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Ghosts Don’t Exist, Ghost Hunters Not True Researchers (Thank You Joe Nickell)

CAUTION: Rant ahead.

I read two articles about things paranormal researcher Joe Nickell discussed on a July 4th Coast to Coast AM show about ghosts and ghost hunters, and it got me all fired up. (See: Professional paranormal investigator: There’s no evidence ghosts or aliens exist and Joe Nickell says paranormal investigators should ditch EMF and EVP detectors.)

Before I get going, it’s important to keep this in mind: I love, Love, LOVE my paranormal investigator friends. I know some really awesome people who have either founded, or are a very active part of, ghost hunting groups. They’re not only some of the nicest people I know, but also among the most interesting.

However, there have been times when even some of these people have coped a superiority complex with me simply because I am not part of a group and don’t do what they do. Meaning, I don’t aspire to “investigate” the same way they do by becoming a part of a group, getting a lot of fancy equipment, staying up all night trying to catch EVPs, etc.

One person even told me, “You’re really just more of a very informed ghost enthusiast.”

I was offended. At the end of the day, so is he. But I knew it’d be pointless to say that. He’d argue that wasn’t the case. After all, he’d spent thousands on equipment and countless hours “investigating” a variety of places.

Except, “investigating” and “research” are not synonymous. Sadly, popular ghost hunting TV shows have misled the ghost loving masses to believe finding proof of ghosts lies in using devices like EMF detectors and voice recorders.

Worse, they’ve led them to believe such devices capture “evidence.” But even worse than that is they’ve led them to think all it takes to be a researcher is acquiring equipment and using it in allegedly haunted places like they do.

Wrong. So, so, so wrong.

Professional paranormal investigator Joe Nickell says ghost hunters and paranormal investigators focus too much attention on their equipment when there’s absolutely no proof that what they’re “detecting” is a ghost.

~From Joe Nickell says paranormal investigators should ditch EMF and EVP detectors

From the beginning, I’ve lamented about the lack of true research when it comes to most ghost hunters, most especially the ones on TV. (See: Ghost TV Shows: Good for Paranormal Tourism, Bad for Paranormal Research, Before You Give Up On Ghost Hunting Shows, Give “SCARED!” A Chance, and “Do ghosts smell?” and 25 Other Questions that Haunt My Brain.)

The only show I’ve ever seen on TV that’s done any real research was American Paranormal. The rest is all just entertainment.

And guess what most of the paranormal groups out there do? Mimic what they’ve seen on TV. Very few are thinking outside the box or doing anything original when it comes to actual research. (Okay, so they research places and the stories behind them, but as far as doing actual scientific experiments? Not even close.) At the end of the day, they’re not even really investigating. And you know why I say that…because ghosts have not yet been proven to exist.

Think of it this way. When you have a murder or a missing person, you either have a body or someone who’s vanished. You have something to investigate. You know what you’ll find. Either the murderer, their weapon, motive, etc, or the person who went missing.

No one has ever found a concrete, 100% demonstrative example of a ghost…yet.

According to Nickell, the paranormal is being promoted in a negative way with a logical fallacy called “an argument from ignorance.”

Nickell believes that today’s ghost hunters aren’t using the scientific method to prove the existence of ghosts at all. Instead of going into a supposedly haunted house with an open mind to try to find out what’s really happening, they’re entering the house with the intention of proving the existence of ghosts.

~From Professional paranormal investigator: There’s no evidence ghosts or aliens exist

And let’s talk about evidence. Orbs, EVPs, blurry photos, weird K2 readings…what are they really? Lots of people like to claim they’re evidence of ghosts.

Orbs are most often dust, dirty lenses, bugs, light reflections…something other than balls of actual light. And even if they were, why do we assume, “Oh, it’s a ghost!”?

EVPs are impressive, but, again, what are they really? Voices from beyond? Voices of the dead?

Nope. They are voices you happened to pick up. Some say, “Well, they answered my question. That’s proof of an intelligent haunting.”

It is? Why? How do you know it’s not you trying to make it seem that way? How do you know it’s not a conversation carrying on the air waves somehow, or a blurp from a radio station or TV show spontaneously being picked up by your voice recorder?

