Lee Munro conducts investigations and research with Otherworld North East (OWNE), a British not-for-profit association that aims to objectively examine evidence of ghosts and alleged supernatural occurrences. Researchers work primarily in the northeast of England but will consider conducting investigations in additional geographic areas. 'Orlando Paranormal Examiner' recently obtained permission to pose some questions to Munro about OWNE and its activities. The questions and his responses, received Thursday by email, are provided below.
Would you please tell us about OWNE policies and procedures and why they are important?
"We do not employ any spiritual methodology on investigations," Munro explained. "This means no psychics, mediums, Ouija boards, or dowsing etc. We have an interest in approaching these as specific research projects, but never to gain information regarding any experiences or accounts. While many believe in the veracity of these methods, our perspective is that these methods only generate inherently questionable information at best.
"We also have an ongoing policy of not taking on physical investigations of private residence cases. While we are more than happy to speak with people regarding these types of cases, we will not attend a home to investigate it. This is mainly due to the ethical and potential welfare considerations inherent in these situations. These concerns apply not only to the residents, but to the investigators themselves. I’ve seen evidence out there of some horrendous practices by groups or individuals, and heard stories personally. I definitely think too many groups have a far too cavalier attitude to these types of investigations.
"If there is a main philosophy it would be that we are not ghost-hunters. In essence what we are interested in looking at are experiences or accounts and considering the context and factors that may be involved. These factors may include the environmental, psychological, physiological, social, historical or any other that may arise. We take these into account not to dismiss any experiences but to try and get a fuller picture of them. We never have and never will confirm a place is 'haunted' or not. We will only offer suggestions, if appropriate, as to what may be involved in an experience. It’s important to understand that we don’t have the answers - but that’s fine as I’m not convinced anyone else does either, despite the claims of some.
"In general I’d say our approach is a sober and objective one. We really don’t have any particular dog in this fight. We try to look into experiences and accounts and follow what we find, rather than what we might desire or expect to find. I’d say we have a reasonable sense of our capabilities and limits given the constraints we face."
How did you first get interested in the paranormal genre?
"Like many involved with this subject who are old enough to know better, I’ve an interest that goes back to childhood. It’s an interest that really encompasses the spectrum of the weird or mysterious. As a kid I tended to be fascinated most with ghosts, Bigfoot and Lake Monster type stories. As a teen and young adult I gravitated towards the UFO phenomena. In the last few years the focus has been much more on ghost and haunting type phenomena.
"Two things conspired to get me actively involved in the subject. I graduated around five years ago and spent a number of months looking for work related to my degree subject [psychology]. Around the same time I was given a ticket for a local ghost hunting event. I came away from the event thinking it could be really interesting if it was done properly, applying some of the things learned from my studies. So I looked at local groups and Otherworld North East was the only one who fit the bill in terms of the approach and the direction I was interested in."
Which OWNE investigation stands out as most interesting to you and why?
"There have been a couple of investigations I’d consider as 'interesting', but since we haven’t been able to verify or come to any conclusions regarding the related experiences, to recount them here would be telling just another paranormal just-so story. While telling ghostly tales is fine I try to avoid turning our investigations into one!
"An interesting location, as opposed to a single investigation, would be Newcastle Keep. This is a location in the centre of the city of Newcastle, on the banks of the River Tyne. The location has a long and fascinating history (an in depth history can be found here). The location has become something of a Mecca for ghost-hunters.
"What is so personally intriguing to me is that despite a well recorded history, there are literally no ghost stories associated with the location – at least prior to amateur ghost hunting groups frequenting the place. These days it is considered one of the most haunted locations in North East England, if not the country. This raises some interesting questions: Do ghosts need an audience? Do ghost hunters create their own ghosts either figuratively or literally or both? Were the phenomena people report always present but just not being experienced or reported? Are all the accounts simply made up? On this last question I know some people not given to fabrication or flights-of-fancy who have had apparently genuine experiences in the location. So the answers may be more complex than simple – and this is what makes the place quite intriguing."
Is there a particular video in the OWNE YouTube account that you would prefer highlighted? If so, which one and would you please tell us some about it?
"Frank's Box & Data Presentation [displayed above]. The premise of the video is not to present a case as to whether or not the Frank’s Box (or Ghost Box) is a device for communicating with the dead, or whatever the communicating 'spirits' might be. Rather, it is intended to highlight the way many groups present their data or 'evidence'.
"There are hundreds, if not thousands, of clips like this on social media or websites. Quite often the clips are mere tens of seconds long, showing 'responses' to questions. Mostly there is an absence of context. I wouldn’t say the intention of these clips is to mislead the audience, but presented as they are, the net effect is the same.
"Throwing ideas out there for discussion or thought experiments is stimulating and essential, but it is different to making claims. If one is going to present what one believes to be data, evidence or claims then transparency is critical. With many claims relating to the paranormal such transparency seems lacking, as is openness to critique."
Please feel encouraged to describe anything about OWNE that you think readers should know or would find interesting.
"We always welcome contact from people. Whether it’s regarding their experiences, stories they’ve heard or just to say hello. Dialogue with other researchers is also something we’re very much interested in, and international perspectives are always interesting. So I’d encourage anyone interested to contact us via the website, our facebook page or anyone can email me at email@example.com.
"We have a page on the site where people can record any anomalous experiences, and do so anonymously if so wished. The Reporting Desk is an ongoing project to collect experiences which we hope to use as the basis for future research ideas.
"Your readers might also be interested in the Otherworld North East Research Society Journal. These are collections of articles from the site collated into a free to read or download journal available via this link. The articles cover a range of topics including local history, ghost tales and aspects of investigating the paranormal.
"Finally, best wishes to your readers and yourself, and thanks for the invitation."