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The Four Biggest Threats To The Paranormal Field

Today I will discuss the four biggest threats to the paranormal field and how together they have caused a situation where outsiders laugh at those of us in the field and that integrity has for all intents and purposes been severely damaged due to a lack of self-education and people focusing more on chasing either personal notoriety or social media likes on the internet.

Please don’t take anything that I am about to say personally as it isn’t directed at anyone in particular.

The first biggest threat to the paranormal field is many of those people already in the field. Prior to 15 years ago if you contacted a paranormal investigation team, in most cases you were getting a well-educated team with established operations centered around the scientific method, and their entire investigation was deeply routed in science. Now in most cases if you contact a team you are getting one where the members truly believe that they are paranormal investigators, however, the team consists of ghost hunters and uses ghosthunting methodology which is basically searching out the spooky, in contrast to paranormal investigators who are searching out the science of what is being misinterpreted as being spooky. Basically, it’s the equivalent of requesting that a case is opened, and historically, before the paranormal television shows started showing up on the scene, you would get the equivalent of a team of police detectives. Now when requesting assistance you often get a group of people with their handy dandy notebook and an EMF meter thinking that they are a team as you would see on Law and Order when they are more likely to be the equivalent of the team that you see on Blues Clues.

I often speak about the fact that the vast majority of the people active in the paranormal field are recreational and thrill-seeking ghost hunters, and that the amount of actual paranormal investigators are far less than people believe as the majority of people claiming to be paranormal investigators are simply ghost hunters trying to give themselves a professional sounding title that doesn’t fit their skill set. Starting around 15 years ago with the release of paranormal television shows ghost hunters started calling themselves paranormal investigators, even though the vast majority of what they do has no resemblance to what was historically recognized as a paranormal investigation and they don’t share the skill set typically held by a paranormal investigator. If your investigation centers around attempting to record or document paranormal activity, meaning it is some form of what you see on television shows, even remotely resembling those shows, then it is ghost hunting and you are a ghost hunter. That is not a paranormal investigation, not even remotely close. Some groups claim to be science-based, but that typically means that they may engage in some more “debunking” than other ghost hunters. That is still not a science-based paranormal investigation. It is simply a side order of debunking, accompanying the main course of ghost hunting. A paranormal investigation is when you research a case using the actual scientific method, in most cases, you can explain the cause of the perceived activity without an onsite investigation due to having a strong skill set in the sciences. If you do have to have an onsite investigation you proceed with a plethora of scientific analyzers and a skill set that understands the science behind what is being analyzed and do everything in your means to explain perceived paranormal activity with a truly scientific cause. That means if something is beyond your skill set you consult with people who have advanced college degrees and subject matter experts in order to be able to find a scientific answer. I have asked some of these groups that claim to be scientific paranormal investigators about their scientific methodology and to explain the scientific method and how they incorporate it into their investigations. I am hoping that you are not surprised when I say that they look at me like a deer in headlights.

This is not meant to demean or discourage anyone, but the fact of the matter is the paranormal investigation field is predominantly consisting of people without advanced scientific education or self-taught knowledge who are chasing thrills because they saw it on television and want to get a piece of that paranormal pie. It doesn’t matter how you spin it, mostly everyone is a ghost hunter and many incorrectly call themselves a paranormal investigator. Most people in the field are not conducting a paranormal investigation. They are conducting variations of a ghost hunt. They are two completely different things. A ghost hunt is searching for the spooky while primarily ignoring a wide variety of scientific subjects in favor of finding yourself something that you can believe is paranormal because in your mind that is more fulfilling than finding a scientific cause. A paranormal investigation is a deeply scientific attempt to explain perceived activity with a natural cause using a wide variety of sciences, most of which aren’t generally common knowledge. The biggest threat to the field is ghost hunters who lack a scientific skill set.

