SkepticblogSkepticblog logo banner

top navigation:

Hunting the Ghost Hunters

by Steven Novella, Jun 22 2009

I will be away this week, so I am dusting off some of my oldest skeptical writings and updating them. Below is a piece I wrote 12 years ago on ghost hunters, Ed and Lorraine Warren. The article is still relevant, and I enhanced it with some updated info. I also employed the wayback machine to provide links to old websites that are no longer active. I will be mostly out of touch, and only rarely monitoring the comments, so forgive me if I don’t respond quickly or at all.

______________________

Belief in the supernatural seems to be a nearly universal part of the human condition, but the details of specific paranormal belief systems depend on culture and location. In New England we have ghosts – or at least ghost hunters. So it is not surprising that in our younger days as activist skeptics, Perry DeAngelis, Evan Bernstein, my brother, Bob, and I (the investigative team of the New England Skeptical Society) cut our skeptical teeth investigating ghost hunters.

Taking on the New England ghost-busting industry led us inevitably to Ed and Lorraine Warren, the patriarch and matriarch of ghost hunting in New England. Ed and Lorraine hunted ghosts (Ed has since passed) – ghosts, apparitions, demons, possessed people, places and things. They did so for decades, and claim to have looked at nearly 4000 cases. They were made famous by books and movies, and as luck would have it lived only a couple towns over in Monroe Connecticut.

We sought to evaluate the phenomenon of ghosts (in the generic sense, referring to all manner of spiritual manifestations) and see if there was any evidence to support the hypothesis that the phenomenon exists. On the matter of hauntings, the Warrens were one of the preeminent experts, and they were local, so naturally we decided to look into their work. Also, they claim to have scientific evidence which does indeed prove the existence of ghosts, which sounds like a testable claim that we can sink our investigative teeth into.

What we found was a very nice couple, some genuinely sincere people, but absolutely no compelling evidence, or, more precisely, there was a ton of “evidence,” but none of it stands up to rigorous scientific testing, and most of it not even to cursory testing. None of it.

Like all pseudosciences, the field of ghost hunting makes bold pretense to being legitimate science. The Warrens called their organization the New England Society for Psychic Research (NESPR), but as we will see, they were a “research” organization in name only. They still have a presence on the web, and Lorraine still gives ghost lectures. Their original website proudly proclaimed that “Our mission is to move the area of psychic phenomena out of the dark ages into the mainstream of rigorous scientific thought and inquiry.” But upon inspection, their methods lack the components of genuine scientific inquiry or even the most fundamental attempt at scientific rigor. Rather than an earnest search for the truth, regardless of what that may be, their society seeks only to support their a priori assumption that the phenomenon is real.

Our investigation began with a tour through the Warren’s rather unique museum, housed in their basement, and alleged to be the most haunted place in Connecticut. From the moment we met Ed and Lorraine, two things became very clear to us. One, seem sincere – to honestly believe the things they say. And two, that they have precious little evidence to support their beliefs. What they do have in abundance are ghost stories and low-grade ambiguous evidence. During that first visit, and in the five hour interview that followed, we were treated to scores of Warren stories. However, despite their insistence to the contrary, stories are not evidence.

On the museum tour, Ed warned us not to touch anything in the main room, as we would open ourselves up to possible possession. If we did accidentally rub against something (which was nearly unavoidable in that crammed space), we were to report it, so that he could purify our auras before we left. The room was a clutter of collected stuff garnered over the Warren’s forty year career. This included paintings, masks, statuettes, and many books. One of these ghostly tomes was an “Unearthed Arcana,” a Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game book. I still have a copy collecting dust in my closet.

Ed claimed that the most dangerous item in the house, however, was a Raggedy-Ann doll that was said to still be possessed by a demonic entity. He keeps this enclosed in a glass case for safety, and chillingly relates the tale of the man who ignored his warnings and taunted the doll, only to die hours later in a tragic motorcycle accident.

Born in 1926, Ed Warren has been involved with the ghostly world since the age of five when he saw the apparition of a recently deceased landlady. Ed’s father was a Connecticut State Trooper who went to mass everyday. His grandfather was also very pious, and bequeathed the bulk of his estate to the Catholic church for the purchase of a stained glass window. It is not difficult to see the basis of Ed’s belief structure, being reared in such a devout environment. The Catholic church does hold that supernatural entities can and do interact with the physical world.

Ed also refers to NESPR as a “theological institute,” and states that his investigations are intimately associated with his religious convictions. In fact, one of his first questions to us, just as with other skeptics he has confronted in the past, is whether or not we believe in God, for without faith we could not understand his research.

