Psychology and the Haunted Tourist Location

You know how it goes, you decide that you want to try ghost hunting. You look up “paranormal tours” and find something nearby to check out. If you are lucky, you get your fill in that one experience and don’t need to spend thousands of dollars and many sleepless nights hunting for your next paranormal fix. Unfortunately, for many of us, we are addicted to this life and are constantly looking for the next place to explore with a hope of catching that one piece of evidence that will convince everyone that your hobby isn’t insane. 

During this process, you will likely encounter some shady paranormal “hotspots”. I’m not saying that these places aren’t haunted but the people running the joint may not be on the up and up. It’s an unfortunate side effect of the ever increasing popularity of dark tourism. So what are some of the psychological tricks that a paranormal purveyor may use to make sure you are freaked out during your stay? 

  1. Insist on doing the initial walk-through in the dark. This is not necessary and actually counter intuitive. You need to do your walk-through with the lights on so you can actually see the space and start to plan your equipment placement. We fear what we cannot see and by doing the tour in the dark, the tour guide increases your feelings of unease. 
  1. Showing you a million photos of people being scratched or harmed by unseen forces. This is NOT something any location should be proud of as it means that whoever is haunting the location is frustrated enough to try to get your attention through physical harm. One photo or a “report of scratching” is understandable but to go on in detail about the number of attacks is not a good sign. It leads some investigators to seek this type of activity and increases anxiety in other investigators that may be the purported target for such activity. This can keep certain investigators from conducting thorough investigations for fear of harm or place much bolder investigators in harm’s way.
  1. The non-descript suicide/murder/random death. Sure, there are deaths that happen that have no recorded information but be VERY leery of anyone who tells you a story about a death that doesn’t have supporting documentation or the story just sounds/feels wrong for the location. These stories are often used to pad the haunted history of a location. If the only way they can support their story is that it is an “urban legend” or that a medium reported the story, then don’t trust it! It is possible that they are just trying to increase the fear factor of the location. 
  1. The location is built on ancient Indian burial grounds. We all saw the movie Poltergeist, and we know the trope. I have been to locations that report this with absolutely no evidence to support this theory. Yes, there are dead people buried all over the place if you think about the overall history of any piece of land but not all land is a sacred burial space. 
  1. Blacking out the windows. There are good investigative reasons for doing this but if the tour guide doesn’t tell you that they have blocked the windows or repeatedly says “have you ever been anywhere as dark as this place”, be suspicious. Once again, darkness equals the unknown and our animal brain is put on high alert when we are in an uncertain situation. 
  1. “Did you hear that?” Have you ever had a tour guide say this? I bet you have because it is the fastest and easiest way to get people to start over analyzing every sound they hear. The guide didn’t need to hear anything, they just had to say they did to make people start to “hear” taps, raps, steps, and other random sounds as paranormal. 
  1. Overselling the activity. There is NOTHING that annoys me more than a tour guide that oversells the activity in a location. “A table was thrown across the room”, “we were pelted by a dozen rocks”, “the spirit screams so loud you think someone is dying”, and so on. Sometimes the stories get so extreme that you can’t help but wonder if they are true but the real harm is that it primes the investigator for activity such as this to occur. When it doesn’t happen, the investigator may be disappointed by evidence that would normally be incredibly thrilling if they hadn’t been sold a pack of over the top stories. 

This is a sampling of some of the things to watch out for when you are in the field. I have experienced all of the above and more. There are some amazing “haunted” locations across the United States and there are also an unfortunate number of people looking to make a dollar off the exploitation of the dead. It is up to each of us to be aware of the tricks and try not to give them the pleasure of seeing us fall for them. Keep your eyes and ears open for the real experience and ignore the fake to the best of your ability. 

Until next time, Happy Hunting! 

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