You know what is more fun than watching paint dry? Re-experiencing every hour of your investigation through multiple devices and then reviewing the same clip 20 times before determining you were just hearing a dog bark next door so you can move on to the next thing. That can be the experience of evidence review. While not always exciting, it is one of the most important things we do in paranormal investigation.
The method of evidence review is often one of the biggest differences between ghost hunting and paranormal investigation. I realize most people view ghost hunting and paranormal investigation as the same, as discussed in a previous post, there is often an ideological difference. I actually enjoy ghost hunting, it is fun and WAY less stress filled than paranormal investigation. BUT I do believe in the value of true paranormal investigation. So I want to talk a bit about what evidence review often entails.
The goals between ghost hunting and paranormal investigation can be very different and this affects the level of scrutiny given to analyzing data. When I ghost hunt, I don’t always review all of my equipment because I wasn’t there with any major goal to prove or disprove anything. I often had little control over the environment and if it was a public ghost hunt, my evidence is contaminated anyway. In these cases, I was there to experience a location, not gather data. So the review I do may be much more brief and I may just spot check my equipment. When I am wearing my paranormal investigator hat, evidence review is quite a bit different.
Standard procedure for residential investigations is that everyone is expected to individually review all of their equipment within two weeks and post any evidence clips in the Google Drive. Clips should be about a minute long so listeners/viewers can get a sense of the space in the clip. Any audio/video manipulation needs to be accompanied by the original, unaltered clip. Team members should not explain what they hear/see but instead request others to review the clip and report their observations. This eliminates the initial investigator planting ideas in the other members’ brains and allows everyone to interpret the clip based on their own senses. During this process, team members may be asked to cross reference other pieces of equipment that were in the same space at the same time. If more than half the team agrees that something has been caught, then the clip should be kept for the final evidence presentation.
Utilizing multiple recordings from different devices recording at the same time is useful for determining where everyone was located at the time of the clip being scrutinized. Some additional considerations include what other sounds were captured in different locations, what may have been moved by other investigators, are investigators walking or talking at that time, or anything else that may give some indication of what is on the clip. It is our job to eliminate every possible natural cause for the “unexplained” item caught at this time. At no time does this mean that the team does not believe that there is a possibility of something paranormal occurring but it does mean that in order to be honest with our clients, we have to eliminate everything else first. While this eliminates a large amount of “evidence”, it also leaves the team with the best possible explanations for the activity occurring in a location.
Through this process, the team often learns a lot of valuable information about the location. We learn about how sound moves from one location to another, how light from streets or flashlights affects shadows, what low level sounds are present in one place but not another, and various other subtle environmental elements that may not be noticed if just the initial clip was presented without any other data. When we are working with clients, it’s important to be able to fully explain how we come to our conclusions and back-up our evidence. If we determine something the client has reported is caused by environmental issues, I will do additional research so I can provide that information to the client to help support why we have reached these conclusions.
I know, it sounds like a lot of work for what appears to be very little pay off. In my opinion, getting real answers is the best feeling at the end of an investigation and worth the effort. It doesn’t help anyone if we present evidence that can easily be explained by simple environmental factors as documentation of the paranormal. If we are going to collect data in order to move toward a better understanding of what is occurring, we need to honestly assess the situation and put forth the most compelling data.
Until next time, Happy Hunting!