Lorraine, born in 1927, is said to be a “sensitive,” or clairvoyant. This is a person that can feel things psychically. When the Warren’s go into an alleged haunted dwelling for the first time, three sensitives are utilized. If all three come up with positive “readings,” or feelings, it is said to be powerful evidence of a supernatural presence. Of course, using an unproven method to measure an unproven phenomenon is of little scientific value.

As our probing into the Warren’s evidence continued, proceeding next into a prolonged interview, we asked to examine their most impressive or most convincing evidence, a request that we would repeat many times. But first, we needed to learn at least some of the jargon that is associated with the ghost phenomenon. Ed was kind enough to give us a crash course.

The “psychic” hours, Ed told us, are from 9 PM to 6 AM and the most vicious hauntings occur around 3 AM. Why? Because that is an insult to the Holy Trinity. A “ghost” is a luminescence without definable form, but on the other hand, an “apparition” has form and features. The countless photos we have seen of balls of light, are known as “ghost globules,” and the elongated patches as “light rods.” There are human spirits, and then there are the real bad guys, inhuman spirits. These are, of course, the essences of things never alive, or demonic entities. Ed also gave us some tips: always keep a vial of blessed water on your person to compel entities; if a possessed person meets your gaze, never be the first to break it, as that demonstrates weakness. And on it went, rules and jargon of the trade.

The Photographic Evidence

The vast majority of the Warren’s physical evidence is photographs. They have hundreds of ghost shots, taken by them and those who work for them. The Carousel Restaurant, a frequent “haunt” of the Warrens and said to be haunted, have their own collection of such photographs. Other ghost hunting societies, such as the Cosmic Society, another local group comprised of defectors from NESPR, also have a collection of such photos as their primary claim to evidence. But quantity is not a substitute for quality.

The bulk of these photos are simply blobs of light on a piece of film. There are dozens of ways to get such light artifacts onto film, but most fit into one of three categories: flashback, light defraction, or camera cords. Rare double or multiple exposures create more interesting, but still artifactual, photographs. It is significant to note that in almost every occurrence of a ghost photograph, the ghost is not seen at the time the photo is taken. It is not until the picture is developed that the ghost or glob or rod is seen, a strong indication that the picture is a result of photographic artifact.

Flashback is simply light from the camera flash reflected back at the lens, causing a hazy overexposed region on the film. The result is often a whispy and blurry light image on the film. It is easy to tell when a flash was used, because of the sharp shadows that are created and because objects in the foreground are brightly lit. The Warren’s website even suggests that using a flash will help create ghost photographs, and “the brighter the flash the better.” It also recommends to include a foreground object – something to reflect the flash. Although they admit that this is paradoxical and was not expected at first, especially since they claim that such photographs are the result of psychically created images. However, there is no discussion or any recognition at all that the light images might be the result of photographic artifact created by the flash.

So-called “ghost globules” are spheres of light, rather than whispy forms. The images, however, are curiously reminiscent of light defracting around a point source. A small amount of condensation on the camera lens is enough to mass produce such ghost globules. Under the right conditions, any discrete source of light can produce this effect.

Paranormal investigator for CSICOP, Joe Nickell, made a valuable contribution to the field of photographic artifact when he discovered through experimentation and common sense the camera cord effect. The cord or strap of an instamatic camera can easily fall in front of the lens, and go unnoticed with cameras that do not view through the lens but through a separate aperture. Even black cords will look like white blobs or streaks of light when they reflect the light of a flash. We were able to reproduce this effect (see photograph on this page) on our first try, creating a “ghost” photograph as good as any we have seen.

The age of digital photography has also created some new sources of photographic artifact. We were asked to investigate a curious photo with several colored streaks across an otherwise still and focused picture. After some digging (the advantage of digital cameras is that the image files contain all sorts of technical information about the picture – exposure time, etc.) we figured out that the camera was accidentally set to “twilight mode.” This mode will use the flash, but then keep the shutter open for a second or two to expose a dim background.

Copious examples of all of the three above common artifacts can be seen on the websites of the Warrens, the Cosmic Society, and other similar sites. What is lacking in all of them, however, is any consideration of alternate explanations of the photographs other than genuine ghosts. There is no investigation into natural sources for the blobs of light, no discussion of alternatives, no discussion at all, in fact. There is only the simple and unquestioned pronouncement that such blobs of light are evidence of the paranormal.

Video Evidence

The other evidence that the Warrens possess is video. Their piece-de-resistance is Ed’s video of the famous White Lady of Union Cemetery, in Easton Connecticut. We have only been able to view this tape in the Warren’s home because Ed refused to give it to us for analysis, a common theme in our investigation. The tape shows an apparent white human figure moving behind some tomb stones. Like videos of UFO’s, Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness monster, however, the figure is at that perfect distance and resolution so that a provocative shape can be seen, but no details which would aid definitive identification. Ed Warren has not investigated the video with any scientific rigor, and refuses to allow others to do so. Despite Ed’s insistence that he was engaged in scientific research, he continued to jealously horde his alleged evidence, rather than allow it to be critically analyzed, as is necessary in genuine scientific endeavors.

