Supernatural vs Science: History of a Love-Hate Relationship
When we stumble upon the unknown, we naturally want to understand it, measure it, and put it under a scientific microscope. It’s almost like science has opened a new chapter in paranormal research and ghost hunting, and we’re just getting started.
In the last two decades, there have been major advancements in the search for paranormal evidence. And, in turn, the line between science and the supernatural has blurred. So let’s get into the ghost hunting science.
The start of ghost fascination
Table tilting, Ouija boards, séances, mediums, and ghostly encounters. It all began in the 19th century when the Victorians believed science would soon unlock the secrets of the spirit world.
During this time, the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) began investigating spiritualist, psychical, and mesmeric phenomena in a “purely scientific spirit”. Today, many ghost hunters are also adopting this scientific spirit – and it’s necessary. Ghost hunting gets its fair share of ridicule and criticism already, so a thorough investigation is a must.
Since the SPR’s early days, the study of ghosts has evolved. Even the electronic equipment used today appears nothing like those used during the 1880s.
Technology’s role in ghost hunting
What really kicked off the scientific approach to ghost hunting was the era of TV and radio. People started using these devices to tune into transmissions from the other side. Turned-off TVs would display ghostly faces of long-lost relatives or even total strangers. You’d also hear garbled voices, which later became known as electronic voice phenomena (EVP).
Critics argue they’re just random signals that our minds interpret as meaningful. But who doesn’t enjoy a bit of mystery in the mix?
Psychic or Pseudo?
For any sceptic out there, those ghost-hunting shows do make it tempting to roll your eyes. With the dramatic reactions and flashy gadgets, it’s no wonder paranormal investigations have often been labelled pseudo-science.
Joe Nickell, author of The Science of Ghosts and a senior fellow of the independent research organisation Center of Inquiry, says “Science therefore considers ghosts – alleged spirits of the dead who yet supposedly speak and walk about – to be figments of the imagination.”
But there’s much more to the story…
Unlikely paranormal enthusiasts
Over the years, even some scientists and reputable institutions have dipped their toes into the paranormal. Believe it or not, Harvard’s very own William James, an instrumental figure in establishing Harvard’s psychology department, was obsessed with the supernatural.
Speaking of unlikely enthusiasts, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle – a trained physician, mind you – spent a chunk of his life as a defender of spiritualism. Even Einstein once attended a séance (though he didn’t report any spooky action).
Fast-forward to today, and you’ll be amazed to find that many colleges and universities now offer opportunities to study parapsychology. Parapsychology is the study of phenomena linked with the human mind, like ghosts, telepathy, and other supernatural phenomena. It explores these mysterious experiences to understand if they can be scientifically explained or not.
Despite the sceptics calling it all pseudo-science, parapsychologists and paranormal investigators have found the sweet spot between the supernatural and science. There’s actually a bunch of data that adds some weight to the idea that things like remote viewing, precognition, and telepathy might be more real than we thought.
Ghost Hunting Science: Methods Backed by Research
Ghost-hunting groups are on a mission of finding hard evidence; to dig up proof of ghosts, haunted spots, and all things spooky.
One of the most exciting developments in paranormal research is the use of technology to capture unexplained sounds and images. Thanks to the latest digital tech and photography, there’s been a major boost in methods for detecting the supernatural. Such as using thermal imagers and motion sensors for detecting ghosts.
This means more exciting images and sounds are being captured today than ever before…
When it comes to finding scientific proof, spirit hunters have tried out all sorts of tools. They’ve tested theories using everything from dowsing rods to ghost boxes and Geiger counters. While the scientific community debates the results, some tools have become go-to gear for a ghost investigator.
Use of technology
First, let’s talk about ghostly photography, also known as spirit photography.
To capture hard proof that ghosts exist, ghost hunters rely on specialised equipment. For example, digital cameras, especially those with advanced features like low-light or night vision capabilities and interchangeable lenses, come in handy when trying to detect ghosts and capture evidence.
The proof is in the pictures. Take, for instance, a 2014 story involving paranormal researchers from Sefton Paranormal at Stanley Palace in Chester. They claim that the footage reveals the presence of ghostly children on the staircase, gazing over two researchers seated nearby.
Next, we have EMF meters. Now, you might think EMF meters are more for fixing power lines and electrical hiccups, but they’ve proved to be the essential ghost detector.
Ghost hunters believe that spirits can mess with electromagnetic fields, causing the EMF readings to spike. According to Professor Johnjoe McFadden from the University of Surrey School of Biomedical and Life Sciences, our conscious minds have their own electromagnetic field. And that field doesn’t just vanish when we kick the bucket; it lingers.
Empirical observation and documentation
In ghost hunting, carefully observing and writing down everything you notice is very important, just like in science.
As a ghost hunter, you become a detective of the supernatural, recording every detail of your experience. The date, time, environmental conditions, and sensory observations are all important to keep track of.
Whether it’s a sudden cold draft or even a unique smell, every little detail is significant. This way, you’re not just collecting stories; you’re gathering real evidence that can help understand these mysterious experiences better.
What is the scientific explanation behind ghost sightings and other supernatural beings?
Science indicates that many ghostly encounters are linked to the brain’s ability to perceive and interpret unusual phenomena. For example, some explanations are:
Infrasound – which falls below the range of human hearing and can cause anxiety, sorrow, and paranoia. These emotions can be wrongly linked to an encounter with the spirit of a dead person.
Another possibility is the Earth’s electromagnetic fields, which have been shown to stimulate the brain’s temporal lobe, resulting in experiences similar to those reported during hauntings.
Certain cases of supposed paranormal phenomena can be traced back to something less supernatural: hallucinogens.
The “truth” is, that ghost story you heard as a kid may not have scientific backing, but don’t write off the unexplained just yet!
The world of ghost hunting is undergoing a shift; shedding the old image of gullible, anti-science ghost hunters to a more credible bunch. Sure, there are still sceptics out there who raise an eyebrow or two and cry “pseudoscience”, but the evidence is piling up.