Christian Preternatural Investigation vs. Paranormal Investigation

The word preternatural is derived from the Medieval Latin locution preternaturalis—meaning between the mundane and the miraculousSince the 1570’s the word has been used increasingly by theologians to describe demonic activity as enabled by possession through supernatural meansIn pop culture, this is sporadically, mistakenly confused with the phrase ‘paranormal’—a span coined by twentieth-century Utilitarian philosopher Maximillian Dessoir to explain what is alongside that which is normalThe two are not synonymous, and neither adamantly, literally address ghosts, and hauntings regardless of the conclusions that have leaped from the high board of an intellectually sloven mainstream media.  This article will seek to crystalize the misuse, and abuse of both utterances by comparing, and contrasting them in the context of the paranormal community, and the church.  Similarities, and differencesRepresenting best practices utilized by the former will be three probes conducted by Jason Hawes—an experienced founder of both The Atlantic Paranormal Society and The United Paranormal Research Organization.  These cases can be found on his YouTube channel and are in turn research done at the 1691 Paine House, the Lincoln Square Inn at Gettysburg, and Burn Brae Mansion.   

The stimulus for a preternatural investigation is unrelated to that of a paranormal investigation, and it is prompted by concern for the well-being of others, physically, psychologically, spirituallyAt Burn Brae Mansion there is purportedly a chandelier that was imported from the infamous house on Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New YorkDoes it demand attention; must we come to terms with the light fixture before sidereal harm comes to visitors, and staff?  In this case, there have been no substantial reports of grave ill health, or dolorMostly, this locality is viewed as a historic novelty, and a structure with a creepy reputation.  The process of preternatural inquiry commences when the church receives reports of extraordinary demonic activity—oppression, obsession, possessionIn turn, the pastor, or presbyter may give a referral to an Exorcist who may, if necessary, begin the process by assigning the case to a Christian Demonologist, or an investigator with the laity.  The latter will meet with the claimants, and ask for complete psychological, medical, and environmental profiles of the afflicted person, and their property.   

If the above is not granted, the case reaches a total impasse.  This is largely not true of the paranormal community (e.g. the Inn at Lincoln Square) where supposition alone may unleash the dogs of full-on scrutiny.  A preternatural investigation proceeds from a Christian worldviewPrima Scriptura, but with some inclination towards the published studies of parapsychologists like BP Weisner, and Louisa Rhine.  A paranormal investigation is by-and-large secular though evangelicals are occasionally consulted, but this is by no means canon.  Heresy is not a factor, alas. Hawes is laudable in that his observations do not frequently accord with fringe, or a hokum filled, pagan ceremony to cleanse the residence of evil forces (a customary practice with many which incongruously helps to magnetize undesirable elements rather than mitigate them). In a preternatural investigation, an orthodox exorcism of the property could very well occur if deemed beneficial by the priestIf warranted, action could be taken beyond that in the form of solemn exorcism, but this rarely occurs, and only with consent, and for the highest good of those concernedPastoral counseling and conversion are integral to the progression.  Because we are dealing with potentially malign powers, a high degree of piety is required of the Exorcist, and the investigative team, but this is sadly, stupidly not required of anyone in the paranormal community, although Jason Hawes has always served as a positive role model in this regard. 

In methodology, a preternatural research team would ideally investigate an environment with no fewer than four people—as much coverage of the floor plan as humanly possible, and each person would be carrying audio, and visual recording equipment.  Historically, Jason Hawes does the same, although the bulk of his YouTube videos have been done with only himself, and his collaborator JV JohnsonEach installment included an excellent chronicle of the property from Mr. Hawes himselfThe preternatural researcher is no different, but for greater objectivity, perhaps more emphasis would be placed on conversing with locals in the surrounding neighborhood, and businessesEverything is likewise documented—with electronic media, or on paperEqually, the Christian Demonologist does not succumb to word of mouth aloneThe same types of cameras, and audio recorders are used, or variations in brandA baseline reference is obtained by deploying DVR cameras in decisive hot spots of asserted activity, along with a running record of handheld, POV footageStill photos are important to both the paranormal, and the preternatural expeditions, but long shots with a high frame rate are integral for disproving manipulation as opposed to close upsIt would be preferable to have the pictures in B&W for the sake of clarityAs depicted in his videos, Jason Hawes tags superfluous sounds like team member footsteps, and hot cold expansion of floorboards to keep both from becoming false positives, and Pareidolia.   

A serious Christian researcher will sample the audio at a location where diabolic activity is reported to have happened, but the approach is not the same. Electronic voice phenomenon is a staple of paranormal investigations, and Jason Hawes makes ample use of itThe preternatural team will never, ever attempt to interact with anything unseen in these environments as it is the worst form of divination, and a clear violation of Deuteronomy 18:10.  In truth, you have no idea who or what you are talking toIt is foolish to adopt the assumption that you are in the presence of invisible allies

The best way to extract audio is by turning the recorder on and saying aloud “IF YOU HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY, THEN SAY IT NOW.”  Afterwards, walk away, and review the data later—preferably on magnetic tape since digital recorders tend to have huge amounts of distortionDon’t congressDon’t chat it up with a ghost or ask them to come play with you which is insane.  For the Christian researcher who is curious as to whether, or not they have captured an EVP, do this simple test:  have each member of the team write down what they think they heard in isolation, and then compare notesIf they match up, then that is a TYPE-A EVP.  The Exorcist will accept nothing less than that, and this brings us to the next comparisonThe preternatural team has a much higher bar for evidence than the paranormal group because a person’s welfare is at stake. 

Tracy Garnett holds a BA in English, with a minor in Radio & Television from Northern Kentucky University. He also holds certification in Parapsychology from the Koestler Unit at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and is a trained Lay Demonologist with the Fraternity of Christ the King.


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