Now, I agree that there are inherent problems with most people studying the paranormal. Controls and adequate work is a big one but then it dawned on me...
What MOST ghost researchers make a mistake (in my humble opinion) with is by working backwards... From the UNknown to the known.
They feel that they have looked into reported phenomena "X" and because they believe themselves that it's a ghost, it's a ghost. End of story. No arguments.
God help those that say "Wait a second, I had a look at your stuff on 'x' and I think it might be..."
Case in point, a group in the U.S. had put up a report about a place they had visited here in Canada. I looked at the report which was a well known 'haunt' to me (I'd been there MANY times before) and I saw a flaw with their findings. Not to give away too much, I said to them that an EVP they gathered in the location they chose could have been an ambient sound from a nearby office. (This, I told them too, I was aware of because I had almost made the same mistake but luckily caught it before making a finding public.)
I also explained that I wasn't trying to be smug or be too negative but my findings were based on being able to visit the site quite often.
As opposed to a "Thanks" or even a "Well, we checked and no, we're sure it wasn't that", I was accused of being a "skeptic" (read: sceptdebunker) and jealous of their magnificent find. In short, I was told off. Worse yet, this group had sent their link to this to me FOR an opinion in the first place!
Anyone who knows me well enough knows that yes, I'm critical BUT I am willing to hear arguments... well, arguments that don't refer to me as having a certain type of relationship with my own mother that needless to say, are unfounded and absolutely untrue!
NOW, with this kind of behaviour, I started looking into why I do get so uptight about websites like this one in the states and WHAMMO! It hit me...
It's because they are not doing an investigation, they are preaching from a pulpit on what THEY think is the TRUTH and be damned those nasty inconvenient facts!
Basically, they take a photo of an orb, it's a ghost. A mist, it's a ghost. They run into a cold spot, it's a ghost.
In my humble opinion, you're FIRST thought as an investigator should be that this is NOT a ghost so what is it? In other words eliminate ALL other possibilities before proceeding to declare your paranormal find! Work from the KNOWN to the UNKNOWN, not the other way around.
Honestly, most sites that have been around for more than a year or two do excellent work and have experienced 'debunkers', 'sceptdebunkers' and various trolls and tend to do this anyway BUT I came up with a cunning plan...
I developed (with Sue) what we call the "Paranormal Investigative Method".
You may remember your old science classes on "The Scientific Method" where they drilled into your head QUESTION, HYPOTHESIS, EXPERIMENT, OBSERVATIONS, CONCLUSION (or something VERY similar) well, the scientific method is difficult if not impossible to deploy on a paranormal quest as observations usually happen FIRST.
SO, in the vain hopes that the future (and maybe present?) researchers MIGHT avoid the sceptdebunkers and do work from the "Known" to the "Unknown" without issue, I thought of the following method... Here it is...
Witness testimony/Receive reports.
Interviews with people directly involved.
So, for us, this could mean receiving an e-mail of an account or looking into a 'known haunt' (a 'haunted location' that is already known to us or to the general public) as to the experiences and related phenomena. It could also mean looking into our own personal experiences at a given location.
Objective on site investigations.
Personal feelings and observances.
Investigative group feelings and observances.
Electronic and photographic documentation of the site.
Research into the location of the phenomena.
Following the guidelines in our course and our How To Guide, we implement a normal GHRS investigation. For other groups, using their tested tried and true methods, the same would be employed.
Personal/Groups possible conclusion(s) based on the above.
So, after all is said and done, what do "we" think this is? What is "our" concept of the findings of the above?
Looking into possible 'natural' occurrences to the phenomena.
I've borrowed the word "Corrupt" from UFOlogy. What it means is, does the witness have or had pre-conditioned thoughts on what happened? Is there a 'motive' to the witness having a 'ghostly' encounter? Is the witness reliable in the judgement of the group investigating?
This may seem harsh but it can be an issue. Let's say the owner of a bar suddenly reports some phenomena although using the above technics, you find that there really isn't any precedents and the stuff he's reporting could be misconstrued. Next, you find out he/she is planning to promote their bar using the ghost. Now, I'm not saying toss this witnesses testimony into the rubbish bin BUT one must take into account that maybe they're hoping to say "This Bar Officially Haunted and Verified by THIS Investigator!" This, needless to say, could be very bad for you.
The other harsh reality in this case too is what I refer to as the "Older Brother Syndrome". Basically, the witness seems to be reaching too much to make the phenomena seem much scarier than one might expect. In your above investigation, you find that this witness likes to take people to the reported site and scare the willies out of them. Again, don't completely discount things BUT keep in mind, is this witness using you to bolster their own account for an added scare?
Lastly, there are people that have experienced something that absolutely need validation to the point of possibly leading you astray. Again, caution is in order as there is obviously a reason for their belief and need for validation but again, make sure that their report is heard clearly and without pressure to 'elaborate' to an extent the something real get's lost in the re-telling.
As for 'natural' occurrences, this means checking things that 'naturally' (or man made) occur that could be mistaken for the phenomena. Was it raining when you snapped the pictures of the orbs? Was it cold enough to see your breath when you photographed the mist? Is there a forced AC vent near the 'cold spot'? Basically, rationalize things as best you can and try to use an extra set of eyes too!
Historical reports of phenomena.
Natural mediums for perceived phenomena.
Historical precedents means who MIGHT the apparition of the lady on the stairs be? Can you track down a deceased (or even living!) person who this may represent?
Historic reports of phenomena means who else has witnessed this? When was it first reported? It would be interesting if you felt that the aforementioned "lady on the stairs" was a woman who passed away in 1970 and find out she was seen in 1964.
Natural mediums are simply this... Is there ONE person or thing that triggers the phenomena? For examples, is this only experienced at Christmas time? Has only one or two people witnessed this but many others MIGHT have or were around and didn't witness the phenomena? Basically, is there a trigger of some sort... a person? Date? Pet? Anything???
Be careful not to hunt for a "reason" for the haunting within history too hard. (See the page linked to here for more information on this thought.
-Never a 'closed' case unless debunked or proven-
What do your findings tell you? What are your conclusions to the best of your abilities?
So, if everyone got these words engrained into their brains...
OBSERVATION - INVESTIGATION - HYPOTHESIS - ELIMINATION - RESEARCH - CONCLUSION
...I truly think that many of the sceptdebunkers would be left without too much to complain about... granted, like me, those types will always complain BUT think of it... How cool would it be if every Report/Recording/Photo/Whatever you saw came from someone following these words?
Who knows... maybe one day, this will be the case and OBSERVATION - INVESTIGATION - HYPOTHESIS - ELIMINATION - RESEARCH - CONCLUSION will be the catch-phrase for paranormal researchers. Somehow I doubt it and to say I feel VERY egotistical writing this is a mild understatement but what the heck... you gotta try!
Please also read Fame and Success by ParaResearchers