The first few years I spent researching ghosts were probably the most religious of my life and that was only because I knew no better than to accept the word of people who had been ghost hunting for longer than me. I’ve never been overly religious at all – I wasn’t indoctrinated into a religion as an infant because my parents believed it was right to offer me free choice over religion when I was older.
When I was a child I was often afraid of the ghosts that lingered in the shadows in my bedroom, when I was Seventeen I became afraid of the demons that lingered in mirrors, and the evil entities that seemingly wiser ghost hunters insisted would follow me home if I didn’t say a prayer of protection before and after each ghost hunt I took part in.
Looking back now, on those early years, I can see that the whole culture surrounding ghost hunting that I became involved with was a mish-mash of religious practices and beliefs that were all geared towards convincing the people involved that their very soul was in danger from evil at all times, and that invisible enemies were around us just waiting for us to mess up so that they could attack us psychically.
The saddening thing is that it isn’t just naïve ghost hunters like a Seventeen year old me that fall for this sort of nonsense, it’s also the people who are having strange things happen in their homes too. Let’s face it – people do have strange experiences that they cannot initially explain. The Association for Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena would refer to these experiences as Xenonormal.
‘Xenonormal - something that appears paranormal but which has natural causes’
The difference is in how a researcher approaches these cases; a rational investigator will look at all possibilities before attempting to reach a consclusion, but an irrational investigator will have made a conclusion about what the cause of the reported phenomena is – i.e. it’s a ghost.
When working towards the conclusion that what’s being dealt with is a ghost techniques are often used that attempt spirit communication, with the aim to prove that a ghost is the cause of what you’re investigating.
What a ghost is, is widely open to personal interpretation and this is where it gets really fuzzy. There is a wide held belief among ghost hunters that communicating with spirits is dangerous because there are good spirits and bad spirits, and when you are attempted to talk to the good ones the bad ones might come through instead. With this in mind one of the first things you are often taught is how to stop yourself from being vulnerable to bad spirits.
Here are some of the general, mixed up and mashed together religious lessons I was taught as a new ghost hunter:
- the smell of sulphur indicates a demonic presence in the room
- if the glass during a ouija board or glass divination session starts moving in a figure of 8 it means you are communicating with a demonic spirit.
- Prior to starting your investigation you should meditate to ‘ground’ yourself
- Before you begin a paranormal investigation you must say a prayer of protection to stop bad spirits and demons from hurting you, or draining you of your energy
- When you are leaving a location after a paranormal investigation you must say a closing prayer to stop any spirits – good or bad – from following you home.
- If you do not participate in these prayer sessions you are open to attack by spirit.
- If, during a paranormal investigation, you find a white feather, it means that your protective prayers worked and you are being watched over by the Arch Angel Gabriel
- wearing Amethyst on a necklace or about your person will protect you from bad spirits
- A mirror positioned opposite a door allows demons access to your home, you can stop this by cleansing the mirror with holy water from your local church
- Carrying a gris-gris in your pocket with your hair or fingernails inside of it will protect you from evil
- using a smudge stick can cleanse a house of negative energy or presences
- Before taking part in a seance, table tipping session or similar you must imagine a pure white light settling down over, and around the participants. This is a light of protection.
- You can also use this light to protect yourself while on an investigation. A blue light covering you will heal you.
- If you feel you are dealing with a demonic presence repeat ‘apage satanas’ until the feeling passes.
- only use a ouija board if you are experienced in spirit communication. A ouija board is opening a door, and you shouldn’t do that unless you can control who comes through it.
I could go on but I think these examples alone demonstrate the mixture of religious ideology and practices involved in ghost hunting at an amateur level. You have traditions from Christianity, Spirituality, Paganism, Voodoo and more. These traditions lead people to be fearful of what it is they are dealing with.
I’m not just talking about the ghost hunters who go looking for haunted places to investigate, I’m talking about the people who live in the allegedly haunted places that the ghost hunters visit. The above list of examples become part of a regular routine for ghost hunters but for those who have never experienced such things as a gris-gris, or a smudge stick being used, it can be quite intimidating and scary.
As an atheist, as a rational investigator of paranormal phenomena, I feel safe to enter an allegedly haunted location and wander around without imagining a light over my head or without wearing protective amulets or saying prayers and quite often by doing just this I can alleviate the fears that people have that have been created by the religious behaviour of ghost hunters. Especially when I mysteriously don’t get attacked by an invisible entity.
Sometimes the damage has gone too far though, and no amount of rational pondering on my part about what it is a person experienced can undo the irrational thought process placed into their mind by amateur ghost hunters. I shall leave you with a case I encountered a few years ago that demonstrates how dangerous the list of example behaviours can be, and why skeptics need to be involved in paranormal research (even if some are happy to say it isn’t actually important.) This is the case of the demon in the mirror.
A Wiltshire family had strange things happening in their home that scared them because they couldn’t work out what was causing them. A ghost hunting team entered the home and carried out an ‘investigation’ during which they said protective prayers, they conducted spiritual cleansing of the property, contacted numerous spirits and more. While at the house they caught on camera what they claim is the face of something ‘demonic’ in a mirror in the bedroom of one of the children living in the house. This, coupled with the steps the team took to protect themselves from ‘evil’ led the family to believe they were being haunted by a demon. No amount of trying to reason with them would convince them otherwise.
I am so glad I am an atheist paranormal researcher who doesn’t bring this fear into peoples homes by participating in religious traditions. I’m just sad that I used to be like that. I wonder how many people I scared?