The more I do investigations and talk to people about paranormal research the more I see a real need for education in this field. Clients, friends, and people in the general public are misinformed, largely from popular media like TV shows and new age books. Some ideas have been presented and repeated enough to have become engrained in public consciousness as "facts". It is important to note, once again, that this field is all theory and speculation at this point.
The really discouraging thing is many paranormal groups are also misinformed and are going into people's homes and further spreading inaccuracies. I want to make it clear that I recognize I still have a lot to learn myself in this field. It is constantly evolving. However, before I even labeled myself an investigator, I put in a lot of time and effort to educate myself about common techniques and equipment used in paranormal investigation. This is something that too many groups fail to do, as evident by their obvious lack of understanding of common causes of false positives, or equipment, protocols, etc. It bothers me that these people claim they can help others when they haven't learned the basics of the field first. That is why too many websites are bombarded by lens flares, light streaks from double exposures, and other common camera artifacts as well as ambient noise falsely called EVPs.
Recently my group participated in a Paranormal Expo. As expected, there were a lot of psychics and tarot card readers. As mentioned before, I don't consider psychics valid tools in paranormal investigations because it is a strictly subjective technique. The discouraging thing for me as a science-based investigator, is that crowds flock to these people. Why? Because they tell them what they want to hear, which is not always the truth. One example of why I can't take psychics seriously: my teammate was trying to get a picture taken with a turtle because of an ongoing inside joke. A so-called pet psychic actually PUSHED him out of the way, stating she had to "read" the turtle immediately. (Personally, all I can think that would be on a turtle's mind is "I want lettuce".) Such theatrics are unfortunately common in the psychic community which really undermines any true ability, if it in fact exists.
There were several paranormal teams present and many displayed pictures of them with para-tv celebrities, as if this somehow makes them more "credible". I have such pictures myself. I can assure you that paying for an event and standing in line to snap a picture with a TV personality doesn't not make me, or anyone else, a better investigator. These shows portray bad investigating, including poor protocols, misuse of equipment and presenting false positives as evidence, so why would anyone serious about paranormal investigating consider this a boost to their credibility? If I get my picture taken with Rachel Ray, it won't make me a better cook. (Although my husband might wish that were true.)
Most teams (ours included) displayed their gear to prove they are science-based groups. But using gadgets does not necessarily mean a team is science-based. Teams must a) know how the equipment works b) what it is designed to measure c) how to recognize false positives it may generate and d) properly analyze its data. Since there were useless (or if you prefer, subjective) gadgets on display such as K2s and Shack Hacks, it is clear that such groups are simply copying what they see on TV and not doing any reliable research on these devices at all. It concerns me that they using them to present "evidence" to clients, and possibly creating unnecessary fear.
Many of the groups were eager to show off their evidence. Can I just say, if you don't want an honest answer, then don't ask. A lot of investigators were closed off to informed opinions about their "evidence". I believe either you are in this field to feed your ego, or you are in it for valid research and the client's best interest. If it's truly the latter, then you will be open to learn from others, even if that means you have to discard evidence or gadgets along the way. Just like the rest of us have to do as we are constantly learning and reassessing. It is the only way this field can progress. Clinging to false evidence and useless gadgets is counterproductive and is a disservice to clients who ask for help.
Adding to the ignorance saturating the paranormal community is something much more insidious: fraud.
We encountered a team there that tried to bullshit people. They presented interesting evidence but then lied about use of controls and protocols to pad their credibility. When asked, they couldn't present evidence of either. For the record, if you tell me that you had control shots and video to back up your picture of an apparition, but go on to say you somehow lost them, I (and any other person with minimal intelligence) will conclude you are lying. Honest science-based teams recognize that control shots, comparison shots and video are just as important as the picture with the anomaly. Without them, there can be no honest peer review and analysis of the evidence.
There are different categories of frauds. Most commonly, there are groups putting out misinformation unintentionally because of simple ignorance. They have failed to take the time and make the effort to educate themselves in how their equipment works and how to identify false positives. They are so eager to throw "evidence" up on their websites to show off that they don't bother doing their homework. While we all had to start out somewhere, I still categorize these teams as frauds because they are going into homes and businesses presenting false "evidence" and possibly creating more fear for their clients. This is counterproductive to paranormal research and insulting to the teams who work hard to dispel common misconceptions.
Another type of fraud is teams who charge for their services. As I have mentioned before, there is no accredited certification or credentials for paranormal investigating. So what authority do these people have to charge for something based on nothing but theory and speculation? The existence of ghosts has yet to be proven. So teams that say they can "validate" a haunting or can "cleanse" a place of ghosts or other entities cannot substantiate these claims. Clients call us for help and we should be grateful to them that they are providing us an opportunity to do research.
Then there are the groups who flat-out manipulate and manufacture evidence. This is the most overt type of fraud. The internet is saturated with fake ghost photos. With the advent of photoshop and ghost photo apps on smart phones, it takes very little effort to create these. It does take some effort to spot the fakes. At one time, we could rely on the EXIF data to clue us in. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Thanks to common video editing software, there is also a lot of fake ghost videos being circulated on the web. YouTube has a host of these. Unfortunately, I no longer trust any photo or video unless I was there when it was taken. Some of these are done by pranksters who really have no interest in the paranormal. But, there are quite a few done by paranormal groups as well. These people are pathetic. One group, who apparently were going to do a TV show, even put out a fake missing persons report on a child who "disappeared" during one of their "investigations". This exploits real families with missing children.
What's even more interesting is sometimes the fraud is committed by the clients! One such example can be found on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGdyJh2GxiU
Some people just want a good story to tell and impress their friends. It is also important to note that in some cases, clients have claimed they have paranormal activity in order to cover up abuse.
There are several sites out there who are addressing fraud in the paranormal. This is a great thing for the paranormal community. Since there is no regulatory body overseeing paranormal groups, we have to police ourselves and call out deliberate fraud when we see it. Check out these sites:
Those of us who are interested in valid paranormal research are facing an uphill battle. But, thankfully, many of us ARE facing it. We are actively using education and networking to counteract the misinformation and fraud plaguing this field.
This article was reprinted with permission from