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Attention ParaN00bs: Ghost Hunting Mistakes Everyone Makes

In our time, ‘Skepticism’ has sadly become synonymous with snarky proselytizing, in favor of a certain worldview that tends to eschew and belittle those things lying in the fringe of mainstream Science.

Hayley ‘the Ghost Geek’ Stevens is a skeptic, but the kind of skeptic which restores the proper meaning of that term. She’s often incurred in the ‘heresy’ of applying critical thinking ALSO to the claims or attitudes of so-called skeptics –like that time when she bravely took a stand in the James Randi ‘Social Darwinism’ controversy– and for that she’s been severely chastised by people she once considered impassionate colleagues –further highlighting how this social movement has started to attain many defects of the ‘woo woo’ trends and religious organizations they supposedly combat…

The criticism hasn’t silenced Hayley though, who continues to speak and lecture in favor of the rational investigation of paranormal phenomena, including ghost apparitions. In the video above, she points out many of the mistakes she perceives amateur ghost hunters commit, when they go inside haunted houses or other locations in which alleged preternatural manifestations are reported.

Your particular worldview –or maybe even personal experiences– might cause you to disagree with Hayley’s conclusions, and that’s fine. Even I once engaged in a discussion with her last year, under the comments of her blog post ‘3 Weird Things That Happened To Me (& Why I Still Don’t Believe In Ghosts)’, because I wanted to know what her operative theory about that which we commonly refer to as ‘ghosts’ was.

Her response was:

I used to believe ghosts were the dead and that our spirit (the life energy) survived after death, but now I don’t find that convincing enough to believe it.

…Which is something I’m perfectly fine with, since to me unquestioningly equating ghosts with the ‘souls’ of the dearly departed, is as simplistic and as-yet unfounded as implying UFOs must be the metallic spacecraft of interlopers from another star system; an assumption nuts-and-bolts UFO buffs –not to mention debunkers like Seth Shostak and Neil deGrasse Tyson– love to either champion or criticize ad-nauseam, when they could probably better spend their energies exploring alternative hypotheses for why people continue to report UFOs –as well as ghosts.

I’m also OK with the fact Hayley is not inclined to let her few mysterious experiences, which seem to indeed defy a rational explanation, move her to cross that ontological Rubicon of accepting the existence of paranormal phenomena. At the end of the day, defining what constitutes ‘sufficient evidence’ with these mysteries remains a very personal and quite subjective question –what might convince me might not convince you and viceversa– and I think this ongoing search for the Truth benefits greatly when we have honest people who elect to err on the side of agnosticism.

Saying “I don’t know, so let’s not jump to conclusions AND keep the case open” will always be more preferable than concluding “I don’t know, but I’m going to choose the explanation that better suits my bias and stop looking for answers.”

Subscribe to Hayley’s channel, and follow her blog Hayley is a Ghost Geek.

  1. Skeptics
    It’s nice to see that there are others out there that are of the same belief that I am: paranormal phenomena deserves rational investigation. It is true that false reports of phenomena that defy rational explanation have abounded over the years, however, even a scientist would be hesitant to say that ALL reports are false. Science can’t deal in absolutes like that…it would be impossible to verify. The absence of evidence is NOT evidence itself.
    The fact is that reports of unexplained phenomena have persisted for millennia. Something is going on, something that our current understanding of science is unable to explain. With people like Hayley, approaching the unexplained in a rational way, I’m sure that one day these phenomena will no longer be thought of as silly superstitions, but instead will be understood as a natural part of reality.

      1. Dogs and Cats
        Based on watching hundreds of paranormal investigation shows a piece of kit every investigator should have is a dog. Dogs and cats have a fairly unerring sensitivity to the presence of spirit phenomena, and are not bashful about letting the world know about it. The TV channel “Animal Planet’s” flagship paranormal show “The Haunted” often features actual footage of household pets “alerting” very strongly to activity which is subsequently verified by other instrumental means. It is also the pets who first notice spirit activity when they and their owners first move into a haunted home.

        To wit:

  2. Ghosts
    But a ghost IS “the soul of a dead person thought of as living in an unseen world or as appearing to living people” as defined by several dictionaries. To state “I used to believe ghosts were the dead and that our spirit (the life energy) survived after death, but now I don’t find that convincing enough to believe it” is in itself an oxymoron. By true definition, you do not need proof of what a ghost is. Whether ghosts are real is another story.

    I understand and agree with the whole point of your article and Hayley’s blog after having just read it. I feel its important to separate the term ghost from the phenomena that’s being investigated. Imagine that you go ghost hunting and come up with concrete proof that the phenomena “haunting” a location is a being that can’t be seen and lives on another dimensional plane. The term ghost would not then mean “being that lives on another dimensional plane and can’t be seen.” Ghost would still be defined as the soul of a dead person.

    A technicality to be sure but I believe it helps one to keep an open mind. Sort of along the same lines as life could not exist in a sea of methane. Not life as we KNOW it.

    1. Languages and Definitions
      Which is further proof of how limiting language can be, and how it can even dictate our attitudes and expectations about a given phenomenon, be that physical or metaphysical.

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