As both a trained scientist and paranormal experiencer, I find myself actively applying my education and work experience to the search for answers within the paranormal world. In the sciences, if I want to identify an organism, I use a microscope. If I want to check an electrolyte level I have chemical reaction tests that I can use to find this data. But what do I do when I want to document a ghost? It isn’t an easy task and I often wonder if the scientific method can be applied to investigating the paranormal? I believe it could be but first investigators must understand the difference between applying the scientific method to an observation and simply waving electronic devices in the air.
In order to provide relevant data to any investigation certain baseline information should be documented first. For example, before a team enters an actively haunted locationand gets caught up in the excitement of the search, there is some basic environmental data that they should collect. What are the Barometric pressure, temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, and direction outside of the structure? Why these? To begin with, they can be easily determined, recorded, and monitored using relatively inexpensive instruments. They can also be crosschecked through independent means and they give us a set of data points to compare to what a group gets during an investigation. Sudden changes in temperature or pressure could help document an experience during the investigation.
Just for the sake of argument let’s say that investigators have a small weather station outside monitoring the atmospheric conditions while using another identical setup within the location. Now, when investigators experience an apparition or other paranormal phenomenon, they have a set of data points to compare. Did the temperature suddenly change? Did the barometric pressure quickly rise or fall? Did changes occur at both monitoring stations? If the changes were localized to one station investigators have data that they can apply to their investigation. By comparing the information from both stations investigators can begin to eliminate or rule out factors that may have caused the anomalous readings as well as collect data that can be compared to other similar events.
While it can be a matter of luck to catch that clear photo or easily interpreted EVP, by aiming at factors that can be predictably observed, the paranormal community can eliminate the need for luck by focusing on observable and recordable data points. The team still may not get the photo or recording, even though they all witnessed the same event at the same time. However, if there were any disturbances in the environmental parameters being observed, this may help to validate what was experienced. Better yet, it may give researchers valuable tools in predicting when a similar event will happen again so that teams can be ready to make an attempt to capture the evidence with recorders and cameras.
What if a team witnesses an event or phenomenon but there are no significant differences in the data recorded by the monitoring station? This is good data in its own right. By continuing to monitor these factors, both as individual teams and as a community in general, it may help determine if atmosperic conditions are a factor in paranormal activity. In the future as the data is collected it might also guide researchers down other avenues of research. The magic word in science is reproducibility and the more hard data available for comparison the more likely it is that a pattern can be observed.
Some people might ask why monitor weather factors when they are investigating inside a building. Let me present a personal investigation to serve as a case study. The client lived in a very well maintained farmhouse in rural Tennessee. They complained of strange sounds, doors flying open, and windows slamming down at unpredictable times. The events would happen day or night, and while the doors opening occured primarily in the winter, the windows closing appeared to happen during the nicer weather from about March to late October. As soon as the seasonal aspect was revealed I was interested in discovering if atmospheric conditions played a part in the occurances.
After an indepth investigation that included monitoring the location’s weather, I was able to make some observations showing that the activity was not paranormal but merely effects of the environment. The data I had collected showed that the windows would typically fall when the wind came out of the northwest at a speed greater than 8 mph and the relative humidity was less than 35%. This allowed me to investigate and conclude that a low humidity level was causing the windows to shrink slightly, falling when they were vibrated by the higher wind speeds. In the winter when the heat was on, the drier indoor air caused wooden doors and their frames to contract, creating some play and misalignment between old door latches and striker plates. This allowed for the doors to be blown open when a northern gust of wind hit the house.
By collecting and applying the mundane but easily recorded data, my team was able to get to the root of what the client was experiencing. We were able to show that the home owner had nothing to be fearful of and we helped locate some energy wasting issues with the house. These are two things that most clients appreciate but might not have been discovered if my team had not been aware of the role weather was playing in the events.
Not every case will have such a mundane result but by recording and analyzing data we will find deviations. These fluctuations not only give investigators a direction for a particular case, they can also be a valuable resource for future investigations if the information is recorded and reviewed.
As a scientist my role in daily life is to look for the abnormal in data and apply what I learn. As paranormal investigators this should be everyone’s role during an investigation because data, how we analyze it and what we learn from it will be how the paranormal field moves toward answers and credibilty.