What skill set would that be you ask? As I mentioned on a recent podcast that skill set would include understanding and practicing the scientific method. Such science subjects include infrasound, ultrasound, Helmholtz resonances, piezoelectricity, geology, physics, ionospheric propagation, tropospheric ducting, various meteorological anomalies, the effects of various electromagnetic wavelengths on human anatomy and the symptoms that they cause, quantum entanglement, Schumann resonances, and vibroacoustic phenomenon just to name a few. You can also learn about medical conditions that may mimic what is perceived as paranormal activity such as musical ear syndrome, pareidolia, synesthesia, tachypsychia, palinopsia, hypnogogic and hypnopompic hallucinations, derma-optical perception, peripheral drift illusion, scopaethesia, claustrophobia, sleep deprivation, Déjà vu, jamais vu, & presque vu, cryptomnesia, apophenia, and Charles Bonnet Syndrome just to list off a few of the many possibilities. Did you think to learn about human behavioral causes of perceived activity such as mental health issues, the Semmelweis reflex, the Thatcher effect, the Doorway effect, the Butterfly effect, the Barnum effect, the Hutchinson effect, the Mandela Effect, the Misinformation effect, and the availability cascade which are only a small sampling of the many human behavioral causes for perceived paranormal activity? Perhaps it would benefit to take some time to learn about all of the photographic anomalies that are often misinterpreted as paranormal activity such as parallax, halation, blooming, backscatter, bokeh, pincushion distortion, pixelization, under-exposure, over-exposure, dark current, chromatic aberration, and pixelization to name some of the more common ones. Are we learning about audio anomalies such as distortion, hissing, humming, EMF interference, and low-frequency rumble, just to name a few? Are we learning about the scientific purpose of the devices that we are using, the abilities of the device, their strengths, and weaknesses, and whether or not they can actually do what you think that they can do? 

I just listed a slew of scientific topics that a paranormal investigator is typically acquainted with. Are you familiar with most of these topics? If the answer is no, and I don’t mean this to be a derogatory statement, then you are simply ghost hunting and are not investigating the paranormal with science. As I have said television shows convinced many people that ghost hunting is a paranormal investigation when historically it was about science. The television shows used the term paranormal investigation as a buzzword even though they weren’t completing one. Now we have thousands of ghost hunters who think that they are paranormal investigators, and the science behind a paranormal investigation at large has been lost in the fray. I am sure most ghost hunters could be trained to be a paranormal investigator if they educated themselves on the vast variety of subjects that I mentioned as paranormal investigators tend to do. Please don’t take my comments as me talking down about ghost hunters. Most of them used television shows as their teacher or were taught by people who used television shows as their teachers and they truly don’t know what a real paranormal investigation entails and what a paranormal investigator actually is. The truth has been lost over the past 15 years due to television shows and social media enhancement of this effect. Again, the lack of education and motivation to self-teach is our ultimate biggest threat.

The second subject that is the biggest threat to the paranormal field is the failure to recognize pareidolia.

Pareidolia is a phenomenon that is also referred to as matrixing. This situation is your mind’s attempt to find patterns in randomness. Our mind loves things to make sense and when they don’t your mind tries its best to make sense out of chaos. The fusiform, which is a part of the brain, recognizes faces and familiar forms and can see faces and familiar forms where there aren’t any in inanimate objects. This can often cause pareidolia. Examples of this occurring would be staring at static on an old-school television set and seeing shapes or figures in the static. Another example is seeing figures in clouds. How often do you look at a cloud and see a bunny, a car, the Enterprise from Star Trek (yes I am a Trekkie), a horse, or another object that you are familiar with? Other examples of pareidolia include seeing objects in the ripples of moving water or seeing figures in rock faces on the side of mountains. Examples of this in the paranormal field would be seeing faces in condensation-caused fog or mist which can show up out of nowhere, even inside a building. You may see figures in the dark or in very low light levels. You may see faces in wallpaper, or misperceive shadows as something paranormal. You may see figures in the dirt and humidity in a mirror. Often this is perceived as seeing something “out of the corner of your eye”. 

