Category Archives: Faking Evidence


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But Karl. You have no photos in this blog. Your only video is you talking to a camera. Where’s this proof you speak of? Dammit, I’m going back to Facebook.

Unfortunately, that up above is the way too many of us would-be “ghost hunters” do think. We operate under pop definitions of “proof.” Our “proof” is a distillation of a personal experience. We think that because we’ve experienced something (a certain kind of proof in its own right–but not one without its own flaws), that if we can recreate that experience for others, we have proof. Unfortunately, recreation seems to stop at video, audio, and photography.

In the scientific world, “proof” is different. Proof is an experiment, rigidly designed so that it can be recreated by anyone. Proof is a statistical, mathematical reference. It’s an argument based on a series of facts distilled from an experiment. Proof is then presented in scientific journals. When other scientists read them (skeptical or otherwise), they recreate the experiment, and report back in other scientific journals. If the results are consistent enough, this indicates that the scientists are on to something. If the results are consistent for seven decades, there comes a point where the phenomenon is, in a scientific sense, “proven.”

Is there room for error here? Is there room for misinterpretation? Absolutely. It’s in early stages. And problems arise when too much theorizing happens without enough facts. But after several decades of scientific study, scientists familiar with the researchers do confidently say:

ESP HAPPENS. What it is yet, they don’t know. How it works, they don’t know. Further experimentation is required.

So, before giving you an overview of what experiments were done, the reports published, the recreated experiments and the modifications, I wanted to give you an oversight from the scientists (no, really. Real life scientists with degrees and University funding and everything) who have interacted directly with the research from this past century. If you want to read the legitimate “proof”, start here first, and then begin to reference the bibliography.

“Telepathy, for example, had been extensively studied and documented for a century. The work of J.B. Rhine, Rene Warcollier, S.G. Soal, and many others, including the astounding experiment between Harold Sherman and Sir Hubert Wilkins in the Arctic, could leave no doubt about its existence.” -Edgar Mitchell

Psychic research officially began nearly a century ago, in 1882, when the Society for Psychical Research was founded in London. Three years later, the American Society for Psychical Research was organized in the United States.

“The subject of the societies’ concern can be broadly classified as Extrasensory Perception (ESP, psychokinesis (PK), and survival phenomena (theta). Collectively, they are referred to as psi, the twenty-third letter of the Greek alphabet and the first letter in the Greek word for “psyche”, meaning “mind” or “soul.”  -Mitchell

“ESP is a psychic event in which information is transmitted through channels outside the known sensory channels, either in waking consciousness, trance, or dreams.” Mitchell

“PK is a psychic event in which objects or organisms are physically moved or affected without direct contact or use of any known force that would allow a conventional explanation. PK includes teleportation, materialization and de-materialization, levitation, psychic surgery and psychic healing, thought photography, and out of the body projection.

Theta are events due to the agency of supposed discarnate personalities. Theta include the phenomena of mediumship, ghosts and hauntings, apparitions and poltergeists, spirit photography, spirit possession, and reincarnation.” -Mitchell

“There appears to be a continuum along which we may place occult, psychic, paranormal, and mystic phenomena–a continuum of consciousness. But it is not easy to draw lines of demarcation between them.” Mitchell.

I mean, where does one end and the other begin? Are spirits actual spirits, or are they projections of our minds into someone else’s mind? Do spirits manifest by appearing in our brains psychically, accounting for why sometimes only one or a handful of people “see” them? Look at PK versus clairvoyance. Do you know what is about to happen, or do we create it? On the flip side, do we create something happening, or just know what’s going to happen?

Now, on the scientific side,

Mitchell points out that science is made up of two components: objectivity and materialism. Objectivity being that the human being should have no necessary relationship with the world around it. Materialism in that everything fundamental to science is made up of matter.

So, according to Mitchell:

“Psychic research is leading to an extraordinarily challenging conclusion: science’s basic image of man and the universe must be revised… Science will have to divest itself not only of some deeply cherished “facts” but also of its philosophic foundations — the whole intellectual outlook upon which our present civilization is based.”

This isn’t an attack on science. It’s not a revolution, it’s a revelation. This IS science. Science is constantly updating to new facts, new realizations. This one has been pushed to the side for long enough because it doesn’t fit the framework. As soon as it becomes credible, we may see a shift more radical than any discovery in the past couple hundred years.

