The Ghost Hunter’s Dilemma

A Lost Life

Anyone who considers herself a paranormal investigator–that is, anyone committed enough to spend the entire night in cold, dark and often disturbing buildings/ships/homes/hospitals, knows one fact above all else: whatever we find, or whatever finds us, is frustratingly vague. We catch snippets of voices on digital recorders, but we often do not hear the same words; we find anomalies in photographs, but someone usually offers a natural explanation; we see spikes or sharp drops in temperature, or watch the EMF meter light up like a Christmas tree, but we really don’t know what it means.

Interpretation of such oddities is often treacherous, since elusive or inconsistent findings create opportunities for self-delusion; even though I try my utmost to maintain a professional and scientific approach, there are times when I have defended a piece of “evidence” far beyond what it deserved. At one point, my pride and joy as a ghost hunter was a picture of a menacing face in a window at the Olivas Adobe. I sent that picture everywhere, showing it to as many people as possible. Almost everyone was impressed by photo, convinced that I had indeed captured something amazing, something out of this world. It wasn’t until several weeks later that Ty saw something I had not: the face was actually my own hand, contorted in such a way as to mimic the features of an angry specter. As soon as he pointed this out to me, my entire perception of reality shifted. I had no longer captured an incredible piece of evidence; I had, instead, taken a cool picture of my own hand. Such an elegant metaphor for the self-involvement of a deluded investigator. However, in my defense, I learned a great deal from that incident. My interpretation, no matter how convinced I am that what I have recorded is paranormal, is still simply my personal impression, my own experience. This is why a team of investigators is essential to finding anything approximating the truth: someone will tell you, gently, that your ghost is simply your own reflection.

We all have stories about the amazing evidence for the paranormal that turns out to be nothing more than a hand or a moth. And yet, there are those moments where the entire team is collectively in awe of a shared experience with no known normal cause. There are those snippets of audio that leave us all speechless: the inhuman voice at the Glen Tavern Inn, the photo of the transparent man at Alcatraz, the responsive pipes at Camarillo, the collective feeling that we are being watched, the heavy footsteps in the bushes by the bridge at La Purisima . . . as a team, we’ve been utterly astounded at what we’ve experienced, at a loss for an explanation.

So what do those moments mean? Are we going to find an answer to the ultimate questions of life after death, the significance of ghosts and spirits, the identity of the watchers in the dark? Probably not. Assuredly not; for that is not the point, nor do I think we are meant to know with any certainty what is, to my mind, the greatest mystery of the universe: what is left of us after we have moved through death? Where do we go? What meaning does our existence possess for us, and those who loved us?

There is a quote from Allan J. Hamilton in the chapter “Soul Survivor” that states it perfectly:

“God could make it obvious, but at a terrible price.” . . . we must content ourselves with this oblique glimpse and trust that, for now, as much has been revealed as we can withstand, for our own good. We cannot grasp it. Or measure it. Or map it. But maybe it has to suffice for now.” (202)

A good ghost hunter doesn’t quite believe that “it” cannot be measured or mapped; we have too many tantalizing hints that appear to point in a certain direction. The adventure is too promising to abandon, even if the answers will always be partial, or inconclusive. The whispered voice that said my name at Camarillo might mean nothing at all; but then again, it could be telling me that I need to keep looking. We all do. And so we pack our paranormal kits and head out to the next mystery.

In the middle of the night, huddled over our digital recorders, surrounded by shadows, we know something is out there; although we can’t tell you what it is, it’s powerful and it’s strange.

We will find something close to the truth; and we will have the wisdom to know that it isn’t simply our own reflection. That is more than enough for now.

  1. Commenting on David’s sage post about the constant mis-reads of technical/scientific fundamentals which plague ghost hunting teams.

    Eloquently put and very very true. Thank you.

