Last year, I interviewed the hosts of one of my favorite podcasts, Strange Frequencies Radio. The story of Jason and Bobby is one of exploration into the unknown, corny as that may sound. But their curiosity about the paranormal led them to become believers and ghost hunters. Their gradual acquisition of critical thinking skills (along with a key characteristic of open-mindedness) turned them away from the idea of ghosts and spirits.
In their twenties, in Toledo, Ohio, they became friends through their mutual interest of the paranormal. With their respective groups now one organization, eventually named Phase 3 Paranormal, they visited people’s houses in and around Ohio, collected EVPs and electromagnetic readings, interviewed the witnesses to the events and wrote up case reports, just like all the other paranormal groups. They believed they had found paranormal activity and had concluded this was evidence of ghosts. EVPs were concluded to be the voices of the dead. They recruited interested individuals for the group via MySpace, craigslist, and the local paper. No special qualifications were needed to join although they administered an exam to new recruits to see how much they knew about the paranormal. Bobby remembers the ease in which people would give their social security number to him under the pretense of a “background check.” This was his ploy to test for trustworthiness, since he had no means to actually run a background check. He figured if they would give him their SSN, they had nothing to hide.
Jason says they definitely were a “sciencey” group. They “absolutely” thought they were doing science—because of the equipment. For example, Jason explained to me that they would take a “baseline reading” of the house by walking around the rooms very slowly, waving the EMF meter around and recording the numbers on paper. Then later, after they “provoked” the ghost, they would do the same thing a second time and record the numbers.
Bobby says: “For some reason, when you have that meter in your hand and you are looking for ghosts, that meter makes you feel like an expert. The piece of equipment in their hand that they think is giving them data they can use to somehow correlated with a ghost…they feel sweet!”
It’s easy to believe. It can be emotionally rewarding as well. Thinking critically, applying a skeptical process to something you hold dear is difficult, possibly disappointing and can be life changing. I really loved the real-life example of the Strange Frequencies pair because it was so genuine, open, no manufactured drama, no bullshit.
As we see with Jason and Bobby, you have to stop and train yourself to think this new way and let go of a previously sacred idea. When Bobby heard the explanation of his paranormal experiences long ago as sleep paralysis instead of demons, he says he was comforted by the reality-based explanation, not disappointed.
Many people invested in paranormal belief and research will not be able to let their decades of investment go. Bobby reasons that he didn’t have as strong of an emotional tie to paranormal ideas as some people. He understands that people don’t want to accept their time and money has been wasted. And to some, there is a deep-seated need to validate the afterlife, believing things like: “that orb is Grandma.” No matter what.
There is no doubt that paranormal belief provides benefits to some. But to what ultimate ends? You may be unwilling to give up a treasured belief because you are afraid only a void will be left. That’s not true. You will likely find something more valuable and useful to fill that void. Take a friend with you, too.
Read the entire interview here: Sounds Sciencey: Giving up the Ghosts: Formerly Known as “Ghost Hunters”
Visit Strange Frequencies Radio for real life Practical Skepticism from two silly but smart guys recording in a basement in Ohio. It’s great.