At the end of each year and the beginning of the next, I always reflect on what was and what could be when it comes to the paranormal field. Of course we all know how 2020 panned out, and it meant massive changes for the paranormal field. Some good, some not so good and an unclear future. So let's pull out the tarot cards and look at our past present and future and see what is in store for the paranormal field!
No matter where you are from in the World, I think we can agree that 2020 exploded in a way that we never expected. For myself, I speak from the perspective as someone from the paranormal field in Melbourne Australia. We endured one of the longest and harshest lock downs across the World and it meant that for the majority of the year, us in Melbourne had to sit and watch everyone else do simple things with envy. The concept of a paranormal investigation was completely off limits. This article is not a place to politicize your beliefs when it comes to Covid19 or masks or if you think lockdown was needed or not so please do not make the article about that. Quite simply, this is how it happened and our plans for 2020 went down the drain!
People were locked away and in need of entertainment. There was one really positive change that happened due to closures. That was the rise of the paranormal conference. Suddenly, paranormal conventions from all over the World were canceled. A lot of people were sadly out of work and people who had spent months and even years preparing their presentations suddenly had no where to go. As someone who spent the better part of a year preparing for a conference only to have it canceled a day before it was due to begin, I can't tell you how heartbreaking it is thinking about all of the work that would never be heard. Wanting to give back and give people something to get involved in, paranormal conferences popped up all over the World. Some had some high profile paranormal celebrities while others were local talent banding together. It gave people that don't normally get to headline paranormal events a chance to showcase their amazing research to people all over the World. It meant that people like myself in Australia that don't really get to see much in terms of paranormal conferences got to hear the kind of lectures and presentations we could only dream of. It forced many organizations to take this kind of content online and I feel as a paranormal field we are better for it. We have been exposed to new ideas, new ways of thinking and a big divide was closed in. Not everyone can afford flights, accommodation or to take a weekend off from work to attend a conference. Sometimes even the ticket price means it is out of reach for many. The online version even with a small cover charge meant that people who had never been to a conference before suddenly had access to a wealth of knowledge.
I want to give a special shout out to Anne and Renata from Frightfully Good who ran a special weekend conference highlighting all Australian paranormal researchers from different areas within the field with proceeds donated to animal rescue organizations who were caring for animals impacted by the bush fires. It is the smaller places that often miss out on the large funding efforts so this was a great way to donate money plus learn and meet new people from the paranormal field in Australia. I was also really honoured to be a speaker.
Personally, I see this trend continuing in 2021 and I really hope it does. Even if conferences do run next year as in person events, having a 'virtual ticket' is a way for those who cannot be there in person and participate, even from the other side of the World!
YouTube took off in a big way in 2020. It was already big in the paranormal field, but I guess again due to people not being able to go out and investigate, more and more YouTubers were starting to be recognized for their work with many people preferring YouTube content as opposed to paranormal reality television because some felt they were more genuine. I see YouTube only getting bigger in 2021. Is this a good thing? Look I do have mixed feelings about it. On one hand there are some great people showing a real account of what it is like investigating the paranormal. Of course you then have channels that fake content or sensationalize things (which in a lot of ways is no different to reality television). The thing to keep in mind is that it is all a form of entertainment. We also should not underestimate the amount of effort that goes into producing this content. While some do it full time and make a living off it and do it as a job, others do it as a hobby and literally spend every spare minute dedicated to the cause. Many don't make money from their channel, it is literally a labour of love. It can be a controversial area but again it can also allow people to have a platform to share their knowledge and research. A lot of lectures have been broadcast on YouTube and a lot of great informative content is on there. Just remember, don't believe something just because someone has said it on a video. Do you own research and question everything!!!
