I've made many, many friends doing this site and continuing my work which I've shared... sadly, I've made a few enemies along the way... and it's them I address this to... and perhaps offer them a greater understanding then what they simply believe to be true...
#1: I've heard the we see our sites and our work as our patch that we don't want anyone else involved with.
#2: I've heard that we want to dictate how everyone does things and not let anyone be free thinkers or creative in their approach.
#3: I've heard we want to control and swallow groups so we can monopolise the study.
#4: I've heard that we are lazy know-nothings that only criticise other people's efforts.
#5: I've heard we crave fame and fortune only.
These are the big five... and forgive me, but I'll have to call them what they are... lies that are oft said about us by various folks... and really, to be a touch glib... you don't know us very well.
Allow me to explain, if I may, what brought me to the dance... long before the website existed.
I had an experience of my own.
To be fair, I had a series of ongoing experiences of my own when I was just starting my teen years.
Being the kind of person who always wants answers... and not having been from a particularly religious or spiritual family, I hit the books. I probably read about a hundred books on "true ghost stories" and the like from every library I ever went into... and never stopped.
I visited, on my own and just for interest, many public spots reported to be haunted to see what I could see... I even had friends, who when they found out my interest and my passion for studying the phenomena, that invited me to their homes to speak with their families and friends... and this is all before the age of twenty-five.
...but the key was, I was still on a journey for myself...
What happened to me? Why did it happen? Can I recreate it? Is it random? What caused it?
Those questions were never answered perfectly for me... the experience was real, that I did not doubt, but what caused it?
I was perfectly okay with having an explanation of You're crazy and imagining things! save that other people experienced the same things... Were we all crazy? Were we all, oddly enough, hallucinating the same images??? That didn't make sense... and after plunging through volumes on the topic of psychology and indeed, even brain injuries, I found nothing that truly substantiated that claim.
So what happened to me...
...and, now more importantly, what happened/happens to all these people I'm meeting... hearing from... talking to?
I found some people's journey to explanation ended with the idea of What happened, happened. I don't care. Moving on...
Other's were like me... looking for answers...
Some were contented to rest on a single hypothesis for what happened... other's, like myself, wanted more proof.
I learned to listen and respect all views... BUT... question everything. Try for "better" answers... or even better questions.
Fast-forward to the websites...
Being one of the first in Canada... and as of now, the oldest surviving website/group of its kind in this nation... I have learned much... and, in some ways unfortunately, gained even more questions that remain unanswered...
...but one thing's remained constant...
Witnesses and "experiencers" still keep coming... and I cannot help but be in awe and in genuine respect of these people as they either keep on their journey of discovery like myself... or even when they settle on their own explanations as the answers they need.
These people... these thousands and thousands of people I've spoken to... they come first.
It's not about "me" anymore... it hasn't been for many years... pretty much since the original website stopped being a simple story repository... it's about them... and their relationship to the study.
This isn't to say I... or really, at this point, "we" (meaning the group I work with,) accept all things without question... but we ask our questions with a genuine hope that we'll learn something we didn't know before... that a spark of creativity or knowledge will erupt and spur another idea or question...
Some people don't like questions... What they know is static and absolute... And when we're told this point-blank, we back off. It's never been our job to "convert" belief.
...but we've always strode to ensure before we say something is static and absolute, we have empirical evidence to back the idea up... which means, sometimes, when people try to force something down our throat and demand we give it 100% acceptance and approval, they really hate us when we say we can't... even when we can show that there's good reason and evidence to support our non-committal stance to their faith, they don't like us because we're not like them and obviously, we don't know anything.
That said, these types of folks are indeed in the minority... it's a loud minority, but a minority none-the-less.
Because the majority seems to be genuinely interested in finding more than a leap of faith, we actually get excited and indeed happy when people take up the cause and start their own work. After all, there's more than enough things to look into for everyone... and more minds mean more ideas... and perhaps, answers.
So many start their work because they want a "thrill"... to be the person that goes into the "haunted house" to prove their bravery... or to behave like it's a midway attraction at a fairground.
Other's start their work as a social networking lesson... to become king or queen of a group or scene... to rally friends to a "cool" hobby.
A lot of groups and sites are started with hopes of fame... especially from the media. They want instant attention and feel that this is a "cool way" to get it.
Worst for us are those people with little "content" to their sites and groups that are quite obviously hoping for fortune... to make a "buck" from the study.
