Interview with Director of Paranormal Investigations, Loyd Auerbach.
Halloween is the season where we all turn our attention to ghost stories and sharing our personal stories of hauntings. I've certainly had my full share over many years and I'm of the camp of believers.
Halloween is the season where we all turn our attention to ghost stories and sharing our personal stories of hauntings. I've certainly had my full share over many years and I'm of the camp of believers. Do I expect them to be congruent or the reality of another? Not at all. Ghostly activity stirs our emotions. Some terrify you and cause the hairs on the back of your neck to rise, while others warm your heart as you feel the sensation of love wash over you while you visit a dearly departed's grave.
20 years ago, while doing a college research paper on Parapsychology, I spoke with Loyd Auberbach
after reading his book "ESP, Hauntings, and Poltergeists: A Parapsychologist's Handbook which was published in 1986. This book was named the "Sacred Text" on ghosts by Newsweek in August 1996. Auerbach is the Director of The Office of Paranormal Investigations and has been in the field for over 30 years focusing on education and field investigations. He's the author of 8 books and has made thousands of media appearances in radio, print and television including Larry King Live, Oprah and The View. He is a professor at Atlantic University and JFK University, and teaches Parapsychology at HCH Institute in California. President of the Forever Family Foundation
, he is also on the Board of the Rhine Research Center
and advisory board of the Windbridge Institute
. I consider him the 'real deal' Ghost Buster and love his grounded approach. He's always a joy to speak to and offers a wealth of fascinating information.
ROBIN: For our readers who may be unfamiliar with the term, what is Parapsychology? And what does the study of it involve?
LOYD: Parapsychology is the study of psychic phenomena: experiences, abilities and phenomena of consciousness including ESP (extrasensory perception),
PK (psychokinesis, or mind over matter), and Survival of Bodily Death (Consciousness surviving the death of the body). The experiences include various forms of ESP (telepathy, clairvoyance/remote viewing, precognition, etc. -- information gleaned without the use of the "normal" senses and perceptual processes associated with them or the use of logical inference or even intuition). The term
PK can be applied to any affect of consciousness directly on matter or energy, including moving objects, metal bending, healing (including anomalous self-healing), and affects on electronic devices. Poltergeists are a
PK related situation. Survival covers apparitional experiences (ghosts),
hauntings, reincarnation, out of body experiences and Near Death Experiences, as well as ostensible spirit communication (including
EVP). Most parapsychologists focus on laboratory ESP and
PK work, some on fieldwork/field investigation, and some of us also work on applying psychic abilities to real world situations.
ROBIN: You've been a paranormal investigator for over 30 years. How did it even start for you?
LOYD: Really nothing psychic, contrary to what most people expect. In actuality, I was watching TV shows from a very early age that influenced me, such as Topper, The Twilight Zone, and One Step Beyond. Looking back, Topper probably gave me my first "taste" of ghosts. Early on, I also read lots of mythology and science fiction, and especially superhero comic books. I was also a bit of a science geek as a kid. Combine all of that, throw in a dash of Star Trek and Dark Shadows, and I think I almost had to discover the books in the library on Parapsychology. I believed then, as I believe now, that psychic abilities are probably normal and untapped. This never seemed a strange conclusion, to me, and really it seemed Science was missing the boat on considering experiences and abilities that expanded our understanding of who we are as Human Beings. In the early 70s, the short-lived TV show The Sixth Sense, coupled with my being able to meet and talk with some NY area parapsychologists pushed me over the cliff and I just had to get into the field. I was able to find a couple of my teachers in high school willing to sponsor a Parapsychology Society in our school, and fortunate to be able to meet several NY area researchers, who further encouraged me.
ROBIN: I began reading your work over 20 years ago. I don't think many are aware of the scientific approach to examine these paranormal events. Some may think it's just going to a location and 'Oh, a ghost!... and that's it. It's much more involved. Could you expand on that?
LOYD: There's over 130 years of background here, beginning even before the formation of the Society for Psychical Research in 1882, founded by some (at the time) big name physical and social scientists. In other words, hard to answer this in a short form and do it justice.
Our process involves trying to isolate what might be paranormal from what's got other explanations -- we always look for "normal" explanations first and foremost, to isolate what we want to actually study. We pay attention to everything from the psychological/perceptual to the physical environment, and of course, often bring in psychics/mediums as additional "detectors" to compare against the witnesses' experiences. We also pay attention to common sense (and research based) methods, avoiding those which could confound the situation.
