Since the early 20th Century individuals and groups have attempted to “formally” investigate and make sense of paranormal activity. All have basically walked the same road—using equipment in one variation or another, and using recipes that they hope will stir up activity to a recordable level. As new equipment is developed and targeted towards the paranormal seeker, it is quickly utilized into the arsenal of blinking lights and buzzing/vibrating weaponry.
It was, and is still, equipment that was originally developed for completely different purposes. Only today it is being used to prove the existence of a spiritual world. Or at least try to. It is all based on the theory that curious spirits will respond and register on these stimuli.
Hans Holzer, the Austrian born pioneering paranormal researcher and author, was a driving force in the investigation of strangeness in the 1960s and 1970s, achieving his greatest notoriety during this period. The two authors that influenced my imagination during the high school years of the 1970s were Holzer and Eric von Daniken.
And Hans Holzer was all about the equipment.
He was often accompanied on his investigations by a suitcase sized reel to reel tape recorder in an attempt to capture spirit meanderings. Today we have digital audio recorders that will fit into a pocket and are designed to transfer input into an audio editing program on our computer, effectively giving us the capability to manipulate low volume gibberish to a higher hissing level. And yes, we can also get rid of that hiss! This would leave Holzer scratching his head in wonder.
Since one of the theories is that spirits are a form of electro-magnetic energy, we have adopted field equipment used to detect power spikes into the realm of detecting spiritual presence. They will also prove the existence of an investigator’s cell phone and a radar detector some two miles away. The K-2 Meter, Cell Sensor, Ghost Meter (a thinly disguised version of a Cell Sensor), Mel-Meter, and various other bells and whistles have all found a comfortable niche in our foam lined, hard-shell case of equipment. Do they work? Well…the theory is they will, and at times appear to delight.
Cameras—graduating from simple Polaroid to digital with IR (Infrared) capability—have found a home as we spend hours treading carefully through the darkness of another investigation. Did Holzer use cameras? Oh yeah, he sure did.
Psychics (or Sensitive’s) have infiltrated paranormal investigations to a degree that brings about a sense of discomfort; at least to me. There is always that “gray” area of what is genuine and what is phony. As for the genuine—Ed and Lorraine Warren were a dominating couple in the 1960s, and seriously brought paranormal possibilities into the limelight. This investigating couple fired on all cylinders, and I still cherish the memory of Lorraine Warren’s occasional appearances on the A&E television show Paranormal State, years after Ed had passed on, when she would admonish doe-eyed lead investigator Ryan Buell with a cryptic utterance, such as… “Oh honey…there’s something very wrong about this house.”
Hans Holzer used these psychics also in his investigations, ambling into a purported haunted location with a trance medium (a very, very, serious psychic) in tow and often receiving revelations of just why the spirit was so pissed off. Holzer firmly believed that ghosts were “imprints” left in the environment which could be “picked up” by certain sensitive people. He felt that most spirits were intelligent beings that wanted to interact with the living, while there were those who had inexplicably remained behind. He referred to them as “stay-behinds” and they were usually not happy campers.
Using a psychic under investigation pretenses is always a gamble, and somewhat a crap-shoot. While I believe there are those of genuine and sincere intentions (Amy Allan of the Travel Channels Dead Files, for one. It is however television, so who knows?), there are also many fruit loops. Unfortunately, Indianapolis has a few of the latter. Famed magician and illusionist Harry Houdini, in his later years, made a practice of exposing these fruit loops for what they were—fakes! We desperately need a new Houdini on the scene. Or Kenny Biddle to step it up a notch!
Equipment has taken the place of our five senses. Do we as investigators rely on the equipment too much? Have we lost track of our senses and intuition? Yet, investigators love their toys! The various ghost apps available for our phone are a coy diversion, but at the end of the day they are what they are—Toys! They are a variation of what has already been developed and probably already in your toolkit; nothing new…nothing innovative. To be used for entertainment purposes only, for example when you’re in a restaurant and, by God, the Phone Ghost Radar says there’s a spirit standing right behind you! Good times! However, it should never be presented as viable evidence, unless you want to come across as the paranormal village idiot.
Yes, since the early 20th Century we have proceeded down the same road and have not really made any changes along the journey. It has become a consistent routine of tired repetition. And much like Fox Mulder of the X-Files, have we gotten any closer to the truth than when we started? I think not, and twenty-five years from now groups will still be in the same place and doing the same things. It’s a write-off…most folks are uncomfortable with change.
Many groups today appear to be living in the moment, yet without pause will proclaim they are approaching the paranormal from a scientific viewpoint–scenarios and techniques based on measurable evidence that are ultimately subject to thorough principles of reasoning and logic. Well now…that sounds great, but it also sounds like a load of fluff.
A scientific method would encompass systematic observation, various degrees of measurement and experiments, and formulating and testing the results to arrive at a hypothesis that is analyzed and dissected. And then it is all repeated…over and over and over. This proclamation sounds ultra professional on a group’s website mission statement, but in reality, and for the most part, is one night’s investigation going to provide them the opportunity to embrace a true scientific method of study? Very doubtful, and frankly, it doesn’t sound all that exciting. How many groups will even go that distance when the adrenaline rush of stumbling about in the dark at a haunted location can be so much more gratifying!
True change takes some big initial steps. Maybe it’s time for paranormal investigators to reinvent the wheel…because this wheel is getting rather stale. Perhaps it’s time to approach it in a different direction and reevaluate just what we think we are dealing with. And then, address accordingly.
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