Updated: Sep 13, 2020
Since I started doing paranormal investigations in 2013, my pursuit of evidence has not only changed in goal and scope. It has transformed from a personal journey to a very public one. When we first started out everything we were doing was mainly for private curiosity. We were investigating places that we had personal connections to, and we weren’t advertising what we had found beyond just a few friends. At the time we weren’t looking for any recognition or validation for what we were doing. It was simply fun. But, as time went on, two things factored into our new favorite hobby. For one, we had found some questionable results that we posted on social media that seemed to get quite a bit of attention and enthusiasm from our friends. Second, we were running out of new places to investigate. Inevitably, being the nerd, I am, I decided that I wanted to build a website to chronicle everything we were doing to gain enough attention that people might help us find new places to explore. This is ultimately what led us down the path of where we are today.
If we hadn’t started showing our exploits to the public, we might never have become serious about our research. In the early days, we weren’t doing anything different than what we had seen on TV. Even with all our science backgrounds we still weren’t exercising any more control than your run of the mill ghost hunter. After all, it was just a hobby. However, with the scrutiny of the public looking at what we were capturing the reality of it became painfully obvious. We were subject to the same skepticism that befalls anyone who does this for any amount of time. But, our reaction to this, I think, is what set us apart from our peers. I feel like may groups and individuals who are faced with hard questions and cynicism about paranormal evidence tend to default to more of a defensive posture. And, when that happens people tend to double-down on their views, which ultimately gets them nowhere. I’m not entirely sure what kept us from falling into the same cycle. But, when faced with the tough questions; rather than stick our fingers in our preverbal ears, we echoed those same questions to ourselves and tried to give an honest answer. “What if there was a more logical explanation?”
When faced with questions from hard science and shown the breaks in experimental controls; I’ve seen many investigators back themselves into a hole of pure denial. While there are no experts in the field of paranormal study, there certainly is a wealth of people who are educated in various fields of physical science, and they shouldn’t be discounted because their observations aren’t convenient to our beliefs. When outmatched with logic, people defensively turn to speculative thinking and faulty logic to fill in the holes out of a need to not feel stupid. Although, when our group was faced with these same challenges I took a different approach. I sought experts to consult. I’m well educated. But, I’m not a genius or an expert by any stretch of the word. I have always been good at doing research and networking out to people who were. After talking to various others in the paranormal field, and even more importantly, people who were engineers, physics professors, doctors, nurses, and more; I started to piece together why our experiments weren’t considered valid. Rather than fight it with denial, I began the process of fixing the issues and developing new experiments to test our theories and beliefs. Embracing the reality of what experts are saying put what we were doing into a completely different light. Instead of investigating harder and trying to convince people that the same tired techniques were valid, we started investigating smarter.
At the core of any good experiment are three things. A question, a hypothesis, and a control. If “E” is an event that happens then, my question is “Why does E happen? If “H” is my hypothesis and “C” is my control, and X is the outcome. Then, all experiments can be expressed in a very simple formula.
(E - C) = X ; H = X
For some that may be abstract, but I know the nerds in the back are slow clapping. For the rest of us what that means is any experiment you set up should be designed so that an event can be tested under observation. This would be your experiment. The environment should be under controlled conditions so that the event can be monitored without outside any interference. The controls are the parts of the experiment that you can affect. As you change controls, you must observe if the event has changed. As you do this the answer to why something is happening should become revealed (usually as the result of multiple experiments and changing procedures.) Eventually, you should be left with an answer. Do those facts match up with your hypothesis?
Granted this is the most oversimplified explanation of how an experiment works. But, you should get the idea. Without controls, there is no way of knowing what is really going on in the experiment to cause a result. This simple oversight makes any claim, big or small, invalid as evidence on a scientific level. This, rightly, being what keeps paranormal evidence from being considered proof. And, at that comment is where many investigators will become defensive due to a professional lack of understanding in what constitutes a strange outcome of evidence to proof. By someone saying that you have not exhibited proof of paranormal activity, science is not denouncing your experience. Science does leave room open for the interpretation of perception; but to call something proof, it demands a cause, effect, and conclusion. To say either way it requires that the mechanic by which something is happening to be clearly revealed within a narrow margin of error. A professional who claims a specific event is not paranormal can deduce by evidence and supporting factors what the cause is, and should be able to prove a logical cause. If by that measure there is a realistic margin of error to the cause; a paranormal outcome could not be ruled out but could still be considered unlikely. To that same token, anyone claiming that something is paranormal should be held to that same standard.
Science is a field that deals in near absolutes while the field of paranormal investigation is the exact opposite. Anyone trying to combine the two is going to have a hard time reconciling. Know what it is you want to accomplish and decide if it’s for yourself or for others. You may find you have a long road ahead of you.