Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ghost Hunting and Urban Exploration: Some Things to Consider

by Chris Chaos

How priming can set you up for failure. Priming is activating particular associations in memory. An example might be watching various paranormal shows on TV prior to investigating a location, or reading books concerning ghosts. Although popular concenses may state that the particular location IS haunted, consider all possibilities as to why and how people came to this conclusion about the location. Many locations get the attribute of being haunted for many reasons. Some may be for tourism reasons, others may be that it was a former mental hospital or prison where many atrocities have occurred. Some business owners have been known to start the rumor that their establishment is haunted to draw in interest and more business. For once you have a belief, it influences how you perceive all other relevant information. If you enter a location believing that it is haunted, then every noise you hear, every shadow that you see will convince you further that the place IS haunted. Most likely the noise that you heard came from another team member clumsily stomping around, or a mouse, a bird or possibly a homeless person that seeked shelter in the building that you are investigating. Entering a location with a neutral frame of mind will produce far greater and accurate results. For every piece of information that you gather that confirms your original thoughts and suspisions, try to find a piece that will disprove it. Opposing information is just as important as information that is confirming, if not even more important.

A healthy and appropriate amount of skepticism will usually yield correct results. With each piece of evidence that confirms your beliefs or what you suspected, please reserve some skepticism to test if the original theory is correct. Confirmation bias (a tendency to search for information that confirms one's preconceptions) is usually counter productive without "conflicting" evidence.

Cursed hammer
William Shakespeare said it best: "The error of our eye directs our mind: what error leads must err"

Usually when one has a solid belief in if a location is haunted or not they ignore all contridicting evidence. This is called Belief Perseverance (persistence of one's initial conceptions, such as when the basis for one's belief is discredited but an explanation of why the belief might be true survives). Many are enticed by the unknown and thrive on the thrill of the hunt, not really caring about the futilness of actually finding anything that is logical.

Amatuers fueled by the popular ghost hunting TV shows, riled up by the stories in Weird NJ and inspired by reading a ghost story may prematurly set off to a location and conduct an impromptu “ghost hunting” session having not properly conducted the research needed to come to any sort of logical conclusion. Usually this behavior is mirrored by individuals that feel the need to either vandalize, take souvenirs or drink and party at the location, disrespecting everything in the process.

"We hear and apprehend only what we already half know" Henry Thoreau

I never really liked the term “ghost hunter”, it always conjured up images of rednecks hopping into a pick up truck and heading off to an adventure. Also are you really hunting ghosts? Or are you investigating a specific location that was rumored to be haunted, using scientific measures to determine if the place is haunted or not? For us we do enjoy venturing to locations that even angels fear to tread. Many of the locations that we researched and documented are/were in danger of being torn down in the name of progress. As reported, after we walked through, took photos, did tests and noted the history and logged our experiences many of the locations have been torn down.

We have documented the history, researched why the location might have been deemed haunted, took photos/videos and conducted experiments to see if there were any spirits at the location. We consider ourselves urban explorers, documentors of historic architect, investigators of the paranormal, preservers of legend and lore. We preserve the various legends and lore of the place with the scientific research of the history of the location to come to our conclusions.

Sometimes this works backwards and the Misinformation Effect may marry Hindsight Bias. The Misinformation Effect is incorporating misinformation into one's memory of the event, after witnessing an event and receiving misleading information about it. Hindsight bias, also known as the knew-it-all-along effect or creeping determinism, is the inclination, after an event has occurred, to see the event as having been predictable, despite there having been little or no objective basis for predicting it, prior to its occurrence. What this means is that you may go out and investigate a location, gather all your information and then when the investigation is complete an outside source may tarnish the gathered evidence by interjecting information that was misleading or bad information. You may look back and figure that whatever was said might have actually happened.

Happy exploring and documenting!

(Chris Chaos is a long time resident of South Jersey who once again resides in and writes from Gloucester City, New Jersey. He is a filmmaker, a business owner, writer, urban explorer and investigator of the odd and weird, a proud parent, happily taken and a connoisseur of hot wings. Chris can be reached at

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