Archive for August 2011
I noticed a ‘click-through’ to my blog that came from a forum called ‘World of ghosts’ so I clicked it out of curiousity and noticed that one of my blog posts (called ‘Dear New Ghost hunter’) was being discussed there. There’s nothing new with my posts being discussed on forums that cover paranormal topics, I had just never heard of this one.
One comment in particular, by ‘Iain’, caught my attention and I wanted to respond to what was said. I could sign up to the forum, but I don’t want to so I thought I’d address the point here where I can clear up this misunderstanding.
“Hayley seems nice, but she says she doesn’t believe in ghosts. Cool. She may not, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The definition of a ghost is apparantly the continual existance of a life force after death which shows its self in the atomical world in some way. Hayley has no concept of what happens when she dies, there for has no oppinion. Nice and simple. Am I then insinuating that ghost exist, of coure not. But I’m still looking, even if I do use some of the methods she puts forward as silly. But pro-active endeavour is one step closer to achievement than mono-visioned denial and none-productive posts or blogs. She may have had fun posting her oppinions, but I think she should research more. Or at all.”
Even if I didn’t have a concept of what happens to me when I die (which I do, actually) I would still have an opinion – it might be an incorrect one or a correct one, but it would still be an opinion regardless. My posts and writing is not “mono-visioned denial’ because I always strive to be factually correct. I am obsessive about detail, to the point of my fellow researchers rolling their eyes at my constant questioning.
Iain is right to say I don’t believe in ghosts and he is also right to say that simply because I choose not to believe in them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. That is a correct assessment. It is the lack of evidence that supports the existence of ghosts that suggests they do not exist.
I am open minded and willing to change my mind should evidence that supports the idea that ghosts are real emerge. Some would argue that such evidence has already been presented, but I have found such ‘evidence’ to be lacking (and I’m not the only one…)
I have outlined my thoughts about death before in a post titled ‘The other side and the end’, but I will outline things once again to counter the idea that I don’t have a concept of what happens when I die (and thus, apparently have no opinion…)
Many people who are more spiritually inclined believe that the ‘life energy’ within us, the very thing that keeps us alive, must be what becomes a ghost or spirit when our bodies die. I used to hold such a belief too.
However, The energy associated with our bodies is chemical energy and that energy transforms when the matter with which it’s associated transforms.
Burn or decompose our bodies and you’ll transform not only our matter but also our energy — from chemical energy to other forms of energy such as heat, light, or to chemical energy stored in somebody/something else’s body (insects, animals, bacteria etc.)
So upon death, the matter and energy associated with our bodies transform into other forms of matter and energy, ones that are no longer organized in a way that create muscles, bones, brains, and internal experiences of hunger, pain, and consciousness.
I am not a scientist (which is probably very obvious) and I only studied science up to GCSE level – yet this information I have about what happens to our bodies when we die was gained through a little research which Iain accused me of needing to do more (or any) of.
I have done plenty of research and arrived at the conclusions I currently hold as a direct result. It is fine to disagree with my thoughts and ideas, but please do not suggest that because I’m not as open minded as you consider yourself to be, it means I am lazy when it comes to my research. Especially when you confess to using methods I have ‘put forwards’ on my site as ‘silly’.
Pic credit: 6pro
Today I counted up the friends and acquaintances I have lost as a direct result of me being outspoken with my thoughts and opinions, and I tried to work out how terrible it was for such friendships to have been lost.
I then realised that the alternative would have been for me to bite my tongue and hide my true feelings and still have those people as friends; what sort of friends are those whose friendship demands you aren’t honest and open about the way you feel or think? Not friends at all and not worth the sacrifice of ones voice.
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.
The scariest ghosts I’ve ever encountered are the ones who, for a brief moment in time, lived on my bedside cabinet. These spectres live on ear-marked pages, their every action dictated by printed words. Ghosts in literature span time – from early greats such as Banquo’s ghostly appearance in Macbeth (that I first encountered while sitting in my English Literature classroom), to the ghost of Jacob Marley – with Marley it was the chains that scared me the most.Those chains and everything they represented scared me just as much as my primary school teachers telling me that their god could see my soul and all the sins that had marked it. Until I became Atheist at least…
Last night was the first time for ages that I’ve gone to bed with that slightly uneasy feeling in the back of my mind; the result of overdosing on fictional ghosts and their frightful ways. I blame Susan Hill and ‘The Woman in Black’, as last night I watched the trailer for the upcoming remake starring Daniel Radcliffe. The trailer has the verse:
During afternoon tea, there’s a shift in the air.
A bone-trembling chill that tells you she’s there.
There are those who believe the whole town is cursed.
But the house in the marsh is by far the worst.
What she wants is unknown, but she always comes back.
The spectre of darkness, the Woman in Black.
