Bill Murray as a Ghostbuster conducting an experiment…Well, sort of
During the last century and a half, scientists of all categories; clergyman and philosophers of all disciplines, as well as various scholars and academics have posed many questions into the almost countless examples of hauntings and associated psychic phenomena. These inquisitive people had conducted various individual surveys; recorded certain events and finally culminated in thesis’ regarding their questions, observations and overall findings. They may not, however, have concluded with a definite answer to any one question; deduced a quantitative report of acceptable ratios, nor devised any list of systematic empirical data, statistical, mathematical or computational information that could be considered fact in all collegiate institutions. Regardless, such scholarly behaviors always point to the one aspect of critical thinking that must always be applied to every scientific inquiry — The scientific method.
In the arena of science, whether chemistry, biology or physics, it is necessary to follow various rules and regulations for any inquiry to be accepted as proper research into a scholarly discipline, regardless of that discipline. To exemplify the scientific method directly we will need to survey a scientific discipline and its particular area of research. As all disciplines make their assumptions by posing questions, observing to support that question and experimenting to accept or reject the overall findings, the importance of such a study process becomes clear. To briefly exemplify this process, we might observe the methodology of the ornithologist in the course of his or her research. Hypothetically speaking, the researcher in question is searching for the reason why certain birds of a certain genus are behaving differently from others in that same grouping, possibly through a differential situation, such as one genus living in another region; food type consumption or yearly weather conditions. Moreover, because the birds are behaving differently even though they belong to the same genus, the researcher will need to question what could be the causation of such behaviors; if there is a biological reason; an effect by way of nature or from a nurturing perspective and other pertinent inquiries. Following that agenda, the researcher will need to pose a general hypothesis for the behaviors; likely by adding a series of sub-hypotheses to best support that assumption. Then he will need observe each group of birds from that specific genus, and then follow up by conducting a series of experiments of various natures to test the hypothesis and its additions. Finally, the researcher will pick and choose which individual or set of hypothesis could be applied to the overall inquiry, and then culminate in either accepting or rejecting that hypothesis all together.
For the aforementioned researcher, the proper agenda was followed, and the end result yielded several possibilities that could explain why the birds were behaving differently. Whether the reasoning was associated to weather changes, food differentials or possibly breeding compatibility of the two genuses of birds might have offered the proper information for the researcher to use. In short, because the scientific method was properly applied to the researcher’s inquiry, he was able to conclude and reject various previously conceived theories as to why the birds were behaving differently, and then applying his or her newly found data for other researchers to consider. Without that method being properly utilized to the outstanding inquiry, the answer would have been mute in the eyes of the scientific community, and summarily ignored. Because the researcher did use the proper method, the findings were accepted and duly assigned further research into the inquiry; considered as fact by that researcher’s peers and community, or abandoned all together. Now that we have at least a working understanding of how the aforementioned hypothetical researcher applied the scientific method to the ornithological inquires, can such a process be applied to psychical research as well? The answer is absolutely yes, and should be done each and every time in spite of the fact that the subject matter is highly subjective and difficult to document. Moreover, though the lay researcher considers the collection of photographs and associated video examples of alleged ghosts, as well as audio surveys of alleged sounds thought to be the voices of discarnate spirits to be both compelling and examples of proof, the scientific community largely ignores this data as either highly subjective itself, due mostly to the reality of fakery or misrepresentations of known phenomena, thus becoming disqualified for further inquiry, or simply labeled as from a misidentified source that cannot be considered acceptable, and duly dismissed.
For the proper researcher of psychic phenomena, it is firstly to apply a broad observation to the subject matter in general, which will create a foundation to the items being examined. For this example, I will use the alleged ghost lights of Route 520, a section of road in the state of Florida of the United States. This will be done in order to formulate the best answer to what might be causing the seemingly paranormal responses as witnessed or otherwise felt by many observers. The background and location history will be discussed fully, followed by a detailed listing of haunting events and occurrences by firstly, gathering information about the biological world that could be playing a part in this inquiry, and secondly, how and why we must always apply two important mechanisms in our research, which is sensory perception and our ability to reason. Finally, we will examine the reasoning and possibilities of said occurrences in order to best apply such findings to the case study, and then culminate with the findings of the overall methodological process.
