One can’t help but hear – and develop – theories during the process of paranormal investigation. After all, we are dealing with phenomena that has no obvious or clear explanation; therefore, we have to come up with something to explain the unknowable.
It’s really no different than what we do with other aspects of the unknown. We don’t quite know exactly how everything came to be, so we develop theories – like the world is only 6,000 years old and started in the garden with a couple of naked folks cavorting with snakes. Or perhaps there was a big explosion, and life evolved from there.
We can’t even really answer the big questions without developing theories. Some hold up to scientific process a little better than others, but they are hypotheses nonetheless. And so, when it comes to something like ghosts? All we have are theories to explain the isolated and often subtle occurrences of weirdness that have led to our field of fascination.
Ghosts themselves are theories, after all. Our belief in what ghosts are – spirits of human beings who remain somehow earthbound – is just as intangible as many of the experiences that led to a belief in ghosts to start with. A shadow. A glimpse out of the corner of the eye. A disembodied voice. Words on electronic media that we didn’t hear at the time. Objects that reappear and disappear. Electric things that turn themselves on and off. Spikes on a K-2 meter. These are the ephemera that we contribute to this phenomenon we lump into the explanations of “ghosts,” which most of the field has labeled “spirits of the dead.”
I’ve gone on record as saying that I have seen, heard, and felt a “ghost,” and therefore I believe in the phenomenon. That’s no lie. I have and I do. I’m not so quick to assume, however, that ghosts are human spirits. Could they be? Absolutely! It’s as good as an explanation as any. But we can’t get so caught up in our paranormal canons that we accept the theory as reality just because that’s what nearly everyone believes ghosts are. Ghosts are spirits of the dead? It’s a theory. There can be many others, as well. Maybe ghosts are psycokinetically generated, and our ghostly encounters are mind projections. We could be imagining or hallucinating. Maybe they are demons. Or angels. Or sprites, imps, and other nature spirits. They could be our expectations and beliefs somehow playing back to us. Perhaps they are waking dreams. Or the result of a particularly spicy bowl of chili.
Dogma is growing in the field of paranormal research. Common beliefs arise that are accepted as absolute truths. Here are just a few:
1. Ghosts are spirits of dead folks.
2. Ghosts can and DO drain batteries.
3. Orbs are always junk.
4. EVPs are absolute evidence that ghosts exist, because they are voices of the dead.
5. Personal experience is less significant than something captured on electronic media (photos, film, EVPs).
6. There is a right way to investigate.
7. There is a wrong way to investigate.
8. EMF spikes indicate the presence of ghosts.
9. Ghosts make temperature in rooms drop.
10. There are two types of hauntings: residual and active. Residual hauntings are like a recording playing. Active haunts, on the other hand, are intelligent.
11. Ghosts are going to respond to ridiculous and non-conversational questions like “what is your name?” and “Is there anyone here with us?”
12. If we can’t scientifically prove ghosts, they don’t exist.
As paranormal researchers, we’ve allowed ourselves to step inside of a very small box filled with tenets and protocols that we follow religiously. We’ve narrowed our focus, and in a very real way, we’ve closed our minds to the myriad of possibilities that exist outside of that box. Part of it is the influence of popular media, which has been mighty effective and creating theories and methods that many of us follow with tenacious fervor, in spite of a very real lack of grounding in fact, science, or even common experience. Why do we behave and believe as we do? Because someone showed us those actions and beliefs, and we lack the creativity, energy, alacrity, or wherewithal to forge our own way, or develop and test our own theories.
Here’s what we do know about ghosts:
1. Something is happening and people are having experiences, which we as a field have collectively attributed to something that we label as “ghosts.”
I used to have a boss who always said “If 1) then 2),” meaning that in a numbered list, if you have a number 1) list item, you must also have a number 2) list item. He’d probably fire me right here on the spot, because I am not following his cardinal rule. I don’t have a 2). I’ve summed up everything that I truly know about “ghosts” in a single bullet point. The rest? Pure theory – most of it not even mine and not based on anything other than assumptions.
If we allow ourselves to get stuck in the current precepts of ghost theories, then we have limited ourselves and ultimately created a Gordian knot from which we will be unable to unwind ourselves. Like a Chinese finger trap, our only hope of escape is to loosen the hold of these common beliefs by going against the grain and gently pushing instead of pulling.
Ghost theories exist. They might even be good, valid theories. But we won’t know if we believe them with absolutely no basis other than that someone on television told us to.
I’ll close by asking you this. What kind of a paranormal researcher are you? Are you caught up in the current gospel of ghost hunting, or are you ready to forge your own path, develop your own theories, and move beyond scratching the surface of what you think you know? What you choose is up to you.