Paranormal Investigation in New Zealand Part Three

26 07 2008

In part three of this three part series that examines paranormal investigation groups, Christiaan checks out some of the instruments used to detect the paranormal.

Now having read the first two articles you may have at this point dismissed some of my rationalisations of the ghost hunters claims. Why? Because these investigation groups use all of these scientific instruments like EMF detecters, infrared cameras and temperature gauges (and in the case of Christchurch’s Spooks Paranormal Investigations – dowsing) to detect ghosts don’t they?

There does appear to be variability between the different groups in the emphasis placed upon instruments in the detection of the paranormal. Brad Scott at the Wellington Based NZ Paranormal has stressed that his investigations do not rely upon instruments, whereas looking at the Spooks Paranormal Investigations videos, they do appear to place some importance on their use.

What is it that these instruments do? What do they measure? And how does this relate to ghosts? Lets look at some of the more popular instruments:

Night vision cameras are often employed at various locations around the premise in question. Active infrared cameras are the most likely cameras to be used, probably because they are the cheaper (NZ$125 – $350) compared with thermal imaging cameras (NZ$400 – $1000’s). Active infrared cameras have near infrared lights fixed to them, so they illuminate the vicinity of the camera in infrared spectrum rather than actually detecting warm and cold areas of the room, which is what a thermal imaging camera does. With this in mind it would probably serve the investigator no better if they were to invest in a normal camera with a light attached to it. What they appear to assume is that a ghost may not be detected in the visible light spectrum, but it can be detected in the near infrared spectrum. Why is this when traditionally ghost photos have been taken using normal cameras? There is also often an assumption that ghosts effect the temperature, so if paranormal investigators are operating under this hypothesis then a thermal imaging camera would be more appropriate.

Thermometers (Both laser and local). As previously seen in the Spooks video, they used infrared thermometers to measure the temperature to look for hot and cold spots that may indicate the presence of a ghost. Once again the issue arises that there is no scientific link between temperature and spirits. Furthermore, every time they take a measurement with one of these devices they are measuring the temperature of what ever they are pointing at, which in most cases would be the walls. The thermometers cannot measure the ambient air temperature. If there happened to be hot water pipes running behind a wall, or the other side of the room contained a wall that was heated, or if the house was cooling from the days warmth, there is going to be variation in the various surface temperatures in different parts of the buildings. With that in mind if you are constantly moving and pointing a thermometer at different parts of the room the reading will be variable. This in turn could be misinterpreted as evidence of the paranormal.

EMF meters are often seen being waved around a haunted location. Once again there is no scientific evidence to suggest that ghosts will emit or interfere with electromagnetic fields. Most EMF meters on the market are designed to measure in the 50/60Hz range as this is usually the range of mains electricity, although due to the unsupported fear of electromagnetic radiation causing cancer a range of meters are on the market. Spooks appear to use a product called ‘Cell Sensor’ which is an EMF meter that can measure a wide range of electromagnetic radiation and for added effect it has a red light and beep that is reminiscent of a Geiger counter from the movies. However, there are a vast range of electrical products that may emit electromagnetic fields and you are likely to detect a phenomena such as a ‘ghost’ kettle (or in the case of paranormal investigators a ghost infrared camera). A range of sources would need to be eliminated before you could then conclude that there was a field from an unknown origin – but then it would just be that – a field of an unknown origin. You could not then conclude it was a ghost. If one believes that the soul/spirit/ghost emits electromagnetic fields, then taken to its logical conclusion, if you were to agree that a soul was contained in a person when they were alive that subsequently became a ghost, then paranormal investigators could try to detect their own soul with an EMF meter. Would it be possible to differentiate between the small EMF field that the body emits and the soul that is floating around inside? If ghost hunters were looking for one way to provide evidence to validate the claim that paranormal entities emit EMF’s then that could be a hypothesis worth testing.

Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP’s) are often touted as evidence for the supernatural and paranormal investigators are no stranger to their detection. Only a tape recorder is required. This subject is lengthy and complicated due to the multiple environmental, psychological, and perceptive variables involved. But simply the most likely explanation of EVP’s is auditory pareidolia, which is where the brain incorrectly interprets random patterns as having being a familiar pattern , or apophenia, which is the brains tendency to find meaning in random patterns. To demonstrate the brains ability to make meaningful representations out of random patterns listen to this sine-wave speech (make sure that you listen to this one first!):

Click me first (Requires Quicktime)

What did it say? If you have not heard it before it probably sounded like a whole lot of random noises.

The following is the original speech prior to it being degraded:

Click me second (Requires Quicktime)

Now go back and listen to the first recording again. It just seems so clear now doesn’t it? (For more examples check out this Sine-Wave speech website and this website). Research into sine-wave speech has found that the more a person is exposed to it, the better they get at identifying the voices. A paranormal investigator who spends hours listening to the static and background noise of their audio recordings are unconsciously training themselves to improve their ability to construct meaning out of random noise. They in turn can then isolate these random noises and then communicate the meaning to another person who will immediately ‘hear’ the voice.

The general theme of these instruments is that the underlying assumptions for their usefulness are not particularly compelling. Even if one was to accept that there were spirits or energies that existed after death, none of these instruments have a scientific basis for their efficacy.

Discussion:

People all over the world believe that their homes are haunted or subject to paranormal influences. They often do seek explanations for the phenomena that they experience, so to just write off paranormal investigation groups is not a constructive approach. However, like any field there is always room for improvement based upon constructive criticism. So how could such groups improve the robustness of their investigations?

An open mind is important and one should start at the position of not knowing what has caused the phenomenon rather than going in as believing the location is haunted or being a hardline debunker.

The background research of the address is very important. Interviews with witnesses need to be detailed and only open ended questions should be used. It may be very tempting to use leading questions (particularly if you are trying to angle towards a preconceived bias). Ideally they should be interviewed as soon as possible after an event, and the facts of the event should be focussed upon, not the witnesses opinion. Interviews should be recorded with an audio device and then transcribed. If appropriate, the witness should be questioned about any medication they are taking and also whether they are suffering from any medical or psychological illness.

There are a number of psychological considerations when interviewing that relate to the tainting of memory through the repeated telling of the narrative, the impact of ones worldview, and how an event fits into the popular culture. Corroboration, where possible, of a witnesses account is important as it provides a little more weight to their anecdotal account.

If particular myths are identified then they should be thoroughly researched to establish their veracity. It is not unusual to find in cases of alleged hauntings where the person who was supposed to be the ghost either never existed or did not live at the location in question.

The investigation needs to focus on replicating as closely as possible the environment and circumstances that a paranormal event was witnessed. Then the goal of the experiment would be to see if the paranormal phenomenon as described by the witness occurs as they described it (i.e. replication is being sought). This is where items like cameras or temperature gauges could come in handy depending on what is to be observed. For example if it is alleged that there is a cold spot in a certain location, then this could actually be measured.

If a phenomenon is identified, then ideally it should be independently replicated (where possible) to boost the probability that there was an unexplained event initially observed or measured.

Depending on the paranormal event being measured, baseline measurements should be taken. Continuing with the cold spot example, then the temperature should be measured at a range of times throughout the day and night, not just at the time of the replication of the environment.

There should be standardized note taking to assist with the comparison of investigations.

When weighing up results, do not fall into the trap of deferring to a paranormal conclusion simply because it cannot be explained. If a phenomena cannot be explained, then the conclusion should be that it is unexplained. The conclusion that a phenomena is paranormal is going to require positive proof or evidence.

Finally, do away with EMF meters, dowsing rods, EVP’s, infrared cameras, and temperature gauges, unless they are going to be used to assist with measuring or recording of the replication of a previously described environment.

Happy ghost hunting!

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Ghost Hunters New Zealand Responds…

13 07 2008

There have been some interesting comments made by active paranormal investigators in the comments section of the first post that examines Paranormal Investigation in New Zealand. Dave Clipson, the founder and lead investigator of Ghost Hunters New Zealand recently e-mailed me with his thoughts on the two posts and with his permission his response has been posted along with my reply:

Hi Christiaan

Thanks for letting me know about your report. I’m happy with what you have written as everyone has a right to an opinion.

