Responsibilities and Ethics of the Paranormal Investigator

~~Nonmaleficence

(primum non nocere – “first, do no harm”)

With no official body to form a standard for paranormal investigators, we sometimes find ourselves at a loss as to how to cope with those who would damage aspects of this field.    As such, a number of us are alarmed at the instances we’ve become aware of where people claiming to be paranormal investigators or ghost hunters are overstepping the boundaries of investigator and are taking on roles as counsellors and medical advisors.

A while back, we were alarmed and disturbed when we read of an “investigation” of a haunted home performed by a paranormal investigative group at the home of a family whose teenaged son had died. Although it was not clear how recent this tragedy occurred, I think it’s safe to say that the son’s death was extremely painful for them and exploitation of this sad event by a paranormal group is in bad taste. 

Further offence occurred when the investigative group advised the family to have the urn that contained the son’s remains interred, as it was felt that the family having the urn in the home somehow was responsible for the haunting.  This astonished us because not only would it be impossible to accurately pinpoint the cause of a haunting, there was a definite possibility of the haunting continuing after this task was performed and also, the chance of the family regretting interring the urn. 

Finally, in the most offensive and tasteless act, this group posted the investigation on their website.

More recently, another group stated on their Facebook page that during an investigation of a private residence, they had asked for and received the medical records of the witness.  The group fully admits that this was breaching privacy ethics, but justified this by claiming that they did so in order to get a full picture of this person’s mental health so that they could go ahead and determine…um… this is where they lost me.  I fail to see what they could possibly glean from such information.  Unless they are doctors themselves and have a broad understanding of a myriad of mental health issues, what possible use would these medical records be?  The answer is none.   Without a specialized medical education, there is no way they would be able to bridge a connection between potential mental illness and possible haunting and there would be no way they could isolate the two instances either.  This intrusion into this witness’ life also carries other implications. I shudder to think what would happen if those files were somehow made public or wound up in other’s hands.  They could be stolen from someone’s car or – since we already have a grasp of the egocentric attitude of the group – what if they were carelessly thrown out in the trash, instead of handed back to the witness?

These are only two instances where paranormal groups have crossed a huge ethical line.  Unfortunately, there are numerous groups out there who claim to “help” the experient, including offering house “cleansing”, offering the services of “demonologists”, advising people on delicate and personal matters and now, delving into health records – personal information that is considered of such importance that there are laws in place to protect it! 

In this field we are often introduced to people who are vulnerable – whether it is a family grieving a loss, a witness being possibly plagued by something frightening in their home or suffering from an illness, or other.  It is not within our means to diagnose these people, and it is absolutely foolish and negligent to think we can! As researchers/investigators, we are limited to observing, exploring, researching and documenting.  When an investigator or researcher crosses that boundary, they risk emotional or mental harm to the experient and they taint the field of paranormal investigating. 

 

Note: The paranormal group who posted their investigation of the bereaved family on their website has since taken down their report.

 

-Heather McKenzie

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