Hi, my name is Ruth Boynton. I come from the crazy mid-west (Wisconsin) and found I have always had an interest in the paranormal. It was a night class that I attended at a community technical college a few years ago that gave me the direction I needed. Three years later, I now am co-founder of my own group, WI Paranormal Group. Oh, yes…the instructor has become a consultant with my group!Most nights you can find me cruising through the many images and stories about the paranormal and the world in which we reside. NPS is one of the many places I found myself doing this. I hope I can add to the group with some knowledge and insight; while learning from everyone here.
Day 1: Let’s Get Ethical!
This week we will be discussing ethics as they apply to the paranormal community. First, let’s look at the definition of what ethics are.
Dictionary.com defines ethics as:
1) A system of moral principles
2) The rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.
3) Moral principles, as of an individual
4) The branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions
WHETHER YOU ARE a seasoned member of a ghost-hunting group or an occasional investigator who likes to participate around Halloween or at special events, there are rules you must follow. Too often we have heard of ghost-hunting groups that seem to operate without any rules at all, and the result is almost always chaos, bad evidence, sometimes even illegal activity and injury.
Every ghost-hunting group should have a set of bylaws by which it operates, and these should be written down, agreed to, and pledged to by every member of the group. Yes, these investigations can be fun, but they must also be taken seriously and handled professionally – especially when the investigation is in someone’s home.
Day 2: Being Professional
Obtaining permission and permits–Before even considering investigating a claimed haunted location, paranormal investigators need to obtain the required permission and/or permits ahead of time. To enter onto a property without permission is considered trespassing, not to mention disrespectful. Even if a location is abandoned it is still legally owned by someone. Some places require permits before allowing access. Cemeteries after dark are just one example. Be sure to have permit in hand before traipsing through a cemetery after dark. In most cities, cemeteries are closed to the public once the sun sets and violators can be fined or serve jail time.
Professionalism Every paranormal investigator should act in a professional way at all times when dealing with a client. Always be polite and respectful. Horseplay has no place during a paranormal investigation. A paranormal investigation doesn’t start at the time the team arrives at the location. It begins from the moment a client contacts you, to well beyond presenting evidence to the client.
Groups who pride themselves in professionalism often have forms for the client to sign. This could be a release form for permission to share any evidence with the public. It is also good to have references from previous clients. Under no circumstance should a paranormal investigator or paranormal group misrepresent themselves in any way.
When meeting with clients or potential clients, paranormal investigators should dress professionally. This doesn’t necessarily mean suit and tie but don’t come looking like a slob either. Take pride in your appearance because first impressions do matter. Would you want to have some stranger come into your home or place of business that appeared as if this was just something fun to pass the time with? Probably not. Although not required, most paranormal investigation groups have shirts with their logo or group name on them.
Professionalism extends to treating the location with respect. Do not damage property in any way. Also, do not touch any item in the client’s home or business without prior permission. How would you feel if someone came into your place messing with your things?
Being Objective–It is important to stay objective. Although many paranormal investigators are believers in the paranormal, it is important to make sure there are no natural causes for the claims. If every effort has been made to try to find a logical, natural explanation to no avail, then look toward a paranormal explanation.
False Claims–“Thou Shalt Not Fake Evidence.” For those who don’t know, bearing false witness means lying. And if you’re going to falsify, exaggerate, or otherwise alter evidence, then why are you doing ghost investigation? These investigations are about trying to find the truth about a possible haunting as best we can.
So falsifying or exaggerating a sighting, manufacturing EVP, Photo shopping pictures, and other evidence tampering and passing them off as genuine is a ghost hunting mortal sin. Being in the technology age, it is easier to create effects that would make evidence from a paranormal investigation seem like it actually occurred. Not only is it unprofessional to fake evidence and create hoaxes, but it makes the entire paranormal investigation community look bad. Ghosts and other paranormal phenomena may not always perform on command but this doesn’t mean you should try to create evidence that is misleading.
Day 3: Working with Others such as friends and other teams
Working with your friends is always fun, and there is always room for a little fun in a paranormal investigation, but it is important to keep in mind that you are on location to collect scientific data.
- Will your friends listen to you when they need to? Will they take you seriously?
- Does everyone have a reason to be there?
- Each person on an investigation should have a set role and a set job for that role. No individuals other than trainees on occasion should be there. Not only can having extra individuals potentially contaminate evidence, but they can also be offensive and unprofessional to both living and dead housemates for too many people to be parading through a location.
- In the end everyone will have a differing opinion on a location. When it comes down to it let your evidence review team make the final call based on what they have.
Different individuals have different methods of investigation. Some will go on a hunch, some will remain purely scientific, others will use occult means to determine a haunting, and still others may possess some level of clairvoyance. As investigators and as a team it is important to respect each others differing methods of evidence collection. One easy way to avoid issues in this arena is to set standards of what is and is not admissible evidence before going on any cases. One of the biggest problems in the paranormal investigation community is talking negatively about other paranormal groups and individual paranormal investigators. This is childish behavior and just makes you and your group appear unprofessional.
Before planning an investigation, find out if any other paranormal investigation groups have investigated the location. Try to contact the paranormal group and listen to their experiences and see if they will show you any evidence they may have.
In return, offer to share any findings with other groups. This could be sharing with a group that previously shared with you or sharing findings with groups that are scheduled to investigate a location you already have. Granted, if the client has asked that the finding not be shared publicly then remind the group you plan to share the information with of that. In fact, it is always good to include a form that either grants or declines the sharing of findings with other groups for the client to sign for legal purposes. When working with other teams it is not the point to be the “winner”. Although we may all have differing investigation methods we all lose when we tear each other apart and claim fake on someone else’s work.
- If there is something you don’t understand in another team’s work take the time to question what brought them to that conclusion.
- Inquire on any history that you may not have on the location.
- If you see an error in evidence take the time to gently explain the error rather than calling fake. We all started out somewhere and by helping an individual better understand a mistake you are making more allies than you are by calling them out as a fake, a fraud, or a noob.
