You have watched all of the shows, attended a few public events, and have caught the bug. You know that ghost hunting is your “thing”. So what should you know before you come up with a catchy team name, start a social media account, and print t-shirts?
What you see on TV is not 100% real. This should be obvious but I cannot state this enough. A 45 minute episode of a television show captures all of the “highlights” of a 3-7 day location shoot. There are people paid to do the research and present ideas to the investigators. There is a general “story line” that is expected to be followed. The investigators are encouraged to overreact to things that occur. Finally, with an increased amount of time in the most active locations in the world, their odds of experiencing strange phenomena are higher than your chances with only 4-8 hours in a location. (Also, not everything is a demon. Actually, most things are not negative or demonic.)
Ghost hunting is expensive. Even if you don’t buy the latest and greatest equipment, it is still expensive to visit a lot of locations. You are looking to pay anywhere from $300-$1500 a night to explore a purportedly haunted location. You also need to include the cost of travel, lodging and food into this equation. There is no real way around this and you should not start with residential cases. Side note: you will not make any money doing this so don’t expect a TV deal or a speaker series.
You shouldn’t take part in residential cases until you have a LOT of experience in the field. I cannot say this strongly enough. DO NOT take a residential case until you have a lot of experience with investigation techniques. You must be able to use your equipment properly, learn how to review evidence, be able to notice the difference between natural phenomena and anomalous phenomena, learn a lot of different investigation methods, be able to interview clients, and generally become confident in your ability to conduct a professional investigation. You cannot do this after 3 public events and 2 trips to a reportedly haunted location.
Ghost hunting and paranormal investigation are not the same thing. Ghost hunting is a hobby in which you go to a location looking to find a “ghost”. Ghost hunters go into a location expecting that it is “haunted”. Paranormal investigation is a field of study that looks to understand unexplained phenomena and find answers to paranormal claims. They go into an investigation with questions and an ability to analyze a situation. There should be no expectations for finding “ghosts” in paranormal investigation. Many people do both and so can you. Just be aware of the difference.
It’s kind of boring. I’m not going to lie, you are going to spend a lot of time in the dark talking to yourself. Most of the time, nothing will happen. If you have ADHD, this can be a challenge because without “activity” it can be hard to sit still for 30+ minutes at a time. When something does happen, it usually isn’t paranormal.
Be prepared to debunk yourself and others. If something does happen while you are at a location, it is your job to figure out all of the explainable causes for that event and eliminate them. You must be willing to do the same if a teammate presents you with a claim. You cannot assume that everything is paranormal. Many times what you experience is car lights, a cat meowing outside, a couple fighting a block away, police radios setting off your equipment, a spider web hanging in a doorway, a teammate’s stomach, and the list goes on and on. You have to be ok with your experience not being paranormal.
It’s a lot of work. After an investigation is over, you will spend several hours/days reviewing recorded evidence. Every device your use is a chunk of time you must devote to review. Know your limits for review but also understand that a personal experience is worth less than an experience captured on audio or video.
It can be dangerous. Most “haunted” locations are in deteriorating buildings. The owners are often using funds from investigations to restore the location but that means that there are likely still many hazards located within. You will have to sign waivers that releases the owner of liability if you should be injured or even die while on the property. Yes, most waivers include a line about how they are not responsible for your death. They also are not responsible if you get “possessed”.
Your family may worry that you are communicating with demons. At least one person you know will tell you that demons can appear in whatever form they like and trick you to believe that they are children or other spirits. They will pray for you. Accept their prayers and be ok with it. If you are religious, come to terms with the idea that this could be the case. If you are not ok with the possibility of interacting with negative “spirits” then you may want to consider this your warning to choose another hobby or learn safety practices that work within your religious views. If you are agnostic or atheist, you can shrug off most of these concerns.
You will hear a lot of “ghost stories” from random people who find out what you do. In my experience, there are 3 reactions to the statement “I’m a paranormal investigator”. 1) I don’t believe in ghosts. 2) Don’t you worry that you are going to bring home an attachment or get possessed by a demon? 3) Oh my god, that is so cool! I saw a ghost one time when I. . . Try not to look bored. Be interested in their story because to them it was very real (even if you can tell that there are factors that made it likely not paranormal). If you are not investigating this “ghost” story, don’t debunk it. Let them have their story and appreciate that they are interested in what you do.
You will be asked to look at a lot of “orb” photos and you have to find a way to explain what they are without making the person feel stupid. At first, this will seem ok as people present you with a cool photo on their phone. The more you are in the field, the more you will learn to debunk many of the things people show you and the more annoyed you will get when someone asks you to look at a thing with a red circle around it. I have gotten to the point where I ask people before they show me the photo if they want my honest opinion or just want to show me a photo. If they just want me to see the photo and they strongly believe it is paranormal, it is ok to say “that’s interesting”. If they want your opinion, explain how the orb could be dust, bugs, water vapor, and lens flare. Be prepared for them to defend their photo. Once again, if you are not investigating their case, don’t spend too much time trying to debunk their claims. Beliefs are very hard to change and once someone strongly believes they have captured a “ghost” photo, it’s hard to change their mind without them thinking you are a jerk.
You have to be good at working with the living and the dead. The paranormal field is full of living people. There are untold numbers of paranormal teams, guests on public “ghost hunts”, teammates, and residential clients. You will encounter far more living people than dead people. You will not like all of these people. You will not agree with all of these people. You don’t have to work with the people you don’t like or agree with. This means that you have to be confident in yourself and your methods so you can plainly state why you are choosing to work with certain people over others. I have been on many teams and there are a lot of egos involved. There are also a lot of disagreements between other paranormal teams. You may hear the term Para-Unity but be assured, there is very little unity in the paranormal field. Always be professional and learn to communicate with everyone, no matter if you like them or not.
Residential clients won’t always listen to you. If a client is set in their belief that a demon has taken up residence in their home, they may not be interested in having you debunk their belief. When you find real world solutions to their problem, they may not follow through with the actions they need to take. They may do things to make the situation worse. This can be very frustrating and make you want to stop doing residential cases. Just remember that there are people who honestly want help and are willing to hear reason. Try your best to work with the difficult clients and sometimes you have to use psychology to solve the problem without hurting egos. Once again, learn how to deal with difficult people because this will be your biggest challenge.
Dead people are people. Finally, when you go into this, remember the common theory is that what we are encountering is dead people. If this is true, all of the regular cautions about dealing with people apply. You need to treat the situation as if you are working with a person, not a thing. Be respectful, even if you think the person is a jerk.
I’m sure I missed something but if you are ok with all of the above, I recommend getting a few friends together to visit some reported haunted locations first. You don’t need a team, just get out there and learn what you are doing. Teams are expected to know a lot about paranormal phenomena and have experience dealing with it. You can join an established team and learn from individuals who have been investigating for several years. Don’t expect to know what you are doing for a VERY long time. Even seasoned investigators make mistakes and are always learning. Be prepared to be wrong often and grow within the field. I wish you much luck in your paranormal journey!
Until next time, Happy Hunting!