Unwitting occultism may often offend

12-year-old Keith Bennett was murdered by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley in 1964. His mother Winnie died recently, before her son’s body has been found. Onto this tragedy now has blundered Worsley Paranormal Group, whose search for signs of Keith’s body uncovered a rusty spade, which they have put forward as possible evidence.

This incident has already attracted some pertinent comments from investigator Hayley Stevens on the poor ethical choices of those involved.

Worsley Paranormal Group – and others – seem confused over the difference between paranormal investigation and occultism. There have been no reports of paranormal activity connected with the murder of Keith Bennett, so what, exactly, did these so-called paranormal investigators think they were investigating?

'The Necromancer', Jean-Baptiste Le Prince 1775.

Confusion on the boundary of entertainment and science. A detail from ‘The Necromancer’, Jean-Baptiste Le Prince (1775).

The source of the confusion seems to stem (yet again) from assumptions offered by paranormal TV shows, which (people seem to forget) must always create the phenomena they pretend to investigate, in order to sustain viewers’ interest. That’s why they use methods such as mediums and seances.

A tragic incident at a particular location does not in itself warrant investigation. The aim of paranormal investigation is to understand cases, not to create them; to arrive at knowledge concerning the allegedly paranormal, rather than simply an experience of it. If someone is more interested in causing ghosts to appear than in what causes ghosts to appear, then he or she is practising occultism, not science.

Imagine if it were your deceased relative with whom complete strangers, uninvited, were claiming to speak? If there’s any doubt that these assumptions cause deep and genuine offence, consider the comments of Keith Bennett’s brother, Alan:

Worsley Paranormal Group’s theories and activities [are complete nonsense]. They are to be found all over the internet chasing anybody who they think will listen to them. They also post videos claiming to have picked up Keith on a ‘ghost box’ machine, all of which I find totally disgusting… They have seen their moment to jump on the bandwagon… I am and will continue to be offended and angered by these people. (Mail Online, 3rd September, 2012)

Why would you want to heap offence on top of what someone in Alan Bennett’s position has already endured? Paranormal groups must think carefully about what they’re practising: science or occultism. If it’s the latter, they must consider how their actions might cause disturbance or offence and then do what all occultists should. Keep it to themselves.