Day 4: Client Confidentiality
Client Evidence & Information–Paranormal evidence is popping up all over the web and on television. Under no circumstance should you ever publicize evidence without the client’s prior permission. This is where a release form comes in handy. This allows the client to grant or deny the right to share with the public any evidence you may have. Some clients do not want their private residence and their belongings shown to the world. Also do not share a private residence’s address or any other personal information with the public. It is your job, as a professional, to respect the rights and privacy of your client. If you publish evidence or information without permission, this may upset the client and make you and/or your group seem unprofessional; not to mention it may land you and your team in legal trouble. When doing a home investigation the main priority should be for client confidentiality. Due to religious concerns, personal reasons, and simply the fact that some are embarrassed of the idea of paranormal phenomenon many clients will not want their name of information released.
- One way to avoid releasing any client information even to investigators is to create a case number when the case comes in and there-on refer to the case as such. Only the case manager or other records management individual will have the case information.
- It is imperative to only intrude into the client’s life as much as the case determines. Needless to say going through their underwear drawer most likely isn’t going to find you any paranormal evidence ( unless you have a pervert ghost)
- One method that some teams do is to cover or turn around any photos of the family to avoid any contamination. The less interaction investigators have with the family the better in order to avoid any potential contamination. Upon doing client interviews only the case manager and a DVR should be present, and this should not be made available to the rest of the team to allow for as close to a blind investigation as possible.
- Choose 2-3 investigators to work as a review team for each case in order to lessen the potential for bias. All evidence kept can be reviewed with the team as a whole. ( It is always a good idea to not let everyone review their own evidence to avoid bias )
- When doing public or historic locations is it difficult if not impossible to keep the team from knowing the history of the location. It is important to remind them however that they are looking for what is happening that day…not what has been reported in the past.
Day 5: Paperwork
- Paperwork must be present at all investigations whether it be confidentiality statements from locations or homeowners, equipment checklists, and even reports from each investigator. Again, not all homeowners like the idea of everyone knowing that their home is potentially haunted. It is imperative that you complete a confidentiality agreement with each homeowner letting them what they can expect from you, what you expect from them and just what can be shared about any particular location. It is important to note that without this agreement you can find yourself in some rather serious legal trouble.
- An equipment check should be completed by each investigator on each outing so that all equipment and their defaults if any can be accounted for later in evidence.
- At the beginning of each investigation I prefer to send each investigator out with a location sheet to complete their personal take on data from moon phase, water in area, general feel of location, etc. If possible have each go in differing directions to cover as much area as possible.
- At the end of each investigation I also like to do a location sheet so that each investigator can give a personal recount of the evening and anything that may have been odd.
- Each sheet should be collected and put into evidence by the case manager without any other investigators reading them to avoid any bias.
Day 6: Qualifications and Credentials
- No degrees in Paranormal Investigating
- No experts
- Put simply, none of us are “qualified.” There are no ghost hunting qualifications. There is no apprenticeship, training, course, or degree needed to become a ghost hunter, ghost chaser, paranormal investigator, or skeptical investigator of the paranormal. That is, there are no legitimate courses. Ghost Chasers International and other organizations offer courses that ensure you will become a “Certified Ghost Hunter,” if not certifiable…
- By this description, no one is “unqualified” either, but some are more unqualified than others. Some professions can be more relevant to the field: physicists can explain the way the natural world works; historians can compare claims of dates, people, and places against records; and electricians can explain strange behavior caused by faulty circuits.
Day 7: Wrapping It Up: The Ghost Hunters Code
- Let them (ghosts & spirits) know they are not forgotten Let your journey in this field of study be a labor of love. Remember to be respectful of ghosts & sprits, as they were once people, and still are for that matter.
- Never tease, threaten or dare an unseen entity First of all, we want to be taken seriously. Secondly, we are ghost hunters, not bullies. Lastly, we sure don’t want any vindictive entities following us home or worse yet, attacking and hurting us.
- Conduct yourself as a professional at all times We always want to present ourselves as one in control. And that of course means around other investigators, victims of a haunting, and even to the ghosts themselves. Self-confidence and control will radiate like a beacon of light and thus serve as a shield of protection.
- Never seek out entities on your own A team of two works well and three is the ideal number. Larger groups will need to break up into smaller groups.
- Addicting habits can be contradictory to your ghostly pursuits Examples would be heavy addictions to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, an abnormal sex drive, etc. These things in excess make you vulnerable and susceptible to attack. The attack stems from the entities attraction to your addictions and also because of your weakness. Mind altering substances are particularly enticing to them.
- Pay attention to your dreams Entities will use this relaxed state of mind & body to try and influence or torment it’s targeted victim. Use whatever wording is necessary (according to your own spiritual beliefs) to command such an intrusion to cease. Command it in the holy name of your God or higher power.
- Use religious relics & symbols as a protection But only use these if you believe in what they can do. It’s not the item itself that has the power, it’s what it symbolizes according to your faith. That’s what actually gives it its power.
- Listen to your instincts and your intuition Draw from the power within. You will find this to be your greatest resource.
- Never leave a team member behind, not ever Commit yourself to the task at hand until it’s done. A combined effort makes the team a whole intricate working structure.
- Always consider all aspects of a haunting Go into an investigation with a kind heart and gracious attitude. But know that most hauntings can be explained. i.e. house settling, furnace noises etc. And as sad as it is, you must also consider the mental & emotional state of the victim as well. Paranoia, delusional aspects and mental illness in general may be a consideration. As a final note; it should also be stated however, that in some cases, an unstable person can actually be open to these types of visitors and or attacks.
- Always remember, you are the one in control You have the body and thus you have the power. It’s really simple, you are in your element. This is your dimension and your reality. Unseen entities are intruders into your space. That is, unless they are invited in or find a way in through your weaknesses. Be strong by curving appetites and living a productive & wholesome life.
- Be familiar with all aspects of the supernatural Know well the entities you pursue. Understand them and the things of their world. Knowledge is power. The more you know, the more confident you become. Be careful though, not all knowledge is good. Acquire it with a scientific standpoint.
- Your best protection is in the life you lead If you are active in ghostly pursuits then evil will cross your path, so be armed. If you are religious, then live your religion. But whether you are or not, you best protection is to live so as to put others first. Good deeds and a love for all life is your greatest protection.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment Not everything you try will work. If one attempt or theory fails, keep trying. Simply move on to the next thing on your list. And by all means, have a list.
