QUESTION: What are some basic do's and don'ts of talking to parapsychologists?

ANSWER: This FAQ grew out of some bad personal experiences. If you want the best results, it's good to know how to approach folks. These are some do's and don't.

1. DO your homework. A great many people who call themselves parapsychologists are nothing of the kind. A true parapsychologist has a good knowledge of the experimental research that has been done in the field, has often published in parapsychology journals (not magazines), and is likely to belong to the Parapsychological Association (which lists all of its members on its website at Please understand that just because a person has appeared on some TV show, is not proof that he or she is a "real" parapsychologist and knows what he or she is talking about. I can't tell you how many times I've shuddered over the blatant misinformation pseudo-parapsychologists have stated as "fact" on TV. Make sure the person you're dealing with really knows what they are talking about!

2. DO recognize that most haunting cases are complex. There is a human tendency to want to attribute everything that happens to a single cause, like a ghost. However, most of the time, parapsychologists find that cases have a variety of underlying causes that are being wrongly lumped together. Part of our job is to sort out what is paranormal and what is normal, if unusual. It may help to keep a dated journal of events.

3. DO understand the limits of parapsychology's field of study. Parapsychology involves only three fields of study: ESP, PK (also known as mind over matter), and survival research. That's it. We can answer questions as experts relating to those three topics. We don't as a general rule know much about UFOs, crop circles, witchcraft, cryptozoology, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, etc. unless it is a side interest of a particular individual.

4. DON'T expect parapsychologists to be interested in odd photos you might have taken. There are literally hundreds of non-paranormal ways to get artifacts, especially with the small lens apertures of today's digital and snapshot film cameras. Add to that the ease with which computer software can manipulate photos, and you need to understand that pictures, no matter how interesting, cannot be considered as proof of anything paranormal. They can support your experiences and, in fact, it is those experiences themselves that are most of interest to parapsychologists, because that is how we sort out what is going on.

5. DON'T expect your average parapsychologist to be psychic. There are only a few of us (myself included) who are both psychic and a parapsychologist. Most parapsychologists have some psychic sensitivity, but not a lot more than the general public. Parapsychologists can be very helpful explaining how psychic phenomena are thought to occur, and often can provide tips on how to understand these natural abilities when people begin to spontaneously develop them. However, don't expect them to give you a psychic reading or be able to find your lost beagle. They may study psychic abilities, but that doesn't mean they have them.

6. DON'T confront parapsychologists expecting them to try to convert you. This may sound silly, but a lot of people come up and ask me to "prove" spirits exist. We aren't going to waste our time on this. After all, we can't even "prove" consciousness IN a body exists, why do you expect us to "prove" consciousness can exist without a body? Ditto for "proving" psychic abilities are real. No amount of proof is ever enough for some skeptics. As for the others, they are welcome to read the research literature for themselves--there's over 100 years of controlled research that has been performed on it, much of it double or triple-blind. We'll happily point you in the right direction if you ask politely, but confronting us with demands to "prove" our field exists suggests only that you are too lazy to do your own homework, and too rude to be worth our time to educate.

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