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What is a Paranormal Investigator? 


PSI’s Dave Wood looks at why so much consternation is caused in the field of paranormal research for the simple fact that disparate groups of people all go under one unsuitable name: the paranormal investigator.

The term ‘paranormal investigator’ is over-used to the point of being meaningless, and I confess my own part in this. Every paranormal TV personality, every ghost researcher, every thrill-seeker, and a fair proportion of psychics and clerics all scramble – in their tens of thousands – under this banner.

The article ‘The Four Types of Investigator’ in the PSI Newsletter Edition 12 argued that the ‘paranormal investigator’ was distinct from the thrill-seeker and ghost hunter in their rigorous and scientific enquiry; but this perhaps doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. I was rather surprised recently when someone told me they “could not take a paranormal investigator seriously: their very name implied that they went out to ‘read’ spooky meanings into perfectly normal things”.

So what does the term ‘paranormal investigator’ mean? Paranormal can be defined as ‘phenomena which seem to defy the known laws of science’. The importance of the word ‘seem’ is clear: the paranormal is not all about the unexplained, it is about phenomena that are described as unexplainable. So far, so good.

The clearly striking aspect of the paranormal definition is that it covers everything! Ghosts, UFOs strange beasts, ESP, PK, premonitions, earth mysteries – the list goes on. What is similarly clear is that most ‘paranormal investigators’ focus purely on ‘ghosts’ to the exclusion of all else.,

The word ‘investigator’ seems to be fairly wide-ranging in definitions: anything from one who asks questions to one who heads up a research study.

This is possible where our problem emerges. Is a person who turns up to an ‘investigation’ to experience something an investigator? Is someone who goes out to try to prove that ‘ghosts exist’ an investigator? Doubtful. I’m happy with the definition of someone involved with a research study; a study into whether a phenomenon is paranormal.

So where does this leave the less scientific ‘paranormal investigator’? If they are focused purely on ghosts and trying to prove their existence – whatever that means – the term ‘ghost investigator’ or ‘ghost hunter’ still seems more appropriate.

But what of the scientific investigator? A truly scientific approach demands that one does not assume the existence of ghosts; all there is are experiences and the people who experience them. The cause of these experiences is still yet to be determined on a case by case basis. So the scientifically-oriented describing themselves as ‘ghost investigators’ is clearly not appropriate, since we remain objective and do not pre-suppose the existence of ghosts.

Perhaps ‘haunting investigator’ hits the nail on the head. After all, ‘hauntings’ only exist where people label them as such, and investigating the causes of this ‘construct’ seems reasonable.

Personally I prefer the term ‘xenonormal investigator’ – xenonormal meaning ‘unfamiliar but natural’ – but it’s not the sort of ‘sexy’ term that is likely to take off!

So, whilst many of us call ourselves ‘paranormal investigators’ the term clearly means several different things in reality. The source of many intra- and inter-team disputes we see played out in the paranormal community seem to stem from a dispute over attitudes. Sceptics vs. believers, pseudo-science vs. science, however one wants to term it.


My conclusion is that everyone having a clear idea about what they really want to do, and being open and proud, could save many disputes.

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