The scientific method in practice
As stated, in the proper search for an answer to any scientifically based inquiry, a detailed study must first be secured in order for the subject matter to be found both logical and acceptable within the scientific community. In short, if such an inquiry cannot be properly challenged and found true or false by way of observation, hypothesis, educated prediction of test processes and outcomes, followed by the performance of experiments, submitting to a thorough analysis of the experiments, and finally drawing a conclusion that proves or disproves; often finding a null or alternate hypothesis in the process, then the scientific method is not complete. In spite of rationale and reason, the method is not considered satisfactory unless these basic steps are completed in detail. In the case of psychical research, this can be applied equally to various forms of said research, such as in cases of telepathy, which is the transference of various forms of information, both on emotional and base-thought foundations between individuals by senses other than the five classical senses, sight, hearing, taste et al. This methodical series of steps can also be applied to other aspects of this discipline, such as psychokinesis, or the ability of a mental influence over or beside matter, and/or time-spatial issues. Moreover, it may also prove practical in other forms of research like that of precognition and remote viewing, where both issues can be tested not by addressing topics of perception and information gathering, but by being able to account for the information being collected during the process, and then proving the information correct. Some topics of a psychical nature that may prove the most difficult might be in the arenas of clairvoyance, which entails the gathering of information about places or events, and often regarding remote locations; clairaudience, a form in hearing that transcends the physical form of acoustics by psychic means; clairsentience, which enables one to receive information by way of “feeling” and clairscent, where one is able to detect otherworldly or otherwise discarnate odors by a psychic response. Although these psychic responses may prove difficult to measure, it is possible to apply the scientific method equally by ways of testing the information, such as authenticity of the subject’s findings, especially when the information is not public knowledge; names of people or places within the context of the investigation and so forth, so long as the process remains within provable guidelines. Moreover, apparitional and related experiences and near-death experiences, specifically phenomena attributed to ghosts and haunted locations represent that which is still in the realms of testability, though considerably difficult to authenticate as factual due to possibilities of fraud, misunderstanding about normal phenomena that may seem unnatural and a general lack of information suitable to prove the observations of the experiencer. In addition to this, long standing legends about a particular location being “haunted” may influence the experiencer into elevating his or her natural senses, in effect, prompting that person in believing that an event is occurring when it is not.
Because a person or people can be coerced by word-of-mouth events, whether historical events or recent events that might create a general belief system due to the emotional factors involved, such as a place where a crime had occurred, or where people may have died, might influence false emotions or experiences, in effect, making the experiencer see, hear, feel or smell things that are not actually there. Such a response is not dissimilar from people suffering from group hysteria, or when a neurosurgeon probes a section of a patient’s brain, eliciting physical sensations from the patient that are not actually occurring. In such cases, many wakeful patients may very well experience visual anomalies, such as seeing colors and images that are not there; olfactory events, such as smelling particular foods or experiencing motor activity not sanctioned by the patient, aspects that all represent the power of the mind, albeit an unknown power. And though such sensations are not factual for the patient, this serves as a logical example for some who make claim to psychical, or otherwise “paranormal” events, and it is for this reason that psychical researchers must apply the scientific method along with well-thought reasoning to their investigations in order to best separate possible physical, mental or emotional issues from genuine psychic phenomena.
Background research and understanding fact from fiction
As with any astute study, psychical research requires and equal share of in-depth analysis. Though the subject of ghost lights and tales of apparitions and hauntings may hang on the ledge of the fantastic, in fact being regarded as folk custom to that of existing on the plane of reality; not falling in a bracket that can be diagnosed from a scientific foundation; such is not entirely true. Indeed, there are many ways to investigate such experiences directly, though not all aspects will be answered completely. To begin with, we will have to investigate the history and general background of the location in order to have a clear knowledge of what exactly is going on, and why the legend is occurring in the first place. To do this, we’ll start with research at the local library and that city’s public records department to find clues that may lead to explicit answers to why these events might be taking place. We should then interview professionals in the areas of nature, like forest rangers and fish and game officers who will likely know of the legends, and who may have actually witnessed them. We will also interview scholars in the fields of chemistry, biology and ecology to see if there is a natural explanation to the mysterious ghost lights. When these interviews and the initial library research are complete, we’ll begin the weigh the evidence.
The following serves as a detailed background of the legends that continues today:
History and general background
The legend has and continues to occur just south-east of the busy city of Orlando, Florida, on a dark and oftentimes ominous stretch of road known as Route 520. This road runs about 35-miles through dense forests and musty swamplands straight past Interstate-95, through the busy U. S. Federal Highway-1, and on to the Cocoa Beach seashores. Having served as a time efficient shortcut for Floridian travelers over the many years, this road expedites the journey from central Florida to the sunny beaches in half the time to that of other roads. Though efficient and cost effective, Route 520 has a lethal and foreboding reputation as being one of the most deadly roads in the state of Florida, and ranking the 3rd most dangerous roadway in the United States by the Florida Highway Patrol. While Route 520 has served motorists for the past 30 years, it is still only a two-lane road in most sections, and a bumpy one at that. Because of these setbacks, there have been many fatal accidents over the years, some killing entire families while en route for Disney World, Universal Studios or any number of theme parks throughout central Florida. Sometimes, tragedy would come to those in a hurry to get home after a long day’s work or after a full night of partying in downtown Orlando. As such, this dark and tattered path has earned the appropriate nickname “Bloody 520 — Road of Broken Dreams.” The location in question is a long and winding highway that runs through a mostly unlit and rather dense section of central Florida. And as this area is dark and winding, it stands to reason that the opportunity for accidents is more likely here. Whether by driving intoxicated or having fallen asleep at the wheel, Route 520 has claimed many lives. For certain, any Florida State Trooper or Sheriff’s Deputy will tell you, far too many people have lost their lives on this most deadly of Florida’s roadways.
