Supernatural Magazine

How the “Ghost Hunting” Culture has changed in 20 Years

In the past 20 years, since 1994, the “Ghost Hunting”, or the ghost research field of endeavour, has culturally changed dramatically. This is not only due to the increased productivity of media, but also an increased populace of enthusiasts or “hunters.” The term “Ghost Hunter” wasn’t coined until the late 1800’s within the Ghost Club in Britain. This launched a huge cultural shift in investigating the ghostly realms and communication with the afterlife as a group event. With the turn of the century, and the enhancement of technology, spiritual investigations have become huge mainstream phenomena. Just recently in the past 20 years this field has shifted from discreet, scrutinized pseudoscience to glamorized, territorial research.

From 1994 to 2004, the field of Ghost Research was in limbo and still finding “its roots.” Technology was revolutionizing the way surveillance was conducted during an investigation, and how data was collected and analysed. With the advent of the internet and media became more adept to ghosts and hauntings. Ghost “Hunting” was, to say the least, a discreet and low key hobby for most and a second life for some. This was due to the views of investigators or “hunters” and their practices within a religious or cultural belief system which was highly criticized to be “the work of the devil. “With the shift in film photography, smaller means of recording audio, and more “devices” implemented in an investigation. Ghost research took a turn for the better and started to gain traction as to what the normal enthusiast saw within a research session. This evolved with how ghosts communicated with the living compared to the days of “rapping”, “table tipping”, and “Ouija Boards.” With the turn of the century in the 90’s and early 2000’s people started seeing that they were not alone and were able to communicate with the other side.

At that time the populace of ghost enthusiasts and investigators was low key and wasn’t a big deal leading up to the creation of the “Ghost Hunter’s” show in 2004. Before the media hype and boom of “para-celebrities” in the late 2000’s, belief in ghosts was, according to the MORI surveys

In Britain, were at around 40% in 1998. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/5144766/Most-people-believe-in-life-after-death-study-finds.html) Interestingly enough, only 14% have had an experience. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1362452/The-ghost-map-Yorkshire-tops-spook-league-adults-claiming-seen-spectre.html) Even though the number has remained the same, if not raised in 2013, the number of experiences has doubled to 25%.

As belief increased, so did the popularity of investigating or “hunting” ghosts. “Hunting” was used due to the inexperience and approaches used by newer investigators that take it upon themselves to watch a show and believe they know all the answers after that. This has resulted in a huge increase in ghost groups formulating, and individuals “looking” for their “minute of fame!” From 2004 to 2014, the population of ghost enthusiasts and “hunters” as blown up far beyond comprehension. The ghost research field has become a commercial “industry.” Ghost hunting is no longer a hobby or second life; it has become a job, career, or the whole life for some. As one essay put it “the amateur ghost hunters spend little or no time reflecting on their methods.” (From Shaman to Scientist: Essays on Humanity’s Search for Spirits by James Houran.)

Unfortunately, very little research is being done in comparison to 10 years ago. More territoriality is established all over the world, more “exclusivity” is being established by owners of property or investigators as they feel it are “their right” to stake the claim. Also there is an influx of “Ghost Tours” or “Investigations” for sale in which these hunters are glorifying their place in the ghost culture as a “money maker.” Towns and cities are now being consumed by unhealthy expansions of the “ghost industry.” This is great for the economy, but horrible for the field. Most of these businesses are creating“prostitution” like environment in which if an individual walks down a street of a haunted town, they are inundated with flyers, posters, and “salespeople” asking them to go on an “investigation.”

In addition to the commercialization of the ghost industry and research field. There has been an increase of criminal and immoral practices conducted throughout the world. Individuals, whom have a probability of committing a criminal act, will go to a haunted spot and steal, vandalize, or create harm to the surroundings, themselves, or people close to them. There have been reports of “ghost hunters” being detained and arrested for trespassing, vandalism, lewd conduct, destruction of property, or conduct unbecoming a moral human being. This is horrible to say the least since the field of ghost research is already under extreme criticism, as well as facing a lot of negative publicity.

In the past 10 years alone, there has been a negative spiral of activity within the ghost research field. Ever since the early 2000’s with the advent of “paranormal celebrities” and mainstream media, it has only set the field back instead of enhancing the standards of what actually needs to be done in the field. On a positive note, technology is ever increasing, and investigative equipment has become incredibly sensitive to spiritual communications. This has enhanced reaching the afterlife by three to four times the ability several years ago.

So the questions remain, where do we go from here? What is to come in the next 10 years? The field is ever evolving with technology and possibly fading back to the “old” ways. There has been an increased rejection to the field; more owners of properties throughout the country are denying case management, or a group to “investigate.” Territoriality is becoming more prevalent creating a more negative yet biased structure of group growth. You can only grow so much before you are unable to grow any more in the given area.

There needs to be a more positive approach and growth to the ghost research field! For one, no more labelling of “ghost hunters.” This is a ridiculous and horrible stereotype of the field. They do not run around with guns and “hunt” ghosts! There needs to be a better characterization such as “Ghost Researchers” or “Investigators,” this will allow the ghost field to become more prevalent and professional. There needs to be a standardization or rules placed as to the moral conduct of the field. This can come in the form of a committee of peers, a more organized approach to investigating or researching. These steps can be paramount to developing a positive future for the ghost research field and great for the cultural growth of the field.

In closing there are plenty of changes present in the ghost culture within the past 20 years. More problems than solutions were presented with the advent of “mass media” and the explosion of enthusiast population throughout the world. Fortunately these problems are only temporary and can be changed with the implementation of positive enforcement of growth within the field. More standards need to be present, more affluent to how to conduct research, background checking on investigators, training, and possibly a more organized approach

Jonathan Williamson

Jonathan Williamson

Jonathan’s background in law enforcement led him to an interest in ghosts, as I always wondered what the dead had to say. I have researched the paranormal in Northern Japan, and all over the United States including the first ever team to investigate Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, I have trained over a thousand investigators and enthusiasts in the proper conduct of investigating the spiritual realm.