Don't accept everything at face value - Question everything!
Why am I doing things this way? What is it I am trying to achieve? How can I do better?
These are the 3 questions that every paranormal investigator needs to take a minute to reflect on. It may sound a bit confrontational and aggressive but the intension behind it is to focus our energy and enthusiasm in a constructive way. In my research, I come across a lot of terminology and information where it is difficult to actually find the origins of where it all comes from. It is a frustration I know that is shared by a lot of us. The perfect example I can give you is the Singapore Theory. In all of my research and discussions with fellow investigators all over the world, I have been unable to find where this term actually came from. Usually some sort of paranormal term or experiment dates back to the late 1800's where a philosopher or scientist coins a term and from there it evolves into what we know it as today. In the case of the Singapore Theory, I cannot find this information. Who came up with this theory? What has it got to do with Singapore? Does it refer to the country? Did someone from Singapore come up with it? When was it first put into practise? If you actually know this information and it is documented, please point me in the right direction as it is things like this that do keep me up at night. So if we don't know it's origins, why are we not questioning it? We seem to just accept that it is a term that we use in the paranormal, and we accept it as fact. I have read a lot of case studies online or paranormal glossaries on websites which mention the Singapore Theory. We know that is refers to 'Paranormal Stimuli and is recreating an environment that is familiar to the spirit you are trying to communicate with in the hopes that this will either start the playback of a residual haunting or entice an intelligent entity to communicate with you.' Beyond this, all you find is experiences people have had applying different re-enactments, trigger objects they have used, and experiments using music or sounds relevant to the case. No one seems to be asking any questions. It is just accepted as a paranormal term. It is spoken about by people with such confidence that we believe to it be fact. If someone with a lot of experience say it works, who are we to question it? With this in mind, it makes me kind of question quite a lot of things about myself as a paranormal investigator, as I am pretty guilty of this acceptance as well. We need to remember that everything about the paranormal is speculation. Nothing has been proven by Science and we know there is not a right way or a wrong way of doing things. Sure, there are some techniques that seem to have worked pretty well and stood the test of time, but is it really working if it hasn't actually proven anything? What are we actually trying to prove anyway?
After you have been investigating the paranormal for some time, it can start to become a bit of the same old thing. This is when you start thinking about the different things you can do, new pieces of equipment you can try, experiments you can incorporate or even invent new techniques. It is an exciting time, because quite literally, you can do anything you want to do. You are ready to move past the typical paranormal investigating of using an EVP recorder and asking, 'What is your name?' and 'light up the K2 if the answer is YES.' Use your time effectively and make your time count. Not everyone has the luxury of having regular access to a location, so you may only have a place for one night. You want to make your time count. You want to try some new things and up your paranormal game by incorporating some experiments. So when you are planning your experiments and techniques etc that you want to use, before you do, ask yourself the above 3 questions.
Why am I doing things this way?
I find that a lot of us seem to learn the basics of paranormal investigating from reality television shows. Don't be ashamed because I know I certainly did. You watch the shows every week in the beginning and it can give you ideas. It is probably the reason you went out on your first investigation. It can show you that really cool piece of equipment that you want to try. It is only natural that things rub off on you. Every week on TV they ask the same questions. It is suggestively embedded into your brain, and you will find the questions automatically coming out when you do a vigil. Perhaps you like to attend your local group or tour company's investigations. You get used to the style of the guide who runs the group. If you are investigating all the time with the same people, again their technique and the way that they do things is going to rub off on you. It may be on purpose because you love what they do and you see that it gets results, or it could just be a subconscious thing. I mean when you think about it, if you see it work on TV or in person, why change it right? You don't have to change it if you don't want to. If it works for you and if you like doing it that way then you don't have to change it. But still ask yourself, why are you doing things this way? Is it because that is the way you were taught to do it? Is it because that is how everyone else seems to do it? Don't be afraid when you are out on your next investigation to ask the question why? Maybe someone is setting up an experiment. Ask them, why are you doing the steps you are doing? I use the Ganzfeld experiment as an example. Typically, investigators use white noise and red light with the white ping pong balls. Why? Why can't you try blue light? Why not use pink noise? Why not use yellow ping pong balls? Instead of asking these questions, we seem to just follow the same formula we are seeing others use. Ask yourself again, why am I doing things this way? Step outside your comfort zone and think outside that paranormal box. What have you got to lose by trying something different? The first step to this, is to ask the question why?
