How often have you visited a paranormal hot spot and heard about the angry/evil/dark/menacing entity in the basement? You know, the thing that likes to attack women, play tricks on people, has a big creepy shadow, stalks through the halls, and throws things. Yeah, that guy. Is he really the big evil thing or does he just have really crap PR?
I recently visited Edinburgh Manor in Iowa and heard about yet another dark entity in a basement. I have a habit of not reading all of the paranormal claims or watching episodes of tv shows on a specific location just before I visit because 1) I really don’t want to be influenced and 2) I’m too busy trying to remember the thing I’m forgetting to pack for the weekend. So, when I was told, go ahead and set-up the DVR in the basement, I wasn’t remotely concerned. I walked downstairs with my stuff and started working with a fellow investigator. Many times I was alone and perfectly at ease. I left all my standard equipment in the basement the first night and frequently ran down alone to grab an item with no thought of being attacked by a menacing presence in the dark. Late Friday night, I found out about the “evil” joker that lives in the basement.
Saturday and Sunday mornings, I went down to the basement to check the DVR or begin packing and cheerfully greeted anyone around with a hearty “Good morning”, no concern for harm. I never felt threatened or in any danger. It is a dark and somewhat sad basement with paint weeping from the ceiling and fan blades dropping from the humidity. It can be creepy just like every other basement in the world, if you let it be creepy. I think one of the largest problems is that people see spirits depicted as evil on tv and they believe it. They let the dark, moldy environment feed into those preconceived ideas of what is lurking around the next corner. So they go into a location and start treating the dead like demons. I don’t know about you but if I were a ghost, I would be very angry about this. Unfortunately, we now live in a time when people go into locations and demand answers to their questions, they have expectations of the deceased and how they should react to these questions. This attitude isn’t helping the living understand the afterlife and it sure as heck isn’t helping the dead find peace.
During the first evening, a co-investigator and I were sitting in the basement discussing this very thing. We wondered what it would be like to be a spirit in a “Paranormal Hotspot” and have people frequently come into the building with preconceived notions about who we are and how we will respond. I felt the need to tell any spirit that may be present that they are not required to “perform” for any of us. We were there to understand them and hopefully connect with them in a way that is not harmful to us or them. When we did not get activity, I told anything present that it was ok if they didn’t want to interact because they are not there to entertain me or my fellow investigators. Does that decrease the likelihood of interaction? Yes and no. Sometimes you will find the space feels more comfortable with your presence and will interact. On the other hand, yes, it does decrease the incident of tables flying through the air to hit a person. I’m not really going to be too upset that people don’t get hit by flying objects.
I feel like people new to the field often forget that the ghost they are looking for is theorized to have been a person. I believe that if we are interacting with dead people, then we should treat them like people and expect them to act like the people they were in life. So that guy who was a real jerk is likely to still be a jerk and the one that liked to play jokes on everyone around, is probably still doing it. Those who lived depressed lives and suffered from mental illness are likely still dealing with these very things as spirits. Calling any one of these people demons or evil can do nothing but increase negativity which can potentially lead to someone being harmed. As I stated in a previous blog, if I was constantly being harassed and called names I too would eventually want to push someone around.
My hope is that investigators can some day start investigations with a sense of empathy and desire to understand what is occurring. Even if we some day discover that the things we are interacting with are not the spirits of the long dead, being respectful WILL NOT hurt your research. So next time you are in a creepy basement trying to contact the “evil” spirit, try to not yell at them. Put yourself in their place and ask yourself what you would want to happen in this situation. Maybe the guy is just grumpy about constant interruptions to his workday or tired of being asked what year it is or how he died. Give him a break and maybe ask him what he’s working on and if you can help. Maybe you just need to leave a camera and get out of his way so he can finish whatever he was doing.