To explain regarding the ‘write-ups’ issue you have with us, we all have day jobs etc and currently there are about 5 investigations which are overdue for proper write-ups but the review of footage is the hardest thing as each camera recording for 8 hours or so during an investigation makes approx 48hrs+ of video to look at, this means looking at 1 camera for the full 8hrs stopping the playback when you need to turn away or get a drink etc. Because each camera has sound that means that there is also 48hrs of audio to listen to plus audio recorders and of course then you have the digital cameras to look through each and every photo graph with different filters and of course the background work into setting up, speaking to the clients, breaking down the equipment afterwards and gathering the history of a place we are going too etc. When your day job pays the bills that has to come first as without that money I would not be able to help other people but above all other things I have a family and they take priority in my life. If I had more time I would write more on the website but currently I am working 2 jobs to make ends meet for my family and then in the time I have left I try to answer the many emails we receive from people asking us to look at pictures or asking for advice.

Helping people and trying to understand what we don’t understand is the main goal for us and I don’t really care much for Media attention but its a double edged sword as you need to promote that there are people out there who others can turn to when they are experiencing things that are beyond traditional help and we have letters from people in all walks of life, prison inmates, doctors, solicitors and many many more. In the normal world most of the people we speak to would be credible witnesses if it were a crime report but because it is of a paranormal nature then suddenly they are all crackpots?

If you want to know who the people are who do it for the right reasons those are the people who do things with no want of recognition or payment. We only show locations on the website which we have been given the ok to do so but there are also places we have been too which we do not publish as requested by the parties involved.

In regard to what equipment we use to try to detect paranormal activity the main focus is on filming. Firstly putting locked of cameras into rooms allows you to be able to have eyes watching for the whole duration of the investigation rather than just going in, looking around and taking a few pictures. Obviously if something is appearing regularly to one or more people (which there have been documented statements all over the world of whole groups seeing ghosts / paranormal activity) the question then becomes how can you measure something you cannot see, predict or fully understand? It reminds me of the old days when people thought the world was flat, now there are people creating devices to punch holes 1 particle at a time through the 4th dimension to try to travel back in time, by bending light and forcing the particle to follow the light bend. Their theory is that they quite expect when they start the machine to suddenly pickup particles that were not there which could have been sent from the future in there lab as an experiment but showing up not long after they switch the device on. Now this was science fiction not so long ago but with the growing field of quantum mechanics and technology now these scientists who could only ‘theorise’ about how to do it are now getting a chance to actually build a device which allows them to do exactly what they have been thinking about for so long. Doesn’t this then also ring true for the paranormal? It’s only paranormal when you can’t explain what it’s causing the event or what the event is, but when you can then explain it this then becomes normal.

“Paranormal is an umbrella term used to describe unusual phenomena or experiences that lack an obvious scientific explanation, In parapsychology, it is used to describe the potentially psychic phenomena of telepathy, extra-sensory perception, psychokinesis, ghosts, and hauntings. The term is also applied to UFOs, some creatures that fall under the scope of cryptozoology, purported phenomena surrounding the Bermuda Triangle, and other non-psychical subjects.”

The body in its normal way produces electrical impulses as well as chemical signals (significantly in the brain, nerves and muscles). The body has its own Electro Magnetic Field and this is Science Fact. Now we use EMF meters as it is a ‘theory’ that you may be able to pick up on something which has an electro magnetic field (i.e. unshielded electric wire, some electrical appliances or hopefully an ex-living person), cold spots are a ‘theory’ that something is drawing heat energy (endothermic process) out of the location to try to gain strength to show its self or do something that we can see / hear (exothermic process).

Now these are all theories that we ourselves have not claimed or come up with but are the consensus of many investigators, paranormal research groups & parapsychology departments at universities around the world.

