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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 researcher?

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 harder.

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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