The Warrens did, however, give us one of their other pieces of video evidence. This showed a man “dematerializing.” It was taken by a mounted camera in a dining room in the middle of the night during one of their investigations. On the tape, a young man walks into the room, scratches his head, and “Poof!” disappears. This extraordinary occurrence is quickly followed by a “ghost light” appearing momentarily on the window behind the scene.

We gladly accepted the tape and took it to the HB Group for detailed video analysis. An excerpt from that analysis is below:

“We are witnessing a wipe in this segment of videotape. Although there are several different ways in video editing to achieve a wiping effect, the most simple of ways has been employed here. Deliberately or accidentally, the camcorder stopped recording on the final frame of the person in the room and resumed recording just a few seconds after the person had moved outside of the view of the camera.
“On a related observation, the properties of light alone could dictate a hundred different explanations for the mysterious “dot” of light that appears a few seconds after the man “vanishes.” However, I believe that this dot of light was caused by the reflection through the dining room window of the headlights of a passing car. The passing headlights can be seen if you watch the right hand side of the screen just after the “dot” of light fades out.”

As you can see, the only piece of evidence that we were given turned out to be less than compelling. It was, in fact, a simple malfunction at best, and fraud at worst. Even cursory analysis of this piece of tape would have revealed what we found to the Warrens. Yet no one in the Warren’s investigatory network bothered to check it out. Rather then take this obvious first step, one of their investigators simply declared that the “ghost light” was “unexplainable.” This turned out to be the reflection of a car headlight. Further, none of the people in the tape were aware that anything had even occurred until the following day when the tape was viewed (again, the fingerprint of artifact), including the young man who allegedly dematerialized! Ed put his credibility in serious jeopardy when he looked at that tape, and without any verification, stated that experts, “… can only come to one conclusion, that kid disappeared.”

Despite numerous attempts to examine other physical evidence the Warrens claim to possess, we were given nothing else. Instead, we were given excuses such as “The film was erased,” “The people in the film want privacy,” “We had just turned off the recording equipment, when…” Forty years of “research” into a phenomenon and precious little to show for it.

Eyewitness Testimony

Vastly outnumbering the Warren’s low grade physical evidence, is their copious anecdotal evidence. They are great tellers of ghost stories, leading, in no small measure, to their popularity on the lecture circuit, which Lorraine continues now that Ed is gone. They did not seem to understand, however, that the case for the reality of ghosts will never be made by stories alone.

In this respect, however, the Warrens are typical of the majority of people, who are compelled by a gripping story and lack a deep understanding of how flimsy and unreliable human memory and perception really is. Good skeptics, like good scientists, strive to increase their awareness of such weaknesses, so that they can be controlled for in the quest for knowledge. Ed and his ilk, on the other hand, are continuously seeking the “reliable witness.” But even pilots, firefighters, police chiefs, and physicians are just people. Their gray matter is the same as everyone else’s.

In short, memory is fallible. This is due to the fact that all of our perceptions are filtered through our own unique polyglot of prejudices, preconceptions, misconceptions, insecurities and physical frailties. The mind can dilute, mix up, and even manufacture memories. And we have no way to determine which are which. Without external verification, there is no way to distinguish a delusion from a hallucination from a genuine experience.

Further, many sightings or interactions with an entity (whether ghost or alien) take place in the bedroom, late at night, or very early in the morning – times and places connected with sleep, or, more accurately, the near-sleep state. A classic example is Jack Smirle, investigated by the Warrens themselves, who related the tale of awakening in the early morning, being paralysed, sensing an entity in the room, being overcome with terror, then being raped by a ghost.

There is a well described neurological phenomenon known as hypnagogia. This occurs when we are between the waking and sleeping states, semi-conscious, but not fully aware. It is during these times that the majority of such experiences occur. Many believe that they are being abducted by aliens from their beds, others, such as the case above, and others investigated by the Warrens, that they are visited by ghosts. During a hypnagogic hallucination our brain shuts off the neurons that connect to our spinal column during REM sleep to keep us from acting out our dreams.

When we offered this to Ed as a possible alternate explanation, he seemed intrigued. “But,” he continued confidently, “What about the pressure on the victim’s chest when the entity is trying to get into them…?” Well, we were sorry to tell Ed that pressure on the chest and shortness of breath are also a well described aspect of hypnagogia.

“Oh,” said Ed.

