Who ya gonna call: The real paranormal research world

Posted: February 27, 2010 in anthropology
Tags: , , , ,

Work with the SPIRITS of St. Petersburg continues to invite condescension from certain people in my family.  I’m well aware that you think it to be a load of crap.  You are entitled to your opinions, but you should know my point of view on it before you make snap judgments.  I work with these people for several reasons.  One is that I am studying people who hunt ghosts. I’m more interested at this point in the sub-culture of ghost hunters and paranormal research specialists than I am in tracking down ghosts themselves, but to be a good anthropologist, one must participate as well as observe. So here I am, hunting ghosts with a group. It will not be the last odd or strange thing I do, I assure you. Get used to it now.

I have attended 2 investigations so far, and both were interesting and unique.  The head of the group is currently getting her doctorate degree, and has set them up in a highly-scientific fashion.  We go in to every investigation “cold”, that is, we know absolutely nothing about the location we are investigating until 2 hours before the start, when we receive directions.  We are told nothing else.

We arrive on location, and meet the homeowners, who often times are highly skeptical themselves of why we are there.  As I must point out however, they are the ones who called us in to investigate in the first place. We wouldn’t be there otherwise. The group, which ranges from 3 – 7 depending on the size of the location, then begins a silent walk-around.  We split into groups, consisting of a technician, who is using equipment like EMF detectors, thermal imagers, digital thermometers and the like, a sensitive (note I did not say psychic), and in my case, a general investigator.

Each group goes to a different place and begins, usually an inside/outside situation.  Both of my past investigations have started with me inside first.  We then go into each and every room in the house, and make observations, taking notes. There is no talking amongst the group members during this time, other than “are you ready?” when we move into another room.  They have instructed us to write down anything at all that might come to us: cold chills, headaches, weird feelings, things like that. She said,
”… no matter how stupid it may seem at the time, write it down.”  During the walkaround, we also take pictures of the rooms to check out later.

When we have finished going over the house (it can take as long as an hour and a half, if we stay in certain rooms longer than others) we then gather in a central location like the living room and compare notes.  One by one, we each give notes to our Group Leader who is collecting the data.  She makes special note of certain rooms, where we will return to later spend more time as a group.  These are our hotspots, places where members of the group agree to have some kind of activity.  All of this note reporting takes place in full view of the homeowners, who have been with the contact person since the start of the investigation.  This is done so we can keep an eye on them while the rest of us look around.  There have been cases in the past where the homeowner was reporting serious stuff going on in their home, only to find out they were faking it while the investigators were there.  Now they sit with the contact and fill out some paperwork while we wander around.

I cannot say that anything significant happened during either of my two investigations. We heard the odd knocking sound at one location, and I had cold sensations in a bedroom at another.  Nothing I would deem as scientifically significant.  I did capture some kind of anomaly (I did not say spirit) on my camera, and I have submitted it to the group for review.  One of my images will appear on the SPIRITS website, as we are unable to explain what it could be.

One thing I would like to note to some people is that I am a total skeptic. I don’t really believe in something unless I can see it with my own two eyes. I’m a “show me” person, for sure. With that said, I have to mention our sensitives.  Psychic denotes something different than sensitive.  Psychics, as one person tells me, can tell the future. Sensitives are more like mediums.  There are 3 of them, and I won’t divulge information about them, I do not have their permission. But I would like to say that thus far they are all relatively accurate in their information, as confirmed by the home owners themselves.  One sensitive gave an exact description of a man who had died in 1988, and was identified by the distinct elements she gave as the homeowner’s grandfather.  Another noted that something specific had been removed from a built-in cabinet that had upset the supposed/alleged spirit.  The homeowner confirmed that when they moved in, a lot of things had been removed from that built-in cabinet that had belonged to the previous owner (who had died in the home).  Mostly it was air conditioner parts, but the sensitive was able to give a description of the missing items to the homeowner.

My next investigation is in a week.  I’m looking forward to what interesting and new surprises we will encounter.  These are all educated, professional people who happen to share a particular interest in paranormal research, for whatever reason.  It’s very exciting to be working with a group who work so hard to prove that TV shows are not reality, regardless of the labels you put on them. (cough Ghost Hunters cough) Sometimes, you get nothing in a house: no EVPs, no images, no noises, nada. What you see when you watch shows like that are hours of footage that have been cut to be significant.  Don’t believe everything you see on TV.

In other news, writing continues on the next installment of A New Orleans Fairytale, which incidentally has been my biggest blog so far! I got more hits on that one than I did on the entire blog itself since it started last summer. Thanks to you, whoever my readers are!  I appreciate that you enjoy my writing. You are who I write for, after all.  I bet you never thought Anthropology could be so interesting.

That’s it for now.  I’ll be posting the next part of Fairytale sometime this week, after I get done for Spring Break (Hooray!).  As always, I invite your comments and criticisms, but I still reserve the right to mock you if I disagree.   The pen is always mightier than the sword.

  1. Josh says:

    People can be far too judgmental – not to mention downright silly at times – whenever the subject of paranormality is brought up. I can imagine that certain family members picture you walking around with a proton pack. Don’t cross the streams!

    The third-to-last paragraph (“don’t believe everything you see on TV”) is full of truth, and it extends to more than just painfully trite shows like Ghost Hunters. To give you an example from a different point of view, think of all those poker programs that television is lousy with these days. Do you think that every hand is full of drama and difficult decisions? Absolutely not. Most poker hands – particularly when professionals are involved – are boring and end with a player making a bet as soon as the flop (the first three community cards in Texas Hold ‘Em) comes out, with the other players folding in response. There are even some hands that don’t make it that far. Naturally, most of those find their way to the cutting room floor.

    Television programs have to play up the eventful and cut the uneventful due to time constraints (not to mention they have to sensationalize to draw ratings)…unfortunately, most people do not ever stop and think about that. I would imagine that true, real life paranormal research has quite a few dull moments, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting as an experience; unless, of course, one is expecting a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, or girls projectile vomiting pea soup, etcet-yada, etcet-yada.

    Besides – as you mentioned in your post – as an anthropologist, you’re researching the culture as much as (if not moreso than) the actual “spooks” (hehe) themselves. Keep up the good work, can’t wait to read Namedropping at the Rubyfruit!

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