With the advent of so many television shows on the paranormal and 'ghost hunting', it seems that anyone with a fancy for the paranormal is out there looking for ghosts. Unfortunately, not all ghost hunters have the slightest idea of how to research the paranormal, much less how to appear serious and scientific while they're doing paranormal research. This, then, is an important guide about what not to do should you ever decide to hop on the ghost-hunting bandwagon.
To Prove Or Not To Prove
Most professional paranormal investigators begin an investigation with the premise that no haunting exists unless undeniable, scientific evidence can be found during the investigation. Investigating on such a premise can be boring. Instead, work on the assumption that there is a haunting and try to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Paranormal phenomena that are actually the results of bad plumbing or faulty electrics are the realm of plumbers and electricians; if the clients had wanted home repairs, they certainly wouldn't have contacted you!
There are two types of research that every paranormal Clouseau1 must avoid: client interviews and location research. Both types of research will take hours out of your day (or night), and are definitely not recommended for the impatient.
Interviewing clients is tricky. People who live in haunted locales are full of stories, both secondhand and personal. Ghost stories are always interesting and creepy, but it certainly won't look good later if you've found out that Mrs Smith – whose home you're investigating – spent five years in a sanatorium for a split personality disorder, or that her son, John Smith, who has also seen ghosts, tends to take hallucinogenic drugs. Knowledge like this will almost certainly invalidate your investigation, thus, client interviews should be avoided like the plague!
Location research can likewise be disheartening, and should be avoided whenever possible. An inept ghost hunter should assume that most American hauntings can be attributed to the area sitting atop an old Indian burial ground. In other parts of the world hauntings are most likely caused by secret mass burials or restless monks. If you should decide to actually go to all the bother of doing location research, do it before your investigation; this way, you will know what to expect, and you will be much more likely to find evidence to fit your research.
Appearance (Your Own)
Even an amateur ghost hunter wants to be taken seriously. One way to make sure that you're not taken seriously is to dress like a psycho killer. It's perfectly respectable to wear a T-shirt with the name of your ghost hunting organisation emblazoned across the front. Old, tattered, smelly jeans can complement this attire, ensuring that you (and everyone else involved) will encounter an olfactory experience.
So, you've opted for a loud Hawaiian shirt or something that looks like a mu-mu and a hat that would only look great at Ascot? Good. Perhaps now you can scare the ghosts out into the open, as well as your clients.
Keep in mind that dressing outlandishly will guarantee that all the neighbours are aware of your presence, and that the name of your organisation will be foremost on the minds of the community.
One should never investigate an alleged haunting alone, thus, it is necessary to bring friends along on an investigation. Make sure that your friends tend toward the hysterical: those who run screaming from a cold spot, unexplained noise, or imagined touch will most certainly alert you to proof of the paranormal. It might be a good idea, though, to caution your client to remove any breakables prior to your visit.
The Psychic Connection
By all means, bring along a psychic to add to the fun! Psychics definitely leave an impression on clients, and they are great for heightening the drama and creepy atmosphere. Psychics can provide a wealth of information during an investigation, even if you should find absolutely no references to this information during your research stage. If, for any reason, your investigation turns up nothing, you can always leave smug in the knowledge that your psychic 'felt something' - in the end, vague evidence is better than no evidence at all!
Professional ghost hunters will attempt to obtain the most modern, scientific equipment that they can afford: EMFs (electromagnetic frequency detectors), digital or analogue audio recorders for picking up EVPs (electronic voice phenomena), digital cameras (for both video and stills), IR (infra-red) thermometers for detecting cold spots, motion detectors and night vision gear.
A ghost hunter on a budget will decide against the financing of such fancy-schmancy technology, and will probably opt for a small outdoor thermometer, a video camcorder, an instant camera, and a chunky 1970s-style tape recorder. Tapes for the camcorder and tape recorder should be continuously recycled, as new ones cost good money, and one should never waste time labeling the tapes.
If you do not own an instant camera, camcorder, or tape recorder, then a sure-fire way to locate ghostly energies is to use dowsing rods. The rods are held apart, one in each hand, and will cross in the presence of a ghost. While metal rods are the choice of those experienced with this method, using two sticks from the tree outside is a much cheaper alternative.
Sifting Through The Evidence
When you have finished your investigation, zip through your evidence as quickly as possible, to avoid any lengthy waste of time. Though professional paranormal investigators rule out many orbs as insects, or refractions of light or dust, assume that every orb captured on your video or camera shot is a ghost. The same goes for unexplained mists and lighting phenomena, as they could not possibly be attributed to faulty equipment. Assume also that any voices recorded are those of ghosts, unless you can clearly discern the voice of a client screaming at you to shut the bathroom door and get out.
Now your investigation of a haunting is finished and you've found enough evidence to convince yourself that there is indeed ghostly activity. Make sure that you never allow your evidence to be scrutinised by sarcastic disbelievers such as scientists and professional paranormal researchers, who too often find other, more rational explanations for hauntings. You should probably steer clear of plumbers and electricians for the same reason.
For better or for worse, here are some related links concerning ghosts and ghost hunting:
- London Underground Ghosts
- Durham's Ghosts
- Hauntings at the Royal Hospital Haslar, Gosport, UK
- The Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, California, USA
- Real Ghosts of Haunted New England
- Ouija Boards