I wrote this in 2010. Since then, aside from spikes around Halloween, interest in the field has continued to decline.
Here’s what I said in 2010:
It’s time for a reality check in the ghost hunting field. I’m about to talk about the dark side of ghost hunting — and almost any fad — when the trend declines.
This isn’t pretty, and I don’t like to bring it up, but someone has to warn new ghost enthusiasts about these (now old) problems.
Some people are scrambling to renew or create a foothold as celebrities. They want their own TV shows, media coverage, and — if all else fails — at least a few paycheques.
The fad is over. Ghost hunting — as a trend — peaked years ago.
Since then, producers of TV shows and movies keep trying to find new (and sometimes ridiculous) ways to revive interest.
Frankly, I’m not sure the 2004 popularity of shows like Ghost Hunters will ever return.
As the fan base shrinks, some “ghost hunters” are claiming credentials they don’t have. They fit the Scams and Con Artists profile.
Convicted criminals, including child molesters, are posing as ghost experts. I’m not comfortable being alone with them in a dark room. I certainly wouldn’t bring my children to events where they’d participate in after-dark investigations.
Another high-profile personality has been quoted, saying it’s routine (or even essential) to lie to people if you want to succeed in the paranormal field. He’s a fun guy, but — if that story is true — I’m not sure how he sleeps at night.
Many “old timers” (including me) have stepped back from public ghost hunting events. We’re not willing to share the stage with people whose reputations could damage us by association.
However, by being less visible, we’ve put our careers in jeopardy. To be taken seriously by many people, a list of TV and event appearances seems mandatory.
It’s kind of “darned if you do, darned if you don’t” situation. (Yes, I really do talk like that.)
My solution is to be more aggressive about my research, write more books, and share more free information online.
However, I’m one of the lucky ones. I really am a researcher. My brain seems to be wired for connect-the-dots logic, so I find new ways to find and investigate haunted sites.
Others aren’t so fortunate. They have fewer options.
Here are the trends.
As shown in the graph above, Google searches for the word “ghosts” have steadily declined since 2004.
In the next screenshot, you’ll see that Google searches for “ghost hunting” also peaked in 2004, with minor rallies since then.
In the next screenshot, Google searches for “ghost hunters ” — generally related to the TV series — peaked in 2007. Most of the spikes occur predictably around Halloween.
Searches related to the word “paranormal” have always had limited popularity. The spike around Halloween 2009 was largely due to the movie, Paranormal Activity.
The trend is fading. Ghost hunting may be close to the conclusion of Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations bell graph. (If your goals include fame and fortune, catch trends at the Early Adopter and Early Majority phases.)
Here’s the time-honored way of building a solid reputation as a ghost hunter:
- Study the field or serve an apprenticeship. This involves years, not weeks or months.
- If you can, conduct unique, in-depth research that reveals new and useful information that contributes to our understanding of paranormal phenomena.
- If innovative research isn’t easy for you, find someone who is good at it, and be part of his or her research team.
- Then, share your discoveries with others.
Real credibility is built on accomplishments in paranormal R&D. Your reputation is based on how many people you actually help.
Those are the areas to focus on, for long-term respect in paranormal research. The field may be shrinking, but the people who’ve never cared if ghost hunting is trendy… they’re the people I value most among my friends and colleagues.
2016 addition: The decline in ghost hunting as an “OMG fad” is exactly why I’m (very slowly) becoming more active in the field again.
The con artists and fame-seekers are moving on to other fields and fads. For serious paranormal researchers like me, that’s a huge relief.
I’ve been involved in ghost hunting for decades. I expect to be here for the long haul.
So, for a few years, I decided to sit out the “sound and fury, signifying nothing,” and wait for the field to become interesting again.
If you check related Google search numbers, you’ll see that interest in ghost hunting seemed to fall off a cliff, starting in late 2014. (The graphs were rather spectacular.)
For now, the ghost hunting fad is nearly over.
(I say “for now” because popular interests tend to go in cycles. See Slate’s article about 15-, 20-, and 40-year cycles. Also see The 90s, 2015, and the 20-Year Cycle, and — for those who want to take this further — the Sekhmet Hypothesis of 11-year solar cycles.)
As of 2016, we’re getting back to fascinating (and fun) research again. So… yes, I’m here and enjoying it again.