What Are Ghosts, Anyway? – Paranormal Podcast 741

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What are ghosts? What things do we believe about the paranormal that are flat out wrong. Do we have scientific proof for the paranormal?

Professor Paranormal himself, Loyd Auerbach, answers these questions and more! 

You can find Loyd on Twitter and Facebook 

You can find his books on Amazon: Loyd Auerbach’s books HERE

Here is the link for the Forever Family Foundation HERE.

You can find the Rhine Education Center HERE

Thanks Loyd!


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JIM HAROLD: We talk about paranormal myths – things that you believe but aren’t necessarily true. What are ghosts, anyway? And do we have proof of paranormal phenomena? All in this brand-new interview for August 2022 with Professor Paranormal himself, Loyd Auerbach, on the Paranormal Podcast.

[intro music]

This is the Paranormal Podcast with Jim Harold.

JIM HAROLD: Welcome to the program. I am Jim Harold. So glad to be with you once again. It’s a red letter day because we have the return – and he’s been on the show multiple times, but the return of our very first guest. We replayed that episode a few weeks back, and we’re back now with Loyd Auerbach. He is a parapsychologist and renaissance man. He is an author, a public speaker, educator, psychic entertainer, and chocolatier.

And not only that, he’s the president of the Forever Family Foundation, and he also teaches regularly at the Rhine Education Center. We’re going to talk about some of those upcoming events. Really, he has encyclopedic knowledge about parapsychology, and I love his approach. It’s a very serious approach, while he can still have some fun with it.

Professor Paranormal himself, Loyd Auerbach. Welcome back to the program, Loyd.

LOYD AUERBACH: Thank you, Jim.

JIM HAROLD: I must say, again – I told you this off-air – I relistened to that interview. I sounded like I was 12. You sounded fantastic, as always, and I appreciate your courage and foresight. That’s probably one of the oldest podcast interviews on the paranormal that’s still living out there and still available for people to listen to. 

LOYD AUERBACH: That’s great. You’ve done a great job over the years.

JIM HAROLD: Thank you very much for that. I wanted to ask a couple of things. I remember in one interview, I had posed the question to you, are we ever going to figure any of this stuff out? Isn’t it kind of hopeless from the standpoint of the afterlife and ghosts and psychic ability, that we’re really never going to figure this out? I was kind of resigned to the idea that we’re never going to figure it out in our lifetimes.

And you said, “Not so quick. We might be closer than you think.” Do you still feel that way? And what has developed over the last several years, if you do feel that way, that makes you feel that way?

LOYD AUERBACH: First, there’s a lot more discussion about the evidence for a survival of consciousness. A lot more people are getting involved in that. Of course, we’ve made minor strides in so many different directions as to understanding consciousness itself.

For much of what I’m involved with, with ghostly experiences, whether it’s studying them, whether I’m dealing with people who have out-of-body experiences or near-death experiences, any of that – and even a lot of what we talk about for ESP and psychokinesis – we have, in science, one major question in front of us, and that is: what is consciousness?

Understanding consciousness in the last let’s say 17 years since you started this podcast, there’s been a lot more emphasis in many fields on looking at consciousness. Even though people are interpreting the evidence and what’s going on differently and it’s coming from different philosophies, whether it’s materialist or dualist or something else, there’s a lot more discussion about that question. That in itself is a really major step.

Full understanding will come over time. It’s never say never, especially in science, because years ago we never would’ve thought we might’ve gotten a photograph of a black hole at the center of the galaxy. People certainly, before the 1960s, never thought we’d ever get to the moon. In fact, the only reason we haven’t gotten to Mars is money. That’s really the main reason, not because of technology.

So it’s really a matter of understanding that science is not a static thing. And in parapsychology, because we are dealing with consciousness, whether it’s in the body, outside the body, we’re dealing with learning more almost every day in multiple disciplines. What really needs to happen is a pull together of all this information into one place. Unfortunately, parapsychologists don’t have the money to do that, but we do reach out and work with people in other fields as well who are looking at the consciousness question – some of whom are very interested in what we’re doing.

I think the question of “What is the afterlife like?” – let’s say that we can have really good evidence that ghosts exist as consciousness without a body. Then the question is, where do they go when they leave here? That may be a question that we have to individually answer when we get there.

JIM HAROLD: Interesting. The thing is that – I’m going to say this, and I only mean this in a very positive way – you strike me as a bit of a throwback, and I’ll tell you why. When I was growing up, I used to watch shows like In Search Of… and so forth as a little kid, and I remember there would be a lot of people like you, like the Hans Holzers of the world, and yourself, and people who were – it seems like they were more erudite and studied on these things.

And now – and again, I’m not totally pooh-poohing the ghost hunting shows, but basically, anybody who watches these could cast them. You’ve got four or five people, they’re all dressed in black, they go into these locations with the cameras, and there’s the tech guy and there’s the skeptic and there’s the psychic. It’s almost comical, the way that almost anybody could cast these shows. They seem to be so cliched.

LOYD AUERBACH: Absolutely. I have to say that the shows don’t resemble what we would do normally in parapsychological research or investigation at all. Well, I can’t say at all. There’s still some resemblance to it.

JIM HAROLD: But what happened to all that?

LOYD AUERBACH: Television is not interested in showing reality. Television is only interested in creating reality. The reality shows are not reality. They’re not candid. Even the Real Housewives shows, they’re not candid. There is direction happening. There is someone onsite, whether it’s a producer, a director, or others, who are basically saying, “Hey, can you walk in the room again? But this time, walk in a little faster and act surprised.” Or “Can you say that, what you just told me, but differently? And can you add in a demonic spin to it, because that’ll get us a lot more ratings.”

