I am sure that most of you have been riding down the road and noticed a building that you would love to investigate. The one that when you look at it, you get cold chills down your spine just because of pure excitement of the possibility of crossing the threshold of its doors. This is the point that your mind starts racing trying to figure out the right way to go about investigating this location, not only legally but SAFELY. How many of us really know the right way to go about investigating a location that appears to be abandoned? In this article I will outline the proper ways to go about getting permission to investigate these buildings, as well as steps to ensure your safety while conducting said investigation.
1.) Find out the owner of the building: This can be achieved in a number of ways. If there are other buildings and businesses adjacent to the building, stop in and ask if they know who owns the structure. If you can’t get any information from them, many counties and cities use what is known as GIS that you can use to get this information from the computer to trace the address and find the owner. If they do not use this system you can go to the county office or city hall and they can instruct you on how to obtain the owners name and in some cases they may be able to tell you right there.
2.) Contact the owner: Before you contact the owner have what you want to say already in writing so that when you get in touch with them you already know what to say and you can sound as professional as possible. Let the owner know that you will do no harm to the structure and you are only there to conduct an investigation. They may or may not agree to let you do so. If they say no, thank them for the consideration and leave your contacts and let them know that if they ever change their mind you are still interested in investigating there. However if they do say yes, setup a date and time that you can meet with them at the location and go over the property with them.
3.) Pre-investigation Investigation: Make sure that you bring a notebook, a permission to investigate form for the owner to sign and date as well as other forms that your teams utilize, caution or flagging tape, a camera, and possibly a video camera. Go through the location and note any belongings etc. That are still in the structure and photograph them as well so it shows their condition before conducting the investigation. Take notice of any hazards that you come across and flag them with your tape and photograph them. If there are any hazards that could be a respiratory hazard please make notation that you will need to include respiratory protection while the investigation is being conducted. Also, keep an eye out for any indications that squatters or vagrants could be possibly be taking up residence in the building and let the owner know. This probably goes without saying, but make sure to take as many pictures, and possibly video, of the location so that you will have them for comparison when reviewing your investigation pictures and video. Also make sure to make note of any background noise that you may hear such as heavy traffic, domesticated animals, farm animals, etc. You can also use this time to go over the history of the structure with the owner. Find out if there are any stories or legends associated with the building, as well as former tenants that may wish to share there experiences. Go to the records hall or the internet and get as much history as possible on the location. This can include what the place was used for, any noted deaths, year it was built, and so on.
4.) Gearing Up: Take the information that you collected during your pre-investigation investigation and make a checklist for your team that includes any special equipment, as well as the standard equipment you already bring with you. Aside from investigative equipment make sure that you at least have a basic first aid kit. If your members have any allergies you should ask them to include any medications for the kit that can be used to combat such allergies. If you use certain items for paranormal protection, you may want to include this on your list as to not forget them on investigation day.
5.) Investigation Day: On investigation day, show up to the location a little bit early so that you can do a quick walk through noting any changes that have occurred since the pre-investigation, and look for any hazards again such as slips, trips, and falls. If anything has changed make notations as well as photograph the changes. Go ahead and do your investigation as soon as everyone is ready and acclimated to the structure. Make sure to use all the protection equipment that you have listed. NO DRUGS OR ALCOHOL before or during your investigation. At the end of the investigation, take a few extra moments to run through and photograph the location one last time to show the condition of everything as you left it.
6.) After the investigation: Of course review your evidence a couple of times as to not miss anything. Send the owner a thank you letter and include a list of any evidence that you find. Also give them an invitation to contact you if they would like to experience the said evidence. This could aid you in gaining another investigation due to the this client giving you a good reference. This is a just a list that I feel will keep you legally and physically safe when conducting investigations in abandoned locations. I know that every investigation is different so this list can be altered to suit your needs for whatever investigation you may have. Make sure to abide by all state and local rules. Try to think about what things may physically occur and try to have a game plan for such instances and what items may be needed for them.
Above all stay professional, stay safe, and HAVE FUN (safely)