Can we believe in the supernatural?

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Photo Courtesy of

Melanie Buer

There has been no shortage of paranormal investigation shows on TV, and as Halloween draws closer, they only become more relevant. Videos of apparent ghost sightings and audio recordings of ghostly voices are scattered across Youtube, further fueling the polarizing debate surrounding ghosts: are they real or not, and is the field of paranormal investigation legitimate?

For as long as humans have been aware of their own mortality, they have curated a morbid fascination with death. The question of the afterlife has been a part of popular spiritual conversation for millennia, and yet the debate rages on about the validity of these claims. While stories of ghost sightings and investigating haunted houses date as far back as Ancient Greece, the modern practice of paranormal investigation was first explored in 1886.

The Victorian period is famously known for its obsession with the occult and spiritualists at the time made a fortune off curious and distraught families seeking to contact lost loved ones. The Society of Psychical Research first attempted to apply scientific advancements to the search for answers about the afterlife, and the trend continued for over a century – various curious minds attempted to capture concrete evidence of the existence of ghosts, and answer the questions about what our afterlife might look like.

In the last 20 years, there have been incredible advances in the field paranormal research. Aware of the intense skepticism that investigative teams face, they attempt to capture concrete evidence of ghosts and other apparitions using devices and camera equipment. Some of the evidence is compelling, and hard to explain away.

Generally the teams are comprised of curious individuals who experienced something supernatural or otherwise unexplainable, and set out to capture that experience on film. While the amount of fabricated evidence is rather high, every once in a while, there is a video or audio recording that cannot be explained adequately enough to debunk it.

So what’s the truth, then? Are the members of the famed Ghost Adventures crew on to something, or are they spending their network paychecks on fabricating evidence for the sake of goading on a new generation of believers? It’s hard to say. In a world steeped in the empirical data that the scientific method offers us, the realm of life after death is always shrouded in the unknown.

Regardless of their validity, the risks that these investigative teams take in trying to remove some of the mystery from our inevitable end is admirable and shouldn’t be taken lightly.




  1. Melanie,

    As a long-time student of psychical research, I can tell you that today’s ghost hunting adventures are nothing like the original psychical research. That research was aimed primarily at investigating trance mediums. Also, it didn’t begin in 1886. The Society for Psychical Research was formed in London in 1882, although the American branch started in Dec. 1886 or Jan. 1887. However, there was considerable research going on before then, beginning in 1850. John Edmonds, chief justice of the New York State Supreme Court, began his investigation of mediums that year, as did Adin Ballou, a theologian. Robert Hare, a professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania and renowned inventor, followed them during the 1850s as did Alan Kardec, a French educator. Alfred Russel Wallace, co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution, began his investigation of mediums during the early 1860s. All of them came to the conclusion that spirit communication through mediums is real and therefore came to believe that consciousness survives physical death. There were many more after them, but you don’t hear much about them because their findings conflict with materialistic science and is written off as pseudo science. Also, organized religion rejected most of it because some of it conflicted with established dogma and doctrine.

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