This argument reminds me of the scientists not so long ago who said that “the bumble bee cant fly” and yet there it was flying around all the time for the whole world to see, it was only because they did not understand part of the mechanics of the bee flight but when they found the missing factor they were then able to scientifically tell the world that bumble bee’s can fly and this is how, but of course we all knew that before they made a statement to the world saying that the bee’s could in fact fly.

I can understand you taking a view point on what your writing but also be aware that people are out there putting everything they have into these organisations trying to find the answers, I have my own theories on certain things and I maybe wrong but I’m trying to find out and trying to help as many people as I can.

I will never tell someone that what they believe is wrong, its there right to believe in it. I only think that it’s wrong when people start hurting others in the name of there beliefs or wanting to get paid for it.

I guess I always remember the teaching from years ago when I went to Sunday school and church when I was a young boy “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Jesus, Matthew 7:3 there was a lot of wisdom in that one comment. I personally believe in a supreme being, I just have faith that my life will have meaning and that I will die knowing that I have been the best person I could be.

After all the reports from around the world for thousands of years I would love to be able to catch something to show people, and say “look this is strange and we got it on camera”. But you’re going to be challenging all religions and even those people who don’t believe in the “mainstream” religions but they still believe that there family members past and gone are still looking over them. What harm is there for people to have that comfortable feeling that they are being looked after/over by there family members past?

As I stated at the top I don’t really care much what you say about Ghost Hunters NZ, I know in my heart and mind that I do everything I can as best as I can in order to help people and not pocket money for the privilege and for me that’s all that counts.

I would be interested to know your background in parapsychology and the study of paranormal phenomenon, or are you just commenting on a personal level in your blog report? It may be an idea to point that out so that people know that this is your own opinion and is not based on any scientific fact. That way you are being completely impartial.

Good luck in your career and kind regards from Ghost Hunters NZ.

Dave

Founder
Lead Investigator
Ghost Hunters New Zealand
http://www,ghosthunters.co.nz

My reply to Dave’s e-mail was:

Hi Dave,

Thank you for your prompt, thorough and open reply. You are to be commended on your commitment to the investigations in light of your busy life and appreciate that it a very time consuming endeavour.

As you are aware I have one more post to publish which addresses issues around the use of different equipment, and once it has been posted feel free to leave any comments on the blog as I appreciate feedback from all perspectives.

You use particular experiments within quantum physics as an analogy for the paranormal by effectively arguing that due to the counter intuitive nature of these experiments it somehow validates the paranormal due its unknown or unexplainable qualities. The principle difference is that quantum mechanics is well grounded branch of physics that has been supported by numerous observations and it has well developed models that can make accurate predictions. There has been a steady scaffolding of hypothesises, experiments, and models since its inception at the turn of the 20th century.

While there have been a range of scientific experiments conducted to detect the paranormal since the 1880’s, the results have been dubious, occasionally burdened with fraud, and positive results have very close to the point of statistical insignificance. Furthermore, not one single well established model or theory has survived any form of peer review process.

You go further and mention a couple of theories that underpin your approach namely:

1. An EMF meter will detect the electrical impulses and chemical signals.

2. That there are cold spots where something is drawing heat energy out of a location to gain strength.

I can appreciate that there is probably a lot of anecdotal evidence to support these propositions, but I have yet to encounter any rigorous and repeatable scientific experiments that have shown that spirits exist, what the qualities of a spirit are, and that the many instruments employed would be able to detect those qualities. This is why I have taken the position that I have, but my mind remains open to the possibility of spirits – in fact it would be fantastic if our consciousness continued to exist once our bodies have died. But I guess that through the application of scientific rationalism it sets a high standard of proof, and therefore I currently am not convinced of most paranormal claims.

I agree with you that as long as you are not harming anyone else that you are free to believe in what ever you want and I know that there are many people in the community who are peddling paranormal abilities at the expense of others both emotionally and financially. But I am also interested in why people believe what they believe, as people can be irrational and allow a variety of emotional and/or psychological factors influence what they believe. From what I have observed in the area of paranormal investigation there does appear to be a number of unstated assumptions or premises that currently do not hold up to scientific scrutiny such as the existence of spirits and the ability of certain instruments to detect spirits.

