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Created: May 20, 2009
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bridging science
and parascience

You're now an investigator of paranormal phenomena. You've researched out a location in which unexplained activity has been reported and you showed up to check out the claim. You brought cameras, recorders, a whole arsenal of equipment, used it all properly and have all kinds of data to support or refute the claim. Now what?

This is where most organizations fall short. Actually, most organizations don't even get this far. How do you know you've used the equipment properly? How do you know your data is untainted? What kind of procedures do you follow to guarantee everyone participating in the investigation is doing things the same way you are? The answers to these questions come from analysis, and the fruits of properly analyzing an investigation are: better subsequent investigations, high confidence in a smaller pool of possible anomalies, and testable hypotheses.

Brian and Andy at Central Wave

First, you need to analyze your procedures, and you need to do this as soon after an investigation as is possible - or even during it. Make notes on what went smoothly and what didn't. If you don't do this while you are thinking of it, something is bound to happen and wash it right out of your thoughts. Observe and note where each investigator was at any given moment. It is absolutely vital to know who could be close enough to any piece of audio or video equipment to taint the evidence it captures. Continually watch the investigation as it unfolds, look for ways to improve it, and the next, and the next. Look for systems - protocols or standard operating procedures - which if used consistently make the investigation go more smoothly with more viably supportable evidence. Also have the other investigators make similar notes; their perspectives won't be the same as yours, and their opinions are of equal value.

Second, analyze the events and experiences as they unfold during an investigation. Assume every event has a natural cause, and look for that cause while it is happening, or as soon after as is practical. And take notes (including the time and duration of any event) constantly! Further, make notes regarding your physical and emotional sensations as they change. Most people are "sensitive" when it comes to experiencing paranormal phenomena but ignore the sensations as they have them - writing them off mentally to whatever mundane cause they can imagine. However, by knowing how exactly you feel and comparing it to the immediate circumstance of the feelings, you can create a baseline with which to judge sites of future investigations. Your subjective feelings should never be considered "evidence," but can and should be used in later investigations as an aid to locating "hot spots" and where and how to set up equipment.

After the investigation, you need to carefully review every piece of data from a skeptic's point of view. It is not enough to say "wow, I've got a picture of an orb." You have to be able to defend that picture - why do you think it's an orb instead of a piece of very close dust caught in the camera's flash, or an intense reflection of a more distant object distorted by the camera's JPeG algorithms? This post-investigation analysis is two-part: find anything that seems inexplicable, then find proof that it is in fact inexplicable. If you capture a voice on audio, you have to be able to prove it's not the voice of one of your other investigators. If you capture a light anomaly, you have to be able to prove that light couldn't have come from any mundane source. If you can't prove it, skeptics will chew the evidence apart and erode your credibility. And, before presenting evidence of any kind of paranormal activity, test it - show it to everyone you can think of who might be able to offer an objective (or even biased against) opinion. Having access to "pet skeptics" is of tremendous value here. If they can't debunk it, no one can.

Beau and Lorna at Four

And lastly, after you have a few investigations and a core of unexplained events, consider the ramifications of what the evidence suggests. Don't just latch on to anybody's opinion, but form your own. Are EVP voices directly imprinted on your recorder, or are they real audible voices that you simply failed to pay attention to at the scene? Is it possible they are both? Neither? And, as you ask these questions, think of ways you can test your theories. And retest them, again and again. Single incidents aren't nearly as impressive to the scientific community as are repeating events. There is no advancement to repeating the same old procedures again and again. You (and we all) need to change things from time to time so that we can understand the window of circumstance that surrounds the events we capture.

The bottom line with regard to analysis is that if you are investigating paranormal phenomena solely for your own satisfaction, then that analysis can be as short and easy as your own personal requirement of proof. If you are trying to demonstrate the existence of paranormal activity to others, your analysis must be as in depth and supportable as their requirement of proof. And every aspect of your investigation, from the procedures and safeguards you use to the actual acceptability of evidence, needs to be analyzed and re-analyzed every time you do it. If you always seek constant improvement, you'll find that the improvement comes whether you really want it to or not.