ASSAP: Paranormal Research
ASSAP: Paranormal Education
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Graveyard - haunted?

Ghosts in graveyards?

A few paranormal researchers go to graveyards or battlefields to look for evidence of ghostly activity. In fact, there is no statistical evidence that there are any more ghosts seen in such places than anywhere else. Clearly, unless there have been specific reports of ghosts in such locations by previous witnesses, the implication is that the researchers involved are assuming that ghosts are 'spirits'. Indeed, there is another assumption hidden there - that 'spirits' are somehow tied to the location where their mortal remains lie.

Though the number of ghosts reported from graveyards is unremarkable, people often report odd photos (mists, vortexes and orbs) from such places. This, again, probably reflects a common assumption (probably more widespread among members of the public than paranormal researchers) that ghosts are 'spirits' and that they hang around in graveyards. Orbs that would not normally be noticed in photos are seen because of where the picture was taken.


What IS the paranormal?

The paranormal is 'beyond the normal' - phenomena for which there is no generally accepted scientific explanation. It's a good enough working definition but it soon falls apart when you examine it in any detail.

It is usually easier to think of examples of the paranormal rather than state a satisfying definition. For instance, a ghost is obviously paranormal. Or is it? If one assumes that a ghost is the 'spirit' of a dead person (see left) manifesting in our reality than clearly it is paranormal. There is no scientific evidence of the existence of such 'spirits' so it must be 'beyond normal'. However, that is taking a dictionary definition of the word ghost. Such definitions do not generally accord with what people actually experience.

Much of what people believe about the paranormal derives from fiction and tradition. When real cases are examined, they often turn out quite differently to tradition and frequently have natural explanations. The reason they are considered paranormal is usually because the witnesses expect them to be. Most cases of the paranormal, in fact, turn out to be xenonormal.

Real life paranormal cases

Given the difficulty of dealing with such philosophical problems, most paranormal investigators confine themselves to researching actual cases. The practical definition of the paranormal then effectively becomes, 'something for which normal explanation can be found'. So, if a trigger object is found to have moved in a sealed room. it is assumed that it was due to paranormal phenomenon if no other explanation can be found.

Of course, there are problems with this definition. What if there IS a natural explanation for the phenomenon but the investigator just didn't find it. Or maybe there is no current explanation but scientific progress might produce one in later years.

Thus, the 'no normal explanation' definition of the paranormal can only ever be provisional. Further information can always render the paranormal normal. The word xenonormal is useful here.


What is life?

The question of 'what is life?' is similar to 'what is the paranormal?'. In both cases, almost everyone has their own firm idea of the answer but it is very difficult for all to agree.

It is easy to differentiate between a living thing and a non-living thing, if you look at concrete examples (a fish and a brick, for instance). But what precisely differentiates a living thing? Is it the fact that it can reproduce itself? Or that it can evolve? Is it that life can process certain energy inputs, such as light, heat and chemicals, to sustain its own existence? It is a question that scientists and philosophers still argue about.

What is a spirit?

One of the major problems with defining the paranormal is that the term comes loaded with cultural baggage. Many people simply assume that ghosts are 'spirits' without even thinking about it. Such 'spirits' are certainly not recognised by science (primarily due to the lack of convincing evidence). Many believers in 'spirits' automatically assume that they cannot be measured or understood by science. By this reasoning, the 'paranormal' is, by definition, permanently inexplicable. However, this is only a problem created by an assumption. Luckily, in real life cases (see left) people experience things which often are explainable by science.
© Maurice Townsend 2008