I recently read a blog post by fellow paranormal blogger and my co-author of Supernatural Synchronicity; Sarah Chumacero, which was titled ‘Deceptively Exposing Deception.’ Sarah’s post looked at a few concepts of deception, including some of the methods used by one of her favourite paranormal investigators, Houdini. Her post, as so many of them do, sparked the beginning of some thought processes within my mind and before I knew it I was considering the topic myself.
Sarah also spoke about individuals that would spend their time voicing their opinions on how the paranormal field should be ran and the standards it should adapt. Many of these individuals appear to focus their time and energy on the poor behaviours of others and calling that out to the community, rather than actually looking into the paranormal itself.
This focus on others can often materialise in various podcasts and YouTube video, which are certainly less about ghosts and more about the behaviour of the ghost hunters themselves. This linked into the concept of those attempting to reach the truth no matter what they have to do, even if that means deceiving people to trick them into a scenario that catches them out. I think this is where the question of whether deception is something that should be used to gain results. Should we be deceiving people to catch them out or is that equally unsatisfactory as it would still mean that it was not verified that they had ever cheated us in the first place.
As Sarah indicated in her post; if we are using deception to seek the truth, then which truth are we reaching. We have to ask if all are using deception then is there really any truth to be found at all.
James Randi also worked at exposing deception within the paranormal, sometimes running elaborate hoax’s over several years, which included infiltrating parapsychological laboratories. Randi also used magic and his one million dollar challenge to attempt to expose fraud within the paranormal and equally allegedly seek genuine evidence of the paranormal.
Sarah’s final thought in her post stated; “While our methods may not be as elaborate or dramatic as those of Houdini and Randi; we have to ask the question; is using forms of deception the way to go?”
Whilst it may seem like an innovative method for getting to the truth, revealing deception and prove phenomena to be faked; deception as an approach is unethical pure and simple. Tricking people without their knowledge immediately detracts from the value of anything that may have been experienced. We should be finding ways to reveal the charlatans claiming anomalous phenomena is occurring to them by collating and evaluating the evidence available. Two wrongs do not make a right, regardless of the mathematical disagreement.
That said, if the ethics are addressed properly then they can be utilised to leverage the use of deception, then perhaps its an avenue that could be explored. However, it is a route that has to be taken with great caution, because just because you address the ethics of using deception, that doesn’t mean you can use deception as a tool. As you have to take into consideration those you are deceiving and if it is the correct action for the investigation.
There is another approach here that I stumbled across in the book “The Entity Letters’ which alluded to that point that in some circumstances beginning with some deception allowed those at the sittings to suspend their belief and accept the possibility of paranormal activity. Which in turn would allow for actual activity to occur. However, once again we are stuck with an issue regarding the truth, how do we separate the fake activity from the genuine activity. It is certainly a conundrum we need to solve.
Certainly that suspension of belief and allowing ourselves to be more open minded and accepting does oddly seem to allow for an increase in paranormal activity. Although, as someone who asks a lot of questions, does that not mean that we are just becoming more accepting of potential activity without properly evaluating to see if its genuine?
If we look again at those self-proclaimed regulators of the paranormal field that Sarah mentioned, we quickly recognise a double edge-sword that becomes apparent. Some of these are not too bad as they do go about their business capturing proper information in order to provide a proper report on the fraud that they investigate. However, some particular individuals abusively attack other members of the paranormal community and often it very much feels as if those individuals draw pleasure from those negative attacks.
Deception has of course evolved from the days of Mediums and Seance rooms. Whilst they still exist in more modern forms, I would argue that we are now deceived through our technology. This being an area which is often advocated by the entertainment industry, as within the paranormal TV shows we consume they; a) present many gadgets as being able to detect or even communicate with spirits, when there is no true objective evidence to support this; b) there are several statements that suggest that many TV shows may include fake activity or at least define experiences that have logical explanations as being paranormal. The deception therefore becomes hidden in plain sight.
It has no longer become ‘who ya gonna call’ its become ‘who can you trust.’ Which I think is basically a shift from Ghostbusters to X-Files.
Has that belief and desire for an experience or need to find a place within the paranormal community become more important than finding the truth in the paranormal stories that fascinate us. As such are we not just deceiving ourselves.