- Do your homework Consider all aspects of an investigation before you go. A preliminary walk through ahead of time is advised. Doing a history check is helpful as well. Anything you can find out ahead of time will be to your advantage.
- Never be without outside contact Make sure others outside your team are aware of where you are when on an assignment or investigation. A cell phone is a must.
- Demonic Possession It’s extremely rare that you will ever hear of a full-fledged demonic possession. But it is something that all ghost hunters need to be aware of and briefed on. Full-possession requires an “invitation” in order to gain a foothold. However, there are activities that can be construed as an invitation. i.e. Ouija boards, séances, etc. A person with heavy addictions, sins, depression or someone who is desperately lonely are more apt to be targets. When any type of invitation is construed, whether implied or direct, it may very well be acted upon by such evil entities. Even with all that, it’s still rare that evil will triumph successfully, but it is possible in some cases. Ghost hunters are somewhat susceptible because of the nature of their work.
- Lower Level Entities There are other less severe life forms that we need to be aware of as well. They are evil and are here to weaken the population through their influence. Their ultimate goal is to distract us from our life duties and make us as unproductive as possible. These creatures are subtle but very much determined. People that allow themselves to be heavily influenced in this direction are also more prone to demonic possession. This type of entity uses distraction through such things as computers, video games, unwholesome activities, etc. If you miss out on important family outings or you lose your job because you want to stay home and play video games, etc, then they have gained some control. It’s called, lower level possession. Ghost hunters need to avoid this trap at all cost. Refer to codes 5, 6, 11 & 13. And for a good resource, buy a book on Psychic Self-Defense.
- Be scientifically minded Strive to prove the existence of ghosts and the afterlife. We as Ghost Hunters cannot simply rely on the word of someone with a particular gift. We need to know for ourselves and we need to document it in our studies.
- Rely on your senses Be ever mindful of your own awareness. We are all born with the gift of inspiration. We also have a bell (so to speak) that sounds off when we are in danger. It’s a gift that needs to be focused on. Constantly pay attention to this special ability that we all have. Especially when on an investigation. As you become more aware and in tune, you will be able to better sense ghosts & other types of entities.
- Evidence is everything All we really have to show for our hard word is the evidence we collect. So take notes, write up reports, snap pictures, collect EVPs. Keep a log.
- Be aware that theories change What is believed to be true today may not be tomorrow. If there’s anything we can depend on, it’s change. What we may know about ghosts today may change tomorrow. We need to embrace credible evidence and use that knowledge to our advantage. So be willing to let go of old theories when need be. If we don’t, we will be left behind.
- Expect Results Go into every assignment with an attitude of well defined purpose. Go knowing you have your preliminary research accomplished beforehand and then have a plan to make it all come together. A good investigator is organized and thorough. The right attitude yields results!
- It’s okay to be afraid That is, as long as it doesn’t seriously effect the investigation or make you especially vulnerable. Excessive fear will make you ineffective as a contributing team member and will make you a target for entities. Excessive fear or anger feeds and empowers curtain types of entities. Enjoy the thrill of the chase and scream if you must. But everything in moderation.
- LIVE THE CODE ! It will protect you on your journey and guide you on your quest. Ghost hunting will be one of the most exciting experiences of your life… enjoy!
Day 1: Organizing a Paranormal Investigation Team
This week we are going to discuss the basics of organizing a paranormal investigation team. The info will be just the basics and some pointers that will help your team organize and make a successful Paranormal Organization. A lot of this info has been gathered through trial and error from quite a few teams.
Ok, so you want to organize your own Paranormal Investigation Team. Now what? You might even have a few people that are interested in joining you on this adventure. First, you must realize that organizing a Paranormal Team is a HUGE undertaking. There is a lot more to Paranormal Investigating than walking through a dark old building with a bunch of cameras and fancy equipment…this is only one small step in being a successful Paranormal Investigation team.
The very first thing that is highly recommended for you to do (after you understand the responsibility and huge undertaking this will be) is your team must have 1. A Mission Statement 2. Goals and Objectives. These are extremely important as to not misrepresent your team to the client and public and also stay true to your goals. Remember, in this field, the eyes of the public are not only on you and your team…but you represent the Paranormal Community in whole.
1. Mission Statement
An effective mission statement must be a clear, concise declaration about your team’s strategy. Don’t underestimate the importance of a mission statement. If you don’t have one, you need to write one using these four essential questions:
* What do we do?
* How do we do it?
* Whom do we do it for?
* What value are we bringing?
2. Goals and Objectives
Make sure you write a goal that is SMART.
Specific: Goals should be simplistically written and clearly define what you are going to do. What will the goal accomplish? How and why will it be accomplished?
Measurable: Goals should be measurable so that you have tangible evidence that you have accomplished the goal. Usually the entire goal statement is a measure for the project, but there are
usually several short-team or smaller measurements built into the goal. How will you measure whether or not the goal has been reached? (List at least two indicators.)
Achievable: Goals should be achievable; they should stretch you slight so that you feel challenged but well enough defined so that you can achieve them. You must possess the appropriate knowledge, skills and abilities needed to achieve the goal. Make sure you establish a reasonable timeframe for achieving your goal. Is it possible? Have others done it successfully? Do you have the necessary knowledge, skills, abilities, and resources to accomplish the goal? Will meeting the goal challenge you without defeating you?
Results-focused: Goals should measure outcomes, not activities. What is the reason, purpose, or benefit of accomplishing the goal? What is the result (not activities leading up to the result) of the goal?
Time-bound: Goals should be linked to a timeframe that creates a practical sense of urgency, or results in tension between the current reality and the vision of the goal. Without such tension, the goal is unlikely to produce a relevant outcome. What is the established completion date and does that completion date create a special sense of urgency?
Both Mission Statement and Goals and Objectives should be included in a Team Member Packet that is handed out to team members to agree upon and reference.
We will cover the next step in Organizing a Paranormal Investigation Team tomorrow, day 2…Rules and Regulations for your team.
