Over the past two years, I rode the rollercoaster of being a “professional” paranormal investigator. I joined and left three different paranormal groups: one documented in earlier Contrarian posts, and two recent groups where I used a pseudonym and a fabricated personal history in the hopes of hiding from my very “Googleable” existence (19,800 results — how many you got, punk?).
Meet Carter Lefebvre, data processor. I put this fictional character together like puzzle, adding upwards of 25 elementary pieces where I found they fit. One paranormal investigation group even ran a “background and criminal history” check to make sure that I wasn’t a pedo-bear or other criminal. I was shocked to learn that Mr. Lefebvre passed with flying colors. Guard your children, folks.
My experiences have led me to one basic conclusion: the term “paranormal investigator” is a misnomer. Actually, it’s the misnomer of all misnomers. Nothing paranormal was ever “investigated,” nothing was ever “debunked,” and certainly nothing was ever proven to be supernatural. There were no fact-finding techniques used, no group ever probed background information relative to a purported haunting, and nobody came to any logic-defying conclusion that would result in a sound or compelling case study.
This stuff should be called “paranormal waiting-for-something-to-happen” rather than “paranormal investigating.” I don’t say this to belittle those who investigate; I just feel that the reasons that we do what we do have become irrevocably compromised due mostly to the recent rise of pop-culture paranormal phenomenon and its attendant fandom.
Certainly I’ve had some strange events occur while on hunts: in Lithonia, the sounds of movement from an unseen source; in Decatur, a strange and distant voice heard; in Elberton, a mysterious, milky white ball of light resembling a woman’s shoulders. And yes, in each of these cases we unsuccessfully tried to replicate the phenomenon.
So these occurrences must be paranormal, right? If we can’t with our own faculties recreate the event, it’s got to be a ghost, right? Unfortunately, the more I investigated, the less I believed so.
Paranormal investigators need to admit to what they are: lovers of the paranormal who crave experiences more than answers. We must accept the fact that if there ever was any legitimate, scientific evidence of a haunting — whether it be an EVP, photograph, video recording, or other data proving life after death through even a minuscule but verifiable scrap of substantiation — it would be one of the most earth-shattering breakthroughs in scientific study since the splitting of the atom. Definitely the most significant religious event since the birth of Jesus. It would change everyone‘s view of everything.
But it hasn’t happened yet, and it’s highly unlikely to. Therefore, paranormal investigation needs to stop referring to itself as a science and begin to rectify its purpose. Paranormal investigators are not scientists, we are documentarians of humanity’s lore and legend. We chase humankind’s prehensile tail, scouring locations across the planet for remnants of how we’ve become what we are. We search for symbols, archetypes and connections to our own past — the unifying pieces that cross all cultural boundaries regardless of distance and time.
Forgive me for concluding with a bit of nostalgia. The following is an account of one of the earliest events of my life, clouded as it is by subsequent revisions of memory and the hyperbole of passing years. Nonetheless, it remains an experience of my life like no other.
As a seven year-old, my friends and I would play in the woods behind Haircrafter’s Salon in South Burlington, VT — on the corner of Cottage Grove and Williston Road, to be specific. There, we would hold the most epic hide-and-go-seek games known to kid-dom. Jason, Garrett, Dylan and I, along with other kids from the neighborhood, would spend an entire day in the forest, only arriving home at sundown.
During one most distinguished game, I found myself secured in a fantastic hiding place: a turning point along the path, where I had a perfect sight lines of anyone who approached, with a thick thicket of branches and dead foliage hiding my face from all passersby. Completely obscured, I buried myself deep into the dried Vermont leaves and tested my ability to remain motionless, not crackling a single twig or leaf.
Down the path he emerged wearing a pear of jeans and a flannel shirt. The sun behind him blinded my first glimpse, but instantly I recognized him to be older than my friends and dressed differently — a stranger. This being Vermont in 1983-ish, I didn’t feel threatened; he was just a fellow cutting through the woods.
When he entered focus, head blocking the sun and revealing his face, I shivered in fright: it was featureless. Rather than eyes, nose and a mouth, what I saw was nothing more than the fabric of skin, like window drapes. Emptiness.
My eyes watered, my trembles rattling the leaves I knelt upon. The man continued walking down the path, ever closer my position. What I thought was the ill-focused flaw of distance that erased his features proved to be incorrect — his approach cleared any speculation — this man had not one facial feature, just a shroud of skin.
He stopped in front of me. By this point, I was nervously mumbling to myself and crying uncontrollably. From my lowly perch, the man towered over me. He scanned the area — as if that was possible without eyes — for a brief second. I held my breath. I employed every bit of self-control to still my shaking as the leaves below me rattled and crackled like a passing freight train.
His head bent down to mine, mimicking being face-to-face. Without his ability to do so, we became eye-to-eye.
With a strange “huff” sound, he turned and lumbered down the path with heavy footfalls that seemed to rumble the ground below me, disappearing into the thickness of the forest. I sprang from my hiding place and ran home, never telling a soul about it until later in my adulthood.
Do I believe that a faceless man was walking through South Burlington, VT sometime in the early ’80s? Of course not. With age I have come to the conclusion that it was either a dream or the subsequent enhancement of a semi-terrifying event from my childhood — perhaps a man with a facial deformity that I embellished with memory. Maybe it was the trauma of seeing the mouth-less girl in Twilight Zone: The Movie — a cinematic mainstay for my friends of the time. Who knows?
Still, it is an experience of my childhood. It is one of the million puzzle pieces of my life that when added together make up the person I have become — a curious-minded person, willing to accept the unacceptable, without the need for scientific evidence to consider those things which defy explanation.
The type of person who feels life should be experienced, not necessarily investigated.