In culture after culture, people believe that the soul lives on after death, that rituals can change the physical world and divine the truth, and that illness and misfortune are caused and alleviated by spirits, ghosts, saints ... and gods.

STEVEN PINKER, How the Mind Works

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Why Ghost Hunters are Culturally Cool

By Deonna Kelli Sayed

I'm a writer who became one, in part, because of a ghost hunting avocation. This hobby landed me a first book deal, some public speaking gigs, introduction to people on TV, and awesome friends. Plus, I'm no longer scared of life, in general. These are no small developments.

There is charm in hanging out at spooky places in the middle of the night experiencing wild and crazy things. Sometimes, we help homeowners feel better about their world. Of course, it makes us feel important to be part of the larger cultural pulse of something on TV.

Ghost hunting is a cool thing to do, and maybe for reasons you haven't considered. There is cultural importance of this ghost stuff regardless if you believe spirits actually exist.

History and Storytelling 

Ghost hunters are historical preservationist and archivists.

How so? We storytellers, and the stories we preserve through paranormal investigation are from our local and regional communities. There are few hobbies that so intimately engage local history and take time to document how the living interacts with these stories. We help keep micro history (the untold stories) alive. Additionally, we reinterpret these tales to better understand who we are today.

Paranormal interest has renewed the spirit of living history. Many historic sites bank on being haunted. This isn't a bad thing. Having a ghost has helped many not-for-profit historic locations earn supplemental income as State, local, and grant funding dried up due to the economy. (Most historic locations don't operate on entrance fees alone.) Tourist traffic from paranormal interest allows some sites keep their existing funding. The coolest aspect is that visitors get a dose of local history, even if a haunted version, that they may have otherwise bypassed.

This idea is catching on. Shreveport, Louisiana is one of the first cities to put funding and sponsorship behind a downtown paranormal festival as a way to boost business and local history awareness, thus engaging paranormal tourism at a previously unprecedented level. This moves ghost hunting's cultural relevancy out of the paranormal community and into the larger society, and that is awesome.

Ghost Hunters are Multimedia Artists

Digital audio, camcorders, and cameras provide an interesting example regarding handheld technology's role in storytelling. Ghost hunters are some of the most proficient in this art form. We have hours of video and audio of our experiences, client interviews, and awesome footage of historical significant locations. The average person probably doesn't own this type of equipment despite its accessibility. If someone happens to have a camcorder, they aren't using it like we are: as documentarians.

Online clips of investigations, including satirical spoofs, have become a YouTube genre. This is a neat development because a segment of the arts community is really interested in multimedia aspects of community-based story telling. In some ways, our "client reveals" -- with the history, investigator personal experiences, and digital and audio evidence - is a form of media art.

We are multimedia storytellers.

Think about it - most people know nothing about audio or video editing. Many of us have a basic understanding of these things, and some of us develop transferable skills that steer us in unexpected directions. AdventureMyths started as paranormal investigators who created well-researched documentaries to hand back to the historic sites they investigated. Now, they are morphing into actual filmmakers.

I'm currently using my semi-professional digital audio devices (and my software editing skills) to produce a podcast series for a blog that has nothing to do with the paranormal. I developed a marketable skill set because of paranormal investigation.

Ghost Hunters Provide Spiritual Solace

Ghost hunters (the good ones) offer a new personal faith language and spiritual identity in the modern world. Our religious institutions, be it Muslim, Christian, etc., aren't always on the mark when it comes to our contemporary inner lives. Ghost hunting provides society a new way to understand large philosophical concepts like good versus evil, our place in the cosmos, and life after death.

Ethical investigators and moral psychics and Mediums can assure people they aren't crazy. Sometimes, we provide comfort during times of grieving and personal upheaval. Some investigators are explicitly faith based and offer a service to their communities that is missing from the pulpit. There is a need for "spiritual advisors" to address belief where mainstream religion leaves off.

The clip below is from the Windbridge Institute , an academic-based research organization focusing on Mediumship abilities. Their research is intriguing, solid, and provides insight on the importance of "paranormal" work to individual emotional well-being. 

Some of Us Are Citizen Scientists

 Paranormal investigators - the serious kind - are citizen scientists. Citizen science goes back to the early days when the average person was an inventor, a philosopher, and a scientist. In a way, paranormal investigation harkens a time when science wasn't determined by academic and research institutions. Some of us are collecting interesting data of anomalous events, and we are capable enough to document other environmental aspects, as well. If we do our research right, we can exchange ideas with citizen scientists in areas like geology, meteorology, and ecology (among others fields).

Now, here is a disclaimer: I am the first to say that most investigators aren't scientific at all. However, the goods ones, at bare minimum, ask important questions about anomalous events. A few are actual researchers, like the folks at the Rhine Research Center, where innovative research is underway on consciousness, bioenergy, other potentially related maters. The John Templeton Foundation recently offered grant funding for academic-based survival research along with the theological and social implications of these questions. This is a pretty big deal, by the way, because the biggest challenge to serious research is funding.

Back to Everday Gal: ghost hunters around the world are exploring equipment innovation. Granted, much of this stuff is useless. Yet, some equipment works off of intriguing hypotheses. While equipment may or may not prove ghosts, this cottage industry is innovation not found in many hobbies. This is grassroots funded research and design. Plus, there aren't many avenues in our society where the average person gets to be innovatively creative. Tweaking and creating ghost equipment brings the phrase "thinking outside of the box" to a completely new place, even if ne'er a ghost is caught.

Ghost Hunters Make Better Communities

Ghost hunters seem like a cliched bunch. Let's admit it -- many of us are. We take pictures of our camcorder/K-2/Mel Meters like we are tech-porn stars in black t-shirts. We speak in code that only other ghost hunters understand. We draw battle lines around TV shows, and some of us get all silly over the latest community drama.

Yet, we are kind of cool, right? We keep local history alive. We experience phenomenal stuff. The best among us help people in meaningful ways. But we also do something else -- we give back to our communities.

Most ghost hunting groups provide the first time members have engaged in volunteerism and civic-minded activities. Better organized groups hold educational events and sometimes raise awareness for historic locations and local charities. Many of us give back to the world while learning how to manage and operate new organizations. That is a useful management skill itself!

Ghost hunting makes one a better citizen.

So go out and hug a ghost hunter today. We make the world better, or at least, less haunted and more interesting.

Ghost Village