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Ghost Hunting Methods and Standards


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#1 Señor Hugo

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Posted 24 August 2008 - 07:38 PM

We all know that for ghost hunting every single group out there tends to do different things based around their experiences in the paranormal field.

There seem to be two extremes when talking about the types of tactics ghost hunting groups use.

1. Scientific: Trying to find a natural explanation to debunk, then moving into the paranormal after exhausting natural options.

2. Spiritual: Using mainly stones, intuition, pendulams, psychics, using only base technology(cameras, annoying blinking emf meter, digital voice recorder)

Now most of use land somewhere in the middle using what we know and what we have to cobble together as efficient of a ghost hunt as possible.

But as a ghost hunting community, aside from websites or groups working together, there seems to be a wide gap. Due to politics, methods each group uses, etc.

So my question is, even though we are seen as a community, we vary greatly on aspects of ghost hunting.

Should each group be held to certain standards when it comes to the methods used when ghost hunting? Like the scientific community they are held to the scientific method, varied groups of people operating under one set of rules.

It would make cooperation a lot easier. Though it may ostracize people who use mainly spiritual elements when ghost hunting, like an Ouija board, stones, energy work and the like.

While I mainly use spiritual tactics when ghost hunting, bringing only only a camera when I can, and have had many great experiences when doing so. But my evidence is just that, great experiences.

So even though I use spiritual elements I love being able to measure just what I'm able to do. Anyone with science in their blood knows what I'm talking about.

So is it possible to measure the effectiveness of spiritual techniques? We saw in an episode of Ghost Hunters, when a psychic was giving a reading to Jason, the thermal camera which was pointed at the two showed some interesting results, energy around the psychic and Jason, then with a wave of his(the Psychic) the energy around Jason was gone in an instant.

In those cases something spiritual can be measured.

So while we may not be able to measure paranormal phenomenon using standards like the scientific method.

Can we measure the techniques used to capture phenomenon?

Would knowing(scientifically) what certain spiritual techniques are capable of help to validate evidence using said techniques?

Honestly, in my personal opinion, it couldn't hurt and would do nothing but help the community and the paranormal field as a whole.
"I am the bridge between worlds. I have experienced life, I have experienced death, others and my own. I am a shaman."

#2 Pfled

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Posted 25 August 2008 - 10:11 AM

I think what you pose is a really good question.

I have been on many investigations where I have not caught anything on audio, video, or photo, yet the spiritual members of the group have supposedly communicated and even helped spirits pass over in the same exact location where I get nothing. Now I trust that these people are honest people with good integrity, but how can I, as a non-psychic, back these experiences as evidence? I can't, not without some type of scientific process applied to it.

I had posted a link about a year ago regarding the validity of psychic investigations and how to quantitatively analyze them (Validating psychic investigations). As you may be able to tell I lay more on the scientific method end of the spectrum, but I do believe that psychic or sensitive interpretation can also provide valuable information to an investigation if quantifiable.

The trouble is how does one quantify a feeling, perception, or communication through a non-established medium? The only method I can think of is through testing and repetition with a large unbiased subject pool. Then again who has a pool of 100 or so sensitive persons at their disposal? And how would we keep the environment consistent for each and every subject? Spirits do not appear on cue, at least, they don't for me.

Ultimately, if we could develop a recognized method of quantifying spiritual techniques I too think it would only help our research. However practically, it would be a lot of time consuming work and would would need quite a bit of oversight to ensure integrity of each investigation.
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#3 CaveRat2

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Posted 25 August 2008 - 07:11 PM

There is one major problem as I see it and that comes from the spiritual side. As long as most sensitives and mediums refuse to be personally "put to the test" they will never attain credibility in the scientific community. And I don't mean just an occassional demonstration either, I mean continued testing using methods intentionally developed to try to debunk them.

Harsh??? Certainly. But consider the fact that scientists put their own equipment through rigorous tests before even using it. I myself have equipment regularly tested and calibrated to insure it is working to specs and doing what its manufacturer claims it should. This is ongoing with ALL scientific labs and test facilities. Equipment and methods are continually being verified and tested. Any lab failing to do similar programs would soon lose any credibility among their peers.