So while they may be unscripted, they are far from reality, they’re far from candid, they’re far from the talent running the show. It’s the production people, the TV executives, and the editors who are involved who provide us with the end product. While the shows have brought people out of the woodwork with their interest in the paranormal, a lot of what people think is the paranormal, or think is paranormal “science,” if you want to call it that, is based on television and makes no sense when it comes to actual science or an understanding of what the phenomenon might be.

JIM HAROLD: Let’s say somebody has watched these shows and they’ve listened to podcasts – mine and many other podcasts out there. There were just a couple when I first started; now there’s about a million. But the point being, they say, “I want to take the next step now.” You teach classes at the Rhine Education Center, so there are places people can go to study these things and take it deeper and take it more seriously, right?

LOYD AUERBACH: That is correct. It’s really an interesting thing. First of all, there has been in the past – I graduated from a university called John F. Kennedy University, which has more recently been subsumed into National University. There was a fully accredited graduate parapsychology program there.

But when it comes right down to it, at the university level, there are economic issues and also some societal issues, much of which has been made worse for parapsychology by the skeptics when it comes to academia, that prevented actual college courses from developing.

Outside of that, there are places like the Rhine Education Center ,which is a part of the Rhine Research Center, and the Rhine Research Center is the longest-running laboratory educational center in parapsychology in the U.S. It started in the ’30s as the Duke Parapsychology Lab, and after J. B. Rhine retired in the ’60s from the Institute for Parapsychology, it eventually was named after him and his wife a few years after their deaths.

In I think it was 2011 or 2012, John Kruth, the executive director, started offering online courses and brought me in. That was 2012. So we’ve been offering online courses, quite a variety of classes with different facets of parapsychology, semi-academic. Students can take them for a certificate, in which case they get graded and all that, or they can take them for fun. I’d say we’re probably about 50/50 at that level. Sometimes we offer courses just for fun here as well.

But it’s one of a few places that people can actually take courses. Ciaran O’Keeffe in the UK offers parapsychology classes online. The Koestler Unit of the University of Edinburgh has offered a parapsychology course. There is a graduate parapsychology course offered online that I teach for Atlantic University every year. So there are options now where people can get real information from people who have been in the field for a long time fairly easily, and very economically. Certainly a lot more economically than going to a university.

JIM HAROLD: In terms of parapsychological experiments, I think maybe the most anybody has ever seen of that, the average person, is probably from the movie Ghostbusters. But take us into reality. I believe that there are, but tell us about any studies actually being statistically significant. I’m not an academe, but I did get my master’s degree in social science, and I know when you design something, you look for statistical significance. Is that something that parapsychology has achieved for various phenomena?

LOYD AUERBACH: There are a number of individual experiments that have statistically significant results and have been replicated, one of which was very well talked about, although controversially, in the media. That was Daryl Bem’s “Feeling the Future” study out of Cornell University back in 2011. The skeptics love to talk about the fact that there are three failed replications of that – except that there’s close to 90 successful replications.

JIM HAROLD: That’s one of the criteria, to be able to replicate.

LOYD AUERBACH: Right. Of course, you’re always going to have the failures, but that’s ridiculous in social science. If they applied that same thing to psychology, psychology wouldn’t exist. But there’s a couple of methodologies, methods of doing studies or types of studies we do, that have been continuously replicated, one of which is the Ganzfeld studies, which involves mild sensory deprivation in very well-controlled conditions, often run by a computer, where the experimenter who is running the experiment at the time pretty much touches a button and may give instructions, but knows nothing about the targets, nothing about what the end result is. The judging happens without that individual even being involved.

The Ganzfeld studies have been replicated over and over again – and yes, sometimes they don’t show significance. It often depends, like with any social science experiment, on who’s doing the experiment. There’s that experimenter effect from a psychological perspective. There’s so much data, so many replications of the Ganzfeld studies that it’s kind of overwhelming.

The other one that’s real major and has been replicated over and over again, including by government work, is the remote viewing research that’s been done, and the remote viewing tasks that have been done, both within the framework of the military tasking or the government tasking and in other aspects of remote viewing experimentation, including applying it to archeology. Again, highly significant. Very successful, and pretty obviously working.

There’s a few others. The remote staring experiments that have been done have had significance in general. And even the current mediumship studies, especially those that are incredibly well-controlled studies conducted by the Windbridge Research Center in Tucson, Arizona with evidential mediums. Replicated and very successful, significantly so.

JIM HAROLD: Loyd Auerbach, Professor Paranormal, is our guest, and we’ll be back right after this.

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JIM HAROLD: In the area of psychics, I’ve interfaced with psychics who I believe have a definite ability, and I’ve actually seen them give readings that made my jaw drop. On the other hand, I always wonder this – and I know that this is something that other people have considered; it’s not original by any means.

But here’s a question for you. Is it possible that, at least in a subset of these psychic sit-downs, there’s a situation where the psychic is 100% sincere, and they believe that they’re tuning in to the loved one, let’s say, of the person they’re reading – but they’re not tuning in to the person who is deceased, they’re tuning in to the person they’re reading? They’re reading the person’s mind without even realizing it? Do you think that’s a part of the picture on why sometimes psychics are able to come forth with these great revelations about loved ones? That it may not be insincere, but it may not truly always be communication from the other side?