In some cases, EVPs are even the voices of fellow investigators. They don’t mean to, but I’ve known more than one group throw out an EVP because luckily they happened to be video recording their EVP session. They noticed one of their members answering. (And they weren’t possessed. They were simply so into it that they answered the questions.)

“With UFOs we’re really talking about 5% or less of cases. Skeptics all agree that 95% of all UFOs can be relegated to the “identified” category. Those 5% are not unexplainable, they’re just unexplained.”

“The idea that the 5% proves the existence of UFOs is just an argument from ignorance”, says Nickell. “Nobody has proof or disproof of an actual extraterrestrial craft or a ghost.”

~From Professional paranormal investigator: There’s no evidence ghosts or aliens exist

At the end of the day, ghosts, UFOs, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, etc…they’re nothing but fantasy, figments of myth and imagination. They don’t exist.

Yet, they may exist.

But the way most people currently approach proving that isn’t going to capture the proof needed to turn fiction into fact.

Here’s another way to look at it. It’s like when you get sick. You know your body is malfunctioning. But you have to figure out exactly what is causing it to do that.

Like when I had cancer. I knew something was very wrong. It took many tests, of many varieties, over several days to determine what my tumor was (it might have been a fungus ball and not even a tumor), if it was cancer (once they determined it was not a bad infection or a fungus ball), and what type of cancer it was (once they determined it wasn’t a benign tumor).

But the very first step was trying to determine what it was.

We automatically think we’re dealing with ghosts when we venture to allegedly haunted places with ghost stories. Then we use our equipment thinking we’re gathering evidence of the ghosts.

In fact, we’re not. We’re assuming ghosts are real and even exist at all.

We need to step back and first identify what a ghost is. Like with diseases. Before certain diseases were known or named, they had to be researched. Symptoms were cataloged. Biological evidence was traced. Diseases were then recognized and named.

Not that ghosts are diseases, but true investigators need to apply the same sort of techniques to haunted places where ghosts allegedly roam. Let’s see if we can identify actual signatures (and I’m not talking about EVPs, shadows, orbs, or other suspicious images), but really take into account all aspects of the place. Environmental, structural, emotional, atmospheric.

Most investigators log some of this, and, yes, some even catalog ghosts into groups, such as intelligent or residual. But no one is actually catching a ghost, or evidence of one. People automatically assume footsteps, weird smells, things moving by themselves, and other odd incidents are a ghost’s handiwork. And, yes, some people debunk some of this stuff, but when they can’t debunk it, they automatically cry, “Ghost!”

Nope. That’s not the next logical answer.

Even full-bodied apparitions are not proof of ghosts. That’s just someone seeing something…it could be anything from a trick of light and shadows to an overactive imagination to a tired mind.

And why isn’t it that more people don’t see the apparition? Why are some only “in-tune” with such things (as some psychics like to explain their “powers” of seeing the dead) but others aren’t? It doesn’t make sense.

That apparition has to leave some kind of physical evidence. Let’s use a weather analogy: Wind, rain, lightening, hail…even if we can’t recreate these events on a large scale, there are devices to measure their approach, occurrence, and aftermath. It’s not just some who see or experience them and others who don’t.

And if it’s the case that some are more in-tune to the natural universe because they are more empathetic or what have you, and that’s why they “see” things, well…maybe what we need to do is stop trying to find ghosts and instead concentrate on identifying DNA or personality traits or something along those lines of the living people who can “see” what others can’t. What’s different about them and their makeup?

Okay, one last example before I end this rant. People can be tracked right? You know a person has been somewhere because we eat, poop, wash, sleep. We leave evidence behind.

In 2012 we still believe ghosts can materialize out of thin air, even though the laws of physics do not support this theory. (Sidenote: this makes me shake my head. It wasn’t all that long ago people associated rattling chains and white sheets with ghosts. Who these days still believes that cheeky “evidence” of a ghost’s presence?)

Ghosts have to leave physical traces of some sort. There must be a signature we’re missing. There must be conditions under which ghosts appear.