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  2. losangelesparanormalassociation 10 Jun 2009 at 12:34 am

    Thank you for your comments and insights…

    I don’t know that we’ll ever find answers, but we’ll keep questioning and seeking. We will continue to document things we cannot explain, and we’ll just have to see where the road takes us…

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  3. Steve Gossett 8 Jun 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Unfortunately with technology comes higher scrutiny because ANYTHING can be produced from audio to video to photos. Keeping research in the context of what it is meant for though, the research should be meant for the individual investigation, categorized and logged as such. One of the most exemplary research groups that exercise this is TAPS. Jason and Grant have been long time acquaintances of the founder of SGVPR and I, myself, have used several audio techniques that I have seen them use, among my own. Being primarily the EVP researcher of the group I always go into reviewing material as a debunker. If I ever partake in video, I believe half of what I see and none of what I review (also the playing the debunker). A good researcher has to know how to play both sides of the coin, not just “Look what I caught” but “Look what I caught, say, it might be a reflection”. Those things that are not explainable, well, that’s what the unexplained category is for. I might not be too good with explaining myself but hopefully my point got across.

    Sorry our website is no longer available, a couple years ago it was decided not to renew the site and whats left of the team has gone strictly research mode.

    Steve Gossett
    San Gabriel Paranormal Researchers (SGVPR)

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  4. This was truly an awesome post. It says it all. Thanks!

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  5. Kirsten,

    It’s a dilemma indeed. “Ghost hunting” is an oxymoron, is it not? Sometimes I wonder, (especially in light of some of our more recent experiences) if confronted with a full-fledged and “evidential” ghost encounter, would I turn from ‘skeptical ghost hunter’ to ‘hard core believer’? Or would I simply convince myself that I was losing my mind? Would I know the difference? Would anyone? What evidence could be enough to lead me to conclude, “proof positive” that contact with the other side has been made. Can a hard-core skeptic ever truly believe and can a hard-core believer doubt? Where does the skeptical ghost-hunter fit in? I leave open a window for possibility…and yet, if confronted with a reality that shifts all reality, what would I do? I’m faced with these questions after what happened this weekend at Linda Vista. But I don’t know the answers…

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    1. You touch on an important yet complex point Kirsten… the human-psyche, which generally jumps to rationalization rather than evaluation. We as humans tend to dismiss what we see, hear and feel when it is out of our perceived norm. With good reason, we cannot always trust our senses; nevertheless, it does affect our judgment (for better and worse).

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      1. i apologize, i meant Layla

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      2. David, I agree with you. Actually, I believe this topic is important enough to warrant a separate blog post…I will be posting shortly…

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  6. Awesome!

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  7. […] Source: Los Angeles Paranormal Association […]

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  8. most paranormal investigators claim to utilize scientific methods and reason, yet have no knowledge about fundamental aspects yet trivialize complex paradigms with ignorance. i have noticed that this is widespread among many so called paranormal investigators.

    i would assert that it is so much easier to go with the flow, even if it is the wrong direction.

    i personally believe many methods (as seen in ghost hunters, ghost adventures / ESPECIALLY paranormal state) have it all wrong. paranormal state should be the poster program of what not to do – total crap. but people will attune to what they want.

    paranormal investigators have not contributed amongst themselves, much less to the scientific community, and will not until they reevaluate and restructure their methods.

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  9. All of what Karen Peluso says plus………….., You and your ilk have to be commended for your stick-to-it-ness in light of all the overbearing naysayers out there and the fact that you often end up with more questions after an investigation than answers.

    …….and the beat goes on,
    Rev.Roger

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  10. Karen Peluso 29 May 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Wow, powerful post, leaves one a lot to think about and ponder. Being at the mercy of “man-made” tools which often can work improperly does add an additional twist to investigations and something you must always take into consideration. However many obstacles you are faced with, the fact that you are all dedicated and eager to overcome those obstacles and contribute vital investigative information to others is commendable! I am very proud of all your efforts and the hard work you put into investigating. Thank you for all you do!

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