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Trouble is, no one has stood up and set the standard; no protocols, no base lines, etc.
This is simply not true. There are a host of researchers doing excellent work on ghosts / hauntings within the remit of science. They have applied and developed their methods and these have proved sound and reliable (including baseline measures etc). The fact that many 'most haunted' wannabe's don't know about it has nothing to do with the good researchers (many of whom publish widely) and the fact the protocols exist, and more to do with those MH idiots simply not bothering to read anything of real use.
Problem is that most researchers have a bias of some sort and this always comes out in the investigation or reports.
Researchers whose work you should consult (in my opinion) are: French, Braithwaite, Wiseman, Persinger, Brugger, Houran, Lange, Nickell, etc. Don't get me wrong - I am not saying I agree with everything these people are doing - but on the whole, the research is of a high standard, well controlled, produces interesting findings and generates new understandings and questions for further research.
I do agree however, that such efforts are not typical of the field - but i would always say don't fall into the trap of thinking everyone is using mediums, ouija boards and orb-catchers......
I'm not saying that there aren't people doing good research - both amateur and professional, but I stick by my comments on baselines, etc. The problem is that most, if not all researchers don't have one point to measure anything by. There is not a common standard for research - there are no accepted definitions, no procedures for treating a suspected case, no guidelines on how to treat a witness, nothing on ethics, etc. I'm thinking that in psychology there have general guidelines like having to debrief witnesses, definitions of diseases, etc and I just think this is something which should be campaigned for in this field - I know a handful of researchers do this, but there should be something for the wider research population. There aren't even any peer reviewed journals!
It's frustrating how you get a real "wheat from the chaff" problem simply by the nature of how humans relate, articulate and record experiences.
It's important to be as impartial and crticial as possible, but it can be tempting to take an unsuitably cynical approach when faced with reams of testimonies and reports
They do say everything has a source.
Here's an example, the piece I did on Gef the Mongoose came from a book, so I went through all the sources and, as there are no witnesses known to be alive had to resort to the newspapers, but by looking at the book accounts and the newspapers, was able to build up a picture. With this sort of story, there's little else you can do but read what's available and draw conclusions. As society changes and grows, there is always room to reinterpret things.
Sorry but I don't think you can ignore secondary reports. Any investigator worth their salt will do a review of the literature. If, for the sake of argument, Ian of this board said to me, Muncaster Castle ia haunted, and I went there, looked around and saw no ghosts, I would come away none the wiser. Whereas if I examined the literature, I would know that there is hightened activity in X room so could have a look at the causes of this.
Now I agree that it is unlikely that ouija boards, mediums or orbs are going to ever say anything useful, but if there is a high instance of orbs coming from one room, the literature would tell you this and you could rule it out scientifically and possibly even find the source of the 'orbs'.
I think you misunderstand me. I'm talking about data reliable enough to draw useful scientific conclusions from. Obviously, a newspaper report can be used to find a case but you would still need to go and interview the witnesses yourself and then examine the site personally. From cases that I know of personally, newspaper reports are generally inaccurate, incomplete and sensationalised when it comes to the paranormal. All you can usefully deduce from them is that there might be something worth looking into and its general nature.
Also, cases where people use ouija and similar methods betray obvious assumptions, on the part of the investigators, about the supposed nature of hauntings. This puts a serious systematic bias into their results that is difficult to remove, even with statistical methods.
Peer reviewed journals, off the top of my head (I'm sure there are others): Journal of Parapsychology, European Journal of Parapsychology, SPR Journal, even ASSAP's Anomaly is now peer reviewed!
Ethics & procedures: ASSAP, for one, has a Code of Conduct. They also run a training course giving full guidelines for investigating cases (where ethics and the scientific method play prominent roles) and how to treat witnesses.
Buggerit, i'll do the TV historian job. Whats the pay like ? Does it include a company mystery machine and a good dental plan and a deal at Bupa ? Can i come home at night ? Do i just have to make things up or do they have to be real ?
mixing beer with prescription painkillers is really the way forward it makes you think so clearly
Perhaps it would be helpful to give an example of how history can contribute to research.