Day 2: Rules and Regulations for Your Team and Do’s and Don’ts
Rules and Regulations for your team and Do’s and Don’ts
On day one we discussed how important it is to have a Mission Statement and Goals and Objectives. Another critical part of organizing a Paranormal Investigation team is you must have Rules and Regulations and common sense Do’s and Don’ts. Your Rules and Regulations need to reflect how the conduct of your team is and conduct in front of the public and clients. Here are a few to think about:
1. Never trespass on private property. We only investigate when we have proper permission.
2. No drugs or alcohol will be consumed before or during an investigation.
3. Always investigate in teams of two, never alone. *situation dictates, Lead Investigator’s decision.
4. Respect the place we are investigating, we are their guests.
5. If startled or threatened, calmly walk out to safety. Let others know.
6. Safety is priority. If you find an unsafe area, let everyone know.
7. We will not litter, vandalize, willfully damage, unlawfully take or disrespect other’s property.
8. Tobacco products will only be used in designated areas.
9. Always carry a valid driver’s license or military I.D.
10. Make no assumptions or opinions to the clients until all evidence is reviewed.
11. We will leave the place investigated as we found it (all trash will be picked up).
12. Guest Investigators (or other team’s investigators), friends and family are welcome, but will not be allowed to an investigation without approval.
13. Team members can step down whenever they want without adverse action.
14. _ _PI team members will not use social media outlets to talk negative about other paranormal groups or investigators.
15. _ _PI team members will follow the Paranormal Investigators Confidentiality Agreement and will not release any information without approval from the _ _PI team.
16. Safety is priority at _ _PI. _ _PI and its founders assumes no liability if an injury occurs during an investigation.
17. All evidence will be reviewed in a timely manner. Remember, our clients are trusting us.
18. Clients names, addresses, personal information and evidence gathered during an investigation will only be released with the approval of _ _PI. Pictures and videos can be posted with client’s approval AS LONG AS no information about names and locations are included in them.
19. _ _PI will not use religion or the occult on investigations. We will use a scientific approach and will be unbiased towards any religion or beliefs. If a client requests religion or the occult be used, GWPI will look at this approach on a case by case basis.
Do’s and Don’ts
* Keep an open mind
* Respect the property and client
* Present the paranormal field in a positive way
Remember, the public is watching you.
* “dating” or “mutual contact” between team members during an investigation
Look at it like this, if you go to a Doctor’s office and the Doctor is making out with the nurse as you walk in…how does that look?
* Damaging client’s property
* “Befriending” client before or during investigation
There should not be any “smoking and joking” with the client before or during an investigation. Keep a professional and courteous demeanor.
* Trespass or enter a client’s property without verbal and written authorization
Most of the Rules and Regulations and Do’s and Don’ts might seem obvious, but remember this is how your team needs to conduct themselves. The Rules and Regulations and Do’s and Don’ts need to reflect the type of Paranormal Investigation team you are covered in your Mission Statement and Goals and Objectives.
On Day 3 we will discuss the next step…Team Member duties and responsibilities.
Day 3, Team Member Duties
In the first two days of this week’s topic, we discussed the importance of a Mission Statement, Goals and objectives and Rules, Regulations. The next step is to organize Team Member duties and fill these spots with team members best suited. This gives everyone on the team a job and also is a great way of learning the different and very important aspects of running a successful organization.
• Responsible for all aspects of the teams functions
• Makes all final decisions – tech issues, case manager and research questions
• Reporting to the Lead Investigator are the Case Manager, Equipment Tech Manager, Research Specialist and Investigators
• Research of locations known to have paranormal activity
• Obtaining contact information for said locations
• Contacting locations and person of interest to obtain more detailed information
• Written documentation of information
Basically, Case Manager will be the front person in obtaining investigations. They look for sites to investigate, make contact via email or mail and follow up for interview, if possible. If interview or acceptance to investigate is obtained, they will bring information to the Founders and a decision will be made as to whether an investigation will happen and when.
Equipment Tech Manager:
• Ensures that the equipment used in any investigation is up to par in what the equipment is used for.
• Continuously looks for ways in which paranormal activity can scientifically be recorded or proven by experimenting with new or classic equipment either in its normal use or in a more creative way.
• Responsible for equipment set up and making sure that the equipment is being used properly by other members which will require training if necessary.
• Responsible for following up on leads given by any given member, specifically the Case Managers.
• Needs to have a good sense of Web surfing and Library Usage if necessary.
• Information researched will need to be as detailed as possible and notation should be taken of all information obtained.
• Information found will be passed on to the Case Managers and Founders only until a decision is made to investigate or not. If an investigation is to be performed, the details will be given to all members.
• Trained in all aspects of an investigation as needed.
• Trained in equipment usage, notation, the paranormal in theory, and investigating procedures.
• Will help the Case Manager, Tech Manager and Researcher when necessary.
It is important to have the team member fully understand their position on the team as to avoid confusion. Also, these positions are only for reference, you can fit, mold and name each position as you see fit.
Day 4, The Investigation Process
The first three days we discussed organizing your team, now is onto the Investigation process and we will discuss a few important things to consider.
Finding locations to investigate. This can be a bit difficult but you must be willing to get out and research what is considered “haunted” in your area. Your best bet is by word of mouth. By now your friends, family and even co-workers may know that you are a part of a paranormal team and usually this can spark interest. They might give you some leads on a friend’s house or business that is “haunted” or their own property. Another good thing to do, and this has to do with knowing your equipment…practice the investigation process at your own team member’s houses. I would advise to practice investigating at these places first before we go into the next step. You do not want to look like you don’t know what you are doing in public.
If you wish to do a Paranormal Investigation at a business, historical location or a private family home (that you do not know)…use free advertisement such as craigslist and the National Paranormal Society’s team locator. Another thing you can do is perform an internet search at websites such as shadowlands.net. Once you find an address, email address or phone number of the business or historical location, you can do all three things to gain interest from the client…send a letter, email, make a phone call or stop by in person. You must state clearly your intentions in all these avenues and be professional and courteous. You represent the Paranormal Community at this point. Look professional and be professional at all times! For example, wear a collared shirt and nice pants and look “neat”. I also highly suggest writing a “Proposal to Perform a Paranormal Investigation” letter to take with you.
Many times, you might not get an answer back or a flat out “No”. Be courteous and thank them for their time and move on. DO NOT continue to ask them about performing an investigation…and once again, trespassing will get you in trouble.
