Provoking: Just Because They Do It On T.V. Doesn’t Make It Right


by Tony Harrington

In the world of the paranormal investigator there are few things more frustrating than being lured to an alleged haunted sight that boasts some incredible stories of paranormal activity, only to have the whole experience go static.

For whatever reason, the ghosts (if there are any), don’t want to play. Minutes can turn to hours of you walking around a quiet building with nary a sign that anything haunts the establishment. 

It is in these times that a handful of investigators will turn to a tactic called “provoking”, which is exactly what it sounds like.

Through provocation, the investigator tries to instigate a volatile reaction from whatever may be present. They will insult the spirit directly, make accusations, belittle and challenge it in the name of “science”. If successful there may be a flurry of activity targeted at objects in the room including the mouthy investigator themselves. A small price to pay to capture something fascinating on tape, be it audio or video.

Is “Provoking” a good tactic? There is a clear dividing line that separates the community of paranormal investigators on this. There is no correct answer to the question, “Does it work?”

In my experience the answer is a resounding “No”, and I have seen it have a completely opposite effect rather than the intended. Other investigators claim that this process works and has produced incredible results. TAPS regularly employs this approach on their SyFy program “GHOST HUNTERS”.  It is because they use it and because they are the self-proclaimed “authority” that other groups have started emulating this behavior.

Let’s review why, in my opinion, provoking should be avoided.

1)      If the spirit is that of a human who has passed on and remains on our plane of existence and if the haunting is an intelligent one (aware of your presence) the last thing you should want to do is antagonize it. Humans are hardwired with a fight or flight mechanism. If a spirit was once human then they typically retain the character makeup of their living years.  Most people choose to avoid conflict, they will simply leave if they become verbally attacked. 

 It stands to reason then, if you attempt to provoke a spirit, who in life chose the “flight” option, then you just ran off any chance of interacting with that spirit on any level.

 However, if the spirit was a “fight” personality, you just opened a can of worms that you better be ready to deal with. You will get your reaction, but at what cost? If you are investigating a private residence and you anger a spirit then leave, yes, you caught something on tape, but you also left the homeowner with an angered spirit in your wake.  That is the antithesis of what an investigator is supposed to do. We are supposed to observe and document not pick a fight then hightail it out of there and let others deal with our repercussions.

 2)      If you choose to provoke, it is your responsibility to research the haunting thoroughly both beforehand and during the investigation process to ensure that what you are about to provoke is not something other than a ghost.

 We use a lot of interchangeable words when dealing with hauntings, especially when writing papers and articles. We do this so that we don’t repeat the same words over and over. However, the chosen nomenclature can be misleading, I have even done a disservice in this very piece. I have used several identifiers (ghosts, spirits, etc…) to mean the same thing.

 The truth is, these items are not really interchangeable.  The widely accepted definitions are as follows.

 Ghost: The spectral form/manifestation of a deceased person. May retain personality and thought of its once human form.

 Spirit:  The English word “spirit” comes from the Latin “spiritus” (breath). The term is commonly used to refer to a supernatural being which is transcendent and therefore metaphysical in nature. (Angel, Demon, etc)

 Basically a ghost is something/someone who has once walked the earth in a physical form. A spirit is something that has never existed in human form.

 If you choose to provoke what you think is a ghost and end up provoking a demon or other type of entity that has never existed as a human then you could put yourself and the safety of your team in jeopardy. Not to mention the safety of the home/business owner  who was kind enough to let you investigate their premises.

 The old adage of attracting more flies with honey than with vinegar could very well prove true. As a human, I am more likely to respond to positive stimuli versus someone bursting into my room and verbally assaulting me.

There has not been, to my knowledge, any scientific study to prove this theory just as there has been none supporting provocation. It is simply something groups and individuals choose to or choose not to do.

Spirit Seekers does not condone the “Provoke” method of obtaining data. We treat any possible ghost with respect and have been very successful with this approach. If the ghosts or spirits do not wish to interact with us, so be it; we cut our losses and report that nothing was found.

We would all be a little wiser to remember that what we see on television isn’t always real. Shows about paranormal investigations are not about educating the public; they are about entertaining the public, appealing to advertisers and earning ratings. They are not “reality” and they are most definitely not “documentaries”.

In the end it will be up to you which method you choose, we can only hope that you make a solid decision based on research and not on sensationalism and the desire to capture something “cool” on film.

Happy Hunting!

(If you want to discuss this topic further, visit our “provoking” thread on our forum or leave your comments below)

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About SPIRIT Seekers
Spirit Seekers is a Paranormal Research Team located in Arkansas, dedicated to investigating and documenting the spirit world around us. Our Team is committed to the research, documentation, education, and investigation of ghostly phenomena recorded through EVP, digital, film and video photography. Spirit Seekers consists of professional people who believe there is far more to the world around us than meets the eye. We believe that our spirits enter into another plane of existence upon physical death. For any number of reasons, some have elected to stay here or have been anchored here, unable to move on. We, as a whole, desire the knowledge and understanding of life after death. One of our main goals is to assist those who are experiencing paranormal phenomenon. We will look for authentic evidence of the paranormal and try to determine if the location is haunted. We do not charge a fee for our services. Please feel free to contact us if you need our assistance.

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