On that last group, we bear no ill feelings towards "ghost tours" and the like because they are what they are... entertainment... but when people put out a shingle saying they are "ghost hunters" and try to make money saying they are "real" when it's rather obvious to most they aren't, it can be a little upsetting.
Like I said, for us... it's a journey... a passion... something that we've sunk combined decades into trying to learn about... and then we're confronted with the four "types" of groups above?
Worse yet, remember how I said it's been about the witnesses... "them"... for years now, not us?
Imagine when you see the above four types trolling for witnesses and "experiencers" to come forward to them. Do they really want to help those people? Do they really believe what they are doing is productive or useful? Are they adding to the knowledge-base of those of us trying to understand things better?
The answer is invariably "No".
...but when we comment against it... sometimes with truckloads of evidence to warn those people who might be duped into allowing the thrill-seeking attention-starved folks from exploiting them... we're the bad guys.
Another thing about this study is the enormous respect one gains for history. Folklore plays a huge part in the study of ghosts... and historic sites are often the best places to start studying.
I admit personally that I've had a love of Canadian history (instilled by my mother,) for many more years than I've had a passion for the paranormal... which makes me somewhat more sensitive to these sites and stories.
...but find me anyone who looks into the past, especially for the folkloric tales, that doesn't love the dramas, comedies, and tragedies that took place in the long gone past... find me the time traveller, the one that doesn't only see things as moving at one second per second, that takes time to move into the past via books, visiting sites, and generally talking to those in the know about our history... find me those people and show me how many of them are willing to discard the historical evidence completely for a "better story"... or worse, something entirely fabricated to fit a particular belief.
When it comes down to that, find me someone who doesn't mind the trampling of the past... the "unintentional" destruction of the truth and even, occasionally, the actual property that remains as our guide to history.
These are slim numbers...
So, when a "ghost group" of any type tramples through a cemetery not caring about the memories of those interred and those people left behind to mourn there when the "ghost-types" aren't there anymore... those types that feel nothing about trespassing into a site in the name of "the study" (usually, this is more in the name of a cheap thrill,)... those types that report fiction as fact to "back up" their stories and reports... and yes, those people who are seemingly incapable of cracking open a book or even talking to a tour guide or historian when they can... and we're a touch out of sorts.
Not only is this an affront to our own journey... and the journey of so many others... and to the memories and places that make up our heritage... but it reflects on all of the other people in this field... those that are trying to do the right thing and work through proper channels... to work towards a greater understanding.
Those places and people these types affect by their careless attitude don't distinguish between them and anyone else... "ghost people" are "ghost people" and if one is damned, so are we all.
This sort of thing, and it's far-reaching tentacles, is why we do decry this sort of behaviour.
...but again, in writing this... despite probably well over 80% of you reading this saying, "Well, that makes sense! You should speak up when you see this and try to nip it in the bud!", there's another loud minority claiming it's another case of "us" trying to control "them".
Sometimes, doing this for a "hobby" (really, it's more a passion of a lifetime and being a constant student,) is completely disheartening...
We constantly praise, record, and cite those in the past (and present) in this study who's efforts have helped us... yet we see so much of our work and their efforts being copied and no credit to those who's work spurred the ideas... it's like there's a stigma... much like a school-yard where the children re dreadfully afraid to be accused of being a "copier".
We're a copier. Proud of it.
We adopt, adapt, and try to improve everything we can about our passion... We try to add, but never forget where it all started from... and cite those pioneers and scholars who've laid the ground work for us.
We haven't suffered for doing this... yet so many seem to think they will.
It's as if they think that giving credit to Harry Price, The Society for Psychical Research, or Peter Underwood would somehow undermine their credibility.
To be honest, a fifth grade essay requires the student to list sources... but apparently, for some "ghost groups" (who we assume are older than most fifth-graders,) to do the same would cause them to spontaneously combust.
The "one-upmanship" in this study is unbelievable... and usually poor... and the study, as a whole. and those people, like us, on a journey, are the one's who suffer for the lack of will to give kudos and possibly give people a chance to find other sources for thoughts and ideas.
SO... with all these issues... and I haven't even included the damage done by horrible media outlets to the legitimacy of this study... why keep at it? Why lecture? Why TRY to tell people to do better and share?
We're still on that journey.
So are they... those witnesses... those experiencers...
...and all the "Me! Me! Me!" attitude, all the poor effort, all the non-content, all the non-thinking, all the obsessiveness with singular faith over questions...
...it won't stem the tide of those who want to continue the journey.
That's not just us... that's so many people out there.
...and we deserve to be respected...
...and, quite frankly, in so many cases, we deserve better.
