Despite criticism ghost-hunting groups and members of such groups are growing and thriving around the world. Their popularity is fuelled by television shows, films, the Internet and the increasing availability of high-tech equipment and detailed books like Ghost Hunting: How to Investigate the Paranormal. This particular book, written by Loyd Auerbach, director of the Office of Paranormal Investigations, covers the investigative process from the initial call and assessment to the on-site investigative techniques and technology.

It explains how to come up with solutions and resolutions and ways to get rid of the phenomena and goes on to discuss fraudulent cases besides looking at other non-ghostly happenings with paranormal explanations. The book also includes use of technology and the use of psychics in paranormal investigations and explores if anyone can prove the existence of ghosts. Such books and articles incorporating a common sense approach to investigating ghostly happenings, including apparitions, hauntings and poltergeists are avidly read by many ghost-hunters.

However, critics cite instances of some so-called paranormal groups that mimic the methodology of a traditional ghost. Their primary goal though is to frighten the client into a belief that they are in danger and that immediate action to cleanse the home is imperative. These groups will act quickly to confuse the client by pointing to certain items in the home as being “possessed” and will then offer to remove said items to make the home safe.

Typically, these items are antiques, relics, or family heirlooms that will later be put on display in a paranormal museum hosted by the said group where a charge is incurred for admission to view such articles. Curiously, individuals engaged in ghost-hunting and paranormal investigation, whose numbers appear to be growing as quickly as groups, seem to come in for less trenchant criticism than groups.

According to encyclopeadic sources, individuals engaged in ghost-hunting and paranormal investigation have varying motives for their activities.

* Some ghost-hunters consider themselves hobbyists whose primary motivation is the excitement of the hunt and the thrill of possibly experiencing something supernatural.

* Others consider themselves serious researchers who follow a number of scientific protocols and share documentation of their research with other groups in an effort to discover proof that ghosts exist. They often go about their pursuit in a prescribed manner to gather evidence of paranormal activity at a given location, or debunk false positive reports of hauntings. Many established groups fall into this category.

* Still others consider themselves to be providing a service, and focus their investigation on offering comfort and assistance to individuals who feel they are experiencing unexplained or paranormal activity at a home or other location. The approach of these investigators is to alleviate the fears of the occupants by listening to their experiences and providing advice and reassurance.

In India, a national daily carried a report in May 2015 of how “an increasing number of urban Indian professionals are signing up for courses and training in paranormal sciences from a host of institutes that have mushroomed across India. And the cost of these courses — which can touch Rs 75,000 — is no deterrent”.

These days, most groups advertise their services online in hopes of finding new and interesting places to explore, but the majorities do not charge for investigations. Summarised by groups, there are four basic classifications of ghost-hunters, though many groups can fall into one or more categories. 1. Scientific, generally out to either prove or disprove paranormal phenomena such as ghosts through the use of scientific protocols. 2. Interactive, using both science and practiced beliefs to form an answer. This group can include students of cryptozoology, UFOs and conspiracies. 3. Chasers, avid believers out to prove by any means that a phenomenon does exist, regardless of evidence. 4. Religious believers who specialise in religious beliefs or occult beliefs and who fight against the practices of negative forces such as demons and evil presences.

There are other groups too such as those who have an open mind about the existence or non-existence of ghosts. The starting point for this group seems to be innumerable ghost stories and a “surely they can’t all be fiction” approach. Then there is the group of die-hard ghost believers who were once die-hard critics or skeptics and were converted by actual, first hand encounters with ghosts or ghostly happenings at haunted places or other very personal paranormal experiences.

The swelling number of people interested in the paranormal in America at any rate is reflected in a 2013 Harris Poll finding  that  “while most U.S. adults believe in God, for all religions, the percentage of believers has declined from 82% in 2005 to 74% today. Correspondingly, the poll showed that belief in the supernatural had gone up. The poll found that “more people, viz, 58% believe in the devil than Darwin’s theory of evolution, viz 47%, and almost as many people as those who believe in Darwin’s theory believe in ghosts, viz 42%”. The poll revealed further that 36% each believe in creationism and UFOs, 29% believe in astrology, 26% believe in witches and 24 perfect believe in reincarnation.  Incidentally, the 2013 Harris Poll was the last of its kind till date.

The Pew Research Centre has quoted Claude Fischer, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley who explored Americans’ persisting beliefs in some supernatural phenomena in a 2013 blog post. “As we approach Halloween, note that most American adults in the 21st Century say that they believe in life after death and in the devil,” Fischer wrote, citing data from Gallup and other sources. “Over one-third say that they believe in the spirits of the dead coming back; about that many also say they believe in haunted houses.” Despite the influence of modern secularism and science, he observed, “the magic has not totally gone.”


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