If you get a “Yes”, make sure the person has the authority to grant you permission on the property…It has to be a Manager, Property Manager, Caretaker, Owner…etc.
After you get the “Yes” The next part is the actual investigation, and needs to be explained fully to them. This is what several teams use:
The client contacts the team via email. The client should leave a statement of what the paranormal experiences are, and a contact number where they can be reached.
A member from the team will contact the client, usually within 24hrs. At this time, an initial phone interview will be conducted. The interview is approximately 34 questions. Not all questions need to be answered and are kept confidential. If an investigation is requested at this time, a date could be set for an investigation, upon availability of the clients and investigators.
Research and Historical Research
The team will ask for the client’s permission to conduct research and historical research on questions gathered and any history of the area and/or buildings associated with the investigation. This is up to the client to approve or request. All information gathered will be covered under the Confidentiality Agreement.
Day of the Investigation
The lead investigators will meet with the clients at the place to be investigated.
Permission to conduct a Paranormal Investigation and Confidentiality Agreement
Two forms will need to be signed before the team will conduct an investigation. Paranormal Investigators Investigation and Confidentiality Agreement form gives the team approval to be on the client’s property for a certain length of time to conduct a paranormal investigation. It also protects the client from any liability in the event of an injury to a team member or a piece of the team’s equipment is damaged. Paranormal Investigators Confidentiality Agreement is a form that gives privacy to the client. The privacy of the client is most important. This form will state the level of information that can be released (if any), by the team, about the client and their case. This is solely the decision of the client and in no way will the team try to persuade the client’s decision.
Once those two forms are signed, an initial walkthrough will be conducted. During the walkthrough, the client can explain what and where the paranormal experiences have occurred. The lead investigators will then take environmental readings, note any safety concerns, and discuss with the client the best areas to place the team’s equipment.
This takes from 4 to 6 hours, or however long the client requests. After the investigation is finished, the team will collect their equipment and secure the area if the client is not present. The area will be left in the same condition it was in before the team arrived.
Collection of evidence and review
PI team reviews all potential evidence.
Evidence presentation and recommendations
PI will present the client with any potential evidence. A written report will be included, either printed or in a word document file. Video and audio evidence will be in a media file – DVDrom, MP3, MPG4, AVI etc. We will also include any recommendations, or environmental and safety concerns.
One more thing to consider, more often than not, the client will be present with you during an investigation. Professional conduct must be continued during the investigation.
On Day 5, we will discuss probably the most asked about part….equipment.
*client contact/Interaction/finding locations
Day 5, Equipment
As you notice, not until day 5 is there any mention of equipment to help you investigate. Is equipment important? Yes it is, but the Organization of your Paranormal Investigation Team and client contact and interaction is much more important than any piece of equipment you bring to an investigation. There are a lot of questions about equipment, but I will go over some things to consider before buying and possibly giving some ideas that will save you a lot of money.
First, the fringe equipment. Ghost Boxes, Oviluses, Echvoxes, kinects, EM pumps, EMF meters and other fringe type of devices…don’t worry about those until you have the basics.
What you should consider bringing:
1. A notepad and pen. It is extremely important to take notes…everything from your interview with the client, research notes, area layout and anything out of the ordinary you might notice before or during your investigation (investigation log).
2. Video camera. Documentation by video is very important. Visual aide will help with pear review and compliments your written documentation. A tip – Camcorders can be found at Pawn
Shops relatively inexpensive…the Pawn Shops are almost giving them away. A good choice is finding a camcorder that is Infrared capable (for all lighting conditions). I will go over my Philosophy about using Infrared and Full Spectrum camcorders on day 7.
3. Audio recorders. Audio recorders are also very important. It will help you keep track of notes when interviewing a client and helps with documentation. Can it catch an EVP? Possible, but I will go over that in my Philosophy on day 7. A good rule is to buy one that has a usb port.
4. Still Picture Camera. Take several pictures throughout your investigation, from initial setup, to environmental readings and continue throughout. It documents what you are doing.
5. Flashlight. Keep a good flashlight with you. You don’t want to be stuck in an unknown “haunted” building without light. It is a must for safety. Small LED flashlights work very well.
6. First Aid Kit. Keep a well-stocked small First Aid Kit within reach. It is best to have it when needed than need it and not have it. Along with a First Aid Kit, please keep a list of emergency numbers with you…and know how to contact Fire/Police/EMS.
A tip – along with Pawn Shops, Large Box Stores such as Wal Mart has almost all of these necessary pieces of equipment.
Now that you have the basics in your equipment kit…on day 6 we will go over some necessary video and audio software that you can use.
*what to bring
Day 6, Tech and Free / Inexpensive Software
So you have some audio files that need to download off your audio equipment. Before you download the whole file…listen to the file on the audio device and find the time you want to save. It will save a lot of computer space. Once you have listened and found the times, for example, you want to save a file between 9:30 and 10:30(one minute)…most audio device act just like a mass storage device and is just drag and drop. Now what?
A popular audio editing software is call Audacity. It is free, just search for it on Cnet. Simply import and open your file…select 9:30 to 10:30, select export, open new file and paste the file. Simple.
Now, there are tools in Audacity that can enhance the file in several ways…in my opinion, leave the file original. But that is up to you.
Another popular audio choice is called Wavepad by NHC software. It is also free.
Video editing is a little different, depending what type of video camera you are using. We will talk about mini DV and HDD(hard disk drive) camcorders.
Mini DV is a digital tape similar to a cassette tape but it is digital. It is used frequently by news, tv shows and movies. To get your file off a mini DV camera you will need a capture device such as Dazzle.
HDD cameras act just like mass storage devices and is just a drag and drop. An easy video editing tool is Wavepad video editor by NHC software. It has a free 14 day trial and you will have to register/buy the product after the 14 days, however it is inexpensive. Much like the audio file, just select what you want to save, copy and paste into a new file.
If you have a DVR system, follow your DVR instructions. But generally, they record in what is called H.264. Once you extract the files you want off your DVR (usually this is called backup)…you will need to run the files through a program that converts them from H.264 to Avi. After you have converted the file to Avi, simply run them through Wavepad or whatever video editor you are using.
