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Created: May 20, 2009
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bridging science
and parascience

Actually, we at the KRI feel that site investigation is nothing more than a specialized form of research. When we can't get the answers we're looking for from reading or interviews, and "lab testing" isn't practical, direct in situ observation becomes necessary. Although it's part of the larger research process, it's also a separate event in itself. That process should go something like this: you hear or read a report (research), you go to the location from which the report originated in order to confirm or deny it (investigation), and you decide whether or not the report was "true" based on what you experienced there (analysis). The process begins with the research, and what you do to investigate depends entirely on the depth of that research (and with what level of objectivity) and what you plan to do with whatever evidence you collect on that investigation. If all you're looking for is your own subjective opinion - whether or not you "feel" or see the phenomenon reported, you really don't need to read this (or any of the rest of the "Basics").

Three Chimneys

If, however, you wish to obtain objective evidence supporting some aspect of the reported anecdotes, there are a few things you need to consider before arriving at the site you wish to investigate:

  •   If something keeps happening and doesn't depend on its locale, you can investigate it in the surroundings of your choice (preferably a well-equipped lab, for phenomena such as ESP, mediumship, etc.). For the record, both EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) and orb-like anomalies are not site-dependent, and can be (and have been) tested in a "lab."
  •   If something keeps happening but does depend on its locale, you need to bring your equipment to the site (such as hauntings). The more research you do, the more effective your investigation. Also, events which are limited in duration (such as poltergeist activity) require more advance research (into the nature of the phenomenon) because all testing must be done before the activity ceases to occur - you need to know what to expect and what you want to look for well before the investigation and have the appropriate equipment ready to go on a moment's notice.
  •   If it's a singular event, or happens with such unpredictable irregularity that on-site investigation will be unlikely to turn up a similar incident, all you can do is collect anecdotes, take readings and / or measurements, and search the scene for objectively collectable samples or trace-evidence while such is still present. Only after a sufficient number of incidents have been recorded can you look for comparisons and contrasts between similar events and attempt to discern predictable patterns (UFO investigation). Truly singular events (like the 1908 Tunguska explosion or Jesus walking on water) cannot be tested this way, and can only be tested by comparing whatever evidence has been collected by others to dissimilar events. Any conclusions could only be sheer speculation.

As repeating phenomena which occur independently of any specific locale are lab-testable, your investigation can take place whenever you desire, with as much completeness as you can afford. It is this kind of testing the "scientific method" was designed for. And, as singular events aren't testable at all, including it in this Investigation section seems moot. What remains are site-dependent, repeating phenomena. Although the same methods can be applied to any phenomena, the rest of this section will be directly addressing the investigation of hauntings.

Central Wave

The first goal of an investigation is to observe the site and compare those observations with the reports collected in your pre-investigation research. Seek out and note any possible mundane or environmental causes for effects others have witnessed, and attempt to obtain greater detail with regard to any effects which resist explanation. If you intend for others to see (or believe) what you've experienced, you also need to record what your senses observe. This is a two-prong recommendation: record your sensations directly (with equipment such as audio and video), and record them indirectly (describe sensations with notes or repeat them into an audio recorder). Without these records, your investigation has no more objective value than any of the anecdotes you are attempting to investigate.

The second goal is to track as much extra (indirectly observed, or discrete) data as you can throughout the course of the investigation, and be able to synchronize that data with more observable items (such as time and / or specific location). By noting items such as temperature variations and gradients, electromagnetic field (EMF) readings, etc., during every investigation, you can create a database with which you can later compare similar events. It is these comparisons which make later analyses possible.

Be advised: these processes are far more complex than just pulling out a thermometer (or whichever) and taking a reading - but if you start there, you can consider and improve the procedures as your group progresses. And this further demonstrates the importance (and necessary scope) of "research." You should be thoroughly familiar with:

  •   The parameters you are measuring, and how they affect / are affected by other variables.
  •   How to properly measure and record those parameters.
  •   The proper operation and limits of all of your equipment.
  •   The best and current theories relating to the phenomena you are investigating.
  •   What is required to test or expand those theories.

Which leads to the final goal - to test theory. We're dabbling in a lot of unknowns and (scientifically) inexplicable occurrences. To be able to confirm any theory - no matter how bizarre - or to formulate new ones, we need to continually test these ideas and possibilities. Without testing, all we are doing is rehashing notions that no one's been able to adequately support, much less prove. Finding evidence that something strange is going on is not enough. We need to postulate new paradigms, demonstrate their possibility, and then create a body of evidence that shows they cannot be directly and easily thrown out. If we are to do anything to advance real scientific awareness and investigation, we need to approach our investigations sensibly and with purpose, and by rejecting others' ideas only after we have proven them false.

To close this page, however, we need to state clearly and obviously that the two skills every investigator must have are his or her powers of observation, and objectivity. Sadly, they also happen to be the two rarest skills among groups interested in paranormal happenings! When we figure out for ourselves how to hone them effectively (short of practice, practice, practice followed by evaluate, evaluate, evaluate) we will post it as a separate full length article in the Library, and link to it from here.