Standards of Evidence in Paranormal Investigation
Updated: Aug 2, 2020
A trustworthy or successful paranormal investigator is not measured by the volume of spooky evidence they claim to have captured, but rather by the quality of that evidence. We at E.C.P.S. recognize our duty to scrupulously assess and attempt to explain by logical means each bit of possible paranormal evidence we collect.
You’ve probably heard the old adage about not expecting hoof beats to signal the approach of zebras rather than horses; paranormal evidence review suffers when, actively looking for zebras, reviewers don’t consider the much-more-likely horses at all. That is to say, many paranormal researchers are so (understandably!) excited about proving the existence of the paranormal that they turn a biased eye on their evidence, jumping directly to the least likely (and most exciting) explanation for a given anomaly.
The result of such practices is that the field of paranormal research is awash with shoddy “evidence” that could easily have been debunked if care were taken to maintain critical thinking during evidence collection and review. The preponderance of false paranormal evidence in popular culture leads to laypeople becoming frightened when they see a speck of floating dust looking like a mysterious orb in a photo they’ve taken of their attic – they’ve seen on TV that this is a sign of a haunting, not a need for spring cleaning.
Paranormal investigation is fun, no doubt about that. But we also have a responsibility to make sure we’re not putting poorly-researched information out there that, while entertaining, could result in people becoming unnecessarily afraid in their own homes.
When it comes to taking photos on an investigation, the best tools against falsely identifying an anomaly as paranormal are simple: high-quality equipment and knowing your equipment well. When we say high-quality, we don’t necessarily mean top-of-the-line. We mean cameras that support raw format, and can handle taking pictures in low light. Knowing your camera well is the more important of the two criteria; we’d suggest having a couple years’ experience with a camera before confidently declaring that it’s taken a picture you can’t explain. Each camera and each lens has its quirks, and over time you’ll come to see that those quirks can produce effects that might look pretty spooky if you didn’t know what caused them.
Let’s have a look at a few funny examples from E.C.P.S. cases of things that are NOT paranormal.
The disturbing collection of voids at the right of this frame are actually just David moving. Because the room was dark, the photographer used a long exposure to capture this image, and captured parts of David’s movement as well. The yellow lights around one of the dark areas tell us that that area is most likely David’s cell phone or another piece of electronic equipment he was holding. It’s crucial to review your images in the moment -- right after you take them, -- so that if you see something like this, you can debunk it on the spot by noting where everyone is in the room, and who might have walked into your frame.
See the “apparition” at the right of this image (the red light is our laser grid, so ignore that)? Its legs appear to be separated from its body, and it is transparent. Is this a ghost? No, this is David again, moving away from the camera. Due to the long exposure, we see him captured at different parts of his motion, so his legs appear to be in one place while his body is in another. The lights trailing him show the motion of the cell phone or other lighted equipment he was holding.
The next three images show examples of colored lens flares and light effects that the photographer, familiar with her camera, recognized as characteristic of the particular lens she was using, and therefore could easily explain as non-paranormal.
This next one is fun because there are multiple ways of looking at it. What do you see in the unaltered image below?
Some members of our team saw a huge glowing green face blocking out the upper body of the investigator standing behind it, like so:
Look back at the original image – do you see the face?
But after investigating the image further and asking other team members to take a look, it became clear that we were actually seeing an investigator standing in profile and holding a flashlight:
What if we’d become too excited about the glowing green face to consider other options, and had told the homeowner that a big green ghost lived in their basement? Can you imagine? Luckily, that’s not E.C.P.S.’ style. Although we love the paranormal and want to find credible evidence of it as much as the next guy, we won’t let our enthusiasm get in the way of our mission statement: to find the truth.