What if we stopped investigating and hunting the paranormal and ghosts?
Think about it, would you want a group of strange people charging into the place where you live? Do you want them investigating you, or even worse, hunting you? Hell no! That's scary as all get out. You'd run fast and as far away as possible from this army of unknown technology-armed intruders, there to interrogate you in their matching black t-shirts and hats.
I write about this today because whenever I visit locations with a group of people (at events and conventions) I always hear the same comment: "I like the way you investigate." And I believe the reason why they like it is because I don't investigate. I have conversations with my hosts (also, at events I don't have presentations for the guests. I have conversations with the guests). I do this for one reason — To get a dialog started. it's only through talking about the questions can we come anywhere close to an answer. Sometimes there's no answer, but at least the questions we're addressed.
How does this apply to when I visit a haunted location? Simple. I treat every visit as if I'm visiting someone at their home for the first time. I first introduce myself and ask if it would be alright if I came in and looked around because the building is very interesting, or I'm fascinated by the history, or the current homeowner thought we (me and the spirit) would get along. This act of asking first can lead to activity from the very start, because an invite kicks off the conversation. A "No" to the question could lead to the spirit doing whatever it can to communicate its objection. Once inside the rules upon the houseguest are always obeyed. Respect is the key word here. I won't shout orders or provoke my host. Instead I explore the location and ask questions about the place or what their life was like here in the past. I have a conversation. A conversation as if the spirit was a person guiding me from room to room. I can sometimes hear the responses in my head, which makes the conversation more real and in the moment. I've even had people walk into a room I'm alone in and ask, "Who are you talking to in here?"
On the topic of "in the moment." The tools of the trade, the gadgets, the devices, the gear are all great and I use them too, but my attention is never on them. I'm focused on the discussion. I have a bit at the end of my event conversation (not presentation) where I pick someone in the front row (totally embarrassing them – oh, great. Now you're not going to sit in the front row when I talk. Anyway...) and start to have a private conversation with them "Hi, My name is Patrick. What's yours?" "Is this your first time at (haunted location)?" By the third question I've fished a device out of my pocket. I continue asking questions, but my attention turns away from the person as they answer and I focus on the device in my hand. I continue to ask questions one after another, turning my back on the person and pacing around the room. And to no surprise the person in the front row stops answering. They get annoyed to the point where, if I didn't stop the bit they would get up and leave. They would probably think I was an ass and never come up to me again. I killed the conversation because it was all about me and the "hunt" for answers to all my questions.
If I'm lucky to return to a location, I start off the same way as if it were my first time meeting new hosts. I'll reintroduce myself and ask if they remember our conversation, in the case I'm greeted by the same spirit, but will always ask permission to look around, just in case the ghost at the door is new. Oh, and if I'm in an area where English isn't the spoken language, I'll learn the greeting in whatever language I need to speak in order to get that conversation going, while gaining some respect points, even if I butcher the words.
That's pretty much it. I know, it's nothing ground breaking or all that original, but it still surprises many when they see me doing it this way. Me, I'm surprised when I see people not doing this, choosing to talk directly to flashing lights and static-filled speakers, or bullying the ghost hosts. It's no surprise these "investigators" don't get responses and then complain about how the night was dead. Talk to me like that and I'm not going near you. I'll go show myself to the person who truly seems interested in me and my home's history. The one not hunting or investigating me.
What if ghosts are getting lost in the translation between your eyes and brain
Before we can explore an answer you have to accept one fact: You’re lying to yourself.
Well, your brain is lying to you because it’s not showing you everything your eyes are seeing. But it’s not your brains fault. The eyes are just transmitting more information per millisecond than your brain can communicate to you. Think of your brain as a translator between you and your eyes. The eyes are communicating so fast the brain has to pick and choose what information is the most important to show you in the moment (the stuff that will keep you alive the longest) and what details can be eliminated or blurred into recognizable shapes.
The brain also has a few tricks to make the translation a little or clear and uninterrupted. Given just a few details about an object in front of you (in your line of focus) the brain will know what that thing is from memory and simply show you what you already know. The eye only has a single point of focus, which is dead center in the middle of the pupil. As you move away from that point of ultimate focus and clarity the image you see becomes less detailed with fewer colors and blurred edges. To the point where at the farthest edges of your vision, the image is black and white, and a complete blur; but you’ll never see it because as soon as you focus on that image on the edge it becomes your primary focus. That peripheral edge of vision is simply a world of shape and movement.
One of our brain’s most amazing tricks is called Saccadic Masking or Saccadic Suppression. The easiest way to explain this trick is to think about when you’re shooting a video and move the camera quickly from left to right. The image blurs during the move because the lens is moving too quickly to collect all the information about what’s in front of it. Your eyes do the exact same thing. When you whip your head from left to right your eyes only see the motion blur, but you will never be shown the blur because your brain is able to remove segments of the movement and piece together a stable and clear image from what it knows. If it didn’t do this we’d probably be sick and dizzy from all the motion.
Another trick our brain loves to play comes from its constant need to always solve problems and explain our surroundings to us (call it Brainsplaining, like Mansplaining, but for everyone). Your brain hates confusion and uncertainty, and it will do all it can to make sense of what you’re seeing. It will even make up the entire thing from what it has on file, just so it has an answer for you, even if it’s wrong (i.e. Mansplaining). Think about when you see something for the first time. You focus on that thing longer and with more concentration because your brain is trying to make sense of it and match it to something it already has on record. When it can’t it then records it as something new.
But with all this lying the brain only wants one thing: For you to be happy. It’s there to show you the world you want to see, and if that means creating something out of nothing, it’s going to do it every chance it has. The brains of paranormal investigators have incredible fun doing this. That squishy rolodex between your ears loves reaching into its bag of imagination and creating ghosts, ufos, aliens, sasquatch, and other legendary creatures. All it needs is the right setting, the perfect mood, and just enough information from the eyes to work its magic.
So the question is or questions are:
WHAT IF we’re seeing ghosts all the time, but our brains aren’t showing them to us? But at the same time, WHAT IF our brains are taking the limited information we’re seeing and creating a ghost because that’s exactly what we want to see?
The answer: There isn’t one. All we can do is remember that we are being lied to and we need to question what we think we see always! Especially if we’re seeing “something” in low light or no light. The dark only makes our brains work harder to take the limited information it’s receiving to create the images we need to see.
The thing to focus on here is the fact that you might see something at a haunted location, but is it what you really saw?
Patrick H.T. Doyle
Being out in the middle of nowhere for an extended amount of time gives me time to think. My mind wanders, jumping from thoughts about current theories in the paranormal to new ideas in the hopes of discovering the truth about what we're encountering. These are some of those ideas.