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Do you want to believe? A SFU researcher is diving into the world of ghost, alien, and Sasquatch enthusiasts in an effort to understand what drives them to search for something many people don’t even believe in.
There are dozens of ghost investigators in the Lower Mainland and thousands of people attend UFO conferences and Sasquatch expeditions in the United States every year, according to SFU professor Paul Kingsbury.
Fascination with paranormal activity, including zombies, vampires, and ghosts has even spread to mainstream TV shows.
But some people go a step further and try to solve the mystery – do ghosts exist? That quest is what brings some paranormal believers together said Kingsbury, a cultural geographer.
“It’s the perfect object of desire because it’s always out of reach,” he said.
“It’s a fuzzy sound recording, it’s never finally trapped, it’s never finally caught up with so what you have here is the perfect device or object to incite desire – to keep people interested.”
Kingsbury and a group of SFU researchers are halfway through a four-year study on why some people are attracted to cataloguing evidence of UFOs, tracking Sasquatches or communicating with the dead.
He has attended two UFO conferences, one Sasquatch meeting, and several ghost investigations. Most people at these events are thrown into that world after experiencing what they think is a paranormal experience, he said.
“People get involved in paranormal investigations because they themselves have had a paranormal experience and are interested in knowing more and finding out what they experienced and being with like-minded people.”
While cynical non-believers may think ghost investigators – people who look for evidence of ghosts – are out to scam grieving family members, Kingsbury says most investigators don’t charge much for their services.
“They are all very passionate. They are driven to do these things. They don’t charge for their services, the ghost investigators.”
There are at least seven ghost investigator groups in the Lower Mainland, each with up to 10 members who offer ghost-related services, he said.
Meanwhile, UFO conferences function much like academic conferences, with keynote speakers, banquets, workshops, and Q & A sessions, he said.
“It’s almost a parallel universe to the academic world.”
And like any healthy academic community, there is also diversity and conflict within these groups.
The science-driven folk at UFO conferences often butt heads with alien-abductees, said Kingsbury. And some ghost investigators rely on electromagnetic frequencies while others claim to have a direct line of communication with the dead.
Kingsbury is scheduled to present his preliminary findings at a talk at SFU’s Surrey campus Wednesday.
Admission is free and more than 100 people have already RSVP’d to the event, he said.
When asked the all-important question of whether ghosts, UFOs, or Sasquatch are real, Kingsbury said he is more interested in the culture surrounding paranormal activity.
“Geography is more than cold hard fact,” he said.
“It is also concerned with social experiences and cultural narrative, so I thought it was important as a geographer to speak to people who are actually engaged very personally and passionately with these paranormal themes.”