I’ve worked with a few different teams and have seen a variety of ways to conduct an investigation. Many of these techniques have merit but I want to take a moment to discuss my thoughts on equipment set-up and the process of investigating. As an investigator just starting out, I couldn’t imagine walking around a location without my trusty handheld camera, EMF meter, and digital recorder. I would stare into the viewfinder of my camera willing something to dart across the screen only looking up occasionally to realize that I couldn’t see anything without the viewfinder. As time went on, and I started actually reviewing my evidence, I realized that I hated watching my shaky handheld video. It made me nauseous! So I had to come up with a new plan.
My next method was to consider the space after a walkthrough, I would consult with my team and talk about where best to place stationary cameras for the duration of the investigation. Then, all I had to do was change batteries. This increased the likelihood that I would review evidence, helped me get a better sense of the space when reviewing said evidence, and freed my hands up for carrying other items (like a flashlight) on investigation night. This also led to improved evidence collection because I was able to identify changes in the space over a period of time and even capture EVPs that we would have missed if a camera hadn’t been sitting around while we weren’t in the room. I was also able to conduct more collaborative investigations because I would have a reference camera for anyone attempting to understand a piece of evidence they captured on another piece of equipment.
Today, I work with a team that has a LOT of equipment available for use. When I joined, I noticed that there was a tendency to pick up all of the cameras, recorders, REMpods, cat balls, and anything else every time we moved into a new space. We would set all these items inside the room and stare at them. This wasn’t the most effective method because it was unlikely that anyone (dead or alive) would want to walk into a room with 6 people sitting in a circle and touch one of the 3-4 pieces of equipment in the middle of the floor. I can only imagine what we all looked like staring at that one REMpod and cat ball wishing for activity. So, we began moving items into the hallways and adjacent rooms. This gave us a greater field of reference. If something wanted to interact with a device, they could do so without being the center of attention. This works best with equipment that makes noise. Visual equipment needs to be placed in front of a camera for later review.
Now, if your team is really obsessed with purchasing equipment, you could go one step further and set the entire location for the duration of the investigation. This also depends on the size of the location you are investigating. This would mean that all but one “team” camera per group has been placed in a set location, all trigger objects are set and in view of one of the cameras, voice recorders are left to run in individual rooms, and proximity sensors are placed and not moved for the duration of the investigation. What happens now is only one camera is mobile per team. This camera is set down in the space where the team is working for the duration of the session so it also does not have any movement contamination. The team can focus on EVP burst sessions, listening to the space, doing experiments, debunking claims, and just being present in the investigation. The devices throughout the space help the team identify potential active locations and in turn make conscious decisions about where to focus their efforts. They will also contain the verbal marks made by team members when they notice sounds or strange changes in the environment. In addition, all of the recording devices are collecting data that can be used to build a solid picture of what occurred in the entire location.
Of course, not every team has a lot of equipment to use so be conscious of your situation. Most teams have individual members who purchase a variety of items and it’s important to work together to determine the best use of the equipment. Ultimately, it’s not the equipment that makes the investigation effective, it’s the team. If everyone is focused on the equipment, they miss the split seconds of activity that may be occurring around them. While on site, you are there to experience the location in that moment and collect evidence via your equipment to review later. Please don’t miss those moments by spending your entire investigation staring into a viewfinder. Be present, appreciate your ability to be in a historical space, and think about the people who have walked that space before you. Being present is always going to be the best investigation method.
Until next time, Happy Hunting!