04 April 2012

Paranormal Rantings in F-major

One comment I often get when people find I have some involvement in paranormal investigation is something to the effect of: I am very intrigued at the fact you do paranormal studies. I’m a really big fan of those shows on the T.V.
I find it difficult to respond to something like this in any small way.

The shortest answer I’ve ever given has been “There are no experts in a completely theoretical field”. Sadly, nearly every time I have said that more information is needed to explain what it is I mean by that. The simple truth is that it isn't nearly as interesting as the shows you see on television make it out to be.
Look at it like this; in showcasing an investigation that can generally take 6 hours at the very least and condensing it down to an approximately 38 minute "highlight real" already sensationalizes the whole affair quite enough. Then they further that by quick-cut bumpers between commercial breaks (I'm not even going to get into potentially falsified data or what they like to call "evidence"). They shut all the lights out, which is only for dramatic effect and is in no way practical. Much of the supposedly "scientific" equipment they use (which is mostly basic home inspection gear), they use improperly, and still claim to be (untrained/amateur) scientists despite not utilizing anything resembling the scientific method.

I readily admit that some of the equipment used is of the sort that I have used, but I think the difference is that I (and all those on my team) have read the operating manuals and done the research to know how to use them properly. The most basic example I can pull directly from one of the shows is an Infrared (IR) thermometer with a probe wand (more on these items at a later date, maybe) will not give any truly accurate readings when it is being waved about through the air.

While I have little problem in principal with the entertainment value of these things, I take serious umbrage with the misinformation that is provided. I have no doubt in my mind that an accurate portrayal could remain just as entertaining, and chalk anything less up to shear laziness. In the case of these shows, literally thousands of imitators that have cropped up since 2004 have proved quite problematic and potentially dangerous. The use of the word “dangerous” is quite deliberate.
When these people come into a clients home waving around EMF (Electric & Magnetic Field) meters under the assumption that every high reading is somehow ghost related, they are ignoring other potential issues altogether. Not the least of which may be poor or faulty electrical wiring in the home. Another possible danger could be exposure to EMF.

There is a longstanding debate with regard to the dangers of EMF exposure, with many of the definitive answers being relatively unknown, making it something of a “hot-button” topic in many scientific and pseudo-scientific circles. There is a possible condition commonly referred to as electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS). Many reported symptoms of EHS include headache, fatigue, stress, sleep disturbances, prickling or burning sensations and rashes on the skin, pain and aching in muscles and many other health problems. However, all official studies seem to have been inconclusive at best with regards to the actual cause of these very real symptoms.
Since we do not know enough definitive information about the health effects of EMF, especially relating to EHS we cannot say for certain that there is a direct correlation between these things and the paranormal conclusions many people reach. Even without definitive evidence of these, they are every bit as likely as any ghostly explanation. The one thing that brings these possibilities to a marginally greater likelihood is that EMF is at least measurable, ghosts are simply not.

Another danger I would be remiss were I not to mention would be possible chemical exposures. How often do you see various ghost hunting teams utilize air testing systems? I can assure you it does not happen often. Unless they outright see a can of paint thinner, or something similar, they rarely even consider this as a possibility. Radon, Carbon Monoxide, and a whole array of other potentially undetected poisons could be present. I have seen cases where this sort of thing was attributed to be ghostly and, worse yet, this had been “confirmed” by a previous group of “investigators”. Is there any need to elaborate further on the danger of that scenario?

I’m certain this will not be my last entry with regards to “paranormal investigation” here. Please feel free to discuss further and ask questions (not only here, but in general because knowledge is the best defense). There is always more we all can learn.