Loyd Auerbach - Author and Director of The Office of Paranormal Investigations

Loyd Auerbach is a professor of parapsychology and a prominent field investigator in psychic phenomena. He is the Director of The Office of Paranormal Investigations and the author of several books on the paranormal. His best known book is ESP, Hauntings, and Poltergeists: A Parapsychologist's Handbook which was later named the "Sacred Text" on ghosts by Newsweek. He was a consultant to the American Society for Psychical Research in 1982-83 and on the Core Faculty of the Graduate Parapsychology Program at John F. Kennedy University. He was a columnist for Fate magazine from 1991 through 2004. He is currently on the Advisory Board of the Rhine Research Center.

Auerbach's media exposure includes many prominent appearances on paranormal-related programs for the Discovery Channel, the Travel Channel, The Learning Channel, A&E, the History Channel, and the Sci Fi Channel. In addition, he has appeared on hundreds of local and national radio programs, and television programs such as Larry King Live, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Late Night with and David Letterman.

1. How did you become interested in the supernatural?

I became interested in the supernatural when I was a small child. I loved mythology and science fiction, fantasy and comic books from the time I could read, and even while very young watched and loved TV shows like THE TWILIGHT ZONE, TOPPER and ONE STEP BEYOND. The old TV soap DARK SHADOWS, featuring vampires really sent me running to the library to read books on supernatural folklore. However, I was also a little science geek of a kid, and discovered the science of Parapsychology – which is (fortunately and unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) on the library shelves next to the supernatural and occult lore books.

While I’ve retained an interest in the supernatural, and even focused my cultural Anthropology studies in college on supernatural beliefs and folklore, my true interest in psychic phenomena moved away from the supernatural to the paranormal – to scientific studies of psychic phenomena and experiences, the field of Parapsychology.

Psychic experiences and phenomena are not supernatural, as that term suggests something that is magical and follows different rules than what Science can uncover.

2. What's the strangest or most interesting paranormal experience you've had?

There are many, not a single one.

One of the most interesting involved a family who’d been seeing the ghost of the former owner of their house, though not telling each other. After a year and a half, their son told his mother that he’d been communicating with the ghost daily.

The situation that developed involved sitting in their living room with the mother, her mother, the boy and the ghost (who we were told was sitting in a chair with us). We were able to interview the apparition about her existence, why she was still around, and get lengthy family stories of her life in the house (for decades). Most impressively, we were given the contact for her only living relative, who was able to complete the family stories as I started to read each from my notes.

Oh, and then there’s the ghost who has followed me around to conferences … but that’s another friendly ghost story.

3. Where/how does science fit into ghost hunting and the supernatural?

As for the latter, the supernatural, Science throughout history has found explanations for things people have incorrectly labeled as “supernatural.” The science of Parapsychology, which does not consider any psychic phenomena “supernatural,” is attempting to understand how and why these experiences happen, and ultimately to understand what Consciousness is and how it works – this is the ultimate question behind all psychic phenomena and experiences, especially the concept of ghosts (which can be defined as Consciousness without a body).

As to how Science fits into ghost hunting, that’s actually not an easy question to answer.

The findings of many sciences are applied in conducting a field investigation of ghosts, haunting, and the like. Unfortunately, too many ghost hunters are ignorant of the range of scientific findings that may be applicable – especially the close to 130 years of the actual field of science that studies such things, Parapsychology. This is partly because typical education in the sciences is not broad enough, and certainly does not include Parapsychology.  But there seems to be a bizarre lack of curiosity in many ghost hunters, who often think they can learn the “science” by watching paranormal TV shows or taking “certification” courses (which are incredibly brief) from others who have gotten their information from others in a similar state.

Too many also think that using environmental sensing technology is being “scientific” – it’s not, unless you use the tool scientifically, and it’s clear that most do not. Unfortunately, one can teach a three year old to get excited about the indicator of an EMF detector fluctuating wildly.  That does not mean the child is doing science or being scientific.

To make an investigation “scientific” would mean properly analyzing the data AND correlating the data to other detectors and to the experiences people have reported.  None of the tech is designed to detect anything paranormal, so we can only infer how anomalous readings relate to the phenomena.

The Scientific Method is about observation, gathering data, analyzing the data, making hypotheses, testing the hypotheses and then attempting to draw conclusions.  Then others need to see if their testing of the hypotheses lead to the same or similar results and conclusions.

Field investigations where the situation allows for such data gathering and hypothesis testing are wonderful to do.  But…

Most ghost hunting can be approached with a scientific attitude, but as it also has (or at least should have) a focus on helping the clients who have asked for help, one has to often throw aside much of the scientific method in favor of doing right by the clients.

4. Do you have any moral/ethical obligations in ghost hunting or communicating with the dead?

You have an ethical obligation where people have asked you for help – one that supersedes any attempt at gathering data or evidence. I’ve had too many complaints about ghost hunting groups over the years who are asked for help, come into the home, have the folks leave, stay overnight to gather data, then do the big “reveal” (like on certain TV shows) showing folks the evidence and saying “so, we think you are right, you have a ghost.”  Then they leave, the people often worse off because their fears about their situation have been confirmed.

The ghost hunting group can now post their latest exploit.

The family has not been helped, which is WHY they invited the group into their home in the first place.

This is ethically wrong.

One must do one’s best to help such people, even if that means referring them on to others.

That obligation can extend to the deceased as well, if they need help.  But the needs of the living in the home should always take precedence over the needs of the discarnate entities.

In all cases, there’s an obligation to consider different explanations, and to always look for non-paranormal ones first (this is also a scientific obligation).

5. If it were possible to contact or bring back someone from the dead, who would you bring back and why? Try to think of someone who is not famous.

Tough question.  My first inclination – and granted, it’s an emotional one – would be to contact my Father and grandparents.  But I assume you want me to say something about someone who’d be able to comment on the subject at hand.

In that case, I’d want to contact one of my late colleagues who also had an influence on me as mentors: D. Scott Rogo, Karlis Osis, and Marcello Truzzi. And also a guy who really became a mentor to me in the last few years of his life, the late author Martin Caidin.

These folks would have explored the afterlife (or whatever their after bodily death existence is) because of their intense curiosity.  And additionally because of their knowledge of psi phenomena and consciousness, they could provide amazing information and insights for those of us still living.

6. Do you have any other thoughts or interesting theories you'd like to share?

As for “thoughts,” perhaps a few comments on what I see out there in the paranormal community:

Learn the Science and the History.  Use your curiosity to look into the findings and history of the field of Parapsychology and its predecessor, Psychical Research.  People seem to forget that there’s material, theories, models and investigative work going back to the 1880s – or they choose to ignore it.

Don’t use the words “demonologist” and “scientific” in the same sentence (or to describe your activities).  Coming at the phenomena with the former perspective is to bring in religion, something that cannot be dealt with by science.  In addition, “demons” have little to do with what parapsychologists have learned about the phenomena since the 1800s.

Don’t  use the words “debunk” or “debunker” around clients. If people know what that means they might be offended – “debunk” assumes some kind of fraud (that’s the “bunk” part), and our clients rarely are involved in fraud. They might be mistaken or even psychologically disturbed, but not perpetrating fraud.

Otherwise, as far as theories go, there’s too much to even go into here.  I’d suggest folks go through the extensive number of articles on my website, www.mindreader.com < http://www.mindreader.com>  and read my books –but do keep in mind that the theories I put forth do not originate with me. Rather, they come from the field of Parapsychology/Psychical Research and the folks who have gone before me.