Many investigations of haunted houses take place into the wee hours of the night. Investigators are often called upon to stay up all night, creating sleep deprivation. In the sleep deprived state our brains are highly susceptible to hallucinations, and here is yet another fertile source of ghostly experiences.

Another prolific source is the human imagination. Different people have different capacities for imagination and fantasy. At the far end of the spectrum are individuals who are particularly prone to fantasy. Coupled with a desire to believe and immersion into a belief system with group support, such fantasy prone people can generate a tremendous amount of alleged paranormal experiences.

There is good reason to believe that groups such as NESPR would attract such individuals. With their widespread exposure, there is ample opportunity to inadvertantly “screen” many individuals. Hundred or thousands will see one of their lectures in a year. Out of those, dozens will make the effort to go to one of their weekly classes. The ones that stay on for the long haul are invited on investigations. And among those, a few are deemed to be “sensitive,” which means that they can see things that other people cannot.

Now, we do not expect everybody to be versed in hypnagogia, the effects of sleep deprivation, and the vagaries of the human imagination, but we do expect it from someone who claims to be conducting scientific research in a field where such phenomena play an important role. Ed Warren, however, had clearly not heard of hypnagogia prior to his association with us. Although he claims that his critics are closed-minded, he himself dismissed out-of-hand any alternative explanation of his evidence to the paranormal hypothesis, without investigation designed to do so. What passes for research in NESPR, and the field of ghost hunting in general, is passive documentation of anecdote and summary paranormal interpretation.

Conclusion

In the final analysis, the field of research into spiritual and ghostly phenomena lacks any scientific rigor. The field is fully and unreservedly a pseudoscience. Although they claimed to be engaged in a scientific quest for the truth, the Warrens and their society were suspicious, overly sensitive to criticism and any attempt at seeking mundane alternative explanations for their experiences, completely lacking in knowledge of scientific method, and completely lacking in any compelling evidence to support their claims. They refused to allow us to observe one of their investigations, and they refused to allow scientific scrutiny of their alleged evidence. Although nothing can be learned about the reality of ghosts from their activities, a great deal can be learned about the human psyche.

In the years since we investigated the Warrens, the ghost-hunting industry they helped to create has flourished. The Warrens themselves spun off dozens of ghost hunting organizations in the New England area. With the rise of the internet and reality TV, ghost hunting shows have also taken off. They employ more sophisticated gadgets – which amount to nothing more than the trappings of pseudoscience – but their methodology is the same. What they are really hunting for are anomalies – anything even slightly strange. In the ghost-hunting world, anomaly = ghost. Scientific investigation does not enter into the equation.

VN:D [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 4.7/5 (52 votes cast)
Hunting the Ghost Hunters, 4.7 out of 5 based on 52 ratings

Recommended Reading

32 Responses to “Hunting the Ghost Hunters”

  1. Rottenartist says:

    Wonderful post! I’m glad you reposted it for those of us who just recently found your site.

    I’m tangentially aware of the Warrens because I live in CT. It was great to learn more about them through the work of clear-headed researchers like yourself.

  2. James Severin says:

    Good post, unfortuanetly I have heard all of this before and I was just wondering if there was any info out there about EVP’s and an examination of the evidence. I don’t know if it’s just so out there that people dismiss it out of hand but I can’t really seem to find any information debunking this phenomena. What I have found is little, but something occurs to me. If these EVP are so widespread does Hollywood have to worry about it when filming? Or when musicians are recording do they have to filter out the ghost noises? I mean with such sophisticated equipment than I would imagine someone would have recorded a ghost right?

    • Drew says:

      http://www.skepdic.com/evp.html <– The Skeptic's Dictionary on EVP.

      Hollywood film people are generally using better equipment than ghost hunters and using it correctly. If they happen to catch any rogue signal I'm sure they recognize it as such and edit it out without much fanfare.

    • MadScientist says:

      You can start by finding a number of ghost hunters willing to lend you or give you a copy of their EVP recordings. You can then enjoy (actually it’s more like being tortured) listening to the recordings and deciding for yourself. One thing to do: let the ghost hunters write you a long description of what is in each EVP recording – but don’t read it. Go listen and write your own impressions, then read the ghostbusters’ description and listen again to see if you can hear what they hear and how it compares to what you heard without being told what it was.

      If you enjoy listening to spooky non-ghost recordings, some folks have turned the magnetometer readings of Saturn (or was it Jupiter?) into an audible tone. The shortwave radio emissions of Jupiter are another candidate and I’m sure you can ‘hear’ all sorts of EVPs in that.