So why is it when someone questions a sensitive most get defensive and take the stand they don't have to prove themselves to anyone? Scientists have to prove themselves, why should mediums and sensitives be any different?

#4 Señor Hugo

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Posted 25 August 2008 - 10:20 PM

Well a lot of times I've noticed it is because the sensitive, and I don't mean any offense to any here, the sensitive/medium tend to have a rather large ego about it. They view that they were given these powers for a reason so we should just accept everything they say and to doubt them is to doubt whoever gave them their abilities. Plus they went through hell usually when they first didn't understand their ability, and it's not only a gift but a curse.

Which is a large problem, because if what they say is true, then thats a good thing, but no two mediums or sensitives are going to be at the same level with their gift. So it's important to find out not only what they can do, but if there are those who can do more, do less, etc.

Me I'm a sensitive, I can feel things, I have felt a lot of things that I can't see, I learned to train myself to pick out where things are making my sensitivity into a paranormal radar. I can tell you in which direction something is, how strong of an entity it is, vaguely how high it is and vaguely how far away it is. But I can't tell you what it looks like, I can't tell you it's name, or how it died if it was even alive to begin with.

I would love to get cameras, thermal as well as normal pointed on me while ghost hunting just to pick up if there are changes, because there are bound to be, especially with energy work like I mentioned before. This would not only show that there is something to what we spiritualists are babbling about, but also personally it would be amazing to be able to measure just what I'm capable of.

I think the key to understanding sensitivity and what people can do is the base step before being able to understand how things like an Ouija board work.

There are several experiments showing that an Ouija board is fake, it's moved by the people using it, subconscious muscle movements etc.

However as ghost hunters we also know that Ouija boards are powerful tools, that when used right, under the right conditions, it will work, and half the time it isn't a good thing.

But understanding and classifying sensitivity and mediums is the base step. It, I believe, is the ground work to being able to understand more fully whats out there. We don't have to understand why it works, or how it works, at first even though it'll be a question that plagues us until no end. We would just have to answer at the start two things.

1. Is there any truth to what they're saying. Which can be answered by performing several ghost hunts that the tech doesn't focus on finding ghosts, but focuses on the spiritualists in the group.

2. What level can their gift work at, it's limits?

Then just compare those to other groups findings, and hopefully you got the first steps into a much larger world.

The trick isn't really finding 100 sensitives, because honestly they really seem to be a dime a dozen.

The trick is getting everyone to work together and put aside their egos and what they know or believe for awhile in order to get things done.
"I am the bridge between worlds. I have experienced life, I have experienced death, others and my own. I am a shaman."

#5 CaveRat2

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Posted 26 August 2008 - 07:46 AM

Precisely that.

I am not out to prove all sensitives are frauds or shams. Rather I have seen people and worked with people who do seem to pick up on something. These people should be willing, within the context of their claimed ability, to put it to the test. Demonstrate it repeatedly, even though it may seem redundant. Repeated succesful results PROVE credibility. (I wonder, if your EMF meter could think for itself, whether it would complian about being used ovr and over for the same thing? LOL!)

But put the ability to the test. Let the skeptic devise ways to push its limits and let him measure results. In so doing the actual question might be addressed, that is "WHAT is going on and HOW does it work?" It's not about putting down a sensitive, it is about understanding what makes them able to do what they do.

Of course there are thoise who either aren't what they claim or don't understand abilities, too. Those may have a genuine reason to fear testing because it may reveal answers they really don't want to hear. Some feel because they guess something right a couple times that makes them a sensitive. Wrong! That follows the law of averages. But when it reaches a point where results exceed the expected norm then maybe we have something genuine. It's this latter group that we should be concerned with. And there are quite a few of them out there, not just charlatans working a crowd.

#6 OMPRDave

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Posted 26 August 2008 - 08:49 AM

There is one major problem as I see it and that comes from the spiritual side. As long as most sensitives and mediums refuse to be personally "put to the test" they will never attain credibility in the scientific community. And I don't mean just an occassional demonstration either, I mean continued testing using methods intentionally developed to try to debunk them.

Harsh??? Certainly. But consider the fact that scientists put their own equipment through rigorous tests before even using it. I myself have equipment regularly tested and calibrated to insure it is working to specs and doing what its manufacturer claims it should. This is ongoing with ALL scientific labs and test facilities. Equipment and methods are continually being verified and tested. Any lab failing to do similar programs would soon lose any credibility among their peers.

