The MOST Frequently Ask Question in the Paranormal Field
Submitted by Belinda Clark-Ache
Many groups have different goals in the paranormal field. My goal—our goal—at Haunted Missouri Paranormal Research (after helping if some one is in distress) is data collection. Those with other goals may have other answers. For our purposes it is as important to collect data at locations that have no history of haunting as it is to collect data at reportedly haunted locations. Why? To compare your findings. How do you know what is “paranormal” if you don’t know what is “normal”? If you have pages of temp readings and EMF readings from both types of locations it should be readily and immediately obvious when those readings are abnormal. In the locations where the readings were high, the other corresponding pieces of evidence would take on more significance. The more documented evidence that you collect at the same location; the easier it is to call it haunted.
Because we collect data in both types of locations we have twice the opportunities to investigate. Some of our favorite investigations are at historic hotels, B&B’s and businesses in historic buildings. These are always worth what you pay for your room rent (especially when you rent all the rooms and divide it among a group. That brings most of the historic places within financial reach for most investigators.) You get the history, the ambiance, the fabulous locations, normally at least one good meal and 6 to 10 hours of data.
I can almost see some of you who are new to the field sitting staring at the screen with a confused look on your face and wondering if it isn’t a waste of time to investigate at places that do not claim to be haunted. No it is not a waste of time. These places have history. Un-haunted historic places are as fascinating because they have literally all the earmarks that should create a haunting, so why isn’t there one there? We have actually gotten evidence of haunting in locations that we were able to authenticate in historical records that the owners were not even aware of!
These places are excellent for training trips and for “Junior” ghost hunting trips to help train young people who want to get into the real thing when they are older, but beware; some places have no reputation but that doesn’t mean they aren’t haunted! We have several perfect historical locations we can take our trainee’s or juniors that give them plenty of practice in a safe environment.
Okay, whether or not you agree with that approach there are other places as well. Many people love to investigate cemeteries. I go on these and have had some terrific experiences and gathered compelling data. They are not my favorite because the outdoors will never rival a restored historical B&B for me.
Battlefields! These history soaked acres are an amazing experience and I recommend spending as much time as you can in them collecting data. These are a thrill to do. Most are National Parks so you have to follow the rules and some do not want any equipment besides camera’s, audio and video. Who cares? They are well worth whatever you have to do to get to them. Look them up and try going on the anniversary of their battles. Play period music while there and be prepared to be awed with an almost religious experience.
There are also public locations that have fabulous histories. Historical landmarks, City and town parks where legendary lectures or political rallies took place, some where tragedies played out, where entire villages used to stand… numerous and varied human experiences that could very well fall into the category of place where strong emotional ties could herald a haunting. Remember it is not only horrible experiences that can leave an imprint on a location and render it haunted. Where great joy, relief, love, excitement and a full range of physically powerful occurrences happen that would make the perfect circumstance under which a haunting could occur.
Your Chamber of Commerce should have a list of rules as to what is allowed in these locations but it is my experience that if you are not invasive and do not offend the public they are going to leave you alone. Please obey the rules if a location closes at a certain time. Request permission from City Hall to be there late using some form of inquiry, I prefer either in person or by snail mail. For neighboring towns and communities the Chamber of Commerce is almost as good a resource as the local historical society!
When it comes to people’s homes, they have to invite you unless you’re going to chase hearses and contact the families out of the obituaries to try to hawk your services and please, don’t do that! You are going to have to establish yourself online and in your community in order to have those requests coming in to you. Positive word of mouth and patience are your best bet where this is concerned.
Try placing ads in your local free paper or press. Something like “Local researcher seeks true ghost stories, legend or lore for possible investigation or authentication.” Use your newspapers Community Calendar to announce open meetings in public locations. Local radio stations might also have a service where they announce local items of interest like this. Again, try making small donations to local charities in your teams’ name, or donate T-Shirts or some other item to local groups for raffles and fund raisers. Contact the local Eagles, Elks, VFW for instance; they are always looking for donations for fund raisers! Many are also located in historic old buildings as well. It’s all about a positive community impression both locally and in the online paranormal community!