      • NEARKeith says:

        While we’d been a hotel in West Warwick, I happened to have make audio recordings of the interviews we were doing for Mike Baker’s documentary “14 Degrees” simply so I could enjoy listening to them later on. While driving home that afternoon, my wife Sandra and I were listening to my recording of Sandra’s interview, and I heard my own voice jokingly telling her, “If necessary, I’ll hold your hand.” (This was at the part where Michael was about to begin asking her questions, and Sandra was expressing how uncomfortable she felt with no arm rest on her chair to grasp onto.)
        And then unexpectedly, immediately after I’d said this, Sandra and I both heard a female voice on the recording say, “How sad.” The voice was very clear, and it obviously sounded like that of an adult female.
        Almost immediately following my discovery of the apparent EVP, I e-mailed Michael Baker, and told him of what I’d found on my audio tape recorded in the West Warwick hotel room. Michael in turn told me that he’d check his camera recordings.
        When Michael got back to me after having reviewed his footage of the interviews, he confirmed that the female voice saying “How sad” could also be heard on his camera audio. He also confirmed that no one had been near enough to the camera for it to have been picked up that clearly. Michael and his team later tried to replicate the phenomena under identical conditions, but were unable to.
        In conclusion, what both Michael and I unintentionally recorded does seem to have been a genuine example of Electronic Voice Phenomena, meaning, of course, that it was not heard audibly by anyone in the room at the time of the recording. Also, the fact that my analogue tape recorder and Michael Baker’s camera audio had picked up the same voice, would define this as “coupling.”

    • EVP, in my opinion, is nothing more than distortion and compression captured on cheap recording equipment with mics that are incapable of capturing a broad audio range. Most groups I’ve seem bumbling in the dar will use equipment that is not designed for the use they’re applying it towards. For example, I see people using dictaphones and personal audio recorders trying to record audio out in the open.

      Funny thing about EVPs is we filmed an entire season in alleged haunted locations and not once captured a single EVP on professional broadcast audio equipment with hundreds of hours of recording. Yet, we captured what many describe as EVP’s with cheap, disposable recorders. The audio engineer put it down to distortion, compression and cheap equipment.

      If EVPs were genuine, then why is it the popular ghost hunting TV shows only present “evidence” captured on their own devices? Why don’t we hear EVP’s in the latest (not so greatest) Hollywood flicks? Why don’t we hear EVPs in Top 40 music? Why, whenever professional audio equipment is introduced, are EVPs non existent?

      In my opinion, people will hear what they want to hear. The majority of EVPs I’ve listened to could virtually translate to anything and hardly ever make any sense unless the proponents of the phenomena actually translate it for you.

      • Vanessa says:

        FYI, Mary Roach’s book “Spook” has some information on EVP’s and their reliability. I don’t want to misspeak but she says there are several more mundane explanations such as pareidolia (finding a pattern where none exists) and a phenomenon called “ducting” where radio transmissions get carried far away from their point of origin through some fluke in the atmosphere I won’t attempt to explain.

        Oh and great article by the way. Thanks.

  3. Brian M says:

    When I first heard about the “orbs” or whatever the specific “investigator” wants to call them, I instantly remembers a picture I had taken. After digging around, I found the digital photo of a burial chamber in greece that I had been in. There were literally hundreds of “orbs”. Thinking like one of those investigators, I would have been lead to believe that the orbs were the deceased from that chamber. But, being the skeptic I am, I instantly came to the conclusion that it was probably the dust in the room. I don’t remember there being dust, but there probably was. I do, however, remember being uneasy in that room. Possibly because of the odd sound reverberations or the lack of any usable light. But, if I had thought like an “investigator”, I would have concluded it was the “dark energy of the ghosts”, or some such.

    I can see how easy it is to believe in these things. Had I not been primed by skeptics on basic photography and basic human psychology related to this, I may have been sucked in. Articles like this are perfect examples of how people can be pre-disposed to believing in this type of “woo” if they don’t have the skills to think critically.

    Now, if only there was a better way to spread this kind of thinking. Perhaps a TV show about skeptics. Hmm… ;)

  4. Mike says:

    One of the most methodological and entertaining things I have ever read,internet or otherwise.Keep up the good work!

  5. Paul T. says:

    Growing up in the South my parents and grandparents taught me a lot of unique phrases one of my favorites my grandfather used to say was “you can put kittens in the oven but that don’t make them biscuits” and so it goes with the ghost culture claiming to be scientific. Since the time of the Fox sisters the amount of undisputed evidence collected comes out to a big fat zero. It seems to me the paranormal community collects a lot of experiences, but no evidence. However these experiences are enough to convince the individuals in the existence of the paranormal.

    Stepping back and looking at the situation logically it is more than evident that paranormal experiences are nothing more than natural occurrences misinterpreted as paranormal. I find the idea that the human mind can fool itself into such a state much more fascinating than the idea of disembodied spirits coming back for a visit.