Pareidolia also comes into play with excessive electromagnetic energy where our nervous system senses its presence and not understanding them our brain can react in a way where we perceive apparitions or other familiar forms. Electromagnetic energy surrounds us and our nervous system can act as a big antenna to receive this energy. For some people, their minds will matrix the energy into a visual form that isn’t really there. Long-term high EMF exposure has been proven by science to cause hallucinations. Pareidolia can also be caused by infrasound, ultrasound, electrostatic presence, various gasses, atmospheric phenomena, and a slew of other causing factors.

Pareidolia can also be something that affects your hearing. Infrasound is sound below the threshold of human hearing. Some animals can hear into the infrasound range. Infrasound has been found to have an effect on the human nervous system and can cause perceived paranormal activity via hallucinations. Any large appliance can cause infrasound, and large equipment outside of your home in the neighborhood such as construction equipment and mother nature can cause infrasound as well. There are other situations pertaining to sound that can cause pareidolia. One situation includes ear barotrauma, which is also known as airplane ear, where unbalanced pressure in the ear or clogging of the eustachian tube can cause you to hear things that aren’t really there. Another example is tinnitus which is humming, clicking, ringing, or buzzing in the ear. This can and has been misperceived as paranormal activity. There is also something called musical ear syndrome which is when someone hears music that isn’t there. This happens quite often to many people and can be misperceived as an entity playing music on an instrument, or an old radio playing music. Pareidolia can also cause physical sensations and cause smells that aren’t really there, as again your brain is triggering various senses along your nervous system in order to register various perceived stimuli.

As you can see pareidolia can cause a wide variety of human nervous system responses, yet many of those people in the field completely ignore the subject simply due to either ignorance of the science, or due to their personal bias into wanting to believe that they are seeing something paranormal.

Speaking of bias that brings us to our third subject which is one of the biggest threats to the paranormal.

The observer-expectancy effect (also called the experimenter-expectancy effect, expectancy bias, observer effect, or experimenter effect) is a form of reactivity in which a researcher’s cognitive bias causes them to subconsciously influence the participants of an experiment. Confirmation bias can lead to the experimenter interpreting results incorrectly because of the tendency to look for information that conforms to their hypothesis and overlook information that argues against it. In the paranormal field that means someone who goes into an investigation biased that a location, interprets readings on equipment, and interprets any personal experience to be paranormal because they want it to be so. They may also attempt to convince others that benign occurrences have to be paranormal activity.

This basically means that people’s activities in the paranormal field are focused through a paranormal lens, where they are actively looking for the paranormal due to their personal interest and due to this they are looking through a biased lens and interpret things as paranormal because they want things to be paranormal to enhance their own enjoyment. In doing so they will often disregard science, or even basic common sense because in their mind finding paranormal activity takes center stage and tunnel vision keeps them from being able to see anything else. These people tend to post random photos and videos online claiming paranormal activity but don’t include any scientific data with the photos such as readouts from infrasound/ultrasound analyzers, atmospheric phenomena, and conditions, electrostatic balance, EMF readings across the electromagnetic spectrum, etc. They don’t take into account the photographic artifacts that I mentioned earlier such as moire, chromatic aberration, parallax, and backscatter. In their eyes, the spooky comes before science, and are hoping for confirmation of their paranormal delusions.

It is important to remove any bias in your work whether it be due to the misinformation that you learned on television, prejudices, cognitive, implicit, conscious, unconscious, social cognitive, or biases that are religious-based, personal interest-based, biases from teachings from parents, or any other type of personal bias that you could imagine. If you bring bias with you into an investigation you have tainted the results even before you start.

The last of the four biggest threats to the paranormal field is what is known as the Semmelweis Reflex. In basic terms, it means that you have your preconceived beliefs and that you would reject any evidence that suggests contradiction to those beliefs no matter how convincing or factual it is, even with indisputable science right in front of your eyes.