A favorite tip is to spend your money in your hometown. Having business cards made? T-shirts printed? Flyers? Do it locally. Everyone knows someone with a personal ghost story, when they see your team name they will mention it to others. Consider contacting local “Spiritualist” churches. Send your card or place flyers with local psychics, mediums, palm readers, new age shops, etc. Leave business cards neatly in public seating areas like waiting rooms; add with tips at the hairdressers or pub. If you have read about a location in your town that has been investigated contact them and ask if they were satisfied with the experience and why or why not. This may not lead to an investigation but could be invaluable information on what not to do!
Consider getting a toll free number and spend the money on a yellow page ad. I haven’t done this yet but it is on my agenda to do so. Offer to give a speech/lecture at your local community center, college, drama club, theatrical group or library during the Halloween season when interest is high. Hang flyers in laundry mats, on bulletin boards in grocery and retail stores, hotels & B&B, submit your business cards to those restaurant free lunch drawings, and put a flyer or business card in every piece of outgoing mail: someone opens those bills to get the checks out.
Pluck investigation opportunities from your friends, family and co-workers. Do you know someone who just built a new house on a piece of land that was never cleared before? The data collected from that location would be great for establishing your baseline readings. Know someone in a 30 year old trailer? Living in an RV at the KOA? Staying in an efficiency motel room? Buying a Victorian to rehab? Working in a theater? Renting a condo? Ask them about allowing you to collect data in these locations. Hey, they’re your friends and family: ask them!
Businesses are another story. Rather they embrace their ghost story or not they are in business and if it will benefit their bottom line most (unless they are morally opposed) will make arrangements for you to investigate if it doesn’t disrupt their daily operation and you pay your own way. I’m sorry if this disillusions you, but money talks and bullcrap walks. You can always offer to make a contribution to their favorite charity in their businesses name as well. Again; query in person or by mail for best results.
There are, of course abandoned locations but I want to caution you on several levels. First abandoned locations are not necessarily public domain. They have owners– on that you can almost bet. To find the owners of an abandoned location take the address to City Hall to the hall of records or recorder of deeds and use the address to look up who pays (or owes) the taxes on that lot. Trust me someone either pays it or owes it and that name is public record and this is usually free.
Be prepared to offer to sign away all of your rights to sue the owner for accident or injury to gain permission to these locations. In fact you would be smart to mention in your inquiry that you would remove any liability from the property owner if they allowed you entrée and some harm did befall you. One other thing: if you are going to do this do not go into them for the first time in the dark. At least go in before hand in the daylight and mark any unstable or questionably safe areas with those glow sticks you can get at the dollar store so after dark you are safe in the locations. Don’t go alone those places can harbor not only homeless, harmless or not but also criminals. Also be sure your cell phones work and you have proper ID.
For years before I began to ghost hunt I would take my clueless (about ghosts) hubby on trips to places I had read were haunted. I learned a fabulous fact then that is one of my favorite tips to hand out. If you want to know the haunted history of an area, find a well established club, tavern, bar, diner or grill; cozy up to the bar, share a nice social cocktail (well in advance of your investigation or even on another preliminary visit) and talk to the bartender. Food service workers like bartenders, waitresses and caterers are a fabulous resources most people over look. Just don’t try to pin them down during a rush and remember they work for tips. Try handing over a nice five spot when you pay for your Shirley Temple and see how attentive they can be.
You don’t need a public relations or media person unless you have an agent or some one representing you to the lecture venue so get over yourself and get real in your communities. It’s your name and team name so use it frequently in your home town. If you are honest you will build a positive reputation and that can not be begged, borrowed or stolen!
Belinda Clark-Ache co-founded Haunted Missouri Paranormal Studies in 2005, with Tonya L. Clark. HauntedMo ™ continues to consult and investigate by referral and works with some of the most respected investigators in the field. She is proud to be associated with Southwest Ghostfinders, Dr. Timothy Harte, The Willard Library Ghost Chatters, to name a few. Belinda is author of a Facebook page Ghost Stories from HauntedMo(tm) that features submitted stories of all genres, and her original work fiction and non fiction alike. She lives in the Missouri boot heel with her husband of 35 years, Stan, and a 4 year old Great White Pyrenees named Lucy. You can find Belinda on Facebook and read more of her writing on her HauntedMo(tm) group page.