LOYD AUERBACH: That’s a question that goes back to the beginnings of our field, to the beginnings of psychical research. Is it telepathy of the living, or is it telepathy with deceased people, with spirits?

One of the things that, for example, Windbridge has done – in the past, going back a little bit, people would do research with mediums who would be trying to contact someone who’s deceased. They’ve been asked to contact someone who’s deceased, but the person sitting in front of them is what’s called a proxy sitter. It’s someone who represents the person who has a relative who’s deceased, but often doesn’t even know that person at all. Then the question becomes, but couldn’t the medium or that psychic tune in to the person no matter where they are? Of course, the answer to that is, yes, we can’t completely eliminate that possibility.

So what Windbridge has done, for example, is they’ve tried to distance as much as possible the medium, the sitter, and the experimenters who were involved to the point where when a medium does a reading for an experiment, they’re given only a first name. They’re told, “You need to contact someone named Sally.” And the sitter, whose relative Sally is, only knows “there’s a medium who’s doing a reading to try to connect with your Aunt Sally at this time and this date.” That’s as close as it gets.

The experimenter who’s talking to the medium and triggers things doesn’t know whose relative Sally is, doesn’t know anything about Sally. This is kept farther and farther away, and then there’s a judging system that goes on so that the sitter gets not only the reading that that medium did for her Aunt Sally, but removing all mention of the word “Sally,” that sitter might actually get five readings and try to figure out which one is really connected to Aunt Sally and how accurate that is.

So there is a significant separation that it’s so unlikely that it’s telepathy of the living person without it invoking a super form of ESP, which doesn’t seem to operating. We’re looking at this being good evidence of evidential mediumship. And we look not just for general description, but it’s really about what was Sally like? What was her personality like? Give me specifics. Names, dates, and places, some very specific things. No hemming and hawing about what her favorite color was.

JIM HAROLD: “Did she like blue?” [laughs]

LOYD AUERBACH: Yeah. You’ve got to be right. And we’ve done a form of that – certainly not quite as controlled – at the Forever Family Foundation. Our mediums are certified mediums. They have to go through a testing process up front, and they have to hit really well on the specifics. And yes, they might be picking up on people, on the sitters, many of whom are actually on the phone with them.

I have one medium who’s a friend of mine who prefers to do phone readings so she gets no visual cues whatsoever from the sitter. And that becomes much more impressive, especially if you want to invoke the other explanation for some of this, where it’s cold reading or fraud or observation or something like that.

JIM HAROLD: In terms of mediumship and ability to have intuition – I know you’re teaching a course on that coming up – there are different levels. For example, intuition about other people, but then intuition about the other side. In other words, could you be someone who has great perception about other people, a great “gut feeling,” you’re able to maneuver and understand other people’s motivations, you know situations to stay away from, but yet you don’t have that awareness of the other side? On the other hand, maybe you have someone who’s oblivious to intuition about other people and about situations, but they’re really tuned in to the other side.

In other words, I think almost anything in life, we say, “It’s the same thing. A basketball player is a basketball player.” Well, no, there’s different kinds of basketball players. There’s a basketball player like the late great Bill Russell, who was a great presence in the middle. Then you’ve got outside shooters. Is it the same thing with psychic intuitives?

LOYD AUERBACH: First, I want to say that even though the course is being called “Developing Intuition,” it’s really about developing ESP. Intuition technically is not psychic at all. Intuition by definition is based on what we already know. Even if we don’t know we know it, there’s still information in our heads that can be put together and give us a good gut feeling or a guess. It has nothing to do whatsoever with being psychic. Being psychic does not involve the senses whatsoever, or logical inference, or that gut feeling that is based on things we might already know.

It’s important to know that first of all, something mediums often talk about – and in our field, we talk about this as well – all mediums are psychic, but not all psychics are mediums. It’s like saying all artists are the same, and that’s not true. Somebody who sculpts really well – we don’t have Leonardo da Vinci anymore. Somebody who sculpts may not be able to paint or draw whatsoever, and vice versa. Somebody who’s a musician may be really great at picking up any percussion instrument or any stringed instrument, but give them a horn – forget about it. They can’t even approach learning how to do that. Or to read music. There are musicians who can’t read music.

So it’s really this aptitude that we all have for certain things in our lives, creative things – and creativity is tied very heavily to psychic ability as well – and that aptitude and application of that aptitude is how psychics develop what they can do. There’s nobody who can do everything. There’s not a Leonardo da Vinci of psychics out there. There are some mediums who can read living people and read deceased people, pick up things on the other side.

There have been brainwave studies, and interestingly enough, their brains are acting differently when they’re talking to living people or psychically reading a living person or just having a conversation versus when they’re communicating with apparent spirits. Whether you want to believe in psychic ability or not, their brains are acting differently and different parts of their brain are acting when they’re having psychic experiences, communication with just talking to people in conversation like we are, or communicating with the other side.

In teaching this course, one of the things I teach people is some basic things for opening up to information around us, and then ways to learn what you’re good at and to really focus on those things rather than trying to do things that you suck at.

JIM HAROLD: something else we talked about in the past, and I really enjoyed this – we talked about, for example, why we perceive that things are more haunted at night. It made me think about parapsychological cliches that aren’t necessarily true. In other words, hackneyed memes that we’ve built in our minds over these years.

What are some of your least favorite? What are some ones that people have in their head and it just ain’t necessarily so?