The term Semmelweis Effect originates due to a Hungarian scientist and physician named Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis. Semmelweis was born on July 1, 1818, and lived until August 13, 1865. Semmelweis was one of the first doctors to adopt antiseptic procedures when performing medical duties. Semmelweis found while working in Vienna General Hospital’s First Obstetrical Clinic, located in Vienna, Austria, that wards overseen by midwives had ⅓ the mortality rate compared to that of wards run by doctors. He found that the midwives had been washing their hands prior to medical procedures. In 1847 Semmelweis proposed that doctors begin washing their hands in a chlorinated lime solution before performing procedures. He was mocked for his propositions, had a nervous breakdown, was institutionalized, and passed away two weeks after being institutionalized due to injuries suffered from beatings by the guards. It wasn’t until several decades after his death that in the 1890s his propositions gained traction and were taken seriously. The term Semmelweis Reflex is now used to describe human behavior where someone automatically rejects new knowledge or evidence if it doesn’t support their preexisting beliefs.

An example of the Semmelweis Reflex would be when a ghost hunter watches a paranormal television show that is known to use controversial investigative methods and technology in order to bolster ratings for the show. The ghost hunter sees someone on the show use a device referred to as a “Ghost Box” or a “Franks Box”. Such a device was proposed and created by Frank Sumption in 2002. He proposed that a modified short-wave radio would allow a deceased entity to speak to the living through the device. Frank claimed that he received instructions on how to build a device from the spirit world. Although there isn’t science of any kind to back up his assumptions many in the ghost hunting (not paranormal investigation) field began using copies of the device as they enjoyed the premise that such a device could be feasible. Users of this device believe that somehow after death a spirit has gained the skillset to speak through radio waves being picked up by the device, which scans through amplitude modulation radio frequencies at a fast rate. Some people swear by this device even without a shred of science to back it up. In this case, the ghost hunter loves the thought of there being such technology and quickly orders one for themselves and begins to use it everywhere claiming that voices coming through are paranormal in nature. Due to the Semmelweis Reflex, someone who loves using the device would reject any evidence given to them that clearly shows that the device is incapable of performing such an act, or that a human could ever unilaterally speak over radio frequencies even if the person offering said evidence is a long term paranormal investigator with decades of experience in both paranormal investigation and radio communications.

Here are three other quick. examples of the Semmelweis Reflex.

1) One of the most common examples of the Semmelweis Reflex is that some people reject evolution. Science considers it a fact due to indisputable evidence, but some people, due to the Semmelweis Reflex, choose to reject it due to the reason that it doesn’t support their preexisting religious beliefs that life in any form was created by a deity.

2) Someone who has worked for a business for a long time and is used to handling procedures in a certain way. A study group within the company finds a more time-efficient and cost-effective way of completing a major component of the work. Everyone is happy to accept the new procedure except for one person that, due to the Semmelweis Reflex, who refuses to entertain the idea of change because they believe that the way things have been done is the best way to do it.

3) A plague infects nearly 250 million people worldwide. Science dating back 18 years existed due to scientists developing treatments for related viruses. Due to technological advances, it didn’t take long for scientists to map the genetic code of the virus and an mRNA vaccine for the virus became available soon thereafter. Even though the science overwhelmingly showed that the vaccine was safe, and for most people could prevent a serious infection from the virus with only minor short-lasting side effects, due to the Semmelweis Reflex, many people rejected the vaccine due to their preconceived opinions regarding them.

The Semmelweis Reflex is not a term commonly known, but it is a human behavior that we all have to contend with. Do your best to be cognizant of not exhibiting the behavior yourself and do your best to work with those who do during your career as a paranormal investigator. It is imperative to keep an open mind and not to assume that your way is the right way, especially if it remotely resembles, all or in part, what you see on television shows, which is a highly edited cinematic ghost hunt misrepresented as a paranormal investigation.

Today we discussed how lack of self-education in various science-related subjects, bias, not recognizing pareidolia, and the Semmelweis Reflex are the biggest threats to the paranormal investigation field. Our reputation as a field as a whole has been severely hurt by these behaviors as most of what is going on in the field is very unscientific which is why mainstream science doesn’t take us seriously. It is important to focus on integrity and scientific fact instead of focusing on the spooky for personal notoriety, social media likes, or due to personal beliefs and interests.

Remember everyone, science comes before the spooky.

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