This is the first of a three part series of blogs where Christiaan examines Paranormal Investigation groups in New Zealand. In the first of these three articles he introduces four such groups and outlines their overall approach to the paranormal.
When there’s something strange in your neighbourhood who are you going to call? Well aside from the police or your mum, there have been a number of new groups who have formed in New Zealand in recent years that are committed to the investigation of unusual activities that may occur in and around your home or business. One group, Spooks Paranormal Investigations, conveniently lists on their websites some of the signs of a haunted house such as cupboards and doors opening and closing, weird noises, unusual animal behaviour, and temperature variations just to name a few.
Perusing the websites of four such New Zealand ghost hunting groups (Nelson’s ‘Ghost Hunters‘, Christchurch’s ‘Spooks Paranormal Investigations’, Wellington’s ‘Strange Occurrences‘ and ‘NZ Paranoromal‘) there are common themes. Principally they claim to use a rational approach to their investigations and they try to gather as much evidence as they can through the use of various scientific instruments. Sounds like a recipe for the solid use of the scientific method? Let’s take a closer look!
I should point out now that it is not my intention to discuss whether or not spirits or ghosts actually exist, that is a lengthy discussion unto itself. As you will see these investigative groups work under an assumption that spirits exist. Yet before using the techniques these groups employ to investigate ghostly phenomena you actually need evidence that these ghosts exist to start with. Like any extraordinary claim, ghosts (or spirits or apparitions or whatever you want to call them) they will require extraordinary evidence to prove that they exist. I must admit that currently I remain skeptical of the paranormal.
So before examining the groups investigations lets take a look at what the different groups say about their beliefs in the paranormal.
Ghost Hunters says that most hauntings are hoaxes, which implies that they believe that a small number are not, and they are seeking proof of the paranormal through the use of their instruments. It follows then that if you are going to be using instruments to detect ghosts, then you will need to be able to demonstrate the qualities of a spirit and how an instrument is going to detect or interact with them. The use of instruments by these groups will be something that I will look at in more detail in part three of this series of posts.
Both Spooks and Strange Occurrences are a coy in implying whether they believe in the paranormal on their home page, but elsewhere Spooks claims to have encountered most of the signs of a haunting that they provide on their site. One of the members, Mandy, claims to have minor psychic abilities and uses dowsing as an instrument to assist with their scientific investigations of the paranormal. Dowsing has been shown to be unreliable due to the ideomotor effect and the tendency for people who dowse to employ post hoc reasoning. During a 20/20 feature on Spooks, when asked if he believed in ghosts the lead investigator Adam Lancaster said that scientifically he believed in ghosts and then sheepishly retracted the comment and said that he did not. Like Ghost Hunters, Strange Occurrences say that they can detect the paranormal through the use of special equipment, and this appears to be a tacit admission that they too believe in some form of the paranormal.
NZ Paranormal say that they are more than capable of debunking claims of the paranormal, and they have claimed to have occasionally determined that a place is actually haunted.
So to summarise the four groups, they all believe that most cases can be explained through non-paranormal means, but they appear to all have some type of belief in the paranormal. They also all claim to be able to use a rational approach to their investigations that will identify the real hauntings from other non-paranormal occurrences.
Do these groups have the objectivity to put their beliefs to one side when embarking on investigations. Stay tuned for the next post where I examine some of the groups investigations.