There’s no need to lie, but there are times when omission is the better path. For instance, with people you know are highly conservative and might be offended by “dabbling with the devil,” or perhaps work cohorts who might pass the word around you’re kind of “woo-woo.” It’s a lot like when to discuss sex and religion. For as far as we came physically off the Mayflower, much of American ideals are borrowed from a very puritanical time. We may legally have freedoms, but socially we do not really.
If someone asked me straight out “are you hunting ghosts?” I’d definitely admit to it, but even in these days when ghost hunting is popular amongst the general population, some folks “don’t take kindly to people poking around in search of ghosts and such.” (said with a deep rural dialect for more menacing effect).
I’ve found that if I’m checking out an area of potential haunts, say a small town’s Main Street where all the old buildings are lined up, I tend to call myself a “history buff.” That’s definitely not far from the truth. I want to know all about the life of the building and how many incarnations it has seen. It tells me a lot about haunting potential, but also about the overall mood of the building. Some buildings are just dark and murky from their birth onward; others are quite contented little gathering places with positive energy. Being a history buff upon first meeting someone helps to segway into the next truth, "I actually hunt ghosts."
Downtown shop owners are generally some real history nuts and romantics about their buildings. They like to talk about what they’ve learned and uncovered, what they’re done during renovation. All aspects of this intrigue me. My ultimate dream was always to do reclamation work and the thought of old parts of a building being reused again makes my psychic fingers itch with excitement. I’m one of those freaks who adores junkyards, as well.
You get the shop owners talking about the romantic history of the building and then it easily comes around to the subject of spirit activity. “So, when you’re in here after hours, does it creak and groan a lot? I think it’d be pretty alive at night.” That line normally gets the conversation open. I don’t know a history lover who doesn’t claim to have activity, but sorting out the kinds of activity is crucial. One lonely shop owner with a love of history and ghosts might romanticize it, but several workers at the shop seeing similar things is pretty significant on my “potentially haunted” meter.
My favorite activity is being the "live haunt" amongst the dead in cemeteries. I love being in cemeteries at nighttime. I know you’re not supposed to, but somehow it seems the most brilliant time to view the graves. There is nothing like rows of glistening headstones in the moonlight to make you compare the nearby shadows and feel a moment of fear that something moved. It’s even more silent in the nighttime and it holds all the secrets of death in the inky blackness. Some of my favorite photos were taken in nighttime cemeteries.
I’ve usually scoped out the cemetery to be certain I won’t run into anyone and that it has no closing gates. I also am prepared with camera to explain that I’m a photography buff and wanted just a few shots of the graves as the sun was setting and time got away from me. (I go at sunset and stay until just after dark—I’m not stupid. If I’m found there at midnight, I’m definitely going not up to any good.) Since I do happen to leave flowers for the older graves no one visits anymore and I like to say the person’s name out loud (since no one has probably said their name for a century or more), I usually look like a very benign visitor for any investigating park rangers or police. Still, people get arrested all the time for trespassing, so like I said, the best time to be there is just after sunset with a camera in hand. I never explain I’m a ghost hunter to officials. I would rather appear to just be a ditzy female who likes to take pictures than a person stalking the cemetery and disturbing its eternal peace.
I do admit to a very rebellious side that gets angry when people try to define me. I am unique and I’m very protective of that, so sometimes blurting out “I’m a ghost hunter” after “what do you do in your spare time?” is just a way for me to assert my difference. I was very much this way in high school. I would dare people to like me after finding out how weird I was. I practiced a mental form of "shock and awe" in which the ones I didn't want to associate with were shocked, and the ones that suited me were in awe. I still like to test people that way. Those who are intrigued are definitely “my people.” It’s not easy to find “my people” out here in Arizona. Admittedly, everyone is pretty much a suburban conservative drone. So, to shake things up, I like to remind them that I write erotic horror and hunt ghosts, even though I have a very perky and jokingly light-hearted personality. It’s possible to be all different things. I don’t ever want to be a “type” you can peg.
The reasons for admitting you’re a ghost hunter are really dependent on the company you’re with. I always ask myself “if I reveal this, what will I gain or lose?” Sometimes, it simply needs to be done in degrees; a hint of your love of horror movies, a comment about an abandoned building you photographed. Remember, you’re testing the waters just like on a first date.
I’m proud that I can call myself a “ghost hunter,” but the meaning of that title differs for me than for others. Some are in search of their first experience, some are in search of proof to show others, some are wanting a scary moment to disorient them from their dull life, but for me it’s a confirmation of what I’ve experienced in the past and a quest to find an explanation that rings true for me. I'm not out to impress anyone but myself and I am a harsh critic of my own findings.
There’s no shame in being a ghost hunter, only shame on others for their negative reactions.