Please reply with whatever software you are using and any tips and tricks. Once again, I will suggest to keep the files you’re a editing original.
Tomorrow we are going to wrap it all up.
Day 7, Wrapping It All Up
This week we discussed Organizing a Paranormal Investigation team. A few things to remember is to make your Mission Statement as clear and concise as possible. For example, if you are a scientific research based team, religious/occult based, or just trying to prove or disprove a haunting…you need to state so. Please do not mislead your clients and the public about your intentions.
Equipment use. It is a very good idea to know how to use your equipment. Many times false positives will show up and you will be able to better understand them if you know your equipment.
Team participation. Give your team members periodic assignments. One good thing is to have periodic team meetings to discuss current events, future events and to learn. A good way of learning is to have the team research certain paranormal topics, or give them a paranormal quiz.
Client interaction. Professional conduct must be conducted when interacting with clients and out in the public at all times. The public, in general, does not distinguish one team from another…other than we are all “Ghost Hunters” or “Ghost Busters” etc. It is very disappointing to know there are teams that have gotten to “investigate” and have stolen, vandalized or damaged the clients property. Please respect the client and their property. We are their guests.
One final thing, the National Paranormal Society is here to help, please check out our website. There are endless amounts of resources here for you to use…happy hunting everyone.
Considering the Cost:
For most Paranormal Teams there comes a time when the opportunity or desire to rent an alleged Haunted location outweighs the free investigations in your immediate area. Having been involved in numerous out of state rentals I’ve, unfortunately, seen my fair share of pitfalls with this process. Below are a few guidelines that can help make this a smooth process for you, your team and respectably run event locations.
Selecting a Location:
Generally, selecting a Pay for Investigation Venue revolves around its proximity to your group and the desire to investigate a particular location. The more notable locations have pre-established reputations and websites to solidify their legitimacy. Soliciting information from fellow paranormal teams that have already investigated at the location can be very helpful. Not only can they confirm the professionalism of the management of the venue but they can add simple yet helpful notes. Ask questions like:
How many investigators did you take & was that too many or not enough for the size of the location?
Were their ample electrical sockets on every floor for equipment use?
Projecting the Costs:
On top of the cost of the venue itself consider the added cost of mandatory insurance (required at some venues), travel expenses (gas, hotel & meals) and if your particular investigation date necessitates the need for taking a vacation day or time away from work. Research your costs ahead of time so your team members can get a real idea of the total cost. Some Haunted Venues have partnered with local businesses for reduced rates at Hotels or Restaurants in the local area if you inquire while making the reservation.
Selecting a Promotional Event at a Venue:
Many Promotional Paranormal Events will offer packages for large public investigations of haunted locations and the chance to meet “Stars” from Paranormal TV shows. While most of these events run through smoothly and to everyone’s satisfaction there have been a few instances where the promoters of the events literally skip town with the money before the event date. If you opt to attend such an event contact the venue itself and confirm the Promotional Event Company has already scheduled the date of the event with the host location itself. If you make payment to the Promotional Event Company pay by Credit Card-this way if the events are cancelled you have recourse to pursue obtaining your funds back. Even the most credible Promotional Events seems to have a change in the “Star” line up so be forewarned it’s not uncommon for a TV personality/investigator has to drop out at the last moment.
Reserving a Date:
Depending on the Reservation Policy of the Haunted Venue its best to solicit numerous potential dates between future attendees before attempting to schedule an investigation. Most haunted venues are rigid when it comes to a reservation date and are not accommodating to a change. Be sure to remind your group to consider birthdays, anniversaries and school holidays prior to committing to an investigation date. Many venues have a “kick off” date for the next year’s reservations with a first come first reserved policy. If there’s a particular venue that reserves in this manner be ready ahead of time and mark your calendar to call in bright and early and get your reservation. Also, be sure and consider the Time of Year and Weather Hazards with an investigation location. Freezing in a drafty building exposed to the elements in late November or roasting in a bar in July only to find the relief of the AC drowns out all EVP sessions can be very infuriating.
Some of the larger buildings can run in upwards of $500-$1500 for a private investigation at their Haunted Venue. Some locations will require a deposit to secure your reservation while others will mandate payment in full up front. The best policy between friends and team members is to either require full payment up front to the team member securing the reservation or to set a date that the individual must make payment of their portion. I usually recommend setting such a date 45 days before the investigation date. This allows ample time to insure everyone has paid their portion of the cost.
Minimum Requirement of Investigators:
Most Haunted Venus requires a 6 or 10 person minimum with the potential to add more investigators for added revenue. The best rule of thumb is to find a number between the bare minimum required and maximum number of investigator you think the venue can sustain without causing cross contamination. Also, having a few stand by investigators in case anyone drops out is never a bad idea. We’ve been in situations where investigators have dropped out at the last second because of legit family emergencies and had nearby, trusted investigators who were eager to step into their slot.
After the Reservation Checklist:
___Confirm the date, address and rules for the venue.
___Print 2 receipt copies of your on-line payment or check.
Keep one for your records and one copy to take with you to the Location.
___Inquire if there are local Hotels that provide reduced rates for their venue.
___Request a Map/Diagram/Floor plan of the Haunted Venue.
___ Make sure you have a telephone number for the Haunted Venues contact person and be sure and check in with them a few days before the event as a reminder your team in coming on the reserved date.
Verbal skills and effective communication are hallmarks of successful relationships, whether business or personal. Applying these same skills in your Paranormal Interview/EVP Sessions can elevate the chance of capturing a response to your questions. As a former Crisis Intervention Team member and trainer for Law Enforcement I spent a tremendous amount of time speaking with individuals in crisis. These included individuals threatening harm to themselves and others and a successful interview could literally mean the difference between life and death. Using some of those same learned verbal skills I’ve put together a few suggestions to increase your chances during Interview/EVP attempts.
Rule of 5:
The rule of 5 means the maximum words in your question shouldn’t exceed 5 words when possible. Think of it this way, if the best EVP/Disembodied voice you have ever caught is 2-3 words what are the chances they are going to hear more than 2-3 words of your question? Keep it simple! Asking long winded questions is problematic at best. Your questions should be short and to the point.