“The only possible bias for rejecting the evidence of psychic research is prejudice and diehard stubbornness born of insecurity.” -Mitchell

S.G. Soal of London University writes:

“It would be interesting to meet the psychiatrist or psychologist who has perused every page of the 49 volumes of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, and who remains a skeptic. It is no coincidence that those most skeptical of ESP research are almost invariable those who are the least acquainted with the facts.”

H.J. Eysenck, head of the Department of Psychology at Maudsley Hosptial in London, answers the charge of fraud like this:

“Unless there is a gigantic conspiracy involving 30 University departments all over the world, and several hundred highly respected scientists in various fields, many of them originally hostile to the claims of the psychic researchers, the only conclusion the unbiased observer can come to must be that there are people who obtain knowledge existing either in other people’s minds, or in the outer world, by means yet unknown to science.”

Dr. Montague Ullman of Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY:

“If the only answer to the vast amount of solid experimental evidence is incompetence or fraud on a global scale by men with credentials equal to those of their scientific peers, working in academic surroundings, and whose work extends historically in time over at least three generations, then the adherents of this position would seem to have adopted a stance that is even more difficult to defend than the psi hypothesis. In fact, it would seem to represent a last ditch stand–in short, the bankruptcy of the critical effort.”

New Scientist Magazine did a questionaire on parapsychology in 1973. It’s first conclusion reported that

“parapsychology is clearly counted as being exceedingly interesting and relevant by a very large number of today’s working scientists.”

25% of the respondents held ESP to be an established fact, with another 42% declaring it a likely possibility.

“This positive attitude was based, in about 40% of the sample, on reading reports in scientific books and journals. Moreso came from a majority whose convictions arose from personal experience. There was a strong undercurrent among respondents that too much time was being spent proving the existence of ESP, when the real need was to “get on with finding out how it works.”

By that same note, Gerald Feinberg points out:

“I believe it would be appropriate for researchers to emphasize detailed studied of psychic phenomena rather than to concentrate on further efforts whose primary purpose is to convince others that the phenomena exists.”

This Advice is good for paranormal researchers too. Stop trying to “prove it”, start trying to figure out what is going on.

As you try to figure out what’s going on, you might just stumble across some real science on your way.

As always,

My name is Karl Pfeiffer. I’m a writer, ghost hunter, and blogger/vlogger. I won the first season of the pilot reality series Ghost Hunters Academy, and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team on the same network. Since then I’ve lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published my first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. More can be found at

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My Amityville Horror Review

This past week I was invited to an early screening of the new documentary My Amityville Horror in Denver Colorado before the Denver Film Society’s film festival that kicks off this month.

We all know the story. Whether we’ve seen the movies, read the books, or have heard the story through word of mouth at some point during the past forty years, the house at Amityville and the events that occurred inside are a source for many to speculate about. The reality of extreme hauntings taken to international attention and ultimately fictionalized for the horror audiences at home make for hot debate.

When any story is presented time and again, then fictionalized, then retold, then re-presented, it becomes a cultural story. An urban legend. A thing of exaggeration and conflicting reports.

After the story became a hot local news item, George Lutz and his wife Kathy went national with their story to clear the water and tell their side of what happened in the 28 days they stayed in that home. Though Christopher has come forward to speak out about his experiencesMy Amityville Horror looks in finally to Daniel Lutz, who tells his version of events for the first time in some forty years.

The movie focuses primarily on his version of the events, the narrative pieced together through a series of interviews with him now as a grown man. Leaning heavily on the questions and perspectives of Laura DiDio (and later on the perspectives of reports and psychologists to wrap out the film), the film is about Danny. There’s no shocking evidence presented. There is no “actual footage” or “recordings” or new evidence presented. What’s already been presented remains. The popular re-imagining remains. The debate laps between them.

The Lutz family story, in the way it became a pop-culture commodity, is laced with the question of truth. Daniel’s story is much the same. The filmmakers here know this. They know that they’re bringing a new perspective to a story already overburdened with perspective. What makes this one fascinating is that it’s from an eyewitness. And yet, the question of truth still remains.

Less about the specific differences in the movie versus the recalled reality of Danny Lutz, the movie calls together the power of the mind, of emotional turmoil, of trauma, of broken families and a child’s imagination, and studies these relationships. But it doesn’t outright break them down, letting the truest work be done by the engagement of the audience, subtly nodding to possibility (cock-a-doodle-doo, if you’ve seen it), but without a feeling of the overt.

