Saturday, January 27, 2007

It's not like hunting deer.

I watched a program called ‘Ghost hunters’ last night. It’s an American program about a group of paranormal investigators and the places they investigate.

First of all, I was struck by the objectivity of the group, especially the group leader. If it looks like dust, he says it’s dust. If an investigation turns up no evidence, the group accept this and move on. On one occasion, they recorded a flash of light on a video camera. They returned to the location and tried to reproduce it using the lights they were using on the night.

They succeeded. The flash was caused by one of their infrared lights, through a partly closed door. They followed exactly the correct scientific procedure in that investigation. Yes, it’s always a disappointment when something you think is paranormal turns out to be mundane (anyone remember the hedge photos?) but it’s always best to work it out yourself rather than have someone else point it out.

I was impressed by all this. Yes, they did pick up a few interesting events, and a particularly impressive EVP at one location. I am more inclined to believe in the authenticity of what this group reports, precisely because they broadcast episodes where they find nothing. That’s how it really is—most investigations find nothing at all.

However, the group is, I think, too large. That might just be me—I prefer to work alone—but there looked to be far too many people stomping around. In any group of any size there will be tensions and personality issues. These are amplified when the whole group has to stay awake all night. People get fractious, and it showed.

One or two seemed to think they were conducting a military operation. When you are ghosthunting, the ‘hunting’ is not meant to be taken literally. You are not pursuing a perpetrator. You are trying to contact someone who, in all likelihood, is confused, lost and frightened. Shouting demands like ‘Show yourself’ or ‘Do something’ is not likely to produce results. Similarly, when one of the crew reported being touched, the others charged to the location shouting ‘Go-go-go-go-go’.

Ghosts can often pass through walls. That’s where I’d have gone.

Paranormal investigation is not likely to yield results when conducted by a SWAT team. If I was in that house, even though I’m alive, that crew might well not have found me. My reaction to the attitude of such a team might well be to hide.

One of the members referred to another with the line ‘I’ve forgotten more about the paranormal than he’ll ever know’. Really? Is that what passes for teamwork? By the way, forgetting what you’ve learned so far is nothing to brag about.

It’s not a competition.

We’re all after the same thing. There is no need for competition between teams. Competition within a team is severely detrimental to that team’s efficiency and competence.

Suppose you were lost on a mountain, in the snow, and rescue teams came out to look for you. You hear one team approach and you’re about to call out. Then another team, or a member of the same team, decides to start a fight over who’s going to find you first.

You might decide to stay out of sight and make your own way down the mountain later.

I repeat: it’s not a competition.

We all want to find that final, absolute proof of life after death. Whichever one of the many, many investigators out there finds it first will be famous, and rightly so, but we will all benefit. Proof vindicates all of us, no matter where that proof comes from.

The group on this program show excellent professionalism. If they can only cure some of their members of that competitive streak, the paramilitary approach, and the infighting, their success rate is likely to improve dramatically. It might also help if they stopped referring to dead people as ‘it’. That’s very, very rude.

Otherwise they’ll just keep on scaring away those ghosts.


Southern Writer said...

I haven't seen the show. It's a cable show isn't it? I don't have cable. I don't watch much TV.

You made some very good points here (familiar, too). One thing I've never understood is why anyone would think a ghost wants to appear to a dozen people trooping about the place with bright lights and cameras and making a bunch of noise? Something tells me they're not quite "ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille."

Romulus Crowe said...

It was on satellite - equivalent to cable, I think. I don't watch too much of it either, but I do seek out shows like this. Sometimes I give up on them after one episode but this one looked pretty good.

Yes, it's the same attitude I put forward in the book. I sometimes change my mind on details - like infrared - but in the essentials I'm consistent.

cheryl said...

I've seen the show. They rarely capture anything interesting, though, so I don't watch it often.

Romulus Crowe said...

I confess I don't watch any TV program often, but the rarity of their results is what makes this one interesting to me. They don't crow about every tap and creak, they keep a level-headed outlook throughout. So, when they do come up with something of interest, I'm confident they've taken steps to make sure it's not a mistake.

It's not good TV, but it's good investigation. They might not have a long run though. People want entertainment more than they want accuracy, and most of science is, to be truthful, extremely dull for most of the time.

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