I suggest removing questions with the word WHY in them. As mentioned previously, most responses are 1-3 words at best. Asking a why questions invites a long response that you are less likely to capture in full and can be a waste of energy on an attempted response. Focus on answers that can be answered in 1-3 words.
Open Ended Questions:
Cater your questions to as many possible responders as possible. For example, if you’re investigating a location that is allegedly haunted by Dr. Arnold Stevens you would not want to begin with this line of questioning:
“Dr. Stevens are you here?”
It’s certainly a question worth asking (maybe towards the end of your evp session) but you’ll have better chances of a response by catering to any entity/spirit present?
Who’s here with us? & What was your occupation?
The first example question has limited the response to ONLY Dr. Stevens. While the second and third example questions have opened the responders up to anyone present. Which do you think has a better chance of yielding a result?
In 2009, while working a repeat investigation with another group in TN we found ourselves back in the Master bedroom of the allegedly haunted location. The homeowner believed the “man” she, and other family members, had been seeing around the house was the original homeowner and she was able to find (verified) property documents with his full name. Instead of asking: Peter are you here? I and another investigator chose a line of questioning which added a level of confirmation to the homeowner claims. In our best southern accent we very slowly and respectfully stated:
Like a couple of good Southern gentlemen we’re going to introduce ourselves and hope you’ll do the same. My name’s Will. My names Trey………….…(10 second pause)…………………. What’s your name?
Within 10 seconds we captured, on two separate Audio Recorders, an EVP male voice reply: I’m Peter…
Researchers have determined that only 7% of your statements/questions are actually interpreted by the choice of words spoken aloud. Successful interviewers understand it’s not the word chosen; it’s how you say them. Tone (defined as the quality of a person’s voice) can be the difference in any conversation. Time and time again I have witnessed Investigators attempting to ask questions in the same loud monotone voice. People don’t respond positively to such speakers why would anything else?
The best example to convey this is if you ever had a book read to you as a child or if you read to your own children at bedtime can you recall how your voice changes during the story line? Find that voice of connection and utilize it in your questions along with a lower voice. Speaking with a loud voice may allow everyone on the same floor to hear you. But sometimes, speaking softer will actually draw a listener in and force them to focus on your words and not ignore boisterous questions.
Verification of Possible Experiences:
In the event you or any of your team witness a possible manifestation, manipulation of your environment or believe you were touched immediately ask the question regarding the event.
Did you just touch my arm? Or Was that you I saw by the fireplace? Or Are you making it cold?
If you capture an EVP response verifying your own Personal Experience it lends credibility to the event.
I’ve had two events (in 2009 &2010) where I thought I witnessed a very brief female apparition out of the corner of my eye. The events were so quick I almost waved them off as my imagination. But by quickly asking the questions: Was that you on the stairs? Was that you I saw by the pillar?
And capturing two feminine replies stating: Sure was…. And Yes…. I can now add a small level of credibility to those personal experiences.
Now, the above suggestions are basic tips. Essentially they’re Tools in the toolbox! Like a good carpenter is takes time to develop and use your tools effectively. Practice is always a benefit and cannot be stressed enough. Having attended numerous trainings on Interview Techniques the one constant, despite the technique or teacher, was the need to practice. I can still remember repeating Interview techniques over and over again on my long drive to work until I had them as second nature.
Yes, there may be some exceptions to the basic tips, there always are. But the basics listed above are suggestions worth considering. Try implementing a few into your next investigation and see if you have better results?
For those seeking a lightweight battery powered Infrared Camera /Video Recorder you might consider the Wildgame AC5X Infrared Camera. Originally developed for outdoor Hunting enthusiast this device is fairly simple to use, rugged for the accidental drop and comes with a variety of mounting choices (as well as a Water Resistant Case). Search on line and you can find Youtube videos showing hunters using this same camera mounted to bows for night hunts. These Cameras are sold at a variety of hunting stores. I purchased mine on line from B&H Photo Video for just over a hundred.
- No Cables, no Fuss! You’re Mobile and so is your Infrared Camera.
- Decent Infrared Camera picture (up to 40 ft in total Darkness) that can be attached to your hat, backpack or hand carried with a light weight of less than two pounds.
- After activating the Infrared Camera in total or partial darkness the camera will shift to activate 8 built in LED’s. Within 30 seconds the small lighted display will go dark and only a red light is visible as not to ruin your night vision.
- Fairly Rugged device- I dropped mine twice from a height of 3 feet on the concrete and it didn’t sustain any damage.
- Internal Memory on the Camera is worth upgrading. The good news is a 64 Micro SD card will give over 17 hours of recording.
- Battery life (Fully Charged) is over an hour in well lit conditions. Battery Life for Darkness or Partial Darkness that activates the LED’s is between 20-25 minutes. So, multiple Batteries are worth considering and that does mean lugging around a few extras on your person. I’ve determined a suitable Replacement Lithium Ion Battery is the Nokia BL-5B (760 mAh). You can purchase these on line for 5-6 dollars and chargers for 9-12 dollars.
- While the initial retrieval of images may seem a little difficult, once you remember the pattern it becomes second nature.
- While testing the Camera for low light/no light conditions I realized that the Battery life for the Camera was affected by the heat generated from the activated LED’s. So, while I might get 22-25 minutes in one long run I discovered I could run the camera for 15 minutes, stop recording, and let it cool for 10 minutes and then start up again for another 15+ minute recording. Skip using the Water Resistant case if possible, it heats the camera up when the LED’s are activated.
- While the tiny display screen doesn’t put off much light it did deem very bright in total Darkness waiting for it to go dark after 30 seconds. A well placed piece if painters tape removed that annoyance.
**** The footage is a camera test only!!!
~The Necessity of the Pre-Investigation Walk Though~
Information is Power. Sometimes, knowing the slightest sliver of information is the difference between success and failure. The prior knowledge of the Lay of the Land is a formidable piece of information in the right hands. Entire battles and portions of history have been decided simply because Generals and Warlords chose particular locations for their skirmishes to take place. Utilizing their prior knowledge of the area along with intelligence derived from initial scouting to develop a strategy for success. Knowing the Lay of the Land is no different in Paranormal Investigations. The initial walk through of an impending investigation location can be one of the most impactful pieces of intelligence from a time investment and safety perspective for your team. Prior to the first time investigation of a location (Residence, Business, pay-for-venue) every attempt possible should be made for an on-site walk through/inspection with the Client. This allows the investigator to assess the location, diagram/sketch/map out the floor plans and confirm allegedly areas of activity.