    But with mythology and pseudoscience fanning the paranormal flame, how can there be any room for logic.

    Great post Mike, as usual.

  6. The dirth of scientific evidence has not diminished the beliefs of the ghosties, just as it hasn’t diminished belief in the other paranormal franchises. Instead, their collective reaction has been to demand the lowering of standards for what constitutes scientific evidence. Obviously, if one’s mechanism is to make science match belief, there is absolutely nothing that cannot be proved ‘scientifically’. Neat trick.

  7. uksceptic says:

    Great post Steve.

    I actually use to suffer from hypnagogia and remember one occasion specifically. I woke up unable to move at all, I felt a large presence pressing down on my chest and saw all the cupboard doors in my room violently opening and shutting. I was terrified. After what seemed like a long time I managed to break out of it and wake up fully. I had quite a few episodes before and after this but none this bad or memorable, fortunately it hasn’t happened for years.

    Now had I been that way inclined I might have said that I had had a paranormal experience but instead I spoke to my doctor about it next time I saw them and they told me about hypnagogia. A few mins follow up research on the internet and I was fairly certain that this was what I had experienced. From what she told me they still don’t know why people suffer from it or how to cure it? Is this true?

    Although I feel a certain contempt for those that should know better and charge themselves with researching the paranormal. Having experienced this phenomenon I can completely understand how a sufferer might be spooked by it and say they had experienced a ghost. Particularly someone that was religiously inclined.

  8. BillDarryl says:

    The “psychic” hours, Ed told us, are from 9 PM to 6 AM and the most vicious hauntings occur around 3 AM. Why? Because that is an insult to the Holy Trinity.

    Wow! Neat “explanation!”

    The time and setting thing is something I point out to believers. Why do these apparitions only show at night, in dark places, when the observer is alone and most likely just going to or waking from sleep? Why do we never hear of sightings at Burger King during the lunch rush? If it’s a function of where and when they died, why are our highways and intersections not overrun with ghosts during rush hour?

    Doesn’t it seem odd that these appearances only happen in places and times when the human mind is most susceptable to its own imagination?

    • Paul T. says:

      That’s a great point, I’ve always wondered if ghosts wear watches.
      How would a disembodied spirit know what time it is? And what time zone Eastern, Central, Pacific.

      • It also implies that the Holy Trinity wear watches or have clocks, all set by Earth humans’ AM/PM method of 60 secs = minute, 60 mins = hour, 24 hrs = day, etc. Who knew?

  9. Just so, BillDarryl, and if one replaces ghosts with alien abductions your questions remain just as effective.

  10. Mandy says:

    Hello,
    I have spent a good part of the afternoon researching the various paranormal groups out there and stumbled across quite a few skeptically inclined sites. I myself am a paranormal investigator and view the entire field as an area to be looked at, probed and researched. I have conducted investigations, I have used what equipment(however humble) is out there and I have had personal experiences, taken photogaphs,and captured EVP’S that I cannot explain rationally. Are they ghosts, of course not! There is no way I can explain anything I have discovered as being a ghost as, to date, there are no bona-fide ‘ghosts’ anywhere that I can compare them with. However, even though they are phenomena that I can’t explain today, I look forward to a time when, like many scientific theories, they can be explained logically or otherwise. Until then I will continue to enjoy my research, much of which involves debunking, I don’t take money for what I do, and many people thank me for showing them that the’moaning woman’s voice’ in the back bedroom is in fact a dog barking three doors down. There are many many charlatans out there taking advantage of people but Im sure there are many more sensible, serious, curious people like me just trying to find answers.
    p.s. orbs are dust…end of story!

    Thank you

    • Roy Edmunds says:

      Mandy hi!
      I have seen a ghost. That is to say, that, my eyes were open, and I believed I was looking at something, but at the same time I knew the appartion was not ‘real’. Not in the sense that you know something you are looking at, has its place in the enviroment where you are situated, and you can see that the object is actually there and is solid. You are aware that you can touch such real things, walk around them.

      The thing I saw was a man riding a horse at a gallop. I don’t know why I saw it, or what it meant to see it. And I am not sure if I actually ‘saw’ this thing or projected it from my mind or brain, so to speak. Either way it is puzzling.

      I was very young at the time I saw this event. This sort of event has not happened again in my life.

      I experienced a kind of constriction of the throat as I saw the man on the horse. IT was all over very quickly. I could not project the moment again. Strange stuff.
      Years later I learned that a local land owner had died from a fall from a bolting horse in the gully near where I was standing.
      Who knows? You cannot replicate this stuff.
      I guess I’ll have to live with the mystery.
      Sure, it was my brain projecting the image. But why? Why there and then? Why did I experience a kind of choking feeling.