The first two lines of that verse are really quite eerie – well, the whole thing coupled with the trailer (and the young girl reciting the verse) is eerie, but those first two lines are something that anyone who has ever thought their house is haunted can appreciate.
I’ve stood in buildings reputed to be haunted, and I’ve felt ‘the shift in the air’ when you think suddenly something has changed and you’re no longer alone. It could just be a feeling, a change in temperature, a nudge on your back* or perhaps a noise you can’t place… it is the worse feeling and it inspires an instinctual reaction of fear (and usually panic). Sure, the shift is probably due to the heightened mind of the ghost hunter or atmospheric reasons, but there’s still no denying that fear.
I truly cannot wait to see ‘The Woman in Black’ when it comes out, I’ve just bought a copy of the book (I originally read it in the school library a decade ago). Last weekend we watched BBC 2’s Ghostwatch, another fictional ghost story that gets it very right. This weekend my mother and I are going to watch the old BBC version of ‘The Woman in Black’, just because…
Ghosts are very real, they just happen to live in the pages that sit on your bookcase awaiting the time you open the cover and release them. That’s when they lurk just out of sight, in the corner of your bedroom, waiting for you to turn out the light…
*(Yes I’ve had my back nudged when nobody was there while standing in a “haunted chapel”… you can learn more at my ‘skeptics in the pub’ talks)
There was a time in my life when I owned a smudge stick with the sole purpose of using it to banish any evil spirit I might come across. I saved it and saved it and saved it until the one time things would get so out of hand I’d have to use it.
I still have it, somewhere.
On the other occasions when mediums or psychics I was working with told me there was a negative energy in the building we were investigating I would simply say a protective chant such as “apage satanas” (Latin for “be gone Satan”) or I would ask for white light to protect us and banish the darkness.
I wore amulets with amethyst stones on them because amethyst is supposedly a spiritually protective stone – no harm would come to anyone wearing such an amulet, or so I was told. Whenever we conducted table tipping or seances we would always ‘open up’ the session by cloaking ourselves in a protective white light. You would have to picture yourself surrounded by an egg-shaped white light that would allow no evil in.
Silly right? Although it was naive I think I was actually quite brave because I truly believed in evil at that stage in my life and was willing to take it on with my silly chants and pseudo-knowledge. I can remember screaming at what I thought was a spirit possessing a then-friend of mine, telling it to leave her alone and fuck off. It scared me to do that, but I still did it and then lived in fear for weeks because the spirit might have followed me home. I thought I was doing the right thing and helping people.
I can remember often telling people who were investigating alongside me that the smell of sulphur meant a demon could be present but it was okay as I had a crucifix and a smudge stick (what sort of messed up belief system is that?!)
I was eighteen/nineteen and I had adults telling me that they had magic powers and that these things, this evil, the incantations – it was all real and true and possible and that I was at risk.
I’d never really been taught how the burden of proof worked or what counted as evidence – these are things I now know about, but then I just accepted the word of older people because they seemed to know what they were talking about.
Years later I look back and I can see how silly it was to have those beliefs, but the experiences I had felt real and caused real fear and that’s why I always worry when I see paranormal research teams claiming to have used the same techniques to banish ghosts from people’s businesses or homes. This behaviour can be very damaging and can cause more problems that it seeks to solve.
It’s important that those who have experiences odd things are told that somebody believes that they have honestly witnessed something they cannot explain, because being believed and not ridiculed helps people to know that they aren’t weird for speaking out about such experiences.
To bring ones personal beliefs into the situation is wrong, and for teams to tell location owners that they have ‘exorcised’ or ‘banished’ the ghost is not only closed-minded (i.e. the investigator has only considered the idea that a ghost is the cause of the weird experience) but it is also harmful to the mindset of the person who has had the scary or strange experience.
You often find that after a supposed exorcism/clearing has been conducted by amateur ghost hunters the reports of activity cease and the witness believes the exorcism is the cause of the lack of activity.
The activity witnessed (noises, movements, coldness, smells etc.) could have had a perfectly rational cause, but because a biased ghost hunter became involved in the situation the witness will have been made to believe that a ghost/demon is the cause of the activity.
By using pseudo-science to ‘prove’ a ghost is the cause of the activity witnessed, and by then conducting a clearing or exorcism of the alleged entity, the ghost hunter is cementing into the mind of the witness the idea that:
a) the experiences were caused by a paranormal entity, and
b) that entity is now gone
It may seem silly of the witness to so readily accept this, but many people have no knowledge of ghost hunting and its many flaws and will often accept the word of these self-styled ghost experts as fact, when it very clearly isn’t fact.
I’ve written numerous times about how and why ghost hunters used flawed methods to boost their confidence in their paranormal beliefs, and how bringing other people into that process is unethical. I have a problem with people who conduct clearings in people’s houses or businesses and I’ve often been asked at talks why. If it makes the person think the ghost has gone away and calms them down, then isn’t that a good thing?