As well as YouTube, Facebook Livestreaming took off. Some venues could allow one or two people in to do an investigation for the enjoyment of the general public. It was a way for the venues to keep their name out there, keep people interested and wanting to come back when they eventually reopen, and it also meant the tourism businesses were able to keep doing a small amount of trade. Even from a publicity perspective, it meant that people became aware of locations they may not have known about and would visit them when they opened. It has had some real positive effects from a tourism perspective. It is here I want to give a special shout out to Adelaide Haunted Horizons and Tasmania's Most Haunted who and are currently traveling around their respective states to investigate little known hotels and pubs and locations that have been hard hit by having to close. It brings the locations some much needed publicity and people are encouraged to go to these places keep them running. Sadly, a lot of places may not survive into 2021 as the financial burden and trading restrictions are too great. We must do what we can to keep these historical places alive. In 2021 I see a lot of community effort to keep these places open with special events, open days and a lot of publicity. You will start seeing and hearing about places you didn't even know existed. Go and visit. Go and pay a $10 cover charge and take a tour. Make a donation. Have lunch or a high tea. Support them however you can, because it could be the difference between them staying open or closing down.
For a good part of 2020, Dr Ciaran O' Keeffe has been campaigning in the name of paranormal ethics. From a feature in Haunted Magazine, to various interviews and his research and a paper published in the Journals of the Society For Psychical Research, you may have come across this work in some way shape or form. We were challenged as paranormal investigators to look at the ethics behind paranormal investigation. It can be uncomfortable and people tend to go on the defense, especially if activities they engage in with good intent are questioned. One of the more recent debates has been a discussion on whether or not teams should be live streaming or posting episodes from people's homes when working private cases. Dr O'Keeffe is a firm believer that investigators have a duty of care and that information should not be publicly shared in such cases.
Personally, I completely agree. I have been quite vocal in the past that I don't participate in private investigations because I don't feel I am qualified. I also agree that we should not be live streaming or airing footage from a private case. Just my personal opinion and I am not throwing shade at people that do. I think that 2020 has caused a lot of us to sit back and re-evaluate how we work. It also means that people who do normally work on a private cases have had to change their methods. They have not been able to do 'onsite' investigations, and more so consult with people remotely over the phone or zoom. With more people in lockdown, there was an increase in the reports of people experiencing activity in their homes. There was a big realization that people who were not used to being at home were suddenly starting to noticing the sounds their house made for example. People who normally consult on private cases were able to 'solve' a lot of mysteries and provide support without stepping foot into their clients home. In 2021, people may not be as open visiting other's homes or having people come in so expect this to continue. I also expect the discussions on ethics around these situations to continue and rightly so. It is an extremely important area and one not to be taken lightly.
A few years ago, I really recognized the power that paranormal investigators hold when I worked on events at locations with heritage and history attached to it and learnt some lessons myself. As paranormal investigators, I feel like we become a bit detached from the idea of death and the fact that people had families and a lineage that are still alive. When we are telling the stories of people that were once living, we can sometimes forget that they still have living and breathing family from all over the World. Last year I was contacted by a family in Ireland who had seen a blog I had written about a long lost ancestor of their family. I had pulled newspaper articles and wrote a historical piece that allowed them to find information connected to their family tree. After contacting me, I connected them to volunteers at a historical property connected to their ancestor who then helped them with their family tree. Not all encounters are positive like this however. While the work we do can be rewarding and respectful in some ways, there are times it can offend. I have heard from venues I have worked with or tried to work with in the past that people attended tours in places like prisons. It turned out these guests were family members of residents. When their ancestor's name was mentioned, they were perceived as a nasty person and then 'accused' of committing all of these other crimes that they were never historically charged for. The guides had obtained extra information 'psychically' and stated it as fact and then proceeding a line of questioning which they had the group join in to ask questions. It was offensive to the family they became quite distressed. Long story short, this location no longer allows paranormal investigations. Assuming something about a person's character or things they may have done because a word comes through a spirit box is treading into this kind of ethical territory. This is really just the tip of the surface and I think upon reflection, we can all think of many more. The concept of ethics is one that needs to be reflected on and expanded on further in 2021 and I believe it will. While there is no regulation in the paranormal field, we are accountable for our own self regulation. It may mean some uncomfortable truths, but it makes us better investigators. I have done things in the past that when I reflect I would not do now from an ethical standpoint. We learn from our mistakes and this is why these discussions both for and against are necessary. Don't be defensive, be honest and have the conversation because there are points I am sure both sides may or may not have considered, but a respectful discussion especially from people with the right qualifications can give us all perspective to consider. We grow, we learn and evolve and by having these discussions and reflections, it is better not only for us, but for the field in general.
