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Objective Paranormal Investigating and The "Ghost Effect"

Having a background in psychology, coupled with a career as a criminal investigator and interviewer, I started looking at the witnesses to hauntings from a psychological perspective to see what they were thinking while describing the paranormal experiences they were reporting. I wanted to know not only what they were thinking, but also what they were feeling. One question that kept popping up in my mind was, why do people perceive what they perceive when it comes to a haunting? While some witnesses report that they freak out and run when they see a ghost, others find it amazing or feel like the spirit is just part of their family. The PPA receives a wide variety of different types of requests for help, and there seems to be just as many, or more, emotional reactions to ghosts and other paranormal activity as there are requests. So, I started to look at the people, along with the activity. Wow, did this open a whole new can of worms that, on a few occasions, I wished that I had not opened. Let’s just say that some things are much better left in some people’s minds and we’ll leave it at that. However, there were some really amazing insights that came from this line of study that helped me understand that our team was on the right track with the way we wanted to evolve and investigate cases. A common pattern was starting to emerge in clients with each new case we conducted. It’s important to understand the client’s reaction when a paranormal event happens and the type of activity that they are reporting. Perception is everything in this line of work and it affects the way people report things to you, even if it is unknowingly wrong.

What I discovered was that there was something occurring with many of our clients. I call it, The Ghost Effect. I repeatedly observed that people will report having a real, or seemingly real, perception of an encounter with a ghost, or become an unexpected witness to a paranormal event, such as a cup sliding cross a table. Then, after that experience, every odd incident becomes, “The ghost did it!” It doesn’t matter if there are rational explanations for the incident or not. The person’s mind has become instantly conditioned to believe a ghost caused the activity. From this point forward, many clients have a hard time staying objective and their mind can become their worst enemy, especially if they are scared. This is not to say that there isn’t a haunting taking place or that some of the events that are happening aren’t legitimately paranormal, but ALL of the events tend to get lumped into one big ball of HAUNTED, instead of being looked at individually.

I‘ve found that it is very important to look at each reported event individually. Every experience needs to be picked apart and the job of the investigator is to separate the normal from paranormal. If perceived paranormal events can be separated into these two categories, when the normal events happen again, the clients will then understand why and not become afraid that a ghost is there to harm them. The Ghost Effect is a type of post-traumatic stress from an extreme event or from continually witnessing paranormal events over time. Ruling out the paranormal from normal events and educating the witnesses are the first steps to helping them become grounded again. This effect can happen to investigators when they witness something profound during an investigation. If their minds are left to run wild, investigators will be looking at everything as a paranormal occurrence thereafter, rather than objectively analyzing it as a single event that may have a normal cause. I will say it again; no expectations and no anticipation are a must! They feed the mind. Our team has learned to pick apart every event they experience.

There is an opposite side to The Ghost Effect when investigators, or even skeptics, conclude that a place is not haunted based on a very limited look at the location. This is often an issue with new investigators and one that I constantly have to reinforce to our new members to avoid. It tends to occur in homes or businesses that do not have a lot of square footage. The smaller the location, the slower time seems to pass, especially if there is nothing going on, paranormally speaking. Quiet locations are often the “nightmare” for investigators, much like the haunting is for the clients. Putting it simply, at small, quiet locations, there is less to check out. Investigators are there to experience the activity the clients are reporting and then find the cause, normal or paranormal. When nothing is occurring and everything that can be looked into has been covered, investigators start getting bored. I have heard investigators say, after being on a case only two or three hours, “There’s nothing going on here.” My question to them is always, “How do you know”? Is it fair to make a snap decision based on being at a site for only a few hours on one night? When you break down the most active places, generally there are only one or two things that happen on any given day, and most people will report that the activity isn’t occurring every day. Even with daily activity, if only one event happened on that particular day, you have to be in the right place at the right time, looking in the right direction, to experience that “one” thing. That’s not an easy feat to accomplish. To be fair to the clients and to the location, more than a few hours should be spent investigating a site before any definite conclusions are made when no activity is present. Otherwise, you can really only say that there is no activity happening there at that moment, but not that a haunting isn’t occurring. To say the location is not haunted would be presumptuous, unless you have been able to rule out, through the investigation, all of the reported activity as being normally caused. This is where I found that utilizing a credible medium can be an invaluable asset to an investigative team.

The above information is taken from my book, Chasing Shadows – A Criminal Investigator’s Look into the Paranormal. For more information on the “Ghost Affect” or Chasing Shadows, please check out the below link for details.

Good luck and stay objective!

By Mark A. Keyes | Director of the PPA


After working for years as a criminal investigator, Detective Mark Keyes turns his investigative skills towards the paranormal to help uncover the cause of a strange experience he had as a young boy. Detective Keyes is ultimately searching to uncover the truth and answer the question that he and so many others have asked—Are ghosts real?

Detective Keyes takes you through his true life story, an evolution from criminal investigator to paranormal investigator, as he tests psychic phenomena and inserts himself into the supernatural world of haunted homes and businesses.





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