Legends and belief systems
For at least the past 35 years, Route 520 has taken on a more supernatural reputation to that of merely being known as a dangerous route to travel. Many local Floridians have claimed strange and even frightening events to have taken place there over the years. From UFOs hovering in the darkened skies over this long stretch of unlit road and nearby swamplands, to the elusive Skunk Ape; Florida’s answer to the Bigfoot creature prowling the nearby thickets and woodlands, such constitute a few excellent examples of Route 520’s oral traditions of the strange and uncanny. Yet, even with such folklore, there is one story that keeps popping up; a time-honored legend that has many late night motorists stepping on the gas peddle just a bit harder in order to quickly pass this dark and foreboding road without catching a glimpse of those frightening glowing orbs known as ghost lights.
For roughly the last four decades Route 520 has been the home to one of the oddest forms of ghostly phenomena known to psychical researchers and paranormal investigators. Well known as ghost lights, spook lights, ignis fatuus (foolish fire) and willow o’ the wisps, these strange luminous balls of mysterious matter may not be as unique as one might believe. In fact, radiant orbs like the ones observed near Route 520 have been experienced all over the world, sharing similar qualities and behaviors since ancient times. Even though many have tried to find reasoning behind these ghostly lights; with such ideas as swamp gas or reflections of disembodied headlights from distant cars, hard evidence to what they truly are, their nature and purpose have never been conclusively established by scientist or layperson.
The 520 ghost lights are said to be greenish-yellow iridescent balls of light, which are sometimes seen floating on the sides of the roads or hovering through the nearby woods. Often witnessed as a single orb that bobs up and down erratically, and sometimes seen in pairs acting as one or as independent entities, these intriguing glowing anomalies have become a part of Florida’s unique and very interesting folklore. One aspect to this legend, which alters their playful reputation, are reports that these ghostly lights will sometimes act with almost human qualities, mimicking a playful dance through the treetops, or jotting to and fro around the darkened road. Local legend goes on to tell that sometimes these enigmatic orbs of light will actually chase people and cars as they pass by. Some of these legends however, are a bit more frightening. According to one gentleman living in the Cocoa Beach area since the late 1950s, a pair spook lights followed his wife home one evening in 1979. As the story goes, when his wife was coming home from visiting her sister in Orlando, while driving through the dead center of Route 520, she began seeing a glowing ball of light bobbing up and down near the passenger side of her car. This ball of light kept pace with her for several minutes. She tried to reason what she was seeing, thinking it might be a reflection of another car’s lights hitting her window, or perhaps it was a light from her dashboard somehow casting the glow on the passenger-side window. Regardless how hard she tried to find an answer, the eerie light continued to keep up with her car as if the light were somehow alive.
As the now thoroughly frightened woman continued to drive as fast as she could, the ghostly orbs appeared to subside, and then stopped all together, hovering still on the side of the road, and then slowly slipping into the adjacent woodlands. The poor woman later related her terrifying story to friends and family, in effect, inaugurating this spooky legend to Florida’s robust ghost lore. A similar story occurred in 1998 from a man walking home from work. This man, a short-order cook at one of Cocoa Beach’s roadside diners, was preparing to walk home after closing for the evening. His car was not running at the time, but as his home was only about a mile and a half down Route 520, it wasn’t too much of a problem for him. As this man was on his trek home around 2:30 A.M., while walking on the left shoulder of the road, he noticed a faint greenish glow about fifty yards ahead of him within the dense woods. This light was pulsating from bright to a dull hue much like an old time railroad lantern, so he thought it must have been local hunters looking for raccoon or opossum. Yet, he just could not help thinking that something was wrong about the nature of this light, thinking it just didn’t look right.
As the weary cook continued for home, he noticed that the odd light was keeping pace with his every step, as if mocking his every move. Then suddenly, a second light appeared behind the first. Though much dimmer than the first light. It proved without a shadow of a doubt that the light was not from a hunter’s lantern, and the cook later admitted that he was becoming quite nervous about the whole affair. Nonetheless, the strange lights continued to follow him for nearly twenty minutes, all the time bobbing up and down as if taunting his every move. Within a few moments, the first light seemed to move upward, as if climbing a nearby tree, with the second light becoming very dim, and then reducing itself to a pinpoint of light, then disappearing altogether. By this time, the cook was becoming frightened, and decided to pick up his pace in order to elude this bizarre occurrence. As he was reaching a turn to his housing development, he saw the saving glow of car headlights about a mile ahead. Pleased that at least someone was close by, the cook gazed back only to find the floating orb of light now in the center of the road, as if watching him. The cook later stated he was getting more than a little perturbed at the evening’s events. He was tired, and he wanted to get home, take a shower and go to bed, but felt that someone or something was playing with him, and he had had enough. The out of breath cook decided to stop and hold his ground and prepare to fight if need be, but as he turned, he noticed that the light was becoming denser, flicking a bit, and then extinguished all together. The man never witnessed the ghostly lights again. Although this short-order cook, now a bartender in downtown Cocoa Beach was more than happy to relate this story to me, he admitted that even though his car is up and running today, that if for any reason he was ever stranded again, he would take a cab instead rather than waling that stretch of road.
