How would you describe what you do?
I prefer to be called a Psychical Researcher which better reflects my role as a investigator / researcher of ghosts, hauntings, apparitions and related phenomena although I frequently and happily get called a Ghost Hunter. Essentially, I am involved in full time research and investigation of peoples claimed and reported experiences of ghosts, hauntings etc in addition to devising and setting up experiments and research programs that seek to provide whenever possible, explanations as to the nature of those experiences be they mundane and explainable or otherwise. When not actively involved in research or investigation I am a frequent contributor to books, magazines and broadcast media. Together with Dr. Ciarán O’Keeffe I run joint training and study courses for people with an interest in the paranormal. I am advisor to The Ghost Club and on the Spontaneous Case Committee of The Society for Psychical Research. Periodically, I am called upon to undertake the role as Ciarán’s stunt double, which can be a thankless and demanding task.
How did you get into ghost investigation & what led you to it?
I suppose I sort of fell into by accident, combining a lifelong interest and passion for ghosts with an interest and professional qualifications in Medicine and Physical science. It seemed logical to my mind that perhaps science and technology could be useful in providing a better understanding into the nature of the ghost experience. Plus of course, ghosts and ghost stories are exciting stuff and like most other people I would love to see a ghost face to face
Do you have a favourite horror film? Is there one you feel gets closest to the paranormal experience?
I wouldn’t really describe myself as a Movie buff and tend toward the documentary rather than the fictional but that said, The Others is one that I would have to say is a bit of a favourite together with Deathwatch (2002). Recently, I came across The Devil’s Backbone (2001) a subtitled Spanish film which is one of the better ghost movies I have seen in a long while.
Does anything scare you?
So far nothing paranormal ever has - but I look forward to that day. I have certainly been unnerved at times whilst at locations. I’m not that keen on Spiders and I can recall an investigation some years ago where I had to sit for some time in a room surrounded by tanks of Tarantulas - I wouldn’t say I was scared exactly as they were behind glass but I was really glad when I was able to leave !
When you are not hunting for ghosts what do you do?
I love wandering around carboot sales and antiquarian bookshops hunting for old books about ghosts and hauntings or adding to my collection of religious artefacts and tat. It does mean that the walls of my office are adorned with odd items such as plastic crucifixes and the shelves of the bookcases are bending under the weight of my books! Domestic duties fill the rest of my time, with a one year old son and a teenage daughter I am skilled in the art of cleaning up after them both!
Why do you think people believe in Ghosts?
As long as man has been able to write he has been writing ghost stories and in many cultures the belief in ghosts / spirits is an integral part of the culture. Possibly born from a desire to believe that death is not the end; or possibly an inherent knowledge that we somehow survive, I think we are basically programmed to believe in the existence of ghosts and spirits
Do Ghosts exist?
Despite 2,000+ plus years of serious research by many learned people we certainly cannot prove they don’t. Sceptics of course find it all too easy to explain ghosts away but they ignore a huge wealth of testimony and research that suggests otherwise. The only possible answer is that we simply don’t know for sure but the balance of probability favours the existence of something which we could label as a ghost.
Do you believe Orbs are paranormal?
As I have stated many times Orbs are simply a load of balls - admittedly, small and glowing with an ability to throw stones…......................
Do you believe in Ghosts?
Personally, I believe that there is certainly way too much good evidence to ignore and that it would be foolish to dismiss the accounts of ghosts as pure fantasy and the ongoing research as misguided. After experiencing situations that I know I have personally been unable to explain I would say that generally yes I do believe in the possibility that ghosts exist.
What is the most frightening experience you’ve ever had?
We are back to the spiders again and that room in the location in Lancashire. It was a haunted pub with numerous reports of ghostly and paranormal activity throughout the building. As part of the investigation we needed a room to set-up camera recording equipment and view CCTV footage. The only room that was available was a small cellar room in which the landlord kept his collection of pet spiders - more than 100 tarantulas in tanks that lined 3 sides of the room from floor to ceiling. Literally, having the walls all around crawling with very large spiders who periodically jumped at the glass toward me was a very unpleasant experience.
Can you remember the first time you experienced fear?
I’ve been told that as a child I suffered from night terrors although I have no memory of those experiences and apart from a couple of times when I was involved in accidents I don’t really recall true fear - there’s been times when I have felt unnerved at locations and a strong desire to complete the task and leave.
How would you describe your investigative methods? (Research? Do you use any equipment?)
I would describe my investigative methods as scientific in their methodology with a strong application of common sense. Rational and thoughtful as opposed to rushing headlong around in the dark. Equipment features strongly in much of investigative techniques as it is necessary to measure a broad range of environmental variables i.e. temperature, sound, light etc. As a science focussed researcher it is important that any equipment I use is able to work to accepted defined standards and is properly calibrated. Some equipment has been purposely designed to be “media friendly” as it has often been necessary to demonstrate either the equipment or some aspect of what it is measuring in a way that is helpful to the viewing or listening audience.
Investigation techniques are normally dictated by the nature of the case and the specific needs of the various clients, be they domestic, private or media and can range from quite short visits to investigations lasting many months or sometimes years.
Have you personally experienced anything that you have felt cannot be explained?
Several times; although perhaps the most intriguing might be an occasion when more than a dozen people investigating an abandoned former school heard sounds at 1 O’clock in the morning which can only be described as a playground full of children. The event lasted for nearly a minute and was not only heard by everyone present but was also recorded by a dozen sound recorders placed throughout the building. Despite several weeks attempting to replicate the experience and test various ideas that it was mundane, no explanation was ever found. There have been several other times over the years when I have been left baffled by an event or experience which reinforce my belief that there is certainly something that we as yet have little or no understanding of.
When conducting investigations do you work alone or as part of a team?
Normally, on investigations I work alongside other members of Para.Science. It is important to have some verification of any personal experiences, plus the nature of investigation process makes it necessary to have additional observations and measurements. I find that small groups make for a better investigation as there are fewer human factors that need to be dealt with.
Is there anything or anywhere you would really like to investigate?
This could be a very long list - but my top locations would be Hampton Court, The Aldwych Tube station in London and a return to the Cammell Laird shipyard in Merseyside. Heading further afield, the Queen Mary in California or Alcatraz Island in San Francisco would appear near the top of my list - each has many unanswered questions that I would love to explore and attempt to answer.
What experience do you have working in this field? And for how long?
I’ve been hunting for ghosts or explanations for ghosts for more than 25 years that I can recall although recently I discovered from my parents that as a child I spent many family holidays looking for ghosts so perhaps it’s something I’ve always been doing. I sometimes get told that you cannot be an expert in the paranormal and ghost hunting and that is something I would certainly agree wholeheartedly with although I do believe that you can certainly develop an expertise in the techniques and methods of measuring, monitoring and observing locations.
Have you ever appeared on Television before?
Apart from Crimewatch, I have appeared or worked on more than 50 TV shows both live and recorded, mostly documentaries for broadcasters such as Discovery, National Geographic and The BBC. I have also worked on more popular ‘entertainment’ orientated shows such as Most Haunted, I’m Famous & Frightened and Paranormal Investigation Live. In addition to the front of camera role I have also been extensively involved as an advisor on many shows devising experiments or designing equipment for use on the show.
Is this your full time job? If not what do you do?
Nowadays I would consider Psychical Research / Ghost Hunting to be a full time career, although it is a multi facetted role that encompasses much more than just sitting in dark buildings waiting for ghosts to appear, which let’s face it is normally pretty boring and dull.
© Steve Parsons 2011