So why is it when someone questions a sensitive most get defensive and take the stand they don't have to prove themselves to anyone? Scientists have to prove themselves, why should mediums and sensitives be any different?

I can tell you why most get defensive - it's in the title; sensitive!

All kidding aside, it's unfortunate for those who want empirical evidence to prove our ideas, and in doing paranormal research there will be times when we will have run-ins with people who claim to see, hear, smell, and communicate with spirits. Maybe there is something to it and maybe there is a more mundane rationale at work, but as long as there are those of us who demand proof and controls when it comes to PSI abilities, there will those who will be just as adamant that they do not have to prove themselves in a scientific forum. Too bad really, because the whole concept behind hauntings and spirit communication could very well be discovered first in the living human mind rather than sniffing around for the unknown.

Just my honest opinion.
"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation." Herbert Spencer

#7 canuck

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Posted 26 August 2008 - 02:47 PM

In my opinion, having yet another round of arguments about the sensitivity of individuals is a totally non productive waste of time. We already know that some people are more sensitive than others.

To focus on the “sensitives” is the equivalent of going to a rock concert, and spending the whole time watching the audience. There is no doubt that you will see that some of the audience fall asleep, that some will be bored, and that many will be listening to the band.

So what? We know that already. So how does rehashing that, yet again, help advance our knowledge?

The action is on stage, and that is where we should be focusing our attention.

We have accumulated sufficient data relating to supernatural phenomena that we can change our focus from accumulation to that of analysis and interpretation. This can be done by applying standard scientific principles:

1. Construct a working theoretical framework
2. Specify one or more working hypotheses within that framework
3. Test each of these hypotheses
4. Analyse the data and refine the process

To illustrate:

1. Theoretical Framework:
“Ghosts are manifestations of a particular combination of known geological events”.

2. Hypothesis:
“A “ghost” is a radio-active cloud of swamp gas which periodically accumulates in the moldy basements of houses constructed over granite shield deposits.”

3. Hypothesis Testing
a. Find a “haunted” location that conforms to the hypothesis
i. Test for: swamp gas; radium; mold; radioactivity; etc etc.
ii. Wait for a ghost to show up, repeat

4. Analysis
a. Background level of X measured
b. Ghost appeared: background level of 5X measured
c. Ghost disappeared: background level of X measured
d. etc; etc;

5. Refinement
a. Get some X in the lab, reproduce the conditions of the “haunted” location, and try to create a ghost.

The benefit of this approach is that it provides a focus that is currently lacking is this area of research. It directs the research efforts to concentrate on specifics, and it generates specific, concrete data.

Notice also, that once a focus has been established, the previous discussion regarding methods, instruments, the calibration of instruments, etc, etc becomes redundant. When there is a specific focus, it follows naturally that: the study method is standardised; appropriate instruments are gathered and calibrated; their field application is standardised.

#8 CaveRat2

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Posted 26 August 2008 - 06:53 PM

I would agree that in some instances sufficient empiracle evidence exists that some factors can be tested. The "radioactive" theory is one of them. We have enough background and reliable test equipment and methods to prove that one way or another. Likewise most electrical fields and their physical effects can be tested.

But eventually someone will push the limit and move into that unknown area. Take for example once we test the basic pretext of the radiation theory. Some ghosts may be explained, likely other will not. Sooner or later someone will theorize how radiation may react, say, to the central nervous system. Research in this area is thus far inconclusive, so new standards must be set. Obviously they will, and that is where the true research will begin. New theories will be tested, some proven some refuted. Thus the work will always involve setting of new standards.

What we need now is to set what standards we can so we have something to base future research against.

#9 canuck

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Posted 30 August 2008 - 02:36 AM

Of course you are absolutely correct in your assertion that we need standards and protocols in investigations.

But I also repeat my previous comment: that as much as we need standards, we need a theoretical framework which encompasses the observations, directs the investigations, and leads to testable hypotheses. Otherwise, we are just spinning our wheels.

To illustrate my point: think of a geologist who keeps making field trips and keeps bringing back bags of rocks. He dumps them on the floor, and with each trip, the pile gets bigger.

