Hayley is a Ghost

Posts Tagged ‘research

Back in February I was on a panel with Professor Chris French and Trystan Swale at the QED conference in Manchester. The panel was called ‘Ghost Investigations Today’ and that was exactly what we were talking about.

The QED team have made the talk available via Youtube and it can be watched below. I cannot watch myself talk so I have no idea what it’s like. I was great fun though and I just want to say thanks again to Mike, Marsh, Janis, Andy, Rick and the rest of the team for the chance to take part. I can’t wait until QED in March.

Photo credit: Gammy

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I don’t think I’ve properly blogged about the fact that the British Anomalistic Research Society has changed – it still exists but has simply become a more informal site with less people contributing.

BARsoc had some awesome people on board who simply weren’t able to comit time to the site and it became quite obvious that the aims BARsoc had weren’t acheivable with only a couple of people.Vigilantes Eye

The Vigilantes was born from this; three of the BARsoc bloggers (myself, Bob and Gavin) have moved over to The Vigilanted Blog with all of our previous BARsoc articles to continue doing what we do best.

The reason I felt the need to blog about this move is because a few days ago Bob wrote a brilliant piece on the site detailing his investigation into a dodgy looking video claiming to show a ghost caught on CCTV in a ‘Phones4U’ shop.

Many were calling it as a fake, but Bob went a little deeper and found- well, why don’t you go and read about what he found? Also, while there, subscribe to the site, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter….

Back in 2002/2003 I hadn’t yet become involved in paranormal research but had started to explore the interest I had in ghosts, paranormal phenomena and hauntings. I did this through watching television shows and reading books.

Then one day my mum discovered a website called ‘AsylumCam‘ (now known as AsylumsGate) on which the owner of a supposed haunted house allowed people to watch webcams placed around his house in the hope that they might capture something ghostly in the house.

I joined up and formed fast friendships with the other members there. We would chat for hours and hours in the chatrooms and the forums and it was like a home away from home. I even have a t-shirt with the website slogan on it somewhere.

Here are some examples of images caught and believed to be paranormal by the majority of people on the site:

A ghostly face? Or pixels?

'The soldier' was a 'top cap'

After a year or so on the site my belief in ghosts strengthened, confirmed by what the people on the website chat and forums were telling me were facts. They were experts, or at least spoke as though they were and there were some members who were sensetive to spirit. I was naive and believed their claims and their ‘facts’ and soon went on to start investigating the paranormal as part of my own team (in 2005) using the ideas presented to me via that website and its members.

Then, around 2006 or 2007 I became more skeptical of what I was doing and being told and the things I believed in as a result. I ‘came out’ as atheist and stopped the research team from using pseudo-science on investigations. This wasn’t as a direct result of being Atheist, but as a result of the rational way I was now able to see things in.

I was soon banned from the ‘Asylumcam’ website by the main moderator ‘MoeBanshee’ (who now actually owns the website in question) for being openly skeptical and Atheist on the forums and in the chat.

Roll on a few years, and a couple of weeks ago I was invited to join a group on facebook called ‘Ex-asylumnites’ for people who used to frequent the website but had since stopped.

In the years since I was banned I have changed a lot and have developed my understanding of the phenomena I investigate. My stance and take on things is completely different to what it was in 2007 and I presumed that the people in that group would be the same.

However it has become evident that this isn’t the case at all. Many members of that group conduct pseudo-scientific paranormal investigations, with some members gushing over orb photos and EVP recordings.

There are posts from people who say they’ve just encountered something ghostly – a door opened when it was locked (I’d say the lock was faulty, they say it’s their resident ghost) – and there seems to be a general worshipping of the television show ‘Ghost Hunters’ that followed TAPS around from place to place.

The TAPS team in question use pseudo-science, a bad definition of science, night vision camcorders and demonists to conduct their scientific investigations…

I’ve been non-vocal about my skepticism and rational stance in the group, until the other day when I commented on a post about an episode of ‘Ghost Hunters’ that the TAPS team aren’t actually very scientific at all.