LOYD AUERBACH: One, which of course was capitalized on by the TV shows once it was clear that night shot cameras were available, is that ghosts best appear in the dark at night, lights out. That goes back to our – you tell Campfire ghost stories, Jim. [laughs] This goes back to the telling of tales at night around a campfire. It really is folklore.

So many tens, if not hundreds of thousands of experiences that are on record at the Society for Psychical Research, in the files – unfortunately inaccessible right now – of the American Society and the Parapsychological Association, the Rhine Center – the folks who’ve reported things over the past 140 years, it’s very clear that people have haunting and ghostly experiences when the lights are on at night, in the early morning before dawn, and, believe it or not, mostly during the day.

So that idea of nighttime is necessary for a ghost to manifest or for something to happen is pretty much thrown out. The closest you can come to it is if the event happens with the lights out in the dark and has woken you up every night, then that’s a pattern we can look at. But the only positive thing to say about doing things very, very late at night is it’s quieter outside around your house. So you might notice things a little bit better. But people also notice unusual things like house settling noises and stuff and label them paranormal. So that’s one.

Another one that really unfortunately – every time somebody mentions this word to me, I say it’s my four-letter word that I hate hearing, and that’s “orbs.” The orb thing is really popular. Has been since the late ’90s. And all the responsibility falls right on the shoulders of the International Ghost Hunters Society in the mid-1990s, the first real internet club/organization for amateur and hobbyist ghost hunters, and mainly Dave Oster and Sharon Gill promoting the idea that these bubbles, these circular things on photos, must be spirits.

There was literally no logic in that, and clearly, for the majority of them, they’re photographic errors. I know folks in the UFO community at that time were very upset because they were owning those, and some other folks in other esoteric areas were owning them as interdimensional beings, even though they were mostly, almost without exception, photographic issues. So that’s one.

People send me orb pictures all the time, and I send them back a list of questions, and almost never get a response. The first question is, “What else was going on besides the picture? Was there an experience somebody had? Other than the photograph, was there literally anything that would’ve led you to conclude that something paranormal was happening?” And the answer to that is, with rare exception, nothing.

JIM HAROLD: And this is not to disparage experiencers.

LOYD AUERBACH: No, absolutely not.

JIM HAROLD: No. But do you think sometimes people don’t want a serous look, or they just want 100% immediate affirmation?

LOYD AUERBACH: I’d say that the majority of people who even do ghost hunting just want the affirmation. They don’t even want an explanation.

JIM HAROLD: Interesting.

LOYD AUERBACH: Let alone the general public. Some people get very excited because they have an orb picture; some people get very excited when their friend sends them a photograph of them and in the background there’s what looks like a somewhat translucent or transparent person. Most of the time that came from a camera app rather than an actual ghost picture. People often get afraid. They took these pictures in their house and now they’re scared out of their minds that they might have ghosts in their house.

JIM HAROLD: It’s interesting because there’s so many things like lens flare and all different things, anomalies that can happen. I wouldn’t feel that it’s impossible, but I think it’s a pretty high bar because there’s so many things that can go wrong in taking a picture for a professional, let alone somebody with their $80 cellphone, or even a top-of-the-line iPhone, for that matter. It’s a phone.

LOYD AUERBACH: Right. I always have to say that for decades, people were carefully studying UFO photos, sometimes in circumstances where the thing that was photographed was also on radar and witnessed visually by people. People looking in that direction all saw it. That’s not something you could ever say about a ghost, or orbs for that matter. And still we don’t accept a photo of a UFO as a real nuts and bolts thing, right?

JIM HAROLD: It’s true. That’s a good point. I’m glad you brought that topic up of UFOs, because over the years – when we had that first interview almost 17 years ago to the day, I was very much like ,”There’s this category of ghosts.” To me, when I call it the Paranormal Podcast, I mean all the stuff. I mean ghosts, cryptids, UFOs, kind of in the spirit of – I bring it up again, but it really informed my way of looking at this stuff – In Search Of… If you remember the eerie music, and “We’ll look at this, and we’ll look at that.” It was very much like, “This is siloed over here, and this is there.”

The more I do this and the more that I learn, it seems like there might be some crosspollination in these different silos. I think of somebody like John Keel, or I think about George Knapp and Colm Kelleher, who said that there were people at the Skinwalker Ranch doing research on UFOs, and then some paranormal entity shows up at their house. It seems like there might be more of a crosspollination. What are your thoughts about all this high strangeness, and if there might be crosspollination between these different phenomena?

LOYD AUERBACH: First, as human beings, we can have multiple types of experiences, even though those things that are causing those experiences are not related whatsoever. Our house could be making noises at night, creaking as the house settles at the same time that a raccoon gets in the attic and starts making noise up there. Those two things are not related, and yet we still experience them as related because of the timing, perhaps, more than anything else.

So it is true that people who might have seen a UFO or have an experience like that may also have a ghostly experience near the time that they had that UFO experience, but there’s no way of knowing if there’s any relationship other than if they have one or the other first, they’re now sensitized to their environment and looking around for things that they may never have noticed before.

We have cases in which we have poltergeist activity and there’s PK activity caused by a living person, and we have an apparition. And the two have no relationship whatsoever, except that sometimes the experience of seeing the apparition causes the stress that causes the psychokinesis, which becomes the poltergeist. So we have that kind of relationship.