To go WAY back in this article, and looking at those "five lies"...
#1: We don't want to control the study ourselves, we want everyone to control what they do and offer honesty. To make sure that people represent themselves or their groups with integrity... and to work with all of us to understand this journey... or, be honest and let everyone know you're not on the same path... in which case, our opinions and thoughts really shouldn't concern you.
#2: We don't want to stem creativity... but if you're presenting data publicly, allow us the right to look it over, possibly disagree with it, or even suggest an adaptation to the efforts to possibly assist us all. Again, if you're not interested in trying to work from the neutral to answer the questions or to create better questions, just be honest and realise our comments cannot apply to you.
#3: We wouldn't want to control every group... We want to be able to trust every group we work with... and we want to ensure our own efforts stay a course... but like I said, it's a big planet and there's loads of ways to do things. We're sorry if our suggestions, comments, and notes may have forced re-evaluations of things, but if we don't speak up... if we don't try to separate the wheat from the chaff in these studies, we will stall in our efforts and yes, they will die in a flood of redundancy. Again, however, you can ignore us. We really won't care if you do.
#4: We're not lazy... and we have the literally thousands of pages of text and documents to prove we're doing things. Yes, we often say that we like to see content on other sites, but again, that's to broaden our own knowledge... and when there isn't a lot of work done by those sites and groups, why do we get blamed? I've never understood that... perhaps, again, they shouldn't care what "we" have to say and just move in different circles. I am sorry if our notes and documents make the rounds and people talk about us, but quite truthfully, it's because we're prodigious and do a lot of work.
#5: If we do only crave fame and fortune, one would assume that there would be more "get rich quick" schemes on our sites... and more failed attempts at media or money... or both... and as opposed to us filtering and genuinely avoiding media requests (check out our FAQ section and the like,) wouldn't we be welcoming it? If you spoke to our team... or anyone who knows us, we've always known we wouldn't earn our "daily bread" with this... not without a patron who believes in our efforts... and we've always been more than happy to let others do media because, honestly, it's not something we've set out to do.
...we're on a journey... of exploration, discovery, and learning.
Whether you're on the journey with us, travellers on the same road, or taking a different route altogether, we only ask that you respect us for our effort... and understand we care about everyone on that journey... and want the trails, highways, and byways that journey is taken on to be treated with respect... respect for the builders of the trail, those who are still beating the paths to make new trails, and those who are retracing the road for other's to learn the routes from.
...but if getting grumpy and pointing out those who litter the path, put up obstacles, or try to block the scenery with billboards is a bad thing... then yes, we're bad by your definition.
...but we can't really stop those people who want to make the road rougher than it needs be... we can only alert those fellow travellers to the possible detours if we note that they aren't leading in the directions they might assume they go.
Again, if that's wrong... fine.
We don't challenge people reporting to be in our field of study to fights... and we really never have.
We have challenged them to discussion, debate, and to support claims if any are made... that's all... and we don't do that to be "mean" or "controlling"... we do it because we care about the study, the history, and most of all, the other travellers on our journey... that, and because we want to learn more ourselves.
I could have also cited the number of times we've been told we're "Know-it-alls"... which is odd... because no, we're still learning. We're well read... we use critical thinking skills... we study... and we do challenge people to those things mentioned above... not because we know everything... because we want to know more... and have more data to help the study.
If you claim "X" is undeniable proof or evidence of ghosts, we might ask why. This isn't denial of your claim... this isn't us trying to crush you... it's us saying, "Okay, we'll go along with that... but we do want evidence to support the claim."
We might even have the audacity to see problems in some claims and point them out.
We're still students... and we question anyone who claims to be our teacher... because we want to learn more and we want to learn better.
...heck, call it egotistical, but we're hoping those folks might learn more and do better because we are asking and challenging them.
It seems to me, and I may be way off base on this, but most of us are on the same journey... why not stop and look for better paths... and help point out the bad detours some put in place?
Again, is this wrong?
...you can always ignore us if you think so...
Like I said, we really can't block anyone from looking into things... and in most cases, we really don't.
We're interested in what happens to you too!
This isn't my patch... it never was...
It's my passion... and I deeply care for it as a whole... and the individuals seeking information or indeed, answers from within it... and I don't have to be nor do I wish to be the sole proprietor of that knowledge.
If I did, I wouldn't write this... or have a website... or a group... or a blog.
It's not my patch... it's our patch... and yeah, we can be overprotective of it and ask for respect for those entering it for everyone's sake.
Matthew James Didier