Heading into 2021…

Happy New Year

First of all, may I wish everyone reading this a somewhat belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone at OWNE. 

Looking back at 2020, it brings to mind Robert Kennedy’s 1966 Cape Town speech:

There is a Chinese curse which says ‘May he live in interesting times.’ Like it or not we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history.

Certainly the events of 2020 surrounding the Pandemic are unprecedented for the majority of the younger generations living with the UK. At the time of writing this, the UK has 74,570 deaths on record attributed to Covid-19, with the Office of National Statistics recording 1.69 million unemployed in the UK by the end of October 2020 (as far as I can tell, the updated figures will be due at the end of January): the teachers’ unions and parents are up in arms about the government’s plans to push kids back into school beginning with the phased approach tomorrow, despite what it will do to infection figures, and while the people of the UK reel against waves of virus, unemployment, fear and uncertainty, our government removed us from the European Union with a deal that will inevitably mean a rise in prices of a lot of goods in 2021, as well as massive restrictions of movement for us within Europe, likely to affect our youngers generations the most with the loss of the Erasmus scheme and European funding amongst others. 

This isn’t meant to be a political post to start 2021, but it is difficult for it not to contain elements of politics. This post is really meant to be simply this: a call for kindness and support in the upcoming months. No matter what your politics are, this upcoming Winter is going to be very hard for a lot more folk than in previous years. While the price hikes aren’t likely to become apparent for a few more months, the sharp rise in unemployment will mean many suffering hardship that were not in that position before the rise of Covid-19. On top of that, if the winter is as grim as potentially expected, the infection rates of Covid-19, especially the new strains identified at the end of 2020, could rise exponentially, especially if the schools still go back as expected and the increased number of ‘covidiots’ continue to flout the law. As these things happen, vulnerability within all genders and age groups will rise. Don’t be afraid to offer a comforting word: you may be the only one that does.

But (I hear you say), what has this got to do with the paranormal? Back in May 2020, this website was rebuilt and re-activated as the couple of months of national lockdown had seen allegedly a rise in paranormal sightings and experiences within the UK. Now, eight months later we’re still in lockdown (Tier 4 here in the North East), a lockdown that I have no doubt at all will become stricter through the winter to try and prevent a dramatic rise in the death rate. The inoculations, while brilliant strides forward in the battle against Covid-19, are not miracle overnight cures to the situation the world is in, and we’ll see lockdowns in place for a long time to come, until enough of the UK is vaccinated. 

The lockdowns and social distancing have had a large impact on how the majority of paranormal groups operate, especially those who use public ghost hunts as their main source of ‘investigation’ and funding. Venues and the majority of locations have been closed, and thus groups have not been able to fulfil their events. Most have been magnanimous about the situation, but I’ve seen, especially on social media, some folk still demanding events be organised. In some cases these ‘conversations’ can get a little heated, especially when the ‘customer’ is one of those folk who don’t believe in the virus. 

Other groups have simply switched their focus to more urban-exploration style events, live streaming as they essentially break into abandoned buildings to ‘investigate’ them. In many cases, groups now value themselves and their colleagues on how many followers their live streams have… the actual methodology and reasoning behind their events has been lost to gain more followers, with the need for ‘something to happen’ in order to maintain their following. The more these paranormal urb-ex ‘events’ take place during lockdown, the more people are potentially put at risk on several levels.

So from perspective of the field of paranormal investigation, do the demanding paranormal tourists or the groups more interested in their online fame actually lend anything positive to our study of the paranormal in 2020? I’d argue not.

The time we live in has also seen a rise in a minority of paranormal groups and individuals preying on the vulnerable. Covid-19 and its social and medical impact have caused a massive rise in those feeling vulnerable, and who look in some cases to other powers to assuage their feelings of helplessness. Many groups have seen the increase on their social media of people turning to the paranormal where normally they may have turned to a doctor or simply their friends for answers. For those living alone, normal shadows can easily become spectres in the mind’s eye, especially if you’re frequenting internet discussions that describe them as exactly that. For the most part, groups and organisations have helped and guided where they can, but I’ve seen despicable behaviour by some that see it as an opportunity. This isn’t a new thing by a long shot, but I’d simply say if you see this happening, depending on the circumstances there may be a legal recourse, or at the very least remove your support from the perpetrators to hit them where it likely hurts the most.

So please, in the coming Winter months please reach out and support those in need while you’re online. The restrictions we’re in will in many cases mean that while we can’t physically help, nothing should stop us from helping someone in obvious need of help. Sometimes this can simply be a kind word online, and those investigators and ghost hunters out there should take a serious look at how they approach their activities and what their online statements/presence teaches and how damaging some ways of thinking can be especially to the vulnerable, scared and lonely. 

Lead by example, think before you type, and also think hard before you plunge against all advice into an investigation location when the majority of the country have been told to stay at home and only leave the safety of home for essentials. In no situation should the mental or physical health of a person be compromised for the sake of online followers. If folk do continue to flout social distancing and stay at home rules, the restrictions will only get stronger. 

So, our 2021 message is simply this. Please, where you can be kind, thoughtful and helpful. Think before you type. Think before you speak. Look after each other when and where you can. Stick to the rules and protect those you can from this horrendous virus. We don’t have to see a repeat of the Spanish Flu pandemic (228,000 dead in Britain alone, 50 million worldwide) if everyone does their bit. That means looking after each other, and leaving trolls where they belong: in myth and legend.

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