The importance of fact over fiction

8th October 2022. Reading Time: 9 minutes General, Stuff paranormal investigators need to know. 2475 page views. 0 comments.

The paranormal and history seem to go hand in hand, however, we must be careful not to let a good ghost story replace facts.

Once you start going down the paranormal rabbit hole, you tend to find if you didn't have one before, that you now have a keen interest in history.  Maybe it is because you have been visiting a location for investigations and you want to validate the information you are receiving.  Maybe you have become so invested in the location you need to know anything and everything you can find.  Some people always loved history and this is just a new way to explore it while embracing your spooky side.  The paranormal and history in a way go hand in hand, however, we must be careful not to let fiction replace facts.

There is often an argument among paranormal investigators pertaining to 'do you go into a location knowing the history or do you go in blind?'.  There of course are arguments both for and against and both have their place and are reasonable arguments for and against.  If you know the history beforehand, you can unknowingly make things fit a certain narrative, however, if you don't know the history how do you validate and verify the information you are receiving?  If you are going in blind there can be a lot of missed opportunities and time wasted - especially if you only have access to the location for a short period of time.  Some people like to assign roles so there is usually someone on a team for example that may know the information and relay that as it is needed.  I suppose it is somewhat of a solution for a more balanced approach.  The issue seems to become, however, that history sometimes turns into hearsay and suddenly a location's history is completely changed based essentially on word of mouth.  Legends then grow and a location can become paranormally famous for something that never actually happened there in the first place.

Paranormal investigating and history

One of the reasons I am so passionate about working with Black Rock House and why I guess I am so protective of it is that maintaining the integrity of the location and its history is so incredibly important.  Before I even started working with them, there were several stories associated with the property that were promoted from ghost tours previously held there.  Some of the information acquired from these old ghost tours are not historical fact.  It was information supposedly channelled through a psychic medium and soon posted on internet forums.  From there I guess the legends grew and people began to confuse this with history, something the house is always trying to address.  Almost every tour I conduct, people will ask me for example about the person they believe was hung from the tree.  The fact of the matter is that there is no death certificate, no inquest and no information to validate this claim.  Sure it could be true, but we have no historical evidence to support this so I have to tell people no there is no historical record of this ever happening and the only reason we are talking about it is that someone once posted about it on an internet forum.  It is something Black Rock House has had to deal with even without paranormal rumours.  Local legends of underground tunnels and convict labour have plagued the house for decades.  Again the volunteers work hard with historians to educate the general public not only on what was fact and what was fiction, but how the legends began in the first place.  If you look at newspaper articles from the 1920's there were rumours back then again from word of mouth where locals believed the cellar was haunted by the mistress of an owner and she was locked down there.  Again, there no truth to this, it started simply because it was an old eccentric-looking building with a cellar that no one knew anything about.

Here is an article I have written if you are interested to read about attempting to separate some of the facts from fiction relating to Black Rock House.

Tales of Black Rock House - Local Legends

Image Source: Black Rock House

The ghost stories of famous locations

I recently had a discussion with some fellow investigators on social media about this very fact and there is a thread I would like to share that shows just how easily history is seemingly modified by a good ghost story.

I live less than 10 miles from Bobby Mackey's Music World and know the actual and factual history very well.  Pearl Bryant has nothing to do with the property at all, but the lore percists, and I an audio engineer from a local radiostation approach me about how he was in on the initial planning of it being a haunted location, but he was cut out of the book deal, so he has been ( unsuccessfully) trying to discredit it. The only conclusion I can come to is it a case of sour grapes or a blown out of proportion everyday little haunting?

According to court records in regards to Pearl Bryant, her, Walling, and Jackson to a cab (horse carriage) accross the Ohio River into KY after she didn't die from being poisoned with cocaine in her drink at a bar.  The carriage traveled south and passed the location where the then slaughter house was.  That was it.  In the 1990's a syndicated tv show called Sightings, had psychic Peter James there who said there was a well and he believed a head was in it.  Floor boards were torn up revealing a "hidden well" which was just a drainage pit from the former slaughter house.  All of this was inexplicably linked to Bryant because she had been decapitated and the body was found 6 miles away.  Her head was never recovered, but again, the Ohio River was very close by. Neither defendant would reveal its location.  It is presumed that saying what happened to her head would have been an admission of guilt.  Both men were still convicted and hung.  According to the local paper, Walling stated it was cut up and thrown away.

BUT, when a patron sued Bobby Mackey's after a ghost allegedly beat him up in the mens room, the description he gave matched thatof Alonzo Walling. Here is where the TVshow helped make the connection with no fact to back it up, and by all accounts was a feather in Peter James hat Is Bobby Mackey's haunted?  I don't know.  I won't pay them to let me investigate.  I would however donate my time and give an independent review based on facts. ????

Side note- A Judge threw the Ghost assault case out of court. ????

Mike Palmer Pink Paranormal


Here you have one of the most famously supposedly haunted locations in the World, which is promoted with a ghost story and history that is inaccurate.  Some quick fact-checking exposes this however when people are attending an investigation or ghost tour, many don't feel the need to verify this information because they expect the information they are receiving is genuine.  Famous television programs are also extremely guilty of promoting these kinds of stories and take anything they see presented as fact - especially if there is a scary recreation filmed.  This is just one example and I know there are A LOT of others out there.  It is really hard filtering through information online and I know I have probably posted inaccurate information in the past.  Well, not probably I know there have been instances as people have corrected me.  Instead of being defensive, I took this information on board to reassess and fix any inaccuracies because I have a responsibility to do so. You see anyone that creates content within the paranormal or even conducts tours has a responsibility to ensure the information they are presenting is accurate.  We do argue that people should check their own facts and do their own research and yes they should, but what if the place they are getting their information from is incorrect as well?  Learning from this, you will notice from several years ago when I first started writing, I didn't put a reference list at the bottom of my articles.  I felt it wasn't needed at the time because I wasn't an academic writer.  I very soon learnt the importance of this and now include them.  While not written in an academic format as that is not me, they are still there to show where all the information was sourced.  While I always used to verify information from several sources, I learnt how important it was to include these sources.  It not only helps people with their own fact-checking, but it holds me accountable. The wording is also important and this applies to the content we present and the things we say on a paranormal investigation.  People need to be told if something is not historically verified.  Transparency is important and people will appreciate it more. They can still enjoy the ghost story because at the end of the day that is why they are there, to hear the ghostly stories. How we present that information is what is important. We talk about how important history is and keeping it alive when it comes to the locations we work with, however, it is of equal and maybe even of more importance to ensure this history we are keeping alive is accurate.  It means addressing some hard truths.  Some locations in the past may have swept certain things under the rug or changed the narrative and withheld or embellished certain information to avoid some of the hard truths.  There is a discussion all over the World and particularly in Australia about confronting some of the atrocities of our past.  They can make us feel uncomfortable but they are important to acknowledge.  When applying this to the realm of the paranormal, we have to take ethics, integrity and respect into account here too.  Remember anything in history means that the people involved were once living and had a family.  They are more than just a character in a story.  In a lot of ways, you are giving them a voice to tell their story.  You may not realise it, but your voice is also incredibly important because there is always someone listening.

Just remember, everyone loves a good ghost story, but it doesn't hurt to check historical records to see if it is actually true.  Do you know of a famous ghost story that actually is completely historically wrong?  Let's right some wrongs and post about it below in the comments!

Big thankyou to Mike from Pink Paranormal for sharing his research above.

Cover Photo by Suzy Hazelwood:

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