If you are interested in my background you can click on the about the authors button on the website. The contents of the blog are my opinion, but it is an opinion that I try and have informed by a scientific and rational approach.

Regards,

Christiaan.





How Perception can be Biased

10 07 2008

Perception Experiment

There has been new publication reported at Science Daily where researchers at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee have found that mental images can subsequently effect a person’s perception. The example provided in the news report was that when people see a mouse, they may continue to catch glimpses of imaginary mice for some time afterwards:

“…imagery, in the absence of any incoming visual signals, leads to the formation of a short-term sensory trace that can bias future perception, suggesting a means by which high-level processes that support imagination and memory retrieval may shape low-level sensory representations.” – Abstract

Such research into perception can be applied to some of the more bizarre things observed by people. If a person has an event that they interpret as paranormal or unusual such as a moving shadow or a UFO, the imagery of this event may subsequently cause them to reinterpret or alter any subsequent perception they may have in a similar environment. This could provide some explanations why some people may experience a number of similar paranormal or unusual incidents.

The study did find considerable variability in how it affects different people over time, so there will be underlying psychological characteristics that influence how people perceive images and interpret them. Some people will be more predisposed to the imagery influencing their perception than others and it would be interesting to for a study to look at people who regularly experience minor incidents of the paranormal to see if they are more predisposed to such a psychological phenomenon.





Paranormal Investigation in New Zealand Part Two

4 07 2008

In part two of this three part series of posts Christiaan critically reviews some of the investigations that the paranormal investigation groups have undertaken.

GhostbustersFrom a rational perspective, the starting point for any inquiry is the setting of an open ended aim that is neutral and it does not suggest a particular conclusion or finding. As shown in the previous post, it is apparent that many members of each of these investigative groups have some form of paranormal belief. Do they have the objectivity to be able to put these beliefs to one side while conducting their investigations?

‘Spooks Paranormal Investigations’, Strange Occurrences‘, ‘NZ Paranoromal‘ and ‘Ghost Hunters‘ conduct participant-observer investigations where they travel to the site of alleged haunting and then spend one or more nights there with their instruments.

Ghost Hunters:

All the groups except Ghost Hunters state on their websites that their investigations are confidential and they have not published their findings, Ghost Hunters are kind enough to put write ups of their inquiries on their website. They are somewhat brief and provide limited information on their practices, but they do provide an insight into the way that they form their conclusions based on the evidence they have collected.

Like the other groups, Ghost Hunters like to employ high tech equipment in their investigations and in January 2007 they conducted an investigation at Fairfield House in Nelson. During the night they picked up on their night vision camera what they described as inexplicable black objects, and a knocking sound picked up on audio recording. However, they are somewhat reserved in this write up and do not conclude that this phenomena is sufficient evidence of the paranormal.

They were not quite so reserved in their conclusion after their investigation at Wakapuaka Cemetery, Nelson where they said that there was probable paranormal activity on the basis of an orb photo and a temperature anomaly around one of the graves. Orbs are well established artefact’s of photography and there is no scientifically supported evidence or theories of orbs being spirits. Furthermore, while temperature changes have been traditionally associated with ghosts there has been no demonstrated empirical data to show a causal link between temperature and spirits. The conclusion of ‘probable paranormal activity’ is somewhat of an overstatement based upon this limited evidence.

Spooks Paranormal Investigations:

As previously mentioned, Spooks state their investigations are confidential, but they are eager for media exposure and as a result their investigations have featured on New Zealand shows such as 20/20, Campbell Live, and Pacific Beat Street. One must be careful about the fairness of an evaluation given the editing process during the production of such segments , but as you will see it is a worthwhile process analysing these investigations.

The feature on Pacific Beat Street is an investigation conducted by Spooks of an undisclosed location. The group, led by Adam Lancaster, looks impressive with their matching clothes and tools of the trade, which include EMF meters, infrared cameras, and temperature gauges.

