Thursday, December 6, 2012

To Tell the Truth - Seeking Opinions on Evidence

I think its time for another one of my opinion articles I like to write on occasion. I hope whether you agree with my ideas and opinions or not, they at least get you thinking about the subject and your personal opinions on said topic. With this article, I want to lightly expand and reiterate several of my previous articles while discussing something that is pretty common place in the paranormal field: seeking opinions on evidence.

I want to recall back when I first began ghost hunting in 2006. I always had a fascination with the paranormal from the time I was a pre-teen to present but didn’t start investigating it “officially” until I started HPIR. I didn’t know that much about paranormal investigation and when you are first starting out, sometimes the little things get you really excited. Unfortunately, as I learned more about paranormal things and more importantly, non-paranormal things…my little bubble of excitement partially popped. The primary example I want to use are orbs (see Orbsession). In the beginning, before I knew much about photography other than the fact that I liked using my camera to take photos, I didn’t realize that the “orbs” I was capturing were simply environmental elements being caught on my camera. I started looking up orbs on the internet and quickly found tons of information and photos, many of which seemed to support that orbs were paranormal. I felt pretty excited that maybe, just maybe I had captured a ghost! However in my further research I came across a few well written articles by some individuals who had much more expertise in photography than I and who suggested that those little balls on my photos were nothing more than dust, moisture and so on. That was a lesson I quickly learned, it was disappointing to learn that orbs were not ghosts, but that set the foundation for me of doing your homework on your evidence.

Most investigators post evidence findings of their investigations publically, which opens you up for opinions and of course criticism too. Often new investigators or someone who may have inadvertently captured an oddity want opinions on the things they have captured. It is very exciting to capture something you can’t explain on audio, video or camera but in my opinion, you need to try to set aside the emotions of your capture and put your analytical investigator hat on. If you are an investigator, analyzing evidence means you should be examining what you have captured closely, perhaps like a detective would do. If you are not a seasoned investigator, you may just be seeking input on what you caught. If you get too excited about your evidence or inadvertent capture (and decide to share it publically) you may be setting yourself up to have your bubble burst if you are not prepared for some criticism. Disappointment is not a good feeling, and often that disappointment can turn into resentment and anger.

I have seen and personally experienced the disappointment and defensiveness in people who can not handle constructive criticism of their evidence. We all want others to agree with us and I totally understand that, but when an alternative explanation is presented, I’ve witnessed some simply go off the deep end. I have had photos sent to me that were complete fakes (aka: phone app ghosts), I don’t know if they were intentional fakes or they honestly thought they were real, but I gave my honest opinion and in a professional manner. Most times I get a reply of thank you or maybe no response at all, but a few rare instances I have gotten some direct and indirect responses from those who were upset with our alternative explanations (and I’m not just talking about photos). If someone wants an opinion of something that I honestly can not explain, I will tell them that I have no explanation for this. After all, we are not experts in the field of the paranormal, but we are willing to share our knowledge of what we do know. Offering alternative explanations is not meant to be hurtful, but instead hopefully it will be helpful to those seeking an answer.

Going back to that emotional response; it’s easy to get angry with someone who you feel is being critical and I’ve seen many who do not provide their opinions with much tact. But if you are seeking input on something, my best advice is to be prepared for an answer you may not want to hear. The easy explanation is to be nice and polite and agree with someone simply for the sake of argument or the worry of hurting someone’s feelings. As the old saying goes “the truth hurts” could not be more accurate. When our group offers an opinion it is delivered in a professional and honest way and is based from research that our members have done and it’s never intentionally done to hurt anyone or any group.

Everyone has their own opinions and ideas of what evidence is and what it is not. Sometimes just doing a little research will help you get closer to the answer you may be seeking. You may not always find the answer you expected but allowing your emotions to drive your perceptions of the paranormal may blur the line between something that is authentic and something that is a false positive. Why should anyone get angry over being given an alternative explanation when you have sought out their input? It’s pretty standard all across the board if you are a paranormal team or investigator to share evidence among your peers. Allowing others to analyze your findings and even using your findings to further their own research is a positive thing.

