Steve Parsons appears to be on the same page as me about the poor understanding of ghost investigations by amateur investigators. He wrote a detailed and very readable book with the aim to show that this kind of sensationalized paranormal inquiry should not be confused with parapsychology or science: Ghostology: The Art of the Ghost Hunter (Steven T. Parsons, 2015,
White Crow Books, UK).
This is an excellent guidebook, one of the very few, that tackles how the average paranormal investigator goes wrong from the start. Most don’t pay attention to the important academic findings or know the history of the subject. The field is overrun with so many people with personal goals that genuinely interesting cases are lost in the noise. Invoking their gadgets with vague and amazing claims of how they supposedly work, they haphazardly collect volumes of detailed but useless data without proper context. There is no thought-out plan for what to collect or consideration of what is important to the investigation. Investigators seek out historical significance for a location even where there is none because that’s what TV shows suggest doing. Relying on their EVPs, where ghost supposedly speak in distorted monosyllables, on bogus gimmicks like the “flashlight trick” which has been thoroughly explained as non-paranormal, and the use of the “human pendulum” which Parsons explains here, paranormal investigators provide no valuable insight to the rest of us. Parsons calls for sound, practical, and ethical guidelines for paranormal investigation. I agree but I hold out no hope. Ghost hunters are succeeding in flummoxing the public and their “clients” with their sciencey-sounding rhetoric and performances. They gain media attention by declaring themselves experts and presenting their work as conclusive. With only lip service to critical thinking, in no way do their conclusions pass for anything reasonable or professional. It’s haphazard and contrived, built on myths and misunderstanding.
Ghostology is written from the British perspective where modern ghost chasers there were influenced by Most Haunted (2002) instead of Ghost Hunters in the US (2004). Most Haunted introduced mediums into the popular ghost hunting scene and, along with other media, pushed out the more conservative and careful parapsychology-oriented investigators who no longer get the call to investigate. The publicity machine propelled by local ghost groups entirely changed the narrative of what to do when you think your space is haunted. You now get the standard shallow interviews, cases of gadgets, various baseless “theories” thrown around until something sticks, and the mind-numbing parade of bad photos, electronic glitches and imaginative interpretations of the mundane to be extraordinary. Ghostology provides clear and correct explanations of how anomalies are imbued with meaning – from photographs and sounds to environmental readings. It tells you what you should do and what you should not do to conduct a valid and credible investigation.
There are very few who can manage to produce a readable condensation of the scientific views pertinent to ghost hunting and translate in-depth knowledge to the average reader. Sadly, most ghost hunters are too far down their road to notice how little they actually know about their methodology, how often they make a series of obvious mistakes that sabotage a reasonable investigation, and how the conclusions rendered from this flawed process are misleading and worthless. Expertise is gained through time and diligent effort to explore all aspects of the field. That means thinking about what you are doing and why, critically evaluating your methods and results, and learning from mistakes instead of repeating them. If you want to do better, seek out the more intelligent and critical sources to examine. Add this impressive and highly useful guide to that list.