As we continue our article series on sharing our mistakes, this month we tackle one that is herculean; paranormal team networking. For some reason, there is a general distrust between many paranormal teams. The majority of this distrust is likely associated with the lack of accepted standards. Everyone seems convinced their way is best and everyone else’s take is completely wrong. While NPS Project Endeavor is attempting to establish some base standards there are still times when teams find themselves working along another and while both can have good intentions, the result can be less than satisfying for one or both.
In 2011 we scheduled a trip to Bobby Mackey’s with our sister group from St. Louis. When they had to bow out we found ourselves looking at an increased cost per person to continue with our scheduled investigation. So, when our sister group suggested a stand in Team we were thrilled. They were promptly on time, courteous, paid their share of the costs and generally were nice folks (I’m still friends with them today) but their style and manner was completely different from our own. While we generally had a good investigation there were some complaints on my Team.
We encourage working with different paranormal teams. It gives our team members a chance to observe different techniques and tips for investigating.
The mistake: While we had discussed some basics on the multi team investigation we did not fully explore the preferred Investigative techniques taken by each team. While this can be a minor inconvenience in some large haunts (like a Waverly Hills or Trans Allegheny) it can be compounded in a small haunt location. The major complaint was a shutterbug on the other team that took (probably) 500 flash pictures over the entire nights investigation. While I have no displeasure in how anyone runs their own investigation it was difficult for members of my team to ever develop any night vision with popping flashes every couple of minutes. We preferred more darkness with natural night vision setting in after 15 minutes to grow accustomed to the absence of light. They preferred documenting with hundreds of pictures of flash photography. Who’s to say what’s right or wrong, but probably not a good mix of techniques in a limited space.
Our solution: Now, when we consider working with another group we always come back to this investigation and use it as an example of the subtle yet meaningful differences that teams can have with their techniques. We specifically spell out what we expect and things we don’t accept. First and foremost, we don’t take other teams on private/residential investigations unless they agree to the same criminal background check we run on our own team members (Would you like to be working with Registered Sex Offender? Or allow them into a client’s house under your team name?) For paid for haunts in larger venues, which is where we tend to work with other teams the most, we coordinate a Team Lead on each side to hear, respond and resolve any complaints or differences. Ultimate decision making is left to the Team that placed the original deposit down on the investigation. This has been a tried and trusted method for us and we’ve had no differences that couldn’t be mediated to everyone’s satisfaction within 2-3 minutes
Are there ever times when 1 or 2 of our members work with another team? Absolutely, in fact we encourage working with different paranormal teams. It gives our team members a chance to observe different techniques and tips for investigating. Even if someone returns from working with another team with a “don’t do it this way scenario” it’s still extremely helpful in redefining our own protocols. One of the best things, is it allows our team members to make those connections with others who have that same innate desire to learn more, teach and refine their own craft. In most cases, people from those teams will then tag along on one of our investigations, sharing and learning best practices. This act is the real benefit of networking and is the core purpose whether in the workplace or paranormal field.
Unfortunately, tagging along with a less than refutable team can be troublesome, especially for new investigators. Recently, I was contacted by a “newbie” who went along with a group to a nearby paid for haunted venue (one I’ve been to on a couple of occasions) who had a less than satisfactory evening. Allegedly, when the investigator became uncomfortable and felt spiritually attacked the leader of the Team (who held the key) would not let the investigator leave the premises. Later, the Team lead polled the team members to see if they could bring alcohol for the remainder of the investigation. The tag a long investigator felt very uncomfortable and has since ceased any connection with that particular team. These types of encounters are rare but they do happen. If you’re looking for a team to tag along with then be sure and ask around for a respectable group that has professional integrity and established protocols. If you’re reading this article and looking for a group consider asking a NPS Rep for a suggested group in your area.
Remember, anytime groups work together you have the potential for great rewards with the sharing of the work load, costs and skillsets. While there are occasional missteps and horror stories, most combined investigations can be real training assets if you take the time to explore your similarities and differences beforehand. Strong leadership on both sides and a willingness to work together are all it takes.