British Columbia

Paranormal activity: Simon Fraser prof studies UFO, ghost and Big Foot hunters

Unlike those who hunt for ghosts, Simon Fraser's Paul Kingsbury hunts for the apparition hunters themselves.

Associate professor Paul Kingsbury has found some 'paranormal investigators' to be skeptics

Want to spirit away to a haunted house this Halloween? Edmonton is filled with phantoms of the past. (Getty Images)

On the eve of Halloween, Simon Fraser University professor Paul Kingsbury and two graduate students were along for a search for the mysterious, inside a heritage house in the Fraser Valley.

Unlike those who hunt for ghosts, Kingsbury hunts for the apparition hunters themselves.

The associate professor in human geography is in the early days of a four-year-long study into why people set off in search of the paranormal in B.C. and across North America.

Human Geography professor Paul Kingsbury is embarking on a four-year research project to better understand what makes paranormal researchers tick. (The Canadian Press)

"We'd really like to understand the motives of people joining these groups," Kingsbury told On the Coast host Stephen Quinn.

Kingsbury said he is studying three groups: those who investigate ghosts or spirits, those who study UFO phenomena, and "cryptozoologists" — those who search for animals whose existence has not yet been proven (like Big Foot).

Some hunters are skeptics

"The hunters prefer to be known as investigators because they seek to follow rigorous methods," he said.

He said that many of those who do this type of investigation claim to have had some kind of paranormal experience themselves.

However, he also found something surprising about the investigators:

"Another thing that's coming through in the preliminary results is that not all the groups are necessarily seeking to prove the existence of ghostly phenomena. They're often comprised of skeptics who would like to actually debunk claims by someone living in a home that it is haunted."

Paranormal accepted?

Kingsbury said there has been an increasing "paranormalization of popular culture" — even the History and National Geographic channels play a lot of paranormal-themed shows.

"The point of the project is not to prove or disprove paranormal phenomena but it is to take seriously the cultural fact that there has been a paranormal turn in popular culture, arguably the paranormal is no longer counter-cultural," he said.

"One is no longer considered a crack-pot if one has an interest in ghosts [and] other paranormal phenomena such as Sasquatch or UFOs. I think it's important to get behind the reasons for this so-called paranormalization of the everyday sphere in Canada and other parts of the west."

He said he was surprised to receive grant funding for his project.

"Generally it's been in the arts and humanities where it's kosher to study paranormal phenomena, particularly in literature, movies and so on, but in the social sciences it's this is pretty new. This is probably one of the biggest studies being granted funds in the social sciences."

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: SFU human geography professor studies paranormal investigators


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