Once the group set up their cameras a noise quickly attracts the attention of Spooks and six of them (including the reporter and cameraman) rush to the basement of the building with their temperature gauges and EMF meters. There is some quick editing that bring together some technical sounding and excitedly stated quotes such as “reading 6.9 [degrees]” – “that’s a huge drop” and then the reporter slips into the role of the investigator and based on a temperature reading from an infrared temperature gauge he gravely determines that something is happening in the corner.

The following segment provides an interesting insight into the ‘scientific’ manner that the group use. An excited investigators says ‘Woah did you feel that’ presumably she has felt something (like a breeze?) go past her. At that time a camera battery goes dead and one of the Spooks immediately concludes that these events mean that “there is something here”.

For the first time in the piece some investigative journalism creeps in and the presenter suggests that the battery may have just died and the response he received was a mish mash of woo:

“Its always getting energy, that’s why sometimes you feel cold because its draining your body energy, and whenever you know, you feel a presence that is the feeling you get it is very cold.”

So that clarifies things…because we know that spirits exist, we know that they suck up our ‘energy’ (and as a classic sign of pseudoscience they have a misunderstanding of energy, but that is the subject of another post), and that sucking up of energy is what makes you feel cold.

We are then subjected to an investigator waving around an EMF meter that resembles an out of control Gieger counter with its loud bleeps and flashing red light saying that there is definitely something walking around them. He obviously did not read the section in the EMF meter instruction booklet that says that unless he keeps still while taking the reading he will get a false readout.

After all that excitement they return to the base where the Spooks team is briefed about something strange that had been picked up on a monitor while they had been running around scaring each other. An infrared camera had picked up a shimmer on the monitor to which one member of the group comments that it is going down the stairs and around the corner.

On the face of it, it does appear to be ghostly, but an indication of what it may have been is seen when the shimmer disappears. An insect, possibly a moth, can be seen flying across the monitor. It would appear that the shimmer was caused by the insect flying very close to the lens of the camera. Some butterflies and beetles can see in near infrared and could be attracted to the light, or it could be an insect that has been disturbed by the torch lights in the building. Another possibility is that it could have been one of the Spooks unwittingly waving a torch around near the camera. As previously pointed out they were split up into pairs, in all of the excitement of running around did they know where the other members of the group were?

Discussion:

When looking at the practises of these groups there are some important considerations. Firstly the impact of the investigators on the setting needs to be considered. These examples demonstrate that while these investigators attempt to remain objective, there is a sense of confirmation bias that taints their work. Adam Lancaster of Spooks has said that he has been scared on every investigation he has been on, this frame of mind combined with being put into a position where they may be subject to events they cannot immediately explain it may have an effect on their objectivity that is required for such an investigation.

There is no mention anywhere of any attempts to take baseline measurements. For example, if the ghostly phenomenon occurred at night, then one would hope that temperature and EMF readings would be taken during the day for comparative purposes to establish the existence of any hot or cold spots.

There is no evidence of any systematic recording or note keeping either between investigations or between the members of the groups. Obviously if the manner in which an investigation is recorded has no set format or is constantly subject to change it will make it difficult to compare evidence obtained from different investigations.

The impact of the investigators beliefs and values is an important consideration. Haunted houses are very much infused into our cultural beliefs. We are raised on scary stories about ghosts, they feature prominently in works of fiction on the television, the movies, and books. Like many other mythical creatures a group of common characteristics have developed that is based upon anecdotal experiences combined with the cultural memes.

It is these characteristics that inform the paranormal investigations conducted by these types of groups. In recent years there has been a massive self reinforcing of the mythical characteristics of ghosts through the increasing popularity of paranormal investigation, which can largely be attributed to the US show ‘Ghost Hunters’ which has seen a surge in popularity of groups devoted to paranormal investigation. To summarise these characteristics they include:

  • Ghosts are comprised of energy.
  • They influence electromagnetic fields.
  • Ghosts affect the temperature of a room.
  • Ghosts attempt to communicate by talking.

There is not a shred of scientific support for these beliefs, yet somehow paranormal investigators have identified instruments that they believe will assist them to identify these characteristics. These instruments will be examined in the final post in this series.





Paranormal Investigation in New Zealand Part One

1 07 2008

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.

Ghostbusters

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.