I thought perhaps the people there might be interested to know what I based my ideas and beliefs on and I was surprised to discover that actually, despite me providing them with links and sources for rational information, they weren’t interested at all. In fact, they were actually keen to dismiss science as being on par with belief led investigations (suggesting they don’t know the difference between theory and scientific theory…)

It genuinely shocked me that after all this time the people I had once considered the authority on the subject were so closed minded, even when provided with the sources for the research that showed a different conclusion to the one they had reached in their mind.

It strenghtened my belief that it is important to make the correct information available to people, but you can’t make them accept it unless they’re willing to. It also showed me that age has nothing to do with knowledge.

Numerous people have pointed out that I’m rather quick to point out how you shouldn’t conduct paranormal research but I don’t outline how you should (or more specifically, how I personally) conduct paranormal research.

Recently I began to produce ‘The Ghost Field Guide’ podcast that will be a short series of podcasts that look at various areas of paranormal research and the flaws or mistakes people make without necessarily doing so. The topics that will be covered by me and my guest hosts are mistakes that I personally made when I first began conducting paranormal research, I thought it would be useful to look at the general gaps of knowledge I had, what I found difficult to understand and what I could necessarily find information on easily and focus on these things in a bid to help others.

However, to summarise my methods of investigation and research in a nutshell is what people want me to do, and that is what I shall try to do here in this article.

To answer the question in the title of this post, how do you hunt for a ghost? – You don’t. You can’t. Not without flawing your research from the start.

It’s quite difficult to explain what it is I actually do when confronted with a possible case of ghost phenomenon because no two cases are alike. One case could be in a pub where six members of staff work on a rota and experience weird things in the kitchens, another case could be in a family home where a single mother and three children reside and are terrified by odd noises and the sensation of being watched or the feeling they’re not alone.

These two cases throw up different sets of problems and different opportunities for research and study. For example, to go straight into the home where the children reside could be unethical – it might be easier to give each family member a diary in which they can note down anything strange that concerns them. A problem shared and all that.

If you can identify patterns that emerge from what they are writing down, that can really help you to identify what could have caused the odd experience.

With children, it’s very likely that one reporting of something strange can lead to numerous reports of numerous strange things that didn’t necessarily happen. Children often play up to what is expected of them and it’s important to be able to see past this and to not include testimonies that aren’t as sound as they could be in the overall case.

When I have a case reported to me I don’t like to instantly assume the best action is to visit the location – not everyone wants that, and sometimes doing so can issue a false authority that because a paranormal researcher has visited a location, the location has something paranormal there. It is a link people make in their heads and it’s something I’ve learnt through mistakes.

When telling some people that you don’t think anything paranormal is the cause you could be greeted with odd looks and the question “why did you come here then?”

It’s not a logical link to make, but then if you don’t know anything about ghost phenomena and you have a horrible feeling a ghost is in your house you’re probably not going to act logically all the time – fear is consuming. It can be very easy to presume that a paranormal researcher is an expert in what they are doing – this means any claim made is accepted as fact.

Generally the best thing to do with a reported case of phenomenon is to try and understand what is normal about the place it happened .

How can you tell what isn’t normal is you don’t know what is normal? You can’t.

A lot of ghost hunters visit a location one or two times and that will be all they need before they reach their conclusion – but in my mind that doesn’t make any sense. I have to be used to a building before I can even start to consider questioning what may have caused the reported phenomenon/phenomena.

There are various locations that I have been investigating for years and it’s very much an on-going process.

Normally, simply by spending time at a location it’s quite easy to pinpoint causes for the odd things that have been experienced – especially if you haven’t gone there looking for a ghost like a lot of people do.

I hope this can give you some insight into what I do if, and when, I have a case of phenomenon reported to me, it’s not as exciting as running around in the dark with some gadgets that beep and “detect ghosts”, it’s not as thrilling as table tipping or a seance, but it’s certainly more realistic.