      Someone could tell me I guess.

  11. oscar denny says:

    while I consider myself a skeptic. No true scientist could ever say “we have discovered all forms of energy and all states of being”. That being said, the scientific method has not let us down.

    Things common and understood today were considered “magic” only a few hundred years ago. Our understanding is still progressing, and is hopefully being kept in check by the skeptics. It is profoundly naive to think that all the (possible) areas of science have been discovered and established, but conversely, is profoundly scientific to accept that which can only rigorously tested and replicated in controlled settings. Anything else is…..?

  12. RickFan says:

    That is a fine post and not just because I agree with it. It is subjective and shows a pattern of thought that does not assume any outcome. That is, it lets the cards fall where they may. At least one subsequent poster used the word “debunk” in describing research. Scientists and (good) researchers don’t debunk they test. Debunking ASSUMES an answer ahead of time and works toward proving it. It is the same as the difference between agnostics and atheists. Agnostics are not convinced either way but are open to the possibilities. Atheists are sure from the start there is no God. Controlled testing (science) strives to allow the facts to present themselves without any predisposition. TAPS and others claim to be skeptics and err on the side of science but freely use the word debunk to describe what they do. Of course their efforts sometimes produce plausible explanations but that serves only to “prove” they are duly diligent, lending more credence to the things they can’t (or won’t) readily explain.

    One poster suggested a TV show about skeptics. I would love to see that but unfortunately the truth is seldom as alluring as fantasy.

  13. Edward L says:

    Guys/Ladies,

    I am as critical a thinker as the next rational person, with advance tier I university science and engineering degrees. I have made groundbreaking work in my industry by challenging normative and institutional assumptions – and capitalizing on it to make myself very well off. So, I have a life record of keeping my feet on the ground, and an open mind.

    I have no conclusion whatsoever on ghosts and ghost hunting. I see it on satellite as a form of entertainment. But in this regard, I do see that they are, right or wrong, pulling an end run on the skeptical community and changing hearts and rational minds on this subject with AMPLE contextual and well documented evidence. Now this is not evidence which would match a science standard – but that argument is growing weak and seems more like an excuse.

    You are losing this argument around the espresso machine/water cooler. Gone are the days when I would hear the skeptical stock answers about ghosts which our parents taught us. The young people in my office are shockingly credulous on this issue in particular. No they are flat out exuberant over it. That does concern me too.

    Objectivity can be clouded by exuberance and hatred.

    While I have no conclusion on this subject, I do know one thing. While you sit in ivory think tanks and pontificate one line rationalizations as to why you don’t have to look into the subject, you are getting your tail kicked – and by something which is approaching a science practice more and more each day.

    I don’t particularly like this, but you are losing your argument to the general public at large.

  14. Brady says:

    I agree with much that is said here. The problem is that the search for paranormal activity is inherently messy. How would you even begin to organize an experiment based on events that are rare and very fleeting? The main group that is subject of this article is ridiculous and I wish you had focused on more prestigious and credible groups such as TAPS (of Ghost Hunters fame). Not that I think they are perfect but they are clearly more professional about looking for answers than the Warrens. I feel like they are good skeptics but are a bit biased in their desire to find something paranormal (as well as keep the show interesting). The show would be more interesting to me still if someone from your group, or someone equally interested in scientific rigor could examine their processes or even appear on their program to help separate the explainable from the truly unexplainable.

  15. ChazMAz says:

    What gets me are the “ghosts” that wear clothing and walk up steps.
    Why would there be ghost clothing. Does clothing have spirits too?

  16. John Gordon says:

    I have had many supernatural experiences
    I have no doubt that there is another life living among us
    I do believe in God, one of my stories is hearing his audible voice
    loud and clear, after not believing the first time and thinking there was a man in my house I screamed “WHAT” and he spoke again and said the same four words. This was 6:00 Good Friday, still daylight
    He told me what to do and he ended up doing it for me.
    But I have one ghost story. I have a camera that sees in the dark that views my driveway(I am in the security business). It was July 28 2008 at 10:30 pm. I had just finished powering up this camera. I wanted installed because we were leaving on vacation at 3:00am. When I first powered it up there was a wavering cloud in front of my garage door. I thought first it must be the lights on each side of the door. Going back and forth changing light bulbs to lower wattage and finally taking both light bulbs out completely I still viewed this cloud. I thought maybe heat from my house was causing it. Since it was late Sunday night I could not call technical for an explanation of this camera. For one hour I was going back in forth from my dvr and monitor located in the basement to my driveway in front of the garage. I even had turned off all lights in my house on that side of the house. My last trip down to the monitor and I saw a woman walking into the garage. She stopped, turned her head to scan my garage. I did not think ghost, I thought who was this stranger at 11:30 at night. I was angered at first and then thought this must be my wife. Because it was a new camera that sees in the dark that I had no experience with I accepted not being able to see detail only a white figure. As I started to leave the monitor to go up to the garage the figure proceeded to walk into my garage. I ran up to the garage expecting to see my wife. Evidently she had already gone into the house. I walked in and could not find her. She was upstairs with the kids and had not been outside. I now freaked and ran through the house and outdoors again looking for this person. After not finding anyone I realized that I could view this on the dvr and maybe see where this stranger went next. When I played back all I viewed was the cloud until 11:30 then the cloud left. There was never a figure that recorded. I was upset at first thinking I did not have proof of this image but thought later that if I did record this image I would of always thought it was a person that I never did find. But because it did not record I now new it was a ghost. It has been over two years, the dvr has been recording non stop 24 hours a day and there has never been a cloud there since.

