Should I go to this "Ghost Hunting" presentation?

My local library is featuring a group of folks who call themselves ghost hunters. Now, I have no freaking clue why the library is having these people in, but that’s another question for another time.

Anyway, the purpose of the presentation is “describing a typical investigation.” They’ll even show the public their ghost hunting equipment (oooo, exciting!). Ever since I first saw the flier to this ridiculous event I’ve felt the urge to go. My purpose isn’t to gullibly believe everything they say, oh no - it’s actually the exact opposite: I want to be the skeptic and question every claim they make. The question is, should I do this? The nice part of me is thinking I shouldn’t; after all, these people probably aren’t bad people or anything, so why should I ruin their (mostly) harmless fun?

On the other hand, the world isn’t going to come to a screeching halt if I ask them questions, right? It wouldn’t be mean to simply be skeptical and ask questions, so long as I’m not needlessly hostile or aggressive.

What say you, O Wise Straight Dopers? Would it be cruel to go and grill the hell out of these people, or not?

Also…can anyone recommend a good book or article on debunking ghosts and/or ghost hunters? Or maybe you can give me some tips, if you’re especially nice. :slight_smile:

It probably will, but you should go anyway.

It isn’t mean or rude to question them. They’re con artists, and they know they’re con artists. Calling them out is no different than calling out Nigerian scammers. They’re swindlers and should be clearly identified as such to their marks. You’d be doing a public service.

Why don’t you go and just listen to what they have to say? I love going to crackpot themed events no matter what they are but just as entertainment. Many other people there may treat it the same way and it is moderately rude to just insist on calling them out in public and disrupting things for everyone even if they are dead serious and just nutty. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ask a probing question or two but you shouldn’t go to to shoot them down. Write a letter after the fact if you must or just file away the information in your head to talk about with other people later or just go and have fun. Talking to crackpots of all types and pretending to keep an open mind is lots of fun in my experience. If you can get them to open up to you, plenty of people will tell you some strange things.

I visited my aunt this weekend in Colorado and she fairly believes in alien abductions, attends UFO conferences etc. I finally called her on it when she showed me a Youtube video that was meant to be a hoax or parody but she didn’t realize it. That was between family though. I would go to a UFO conference with her and keep my mouth shut in public.

These aren’t naive woo enthusiasts, they’re cynical scammers. They’re like faith healers. They prey on the stupid. It’s not rude to call them on it. It would be a disservice not to.

Do these people ‘Ghost hunt’ for profit? Or are they just a local club doing this for fun? That makes a big difference to me.

I despise anyone who takes another person’s suffering and exploits it to make money, such as the so-called mediums and psychics who claim to talk to dead relatives. If these people are charging money to hunt down ghosts then I agree with Diogenes - they are scammers, and you should feel free to call them on it. At best they are profiting from people’s gullibility, and at worst from their misery.

On the other hand, we have a few local ‘ghost hunter’ groups who meet every few weeks, occasionally get permission to spend a night in local ruined buildings or old halls and set up cameras, and like to swap stories of their own paranormal experiences. It isn’t something I believe in, but I can see why they find it fun, and it’s harmless. No one is losing anything by them doing this. If they are this kind of group, then asking lots of skeptical questions in a public forum is rude and will be annoying to other guests. By all means talk one-on-one and challenge (respectfully) someone’s ideas, but to do so in public makes it seem like you want to humiliate them, and that’s not fair.

I vote “Other”. Go, but keep your questions in your head. I went on a “ghost tour” of Leesburg with my girlfriend last summer. The guide was so full of woo, it made my head explode. She was saying how sometimes ghosts are actually just recordings imprinted on the Earth’s magnetic field (cuz, you know, cassettes are magnetic too, and they record things!) and there were “energy strings” that connected the locations of tragedies. Then she asked everyone to bend down and feel these strings.

It’s cool when they go “Workers in that building report seeing a small child running around.” It’s hysterical when they try to explain it with pseudoscience.

Go. Leave your skepticism at the door.

I went last week to a presentation of haunted places in MN presented by an author. Always looking for interesting places to visit and quirky historical facts. Thought it would be fun to listen to the questions and comments after the presentation.

His presentation and slide show were amusing and I learned a few new things about famous murders and gangsters in the state.

Ultimately he was just there to sell his book. He was a former psychiatrist and on the way home I started questioning his technique and whether he was using some of the skills of his profession to market. Why that should matter anymore I don’t know since everybody is doing it. But it did give pause.

The best part was watching how skillfully he fielded some of the audience’s stories so that we didn’t have a group meltdown. Another interesting thing was how he walked a fine line for the skeptics in the audience. “I’m just telling the stories. Doesn’t mean I believe them.”

If you think you might enjoy sparring and may have the opportunity, why not go?

How could you possibly know that? (Is everyone who plays with a ouija board a scammer?)