It’s nearly Halloween and my inner child has already demanded sweets in the shapes of eye balls and ghost shaped cakes. I love this time of year, not because I’m a paranormal researcher and think it’s significant (because it’s not, outside of folklore and religious beliefs) but because I am a very big horror fan. True horror, mind – I’m talking Edward Hyde and Frankenstein rather than the latest ‘Saw’ movie or ‘Hostel’ gore fest (there is a fine line between gore and proper horror.)

Anyway, once again I’m rambling.

The reason I wanted to write this blog post was because Halloween normally means a few things are certain over the next few weeks.

1) There is going to be a lot of “paranormal television” on, some of which will claim that ghosts are more active over halloween.

2) Lots of people will be heading to their local haunted hot spots, or even “the most haunted graveyard/village/town/field/tree” they can find to either look for ghosts and get scared or to get drunk. Or both.

3) Paranormal investigation teams across the country will be conducting “paranormal investigations” on the night of October 31st for no other reason that “it’s Halloween”.

4) Charity investigations will be held by numerous groups and investigators. I’ve already seen at least four people I know advertising such events.

There’s no harm with that is there? I mean, Halloween is just about having fun, right? Besides, if you can raise some cash for a chairty then it’s even better I guess.

Supporting a charity (or numerous charities as I do) is great. Holding events to raise funds to your chosen charity is a really noble thing to do. I don’t want anybody to think that I am saying that charities are evil because I’m not.

However, I have spotted a trend over the last couple of years or so where a rising number of paranormal groups and teams are hosting charity ghost investigation events at Halloween (as well as throughout the rest of the year too).

Members of the public pay a ticket fee or donation to attend a paranormal investigation alongside the group of investigators and then all money raised goes to the chosen charity. Getting money to a worthy cause is always a good thing. However, these events can often lack common sense and common decency in the way that pseudo-scientific theories and methods are promoted by the investigators and because the event is for charity the promotion of nonsense is often overlooked.

There is never an excuse for the promotion of nonsense.

Quite often these events consist of the group of attendees paying their fee and being allowed to handle pieces of equipment that are supposed to detect ghosts – EMF meters, dictaphones for recording EVP. They might also conduct things like ouija board sessions, dowsing rods, glass “divination”, seances and similar. These are bad techniques for a paranormal researcher to use, the ideas that surround these methods and theories are unscientific, biased, and in the worst case scenario, rooted in superstition.

What needs to be considered is that the people attending these events are members of the public and may not know any better. If the paranormal team hosting the event use incorrect methods of investigation and promote incorrect theories as factual then they are spreading pseudoscience and this is fundamentally wrong no matter the circumstances.

When members of the public attend paranormal events alongside members of a paranormal team then the investigator is often seen as an expert, or at least as somebody who knows what they are talking about. With that comes great responsibility and it is so bad that these researchers are abusing that authority and shirking that responsibility.

Shame on them.

Update: Since posting this article in my defense on the 28th September I have gone on to write a more detailed and precise breakdown of exactly why I don’t accept the leopard hair in question as proof of a leopard being in Longleat Forest when so many others do.

You can read the detailed article on the BARsoc website by clicking here.

Thank you.

_________________________________________________________

I am highly amused that I am having to write this blog post. It was with great surprise that I clicked on a link that led to this blog post that basically screamed at me and WPR and BARsoc and anything that was to do with my involvement with a) skepticism and b) leopard hairs.

I thought it might be useful to make some things very clear about this. I also think it’s probably useful if I write this very, very clearly because certain people seem to be very, very confused.

1 – I have nothing to gain or lose if there are or are not big cats of any kind roaming the Wiltshire country side.

2 – I do not, and have never said that members of the group called ‘The Four Teans’ planted or faked the leopard hair that was discovered in Longleat Forest. If I were to say that, I would also be calling my own brother a fraud as he was with them when it was found.

3 – It was not solely WPR team members that were present in Longleat forest when the hair was discovered. Not that I feel this has any difference on the overall discussion here.