But all he has is a pile of rocks; this is nice, but it would be even more nice if he had an explanation of what those rocks mean, and what they are good for.

Spookology is in a similar position: at the moment, we have a huge pile of rocks. Each new investigation just adds another rock, and all we are getting is an ever growing pile of rocks.

What we need is to get some meaning from those rocks; I am very interested in what other people think about how we should go about that.

Incidentally: my previous comment regarding radio-active swamp gas was just to illustrate my point; I was making it up as I went along. I was not saying that spooks are just glow-in-the-dark swamp gas.

#10 CaveRat2

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Posted 31 August 2008 - 10:17 AM

There is a difference between the pile of rocks and spookology though. Consider that the geologist actually has the pile of rocks. That is the the solid evidence to work with.

The spook hunter has no tangible evidence. Take a photo or an EVP for example. They are not the actual evidence. They are effects of the evidence. Until such time as someone manages to get a "spook in a box", all we will ever have are its effects to study. That would be akin to only allowing the geologist to study his rocks behind glass or by robotics. He could never actually pick them up nor handle them himself, only instruments he can devise could be used. As a result his conclusions would also involve any inherent flaws in his robotics as well as the real conditions encountered.

This is where we are today in spook studies. We have our EVPs and pictures but no solid evidence to study. So everything we know also includes flaws inherent in the equipment. Yet some are content to continue using equipment with known error factors and claim to be be getting scientific evidence. We need to set equipment standards higher to minimize these errors.

#11 canuck

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Posted 01 September 2008 - 07:45 PM

There is a difference between the pile of rocks and spookology though. Consider that the geologist actually has the pile of rocks. That is the the solid evidence to work with.

The spook hunter has no tangible evidence. Take a photo or an EVP for example. They are not the actual evidence. They are effects of the evidence. Until such time as someone manages to get a "spook in a box", all we will ever have are its effects to study. That would be akin to only allowing the geologist to study his rocks behind glass or by robotics. He could never actually pick them up nor handle them himself, only instruments he can devise could be used. As a result his conclusions would also involve any inherent flaws in his robotics as well as the real conditions encountered.

This is where we are today in spook studies. We have our EVPs and pictures but no solid evidence to study. So everything we know also includes flaws inherent in the equipment. Yet some are content to continue using equipment with known error factors and claim to be be getting scientific evidence. We need to set equipment standards higher to minimize these errors.

Yes, all true.

But in spookology there is an accumulated pile of data. While this data is not “solid”, there is a huge volume of it; and there are patterns and consistencies in this data.

Therefore I am suggesting that, based on these patterns and consistencies, we are in a position to make some informed speculation as to what these data mean.

As a case in point, in a parallel thread I speculated on a physical process which could lead to the visible manifestation of a spook. While my speculation may ultimately prove to be total BS, it is a starting point; and it does provide a focus for disciplined application of the means and methods you are suggesting.

Just proving that my speculation is BS, using standard scientific methods, would be a very valuable and informative exercise.

The approach I am suggesting is not new; there is ample historical precedent. Take, as a case in point, electricity and magnetism. The phenomena had been observed for thousands of years; since there was no explanation for it, it was pronounced as “the work of the devil”.

The ancient Egyptians experimented with tin and vinegar and made the first electrochemical cells; from these they produced electric current, thousands of years ago. They also didn’t know what it was, or why it was, or what it meant, or what to do with it. But they did have the data.

Then, sometime in the Middle Ages some people began to experiment with magnets and pieces of wire, and noticed that there were patterns and consistencies in their observations. Again, nobody knew what it all meant; but they did have the data.

Then somebody linked the Egyptian electrochemical cell to EMF and the science of electricity and magnetism took off like a rocket.

The thing that made E&M was the theoretical framework defined by Maxwell and his equations; with these, E&M went from mysticism to hard core science.

So, I am suggesting a similar process applies to spookology. We have data; now is the time to take a hard look at what we have, and start to get some meaning from all that data.

As a part of the development of this knowledge, you are suggesting the development of standards for instrumentation and methods for data gathering. Of course, you are absolutely correct in this line of thinking. Can you give us an example of what you have in mind on this?