Asking the thin air to answer your questions and then getting excited when you get a response is not proof of ghosts. It’s proof you’ve caught a disembodied voice on tape. But voices can’t just happen. It’s takes the mechanics of the human body to create the “noise” we call “talk” or “words.” What is creating that? How can a ghost with no body create noise? It’s not physically possible. Or is it? The wind can whistle. But we know it’s wind. And we know it has to do with variations in pressure.

Until we can figure out the mechanics and/or biology of what makes up a ghost, we can never say they exist. And therefor we can’t categorize any of the “evidence” people are currently passing off as proof of ghosts.

Sorry to burst the bubble of so many ghost hunters/paranormal investigators/paranormal researchers out there. However,  like me, the majority of us are nothing more than well-informed ghost enthusiasts who desperately want ghosts to exist… and believe one day they might really be proven real.

But it’s going to take more than what we’re doing now to make that a reality.


Courtney Mroch
Courtney Mroch, otherwise known as HJ's Ambassador of Dark and Paranormal Tourism, is an author, traveler, and ghost enthusiast. When she's not writing, jaunting, or planning her next trip, it's a safe bet you'll find her in one of three places: on a tennis court somewhere, on a yoga mat somewhere, or watching a horror movie somewhere. She currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

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5 thoughts on “Ghosts Don’t Exist, Ghost Hunters Not True Researchers (Thank You Joe Nickell)

  1. Joe Prove it. Denial is nothing without proof. Have you ever been with the ghost hunters on a live hunt. Then do not speak about what you do not know as fact. Say I do not believe.

  2. I liked your post, because everything you say is something anyone interested in the paranormal needs to think about. Although I founded a group, I don’t believe being part of one makes you a good paranormal investigator. I don’t think that’s a prerequisite.

    And I agree that we should not copy what we see on T.V., but rather, think outside the box when it comes to conducting an investigation. However, a lot of what was written here is generalization. I doubt any two paranormal groups do everything the exact same way.

    I also feel that there are those of us out there that do not approach the field with the mindset to prove that ghosts exist. I know our group does everything we can to debunk. What good is hearsay or false positives? That does no one any good, in my book.

    I also think that 100 – 150 years from now, people are going to look back at ghost investigators and laugh. They may think we are as silly as those first explorers who were afraid to take to the seas, because everyone thought the world was flat.

    There is a possibility that there are valid explanations for ghostly activity that we simply haven’t discovered yet; things like time travel, inter-dimensional beings and wrinkles in the time-space continuum.

  3. Barb, excellent point! You’re right. I did generalize a bit. No two teams are exactly alike. Also, I love the 100-150 years from now comment. Uh huh. That’s true. Good point! And I also agree with your closing paragraph. I really think there is an explanation to the phenomenon. Anyone who’s ever experienced something “paranormal” never forgets just how very odd and out of the ordinary it is. I know we all want to know…whether it IS a ghost or something else that can explain it. I think the fact we can’t easily do it and we know people won’t readily believe us if they haven’t experienced it too, makes us want to find answers so we don’t think we’re crazy, imagined it, etc. Thanks for your comment.

  4. I hear you, Courtney. The methods the so-called ghost hunters use might be a little suspect but for the most part, I believe their intentions are good. It’s difficult to prove something that we don’t know enough about or how to prove exists, especially when the waters have been muddied by our interpretation of how it *should* look. I know from my own experience that ghosts or apparitions or whatever they call it, exists. I wasn’t hallucinating or drunk or tired when I saw my friend’s grandmother and sister in my house, thousands of miles away. I’d never seen anything so clearly and haven’t seen it again like that since then. From time to time, I sense people around. I doubt my house is haunted but how would I prove or disprove what I feel and believe to be true — that dead people are sometimes sharing my space.

  5. See, I really like how you wrote this, Marcia. Current methods for trying to root things out are a little “suspect” because people are prejudiced against how they think something should look. And you writing about your experiences…that’s a perfect first person example of you knowing without a doubt what you saw. It’s very compelling to want to find answers to this sort of occurrence. I know I really want to know what in the Universe happened to make it possible for you to see your friend’s grandma and sister in your house. I believe you saw that. I also believe there has to be an explanation for it. (And not that you were crazy or hallucinating but the physics of why that was able to happen.) But I may never get such an answer…(But I’ll keep searching. 😉

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