The HPIR evidence analysis process for our own findings is very critical. We try to go over everything with a fine tooth comb and when it doubt, we throw it out. This all goes back to my previous article (see Evidence Credibility) and how you should be your own biggest critic. Those who offer their findings to be analyzed or are seeking opinions from any investigator or group: before you let those emotions drive you to be angry because you didn’t get the answer you were hoping for, just listen to them. You don’t have to agree, but if you consider a new perspective you may come closer to finding those answers you seek.

HPIR Founder

Monday, December 3, 2012

Haunted Travels: Middle Creek Battlefield and the Hatfield & McCoy Family Feud

When the leaves are at their peak of color, I always enjoy a long drive though the mountains and back roads of our local area to enjoy the colors and scenery during the transformation of the trees. Usually while out for our annual drive, I try to find some historic and haunted locations for some added side trips along the way. This year, I chose to travel Eastern Kentucky, from Catlettsburg to Pikeville and from there over to Matewan and back up north to Huntington on old Rt. 52 though Mingo and Wayne Counties. Im pretty familiar with old Rt. 52 down to Matewan but I am less familiar with the Kentucky side. We didn’t really have a specific destination in mind when we headed out, but along our journey we chose a few interesting stops on along the way.

Our first stop was to visit Middle Creek Battlefield just west of Prestonsburg, Kentucky. Not only did I stop there because of the rumors of it being haunted, but more so to take a moment to remember the battle that took place there. I enjoy visiting Civil War sites, as I enjoy history and learning about the area in which we live. There is a certain ambiance a site like this has, maybe not on the same scale as Gettysburg but when you are there you know you are walking on scared ground. The site was eerily quiet and just sitting off to the side of a well traveled thoroughfare. We were the only visitors present at the time, and we walked part of the field and stopped at the historic markers. While I do not know of any specific hauntings of the battlefield, given its bloody past surely there may be some residual energy left behind. There have been a number of investigations by other groups that have taken place at Middle Creek Battlefield and some have yielded results.

(Just a side note to those out there who enjoy ghost hunting: With any investigation, you need to show a considerable amount of reverence of certain locations when investigating. A battlefield, a church, historically significant site or a cemetery would be a place that deserves added respect while investigating. Any location deserves respect, but when on such sacred ground, the amount of respect toward these areas should be top priority to help protect and preserve the history of these sites.)

After leaving the battlefield we headed on to Pikeville. I have never been in Pikeville long enough to explore much, and although we didn’t stay too long we decided to explore two of Kentucky and West Virginia’s most famous families: The Hatfield’s & McCoy’s.

They call it America’s most famous feud, and indeed it is still capturing attention to this day. While in Pikeville we walked up the hill to the Dils Family Cemetery where a number of members of the McCoy family are buried, including the heads of the McCoy family – Randolph and Sarah McCoy. Their former home is only a few blocks away from the cemetery. Many legends surround Pikeville and the two families, and on over to Matewan on the West Virginia side, where the Hatfield’s lived. After the cemetery, we drove part of the Hatfield- McCoy trail up to Matewan (site of the Matewan Massacre), and made stops at the Hog Trial Site and the site of the PawPawTree Incident. With all of the tragic deaths that took place during the feud all those years ago I’m sure they have left a haunting impression on the area.

The areas in which both families are from, my ancestors are from also. I have no direct ties to the Hatfield’s or McCoy’s, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the name Hatfield in particular from my older family members who grew up in Pike County Kentucky and surrounding areas.

One awesome trip and a number of potentially haunted places were abundant in South Eastern Kentucky and Southern West Virginia. I always enjoy exploring the area of my ancestors, because you just never know what you might learn or if you will find an awesome haunted place!

HPIR Founder