I worked in college – I volunteered at the Center for UFO Studies at J. Allen Hynek’s house. He was the head of the astronomy department at Northwestern when I was there. One of the things he talked about was he wasn’t sure that all UFOs were nuts and bolts hardware. In talking to him separately, he knew a lot about parapsychology; it seemed that he subscribed to Carl Jung’s idea that some things might be psychic projections when it came to UFOs. Or angels, for that matter. That we are projecting those things from our own unconscious, whether it’s into the minds of other people or maybe even out there in some respects.

In that respect, something seen as UFOs – let’s face it, a UFO is simply something that is in the sky that we don’t identify. It’s unidentified, and it’s flying, or it’s an aerial phenomenon. We don’t know whether it’s nuts and bolts hardware unless we photograph it, unless we can pick it up on radar and other ways. Then we know that it has a physical presence – something you can’t do with ghosts. But whether there’s a relationship is hard to say.

JIM HAROLD: Just as you were saying that, I was remembering something my graduate professors used to drill into our heads: correlation does not mean causality.

LOYD AUERBACH: Correct. And I’ll take it a step further: coincidence cannot be replicated in a laboratory.

JIM HAROLD: True. Good point.

LOYD AUERBACH: Coincidence is merely us drawing a connection between two things happening at the same time, which may have nothing to do with one another.

JIM HAROLD: There’s an anecdote that you told me on one of the interviews that we’ve done, and I’ve tried to retell it over the years. I hope I didn’t butcher it too badly. You were doing some work from a great old show called Sightings, and it was about a murder case. I thought this was one of the most interesting examples of how we think in a certain box and the way we’re thinking in the box may be totally wrong.

LOYD AUERBACH: That was the case up in Portland where the family was seeing a murder recreated over and over again. Actually, the clip is up on my YouTube channel if folks want to see it. This family actually had a couple things going on in the house, one of which was – and this was actually experienced without them telling relatives – that the house had been the sight of a murder. Not a murder-suicide, but an actual murder. They got the house at a good price because of that. But apparently this guy had killed a woman, stabbed a woman in the living room around 4 p.m.

They started experiencing seeing that replay in that house. They didn’t tell any relatives or anybody else who was coming to stay at the house, and several people talked to them about the house being haunted because they saw this thing happened. “They have ghosts.” Well, the replay was exactly the same. We call that a haunting, or a residual haunting. It’s an imprint in the environment. The most important thing that needs to be known about hauntings is they have nothing to do with death. They have everything to do with the high emotion of living people at the time the recording was made.

Out of that case, it was pretty important to know that (a) the recording more or less stopped when the woman apparently expired, when she died, and (b) the killer was in jail and alive. Not dead.

I tend to explain it this way. I can watch Dracula, Bela Lugosi’s 1931 film, and I’m pretty well certain that maybe there’s a crew member who’s still alive, but it’s unlikely that anyone who worked on that film is alive. Certainly none of the actors are. But that movie I can watch. That’s a recording of living people making a movie in 1931. They were alive when they made it. They could not have made that movie when they were dead. A haunting is like that. I can listen to Janis Joplin. It’s a recording of her when she was alive. That’s what hauntings are.

JIM HAROLD: Interesting. Many times when we say, “Oh, you’ve seen a ghost,” you’ve not necessarily seen a ghost; you’ve seen a residual haunting. Do you think that’s the case of what most people see? Because people tend to think that ghosts are dead people.

LOYD AUERBACH: I think for the most part – although the majority of apparition cases that people report are that they see or feel or hear or get something about a relative or friend or loved one who has just died, like at the moment of death, maybe up to two to three days, as much as a week, week and a half. They have an experience. They see that person, may even communicate with that person.

Those cases, which are over 90% of experiences, are likely to be more on the survival aspect, an actual ghost situation. But what most people report in terms of “I hear footsteps in my house” or “I saw a shadowy figure coming down the hallway and then he disappeared” or “I hear sounds of pots and pans rattling in my kitchen and nobody’s there,” all of those things which people attribute to ghosts and dead people are most likely these imprints.

And interestingly enough, these imprints may have been made by the people reporting them themselves. That figure coming down the hall in the shadows may have actually been the guy who saw the figure coming down the hall in the shadows. He was seeing himself.

JIM HAROLD: I have a story just like that from Campfire. It was a young man. He wasn’t claiming that he saw a dead relative or anything, but he said – and this is roughly how it goes; I may have the ages slightly off – but he’s like five or six years old, he’s in his family home. He’s running down the hall, runs by the kitchen; he sees a hooded figure making a sandwich. A mysterious hooded figure.

Fast forward to his teenage years. He’s in the kitchen, minding his own business, happens to be wearing a hoodie. He’s making a sandwich. He looks at the hall and he sees a small, what appears to be child run by quickly.

LOYD AUERBACH: Interesting. That might’ve been a little bit of precognition and retrocognition connecting with himself, you might say, in the future and in the past. A bit of a time loop in some respects. Or it could’ve been what people have often called a time slip. He was actually seeing his future self and his past self.

JIM HAROLD: I also had an interesting doppelganger experience that was related to me. It was a medical professional, and she said – this is what she said – she was working at her job and she had to transport a patient at about 10 o’clock in the morning. She goes in this large freight elevator, and she goes in with another person, and they move this bed in. She looks up and across the hall is the passenger elevator. Not a service elevator, a regular elevator. She looks up and she says she saw herself.

Now, that would be remarkable enough, but that day she had been very tired and like, “What in the world was that at 10 o’clock this morning? I saw myself. What is that?” And she claims that in the afternoon, she was getting ready to go home, she got with a group, got in the elevator, looked up, saw someone transporting a patient in the service elevator across from her – and that somebody was her.