The legend dictates that the best time to witness the ghost lights of Route 520 lights are between 5:00 P.M. and 3:30 A.M., and have several individual legendary examples to offer a reason for the lights themselves, but what of more plausible reasons? As there have been many scientists and self-styled paranormal investigators over the years to claim that these lights are a result of nature en flux; a simple break down of plant and animal deposits, which creates methane gases, and when ignited through natural causes, the end result may produce an upward dispersal and instant glow or “burn-off,” thus creating the seemingly spooky event. The process is usually instant and can reach to several feet, only to fizzle out. This event is in fact a true scientific occurrence, which takes place in most estuaries, swamps and other bodies of stagnant water. And though Route 520’s ghostly lights show some similarities in behavior, the particulars are certainly different.
The natural process of burning swamp gas will usually take place within the summer months when it is balmy and humid, and even at night when there is a slight cool down in temperature. Because of such explanations, it would be logical to assume that these strange lights are completely natural in origin. Swamp gas does not, however, float through the woods and follow cars or people as they pass by. This is more the nature of the so called “ignis fatuus” or foolish fire. And although the ghost lights of Route 520 have been reported as being playful in nature, as if playing hide and seek with those lucky or unlucky enough to experience them, there is a feeling of malevolence to their odd nature nonetheless. Even though there has never been a report of these luminous orbs of light having caused physical harm to anyone, the nature of these anomalies remains a frightening subject for anyone who experiences them. Moreover, while these particular ghost lights appear to be more entertaining than anything dangerous or evil, their presence in the realms of psychical research and world folklore shall always remain a mystery.
Understanding the scientific method – Separating the wheat from the chaff
Before a research problem like ghost lights can be honestly explored, said researcher must first do a complete background investigation for the question; its means, value to the study and the purpose of the interest. For the supposition of ghost lights being of intelligent origin; or from the folkloric perspective, an entity of discarnate origin, we are certainly taking a huge leap of faith. That is to say, the possibilities of defining the lights being observed in a swampy region in the southern states in America as “paranormal” is indeed a huge leap of faith, considering that methane gas burn-off is a simple and quite natural response to nature. Dead matter decomposes, is rendered active from the state of simple change to another, and then responds to that change. In this case, the decomposing matter becomes gaseous, which in turn ignites and takes various patterns before dissolving. The legend, in contrast is rich in folklore, finding various homes of thought regarding the so-called supernatural. From the discarnate spirits of pioneers and long-dead native Indians, to ghostly locomotives, jackrabbits with lanterns strapped to their backs and luminous creatures of a fantastic nature, the ghost lights have been witnessed since ancient times. But how do psychical researchers investigate and catalog them?
In the course of any psychical investigation, it will be necessary to address the mundane along with the seemingly fantastic. In cases of the survival hypothesis, which this work is dedicated, the subject of alleged accounts of hauntings and poltergeist incidents will glean a heightened chance of experiencing fantasy prone personalities, mental illness and outright fraud. Indeed, researchers will hear every kind of tale imaginable; most that may not warrant further attention. However, when dealing with the experiencer, specifically those within the public domain, the researcher will have to apply the scientific method to all aspects of the investigation, a reality that is equally true when working alone or with other researchers.
To best exemplify this process, we will apply the example case study to the methodology process accordingly, and in the following manner:
Step 1: Make observations.
This process might at first appear obvious, but in truth can be the most taxing within the investigation. Outside of initial and preliminary investigations; interviewing the experiencer(s) and collecting general information, on most occasions the researcher will have to deal with many hours of waiting and observing at the location. Unlike a chemist who can watch a reaction to a chemical experiment in a matter of moments, the psychical researcher might have to sit in a parked car, remain still within a dwelling or in the elements waiting for an alleged event to occur (e.g., an apparition making a presence as according to folklore, ghost lights “ignis fatuus” or similar phenomena). In spite of the sacrifice of time, this aspect of the scientific method is the most vital part of the process, largely because what the researcher observes or does not observe will fortify the study, and construct the foundation for the following elements of his or her research and eventual presentation.
Step 2: Form a hypothesis.
In general, the hypothesis is a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation. It serves as the base reasoning of your investigation, and typically has the following characteristics:
a.) It should consist of a general principle that holds across all spans of knowledge
b.) It should consist of an idea, though tentative; or otherwise pliable for further research
c.) It should coincide with available observations
d.) It should be simplistic and easy to comprehend.
e.) It should be testable; possibly provable and possibly falsifiable, meaning that there should be a way for the hypothesis to be disproven as well, which will make your research unbiased. If, however, there is not enough evidence to complete the observation point of the method, then it will have to be listed as missing information, just as in any mathematical study. Because there may not be enough information, the scientific method cannot satisfy its peers; the scientific community, thus rendering the study incomplete. However, a general answer might result as a null hypothesis or as an alternate hypothesis in order to dismiss or hold the study until such time as the study can be explored again. In psychical research, this is a common and unavoidable factor, until such time as proper information can be collected in order to prove or disprove the hypothesis.
Example: If researching ghost lights “ignis fatuus” as an intelligent form of haunting, for instance, various scientific apparatus might be used to take samples of air, methane and other gasses, ions and various aspects of a chemical nature in order to rule out a simple answer for the visual effects witnessed by people. The collection of such elements or a lack of such elements would be considered a testable measurement, which would offer an unbiased result, assuming the information collected is provable and acceptable by authorities in that field of study. If, however, you are unable to collect the proper data to prove that the “ghost lights” are actually related to ghosts or otherwise paranormal activity, then the study will likely result as a null hypothesis. An alternate hypothesis, in contrast remains true to the original theory, and that an observed effect will occur, in this case, there may be intelligence behind the ghost lights, and not a result of swamp gasses or other natural phenomena. Or, that the events are indeed a natural cause, and not of a “paranormal” nature. It all depends on the position of your hypothesis.