It may seem like a solution to the problem – the person is no longer scared so all is well, but it’s not that simple. That person is now certain that those odd things they witnessed were caused by a paranormal entity which has now gone.
The next time one of those unexplained things happens they’re going to think the paranormal entity is back in their home or business and no rational investigation is going to convince them otherwise because they’ve already had it ‘proven’ to them that it’s a paranormal entity – why else did the activity stop after the clearing?
Had the ghost hunter taken an objective approach to the case they would have searched for natural causes of the activity witnessed before declaring there were no natural causes by labelling the incident as paranormal.
To tell somebody that the activity they witnessed is paranormal in nature but that it’s OK as you’ve removed the paranormal entity causing the activity is priming that person to be scared out of their wits the next time pipes make an odd noise, or a door slams, or they smell something odd.
This is why it is essential that a common sense approach to paranormal research is promoted through outreach. It’s also why it is important that skeptics don’t ridicule those who have seemingly unexplainable experiences, because when skeptics do that it pushes eyewitnesses into the path of ghost hunters who own smudge sticks and know a few Latin chants…
I fee like I haven’t been kind to my blog of late and I apologise to my subscribers and readers for that. Things have been quite busy as I’ve been working on a couple of cases that become quite complex once you scratch the surface – and once you’ve scratched the surface you can’t unscratch it (even if you really want to). One of the cases is a private case and has taken priority over most of the other things I’ve been doing.
I’ve also been in my new full time job for almost three months now and balancing my time between all of the projects I work on and my new work schedule has taken some doing but I think I’m getting there.
Many exciting things are going to be happening in the near future that I wanted to share; On
Septmeber 7th – 11th I am going to be in Zurich as I am speaking on a panel about skeptical/science blogging at Denkfest. I’m really excited about this!
The panel is on the evening of the 8th but I am staying around for the event because there are some interesting talks lined up, and I wasn’t going to turn down the offer to check them out. It isn’t too late to buy tickets and Easyjet do pretty cheap flights to Zurich too!
Use this code to get a 10% discount: LPR55A4
In October I am packing in three ‘skeptics in the pub’ talks in just over the space of a week:
I usually deliver my ‘Why aren’t ghosts naked? (A look at ghost bollocks)’ talk, but I’ve been working on the talk (as always) to try and keep the information interesting and up to date, and because I am always learning new things and discovering new areas of ghost research I like to throw them all into the talk, so no two talks of mine are the same.
There’s also another surprise coming in October; I could tell you all about it now but where’s the fun in that? It’s an opportunity that came my way because the deputy editor of a well respected publication happened to be a fan of my blog and asked me to pitch a piece to the publication they work for. I never thought my silly little blog would open up such opportunities – so when I feel like I’ve kept you guessing enough, I’ll share more details with you.
What do King Henry VII and Lord Voldemort have in common?
They’re both dead, yes. I could leave it there and make this the shortest (and most pointless) blog post ever, but I won’t. Let me elaborate for you…
The subject of this blog post occured to me last week when having a discussion on Facebook with friends of mine who are also involved in paranormal research in one way or another.
‘Is Judge Jeffries haunting The White Hart Inn?’ was the title of an article I linked to while I commented:
“Probably not, just like the hundreds of other places he visited that claim he haunts there are probably not haunted by him. Obviously.”
A friend replied
He seemingly visited the site for a few hours and it’s “haunted”! Did he leak ectoplasm or something?
which somehow made me think of Lord Voldemort and his horcruxes. For those who don’t know who Lord Voldermort is or what a Horcrux is – you are a loser. Lord Voldemort is a dark wizard who is out to kill Harry Potter to fulfil a prophecy. He breaks his soul down into seven pieces and put them into seven items (that have to be destroyed in order to kill Voldermort).
The ghost of Judge Jeffreys leaving behind his ectoplasm at the places he visited made me a) feel a bit sick and b) think of Voldemort.
Well, there are numerous famous (and infamous) ghosts who are said to haunt a multitude of places – Judge Jeffreys is often said to haunt most of the places he ever held court of executed people, Highway man Dick Turpin, Queen Victoria, Catherine Howard, as well as King Henry VIII…
The list goes on because it seems that if a building had a significant figure visit it in the past then there’s some connection with their ghost there; as though the ghost of King Henry VIII has been split down and shared amongst all the places of significance he ever visited in his life (a list which I am sure is quite vast). His own spiritual horcruxes.
In reality though the hauntings by King Henry VIII (and Judge Jeffreys, Catherine Howard etc.) are products of folklore, historic records and over active imaginations, and the popularity of sites said to be haunted by the late King with ghost groups probably says more about the state of “paranormal research” organisations across the UK than it does about the spiritual horcruxes of King Henry VIII.
*awaits the commenters who take this comparison seriously*