LOYD AUERBACH: Again, this might not have been what we call a haunting; this might’ve been this connection with herself. A lot of psychic experiences can be explained in the form of precognition, or in this case retrocognition, looking back into the past. There may be that telepathic connection with oneself that we also experience.

JIM HAROLD: Loyd Auerbach, Professor Paranormal, is our guest, and we’ll be back right after this.

The Paranormal Podcast is sponsored by Better Help. Life is full of twists and turns, and it’s important to show up for yourself through it all and make sure that you have the help that you need. That’s why I’d like to tell you about BetterHelp online therapy.

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JIM HAROLD: One thing that people report to me quite a bit, and it seems to be more so in later years – I think the term was coined relatively recently – is people keep saying they’re seeing “shadow people.” Have you looked into shadow people, and what are your thoughts about that?

LOYD AUERBACH: There are so many different descriptions of shadow people, there are so many different interpretations of what they are, from aliens to beings from other dimensions to demons to djinn, genies. To us, most of us in the field, when people say they see a shadow figure, I want them to describe exactly what they experienced.

A lot of people report a shadow figure on a piece of footage, video, or they report the shadowy blobby something on a photograph. Very often it’s actually night shot. Typically it’s because it actually is a shadow. The night shot cameras, whether it’s a still camera or a video camera, have spotlights. They have infrared spotlights, and they create shadows. So that’s one thing we have to eliminate right off the bat.

The biggest issue here is if they are experiencing a haunting, so that residual haunting, or they’re experiencing an actual apparition, how good are they at being visually psychic? When one sees a ghost, or a haunting for that matter, you are not seeing that thing through your eyes. That is a psychic perception that is added to your visual cortex to create a combined image in your head of what the world looks like. Because it’s not an optical phenomenon, if something comes in and you get that information but your brain is not processing it completely, it could be the figure you see is fuzzy; it could be the figure you see is completely transparent, which is pretty rare. It’s more often seen that the figure is fuzzy or partial or even shadowy, in shadows, because you’re not getting the full image. That’s how we would interpret most shadow people experiences.

But I always point to the idea that they’re talked about as being evil because they’re shadows, and that is such a weird judgment that is based on human fears more than anything else. We’re afraid of the dark, so anything dark is evil. But I would contend that the darkness is cooling. The sun can burn you.

JIM HAROLD: Interesting. That’s a very good point. I think a lot of people who have something happen in their home are afraid that the house is possessed by a demon. I personally do believe that there is evil out there, but it seems to me that maybe that part of it is overblown, that “it’s evil spirit and there’s something evil out there in my house.” But then if you talk about things like poltergeists and so forth, I could see how people could see that phenomena as evil even if it’s not. What are your thoughts on demons, and are they overdiagnosed?

LOYD AUERBACH: Definitely overdiagnosed. In fact, completely overdiagnosed. Personally, I have no belief in demons whatsoever, or the devil or anything like that. Growing up in an ultra-reformed Jewish family, first of all, we don’t have a hell, or a devil for that matter. So many stories in the Bible are considered allegory or metaphorical, kind of like fables, like Aesop’s fables. Something to teach us. Angels, same thing.

I usually tell people, if you look at the Old Testament, it’s not the demons you have to worry about. It’s the angels, because they were the ones who killed people, who would smite people with their flaming swords or turn people to salt or destroy cities. It wasn’t the demons in the Old Testament, or the devil, for that matter. That’s all a more recent invention of Western religion, more than anything else. That’s number one.

Number two, using the word “evil” or the popular “malevolent,” because that’s so popular on TV, based on you having an experience that was negative in any way, shape, or form is ridiculous. Did you call that bully who was bullying you in school malevolent or evil? Maybe. [laughs]

JIM HAROLD: It depends if he took my milk money or not.

LOYD AUERBACH: People do evil acts. I will say that. But the very idea that people are themselves, or that these things can be, a force of evil or a force of good is philosophical, religion-based, and doesn’t really pan out in what we see. I usually recommend people read a book called The Science of Evil by a man named Simon Baron-Cohen, who is a researcher over in the UK. Not a parapsychologist. It’s a really fascinating read, and he defines evil as a lack of empathy. If you can’t put yourself in the place of someone else, how can you relate to them? So it’s easier to do evil things to people who you say are not human or not people.

And there’s no indication that – things can be destructive or harmful without being evil. There’s no evil intent behind them, any more than a Great White Shark chewing on a human being is a demon of the sea. It’s a predator. That’s its nature. It’s going for food. You just happened to be in the way. I don’t think that’s what we run into with the paranormal. I’ve never been afraid of anything paranormal. I worry about people, living people, but I don’t worry about any ghostly phenomena, any spirit phenomena, any psychic phenomena.

JIM HAROLD: One last question, and then I want to talk about your work with the Forever Family Foundation and also tell people where they can connect to everything you do. When we watch the TV shows, they’re entertainment, and I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with watching them; it’s just we’ve got to watch them with a – I’ll use this word – skeptical eye in the sense that they are entertainment, and we have to take them that way.

But when you see the different equipment that’s deployed, are there certain devices that you say, “Yep, that makes sense, that’s logical, that’s something that could register phenomena and make sense”? And is there other equipment that you say, “That’s total BS”?

LOYD AUERBACH: First, there is no equipment that can absolutely register anything paranormal, psychic, or ghostly. None. We wouldn’t even know how to design that at this point because we don’t know what we’re trying to detect. It’d be like trying to create a scanner for a very specific radio signal without knowing if it’s AM, FM, shortwave, or anything else. Couldn’t scan all bands that way.

