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I’ve never been the biggest fan of all these paranormal TV shows, although I’ve watched a few.  Some have their merits and others seem a little too sensational to be taken seriously.  But I had never thought about the difference between paranormal investigators and ghost hunters until I saw an article in the Supernatural Magazine on the subject.  It raised a few interesting concepts on the differences between those who are ghost hunting and those investigating the paranormal in all its forms.

Building credibility

Back in the 1980s, if you had said you were a paranormal investigator, someone would have sung you the theme tune from Ghostbusters and by the 1990s, you would have been likened to the relevant cast member of the X-Files.  It was a hobby for some people, not really very serious and because the technology wasn’t what it was today, tended towards a lot of vague ideas and ‘feelings’.

But times have changed and according to a Gallup Poll in 2005, some 32% of people believe in ghosts, with numbers altering slightly around the world but everyone having a much stronger belief – and being willing to admit it.

This commonplace belief in the supernatural has led to an obvious desire to prove ghosts and spirits exist and led to the currently plethora of shows dealing with the subject.  But as with anything, there are those who say they do a thing and those that actually do.  So how do you know the difference?

Paranormal investigation

By definition, paranormal investigation involves the investigation of an event that is outside the normal, not necessarily just ghosts or hauntings.  A paranormal investigator can look into anything from spirits to UFOs to cryptozoological creatures and much more.  In fact, if asked, a paranormal investigator would say that only a small amount of what they do happens in a location that is associated with a haunting.

The process for many with a haunted location involves the history of the place, both normal and paranormal.  It could involve interviewing people who have lived or worked there, collecting stories and information as well as tales of the supposed ghosts.

Technology is a big part of the investigation, with the aim of collecting hard data.  Most people will admit getting a little excited if they think something paranormal is going on or even get spooked.  But equipment doesn’t get flustered, frightened or becoming influenced by opinion and that’s why it is so important.  Cameras to video cameras and other data recording information are crucial to the investigation.

Ghost hunting

Ghost hunting, as the name suggests, does tend to focus more on ghosts and hauntings.  Some believe it is primarily about having fun and experiencing something scary, hopefully paranormal but I doubt that serious ghost hunters would subscribe to this.  It does tend to be that people hunting ghosts are more accepting of the idea that they exist, whereas a paranormal investigator may be a sceptic who’s aim is to explain away any supposed paranormal evidence.

The main difference between the approaches is that ghost hunting uses technology but tends to rely a little less on it.  They put a lot of stock on what people think, see and also feel – remember our senses feed us a lot of information and we don’t always register it as a sight or a sound.  Technology is there as a backup, to record what the people see or experience and maybe spot something that they missed.

Ghost hunting has become something of a weekend hobby for some people but this doesn’t mean they aren’t just as serious as the more scientific paranormal investigator.  And let’s remember that many significant breakthroughs in history have been made by people doing something because they want to and as a hobby rather than a serious profession.

One or the other?

Choosing between one approach or the other is probably more about your personal preference.  If you are extremely scientific, then the approach of the paranormal investigator may be favourable for you, involving much analysis of the evidence to form a conclusion.  However, if your approach is a little more instinctual and you rely on your gut, then a ghost hunt could be a great place for you to experiment with this and see what you see.