Step 3: Make a prediction.
Decide on what you will expect from your hypothesis from step 2. At this stage you understand that your hypothesis is tentative and may or may not be factual. Keep notes about what you think you’ll discover during your testing stage. As the location appears to have unforeseen, luminous lights existing where there should be no such lights, you “predict” two possibilities: (1.) The effects are a natural phenomena, a result of methane gasses burning off during the summer months and (2.) the lights could be another concept of nature, albeit a controversial concept known as the “Corpuscular Theory,” whereby billions of microscopic points of light attract to each other, congeal by means yet unknown, and become mobile; are able to float and motivate by unknown means. The first theory simply relates to methane gasses burning off naturally, a common effect in marshy terrain during certain times of the year, while the second appears as real, though being on a different plane of physics as simple as reflective or refractive light; ball lightning or the spontaneous combustion of living or inert materials. You make a prediction that these are of the two possible causes, and not a “paranormal” manifestation as local legend attests.
Note: If the experiment doses not work accordingly to your hypothesis, then you will have to modify your hypothesis in order to proceed. This can occur by margins or by proposing an entirely new hypothesis, though for the most part it may only require you to add or subtract variables in your theory, or force you to reconsider original ideas. If you need to modify your hypothesis, return to Step 2, and then proceed with another experiment.
Step 4: Perform the experiment.
We rely again on our sensory perception to collect information, and design an experiment based on our predictions. In the case of the ghost lights, the first necessity is time, patience and keen observation. The legend gives us testimony that strange, greenish-yellow and sometimes bluish-colored lights are seen hovering near an embankment that is close to Route 520, roughly 155-yards. The road itself has a long history in this sleepy part of Cocoa Beach, Florida; a small seaside city of less than 18,000 residents, and resting between the cities of Melbourne and Titusville. The history dates to roughly the early 1760s, but northern settlers didn’t start setting up homes here until the 1860s. The route has been a main link to the busy city of Orlando, and runs about 35 miles. It has a long list of road fatalities and has a reputation of being haunted as a result. This is the local folklore that has generated interest in the subject of ghosts and hauntings for this area since at least the 1960s. The first step is to locate the section where the ghost lights have been witnessed. Then the researchers will set up a temporary camp and employ the tools of their trade in order to measure and collect data regarding the alleged events, and then apply the scientific method in resolving the mystery (the question) if possible. The following list of equipment will be used in the investigation.
1.) Eudiometer; a laboratory device that measures the change in volume of a gas-mixture following a physical or chemical change.
2.) Sensit Gold C – model; a gas sensitive detector that can pick up and record levels of various gasses, both natural and synthetic.
3.) MSA Altair, Single-Gas H2S Detector; a device able to pick up and record hydrogen sulfides (H2S), which is both toxic and flammable, causing a variety of problems, including causing visual hallucinations.
4.) Magnetometer-Tri-Field meters with a magnetic setting calibrated for 60 Hz-sine waves and Analog Electro-Static Voltmeter (AEV). The Tri-Field Meters determined various magnetic strengths at this location, both inside and outside where no electric sources could be found. AEV is used primarily for checking surface and ambient electrostatic charges.
5.) Non-Contact Infrared Radiometer-Thermometer and Digital Hygro-Thermometer. The basic temperature reading detected massive temperature differentials at the site, where some levels differed to 32 degrees hotter in a space of one hour. Hygrometer-related temperatures found barometric pressure and relative humidity to change by at least 18 degrees inside a confined space, and close to 22 degrees outside, though levels may vary.
6.) Infrared 35-mm camera with 50 mm (171.8 lens) with a Kodak No. 25-Filter, High Speed Infrared Film (HIE 135-36) 36 X 3 exposures are sensitive enough to detect shadow-like images, as well as photographic curvatures otherwise not detectable on standard film.
7.) Digital Cameras/Video Recorders (various brands) with night vision attachments, as well as infrared capabilities for capturing evidence of Orb and/or Vortex activity, regardless of personal theories of significance. Though possible explanations for the majority of orbs photographed may be due to duct, mist and other water-related causes, the anomalies may not be acceptable in moisture-prone locations.
8.) Ion Survey Meter (ISM) used for the detection of ion particles and various forms of low-level radiation. Ions, both positive and negative can cause various mood and emotional variations, and are able to cause intense fear, anxiety and dread, or unwarranted elation and happiness without logical circumstances.