JIM HAROLD: Fair enough.

LOYD AUERBACH: There is equipment that’s used that is appropriate equipment, but it’s not used appropriately on most of these shows. So even an EMF meter is designed to pick up electromagnetic fields, and if you pick up an electromagnetic field, the first thing you must do is figure out, is there a source of electromagnetism that we can identify, such as bad wiring in the house, possibly a natural phenomenon? Underground streams and water in pipes can create electromagnetic fields. There’s a number of things that can do that. Can we explain it away as being “normal” before we even say that the environment is being disturbed by something possibly paranormal or anomalous? That’s the best you can do.

We started using these kinds of environmental sensors because what we’re looking for is that correlation thing. Somebody has an experience, whether it is a witness or a psychic or medium who’s in the location at the time; they say, “Oh, I’m getting something from over here in the corner,” and you bring all of your tech over, and it’s all reacting to something that you can’t identify. And it’s different tech, which all picks up something different, and it’s all reacting at the same time.

That suggests a supporting argument that the psychic or medium or witness’s experience is genuine, although what it actually is, we have to be careful about labeling. The only way we know it’s a ghost is because the medium says, “I’m talking to a ghost.” Otherwise we just get those readings. All we can say is “There’s a really weird thing going on here. We have no way idea what it is, but it’s affecting all this different equipment.” That’s the first place.

Second part is, there’s an awful lot of stuff that’s being sold to ghost hunters that is being repackaged, rebuilt, resold as spirit this or ghostly that, that has no relationship whatsoever to anything in a real investigation. Things like the – people are selling these cat toys. They’re little balls that light up when they move. There have been people who’ve repackaged those. They buy them wholesale for a buck apiece, they sell them for $10 or $20 apiece in a new package, whereas I can go down to Walmart and buy three or four for a couple of bucks. They’re only good for seeing if something physically affects them. In other words, vibration, people walking along the floor, could cause those things to light up.

Most ghost hunters on TV, and a lot of ghost hunters in general, just accept the explanation without looking at even the instructions or what’s behind this tech. That REM pod that’s out there – Kenny Biddle, who’s a skeptic I actually teach with, and hopefully we’ll be teaching our “Skeptical Approach to Parapsychology” course again this fall for the Rhine Center – he’s a true skeptic. He’s taken all sorts of stuff apart to see how it works and see if the claims of the people selling them to ghost hunters are actually accurate. And not even the claim that they detect ghosts, but some of the other claims.

The answer to an expensive REM pod, which might be a couple hundred bucks, is it’s a $20 theremin kit put in a different casing. He’s built them himself. So there’s something to be said for artistry in repackaging things or manufacturing things, but that’s a pretty huge markup when it comes right down to it. They have an audience for that.

Like with the orbs, this conclusion that “I’m getting weird readings. I can’t figure out an explanation, partly because I’m not reading the instructions or because the manufacturer refuses to tell us how it works” – which has been the case with a few devices – that conclusion “it must be a ghost” is a reach. It’s not supported, unless you at least have a human experience that connects or correlates to that weird reading. And most of the time what I see is that there’s no human experience involved. It’s all just the equipment.

JIM HAROLD: Interesting. Something to keep in mind next time you see somebody with a REM pod or some of the other equipment out there.

LOYD AUERBACH: There’s one piece of equipment that required that you actually use a form of EMF meter. You actually had to put it down. You couldn’t walk around with it because walking around created an effect. It actually created a change in the electromagnetic field by moving it around, like you’re moving your hand through water.

JIM HAROLD: That doesn’t seem very useful.

LOYD AUERBACH: It’s very useful if you put it down and it reacts, but it’s not very useful if you walk around with it and declare that every time you get a reading, it must be a ghost when in fact you’re creating the effect. And it’s simply because you didn’t read the first page of the instructions.

JIM HAROLD: Interesting. One other thing real quick: what do you think about EVP? Do you think that’s really a thing, or do you think that’s overblown?

LOYD AUERBACH: I think that under the right conditions, there has been some really good EVP research conducted. There are many issues with EVP. Besides the misinterpretation issue, there’s just the basic issue that we don’t know who’s creating the effect. In fact, there’s a pretty better than even chance that most of the time, it’s the living that are affecting the device – if it’s psychic or paranormal at all – not the dead.

JIM HAROLD: Interesting. To wrap up – and at the end we’ll tell people where they can go to connect all these different things, the courses – and of course, we haven’t even talked about the many books you’ve done and so forth. But the Forever Family Foundation. Can you explain to people what that is and your work in that regard?

LOYD AUERBACH: Certainly. The Forever Family Foundation was started by folks who lost their children. A few couples had lost their kids in various ways. The kids died.

The main couple, Bob and Phran Ginsberg – and Phran passed away unfortunately, last year – had a roundabout way of getting a message from their daughter, Bailey, who died in a car accident. One of their neighbors was seeing a medium, and the medium started getting information from Bailey. The neighbor had to pass it along. Bob was incredibly skeptical. Took a few sessions with Janet Mayer, the medium, for him to even recognize that this was a real thing.

But what was really important to Bob, and certainly to Phran, who really jumped on it right away, was how comforting the process with this evidential medium was, and how that affected and diminished their grief. So they and other couples got together and started this 501(c)(3), nonprofit, all-volunteer organization to support the work of spirit mediums. They actually set up a scientific testing protocol to certify certain mediums. Many have washed out, by the way. Didn’t actually pass that test, and continue that way.

