Thursday, 30 October 2014

Do ghost cases have a use-by date?

VigilGhost sightings and hauntings have been investigated systematically for a long time. By systematic I mean in-depth interviews with witnesses, an exhaustive site examination and, if considered relevant, maybe a vigil. Then, once all the available information has been gathered, various possible explanations, paranormal and xenonormal are considered. It is almost impossible to come to any meaningful conclusion about the causes of a ghost sighting or haunting without such an in-depth investigation. Such cases form the primary bedrock of data concerning the nature of ghosts.

But is that bedrock eroding away over time? In other words, can we rely on old cases to provide undisputable information about the nature of ghosts? I'm not sure we can. It can be frustrating reading about an old case. On the face of it, the evidence can appear water-tight that something paranormal occurred.

But what if you come up with a new xenonormal theory that could also plausibly account for the reported facts of the case? It is usually impossible to go back and re-investigate. The witnesses may no longer be available and, even if they are, their memories are not likely reliable after such a long period of time. And a site visit may not help as the area may well have changed. And if the original investigator never considered your new xenonormal theory then they will not have collected relevant evidence to test the idea. What had seemed an excellent case now has a question mark hanging over it that can never be resolved. As such it can no longer add to the body of data about ghosts.

With sciences like physics or chemistry, you can always redo an old experiment because it should still work now just as it did a century ago. You cannot do that with a subject like ghost research which is based so heavily on old case reports. You cannot redo an old ghost case.

So, we have a problem! We cannot rely on all old ghost cases, however well they were investigated at the time. Current cases are different. It may be possible to re-interview witnesses and visit the site to test possible xenonormal explanations. But inevitably, current cases become old over time and the same problem arises once again.

Is this a serious problem? Surprisingly, I'm not sure it is, provided we always have a number of current well-investigated cases around all the time. The real problem is that not many people are investigating in-depth any more so the 'stock' is dwindling.

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