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The Prizes of Science and Scepticism

PSI’s Trystan Swale discusses why the paranormal investigation community should respect venue owners rather than vilify them.

I often hear of paranormal groups debating whether they should, quite literally, give up the ghost because they cannot find supposedly haunted locations to investigate without incurring a hefty fee. Some of these teams patiently make the most of what’s available in a manner that is completely above board. Others engage in the ethically dubious alternative of spending time in locations with no history of alleged paranormal activity.

Worryingly, another type of group seems to exist. These are the people who will contact a location, be refused entry - or cheap admission - and then resort to making libellous or slanderous attacks on the owners. Very often these comments are personal insults delivered in the pathetic, knee-jerk style of a sulking child. However, on a few occasions I’ve also seen accusations levelled that the property owner is someone who would be ‘scared’ by what the group would find. Perhaps the individuals who make these statements may actually have a point, although it’s one they themselves would do well to consider.

Large swathes of the general public know next to nothing about the pseudo-scientific nature of investigation methods employed by many teams. The owner of the ‘haunted house’ may really think EVP experiments, Ouija board use and Spiritualist parlour games will deliver objective, factual results that are beyond question. In such cases it is possible that the property owner really is genuinely concerned, if not terrified, at the prospect of an investigation. Investigators should consider that their evening’s fieldwork and entertainment may equate to someone else’s misery and sleepless nights.

Of course, there are other perfectly valid reasons for refusing investigators access to a location. I’ve personally encountered owners who are sick and tired of being bothered by any number of teams desperate to uncover whatever they perceive to be lurking in the rooms and hallways. This can cause great distress in instances where an individual, family or business have been worried by the findings or conduct of those who previously investigated the site.

Other reportedly haunted locations lack recent reports of ghostly activity and may owe their reputations to folklore or hoaxes. I think it is little wonder why the property owners in these examples may have no desire to throw open their doors to (often uninsured) strangers hunting for something that either disappeared a long time ago, or was never there in the first place.

Investigators will also complain that some venues only allow access at a high monetary price. Whilst this article is not about the ethics of pricing, those unhappy with this situation should consider two reasonable explanations. Firstly, the high price may have been deliberately set as some kind of deterrent. Secondly, it may be more cost effective for a location to irregularly open its doors to those prepared to meet the fee, as opposed to accommodating a steady stream of investigators at a much lower price.

So, before getting in a huff at another knock back from an enticing venue, consider if the gates are being kept locked with good reason. Issues of belief, trust, fear, privacy and cost effectiveness are all perfectly valid motivations to deny access to a property. As members of the investigative community we should accept that ‘no’ means just that; it is not an invitation to deliver outlandish criticism. The more aggressive we are to location owners, the more likely they are to keep their doors closed for good.