The word paranormal combines two words “para” or beyond and normal.  It’s the study of things that seem to defy scientific explanation.  Really, there are plenty of things in science this heading might encompass – For decades, the neutrino, a subatomic particle with little to no mass, defied our human understanding of how particles function, but you didn’t see scientists labeling the activity “beyond normal.”  Paranormal research began in at the turn of the last century as a way to study extra-sensory perception, or ESP.  Today paranormal research groups study everything from psychic phenomena like telepathy to channeling to ghosts to astrology.  In other words, literally anything beyond normal.  

I had always thought of the word differently: para as in parallel or a world or concept parallel to our laws of binding our physical universe.  I thought of paranormal as the research enveloping all things non-physical.  I’d still like to think of it as a science with the same approach to all things scientific – using hypothesis, conducting experiments, gathering evidence, conjecturing, debunking, etc.  

Poltergeist phenomena is my favorite.  Found in nearly all cultures and religious groups, the activity of the “noisy ghost” is widely reported and documented.  So are hallucinations.  And yet, a single poltergeist event can be witnessed/encountered by multiple people, so I put more validity into claims of this activity.  As a child, I experienced something that would be defined as poltergeist activity.  I don’t feel silly admitting this because I believe strongly there is a valid explanation for these experiences.  

In my opinion, we don’t have to believe in the supernatural, to better understand the paranormal.   In talking with people, I’ve found most have some story to share – even the skeptics – of something they just can’t explain.  And yet, they all share a desire to find some explanation.

Modern day ghost-hunters invest a good deal of time and money into capturing evidence of paranormal activity.  Whether actual ghosts or residual energy, these pseudo scientists employee EMF meters to measure electric-magnetic fields, recording devices to record “EVPs” or electronic-voice phenomena, infrared and thermal cameras to measure and capture movements or sudden changes in temperature in a room and other tools to assist the investigators with seeing in the dark.  

When I first met a “ghost-hunter,” I had a lot of questions and I wasn’t very polite about asking.  Questions like, “Isn’t hanging around grave-yards cliche?” or “Don’t you think walking around houses in the dark is a good way to scare up experiences that might not occur in broad daylight?”  

These questions were quickly answered.  Graveyards tend to make people uncomfortable at night so investigators take new people there to see how they handle fear.  Okay, makes sense, but why the dark?  I was told this was the quiet time and it was more likely you would capture genuine activity than during the day.  There are just too many noises during the day and investigators prefer to turn off any unnecessary electronics to avoid EMF interference. Hence, dark places at night.

I’m actually more impressed than anything getting to know people who study ghosts on the side.  They’re not crazy as I expected.  They’re not charging people money to do bogus investigations.  I was told if someone charges for their work, beware.  Most investigators will do anything to discredit their own findings because they know these findings will be equally scrutinized by any skeptic.  Still, the fact remains, if you haven’t experienced the paranormal, can you ever really believe it?

Then again, I’ve never seen a neutrino, but I am no less a believer.  

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