One example is investigating in the dark, as one sees on TV -- there is research indicating how bad people are at perceiving things in the dark, and from my experience as a mentalist/psychic entertainer and former magician, all sorts of normal things can skew an observer's perceptions in the dark. Not to mention that it's extremely rare to have witnesses reporting only "seeing" ghosts in the dark! However, not all parts of a typical investigation are pure science-based, as we also have an ethical mandate to help the people who have called us in, and sometimes the scientific method goes out the window.
ROBIN: I want to talk about this new crop of TV show ghost hunters. I chose not to watch them as I know it's not all sensational drama. Seems like anyone and everyone is starring ghost buster groups, tours. How do we find the real deal who have earnest education?
LOYD: People need to be educated consumers. Ask the "ghost hunters" what they know about Parapsychology and where/from what sources they learned it. Ask them how they got started doing investigations, who or what they've learned from (hint: if they learned from watching the TV shows, run!) Ask them about their equipment (hint: if they say they have anything that can "detect ghosts" or "prove whether you have a ghost or not" they know not of what they speak, and are just blindly following the herd) If they claim certification, ask them what organization/individual certified them, then check out the organization/individual. If they claim a Ph.D. in anything related to the paranormal/Parapsychology, again ask where they got their degree (some diploma mills offer them). Do ask them what they're going to do to HELP you, and expect NO guarantees. No one can guarantee either proof (evidence, yes) or the ability to get rid of the phenomena (past success, yes, but no guarantees).
ROBIN: Haunting vs An Apparition. You explained on your recent guest appearance with Art Bell that these are two types of 'activity'. Explain this for us.
LOYD: Apparitions, or what people commonly call ghosts, are defined as the consciousness/personality of a person surviving the death of the body, and capable of interaction with us. There are actually several classes of apparitions, including apparitions of living people.
Hauntings are place centered (sometimes object centered), and appear to be repetitive activity, often with an identifiable pattern. Our best model these days is that the environment "records" events/people/activity (of the living, by the way) and our brains are capable of "replaying" some of this recorded information back through our perceptions. Apparitions interact, as you'd expect of a person. Hauntings are more like video recordings (no interaction).
ROBIN: How does an investigation begin? How do you decide it is worthy of it. Most situations have a reasonable explanation and it may not be a ghost, right?
LOYD: Most of my investigations begin with interviews of the witnesses and others in the household or office. If it's a public location, we'll research past sightings/experiences and the history of the place in addition to the interviews. For me to do an investigation, there needs to be witnesses, people who have had experiences to investigate, and preferably more than one person. At least some experiences have to be fairly current, to indicate the phenomena is still happening.
I do not consider spooky looking buildings that either seem like they ought to be haunted, or have rumors about them being haunted for investigation unless there are witnesses to support possible phenomena -- and if the only "witnesses" are ghost hunters who have decided the place is haunted (without any prior/current witnesses), I typically skip the places. As to "reasonable explanations," we always look for alternative, non-psychic/non-paranormal explanations not only for the overall case, but also for the individual events/sightings/experiences. I've found that in even the best cases, if the people are frightened, they are more likely to misinterpret other happenings as "the ghost."
But there are other psychic-related explanations besides a ghost, such as the haunting/imprint piece, or possibly a poltergeist scenario (living person's unconscious mind blowing off stress by psycho-kinetically moving/breaking things), or other psychic perceptions. However, the normal explanations cover a lot more than one would guess from watching the TV shows.
ROBIN: Let's talk psychics. You use mediums for some of your cases. These are a few who have gone through many tests, etc. Not the 'Call me at 1-800' fortune tellers either, but what you consider the real deal. How do you find them?
LOYD: In my case, they come to me, either to volunteer to work with me, or as students of my Parapsychological Studies courses at HCH Institute. Sometimes I meet them at conferences or through reputable organizations. I always have to assess them for both psychic ability and a list of personality qualifications I've developed. For the rest of the world, word of mouth or a recommendation from a reputable researcher or organization is the best. The Forever Family Foundation (I'm the current President) has a list of mediums they've put through their paces and "certified." The Windbridge Institute has a list of mediums vetted for research through an extensive experimental protocol.
I wish to thank Loyd for the time he took for this interview. For more information on these topics and his work, please visit www.mindreader.com
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