Ethics Week

By: Ashley Lewis

Ethics Week

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Listen to your instincts and your intuition Draw from the power within. You will find this to be your greatest resource.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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!
  24. It’s okay to be afraid That is, as long as it doesn’t seriously effect the investigation or make you especially vulnerableExcessive 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.
  25. 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!
Ruth Boynton

Ruth Boynton

Asst Director / Asst Webmaster at WI Paranormal Group
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.
Ruth Boynton

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