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Just what is the paranormal?

What do we study?

There are a number of phenomena and subjects that fall under the rubric of our studies.  Our universe is filled with strange phenomena.  The following list (not comprehensive, of course) includes items meritting study in our organization:


What is the paranormal?

Paranormal....the very word brings to mind ESP and sightings of ghosts. In general, the phenomena of paranormal nature do indeed seem to, for the most part, escape scientific scrutiny. Hence, we dub these events paranormal. But what exactly is the paranormal?

Webster's Dictionary defines paranormal as "of or pertaining to events or perceptions occuring without scientific explanation, as clairvoyance or extrasensory perception." Thus, we may surmise that a great many phenomena fall under the vast category of the paranormal. This page is devoted to describing and relaying those things that fall into the category of the paranormal.

How do we study the paranormal?

Serious scholarly study of the paranormal invovles a multidisciplinary approach, just by virtue of the nature of paranormal phenomena.  Unlike laboratory science, these phenomena are seldom (if at all) reproducable in an experimental setting.  This characteristic naturally raises some questions.  Since the matter and methods of this branch of study have difficulty rendering objectifiable data, is the pursuit even valid, or worth it?  The answer is yes.  The study of the paranormal renders qualitative data that is of great anthropological, folkloric, historical, paraspsychological, religious, and sociological import.  Generally, the phenomena have ramefications in all of these fields.  By recording the stories that people relate, investigating sites and phenomena of a wide variety, and conducting historical research on such sites and occurences, a great corpus of information may be produced that may give insight into aforesaid supernatural happenings.

The basis of any sound investigation is background research.  The genesis of an investigation may come from a lead, a story that is related to the investigator, or a headline in a news paper--any number of things could generate it.  Upon discovering a particular phenomenon to study, one should extensively pursue historical and anthropological avenues concerning the case.  Every effort is made to secure contacts with persons willing to cooperate and participate in the investigation.  This methodology involves locating and interviewing persons directly involved with the phenomenon, or those who have knowledge of it, and research of the history and folklore of the area in which the phenomenon is taking place.  Investigators keep detailed notes in a journal or notebook and interviews are transcribed, to facilitate synthesis of data in the case.  Hence, the first step in any case, should involve this type of preparatory research.

The next step in the process of paranormal investigation is field work, which has been mentioned to some degree concerning interviews.  However, fieldwork often involves actual on site investigation, especially in the cases of hauntings and possessions.  At this point, the methodolgy of paranormal study becomes very eclectic.  Depending on research questions about the case, any number of disciplines may be utilized--hard sciences and humanities.  The usage of various audio and video recording devices, electromagnetic and radioactive meters, cameras, and other such devices is common in cases involoving spiritual beings, especially when attempting to record hard data.  Use of such devices and the guaging of the results in relation to spirits is still somewhat experimental, but often helpful nonetheless.  However, such things as Christian exorcism are also implemented in the case of malevolent spirits.  In any investigation, the approach is tailored to the particular circumstances of  the case, and the research design of the project.

When field work is complete, researchers must confer with one another and persons involved with the case.  Investigators should be mindful and absolutely respectful of persons directly involved.  Their wishes should be taken into account and executed.  Once a consensus is reached about how to proceed with collected data, the results should be synthesized.  This process invovles taking field notes background research and producing a report of the case and any conclusions reached. 

Ideally, the resolution of the investigative project is twofold.  It involves the sharing of findings and giving aid to persons in the case if it is needed.  Results should be made available to three main groups:  the persons involved with the case, the general public, and the academic community.  This object may be accomplished by publication in a journal, via the internet, newsletter, or other appropriate method.  The monograph should be exacting, accounting for methodology and theory, details of the case, conclusions, and careful citation of all sources utilized.  The aid that persons involved in the case may need will be dictated by circumstances.  It may be as simple as sharing findings, or as drastic as an exorcism.

The method of paranormal investigation outlined above is the general method that we in the WTPRS utilize.  As mentioned, each case is unique, and demands a certain amount of tailoring.  For example, studying the sightings of a folkloric creature will necessitate a different approach than that of investigating a haunting.  Whatever the case entails, we here at the WTPRS address it with an open mind and careful methodology

(c) West Texas Paranormal Research Society, 2000-2008