Monday, September 26, 2016

Prepping For a Ghost Investigation

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A successful ghost investigation brings you lots of surprises. Sure, there's the investigation and evidence review, but beforehand what your team does set a tone for the evening.

There are many levels of preparation for a ghost investigation, but there are some categories one should consider. 


If you are dealing with a homeowner, there is a code of ethics a mile long involved in this. The first is that you vete the people properly with some background checks and logging their ghostly occurrences for a period of time before you even come to their home. Meet in a public place beforehand to get a survey of them. 

Arrive professionally, ideally in an unmarked vehicle with and without team t-shirts and obvious equipment. These people have to live with questioning neighbors.

Next, do not speak of demons and evil energies to the homeowners upon your first investigation. Do not feed that beast in their minds when you have not been able to evaluate the whole situation. If you are the type that likes to stir up the demon button - either for some side business with someone who cleanses, or you are a pseudo psychic who needs attention by making people scared, then please leave the business. 

No money should exchange hands and you should not reference them to anyone for cleansing or dispatching or any other such services without having had a few chances to study the setting, discuss the findings, and see how they feel. Advising holy water for a non-Catholic is bullshit. Know that. Adhere to that. Follow the homeowner's own belief system or nothing you do will "take."

Professionals do not mess with the homeowner's or historic site's items, do not play with their stuff or rummage through their drawers. They stay on task and leave no damage, no sign they were ever there. 

Real professionals take the time to review evidence, but not feed the client with what it is or is not. They also continue a conversation to check in now and then. They also move the client on to someone else if they did not get the answer they wanted. Do not change your findings to fit what they think is happening. 

It behooves you to consider if the family has an agenda; wishing for a TV show, attention, want to get out of a lease, or have a member with mental illness and are trying to deflect that by focusing on a ghost instead (a situation I call "scapeghosts"). 

Spiritual Centering

If you have a personal belief system that involves concepts such as demons and Evil, possession and elementals, then please feel free to do whatever protections you are comfortable with, whether it's an idol, amulet, salt, sage, prayer, or combination. 

Be certain your team does their own protections individually so that they are comfortable with it. These practices are different for each person. If the team wants to pray in unison beforehand or after, that is up the whole team. But, it is always wise to do this away from the homeowners who have to live there. There is nothing that worries one more than having folks hold hands and pray or shake holy water around the place. It sets a nerve-racking start. Stick with gathering evidence.

No matter what your personal belief system is, it has no place in a homeowner's home. Look at it this way - we all make meatloaf. You make it like your mom did, I make it like my mom did. You put barbecue sauce on yours, I put tomato sauce. We all make different meatloaf. You love your recipe and think it tastes best, and I love my recipe and think it tastes best. Your personal religious belief system helps you in an investigation to be strong and be safe, but it does absolutely zip for the homeowners. Keep it to yourself, please. 

Some people believe in spirit attachment and they might want to look into empathic tendencies. It is very easy when you believe something is possible and you think about it and worry about it that you create that very situation. If I don't like someone I just met, I might cringe every time they so much as open their mouth. When I hear I must run into them again, I brace inside and think "I can't stand that guy!" It grows into a set of behaviors and thought processes and resulting feelings that may have nothing to do with the person, and everything to do with your internal dialogue cascading the terror effect. 

If you believe in spirit attachment, do not spread that concept to uneducated homeowners. They do not need to know that you struggle with this fear. You do not want to feed them such things to look for and worry about. That is your belief system, not theirs. Try not to taint your clients with your own concepts, weird feelings, or worries. They are looking to you to be logical, in control, and professional. 

Loosening Up

I like to get team members loosened up, relaxed, and distracted. When you are not tensed up, you are receptive to unusual and unique input, as well as using a different part of your brain than the analytical. So, I have been known to have my team do strobe light dancing before an investigation, to go poking around town to find the interesting and unique things to laugh at (like this art work above a business), to wear a north pole magnet in a headband around their heads, to trying to figure out who stepped on the scorpion during the night... 

