“I’ve Spent Nights in Haunted Houses”: A Conversation with a Paranormal Investigator

Written by Thomas McCann

Why do all UFOs land in the United States?

That question comes to mind when looking at examples of aliens in films and television – you are made to think of Area 51 or Washington, the President on his scorched White House lawn as he approaches a flying saucer.

Would you expect to see an E.T.-style, sci-fi blockbuster set in Perth? Or Bonnybridge? Or Stirling? Probably not. But Scotland is a hotspot for the supernatural, whether you believe in it or not there are plenty of stories, and Ron Halliday has heard about as many as one person could.

Ron has made a career out of what keeps us up at night – tales of ghosts, monsters and aliens – and he has written several books on the paranormal. His interest came from family as his grandmother would say that she was able to see the spirits of the dead. His father was a scientist, but also took an interest in the idea of poltergeists and spiritualism and Ron grew up reading stories of ghosts that his father owned.

Despite spending a lot of time investigating these strange stories, Ron has never had an experience of the supernatural himself, or at least not to the level of those who get in contact with him who hope he can shed some light on the strange going-ons.

“I’ve actually seen things when I’ve been attending Mediums, but myself, spontaneously, haven’t really seen anything which I would say that is definitely a supernatural experience”.

This must cause some mixed feelings for people in Ron’s line of work. Those who spend their time trying to identify cases of paranormal activity must be, in part, anxious to experience it, to see a UFO flying above them. Part of them must want to feel the chill of a ghost floating through the walls of a rundown, supposedly haunted house. After all, if you spend your time reading the books and watching the documentaries, something in your brain must be eager to have a proper, cliched paranormal encounter.

On the other hand, the people Ron meets in his area of work are sometimes deeply disturbed by what they have been through. Belief in the supernatural is a highly debated issue, and whether you believe a person has truly been haunted or that they have had a kind of psychotic episode, the trauma from the event can still be very real, though hard to acknowledge when the story is beyond explanation.

It is natural to scoff at the tales you see online. Most people do not believe the stories. However, Ron demonstrated that the way in which you would investigate a story of a corrupt official or a brewing scandal is rather similar to how you would investigate a ghost story, you need to find out how trustworthy the source is.

“I really like to meet the person first-hand.”

“Person to person you can often assess people’s credibility and the story that they tell, and you can go take a look at where whatever happened, happened.”

“I have had the odd person quite blatantly not tell me the truth, but that is unusual. Most people are actually telling accurately what they think happened to them, the issue is what happened to them. Did they misidentify a plane in the sky for a UFO? They say they saw a ghost, but was that just a reflection?”

When it comes to investigations into paranormal activity, the problem for the investigator is that they can never be one hundred percent certain of what happened. This is true of all types of investigations, a detective examining a murder scene would have to make sense of the evidence available to them possibly without ever truly knowing what happened. This applies more often than not to researching claims of a haunted house or alien experimentation, whether you believe the person or not, these events never seem to bring conclusive evidence.

Ron told me of a man who reached out to him, someone who stated they had never believed in the supernatural until one day when he was walking his dog and claimed to have seen a small, black creature with hooded eyes. He said it had been running around, until it spotted him and then came right up to him. He could only describe it as a goblin, hardly an everyday sight.

People in Ron’s type of work could wholeheartedly believe that the man was telling the truth, they could believe that he described his experience with sincerity and that he seemed genuinely affected by the experience, struggling to rationalise the supernatural encounter his brain is telling him could not have possibly occurred. Despite how you could believe him, or would choose to believe him, it is unlikely he could show you the hooded-eyed goblin that had been running across his path. In criminal investigations, they would refer to irrefutable evidence as a “smoking gun”, perhaps in paranormal investigations you would refer to the proverbial “running goblin”.

Ron has dealt with a lot of people who are dismissive of his work. He does not try to win them over to his way of thinking. I knew before our interview had begun that one of my most important questions was going to be, “What would you say to those who do not believe in the supernatural and the work that you do?”.

“I would say to people, be open-minded about it.”

“Scepticism is healthy, you don’t want to spend your time believing in every story that everybody tells you.”

In the life of a paranormal investigator, open-mindedness is a tool of the trade. Whilst it would be ridiculous to think that you could convince everyone to open their minds to the idea of the supernatural, it would not do any harm if people were more aware of the experiences of others. You may never truly know what it was that caused that bump in the night.

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash. Image licence found here. No changes have been made to this image.

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