Over the past 2 1/2 years, I have been researching a Legend here in the U.S. called the "Beautiful Stranger" of the Hotel del Coronado, in Coronado, California on the west Coast. The Legend as classically told is wrong it turns out. We received this information mediumistically in conversations with the Beautiful Stranger herself. The medium has been doing this for over twenty years and is one of the few I have worked with capabled of extended conversations of this sort.
The point is that the information had to be developed with the assistance of over 20 historians and subject matter experts, working in over a dozen fields residing in 10 different States and in Canada. The Legend is wrong, and we now believe we have the story right. We were quite careful to score all the anecdotal statements made by the medium on specificity, correlation to our mutual backgrounds and relevance to discovered history. The complexity and depth of this historical investigation is difficult to communicate. But it does impress, especially when you consider that some of our best information was received in Feb 2006 during our first conversation with the Beautiful Stranger, who died in 1892.
I have personally used mediumship as an adjuct in investigations dating back as far as 1974. I and other professional historians have found that some intriguing insights may be gained into the past through careful and judicious use of talented invidivuals.
The problem from my perspective is that most mediums are not worth the time it takes to say their names. This seems to be true everywhere. So it is not surprising that most people believe all their work is unreliable. I certainly agree this can be true. But in 40 years of research I have been fortunate enough to work with some quite remarkable people and because of this, I have had some great successes.
So please consider this research is multidimensional and not easily cast in black and white.
Anomalous Phenomena is Unexplained not Impossible
Psi is Subtle not Absolute
Anything is possible, it'a all a matter of Probability
I think the problem is that meduiumship and the ability to communicate with the dead is not a scientifically recognised and accepted ability. Therefore involving mediums, regardless of how good they in any form of research not specifically designed to investigate mediumship, doe in my eyes invalidate the work or make at best make it all anecdotal.
Now don't get me wong, I really believe that there are mediums out there having genuine strange experiences, but are they actually talking to the dead? That we can't prove yet and may never be able to.
I would point out that all work in the 'paranormal' is unrecognized by the mainstream scientific community to varying degrees. While research parapsychology has explored topics such as General ESP (inclusive of telepathy and clairvoyance, e.g.) and psychokinesis, there is far greater variance on such topics as hauntings, apparitions, aports/deports and mediumship.
That said, there is now useful work that has been done in the U.S. (and I believe as well by now in the U.K., although I can't think of the citations at the moment)
The work of Dr Gary Schwartz at the University of Arizona and more recently Dr. Julie Beschel at Windbridge Institute, are good examples of well-controlled laboratory research inquiries into mediumship.
We have the anecdotal problem in most forms of work involving humans. The 'true telepathy' experiment was devised by Dr. Betty McMann at Rhine Institute in the late 1930s precisely to address these concerns. Most of the time however we do have the issue which turns into "is it telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, retrocognition, after-death communications (ADC) or fraud?" We have to carefully examine the nature of the mediumship in context, the controls in place, the probability the medium could have received the information beforehand and so on to determine the potential credibility of the information. With historical mediumship as previously described, we are also looking for consistency with either existing or even better currently undeveloped historical facts.
I would ask what constitutes 'scientific evidence' if one considers this to be too anecdotal information? I would suggest that most so-called 'evidence' proposed by the ghost hunting community today is no more proof when subjected to the rigor of the scientific method. So I am unsure if the criticism of mediumship truly has merit at least on those grounds.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, the mediumship in question is conversational in nature. Even research parapsychologists miss the importance of this point, which is why I stress it again here. I would presume that most readers in this forum have never witnessed this form of mediumship. It provides the unqiue opportunity to question, and more important, to trick the communicating individual. We find they are able to keep up with this interrogation without becoming confused. Those with a background in forensic psychology should immediately appreciate the implications to the research investigator.
What exactly is your method and how does it differ from other ways of doing medimship research, please?
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