By: Ted Milam
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.
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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.