I originally wrote this blog post on the WPR blog (that has since evolved into the BARsoc site) but after it clearly did nothing at all to bring clarity to the situation I took it down. However I have now (today) put it back up in it’s full original form before I edited the details I got wrong but they are back in there now as I reverted it back to the very original version. So yeah, don’t bother saying “this is wrong, that is wrong” as though you’re being clever…

In the blog post by the tiger person they claim that, & I quote:

…laying the blame at a small 4 man crypto group known as the “Four-teans”, (nice pun and name).

Now, by saying ‘laying the blame’ tiger person is saying that something bad happened that somebody was to blame for. Go and read the original blog post, nobody was ‘blamed’ for anything, so…

WRONG!

Tiger person goes on to say:

The WPR are very much a sceptic based orgnisation.

Correct.

This is of course very different from a sceptical organisation. The last thing sceptics want is evidence to prove them wrong.

WRONG!

Nice misunderstanding of skepticism there, buddy 😉 WPR used (and those members of WPR who continued on to BARosc still use) skepticism as a tool of investigation. It is essentially a way of questioning and processing information. Skepticism isn’t a belief as both believers and non-believers in something can be skeptical and can use skepticism.

If you are going to accuse me and my fellow researchers in WPR of being closed minded then say so, if you are going to accuse us of being dirty non-believers then say so. Get it right!

Tiger person goes on to say:

The fallout of all this is a lot of messy accusations aimed at the Four-tean group from the WPR,

WRONG!

The people involved in the Four-Teans group took what I said in THE ORIGINAL BLOG POST out of context. I made no accusations. This was even clarified to Colin from the Four-Teans in person, in text, message, on facebook and in email.

Turns out he doesn’t listen or they have a victim complex or something. They also go on to say:

Leading to a rebranding of the WPR to the BARsoc and a distancing of them from the finding of the hairs…

WRONG… well, sort of right.

See, things hadn’t been working out for WPR for a month or so prior to the leopard hair exploding (not literally), and the shit storm that erupted after the article in Fortean Times helped us (my co-founder and I) to finalise a decision we had been making for quite some time.

Please don’t let the leopard hair people think that they and their little paddy had anything to do with “bringing down” WPR.

Even insinuating the hairs were deliberated placed there by the Four-teans.

WRONG!

As mentioned before, we never made that accusation, the Four-Teans took our blog post out of context and were even TOLD that but chose to remain ignorant of our true meaning. Let me elaborate here… I said, and I quote:

I cannot rule out cross contamination. I am not suggesting for one minute that the hair was planted or swapped. However, because I have not observed the whole process, from the hair being collected to the hair being tested I cannot say with confidence that somewhere along the way the hair got mixed up by accident – or, indeed, as I was not at the testing, that a mistake was made (again, I am not commenting that it was, I just cannot rule it out).

I actually wrote ‘I am not suggesting for one minute that the hair was planted or swapped’ and somehow the Four-Teans took that to mean I meant exactly what I said what I said I wasn’t saying… confused? Yes, me too…

I’ve never been one to hold back when making accusations about people – the difference between me and the tiger person and the Four-Teans is that I always make sure my accusations are based on facts 😉 Take note Mr Highland Tiger because your accusations are anything BUT based on fact. Fact.

Tiger boy (or girl…) goes on to say:

the Four-teans have actually done nothing wrong here.

CORRECT! Except… throw their toys out of the pram if you happen to question them or disagree with their position on a case.

Tiger person goes on to comment about the change of name to ‘British Anomalistic Research Society’ which, frankly, has nothing to do with the leopard hair case and, after reviewing my earlier posting of this blog, I decided to not even reply to what they had to say about BARsoc as it was just childish goading on their part.

You can read the “defense” given by the Four Teans by scrolling down the blog post by the tiger. I was also sent this “defense” by email by Colin from the Four-Teans and it simply consists of more “boohoo” and accusations about things that WPR supposedly did and said.

It’s all rather pathetic and boring and tit-for-tat.

This blog post has been very tongue-in-cheek and probably a bit rude but I really do not care because the stink this leopard hair case has caused is unreal. Really.

