Paranormal Investigators?

I remember a time in my life when I was a little less sceptical and slightly more inclined to believe that I could use reiki to heal sickness or injuries. It was a magical time in my life, and it didn’t last very long. Perhaps I was seduced by Fox Mulder’s pouty faced insistence that there was more to reality than what I could see, or perhaps I was just young, naive and uncritical of my own beliefs.

I was about 19 years old when I was told a story about a tribe of natives who had lived for hundreds of years on a certain patch of veld in Johannesburg until one day the nasty Afrikaners came along and built a highway right over the top of their native burial ground. Apparently the spirits of the tribe’s ancestors were so angered by this that they would rise at night and bite the tires of cars driving along that patch of highway, causing many terrifying accidents.

At the time I believed this story at face value, I didn’t even give it a second thought. But that was then, this is now. I now know that one would be intellectually irresponsible to accept this story without doing some kind of investigation… I could call in The South African Society For Paranormal Research, maybe they could point out for me whether or not there was anything funny going on. I’m sure the chaps over at SASPR would do a lovely job of walking around on the highway and startling each other, or taking pictures with unbelievably poor resolution and then insisting that they see ghosts in the pixelated noise they produce.

I don’t want to be completely uncharitable here and take a swipe at these nice folks without presenting some examples of how anemic their “paranormal research” is. In the interests of fairness I will present the least awful examples of their work and try to illustrate why I am so very unconvinced.

Although reasonably laid out and not too ugly to look at, most of the SASPR’s online forum is made up of long “Case Files” which describe various members of the society standing around in rooms with palpable atmospheres and taking photos of dust. I combed through the “photos of activity” and “case files” and selected some of the items which encapsulate the groups mindset and approach towards investigating claims of the paranormal.

May I present for your delectation some of the more (or less) convincing items of evidence for paranormal activity provided by SASPR?

From “REPORT ON INVESTIGATION 4, FLORENTIA, ALBERTON, 24.10.2009 BY SHARON” posted by Marius;

“one room (nicknamed the blue room by the team), had a very intense atmosphere and both Marius and myself sensed that there may be a portal in this room”

I can understand that sensation of a room having a palpable atmosphere, however, from reading the “open minded” articles on the SASPR forum I think that most of the intensity of the atmosphere in the “blue room” was imported by the investigators. Sharon appears to be a highly suggestible person and does not seem to have a single sceptical braincell. And what exactly does she mean when she says that there “may be a portal” in the room? I get the impression that they are referring to some kind of spirit door for the ghosts to enter our world. All sounds very impressive, but it also sounds wholly implausible to me. May I suggest proving the existence of ghosts before catapulting to dimension doors?

Lets look at another one;

“At one stage in the lounge area, Marius and I were standing close together and Marius said he felt something walk past him, at the same moment, I said that I felt incredibly dizzy. Shawn took a photo and there is a huge orb between Marius and myself.”

Can we see that photo please? It does not appear to be linked to this case file and I think it would be important to actually provide the images you claim you have. Once again Sharon’s suggestibility comes rampaging into the action like a wild rhinoceros; Marius claims to feel something and immediately she does as well, just to a much greater degree… Yeah…

Ok, ok, one more try;

“I was standing next to a bedside chest of drawers and Marius told me that a child was crouched between myself and the drawers, clutching hold of my legs. At the same time, I had the very distinct feeling of being pushed slightly into the cupboard (something I personally have never experienced before). At this time, although there were absolutely NO children in the house, a child’s voice is clearly heard saying “He did it, Mommy” on the recorder.”

Do I need to point out Sharon’s suggestibility again? She doesn’t seem to feel any strange sensations unless Marius is there to plant the ideas in the fertile soil of her open mind.

The recorder Sharon refers to is one they were allegedly using to pick up EVP. Unfortunately the links to the alleged recordings are broken and I cannot listen to them myself so I have to fall back on the collected wisdom of the sceptical community. Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) are mentioned repeatedly throughout the SASPR forum as “voices” heard on tape recordings. I would like to make one thing clear; there is absolutely no evidence for the claim that EVP are the voices of ghosts. They are far more likely to be caused by your own brain. Apophenia is the process by which your gray matter cleverly finds a pattern in random noise (visual or audible) and convinces itself (you) that it has seen a giant face on mars or heard the voice of a person who is not in the room. For an excellent, detailed investigation of EVP please read this article by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.

I think you get the gist of the level of “investigation” these people are doing. What’s that you say? A picture paints a thousand words? Here is one from investigation 4, of an alleged haunting in Springs.

A ghost stole my picture!

Apparently there is a ghost in this picture

If that isn’t evidence of the paranormal I don’t know what is! Wait, what I meant to say is; NONE OF THIS IS EVIDENCE OF PARANORMAL ACTIVITY! You can walk around creepy houses all night, or sit behind your computer making up scary stories, and the result would be as compelling as the drivel offered up by the SASPR. Stories about being creeped out or feeling worked up in a particular room of an allegedly haunted house count for nothing! I have looked at the above picture many times and am unable to see anything more spooky than the wildly pixelated forehead on that guy in the picture.

