This article is about ghost investigation and evidence of hauntings in its relationship to conventional science.
It’s difficult to speak of ghosts and spirits -I use the term interchangeably- without first putting forth a little bit of a disclaimer. Most anything anyone will tell you, me included, are opinions. There are no experts. A close friend of mine and fellow investigator Brendan Cook with Utah’s Ghost Investigators Society puts it best:
“People should be very careful when dealing with someone claiming to be an expert. Just because a person has the title of Dr. or Rev. in front of their name doesn’t necessarily mean they are credible. We have known people who (for lack of a better word) are quite suspect, not to mention a Definite Article short of being thieves. They’ve paid for a doctorate that’s offered in the back of some generic paranormal magazine, or enrolled in one of the many churches with the slogan Become An Ordained Minister in just 3 minutes. FREE or they simply put the title of Dr. in front of their name when they’ve earned it for a subject like English or photography, they just simply won’t tell you this. The only reason I bring any of this up is so hopefully, people won’t be fooled into paying these researchers for access to their website or to analyze a picture, an EVP or a video, or even paying for them to investigate their home or place of business. In the long run, some of these people may be no more qualified to do this than your above par elementary school student.” –Brendan Cook G.I.S.
In reality, the paranormal can be a difficult field to discuss without sounding like a crackpot at times. I like to think of myself as well-grounded in a world of reality and facts, and I can discuss this topic at length I believe from that perspective. With all that being said, much of what you are about to read is my opinion.
Along with well-grounded, well educated, and well-informed individuals I have met in this field, I have also experienced very vocal individuals, who present wild speculation and fanciful theories as hard facts. These are the types who will take each and every bump in the night, any passing light, and even the faintest whisper as ghost activity and take no effort whatsoever to debunk possible phenomena. Sadly these types tend to do more damage to the field of paranormal investigation than they realize. Do unexplained taps, lights, and other phenomena exist? Sure they do; I’ve seen them. I’ve also seen a lot of things that a simple investigation can clear up as everyday events. When these individuals present their “evidence” as hard facts which are later easily disproven it has the unfortunate effect of casting doubt on all paranormal investigators everywhere as charlatans.
I think one of the best examples of a responsible investigation that anyone can see for themselves in this day and age of streaming video was on an episode of Syfy’s Haunted Collector (Season 1 Episode 5). In the episode, a light bulb exploded near the investigative team while conducting their investigation. The team took the time and effort to contact the local power company and found a power surge that had occurred at the power station at the time, accounting for the light bulb breaking. At the end of the investigation, despite the debunked lamp, evidence was still collected to substantiate a haunting. Any team that is worth its salt should be taking the time to look for reasonable explanations for the things they are seeing and encountering. A small amount of good evidence is worth substantially more than a substantial amount of poor/questionable evidence.
In reality in the world of ghost investigations, there are few hard facts. I know what I have seen, and thousands of others have seen many of the same things. These entities haven’t been proven to exist by science though for a few reasons.
The first reason science hasn’t proven spirits exist is that they, the scientists, don’t want to. Science deals with hard facts and theories. Why does the sun rise in the east, how do magnetic fields work, how do particles behave? Science likes to tackle things they can see, and figure out what makes known phenomena work. Science tends to be very dismissive, even phobic, of things that don’t already have some sort of understanding of or hard evidence of.
The second reason science hasn’t proven spirits exist is that even admitting the possibility supports the assumption there is an afterlife of some sort. The very notion and concept of an afterlife smacks of theology; which is the anathema of science. The thought that there is an afterlife challenges the world view of science. When I was a teen I dated a girl whose father was a physician. I am pro modern medicine, but a friend of mine had introduced me to what he claimed was a cure for the common cold. Although not a true cure, I found his method (which used a specific common herb, and high dosage of a harmless vitamin) significantly and consistently reduced the duration of a cold. When I shared this information with the doctor he immediately dismissed the claim as nonsense because it fell outside his world view. Most people, not just scientists, are quick to dismiss anything that falls outside their preconceived notions of how things should be.
The third reason science hasn’t proven ghosts exist is that ghosts are intelligent beings. An experiment under controlled parameters to show what baking soda placed in vinegar is going to have the same results each and every time without exception. You can move this same experiment to any location on earth and get the same results. An experiment conducted under controlled parameters to show ghosts exist can have wildly different outcomes, from obvious participation by a spirit to nothing at all. The inconsistent results being the result of an intelligent being having the free will to choose to participate or not or being at a location where a ghost may not even be. The free agency of a spirit makes conducting a consistent, provable scientific experiment all but impossible.
The fourth reason science tends to dismiss the field of paranormal investigation goes back to the first paragraph of this article. History is rife with frauds, and charlatans who prey on people in the name of the paranormal. Alleged psychics advertise their 1-900 numbers on late-night TV, YouTube is rife with alleged ghost videos, alleged mediums offer to contact dead loved ones for money. I have no doubt some of the evidence displayed on YouTube is real, but it is exceptionally difficult if not impossible to separate the real from the fakes. I’m open to the idea that some psychics and mediums are possibly real. Ultimately the hoaxers, charlatans, and frauds are so rife as to taint the entire field of a legitimate investigation. If someone is claiming to contact a specific spirit and/or asking for money, I would find them particularly suspect.
The last reason I would present is perhaps the most controversial. This one delves deeply into my personal opinions and some theology. It is not my intent to push my own theological views, but for me, it answers some questions. I will present it for what it is and allow the reader to draw their own conclusions.
God has put us on this earth for a purpose and after we have fulfilled that purpose we pass on to the next phase of life. I believe that the next phase is surprisingly close to us and those on the “other side” have the ability to interact with us in a very limited fashion. The evening news is filled with stories of miraculous survivals, rescues, events, and notifications that saved, or positively changed lives. God has also asked us time and time again through his scriptures to act on faith. Being able to scientifically prove paranormal phenomena would confirm definitively that there is an afterlife and eliminate faith from the equation. I suspect the paranormal interaction we do get is intentionally limited to the extent it cannot be proven to the satisfaction of science. Again this is merely my opinion I could be wrong and maybe one day enough conclusive evidence will be discovered than an afterlife will be proven.
In the end, I look to scientific documentaries and marvel at the idiotic scientific theories and skewed world views of generations past. We have discovered over the generations that the world isn’t flat, and the universe doesn’t revolve around the earth, and that there isn’t one superior race of humans over another. The theory of evolution keeps evolving, and in recent decades theories about the origin of the universe have changed. Currently, the theory rests on the big bang theory. Given our scientific track record through history, I suspect generations from now our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will marvel at some of our idiotic assumptions about what we now know and accept to be scientific truths. Perhaps by them, the existence of ghosts will have been proven. Perhaps by then what we believe to be ghosts will have been found to exist and proven to be something else entirely. That day won’t come unless people keep investigating.