Co-founder of The Paranormal Scholar, Laura Rowton, discusses her experience producing her first feature documentary, In Search of the Dead.
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In early 2017, I embarked on a journey of a lifetime. I set myself the rather ambitious challenge of attempting to find proof of life after death.
I do not conceal the fact that I consider myself to be an open-minded sceptic. Despite having been fascinated by all things paranormal since an early age, I have never been sure in my beliefs. My mind has always been curious, but undecided. My intention was to go out into the field and investigate firsthand. After having founded The Paranormal Scholar in 2015 with my husband, Erik, I no longer wished to be an “arm-chair sceptic”.
What followed was a whirlwind adventure which took us across the European continent, from what is said to be the most haunted forest in the world to a supposedly ghost-ridden manor in Scotland. Along the way, I was privileged to have the chance to interview leading academics, speak with knowledgeable experts and shadow experienced paranormal investigators and mediums. In November 2019, all this culminated in the release of a two-hour documentary titled In Search of the Dead.
Neither Erik or I had any background in filmmaking, and as the project was entirely self-funded every day was a learning process. At times, filming was tough. Being a team of just two, we had to manage all of our set up and equipment. I was the presenter, but also second camera-person and grip. Erik was lead cameraperson, key grip, sound engineer and all round jack-of-all-trades. Then later, in post-production, we suffered major file loss due to our inexperience at managing huge amounts of raw data. For certain, we threw ourselves into the deep end – it could be said rather naively. Regardless, I have no regrets. In fact, I would argue that going about our project in this loose, free-style manner was the only way to have done it.
Being just the two of us, Erik and I were able to get access to spaces and people in a way which would not have been possible with a large crew. Interviews were intimate, often conducted at the home of the interviewees. The conversations featured in the documentary are therefore precisely that – conversations. From the very start, we knew that we wanted to allow people from all walks of life, and of all beliefs, the chance to speak in a calm, relaxed environment, and without being sound-bited. The paranormal investigations I shadowed were similarly relaxed (asides from the unsettling, possibly paranormal happenings!).
Featured in the documentary are several renowned academics, including the President of the Society for Psychical Research, Professor Chris A. Roe. As a Professor of Psychology at the University of Northampton in the UK, Prof. Roe is extremely knowledgeable in the field of mediumship, having conducted studies of mediums and their experiences. Yet, far from condemning what is claimed by many to be proof of spirit communication as one might expect, Prof. Roe is open-minded and nuanced in his analysis. There are shades of meaning to everything, he expressed to me on the day that I interviewed him, “We live in a tabloid society, and it’s easier for things to be black or white. Unfortunately in most situations the data never supports a very black or white picture.”
It is this type of ambiguity, and acceptance thereof, that characterised my journey. When exploring a subject as imponderable as life after death, there are never going to be clear answers. From my interactions with believers, sceptics and those in between, this was an issue that everyone was able to appreciate. Even those who identify as mediums, such as Richard Oliver, occasionally struggle to process their experiences. “I doubt myself,” Richard, a team member of the paranormal investigative group, Paranormal Now, explained to me during our interview. “Any reading you ever give anyone is only going to be ninety-five percent accurate.” The remaining five percent, he told me, was necessary. Absolute surety in the existence of an afterlife could be a dangerous belief for someone to have if their life on this plane of existence was unbearable. “You wouldn’t stay here, would you? So there’s always got to be that little five percent of faith. ”
When I started this project in 2017, I had no idea how profound the process would be. My views have been challenged beyond expectation, and I became far more personally involved than I had thought possible. It is no exaggeration to say that the creation of In Search of the Dead, and all that entailed, has changed my life.
For anyone wishing to explore the paranormal and the possibility of life after death, I have to highlight the importance of personal experience. It is within all of us to seek out our own experiences with an open mind, not just in the hope of finding personal proof of life after death, but to better understand ourselves and our place in the world.
Reviews and comments about “In Search of the Dead”
If you are keen on taking an intellectual deep-dive into all things paranormal, I highly recommend The Paranormal Scholar’s brand new documentary, In Search of the Dead! This is a truly objective and informative journey investigating life after death. – Amy of Amy’s Crypt via Twitter
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Despite the fact that Laura and her husband, Erik, have no previous experience in filmmaking, the documentary is produced to a very high standard. It is a fascinating watch and a truly interesting and balanced insight into some of the most common beliefs within the paranormal field. A must-see for any paranormal investigator. – Steve Higgins of Higgypop.com
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I would highly recommend this film to anyone interested in the subject of life after death. The filmmakers’ research prowess coupled with Laura’s sober perspective make for a very interesting and engaging documentary worth multiple viewings. – creepingtaffer via The Internet Movie Database
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If you love the paranormal, this is the best documentary you’ll see this decade! DONT MISS IT!!! – Mortis Media via YouTube
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When you are so excited to see something you build it up and think it will never be as good as you imagine. This, however exceeded all of my expectations. It was brilliant. Definitely worth the wait and definitely worth a watch. – stoylesdanielle via The Internet Movie Database
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My friends over at The Paranormal Scholar recently released their new documentary based on the paranormal! This is a really well put together film. The quality, research, and attention to detail really set them apart. This is worth every minute of your time. – Swamp Dweller via Twitter.