  17. RivrFox says:

    You’re lucky to be a skeptic, as the doors to perception here can be dark and dangerous. My dog is highly attune to senses most can’t perceive. It’s funny when you’ve had real experiences, you can care less what others think. When you know what’s real..and are trying to live a spiritual life of love & compassion. Curiosity got the best of me.

    I was going to post this on facebook but decided not to:
    Okay, Tejas [my pup] just picked up a presence in my room 30 mins ago after reading about paranormal activity. I burned sage and this did not alleviate the presence. It kept Teja’s astute attention for almost 3 plus minutes.

    I sprinkled real salt in all four corners of my room and called for protection from my guides.

    This was something I was not prepared for and was brought about by naievety. Can someone please pm with advice for safety. Thanks

    http://jacquesricher.com/occult/psychic.pdf

    I went here via google to seek knowledge of protection. I need tell no one for some sort of fame or shenanigans. My story is real.

  18. D.Penner says:

    Believe me when I say that I do not place anything into these “ghost lights, orbs,” or whatever you may want to believe them to be. I believe they are fragments of dust, pollen, and the like being illuminated by camera flash. I said on one paranormal website that if you give me a camera and the right lighting I can go into any person’s home and conjure up as many ghosts as you would like by beating on their carpet or couch. But one thing got me when you said personal experiences are not to be perceived as being true evidence of a haunting and our minds can play tricks, sleep deprivation, blah, blah, blah. So should we go and release any criminals locked up based on eyewitness testimony given in a court of law? People, not all people aren’t in this world to simply tell a story, and most people do not want to be involved with voicing their experiences with the paranormal for fear of being called a “loon”. I am an intelligent human being(or I would like to think so) but I have seen, felt, and heard things that cannot be explained by the use of scientific analysis. And if it could be explained then what absolute knowledge would God have? You my friend are merely human. Remember they once thought bloodletting could heal you. And I am well aware of sleep paralysis,hypnopompic and hynogogic dream states, Jung’s and Freud’s stance on dream states and interpretation and I believe you give a good explanation of certain paranormal experiences. But what about the ones that can’t be explained? “OH POPPYCOCK!” you say,if you can’t feel it, see it, taste it, touch it, then it isn’t there right? Everyday we are advancing in scientific discoveries, but we could live until the sun burned itself out and was nothing more than a tiny dwarf star and you as a human would not, and could not have all of the scientific knowledge you need to prove a spiritualistic existence. It seems to me you and Ed Warren may have the same problem, thinking you know the truth based on your own personal beliefs. In the words of DC TAlk; Some things just can’t be explained.”

  19. Brandon says:

    You may want to head over to The Blaze, as a lead article talks about The Conjuring, a movie based on the “true stories of Ed and Lorraine Warren”. Perhaps even write directly to the editors.

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/07/16/is-the-new-hollywood-movie-the-conjuring-about-a-demonic-possession-really-based-on-true-events-the-surprising-answer/

  20. craig says:

    just saw “The Conjuring”…..a silly piece of Hollywood drivel but funny that they present the Warren’s,their home and “museum” exactly like you described in the article. I was taken aback that they made the evil spirit to be that of a “witch” from Salem !..Good job Hollywood !Let’s present Puritanical extremism like it was a good thing….jeesh !

  21. Charles P. says:

    Superbly written and laid out. Kind of makes one feel bummed out at (you) having taken the fun out of this notion of the validity of recorded, paranormal phenomena.

  22. Jim says:

    I compiled a web page of my thoughts and findings on the subject of ghost photography. As Carl Sagan said, “A photograph is the worst evidence for the existence of anything.” You can view this at: http://www.pensonstringwerks.com/ghostphotoessay/

  23. Dale says:

    “Lorraine still gives ghost lectures.”

    Shouldn’t Ed be doing that? Sorry, couldn’t resist.