It occurred me to while sitting inside of an abandoned site in the middle of the night waiting for something to happen, what the mind and body go through on a ghost hunt.
First of all, the body is prepared with adrenalin for the potential “hunt.” All you know about the site is that anything could happen, at any time. So, you’re poised. Hearing is extremely acute, breathing is brisk, body temperature is trying to remain constant, and muscles are tight and prepared to either jump and startle or race after something.
When you get past what the body is doing (hyped up with nothing for the brain to do yet), your brain becomes engaged.
It’s amazing the thoughts that run through your mind as the evening unfolds. About the first hour or so you’re quite contented to be doing your “task.” You drift from room to room, take measurements, check your equipment, photograph, and begin to ask questions hoping something shows up on the recordings.
Eventually, you’re begging and pleading some unknown force to answer you, show you a sign that it hears you. (a bit like the whining of a 2-year-old at the checkout stand). One moment you completely believe in the phenomenon, the next you’re questioning it, then eventually at some point in the evening you’re absolutely certain this is a total waste of time and effort and expense. Your mind is already rebelling against the idea of reviewing six hours of video and listening to countless minutes of your voice asking the same mundane questions over and over again.
Before you know it, your mind is already home in bed, feet warm, body clean, dreams nonexistent—the sleep of the dead.
By now, you know every creak in the boards, what that clicking sound is every 10 minutes exactly, and how ridiculous the unchecked thoughts in your head are. It’s not as if you’re meditating and able to keep thoughts from your head. No, you’ve gone from wondering if you’ll see anything or hear anything to being curious how the people who lived here could stand the sound of the closet door opening, to remember what your dorm room smelled like in college, to wondering why you changed your major...
You’ve been so keyed into your body’s sensations to know if something is about to occur that when it does occur and you weren’t ready, you feel let down.
Wasn’t I supposed to feel something first?
The same syndrome that has you thinking random thoughts and planning your next day when you go to bed is at the root of ghost hunting dementia. It’s that quiet time you never allow yourself without television, radio, conversation. Just you and your thoughts. Just you and your thoughts and your body sensations. Just you and your thoughts and hours on end. If you’re lucky, something knocks you from your complacency. It’s that single moment for every ghost hunter that keeps him/her coming back again and again.
As if we’re in the Alzheimer’s phase, we walk away from the hunt, review the evidence, make a summation about it, swearing we’ll never do another all-nighter again. Then, two weeks later, we’re back in some dark place as if we completely forgot how stiff, bored, cold we were the last time.
I, myself, am thankful for that amnesia.
Next time you see me on a hunt, don’t be surprised if two hours into it, I’m fidgeting, yawning, scribbling down notes (more than likely the grocery list), and looking as if I’ve given up all hope. Ironically, it's in those moments of comfort in your environment and the environment's comfort with your presence, that something finally occurs!
And it’s that very randomness that can be both exasperating and a blessing that keeps me coming back.