Now that the equipment is ready, the primary researcher and others will choose the proper location where to set up for their experiment. Unlike the average scientist of chemistry, physics and such, who might have a well fortified laboratory to work from, these psychical researchers will have to submit to harsh environments in order to perform their experiments. Here, the researchers are looking for the alleged ghost lights to appear, so they are on location, two researchers near the marshlands and another two near the roadway. They will sit up throughout the night, and observe the area were the anomalies have been witnessed. Because the researchers have agreed upon a hypothesis model, they will begin with the use of their equipment. The experiment will last for three consecutive nights within the same hours as a guideline. They set up two (2) video cameras with night vision attachments, as well as infrared capabilities. Each camera is set to two separate points of location, and will be running at a long-play setting in order to last for the hours expected. Next, they will use their testing equipment, such as the eudiometer, a laboratory device to measure the change in volume of a gas mixture following a physical or chemical change. This will be used in water beds and nearby estuaries, and will follow a typical protocol. Also in use will be the Non-contact infrared radiometer-thermometer and digital hygro-thermometer, to be used for scanning the general and surrounding areas. These tests will be ongoing throughout the experiment to record any changes and variables that may cause the effects observed by witnesses in the past, as well as to formulate why such an event might occur in the first place. Next, the researchers will employ the MSA Altair, single-gas H2S and the Sensit Model-C detectors in order to collect and analyze the various gasses collecting around the general locale, as well as near the road where the events are said to have occurred. This is done to rule out or prove the existence of such gasses, as well as to possibly add to the concept that such gasses are contributing to the effects witnessed.
Once the gas count is concluded, an ion count will be taken with the Ion Survey Meter in order to ascertain if the effect of either positive or negative ions are present in any great or otherwise exaggerated number. As either pronounced levels could point to elevated moods, such as depression, fear and anger, or happiness and euphoria, such could possibly have altered moods and outlooks of the experiencer, making them, in effect, “see ghosts.” Finally, the researchers will submit to taking photographs with the Infrared 35-mm camera using 50 mm (171.8 lenses) with a Kodak No. 25-filter, high speed infrared film throughout the experiment timeline. Such will be conducted throughout the time spent at the location; from dusk until daybreak (approximately from 6:45 P.M. to 6:00 A.M.). Each researcher is given two rolls of film for conventional cameras, and a new Scandisk chip for each digital camera. In addition to the primary study, the researchers will also use a Magnetometer and various tri-field meters to rule out electromagnetic responses, where there should be none. As the phone lines and its electrical components are at least 135-yards from the observation location within the swamp area, only the lowest levels should be detected, if at all. Other tools like a tape recorder, notepads, pens, small LED lights, as well as a large battery lamp and food and drinks will be provided for the researchers.
Note: Cell phones are permitted, but must be turned off during the experiment. And no radio, television or other entertainment devices will be allowed. Furthermore, researchers will refrain from smoking or wearing colognes as such might interfere with the experiment. The researchers will take their meals and spend their day-time sleeping hours at a nearby hotel.
The researchers were able to find the proper locations, and dutifully set up a small camp, which would be used only during the hours of testing. The first two nights are spent without issue, and make no observations of unexplainable lights or otherwise experience anything out of the ordinary. A series of tests with the aforementioned equipment was used each night with normal or otherwise typical responses regarding natural gasses, sights, sounds and expectations for the terrain the researchers were in. On the third day, however (5:35 P.M.), the researchers witnessed what appeared to be a soft glow coming from the marshlands just northeast of their location, approximately 155-yards from the westbound road of Route 520. The color of the light was bluish-drab with hints of yellow at its core. The researchers began an immediate series of tests with their equipment. They captured photos, and video evidence of what could be detected on their digital and video cameras, authenticating a visual existence. Moreover, there was a scent collected, albeit largely undetectable to the researchers, but found on the gas detection devises, offering the following readings in Step 5:
Step 5: Analyze the results of the experiment.
(1.) Upon initial, secondary and tertiary experiments with the equipment listed in Step 4, the researchers discovered the presence of phosphine (PH3) in the gasses collected. Understanding that Phosphine (phosphorus trihydride) is a highly poisonous gas naturally and synthetically created by watery soils, and resulting from the natural decay of plant and animal proteins and other phosphate-bearing matter, such serves as the primary cause for said accounts of so-called “ghost lights” observed in the research area. Moreover, trace amounts of phosphorous tetrahydride (P2H4) have been found, and clinically determined that when a tetrahydride-carrying phosphine is introduced into methane, a self-ignition occurs.
(2.) As a result, the flame should appear as a bright greenish-blue in color, accompanied by fair amount of smoke from the burn-off. There was also a distinctly unique odor as a result of the burn-off. In spite of this evidence, it is common knowledge, as well as through Folkloristics that “ghost lights” do no emit an odor. However, because the majority of witnesses have reported these oddities from a distance, and rarely up-close, it appears likely that the “ghost lights” in question are a combination of simple and complex gasses igniting as a result of temperature, which was agitated by the time of year July 23-25, with a mean temperature of 92 degrees Fahrenheit or 33.3333 Celsius.
(3.) In addition, a series of in-lab experiments at the Chemistry Departments-University of Central Florida and the University of Chicago was conducted. The research team used an Aerograph gas separator-vapor phase chromatography in order to complete a detailed analysis of collected water samples from the testing location. The final report submitted from an x-3 test resulted in a failure to detect a part-per-million trace of phosphine in the laboratory samples.