Laughter is the single most inviting human characteristic. Don't underestimate its power in an investigation. There is not a more curious draw to be had or a more welcoming sound.

Allowing Quiet Time

Once our team sets up the equipment (and there's plenty of that), we test it, then we leave the building. We give it maybe 20 minutes to kind of get used to the new additions and disruptions. 

Once we feel we have given sufficient time for the new reality to set in, we begin to enter the building. 

Being Accessible

Let's say you are sitting in a restaurant and you overhear two people talking. 

It is natural to want to cut in and talk too, but you usually find someone in the conversation that you jive with. Man, that blond dude nailed it!

If we contemplate going to a location to get an interaction with anything lingering there, we also have to consider giving them a chance to get to know us. 

My preferred method is to have people go in two at a time, introduce themselves, walk the place, and talk about real world stuff; kids, work, what they wish they could do, where they went on vacation...whatever. 

Just let your natural personality show. Anyone contemplating a communication will get to know each person as they go in by pairs and figure out who is approachable for whatever reason, whether they choose by sex, voice, looks, the way they laugh, that they love their dog....


Sometimes, you arrive without a piece of equipment, or you find the environment is loud, or perhaps you have no power to the building. Adapting is critical. Wigging out like a child and having a tantrum and leaving says you are a control freak. Some things you cannot control on a study. Consider it a personal challenge of your ability to think on your feet.

One time, we arrived at a scheduled location to find the owner was drunk at the bar and had no clue we were coming. We did manage to get it cleared up with his wife, but found out he would not allow us in the bar area after hours, so we would be locked into the back of the building where the bedrooms were. There were as many hauntings reported in those rooms as in the main building, but it was disappointing to realize our study was now limited to the rooms. We adapted. It is critical that you go with the new reality.

Making up testing methods as you go along is important too. You might want to test on site any possible reasons for a shadow, a light, or a sound. You also might want to try to repeat conditions to see if you can produce a similar response again. 

One time (photo above), I was in a very macho male environment doing a study. I went into the building with my study partner and we asked questions with recording devices and cameras going. The whole time, in my mind, I thought about men and why they were idiots and jerks and more. I figured I might be able to elicit a response by baiting.

Sure enough, I felt jellyfish-like stings on my leg. I lifted my jean pant leg and looked. Three scratches. My partner wanted me to leave, but I dropped my pant leg and continued the questioning with him, as I thought the same bad thoughts about men. 

I knew that if I had left, I would never know if the scratches were a response or a coincidence. Sure enough, I felt the sting again. I lifted the pant leg to find three more scratches above the other three, one of them beading up with blood. I was thrilled! In a place where some might have fled in fear of being scratched, I stayed to prove that it was a response. I was excited to get a response. After all, they were only scratches, hardly worthy of any concern. I have a relative's dog that scars me up more.

Sometimes, in a location that is dark, supposedly haunted, and you feel a bit uneasy, it's not hard to get a bit hysterical. If things get in the way of it unfolding the way you imagine, it's hard not to have a tantrum. But, remember to breathe and to adapt. MacGuyver your investigation to use what you have in the moment, and even come up with new test methods when necessary.

Be sure you cover all your bases audio-wise. Have recorders in other rooms, even while doing an EVP question session in another room. The majority of EVP responses come from other rooms, not necessarily the one you're in. And to be sure it wasn't someone else in the building, keep recorders at each door to the outside. We know we have an EVP when it is on one or two recorders, and not the others. If it were on all recorders, it was likely an actual audible sound captured.


It isn't just logistics and equipment involved in an investigation. It also includes background checks, history and archive gleaning, interviews, meetings, and more. Then, as you are prepping for the investigation, there are a lot more variables to plug into the equation. 

Nothing is quite as simple as it looks on TV. If it was, then we would all be living across the hall from our best friends in New York in large apartments while working part time as a waitress or actress ("Friends"). 

Know that the study is worthy and relevant and so should be the investigators. 

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