What is it I am trying to achieve?
This is probably one of the bigger questions to look at if you are planning on doing an experiment. Sometimes people misunderstand what conducting an experiment is all about. An experiment is not just having a locked off camera in a room to see if any equipment goes off while you are not in the room. An experiment is defined as 'a scientific procedure to make a discovery, test a hypothesis or demonstrate a known fact'. So next time you think about the 'experiments' you want to try on your next investigation, ask yourself what it is you are testing. Perhaps you are wanting to test the effects of infrasound on the environment. Are you test mental telepathy and psychic projection? Are you testing if spirits can manipulate the electromagnetic field? By asking yourself these questions, it helps you to shape your experiment. Look at what you are trying to achieve and what you need to do to test that. Ultimately, will your experiment help you find the answers that you are looking for. An experiment is also usually something that is a long term commitment and is difficult to draw conclusions of success from in only one night. Again not all investigators have the luxury of having a location they can visit to conduct these experiments on a regular basis so it is important that you factor this into your plans. If you only have one night, what is it you want to achieve in that one night. While we can 'dream' being realistic is also pretty important too.
How can I do better?
After asking yourself the first two questions, you want to look at the way you are doing things. If you are basing your technique and experiment on what you have learnt from others, how can you do it better? Are you getting the results or are you on a path to getting some sort of answers of what it is that you are looking for? I don't think that we will ever necessarily find what we are looking for and we usually end up with more questions than answers, but are you at least getting something that makes you ask those questions? Are you getting anything at all? Could you change the way you ask your questions? Could you change the steps you are using in your experiment? Are you working with a tried and tested experiment that others have used? Can you adapt it and make it better? Can you change it so it is more suited towards what it is that you are looking for?
As investigators, there is no right or wrong way. We do what works for us and what feels right. I feel like this soul searching is necessary from time to time. Things can become stagnant and I know more times than I care to remember, I have become lost. When you live and breathe the paranormal, it can become automatic. If you are out investigating every weekend or running tours for example like I did for almost every weekend of last year, I went into auto pilot. Suddenly every investigation felt the same. I was asking the same questions, using the same pieces of equipment, I became a broken record repeating things over and over. The passion had gone, and I was in auto pilot. This is one of the main reasons I have taken a big change in direction on my paranormal journey and stepped back from running events because it just wasn't for me. What I was trying to achieve would not be answers by running events for the public every weekend. I had to find a balance, so for me stepping back and just concentrating on Black Rock House once a month allowed me to find that balance and reignite that passion again. I could focus my research and importantly practise what I preach so to speak. It is easy for us to sit behind a computer and talk about all the things that we should be doing or that we want to do, in reality we need to actually go out there and do them. Soul searching is good, and change can be good and refreshing. The paranormal for all intents and purposes is a hobby and should be enjoyed. Don't let the seriousness of things take away the element of fun for you either. Make your investigations and experiments fun. While we are looking for answers, it doesn't mean you can't have a little bit of fun along the way.
You carve the paranormal path that you want to take. Do things the way you think they should be done. You don't have to follow a script, there is no paranormal procedure book and there is certainly no rules when conducting experiments within the paranormal. Use your brain and think outside that paranormal square. Question everything. Don't just accept what you are told. Don't be afraid to ask the important questions. It might make people uncomfortable. It may even make you feel uncomfortable looking into yourself. While you may not get the answers you are looking for, at least we are asking the questions, and that is a start.
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