I say go for the educational value. Let the credulous have the floor for most of the time, take some notes, then you can decide if you want to ask a serious skeptical question, or throw a zinger, or just leave them to their fun, depending on how you feel about them after they’ve said their piece.

It depends on ‘how’ you question them. The tone in your voice.
Will you try to ‘take over’ the presentation and not shut up till everyone in the room assumes your point of view?

How much do you know about the stuff they do? Can you ask intelligent questions?

How much do you know about how thermal imagining cameras work? Or infrared?

The thing is, a bad skeptic, will make more people believers. You could do more harm than good.

I was once hired to videorecord a presentation by “Dr. T” (Dr. Tel-Oren) sponsored by the local health food store and healing center. Dr. T is a prime example of woo – although my medical knowledge is limited, every sentence he spoke should have been challenged. Yet there wasn’t a single question from the audience of that type. Everything he said was swallowed whole and they bought his books, CDs and tapes worshipfully.

Since I was hired to do a job, I kept my mouth shut, but it was difficult not to laugh at the outrageous claims I heard.

Since apparently he is a licensed doctor, he can say anything he wants. I don’t think he said anything that science could ever substantiate. It’s really sad.

Here’s a youtube sample.

If they charge money, they are.

He may be licensed in several foreign countries, but a quick look at his website confirms that he wasn’t able to get licensed in America (which should tell you something about the quality of his medical training). It looks like he went to chiropracter school here in the US to help him in misleading people in thinking he is an American-trained physician (a lot of times when these woowoo people call themselves doctors, they want you to think they are referring to being an MD but they are really naturopathic doctors or chiropractors).
Oh and here’s another shocker: Just because he was able to do a couple of medical school rotations in American hospitals doesn’t mean that he is somehow better trained than an American MD. Lots of people from shitty overseas med schools (including a number of really crappy Caribbean schools that cater to Americans who did not have the credentials to be able to get into an American med school) do some of their rotations in US hospitals.

(From his CV page:
“Dr. T received his MD degree from the prestigious Russian State Medical University (3rd prize winner of the UNESCO competition of medical schools, ahead of famous universities such as Oxford and Cambridge) and completed clinical rotations at several hospitals and clinics in the USA in addition to the many University hospitals and forensic medicine centers in Moscow. Therefore, he has received medical training more versitile than most MDs educated in the USA. He is licensed to practice medicine in most European and Asian countries.”)

Ghost hunting can be fun, the ones that claim they have actually found some, may be deluded.

Broad brush there? Lots of people are interested in ghost hunting for many different reasons. Not all groups charge; in fact most I’ve encountered do not. I’ve done a bit of investigation myself, and it is nice when you can figure out what is causing, and then replicate, a strange phenomena in someone’s home or business. Not only that, but you often get to explore strange buildings and learn interesting historical facts. Maybe you might even catch something currently inexplicable on tape. You can’t begin to explain or replicate a phenomena if you can’t demonstrate it exists first. I don’t believe in the traditional concept of ghosts, but I’m certainly not so arrogant as to assume we know everything about how the universe works.

Feel free to ignore Dio. It’s always a good time to observe and question crackpots. My concerns would be those of TheWhyBird and Zebra. There’s a good chance that they are just honest to goodness loonies, but if they’ve turned it into a racket, they’re bad eggs. I doubt they’re scammers, though. Some people just believe in wacky shit. Also, if you go and question their lunacy, try not to be an overbearing ass about it.

Back to the money thing, even if it is a racket, I wouldn’t go specifically to call them on it. What good would that do? It’s not like all the saps are going to proclaim, “Oh Troubles, how right you are!” and get full refunds. The only good it would serve would be your personal amusement, and I wouldn’t pay a bunch of crooks just to amuse myself.

You don’t even have any idea what you would say or how you would go about debunking them?

You’re not James Randi, you’re not even really educated on this particular topic, you’re just interested in showing how much smarter you are than the silly kooks who believe this stuff. Go if you want, but chances are you’re just going to come across as a dick.

I can’t really imagine a bigger waste of time. You are not likely to convince anyone or change anyone’s mind. It is possible (but hopefully unlikely) that you will piss someone off. I see no ROI here.

I would go, just for curiousity. Incidentally, I wasn’t going to post until someone said something about the Leesburg Ghost Tour. I knew the man who started those tours and know the woman currently running them. Not great friends but I like her well enough. Never taken one of the tours, but I will do it one of these days.

Coming to the presentation doesn’t cost money. Have no clue if they charge people for their ‘ghost hunting’ services.

I’m not terribly interested in lording over them. Admittedly, I do find this stuff to be ridiculous, but at the same time, I don’t want to be a jerk; I just want to ask them serious questions.

And, no, I’m not sure exactly what I would say at the event. I’d like to do some research first. It’s a couple weeks away, so I figure there’s time.