Skeptic Jaredan Durbin gets into the ghostly mood as the students explore the top floor of Old Main (don’t worry, we had permission to be in there).

Jaredan Durbin is an Honors College junior majoring in physics and math as well as minoring in English. When Jaredan is not piling through calculations and proofs, he enjoys reading literature, writing poems and short stories, and never passes up the chance to learn something new like taking a class on ghost hunting. After graduation Jaredan plans to pursue a doctoral degree in physics. Here, he explains his skeptical take on ghosts, and why, skeptic or not, sometimes it’s just fine to roll with the paranormal punches.

Coming into Dr. Bastian’s Ghost Hunting seminar, I thought that I would be debunking all of these supposed spirits and practices. A surprising thing to learn, or maybe not, is that paranormal investigators, most often in pop culture referred to as ghost hunters, love skeptics’ views on their practices. Being skeptical helps them decide when something needs a closer look in an investigation. If there were no skeptics, everything they detected would be interpreted as a spirit or ghost. And why would a skeptic want to go on a ghost hunt in the first place? One might say that it is an exercise in futility, so there is no point in the hunt itself. But there is always a powerful question though looming in everybody’s mind: what if?

The first time I heard about dowsing rods I thought, well this will be interesting. Dowsing rods are copper wires that you hold out and can swivel; they’re used to communicate with spirits. The first time I watched it, the rods would cross or go apart (these movements meaning “yes” and “no”), and, in some cases, they would seem to move on their own. Having witnessed this, I looked for an explanation for this phenomenon. It could be that they are slightly tilting their hand or moving it without knowing, or maybe the rods get charged from the person holding them and either attract or repel each other, or maybe the wind is blowing them, that girl seems to be holding her hands wrong for it. Coming from my point of view, it is very easy to say these things and dismiss the practice, but then I started to think, what if it really is a spirit though. This is when my ideas about the practice changed.

Ghost Hunting student Victoria Porter tries to communicate with a spirit using dowsing rods.

I had a great time listening and watching people communicate with spirits and interpreting their signs. It was also just plain intriguing. Is this gonna be a yes or no? Even if I don’t believe it, it does not mean that it can’t be fun, and that has been my prevailing thought for most of the class. People tell scary stories and/or ghost stories because they are fun; they ghost hunt because it is fun. It doesn’t matter whether you believe or not. Let’s go out and try to find a ghost or spirit, either way we will come back with a fun story to tell.

Let them investigate. These paranormal investigators are exercising their minds and trying their best to prove to you their beliefs, absolutely. Everybody in this world is always trying to prove their truth to everyone. Paranormal investigators are no different. In the face of skepticism arises a new opportunity to improve their practice. Wouldn’t it be fun if there really were ghosts? We could talk to people from a faraway land—the past. Thus, even as a skeptic, I believed for a bit and tried to find some ghosts, and I had fun doing it.