One of the most common things people ask us about is where the name for our organization came from. “The Smoking Gun” sounds a bit unusual to people when they are thinking of paranormal, metaphysics, and unexplained. Most expect that we would call ourselves some sort of “ghost hunters” or “UFOlogists,” but in fact “Smoking Gun” has a lot to do with the focus of our efforts. So, for those who are curious, here’s a little history of what our name means and how it came to be.
The term “Smoking Gun” refers to an incontrovertible piece evidence which conclusively proves the claim being made. If found, this evidence would present the “proof positive” of something, , but it is often unobtainable for any number of reasons. In relation to the work that our organization does, we use the term to describe crucial evidence in the context of inquiry into a unusual phenomenon. In essence, the smoking gun is exactly the type of evidence we are looking for by conducting research, studies, and investigation into the subjects we work with. In science, as well as the search for the unexplained, the term relates to evidence that is highly suggestive in favor of a particular hypothesis or event, but lacks the complete and solid proof.
Here’s some fun facts having to do with smoking guns:
- The phrase originated in 1893, when a smoking pistol was a key element in a Sherlock Holmes mystery
- A “Smoking Gun” can take any number of forms such as a compromising memorandum, testimony from expert witnesses, or the discovery of unacknowledged items.
- The most famous historical case to make use of the “smoking gun” term – and made it widely recognized – was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Numerous times during the official investigation the term, “smoking gun,” was used to reference pieces of evidence that could not be confirmed.
As for how our organization got the name… that goes back to the days even before SGRA existed, when Director Jon Nowinski used the term in a research paper to describe a theory about paranormal investigation. Here’s what he had to say as an explanation when asked about it during a 2010 interview:
“SGRA was born out of a position paper I wrote back in high school that focused on theories involved with paranormal research. I wanted to make the case that I felt there was worthy research that could be done into paranormal claims and activity, and that it could be coupled with scientific methods to make it better. Through research for that paper I was introduced to the field of Parapsychology, which is literally the application of scientific principals and techniques to the study of some paranormal claims – precognition, clairvoyance, mediumship, telepathy, and other forms of Extra Sensory Perception (ESP). I decided to title the paper “Searching for the Smoking Gun.” When I first started openly discussing my passion for this type of research during public events and interviews I would tell that story of where this all started from and people really seemed to enjoy the name. So when it came time to form the group, I decided to integrate Smoking Gun because it was unique, and interesting, so it just sort of stuck.”