Today almost every region has at least one local ghost hunting group or paranormal society ready and eager to investigate a person’s claims of unexplained phenomena. While this speaks volumes for the popularity and importance of paranormal research, it also creates what may be perceived by the public as merely a pop culture trend. Popularized by a seemingly unending supply of “reality” based television shows and internet videos, many would argue that this trend only encourages teenagers and young adults to journey into the darkness searching for thrills with little or no genuine interest in collecting serious data or advancing any research.
Drawn to the paranormal primarily by the fright factor that accompanies a midnight investigation, these inexperienced and often unguided thrill seekers typically begin by covertly investigating abandoned buildings and secluded lands under the cover of darkness. Add to this an almost endless supply of low cost equipment and you have a what is quickly becoming the modern day equivalent of the garage band, a paranormal research society. And much like the garage bands of days past, these paranormal groups are soon putting out their own material in the form of evidence when they should still be working on the fundamentals of their craft.
The current popularity of paranormal research has the potential to develop into more than just a trend, gradually drawing more researchers from the mainstream sciences to question the realm of the unknown. It is only with this fledgling partnership that honest answers to questions of the unexplained will be found and generally accepted by the public. But for this partnership to continue to develop and grow, popularity has to be balanced with a genuine interest by both groups and individual investigators to further the advancement of the field and not just fulfill a desire to experience a night full of spooks and frights.
Years of ridicule and dismissal by the general sciences resulted in paranormal researchers forming what can be called a paranormal unity where they defend each other and support the claims and evidence of fellow investigators when criticized by doubters. But times have changed and this unity developed before readily accessible equipment and a multitude of new and emerging media outlets provided everyone with the opportunity to have their voice heard. Today inexperienced groups, eager and unmentored, are quick to publish and promote evidence that is questionable by most standards and likely best left unseen. Evidence feeds the outside world’s view of paranormal and ghost hunting groups. When much of the paranormal community defends this questionable evidence it only serves to advance the view that people involved in the paranormal are either amateur scientists looking for a thrill and some recognition or frauds hoping to cash in on the fears of the frightened by using untested methods to validate unproven and misunderstood experiences.
It is time to break this union and let the methods and evidence stand alone. With no generally accepted oversight body or organization it is time for researchers and investigators to actively police themselves. Instead of simply accepting the evidence and experiences of others, investigators have to challenge and examine them and openly criticize the erroneous and fraudulent materials that amateur and unethical investigators present to the public. In a field that has endured mockery for decades, this might sound counter productive and destined to divide the entire community but over time it will weed out members who are not interested in having to defend their evidence against evaluation and scrutiny. As these undedicated or amateur investigators move away from the paranormal the real researchers and dedicated investigators will develop a more solid and less tainted evidence pool, strengthening the bond between the paranormal and science. The more openly and willingly the paranormal community does this, the sooner both science and the world will see paranormal research as a serious and important part of scientific and sociological study, and that will only hasten the path to understanding the unknown.