Sunday, July 25, 2010
Interview with (PRAB) Paranormal Research Association of Boston's Ian Murphy
This is another in my series interviewing paranormal teams from around the world. This team, PRAB of Boston caught my attention because of their focus on the scientific aspects of research. Ya’all often hear me saying that I believe that even in the supernatural/paranormal should be measurable and detectable because it is launched into our physical world where we can see, hear and feel it, so it has to work within the principles of physics. I’m always excited to find teams like this that are looking for those moments of interaction in order to capture or debunk phenomenon.
Ian founded the PRAI (Paranormal Research Association of Ireland) group in Ireland before he came to America.
AUTUMN: Your team takes a scientific approach to studying the paranormal. Does this involve new equipment? Controlled studies? Lab work? Or is this mostly field work? (I'd love to get a picture of what sorts of equipment you use and what parameters you put on your studies, anything that is unique to your approach.)
IAN: The PRAB uses a variety of equipment. We have a full list of it, including images, why we use it and how we use it on our website.
There is a mix of field and theoretical research. I’d say the split is about 70/30. While you can do a lot of work in the field, without theory and research behind it, it is of little use. You need to understand what you are looking for and then what you are looking at. That’s why the PRAB has a long and detailed training and continuing education system.
AUTUMN: Do you get mostly house calls or do you also study landmark haunted sites in the Northeast? Have any been so compelling that you've gone back and studied them again and again?
IAN: We have studied a number of landmark sites in MA, including the USS Salem, and a few businesses who are reputably haunted. However our main work is done with our private clients. We are a team whose primary function is research through helping our community. As we are privy to a lot of confidential information, all members of my team have background checks performed on them. The PRAB is authorized by the Criminal History Services Board of MA to conduct CORI background checks.
All our evidence is continuously being re-checked. For example in 2006 when I was with the PRAI, we had a fantastic picture of a shadow descending the stairs of a castle in Ireland. I was there when the photo was taken, so there were 2 people confirming no-one was there on the stairs at the time. In 2007, we re-examined the photo and through EXIF data and reports we were able to recreate the initial photo. It was not a perfect match, but enough for us to be able to conclude that it was a probable explanation.
AUTUMN: As TAPS has become sort of an example in the field of paranormal research, do you also approach an investigation to first debunk it? Are you more focused on actually gathering evidence or personal observation? And, do you have open-ended thoughts on what ghost phenomena is, such as potentially residual events, other dimensions, intelligent undetectable life forms?
IAN: We always go into any investigation looking for a natural cause, because only when you have disproved the ability for natural occurrences to be the reason, can you deem it to have a possible supernatural explanation. In the last decade of my research, I have deemed 95-97% of our cases to have a natural explanation.
While TAPS et al, have helped to bring our field to the forefront, some of their theories are outdated. This I don’t prescribe to complacency on their parts, but more to the fact they have to have continuity for their TV series. As I said in my recent talk, this field is constantly changing, and the information I tell you today, may be outdated tomorrow after we have researched in a different way.
AUTUMN: Do you utilize psychics or any spiritualist techniques? Or perform "cleansings"? If so, are they helpful? and if not, why do you avoid this approach?
IAN: We do not use psychics, etc, for our investigations. Unfortunately, any “psychics” I have come across I have felt have just been using cold reading methods and we could not verify any of their historical data. As they have been so unreliable as data sources in the past, we do not involve them in our research.
Cleansings can work in the same way as exorcism. When someone is “possessed”, it is the belief in exorcism that gives it it’s power. When someone believes something will work, usually it does; similar to placebo experiments used in World War 2. This is why we will try to rule out any psychology or organic issues first.
AUTUMN: Ultimately, every team has a goal in mind. What would you say is your goal, i.e. to prove life after death, to create intelligent interaction, to recreate a phenomenon, to design new equipment to detect it?
IAN: As a scientific team, we have a number of different goals.
On the existence of paranormal phenomena, if we conclusively prove or disprove the existence, we will be happy either way.
Another core goal is our own research on equipment and the education of the public at large of our theories and research to aid in the public knowledge.
I really appreciated this insightful interview with Ian of PRAB. I see that a lot of their attitudes and techniques jive with my own. I am pleased with their ethics and their debunking with natural explanations. They are helping us weed out the explainable to get to the heart of paranormal experiences. I am thrilled to have found this group in Boston and hope to follow them in the future.