Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Haunted Dolls Paranormal: Diplomas for Dummies.

*Quick Edit* Jayne Harris owner operator HD paranormal has responded to this post and I have, in turn responded back. You can read that response in full here, if you so wish: http://skepticsboot.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/a-response-to-hd-paranormal-in-regards.html

Ah... Paranormal qualifications. As I covered many times before, the paranormal is full of self-appointed experts in this and that, each with a bullshit title denoting "expertise". It's only natural that there are also plenty of people taking advantage of this desire to claim expertise, by offering "diplomas" to wave in the faces of fellow believers.

HD paranormal, previously known as Haunted Dolls Paranormal, is a UK based group offering just this. An accredited diploma in "Applied Paranormal Research" no less.


Unsurprisingly, for a group promoting titles and qualifications to a market which clearly values the same, HD paranormal are quick to point out their accreditation. In fact, they claim to be offering the only accredited paranormal diploma in the UK. This is a little like a pervert proudly boasting to be the only peeping tom operating in a particular area. It doesn't make his pastime any less unsavory. 


 So who exactly are the CPD, who HD paranormal claim accredits their course? 


















The UK-based CPD is not listed on GOV.UK list of recognised educational bodies. Nor is any company of that name listed on the same site's list of bodies which are validated to offer educational qualifications. The CPD is a private organization that will "accredit" your qualification to lend it an official air of legitimacy. Their own website lists one of the most significant benefits of a CPD accreditation as "brand recognition". What is clear is the course is not recognized as having any academic merit. The accreditation offered would be similar to that offered by an in-house training course, this isn't necessarily a negative thing but it's important to be clear about the kind of accreditation on offer here.

The always awesome Kenny Biddle applied for an induction pack from CPD which highlighted a few of the other benefits of accreditation through the company.























Amongst what Kenny describes as pages of double-talk with very little information, comes some worrying suggested benefits in the above section:
  • It's cheap.
  • It's quick.
  • There are few forms to be completed. 
These aren't really benefits we should be looking for a company claiming to provide training and education, surely completeness and attention to detail are more important here. Also, what are we to make of this "There is a lack of independent objective, information about the choice of accreditation... researching different accreditation options can be time consuming..." Smacks of, "just trust us, we're really easy..." More and more it's clear that CPD offers the image of merit, possibly not merit itself.

Here's CPD's seal of quality assurance that appears on their site, and how it appears on the site of a company that's paid for the accreditation. 

From the level 5 Nutritionist course offered by The Health Science Academy for example:


Left is the seal of accreditation that appears on HD paranormal's diploma site.















Now, HD paranormal is clearly very proud of their CPD accreditation. Why not use the official seal of "quality" on their site? A Google image search reveals that the symbol is likely a generic "accreditation" symbol not linked with any CPD either in the UK or anywhere else. The most popular use of the image is on a Philipines property website (below). 

I also searched for both the terms "HD paranormal" and "Diploma in Applied Paranormal Research." on the site CPD (the fact that there are many companies called "CPD" offering accreditation in UK tells you something about the legitimacy of this accreditation to begin with) the above terms appeared on none of them. To give HD paranormal the benefit I e-mailed their contactee, also the tutor on said diploma, Jayne Harris, for further comment. Her response was as follows:
"Yes the seal at the top of the page is simply a standardised stock image used as a way for visitors to the page to immediately recognise the fact that the course carries accreditation. The image we have for CPD currently is not PNG/Transparent and in honesty looks messy given that it has a white background and so we are awaiting a PNG version in order to update the page. (This doesn't explain why they also feature this accreditation symbol on their FB page-SB)

As for the current search of associates, there is a timeframe of 10-14 days for this. I believe this is standard with most awarding bodies. As this is the first time we have sought accreditation we have had to go through the process from the beginning, including gaining centre status initially - as much as we would like it to be, it is not an instant process. It is for this reason that we are simply registering peoples interest at this stage and not taking enrolments or fee payments. We are waiting for everything to be in place before giving learners the green light!"



I called CPD to confirm that it was the case that it takes 10-14 for a successful applicant to appear on their site. The representative I spoke to confirmed this but offered a far more interesting nugget of information. The full assessment of training material provided also takes 10-14 working days. Can this really be as "rigorous and detailed" as HD paranormal suggest?