Cramming a bunch of unsceptical people into a dark house and then having them walk around for hours convincing each other that there is something spooky going on, and then going home and poring over blurry photos and tape recordings is NOT researching paranormal activity. The SASPR form their own opinions about an allegedly haunted building (which is almost always that the building is haunted) and then force fit their opinions into the horrifyingly poor evidence. Of course they believe they have proof of ghosts, they have shoe-horned their gullibility into a stack of poor quality evidence and come out the other side having confirmed their initial beliefs.

To the SASPR; bring better evidence or be more careful in the claims you make.

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15 responses to “Paranormal Investigators?

  1. Make sure if your having to be in the sun rays to buy POLARIZED sunglasses… Tints do not work and can’t block the sunlight… Plus they look sweet in the pictures and no squinting or closed eyes!!! We ours at sandysunglasses.com cheap as {dirt|heck| but great quality…

  2. I have some evil demons in our place they attack us even. We need a paranormal investigator as our family me members are acting strange and the behaviour is impeccable 0847583029

  3. Angela.Your email seems to be inactive. I have tried to contact you,so here is what the email states.
    Regarding the very “openminded” and “fair” blog you ran on us a while ago.(SASPR),WE have never claimed that any of the premises ARE haunted,but have always kept an open forum on our site.If you did a bit more research and less bad-mouthing you would notice that we are non-profit,so we are not charging for our services.So we are not out to make a living of this.We also are a RESEARCH society,which means we are still in the process of researching?

    I also LOVE the way that you picked as you said “the best example”,which is a load of bull.There are a lot more conclusive cases which would show that we are more sceptical than you promote us to be.

    We also have a lot of sceptics on our site,if you bothered to go past the main page.So we definately are an openminded society

    • Marius, I spent a lot of time on your website and I stand by my statements. I saw no compelling evidence for supernatural activity in any of the photo’s or case reports. Please feel free to provide a working link to your best example and I will be happy to read it with no biased judgments.

  4. very Interesting all your views.
    I would like to mention that none of the original team members are working for saspr anymore.They call themselves shaddow chasers now.And if you guys read the foreword on our site,we don`t ever claim anything. We investigate(with the home owner present,and manning some of the equipment).We just hand over what we found,and leave it up to the community to decide.after all, we do call ourselves “researchers” and not fundis.
    🙂
    You will notice that our site has moved due to ning`s new policy of paying for our sites.We are now on the website http://thesouthafricansocietyforparanormalresearch.yola.com.

    • Hi Marius, thanks for your comments. I would love to come along on an investigation if you have one coming up. I’d like to experience it for myself.
      Please contact me on skepticdetective{@}gmail.com.
      Also, the link you provided seems to be broken.

      Angela

      • Hey Angela.Sorry about that broken link.We had some issues with the ning network,but we are up and running again.I sure will keep you updated on our next case.At present we are working with United International pictures south africa on the release of paranormal activity2.

  5. This is hilarious and I agree 100% with you! I too was once a believer, hand down that all this HAS to exist! Then, the inevitable happened, I grew up. Sure, I would love to believe as I love all things paranormal, but there is just no evidence whatsoever to show otherwise. I do love the stories and love to be scared though and thats what all this is to me, entertainment!

  6. Well, I can bring a camera with, we’ll boost the ISO to top notch, then under-expose the pictures. It seems like the only way to catch ghosts in the act is to take HORRIBLY grainy pics, maybe boost the brightness, saturation, contrast and noise up in photoshop, perhaps click the “add random noise” button, search the randomness for spooky patterns, et viola!

    As for the FSM…. I totally see it! Our savour has come! Grab ye ale!

  7. OK, I definitely see Jesus in the black circled section – creepy!, But even more amazing is the Flying Spaghetti Monster is directly above the black circled section – now if that ain’t proof then I don’t know what! HAIL PASTAFARIANISM!

  8. Good post.

    I contacted S.P.I.T.S.A. and asked them a few questions about their investigative techniques and wanted to try and get an invitation to one of their investigations. You can read the questions I asked on the S A Skeptics Forum – http://forum.skeptic.za.org/general-skepticism/local-version-of-ghost-hunters-coming-soon/

    I did receive a reply to the first email, but they never answered my 2nd one – not that I was expecting them to, anyway.

    As you say, most of these people are firm believers and investigate “paranormal” goings on with a biased angle. I would love to re-investigate one or two of their cases from a sceptic’s point of view.

    One of SPITSA’s investigations took place not too far from me – it’s supposedly a “very haunted” pub – and I would like to check it out. So if you ever find yourself up in JHB some time, perhaps we could get together and go and check it out – a sort of Skeptics in the Pub investigation. ;-D

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