My biggest issue with accepting that the hair discovered in Longleat Forest was a leopard hair was that I wasn’t there when it was discovered and I wasn’t there when it was tested. If somebody asked me “Hayley, are you 100% sure that everything happened as it is told it happened and no mistakes were made?” I could not and can not say “Yes I am 100% sure of that indeedy-doo” because I wasn’t there. I would be lying.

I know that Colin says I should trust his testimonial because he was a team member of WPR, but the fact is I don’t and didn’t – it’s nothing personal, but I  never accept someones testimonial of what happened on a case as being 100% factual because WE’RE ALL FALLIBLE.

It’s as simple as that. I didn’t make myself very clear when I originally wrote about why I couldn’t say for sure that nothing went wrong, however, this was clarified numerous times since that original blog post went live and yet Colin and Perry and the others from the Four-Teans refuse to understand that. Talk about holding a grudge…

It makes me concerned at how they perceive evidence and proof if they don’t understand where I was coming from. Scary!

Instead of being adult about this and just letting it lie and accepting that people have different beliefs and opinions, the Four-Teans went behind my back and moaned at The Highland Tiger who, quite frankly, has been extremely (and oddly) confrontational in their blog post about how evil WPR and its founder (yours truly) is.

My advise would be to get both sides of a story before you reach a decision on something.

As for the Four-Teans… you continue doing what you do, how you do it, but please accept one thing – not everyone will agree with you on everything, and when they don’t agree with you it doesn’t make them evil. Stop making conspiracies. It’s tiring 😉

Signing out,

The not-so-friendly skeptic.

Last week I wrote an article for the Wiltshire Phenomena Research website about the latest ghost hunting fad, Green laser grids. You can read the article by clicking here.

For those not in the know, Wiltshire Phenomena Research is the investigation team I helped to form back in 2005.

As I’m sure many of my readers are aware, there is a trend amongst ghost research teams to collect and use as many different gadgets as possible while on the search for ghosts. The use of these gadgets is inspired largely by paranormal television shows, as well as misinformation from other researchers.

The latest of these pieces of equipment to be causing excitment in the ghost hunting world is a laser grid that fills a room with small green laser dots that, apparently, will help you spot shadow figures and ghost moving around the room.

Yes, I know, turning the lights on would be easier, cheaper and safer.

Ever since the article was posted we have had a lot of hits to it, mainly from people who are searching for the following.

“laser grid paranormal equipment”

“ghost hunt laser grid”

“laser grid ghosthunters”

“laser grid for ghost hunters”

If you read the article on the WPR site, you will know that the use of laser grids on ghost hunts was first suggested to the masses on Ghost Hunters – a US paranormal television program.

I feel confident enough to say that the majority of people searching the above terms who end up on the WPR site are probably looking to buy a laser grid for their research team.

Isn’t it a sad state of affairs when the majority of people in the research field are taking their tips from television programs that have shown time and time again that they have no interest in rational investigation into paranormal phenomenon?

You only have to read this free PDF, ‘Top 5 ghost hunting mistakes’ by Ben Radford to see how the show Ghost Hunters are anything but scientific.

I think it also shows just how many researchers have double standards when it comes to their methodology. So many people will deny that they are influenced by dodgy paranormal television shows, yet they copy everything the television shows promote.

It’s very doubtful that Jason and Grant from the show Ghost Hunters will read this, but if they do I have one thing to ask them. In the next episode you film, will you please wear foil hats?

I cannot tell you how much I would love to see copy cat ghost hunters wandering around a graveyard with a green laser grid pointer, an K2 meter, a night vision camcorder, a dictaphone and a foil hat.

It would make my day.


Hayley is a ghost

Hayley Stevens is an advocate for science-based research into seemingly paranormal experiences and occurrences. With a background in the pseudo-scientific research into ghosts, Hayley offers a unique insight into the strange world of ghost hunting through her experience.

She describes herself as 'a ghost hunter who doesn't hunt for ghosts' and this is her personal blog where she writes about ghosts, people, and other interesting things. Read more here.

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