And it’s scary. Indeed, the very question of memory and our human experience is a frightening one. Eyewitness testimony is the weakest kind of evidence. Ever have discussions of childhood memories with your parents that differ wildly on the details?

When the movie was over, I turned to my buddy Connor and I said, That film was so many different kinds of crazy.

And I mean that. But not crazy in the derogatory way. Crazy in the way of the unreal. And the layers of crazy in this movie is in the dialogue between what was real and what wasn’t. If you outright don’t believe in ghosts at all, the film is a dialogue about the power of the brain, about childhood trauma, and belief. If you believe that there in Amityville, some supernatural activity happened, but perhaps not to such an extreme, that line between the extreme and the subtle becomes the subject of debate, and what it is that pushes the family member’s belief one way or the other.

The most haunting question by the end of the movie though isn’t whether it was all true, but more so whether it wasn’t. It’s clear that this man is deeply scarred from his experience. It’s clear even from watching Christopher’s interview with Jeff Belanger that he’s lead a life dealing with it too. Whatever happened in that house ran deep. That is fact.

But to affirm “truth” any further opens up a realm of debate, and a fascinating one, on the nature of experience, the nature of trauma, and the nature of the spirit world itself. And for a film to delicately handle all of these elements, while tackling the big questions, is a resounding success in my book.

My Amityville Haunting is still making the film festival rounds and has yet to specify any wide release.


Karl Pfeiffer is the author of the novel Hallowtide. He won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy, went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team, lectures across the country, and leads the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel. More can be found on his website

The Reality of Fiction

Possibly the most frequent question and source of discussion that I receive as a paranormal investigator, one on television especially, is whether or not what we experience and capture in terms of the supernatural is real. I’m approaching this from a unique perspective, not only from having started with the Ghost Hunters teams as an enthusiast and amateur investigator, but as a writer and poet.

But before I get into the topic, I need to clarify that first of all, I have never faked evidence nor been around such happenings. I can only speak to those cases and episodes I’ve been involved with, and to nothing that happened on any other shows nor episodes, and that as I further this discourse, my perspective on honesty is by no means a condonation.

The two different discussions I get into about the reality of my work come firstly from those skeptical about what may exist beyond the veil, and secondly from those who want to know if what they’ve seen on the television is true. To address the former, I personally cannot say for certain that I know there is something out there. I’ve never had the experience that has solidified my belief and might be able to encourage your own. I do not have the proof you want. But I do believe, and there are other people out there who have those stories and materials that might be more persuadable, but you won’t find them with me yet. It’s not yet my job to convince you.

Of course, the nature of the field is to deal with the question of whether or not these entities are real, and the shows maintain honesty. The drawbacks to dishonesty are easy. Obviously dishonesty is shameful and frowned upon. The paranormal field too is largely represented to the general populous through the television box with these reality shows, some of them hits, some of them immediate flops. Right now, I’m not afraid to call the popularity of the paranormal a fad.

Many people watch paranormal programming for one of two reasons; they’re either looking for persuasive evidence or they want to be frightened. If they’re looking for evidence it’s likely they’re just as on the fence as most, curious to have their own beliefs or experiences validated, or simply interested in this unknown (as I think we all are to varying degrees), eager for the persuasion that the nature of the show promises. For most, I feel safe to say that any belief they might carry may well be due in large part to what they’ve seen on television and if they find that their belief was built on lies, how easily it will crumble. In the same way that the “fad” of the paranormal was built upon trust in these television shows and now-famous teams, so easily can it come raining down. And to the truly passionate investigator, this can be a devastating consequence, for support is a wonderful thing, one that’s been altogether absent for years before now.

I’m a paranormal investigator. I’m passionate about the work. I want to have my beliefs validated as well, and it would be an equal devastation to me to have all credibility collapse. I’m all for honesty.

But there is another side of me that’s an artist and a writer. I’m a poet. I’m a novelist. I write short stories. I illustrate the truth with lies, and so I look at these programs from another perspective: that they’re entertainment – and not simply that, either, but as with many forms of entertainment, act as a vehicle for truth.