Take a look at the material that this diploma claims to cover:

1. The history of Paranormal Investigation
  • Historical and Cultural beliefs
  • The rise of Spiritualism
  • The dawn of the scientific approach
 2.Understanding Metaphysics
  • Universal Consciousness
  • Morphic Fields (Dr Rupert Sheldrake)
  • The 'Shared Memory' experiment
 3. Parapsychology 
  • Leading public figures
  • Theories in Parapsychology
  • Scientific testing 
  • The importance of the Skeptic
4. Types of Paranormal phenomena
  • Apparitions
  • Hauntings
  • Demons
  • ESP and Telepathy
  • UFOs
  • Cryptozoology
  • Reincarnation
  • Auras & Chakras
  • Myths and Legends

5. Planning an investigation
  • Equipment and gadgets
  • Effective client interview techniques 
  • Background research
  • Briefing your team or co-investigators
  • Health & Safety
  • Finances
6. A Forensic approach to experiments
  • Working within scientific controls
  • The devil is in the detail
  • Identifying void data

7. Anomalous Evidence Analysis
  • Identifying and reviewing EVP's
  • Critical footage review techniques
  • Temperature fluctuations
  • The forgotten evidence
8. Divination Techniques 
  • Ouija/Spirit boards
  • Pendulums
  • Scrying
  • Dowsing rods
  • Clairvoyance
  • Mediumship
  • Numerology
  • Tasseography
  • Tarot


Are we seriously to believe that CDP reviewed all that material in 10-14 days!



Let's put the legitimacy of CDP to one side and see what the Diploma actually offers.

HD paranormal claim that on completion of the course successful candidates will be entitled to the Post-nominal letters "Dip.Para".







Actually, no they won't. The term Dip in postnominals is as HD paranormal indicate, used for the holder of a diploma, but "Para" is already used to describe those qualified in the area of paramedics! Also, post-nominal titles must be registered, I can safely assume the HD paranormal team have not done this as they would've discovered "Dip.Para" was in use

So, with that negated what will you actually gain from the course:


Who doesn't like a certificate? And embossed too. But look at the above volume of study, the topics listed cover a vast area of the paranormal, plus claims to cover the scientific method, elements of data analysis and using scientific equipment. These topics can't just be skirted over, a diploma in any subject requires a depth of understanding beyond a cursory knowledge. 

One would expect a similar work-load for a diploma in higher education to approximately two-thirds of a degree. To put that into context, I'm currently two-thirds through a physics degree with the Open University. I've sat five exams, two in year one, three in year two. In addition to that, I've completed about twelve assignments a year. HD paranormal's diploma requires students to complete a paranormal investigation and submit an essay. 




There only seems to be one tutor on the course, the aforementioned Jayne Harris, her name may be more familiar to you from her appearances in the tabloid press with a "haunted puppet" last year (left). Unfortunately, despite her BSc in psychology, her grasp of the scientific method isn't great. How are students to achieve a "final conclusion" about a location based on one investigation and photographs and "data". Doesn't Jayne know there are no final conclusions in science, and robust conclusions are only reached after several lines of independent investigation are followed? If not, perhaps she's not qualified to teach the scientific method, the only thing in the course that requires an actual qualification to teach mind you. I don't doubt her abilities to teach the "demons" section of the course as her bio on the HD paranormal site proudly boasts that she's recently completed a demonology course! 

Her expertise in the non-existent is assured then. 



So far so good it doesn't seem like a great deal of work, what about that essay? A final assignment would generally be expected to touch upon much of the material covered in the course. How else would your tutor know that you've gained a good understanding of a fair proportion of the material covered? Apparently,a 1000 word essay (left) will suffice in this case. Let me put that in perspective:

You can complete your final dissertation for this diploma in eight tweets. (Edit-I completely fucked up here. Tweets are composed of 140 characters not a 140 words. I leave it so you can laugh at what a complete tit I am! Bear in mind though 1000 words is still extremely short, it's the average length of a single exam question in many subjects. -SB)

It sounds to me like HD paranormal will review your learning experience with all the care and due attention that CPD did with the learning materials. 

The revelation that Jayne has completed a "demonology" course and some of the subjects included in the offered diploma such as the entire divination section should cause even the most credulous to raise an eyebrow in light of this comment on their site:
"HD Paranormal in partnership with the Midlands Society for Paranormal Research are working to improve standards and expectations within the field of paranormal research and investigation.... TIMES ARE CHANGING"
Yes indeed, and far more groups are taking the use of scientific methods of investigation seriously. So why would they hang on to archaic concepts such as Demons, the ouija board, and mediums. Why offer a diploma comprised of such nonsense? Because you don't need a qualification to teach such rubbish, your not subject to any actual standards of training and education. Of course, all you'll get out is a "qualification" as worthless as embossing your own sheet of paper with "Paranormal Investigator" or "demonologist" and declaring yourself the same.

Here's an alternative for budding paranormal investigators, why not enroll for a diploma or degree with the OU in psychology, or statistics, or physics or chemistry. I'd hazard a guess that a basic grounding in any of those subjects will massively improve your investigation techniques. Yes, it'll be a damn sight more work and cost more, but the reward will be exponentially greater.

Essentially if you enroll on a HD paranormal diploma you are paying for a false accreditation from a group who in turn have been falsely accredited by CPD. It's like a bullshit pyramid scheme. And you're on the bottom. I don't know about "Haunted Dolls" but it seems that HD paranormal is banking on dummies.

In honor of all this,  I'd like to award HD paranormal's Diploma In Applied Paranormal research with my own accreditation. The "Skeptic's Honor and Integrity Trophy" for excellence in nothing Diplomas.