The True Menace of the Ghost Hunt

The True Menace of the Ghost Hunt

“This is Keith,” says the quiet hollow ‘voice’, the sound of the wind rushing in the background making it difficult to hear. The recording repeats again and then the video cuts to another voice, alleged to be the ghost of a woman saying “70 years…”

The recordings were made on Saddleworth Moor where the child victims of The Moors Murderers -  Ian Brady and Myra Hindley — were all buried, with Keith Bennett being the only victim whose remains have never been found.

The video was uploaded to YouTube by Erica Gregory, who is the founder of the Worsley Paranormal Group. The group believe they have recorded the voice of Keith Bennett’s spirit several times. The group made headlines in September when they found a rusty spade on the moor and claimed it was linked to the whereabouts of Bennett’s remains.  With this in mind, they removed it from the scene and took it home with them.

They didn’t contact the police though, as you might do when you think you’ve found potential evidence like this; instead they got in touch with the media. When asked by a third party the police dismissed the spade as insignificant due to the number of people who went to the moors to search for Keith over the years who could have left it there.

This wasn’t the most disturbing part of this story though – neither was the attention seeking behaviour of Gregory and her ghost hunters, or the fact that they set off to the moor to search for the ghost of Keith Bennett using pseudoscientific ghost hunting methods (such as a ‘ghost box’ which many claim lets you communicate directly with ghosts). No, the most disturbing thing is that the Worsley Paranormal Group contacted the Bennett family to tell them they’d found evidence of where Keith could be and that they’d made contact with his spirit.

Alan Bennett, Keith’s brother, had this to say:

“This is complete nonsense, as is the Worsley Paranormal Group’s theories & activities. They are to be found all over the internet chasing anybody who they think will listen to them. They also post videos claiming to have picked up Keith on a “ghost box” machine, all of which I find totally disgusting. They know my thoughts on their “findings” and when they realised, finally, that I could not take them seriously they got very angry to the point of being abusive. It seems now they have gone to a newspaper. They have seen their moment to jump on the bandwagon with all the recent publicity about the case.

“This is just another of several spades that have been found on the moor. It is not near any real area of interest to anybody but themselves. I have spoken about these people with the police and we all agreed their “evidence” was of the sort that did not warrant further consideration — to put it mildly. I am, and will continue to be offended and angered by these people.”

Despite this response from the Bennett family, and despite the police dismissing their evidence and claims, the Worsley Paranormal Group continue to visit Saddleworth Moor, they continue to record voices that they claim are the spirit of Keith Bennett, and they have even been writing to Keith’s killer, Ian Brady, about their findings.

A Facebook posting by Erica Gregory dated December 13th 2012 reads:

“We are coming up with allsorts of things at the moment with regards to our work at Saddlworth, apart now of us having a map on a stone that points to all we have found, we now have this as spot for SOMETHING else. Im not allowed to say KB, but thats who we believe is there … This we have been asked to do by a witness who spoke to members of the family who are with us on this. A witness who has a police reciept, and a date on this, and someone who like us, is frustrated by the police response. So we do this Sunday. I have also wrote to Ian Brady with regards to this and how I have found this is important to his code.” [sic]

This is an extreme example of the unethical behaviour of amateur ghost hunters. Similar things happen all the time within the world of paranormal research where ghost hunters, inspired by what they see on television, enter locations and hunt for ghosts at the weekend without ever thinking about the implications of their actions. By doing this they come into contact with all sorts of people, some of whom will be vulnerable and may be harmed through their actions and claims.

Not everybody finds the idea of ghosts comforting. It terrifies some, and the notion that their deceased loved ones are not at rest can be horrifying and torturous. Ghost hunters often forget that although they can go home and leave their scary and gruesome claims behind, for others that ‘haunted’ location is home. They can’t escape it. The scary weekend thrill for the ghost hunters becomes an everyday reality for the residents.

Other times the ghost hunters will think they are providing people with a service — providing spiritual insight where others have been unable to (as demonstrated by Erica Gregory and the Worsley Paranormal group), ‘clearing’ a ghost out of a house to stop the strange behaviour, or solving ancient mysteries by communicating with the restless dead. The reality is more terrible. The Ghost Hunting team are simply confirming their own biases and dragging innocent and confused bystanders into the process. There’s nothing wrong with believing that ghosts exist or that you can talk to them, but when others are affected by that behaviour, it becomes problematic.

I can recall taking part in a Ouija board session in a pub many years ago. The investigation was taking place because the staff had felt uneasy in the bar, the temperature kept falling, and things were being moved around – all classic symptoms of a traditional haunting. We ghost hunters had decided it was probably a ghost before we even arrived; we started asking for spirits to give us a sign of their presence, and then somebody unpacked the Ouija Board. As the planchette stated moving slowly around the board from letter to letter, one of the barmaids started to cry because the Ouija board and the idea that there was a ghost in the pub scared her. To me it was just another case that proved to me and my ghost hunting friends that we were right about ghosts being real, but to the barmaid it was a terrifying conclusion to the question of “What makes it feel like we’re being watched in the bar? What makes the stairs creak?”

I once interviewed Dave Wood, the chairman of the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP) about the ethical behaviour of ghost hunting groups. He told me:

“…there’s some really shocking headline ethical issues that hit the papers, and I think some examples include known registered sex offenders going into family homes and that kind of thing…really incredible mind-​​blowing stuff where you’re thinking ‘how could this have even happened?”

This is the reality of ghost hunting. Unregulated ghost hunters, unrightfully claiming an authority on their subject, access private properties on a weekly basis and use their shoddy unscientific research to confirm to themselves that ghosts exist without even considering the people around them and the harm they may be causing.

To echo the sentiments of Alan Bennett, a victim of this behaviour — “I am, and will continue to be offended and angered by these people.”

[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by nichephoto]