91Skeptic - investigations
- Sep 13, 1999A good review of magnet therapy is found at:
I've found that most of my efforts to investigate a paranormal claim end
with the claimant backing out of negotiations for a test. The following
is some discussion on the matter from Peter:
Peter Huston <phuston@...>
This was something that some of us wanted to do early on but didn't do that
much of in the final assessment.
When we started the organization, we had a person who makes his living
working in the private investigations field join our group. He's not a PI
(for which you need a license) but he makes his living doing skip-tracing,
tracking down objects and people that are in the wrong place and returning
them to where they belong for a fee. His skills are amazing. I was also
very enthusiastic about this.
We ran into a few problems or obstacles with this.
1) One day we went, he and I, unofficially, and decided to investigate the
local professional psychic. He told her he was looking for a missing child
(which was true) and he wanted to see if she could help us (which was true
although we never believed she could be any help.) He told her we were
thinking of producing a public access TV show, which was als true.
She said bring the date of birth, the name, a photo, and an object that
belongs to the child, as well as a map of where they dissapeared
We brought her stuff for four children, but only one was missing. Sometimes
our stuff didn't quite match altogether.
We videotaped the woman making a fool out of herself as she was unable to
tell the real missing children from the actual missing child. The videotape
was quite embarrassing. My favorite point was where she accidently held the
map upside down and had the non-missing child going in a direction that
didn't exist after an abduction. She's also been quite open about asking
which of the children had an award attached to their being found, and we'd
answered truthfully, and she'd said she wanted to wait a week to find that
one after getting her psychic powers tuned up or whatever. It was pretty
We realized that if we were to ever air it in any form she would sue us for
sure as this was how she made her living. We did not have the money for any
sort of attorneys. Also, in our zest to find little children who we could
claim were missing, we hadn't been very selective, so we had on video
information stating exactly who our favorite little children were (nieces,
nephews, cousins, etc.). And this was a piece of information neither of us
wished to make public. So we never aired the information.
So hopefully you and others can learn from my mistakes.
2) I've done a bit of investigating.
I also did an analysis of Champ, the Lake Champlain monster, but never
published the results. I also wrote a piece for the weekly newspaper I work
for recently on how a local martial arts instructor walks on glass and hope
to post it to the web-site sometime soon, but have been too busy to do
3) One problem with investigating is that a large percentage of the people
who come to you with a problem seem to present the obvious solution that
the real problem is in their head. Really. I say this with no value
judgement. The bulk of people who have contacted me in the last year or two
with a "problem of a paranormal nature" have appeared to have some very
real problems of either an emotional or psychological nature.
Some time ago, I wrote an essay on what I think skeptics and skeptics
groups should do. If you go to "part 6. bad paranormal claims" then you can
see three examples of this problem.
Obviously it poses many ethical and other problems if I, an untrained
person, start offering possible psychological explanations that resembles
psychiatric advice, although I've done it from time to time when it seems
the simplest thing and the person seems otherwise sane, but just confused
by this one experience.
Personally, advising people to seek psychiatric help does not always strike
me as the best thing when:
1) Many people just have one confusing experience.
2) Seeking psychiatric or psychotherapeutic help does have a proven danger.
3) It's often far outside the reach, financially, of many people who don't
have insurance -which is a lot of people.
So I do what I think is best, on a case by case basis.
I'm going to forward an example that I recieved to the list (deleting the
identifiers as best I can.) If people want I'll forward my response too,
and you can critique it.
"Time always shows me it's hard to
understand how to be myself."
>Eric Krieg eric@...
> Do many of you engage in investigations, i.e. of ghost claims and such?
> What has been you experience?