(4.) Non-contact infrared radiometer-thermometer/digital hygro-thermometer was able to record readings that were unremarkable for the locale. Temperature readings fluxed between 92 degrees Fahrenheit/33.3333 Degrees Celsius to 79 degrees Fahrenheit/26.1111 degrees Celsius through the duration of testing time.
(5.) Photographs, both 35 mm and digital cameras were able to catch images of what appeared to look like balls of light rising up from the marsh and nearby estuary. The balls were wisp-like, and had resin upward only, and did not travel or move horizontally as local legend attests. The lights followed the first behavior by dissipating altogether, leaving a momentary trace of smoke, or something resembling smoke. The event lasted approximately 3-4 minutes, as opposed to the estimated duration of witnessed ghost lights, which have been reported to last up to several hours.
(6.) Magnetometer and various tri-field meter readings: Inconclusive/Null
(7.) Ion Survey Meter: Trace elements/positive count of 2,500 per cc to the millionth per location of 50-yards from road area estimated. As positive ions, or the lack of a certain amount of negative ions may cause a condition known as serotonin hyper-function syndrome or “irritation syndrome,” which may involve irritability, tension, sleeplessness, , migraine headaches, heart palpitations, hot flashes, sweating, chills, tremors, nausea and dizziness, such may have caused a general sense of fear and anger for sensitive individuals. Note: The acceptable minimum concentration of negative ions indoors is 200-300 ions per cc, while the optimal level is 1000-1500 negative ions per cc.
(8.) Spectral activity: Null
(9.) Out-of-place sounds, scents or feelings experienced by researchers: No extra or out of the ordinary scent or feelings occurred for the researchers, save that for a pungent scent as a result of the marshlands and stagnant waters near the test location.
(10.) Adverse effects reported by researchers: Negative
Sample report from research team:
“The water of the marsh is ferruginous, and covered with an iridescent crust. During the day bubbles of air were seen rising from it, and in the night blue flames were observed shooting from and playing over its surface. As I suspected that there was some connection between these flames and the bubbles of air, I marked during the day-time the place where the latter rose up most abundantly, and repaired thither during the night; to my great joy I actually observed bluish-purple flames, and did not hesitate to approach them. On reaching the spot they retired, and I pursued them in vain; all attempts to examine them closely were ineffectual. I went to the place, where I waited the approach of night; the flames became gradually visible, but redder than formerly, thus showing that they burnt also during the day; I approached nearer and they retired. Convinced that they would return again to their place of origin, when the agitation of the air ceased, I remained stationary and motionless, and observed them again gradually approach…The gas was evidently flammable, and not a phosphorescent one, as some have maintained. But how do these lights originate?”
(1.) From an 1832 account recorded in Newmark, Germany, courtesy the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal)
Step 6: Formulate a conclusion
Step 7: Report your results.
(Partial conclusion) The final analysis of the test location gives credence for typical experiences that may be found at such locations that are surrounded by brackish water, primarily stagnate or non-flowing water like that of this region of central Florida. Because the test results proved positive for its gas readings, which are comparable in some aspects to sewer water, where the decay of plant and animal remains have been broken down to form said gasses, it stands to reason that for the most part this area is experiencing a natural burn-off of such decayed matter to form balls of luminous, gaseous light, followed by various forms or “wisps” of smoke. It is our contention that the majority of witness accounts were of this simple methane burn-off. Unlike other enigmas like ball lightning and spontaneous combustion of living or inert properties, this particular event is short-lived, causes no damage to the surrounding area, or is mobile from its initial location save that from moving upward to dissolve.
Fig.2 Report of gas count – methane et al
100,000 and we reject the null then we must conclude that the alternate is true and the ghost lights are paranormal in nature; if we fail to reject it is plausible; that the ghost lights are not of a paranormal foundation, we will not use it. In this case, with the evidence collected, our findings could be viewed both ways; both meaningful in result because the gasses, ions and photo evidence seem to prove that this may in fact are the causes of the ghost lights. However, because the behaviors and responses are not like those of the ghost lights as witnessed in folklore and urban legend, we may conclude that the hypothesis is alternative, because there may yet be another, yet undiscovered reason that the ghost lights are in fact based in some paranormal arena, respectfully. value is greater than the significance level, then we must reject the null hypothesis and consider the test example as it is plausible. Understanding the null or alternate hypothesis in this question, and considering a hypothesis against the null hypothesis, meaning that the ghost lights are natural and the cause of this otherwise paranormal event; the data collected being evidence against the mean, and assuming the mean is factual, trying to prove it untrue; the question remains open for further exploration.
In short, after finding the test statistic and p-value, if the p-value is less than or equal to the significance level of the test, then we must reject the null hypothesis and conclude the alternate hypothesis is the most logical. If, however, the p-value is greater than the significance level then we might conclude it is plausible. In contrast to this, if the question statement asks you to determine if there is a difference between the statistic and a value, the hypothesis becomes a two-tail test; meaning that the null hypothesis, for example, could be μ = d to that of the alternate hypothesis, which could in turn become μ ≠ d…An interesting concept to say the least.
