The word “science” or “scientific” has been thrown around in the field of ghost hunting and paranormal investigation for many years. What does science offer a field that is almost completely philosophic in nature, from the lack of insurmountable evidence to the loose theories that fuel our pursuits?
The pursuit of our field officially began on February 20, 1882 in England when the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) was officially constituted. This new organization was formed from Cambridge University students and other individuals who had ties to possible paranormal situations as well as many skeptics. The goal of the SPR was to investigate claims of para-psychological phenomenon through objective investigation (Irwin, 1994 pp14). This pursuit was not of interest to other established fields of science and has since been viewed by them as a ‘fringe” science or mere hobby.
The United States, as well as England, played an important role in the scientific pursuit of this field. In 1848 the Spiritualist movement officially began with the Fox sisters of Hydesville, New York. Maggie and Kate Fox were purportedly able to communicate with the spirit of a deceased man who was supposedly buried on their property. The girls became famous and a tour would soon ensue, with them giving demonstrations of their supposed abilities. This sparked others to gain heavy interest in communicating with the other side, as mediums began to spring up in New York, and soon all over the United States.
This is when people began conducting séances and communicating with the other side; or were they? Money began to exchange hands for grieving relatives to have a chance to speak to their deceased family members. Soon many individuals and groups began to question the validity of these claims, resulting in investigations and controls over conducting these séances came into effect.
Over time, more and more mediums were exposed as frauds and the public and the scientific community began to lose interest in any possible validity in this field. Spiritualism was dead.
Parapsychology continued its pursuit of claims of Psi (ESP, PK and survival of bodily death) through the decades and became very strong in the 1960s and 1970s through college programs that offered grants to pursue this field. In the late 1970s and 1980s, the money began to disappear and parapsychologists began to be absorbed into other fields, pursuing their interest in their spare time. Thus we have come to the ebb of the professional pursuit of paranormal abilities and events, although there has been recent involvement with the press and television that has thrust these professionals into the public eye.