I recently found myself arguing the authenticity of a photograph that showed an unexplainable anomaly. I wasn’t present when the photo was taken, but I was afforded the honor of viewing an original, raw file less than an hour later. I don’t want to discuss the details of the analysis here except to say that several individuals were involved, and that no stone was left unturned. Is it possible for experienced, qualified, and knowledgeable analysts to have missed something? Absolutely, but the effort was exhaustive, and consumed a great deal of time.
We were stumped. So was the photographer, and I don’t mind saying that I would sooner believe my dog has a Princeton degree in taxidermy than I would entertain the notion that this man would alter, doctor, or hoax any paranormal evidence – ever! The image cannot be explained, in our opinion. Notice that I have not proclaimed it to be a photo of something “paranormal,” even though, by definition alone, I very well could. Everyone involved with analyzing the original image believes it to be unexplainable.
And yet, years later, I find myself defending this image online. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, because reasonable analysis is always valuable when it comes to paranormal evidence. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. Most of the comments clearly indicated a severe lack of knowledge about cameras, light, photo manipulation, and definitely, the paranormal. One individual even admitted to this lack of intelligence while arrogantly insisting on an impossible explanation. Truth is, not one single dubious comment indicated even the tiniest amount of scholarship.
I wanted to scream! If I had, it would have been something unintelligible, I’m sure, but somewhere in there I would have said, “You can’t comment intelligently if you don’t know anything. Please, be quiet!” And I would have been right. The problem is, however, that I made assumptions. I assumed paranormal investigators would be trained. I assumed they knew the effect of shutter speeds on a photograph, or how to calculate the approximate speed of a moving object caught on film. I assumed they could recognize the difference between infrared and ultra violet. I assumed they understood that voices you hear with your ears are not EVP. I assumed they knew more than how to spell the word “ghost,” but I should know better than to assume anything.
Folks! We can’t do our jobs as investigators, researchers or analysts with nothing more than an appreciation of the paranormal. We’re supposed to know stuff before we investigate. What’s the point of collecting evidence if you haven’t a clue about how to spot it? If you’re going to be skeptical, then have well-considered reasons behind your opinions. I don’t know how else to say this – no one should be allowed membership on a paranormal team without first indicating that you understand the nature of what you’re doing.
Learn about your equipment and methods, study the manuals, master every setting, and fully understand what kind of results you can expect. Learn how to discredit those results from a position of knowledge. Base nothing on feelings, hunches, or probabilities. Be observant and diligent; pay attention to details and subtleties. And if you don’t know what you’re talking about, for God’s sake – for everyone’s sake, please be quiet!