Then they also wanted to support the research, at least from an informational dissemination perspective, of researchers like myself, and Jim Tucker, who does work with children if you remember Previous Lives.

JIM HAROLD: Yep, we talked to him.

LOYD AUERBACH: Bruce Greyson, who does stuff with near-death experiences. There’s a variety of us who do work in looking at evidence for survival of bodily death, because that is support of the whole mediumship thing. It all ties together.

The foundation has run occasional bigger conferences with presentations both by mediums and by scientists. They started running Grief Retreats, first in Connecticut, once a year. But after a book called Surviving Death by Leslie Kean came out a few years ago, Netflix did a series called “Surviving Death” in early 2021, and the fourth episode covers the Forever Family Foundation Grief Retreat.

There was so much demand that we’re now going to be running – so far – four per year. I participate in the one that’ll happen in October here in the Bay Area. There’ll be another one in Connecticut in March, I think, and then one in July, and then there’s one in Florida in January. They fill up very fast because they’re a limited number of people.

It’s basically mediums, a grief counselor, there’s a presentation on dealing with grief, and one or more of us who do research on the subject as well that work with folks for the weekend. In general, we get people who are extremely helped by this kind of thing. So it’s a very important organization that I’m proud to have been president of since 2013. They keep electing me. [laughs]

JIM HAROLD: Well, there’s a reason for that.

LOYD AUERBACH: By the way, not unanimously. I always vote against myself.

JIM HAROLD: There you go.

LOYD AUERBACH: I have no choice.

JIM HAROLD: Isn’t there an old saying about the only person who would vote for himself – or am I thinking about the only one who would represent himself is a lawyer? I can’t remember.

LOYD AUERBACH: Right, something like that.

JIM HAROLD: But really, great stuff. Grief, for example. That’s a universal thing. We’ve all felt it, pretty much. It’s very tough.

LOYD AUERBACH: There’s actually been research on the clinical value of mediums working in the grief treatment process as well, and those studies show a significant positive effect. Things like the use of a psychomanteum, which is an ancient group technique for people to help mitigate their grief, to personally connect with the afterlife, or seemingly so. Whatever you want to look at.

So when I hear the pseudo-skeptics – because they’re not really skeptics – talk about all mediums being fraudulent, that they take people for money and all that, it’s because they’re not looking at the evidence. There are frauds out there. There are frauds in every field. There are fake lawyers and bad doctors and you name it.

JIM HAROLD: Bad podcasters.

LOYD AUERBACH: Bad podcasters, right. [laughs] You’re going to find that, and it’s unfortunately pretty easy to take advantage of people in general – we see all the internet scams that are out there, and the telemarketing scams and all that other stuff. So we’re really careful about who we bring into the foundation for mediums. It’s not just “did they pass the test?” They have to volunteer for the organization, and they also have to show that they’re ethical.

JIM HAROLD: It’s important. It’s very important. And congratulations on all of that work. So if somebody has listened to this point, I’ve got to believe they’re interested in more of the work of Loyd Auerbach. What all places can we connect to this organization, to the Rhine Center, to you, everything you do?

LOYD AUERBACH: First they can follow me on Twitter @profparanormal or @loydauerbach, just remembering my first name is spelled with one ‘L.’ They can find my Facebook page, which is facebook.com/loyd.auerbach.author.

The Forever Family Foundation is foreverfamilyfoundation.org. It is a free organization to join. You can join for free. We hope for more support than free, but there are opportunities possibly to volunteer, but certainly to support the organization.

The easiest way to get to the Rhine Education Center is through the main Rhine Research Center site, which is simply rhine.org. Click on the “Education” tab in the upper right. Or if you want to go directly, it’s rhineedu.org. Find out about our courses coming up in August, and then the next round of courses will be offered starting at the end of September, beginning of October. Those will be up and listed around September 1, or just after Labor Day.

I do actually an every-other-week Facebook Live Q&A called Ask Professor Paranormal. It’s hosted by the Live Paranormal page, so facebook.com/theliveparanormal. Or you can find it also on my author page.

And of course, most of my books are up on Amazon. I have a couple that I’m going to be getting back into print that are currently out of print, and I’m actually working on a new one.

JIM HAROLD: Excellent. Loyd, it’s always a privilege to speak with you. You’ve got such a great depth of knowledge and such a great way of expressing it. We appreciate the opportunity to speak with you once again, and hope we’ll talk many more times to come.

LOYD AUERBACH: Sounds good, Jim.

JIM HAROLD: We thank Loyd so much for joining us. He is just such a great, great guest and really a resource to the paranormal community, and has some very interesting opinions, great knowledge, and I respect him very much. So we thank him for his time today – as we thank you for listening. We thank our sponsors; please do support them. And we’ll be back next time with some more great content and more great paranormal information.

Just a side note: I kind of referred to it in our discussion, but July 29th, we celebrated our 17th year of this podcast, and I wanted to thank you very much for listening and for supporting us all these years. I still enjoy doing it thoroughly and hope to do it for many more years to come.

So, please share the show with your friends, literally on your phone. You’re listening to an episode, you think it’s interesting, hit “Share” and share it with a friend. We would appreciate it. Make sure that you follow and subscribe wherever you listen, and also, we would ask that you rate and review too. That is also very helpful.

We thank you so much. We’ll talk to you next time. Have a great week, everybody. Bye-bye.

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