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Investigator without Investigators:

The Automated Design


Dave Wood takes a brief look at the current debate in the paranormal community about whether people should be directly involved in paranormal investigations at all.

The field of paranormal investigations is filled with a myriad range of individual and group motivations. There are those who investigate for the thrill and experience, with a booming tourism market rising to their expectations. There are those who seek personal subjective proof who place themselves in ‘haunted’ environments as often as possible to seek that proof. Finally, there are those who seek some level of objective answer about the question of the existence of paranormal phenomena.

The ‘automated investigation’ design is a perfectly logical idea. It begins with the idea of human fallibility. Paranormal investigators spend a lot of time trying to overcome the essential fallibility of human memory, performance and perception. If an individual person is involved one can never be sure if an equipment reading was accurate, if memory has distorted an alleged paranormal event or if the person really perceived what they thought they did. The role of ambiguous stimuli in an environment where paranormal activity is expected is a strong compounding variable in any paranormal research.

The automated design proponent, then, argues that the role of paranormal investigator should be remote. Video monitoring equipment should be set up in a location whilst data loggers are placed in situ to record any environmental fluctuations. A team of investigators should be based in a remote location and should constantly monitor CCTV and environmental fluctuations. One takes the fallible people out of the equation and concentrates purely on the objective and verifiable data captured in an uninterrupted scene.

What the design fails to consider is the actual subject under study. The thinking paranormal researcher is not studying an empty room, they are studying the responses of individuals. The investigator is drawn to a ‘haunted’ location because people have had paranormal experiences. The role of investigators is to experience in the same environment, to establish without prior knowledge if they experience the same phenomena. The role of equipment is to measure environmental triggers to establish an impact on experiencers. The role of sound knowledge of the human condition and of a location is to establish whether the phenomena is unexplainable, or whether fallible people have misinterpreted the environment, or been affected by natural environmental fluctuations.

The automated design may provide more objective evidence, but it sheds no light on why paranormal phenomena are experienced by people in a certain place.

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