher, but will also have likely affected the eye-witnesses you work with. You should first and foremost take them into consideration before planning how to approach the case you are investigating. This will help you work out what hypotheses are most reasonable to pursue.
5 – Be ethical
One thing many ghost researchers don’t take into consideration is how their behaviour impacts those they come into contact with. This can include children, the recently bereaved, and vulnerable adults. Before you even embark on your research, it’s advisable to write out a code of ethics. This is presented to people who ask you to investigate their experience or haunting. You need to ensure they’re informed about what it is you’re going to be doing, how they can stop the research at any time, and what the outcome is likely to be. You can see my ethical code here (please don’t just copy it), and my detailed thoughts about ethics here.
All in all, becoming a ghost researcher relies on the three c’s: common sense, caution, and curiosity. A good dose of health skepticism doesn’t go amiss either.