#12 CaveRat2

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Posted 02 September 2008 - 09:02 AM

You are correct in stating that work needs to be done and also that we do have some data to work with. I agree that we might take some of this early data and possibly form a hypothesis. To a certain extent this may be done today.

However the comparison between your example of magnetism / electricity to spookology has one significant difference, repeatability. For instance the voltaic pile. It can be said that anytime anyone puts one of these together in a manner prescribed by Volta, an electric voltage will be generated. This is a measurable, testable hypothesis which has been duplicated many times. But with spooks, consider that sometimes one may set up a recorder and capture an EVP. The next time one sets up the exact same apparatus in the same location under the same conditions nothing happens. The test is not repeatable.

Now using scientific standards this would constitue a failure in the experiment. We need to determine the reason for this failure. Several possibilities may account for this.

1. The use of equipment which has introduced errors in the initial run, thus leading to an expected result which is false.

2. Some condition we are unaware of exists which has skewed the result in some manner.

3. Our test proceedure is in some way flawed.

4. We are asking the wrong questions in forming our hypothesis.

The last three of these are the most difficult to correct, but the method of doing so is similar. It comes down to more research. We may need to rethink our hypothesis. For instance, most assume ghosts are spirits of the dead. They form their hypothesis around that assumption. They build on it, yet we seem to be spinning our wheels so to speak. At some point, unless something changes, we are going to have to consider maybe that concept is flawed. Maybe ghosts are something entirely different.

If that turns out to be the case then new test proceedures will need to be developed to consider what new conditions exist. The last three areas in that regard are related. Different hypothesis will require different proceedures to consider different conditions. In that regard the science will build on itsefl. As certain things are disproven, new developments will open new doors for research.

But it all hinges on item one. If flawed equipment is used and misused data obtained will be flawed as well. That will render items 2, 3, and 4 also flawed. This is an area we can concentrate on today. Right now science can prove the technical limitations of most equipment in use. I recently attended a lecture where the speaker advised the use of a low frequency microphone with a digital recorder to capture infrasound. He stated the frequency response of the microphone was down to 10 Hz. Fair enough, yet he argued that a voice recorder, with a low frequency cutoff of 150 Hz would pick up a signal at 10 Hz. He had right in front of him manufacturer's specifications for both devices which contradicted each other yet he argues a case. With people promoting this kind of false information, how can the field advance? Especially when most don't understand their own equipment.

To answer the final question posed above, this can be corrected by education and deciding what kind of researcher you are. Technology has set certain limits on each piece of equipment, usually cost follows quality. Unfortunately many can't afford the type of gear needed to do serious research. They are content to simply go out and take a few pictures and get a faint sound on their recorders. For them it is a hobby, something to do. But that is OK as long as a devision is made between evidence obtained under those conditions and the evidence needed for serious research.

For the serious, standards based on technological limitations should be set. These need to take into account things which are known to cause false positives either in photography or EVP. Proceedures also need to be put in place that establish certain standards regarding background for supporting evidence. In other words, just getting a picture or audio is not enough. we also need to know what equipment was used, under what conditions, who was present, when the equipment was last calibrated, the background on the location, etc. The evidence must be of sufficient quality it can be thoroughly studied, not just a voice on a tape or an artifact in a picture. In short, we need to improve the quality of the evidence obtained to conduct serious research. For this standards must be established among the serious researchers.

For example, just in EVP.

1. Digital sample rates of 96 KBPS or higher. This allows the resulting audio to be studied using a spectrum analyzer. True you can do analysis on lower quality signals but some artifacts may be missed. And right now we don't know what is important and what is insignificant, so we need to study everything.

2. Stereo recording. Allows for both redundancy and spatial analysis to determine distance and direction of the EVP with respect to the microphones.

3. 24 bit wide A to D converter. This is akin to comparing a 2 megapixel camera to a 12 megapixel digital camera. Since most EVPs are very low volume, and only a small percentage of the available bandwidth can be used the resolution is much better. Especially when it become neccessary to do amplification. After all 10 % of 24 bit resolution is greater than 10% of 16 bit. Just like a picture, audio will "pixelate", that is lose definition. Aliasing and intermodulation distortion comes in to play leading to false positives and bad data.

