I'm not making this up. Here's the advertisement:
SO YOU WANT TO BE A GHOSTHUNTER?The two "parapsychology experts" in charge of this training opportunity are Steve Parsons and Ciaran O'Keeffe of the School of Parapsychology, and their contact information (should you wish to rush right over and take part in this) can be found on their Facebook page, here. Amongst the unique workshops offered are:
Unique study days for all those who have an interest in Ghost Hunting; whether seasoned veteran, beginner or sceptic. Run by two of the country's leading ghosthunter and parapsychology experts. Study days take place throughout the year at some of the most exciting haunted UK (and European) locations.
LIMITED PERIOD ONLY - BOOK 2 PLACES ON ANY SINGLE STUDY DAY AND GET A 3rd PLACE FOR FREE!
1) Ghosts & Gadgets: equipment for the ghosthunter, including how to use devices for measuring temperature, electromagnetic fields, and "psychophysiology."
2) Paracoustics: using acoustical equipment to gather data on ghosts.
3) Paravision: using cameras (including UV and infrared) to take pictures and video footage of ghosts.
And, my favorite:
4) Ghostology: what is a ghost, and why should we investigate them?
I wonder how on earth you run a training session in how to do something, when you never get any results. Of course, I'm discounting the possibility of Parsons and O'Keeffe being outright charlatans -- i.e., I am assuming that they don't fake evidence themselves to hoodwink their students. Let's start from the charitable assumption that they're sincere and honest, and whatever evidence they garner from their gadgets and cameras and all is fairly obtained.
How, then, to explain to the students that they just spent twelve hours in a house at night running a digital recorder, and picked up... nothing?
I mean, consider if someone was a deer hunter, and was running a workshop on how to hunt deer. Wouldn't their students begin to get a little suspicious if the people who ran the workshop went out week after week, and never once saw, much less shot, any deer?
Of course, by that time Parsons and O'Keeffe would have your £30 each, so it's likely they'd just say, "That's the breaks, dude. Sometimes you see a ghost, sometimes you don't." But you have to wonder how they could continue to pitch the workshops, which they sound awfully excited about.
Obviously, I'm starting from the perspective here that there isn't anything there to study, as I've never seen any evidence of ghosts that's convinced me personally. All of the photographs, videos, and anecdotes I've come across have struck me as either (1) fakes, or (2) the recollections of someone who was misinterpreting what happened. As I've mentioned before, the human brain and perceptual apparatus is simply too easily fooled for me to believe what someone thinks they saw or heard. And all of the claims of ghostly presences registering on mechanical devices -- you can actually buy ghosthunting apps for your iPhone -- are too easily explained by said devices picking up interference from entirely natural, earthly sources.
What would convince me? Hard to say. Being a skeptic, I strive to keep an open mind. A direct personal experience would probably go a long way in that direction, although I know that my own brain is just as easily tricked as the next guy's. A personal experience, while accompanied by other unbiased observers, and a simultaneous measurement of something -- an EM signal, auditory signal, disturbance in The Force, whatever -- would do it, I think. But that seems pretty unlikely, given that people have been hunting ghosts for ages, and no one's come up with much.
In any case, if you will be in England this fall, I encourage you to sign up. Anyone who reads Skeptophilia would be an excellent choice for participating in this class. You can consider yourself appointed to the position of Official Skeptophilia Field Reporter. After all, Parsons and O'Keeffe need a few skeptics in their flock, just to keep them honest. So if you're there and have the £30 to shell out, give it a shot -- and make sure and report back here to tell us what happened.