11 March 2014

My Evolving Attitude to Ghost Hunting

Some background thoughts on my strange experiences over the years with Queensland ghost-hunters.

This story can now be read on 'About Those Ghosts...'

Some background thoughts on my strange experiences over the years with Queensland ghost-hunters.


  1. Great article, Chris. Once I have some spare time, I intend on writing something about the recent Boggo Road goings on so will keep this comment brief.

    Firstly, it's not always the case that atheists (too many people who have beliefs as unfounded and ardent as religious folk label themselves such these days...) and skeptics wish they are wrong. In many cases, it's a matter of accepting that one could be wrong and revising your views accordingly as new evidence comes to light.

    Speaking of evidence, where is the proof that any of the popular forms of "ghost hunting" equipment actually serve to establish the presence of a spirit? Items such as EMF detectors et al get liberally cited as means of detecting the paranormal but one wouldn't know unless one already had a definitive ghost and could test how the instruments react around it. The whole enterprise is based not just on pseudoscience but on faulty reasoning and a complete absence of critical thought.

    Finally, there is a basic difference not taken into account by any simplistic equating of nocturnal tours run by a certain local business and historical societies respectively. History, which in my opinion is either tangential or absent from the commercial example, should be the most important thing. While ghost tales might be suitably called cultural heritage, one would actually have to show that the stories are accurate and genuine pieces of local folklore. I'm not saying that the tales sold by commercial enterprises are in any way fabricated by them. But the fact remains that there are different versions of these stories, fabricated and unverified stories disseminated by mouth and on the internet, and (to my knowledge) purely anecdotal and conflicting evidence of some cases such as Toowong's "spook hill".

    Now, about the whole disrespect thing. I think that dressing "ghost hosts" as vampires and dead governors speaks for itself there. I don't personally know if any dead personas are adopted at Boggo Road, but wouldn't be surprised if that was the case. Also, I am sure we both recall the "Murderous Maynes" moniker. Not only is that label employed on tours, it also headlines a chapter of Sim's Ghosts of Toowong Cemetery book. What is that besides historical inaccuracy and disrespect? It's too bad no members of the Mayne family remain to take offense. Actually (in the spirit of 'wishing the paranormal was real') it's too bad ghosts aren't about and a little pro-active. From what I've read about Patrick Mayne, he didn't take kindly to even perceived offense.

    1. Thanks for your well-considered comments Steve. Point taken in your first paragraph, especially as skepticism is a process and not a position and therefore can't be 'wrong' as such.

      As for 'ghost hunting technology', that would be an entire article in itself, of which there are already plenty around the Web. The use of these gadgets is based on accepting each link in a string of unproven assertions as being true - 'ghosts exist' - 'ghosts emit electromagnetic fields' - 'When an EMF readers detects an EMF it is therefore detecting a ghost'. Using scientific gadgets does not equate to doing science.

      I now believe there are serious questions to be asked about allowing commercial ghost hunts anywhere, given that they have such a fraudulent basis. It's one thing to do it 'for fun'. It's another to charge customers top dollar to walk around with pretend ghostometers.

      As for the tours, the historical aspect is notoriously poor, as you point out, and we have to question the distorting effect of the commercial pressure to provide a paranormal slant to otherwise non-paranormal history.

      And I've no problem with guides dressing in historical costumes, such as a governor, but dressing as vampires etc just mocks the dead and the significance of the cemetery as a place where we remember/honour the dead. When the current tour license system was introduced a few years back, the Brisbane City Council actually made an effort to stamp that kind of thing out because it was getting to the point where tour groups were turning up in fancy dress too. When the council is still selling grave plots and the cemetery is still being used for new burials, respect is even more of an issue.

      Oh, and if Mayne descendants were around, they'd no doubt get the same short shrift as other descendants of ghost tour subjects who have complained. Basically, too bad, too sad, I have money to make.