The Paranormal & Market Forces
Dave Wood asks when the paranormal bubble will burst - and what that
will mean for the rest of us.
£150 a ticket, ghost walks, haunted coffee tables. There are countless
ways for individuals and commercial outfits alike to prize cash from the
fingers of paranormal enthusiasts. Modern society practically demands
that all market opportunities be exploited until the bubble bursts. In
the absence of the leviathan hand of government regulation it is
perfectly conceivable that the products, events and television
programmes will continue to multiply until that bubble does burst. But
when will the bubble burst? And where does that leave the paranormal
It is often said that in the days before ‘Most Haunted’, investigation
venues never charged a penny and the whole field of research was somehow
purer and perhaps more elitist. The impact of the revival of interest in
all things psychical has had marked effects. Belief and interest amongst
the masses. Hundreds of ghost hunting groups, with more opening and
closing each week. Photos sent each week to paranormal groups with
messages declaring ‘my house is haunted, because the orb on my camera
phone told me so’. Scores of venues charging for paranormal
investigations – anything from £10 a head to £800+VAT for the night.
Rationality and science either cannot or will not keep up. The most
noticeable impact, however, to most paranormal researchers work is the
apparent competition for venues (and even members) and smaller, more
focussed groups being priced out of the market.
All of the above is most frequently seen in a stark, negative light.
Researchers long for the day that bubble will burst, and then it will be
business as usual. The indubitable positive effects are, unfortunately,
frequently ignored. Groups like PSI are inundated with requests to join
the team. Rather than bemoan the additional workload, we are pleased
with the opportunity to raise the bar of participation that much higher.
Application forms, interviews, training and assessment allow the most
suitable candidates to participate – the only reason this is possible is
because of increased interest in the paranormal. PSI tends, now, to shy
away from ‘paranormal tourist locations’ and focus on the uninvestigated
locations. In some respects this is more work, but if upwards of half of
the population were not open-minded to the paranormal this would be much
A more subtle effect of the focus by money-making venues is the
circulation of ‘haunted places’, not termed such because of modern day
sightings. In an ideal world a venue would report paranormal
experiences, and those experiences would be investigated. This ideal is
diluted by potential fraud. Businesses have been known to declare
themselves haunted, either with no basis or on the basis of historical
hearsay, because it is good for trade. Mass disinformation also has its
part to play. Most researchers could probably think of an orb-riddled
location or two where you cannot say for certain which came first – the
orb or the ghost.
It takes only one event for a place to be described as haunted – whether
this be an orb on a low-cost digital camera, a rapacious whim or
misinterpretation of information by someone looking to believe. However
once somewhere is ‘haunted’, people consciously or unconsciously will
always find evidence to back up the assertion. The paranormal researcher
purely focussed on observer phenomena may find this to be a nightmare –
but for the broader focussed researcher interested in psychology, this
is no bad thing.
So when will the “spooxploitation” end? Will this be a good thing? The
paranormal bubble will burst sooner or later. LivingTV have already
committed to launching no more paranormal TV shows, they know that
interest is waning. More and more venues are beginning to charge, and
charge higher prices. When the bubble bursts, and half the ghost hunting
groups shut their doors, will the remaining investigators have their
pick of venues and low prices – a sort of research Utopia? If business
wanes and paranormal tourist spots have to lower their prices and take
less bookings it seems more likely they will – frustrated – shut their
doors for good.
As the field of paranormal research is increasingly discredited,
familiarity with phenomena continues to breed contempt and
spooxploitation saturates the market the bubble will burst. But this
researcher questions whether this will be the wholesale good many of us
believe it will be.
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