One of the clubs in which Lehighton Area Middle School students can participate is "Project Paranormal" in which group leaders Librarian June Potts and seventh grade teacher Hallie Seiwell teach students there is a way to scientifically approach the idea of the unknown and that not everything that seems to be a ghost is one. During the time Principal Mark McGalla provided a tour of the various clubs, this club of students had special guest Blue Mountain Paranormal Society founder Bob Schaeffer present information about what real-life paranormal investigators do.
"We started this group because we are both interested in the paranormal from a scientific standpoint and we want to help teach the kids that not everything that we cannot explain is necessarily a 'ghost'," said Seiwell.
She says they discuss episodes of "Ghost Hunters" because they are one of the few shows that thoroughly analyze their investigations debunking much of phenomena they experience. They also learn the terminology used by investigators and learn how evidence is examined and analyzed.
"It helps students learn to detach from the evidence and look at it analytically. We want to teach them to think critically."
Schaeffer discussed his group's investigations with the students and explained that much of the activity can be explained. "The environment has a lot to do with cases involving ghosts or spirits. Many times we can explain why certain things happen." As an example he said that sometimes doors that open or close by themselves are doing so because of environmental changes due to air pressure or other conditions. "We hear rapping and knocking and it's usually not a ghost. Most of the time it is a loose valve or heat changes in pipes from a furnace."
He told the club his group investigates cases and gathers evidence from the site and then spends hours poring over it for items that could be paranormal. While much of it can be explained away, every now and then, something unusual is found and it is reviewed and reviewed again. Many times if possible, they will even return to a site to check the evidence or try to duplicate it.
"One of the big pieces of evidence used by ghost hunters today is electronic voice phenomena or EVP. The idea is that spirit energy can manipulate or imprint voices on media such as digital recordings or video tapes that we can't hear directly or notice at the time but can be picked up in the recording as part of the ambient noise," Schaeffer told the group.
He pointed out that not all white noise is necessarily unusual. He mentioned there is a psychological concept called "matrixing" in which the mind is programmed to develop and analyze patterns in the environment. One common example is picking shapes out of the clouds on a sunny day. "We can do the same thing with our hearing or sight. Some alleged ghost photos can be explained by tricks of light or pixelation. Pixelation is when the subject forms patterns from a highly magnified pixelated form of a photograph."
In the same respect, Schaeffer said listening to white noise for too long at a time could trick the mind into hearing words or phrases in the sound that really are not there. "We try to be very cautious when we listen to suspected EVP recordings." He told the students the criteria his investigators use is to listen only for 10 to 20 minutes at one time and take a break in between sessions. "It takes a while but we are less likely to make mistakes."
He concluded his lecture by showing several slides of photographic anomalies taken during BMPS cases as well as allowing students to listen to some EVP recordings believed to be evidence from those cases.