If your Team conducts a pre-investigation walk through/inspection with the client consider adding this basic question:
Is there any history with this property that would pose a health threat to any of my investigators or we should be aware of?
If you don’t ask, or fear this question you need to reconsider your priorities. The ability to help, whether as a first responder in an emergency situation or in the paranormal realm, requires fundamental safety practices to be present. We concede you can’t remove all risks for a Paranormal Investigation, but being informed and aware is the bare minimum of due diligence.
There is such a concern with helping clients that sometimes the very basics of safety and common sense take a backseat. The assessment phase of a walk through should immediately revolve around the safety of Investigators to return the location, followed by safety for your clients. Employees have O.S.H.A. to look out for their interests in the work place; the paranormal investigator has the Team Leads and initial assessment conducted during the walk through. Yes, helping clients is extremely important. But the Health and Safety of your Team should be Priority Number 1!
There are a host of Environmental concerns that should be listed and checked off prior to allowing a full blown investigation. The complete list for consideration would be enormous but please consider the basic issues like:
- If the property looks deserted or abandoned you need to ask: WHY is it deserted?
- Are there any structural Integrity issues?
- Is the electricity rigged?
- Is there Asbestos present?
Basement & Attics: (Consider adding Dust Masks to your Equipment Lists)
These areas are often forgotten by owners as areas of concern. Ask direct questions.
- Does the basement flood? (mold)
- Known vermin, bat, other pests including their waste or recent pesticide in the area?
- Exposed wires, Boiler concerns, etc…
Meth Houses: (This is one of my favorite topics and I still have trouble believing this has to be covered.)
I’ve seen a dedicated Team eager to help a client claiming demonic issues who readily admitted the prior tenant (a family member now incarcerated) previously used the same location to make METH. The production of Meth Amphetamine involves several extremely toxic substances that can leach into the surrounding environment (floors, walls, etc) and pose serious health risks to anyone present. These are not issues that can be simply removed or dissipate over time. These by products require professionally trained specialist to isolate, identify, clean and safely render inert. PLEASE– do not investigate locations when you discover it was used, or is still in use, for the production of Meth or other illegal drugs! These Health Risks towards your team members cannot be more extreme.
If the walk through is the first face-to-face with a Client take advantage of this time period to assess their state of mind and the state of their environment. Simple deduction and observation may lead you to recognize other elements that may be responsible for the suspected paranormal complaint or you may recognize signs of intense drug or alcohol use that may require the investigation to be halted for Team Member safety concerns. We highly recommend that first time face-to-face client meetings and walk through/Inspections be attend by a minimum of two team members. Also, have predetermined requirements to address and report signs of illegal activity (Drugs, Child Abuse, etc.)
If there are not any obvious safety concerns then a diagram of the location is needed. While larger, paid for venues may have detailed diagrams available on their websites residential and small business will not have these available. For such a building or premises the rough diagram/sketch should cover every room, every floor, including all entry/exits, NSEW arrow and basic large furniture. These can quickly be jotted down on a sketch pad, translated to “paint” or other program of your choice. If not readily apparent be sure and ask the client where the fuse box is during the diagram/sketch phase and be sure to add it to your diagram. At this time digital pictures can be taken of each room for use in the pre-investigation meeting (note: these are not in depth photos that should be considered from each corner of the room during the set up of the investigation). Extra copies of the complete diagram should be available during equipment set up to mark where digital (DVR) recorder will be facing and to each investigator to note where audio recorders or hand held devices are placed. Combined with the Documentation Spreadsheet (see separate article) the combination of all this information provides robust and exact equipment placement for evidence review. Let me clarify that we are not advocating the exact measurement of every room, but rough sketches of each room with your notes and observations can be a real asset before and after the actual investigation.
After assessing the safety concerns and sketching your observations of the investigation location you should confirm you have all the pertinent info collected with the Client. Take time to sit down with the Client and revisit their own accounts to positively identify the areas of reported activity. Take notes and ask for any points of clarification. If possible revisit these particular areas and recount the activity to confirm you have a complete understanding of the alleged activity. Note electrical outlets to utilize for equipment deployment, consider camera angels that allow the widest berth of coverage that include entry/exits into the room.
Pre-planning, information gathering and strategy are 3 pieces of the Walk Through and Safety Assessment that will protect your Team and speed the equipment set up so your Investigation can move quickly. Two prime examples:
In 2009 while working with another Team I received a call to assist a group of investigators with a possible Paranormal Complaint. Essentially a family member had invited this Paranormal Team to investigate at another Family member’s house where the homeowner was hearing voices. When I pressed for more information the Team Lead eventually stated that the homeowner was depressed, drinking alcohol on a constant basis and was not overly thrilled about his sisters insistence that a Paranormal Team come to his home to investigate. This prompted me to ask more questions and discover that the homeowner was going to be home when the Team was present, likely drinking and had firearms in his household. It’s everyone’s right (of Legal age) to own a firearm and consume alcohol-but to go to someone’s house who did not personally invite you, is depressed, consuming depressants, hearing voices and readily accessible to weapons should be a Red Flag to step back and reassess what’s safe and what may be a dangerous situation. I think if the homeowner personally requested assistance and wasn’t actively drinking at the time of an investigation any Team would be willing to help. However, with the circumstances and facts revealed I politely refused.
In the fall of 2012 we returned to Bobby Mackey’s for a follow up investigation involving some return and some new Investigators. Pulling our Spreadsheet of the previous investigation, diagram map (complete with electrical outlets) we identified the hot spot areas we wished to record. Meeting with the new Investigators we revealed our game plan, determined our camera angles, cord placement, electrical outlet primary use (and a secondary if needed) at our hotel. As soon as we entered Bobby Mackey’s we had a complete DVR Surveillance set up with confirmed camera angles on target and recording in 22 minutes. Even the staff at BM’s stated it was the fastest Equipment set up they had ever witnessed.
Planning and Strategy: Two concepts that will strengthen your future Investigations….