Fig. 3 Possible viewpoints of the hypothesis
Regardless of the science that could be applied to an otherwise religious or metaphysical question only asks us to continue searching. Because an alternate hypothesis is a prediction that we could make when using a non-experimental method for our research, such as creating a questionnaire, lickert scale and survey, or when observing an experiment, the predication may continue in spite of the initial findings or lack thereof. The alternate hypothesis dictates that the researchers will observe some kind of effect during their test experiments.
Note: For future reference, in statistics the formulation of an alternate hypothesis is shown as either Ha or by H1 symbols. The null hypothesis says that the researcher will find no observed effect for the ghost lights during the experiment. In statistics and mathematical formulations for such will be denoted by H0.
When conducting authorized experiments, scientists will ultimately publish their findings in various scientific periodicals and trade magazines; they will report their findings at symposiums and share their concepts in books. They’ll give lectures at international meetings and in seminars held at the most prestigious colleges and universities throughout the world. So, understanding that everything is on the line, the researcher in question will work hard to assure his or her work is perfect, logical and above all, acceptable. I say acceptable because proving some theories are simply not possible, even if the author of such a theory claims it with great fervor. After all, even though humans make up the names of planets and galaxies, periodic tables and the nomenclatures of all things, such does not mean they are correct — It only assures us that their suppositions were accepted as correct, mostly by concurrence of their peers, and on more than one occasion by popular vote. Incorrect theories like phrenology and supreme eugenics, among many have gone the wayside because they found no basis in a science that can be proven. And though many people would like to think that their suppositions are correct, even when it proves false time and time again, we must remember that even when our theories fail and our methods prove fruitless, the importance for disseminating our results is the most essential aspect of the scientific method as a whole. Because doing so allows others to investigate, and verify your results when correct, or develop additional hypotheses to retest them when they are false, and entices critical thinking and an eventual advancement of that discipline. In the end, you will be known for your contribution to that question, no matter where the answers lay.
For the psychical researcher, the need for the scientific method is just as important for the research scientist with NASA or for the professor of physics who is composing a new theory. Indeed, if truth be known, this sentiment is even truer for the psychical researcher, as this discipline unfortunately remains in the ether realms of fringe science, magic or metaphysical philosophy, having yet to receive a fair enlistment into founded academia, or a warm embrace by fellow researchers in the field of science and social significance. Therefore, the scientific method becomes the very foundation of everything the psychical researcher is striving to prove. It becomes the one completely accepted aspect of all the sciences in spite of the reputation of the few. In the end, more than the methods and systems you’ll use during the creation of your hypothesis, whether you will need to augment or totally rewrite your supposition in order for it to function in the experiment process, the one aspect that must be applied each and every time is critical thinking. More than anything else, the scientific method relies on critical thinking because it is the process of examining current beliefs and accepted explanations, with a goal to distinguish logic from popular conceptions. Those without the proper level of adequate evidence or rational foundations to their theories will be summarily denied. Therefore, without solid arguments to back up your theory, consisting of one or more premises, along with a thorough and comprehensible conclusion, your method process will simply not be complete.
If we are to weigh the importance of one research question to another, we might find that we are comparing apples to oranges. That is to say the psychical researcher is among the few pioneers left to true and unfettered science as we know it. We are among the last to represent the great unknown; the undiscovered country that so diligently wishes to be explored. Though the true researcher will always be at odds in the unforeseeable ocean of naysayers and skeptics, it is the unknown that continues to act as a beacon that heralds the wise and dedicated alike to continue the search. As the only way to achieve an acceptance by mainstream researchers within the scientific community is to adhere to time-honored and accepted systems that they recognize, the importance of this process becomes clear. The television ghost hunters and psychic spook detectors will simply not do outside of an entertainment program, offering little more than a sideshow-like atmosphere to fill an hour of your time. In the true pursuit of scientific knowledge, the psychical researcher will have to brave the waters of hard science in order to reach the other side safely, if not only to be revered. Those who cannot or will not adapt to this simple edict will not survive. Therefore, for the honest and dedicated researcher, he or she must begin with the undemanding practice of actual research; diligence in that study; a sacrifice of many hours to his or her research, and above all, always applying the scientific method to each and every aspect of research within their discipline. Doing any less is just not science.
Bauer, Henry H., Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method, University of Illinois Press, Champaign,
Bloom, B. (1956). Major categories in the taxonomy of educational objectives. Retrieved January 17, 2012 from the
University of Washington-Seattle Website: http://faculty.washington.edu/~krumme/guides/bloom.htm
Brody, Baruch A. and Capaldi, Nicholas, Science: Men, Methods, Goals: A Reader: Methods of Physical Science, W. A.
Burks, Arthur W., Chance, Cause, Reason – An Inquiry into the Nature of Scientific Evidence, University of Chicago Press,
Chicago, IL, 1977.
Frizzell, Michael A. & George F. Walls. Stalking The Mysterious Lights; Pursuit Magazine, Volume 20, Fourth Quarter, 1987
Soyka, F. 1977. The ion effect. Lester and Orpen Limited
Figure 2 courtesy RapidTables.com
Figure 3 courtesy Statistics Symbol sheet:
(1.) This account took place in Newmark, Germany and was documented in an 1832 edition of the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal and was recaptured for posterity by William R. Corliss in Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights and Related Luminous Phenomena , pp. 168, 175.