That alone can be more interesting than simply watching the shows for fact or truth, evidence or debunk. Watching television to compel you to reasons of faith isn’t a wonderfully solid idea to begin with, anyway. If you have a belief, if you have a drive toward something and you want justification, seek it out yourself. Make your validation come to you from the source, not a cable box. It’s much more moving when it happens. Of course, I think this philosophy is applicable for television in general, but that’s starting to get past my point.

You might suggest that there are no stories to be found in paranormal programming, that many of them are pseudo-scientific investigations and make a point to stay away from the story and focus on the technology, process, and results, and that sometimes even character-to-character drama is too distracting. I disagree. I think there’s lots of story. There’s very human elements, and a very compelling situation week after week that makes the entire premise very engaging. Real people walk into the darkness of night, sometimes into the unknown, the rotting, the ancient, and sometimes – even better – into our own homes, digging up this unknown right next to us, within what we think we know and hold safely.

Paranormal programming can keep us as engaged and challenged as an effective horror novel, or – if I may broaden my net to those who look down on the horror craft – a resonant drama or tragedy. It’s relatable, yes, but not only is it so, it goes after the same thing that true art or storytelling does: truth. It goes after the kind of truth that we’re all searching for, be it the secret of life (if I may be so trite), be it how to be happy, be it how to love better, be it how to help people, or darker; what happens to us after we die? what is on the other side? Is there another side and what is its nature? Are we alone? And equally as important, the implications that those suggest, morality issues and further, questions of God and faith. Of history and culture. Anthropology and science.

Perhaps that’s a bit much to put on a handful of cable reality shows, but I don’t think I’m out of line. A lot of these questions are relatively simple, they supply us motivation and enthusiasm, often they’re fuel. They don’t need to exist in complex storylines and dialogue.

These pursuits are given further fuel in that the characters and personalities on the episodes are chasing down the answers to the very same mysteries about which we wonder. They’re fueled by the same experiences, the same curiosities, and this makes it personal for the viewer. But what makes these shows unique and interesting are perhaps the only redeeming reason for dishonest evidence. It’s the same reason for the runaway success of fall 2009’s Paranormal Activity, the effect every author in history has strived for (popular fiction, literary fiction, and non-fiction alike), what turned Orson Welle’s Halloween radio play into a nationwide panic, where the producers’ motivations luckily intersect with the pursuit of truth: the very possibility that what you’re seeing could be real.

This brings it all home. It’s what makes you curl up in your seat, uncomfortable, afraid perhaps, or sit closer to the edge to see what might come next, or what will be the piece of evidence captured before the commercial break. You lean in to see when the unknown is probed, the likes to which you’ve never been exposed or have never seen; ancient castles across the ocean, up to ten times older than any location you’ve ever visited, ruins constructed by cultures incomprehensible, like the depths of the ocean where the sunlight can’t reach, there might just be something there – but what? You curl back in your seat because you’re introduced to the possibility that the same untouched darkness of the primordial could be closer than you ever imagined, that even in the warmth of what you’ve always known and trusted, holding fast to what you were raised to believe as a child, if you closed your eyes and reached out your hand, perhaps something might reach back. Fear puts in perspective those things which we cherish most. It boils us down to our most basic desire and faith. The reality is not the shadow on the television or the croaking inhuman voice from the speakers, it’s the possibility that the unknown may be right next to you in your living room. It forces you to consider what the presence of that darkness means to us, personally, as a society, as a part of history.

Producers are happy because their audiences are frightened. The audiences are happy because they’re engaged and thinking. It’s here, and likely only here, that the honesty of the episode doesn’t matter, because honest or not, they’ve taken something truly powerful and in its relation to your own life, made it speak directly to you and prompted you to ask questions.

Let me reiterate that of course I’m not making a case for the acceptability of presenting fraudulent evidence. At the end of the day, honest or not, you must remember it is still television. If you trust what you see, that’s wonderful, everything I know and likely far more indeed has been very honest. If you do not believe, that’s fine too, it is of course up to you. But one way or the other, despite your hesitation or faith, you can still reach deep and find a resounding and personal meaning and a call to truth within your own life.

There is still far too much unknown in our world to be content. As long as there is conflict there will be the pursuit of truth. I’m not suggesting that the implications of the possibility of ghosts will solve world peace, but I am suggesting that pursuing those things that ring true within, that spark thought and basic curiosity, will not only set you where you need to go but will send you in pursuit of something greater than yourself, and with that you cannot go wrong.

Copyright 2010 karl pfeiffer