I have written a few articles about the different ways we can enjoy the paranormal without having to leave our house. Books for me are a huge part of that. I found myself buying a new book every week. I have read about topics I wouldn't normally and delved into areas of research I have wanted to dip my toes in, but I didn't have time. In a lot of ways, 2020 gave us the gift of time. It meant for me, I was able to publish my 3rd book: The LLIFS Guide To EVP. I have seen many friends working on their own projects that they have always wanted to do. My good friend Amanda from APS realized her dream of over 30 years to finally write and publish that book she always wanted to do: From the Mind of a Medium. Her second is about to be released and there is not stopping her now! I had a few people contact me with questions wanting to write their own books or start their own blogs. Honestly I feel like the more that is out there the better.
If you have always wanted to do something, 2021 will be the time to start. 2020 has been a write off and I feel like 2021 starts with a clean slate. We will be cautious, but we will be keen. While we haven't been able to investigate as much as we would like, our passion for the paranormal has not died. Approach your work with integrity, with grace, with compassion, understanding, an open mind and with a genuine approach. Don't do it because you want to be famous or get likes, do it in a way that is true to you. Let your work speak for yourself. Life is too short to be working hard to chase someone else's dream. 2021 is the year to start chasing your own. If you want to start that book you always wanted, do it! If you want to start that YouTube Channel or blog, the time is now! My road in the paranormal has been a rocky one but one that has changed direction heaps of times and sent me on a path of knowledge that I never even dreamed would be possible. 2020 allowed me to realize a dream of being a published writer when I was asked to be a part of the Haunted Magazine Team. I always say let your work speak for itself and after a few years mine finally did! I featured an article in all issues for 2020 of the magazine as an ongoing writer for the team and you can expect to see more of that in 2021! Thankyou so much to Paul and Andy from Haunted Magazine for asking me to come on board and being a great support of me and my projects! They are always looking for new submissions, so maybe 2021 may be the year you too can tell your story for the magazine!
With all that being said, thankyou for sticking with me in what has been a very strange year. Your support and friendship means the World and the fact that after 6 years you are still all reading my ramblings is a true testament to how amazing the paranormal field is. You even surprised me and nominated me for an award! Even though I didn't win, the fact that you took the time to consider me was amazing and something I appreciate so deeply. We don't always agree on topics, but we can have respectful discussion and that is how we all learn and grow. It is about that time that I myself have a bit of a break from writing the blog and finish up what is always a very busy period at work and of course preparing for Christmas with my family. My boys are 8 and 10 and I wonder each year if this will be Santa's last so I will be spending extra special time with them. 2020 helped us realize who and what is important to us. My family is always the most important thing and will always come first. I found a great balance a few years ago with my family and the paranormal. I had burnt out from events every weekend and I wasn't gelling in a team anymore. I decided to go on my own, do things on my terms and concentrate more on my research rather than events. I still do Black Rock House each month but it means I have a good balance with investigating, research and my family. Writing is a HUGE part of me, more so than going out an investigating these days and honestly kept me sane and kept me going during most of the year. While of course there are times I have toyed with the idea saying 'Is all the work worth it?' I cannot imagine not doing this. I either have a book or a laptop in my hand. Some people watch TV at night to wind down, I write. This is what I do in my ME time, I just happen to share it with the World and I see 2021 being no different there. I will be back at Black Rock House next year with my brother and maybe I might see some of you there next year or even at Aradale with Australian Paranormal Society where I sometimes tag along.
Have a wonderful Christmas and there will be lots of new content in the New Year. LLIFS is the place you can be your spooky self, and I will ensure that continues in 2021 and many years beyond that!
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