4. WAV format only. While MP3 and other formats may sound good, they compress the file. To do this they remove certain "uneccessary" frequencies and samples. But as stated before, we don't know what we are dealing with therefore we need all the data, not just what we can hear if we want to ever understand what it is we are dealing with..

#13 Vampchick21

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Posted 02 September 2008 - 09:15 PM

I've been wondering this for a while now.

Has anyone or any group set up a database to house collected data from investigations? And I'm not just talking about data from one or two groups. I mean throughout the field.

If not, I think it would be a good idea, there must be piles and piles of various data. Part of the issue in my mind is that it's all scattered in different places, and each group/individual operates in a different manner in terms of what equipment they use, what methods they use, even in what theories they ascribe to.

Which also leads me to the next question....has anyone documented all the theories surrounding various types of paranormal phenomena?

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#14 canuck

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Posted 03 September 2008 - 12:41 AM

A good response there Caverat, thanks.

Your specs for sound capture are reasonable, and attainable.

Your comment regarding the voltaic pile only tells half the story. The actual voltaic cell, and the methods of its construction and operation, are the end result of the accumulation of a large volume of data and analysis performed over a long period of time. It started out as “the devils work” and ended up as basic science. But it was a very long process.

By analogy, the end result of the process we are embarking on with spookology will be the ability to conjure up a spook on demand. The fact that we are currently unable to reproducibly produce a spook on demand only means that we don’t know very much about spooks; it is still very early days.

However, we are at the stage that we can start to make testable hypotheses.

In your comment about repeatability and EVP’s, you seem to be making the assumption that the equipment is creating the phenomenon; therefore, failure of the equipment to capture any data, would be seen as a failed experiment.

Not true: the equipment is, and always should be, a passive data capture device; the whole point of establishing standards relating to its calibration and use is to ensure that ALL it does is capture data.

Did you know that in the search for the omega-minus particle, particle physicists ran over 200,000 experimental trials and only found the particle in two (count ‘em TWO!!!) of those trials?

Therefore, if the equipment has been set up to standard method, and it fails to capture any data, it means that there was no data to capture. Not that the experiment failed.

In the context of spookology, it tells us that at the time of the experiment, there was no spook in the neighborhood. No spook, no data.

We really do need a co-operative spook who will sit still and allow us to take measurements.

Vampchick:

I understand that in the area of parasychology a number of universities are co-operating and sharing data and methods. Also there are frequent conferences of serious researchers in this field during which their research findings and methods are presented during formal presentations.

However, to my knowledge nobody has formally set up an analogous spookology database and data sharing process. Clearly, this would be of immense benefit.

I think that with the discussions and exchanges, such as this one, that are occurring on this site, we may be starting to form the basis for just such a co-operative effort.

#15 Señor Hugo

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Posted 03 September 2008 - 06:15 AM

I understand that in the area of parasychology a number of universities are co-operating and sharing data and methods. Also there are frequent conferences of serious researchers in this field during which their research findings and methods are presented during formal presentations.

However, to my knowledge nobody has formally set up an analogous spookology database and data sharing process. Clearly, this would be of immense benefit.

I think that with the discussions and exchanges, such as this one, that are occurring on this site, we may be starting to form the basis for just such a co-operative effort.


But there are very few universities around the world that even do research in parapsychology anymore. So unfortunately that doesn't help your average ghost hunter who may want to turn to a university for help. Since most look at parapsychology and things of a paranormal nature with extreme skepticism to the point where they just classify it as fake and move on without much if any research into it.

I've had the idea to make a database of all hauntings, evidence and what-have-you for awhile now. The problem is, without funding, the cost of running a database dedicated to archiving every bit of evidence for hauntings including reports, findings, interviews and such is a monumental task. Even if donations were to be taken in, it would be hard-enough to keep it going for everyone to use and access.

Not to mention gathering the data would be hard. A lot of groups, like T.A.P.S. are reluctant or flat-out against handing over evidence and full-length tapes to other groups to verify what they claim. Granted if I was doing ghost hunting, I would be a bit reluctant as well, but someone may catch something the original viewers of the evidence didn't.
"I am the bridge between worlds. I have experienced life, I have experienced death, others and my own. I am a shaman."




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