Ghostvillage.com author interview
The field and industry behind ghost research today is incredibly diverse. Ghost tours, ghost investigators, skeptical organizations, believers, and disbelievers alike are all vying to get a word in on the supernatural discussion. In the excellent new documentary, The Other Side: Giving Up the Ghost, director Andrew Keyser and writer/editor Tonya Keyser explore the field of ghost research in the microcosm that is Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Ghostvillage.com caught up with Andrew and Tonya to ask them about their new DVD.
What drew you to the subject of documenting the state of ghost research?
While living in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, we were fascinated by the sheer number of ghost tours, along with the number of people who buy tickets. What prompts their interest in the tours, what do they gain from those tours, and why does the industry continue to grow? We had the opportunity to go on several ghost tours and interview tour guides and people on the tours.
Mark Nesbitt, the father of ghost tours in Gettysburg with his Ghosts of Gettysburg Candlelight Walking Tours, provided a great deal of insight.
We have been involved in field research for 9 years. We also spent a tremendous amount of time and energy gathering research from scientific journals for our book. As we continued to gather this information from peer reviewed journals, we found that very little of it was coming from the thousands of field researchers that are out there. This disparity, and the labeling of ghost research as a “pseudoscience” was of interest to us.
The increase in the popular media’s coverage of paranormal phenomena in general also prompted our interest in the topic. While we originally intended the project to be in book form, ultimately film was a more appropriate and entertaining way to tell the story. We’ve screened the film with several different audiences and had a good response from both people who have a high interest in ghost research and the general public.
If one looks at the myriad of ghost Web sites, magazines, books, podcasts, and television shows, it’s clear that the supernatural is a hot topic for the general public right now. How do you think it got to be that way and how much longer can it last?
There are several reasons for the interest in the paranormal. The first is that, in uncertain times, people are looking for comfort. The idea that part of us could survive on the other side of life is a comforting one. People are looking for validation of this idea, and programs about the supernatural (at least on the surface) provide this for them.
The second reason for the popularity of the supernatural is that people are looking for an escape from their many responsibilities. People are working longer hours under more stressful conditions and are flooded with information brought on by technological advances. They are seeking entertainment and a retreat from everyday life.
A final reason for the surge of interest has been generated by the media itself. The popular media has a tendency to sensationalize everything, including that which is already sensational by nature. They have misled the public by creating the illusion that there is definitive proof of life after death. People latch onto this, because it validates their beliefs. They become hungry for more and more programming of this type.
This surge of interest shows no signs of slowing at this point. People will always be fascinated by the unusual, the strange, the out of the ordinary. They will always be drawn by their hope of immortality.
What did you set out to accomplish with your documentary, The Other Side: Giving Up the Ghost?
The Other Side: Giving Up the Ghost is an exploration of ghost research culture. It examines what drives our interest and how the media generates this fascination. Paranormal research and its relationship to belief, psychology, and science is an important part of the film. In general, the film shows the entire spectrum of our interest in ghosts, from total skeptics to complete believers… from scientists to psychics… from rational thought to… well, you fill in the blank.
Why did you pick Gettysburg as your central locale?
Gettysburg is the epicenter of the hauntrepreneurial spirit, providing us with numerous opportunities to film ghost tours, paranormal researchers, and even conduct interviews during a ghost conference. Many people consider Gettysburg to be one of the most haunted locations in America. The film explores why this viewpoint is held, and why historic locations in general are often considered haunted.
Will the orb debate ever reach a conclusion?
Not as long as dust exists.
But seriously, this is one of the most revealing aspects of why ghost research is considered a pseudoscience. We know that dust, pollen, rain, and other objects can appear in photos as circles. Why do we continue to entertain those photos as evidence of ghosts? Even if they weren’t caused by dust, pollen, rain, or other objects, why do we make the sudden leap to say that they are evidence of life after death? Admittedly, they might be a little strange, but that’s a pretty big leap to make.
There have been researchers (i.e., Bobbie Atristain of The Center for Paranormal Research and Investigation) who have documented orb phenomena that has been seen with the naked eye. This further complicates the issue, because it can occur. Are these spirits of those on the other side? There is no evidence to prove this. There is still a need to try to explain this phenomena. It may prove to be something even more interesting than a ghost!
Do you think the field of paranormal research is progressing or has it reached a standstill (or has it never gone anywhere to begin with as Skeptical Inquirer managing editor, Benjamin Radford suggested in your documentary)?
Progress is very slow, and one of the biggest reasons for this is lack of cooperation and sharing between groups of field researchers. How can we progress toward becoming a scientific discipline if we never work together to make things better? True science presents research that can be reviewed by others and replicated. There is currently no organized way within the ghost research community for this to occur. We are working on a way for this process to begin with a scientific journal, The Journal of Paranormal Research (www.journalofparanormalresearch.com).
What future projects are in the works for Exspiro Productions?
We are working with author, historian, and ghost tour guru Mark Nesbitt on a series that explores history and paranormal phenomena at various locations. The first of these will be available by early June of 2007.
Our book, In the Shadow of Science: Illuminating Ghost Research, is nearly complete. It is a guide for researchers who want to begin collecting evidence that the scientific community will respect. By providing vast information regarding psychology, belief, history, photography, research methodology, and how to write a complete report, we hope to support the development of more scientific, standardized protocols within the community. We anticipate having it in our hands in time for the Ghost World Conference.
We are also hard at work on The Journal of Paranormal Research. The Editorial Board has been reviewing articles in preparation for the first issue, which is set to premiere at the Ghost World Conference in Gettysburg in July of 2007. We hope that this will help to foster a sense of community and sharing that has really been absent in recent years.
What’s one of the funnier moments that occurred while filming?
While filming at the Eastern Regional Paranormal Conference in Gettysburg, we had the pleasure of interviewing Doug and Scott L. of Ghostly Talk. During their interview, this stupid fly kept buzzing in front of the lens. You see Scott L. watching it, obviously annoyed. As Doug tells a story about how he almost killed Scott L. because he saw a ghost while driving, Scott catches the fly right in front of the camera. The most humorous part of all is Doug and Scott L.’s reaction.
Click here to buy this DVD now.
You can visit the Exspiro Productions Web site at: www.exspiroproductions.com.