Wednesday 29 April 2015

The End of Parapsychology?

According to a leading academic expert in paranormal research, the age of ghost hunting is drawing to a close. Dr Caroline Watt works as a paranormal investigator at the Arthur Koestler Parapsychology Unit at Edinburgh University. She has recently done an interview with New Scientist in which she predicts that academic parapsychology will simply be absorbed into existing psychology and neuroscience; perhaps something like Prof. Chris French’s “anomalistic psychology”, see: She says that all spooky experiences, from ghosts to precognitive dreams to ESP, will soon all be explicable within the parameters of conventional science. She states that none of her team have ever found any evidence for any of the subjects they have investigated and perhaps it’s now time to call it a day. I have not read Dr Watt’s original interview, but this is a commentary of it, see: If it is an accurate commentary, it strikes me as intellectually lazy on her part. Dr Watt is not really saying anything original; this premise has been the basis of Skeptic anti-supernatural  science for decades. It’s the same line Prof. Richard Wiseman lays out in his book Paranormality, see: It’s also very simplistic. It’s “all in your head!” Her studies of supposedly haunted places like Hampton Court and the Edinburgh Vaults have revealed that these locations create strange experiences due to non-supernatural factors; she said: “We built a map of the ghostly hotspots and then we took physical measurements, such as the light level, draughts, temperature, humidity and so on; and tried to find if there were any physical factors that might be leading people to have strange experiences. We found that aspects of the physical environment were associated with people's spooky experiences.” I’m guessing she also means things like magnetic fields, infrasonic vibrations and other phenomena that can effect brain function. However this doesn’t explain the recent BBC programme filmed in the Edinburgh Vaults that picked up distinct electronic voice phenomena- EVP, see: As regular HPANWO-readers will know, I take a healthy interest in all things that go bump in the night, see background links below, and I have to question why it is that institutions like the Koestler Unit are not achieving the same results that their non-academic counterparts are. Amateur ghost-hunters and media personalities involved in psychical research do the same studies, sometimes very professionally and scientifically, and gather a massive amount of positive data. In the background links below is a HPANWO Radio interview with Don Philips and Steve Mera who are producing a new mainstream TV show about a proper scientific investigation into spectral phenomena. One of the two sides has made a big mistake. The conventional gut reaction is to assume that it’s not the academic experts who have erred; after all, they are the ones who sit in the seat of knowledge, whose job it is to know as much as possible about the subject, isn’t it? I would say no. I’ve discovered that there are distinct cultural and political reasons why a university institution might deny a reality of this kind even if it is very obviously true, see: and: This would mean that being institutionalized at a university or laboratory acts as a burden, not an empowerment. Therefore independent investigators are essentially operating in a state of comparative liberation. It’s unfair and arrogant to dismiss non-academic researchers, as some have tried to do, because they don’t have an academic qualification in the subject, after all nobody ever questions James Randi’s lack of formal education; this is because he delivers the culturally and politically correct message. These highbrow scholarly types also seem to have a vested interest in keeping their opponents quiet, see: I have no problem with people like Dr Watt saying whatever she likes; I even read books by people like her and attend Skeptic events and conferences. Therefore I suspect that, based on its commentary post above, the New Scientist interview in question gives a misleading and confusing view of the subject of ghosts, ESP and precognitive dreams etc. I recommend that everybody who reads it also goes off and investigates more diverse sources. There they will see a very different story.  


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Anonymous said...

Dear Ben. I like this post and like you I also have an interest in all things para-normal.

There is no-thing 'para-normal' or mystical here FUNDAMENTALLY, nor are we re-defining terms because theory of 'normality' as basis is extricated. If - like the retiring-skeptics say that 'all these things are in the mind' then how can they explicate confidently the so called normal world which is a product of this very same mind? One can never see the full potential or brevity of mind in the objective environment, even if we hypothetically could it would only be mind reflected in the objective sphere via consciousness which is ambivilant. there is however an intuitive portal that science techniques such as evp are beginning to identify.

The layers of the paranormal world are there as much as our so called 'normal' world. What is 'Para-Normal' insinuates that what we experience is 100% normal, how wrong we have been proven to be over the centuries Ben!.

I hope Don and Steves evidence will start opening some eyes Ben. Cheers

Ben Emlyn-Jones said...

Thanks, X. Glad you found this one interesting. I suppose the word "paranormal" is not a good one. There was a time when thunder and lightening were paranormal because we didn't know about electric discharges. It's a word for things we don't yet understand. Interesting thought there, X. Cheers