Paranormal Investigator Profile: Loyd Auerbach

Loyd Auerbach is the director of the Office of Paranormal Investigations and the author of Ghost Hunting: How to Investigate the Paranormal (Ronin Publishing, 2003) and Hauntings & Poltergeists: A Ghost Hunter’s Guide (2004). His first book, ESP, Hauntings and Poltergeists (Warner Books, 1986), deals with the ways parapsychologists investigate psychic phenomena outside the laboratory and the misconceptions of the phenomena held by the public. It was named the “sacred text” on ghosts by Newsweek.

Q: What drew you into parapsychology?

What drew me into the field was really an interest that came out of science fiction. I used to watch the old Topper TV show in the 60s, and Star Trek certainly got me there too. comic books, science-fiction literature, really all of that kind of put me into the interest. And then Dark Shadows and a show in the early 70s called The Sixth Sense all kind of really formalized my interest into parapsychology.

Other than knowing who was on the phone occasionally [before picking up] or things like that, I really didn’t have any sort of psychic experience until I got into graduate school.

Q: Did you actually see something?

I actually saw folks move some objects in college. This was a series of seminars run by a couple of folks at Mundelein College in Chicago. They brought in some parapsychologists and did some work on PK (psychokinesis). So I did see some movement of objects that way.

Q: What kind of evidence do you consider credible in determining if an area is haunted?

Evidence is the right word. We’re really talking about peoples’ experiences here, so when you’re talking about a ghost experience or a ghost sighting, it’s a person who has that experience. There’s no technology involved. For a place to be haunted, you’re typically talking about a history of peoples’ experiences, but most important are current experiences. There are many places that are no longer haunted— they were, at one point, according to the local histories, but it doesn’t do any good for anybody who’s doing an investigation, or who is even interested, unless the folks who witnessed the phenomena are still around or if the phenomena are still happening.

The experience can vary quite a bit depending on the phenomena, so we’re talking about mainly two different types of things. One is the idea of an apparition or ghost sticking around after their death for quite a long time, which seems to be pretty rare. More common are the imprints, or place memories. That kind of thing is fairly common all over the world—not just in specific places we call haunted, but even in peoples’ homes people experience things.

Q: Do you put much stock in spirit photography?

They can support the human experience, certainly, but when it comes down to it, none of the technology has been designed to pick up the things that we experience. There is no technology that is designed to pick up human consciousness in the body, let alone outside of the body.

The problem with the camera is that cameras are not better than people think they are. I have a lot of friends who are in photography and a couple of folks who work for some major companies, and the reality is that cameras do not take pictures of things that are invisible to the human eye—unless it’s infrared, in which case we’re doing something that is heat-sensitive and not what people typically think. If it’s invisible to the human eye, it’s going to be invisible to a flash and to a camera.

With ghost cases, we’re talking about the ghost somehow affecting the camera—affecting the film, or the mechanism of the camera. We certainly have a lot of evidence that people’s consciousness can affect computers. And if an object can move, certainly a camera can be affected.

There are many other explanations regarding spirit photography. This could be an effect of a ghost on the camera, but it’s not a ghost. The image itself is not a ghost.

Q: What is your favorite haunt?

My favorite place, where I’ve probably had more experiences than anyplace else, is the Moss Beach Distillery restaurant, which is just south of San Francisco. It’s haunted by a woman who was murdered in the early 1930s. Local historians have collected stories from people even as far back as a week after her death. She was murdered as part of a lover’s triangle, so it’s one of those classic ghost stories. People saw her ghost fairly regularly through probably the 70s. Since the late 70s, she hasn’t been seen as much as she has been felt.

What’s interesting about this case is that a lot of things have happened on the investigations we’ve been on—including with a lot of the TV crews. Although the biggest problem with TV shows is that the crews tend not to want to include themselves in talking about the experiences. So if something happens while the camera is turned off, they’re not willing to talk about it if they see it. So we’ve actually had a lot of really good witnesses to evidence that have occurred there, except they’re not willing to talk about it because they don’t want to become part of the story. And then, of course, they complain that we have nothing on camera.

I’ve worked with about five mediums or psychics over the last 14 years at the Distillery. At the restaurant, they all had not only encountered the same person, but each psychic was able to add to and pick up different information that was later confirmed by some of the other folks as well as by some of the witnesses. So, in other words, we’re getting psychic sensitives who are picking up information that the people living in the area or people who are working there can also confirm by their experience. That’s very positive for us. She [the ghost] is pretty cooperative, generally.

Q: Where is parapsychology going?

For one thing, the funding in the United States has been drying up, and a lot of the organizations have been in danger for quite a while—partly because of the skeptics’ movement more than anything else. It’s a shame for people who are psychic practitioners and the ghost hunters—nobody seems to want to support the research. Because the research is not just in the lab, it’s also outside the laboratory. But in general, I think it has gathered a little bit more momentum with some mainstream scientists who are more and more willing, at least amongst their peers, to discuss these experiences. And especially with physicists, the quantum physicists who are more interested in physics of consciousness. I think that’s where it’s been heading—looking at consciousness, which is extremely important when you’re talking about ghosts, because that’s what a ghost is by definition.

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